Candidate Essay: Mark Kelly

by ARLnow.com March 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm 4,811 69 Comments

Earlier this month we asked the three candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them during the March 27 special election.

Here is the unedited response from Mark Kelly (R):

We need a new voice on the County Board to keep Arlington a wonderful place to live and raise a family.

Keirsten and I bought our first place, a condo on Army Navy Drive, in Arlington when we got married in early 2000. A year and a half later we moved into our house, so that we could start a family. We now have four children — our two daughters, Layne and Mia, and then our two sons, Luke and Jake. The oldest three attend Claremont Immersion elementary school.

Like you, we have put down our roots in this community and want to make it the best place possible for our children to grow up in. Even though there are issues critically important to our community’s future that need to be addressed at the County Board level, I enjoy living in Arlington visiting our parks, spending time in my local library branch, and being an active member of our community.

I hope to put my experience to work for you as a member of the Board. After law school and passing the Virginia Bar in 1996, I went to work on Capitol Hill and over the last 15 years worked on federal public policy. I have demonstrated an ability to quickly digest complicated issues and make recommendations for action. I also served as an analyst on the federal budget for two members of Congress which will allow me to hit the ground running on Arlington’s budget in April.

Arlington faces some significant challenges that require a new voice and a new perspective to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods without breaking the bank. With a potential scaling back of federal spending we need to get back to budgeting that prioritizes the basics. Currently, we are too often spending too much on things we simply do not need. When elected I will propose an alternative budget that includes real spending restraint that allows us to reduce what has become out of control real estate taxes that will top $5,000 for the average homeowner.

I am all for paying my fair share, but with local tax rates at such high levels, we should approach the tax rate debate as an opportunity to provide more flexibility for the family budget instead of increasing flexibility for county spending on non-core services. And renters should not forget that any increases in property taxes by the current board will be passed on to you in the form of higher rent in the upcoming year.

A significant part of improving our quality of life without breaking the bank is by stopping expensive vanity projects such as the Columbia Pike Trolley that will cost upwards of $300 million, the $1.5 million Artisphere subsidy that is draining resources from the Arlington Economic Development department and stopping the acquisition of 2020 14th Street North for a new homeless shelter at a cost of $7.5 million more than the assessed value for a building that needs at least $10 million to rehab the building. These costs are particularly concerning because better alternatives are available that will improve our quality of life without breaking the bank.

On Columbia Pike increasing bus service can improve overall transit service without the massive costs of construction or the negative impacts of the massive redevelopment on neighborhoods and the availability of market rate affordable housing. The Artisphere should be able to fast track the process of becoming an independent non-profit venture especially with the expected $1.4 million of revenues listed in the County Manager’s budget before counting the excessive county subsidy. And the current winter homeless shelter in Courthouse could be retrofitted into a year-round shelter for $2 million, equal to the one year expected debt service cost of the ill-advised building purchase.

We need to develop the transparency necessary to hold our local government accountable for program management and spending decisions. I will work to establish an Inspector General to advocate on behalf of tax payers and good government practices across all county operations. I will also make sure we put the county’s checkbook online so that all residents can ensure county spending is in line with our values and public policy priorities.

I am asking for your vote on March 27th. I am asking for your support of an opportunity to highlight the benefits of having a voice that is accountable only to voters and not the one party establishment club that controls Arlington.

  • Transplant

    I’d hoped Kelley would be more against “affordable housing”. He seems to be against it only for North Arlington

  • KalashniKEV

    His mailer said he would lower my taxes. I don’t see it here…

    • Josh S

      “we should approach the tax rate debate as an opportunity to provide more flexibility for the family budget”

      Apparently, he thinks it is not wise to come right out and say it in this forum.

      • KalashniKEV

        Well I hope that’s it and he hasn’t backed off any since that was printed.
        I would like to pay approximately 1/3 my current tax burden. It’s time to starve the beast!

    • Jakedog

      I know it is a class D law school that promotes an evangelical social agenda. When applying, all applicants are required to obtain a Spiritual Life Recommendation from “a member of the clergy or someone in a church ministry position.”

  • 22204

    Excellent! You have my vote. It is past time we pull back on spending and look at more cost effective alternatives.

    • GreaterClarendon

      +1 – We need a new face and new perspective.

  • Steve

    I’m really not sure why he thinks real estate taxes are out of control in Arlington. Last I checked they didn’t go up for the 2012 FY. Not only that, but Arlington’s real estate tax rates are less than the surrounding jurisdictions in Northern Virginia and significantly so in some cases, so I’m not sure what he’s complaining about.

    He does have some fair points about some of the wasted money the county has spent on unnessary or overly expensive projects. I really think the county has wasted a lot of money on their attempts at preserving affordable housing when the county would have been better off adjusting or relaxing zoning regulations to allow for more housing supply.

    As for the Columbia Pike street car project, its a project that will pay off over the long run with redevelopment and increased investment. We’ve already seen a lot of new investment in that corridor and I suspect some of it is partially due to the prospect of improved transportation infrastructure.

    • Greg

      The tax rate isn’t a good comparison because our property values are high. Especially when comparing similar home/lot sizes.

      That said, I am happy to pay my current real estate tax. I just want to know that the government is making good decisions with the money.

    • I agree that the Artisphere is a boondoggle and the proposal to make it a non-profit venture would be a step in the right direction.

      The retro-fitting alternative of the Emergency Winter Shelter for $2 million would be a much more attractive option than paying $7.5 million over the assessed property value plus $10 million for refurbishments for a new property. That being said, I would still defer to A-SPAN to see if the retrofit could accommodate the homeless population they’ve accounted for in Arlington.

      I don’t view the Streetcar proposal as a vanity project at all and agree with the above poster ‘Steve’ that the project will bring redevelopment and investment in the long run. Adding more buses to Columbia Pike seems like it would further add to the congestion. Most residents living in the surrounding Columbia Pike neighborhoods are looking forward to revitalization that has been seen in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor and in Shirlington. I’d be interested in how you determined the streetcar would cost $300 million to Arlington or whether you’d meant the project in it’s entirety would cost $300 million between all parties contributing funding. The sources of project funding for the streetcar proposal seems to be a contentious issue because many seem to think that it will be all shouldered solely by Arlington. The 4th question on the link below addresses the sources of funding and states that 56% of the proposed funding, up to $140 million, would come from Arlington and Fairfax County. Arlington would fund 80% of the $140 million which would come to $112 million.


      I’m all for people with fresh outlooks on the County Board and as a centrist I don’t feel obligated to vote along party lines and maintain a Democratic monopoly but whoever is most friendly to the Streetcar project/Pike development will get my vote.

      • KalashniKEV

        “I would still defer to A-SPAN to see if the retrofit could accommodate the homeless population they’ve accounted for in Arlington.”

        Don’t forget about the Bums that all that candy is going to attract.

        • Do you consider veterans who are down on their luck or maladapted after getting out of the service bums? There have been a number of studies and news stories which show that a great number of homeless are veterans. I could say show some compassion or try to be less myopic but I’ll defer to a group that seems to have a better understanding of the complex and disheartening predicament homeless people face. The world is gray.

          • snitch

            Ah yes, that old familiar conversation.


          • KalashniKEV

            “Do you consider veterans who are down on their luck or maladapted after getting out of the service bums?”

            Usually when pondering this question I apply a one factor test:

            1) Is this person a Bum?

          • Are all bums homeless? Are all those who are homeless bums?

      • Mary-Austin

        what is going to happen when the Commonwealth of Virginia decides it doesn’t want to pay $40 million for a streetcar in Arlington?

        I have a hunch Arlington is going to be left holding the bag.

        • John Snyder

          The Commonwealth does not have discretion. It is a reimbursement for transit costs under existing law.

    • bemused bystander

      “the county would have been better off adjusting or relaxing zoning regulations to allow for more housing supply”?? Isn’t that what’s been done in the R-B Corridor, Crystal City and Columbia Pike — allowing for more housing? And what’s the result? More expensive housing.

      Arlington just does not have enough area to accommodate enough new housing to make enough dent in demand to cause significant reductions in housing costs or rents. That’s why advocates of a mixed-income community fight so hard to keep the affordable units we have.

    • arlvoter

      the streetcar will cause increased property taxes for the residents adjacent to columbia pike or at least so said chris zimmerman. he said that properties values will rise and so will the assessments generating more taxes.

      i agree with audrey clement the streetcar only invites a viscous cirlce of development and tax increases. no thanks

  • South Awwlington

    You have my vote too! It’s time for some balance in our County government.

  • Cragg Hines

    Republican candidate Kelly brushes a little too quickly over his years on Capitol Hill, which he seems to offer as a major qualification — but which should give Arlington voters pause. He has twice worked for the Heritage Foundation, perhaps the leading right-wing think tank. He has worked for two of the most conservative members of the U.S. House, including his current employer, Tim Huelskamp, who represents 69 rural agrarian counties in Kansas that have zip in common with Arlington. Kelly also doesn’t disclose that his largest single contributor is a developer and that his next largest combined contribution is from a family that runs a right-wing indoctrination outfit. By the way, Kelly’s law degree is from Regent University, Pat Robertson “founder & chancellor.”

    • KalashniKEV

      So you’re saying he’s mildly well equipped to do moon-bat-combat with the current board?

      • CW

        If by that you “flinging poo”, then yes.

    • South of 50

      How were you able to find the identity of his biggest campaign contributor?

      • Cragg Hines

        VPAP. Fresh numbers earlier this week.

        • South of 50

          That was my point. You said he did not disclose that tidbit, which is not correct.

          • Josh S

            I think he meant in the essay.

            Of course it’s a silly accusation – no politician announces who is giving money to them.

    • SoMuchForSubtlety

      Heritage Foundation = No vote from me.

      • KalashniKEV

        Heritage Foundation = Vote from me
        (and the occasional free beer happy hour with smart, pretty girls)

        • sameskies

          Me too! Cheers to First Fridays

    • dk

      Nicely done, thanks for the info and link. Kelly’s second largest combined contribution is from Helen Blackwell, the VA affiliate of Phyllis Schafley’s Eagle Forum. Just in case you aren’t up on the Forum’s agenda:


      • Tabs


      • Arlwhat

        Gaaah! I thought the S—fly family had all been stuck in the echo chamber/performance art piece that is conservapedia. And another Regent grad to boot? Disqualified!

    • arlvoter

      cragg hines good info. i looked him up when he ran last time. tea party is right. he work for jim ryun, (r) rep. as chief of staff. ryun had a track record of 0 votes for any environmental legislation. kelly does not belong here and it would be a shame to launch him into politics as an elected official.

  • Ballstonian

    “…and the availability of market rate affordable housing.”

    Is he implying that not building the streetcar will make the Pike less desirable, and therefore housing will be expensive? Seems like a rather perverse way of addressing “affordable housing”.

  • SouthArlington

    He’s an extreme rightwinger who tries to sound moderate. He can’t fool me.

  • Josh S

    Might be worth a vote for nothing more than the fact that he advocates hiring an IG.

    On the other hand, he talks about a high tax “rate.” which I submit is simply not true.

    He then goes on to use some extremely euphamistic language about how taxes are an opportunity to provide flexibility for the family budget. Huh? You mean you want to cut taxes? Then just say it.

    He makes the same mistake that Clement does of calling the streetcar a $300 million project as if Arlington would pay the entire bill. He also proposes an alternative of improving bus service, but Arlington doesn’t make decisions for WMATA. Unless he’s talking the ART buses.

    And I’m really not sure that putting Arlington’s checkbook online would result in anything good happening.

    • 22207

      The jurisdictions can supplement Metro Bus service by paying Metro to do it. You are investing the money either to add Metro buses or some other system.

      And since the streetcar would be operated by WMATA, the allocation of funding is not as compartmentalized as you might think.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Having a high tax “rate” is simply true – our burden is 39th highest in the whole US(thats every county) and if you were to exclude NY and NJ it would about 8th. The median(that means 50% of all owners are higher and 50% of all owners are lower) was $4,341/yr based on 2005-2009 tax data. So the question you’ve got to ask is what more does each household in Arlington get than the households in the approximately other 2940 other counties in the US.


      • dk

        That’s an interesting interpretation of the data. Um, yeah, our median dollar amount of taxes is relatively high. What do we have in Arlington that the other 2940 counties don’t have? A high median income and high property values. Our median household income is almost twice the national median. Our median home value is **3 times** the national median. Of course the dollar amount we pay is higher. Our RATE absolutely is low compared to many other US counties.

        Arlington’s rank on taxes as a percent of home value is 1523. Our rank on taxes as a percent of income is 328.

        • Suburban Not Urban

          I didn’t ask what was different but what do we GET that’s different. Dollars that the county charges in taxes are for spending on services and things for the county residents it’s not a tithe like some feudal system. So if you make 200K a year and I make 50K a year do they charge you more for a hamburger at McDonalds – I don’t think so and would you ever go to store that worked that way. No one ever gives a better answer than oh you have more so the county can take more.

          • dk

            Have you ever been to some of those counties on the bottom of the list? I think we GET a great deal. I don’t know about you, but there is a reason I live here and not there.

            Regardless of how much McDonald’s charges for hamburgers, the cost of living here is much higher than in most counties in the US, and thus the cost of running a county is higher. Construction costs are higher, operating costs are higher, wages for county employees are higher. So, the county budget would of necessity be higher here than in an otherwise comparable county in, say, Alabama.

          • Suburban Not Urban

            So again no specifics about what it is we get just a “great deal”.
            1) It’s an endless cycle taxes are higher here so employee’s need to be paid more and stuff costs more because rents are higher – so we need to have more taxes to make up the diff
            2) I’d be thrilled with taxes that were the mean overall US taxes, adjusted with a cost of living adj like the Gov’t uses but the taxes we pay are a lot more than that.

          • dk

            1) Are you really saying that the reason the cost of living is high here is *taxes*?

            2) So, how would this system work? Are you saying that the federal government should set a base tax rate for localities?

            I suppose one way to look at the cost of living is to look at the median home price. In which case, the median home price for the nation is 185,400. The median price in Arlington is $565,100 or 3 times the median. The median property tax is $1805. Three times that is $5415. Which is $1000 MORE than the $4300 median tax bill in Arlington.

            Facts are so annoying sometimes.

          • Suburban Not Urban

            1) Partly yes
            2) The median property tax $1805 times the cost of living adjustment for DC vs the average US cost of living 141/100
            = 2545 seems like a more reasonable expection for the tax rate.

            You keep circling back to the the value of property – what does it matter – its an indication of capital not value provided by government.

            Cost of Living ref:

    • Greg

      Just to be clear, he won’t have the power to pass or not pass anything. Nothing he proposes to do will actually happen, because he will be all alone on the Board.

      On the other hand, he will have the ability to make sure the Board and public see a different side to the issues they consider. That’s a fairly valuable thing to have in government. I can think of a couple of issues lately that it would have helped to just have someone say, “hold on, let’s think this through.”

      And I almost totally disagree with his politics, but we aren’t voting for a president. We are voting on the best make up of a five member governing body. Is having five of the same person really the best way to do that/

  • CH

    I was pleased to get his mailer yesterday which mocked backyard chickens and lambasted helmet safety. It was great, as it riled up my husband enough to hopefully join me next week at the polls. Two votes… not for this chump.

    • GC2

      CH, You are outraged and “riled up” by his not supporting backyard chickens but ignore his reasonable concerns about expensive vanity projects. You should really reevaluate your priorities. My spouse and I will cancel out your votes since we are now “riled up” to vote for him.

      • KalashniKEV

        Backyard chickens is really the only thing I disagree with him on. It is completely appropriate and healthy for farm animals to live in semi-urban areas.

        Still, I do plan on voting for him so I guess that more than negates your hubby’s car-free Chicken Vote.

      • CH

        I don’t take his concerns about the trolley project to be reasonable, but that wasn’t the issue he chose to spotlight on the front of the flyer, either. I thought it was hilariously telling that the chicken issue carries the day, *for Mark Kelly.*

        Rah rah, for civic participation! Though I’m not terribly concerned about his prospects for getting elected here, your posts are extra motivation — thanks!

        • KalashniKEV

          How do you rate your prospects of becoming a Chicken Farmer?

    • dk

      He has a position on helmet safety? Do tell.

  • mick way

    To: AC Repubs
    Fr: AC Dems and Indies
    Re: This Guy
    Sub: Whisky Tango Foxtrot

    So for the first time since Ben (The Sears Guy) Winslow made Jay Fisette’s lifestyle an issue in 1993 you have a real chance of getting a repub on the board and you throw us a Tea Bagger?

    So you could not find one Richard Lugar or Olympia Snow anywhere in the County? This is all you got? Don’t you know you’ve got to soften us up with a few curves before you throw the high hard stuff?

    Nobody likes Libby (ought to be a yard sign). The county board doesn’t like Libby. You had a real chance for a toe-hold on the board and you blew it.

    • BoringDan

      Exactly. If the GOP had someone like Connie Morella — I would vote for them in a second and the GOP would hold that Board seat.

    • FedUp

      You state that “The county board doesn’t like Libby.” That’s good enough for me. She’ll be her own person and not a puppet of anybody.

  • MC

    An Etch-a-sketch candidate. Why can’t the Republicans field a candidate who doesn’t have to hide their past to appeal to Arlington voters. A non ideological Republican, if genuine, could win easily given the dissatisfaction with the current Board.

  • Halo

    Please stop the phone spam or I’ll vote for anyone else.

  • Garden City

    I was all set to vote for Kelley on the 27th, but learning that his second biggest contributor is a far-right organization (developer? Eh, they give money to lots of candidates) and that his law degree is from Regents, is really making me rethink that.

  • Jakedog

    I will not be voting for him either because of his extreme conservative (read social issues) that he stands for. If the Republicans had put up a more moderate fiscal conservative, I would have considered it. Regents Univ is a no go!

  • liz

    We need some fiscal conservatism and a block against affordable housing.

    He’s got my vote. I’ve been an arlington resident since 1996 and I have to hear one more douchebag utter the word greenspace and sustainability, etc. I will lose my frickin mind.

  • barry

    Mark Kelly is Tim Huelskamp’s legislative director. He promotes Tim’s pro-agribusiness anti-environment neo-con legislation, like HR 3323.


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