Candidate Essay: Mark Kelly

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.