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Last week, we invited the two candidates seeking a seat on the Arlington County Board to write a post on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 3 general election.
Here is the unedited response from independent candidate Audrey Clement.
I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington County Board. As a 16-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist who serves on the Transportation Commission, I’m running because Arlington deserves better.
My opponent, long-time incumbent Libby Garvey, has promoted harmful policies resulting in overcrowded schools, congested streets, massive tree removal on public property, gentrification, and most importantly, a ten year average annual real estate tax rate increase that at 4 percent is twice the rate of inflation.
Now, she is pushing Missing Middle upzoning, which will inflate land values, hike tax assessments, displace existing residents, and build housing unaffordable to anyone earning less than area median income, which is about $126,000 per year.
The County under Ms. Garvey’s leadership has packaged upzoning as the solution to racial inequality despite the fact that few minorities will qualify for mortgages on upzoned lots. In a recent press release Garvey emphasized the Board’s resolve to address “historic and ongoing patterns of discrimination,” implying that homeowners in predominantly white, single family neighborhoods are racist. Yet the County has produced no evidence to support that contention.
Meanwhile the chair and executive director of Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS), Arlington’s principal advocate for upzoning, own homes in Arlington assessed at over $1 million. Thus they stand to profit from the densification of their neighborhoods. It also appears that newly elected County Board member Takis Karantonis, who serves as vice-chair of AHS, has a serious conflict of interest, which Garvey herself denies.
The County’s COVID response has also been uneven: too little funding to deal with an impending eviction crisis, no guaranteed child care for essential workers, and adoption of a sidewalk ordinance to prevent congregating near bars and restaurants that was unfair to Clarendon business owners and ultimately repealed.
Ms. Garvey has also embraced a plan to change the Arlington logo, which she indicates must go because it depicts the Greek columns of the former Lee mansion at Arlington House. No matter that Greek columns are ubiquitous throughout the South and that much more pressing issues confront people of color than cultural symbols.
For example, the Black student achievement is wide and growing, with Black high school student pass rates more than 20 percentage points below their White counterparts throughout the County. Focused on symbolic solutions to racial injustice, County officials’ efforts to address the achievement gap have clearly failed.
If elected, I plan to:
- Act sensibly to curtail COVID spread.
- Oppose upzoning and displacement of existing homeowners.
- Seek immediate relief for all taxpayers.
- Say YES to real social justice reforms and NO to symbolic gestures.
If you share my agenda, then:
- Visit my website at AudreyClement.com
- Support my candidacy, and
- Donate to my campaign.
Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.
Facing a shortage of moderately-priced housing options in the “missing middle” between apartment buildings and single-family homes, the County is kicking off a study to figure out whether it should open up some areas zoned only for single-family homes to denser housing types.
But Clement, a perennial candidate for the last decade, said Garvey has given outsized importance to the racial-justice component of this plan to gloss over economic problems. One problem is the possibility that these new housing options may still be out-of-reach for Black residents, according to Clement.
“The County has been very successful in persuading people it is a social-justice and racial issue, but the people that they are addressing are not aware of the dynamics of the real-estate market,” Clement said.
In the mid-20th century, Arlington began zoning most of the county for single-family homes and forbade the construction of more compact dwellings, which were more commonly inhabited by the county’s Black population because fewer could afford detached homes. There were also deed covenants that explicitly prevented non-whites from buying homes, even if they could afford them.
Today, 75% of the county is zoned for single-family homes. Given the median income earned by Black Arlingtonians, homes in all but a few neighborhoods are out of reach for most.
“What we’ve got now is the result of very intentional systemic racism,” Garvey said of local housing patterns. “Whether this study is going to fix it or not is hard to say. I don’t think we’re saying that.”
Clement agreed that the effects of Arlington’s exclusionary housing policies in the 20th century remain. She said what is disingenuous is framing duplexes, townhouses or other small-scale, multi-family housing as a way to correct Arlington’s racist past, when some data suggest these new options could be unaffordable due to the county’s inflated land values.
“Due to ever increasing land values no one earning less than area median income will afford the housing built on densified lots,” Clement wrote. “In addition many moderate income residents, including people of color, will be forced to sell when real estate assessments escalate in their up-zoned neighborhoods.”
Garvey did not refute the possibility that the study could find that these alternatives would not necessarily be more affordable, but said it is “way too early” to draw conclusions from a study in its infancy.
“The only thing we’ve said is that we have a real issue with sufficient diversity of housing to meet a lot of needs,” she said.
Clement argues that the current unaffordable housing landscape in Arlington is because the county allowed affordable homes to be torn down and replaced with more expensive housing. Renovating existing structures would be a better solution, she said.
This spring, the County Board voted to eliminate a tax credit to landlords who renovate their buildings. Senior Housing Planner Russell Danao-Schroeder said the program had outlived its usefulness: Only large developers were availing themselves of the credit to keep their buildings at the top of the market.
Here is the unedited response from independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement.
I’m Audrey Clement, Ph.D., Independent candidate for Arlington County Board — a 15-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist, and member of the Transportation Commission. Why am I running? Because my opponents indulge in constant doublespeak.
Katie and Christian say they want to preserve trees. Yet in 2018 they allowed a developer to chop down a 75-year-old state champion Dawn Redwood near a Potomac watershed in North Arlington, replacing it with a McMansion in contravention of the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance.
On September 24, they approved a deal to cede a VDOT acquired parcel of land at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn site to a private developer contrary to a prior pledge to preserve it as parkland.
My opponents claim to support affordable housing. Yet, they’ve permitted dozens of market-rate garden apartments in Westover Village to be razed, replacing them with luxury townhouses, tree denuded lots and flooded streets.
True. County Board approved a deal to purchase and renovate some of the Westover properties as committed affordable units, but at the expense of half the existing tenants, who were thrown out because they weren’t income qualified.
For over 3 years, Katie and Christian have been sitting on a citizen petition to preserve the remaining buildings as historic, preempting a legally required public hearing on the matter.
Katie and Christian say they can provide more affordable housing by upzoning single family neighborhoods. This is an illusion. When North Arlington is upzoned, there will be 2 to 4 new town homes priced a $1 million each for every single family tear down.
At a recent candidate forum, Christian Dorsey refused to recuse himself from union business on the WMATA Board even though unions contributed the bulk of his campaign funds this year–$10,000 alone from the Amalgamated Transit Union.
Christian says he doesn’t have a conflict of interest in accepting union money as a WMATA Board member, because WMATA doesn’t deal with union matters. Yet WMATA Board minutes indicate that it has approved 4 union contracts since September, 2018.
If you’re tired of Board member’s doublespeak, it’s time for a change. If elected, I will do what I say and say what I mean. I will also:
- Say NO to tax-rate increases and pay grabs by County Board
- Insist that developers pay their fair share for public infrastructure;
- Develop a flood prevention and mitigation program;
- Install renewable energy on County-owned buildings; and
- Provide a voice for all taxpayers on County Board
Opponents of the Arlington School Board’s decision to change the name of Washington-Lee High School have now poured thousands of dollars into Audrey Clement’s independent bid to unseat incumbent Board member Barbara Kanninen, providing the perennial candidate with her largest fundraising haul across any of her eight bids for local office.
Clement managed to raise just over $13,300 over the month of October alone, according to campaign finance documents, far outpacing Kanninen’s $4,200 raised over the same time period. Of that amount, nearly $10,200 came from two outspoken opponents of the Board’s vote in June to strip Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the school.
Most of the rest of her fundraising haul for the month — just over $1,700 — came courtesy of Clement herself. She’s provided the bulk of the cash to support her second bid for the School Board, chipping in about $11,300 of the $28,200 she’s raised since January.
But the late monetary support has provided Clement, a member of the county’s Transportation Commission and a programmer for a Reston-based software company, with the most cash to power any of her long-shot campaigns since she first started running for various county offices in 2011. She’s never garnered more than 33 percent of the vote in any of her various races, often losing to county Democrats — Kanninen has the local party’s backing in the nominally nonpartisan School Board race, just as she did when first won office in 2014.
The contributions appear to be headed Clement’s way because she’s made preserving W-L’s name a prime focus of her campaign. She’s accused the Board of pushing through the name change while ignoring more substantive issues within the school system, targeting Kanninen for criticism specifically. Kanninen served as chair of the Board last year, a post that rotates among the five members, when the Board ultimately voted to change the school system’s policies for school names, then kicked off a renaming process for W-L, specifically.
While the Board has consistently acted unanimously when it comes to the renaming decisions, opponents of the change have zeroed in on Kanninen in recent weeks, calling her the prime architect of the initiative. Ed and John Hummer, a pair of W-L basketball stars in the mid-1960s, even purchased a full-page ad in the Sun-Gazette this week to promote Clement’s candidacy and blast Kanninen as “the person responsible for the whole ill-conceived name change project.”
John Hummer, who attended Princeton and became a first-round draft pick in the National Basketball Association after graduating W-L, provided Clement with nearly $5,200 in cash over the course of the last month. Donald Morey, another name-change opponent and frequent author of critical letters to the editor on the subject, added another $5,000.
Clement seems to have spent that cash just as quickly as she pulled it in — finance reports show that she spent nearly $13,000 last month, with the bulk of that paying for ads in the Washington Post and the Sun-Gazette.
She only reported having about $1,600 in the bank for the campaign’s closing days, compared to Kanninen’s war chest of nearly $19,200.
Flickr pool photo via wolfkann
Here is the unedited response from independent Audrey Clement:
I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board. As a 14-year Westover resident and civic activist-with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow-I’m running for School Board, because the County faces several crises that Arlington Public Schools (APS) has failed to address. These include:
- excessive capital spending with millions wasted on schools that have insufficient capacity when built;
- overcrowded schools with thousands of kids crammed into trailers;
- declining high school test scores;
- a persistent minority student achievement gap.
My opponent Barbara Kanninen has lost touch with the voters. As School Board chair, Kanninen recently rammed through a resolution to change the name of Washington-Lee High School with no public notice despite widespread opposition to the name change.
In addition state report card data indicate that during Ms. Kanninen’s tenure on the School Board, Arlington high school pass rates have declined. In fact W-L pass rates have declined from 2015 to 2018 in all 5 subjects measured, and Wakefield and Yorktown in 4. APS clearly needs new leadership to turn this situation around.
If elected, I pledge to:
- Preserve the name: Washington-Lee High School.
- Reverse declining high school test scores.
- Close the minority student achievement gap.
- Constrain School Board spending.
- Build schools not trailers on time and on budget.
- Listen to the concerns of all taxpayers on siting new schools.
- Assign all kids except those opting into choice schools to the nearest neighborhood school.
- Mainstream special needs students to the extent practicable.
- End “teaching to the test”.
- Install efficient renewable energy in all public schools.
- Promote school safety with a focus on violence prevention.
As a long-time community activist and current member of the Arlington Transportation Commission, I am confident that I can deliver on my pledge.
If you share my agenda, then:
- Spread the word about my candidacy.
- Volunteer to help.
- Donate to my campaign.
Together we can provide our children with a better education at less cost.
It would be — by our count — either the eighth or ninth run for local office for the repeat candidate, who most recently ran for County Board. The Yupette blog suggests Clement would focus on fiscal restraint as a School Board candidate.
“The School Board will be increasingly focused on giving APS parents more Taj Mahal schools with every conceivable amenity that they’ve historically demanded,” it says. “So A.Y. is happy that a candidate with fiscal sanity who’s not addicted to Smart Growth is considering running for School Board.”
But not everyone thinks another campaign is a good idea for Clement. Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey opined this morning on his blog that it is “time for a perennial candidate to call it a day.”
It’d be her second bid for that post, and she’s run either six or seven times for County Board, as well. Just about every time, she’s either garnered (if she was the lone non-Democrat on the ball) or shared (if there were more than one) the roughly 30 percent of votes cast against the dominant political party in A-town.
I say this as one who likes Clement and thinks she brings valuable points of view to the community conversation: It’s time for her to stop running for office.
If past track record is any indication, the odds will be overwhelmingly against Clement, who would be running to unseat incumbent Barbara Kanninen. On the other hand, uncontested elections are rarely a good thing in a democracy, and Clement has added to the civic conversation whenever she has run.
In your opinion, should Clement run again, or is time to hang it up, at least for now?
Last week we asked the three Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in Tuesday’s election.
Here is the unedited response from independent candidate Audrey Clement:
Arlington County needs new leadership. Here’s why.
Although it is one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., Arlington is paying corporations millions in taxpayer subsidies to stay here, small businesses struggle, and too many longtime residents are being gentrified out of their homes.
At 18 percent, Arlington’s office vacancy rate is unacceptably high, as federal agencies move to cheaper digs elsewhere in Northern Virginia.
The County has recruited some high profile corporate tenants, and shaved a percentage off the vacancy rate. But small businesses are hurting and are likely to hurt even more should the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts go into effect.
In fact the George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis predicts that 10,000 federal sector jobs may be eliminated from Northern Virginia should Congress adopt the president’s budget.
This could spell hardship for Arlington County, which depends on tax revenue generated from federal jobs.
County Board increased the property tax rate this year even as it estimated a surplus. That was unfortunate, since neither the government workers who live in the County nor the local businesses that rely on their patronage needed another tax grab while facing the prospect of an economic downturn.
Arlington County also has a spending problem. County Board just voted to approve the design of a new Lubber Run Community Center with a whopping $47.9 million price tag. The new Wilson High School is currently estimated at $100 million.
By comparison, the town of Vienna recently completed renovating its community center for just $6.5 million, and the cost of a new high school under construction in Loudoun County is $81.7 million —- much less than the projected cost for Wilson High.
It’s obvious that Arlington taxpayers are paying a lot more for the same public services than elsewhere in Northern Virginia. This is not only wasteful, it may also prove to be unsustainable in the long run.
Clearly the current County Board is too complacent to change course now. It will continue to ignore the need for belt tightening. In the face of economic uncertainty, independent leadership is needed to constrain spending while optimizing services provided to County residents.
As an Independent candidate and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow, I am qualified to fill that role.
As an independent voice on County Board I pledge to:
- Seek tax relief for both residential and commercial taxpayers.
- Save our parks, not pave them over.
- Use bond money to fund schools–not Taj Mahals for some students and trailers for others.
- Stop recycling garden apartments into luxury town homes and cutting down our precious tree canopy for more parking.
- Stop the back room deals that too often govern the decisions made by County Board.
In addition, if elected, I will:
- Require a fiscal impact analysis for every major site plan development project to assure that it actually benefits the County.
- End the County’s pursuit of wasteful vanity projects.
- Redirect funds to basic needs like streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
- Consolidate housing programs and other public services.
- Install renewable energy on County owned buildings.
- Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.
I am a thirteen year Arlington resident with a ten year track of civic activism. With a Ph.D. in Political Science and experience on Capitol Hill, I have both the commitment and political know how to translate policy into practice.
Visit AudreyClement.com to find out more about my campaign for a better Arlington and donate to my campaign.
Let me know if you want to volunteer at the polls on Election Day and remember to vote for me, Audrey Clement, Independent, on November 7.
Independent Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement criticized the recent demolitions of more garden apartments in Westover to make way for townhomes.
Clement, a frequent candidate for public office, said the demolition of two more apartment buildings in the neighborhood shows that not enough is being done to protect affordable housing, especially as they are replaced by what she described as “luxury townhomes.”
Much of Westover is currently designated as a national historic district, but that hasn’t prevented redevelopment of some properties. Last year, crews tore down a garden apartment building and replaced it with townhouses in by-right development, meaning County Board approval was not required.
At the time, the Arlington Greens called for the Westover apartments to be designated as a local historic district, something the County Board directed staff to study last year. Since 2013, nine garden apartment buildings have been demolished, Clement said.
Clement criticized developers for razing the properties and the county for cashing in thanks to increased property taxes.
“County records indicate that the sale price of the three Westover garden apartments demolished in 2013 was $4 million,” Clement said. “The total sale price of the 20 luxury town homes that replaced them was $16.8 million dollars or more than 4 times the value of the original properties.”
An advertisement for the Arlington Row townhomes that ran on ARLnow.com earlier this year advertised the homes as being priced in the “mid-$800s.” The townhomes feature up to four bedrooms and four baths, plus private garages and “timeless brick architecture.” The first phase of the development quickly sold out.
Clement said designating the units as a local historic district is the “only way” to save the remaining apartments, but she criticized the Arlington Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board for not moving faster on a petition to do so that was submitted last year.
She added that the demolition of affordable housing units in the county causes numerous problems:
For one thing, there’s a fairness issue. A lot of longstanding, hardworking, responsible tenants are now facing long commutes as a result of displacement from Arlington County.
For another thing, there’s a public health issue. The most recent demolitions were put on hold when it was determined that both buildings were insulated with asbestos, making demolition hazardous for anyone in the nearby.
And there’s an economic issue. While the speculative prices commanded by the developers of Westover Village might be attractive to high income wage earners, they drive up assessments overall, spelling hardship and possible foreclosure for people on fixed incomes, single heads of households, and those who find themselves out of work.
In a fact sheet produced last year, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing said it made some headway in 2016 by purchasing 68 Westover apartments in five buildings. But APAH noted that since the county adopted its Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015, 60 apartments have been demolished for redevelopment.
Clement promised to speed up approval of historic districts to protect affordable housing if she wins a seat on the County Board in November.
“If elected, I am going to call upon AHALRB to expedite consideration of petitions for local historic designation to preserve Arlington’s remaining affordable housing and stabilize Arlington’s housing market,” Clement said.
Audrey Clement isn’t going anywhere. This year, Clement is running for Arlington County Board for the sixth time.
Since 2011, Clement has aimed to break through the County Board’s Democratic majority to win a seat as either an independent or Green Party candidate. Since 2011, Clement has always lost. In 2014, she also ran for a position on the Arlington County School Board but lost by 18,327 votes to Barbara Kanninen.
So why does Clement keep coming back?
Clement said she is returning again because she cares. She’s been in the D.C. area since 1989 and has a Ph.D from Temple University in Political Science. Since 2005, Clement has been an environmental activist in Arlington County. She runs under a platform that calls for immediate environmental, housing and tax reforms.
Clement also refuses to give up on her goal of undoing the local Democratic Party’s traditional dominance of the County Board, with challenges from local Republicans fleeting at best. Current Board member John Vihstadt (I) was the most recent to break local Democrats’ dominance when he won in 2014, the first non-Democrat to win a County Board seat in a general election since 1983.
“I think that the two-party system is not serving the vast majority of the Arlington people. I have to make the case that there is the alternative and I have to make this case to the public,” Clement said in an interview this week. She said breaking through the system was what motivated her to run in 2011, and continues to motivate her each year.
If elected, Clement said she wants to redirect the Affordable Housing Investment Fund from its current system of apartment subsidies to a system that provides rental assistance for those who need it.
“I’m concerned with the affordable housing investment fund because the county has been putting its year-end surpluses into that fund,” she said. “I do not believe that the current affordable housing program is economical and sustainable, I would start cutting there. They’re spending way too much on each new unit of so-called affordable housing that they construct. They need to evaluate that program.”
In addition, Clement is determined to resolve what she sees as an impending budget crisis in Arlington.
“The biggest crisis is the anticipated budget cuts coming down from the Trump administration that will impact county residents,” Clement said. “It could be as many as 15,000 people get laid off and this will impact the county tax revenue. If I’m elected I will take a proactive position with regards to retaining businesses and trying to counteract the impact of the anticipated Trump administration budget cuts.”
As to why she hasn’t won a seat after six years of running, Clement blames the limits that come with a small campaign budget.
“Some of my opponents have spent in the range of $100,000 apiece in their elections,” she said. “They weren’t incumbents, so they came into the election with that as their handicap. In that regard, they overcame their handicap by spending a ton of money. I have rarely been able to muster more than $10,000 a race.”
To combat her lack of funding, Clement uses social media. She currently runs a Facebook page with 393 likes and 373 followers. She also runs Facebook advertisements for anyone who does not follow her page to see.
For anyone unfamiliar with Clement, she wants the one thing people to know most about her to be her credentials.
“I have a lot of untraditional political experience,” said Clement. She spent a year as a Congressional Fellow and is currently a government contractor. She also hopes that her time spent as an environmental activist will set her apart from her opponents as she approaches her seventh campaign for a seat on the County Board.
After all of these years, she still remains determined.
“Most political commentators would say, if you haven’t made it the first or second time then quit,” said Clement. “I’m not going to quit.”
Last week we asked the two candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the November 8 election.
Here is the unedited response from Audrey Clement (I):
Millions of people are turned off by this year’s presidential election. In fact so unhappy is the public with the major party presidential candidates that psychologists have come up with a new diagnosis–Election Stress Disorder (ESD)–characterized by anxiety over the prospect of electing them! If you’re an Arlington resident suffering from ESD, a cure is in sight. No. I’m not running for President. But as an Independent candidate for Arlington County Board, I offer local voters a change from business as usual to real reform.
Never have Arlington residents been more in need of this remedy. Consider that when I recently complained to County Board about some questionable numbers that appear in Arlington Public Schools’ (APS) 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) documents, I was told by my opponent, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, that County Board couldn’t address the issue. I should direct my complaint to the School Board instead.
Come again? County Board is responsible for approving not only the School Board’s operating budget, but also its CIP. That responsibility includes reviewing the School Board’s budget documents. By insisting that it has no such responsibility, Arlington County Board is abdicating its duty to oversight the School Board budget. Why is this important? At $565 million, the School Board operating budget accounts for 36% of Arlington government annual expenditures and almost 50 percent of local tax revenue. At $510 million, APS outlays account for 15% of Arlington’s ten year capital budget.
Not only has the current County Board given the School Board carte blanche to adopt whatever budgets it wants, it also routinely rubberstamps major development projects, ignoring their impacts on streets, schools, parks and public safety.
Consider the Rosslyn Plaza Phased Development Site Plan (PDSP) between Kent Street and Arlington Ridge Road that will house 500 new housing units, 200 new hotel rooms, 1.8 million square feet of office space and 2,168 parking spaces. In approving the PDSP, not only did County Board ignore the impact of additional traffic on the Rosslyn community, it also ignored the joint appeal of the Metropolitan Washington Airlines Committee, Airports Authority, American Airlines, Airlines for America, and the Airline Pilots Association to defer approval of the Rosslyn Plaza project until FAA has decided whether to amend its regulations to consider the hazard of constructing office towers so close to White House prohibited airspace. This project will not only further congest Rosslyn, it will also jeopardize the safety of Rosslyn residents.
If elected, I plan to seek a fiscal impact analysis of every major site plan development to assure that the project actually benefits the County and that its impacts are adequately addressed. In addition, I plan to:
- Seek tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
- Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
- Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
- Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.
As a 12-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.
To find out more about my campaign, visit:
You can make a difference! Boost my campaign for Arlington County Board by:
- volunteering for an hour at your polling place on Election Day;
- donating time or money;
- planting a yard sign in your yard or window;
- spreading the word via your PTA, civic association, listserv or blog.
Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.
Audrey Clement, Ph.D.
Independent Candidate, Arlington County Board