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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
It’s true, Clement may be a perennial candidate, but she has dedicated supporters and, more importantly, she goes to the trouble of running for local office when other serious challengers to the Democratic candidate are often nowhere to be found. It’s hard to view that as anything other than a positive in our democratic system.
Clement’s ideas may seem a bit incongruous — she bikes everywhere but doesn’t like bike races, she is in favor of affordable housing but generally against new development — but she is consistent in her views.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we asked Clement about her opposition to those bike races; her opposition to development, particularly recent development in Westover; her support of renewable energy; and her desire to lessen the tax burden on Arlington residents.
Clement, a perennial candidate who is running as an independent this year, after formerly running under the Green Party banner, says that she shares the “disappointment that Senator Sanders did not succeed,” a still touchy subject among some Democratic voters.
“I happen to share a lot of Bernie’s values,” Clement says in a press release, below. “I will place meeting the needs of all Arlington residents first and the wants of wealthy special interests last on my agenda when elected to County Board.”
Clement later says that her opponent, incumbent County Board Chair Libby Garvey, has gone back to “rubber stamping the Arlington Democratic Party’s agenda” after splitting from party leaders over the Columbia Pike streetcar.
The full press release:
I’m Dr. Audrey Clement, Independent candidate for Arlington County Board.
I applaud the efforts of all those Arlington voters who worked hard to make Bernie Sanders the Democratic Nominee for President, and I share your disappointment that Senator Sanders did not succeed.
I happen to share a lot of Bernie’s values, among them a sincere interest in good government. As an Independent, I will place meeting the needs of all Arlington residents first and the wants of wealthy special interests last on my agenda when elected to County Board.
So I’m asking you to join my campaign in order to make progressive changes locally that you tried to make nationally.
I live in affordable housing that’s in danger of being bulldozed for million dollar townhomes, displacing seniors, students, the disabled, and the working poor. I want affordable housing preserved and new affordable housing built that’s actually affordable for everyone in Arlington.
I’ve ridden a bicycle everywhere for decades. But bicycles shouldn’t be Arlington’s only transportation alternative to more parking for thousands more single-occupant vehicles.
And it’s time for on-site renewable energy installed throughout our County.
It’s time for electric vehicles throughout our County, charged by renewable energy sources.
It’s time to put a moratorium on Smart Growth — which is just a euphemism for gentrification — until there’s a comprehensive evaluation of where Smart Growth is taking our County.
Who wants to live in a County that is unaffordable to anyone who earns less than 100% of area median income, or $110,000 per year?
My opponent says she’s “progressive”. She initially voted against the Pike Streetcar and the most extravagant excesses of the Democratic Old Guard.
But, having been challenged in a primary election by an Old Guard Democrat, she’s gone back to rubber stamping the Arlington Democratic Party’s agenda.
With your help we can have better, more diverse, County Government at less cost.
Please visit my website — www.AudreyClement.com — to volunteer, donate and/or comment on issues of concern to you.
Last week we asked the four Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them on Nov. 3. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.
Here is the unedited response from Audrey Clement:
As an Independent candidate for the Arlington County Board, I, Audrey Clement, ask for your support in making Arlington County government more responsive and more accountable to the people it serves.
Having lived in Westover and worked alongside many other dedicated Arlingtonians for over 11 years, I have devoted significant time and energy to advancing fiscal responsibility, promoting a sustainable environment, and supporting fairness and equality in our community.
Today, we must confront serious challenges — ones that require independent and innovating thinking, reality-based planning, and a commitment to using limited resources wisely.
Free from partisan constraints and beholden to NO special interests or groups, I can meet these challenges and help put our county back on a more solid footing in the years ahead.
At over 20%, Arlington’s office vacancy rate remains stubbornly high. Each percentage represents millions in lost commercial revenue, which places a greater burden on homeowners. Several federal agencies — including the National Science Foundation, Fish and Wildlife Service and TSA — are relocating or have recently relocated due to escalating rents driven, in part, by higher taxes.
Our ongoing school enrollment crisis results from the County and School Boards’ failure to plan realistically for a future that appears to include relentless residential growth. In 2014, the School Board itself predicted a 2,500-classroom seat deficit even after approving a $450 million capital budget.
The County Board plans to fund the new Affordable Housing Master Plan — mandating 15,800 new committed affordable units (CAFs) in the next 25 years — but refused to insist that staff provide a thorough analysis of the plan’s costs and impacts on county services. Ultimately, no plan can be implemented successfully without a thorough understanding of the costs and how to pay for them.
Though the County pays lip service to the environment, it lags behind neighboring jurisdictions in installing renewable energy infrastructure in public buildings, and it enthusiastically supports development that increases impervious surfaces, reduces the mature tree canopy, and further degrades our environment.
The Arlington County Board talks a lot about the so-called Arlington Way while routinely ignoring citizen input and dismissing our concerns. For example, the County Board already had a signed, undisclosed letter of intent (LOI) in place with developer Penzance when it convened the West Rosslyn Area (WRAPS) citizen’s group — whose assigned task was to consider what should be built on the site.
The result? That neighborhood will lose public parkland even as its population doubles, and the historic Wilson School will be demolished.
The County also unilaterally decided to relocate historic Fire Station #8 and sell the historic Reeves farmhouse in Bluemont Park until neighbors rebelled. These are a few of the recent examples of County Board’s insular and autocratic decision-making style.
The Democratic candidates acknowledge a crisis of confidence in County government exists but continue passing the buck with platitudes and promises to do better. I have specific solutions. If elected with your support, I pledge to lobby the County Board to:
- Reduce the Business/Professional/Occupational Licenses (BPOL) taxes on small businesses, streamline the business permitting process, and consult with the Governor to ask for help in filling the new 30-story office building near the Rosslyn Metro, which still has no tenant two years after construction.
- Urge that support of County schools be given a greater weight in site plan negotiations with developers for community benefits.
- Ask the School Board to reduce reliance on trailers by increasing secondary class size by one student per class (bringing Arlington’s student-teacher ratio in line with neighboring jurisdictions), utilize existing land and space more efficiently, and reduce costs.
- Use housing funds to preserve the County’s remaining market-rate affordable apartment units and renovate them, which can be more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable over the long term than razing existing buildings to construct new units.
- Encourage developers to incorporate on-site affordable housing into their projects to disperse the units more evenly countywide and reduce costs.
- Strengthen the County’s efforts to enable disabled and retired citizens (who lived on fixed incomes) to age in place and remain in our community.
- Install renewable energy on all newly constructed or renovated public buildings and recruit developers who will adopt the LEED Platinum standards and install on-site, solar-driven electric charging stations.
- Adopt a transparency rule requiring online publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings to restore democracy to County government.
To make County government work better, I ask for your help. Please:
- Visit www.AudreyClement.com to volunteer or donate.
- Vote Clement — your Independent candidate — for Arlington County Board on Election Day, November 3, 2015.
Together, we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.
Clement is decrying the not-uncommon practice of county staff waiting to post documents related to County Board items and commission agenda items until either right before the meeting or after. While the vast majority of board reports and other documents are posted a week or more in advance, some go down to the wire, raising questions about government transparency.
In a press release, Clement proposes a rule requiring documents to be posted 72 hours in advance of any such meeting, and asks other candidates to support the rule as well. It wouldn’t come at a monetary cost, it would just require tighter deadlines, Clement said.
The full press release:
I’m Audrey Clement, Independent Candidate for Arlington County Board. I’ve spoken to hundreds of voters, taxpayers, and residents while campaigning for County Board this year.
Many have related to me their frustration with the fact that Arlington County staff frequently withhold critical documents, data, and information, or delay posting critical information till the day before the next Board or Commission meeting.
How can residents, the Civic Federation, civic associations, homeowners associations, and other stakeholders study and understand information or hold meaningful discussions with their elected officials about important decisions when staff either withholds, or waits until the last minute to reveal pertinent information and detail? They can’t!
There is a better way: A 72-hour transparency rule. In the corporate world, boards of directors typically require at least 5 days’ advance receipt of meeting materials. If you want meeting attendees to be prepared (which includes having read relevant reports and detailed information in advance), you need to give them the materials far enough in advance to make it possible. It is common practice in the business world to require 3-to 5-day advanced delivery of all board-meeting materials.
Providing meeting materials 3 days in advance of County Board and advisory commission meetings isn’t a lot to ask. It’s just common courtesy. And a 72-hour rule isn’t any more expensive or time consuming; it simply means setting earlier internal deadlines. In fact most Arlington County meeting documents are ready several days prior to meetings, yet staff often holds them for a Friday-night document dump to the County’s website.
Please join me and others in asking all Arlington County Board candidates to pledge their support to a 72-hour (or longer) rule for the advance publication of County Board and advisory commission agenda items and reports.
(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Independent candidate for County Board Audrey Clement is continuing to criticize Arlington for hosting a bike race last month.
On Saturday, Clement, a self-described avid cyclist, said the Air Force Association’s Cycling Classic, a two-day racing event in Clarendon and Crystal City, was dangerous to the public.
“No mention made by the Air Force Association of the danger to participants and pedestrians of conducting high speed races in the heart of a densely populated business district or the nuisance value of blocking major throughways to vehicular traffic for half of the day,” Clement said.
Clement previously spoke against the race at a last month’s Board meeting, while the race was happening, because the road closures prevented her from biking to the meeting on the route she usually takes. During that meeting, she told Board members that closing roads for the race was “reckless endangerment.”
“I risked my life to bike to this meeting,” she asserted.
Clement noted on Saturday that she was “ridiculed” for her remarks in June.
“At the June 13 County Board meeting I was ridiculed by County Board members for characterizing the bicycle races in progress that day in Clarendon as ‘reckless endangerment,'” she said.
Board members responded to Clement’s latest complaints by saying the barriers lining the cycling course ensured spectator safety, but Clement disagreed.
“Other Board members agreed with Mr. Fisette that the barricades put in place were sufficient to prevent accident or injury, I wish that were true. Yet on Thursday, July 2, one cyclist was killed and two were critically injured when one of the cyclist’s had a tire blowout on a downhill race sponsored by the World Police and Fire Games in Prince William Forest Park,” Clement said during the July 18 Board meeting.
Clement went on to say that the sport of cycling has more deaths than the Indianapolis 500, which had its last death in 1973. While there were some crashes at this year’s Clarendon and Crystal Cup races, no deaths were reported. During the race, barriers kept spectators away from the speeding cyclists and event staff were positioned at every crossing area to help people get from one side of the course to the other.
Arlington County is happy to work with event organizers to plan road closures and public safety measures, Board member Jay Fisette said.
“Our special events [are] one of the things that makes Arlington special. We have a special events policy, we have our block parties, we have bike events, we have neighborhood events, and events sponsored by the BIDs that happen in our denser corridors and each of those require work and require staff time to make sure the road network still works and they’re safe,” Fisette said.
In her remarks, Clement also called for a multi-modal system of enforcing traffic laws, with police officers monitoring activity from bikes. Board Chair Mary Hynes said a system called “PAL” is already in place to encourage cyclists and motorists to be careful on the road.
Here is School Board candidate Audrey Clement’s unedited response:
I’m Audrey Clement. I’m running for ARLINGTON SCHOOL BOARD, and I seek your vote. Democratic candidates for local office recently issued a press release promising to deal with Arlington’s enrollment crisis.
But Arlington Public Schools (APS) will not be able to meet the challenge under its recently adopted capital budget, as it projects a 2,500 seat deficit even AFTER spending hundreds of millions of dollars to produce 4,000 additional seats.
To address the crisis, School Board ought to ask the Superintendent some hard questions:
- Why does it cost Arlington $2 million to build a new classroom, when it costs Alexandria $900,000?
- Why does it cost Arlington $50 million to provide a new elementary school when it costs Fairfax County $20 million?
- Why does Arlington spend $5,000 more per pupil per year than Fairfax County?
- Why are voters asked to approve a $105 million school bond without knowing how half the money is going to be spent?
Since eighty percent of the schools’ half-billion-dollar operating budget is funded by local taxes and nearly half of every local tax dollar you pay goes to it, Arlington County Board should ask some hard questions too.
- Why, for example, has the School Board never addressed the 2012 the Virginia Department of Education report which concluded that APS administration is top heavy with eight assistant superintendents to Richmond’s three?
- Why does Federal Graduation Indicator show lower graduation rates for disadvantaged students in Arlington than elsewhere in the state?
County Board member Mary Hynes cast these concerns aside at a recent County Board meeting, saying: “I caution about doing the straight math.” She pointed out that there’s a lot more to a school upgrade than new classrooms, and the high per pupil cost reflects community values. In other words, the School Board must continue business as usual because that’s what the community wants.
The problem with business as usual is that the County can no longer afford it. According to a recent Washington Post article, Arlington’s “office market has been in near free fall recently. Between 22 and 23 percent of all the office space in Arlington County — more than 8 million square feet — is vacant. That is nearly triple the rate in 2010.”
As vacancy rates rise commercial tax receipts will erode, forcing County Board to raise residential tax rates to pay for the bonds issued to expand classroom capacity.
Under these circumstances Arlington should elect an independent to School Board who will stretch our tax dollars.
As a 10-year Westover resident and long-time community activist, I routinely urge the County Board to invest in basic services like libraries and schools over wasteful capital projects. With a Ph.D. degree in Political Science and classroom experience as a college instructor, I also strongly support APS’s focus on academic excellence.
Having served the U.S. House subcommittee for congressional oversight of special education programs, I am a strong advocate of remedial education.
If elected, I will work with my School Board colleagues to streamline the budget and guarantee success for all Arlington students. I will also encourage input from the public before key decisions are made. Visit my web site at www.AudreyClement.org and vote CLEMENT on November 4.
This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Clementine, a “rag-doll cat” who like to hang at least half of her body off surfaces on which she’s lying.
Here’s what owner Roxanne had to say:
This is Clementine, she is a 3-year-old black and white long-haired kitty. She was brought home from the Shirlington SPCA when she was 3 months old, and it was instant love! We’re not certain what kind of cat she is, but we suspect she may resemble something called a rag-doll cat. She loves to hang her body over any surface possible, and prefers when at least half her body is hanging off.
Her favorite hobbies are curling up on her favorite fluffy blanket, basking in the sunlight on the balcony, chasing bugs, and playing with her laser pointer. She has a very quiet meow, but she is very talkative, and love to be pet and lay in laps. Since her hair is so long, she loves a good brushing, to keep her coat nice and soft!
Clementine loves her home, and is a true Arlingtonian!
Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet.
Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Arlington and Northern Virginia.
Here is the unedited response from Audrey Clement (G):
I’m nine year resident of Arlington County with a doctorate in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow. As a long time Green Party leader and civic activist, I’ve worked hard to promote a better quality of life for Arlington residents. As treasurer of the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (ACST), I filed suit in 2009 to compel VDOT to assess alternatives to piecemeal widening of I-66 westbound.
In 2008 and 2013 I petitioned to place a referendum on the ballot to consolidate Arlington’s housing programs in one agency to leverage more money for affordable housing. I’ve also lobbied for a ban on plastic bags in supermarkets and chain drug stores and Styrofoam in food retail outlets. A ban bag is needed because all the bag tax bills introduced in the General Assembly to date have been defeated. Unlike a bag tax, which requires legislative approval, a bag ban is legal in Virginia right now, because the Virginia Waste Management Review Board calls the shots on waste reduction measures, not the legislature.
I think Arlington needs a change in leadership because County Board doesn’t understand that sustainable growth and so-called “Smart Growth” aren’t the same. As new office towers go up overnight, employers move into the county, spurring demand for housing that drives up rents and real estate assessments and promotes excessive infill development. Nevertheless County Board continues to award developers with more density—50% more in Crystal City and Pentagon City alone. As a result, the supply of affordable housing in this county has been cut by two-thirds in one decade. This isn’t sustainable.
To be sustainable, basic public infrastructure must keep pace with new residential and commercial construction. Sustainability also requires the County Board to create a housing authority to leverage more money for affordable housing, just like all the other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. Otherwise those who move into the County are stuck in a never-ending cycle of tax and rent increases as others are recycled out. To be sustainable, we need to do more than accumulate LEED points. We need truly energy efficient buildings and on-site renewable energy. To be sustainable, we must appreciate the difference between needs and wants.
- We don’t need an $80 million aquatic center, when Northern Va. is already drowning in public pools.
- We don’t need a $310 million trolley when bus service can be upgraded at a fraction of the cost.
- We may want a cultural center and a black box theater. But we must get the private sector to finance them, not the taxpayers.
- We may like the already over capacity Taj Mahal high schools recently constructed in this county. But what we need is to expand classroom space at a reasonable cost even if that means building up or renovating rather than building new.
If elected to the County Board, I will promote fiscal responsibility without sacrificing the health and welfare of its residents.
I pledge to make developers pay their fair share of infrastructure costs. I also plan to fully fund libraries, schools, and programs for youth, seniors, and the disabled, emphasize recycling and renewable energy; and hire an Inspector General to audit the County’s budget. You can find out more about my Campaign for a Greener Arlington by visiting AudreyClement.com. Vote Clement for County Board on November 5th.