Join Club

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.

Read More

69 Comments

Republican county board candidate Mark Kelly has started running an ad on local cable television.

The ad emphasizes the “diversity of opinion” Kelly says he would bring to the board. Arlington viewers started seeing the ad on cable TV shows on Wednesday.

“We’re trying to use every means available to reach people,” Kelly said after a debate in Highland Park last night.

Kelly’s opponent, incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman, says he has no plans to air any TV ads, although he has done so in the past.

“I’m not buying cable ads,” Zimmerman said, adding that cable viewership is down. “Cable doesn’t have the penetration it used to.”

Zimmerman said that his campaign was based on a 12-month strategy, not a short-term strategy.

59 Comments

The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

At this point each year, we have the opportunity to examine the speeches of the five Arlington County Board Members to gauge their priorities for 2021. There was no doubt from those remarks that real challenges lie ahead as we move into COVID recovery.

Arlington has weathered the pandemic better than many communities. Our economy is still largely dependent on the relatively stable federal government budget. We are able to work from home due to access to technology and strong and fast internet connections. Still we saw businesses close their doors. And many more are wondering how much longer they can hang on.

Yesterday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo took to Twitter and said about his state’s economy, “We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.”

While Virginia’s business closures have not been as restrictive as other states like New York, we still need to have a forward-looking plan to return to normal as quickly as possible.

We need to address our budget in a way that does not put additional pressure on our economy and family budgets. Now is not the time to fund shiny object projects. As the newest County Board Member Takis Karantonis mentioned, he will focus “On fiscally sound, sustainable and accountable governance. This is a challenging year where all our fiscal priorities will have to be carefully re-examined and contrasted against major challenges in the commercial tax-base . . .”

We need to get our kids back in school. The truth is that while some students are thriving in a virtual environment, many are just getting by, and many others are struggling. While the County Board often takes a largely hands-off approach to Arlington Public School policy, they do provide the annual funding for the schools. More could have been said by County Board members about the role schools play in our overall community and economic life, particularly if “equity” truly is as big of a concern as the speeches made it out to be. The schools need to be held accountable now more than ever.

We also need more civility. As Libby Garvey said in he remarks, “We may disagree on something important, but we should respect each other even as we argue vigorously.” As we stare at growing polarization and civil unrest, may we all engage in more self-reflection and less knee-jerk blame in 2021.

Finally, an interesting note is that incoming Chairman Matthew de Ferranti encouraged Arlingtonians to shop local. He acknowledged people may still need to have some things delivered which was an apparent swipe at Amazon. Now that Arlington is home to Amazon’s second headquarters, wouldn’t we still be shopping local? Anyway, in addition to patronizing your favorite local restaurant, remember local charities can also use your support.

Mark Kelly is a long-time Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

0 Comments

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) On the second anniversary of Amazon choosing Arlington for its HQ2, Vice President of Public Policy for Amazon Brian Huseman is celebrating the project staying the course.

Huseman spoke with ARLnow about the goals of the celebration, Amazon’s local charitable contributions, the progress the company is making toward its hiring goals, construction deadlines, and the impact of the coronavirus on work.

“We want to convey that we’re on-track and on-target to hire the employees and we want to convey that we’re deeply invested in the community,” Huseman said. “We want to be a good neighbor and contribute to community organizations as much as we can during these challenging times.”

Despite the pandemic, Phase One of construction — on the Metropolitan Park development site in Pentagon City — continues on-schedule, Huseman said. In this phase, a block of warehouses were torn down and two Amazon towers totalling 2.1 million square feet are being built in its place.

Amazon is also funding the $14 million renovation of Metropolitan Park, adjacent to the first HQ2 phase.

Both Phase One and the park are expected to be completed in 2023, when Amazon expects to open its complex. Until then, it is leasing several temporary office spaces in Crystal City.

The second phase of HQ2 should be ready to present to the community and go through the county’s approval process starting in 2021, Huseman said. That phase is expected to include several million additional square feet at the PenPlace development site, one block down from the first phase along S. Eads Street. Amazon recently bought a hotel on the PenPlace block, with plans to tear it down.

Amazon reached the 1,000-employee mark earlier this year, hiring first in Human Resources, Recruiting and Finance. It has 500 open roles currently, Huseman said, and plans to continue its hiring spree for the foreseeable future.

“We’re on-track to meet 25,000 hires over next decade,” he said.

Amazon is sticking to that number even as it grows in Bellevue, Washington, which some have speculated is becoming the “real HQ2.” In September, Amazon announced it would be increasing the number of hires from 15,000 to 25,000 in the city, not far from the company’s Seattle headquarters.

Huseman dismissed the speculation that Bellevue would be supplanting Arlington.

“We have a presence in the Puget Sound region,” he said. “We are growing there, but the key here is that we promised 25,000 jobs and we’re on target for that. That’s what we’re going to deliver.”

And employees at HQ2 will be doing a “whole range of things” from web services to retail. The Vice President of Alexa International, Rob Pulciani, was one of the first executives to transfer to HQ2 with his team to build “the next generation of Alexa services,” Huseman said.

“Whatever Amazon does, you’ve got people at HQ2 doing that,” he said.

As a result of the pandemic, Amazon employees can work from home until June 2021. Most are opting to stay home but the offices are open with temperature checks, frequent disinfecting and social distancing in place. Candidates are interviewing remotely.

“Working from home is pretty effective and collaborative,” Huseman said. “We are able to communicate with video-conferencing and channels that we have with teams across the country.”

Read More

0 Comments

Kellyanne Conway, senior advisor to President Trump, announced last night that she will be leaving the White House at the end of the month to attend to family matters.

Prior to her involvement in the Trump campaign and administration, Conway — a D.C. resident — was a consultant and pollster. Her financial disclosure includes prior work for organizations like the American Conservative Union, National Rifle Association, Tea Party Patriots — and Arlington Public Schools.

“Her company did do work for us a few years before she worked on the Trump campaign,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia confirmed to ARLnow. “Her company did our climate survey which was the predecessor to the Your Voice Matters Survey.”

One publicly-posted document shows some of the work she did for the school system.

In 2014, two years before Conway joined the Trump campaign, her firm The polling company, inc./WomanTrend conducted the APS Community Satisfaction Survey, writing in an executive summary of the poll’s findings that APS “earns high marks across-the-board.”

“90% of parents, 85% of staff members, and 79% of community members give the public schools in Arlington either an ‘A – outstanding’ or ‘B – very good’ grade,” Conway wrote to then-Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. Conway also pointed out that most APS staff were happy with their level of compensation and that 18% of APS students had been bullied during the past school year, among other key findings.

Conway was paid in excess of $5,000 in a year for her work with Arlington Public Schools, according to her 2017 executive branch financial disclosure, though an exact figure was not given.

APS appears to be the only public school system in Conway’s financial disclosure, as compiled by ProPublica. The list also includes one local university: Catholic University of America.

Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr

0 Comments

Dog in costume (Courtesy of Doorways for Women and Families)Halloween is coming a week early at the Market Common Clarendon (2700 Clarendon Blvd), with the return of Falloween and Howl-O-Ween on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Howl-O-Ween, the annual trick-or-treating dog walking event, kicks off the morning at 9:30 a.m.

Dogs and their owners will make their way around the Market Common Clarendon loop, while stopping at local businesses to trick-or-treat. Each year, owners compete to have the best costume for their furry friends.

The event benefits local nonprofits Homeward Trails Animal Rescue and Doorways for Women and Families.

Kelly Spafford, a spokeswoman for Doorways, recommends owners use “originality, creativity and humorous/clever costumes” to win the costume contest.

“Consider combining your dog’s costume with your own (dressing up isn’t mandatory, but there will be prizes!),” Spafford said in an email. “Remember to make sure your dog feels safe and comfortable in their costume.”

In addition to trick-or-treating and the costume contest, dogs will have the ability to show off their skills on an agility course.

Howl-O-Ween is dog and human friendly, Spafford said.

“It’s a way to get your kids involved in charity work, [as] volunteering is typically unavailable to them for confidentiality, insurance or other reasons at most human service nonprofits, so this is a way to get them connected to the importance of helping others early, so bring the whole family,” she said.

Howl-O-Ween is a charity event, and costs $30 for adults and $20 for children. All proceeds go to helping women and dogs that are victims of abuse.

Immediately after Howl-O-Ween, the Market Common Clarendon will host its annual family-oriented Falloween event from noon to 4 p.m.

There will be live music from children’s entertainer Mr. Knick Knack from noon to 2 p.m., followed by Rainbow Rock Band, from 2-4 p.m.

The free event will also have a petting zoo, face painting and pumpkin decorating. Kids will have the opportunity to go trick-or-treating at local businesses from 1-3:30 p.m.

0 Comments

(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) On March 15, a year to the day after the all-Democrat Arlington County Board rejected a controversial plan to add lights to its football and baseball fields, Bishop O’Connell High School made a $350 contribution to the campaign of Republican County Board candidate Mark Kelly, according to public campaign contribution records.

In a statement issued late this afternoon, Michael J. Donohue, Director of Communications for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, said the donation was made by a school employee using school funds. The check was intended to be a donation from an individual, however, and not a donation on behalf of the school itself, according to Donohue.

The Diocese learned today that a member of the staff of Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington County recently used a school check for the sake of convenience to purchase a set of tickets to a political fundraiser for a candidate for local office. This was a significant error in judgment on the part of the school employee as well as a clear violation of diocesan policy. Though all of the $350 in school funds were reimbursed by the employee, Chancery and school officials are presently reviewing the matter, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

One local Democratic official raised a red flag about the donation, which seemed like an unprecedented, symbolic gesture from the school, until the Diocese clarified the record.

“I’ve never seen this, a school giving a donation to a political candidate,” the official told ARLnow.com.

Donohue said Diocese policy specifically prohibits political donations, which would be a violation of the church’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

“Diocesan policy absolutely prohibits church entities to contributing to any political campaigns, either on behalf of or opposition to any candidate,” Donohue said. “That’s reflective of the IRS code.”

A Bishop O’Connell spokeswoman was reached via phone before this article was published, but declined to comment.

Kelly ended up losing the March 27 special election to Democrat Libby Garvey.

Image via Wikipedia

92 Comments

Republican Mark Kelly is hoping that the handling of county manager Michael Brown’s forced resignation will convince voters that more “diversity of opinion” is needed on the county board.

Last night, in an otherwise dry debate at the Lyon Village Civic Association’s general meeting, Kelly made the Brown issue central to his case against incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman.

“I want to give you one example that happened recently that I think points to the problem when one party controls every seat,” Kelly told the crowd. While saying that sometimes it’s necessary to fire people who aren’t working out, Kelly criticized the way in which board chairman Jay Fisette finally acknowledged that Brown did not simply resign for personal reasons.

“It took them a while to respond, and when they finally came clean about it, it was at the Arlington County Democratic [Committee] monthly meeting,” Kelly said. “I don’t think an announcement like that… should have been done at a partisan political meeting; I think that should have been done through official channels” like a press release or a press conference.

Zimmerman did not address the county manager issue during the debate, but he did respond to a reporter’s question afterward.

“I think that was the first opportunity [Jay Fisette] got” to talk about the county manager issue in a public forum, Zimmerman said. “It’s not like this is the White House, we just don’t go down to the press room and demand attention for a press conference.”

“I think the board did what it had to do,” Zimmerman continued. “We’re very fortunate we had [former interim county manager Barbara Donnellan] available to us… we didn’t have to do another search process.”

During the forum, Zimmerman touted the board’s accomplishments in promoting smart growth, fiscal responsibility and relatively low residential taxes.

Read More

10 Comments

Republican County Board candidate Mark Kelly says county government spending is out of control and he’s the man to help reign it in. If elected to replace incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman, Kelly said he would bring “diversity of opinion” to the “out of touch” county board.

“Between 2000 and 2009, the all-Democrat county board increased spending at a rate nearly three times inflation,” Kelly said in this opening remarks at Tuesday night’s Civic Federation debate. “Mr.  Zimmerman recently called that ‘cautious and careful fiscal management… only inside the Beltway would we call that cautious and careful fiscal management.'”

Kelly proposes to scrap the $150 million Columbia Pike trolley system, championed by Zimmerman. If elected, Kelly said he would push for the release of all county spending information online and support a 10 percent pay cut for board members to help pay for it.

Zimmerman, meanwhile, cited the rosy state of the county’s economy and standard of living as evidence that Arlington is on the right track. He rattled off a list of accolades recently received by the county: best place to weather the recession, best place to raise a child, top 10 intelligent cities in the world, and the highest fiscal rating by bond agencies.

“I’m proud of what we achieved,” Zimmerman said.

In particular, Zimmerman said he was proud of promoting smart growth, public transportation — including the creation of the ART bus system — and affordable housing.

“When you have prosperity, affordable housing becomes more of a problem,” Zimmerman said. “That’s what makes it the thing we have to work the most on.”

On the topic of zoning, Kelly called for more flexibility in the county’s dealing with local business. He said the recent controversy over dog murals in Shirlington and the three-and-a-half hour board discussion about signage and cafe seating is evidence the county is “micromanaging businesses.”

For his part, Zimmerman called for “new strategies to meet the needs of small business.”

“I continue to be dedicated to Arlington’s participatory tradition in planning and government,” he said.

Read More

28 Comments

Peter RousselotPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

In his column last week, Mark Kelly asked whether fundamental reforms to Metro are “myopic GOP grumbling or necessary?”

Discussion

Mark is right that fundamental reforms to Metro are necessary.

Bipartisan support for a regional solution

Because Metro serves three independent jurisdictions (D.C., Maryland, Virginia), Metro had to be created by an interstate compact among those three jurisdictions. Under federal law, all interstate compacts also must be approved by the federal government.

The current interstate compact governing Metro establishes how it will be governed and financed. All amendments to the current Metro interstate compact similarly require agreement among those three jurisdictions and the federal government.

If anyone reading this thinks that Metro’s current problems can be solved using Metro’s current governing structure and financing, there is no point reading any further.

If you’re still with me, the reason I agree with Mark about the need for a bipartisan solution to Metro’s woes is that the Maryland and D.C. legislatures are currently controlled by Democrats, while the Virginia and federal legislatures are currently controlled by Republicans.

We cannot afford to wait to fix Metro in hopes (if you are a Dem) that the Democrats will take over the legislatures in Virginia and the federal government, or in hopes (if you are in the GOP) that the GOP will take over the legislatures in D.C. and Maryland. And I haven’t even mentioned the chief executives!

Since a partisan solution to Metro’s critical problems is impractical, we must arrive at a bipartisan solution to those problems — whether we like it or not.

More importantly, no matter which political party happens to control the legislatures at any given time in these four jurisdictions, millions of voters of the other party will still live there. Metro is vital to all of us regardless of our political affiliations.

Fundamental reforms

There are a variety of fundamental reform plans for Metro that already have been offered. For example, each of the following three fundamental reform plans would require Metro interstate compact amendments:

In addition to these plans, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has asked former Republican Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to lead a panel to develop a plan expected to be published this fall. It is virtually certain that whatever plan the LaHood panel develops also will require amendments to Metro’s interstate compact.

New, dedicated revenue stream

Most other metropolitan transit systems in America have a dedicated revenue stream to supplement the contributions of local governments. Our Metro system doesn’t have one:

“Instead, Metro relies on a patchwork of annual subsidies from local governments. In effect, Metro competes yearly against myriad other public spending priorities, its operating budget consistently facing some level of appropriations risk.”

Conclusion

Without a dedicated revenue stream (e.g., a regional sales tax), Arlington County and other local governments cannot afford to keep Metro afloat much longer.

Metro will eventually collapse without a dedicated revenue stream.

The only way for Metro to get a dedicated revenue stream is through interstate compact amendments.

Republicans won’t agree to a dedicated revenue stream unless Democrats agree to fundamental reforms of Metro governance and spending practices.

So, Arlington County needs to back a bipartisan deal to save Metro. 

0 Comments

Mark KellyThe Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Fizzling Fights in Richmond? Despite posturing on Medicaid expansion, Gov. McAuliffe’s chances of changing the debate on this issue were damaged when Republicans maintained control of the General Assembly in Nov. 2015.

Attorney General Herring’s recent decision on concealed carry reciprocity could also rear its head. But, General Assembly leaders may not be willing to enter a standoff on that issue in the face of presidential politics.

Outstanding Customer Service? Libby Garvey assumed the center chair at the annual Arlington County Board meeting on Jan. 1, promising to provide better customer service to the County, including reform of the “byzantine” zoning ordinances and more flexibility in regulation.

Garvey’s encouraging words will put her resolve to achieve results to the test, particularly as she faces a primary challenger. And, the Board still needs to pick a permanent County Manager to lead any changes.

New Dynamic on the County Board? After John Vihstadt’s election, gone were the days of Board Members hashing every issue out behind closed doors and voting unanimously come meeting time. The insular decision-making process lead to increasing unease in the community over time.

We have no idea where Cristol and Dorsey will land on the important questions moving forward, but here’s hoping for a vigorous debate on what the future will look like for Arlington taxpayers.

Your Concerns Are Addressed? Garvey also talked about gathering input from a greater sample of Arlingtonians in her Jan. 1 speech. In that spirit, I want to know what issues you would like to see addressed in this space.

Would you like more focus on the school budget? Where is our money going, and why?

Are you concerned about whether the County is adequately addressing core services like public safety and basic infrastructure?

One of those core services is transportation. Do you question whether the County is doing the right things to improve traffic flow in residential areas? Can we ever put Metro back on the right track? Should HOT lanes come inside the beltway on 395? Or should we do more to widen 66?

Please use the comments section to sound off on these or any other issues, and let me know what you want to see discussed.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list