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The following letter to the editor was submitted by Dave Schutz, a 30 year Ashton Heights residents, regarding the Arlington Way.

Dear Editor: This letter responds to the Dec. 3 Progressive Voice column by Mary Rouleau.

Ms. Rouleau suggests that recent dissension in our community shows that the Arlington Way needs to be updated, and that it’s time for an Arlington Way 2.0. Ms. Rouleau says that the current practice, even though advisory groups generally advocate the progressive options which the County should follow, does not adequately inform residents to build the necessary consensus for these options. She says it is “…important that the County government provide the public with facts that support its decisions and a description of the public purposes served by the decisions… there is a wide information gap on that set of issues alone… the County has the resources to reach more households and should be a primary source of information for explaining the use of public assets and resources..”

I agree with Ms. Rouleau that there’s an Arlington Way problem, but what I see is that the problem is basically that we have left behind the original Arlington Way 1.0, are already in Arlington Way 2.0, and this has led to the turmoil we have seen.

Arlington Way 1.0 involved the Board seeking input from citizens who brought to an issue group a wide variety of perspectives, and the Board sought a way forward which would leave most residents satisfied with the direction. It was widely popular. About fifteen years ago we shifted to Arlington Way 2.0, in which the Board would recruit mostly-advocate advisory group members whose views at the outset matched those of the County Board majority.

Since the shift, there has been a growing buzz of rejectionist comments directed toward task force products, as well as doubt and opposition from budget-minded people in civic organizations. To complete the picture, the County Board can push necessary approvals for a proposal to well before or after an election, and then claim that it’s been legitimated. Anyone who did not work the process earlier has no standing, it’s the Arlington Way, and it can’t now be changed because the board has decided. I think it would be well for our community if we went back to Way 1.0.

WTOP quoted Chris Zimmerman (a man who will never again face the voters) in Feb. 2014: “In the end, each Board member has to make a judgment about what is best for the community… Leadership is the unflinching exercise of that judgment without regard to momentary swings in popularity. I believe that the great success Arlington has had is the result of the combination of leaders who actively engage the people; listen closely to what they’re saying; and then chart a path that they, in their best judgment, believe is most likely to result in the ultimate happiness of the community; and the willingness of the people in this community to let them do so.”

I think this exemplifies the mindset which has led to Arlington Way 2.0. As an example, on the trolley, Zimmerman and his acolytes badly overestimated the willingness of the community to go down the road they had identified, and their advisory process did not adequately warn them of what was about to happen. Likewise on a number of other issues, including the Natatorium. Though the Board majority gavelled through the Affordable Housing Master Plan last month, it had been the source of a great deal of dissension — again, Arlington Way 2.0.

Ms. Rouleau suggested that the County government organize to advocate for new progressive initiatives. I’m not convinced that this would guarantee success: it’s very much what was done for the Columbia Pike trolley, hundreds of thousands of dollars went into the Mobility Lab for pro-trolley propaganda and the under-fifty thousand dollar oppositional spending of the Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit carried the day.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Mary Rouleau

By Mary Rouleau

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

Last year, I attended a workshop focused on crafting a conversation about and building public support for “the common good” in Arlington. In my view, the workshop helped counter the view that government was the problem — or at least a large part of it — in a climate of “no trust” and partisan gridlock.

While the “no trust” description readily applies to the other side of the Potomac, there have been threads of the “no trust” narrative in Arlington in recent years.

I believe Arlington has done many things right over the past 20 years, including balancing the tax base between commercial and residential sources, sustaining strong schools and crafting national best practice models of transit-oriented development, including affordable housing.

But we now face large, complex challenges, including sustained school growth, economic competition, a growing affordability gap and a large number of aging Boomers — and all must be placed in the context of limited available land.

A prior generation of Arlington leaders made tough but good decisions in leading the County. Among the best was siting the Metro underground instead of in the I-66 median. We now find ourselves with a set of “next era” decision points. Those decisions will determine where and how we go forward as a community.

Because we must make these decisions in an era of tight budgets and slower economic growth, it would not be surprising to hear sentiment along the lines of, “Why should I pay for things I don’t need?”

But Arlingtonians have, over the decades, been more sophisticated and progressive, showing a willingness to go where the facts lead, even if there is not a direct benefit to them. Perhaps the most important and consistent indicator of this is the continued support for our schools even though the vast majority of Arlington households have no direct ties to APS.

Pursuing progressive values does not require a blank check to government. And residents should be able to expect not only good outcomes, but also transparency and informed decision-making with public input of various kinds.

It is important that the County government provide the public with facts that support its decisions and a description of the public purposes served by the decisions. My experience with housing issues over the past several years has demonstrated again and again that there is a wide information gap on that set of issues alone.

Advocacy groups can play an important educational role, too, but the County has the resources to reach more households and should be a primary source of information for explaining the use of public assets and resources.

And what of the “Arlington Way” that has guided County decisions? No doubt it has been a key in the public’s support for most of those decisions.

But demographic shifts, the technology explosion, and increasing careers demands support the view that it’s time for an Arlington Way 2.0.

There was talk during the recent election cycle of the need to bring more segments of the community into the dialogue by creating more opportunities for feedback. While true, it’s not enough. We also need ways to get more information about the challenges we face into the community’s hands in a timely and a sustained way. For most issues, this will need to be an ongoing process and not a one-off exercise.

It strikes me that so much energy goes into a typical Arlington study process on the front end that little remains for the rollout. Yet for many people, the rollout is the first time they become aware that change is happening.

We can fairly expect that those who participated in the process understand the reasoning behind the recommendations and outcomes that follow. But to build and maintain a larger community consensus, it is probably even more important for good information — promoting understanding of the importance of the action and why the action serves the common good — to flow after a decision is made.

In a future column, I will discuss the importance of the just-completed Final Report of the Community Facilities Study Committee, both for its substantive recommendations and how it provides an opportunity for greater public awareness and consensus.

Mary Rouleau is a 25-year resident of Arlington. She is the Executive Director of The Alliance for Housing Solutions. This column reflects her personal views.

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Mike McMenaminAffordable housing continues to divide the candidates for County Board, with the two Democratic nominees supporting the Affordable Housing Master Plan and the two independents proposing alternative methods at a debate over the weekend.

The County Board candidates all announced varying degrees of support for increasing affordable housing in Arlington, but disagreed on the best way to implement it during a candidate forum held by Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement Sunday evening.

“Everyone’s in favor of everything, and that’s the balancing act in this community,” said independent candidate Mike McMenamin.

The county needs to focus on geographic distribution of affordable housing units, said McMenamin, who has previously said affordable housing is not one of his priorities. The county should also go back and address its 2003 targets for the amount of affordable units, which it only met twice, he added.

McMenamin, who does not support the Affordable Housing Master Plan passed by the County Board last month, said that the County Board needs to look at how to add affordable housing and address school capacity, without sacrificing parkland for more affordable housing units or more schools. Finding the money to support all of these plans is also a challenge, he added.

Audrey Clement

One of the high costs to the affordable housing plan is the choice to increase the amount of committed affordable units (CAFs) instead of trying to incentivize market-rate affordable units (MARKs), said Audrey Clement, the other independent candidate.

“There is a serious question of whether CAFs are the way to go,” Clement said.

The new Affordable Housing plan calls for 15,800 affordable housing units, and making them all CAFs would be too expensive for the county, she said, arguing that MARKs are cheaper.

“Private developers can build units much more cheaply than the county can, so limit new construction to onsite units in market-rate developments,” she said.

Clement has spoken out against the Affordable Housing Master Plan, and if elected, plans on creating a housing authority to oversee all housing concerns in Arlington, similar to the authorities in Fairfax County and Alexandria.

Both Democratic nominees, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, reaffirmed their support in the affordable housing plan.

Beyond affordable housing, candidates all addressed community concerns about the disconnect between Arlington residents and the Board. The “Arlington Way,” the county’s system of community involvement in decision-making, needs some retuning, candidates said.

Christian DorseyIt is on the community’s shoulder to tell County Board members what the problems are in the county, Dorsey said.

“It’s not what I am going to do. It’s what you all are going to do, and everybody else in Arlington. You all are going to tell us what is necessary to make sure every voice counts,” he said. “It does not work if elected officials tell you what they are going to do to listen. You have to tell us what we need to do to make sure your voices are heard.”

It’s also about going to meet the community where they are, Dorsey and Cristol said.

“We have to get rid of this excuse that they don’t come to our meetings,” Cristol said.

Increasing community engagement means making meetings at times that are reasonable to community members and personally inviting leaders to come to meetings, she said.

It’s also important that the public is brought into the process at the beginning, not the tail end, said McMenamin, citing the recent discussions about Fire Station 8.

If elected, he plans on going to community meetings, talking to people at farmer’s markets and even knocking on people’s doors to get their opinions about bigger decisions, he said.

“You have to listen to the neighborhoods and do what’s right,” he said.

Katie CristolIn addition to fixing the “Arlington Way,” all candidates pledged to focus on the school capacity crisis and the commercial vacancy rate issues that are plaguing the county.

Addressing the school capacity rate needs to be figured out by both the Arlington School Board and the County Board, Cristol said, adding the community has to be involved from the beginning.

“To me, this issue is one of how do we manage our growth,” she said.

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Mary Hynes at the Jan. 1, 2015 County Board organizational meeting

The Arlington County Board’s chief priority for 2015 will be a new, broad plan to solve the county’s school capacity and land shortage problems.

New Board Chair Mary Hynes announced yesterday that the County Board and School Board are launching a joint study to assess Arlington’s facility needs and solutions.

The County Board’s annual New Year’s Day meeting has traditionally been used by the incoming County Board chair to announce the new year’s political agenda, and this year was no different. Hynes said “we must develop systemic strategies to meet our array of community facility needs rather than address any particular need or any particular site in isolation,” and introduced the county’s plan for the study.

In the coming year, Hynes said, each board will select members of Arlington’s residential and business community to be on the committee for the “Arlington Community Facilities Study — a Plan for the Future.” The committee will determine criteria and needs for facilities planning and to develop a framework for the county’s 2016 Capital Improvements Plan.

“I believe we are always better when we listen to each other, seek to understand the breadth of the challenges we are facing and work together to adjust our course,” Hynes said. “Our framework will acknowledge that, as our population grows, change is unavoidable; that challenges loom as we work to reinvigorate our economy; and that the reality of our physical space limits some possible solution sets.”

Hynes said the committee will address the following questions:

  • For the foreseeable future, what are our facility needs for schools, fire stations, recreation, and transportation vehicle and other storage?
  • How do we pay for these needs?
  • What criteria should we use to help us decide where to locate them?
  • In the context of changing demographics and economics, what opportunities and challenges are there in our aging affordable and workforce multi-family housing stock?
  • What do changes in the Federal government presence and the residential and private commercial marketplace mean for County revenues?

Hynes and County Board member John Vihstadt — elected twice in 2014 while presenting himself as an alternative to longtime Board members Hynes, Jay Fisette and Walter Tejada — will serve as the Board’s liaisons to the study committee. The School Board will also have two liaisons to the committee.

“People talk about tension or discord on the Board, but I don’t look at it that way,” Vihstadt said in his year-opening remarks. “We have our disagreements, heated at times. We may have different perspectives, and it is right to air those perspectives … But I’d like to think that, as a collective body, we are working better together and being more productive than our federal and state counterparts across the river and down Interstate 95.”

The Board and School Board will appoint members of the committee later this month, according to a county press release. The committee will answer the above questions, Hynes said, with the understanding that “significant new funding is unlikely” and that “no new land is being created.”

Full details of the facilities study and plan will be made available shortly, Hynes said.

Affordable housing will again be a key priority for the County Board. Along with the facilities study, Hynes highlighted affordable housing and “business vibrancy” as her other two priorities, and new Vice Chair Walter Tejada said affordable housing will be his top priority once again.

“I will redouble my unwavering commitment to supporting affordable housing and maintaining Arlington’s diversity in these challenging times,” Tejada said. “This is a necessary effort to help secure our future as a successful community.”

Tejada, Libby Garvey, Vihstadt and Fisette all noted that securing a new transit plan for Columbia Pike and the Route 1 corridor in Crystal City is a must in the near future.

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The 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.

Mark Kelly

Yesterday’s report that Arlington County policy may leave First Amendment protesters subject to arbitrarily enforced rules should give us all pause.

The actual wording of the special events policy would apply to “one or more persons” with even just the “propensity to attract a crowd.” The remedy for police, presumably, would be to tell a small group or individual to go home or face a fine of indeterminate size.

As reported here in ARLnow, some sort of administrative language from county staff is supposed to be forthcoming to clarify the policy. Those holding up signs outside of a political event they disagree with may not be subject to its enforcement. In the the meantime, county staff’s current policy toward its enforcement is effectively “trust us,” according to yesterday’s report.

The reality is the policy as written could conceivably give the county the ability to decide on a case-by-case basis whether it applies and to which group — or even a single individual. It opens the door for county staff to make that determination based on the content of the speech. Imagine, for example, the county staff or Arlington Police Department gets a call from an angry Board Member whose event is being protested.

Giving the Board the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume it was not their intent to prohibit concerned citizens from peacefully or spontaneously protesting. Hopefully, Board members will have county staff recommendations on the policy by the time of the September Board meeting.

But, it should have never been passed without more specific clarifying language. As written, it may take more than a county staff clarification to effectively protect Arlingtonians from potential abuses. The Board itself should probably re-address the issue.

Next time, maybe someone will stop and think about what wording of a policy actually means before they pass it. There should be no question as to whether diversity of political opinion will be welcome in Arlington.

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

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

Peter RousselotWhen County Board member Mary Hynes launched a new initiative called PLACE (Participation, Leadership and Civic Engagement), ARLnow posted a video and wrote a capsule story. In the video, various people were asked what they thought the term “Arlington Way” meant.  The capsule story asked and answered the question:

“What is the ‘Arlington Way’ exactly? It is essentially an open conversation between the local government and the people who live and work in Arlington. But the Arlington Way can mean different things to different people, as the video … seems to prove.”

Has the Arlington Way lost its way?

Arlington has created an elaborate system of advisory commissions, committees and task forces to tap the wealth of talent in our community This system was supplemented in 2012 with the PLACE initiative. And, in 2013, the County Board has added Walter Tejada’s Neighborhood Town Halls.

Compared to every other community anywhere near its size, the variety of opportunities that Arlington affords for citizen engagement and participation is admirable.

But, the Arlington Way is losing its way because of a combination of:

  • whether, when and how the County Board frames the issues for community discussion
  • what the County Board does with the advice it gets

Example: the PPTA guidelines.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) issued a report last fall warning that the Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA) lacked adequate safeguards, often enabling private firms to negotiate sweetheart deals that earn them high profits while placing most or all of the risk on the public.

The County Board has at least 3 citizen advisory groups that should have been asked to meet, review the proposed PPTA guidelines, and report back to the community: the Transit Advisory Committee, the Transportation Commission, and the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission. The County Board never requested such meetings or reports. Why not? What was the rush to enact such far-reaching guidelines without the input of these advisory groups?

Other examples:

  • The County Board’s recent decision on what to do with its fiscal year closeout funds, totaling many millions of dollars, included no opportunity for significant community engagement.
  • The entire structure of County Board decision making is a question too:  an item can appear once on an agenda and be voted on the same night.  Compare this with the School Board’s process of an item appearing first for information, with an opportunity for public comment, and then not being voted on until the next meeting – two weeks later. For major decisions, the School Board has even more time between public notice and action (like what to do with its fiscal year closeout funds).

We are losing our way. We have created many commissions, PLACE, and Neighborhood Town Halls so it looks like there is a lot of input, and there may be on many decisions. But, too many of the big, important decisions are reached without following the process we have created.

When we do use the process, the County Board too often disregards the input.  Of course, it is naïve to believe that the Board should always follow the recommendations, but when at midnight Board members are making changes to staff proposals and voting that same night – that does not inspire sufficient confidence in the Board’s decisions.

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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What is the “Arlington Way,” exactly?

It’s essentially an open conversation between the local government and the people who live and work in Arlington. But the Arlington Way can mean different things to different people, as the video above seems to prove.

Last month, under the leadership of County Board Chair Mary Hynes, Arlington held launch events for the PLACE (Participation, Leadership and Civic Engagement) initiative. PLACE is Hynes’ effort to “refresh and reinvigorate” the Arlington Way.

The video above was created as part of the PLACE launch events by the Arlington Virginia Network, the county’s cable TV channel.

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Last year, then-County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman used the annual chairman’s New Year’s Day address to promise a pro-business agenda for 2011. Indeed, the agenda eventually became a reality. Throughout the year the county held a series of public forums for business owners, worked to streamline some regulatory process and finally, in December, the Board adopted a measure that allowed A-frame signs — a big item on local business owners’ wish lists.

This morning the new County Board Chairman, Mary Hynes, promised to enhance civic engagement in Arlington. Already famous for its process of including community stakeholders in decision making — a process broadly referred to as “The Arlington Way” — Hynes is seeking to more formally institutionalize Arlington County’s commitment to civic engagement.

To do so, Hynes is proposing to first create a “map” of the numerous nonprofit groups and community associations that make up Arlington’s civic landscape.

“Our hope is that this expands our understanding of what each Arlington group does… and becomes a valuable resource for each Arlingtonian, newcomer and old-timer, teen to senior, seeking to make connections in our community,” Hynes said.

Hynes also wants to officially define what “The Arlington Way” means. Appropriately, she proposes to come up with a definition by engaging in a wide-ranging community discussion.

“We will convene a formal county-wide conversation to develop a clear description of The Arlington Way as it applies to and should energize our decision-making going forward,” she said. “Working with County Board Members, Commissioners, County staff, and Arlington residents, non-profits, and businesses, we will delineate the roles and responsibilities of participants in our civic decision-making processes.”

In another new initiative, Hynes announced that every Monday night (except for federal holidays) a County Board member will hold a two-hour “open door” session, “where residents can discuss any County-related issue with a Board Member.” The sessions will be held from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.; session locations will be posted on the county web site.

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Morning Notes

Leaf collection underway in Westover (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Safety Changes for Deadly Intersection — “Neighbors say Gwendolyn Hayes was the third pedestrian killed near the Little Falls Road and John Marshall Drive intersection and they waited more than a month after her death to hear plans to improve safety there… Arlington County officials revealed the results of a month-long study of the Vision Zero Critical Crash team. The plan is to add more bollards around medians and curbs, adding a darker crosswalk markings and more crossing signs… The county has planned a four way stop sign evaluation — to be completed in 2023.” [WJLA]

CivFed Accountability Resolution — “A proposal by five former presidents of the Arlington County Civic Federation to demand more accountability of county-government leaders itself has run into criticism from some quarters. And the result could be a grab-your-popcorn-here-comes-a-battle December meeting as the measure is considered for a vote by the Civic Federation’s membership. The five leaders have penned a lengthy resolution, backed up by hundreds of footnotes, suggesting that the longstanding ‘Arlington Way’ of bottom-up style of governance has been displaced by county leaders (elected and appointed) pushing their agendas on the population without listening to the public.” [Sun Gazette]

Evening Rush Hour Crash on I-66 — “66EB all lanes blocked in the tunnel due to crash. Delays extend past Glebe Rd nearly to East Falls Church/Langston Blvd. Traffic is being diverted into Rosslyn via exit 73.” [Twitter]

Real Estate Market Is Mixed Bag — “Home sales across Arlington are down, down, down, but that doesn’t mean buyers aren’t willing to open their checkbooks to get a property they really want, according to new data. The average sales price of single-family homes that went to closing across the county in October rose by a double-digit figure even as sales were down by more than a third from a year ago, according to new data.” [Twitter]

Big Donation for VHC — “The Arlington health system, formerly called Virginia Hospital Center, has received $5 million from local entrepreneur and philanthropist Suzanne Hanas. In making the donation, Hanas said the health care system has an ‘immense need’ for services that support people at the end of life, as well as those battling serious illnesses or recovering from medical procedures.” [Washington Business Journal]

Streetcar Cancellation 8th Anniversary — On this day in 2014, the Arlington County Board voted 4-1 to cancel the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar project. The cancellation followed the reelection of independent County Board member and streetcar critic John Vihstadt. [ARLnow]

Reminder: Santa Is Back — “Santa Claus is coming to town — sooner than you might expect. Santa is set to start snapping photos with children at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City on Friday, Nov. 18, according to the mall’s website. Santa will be stationed on the first level of the mall near Nordstrom.” [ARLnow]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 48 and low of 30. Sunrise at 6:56 am and sunset at 4:54 pm. [Weather.gov]

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(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Arlington’s Missing Middle housing proposal has aroused plenty of passion, but the strong opposition (and support) only registered a blip in last night’s election results.

Democrat incumbent Matt de Ferranti easily won his re-election bid for the Arlington County Board, with 61% of the vote to 28% for Audrey Clement and 10% for Adam Theo. (All but one county precinct have reported results as of publication.)

Leading up to the election, Missing Middle — a series of zoning changes that would potentially allow the construction of townhouses, duplexes and 3-8 unit buildings in districts zoned for single-family homes — had become a battleground issue for candidates.

De Ferranti staked out a middle ground on the issue, supporting lower density types such as duplexes, three-unit townhomes and fourplexes, but not eight-plexes, while independent candidate Adam Theo did not support any caps on density.

Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement opposed the plan full-stop based on concerns about its impact on the environment and county infrastructure, as well as concerns of displacement.

Proponents of the zoning change say last night’s results indicate as the support of most residents and the County Board needs to crack on with approving it.

“Arlington County voters have spoken,” said YIMBYs of Northern Virginia in a statement. “In a race that was widely seen as a de facto referendum on the Missing Middle housing proposal, 70% of voters chose a candidate who ran in support of these zoning reforms. Legalizing diverse forms of housing throughout Arlington County is not only existentially important to making the housing market function again and building a more inclusive Arlington. It is also good politics.”

The organization’s Activism Coordinator Grace White said Arlington is mostly made of renters and people who live in multifamily buildings, but they’re constrained to 25% of the land.

“To them, Missing Middle housing is a no-brainer, and necessary for them to see any kind of future here,” she said.

Opponents, like Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, say the proposal has the same flaws today as it did the day before the election, and its members will continue educating voters about what those are.

“Speaking for ASF, the only way to really know in a comprehensive way what Arlington residents think on Missing Middle would be to have a referendum,” says group founder Peter Rousselot. “That would be a clear way for people to express how they feel about Missing Middle. In an election we just had where there are so many other issues being talked about, the whole impact is diluted a lot.”

How Missing Middle split voters

For George Mason University Mercatus Center senior research fellow Emily Hamilton, the results appeared to mirror Arlington’s geography.

“I’m not sure to what extent voters were focused on Missing Middle versus other issues, but it does seem that the election results followed housing typologies, with Clement doing the best in some of the least-dense parts of North Arlington and Theo doing the best in some of the densest,” she said.

“The results show that while people who are opposed to Missing Middle have been visible at public engagement sessions and with yard signs,” Hamilton continued, “most voters didn’t cast use their vote to oppose Missing Middle.”

A precinct map of Arlington County, showing the four precincts where independent Audrey Clement beat Democrat Matt de Ferranti (via Virginia Public Access Project)

Arlington County Republican Committee communications chair Matthew Hurtt says the debate split Arlington Republicans, too, with an “overwhelming majority” of the Arlington GOP opposing the proposal, but “a strong contingent” of Young Republicans supporting it.

“The Arlington GOP likely broke for Audrey Clement, while the YRs likely broke for Adam Theo,” he said.

(Theo, who has described himself as “an independent progressive libertarian,” has advocated for streamlining building permits, lowering property taxes and allowing more housing to be built.)

Despite the divide, Arlington County Democratic Committee chair Steve Baker says he hopes the problem of housing affordability can get Arlingtonians to work toward a solution.

“I think we all agree that in a county where a residential lot costs over $1 million, that housing will remain one of our key issues,” he said. “Even though some candidates tried to use our varying views to divide us, Arlingtonians voted to affirm that we can solve our biggest challenges together.”

De Ferranti echoed this sentiment last night.

“We have to tackle housing with creativity and commitment, and that means both affordable housing and housing affordability — which are related but distinct,” he said. “We need to have a civil discussion and stay engaged in the work needed to address housing affordability.”

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Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement (2015 file photo)

Earlier this week, we invited the candidates running in Tuesday’s general election to write a post about why our readers should vote for them. Find information here on how and where to vote in Arlington on Nov. 8.

Below is the unedited response from independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement.

I’m Audrey Clement, Independent candidate for Arlington County Board. As an 18-year Westover resident, long time civic activist, current member of the  Neighborhoods Advisory Committee, and past member of the Transportation Commission, I’m running for County Board because it has pushed harmful policies resulting in:

  • overcrowded schools
  • gentrification
  • loss of green space and
  • excessive taxation

Now the County is pushing “Missing Middle” up-zoning–multi-family dwellings in single family home neighborhoods. Contrary to what the County says, Missing Middle will not make housing more affordable. Instead it will inflate land values, resulting in higher housing prices, overcrowded schools, more traffic congestion, loss of tree canopy, increased runoff and more air pollution.

The County’s own data indicates that an income of $108,000 per year will be needed to afford a low-end 1 bedroom condo. In 2019 the County reported Black and Latino median household income at a fraction of that. Furthermore the County projects that 90 percent of new units built will be 1-2 bedrooms already in good supply, not the 3 bedroom units that are needed. 80% will likely be rentals, not owner occupied.

Let’s face it. The only beneficiaries of Missing Middle are the developers who are already making a killing by flipping properties in your neighborhood.

Another issue that concerns me is tax gouging.

The Board recently adopted a $1.5 billion budget that includes a 5.3 percent effective real estate tax rate increase. Nothing new here. Between 2012 and 2021 Arlington’s ten-year average annual effective real estate tax rate increase was double the rate of inflation (FY 2023 Online Budget, p. 95 [108]).

Are these over-the-top annual tax rate increases actually needed to fund the budget?

Neighboring jurisdictions have lowered real estate tax rates in the wake of rising assessments. Fairfax County recently reduced its real estate tax by 3 cents per $100 of assessed value.

If elected, I pledge to:

  • Seek immediate tax relief for residents and businesses.
  • Say YES to affordable housing and NO to “Missing Middle” up-zoning.
  • Preserve Arlington’s cultural heritage. Stop permitting the destruction of historic structures like the Rouse estate that was demolished in March, 2021.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy. Stop clearcutting wooded areas along Potomac River tributaries in the name of stream resilience.
  • Say YES to real social justice reforms and NO to symbolic gestures.

If you share my agenda, then:

  • Visit my website at www.AudreyClement.com
  • Spread the word about my candidacy.
  • Donate to my campaign.
  • Help make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

Editor’s note: Candidates for local races are invited in advance to submit candidate essays, via contact information ARLnow has on file or publicly-listed contact information on the candidate’s website. Reminders are sent to those who do not submit an essay by the evening before the deadline.

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