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.
Affordable 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.
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.
“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.
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.
New Homeless Shelter Opens Today — Arlington County’s new $9 million Homeless Services Center in Courthouse opens today. Serving a county-wide homeless population of about 250, the shelter will provide a warm and safe place for homeless individuals to sleep at night, in addition to providing medical care, substance abuse and job training programs. [Arlington County, WAMU]
‘Good Morning Guy’ No Longer in Clarendon — “Good morning guy” Robert Gordon, a beloved Express newspaper distributor, is no longer handing out the free papers in Clarendon, disappointing many commuters. Where did he go, a reader asked? A Washington Post spokeswoman tells ARLnow.com: Gordon is still distributing the Express just down the Orange Line, in Rosslyn.
Wakefield Wins in Rout — The Wakefield High School football team defeated Mt. Vernon last night, 45-0, despite the Warriors’ starting running back being sidelined with an injury. [Washington Post]
Clement Proposes New Regional Park — Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement says that if she’s elected, she would work to build a new regional park inside the Beltway. “Arlington has nearly run out of public open space to keep pace with our population growth,” Clement writes in a press release. “We have to go back to the future and do what our parents and grandparents did 50 years ago: Buy land for new regional parks, outdoor recreation and playing fields.” [Clement for County Board, Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The candidates fielded questions from Arlington’s civic associations about various issues facing the county, including communication with residents and the commercial vacancy rate during a Civic Federation meeting last night. Arlington residents will vote for two new County Board members on Nov. 3.
Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol both spoke in favor of the Affordable Housing Master Plan, which the Board will decide on this month, while independents Mike McMenamin and Audrey Clement said they would vote against the plan.
The problem with the affordable housing plan, said Clement, is that it continues to rely on “densification” — building more housing in order to also add subsidized affordable units. Development has made housing more expensive, and has contributed to the loss of market rate affordable housing, she said.
“The actual economic assumption behind it is fallacious,” said Clement.
If voted onto the County Board, one of her first priorities would be the creation of a housing authority, which would put all housing agencies under one roof, similar to Fairfax County, Clement said. She also took issue with what she said would be a $90 million cost that the county would shoulder each year.
Dorsey disagreed, arguing that the plan is good for the county from an economic standpoint.
“When you have people who can live affordably, you have people who can spend money in your community,” Dorsey said.
For Cristol, the plan presents a way to help protect the middle class. While campaigning, she has heard from residents who say they would not be able to afford their homes if they had to buy them today.
“I believe the status quo in Arlington is hostile to the middle class,” Cristol said.
The plan isn’t perfect, Cristol said, adding that some of her South Arlington neighbors have asked for the plan to be more firm about geographic distribution.
“It’s a tough issue,” Cristol said. “It’s a complex issue.”
While housing affordability is an important topic, McMenamin said it is the wrong issue to be prioritizing, separating himself from the three other candidates who include affordable housing as a top platform issue.
“We’re betting everything on affordable housing when we have a school crisis,” he said, referring to the burgeoning student population, overcrowded schools and the proliferation of trailer classrooms across the county.
Arlington also needs to focus on the commercial vacancy rate, McMenamin said, an issue all candidates agreed on.
The county needs to work on “getting businesses back in the county,” he said. The county should focus on becoming a home for large companies like Marriott — which is considering moving from Maryland — but also provide a nurturing environment for startups, he said.
The county needs to find “creative ways, like tax relief,” to make the county more attractive to business, McMenamin said.
Making it easier for small businesses is an absolute must, Dorsey said. He proposed streamlining the process of starting a business in Arlington.
Cristol agreed that Arlington could be a hub for new businesses, such as companies in the medical technology industry, but she said that the county should not keep lowering the tax rate without a plan.
“We need to plan for the Arlington we want to see instead of blindly lowering the tax rate,” she said.
Candidates were also asked about the process behind County Board decisions, which some residents said is unsatisfactory.
All candidates said they would work to be open and more transparent about decisions, acknowledging decisions around the Western Rosslyn Area Plan, Reevesland Farmhouse and Fire Station 8, were not handled properly when it came to informing the community.
(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.
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Hundreds of cyclists took to Clarendon and Crystal City streets as part of the Air Force Association Cycling Classic this past weekend.
The two-day event saw professional, amateur and youth cyclists speed up and down Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards and Crystal Drive. The course also featured several tight turns for participants to whip around. The Clarendon Cup had five of these turns, which makes it one of the more difficult courses of its kind in the United States.
“It’s a really fun, local race. It’s one of the best in the area,” said Mattison Brady, a Washington, D.C. resident who placed second in the Amateur race.
The course’s technical challenges only add to the fun, Brady said.
But for some the two courses proved to be anything but fun. The Clarendon Cup’s challenges turned the race into a “race of attrition,” said Christopher Hair, a local cyclist with the United Healthcare/National Capital Velo Club Amateur team.
“It’s about an hour of excruciating pain,” Hair said. “Most people are smiling because it’s over.”
Riders also fell prey to the courses with multiple crashes throughout the two days. Multiple women hit the pavement during an early crash in the Clarendon Cup and at least two riders hit the ground during the men’s professional Crystal Cup causing a small slowdown.
The event was also apparently hazardous to a County Board candidate. Independent Board candidate Audrey Clement said the road closures from the Clarendon Cup hindered her ability to safely bike to Saturday’s Board meeting.
“As you know, I am an avid biker. I’ve biked to work every day for the past 25 years and I’ve biked to virtually every County Board meeting for the past three years,” Clement said in the meeting’s public comment period. “Yet today, I risked my life to bike to this meeting because the bike race… had blocked off all the streets in Clarendon. This represents not just an inconvenience to pedestrians, motorists and other bikers in the county, it constitutes reckless endangerment.”
For Hilton Clarke, a professional cyclist with United Healthcare, the two-day event was something to celebrate. The 35-year-old Australian cyclist won both the Clarendon and Crystal Cups and the Omnium.
“Well, I’ve been here a few times, and I’ve won now yesterdays race three times, and this race I’ve come in second three times, so it’s nice, even though my teammates normally beat me in this race, it’s nice to get a win here in this event so I’m really happy,” Clarke said.
For the women, Lauren Stephens took the Clarendon Cup after a long breakaway, and Coryn Rivera, a nationally-known cyclist, took the Crystal Cup and the Omnium.
Clement Running for County Board — Perennial local candidate Audrey Clement is running for Arlington County Board. Her paperwork was certified by election officials yesterday, placing her on the Nov. 3 ballot. Clement has ditched the Green Party label and is now running as an independent. Among her top issues are the historic preservation of Wilson School, getting developers to provide more community benefits and eliminating the 12.5 cent commercial real estate surcharge tax. [InsideNova]
Road Closures for Four Miler — A number of roads will be closed for much of Saturday morning for the Four Courts Four Miler. Among the planned closures are northbound Route 110 and Wilson Blvd from Courthouse Road to Route 110. [Arlington County]
Marine Corps Marathon Lottery Begins Today — Registration for the Marine Corps Marathon, which is being conducted via an online lottery, begins at noon today. The registration period closes at noon on March 23. The registration fee, for those who get in, is $125 plus processing fees. [Marine Corps Marathon]
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.
H-B Parents Peeved By Document Disappearance — Some parents of H-B Woodlawn students are up in arms after three documents that questioned a proposal to move the secondary program to a new building disappeared from an Arlington Public Schools website. One parent called the removal of the documents “heavy-handed and disturbing.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Arlington Man Charged With Fairfax Sex Assault — Sloan Wilson Rappoport, a 44-year-old Arlington resident and former George W. Bush administration official, has been charged with sexually assaulting a woman he met at a Bailey’s Crossroads clothing store. Police say Rappoport invited the woman into his Mercedes-Benz, then drove to a nearby location and sexually assaulted her. [Washington Post]
Clement to Run for School Board — Perennial Green Party candidate Audrey Clement is planning on running for Arlington School Board. Currently running in the race are three candidates seeking the Democratic endorsement: Barbara Kanninen, Greg Greeley and Nancy Van Doren. [InsideNoVa]
Airline Changes at DCA — As a result of changes related to the American Airlines/US Airways merger, JetBlue, Virgin America and Southwest Airlines will all be expanding their presence at Reagan National Airport. [MWAA]
Endorsements for Howze, Vihstadt — Arlington County Board candidates Alan Howze (D) and John Vihstadt (I) have picked up notable endorsements in the past week. Howze has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, which says he has a “depth of knowledge and understanding of key environmental issues facing the County.” Vihstadt has been endorsed by the local firefighters union, which says it shares Vihstadt’s spending priorities — an emphasis on core services and opposition to projects like the streetcar and the aquatics center.
Will Arlington Regret HOT Lanes Opposition? — Writing about what may be the area’s “worst commute” — from Fredericksburg to the District via I-95 and I-395 — highway historian Earl Swift suggests that Arlington may ultimately regret its opposition to HOT lanes on I-395. Running HOT lanes from I-95 to just before Arlington on I-395 “could spawn new and fearsome jams on I-395, choking Arlington County with the exhaust of idling legions of cars,” Swift writes. “The HOT lanes could be so popular, and inspire so fierce a public demand for their extension to the Potomac, that talks between state and county resume.” [Atlantic Cities, Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
Audrey Clement, running for the County Board for the fourth straight election, lost to incumbent Democrat Jay Fisette, 66 to 31 percent. She was actually encouraged by the results, but said the 30 percent range appears to be a Green Party candidate’s best possible result.
“In our best races we seem to be hitting up against a glass ceiling of 30 percent,” she said at the Green Party’s election gathering at Westover Beer Garden. “It seems we can’t break that ceiling. I think we will when the county breaks the budget.”
Clement said she was more disappointed with the result of the redevelopment and housing authority vote than she was with her own defeat in the election, because she believes the current housing situation could lead to more homelessness. The referendum was struck down with 69 percent of the voters choosing “no.”
“A lot of people in this expensive apartments are living from paycheck to paycheck, and eventually they’re going to be displaced,” she said. “When that happens, that’s when they will change their vote.”
Clement said she felt if voters understood the issue better, then they would have voted “yes.” The sample ballot she distributed at the polls explaining the issue, however, was long and difficult to read.”
“Next time around, we have to do a better job with our literature,” she said.
Asked whether she would run again, Clement said “it remains to be seen.” She lost her job as an independent contractor in July, and although she has since secured another position, she said it’s only temporary. Since her races are largely self-funded — she spent $3,855 on her campaign this year, according to the Virginia Public Access Project — the status of her next campaign is up in the air.
Despite the defeat, Clement and her Green Party compatriots were not discouraged. Party Chairman Steve Davis said “30 percent is really good for the Green Party in an election.”
“My campaign was a success,” Clement said. “It’s not quite winning, but it’s not bad to get a respectable vote. I feel worse about the housing authority because people are going to be suffering as a result of their lack of interest in the issue.”
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.
Issues like the Columbia Pike streetcar and the housing authority referendum were at the forefront last night during the Arlington Civic Federation’s annual candidates’ forum.
The debate between County Board member Jay Fisette and Green Party challenger Audrey Clement was the night’s most divisive, with Clement challenging the streetcar project and the Board’s fiscal policies.
“I pledge to raise no taxes,” Clement said, “Repeal last year’s tax increase… and authorize an inspector general for the county’s budget.”
Clement again voiced her support for the referendum to create a housing authority, which Fisette and other Board members oppose. Fisette defended the Board’s actions, asserting that the tax increases were largely to pay for the increase in school enrollment and the streetcar “fulfills the vision of the revitalization of Columbia Pike.”
“I will ensure that Arlington continues to be a community that respects the differences among us,” he said. “I believe that there’s more to do, and I have more to give.”
Six races were represented during the forum: Fisette’s Board seat, James Lander’s School Board seat, and the 45th, 47th, 48th, and 49th District races for the House of Delegates. Lander and Del. Robert Brink (D-48) are running unopposed, and each gave two-minute speeches and took one question from the floor. Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45) did not have an opponent to debate at the forum after it was revealed that independent candidate Jeffrey Engle was not in attendance.
Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) and Libertarian challenger Laura Delhomme — participating in her first debate — fielded questions about affordable housing, wind energy and their thoughts on the Republican state ticket. No Republican is running for any seat, state or local, in Arlington.
“I’m not a socially liberal Republican, I’m not a fiscally conservative Democrat,” said Delhomme, who suggested repealing the state income tax and the Virginia Marriage Amendment.
Hope advocated for transferring more of Virginia’s energy from coal and natural gas to wind power and discussed how difficult it was to make progress in the General Assembly.
“In my first four years in office, I’ve learned that change can be very difficult,” Hope said. “Getting government out of our bedrooms and our doctor’s offices has divided our state and our parties.”
In the final debate of the night, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), running in his first re-election bid, and Independent Green Party candidate Terrence Modglin, showed the starkest disagreement, particularly on abortion. Modglin supports greater restrictions on abortion.
“I think the laws and regulations enacted, the intent of them was to, regardless of what the language was, reduce the number of abortions in Virginia and I think that’s a good thing in terms of public policy,” Modglin said.
Following Modglin’s response, Lopez looked slightly taken aback. He shook his head before he responded.
“A woman’s right to choose is non-negotiable,” Lopez said. “The [transvaginal ultrasound] legislation put up…was a travesty. It made us a laughing stock on the national stage. I will definitely fight these backdoor ways of reducing a person’s access to contraception.”
Election Day is on Nov. 5. The forum, held at Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel auditorium, is organized every year as the unofficial start to Arlington’s fall campaign season.
By statute, the Board must approve the referendum if 2 percent of the county’s qualified voters sign a petition. After a six-month campaign championed by the Arlington Green Party, the petition to create the authority got the necessary 2,845 signatures in June.
Approval is scheduled for the Board’s Tuesday meeting, its last meeting until September. The Board must approve the measure before it goes on its summer recess in order to meet the state-mandated deadline of August 16.
The item is not on the Board’s public agenda, which prompted a concerned email to County Board Chairman Walter Tejada from Arlington Green Party treasurer Audrey Clement earlier this week. Though Tejada assured Clement that the resolution will be brought up, she’s now worried that the county will try to influence voters into voting down the referendum, which was on the ballot but failed to pass in 2008.
At that time, a county-disseminated Q&A flyer stated that a housing authority would not produce more affordable housing, and “would only have access to the same tools and finding that the County currently uses.”
“Not only is this language non-neutral, it is false,” Clement told ARLnow.com. “Unlike the subsidies currently awarded by Arlington County to private housing corporations, a housing authority would get most of its funds not from the taxpayers but from [Department of Housing and Urban Development] guaranteed bonds issued in private capital markets.”
“In light of county government’s longstanding opposition to establishment of a housing authority, I am concerned that it will once again lobby to stop the referendum dead in its tracks by disseminating biased information about the referendum in contravention of state law,” she said.
County spokeswoman Mary Curtius said the county stands by its statements in the Q&A from 2008. The County Attorney is not aware of any legal complaint over the message.
“We reject any allegation in any way we acted improperly or illegally, then and even now,” Curtius said. “We feel that everything we said then was factual and neutral, and if we say anything this time, it will be factual and neutral.”
According to HUD’s website, there are 17 buildings that offer subsidized housing in Arlington, compared to nine in Alexandria and 42 in Fairfax County. Both of those jurisdictions have their own housing authority.
Audrey Clement is running for Arlington County Board under the Arlington Green Party banner, for the fourth time since 2011.
Clement, a long-time Arlington resident and IT consultant, will face off against incumbent Democrat Jay Fisette in November. The Arlington Green Party is urging a vote for Clement to “end one-party rule in Arlington.”
“Arlington needs new leadership,” the party said in a press release. “Jay Fisette says he is for sustainability, but the tax hikes County Board plans to impose on county residents to fund boondoggles like the Pike trolley and heated bus stops are unsustainable.”
Clement was nominated at the Greens’ April 3 meeting. She is running on a platform that includes:
- Adopt a referendum sponsored by the Arlington Green Party to create a Housing Authority to provide more affordable housing at less cost.
- No more tax rate increases. Repave streets. Fund schools and libraries, not wasteful projects, like million dollar bus stops on Columbia Pike.
- Use commercial real estate tax to fund ART buses not the $250 million Pike trolley.
- Fund school construction to ease overcrowding.
- Open Arlington public libraries 7 days a week.
- Retrofit public buildings with renewable energy.
- Reduce waste. Increase recycling in apartments and businesses.
- Ban single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam in retail stores and food outlets to reduce litter.
- Provide free residential energy audits.
Clement received 12.9 percent of the vote in November 2012. Green Party candidate John Reeder received 32 percent of the vote when he ran against Fisette in 2009.
The Arlington County Republican Committee has set May 12 as the filing deadline for potential County Board candidates.