(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.
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Two out of the past three times the turnout of a County Board special election was below 19,000, a Republican ended up winning. This year, it’s looking unlikely that even 15,000 votes will be cast out of the pool of 122,882 active registered voters in Arlington.
“I think it’s probably going to end up maybe being 10 to 12 percent [turnout], and I may be overestimating that,” Arlington County Registrar Linda Lindberg told ARLnow.com this afternoon. “Usually in a special election we get closer to 20 percent, but I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere near that this time.”
Though past experience would suggest that the low turnout might spell doom for Democratic candidate Libby Garvey, the fact that there’s both a Republican and a fiscally-conservative Green Party candidate in the race makes any attempts at prognostication difficult.
Democrats are hopeful that they’ll be able to rally more voters before the polls close at 7:00 tonight. Privately, they’re also hoping that the “anti-Democrat” vote splits between Republican Mark Kelly and Green candidate Audrey Clement.
Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Mike Lieberman conceded that turnout is low, but said Democrats are cautiously optimistic.
“We are expecting a bit of an uptick in the afternoon, but it’s certainly going to remain low,” Lieberman said. “It’s hard to predict. When there’s very high turnout, our chances go up. When there’s low turnout, it’s much more of a question mark.”
“Certainly I think we are in for a relatively close election,” Lieberman continued. “We remain optimistic about Libby’s chances despite the low numbers.”
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.
The three candidates for Arlington County Board squared off last night at a forum hosted by the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association. Green Party candidate Audrey Clement, Democrat Libby Garvey and Republican Mark Kelly advanced cases for why they each should get voter support.
Garvey’s main push is for more communication and transparency in government.
“I think we’re having a little trouble keeping our priorities straight. Is it all about education, infrastructure, public safety? Or is it all about Artispheres and street cars and that sort of thing,” Garvey said. “I think we need to be very clear about our priorities and make them our core services.”
Kelly’s focus is on greater fiscal discipline. He’s also interested in getting the current board members to think outside the box.
“They talk a lot about the Arlington Way and including communities. But sometimes when the rubber meets the road, it’s a lot of talk,” said Kelly. “Someone needs to be presenting alternative plans and offering amendments even if they lose.”
Clement touted her fiscal responsibility as well. She distinguishes herself from Kelly by saying their ideologies are different, and cost reduction doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the welfare of residents. She advocates eliminating what she calls wasteful spending projects like Artisphere, the planned Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center and the planned Columbia Pike streetcar. She said a bus system would provide the same service at one-fifth the cost of the streetcar’s estimated $250 million dollar price tag.
Kelly also stated opposition to the streetcar project. Garvey, on the other hand, wouldn’t offer a firm opinion on the idea. She did, however, express interest in examining expanded bus service instead. Like other issues raised throughout the night, the streetcar is something she said she “questions.”
“I’m not taking a stand on it right yet, but I have lots of questions about whether it makes sense for the amount of money that we need to put in,” Garvey said.
A topic referred to throughout the forum is the Board green-lighting the purchase of an office building in the Courthouse neighborhood for a homeless shelter. The candidates assert that regardless of whether or not a year-round homeless shelter a good idea, the process for approving the deal was faulty. Garvey, while again stating she has questions about the project, reiterated the need for transparency. She said although the board may have had good reasons for their decision, residents don’t like it.
Republican Files for County Board Race — Arlington County Republican Committee Chairman Mark Kelly has filed to be the GOP nominee in the upcoming County Board special election. It’s not the first time Kelly has run for County Board. In 2010 incumbent Chris Zimmerman defeated Kelly 57 percent to 36 percent. [Sun Gazette]
Progressive Group Endorses Bondi — Democratic County Board candidate Melissa Bondi has garnered an endorsement from Virginia New Majority, a statewide progressive organization. “As a long-time advocate of affordable housing and Smart Growth, she was worked tirelessly to ensure that the county’s plans for economic development have not been pursued at the expense of the county’s working and poor families,” the organization said in its endorsement. “And, we expect Board Member Bondi to pursue a transportation plan that won’t encourage displacement of low-income communities.” [Virginia New Majority]
ACDC To Offer Free Trips to Caucus — The Arlington County Democratic Committee is offering free transportation to its caucus tomorrow night. (The caucus is being held to select a nominee for County Board.) “Rides will be available from the Ballston Metro every 15 minutes from 6:45PM to 8:30PM,” ACDC said in a press release. “Voters can meet the Ride Coordinator at the top of the Ballston escalators… next to Tivoli.” Thursday’s caucus is being held at Washington-Lee High School, while a caucus on Saturday is being held at Kenmore Middle School.
Four Mile Run Footbridge to Be Replaced — The bike and pedestrian bridge that connects the W&OD and Custis trails near the East Falls Church Metro station is being replaced. The new bridge should be complete in the next couple of months and, unlike the old bridge, will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. [Greater Greater Washington]
Flickr pool by ddimicky. ACDC is presently an ARLnow.com advertiser.
Mark was a well-spoken, likable family man who took measured, intellectual positions on the issues. He was a Republican who Democratic voters could potentially find common ground with, especially in an anti-incumbent year.
In the end, however, Arlington voters re-elected Democrat Chris Zimmerman by a wide margin.
It was especially striking that, despite loud grumbles of disapproval in certain quarters over perceived excess county spending, 57 percent of voters still chose to re-elect the number one supporter of the county’s proposed $200 million streetcar project.
“Once again the voters have affirmed their commitment to progressive government… even in a down year,” Zimmerman said.
Voters rewarded Democrats for their “commitment to quality services and strategic investments” as well as “a commitment to Arlington as a diverse and welcoming community,” he added.
Party with the candidates at the following locations, starting now:
Rep. Jim Moran and Arlington Democrats — Westin Arlington Gateway (801 North Glebe Road, Ballston)
Mark Kelly — Hard Times Cafe (3028 Wilson Boulevard, Clarendon)
Patrick Murray — Baley’s Pub and Grille (4238 Wilson Boulevard, Ballston)
If Jon Stewart wanted to find sanity in politics, he would have had to look no further than across the river in Arlington. This year’s county board race has been polite, issues-oriented and has avoided the stench of national political hyperbole or special interest interference.
Adding to the sanity, the race has also featured a viable third-party candidate who’s a full participant in debates, not a side show.
In Highland Park Thursday night, a quiet, attentive, sign-less audience watched as Democratic incumbent Chris Zimmerman, Republican Mark Kelly and Green party candidate Kevin Chisholm debated a range of issues.
The most heated portion of the debate — relatively speaking — came when Kelly again tweaked Zimmerman on the county’s Columbia Pike/Crystal City streetcar project. Referring to it as a “$200 million trolley,” Kelly made an economic argument against the massive project.
“I just don’t think it’s a wise investment moving forward,” was Kelly’s zinger. Chisholm — a self-described social liberal and fiscal conservative — agreed, and spoke of the “gentrification effect” the streetcar could cause on Columbia Pike.
Zimmerman, who has made the streetcar a bit of a personal mission, responded with a passionate defense of the “years of input” on the project and the “stronger network of public transportation” that the project will bring to the Pike. He announced his annoyance that debate rules didn’t give him enough time to discuss the project’s financing.
The remainder of the debate was pure zen for a sanity supporter. In fact, the most intemperate remaining portion of the debate came from the moderator, who asked about the “glib” county staff response to concerns about the development plan for East Falls Church.
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.
Kelly Has $10K Cash Advantage — Republican candidate for county board Mark Kelly may not have raised as much money as incumbent Chris Zimmerman but, true to his campaign platform, he also spent significantly less. Kelly had $28,480 cash on hand on Sept. 30, more than $10,000 more than Zimmerman. More from the Sun Gazette.
County Board Questions NOVA Budget Request — Northern Virginia Community College is asking localities to help cover its $14 million capital budget gap, but at a meeting last night the county board seemed less than enthusiastic about doing so in a year when more budget cuts and tax hikes are likely on the way. Currently, Arlington pays $1 per resident to NOVA’s capital budget fund. NOVA is asking for an additional 50 cents per person. More from TBD.
Hillside Park Reopens — At long last, a hilly, wooded park near Rosslyn, cleverly named Hillside Park, has reopened following significant upgrades. More from TBD.
Planetarium Group to Sell Seats — You can now have your name etched permanently in the David M. Brown Planetarium. The Friends of the Planetarium, which is raising money for much-needed renovations, is offering to engrave brass plaques on the back of one of 55 seats, for a donation of $1,000 or more.
BRAC Meeting Gets Rowdy — For the most part, it was an informative and respectful discussion. But some folks couldn’t contain their anger at the lack of transportation planning related to Alexandria’s massive Mark Center project. Military officials heard an earful. The meeting was organized by Rep. Jim Moran, who has sponsored legislation to delay the move of 6,400 military jobs to the building until sufficient transportation infrastructure is in place. More from the Washington Post.
Kelly Raises More Campaign Cash than Zimmerman — Republican candidate for county board Mark Kelly has been busy this summer. He raised $10,113 from July to August, compared to the $6,535 raised by incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman. Kelly also has more cash on hand than Zimmerman. More from the Washington Post.
New Food Carts in Arlington — Just when you thought the food truck craze was reaching a plateau, entrepreneur Ibrahim Hanifi comes along and launches not one but two “Tasty Kabob” carts in Arlington this week. The carts, which serve basic halal food, won’t be moving around like others. They’ve picked permanent outposts in Pentagon City and Rosslyn. More from TBD.
Dan Kain Trophies Owner Profiled — Jim Preziotti, who owns the once-iconic Dan Kain Trophies store, says that he’s getting ready to move his business away from its current location, which is scheduled for demolition. Even in his late 90s, Preziotti is pressing on with the move and a new online store. More from TBD.