Approval of Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map Premature

Remarks given on behalf of long-time civic leader and environmentalist Suzanne Sundburg at Arlington County Board Meeting on July 15, 2017.

Please defer a vote on this agenda Item 50 (Updated Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map). A vote today is premature because agenda Item 52 (endorsement of the design and contract award for Lubber Run Community Center) — which will not be heard until the Board’s July 18 recess meeting – includes a geotechnical engineering report indicating the presence of a significant amount of water on the LRCC site. Continue reading

NVTA TransAction Meeting: A Pro Forma Exercise

Comments at Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Meeting on July 13, 2017.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has issued a call for public comment on TransAction, a draft list of transportation projects to be funded in Northern Virginia for the next six years.

With both population and employment in Northern Virginia expected to increase dramatically between now and 2040, NVTA has certainly made the case for substantial increases in the region’s investment in transportation infrastructure. I am nevertheless concerned about NVTA’s lack of transparency. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Just Say No To Business As Usual On Arlington County Board

July 8, 2017

I’m an Independent candidate in the race for an open seat on County Board in November, and I seek your endorsement.

Although my Democratic opponent Erik Gutshall claims to be a progressive, he was nominated in a “firehouse” caucus, imposed by party insiders that required all voters to sign a pledge that they

“do not intend to support, endorse or assist any candidate who is opposed to a Democratic nominee in the ensuing election.”

It’s bad enough that the “Caucus” was meant to stack the deck in favor of Gutshall, the insiders’ favorite. What’s even worse is that the pledge itself infringes on your right to vote your conscience when you go to the polls in November. How arrogant! Any candidate who benefits from this undemocratic process is progressive in name only.

Politics aside, Arlington County is facing major challenges, including:

  • a 20 percent office vacancy rate;
  • an estimated 3,000 students in trailers;
  • major future Metro shortfalls; and
  • the likely disproportionate impact on Arlington businesses and residents of anticipated federal budget cuts this fall.

Meanwhile Erik’s record as a longstanding member of the Planning Commission and its current Chair, indicates that he is content with business as usual.

In fact a survey of recent Planning Commission decisions shows Gutshall endorsed every site plan development project submitted since the beginning of 2016–expressing little concern about the impacts on transportation, schools, parks and other public services.

If you are complacent about the future of Arlington County and content with someone who goes along to get along, then Gutshall is your man. If you feel as I do, that Arlington’s uncertain economic environment requires a more proactive form of leadership–INDEPENDENT LEADERSHIP–then I am your candidate.

If elected, I also pledge to:

  • Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!

To find out more about my campaign, visit my website. Better still you can make a difference by endorsing my candidacy.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

County Board Awards Bloomberg a Benefits Package

Comments at County Board Meeting on June 20, 2017.

I am concerned about the deal to award Bloomberg BNA $2.8 million to maintain its headquarters in Crystal City. The staff report indicates that $500 thousand from a Commonwealth Opportunity Fund (COF) grant will be deposited with the Arlington Economic Development Authority (EDA), which will then dole it out to BNA. The County will chip in $800 thousand in grant money plus $2 million in tax relief over five years.

The County Manager thinks this deal is worthwhile, because the County will get $23 million in tax benefits from BNA over the next ten years. In exchange BNA pledges to hire 250 additional staff and rent 78,000 additional square feet in the County. Continue reading

Arlington Planning Commission Rubber Stamps Upzoning of North Ballston

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on June 17, 2017

First I want to congratulate the Ballston Towne and Victoria at Ballston Homeowners Associations for their excellent assessments of the Planning Commission’s recommendation to advertise a GLUP amendment that will double the density of an already congested Ballston neighborhood beyond that which is currently allowed. This is precisely what is lacking from the Planning Commission itself under the leadership of my Democratic opponent—Mr. Erik Gutshall.

I also want to thank Dana Gerk for launching an online petition to stop the upzoning dead in its tracks. The commentary offered by dozens of petition signers clearly shows that Ballston residents reject staff’s program to densify this County under the rubric of “Smart Growth”. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: County Board and Planning Commission Rubber Stamp Development “On Steroids”

June 12, 2017

While most area residents are focused on political developments in Washington over which they have little influence, there are developments in Arlington that voters can do something about–site plan developments that is.

Since the beginning of 2016, County Board together with the Planning Commission chaired by my Democratic opponent have approved a dozen major site plan development projects grossing almost 6 million square feet of new floor space. This amounts to 3,400 new apartments and almost 5,600 additional parking spaces.

All this new construction will obviously have major impacts on traffic, school enrollment, and contention for parks, transit and other public amenities. But don’t tell that to that to the County Board and Planning Commission, which rubber stamped each of these deals on the recommendation of County staff.

To hear County staff tell it, the impact of massive new apartment complexes on schools will be minimal, because most enrollment comes from single family homes not apartment buildings. That’s funny. Last Friday afternoon dozens of kids from Kenmore MS piled onto the ART bus I took from Ballston to Columbia Pike, and virtually all of them got off the bus at the apartment complexes on South 7th Road.

A more telling number is the County’s estimate that students at the redeveloped Berkeley Apartments on South Glebe Road will increase by only 18 from 79 to 97 even though the number of units will increase by 120 from 137 to 257. The only way doubling the number of units would not double the number of students is if the developer constructed a cloister rather than a complex.

But the enrollment crisis pales by comparison with the traffic nightmare likely to descend on Arlington streets as a result of development “on steroids”. Consider that at 2.5 million square feet, the new Rosslyn Plaza Phased Development project near Lee Highway and Lynn Street will house 550 residential units, 200 hotel rooms and 2,168 parking spaces in an area that is arguably the most congested neighborhood in the county. Arlington itself is one of the most densely populated counties in the U.S.

The congestion in Rosslyn is already so severe that traffic routinely slows to a crawl over Key Bridge during rush hour. But that doesn’t phase County planners who counter that congestion will clog major intersections with or without development.

That’s right. The 750 Glebe project with 491 luxury apartments, a 733 space parking garage, and supermarket will not make the intersection of Wilson Blvd. and North Glebe Road any more congested than it is now.

Nor will the 365 unit apartment building, 604 space parking garage and supermarket at the site of the recently displaced Food Star make the intersection of George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike any more congested than now.

The County evidently is so confident that the new Penzance development in West Rosslyn with 891 housing units and 1,050 parking spaces next door to a new 750 seat high school, will not add more congestion to Wilson Blvd, that it didn’t even submit a traffic impact analysis report with its request for a use permit for the project in February, 2017.

If you agree with my opponent that new developments approved during his tenure at the Planning Commission will not have major traffic impacts, then I recommend you take a spin down Washington Blvd. between Ballston and East Falls Church during rush hour. But please do it before tolling goes in effect on a parallel stretch of I-66 or you may not make it home in time for dinner.

Unlike the Planning Commission chaired by my Democratic opponent that never saw a developer it didn’t like, I will, if elected, demand a fiscal impact analysis for every major site plan development project to determine objectively whether the project actually benefits County taxpayers.

If elected, I also pledge to:

  • seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

To find out more about my campaign, visit

www.AudreyClement.com

You can make a difference! Boost my campaign for Arlington County Board by volunteering for or donating to my campaign.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

PRESS RELEASE: Evictions Ongoing in Westover

Comments at County Board Meeting on May 20, 2017.

As a Westover Village tenant since 2004, I find it ironic that Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), which portrays itself as a champion of affordable housing, now comes before you asking permission to evict half the tenants whose buildings it saved from probable demolition in 2016. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Metro Responds to Climate March By Shutting Down Stations

May 1, 2017

On April 29 tens of thousands of people from all over the U.S. converged on Washington, DC, to protest the Trump Administration’s climate change denial policy. By all accounts the event was a success. While slogans denouncing Trump were everywhere, the defiant crowd never got out of hand, testimony to the professionalism of both the organizers and the DC police.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Metro, which actually stopped trains from running between Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle. If the purpose of the service disruption was to prevent protesters from overcrowding the stations, the solution would have been to simply run trains past the stations, not stop running them through the stations.

As it was, thousands of protesters, tourists and Nationals baseball fans were unnecessarily inconvenienced. One wheel chair bound marcher told me he was forced to change trains three times to get to his car parked in Vienna. Not only that but Metro ran trains on a regular Saturday schedule fifteen or twenty minutes apart, even though the stations that remained open were deluged with commuters.

I learned from a DC sports fan that Metro categorically refuses to add trains or extend hours to accommodate major sports events.This is the same Metro that has jacked up fares and announced plans to cut service on dozens of bus lines, even ones that meet its own performance metrics. No wonder Metro has a cash flow problem. Hiking fares while decreasing service and turning a deaf ear to paying customers does not promote ridership. It cripples it.

There’s a plan afloat to provide Metro with a dedicated funding stream by imposing a one percent regional sales tax to pay for its operations. It’s time for elected officials to stop throwing money at Metro and insist that it operate like a regional transit provider instead of a bus shuttle service. Metro should get dedicated funding ONLY if it agrees to extend train service as needed for major sports and other high attendance events.

Metro safety includes more than repairing infrastructure. It means getting commuters to/from their destinations with a minimum of service disruption and platform overcrowding. If elected to County Board, you can be sure I will insist on that. If elected, I also pledge to:

  • seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers

PRESS RELEASE: Tax Hike on the Way, Despite Huge County Surplus

A  hefty tax rate increase is in store for Arlington County residents and businesses, but Independent County Board Candidate Audrey Clement says a tax increase isn’t needed–not until the County spends down its surplus.

April 4, 2017, Arlington, VA.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is asking for a 2 cent tax hike that will increase average residential 2017 real estate taxes by 4 percent or about $300. Yet the latest Consumer Price Index indicates that the annual rate of inflation is only 2.7 percent.

Mark Schwartz argues that increasing school enrollment and declining Metro ridership require taxpayers to step up to the plate. While both schools and Metro are major priorities, these operations should not be balanced on the backs of Arlington taxpayers.

According to the Arlington Civic Federation’s Revenues & Expenditures (R&E) Committee, rising real estate assessments will push the average 2017 tax bill up 2 percent even without a tax rate increase, and taxes have gone up 16.8 percent in the past four years.

Aside from the issue of fairness, there’s a question of need. The R&E Committee reviewed the County’s 2016 Consolidated Annual Financial Report (CAFR), Exhibit 3 and determined that “there is a $114 million surplus of unspent funds-beyond what the County Board budgeted in FY 2016-that could be reallocated.” These funds could easily cover the Metro and APS shortfalls, which the County Manager’s FY 18 budget presentation puts at $5.9 million and $11.1 respectively.

According to civic leader Suzanne Sundburg, County surplus funds do not include Arlington Public School (APS)’s unallocated surplus of $19 million, reported in the Superintendent’s FY18 proposed budget (book 128-29, web 136-37).

Clearly County and School Board accounts are bloated with excess unspent funds that could reallocated to meet current needs.

If elected, you can be sure that I will seek seek a full accounting of the County’s surplus funds. I will use the excess to cover budgetary shortfalls instead of gouging the taxpayers.

To that end, I support an R&E Committee resolution calling on the County Board to reject the County Manager’s proposed tax rate increase and maintain the current tax rate of $.991 per $100 of assessed value.

In addition, I plan to:

  • Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

To find out more about my campaign, visit

www.AudreyClement.com

You can make a difference! Boost my campaign for Arlington County Board by volunteering for or donating to my campaign.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

Stratford Middle School Driveway Promotes a “More Car Diet”

Comments at County Board Meeting on March 18, 2017.

One of the principal features of the Stratford MS site plan is the driveway that cuts through a tree lined hill between Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive. This feature was approved by County Board Board in 2016 on the recommendation of past Chair Libby Garvey—then running for reelection–who declared herself a leader for rejecting the advice of all relevant County commissions against the driveway and siding with parents who wanted it.

While pandering to the majority might have made political sense in 2016, it was by no means prudent either from an environmental or safety standpoint. First, destruction of trees at Stratford MS, as with all other recent County school construction sites, will aggravate runoff and generate more carbon pollution. Second, the extended driveway will induce more traffic in the neighborhood, which will jeopardize the safety of those children who do walk to school.

Third, it directly contradicts the County’s car free diet policy expressed in a resolution adopted by the Board in 2014 stipulating that “Arlington County promotes the Car-Free Diet to encourage residents to try a car-free lifestyle to save money, improve health and clean the environment.”

It’s clear that Arlington Public Schools is in violation of the car free diet policy, since every single school expansion undertaken since its adoption has resulted in the destruction of greenspace for more parking. It’s obvious that the County itself is violating this policy, since every major development it approved in recent years has been accompanied by massive parking facilities.

Since the majority of Arlington residents won’t walk, bike, bus or Metro to work, the More Car Diet that Arlington enables makes more political sense anyhow. If reelection is what you’re after, then stop equivocating. Tout the More Car Diet that you are enabling. Those who like to park on the Beltway will vote for you, and those who take Metro to work and school will appreciate your honesty more than the doublespeak to which they are constantly subjected.