Category: Transparency

PRESS RELEASE: One Party Rule, a Prescription for Abuse

August 14, 2020.

As the Independent candidate for County Board on November 3, I’m concerned about the stranglehold the Democratic Party has on county government. Yet many voters plan to vote a straight Democratic ticket in November to maintain the status quo. They are clearly unaware that whenever one party exercises total control of the government, abuses inevitably result.

A clear example of abuse was the July 31 decision by County Board to fine people who congregate on the street in groups of four or more. Initially pleased that the County was finally exercising its own independent emergency power to curtail the COVID crisis, I was quickly disabused by Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt, who criticized the move in his ARLnow blog as ill advised.

Slatt argues that the ordinance, which was adopted without input from the public or advisory groups, will lead to selective enforcement, because it penalizes pedestrians on the one hand but encourages out door seating at restaurants nearby.

ARLnow columnist Mark Kelly also weighed in, urging County Board to rewrite the ordinance to indicate whether family members and protesters are included in the ban on congregating in the streets.

Another example of abuse was a recent decision by the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) to oppose a referendum amending the state’s constitution in order to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission for the first time in the state of Virginia. Not only does the amendment enjoy widespread public support, it was adopted by the both houses of the state legislature in two successive years, 2019 and 2020.

Yet the state and local Democratic parties say they oppose the amendment because it doesn’t go far enough. This argument is misleading, because without an independent redistricting commission another partisan gerrymander is inevitable following the 2020 census–this time a Democratic gerrymander, which is evidently what they want.

If you oppose one party control of Arlington County Board, look no further than the Independent candidate in this year’s race. If elected, I will also:

  • Say YES to affordable housing, and NO to upzoning.
  • Use bond money for needed facilities not boondoggles.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clear cutting wooded areas as the first line of defense against runoff and flooding.
  • Exercise the County’s own independent authority to deal responsibly with the COVID crisis.
  • Say YES to real social justice reforms and NO to symbolic gestures.

As a 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

PRESS RELEASE: When Is a Lie a Lie?

July 27, 2020

As you know, I’m the Independent candidate for County Board on November 3. The Sun Gazette recently reported that as of June 30, the balance in my campaign account was dwarfed by that of my Democratic opponent, insinuating that the race is non-competitive. Overlooked was that as of June 30 I had already spent more than $6,000 canvassing voters and running ads, with campaign season not even officially underway.

Also overlooked by the Sun Gazette was the fact that recently reelected County Board member Christian Dorsey failed to report the return of a $10,000 donation from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 689, which he’d pledged to return last year. Dorsey was forced from his seat on the WMATA Board in February, 2020 after the Washington Post picked up on an allegation I made while campaigning in 2019 that Dorsey had a conflict interest in accepting massive union donations.

When confronted by Washington Post reporter Pat Sullivan about the unreported union refund, Dorsey amended his campaign finance report to record the expenditure. But the check Dorsey sent ATU 689 was never cashed. Dorsey claims he sent the check in February. The union claims it was never deposited.

According to Sullivan, who quoted an ATU representative: “numerous checks were mailed in a single envelope to the union’s bank. But the envelope was damaged in the mail and never arrived at the bank. The Dorsey check was the only one of the bundle that was lost, [David] Roscow said.”

Come again? How can a bundle of checks that never arrived at the bank get deposited–except for one?

Sullivan went on to report that Dorsey has enough money to cut a new check to repay ATU 689 if he chooses, glossing over the fact that the union rep’s story doesn’t add up.

It’s not that the Washington Post editors aren’t concerned about dishonest politicians and dirty pool. They routinely fact check what Donald Trump says and all but call him a liar. Just the other day the Post ran a column that dubbed Donald Trump the “King of Lies”.

If you are concerned that the Washington Post censures some politicians while looking the other way when other politicians and their cronies are less than truthful, then I’m the candidate for you.
My own modest campaign account is proof that I don’t take money for quid pro quos. As an Independent, I’m not beholden to any party establishment either. If elected, I will:

  • Say YES to affordable housing, and NO to upzoning.
  • Use bond money for needed facilities not boondoggles.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clear cutting wooded areas as the first line of defense against runoff and flooding.
  • Exercise the County’s own independent authority to deal with the COVID crisis.
  • Say NO to back room deals and YES to the Arlington Way.

As a 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

What Goes Around Comes Around on North Vermont Street in Ballston

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, June 13, 2020.

Plans to redevelop the North Vermont and 11th Street site in Ballston have been on the drawing boards for more than four years. During this time Ballston has added 2,000 additional high-rise housing units with 1,000 more on the way.

Residents of the neighborhood protested the first site plan adopted by the Board in February, 2018 because of unmitigated impacts in the form of impaired views and increased traffic congestion. Now comes a new developer with a plan to increase density even more.

At an LRPC hearing in 2017, North Ballston neighbor Annette Lang, explained why the original site plan had little community support. She put it this way.

“Specifically, residents should not bear the burden of proving that exceptions to land use plans and modifications to zoning codes are appropriate. Rather, developers should bear the burden of establishing that unless an exception and/or modification to current plans and zoning codes is granted, development of a particular property will not occur. That is the core meaning of ‘exception’.”

County staff, were as unswayed by this argument then as they are today. The fact that the Vermont Street developer needed a GLUP amendment to rezone the site is irrelevant. All that matters is that the Ballston Sector Plan encourages high density development.

The fact that a sector plan trumps the zoning ordinance makes the zoning ordinance a dead letter. Any developer with sufficient financial resources can leverage any site plan he wants irrespective of its impacts on streets, schools, open space and/or public safety. In 2018 residents of North Ballston had reason to feel discouraged because they had lost a battle to preserve their neighborhood. Today they have reason to believe that what goes around comes around, because the pandemic thrives in densely packed neighborhoods, such as the future Vermont Street development

PRESS RELEASE: Arlington County Board Overreaches

May 25, 2020

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent for County Board on November 3, and I think the current County Board is overreaching in its response to the COVID-19 crisis.

On May 19 the Board adopted a “Permanent Continuity of Government Ordinance” to enable it to continue government operations for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

It looked reasonable at first glance. Obviously County Board and other boards and commissions can’t meet in public during a pandemic without jeopardizing the participants. The ordinance authorizes virtual meetings instead, and that’s good. 

Also good is the removal of a provision that would have suspended Long Range Planning Committee and Site Plan Review Committee meetings, evidently at the urging of the Urban Forestry Commission and Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, who protested the provision in angry letters to my opponent, Libby Garvey, on May 15.
I’m also happy that the County plans to waive late fees and interest on delayed payments for County services.

But another provision calling for across the board suspension of code enforcement is troubling. Of course enforcement of existing traffic regulations against restaurants and patrons makes no sense, since restaurants have been forced to switch to grab and go operations during the pandemic.

But what is the rationale for suspending enforcement of land use permits, and what hardship would such enforcement impose either on developers or County staff?

Finally I object to the extension of this ordinance until six (6) months after the end of the COVID-19 crisis. Not only does the extension constitute overreach, it is unreasonable.

The COVID crisis will not end until the low risk to public health and safety prompts the lifting of a state of emergency. With the emergency gone, there will be no legal basis for the County to suspend normal democratic processes for another six months.

While Title 44 of Virginia Code gives localities extraordinary powers during a local emergency, emergency powers end when life returns to normal.
If I am elected after the COVID-19 crisis ends, I willinsist that Arlington County resume in person public meetings and regular code enforcement.

I will also:

  • Say YES to affordable housing, and NO to upzoning.
  • Use bond money for needed facilities not boondoggles.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clear cutting wooded areas.
  • Say NO to back room deals and YES to the Arlington Way.

As a 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

Arlington County Board Plans to Suspend In Person Meetings Till 6 Months After COVID Crisis

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, May 19, 2020

At first blush the ordinance to suspend public meetings and code enforcement during the COVID crisis seems eminently reasonable.

Obviously County Board and other boards and commissions can’t meet in public during a pandemic without jeopardizing the participants. The ordinance authorizes virtual meetings instead, and that’s good.

Also good is the removal of a provision that would have suspended Long Range Planning Committee and Site Plan Review Committee meetings, evidently at the urging of the Urban Forestry Commission, which protested the provision in an angry letter to County Board on May 15.

I’m also happy that the County plans to waive late fees and interest on delayed payments for County services.

But another provision calling for across the board suspension of code enforcement is troubling. I appreciate that enforcement of existing regulations against restaurants or their patrons for parking violations makes no sense when restaurants have been forced to switch to grab and go take out to preserve their businesses.

But I do not understand why enforcement of land use permits has been suspended or what hardship such enforcement would impose either on developers or County staff.

The County Manager has advised that no County staff have been laid off as a result of the pandemic. Some of them are now engaged in relief efforts. But what about the rest? Are they not available to do this kind of work?

Finally I object to the extension of this ordinance until six (6) months after the end of the COVID-19 disaster. Not only does the extension constitute overreach, it makes no sense. The COVID disaster will not end until the risk to public health and safety prompts the lifting of a state of emergency. With the emergency gone, on what legal basis does the County propose to suspend normal democratic processes for another six months?

PRESS RELEASE: Arlington Won’t Invoke Authority Under Local Emergency Statute to Contain COVID-19

April 13, 2020

I’m Audrey Clement, and I’m running for Arlington County Board in the November 3, 2020 election. I’m concerned that the County is not doing all that it can do to stop the spread of COVID-19.

True. Arlington County has announced measures to expand COVID-19 testing, provide food assistance for those in need, and help small businesses. This is all good.

However, at an April 10 virtual town hall my opponent, Libby Garvey, insisted that Arlington has limited authority to act, saying “[W]e don’t always have the authority to do what we see very clearly that we need to do and in an as effective way that we can. [53:22]”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Title 44 of Virginia Code provides localities with the express authority to “control, restrict, allocate or regulate the use, sale, production and distribution of food, fuel, clothing and other commodities, materials, goods, services and resource systems” during a local emergency.

In responding to my claim that Title 44 should have been invoked to shut down bars and restaurants before Governor Northam’s Executive Order closed them on March 24, Garvey told the Sun Gazette:
“Should Fairfax and Alexandria and Falls Church have continued to have their bars and restaurants open, it would only have encouraged our residents to go there, and the problem of viral spread would still exist.”

This is bunk. If Arlington had closed its bars timely, it would have sent a signal to all other localities in Northern Virginia that they could and should do the same.

No N95 Face Masks for Personal Use

The need for standard N95 face masks for personal use is another area where the County lacks leadership. At the April 10 town hall, County Board member Christian Dorsey intoned CDC guidance that do it yourself coverings are adequate. He even cited Libby Garvey’s video on how to make your own. While do it yourself face masks might be reassuring, the notion that they are adequate for protection against COVID-19 is doubtful.

A fact sheet put out by CDC itself demonstrates that N95 masks provide far better protection than even standard surgical masks. If that’s the case, then the County should be skeptical of CDC’s insistence that the public doesn’t need them.

If I am elected before the crisis abates, I will:

  • demand that CDC cease and desist from underplaying the pandemic;
  • demand that President Trump exercise his authority under the Defense Production Act to requisition N95 masks and ration them for personal use; and
  • cite Title 44 of Virginia Code as the relevant authority.

I will also:

  • Seek tax relief for County residents.
  • Say NO to a recently authorized County Board pay grab.
  • 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 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience andindependence to promote these reforms

Arlington Sets Up Motorist Speed Traps With $200 Fines

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, January 28, 2020

I am speaking on my own behalf as a non-car diet commuter, not on behalf of the Arlington Transportation Commission, of which I am a member.

This item was heard at the January 9 Transportation Commission meeting. While there was considerable discussion of the merits of penalizing excessive speeds, there was no attention given to the actual criteria for designating speed traps.

The staff report defines the types of road segments that could qualify as speed traps and indicates that it will evaluate existing traffic data, police reports and citizen complaints in targeting “residential streets that carry relatively higher traffic volumes and have documented speeding issues.”

But nowhere is “documented speeding issues” defined. When I asked a question about how the County determines a speed zone, County staff said this information is available elsewhere in Section 14.2 of County code. I couldn’t find it there and shouldn’t have to. Basic information about a proposed regulation should be in the ordinance itself or in a document linked to it.

Accepting at face value the information or lack thereof provided by planning staff is referred to in public policy literature as staff driven decision-making. Staff driven boards and commissions ill serve the public interest, since an uniformed decision is generally a poor one. The fault lies not with staff, but with the decision makers who fail to solicit the information they need to make intelligent decisions.

I recommend that County Board require language inserted into this ordinance that stipulates what constitutes a speed zone. Otherwise it will lend itself to abuse.

County Board Member Dorsey Hasn’t Reported Return of Union Donation

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, January 25, 2020

This letter was directed on 1/18/20 to the WMATA Board Ethics Officer and/or WMATA Inspector General pursuant to WMATA Board Code of Ethics, Article XI: Other Reports of Conflicts of Interest and Suspected Ethics Violations, in the matter of WMATA’s Board’s earlier determination that Board Member Christian Dorsey had violated the code as a member of the Board.

On or about November 7, 2019, the WMATA Board sanctioned Board member Christian Dorsey for failing to report timely a $10,000 campaign contribution he received in 2019 from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 689, which represents Metro transit workers.

The Washington Post reported Dorsey’s conflict of interest on November 7 as follows:

“Dorsey received the union donation on June 21 and reported it to Virginia authorities in accordance with state campaign finance law. It was one of the two largest contributions he received this year, the other being a $10,000 contribution from the InternationalBrotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“But he waited until Oct. 30 to report the ATU Local 689 contribution to Metro.

“The board resolution said that because of the reporting lapse, ‘Dorsey participated in several matters as a Board Member from which he should have recused himself during the period June 21, 2019 to October 30, 2019.’

“Metro Board Chair Smedberg said Dorsey had participated improperly in three “high-level briefings” on contracting matters, all held in executive session, where no board action was taken.

“’The Board reprimands Mr. Dorsey for violating the Board Code of Ethics by failing to timely disclose the Local 689 campaign contribution and failing to recuse himself from Board matters where Local 689 had an interest,’ the board resolution said.”

The minutes of the November 7, 2019 WMATA Board Meeting read in relevant part:

“The Ethics Committee determined that, despite Mr. Dorsey’s good faith disclosure and return of the $10,000 campaign contribution from Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689, he violated the Code of Ethics and should be reprimanded and removed as Chair of the Finance and Capital Committee.”

While WMATA Board minutes clearly indicate that Dorsey returned the $10,000 ATU contribution in accordance with its direction, I can find no evidence of the return of the contribution in Dorsey’s campaign finance reports available here:

As an Arlington resident who ran against Dorsey for Arlington County Board in 2019 and exposed his conflict of interest vis-a-vis ATU 689 during the campaign, I am requesting that the WMATA Board provide proof that Dorsey has indeed returned the contribution from ATU 689, as it directed him to do.

It is one thing to demand compliance with WMATA Board’s Code of Ethics. It is another to determine whether this has actually occurred. Transparency requires both.

***

Dorsey explained at the meeting that the check he wrote to return the union donation never cleared, and he can’t return the check till it does. Just the opposite. According to the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) official I spoke to “checks must be recorded when they’re written.”

The Shoe Drops on Arlington “Blue Wave” Voters

First, I want thank those of you who voted for me for your support for my recent campaign for Arlington County Board. I got 13,262 votes or 13% of the total. These results are disappointing to be sure.

Yet those who voted for me cannot possibly be as disappointed as those who voted for one of my opponents, Christian Dorsey, who withheld key information about his personal finances from the voters till after the election.

On November 7–two days after election–the Washington Post broke the story that Dorsey, who is Northern Virginia’s representative on the WMATA Board, had been sanctioned by WMATA for failing to report to it a $10,000 donation from WMATA’s biggest union, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 689. Then on November 8 it surfaced the news that Dorsey had filed for bankruptcy.

This is the same Washington Post that provided rosy pre-election coverage of incumbent Democratic County Board members Dorsey and Katie Cristol, while characterizing both my campaign and that of the other independent in the race, Aaron O’Dell, as “nominal”. In fact Arlington beat reporter Pat Sullivan devoted a column on October 31 to the futile outreach efforts of Aaron O’Dell’s underfunded campaign, while barely mentioning my own highly visible campaign that raised and spent $20,000Any voter would have scoffed at the notion of wasting their vote on an Independent for County Board after reading that hatchet job.

But the Washington Post isn’t the only media outlet contemptuous of Independent candidates. The Sun Gazette (SG) endorsed Katie Cristol on September 5, a full two months before the election. On September 26 it endorsed Christian Dorsey, a decision it would regret before the month of October was out. The effect of the SG’s early endorsements was to suck the air out of their opponents’ campaigns and scuttle any meaningful discussion of the issues.

Clearly there is no oxygen for Independent candidates as far as the media is concerned. And the Blue Wave, which is just a euphemism for undemocratic straight ticket voting, has suffocated any real prospect of getting voters to think either inside or outside the ballot box.

Under these circumstances people want to know why I continue to run for political office. The answer is simple. It’s the only legal way to demonstrate that the current corrupt two party system is completely bankrupt. In fact Christian Dorsey’s financial plight is an apt metaphor for the American electoral system.

County Board Incumbent Has Conflict of Interest

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, October 19, 2019

At an October 2 videotaped Committee of 100 candidate forum, I asked the other candidates whether incumbent Christian Dorsey should recuse himself from union business while serving on the WMATA Board, since unions have donated the bulk of his campaign contributions.

Out of $38,000 in total receipts this year, Christian Dorsey has received $10,000 alone from the Amalgamated Transit Workers (ATU 689) and $16,000 from other unions.

In view of this, I called on Dorsey to recuse himself from union business while serving on the WMATA Board.

Dorsey said that he doesn’t have to recuse himself from union matters, because the WMATA Board doesn’t handle union business.

This information was contradicted by Tom Webb, the VP for Labor Relations at WMATA. Webb told me that the WMATA Board not only votes to approve negotiated union contracts, it also provides direction to the General Manager on union negotiations.

At an October 16 Cherrydale candidate forum I again confronted Dorsey. This time Christian accused me of being misinformed or “making it up.” Yet the published minutes of the WMATA Board indicate that over the past year it took action on no less than five union agenda items, including:

  • A September 26, 2019 decision to “Amend FY2020 Budget for Fraternal Order of Police Collective Bargaining Agreement”;
  • The June 27, 2019 “Approval of IBT Local 639 Collective Bargaining Agreement”;
  • A November 1, 2018 decision to “Amend FY2018 and FY2019 Budgets for Collective Bargaining Agreements”;
  • The September 27, 2018 “Approval of OPEIU Local 2 . . . [and] ATU Local 689 Collective Bargaining Agreement”.

It’s one thing to have a conflict of interest. It’s another to deny it in the face of overwhelming evidence.

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