PRESS RELEASE: W-L Name Change Diverts Attention From Minority Achievement Gap

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board, and I’m concerned about the School Board’s motivation in renaming Washington Lee (W-L) High School.

I think that decision, which was made without notice at a June 7 School Board meeting chaired by my opponent Barbara Kanninen, is an attempt to deflect attention from the real crisis in Arlington Public Schools (APS)–namely, the minority student achievement gap.

Right now the gap between Black and White student countywide pass rates is 22.4 percentage points and growing. Likewise the gap between Hispanic and White student pass rates is 24.8 points.

Under performance of minority students is widespread in Northern Virginia, as is the attempt to hide it. For example, a recent article in the Fairfax County Times gushed over the rededication of Justice High in Falls Church, which was renamed last year to eradicate the memory of its former namesake, Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart. To hear the Times tell it, the renaming process was democratic, and everyone is happy with result. This is news to name change opponents who were bullied and outed as racists by their class mates.

As to whether changing the name of a school can bring about racial justice, even the Times agreed that the act was symbolic.

"A new name may not eliminate the achievement gap or solve other systemic issues in the U.S. education system, but the symbolic importance of honoring civil rights and education advocates like Marshall, Johns, and Mendez over a man whose legacy is rooted in the Confederacy and its defense of slavery should not be underestimated either, particularly for a school where more than 60 percent of its students are black or Hispanic."

The reference to former Black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, civil rights leader Barbara Rose Johns, and World War II veteran Col. Louis G. Mendez Jr. stems from the tribute given to them at Justice High’s rededication ceremony. But their monikers appear nowhere in the name of the school. When all is said and done, Blacks and Hispanics have been denied even symbolic justice at Justice High.

According to Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) statistics, the Justice High achievement gap is 12.6 points for Blacks and 27.6 for Hispanics. In Fairfax County as a whole the achievement gap is 18.6 for Blacks and 23.6 for Hispanics. So much for real social justice as measured by differences in scholastic achievement.
If you’re concerned that APS like Fairfax County Public Schools is throwing a smoke screen over the problem, and you are looking for someone who will actually address the minority achievement gap, then look no further. I’m a 14-year Westover resident and civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow. I also serve on the Arlington Transportation Commission.

If elected, I pledge to:

  • Preserve the name: Washington-Lee High School.
  • Reverse declining high school test scores.
  • Close the minority student achievement gap.
  • Constrain School Board spending.
  • Listen to the concerns of all taxpayers.
  • Build schools not trailers on time and on budget.
  • Mainstream special needs students.
  • End "teaching to the test".
  • Install efficient renewable energy in all public schools.
  • Promote school safety with a focus on violence prevention.

If you share my agenda, then:

  • Spread the word about my candidacy.
  • Volunteer to help.
  • Donate to my campaign.

If you’re interested in helping out, just shoot me an email or call or text. If you want to find out more about my campaign, visit my website.

Together we can make Arlington Public Schools provide all students with an honest education.

NVTA’s Funding Formula Is Biased

Comments at Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) Meeting, May 10, 2018.

Although I’m a member of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, I am speaking only on my own behalf.

NVTA ranked 60 projects as a preliminary to awarding more than $1.2 billion under the FY 2018-2023 Six Year Program (SYP). NVTA ranked five Arlington projects as follows:

  • 1 Transportation Demand Management (TDM) project;
  • 2 Metrorail station improvement projects–one at Ballston and the other at Crystal City;
  • 2 bus system improvement projects–one to extend the Crystal City Transitway to Pentagon City and the other to construct improved ART bus facilities.

Of those five projects, the only one with a high CRRC (congestion reduction relative to cost) rank was the TDM project. All the others scored low—extremely low. In fact ART bus facility improvements ranked 56 out of 60, even though ART bus is one of only two regional bus services to realize an increase in ridership in 2017. Improvements to the Crystal City Metrorail Station scored 58 out of 60 even though it is seen as necessary to service a projected major increase in VRE ridership offloading at Crystal City. Continue reading

Arlington’s Housing Conservation District: A Cruel Joke

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on March 17,2018.

On December 16, 2017 Arlington County Board adopted a Housing Conservation District (HCD) zoning overlay that effectively declared a moratorium on demolition of garden apartments in Westover and elsewhere in the County until a policy could be worked out providing landlords with incentives to preserve the buildings rather than demolish them.

In February tenants of 5709 and 5715 10th Road North located in the HCD learned from County officials that the moratorium did not spare them from eviction. They all must get out as per notices received from the landlord on January 31, 2018. Continue reading

Pricing Carbon in Virginia?

I am speaking on my own behalf. My remarks have not been authorized by nor do they reflect the position of any organization with which I have ever been associated.

I support adoption of Executive Directive 11 (ED 11), which directs the State Air Pollution Control Board to regulate carbon emissions in Virginia through a cap and trade program. I further support the regulation’s requirement that Virginia join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as the most efficient way to price carbon in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Virginia Sierra Club has provided statistics showing both the need for this rule and the economic and health benefits to be derived.

However Sierra Club has omitted a key fact–namely that the General Assembly is owned by Dominion Resources, which will see to it that any carbon emissions regulation contemplated by the Pollution Control Board proves a dead letter. To those who doubt that Dominion has purchased the best legislature that money can buy, a few statistics should suffice.

According to Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), Dominion donated almost $1 million to political causes in Virginia in 2017, including $369,000 to Republicans, $317,000 to Democrats, $175,000 to Senate candidates and caucuses, and $210,000 to HOD candidates and caucuses. Continue reading

Thanks for Your Support

First, I want to thank you for your support for my recent campaign for Arlington County Board. I got 17,415 votes–23.6 percent of the total. This is good, considering that I’m an independent, and the Democrat at the top of the ticket, Ralph Northam, got 80 percent of the Arlington County vote in what turned out to be a lopsided referendum against Donald Trump.

My campaign would have gotten little traction without your support, and I’m glad you provided me with the opportunity to get my message to the public.

While my opponents cast themselves as progressives, they offered few specifics on the campaign trail on how to address the key issues facing this county, among them:

  • An 18 percent office vacancy rate, with government tenants searching for lower rents elsewhere in northern Virginia;
  • Continued gentrification of the county with at least 13,500 affordable units lost since 2000 and most of the remaining soon to be recycled into luxury condos and townhouses;
  • Continued erosion of parkland in the face of massive redevelopment of the Rosslyn, Ballston and Crystal City corridors.
  • No plan for how to address proposed Trump budget cuts that may cost Northern Virginia 10,000 jobs.

Rest assured that I will continue to raise these issues in public forums, and I will lobby for the solutions I advocated during the campaign.

Thanks again for your support for democratic action, which is the Arlington Way.

ADUs Better than Long Commutes for Recycled Tenants

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on October 21, 2017.

I generally support the loosening of regulations on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to compensate for the dwindling supply of market rate affordable housing throughout the County.

As a tenant in one of the few remaining affordable garden apartments in Westover Village, I welcome the prospect of moving to an ADU as opposed to a flat in an outlying suburb once my building is demolished. I suspect that a lot of homeowners with limited income or uncertain employment would also welcome the prospect of a tenant on the premises to help with the mortgage.

Nevertheless I share the concerns of Suzanne Sundburg, who is critical of allowing ADUs to be constructed within 1 foot of an interior lot line. Said Suzanne in a recent email blast:

“These units can be used for short-term rental (aka Airbnb) as well as long-term rental. Exterior ADUs can be constructed within 1 foot of a shared property line — potentially closer to a neighbor’s dwelling than to the owner’s main dwelling. The result is an enhanced economic incentive to increase impervious surfaces accompanied by the loss of both green space and mature tree canopy (the remains of which is largely concentrated on single-family lots).”

The prospect of loss of privacy and increased runoff due to reduction of setbacks is likely to engender opposition to the loosened ADU regulations among single family homeowners. Add to that the fact that no impact analysis of loosened ADU regulations is publicly available.

Without a more restrictive interior lot setback requirement and an honest assessment of the impacts on streets, parking, green space and school enrollment. I don’t think the regulation is ready for prime time. I hope staff presents an impact analysis at the public hearing scheduled for this item and is prepared to negotiate it with homeowners.

PRESS RELEASE: Yes, Virginia. Arlington County Has a Spending Problem

October 7, 2017

Arlington County Board just voted to approve the design of a new Lubber Run Community Center with a whopping $47.9 million price tag. On top of that, the new Wilson High School is currently estimated to cost $100 million.

By comparison, the town of Vienna recently completed renovating its community center for just $6.5 million, and the cost of a new high school under construction in Loudoun County is $81.7 million —- much less than the projected cost for our new Wilson school.

And take a look at this …. It costs $18,957 per pupil per year to educate our children in Arlington, but, at the same time, it costs only $14,432 per pupil for Fairfax County School District to teach their kids.

Isn’t that ridiculous ??

It’s obvious that Arlington taxpayers are paying a lot more for the same public services than elsewhere in Northern Virginia. This is not only wasteful, it may also prove to be unsustainable.

Arlington County needs new leadership to reform the way our local government is administered. It needs Independent leadership!!!

As an Independent candidate and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow, I am qualified to fill that role.

I advocate long range needs-based planning, not tricky fiscal bookkeeping fixes that the current County Board concocts to hide its funding for pet projects and programs.

You can help turn that situation around by electing an
Independent to Arlington County Board who will be accountable to the voters.

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, donating to my campaign, or volunteering to help me on Election Day.

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

PRESS RELEASE: Tax Gouging In Clarendon

September 5, 2017

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

If elected I hope to stop the exodus from Arlington of small businesses that have been hard hit by a byzantine permitting process on the one hand and draconian tax increases on the other.

In fact, in 2016 ARLNow reported the closure of no less than six Clarendon eating/drinking establishments: including American Tap Room, Boulevard Woodgrill, Brixx Pizza, Fuego Cocina y Tequileria, Hard Times Cafe, and Park Lane Tavern. The Irish Pub closed in 2015 and Sehkraft Brewing followed in 2017.

Increased taxes are undoubtedly factor in these closures. Of the failed businesses ARLNow reported, the Arlington property search database reports tax assessments for six of the properties housing them during the nine years between 2008 and 2017.

During this period, the average annual tax assessment increase for the Clarendon properties was 13 percent. The overall average nine year increase in taxes was 194 percent. It’s likely that the landlords of these properties passed their tax increases onto their commercial tenants in the form of rent increases. Compare these numbers with the Consumer Price Index, which reports an average annual increase of 1.85% and and a nine year increase of 14.5 percent, and a picture emerges of flagrant tax gouging.

Consistent with that view is the fact that no less than three of these businesses, American Tap Room, Hard Times Cafe and Irish Pub, are chains that continue to operate similar establishments outside the county. In other words, these businesses did not fail on their own.

If elected to County Board, I’m going to ask the County Auditor to issue a formal inquiry to the Department of Real Estate Assessments to determine why assessments on restaurant establishments have increased so dramatically in the past ten years. I’m also going to ask the Board to seek testimony from those restaurant owners, so it can hear what they have to say about the reasons they closed or left.

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.

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.

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