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.