Author: Audrey

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.

Bike Activist Who Opposes W&OD Trail Widening Supports Mt. Vernon Trail Widening

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on July 21, 2020.

Some who oppose NoVA Parks’ proposed W&OD Trail widening in Arlington, support widening the northern section of the Mt. Vernon Trail. Longtime bicycle activist Allen Muchnick says the proposed Mt. Vernon Trail widening is not really comparable to NoVA Parks’ proposed W&OD widening for multiple reasons:

1) Due to past NPS policies and funding constraints, the Mt. Vernon Trail has generally been paved no wider than 9 feet. For busy shared-use paths, an 11-foot paved width is the minimum recommended. Consequently, much of the Mt. Vernon Trail is clearly substandard and needs work.

2) Unlike NoVA Parks’ proposal to build dual adjacent pedestrian and bicycle paths for the W&OD totaling 22 feet in width, the widened Mt. Vernon Trail would generally consist of only a single path just 11 feet wide. Thus, the Mt. Vernon Trail widening would generally only approximate the current width of the W&OD Trail and would be only about half as wide as NoVA Parks seeks to make the W&OD in Arlington.

3) The northern section of the Mt. Vernon Trail in Arlington carries a very high level of weekday trail traffic, about 300 trail users/peak hour. It’s much more heavily used than the W&OD Trail in Bluemont Park.  Because it provides a) a vital route for several long-distance, interstate bikeways, b) foot and bike access to four existing Potomac River crossings, and c) sweeping views of our nation’s capital, the Mt Vernon Trail is one of our nation’s preeminent bikeways.

4) Unlike the W&OD Trail in Arlington, the Mt. Vernon Trail lacks any nearby parallel path, such as the existing Four Mile Run Trail, that could accommodate much of the trail user volumes.

5) Unlike the W&OD Trail that follows Four Mile Run in Arlington, the Mt. Vernon Trail is generally located much farther away from the Potomac riverbank, and the Potomac River is a navigable tidal river, not an eroded urban stream.

6) Although the Mt. Vernon Trail widening would be funded with VDOT money, it is subject to NEPA review because it’s on federal land and VDOT money includes federal transportation funds.

Nevertheless Muchnick endorses Arlington civic activist Bernie Berne’s recommendation that County Board approval for project construction be contingent on review of the environmental assessment by relevant County advisory bodies.

Shirlington Village Slated for Densification

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, July 18, 2020.

I am the Independent candidate for Arlington County Board. I also am a member of the Transportation Commission speaking on my own behalf only. On July 2 the Commission voted unanimously to recommend deferral of a vote on the Shirlington General Land Use Plan (GLUP) study until outstanding transportation issues can be addressed.

While I agree with most of the Transportation Commission report, I disassociate myself from the following:

“While the commission feels confident and satisfied that the automotive trips generated by the additional homes, businesses and offices proposed in the GLUP Study Plus can be readily handled by the existing street network, the comission is concerned that the recommendations and planning for transit, walking and biking are insufficient and will leave Shirlington ill-equipped to support non-automotive modes as it grows under this study.”

Actually I am concerned about inadequate attention given to all modes of transportation in the area, particularly the study’s claim that “even a level of density greater than what would be approved for the Village at Shirlington could be accommodated without a noticeable diminution of service at the key intersections in and around the study area.” 

On July 2, I asked staff how it is so sure of this, given that no Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) had been done. Staff advised that GLUP studies don’t require TIAs. The TIA will be produced at site plan review. This reasoning is circular, since we all know that the adopted GLUP study will provide the rationale for approving several site plans in Shirlington irrespective of the TIA. Circular reasoning also explains why there is no discussion in the GLUP study of impacts on schools, green space, historic structures and public safety—in other words, all the things that matter.

My concerns are heightened by the applicant’s objection to the height limits imposed by the study and the fact that under the GLUP amendments soon to be adopted, the applicant could in fact double the density of the entire neighborhood.

Equally alarming is the applicant’s objection to building preservation. Instead it proposes to preserve facades on a case by case basis. Shirlington Village’s selling point is its historic restaurant district. When those structures are reduced to rubble and replaced with mere facades, its attraction as a destination will disappear.

While full scale densification will surely ruin the Shirlington Village restaurant district, partial densification will also fail unless impacts are addressed.

Arlington Think Tank Says “Missing Middle” Housing Is Unaffordable

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, July 18, 2020.

The following are excerpts from a July 15 statement issued by Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF) on the cost of so-called missing middle housing.

Arlington County’s “Housing Arlington” Missing Middle initiative — launched in December 2019 — is premised on the assumption that increasing the supply of housing even in an elastic/high demand market will provide significantly more affordable housing.

In particular, proponents of this initiative have speculated that Missing Middle housing “types” would be affordable for those at or near Arlington’s Area Median Income (AMI) of about $120,000 a year. By rezoning districts that are now limited to detached single-family homes (SFHs) to allow for duplex, triplex or townhouse development, as the country is strongly hinting, more homes might indeed be built — but at great cost in new services, infrastructure, traffic/transportation, school seats, environmental impact and park demand.

This assumption is challenged by a July, 2020 analysis of the consequences of duplex development on SFH sites by Dr. Jon Huntley, a senior economist and Kody Carmody, a communications specialist, both employed at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Huntley and Carmody show that Arlington property and land values are so high that duplex ownership will remain beyond the means of a household earning 100% of area median income (AMI) in all but a few neighborhoods. In order to make them attractive for builders, new duplexes will need to compete on price with new SFHs, which typically start at $1 million and above in all areas of the county. Thus they will be unaffordable to median income earners, who can afford to pay no more than $525,000 for housing. So much for affordable Missing Middle housing.

Arlington’s Storm Water Budget Balloons Due to Runoff Inducing Tree Removal

Comments at Capital Budget (CIP) Hearing, June 30, 2020.

The proposed FY 2021 CIP shows a refreshing change of direction from funding overbuilt boondoggles to paying down basic infrastructure. The County Manager estimates that up to $200 million will be spent on stormwater facilities over the next ten years (p. 11).

No one who witnessed the July 8, 2019 flood would doubt the wisdom of this critical investment. What I quarrel with is the cost. Much of the infrastructure to be constructed consists of low-impact-development (LID) Best Management Practice (BMP) facilities such as: pavers, cisterns, bioretention basins, swales, planters, green roofs and rain gardens.

According to Stormwater Magazine (Table 1), the average capital cost of LID BMPs was around $6.40 per gallon in 2013 or about $7 today.

According to the National Tree Benefits Calculator the average 40 inch hardwood will intercept 19,000 gallons of storm water runoff per year. Assume for the sake of argument that a LID facility needs to capture only ten percent of that amount in one major rain event each year.

Based on the following additional assumptions:

  • 1000 trees recently removed from public property
  • O&M costs at 10% of capital cost
  • system maintenance for ten years

a lowball estimate of the cost of the additional stormwater facilities needed to mitigate runoff due to tree removal is:

  • $13.3 million in capital costs
  • $13.3 million O&M for 10 years of operations, or $26.6 million total.

This may not sound like a lot in a ten-year CIP pegged at $330 million (Appendix A). But it is money that could be better spent on schools, parks, street paving, and walkable streets.[i]

[i] Capital Cost=19,000 gal. runoff/yr. * $7/gal. * .1 capture factor * 1,000 mature trees=$13.3 million

Operating Cost=$13.3 million capital cost *.1 O&M factor * 10 years=$13.3 million

PRESS RELEASE: Arlington County Walks the Walk on Race Equity

June 22, 2020

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent for County Board on November 3, and I question my opponent’s commitment to racial justice.

On June 18, County Board conducted a racial justice public hearing triggered by local protests over the May 25 police killing of George Floyd. It heard dozens of speakers point out the County’s disparate treatment of racial minorities, while insisting on its resolve to right the wrongs.

Less than a day later ARLnow published a photo showing three black County employees removing Black Lives Matter (BLM) slogans from the street and sidewalk in front of a Bluemont home.

My opponent Libby Garvey published an apology for the employees’ actions, but the incident raises questions about County Board’s commitment to racial justice. Either it doesn’t mean what is says, or it lacks the authority to compel County staff to comply.

If I am elected to County Board, I will not only talk the talk on race equity, I will walk the walk. That doesn’t mean that I agree with Black Lives Matter on all issues. For example, I oppose BLM’s calls to defund the police, which will result in more violence in communities of color.

I also think it’s wrong to promote drastic measures while the verdict is still out on simple reforms. I do, however, defend to the end BLM’s right to advocate peacefully for its agenda.

If elected I will insist on body cameras–which Arlington police officers currently don’t wear. I will promote the reforms embodied in the 8 Can’t Wait agenda, including: banning choke holds, warning before shooting, and meaningful police incident reporting.

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 Reviewing Mutual Aid Agreement With National Park Service Following Lafayette Square Debacle

Comments at Racial Justice Hearing, June 18, 2020.

On June 1, 2020 racial justice protesters were forcibly ejected from Lafayette Park to make way for a photo op for President Trump. There is a popular consensus that this action, which was authorized by Attorney General William Barr, was unlawful and contrary the First and Fourth Amendment rights of the protesters.

Among those participating in the action were Arlington County police (ACPD) under the command of the U.S. Park Police. Arlington police were deployed under a mutual aid agreement with the Park Service to help restore order the weekend of May 30, following incidents of looting, arson and violent confrontations with police.

A press release issued by the County Manager on June 2, indicates that County Board and he were appalled at this unlawful police action. ACPD personnel were removed from the District of Columbia that night, and the County says it’s reviewing its mutual aid agreement with U.S. Park Service. Nevertheless there have been calls to fire the officers who participated in the action.

According to an ACLU lawsuit against Trump Administration officials filed on behalf of Black Lives Matter DC, Park Police were given the order to deploy in riot gear at around 6 p.m. on June 1. Around 6:30 p.m. Arlington police along with Park Police, Secret Service, military police and the DC National Guard actually assaulted the protesters. That gave Arlington police commanders a half hour to decide whether the order to clear Lafayette Park was lawful and if not how to extricate their force from the operation.

The assault itself was unprecedented. According to the New York Times, “What ensued was a burst of violence unlike any seen in the shadow of the White House in generations.”

In the confusion, I think that calls to discipline Arlington police constitute a rush to judgment. The County Manager acted prudently to suspend the County’s mutual aid agreement with the U.S. Park Police, and disciplinary action is unwarranted at this time.

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

NOVA Parks CEO Says Not to Worry About Doubling Width of W&OD Trail

Reply to Paul Gilbert, June 3, 2019.

In recent commentary in the Sun Gazette, NOVA Parks’ CEO Paul Gilbert argued that concerns about doubling the paved width of the W&OD Trail are misplaced, because NOVA Parks plans to improve storm water management. First, how is the public to assess this claim when neither a preliminary design nor an environmental assessment have been produced?

Second, Gilbert claims that a combination of swales, meadows and wetlands will be installed to control runoff. Yet on a one mile stretch of the widened trail between East Falls Church and Bon Air Park—half the length of the project area–there is no room to put in these structures without ripping out the existing rain absorbing understory along Four Mile Run.

Gilbert allays concerns about tree removal, saying that only 7 mature trees are slated for removal from the trail widening project west of Lee Highway. This is not the scenario relayed by Falls Church residents in a recent letter to the editor of the Falls Church News-Press, who oppose “the proposed elimination of valuable, usable space, and natural assets, including almost 100 trees (oaks, cedars, maples, Japanese cherry, dogwoods, etc.) and bushes adjacent to the proposed trails.”

Gilbert says that trail widening is environmental, because it will induce more bike and foot traffic. Yet NOVA Parks refuses to consider the less damaging alternative of redirecting foot traffic to the adjacent Four Mile Run Trail.

Mr. Gilbert indicates that dual trails are the wave of the future, and Arlingtonians should get on board. I’m all for dual trails, namely an existing paved trail on either side of Four Mile Run. I also insist on a full environmental assessment including an alternatives analysis for W&OD trail improvements.

NoVA Parks Wants to Double Width of W&OD Trail in Arlington Flood Zone

Comments to Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), May 23, 2020

Greater Greater Washington (GGW) has trotted out the commentary of deceased, former Arlington County Board member Erik Gutshall to defend NOVA Parks’ plans to widen a two mile stretch of the W&OD Trail between East Falls Church and Carlin Springs Road.

In November, 2019 Gutshall marveled that bike advocates and environmentalists were pitted against each other on the wisdom of widening the W&OD without the benefit of an alternatives assessment or an environmental impact statement. In his mind, biking is good for both the environment and congestion relief. So everyone should be on board.

Yet it is well known that pavement induces runoff, and runoff induces flooding, which is not good for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It is also known that the closer the pavement gets to a Chesapeake Bay tributary like Four Mile Run, the more runoff it induces.

Evidence of that phenomenon occurred during the July 8, 2019 DC area flood event. Runoff from I-66 put an entire Arlington neighborhood north of the interstate under water. Yet an equal if not greater amount of damage occurred along the existing W&OD bike trail when Four Mile Run breached its banks—taking with it tons of infrastructure from two County parks—including part of the trail–and pouring thousands of gallons of polluted water into the Potomac River.

Doubling the width of the W&OD Trail can only exacerbate an already hazardous situation, where erosion of the Four Mile Run stream bank is now a common occurrence. Yet GGW says that opposition to the project is premature, as it hasn’t even been funded. This turns logic on its head, since without a study assessing impacts and alternatives, NTVA cannot know what it should fund.

When NOVA Parks gets $5.6 million to widen the W&OD Trail, alternatives like using the parallel Four Mile Run Trail to mitigate congestion will be off the table. The money for the project has already been earmarked. So reprogramming it on something better or different isn’t going to happen even if a future environmental assessment recommended it.

Pointing to trail work done on widening the trail in West Falls Church, GGW insists that the storm water mitigation will be adequate. Even though Falls Church neighbors are protesting massive tree removal along the trail west of Lee Highway, the impact on the Four Mile Run itself might be limited, since the stream surfaces only a short distance from the trail head at Lee Highway.

Not so the impact of the trail east of Lee Highway, which is located in a stream valley and a flood zone. For a full mile between East Falls Church and Bon Aire Park, the trail is sandwiched between the I-66 retaining wall a few feet to the left and Four Mile Run a few feet to the right. There is no place to divert the stream let alone plant trees or add to the under story.

Finally GGW argues that widening the trail will provide congestion relief. Yet the Toole Design report commissioned by NOVA Parks to support the project indicates much of the traffic along the trail is recreational rather than commuter.

Thus even if this stretch of trail is congested some of the time, NOVA Parks has not demonstrated that widening the trail will provide congestion relief relative to cost (CRRC) on nearby roads. Without that key metric, NVTA cannot legally fund this project.

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