Arlington Civic Association Says VDOT Responsible for Erosion of W&OD Trail

Comments At Arlington County Board Meeting, 2/26/19

I am speaking in my capacity as a director of the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (ACST), not as a member of the Transportation Commission.

I support VDOT’s request for temporary and permanent easements along the W&OD and Custis Trails to implement needed trail improvements between East Falls Church Metro and Ballston.

I pulled this item from the consent agenda because it does not include a plan to address the root cause of flooding of Four Mile Run in the immediate vicinity of the work VDOT has outlined.

You should have received a recent letter from the Madison Manor Civic Association (MMCA) thanking you for undertaking to shore up erosion along the W&OD trail in the vicinity of the Patrick Henry overpass.

However, MMCA is concerned that unless the cause of the erosion is addressed, it will recur. Members of the civic association have identified the problem as clogged intakes to a storm water diversion bypass tunnel about one third mile upstream.

It is irresponsible for the County to ignore this situation, of which it is surely aware. County Board itself in approving the I-66 widening project on 1/28/17 in agenda item 37.C.e stipulated to VDOT that:

any new stormwater management facilities proposed with this project be adequately maintained, specifically that erosion and sediment controls should be outlined and contain information on inspection and enforcement actions.

County Board should direct staff to contact VDOT and stipulate the repair and upgrade or replacement of the existing intakes as part of the I-66 eastbound widening project, which authorizes such improvements as long as they are within the scope of the project.

Insofar as the bypass tunnel runs directly under the I-66 ROW before emptying into Four Mile Run, it is definitely within the eastbound widening project’s scope of work. Thus it is well within the authority of Arlington County Board to make this request.

County Board Ignores Neighborhood in Approving APAH Deal

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 2/23/19

I am speaking on my own behalf and not on behalf of the Transportation Commission, which heard this item on February 7.

I support affordable housing in general and Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH)’s mission to provide it in particular. However at over $400,000 per unit, which is the price of a luxury condo, I do not believe that APAH actually provides affordable housing.

Regarding the American legion site, I am concerned that issues raised by the neighborhood have been ignored. The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association submitted a letter dated 2/7/19 to both the Planning and Transportation Commissions detailing its concerns. It concluded:

In conversations with several planning commissioners, it has been made clear that Arlington County’s need and desire for affordable housing means this project is moving forward regardless of its deleterious impacts to nearby residents. It is feared that neighborhood concerns are not being fully considered and given the weight they duly deserve. In this way, citizens have participated throughout the process, but their voice has been lost.

I concur with this assessment. In particular I’m concerned about the decision to remove the fence separating this development from the 12th Road residential neighborhood in order to provide egress to emergency vehicles.

In another letter a resident of that block pointed out that 12th Road is a narrow, one way street with no sidewalks or adequate lighting. If indeed emergency access is needed to 12th Road, then the County should treat this situation like it does any other easement.

The County should require compensation from the developer to pay for needed street improvements. To me upgrading 12th Road is both a matter of public safety and simple equity. The fact that APAH would find millions to spend on the American Legion site–over $38 million–while beggaring the neighborhood is amazing.

PRESS RELEASE: What’s Not To Like About Amazon In Arlington, Part 3

February 6, 2019

Virginia is roiling over a photo posted in a 1984 yearbook allegedly depicting Gov. Ralph Northam in blackface. No matter that the news was surfaced by opposition research or that the current sitting U.S. President was himself sued as a young man by the U.S. Department of Justice for discriminating against Blacks. State and national Democratic leaders have fallen all over themselves demanding Northam’s resignation.

A Bribe Is a Bribe

I too question Governor Northam’s leadership, but not because of his youthful indiscretions. I’m concerned about the deal he negotiated with Amazon to site one of its new headquarters in Crystal City. Specifically I don’t like the extortionate $550-$750 million “incentive payment” Amazon extracted from the state to move here. (more…)

PRESS RELEASE: What’s Not to Like About Amazon In Arlington, Part 2

January 20, 2019

Pundits speculate why with bigger concessions offered by other competitors, Amazon chose to put half of HQ2 in Crystal City. Some ascribe the move to the area’s transportation infrastructure and highly educated workforce. Others think it’s the convenience of Crystal City to CEO Jeff Bezos’ new home in Washington, DC.

Still others point to Bezos’ proximity to the Pentagon, where Amazon Web Services is poised to win a $10 billion cloud contract. Roshan Abraham of Our Revolution Arlington (OR-A) declared at the January 8 Civic Federation meeting that it’s the access Amazon will have to federal officials.

Seattle City Council Knows Who’s Boss

Another obvious advantage to Arlington for Amazon is the ability to manipulate local government officials. Consider that in May, 2018, Amazon spearheaded a petition drive to oust the entire Seattle City Council after the Council imposed a head tax on companies grossing over $20 million per year to pay for housing for the homeless.

Within a month all but two Council members had capitulated, and the head tax was repealed. Evidently Bezos didn’t buy Seattle City Council’s argument that there’s a direct relationship between high priced tech jobs and inflated housing prices. What he did buy was Seattle City Council. (more…)

PRESS RELEASE: What’s Not to Like About Amazon In Arlington, Part 1

January 13, 2018

Corporate and civic leaders throughout the Washington metropolitan area are ecstatic about Amazon’s decision to locate one of its two new headquarters to Crystal City. In announcing the deal, outgoing Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol boasted that Amazon’s decision was “a validation of our community’s commitment to sustainability, transit-oriented development, affordable housing and diversity.”

Victor Hoskins, director of Arlington Economic Development, remembers shouting “yahoo!” when he heard the news.

George Mason University professor Stephen Fuller declared: “The benefits are so humongous. This is really big. Nobody has really covered how big this is for a region like the Washington region”.

Fuller now estimates a $26 million annual net tax benefit to the County or half his original published estimate of $52 million, which assumed twice as many jobs created at HQ2. This is substantially less than the County’s unsubstantiated estimate of $32 million.

Yet even Fuller’s reduced amount overestimates the net tax benefit, since his calculations on the Amazon deal underestimate per pupil school costs by $3,000 per year. Table 6 in Fuller’s report on the Amazon deal assumes a per pupil cost of $18,015 per year, whereas numbers published in Exhibit 4 and Table K the 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) indicate a per pupil cost of $21,313 per year.

The Amazon deal is also inequitable. For one thing, according to Bernie Sanders, Amazon reaped $5.6 billion in profits, yet paid no federal taxes in 2017.
(more…)

Tribute to John Vihstadt

These comments were delivered by Jim Hurysz on my behalf at a tribute to outgoing County Board member John Vihstadt on Saturday, December 15, 2018.

While I’m not enthralled that John Vihstadt voted with the majority of the Board as often as he did, I admired his penchant for fiscal restraint. Unfortunately John’s view on budgetary matters is not shared by the majority of the Board.

In fact at a Board meeting held the day after I lost my run for County Board to Vihstadt’s ally Libby Garvey in 2016, 5 out of 6 motions John made to defer spending of closeout funds to the FY18 budget were defeated. Three of John’s motions couldn’t even get a second, and the other two were voted down 4-1. (more…)

County Manager Got It Right This Time

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, November 27, 2018

I am delighted that instead of spending the lion’s share of FY18 close-out funds, the County Manager proposes to reallocate $16.5 million of it to next year’s budget. This is in marked contrast to last year’s close-out appropriation, wherein the County Manager allocated over $11 million to pet projects and contingencies.

I would like to think that my criticism of the FY17 close-out proposal had something to do with the County Manager’s fiscal prudence this year. But I doubt it. I think the real culprit was John Vihstadt, who in November, 2016 offered several amendments to the FY16 close-out resolution to defer reallocation of most discretionary FY16 close-out funds until the next budget cycle. Vihstadt’s rationale was that except for clearly identified emergency needs, allocation of the prior year’s budget surplus should be deferred till consideration of the following year’s budget.

While County Board voted down most of Vihstadt’s resolutions in 2016, it is comforting to know that some two years later, the County Manager is listening. (more…)

PRESS RELEASE: Thanks for Your Support

First, I want to thank you for your support for my recent campaign for Arlington School Board. I got 28,666 votes or 30% of the total.

In 2014 running for the same office against the same opponent I got 18,429 votes or about 33% of the total.

While my percent of the vote went down slightly this year, the actual number of votes cast for me went up by more than 10,000. This is good considering that the uptick in Arlington turnout consisted of a wave of new voters casting a straight Democratic ticket.

Given the serious issues confronting Arlington School Board that my campaign exposed, I was actually optimistic that I might surmount the "Blue Wave" until I arrived at Arlington Central Library at 5:45 a.m. on Tuesday, November 6. For two solid hours voters from nearby high rises queued up to vote. Most of them refused to take either my sample ballot or that of defeated Independent Arlington County Board incumbent, John Vihstadt. (more…)

PRESS Release: School Construction Cost Report Fudges the Numbers


I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board, and I regret to inform you that Arlington Public Schools (APS) is manipulating its capital cost data.


The attempt to hoodwink the voters appears in a report commissioned by the APS Auditor, "Cost Study for Arlington Public Schools", which purports to show that APS school construction costs are in line with the rest of the metropolitan area.

The first red herring is a table on page 21 that lists the per pupil cost of Alice Fleet Elementary, now under construction, as $62,500, rather than the actual per pupil cost of $78,457. The APS cost report does this by subtracting the $12 million parking garage from the school’s $59 million price tag. APS argues that Arlington schools cost more because of the need for structured parking. That may well be true, but that doesn’t give the APS Auditor license to fudge capital cost data.

The second red herring is the report’s principal conclusion that "APS’ high school construction costs are less than 9 of the 14 – or two-thirds of the projects analyzed for this cost comparison study (p. 26)."

Inspection of the high school construction projects listed on page 24 of the report does indeed show Arlington’s Wakefield High and Wilson Secondary School with lower total cost than most of the other schools on the list. But total cost is not the right metric. Comparative cost analysis is done using cost per pupil or cost per square foot, not total cost. That should be obvious, since a school that provides 775 seats at $100 million is more expensive than a school that provides 1500 seats at $110 million.

Page 25 of the report shows a per pupil cost of $60,500 for the 1,960 seat Wakefield High and a per pupil cost of $130,300 for the 775 seat Wilson Secondary. That reduces to a weighted average per pupil cost for both schools of $80,279, which is more than the per pupil cost of any other new school in the metropolitan area except those constructed in the District of Columbia.

Comparing Arlington schools to DC schools is like comparing apples to oranges. First, the District of Columbia gets 23 percent of its revenue from the federal government, in contrast with Arlington, which gets 1 percent from the feds. That extra change comes in handy when covering cost overruns and extravagant amenities.

Second, almost half of DC students attend charter schools, paid for in part by private operators. That means that DC can concentrate its capital expenditures on building capacity for fewer students in its remaining public schools. This explains the higher per pupil costs of DC schools and the unfairness of expecting Arlington taxpayers to assume the same tax burden.

I’ve cited just some of the distortions and alternate facts in APS’ latest cost report. If you’re concerned about where your tax dollars are going, I challenge you to dig up more.

If you’re looking for a School Board member who will send this cost report back to the APS Auditor for correction, 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.

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.