PRESS RELEASE: The Cost of a More Car Diet

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board, and I want to clarify my position on new school construction in the County.

At the July, 2018 School Board meeting I criticized the design of the $55 million Reed School, because it requires demolishing the existing $20 million school constructed in 2009. It will also force 9 and 10 year olds to march up three flights of stairs several times a day.

When ARLnow published some of my remarks, readers accused me of flip flopping, since I had advocated “Build Up Not Out to Preserve Green Space” as a School Board candidate in 2014.

True. Westover residents were told that the Reed School had to be built up rather than out to preserve green space. But inspection of the design reveals the real reason for building up–namely to expand parking space on an existing lot. While this scheme furthers APS’ commitment to a “more car diet”, it will impose a physical hardship on the students and drive up costs.

The same focus on parking governed the design of Alice Fleet Elementary School off Route 50 and Glebe Road in South Arlington. There a 4 story structure is under construction on an existing parking lot with a two story underground parking garage that has driven up the project cost to an eye popping $59 million. That’s a cost per pupil of $78,457 as compared with the new Patrick Henry Elementary in Alexandria with a cost per pupil of $48,848.

Virtually every recent school construction project in the county has resulted in expanded run off inducing surface parking and massive loss of tree canopy. According to longtime civic activist Suzanne Sundburg:

“Likewise most APS school construction projects result in mature tree loss: at least 94 at Ashlawn Elementary School, almost 80 at McKinley Elementary School, more than 160 at Stratford Middle School, etc.”

APS will tell you that additional costs and degraded surroundings are a necessary sacrifice to provide ample parking for teachers and staff. I disagree.

Parking and drop off facilities could be scaled back if:

  • more teachers took transit, and
  • more kids were bused instead of driven to school.

This would also reduce congestion around schools.

These options aren’t feasible now, because the County is not providing the incentives. If the County had a policy in place like Fairfax County to provide workforce housing to Arlington teachers, and APS changed its school bus policy to pick up kids within a half mile of the school, more people would leave their cars at home.

Other incentives include:

  • replacing school bus routes with ART service, and
  • subsidizing transit use by teachers and staff.

If you like these ideas or are concerned about the steady erosion of green space throughout the county and loss of tree canopy on school campuses–then support my run for Arlington School Board.

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:

  • Promote a school construction program that increases classroom capacity on time and on budget
  • Reduce the need for trailers with an accelerated building program that brings the cost of new classroom capacity in line with the rest of the Commonwealth
  • Cut the fat out of the School Board’s top heavy administration and use the savings to fund needed services
  • Close the achievement gap
  • Mainstream special education programs
  • Implement more efficient school transit alternatives
  • Install renewable energy in all public schools
  • Provide a voice–minus the doublespeak–on Arlington School Board for all taxpayers

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.

Reed School: Builds Up Not Out To Provide More Parking

Comments at Arlington School Board Meeting on July 17, 2018.

While I support a new neighborhood elementary school at the Reed site, I am concerned about both the design and the cost. The four story structure outlined in the final schematic design appears to blend in well with its surroundings and preserves open space.

However it requires demolishing the existing school, which is less than ten years old. It will also force 9 and 10 year olds to march up three flights of stairs several times a day.

Westover residents were told that the school had to be built up rather than out to preserve green space. But inspection of the design reveals the real reason for building up—namely to expand parking space. Continue reading

School Renaming Diverts Attention From Minority Achievement Gap

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on July 14, 2018.

On June 7 Arlington School Board (APS) voted unanimously to rename Washington-Lee (W-L) High School without prior public notice. The School Board’s rationale for the unscheduled vote was that as leader of the Confederate Army Robert E. Lee was a traitor to the nation.

Overlooked was:

  • the pardon Lee received posthumously from Congress in 1975;
  • the credit given to him for reconciling North and South after the war; as well as
  • the hypocrisy of honoring George Washington and other Founding Fathers, who profited from slavery, while vilifying Lee.

Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: What’s Good For Washington Is Good For Lee

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board, and I want to set the record straight about a matter that is important to all Virginia residents.

Several weeks a go my campaign issued a press release deploring the June 7, 2018 decision by the Board to strike Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee (W-L) High School.

To his credit Scott McCaffrey, editor of the Arlington Sun Gazette, accurately reported that I was angered at the hypocrisy of striking the name of Robert E. Lee, who defended slavery, but not that of George Washington, who profited by it.

From this and my acknowledgement that Lee’s position on slavery was wrong, McCaffrey erroneously concluded that I was good with striking Lee’s name from W-L High School, as long as Washington’s name were stricken also.

In fact I don’t want to strike either “Washington” or “Lee” from the name of W-L High School. I want to strike a blow at the institutional hypocrisy embodied in the School Board’s decision to rename the school. Continue reading

Tree Canopy Estimate Questioned

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting On June 16, 2018.

At the April 21, 2018 County Board meeting, civic activist Suzanne Sundburg blasted the County for misrepresenting the health of Arlington’s tree canopy. She said:

“Arlington’s claim of a 1 percent tree canopy increase between 2011 and 2017 is not statistically valid”—due to the wide 6 percent margin of error in the reported statistic.

Christian Dorsey dismissed Sundburg’s criticism of the County’s 2017 tree canopy study that reported this number. He said: “Getting into a misunderstanding about data points of a percentage point or two are not really useful for our public policy.”

Yet the District of Columbia Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) is embroiled in a controversy right now with Forest Service (USFS) researchers over a similar difference in reported statistics. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Hypocrisy Is No Remedy For Racism

At its June 7, 2018 monthly meeting, Arlington Public Schools (APS) revised its policy on the naming of schools, ostensibly to tighten the rules.

The actual purpose was to justify removal of Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee (W-L) High School on the grounds that as leader of the Confederate Army, Lee was a traitor to the United States.

While I agree that in defending the Confederacy Lee defended slavery, which was clearly wrong, Lee was no ordinary traitor. At the time he took up arms against the Union, the views that Lee espoused on slavery were precisely those of the Founding Fathers.

Had not George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson-all Virginia native sons and all slave holders-greased the skids of institutionalized slavery by agreeing to write it into the U.S. Constitution, Lee would not have taken up arms against his own nation. Continue reading

Crystal City Traffic Impact Analysis Misreported

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on May 19, 2018.

Although I’m a member of the Arlington Transportation Commission, I’m speaking on my own behalf, and my opinion does not reflect that of the Commission on the matter at hand.

I like this plan because its principal feature, a 21 story residential tower, represents a practical way to reuse a vacant office building that promises to remain vacant otherwise. It will meet the demand for more housing while promising economic benefits to the developer and the County. The architectural design is aesthetically pleasing, and the developer promises to dedicate a major portion of the site to a public park.

However, my principal focus is traffic generated by the development, and I am concerned about the numbers reported and the conclusions drawn by the Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA), which is referenced in the staff report accompanying this agenda item. Continue reading

Historic Designation for Westover Put On Hold

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on May 19, 2018.

I am speaking on my own behalf as a Westover resident and one of at least two dozen tenants who were recently evicted from two garden apartments on 10th Road to make way for more luxury townhouse development.

On May 16, 2018 in response to a petition submitted by Arlington resident John Reeder in June, 2016, the Arlington Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (AHALRB) met to decide whether to grant local historic designation for greater Westover garden apartments. Despite majority support for historic designation and two years to consider Reeder’s petition, the Board adopted a motion put by the chair to defer a decision on advice of County staff.

While this decision is disappointing, it is not surprising as Arlington’s historic footprint has all but disappeared. In historic Jamestown, Charlottesville, Georgetown, and DC whole neighborhoods are off limits to redevelopment. Even Donald Trump got into the act, undertaking a masterful renovation of DC’s historic Old Postal Pavilion in 2016. Not so Arlington. Continue reading

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