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.

PRESS RELEASE: Arlington County Board Overreaches

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.

Arlington County Board Plans to Suspend In Person Meetings Till 6 Months After COVID Crisis

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, May 19, 2020

At first blush the ordinance to suspend public meetings and code enforcement during the COVID crisis seems eminently reasonable.

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, which protested the provision in an angry letter to County Board 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. I appreciate that enforcement of existing regulations against restaurants or their patrons for parking violations makes no sense when restaurants have been forced to switch to grab and go take out to preserve their businesses.

But I do not understand why enforcement of land use permits has been suspended or what hardship such enforcement would impose either on developers or County staff.

The County Manager has advised that no County staff have been laid off as a result of the pandemic. Some of them are now engaged in relief efforts. But what about the rest? Are they not available to do this kind of work?

Finally I object to the extension of this ordinance until six (6) months after the end of the COVID-19 disaster. Not only does the extension constitute overreach, it makes no sense. The COVID disaster will not end until the risk to public health and safety prompts the lifting of a state of emergency. With the emergency gone, on what legal basis does the County propose to suspend normal democratic processes for another six months?

Northern Virginia Stream Bank Restoration Projects Do More Harm Than Good

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, May 16, 2020

A letter to the editor in this week’s Mount Vernon Gazette entitled “Wrong Approach for Stream Restoration” (pp. 6-7), deplores misguided stream “restoration” projects in our region.  

According to author Rod Simmons, a Fairfax County environmental consultant, the LTE, “identically applies to . . . the currently planned upper Donaldson Run and Gulf Branch projects in Arlington County, as well as virtually all other upper headwater stream projects in our region.”

He says: “The biggest problem with the so-called natural channel design approach to stream “restoration” for us in the greater Washington, D.C. region is that it is planned and implemented in completely the wrong places: small order, interior forested, upper headwater streams and wetlands. Natural channel design (i.e. the Rosgen method) is mainly applicable to large order streams and rivers, especially the kind one finds in the American west. Applying it to small order, upper headwater stream channels of the deeply dissected Fall Zone of our area is a misuse of the methodology, a misunderstanding of eastern Fall Zone hydrology and stream geomorphology, a sure recipe for failure, a mismanagement of public funds by inappropriately targeting sediment-control projects in places with low levels of the very nutrients for which funding is based, and an unacceptable loss of irreplaceable native forest, wildlife, and landscape memory.

“The controversial Hollin Hills stream construction projects in the Little Hunting Creek watershed of Fairfax County, Virginia embody the worst elements of these misguided land use projects at virtually every level, from land giveaway to project planning to backing by elected officials.”

According to Suzanne Sundburg, “the science is clear. Privatizing stream ‘restoration’ has perverted its original intent. No matter how well intentioned, the process — as currently practiced in Arlington and elsewhere — it is incredibly destructive to holistic stream and riparian ecology.

“Corrective measures made solely to the receiving streambed will never correct the root cause: steadily increasing inputs of runoff volume and speed, fueled by increasing impervious surfaces and the loss of mature tree canopy throughout the watershed.”

Do You Want a Rubber Stamp or a Community Leader for Arlington County Board?

Arlington County Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum: Closing Remarks, 5/12/20

The issue in this year’s County Board race is clear. Do you want an engaged community leader or a rubber stamp? I am the former, and my opponent is the latter.

For eight full years Libby Garvey has uncritically endorsed every tax payer rip off since the Pike trolley, including the Lubber Run Community Center and Long Bridge Park Aquatic Center. These boondoggles are so overbuilt they are already too expensive to operate. Libby has also rubber stamped every major site plan development project to come down the proverbial pike without regard to their impacts on traffic, schools, parks, public safety, runoff or pollution.

Lately my opponent has elevated her usual do nothing stance to a virtue by suspending her campaign to devote herself to the Covid crisis. Yet in all recent County Board Covid town halls, Libby has insisted that she can do little to regulate local businesses during the crisis, even though Title 44 of VA code provides localities with explicit authority to do just that.

Chairman Garvey’s abdication of her responsibilities has reached a critical stage now that that the Governor has announced a gradual reopening of the state, risking all the progress we’ve made in flattening the curve.

As an Independent candidate for Arlington County Board, I won’t claim credit for rubber-stamping done deals. I won’t beg off exercising County Board’s duly delegated emergency oversight authority.

You can help me help you flatten the Covid curve by:

  • Visiting my website at www.AudreyClement.com
  • Spreading the word about my candidacy
  • Volunteering or donating to my campaign and
  • Voting for me on November 3.

Let’s join together to make Arlington a Covid free place to live and work.

COVID Curtailment and Upzoning Are Key Issues in County Board Race

Arlington Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum: Opening Remarks, 5/12/20

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington County Board. As a 16-year Westover resident, long time civic activist, and current member of the Transportation Commission, I’m running for County Board because it has pushed harmful policies resulting in: overcrowded schools, traffic congestion, gentrification, and an effective tax rate that is twice the rate of inflation. 

The coronavirsus has challenged residents’ ability to absorb tax assessment increases, with many businesses shuttered and people out of work. While the County deserves credit for abiding by the Governor’s lock down order, it needs to leverage its own independent authority under Virginia’s Local Emergency Statute, to curtail the pandemic. This my opponent Libby Garvey refuses to do, insisting that the Governor must approve any actions the County takes.

Another area where I clash with the current County Board is replacing single family homes with so called “missing middle” housing– multi-family dwellings like duplexes, triplexes and apartments. Contrary to what they say, “missing middle” is a euphemism for upzoning that will not make housing more affordable. Instead it will lead to escalating housing prices, overcrowded schools, traffic congestion, loss of tree canopy, increased runoff and more air pollution. If elected, I pledge to:

  • Act aggressively to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Oppose upzoning.
  • Seek immediate tax relief for residents and businesses.
  • Emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

If you share my agenda, then:

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

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

%d bloggers like this: