Category: Transparency

Arlington Sets Up Motorist Speed Traps With $200 Fines

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, January 28, 2020

I am speaking on my own behalf as a non-car diet commuter, not on behalf of the Arlington Transportation Commission, of which I am a member.

This item was heard at the January 9 Transportation Commission meeting. While there was considerable discussion of the merits of penalizing excessive speeds, there was no attention given to the actual criteria for designating speed traps.

The staff report defines the types of road segments that could qualify as speed traps and indicates that it will evaluate existing traffic data, police reports and citizen complaints in targeting “residential streets that carry relatively higher traffic volumes and have documented speeding issues.”

But nowhere is “documented speeding issues” defined. When I asked a question about how the County determines a speed zone, County staff said this information is available elsewhere in Section 14.2 of County code. I couldn’t find it there and shouldn’t have to. Basic information about a proposed regulation should be in the ordinance itself or in a document linked to it.

Accepting at face value the information or lack thereof provided by planning staff is referred to in public policy literature as staff driven decision-making. Staff driven boards and commissions ill serve the public interest, since an uniformed decision is generally a poor one. The fault lies not with staff, but with the decision makers who fail to solicit the information they need to make intelligent decisions.

I recommend that County Board require language inserted into this ordinance that stipulates what constitutes a speed zone. Otherwise it will lend itself to abuse.

County Board Member Dorsey Hasn’t Reported Return of Union Donation

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, January 25, 2020

This letter was directed on 1/18/20 to the WMATA Board Ethics Officer and/or WMATA Inspector General pursuant to WMATA Board Code of Ethics, Article XI: Other Reports of Conflicts of Interest and Suspected Ethics Violations, in the matter of WMATA’s Board’s earlier determination that Board Member Christian Dorsey had violated the code as a member of the Board.

On or about November 7, 2019, the WMATA Board sanctioned Board member Christian Dorsey for failing to report timely a $10,000 campaign contribution he received in 2019 from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 689, which represents Metro transit workers.

The Washington Post reported Dorsey’s conflict of interest on November 7 as follows:

“Dorsey received the union donation on June 21 and reported it to Virginia authorities in accordance with state campaign finance law. It was one of the two largest contributions he received this year, the other being a $10,000 contribution from the InternationalBrotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“But he waited until Oct. 30 to report the ATU Local 689 contribution to Metro.

“The board resolution said that because of the reporting lapse, ‘Dorsey participated in several matters as a Board Member from which he should have recused himself during the period June 21, 2019 to October 30, 2019.’

“Metro Board Chair Smedberg said Dorsey had participated improperly in three “high-level briefings” on contracting matters, all held in executive session, where no board action was taken.

“’The Board reprimands Mr. Dorsey for violating the Board Code of Ethics by failing to timely disclose the Local 689 campaign contribution and failing to recuse himself from Board matters where Local 689 had an interest,’ the board resolution said.”

The minutes of the November 7, 2019 WMATA Board Meeting read in relevant part:

“The Ethics Committee determined that, despite Mr. Dorsey’s good faith disclosure and return of the $10,000 campaign contribution from Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689, he violated the Code of Ethics and should be reprimanded and removed as Chair of the Finance and Capital Committee.”

While WMATA Board minutes clearly indicate that Dorsey returned the $10,000 ATU contribution in accordance with its direction, I can find no evidence of the return of the contribution in Dorsey’s campaign finance reports available here:

As an Arlington resident who ran against Dorsey for Arlington County Board in 2019 and exposed his conflict of interest vis-a-vis ATU 689 during the campaign, I am requesting that the WMATA Board provide proof that Dorsey has indeed returned the contribution from ATU 689, as it directed him to do.

It is one thing to demand compliance with WMATA Board’s Code of Ethics. It is another to determine whether this has actually occurred. Transparency requires both.

***

Dorsey explained at the meeting that the check he wrote to return the union donation never cleared, and he can’t return the check till it does. Just the opposite. According to the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) official I spoke to “checks must be recorded when they’re written.”

The Shoe Drops on Arlington “Blue Wave” Voters

First, I want thank those of you who voted for me for your support for my recent campaign for Arlington County Board. I got 13,262 votes or 13% of the total. These results are disappointing to be sure.

Yet those who voted for me cannot possibly be as disappointed as those who voted for one of my opponents, Christian Dorsey, who withheld key information about his personal finances from the voters till after the election.

On November 7–two days after election–the Washington Post broke the story that Dorsey, who is Northern Virginia’s representative on the WMATA Board, had been sanctioned by WMATA for failing to report to it a $10,000 donation from WMATA’s biggest union, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 689. Then on November 8 it surfaced the news that Dorsey had filed for bankruptcy.

This is the same Washington Post that provided rosy pre-election coverage of incumbent Democratic County Board members Dorsey and Katie Cristol, while characterizing both my campaign and that of the other independent in the race, Aaron O’Dell, as “nominal”. In fact Arlington beat reporter Pat Sullivan devoted a column on October 31 to the futile outreach efforts of Aaron O’Dell’s underfunded campaign, while barely mentioning my own highly visible campaign that raised and spent $20,000Any voter would have scoffed at the notion of wasting their vote on an Independent for County Board after reading that hatchet job.

But the Washington Post isn’t the only media outlet contemptuous of Independent candidates. The Sun Gazette (SG) endorsed Katie Cristol on September 5, a full two months before the election. On September 26 it endorsed Christian Dorsey, a decision it would regret before the month of October was out. The effect of the SG’s early endorsements was to suck the air out of their opponents’ campaigns and scuttle any meaningful discussion of the issues.

Clearly there is no oxygen for Independent candidates as far as the media is concerned. And the Blue Wave, which is just a euphemism for undemocratic straight ticket voting, has suffocated any real prospect of getting voters to think either inside or outside the ballot box.

Under these circumstances people want to know why I continue to run for political office. The answer is simple. It’s the only legal way to demonstrate that the current corrupt two party system is completely bankrupt. In fact Christian Dorsey’s financial plight is an apt metaphor for the American electoral system.

County Board Incumbent Has Conflict of Interest

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, October 19, 2019

At an October 2 videotaped Committee of 100 candidate forum, I asked the other candidates whether incumbent Christian Dorsey should recuse himself from union business while serving on the WMATA Board, since unions have donated the bulk of his campaign contributions.

Out of $38,000 in total receipts this year, Christian Dorsey has received $10,000 alone from the Amalgamated Transit Workers (ATU 689) and $16,000 from other unions.

In view of this, I called on Dorsey to recuse himself from union business while serving on the WMATA Board.

Dorsey said that he doesn’t have to recuse himself from union matters, because the WMATA Board doesn’t handle union business.

This information was contradicted by Tom Webb, the VP for Labor Relations at WMATA. Webb told me that the WMATA Board not only votes to approve negotiated union contracts, it also provides direction to the General Manager on union negotiations.

At an October 16 Cherrydale candidate forum I again confronted Dorsey. This time Christian accused me of being misinformed or “making it up.” Yet the published minutes of the WMATA Board indicate that over the past year it took action on no less than five union agenda items, including:

  • A September 26, 2019 decision to “Amend FY2020 Budget for Fraternal Order of Police Collective Bargaining Agreement”;
  • The June 27, 2019 “Approval of IBT Local 639 Collective Bargaining Agreement”;
  • A November 1, 2018 decision to “Amend FY2018 and FY2019 Budgets for Collective Bargaining Agreements”;
  • The September 27, 2018 “Approval of OPEIU Local 2 . . . [and] ATU Local 689 Collective Bargaining Agreement”.

It’s one thing to have a conflict of interest. It’s another to deny it in the face of overwhelming evidence.

PRESS RELEASE: County Board Incumbent Misleads Voters On WMATA Board’s Union Oversight Function

At an October 2 Committee of 100 Candidate forum, I asked the other County Board candidates whether incumbent Christian Dorsey should recuse himself from union business while serving on the WMATA Board, given that unions have donated the bulk of Dorsey’s campaign contributions.

Out of $38,000 in total receipts this year, Christian Dorsey has received $10,000 alone from Amalgamated Transit Workers (ATU 689), which represents Metro transit workers. He has also received $16,000 from other unions.

In reply Dorsey indicated that he doesn’t have to recuse himself from union matters, because the WMATA Board doesn’t handle union business.

This information is clearly false, since according to Tom Webb, the VP for Labor Relations at WMATA, the WMATA Board not only votes to approve contracts negotiated with ATU 689 and other unions, it also provides direction to the WMATA General Manager in advance of those negotiations.

Given the disproportionate contributions Dorsey has received from unions, I’m sure you agree with me that he has a conflict of interest and ought to recuse himself from union business. If you are concerned that Mr. Dorsey won’t do that, then it’s time to replace him as Arlington’s representative on the WMATA BoardYou can do this by dis-electing Christian Dorsey on November 5.

If elected to County Board I will insist that Arlington’s representatives on the WMATA Board either decline contributions from major entities doing business with WMATA or recuse themselves from WMATA business involving said entities–including the ATU.

PRESS RELEASE: County Board Authorizes a Pay Grab

Did you know that on June 18 Arlington County Board voted to increase its salary cap from $57,337 to $89,851 for members and from $63,071 to $95,734 for the chair–for an increase of more than 50 percent?

When these caps are translated into actual pay increases, Arlington County Board members will have awarded themselves salaries on a par with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which pays its members $95,000 and its chair $100,000.

As a candidate for Arlington County Board myself, I think this is excessive, because at $4.6 billion Fairfax County has more than 3 times the $1.4 billion operating budget of Arlington County and presumably 3 times as much work to do.

Arlington County Board members are evidently unconcerned about whether their actual work load justifies the salary increase, because they have a guaranteed revenue stream in the form of rising tax assessments.

Double Digit Real Estate Tax Increases On the Way

According to a June 13 report from the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, housing price appreciation is expected to reach 17.2 percent in Arlington this year due largely to Amazon’s decision to open a new headquarters to Crystal City. This means a 17.2 percent increase in real estate tax assessments for everyone.

It’s up and out for those who can’t pay their tax bills. If you want to stay in Arlington and are concerned about whether you can afford to do so, then you should consider an Independent alternative.

If elected to County Board, you can be sure that I will seek tax relief for people priced out of their homes.

In addition, if elected, I pledge to:

  • Say NO to more tax rate increases and stop the exodus of businesses and federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 15-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.

PRESS RELEASE: County Board Talks the Talk

In a recent article, ARLnow columnist Peter Rousselot castigated County Board for failing to address local flooding, even though it denounced Donald Trump for failing to deal with climate change. Rousselot said:

“Arlington talks the talk about global climate change, but fails to walk the walk locally.”

Peter Rousselot, ARLnow.com

Rousselot called on County government to “[s]low the dramatic increase in impervious surfaces” that causes flooding in low lying areas.

Unfortunately that’s not likely to happen. Just last week County Board rubber stamped two major planning documents–the Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP) and the Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan. Both of these documents call for widening bike trails in the Four Mile Run Valley to handle increasing bike traffic.

At an April 23 public hearing on the Bicycle Element, County Board ignored calls to remove projects to widen the W&OD and Mount Vernon trails, even though the result will be more flood inducing runoff.

County Ends Curbside Glass Recycling

Recycling is another issue that demonstrates the County’s commitment to lip service only on environmental issues. On April 25 the Board voted to authorize the County Manager to terminate curbside glass recycling as a cost cutting measure.

From now on residential glass waste will be trucked with other trash to Alexandria’s waste to energy (WTE) facility to be burned. The County Manager provided no information on the cost savings of burning glass versus recycling it, and the Board didn’t ask.

I Walk the Walk

Are you tired of the doublespeak you get from County Board on everything from recycling to runoff? Then you should consider an independent alternative.

If elected to County Board, you can be sure that I will lobby against paving over the County’s remaining natural areas and for alternatives to ending curbside recycling.

In addition, if elected, I pledge to:

  • Seek other tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 15-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.

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.

PRESS RELEASE: Compromise On Community Concerns Not an Option for County Board

September 25, 2017

I’m an Independent candidate in the race for an open seat on County Board in November, and I seek your endorsement.

Do you wonder why Arlington streets are so congested, its schools overcrowded, and its parks candidates for the Endangered Species List? Arlington County Board will tell you that the County is a victim of its own success in attracting new residents to its walkable, Metro accessible neighborhoods.

The fact of the matter is the County could easily accommodate more new residents with fewer impacts if it adhered to its own written policies, the recommendations of its commissions and the advice of the public.

Consider that on September 16, the County approved the design for a new community center near Lubber Run that was deprecated by the Environment and Energy Conservation Commission (E2C2), Natural Resources Joint Advisory Group (NRJAG), the Public Facilities Review Committee (PFRC) and the Urban Forestry Commission, because it will necessitate major excavation of the site to put in a massive underground parking garage in contravention of its Car Free Diet policy. It will also require removal of 100 shade trees in contravention of the County’s Public Spaces Master Plan. These features will likely induce runoff and degradation of the nearby Lubber Run watershed.

On September 19, the County approved the location of new a VRE rail station in Crystal City, ignoring the pleas of the Planning Commission, Crystal City civic organizations and condo association leaders to defer a decision until the costs and impacts of alternative sites are fully evaluated–a modest request considering that the new rail station will be a permanent landmark and a major Northern Virginia transportation hub.

Also on September 19, the County ignored the pleas of numerous residents of the Leeway Overlee community to approve a day care center that will likely engender cut through traffic on an adjacent one lane street off Lee Highway that has already experienced major traffic accidents.

In each instance the demands of development superseded the concerns of residents about the environmental impacts of the project. In each of these cases, modifications to the scale or siting of the proposed facility would have appeased neighbors and resulted in a structure more in keeping with its surroundings.

So why isn’t County Board listening to all of its citizens? The simple answer is that confident that it will get reelected no matter what it does, the Board simply doesn’t care.

You can help turn that situation around by electing another Independent to Arlington County Board who will be accountable to the voters. Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!

If elected, I pledge to:

  • Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

To find out more about my campaign, visit my website. Better still you can make a difference by endorsing my candidacy.

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

NVTA TransAction Meeting: A Pro Forma Exercise

Comments at Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Meeting on July 13, 2017.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has issued a call for public comment on TransAction, a draft list of transportation projects to be funded in Northern Virginia for the next six years.

With both population and employment in Northern Virginia expected to increase dramatically between now and 2040, NVTA has certainly made the case for substantial increases in the region’s investment in transportation infrastructure. I am nevertheless concerned about NVTA’s lack of transparency. (more…)