Category: Uncategorized

County Board Loosens Regulations on E-Scooters

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, November 16, 2019

Last month I protested the advertisement of this regulation as an exercise in reckless endangerment. As an example I related an experience reported by my physical therapist.

Several months ago, the therapist was biking on the Mount Vernon Trail near Gravelly Point, when he approached a helmetless 10 year-old travelling in the same direction on an e-scooter. Since the e-scooter was moving erratically, the therapist attempted to pass him from the left. As he did so, the e-scooter swerved into his path, causing the biker to wipe out.

I further related that the biker, a young, physically fit adult male, was not seriously injured. I have since learned that I was misinformed. The therapist suffered lacerations the length of the left side of his body and required physical therapy to alleviate the pain in his badly bruised left shoulder. The therapist further reports that his facility has been treating e-scooter riders for elbow injuries. His colleagues report a surge of ER visits from people with e-scooter injuries.

With adoption of this regulation, incidents like that reported by the physical therapist will become routine rather than incidental. Even those who want this regulation acknowledge that its limited protections are unenforceable. Absent an enforcement mechanism, it represents a public hazard.

Image the consequences of adding a complement of e-scooters to the additional traffic County Board authorized today at the intersection of Glebe Road and North Randolph Street. Personal injury lawyers will benefit from this regulation. No one else will.

PRESS RELEASE: More Densification Planned for Ballston

Most people view development as a good thing. But too much of a good thing is bad, and that’s what’s happening to Ballston, where densification has become the new mantra. According to community activist Suzanne Sundburg, who has tracked the greater Ballston planning pipeline from a variety of public sources, about 3,000 new residential rental units have been built or are under construction there.

Major projects underway include the redevelopment of the Harris Teeter / Mercedes site on N. Glebe Road (732 residential units, 965 parking spaces). Other Ballston housing projects completed, under construction or planned include:

The .6 acre park planned for the Harris Teeter / Mercedes site is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of the more than 1,000 residents who will live there. In fact .6 acres is the average size of just 3 single family home lots. Nearby Mosaic Park will have to serve the recreation needs of the thousands of others moving into the units listed above.

A New Planning Approach Needed

Considering the growing congestion at major intersections such as Wilson Blvd. and Glebe Road in Ballston; schoolyards overflowing with trailers; acres of new flood inducing surfaces from infill development; Arlington County Government’s planning paradigm falls well short of the kind of reality-driven planning that Arlingtonians deserve.

As an Independent candidate for County Board, I don’t think we need buzzwords that local officials bandy about like “Car-Free Diet,” “Affordable Housing,” “Smart Growth” and “Urban Village”. We need comprehensive studies that include the fiscal and practical costs of increasing Arlington’s population.

If elected, I will insist on a new approach to redevelopment. In addition, if elected, I will:

  • Say NO to more tax rate increases and a recently authorized County Board pay grab.
  • 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.

Scorched Earth Tactics Are Not Progressive

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti’s upset victory over incumbent Theo Stamos for Commonwealth Attorney in the June 11 primary has the Democratic Party spinning the narrative that a “progressive” was elected Arlington County prosecutor.

I don’t think so. What is progressive about spending over $600,000 of out of state money to smear a dedicated local official?

What is progressive about doing so at the behest of a vindictive former governor with a personal agenda?

What is progressive about conducting a media blitz to discredit a fellow Democrat by distorting her record with misrepresentations, innuendo and outright lies? When it comes to malicious distortion and outright lies, Parisa outdoes Trump himself.

How Can A Prosecutor Enforce the Law When She Can’t Tell the Truth?

One of Parisa’s false claims is that in 1999 Theo Stamos prosecuted as felons two 10 year old students for putting soap in their teacher’s water bottle. The truth, though, was far from the tale that was spun:

  • Theo Stamos was not the Commonwealth’s Attorney at the time nor was she the prosecuting attorney working on the case;
  • the “soap” that adulterated the teacher’s drinking water was a chemical agent, ethyl alcohol;
  • the teacher, who sought medical treatment after drinking the contaminated water and filed criminal charges against the youths, stopped teaching as a result;
  • After a brief period of probation, the charges against the youths were dismissed entirely

Another Parisa lie–prompting an unprecedented public rebuke from the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD)–had it that an officer who sustained blunt force trauma and 60 stitches from being struck with a jagged metal pipe was guilty of police brutality for killing his assailant in self defense.

Parisa was unfazed. She responded to the ACPD rebuke by issuing another lie about Theo.

Decriminalization of Marijuana by the Courts: a Pipe Dream

If you’re looking for an impartial county prosecutor, the prospects don’t look too good right now. But not to worry. Potheads are delighted that Parisa won’t be prosecuting anyone for possession of marijuana.

Unfortunately that illusion went up in smoke when the state supreme court ruled in May against a Norfolk prosecutor seeking to dismiss charges against some defendants charged with pot possession. The result? Until the General Assembly decriminalizes pot, Parisa cannot decline to prosecute marijuana possession without the consent of the court.

An Independent Alternative to Slash/Burn Electioneering

Are you tired of the interference of national and state political leaders in local politics? Do you reject their use of PAC money from billionaires to wage smear campaigns against opponents and corrupt elections in the process? Then you should consider an Independent alternative.

If elected to County Board, you can be sure that I will advocate against outside interference in local elections.

In addition, if elected, I pledge to:

  • Seek 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.

Arlington “Bicycle Element” Calls for Widened Bike Trails

Comments At Arlington County Board Meeting, April 23, 2019.

Several organizations have recommended widening bike trails in County parks to handle a growing population of bikers. This is the same mantra used to widen highways in Northern Virginia with the same result–more congestion, unsafe conditions, loss of wildlife habitat and excessive runoff.

Dr. Bernard Berne, a long time community leader and avid cyclist, reports that he is “not aware of any studies that have demonstrated that widening existing trails in urban areas increase[s] their safety or decrease[s] speeding. In the absence of such demonstrations, the Bicycle Element should not ‘consider widening to accommodate heavy use’ (Policy 10.b, p. 25).”

Dr. Berne has forwarded to you a set of proposed amendments to the draft Bicycle Element that would proscribe or limit road widening in urban parks.

He also recommends that you add the following sections to Policy 5 (p. 19) consistent with the 2012 AASHTO Guide for Development of Bicycle Facilities:

i.   To protect natural areas near trails, limit the maximum widths of paved trails to 10 feet.

i.    Mowed buffers adjacent to paved trails in natural areas should not exceed three feet in width, except where environmental conditions prevent this. 

Please add a sentence to Appendix C. Design Guidance (p. 46):  

The AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities is used by Arlington County staff primarily for the design of multi-use trails. ASHTO guidance includes limitations on the widths of heavily used trails that are constrained by natural areas and Resource Protection Areas (RPAs).

Please remove from Appendix D projects to widen both the Four Mile Run (2-02) and Mount Vernon Trails (2-09), as both transect Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) along the Potomac River and/or a major tributary thereof.

Finally remove the 8th Road N./Bluemont Park Connector (2-30) and the Bluemont and Upton Hill woodland trail linkage (2-29), neither of which are needed and both of which would adversely impact an RPA.

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.

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.

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. (more…)

Arlington’s Housing Conservation District: A Cruel Joke

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on March 17,2018.

On December 16, 2017 Arlington County Board adopted a Housing Conservation District (HCD) zoning overlay that effectively declared a moratorium on demolition of garden apartments in Westover and elsewhere in the County until a policy could be worked out providing landlords with incentives to preserve the buildings rather than demolish them.

In February tenants of 5709 and 5715 10th Road North located in the HCD learned from County officials that the moratorium did not spare them from eviction. They all must get out as per notices received from the landlord on January 31, 2018. (more…)

Pricing Carbon in Virginia?

I am speaking on my own behalf. My remarks have not been authorized by nor do they reflect the position of any organization with which I have ever been associated.

I support adoption of Executive Directive 11 (ED 11), which directs the State Air Pollution Control Board to regulate carbon emissions in Virginia through a cap and trade program. I further support the regulation’s requirement that Virginia join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as the most efficient way to price carbon in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Virginia Sierra Club has provided statistics showing both the need for this rule and the economic and health benefits to be derived.

However Sierra Club has omitted a key fact–namely that the General Assembly is owned by Dominion Resources, which will see to it that any carbon emissions regulation contemplated by the Pollution Control Board proves a dead letter. To those who doubt that Dominion has purchased the best legislature that money can buy, a few statistics should suffice.

According to Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), Dominion donated almost $1 million to political causes in Virginia in 2017, including $369,000 to Republicans, $317,000 to Democrats, $175,000 to Senate candidates and caucuses, and $210,000 to HOD candidates and caucuses. (more…)

Thanks for Your Support

First, I want to thank you for your support for my recent campaign for Arlington County Board. I got 17,415 votes–23.6 percent of the total. This is good, considering that I’m an independent, and the Democrat at the top of the ticket, Ralph Northam, got 80 percent of the Arlington County vote in what turned out to be a lopsided referendum against Donald Trump.

My campaign would have gotten little traction without your support, and I’m glad you provided me with the opportunity to get my message to the public.

While my opponents cast themselves as progressives, they offered few specifics on the campaign trail on how to address the key issues facing this county, among them:

  • An 18 percent office vacancy rate, with government tenants searching for lower rents elsewhere in northern Virginia;
  • Continued gentrification of the county with at least 13,500 affordable units lost since 2000 and most of the remaining soon to be recycled into luxury condos and townhouses;
  • Continued erosion of parkland in the face of massive redevelopment of the Rosslyn, Ballston and Crystal City corridors.
  • No plan for how to address proposed Trump budget cuts that may cost Northern Virginia 10,000 jobs.

Rest assured that I will continue to raise these issues in public forums, and I will lobby for the solutions I advocated during the campaign.

Thanks again for your support for democratic action, which is the Arlington Way.