Garvey, Clement face off

Arlington County Board candidates Audrey Clement (left) and Libby Garvey listen to a question posed at the Arlington County Civic Federation candidate forum held Sept. 6, 2016.

An independent candidate for the Nov. 3 Arlington County Board race contends that current board members are overstepping their bounds in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Audrey Clement says that the board’s May 19 vote continuing emergency operations gives the government far too much power for too long.

Under state law dating to the threat of nuclear bombardment during the Cold War, localities have the power to enact provisions during an emergency. In some cases, those extraordinary powers lapse when the emergency does, but in other cases, they can run up to six months longer.

“I object to the extension of this ordinance until six months after the end of the COVID-19 crisis,” she said in a statement. “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,” Clement said. “With the emergency gone, there will be no legal basis for the county to suspend normal democratic processes for another six months.”

Clement did praise parts of the emergency measure, including the decision to waive late fees and interest on delayed payments for some county services. And she praised County Board members for bowing to public anger and removing provisions from the emergency declaration that would have suspended meetings of commissions and committees studying planning issues.

But she voiced criticism about the suspension of enforcement of violations of land-use permits for the duration of the crisis and beyond.

“What is the rationale – what hardship would such enforcement impose either on developers or county staff?” Clement said.

Clement, who has run a number of times before, is taking on Democratic County Board Chairman Libby Garvey in the Nov. 3 election. No other candidates have yet file, although the deadline is still about two weeks away.

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