Patch Profile: Arlington Board Candidate Mark Kelly
Republican pledges to propose alternate county budget that doesn't include a tax hike.
Being a Republican in Arlington is not as bad as you might think, Mark Kelly will tell you.
The 40-year-old legislative director for U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., is quick to point out that Republican presidential contender John McCain won nearly 30,000 votes in Arlington in 2008.
And partisan divides tend to soften after talking to people one-on-one, Kelly said.
“A lot of people think ‘Republican’ and think, ‘Well, he's against any government, any spending.’ They have a misconception. We think that government closest to the people is the best government. Spending money and having that done where you get to sit down with your neighbors and talk about the priorities for the community is where we would support spending tax dollars.”
The election is Tuesday.
Kelly listed his top issues as listening to community concerns, fiscal discipline – which includes putting the county’s checkbook online and hiring an inspector general to audit county and school finances – and putting the brakes on “vanity projects” like the Artisphere, the proposed Black Box Theater in Virginia Square and a proposed Columbia Pike trolley.
Kelly, too, promises that if he’s elected, he’ll spend his first few weeks in office developing an entire budget – an alternative to the county’s proposed $1.03 billion spending plan – that doesn’t raise taxes. Not filling vacant positions and eliminating bonuses for county staff would help accomplish that, he said. The proposed budget includes a half-cent tax increase, though the board has allowed itself the authority to raise taxes up to 2 cents per $100 assessed value -- bringing the base real estate tax bill for the average Arlington homeowner above $5,000 for the first time.
Restoring library hours to their 2009 levels remains a priority, and should be funded, he said.
The existing all-Democrat board is “out-of-touch” with the community, Kelly said. He cited the attempt to buy or condemn a building in the Courthouse community to use as office space and a year-round comprehensive homeless services shelter as an example the county including people in a process only after already making up its mind.
“The only way the community is ever going to get a chance to feel like they're going to be listened to is to let these guys know one of them can be replaced,” Kelly said. “It doesn't matter what letter is next to their name.”
Kelly said he believed he could work with the existing board. He agrees with the need to overhaul the county’s sign ordinance, for instance, or reducing barriers to small businesses. He sees potential allies in board members who don’t favor overly prescriptive zoning regulations.
“I don't think any of them would feel like we had an antagonistic relationship going in,” Kelly said. “There'd be a chance once I got elected to sit down and figure out how to work together so I could at least get some votes on issues I thought need to be brought to the public's attention.”
Kelly has lived in the Washington metro area for 15 years, most of that in Arlington. Before Huelskamp, he worked for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank; and before that, for then-Congressman Jim Ryun, another Kansas Republican.
Kelly has been married for 12 years. He has four children, and the oldest three attend Claremont Immersion Middle School. He’s a member of the Arlington Ridge Civic Association and volunteers at his church, the D.C. Metro Church in Alexandria.
Kelly has served a full two-year term and one partial term as chairman of the Arlington County Republican Party. He ran for the board in 2007 and 2010.
In recent weeks, the county government has begun looking into the idea of putting its expenses online, Arlington Director of Management and Finance Michelle Cowan told Patch.
The county is looking into the time and resources doing so would take, evaluating privacy concerns, the cost and difficulty, and talking to nearby jurisdictions about their approach, she said.