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by Mark Kelly — October 23, 2014 at 1:00 pm 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyThe Washington, D.C., streetcar is finally up and running in a limited, testing phase. According to this Washington Post story on the new line, it is not going so well.

It seems the first cars “running east of Union Station, have snarled traffic and been in two minor accidents.”

If you have ever driven on Columbia Pike during rush hour, you know traffic conditions will not be any better in Arlington with fixed rail cars running in the same lane as cars and buses.

Second, buses in D.C. are facing significant delays behind the streetcars, and are having to go around the streetcars to stay on schedule.

According to County plans, the Arlington streetcars will only supplement bus service, meaning our buses along the Pike will likely also have to navigate around the light rail. And, in not so good news for Arlington commuters, the streetcars may actually be even slower than buses at getting you to work. This does not include the time it takes you to get to the Pentagon if you need to catch a bus, as the the line will not go directly there.

Third, while D.C. planned to charge $1 or more per ride, “DDOT has determined that fares will not be collected at the start of revenue service.”

D.C. needs to entice riders since ridership is already projected to be “underwhelming” according to the story. Not that D.C. could charge a fare yet, they still don’t have the system in place to do so.

We were told that people would naturally want to ride the new streetcars along Columbia Pike, but communities across the country are having issues with paid ridership. The very real possibility exists that Arlingtonians will not only have to subsidize some portion of each ride forever, we may get to foot the whole bill (at least during a “rider attraction” phase). Of course, instituting a charge for a previously “free” service becomes more difficult later.

The bottom line is we can look across the river at what not to do. Supporters will probably say we can learn from their mistakes, but similar problems continue wherever this transit experiment has been tried.

Fortunately for us, we have only wasted a small percentage of the total cost thus far. We can still stop it. Two Columbia Pike streetcar proponents are on the ballot next year. The results of the Nov. 4 election may intensify the pressure on them to have a change of heart before it’s too late.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Alfonso Lopez — October 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Alfonso LopezAs a member of Arlington’s General Assembly delegation and long-time resident of neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, I have been a strong advocate for implementation of the Columbia Pike Neighborhood Plan adopted after many years of planning and community involvement — a fundamental component of which is a modern streetcar system.

I am pleased that our governor, after receiving broad approval (nearly 72 percent) from Arlington voters as a candidate, has strongly supported key transit projects like the streetcar.

Virginia’s Transportation Secretary has repeatedly praised the streetcar as a sound example for leveraging transportation investments to enhance economic competitiveness, noting that implementation of a seamless streetcar system between Columbia Pike and Crystal City will provide significantly more mobility benefits than enhanced bus service.

Just this past week, Virginia’s Director of Rail and Public Transportation told the Washington Post that the state remains “fully committed” to providing $65 million from a state funding stream dedicated solely to fixed guideway rail projects. This brings the total state streetcar investment to more than $200 million.

Why is the Pike Neighborhood Plan and streetcar component important? It is how we will:

  • accommodate anticipated growth along Columbia Pike;
  • protect Pike neighborhoods and affordable housing units;
  • create important links to Crystal City/Pentagon City on one end of the Pike and Bailey’s Crossroads on the other;
  • create a “main street” feel with appropriately scaled buildings and dining/retail options;
  • provide street-level transit options for people to visit restaurants, libraries, community centers, shopping outlets, and office buildings;
  • and generate economic development and tax revenues we will need to build schools and acquire open space.

The streetcar system will not just create additional commuting options. It will foster livable and healthy communities with robust businesses, create destinations easily accessible to Arlingtonians and revenue-generating tourists, and improve our quality of life.

I am disappointed that the carefully-planned and long-needed investments along Columbia Pike are now being treated as a political football. That is why I oppose the Garvey-Vihstadt plan announced on ARLnow.com that would cause Arlington to forfeit millions of dollars of state funding.

And I am disappointed that the Garvey-Vihstadt plan would similarly renege on commitments that Arlington County has made to help revitalize Crystal City after the poorly-planned federal decision to move thousands of military jobs to Mark Center and Fort Belvoir with the attendant losses of many more private sector jobs.

In the name of saving some unspecified amount of money on the streetcar by using inferior bus service, the Garvey-Vihstadt plan suggests that we can instead fund major Metro improvements. That makes no financial sense.

The Metro expansion projects alluded to in the Garvey-Vihstadt plan would, according to the long-range strategic plan released last year by Metro, cost many billions of dollars — many times the streetcar’s cost. A new Rosslyn Metro station — $1 billion. A second Potomac tunnel — $3.3 billion. An Orange/Silver express track to a second Rosslyn Metro station — $2.3 billion.

These may all be worthy projects, but suggesting that even Arlington’s share of the cost would become feasible merely by killing the streetcar is irresponsible. (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — October 23, 2014 at 12:00 pm 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotI’m a proud Arlington Democrat. Like thousands of other Arlington Democrats, I will be voting on Nov. 4 to re-elect Independent John Vihstadt to the Arlington County Board.

On April 8, 57 percent of Arlington voters elected John as an independent voice on the Board. The other four Board members are Democrats. Having an Independent as one of the five Board members provides balance, oversight and accountability.

Reasons To Vote For Vihstadt

Thirty years of community activism and consensus-building

John’s record of public service and relationships built over three decades has provided a firm foundation for immediate effectiveness and accomplishment. This record shows him to be inclusive and open-minded.

Re-calibrating County Board spending priorities

John Vihstadt:

  • prioritizes long-term, cost-effective investments in our public schools, public safety, infrastructure maintenance and neighborhood quality of life;
  • opposes wasteful and extravagant projects like a $500 million streetcar, million dollar bus stops, a gold-plated aquatics center or another $1.6 million dog park.

Since Arlington already has the highest tax bills in Northern Virginia, setting priorities is essential.

Arlington’s current priorities have been set by a group of three long-term incumbent County Board members (Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes). They happen to be Democrats. Many of their priorities (streetcars, aquatics center, fancy dog parks) are wrong. Their wrong priorities are not core Democratic values.

By voting to re-elect John Vihstadt on Nov. 4, Arlington voters will send another strong message that we support John’s priorities and oppose these wasteful and extravagant projects.

Fresh perspective already making a difference

John has led the effort to hire an internal auditor to improve checks and balances. He will continue to advocate that the auditor report directly to the County Board, not the County Manager. He will work to ensure no backsliding in recent commitments to implement a fraud and abuse hotline and employee whistle blower protection. 

Conclusion

Some Arlington Democrats may be struggling with the decision to vote to re-elect John or vote for his Democratic opponent. I support John because being the Democratic candidate in this County Board election is not enough of a qualification.

Alan Howze lacks the stature to stand up to Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada, and to vote against their positions when he thinks they are wrong. Moreover, on major current and important issues, like the $500 million streetcar and spending at least $80 million on the Aquatics Center, he agrees with their positions.

You can read more about John Vihstadt’s extensive community service, the issues on which he is running, and his support from across the political spectrum here.

***

John Vihstadt deserves re-election to the County Board.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by ARLnow.com — October 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm 3,587 0

Metroway bus in Crystal City (Photo courtesy Donna Gouse)

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey.

What transportation projects should we fund in Arlington with the money we save from not building a streetcar?

This is an important question. John Vihstadt and I asked our staff exactly this question during a work session on the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) this summer. Our staff said they could provide a list if a majority of our Board colleagues voted to ask for it, but our three Board colleagues voted against it. So neither we, nor the public, has the benefit of staff’s expertise and analysis to answer this question.

We do know that the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcars are projected to cost over $500 million and consume about 19% of our Capital Improvement Program. We also know that these streetcars will require over $8 million and perhaps millions more per year in annual operating costs. We all should be wondering what could and should we do with this money instead.

If we reprogram those local and state dollars, here are some possibilities we might fund partially or fully:

1. Expand and improve the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in Crystal City so it operates more like a streetcar with side opening doors. Run it frequently and all the time. Connect it to the BRT line in Alexandria. Work with Fairfax and run BRT all the way down Route 1 to Fort Belvoir. Take the BRT line down the route planned for the streetcar on Columbia Pike, and take it into Annandale. Run a BRT line from Rosslyn out Lee Highway and work with Fairfax and Loudoun to take it all the way to Leesburg. Work with Montgomery County, Maryland and D.C. and take a BRT line from Arlington and the Pentagon to D.C. and on to Rockville or further. In other words, build a robust regional BRT service that people can depend on to get them where they want to go conveniently and efficiently.

2. Address the dangerous intersection at Lynn Street and Lee Highway at Key Bridge with a permanent and effective solution to protect pedestrians and cyclists. This likely means significant construction to rework the intersection. We could improve pedestrian and cyclist safety around the county at other places like East Falls Church.

3. Add much needed new Metro entrances at Rosslyn and Ballston.

4. Add a whole new Metro station in Rosslyn as called for in the Metro Momentum plan.

5. Pay for some of the huge capital costs Metro anticipates in their Metro Momentum capital improvement plan. While not detailed yet, this is a large expense that looms in the near future. Currently we have not planned how we will pay for it.

6. With the old bridges over the Potomac needing extensive reconstruction soon and the huge casino opening at Harbor Place the need for more ways to cross the river is clear. Transportation funds could be used for a new bridge, or tunnel or even dock facilities for a Potomac ferry service. A recent study showed a ferry to be economically viable. National Airport is a natural location for a dock. Besides millions of tourists arriving there each year, thousands of people commute to and from Ft. Belvoir and other military bases located on the river every day.

In sum, taxes will be lower and transportation better without a streetcar. There are many needed transportation improvements that will have to wait until we can raise taxes or get federal and state dollars to fund them if we waste over $500 million on a streetcar.

To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to arlingtonnews@gmail.com. Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.

Photo courtesy Donna Gouse

by Peter Rousselot — October 16, 2014 at 1:30 pm 502 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotBarbara Kanninen is running for election to the Arlington School Board on November 4.

I endorse Barbara in this election.

PRIORITIES

Among the priorities Barbara will pursue as a School Board member are :

  • Promote critical thinking over standardized testing
  • Tackle overcrowding
  • Give teachers the respect and support they deserve
  • Support children with mentors
  • Continue investing in the arts and strengthen STEM
  • Be budget-minded

As I have written previously, both the School Board and the County Board need to recognize that they have limited resources. They need to focus our limited tax dollars on core services. For this reason, I am encouraged by Barbara’s focus on budget priorities.

Operating Budget

Barbara’s No. 1 principle is the need to focus on the day-to-day classroom experience and the importance of teacher-student relationships. Her budget priorities will be teachers and the resources they need. Barbara will look skeptically at other expenditures — such as consultant fees, new technologies, and the test-prep schedule — to assess whether they truly improve classroom learning.

Barbara also would like to see regular and transparent collaboration between the schools and Arlington County on a revenue-sharing agreement: the percentage of tax revenues that the County Board shares with the School Board. Our schools matter to everyone in the county, and Barbara would like to see a healthy community dialogue about the relative value of, for example, keeping our class sizes small compared to other county activities. Barbara does not discount the importance of county services, but rather wants to open up the discussion so that we can make the best decisions possible, given our limited resources.

Capital Budget

Barbara’s approach to capital budget planning is equally thoughtful. Around the community, her discussions about Arlington’s capital improvement program (CIP) have focused on three points:

  1. We need to start talking about potential, interim solutions as our overcrowding grows faster than we can build. Using community buildings (former schools) as temporary schools is one such option. Flexible scheduling is another.
  2. We need better and stronger school/county collaboration so that we can open up more spaces for potential schools. We also need a school/county master planning process to look at the long, long term.
  3. We need to improve our planning process on the school side. Most importantly, APS needs more transparency in its decision making.

Personal

I first met Barbara about 10 years ago when I was serving as a co-chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction and she was a first grade parent at Taylor Elementary. Ever since that time, Barbara has been actively involved in volunteer leadership positions in our schools.

***

Barbara Kanninen deserves election to the School Board.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Mark Kelly — October 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm 735 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark Kelly

If you have children in Arlington Public Schools and you have attended a back-to-school night for your elementary school student, you have probably heard about the way teachers are supposed to be grading students. A “C” grade is meeting expectations for grade level (See page 9). In other words, when a child brings home a report card full of C’s in Arlington, parents are supposed to feel encouraged about what their child is learning.

Superintendent Patrick Murphy received a “C” average from school staff in the latest APS community survey for his job performance. If he were back in elementary school, it sounds like school staff believe he is performing at grade level, but not exceeding it.

The schools did receive a “B” overall from school staff, with a similar grade coming from students. And, 90 percent of parents rated the schools as an “A” or “B”.

Why not higher scores?

Education is important to us. Arlington is full of overachievers when it comes to education. We rank at or near the top of lists of the most well-educated or most well-read. We are naturally tough graders.

The community has been willing to fund, if not overfund, our schools. The survey itself was fielded in the spring, which was before Murphy shook the couch cushions to find enough money left over from last year’s budget to buy MacBook Air computers for some students.

In fact, college-level tuition is available to Murphy and the School Board for each child, and Arlington’s tax revenue climbs consistently year over year. Murphy and the School Board are never faced with the really hard fiscal choices that faced so many school systems across America.

The future does not get easier for Mr. Murphy and the Board. APS is experiencing levels of enrollment which necessitates finding seats for new students; trailers continue to roll onto green spaces; and, we hear about unaccompanied minors from our southern border arriving in our schools. When you have to add seats, it means financing new school buildings and navigating controversial decisions about where those buildings will go.

But, what happens inside the classroom to educate our children is ultimately more important than what building they are in or where it is located. With more than adequate resources available in a highly educated community, expectations are going to be understandably high. We expect our schools to deliver for our students. And, in the Arlington Way, we will expect decisions to be made after extensive community input.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Kathleen McSweeney — October 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm 928 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Kathleen McSweeneyIn Arlington, we benefit from great schools, transportation options, unique neighborhoods, urban amenities, community centers, open space and recreational facilities. Many of us were drawn to Arlington because of these community assets.

They did not happen by accident, but from careful planning, wise investments and sound decisions less focused on the passions of the moment and based instead on longer-term thinking and a vision of positive changes to last a generation and more.

Having benefited from those investments and decisions, we now face a new set of generational choices needed to keep Arlington vibrant, diverse and livable.

Housing, schools, transportation, open space — all are inextricably linked. Arlington has lost 15,000 units of market rate affordable housing in the past decade, and with it many working families that helped build this community. Schools are over-crowded. Indications are that the Class of 2027, this year’s kindergarten class, will require more than an additional high school’s worth of seats. Arlington has several master plans — land use, transportation and open space — but not a master plan for new schools.

We need to seize this generational opportunity and have a broad-based conversation about how best to use and invest in public land in Arlington; how best to balance competing needs and functions; how best to accommodate the needs of schools, recreation, public safety, and affordable housing options for all incomes while protecting — and hopefully expanding — open space.

Fortunately, that discussion is starting to happen. I recently joined about 100 Arlington residents to provide comment on the County’s Affordable Housing Study — http://housing.arlingtonva.us/affordable-housing-study/. A key topic was the Public Land for Public Good site evaluation process that is open for public comment until Oct. 31.

Most participants wanted to explore solutions where park land is not lost, while recognizing the demand for community centers, health facilities, libraries, fire stations, parking lots, affordable housing and new schools.

I have also attended Working Group sessions considering whether an elementary school should be built on a portion of County-owned land abutting the Jefferson Middle School and Thomas Jefferson Community Center — http://projects.arlingtonva.us/plans-studies/land-use/thomas-jefferson-site-evaluation/tj-working-group/. This well-defined and run process has frustrated some because APS named TJ as the preferred elementary school site, seeming to preclude a conversation about whether other South Arlington sites projected to have the greatest population increases in the next 10-20 years.

My participation convinced me to urge a more comprehensive look at our needs and how best to address them from a land use perspective.

That is why I was pleased to see Alan Howze, Nancy Van Doren and Barbara Kanninen issue a joint press release calling for a “… broadly, inclusive community process to examine how best to use public land in Arlington to meet our community’s needs.”

They emphasized the responsibility to our children to provide a great education, to residents to protect and enhance neighborhoods, and to taxpayers to be frugal and make prudent investments. (more…)

by ARLnow.com — October 15, 2014 at 10:20 am 4,066 0

Tall brown boots spotted at a beer festival in Courthouse (photo courtesy @SeenInClarendon)Arlington is noted for being home to many male aficionados of brown flip flops.

On Sunday, one observer of local culture might have found the female equivalent of “dudes in brown flip flops” — women in tall brown boots.

At the first annual Arts and Craft Beer Festival in Courthouse over the weekend, Twitter user @SeenInClarendon saw — and photographed — many such pairs of boots, which might seem more appropriate on someone riding a horse than on someone downing a lager and a lobster roll.

Is this a trend that’s especially prevalent in Arlington — a la brown flip flops? Or is it not Arlington-specific? We’ll let you decide.

Photo courtesy @SeenInClarendon

by Rick Keller — October 9, 2014 at 2:00 pm 586 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Rick KellerThe Sierra Club of Virginia has endorsed Alan Howze for Arlington County Board in this November’s election.

Although the streetcar system (which the Sierra Club supports) is often cited as the determining factor between the two candidates, the Sierra Club does not endorse based on one issue or position. Instead, we look for the best environmental candidate across a range of issues, including clean air, energy efficiency, open space, recycling, smart growth as well as transportation as a whole.

Before endorsing Alan, we looked at Alan’s written statements, interviewed Alan, and reviewed his environmental work. Based on that review and his impressive accomplishments, we chose to endorse him.

We previously endorsed Alan when he was one of two 2010 Democratic primary candidates (together with current Del. Patrick Hope) we supported for the then open 47th District seat.

Since 2010, Alan has continued to work for sound environmental initiatives — ones we believe will make him a Board member who will make decisions to support a more sustainable Arlington.

For example, Alan has actively supported expansion of the Arlington ART bus service and Capital Bikeshare stations, both adding to residents’ transportation options. As a member of Arlington’s Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee, he supported the Complete Streets program that makes Arlington streets accessible for pedestrians, bikes and vehicles.

Alan has spoken out about the need to address global warming and the threat that it poses to Arlington, including critical infrastructure such as National Airport and the Water Pollution Control plan. He knows Arlington can’t solve this issue on its own — but that we can take concrete action in our community to reduce carbon emissions and make our community more resilient.

Professionally, Alan has participated in a number of initiatives evidencing to the Sierra Club his deep environmental commitment.

Alan started his own energy audit firm to help homeowners make decisions that benefit the environment and save money. He worked on IBM’s Smarter Planet program, which helps the public sector create energy efficiency systems. He has worked for Virginia’s Natural Resources office and on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Alan understands the need for smart growth and the importance of matching smart growth with policies to protect and expand committed affordable housing. The Sierra Club has guidelines for local activists on affordable housing and neighborhood redevelopment to help guard against gentrification. Alan demonstrated a commitment to helping retain affordable housing and replacing market-rate affordability with committed affordability that protects those units for the next 20 or 30 years. Making sure people living in the affordable units have adequate public transit is part of our guidelines.

The local Sierra Club group (named the Mount Vernon Group, but consisting of members in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and eastern Fairfax and Prince William Counties) endorsed in 2007, and continues to support, the planned streetcar system that will include Arlington, Fairfax County and, eventually, Alexandria. We expect that the system will ultimately be part of a broader regional system.

Our 2007 streetcar review led us to believe that a streetcar system starting at Bailey’s Crossroads and running down to and through Crystal City was the best long term transit option for the growth that was sure to take place on the Columbia Pike and Route 1 corridors. (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — October 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm 1,008 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotOn Oct. 7, the Arlington Civic Federation approved a resolution critical of the position taken before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by the Arlington County Manager. Congratulations to the Civic Federation for taking this step.

The Civic Federation is right that County Manager Barbara Donnellan is giving too little weight to our safety, while giving too much weight to squeezing more tax dollars out of taller buildings in National Airport’s flight path.

What the FAA is considering

The FAA is considering amending its current regulations to take into account situations in which there is a failure of one aircraft engine during takeoff. A principal objective of the change will be to set height limits on new building construction in order to increase our safety. The FAA can make the change after using either one of two alternative procedures. One of those two FAA procedures is significantly faster than the other. Using the faster procedure will enable the FAA’s new safety standards to be put into place sooner. The FAA wants to use the faster of its two procedures.

What the Manager Advised the FAA

The Manager advised the FAA to use the slower of its two procedures. While her July 22 letter paid lip service to safety, the County government’s real motivation is clear from this portion of her letter:

[T]he land use plan for central Rosslyn anticipates the addition of 4.5 million square feet of office use and more than 1,000 new housing units over the next 25 years… Rosslyn’s importance to economic development and sustainability is well-established. Yet its future depends on realizing the development plans as a means to be economically competitive…

The Manager’s Advice Sacrifices Our Safety

Since the Arlington County government has zero expertise in airline safety, it also has zero expertise in weighing the additional risks to the safety of Arlington citizens that will arise from a delay in the effective date of whatever new building height restrictions the FAA ultimately selects. Therefore, Arlington either should have taken no position on which procedure the FAA should use, or Arlington should have come down squarely on the side of its citizens’ safety by advocating for the use of the FAA’s more streamlined procedure.

Would it really be so terrible for Arlington if the FAA’s choice of its streamlined procedure meant that Arlington had to make do with adding only 4.1 million square feet of office use in Rosslyn rather than 4.5 million square feet over the next 25 years?

The Arlington County government has placed the economic interests of developers and the government’s own interest in incremental tax revenue ahead of safety.

That’s wrong.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Mark Kelly — October 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm 604 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyYesterday, InsideNova provided a trip down memory lane. Unless you were actively involved in Arlington County Board watching in 2008, you probably missed the acronym. Accessory dwelling units were indeed a hot topic at the time.

As the Arlington Way moved forward on the subject, people seemingly divided themselves into three camps.

Camp No. 1 wanted to increase the amount of affordable housing stock in the county and viewed ADUs as a prime opportunity to do so. Camp No. 2, the biggest and most vocal, wanted to stop the proliferation of living situations that were not in compliance with existing county ordinances, and they did not want to make it easier to create more. And, a smaller camp wanted to protect the private property rights of homeowners to use their homes as they see fit, without government interference.

After months of debate, the final proposal adopted by the County Board made creating ADUs so cost-prohibitive that virtually no one has taken advantage of the new ordinance — “less than a dozen” in total. As an aside, am I the only one who wonders if it’s less than a dozen why they cannot tell us if that means one or 11?

So, at the end of the day, camp three may have been the de facto winner. Some people with illegal units do not realize they are in violation of any ordinance. Some realize they are, but are just taking a chance it will never be enforced.

This outcome was predicted by many at the time, including the then-county manager. Unfortunately, telling the County Board anything related to a common-sense conclusion often falls on deaf ears.

The Newseum moved out of its Rosslyn space in large part because it was not conveniently located for foot traffic. The County Board unveiled grandiose plans for a self-sustaining Artisphere to take its place. Many told them the plan would not work as promised at the time it was passed. And, it didn’t.

The County Board has been given an early warning signal that the Columbia Pike trolley would create financial headaches when the $1 million bus stop came to light. The Board is charging ahead anyway. And, when traffic on the Pike becomes worse not better, Arlingtonians will be left with nothing to do but pay off the bonds and pay a higher tax rate to cover our annual subsidy to keep the line running.

So what is an ADU really? It is a perfect example of how our County Board makes many controversial policy decisions along the Arlington Way — a lot of talk resulting in a outcome that regularly does not achieve the promised results.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by ARLnow.com — October 6, 2014 at 10:05 am 1,900 0

Columbia Pike streetcar renderingWhat’s in a name? Apparently a lot, if you ask County Board member John Vihstadt. He would like people to stop using the term “trolley” when referencing Arlington’s streetcar project.

As InsideNova reported, although Vihstadt doesn’t support the streetcar, he thinks the word trolley is derogatory and makes people think of the old Rice-a-Roni commercials.

Do you agree that trolley is a derogatory “loaded word” in the debate over Arlington’s streetcar project?

by Mark Kelly — October 2, 2014 at 2:00 pm 617 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyFour years ago, I ran against former Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman. In my first ever column, I took on one of his regular rants against Republicans.

What cannot stand is the notion that all, or even most, fiscal conservatives are anti-government.

In fact, we believe there is an appropriate role for each level of government. The most important of which, outside of self-government, is local government. It is where our tax dollars meet the asphalt. It is where our children attend school, our homes are kept safe, our water is dispensed, and our trash is collected. It is where we can most easily and directly petition our elected officials for assistance. And, at least theoretically, it should be the most responsive to changing community needs with the smallest amount of bureaucracy and red tape.

When Arlington County makes the claim it is a “world-class community,” we expect our government to operate that way. When we pay taxes, we expect results. Our streets should be well-maintained, not full of potholes. Public safety should not be a looming concern. If our schools spend $22,000 per child, we expect a quality education.

It is not too much to ask.

Unfortunately, for too long it seemed as though our one-party-ruled County Board did not have to pay any attention to the pesky fiscal conservatives — even when many from across the political spectrum shared our concerns.

A year after I wrote my first post, Mr. Zimmerman was on his way out as a Board Member. And, voters were given a choice between a fiscal conservative who wanted accountability for County spending decisions, or another Democrat who would simply vote for the status quo.

John Vihstadt won that special election overwhelmingly when voters were presented with that choice. Now, absentee ballots are already being cast for the Nov. 4 election for the full term of this County Board seat.

Since his election this Spring, Mr. Vihstadt has done what he said he would do, including unwavering opposition to the streetcar and holding the Board accountable by asking tough questions about all the big decisions. Mr. Vihstadt has truly been an independent vote and voice on the Arlington County Board. He deserves a full term to continue what he started.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Larry Roberts — October 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm 384 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Larry RobertsThis week, Arlington lost one of its finest community leaders — Dr. Talmadge Williams.

While others were closer to Talmadge and will offer fitting tributes about his many fine attributes and accomplishments, he and I shared many experiences and values. I believe it is fitting for a column titled Progressive Voice to honor someone like Talmadge Williams, who worked tirelessly, humbly and effectively to promote progressive values in Arlington and to promote Arlington County as a progressive community that seeks constantly to move toward Lincoln’s “More Perfect Union.”

Talmadge and I got to know each other through community activities and a shared interest in politics and education. He knew that I was the son and brother of educators and of my roles as an officer and director of a national civil rights organization, helping to elect pioneering African-American elected officials Charles Monroe and Frank Wilson, and working to ensure that Democratic Party organizations at the local and state level reflected the important roles played by African Americans in our County and our Commonwealth.

I knew that Dr. Williams had been pursuing similar efforts far longer, more effectively, and with great passion, skill and grace.

When I reached out to Talmadge to ask him to help me with some of my efforts, he could not have been more encouraging, empowering, and inclusive. Not only did he open doors (literally and figuratively) to homes, churches, and organizations, but he honored me by asking me to help him achieve goals that he was pursuing and participate in organizations he was leading or in which he was an integral figure.

Over the years, Dr. Williams offered advice and wise counsel on an array of issues and community concerns and opportunities. He traveled successfully in so many circles in Arlington that his insights were incredibly valuable and helped move many conversations forward toward solutions. The trust he engendered across the board allowed important dialogues to take place that led to greater understanding and accomplishments.

Though he was humble, Dr. Williams was forceful and firm in his beliefs. His work as president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP showcased his ability to move people to achieve objectives, insist on accountability, and constantly move forward with purpose.

As a proud ambassador for Arlington in regional, state and national organizations, Dr. Williams showed that, in the words of Craig Syphax “his commitment to Arlington County was complete and unequivocal.”

Never one to be satisfied, Talmadge pushed throughout his nearly 40 years in Arlington to move the County to honor its proud legacy — especially, but not limited to, African-American accomplishments — and to build bridges among communities. He pushed Arlington to invest in its future, to govern well, to constantly seek to improve, to achieve justice and fairness, and to create both opportunity and security for all of its residents with a particular emphasis on those in need and those who had faced discrimination.  (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — October 2, 2014 at 1:00 pm 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotOn Sept. 25, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the appointment of a bipartisan Ethics Commission.

“The governor said he expects recommendations on ethics reforms will be completed by December, in time to introduce them next year in the General Assembly,” The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote. “The assembly this year passed changes in laws governing gifts and disclosures but without addressing so-called intangible gifts, such as paid trips for elected officials, or establishing a way to enforce them.”

Even though the composition of the new commission is completely bipartisan (including Republican and Democratic Co-Chairs), it is a testament to the toxic partisanship in Richmond that the appointment of the commission was greeted this way by the Chair of the Republican Party of Virginia: “Trusting Terry McAuliffe to enact ethics reform isn’t just letting the fox guard the hen house, it’s letting the fox design and build the hen house for easier access.”

Since the Republicans control both houses of the Virginia legislature, the potshot that we can’t trust McAuliffe to enact corrective legislation all by himself misses the mark.

Nothing better illustrates the culture of corruption in Richmond than being able to provide “intangible” gifts of unlimited value to willing lawmakers. A 2010-2011 initiative organized by a company seeking approval to open a Virginia uranium mine is a case in point. The company offered to provide trips to France at company expense to almost all of the 140 members of the Virginia General Assembly.

The alleged purpose of the trip was to enable these lawmakers personally to inspect a French uranium mine that had used mining techniques allegedly similar to those that would be used at the proposed Virginia uranium mine. But, a side trip to Paris was part of the package, and this initiative cost the company $10,000 per legislator. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers went on the trip, and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers declined to go. In the end, the company sponsoring these trips paid a total of $122,000 to fly about two dozen members of the Virginia General Assembly to France.

Those legislators who did go on the trip tried to justify their decisions by saying:

  • they were going on an important fact finding mission,
  • they did nothing illegal under state law, and/or
  • their votes could not be bought.

Those legislators who didn’t go on the trip said that, even though the trip wasn’t illegal, it wouldn’t look good to their constituents.

Bottom line

Legislative trips like the uranium mining junket to France are illegal in many other states. We need to make them illegal in Virginia too.

It’s long past time to put toxic partisanship aside on this issue.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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