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by Mark Kelly — December 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm 585 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 KellyAt last Saturday’s County Board meeting, Walter Tejada lashed out at the decision to derail the Columbia Pike trolley project.

In his lengthy diatribe, Tejada extolled the virtues of planning by Arlington County. One would think based on the tenor of Mr. Tejada’s comments that all the projects Arlington County embarks on turn out well — even the ones that have substantial opposition during the planning process.

Then on Wednesday, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended the closure of the Artisphere. While millions were already poured into the project, this decision will stop the ongoing millions in annual taxpayer subsidies to an arts center that was supposed to be self-sufficient by now. Once again, it appears Arlington leaders are bowing to realities many of us saw coming before a single tax dollar was wasted on a project.

Yet, just 18 months ago, then-Chairman Walter Tejada had this to say about the Artisphere:

“The Artisphere is an ongoing investment in Arlington’s future,” he said. “It’s helping to building our arts and cultural community. This is a proven and documented economic development strategy that attracts the young, educated demographic who are the workforce for the technology and innovation sectors.”

“Artisphere is on its way,” he concluded. “We expect the Artisphere to become a self-sustaining organization.”

The Artisphere was a planning failure that could have been avoided had the County Board heeded the warnings of fiscal watchdogs at the time.

Now comes Wednesday’s decision to bail out the Signature Theater — again. In a disappointing 5-0 vote, the County Board forgave $411,000 in past due utility and lease payments and will not charge the theater anything for its $90,000 per year lease for the next 19 years. This move comes on top of a smaller $250,000 bailout 18 months ago. Total forgiveness of obligations due to Arlington County under the original Arlington Way planning process for Signature will be $2.371 million over 20 years — a pretty nice Christmas gift for the theater.

The Board also refinanced the theater’s loan at a rate of 1 percent per year in exchange for United Bank forgiving $2.7 million due to them. These new loan terms are a pretty good deal for the theater considering the Board on Saturday refinanced other County debt at 2.52 percent.

Last night as debate was wrapping up, Tejada and Chairman Fisette emphasized what was being done for Signature was not a “gift,” it was a “loan.” You could make the argument that initial planning had failed and cutting a deal to bail out Signature should be done, but saying it was only a loan does not make it so. Just like claiming the Columbia Pike trolley was a good idea that deserved to go forward because it had been planned for 15 years did not make it so.

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

by Max Burns — December 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm 610 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.

MaxBurnsThis has been a year marked by a constant stream of contested political campaigns in Arlington that resulted in the election of new members of the School Board, County Board, House of Delegates and Congress.

During that time of intense internal political focus in Arlington, I also had a chance to participate in the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership — a program that promotes the values of trust, civility and respect in its graduates through direct engagement with communities around Virginia.

Over the course of 2014, as it has for 20 years, the Sorensen Political Leaders Program brought together each month professional, civic and political leaders and future leaders — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — from every region of the Commonwealth. The Sorensen Institute has long worked to provide meaningful conversation and consideration of the issues facing our localities and our Commonwealth. It stresses open dialogue, looking beyond surface and party/ideological differences, and clear, fact-based thinking about policy challenges we face.

My Sorensen experience has given me a broader perspective in which to view the eventful 2014 in Arlington. As we near the end of the year, it may also be worthwhile for our progressive community to step back and analyze the current political situation in our county.

It’s been a challenging year for the Arlington County Democratic Committee. We faced an unexpectedly strong challenge with John Vihstadt’s candidacy for the County Board. We struggled against the image of a local party so used to victory that no other outcome was possible.

Also, few political groups have to contend with normally dry discussions about membership bylaws and steering committee procedures becoming front-page news. Yet, ACDC found itself in that place this year when senior party officials decided to endorse and campaign for a non-Democrat contrary to national, state and local party rules. That difficult situation played out in a very public way.

While the rules were clear, we fell short in building understanding in the community about the way that party rules and ACDC procedures work, why those rules exist, and how few people they affect directly.

We now know that Arlington — like other parts of the country in 2014 — faced a shake up and increased skepticism about politics, elected officials and institutions generally.

Regrettably, this led to instances when civility broke down within ACDC and also within broader community conversations about the County Board, its policies and the 2014 election.

One of Sorensen’s most valuable lessons for me is that, difficult as it can seem, we are better served moving past our knee-jerk responses and exploring issues more deeply — even if the end result isn’t as self-validating as we’d hoped.

That is why I believe “The Arlington Way” deserves better than increasing derision in the community. While criticized as an empty buzzword, it does have the benefit of urging us to approach disagreements with civility and respect as we strive to make Arlington a better community.  Those core principles underpin good government regardless of party or candidate.

It’s time we reinvigorated the phrase and recommitted to building a community that takes seriously the input of a broader range of Arlingtonians, whether they are political activists or choose to spend their time contributing in other ways. How we conduct ourselves as we strive to build better schools and more responsive public services is every bit as important as the quality of schools and services we provide. So let’s set an example. (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — December 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm 618 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 RousselotThe past year was filled with revealing stories about Arlington and Virginia politics and government. Here are my top five:

5. APS Capacity Crisis Grew

County and APS demographers continued to present sharply differing forecasts of population growth and APS enrollment. The County and the schools failed to develop a unified plan that even came close to explaining how Arlington will pay for the construction of the new school facilities that will be required.  For no compelling reason, too many sites, designs, and financing options were not on the table for discussion.

4. Medicaid Expansion Failed

After Virginia Republicans gained control of the Virginia state Senate, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposal to expand Medicaid in Virginia was blocked by Republican majorities in both legislative branches. While Republican leaders in other states passed their own legislation to expand Medicaid, Republican leaders in Virginia failed to do so. The failure by Virginia Republican legislative leaders to present and lobby for their own alternative Medicaid expansion plan was a major disappointment.

3. McDonnell Convicted

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was found guilty of violating federal criminal law relating to public corruption. Most legal experts and political observers agreed that Virginia’s state criminal laws on public corruption are so full of holes that McDonnell could not have been successfully prosecuted under state law. Far from discouraging corrupt conduct, Virginia’s porous state laws continued to enable it. The McDonnell verdict highlighted the need for both Virginia and Arlington to strengthen their laws and ethics policies.

2. Streetcar Cancelled

The County Board’s decision to cancel the streetcar was the right decision as a matter of public policy. When the costs of a $500+ million project are so disproportionately greater than any possible benefits, no other decision would have made sense. A public majority correctly decided years ago that streetcars made no sense for Arlington. They could not understand the Board majority’s stubborn refusal to cancel the project. The abruptness with which the belated cancellation was announced reinforced the public’s conclusion of failed Board leadership.

1. Vihstadt Elected Twice

John Vihstadt’s elections to the County Board by landslide margins in April and November were a fitting recognition of his 30 years of community service. Independent Vihstadt’s decisive November victory, at the same time as Democrat Sen. Mark Warner also decisively carried Arlington, repudiated the insular thinking and policies of Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada on a wide range of issues. Arlington voted instead to prioritize spending our tax dollars on core services:

  • public schools,
  • basic infrastructure (sewers, water mains, roads),
  • sensible transit, and
  • public safety.

Conclusion:

These 2014 stories provide important background for 2015.

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 — December 18, 2014 at 9:15 am 3,353 0

Artisphere Preview 015(Updated at 9:40 p.m.) Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending that the county close the Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn after the first half of 2015.

Donnellan said Artisphere “has not lived up to projections” and would likely require substantial taxpayer support to stay open — more than $2 million per year.

Based on subsequent comments from County Board members, it appears that the Board is likely to adopt the manager’s recommendation next year.

Do you agree that Artisphere should close?

by ARLnow.com — December 17, 2014 at 10:45 am 2,176 0

Arlington County has been trying to figure out how to better reach out to the hordes of young apartment-dwellers who make up a significant portion of the county’s population, but who are usually nowhere to be found during community meetings.

“It’s not always easy to reach certain parts of the community,” Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh says in a new county-produced video (above). “We’ve tried several methods over the years — community meetings in schools, in community centers — and typically the same people would come out each time. So what we decided we needed to do was try something different.”

To help design events and services tailored to the elusive mid-20s to mid-30s professional set — dubbed “Metro Renters” — county staff is taking an approach called “Design Thinking,” which builds a needs profile through interviews with members of a given group.

“Design Thinking is a system of methods and processes that uses a designer’s sensibility to match people’s needs with what is feasible and viable,” explains Dept. of Environmental Services program manager Joan Kelsch.

Via interviews, the county developed the following profile of “Metro Renters.”

  • They want their resources to be quick and convenient and are willing to pay top dollar if it fulfills their needs in a hurry
  • They’re tech savvy and they can’t function without their mobile devices
  • They’re highly educated with varied reading interests
  • They listen to NPR on weekday mornings and track the news online all day
  • They work hard and play hard
  • Hanging out with friends is important
  • They like good food
  • Many don’t have cars so location is important
  • They enjoy a quiet, relaxing environment for conversation with a friend
  • Many are also interested in meeting potential life partners, so activities and places that give them something to do where they can meet new people with common interests are good
  • They consider themselves hard working and busy people without a lot of free time, so anything they attend should have an immediate impact on their lives or otherwise be important to them

If you have first-hand familiarity with the “Metro Renter” set, how would you grade the county’s job of producing a broadly accurate profile of the average 25-35 year old Metro corridor renter in Arlington?

by ARLnow.com — December 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm 608 0

Ask Adam Real Living header

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. I saw a mention on ARLnow this past Tuesday that Arbour Realty has been acquired.  Isn’t this your company? Are you going to continue the Ask Adam column? 

A. Yes, Arbour Realty is a company that my wife and I started in 2008. We were recently acquired by a company called Real Living | At Home. Real Living is a national brand owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Real Living | At Home is the regional franchise.

They have been one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages in D.C. and Maryland. Purchasing Arbour Realty is part of their strategy to begin their rapid growth in Northern Virginia. Real Living is on the cutting edge of technology and real estate services, providing a clear advantage over traditional brokerages.

Real Living | At Home logoWe will now have an in-house staff of PR, marketing, photography, videography and technology professionals working on our behalf when we are selling homes. We are looking forward to leveraging the myriad of resources provided by Real Living to take our real estate services to the next level.

We are keeping the Arbour Realty team together under the new brand. I will remain a leader in the Virginia office, but will focus more on our clients and less on the administrative duties of running a company.

I will continue to write the Ask Adam articles for ARLnow so please keep the questions coming. I truly enjoy responding to your questions and following the comments that follow my articles.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by Peter Rousselot — December 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm 918 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 RousselotA recent ARLnow.com story asked the question: “Why doesn’t Arlington ask developers for school funding?” County leaders quoted in the story bobbed and weaved, but failed to provide convincing answers.

County Attorney Steve MacIsaac seemed to suggest that current state law severely limits the extent to which such developer contributions could be required. But, MacIsaac didn’t explain exactly why such developer contributions are not similarly limited in neighboring jurisdictions like Fairfax.

Is MacIsaac claiming that, with respect to developer proffers, Arlington has a different legal status under Virginia law than Fairfax? If so, he needs to explain that fully. If that’s the situation, then any Arlington legislator could seek necessary changes in state law.

Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette was similarly opaque. Fisette was quoted as saying, “if we would have to undo our current structure to be able to replicate what’s done in Loudoun, I think that would be ill-advised.” Why would it be ill advised? Fisette didn’t explain.

Fisette was somewhat more candid on the Kojo Politics Hour. When a caller noted that projections of rapid school enrollment growth suggested Arlington would have real trouble financing the construction costs of seats for new students, Fisette admitted: “We are victims of our own success.”

Precisely because Arlington students and their parents indeed would be the victims of this kind of “success,” the public is rightfully calling for a completely transparent discussion of the developer proffer issue.

It was troubling to read several comments to the ARLnow.com story claiming that County Board members have threatened School Board members that there would be adverse consequences to the school system if the proffer issue were discussed publicly. Claims like these could be either true or false. But, the issue of developer proffers is real, and deserves a full, fair and extensive public discussion.

It was welcome news to learn that such a public discussion could take place at the January meeting of the Arlington Civic Federation. A Sun-Gazette story about the Civ Fed’s plans suggested that County leaders might be reluctant to open up this issue because developer proffers for new school construction might be “a zero sum game.” If so, such proffers might have to be offset by comparable cuts in developer contributions for other things, like affordable housing or public art.

We need a robust public discussion of questions like these:

  • Is it really a zero sum game?
  • Which priorities matter most?
  • If we can’t even afford to pay for the seats for new students required by recent development, why shouldn’t we slow future development until we catch up?

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 — December 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm 398 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 KellyGov. Terry McAuliffe’s office recently announced that he has closed 228 economic development deals since January. This is a carryover from a similar push by the McDonnell administration to bring jobs to Virginia.

In a report by the Watchdog, the latest deal merely shifted jobs from one Virginia county to another. Regardless of the quality of all the deals, bringing business to Virginia is a laudable goal. This is especially true as Virginia must adjust to a federal government that will not go back to 2009 stimulus spending levels any time soon — if ever.

The question is should Virginia’s priority be to play let’s make a deal, or should we improve the baseline for our business climate?

According to the Tax Foundation, Virginia ranks 27th in overall business tax climate. Virginia ranked 23rd in 2012. Virginia’s elected officials have not done anything to make us significantly less competitive, but we are now in the bottom half of states rather than the top.

Governor McAuliffe issued a lengthy report outlining what he wanted to do to increase economic growth in 2015. It purports to outline a “New Virginia Economy” and is chock full of buzz words.

Included is a small section to “right size regulations” — though it is short on specifics and seems short on any real regulatory reforms. What is not in the report under any of the “goals & strategies” is making Virginia the number one business tax climate. The section mentioning taxes highlights that we are better than average by some measures — hardly a real selling point.

When competing with Maryland for businesses looking to locate in the greater Washington, DC area, Virginia is still ahead when it comes to the tax climate. But, if we want to truly compete nationally, we have to do more on the fundamental tax issues because every state competing for businesses is offering incentives like those currently being handed out by Governor McAuliffe.

Making Virginia number one for its business tax climate would be a real opportunity for the governor to work with the Republican-controlled General Assembly over the next three years. Unfortunately, it does not look like it will be a priority.

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

by Andrew Schneider — December 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm 827 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.

Andrew Schneider(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) The week of Nov. 17 was a busy one in Arlington.

On Monday, the County Board voted to cancel further work on the Arlington/Fairfax streetcar project after more than a decade of community planning and involvement. This decision, like the streetcar itself, has proven to be controversial — for some in terms of outcome and for others in terms of process. Both streetcar supporters and advocates for alternatives saw reasons to be disappointed.

Most people, whatever their streetcar views, were caught by surprise. Many wondered about a clear path forward to address congestion on Columbia Pike and grow our commercial tax base to support services that remain a reason so many people find Arlington an attractive place to live. The element of surprise suggests we still need to be aware of ways in which county leaders and Arlington residents can be better connected.

The evening after the streetcar announcement, over 100 Arlington residents from four Civic Associations gathered for nearly two hours at the Langston Brown Community Center to discuss their views on the future of Lee Highway. In my four years as Yorktown Civic Association President attending many meetings, this was one of the most positive representations of civic engagement I’ve seen.

How to reconcile these events? The streetcar announcement suggests a major change in direction for our county. The community meeting indicates that the “Arlington Way” — shorthand for deliberative community involvement and inclusion — is alive and well. Having talked with many leaders of all types and vantage points across the county, I hear from many that the process is broken and from many others that the process is alive and well. My conclusion is that we have entered a new era that will take time to sift through.

I believe that Arlington is alive and well. Our schools are strong, our economy is still bolstered by proximity to Washington and forethought of Arlington’s leaders in previous generations. We have an active and engaged citizenry. Yet, something has changed and we are at a pivot point.

Schools consume half of the county’s budget, yet too many residents question whether we have the efficiency, transparency and consistency we should expect from a $500 million entity.

Our commercial sector has historically high vacancy rates and faces competitive pressures not seen recently. With the downsizing of the federal government and competition from Tysons, Reston, Alexandria and other locations, Arlington is facing questions about how we can better attract businesses and make sure they stay in Arlington once they are here.

This is important because nearly 50 percent of real estate property taxes are commercial and nearly 60 percent of the county’s operating budgets come from real estate taxes.

These challenges come when there are questions about how different communities and “regions” of Arlington relate to one another and there are significantly different perceptions about what our county needs or should look like — even though we need greater county unity to meet the challenges we face.

How best to succeed in such an environment? I have recently been reading a book titled “Citizenville” by California Lt. Gov. (and former San Francisco Mayor) Gavin Newsom. Newsom addresses how governments can better connect with residents through innovation and technology. Newsome would likely applaud how much Arlington has done right — embracing and using technology and innovation in ways that most communities would envy and be wise to emulate. (more…)

by Krysta Jones — December 4, 2014 at 1:45 pm 1,380 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.

Krysta JonesArlington is grappling with issues common to communities with urban areas. We can remain inclusive and value diversity as we progress and seek to remain competitive, but we must consider the importance of affordable housing as part of that competitive edge.

The need for affordable housing evokes different images — providing shelter for families in need; allowing lower-income workers to live closer to their jobs and to transit, promoting economic activity without adding to congestion; encouraging greater diversity and inclusion; aging in place without having to give up one’s home as real estate prices rise; strengthening and stabilizing communities; and, for some, housing “projects” and crime.

Arlington has attempted to maintain affordable housing as the cost of living has increased. In 1975, AHC, Inc., began working as a nonprofit affordable housing developer. In 1989, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing was founded to develop and preserve quality rental communities for individuals and families earning approximately $20,000-$60,000 per year.

Housing is considered affordable when rent or mortgage, plus utilities, is no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income. Across the nation, an estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing. In 2012, average rents in Arlington increased to $1,999.

One must make generally make 60 percent or less of the area median income to qualify for affordable housing, which in Arlington is $45,180 for a single person.

Arlington County provides affordable housing by expanding the supply of Committed Affordable Units (CAFs) for low-income residents, and offering Market-Rate Affordable Units which are owned by the private market and tend to have higher monthly rents.

According to a 2011 literature review by the Center for Housing Policy, “the development of affordable housing increases spending and employment in the surrounding economy, acts as an important source of revenue for local governments, and reduces the likelihood of foreclosure and its associated costs.”

In 2012 the County commissioned a three-year task force to create a shared community affordable housing vision, but not everyone is happy with the direction of affordable housing in Arlington.

  • Although it ultimately failed, in 2013 the Arlington Green Party (AGP) spearheaded a ballot initiative to create a low income housing authority. In a 2013 Washington Post article, AGP chairman Steve Davis noted, “…a housing authority would raise funds more easily, lower administrative costs, and provide more affordable rental units.”
  • The County offered developers more density for their projects if they preserved 6,200 units of affordable housing on Columbia Pike as a part of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Plan. It is unclear whether developers will still be interested in building and preserving affordable units in light of the recent streetcar project cancellation.
  • Under the Public Land for Public Good program, the county identified three to five publicly owned sites with the greatest potential for affordable housing development in the next 10 years. Yet, the Long Range Planning Committee of the county Planning Commission recommended that the program be “set aside” and the Arlington County Civic Federation is asking the County to start over — both citing a need for more public input.
  • Additionally, Columbia Heights West, the civic association that encompasses the new Arlington Mill Residences, is an advocate for more affordable housing in Arlington, but questions the high concentration of affordable housing in some neighborhoods. Early drafts of the Affordable Housing Working Group study included a provision to ensure more affordable housing throughout the county, but it was deleted by the Long Range Planning Committee.

(more…)

by Peter Rousselot — December 4, 2014 at 1:00 pm 1,022 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 RousselotIn a Nov. 13 column, I urged Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington County government to collaborate in thinking way outside the box in selecting sites for new school facilities.

Today, I urge them to be similarly creative and flexible in designing those new facilities.

Our neighbor, Fairfax County, has provided an example of such creativity and flexibility with the September opening of a new elementary school in vacant office space at Bailey’s crossroads. “As we continue to be a fast-growing school system and property becomes harder to come by, we will have to think differently” about school design, said Superintendent Karen Garza. “Vertical buildings will be part of our plan throughout the county.”

With roughly one-tenth the land area of Fairfax, Arlington must place even greater emphasis on vertical facilities. There are many obstacles to overcome, but we must come together as a community to overcome them.

Arlington need not re-invent the wheel on this issue. For example, several years ago, the state of Maryland prepared a study on vertical public school design. In a 14-page report, the Maryland study team summarized:

  • its methodology
  • the problems and issues it encountered, and
  • a series of possible solutions

The Maryland study team included public and private sector representatives from across the state. Many other localities in the U.S. (e.g., Los Angeles) and all over the world are planning vertical schools. Via AECOM:

Vertical schools are already being successfully designed and delivered…, including the Hampden Gurney primary school in London. … [T]his school [is] to be constructed over 6 levels on a space-restricted site. Incorporating a playground on the roof with play decks on intermediate floors, schools like this are set to inform the design process for similar schools in Australia.

So what’s driving the growth of these schools as opposed to more conventionally designed ones? … Population growth is seeing young families settle in high-density areas, attracted by associated lifestyle benefits that also make the “traditional” school design model harder to achieve.

Sound familiar?

Vertical schools are just one example of the kind of flexibility and creativity Arlington needs in order to address the design issues presented by the school capacity crisis. A whole host of other issues need to be on the table, for example: how existing space within current school facilities could be re-designed in order to be more effectively utilized.

Since incremental funds to address the school capacity crisis deserve the highest priority in our County budget, a portion of our community resources should be devoted to innovative school facility design.

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 — December 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm 587 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

Earlier this week, a story appeared here on ARLnow posing a question of whether the County Board should require developers to make a contribution to schools as one of the community benefits required for additional density.

Though the exact number varies from year to year, roughly 46 cents of every tax dollar in Arlington goes to the school system per a loosely defined revenue sharing agreement. One could argue developers could do more for schools, but for each additional tax dollar generated by new development, the schools already receive a significant ongoing, rather than one-time, benefit.

This ongoing property tax revenue benefit works this way except for the two areas operating under a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF). Arlington currently has two TIFs in Crystal City and along Columbia Pike — not coincidentally in the areas that would have been impacted by the now-cancelled streetcar system.

When there is a TIF in place, a percentage of future tax revenue is set aside to be used in the areas covered by the TIF. In other words, those tax revenues are no longer shared with the schools, or the rest of the general budget, in the same way as they are throughout the rest of the county.

For the Crystal City TIF, 33 percent of additional revenue moving forward from January 2011 will stay in Crystal City to pay for infrastructure. Along Columbia Pike, 25 percent of additional revenue will be used for affordable housing on the Pike.

By taking these revenues off the table for decades into the future, it builds in an automatic squeeze on the schools budget, in addition to reducing money available for roads, parks, public safety and other services. And, if past history is any indicator, the solution will be for the County Board to come to the taxpayers throughout the county and tell us they have no choice but to raise all of our taxes again.

Now that the streetcar project has been tabled, it is time for the County Board to revisit the the two TIFs. The Board should eliminate them altogether and fund any needs through the regular budget and bonding processes. A less desirable option is to debate a reduction in the percentages that were originally calculated with the streetcar in mind.

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

by ARLnow.com — November 28, 2014 at 10:00 am 453 0

ARLnow.com is considering options for building a dedicated mobile app in 2015.

While we believe the experience of visiting ARLnow on a mobile browser is adequate for most users’ needs, there are certain enhancements that a mobile app could bring. For instance, features could include:

  • Breaking news alerts
  • Event calendar optimized for mobile
  • Local-specific weather, traffic and/or transit info
  • Instant deals/coupons at local businesses

If we built such an app, would you use it? Also, tell us in the comments if there are any other features you’d like to see.

by ARLnow.com — November 27, 2014 at 11:45 am 975 0

Thanksgiving place settings

ARLnow.com is taking a day off for the holiday, but we wanted to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks in part to the status of “Black Friday” as the most prominent shopping day of the year, Thanksgiving seems to be getting ever more commercialized. At its heart, however the holiday is about recognizing and giving thanks for the blessings of our lives.

If you’re taking a break between cooking dinner, watching parades and football, and reminiscing with friends and family, tell us what you’re thankful for this year, in the comments.

by ARLnow.com — November 25, 2014 at 10:00 am 1,118 0

Snowstorm hits Arlington 1/21/14 (Photo courtesy @albers_eric)An east coast storm could bring some sloppy snow and rain to Arlington and up to a half foot of snow accumulation to the outer northern and western parts of the D.C. region tomorrow.

Forecasters say above-freezing temperatures should preclude more than an inch or so of accumulation locally. Still, the storm has the potential to have a major impact on Thanksgiving travel from Washington to Boston on Wednesday.

If you’re planning to travel for the holiday, is the storm affecting your travel plans?

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