Party members recommend voters say no to the bonds because they are too broad. They believe approving the bonds would be the equivalent of offering blank checks to the Arlington School Board and the Arlington County Board to spend money on non-specific items.
The four bonds total nearly $219 million and include issues such as funding a new elementary school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, as well as continuing funding for the Metro system.
“Arlington parents distrust the school board, and many feel duped by the School Board’s failure to approve a detailed CIP (Capital Improvement Plan),” said Arlington Green Party Chairman John Reeder. “South Arlington parents were promised years ago a new elementary school, now proposed to be built on scarce parkland next to TJ Middle School. Arlington parents should remember that critical on-going school programs were put on the chopping block in the past spring; and now a confused school board and a superintendent propose to rush spending $106 million on plans that are less than educationally optimal for our students.”
Party members point to past bonds approved by voters that apparently were vaguely worded and ended up funding controversial developments around the county.
“This county board built a million dollar bus stop on Columbia Pike, diverted many millions of park bond dollars approved by voters for park land acquisition to remodeling a failed Artisphere, and now proposes to spend over $300 million on a doomed trolley,” said Reeder. “Voters should be wary of allowing the county board to spend over $100 million without detailed engineering and vetted plans because of these past abuses.”
Although it has traditionally has run its own candidates in recent County Board elections, the Arlington Green Party has endorsed independent board member John Vihstadt in the November election.
The big-ticket question in that referendum will be $105.7 million for Arlington Public Schools, $50.25 million of which will pay for either a new elementary school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, or additions onto Randolph and Barcroft elementary schools.
The voting public can only vote to approve or reject to each of the four bond questions on the ballot — for public schools, Metro and transportation, parks and recreation funding and community infrastructure. Each question requests at least $13 million in funding, and all of the referenda roll multiple projects into the larger categories.
The items in the $105.7 million schools bond, aside from the $50 million elementary school, are:
- $28.75 million for a 136-seat expansion at Abingdon Elementary School;
- $10.31 million for “minor construction/maintenance” at school facilities;
- $7.47 million toward a 241-seat addition and renovation at McKinley Elementary School;
- $5 million for a 300-seat expansion at Washington-Lee High School;
- $4 million in planning and design for a new, 1,300-seat secondary school at a yet-undetermined location.
The funding items in the $59.74 million transportation bond question:
- $39 million for continuing funding of the Metro system;
- $15.5 million for road paving;
- $1.3 million for bridge renovations;
- $2.39 million to be divvied up among WALKArlington, BikeArlington and “improvements to major travel corridors [outside] principal boundaries.”
The biggest items in the $40.15 million community infrastructure bond are:
- $12 million for neighborhood conservation projects; $10 million for facilities maintenance;
- $2.2 million for planning of the Salt Dome site on 26th Street N.;
- $1.4 million toward a new Lubber Run Community Center;
- $6.1 million combined for a new parking deck, wash bay and fueling station at the Arlington Trades Center.
The $13 million parks and recreation bond question includes:
- $10 million for parks maintenance;
- $2 million for land acquisition and open space;
- $450,000 for Crystal City parks and open space;
- $220,000 for Four Mile Run near-stream improvements.
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the transportation and education bond packages, with assurances from county officials that the additional debt won’t affect the county’s triple-AAA bond rating. The chamber doesn’t take a position on the community infrastructure and parks and rec bonds because they “are not directly tied to economic development.”
“Maintaining and improving quality transportation and education are two of the key components of our public-policy positions, and these bonds will assist in easing the traffic crunch and provide seats for Arlington’s growing student population,” Chamber Chair Timothy Hughes said in a press release.
Booze Delivery Service Coming to N. Va. — Ultra, a web-based service that facilitates the delivery of beer, wine and liquor, is launching this week in D.C. and is planning on launching in Northern Virginia “within a couple of weeks.” Ultra promises that most orders will be delivered in 30-60 minutes. The deliveries are made by licensed stores that partner with the company. [Washington Business Journal]
Shuttleworth Releases Poll Results — Former Democratic congressional candidate Bruce Shuttleworth has shared the results of a district-wide poll his campaign conducted earlier this month. The poll shows Don Beyer well in the lead among likely voters, but it also shows a sizable group of undecided voters. Shuttleworth dropped out of the race after the poll results came in, concluding that even if he “went negative” against Beyer he could not overcome the former Va. lieutenant governor’s lead. [Blue Virginia]
Congressional Candidates to Debate — The seven remaining Democrats in the congressional race will face off tomorrow (Friday) in a debate at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. at the NRECA building (4301 Wilson Blvd) and is open to the public. [InsideNova]
Arlington Issues $105 Million in Bonds – Arlington County yesterday issued $105 million in bonds at an average interest rate of 2.8 percent. The bonds will be used to fund capital contributions for Metro, Neighborhood Conservation projects, WalkArlington, BikeArlington, ConnectArlington; street paving, utility projects and Arlington Public Schools projects. The county will also save nearly $2 million thanks to refunding prior debt at a lower interest rate. [Arlington County]
Man Shot By Arlington Sheriff Worked for TV Show — Julian Dawkins, the 22-year-old man shot and killed by an off-duty Arlington deputy sheriff in Alexandria early Wednesday, worked as a shuttle bus driver for the PBS Newshour in Shirlington. He was also the cousin of Washington Mystics player Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. [NBC Washington]
Chamber’s ‘Best Business’ Awards — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has handed out its 2013 Arlington’s Best Business awards. The winners were: John Marshall Bank (Business of the Year), Dante Consulting (Business of the Year), InfoLock Technologies (Technology Small Business of the Year), Minuteman Press Crystal City (Service Small Business of the Year), House of Steep (Retail Small Business of the Year), AHC Inc. (Non-Profit Small Business of the Year), BbG Fitness (Home-Based Business of the Year Award). [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Sells $77 Million in Bonds — Arlington County issued $77 million worth of bonds at an average interest rate of 3.6 percent on Tuesday. The bonds will help fund the acquisition of the office building at 2020 14th Street N, for use as a year-round homeless shelter and for county offices, and for the affordable housing redevelopment of Buckingham Village 3. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy CG Liacouras
WJLA and NewsChannel 8 for Sale — Rosslyn-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7) has been offered for sale by Allbritton Communications. The company is seeking to sell WJLA and its companion cable channel NewsChannel 8 in order to continue investing in new media, like its Politico website and newspaper. Disney, owner of the ABC television network, is thought to be a likely buyer. [WBJ, Washington Post, Politico]
Brink, Lopez Announce Reelection Bids — Dels. Bob Brink and Alfonso Lopez announced their bids for reelection to the Virginia House of Delegates at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. As part of his speech, Lopez made fun of a Republican effort in the state legislature to study the creation of a Virginia-based currency. Lopez joked that he wanted his face on the Virginia $5 bill and Brink’s on the $10 bill, so that “in Virginia it would cost a Brink and a Lopez to buy a pizza.” [Blue Virginia]
‘Over the Edge’ Fundraiser in Crystal City — Today, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., people will be rappelling 15 stories down the Hilton Crystal City at 2399 Jefferson Davis Highway as part of a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. Among those scheduled to go “over the edge” today is Washington Nationals mascot Screech. The fundraiser will also run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. tomorrow (Friday). [Event Calendar, Special Olympics Virginia]
County Sells $206 Million in Bonds — Arlington County sold $206 million in bonds on Tuesday. The bonds were sold at a low 2.5 percent interest rate. The refunding of older bonds under the low rate will save the county about $5 million. [Arlington County]
Police Looking for Wallet Thief — Arlington police are looking for a man who allegedly stole a victim’s wallet in the Clarendon area last month. [ACPD]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Lane Markings Repainted Near Pentagon — The lane markings on Route 110 near the Pentagon were repainted this week after NBC4 alerted VDOT to “awkward lane markings” left there by construction work. Before the repainting, “motorists drove along seemingly in one lane, only to have that lane disappear right under them,” NBC4′s Adam Tuss said. [NBC Washington]
Va. Anti-Sodomy Law Overturned — A U.S. appeals court panel has ruled that Virginia’s anti-sodomy law is unconstitutional. The case involved a man accused of soliciting sodomy with a 17-year-old girl. One of the judges said that “Virginia can and should punish adults who have sexual relations with minors, but the state cannot use an unconstitutional law to do so.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Arlington Plans to Sell $264 Million in Bonds — Arlington County is planning to sell up to $264 million in municipal bonds next month. The sale would include $94 million in new bonds and $170 million in refinanced existing bonds. The debt service on the new bonds will add about $8.7 million per year to the county’s budget. [Sun Gazette]
Moran Calls for Action on Climate Change — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) took to the House floor on Tuesday to call for Congress to take action to “prevent further damage from climate change by developing a long-term strategy to address the issue.” [YouTube]
Photo courtesy Scott Shelbo
(Updated on 11/19/12) With partial bond funding for the planned Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility approved by Arlington voters, the county is continuing to move forward with the design — and ultimately the construction — of the center.
Located north of Crystal City, just off of I-395, the facility will feature a 50 meter by 25 yard fitness and competition pool, a family leisure pool, a hot water therapy pool, a “teaching pool,” and a “free-form water play area that will… have a lazy river, slides, play features, and a zero-depth ‘beach’ entry.” There will also be an indoor cardiovascular and weight training fitness center, a community use space, child care, locker rooms and, in a planned second phase of construction, an “indoor track, large multi-activity center and various court spaces.”
Renderings, above and below, show the current designs for the facility, which will have its own surface parking lot, accessible via Long Bridge Drive.
The design of the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility is expected to be completed in April 2013, according to Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation planner Erik Beach. The county will then put the project out for bid, with the goal of beginning construction in the early fall of 2013.
All told, the design and construction of the first phase of the center is expected to cost around $80 million, based on figures in the latest Capital Improvement Plan. There is no cost estimate for the second phase of the center, Beach said. Earlier, Beach erroneously quoted a figure of $115.6 million for the design and construction of both phases of the aquatics center, but said on Nov. 19 that his quote included the cost of building Long Bridge Park itself instead of the the second phase of the aquatics center.
Funding for the aquatics center is expected to come from public and private sources, including $42.5 million from this year’s park bond and $20 million from anticipated developer contributions.
Greens Vote ‘No’ on Park Bond — The Arlington Green Party has joined the Arlington County Republican Committee in opposing the $50.5 million park bond that’s on the Nov. 6 ballot. The bond would largely help fund a new Long Bridge Park aquatics center. The Greens said the aquatics center is “wasteful” and a “vanity project.” The Greens stayed neutral on the $42.6 million school bond, with some members criticizing the plan to build two new elementary schools because it is “too costly and eliminates green space and recreation fields.” [Arlington Mercury]
APS Enrollment on the Rise — Enrollment at Arlington Public Schools is up 3.7 percent versus one year ago. The growth — mostly at the elementary school level and mostly in North Arlington — is in line with school administrators’ projections. There are now 22,657 pre-K to 12th grade students enrolled at Arlington’s public schools. [Sun Gazette]
Artisphere Still Facing Challenges – Artisphere, which launched on 10/10/10, is turning two years old tomorrow. The money-losing cultural center is still facing challenges, however. Private rentals at the facility, touted as Artisphere’s financial savior, are below expectations, according to the Washington City Paper. And music bookings through the end of the year appear to be light. [Washington City Paper]
Civic Federation Endorses All Bonds — The Arlington County Civic Federation has voted to endorse all four bonds on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Civic Federation voted by a narrow 26-22 margin to support the $50.5 million parks and recreation bond, which includes more than $40 million for a new aquatics center at Long Brige Park. [Sun Gazette]
Boxing Match Coming to Ft. Myer — A boxing match will be held at the Smith Gymnasium on Joint Base Myer/Henderson Hall on Saturday. The match will feature a number of local boxers, including heavyweight Duane Mobley and lightweight Terron “The Kid” Grant. Tickets are $30 and doors open at 6:00 p.m. [Boxing Along the Beltway, JBMHH]
Library Sets New Summer Reading Record — Arlington Public Library’s summer reading program set another participation record this year. According to the library, 7,415 kids registered for the program and some 30,000 books throughout the course of the summer.
Confederate ‘Gray Ghost’ Lived in Arlington — In a bit of local Civil War lore, columnist Charlie Clark and Arlington historian Kathryn Holt Springston recount how the legendary Confederate raider John S. Mosby lived in Arlington later in life. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The referenda would approve funding for a variety of projects in the county’s $2.4 billion FY 2013-2022 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). During the CIP process, the county asked for public input, including at a public hearing last month. The adopted CIP will be published later this summer.
County staff recommends the Board approves four referenda to go to a public vote. Each asks voters if they believe the county should take on a debt and issue bonds for the specified amount in each category, in order to fund county projects. The breakdown of the three county government referenda and one school referendum is as follows:
- Metro and Transportation — $31,946,000
- Local Parks and Recreation — $50,553,000
- Community Infrastructure — $28,306,000
- Arlington Public Schools — $42,620,000
The Metro and Transportation referendum includes funding various road, pedestrian and transit projects across the county. Portions will also fund the WALKArlington, BikeArlington and Neighborhood Traffic Calming programs. The largest amount, however, would go toward WMATA projects, in the amount of $14.6 million.
The Local Parks and Recreation referendum will fund improvements at county parks and land acquisition. The largest portion of funding — $42.5 million — would go toward the design and construction of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center. The proposal also includes maintenance on playgrounds, courts and other park infrastructure.
Street improvements including curbs, gutters, sidewalks and paving are covered under the Community Infrastructure referenda. There will be money allocated for traffic management, street lighting, landscaping and pedestrian safety enhancements. This proposal will also provide funding for the county’s information technology and public safety needs through the installation of a public safety network. The Community Infrastructure bond includes funding for Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation program.
Funding for the Arlington Public Schools referenda covers the school system’s Capital Improvement Plan, which includes maintenance and building additional classroom space. A significant portion would make funds available for the APS plan to build new elementary schools.
If the bond referenda are approved by the voters, the county is legally prohibited from reallocating funding from one category to another. The County Board may make changes, however, to specific projects within each category, due to factors such as changes in construction pricing. The Board also has the option of issuing a lesser amount of bonds than approved by voters.
Public Streetcar Meeting Tonight — A public meeting will be held tonight to gather resident input on an alternatives analysis and environmental assessment conducted for the planned Columbia Pike streetcar project. The meeting is being held at Patrick Henry Elementary School’s gymnasium (701 S. Highland Street) from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. [Pike Transit Initiative]
Op-Ed: Streetcar Will Spur Development — While the Columbia Pike streetcar has many vocal critics, at least one resident has penned an op-ed supporting the project. Real estate developer David DeCamp says the streetcar will spur development and attract ridership in a way that the alternatives — including an articulated bus system — cannot. [Sun Gazette]
Car Break-Ins Near Ballston — Overnight, between Monday, June 4, and Tuesday, June 5, four Honda sedans were broken into on the 5000 block of N. 10th Street, in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood near Ballston. The windows were smashed and airbags in each of the vehicles were stolen. GPS devices were also stolen from two vehicles. All of the vehicles were parked in an area away from residences, with little street lighting, according to police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
County Gets Low Rate on Bonds — Arlington County sold $108 million in bonds yesterday, June 5, and received what it’s calling “one of the lowest overall rates Arlington has seen.” The General Obligation Public Improvement Bonds sold to investors at an average interest rate of 2.77 percent. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by MrFochs
New Long-Haul Service at DCA — JetBlue, Southwest, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines are adding new long haul service from Reagan National Airport to four cities, respectively: San Juan, Puerto Rico; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Porland, Ore. [CBS News]
Meeting Tonight About Ballston Park — Planners from the county parks department will be meeting with residents tonight to discuss options for the small triangular piece of land next to the Ballston public parking garage at the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Randolph Street. At one point a mini golf course was proposed for the tiny park. [Arlington Mercury]
Bond Sale Expected Next Month — Arlington County is expected to issue up to $110 million in new bonds next month. The bonds will help pay for school projects, parks and recreation projects, and Metro improvements. [Sun Gazette]
Recap: Entrepreneurship Event at Artisphere — An tech-oriented entrepreneurship event at Artisphere over the weekend is being called a success after attracting more than 400 attendees for panel discussions and networking. [Bisnow]
Young Dems Date Auction Tonight — The annual Arlington Young Democrats date auction kicks off at 7:00 tonight at Clarendon Grill (1101 N. Highland Street). Disclosure: AYD is a current ARLnow.com advertiser.
Snowy Evening Commute Expected — Forecasters warn that light-to-moderate snowfall may make for a slick evening commute tonight. Still, above-freezing temperatures will mean that we in Arlington will likely see less than an inch of accumulation. [Capital Weather Gang]
County Saves Money Through Bond Issue — Arlington County has taken advantage of very low interest rates, along with its triple-AAA bond rating, to issue $106 million of refunding bonds. The move will save the county more than $9 million over the life of the bonds, officials say. [Arlington County]
Spring Soccer Registration Open — Registration is now open for youth soccer players in Arlington. Arlington Soccer Association’s spring registration started on Jan. 25 and will close on March 13. A late registration fee will be assessed after March 13. [Arlington Soccer Association]
Moran Criticized for TV Appearance — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) is facing criticism from Republicans for comments he made on MSNBC last week. Moran said that Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who is black, “is not representative of the African American community.” Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin called that remark and others by Moran during the course of the MSNBC interview “racist.” [Human Events, Breitbart.tv]
County Expects Fewer Housing Dollars from Feds — Federal spending cuts and a reduction in poverty in Arlington have combined to result in a relatively steep drop in federal housing dollars for Arlington County. The county expects to receive $1.16 million in federal housing dollars in fiscal year 2013 — a nearly $400,000 drop compared to the prior year. [Sun Gazette]
‘Tebow Bill’ Advances in General Assembly — A bill that would allow home-schooled students in Virginia to play for public school sports teams has cleared a key legislative hurdle, reports the Associated Press. The bill’s nickname — the Tebow Bill — references NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who was home schooled but permitted to play on a public high school football team. [My Fox DC]
Fitch Affirms Arlington’s ‘AAA’ Rating — Bond rating agency Fitch has affirmed Arlington’s AAA debt rating in advance of an upcoming bond offering. Fitch praised Arlington’s “outstanding fiscal performance” and “exceptionally vibrant employment base” in a press release. “Conservative budgeting, timely tax and fee increases, and closely monitored expenditure controls consistently produce surplus operating results leading to solid reserve levels and liquidity,” the firm wrote. [Business Wire]
Prostitute Sexually Assaulted in Ballston — A prostitute was sexually assaulted at the Comfort Inn hotel on N. Glebe Road in Ballston on Wednesday, according to the Arlington County Police Department’s daily crime report. The woman did, however, manage to call her “bodyguard” during the attack. The bodyguard reportedly got in a scuffle with the woman’s attacker before the attacker fled the scene. [Patch]
Arlington maintained its prime Aaa investment rating from Moody’s, but the firm argued that the county’s close connection with the federal government makes the future of its finances a bit uncertain.
“Today’s actions are based on an expanded evaluation of the exposure each municipality has to the U.S. government, including economic sensitivity to federal spending reductions, dependence on federal transfers and exposure to capital markets disruptions,” Moody’s Managing Director Naomi Richman said in a press release. “Issuers with outlooks that remain negative are viewed as having greater exposure to potential cuts in federal employment and federal spending.”
Arlington isn’t the only Northern Virginia locale to receive a negative outlook. Alexandria, as well as Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties, have all been given negative outlooks due to the area’s “linkage with the U.S. government.”
“Arlington remains in a strong financial and economic position,” County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement, in response to the Moody’s decision. “During the bottom of the economic downturn, the County demonstrated its resilience and diversity. Our key economic indicators outperformed most in the region and the nation. Most recently, despite the threat of federal government budget reductions, private sector investment in the County has increased and housing values have remained stable.”
Hynes noted that the county maintains a sizable reserve fund as part of its budget.
“Even in the most difficult times, Arlington has remained committed to funding our reserves, including action this month to increase the County’s operating reserve to 5 percent of our budget,” she said.
The county is expected to brush up against one of its self-imposed debt limits in financial year 2013. Still, officials say they’re following the bond market closely.
“The County is not currently in the market with any bond issues and has no plans to go to market until mid-2012,” Arlington said in a press release. “The County last sold bonds in June 2011, with very favorable interest rates and market reception. Any downgrade of the County’s credit rating could result in higher interest rates on future bond issues. The County and its financial advisors are monitoring the situation and market reaction closely.”