Del. Patrick Hope is chief patron of HB 2308, which allows counties with the county manager form of government — namely, Arlington — to hire an auditor with the power to “make performance reviews of operations of county agencies or county-funded programs.” The auditor would ensure money is being spent wisely and evaluate the effectiveness of those agencies and programs.
The bill passed the House of Delegates unanimously yesterday.
“I believe in the case of Arlington, where we have more than a $1 billion operating budget and over 3,000 employees, localities who don’t already have this authority will be seeking it to ensure government is working as efficiently as possible,” Hope told ARLnow.com in an email today. “If this authority is exercised, I think it will give Arlington residents an added level of confidence that their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.”
Currently, the County Board only has the authority to hire a county manager, county clerk and county attorney. County Board member John Vihstadt has been pushing for the county to hire an independent auditor since his election last April. If Hope’s bill passes the state Senate and is signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe — which Hope expects, but “I’ve learned over the years you never know” — the Board will begin to deliberate hiring its own independent auditor.
Board member Jay Fisette serves as the five-member panel’s legislative liaision, and is a former auditor himself. He said Hope’s bill is “another tool to consider” as the county develops its budget for the next fiscal year. Fisette said the county used to have several auditing mechanisms, but many of them were cut during the economic recession.
At one point, the county had an audit committee with a $100,000 budget that evaluated performance contracts, Fisette said. A decade ago, the county had two internal auditors ensuring that money wasn’t being spent fraudulently, but budget cuts have meant those services are now contracted out.
“The manager has been working to hire an internal auditor, and we had a great candidate who backed out,” Fisette said. He added that the Board supports Hope’s legislation. “We will set up, in the next few months, the best way to support that audit function. Who would oversee the work plan if they are going to report to us.”
Hope said the state Senate will likely consider the bill within the next two weeks.
But the estimated 400,000 state residents who do not have health insurance will have to continue to wait after Hope’s healthcare bill, HB 2212, was defeated by voice vote by a House of Delegates subcommittee.
“Disappointed my bill [to] expand access to 400k Virginians was defeated,” Hope tweeted yesterday. “The uninsured aren’t going away; neither am I.”
Hope has been the lead delegate in the House of Delegates’ Democratic Caucus on health care, with efforts again focused on expanding Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. The issue is one of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s priorities for this legislative session.
Speaking to ARLnow.com last week, Hope said he believed bipartisan support was possible for his bill, either in its proposed form or after amendments.
“I’m optimistic we are going to pass this bill or a version of it,” he said. “Virginia is getting closer and closer to that day. We really can’t ignore the economics of this. It’s mainly because we’re really double and triple taxing our residents every single day if we don’t do anything.”
The state’s wealthier residents are already paying taxes to fund federal Medicaid expansion, Hope said, and if Virginia doesn’t expand Medicaid, the money “goes right to Washington, not us.” In addition, Hope said, hospitals that care for uninsured patients who can’t pay their bills pass on the expenses in the forms of higher premiums and costs to those paying for insurance.
Hope said expanding Medicaid would inject $2 billion into the economy by covering holes in the budget, creating Medicaid-related jobs and lowering premiums. The state budgets $200 million for prison reform, mental illness and indigent care, Hope said, all of which would be covered by Medicaid and the federal government.
“Virginia families all over the commonwealth are one accident or one illness away from financial ruin,” Hope said. “The economics are so overwhelming, and I just don’t see how much longer we can walk away from $2 billion because people will still be getting sick.”
On the phone from Richmond this morning, Hope was defiant about expanding Medicaid, saying Republicans are putting “politics before economics” in a year every member of the General Assembly is up for re-election. Thirty states have voted to expand Medicaid, he said, 10 of which have Republican governors.
“Virginia’s just not there in an election year,” he said. “I think it’s just going to reach a point where we can no longer let our politics get in the way of what’s right. I generally have a policy of when I see $2 billion on the ground, I pick it up.”
State Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents the westernmost part of Arlington as well as a large chunk of Fairfax County, called the state’s budget outlook “bleak” while praising Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposed budget, which closes the projected shortfall through a series of tax changes and spending cuts. However, Howell and other Democrats say the budget doesn’t go far enough in improving the state’s K-12 education system.
“Fortunately, the Governor’s budget closes the budget gap. His budget is balanced,” Howell said in a newsletter to her constituents. “What we do not have, however, is any real ability to make investments in public education, higher education, human services, or workforce development.
“Direct aid to public education has been spared additional state cuts,” she continued. “However, unless we have a sudden, unexpected upswing in our economy, we will have to jettison a proposed and deserved salary increase. For context, in terms of per pupil general funds for public education, by FY 2016 we will be just back to FY 2008 levels on a statewide basis.”
This past summer, McAuliffe announced Virginia was projected to have a $2.4 billion budget shortfall over the next two years. Much of that deficit, Howell said at a recent Arlington Democrats meeting, can be traced back to cuts from the federal budget sequestration and the layoffs at government contractors it prompted.
Additional revenue growth has since reduced the deficit, and cuts to the state prison system and elsewhere have saved millions. Del. Patrick Hope (D) says the closing of tax loopholes for some corporations — most notably coal producers — are necessary to even preserve the current level of education funding.
“There are a lot of companies in Virgina that don’t pay any taxes,” Hope told ARLnow.com yesterday. “We’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars that Virginia gives out every year to companies for job creation, and research is coming out that that’s not happening today. We need to take a hard look at what those tax credits are, and if they’re not doing what the intended purposes are, we need to pull it back.”
Hope said a state yacht tax credit should also be stripped — “I can’t look my voters in the eye if I vote for a budget” that includes that tax credit, he said — but said that the budget should become more ambitious in terms of education spending. Funding K-12 education millions of dollars less than before the recession, without accounting for inflation, isn’t enough, he said.
“There’s no reason why spending shouldn’t go in the opposite direction,” he said. “We are out of the recession now, it’s time to fill those holes back up.”
Although some form of a balanced budget is expected to pass — which may include cuts to education, according to Hope, if the Republican-controlled General Assembly balks at the loophole cuts — Howell said the realities of the budget situation don’t figure to change anytime soon, especially after the sequester’s cuts to federal defense spending.
“Growth has halted or declined in the good-paying ($77k+/year) jobs in the ‘business and professional services’ categories. Instead, we are seeing more growth in lower-paying jobs, such as health, leisure and hospitality ($45k/year on average),” Howell wrote. “Unfortunately, no one believes this situation is a temporary one.”
State Loan for Potomac Yard Metro — Virginia is providing a $50 million low-interest loan to Alexandria for construction of the future Potomac Yard Metro station. Previously, the Commonwealth offered Arlington up to $65 million for the now-cancelled Columbia Pike streetcar project. [Washington Post]
Hope Wants to Link Child Support, Gun Permits — Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) has proposed legislation that would revoke concealed handgun permits for Virginia residents who fall more than 90 days or $5,000 behind on child support payments. [InsideNova]
Eden Center Damage Estimate — Damage to the Eden Center, caused by an explosion on Jan. 14, is estimated to be more than $1 million. The Falls Church fire marshal determined the explosion to be accidental, caused by “improper use of propane and oxygen.”
Arlington Offers Cash Bikeshare Memberships — To serve those without bank accounts, Arlington County is now offering county residents cash-only Capital Bikeshare memberships. Normally, memberships require a credit card, so that Bikeshare can charge $1,000 if the bike goes missing. [Arlington County, Streetsblog]
No News Coverage Today — In observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, ARLnow.com will only be covering breaking news today. Our regular news coverage will resume tomorrow. See our list of county government closures for the holiday.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) has drafted a bill that would authorize the Arlington County Board to hire an independent auditor.
Such legislation, should it pass the Republican-controlled state legislature, would be a victory for County Board members Libby Garvey (D) and John Vihstadt (I), who have championed the hiring of an independent auditor as a way to bring more accountability to county government. Hope’s legislation would only authorize the hiring, it would not require the County Board to do so. It would also apply to other Virginia jurisdictions with a County Manager form of government.
Currently, the County Board does not have the authority to hire an independent auditor, since Virginia is a Dillon Rule state and the County Manager form of government doesn’t provide any provisions for such a hire.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan could hire an internal auditor — in fact, it appears that her staff is doing so — but Vihstadt has said that doesn’t provide the level of independence that he desires.
(Fairfax County, with its County Executive form of government, already has an independent auditor that reports to a Board of Supervisors committee. Virginia cities also have independent auditor hiring authority.)
Hope says he thinks his bill could get bipartisan support in the General Assembly.
“This is a good government bill,” he told ARLnow.com Thursday afternoon. “It makes government more transparent, more open. I can’t find fault with it.”
Hope has yet to introduce the bill and is still considering it. The deadline to introduce the legislation is Jan. 23. Garvey said she hopes the bill will be introduced.
“I’m pleased that he is considering putting it in, and I think it’s important that the Board has the power to hire an independent auditor if they so choose,” she said. Asked about the importance of the auditor reporting directly to the Board instead of the Manager, she said its a matter of “checks and balances.”
“If the auditor reports to the Manager, it’s not really very independent,” she said. “I just think that it’s simply a good government… it checks the staff and checks the Board and makes the public comfortable that there’s an independent eye keeping tabs on things.”
The three state senators and four delegates that represent Arlington in the Virginia General Assembly have sent a letter to state Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne in support of the Columbia Pike streetcar project.
The letter calls out County Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt for their continued opposition to the project. On Friday, Garvey laid out alternative uses for the hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local transportation funding that are being directed toward the streetcar.
“We strongly disagree with the efforts of Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt to deprive Arlington of those state funds dedicated to the streetcar project,” the letter states.
The letter also cites the return on investment study the county funded that predicted more than $3 billion in economic impact in the first 30 years of the streetcar system. It refers to the support the streetcar has already received from state officials, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
The letter was signed by state Sens. Janet Howell, Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola and Dels. Alfonso Lopez, Patrick Hope, Rob Krupicka and Rip Sullivan.
The full letter is posted, after the jump. (more…)
Att’y General to Consider Streetcar Referendum — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) will be asked by Del. Patrick Hope (D) to weigh in on whether Arlington County has the legal authority to hold an advisory referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. County officials say they don’t have the authority, and without General Assembly approval can only use a referendum for a general obligation bond issue. [InsideNova]
County Fair Adds Pentagon City Shuttle — The Arlington County Fair this year is adding a new shuttle option. In addition to shuttles from the Arlington Career Center, Ballston Metro and the I-66 parking garage, a shuttle will now run every 30 minutes from the Pentagon City Metro station. The fair runs from Aug. 6-10. [Arlington County Fair]
Falls Church, Arlington Treasurers Are Friends — Carla de la Pava and Jody Acosta, the new interim treasurers of Arlington County and Falls Church, are lifelong friends who grew up together in Alexandria. [Falls Church News-Press]
Rand Paul Makes News at Arlington Event — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made some headlines after speaking at the Young Americans for Liberty convention in Rosslyn last night. Paul told the libertarian group that he will no longer appear on MSNBC until the network apologizes for “lousy lies” about his position on the Civil Rights Act. [CNN]
Half-Priced Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory — The Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Clarendon (and others around the country) are offering half-priced slices of cheesecake for the second day in a row today in honor of National Cheesecake Day. The restaurant chain this week got some unwelcome attention with several “Xtreme Eating awards” for its calorie-laden meals. One slice of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake alone has 1,500 calories. [Cheesecake Factory, Fox News]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Rep. Jim Moran was honored by local Democrats Saturday night, just three days before the primary that will choose his would-be successor.
Hundreds of Democrats were on hand Saturday at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner in Ballston. Moran, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990 after serving as the mayor of Alexandria, was the keynote speaker.
Six of the seven Democratic candidates to replace him — Don Beyer, Lavern Chatman, Patrick Hope, Mark Levine, Bill Euille and Derek Hyra — were in attendance, while state Sen. Adam Ebbin did not attend because he was at the Capital Pride Parade, according to his campaign.
Three of Moran’s colleagues in the House — Rep. Gerry Connolly, who represents Fairfax County, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) — spoke to honor him, and Edwards, the recruitment chair for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, touched on Tuesday’s primary.
“I wish every one of you in this room a lot of luck on Tuesday,” she said before turning her attention to Moran. “It’s tough to get a Marylander to come across the river, but for Jim Moran, I would swim across that river.”
ACDC Chairman Kip Malinosky presented Moran with a gift of boxing gloves because, he said, the Massachusetts native has always “been a fighter.”
Moran’s fighting reputation stems from his impassioned floor speeches, his penchant for taking unpopular stances, and from two noted incidents in 1995: when he shoved Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham out of the House chambers, before fellow congressmen and police officers broke up the scuffle, and when Moran threatened to break another Congressman’s nose.
“A champion is leaving the ring,” Malinosky said.
Moran spoke for about 15 minutes in a more subdued tone than many are used to hearing him. He expressed frustration over how difficult it has become to deal with Republicans — “If you’re on the terrorist watch list, maybe you shouldn’t be able to buy an assault rifle. Just a thought,” — and gratitude for being able to serve in the House for more than two decades
“I realize that I’ve been blessed and am very, very lucky to represent this area,” he said. “There are still things that I find terribly frustrating, but we have to keep fighting for them.”
Moran made no mention of the people vying to replace him or the election on Tuesday, but he kept his eye to the future, telling the room the current Republican Party would soon become “anachronistic.”
“We are going to set that example for the rest of the country in areas like Arlington and in areas with people that are representatives like Donna and Xavier and many of our other Democratic leaders,” he said. “I mean, it sounds trite, but the future of this country lies with the Democratic Party.”
Becerra, who was elected two years after Moran in his district in Los Angeles, reminded those in attendance that Moran was in the minority over his years in congress in voting against 1997′s Defense of Marriage Act and voting against the Iraq War after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“I am proud that I serve along with Jim Moran,” Becerra said. “We will miss you, but you have made us a better country.”
Last week, we asked the candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 8th District congressional race to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them in the June 10 primary.
Here is Del. Patrick Hope’s unedited response:
Arlington is my home. When my wife, Kristen, and I were looking for a place to raise a family, we sought out an area with strong schools, a vibrant community, and diverse neighborhoods. That’s what first drew us to Arlington County and Northern Virginia, and why we have chosen to raise our three daughters here, who attend Arlington’s public schools. I believe passionately in public service, which is why I’ve served on numerous boards and commissions trying to make our community an even better place to live. I was a Special Olympics coach for eight years, and chaired the Arlington Community Services Board for five, which dealt with mental illness, substance abuse, and developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Outside of my public service, I am a healthcare attorney, and have worked in healthcare policy for 20 years, first working on Capitol Hill and now with nonprofit doctors organizations’ to expand the access, coverage, and quality of healthcare. The Tea Party may see healthcare as a privilege, but I see it as a fundamental human right.
Since you elected me to the General Assembly in 2009, I have worked tirelessly to promote our progressive values. However, when I first arrived in Richmond, I was shocked to see even some Democrats voting for budgets that defunded our public schools and for redistricting plans that put Democrats in a permanent state of minority. That’s why I founded the Virginia Progressive Caucus — to hold Democrats voting like Republicans accountable. I have championed legislation focusing on issues ranging from disability rights to prison reform, and am now leading the fight to expand Medicaid in Virginia.
One thing I admire about Congressman Jim Moran is that we always know where he stands — I would be no different. I have outlined some of my top policy priorities below, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact me personally at Patrick@HopeforCongress.com.
I pledge to:
- Support our federal workers by restoring the federal transit subsidy, advocating for a 3.3% pay increase, and never voting for a government shutdown.
- Defend and expand the Affordable Care Act by using my vast experience in healthcare policy. Even with full implementation, we will still have 20 million uninsured Americans. My first bill will be to bring those people into the healthcare system.
- Protect our environment by fighting for a progressive carbon tax and investing in renewable energy technologies to spur innovation and reverse the effects of climate change. I will also oppose the Keystone Pipeline and end big subsidies to fossil fuel producers.
- Protect our social safety net by opposing any efforts to harm our beneficiaries. This is perhaps the greatest difference between Don Beyer and myself — while then-Lieutenant Governor Beyer worked to “reform” welfare in the ’90s, I have a record of defending and protecting our most vulnerable populations, and will continue to do so in Congress.
- Partner with Senator Elizabeth Warren to allow students to refinance their student loan debt and lower student loan interest rates. I will also work with her to put predatory payday lenders out of business.
- Strengthen gun control laws by passing universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
- Champion marriage equality nationwide and end workplace discrimination.
- Support people with disabilities and their families through increased funding for job placement programs, research, and human services.
- Protect a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions without government interference.
- Stand up for our progressive values like I have in Richmond as the founder of the Virginia Progressive Caucus. (more…)
Del. Patrick Hope, one of seven candidates for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) in Congress, fell down stairs while campaigning this weekend and sustained fractured ribs.
According to his campaign, Hope was canvassing Sunday morning in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Fairfax County when he fell. He was taken to Virginia Hospital Center and diagnosed with one broken rib, multiple fractured ribs and some “ugly bruising,” his campaign said in a press release.
“I am resting comfortably at home in Arlington now,” Hope said in the release. “I’ve knocked on 13,000 doors in the last five years, and dealt with a few misjudged stairs, a dog bite and a couple of ankle sprains and never missed a beat. A rib break will cause me to miss some time on the campaign trail however.”
Hope is the only remaining candidate in the Democratic race who lives in Arlington. His six opponents in the June 10 primary — Don Beyer, Lavern Chatman, Bill Euille, Adam Ebbin, Mark Levine and Derek Hyra — all live in Alexandria. Hope had previously planned to visit every precinct in the 8th District, which covers all of Arlington, Falls Church, Alexandria and parts of Fairfax County, but he announced those plans will have to change.
“I am committing today to personally call voters in those precincts I am unable to visit,” Hope said. “When I thought about those who are uninsured and need our help — I decided that the campaign will go on.”
Hope is a healthcare attorney who works as the senior director of legislative policy for the American College of Cardiology, and he has vowed that, if elected, his first actions in Congress would be to defend Obamacare and to try to institute universal healthcare.
JetBlue Adding Service from DCA — JetBlue Airlines will begin direct service from Reagan National Airport to Charleston, S.C.; Hartford, Conn.; and Nassau, Bahamas on June 19. On July 2 the airline will add a second daily flight between DCA and Tampa. [InsideNova]
Beyer Accused of Using Car Dealership Ads to Boost Campaign — Del. Patrick Hope is accusing fellow Democratic congressional candidate Don Beyer of trying to “buy an election” and increase his name recognition by increasing ad buys for his eponymous Don Beyer Volvo dealership. Hope’s campaign says radio station WAMU has pulled ads for Don Beyer Volvo until after the June 10 primary. [Blue Virginia]
Celebrity Spotting in Shirlington — Actor and director Beau Bridges was reportedly spotted having dinner at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington this past Friday night. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
The candidates — Del. Charniele Herring, Mark Levine, state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Bruce Shuttleworth, Satish Korpe, Lavern Chatman, former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, Del. Patrick Hope, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and Derek Hyra — each only had time for an opening statement, answers to two questions and a one-minute closing statement. The debate lasted two hours.
The candidates are vying to fill the retiring Rep. Jim Moran’s seat in Congress. Virginia’s Eighth District is considered a deeply blue, safe Democratic seat — thus its attractiveness to a field of candidates trying to pounce on the rare political opportunity.
Moran, who’s been the 8th District’s representative since 1991, started the night with 10 minutes of remarks, touching on his service and the benefits of representing Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County. He said he won’t be endorsing any of the Democrats running in the June 10 primary.
“It’s a great district, and it’s kind of a microcosm of this country,” he said. “In this district, you have far more latitude than any other district in the country, as far as I’m aware of, because the constituency in this district is well-educated, wants to understand things, is extraordinarily open-minded if you want to make a case. I’ve found that I have far more latitude than many of my colleagues.”
The candidates were asked what their first priority would be in Congress, and what their top foreign policy concern is. Many candidates touched on consensus topics among Democrats — women’s reproductive rights, climate change and economic development — while they tried to distinguish themselves from the other candidates.
“We’re all Democrats here and I respect my colleagues greatly, but we all bring different things to this race,” Beyer, who is the frontrunner in polling and fundraising, said in his opening statement. “As a businessman, lieutenant governor and ambassador, I have a proven record, the ideas and the energy to hit the ground running.”
Sitting to Beyer’s left was Hope, the top polling Arlington-based candidate, who defended the Affordable Care Act’s rollout and said the law didn’t go far enough.
“There are some people on this dais who believe the Affordable Care Act has flaws,” Hope said. “I don’t believe the Affordable Care Act has flaws, except one: it did not expand coverage to every single American. Even if Virginia and other states expand Medicaid to the poorest people in their states, we will still have 20 million Americans who do not have health insurance.”
Euille, when discussing foreign policy, touched on his foreign travels and the visitors who have come to Alexandria to ask him about politics. He said his guiding principle in foreign policy is seeking world peace.
“I will never put out troops in combat,” he said. “I will never support a war, because I think it’s the wrong thing to be doing. We need to make certain that the only time we use our troops to fight would be in defense of our own borders.”
Levine, a liberal talk radio host who reminded the capacity crowd of his penchant for pulling out his pocket U.S. Constitution, distanced himself from Euille and some of the other candidates on stage by advocating for a more aggressive military stance.
“We are an ally of NATO and countries look to us for support,” Levine said. “And when Russia is busy invading Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland are nervous, and they look to us for support. A treaty obligation is vitally important, and we should go to war, if we have to, if a NATO country is attacked.”
CEB May Anchor New Rosslyn Skyscraper — The Corporate Executive Board is considering jumping ship from its current Rosslyn office to anchor the planned office skyscraper in JBG’s Central Place development in Rosslyn. Should a deal with JBG go through, construction would start on the office skyscraper, which is currently on hold even though its companion residential skyscraper is being built. [Washington Business Journal]
WaPo Takes on Clarendon — “In the past decade and a half, Clarendon has seen a steady influx of hip eateries, high-rise condo buildings and happy 20-somethings in search of organic quinoa,” writes the Washington Post, in an article about “what to do in Clarendon.” [Washington Post]
Polls Suggest Beyer is Frontrunner in Congressional Race — Former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer is leading in polls taken in the figurative backyards of his opponents. Beyer is leading in Charniele Herring’s House of Delegates district, Adam Ebbin’s state Senate district and in the city of Alexandria, where Bill Euille is mayor. Of the areas polled, only Patrick Hope in his House of Delegates district is beating Beyer. The polls were sponsored by the Democratic website Blue Virginia. The Democratic candidates vying to replace Rep. Jim Moran in Congress will debate tonight at George Mason University’s Arlington campus.
‘Outstanding Volunteers’ Named — The Arlington County Board on May 13 will honor 7 individuals and two teams for outstanding volunteer service to the county. [Arlington County]
New Development Coming to Falls Church — A new seven-story mixed-use building is coming to the City of Falls Church. The development, at 301 West Broad Street, will feature 282 apartments, a Harris Teeter store and another retail space. [Greater Greater Washington]
Photo courtesy @jdsonder
(Updated at 10:20 a.m.) Del. Patrick Hope, Democratic candidate for Congress, and Alan Howze, Democratic nominee for Arlington County Board, joined forces yesterday to call for a voter referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar.
Hope and Howze are both streetcar supporters, but they said the controversial issue should be put to a referendum so that “we can put the streetcar debate to rest.”
Arlington County in the past has said that a referendum could not be legally held since it’s not planning on funding the streetcar via bonds. Hope and Howze, however, point out that an advisory or binding referendum could be held if approved by the Virginia General Assembly.
The candidates released the following statement on their referendum push yesterday afternoon.
Delegate Patrick Hope (D-47 and candidate for VA-08) and Alan Howze (Democratic Nominee for Arlington County Board) joined together to call for the Arlington Streetcar project to be put to a public referendum. Both Hope and Howze have been on the record supporting the streetcar- and continue to do so- but believe the citizens of Arlington need to have a referendum to make the final decision.
“This issue has clearly divided the Arlington community”, Patrick Hope said. “It’s time to move forward and have a public referendum to settle this issue. I represent parts of Columbia Pike in the General Assembly and I support major transportation investments in that corridor that will ease congestion and stimulate job creation and economic development. We need to move forward quickly with those improvements and I believe a referendum on the streetcar is the only way to settle this issue once and for all. The time has come for a full public debate on this issue and we need to respect whatever the public decides.”
“As we have done with Metro, Schools, the Water Pollution Control Plant, and other important community investments, we should give voters the final decision through a public referendum vote”, Alan Howze noted. “I continue to support the streetcar project because of the broad transportation, economic and environmental benefits it will provide for our community. I heard the concerns expressed by voters in the recent special election, and we can put the streetcar debate to rest and ensure public confidence by allowing a referendum vote.”
There are multiple options for the Arlington County Board to consider regarding a referendum and both Hope and Howze are open to whichever one the Board decides would be the best way for voters to weigh in on the streetcar. These include voting on the streetcar in the 2014 general election through the County’s transportation bond or an advisory referendum that may need General Assembly approval.
Democrat Mark Levine, who is also running to replace Rep. Jim Moran in Congress, said last week that he supports a voter referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar.
Howze’s opponent in the November Arlington County Board election, meanwhile, released a statement that lauded the referendum idea but took a shot at Howze’s streetcar support.
Independent County Board member John Vihstadt, whose election was considered by some to itself be a referendum on the streetcar, is pushing for the county to halt all spending on the streetcar. He says that any referendum on the issue should be clearly worded.
I am pleased to see that Alan Howze now agrees that Arlington taxpayers should have a voice regarding the County Board’s misguided proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to install streetcars in Arlington. I regret that Mr. Howze still believes that streetcars are a good investment for Arlington. Many people have already stated that my election on April 8 with 57 percent of the vote was referendum enough on the wisdom of Arlington streetcars. Yet, if a further specific streetcar voter referendum is to be truly meaningful and anything beyond a gimmick or a political tactic, it is imperative that the County Board direct the County Manager immediately to cease all County expenditures relating to streetcars, as I attempted to do at our April 16 County Board work session. Not a penny more of taxpayer dollars should be spent on promoting, planning for, or in any way implementing Arlington streetcars until such a referendum is held and Arlington voters have had their say once again.
Accordingly, I call on Delegate Hope and Candidate Howze, as well as my Board colleagues, to support my and colleague Libby Garvey’s efforts to ensure that (a) no funds shall be expended in the FY 2014 or FY 2015 operating budgets for the purpose of furthering a streetcar on Columbia Pike or anywhere else in Arlington, except to the extent that such expenditures are required to meet contractual or other legal obligations entered into by the County prior to the date of this motion; (b) no funds be included in the FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for similar purposes and that (c) any referendum question on streetcars to be included on the general election ballot in Arlington in 2014:
- be clearly worded to specify in detail the estimated total costs for all proposed Arlington streetcars,
- detail the proposed financing plan for all of them, and
- not combine streetcar financing with any other project so that it is clear to voters precisely on what subject they are voting.
County Board Chair Jay Fisette told the Washington Post that he wasn’t sure a streetcar referendum was such a good idea.
“I lived in California for a while when we had 100-plus referenda on the ballot,” Fisette told the paper. “I became very disillusioned about the use of selective referenda on public policy issues.”
(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) One would expect that most demonstrations outside IRS headquarters in D.C. involve calls for lower taxes. This afternoon, however, congressional candidate Del. Patrick Hope (D) held a press conference outside the IRS to call for higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Hope, who’s one of 10 Democratic candidates running for the congressional seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), said he supports the budget put forth by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which raises taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 per year and creates a new, higher tax bracket for those making more than $1 million. It would also close corporate tax loopholes and tax individuals making more than $100 million annually at 48 percent.
The budget also would eliminate the tax difference between long-term capital gains income and regular income from salaries and wages. It also would reverse the effects of the sequester, which would mean more jobs for federal workers. Hope circulated a petition trying to draw support for what he calls the “Millionaire’s Tax,” and said he gathered 33,000 signatures.
A tax hike on the wealthy “solves our revenue problem very simply, by bringing in more revenue,” Hope said. “Our future is at stake in the upcoming Congress. Will we pass a grand bargain that cuts our social safety net? Or will we close the loopholes and demand the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans pay their fair share? That’s what the 2014 election will be about all over the United States — and that is where we have our biggest differences in our primary in the 8th District.”
The higher tax rate could hit residents of the district Hope seeks to represent particularly hard. Arlington has consistently ranked among the five richest counties in America in recent years, even landing at No. 1 by some metrics. Hope’s campaign, however, argues that a relatively small number of Arlington residents are in the very high income bracket that would be impacted by the Millionaire’s Tax.
Hope, a resident of Arlington’s Buckingham neighborhood, also released his tax returns and called upon his opponents in the June 10 congressional primary to do the same. Hope, who works as a healthcare attorney in addition to his part-time duties as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, earned $231,197 last year — $197,621 from work as a lobbyist for a nonprofit healthcare association, $28,176 from the Commonwealth of Virginia and $5,400 from Johns Hopkins University. He paid $38,645 in federal taxes, or 16.7 percent.
“Transparency is something that is very important in politics,” Hope said. “The people we seek to represent deserve to know everything about us.”