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Zimmerman: Arlington’s Prosperity Is Not an Accident

by ARLnow.com January 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm 4,127 83 Comments

County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman touted Arlington’s ability to weather the recession during a short speech at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting.

Zimmerman said unemployment and office vacancy rates have stayed low, while “our real estate values have held better than pretty much any place else.”

According to Blue Virginia’s video, Zimmerman went on to say say that it’s not just Arlington’s proximity to D.C. that has helped it remain prosperous.

“It is important to understand that those facts are not accidents — they’re not just good luck,” Zimmerman said. “The reason we’re doing very well, even in difficult times, has to do with many years of working in this community, planning what we do, designing our community in a certain way, and investing in it year after year.”

“We’re intentional about what we do in government in Arlington, and we have been for a long time,” Zimmerman added. “When times are good, we’re thinking about what’s going to happen when things turn down. When times aren’t good, we are going to have to explain the fact that they are going to turn around again… and we’re trying to prepare for that.”

Zimmerman said Arlington’s inclusiveness and its emphasis on community participation in decision-making are two additional reasons why the county is ” talked about, in a lot of ways, with envy.”

  • ClarendonKing

    We’re doing good because of the Military-Industrial-Complex. That, and because Virginia is a pro-business, republican state which companies prefer over MD. Has nothing to do with Arlington’s squishiness, community, tolerance,green policies, diversity or what else.

    • Arlingtonion

      I would agree with ClarendonKing about the Military-Industrial Complex, but what will happen after BRAC? More squishie, diverse, greenie,trolley loving government wonks? Most of the big companies have relocated headquarters to Fairfax except CACI.

    • mehoo

      We can test your claim – how is Arlington doing compared to other jurisdictions in the pro-business, military-industrial benefited area?

      • Burger

        Sure. Will you take into account closeness to the Pentagon and other Federal agencies and also take into account population (both student and otherwise) and size of the county to be served.

        Zimmerman is deluded if he thinks that Arlington weathered the storm better has nothing to do with the fact the closest boarder of Arlington is about 2 miles from Capital Hill.

        • mehoo

          Okay, let’s hire an economist to figure it all out.

        • V Dizzle

          Yeah, he really should have highlighted how much we suck and given credit to blind luck and geography. It’s not an election year, right?

      • Dog Lover

        Can’t really do a good comparison since the size of our county is so small compared to the others surrounding us both in MD and VA. It takes a lot less to run a county our size than a county the size of Montgomery or Fairfax; and it’s a lot harder to dedicate resources to an area their size.

        Our County Board isn’t do anyone any favors by ignoring the fact that it’s a whole lot easier to manage about 25 square miles of land vs. Fairfax’s close to 400 square miles….

        • Thes

          We’re doing better than the City of Falls Church on most measures as well. They’re even smaller.

          • Lou

            That’s probably because Falls Church government has made a bunch of stupid planning decisions.

          • Walker

            Falls Church spends their money:
            building a bridge over Route 50;
            subsidizing the taxes for the great economic development victory: BJ’s
            and they have NO office space to offset their huge residential tax rate.

            Let’s comapre to Alexandria. More fair.

        • mehoo

          You can just do some basic math to account for size differences.

          • Andy

            Not really. It’s harder to deal with issues such as who owns what road when you’re out in the ‘burbs. Arlington is constantly finding that an issue and we have far fewer state roads vs. private vs. county maintained. I suppose you could take the time to figure out how much time it takes just to deal with issues such as that and then monetize it; but it would take a lot more effort than just basic math.

            Bottom line is that it’s easier to run a county our size than it is one the size of Montgomery or Fairfax in all aspects.

          • mehoo

            So you go look up the mileage of state roads in each county and subtract it. It’s not that hard.

  • Ray

    I like almost all of the board’s squishy, green policies. But, even I have to agree, Arlington’s prosperity is pretty much just a happy accident.

    • Just sayin’

      I think if you look at how other jurisdictions with Metro in Montgomery County, Prince Georges, Fairfax and Alexandria have developed you will see that Arlington was the pioneer of transit oriented development. Arlington’S deliberate choice to cluster mixed-use high density development around Metro corridors is the key to our success. Why is Arlington’s traffic better than Fairfax, despite closer proximity, denser development and more pass through traffic? Planning. Zimmerman is absolutely right, and he deserves some credit, but the real pioneers of this approach predate him. They were people like Ellen Bozman and Jim Hunter and John Milliken.

      • Burger

        Does Fairfax have a Rail based metro system running through the entire county in proportion to what Arlington does?

      • Westover

        The Arlington Metro line runs along an established commercial corridor. The Metro revived the corridor, it did not create it. In fact, due to the close in location, the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor would have revived itself even without the Metro, just probably not to the same extent or with the same residential/commercial ratio.

  • Observer

    Let’s see how Arlington’s policies would work in, for example, the Manassas area. We have great location and the decisions made 40 years ago about the location of the Metro line and centering development along are what created the basis for the growth and prosperity we experience now. Absent the proximity to D.C. and the Pentagon, this would be a very different and less prosperous community.

    It also is striking on how Mr. Zimmerman wants to claim all of the credit largely deriving from our location, but refuses to acknowledge the burdens and responsibilities that come with it. Like it or not, our geography dictates that Arlington is a place large numbers of people pass through to get in and out of the regional core (downtown D.C.). Impeding access and egress from the core is bad policy, although good politics to date within Arlington.

    Finally, I know Mr. Zimmerman will never consider this, but if he wants to be friendlier to small business, he and his County Board colleagues should find ways to reduce the taxes and fees paid to the County.

    • mehoo

      Who is impeding access?

      • Burger

        How clueless are you.

        66 lane restrictions
        blowing millions on a law suit to stop 395 hot lanes.

        Seems prefectly evident to someone that pays attention.

        • mehoo

          That’s not impeding access, that’s opposing a certain kind of access because it’s not the best kind. Arlington actively supports other forms of access.

          You can’t just go assuming that every proposal is good. I propose a 40-lane highway through Arlington. You oppose it! You’re impeding access!!!!!

          • V Dizzle

            Haha. That means my flying car bill will definitely get through.

          • mehoo

            Surely.

          • Burger

            Wow…way to provide a realistic response and that certainly belies your demonstrated lack of economic sense. And of course, you “let them eat cake” view is not based in reality. It may shock you but Northern Virginia’s transportation issues (which will only be complicated by the doubling of the population in the next 20 years) are not going to be solved by one area – mass transit. It is going to be solved in a variety of ways including more roads, mass transit, telecommuting and increase in development in the exurbs. That means expanding 66 and 395 which are going to happen regardless of County Boards waste of money in litigation fees to stop it.

            But on a practical level, let’s take your mass transit centric views. Given most travelling is within a 5 mile radius of where a person lives most people are not going to sit/wait on a bus or train for an 1 hour merely to go to the grocery store or any other short trip errand. Nor are they going to sit on a bus/train for 1.5 hours to get to work when driving takes approximately the same amount of time and costs the same. Why do I know – because my wife and I made that decision long ago that taking the Metro cost about the same but took a longer time for us to get to work which meant less time for our family. So, I am sorry I don’t ask other people to make the same sacrifice. I guess you are willing to do that.

          • Westover

            Burger hits the rail spike on the head.

          • mehoo

            Burger:

            “It may shock you but Northern Virginia’s transportation issues (which will only be complicated by the doubling of the population in the next 20 years) are not going to be solved by one area – mass transit. It is going to be solved in a variety of ways including more roads, mass transit, telecommuting and increase in development in the exurbs.”

            Duh. Thanks for the lesson, professor. I don’t oppose any and all roads, and neither does Arlington. Just don’t go around saying that opposing a specific transportation project is “impeding access.” That’s idiotic.

          • Burger

            Umm…Arlington is fighting the expansion of 66 and 395 even though that forces a major portion of traffic onto the local side roads of Arlington. It is shortsighted like most people that don’t understand unintended consequences but view the government as the solution to most problems.

          • Burger

            66 and 395 are the issues that need to be addressed by almost everyone in the area. Almost everyone – outside of the Arlington County Board and apparently you – understands that those two roads need to be expanded on some level…of course, no one but you said 40 lanes. But realisiticaly they need at least 2 lanes on each – going both directions – you can certianly make them HOV/HOT type lanes to make people’s green views better but those lanes need to be added.

            The current piecemeal approach is inefficient and waste but is being done mostly to assuage the limosine liberals that constitute the Arlington County Board view that roads are the devil ignoring economic, security and infrastructure sense.

          • mehoo

            Yeah, dood, we know. It’s not “impeding access” though. I repeat, not impeding access. That’s all. Jeez.

  • dave schutz

    The former Governor of Texas, Ann Richards, used to say of GW Bush – ‘He was born on 3rd base, and he thought he hit a triple’.

    • Observer

      Well stated, Dave.

    • Walker

      +5.

  • Valerie

    We are so very fortunate in Arlington to have good, honest government. Our County Board thinks with it’s head as well as it’s heart and is willing to make the decisions which will bear fruit in the future. The decisions made years ago are why Arlington is in such good shape. Not so Prince George, Montgomery. etc

    • Dog Lover

      Hmmm, good, honest government? Did you miss the sneaky firing and lame excuses afterwards for the recent County Manager?

    • Dan

      I assume that your post is high irony……

      • Just sayin’

        Having seen other jurisdictions at work, I agree completely with Valerie. We have good honest people in charge here who do their best. Not true everywhere.

        • Westover

          I give that credit to our long time county employees much more than to the Board though. The county workers allow the board to look much better than they are. A lot like the seat of government allows the areas local governments to look a bit better than they are.

  • Lou

    What a load.

    • ArlingtonS

      +1

  • AllenB

    We’ve certainly fared better than Alexandria. And though Montgomery County is a bit more diverse geographically, they have all the metro access we do and yet they are in horrible shape.

    While the current board can’t claim all of the credit, Zimmerman’s premise seems to be correct – it’s not an accident, it’s the result of years of planning making Arlington a desirable place to live and work.

    Let’s also not forget that it was the County Board many years ago who convinced Metro’s planners to run the metro through the center of North Arlington and not down 66. That decision laid the groundwork for our smart growth today.

    • Walker

      Arlington’s REPUBLICAN controlled board made that decision.
      NOTHING to do with the current crop who have approved every single project that came there way — not planning, just approving. Oh they turned some down, but got sued and then approved them.
      Look at Zimmerman time on the Planning Commission — he voted down alot of stuff he now thinks is great.

      • AllenB

        I didn’t say it was a democratic board. It doesn’t seem that Zimmermans speech was about politics, just about how good planning has made us an enviable place to live.

        Time to wipe the foam and spittle from your mouth, Walker.

      • AllenB

        And you say no planning? Did Market Commons happen with no planning? No, it was years of community input that shaped that project. And that project was/is the anchor for all of the other development going on there now.

        And if you want to bring the politics into this, I would venture to say that many republicans from the 70’s would be aghast at what your party has become lately and they would most likely now be moderate democrats.

        • V Dizzle

          I don’t believe we should be owing anything to “planning”. Metro and Market Common were clearly the result of divine intervention, with the assistance of political partisanship. Right now, I’m praying to Ronald Reagan for that TGI Fridays on Wilson Blvd!

          • Tater Salad

            I thought that was going into the American Flatbread space.

        • Westover

          While we classic Republicans see the misguidedness of the Tea Party, we would still never join with the tax and legislate Dems.

          • mehoo

            Democrats tax and spend. Republicans borrow and spend. Democrats screw you over. Republicans screw you over and tell you they’re not.

        • walker

          the republicans aren’t “my” party and I don’t have any spittle and foam at my mouth. maybe on my keyboard, but definitely not my mouth. Neither the Miliken/Bozman democrats or the Hagerty/Dewberry Republicans or the Fisher/Wholey Independents would be fully proud of their respective parties in Arlington today. An Arlington democrat is not a good liberal anymore than an Arlington Republican is a good conservative. Regardless, don’t EVER AGAIN suggest I’m a republican, now go remove YOUR spittle.

          As for Market Common and Home Depot — HA. That was not good planning. A preferred property owner had a big circle drawn around their property and the County said, oh, don’t worry, Sears will never close. And SINGLE FAMILY homes were torn down to make way for upscale townhouses and a generic retail formula could-be-anywhere shopping center.
          Not good planning at all.
          they had a gun to their head. two guns really. Home Depot and McCaffery. Which gun would you choose? That is called responding, not planning.

          • AllenB

            Use less caps and you won’t seem as rabid.

            As for the planning around Market Common, I remember those meetings with the community. That was give and take among all of the stakeholders to arrive at a design that mostly pleased everyone. That’s planning. The responding part was when everyone responded to the closure of Sears there and realized what an opportunity it was to reshape the neighborhood.

            See? I only used caps where appropriate and I come across way more reasonable than you do. Not always the brightest bulb in the room but calm and collected. That usually carries the day. 😉 As for the spittle, I thought no one could see that. Must be the dog.

          • walker

            dog spittle? you trying to bring lyon village poop back up??? 🙂

      • mehoo

        Who said this was a partisan thing?

        The “current crop” has clearly followed in the footsteps of the original by fulfilling the smart growth potential of Metro.

  • The Dope of South Arlington

    Clearly Arlington’s success lies in its having a small minority population.

    • Just sayin’

      You think 30% and rising is small?

  • Bender

    Arlington County government is not the cause any of these jobs and it does not create any wealth or prosperity whatsoever. Rather, THE PEOPLE have created all of the wealth and prosperity. All that Arlington County government can do, and has done, is to confiscate that wealth in taxes.

  • Greg

    10 of the top 25 richest counties are in the DC area. It may not be all luck, but Arlington has a lot of room for error due to its location.

    I’d prefer Zimmerman dispense with the back-pats and focus on improving existing problems. Humility is always a good trait in a public figure.

    • Burger

      When has the Arlington County Board and its members ever been described as humble.

  • The Pope of South Arlington

    Yes Mr. Zimmerman, your enormous brain is forever fizzing and popping with economic schemes like an overheated tea-kettle, thank god Arlington has you!

    par·a·site – (in ancient Greece) a person who received free meals in return for amusing or impudent conversation, flattering remarks, etc.

  • MC

    Mr. Zimmerman’s speech reminds me of Creatationism: “Evolution doesn’t just happen, what we see is not just an accident, I have firsthand knowledge that there is a divine creator making it happen.” And enthralled, the “Blue Virginia” sect listens to their divine prophet tell them about the promised land.

    Oddly, Fairfax County scores Northrop Grumman and other firms the County they’d welcome, if only they would sign on for the program.

    • AllenB

      And oddly, Arlington has some of the lowest office vacancy rates in the area. So while FFX may have scored a couple of big names, Arlington has no problem filling its office space.

      • Westover

        Yes, but a lot of that is from DOD offices. When they move out to Ft. Belvoir due to BRAC, a lot of the firms and big names that Arlington still has will be following their contracts to Fairfax County.

        • Lou

          Not to mention what will happen when the Silver Line opens up the Tyson’s and Reston office markets to OMB/GAO leasing. The Fed’s have transit access requirements for a lot of government departments, and that’s a factor in Arlington’s vacancy rates.

          • Lou

            pffft, sorry that should read GSA

      • ArlingtonS

        Arlington filled up some vacant office space in the Penrose neighborhood (Sequoia Plaza) by moving almost the entire County Health Department away from a metro stop to a location that they had to run a new bus line to get “customers” there. Oh, but it has “alot of parking..”

    • mehoo

      So Arlington evolved from a lower life form? Was it Prince William County?

  • Arlwhenever

    Arlington has three things going for it — location, location and location. If it were not for any of these three, I would be long gone.

    • Buzzz buzzz. That’s the sound of the haters swarming on Arlnow or any other cyber forum they can land to talk bad about Chris Zimmerman. They just can’t stand the fact the Arlington County is a great place.

      • mehoo

        Much like Obama haters who hope the economy will fail so they can blame him, then deny he had anything to do with it if it succeeds.

        • KC

          Mehoo, are you Ben? I recognize that stubborn liberal logic!

          • mehoo

            No, not Ben. Not really stubborn or liberal either. Just observing politics at work.

      • shirley

        MariaC: You will notice that most of the “buzz” is when Zimmerman is thumping his chest. Most of the other board members don’t get flamed as much. Why? Because they are better.

        • Thumper

          Actually, one might argue it is because the other board members don’t actually do very much. Housing, transportation and development are the county’s big issues, and those are the things Chris has spent his career on.

          • shirley

            interesting point.
            and of course no good deed goes unpunished — put your self on the limb. some will be happy and some will cut it off.
            politicians, by definition, are open to public discourse and criticism.

    • Clarendruid

      Location is pretty much the key for success of any human settlement. Whether it be a great deep-water port, a key spot on a river, proximity to beaches or mountains etc. Our natural resource is the federal government. Still, I like living here for what Arlington has in terms of being able to walk everywhere I want to go and that is somewhat unique in this day and age. The trend though, is for more places wanting to be like Arlington in this respect. When gas hits $5 a gallon next year, and Atlanta is closing down its schools again because it can’t afford the diesel for its big yellow fleet, Arlington will look even better to me.

      • Lou

        Arlington definitely attracts a certain demographic, and they (the County) use transit as one tool to maintain that. Look how they denied the expansion of the taxi licenses last month. That was nothing more than an attempt to keep more riders on buses and trains.

        A lot of people who live here share your opinion. Other people would rather live with more space and do not need or want so much transit. The wealth is moving out to Loudoun, not exactly a model of smart transit growth, but they can afford to pay the premium to enjoy more elbow room and less meddlesome government.

        • mehoo

          Denying new taxis might be to protect the existing taxis from additional competition. Not saying I support it, but you can’t just assume it’s about “forcing people into trains.” If that were true, Arlington wouldn’t be so gung-ho on Zipcar either.

          • Lou

            They have leverage on Arlington’s hack industry that they do not have with Zipcar. It’s all factored into their policy making however, and they have a goal to increase ridership on WMATA and ART. You don’t get extra federal money because your taxi industry grows. Like I said, they’re using the tools in their toolbox.

          • mehoo

            You got any other unsubstantiated conspiracy theories?

          • Lou

            No, I think I’ve fed you enough for today.

        • Clarendruid

          Where do people who want more “space” go ? I grew up in a rural area of Virginia (there were farms and horses in my neighborhood) which is now a sea of Walmart, Target, Lowes, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Dollar Stores, all manner of chain eateries like “Quaker Steak and Lube”, and on and on. Not so much space to my thinking except parking lots. But if that’s what people mean by “space” there are plenty of places to get that. I don’t know about “wealth” moving out to Loudon. I do know my Arlington neighborhood has been getting wealthier in a big way over the 20 years I’ve lived here. It’s kind of scary how wealthy it’s getting in fact.

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