Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com March 14, 2012 at 9:05 am 2,812 52 Comments

Incentives for Home Energy Efficiency — Arlington County is partnering with a nonprofit group to provide 320 Arlington homeowners with incentives to improve their home’s energy efficiency. Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) will provide $125,000 in grants to help homeowners achieve at least a 20 percent energy savings. [Arlington County]

Closures for Weekend 5K Race — A number of streets will be closed in the Williamsburg area on Saturday for the 2nd annual Nottingham Elementary PTA 5K Run/Walk. Parts of Williamsburg Boulevard, Little Falls Road and N. Ohio Street will be closed between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m. Race participants are being encouraged to wear green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. [Arlington County Police Department]

Yorktown QB to Play at Salisbury — Jordan Smith, the quarterback who helped lead Yorktown High School to an undefeated regular season this past fall, has committed to play football for Salisbury University in Maryland. Salisbury, a Division III program, recruited Smith as a quarterback. [Sun Gazette]

  • John Fontain

    How is it fair to tax one person to pay for another person’s home improvements? (And, yes, I realize that this money isn’t coming from Arlington County tax dollars, but it is ultimately coming from other tax dollars at the state and Federal levels)

    • Josh S

      I realize that was a rhetorical question and you have no intention of ever changing your point of view on the issue …. but the answer is that because there are societal benefits from making homes more energy efficient. Home improvements here are narrowly defined and no one will be upgrading to granite counters or adding a gazebo with this money.

      • John Fontain

        “the answer is that because there are societal benefits from making homes more energy efficient.”

        When tax dollars are used to pay for roads, almost everyone directly benefits from the expenditure. Same goes for many other areas of government spending.

        The “societal benefits” from using tax dollars to improve a few people’s houses is extremely negligible relative to the benefit that accrues directly to the person who gets the subsidized home improvement.

        If I suggested that the goverment should pay for repairs to my car (but no one else’s) because it would help my car run as efficiently as possible, thus helping fuel economy, thus providing a “societal benefit,” would you support the government paying for my auto repairs?

        • Ballston

          Cash for Clunkers indirectly did that. The government used tax dollars to give you an incentive to replace your older inefficient car with an efficient one. The program was pretty popular. It only helped a specific group of people, just like this program.

          • John Fontain

            I don’t think that program should have happened either. And I don’t think the popularity of a handout justifies whether the handout itself is fair or a necessary action by government.

          • Always Right

            and now they can’t afford the gasoline to put in their efficient car.

        • Josh S

          A) every little bit helps.
          B) Don’t underestimate the role that conservation can have in reducing fossil fuel consumption.
          C) If you suggested that the government should pay for repairs to your car but no one else’s, then yes, I would oppose it. However, that’s not a fair analogy to what this program is about.
          D) There is nothing stopping you from applying for this program yourself.
          E) The variable benefits argument is pretty thin ice. Plenty of my tax dollars went to fight a war in Iraq. Was my life improved? I am extremely dubious. The list of government programs that benefit everyone equally is very, very short.

          • John Fontain

            “If you suggested that the government should pay for repairs to your car but no one else’s, then yes, I would oppose it. However, that’s not a fair analogy to what this program is about.”

            To help keep you from getting caught up in irrelevant minutiae, I’ll modify my question slightly: Would you support the government paying for car repairs of 320 Arlingtonians at the expense of all taxpayers?

            Remember, only 320 people will directly benefit and everyone else, whether they own a car or not will have to pay for the cost. What is your answer?

          • Josh S

            Depends on what kind of car repairs.

            But relax, you’re not going to trip me up. I understand that only a limited number of people benefit directly from this program. I don’t have a problem with it, if that wasn’t abundantly clear given my previous posts.

            I’d also note that promoting energy conservation isn’t something that only the government promotes. I believe many utilities offer free energy audits (or similar services) to their residential customers – where they come to your home and point out things that you can do to insulate, weatherize, etc your home in order to conserve energy.

          • drax


            People aren’t choosing to make their cars less polluting, either because they don’t care to or can’t afford it. But I still want cleaner air. The three choices are:

            1. Pay a little for cleaner air by providing incentives.
            2. Force the car owners to do it through regulation.
            3. Suffer the health effects of air pollution.

        • drax

          But they aren’t paying for all of the homeowners’ improvements, just a portion.

          As for cars, there are incentives provided here and there for that too, such as tax deductions for buying electric cars.

    • OralePues

      My only issue is that condo owners don’t get much play in this, or am i misunderstanding?

    • C Z future

      Of all the things one could argue as ‘unfair’ in life, you pick this?

      • John Fontain

        Yep, you nailed it. Because I commented on this, that means I believe this is the most unfair thing in the world.

    • drax

      You benefit from lower energy costs and lower air and water pollution levels.

      (FYI, I looked it up – only some of LEAP’s funds come from tax dollars).

    • novasteve

      That’s liberalism in a nutshell. The redistribution of wealth.

      • Arlington Democrat

        And then I suppose the definition of a modern conservative is an economic Darwinist. Everyone for one’s self. Accumulate as much as possible. And let the rest eat cake.

        • Josh S

          And this is only because the Republican party was hi-jacked in the 80s.
          At least Democrats have been consistent.

      • drax

        So you refused to take all tax deductions you were entitled to this year, huh Steve?

    • bobco85

      I think your question is misleading in stating that the taxes are paying for the improvements instead of only a small part of the improvements.

      The incentive program only helps to reimburse part of the cost (up to a max of $1,000 for the first 25 participants, less than $600 for the rest) of home improvements only if the person registers ($75 fee) and is determined to have had at least a 20% increase in their energy efficiency after the improvements have been made (otherwise, they will receive no money).

      The point of the incentive is to help push people who are already thinking of doing home improvements towards more energy efficient ends by making the financial impact slightly less for them.

      • Josh S

        Dang. Facts are SO inconvenient…..

      • John Fontain

        I think it is pretty obvious that the program is paying for only a portion of the home improvements. The point of my question applies regardless of what portion the program pays for.

        I’ll give you a more specific example if you’d like:

        Family A: Lower income, owns a modest and out of date house, has no money for home improvements. Just trying to keep food on the table and the mortage paid.

        Family B: High income, high assets, owns a large, expensive house built 70 years ago that could use some improvements to make it more energy efficient. Has plenty of money to pay for improvements to their house.

        Why is it fair or appropriate for the government to take money from Family A pay for a portion of Family B’s home improvements?

        • John Fontain

          should say “from Family A [to] pay for…”

          • Josh S

            Theoretically, Family B pays more taxes.

            In both cases, if you really are trying to make an argument about share of costs for this program, aren’t we talking about tiny fractions of a penny each?

          • John Fontain

            “aren’t we talking about tiny fractions of a penny each?”

            Yes. But those small amounts add up when you take into account all government spending. And if we judge goverment expenditures based solely on their average cost per taxpayer, we could justify a lot of unfair or unnecessary government spending, like you paying for me and my family to take a cruise or other nonsense. Even if your share of my cruise was only a penny, it doesn’t make it right does it?

            So the questions remain: Why is this non-need based program fair or appropriate? And more specifically, why is it fair for the government to take money from Family A (above) to pay for a portion of Family B’s home improvement costs?

        • drax

          Family A likely pays alot less in taxes, so it’s not paying as much for this program anyway.

          Family B likely doesn’t need financial help from the program.

          Most likely, Family A is the one getting the help, and Family B is paying the most.

          Meanwhile, both Family A and B breathe the same air.

  • Nathan Matthews

    I’m so tired of the argument that it is unfair to tax “one person to pay for another…” Extend that argument and there would be no taxes at all. No taxes at all means no government. That is anarchy. When I was in high school it was all the conservatives who shunned the anarchists as radical, liberal, utopian, nut-jobs. Let me ask, do you like the interstate highway system? Does your car use gas? etc. etc.

    From the LEAP Faq web page: “LEAP’s start-up capital came from a $500,000 competitive grant initially awarded to the City and County from the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA). Recognizing the multitude of advantages to having a third-party entity serve as an independent operating company for the implementation of energy efficiency, the City and County created a Memorandum of Understanding which gave SEEA the authority to award the grant dollars instead to a worthy organization: LEAP.

    Recently LEAP was awarded two grants to help low-income residents – one for multifamily housing from the Department of Energy and one for single family City homeowners from the City of Charlottesville. LEAP has received approximately $1 million in stimulus funding through the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, almost all of which will go back to the taxpayer through rebates.”

    • John Fontain

      “Extend that argument and there would be no taxes at all. No taxes at all means no government. That is anarchy.”

      In case it wasn’t clear, my question was specific to the issue of using tax dollars to pay for home improvements. I didn’t say I had a problem with all taxation and government spending.

      Obama recently said, “government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”

      This applies to things like roads, police, fire departments, defense, education, etc. In my opinion, it doesn’t apply to paying for home improvements for some at the cost of others.

      • Josh S

        This is why we have democracy – so that the majority opinion can win out (providing it does not infringe upon the rights of the minority). You, of course, will argue that it does infringe upon your rights, but you would have no hope of ever winning that argument in a court of law.

        I would also think that it is pretty easy to make an argument that energy conservation is a societal goal equal in value to the provision of roads, police, fire departments, etc.

  • Charles

    Loans and reminders are all well and good but what I REALLY need is just to have a list of contractors who do good work and charge fair prices I can trust.

    I’d LOVE to do energy upgrades on my house but there are just too many shoddy, screw-up, or cheating contractors out there. NO WAY am I going to bother risk the money and my house. I don’t need my house to become a horror story.

    SO ARLINGTON – what about it? What about a list of contractors you recommend and for which you take responsibility? No? Otherwise, why should I do all the hard work? Telling us to “research” contractors or use Angie’s list or go figure it out is your cop-out, facile and dismissive, and NOT HELPFUL.

    • Quoth the Raven

      Are you saying the city or county should provide you with a list of contractors and then guarantee the work that they do?

      • Mr T

        A guarantee that work being funding in any way through tax revenue would done properly and within reasonable standards as to not require further infusion of said revenue at a future point in time would be a great thing.

        To achieve the aforementioned guarantee, I would think the county would be wise in compiling a list of reliable contractors.

        “Reliable” contractors and “wise” county decisions are an entirely different discussion.

    • FrenchyB

      Might I suggest that you post your question regarding contractors on the Forums section? I’m sure plenty of folks here can make recommendations – there’s an existing thread on there from last month about window contractors.

    • Sam

      Why is it dismissive to recommend taking a look at Angie’s List? That’s basically what you’re looking for right? It’s a list of highly recommended contractors that people in your area have recommended.

      • meh..

        Personally, I i’m irked that there is a fee for Angie’s List. If her list is so great, and she’s soooo interested and assisting people with finding good contractors, why doesn’t she make her list free?
        I’m not going to pay a subscription fee to find ONE good contractor.

        • bj

          You can always sign-up for the servicemagic.com website – all free! Have used this service to locate contractors & haven’t had any problems at all – Most helpful is the customer comments area where you get an idea of any particular problems that others in the area may have had, or, positive results with contractors use. Did I mention that it’s FREE!

    • JohnB

      If you participate in the program, they have a list of contractors to perform the recommend improvements, and they come and perform a quality control inspections. Take 5 minutes and click through and read.

    • HighViewPunk

      A hard copy of this showed up in my mailbox last year.
      Does this not count since it didn’t come directly from the county?

    • drax

      Why on Earth do you expect the county to give you a list of contractors? What’s that got to do with anything? The County isn’t even the one giving out these incentives anyway.

  • novasteve

    Funny how people say they expect privacy in the home, “don’t tell me what to do behind closed doors!” then expect taxpayers to pay for their home improvements.

    • geezer

      That is totally bogus – if they find it intrusive nobody is forcing them to apply for it NOR to have an unnecessary medical procedure in order to participate.

      • novasteve

        But why should my tax money or anyone else’s be used for something totally private, like a medical choice you make or your appliances/wiring? Do I get to go into your home?

        • Josh S

          A) It’s not totally private.
          B) Please identify medical procedures and/or appliances/wiring that do not involve government regulation / approval at some level. In other words, where is the magical world of people making decisions that don’t impact other people?

        • drax

          Because we all share the air, steve.

          Remember that.

    • Josh S

      Where the these “people”? Find me one, please.

  • Arlington Dad

    I hope every parent calls the County Parks and Rec Department today and complains, yet again, about the abysmal sign-up process for spring classes. Who in their right mind thinks 8:00 am on weekday is a good time to open registration for limited classes. Working parents are trying, very hard, to get their kids to school and themselves to work. This is insane. Every registration in my house results in my wife or I being an hour late to work trying to get on-line while feeding and dressing the kids, trying to register, having the system crash (this is the first time it didnt) and getting ourselves out the door. THERE COULD NOT BE A WORSE TIME TO DO THIS. Arlington County are you listening?

    • Another Arlington Dad

      It worked out fine for me today (and apparently for the hundreds of other people who registered, since I see that many of the classes are already booked solid.) I was able to register for the class I wanted and had no issues with the website. It took me about 4 minutes total. But I guess we should change everything to fit YOUR schedule?

      • Josh S

        Yeah, I’m not sure what hour of the day would not be objectionable then. Anything during the workday is out because people who work would complain that they can’t be doing personal business while at work. Anything in the evening would have every one complaining for the same kinds of reasons you complain about the morning – we have dinner, we have tae kwon do, we have homework, etc not to mention that surely there are APS employees monitoring the registration on the back end to respond to problems and they don’t want to be working at night. (Nor do we want to pay overtime for them to do so.)

    • CW

      Man, sometimes these discussions cause me to step back, thank the heavens that I live a great life by all historical and global standards, and then sigh and say: “Rich people problems”…

    • drax

      Agree. The system is seriously messed up sometimes, and 8 am is the worst time to deal with that. They need a lottery or something instead of giving de facto priority to whoever has the fastest computer and more reliable ISP or whatever the problem is.

  • Always Right

    Why are we offering grant money if it is such a great idea?
    Wouldn’t people be willing to pay for it themselves to enhance their home. Don’t understand the need for incentive and who is going to monitor the money , Hand Out? Govt.’s record of making certain the money is going to the right place is a failure.

  • Bryant

    Nice going Jordan. Great to see that you will continue playing.


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