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The Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST) website lists its goals as educating residents about the streetcar, offering a bus rapid transit (BRT) system as a streetcar alternative and encouraging community discussion about a BRT versus a streetcar system. The group contends the County Board didn’t hire “truly independent contractors” to do a cost-benefit analysis of the two systems, and didn’t engage in a community conversation about whether the streetcar is the best transit choice. It’s asking the Board to perform both of those tasks.
“The CP streetcar was conceived many years ago in a rosier economy. Since then, the CP streetcar’s price tag has soared,” AST spokesman Peter Rousselot said in a statement. “We now have substantial new experience and data regarding the relative economic and operating performance of both modern streetcars and modern BRT systems. In light of these changed circumstances, our community needs to examine and discuss this new information before making an irrevocable commitment to a project now estimated to cost over a quarter of a billion dollars.”
AST reports having the support of more than 125 citizens, business owners and community leaders from all points along the political spectrum.
“We are Democrats, Republicans, independents and those with no political affiliation,” Rousselot’s written statement said. “We are united by our desire to improve our community and to make sensible budget choices.”
County Board members participated in a work session last month to discuss the specifications of the streetcar design. At that time, it was noted that the county expects to initially purchase 13 streetcar vehicles to run along Columbia Pike. Each streetcar is expected to cost between $3.5 and $4 million, compared with $700,000 to $800,000 for a 40-foot, natural gas-powered Metrobus. Streetcars have an operating life expectancy between 30 and 35 years, compared to about 12 years for a bus.
The county is currently waiting to hear if it will receive up to $75 million in federal funding for the streetcar project. Some county staff members have suggested that a referendum may be necessary to fund the $250 million project.
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column by published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
A major source of opposition to trolley-driven development on Columbia Pike is that it will destroy the last corridor of market rate affordable housing in Arlington. Board Chairman Walter Tejada has cited this concern in the past as giving him pause about supporting the project.
Enter a tax increment financing district (TIF).
Earlier this month, Chairman Tejada announced he would seek a new TIF on Columbia Pike to create a fund for replacing affordable housing along the corridor. And, other Board Members voiced support for his 2013 agenda.
Just like that — a virtually done deal.
The TIF concept has been used by local governments across the country to finance pet projects for some time – Chicago has well over 100 of them — but it is a relatively new concept here in Arlington. The Board created the first TIF in Arlington in Crystal City, in large part to use as a financing mechanism for that portion of the trolley.
So how does a TIF work?
Essentially, Arlington County freezes the tax base of a defined area and dedicates tax revenue from that base to the general fund. The additional future revenue, or a percentage of it, is then earmarked to spend solely in that area, presumably with a pet project in mind.
The general fund, on the other hand, is used to pay for the ongoing county services we all use: schools, transportation, police, fire, parks, and other services. Absent future board action to reverse course, none of these priorities will receive consideration for future TIF revenue in either Crystal City, or presumably Columbia Pike, districts over the next 20 years.
Arlington needs to stop creating TIFs before the practice becomes ingrained in our way of doing business.
We have a long tradition of bringing funding projects through the traditional budget process, seeking public input. We also have a tradition of putting bonding authority before the voters. It is supposed to be the Arlington Way.
Our Board has already packaged bonding authority together to avoid straight up or down votes on big or controversial projects. For example, the aquatics center in November was voted on as part of a parks and recreation bond.
Our Board has already put the trolley on a path to be financed, at least primarily, by revenue bonds backed by the Crystal City TIF and commercial property tax surcharge. These bonds require no public vote.
The use of special interest TIFs to avoid future public debate, scrutiny, and up or down votes on such projects is a bad idea, plain and simple. It will not only avoid additional public input, but it will inevitably lead to higher tax rates for all of us. When schools, roads, public safety and other services face a squeeze in future budgets, the Board will tell voters they simply have to raise taxes to pay for it.
The County Board should not lock Arlingtonians into this fiscally irresponsible path.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
Dozens of demonstrators seeking same sex marriage rights packed the square in front of the Arlington County Courthouse this morning, before marching into the District.
Members of the Campaign for Southern Equality work to bring attention to the desire for same sex couples to get married in Southern states. The group’s website states: “The actions on January 17 are intended to highlight the lives and stories of LGBT people from across the South; the powerful reality that in our nation’s capital LGBT people have the right to marry; and the injustice that legal marriages between same-sex couples are not recognized in the South.”
Participants gathered in the square to request marriage licenses from Paul Ferguson, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.
“I commend each of you that is coming forward today for your courage. I think you do realize that by law, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow me to issue those marriage licenses to you,” Ferguson said. “I hope that if laws do change in the future, that you will choose to return one day to Arlington County to receive a marriage license.”
More than a dozen couples stepped forward to request marriage licenses from Ferguson. In turn, each was rejected.
“Unfortunately, I am not able to grant that license by law,” Ferguson repeated to each couple.
Each of the couples acknowledged the rejection, some vowing to return for licenses should the laws change.
“You’re just doing your job. We’ve been together 25 years. It hurts to be rejected,” one tearful applicant said to Ferguson. “We know hearts and minds do change, and we hope Virginia will too.”
Following the request for licenses, the applicants and dozens of others in attendance marched to the Jefferson Memorial. There, the group honored a North Carolina same sex couple’s legal marriage under D.C. law.
“We understand the laws aren’t going to change tomorrow. But if you live in the South, this is the distance you must travel before you’re equal under the law,” said Campaign for Southern Equality Executive Director Jasmine Beach-Ferrara. “You must go all the way to Washington, D.C. to be treated equally under the law.”
Arlington County Police officers were in attendance to ensure everyone’s safety both at the demonstration and during the march from Arlington into the District. Police reported that no public roadways were obstructed, and that as of 12:30 p.m., the group had officially crossed into D.C. on the way to the Jefferson Memorial.
(Updated at 12:55 p.m.) The Arlington Public Library is getting in on the trend of compiling year-end lists. It has released three lists of the library’s top materials in 2012.
The lists released on the library’s website are Top 10 Books of 2012, Top Ten DVDs of 2012 and Top Holds of 2012. Coming in at the top three for books are Bossypants by Tina Fey, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
“It’s an interesting assortment. It pretty much reflects national tastes, but we also tend to have a little more of an interest in non-fiction in Arlington,” said Arlington County Library spokesman Peter Golkin. “These are just the top 10, but our readers have a wider spread of interests. Our materials folks have to be on their toes a little more than maybe in other parts of the country.”
Golkin noted that library use continues to increase and it may be due, at least in part, to there being fewer bookstores in existence than in years past.
“There’s an obvious need the library is serving in the Arlington community,” Golkin said. “We try to provide what people want to read and watch, that’s part of our mission.”
Golkin noted that while library workers try to keep on top of the latest reading trends, residents can also fill out an online form to request the library adds specific materials.
The full lists released by the library are below.
Low Water Pressure Issues Continue — Residents in parts of Lyon Park, Buckingham, Douglas Park, Nauck, Arlington Ridge and Crystal City may experience low water pressure this morning due to various water issues. According to Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services, yesterday’s break in a 30-inch water main at Arlington Blvd and S. Irving Street is isolated and awaiting parts for additional repair work. Several water leaks also have been reported this morning at S. Stafford Street and 16th Road S., 26th Street S. and 26th Place S., and 31st Street S. and S. Woodrow Street.
Protein Bar Opens in Two Weeks — According to its Twitter feed, the new Protein Bar restaurant is set to open at 800 N. Glebe Road in Ballston on Wednesday, January 30. The restaurant will start serving its healthy food at 11:00 a.m.
MLK Tribute Speaker Changed — The keynote speaker for Arlington’s 44th Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been changed. Lehigh University Professor and Hip Hop Scholars, LLC founder Dr. James Braxton Peterson will now speak at the event, which takes place this Sunday, January 20, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street). The former speaker, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, can no longer attend due to a scheduling conflict, according to the county.
(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Forecasters tweaked their predictions overnight for what intensity of storm they expect to hit the D.C. region today. While there’s still some uncertainty, it appears the impact will be less than originally anticipated.
The latest forecast from the Capital Weather Gang suggests the area could experience drizzle in the morning, changing to light snow in the afternoon, but with little accumulation. It’s expected that areas south of Arlington will get the heaviest snow, but that could change if the storm suddenly surges north.
According to Arlington County Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel, crews began equipping vehicles with snow removal equipment yesterday. The preparations will continue today, and a crew will be on hand for snow removal this evening if necessary. Should conditions worsen later tonight, another crew will come in and work overnight into Friday morning.
The National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory this morning for much of the region, including Arlington. It runs today from 2:00-11:00 p.m. The Winter Storm Watch issued by the NWS yesterday has been canceled.
……WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT FROM 2 PM THIS AFTERNOON
TO 11 PM EST THIS EVENING…
* PRECIPITATION TYPE…SNOW.
* ACCUMULATIONS…1 TO 3 INCHES. THE HIGHEST AMOUNTS WILL BE SOUTH
OF WASHINGTON DC.
* TIMING…RAIN THIS MORNING WILL MIX WITH AND THEN CHANGE TO SNOW
DURING THE MID AFTERNOON. SNOW MAY BE LOCALLY HEAVY AT TIMES…
ESPECIALLY SOUTH OF WASHINGTON DC. SNOW WILL COME TO AN END
LATE THIS EVENING.
* TEMPERATURES…FALLING TO THE MID 30S LATE THIS AFTERNOON.
* WINDS…NORTHWEST 5 TO 10 MPH.
* IMPACTS…ROADS MAY BECOME SNOW COVERED DURING THE EVENING RUSH
HOUR…ESPECIALLY SOUTH OF WASHINGTON DC.
A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW
WILL CAUSE PRIMARILY TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SNOW
COVERED ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES…AND USE CAUTION WHILE
(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) A man was arrested early this morning after allegedly fleeing from police and crashing his car next to the Arlington National Cemetery Metro entrance.
Around 12:20 a.m., a car took off when an Arlington County police officer attempted a traffic stop on Route 110, near the Pentagon. Following protocol, the officer did not attempt to chase the car. A short time later, however, another officer reported via radio that a car had run off Memorial Drive and crashed through some bushes next to the Arlington National Cemetery Metro station. The car, a Saturn sedan, was later confirmed to be the same one that did not stop for the first officer.
The alleged driver of the car was found about an hour later during a search of the surrounding area, parts of which are heavily wooded. The search involved police dogs, and the U.S. Park Police Eagle helicopter. In addition to Arlington County and U.S. Park police, Metro Transit police assisted at the scene.
A row of bushes between the escalators and elevator to the Metro station suffered noticeable damage as a result of the wreck. The car came to rest about 10 yards away from fencing around the station. We’re told it would have been visible from the station platforms.
It’s unclear whether there were any passengers in the car, but as of 2:30 a.m. no other arrests had been made.
The driver is being held on a $6,000 bond, and was charged with misdemeanor hit and run, felony eluding and driving while revoked, according to police.
Wine:30 Thursday at Whole Foods Market (2700 Wilson Blvd) — Today, Jan. 17, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Join Whole Foods Market, Arlington every Thursday this winter for Wine:30 Thursday. Enjoy 5 plates of food, 5 sips of wine for only $5!