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.
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A march against drugs drew a large crowd of parents and community members to Wakefield High School, where a student died this week.
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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village