Arlington spent around $300 million building three new high schools over the past decade. The most logical solution to the need for additional classroom seats would be to add on to the existing structures.
The problem: those schools were largely planned when school officials were betting on studies showing school enrollments stable or going down, not up. As a result, little thought was given to the ability to expand those facilities at a later date.
Much will be made of this painful process over the weeks and months to come. Parents who quite possibly moved into a neighborhood so their children could attend their preferred high school in the future will be upset if new lines force them into a new school. Neighborhoods surrounding the new site will complain about traffic and loss of green space, even stadium lights. Fiscal watchdogs will not like the cost.
The fact is, there is no good solution to finding a new location. There is almost certainly only a “least bad” one.
And who agreed with my position on the Nestlé subsidy?
At this week’s Young Democrats candidate forum, the Democratic candidates for the County Board seemed to share my concern that the giant corporation received $12 million in tax incentives while existing Arlington businesses received nothing.
A quick check of the candidate’s websites finds a mixed bag of results as to how big a priority it is for them. Neither Kim Klingler or Peter Fallon’s issues pages have an entire section dedicated to making Arlington’s policies more business friendly, though Klingler does make mention of improving county services. Vivek Patil’s site has some talking points, but no real specific plans.
Erik Gutshall has the most extensive section on the economy. While it calls for regulatory improvements, it also restates things the County Board is already doing in the name of “economic development” including fully funding incentives like the one given to the candy giant.
Yes, a shot in the arm for the local economy benefits everyone. However, the current overriding philosophy is to give advantages to new businesses over existing businesses. Arlington, and Virginia as a whole, can and should do more than throw our tax dollars at economic development. Tax and regulatory relief along with streamlining bureaucratic processes should be the top priorities to make our economies thrive.
And an independent or Republican County Board candidate who made improving the local economy the top priority would be a welcome addition to the field.