(Updated at 3 p.m) As calls among Democrats for President Donald Trump’s impeachment grow louder, Arlington’s local congressman is helping to lead the chorus.
In May, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) become the first member of Virginia’s Congressional delegation to call for an impeachment inquiry. Now, Beyer tells ARLnow that the latest accusations against Trump — that he withheld military aid from Ukraine before pressuring the county’s president to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son and his business dealings there — are “a turning point” for going further.
“I really don’t see any alternative to actual Articles of Impeachment right now,” Beyer said early Tuesday afternoon. “If we don’t act now, I think we lose all credibility as elected representatives and we violate our oath of office.”
“The notion of colluding with a foreign government, threatening to withhold military support… all basically to convince a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political opponent, it just boggles the mind,” he continued. “This is incredibly creative, nauseating corruption.”
Later, at an American Federation of Government Employees rally near the Capitol, Beyer remarked that “it’s a beautiful afternoon for a rally and a beautiful day to impeach a president,” according to a CNN journalist.
Beyer’s remarks come amid rapid-fire developments in the emerging Ukraine scandal.
Seven freshman House Democrats in conservative districts penned a Washington Post op-ed Monday, saying the Ukraine allegations, if true “represent an impeachable offense.” Civil rights icon and influential Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) delivered a lunchtime speech on the House floor today endorsing impeachment proceedings. Joe Biden is also expected to endorse impeachment “if the White House refuses to comply with requests for information from Congress.” And after long avoiding calls for impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reportedly now will call for a formal impeachment inquiry.
Beyer said he plans to attend a Democratic House caucus meeting at 4 p.m. today, after which Pelosi is expected to make an announcement.
“I imagine there will be very few negative voices on impeachment today,” Beyer said, though he added that he believes Pelosi has been right to hold off on impeachment proceedings up until now.
Beyer’s path from supporting an impeachment inquiry this spring to, now, pushing to prepare the Articles of Impeachment and debate them on the House floor, was informed by the seriousness of the new charges, he said.
“Is this serious enough to bring to the House floor, to the American people?” he asked rhetorically. “I’m convinced that the events of the last few days wholly satisfy that test.”
Beyer added that constituents emailing and calling his office have shifted from urging cautious action and focusing on beating Trump in the 2020 election to “100% impeach.”
“There’s this huge sense of helplessness out there that a president can completely ignore the law and destroy the dignity of the office, with no meaningful pushback from the other parts of government,” he said. “The middle has moved completely towards impeachment.”
Beyer acknowledged that the GOP-controlled Senate would be very unlikely to reach the supermajority vote required to remove Trump from office should the House approve Articles of Impeachment. That, however, could change.
“Today, no. But I think after the activity on the House floor it could be very different,” he told ARLnow. “If I were a Republican… I’d want to distance myself from him as soon as possible.”
Should Trump leave office and Vice President Pence, a former Arlington resident, ascend to the presidency, Beyer said it would likely be a net improvement in terms of leadership.
“From a policy standpoint I wouldn’t expect a lot of difference,” the congressman said. “But I would hope that if it was President Pence that he would bring a greater sense of gravity and seriousness and leadership to the position than the narcissistic chaos of Donald Trump.”
Developer May Build Second Metro Entrance — “A plan submitted by developer JBG Smith to Arlington County could see the company put in charge of building the second Crystal City Metro station entrance, a long-sought-after project that would increase access to the station. If approved, the new entrance would be built along Crystal Drive near 18th Street.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Glebe Road Crash Yesterday Morning — “Police say the crash was caused by a driver attempting to merge onto southbound Glebe from 16th Street S. striking another vehicle heading southbound. No significant injuries were reported.” [Twitter]
Company Opens New HQ in Ballston — “Armor Express, a leading manufacturer and distributor of high-performance protective solutions for the Domestic and Federal Law Enforcement markets, Department of Defense and First Responders, today announced the grand opening of its new corporate headquarters in Arlington, VA.” [Globe Newswire]
New Funding for 9/11 Victim Fund — “U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded the passage of a bill to continue providing financial support to those who suffered physical harm or families of those who were killed as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks or ensuing debris removal efforts.” [Press Release, NBC News]
Nearby: Boy Dies at McLean Construction Site — A boy died after a ditch collapsed at a large excavation site in McLean, near the Arlington border and Jamestown Elementary. The boy was reportedly working to build a sewage line at a new residential development. [Tysons Reporter, NBC 4]
Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler
Landmark Trees Felled During Storm — A well-known, historic oak tree near the Reevesland farmhouse, one of seventeen designated specimen trees on private property in Arlington, was among the trees that fell during yesterday’s storm. Trees were also downed in Arlington National Cemetery; one tree crushed a car. [Twitter, Twitter]
Rosslyn Trump HQ Rent Raises Questions — “President Trump was ‘thrilled’ that his campaign acquired northern Virginia office space at ‘bargain basement’ rates, a campaign official told the Washington Examiner in an interview in the plush 14th floor offices overlooking the Potomac River from Arlington, Va. But campaign finance specialists say the ‘steal’ could violate election law, which views below-market rates for rent as an illegal in-kind campaign donation.” [Washington Examiner]
Median Home Price in Arlington Up $100K — “Amazon’s impending move to Northern Virginia has had a significant impact on home list prices in Arlington County, a new analysis by online real estate platform Realtor.com finds. The median list price for a home there has grown 17 percent since last November.” [Curbed]
Amazon Employees Seeking Furnished Apartments — “Oakwood, which already managed a full Crystal City building at 505 18th St. South, recently extended its deal at the property for another five years, Eicholtz said. She said Oakwood is already seeing demand from Amazon employees, but it is not just coming in Crystal City.” [Bisnow]
Another County Board Contender — “Arlington resident Arron O’Dell has qualified to be on the ballot in the Nov. 5 County Board race. ‘My focus is on affordability. I will work to keep Arlington the place we enjoy living in now while controlling costs and taxes’ and ‘making the county more efficient and small-business friendly,’ O’Dell said on a nascent campaign website.” [InsideNova]
Police Chase Ends in Pentagon City — “Alexandria [Police] chased a robbery suspect on NB I-395… Chase reportedly ended at Army Navy Drive and S. Hayes Street near Pentagon City mall. Three suspects in custody.” [Twitter]
Senators Unveil Metro Funding Proposal — “Metro, which is about to undergo extensive summer track work, would receive $150 million a year for badly needed capital improvements under legislation outlined Thursday by U.S. senators from Virginia and Maryland.” [WTOP, Blue Virginia]
Arlington native Tanya Bradsher has been tapped as the new Chief of Staff for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).
The move comes as longtime Chief of Staff Ann O’Hanlon leaves the top staff post in Beyer’s office.
Beyer issued the following statement about the change in leadership.
While I am saddened to lose my longtime Chief of Staff, Ann O’Hanlon, who is leaving to pursue new opportunities, I am thrilled to welcome Tanya Bradsher, who will start after Memorial Day.
First, a word about Ann: She let me know earlier this year that, after five years by my side as both chief of staff and campaign manager through three elections, she was ready to pass the baton. She has been indispensable to me in in winning elections to Congress and building the exemplary team that serves the citizens of northern Virginia. She is sending another child off to college this fall and, for her, this summer seemed to be the right time to take a break and start exploring the next chapter of her remarkable career that has had outsized achievements in journalism, women’s rights, and community leadership.
Tanya, who retired from the U.S. Army in 2013 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, was the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for the Department of Homeland Security from April 2014 to August 2015. Her Army career included service in multiple locations throughout the United States, as well as Iraq, Haiti, and the Republic of Korea. She is a recipient of the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star for significant achievement and distinguished service.
Prior to joining the department, she held several positions at the White House, including as Assistant Director, Office of Public Engagement, where she was lead for Veteran, Wounded Warrior and Military Family Outreach. She also served as Assistant Secretary for National Security & Defense on the White House National Security Council and as spokesperson for the Department of Defense, Asia, Africa, Western Hemisphere, counter-terrorism, and detainee policies. From 2009 to 2011, Ms. Bradsher was a Defense Press Officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs at the Pentagon. Ms. Bradsher is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
She currently is the Chief of Communications for the American Psychiatric Association. She is a native of Arlington, Virginia, and lives in Lorton, Virginia with her husband and three children. She holds a B.A. in American History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an MPS from George Washington University.
Members of Congress are seeking $25 million to help defray costs at the county’s 9/11 memorials, including the Pentagon Memorial.
Arlington’s Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), along with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), are leading a request for $25 million they say is needed to fund the “9/11 Memorial Competitive Grants Program.”
“We made a promise in the days after 9/11 — to never forget,” Beyer told ARLnow through a spokesman. “These memorials represent that promise, to never forget the bravery, the sacrifice, and the honor we saw that day.”
The program is part of the 9/11 Memorial Act which the Senate unanimously approved last year. The bill allows the Department of Interior to award grants to 9/11 memorial sites helping cover costs like “continued operation, security, and maintenance.”
Recently, four Republicans and 15 Democratic representatives from New York and Virginia signed a letter requesting Congress allocate the $25 million needed to “fully fund” the program as part of the government’s annual budget cycle.
“The Pentagon Memorial is open 24 hours a day, and, to meet the volume and demand of visitors, the Pentagon Memorial Fund develops a wide variety of educational materials and programs,” the letter says
Pentagon Memorial spokesman Jerry Mullins said that over a million people visit the memorial each year, and staff creates resources like teacher guides and lesson plans for grades 9-12 as well as take-away materials available at the site.
He said funds are needed to develop the Visitor Education Center and expand the educational programming in general.
“It’s really for the school-age kids who really have no memory of the attacks,” he said. “It’s an opportunity once again that this country will never forget what happened that day.”
Renderings for the visitor’s center from 2016 featured a glass wall showing where Flight 77 struck the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Officials said at the time they expected the building to be open by 2020.
The memorial’s website is also asking for donations for the Center which is says will instruct generations to learn about the attacks “and the unprecedented response in the minutes, hours, weeks, and now years later.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) and other D.C.-area lawmakers are pressing for a new study of helicopter noise in the area, a persistent concern for many Arlingtonians living near the county’s copious military installations.
Beyer and four of his Democratic colleagues sent a letter to the head of the Government Accountability Office Monday (Jan. 28) calling for an examination of everything from which helicopters tend to make the most noise to which neighborhoods military aircraft pass over most frequently.
“Many of our constituents live with the impacts of regular helicopter noise that interrupts sleep patterns, causes their homes to shake and negatively impacts their quality of life,” the members of Congress wrote. “While disturbances from helicopter noise have been a longstanding problem for some, others have noted recent increases in the frequency and severity of helicopter noise in their neighborhoods.”
Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and David Trone (D-Md.) joined Beyer in writing the letter.
In all, they argue that “information collection, analysis and coordination” will help lawmakers “identify strategies to minimize the negative impacts of helicopter activity without impeding the work of the agencies operating helicopters within the region.”
Other points they’d like to see the agency investigate include “the frequency of flights over neighborhoods, including information on each agency operating helicopters, the times of flight and flight altitude; the number of flights that occur during the day and at night” and “the altitude at which helicopters currently fly within the Washington metropolitan area today compared to the altitude at which helicopters operated within the Washington metropolitan area in the past.”
The lawmakers are also looking to learn more about “degree of coordination that currently exists among the various government and non-governmental entities operating helicopters” in the region, in order to improve efforts to cut back on noise. Beyer has previously proposed similar efforts aimed at increasing that collaboration, including a “working group” that would’ve included both local officials and representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense.
Beyer has certainly raised the issue plenty of times since winning office for the first time in 2014, and has also pressured the DOD to pursue other studies of helicopter noise, or even to simply fly its helicopters at higher altitudes to reduce noise complaints.
However, many of those efforts have been stymied by Republican leaders, who have long controlled the House of Representatives — Beyer is cautiously optimistic that the new Democratic majority will be more sympathetic to his concerns.
Beyer and his colleagues are hoping to get an answer on this latest request for a study within the next month or so.
Flickr pool photo by Jeff Sonderman
For all of the problems caused by the government shutdown across the D.C. region so far, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) fears things could get “exponentially worse” as soon as next week if federal employees are still going without paychecks.
Warner, like the rest of his Democratic colleagues in Congress, already sees the standoff over border wall funding engineered by President Trump as “outrageous” and a “disgrace.” Thousands of federal workers in the D.C. area alone missed their first paychecks of the shutdown last week, putting a severe strain on their finances and the whole region’s economy.
But Warner foresees government employees reaching a crisis point should they miss another paycheck in the coming days, which looks like a sure bet as Trump refuses to give an inch in discussions with congressional Democrats.
“When people go without a second paycheck, which is coming next Thursday, and they hit the beginning of the month of February, there are mortgages due, their rent is due, other bills are due,” Warner told reporters during a visit to the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s food distribution center in Nauck today (Friday). “That’s when things get really bad… And what’s happening in our region, it’s already a crisis. But this is going to be a crisis that spreads all across the country. “
Warner pointed out that Congress and Trump could at least agree to provide back pay for furloughed workers, but he warned that restitution alone “doesn’t make you whole.” He’s already heard stories from people taking out loans to make it through the shutdown, or missing payments and seeing their credit scores take a hit.
And he’s especially concerned about federal contractors, which include not only high-priced tech workers but people working in cafeterias or custodial services, who may not make much money.
Charlie Meng, the executive director of AFAC, told ARLnow that “many of the contractors who are most affected are our clients already.” He says the food bank has seen a “slight uptick” in interest since the shutdown started, and it began urging federal employees to swing by for free groceries, but he said that people who are already struggling to get by are the ones hardest hit by missing out on paychecks.
“We serve the working poor, and that includes many of the people who work for the government indirectly but are just hanging on,” Meng said. “Something like this happens, and it really hurts them.”
Warner notes that the shutdown will likely spell big trouble for Metro the longer it drags on. WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told the D.C.’s regions senators yesterday (Thursday) that keeping federal workers at home is prompting a steep drop in ridership, costing the rail service about $400,000 per day.
It doesn’t help matters either that federal officials haven’t been able to reimburse Metro for about $33 million in expenses it has incurred over the course of the shutdown, an amount Wiedefeld estimates could balloon to $50 million by the end of the month. He warned that Metro would need to start relying on its line of credit to afford major capital improvements soon enough, or simply delay badly needed projects.
“In a way, it’s like Metro can’t catch a break,” Warner said. “Finally, the region stepped up, Virginia, Maryland, the District to provide additional, dedicated funding for Metro. Now we’ve got this crisis, not due to Metro’s performance but due to the government shutdown. It’s going to put Metro even further behind.”
Warner says Democrats are “absolutely” willing to negotiate on increased border security measures with the White House to end this standoff — but only if Trump agrees to open the government back up first.
“If you reward this bad behavior, he will try this again, he will try this again with spending bills going forward,” Warner said. “You don’t reward a bully.”
Warner points out that a bipartisan group of senators wrote a letter to Trump, urging him to fund the government for three weeks to let negotiations to start back up. But that effort fizzled, and he says it was “disappointing” to discover that the White House was actively pressuring Republicans not to sign on to that push.
“It’s tough if you’re a Republican senator to sign onto a letter, even a reasonable letter, when you’ve got folks like Jared Kushner and others lobbying against it,” Warner said.
Broadly, he believes Trump is hanging over the whole debate. Even though the Senate already voted unanimously to fund the government before Trump started demanding money for a border wall, Warner feels his Republican colleagues haven’t been willing to take action for straightforward political reasons: “You’ve got a lot of Republicans who are afraid of upsetting the president.”
So even as Republicans privately tell Warner that they’d like to end the shutdown, he doesn’t see much hope for any resolution soon. And that, he says, sits squarely on Trump’s shoulders.
“The president has said he was proud to own this shutdown,” Warner said. “This will be part of his legacy, which is already the worst legacy in modern American history.”
Federal officials think they have a good shot at winning $126 million in grant funds to make a series of badly needed repairs on a long section of the GW Parkway, and Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation is throwing its weight behind the effort.
The National Park Service, which maintains the road, is currently applying for a hefty U.S. Department of Transportation grant to fund rehabilitation work on a roughly eight-mile-long stretch of the parkway, as it runs between the Spout Run Parkway in Rosslyn and I-495. Now, both of Virginia’s senators and three local members of Congress are lending their support to the funding push, in a bid to finally afford some changes on the aging roadway.
“The proposed project will address serious deterioration of the GWMP and implement significant safety improvements,” the lawmakers wrote in a Jan. 8 letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “This project will improve a critical link in the National Capital Region’s transportation network while preserving the historical and cultural characteristics that make the parkway one of the most scenic roadways in the country. These proposed improvements will increase the safety of visitors while significantly extending the life of the parkway.”
Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (both D-Va.) both signed the letter, as did Virginia Reps. Don Beyer (D-8th District) and Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District). Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s lone, non-voting representative in Congress also added her support.
The NPS says the construction work, set to cost about $150 million in all, will start at the parkway’s Spout Run Parkway exit and include:
- Making drives smoother by replacing the asphalt pavement
- Replacing guardrails and repairing walls
- Repairing stormwater management systems to keep excess water from damaging the road
- Constructing new concrete curbs
- Rehabilitating parts of two historic, scenic overlooks
- Lengthening entrance and exit lanes at some interchanges
Officials also hope to use the cash to replace the stormwater drainage grates that line the parkway, which have long made for a bumpy ride for drivers. They’re also envisioning adding four “emergency turnarounds,” in order to allow police to more easily redirect drivers who stop on the road due to a crash or inclement weather.
The construction would also include improvements at the parkway’s interchange with Chain Bridge Road in McLean, like adding a new traffic signal to the area.
The lawmakers note in the letter that this northern stretch of the parkway was first built in 1962, and with more than 33 million vehicles using the road each year, it’s badly deteriorated in the decades since.
The NPS is hoping to win the funding through the Department of Transportation’s “Nationally Significant Federal Land and Tribal Projects” program. In a release, park service officials said they believe the project “will compete well” for cash through that program, given the parkway’s “significance” and the fact that the NPS has already wrapped up schematic design work for the construction.
If all goes well, officials hope to kick off construction sometime next year.
(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) is planning a town hall in Arlington tonight (Thursday), in order to collect feedback on everything from the government shutdown to his plans for the new Congress.
Beyer’s set to hold the gathering at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd) tonight, running from 7-8:30 p.m. Though Arlington Public Schools have since canceled all after-school activities due to the threat of winter weather tonight, a spokesman for Beyer says the event is still on.
The county’s lone congressman convened the gathering to “discuss the issues on your mind, and what I’m doing in Congress,” according to an event posting.
The shutdown, now the longest in the country’s history, will likely be a prime topic of discussion, especially considering the adverse economic impacts it has had on so many federal workers in the district. A recent study found that the 8th, which covers Arlington and parts of Alexandria, has the largest number of federal employees in the country.
Beyer will also be able to use the town hall as a chance to solicit feedback on his plans in Congress for the next two years, as Democrats assume control of the House for the first time since Beyer won office in 2014.
He previously told ARLnow that he broadly hopes to focus on environmental issues, particularly oversight of President Trump’s picks to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and on securing new funding to combat aircraft noise around Arlington.
As President Trump weighs the extraordinary step of declaring a national emergency to unilaterally build a wall along the southern border, Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) is urging Trump to return to the negotiating table and put federal employees back to work.
Like any member of Congress representing the D.C. suburbs, Beyer is no great fan of government shutdowns, which threaten the livelihoods of thousands of constituents in his Arlington and Alexandria-area district. But this latest, 18-day shutdown (now the second longest in the country’s history) is testing Beyer’s patience more than most.
He can’t understand what Trump hopes to achieve with his demands for $5.7 billion to build a wall on the Mexican border, or why he’s worked with Congressional Republicans to shutter the government while this latest immigration debate plays out. Unlike some of his Democratic colleagues, Beyer feels there’s room to negotiate on the issue — but he remains puzzled by the president’s refusal to engage on the matter.
“I know Donald Trump didn’t write the ‘Art of the Deal,’ but he may not have read it either,” Beyer told ARLnow. “I don’t think Democrats are against spending $5 billion more on border security, but let’s work hard on the language to make sure it turns into something that actually makes a difference, rather than something that’s a campaign symbol… Maybe I spent too many years as an auto dealer, but I’m always looking for a win-win scenario.”
Beyer believes that Democrats in Congress could well be open to reviving the outlines of a bipartisan immigration deal hashed out among leaders last year, exchanging new funding for border security for new protections for people previously protected from deportation under the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program. Yet Trump and other immigration hardliners in his party scuttled that arrangement the last time Congress squared off over the issue, and Beyer doesn’t see much reason for optimism this time around.
Furthermore, Beyer sees Trump’s intimations that he could use his emergency powers as president to bypass Congress and build the wall as “frightening.” Such an effort would undoubtedly face court challenges, as experts agree that there is no migration crisis currently afflicting the country, but speculation abounds that Trump could make an emergency declaration during his televised address from the White House tonight.
“It just ratchets up the tension and dissension far more than is appropriate,” Beyer said. “If the wall was so important, why did it take two whole years into his presidency before he put it into an appropriations bill? This is no national emergency.”
But should the shutdown continue, Beyer says his newly empowered colleagues in the House plan to “make it as easy as possible to open the government back up.” Starting today (Tuesday), he says Speaker Nancy Pelosi will begin calling votes on bills to reopen one federal agency at a time.
That way, Beyer hopes that some important staffers — like those at the IRS preparing to mail out tax returns — could get back to work, even as the immigration debate drags on.
And that sort of tack would also allow many of Beyer’s constituents to start earning paychecks again.
He says he’s heard from thousands of federal workers, both in the D.C. area and around the country, who are suffering due to financial insecurity stemming from the shutdown. To that end, Beyer managed to help pass language to protect back pay for affected employees through the House, but fears Trump wouldn’t sign off on the change, even if it clears the Senate.
Beyer’s also backing efforts to secure pay for some federal contractors, as are Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (both D-Va.).
“Many people go into federal service because they cherish the idea of public service,” Beyer said. “No one does it for the money. The security is one of the small benefits. Or, at least, it used to be.”
Yet Beyer feels the shutdown is doing more than just unnecessarily squeezing his constituents — he believes its distracting Congress from other pressing priorities, particularly as Democrats regain control of the House for the first time in years.
Whenever Congress can return to normal business, Beyer thinks there is room for some agreement on bills he’s backing around issues like suicide prevention and wildlife conservation.
But he is cognizant of the fact that the Republican-controlled Senate, to say nothing of Trump’s veto pen, will limit how much he can actually pass over the next two years. That’s why he’s more enthusiastic about the new oversight powers Democrats gain now that they’re chairing House committees.
Beyer helped lead investigations into former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s conduct in office, and was one of Pruitt’s leading congressional critics before he resigned under a cloud of scandal. But Beyer is no great fan of Pruitt’s replacement, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist.
Accordingly, he sees plenty of room for more EPA oversight now that Democrats will wield expanded investigatory power, though he did sound a note of caution on the topic.
“It’s really important that oversight be genuine oversight, focused on things not going well in the executive branch rather than political witch hunts,” Beyer said. “There are lots of legitimate, responsible things we can do in oversight to just make America a better country, and we can do it with Republicans.”
Pelosi and other Democratic leaders will also command more control over the federal budget, and that gives Beyer hope for progress on one of his other big priorities: solving the vexing problem of aircraft noise in Arlington.
Beyer previously proposed budget amendments directing the Federal Aviation Administration to tinker with the flight paths of military helicopters and create a new website to allow people to report aircraft noise complaints. Yet both of those failed to gain any traction under Republican leadership, and he’s holding out hope to make progress on these “two good legislative investments” in the coming months.
“With people like [Majority Leader and Maryland Rep.] Steny Hoyer in control, he’s a D.C. resident, I’m much more optimistic that we will the have power to make a difference on this,” Beyer said.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has never been much of a fan of the name “Crystal City.”
As a longtime Alexandria resident, the state’s senior senator has had to spend plenty of time in and around the Arlington neighborhood that will soon become home to Amazon’s vaunted new headquarters, all the while rolling his eyes at its moniker.
“I’m not sure ‘National Landing’ should be the name, but I’d be so glad to get rid of ‘Crystal City,'” Warner quipped Thursday (Dec. 13) at a roundtable discussion hosted at George Mason University’s Virginia Square campus.
Luckily, his colleague on stage, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), had an alternative suggestion for the Crystal City-Pentagon City-Potomac Yard corridor ready to go: “Warner Plaza,” he said, prompting a round of laughter from the crowd of Northern Virginia business leaders and politicians.
That light-hearted banter aside, both senators acknowledged that the county will soon face far more dire problems than just naming its neighborhoods. Kaine and Warner both see Amazon’s impending arrival as a huge net positive for the county, and the state as a whole, but they also expressed a desire to take some action to help address the thorny issue of affordable housing in the area.
Kaine sees room for Congress to lend a hand, perhaps by expanding the federal “Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.”
The program is designed to incentivize affordable development, and Kaine teamed up with Democrats and Republicans alike to introduce a bill last year expanding its funding by 50 percent. His office estimates it would create or preserve 1.3 million affordable homes over the next decade, about 400,000 more than would be possible under the program’s current funding levels.
“We don’t have to recreate the wheel,” Kaine said. “We can take things that work and do more of them. It’s already a good program to create workforce housing, but we can do more of it.”
Considering the county’s challenges finding cash for its own affordable housing loan fund, more help from the feds would likely come as quite welcome news indeed for Arlington leaders. But, despite its bipartisan support, Kaine’s legislation on the subject has yet to make any progress.
Warner envisions a more local approach to the matter. While the state already has its own housing development authority, which is set to pour tens of millions more into affordable housing initiatives as part of Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed deal with Amazon, Warner thinks the area’s localities could stand to team up as well.
“I think there needs to be work done on a regional housing authority to make sure there will be affordable housing, and make sure people don’t get pushed out of their homes,” Warner said.
Warner does expect, however, that Congress can help out by ensuring stable federal funding for Metro in 2019.
Though the rail service did manage to score its first dedicated revenue stream this year, thanks to commitments from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. lawmakers, it remains subject to the whims of Congress for another $150 million or so in cash each year. And with Amazon bringing thousands of workers to the area, many of whom will likely rely on the Blue and Yellow lines to reach the offices, Metro’s health has been a key focus as officials look to prepare for the company’s arrival.
As Democrats prepare to assume control of the House of Representatives, Warner fully expects the “odds and leverage [for more Metro funding] will go up” next year. But that doesn’t mean he’s counting on adding more federal funds for the service, either, considering that Republicans still control most levers of power in D.C.
“I would love to say we could plus up that number, but I don’t think that’s in the cards with this Senate and this president,” Warner said. “But if we can get $150 million again, let’s take the money and run.”
Beyond the housing and transportation challenges Amazon may well exacerbate in the area, Warner echoed the views of his colleagues around the state that the new headquarters will be a “game changer” for the region.
With such high office vacancy rates even in a prosperous part of the state like Arlington, Warner says the region had a “level of vulnerability that I’m not sure the whole business community appreciated” before Amazon tabbed Arlington. Of course, he hopes that that tech company doesn’t simply bring prosperity for Northern Virginia when it gets here.
“I know it’s a little bit of heresy to say with an Arlington crowd, but I hope to find some Amazon contractors and partners to put jobs downstate too,” Warner said. “As the commonwealth makes a substantial investment, an investment that is about one quarter per job what New York overpaid for, by the way, we need to show that it will benefit the whole commonwealth.”