Last week, we asked the two candidates in the 49th District House of Delegates race to write a 750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 5 general election.
Here is the unedited response from the Democratic incumbent Del. Alfonso Lopez.
When I was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, I pledged to be a champion for the Arlington values that have made our community such a welcoming place for people from all over the world. I also pledged to fight to improve our public schools, increase transportation/transit funding, expand health care, address issues of social and economic justice, and protect our environment.
Standing with my House Democratic colleagues, I’m proud to say I’ve kept my promises to you.
Over just the last two years, we’ve fought to end the school-to-prison pipeline by limiting long-term school suspensions, increased teachers’ salaries by 5%, secured a dedicated source of revenue for the Metro system, worked to address criminal justice reform, renewed the Green Jobs Tax Credit, and–perhaps most importantly– expanded Medicaid to almost 400,000 Virginians across the state, including 5,600 of our neighbors in the 49th District.
I believe in a Commonwealth that lifts everyone up and leaves no one behind.
As your Delegate, I’ve been a champion for our values in Richmond and I’m proud of the work I’ve done to find common ground and get things accomplished. Along those lines, I’ve worked to build coalitions of legislators, advocates, and activists in order to pass bills that move Virginia forward. In fact, since 2012, I’ve been the Patron, Co-Patron or Chief Co-Patron of 115 bills signed into law–49 of which were bipartisan efforts. Among other things, these bills include laws strengthening tenant protections, improving small business procurement, expanding healthcare to immigrant mothers and children, protecting passports and military IDs from identity theft, and incentivizing the use of solar and other renewable energy sources across Virginia.
As our community continues to grow, many of our neighbors have concerns about the impact that growth will have on housing. Indeed, housing is becoming more and more expensive–preventing many young people from becoming homeowners and leading to fears that lower-income residents are being pushed out of communities they may have lived in for decades.
Addressing our region’s housing affordability crisis has always been one of my top priorities as Delegate. In 2013, the General Assembly passed my bill creating the Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund (VHTF)–an important tool used by the state to provide funding to projects dedicated to preserving and building affordable housing, as well as addressing homelessness. In the years since its creation, the VHTF has already helped create housing for thousands of Virginians–including hundreds of families in the 49thDistrict.
I’m proud of that progress, but it’s clear that we need to do much more to properly address this issue–not just in Northern Virginia, but in towns, cities, and rural areas across the Commonwealth. I am fully committed to this fight and will not rest until our state is investing the resources we need.
I believe we need to invest in our infrastructure, and in our workforce, and, most of all, in our children. Going forward we must focus on jobs and the economy, education, and the needs of working families. I pledge to continue fighting for better schools, long-term transportation solutions, environmental safeguards, small businesses, economic development, and the Arlington values of embracing diversity, tolerance, and compassion that we all hold dear.
On November 5th, every seat in the General Assembly is up for election and, for the first time, Virginians have the opportunity to send a progressive Democratic legislature to Richmond. We are on the cusp of electing a General Assembly that will finally act on sensible gun violence prevention measures, protect a woman’s right to choose, ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and properly fund our schools.
Make sure you have a plan to vote on Tuesday! Then call up a friend or family member and make sure that they have a plan, too. Working together, I know we can create a community and a Commonwealth that lifts everyone up and leaves no one behind.
My name is Alfonso Lopez and I ask for your support and VOTE on Election Day, Tuesday, November 5th. www.AlfonsoLopez.org
Editor’s note: Lopez’s opponent, independent candidate Terry Modglin, did not submit an essay by last night’s deadline.
(Updated on 07/12/19) A new independent candidate has thrown his hat in the ring to challenge Del. Alfonso Lopez’s bid for re-election this year.
Terry Modglin is former non-profit organization executive who also served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam for four years. He’s now running against the Democratic incumbent to represent parts of Arlington and Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates. This is the second candidate to run against Lopez, who recently defeated Democratic challenger Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. in the primary election.
Modglin’s campaign platform is centered around green energy, public transportation, and opposing expanded access to abortion.
Modglin said he supports the Independent Green message of “More trains, less traffic.” He’s also calling for new Orange or Silver Metrorail stations at Seven Corners and Skyline, advocating for more walkable and bikeable communities, and tax incentives for solar and wind power.
Modglin has run before with the Independent Green Party of Virginia in 2015 for the Virginia state Senate and as a Green Party candidate for the House of Delegates in 2013. He clarified that this time around he is running as an independent.
Modglin told ARLnow one of the main reasons he decided to run was because of Lopez’s support for House Bill 2491, also known as the Repeal Act.
The bill would remove Virginia’s requirement that women undergo an ultrasound before they’re allowed to undergo an abortion and would make it easier for women to obtain a third-trimester abortion if their doctor found the women’s life was in danger. President Donald Trump criticized the bill in a rally earlier this year, focusing on the regulations around third-trimester abortions, which he and others have called “late-term abortions.”
The Repeal Act was tabled during the most recent legislative session.
When asked whether his anti-abortion stance could hurt his chances among Arlington voters, Modglin acknowledged the majority vote progressive but said he was convinced “voters in the 49th District do not favor late-term abortions. Mr. Lopez and I have a difference there.”
One area both candidates agree on is the need for greater gun control in Virginia. Modglin said he supports the ream of reforms from Gov. Ralph Northam, which include universal background checks, protective orders, and bans on bump stocks and large-capacity magazines.
(The GOP-led state Senate adjourned yesterday before votes could be taken on gun control bills during a special legislative session called by Northam.)
Modglin said he has a personal connection to calls for gun reform. When he was serving in Vietnam, his 13-year-old brother accidentally shot himself in the face with a friend’s gun.
“He would have died from choking on his own blood except for the tracheotomy given him by the EMTs,” said Modglin. “I asked him a few years later what happened with that gun. He said the young owner a few years later pulled over to the side of the road and shot himself through the head.”
Lopez has served in Richmond since 2012 and has racked up several endorsements from labor groups for his bid for reelection. He’s also raised a sizable war chest from green energy proponents after dropping campaign contributions from Dominion Energy.
Earlier, Lopez told ARLnow that his biggest accomplishments this year were increasing funding for affordable housing, ending a driver license suspension policy some say punished poor people, and mandating the state notify veterans whose military identification information was stolen. He’s since pledged to continue increasing affordable housing funding and countering “far right legislation” such as bills restricting access to reproductive health care.
Modglin will face off against Lopez in the general election on Nov. 5. Virginia residents can check their voter registration status here.
Image 1 via Facebook
Last week, we asked the two Democratic candidates in the House of Delegates race for the 49th District to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them in the June 11 primary.
Here is the unedited response from Julius “JD” Spain, Sr.:
The 49th District deserves the best leadership. As Delegate, one my priorities will be to introduce legislation to reform our mental health system. In Virginia, our mental health system is broken, and we are losing too many children and young adults because we have not done enough to support them. This issue is one that requires immediate attention. I will work with experts in mental health to improve access to mental health resources for individuals and families.
I will advocate for polices and legislation that will allow people in the community to work near their homes, ensure we have adequate affordable housing, reliable and economical transit, and quality affordable childcare. I will fight for social justice and criminal justice reform, including discrimination based on race, gender, socio-economic status and against our LGBTQ community. I pledge to protect the rights of all and work for safer communities. I will work to fix the many public transportation and safety issues from the Seven Corners region to Columbia Pike which have left behind.
The people of the 49th District can trust that I will deliver on these promises because I have a track record of service to this country and in our community. I served our country honorably for 26 years in the United States Marine Corps retiring in December 2016. The hallmarks of a Marine are honor, courage, and commitment and those characteristics are part of my moral fabric. When elected, I will bring these qualities and values to the position always remembering to be faithful to the people.
Having served on Capitol Hill as a Congressional Fellow in the US Senate, and as a Senior Legislative Advisor for the Marine Corps Office of Legislative Affairs-Pentagon, I have a thorough understanding of legislative affairs and public policy. I am a team player and results-oriented leader. In 2014, the Arlington County Board appointed me to serve for four years as Commissioner to the Arlington County Civil Service Commission and I currently serve as president of the Arlington Branch NAACP, which is the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. As a delegate, I will stand up against any form of racism and discrimination of citizens.
This election is about Integrity, Character, Judgement, Transparency, and Accountability. Now, more so than ever, it is essential voters of one the most vibrant and diverse communities in Virginia take a position on what type of leadership we want leading our district and representing us in Richmond. I am happy to have the support of community leaders Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, Jr., The Honorable Frank Wilson (Retired), Mr. Gabe Rubalcava, Vice Chair of the Arlington County Board, The Honorable Libby Garvey, countless citizens, and pleased to have earned the endorsements and support of OUR Revolution Northern Virginia and OUR Revolution Arlington.
This campaign is about inclusion. I am proud that I have taken no donations from corporations or special interests’ group. If elected, I will continue with this pledge. I hope the people of the 49th District will give me the opportunity to represent them, confident they will have a leader that is Progressive, Transparent, and Accountable.
Last week, we asked the two Democratic candidates in the House of Delegates race for the 49th District to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them in the June 11 primary.
Here is the unedited response from Alfonso Lopez:
It has been the greatest honor of my career to serve the residents of the 49th District as your Delegate in Richmond. Our district, which runs along Columbia Pike from Pentagon City to Bailey’s Crossroads and then up Route 7 to Seven Corners, is one of the most vibrant and diverse places in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Moreover, I am reminded every day that we live in a special community that believes in lifting everyone up and leaving no one behind. Indeed, those are the core values that have guided my legislative agenda in the General Assembly.
When I first ran for the House of Delegates, I made a pledge that I would be a champion for the progressive values that have made our community such a welcoming place for people from every corner of the world. These values have come under attack by a far-right element of the Republican majority that has sought year after year to overturn Virginia’s progress by gutting the social safety net, eliminating reproductive freedom, and demonizing the immigrant community.
In the General Assembly, I have worked to build coalitions of legislators, policy advocates, and community activists to successfully defend against far-right legislation and to pass common-sense bills that will move Virginia forward. I am proud to have been able to patron, co-patron, or chief co-patron 115 bills over the last eight years that were signed into law–49 of which were bipartisan efforts. These include bills strengthening tenant protections, expanding healthcare to immigrant mothers and children, protecting passports and military IDs from identity theft, and incentivizing the use of solar and other renewable energy sources across Virginia.
One of my top priorities in the House of Delegates has been addressing our region’s housing affordability crisis. As someone who grew up in Fairfax County and now lives along the Columbia Pike corridor, I have witnessed first-hand the changes our community has seen over the last few decades. As our region continues to grow, housing is becoming more and more expensive–preventing many young people from becoming homeowners and leading to fears that lower-income residents are being pushed out of communities they may have lived in for decades.
This is an issue I’ve been focused on for many years. In 2013, the General Assembly passed my bill creating the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (VHTF)–an important tool used by the state to provide funding to projects dedicated to preserving and building affordable housing, as well as addressing homelessness. In the years since its creation, the VHTF has already helped create housing for thousands of Virginians–including hundreds of families in the 49th District.
As a member of the House Democratic leadership team, I have strived to use my voice to amplify the concerns and needs of the many working-class families and marginalized communities that call the 49th District home. We have worked to end the school-to-prison pipeline by limiting long-term school suspensions, increased teachers’ salaries by 5%, secured a dedicated source of revenue for the Metro system, worked on criminal justice reform, expanded no-excuse absentee voting, and–perhaps most importantly– expanded Medicaid to almost 400,000 Virginians across the state, including 5,600 of our neighbors in the 49th District.
Nothing has been more rewarding, however, than the work my office has done to provide direct assistance to the constituents of our district. As a Delegate, my most important role is that of being a liaison and advocate for constituents and their needs with state and local government.
For example, when VDOT announced the pending closure of the DMV on Four Mile Run, my office and I worked quickly to organize a community meeting to allow residents to express their concerns about the impact the closure would have on low-income residents and the elderly. By amplifying voices from the community and facilitating intense negotiations between community leaders and state officials, my office was able to keep the DMV in Arlington where it continues to serve thousands of our neighbors to this day.
Our Commonwealth and our community have made a number of great strides in the past few years, but it’s clear that we still have much work to do. Going forward, I am determined to continue pursuing an agenda that is focused on social and economic justice for all of Virginia’s families. As your Delegate, I will always be committed to creating a community and a Commonwealth that lifts everyone up and leaves no one behind.
I ask for your support and vote on June 11th!
Campaign endorsements are stacking up in the House of Delegates primary race between incumbent Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th) and challenger Julius D. “JD” Spain, Sr.
Lopez has racked up support from several labor groups. The International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council 51 and the Mid-Atlantic Pipe Trades Association both announced their support last week. Food service union UNITE HERE Local 23 DC Chapter, which represents airport concession workers, food service workers and others, also joined the list of local unions supporting Lopez.
“While these endorsements are an excellent way of showing broad support from trusted voices — and the types of issues I look forward to enacting — the most important measure of support for the upcoming primary is the depth and breadth of our campaign’s robust volunteer operation,” Lopez said in a statement to ARLnow, noting that a team of volunteers knocked on over 1,000 doors for his campaign last weekend.
Lopez said earlier this month he was “honored” to have so many labor groups endorse his campaign and pledged to “continue our fight in the General Assembly” against policies like right-to-work, which he says hurts workers and families.
With less than a month to go before the June 11 primary, Spain does not boast as lengthy a list of endorsements as his opponent, but he has received support from at least one prominent progressive group as well as local community members and activists.
“I, along with my entire team, [am] excited to have received the endorsement of the progressive and nationally recognized political action organization Our Revolution Arlington yesterday and Our Revolution Northern Virginia a few weeks ago,” Spain said, in an email statement today. “Additionally, the endorsements of prominent African-American and Latino community activists such as Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, the Honorable Frank Wilson, Mr. Gabriela Rubalcava, and Ms. Ingrid Vaca, who represent THE PEOPLE at the grassroots level resonates with voters.”
Our Revolution originally formed as an outgrowth of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign before forming local chapters nationwide. The Arlington chapter repeatedly protested Amazon’s deal with the county for its second headquarters last year, and now is endorsing Spain’s candidacy.
I am so grateful to Our Revolution NOVA for supporting a great set of primary challengers who will shake up the priorities of the establishment. It feels great to be part of the momentum behind progressive change on the economic, environmental, and social justice fronts! pic.twitter.com/x5GIz5jnix
— JD Spain for Delegate (@jdspainfordel49) May 7, 2019
Former School Board member Frank Wilson is among those endorsing Spain. He said in a statement that the former Marine “has a great deal of proven experience as a public servant” and is “honest, reliable and willing to work the long hours needed for a Delegate representing the people in District 49.”
“This campaign is built around inclusivity, believes in empowerment of others, transparency, and accountability,” Spain said. “I will always choose the working class over special interests and moneyed elites. Given the incumbent’s lack of transparency coupled with the events in Richmond this past February, I am confident voters in the 49th District are tired of the status-quo and ready for change.”
Campaign finance filings indicated that Spain had $6,364 left at the end of March in his coffers. He had poured more than $20,000 of his own money into the campaign to bolster his fundraising, which he restricted to donations from individuals.
Lopez, meanwhile, reported a war chest of $102,280 at the end of the first quarter, after raising money from clean energy groups and alcohol lobbyists, among others. All candidates running for election will release a new set of campaign finance reports next month.
Voters will choose between the two candidates for the Democratic nomination during the June 11 primary, and vote for their final choice during the November 5 general election.
Because no candidates from other parties are currently running for the 49th District seat, the primary could determine the result of the general election; however, independent or Republican candidates can still announce their intent to run after the primary.
Disagreements over campaign contributions and criminal justice reform during a debate last night revealed fault lines between some of the Democrats running for the party’s nomination.
Six candidates running for Commonwealth’s Attorney, state Senator and Delegate who sparred during the Wednesday night debate agreed on green energy and defeating Republicans. But their disagreements on other topics showed that even in an all-Democratic playing field there are shades of blue.
One area of disagreement was campaign contributions.
Sen. Barbara Favola was asked by a moderator why she continued to accept contributions from the controversial Advanced Towing company in light of complaints about employees allegedly towing a vehicle with the owner’s pet still inside.
The state senator called the story “extraordinary unfortunate” but said that the solution was for people “to go back to the landowner and complain about the contract” they have with a company.
Her challenger, Nicole Merlene hit back by referring to the 2017 NBC 4 report that Advanced Towing gave Favola $1,500 in campaign contributions after she voted to loosen towing regulations and allegedly convinced then-Governor Terry McAuliffe to do the same.
Favola said she voted “with the county” and that “what Governor McAuliffe had decided to do is Governor McAuliffe’s prerogative.”
Both candidates spoke in strong support of increasing affordable housing and paying interns.
A flash point Wednesday night was the issue of criminal justice reform.
Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates say they tackled a host of important issues, from criminal justice reform to LGBT parental rights to public health, during this year’s legislative session.
The county is represented in the state House by four elected officials — Democrats Mark Levine, Patrick Hope, Richard “Rip” Sullivan, and Alfonso H. Lopez — all of whom are up for re-election this year.
This year’s session began on January 9 and ended February 23. Here are what the delegates told ARLnow were their biggest legislative accomplishments in that time.
Del. Patrick Hope
Hope has represented Arlington in the House since 2010 and currently faces no Democratic challengers in his campaign for reelection. He says he introduced 12 bills during this year’s session, nine of which passed.
He told ARLnow that it’s difficult to choose his favorite because “I treat all my bills like my children,” but narrowed down his three biggest accomplishments in an email:
1) HB 2384 — making all Virginia schools 100 percent tobacco/nicotine free. This is significant because Big Tobacco has opposed such efforts in the past. It also is a sign that the tide is turning to recognize the dangers of cigarettes and vaping on children.
2) HB 1642 — requiring the Dept. of Corrections (DOC) to collect/report data on inmates in solitary confinement. I’ve been working with DOC for years to get the number of inmates in solitary down. We’ve decreased the number by more than 70 percent. This data collection effort will help us figure out who remains, why they are there, and if we can provide additional mental health resources to get them out.
3) HB 1933 — allow jails to treat people with serious mental illness who are unable to give consent. Current law requires that these individuals be sent to an inpatient hospital setting (mental health institution). This is part of a series of laws I’ve passed to allow treatment to occur in an outpatient or other appropriate setting in order to free up more inpatient psychiatric beds.
Del. Alfonso Lopez
Lopez is Democratic co-whip in the House of Delegates. He has served as a delegate since 2012, but now faces a challenger in J.D. Spain for his campaign for re-election this year.
Spain is a Marine Corps veteran who leads the local NAACP chapter and has said he wanted to “sharply draw a contrast” between his and Lopez’s stances on housing affordability and the achievement gap.
Lopez told ARLnow about his biggest wins this year in Richmond in an email:
- Successfully Increased Funding for Affordable Housing. In 2013, my legislation created the Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Over the years the Trust Fund has become one of the major vehicles for addressing housing instability and homelessness prevention in the Commonwealth […] This year, working with the Governor’s office, we were able to secure an additional $7 million in total revenue for the Trust Fund — increasing the biennial budget amount to $18 million (far above typical appropriations)! This is a great step forward in our efforts to help Virginia families. That being said, I believe that we must do a great deal more to address affordable housing in every corner of the Commonwealth […]
- Driver’s License Suspensions. After working on this issue for several years, I was very proud that the General Assembly finally ended drivers license suspensions for individuals who have served their time, but are unable to pay court fines and/or fees (over 600,000 Virginians are hurt by this outdated policy). […] When a person’s driver’s license is suspended, they may face a difficult dilemma: obey the suspension and potentially lose their ability to provide for their families, or drive anyway and face further punishment — or even imprisonment — for driving under a suspended license. I am very happy that this misguided policy has finally been overturned with bipartisan support. This ends what I’ve often referred to as a modern day debtor’s prison […]
- Military ID & Passport Security. Before this session, there was no provision in state law that mandated immediate notification to people whose passport or military ID numbers were stolen in an online security breach. This left the information of many Virginians (especially in our area) at significant risk. I’m proud to have introduced and passed a bill, HB 2396, that fixes this glaring hole in the law. Virginia will now require that Passport and military ID information have the same protections as bank information and social security numbers.
Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Board member Katie Cristol will face no Democratic challengers during this year’s primary.
No additional Democratic challengers have filed for candidacy by yesterday’s registration deadline, and staff with the county’s Office of Elections confirmed to ARLnow that there are no other pending filings.
Most of the all-Democratic cast of incumbents up for re-election this year are running an uncontested primary, including:
- Delegates Mark Levine, Rip Sullivan, and Patrick Hope
- State Senators Adam Ebbin, Janet Howell
- Sheriff Beth Arthur
- Treasurer Carla de la Pava
- Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy
Only three of the county’s twelve races on the ballot are contested: the race for state Senator from the 31st District, delegate from the 49th District, and Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Arlington’s primary election will welcome voters to the polls on June 11 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Any voters waiting in line by 7 p.m. can vote.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos is being challenged by Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, a former public defender who aims to usher in criminal justice reform and said of Stamos: “We can no longer hope for reform from the very same lifelong prosecutors who’ve spent their careers building this flawed machine.”
Stamos, who has served as prosecutor for the last seven years, has drawn support from 50 county attorneys and says the endorsements demonstrate her “record of competence, fairness and decency.”
Del. Alfonso H. Lopez faces challenge from J.D. Spain, Sr., a Marine Corps veteran who helms the local NAACP chapter and said he wanted to “sharply draw a contrast” on his and Lopez’s take on issues like housing affordability as Amazon’s arrival nears, and the achievement gap between black and white students in APS.
Lopez is the Democratic co-whip in the House of Delegates and hasn’t faced a challenger since his first election in 2011.
The last contested race revolves around incumbent state Senator and former County Board member Barbara Favola.
Favola has said her “strong record of accomplishment” during her three terms in Richmond is strong enough to ward off a challenge from Nicole Merlene, who’s been active in various civc groups, including the Arlington County Civic Federation, her local North Rosslyn Civic Association, and Young Democrats. Merlene says she can take “bold action” to solve the region’s transportation and affordable housing woes.
Dorsey and Cristol will running against repeat candidate Audrey Clement in the General Election on November 5. Clement, an independent, is running on a platform of “tax relief for residents and businesses” as well as improvements to housing programs and the county’s basic services.
There are currently no Republican or independent challengers in the running other than Clement, although there has been some speculation that former independent Board Member John Vihstadt may run again, perhaps for School Board, after losing his seat to Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti last November.
Republican and independent challengers have until 7 p.m. on June 11 to register their candidacy.
Last year, Matt de Ferranti’s win for the Democratic nomination came amid low primary turnout. Just 7.7 percent of registered Arlington voters, or 11,500 people, turned up to cast their ballots last year.
Residents voting this year must register at least 30 days before the primaries and can do so online, in person at the Office of Elections at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, or by mailing this application to the Office of Elections.
Registered voters receive a precinct number for their polling number which they can check here.
This year’s primaries will also be the last for Arlington’s election chief Linda Lindberg who announced in February she would be retiring this summer after serving for 16 years as the county’s General Registrar.
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A dispute between two private country clubs and Arlington County that resulted in some wrangling in Richmond seems to have come to an end.
The Army Navy Country Club (1700 Army Navy Drive) and Washington Golf and Country Club (3017 N. Glebe Road) were both pushing for property tax changes that could have cost the county roughly $1.4 million in tax revenue each year, even backing legislation at the state level this year to force those alterations. That miffed county leaders, who bristled at attempts by the state General Assembly to change Arlington’s tax policy to save money for the golf courses.
Now, the county has agreed to reduce the tax burden on each club by tweaking how it values their land, according to an April 27 email sent out by the Washington Golf and Country Club’s president and obtained by ARLnow. County attorney Steve MacIsaac confirmed that the parties have signed off on a settlement agreement, putting to bed a 2014 lawsuit brought by the clubs over the tax question.
“Like any settlement, both sides give a little bit to get to a mutually acceptable outcome,” MacIsaac told ARLnow.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) had vetoed the bill addressing the issue in the hopes that the county and the clubs would come to some sort of compromise, and his spokeswoman Ofirah Yheskel said his office is “still evaluating the details but support[s] a locally negotiated solution here.”
The country clubs had backed the legislation, sponsored by Del. Tim Hugo, R-40th District, which would have forced the county to change how it assesses the value of the roughly 630 acres held by the two clubs.
Currently, the courses are valued as “large acreage parcels” at $12 per square foot, while residential land near each course is valued as high $100 per square foot. Hugo’s legislation would have slashed the rate to about 50 cents per square foot, in a bid to meet persistent concerns from the courses that they were overtaxed.
Washington Golf and Country Club President Stephen Fedorchak wrote a letter to members explaining that the county now has agreed to reduce the club’s valuation from “approximately $93 million to approximately $47 million” in 2018, which reduces the club’s property tax bill this year to about $460,000. Arlington also plans to credit $815,000 toward the club’s current tax bill to make up for the last three tax bills the club has paid at the previous, higher valuation, MacIsaac added.
“We are gratified by this reasonable, sustainable resolution,” Fedorchak wrote to members. “It will benefit the club’s general fiscal health for years to come.”
Raighne Delaney, the Army Navy Country Club’s secretary, did not respond to a call seeking details on the structure of his course’s deal with Arlington. But MacIsaac estimated that the club will receive about $1.25 million in credits toward its tax bill, and the valuation of the property will shrink by 25 to 35 percent under the terms of the settlement.
The Army Navy Country Club was assessed at just over $149 million for 2018, and was set to owe about $842,000 in taxes this year before any credits.
Starting in 2019, the clubs’ assessments will “increase or decrease based on the average annual change in the county’s residential real estate assessments,” Fedorchak wrote. Should the assessment change “outside those parameters” the clubs reserve the right to challenge that valuation, Fedorchak noted.
Arlington officials have previously argued that land is at a premium in the 26-square-mile county, necessitating the higher taxes.
“Our community is already grappling with reductions to services in order to address budget gaps for the upcoming fiscal year and larger projected budget gaps in future years,” the county board wrote in a March 21 letter to Northam urging him to veto Hugo’s bill.
A state bill targeted at helping country clubs in Arlington would cost the county more than $2 million in tax revenue, an internal county report says.
HB 1204, patroned by Fairfax and Prince William County Del. Tim Hugo (R), passed the House of Delegates last week by a vote of 65-33-1. The bill would “reserve to the Commonwealth the power to classify golf courses as land dedicated to open space for assessment and tax purposes,” according to an internal Arlington County fact sheet.
More from the bill’s summary:
Requires the assessing official in any county that experienced at least a 14% increase in population from 2010 to 2016 to specially and separately assess real property that is devoted to open space and contains at least five acres based on the actual physical use of the property, if requested to do so by the owner. The measure is effective for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2018.
The bill only would apply to Arlington and Loudoun counties, we’re told, and it would primarily affect the tax assessments of two entities: Army Navy Country Club and Washington Golf and Country Club, both in Arlington.
The country clubs are currently suing the county, challenging their respective assessments. Arlington assesses each based in part on their potential value as developable land, meaning that the assessments — and yearly tax bills — are much higher than if the clubs were assessed only on the basis of their current use.
Army Navy Country Club, near Pentagon City, was assessed at $149 million this year, and paid $1.5 million in taxes last year, according to county records. Washington Golf and Country Club, located along N. Glebe Road near Marymount University, is assessed at $79 million and paid about $839,000 in taxes last year.
The internal county report says that the country clubs are both currently assessed as “large acreage parcels,” valued at about $12 per square foot. By comparison, some residential property near WGCC is assessed at nearly $100 per square foot. Should the legislation pass, the assessed value of the clubs is expected to drop to around $0.50 per square foot, costing the county nearly $2.4 million.
“This is a bad bill for Arlington County government and for Arlington County property owners,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol, adding that it would set a “damaging precedent.”
The Virginia Municipal League is opposing Hugo’s bill, which is currently being considered by the state Senate. In an email, the organization urged localities to take action.
“Notwithstanding the arguments posed by the bill’s proponents, the measure shatters existing state policy,” the email said. “If approved, nothing will prevent future General Assemblies from giving away local tax dollars and disregarding land use and tax policy decisions that belong to local governments. And, for the record, HB 1204 does not obligate the Commonwealth to reimburse local governments for the resulting lost revenues.”
The state Senate’s Finance Committee is expected to discuss the legislation at a hearing Tuesday morning.
At its meeting Saturday, two County Board members supported advertising a higher property tax rate, based on the risk of lost tax revenue from the bill. A majority of the Board, however, voted against raising the rate.
Several absentee voting measures have been sent to the House of Delegates’ Privileges and Elections study committee for review in 2019, meaning the legislation is effectively dead for 2018.
The bills, introduced by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), included a measure which would have allowed for senior citizens to vote with an absentee ballot up to and including the day of an election. Another, SB602, would have allowed for “no-excuse” absentee ballot voting beginning 21 days prior to an election, meaning that anyone could have voted with an absentee ballot without needing a qualifying reason for not being able to wait in line at the polls.
“We want to make it easier for people to vote and participate in democracy rather than harder,” said Ebbin. “In Arlington in particular, there are a lot of busy people who work a lot of unpredictable hours. Right now, working late is not a valid excuse for absentee voting.”
“It should be easier to vote, and we don’t want anyone to be disenfranchised.”
Though the bills will not have a chance to be passed until after the 2018 midterm elections, Ebbin told ARLnow.com that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to wait, saying it “can be a good thing” as the bill will “get a more full hearing and more education and more consideration and more chance to educate legislators on these issues.”