Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey recently started a discussion about whether Board members should be better paid.
County Board members make just over $50,000 a year for what is considered part-time work. But in reality, Garvey says, Board members spend full-time hours studying and discussing the issues, attending community events and taking meetings, in addition to the long hours spent conducting County Board meetings and work sessions multiple times per month.
With Arlington’s high cost of living, a $50,000 a year salary may give otherwise qualified County Board candidates a strong economic disincentive to run.
(It should be noted that the earliest the County Board could enact a pay raise for themselves is 2020.)
On the other hand, some argue that there have been no shortage of candidates running for County Board and that the office does not necessarily have to be a full-time endeavor.
So what are County Board members spending their time on? A daily schedule for County Board members, obtained by an Arlington resident under the Freedom of Information Act and provided to ARLnow.com, provides a glimpse of Board members’ working schedules during the last three months of 2015.
Currently, County Board members are paid between about $51,500 and $56,500. The position is considered part-time, and three out of the five current members have other jobs, but in practice Board members end up working full-time hours in service of the county.
As reported by the Washington Post, Garvey wants to start a discussion about raising County Board member pay closer to the county’s median family income of $110,900, which would be more in line with what Fairfax and Montgomery counties pay their elected officials.
Board member John Vihstadt, a partner with a D.C. law firm, says he does not favor a pay raise and thinks it’s better for County Board members to have other jobs.
What do you think?
Fire Station Open Houses — Arlington County’s ten fire stations will be hosting open houses on Saturday as part of Fire Prevention Week. The open houses will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will allow attendees of all ages to tour the stations, climb in the trucks, talk to firefighters and learn about fire safety. [Arlington County]
Sun Gazette Endorses Garvey — Incumbent Democratic Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey has won the endorsement of the Sun Gazette over independent challenger Audrey Clement. Garvey “is the only candidate on the ballot who has both a track record on the issues and in building coalitions to serve the public,” the newspaper says. [InsideNova]
Arlington Ranked No. 25 Bicycling City — Arlington County is the 25th-ranked “city” for bicycling in the country, according to Bicycling Magazine. Arlington offers robust bicycling infrastructure and does a good job of encouraging residents to get out of their cars and try biking to work instead, but it “consistent enforcement” of traffic laws to protect cyclists “remains an issue.” [Bicycling]
Garvey to Hold Book Discussion — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey is launching a series of community book discussions on various topics. Tonight Garvey and School Board Chair Nancy Van Doren will discuss the best-selling book “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.” The discussion will take place at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 7:30-9 p.m. [Facebook]
Beer Store, TechShop Collaborate for New Kegerator — Crystal City Wine Shop (220 20th Street S.) has teamed up with nearby TechShop to create a new kegerator. The custom-modified refrigerator allows the store to offer varieties of craft beer that aren’t available in bottles or cans. Customers can take the beer home in fillable cans known as crowlers. [Washington Business Journal]
Cosi Files for Bankruptcy — The Cosi chain of sandwich and salad restaurants has filed for bankruptcy and closed 40 percent of its locations. Among the closed stores: the Cosi in Courthouse. A rep for the company told us yesterday: “The decision to close this restaurant was based on its financial performance and market density. At this time, we do not have any plans to reopen this restaurant.” [Nation’s Restaurant News]
Flash Flood Watch Continues — Forecasters are expecting several more inches of rain to fall between now and Saturday. The potential for flash flooding along streams and low-lying areas remains and a Flash Flood Watch is still in effect. [Twitter, Twitter]
It may not be worthy of a “blue ribbon panel” designation, but a group of county staffers will soon be tasked with examining the tangle of Arlington County’s various codified master plans and priorities.
The County Board unanimously approved a charge for the “interdepartmental staff team” yesterday afternoon, with little further discussion. The team will conduct an “integrated review” of the 11 elements of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, along with various neighborhood and place plans and County Board resolutions, and will report back to the Board this spring.
The overarching goal: “to clearly communicate Arlington County’s priorities.”
In April, the Board approved the creation of a “blue ribbon panel” of mostly outside experts to do basically the same thing: develop “recommendations for how the Board should develop strategic priorities.” A month later, the Board voted unanimously to defer the creation of the panel, following complaints from community groups.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey, who’s championing the initiative, says the latest charge is the successor to the blue ribbon panel plan and is intended to be more informative than prescriptive.
“Things are all in different places,” she said, referring to the county’s sundry plans. “We want to put it all in one easily accessible and understood place and make things more clear.”
“I’ve been talking for years about the need to do strategic planning,” Garvey continued. “The blue ribbon panel approach was to get a small group of people to tell us how to do that.”
Following the complaints, Garvey said, “it was pretty clear to me that we needed to approach it in smaller steps.”
The County Board will consider the group’s report — it will also be placed on the county website for public review — and will then decide whether more action is necessary.
“That seems like a good step and we’ll see where we go from there,” Garvey said.
Arlington Searching for Ultimate Frisbee Coaches — With ultimate frisbee approved as a new school-sponsored sport, Arlington Public Schools in now on the hunt for frisbee coaches at each of its middle and high schools. [InsideNova]
Dems Hold Unity Event — Arlington Democrats are presenting a unified front heading into election season. After a bruising primary, both County Board Chair Libby Garvey and her once-challenger, Erik Gutshall, attended a Democratic unity event at the house of County Board member Jay Fisette last night. [Twitter, Twitter]
‘Tranquility’ in Crystal City Underground — Gallery Underground, the subterranean art gallery in the Crystal City Shops, is preparing for its next exhibit, on the theme of “Tranquility.” The month-long art show starts Sept. 1. [Gallery Underground]
Photo courtesy Eric LeKuch
Clement, a perennial candidate who is running as an independent this year, after formerly running under the Green Party banner, says that she shares the “disappointment that Senator Sanders did not succeed,” a still touchy subject among some Democratic voters.
“I happen to share a lot of Bernie’s values,” Clement says in a press release, below. “I will place meeting the needs of all Arlington residents first and the wants of wealthy special interests last on my agenda when elected to County Board.”
Clement later says that her opponent, incumbent County Board Chair Libby Garvey, has gone back to “rubber stamping the Arlington Democratic Party’s agenda” after splitting from party leaders over the Columbia Pike streetcar.
The full press release:
I’m Dr. Audrey Clement, Independent candidate for Arlington County Board.
I applaud the efforts of all those Arlington voters who worked hard to make Bernie Sanders the Democratic Nominee for President, and I share your disappointment that Senator Sanders did not succeed.
I happen to share a lot of Bernie’s values, among them a sincere interest in good government. As an Independent, I will place meeting the needs of all Arlington residents first and the wants of wealthy special interests last on my agenda when elected to County Board.
So I’m asking you to join my campaign in order to make progressive changes locally that you tried to make nationally.
I live in affordable housing that’s in danger of being bulldozed for million dollar townhomes, displacing seniors, students, the disabled, and the working poor. I want affordable housing preserved and new affordable housing built that’s actually affordable for everyone in Arlington.
I’ve ridden a bicycle everywhere for decades. But bicycles shouldn’t be Arlington’s only transportation alternative to more parking for thousands more single-occupant vehicles.
And it’s time for on-site renewable energy installed throughout our County.
It’s time for electric vehicles throughout our County, charged by renewable energy sources.
It’s time to put a moratorium on Smart Growth — which is just a euphemism for gentrification — until there’s a comprehensive evaluation of where Smart Growth is taking our County.
Who wants to live in a County that is unaffordable to anyone who earns less than 100% of area median income, or $110,000 per year?
My opponent says she’s “progressive”. She initially voted against the Pike Streetcar and the most extravagant excesses of the Democratic Old Guard.
But, having been challenged in a primary election by an Old Guard Democrat, she’s gone back to rubber stamping the Arlington Democratic Party’s agenda.
With your help we can have better, more diverse, County Government at less cost.
Please visit my website — www.AudreyClement.com — to volunteer, donate and/or comment on issues of concern to you.
A new working group appointed by the County Manager will be conducting a “comprehensive review” of that program.
The program is currently offered to homeowners age 65 or older, with an annual income of up to $99,472 and household assets (excluding the home itself) up to $340,000. Depending on the income level and assets, the homeowners may qualify for a full or partial exemption. A deferral of taxes until the home changes ownership is available for any portion that’s not exempt.
The County Board included funds in the latest county budget for a review of the program.
“In conducting research for the [Affordable Housing Master Plan], the County found that many low-income senior households on fixed incomes face financial stress related to increasing condominium fee and real estate tax burdens,” said the new Real Estate Tax Relief Working Group charge. “The AHMP’s accompanying Implementation Framework included a recommendation to review the goals and guidelines of the RETR Program, and to consider redefinition of income levels, asset levels, and criteria for exemptions and deferrals.”
In the recent Arlington County Board primary, Board Chair Libby Garvey was criticized by Democratic challenger Erik Gutshall for supposedly “threatening the ability of our most vulnerable seniors to live in Arlington.”
Garvey explained that she wants to lower the eligibility barriers for the tax deferral program. She hinted, however, that the full tax exemption might be under additional scrutiny, as it can “provide quite a windfall” to a homeowner’s heirs once the home is sold.
The working group is tasked with presenting its final recommendations this winter, ahead of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget process.
The full county press release, after the jump.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey will join other cyclists for the third annual Kennan Garvey Memorial Ride, dedicated to her late husband.
It will take place on Saturday, August 6 from 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
The full 100 mile-long ride, described by organizers as a “Sizzling Suburban Century,” begins at the Phoenix Bikes shop on Four Mile Run Drive. It goes out to Purcellville in Loudoun County and back along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.
The ride is open to cyclists of all ages and skill levels with shorter course options available:
- 15-mile course: Ride from Phoenix Bikes to Falls Church (turnaround at rest stop located at Bikenetic Full Service Bicycle Shop)
- 30-mile course: Ride from Phoenix Bikes to Reston and back (turnaround at rest stop located at Sunrise Valley Elementary School)
- 60-mile course: Ride from Phoenix Bikes to Leesburg and back (turnaround at rest stop located at Douglass School)
- 90-mile course: Ride from Phoenix Bikes to Purcellville and back (turnaround at trail’s end, stopping at rest stop at Veloville USA Bike and Coffee Shop)
- 100-mile/century course: Ride from Phoenix Bikes to Purcellville and back (as above), starting east on Four Mile Run Trail around Arlington Loop to W&OD trail
The entry fee is $25 and there is also a $500 fundraising goal for each rider. Riders and volunteers will receive a free shirt and boxed lunch and riders who exceed the $500 fundraising goal will receive an incentive prize.
As of today, $1,115 has been raised towards the event’s fundraising goal of $20,000.
Prior to his death, Kennan Garvey, a cycling aficionado, had planned to volunteer for Phoenix Bikes, a non-profit that serves as a community bike shop and an education program. This year, it was named the “Best Nonprofit” by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
“[Phoenix Bikes] is a group which teaches kids how to repair bikes and was one of the organizations Kennan was planning to devote time to in his upcoming retirement,” said Libby Garvey. “As many of you know, Kennan was an avid cyclist and always did most of the maintenance on his bikes himself. He loved working with kids and passing on his knowledge in so many areas. He would have taken great satisfaction in teaching kids to be self-reliant operators of his favorite environmentally-friendly vehicle,”
Photo courtesy Libby Garvey
Bracing for the Next Two Metro Surges — There will be no Metrorail service at the National Airport station during the next two Metrorail maintenance surge projects, from July 5 to July 18. Blue and Yellow line riders can expect major service impacts and should consider alternative means of commuting, from biking to Uber to taking the bus. The new Metroway Bus Rapid Transit line from Alexandria to Crystal City will be free during the two surges. [Washington Post, NBC Washington, Twitter, WMATA]
Tributes to Cafe Asia — As ARLnow.com first reported, today is expected to be the last day in business for Cafe Asia in Rosslyn. The restaurant was a go-to lunch, after work and event spot for some of Rosslyn’s media and political types, who have been posting memories of Cafe Asia on Twitter and elsewhere. [Washington Business Journal, Twitter, Twitter]
Garvey Profiled in Weekly Standard — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, who defeated challenger Erik Gutshall in the Democratic primary two weeks ago, has been profiled by the conservative political magazine the Weekly Standard. “From her fight for fiscal conservatism over a costly streetcar plan to her endorsement of Republican-turned-independent John Vihstadt (who eventually became a fellow Board member), it is no wonder that some of her fellow liberals are worried about the county’s direction,” the magazine wrote. [Weekly Standard]
Photo by Jackie Friedman
Beyer Participates in House Sit-In — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) was among the Democratic members of the House of Representatives participating in a sit-in for gun control. Beyer gave a speech on the House floor at 4:15 this morning. [C-SPAN, Twitter]
Arlington’s 11-Year-Old Police Chief — Carlin Springs Elementary student Nathnael Abraham, 11, served as Arlington’s Police Chief-for-the-Day on Tuesday. As chief Nathnael was especially concerned about bank robberies. “I think the most important crime problem would be robberies — bank robberies, because they’re taking money that belongs to other people, and that’s not OK,” he told NBC4’s Pat Collins. [NBC Washington]
Garvey: Vacancy Rate Still Too High — Even though it’s come down by 1 percent in the past year, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey says Arlington’s 20.2 percent office vacancy rate is way too high. The county has been actively working to attract businesses and bring the rate down. Each 1 percent of vacancy costs the county about $3.4 million in tax revenue. [Arlington County]
Whistleblower Hotline to Be Expanded — Arlington County will be expanding its recently-implemented waste, fraud and abuse hotline this fall. The hotline, currently only available for county employees, will be opened to the general public. In its first year, the hotline received 13 complaints, one of which resulted in a policy change and two of which are still under review. No widespread waste or fraud was uncovered, the county says. [InsideNova]
New Agreement With JBMHH — On June 15 Arlington County and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall signed a new memorandum of agreement for a partnership that will provide services and cost savings to the base. [Pentagram]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey addressed transportation and affordable housing on Columbia Pike at her State of the County address Tuesday morning.
Garvey said the county needs to “fix the transportation” on the Pike, “not that it’s too bad now.” She referenced the Transit Development Plan for enhanced bus service on Columbia Pike, which the Board is expected to consider at its July meeting.
Garvey noted that there has been continued development along the Columbia Pike corridor. The cancellation of the streetcar project — Garvey led the charge against it — “hasn’t affected people as much as some would suggest,” she said.
Garvey also said the county needs to “slow down a bit” the pace of affordable housing development along Arlington’s western end of Columbia Pike, to avoid an over-concentration of affordable housing in one place.
“It’s great what we’re doing, but I think we have to be aware that you don’t want to concentrate it too much,” she said.
That should be welcome news to the Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development (CARD), a particularly vocal civic group formed last year in opposition to what it views as a clustering of affordable housing on Columbia Pike. The group says it favors a more even geographic distribution of affordable housing throughout Arlington.
(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) Arlington has more to do to make the county friendlier to small businesses, particularly those with brick-and-mortar storefronts.
That was one of the messages sent by Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey during her State of the County talk this morning.
Garvey discussed the county’s efforts to compete economically during the talk, which is hosted by the Arlington County Chamber of Commerce. While Garvey lauded the county’s push to attract large employers — particularly tech-related firms — to Arlington, she lamented that small businesses are still encountering regulatory road blocks. As an example, she cited the experience of former Democratic state delegate Rob Krupicka, who opened a Sugar Shack Donuts location along Columbia Pike in February.
Garvey noted that Krupicka — who served in the House of Delegates for four years, representing parts of Arlington and Alexandria — had been expressing frustration on Facebook with the process of opening a shop in Arlington. She later reached out to him, asking that he share his experience with county staff.
“It was a little hard as a Board member to sit there and hear it,” she said. “He had to come in six times to get approval for a sign… And this was a small business, [Rob] is the one doing it all. [He also] had to come in to pay for permits and things because you can’t pay online.”
“We need to be thinking of the big guys, going to China [to attract businesses],” said Garvey, “but we also need to be down on the very granular level and make sure people don’t have to come six times for a sign — and can pay online. We’re working on it, we’re not there yet, but we’re absolutely committed to making it work.”
Asked about his experience, Krupicka said it was “definitely easier” to open his first donut shop in Alexandria than it was to open his second in Arlington.
“Both have their issues. Both have good staff. Alexandria has put a lot of effort into streamlining and it shows,” Krupicka told ARLnow.com. “The Arlington permitting process is in need of streamlining and modernization.”
There were five areas in particular where Arlington County could improve, according to Krupicka.
- “Payments have to be made by mail or in person rather than online and for some things you can’t move forward without payment, so that means waiting in line in the planning office for hours to get your name called so you can hand a check to somebody.”
- “Planning, Zoning, Health, etc. don’t talk to each other and it appears they don’t understand where each other fits in the process. The process actually seems to assume the small business person will force that communication and coordination. That is crazy, as the small business person shouldn’t have to be an expert on government process, the process should be designed to be easy. The big guys just hire lawyers. Small businesses should not have to.”
- “Many permits need to be applied for in person. You can’t just submit them online. You have to sit in the office and wait to be called, wasting hours of time. I have spent days waiting in the county offices. I have overheard a lot of very unhappy individuals and business people. The elected officials should spend some time walking through this process.”
- “In Alexandria you only need one permit to put up a building sign. It takes 20 days or so. In Arlington, you need two permits, zoning and construction, and it takes 60 days plus. In Alexandria you can apply online and never have to go into the office. My Arlington sign had me to to the County Offices at least 5 times wasting a lot of money on parking and more importantly time.”
- “There is an online system for some things, but in my experience, it was very cumbersome and I spent hours working with tech support to get it to work. I’m hoping that is fixed now.”
“All of this could be streamlined without impacting the proper county regulatory role,” Krupicka concluded. “I was impressed the way Libby Garvey reached out to me, tried to help and then made time and organized county staff to listen to my experience in order to try and fix it. She, [County Board member John] Vihstadt and Commissioner [of Revenue] Ingrid Morroy were the three that made a real effort to help me.”
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
It wasn’t a landslide, but Libby Garvey handily won Tuesday’s primary in the race for County Board. In a presidential election year and with no Republican on the ballot, she is almost assured of re-election in November.
Garvey’s willingness to break away from the insular group think of her predecessors on the County Board earned her a comfortable majority of her fellow Democrats — many of whom had undoubtedly crossed over to vote for Republican-backed Independent John Vihstadt two years ago. Many County Board watchers are now curious whether this will have any impact on the only holdout from the old board, Jay Fisette, and his decision about seeking another term in 2017?
Unfortunately, the efforts of Garvey and Vihstadt on the new audit function of the county took a blow this week when County Auditor Jessica Tucker announced her resignation. Tucker came to Arlington from Fairfax County and she brought a background as a government auditor from the local to the federal level.
As the County Board re-opens the search, they should also use the opportunity to re-examine the charge for the position.
First, the Board should consider candidates with a private sector background. If we truly want to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of our government operations, maybe we should consider someone with experience outside of other government bodies. It doesn’t mean we have to run government exclusively like a business, but running it more like a business could be helpful.
Second, the Board should provide the budget for at least one or two additional dedicated staff members who report directly to the Auditor, not the County Manager. If we are going to have an independent audit function, the office needs to be able to have the capacity to operate independently.
Third, the Board should consider removing the County Manager and Director of the Department of Management and Finance from the Audit Committee. If this function is to be truly independent and report only to the Board, then why does the county staff have a direct say in what will be audited?
Starting over with a new person is an unfortunate step backward. Hopefully the Board will use the opportunity to move toward more independence while working diligently to fill the position as quickly as possible.
Mark Kelly is the chairman of the 8th District Republican Committee, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
Shark Tank Casting in Crystal City — ABC’s “Shark Tank” is holding a casting call today at the 1776 incubator in Crystal City. “Applicants will have roughly 90 seconds to make their initial pitches to casting producers, with about three minutes for a Q&A portion.” [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Man Is Suspected Serial Bank Robber — Police have identified a serial bank robbery suspect who was arrested Friday in Falls Church as 42-year-old Arlington resident Amin Huie. Police say Huie is the “Forever Loyal Bandit” who has robbed seven banks since 2014, including a Capital One Bank on Columbia Pike last year. [Fairfax County PD, WJLA]
More on Garvey’s Win — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey’s “unorthodox, controversial” strategy of appealing to non-Democrats in the Democratic primary is “likely to alter future campaigns,” writes Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey, in an analysis of Garvey’s decisive primary win last night. [InsideNova]
Repairs to Westover Branch Library — Work to repair water damage and install new windows at the Westover Branch Library will take place from mid-July to late September. The library will remain open during that time. [Arlington Public Library]
County Touts Increase in Trail Usage — “After a week of single tracking along the Orange/Silver Line between Ballston and East Falls Church, automated counters in the County’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor show an increase of between 70 and 90 percent in bike ridership from the same period last year. Capital BikeShare use in Arlington is up between 20 and 50 percent.” [Arlington County]