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Election Day in Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

On Election Day, a majority of Arlingtonians approved six bond measures, worth $510 million, that will fund a variety of projects throughout the county.

The biggest expenses for the next 10 years include upgrades to its Water Pollution Control Plant, where local sewage goes, and funding to build a new Arlington Career Center campus.

Arlington County finances these big-ticket projects by selling bonds, mostly to institutional investors like Travelers, State Farm and Blackrock, but also — to an extent — to retail investors and residents. It uses bonds, in the aggregate, to pay for smaller-ticket items: new park playground equipment or upgraded HVAC units, lighting and kitchens and new, more secure entrances in Arlington Public Schools.

But earlier this month the bond market took a huge hit, falling more in one day than it had in a decade, the Wall Street Journal reports. Investors had sold off government bonds — normally seen as an “ultrasafe” investment for companies and retirement accounts — in response to higher interest rates, which the Federal Reserve raised to tackle inflation.

That might mean a new type of investor buying Arlington’s bonds.

“With the historically low interest rates over the past decade, smaller retail investors have not been as big a presence, however with recent rate increases their participation may increase,” county spokesman Ryan Hudson said.

A list of top bond holders from 2020 (via Arlington County)

But for Chris Edwards, a researcher with the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, the current market is more of a reason why wealthy jurisdictions like Arlington should not be using bonds to pay for projects.

“There’s more of an argument for a government to issue debt when interest rates are near zero, which they were a few years ago,” he tells ARLnow. “The era of historically low interest rates for last 10 years is over. It seems we’ll have inflation for a number of years now and that means Arlington’s borrowing costs are going to be higher. It’s the same reason now is not a good time to buy a house with a 30-year mortgage.”

For the county, bonds are a “generational equity issue,” Hudson said.

“The use of municipal bonds spreads payments over ten or twenty years, which more closely aligns with the useful life of County projects and requires future residents to bear some of the burden of paying for the costs of projects from which they directly benefit,” Hudson said.

In other words, it wouldn’t be fair or financially feasible for current residents to fully fund multi-year capital projects, like the $48 million issued for the Lubber Run Community Center, in one year.

Support for county bond referenda has plateaued since the 1980s, after climbing from an average passage rate of 58% from 1951 to 1979 to an average rate of 75% from 1980 to 2021, Edwards wrote in a blog post discussing bond passage margins in Arlington since the 1950s.

Bond support in Arlington since the 1950s (courtesy of Chris Edwards/Cato Institute)

While the 2022 bond referenda all passed, registered voters were marginally more supportive of wastewater plant updates (85% approval) and stormwater improvements (80% approval) — perhaps in response to recent flooding events — than they were for renovations to county buildings (72%), parks (79%) and schools (77%), according to results from the Virginia Dept. of Elections.

Although three-quarters of Arlington residents generally vote for bonds, there is some criticism about the method for funding projects as well as to the kind of projects it is applied.

“I think, especially a place like Arlington, I don’t see an advantage in using debt,” Edwards tells ARLnow. “If the County Board thinks it needs a new library or high school, they should make the case to raise property taxes to fund the things they want. In my view, that would be more transparent.”

Voters tend to reject tax increases but they tend to support bonds, he said. That dissonance, he concludes, is the result of “a case of misinformation.”

“Bonds increase taxes in the future because the government is going to have to pay the interest on those bonds,” he said. “Who are we, today, to impose interest costs on Arlingtonians 10-20 years down the road?”

He said he is not against debt for big projects with long-lasting benefits, such as D.C.’s bonds to fund sewage improvements. But smaller things, like school improvement projects, should not be bond-funded.

There is also concern from some that the county is close to maxing out some of the limits that it self-imposes in order to regulate how many bonds it issues. These limits exist to ensure Arlington maintains its triple-A bond rating, given by credit agencies that have determined the county has an excellent track record of paying back its debts.

The county tries to keep how much debt is paying off to 10% of its general expenditures. Over the next 10 years, the ratio is expected to peak at 9.85%.

Ratio of tax-supported debt service to general expenditures (via Arlington County)

Another ratio that the county is close to maxing out is the ratio of debt per person to income per person, which cannot exceed 6% and over the next 10 years could range from 4.5-5.9%.

It is possible for the county to max out on how many bonds it can issue, Hudson said. But when asked if Arlington County could still issue bonds in the next 10 years, Hudson said “the short answer is yes.”

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Morning Notes

New Rosslyn Food Hall Nears Opening — “American Real Estate Partners is nearly ready to take the wraps off Assembly, the food hall atop the Rosslyn Metro station, a project that’s been more than two years in the works and was thrown a curveball by the Covid-19 pandemic. Assembly at Rosslyn City Center, a 29,000-square-foot space spread over two levels at 1700 N. Moore St., is slated to open this week for a sneak peak for tenants and next week to the wider public.” [Washington Business Journal]

Northam Announcement in Arlington Today — “Gov. Northam will announce a ‘budget proposal for federal American Rescue Plan funding’ at the Arlington County offices in Sequoia Plaza on Wednesday afternoon, per a press release.” [Twitter]

Bonds Likely to Be on Ballot — “Arlington County Board members on July 20 formally requested the placement of four local-bond referendums on the Nov. 2 ballot, which if approved by voters – as seems likely – would lead to a further increase in the government’s debt-service payments… the following bonds will go to voters: $38.7 million for transportation and Metro. $23.01 million for schools. $17.035 million for community infrastructure. $6.8 million for local parks and recreation.” [Sun Gazette]

ART Buses Lifting Capacity Restrictions — “Starting August 1, rider capacity restrictions will be lifted on all ART buses. Seats inside the buses will no longer be blocked off.” [Twitter]

Ceremony Held for Urban Garden — “Project HUG revitalizes underused land at Virginia Highlands Park and illustrates how marginalized space in National Landing’s urban environment can be transformed into vibrant, sustainable, food producing ecosystems. This pilot project serves as a model of modern sustainable agricultural practices to demonstrate how community-driven farming can address food insecurity by leveraging partnerships across public, private, civic, and non-profit communities.” [Press Release]

Va. Unemployment System Struggling — “As the embattled Virginia Employment Commission has been scrambling to move through a massive backlog of unemployment claims, thousands more cases have been pouring in from jobless residents. Staff who review disputed claims have been leaving the agency, and the General Assembly’s watchdog has sounded alarms about measures being taken by the commission to hasten the process in response. Many unemployed Virginians say the commission’s unresponsive call center has stopped picking up the phone.” [Washington Post]

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When Arlington residents head to the ballot box on Nov. 8, they won’t just choose candidates for office. They’ll also be able to vote on four local bond issues and two state constitutional amendments.

Taxpayers will be asked to approve nearly $315.8 million in general bond obligations. Additionally, they’ll be able to vote for or against adding “right-to-work” and property tax exemption amendments to the Virginia constitution.

Members of the voting public can only vote “yes” or “no” to each of the four bond questions on the ballot. Each question rolls multiple projects into larger categories.

In the $138,830,000 Arlington Public Schools bond:

  • $26.03 million to build an addition at the Stratford building to add 339 middle school seats;
  • $78.4 million for construction of the new facility for H-B Woodlawn at the Wilson site, adding an estimated 775 seats;
  • $12 million to renovate the Career Center/Arlington Tech to add 300 seats;
  • $10 million for planning and design to build an additional 1,300 secondary seats at to-be-determined locations;
  • $12.4 million for HVAC, roofing, and other infrastructure improvement projects at existing APS buildings.

In the $98,850,000 Community Infrastructure bond:

  • $46.46 million to replace the Lubber Run Community Center with a new building that would have underground parking, a new gym and ADA-compliant courts and playground areas;
  • $12 million for a new parking deck at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School;
  • $12 million for neighborhood conservation and street improvements, residential traffic management, park enhancement, street lighting, beautification and landscaping projects;
  • $9.6 million for facilities maintenance on items like roofs, mechanical and electrical systems, and replacement and renewal of interior and exterior finishes. The money would also be used to keep those facilities up to code and within good working order;
  • $6.25 million to invest in county-owned buildings at Courthouse Plaza and fund new security and accessibility standards in those buildings;
  • $5.35 million for a new 31,000 square foot urban plaza in Nauck that would feature public art, the history of the neighborhood and other ornamental elements;
  • $3.24 million to convert and expand the existing Barcroft gym into a gymnastics program to meet increased demand;
  • $1.5 million for a new county childcare facility;
  • $1.33 million to centralize monitoring and maintenance of building systems;
  • $1.12 million for the design of the forthcoming Fire Station 8.

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Polling place signs outside Barrett Elementary SchoolArlington County taxpayers will be asked to approve $218.7 million in general bond obligations at the ballot box on Nov. 4.

The big-ticket question in that referendum will be $105.7 million for Arlington Public Schools, $50.25 million of which will pay for either a new elementary school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, or additions onto Randolph and Barcroft elementary schools.

The voting public can only vote to approve or reject to each of the four bond questions on the ballot — for public schools, Metro and transportation, parks and recreation funding and community infrastructure. Each question requests at least $13 million in funding, and all of the referenda roll multiple projects into the larger categories.

The items in the $105.7 million schools bond, aside from the $50 million elementary school, are:

  • $28.75 million for a 136-seat expansion at Abingdon Elementary School;
  • $10.31 million for “minor construction/maintenance” at school facilities;
  • $7.47 million toward a 241-seat addition and renovation at McKinley Elementary School;
  • $5 million for a 300-seat expansion at Washington-Lee High School;
  • $4 million in planning and design for a new, 1,300-seat secondary school at a yet-undetermined location.

The funding items in the $59.74 million transportation bond question:

  • $39 million for continuing funding of the Metro system;
  • $15.5 million for road paving;
  • $1.3 million for bridge renovations;
  • $2.39 million to be divvied up among WALKArlington, BikeArlington and “improvements to major travel corridors [outside] principal boundaries.”

The biggest items in the $40.15 million community infrastructure bond are:

  • $12 million for neighborhood conservation projects; $10 million for facilities maintenance;
  • $2.2 million for planning of the Salt Dome site on 26th Street N.;
  • $1.4 million toward a new Lubber Run Community Center;
  • $6.1 million combined for a new parking deck, wash bay and fueling station at the Arlington Trades Center.

The $13 million parks and recreation bond question includes:

  • $10 million for parks maintenance;
  • $2 million for land acquisition and open space;
  • $450,000 for Crystal City parks and open space;
  • $220,000 for Four Mile Run near-stream improvements.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the transportation and education bond packages, with assurances from county officials that the additional debt  won’t affect the county’s triple-AAA bond rating. The chamber doesn’t take a position on the community infrastructure and parks and rec bonds because they “are not directly tied to economic development.”

“Maintaining and improving quality transportation and education are two of the key components of our public-policy positions, and these bonds will assist in easing the traffic crunch and provide seats for Arlington’s growing student population,” Chamber Chair Timothy Hughes said in a press release.

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Morning Notes

Birthday party in Bluemont Park (Flickr pool by Dennis Dimick)

Att’y General to Consider Streetcar Referendum — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) will be asked by Del. Patrick Hope (D) to weigh in on whether Arlington County has the legal authority to hold an advisory referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. County officials say they don’t have the authority, and without General Assembly approval can only use a referendum for a general obligation bond issue. [InsideNova]

County Fair Adds Pentagon City Shuttle — The Arlington County Fair this year is adding a new shuttle option. In addition to shuttles from the Arlington Career Center, Ballston Metro and the I-66 parking garage, a shuttle will now run every 30 minutes from the Pentagon City Metro station. The fair runs from Aug. 6-10. [Arlington County Fair]

Falls Church, Arlington Treasurers Are Friends — Carla de la Pava and Jody Acosta, the new interim treasurers of Arlington County and Falls Church, are lifelong friends who grew up together in Alexandria. [Falls Church News-Press]

Rand Paul Makes News at Arlington Event — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made some headlines after speaking at the Young Americans for Liberty convention in Rosslyn last night. Paul told the libertarian group that he will no longer appear on MSNBC until the network apologizes for “lousy lies” about his position on the Civil Rights Act. [CNN]

Half-Priced Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory — The Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Clarendon (and others around the country) are offering half-priced slices of cheesecake for the second day in a row today in honor of National Cheesecake Day. The restaurant chain this week got some unwelcome attention with several “Xtreme Eating awards” for its calorie-laden meals. One slice of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake alone has 1,500 calories. [Cheesecake Factory, Fox News]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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County Board 2014 budget hearingThere will be no voter referendum on Arlington’s streetcar system, said a majority of Arlington County Board members in a coordinated PR blitz Tuesday afternoon.

County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada all read statements at Tuesday’s County Board meeting, stating opposition to a referendum on the streetcar and giving reasons why they support the $585 million project.

The Board members said they oppose using general obligation bonds to build the streetcar lines on Columbia Pike and in Crystal City. Rather, they expect to fund the streetcar with a mix of federal and state funds and with transportation-designated local business tax revenue.

“After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I do not support a referendum on streetcar,” Fisette said in his statement. “Under Virginia law… a referendum question must be tied to a vote on General Obligation bonds — and it is my commitment that we will use zero homeowner-financed general obligation bonds to build the streetcar.”

Rendering of a streetcar along Columbia Pike“I will walk away from the project rather than violate that pledge,” Fisette continued.

(About $71 million of the expense will be shared with Fairfax County, since the Pike streetcar will extend to Skyline.)

Fisette also ruled out waiting for Virginia General Assembly authorization to hold an advisory referendum.

“The time has come to act, to move forward without delay to build a streetcar system,” Fisette said.

Hynes, meanwhile, refuted arguments that the streetcar will take money away from other community needs, like schools. She and Tejada cited a study that suggests the streetcar will generate $735 million in new take revenue, thanks to added development along the streetcar line, over a 30 year period.

Tejada said he only supported the Columbia Pike streetcar after the county put plans in place to retain 6,200 units of affordable housing along the Pike while adding 14,000 new residences.

“There are better ways than a referendum to address concerns people have about this project,” said Tejada.

The coordinated statements from Fisette, Hynes and Tejada were accompanied by pro-streetcar materials generated by county staff. Among them were a press release (below, after the jump) and a series of 30-second video commercials explaining reasons why the county is building the streetcar, including:

“The County needs to do a better job of communicating the clear benefits of the modern streetcar, and we will do better,” Fisette said in his statement. “I would ask Arlington residents to study and learn about the issue — to go beyond the sound bites and give the matter the full consideration that this community always gives important issues.”

Apparently no one communicated anything about the referendum statements to Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt. Garvey and Vihstadt, who oppose the streetcar and advocate instead for enhanced bus service, both expressed surprise at the statements.

“Reasonable people… can differ about whether to hold a referendum, and whether the streetcar itself is worthwhile,” said Vihstadt, who then spoke of his reelection in the fall. “Fortunately there are other ways that the voters are able to express themselves on this issue, including elections in which candidates stand for office. There will be another such opportunity in November and the people look forward to it.”

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Morning Notes

Four Mile Run (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Morroy, O’Leary Join Call for Streetcar Referendum — The two elected officials directly responsible for managing the county’s money, Commissioner of the Revenue Ingrid Morroy and Treasurer Frank O’Leary, have joined Del. Patrick Hope and County Board candidate Alan Howze in support of a referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. (Hope’s fellow congressional candidate, Mark Levine, has also called for a referendum.) “This issue has become too divisive to fester any longer,” Morroy said in a press release. [Blue Virginia]

‘Film Processing Kiosk’ to Be Removed from Zoning — In a sign of the times, “film processing kiosk” is being removed from Arlington County’s zoning classifications. The designation was determined to be “archaic,” a victim of the rapid rise of digital photography. [InsideNova]

Ball-Sellers House Tours — The Arlington Historical Society is giving tours of the historic Ball-Sellers house every Saturday through October. The log cabin was built in 1750 and is Arlington County’s oldest house. [Washington Post]

Murphy Named ‘Superintendent of the Year’ — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy has been named Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. The group lauded Murphy’s “efforts to address school-crowding issues, improve graduation rates and address disparity in student achievement.” [InsideNova]

Follow-up: RaceDots Now Shipping — It’s been a long five months for Jason Berry and his company, RaceDots, since the company was profiled in our “Startup Monday” feature in December. Berry has spent long hours since then arranging for his product’s manufacture and shipment from China to the U.S. As of this week, the RaceDots — strong magnets used to hold race bibs in place instead of safety pins — finally arrived in his Harrisonburg warehouse. “The story behind getting the product here was an absolute struggle but we overcame the hurdles and are officially in business selling product from stock,” Berry told ARLnow.com. Berry tells the story on the company’s blog. [RaceDots]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Friday evening in Ballston (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Sweet Leaf Cafe Coming to Ballston — Sweet Leaf Cafe will be opening a second Arlington location. In addition to the existing Courthouse location, the local salad and sandwich chain will be opening a new cafe at 650 N. Quincy Street in Ballston, on the ground floor of the Residence Inn hotel. [Washington Business Journal]

Businesses Optimistic About County Ombudsman — Local businesses and developers hope that the appointment of assistant county manager Shannon Flanagan-Watson as Arlington County’s “business ombudsman” is another sign that that the county is serious about cutting red tape and being friendlier to business interests. [InsideNoVa]

GGW Blasts Streetcar Referendum Idea — Greater Greater Washington writer Canaan Merchant says that the Columbia Pike streetcar referendum proposal floated last week by Congressional candidate Del. Patrick Hope and County Board candidate Alan Howze is “pointless and possibly destructive.” [Greater Greater Washington]

TSA Opens Pre-Check Office in DCA — The Transportation Security Administration has opened a Pre-Check enrollment center at Reagan National Airport. The Pre-Check program allows “known travelers” who sign up to go through expedited screening lines at the airport. [Washington Post]

County to Provide Super Stop Update — County officials this afternoon will be holding a media briefing to provide an update into the comprehensive review into the $1 million “Super Stop” bus stop. Construction of the other 23 planned Super Stops is on hold while the county reviews cost and functionality concerns associated with the first Super Stop.

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Columbia Pike streetcar rendering(Updated at 10:20 a.m.) Del. Patrick Hope, Democratic candidate for Congress, and Alan Howze, Democratic nominee for Arlington County Board, joined forces yesterday to call for a voter referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar.

Hope and Howze are both streetcar supporters, but they said the controversial issue should be put to a referendum so that “we can put the streetcar debate to rest.”

Arlington County in the past has said that a referendum could not be legally held since it’s not planning on funding the streetcar via bonds. Hope and Howze, however, point out that an advisory or binding referendum could be held if approved by the Virginia General Assembly.

The candidates released the following statement on their referendum push yesterday afternoon.

Delegate Patrick Hope (D-47 and candidate for VA-08) and Alan Howze (Democratic Nominee for Arlington County Board) joined together to call for the Arlington Streetcar project to be put to a public referendum. Both Hope and Howze have been on the record supporting the streetcar- and continue to do so- but believe the citizens of Arlington need to have a referendum to make the final decision.

“This issue has clearly divided the Arlington community”, Patrick Hope said. “It’s time to move forward and have a public referendum to settle this issue. I represent parts of Columbia Pike in the General Assembly and I support major transportation investments in that corridor that will ease congestion and stimulate job creation and economic development. We need to move forward quickly with those improvements and I believe a referendum on the streetcar is the only way to settle this issue once and for all. The time has come for a full public debate on this issue and we need to respect whatever the public decides.”

“As we have done with Metro, Schools, the Water Pollution Control Plant, and other important community investments, we should give voters the final decision through a public referendum vote”, Alan Howze noted. “I continue to support the streetcar project because of the broad transportation, economic and environmental benefits it will provide for our community. I heard the concerns expressed by voters in the recent special election, and we can put the streetcar debate to rest and ensure public confidence by allowing a referendum vote.”

There are multiple options for the Arlington County Board to consider regarding a referendum and both Hope and Howze are open to whichever one the Board decides would be the best way for voters to weigh in on the streetcar. These include voting on the streetcar in the 2014 general election through the County’s transportation bond or an advisory referendum that may need General Assembly approval.

Democrat Mark Levine, who is also running to replace Rep. Jim Moran in Congress, said last week that he supports a voter referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar.

Howze’s opponent in the November Arlington County Board election, meanwhile, released a statement that lauded the referendum idea but took a shot at Howze’s streetcar support.

Independent County Board member John Vihstadt, whose election was considered by some to itself be a referendum on the streetcar, is pushing for the county to halt all spending on the streetcar. He says that any referendum on the issue should be clearly worded.

I am pleased to see that Alan Howze now agrees that Arlington taxpayers should have a voice regarding the County Board’s misguided proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to install streetcars in Arlington. I regret that Mr. Howze still believes that streetcars are a good investment for Arlington. Many people have already stated that my election on April 8 with 57 percent of the vote was referendum enough on the wisdom of Arlington streetcars. Yet, if a further specific streetcar voter referendum is to be truly meaningful and anything beyond a gimmick or a political tactic, it is imperative that the County Board direct the County Manager immediately to cease all County expenditures relating to streetcars, as I attempted to do at our April 16 County Board work session. Not a penny more of taxpayer dollars should be spent on promoting, planning for, or in any way implementing Arlington streetcars until such a referendum is held and Arlington voters have had their say once again.

Accordingly, I call on Delegate Hope and Candidate Howze, as well as my Board colleagues, to support my and colleague Libby Garvey’s efforts to ensure that (a) no funds shall be expended in the FY 2014 or FY 2015 operating budgets for the purpose of furthering a streetcar on Columbia Pike or anywhere else in Arlington, except to the extent that such expenditures are required to meet contractual or other legal obligations entered into by the County prior to the date of this motion; (b) no funds be included in the FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for similar purposes and that (c) any referendum question on streetcars to be included on the general election ballot in Arlington in 2014:

  • be clearly worded to specify in detail the estimated total costs for all proposed Arlington streetcars,
  • detail the proposed financing plan for all of them, and
  • not combine streetcar financing with any other project so that it is clear to voters precisely on what subject they are voting.

County Board Chair Jay Fisette told the Washington Post that he wasn’t sure a streetcar referendum was such a good idea.

“I lived in California for a while when we had 100-plus referenda on the ballot,” Fisette told the paper. “I became very disillusioned about the use of selective referenda on public policy issues.”

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Gavel (Flickr photo by Joe Gratz)A group of activists sued Arlington County on Friday over its fact sheet about the housing authority referendum on the ballot tomorrow, but a judge quickly dismissed the lawsuit.

As it has in previous years, the county distributed a “frequently asked questions” fact sheet with the stated goal of informing residents before voting on the measure. Members of the Arlington Committee to Save Affordable Housing, which supports the creation of a housing authority in Arlington, filed the lawsuit on Friday to protest the page, with treasurer John Reeder — who filed the suit on behalf of the committee — calling it “a biased fact sheet with bogus data slanted against  the housing authority, and misleading voters.”

Judge William Newman dismissed the suit without opinion the same day, prompting Reeder to send out a press release denouncing his decision. Newman is a former member of the Arlington County Board, whose members oppose the formation of a housing authority.

“Virginia Code section 24.2-687 requires that any statement on the referendum issued by Arlington County be no longer than 500 words, be neutral, and not use arguments either for or against the referendum,” the press release said. “The county FAQ statement of over 1,100 words made factual errors about the availability of Federal housing funds and other revenues… [and] included arguments and bogus claims cited by opponents including the Arlington Democratic Party.”

“Judge Newman dismissed the legal petition with no legal opinion issued late on November 1, and refused to grant even a public hearing on whether the state law on elections and referenda had been violated,” the press release continued.

The last time the referendum was on the ballot in 2008, the county distributed a similar flyer which also drew criticism, notably from the Arlington Green Party, of which Reeder is a member. The county has stood by that flyer and stands by this year’s version.

“Judge Newman’s action speaks for itself regarding the merits of the lawsuit on the housing referendum,” County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac said in an email. “It is within Judge Newman’s discretion to take the action that he took … The County put out a factual set of questions and answers, with neutral information about the referendum.”

The referendum, if passed, would create an independent housing authority, appointed by the County Board, focused on eliminating and redeveloping “blighted areas,” and promoting the availability of affordable housing.

Currently, the county handles affordable housing through its Housing Commission and through cooperation with local affordable housing nonprofits. The county draws funds from local taxes, developer contributions, federal and state grants and other affordable housing programs. The county says in its fact sheet that a new housing authority would have access to the same or similar funding sources.

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Morning Notes

Office building under construction in Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by Runneralan2004)

Affordable Housing Crisis in Arlington? — “Arlington County is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis,” writes reporter Michael Lee Pope. The county has lost more than half of its affordable housing units in the last decade, a time when the average rent increased by 47 percent while the average salary increased only 37 percent. The “crisis” has led the Arlington Green Party to propose a referendum on the creation of a new housing authority, a move that many existing affordable housing organizations in Arlington oppose. [Arlington Connection]

Gravelly Point Still Busy Despite Shutdown — Gravelly Point has remained a popular destination for picnickers, fisherman and airplane watchers, despite the fact that it’s officially closed and its parking lot barricaded. Despite being a potential safety hazard, a number of park-goers have been parking on the grass adjacent to the GW Parkway. [WJLA]

Columbia Forest Tops for Female Divorcees — Arlington’s Columbia Forest neighborhood has the highest concentration of female divorcees among census tracts in the county, with 355. According to census data, Shirlington and Pentagon City are No. 2 and 3, with 339 and 298 respectively. As previously reported, Crystal City has the highest concentration of divorced men, 297. [Patch]

Stink Bug Season in Washington — It’s stink bug season once again. While a few of the insects have been reported around Arlington, the stink bug population seems to increase as you go west, beyond the Beltway. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Runneralan2004.

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