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by Mark Kelly — February 16, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

By now, you have probably heard about the controversy over signs at Yorktown High School. There is little doubt the signs were intended to make a political statement about issues surrounding the Trump Administration, albeit in an clever way.

You may support the posting of the signs as statements our community supports or you may oppose them as political propaganda. For the purposes of furthering the discussion, what if a teacher posted a sign in his or her classroom at Yorktown that said the following, complete with red, white and blue color scheme?

Patriots Know:

We have the right to pray and protest.

Government should enforce the laws.

Science continually discovers new theories.

You have the right to defend yourself.

Group think is dangerous.

We are YORKTOWN

Would that sign make it past lunch without being removed by the school administration? Maybe. It certainly would be interesting to hear the thoughts of the principal, superintendent and school board responding to complaints about it.

If there is a teacher who wants to do a thought experiment with their students, a sign like this one might spur a good discussion or make for a good writing assignment. If you do, be sure to let the media know how it goes.

In other news this week, the County Board said no to funding the Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, at least for now. Fiscal watchdogs let out a big sigh of relief that the county would not chase another shiny object and instead focus on other transportation priorities.

This most certainly reflects at least a slight change in philosophy from the previous Board which threw good money after bad trying to build the Columbia Pike streetcar. Seems that electing four new Board Members in the past five years has given rise to more caution when it comes to this type of project.

Now if we could only get them to pay for all ongoing maintenance needs in the regular budget rather than borrowing more money to do it, we would really be getting somewhere.

by Mark Kelly — February 9, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Arlington schools have called in an outside consultant to evaluate their enrollment projections. No matter who makes them, projections outside of the next one to two years are extremely difficult to make. Nowhere was this more evident than Washington-Lee High School which was built too small because of bad projections in the other direction.

The Arlington School Board should continue to proceed with caution in the efforts to create more seats for more students.

School Board members are also apparently contemplating the option of refusing federal funds to avoid federal education mandates from new Secretary DeVos. The story is a reminder of just how small a percentage of local school budgets come from the federal government despite producing so many of the mandates — roughly 2% in Arlington, but more in other places.

Based on DeVos’ testimony, it seems her goal is to return even more power to local school districts, resulting in fewer federal mandates, not more. Only time will tell.

Political parties in Virginia have the right to select nominees as they see fit. Over the years Virginia Democrats have often piled on the criticism of Republicans for selecting nominees in a closed process using a so-called “loyalty oath.”

So what did Arlington Democrats do this past week? They opted to hold a closed Democrat caucus with a loyalty oath to determine their County Board nominee. In order to vote, you will be required to pledge to support Democrat nominees in the fall.

Yes, Arlington Democrats, who often try to draw Independents to their cause by ridiculing Republicans for closing their nominating process, are now doing the same thing. I guess you can file this turn of events alongside their newfound discovery of the separation of powers and 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

Speaking of finding the 10th Amendment, Attorney General Mark Herring this week was in the news defending the lawsuits against the Trump Administration’s temporary travel ban. Regardless of your view of the policies surrounding the ban, the plain language of federal law authorizing the President to implement such a ban is clear. In fact, President Obama implemented a similar ban under the law without so much as a peep from Herring. But Herring said he opposes the law based on states’ rights now.

Herring’s record is full of partisanship just like this. Voters should remember this when he promises to uphold the law on the campaign trail this year.

by Mark Kelly — February 2, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Yesterday, Governor McAuliffe was in town to announce that Nestlé USA is moving its corporate headquarters to Arlington in September of this year. Finally, the long-vacant 1812 building will have a major tenant, which is certainly good news for Arlington’s commercial vacancy rate.

The move is touted as a $40 million investment by Nestlé USA. However, it does not come without a cost to Arlington taxpayers. The company will receive a $6 million grant from the Commonwealth Opportunity Fund, a $4 million grant from Arlington, and a commitment to $2 million in Arlington spending on infrastructure as well as “extensive relocation assistance” from Arlington County.

The last point also serves notice that while the county’s press release claims it will “create 748 jobs,” these are not new jobs for our regions. Some of those jobs — exactly how many we were not told — will be filled by people relocating with the company from California.

Granted, a thriving employer in the county helps everyone regardless of how many new jobs it creates. And in this day and age of states in a bipartisan fashion offering huge financial incentives to employers looking to relocate, it is understandable that Virginia is playing in the economic development sweepstakes.

However, it once again raises the question of whether we should take a different approach, one that helps existing businesses and new businesses looking for a better economic environment.

California has seen thousands of businesses leave the state over the past few years. One study indicated businesses could see operating cost savings of as much as 35% due to the unfavorable business climate.

Virginia is consistently ranked in the top 10 to 15 places to do businesses by those who rank these things. However, our ranking is moving in the wrong direction. In CNBC’s rankings, Virginia slid from 3rd to 13th over the past four years.

Arlington, and Virginia as a whole, should have one goal — make us the number one business climate for creating and operating a business. It will not only make us more attractive to businesses looking to move, but will allow our current businesses to grow and thrive.

Unfortunately, Democrats praising the $12 million of taxpayer money given to Nestlé today would almost certainly demonize any moves to simplify and reduce taxes and regulations as “giveaways to the rich and powerful” tomorrow.

by Mark Kelly — January 26, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Meeting the transportation needs of both Arlington’s residents and the greater region is no easy task. And Metro’s problems have only made it harder. While there is no doubt our county leaders take the issue seriously, they do often make decisions that can leave Arlingtonians scratching their heads.

1. Planning to spend $575,000 for each bus stop on Columbia Pike.

It is still hard to fathom that Arlington officials view reducing the cost of a bus stop from $1 million to $575,000 as a win. The $13.3 million the county plans to spend to construct 23 of them over the next four years could be used to shore up Metro instead.

2. Supporting changes to improve two lane I-66?

The Arlington County Board is set to vote on whether to support the latest plans on I-66. Our Board had historically opposed any real changes to the corridor, but in recent years has moved to support some widening of the highway. Unfortunately, acting as an impediment to improvements both on I-66 and I-395 in the past has put us years behind in addressing transportation needs.

The congestion on I-66 in particular has forced traffic onto secondary surface streets through our neighborhoods. It is also worse for the environment. Increased time sitting in traffic produces more tailpipe emissions than when traffic moves at normal speeds.

As long as the federal government is centered in Washington, cars are going to drive through Arlington. The only question is, how long will it take them and what route will they take?

3. Narrowing streets.

Chairman Fisette is passionate about bikes, as are many other Arlingtonians. But the resulting increase in traffic congestion on roads reduced from four lanes to two to accommodate dedicated bike lanes seems to indicate that there may not be enough people interested in using bikes for commuting to justify the changes.

In the meantime, a good deal of street parking has been eliminated. And on some streets that were narrowed but where parking is maintained, it is virtually impossible to crack the door of your car without it entering into a traffic lane.

The money used for street narrowing should have been prioritized for repaving and improving our existing transportation infrastructure.

4. Using staff time and resources to study a taxpayer-funded gondola.

With an estimated $80-90 million price tag, the Arlington share of the project would presumably be at least $40 million if those cost projections are realistic. But when Portland constructed its gondola, the costs escalated by nearly 400%, and operating costs nearly doubled.

Arlington taxpayers wasted a good deal of time and money on the Columbia Pike Streetcar before it was ultimately shelved. The Board should remember the lessons learned from that exercise before committing more time and money to the gondola.

by Mark Kelly — January 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

This week’s announcement that residential real estate assessments are up again was not a surprise. The average homeowner will pay an additional 2.3% in taxes for 2017 unless the County Board reduces the tax rate.

This 2.3% assessment increase comes despite the average home sales price only ticking up by 0.3% in 2016 over 2015. Assessments increased by 2.8% in 2016 as well.

By way of further comparison, the average assessed value is now $617,200 which is still lower than the average sales price was $639,137. (The average sales price included new construction while the County’s assessed numbers only take existing homes into account).

So home values remain strong. In the short term, this is good for sellers and investors, but means more money out of your pocket again this year as a homeowner.

It is also “good news” for the County. In the press release announcing the assessment increase, County staff proceeded to make the case that they would need all of your extra money for Metro and schools.

The County is already making that case because the December budget planning forecast showed weaker numbers. When determining the mythical budget gap, they based their numbers on a 2.1% growth in total commercial and residential assessments.

Property values actually increased by 2.9% when you include new construction. Which means the County will now have just under 1% more from these sources to spend for FY 2018 than they anticipated just one month ago. That is a roughly $6 million increase in revenue.

It also means when the Board retroactively approves the tax rate levels later this spring, they will also have more revenue to spend in the closeout process at the end of this year.

How? Our fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. However, every year when the Board approves the tax rate, it applies retroactively to January 1 in the previous fiscal year (current calendar year). So, half of the increased revenue for calendar year 2017 will be available during the closeout process.

The bottom line is County officials will use every part of the budget process available to them to try to maximize the amount of your tax dollars they can spend this year and next. And by telling you it is for schools and transportation, they are hoping you are happy to do it.

by Mark Kelly — January 12, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

The fireworks from the January 3 County Board kick-off meeting were generated by the partisan efforts of the three lowest vote-getters on the Board during the Vice Chairman election. The remainder of the meeting went to script, except for the little noticed move to make it harder for Arlingtonians to request a public hearing on an agenda item.

As with every year, each Board member also made remarks outlining their thoughts for the upcoming year. You can find links to all five here. And the speeches could be summed up like this: “We have a tough job, but take heart, we’re doing it pretty well.”

While re-reading the rather predictable speeches, I began to ask: what would a majority of Board members say in their speeches if they were being completely honest with the people?

“Projecting the future is hard.”

Just ask the local meteorologist. Or ask the county staff which never gets the revenue projections right (the underestimates fuel the annual year-end spending spree). Or you can ask the School Board who for years operated under the projections that school enrollment before having to pivot and face rising projections. The truth is enrollment was almost certainly never going to get as low, and may not get as high, as projected.

The bottom line: the Board should let projections inform decisions, but they should never be the only thing that informs the decisions.

“We cannot exactly account for how every dollar of the County’s budget is spent.”

John Vihstadt has asked county staff for a detailed accounting of payments to all of the county’s consultants and contractors. So far, it sounds like staff is balking at putting a spreadsheet together for him.

“But we sure enjoy spending as much as we can get away with.”

Every year the Board points to budget shortfalls but still manages to increase spending, increase revenue and spend all of the hefty year-end surplus. And they come up with shiny object projects like a Georgetown gondola as new priorities while Metro continues to flounder.

“Regardless of the initiatives we point to, we will not solve the affordable housing issue.”

Board members talk about it every year as a priority, and every year fight a losing battle because they are up against immovable market forces. But hey, the Board did pass overly restrictive rules on accessory dwelling units and Airbnb.

“We plan to blame the Trump Administration for everything that goes wrong the next four years. And if a Republican is elected Governor of Virginia, some of it will be their fault too.”

Some on the Board have already hinted at this move. It almost certainly will happen.

by Mark Kelly — January 5, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

The traditional New Year’s Day meeting for the County Board moved to Tuesday night. Insert sad trombone sound here as this probably marks the end of the traditional January 1 meeting.

In what came as a surprise to few, three Democrats on the Board refused to give Independent John Vihstadt the position of Vice Chairman. Vihstadt has been a community leader for three decades and has served on the County Board for nearly three years.

Newly installed Chairman Jay Fisette, along with Board Members Cristol and Dorsey, rejected Vihstadt’s nomination. Instead, the Board chose first-year Board Member Katie Cristol.

The reasons given by each of the three Democrats could basically be boiled down to two things. First, they used the “we’ve always done it that way” excuse. The majority party, they said, has always elected one of their own to serve in that role. Second, they argued that Vihstadt did not represent the values of the community.

In case they missed it, Vihstadt won not one, but two elections over the Democrats’ nominee. And he won both handily. The message they should have received from those elections is that nearly 35,000 Arlingtonians do like Vihstadt’s values. In fact, that’s nearly 12,000 more votes than Ms. Cristol received, nearly 11,000 more than Mr. Dorsey, and more than the average votes received by Mr. Fisette since he was first elected.

The three Democrats’ message back to the voters was simple — at the end of the day, partisanship and protecting the status quo trumps all. Voters should take note as Chairman Fisette may be asking them to re-elect him later this year.

On a lighter note, under a unique quirk of Virginia law the County Board could elect an individual to act as a tie breaker to cast the deciding vote in the unusual event that the Board was deadlocked on a question. The Board waives the appointment of a tie breaker every year which means if there is a tie vote, the motion fails.

If the Board ever changes their mind, I am happy to serve.

by Mark Kelly — December 29, 2016 at 2:00 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

As ARLnow recaps its most clicked on stories for the year, I wanted to share three stories I found interesting from a local, state and regional perspective.

The Blue Ribbon Panel never gets off the ground.

While this panel may have had limited impact on Arlington governance, the incident shows what can happen if the right inner circle of people engages on an issue.

Libby Garvey has a record of being out in front on reform-minded efforts. She helped shine a light on the fiscal impacts of the now-shelved streetcar and still-possible aquatics center. She supported an independent audit function and worked to shine more light on the closeout process.

The concept for this Garvey Blue Ribbon Panel initiative was simple: on a short term basis, empanel a small group of Arlingtonians who possessed a level of expertise, to bring a fresh perspective to the county’s comprehensive plan.

My concerns were that even if the panel were truly independent and actually made a set of common-sense recommendations on county spending priorities, that those recommendations would be largely ignored.

However, there was a group of well-connected Democrats in the county that did not want to take a risk of any independent recommendations seeing the light of day. And as the June Democratic primary approached, they successfully lobbied the Board to stop it and leave us with the status quo.

Governor McAuliffe used unprecedented, sweeping executive authority to grant voting rights to around 200,000 felons.

The Virginia Supreme Court struck down the order. In fact, the court took the unusual step of granting an expedited hearing to tell the Governor what prior legal counsel, both Republican and Democrat, had already found: he does not possess that sweeping authority under Virginia law.

Here at ARLnow, one columnist suggested that to oppose the Governor’s action was tantamount to an assault on voting rights themselves. Many were willing to toss aside the protection of every voter’s rights as well as adherence to the rule of law in order to achieve a desired result.

But our system of government relies on checks and balances to ensure one branch does not run roughshod over the people. With a new president moving into the White House, it is likely many Democrats will now renew their belief in this concept.

We all should.

Metro entered full blown crisis mode.

As public scrutiny of accidents intensified, Metro took drastic action to address safety concerns with the announcement it would shut down sections at a time for repairs. And the General Manager even took the unusual step of firing employees.

At the same time the Chairman of the WMATA Board remained adamant that a massive infusion of money could solve the problems. But the pleas for $1 billion are meeting a high level of skepticism from government officials who look at the system’s track record.

So the question remains: will Metro to continue operating as we know it?

Or maybe it’s time for the system effectively declare bankruptcy and start over.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Mark Kelly — December 22, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark Kelly

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.

While we were traveling for Thanksgiving, my seven year old lost both of his front teeth. It brought back memories of the old song, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” And yes, I asked him to sing it for me.

As we wrap up what has been a crazy 2016, here are some things I would like to see “under the tree.”

  1. A promise from the County Board that this year’s closeout spending spree will be the last by dedicating all future excess revenues to tax relief. And start by cutting the tax rate this Spring.
  1. Our county leaders will never again claim they are making financial decisions based on “shortfalls.” We are blessed to live in a prosperous nation. And our county leaders are blessed to make relatively easy financial decisions for one of the most prosperous tax bases in the U.S. The financial decisions they make in this prosperity are just as important as the ones they would make in times of austerity.
  1. County leaders taking real steps to hold Metro accountable for the Arlington tax dollars they receive.
  1. If not a total reset, then a quick fix of the Airbnb regulations to ensure it is the least restrictive regulatory structure possible.
  1. A promise to restore the New Year’s Day meeting for 2018 before it is lost forever. Moving it from a Sunday was understandable this year, but let’s keep the tradition
  1. The announcement of Republican candidates for Arlington County Board and School Board instead of another year of no opposition. John Vihstadt could use the help.
  1. Knowing we would see the election of a Republican governor and attorney general who will follow and defend the law.
  1. An honest accounting by the School Board of per pupil spending.

by Mark Kelly — December 15, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board “legalized” Airbnb and other such short-term housing rentals. While many homeowners had been participating for some time with no real fear of reprisal, the Board rightly felt like they needed to ensure others who questioned the legality of the practice could participate as well.

Based on the Board deliberations however, it was clear that the rushed regulations had not been fully vetted and were still in need of more work. The Board even took the unusual step of passing the regulations with the promise to return to them at the next meeting to make additional changes.

When coupled with the fact the General Assembly is likely to address the issue in the new year, the Board has created a great deal of uncertainty about how these regulations will actually work moving forward.

Recognizing the regulations were not ready for prime time, John Vihstadt suggested the Board effectively give an interim “wink and nod” to homeowners that the practice would be made legal when the regulations were ready.

Unfortunately, Vihstadt’s common sense suggestion to delay a vote received no support from the other four members of the Board.

Arlington’s new towing ordinance also met with resistance this week.

As I wrote back in 2015 when Jay Fisette raised this issue, the problems with towing practices are not new.

Around 2000, I sat down to eat in the now-closed Taco Bell on Wilson Boulevard. A few minutes later, one of my fellow patrons sprinted out of the restaurant as his car was being hoisted into the air by a tow truck. Later we learned an “unmarked spotter” had identified his car for towing because he had first walked to the ATM next door to get cash before ordering his Taco Bell dinner.

The car owner showed the tow truck driver his Taco Bell receipt, but was told it did not matter because he had left the premises.

The use of spotters and removal of the property owner from the process leads to incidents where drivers have legitimate gripes when their car is towed. But they have virtually no redress. They have to pay the exorbitant towing fee and possibly complain to the county later.

It is certainly understandable that business owners feel the new measures create burdensome requirements. They have a right to ensure that parking spaces in their lots are reserved for employees, patrons or anyone else they choose for that matter.

In the Taco Bell incident I witnessed, the manager on duty said his hands were tied to stop the towing under the terms of the contract. Assuming it was true, then there really is a problem.

And despite a clear warning shot 18 months ago to voluntarily address aggressive towing practices, County Board members remained unsure any positive changes were forthcoming. So, the Board acted.

Now towing companies have until July 1st of next year to work with the county on the changes. Hopefully everyone can find a middle ground.

by Mark Kelly — December 8, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Every December our leaders in Arlington begin talking about a mythical budget gap. It is the first step in building a case with the public to pay more next year in taxes.

It’s a mythical gap because every year, at about the same time, the County Board is spending tens of millions of dollars in the closeout process. This year end budget boost comes from additional tax revenue and reallocation of other unspent funds in the budget.

With only a $5 million “gap” on the horizon for the next fiscal year (practically a rounding error), Arlington’s County Manager is using a different tool in the public relations game — Metro. He’s “worried” Arlington may have to chip in a substantial, and still unknown, amount in the coming year.

Mr. Schwartz did go out of his way in his recent Civic Federation presentation to take Metro to task for putting itself in this position. And I would hope the County Board would not come to the taxpayers for more money without first requiring real reforms from the flagging system.

But in case Metro’s woes were not scary enough, the schools have announced they may need as much as $25 million more than last year’s budget — about half for projected enrollment increases. In case you missed it, the schools just received $8.6 million from excess revenues collected in FY 2016 as part of the closeout process. A similar unbudgeted amount is sent their way every year.

Schools and Metro are certainly core line items in the budget, and they are extremely popular with the public. This is precisely why they are being used as the rationale for us to pay more (again) in 2017.

And if there is any doubt as to the bent of our leaders to tax and spend more, you need only look at the legislative package being considered by the Board in the coming days. It includes support of a change in Virginia law to allow localities to raise their meals tax to 8% without a referendum vote.

It’s hard to make a case that Arlingtonians would ever defeat such a proposal at the polls, as it almost certainly would be sold to the public as an “investment” in schools or Metro or parks.

Maybe the Board just feels bad for neighboring jurisdictions after the November meals tax referendum in Fairfax went down to such a resounding defeat. A recognition, perhaps, that not everyone has such accommodating taxpayers.

by Mark Kelly — December 1, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

According to the Washington Area Boards of Education, Arlington is spending $18,957 per pupil for Fiscal Year 2017. That number went up by $341 over last year. And according to page 31 of the report, Arlington ranks highest in the region, by more than $500 per student.

If Arlington spent only as much per student as Falls Church, the next highest spender, it could save the taxpayers $14.2 million for the year or 2.4%. One local activist pointed out that by lowering our per pupil spending to be even with Fairfax County would lower total costs by $112 million, or 24%.

Lowering spending to Fairfax County levels is neither realistic, nor is it necessarily desirable. It does however provide a valuable data point as does the comparison to Falls Church.

The WABE uses its own formula to calculate the per pupil costs in an attempt to make an apples to apples comparison across the region. Arlington accepts the WABE methodology when reporting its budget to Arlingtonians each year. Who can blame them? It represents a much lower spending level than is actually occurring.

For those of you who like math, here is what Arlington is really spending per student in 2017: $22,032.

That’s the number you get when you divide the total $581.94 million budget by the 26,414 students the budget anticipates. The difference between total cost per student and reported per pupil spending is $3,075 per student, or 16.2%.

Some in Arlington are willing to spend much more on our schools and simply do not care what the topline number actually is. Others think we already spend way too much. Most want a high quality education for our students that gets the best bang for the buck.

So why not report both numbers? If Arlington schools want to be compared to others, then continue to report the per pupil spending that way. But, they should also report the total spending per student cost to give Arlington taxpayers the complete picture of school spending rather than hoping people will not check the math.

by Mark Kelly — November 17, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

The Arlington County Board is considering the passage of Airbnb regulations as early as December. The regulations leave a lot of unanswered questions, and here are just a few.

Should Arlington keep the requirement that the location must be the primary residence of the owner? Why couldn’t the owner of a rental unit use Airbnb to fill an empty space temporarily while he was waiting for a long-term renter?

Should Arlington keep the requirement that a homeowner obtain a business license for using Airbnb and should there be a minimum threshold a homeowner must meet before the regulations apply? What if someone just wants to use Airbnb to rent their home out for the Presidential Inauguration or the one week a year they are on vacation? Do we need to force them to abide by the same rules as someone who wants to rent a home four months out of the year?

And how does Arlington County plan to actually enforce the regulations once passed?

But maybe the biggest question is, why the rush to do it now?

Like it or not, Virginia is a Dillon Rule state. And all indications are the General Assembly will address the issue of Airbnb regulation in the 2017 session. The first attempt earlier this year did not result in a final legislative vehicle, but much work has been done on the issue in the intervening months. Since the General Assembly regulation would almost certainly pre-empt any Arlington rules, it could create massive confusion for Airbnb owners who would have to comply with two different sets of rules just months apart.

It is also unlikely that county staff has fully digested the implications of the successful Nashville lawsuit, which struck down the Airbnb regulations in that city in late October. And it’s not just Nashville facing lawsuits.

New York, which is imposing $7500 fines for violations of its regulations, is being sued. Chicago is being sued for an ordinance that among other things, says an Airbnb owner’s residence can be searched at any time without a warrant. San Francisco and other cities are facing lawsuits as well.

Arlington could learn something about what the courts will allow when it comes to regulating these private homeowners, who on average are earning just a few thousand dollars each year. And Arlington could save taxpayers the time and money used to defend itself against a lawsuit.

The emergence of the sharing economy should cause us to rethink our approach toward government regulations. Some may think Airbnb should not be regulated at all. Others may wish the regulations would go even farther.

But with all the uncertainty looming, Arlington would be well-served by taking this vote off the December agenda.

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.

by Mark Kelly — November 10, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Rarely does this column touch on national issues. But so many, particularly here in Arlington, seem to be in shock at how and why Donald Trump was elected president. You probably have heard it from your friends and neighbors. You saw it all over social media. You may have even heard that your kids were asked how they felt about the election results at school.

It is easy to understand why the results might be confusing to some. If you still watch TV, your airwaves were bombarded with negative ads against Trump. The Washington Post ran one or two anti-Trump editorials every day. Most of your friends on Facebook agreed with you which means your News Feed was probably nearly unanimous in opposition to Trump.

So on election day, it was no surprise to you that 76% of Arlingtonians chose Hillary Clinton while just 17% picked Trump.

However, just a few hours down the road, in the 9th District of Virginia, Donald Trump received 68% of the vote to Clinton’s 27%.

Why such a huge swing between the two candidates? And why were the people in the 9th District, and around America, voting this way?

I suspect that if you could set aside any preconceived notions and had an open and honest conversation over a cup of coffee with a working family or two in Bristol, Virginia, it might open your eyes. I am willing to bet you will hear that people who live outside the beltway view politicians of both parties with great skepticism. You might hear they are unhappy that the people in Washington get richer, while they struggle to make ends meet. What you might even find is Washington is practically a four letter word to many people.

There is no point in rehashing all the charges levelled by both sides. These were not perfect candidates. But if you cut through all the ads, accusations and character flaws, you can find the choice this election offered.

Clinton ran a campaign based on Washington experience and claimed Washington solutions would make our nation stronger. Trump reminded people that Washington experience and Washington solutions are what brought us to where we are as a country today, and that he could use his real world experience to negotiate them a better deal.

When weighing these two options, the people of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan (likely) and Wisconsin, who had voted for President Obama twice, decided it was time for a change. They opted to give Trump a chance.

No one can predict with any certainty what the next four years will look like. But living in Arlington, we will have a front row seat.

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.

by Mark Kelly — October 27, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

GOP county board candidate Mark KellyThe 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.

As many as 120,000 Arlingtonians will head to the polls for the November 8th election. Based on the last two presidential election cycles, it is likely 70% or more will vote for Hillary Clinton to become the next president. While many voters will not get past the top of the ticket, a strong majority of Clinton supporters will almost certainly give Democrat Libby Garvey another term on the County Board.

Garvey should be commended for breaking with her fellow Democrats from time to time. Her courage to back Independent candidate John Vihstadt, to stand up against the Columbia Pike streetcar, and to call for more accountability from county government is laudable.

Yet most Republicans recognize that Garvey’s overall governing philosophy is largely in line with her fellow Democrats. She has shown no real commitment to reducing the overall tax burden of homeowners. And she agreed to bring forward a vote on new regulations on homeowners who wish to list their properties on Airbnb even though Virginia General Assembly is likely to supersede those regulations in 2017.

Many Republicans looking to cast a vote against Democrat leadership in the county are likely to vote for Audrey Clement. The perennial Green turned Independent candidate has campaigned for greater fiscal restraint and tax relief. She also cites environmental concerns in opposing commercial real estate development and an additional express lane on 395. And Clement supports expanding Arlington’s efforts to preserve affordable housing.

The School Board race holds even less suspense than the County Board election. Only two candidates are on the ballot for two seats, and they are the two who won the Democratic endorsement earlier this year.

It would serve the community well if a Republican ran for these offices every year rather than leaving them uncontested. An electoral contest provides the voters with the opportunity to hear a real debate on the issues and forces Democrats to make a case for the vote. However, it is understandable that many Republicans who are qualified to serve take a pass on the race when they consider the uphill climb against the Democrat machine in the county.

Here’s a suggestion for Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents who want to vote for a Republican for County Board or School Board: write one in.

It only takes a few extra seconds of your time when you fill out your ballot. And there are many Republicans serving on board and commissions as well as leaders in civic associations who would be qualified to serve on the County Board.

You probably also know an education professional or PTA leader who is a Republican and would bring value to the School Board as well. For me, it will be a “no homework” candidate.

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.

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