PRESS RELEASE: County Won’t Give Back Surplus Generated By Tax Rate Increase

Are you concerned about your steadily rising real estate taxes or rent? If so, you should know why the cost of living in Arlington County is so high.

It begins every year with the County Manager’s allocation of your surplus tax dollars for pet projects.

This year actual revenue received for the fiscal year ending June, 2017 exceeded a third quarter estimate published in April, 2017 by almost $18 million. Of that $5.5 million was due to a 1.5 cent real estate tax rate increase that County Board adopted in April, 2017.

Because the tax rate is set in April, County Board relies on its third quarter estimates in April to gauge how much additional revenue it will need in the next fiscal year. County Board knew in April, 2017 that a 1.5 cent tax rate increase was unnecessary, because its April revenue estimate exceeded the adopted FY17 budget by $7.5 million.

The surplus funds were available then to meet its anticipated FY19 shortfall. With the tax increase and other income and savings, the surplus ballooned to $25 million over the adopted budget by the end of the fourth quarter, June, 2017.

Instead of doing the honest thing and returning some of the surplus to the taxpayers, the County Manager wants to spend it on a list of pet projects that have not been vetted through the normal budget process. The projects earmarked for the surplus include:

  • $2 million for the Detention Center, even though half the money won’t be needed until FY19
  • $1.75 million for retroactive employee compensation, i.e. money that was not approved in the FY17 budget
  • $1.25 million for a County Manager contingent, even though the County maintains reserves in excess of $71 million
  • $.9 million for a study to purchase two properties that have already been studied to death by the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC)
  • An additional $5.2 million for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) on top of its very generous budget of $15 million.

In addition the County Manager proposes to give $4.5 million of "new" money to the schools. According to Mark Kelly commenting in ARLnow, this is particularly troublesome:

And it’s not just the County budget that has a slush fund. The schools did not spend $13.6 million of their budget either, but they are still being given $4.5 million of the surplus revenue as well as an additional $6 million appropriations. Added together, school officials have $24.2 million more to spend outside of their annual budget process. No funding gap here either.


If you’re sick and tired of the County’s irresponsible spending, then elect another Independent to the Board. As a fiscal hawk, you can be sure that I will join John Vihstadt in urging the County to revamp the way it allocates surplus funds. I will also lobby for no more tax rate increases.


As an Independent candidate and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow, I am qualified to fill that role.

Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!

To find out more about my campaign, visit my website. Better still you can make a difference by donating to my campaign, or volunteering to help me on Election Day.

Together we can make the "Arlington Way" more than an empty phrase.

ADUs Better than Long Commutes for Recycled Tenants

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on October 21, 2017.

I generally support the loosening of regulations on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to compensate for the dwindling supply of market rate affordable housing throughout the County.

As a tenant in one of the few remaining affordable garden apartments in Westover Village, I welcome the prospect of moving to an ADU as opposed to a flat in an outlying suburb once my building is demolished. I suspect that a lot of homeowners with limited income or uncertain employment would also welcome the prospect of a tenant on the premises to help with the mortgage.

Nevertheless I share the concerns of Suzanne Sundburg, who is critical of allowing ADUs to be constructed within 1 foot of an interior lot line. Said Suzanne in a recent email blast:

“These units can be used for short-term rental (aka Airbnb) as well as long-term rental. Exterior ADUs can be constructed within 1 foot of a shared property line — potentially closer to a neighbor’s dwelling than to the owner’s main dwelling. The result is an enhanced economic incentive to increase impervious surfaces accompanied by the loss of both green space and mature tree canopy (the remains of which is largely concentrated on single-family lots).”

The prospect of loss of privacy and increased runoff due to reduction of setbacks is likely to engender opposition to the loosened ADU regulations among single family homeowners. Add to that the fact that no impact analysis of loosened ADU regulations is publicly available.

Without a more restrictive interior lot setback requirement and an honest assessment of the impacts on streets, parking, green space and school enrollment. I don’t think the regulation is ready for prime time. I hope staff presents an impact analysis at the public hearing scheduled for this item and is prepared to negotiate it with homeowners.

Landlords Demolish Affordable Housing Faster Than County Can Paper It Over

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on October 21, 2017.

A report submitted by County staff to the Housing Commission proposes to amend the General Land Use Plan (GLUP), the Zoning Ordinance and the Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) to create Housing Conservation Districts (HCDs) that provide incentives to landlords to preserve the market rate affordable housing within those districts.

Among the incentives are:

  1. awarding bonus density for additions, infill, partial redevelopment, and redevelopment of properties with affordable units;
  2. awarding a partial property rehabilitation tax exemption on the value of improvements to rehabbed properties for up to ten years; and
  3. changing the zoning ordinance to require special exception use permits to construct townhouse developments within HCDs.

The presentation indicates an aggressive implementation schedule with final Board approval in July, 2018.

This plan looks great on paper. The problem is it’s just that—it papers over the elimination of the remaining market rate affordable housing in the County. As fast as staff moves to salvage affordable units, landlords move faster to tear them down.

Just last week I learned that four more Westover properties are slated for demolition and redevelopment. Meanwhile a petition to preserve the historic Westover Village community from further demolitions has languished for almost a year with the Arlington Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (AHALRB).

This is no accident. County records indicate that the sale price of the three Westover garden apartments demolished in 2013 was $4 million. The total sale price of the 20 luxury town homes that replaced them was $16.8 million dollars or more than 4 times the value of the original properties.

Not only did the developer made a killing on flipping these properties, but the County has profited handsomely in the form of increased real estate tax revenue.

With tax windfalls like this to be garnered from gentrification, the County itself has no real incentive to stop it. Representing otherwise is misleading to those who will be forced out of their homes in the next round of evictions.

PRESS RELEASE: Tell Them the Independent Candidate for County Board Sent You

October 14, 2017.

A few weeks ago Arlington County initiated the FY 2019 budget process in a press release announcing a series of budget roundtables open to those who register online.

You can be sure that one item not up for discussion at the roundtables are “close-out” funds–unspent money from the current fiscal year that the County routinely spends at the end of the calendar year, instead of allocating it in the next fiscal year’s budget.

Earmarking surplus funds this way bypasses the regular budget process, enabling the County to fund pet projects without the usual level of public scrutiny.

On November 9, 2016 Independent County Board member John Vihstadt offered several amendments to the close-out resolution to defer reallocation of most discretionary close-out funds until 2017. Vihstadt’s rationale was that except for clearly identified emergency needs, the current year’s budget surplus should be allocated in next year’s budget.

Unfortunately for the taxpayers, Vihstadt’s prudent advice was summarily rejected by the Board. The result was a 1.5 cent tax rate increase in April, 2017, when with no more surplus to spend, the County decided it had to increase taxes to cover a budgetary shortfall.

If you plan to attend one of the remaining budget roundtables, please come prepared to ask County staff how it plans to reallocate FY 2018 close-out funds, and tell them that the Independent candidate for County Board sent you.

Also, if you’re sick and tired of the County’s spend now, pay later approach to the budget, then elect another Independent to the Board. As a fiscal hawk, you can be sure that I will join John Vihstadt in urging the County to revamp the way it allocates surplus funds. I will also lobby for no more tax rate increases.

As an Independent candidate and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow, I am qualified to fill that role.

Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!

To find out more about my campaign, visit my website. Better still you can make a difference by endorsing my candidacy, donating to my campaign, or volunteering to help me on Election Day.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

PRESS RELEASE: Yes, Virginia. Arlington County Has a Spending Problem

October 7, 2017

Arlington County Board just voted to approve the design of a new Lubber Run Community Center with a whopping $47.9 million price tag. On top of that, the new Wilson High School is currently estimated to cost $100 million.

By comparison, the town of Vienna recently completed renovating its community center for just $6.5 million, and the cost of a new high school under construction in Loudoun County is $81.7 million —- much less than the projected cost for our new Wilson school.

And take a look at this …. It costs $18,957 per pupil per year to educate our children in Arlington, but, at the same time, it costs only $14,432 per pupil for Fairfax County School District to teach their kids.

Isn’t that ridiculous ??

It’s obvious that Arlington taxpayers are paying a lot more for the same public services than elsewhere in Northern Virginia. This is not only wasteful, it may also prove to be unsustainable.

Arlington County needs new leadership to reform the way our local government is administered. It needs Independent leadership!!!

As an Independent candidate and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow, I am qualified to fill that role.

I advocate long range needs-based planning, not tricky fiscal bookkeeping fixes that the current County Board concocts to hide its funding for pet projects and programs.

You can help turn that situation around by electing an
Independent to Arlington County Board who will be accountable to the voters.

Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!

To find out more about my campaign, visit my website. Better still you can make a difference by endorsing my candidacy, donating to my campaign, or volunteering to help me on Election Day.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.