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.

PRESS RELEASE: Compromise On Community Concerns Not an Option for County Board

September 25, 2017

I’m an Independent candidate in the race for an open seat on County Board in November, and I seek your endorsement.

Do you wonder why Arlington streets are so congested, its schools overcrowded, and its parks candidates for the Endangered Species List? Arlington County Board will tell you that the County is a victim of its own success in attracting new residents to its walkable, Metro accessible neighborhoods.

The fact of the matter is the County could easily accommodate more new residents with fewer impacts if it adhered to its own written policies, the recommendations of its commissions and the advice of the public.

Consider that on September 16, the County approved the design for a new community center near Lubber Run that was deprecated by the Environment and Energy Conservation Commission (E2C2), Natural Resources Joint Advisory Group (NRJAG), the Public Facilities Review Committee (PFRC) and the Urban Forestry Commission, because it will necessitate major excavation of the site to put in a massive underground parking garage in contravention of its Car Free Diet policy. It will also require removal of 100 shade trees in contravention of the County’s Public Spaces Master Plan. These features will likely induce runoff and degradation of the nearby Lubber Run watershed.

On September 19, the County approved the location of new a VRE rail station in Crystal City, ignoring the pleas of the Planning Commission, Crystal City civic organizations and condo association leaders to defer a decision until the costs and impacts of alternative sites are fully evaluated–a modest request considering that the new rail station will be a permanent landmark and a major Northern Virginia transportation hub.

Also on September 19, the County ignored the pleas of numerous residents of the Leeway Overlee community to approve a day care center that will likely engender cut through traffic on an adjacent one lane street off Lee Highway that has already experienced major traffic accidents.

In each instance the demands of development superseded the concerns of residents about the environmental impacts of the project. In each of these cases, modifications to the scale or siting of the proposed facility would have appeased neighbors and resulted in a structure more in keeping with its surroundings.

So why isn’t County Board listening to all of its citizens? The simple answer is that confident that it will get reelected no matter what it does, the Board simply doesn’t care.

You can help turn that situation around by electing another 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!!!

If elected, I pledge to:

  • Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

To find out more about my campaign, visit my website. Better still you can make a difference by endorsing my candidacy.

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

VRE Crystal City Rail Station Needs More Study

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on 9/19/2017.

The fact that VRE is planning a new rail station for Crystal City points to the success of its rail operations in Northern Virginia. The fact that it has actively solicited input from VRE rail riders demonstrates its commitment to serving them. Unfortunately VRE’s consensus building efforts have excluded residents of Crystal City, who challenge VRE’s claims that construction of Option 2 will have no significant noise or pollution impacts. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Tax Gouging In Clarendon

September 5, 2017

I’m an Independent candidate in the race for an open seat on County Board in November, and I seek your endorsement.

If elected I hope to stop the exodus from Arlington of small businesses that have been hard hit by a byzantine permitting process on the one hand and draconian tax increases on the other.

In fact, in 2016 ARLNow reported the closure of no less than six Clarendon eating/drinking establishments: including American Tap Room, Boulevard Woodgrill, Brixx Pizza, Fuego Cocina y Tequileria, Hard Times Cafe, and Park Lane Tavern. The Irish Pub closed in 2015 and Sehkraft Brewing followed in 2017.

Increased taxes are undoubtedly factor in these closures. Of the failed businesses ARLNow reported, the Arlington property search database reports tax assessments for six of the properties housing them during the nine years between 2008 and 2017.

During this period, the average annual tax assessment increase for the Clarendon properties was 13 percent. The overall average nine year increase in taxes was 194 percent. It’s likely that the landlords of these properties passed their tax increases onto their commercial tenants in the form of rent increases. Compare these numbers with the Consumer Price Index, which reports an average annual increase of 1.85% and and a nine year increase of 14.5 percent, and a picture emerges of flagrant tax gouging.

Consistent with that view is the fact that no less than three of these businesses, American Tap Room, Hard Times Cafe and Irish Pub, are chains that continue to operate similar establishments outside the county. In other words, these businesses did not fail on their own.

If elected to County Board, I’m going to ask the County Auditor to issue a formal inquiry to the Department of Real Estate Assessments to determine why assessments on restaurant establishments have increased so dramatically in the past ten years. I’m also going to ask the Board to seek testimony from those restaurant owners, so it can hear what they have to say about the reasons they closed or left.

If elected, I also pledge to:

  • Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

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.

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

PRESS RELEASE: Demolitions Ongoing in Westover Village

August 7, 2017

I’m an Independent candidate in the race for an open seat on County Board in November, and I seek your endorsement.

Among the principal issues facing the County is the steady loss of market rate affordable housing. This week one more Westover Village apartment building was demolished to make way for luxury town homes.

Next week the garden apartment next door to it will be leveled. This brings to 9 the number of garden apartments in Westover Village leveled since 2013.

In 2016 the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) purchased eight apartment buildings housing 68 units to stave off more demolitions. But more than half the tenants in those buildings were evicted because they exceeded 60% of area median income of about $46,000 for one person. So according to APAH’s strict income guidelines, they had to go.

In a fact sheet published in 2016 APAH estimated that there were 450 remaining affordable units in Westover. Subtract from that the 68 it salvaged and the 16 units just demolished, and there are maybe 375 units left.

Since APAH has essentially maxed out its debt capacity in Westover, the only way to prevent the demolition of the remaining units is local historic designation, a petition for which was submitted to the Arlington Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (AHALRB) over a year ago.

At a public hearing in November, 2016, Westover single family homeowners opposed local historic designation. It didn’t matter that the neighborhood is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, nor that they can reap federal tax benefits from renovations to their homes as a result of such designation. They were outraged at restrictions it would place on exterior alterations to their homes. Some even argued that the apartments are an eyesore that should be demolished to make way for upscale housing and guarantee more profits for Westover businesses.

AHALRB attempted to appease homeowners by narrowing the boundaries of the proposed local historic district to the apartments, and it tasked County staff to study the matter, but since then the review board has done nothing. No wonder.

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 has the developer made a killing on these properties, but the County has profited in the form of increased real estate tax revenue. In fact a net present value analysis that assumes a current tax rate of $1 per $100 of assessed valuation, an annual effective tax increase of 3 percent, and a current APR of 2 percent, put the tax revenue accruing to the County over fifty years at about $8 million.

If the County realizes the same rate of return on the demolition of the remaining Westover garden apartments, it will reap over $100 million in increased tax revenue over the lifetime of their replacements. So what’s not to like about that?

For one thing, there’s a fairness issue. A lot of longstanding, hardworking, responsible tenants are now facing long commutes as a result of displacement from Arlington County.

For another thing, there’s a public health issue. The most recent demolitions were put on hold when it was determined that both buildings were insulated with asbestos, making demolition hazardous for anyone in the nearby.

And there’s an economic issue. While the speculative prices commanded by the developers of Westover Village might be attractive to high income wage earners, they drive up assessments overall, spelling hardship and possible foreclosure for people on fixed incomes, single heads of households, and those who find themselves out of work.

This should be cause for concern to most government workers, given the imminent downsizing of the County’s biggest employer, the federal government, should Trump’s proposed budget cuts be enacted.

Finally the ongoing evictions in Westover undermine the Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP), the primary purpose of which is to preserve the County’s affordable housing.

If elected, I am going to call upon AHALRB to expedite consideration of petitions for local historic designation to preserve Arlington’s remaining affordable housing and stabilize Arlington’s housing market.

If elected, I also pledge to:

  • Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

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.

Reconsider Approval of Design for Lubber Run Community Center

These remarks, delivered at July 18 Arlington County Board Meeting, are excerpted from a message sent to County officials on July 17 by long-time civic leader and environmentalist Suzanne Sundburg.

I request that you defer taking action on item 52 (Lubber Run Community Center – Endorsement of the Conceptual Design) for the following reasons: 1) flawed process, 2) environmental impact and 3) cost.
Continue reading

Approval of Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map Premature

Remarks given on behalf of long-time civic leader and environmentalist Suzanne Sundburg at Arlington County Board Meeting on July 15, 2017.

Please defer a vote on this agenda Item 50 (Updated Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map). A vote today is premature because agenda Item 52 (endorsement of the design and contract award for Lubber Run Community Center) — which will not be heard until the Board’s July 18 recess meeting – includes a geotechnical engineering report indicating the presence of a significant amount of water on the LRCC site. Continue reading

NVTA TransAction Meeting: A Pro Forma Exercise

Comments at Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Meeting on July 13, 2017.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has issued a call for public comment on TransAction, a draft list of transportation projects to be funded in Northern Virginia for the next six years.

With both population and employment in Northern Virginia expected to increase dramatically between now and 2040, NVTA has certainly made the case for substantial increases in the region’s investment in transportation infrastructure. I am nevertheless concerned about NVTA’s lack of transparency. Continue reading