Arlington County Board Member Attacks Local Non-Profit for Demanding Transparency on Amazon Deal

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, May 14, 2022.

At the April 23, 2022 hearing on Amazon’s PenPlace development in Crystal City, a spokesperson for Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF), opposed the project, arguing that Amazon is getting far more in the form of additional bonus density than it is giving back in community benefits. Board Member Christian Dorsey attacked ASF’s valuation of PenPlace community benefits at $75 million as grossly inaccurate, using the supposed gaffe to justify the exclusion of the public from negotiations on site plan projects in general.

According to Dorsey, if the public were allowed to participate “we would simply be creating an inequitable power structure where those who can mobilize and speak the loudest would get what they want, and broad community benefits would go under-realized. [3:43:40.]”

This is a straw man. ASF did not ask to participate in negotiations. It simply demanded information that the County itself has yet to produce. Afterwards community activist Suzanne Sundburg observed:

“Dorsey’s comments are hardly surprising. There will always be those for whom transparency is a dirty word. And the only reason ASF made a valiant attempt to quantify the value of the community benefits package and the bonus density is because staff refused to provide such information that is clearly relevant to the project’s evaluation, an evaluation for which the county’s own processes task the commissions and the public.

“Even rough estimates were not provided. Given the huge amount of public funding that is already being given directly to Amazon or spent indirectly for Amazon’s benefit, it’s not unreasonable to ask staff to provide a public analysis in a timely manner that supports the deal the county is making.”