County Board Loosens Regulations on E-Scooters

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, November 16, 2019

Last month I protested the advertisement of this regulation as an exercise in reckless endangerment. As an example I related an experience reported by my physical therapist.

Several months ago, the therapist was biking on the Mount Vernon Trail near Gravelly Point, when he approached a helmetless 10 year-old travelling in the same direction on an e-scooter. Since the e-scooter was moving erratically, the therapist attempted to pass him from the left. As he did so, the e-scooter swerved into his path, causing the biker to wipe out.

I further related that the biker, a young, physically fit adult male, was not seriously injured. I have since learned that I was misinformed. The therapist suffered lacerations the length of the left side of his body and required physical therapy to alleviate the pain in his badly bruised left shoulder. The therapist further reports that his facility has been treating e-scooter riders for elbow injuries. His colleagues report a surge of ER visits from people with e-scooter injuries.

With adoption of this regulation, incidents like that reported by the physical therapist will become routine rather than incidental. Even those who want this regulation acknowledge that its limited protections are unenforceable. Absent an enforcement mechanism, it represents a public hazard.

Image the consequences of adding a complement of e-scooters to the additional traffic County Board authorized today at the intersection of Glebe Road and North Randolph Street. Personal injury lawyers will benefit from this regulation. No one else will.

County Board Doubles Down on Massive Parking Facility at HT Development Site

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting: 11/16/19

I am speaking on my own behalf as a long-time bike commuter, not on behalf of the Arlington Transportation Commission, of which I am a member.

However, I voted with the majority of the commission on October 30, when it recommended that this item be deferred until the developer produces a more realistic parking plan. HT currently proposes 946 parking spaces or 812 more than the current HT parking lot. The Parking Guidelines for Multi-Family Residential Projects requires only 506 spaces for this site. So HT is effectively doubling what the County recommends.

The Transportation Impact Analysis (TIA) produced by Gorove/Slave discounts the impact of the development at the intersection of Glebe Road and Randolph Street, trotting out its usual argument that since the intersection is already operating at an unacceptable level of service (LOS F), the predicted net increase of about 100 cars during peak hours isn’t going to make things worse.

According to neighbors at nearby Hyde Park Condominium the intersection at Glebe and Randolph is already dangerous, because due to the lack of a westbound left turn lane at Glebe and Henderson Road, residents of Hyde Park must use the Glebe and Randolph intersection to execute westbound turns into the condominium.

The staff report indicates that the project provides almost 300 bicycle parking spaces, with bike access afforded by bike lanes on adjoining streets. But there are no current or planned bike lanes along Glebe Road. 300 bikes competing with hundreds of cars and thousands of pedestrians to get into and out of 600 Glebe Road every day gives new meaning to the term “traffic hazard”.

To get an idea of just how dangerous the HT location already is, the other day I road my bike during rush hour on the sidewalk of Glebe Road from Fairfax Drive to Route 50 and back. En route I jockeyed for space with numerous pedestrians, other bikers and turning cars on uneven pavement. It was a hazardous trip that will become exponentially more dangerous with new HT development. Time to hit the reset button on 600 Glebe Road and come up with a new safety conscious parking plan.

The Shoe Drops on Arlington “Blue Wave” Voters

First, I want thank those of you who voted for me for your support for my recent campaign for Arlington County Board. I got 13,262 votes or 13% of the total. These results are disappointing to be sure.

Yet those who voted for me cannot possibly be as disappointed as those who voted for one of my opponents, Christian Dorsey, who withheld key information about his personal finances from the voters till after the election.

On November 7–two days after election–the Washington Post broke the story that Dorsey, who is Northern Virginia’s representative on the WMATA Board, had been sanctioned by WMATA for failing to report to it a $10,000 donation from WMATA’s biggest union, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 689. Then on November 8 it surfaced the news that Dorsey had filed for bankruptcy.

This is the same Washington Post that provided rosy pre-election coverage of incumbent Democratic County Board members Dorsey and Katie Cristol, while characterizing both my campaign and that of the other independent in the race, Aaron O’Dell, as “nominal”. In fact Arlington beat reporter Pat Sullivan devoted a column on October 31 to the futile outreach efforts of Aaron O’Dell’s underfunded campaign, while barely mentioning my own highly visible campaign that raised and spent $20,000Any voter would have scoffed at the notion of wasting their vote on an Independent for County Board after reading that hatchet job.

But the Washington Post isn’t the only media outlet contemptuous of Independent candidates. The Sun Gazette (SG) endorsed Katie Cristol on September 5, a full two months before the election. On September 26 it endorsed Christian Dorsey, a decision it would regret before the month of October was out. The effect of the SG’s early endorsements was to suck the air out of their opponents’ campaigns and scuttle any meaningful discussion of the issues.

Clearly there is no oxygen for Independent candidates as far as the media is concerned. And the Blue Wave, which is just a euphemism for undemocratic straight ticket voting, has suffocated any real prospect of getting voters to think either inside or outside the ballot box.

Under these circumstances people want to know why I continue to run for political office. The answer is simple. It’s the only legal way to demonstrate that the current corrupt two party system is completely bankrupt. In fact Christian Dorsey’s financial plight is an apt metaphor for the American electoral system.

County Board Incumbent Has Conflict of Interest

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, October 19, 2019

At an October 2 videotaped Committee of 100 candidate forum, I asked the other candidates whether incumbent Christian Dorsey should recuse himself from union business while serving on the WMATA Board, since unions have donated the bulk of his campaign contributions.

Out of $38,000 in total receipts this year, Christian Dorsey has received $10,000 alone from the Amalgamated Transit Workers (ATU 689) and $16,000 from other unions.

In view of this, I called on Dorsey to recuse himself from union business while serving on the WMATA Board.

Dorsey said that he doesn’t have to recuse himself from union matters, because the WMATA Board doesn’t handle union business.

This information was contradicted by Tom Webb, the VP for Labor Relations at WMATA. Webb told me that the WMATA Board not only votes to approve negotiated union contracts, it also provides direction to the General Manager on union negotiations.

At an October 16 Cherrydale candidate forum I again confronted Dorsey. This time Christian accused me of being misinformed or “making it up.” Yet the published minutes of the WMATA Board indicate that over the past year it took action on no less than five union agenda items, including:

  • A September 26, 2019 decision to “Amend FY2020 Budget for Fraternal Order of Police Collective Bargaining Agreement”;
  • The June 27, 2019 “Approval of IBT Local 639 Collective Bargaining Agreement”;
  • A November 1, 2018 decision to “Amend FY2018 and FY2019 Budgets for Collective Bargaining Agreements”;
  • The September 27, 2018 “Approval of OPEIU Local 2 . . . [and] ATU Local 689 Collective Bargaining Agreement”.

It’s one thing to have a conflict of interest. It’s another to deny it in the face of overwhelming evidence.

County Board Set to Loosen Regulations on E-Scooters

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, October 19, 2019

I am speaking on my own behalf as a long-time bike commuter, not on behalf of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, of which I am a member.

The proposed Ordinance Revisions that Regulate the Use and Rental of Micro-Mobility Devices–read e-scooters–are a sop to group of self-interested entrepreneurs and their mostly young, male, thrill seeking clientele and a hazard to the public at large.

When the Shared Mobility Device (SMD) Pilot Project was implemented last year, it excluded SMDs from sidewalks and bike trails and banned users under 16. These regulations proved to be meaningless due to lack of enforcement.

The result was a public outcry against the inconvenience and hazard to pedestrians and bikers by SMDs travelling on and obstructing sidewalks and multi-use trails.

Instead of responding to these concerns by developing the means to enforce existing regulations, the County proposes to essentially eliminate them. Thus SMDs will now be permitted on both sidewalks and multi-use trails, with a speed limit of 6 mph on sidewalks and 15 mph on trails. While non-enforcement of a lax regulation is irresponsible, loosening lax regulations further constitutes reckless endangerment.

As an example I point to an experience related to me by my physical therapist on October 3 shortly before the Transportation Commission recommended these revisions to Chapter 14.2 of County Code.

Several months ago, the therapist was biking on the Mount Vernon trail near Gravelly Point, when he approached a helmetless 10 year-old travelling in the same direction on an e-scooter. Since the e-scooter was moving erratically, the therapist attempted to pass him from the left. As he did so, the e-scooter swerved into his path, causing the biker to wipe out.

The biker, a young physically fit, adult male, was not seriously injured. Nevertheless I ask you to consider the likely outcome if the e-scooter had collided with a woman walking a stroller or a person in a wheel chair at 15 mph on the Mount Vernon Trail.

PRESS RELEASE: County Board Incumbent Misleads Voters On WMATA Board’s Union Oversight Function

At an October 2 Committee of 100 Candidate forum, I asked the other County Board candidates whether incumbent Christian Dorsey should recuse himself from union business while serving on the WMATA Board, given that unions have donated the bulk of Dorsey’s campaign contributions.

Out of $38,000 in total receipts this year, Christian Dorsey has received $10,000 alone from Amalgamated Transit Workers (ATU 689), which represents Metro transit workers. He has also received $16,000 from other unions.

In reply Dorsey indicated that he doesn’t have to recuse himself from union matters, because the WMATA Board doesn’t handle union business.

This information is clearly false, since according to Tom Webb, the VP for Labor Relations at WMATA, the WMATA Board not only votes to approve contracts negotiated with ATU 689 and other unions, it also provides direction to the WMATA General Manager in advance of those negotiations.

Given the disproportionate contributions Dorsey has received from unions, I’m sure you agree with me that he has a conflict of interest and ought to recuse himself from union business. If you are concerned that Mr. Dorsey won’t do that, then it’s time to replace him as Arlington’s representative on the WMATA BoardYou can do this by dis-electing Christian Dorsey on November 5.

If elected to County Board I will insist that Arlington’s representatives on the WMATA Board either decline contributions from major entities doing business with WMATA or recuse themselves from WMATA business involving said entities–including the ATU.

More Trees To Be Removed From Flood Prone County Park

Excerpts from Suzanne Sundburg’s letter to Arlington County Board dated September 23, 2019.

Benjamin Banneker Park contains a formally documented FEMA floodplain, a floodway and a county-identified resource protection area (RPA). Yet even after the July 8 flash flood, the County plans to remove a large number of mature trees and significantly increase impervious surfaces.

I wish that I could tell you how many trees will be removed. However, no tree survey appears to be publicly available. It’s not contained in the staff report for 12-16-17, when the County Board reviewed the framework [for the park]. And the current staff report actively avoids providing this information, even as an attachment.

A reference is made to E2C2’s inquiry about the lack of information on tree removal, among other things, but there is no indication that E2C2’s questions were ever actually addressed. The environmental assessment (EA) referenced in the current staff report isn’t posted to the project web page, nor is the environmental assessmen (EA) posted to E2C2’s web page.

Nowhere do I see a calculation of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that will be re-emitted into the atmosphere when the trees at Benjamin Banneker are removed, even though there are electronic models that would enable staff to calculate the stored carbon.

In its January 28, 2019 presentation to E2C2, staff briefly mentioned the removal of the existing homes on the parcels acquired in order to “increase [the] park[‘s] infiltration ability.” So far, so good.

But staff has yet to explain how removing mature trees, enlarging and paving the current semi-pervious gravel parking lot, and widening paved trails will improve infiltration and won’t exacerbate existing stormwater runoff and flooding problems. 

When will staff and the board begin to discuss the elephant in the room? How much more flood damage will it take? Must we wait for documented drowning fatalities before the board takes action?

This quote seems appropriate: 

“I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.” —Greta Thunberg

PRESS RELEASE: School Board Votes to Remove More Trees

On September 19 Arlington School Board voted to remove dozens of trees from the construction site of the new Reed School in Westover, including most of a grove of majestic hardwoods that have provided shade and quiet enjoyment for generations of students and local residents.

Arlington Public Schools (APS) claims that the destruction is necessary to install geothermal infrastructure, a play ground, and a walkway around the school. At a tour of the site on September 16 that attracted dozens of angry Westover residents, school officials expressed frustration that neighbors waited so long to voice their concerns.

Residents countered that they had raised objections during the planning process, but their objections had been ignored. This sounds like a familiar refrain. The County routinely justifies unpopular decisions by insisting that it sought public input and casting those who object as NIMBYs. Yet even without local opposition, the notion that tearing up a wooded lot is needed to install renewable energy is downright perverse.

It is also self defeating. The National Tree Benefit Calculator indicates that the loss of the 42-inch red maple and the 54-inch silver maple on the site, alone, will generate over 33,000 gallons of additional unintercepted storm water. The end result will be higher peak flood levels, such as the July 8 flash flood that inundated Westover Market across the street from Reed School.

The notion that the saplings APS will install at Reed School can replace mature trees is also not supported by the facts. A USDA Forest Service publication calculates that a 40-year-old red maple absorbs 11,577 gallons of water–almost 4 times the capacity of a 20-year-old red maple (Table A1, p. 64).

National statistics clearly correlate tree removal with runoff volume and flooding. How can County Board allow an educational institution dedicated to STEM curricula to disregard the very science that it is teaching?

If elected, I will insist on mature tree preservation as the first line of defense against future flood events. I will also:

  • Say NO to more tax rate increases and a recently authorized County Board pay grab.
  • 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 15-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

Sun Gazette Endorses My Opponent

On September 5 the Sun Gazette endorsed Katie Cristol, one of my two opponents for County Board. While the endorsement itself is unremarkable, the timing of the announcement–exactly two months before the November 5 general election–is.

True. The Sun Gazette has already endorsed several other local candidates, but they are running uncontested races. Endorsing candidates in contested races at the outset of campaign season looks to me like an ill concealed effort to cut off debate on such important issues confronting the County as:

  • densification
  • real estate assessment hikes
  • overcrowded schools
  • congested roads
  • failing storm water infrastructure
  • loss of tree canopy
  • growth of heat trapping hardscape

Yet Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey is himself disgusted with the performance of County Board on the single most important issue confronting the County, namely the budget.

In a recent editorial, he warned readers not to be “fooled by [the County’s] budget ballet.” The editorial observed that the slew of budget cuts proposed in this year’s School Board and County budgets . . .

are part of a plan to foment community outrage in order to both grease the wheels for a higher tax rate (to ‘protect’ the programs from the chopping block) and to shield from public scrutiny a host of other government operations that probably could stand a little slicing and dicing, but which top officials want to protect from the budget guillotine.

Sun Gazette Editorial, 4/11/19

The only thing I can conclude from McCaffrey’s about face is that he either has a short memory or has somehow concluded that Katie doesn’t share responsibility for the County’s “budget ballet”. Rest assured that I harbor no such illusions.
If elected, I will:

  • Say NO to more tax rate increases and a recently authorized County Board pay grab.
  • 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 15-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

PRESS RELEASE: More Densification Planned for Ballston

Most people view development as a good thing. But too much of a good thing is bad, and that’s what’s happening to Ballston, where densification has become the new mantra. According to community activist Suzanne Sundburg, who has tracked the greater Ballston planning pipeline from a variety of public sources, about 3,000 new residential rental units have been built or are under construction there.

Major projects underway include the redevelopment of the Harris Teeter / Mercedes site on N. Glebe Road (732 residential units, 965 parking spaces). Other Ballston housing projects completed, under construction or planned include:

The .6 acre park planned for the Harris Teeter / Mercedes site is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of the more than 1,000 residents who will live there. In fact .6 acres is the average size of just 3 single family home lots. Nearby Mosaic Park will have to serve the recreation needs of the thousands of others moving into the units listed above.

A New Planning Approach Needed

Considering the growing congestion at major intersections such as Wilson Blvd. and Glebe Road in Ballston; schoolyards overflowing with trailers; acres of new flood inducing surfaces from infill development; Arlington County Government’s planning paradigm falls well short of the kind of reality-driven planning that Arlingtonians deserve.

As an Independent candidate for County Board, I don’t think we need buzzwords that local officials bandy about like “Car-Free Diet,” “Affordable Housing,” “Smart Growth” and “Urban Village”. We need comprehensive studies that include the fiscal and practical costs of increasing Arlington’s population.

If elected, I will insist on a new approach to redevelopment. In addition, if elected, I will:

  • Say NO to more tax rate increases and a recently authorized County Board pay grab.
  • 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 15-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.