Misconceptions About “Missing Middle” Housing

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, February 22, 2020

On February 6, housing planner Russell Schroeder outlined the Housing Division’s “Missing Middle” housing study to the Transportation Commission. According to the study’s framework document, one of the goals is to arrive at “a shared definition for the term ‘missing middle housing’ for Arlington”.

The Transportation Commission, which embraced the plan, conceded that missing middle does not mean affordable housing. Indeed, ARLnow quoted Commissioner Kristin Calkins, who said: “The point of the Missing Middle Study is not to create affordable housing, but is to create housing for different needs.”

Commissioner James Lantelme said the purpose of Missing Middle is to further densify the County in order to reduce suburban sprawl and provide people who can afford to do so the opportunity to live here–in other words, to promote “Smart Growth”.

There was no concern expressed about the impacts of densification on County residents, including increased congestion, overcrowded schools, loss of green space and tree canopy and attendant runoff and flooding. To housing advocates like AHC who believe that Missing Middle will provide affordable housing, civic activist Suzanne Sundburg has this to say:

So all these folks who claim to support increasing the number of “people of color” and/or “affordability” are being intellectually dishonest. Increased density inflates land values. And inflated land values drive up assessments, which, in turn, drive up the tax burden. That increased tax burden falls heaviest on fixed- and low-income households . . . which often comprise people of color, seniors and the disabled. These developer welfare upzoning/densification programs increase the cost of housing for all Arlingtonians, and result in the displacement of the very people that they and the county claim they want to “help.”

Suzanne Sundburg

Arlington Sets Up Motorist Speed Traps With $200 Fines

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, January 28, 2020

I am speaking on my own behalf as a non-car diet commuter, not on behalf of the Arlington Transportation Commission, of which I am a member.

This item was heard at the January 9 Transportation Commission meeting. While there was considerable discussion of the merits of penalizing excessive speeds, there was no attention given to the actual criteria for designating speed traps.

The staff report defines the types of road segments that could qualify as speed traps and indicates that it will evaluate existing traffic data, police reports and citizen complaints in targeting “residential streets that carry relatively higher traffic volumes and have documented speeding issues.”

But nowhere is “documented speeding issues” defined. When I asked a question about how the County determines a speed zone, County staff said this information is available elsewhere in Section 14.2 of County code. I couldn’t find it there and shouldn’t have to. Basic information about a proposed regulation should be in the ordinance itself or in a document linked to it.

Accepting at face value the information or lack thereof provided by planning staff is referred to in public policy literature as staff driven decision-making. Staff driven boards and commissions ill serve the public interest, since an uniformed decision is generally a poor one. The fault lies not with staff, but with the decision makers who fail to solicit the information they need to make intelligent decisions.

I recommend that County Board require language inserted into this ordinance that stipulates what constitutes a speed zone. Otherwise it will lend itself to abuse.

County Board Member Dorsey Hasn’t Reported Return of Union Donation

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, January 25, 2020

This letter was directed on 1/18/20 to the WMATA Board Ethics Officer and/or WMATA Inspector General pursuant to WMATA Board Code of Ethics, Article XI: Other Reports of Conflicts of Interest and Suspected Ethics Violations, in the matter of WMATA’s Board’s earlier determination that Board Member Christian Dorsey had violated the code as a member of the Board.

On or about November 7, 2019, the WMATA Board sanctioned Board member Christian Dorsey for failing to report timely a $10,000 campaign contribution he received in 2019 from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 689, which represents Metro transit workers.

The Washington Post reported Dorsey’s conflict of interest on November 7 as follows:

“Dorsey received the union donation on June 21 and reported it to Virginia authorities in accordance with state campaign finance law. It was one of the two largest contributions he received this year, the other being a $10,000 contribution from the InternationalBrotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“But he waited until Oct. 30 to report the ATU Local 689 contribution to Metro.

“The board resolution said that because of the reporting lapse, ‘Dorsey participated in several matters as a Board Member from which he should have recused himself during the period June 21, 2019 to October 30, 2019.’

“Metro Board Chair Smedberg said Dorsey had participated improperly in three “high-level briefings” on contracting matters, all held in executive session, where no board action was taken.

“’The Board reprimands Mr. Dorsey for violating the Board Code of Ethics by failing to timely disclose the Local 689 campaign contribution and failing to recuse himself from Board matters where Local 689 had an interest,’ the board resolution said.”

The minutes of the November 7, 2019 WMATA Board Meeting read in relevant part:

“The Ethics Committee determined that, despite Mr. Dorsey’s good faith disclosure and return of the $10,000 campaign contribution from Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689, he violated the Code of Ethics and should be reprimanded and removed as Chair of the Finance and Capital Committee.”

While WMATA Board minutes clearly indicate that Dorsey returned the $10,000 ATU contribution in accordance with its direction, I can find no evidence of the return of the contribution in Dorsey’s campaign finance reports available here:

As an Arlington resident who ran against Dorsey for Arlington County Board in 2019 and exposed his conflict of interest vis-a-vis ATU 689 during the campaign, I am requesting that the WMATA Board provide proof that Dorsey has indeed returned the contribution from ATU 689, as it directed him to do.

It is one thing to demand compliance with WMATA Board’s Code of Ethics. It is another to determine whether this has actually occurred. Transparency requires both.

***

Dorsey explained at the meeting that the check he wrote to return the union donation never cleared, and he can’t return the check till it does. Just the opposite. According to the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) official I spoke to “checks must be recorded when they’re written.”

Arlington County Opposes Laws Requiring Police To Verify Immigration Status

Comments at League of Women Voters Hosted Hearing For Arlington Legislators, December 19, 2019

On Immigration:

I oppose an initiative included in the County Board legislative package to the General Assembly that would:

“Oppose any state mandate to localities requiring local law enforcement officers to evaluate the immigration status of individuals encountered during lawful stops or other routine police activities.”

First, this language turns the law on its head, because police officers are required to enforce the law, including immigration laws. See 8 U.S. Code § 1373 and 8 U.S. Code § 1644.

Second, proscribing traffic stops for immigration offenses amounts to selective enforcement, insofar as it requires police to ignore immigration offenses while citing non-immigration offenses. Selective enforcement of the law is a per se violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Third, it is well known that the principal victims of crimes perpetrated by illegal immigrants are legal immigrants. Barring police from citing undocumented persons will serve to oppress the many thousands of legal immigrants and naturalized citizens who reside in Northern Virginia.

Fourth, those who promote non-enforcement of immigration laws are using the issue as a cudgel to score political points by race baiting opponents. This type of demagoguery should not be tolerated by the General Assembly.

On Transportation:

A recently published VDOT report indicates that average speeds are down and travel time is up on eastbound I-66 Inside the Beltway toll lanes.

The likely culprit is tolling cheating on eastbound I-66 resulting from lack of enforcement by Virginia State Police due to unsafe road shoulders from which to monitor toll traffic. I urge the General Assembly to consult with VDOT regarding the installation of electronic detection devices at toll gantries to enable adequate surveillance of road traffic on eastbound I-66.

Upzoning the Arlington Way

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, December 14, 2019

The Arlington Connection recently ran a story on upzoning the Arlington way. It went like this. A large lot on North River Street in Chain Bridge Forest was recently sold by the estate of its former owner to a developer. He leveled the home and all 200 trees on it to make way for 4 new McMansions.

At a recent County Board meeting Christian Dorsey informed one of the impacted neighbors that the County Board couldn’t do anything about it. Appeals to the County Manager’s office, CPHD and the Zoning Administrator likewise fell on deaf ears. The reason is by right development according to Libby Garvey, who commented on “the need to examine regs that can discourage such projects.”

But that’s not likely to happen when the County Board votes to upzone residential neighborhoods. Then the plight of Chain Bridge Forest will play out across the County. Housing advocates like Affordable Housing Solutions are cheering the developers on, because they  naïvely believe that upzoning will produce affordable housing. That’s delusional. Upzoning will simply replace each million dollar tear down with 4 equally unaffordable pre-fabs.

A recent Sun Gazette editorial opined that upzoning will pit single family homeowners against recently “woke” voters who own no property and have no interest in preserving single family neighborhoods. Their votes will be bought by outside money from the likes of George Soros, who recently purchased the election of the County’s new Commonwealth Attorney.

 “Woke” voters are no doubt easily led. But their votes won’t be needed once existing owners realize that they can make a killing by selling to a developer, who will then cannibalize their property and immiserate their neighbors.

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.