County Board Issues

Arlington County is confronted with several major issues that the current County Board has not dealt with adequately, among them:

Escalating Taxes

According to the County’s own numbers and the annual Consumer Price Index, the increase in this year’s tax and fee burden–at 5.1 percent–is almost double the ten year average rate of inflation.  While those who’ve sold their homes have experienced a windfall, those who want to remain in the County are finding it harder to do so.

If elected I will call for a roll back of this year’s tax rate increase to alleviate everyone’s tax burden and prevent displacement of moderate income residents.

Increasing Crime

At a County Board work session on March 21, 2024, Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn reported that crime continues a steady rise since 2020, with property crime up almost 5 percent, assaults up 9 percent and narcotics offenses up a whopping 19 percent in 2023. Penn also reported that he is 72 officers short of his authorized staff level, despite a serious push to recruit new officers. Much of the attrition is due to resignations, which can be traced to widespread demoralization of police due to the Defund the Police movement.

If elected I am going to promote Arlington County Police as the county’s last, best hope to stop the crime wave on the other side of the Potomac from migrating over here.

High Office Vacancy Rate

To reduce Arlington’s 23 percent office vacancy rate, I will insist that the County require federal agencies in the Metropolitan Washington Area to comply with Executive Order 12,072. Jimmy Carter issued that order in 1978 to revitalize and strengthen the Nation’s central cities, but many agencies have ignored it. The Order requires that “[e]xcept where such selection is otherwise prohibited, the process for meeting Federal space needs in urban areas shall give first consideration to a centralized community business area and adjacent areas of similar character, including other specific areas which may be recommended by local officials.” This means that whenever an area agency’s lease expires, the agency must give priority to an available space located in D.C. or Arlington, rather than in a suburb. If EO 12,702 were enforced, Arlington’s office vacancy rate would drop dramatically.

Lack of Affordable Housing

According to County reports, Between 2000 and 2013 the County lost 13,500 market rate affordable apartments. The County has replaced some of those with subsidized housing. But by 2019 the County’s affordable housing inventory was 10,950 units or less than half the 23,500 units available in 2000. Clearly the County has not met the goals outlined in the Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) adopted with much fanfare in 2015.

Having essentially thrown in the towel on housing for low income households, the County is now doubling down on “Missing Middle” housing, supposedly affordable to the middle class. The idea is to replace homes on single family lots with less expensive duplexes and town homes. This won’t work, because as has been pointed out by noted Wharton economist Jon Huntley, escalating land values in an elastic market will price even modest homes out of reach of the middle class. What Missing Middle will provide is major impacts, including overcrowded schools, increased traffic congestion on neighborhood streets, and additional flood inducing runoff due to fewer trees and more pavement.

If elected I will lobby the Board to scrap Missing Middle as a non-solution to the housing affordability crisis and call for restoring the tax credit for renovation of market rate affordable apartments that was revoked by County Board in 2020.

School Enrollment Crisis

On average Arlington Public Schools (APS) experienced student enrollment growth of 3% annually from 2006 through 2019 (FY 2022 School Board’s Adopted Budget, p. 240). Despite a slight near term enrollment drop due to COVID, this trend is expected to resume. Unable to meet new classroom capacity needs, APS has resorted to housing students in trailers, which has resulted in a loss of open space on most school campuses and a degraded learning environment for a significant percentage of students.

APS also has the lowest average secondary class size of any school district in the Washington, DC area and one of the highest minority student achievement gaps.

While APS can’t limit enrollment, it can increase capacity by bringing its student/teacher ratio in line with that of its peers. It can also look to other school districts for ways to reduce the achievement gap. If elected to County Board, I will encourage APS to do that.

Loss of Open Space

The County itself has documented a 5 percent increase in impervious surface, i.e. asphalt pavement, since 2001. That means an equivalent loss of tree canopy and/or green space. That may not sound like much, but it equals a lot the size of the Pentagon site every 3-4 years. Arlington County Board is not only in denial about the loss of open space, it is actually abetting it through the permitting process. In 2018 Arlington County actually permitted the demolition of a 75 year old Dawn Redwood located in a resource protection area in North Arlington in contravention of the Arlington Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, Section 61-7.A.2.

If elected to County Board I will insist upon strict enforcement of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA) as the focal point for efforts to prevent further loss of the County’s precious remaining green space.