Arlington County is confronted with several major issues that the current County Board has not dealt with adequately, among them:
In the last ten years taxes–according to numbers reported in the “Residential Taxation and Fee Trends” section of the County Manager’s annual budget proposals and the annual Consumer Price Index–real estate taxes have increased more than double the 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.
Many believe that Amazon’s decision to move to Arlington will reduce future residential real estate tax increases. But if Seattle, Amazon’s current headquarters, is any indication, its high paying jobs will hyper-inflate the housing market, driving assessments and real estate taxes up at an even faster rate.
High Office Vacancy Rate
Amazon’s move to Crystal City will reduce the County’s office vacancy rate to be sure. But it will also produce major impacts in the form of increased school enrollment and demands on the transportation system, police and fire protection, and open space.
Of these basic services, transportation is the only one addressed in the Amazon deal–through a pledge of increased public spending on Crystal City’s transportation network. Not only has Amazon not offered to compensate for the other social costs of moving here, in a secret deal negotiated with the Governor in 2018 it extracted $550 million to $750 million in incentive payments from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The Governor’s team was quick to point out that its incentive payment was far less than that offered by New York state. However, opposition by other New York elected officials to Governor Cuomo’s $3 billion Amazon giveaway–plus its refusal to hire union labor–was such that Amazon scuttled its plans to open a headquarters in Queens.
Amazon’s bad faith dealings with New York reinforces my belief that incentive payments– except where an industry has a demonstrated need–are a form of bribery. They certainly amount to corporate welfare, the cost of which should not be born by the taxpayers of any state let alone Virginia. With an $800 billion capitalization, Amazon has a bigger budget than most nation states. Amazon doesn’t need the money. It needs a better public image.
This doesn’t mean that I oppose the Amazon deal. I oppose the subsidies, including the $23 million incentive payment County Board has offered. That money would be better spent relocating people displaced from their housing in Crystal City due to housing inflation.
School Enrollment Crisis
On average Arlington Public Schools (APS) has experienced student enrollment growth of over 850 students annually over the past eight years (Superintendent’s Proposed FY 2019 Budget, p.40). Unable to build new classroom capacity on time and on budget, 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.
If elected to County Board, I will insist that APS bring both its operating and capital costs in line with other area jurisdictions as a condition for approving its budgets.
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.