Civic Association Newsletter

December 1996 - Volume 20, No. 3


At the County Board meeting of October 26, 1996, BVSCA President Ragland testified on behalf of the Association, during agenda item 9b, under the discussion of the County Manager's recommendation to advertise Arlington County's 1997 Legislative Package, Draft #1. The following is BVSCA President Ragland's testimony and the County Board's response thereto.

BVSCA President Ragland: "Good morning Chairman Hunter and members of the County Board. The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association has recently completed its fourth annual survey. It's reported in our current issue of the Newsletter [October/November 1996 issue]. I personally delivered copies for each of you last evening."

Chairman Hunter: "Thank you."

BVSCA President Ragland: "You're welcome. I encourage you to read the survey results. Mr. Wise and Mr. Hunter have just mentioned a local income tax. Our members of BVSCA believe that it is the highest concern item in our most recent survey. We received 93.7%, either concerned or critical problem response from our members. We do mention House Bill (HB) 1410 on page 36 of the Newsletter [the hard copy issue]. We talk about the recent history, concern by the members, and some information from last year in our discussion here at the County Board. We mentioned also the Federation's discussion and your comments Mr. Hunter [at the January 1996 Civic Federation meeting], and then we did some follow-up research. This HB 1410 does not address personal property tax. It only addresses the real estate tax and the local income tax. The idea is correct though that the first year of the implementation of the local income tax, assuming that a county or a city would establish an ordinance approving such a tax, the first year in terms of effect, it would only apply [as an offset] against the real estate tax. There is no mention in the bill about personal property taxes.

What we are most troubled about is the [proposed] elimination of the public referendum requirement. The current law provides [authority for the implementation of a local income tax] for that for counties with populations greater than 500,000 and for counties adjacent thereto. We think that is incorrect [HB 1410 and the elimination of the public referendum requirement]. We think any new tax, as you know [should be approved first by the voters], as we have stated this as a concern previously about the meals tax and how that was done. There are very positive arguments one can make for the meals tax, but as you know our Civic Association was very opposed to the floor amendment that was done several years ago, exempting us, the County Manager Plan of Government, from having a public referendum on that. We think it's very important to get the people's input [or approval on any new tax before adoption].

Also, as you know, we have been very concerned about aggressive panhandling. We have been before this Board three years in a row, asking for support to establish an ordinance against aggressive panhandling. When Mr. Eisenberg was Chairman of this Board, I personally sent him a letter asking him to look into that and to seek his support. We were told that this County would need special enabling legislation. As recently as April of this past year, I spoke before the Arlington County Delegation and they were not aware that this was in our legislative package from last year. If you look at Draft #1 [1997 Arlington County Legislative Package] this year, there is no mention of aggressive panhandling, or even the request for special enabling legislation. Our members voted 88.7%, the highest rated topical issue in our survey, to establish an ordinance or law against aggressive panhandling.

Now, I would like to contrast that with the lowest ranked item of support, and that is County Funding for a Baseball Stadium in Arlington. Only 6% of our members would support such an idea. We had 93.4% opposition to any County Funding for a Baseball Stadium in Arlington. Our members are also are very troubled about used car lots: 86.1% reflected support for establishing a use permit requirement process for used car lots. We noticed in Draft #1, there is mention of increasing salaries for County Board members. I personally support that concept; however, our members voted to oppose any increase in salary for Board members to greater than $16,000. The language in your draft states $25,000. We were almost evenly split. We had 46.4% in support of that concept with 53.6% opposed.

Our members also felt very strongly in support of term limits for County Board members. Now, we understand that you are not likely to support that concept, but we think that initiative and referendum has to be considered. We urge you to review that, and as you know, Governor Allen had it in his State of the Commonwealth Address. He believes in the people, our Civic Association supports that concept. Its good for democracy and I think it would be good for Arlington County. Thank you."

Chairman Hunter: "Thank you for sharing your survey results with us, Mr. Ragland. How many people did you send your survey to and how many responded?"

BVSCA President Ragland: "When we issue our Newsletter, we issue it to the general community. Who responds are the members. We got 78 members, who responded to our survey."

Board Member Eisenberg: "How many is distributed?"

BVSCA President Ragland: "Our distribution is 3500, but people do not respond who are not members of the Association. This is the highest rated response that we have ever received in the history of this survey. Last year we got 65. The year before we got 70. We had others that we did not include in the results, because they were received past the due date."

Board Member Eisenberg: "But they're not prevented from responding, they can respond as part of that 3500."

BVSCA President Ragland: "Yes, that is true but the people who do respond are our members, and if they don't know the answer they do not comment even in their response."

Chairman Hunter: "But let me just ask the question. I'm not trying to pick on you but I'm curious. You said only 6% of your respondents were in favor of the baseball ..."

BVSCA President Ragland: "County Funding for a Baseball Stadium in Arlington."

Chairman Hunter: "County funding, yes which is a very.." Board Member Eisenberg: "It's not been proposed."

Chairman Hunter: "It's not going to be any county funding in it but if that's the way the question is worded that may have slanted the question a little. But leaving that aside, 6% responded out of 78 so I guess that means 5 people said they would favor county funding."

BVSCA President Ragland: "Actually, it's not exactly 78, it's 76 [who responded to that question]. If you read the Newsletter closely we explained how we derived the results. So we had 76 people responding with 6.6% [5 of 76] indicating support for County funding. And I would argue that we have already spent money, County money, to participate in the study [for determining a suitable site in Arlington]. So our members feel strongly, we would like not to see any further monies spent on such a concept."

Chairman Hunter: "But the next question is, did that mean that 94% were against or some didn't respond?"

BVSCA President Ragland: "Ninety-three-point-four-percent (93.4%) [71 of 76] said no of the 76 who responded to the item."

Chairman Hunter: "Thank you for clearing that up."

Board Member Bozman: "Mr. Ragland, I'll just repeat what has been said that the State Study Commission, on which I serve did not propose sources other than local funding sources for any baseball stadium that should be approved. Now of course that's just a state recommendation and nothing is going forward at this point on any front. The other thing that would help me is on the aggressive panhandling. Because laws always have to have standards in order to enforce them, I would like to know the points you would have in an aggressive panhandling [law]. The reason I say that is because we do have provisions in other laws, which prevent the touching of anybody, harassing them in any way, using foul language. And so I need to know what it is that's missing in the present ordinances that you would want in. If you could give me that later on before our hearing that would be helpful."

BVSCA President Ragland: "I would be glad to and I would like to make just one comment. The City of Alexandria has that ordinance and also Prince William County, and their language is very explicitly clear and I will send you a copy. It may be a matter of debate as to some of the fine details, but I think their definition is very clear and where it has been implemented, it has been an excellent deterrent to such activities. Thank you."

Chairman Hunter: "Thank you for being here, Mr. Ragland."

Board Member Eisenberg: "Will staff examine the law enforcement experience of those two communities under these ordinances. Tell us the number of arrests that have been made and the number of prosecutions that have been pursued, and the number of convictions that have been achieved as a result of these ordinances--starting with the time of their enactment and, therefore, their effective date to the latest date available. There has been some back and forth here as to whether or not we already have sufficient authority. And if so, whether or not we have an adequate deterrent to the extremes of activity that we are trying to address so that information I think would be helpful, along with the information that Mr. Ragland will be providing."

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