Arlington County's approach to this subject has been led by the creation of the Economic Development Commission and "Partnerships" representing many communities within the County. Arlington's location and proximity to the District has always been a great advantage but now businesses are finding greener pastures. The Navy is leaving with 11,000 jobs, American Management Systems has announced its leaving, along with another larger computer firm. The Gannett Organization has announced its interest in leaving and USLICO, the largest insurance company in our County was recently acquired by an out of state firm--no one knows their future plan but it is possible some "redundancies" will occur. Most recently, the Commission has developed a new Economic Development Plan to address the problem and has called for citizen comment and discussion. So I will offer mine as follows:
The Arlington Economic Future Committee's new plan has some good ideas and intentions--it attempts to identify certain sectors of the economy which may contribute to our growth in the future. The plan emphasizes the recreation of Arlington's image and calls for a new (and somewhat costly) marketing and public relations campaign to woo new businesses here to Arlington. Yet nowhere does it recognize the failures in our present economic development program and the reason that Fairfax County, Montgomery County, and counties from all over the U.S. (and the world) are beating us over the head and luring businesses to their locales.
As reported in the Newsletter last month, Arlington officials have been forging ahead with plans to build a new four-lane street through the middle of Ballston in the face of persistent objections from county residents, and our Civic Association. The proposed project would be a four-lane road intersecting simultaneously at N. Henderson Road, N. Glebe Rd. and Fifth Street. County Manager Anton S. Gardner recommended approval of this proposed project at the February 1991 County Board meeting. Citizens spoke in opposition because they believed it would promote over development and turn the area into a commuter traffic corridor. On December 12, 1992, the County Board approved the final design of the North Quincy Street Extension Project and reviewed the Draft North Quincy Street Use Study.
Alternative 1: For the block bounded by Wilson Boulevard, North Randolph Street, 5th Street North and North Quincy Street extended: From "General Commercial" (Shopper goods and other major mixed commercial uses, including offices. Generally a maximum of seven stories.) to "Medium" Office-Apartment-Hotel (2.5 F.A.R. 180 units/acre Hotel).
Alternative 2: For the block bounded by Wilson Boulevard, North Randolph Street, 5th Street North and North Quincy Street extended: From "General Commercial" (Shopper goods and other major mixed commercial uses, including offices. Generally a maximum of seven stories.) to 1/2 striped "Medium" Office-Apartment-Hotel (2.5 F.A.R. Office; up to 115 units/acre Apartments; up to 180 units/acre Hotel) and 1/2 striped "Low" Office-Apartment-Hotel (1.5 F.A.R. Office; up to 72 units/acre Apartments; up to 110 units/acre Hotel).
Alternative 3: For the block bounded by Wilson Boulevard, North Randolph Street, 5th Street North and North Pollard Street: From "General Commercial" (Shopper goods and other major mixed commercial uses, including offices. Generally a maximum of seven stories.) and "Medium" Residential (37-72 units per acre) to 1/2 striped "Medium" Office-Apartment-Hotel (2.5 F.A.R. Office; up to 115 units/acre Apartments; up to 180 units/acre Hotel) and 1/2 striped "Medium" Residential (37-72 units per acre).
The Executive Committee recommends a Land Use Plan vote at our October membership meeting. The Executive Committee has reviewed the proposed alternatives and favors a more equitable distribution of the density on both the east and west side of the extension. Such an approach suggests that the current General Land Use Plan designations in that area should be left unchanged. The reason that the Proposed Plan is a bad one is that it concentrates the highest development density on the west side of the North Quincy Street Extension. That means that the bulk of the development that would occur due to the new road would be on the west side of N. Quincy Street, between N. Quincy Street and N. Randolph Street. Essentially, this means that the staff Proposed Land Use Plan would place all the burdens of the development and traffic on our BVSCA neighborhoods while protecting Ashton Heights where the new road extension is located.
The Executive Committee pointed out that the site of the new facility is directly across from Pollard Gardens, a residential community populated by many new immigrant families with young children who frequently stroll and sit in this vicinity. The Executive Committee made suggestions in a letter dated September 15, 1994 to the Director of Special Projects, Arlington County Schools concerning the administration of the program and the facility. We requested that:
We have invited Ms. Kathleen Wallace of the Arlington County Housing Division to provide a brief presentation and answer any of our members' questions on the interactive forum at the October 26 general membership meeting, beginning at 9:15 p.m.
The information on the interactive forum that follows was provided by the Arlington County Housing Division to encourage public participation in developing the County's programs for affordable housing. This forum, jointly sponsored by the Arlington Community Development Citizens Advisory Commission (CDCAC) and the Housing Commission is being held to gain input on what the citizens of Arlington County feel are the problems and solutions to homelessness, affordable housing, and community development issues.
The goal of the forum will be to identify needs, choose priorities and generate strategies to address those needs. You are invited to participate in one of the following focus groups. If you are interested in attending, please let the Executive Committee know at the upcoming general membership meeting, or contact the member information line telephone number (703) 528-1887.
The final version of the MOU includes a provision for a Joint GMU/Arlington County Advisory Board with broad County-wide representation, including representation from the immediate neighborhoods surrounding the campus constituting one third of the total membership. Neighborhood representation was recommended by BVSCA as an amendment to GMU's proposal for the Advisory Board. Among the issues for consideration by the Advisory Board is the potential for on-street parking problems generated by GMU students, faculty, and staff.
Recently, BVSCA has written County Board Chairman Mary Margaret Whipple requesting that Arlington County move quickly with GMU to constitute the Joint Advisory Board, especially in view of the recent announcement of a major change in GMU's intended use of the expanded campus. Congress has appropriated funds through two separate Federal agencies for the installation of a new supercomputer in the GMU Phase II building. Such a function on the campus was not considered during the site plan review process conducted in the Spring of 1994.
The BVSCA would like to express their appreciation to all the candidates who participated in the four sessions that evening. For the first session, we heard from the two candidates for the Arlington County Board--John Barr (R) and Mary Margaret Whipple (D), the Incumbent. For the second session, we heard from two of the four candidates for the 8th U.S. Congressional District of Virginia--Kyle McSlarrow (R) and Wade Edmonds (I). The two congressional candidates who did not attend the meeting, included: Jim Moran (D), the Incumbent; and William Jones (I), a twenty year associate of political economist, Lyndon LaRouche. For the third session, we heard from the five candidates for the Arlington County School Board: Dave Foster (I); (Mary Hynes (D); Charles Miller (I); Dorothy Anderson Patton (I); and Ric Roca (I). For the last session, we heard from the two candidates for the Arlington County Commonwealth Attorney race, Jim Trodden (D), the Acting Arlington County Commonwealth Attorney and Clark Broderson (I).
Because the Candidates Night Debates were such a success this year and many of our 238 dues paid members were not able to attend, the Executive Committee has included the highlights of the introductory remarks by (1) the two candidates for the Arlington County Board-- Mary Margaret Whipple (D), the Incumbent and John Barr (R); and (2) the two congressional candidates from the Commonwealth of Virginia's 8th Congressional District, who attended the meeting. These candidates were BVSCA member, Kyle McSlarrow (R), and Ward Edmonds. Also, we have included their individual responses to one of the questions asked that evening for both of these races to provide our members additional insight into the candidates stand on important issues.
Mr. Barr said it is time to put all of that aside. What we need to do is eliminate the personal property tax. Mr. Barr stated, "I don't think you should be writing a check to Arlington County every year, just for the privilege of having a car in the county. As a member of the Arlington County Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, the personal property tax brings in less each year than what the County spends on just the Department of Human Services. It is about 11% to 12% of the county's budget."
Under Mr. Barr's plan, he stated it would be cut by 25% over each of the next four years. How to pay for it? Mr Barr held up the 1995 Arlington County Proposed Budget and stated that it consists of about 1,000 pages of programs on each page. Mr. Barr said that he has gone over the plan and has taken out excess bureaucratic overhead, going department by department. "We don't need to pay for collecting the personal property tax which would save several million dollars. Also, we don't need to pay for such capital improvement projects as tearing down the middle-age jail and building a public garage; and building a $45 million dollar Department of Human Services building, until it is at least proven that we really need to have it.
Mr. Barr expressed concern about crime. "Over the past 10 years, the percentage share of the County's Budget has decreased by 10 percent, while functions like the Department of Human Services and General Government spending has been exploding." He suggested that a police substation in South Arlington. Further, Mr. Barr expressed concern about businesses leaving Arlington County and stated that this is due in part to Arlington County's high taxes. Mr Barr stated that the County needs to reverse the trends in the budget so that priority is put on public safety and new ways to attract businesses for Arlington County.
Mrs. Whipple indicated that Arlington is a very special place to live. "Arlington is prosperous and enjoys the region's lowest tax burden. It has a triple A Bond rating, a distinction shared by only 13 counties around the nation. Arlington has good schools and has been cited by Money Magazine as the 14th safest community in the nation with populations over 100,000."
Mrs. Whipple stated that we need to work on a number of issues. According to Mrs. Whipple, "public Safety has been and continues to be an important concern to the community even though our serious crime rate is low and has been dropping." Mrs. Whipple indicated that many improvements have been made with public safety issues. "We have increased the number of police. We have added community based policing teams, including adding more than $2.5 million dollars this year in local funds to take over federal grants and establish the first community based policing teams." Mrs. Whipple stated, "that we have a state of the art, a $12 million communications system that works in high rises in the Metro system to give our police the best kind of tools that they need to do their work well. We have added bike patrols to help make Arlington a safer community."
Mrs. Whipple said, "we have a fine school system in Arlington County. We have the highest percentage of national merit scholarship semi-finalists in the Washington. D.C. region. We stress percentages not numbers. Schools with high numbers, get in the newspapers."
Mrs. Whipple said, "that we need to enhance our government services in Arlington County. We have a good civil service that is professionally managed, but [she thinks] they can be more customer oriented. We can look at ways to be more customer friendly. We can supply, perhaps, high tech solutions that help the citizens of Arlington by being able to access county forms from their home computer, adjusting hours to be more convenient to Arlington citizens, and always trying to be responsive to our citizens in Arlington. We can be more aggressive and competitive in the region by marketing Arlington."
Mrs. Whipple responded first to the question. Mrs. Whipple said, "she was very glad that this question was asked because it gave her the opportunity to set the record straight. The new Arlington County jail did not have a cost overrun and that the jail was never expected to be paid for by the bond issue alone." Mrs. Whipple added that I think the bond issue has been a source of confusion for some people. Ms. Whipple stated that she had heard from some people that the bond issue was only for $35 million and because the jail cost $48 million it must have been a cost overrun. Mrs. Whipple stated "the jail was never expected to be paid for entirely by debt. It was also expected to include funding by pay-as-you-go capital that is included in the county's annual budget, by payment from the city of Falls Church that shares in our jail, and by funding from the state."
Mrs Whipple said "the only addition that was made in the cost of the jail from the original plans to what was built is what [she] referred to earlier was the shelve space needs--that if you add the exterior but not finish the interior that was an additional cost to the Arlington County jail. That was a policy decision made by the Arlington County Board in a 3-2 vote. I was on the part of the 3 that voted for it. Ms. Whipple stated that I think it was a wise decision and the Arlington County jail population now bears that out as a wise decision."
Mrs. Whipple commented that "the Loop Road Bridge was a poor contractor. We sued the contractor and won. We are going to come out alright. There is still an appeals process to go. So far the county has won the case that we have made against the contractor. That doesn't happen sometime. The contractor did not live up to the requirements of the contract and do it well and properly. When that happens, the county takes action and takes them to court and we recover."
Mrs. Whipple stated that "the Ballston Garage is designed to cover it costs over the long term. The early years are different from the later years. Money has been pulled for some renovations, but essentially it is on target. It will eventually cover cost and I think one of the most important things to remember about the Ballston Garage is without it, we wouldn't have the Ballston Common Mall. The Mall brings tremendous revenue to Arlington County, but in order to get it was necessary to provide parking."
In marked contrast, John Barr responded "you are absolutely right there are a number of cost overruns on major county building projects. It makes me worry about the future building projects that you mentioned. First of all, let's take the new jail. The new jail has plainly had significant cost overruns. It was described in a 1990 Newsletter from Arlingtonians for a Better County (ABC), hardly a friend of mine, that it was a $43 million jail. Now it is a $48 million jail. Obviously, there have been cost overruns there and the opening of the jail was over 18 months late. There were problems with it from the very beginning."
Concerning the Loop Bridge, John Barr said "the original contract for the Loop Bridge was $800,000. The County in 1991 realized that the cost was $4.6 million for the Loop Bridge, including such things as the scaffolding to hold it up. In regards to the court ruling, the jury originally ruled against the county and then the judge reversed the jury's verdict. It is now on appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court to see which verdict will be the one that stands."
With the Ballston Garage, Mr. Barr stated, "again, not only have there been cost overruns but they have to make significant repairs to it now, just like what happened to do the middle aged jail that is only 18 years old--the one that they want to tear down. There is still a bond issue that we haven't finished paying on the middle aged jail. They do not want to tear it down because it is not fit to use anymore."
Mr. Barr said, "there has been problem after problem with major building projects and now they tell us their plans to spend $45 million on a new DHS building. They tell us they want to tear down the middle age jail and replace it with a parking garage. We are suppose to be in the middle of a fiscal crisis, which is why Mrs. Whipple keeps raising our taxes every year and they go ahead with these building projects."
Mr. Barr concluded by stating, "I think we ought to have someone held accountable. I think the County Manager is accountable for this. I would get rid of the County Manager because it is suppose to be the Board's job to oversee the County Manager. You see, if he is doing a good job and you have this series of failure after failure of major building projects. Again, it's your money that is paying for these things and somebody has got to be held responsible. Mr. Barr said, "I think the County Manager should go!"
Mr. McSlarrow said that he "thinks Bill Clinton has been bad for this district, Virginia and for America. Precisely why he's been bad for this district, because of one bill--the Clinton Tax Hike. It hurt senior citizens and others. He raised taxes on senior citizens and raised taxes on those making more than $34,000 a year. He delayed cost of living increases for civilian and military retirees. The first Clinton budget cut federal pay increases that were promised as a matter of law. He slammed small business and every single Subchapter S sole proprietorship and partnership in America. My opponent, according to the Congressional Quarterly has backed Bill Clinton 90% of the time. He is number one in the Virginia congressional delegation backing Bill Clinton. Whether this is good or bad, those are the facts. I think we need to reign in federal spending. My opponent was rated by the National Taxpayers Union as the number one big spender of Virginia."
Mr. McSlarrow expressed several ideas about health care and its costs. Mr. McSlarrow said that he "thinks Virginia people who are outside of the best health care system in the world should be targeted with tax credits to help buy health insurance. I think we ought to reform litigation in this country, particularly medical malpractice to help reduce the costs of health care. I think we ought to bring out medical savings in IRA's so people can use those to purchase routine medical insurance and get an idea of the true costs of health care." Mr. McSlarrow stated that "my opponent co-sponsored the Cooper Plan, most notable for having been scored by the Congressional Budget Office as costing $70 billion more than the Clinton Plan. Those are real fundamental differences of domestic policy."
Under foreign policy, Mr. McSlarrow said that "he backed President Bush when it came to Desert Storm. Also, I thought he had an obligation to go before Congress and seek authorization to use force. My opponent also thought President Bush should seek authorization to use force from Congress, but he voted against Desert Storm. Along comes Haiti, suddenly the President doesn't need to go to Congress to seek authorization to use force but this time my opponent thinks that our national interests are at stake. I think he's wrong and while I think the President is a foreign policy czar, it is clear that members of Congress have a role to play when it comes to foreign policy. It matters a lot that it be sent to Congress."
Mr. McSlarrow described one of the local issues that has come up recently, the reduction of HOV restrictions on I-66. Mr. McSlarrow said that "Frank Wolf and I, and George Allen have been arguing that we ought to allow a one year test on I-66 to reduce HOV restrictions from 3-2. This matters because it will help us get traffic off our streets, because the folks from Fairfax County who can not get on I-66 are going through our neighborhood every morning and back out every afternoon. Now it may not be the best solution ultimately. That is why it is a test but we ought to try." Mr. McSlarrow stated "now what has happened with this issue. My opponent opposes it because he is from Alexandria and has no feel for the issue. Boy, was he surprised when he started hearing that people from Arlington wanted it. And he backed down eventually. His real emphasis on this issue was that he wanted to give the District of Columbia a veto. Mr. McSlarrow stated he did not understand why the District of Columbia should have a veto over this."
Mr. Edmonds stated that "Mr. McSlarrow and I agree on unfunded mandates. I think unfunded mandates are horrible, if you don't know it, it increases your taxes dramatically. Mr. Moran says that we have to worry about unfunded mandates--we can only take down a few of them." Mr. Edmonds stated he disagrees." Why is Congress telling states and local communities how to spend their money and how to take care of their people? We ought to eliminate all unfunded mandates. If Congress wants to tell us what to do, then they need to send the money."
Mr. Edmonds said "the whole point of my campaign is that the two [political] parties have not taken care of us. We voted for change in 1992. We got maybe some of it. If you look at the laws that have been passed, Congress passes a lot of feel good laws that don't do anything except making it possible for federal servants to write decent regulations and then they blame the bureaucrats. Right? Bureaucrats, civil servants who are trying to make this country work get blamed because Congress writes deliberately very vague, feel good laws. The Crime Bill, I don't have problems with the Crime Bill. All we did was shift $30 billion from one part of the government to another. It's harmless, it doesn't do any good, it's harmless. The health care bill was going to be a disaster. A feel good idea. It was not going to work. Fortunately, that's dead. These big omnibus bills like the Crime Bill should be eliminated. I want clear, simple laws. One sentence, one paragraph, that are published in the newspapers that we can all understand."
Mr. Edmonds stated that the problem with the parties is that they are tied to special interests. "They need huge amount of money and that's what I don't have. I don't need a lot of money, but shoe leather. Political action committees were suppose to be a good idea but they spend lots of money. If we make TV time free, we wouldn't need all that money."
Mr. McSlarrow responded first to the question. Mr. McSlarrow said "that when he ran in 1992, he was actually one of the few candidates on the Republican side that took the issue of health care reform seriously. I don't belong in the school that believes that no reform is needed. I believe that there are clearly some issues that need to be addressed. Just about all the bills, Democratic and Republican, that came before the Congress the last year and a half addressed the issue of affordability--whereby one could take their health insurance from job to job with pre-existing conditions. What they did not address the same was what do you do about the uninsured? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 to 37 million Americans are estimated to be currently uninsured. Many of them are young people that is probably not going to go away. I don't think we are going to solve that problem by having government take over 1/7 of the economy. I am totally opposed to employer mandates that are going to put people out of business. Also, I am opposed to individual mandates. I don't think the government should be telling me or you that you have to have health insurance and it's got to be this plan."
If we care at all about liberty in America, Mr. McSlarrow said that "we have got to hold on to those fundamental choices about our lives. I think there is a better way and that is--if people want health insurance and can't get it, give them a tax credit or a refundable tax credit if they don't make enough money. Beyond that, the true cost of health care is largely attributable to government actions and the administrative costs of Medic-care and Medic-aid. Also, there are huge costs inside medical care in this country that are attributable to medical malpractice insurance. In fact, no one basically gives medical care and is prepared to do it in a way that just meets their best professional judgement. Most of the time, they do what they think is necessary to pass the liability standards. They give you an extra test here, an extra procedure there. The cost of health care has been driven up through our own actions. Those are things I think we can do, but the bottom line is we have the best health care system in the world. It is probably not a surprise that we spend a lot of money on it. We are never going to have a health care system that is only 2% of GNP. It is a reflection of the fact that we are a dynamic and prosperous country.
Mr. Edmonds responded, that he "wished Mr. Moran was here tonight because when he gets going on health care he really sounds wonderful. He tells you how he's going to take care of everybody and it points out the problem with government getting it's self into the problems of our country. Nobody even knew how much of any of these health care plans were going to cost until they turned them over to the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the GAO made estimates. Listen to Mr. Moran, he thought the bill that he sponsored, the Cooper Plan, was going to cost less and on paper than it does. When GAO got done with the bill, it was $70 billion more."
Mr. Edmonds said that he "happened to have worked for the government and he knows how those estimates work. And they are always low balled with a lot of people trying to do the best they can, but it always comes out higher. Now, if you run a business, you run a school, you run a county, there are three things you have to know whenever you are going to fund a project. Who is going to get it? What is going to be in it? How much is it going to cost? And the American public doesn't know because Congress doesn't know."
Mr Edmonds described how the State of Oregon addressed the above questions. He said "Oregon made a great stab at this, a couple of years ago when they simply set out a Medical Bill of Rights. And that is what I think should be done is the number one step. We don't even know what an American should have if they are going to have some basic health insurance. Universal coverage, we don't know. Some of them are obvious, if you start with immunizations there is an initial cost and actually there are savings after three or four years. So sure we will include that. Broken bones, sure. Tonsillitis, maybe? You go down the list and you get to heart/lungs transplants and I wouldn't pay for it for me. So why would I expect you to pay for it? So you list all the stuff and then the American people can look at it, Congress can argue about it, and then we can have a national referendum on the two or three plans that percolate up to the surface. And now everybody in the country will agree what basic health insurance can be and what it costs. Then, we can start talking about who's going to pay for it. And that's my approach to government, logical, business approach with common sense."
Mr. Hall reported the Arlington County Board's reaction to the land-use deal failing. "This was the dumbest thing I ever heard of," said board member Benjamin Winslow, an independent who voted against the plan. "They were trying to transfer the heat off the County Board to the hospital. I feel sorry for the hospital. They spent a lot of time and money on this thing." Board Chairman Mary Margaret Whipple (D) defended the original plan, saying it was unhinged by a rebounding commercial real estate market in Arlington. "The good news and the bad news is that our land values are holding up," Whipple said.
The center of the controversy is a former service station at 3444 North Washington Boulevard, operated by Exxon from 1952 to 1986. Contamination of the soil and groundwater appears to indicate a plume of gasoline moving northeast from the vicinity of the former Exxon station, which has, since 1986, been the location for the sale of other branded and unbranded gasolines. Construction of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's William Seidman Center in 1989, with its associated sump pumps for keeping dry the two-story underground garage, has apparently reversed the flow of groundwater on the southeastern side of the former Exxon site. According to a report filed with the Department of Environmental Quality in August 1994 by an engineering consulting firm hired by Exxon to characterize the site, dissolved hydrocarbons have been detected in the groundwater drawn into the FDIC sumps. Whatever this source, the contaminants are below levels established by the Commonwealth of Virginia for discharges into freshwater streams. The consulting firm has recommended continued monitoring of the FDIC sumps to evaluate levels of dissolved hydrocarbons, although current levels do not appear to be a threat to surface water--in this case, Spout Run.
When the Exxon remediation plan is filed in November 1994, the Department of Environmental Quality expects to evaluate it and have a decision on its adequacy in about thirty days. Once the plan is in place, the time required to significantly reduce the levels of gasoline is still unknown, since effectiveness of any remediation technology depends on the unique characteristics of each site.