1-Local Income Tax (Proposed)
Results of the 1996 BVSCA Neighborhood Survey showed that 93.7% of the survey respondents indicated that a local income tax (proposed) was a concern (31.8%) or critical problem (61.9%). Item 5d. Local Income Tax (Proposed) of the BVSCA 1996 Neighborhood Survey scored two percentage points higher than in the prior year's survey (see the Local Income Tax Background article that follows the discussion of the survey results for information about the local income tax law and recent developments). This item received the highest level of concern in the BVSCA 1996 Neighborhood Survey.
2-County Funding for Baseball Stadium in Arlington
The second highest percentage of response was another potential future issue -- County funding for a baseball stadium in Arlington. Ninety-three percent (93.4%) of the survey respondents indicated no support for this topical issue. Only 6.6% of the survey respondents indicated support of County funding for a baseball stadium. In the next BVSCA Newsletter, we will cover this issue in detail.
3-Aggressive Panhandling-Law/County Ordinance
The third highest percentage of response received and the highest affirmative "yes" vote of any topical issue was support for a County ordinance/law against aggressive panhandling. Under Item 8. Topical issue, Item f, 88.7% of the respondents in the BVSCA 1996 Survey indicated support for this longstanding critical issue in the Ballston-Virginia community with only 11.3% opposed. Similarly, in the BVSCA 1995 Survey, this item received 86.9% support with only 13.1% opposed.
History of Association Efforts to Obtain Ordinance Against Aggressive Panhandling: For your information, in the December 1995 Newsletter, the Association reported that BVSCA President Ragland testified at the County Board meeting of November 18, 1995, Agenda Item 10, the County's 1996 legislative public hearing. At that meeting, President Ragland testified in support of the Association's legislative recommendations on aggressive panhandling and initiative and referendum, and specifically recommended that the County Board request enabling legislation to adopt an ordinance to make it unlawful for any person to panhandle in an aggressive manner, to panhandle within fifteen feet of an automatic teller machine, or to panhandle from any operator of a motor vehicle while standing in a roadway median or on a travel lane.
It should be noted that the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association has surveyed its membership each of the past 3 years on aggressive panhandling and more than 86% of the survey respondents from each of these annual surveys indicated support for a law or ordinance against aggressive panhandling. Also, at the Arlington County Civic Federation legislative meeting of November 14, 1995, members representing 65 non- partisan organizations from Arlington County voted to request the Arlington County Board to adopt such an ordinance against aggressive panhandling and to support initiative and referendum rights for the citizens of Arlington and the Commonwealth.
In the January/February 1995 Newsletter, the Association reported that BVSCA testified in support of an aggressive panhandling law/ordinance for Arlington County and Initiative and Referendum rights for Virginians at the Arlington County Board meeting of December 10, 1994, and the Arlington County Legislators' public hearing of January 4, 1995. Results of the BVSCA 1994 Survey showed that 86% of the total 70 responses received indicated support for an aggressive panhandling law/ordinance. Similarly, the results of the BVSCA October 1995 Survey showed that 86.9% of the total 65 responses received indicated support for a law/ordinance against aggressive panhandling.
For background purposes, this Newsletter previously reported that Arlington County Delegate Karen Darner (D) was opposed to the aggressive panhandling bill introduced in the 1994 General Assembly, Senate Bill 113, patroned by former Senator Edward Holland (D-Arlington) and former Senator Robert Calhoun (R-Alexandria, Arlington County, and Fairfax County) which was adopted by the State Senate on January 28, 1994. However, this bill could not get of the 1994 House of Delegates' Committee on Counties, Cities, and Towns, one of the Committees that Delegate Darner served on. This bill did not come up in the 1995 General Assembly and the 1996 General Assembly, although it was included in the County Board's legislative package last year.
4-Bonus Density for Affordable Housing
Based on the results of the Civic Association's Neighborhood Surveys during the past three years, our members continue to be concerned about bonus density for affordable housing. In the BVSCA 1994 Survey, under Item 7, Topical Issues-Do You Support, item 7d. Bonus Density in Exchange for Affordable Housing, only 14% of the respondents indicated "yes;" whereas, 86% indicated "no." In the BVSCA 1995 Survey, this topic was listed as item c. Bonus Density for Affordable Housing, under Item 2 Land Use/Development. Specifically, 81.2% of the survey respondents marked this category, Bonus Density for Affordable Housing, "concerned" (35.4%) or "critical problem" (45.8%); and 18.8% of the respondents marked the item "not a problem." This item was the third highest issue item of concern, based on the results of the BVSCA 1995 Neighborhood Survey.
Likewise, in the BVSCA 1996 Survey, this topic was listed as item c. Bonus Density for Affordable Housing, under Item 2 Land Use/Development. Specifically, 86.2% of the survey respondents marked this category, Bonus Density for Affordable Housing, "concerned" (43.1%) or "critical problem" (43.1%); and 13.8% of the respondents marked the item "not a problem." This item was the fourth highest issue item of concern, based on the results of the BVSCA 1996 Neighborhood Survey.
5-Use Permits for Used Car Lots and Crime
The results of the BVSCA 1996 Survey showed that two survey items tied for the fifth highest percentage of response received. These items were the topical issue "use permits for used car lots" and the general category of crime (Item 1. Crime). Support for use permits for used car lots received the second highest affirmative "yes" vote of any topical issue. Under Item 8. Topical issue, Item n, 86.1% of the respondents indicated support with only 13.9% opposed.
The results of the survey on the general category for crime (Item 1. Crime) showed that 86.1% of the respondents indicated that they were concerned (69.2%) about crime, or that it was a critical problem (16.9%). However, the specific items on crime received much lower ratings. For example, Item 1a. Crime (In my neighborhood) showed a total percentage of "concern" and "critical problem" of 77.1%. The results of the 1995 survey showed that 73.1% of the respondents indicated that Item 1a. Crime (In my neighborhood) was a concern (51.9%) or critical problem (21.1%). In the 1993 and the 1994 surveys, the percentage of respondents marking crime as a concern or critical problem totalled 76.5% and 86%, respectively. Nonetheless, the Association received many narrative comments from our members about this issue area (see members' comments about crime that follows the discussion about use car lots).
Longstanding Concerns About Used Car Lots: In the Association's Newsletter dated January/February 1995, former President Bob Sherretta asked in his President's Message "Are we becoming the used car capital of the region?" He stated at first you may have hardly noticed, but little by little used car lots appear to be taking over our neighborhood... We counted them -- not 5 or 10 but (at last count) 30 used car facilities right in our immediate neighborhood (if you include 10th Street and Wilson Boulevard two blocks to the Clarendon side of town). From Glebe Road down Fairfax Drive, along 10th Street, back up Wilson Boulevard, we are virtually surrounded by them.
On December 8, 1995, nearly one year after the Association reported in its Newsletter concerns about the proliferation of used car lots in our neighborhood, the Arlington Journal reported in a front-page article that U.S. agents raided car dealerships yesterday acting on a tip that drug dealers were using several Northern Virginia used car dealerships to launder money. According to this article, one person who walked by Eastern Motors during the search said for the past two years people have walked into the business with "a handful of cash" and driven off with a car. "That damn place has been a source of problems for the neighborhood since the last time it was raided," said one person who lives nearby but did not want to be identified. Most people interviewed said they were relieved the dealership was raided.
In a Washington Post article dated January 6, 1996, and titled "Virginia Car Dealer Faces Prison After Admitting He Sold to Drug Dealers," Charles Hall wrote that an Alexandria car dealer, whose lot was raided by FBI agents [in December 1995], pleaded guilty to tax evasion and money laundering, acknowledging to a federal judge that he regularly sold expensive cars to drug dealers. The article states that Mohammad Hajimohammad, 36, owner of Select Auto Imports, also agreed to forfeit 39 cars seized from his business in a plea agreement. In addition, he agreed to pay $465,000 in back taxes and penalties...Under the plea agreement, prosecutors returned 10 cars and said he could continue to operate his business if he took numerous steps to avoid doing business with drug traffickers.
In a recent Washington Times article titled "Arlington car dealers raided," by Rex Bowman, dated October 9, 1996, agents with the IRS, the FBI, and a U.S. Treasury Department task force raided two Arlington used car dealerships yesterday suspected of money laundering and tax evasion, according to federal law officials. The article states that agents in December seized 80 autos worth $1 million from Select Auto Imports of Alexandria and Eagle Motors [previously located in a trailer at 3911 Wilson Boulevard] and Eastern Motors of Arlington. Also, it states that an official with Select pleaded guilty to money laundering and violating tax-reporting laws. The president and co-owner of Eagle has agreed to plead guilty in U.S. District Court to money laundering.
In another article titled "Part 2 raids rack 2 dealers," Karla Hult of the Arlington Journal reported on October 9, 1996, that at around 11:00 a.m. and continuing into late afternoon, dozens of agents searched A&M Auto Sales located at 3275 and 3537 Wilson Boulevard, and Armani Imports at 1031 N. Highland Street. Also, she stated that Federal officials said unprincipled car dealerships often help drug traffickers by allowing them to turn large amounts of cash earned in drug deals into luxury automobiles that can be resold later. And dealerships may allow drug dealers to purchase cars under an alias, or may not file required IRS forms reporting cash purchases that exceed $10,000.
The Washington Post reported on October 9, 1996, in the article "Dozens of Cars Seized in Probe In Arlington" stated the vehicles were estimated to have a total value of $900,000 to $1 million that were taken from the two dealerships. Officials said agents from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury's Washington area task force also searched the homes of two Armani owners-Ali Reza Ganji, in the 8500 block of Raglan Road in Vienna, and Arash Nasserian, in the 7700 block of Marshall Road in Falls Church.
In response to our members overwhelming support for use permits for used car lots, and the longstanding concerns of our members, the Executive Committee plans to follow up on this matter and coordinate with the County on possible actions we can pursue.
Members Comments on Crime.
On-Street Parking was the seventh highest ranked issue area as a concern of the BVSCA members, based on the 1996 Neighborhood Survey. Eighty-five percent (85.5%) of the respondents marked the On-Street Parking category as a concern (46.4%) or critical problem (39.1%). The results of the 1996 survey for this category was 4.5 percentage points higher as a concern or critical problem than the results for this category in the 1995 Neighborhood Survey and 9.5 percentage points higher as a concern or critical problem than the results for this category in the 1994 Neighborhood Survey.
Similarly, On-Street Parking was the fourth highest ranked issue area as a concern of the BVSCA members, based on the 1995 Neighborhood Survey. Eighty-one percent (81%) of the respondents marked the On-Street Parking category as a concern (43.1%) or critical problem (37.9%).
Also, 71.6% of the BVSCA 1996 Survey respondents indicated that Off-Street Parking was a concern (38.8%) or critical problem (32.8%). The 1996 survey results for Off-Street Parking are similar to the results for the 1995 survey results. For example, 68.5% of the 1995 survey respondents indicated that Off-Street Parking was a concern (40.7%) or critical problem (27.8%). The overall percentage for this category is consistent with the results of the 1994 survey, which showed that 66% of the respondents felt that Off-Street Parking was a concern or critical problem, a difference of 4.6 percentage points between the 1996 and 1994 survey results.
Similarly, survey respondents indicated support for Off-Street Parking Requirements Increase to 2+ Spaces/Unit, topical issue 8.a, by 81.9% in support to 18.1% opposed. Also, respondents supported Establishing Visitor Parking Requirements--Residential Highrise Apartments/Townhouses, topical issue 8b., by 77.5% in support to 22.5% opposed.
Many comments were expressed about the need to improve parking and traffic management in our community, such as the following.
8-Current Local Taxes
Item 5. Current Local Taxes was the eight highest marked item in terms of percentage response, as a concern (42.6%) and critical problem (42.6%), totalling 85.2% by the respondents in the BVSCA 1996 Survey; however, Item 5a. Real Estate Tax and Item 5b. Personal Property Tax appeared much lower as a category of concern in this year's survey. Based on the BVSCA 1996 Survey results, the primary concern of our members in this area is clearly the possibility of a local income tax in Arlington County (see the Local Income Tax Background article that follows the discussion of the survey results for information about the local income tax law and recent developments). Only 66.7% of the 1996 survey respondents indicated that local taxes-real estate was a concern (44.0%) or critical problem (22.7%). This is in marked contrast to the BVSCA 1995 Survey results that showed 79% of the 1995 survey respondents indicated that local taxes-real estate was a concern (53.2%) or critical problem (25.8%). In the BVSCA 1994 Survey, however, 62% of the survey respondents indicated that local taxes-real estate was a concern (36%) or critical problem (26%).
Under Item 5b. Personal Property Tax, the BVSCA 1996 Survey results showed that 70.8% of the respondents indicated that personal property taxes are a concern (41.6%) or critical problem (29.2%). It should be noted that the results of the survey on personal property taxes this year dropped seven percentage points from last year's survey. Survey results from last year's survey showed that 77.8% of the respondents indicated that personal property taxes are a concern (42.9%) or critical problem (34.9%). The Civic Association received numerous comments about Item 5. Current Local Taxes. The following illustrates the concern of some of our members about current local taxes.
9-GMU Campus Expansion
Item 4b. The GMU expansion-parking issue was the ninth highest marked item in terms of percentage response, as a concern (42.6%) and critical problem (41.0%), totalling 83.6% by the respondents in the BVSCA 1996 Survey. In last year's BVSCA survey, this item came in second place with a total percentage of 86.0%, as a concern (40.0%) or critical problem (46.0%). In the BVSCA 1994 Survey, this was the number one issue with 85% of the respondents in that survey indicating concern (33%) or critical problem (52%). Although the respondents view of this potential issue as a critical issue has declined by 11 percentage points since the BVSCA 1994 Survey, the Association continues to receive many member comments reflecting the need for the Association to continue to monitor closely developments in this area. Some of the members comments about the planned GMU campus expansion follow for your information.
10-Residential Land Use/Development
Concern about Item 2b. Residential Land Use/Development was the tenth highest rated area in the BVSCA 1996 Survey with 76.4% of the respondents indicating concern (58.2%) or critical problem (18.2%). This contrasts with the BVSCA 1995 Survey results, when respondents indicated a total 65.5% response for this item in terms of concern (48.3%) or critical problem (17.2%).
Item 2a. Commercial Land Use/Development closely followed with 75.4% of the respondents indicating concern (57.9%) or critical problem (17.5%). In the BVSCA 1995 Survey, results showed that 72.4% of the respondents indicated concern (53.4%) or critical problem (19.0%). We received many comments from our members about this issue area, such as the following.
Other Comments About the BVSCA 1996 Survey
The results of the BVSCA 1996 and 1995 surveys suggest that the County's spending priorities continue to be flawed based on our members' views. For example, 52.8% of the respondents from the 1996 survey indicated support for increased spending on Public Safety and 40.3% indicated support for increased spending on Public Parking. Similarly, 64.1% of the respondents from the 1995 survey indicated support for increased spending on Public Safety and 43.8% indicated support for increased spending on Public Parking.
It should be noted here that the BVSCA 1996 Survey respondents said "yes" to increasing the retirement benefits for Arlington County Police and Firefighters (8. Topical issue o.) with 67.2% in support and 32.8 percent in opposition. Our members said "no" to increasing the salary of County Board members with a no response of 53.6%, but 46.4% said "yes."
In marked contrast, almost an equal percentage of those recommending increased spending for public safety in the 1996 survey, 52.2% of the respondents recommended that the County cut Welfare spending. Only 8.7% of the respondents in the BVSCA 1996 Survey indicated support for increased spending on Welfare. The percentage recommending that the County cut Welfare spending in the BVSCA 1995 survey was 43.7%.
More than 36% of the respondents to the 1996 survey recommended that the County cut staff size/salaries. Only 8.8% indicated support for increased County spending on staff size or salaries. Some of our members comments about the County government are as follows.
Quality of Life
This year's survey results also showed that our members continue to have strong sentiment against the County providing additional spending for subsidized rental housing and transition homes. Only 12.3 percent of the respondents indicated support for additional spending on transition homes, and even less, 7.3% of the respondents, indicated support for additional spending on subsidized rental housing. Over 50% of the respondents recommended a reduction in County spending for each of these areas, with 61.8% recommending less spending on subsidized rental housing. For your information, the following are some of the member comments received from this year's survey on the Quality of Life issue.
Additionally, our members said "no" to Arlington County Speculation in Land (topical issue 8j.) with a 73.8% negative response. Although 26.2% of the survey respondents said "yes" to Arlington County Speculation in Land, the Association has yet to find evidence in the Code of Virginia that the County Manager Plan of Government's current land speculation practices are authorized.
It is also interesting to note that our members reflected support for term limits for Arlington County Board Members (topical issue l.) with 71% indicating "yes," and 62.9%, indicating support for an Elected County Manager (topical issue k).
Other Issues for Survey
Under Item 8. Topical Issue p., are there other issues that should have been included in survey; if so, name them. The Association received the following suggestions for future surveys.
Of the 78 survey responses to the BVSCA 1996 Neighborhood Survey, 87.5% of the respondents owned their own homes, 26.7% were from single detached homes, 32.0% were from townhouses, and 41.3% occupied condominiums or apartment buildings. In our next issue of the BVSCA Newsletter, we will continue the discussion of the highlights of the topical issues. For complete details of the survey results, please turn to pages 38 and 39 of this Newsletter.