The BVSCA Candidates Night Session will be open to the entire community. The candidates will have up to ten minutes for opening statements, followed by a total of 40 minutes of questions from the audience.
In order to promote increased public participation, individual questions will be limited to 45 seconds and candidate responses will be limited to 3 minutes for each question. The first three questions for the candidates session will be from BVSCA members, followed by questions from non-members or BVSCA members attending the meeting.
We urge all citizens in our Ballston-Virginia Square neighborhood to attend the candidates session and take the opportunity to meet personally with the two candidates for the County Board--Scott Stone (R) and Chris Zimmerman (D). We invite you to learn more about the issues which will be the basis for casting your votes in the January 30th Special Election for the Arlington County Board. The following background information was provided by the candidates at the Association's request to assist you in learning more about the candidates and their views. The Association asked that the candidate responses be limited to 500 words or less.
Statement of SCOTT STONE, Republican candidate for Arlington County Board
The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association debate, coming just a few days before the January 30 election, is one of the key events in this campaign. Arlington County is at a crossroads. The streets of Ballston and the streets of Arlington are not safe and its businesses are leaving.
We are heading from the crossroads to the end of the County Board's dead end road paved with every good intention, approaching the brink of fiscal disaster. Indeed, we are being buried under a blizzard of mismanagement, of which mismanaged snow removal is a fitting symbol.
Our property values are declining. The County has lost over $1 billion from its tax base during the last few years. Yet in every one of those years the Board has raised property and other taxes.
The School Board squanders $25 million and students go without heat and toilets, while residents have pulled one third of all our children out of the schools. The Board raises your taxes and asks no questions.
Gangs roam the streets and schools and crime increases. The Board raises taxes and gives a press conference to start a graffiti hotline.
This year the County has a deficit of almost $10 million. Neither the County Board nor my opponent has suggested solutions. We know from history that they will close this gap by raising taxes.
All my opponent knows about snow is the snow job. He is proud of working for a senior legislator who put through the bill that gave Arlington the meals tax without a public referendum, as long as the County Board approved it by unanimous vote, which of course it did. That same legislator patroned a bill for a local income tax. If my opponent is elected he will surely join the four other Board members in enacting such a tax as quickly as they can.
They know no other way. Sure there will be cosmetic gestures, like the graffiti hotline, but always more taxes and more bonds.
I have the experience to make a difference on the Board. As a civil and environmental engineer, I have dealt with the environmental and infrastructure issues that face our County. I also have the community background; I have served on the Transportation Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, Solid Waste Advisory Committee, and am a member of the Chamber of Commerce.
There will be no change in the direction of County government unless you vote for a challenging voice. I too promise more hotlines--for street crime and for fraud and waste in County government. But one of my hotlines will cost you no more than it does now. It will be my phone in the County Board offices.
Please go to the polls on January 30 and cast a vote for good government. Please elect Scott Stone to the Arlington County Board.
Statement of CHRIS ZIMMERMAN, Democratic candidate for Arlington County Board
I'm running for the Board first and foremost because I love Arlington. It is a wonderful community. It uniquely combines many of the virtues of small town life with the benefits of life in a cosmopolitan area. Long recognized as a community of strong neighborhoods and a tradition of local government well- managed by progressive leadership, in recent years Arlington has become more dynamic and has been enriched as it has become more diverse.
Arlington has been my home all of my adult life, and my wife Mary Beth and I are happy that it is our children's home town. We have a son and daughter who currently attend Arlington Schools; our youngest will enter in a couple of years and should graduate in the year 2010.
For more than ten years I have worked as a volunteer and community activist to help make Arlington even better. Now I hope to bring my enthusiasm for this community and the benefit of my experiences to the County Board.
As a member of the Park and Recreation Commission, I've worked for more parks and open space. As chairman of the Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee I've worked to better our neighborhoods. As a parent I've worked with others who are committed to maintaining top quality schools here in Arlington. As a planning commissioner I've supported our tradition of managed growth, and I've defended the role of citizen participation in the planning process. As president of my own civic association in South Arlington I've coped with the most basic neighborhood concerns, from traffic management to crime. As an economist specializing in fiscal policy, I understand the importance of our low tax burden and our high bond ratings.
Arlington is a great community. It didn't get that way by accident. It is the result of years of careful and thoughtful planning.
A key to Arlington's success has been to strike a balance.
A balance between the benefits of development and commerce on the one hand, and the vital importance of preserving a high quality residential life in our neighborhoods on the other.
A balance between the need for good services and the value of maintaining a low tax burden.
A balance between the taxes paid by those who live here and others--tourists, businesses, employees--who are here in the daytime.
As a Board member I will always keep that balance foremost in mind as I make decisions.
As a Board member I'll focus on the essential priorities we need to ensure that Arlington will continue to be a great community as we enter the 21st Century. We must:
I hope I'll have your support on January 30.
The Civic Federation is comprised of 68 civic organizations and celebrates this year its 80th anniversary as a leading forum for the thoughtful discussion of critical issues and public policy choices facing Arlington. Candidates Scott Stone (R) and Chris Zimmerman (D) were each given three minutes for their opening statements, followed by questions from the Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Federation. The delegates were randomly selected by Scott McGeary, President, Arlington County Civic Federation.
Because of the limited space in this Newsletter and the opportunity for members and the general public to attend the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association's Membership Meeting and Candidates Night Session on Wednesday, January 24, 1996, at 7:30 p.m., at the second floor conference rooms of the Arlington Renaissance Hotel, 950 North Stafford Street , Arlington, the Association selected one delegate question and one candidate question to depict the Federation's County Board Special Election Candidates Night debate that was well attended by several hundred Federation member organizations' delegates and guests of the Federation. This question was provided by David Foster, the past President of the Arlington County Civic Federation, and the question and candidate responses follow for your information. Also, for increased perspective about the candidates, we provided candidate Chris Zimmerman's response to candidate Scott Stone's inquiry about how he was going to vote differently [if elected] than the current County Board?
David Foster: "Thank you Scott. I am Dave Foster from Donaldson Run and Chris I recall JFK's description of politics as the noblest profession which even as an attorney I agree with. I'll ask you both a question that I've been asked several times in recent months. We have a Capital Improvement Plan in the school system that is to say the least is out of control. Many people say that the County Board should have an active role in the policing and rectifying that situation given that it appoints to this day the majority of the School Board members, appropriates the dollars that fund the budget, and of course, authorizes the bond issues that support the Capital Improvement Plan. I will point to the fact that it will soon be, a majority elected School Board to stress its independence. One of you will be on the County Board next month. What do you think should be the role of the County Board?"
Chris Zimmerman: "David, you make an important point. The School Board is now an elected School Board, which many of us fought very hard to obtain. A battle that was actually waged over forty years or so to restore an elected school board here in Arlington. And in the closing stages of that I had the opportunity to participate as co-chairman of Arlingtonians for an Elected School Board when the referendum campaign was on and I think that's very important to keep in mind. We worked real hard to make the School Board directly answerable to the people. We don't want to do anything now that will undo that.
Nonetheless, the County Board clearly has a very important role to play, particularly on the fiscal side. I think that's its important to keep straight what its role is and what the School Board's role is. The School Board's role is to develop a Capital Improvement Plan that meets the needs of the schools, to determine what that is, and to present that to the County Board. Then, the County Board's role is to assess that carefully to determine first, if it's a reasonable plan. Secondly, to insure that it will protect our bond rating, and, finally, to make sure that it will in fact move us toward the goal, that is, to be sure that we maintain a top quality school system in the County.
I think that is what we don't want to lose sight in all this. We're in a situation where for a long time we didn't invest enough in our schools and with the benefit of hindsight maybe we should have made different decisions. Maybe too many schools were closed and so on. My father always said if hindsight were foresight, we'd all be geniuses. Nonetheless, we're in a situation now and that forced us in to something like a crash program and perhaps it's inevitable there would be some problems. I know that the School Board is looking to a full review and I don't know if support is the right word, but I'm looking forward to seeing the results of that. And if I'm a board member and have to consider that Capital Plan, I'll scrutinize it very carefully. But it's vitally important that we don't lose sight of what this is all about, which is insuring that we have a top quality school system that serves the community needs, keeping it a desirable community to help our economic development, and most of all, to serve our kids."
Scott Stone: "I would say for $155 million a year, we ought to have the best school system you can find! I'll tell you what. The answer I just heard sounds awful alot like the answer I heard earlier today when we talked about our school system before the four existing County Board Members. That is why this election is so important. I heard alot, earlier just now and earlier tonight about the School Board's responsibility, the elected School Board. Still, there's an awful lot of members on that School Board who were elected by the current County Board. And I heard alot about, there was some mismanagement, there were some problems, we're working on it. I didn't hear anyone say here's where the problem was, here's what we're going to do about it. We'll wait and see and see what's going to happen. I didn't see anyone take responsibility for it and I'm not sure that Mr. Zimmerman is going to buck the current members of the County Board and take a leadership role in dealing with those fiscal problems."
Candidate Chris Zimmerman's Response to Candidate Scott Stone's Follow-up Inquiry
During the course of the Federation's Delegates' questions and the candidates answers, candidate Scott Stone asked candidate Chris Zimmerman how he was going to vote differently than the current County Board?"
Chris Zimmerman responded: "Well, I'm not going to sit here and try to figure out what they're going to vote on, so I can say how I'm going to differ on it. We don't know what's going to happen this year on these issues. But I don't think that it follows that because I'm a member of the same party that my input is going to be the same. I should tell you that one of the mistakes that I think you make is to assume what matters is how the final vote comes out. Because frankly an awful lot of things get worked out in the process and people have an influence; and, ultimately, you may get a 5-0 vote. And if you look back at the record again, even with a member of your party on the Board, there's an awful lot of 5-0 votes and there's two reasons for that. One reason is being that many things are not controversial, but also the fact that in the process of working these things out, through the hearings, through the advisory commission input, a lot of things get worked out and people among this Board manage to work together to come to a position that is a consensus. I don't think that's a bad process and I don't think it means there isn't any lack of a voice because in the end, everybody happens to agree."
The Association encourages members to attend and participate in the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association's (BVSCA's) Membership Meeting and Candidates Night Session on Wednesday, January 24, 1996, at 7:30 p.m., at the second floor conference room of the Arlington Renaissance Hotel, 950 North Stafford Street, Arlington, Virginia. The meeting will be open to the entire community.
The Candidates Night Session is scheduled from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Each candidate will have up to ten minutes for opening statements, followed by a total of 40 minutes of questions from the audience.
Individual questions will be limited to 45 seconds and candidate responses will be limited to 3 minutes for each question. The first three questions for the candidates session will be from BVSCA members, followed by questions from non-members or BVSCA members attending the meeting. Please plan to attend and bring your questions.
The entry to North Monroe Street (1000 block) was blocked almost continuously by snow and ice piled by snowplows, which plowed snow from Washington Boulevard and North Lincoln onto Monroe Street. BVSCA members, Bill Hopkins and his wife, Connie, and other neighbors worked considerable hours each day, throughout the week, to shovel snow and ice off the access points to Monroe Street, only to have their work nullified by snow plows on Washington Boulevard and North Lincoln Street each day.
BVSCA members and residents from North Monroe Street telephoned County offices and BVSCA President Ragland about their concerns, due to the blocked entry to the street and the street was not plowed or treated with sand/salt for one week. BVSCA President Ragland contacted County offices, including the snow emergency number (703) 358-6485, and County Board staff several times during the week. Although he was apprised several times that a snowplow would be coming that morning, or that afternoon, or tomorrow morning, none came.
According to The Citizen , the official publication of Arlington County, dated Winter 1995-'96, street cleaning during snowstorms is handled by the Department of Public Works (DPW). "Sanding and salting operations start when a storm begins, and plowing is initiated when accumulations reach four inches, following an established plan. First priority is given to heavily traveled roads with traffic volummes of more than 5,000 vehicles a day, roads designated as snow emergency routes, and streets in the vicinity of police and fire stations, hospitals, and main bus routes. Second priority is given to collector streets carrying more than 1,000 vehicles a day , bus feeder routes, and roads around schools. Next, all remaining residential streets are cleared, with hilly streets receiving attention first. Thus, you usually can expect residential clearing to begin 24 - 48 hours after a storm begins, depending on the storm's intensity."
Several BVSCA members have indicated that they believe the quality of Public Works services has significantly declined since the mid-1980's, when Arlington's policy required that every street be plowed, or treated with sand or sand and salt, within 24 hours after a snowstorm began. Members indicated that Public Works in recent years has abolished the engineer inspectors corps, which was previously used to provide oversight over the snow removal process and monitor progress. This is a potential significant factor adversely affecting the system of accountability over the County's snow removal process. Further, Public Works has changed their policy on the maximum number of hours that snow removal personnel may work per day. Currently, snow removal personnel may work 12 hours on and 12 hours off. This contrasts with the mid-1980's when snow removal personnel could work up to 18 hours with 6 hours off, depending on the plow drivers' physical condition.
Another potential significant factor contributing to the apparent decline in the quality of the County's snow removal process is Arlington's current budget priority emphasis, as previously reported by the Association. In the Civic Association's Newsletter dated March/April 1995, we reported the results of a trend analysis of Arlington County's "General Governmental Expenditures by Function," based on page 146 of the Department of Management and Finance's "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year ended June 30, 1994."
The analysis showed that the County's base level of expenditures increased 91.5%, nearly doubling from $220.1 million in fiscal 1985 to $421.4 million in fiscal 1994 -- even though the population only grew 14.7% (from 157,000 to 180,100 = 23,100). To put this in further perspective, the rate of increase in County spending exceeded the rate of increase in County per capita income by 34.5% and inflation by 53.1%.
Overall, the analysis showed that the level of spending for five County functions increased at varying rates greater than the 91.5% base level increase and that the level of spending for six functions increased at varying rates slower than the base level rate increase. For example, the level of spending for Welfare increased by 307.8% from fiscal 1985 to 1994, or an increase of $32.1 million from $10.4 million in fiscal 1985 to $42.5 million in fiscal 1994. From another perspective, the rate of increase in Welfare spending was 236.5% greater than the 91.5% rate of increase for general growth.
Two functional areas with spending levels that increased at a rate slower than the base level rate included Public Safety and Public Works. Public Safety increased by 72.5%, or $21.4 million from $29.6 million in fiscal 1985 to $51.0 million in fiscal 1994. The rate of increase in Public Safety spending was 20.7% slower than the 91.5% rate of increase for general growth.
Public Works increased only by 40.2%, or an increase of $6.7 million from $16.7 million in fiscal 1985 to $23.4 million in fiscal 1994. The rate of increase in Public Works spending was 56.1% slower than the rate of increase for general growth.
Several members believe that this significant funding reduction for Public Works relative to other County functions is a primary contributing factor to the apparent decline in County snow removal services.
What do you think are the contributing causes to the apparent decline? Or, were you satisfied with the County's level of snow removal services provided after the Blizzard of 1996? Call the Member Information Line Telephone Number at (703) 528- 1887 and leave a recorded response, or respond electronically via the Association's Internet e-mail address "firstname.lastname@example.org," or attend our next Membership Meeting and let us know orally.
The Civic Association has invited representatives from the Department of Public Works to discuss the County's policies and management process on snow removal. If you have any questions or comments about the County's snow removal process, we invite you to bring them to the next Membership Meeting on Wednesday, January 24, 1996, at the Arlington Renaissance Hotel, 2nd floor conference room. This item is scheduled from 7:30 to 8:00 p.m.
The Association encourages members to read these two items to help identify whether you, or other members, and citizens, have experienced similar problems at these locations. If so, or you have had a similar experience at other location(s), please contact the Member Information Line at (703) 528-1887 and leave the Association a message, or e-mail a description of your experience to email@example.com, or mail your description to one of the Executive Committee members listed on page 18 of the Newsletter. Your information is needed to help the Association identify patterns, trends, or the magnitude of problems. By working together, the Association can better assist our community in resolving these adverse conditions.
Citizen Letter to Public Works/Traffic Engineering I work in the 800 Block of North Quincy Street, Arlington. I take metro between my home and work. The purpose of this letter is to complain about the many hazards to pedestrians between the Ballston Metro station and 800 North Quincy Street. I realize that you may have already received a number of letters from my co-workers but wanted to put my two cents worth in also. I also realize that you have refused to put four way stop signs at the intersection of 9th and North Randolph Streets since you want to keep the traffic flowing.
I have the following comments:
Thank you for your consideration.
Copy: Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association
Member E-mail Regarding No Parking Signs on 11th Street
First - congratulations on the party. Very well done. Re: the parking on 11th Street. Before Ballston Park Condos was built, there was in place "No Parking" signs the length of 11th Street from Glebe Road to its end at about Randolph Street (because it is just to narrow to allow for parking). However, when Ballston Park was under construction the No Parking signs were removed between Taylor Street and Stuart Street on the South (construction) side. And guess what? They were never replaced!
Now most people are intelligent enough to avoid parking there and avoid risking damage to their car. But this is Arlington and we have a lot of people that figure, "if there are no signs restricting parking, then it is OK to park," and they do. Particularly on weekends and evenings. This does create a danger, particularly because of the Stop sign at the corner of 11th and Stuart (facing East) which is blocked by cars or vans that park near the corner. I would appreciate if you would bring this to the attention of the County for correction (i.e, replacing the No Parking Signs on the South Side of 11th Street).
The Association will address these two items at Public Comment at the next Membership Meeting on Wednesday, January 24, 1995, at the second floor conference room of the Arlington Renaissance Hotel, 950 North Stafford Street, Arlington, following the candidates night session at approximately 9:05 p.m.
The Planning Commission's meeting of January 8, 1996 for this item was rescheduled to January 16, 1996, after the date the Newsletter went to print.
This letter states that on November 8, 1995, Mr. Kevin Smith, the applicant, made a presentation about his 32 unit townhouse site plan application, with drawings, to our Civic Association's Executive Committee. Mindful of our Civic Association membership's consideration and concerns regarding the two immediately preceding R15-30T townhouse site plan applications in our neighborhood, and the results of our October/November 1995 Membership Survey, the Executive Committee conveyed the following two points to the applicant.
First, based on the precedent of the County Board's action on the Ballston Village site plan conditions (SP #318), we expect the developer to provide 2.2 on-site off-street parking spaces per unit. Thus, this project must have at least 8 guest parking spaces on-site. Without the inclusion of the 8 guest spaces, there would be no support by the Association for this project.
Second, based on the precedent of the County Board's action on the Harman Company's site plan conditions (SP #309), we expect that the street trees will not be planted in the utility strip, but rather be placed away from the street against the outer perimeter of the unit's courtyard walls. This is a street security measure which we need in our neighborhood to permit better dissipation of the illumination from street lights without their being obstructed by the canopy of street trees.
At the Executive Committee meeting, we reviewed the project drawings and discussed the proposed project in detail with the applicant. The Executive Committee expressed support for the project providing the above conditions were satisfied.
For the record, we would also like to note that through our Association's participation at the Site Plan Review Sub- committee, we had previously provided input to the applicant suggesting that the site would be too dense with 32 units and that he consider reducing the number to 30 units while still retaining 2.2 spaces per unit of parking. Further, our members have recently commented that the layout of the units, and their driveway entry and exit points particularly on N. Stuart Street, will cause some unusual traffic conflicts with the garage access to Dittmar's residential project to the west.
The Brompton's at Ballston Townhouse site plan application will be the subject of a Public Hearing before the County Board. Any and all are welcome to testify. The COUNTY BOARD meeting will be Saturday, January 20, 1995. County Board hearings begin at 8:30 p.m., and continue throughout the day.
In the October/November 1995 Newsletter, the Civic Association reported the results of the Association's Third Annual Neighborhood Survey covering a two week period ending October 15, 1995. Under Item 6, the survey inquired whether Arlington County should spend more on each of the following areas: (1) Public Safety, (2) Public Parking, (3) Welfare, and (4) Staff Size/Salaries. Of these, Public Safety received the highest degree of support for increased spending with 64.1% of the survey respondents indicating support for increased spending. Also, the Association received a number of comments from our members expressing increased support for the police and fire departments. For example, one member stated "We need the police and fire departments, and should pay them better."
Arlington's Post-1981 Retirement System Plan
The Civic Association has obtained information about the County's retirement plan that provides different benefits depending on whether police or fire department employees were hired before or after 1981. Arlington teachers' pensions are handled under a different retirement formula.
Specifically, the Civic Association has learned that many Arlington police and fire department employees are especially unhappy with the post-1981 plans . Workers with 30 years of service, who retire under the pre-1981 plan receive 70 percent of the average of their three highest salary years. In marked contrast, workers with 30 years of service, who retire under the post-1981 plan receive only 45 percent of the average of their three highest salary years. Although this is a material 25 percent reduction, retirees in the newer plan have greater inflation protection than those who retire under the pre-1981 plan, which was limited to cost-of-living increases of no more than 1.5 percent per year.
The Civic Association's research on this issue shows that Arlington has the least generous pension for its police and fire protection employees of all neighboring jurisdictions in the Washington, D.C. area. In fact, in a letter to a Washington Post Editorial dated June 24, 1993, and titled "No 'Super-Generous' D.C. Police Pensions," the Chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police, Washington D.C., stated "A recent study disclosed, for example, that D.C. officers work more years to earn a pension that is worth less than that paid officers in all the neighboring jurisdictions except Arlington. On average, our pensions per year of service are 28.5 percent less than the average of our neighbors."
Fire Department Engine Malfunctions and Understaffing
The Civic Association has obtained information that shows the Arlington Professional Firefighters Association has filed an Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) complaint over fire engine failures and understaffing; and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has served a "Citation and Notification of Penalty" to the Arlington County Fire Chief.
OSHA Complaint Filed in 1995.
The OSHA complaint states that engine failures have left fire companies in Arlington County scrambling for water at fires, including a January 1995 incident that resulted in third-degree burns to a firefighter. Also, the OSHA complaint states that Arlington County's practice of understaffing fire companies created additional risks to firefighters, police officers, and civilians during the same fire at which the firefighter was burned.
The fire engine failures involve hydraulic and electric controls which the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) began placing on its fire engines in the mid-1980's. Despite warnings from firefighters that the hydraulic and electric systems may be unreliable and could jeopardize the lives of firefighters and citizens, the ACFD placed three fire engines with the components in service between August 1993 and January 1994. From the time the new apparatus were placed in County fire stations, as Engine 72 (Ballston), Engine 74 (Clarendon), and Engine 79 (Nauck), firefighters have complained of malfunctions.
According to the OSHA complaint, problems continued into 1995 after several equipment malfunctions occurred in 1994. For example, one year ago, in January 1995, Firefighter Kevin Pachas was seriously burned when a valve failure occurred on Engine 79. Other equipment malfunctions occurred in 1995 with Engine 72 and Engine 74.
In addition to the cited equipment failures, the OSHA complaint states that Arlington's practice of understaffing fire companies prevented Engine 79 from deploying the proper size hose line to fight the fire that burned Firefighter Pachas. The proper size line for that fire weighs approximately 570 pounds when filled with water and takes at least three firefighters to advance into a burning building. The National Fire Protection Association recommends a minimum staffing level of four persons on all engine and ladder truck companies; however, Arlington County routinely staffs companies with only three firefighters.
Response to OSHA Complaint.
In response to the OSHA complaint, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry served on January 11, 1996, a "Citation and Notification of Penalty" to the Arlington County Fire Chief. The Citation included the following two items.
Citation 1 Item 1 Type of Violation: Serious
Under Title 40.1-51.1.(a), Code of Virginia, the Citation states "that the employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that: The Arlington County Fire Department routinely sent employees to suppress interior structural fires on fire engines using Saulsbury pumpers. Conditions at interior structural fires present a universally recognized potential for an IDLH [(Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health)] atmosphere. The engines with Saulsbury pumpers have a long history of failures both in emergency and non emergency situations; such as but not limited to:
Two feasible and acceptable methods, among others, to correct this hazard are:
Proposed Penalty: $ 0.00
Citation 1 Item 2 Type of Violation: Serious
1910.134(e)(3)(ii): Employee(s) of the Arlington County Fire Department have been exposed to IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health) atmospheres by initiating interior structural firefighting before having sufficient personnel on the scene to have a two-member team on standby outside the IDLH atmosphere.
Date By Which Violation Must be Abated: 02/12/96
Proposed Penalty: $ 0.00
What Should BVSCA Members Do? Because of these significant shortcomings in the post-1981 retirement system and continued equipment breakdowns, will our police and fire department personnel continue to have morale problems, and as a result, potentially reduced County services ? Will Arlington County lose bright, energetic officers and fire protection employees to nearby jurisdictions and the federal government after it has spent thousands of dollars to train them? Will our police and fire departments become a rotating cadre of rookie officers and fire protection personnel, once the employees that were hired before 1981 retire? Or, will the dregs who can't get better jobs elsewhere be hired and become our Public Safety employees of the future?
Please contact the Civic Association's Member Information Line Telephone Number at (703) 528-1887, or the Arlington County Board at (703) 358-3130, and express your views on these significant issues affecting our Public Safety personnel.
As we reported in the last two Newsletters, the 1995 BVSCA Neighborhood Survey showed that 91.7% of the survey respondents indicated that a local income tax (proposed) was a concern (20%) or critical problem (71.7%). Specifically, Item 5d. Local Income Tax (Proposed) of the BVSCA 1995 Neighborhood Survey received the highest percentage of response and concern.
This item was included in the survey based on a September 1995 work session involving the Arlington County Board and the Economic Development Commission on the County's new Economic Development Plan and other recent developments. Near the end of the meeting, Chairman Eisenberg, 1995 Arlington County Board, indicated that sometime in the future there needs to be a discussion of an income based tax, along with a wealth based tax. Also, we reported that in the discussion about a possible local income tax at the BVSCA Candidates night of September 26, 1995, Tim Wise of the Courtlands Civic Association, and Vice-President of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association (ACTA), had inquired of Chairman Eisenberg how much longer the County should continue being supported by a wealth based tax, property tax, and whether there needs to be a start toward an income based tax.
Mr. Eisenberg responded "I think you took my statement a little bit farther than in fact it went. The fact is that we do have pretty much a wealth based tax system. Comes from what you own, property whether its personal property or real estate. It basically comes from that source, predominately, not entirely, in terms of local financing and we don't have the authority to do anything else. But it is an archaic way of taxing. I think there is a healthy debate that could be entered into. George Allen started that debate to some degree but I think he headed off in the wrong direction. But it's always helpful to examine your tax authorities and see which ones works best. The BPOL Tax for example, is a terrible tax. People hate it. It's burdensome, it's regressive. The problem is it also provides 10% of our general revenue fund and we have to figure out an alternative and we have very little taxing opportunities compared to cities."
In the December 1995 Newsletter, the Association reported that existing law ("Code of Virginia Section 58.1-540, Levy of the tax."), authorizes Arlington to implement a local income tax if the County holds a referendum to approve the tax. This authority to levy a local income tax was adopted by Virginia in 1989 in Section 58.1-540, Subsection A. Specifically, this subsection authorized Virginia counties having a population of more than 500,000, and any county adjacent thereto [Arlington], and any city contiguous to such an adjacent county or city, or any city with a population of at least 265,000 is hereby authorized to levy a local income tax at any increment of one-quarter percent up to a maximum rate of one percent upon the Virginia taxable income as determined in Section 58.1-322 for an individual, Section 58.1-361 for a fiduciary of an estate or trust, or Section 58.1-402 for a corporation, for each taxable year of every resident of such county or city or corporation having income from sources within such county or city, subject to the limitations of subsection B of this section. The same rate shall apply to individuals, fiduciaries and corporations.
Subsection B states The authority to levy a local income tax as provided in subsection A may be exercised by a county or city governing body only if approved in a referendum within the county or city...If the voters by a majority vote approve the authority of the local governing body to levy a local income tax, the tax may be imposed by the adoption of an ordinance by the governing body of the county or city in accordance with general or special law, and the tax may be thereafter enacted, modified or repealed as any other tax the governing body is empowered to levy subject only to the limitations herein. No ordinance levying a local income tax shall be repealed unless and until all debts or other obligations of the county or city to which such revenues are pledged or otherwise committed have been paid or provision made for payment.
Local Income Tax News
The following are the highlights of the recent debate and discussion over Arlington's and other Virginia jurisdictions' authority to implement a local income tax.
Arlington County Board Meeting, December 13, 1995
Tim Wise testified at the above Arlington County Board Meeting, Agenda Item #17, Adoption of the 1996 Legislation Package, and requested clarification on behalf of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association about the County's authority to implement a local income tax and asked the Board for a public commitment against a local income tax." Tim Wise's testimony follows and the County Board's response.
"Good evening Board Members. For the record my name is Timothy Wise and I'm the Vice President of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association. I would like to continue the discussion of a local income tax that was begun at your last Board meeting on November 18th. At that meeting, the president of the Volunteers for an Independent Arlington (VIA) Coalition, [Amy Jones-Baskaran], asked you for a public commitment that this County Board was not interested in imposing a local income tax on either the citizens or businesses of Arlington. You did not provide that commitment. But the Board has created some confusion and I'll give you three reasons why.
The first is prior statements by current or future Members of the Board. Mr. Eisenberg has said publicly that the County needs to begin discussing replacing the County's reliance on a wealth-based system with an income-based tax. You've also said that the current property taxes, both the real estate and personal property tax are an archaic form of taxation, and that the County has very little taxing authority in comparison to cities. Mr. Winslow has said that he supports a net business receipts tax, but opposes a local income tax on individuals. And finally, your future colleague, Mr. Ferguson, has said that he would support a local income tax on businesses to replace the BPOL tax as long as that tax was revenue neutral.
The second reason, statements at the November 18th Board meeting. Both Mrs. Bozman and Mrs. Whipple thought they were correcting the VIA president. Mrs. Bozman first said that cities in Virginia do not have the authority to levy an income tax, but then she expanded that by saying that no local jurisdiction has the authority to levy an income tax. Mrs. Whipple took special pains to point out that no city in Virginia "even thinks" they have the ability to impose a local income tax. The VIA president then asked the Board to explain exactly what is being proposed in the Board's legislative package on the Dillon Rule. According to Mrs. Bozman, the Board only seeks the authority to tax cigarettes the same as cities since cities can tax cigarettes up to 15 cents per pack while counties can tax cigarettes only up to 5 cents per pack. Mrs. Bozman finally said the reason the Board wants the Dillon Rule relaxed is for what she termed housekeeping issues, e.g., requiring residents to cut their grass when it grows beyond 15 inches.
[The Virginia General Assembly "Glossary of Legislative Terms" on the Internet ("http://www.state.va.us/dlas/welcome.- htm") states that the Dillon Rulerestricts local government authority to enact ordinances. Local governments only have powers granted in the Virginia Constitution and/or passed by the General Assembly.]
And finally, this is where my confusion begins. Since the last Board meeting, I have more thoroughly read House Bill 1684 and the resulting Code sections. A patron of that bill was the late Delegate Warren Stambaugh. This bill which became law in 1989 allows this Board to impose a local income tax if the tax is approved in a referendum. Of course to understand that this bill applies to Arlington County requires an advanced degree in geography because it applies to any county having a population of more than 500,000, any county or city adjacent thereto, which is Arlington, and any city contiguous to such an adjacent county or city, or any city with a population of at least 265,000.
Since you made no commitment against a local income tax at your November meeting, ACTA asks you to make that commitment tonight. You can do this by including in your legislative package the need for a bill to add a sunset provision to the law patroned by Delegate Stambaugh. You can model that provision after House Bill 1530 which was patroned by Democrat Alan Mayer of Annandale. Offered on January 11, 1995, Mayer's bill said local jurisdictions could impose the local income tax only if the tax was approved by referendum held prior to January 1, 1997.
You should also ask the Manager to explain why he changed the wording between drafts 2 and 3 of the legislative package regarding the Board's desire to weaken the Dillon Rule. In draft 2, the wording referred to providing the County with the same taxing authority as cities, but this language was removed in draft 3.
In conclusion, ACTA would appreciate clarification of the various comments by Board members and the discussion at your last November 18 Board meeting in lieu of the legislative bill that I commented. And finally we would ask the Board for a public commitment against a local income tax."
Eisenberg responded: "The item is not part of our legislative agenda. If anybody wants to put it in, they can bring it up before the Board, but there's nothing in our agenda that speaks to that issue and I think we can move on from here."
Arlington County Civic Federation Meeting, January 2, 1996
Chairman Hunter: "...A question that you all asked, I was talking to Mr. McGeary [Scott McGeary, President, Arlington County Civic Federation] just before the meeting. The way I read the question was interesting. It said, let me see if I can get the right words here, respectfully request [your] comments on the following topics thought to be of primary interest to the Federation. It says Exploration of the Feasibility of Arlington's Implementation of Local Income Tax Authority from the General Assembly. Now the way I read that sentence, I told Mr. McGeary, it sounded to me that as though the Civic Federation was endorsing the concept of local income tax. I checked with my colleagues and I was unable to find anyone who was interested in having local income tax authority in Arlington. But I did a little more checking, I found out and some of you know that we do have income tax authority upon referendum. And that authority, I know Mr. McGeary already did know this, is for transportation use only and if it were to be approved by the voters, if it were to put on the ballot by the County Board which it will not be. If it were to be approved by the voters then it would expire after 5 years at the so called sunset provision. I could go into more detail in it, if there's more interest in it. If I haven't made it clear that this County Board at least is not interested in imposing or even putting up for referendum the question of local income tax authority. Then we will discuss it during the questions."
Northern Virginia Delegates Meeting, Dated January 6, 1996, Government Center, Fairfax County, Virginia.
At this meeting, the Volunteers for an Independent Arlington (VIA) Coalition presented their 1996 Legislative Package to the Northern Virginia Delegates. This included a recommendation to repeal Virginia jurisdictions' authority to impose a local income tax, if there are no delegates from Fairfax County who would like to see a local income tax put on the ballot in a referendum. The VIA Coalition added there may be, however, some senators or delegates from Fairfax County, who support a local income tax. If that is the case, the VIA Coalition voiced support of the Arlington County Board in its opposition to a local income tax and urged the 1996 General Assembly to remove the "counties adjacent thereto" language from the current law so that this unwanted piece of law does not hang over Arlington County. The VIA Coalition also formally expressed their opposition to any efforts on the part of the legislature to do what the 1991 General Assembly did in authorizing the "meals tax" for local jurisdictions, subject to voter approval by public referendum. In that case, the legislature approved a floor amendment to authorize Arlington to implement the "meals tax" without a public referendum, if the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to adopt such a tax, which they did, and held one public hearing.
For members and other citizens who are interested in supporting the Association's recommended legislative initiatives on aggressive panhandling in Arlington and Initiative and Referendum for all Virginians, one may contact the General Assembly toll-free Hotline --1-800-889-0229. (See the December 1995 Newsletter, or this Newsletter on the BVSCA home page on the WEB at "http://www2.dgsys.com/~bvsca/" for details.)
Additionally, if you oppose the local income tax authority for Virginia jurisdictions, or Arlington County, you should contact the General Assembly to repeal the applicable law ("Code of Virginia 58.1-540, Levy of the tax."), or request amendment of the law to exclude Arlington from having the authority.
During each legislative workday, the Hotline receives calls from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Calls are answered by Hotline Operators who request the constituent to provide a name and address, a geographic location or legislative district, the designated legislator(s) to receive their message, and the issue on which they are expressing their opinion. The Operators record the messages and forward the information to the legislators for their review.
The General Assembly of Virginia has provided a toll-free Hotline during its annual legislative session since 1994. The General Assembly's Hotline provides the citizens of the Commonwealth with the opportunity to express their views on the issues before the General Assembly. The Hotline also provides vital information to the members of the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia concerning public opinion on matters before the General Assembly.
If a caller seeks additional information concerning legislation or wishes to speak directly with a legislator, the Operator will provide the appropriate telephone number. For additional information regarding this service, please contact the House Clerk's Office at (804) 786-7248 or the Senate Clerk's Office at (804) 786-8430. The Arlington elected representatives to the 1996 General Assembly that cover our community, include: Judy Connally (D), representing District 48 in the Virginia House of Delegates; and Mary Margaret Whipple (D), representing the Virginia State Senate's 31st District.
Others Support Initiative and Referendum.
Notably, the Arlington County Civic Federation, representing 68 non-partisan organizations, adopted Initiative and Referendum as part of the Federation's 1994, 1995, and 1996 Legislative Packages and requested 5 percent of the total vote cast for Governor in the previous gubernatorial election be required to put statutory initiatives and referenda on the ballot and 8 percent for state constitutional amendments. See the BVSCA home page on the WEB at "http://www2.dgsys.com/~bvsca/" for the Civic Federation 1996 Legislative Package.
In 1993, the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association voted to join the United Virginians for Initiative and Referendum ("UVIR"), which is a non-partisan statewide coalition of citizen organizations that see initiative and referendum ("I & R") as the best means to take important issues to the people and bring them to a vote through the ballot process.
The Association has followed-up on the status of three Initiative and Referendum bills, which were submitted this past year at the 1995 General Assembly. The only bill that came close to making it out of committee was Senate Joint Resolution 364 regarding I & R rights for Virginians. This bill lost in a vote of 8-7, but it took almost 16 years to get that close. Still, however, it wasn't passed. We need I & R rights because it has been the basis for achieving many rights we have today, such as women's right to vote. Finally, we need I & R rights to promote increased voter participation.
Further, both Democrats and Republicans support Initiative and Referendum, such as: Lt. Governor Don Beyer, a Democrat; Delegate Vincent Callahan, a Republican, representing McLean; Senator Janet Howell, a Democrat, representing part of Arlington County and Fairfax County; and Senator Charlie Waddell, a Democrat, representing part of Fairfax County and Loudoun County.
In his State of the Commonwealth Address to the Virginia General Assembly, Governor Allen stated "As we seek a future of opportunity for Virginia's next generation in the competitive world of today and tomorrow, let us also take care to preserve the special character of our Commonwealth and people.
Since the days when those hearty settlers first reached Jamestown in search of freedom and hope in a bountiful new land, we Virginians have been defined by our faith, our courage and our sense of family and community.
Our great legacy to our nation and the world is a legacy of liberty -- of free people exercising responsibility and charting their own course under the watchful eye of a loving God and with a helping hand from family, neighbors and friends.
Here in Virginia can be found the most creative, the most energetic, the most principled and generous people on the face of this earth. We place too little faith in them when we refuse to trust them with the right of Initiative and Referendum....
Let us resolve in the days ahead to conduct ourselves, not as an all-knowing elite in a far distant capital, but as servants of decent and sensible people who rightly desire to choose their own way for themselves, their families and their communities."
The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, which is made up mostly of Fairfax and Loudoun residents, is just beginning the formal process of selecting a site. In Arlington, officials are also convinced that their sites might be more attractive to major league baseball because they are close to Metro and not as far from the District.
The locations being considered in Arlington are in the county's southern section. One is just south of the 14th Street bridge, on the east side of the Jefferson Davis Highway; the other is between National Airport and Route 1, near the Alexandria city line, County Manager Anton S. Gardner said.
The stadium authority is working on figuring out a financing plan for the complex, which would cost about $250 million. Barton said he senses that there is little support for a tax increase to help cover the cost, but that the authority needs to prepare a formal financial plan that would show how much public support may be needed to build the complex. Among possible revenue sources being considered is a special scratch- off lottery game, the proceeds of which would help pay for construction.
Arlington County Board Letter Dated January 11, 1996
The Association has obtained preliminary information which confirms that the County has been approached during the last two months by Arlington citizens and business persons, who are interested in seeing the proposed Northern Virginia Professional Baseball Stadium located in Arlington County. Chairman James Hunter writes in a letter dated January 11, 1996, that "Arlington County has recently learned that Major League Baseball and as a result, the proposed professional baseball ownership group (the Virginia Baseball Club) also has concerns about some of the proposed outer locations, and is interested in exploring sites in Arlington. This is not surprising given the success of some new baseball stadiums in urban settings, such as Baltimore, Cleveland, and Toronto, as well as the historic success of Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston.
In his letter, Chairman Hunter notes the emphasis on "potentially" as much work (site suitability, transportation, environmental and financial analyses) needs to be undertaken before the County Board can consider whether or not to submit a stadium site proposal to the Authority.
The Stadium Authority's planned process would have eligible jurisdictions first "express interest" in being considered for a stadium. It would then be the County Board's option on whether or not to submit a site (s) proposal to the Stadium Authority sometime in late Spring, with any final site plan and zoning changes coming at a later date this calendar year.
As a result of the Stadium Authority's tight timetable, Chairman Hunter states it will likely be necessary to schedule the County Board's consideration of whether or not to "express interest" at a future County Board meeting (to be scheduled). This will be a public hearing item on the County Board's agenda. Also, at that time the County Board will consider a public participation process as well as create an Ad Hoc Baseball Stadium Advisory Committee.
In conclusion, Chairman Hunter writes while I am excited about the potential for a professional baseball stadium in Arlington, I realize that the County is far from a determination whether or not there is suitable site in Arlington for a stadium, as well as whether or a stadium project would be in the County's best interest.
Please contact the Civic Association's Member Information Line Telephone Number at (703) 528-1887, or the County Board at (703) 358-3130, and express your views on whether a profess- ional baseball stadium would be in the County's best interest.
A representative from the Association is invited to participate in this important effort by serving on one of the three task forces that have been created to develop scenarios for an integrated, multi-modal transportation system for the region. The Task Forces will meet over the next four months during Phase Two of the process and will focus on Economic Prosperity, Quality of Life and Access to Opportunities. Task Force participants will be given guidelines for the structure of their product and be required to describe implementation strategies, including financing.
Public outreach was the first phase of the process and involved extensive efforts to seek ideas from the public through meetings, surveys and visits by the Vision Van during the Fall of 1995. The Arlington Planning and Transportation Commissions also co-sponsored a meeting in Arlington on December 5. The second phase began with an all-day workshop on December 8, 1995, at which the 2,200 ideas received in Phase One were reviewed and summarized.
Membership in the Task Forces is open to members of the Association and other citizens, who would like to participate. The first meetings of all three groups will take place on Tuesday, January 16, 1996, at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) at 777 North Capital Street, N.E., Washington, D. C. The Economic Prosperity Task Force will meet at 5:30 p.m., the Access to Opportunities Task Force at 6:00 p.m., and the Quality of Life Task Force will meet at 6:30 p.m. For additional information about the Task Forces or the process, you may call Karen Haas Smith at 202-962-3385. If you are interested in participating in this planning process, please call Karen Smith and the Association's Member Information Line Telephone Number (703) 528-1887.
To measure single-family assessment trends across Arlington, the County has been divided into 11 areas. Area 9, which is just north and west of I-395 and loosely bounded on three sides by Washington Boulevard, Arlington Boulevard and South Glebe Road, showed the largest drop in average assessments, from $137,798 in 1995 to $132,549 in 1996, a decrease of 3.81 percent. Area 5, bounded loosely by I-66, North Glebe Road, Lee Highway and North Lexington Street, showed the largest increase in average assessment, from $197,989 in 1995 to $200,540 in 1996, an increase of 1.29 percent.
Despite the slight decline in average assessments in single- family properties, Gardner reports that the total value of assessed taxable properties in Arlington increased 2.05 percent over 1995 ($18.2 billion, up from $17.8). This is due to $137 million in new construction.
As part of the redesign of the sewage treatment facility on South Glebe Road in South Arlington, the County Board authorized staff to negotiate a contract amendment with Hazen and Sawyer, Inc., for the redesign of the Centrifuge Dewatering Building, for a cost not to exceed $550,000, and authorizes the Purchasing Agent to execute the contract amendment, subject to review and approval by the County Attorney's Office. Also, the County Board authorized staff to negotiate a contract amendment with Danis, Heavy Construction Company, Inc., for initial modifications and purchase of equipment for the Centrifuge Dewatering Building, for a cost not to exceed $3 million, and authorizes the Purchasing Agent to execute the contract amendment, subject to review and approval by the County Attorney's Office.
Further, the County Board authorized the County Manager to inform the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that the County withdraws its application for an upgrade and expansion of its biosludge incinerator and plans to discontinue its operation once construction is complete on a modified Centrifuge Dewatering Building so that land application can proceed at the earliest opportunity.
The results of the BVSCA Third Annual Neighborhood Survey ending October 15, 1995, showed that 75% of the 65 member respondents indicated support for alternative techniques to sludge incineration and 25% indicated support for not changing the County's current process for sludge incineration. At the County Board's Sludge Alternative Study Hearing, BVSCA President Ragland testified in support of land application of sewage sludge and alternative techniques to sludge incineration, noting the results of the above BVSCA survey on this issue. Also, President Ragland indicated that he had coordinated with County Staff and the cost of building and running the remodeled plant is estimated to be $91.2 million over 20 years, or $48.65 per household per year, or $6.68 more per household than the cost of burning sewage sludge per month. This is the equivalent of $.22 more per household than the cost of burning sewage sludge per day. President Ragland stated that this is a small cost to pay in exchange for the increased protection benefits of the environment and public health.
Its not unfair to reason that as many as 50 to 100 potential buyers may visit the typical lot each day. While not all 30 used car lots may attract that kind of business, even a conservative figure will suggest that this used car center is now attracting many thousands of people each week who were previously unfamiliar with our community. For the serious minded buyer, at least one test drive is probably in order and, of course, our neighborhood becomes the test drive track for all of these rides around town. This adds to the traffic, and I will suggest, the safety concerns of our citizens as a lot of people who are unfamiliar with these vehicles and our traffic signals are now cruising our streets...Furthermore, the used car business is a large cash business. Walk around these lots and you will find that these are not all inexpensive models -- some go for $15,000 to $25,000 and more.
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.
Investigators with the Internal Revenue Service, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Arlington Police Department spent most of the day on Thursday, December 7, 1995, gathering records at Select Auto Import Inc. at 5630 South Van Dorn St.; Eagle Motors of 3911 Wilson Blvd.; and Eastern Motors at 2901 N. Washington Blvd.
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.
Also, the Journal stated that the dealerships originally came to the attention of federal agents after Arlington Police said neighbors had complained about people -- some of whom had Maryland and Washington license tags on their cars -- who were paying for cars with large amounts of cash. The investigation, which police said began two years ago, is similar to but not related to a series of arrests made at Rosenthal Nissan Mazda. Police charged several dealers following that investigation.
In a more recent Washington Post article dated January 6, 1996, and titled "Virginia Car Dealer Faces Prison After Admitting He Sold to Drug Dealers," Charles Hall writes that an Alexandria car dealer, whose lot was raided by FBI agents last month, has 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.
Although no criminal charges have been filed against Eastern or Eagle Motors, the Arlington Journal reported on January 10, 1996, in an article titled "Man Guilty in Tax Evasion," that the spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office, Sam Dibbley, said the investigation is ongoing and more arrests could follow.