• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday Nov. 6, 2019 at 7:30 pm at Ballston Firehouse Community Room (George Mason Drive & Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA)

November 9, 2019

Greens support temporary halt to new buildings in Arlington until energy plan is approved

Development,environment — @ 12:20 pm

Arlington Greens voted at their meeting on Nov. 6 to support a petition to the Arlington County Board to temporarily halt new building construction permits until the county board is able to approve an effective Community Energy Plan that will force buildings to have green building and green energy in all new buildings.

The County board in September passed a partial Community Energy Plan (CEP)that sets out the goal that Arlington will be carbon neutral within 25 years or so, but that plan had no funding or building zoning changes that would have compelled new buildings to meet this high green energy standard. New buildings–residential or commercial–will last often over 40 years, and using current wasteful, carbon-based electricity and heating will mean no reduction in carbon emissions from them for the next 40 years.

The County Board has promised to enact the full CEP by June 2020 that will include changes in building codes so that the environment and carbon emissions can be improved. The county needs to halt giving out building permits until the June CEP is approved. Amazon has proposed building two towering high rises in Pentagon City–these should NOT be approved until we have a full CEP.

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October 7, 2019

Arlington Judge Blocks Historic Preservation of Westover Apartments

Arlington Judge William Newman ruled against community efforts for historic preservation in Westover on September 29. We had asked him to require the county to complete our historic petition for Westover, but the judge says the county can take as many years or decades as it chooses to complete historic review even if all the buildings are lost. He dismissed our lawsuit without even a full hearing on the merits.

Judge Newman—a Democrat and former member of the county board himself— ruled that the county can delay forever in processing our historic petition forever. He did not even have the sense of justice to allow us to argue our case with evidence at a trial. He dismissed our case with prejudice (meaning we can never re-file).

He ruled that the county does not have to proceed at all on our historic petition which was filed about 3 ½ years ago. Since we filed our historic petition, four apartment buildings were demolished in addition to seven demolished before.

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It is ironic that Judge Newman is married to a billionaire and lives in a mansion on an estate in Middleburg Virginia worth many tens of millions of dollars, and ruled that it is okay for the county government to allow the demolition of 70-year old apartments that house renters who live on very small incomes. There is plenty of room in Arlington for millionaires and billionaires living in their big mansions, but no room for a disabled veteran, a school aide or a library technician getting by on under $50,000 a year.

It is a lousy and unfair justice and political system that values billionaires and developers over modest people living in Arlington. Justice deferred is justice denied. This is not justice.

We cannot appeal the judge’s egregious decision to the Virginia Supreme Court since this would cost us at least $15,000, and we can never recoup any of these legal fees even if we were to win our case. So our justice system works well for the rich and developers, but not for ordinary people in Arlington.

With our court case thrown out, we asked the county board itself to bypass the local historic review board and take up the matter itself and give us a final decision. But this is highly unlikely as the board is in league with developers who choose to demolish older and simpler homes and build new, bigger, more energy wasteful, and expensive homes for the rich. And we wonder why we have an affordable housing problem in Arlington.

We will continue as best we can to preserve Arlington along with modest apartments for middle and working income people in Arlington.

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October 1, 2019

Arlington’s Energy Plan to reach zero carbon emissions based mostly on hot air and platitudes

Development,environment — @ 11:17 am

Arlington County Board of Supervisors on September 21, 2019 updated its six-year old Community Energy Plan (CEP), and increased its goal from a 75-percent reduction in carbon emissions within Arlington County by 2045 to net carbon neutrality by 2050. The actual policies needed to do this will be considered in a separate implementation policy in June 2020. So for now, the CEP is merely hopes and not concrete actions to be taken.

Why did the county only approve goals but not at the same time the means to achieve these goals? The plan has no funding nor new county ordinances or requirements. The plan calls for the county government to use only renewable power within 6 years, and all residents and business to use only renewable power by 2035.

The problem with that is that Virginia today has NO commercial renewable electricity. In 2018, about 3.1 million megawatts of electricity were consumed by commerce, residents, and government in Arlington. To supply that amount of electricity would take the electricity generated from the largest wind tower farm in the world (the London array with a daily capacity of 7,120 megawatts) for the +200,000 residents of Arlington.

Dominion Energy proposes to build a large wind farm off Virginia coast by 2026 with a capacity of 2,600 megawatts daily capacity that could supply only one-third of Arlington’s electricity use today.

It can argued that the 2013 CEP failed on nearly all of its goals, although some external and market driving factors did allow county emissions to drop slightly. A large proportion of existing office space became vacant during 2007-18, and Dominion Energy began phasing out coal-fired electricity for natural gas-fired electricity which produces less carbon emissions.

During 2010-18, net carbon emissions from buildings did drop by 4 percent or very close to the 2013 target of a 5-percent drop but only because of high rates of office vacancy. The bad news and more foreboding is that carbon emissions in residences rose by 14 percent, driven in part by a 9-percent increase in county residents.

The 2013 CEP failed owing to several factors: the State of Virginia Building code for new residential units was not strengthened to require builders to achieve a 30-percent energy savings. Secondly, no cogeneration power plants were built in Arlington that would have reduced commercial use of natural gas and electricity. Third, even the LEED certified buildings added in Arlington did not achieve significant energy savings.

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September 24, 2019

Arlington Green Building Certification Program Mostly Green Washing

Development,environment — @ 4:06 pm

Arlington County gives subsidies to builders who obtain LEED certification for a new building that is supposed to cut energy use by 25-30 percent. The main subsidy given is zoning approval to add more floors and height to a new building, and in some cases tax credits. The first building was certified in the Arlington program in 2006.

During 2006-16, about 89 buildings were built in Arlington with a so-called “Green building certification” that include mainly LEED (Green Building Council), Earth Craft, Energy Star, and Water Sense EPA. But in the 13 years that program has operated, County staff have been unable to verify that these certified buildings use less energy than comparable non-certified buildings.

Nationwide, independent researchers cast doubt that LEED or similar rating systems result in any significant energy reduction. One researcher obtained energy use data for 10 major metro areas with large numbers of green certified (mainly LEED) buildings, and found that these building use MORE energy than comparable non-certified buildings, according to research from Oberlin College professor John Schofield. Perversely, he found newer LEED buildings tend to host more energy intensive activities, such as more computers and cellphones.

Thus, although Arlington has about 90 more energy certified buildings, it is not apparent that these buildings actually use less energy, and based on more comprehensive studies of ten major metro areas including Washington DC, such building would be expected to use more energy and not less.

There are proven ways to reduce energy in commercial buildings but these largely involve external factors—addition of solar panels outside the building, geothermal heating and cooling, and sourcing of renewable electricity.

The county government should revise its green building program to require developers to use external technology rather than rely on a certification program that results in no or even higher energy use. The current county program is green washing: allowing a developer to claim public relations credit and a significant subsidy for doing nothing to cut energy use.

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September 9, 2019

Arlington carbon emissions rise in homes, but drop in commerce and government during 2010-18, with 4-percent overall drop

Development,environment — @ 4:32 pm

During 2010-18 in Arlington, the use of natural gas rose by 30 percent to 91 million therms while use of electricity fell by 9 percent to 3.1 billion kilo watt hours, according to data from the Arlington County Government. In terms of carbon emissions, total carbon emissions declined by about 4 percent during 2010-2018, but most of this occurred because of lower commercial and government use related to fewer office workers in Arlington.

Residential use of electricity and natural gas both rose in this period. Use of electricity in homes rose by 3 percent to 1.7 billion kilowatt hours, and use of natural gas by rose by 54 percent to 61 million therms. Combined carbon emissions in residences rose by 14 percent to about 1.1 million metric tons of carbon. Raw data were supplied by the county government and converted to carbon equivalents using EPA data.

The increased residential use was propelled upwards by a 9-percent rise in population of Arlington rising to about 226,000 in January 2019 from 208,000 in 2010. However the rise in energy use exceeded the rise in population indicating that residents are intensifying their use of energy in their homes.
For the commercial and government sectors which experienced a drop in gas and electricity use, the large increase in empty office space and the reduction in the number of federal employees located in Arlington triggered this decline.

With the expected entry of thousands of Amazon employees in Arlington over the next 5 years or so, it is likely that the commercial sector will return to its prior energy use as office space is filled and more office buildings are constructed.

The Arlington Community Energy Plan adopted in 2013 has thus yet to indicate a shift in the energy patterns in commerce, government and residential uses, and the slight 4-percent drop in carbon emissions is entirely related to increased office vacancies. A return to high office use and the entry of Amazon HQ2 is likely to lead to a rise in overall county emissions. This will make impossible Arlington County’s energy plan goal to attain a 50-percent drop in emissions in the next 20 years.

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July 30, 2019

Lawsuit filed against Arlington County for Blocking Historic Preservation of Westover Village in Arlington

John Reeder, a longtime Arlington community activist and chairman of the Arlington Green Party, filed a lawsuit on July 30 against the Arlington County Board of Supervisors for their refusal to complete the historic preservation review of Westover Village Apartments begun three years ago. The lawsuit asks an Arlington County judge to order the County Board to complete the local historic review process, as required under Virginia’s historic preservation law. Local historic preservation would prevent any further demolitions of existing buildings.


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Westover Village containing garden apartments, a shopping center, schools, a church, and small detached houses, was built mostly during the World War II era for Arlington residents working for the U.S. military and Government; most residents today are renters in the remaining about 700 moderate-cost garden apartments. The National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2006 designated the Village a national historic district, owing to its historic significance and architecture of the late 19th and 20th Century Revivals/Colonial Revival. In the past few years, a developer demolished eleven apartment buildings with about 90 units, and eliminated all adjacent mature old trees and green space.

The petition to initiate the local historic review of Westover Village was filed by Reeder in June 2016, and later supported by 160 Arlington residents. The county Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) then found that the proposed historic district met at least two of the required criteria for local historic designation. But then later, the HALRB halted any the review until the county board completed an unrelated zoning ordinance (the Housing Conservation Districts) that remains unfinished today. The proposed zoning ordinance was a pretext for delay, and unrelated to local historic designation which must strictly conform to the State of Virginia law on historic preservation.

The lawsuit asks for no monetary compensation, but rather for an order from the judge compelling the county board to expeditiously complete the historic review process after a 3-year delay as required by state law. Eleven buildings in the Village have been demolished to date, four since the petition was filed three years ago.

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January 12, 2019

Amazon HQ2–Housing Costs May Rise by 15-20% and Housing Cost Burden Heavier on Tenants

Assuming that Amazon does open its 25,000 employee office in Crystal City, Arlington residents most of whom are renters, should plan on a substantial increase in rents and housing costs. A recent forecast by a local realtor with McEnearney Brokers indicates that housing costs may rise in the 15-20 percent range as a direct result of HQ2. (http://www.mcenearney.com/blog/2018/11/impact-amazons-hq2-move-northern-virginia/). This rise will not happen over night as it will take a number of years before most of these 25,000 employees are hired (and as many as another 10,000 support workers are added), but it is clear that renters are going to be jeopardized.


Current home owners will reap an unexpected windfall, but only when they sell their residence and in the meantime will pay higher property taxes. Most homeowners are not interested in selling and leaving Arlington in the immediate future, and so they will experience an increase in their property taxes which now average about $7,000 a year. Homeowners–expect to pay another $1,000 to 1,400 a year in taxes.

Renters, who are about 55 percent of Arlington residents, are going to be severely impacted, and there is no upside for them but simply paying higher rents. The McEnearney analysis does not specifically indicate how much rents will rise, but indicates areas close to Crystal City both in Arlington and Alexandria will experience the highest rent pressure. It is certainly prudent to expect rents to rise by at least by half the rise expected for prices of homes and condos: this would mean a rent increase of 7-10 percent.

The average rent in Arlington in 2017 was about $2,000 per month for an apartment, and thus renters should expect a $140 to 200 a month increase in rents charged. Rents are much higher in high rise buildings (above $2,500) and lower in garden apartments ($1,800) so the effect will vary but most of the apartments in Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yards are high rises.

There are fewer than 2,000 market rate apartments that are affordable to anyone earning 60-percent or less of the area median income in Arlington, and virtually none in these three areas. In 2013, there were 17,000 households earning 60% or less of the area median income (AMI) ($51,000 for a couple) who account for 30 percent of Arlington residents. (Arlington County Affordable Housing Master Plan, p. 37).

Most renters today earning 60 percent or less of the area median income are housing cost burdened, meaning they are paying more than one third of their income for rent. Another $200 a month in rent is going to further their housing burden, and in many cases they will leave Arlington for cheaper, far suburban areas like Loudon or Prince William Counties.

Arlington County Board has proposed to spend an additional $7 million a year to subsidize the construction of 100 units a year (a subsidy of $70,000 per unit). Unfortunately most of the $7 million will be absorbed by the housing builders and developers and only a few people will be able to get into these units.

Meanwhile, a 10-percent rent increase across the 50,000 apartment units in Arlington means that the total rent increase will be in the $100 million range, a great windfall for apartment complex owners but a loss for renters. The county board’s offer of $7 million would only cover an insignificant fraction of the total rent increase, and in essence is just window dressing.

About four years ago the county board adopted the affordable housing master plan with an annual goal of the county providing 630 households earning under 60% AMI with housing assistance to be able to rent an affordable unit in Arlington. https://housing.arlingtonva.us/affordable-housing-master-plan/ unfortunately the county added fewer than 300 units a year, and, last year, cut the amount of financial housing assistance for rental grants for seniors, disabled persons and families with a child, all of whom earn under 40-percent AMI.

The HQ2 will mean a worsening of the housing burden for all Arlington residents, and will disproportionately affect those lowest in income who tend to be black, Latinos, the elderly, the disabled and the young. The HQ2 deal is consistent with the unstated Arlington County’s goal for many years to displace lower income people and replace them with the affluent. It means a whiter, richer, and less diverse community with no place for working people, the elderly or young professional just starting their careers.

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January 2, 2019

Amazon HQ2—Wasting County and State Funds on Subsidizing a Corporate Giant Amazon

Amazon HQ2,Development — @ 6:16 pm

The Arlington County Board is going full speed ahead to sell its deal to provide hundreds of millions of public local tax dollars to Amazon for a new headquarters in Crystal City, and the “listening session” in mid-December at Gunston Middle School just highlighted this full bore sell campaign.

County Board members present heard an earful of good objections to giving this corporate giant any of our local tax dollars, and then gave bogus arguments in favor of this deal.
County officials and some board members present gave misleading reasons on why Amazon HQ2 would be good for Arlington County—Arlington needs more jobs; Metro can handle the transit problem of 25,000 more employees and they won’t clog up our streets; Amazon will fill up vacant office space which will raise more local tax revenues and improve county finances; and new GMU and VA Tech IT campuses are needed.

Crystal City High rise Buildings

Arlington Needs more Jobs in Crystal City?
Katie Cristol, a county board member present, said that Crystal City lost over 35,000 jobs when the Department of Defense moved employees to other areas of Northern Virginia with the so-called BRAC realignment beginning around 2005. This is misleading.

It is true there are fewer federal employees in that area of Arlington after BRAC, but total employment throughout Arlington is 28,000 higher today (up from 196,000 in January 2004 to 224,000 in January 2018). Other employers have picked up the slack, and added more jobs to Arlington. There is one job in Arlington for every resident, and the unemployment rate is about 2 percent. Arlington does not need to subsidize businesses to come to Arlington—they already are locating here without a fat subsidy from taxpayers.

The office vacancy rate in Crystal City is about 18 percent today, and it is true that the main commercial realty company JBG/Smith there is having a hard time renting its vacant space. Still, Crystal City does not have the highest vacancy rate among all business areas in Arlington, the highest vacancy rate is in Ballston and Rosslyn, each with 24 percent. Filling office space is NOT the taxpayers’ or county government’s problem but JBG’s or other realty company’s problem to solve.

>Metro and buses can handle another 25,000 employees, and there will be no further traffic congestion, and Arlington County needs to spend $360 million on Metro in Crystal City?

The county transportation director said at the Gunston MS meeting there are far fewer Metrorail passengers using Crystal City Metro stations today than a decade ago, and that, therefore, Metro can handle 25,000 more employees working there. Just spend $360 million and add new entrances to the existing Metro stations, and voila.

The reality is that Metrorail ridership is down substantially, for example daily weekday ridership declined by 25 percent on the Orange Line during 2000-17, according to WMATA data. The decline is mostly because of train breakdowns and unreliable train service, but also Uber and Lyft competition. Under its current state of disrepair, Metro can barely handle current passengers. Metro rail cannot handle another 25,000 passengers into/from Crystal City today, and the problem is not a lack of Crystal City Metro stations or entrances but rather a lack of reliable service of the trains. Amazon employees will drive to work, use Uber and Lyft, clog up our neighborhood streets, and make life miserable for Arlington residents as well as themselves.

Metrorail needs a massive infusion of billions of dollars to fix equipment, trains, and stations that now exist. The county wants to spend $360 million to add two new unneeded entrances to Metro stations in Crystal City and Pentagon Yards; these funds instead should be directed to Metro rail operations and infrastructure. The rest of us in Arlington depend on Metrorail, and just fixing up two stations in Crystal City will do nothing to fix the Orange, Blue or Silver Line delays or help Arlington residents with effective mass transit.

Filling vacant office space will automatically raise county tax revenues and improve county finances?

Libby Garvey, another county board member present, said the HQ2 deal will reduce the average office vacancy rate in the county from 18 to 14 percent, and this will raise county tax revenues and improve county finances. Roughly each drop in office vacancy rate in Arlington yields about $3.4 million in local tax revenues annually; so a 4-percentage point drop yields another $13 million a year. However, HQ2 is expected to draw up to 5,000 employees to live here, who will add another 1,000 public school children who will cost the county about $20 million more in school spending. Other costs for non-school county services will rise nearly as much. So, the NET tax revenue increase is going to be very small once the cost of additional public schools and county services are deducted.

The county board is taking responsibility for lowering the office vacancy rate but this is no business of local government, rather the problem of the largest landlord JBG/Smith to fix.

Another graduate campus for GMU and VA Tech at a cost of $375 million or more will benefit Arlington residents

The State of Virginia has promised at least $375 million to build a new campus for a VA Tech and GMU that would have graduate IT education. Why?

There is no evidence today that there is a shortage of IT graduates coming from local or other nearby universities. Why should the government subsidize Amazon and train its employees who earn $150,000 each? There are hundreds of colleges that provide IT graduates all over the U.S. today, and scores in the D.C. area already that offer advanced degrees in IT. We don’t need any more colleges in our area.
Arlington probably has the most educated population in any county in the U.S.–Arlington residents do not need another college here.

Amazon located in Arlington because it is within the second largest region in the U.S. with current IT employees (New York City being the largest Metro region). IT employees will come from all over the U.S. to work for Amazon. These Amazon employees will be earning $150,000 a year, and they can pay for their own education.

Perhaps if this $375 million went to pay the costs of college education for lower income students in Arlington and in Virginia graduate from college, this might be a good idea. This amount could finance total college costs for 1,200 low income students per year for the next 20 years! There are many low income students from other parts of Virginia who also need a chance to succeed so why not provide college tuition grants to lower income students from Arlington and all over the State?

Arlington County now spends about $20,000 or more per student for K-12 education. Lack of funding is not an issue for Arlington for so-called STEM education. We don’t need the funds for our K-12 IT studies either.

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December 11, 2018

Amazon Deal—Trickle-down Economics and Gentrification

Amazon HQ2,Development,Jobs — @ 4:18 pm

Arlington County and the State of Virginia’s subsidy package for Amazon to locate its HQ2 facility in Arlington is another version of trickle-down economics or voodoo economics theory that giving more public funds to the rich and corporations will trickle down to lower income and middle class people. This is yet another episode in the Democratic county board’s determination to gentrify Arlington and eliminate the few remaining moderate income residents, both renters and homeowners and replace them with households earning well in excess of $150,000 a year.

The first impact on Arlington housing will be to raise rents and to raise prices of condos and houses. In Arlington a majority of resident are renters and not homeowners, and renters will clearly pay a price in the form of higher rents. The Arlington County Board has promised to spend $7 million a year to add 100 subsidized apartment to help renters, an amount so small in relation in relation to Arlington’s over 50,000 rental units as to be a joke.

The county and the State are giving Amazon roughly $1.5-2.0 billion in incentives; the chief beneficiary is the CEO and principal owner of Amazon Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest man on the Planet. So the premise is that if taxpayers in Virginia and Arlington give the richest man on Earth $2 billion, then there will be a wonderful world created that will trickle down prosperity on the rest of us.

The Arlington County Board’s mindless enthusiasm over giving Amazon as much as $400 million as incentives for 25,000 more Amazon employees to Crystal City within a decade or so must be dampened with the likelihood that higher local government expenses will absorb a high share of the expected higher tax revenues and that the cost of the subsidy itself will have to paid by current taxpayers.
The essential problem for Arlington is that we spend today about $22,000 per public student, and it is expected that these new Amazon employees will add at least 1,000 students to APS. Our schools are already overcrowded, and these new students will require the equivalent of two new elementary schools or a new middle school or a new high school. The new residents will also need our other services—recreation, libraries, social services, police and fire, sanitation, and the myriad services we Arlington residents cherish.

A George Mason University (GMU) report in November 2018 by Stephen Fuller found that a new Amazon HQ2 in Crystal City would add about 8,000 Amazon related households to Arlington, (The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Locating Amazon HQ2 in Arlington, VA,). It also highlights that currently Arlington County spends $850 more per capita today than it gets from tax revenues so adding 8,000 new households with around 2 persons/household means that Arlington’s fiscal deficit rises by about $15 million, which is somewhat offset by $8.7 million in added tax revenue. Non-resident Amazon employees are expected to generate tax revenues that will add up to $19 million in tax revenue,

However, if one uses current school spending costs of almost $22,000 per student to obtain more accurate fiscal costs in Arlington, then the net fiscal impact of HQ2 shrinks to about $5 million a year. This is a trivial or negligible sum, compared to Arlington County’s annual fiscal revenues of about $1.3 billion in FY 2017. It also underscores how fragile are reports that there will be a large positive impact on Arlington of HQ2.

Beyond the higher school and services spending to meet the needs of these new Amazon employee residents, the county government will still have to pay off the $359 million in infrastructure bonds for Crystal City, come up with $7 million more per year for 10 years for affordable housing assistance, and then pay Amazon roughly $51 million from TOT and IFF funds over 10 to 15 years. This merely adds to net fiscal deficit that Amazon HQ2 will bring to Arlington.

This trickle down deal for Mr. Bezos the richest man in the Planet certainly provides a financial boost to Amazon, but it will cost Arlington taxpayers big time.

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November 27, 2018

County board–billions for Amazon and higher taxes for the rest of us

Amazon HQ2,Development — @ 5:17 pm

Bailout for Amazon and developers and tax rise for everyone else

Arlington County has now pledged upwards of $400 million for Amazon HQ2 in Arlington, but the hard part is yet to come as to how they will come up with such a sum. Likely they will have to significantly raise taxes in Arlington on current residents so that this boondoggle can be financed.

The announcement in early November 2018 that Amazon would locate 25,000 employees to the Crystal City area of Arlington (with another 25,000 in Queens New York City) brought loud acclaim from elected Arlington and Virginia officials who proudly outlined how they are going to give Amazon about $1.5 billion of taxpayer funds to one of the largest corporations in the world. The State of Virginia will provide $550 million in direct cash ($22,000 per job added), $200 million for transport; $375 million for a new VA Tech campus and expanded GMU campus, and $50 million for k-12 tech education.

Arlington will provide about $450 million dollars: $137 million for transport (combined with $220 million previously committed) in Crystal City; $20 million for direct subsidies for Amazon; and $70 million ($7 million more per year for the next ten years) for affordable housing assistance.

The politicians apparently expect that over the long run that the promised 25,000 more employees in Crystal City who earn $150,000 will provide significant more income tax and sales tax revenue, and in addition, fill empty office space in Crystal City to boost real Arlington estate tax revenue. All of these conclusions depend on a series of shaky assumptions, and, in any event, it will take years to attain, whereas the county and state will need to finance their promises immediately.

Virginia’s income tax rate is about 5 percent, and, assuming that 25,000 employees earning $150,000 were to live in Virginia, this generates $200 million more annually in Virginia income tax revenue. However, many of these employees will not live actually in Virginia or already live here, and many will likely live in Maryland and the District of Columbia (2 Metro stops away). Even if half of the new employees live in Virginia, the annual increase in income tax revenue shrinks to be less than $100 million. Arlington can expect to receive maybe one fourth of the state income tax or $25 million a year.

County board members have long deplored the high rate of commercial office vacancy in Crystal City and other parts of Arlington (the rate is 18 percent) is higher than it was 10 years ago. However, the national office vacancy rate is nearly this same average level as Arlington—about 16.5 percent according to Reuters, so Arlington is not that unusual compared to other U.S. metro areas. The county board wants to fill up offices in Crystal City, but Amazon will not fill up the vast empty buildings in Ballston or Rosslyn or the dozens of new buildings under construction today.

Filling more office space in Crystal City will not fill empty space in Ballston or Rosslyn each of which have a 24-percent vacancy rate. Filling empty office space in Crystal City with Amazon will eventually raise commercial rents there, and then drive out current businesses that then locate to much cheaper Reston or Tysons Corner. The county board is not responsible for irrational realty companies with trillions of dollars to spend nor can we ignore the maniac building boom in Tysons and Reston since the Silver Line opened.

How will Arlington finance its subsidies to Amazon? Arlington County has issued or authorized to issue about $1.4 billion in long term bonds for its schools, Metro, community and recreation needs, and cannot exceed that amount or its credit rating (now AAA) will drop raising financial costs for taxpayers. So it cannot issue another $300 million in general bonds unless it wants to impair its credit rating.

Arlington county operating budget has been very tight recently as rising school and Metro-rail costs have absorbed nearly all the increase in tax revenue, and cuts were made to other programs. In 2018, the county board cut spending for affordable housing assistance (housing grants), environmental programs, and adult education. There is no significant cash or rainy day fund to use, and 2019 will be another year when another $10 million will be needed for the public schools and the troubled Metrorail will need another infusion of capital.

Where then will the county get the short term funds to finance Amazon? It will have to raise the tax rate for the 230,000 current Arlington residents–higher property taxes for homeowners, renters, and l commercial businesses. In essence, the county board will force we the resident and voters in the county who will reap NO significant benefit from Amazon moving to Crystal to pay higher taxes to finance this corporate piggy deal.

The county board and the State of Virginia are playing a dangerous game of picking winners and losers in a capitalist world using tax payers’ funds that are urgently needed for other things, like schools, Metrorail, affordable housing assistance, recreation and parks, public safety, and community infrastructure like storm sewers and sanitation.
It would be far better for the county government to simply welcome Amazon and refuse to give them one cent of public dollars.

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