• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday,Dec.5, 2018 at 7:30 pm at Ballston Firehouse Community Room (George Mason Drive & Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA)

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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November 15, 2018

Greens protest Amazon bailout at Arlington County Board meeting on Sat, Nov. 17, 8:15 AM

Amazon HQ2,Development,Events — @ 1:39 pm
Amazon announced this week it will be locating a new headquarters with up to 25,000 employees in Crystal City; Arlington County Government and the State of Virginia have announced that they will be giving Amazon initially about $570 million and then upwards of another billion or so dollars longer term.   
Join Arlington Greens and other community activists to protest this action at the public meeting of the Arlington County Board, Saturday, Nov. 17, 8:15 AM, at the county office building, third flood, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington, VA  22201 (at Courthouse Metro station).
Arlington Greens several months adopted a position of opposition to any public subsidies for Amazon and asked for transparency and details on such offers.   The county board refused to release such information, and indicated misleadingly that they had no such information at all.   This was disingenous and misleading to Arlington voters.  We Arlington residents are quite smart and educated and need accurate information to make informed decisions about our public dollars.
 
Arlington Greens  will be at the Saturday, Nov. 17th County Board meeting at 8:15 AM along with other community groups, Our Revolution Arlington and DSA/Metro DC asking that the county board hold a lengthy public review process and provide the public with detailed information and an opportunity to provide our views.
 
We ask you to come and stand silently behind our one speaker who will ask the county board to delay approving any deal and public funds that will come out of our taxes for Amazon.  Only one speaker will be permitted to speak and he is from the coalition of group.   Bring your own sign or we will give you one to hold silently behind the speaker.
 
We know from initial reports in the press that Arlington County will have to come up initially with $22 million, and then many more tens of millions of dollars for transport.  We simply do not know where Arlington County will obtain these millions as our spending for public schools, parks, Metrorail, public services, and social services take up every single dollar raised today.   We assume that the county will have to raise taxes on us the Arlington residents to pay Amazon.   The county cannot issue more bonds given the over $1.5 billion in bonds already issued or pledged for schools, parks, Metrorail, etc.
 
Please attend this Saturday and stand in solidarity with others in Arlington who are worried that this Amazon deal will negatively impact our community.
Location:  2100 Clarendon Blvd, third flood, Arlington County Office Bldg, Arlington, VA 22201 (at Courthouse metro station).   Arrive by 8:15 AM; speaker will be start about 8:30 and the event over by around 9:30.    
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October 19, 2018

Greens Oppose County and School Bonds, but Favor Metrorail Bond

Arlington Greens Oppose as Wasteful the Three County and School Bonds on the Arlington County, Virginia November Ballot, but Support the Metro Bond

Arlington Greens voted at their October meeting to oppose three of the four bonds on the November ballot, but to support the $75 million bond for Metro and transportation.  Greens felt that the need for more spending on Metrorail is imperative given safety, and improving bus and rail reliability, and urged Arlington voters to vote “Yes” for the Metro bond on the ballot referendum.

Greens however oppose the $29 million parks and recreation bond, the $37 million community infrastructure, and the $103 million public schools bond.  None of these three bonds are based on well thought out projects that have already been carefully designed, bid for construction costs, and scrutinized for waste.  The parks and recreation bonds will actually destroy or impair parkland since it will be used to build and pave over existing green space, demolish trees, and build extravagant energy-wasteful buildings.

The county government is issuing $80 million in bonds this year, and moreover has another $108 million in unused authority to issue more bonds, with more than sufficient funds for its needs. The county government and the school board both need to go back to the planning boards, and come back with precise and accurate information on projects for Arlington voters to consider.

About $44 million of the proposed $103 million school bond is to be used to build an entirely new Reed Elementary School in Westover.  The latest estimated cost of Reed is already far more at least $55 million, with possibly tens of millions of dollars in costs for a parking garage.  The school board has no idea what Reed School will cost.  In 2009, the school board spent about $20 million to fully renovate and expand Reed School which now will be demolished. Why?

The City of Alexandria just opened a new elementary school that cost around $22 million and was completed in about one year.   The City bought an commercial office building and re-modeled it into a 500-student school that opened in one year.   Fairfax County Public Schools did this several years ago to build an elementary school at 7-Corners within one year.   Why does Arlington have to build the most expensive schools in the U.S. and then tear them down ten years later?

If the county goes ahead and issues another $243 million of bonds on the ballot in November, it will likely endanger the county’s triple-A bond rating for municipal bonds since this will pass the 10 percent limit on bond service used by leading municipal bond rating companies.

The county already has issued $1.1 billion in bonds, and adding $243 million as well as the $188 million in already authorized bond will raise the debt service to over 10 percent of the county’s general revenue.

 

 

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September 26, 2018

Greens meet on Wed, Oct. 3, 7:30 PM at Ballston Firehouse

Arlington Greens will meet on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, at 7:30 PM at the Ballston Firehouse Community Room (located at Wilson Blvd and George Mason Drive, about 1 mile from Ballston Metro station).
Minutes of last meeting
Treasurers report
Old business:
Westover apartments historic preservation
Opposition to Amazon HQ2
Atree –tree preservation efforts in Arlington
New business
Current county board and school board races–updates
Should Arlington Greens take a position on the bonds on the 4 Arlington ballot in November?
    $74.5 million for Metro and transportation
    $29.3 million for local parks and recreation
    $37.0 million for community infrastructure
    $103.0 million for various capital projects for Arlington Public Schools
Our meetings are open to the public, but only members can vote.   Dues are $5 per year and limited to Arlington residents.
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August 27, 2018

Arlington Greens meet on Wed, Sept. 5, 7:30 PM, at Ballston Firehouse

Arlington Greens will hold their next meeting on Wednesday, September 5, at 7:30 PM at the Ballston Firehouse Community Room, located at George Mason Drive and Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA.

Major topics

Amazon HQ2 in Arlington, next steps for our opposition

Westover Apartments historic preservation–setting up a legal fund

environment–saving more trees in Arlington

opposing approval of Kavanaugh for U.S. supreme court

 

All are invited, but only paid members may vote.  Membership is $5 per year and limited to Arlington residents.

 

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June 12, 2018

Amazon HQ2 Town Hall Helpful or Harmful to Arlington, Thur. June 21, 7-9 PM, Central Library

Amazon Town Hall, Hosted by Our Revolution Arlington, and co-sponsored by the Arlington Greens

June 21, 2018

Amazon Town Hall, Hosted by ORA
Arlington Central Library Auditorium
1015 N Quincy St (four blocks from Ballston Metro)
Arlington, VA 22201
Description
Our Revolution Arlington will be hosting a public, community town hall about Amazon’s HQ2 bid at the Central Public Library Auditorium (1015 N Quincy St,)
Overview of HQ2 and impact to housing, rents, schools and other important elements to Arlington community infrastructure
Statements from local community organizations
Our Revolution Arlington’s Community Wealth Building Alternative
What do we know about HQ2 and Arlington’s Bid?

-Featured speaker is Greg LeRoy from Good Jobs First will be presenting “Amazon HQ2: Helpful or Harmful to Arlington,”

Audience members will be able to speak at an open mic to ask questions, share concerns or state opinions about the bid. The program will also include:

Co-sponsors include Our Revolution Northern Virginia Steering Committee, DSA NoVA, Arlington Green Party, and Grassroots Alexandria

Speaker Greg LeRoy
Speaking on: “Amazon HQ2: Helpful or Harmful for Arlington?”

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Greens to Arlington County Board: No money for Amazon HQ2

Greens vote: No county funds to Amazon to move its new offices HQ2 to Arlington

At their June 6 meeting, Arlington Greens voted to oppose any county funds for Amazon to move its new office to Arlington. Greens are concerned with the secretive and hidden negotiations between the County Government and Amazon to provide that company with potentially billions of public dollars in order to open a large office complex in Arlington or nearby Alexandria. Greens are very concerned that these public funds will detract from funds now used to support our schools, libraries, public safety, affordable housing assistance, recreation, and the other public programs that make Arlington a great community already. It is bad for democracy to keep the people in the dark.

Community activists have already asked the Arlington County Board to make public its bid for the Amazon headquarters with as many as 60,000 employees. Many of the final top-20 areas being considered by Amazon have made public their bids which range from $4-7 billion. Northern Virginia is one of the top areas Amazon wants; Jeff Bezzos the Amazon owner and the world’s richest man has a mansion in Washington DC and owns the Washington Post. Why does the richest man on the Earth need our county tax dollars?

Greens are concerned that Arlington County cannot afford to waste any dollars on Amazon, given the tight budget approved in April, the rising cost of more school students, more Metrorail funding, and the need for more assistance to renters to be able to stay here. Arlington has 2% unemployment rate today; traffic is considerable and rising. Adding 60,000 employees to our community–none of whom will pay taxes locally–is going to raise rents, increase traffic, and make life miserable for us the county residents, all done with our own tax dollars.

Greens also voted to support a town hall discussion of Amazon sponsored by Our Revolution Arlington on June 21 at Central Library from 7-9 PM (see separate article with details).

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May 18, 2018

Westover Village Historic Preservation—County turns its back on preserving apartments and history

The Arlington County Government affirmed on May 16 that it prefers demolition of 70-year old apartments and their greenspace to their preservation. Their news to Arlington renters and historians: drop dead. The county Historic Affairs Landmark Review (HALRB) Board at the urging of the county staff and manager (and presumably the county board) voted in May to allow the bulldozers to continue to operate in Westover for at least another year.


On May 16, the HALRB refused to designate any of the over 700 units as historic, and instead voted to postpone any action on the historic petition for eight months or more. During 2016-18, a developer demolished garden-apartment buildings with about 100 moderate-cost rental apartments, and the county government refused to do anything to stop the destruction even though it accepts that these apartments are historically significant and contribute the largest number of affordable market-rate rental apartments in any North Arlington neighborhood.

Arlington Greens along with 160 Arlington residents filed a historic preservation petition with Arlington County in June 2016, and the county then began a historic study of historic Westover Village. Then over the next two years, the HALRB held two hearings, and in addition there were a half-dozen other community meetings over Westover historic preservation. Meanwhile, the county professional historic staff who were supposed to prepare a detailed architectural and planning study and inventory of existing historic buildings did nothing.

Now, two years later in May 2018, the HALRB voted to defer any decision for another at least 8 months until the county government implements another ordinance called Housing Conservation District, a novel and new idea never actually tried. The HCD has no legal relation to anything the HALRB is charged with doing under state historic law and county ordinance.

The county staff and board exhibit a bias against keeping older garden apartments in Arlington, and instead favor high rise development including infill in Westover. The county government believes that historic preservation and moderate income apartments are incompatible despite the example in Arlington of two other large historic garden-apartment complexes with many moderate income units, Colonial Village (since 1978) and Buckingham (1980s). Both complexes contain a mix of moderate cost rental units and condos and a mix of income and ethnic groups. Why not in Westover in a historic district? Does every neighborhood have to look like Ballston?

The county board’s bias in favor of developers and against current residents is very clear: build very expensive high rise apartment buildings and demolish existing low rise garden units that house renters. The failed policy of building new subsidized units as affordable housing results from the very high cost of such new units (well over $400,000 each) that then can only be rented to a favored few (generally below 300 households a year) who also generally must earn above $60,000 a year. Lower income renters are virtually all excluded and denied any housing assistance to rent in high cost Arlington.

Preserving existing units in Westover built 70 years ago that have been updated and are generally in good condition but smaller and without the bells and whistles of new units (but also much lower in cost) is a proven way to keep some market-rate, unsubsidized apartments in high cost Arlington which continues to drive away its working income renters.

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May 4, 2018

Westover Village: Historic Preservation Public Hearing on Wed, May 16 at 7:30 PM

Come to the HALRB Public Hearing on Westover
Where: County Office Bldg 2100 Clarendon Blvd
When: Wednesday, May 16, starting at 7:30 PM
Why: Save Westover Apartments


Public Hearing to Consider Historic Designation of Westover Apts

Plan to attend and speak in favor of local historic designation of Westover Village apartments; local designation would prevent demolition of existing market-rate apartment buildings. In the past three years, 11 buildings with 100 apartments were demolished or scheduled for demolition. In their place are now towering million dollar townhouses surrounded by pavement.

Save our neighborhood and trees and green space and our neighbors who are moderate income renters who have lived here since 1940. Arlington must have a place for moderate income renters and not become a place just for the rich.

Historic Designation Preserves Apartments!
• Stop demolitions and keep current affordable rental apartments
• Attend and speak in favor of historic designation at the Arlington County Historic Affairs Landmarks Review Board public hearing on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, starting at 7:30 pm at Arlington County Building, 2100 Clarendon Blvd, https://projects.arlingtonva.us/projects/westover-neighborhood-study/

Meet in front of Westover Post Office at 6:45 PM on May 16 if you need a ride and we will carpool together

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April 5, 2018

Queens Court– Luxury Housing at Public Expense for Not-so-Low Income Renters in Rosslyn, and Crony Capitalism for Well Connected Developers

The county board continued its wasteful policy of throwing public money to developers when it approved on Feb. 22, 2018 about $8 million in local funds for another massive high rise apartment building in Rosslyn, called Queens Court, with another $20 million promised later this year. The project will cost nearly $40 million with this entire amount coming from public sources (the county, VHDA, and HUD).

Queens Court today

This is yet another example of crony capitalism—building a few apartments fit for a queen and giving the developer an excellent profit. The iron triangle, the affordable housing industrial complex, once again produces a white elephant at public expense and short changes tenants and taxpayers.

Arlington County gives tens of millions of dollars annually to developers to build so-called “affordable apartments” that end up not being affordable to the neediest Arlington residents, and mostly just subsidies crony developers and insiders at the expense of taxpayers and low income Arlington renters. Queens Court is aptly named, a luxury complex fit for a queen and the lucky few, and an immediate $3 million profit maker for the developer.

A nonprofit housing developer APAH will tear down the current modest garden apartment complex with 39 units, and build an apartment tower with about 250 units that will mainly (82 percent) go to people earning 60 to 80 percent of the of the area median income (AMI) ($60,000 to 80,000 for a family of four). Exactly 9 units will be rented to the lowest income Arlington residents, those making less than 40 percent AMI ($33,000 for a single or $38,000 for a couple).

The Queen units will cost $440,000 each, a ridiculously high amount compared to the large number of condos available for sale for less. Zillow.com listed 199 condos and townhouses for sale in Arlington in April 2018 for under $440,000, many well under $300,000. Right across the street from Queen Courts is the Crestwood Apartments with 63 units valued at only $230,000 per apartment. Why not just buy the Crestwood Apartments for its 2018 tax assessed value of $15 million?

Queens Court

Only in Arlington would anyone consider $440,000 apartments rented to people mostly making over $60,000 a year as “low income housing.” Somebody earning $60,000 to $80,000 a year is not low income by any standard even in Arlington.

Those who are low income of those earning below 50% AMI. There are now 9,000 households earning less than 50% AMI in Arlington who get no housing assistance at all today. Only 45 units in Queens Court are going to be rented to any of these 9,000 households.

Far more effective are the county’s housing (rental) grants that currently help about 1,200 households of seniors, disabled and families with a child with a monthly housing grant that reduces their rental cost. The program spends about $9 million annually. All of these renters have incomes well below $27,000 a year (30 percent AMI).

Arlington Greens have repeatedly asked the county government to allocate far more of its $38 million in housing assistance to housing (rental) grants. If the county had allocated the $28 million to be spent on Queens Court to housing grants of even $300 a month, then about 7,000 households—all earning under 50% AMI–would have benefitted. Instead 250 households with incomes above $60,000 get to rent a new queen apartment in Rosslyn.

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