• 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)

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.


Digital Camera

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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July 17, 2019

Presidential Green Party candidate Dario Hunter spoke in Arlington on July 18

Presidential Green candidate Dario Hunter spoke at Arlington Central Library on July 16, Green Party members gathered to hear Ohio Green candidate Dario Hunter speak about his ideas for his presidential campaign to obtain the Green Party national nomination in 2020. He is an elected member of the Youngstown Ohio school board, an environmental attorney, rabbi, and son of an immigrant. Visit his website for more information www.dariohunter.com Dario is pictured in the photo (third from the left). Arlington Green member Kirit Mookerjee is on the far right.

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June 8, 2019

Arlington Greens Call for Ending Marijuana Prosecution in Arlington Virginia

Arlington Greens Call for Ending Marijuana Prosecution in Arlington Virginia

The Arlington Green Party in an open letter to the Arlington Commonwealth Attorney Theo Stamos have asked her to stop prosecuting people caught with small amounts of marijuana in Arlington. She has prosecuted over 300 individuals over the past few years for marijuana possession, most of them young black and Latino men. The life of a person convicted of a felony is often ruined–federal student loans and Pell grants are prohibited, and a criminal record makes finding a job very difficult.

Greens nationwide advocate decriminalizing marijuana. A recent opinion poll from the Pew Institute indicates that nearly two-thirds of Americans favor legalization of marijuana, with three-quarters of Millennials, two-thirds of Gen Xers, and a majority of Baby Boomers in favor. Arlington residents are of the same mind: they want an end to prosecuting possession of small amounts of personal marijuana. Marijuana has been legalized in many states and Washington, DC. The use of marijuana is purely a private act, and affects no one except the user.

Arlington police and prosecutors should concentrate on crimes of violence and significant felonies, and not waste our public dollars jailing and prosecuting mostly youth caught with a marijuana cigarette. It costs about a hundred dollars a day to jail someone, and then ties up court and prosecutor’s time to process a charge. The Arlington Commonwealth attorney should stop prosecuting, and ruining the lives of so many people caught with small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

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April 8, 2019

Study shows pesticide levels drop dramatically after 1 week of eating organic

environment — @ 3:15 pm

Organic Broadcaster https://mosesorganic.org/publications/broadcaster-newspaper/organic4all-study/

Study shows pesticide levels drop dramatically after 1 week of eating organic
By Kendra Klein, Ph.D., Friends of the Earth

Can eating organic really reduce levels of pesticides in our bodies? A new peer-reviewed study published in the journal Environmental Research found that switching to an organic diet significantly reduced the levels of synthetic pesticides found in all participants in just one week. On average, the pesticides detected dropped by 60.5% after six days of eating an all-organic diet.

The study was led by researchers from the University of California-Berkeley and Friends of the Earth. We found families that didn’t typically eat organic food in four cities across the country —Minneapolis, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Oakland. (MOSES was the partner organization for the Minneapolis study. The Birchwood Cafe, a local, organic restaurant, prepared organic meals for the family for the family’s week on an organic diet.)

The study lasted 12 days. During the first six days, each family ate only conventional foods and beverages. During the second six days, each family ate only organic food, all the way down to oils and spices. To ensure that they were able to eat a completely organic diet, each family wrote up a grocery list and research assistants shopped for them; dinners during the organic week were prepared by licensed chefs. All of the organic food was provided free of charge to the families.

Each participant provided a urine sample every morning. These were shipped to labs at the University of California at San Francisco and the Québec National Institute of Public Health. These labs looked for 18 different pesticides and the chemicals that pesticides break down to in our bodies, called metabolites.

Our study was designed to assess whether an organic diet could reduce exposure to pesticides, not to provide insight on the health risks associated with the pesticides in our diets. But we chose the pesticides we tested for because they’re among the most commonly used in U.S. agriculture and because they have been associated with harm to human health.

The most significant declines in our study involved organophosphates, a class of highly neurotoxic pesticides linked to brain damage in children. We found a 95% drop in levels of malathion, a probable human carcinogen, a nearly two-thirds reduction in chlorpyrifos, and a 70% drop in DAPs metabolites that represent exposure to organophosphates as a class. Organophosphates are so toxic to children’s developing brains that scientists have called for a full phase out.1 Organophosphate exposure is associated with endocrine disruption, autism, learning disabilities, reduced IQ, attention disorders, delayed motor development, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, decreased sperm quality, and cancers.2,3,4,5,6

The neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin dropped by 83%. Neonicotinoids are among the most commonly detected pesticide residues in baby foods.7 They are associated with endocrine disruption and changes in behavior and attention, including an association with autism spectrum disorder.8,9,10 Neonicotinoids are also a main driver of massive pollinator and insect losses, leading scientists to warn of a second “silent spring.”11,12
Levels of pyrethroids were halved. Exposure to this class of pesticides is associated with endocrine disruption, adverse neurodevelopmental, immunological and reproductive effects, increased risk of Parkinson’s and sperm DNA damage.13,14,15,16

Finally, 2,4-D dropped by 37 percent. 2,4-D is one of two ingredients in the Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange. It is among the top five most commonly used pesticides in the U.S.17 and is associated with endocrine disruption, thyroid disorders, increased risk of Parkinson’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, developmental and reproductive toxicity and damage to the liver, immune system and semen quality.18,19

Small Exposures Matter
Although we used to believe that “the dose makes the poison,” in recent decades, science has shown that even extremely small exposures to pesticides matter. Consider the fact that chemicals prescribed by doctors to alter behavior, like the drug Ritalin, are active at levels that are the same or lower than some pesticides detected in children’s bodies. We now know that small amounts of pesticides can act like drugs and alter our brain development, hormones, immune systems, and more. Chemicals that affect our hormone systems, called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, can be especially problematic at very low doses.

We’re also increasingly understanding that even if the level of each pesticide is below legal limits, mixtures of pesticides can have an additive “punch” in total toxicity. Various studies have sought to assess this cumulative exposure, including one that looked specifically at organophosphates and found that if you consider the totality of U.S. children’s exposure from diet, approximately 40 percent may be exposed to levels that exceed benchmarks for neurological harm like ADHD and learning disabilities.20

Other recent studies show that reducing pesticide exposure by choosing an organic food can improve health, suggesting that the pesticide residues on our food matter. One study found a 25% reduction in cancer risk for participants who ate the most organic food.21 Another study found fertility benefits for women who ate organic food.22

Organic For All
Organic works. But the U.S. government’s food policy favors pesticide-intensive agriculture while failing to provide adequate incentives to farmers to transition to organic practices. As a result, pesticide-intensive agriculture is subsidized to the tune of billions of dollars while organic programs and research are woefully underfunded. This misdirection of public dollars makes pesticide-laden food the norm and is a significant reason why many people across the country still don’t have access to, or can’t afford, organic food.

Friends of the Earth, along with over 40 organizations across the country, believe that we all have the right to food that is free of toxic pesticides. The farmers and farmworkers who grow our nation’s food, and their communities, have a right to not be exposed to chemicals linked to serious health problems. And the way we farm should protect rather than harm the biodiversity, soil and water that sustain all life.

We can work together to pass laws in our cities, states and nationally that decrease pesticide use and expand organic farming. We can change the national Farm Bill and can advocate for policies that support fair pricing and fair contracts for family-scale farmers in order to support the increase in organic farming that we need to provide organic food for all. We can tell food companies and grocery stores to end the use of toxic pesticides in their supply chains and expand organic offerings. And we can support farmers markets, CSAs, and independent retailers and food companies that source from local, organic growers.

Together, we can demand that our leaders step up and shift support, research, and policies to create a system where organic is for all. The solution is here— we just have to grow it. For more information and ways to take action, go to www.OrganicForAll.org.

Kendra Klein is senior staff scientist for Friends of the Earth.

1 Hertz-Picciotto, I., Sass, J.B., Engel, S., Bennett, D.H., Bradman, A., Eskenazi, B., Lanphear, B. and Whyatt, R., (2018). Organophosphate exposures during pregnancy and child neurodevelopment: Recommendations for essential policy reforms. PLoS medicine. 15(10), p.e1002671.
2 Ibid.
3 UC Berkeley. Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children in Salinas. Online.cerch.berkeley.edu/research-programs/chamacos-study
4 Le Couteur, D.G., McLean, A.J., Taylor, M.C., Woodham, B.L. and Board, P.G., (1999). Pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy, 53(3), pp.122-130.
5 World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Monograph 112: Evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides. Online. www-prod.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/MonographVolume112-1.pdf
6 Recio‐Vega, R., Ocampo‐Gómez, G., Borja‐Aburto, V.H., Moran‐Martínez, J. and Cebrian‐Garcia, M.E., 2008. Organophosphorus pesticide exposure decreases sperm quality: association between sperm parameters and urinary pesticide levels. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 28(5), pp.674-680.
7 Cimino, A.M., et al. (2017). Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticide Exposure on Human Health: A Systematic Review. Environ Health Perspectives. 125(2): p. 155-162.
8 Hoshi, N. et al. (2014). Insight into the mechanism of reproductive dysfunction caused by neonicotinoid pesticides. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 37(9), pp.1439-1443.
9 Science Daily. 2018. Neonicotinoids may alter estrogen production in humans. April 26. Online. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180426125939.htm
10 Cimino, A.M., et al. 2017. Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticide Exposure on Human Health: A Systematic Review. Environ Health Perspectives. 125(2): p. 155-162.
11 Bittel, J. (2014, July 9). Second Silent Spring? Bird Declines Linked to Popular Pesticides. National Geographic. Retrieved from news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/07/140709-birds-insects-pesticides-insecticides-neonicotinoids-silent-spring/
12 New York Times Editorial Board. (2017, October 29). Insect Armageddon. New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2017/10/29/opinion/insect-armageddon-ecosystem-.html
13 Go, V., Garey, J., Wolff, M.S. and Pogo, B.G., 1999. Estrogenic potential of certain
pyrethroid compounds in the MCF-7 human breast carcinoma cell line. Environmental health perspectives, 107(3), p.173.
14 Quiros-Alcala, L., S. Mehta, and B. Eskenazi, 2014. Pyrethroid Pesticide Exposure and Parental Report of Learning Disability and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in U.S. Children: NHANES 1999–2002. Environ Health Perspect.
15 Beyond Pesticides. Pesticides Trigger Parkinson’s Disease. Online. www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/gateway/health%20effects/parkinson%27s%20cited.pdf
16 Jurewicz, J., Radwan, M., Wielgomas, B., Sobala, W., Piskunowicz, M., Radwan, P., Bochenek, M. and Hanke, W., 2015. The effect of environmental exposure to pyrethroids and DNA damage in human sperm. Systems biology in reproductive medicine, 61(1), pp.37-43.
17 US Environmental Protection Agency. 2017. Pesticides Industry Sales and Usage: 2008 – 2012 Market Estimates. Online. www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-01/documents/pesticides-industry-sales-usage-2016_0.pdf
18 Beyond Pesticides. Pesticides that Disrupt Endocrine System Still Unregulated by EPA. Online. www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/gateway/health%20effects/endocrine%20cited.pdf
19 Beyond Pesticides. Chemical Watch Factsheet: 2,4-D. Online. www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/pesticides/factsheets/2-4-D.pdf
20 Payne-Sturges, D., Cohen, J., Castorina, R., Axelrad, D.A. and Woodruff, T.J., 2009. Evaluating cumulative organophosphorus pesticide body burden of children: a national case study. Environmental science & technology, 43(20), pp.7924-7930.
21 Scutti, Susan. 2018. You can cut your cancer risk by eating organic, a new study says. October 22. www.cnn.com/2018/10/22/health/organic-food-cancer-study/index.html
22 Chiu, Y., et al. 2018. Association between pesticide residue intake from consumption of fruits and vegetables and pregnancy outcomes among women undergoing infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technology. JAMA internal medicine, 178(1), pp.17-26.

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March 25, 2019

Arlington revises its community energy plan

environment — @ 4:49 pm

Arlington County is in the process of revising its community energy plan CEP that was adopted over five years ago, but never implemented largely because its two central policies were not done. The goal was a 75% lower carbon footprint by 2050. The vast majority of carbon output in Arlington occurs in buildings and to a far lesser extent in transportation. Electricity use is growing rapidly in Arlington. Progress in new county and school buildings and some new commercial high rise buildings has occurred, but this covers only a small fraction of fossil use in Arlington.

The CEP was not realized for two reasons. First the state building code covering all new buildings was never updated to achieve an expected 30% reduction in energy use. Secondly, the goal to have co-generation power plants in Arlington commercial areas never got going either because of the opposition of Dominion Power (which would lose sales of course), but also the large developers who are linked to fossil fuels.

Arlington Greens about two years ago advocated statewide and with county officials to get the state of Virginia to update the building code so that new residential buildings save 30% of their energy use, but the building industry blocked this change.

“County staff are currently leading a five-year review and update to the Community Energy Plan. The E2C2 Energy Committee is also providing a technical review of the plan and providing feedback.
The County will conduct a follow-up CEP Forum in 2019 to solicit feedback on the updated CEP. Stay tuned to the county webpage for additional details.” https://environment.arlingtonva.us/energy/community-energy-plan-cep/

Consider emailing your ideas to the Arlington County energy division for the new CEP to energy@arlingtonva.us

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February 20, 2019

Arlington County Should add $3 million to assist at least 400 More Arlington Very-Low Income Households with a Housing Rental Grant in its FY 2020 Budget

Arlington Greens at their February meeting voted to support asking the Arlington County Board to add $3 million more for low-income rental (housing) grants that could help 400 or more households in Arlington in 2020.

With $3 million in funding, at least 400 more housing grants should be provided to people who are termed “extremely low income” (those earning 40-percent or less of the area median income (AMI), by lowering the current minimum age for seniors from age 65 to 50, and by eliminating other arbitrary restrictions that block thousands of such extremely low income Arlington renters from just applying for a rental grant.

There are currently 15,000 Arlington renter households—about 30,000 people who are considered as “very low income”–earning under 50-percent AMI, and nearly two-thirds of whom do not receive housing assistance in any form, and face a heavy housing cost burden. This forces them to apply for other forms of assistance from faith communities, the Arlington food bank (AFAC), and other forms of emergency assistance from the county and charities. Housing rental grants are the county’s single most effective and cheapest (per dollar of benefits given versus the cost of administration) housing assistance program, and benefits can vary per household depending on need, and amount of funding available.

In 2015, the Arlington County Board adopted its Affordable Housing Master Plan that set a yearly goal of helping an additional 630 more households in Arlington who earn under 60-percent AMI with housing assistance. The county was only able to aid 246 new households in the most recent year, and cut the number of households getting a housing grant by 30. About 1,215 households applied for a housing grant in FY 2019, a drop of about 400 from the 1,624 households who applied in FY 2015.

The two primary housing assistance programs in Arlington funded by local tax dollars are the affordable housing investment fund that subsidizes construction of mostly new apartment units (“committed affordable units (CAFs)”) ($13.7 million funding in FY 2019), and the separate housing grants program that provides rental grants for very low income seniors, families with a child or disabled persons ($8.7 million in funding in FY 2019).

In the most recent year for which data are available (FY 2017), the county was able to add only 276 new CAFs, and has rarely added even 300 per year. The extraordinary high cost of building new units (averaging well over $350,000 per unit), and the number of years and difficulty it takes to build such units are major impediments to adding more CAFs. In addition, virtually no persons earning 40-percent AMI or less can qualify to rent a CAF because of their extremely low incomes. The new CAF program does not help extremely low income renters in Arlington for the most part.

In FY 2019, the county will spend $8.7 million for housing grants for 1,180 households—half of whom are disabled persons; one quarter are seniors over 65; and the remaining one quarter are families with a child. The average monthly grant is about $600 a month; the average rent in Arlington is about $2,000 per month. The average beneficiary family earned $27,000; a disabled person or a senior over 65 earned about $14,000 a year. The maximum income allowed for a housing grant is 40-percent AMI. In FY 2019, the county cut funding for housing grants by about $446,000 from FY 2018, and thus 30 fewer households got a housing grant.


The disposable income available per month for non-rental expenses for an Arlington family receiving a housing grant in FY 2018 was $930 without the grant, and $1,490 with a grant. A person with a disability with a housing grant had a disposable income available for non-rental expenses of only $50 per month without a grant, but $675 with a grant. For a senior receiving a grant, their disposable income for non-rental expenses was $102 without a grant and $677 with a grant. It would have been impossible for these households to live in Arlington, but for the housing grant.

Therefore, Arlington Greens call on Arlington County to provide $3 million more in funds in FY 2020 to its housing grants program that will allow at least 400 very low income households to receive a housing grant in Arlington. Far more than 400 households could be assisted with this $3 million if the monthly grant per household was reduced from its current $600 per month. An expanded housing grants program will allow Arlington County to finally reach its own goal of aiding at least 630 additional households in Arlington with housing assistance per year.

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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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