Blog Roll
Who's My Legislator?

Virginia Blogs
All Things Education
Augusta Free Press
Crew of 42
Dixie Pig
Greater Greater Washington
Loudoun Progress
Ox Road South Blog
Pilot on Politics" blog
Power for the People
Richmond Sunlight
RVA Politics
Shad Plank
Vivian Paige

Find more about Weather in Arlington, VA
Click for weather forecast

Advanced Search


Governor McAuliffe Announces Settlement to Recover Taxpayer Dollars from Route 460 Contract

by: lowkell

Thu Jul 02, 2015 at 14:31:52 PM EDT

Good work by the McAuliffe administration, although obviously this never should have happened in the first place (thanks McDonnell administration!).


CHESAPEAKE – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that his administration has reached an agreement with U.S. 460 Mobility Partners, the company that was contracted to execute the now-cancelled US Route 460 public-private partnership, which will return $46 million in already-spent funds back to taxpayers and cancel an additional $103 million claim the company had filed under the contract. The total $149 million swing is the result of months of negotiations between the McAuliffe administration and the company.  


“This settlement will bring millions in taxpayer dollars that were wasted on the U.S. Route 460 project back to taxpayers and prevent the Commonwealth from having to pay millions more,” said Governor McAuliffe. “While this is a positive development, the fact remains that Virginians have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a project that will never be built because state officials negotiated a contract that left the Commonwealth holding the bag when the environmental risks were too great to move forward. I regret that that contract did not allow for greater steps to mitigate the impact of this failed project, but I am proud of the bipartisan reforms we worked with leaders like Delegate Chris Jones to make to prevent disasters like this from occurring in the future.”


Governor McAuliffe announced the settlement at a ceremonial bill signing for new bipartisan legislation that reforms Virginia’s approach to public-private transportation projects in the wake of the failed U.S. Route 460 project. House Bill 1886 reforms how Virginia finances transportation projects under the Public-Private Transportation Act, or P3 program.  The new law will prevent bad P3 deals and identify beneficial opportunities to protect the public’s best interests.


House Bill 1886 requires three key factors:


    • An independent screening committee, with representation from the General Assembly, will decide if a transportation improvement should be financed as a P3 project.  These meetings will be open to the public.  For the first time, the General Assembly will be involved and engaged from the beginning. 


    • Critical to the decision making is the level of risk involved.  The risk must be transferred from the taxpayers to the private sector.  Decision makers will have access to all the risks involved in a potential P3 deal so they can make the right decision. The law puts in place new procedures for high-risk projects that will shield the public from unexpected liabilities.     


    • The legislation will draw clear lines of accountability.  The secretary of transportation will be required to sign a document attesting that the project qualifies as a P3 project, meaning risk has been transferred to the private sector and that the original purpose of the procurement has not changed. 


“There will be no way to duck responsibility for transportation decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne.  “It will protect taxpayers from undue risk, while using the P3 process in the intended way to deliver projects that move Virginia’s economy.” 

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Video: Rep. Gerry Connolly Urges Restoration of Full Metro Funding

by: lowkell

Thu Jun 04, 2015 at 06:49:27 AM EDT

Great work by Rep. Connolly on this. Meanwhile,  Teapublicans did what Teapublicans like to do: wouldn't even allow a VOTE on this (probably because they knew they'd lose). Is the lack of outrage in the general public because people have gotten used to extreme, irresponsible, harmful behavior by Republicans or what?!?

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Video: Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette Pulls Plug on Streetcar Project

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 12:22:09 PM EST

As a strong supporter of smart growth and transit-oriented development, I find this announcement to be very disappointing. Beyond that, I hate to say "I told you so," but I've been warning for a LONG time now that the pro-streetcar folks needed to get their act together, that the opposition to the streetcar was a serious threat, and that there needed to be a seriously ramped-up effort to fight for the streetcar (a la "") and against the anti-streetcar arguments.

For whatever crazy reason, none of that happened. Instead, as Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette stated a few minutes ago, pro-streetcar Democrats (Fisette, Mary Hynes, Walter Tejada, Alan Howze, etc.) were caught "flat footed." To me, that's just mind boggling, as many of us in the community were NOT caught "flat footed" at all. So what about pro-streetcar members of the Board, who are in the community all the time? Is this about arrogance? insularity? incompetence? overconfidence? all of the above? I'm just beyond frustrated with these people. Now, the question is whether this is not just bad policy but also "too little too late" politically for Mary Hynes and/or Walter Tejada. We'll see in the next few months...

P.S. Miles Grant and I were just chatting, and were both looking forward to the anti-streetcar folks pushing for the "BRT" option they've been pushing, even though BRT is not feasible on Columbia Pike, as there's no chance for a dedicated lane. Details, details. Anyway, let's see how serious they were about what they kept referring to as BRT.

Discuss :: (36 Comments)

Arlington Board Votes 4-1 for Building Energy Efficiency; Republican John Vihstadt Weasels Out

by: lowkell

Sun Nov 16, 2014 at 08:40:39 AM EST

In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon, the Arlington County Board discussed, and then overwhelmingly (4-1) voted "to update its Green Building Incentive Program...emphasiz[ing] energy performance and reduced overall environmental impact for site plan developments that voluntarily seek incentives under the program." Note that there's been absolutely nothing controversial about any of this for nearly 15 years...until, that is, Republican and all-around demagogue John Vihstadt joined the Board (unfortunately).

Arlington launched its Green Building Incentive Program in 2000 and has updated it four times since then to ensure that the program incents developers to build exemplary projects that meet stringent environmental standards. Since 2000, 56 site plan projects have agreed to achieve LEED certification.  Nineteen of these buildings have been built, achieved their LEED commitments, and complied with the green building site plan conditions, and another 20 are under construction.
Who could be against that? Well, nobody on the Arlington County Board (or apparently on the Arlington County Planning Commission, which voted unanimously to recommend approval of this update) -- until now, that is. As was explained yesterday, this technical update to a popular, effective program was broadly supported, really hit the "sweet spot" in terms of getting everyone on board. Except, again, for the lone Republican on the Arlington County Board. Wait, you ask, a Republican is obstructing stuff for no good reason? That NEVER happens! But all snark aside, of course it does, all the time, at the federal, state, and now local level here in Arlington. Unfortunately, we're now stuck with this particular Republican for four more years. Let's just make sure we never make this mistake again.

P.S. As a commenter on Blue Virginia put it recently: "In opposing the 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan (ostensibly to protest the streetcar - which as an oped in today's Washington Post explains, yet again, would be a huge positive for Arlington) Vihstadt also voted against money for schools, public safety, parks, economic development, street paving and bridge renovation. And despite his claims to be for affordable housing, he declined to vote (recusing himself) on the only measure to come before the board that would help affordable housing." And again, now - for absolutely not good reason (listen to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette's explanation as to why that's the case) - he's voted against building energy efficiency. hat's what we're now stuck with for four freakin' years. Great.  Of course, Vihstadt's whole shtick -- being a demagogue but not seeming like one (by sounding perfectly calm and reasonable while doing so) -- is full of...fill in the blank on that one.

P.P.S. I received the following comment from a Democratic member of the Virginia delegation in Richmond.

Now it begins... Today the Arlington County Board took the positive/sensible step to update its important Green Building Incentive Program. This energy efficiency plan reflects the County's Community Energy Plan goals and provides incentives to site office building site plan developments in order to lessen environmental impacts. The voluntary program is designed to encourage the construction of buildings that are more energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable than buildings built to code. Under the program developers are given the option of increased density if they achieve greater energy efficiency. This is a NO-BRAINER - but it wasn't unanimous. Who voted against it? The Republican John Vihstadt.
Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Alan Howze Proposes 100% Renewable Energy for Columbia Pike Streetcar

by: lowkell

Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 13:57:51 PM EDT

Good suggestions from the Alan Howze (D) for Arlington County Board campaign. I particularly like the 100% clean energy component. As for Repoublican-masquerading-as-an-"independent" John Vihstadt, I agree with Alan Howze that all he's interested in is "using the streetcar to drive his political agenda." What Vihstadt's been doing has been divisive, harmful to Arlington, and certainly not constructive in any way. I look forward to Alan Howze defeating Vihstadt soundly in November! 

Howze Issues Proposals to Improve Streetcar

Alan Howze introduced new proposals to address community concerns and reiterated his support for creating a modern streetcar system to link Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria. 


In introducing new proposals to make the streetcar work even better, Howze said, "the streetcar has been used as a wedge issue by those who seek political gain by dividing our community.  Rather than use the streetcar to score political points, let's focus on responding to community questions and using innovation to make the planned streetcar even better.” 


Howze continued, “This once-in-a-generation investment will have a positive effect on our community for decades to come. Today, after talking to thousands of Arlington residents at their doors, I am making five proposals that come directly from suggestions I have heard."


  1. Speed and accountability in government matters. Timely construction should be a key contract requirement. This will minimize disruption, protect taxpayers, and accelerate the benefits from the streetcar.

  2. Create a small business contingency plan to support small businesses affected by streetcar construction.

  3. Create a business and residents advisory council to ensure community issues that arise during construction are dealt with in a timely manner.

  4. Examine the feasibility of using streetcars that can run without wires for sections of the streetcar line to reduce the use of overhead wires.

  5. Secure 100% renewable energy power supply for the streetcar.  This would ensure that the streetcar is a zero emissions system.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 458 words in story)

I Was Puzzled Why We Can't Have Dedicated Transit Lanes on Columbia Pike, So I Looked Into It...

by: lowkell

Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 15:13:14 PM EDT

In the debate over the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar system, one of the only things that both sides (pro-streetcar and anti-streetcar) appear to have agreed upon to date is that we can't have "dedicated lanes" on Columbia Pike. For pro-"Bus Rapid Transit" (BRT) people, that's a fatal problem of course (even if they won't admit it for whatever strange reason), since true (let alone high-quality) BRT by definition requires a dedicated/exclusive, BRT-only lane. Ergo: no dedicated lane on Columbia Pike (or wherever)=no possibility of BRT on Columbia Pike (or wherever). Just wanted to get that red herring out of the way at the outset...

Meanwhile, for streetcar proponents, the lack of a dedicated lane is perhaps not optimal, all else being equal - although Matthew Yglesias appears to overstate the case by a wide margin, I do agree that we shouldn't kowtow to cars at the expense of either streetcar or BRT or any other form of transit. And yes, I've always assumed that if we could have dedicated lanes on Columbia Pike, it would be superior to putting the streetcar in mixed-use traffic lanes with buses, cars, etc. A no brainer, right? Well, now that I've looked into it, including emails with current and former Arlington County Board members, I'm in fact leaning towards the conclusion that it doesn't really matter much, one way or the other. I'll explain my reasoning, and lay out my research, below.

Again, per Matt Yglesias' article, my main question was why can't we have a dedicated lane on Columbia Pike anyway? Is there some technical issue here? Legal? What? I asked around, and got some answers, and got some contradictory information. Here's what I initially was told by an excellent source who has been closely involved with planning for Columbia Pike over many years.

1. "Short answer: Commonwealth of Virginia won't permit [a dedicated lane on Columbia Pike]. {That was] part of the conditions when Arlington took control of the road."

2. "Incidentally, modeling done during the transit planning analysis indicated little benefit from addition of lanes for transit, mostly because east-west flow is really pretty good on the Pike."

OK, well that sounds innocuous enough. It's also fascinating that an analysis showed little benefit to running the streetcar in dedicated lanes over mixed-use lanes.

Suitably curious, I then proceeded to look up the Memorandum of Agreement between Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), signed and approved in late September 2010. The key language appears to be as follows (also see screen shot above right):

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 1318 words in story)

Arlington County Board Approves Plan to Invest $2.7 Billion Over 10 Years in County Infrastructure

by: lowkell

Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 12:53:34 PM EDT

Excellent news from Arlington County, where transit and the environment scored a nice victory this morning with funding for a modern streetcar system along Columbia Pike. This system will bring benefits to Arlington, Fairfax, and the region for many years to come, with no need for general obligation bond funding, and with a huge return on investment (just like Metrorail has done for Arlington, but on a smaller scale). I look forward to this project being built, and hopefully for a lot more of these types of projects being built in the future!


  • Fully funding Arlington Public Schools’ 2014 bond referenda request
  • Reinvesting in aging park and County facility infrastructure
  • Increasing funding for Metro, repaving streets, improving water and sewer systems
  • Funding streetcar system, other strategic initiatives
  • Approving $219 million bond referenda for November ballot

ARLINGTON, VA – The Arlington County Board today approved a $2.7-billion 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for Fiscal Years 2015-2024. The plan funds County projects and infrastructure. The Arlington Public Schools adopted a $534.1 million CIP in June, bringing the total to $3.2 billion as the planned CIP investment over the next decade for both County and Schools.

“This CIP reflects the values and goals of our community,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “The Board’s adoption of this plan comes after months of dialogue with Arlingtonians. Together, we’ve produced a balanced plan that maintains our existing infrastructure and makes strategic investments in our future. This is a prudent, financially sustainable plan that will meet the needs of our growing community and help maintain our triple-Aaa bond ratings.” 

The Board voted 3 to 2 to adopt the CIP.


Strategic investments over the next 10 years:

  • Arlington Public Schools: full support for APS’s $534.1 million plan to address growing enrollment including full funding of its 2014 $105.8 million referenda request which addresses capacity expansion at the elementary and secondary levels.
  • Metro & Transportation: $1.1 billion in extensive investments (excluding Streetcar) to ensure safety, accessibility, and efficiency for commuters on bike, foot, car, and transit. These include the County’s commitment to Metro rail; investments in ART bus; Columbia Pike Transit Stations; new entrances or elevators at Ballston-MU, Pentagon City, Courthouse and Crystal City Metro stations; Capital Bikeshare and BikeArlingon, and Complete Streets projects at Army Navy Drive and East Falls Church.
  • Streetcar system: $485.6 million to leverage new state funding and continue long-planned streetcar infrastructure investments, which are critical to the realization of the County’s economic development goals. The Adopted CIP includes no general obligation bond funding for the Columbia Pike or Crystal City Potomac Yard segments of the planned 7.4- mile streetcar system.  It also eliminates Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding, and adds $52.3 million in new funding from the Commonwealth to the financial plan for the Columbia Pike segment.
  • Lubber Run Community Center: An estimated $28 million proposed construction funding in Fiscal Year 2017-2018 to accelerate the replacement of one of the County’s oldest community centers, following a community planning process commencing in 2015.
  • New fire station and OEM relocation: An estimated $25.1 million to design in Fiscal Year 2017 and build in Fiscal Years 2018-2019 a fire station in northern Arlington, following community engagement and planning processes that are just now beginning.
    • The Board removed reference in the County Manager’s Proposed CIP to North 26th Street as the preferred location for a relocated fire station and OEM facility, and specified that the County will initiate collaborative processes for siting a northern tier fire station and an OEM facility, followed by master planning of the Old Dominion Road/N. 26th Street site.
  • ConnectArlington: $5.5 million to expand the County’s fiber-optic, high-speed, dedicated network to further economic development goals.

Maintaining existing infrastructure – the CIP funds several areas of basic infrastructure:

  • Street paving: a $14.1 million increase in paving over the previous 10-year CIP, including a 45 percent increase in the current year, for a total of $128.3 million for paving in the adopted CIP.
  • Parks and facilities: continues the County’s reinvestment in playgrounds, courts, fields, and essential components of buildings such as HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems.  The Board chose to accelerate investments in Tyrol Hills Park ($1.4 million) and Aurora Hills Community Center ($1.5 million). Design, including a community process, for Tyrol Hill Park, will begin in the spring or summer of 2015. Design for the Aurora Hills Community Center also will begin in spring or summer of 2015, and will build on the community engagement process that started earlier this year.
  • Water/sewer system infrastructure and stormwater management: $317.7 million in water/sewer investments and $61.3 million for stormwater management, including increased support for the proposed Water Distribution Master Plan and Stormwater Management Master Plan, to meet state and federal requirements.
  • East Falls Church improvements: The board accelerated $1,000,000 in funding for pedestrian safety and access improvements around the East Falls Church Metrorail Station.
  • Four Mile Run: The board restored $1.1 million in funding for design and planning in Fiscal Year 2018 for later phases of Four Mile Run Park.

Financial Sustainability

The Board also adopted revised financial and debt management policies to ensure maintenance of Arlington’s triple-Aaa bond ratings. The updated policies confirm the County’s operating reserve level of five percent of general government expenditures. The policies also confirm the County’s debt affordability ratios, including a modified, more conservative variable rate debt policy. Finally, a new policy regarding tax increment financing was added.   

2014 Referenda                                             

The Board today also approved the 2014 bond referenda, which includes projects in the following categories:

Metro and Transportation

$ 60,240,000

Local Parks and Recreation


Community Infrastructure


Arlington Public Schools





Public Process

A total of $219.0 million in bonds will be put before voters, in four separate questions. The referenda will be held during the general election on Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

The County Manager released the Proposed CIP in May 2014. Since that time, staff has met with12 commissions and committees, and provided information at five County Board work sessions. 

The Proposed CIP was posted on the County’s website, and the County Board held a public hearing on June 10. To read the staff report and County Manager’s recommendations made to the Board at the July 19 meeting, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item #43-A on the Agenda for the July Regular County Board Meeting.  To read the revised financial and debt management policies, scroll down to Item #43-B.  To read the 2014 bond referenda resolutions and questions, scroll down to Item #43-C. 


Arlington updates its Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), a planning document that outlines Arlington’s long range capital investment objectives, every two years. Proposed capital projects frequently include parks and recreation, community conservation, technology, multi-modal transportation systems, Metro and transit, schools, utilities, and other capital programs.

The County’s Adopted CIP includes referenda amounts requested by the Arlington School Board to be voted on in November.  

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Great News on Columbia Pike Streetcar Project!

by: lowkell

Fri Jul 11, 2014 at 11:47:56 AM EDT

Excellent news, now let's build this thing already - it's long past overdue.
Commonwealth to Provide Up to $65 Million in New State Funding for Columbia Pike Streetcar

July 11, 2014
*Total state funding of up to 50% of project costs
*Partnership with Arlington and Fairfax Counties
*Advances project schedule at least a year
*High-capacity streetcar will enhance northern Virginia's economic competitiveness, generate new revenues for localities, Commonwealth

ARLINGTON, Va. - Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne has notified Arlington and Fairfax County officials that the Commonwealth will increase its funding for the Columbia Pike streetcar by up to $65 million, using new funding available for fixed-guideway projects. The new funding will bring the state's contribution to the Columbia Pike streetcar to as much as 50 percent of total design and construction costs.

"The Commonwealth is committed to supporting the Columbia Pike project as a funding partner," Layne said in his July 10 letter to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.

The State's commitment enables Arlington to put together a financial package for the project that does not include Federal Transportation Administration New Starts funding.

Arlington and Fairfax Counties are partners in the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, which will stretch 4.9 miles from the Skyline area of Fairfax to Pentagon City in Arlington along the most heavily traveled bus corridor in the Commonwealth. The Columbia Pike streetcar, one of two segments in Arlington's planned 7.4-mile seamless streetcar system, will support the community's vision of transforming the Pike into a more transit-oriented, walkable Main Street.

Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Sharon bulova wrote to Layne in June, asking that the Commonwealth consider funding the Columbia Pike streetcar project.

"This additional state funding is great news for the streetcar," Fisette said Friday. "It is both a strong vote of confidence that the streetcar is a transit investment that will benefit the entire Commonwealth, and brings funding certainty that significantly boosts our efforts to build the Columbia Pike segment more quickly, at reduced cost."

There's More... :: (8 Comments, 596 words in story)

Gov. McAuliffe Needs to Resist Pressure From Usual Suspects and Reject Bi-County Parkway

by: lowkell

Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 11:06:23 AM EDT

According to Leesburg Today, Gov. McAuliffe appears to be leaning towards support for the "Bi-County Parkway" project.
"We have to open up Dulles airport," McAuliffe said. "We will have a resolution relatively quickly."


McAuliffe pointed to stalled growth in Dulles Airport's passenger counts as a key concern. While efforts are being made to add new flights-such as Air China's direct connections to Beijing that began last week-increased cargo operations will be important to keep the airport growing, he said.

Bi-County Parkway advocates say the new road is needed to facilitate cargo transports. Critics say the project would be a misuse of road construction funds needed to free up other travel choke points in the region.

This is misguided, and also kind of strange to be blunt, on a number of levels. With regard to the "strange" part, recall that last October, the McAuliffe campaign was bashing Ken Cuccinelli for "pop[ping] a U-Turn" on the project, while McAuliffe "waivered" on the question, with  Derek McGinty of WUSA asking McAuliffe at a debate in August, "Don't you owe it to the voters to take an actual position on the Bi-County Parkway?" McAuliffe's response at that time was that "I do not make decisions nor will I make decisions until I have all the facts in front of me." And now?

Well, now Terry McAuliffe has been Governor of Virginia for 6 months, and he appears to be leaning towards support for the Bi-County Parkway. It true, that would be a big mistake, for all the reasons the Coalition for Smarter Growth lists.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 611 words in story)

Arlington Board Rejects Referendum, Puts Out Videos Explaining Benefits of Streetcar System

by: lowkell

Tue Jun 17, 2014 at 16:13:17 PM EDT

Good news for those of us who are not fans of referenda as a method of governing (see here for my thinking on this subject). Also see the comments section for statements by Arlington County Board Democratic members Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes on why they oppose the referendum idea.
The majority of the Arlington County Board today refused to hold a public vote on the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar projects, saying they do not have the legal authority to order an advisory vote, and any other option would require them to use local homeowners' taxes, which they do not want to do.

Also, see the videos below explaining the many, many reasons why a streetcar system makes sense for Arlington County.

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 58 words in story)

Video: Arlington County Board Chair on Slashing the Cost of the "Million-Dollar Bus Stops"

by: lowkell

Wed May 07, 2014 at 22:32:23 PM EDT

At tonight's Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) meeting, County Board Chair Jay Fisette made some key points about the much-criticized "million-dollar bus stops" (aka, "Super Stops") which I wish the Board had been making for months now (but better late than never?).

*These are not simple bus stops, but "transit stations" that have MUCH higher passenger throughput (250-1,000 people per stop per day) and features (e.g., real-time information signs, electrical wiring).

*The higher capacity is needed because the corridor they will be serving is "the most heavily trafficked bus route in Virginia."

*Similar transit stations in other cities are comparable in price to/MORE expensive than the "Super Stops" in Arlington (e.g., $757,000 per station in Charlotte, NC; $762,000 per station in Hampton Roads; $469,000 per station in Arlington).

In short, once you actually look at the facts, the Super Stops not only don't look like some sort of boondoggle that the Fox News crowd loves to lambaste; they actually look like a bargain! Anyway, I'm glad that Jay Fisette set the record straight tonight, I just wish he had done so a long time ago...

P.S. Another one of Republican John Vihstadt's fallacious, demagogic talking points bites the dust. LOL ;)

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Ingrid Morroy, Frank O'Leary Announce Support for Streetcar Referendum

by: lowkell

Wed May 07, 2014 at 13:43:07 PM EDT

As the following press release (on the "flip") indicates, calls for holding a referendum regarding Arlington's Columbia Pike Streetcar appear to be growing. I had initially thought that there was almost no likelihood there would ever be a referendum, for at least two major reasons. First, in this strong "Dillon Rule" state of ours, an advisory referendum needs approval from the Virginia General Assembly, and that's highly unlikely before November 2014. Another option would be to put the streetcar on the ballot this November as part of a bond package. The problem is that such a bond package would be necessary ONLY if general obligation bonds were being used, and that hasn't been part of the streetcar financing discussion to date. But perhaps that's what the Board will end up doing, assuming they can't get state and/or federal funding lined up in short order.

In general, I'm not a fan of referenda as a method of governance. Neither, I'd point out, were our Founding Fathers, who specifically set up our system of government as a representative, federal system with checks and balances against the passions of the day, the majority over the minority, etc, etc. I'd also point to California's disastrous "Proposition" system and to the popular vote approving anti-gay-marriage amendments in a bunch of states, including Virginia, as arguments in favor of the Founding Fathers' vision.

Having said all that, ultimately if voters want a say in something - the Columbia Pike Streetcar in this case - they're almost certain to get it, one way or the other (e.g., via a referendum or an election - for County Board, in this case). So, the bottom line is that the pro-streetcar forces need to do what I've been saying for a couple years now: get their act together, big time, along the lines of the well-organized, well-funded effort to promote putting the Silver Line below ground in Tysons. Yes, that latter group ultimately lost, but it came very close to winning, against incredibly powerful forces (the Governor, Congressional delegation, all the money Bechtel was throwing around, etc.) arrayed against it. Are streetcar supporters in Arlington willing to make that kind of full-court-press effort? If not, then this isn't going to end well for those of us who strongly support building a streetcar system in Arlington.

P.S. I'm not at all convinced that a referendum will "save" either Alan Howze or County Board members up for reelection next year. Why? Because I believe the main reason why Republican John Vihstadt won a seat on the Board was mostly about anger at the Board being "insular, arrogant, and non-communicative," not about any one project - the streetcar, the aquatic center, the "million-dollar bus stops" - per se. Would a referendum on the streetcar cause Arlingtonians who don't like the Board to suddenly like it? Uhhhh...sorry, but don't think so.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 238 words in story)

To Democratic Candidates for Virginia's 8th CD: Arlington Streetcar Is Not a Progressive Project

by: Whitaker

Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 23:15:00 PM EDT

Lowell Feld, a self-avowed progressive and publisher of Blue Virginia, has invited each candidate for the Democratic nomination for Virginia's 8th congressional district seat to provide comments on the Columbia Streetcar project. Lowell, a staunch streetcar advocate, declared earlier this month that Alan Howze and the Arlington County Board "absolutely, positively should NOT back off on the streetcar project." Lowell appears to believe that the project will generate billions of dollars in development and tax revenue, making support for this project a "no brainer." Lowell accuses streetcar opponents of "disinformation, distortions, and outright lies," such as claiming that the streetcar has taken away from "core services."

Though I don't know much about Lowell's progressive believes, I respect his position and that of other streetcar supporters, yet as a public transit advocate and creator of a transit advocacy group, Transiters, I want to offer reasons why support for the streetcar is inconsistent with progressive goals.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 1012 words in story)

New Study Demolishes Anti-Streetcar Arguments; Project Benefits Means It More than Pays for Itself

by: lowkell

Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 08:23:48 AM EDT

Great, albeit not surprising, news.
A Columbia Pike streetcar would spur $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion in development over the next 30 years in Arlington and Fairfax counties, triple the amount that would be triggered by improving bus transit, according to a consultant's study released Wednesday.

The report by HR&A Advisors said the benefits of building a streetcar line between Bailey's Crossroads and Pentagon City would far exceed the expected $310 million cost of the project - boosting property values, new construction and tax revenue.

Development encouraged by the streetcar project would result in as many as 6,600 new jobs...

If you're interested, I strongly recommend that you check out the study for yourself. Also, I've taken a few screen shots of highlights, which you can see below. The bottom lines are:

1. The economic benefits to Arlington and Fairfax Counties that would come from investing in a streetcar system rather than enhanced bus service are enormous. It's not even close. Heck, it's not even CLOSE to being close. Which really calls into question what the anti-streetcar folks - including Republican and anti-streetcar County Board candidate John Vihstadt - have been yammering about the past few months. It's never made any sense to me, and after this study, I am 100% certain that the anti-streetcar folks' arguments are just dead wrong.

2. Because of its enormous return on investment, the streetcar MORE THAN PAYS FOR ITSELF! Assuming a 3% discount rate, for instance, the streetcar brings in $895 million in additional tax revenues over 30 years, nearly THREE TIMES the $310 million cost of building the streetcar system. Enhanced bus service brings in far, far less tax revenue, in large part because it spurs far, far less economic development. The streetcar also carries more passengers than enhanced bus service. In short, there are NO economic or tax revenue advantages to enhanced bus service over a streetcar system along Columbia Pike. Z-E-R-O. Case closed. Build the darn streetcar already and let's start enjoying the (massive) benefits that will flow from it!

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 3 words in story)

I'm Dreamin' of a White Prius

by: TBill

Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 12:30:12 PM EST

On a snowy winter day in Virginia, a new holiday tune has been written.  I hesitate to share this, but perhaps it will "resonate" with someone:

  The Virginia Car Tax Blues (White Prius)

  I'm dreamin' of a white Prius...
  with every car tax check I write.
  Where the hybrids pay more, and big cars pay less,
  To use, Virginia's bumpy roads.
  I'm dreamin' of a new Prius...
  but I don't think it makes sense here.
  Low de-pre-ci-a-tion, high val-u-a-tion,
  You pay, more car tax every year.
  Now thinkin' of a used Chevy...
  just like the one Gramps used to drive.
  If you think that's crazy, you're right!
  But may all your White.
The lyrics were written a few days ago when two Virginia grandfathers, who do not know each other, were nonetheless commiserating on an on-line forum about Virginia's new hybrid fees.  As it turns out, we both own white Prii (whereas Prii is the official plural form of Prius).  Hey elected officials: when grandfathers have to unite to write protest songs, perhaps there is a problem.   


Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Combating Revisionist History on Bob McDonnell and the Transportation Bill

by: lowkell

Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 11:47:56 AM EST

Among the many other absurd claims made by Bob McDonnell and his supporters to try and burnish his supposed "accomplishments" as governor of Virginia the past 4 years, perhaps the most absurd is how great he was on "fixing" transportation in Virginia. That's wrong on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin. Let's just review this history a bit, before the revisionism gets etched in stone.

1. See my 9/26/09 blog post, which summarizes a Washington Post editorial (entitled "Drunk Driving"), blasting then-candidate Bob McDonnell's transportation "plan" as "yield[ing] only disappointment." Why is that? Well, perhaps because it "relies on wildly optimistic assumptions, brazen exaggerations, gauzy projections and far-off scenarios: budget surpluses and revenue growth that may not materialize; interstate tolls that the federal government may not approve; royalties from offshore oil and gas wells that may not be drilled; borrowing that the state may not be able to afford anytime soon." As if that's not bad enough, the Post adds that the $500 million McDonnell promises he'd raise from selling off Virginia's liquor stores is nothing but an "invented" number or, "worse, an intentional distortion." The bottom line, in the Post's (and my) view, is that McDonnell's 2009 transportation "plan" - using the word very loosely - "crumbles under close scrutiny." #FAIL

2. After being elected governor, McDonnell didn't do much about transportation. In January 2010, for instance, McDonnell said "he will not propose a fix during this year's legislative session." As Sen. Chap Petersen put it at the time, "McDonnell campaigned on the idea that he had a plan -- that he beat up Creigh for not having a plan -- so I'm very surprised not to see legislation to enact that plan during this session." Yep.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 555 words in story)

Tom "all it does is produce Democrats" Davis Raises Money to Fight Columbia Pike Streetcar

by: lowkell

Fri Nov 15, 2013 at 11:57:08 AM EST

This Sunday, a group called Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST) is holding a fundraiser with former Rep. Tom Davis (R) and Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey (D). The #1 goal of AST is to stop a proposed streetcar project along Columbia Pike (supported overwhelmingly, and for many years, by both the Arlington and Fairfax County Boards), and to replace it with a mythical "Bus Rapid Transit" (BRT) system (I say "mythical" because you can't have BRT without dedicated lanes, and that's not possible on Columbia Pike).

Anyway, my question for today isn't about AST or about the merits of the streetcar project (which I strongly support, by the way), but about former Rep. Tom Davis (R). The last we heard from Davis, he was making the case for the Republican "extreme team" ticket (Cuccinelli/Jackson/Obenshain) and how they could win the election on November 5. Uh, guess not - ha. Now, Davis is busy raising money to fight a streetcar in Arlington? Why?

I don't know, but perhaps this 2005 Washington Post article might provide some clues regarding Davis' attitudes towards smart growth?

[Rep. Tom Davis] says he's deeply concerned that at the Vienna station, "smart growth" -- the slogan of those who favor building more densely around transit stations to funnel population growth there rather than letting it seep deeper into the countryside -- is really dumb growth, overly congesting both roads and rails.


Three Fairfax elected officials told me that Davis explained his opposition to the MetroWest development to them as a matter of party politics: The congressman believes that the people most likely to move into condos and townhouses near a Metro station are -- oh, the horror! -- Democrats.

One politician who spoke to Davis says the congressman told him straight-out that he opposes Pulte Homes' MetroWest project because "all it does is produce Democrats."

Of course, this doesn't explain why Davis would care about a smart growth project like the Columbia Pike streetcar, given that it's not in his (former) district. Perhaps it's as one Virginia Democratic political power player told me, that "Republicans would like to see flat population growth in NOVA so it can't completely dominate statewide races," and that smart growth/high-density-development projects, such as flows from transit projects like Metro and streetcars, do indeed "produce Democrats," as Davis so inelegantly (but correctly) put it back in 2005. The bigger question is, why are some Arlington Democrats working with Tom Davis to oppose this project? That's what I don't get at all.
Discuss :: (11 Comments)

Defending Against Republican Improvised Economic Devices

by: Dan Sullivan

Thu Nov 07, 2013 at 15:49:09 PM EST

 photo 120514Bobslefthand.jpgFor three years we have heard that Virginia is enjoying budget surpluses. All the while, a series of gimmicks have been employed that will unravel during the years to come; some immediate, some long term. Terry McAuliffe would be well advised to determine baselines that provide context for funding obligations.

Ken Cuccinelli was right when he claimed that taxes would increase during a McAuliffe administration; what he failed to point out was that they also had consistently increased during the current administration and would under his own. The difference will be that Governor McDonnell was allowed to borrow against the future and underfund capital requirements, in effect levying the tax on his successors and generations to come. Cuccinelli would have done much more of the same. Such maneuvers by the coming McAuliffe administration will not be met with the deafening silence afforded the current administration.

    Maintaining the Illusion of Surpluses
  • The Virginia Retirement System (VRS) "loan" amortization, the legislatively mandated 20% annual contribution deficiency, and total unfunded pension obligations
  • Education infrastructure maintenance, capitalization and re-capitalization underfunding
  • Transportation infrastructure maintenance, capitalization and re-capitalization underfunding
  • Positive growth of revenue streams; particularly from areas such as agricultural production where weather and markets are beyond the influence of state government but have had a good run

Terry McAuliffe should conduct an audit early on so that the inevitable future claims of fiscal malfeasance can be placed in context when the bills come due. This one must be much more honest than the audit by McDonnell's team which made claims like turning up over $100 million that had been "mismanaged" by the Department of Transportation during the Kaine administration (conversely, McAuliffe should make certain that operating funds and reserves have not been drawn down). No, this audit should nail down underfunded and unfunded obligations that are currently, to a great extent, off the books. Some will come due during the next four years; some will continue to grow otherwise unacknowledged until they explode with consequences similar to the Detroit pension crisis.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 352 words in story)

No justice, no cabs

by: VANewMajority

Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 11:37:15 AM EDT

Ask cab driver Daniel H. Mariam about working conditions for people like him in Arlington and he'll tell you it's nothing less than "modern day slavery."

Mariam, 60, hails from Ethiopia and provides for a family of five, including a son at Virginia Commonwealth University and a daughter he can't afford to send to community college. He works 70 to 80 hours per week if he's lucky. Yet he says that Yellow Cab company makes more off his taxi fees than he does driving it.

He starts his day in debt with $70 owed for insurance and gas, not including maintenance. Each week he pays $205 in fees to Yellow Cab, even though he says his contract stated $145. Each year he pays $15,000 in tariffs and $5,000 in ownership fees for his taxi, even though he paid $30,000 for the hybrid car he says Yellow Cab forced him to buy. And if the hybrid battery dies, he has to pay $3,500 to replace it.

Despite what he pays to own his cab, Mariam says that he can't transfer ownership to another driver in case he needs to be with his mother in Ethiopia because the temporary driver couldn't recoup the cost of fees through fares while he or she had the car.  

Mariam says that this exploitative red-tape behavior has been business as usual at Yellow Cab for the past 50 years. This is possible, Mariam says, because he and other drivers are considered independent contractors with few rights and "no value as human being[s]."

Three months ago, Mariam says that he had a meeting with company managers to address the grievances of 60 organized Yellow Cab drivers. He says that when he went into their office, they had a camera recording him to catch him if he said anything "wrong" which they could use to fire him.

Given these circumstances, Mariam has no regrets about lending his voice to lunchtime protest Tuesday at the Clarendon Metro station where he and 100 other immigrant cab drivers spoke out against what they describe as an excessive and unjust licensing system.

After rallying at the station, the drivers dispersed to carry out the planned action: putting Arlington on notice by taking up all public parking spaces then slowly driving their taxis around the station, as well as marching through the district with signs and chants of "no justice, no cabs" and "respect human rights for taxi drivers."

Miriam and the other drivers want copies of their signed contracts, the ability to transfer ownership of their cars to other drivers and adequate review of the drivers' proposal by the Arlington County board.

As Mariam left Tuesday's protest, he had one more message to his company owners: "I came here today. I knew what I was getting into. If you're going to fire me, do it tomorrow."

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Bob McDonnell Touts New Fairfax County Interchange; Fails to Mention Federal Funding

by: lowkell

Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 12:56:43 PM EDT

It's typical for hypocrite Republicans to gleefully take whatever federal tax money they can get (e.g., massive net subsidies for most "red states" for agriculture, water, power, roads, health care, you name it) with one hand while relentlessly bashing it with the other. Oh, and they also love to take credit for things that they either had nothing to do with, or even occurred in SPITE of them. For instance, here in Virginia, we benefited tremendously from the Economic Recovery Act of 2009 - which passed with basically ZERO Republican support, and played a huge role in allowing us to recover economically from the Bush/Republican Great Recession - yet you'll never hear a word about that from Bob McDonnell, Ken Cuccinelli, etc. Instead, THEY take credit for Virginia's economic recovery, when in fact they made matters much worse via their austerity policies at the state level. One thing these guys have is chutzpah, that's for sure.

Anyway, this morning we had another example: Bob McDonnell touting "the new $69.5 million interchange at Fairfax County Parkway and Fair Lakes Parkway." According to Grifter (and Federal Government Basher) Bob:

The 66,000 motorists who travel through this area each day are now shaving valuable minutes off their trips to work, school and shopping...Motorists now have an interchange that smoothes traffic flow and will accommodate future growth. A world-class transportation system is key to both economic opportunity and to the quality of life of every Virginian.
Ain't that lovely? The only problem is, T-Bob forgot to mention something: according to Rep. Connolly's office, "More than half of the $70 million cost of the project was funded with a total of $40.8 million in federal funds, which made it possible for VDOT to advance the project by two years." In fact, "The project remained in VDOT's 'unfunded' category until the Commonwealth received the needed federal funding through the Recovery Act." Details, details, huh? :)

So, did Bob McDonnell just "forget" to mention any of that highly pertinent information? Or, more likely, did he decide to remove it from his talking points, as obviously it interferes with the narrative he's trying to construct, that he - and only he - is responsible for any accomplishment that takes place in Virginia (didn't ya know, the economic recovery here was ALL BOB! lol). Well, sorry Bob, but that little thing called "reality" simply doesn't back you up. To the contrary, as Rep. Connolly says, "As [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors] Chairman, I worked with my colleagues here on the Board of Supervisors and VDOT to set aside money and advocate for this project." And, Connolly adds, "In Congress, I was proud to support the Recovery Act, which provided the final $13 million necessary to complete this important traffic improvement project." Hmmmm.

So, maybe now that Bob McDonnell has all the facts, he might update his website accordingly to provide a fairer picture of how this project came about? Naaaaaaaaah! Who am I kidding?!? Heh.

P.S. From folks who were at the ribbon cutting, I hear that Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova DID point out the "stimulus" funding for this project, and also reminded the crowd that federal funding played a part in finishing the Fairfax County Parkway as well. She particularly made a point of thanking Rep. Connolly for his help. In contrast, Gov. Grifter (aka, "T-Bob") blabbered on and on, but didn't mention federal dollars (e.g., OUR tax money!) at all. Shocker, huh?

Discuss :: (0 Comments)
Next >>

Make a New Account



Forget your username or password?



Donate to Blue Virginia

The purpose of Blue Virginia is to cover Virginia politics from a progressive and Democratic perspective. This is a group blog and a community blog. We invite everyone to comment here, but please be aware that profanity, personal attacks, bigotry, insults, rudeness, frequent unsupported or off-point statements, "trolling" (NOTE: that includes outright lies, whether about climate science, or what other people said, or whatever), and "troll ratings abuse" (e.g., "troll" rating someone simply because you disagree with their argument) are not permitted and, if continued, will lead to banning. For more on trolling, see the Daily Kos FAQs. Also note that diaries may be deleted if they do not contain at least 2 solid paragraphs of original text; if not, please use the comments section of a relevant diary. For more on writing diaries, click here. Thanks, and enjoy!

P.S. You can contact us at and you can subscribe to Lowell's Twitter feed here. If you'd like to subscribe to Miles Grant's Twitter feed, click here. For Teacherken, click here. For Kindler, click here.

P.P.S. To see the Blue Virginia archive, please click here. To see the Raising Kaine archive, please click here. To see the Blue Commonwealth archive, please click here.

RSS Feed

Subscribe to Blue Virginia - Front Page

Powered by: SoapBlox