RAFOM, your neighborhood civic association, had a lively and interesting meeting this past Wednesday at Prospect House.
Two Arlington police officers from our 2nd District team presented crime statistics. In the past three months, our neighborhood had 13 larcenies from autos, 20 larcenies of other sorts (from buildings, bags, etc.), and 4 bike larcenies. That last category of crime seems to me particularly evil. A person whose bike got stolen could be deprived, at least temporally, of the joys of biking to work. Persons keen to get a bike, but unable to buy one, might contact Phoenix Bikes. They could help a needy person put together a great bike built to last.
RAFOM is conducting voting for the design of neighbor signs to be constructed with Arlington County money. The RAFOM website states that only persons who pay RAFOM dues ($10 cost) can vote. The RAFOM Treasurer stated this general policy at the meeting, while another RAFOM Board Member said that RAFOM membership is required only for web-based voting. I voiced my strong object to requiring payments of any sort for community voting. Moreover, making it more difficult for persons who don't pay the RAFOM dues to participate in a community vote is also inconsistent with the principles of inclusive democracy. The RAFOM Board indicated that they would consider changing their sign voting policy. I refuse to participate in the vote until it is open, without unnecessary financial or procedural conditions, to all neighborhood members.
This fall an Arlington County task force will consider issues associated with bus traffic to Iowa Jima. The Iowa Jima park is open from 6am to midnight. A large number of tour buses go in and out of the park, particularly in the spring. Moreover, intersections with Ft. Meade St. and Arlington Blvd (big and little) are quite hazardous. In fact, that morning a four-car accident had produced a huge traffic backup in the area. Major changes in traffic routing are being considered to address the problems.
Colonel Richardson is leaving her post as Garrison Commander of our neighboring Ft. Myer Military Community. Prior to 9/11, I enjoyed running through the base and getting my hair cut at an excellent barber there. For awhile after 9/11 that wasn't permitted. I'm not sure what the situation is now. RAFOM members praised Col. Richardson for her outreach to the surrounding civilian community. Consistent with its security requirements, I'm grateful for Ft. Myer's interaction with the neighborhood.
Featured speaker Scott McCaffrey, editor of the Arlington Sun Gazette, spoke about local housing trends and economic and political circumstances. Home sales and real estate prices are down. Arlington County projects 9.1% lower assessment revenue this coming fiscal year. Arlington's real estate tax base is 45% commercial. That's a much higher percentage than most other jurisdictions; for example, Fairfax's commercial share is 20%. Unfortunately, commercial real estate values are more volitile than residential values. All else equal, business cycles thus have a larger effect on the Arlington budget. The projected budget shortfall is $67.5 million, shared equally between the County Board and the School Board. School enrollments are growing, and Arlington now has more the 20,000 kids in school. The budget shortfall points to likely tax increases, county staff layoffs, and service cuts.
Overall, Arlington has a strong economy. The unemployment rate in Arlington is 4.2%. That's much lower than the national unemployment rate of 9.6%.
In 2008, the Arlington County Board modified the zoning code to permit acessory dwellings. The number of new accessory dwellings was capped at 28 per year. However, in the first year of the new code, only 8 accessory dwellings were established.
McCaffrey noted the shrinkage of media coverage in Arlington County. You can count on the Ode Street Tribune to help keep you truly informed and well entertained in the midst traditional media's meltdown.
The next RAFOM meeting is next month, Oct. 15, at the Belvedere Condominium. It will feature a candidates debate among contestants for seats on the Arlington County Board and for our district's Delegate to the House of Delegates in the Virginia General Assembly.