So, retiring Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada seems worried. In a speech to the Arlington County Democratic Committee last week, he seemed to be fretting that Arlington might, “allow ourselves to become a new Arlington of rich, entitled people, lacking in compassion, empathy and a sense of community, viscerally opposed to government of any kind, opposed to everything in alleged overspending on every front?” Perish the thought, Walter.
God forbid we deviate from the genius path the Arlington Democrat establishment has set us on, the vaunted ‘Arlington Way’. This essentially means expanding ‘affordable housing’, better known as ‘housing projects’ or subsidized housing, to the rest of us. But that is not the politically correct term. It also goes hand in hand with “giving immigrants safe haven”, which means functioning as a borderline sanctuary city for illegals. Both of these bright ideas, of course, are in great part responsible for the schools capacity crunch the county finds itself in, by bringing in a lot of low-income people who would not otherwise reside in Arlington, who burden the county’s infrastructure and public services, not the least of which are… schools. This means that despite the relatively large county budget, and the repeated contraction of debt through bonds, the county has failed to keep up its roads, for example, or its infrastructure, for another. The roads in Glencarlyn, the author’s neighborhood, are in disrepair, pitted with cracks and potholes that patchwork repair jobs cannot fix, and need to be repaved completely.
Perhaps the absolute worst part about the ‘affordable housing’ fixation is the borderline bribery that goes on to make it happen. Developers often have to underwrite a project the Board majority wants in order to get approval to build. All too often, this means guaranteeing a certain number of housing units as ‘affordable’. Other times it can include things like a halfway house. As current Arlington County Republican Committee chairman Matt Wavro has expressed on numerous occasions in the past, you shouldn’t have to qualify for a government program to live in Arlington.
All of this has also meant steadily increasing property taxes in Arlington. At bottom, what the ‘Arlington Way’ is about, is making everyone dependent on the government, mainly divided into two groups. The first are the low-income residents whose support is bought with government candy such as ‘affordable housing’ or other taxpayer-funded goodies. The second are the guilt-laden limousine liberal types who are shamed by politicians like Tejada into carrying the cost of this statist monstrosity. This combined majority can then be wielded against others, including property and business owners, as it has been.
The good news is that this year’s elections may offer a chance to halt this runaway train, with Tejada and Mary Hynes both declining to seek re-election in the wake of John Vihstadt’s two electoral victories in 2014. The Arlington County Republican Committee should take the lead in standing against the ‘Arlington Way’. We can do this by outlining an alternative, free-market focused vision. What should this be? First, we should promise to make core county services an absolute priority, rather than pushing an ideological agenda, as the Democrats have. Maintain the roads and infrastructure, and put a stop to things like the Artisphere being greenlighted in the first place. Second, we should stand against ANY tax increases, but most immediately against property tax increases, particularly when they are used to further a particular agenda. Third, we should oppose ‘affordable housing’. This may seem like a tough thing in Arlington, but Vihstadt’s victory and the fall of the streetcar project have shown that Arlingtonians are open to fiscal sanity, if we lay out the vision and explain it properly. Fourth, we should never cede offices like the school board to the Democrats. They should face serious opposition whenever plausible.
We may never have a better opportunity than this year. Let’s seize it.