Saturday, April 5, 2014
Arlington's Department of Human Services and Community Planning, Housing, and Development made their presentations at the County Board-County Manager FY 2015 on April 3rd. County Board was tired after spending the day planning the upscale urbanization of a couple more neighborhoods with a couple of REITs and wanted to get through the work session expeditiously.
Good news is that DHS is making significant progress in reducing the number of single homeless persons. DHS has also stabilized the number of homeless families. Bad news is that even with 11% of Arlington's annual budget ($124.8 million), 685 full time employees, and the FY 15 cost per Arlington resident at $580, DHS is only keeping up with the demands for crisis human services by shifting funds from wellness programs to crisis intervention programs.
Bad news for DHS is County Board Chair Jay Fisette has to significantly reduce DHS's budget over the next few years to pay for the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcars. Consequently, a wide range of services now being provided by DHS employees are under review before being contracted out. Chairman Fisette is especially interested in privatizing Volunteer Services, something Walter Tejada vehemently opposes because he believes privatization would make Volunteer Services another elitist organization, like the Committee of 100 and Civic Federation.
Community Planing, Housing, and Development (budgeted at $9.5 million in FY 15 with 88 full time employees) reported that the number of market rate affordable apartments in Arlington affordable to persons at or below 80% of area median income is 'plummeting' and the total budget for affordable housing in FY 15 will be $21.5 million, which will be used to build or renovate about 350 affordable apartments for the creative class. Developer contribution for affordable housing during FY 15 will be about $4 million. Highlight of the budget discussion was CPHD will hire two senior planners, one to control the Planning Commission and the other to control 'neighborhood nuisances' who live near Crystal City. Nothing mentioned about VOICE and it's demands for affordable housing or the plans for a massive TIF to fund all of redeveloped Crystal City's infrastructure, including a streetcar system.
Finally, the County Board discussed its regional obligations, including its pet regional non-profits, which are typically unchanged year-to-year.
Next up for discussion is the School System on April 8th.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Received the latest large postcard from Alan Howze's campaign. Full of blather and vague promises for more of the same. "Protect our quality of life"? Protect WHOSE quality of life? My streets are crumbling. When do they get repaved? Not this year. Maybe next year. Department of Environmental Services is too busy planning $310 million streetcar systems for the Pike and Crystal City. That's where our taxes are going, into slush funds for Alan's and his fellow Democrats' pet special interests.
"Protect our quality of life"? Anyone been in Clarendon Friday and Saturday evenings lately? County Board, especially Lyon Village resident Mary Hynes, has received, and ignored, hundreds of complaints about pub crawlers - Alan Howze's urban hipster campaign volunteers.
"Protect our quality of life"? By installing an expensive and dangerous streetcar system on Columbia Pike that will cause massive traffic congestion and hundreds of accidents every year?
Alan Howze will "protect out quality of life" all right. Like a fox protects chickens.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Arlington's Economic Development Office (AED) also made a presentation at yesterday's Arlington County Board - County Manager FY 2015 Budget Work Session.
The Arlington Economic Development Office is a $10 million per year County agency which promotes business development, real estate development, travel and tourism, and cultural affairs. In FY 2015 AED's budget will increase by 8 percent to $10.9 million and AED will add two full-time employees, bringing the total to 63.57. AED occupies a luxury office suite on Glebe Road in Ballston.
So what are Arlington's taxpayers getting for $10.9 million next fiscal year? According to statements by AED's staff during yesterday's work sessions we are getting an expensive bureaucracy that's saddled with arts organizations in constant need, stagnant travel and tourism, increasingly unhappy non-profits and for-profits (to the point where the County Manager recently appointed a Business Ombudswoman), and increasing citizen resistance to AED's long time Smart Growth redevelopment agenda.
Consequently AED is looking to attract corporations and non-profits from areas like Silicon Valley and around the D,C. Beltway where the cost of living and doing business are comparable to Arlington's. AED is partnering with Arlington's Department of Technology Services (DTS) to install an extra-high capacity "Connect Arlington' LAN around Arlington which the County will own and operate.
One AED initiative, begun by recently-deceased AED Director Terry Holzheimer, is to try to bring CIA and NSA activities and CIA and NSA contractors to Arlington by offering access to vast amounts of surveillance data (including HD video images) obtained from a compliant resident population (tens of thousands of Arlington residents work for national security organizations and contractors). NSA and the CIA would use Arlington to model a future National Security State, assuming silo and stovepipe problems can be resolved.
In the meantime, Arlington's 'growth industries' are new and used vehicle sales, bars, restaurants, and upscale retail.
At yesterday's County Board - County Manager FY 15 Budget Work Session Arlington's Chief Information Officer, Jack Belcher, announced another exciting IT program...Arlington's Department of Technology Services will team with Arlington Economic Development to build an extra-high capacity fiber optic LAN (local area network) around Arlington County in an attempt to lure Silicon Valley IT firms, high technology companies that already have offices in the region, and the National Security Agency to Arlington. Arlington County will own and manage the fiber optic LAN and will compete with Comcast and Verizon to offer low-cost extra-high speed and extra-high capacity Internet/Intranet service to businesses, non-profits, and government agencies.It appears that Arlington has about a 3-year head start on D.C., Alexandria, and Fairfax County in implementing this service.
Meanwhile, CIO Belcher described the County's current IT system as one that creates dozens of 'stovepipes' every time new hardware is introduced (e.g., I-phones) until DTS purchases expensive software to integrate new hardware into the County's IT system. He also described serious and significant problems with local governments (e.g., Arlington, Alexandria, and Federal agencies) communicating among each other, with both wireless and fiber optic systems, even after a decade of massive investments by local and Federal government agencies in fiber optic and wireless. (This was confirmed by a source within Arlington's public service system who described Arlington's responsiveness to natural disasters and communications among local governments as "terrible").
Within Arlington, CIO Belcher described a County Government IT system that is capable of collecting and sharing vast amounts of data about Arlington residents, who typically have little involvement with Arlington Government beyond paying taxes and parking fines and using the library system.
Which leads me to ask where has IBM's Government Services IT Consultant Guru and County Board Candidate Alan Howze been all these years while DTS has been 'stovepiping' County Government with competing IT hardware and software? Serving on one non-IT advisory commission and committee after another while Arlington's IT system flounders..
I commend John Vihstadt for raising the issue of 'stovepipes' in County Government. It will be a major task for him to help make County Government efficient when he's elected to County Board.
Yesterday's County Manager-County Board FY 2015 Budget Work Session included budget items related to compensation of County employees. The average pay of County employees will rise about 2.7 percent in FY 15. But except for the healthiest persons in the County's workforce out of pocket health care costs for County employees will also rise, sometimes significantly, this year.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan will soon decide whether the County will either raise employees' co-payments or go to a 90-10 co-insurance system, where the employee pays 10% of total medical costs, whether office visits or in-hospital medical costs. In the long term the County will implement a 90-10 co-insurance system possibly followed by a health savings accounts system with high deductibles.
Donnellan wants the County to avoid paying the Federal so-called 'Cadillac tax' on so-called 'luxury' healthcare plans, which the County will start paying in 2019, when the cost of healthcare per employee exceeds $27,500. The County has two major health insurance providers, CIGNA and Kaiser Permanente. According to information presented by Human Resources the County's healthcare costs will significantly increase over the next decade, averaging about 7% per year.
There was much discussion by the County Board and County HR Staff about employees incurring large out-of-pocket expenses because of large hospital bills, but nothing was decided about remedies. Donnellan will make a decision about co-pay increases vs. co-insurance for the next fiscal year sometime before employees' open season begins next. month.
There was no discussion whatsoever about the growth of healthcare spending related to the overall growth of Arlington Government spending.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Don't know if you've been keeping up with what Community Planning, Housing, and Development is up to but Arlington's Planning Division has a new Urban Design and Research Section and its Planning Supervisor, Kris Krider, gave a presentation about his group's agenda to the Planning Commission last night.
Besides making over Rosslyn into 'Neverland on the Potomac' to suit the tastes of Jay Fisette, the Urban Design Section is moving on Smart Growth Urbanization of Courthouse, including a huge new County Office Building.
After that, guess where they're going to inflict 'Smart Growth' next? If you guessed Westover you're correct. Same County Board Members who want streetcars on the Pike and in Crystal City want Westover to look more like 'vibrant' Clarendon. The huge CPHD bureaucracy is more than willing to oblige - after all neighborhood-by-neighborhood urbanization is a win-win, for their lifetime job security and the REITs they serve.
So look for a CPHD 'planning charette' coming to Westover soon, most likely as soon as the Courthouse charettes are completed.