While the consensus in our community appears to be a reflection of a regional and truly national problem, there also seems to be a growing realization that this endemic crime is not going to go away on its own. Despite recent statistics and even national demographics which may argue the contrary, there is a growing sense that a new generation of young delinquents are becoming more emboldened and dangerous than ever before and that they are hardening into older criminals. Citizens in our community watch with alarm and anger as some people appear to flaunt law, order and the legal system. Citizens are beginning to demand answers.
Several trends, causes, and recommendations have been identified by the people in our area and this message is an attempt to put some of those ideas forth for discussion and your consideration. Some of the most disturbing trends mentioned have been evidenced in recent news stories, such as studies concerning guns in schools; the inability of a jury to know a criminal's prior record; the intimidation and silencing of witnesses of a crime; and the fact that all sorts of misdemeanors including assaults and other violence seldom results in punishment for the offenders. These are just some of the issues which are cited again and again by citizens, who sound like they are getting fed up with our present system of law and order. Underlying many of these media stories are similar experiences by members of our community.
There are also concerns over the rising costs of arrests, trials, convictions, and incarcerations of the individuals involved. But I have yet to hear one citizen who has not expressed a willingness to spend more money if required to apprehend and "put away" these criminals, no matter what the cost. Rather there appears to be a strong desire to require more work from these criminals to pay for their misdeeds. Despite the fact that the overwhelming number of crimes are never solved, of those arrests that are made, the expense to taxpayers just begins with the apprehension (average arrest costs $4,000), but carries over to the court time, trials, incarceration and a vast number of social services that are provided to these wards of the state. Yet the system of revolving justice and repeat offenders plagues our County just as it does many other local jurisdictions and cities across the nation. In one unconfirmed statistic, we were told by one member of the County Police Department that in 1993, 17 individuals were responsible for over 1,000 arrests in Arlington (many for public disorderliness and drunkenness).
There is also a growing realization that for every criminal act, there are many victims which include the individual most immediately affected, their family members, their neighbors, their co-workers, their employer, and all of those community members who have more fear forced into their lives. Yet nowhere do we presently see more concern being given for these many victims, neither monetarily nor in the same social programs that are afforded the criminal class.
The result of the many conversations concerning crime in our community is that a number of ideas have been proposed which have merit and deserve consideration and approval. In fact, below I would list ten general proposals which I hope you could individually support in principal. They are:
One of the local programs that BVSCA was helpful in launching a few years ago was the "Crime Watch" which enables all taxi cab drivers that are part of Arlington Blue Top Cab to become the "eyes and ears" of the police and to report all suspicious and criminal activity that they witness. The program is a successful example of citizens working hand and hand with our police department. Despite a few communications glitches earlier this year, the program is now running smoothly, according to Blue Top Cab's Chief Executive, John Massoud. "When we report something strange or out of place, the police have been responsive and check it out," reports Mr. Massoud. There is every reason to believe that part of the success of the program can be measured by the decrease in some suspicious activities. People who tend to linger and look for opportunities to create trouble quickly learn that they are going to have eyes watching them regularly if they stay in our neighborhood. Its just no fun for them. Of course, people's civil rights to congregate will be protected if they are obeying the law, but as John Massoud points out, all ordinary citizens can help the police to spot shady activity and let the police determine if its is illegal or not. If this keeps up, soon no criminal will feel safe to be in Ballston/Virginia Square.
In addition, in our newsletter, we occasionally highlight some of the crime in the Association's neighborhoods but we can always accept the thoughts of a contributor on this subject to point out any policy that you feel is incorrect or any trend or legislation that you perceive as having an impact on crime. Please feel free to report any questionable activity also. If anyone is interested, we encourage you to call the Association's Member Information Line Telephone Number, a.k.a. MILTN, (703) 528-1887.
You can express your views at our next general membership meeting, July 27, 1994, at 7:30 pm in the Monticello room of The Jefferson. Also, at our executive committee meetings (open to every BVSCA member and usually held the first Wednesday after our general membership meetings), we discuss the Association's priorities and our own views of what achievable actions are best for the community.
Among the questions that we can ask: What can be done to decrease crime at our two local Metro stops and along our corridor? What is the status of the Metro ridership now that the Ballston Mall and National Science Foundation are connected to the Ballston Station? When will the leaks at the Virginia Square Metro station be repaired? Should the lighting at the Metro rail stations be improved? What is the potential impact of the planned Disney project on the Metro system? Has Metro planned for additional entrances/exits to facilitate the GMU campus expansion? What Metro incentives exist to promote increased ridership? Does Metro have any plans to extend the operating hours, especially on weekends? Ms. Lamb will provide a 45 minute presentation at our July 27, 1994 meeting and answer any of our members' questions about Metro.
The MOU will include the creation of a Joint GMU/Arlington County Advisory Board, one third of the total membership of which will be from the neighborhoods surrounding the campus. Prior to the disbursement of the County funds designated for Phase I of the expansion, GMU will share with the County letters of intent with parking operators to ensure sufficient transitional off-street parking for students, faculty, and staff during the construction of Phase I.
On the benefits side, GMU will develop a plan to more adequately describe the possibilities for community use of facilities and will describe what interim improvements will be made to the existing building. The Joint Advisory Board will the forum for initial discussion of community benefits from Phases II and III, and firm commitments will be made in the GMU proposals.
Executive Committee members Nancy Iacomini, NCAC Representative, and Dorothy Sticken represented the BVSCA at the Arlington County Board meeting on the Richmond Square project. Ms. Iacomini said that the site plan applicant had made a presentation to BVSCA on their site plan amendment, "but not quite the final plans." Ms. Iacomini noted that BVSCA was very supportive of the residents of the Alta Vista Condominium and "how they feel concerning the placement of the garage entrance." If not architecturally feasible to change the garage entrance from N. Stafford Street to N. Randolph Street, Ms. Iacomini recommended that the County provide increased enforcement of the parking requirements for the area. Nancy Iacomini said she was personally saddened by the potential loss of IHOP from our community by the year 2001 and hoped that IHOP could remain in the area.
Dorothy Sticken recommended that the Richmond Site Plan Amendment be deferred because the BVSCA had not had the opportunity to take a position on the final plan. Also, Ms. Sticken expressed strong concern about the possible loss of IHOP from our community. Ms. Sticken stated that the "IHOP has good food, at very reasonable prices, and should not be sacrificed on behalf of more offices, retail shops, and apartments." Ms. Sticken concluded her remarks to the Board with "If you have never eaten IHOP blueberry pancakes, you haven't lived."
A $36.1 million issue is proposed for improvements requested by the School Board that would accommodate increases in enrollment, undertake renovations to existing buildings, and renovate the Gunston Community Center as a new middle school. The bond is specifically aimed at correcting life safety, fire alarm and emergency system deficiencies; building code or structural deficiencies; environmental contamination; program deficiencies or overcrowding; and handicapped accessibility.
A $17.7 million issue is proposed for streets, highways, and community conservation projects. There are three components to this bond referendum: (1) streets and highways, totaling $8.6 million; (2) storm drainage, totaling $2.1 million; and (3) community conservation, totaling $7.0 million. The largest component of the streets and highways portion relate to the continuation of the ongoing paving program and the installation of arterial and neighborhood principal streets, consisting of $6.7 million of the total of the issue. The storm drainage component of the bond is estimated at $2.1 million. The largest components of the community conservation bond is the neighborhood conservation program which would use $2.5 million to undertake such projects as infrastructure improvements, street lights, recreational facilities, and landscaping, all of which must first be recommended by the Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee. The neighborhood improvements program, which represents the other major segment of this issue, would provide for utility undergrounding and streetscape improvements. This component is estimated to cost $2.7 million.
A $13.9 million issue is proposed for local and regional parks, of which $10.5 million would be used for the acquisition and development of open space and park facilities. Other components of this issue include $110,000 for comfort station improvements; $395,000 for tennis and basketball court improvements; $736,000 for playground renovations; $600,000 for athletic field improvements; and $185,000 for lighting replacement.
A $12.2 million issue is proposed for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the Water Pollution Control Plant and funding for improvements to the water distribution system. These bond funds would continue the modernization of the older portions of the Plant, as well as increase the volume of wastewater the plant could process. Improvements to water distribution and storage facilities including vaults and supply lines are included in this issue.
A $7.0 million issue is proposed for Arlington County's share of the funding through fiscal 1997 of the costs to complete the last 13.5-miles of the 103-mile regional Metrorail system. Arlington's share of the interjurisdictional agreement which delineates the costs and timetable for completion of the system is $48.2 million. This $48.2 million has been partly financed with prior County bond issues, as well as with state recordation tax-backed bonds. Segments of the Metrorail system have begun to show signs of wear and increased breakdown and downtime. Of the $7.0 million proposed for this bond referendum, $4.0 million is for metrorail system construction and $2.8 million is for the metrorail rehabilitation program. In addition, this bond would fund the design of improvements to the entryways and the interior of the Rosslyn Metrorail station as well as matching federal funds which are contemplated for this project.
A $2.8 million issue is proposed to help acquire land for a new Cherrydale fire station. In 1990, the voters approved a bond issue of $2.5 million which set aside funds for the purchase of land and the design of a new fire station in the Cherrydale area. Preliminary planning and design is now completed and the County is preparing to acquire property on which to relocate the fire station. Remaining land acquisition and construction costs are planned to be financed from this second bond.
The Arlington County Board members passed five of the bond questions unanimously. County Board member Benjamin Winslow (I) voted against the proposed parks bond and offered an amendment to reduce the park land acquisition funds by $3 million, but the effort failed when no other Board member offered to second the motion. County Board candidate John Barr (R) expressed concern about the magnitude of this bond proposal, considering the recent Arlington County budget crisis and the tax increases that the Board has approved the past three years. Mr. Barr said the Board should not seek to incur about $90 million in County bonds because "the debt service will grow to about $45 million in six years, which is more than the County currently spends on the police, the sheriff, and the libraries." If the Board has extra money to pay for debt service, Mr. Barr stated that it should allocate funds for "a South Arlington police substation, or for reforming the police department's pension fund to help assure that experienced police officers stay in Arlington." Mr. Barr said certain aspects of the capital plan, such as improving toilets, replacing lights, beautifying a bus stop, and repairing fire alarms should be paid for in the general fund, not by bonds.
County Board Chairman Mary Margaret Whipple (D) asked Mr. Barr (R), "Which bond issues would you not put on the ballot--schools, the fire department, parks, or the streets?" Mr. Barr (R) responded, "Obviously, approving new schools and fire stations should be funded, but improving the entrance way to the Rosslyn metro station is not appropriate for these bond issues given Arlington's budget crisis." County Board Chairman Mary Margaret Whipple (D) responded that the County's legal counsel and bond counsel have determined that all of the proposed items are appropriate for the bond issues. What are the BVSCA members' opinions or questions about the proposed bond issues? Mr. Mark Jinks, Director, Department of Management and Finance will provide a 45 minute presentation at our next meeting and answer any of our members' questions on the six bond issues.
The majority of the Board and others sided with the Arlington County's Cable Television Advisory Committee ("CTAC") recommendations that Arlington County apply to the FCC for certification to regulate those cable TV rates permitted by law for local governments to regulate. Under the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, local governments are authorized to regulate rates for the basic service tier of cable TV service and for equipment and services associated with the basic tier. County Board Chairman Mary Margaret Whipple (D) said moving to regulate "provides a sense of confidence to the community," and it gives us confidence that the cable provider will comply with federal law and that it will be verified by a local government. County Board member Benjamin Winslow (I) said he supported regulation because Cable TV Arlington is a "free standing monopoly" and county residents must be protected against unexpected "egregious" rate hikes. County Board candidate John Barr (R) said while he is not generally in favor of government regulation, he supports the cable advisory committee's recommendations as a safety measure to protect Arlington consumers.
Earl Mellor, chairman of the cable advisory committee, said there are reasons to seek certification, including the lack of a guarantee that Cable TV Arlington wouldn't raise the basic rates, and added his committee believes the County should not wait five years to see if effective competition comes to Arlington. Morgan Browder, cable commission member, said he was "deeply concerned" by Gardner's recommendation and added that rates for the preferred level of cable service have tripled in the last decade. Another cable commission member, Salvatore Cangialosi, said the most charitable explanation that could be made regarding Gardner's recommendation is that it reflects "a very trusting and naively over-optimistic soul." Also, Mr. Cangialosi indicated that the cable-like video services that may be first offered in the future by Bell Atlantic are premium type video services and not basic type services, and those services will not be offered countywide until at least 1998 or 1999.
President, Bob Sherretta, and Secretary, Ernie Ragland, represented the BVSCA at this public hearing. They apprised the Board of our June 1, 1994 motion on the subject, in which 18 of the BVSCA members voted unanimously to recommend that the Arlington County Board apply to the FCC for certification to regulate Cable TV rates and service. We noted that the Arlington County Civic Federation had also voted in their June meeting to recommend that the County apply to the FCC for regulation of cable rates.
The Executive Committee supports the County Board's decision to apply to the FCC for certification to regulate because Cable TV Arlington has what appears to be an exclusive franchise to operate, because there is currently no cable competition in Arlington County and no real competition on the horizon for at least four or five years. This type of exclusive franchise is normally given to a single firm when a tendency toward natural monopoly exists, such as firms who provide electricity, natural gas, and telephone service. However, in return for this gift of non-competition from the government, natural monopolies are usually subject to price control to prevent the monopolist from earning monopoly profits. The Arlington County Board did the right thing in voting for regulation, because many of the Board's land use policies in recent years have promoted denser development along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. This has not only provided Cable TV Arlington with a larger customer base but has contributed to making cable TV more of a necessity for receiving "free TV," because these high rise buildings are adversely affecting the public rights of way.
Finally, the Executive Committee expresses its appreciation to Earl Miller, Chairman of the County's Cable Television Advisory Committee, and to the Committee members who have demonstrated a tremendous amount of expertise on the subject and support of public participation in the process. We thank you for your outstanding service to Arlington County.
Areas of the garage undergoing renovation will be isolated by use of floor to ceiling barricades. Major emphasis will be placed on assuring that construction activities will not inconvenience parkers. Construction will not take place from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Mr. Bishop indicated that the public is invited to participate in the process by making suggestions or comments by calling 528-9863.
Mr. Bishop demonstrated the new Ballston Public Parking Garage "convenience coupon book" that is sold by the garage manager. The coupon book includes stamps with a cash value of fifty cents each. These stamps can be affixed to the parking tickets to be credited to the cost of parking. Stamps will be available for purchase by merchants, employers, or individuals.
To finance these renovations and enhancements, Mr. Bishop stated that some adjustment to parking rates were necessary. All garage capital improvement costs must be funded from parking revenues. Hourly rates have been changed to a flat $1.00 for up to three hours on weekdays. After 6:00 p.m. and all day on Saturday and Sunday, a flat rate of $1.00 is charged. Five day parking fees have become $73 and seven day monthly parking fees have become $100.
Using a touch-tone telephone, the information voice bulletin board may be called at your convenience, 24 hours a day, seven-days-a-week. When you call the Member Information Line, you first hear a brief announcement that tells you what the menu selections are. If you know which menu selection you want, you may select that option at any time. You may access one menu selection per telephone call.
To promote ease of access to the information and message capabilities of the MILTN, the Executive Committee has standardized the menu selections and they are listed below. Menu selection: 1) is the Question Of The Month survey where the Association members may listen to a question and leave a recorded message to respond to the survey; 2) is an announcement only of upcoming Association Membership and Executive Committee meetings, agenda items, etc. Check this selection for postings on last minute updates and changes to Association meeting agendas; 3) is an announcement only summarizing significant actions taken at recent Executive Committee and Membership meetings; 4) is an announcement only of upcoming County-wide group meetings, such as of the Site-Plan Review Subcommittee and of the Planning Commission and of the County Board, that affect our neighborhood; 5) is an announcement only of actions taken at recent County-wide group meetings that affect our neighborhood; 6) is the message box for the Neighborhood Crime Watch. Leave a message in this box if you would like to start a crime watch on your block and the Association will match you up with other members on your block; 7) is the George Mason University Campus Expansion announcement and message box. You may listen to a message about the most recent information we have on George Mason's expansion plans and leave a message for the Association's George Mason Expansion Committee; and, 8) is a miscellaneous announcement and message box about a particular topical matter that will need its own menu option for a limited period of time.
According to the Chief, Housing Planning Section of Arlington, Fran Lunney, who was in attendance at the meeting, Arlington County will be issuing a draft Housing Action Plan (HAP) in late July. According to last year's HAP, the County Board has made the goal of providing a range of housing options to all its citizens a major priority and has established the HAP to focus on housing need. The HAP discusses the County Board's "community goal" established in fiscal 1992 for adding 360 CAF (committed affordable units per year or a unit per day. A CAF unit is one that is pledged by agreement with the County, the State, or the Federal government to remain affordable to low and moderate income households for a specified period of time through mechanisms such as nonprofit ownership, site plan requirements, contracts with private owners, or IRS regulations governing tax- exempt financing. The HAP states that if this goal were successfully met each year over the decade of the 1990s, it would increase the supply of committed affordable housing to 10% of the rental stock by the year 2000.
Fran Lunney indicated that Arlington County will not be updating its Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) Five-Year Plan this year because of changed requirements at HUD. Fan Lunney expects a new consolidated type of housing report to be issued in Spring 1995 to replace the existing the CHAS Five- Year Plan (FY 1994-1998).
From HUD instructions for the CHAS, affordable housing is generally defined as housing where the occupant is paying no more than 30 percent of gross income for gross housing costs, including utility costs.
During FY 1993, 1106 persons were sheltered in Arlington County shelters while 2,869 requests for shelter could not be met, because of lack of space or because the individual needing shelter was not eligible to be served by the shelter where the request was made. The County's Department of Human Services reported that 1,106 persons were served by Arlington shelters through June 30, 1993. The CHAS states that 75% of those individuals were from Arlington, of which 57% (631) were men and 43% (475) were women.
Because the Ballston Virginia Square neighborhoods are faced with several important social issues in the near future, such as the Department of Human Services (DHS) consolidation, the possible placement of a day-time drop-in homeless shelter in our community, and the possible placement of SROs in our community to accommodate the GMU campus expansion and other affordable housing needs, we have invited Fran Lunney to return in September for a presentation on Arlington's updated Housing Action Plan.
In response to this September 1994 special session, the Executive Committee contacted the Commonwealth's Office of Public Safety, for information on Governor Allen's Commission on Parole Abolition and Sentencing, The commission is bipartisan and consists of 32 members, including Arlington's Senator Ed Holland, who serves on the Implementation Subcommittee; Delegate Jim Almand, who serves on the Subcommittee on Sentencing Alternatives; and Arlington's former Commonwealth Attorney, Henry Hudson, who serves on the Implementation Subcommittee.
Governor Allen has outlined five guiding principles for the Commission including: