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Mostly Good but with a Touch of Very, Very Bad

Arlington County’s 2010 Annual Report is now available. According to the County Manager, the report highlights County’s accomplishments in such areas as financial, economic and environmental sustainability, public safety, infrastructure improvements, and capital programs. A few of the "2010 highlights" include:

  • The county retained its Triple-A bond rating, allowing the sale of $73.4 million in general obligation bonds at a true interest cost of 2.7 percent, the lowest rate on record.
  • Adopted the bi-annual Capital Improvement Program; during the year completed more than 100 capital projects.
  • Served an increased number of citizens in human services programs; since 2008 the “walk-in” service level at the Department of Human Services grew by 50 percent. To meet the added demand, $9.5 million in safety net funds were appropriated in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget.
  • Violent crime rate droped 8.3% in 2009 (the latest available statistics), overall there were fewer homicides, forcible rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults.
  • Opened the Artisphere—Arlington’s new cultural center in Rosslyn, combining the former Newseum space with the neighboring Spectrum Theatre. The facility has four so-called performance venues, a Wi-Fi café, three visual art galleries, and a 4,000 square foot ballroom.
  • Gained control of Columbia Pike from the Arlington-Fairfax County line to Joyce Street, expediting the conversion of the Pike into a "main street," hopefully making the surrounding neighborhoods more accessible and pedestrian and transit friendlier.
  • The number of affordable housing rental homes increased to 6,059 units or 14 percent of the County’s multi-family rental stock.
  • Arlington’s residential recycling program was redesigned in 2009 with wheeled collection carts, and included an expanded list of acceptable items. These changes led to an increase of 24 percent in the amount of recyclable material collected. The drop in material allowed the County to renegotiate prices with contractual refuse haulers for a 10 percent price drop, and the County expects savings of $700,000 during the next three years.

There are a few highlights we chose to skip such as the "mail back" Census participation rate, the move of the health and welfare offices to Sequoia Plaza, and being named a "certified green government" by the Virginia Municipal League, which gets over $36,000 from Arlington County taxpayers for lobbying the Commonwealth in Richmond. Take some time to review the 2010 annual report. You, too, may be left wondering what happend to 52+ capital projects. The "2010 highlights" shows the county "completed more than 100 capital projects," but page 48 shows only 48 projnects completed.

But don't worry, it takes six pages to list all the awards and recognitions -- both organizational and invidividua.

Perhaps most interesting of all involves a major land acquisition in the Capital Improvement Program, which begins on page 48. The acquisition involves the "Coin Shop" at 3538 Wilson Boulevard. A bit of research shows that Arlington County purchased the property (RPC 19016005) on July 15, 2010 for $1,450,000. The property's assessed value on January 1, 2010, as determined by the Office of Real Estate Assessment, was $841,900 (land - $733,600 + improvements - $108,300). From the Google "street view", Arlington County taxpayers have dumped another $1,450,000 down the proverbial "black hole for the arts" since the property is adjacent to the "non-profit" Arlington Arts Center, although the property is owned by the Arlington County Board and was assessed on January 1, 2010 at $4,328,200 (RPC 19016004).

Take a few minutes to study the entire annual report. The above is just the result of a few minutes' reading. Rest assured, there surely are more tidbits that will get Arlington taxpayers fired-up. 

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