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January 31, 2014

A Thought on Leftists, Progressives and Class Warfare

"Though sports and Hollywood personalities earn multiples of CEO salaries, you'll never find leftists and progressives picketing and criticizing them. Why? The strategy for want-to-be tyrants is to demonize people whose power they want to usurp. That's the typical way tyrants gain power. They give the masses someone to hate. In 18th-century France, it was Maximilien Robespierre's promoting hatred of the aristocracy that led to his acquiring dictatorial power. In the 20th century, the communists gained power by promoting public hatred of the czars and capitalists. In Germany, Adolf Hitler gained power by promoting hatred of Jews and Bolsheviks.

"I'm not equating America's progressives and liberals with Robespierre, Josef Stalin and Hitler. I am saying that promoting jealousy, fear and hate is an effective strategy for leftist politicians and their followers to control and micromanage businesses. It's not about the amount of money top executives earn. If it were, politicians and leftists would be promoting jealousy, fear and hatred toward multi-multimillionaire Hollywood actors, celebrities and sports stars. But there is no way that politicians could usurp the roles of Drew Brees, Kobe Bryant, Robert Downey Jr. and Oprah Winfrey. That means celebrities can make any amount of money they want and it matters not one iota politically. Do you think President Barack Obama would stoke the fires of hate and envy by remarking that he thinks that "at a certain point, you've made enough money" -- as he did in a 2010 Quincy, Ill., speech -- in regard to the salaries of Winfrey, Brees and Hollywood celebrities?"

~ Walter E. Williams

HT His "Politics of Hate and Envy" column, January 29,2014, Townhall.com

January 30, 2014

Oops, County Officials OK Data Release After All

Last Friday, January 24, the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey reported that "after another look at state law, county officials detail bid amounts for aquatics center." Then, on January 26, he updated his earlier report "with new information from county officials."

We've growled about the Artispheric aquatics center several times -- most recently on January 4, January 8, January 12, and January 13.

According to McCaffrey's latest reporting:

"The county government’s struggles to convince the public it knows what it’s doing when it comes to the proposed Long Bridge Park aquatics center and fitness facility may have taken yet another hit.

"County officials on Jan. 21 acknowledged that they were in the wrong in refusing to provide dollar figures on construction bids that were received in December. Since state law requires that the bids be read aloud when they are open, they are public records and can be released, officials said.

"Four construction companies and partnerships submitted bids for the project, ranging from $81.9 million to $82.8 million, county officials said.

< . . . >

“Given the interest in Long Bridge and questions from various parties, we looked hard at our process and determined that we could disclose the minimal amount of information that was read aloud at the bid opening,” county spokesman Diana Sun told the Sun Gazette.

“We are still prohibited from disclosing details of the bids and the cost estimates for the construction portion of the project,” Sun said.

"The proposed aquatics/fitness facility at the Crystal City park has trouble on two fronts: In addition to the higher-than-anticipated construction costs, county officials in late 2013 doubled their estimate of the annual taxpayer subsidy that would be required to operate it to about $3.8 million.

ACTA encourages members and concerned Arlington County taxpayers are urged to use the icon in the right-hand column to contact one or more Board members to advise them of what real Arlington citizens think about this Board vanity project.

January 27, 2014

A Thought on Politicians and Campaign Funds

"Today's Permanent Political Class lacks the colorful nicknames the mob used, but they too have mastered the art of funneling funds . . . A traditional campaign committee, the primary vehicle for reelection, can also provide a politician with a solid stream of cash. Those candidates who are not in particularly tight races can put family members on the payroll, and they can make unlimited transfers of cash from campaign committees to party organizations and channel donations to colleagues. But politicians will have trouble using their campaign fund for personal benefits apart from high-interest loans . . . .

"But a leadership PAC is different. Leadership PACs are ostensibly about raising money to help political colleagues hold and win seats. But the FEC (Federal Election Commission, www.fec.gov) has  few restrictions on how these monies can be used and does not restrict the "personal use" of such funds. "Congress has never extended the personal use restrictions to leadership PCs," says former FEC chairman Michael Toner. "The FEC has looked at this over the years and has determined they don't have the statutory ability to address this. It will take an act of Congress."

~ Peter Schweizer,  pages 102-103, "Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets"

HT Barnes & Noble


January 21, 2014

Virginia's Fiscal Condition Ranks Just Just #25

In a post at the National Review Online's blog. The Corner, last week, Veronique de Rugy wrote about a new Mercatus Center study, which looks at the solvency of the states. (HT Potemkin). She says the report:

"examines states’ abilities to meet their financial obligations. For the most part . . . they can’t. Most states have seen gains in tax revenues and pension assets after the recession, but according to the Government Accountability Office, this hasn’t been enough to transform their long-term fiscal outlooks, which remain mostly negative. The GAO’s simulations predict that states will have repeated annual difficulties balancing revenues and expenditures, largely because of rising health-care costs and the cost of funding state and local pensions."

Ms. de Rugy notes the five "best" states were Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming while the "worst" included New Jersey (#50), Connecticut (#49), Illinois (#48), Massachusetts (#47), California (#46), New York (#45), and Maryland (#44). The map below provides the ranking of each of the 50 states:

Ms. de Rugy includes the usual background information about Sarah Arnett, author of the Mercatus study and how the several indices were constructed. In addition, she compares the ranking with another study, Freedom in the Fifty States published early in 2013. However, she says, "no matter , New Jersey, New York, California, and Illinois are always at the bottom of the heap, or not far from it."

In a separate report for Watchdog.org's Virginia Bureau, posted at Townhall.com, Kathryn Watson notes, "Virginia lawmakers are famous for saying the commonwealth is in superb fiscal shape, at least, compared to the rest of the country, adding that lawmakers will "mention that Forbes named Virginia the best state to do business in 2013."  She also fleshes out some of the details, which enabled Virginia to rank #25 this way:

"To come up with the overall fiscal condition index, Arnett ranked each state in four categories — cash solvency (a state’s ability to pay its bills in the near term), budget solvency (a state’s ability to generate enough revenue to cover expenditures over a fiscal year), long-run solvency (a state’s ability to cover all its expenditures, such as pension obligations), and service-level solvency (whether a state has enough resources to provide its residents with adequate services).

"Virginia scored 13th in service-level solvency and 18th in budget solvency — not great, but certainly not the worst.

"But its overall ranking took a hit in long-run fiscal solvency (28th) and in cash solvency (29th).

"In a nutshell, Virginia is struggling to pay its bills in the short-term and its debt obligations in the long-term, according to the study’s findings.

"The state’s underfunded pension system isn’t helping."

Ms. Watson offers little hope, unfortunately, for the Commonwealth:

"Still, if the bills filed so far are any indicator, it doesn’t appear as though lawmakers will be seriously tackling the pension problem in 2014."

New Jersey's #50 ranking drew the attention of the Cato Institute's Dan Mitchell, who wrote in a Townhall.com column today that his "immediate reaction was to think that the problem could have been avoided if the bridge and its various entry points were privately owned. Sort of like the Ambassador Bridge between Canada and Michigan, which is the busiest border crossing in North America. Or the Progreso International Bridge, a major transportation link between Mexico and Texas.

John Merline in a column for Investor's Business Daily pointed out the Mercatus report's author, "found that New Jersey's revenues aren't keeping up with expenditures, and that the state uses fiscal practices that "only appear to balance its annual budgets." Merline also pointed out:

"The study also shows that Republican governors appear overall to do a better job running a sound fiscal ship than Democrats.

"Of the top 10 most fiscally sound states, all but one — Montana — have a Republican governor. And Montana is generally a conservative state, having voted for the GOP candidate in each of the past five presidential elections."

If Merline's last point that states run by Republicans are managed better, it will be most interesting to watch how Virginia fares under Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), who was sworn in as Virginia's new governor less than two weeks ago.

January 20, 2014

Imagine That! Fraud Follows Government Handouts.

At the Hot Air blog on Saturday, Erika Johnsen reports that "two men just defrauded the Renewable Fuel Standard credit system for $37 million. Here's the lede from her reporting:

"Why is it, whenever the federal government — in all of their august and well-meaning wisdom — creates a program that either hands out money and/or attempts to manipulate the free market by injecting it with artificial incentives, it always seems to be so rife with waste, fraud, and, abuse? From agriculture and energy subsidies to food stamps to Medicare and Medicaid, the feds lose hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars every year via the nefarious deeds of people who scam the system.  It couldn’t be that Big Government is both a vehicle for costly, bureaucratic inefficiency as well as an enabler of opportunities for said waste, fraud, and abuse, could it?

"As if we needed yet another reason that the entire thing should be scrapped, the Renewable Fuel Standard that Jazz and I frequently deplore is no exception to that notorious rule. The RFS requires that the nation’s refiners blend a particular volume of biofuel into the gasoline supply, or else purchase credits known as renewable identification numbers (RINs) — and the FBI just indicted two individuals this past week for their alleged gigantic fraud scheme."

As we quoted the inimitable P.J. O'Rourke on November 22, 2010,   “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

January 19, 2014

Federal Government Not Alone in Growing Out-of-Control

The growth of the Federal government spending is well-documented -- see, for example, these charts at the Heritage Foundation.

Less well-known is that state and local government is also growing out of control. Thanks to Matt Mitchell, senior fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, we learn that state and local government spending is equally unsustainable. According to Mitchell:

"In my latest chart, I take a look at the long-run growth patterns of state and local governments compared with the private sector. These governments depend almost entirely on the private sector for their resources. Just about every dollar they spend is borrowed or taxed from the private sector. (Either these governments directly borrow or tax, or the federal government borrows and taxes and then transfers the funds to the states and localities.)

"Yet decade-in, decade-out, these governments have grown at a faster pace than the private sector on which they depend. I used National Income and Product Account data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and adjusted it for inflation. I then plotted each year as a multiple of its value in 1950. This allows us to see that after 60 years of economic growth, the private sector is more than 5 times the size it was in 1950. Unfortunately, over that same time period, state and local governments have grown nearly 13 times their 1950 size. This is what economists mean when they say that government spending patterns are not sustainable." (emphasis added)

Here's the graph that accompanies Mitchell's analysis:

Both the Arlington County Board and the County Manager accept a responsibility for governing in a fiscally and economically sustainable manner. For example, see one Board member's remarks on January 1, 2011 and the Manager's statement of her responsibility for "fostering economic and fiscal sustainability." Well, we look forward to comparing just how the growth of spending by Arlington County compares to growth of the private sector in the county. See also this July 2010  statement on fiscal stability and economic sustainabliity by the director of Arlington County's department of economic development. Stay tuned!

January 18, 2014

Federal Welfare Subsidies for All

If you look to the east when driving on I-95 a few miles south of the Capital Beltway that surrounds Washington, D.C., you can see Amtrak's Auto Train station in Lorton, Virginia. It's where you jump on the Auto Train for the overnight trip to Sanford, Florida, near Orlando.

In a recent column in American Spectator, Ralph Reiland mentions Lorton in the process of discussing Amtrak's subsidized Auto Train. According to Reiland (emphases added):

"Generally stretching about three-quarters of a mile in length, the Auto Train is often said to be the longest passenger train in the world, counting the enclosed freight cars transporting the cars, vans, motorcycles, jet skis, limos, hot rods, SUVs and small boats. Purist(s), conversely, maintain the Auto Train is a mixed-use conglomeration of freight and passengers rather than an unalloyed passenger train.

"In any case, regarding train subsidies and taxpayers’ costs, Fred Frailey reported in the November 2013 issue of Trains magazine in his “Amtrak's fiscal report card for 2013” column that Amtrak's operating losses were $1.2 billion in fiscal 2013, a jump of $28 million in losses over fiscal 2012.

"Amtrak’s biggest losses occurred with the long-distance passenger trains. The Chicago-to-Oakland Zephyr lost a whopping $74 million in 2013. Altogether, long-distance passenger trains lost $627 million in fiscal 2013, slightly more than half of Amtrak's total losses last year, and up $37 million in red ink from 2012.

"The Lorton-to-Sanford Auto Train that we’re riding loses 14 cents per passenger mile. For the 1,710-mile round trip, that’s a loss of $239.40 per passenger. For two of us, that’s a $478.80 federal subsidy per trip."

Read the entire article to learn of the many morsels of Amtrak's delicacies and delights that are subsidized by America's taxpayers, e.g.:

"The Auto Train’s wine-and-cheese party, along with complimentary wine parties offered to sleeper-car passengers on three other long-distance routes, cost Amtrak $428,000 in 2012, according to Amtrak's Inspector General Theodore Alves.

"Amtrak loses another $260,000 or so per year in its food operation, according to Alves, by way of providing free meals to Amtrak’s employees who are enjoying free rides on the rails via employee freebie travel passes."

Nothing too good when it's paid for with taxpayers' money. Sheesh! Kudos to Reiland for explaining that Federal welfare isn't just for the poor.

Better yet, ask a Congressional masterminds just why is Amtrak being subsidized at all! If you live in Virginia's Arlington County, they are:

Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023

Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024

Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

January 17, 2014

December 2013 Porker Named

"Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers."

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) recently announced it has named "Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) its December Porker of the Month for his desire to increase the federal gas tax." According to CAGW, Rep. Blumenauer "careened into a fiscal ditch during a December 3, 2013 appearance on “Your World with Neil Cavuto” when he pedaled his bill, H.R. 3636, the UPDATE Act of 2013, would increase the federal gas tax from the current 18.4 cents per gallon to 33.4 cents per gallon."

CAGW justified its selection this way:

"Rep. Blumenauer said, “Because we have just sort of run the gas tax trust fund down to where it is approaching zero, if we don’t do something in the next ten months, we’re going to face an inability to fund any transit funding next year, and the federal highway funding will drop 92 percent.  It’s time to face up.”

"Rep. Blumenauer is right about one thing:  the 58-year-old Highway Trust Fund is at or near fiscal exhaustion.  According to the Congressional Budget Office’s July 23, 2013 testimony before the House Subcommittee on Highways, the trust fund will be unable to meet all of its obligations beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2015.  Congress has already transferred $41 billion from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund since 2008 and has approved an additional transfer of $12.6 billion for FY 2014.

"The trust fund deficit has occurred as a result of fewer drivers on the roads, more fuel-efficient vehicles, and past transportation earmarks.  In 2006, the Congressional Research Service that between fiscal years 1996 and 2005, the number of transportation appropriations earmarks jumped by more than 1,150 percent, from 167 in FY 1996 to 2,094 in FY 2005, while the dollar value rose by more than 314 percent, from $789 million in FY 1996 to about $3.27 billion in FY 2005.  On top of those earmarks, the transportation reauthorization bill that Congress approved in 2005 included $24.5 billion earmarks, including the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska.

"Beginning in 1992, Congress authorized funding streams for cycling and pedestrian activities and projects.
Rep. Blumenauer, as the founder of the Congressional Bike Caucus, has been a vocal proponent of diverting more federal transportation funds toward local bicycle-related projects.  According to the Federal Highway Administration, between FYs 1992 and 2013, taxpayers have coughed up $9.5 billion for pedestrian and bicycle-related projects.  The most recent transportation funding bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), passed by Congress in 2012, included another $808 million for such projects.

"Instead of raising the gas tax and funding more unneeded projects, Congress should refocus the trust fund’s resources toward maintaining and upgrading federal highways only, and devolve control and resources associated with local and regional projects back to the states.  In fact, MAP-21 allows more direct access to funds for bike and pedestrian projects, and local officials have already recognized the upside of this greater local control.

"Rep. Blumenauer’s drive to raise the gas tax, pump additional money into the Highway Trust Fund, and cycle even more taxpayer dollars toward bike paths, makes him CAGW’s December Porker of the Month.

Kudos to CAGW for their continuing efforts at ferreting-out waste, fraud, and the abuse of taxpayers. For more information about CAGW, click here.

January 16, 2014

A Thought on Debt

"But with respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19 years."

~ Thomas Jefferson

HT Patriots Post Database

January 15, 2014

A Thought on Global Warming . . . er Freezing . . . er

"This is looking like another bad year for global warming.

"The year began with the news that an Australian "climate researcher" leading a tourist expedition to Antarctica got his ship trapped in the sea ice. Which is embarrassing, because the purpose of his expedition was to study the melting of sea ice supposedly caused by 20th-century global warming. The current expedition was meant to retrace the route Douglas Mawson took in 1912—but they were stopped 70 kilometers short of where Mawson landed. So they needed to have an icebreaker ship sent to rescue them. Then the icebreaker got caught in the ice, and someone had to rescue the rescuers. You can't make this stuff up."

~ Robert Tracinski

HT His January 13, 2013 Column at Real Clear Politics

January 13, 2014

Saga of Aquatics Center Cost Continues

Yesterday, we growled whether the problem of the burgeoning cost of the Taj Mahel aquatics center is associated with the county's overall cost-estimating capabilities?

Now this morning comes a detailed report by the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey with the title, "Everybody is Left Looking for Answers as Aquatics-Center Saga Continues." Here's the lede from his report:

"Acknowledging that government staff has done a poor job of communicating – among themselves, with elected officials and with the public – County Board Chairman Jay Fisette still hopes the community will see the forest for the trees when it comes to the imperiled Long Bridge Park aquatics center and fitness facility.

“I want to find a way to do this responsibly,” Fisette said of the next steps in moving forward on the project, during a nearly two-hour-long discussion with the Sun Gazette on Jan. 10.

"The aquatics-center project, seen by supporters as a signature achievement in Arlington’s planning for future recreation amenities, has found itself beset on two fronts:

* In November, county staff said that the annual operating deficit of the facility would be significantly higher than previous projections, perhaps as much as $3.8 million per year, which would have to be shouldered by taxpayers.

* In December, bids on the construction contract came in higher than projected, county staff said, leading County Manager Barbara Donnellan to put forward progress on hold as her staff figures out a way to cut building costs.

"The result has been confusion among the public and consternation among those who support the project, who fear it might fall victim to the budget ax."

So this year's Arlington County Board chairman wants to proceed in a responsible manner, eh? Well, let's look at what a responsible way to proceed might look like. Mr. McCaffrey quotes your humble scribe as saying essentially that Board members don't proceed responsibly because they are playing with taxpayers' money rather than with their own money. So there needs to be a limit to the amount of taxpayers money that the Board can put at risk.

What is needed, it seems, is to put major county capital projects, e.g., those exceeding $10 million, to a voter referendum before moving ahead in the spending of taxpayers money. That seems particularly responsible since the chair of the task force, which planned the design of Long Bridge Park, told the Sun Gazette reporter, "The need that drove (the aquatics center) . . . still exists."

If the Arlington County Board chairman wants to proceed responsibly, the place to start would be to taking an in-depth look at whether there is truly a need for an aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. What I recall as the survey supporting the need for a county aquatics facility didn't pass the proverbial smell test. A major problem associated with nearly all County Board vanity projects is that few alternatives exist when major cost overruns are locked-in."

So yes, let's proceed in a responsible manner. Let start by taking a hard look at the need for this Arlington County Board vanity project. A part of that process might even involve renaming it. For example, we could call it the Aquarticsphere -- just another Arlington County Board project involving severely overstated estimates of need/demand, severely understated cost estimates, and locked-in annual costs that can't be cut without wasting invested funds of the past.

January 12, 2014

Arlington County's Cost-Estimating Capabilities

In a story posted Friday at the online Arlington Sun Gazette, Scott McCaffrey wonders whether Arlington County's recent problems with the costs of Ashlawn Elementary School and the so-called aquatics facility could be associated with the county's cost-estimating capabilities.

More to the point, he asks whether "the next victim of higher prices" will be the county's planned homeless-services center on 14th Street in the Courthouse area. According to McCaffrey:

"County Manager Barbara Donnellan in early January opted against bringing a construction contract for the Long Bridge Park aquatics center to the County Board, saying the bids (which were not disclosed to the public) were too high. The overall project is budgeted at about $80 million.

"Just three months before, School Board members split on whether to fully fund the expansion at Ashlawn Elementary, a project that had ballooned from $14.9 million when first proposed to $20.4 million, although higher bids for construction were only one reason for the increase."

McCaffrey writes, "Arlington County officials should know on Jan. 22, when bids for the (homeless-services center) are due in." Add January 22 to your calendars. Any guesses as to whether our County Board masterminds will continue the project even if the bids come in over budget?

January 11, 2014

Progressives and Conservatives View Income Inequality

"As a broad generalization, liberals see income as a public good that is distributed, like crayons in a kindergarten class. If so-and-so didn't get his or her fair share of income, it's because someone or something -- government, the system -- didn't distribute income properly. To the extent conservatives see income inequality as a problem, it is as an indication of more concrete problems. If the poor and middle class are falling behind the wealthy, it might be a sign of declining or stagnating wages or lackluster job creation. In other words, liberals tend to see income inequality as the disease, and conservatives tend to see it as a symptom."

~ Jonah Goldberg

HT His January 9, 2014 column at Townhall.com

January 10, 2014

Funding Options for Columbia Pike Streetcar

At Tuesday evening's meeting of the Arlington County Civic Federation (see January 2014 newsletter), delegates learned that Arlington County officials are "still weighing options on streetcar funding."Here's the lede from Scott McCaffrey's story he posted yesterday at the online Arlington Sun Gazette:

"Speaking Jan. 7 to delegates of the Arlington County Civic Federation, County Manager Barbara Donnellan said she was “not sure if [the project] will include federal funding, or not.”

"The Federal Transit Administration last year turned down the county’s application for $75 million in funding for the project, saying county officials had applied in the wrong place. Federal analysts pegged the cost of the streetcar project at more than $300 million, pushing it over the $250 million threshold for the federal “Small Starts” program.

"County officials still have the option to seek federal funding through another program, but several County Board members have indicated they would rather move forward quickly by eschewing federal funding and the red tape that comes with it.

"Instead, the county government could fund its share of the project through revenue brought in by a surtax on commercial real estate in the county.

"Under an agreement with the Fairfax County government, Arlington is responsible for about 80 percent of all local costs of the project, which will run five miles from Pentagon City west to Skyline.

"The public may get a clearer view of the funding plan as Donnellan and County Board members begin planning for a new capital-improvement program, or CIP, in coming months. The CIP lays out how the government will spend money on big-ticket item."

in his concluding remarks, McCaffrey wrote, "The streetcar debate likely will take center stage in the upcoming special election to choose a successor to County Board member Chris Zimmerman, but even if a critic of the plan wins that election, there still would be a 3-2 majority supportive of the project." For fiscally responsible Arlington County taxpayers, let's hope so!

January 09, 2014

A Thought on Politics in Washington

"Politics in Washington is a lot like professional wrestling. What seems like vicious combat to the uninitiated is actually choreographed acting. Professional wrestlers face off in the ring, shouting and pointing fingers and appearing to hate each other. But in fact, they are partners in a commercial enterprise to entertain and extract money from an audience. No matter who wins the match, everyone gets paid."

~ Peter Schweizer, pages 8-9, "Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets."

HT Barnes & Noble

January 08, 2014

Aquatics Center's Financial Trouble's Noticed

Unfortunately for Arlington County taxpayers, the financial difficulties of the Taj Mahal aquatics center may not yet have the full attention of the Arlington County Board. However, it's got the attention of the Vienna Town Council, according to a report by Brian Trompeter in today's Arlington Sun Gazette. See our January 4, 2014 growl for background on this issue.

Here's the lede from Mr. Trompeter's story:

"The Long Bridge Park aquatics center appears to be becoming a regional poster child for caution on governmental capital spending.

"The Crystal City pool and fitness complex came up in conversation Jan. 6 at the Vienna Town Council, which was exploring whether to include an indoor pool as part of planning for the expansion of the Vienna Community Center.

"A majority of Vienna Town Council members indicated they did not want designers to include a pool while developing architectural and engineering plans for the soon-to-be-renovated community center. They instead opted to focus on an expanded gymnasium at the center, which opened in 1966."

Trompeter also wrote:

"Town Council member Laurie Cole cited the recent experience of Arlington, where County Manager Barbara Donnellan decided not to present the County Board later this month with a proposal to build an aquatics center and fitness facility at Long Bridge Park in Crystal City.

< . . . >

"In the Vienna Town Council’s Jan. 6 discussion, Cole said elected officials there should not raise public expectations for a pool if there were not sufficient funds available."

It will be interesting to see if this out-of-control County Board vanity project gets the attention of county taxpayers since it's only Arlington County taxpayers who can rein-in the five masterminds on the Arlington County Board. Use the links in the right-hand column to contact one or all members of the County Board.

January 06, 2014

A Thought on Teachers' Unions

“As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of CTA, we must remember that we were founded for one reason – and one reason only – and that was to engage in politics. We were founded to engage in the political process in order to create an organized system of public instruction and to elevate the profession of teaching in California.”

~ Carolyn Doggett, executive director of the California Teachers Association, in a January 27 speech to the union’s State Council

HT 2013 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year, Education Intelligence Agency's January 6, 2013 Communique

January 05, 2014

A Thought on being Cautious

"Caution is warranted. It is easier to mess things up than to make them better."

~ Editorial, Seattle Times, 11/10/13

HT Seattle Times Editorial on city of SeaTac's $15 minimum wage experiment.

January 04, 2014

Brakes Put on Arlington County's Aquatics Center

Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette reports this morning that because construction bids "came in much higher than projected," Arlington's County Manager Barbara Donellan "has called a time-out on the proposed Long Bridge Park aquatics center and fitness facility." McCaffrey then added:

"I have to live within my budget," Donnellan said, and the "very high" bids that were received in late December make that impossible, she said.

"The bid results were "extremely surprising and disappointing," Donnellan told the Sun Gazette on Jan. 3, although she declined to get into specifics, including the number of firms competing and their bid amounts, citing legal issues.

"As a result of the high bids, Donnellan won't go to County Board members later this month with a request to approve construction of the project. Instead, staff will embark on a review of what caused the bids to come in so much higher than anticipated, and what options are available to get the project back in line with financial expectations."

Later in his article, McCaffrey quoted Wayne Kubicki, Arlington's fiscal guardian:

"Wayne Kubicki, a Republican-leaning fiscal watchdog, long has been dubious about the facility's viability, and lays the blame not on county staff, but those elected to oversee them.

“This project has been mishandled by the County Board almost from the beginning,” Kubicki said. “It was prematurely put up for voter bond approval nine years ago, before there was a true picture of cost. That 2004 bond was supposed to include the pools facility, and when the available funding came up way short of the board's grandiose designs, even more funding was proposed in the 2012 bond. Now we learn the updated cost estimates were again dramatically understated, further aggravated by a near quadrupling of the facility's projected operating deficit.”

"With the pressures on other parts of the county and school budgets and the stagnation of commercial real estate values, “it might well be time to permanently mothball the Long Bridge aquatics facility and simply leave the current park as-is,” Kubicki said.

"That seems an unlikely result, given the leanings of County Board members, but how far the project will need to be scaled back remains to be seen."

According to the press release that discusses the 2014 priorities of new chairman of the Arlington County Board, he will ask the Board to adopt a 25-year "zero waste" strategy. The first item on the chairman's "zero waste" list should be Mr. Kubicki's idea to "permanently mothball" Arlington's $80 million Taj Mahal water world.

The "County Manager's statement on Long Bridge Park construction bids is here. A search of Growls using "aquatics" will show ACTA's history of growling about the $80 million Taj Mahal aquatics center.

January 02, 2014

A Thought on the Constitution

"James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, explained in Federalist Paper No. 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. ... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State." Our founder's constitutional vision of limited federal government has been consigned to the dustbin of history."

~ Walter E. Williams

HT His January 1, 2014 column at Townhall.com

January 01, 2014

America's Middle Class in Crisis?

"American society on the whole was never egalitarian. It always accepted that there would be substantial differences in wages and wealth. Indeed, progress was in some ways driven by a desire to emulate the wealthy. There was also the expectation that while others received far more, the entire wealth structure would rise in tandem. It was also understood that, because of skill or luck, others would lose.

"What we are facing now is a structural shift, in which the middle class' center, not because of laziness or stupidity, is shifting downward in terms of standard of living. It is a structural shift that is rooted in social change (the breakdown of the conventional family) and economic change (the decline of traditional corporations and the creation of corporate agility that places individual workers at a massive disadvantage).

"The inherent crisis rests in an increasingly efficient economy and a population that can't consume what is produced because it can't afford the products. This has happened numerous times in history, but the United States, excepting the Great Depression, was the counterexample.

"Obviously, this is a massive political debate, save that political debates identify problems without clarifying them. In political debates, someone must be blamed. In reality, these processes are beyond even the government's ability to control. On one hand, the traditional corporation was beneficial to the workers until it collapsed under the burden of its costs. On the other hand, the efficiencies created threaten to undermine consumption by weakening the effective demand among half of society."

~ George Friedman, CEO, Stratfor

HT His DEcember 31, 2013 article in Stratfor's Geopolitical Weekly The article is worth reading in its entirety.