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November 30, 2017

Taxpayer Subsidies for Aquatics Center for how Long?

In an online story today, the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey reports, "With the design of the Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness facility approved and the timetable for construction starting to tick, Arlington officials are back to a basic, yet still unanswered, question:

"How much will taxpayers be asked to subsidize operation of the facility once it opens?"

McCaffrey explains:

"The matter took up a relatively little amount of the time spent by County Board members on Nov. 28, as they approved the design and contractor for the $54.7 million Crystal City project. But it is one that will hang over County Board members, who ultimately will have to balance cost to aquatics-center users against cost to the broader community.

"The best guess from county staff assumes a first-year operating cost of $4.25 million and revenue of $3.19 million, leaving a gap of just over $1 million.

"But that projection comes with this caveat, from staffer Erik Beach in a memo to County Board members: There may be some lean times before the facility hits its financial stride.

“A ramp-up period is possible for the first few years,” said Beach, who has spent much of his Arlington government career involved in the Long Bridge Park project.

"It was concerns over operating costs that led County Board member John Vihstadt to cast the lone vote against moving forward with the long-stalled aquatics-center facility.

“It is simply not fiscally prudent to ask Arlington’s taxpayers to take on this new and costly capital project,” Vihstadt, the board’s lone independent, said. “The county has more important needs and priorities.”

But here's how McCaffrey described the views of the four Board members who voted to move forward with construction of the aquatics & fitness center:

"County Board member Christian Dorsey said the revised proposal was far superior to past incarnations, which had pegged annual operating shortfalls at between $1.9 million and $3.8 million.

“We’ve gone a long way to try to solve that problem,” Dorsey said.

"But the projected gap is still on the high side of what had been anticipated when County Manager Mark Schwartz resuscitated the dormant project last year.

"(The operating subsidy does not include the cost of paying off the construction cost. Using a rough-and-tumble estimate with an interest rate of 3.65 percent and a 20-year term for the loan, the debt-service cost would average somewhere around $3 million per year for the aquatics-center portion of the project.)

"Wayne Kubicki, a veteran civic activist who has watched the aquatics-center project evolve from the beginning, was left shaking his head.

“I’m amazed that four board members still voted to proceed with the new plan,” he told the Sun Gazette, voicing concerns that the taxpayer subsidy – counting debt service – could reach $5 million annually in the facility’s early years.

“With the increasing budget demands for Metro and the schools, a new $5 million a year will only mean increased tax rates, with assessment growth looking to remain relatively weak,” he said." (emphasis added)

McCaffrey closed out his reporting by discussing how "parks-and-recreation chief Jane Rudolph . . . responded to concerns the facility could end up being used by residents of outside jurisdictions more than those who are paying for it." He specifically pointed out:

“We really see this as a facility that will serve Arlingtonians,” said Rudolph, who added the facility would have “appropriate revenue” through memberships and ancillary fees.

"What constitutes “appropriate”? “We’re not quite at the point yet” of recommending a cost structure, said Peter Lusky, who oversees recreation facilities for the parks and recreation department.

"Dorsey, who is often vocal about fiscal restraint in his remarks from the dais, said he believed the cost to facility users should not be so high that it leaves many local residents on the outside looking in.

“This is not a facility [only] for people of a certain amount of economic means,” Dorsey said. “I hope we don’t respond with a knee-jerk reaction to just jack up the fees.”

He also noted that voters approved a park bond issue in 2004 by a 76-percent majority that "would cover the entire cost of the Long Bridge Park project," but due to 'mission creep' "county leaders in 2012 had to seek additional funding through another park bond." However, he added:

"Voters in 2012 gave the proposal the green light, but the margin (63-percent support) was almost 20 percentage points lower than several other bond packages on the ballot. That result was a foreshadowing of the voter revolution two years later that propelled Vihstadt to the County Board and, indirectly, led to the scuttling of two other major projects: the Columbia Pike streetcar and the Artisphere art center."

In growling about the approval of the aquatics center's design yesterday, we encouraged taxpayers to take some time to read the fiscal impact statement that appeared in the Manager's Report to the County Board since the Manager admits to the likelihood of several, if not many years, of taxpayer subsidies.

Growls readers concerned about the fiscal soundness of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center are encouraged to engage the Arlington County Board. Take a couple of minutes to make your views known to the Arlington County Board. Remember, construction doesn't start until next summer. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you. And thanks again to John Vihstadt for being seemingly the only fiscal conservative member of the Arlington County Board.

November 29, 2017

County Board Approves Aquatic Center with 4-1 Vote

The Arlington County Board voted 4-1 last night "in support of a design of the planned Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center, a $54.7 million project that will be the centerpiece project in Crystal City.," according to the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey today.

McCaffrey went on to report:

"A panel comprised largely of county-government staff settled on a bid by Coakley & Williams Construction, one of four finalists for the long-stalled and downsized project. Approval by the County Board was a largely pro-forma affair.

"Construction is slated to start in the middle of next year, with the facility open by 2021.

"Ratification by the County Board of the staff proposal had been expected; John Vihstadt, who cast the lone nay vote, cited concerns about costs and other pressing needs.

"While there may have been a time when we could have afforded this project with relative ease, this is no longer the case,” he said. (emphasis added)

"The four finalists were announced in October, and in a break from past tradition, there has not been a lengthy, public process to whittle down the options. Using a “design-build” process – new to the Arlington government – will minimize risks to taxpayers by putting responsibility for cost overruns on the shoulders of the designer and builder.

"Construction of the aquatics center and fitness facility will complete a major component of the 30-acre Long Bridge Park, located in the northern end of Crystal City.

"Several phases already have been completed, but the pool facility was put on ice in 2014 over concerns about construction costs – which topped $80 million under design  then proposed – and questions over operating costs.

"In 2016, the project was resuscitated, but with downsized expectations.

"The $54.7 million project will include not just the aquatics/fitness center, but also an extension of the Long Bridge Park’s esplanade, rain gardens, public art and parking."

The county spinmeisters produced a brief press release, which is primarily useful for its links to locating related information

Two County Manager reports to the Board relate to this project. The first was Agenda Item 51.A. involved :award of a contract for the aquatics & fitness center, which responded to RFP 17-304-RFP for $54.7 million and an "allocation" of $5.3 million "as a County -held contingency." There was also Agenda Item 51.B. involving $780,000 for "the design, fabrication and installation of public art," which as part of Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park.

Arlington County taxpayers will find a portion of the #51.A. report's fiscal impact statement of special interest, specifically (DPR = Department of Parks & Recreation):

"Currently, DPR estimates building operating costs to be $4,256,000 for the first full year of operations in FY 2021 dollars. Revenue generated from programming is expected to be up to $3,129,000 in the first full year resulting in net tax support of $1,127,000, both in FY 2021 dollars; however, a ramp-up period is possible for the few years of facility operations where revenue potential may not be fully realized which will result in higher net tax support for the initial operating years of the facility. These estimates are based on a 72,000 sf. model that has been presented to DPR through the Design-Build Consultant, Hughes Group Architects. This model includes a 50M pool, leisure pool, fitness elements, and other building amenities that were estimated to fit within the total project budget using a Design-Build delivery method. The four respondents to the Long Bridge RFP all proposed models that are larger than the original 72,000 sf; in particular, the Coakley proposal adds approximately 20,000 square feet (which could be modified slightly as detailed design proceeds). The proposed scheme remains within the total project costs in the CIP, but will result in incrementally higher operating costs due to the additional square footage. The additional square footage will also result in more programming opportunities, providing more options to help offset operating costs. In addition to operating costs of the Aquatic & Fitness Center, an additional $588,000 in FY 2021 dollars will be necessary to maintain the 10.5 acres of newly developed park land. Once a contract has been awarded, DPR will adjust operating estimates to reflect the size, scope, and amenities included in both the final building design and outdoor features."

We growled about this vanity project last week, here.

Chris Teale of the online news site, ARLnow.com has additional views today, including John Vihstadt's full statement.

Growls readers concerned about the fiscal soundness of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center are encouraged to engage the Arlington County Board. Take a couple of minutes to make your views known to the Arlington County Board. Remember, construction doesn't start until next summer. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you. And kudo to Board member John Vihstadt for his fiscally responsible vote.

November 28, 2017

Latest Annual Report on Government Waste Released

The Washington Free Beacon's Jack Heretik reported yesterday that U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) " released his annual report on government waste on Monday, "Federal Fumbles Volume 3." The report "highlights examples of wasteful government spending which includes specific cases of abuse by the federal government."

He quotes Lankford saying, "This book is designed to be a reminder that we still have an issue with debt and deficit in America . . . For some reason, the conversation has slowed on the issue of debt and deficit. It should not."

Lankford's 86-page report is available here. In the introductory letter, he noted:

"Included in Federal Fumbles is just a sampling of instances where federal agencies or departments have wasted or inefficiently used billions of your dollars. The program and grant funding discussed in this book has already been allocated or spent and cannot be recovered. But highlighting it here provides lessons for agencies and hopefully encourages Congress to utilize its oversight and legislative authority to prevent future waste and misuse of federal tax dollars."

Here's just one "fumble" from Lankford's book of waste, under the heading, "You're Fired, Just Kidding:"

"Few small business owners enjoy firing a bad employee. Even if the person has been a terrible worker, firing him or her is unpleasant and leads to the lengthy, expensive process of hiring and training a replacement. Perhaps wishing to avoid the challenge of finding new employees, the IRS has a long history of hiring employees who were previously fired by the IRS for bad conduct.

"A 2014 Treasury IG investigation discovered that from 2010 to 2013, the IRS hired 824 people who were previously terminated due to “prior conduct or performances issues.” In fact, one fired employee was rehired even though his employee file had “DO NOT REHIRE” stamped on it. Despite IG and congressional pressure to stop hiring fired employees, in July 2017 the IG released a new report showing more than 200 previously terminated employees were rehired between January 2015 and March 2016. Reasons for their termination or suspension included not filing tax returns and improperly accessing taxpayer records.

"This is an issue Senator Richard Burr has long sought to resolve. Earlier this year, he introduced S. 1643, the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act. This commonsense legislation will prevent the IRS from rehiring terminated employees.29 All federal agencies, including the IRS, should hire the best and brightest for public service. An employee who was previously fired by a federal agency for bad behavior or performance should not be a top candidate for rehire."

Growls readers concerned about a responsible federal budget are encouraged to engage their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (12/5/17): PJ Media's Nicholas Ballasy provides another analysis of Sen. Lankford's "Fumbles" report.

November 27, 2017

A Thought about Big Government

“If there happens to be a trough, there will be pigs.”

~ Alexander Pushkin

Source: his novella, Dubrovsky.

HT William Happer, essay, "The Truth about Greenhouse Gases, June 2011 issue of First Things.

                                                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

For more on Alexander Pushkin, considered Russia's greatest poet, see "10 reasons why Pushkin is so great," at Russia Beyond. See here for a biography at the State Museum-Reserve of A.S. Pushkin. And here for the Encyclopedia Britannica entry.

November 25, 2017

A Thought about Big Government

"Believing in the ability of big government to solve problems doesn’t make you any better than the people who believe in shrinking government to solve them; it just means that you have a different view of economics. And the politicians who promise to “give” you health care, welfare, and other benefits in exchange for votes aren’t really promising to “give” those things at all; they’re promising to take resources from others in order to fulfill their promises, without ever having to feel the pinch themselves."

~ Katherine Timpf

Source: her  August 16, 2017 National Review article, "What’s So Generous about Spending Other People’s Money?"

November 24, 2017

Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center Design to be Approved

According to the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey today, "The Arlington County Board on Nov. 28 is expected to ratify a staff decision awarding a contract of nearly $55 million for construction of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center and fitness facility in Crystal City."

According to McCaffrey:

"A panel comprised largely of county-government staff settled on a bid by Coakley & Williams Construction, one of four finalists for the long-stalled and downsized project. (emphasis added)

"County Manager Mark Schwartz said he anticipated the community would be “very pleased, possibly amazed,” with the design.

"The four finalist designs were evaluated based on construction and operating costs, plus long-term durability of the proposed product.

"The selected design is “the best value and quality” for what the county government can spend, Schwartz said.

"Construction is slated to start in the middle of next year, with the facility open by 2021.

"The four finalists were announced in October, and in a break from past tradition, there has not been a lengthy, public process to whittle down the options. Using a “design-build” process – new to the Arlington government – will minimize risks to taxpayers by putting responsibility for cost overruns on the shoulders of the designer and builder."

McCaffrey also noted that Board members "likely will have comments  on the selection at the November 28 meeting, but are almost assured of ratifying the staff selection in full." He also pointed out, "The $54.7 million project will include not just the aquatics/fitness center, but also an extension of the Long Bridge Park’s esplanade, rain gardens, public art and parking."

Here's the design that has been selected:

 

The contract provisions are contained in (Agenda Item 51.A. of the Board's Tuesday, November 28, 2017 recessed meeting.) "in the amount of $54,700,000.00, and approve an allocation of $5,300,000.00 as a County-held contingency for a total contract authorization of $60,000,000.00."

And we can't do without a touch of public art for the county facility. This touch of art will cost county taxpayers $575,000, which includes a $25,000 contingency. The details are in (Agenda Item 51.B).

Growls readers concerned about the fiscal soundness of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center are encouraged to engage the Arlington County Board. Take a couple of minutes to make your views known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 22, 2017

A Thought on Democracy

"[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few."

~ John Adams, An Essay on Man's Lust for Power — 1763

HT Founders' Quote Database, The Patriots Post.

November 21, 2017

Can Federal Agency Bloat be Reduced?

At the Daily Signal today, John York, a research assistant at the Heritage Foundation, reports on an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in March to spur a comprehensive reorganization of the executive branch.

York went on to explain:

"It instructed each federal department head to submit a plan to improve “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” by June 30. Think tanks and members of the general public were also encouraged to submit plans.

"The administration is now considering ways to combine and implement the best suggestions it received.

"While there is much the White House can do alone, thorough executive reorganization will eventually demand congressional action."

He then explains the need for executive branch reorganization:

"Reorganizing the executive bureaucracy is a critical step to draining the swamp, as Trump pledged to do on the campaign trail.

"Part of what makes the bureaucracy so unresponsive, ineffective, and profligate is its structure. Senseless fragmentation of authority, duplication of labor, and overlapping responsibility turns even the simplest functions of government into a veritable Rube Goldberg machine.

"Take, for instance, food safety inspection.

"Two agencies—the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration—share most of the responsibility for food safety inspection. The FDA inspects shelled eggs while the USDA inspects liquid, frozen, and dehydrated eggs.

"The FDA inspects all fish except catfish, which are under the USDA’s purview. Closed-faced sandwiches and bagel dogs are in the USDA’s bailiwick, while open-faced sandwiches and corndogs are left to the FDA.

"Such fragmentation, duplication, and overlap is a widespread problem. A 2017 Government Accountability Office report identified 395 examples of these structural problems. The Government Accountability Office estimates that if Congress addressed all such instances it identified, it would save the American taxpayer tens of billions of dollars."

The involvement of Congress is necessary, he says due to a 1983 Supreme Court decision.

In conclusion, York points out:

"Executive reorganization might not be the most scintillating policy item on the Trump administration and Congress’ docket. Substantive policy changes are bound to grab more headlines than wonky structural changes.

"But with Americans deeply divided over the proper size and role of government, executive reorganization is a way to realize significant savings without necessarily cutting popular services.

"Moreover, while most policy issues are mired by partisan division, a long-overdue makeover of the executive bureaucracy is a rare opportunity for bipartisanship."

Given all the growling we have done over the years about waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government, but based upon the work of Mr. York and Ms. Greszler, it seems the reorganization of  the executive branch is long overdue.

York and Rachel Greszler authored a richly footnoted, five-page Issue Brief (No. 4782, November 3, 2017), which you can access here.

Growls readers concerned about the efficient, effective and economic operations of the federal government are encouraged to engage their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 20, 2017

Lower Taxes = Higher Economic Growth?

In a Washington Free Beacon article today, the conservative news website says that "states with lower taxes on business and personal income have higher economic growth." In addition, they note that "Americans are moving from high-tax states to those with no taxes and less spending."

According to Ali Meyer, who reported the story:

"States with lower taxes on businesses and personal income have higher economic growth, according to an economist at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

"Jonathan Williams, an economist at the council, spoke at an event on the Hill Monday and used two states, Kansas and North Carolina, to illustrate how raising and cutting taxes can affect the local state economy in either a positive or negative way.

"Williams explained that while many try to suggest Kansas's economic difficulty has been due to tax cuts they have implemented in the past, the data suggest otherwise.

"Based on our ranking of rich states, poor states of economic competitiveness, Kansas started out about 10 years ago at 29th in America," Williams explained. "After tax reform, about 2013, it bolted up to number 11."

"Additionally, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis find that from 2012 to 2015 Kansas had annualized job growth of 1.3 percent per 10,000 residents.

"Kansas trailed the national averages in economic growth for years before the 2012 reforms," Williams said. "That was one of the primary drivers for tax reform in the first place."

"But since this time, Kansas has implemented more tax increases and has since fallen from 11th place.

"After subsequent tax increases they've fallen … way down to 26 now in terms of economic outlook," Williams said. "So you see a see-saw effect based on taxes and refusal to cut spending."

Meyer also observed:

"Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the left tries to use Kansas as a case study for why taxes should not be cut. Instead, he says, the states with no income tax and the states with the highest taxes should be compared.

"How is it Kansas collapsed by cutting their personal income tax but the states that have no income tax are all thriving?" Norquist asked. "Then you compare the nine states with no income tax and the nine states with the highest income tax both in terms of economic growth and population moving in or moving out of the states, it's clear that higher spending states people move out of and move to lower taxes and lower spending."

In conclusion, she writes:

"Similarly, Williams points out that Kansas's budget issues were not a result of tax reform but were a result of increased government spending.

"Over the years, politicians created a budget failure by refusing to match the tax cuts with meaningful spending control or broadening the tax base," Williams says. "For every one percent in population growth, spending increased by nearly five percent in real terms."

Meyer includes a link to the article, "Distinguishing Myth from Reality: The Kansas Tax Reform Effort," by Jonathan Williams and Joel Griffith, posted at the American Legislative Exchange Council website. The Williams and Griffith article includes several additional resources. For an additional discussion of what federal policymakers can learn from the Kansas and North Carolina tax reform efforts, see here.

Growls readers concerned about the current tax reform effort working its way through Congress (see our November 17 Growls), and its effect on economic growth, are encouraged to engage their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 19, 2017

Financial Reforms Needed at U.S. Postal Service

At the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) blog last Thursday, Pete Sepp, NTU President, wrote that "deteriorating post service finances make reforms more urgent," saying specifically:

"This week, the U.S. Postal Service announced another immense year-end loss of $2.7 billion in its 2017 fiscal year report. The financial statement rekindles the alarms expressed by the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU) about the implications that the Postal Service’s failures to address its dire finances may have for the taxpaying public."

Below is Sepp's statement in response to the Postal Service's 2017 financial statements:

“The latest U.S. Postal Service fiscal report details yet another year in red, and brings the Service’s total losses to a staggering $65.1 billion since 2007 when the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) was signed into law. These trends and accumulation of unfunded liabilities have extended the threat of a taxpayer bailout of the USPS over the long-term. This is especially concerning as lawmakers have offered ill-considered postal reform efforts that aim to shift employee benefit liabilities to Medicare, restrict efforts to achieve cost savings, and usher further experimental services to market that could unfairly compete with private-sector firms.

"NTU remains concerned that taxpayers could be on the hook for a massive federal intervention that will cover the Service's debts or future liabilities. Time and again we have warned that the Service's complaints over pre-funding, and preferential regulatory treatment compared to private delivery firms, are masking fundamental operational and managerial issues that cannot be resolved without greater oversight and accountability.

"Reversing the Postal Service’s dangerous course will depend heavily on structural remedies to improve cost and revenue transparency of all services, and better performance on letter mail service for all postal customers. Achieving accountability and sustainability on this way will be critical for Members of Congress and for the recently nominated, and soon-to-be-confirmed, individuals chosen by the Trump Administration to lead the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors.”

Visit Sepp's post to use the several links he provides for additional information, including the report of its FY 2017 fiscal results.

Growls readers concerned about the continued taxpayer support of the U.S. Postal Service are encouraged to engage their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 18, 2017

Arlington Public Schools Continue as Most Expensive

The Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) published their FY 2018 WABE Guide November 1, and once again, the Arlington Public Schools continued their position as having the highest cost-per-pupil among Washington's school districts.

According to the APS website, "The Washington Area Boards of Education guide is a statistical report prepared annually which compares area school districts’ salaries, budget, cost per pupil, and class sizes." Further, the WABE Guide points out, "Uniform formulas were developed by the WABE committee for consistency area wide. These numbers are comparable; however, the cost per pupil reported here may differ from that reported in individual districts' budget documents or other reports."

Below are the FY2017 and FY 2018 cost-per-pupil for the WABE school districts from the "approved" budgets:

                                                                FT 2017 / FY 2018

  • Arlington County                    $18,957 / $19,340
  • Falls Church                             18,418 / 18,219
  • Alexandria                                17,008 /17,099
  • Montgomery County                15,975 / 16,030
  • Fairfax County                          14,432 / 14,767
  • Prince George's County           13,869 / 13,816
  • Loudoun County                       13,121 / 13,688
  • Manassas City                            13,112 / 12,846
  • Manassas Park City                   11,158 / 11,242
  • Prince William County              10,981 /11,222

Imagine if the Arlington School Board was mandated to operate the Arlington Public Schools at the same cost-per-pupil as in Fairfax County. The approximate difference ($4,500) for APS' 26,190 students during the FY 2018 school year means the Superintendent would have about $117,000,000 to work with. What would he do? A better question might be what are Arlington County taxpayers getting in return for that $117,000,000?

Growls readers who are concerned about the cost of public education in the Arlington Public Schools are encouraged to engage the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the School Board office at (703) 228-6015

And tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (11/27/17) At the Arlington Sun Gazette, Scott McCaffrey reports on the Arlington Public Schools per-student spending topping the region.

November 17, 2017

Differences in House and Senate Tax Bills in 1 Chart

At CNSNews.com today, Adam Michel, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, compares the House and Senate versions of the current Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

In his lede, Michel writes, "The House has now passed its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Senate is still working on the final details of its reform package. The Senate plan improves on the House bill in many places and misses important opportunities elsewhere."

He provides the following chart:

  

Growls readers concerned about the changes being contemplated in this latest tax reform legislation are encouraged to engage their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 16, 2017

Arlington County's Employee Turnover Rate Averages 6.1%

In preparing to adopt the FY 2018 budget last winter, one County Board member requested a summary "for the past 5 years (plus FY 2017 to date) of the attrition by year for selected departments. Specifically, he asked for the number of staff in the department departing, percentage of the department, and the reason for the departure (either retirement or leaving for another job).

The personnel department (i.e., the Human Resources Department, HRD) provided the response, titled, "Attrition Data for Multiple Departments," Follow-up Topic Number B-7. HRD provided the following explanation to their data tables:

"The tables on the following pages summarize turnover for the past five years. It is important to note that the “staff count” are the employees in place as of June 30th of each year, not the authorized fte’s for the departments. The attrition totals, percentages, and employee counts are the total for the fiscal year.

"Other than retirement, employee reasons for termination include new opportunities, relocation, and return to school. Exact numbers not available for the non-retirement reasons. Attrition, typically called turnover, measures the rate at which employees leave an organization. The industry standard is to base the rate for a year on actual employee count at a point in time."

For the almost 5 2/3 years beginning with FY 2012, the attrition, or turnover rate, for employee departures that were NOT due to retirement was 6.1%. By department, the turnover rates were:

  • CPHD -- 7.0%
  • DES -- 6.0%
  • DHS -- 7.4%
  • DPR -- 4.4%
  • DTS -- 5.2%
  • FIR -- 3.3%
  • POL -- 4.1%

By comparison, Fairfax County's FY 2017 proposed budget makes the following observation (Volume 1, page 30):

"A critical area that continues to be monitored and addressed is “Permanent Employee Turnover Rate,” which decreased from 10.1 percent in FY 2005 to 3.89 percent in FY 2014, which clearly underscores the County’s efforts to recruit, retain and reward high performing staff." (emphasis added)

The county continued in the budget document by pointing out, "The County’s challenge continues to be to find ways to attract and retain highly qualified staff in a competitive job market." It's also true, however, the decrease can be explained in terms of declining opportunities for alternative employment and/or as increasing compensation (salaries/fringe benefits) provided by Fairfax County.

For more information on employee turnover, see the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, which performs a job openings and labor turnover survey (JOLTS), and "is currently pursuing research on the number of job openings, hires, and separations by firm size. These estimates may help to better explain some of the internal dynamics of the labor market."

The latest BLS economic news release, dated November 7, 2017, about the job openings and labor turnover summary (JOLTS) is available. It specifically notes, "Within separations, the quits rate and the layoffs and discharges rate were little changed at 2.2 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively."

As a recent article last month in The Balance points out, the cost of employee turnover can be considerable.

Growls readers concerned about Arlington County's employee turnover rate are encouraged to engage the Arlington County Board. Take a couple of minutes to make your views known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (11/19/17): Several edits were made based upon Frank Emerson's suggestions, including a spelling error in the subject.

November 15, 2017

Out-of-Control Public Art Spending? What else is new?

 In his Editor's Notebook blog today, Scott McCaffrey takes Arlington County poohbahs to task for its "out of control public art."

Here are the for details:

"It would take more time than I have, or readers are willing to set aside, to detail the latest public-art contretemps the Arlington County government is wading through.

"The details are found in Item #24 of the Arlington County Board’s meeting set for Saturday, in which $200,000 will be taken from a fund designed for public improvements in Rosslyn and transferred to support a public-art project that is part of JBG Co.’s Central Place development.

"Originally, the whole shebang wasn’t going to cost the gub’mint anything – JBG was slated to pay $750,000 into the government’s public-arts fund, which presumably would have covered the cost of any project local officials wanted to put in place there. But now, with the cost of the proposal up to nearly $1.3 million (!), the county government is on the hook for part of the extra share.

"Funny how that works.

"County poobahs like to say that there is “no net taxpayer support” for projects like these, since the fund being tapped was paid into by previous developer contributions. I will counter with this: Just because taxpayers don’t fund it directly doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact on us down the road. That $200,000 going to this project is $200,000 that could have been spent on something else. It is all government funds, and as Homer Simpson once said on a different topic: “red M&Ms, green M&Ms: they all end up the same color in the end.”)

"From the perspective of an outsider, it appears to be another example of “mission creep” in the county government’s public-arts efforts, which over the years have scored as many misses as hits in providing something nice for the public."

We've growled several times over the years about the county's public art program, most recently on February 15, 2004 after the grand poohbahs flushed between $2.0 million and $3.0 million at the sewage treatment plant. In that Growls, we gave the County Manager a "thump on the head" for suggesting that amount of taxpayer dollars was "beyond a basic utilitarian approach." Does it seem like the inmates are running the public art program? It sure seems like it.

If your looking for additional details about this daffy deal, they are in the 17-page County Manager's report to the County Board, and is part of the so-called Consent Agenda (Agenda Item #24, November 18, 2017).

Growls readers are encouraged to engage the Arlington County Board with your concerns about the out of control public art program. Take a couple of minutes to make your views known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 14, 2017

Growing Medicaid Enrollment & Increased Dependency?

The Washington Free Beacon's Ali Meyer reported today on a new study from the Foundation for Government Accountability, which says, "skyrocketing Medicaid enrollment (is) leading to increased government dependency." The Free Beacon said the "number of able-bodied adults on Medicaid has increased four-fold since 2000, (bu) only 16 percent of Medicaid enrollees work."

According to Meyer:

"A massive surge in Medicaid enrollment is leading to an increase in government dependency and crowding out funding for those vulnerable individuals who truly need the program, according to a report from the Foundation for Government Accountability.

"In 2000, there were 34 million Americans enrolled in the Medicaid program. Next year that number is projected to more than double to 75 million. Most of the growth in this program is due to an increasing number of able-bodied adults applying for the program. In 2000, there were fewer than 7 million able-bodied adults on Medicaid. Now that number has quadrupled to 28 million able-bodied adults on the program.

"The report attributes skyrocketing Medicaid enrollment over the last two decades to states increasing eligibility for able-bodied adults and Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which added millions of able-bodied adults to the program.

"Unlike other welfare programs that have work requirements to stay in the program, the report says that Medicaid enrollees are not held to the same standard.

"Medicaid was designed as a safety net for the truly vulnerable—the elderly and individuals with disabilities," the foundation explains. "Because these groups were generally either not working age or had limited work capacity due to their disabilities, work requirements and time limits were never included in the Medicaid program. But over time, the program has grown to cover new groups, changing the fabric of the program and creating new challenges for policymakers and enrollees alike."

"The report finds that only 16 percent of those enrolled in Medicaid work full-time for the duration of the year. More than half—52 percent—do not work at all, and 32 percent of Medicaid enrollees work part-time or for part of the year.

"Despite the fact that Medicaid's able-bodied adults have no physical disabilities keeping them from pursuing gainful employment, very few actually work full-time jobs," the report states. "According to the Census Bureau, most non-disabled adults on Medicaid do not work at all."

"In some states, the percentage of those enrolled in Medicaid that are not holding a job are even higher. For example, in Nevada, 60 percent of Medicaid enrollees are not working. In New Hampshire, 58 percent are not working. And in Ohio, 57 percent are not working."

Meyer's article is worth reading in its entirety.

According to the April 5, 2017 Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s latest bid to expand Virginia’s Medicaid program died on a party-line vote in the House of Delegates on Wednesday."  However, based upon the results of last Tuesday's Virginia election results, look for Governor-elect Northam and Democrats in the General Assembly to make another go at expanding Medicaid in Virginia.

Growls readers concerned about the growing dependency on government are are encouraged to engage their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

To write to your elected representatives in Richmond, see our November 7, Growls.

lAnd ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 13, 2017

Aquatics Center Decision due by End of Month

The Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey reported today that "Arlington County Board members on Nov. 28 are slated to formally ratify a staff decision on the design of the Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness complex."

McCaffrey continued his report, writing:

"The actual design to be acted upon, however, remains to be determined, at least at the moment.

"As of press time, results of work by the staff committee that will select the winning design from among four entrants had not been made public.

"The four consortiums vying for the contract to build the $55 million facility in Crystal City: Christman/HOK; Coakley Williams/Page;Forrester/EYP; and Hess/VMDO.

"The project is scaled back considerably from an early effort, which was scrapped after bids came in well above the government’s ability to fund them and questions were raised about the operating subsidies that would be required.

"In 2016, the effort was resuscitated, but with lowered expectations.

"If all goes according to plan – and given the history of the project, who knows? – design work on the aquatics/fitness center will be completed and construction started in 2018, with completion set for late 2020 or early 2021"

A few of our thoughts about the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center are contained in video we posted on Saturday -- see here.

A county press release, dated October 18, 2017,  provides greater detail on the four design concepts that were developed for Long Bridge Park. It provided three talking points:

  • Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center and park expansion
  • Based on years of community interaction; community input invited through Oct. 29
  • Four nationally recognized design and construction firms team up for Design-Build contract

Although the press release essentially set a cut-off date of October 29, 2017 for community input, Growls encourage taxpayers with continuing concerns about the aquatics center to take a few minutes to make your views known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 12, 2017

A Though about Western Values

"Intellectual elites argue that different cultures and their values are morally equivalent. That's ludicrous. Western culture and values are superior to all others. I have a few questions for those who'd claim that such a statement is untrue or smacks of racism and Eurocentrism. Is forcible female genital mutilation, as practiced in nearly 30 sub-Saharan African and Middle Eastern countries, a morally equivalent cultural value? Slavery is practiced in Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan; is it morally equivalent? In most of the Middle East, there are numerous limitations placed on women, such as prohibitions on driving, employment and education. Under Islamic law, in some countries, female adulterers face death by stoning. Thieves face the punishment of having their hands severed. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in some countries. Are these cultural values morally equivalent, superior or inferior to Western values?"

~ Walter E. Williams

Source: his July 26, 2017, "Western Values are Superior," posted at Townhall.com.

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"Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Walter E. Williams holds a B.A. in economics from California State University, Los Angeles, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from UCLA. He also holds a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Union University and Grove City College, Doctor of Laws from Washington and Jefferson College and Doctor Honoris Causa en Ciencias Sociales from Universidad Francisco Marroquin, in Guatemala, where he is also Professor Honorario.

"Dr. Williams has served on the faculty of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, since 1980; from 1995 to 2001, he served as department chairman. He has also served on the faculties of Los Angeles City College, California State University Los Angeles, and Temple University in Philadelphia, and Grove City College, Grove City, Pa." (his biographical sketch)

November 11, 2017

A Discussion of the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center

A video documentary describing issues with Arlington County's Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center has emerged on YouTube for your viewing enjoyment.  Just click-on the following link:

We hope you enjoyed the thoughtful and rational discussion of issues relating to Arlington County's proposed Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center.

November 10, 2017

A Thought about Americans

"We Americans have fought harder, paid a higher price, done more to advance the freedom and dignity of man than any other people who ever lived on this Earth. Ours is the land of the free because it is the home of the brave. America's future will be great because our nation will be strong. And our nation will be strong because our people will be free. And we're free because we're united. We're united -- one people, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

~ Ronald Reagan

Source: Remarks at a Reagan-Bush Rally in Springfield, Illinois, November 2, 1984, Reagan Foundation.

November 09, 2017

A Thought about Conservatism

"Conservatism is the antidote to tyranny. It's the only one. It's based on thousands of years of human experience. There is nothing narrow about the conservative philosophy. It's a liberating philosophy. It is a magnificent philosophy. It is a philosophy for the ages, for all times."

~ Mark R. Levin

Source: AZ Quotes.

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Mark Levin' is author, most recently, of "Rediscovering Americanism: And the Tyranny of Progressivism."

November 07, 2017

Virginia General Assembly Still Unable to Control Spending

 Virginia's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released a draft of its 2017 update of state spending (JLARC Report 498) last month. The 40-page report is required by the Code of Virginia, specifically:

"The Code of Virginia requires the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to produce an annual report on growth in state spending over the prior five biennia, identify the largest and fastest growing functions and programs in the budget, and analyze long-term trends and causes of spending in these programs. (See Appendix A.)

"Prior reports reviewed spending and budget growth for all the previous 10-year periods between FY 1981 and FY16. This report is the 17th in the series and focuses on trends in the state’s operating budget during the past 10 years, from FY08 through FY17."

Here is a summary of the seven major findings taken directly from page i of the JLARC report:

  • Over the past decade, Virginia’s operating budget increased by more than $16 billion (45%)—a 19% increase in general funds and a 68% increase in non- general funds. A variety of economic factors and policies contributed to this growth. Virginia’s population grew by 7% from 2008 to 2016, inflation in- creased by 12%, and Virginia’s personal income increased by 30%.
  • Adjusted for growth in population and inflation, the total budget grew by 21% over the 10-year period; non-general funds increased by 40%; and general funds decreased by 1%. (emphasis added)
  • When general funds declined during the past decade, the total budget continued to in- crease due to the growth in non-general funds. While the annual average increase in general funds over this time period was 2%, the average annual increase in non-general funds was 6%.
  • Total budget growth was concentrated within three major areas: health care, education, and transportation. Nine budget programs (of 215 total programs) within these areas accounted for 60% of total budget growth.
  • The 10 largest state agencies (out of 148) accounted for 66% of the total state budget in FY17 and approximately 64% of all budget growth between FY08 and FY17. The agency that experienced the most growth in total appropriations over the past decade was DMAS.
  • Growth in general and non-general fund appropriations was concentrated in a few large state agencies over the past 10 years. DMAS and the Treasury Board had the highest growth amount in general funds. DMAS and VDOT had the highest non-general fund growth amounts over this time period.
  • The general fund appropriations for 50 agencies either grew more slowly than inflation or declined.

ACTA has growled about several of JLARC's annual updates of Virginia state spending -- at least the 2014 update here; 2010 update here; 2009 update here; and 2007 update here.  Unfortunately, the Virginia budget increased in each of those four years even after adjusting for inflation and population growth., and undoubtedly increased in most if not all of the 17 reports in the series. Thank goodness for the transparency of the JLARC analyses of state spending, but the citizens of Virginia need to find a better way of engaging members of the Virginia General Assembly on fiscal issues so that Virginia's budget grows no more than inflation and population growth.

Growls readers who are concerned about fiscal issues in Virginia should take a few minutes to write to Governor McAuliffe or Governor-elect Ralph Northam. Click-on the following link:

Growls readers should also write to their state legislators. The following legislators represent Arlington County in the Virginia General Assembly: Senators (Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, or Janet Howell) and Delegates (Rip Sullivan, Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, or Mark Levine). They remain the same after tonight's election results. Contact information for members of the General Assembly can be found here  -- then use one of the "quick links" to locate the senator and delegate who represent you.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 06, 2017

How Some of Your Medicare Dollars are Spent?

CNSNews.com's Terry Jeffrey reports that according to a study by the HHS Inspector General, "14.4 Million Medicare Part D Beneficiaries Got $4.1 Billion in Opioids in 2016."

He reported in part:

"A total of 14.4 million beneficiaries of Medicare Part D, which offers Medicare recipients the opportunity to get federally subsidized prescription drug coverage, received at least one prescription for an opioid in 2016 while the Medicare Part D program paid about $4.1 billion to provide them with those drugs, according to a study by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Nationwide, 33 percent of all Medicare Part D beneficiaries got federally funded opioids in 2016.

"In Alabama, it went as high as 46 percent; in Mississippi, it was 45 percent; and, in Arkansas, it was 44 percent.

"The IG’s discovery that 14.4 million Medicare Part D beneficiaries got an opioid prescription in 2016 was cited in a Government Accountability Office report released today.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported that from 1999 to 2014 the rate of drug poisoning deaths from prescription opioids nearly quadrupled from 1.4 to 5.1 per 100,000 people,” said the GAO report. “In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) reported that 14.4 million people (about one-third) who participate in Medicare Part D received at least one prescription for opioids in 2016, and that Part D spending for opioids in 2016 was almost $4.1 billion.”

"The inspector general’s report—“Opioids in Medicare Part D: Concerns about Extreme Use and Questionable Prescribing”—was completed in July.

“In 2016,” said the IG report, “one out of every three beneficiaries received at least one prescription opioid through Medicare Part D.

“In total,” said the report, “14.4 million of the 43.6 million beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part D received opioids. Medicare Part D paid almost $4.1 billion for 79.4 million opioid prescriptions for these beneficiaries.”

“Several states had higher proportions of beneficiaries receiving opioids than the nation overall, which was 33 percent,” said the IG. “Alabama and Mississippi had the highest proportions, with almost half of the state’s Part D beneficiaries receiving at least one opioid—46 percent and 45 percent respectively. Arkansas had 44 percent of beneficiaries receiving opioids, while Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Louisiana each had 42 percent. The two lowest proportions were in Hawaii (21 percent) and New York (22 percent).”

"Some of the Medicare Part D beneficiaries received an opioid prescription only for a short period of time. But others received an opioid on what the IG called “a regular basis”—and some received “high” or “extreme” amounts.

"Some beneficiaries also appeared to be “doctor shopping” in pursuit of opioids."

The report was performed at the request of senators Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.) and Tim Kaine (D.-Va.). According to Sen. Kaine,  “This report's findings are troubling and show that more needs to be done to protect seniors from the dangers of opioid overuse."

Growls readers are encouraged to read Jeffrey's entire report for additional details.

The 16-page Inspector General Data Brief (OEI-02-17-00250) is available here. Jeffrey also noted the IG findings were cited in a 35-page General Accountability Office (GAO) report, "PRESCRIPTION OPIOIDS: Medicare Needs to Expand Oversight Efforts to Reduce the Risk of Harm," (Number GAO-18-15). which was released today.

Growls readers concerned about the abuse of opioids or the abuse of Medicare are encouraged to engage their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 05, 2017

Americans' Satisfaction with the Federal Government

The Washington Free Beacon's Ali Meyer reported yesterday, "Only 28 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the way the United States is governed, according to a poll from Gallup."

She continued, writing:

"Americans' frustration with government is focused on Washington, D.C.," Gallup states. "This is seen in trust and approval ratings they give to the executive and legislative branches—especially Congress. U.S. adults maintain higher levels of trust in the judicial branch as well as state and local government."

"The poll finds that trust in U.S. institutions has been on the decline for some time, and the federal government is rated the least positive out of any business or industry sector mentioned. In addition, out of 22 professions Americans are asked about, the honesty and ethics of members of Congress are rated the lowest.

"When Gallup asks Americans what the most important problem facing the nation is, the federal government is the most frequent problem cited.

"The issues that Americans raise when they talk about government as the top problem center more on the process of government and political personalities—particularly infighting or bickering—than on worries about government, power, size, or specific policies or tendencies," the report states.

"Only 13 percent of Americans say they approve of Congress. Approval of the president has ranged from 35 to 40 percent, which is below the historical average. While many Americans have low trust for those holding a political office, most Americans have confidence and trust in citizens themselves.

"The poll finds that views of both parties, Democratic and Republican, are near historical lows. While 36 percent of Americans find Republicans favorable and 44 percent find Democrats favorable, more believe that Republicans can make the country prosperous and protected from external threats."

And concluded:

"‘Wary' remains the watchword to describe Americans' stance toward government power in 2017," Gallup states. "Over half of U.S. adults say the government has too much power, and more Americans say the government is doing too much to solve the country's problems (things that should be left to individuals and businesses) than say it should be doing more."

The Gallup poll results can be found here, and includes links to more detailed results. Gallup notes they have "recently published a series of articles detailing Americans' views on the performance of government and how they would prefer it function." Also, they "assembled the findings to provide a one-stop summary of public opinion on the way the nation is being led in 2017."

In a related Gallup poll, "deconstructing Americans' view of government as nation's top problem," Gallup included the chart below, reflecting how Americans' "top-of-mind" mentions of government as top problem changed over the years 1939 to 2017:

Although Tuesday's election -- November 7, 2017 -- includes only candidates for state and local offices, the November 2018 elections will be on the front-burner in no time. Therefore,  Arlington citizens are encouraged to use the Free Beacon report and the Gallup poll results to engage the candidates for Federal offices. Begin by asking them what they are doing to doing to improve the operational economy and efficiency of the Federal government. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 04, 2017

A Thought about the "Thinning Strand of Civilization"

"What do I mean about the “thinning strand of civilization”?

"A shrinking percentage of our population feeds us, finds our energy, protects us, and builds things we count on. They get up each morning to do these things, in part in quest for the good life, in part out of a sense of social obligation and basic humanity, in part because they know they will die if idle and thrive only when busy, and in part simply because “they like it.”

"We can stack the deck against them with ever higher taxes, ever more regulations, ever more obligations to others, and they may well continue. But not if we also damn them as the “1%” and call them the agents of inequality and the fat cats who did not build what they built or who profited when they should not have."

~ Victor Davis Hanson

Source: his January 21, 2014 column, "The Last Generation of the West and the Thin Strand of Civilization." archived at his Private Papers.

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"Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services.

He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

"Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007, the Bradley Prize in 2008, as well as the William F. Buckley Prize (2015), the Claremont Institute’s Statesmanship Award (2006), and the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002)." (For complete bio, see About VDH)

November 03, 2017

A Thought about Government

"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer."

~ Thomas Paine, Common Sense -- 1776

HT Founders' Quote Database, The Patriots Post.

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Thomas Paine, (born January 29, 1737, Thetford, Norfolk, England—died June 8, 1809, New York, New York, U.S.), English-American writer and political pamphleteer whose Common Sense pamphlet and Crisis papers were important influences on the American Revolution. Other works that contributed to his reputation as one of the greatest political propagandists in history were Rights of Man, a defense of the French Revolution and of republican principles; and The Age of Reason, an exposition of the place of religion in society. (Encyclopedia Britannica, see original for links)

November 02, 2017

Arl. County Officials See Some non-RE Revenue Growth

In a report today by the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey, "Arlington government officials are expecting growth – albeit in some cases slower growth – in the non-real-estate taxes and fees it levies for" FY 2019."

According to McCaffrey:

"County officials presented the estimate to County Board members in late October, in preparation for the fiscal 2019 budget process. County Manager Mark Schwartz will present a draft budget in February, with the County Board adopting a final spending package in the spring. The budget will take effect July 1.

"While taxes on commercial and residential property bring in the bulk of Arlington’s local tax revenue, there are other taxes that augment the bottom line of a budget that now totals more than $1.2 billion a year."

Additional information in this October 24, 2017 press release. More detailed information can be found in the County Manager's report to the Board in his financial forecast for FY 2019 (Agenda Item #46 of the Board's October 24 recessed meeting). Also, see our October 30, 2017 Growls, especially the observation about responding to the county's questions concerning the FY 2019 budget.

November 01, 2017

A Thought about Democracy

"Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

~ John Adams, letter to John Taylor - 1814

Source: Founders' Quote Database, The Patriots Post.