Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sometimes Arlington Gets It Right

Unfortunately, sometimes Virginia gets it wrong. Senate Bill 1242 would have allowed the Arlington County government to extend benefits to domestic partners of its employees. Now, as a taxpayer, I always want the government to cut corners. This is not one of those corners!

According to the Virginia Legislative Information System, this bill was left on the Appropriations floor at the close of the session. I applaud Arlington, Senator Whipple, and the many activists who supported this effort. Please keep trying.

Equal rights. Two simple words. Why such as difficult concept?

Equal: the same

Rights: things that you have that the government can only take away, not give

Thanks for nothing, Virginia.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tax, Spend, and Save?

The Washington Post reports that the Arlington County board is considering an energy tax that could end up costing up to $26 per resident. Small change for our big Northern Virginia salaries, isn't it? Ignoring the concept of taxing because we can afford it, I want to discuss some of the rhetoric coming from the County.

The article quoted County Manager Ron Carlee in saying that, "the "modest" utility tax may encourage residents to curb consumption." Before and after this quote, the article lists a number of things that the extra revenue should help pay for. Here's my question:

How can the County expect the tax to reduce consumption and increase revenue?

I get suspicious anytime a government claims that a tax will somehow reduce the need for itself. My suspicion is that the idea of reducing consumption is just the thing that the public needs to sway opinion in favor of a tax increase. Mr. Carlee even called the tax modest, which indicates to me that very few people will change their behavior in order to avoid it. Most people will pay it and continue with their current level of energy consumption. In fact, most people who would curb their behavior to save $26 have already done so, simply for the feeling of having done something good for the environment.

In short, don't be convinced of the good virtue of the County on this. This is simply a ploy to get revenue, much of which may offset costs that are hardly related to energy and the environment.

My Arlington Story (So Far)

While this blog is still new, I think it's important to get this story down on "paper."

I moved to Arlington two years ago and almost immediately began to seek ways to get involved. Soon, I learned about the civic associations and joined the one in my neighborhood. They needed a project representative (and an officer) so I quickly took off on my first community adventure. It was fun, at first. I enjoyed going to the County Board and commission meetings, talking with neighbors, and rallying the troops for the "cause" at hand.

Then came the disenchantment. After awhile, I found it almost impossible to "hold the line" for the neighbors without my own views getting in the way. Why? Everyone seemed to want more regulation, more government, and more of what they wanted at the expense of others. In the end, I couldn't keep doing it.

So I took some time off. I didn't pay much attention to local news, the County Board, or anything else that was going on in the community. I needed a new focus.

That's where Arlington Liberty comes in. Arlington is a leader in many aspect social liberty and equality, but lags behind in terms of economic liberty. My new goal is to be involved from a consistent, pro-liberty standpoint. I hope that, someday, Arlington can be recognized as a leader in overall liberty.

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Give Less Power to Governments on All Levels

As published on the website for the Arlington Sun Gazette:

Editor: The recent debates about the Views at Clarendon project in Arlington and legislation in the General Assembly have convinced me of something I have always feared: People only want a powerful government when it is on their side.

I imagine that much praise for the Arlington County government could be heard when they used their power to create zoning laws that pleased the neighbors. Now, we see great uproar as they contemplate using that same power against the neighbors.

The Views at Clarendon project isn't about affordable housing, churches, zoning, or any of the other superficial things being debated. It is about government power. Giving government the power to restrict how property is used may seem beneficial to some, at some point in time, but, in the end, it seems to always come back to hurt one or both parties involved.

Power is only as good as the people who hold it, and in a democracy those people change quite often.

The best solution is to give up as little power as possible, and quit looking to government to solve our problems.

We need to start giving serious consideration to all proposals that take power out of the hands of the people and put it into a board, council, legislature or Congress.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Views at Clarendon

Yes, I did it. I watched the entire Arlington County Board meeting regarding the Views at Clarendon project. In fact, the meeting provided much of the inspiration I needed to finally start this blog. Why, you ask? Because I think both parties got it wrong!

The neighbors thought they had zoning rights. Here's something to remember: when government gives you something, it's not a right. Rights are something that you had without a government. You were given zoning privileges, and as with any privilege, it can be taken away. As you are learning now, the hand that feeds you can also slap you in the face.

The church, in what I consider to be a slightly lesser offense, seeks to use public money for its ministry. As a libertarian, I disdain the idea of public funds being used for affordable housing. As we saw at the meeting, many people oppose affordable housing when it "blocks my child's view of the sunlight." With such opposition, can it be right to use taxpayer dollars for such project? However, since the church is seeking a loan, not a grant, and that loan would be available to non-religious groups, I feel it would have been inappropriate to discriminate against the church by denying funds because they are faith-based. I wish they weren't seeking the money, but since they are, they should get it just like anyone else would.

Here's my take. The neighbors should have never depended on the government's zoning "power" to protect them. Furthermore, no one should try to use the law to regulate what someone else does on their own property. Radical? Maybe, but completely American. On the other hand, the church should have sought a ministry that did not depend on taxpayer dollars.

In the end, I applaud the County Board's decision, but barely.

In a (my) perfect world, the church would have a privately funded ministry in a building as big as they can afford to build. But no, we all want government in our back pocket, poised to bite us in a very uncomfortable place.

Eminent Domain in Virginia

The following letter was sent, in the form of an email, to Delegate Eisenberg and Senator Whipple:

I am writing regarding the "85% amendment" to HB 2954 that was accepted by the Senate this week. I want to explain one of the reasons why many Virginians oppose this amendment. If properties that are not blighted can be taken through eminent domain solely due to the condition of the surrounding properties, private development will be discouraged. Why would I, or someone like me, decide to privately develop a parcel of land if the chance were great that my property would be included in a taking of surrounding land? If HB 2954 is passed with the 85% amendment, the ONLY way that blighted areas will be redeveloped is through government intervention and eminent domain, meaning that governments will have to pay just compensation. It actually works better for the government if a private developer buys the land and develops it, because the tax base is increased without just compensation payments from the government.

I urge you to do everything in your power to pass complete eminent domain reform without this amendment.


Welcome to Arlington Liberty! This site will contain commentary and analysis of political and public policy activity in Arlington County, Virginia. The catch: it will be from the pro-liberty perspective. Unfortunately, this perspective is often lost in the debates regarding the actions of the County Board and other organizations. Arlington Liberty exists to bring that perspective back, starting at the grassroots level.

Stay tuned for commentary regarding the County Board and Arlington's representative in the State Senate and House of Delegates!