September 13, 2012

Bond Referenda Are Ultimatums

Budget — @ 7:12 am

One of the key questions before the voters on November 6 is whether to approve four bond referenda that will fund transportation, parks and recreation, community infrastructure and the public schools. The Sun Gazette reports that 70% of Arlington County bond issues are approved. But the fact that the voters are uncritical of bond referenda doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be. The transportation bond is problematic, because there’s a question whether the capital improvement money intended for street repaving will be diverted to the Columbia Pike Trolley should the county’s application for New Starts funding for that project be rejected by the feds.

Also troublesome is the school bond which is supposed to pay for two new elementary schools. No one doubts that new school facilities are needed. But neighbors are concerned about the location of one of the new schools on the grounds of Kenmore Middle School. They’ve made a convincing case that construction on that site will result in an unacceptable level of traffic on an already congested Carlin Springs Road. Providing the county with the bond money to construct the new school will remove any leverage the civic federation may have in demanding mitigation or relocation to another site, such as the Wilson School in Rosslyn.

The local parks and recreation bond will fund neighborhood park projects and land acquisition, as well as the Long Bridge Park Aquatic and Fitness Center. If voters reject funding the latter, then money for the former will go too. This year’s bond ballot questions aren’t as much referendums as ultimatums with the voters held hostage to the Board’s pet projects. Even proponents of the aquatic center argued for a separate bond issue for that project to shore up public support. Why were they ignored?

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