Local Commentary

Letters to the Editor for week of February 5 – 11, 2009

F.C. Businesses Failed to Clear Sidewalks of Snow


On my drive home from work Thursday night, January 29, I noticed two people walking out on Broad Street.

I wondered what was up. Well, Cosi and Penzey’s Spices had not bothered to clear their sidewalks, with predictable consequences: unpassable sheets of ice craters.

I’ve lived in the City for eight years, and every time it snows or sleets, it’s the same old story: business after business disregarding both city regulations on clearing their sidewalks and the safety of their potential customers. Often Winter Hill does the same, and I’ve seen this phenomenon in front of doctor’s offices!

It is shameful behavior.

It is equally shameful that the City doesn’t seem willing or able to enforce its own regulations. Does someone need to be hit by a car while bypassing the unpassable sidewalks and sue the business and the City before something is done?

Stiff fines or even better, the City should clear those sidewalks before they become unpassable and charge the business involved double what they’d pay to have it done themselves. Perhaps this will get through to the lazy thoughtless business owners, and then we citizens would have clean sidewalks.

Chris Raymond

Falls Church

Complainer Now Says She’s Happy With Action


I’m writing because I wrote a Letter to the Editor in last week’s edition regarding a ticket I was issued that didn’t agree I deserved. The situation was upsetting as I was issued a ticket parked outside my house with a permit and had spent two weeks calling the ticket contest number with no response.

However since writing to you I have been contacted my Sgt. Matthew, Sgt. Vincent and Arlington Country Treasurer Frank O’Leary. These gentlemen were kind enough to listen to my grievance and Sgt. Vincent dismissed my ticket based on the grounds it was given.

Both the Arlington County Treasurers Office and Police Department were all very responsive and understanding to me. I wanted to express my thanks and appreciation for their work, and also for the work of PSA Blandon who issued the ticket mistakenly but was just doing her job. As a new member of Arlington County I was impressed with the amount of response I got after contacting many people. I was told that the ticket hot line was monitored regularly and that they were working on a way to better the process. I can’t tell you how nice it is to live in a place that cares so much about their citizens.

Meghan Sager


Notes Whipple Says Gas to Go Up Again


I’ve read the Tom Whipple piece ‘Cars:Redux’ from your January 8-14 issue several times. I hope Tom Whipple and Mary Margaret Whipple are talking over their coffee and cornflakes, because it seems to me that useful answers for funding Virginia transportation can be found there.

Virginia has struggled in recent years to find an equitable way to fund needed transportation improvements.

Tom Whipple says that gasoline prices will rise again, and soon, to the levels we found shocking a few months ago. Motorists, and in particular poorer motorists, will be making do with existing vehicles for many years to come, but new high-mileage and plug-in hybrid cars will be bought and used by higher-income drivers. In addition to the cars Tom Whipple discussed, every fry-o-lator in town will be harvested for used vegetable oil to run diesel cars. Even compressed air cars have been discussed – the MIT Tech Review says “The only potential, if any, would be for an inner-city, short-commute vehicle with an ultra-greenie owner.” (That would be me, thank you) If we stick with the gasoline tax for roads, we are moving in the direction of a vehicle fleet mix in which poorer people pay for the roads, and more advantaged people ride free. It seemed to me that the cats-and-dogs taxes and fees instituted by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (Hotel surcharge? Real property transfer tax? Auto repairs sales tax?) were a dreadful mix, whether constitutional or not, and that putting the cost of road use as directly as possible on road users – particularly on those using the roads in rush hour – would give the best incentive for drivers to behave (car pools, do errands at non-rush hours) in ways which would make life easier for everyone.

As a voter who inclines towards the Democrats (but does not always vote for them) I was unhappy to see the Dems in the last session opposing tolls and road use fees as the mechanism to solve Northern Virginia’s transportation problems. As nearly as I could tell, Dems’ basis for opposition was distributional: they thought tolling the roads would be disproportionately burdensome for lower incomes. I don’t think that was right then, but it gets less plausible as the Whipple scenario plays out – more advantaged folks will be burning less gasoline and driving alone more. In my air car, I will be getting a free ride! How to best deal with this?

Tom Whipple contends that the burden of gas taxes will skew to poor. I think he’s right. Also, as a resident of a border area, I see a lot of Maryland and District cars filling up with relatively cheap Virginia gas at my gas station – if we raise the gas tax we’ll send Virginians to Maryland to pay gas tax there. The Democratic governor of Oregon is responding to a steep decline in revenue from the Oregon gasoline tax (because people are driving less, and have switched to more economical cars) by considering a GPS-based device which would count miles driven and bill drivers accordingly.

Dave Schutz