Arlington County has been widely criticized for its aggressive lawsuit over the proposed Interstate 395 HOT lanes expansion, which includes allegations that individual state and federal officials committed civil rights violations in approving the project. In a time of significant economic troubles and governmental budget challenges, the county has reportedly paid over $1 million in legal fees advancing this case.
The county may now be reaping an ugly harvest from the negativity it is sowing. Arlington County, with the support of the business community and in particular the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, is currently seeking renewal of a transient occupancy tax that charges Arlington hotel guests and uses those funds directly to promote tourism. In a hearing on the bill in front of the General Assembly’s House Committee on Finance chaired by Del. Timothy Hugo, R- Fairfax.
Del. Hugo reportedly punted on action on the bill until a representative of Arlington County would appear and defend the County’s action on the HOT lanes lawsuit.
The Washington Post quoted Del. Hugo yesterday as saying, “If they have so much money to spend on frivolous, intimidating, abusive lawsuits on private individuals,” then the tax is not needed. The Post indicates further that Del. Hugo filed three budget amendments prohibiting state funding for the Columbia Pike Streetcar produce, reducing Arlington transportation funding, and requiring an audit of Arlington’s road maintenance funding.
The Chamber and others have tried to get Arlington to drop this suit. I have previously been strongly critical of the Arlington lawsuit, especially the civil rights claim stating they should have avoided the suit “instead of further killing Arlington’s credibility in Richmond.” That appears to be exactly what has happened but the County does not seem to appreciate this prescience. This lawsuit, particularly the civil rights claims, needs to end. Still, picking this bill as the target for Richmond’s ire seems like misplaced aggression.
Reprinted with permission from the Washington Business Journal