The rhetoric surrounding Vice Mayor William C. Cleveland's proposal to cap tax bills in light of rising real estate assessments has become a little more shrill. Both parties are taking shots at each other over whether the Republican mayoral candidate's plan is a legitimate attempt to give homeowners relief or mere "political demagoguery," as several Democrats around town have proclaimed.
Alexandria Democrats lobbed numerous attacks at Cleveland's plan, which, through a city ordinance, would cap real estate tax bills without freezing the real estate tax rate or capping annual property assessments.
"Bill Cleveland has reached for the Republicans' favorite 'one-trick pony' to right his troubled campaign for mayor: a tax stunt," Democrats wrote in a scathing rebuttal press release last week.
Calling the plan a "straightjacket" that defies Virginia law, Dems said the state Constitution mandates that all property taxes be "applied in a 'uniform' manner by the city." Trying to cap a tax bill, they state, would tax each property owner at a different rate, which is out of step with state law.
A day later, the Cleveland campaign issued its own rebuttal, saying Democrats -- whom Cleveland termed "surrogates of [mayoral candidate] Bill Euille" -- were playing party politics that ignored several aspects of his plan, namely that he wanted to provide relief to people on fixed incomes and "disclose to all homeowners the bottom line effects of the city's annual assessments."
"Clearly, they prefer to make this a partisan showdown," Cleveland said. "They're wrong. I'm not looking for a partisan battle here. I am fighting City Hall."
When asked what he meant by saying he was fighting City Hall, because, well, as an elected official he is City Hall, Cleveland said the rising tax bills "have not been sufficiently acknowledged by the City Council. I am the only person who has tried to address the problem of tax bills through a policy announcement."
Indeed, Cleveland seems to relish the fight. Asked about the skepticism that his plan has garnered from mayoral and council candidates, current council members and city staff, the veteran politico said, "If you're not going to be attacked, well, you're not in the battle."
Democrats, of course, had more to say on the issue, at one point calling Cleveland's ideas "toothless rhetoric."
Casting Cleveland as an opportunist, Alexandria Democratic Committee Chair Susan Kellom said, "Cleveland wants the city to abdicate the Democratic traditions of fairness and fiscal stewardship that have produced Alexandria's consistently high bond ratings."
A League of Their Own
A new group has been formed and hopes to weigh in on discussions about a baseball stadium in Arlington. It's Arlingtonians for Baseball in D.C. That's right, D.C.
A group of several dozen county residents opposed to building a stadium on any of the three Arlington sites that have been mentioned -- one in Rosslyn and two in Crystal City -- are intent on making sure that any proposed multimillion-dollar stadium lands across the Potomac.
Saying the county just doesn't have the infrastructure to support a stadium, the group of community residents from several neighborhoods says that when Virginia makes its presentations next week, Major League Baseball should resoundingly reject them.
"I can't think of one good reason to put a stadium in Arlington," said Sarah Summerville, a labor lawyer and member of the county's Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission who has spearheaded the organization.
As its first act, the group plans to speak at Saturday's board meeting in hopes of getting the County Board to take an official stand on the proposed stadium. Board member Chris Zimmerman (D) has long been an outspoken critic against building a stadium in the county, and other board members have said there are significant hurdles to the plan's passage. Anti-stadium activists, however, want more.
"We want them to be clear about what they think," Summerville said, adding that several dozen of the group's members hail from the Aurora Hills and Arlington Ridge and Rosslyn neighborhoods, which would be affected if the proposed sites were selected.
The group, which formed just a few weeks ago, isn't incorporated.
Virginia officials have refused to go public with their official site proposal, saying they first want to finish noise studies, traffic analyses and environmental impact statements. Officials of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority did not return calls seeking comment.