Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Hike


Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.
Council raises income tax: In a chaotic and often nasty session, the DC Council approved an income tax increase for income over $350,000, but only after adding a 4-year sunset. (DCist, Post, WAMU)

DC bond rating precarious: Tax opponents claim increases could imperil DC's bond rating. Moody's did issue a warning yesterday, but not because of taxes (whose reliable revenue could be a positive for bond agencies), but because of the federal government's behavior. (Post)

Happy birthday CaBi!: Capital Bikeshare turned one yesterday, and saw its 1 millionth ride. Feared problems never materialized, except insufficient docks or bikes. Might CaBi look to corporate sponsorship in the future? (WashCycle, BeyondDC, Huffington Post)

Meet the transit police: The WMATA Riders' Advisory Council is holdinng a forum tonight at 6 pm for riders to bring up concerns over safety on the system. (TBD)

Taxi drivers sue for larger voice: Taxi drivers are suing the DC government over rates and drivers not getting the 3 seats reserved for industry representatives. (DCist)

Davis wins in PG: Derrick Leon Davis won the primary to replace Leslie Johnson in the Prince George's council. (Gazette) ... This is a victory for County Executive Rushern Baker who endorsed Davis and needs his vote to pass some key legislation.

$100 million for commuter parking lots: VDOT will spend $100 million on new commuter parking lots for people to access buses along I-95. Fairfax supervisors worry that some of the money should go to better bus service and that this will divert money from other regional priorities. (Examiner)

Waterfront park a big improvement: Georgetown's waterfront park is finished. Compare its great features to how the area looked long ago. (Georgetown Met)

And...: 2 Prince George's officers were indicted on felony charges for beating a UMD student (Post) ... Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie explored Boston by bike sharing while there to play the Red Sox. (WhoSay) ... How servicemembers asked and told. (Post)

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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I really never considered that I would ever be more embarrased for my town and its leadership than I was during the Barry leadership days. I figured that was as inane, ineffective and shameless as it would ever get.

I was clearly wrong.

For this council, 40% of which are currently under criminal investigation, 3 of which have serious fiscal issues of their own to raise taxes 2 days after the city announced a budget surplus, and after the City budget has increased 20% in the past 4 fiscal years is the height of ridiculousness.

While that was bad, it's their conduct as the duly elected officials of the city that really embarrases me. Acting like a room full of spoiled 6 year old juveniles should be reason enough to fire them all. I've seen grade school kids with tourettes act with more decorum than this half criminal enterprise. I am just "sure" the extra $875 dollars a year they now collect from me will be put to a good and effective use, like filling the tax gap left by the Council tax cheats, or perhaps a new lease for "fully loaded".

by freely on Sep 21, 2011 9:19 am • linkreport

I agree with the President's statement, in introducing his tax fairness move: "This isn't class warfare, it's math."

When it comes to our City Council's erratic fiscal behavior and half-baked approach to tax policy, however, my recurring feeling is: This isn't math, it's a reflex.

by Joel on Sep 21, 2011 9:53 am • linkreport

@freely, if I had a taxable income of $544,444, I'd be using some of it to see a lot of Councilmembers sent into retirement. (Or am I doing the math wrong? The higher marginal rate kicks in at taxable income of $350,000, and is 0.45 percent higher. If your tax increase is $875, your taxable income over the $350,000 cap must be 875/0.0045, or $194,444. A quick visit to Excel does confirm that (350000*0.085)+(194444*0.0895) is 874.998 more than (544444*0.085), which is correct within any reasonable rounding error.)

by cminus on Sep 21, 2011 10:13 am • linkreport

@freely

So you make what, $550K per year? I weep for you and the rest of the top 2 percent.

by MLD on Sep 21, 2011 10:14 am • linkreport

Freely is in the same camp as the poor Republican congressman who, after taxes, only has $400,000 per year left to feed his children.

by Phil on Sep 21, 2011 10:21 am • linkreport

Only $875? Obviously, taxes are not nearly high enough.

(That's assuming that class warriors tell the truth and that they understand marginal tax rates.)

by Johannes der Taucher on Sep 21, 2011 10:34 am • linkreport

freely:
please accept my gift of the world's tiniest working violin and my condolences for losing that precious $875/year on top of your $500+K income.... oh, and class warfare

by John M on Sep 21, 2011 11:11 am • linkreport

DC Council is doing a great job confirming that I made the right decision to move to Arlington last month. Same progressive politics in Arlington, just executed far, far more competently, with real transparency and citizen involvement and no discernible corruption. DC government is a simply a sad embarrassment.

by Paul on Sep 21, 2011 11:13 am • linkreport

It's just that by definition new housing is more expensive than "old" housing, because it is built at current materials, labor, and land costs.

This isn't exactly correct. Rather, in a idealized world, the marginal cost of a new housing unit should equal the construction cost of a new housing unit.

The comparison to housing as a commodity does work in the aggregate, but it's not supposed to work in comparing individual houses or even metro areas. Housing isn't a commodity, but neither are tons of other products. Here's an example.

Fancy suits aren't commodities like wheat. There's a lot of variability between business casual and tuxedo. But simply not being a commodity doesn't mean supply and demand models break down and collapse.

So yes, housing is more than supply and demand. But so is pretty much every market.

by WRD on Sep 21, 2011 11:16 am • linkreport

On second thought, if we envision the increased taxes as just an add-on in the category of personal expenses "Entertainment," maybe it's not so bad! The laughs keep comin'!

http://twitter.com/#!/tomsherwood/status/116528551368462337

by Joel on Sep 21, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

Talking about "budget surpluses" in an environment where fairly significant cuts were made to meet balanced budget requirements is just silly. We have a "surplus" because tax revenue can't be precisely estimated and we are required to have a balanced budget. Let's have a little integrity to the debate.

by Kate W on Sep 21, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

Its ~525K, with a total income tax exposure of 45K a year.

That of course doesn't include the 9K a year in property tax for my residence, nor the shade under 4 mil a year in corporate tax my company pays the District.

I don't ask for a "thanks" for those of you I support. I don't ask for a cookie for paying more into the DC treasury than the average per capita tax burden of 663 DC citizens, when I "consume" less than your average DC resident (I live in an HOA with private streets/sidewalks/trash and have never had kids in District schools). I simply ask for the basest level of responsible government. I've been a staunch liberal Democrat my entire life, but the longer I live in this joke of a town the more Republican I become. A blind, deaf, 3 legged mule could do a better job on the Council than any of them.

I wasn't asking for condolences, but I find it pretty disheartening that the so called enlightened blogger set who claim to be so vested in their city could be so accomodating of a Council filled with people who aren't qualified to be circus carnies.

A city that has announced its found nearly 400 million of budget surpluses this fiscal year, on a budget that has increased by 1 billion (20%) in the past 4 years, and you have to continue to stigmatize the folks who pay for all the inane childishness in this town by passing a tax on them that collects an extra 20 million a year? Seriously, whats the point, other than to say "hey, I hit up the monopoly guy for more taxes, look at me".

I support the Presidents "Buffet law", I think nationally we need to pay more taxes and I've actually been that dumbass who has sent a personal check to the US Treasury half a dozen times in the past decade, but DC is a different animal.

There is such a complete lack of the basest of fiscal responsibility in this town its a crying joke. We simply put pile after pile of money, this year another ~5 billion dollars, and set fire to it. A 5 year old could manage money better.

What does my enormous tax burden get me in this town? Constant scandal (and I am talking for the past ~30 years, not just now), crumbling infrastructure that is a shade away from being 3rd world (after it being bettered during Williams), a school system that is the joke of the free world and quite literally the worst ranked system in the nation, a welfare state so pervasive, generational and large that we have wards where 1/3rd of the folks are unemployed, not want to be employed and a town with an unemployment rate twice that of our suburban neighbors just ~7 miles away. Oh and don't forget constant scorn by the same people who continually have their hands in my pocket for more money, more politial donations, more, more.

Whats the point of having a Council? We should just set yearly tax and expenditure increases taged to inflation and call it a day. Oh, thats right...DC expenditures increase at about 3 times inflation, my bad. 40% of the Council is headed to jail, a few more can't bother to pay their own taxes to a city they call home, work for and pass the laws in.

All jokes about "the rich won't leave" aside, tell me...

What is to stop my from moving my Georgetown based business and my Georgetown residence 1 mile to the SW across the river. I could locate my business in Arlington, pay 1/3rd less to lease and pay half the corporate taxes, buy a house in Arlington or Fairfax where if I wanted to send kids to school, they wouldn't come home dumber than when they left, and pay half the income tax I pay here?

What honest to god good reason does a well to do business owning tax payer have to stay in the District when he can move his residence and business a mere couple miles and not have to be embarrased for his town every time he opens the paper?

My ~4 million a year in tax can be so more responsible spent elsewhere.

by freely on Sep 21, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

@Freely, since I've never seen you have anything good to say about DC, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to consider moving you and your business across one of two local state lines.

Really, at this point it's like listening to an obese person complain that they are..well..obese..as they sit before their 3rd personal "platter" @Carmine's (of all places)! GEEZ!

by HogWash on Sep 21, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

Guthrie is a class act. The O's never score enough runs for him. Nice to see his name.

by John on Sep 21, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport

Freely,
A couple things: if you moved your residence, how are you going to do that? You're going to sell your house. And who can afford the price you'd surely insist upon? They'd have to make a lot of money! So go ahead and move, your departure will make no difference to the net turnover in DC residents.

Second, sure you can leave you Georgetown office space and move. But again, your space would simply be filled with another business willing to pay the rent to Richard Levy or whoever owns your building. Hell, maybe it'd be more profitable.

You're not that important to DC. The tiny vacuum you'd leave if you move to Arlington would be filled in a second with someone with pretty much the same economic characteristics.

Also, Hillandale is not Georgetown. It's a tacky subdvision full of bland 1960s homes that are expensive only because they appeal to that particularly paranoid personality that feels the need to hide behind a gate even though they live in a safe neighborhood. It should've stayed a park like the rest of Glover Archbold Park.

by DC Res on Sep 21, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

Freely,
Thank you so much for your last comment. You hit the nail on the head.

by Pat on Sep 21, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

@freely:

I don't ask for a "thanks" for those of you I support.

That's probably for the best. Heh.

In any case, this is a free-market democracy. If you find the benefits of living in DC to outweigh the negatives, you should stay. If not, we have liberal emigration policies here. Hopefully the venting makes you feel better, but by staying, you're letting us know things are hunky-dory.

by oboe on Sep 21, 2011 1:09 pm • linkreport

I just keep hoping that someone like Freely steps up to put their money where their mouth is. I know I would. Ragtag bloggers don't scare the current Counciljokes, but the idea of a primary challenger backed with enough independent expenditures to make it a fair fight sure would.

by cminus on Sep 21, 2011 1:24 pm • linkreport

@DC Res: Even though I largely agree with you, I think that your attack on Freely is bordering on ad hominem.

Now, Freely, I think you're making numerous conflicting demands. I acknowledge that $875 might still seem like a lot to you (and, having formerly contracted for a number of Wall Street bankers with similar incomes, can confirm that this mindset is by no means uncommon -- it shouldn't be surprising that thrift is often tied to success).

However, if we come to the conclusion that we need additional revenue to fund priorities for the city, in a recession, the only morally conscionable way to do this is to affect the people for whom the extra tax burden will "sting" the least. Right now, that's your tax bracket. DC's highest tax bracket is absurdly low right now -- about 40% lower than our average per-capita income. As Obama said; adding an extra backet isn't politics. It's math. And in DC's case, the math is extremely clear-cut.

Now, I think that you're making some contradictory demands. You yourself identified places where DC could be better - our infrastructure could indeed stand for some major improvements, especially given our decades-long maintenance backlog. However, these things aren't free.

You're welcome to criticize the council for its corrupt and often wasteful behavior. However, that's an entirely different argument, and not a reason to blindly oppose modest tax increases, or force the city to retreat into squalor.

If I discover at the end of the month that I was a bit reckless with the credit card, I don't shrug my shoulders and refuse to pay the bill. I pay the damn bill, and make sure to be more responsible in the future.

by andrew on Sep 21, 2011 1:42 pm • linkreport

Freely,

You make some good points. Personally, I don't see a lot of reasons for you to stay in Georgetown vs. a place like Courthouse. Your business would be easier to access by workers and customers compared to traffic-choked and metro-less g'town and you would be in a more business friendly locality/state. The main thing g'town has that Courhouse doesn't is some nice historic preservation.

There's a reason why when businesses mature past the incubation stage, they typically move to VA/MD. DC is a great place when you're a tiny, fairly unprofitable startup but once you're big enough to pay significant income taxes and need better government services, it often makes sense to move, particularly if you're in a knowledge business.

by Falls Church on Sep 21, 2011 1:44 pm • linkreport

@freely, clearly you've never been to the third world. Have you ever been trapped in your home for months because in the rainy season the roads are unpassable? I have. Have you ever had to hike for three days to use the phone because there isn't one in your county? I have. Have you ever had to take schoolkids on a field trip to the county hospital so that they could see ice at the county's only freezer (and the only building with electricity)? I have. Ever have to get off a train and hike for a mile to another train because the bridge is out (and has been for years)? I have. Have you ever watched a man die in the street because there is no ambulance to call and no doctor in town? I have.

So before you go around throwing terms like "crumbling infrastructure that is a shade away from being 3rd world" perhaps you should know what that means.

by David C on Sep 21, 2011 1:51 pm • linkreport

I don't take Freely to be complaining specifically about $875 (or so) in increased taxes but rather that the DC government's preferred approach to any fiscal concerns is to raise taxes rather than to look for ways either to reduce spending or to make spending more efficient. On either count, DC government has routinely fallen short.

I don't know Freely but from the tone of his post he seems willing to pay his share of taxes but resents the regular misuse and waste of that revenue by the DC government.

by ah on Sep 21, 2011 1:54 pm • linkreport

@DC Res,

Thank you for illustrating my point. Your inability to discuss things like an adult is duly noted.

And since you started the "lets be a prick thread", let me assure you that I, the jobs I provide, both professional and the continually useless summer jobs program I hate, but always give into, the dozens of college scholarships I've provided District graduates over the years and the and the millions dollars I contribute to the District bottom line every year are far more important, and have already have far more of an impact on this town than you will ever have. I contribute more civiclly, through volunteerism and financially to this town in one year than you will in your entire life. Hows that for snark?

As I stated above, my contribution is the per capita tax burden of 663 DC citizens, so me alone leaving is actually 664 people leaving, or about 6 months worth of population grow that DC saw between 2000-2010.

My last comment on the item will be this. There are 3 of the 6,000 living on my street. The other two, who have far more money than I both have vacation homes, in MD and VA respectively could with the simple stroke of a pen simply change their residency to the adjoining states and further deny the District the millions of dollars they provide it. From our discussions yesterday, it appears more likely to happen now than before. If I and 3 others of equal tax burden decide to make the simple move, then the city loses their new 20 million a year in revenue (or the equivalent of 3300 tax payers)and the utility of their tax increase will have been for naught.

If you think only 4 of the 6,000 (let along the thousands more just below that threshold) are tired of being the Districts simultaneous benefactors and scapegoats, you are mistaken, sorely so if you think that folks of my economic stature have been, or are more likely now to move to the District.

Back to your regularly scheduled programing...

by freely on Sep 21, 2011 1:55 pm • linkreport

Freely,
My household income is $415k and I contribute and participate in multiple community groups. So you can drop with the "I give more than you will in your entire life". You're not special and your departure would not be felt (and nor would mine) because people like us would move right in after us.

Your neighbors in gated Hillandale can certainly switch their residences on their taxes, but they'd be committing tax fraud. Funny that you're so livid about such fraud by councilmembers yet cavalier about it by your neighbors so long as it supports your point.

So as one of those 4,000 I say stop speaking for me.

by DC Res on Sep 21, 2011 3:10 pm • linkreport

Astonishingly bad move. Neither our President nor the city council understands math. In the President's case he just a Chicago political hack...never sticks with one plan then goes back the opposite direction. He is sadly a clueless fraud. His 'example' has dribbled into the City Council. The bloated DC government and school system could use some cuts. Try that before you raise taxes. Raising taxes is a failure of leadership.

by Pelham1861 on Sep 21, 2011 3:36 pm • linkreport

@Pelham1861:
If raising taxes is a failure of leadership, that must be why I dislike Reagan (11 times, he raised taxes) and Bush I ("read my lips").

In reality, raising taxes must be a part of the solution. And I for one, am not opposed to paying higher taxes. The debt that may parents generation drew up is going to come due sooner rather than later.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 21, 2011 3:39 pm • linkreport

@Matt, yes and they often forget that when marveling at the "great modern republican." Reagan raised taxes many times over.

@Pelham, what school cuts would you propose?

by HogWash on Sep 21, 2011 3:46 pm • linkreport

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