Rebecca Boxall, District 5

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1. Protection of Taxpayers' Dollars – please respond by March 2, 2023

How much of a priority should be placed on protecting taxpayers' dollars? If we are granting dollars for “economic development” should the company be vetted? Should an “economic development” grant require an actual application? Why or why not?

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Using tax generated income wisely is very important. Companies should be vetted. We depend on our Economic Development Department and EDC to do the vetting. We do a lot of research on our own but Council does not have the expertise to fully vet companies. 

 

2. Density – please respond by March 9, 2023

How do you feel about changing commercially zoned properties to multi-family zoned properties? What if the area already contains many, many apartments such as southeast Arlington in the Hwy 360 corridor? How do you feel about RMU (Regional Mixed Use) zoning and its potential 100 units/acre? Why?

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I do not believe we need density such as 100/units per acre in Arlington at this time. However, our UDC and land use policies incentivize this type of development because it disincentivizes lower density development.

This in turn keeps smaller parcels from being developed.  Instead they lie dormant until consolidated into large parcels. There are some areas of town where developers have spent 10 years or more accumulating property. Accumulators know they have the luxury of time because small land owners/developers cannot weather our approval processes and build something of lower density. Once they consolidate a large parcel they want the highest density to pay themselves back for the time value of money spent accumulating.

 

New development and redevelopment projects should be mixed use as much as possible. Single use zoning is outdated and obsolete. Mixed use has a specific meaning in our UDC (commercial + residential) but a more general definition is any mix of uses. For example, some light industrial uses can mix with general commercial or retail or even residential in some contexts.  

 

Our UDC use tables are outdated as are our zoning districts. A developer should not have to go through so much red-tape to mix compatible uses or re-parcel the site into different zones in order to get multiple uses.  There are many uses that do not necessarily need to be separated from other uses. I can give specific examples if requested. 

 

 

3. Transportation – please respond by March 16, 2023

VIA's current funding has taxpayers paying about 60% and federal grants paying 40%. What are your thoughts on how much is coming from the general fund and why?

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Federal funding is being cut in a number of areas cities have come to depend on, such as housing, infrastructure and transportation. We either have to make up the difference or go without. VIA is worth the investment, so far, in alt-transportation for our citizens. However, I'd like to see more competition in the transportation area. There is no reason why someone could not be able to make a viable business out of a fixed route van (or short bus) service, for example. Likely there are a lot of regulations keeping this from happening. If we had more competition, ride-rates would go down and fewer or no subsidies would be needed.  

 

There are some families using VIA to get their kids to and from school. Kids are riding alone in VIA. This is because parents have to get to work early or can't afford 2 vehicles. I believe AISD should kick in some $$$ for lower income students for transportation. Or put schools closer to where students live so they can walk. But this is outside of Council purview. 

 

In general terms, ride-share helps families go without a car or go car-lite. This frees up money within a family not having to pay for registration, maintenance, car payment, insurance, etc for a vehicle or an extra vehicle if they can get by using ride share even part of the time. Some of the freed disposable income comes back to the city in the form of sales tax and some in the form of not having to spend on other things, like housing, policing etc. 

VIA is exponentially less expensive to run than a mass transit system, buses or rail. Many cities with mass transit are transitioning in part to ride share and closing down some routes of mass transit. It is more efficient even with subsidies.

 

 

4. Corporate Welfare – please respond by March 23, 2023

The City Council has given away millions of dollars and/or potential revenues to companies to encourage development. At what point has there been enough “encouragement” and the taxpayers-- and lowering tax rates-- should become a higher priority than development? Why?

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This is a tricky area. We need more jobs but chasing large job-creating companies is not enough on its own. Often less than 50% of the employees of these companies are Arlington residents, often considerably less. If the company does not generate enough sales tax in a reasonable pay-back period, and also does employ a majority Arlington citizens, I fail to see how this is a real investment for the future. If we would be collecting revenue, ideally from sales outside Arlington or the region, we should at least consider an investment. We should not invest in national or international companies, in my opinion, unless they have proven sales tax generating ability and/or hire more than 50% Arlington citizens.  

 

Also, commercial real estate, particularly stand-alone commercial, is experiencing high vacancy rates in Arlington, DFW and nationally. There is a lot of doubt whether commercial RE leasing will ever come back to pre 2020 levels.  I am a accolyte of Strong Towns https://www.strongtowns.org/ many-small-bets philosophy of economic development.  Stand-alone retail is stagnant at best. (This is why mixed use development is diversifying income  and job capacity).  I do not believe stand-alone office development is a good investment at this time.  I would rather make a larger number of  "small bets" on locally owned expanding or start up businesses. Some of them will fail, but it's still a wiser bet than a large bet on something that could also fail. 

 

 

 

5. Communications – please respond by March 30, 2023

If you receive an e-mail from a constituent similar to the top of this webpage

[ http://arlspectator.mysite.com/rich_text_83.html ], will you respond to the constituent? Why or why not? What actions will you take?

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I enjoy engaging with constituents. If anything I wish more people would engage with their council representatives. Often I don't hear about an issue or problem until it is a crisis or emergency. I like problem-solving and getting to the root of issues or problems before they get to this stage.  EMAIL is the best way to contact me rebecca.boxall@arlingtontx.gov. But call me at 808-221-0717 and leave a voice message. Texting or contacting me through Facebook or Messenger is not a great way to contact me but many people do and I do respond.

 

 

6. Issues – please respond by April 6, 2023

Other than public safety what is the most important issue the city council is currently facing? Why? What are your suggestions for addressing this issue?

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Housing is still a big problem in the city and concerning to me.  I have become of aware of numerous people who are what I call homeless-adjacent.  They are patching together shelter as best they can. These are people who are couch surfing with friends or family, tents in people's back yards, sleeping in their vehicle, sleeping in parks in good weather, going to a shelter in bad weather and then back couch surfing, etc. With the high rents and high inflation there are many families on the brink of homelessness. 

 

I also am aware of many single family neighborhoods where people are doubling or tripling up to share rent and expenses. By-the-bed rental is becoming more and more prevalent in single family homes and apartments. This is people doing the best they can to patch together shelter. Sometimes a Mom and younger child will rent a bedroom in a home while the Dad and older child(ren) sleep in their vehicle or outside, rotating with couch surfing in bad weather.  Some of these people even have housing vouchers but cannot find a place to rent, even with a subsidy, and still pay for transportation to job, food etc. The root of the problem, in my estimation, is lack of housing units. Supply and demand dictate that if there were more housing units, rental prices would decrease. 

 

This is very frustrating. People will say to me, well, they can go somewhere else. But where? Rent is running high everywhere and inflation is eating away at purchasing everything else. Many stay close enough to jobs to afford the gas, but if they had to move farther away, rent and food would still be high and then they could not afford the gas to get to far-away work.  Someplace else does not exist. 

 

I would like to see more smaller homes or units built for purchase for first time homebuyers and downsizers. We have many seniors who would like to move to smaller homes with less maintenance and running costs, but do not want to live in Senior Housing apartments. They want to stay in their community/neighborhood and still own their own homes.

 

In your questionnaire from 2 years ago I outlined many suggestions for improving this situation. These are still my suggestions. They won't fix everything but they would help. 

Finally, my comments from last campaign 2 years ago are still valid so I hope you keep them as well as these answers. I apologize for the late response to this questionnaire. I am available to meet with anyone anytime to discuss these issues in greater detail.        

 

 

Sent May 25, 2022 -

Transparency - Please respond by June 14, 2022.
 
If  the city council approves an item for hundreds of thousands of dollars and the taxpayers and citizens receive no benefit from the decision, should the staff conduct an investigation as to what happened, with recommendations of how the "loss" can be avoided in the future? Should the investigation results and recommendations be made available to the public? Why or why not?
The question, as always, is how is "no benefit to the citizens" and "loss" determined?  There are various hard number ways to calculate this per item or event,  plus numerous subjective means of assessment. 
There are decisions  made and amenities/services provided that are, subjectively, from my individual point of view, of no benefit to me.  But others  count the same as a benefits.
Yes, ideally, any "loss" to the city should be acknowledged and after action recommendations for not repeating made public.  But potentially hundreds of perceived "losses" could be claimed spanning back decades. 
What time frame are we talking about? Some things that seemed like a good idea 20+ or even 5 years ago can be deemed a poor decision now and vise versa. 
So I guess my question is: How should this be determined?
What would you consider a practical process for triggering such an analysis? A petition? Time frame?

 

1. Term Limits Committee – please respond by March 4, 2021

Last Summer a Term Limits Advisory Committee was named and then fast-tracked recommendations to the city council within only four meetings and over 13 hours of deliberation between July 14 and July 28. Do you have an opinion about this whole situation? Do you have an opinion about the outcome? Why or why not?

I support term limits in general but feel the way Arlington did it was too rigid.

I would  prefer 3-year terms instead of 2-year so the candidate is not in campaign mode as often.

So, two or three 3-year terms.

I would also be open to a 4th term if the office holder sits out one or more election cycles.

I would be open to other proposals

 

2. Sales Tax – please respond by March 11, 2021

This past November voters passed a measure to increase the sales tax another ¼ cent to 8.25% for the funding of an Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Seemingly wild claims were made, selling voters on this. What are your thoughts on the EDC's purpose and the tax? Why?

The  rationale for the tax is sound but the funds should be earmarked for specific purposes. My understanding is that spending the revenues is open-ended in purpose.  For example, the revenue could have been targeted for the redevelopment of so-called greyfield sites to entice developers to re-develop  instead of building on greenfield sites (which adds infrastructure liability on the taxpayer among other things). In this way we would have leveraged the money by lowering our long-time maintenance and replacement liabilities far into the future while utilizing our existing investments in infrastructure more wisely. In general, new spending should be coupled with thrift elsewhere going forward.

 

3. Density – please respond by March 18, 2021

How do you feel about changing commercially zoned properties to multi-family zoned properties? What if the area already contains many, many apartments such as southeast Arlington in the Hwy 360 corridor? How do you feel about RMU (Regional Mixed Use) zoning and its potential 100 units/acre? Why?

Projected population increases are going to put more pressure on housing.

More persons in the same land area equals greater density _  by math.

The question becomes how best to accommodate increased population? How can we shape density to be an asset to Arlington?

We need a diversified and incremental approach -  not one size fits all. I have lots of specific proposals on this issue in particular. I would be happy to discuss in greater detail with anyone interested. These are not very relatable in sound bites.

I propose incremental up-zoning in targeted areas that benefit existing property owners and local developers not only or mostly big multi-national corps and REITS

If we approach this incrementally it will be a long time before 100 unit per acre is needed in Arlington, if ever. We can build at that density as a choice, but we don’t have to.  Such high density proposals are leapfrogging other viable options and, I argue, precluding them.

I propose more diversity in housing  type – size -  lot size – height   … smaller multi-family infill such as duplexes, 4, 6 or 8 plexes, cottage courts, ADUs, manor apartments and townhouse courts.  I also propose more multi-generational housing and rethinking our parking and garage requirements.

The above can be mixed into larger scale developments to add diversity.  In general, the UDC should be inclusive of all housing types, not exclusive.

This will entail  updating our uniform development code (UDC) and other policies. 

 

4. Transportation – please respond by March 25, 2021

VIA's December 2019 contract renewal has increased the geographical coverage area to 41% (and is available to 49% of the population) of the city. Meanwhile, the contract was to be paid at a rate of 53% by Arlington taxpayers (general fund), 31% by Federal Grant, and 16% by the people taking the rides. Currently CARES funds are paying for VIA, but that will eventually stop. When things return to “normal” funding, let's assume that the Federal Grant will cover 25%. At that time, what should be the pricing structure between the general fund and riders? Why?

VIA now covers the entire city. I support this flexible/incremental solution to transit over other choices that would cost much more and be less adaptable/flexible.

I would like to ensure a large percentage of drivers, vehicle maintenance and other staff are Arlington citizens.  If we’re going to fund/partially fund something let’s leverage the investment by benefiting as many Arlington citizens as possible.

In the future I would like to see competition in ride share or any other transportation options. Competition will give citizens more transportation choices.

 

5. Corporate Welfare – please respond by April 1, 2021

The City Council has given away millions of dollars and/or potential revenues to companies to encourage development. At what point has there been enough encouragement and the taxpayers, and lowering tax rates, should become a higher priority? Why?

I would like to see more contracts awarded to Arlington citizen business owners and/or companies whose employees are majority Arlington residents

In general we need to better maximize our existing/previous investments and incentivize REdevelopment of existing developed land.

This will help flip the business to homeowner tax burden ratio.

More efficient land use practices resolve a number issues long term. The criteria I will be looking for in such proposals is: If we are going to fund something let’s improve 2 or more things at once, ideally short and long term.

 

6. Communications – please respond by April 8, 2021

If a constituent emails you a question or comment on an issue about which you disagree and asks you for a response, will you respond to the constituent? Why or why not?

 

Yes. I am happy to listen to all points of view and proposals. My motto will be make your case, persuade me. In turn I will lay out my position as persuasively as I can. This has been my way of collaborating with others throughout my career.

As an architect I am long used to people challenging my ideas. This is basically the architect’s entire life, proposing something then defending its merits (or not). In almost every case criticism results in improving on the original idea or an entirely different/better idea coming forward.

 

7. Issue – please respond by April 15, 2021

What is the most important issue the city council is currently facing? Why?

 

LAND USE as it relates to projected POPULATION GROWTH and DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE (generational) ... in particular housing, infrastructure and services.

Most issues in cities stem from land use decisions and practices one way or another. Furthermore, the premises underlying many of our existing codes and regulations have changed dramatically or disappeared entirely.

Update polices and regulations to FUTURE-PROOF the city to be more flexible and adaptable. Build-in resilience by not locking ourselves into one-size-fits-all responses to current issues/situations.