Here are some of the stories I couldn’t get to last week:
Filmflam. It’s not often that I find myself agreeing with Sara Okos with the Commonwealth Institute, but we see eye-to-eye on the subject of motion picture tax credits. The House of Delegates has passed a bill doubling the tax credit to up to $25 million over the biennial budget at a time when many other states are scaling back. Writes Okos in the Half Sheet:
The most rigorous studies show that motion picture tax credits aren’t effective generators of economic development. The jobs that they create are temporary and low-paying. In the movie biz, most highly paid, highly skilled workers are brought in from other regions, while low-skilled workers are the ones hired locally and take home only a fraction of the total wages associated with a project. Because the film industry is highly mobile, those jobs don’t last after a movie wraps.
House Republicans have lost their way. Seriously, how can they claim to be fiscal conservatives when they pull stunts like this? What’s going on? Are they hoping to pick up production of the Netflix political series “House of Cards,” which is threatening to pull up its sets and decamp to another state unless Maryland agrees to more tax credits? Yuck. If there’s a business dirtier than inside-Washington politics, it’s this one.
What’s happening in Charlottesville? Charlottesville appears in the list of 10 fastest-shrinking metropolitan economies in the United States, with a loss of 2.2% in gross metropolitan production, according to 24/7 Wall Street, the second straight year of decline. Yet unemployment remains at reasonably robust 4.6%. This makes no sense. I can’t think of anything that would account for such a shrinkage. Is this a statistical anomaly? Does anyone have an explanation?
Living the High Life in Tysons. We’ll soon find out how much market demand there is for living in Tysons. Developers have begun marketing new luxury high-rises being built as part of the mammoth make-over of the congested, car-centric business district into a walkable mixed-use community. One-room studios are being listed for between $3 and $4 per square foot — the same price as in the established Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington County, considerably more expensive than in Reston but cheaper than in Washington, D.C. The tricky part is this: Renters would be paying walkable-neighborhood prices… without the walkable neighborhoods. They might get a walkable city block, but it will take years for the rest of the walkable urban fabric to fill in around them. The Washington Post has the story here.
Preserving gravel roads. Here’s an interesting turn-around. Typically, Virginians living on dirt and gravel roads have begged and pleaded with the Virginia Department of Transportation to pave them. Now comes a bill, HB 416, that would require VDOT to keep 300 miles of unpaved road in western Loudoun County as they are rather than paving, straightening or widening them. It appears that the residents of rural Loudoun like their windy dirt roads, some of which pre-date the Civil War, and want to keep them that way. Greater Greater Washington has the story here.