The Innovation Revolution: Bacon’s Rebellion Strikes Again

The July 10, 2006, edition of Bacon’s Rebellion is now online. Columns and features include:

CDAs, TIFs and TDMs
Lawmakers are overlooking a huge source of revenue to underwrite new transportation projects — the increase in property values made possible by the transportation improvements themselves.
by James A. Bacon

Connecting the Crescent
The Northern Virginia economic engine isn’t powering growth only in metro Washington, it’s creating jobs in Hampton Roads and Richmond, too. Politicians need to get with the program.
by Doug Koelemay

Burned Out
The story of Bill Downey, a Fauquier County supervisor who declined to run for re-election, is more than the tale of one man’s frustration: It’s emblematic of spreading dysfunction as non-urban communities begin to urbanize.
by E M Risse

Ozzie and Harriet School Funding
It’s time to overhaul arcane educational funding formulas that might have worked in the ’50s but create endless red tape today. Dollars should “follow the child” to his or her public school.
by Chris Braunlich

Hold on to Your Wallets!
GOP delegates are bragging that they held the line against new tax increases. They are either disingenuous or too naïve to realize that the next tax increase has been set in motion.
by Phillip Rodokanakis

Marriage A,B,Cs
There are good reasons for Virginia to define marriage as between a man and a woman. It is the best institution yet devised for raising healthy, productive citizens.
by James Atticus Bowden

Nice & Curious Questions
Blasts from the Past: Virginia’s Drive-In Theaters
by Edwin S. Clay III and Patricia Bangs

Too Conservative: Vince Harris
by Conaway Haskins

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9 responses to “The Innovation Revolution: Bacon’s Rebellion Strikes Again”

  1. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Burned Out, may be one of EMR’s best works. There is still a lot of mumbo jumbo, but if you can stand the pain of wading through the muck there is some reality:

    Large numbers of new citizens moving into jurisdictions with 200-year-old borders disrupts the traditional (aka, slow) assimilation of new ideas and new paradigms.

    Old residents – the “been heres” – are not models of consistency. They change attitudes while claiming “been here” values. They have an eye on the potential sale of land at inflated, urban, windfall values.

    New residents – the “come heres” – have new ideas, new priorities, new needs and new demands. The first wave of new residents want to pull up the drawbridge to keep out the potential “new, new” citizens. The first new residents use the excess capacity from the nonurban era – e.g. the farm-to-market roadways – but expect the “new, news” to pay for their impact via developer fees.

    That is a pretty realistic and succint description. However, I don’t think he has the entire real picture when he says:

    “They have an eye on the potential sale of land at inflated, urban, windfall values.”, and this is an idea he repeats, twice.

    I see three things wrong here. The first is, that if they can sell the land at those “inflated” prices, then the prices are not inflated, they are what they are. It is not up to the “been heres” to prevent the “come heres” from making bad decisions. Ed is fond of making the argument that property prices in urban areas show that these are what the populace most highly values. It seems to me that, if true, the same argument holds in rural areas as well: the prices show what the property will sell for.

    Ed claims to be a free market proponent, until what is being sold offends his sensibilities. Speculation and the success or failure thereof is an essential part of the process.

    The second issue is that some of these people have no choice but to look at the “inflated prices”. They are being forced out anyway, by a lack of any other alternatives. Both the lack of alternatives and the inflated prices are a result of government actions. Part of the inflated prices is because of the large lot restrictions, which Ed properly notes are a failure. And the lack of opportunities is caused by overly burdensome zoning and development regulations.

    Finally, when the “come heres” agitate for regulations to close the door agains the “New News” then it is the “been heres” that get hurt the most. If they are going to be forced out, then they ought, as a matter of right, to be able to expect the best price.

    Ed outlines seveal features that make the process what it is. Boundaries that don’t match communities, changes that take place over generations, flip flopping of both the electorate and the representatives, futilely seeking stability and buildout in the face of change, higher expectations, etc.

    His suggestion is that we neeed more fluid boundaries and more layers of government in order to make democracy work. What I think this means is that we have to make the government even less responsive in order to make changes in the master plan far more difficult. As it is, the master plan cannot succeed because of all the continual changes. His argument is that planning works, it just has not been fully implemented yet: the failure of planning is a result of too much democracy, too much change.

    He believes that as a result of all the flux, that many of the communities resources are lost, despite the best efforts of many. But what are the communities resources? Much of what he talks about as community resources is really the collective benefit of private holdings.

    If we really want those things to be community resources, then we are going to have to go buy them, which will cost a lot of money. Ed suggests that we need a lot of additional levels or organization or government to achieve the same thing. All of those additional organizations and levels of government will have to be supported by taxes, and that will cost a lot of money.

    The more layers you have the less responsive the system is. This strikes me as the wrong answer. I don’t see how you get more democratic and more free market by adding more government and more taxes.

    One reason the county system is not working is because the Supervisors have far too much power. One elected on what Ed propery diagnoses as conflicting promises, the Supervisors amount to five Gods who can do as they please until the next election. If they are elected on rotating terms, then they can do as they please for at least the next three elections.

    Ed was on to it when he said “With elections every four years….” but he failed to grasp the significance of his own thoughts.

    If you want the system to be more democratic, then let the people vote more often and more specifically. Major decisions by the BOS should be approved by referendum.

    It is not clear how much could have done to change the trajectory of Warrenton-Fauquier 60 years ago when the transition first started even if elected and appointed governance practitioners had a crystal ball. I agree. It is therefore equally unclear that there is any point in attempting to alter it, or that Ed’s proposed revised trajectory would be any better.

    Maybe Supervisor Downey finally came to the realization that his desired outcomes were not possible and rather than being burned out, he simply decided to stop beating his head against the wall.

  2. Lucy Jones Avatar
    Lucy Jones

    Mr. Bowden,

    Thank you for a very informative read. I agree!

    I have one question I wonder if you could answer. I have read some comments on the upcoming marriage amemndment that say the way it is written will also limit currently “legal” agreements some unmarried people may have. Not only unmarried couples but also maybe agreements between people who may live together in a caregiver/patient situation. Do you know if this is true?

  3. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Re: CDAs, TIFs and TDMs. In theory, it’s hard to argue that this approach is wrong. However, I am skeptical that it would work in practice, at least in Fairfax County.

    Jim’s proposal would seem to be a good method to handle the proposed extension of Metrorail through Tysons Corner and that area’s subsequent redevelopment as a urban area. For purposes of disucssion, I’ll assume that all of the infrastructure costs could be fairly identified and recovered through the CDA, etc. In other words, the public facilities necessary to support a much densely developed Tysons Corner would actually be constructed and their costs would not be recovered from other taxpayers. So far, so good.

    However, what I suspect would happen in practice is that the costs for building the public infrastructure, including the costs for extending Metrorail through Tysons Corner (even with an appropriate contribution from the Airports Authority because of the desire to get people to and from Dulles Airport by rail) would be so large that the Tysons Corner landowners and developers could not pay them and still sell or lease their newly constructed real estate improvements at prices that would be acceptable to the market. In other words, the market will not sustain the prices necessary for the developers and builders to pay for the infrastructure costs that are necessary to permit building at the density level necessary to sustain the construction of heavy rail.

    On the other hand, if CDA taxes were set at levels that were recoverable in the marketplace, the funds so raised would be insufficent to support heavy rail and other infrastructure necessary to support the level of density desired by the landowners and developers. The market would probably only sustain prices sufficient to pay for lesser infrastructure, such as BRT, that would support much less density than that sought by the landowners and developers.

    This is why the landowners and developers are attempting to force taxpayers and toll road users to build the extension of Metrorail through Tysons and to Dulles. The project cannot be constructed and the desired densities obtained without massive taxpayer subsidies. The need for a huge taxpayer subsidy is the reason why these people and companies argue that constructing the Silver Line and supersizing Tysons Corner serve the public interest. If I am wrong, why don’t the Tysons Corner landowners and developers propose a CDA along the lines suggested by Jim.

    This entire project (the Silver Line and supersizing of Tysons Corner) is simply the biggest theft of taxpayer money in decades.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Toomanytaxes, You may be right about the Rail-to-Dulles extension being so expensive that it could never be supported. That’s the beauty of my market-driven approach. If the market won’t support the project maybe the project isn’t worth building!

    Of course, no project has to be a pure CDA-driven project. Federal funds could be applied, if available. So could state funds. CDAs simply provide a revenue-raising option that has not been fully exploited in the past.

  5. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Jim, I don’t disagree with your points. The use of a CDA, as you propose, in Tysons Corner, along with the fed’s $900 M, would likely work to ensure that only what makes economic sense without local taxpayer subsidies is built, but only if no thumbs were placed on the scale. However, having lived in Fairfax County for almost 20 years, I can attest that there will be as many thumbs placed on the scale as are needed to achieve the landowners’ and developers’ density goals, with the payment of infrastructure costs by other taxpayers & toll road users (except for the $400 M being paid by commercial property owners).

    There are probably many solutions, including CDAs, that could help solve these difficult problems if only Fairfax County’s leaders were inclined to good and open government. Perhaps, the county’s residents will decide in 2007 that they have had their fill and vote in a new group of supervisors. Perhaps, at that point, some of these tools could be deployed in a fair and open manner. But first, we need to survive our existing supervisors at least until the next election.

  6. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde


    “I’ll assume that all of the infrastructure costs could be fairly identified….”

    That is a big assumption.

    “…and their costs would not be recovered from other taxpayers.”

    But at least some of the infrastructure benefits other taxpayers, assuming the project is worth building, so why shouldn’t they pay at least some of the costs?

    We really don’t know how to measure these things, and there is very little work being done on the subject.

  7. Blackstone Avatar

    I think Lucy Jones has a point. The proposed amendment states (among other things):

    “Nor shall the commonwealth recognize another…legal status to which is assigned the…obligations of marriage.”

    It seems to me that an “obligation” of marriage” includes the obligation of support. I can see some serious litigation ensuing regarding this and other contracts and obligations between parties that are similar to obligations between married couples.

    As Lucy Jones noted, there are numerous situations in which people live together in a patient/caregiver relationship which could very well be invalidated by this.

    Courts in New York and Georgia have refused to find that there is a constitutional requirement to permit gay marriage. Virginia already has the “Defense of Marriage Act” which achieves the statutory objective. Why go fiddling around with the Constitution when there may be a large number of “unintended” results?

  8. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Infrastructure. Take a look at the 2006 Policy Guide for Monetary Contributions that was prepared by the staff of Prince William County and adopted by the Board of Supervisors. It appears to be quite well documented and the entire study methodology is set forth. Note that there is recognition (as there should be) of financial contributions from other taxpayers. While this may not be a perfect study, it nevertheless seems quite thorough and fair.

    On the other hand, we have Fairfax County where the planning commission and board of supervisors bend over backwards to collect as little as possible in proffers. I submit that the Prince William County approach is more fair and is based on much sounder economics than what occurs in Fairfax County. Further, I drove through parts of western Prince William last week, only to see significant construction. The policies of that county board does not seem to have destroyed the building industry. Moreover, the real estate tax rate has been cut more significantly than in most other local areas. I’d say the Prince William County approach seems fair and workable.

  9. Lucy and others:
    You can read about the impact of the proposed amendment on property rights in an oped written by Richmond attorney Charles Nance here:

    And, a lot more about the amendment and its impact at and at Blogging the Amendment,

    Full disclosure: I am the campaign manager for The Commonwealth Coalition, a diverse coalition of individuals, businesses, faith organizations and community and civic organizations that is opposed to the Marshall/Newman amendment which is an unnecesary effort to write discrimination into the constitution and intrude the government into the private lives of unmarried Virginians.

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