Monday, August 28, 2006

Is Hanger "Republican Enough" for the 24th?

That’s the question posed by Chris Graham of the Augusta Free Press in this article.

According to the article it seems as though hanger may not be “Republican enough.”

Arin Sime, a resident of Albemarle County has announced that he will seek the nomination next spring. Sime is unsure if he will run as a Republican or as a Libertarian.

Hanger has been around long enough to read the writing on the wall. He was quoted as saying;

“There's an interesting dynamic out there. Some of the antitax groups in particular, and there are a number of different iterations of that that are not necessarily Republicans at all, but they have influence within the Republican Party, are making it almost the accepted norm to have intraparty fights. You're seeing that in Northern Virginia, for example. Down here, I think there are some individuals who might like to have an intraparty contest - but I don't know whether that will develop or not. I'd say that it's at least a possibility……With some of these groups, if you're not pure enough, they want to kick you out of the Republican Party. I certainly don't want to see that type of attitude creep into Valley politics. It's really a minority-party mentality, when you get right down to it. But we are seeing more and more of that these days."

Too add a bit of irony to the story, Steven Sisson, who lost to Hanger in 2003 as a conservative Democrat was quoted as saying, “A number of Republicans have asked me if I would consider switching parties and challenging Emmett in a primary.”

Hmmmm – does that make the Republican’s who supposedly asked Sission (a Democrat) to run “Republican enough?”

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Real Estate Economics 101

I came across this little piece about real estate economics over at and thought it worthy of passing along to other bloggers.

Per the article;

Myth #1: As long as job growth is strong, prices can't go down

The argument that prices can't fall in a good job market doesn't make economic sense: To be sure, a strong employment picture helps demand. But if far more houses are pouring onto the market than can be absorbed by households lured by the new jobs, and if the sellers are pressured to sell, prices will fall.

That's precisely what's happening now in good job markets such as San Diego and Northern Virginia. In this boom, prices soared to such extraordinary levels that builders kept churning out new homes, and owners of existing houses threw a record number of units on the market to cash out. The supply grew so fast that demand, even in strong job markets, simply couldn't keep up.

Myth #2: The builders learned their lesson in the last downturn. They won't swamp the market with new houses when the market turns

Builders are still pouring out near-record numbers of new homes as sales decline, assuring a further fall in prices. "Buyers" are walking away from deposits on houses that were supposedly pre-sold, forcing developers to throw them back on the market at a discount.

The problem is that even now, margins on new homes are still pretty good, though well below the levels of a year ago. As a result, builders will just keep building until those big margins evaporate. High prices are sewing the seeds of their own demise. They always do.

Myth #3: Low interest rates will keep values rising, or at the very least, put a floor under prices

What really matters for all assets, whether it's houses, stocks or bonds, is real interest rates - in other words, nominal rates after subtracting inflation. And real rates fell sharply starting in 2001. That caused a legitimate, one-time increase in housing prices.

The rub is that prices rose far more than could ever be justified by declining mortgage rates. That's where the bubble kicked in. Today's relatively low rates are not, and never were, a reason why prices would keep rising. Once real rates drop and stabilize, the impetus goes away - again, the gain is a one-time, not a recurring, phenomenon.

Today, real 10-year rates are still extremely low. They have nowhere to go but up. When the one-time gain of 2001-2004 reverses, housing prices could take a further hit.

By the way, a decline in rates due to a fall in inflation isn't the boom to real estate it's advertised to be. Sure, rates go down, but workers also receive lower raises. So the fall in rates turns out to be a wash. As for what matters - real rates - what goes down later goes up, and housing prices go in the other direction, namely south.

Myth #4: Restriction on development in the suburbs ensure low supply, and guarantee rising prices

This argument ignores that the tough zoning laws and anti-development fervor have been a feature of America's tony towns since the early 1970s. The "not in my town" phenomenon is nothing new.

Sure, it's still difficult to get new building permits in suburbs of New Jersey, New York, Washington, Seattle and San Francisco. But America's housing market is extremely fluid. People move farther from job centers, and commute longer hours, to get bargains where housing is plentiful. Then the jobs move to the areas with the cheap houses. People in their 50s and 60s cash out early in San Diego and buy a bigger house for half the money in Texas or South Carolina.

And the cities are just as enthusiastic about developing blighted areas with new, tax-paying high-rises as the suburbs are slamming the door. In the New York area, Brooklyn, Jersey City and Hoboken - and even Manhattan - are sprouting more new housing than in decades, despite a job market that's hardly robust.

A year ago, the reigning clich was that real estate had entered a new world of "no supply." Now, a record 3.85 million homes are up for sale, and buyers are getting scarce.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Americans for Prosperity Statewide Tour

Americans for Prosperity stopped by the Museum of The Shenandoah Valley on Thursday as part of their Taxpayer Trust Tour. AFP is a group that monitors pork barrel spending at the state and federal level.

If you are interested in more info. on AFP they can be found on the web at

The Winchester Star covered their stop in Winchester.

Highlights from the article:

“Spending in The Commonwealth has increased 111% over the past 10 years while the population has grown only 12%.”

“$37 million in direct funding was given to more than 300 museums, theaters, tourist attractions, and other projects in Virginia this year. The group figures more than $200 million have gone to projects over the past decade.”

“$87,500 was given to the Virginia Museum of Transportation — a point she finds ironic, given the General Assembly was involved in its longest budget stalemate because of transportation issues.”

I wish AFP the best of luck in their mission – as far as I can tell their going to need it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Impact Fees vs. Proffers

The Winchester Star has a nice little piece on what a locality can do in terms of imposing impact fees or proffers.

Frederick County, it seems, is interested in using impact fees for transportation improvements instead of proffers for new developments.

The article points out that, “According to state law, counties can impose transportation impact fees on new development instead of proffers, but not both. The county can still receive proffers for parks and recreation, fire and rescue, and other uses.”

Furthermore, “The fees cannot be used to fix existing conditions and can only be used on secondary roads, which are those designated as Route 600 or higher.”

Frederick County had an opportunity to get the low-down on impact fees by officials from Stafford County.

Stafford County had to do several things in order to start collecting the fees including, “data collection, analysis, choose projects, set up an advisory committee, work out a fee schedule, set up a designated area where the fees would be applicable, hold a public hearing, adopt an ordinance, establish a collection process, and establish an appeal process.”

Finally, “According to state law, all projects must begin construction within 10 years or the money is returned to those who had to pay the impact fee.”

One thing the article missed, and something I would like to know is why one is better than the other. Does anyone know? Can a locality get more money via impact fees as opposed to proffers?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

HobNob In The Valley

The cast of characters for the 2006 edition of The HobNob in The Valley is quickly coming together.

This year’s event will be held at the Winchester Medical Center’s Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy on Sept. 8.

Notably absent, at least for now are Sen. George Allen and his opponent James Webb.

In no particular order, the list of attendees are (drum roll, please);

- U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf

- Democrat Judy M. Feder (Wolf’s opponent)

- Libertarian Wilber Woods III (Wolf’s opponent)

-Independent Green Neeraj C. Nigam (Wolf’s opponent)

-Independent Glenda Gail Parker (running against Sen. George Allen)

-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine

-Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell

-Former Lt. Gov. John Hager (current assistant secretary in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services)

-Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester

-Del. Beverly J. Sherwood, R-Frederick County.

The Winchester Star has the complete story, here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

NO! Charter School Application Rejected in Loudon County

The Loudoun County School Board shot down the idea of opening the counties first charter school by a vote of 9-0. The Leesburg Today has the story here.

A group called the Blue Hills Foundation submitted the application for a Science and Mathematics Academy in LC.

The Blue Hills Foundation website says that, "
Blue Hills Foundation, a Virginia Nonprofit Corporation is facilitating better and competitive educational platforms by means of initiating curriculums, and institutions. We promote educational opportunities for the children of Northern Virginia."

Apparently, the groups application needed some work. One school board member, John A. Andrews (Potomac), "told the Blue Hills Foundation to withdrawn the application, rework it and then resubmit it, but the group didn’t listen to his advice. He said he was hoping for a stronger application for Loudoun’s first charter school."

Well, better luck next time, I guess.

IMHO, charter schools will become more popular in the future. If a few are allowed to open and are successful then I think the trend will catch on.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Minimum Wage......$7.25?

It appears as though the Republican controlled House of Representatives has stolen a play from the Dem's playbook. They appear to be set to pass legislation that would increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25.

A person making the minimum wage earns $10,700/year at the current level, which is below the federal poverty level.

The article states that, "Inflation has eroded the minimum wage's buying power to the lowest level in about 50 years".

Of course, there looks like there will be a fight over the issue.

The Dem's think that, "Republicans planned to add "poison pills" for their business allies", while the Conservative Republican's think that, "Quickly increased labor costs unrelated to business conditions will encourage or force employers to fire employees, reduce working hours for existing employees, and/or postpone plans to hire additional employees".

Election ploy or not, the cost of living is at an all time high. A dollar simply doesn't go as far as it once did. I'd say it's time to seriously consider raising the minimum wage.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is Your Home Overpriced?

Check out this article and spreadsheet from regarding housing prices.

I'd hate to be living in takes up 9 out of the top 10 overpriced markets.

-The Washington DC/Arlington market is 37% overpriced according to

-Virginia Beach-Norfolk comes in at 16% overpriced.

-The Richmond market comes is at 7% overpriced but is still considered a fair value.

If your looking for a deal, you will need to move to Texas. El Paso comes in at 26% undervalued.

Monday, July 24, 2006

So Much For the Cheap Commute

Toll Road Investors Partnership II (TRIP) is proposing to increase the toll on the Dulles Greenway to $4.80 by 2012. Trucks may pay twice as much.

The Leesburg Today has the story, here.

hmmm, I wonder what the cost of gas will be in 2012? Or, I wonder what the property taxes will be in Loudoun County in 2012.

Who knows, at least we know what it's going to cost to ride on the Dulles Greenway.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mark Tate: Better Late Than Never

Republican candidate Mark Tate, who is running for the State Senate from the 27th District, hasn’t filed a campaign report in (gulp) THREE YEARS! The seat is currently held by Sen. Russ Potts.

So what? Who cares? What’s the big deal?

Well, according to Chris Piper of the Virginia State Board of Elections, “State law will prohibit him from gaining access to the ballot until such time that these reports are filed.”

Tate has not filed a campaign finance report since July 2003. Because he has not filed the SBE has fined him $500.

For more info. check out this article from The Winchester Star. It has a good analysis of the fundraising activity from the other candidates in the race, Jill Holtzman Vogel and Sen. Russ Potts.

Holtzman reported a balance of $200,711.19 in her June 30th report while Potts’s reported ending balance is $42,927.44. Tate says his ending balance was $190,566.14.

Most observers expect another brutal primary battle between Holtzman and Tate (Potts has not decided if he’s going to run again).

If Tate can keep up with Holtzman in fundraising this could turn out to be an interesting race to watch (If he can file his reports on time).

Sen. Russ Potts has a New Job

Sen. Russ Potts has accepted a new job with the Winchester Public School System. Check it out here and here.

Potts will receive a $75,000/year as the Director for the John Handley High School Capital Campaign. His goal is to raise $3 million to $5 million that will go towards the renovation of John Handley High School in Winchester, VA.

Potts doesn’t feel that there is a conflict of interest between his new job and his Chairmanship of the Senate Education and Health Committee.

Neither does Sen. Ken Stolle, “Offhand, I would say there is probably not a conflict, and the reason I would say there is not a conflict is that we currently have teachers that are serving in the General Assembly.”

However, some folks may take issue with the fact that Potts campaign for Governor is still $183,000 in the red. Read more here.

In either case, it looks like Potts will be a full-time fundraiser.