Del. Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax, is using legislation and his power as chairman of a House of Delegates subcommittee to penalize Arlington County. From stalling a county hotel tax to blocking the county's transportation funding, Hugo is striking out against Arlington out of frustration with the county's 2009 lawsuit challenging the construction of high occupancy tolls, or HOT lanes, on Interstate 95/395, his aides say.
Hugo is particularly upset that the county sued state transportation officials by name, said George Faatz, his legislative assistant.
"He's not thrilled with how Arlington County is doing business," Faatz said.
County officials accuse Hugo of bullying them and misusing his influence in the General Assembly to hold up important initiatives unrelated to the HOT lanes lawsuit. And officials warn that stalling highway funding could extend problems into Alexandria, Fairfax County and other jurisdictions.
"They don't have anything to do with the merits of the case," said Arlington County Attorney Steve MacIsaac. "They're really just punishment. And we did raise the question of what kind of public policy is being made here, where a locality is punished for exercising its rights to go to court."
Arlington's lawsuit faults the Federal Highway Administration for not conducting environmental studies to ensure the project won't harm nearby poor and minority residents. The county also wants proof that HOT lanes will ease traffic congestion over the long term.
"We're not saying that you shouldn't have HOT lanes," MacIsaac said. "We're simply saying, let's make sure that you've planned and designed it properly so that transit and HOV doesn't get sacrificed."
County Manager Barbara Donnellan and MacIsaac spoke with Hugo this week to explain that their lawsuit had to identify defendants by name because courts require it when civil rights violations are alleged, but Hugo was unmoved.
For now, Arlington County is standing firm as well.
"I don't believe the board is going to be bullied into a settlement that doesn't address the issues they're concerned about," he said.