November 22, 2015
November was full of productive Board actions on several big items, as well as some contentious debates on fundamental policy. Some of the highlights are below. And the election in Arlington resulted in a Democratic sweep - highlighted by the strong wins of Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol. I look forward to working with them beginning in January.
THE BUDGET: A REFLECTION OF OUR VALUES
Budget Direction for Next Year: We voted 5-0 to give budget guidance to the County Manager that his FY17 budget proposal – due in February – shall reflect no increase in the tax rate and include options for budget reductions, excluding Schools.
Action to “Close Out” Last Year’s FY15 Budget: After meeting obligations to ensure our reserve funds and other policy/legal commitments (including $30M to the Schools), the Manager recommended allocations of about $22M of one-time surplus funds. I fully supported NOT spending all the funds this year, but setting them aside for next year’s FY17 budget as placeholders for our clearly identified priority areas: economic development, land acquisition, affordable housing, capital maintenance and public safety. After a lively exchange, the motion by Mr. Vihstadt and Ms. Garvey to amend the Manager’s recommendation and to cut these programs failed 2-3. The final vote to approve was 4-1, with Ms. Garvey in opposition. This experience left me concerned about the future of these important programs, especially affordable housing.
VIRGINIA’S I-66 PROJECT
Issue-- Governor McAuliffe’s proposed “I-66 Multimodal Improvement Project: Inside the Beltway” resolution was considered by the County Board. The staff and citizen-led Transportation Commission spent a year in discussion with VDOT about the project. Both recommended support for it.
Analysis – The only people paying a toll will be those driving alone during the rush hour period in the rush hour direction. Around 2020, you would need 3 passengers to drive for free – though the shift back to HOV-3 has been planned for many years and would be implemented with or without the tolls.
The resolution reflects a regional compromise that meets Arlington’s most important transportation needs. This project is structured on the same principles of smart growth that have served Arlington well for decades: to move more people – not just cars – faster and more efficiently through improved transit (slugging, carpools, commuter bus, 8-car METRO trains, etc.).
Unlike existing VA HOT Lanes projects, this project dedicates toll revenue to fund multi-modal improvements in this corridor. All the money will stay in Northern Virginia. The corridor includes the parallel roadways from Lee Highway to Route 50, and any eastbound widening cannot occur until the multi-modal investments and any HOV changes are given several years to work and be assessed. This is the most cost effective approach and a big change from the typical knee jerk reaction to just widen the roads – leading to more cars driving with solo drivers – and continued congestion years later.
Decision -- I feel strongly that support of this project is important to the future of Arlington. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 3 to 2, with Mr. Vihstadt and Ms. Garvey voting no. While Arlington cannot stop this project, we will be at the table to shape it. Should the project be rejected, the dedicated funds for transit improvements could be lost and the widening could occur much faster. My position was also supported by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Sierra Club, and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
Recycling Expands! Arlington will finally have year-round yard waste collection! This helps us catch up to most of our neighboring localities. The fee will increase, yet will still be the lowest in the region. This is expected to increase our recycling rate from 47% to 60%, diverting 9,000 more tons from the waste stream.
Zero Waste Plan is Coming - At my initiation, we also adopted a resolution directing the Manager – with a community process – to begin developing a Zero Waste Plan that could divert 90% of the community’s waste away from landfills or incineration by 2038. As always, we would seek smart, balanced and fiscally responsible strategies. Having alreadyexceeded our current solid waste plan goals nearly 10 years early, it is time to set a more ambitious goal for the next 23 years. I am very proud of our community’s commitment to do our part to protect the environment. This proposal received strong community support and a 5-0 vote by the Board.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SUCCESSES
Goodbye Ballston Mall. Hello Ballston Quarter! We have become much more focused and aggressive in our economic development efforts. We approved plans to transform the aging Ballston Mall into a dynamic, outward-facing mixed use development that will stimulate the County economy. This is a game-changer. The County will partner with property owner Forest City – which is a strong and experienced company committed to investing over $250M. Look for construction to start in 2016.
The GW Medical Faculty Associates is coming to Arlington. They are the largest independent physician network in the DC area, will create more than 200 jobs and occupy50,000 square feet of office space.
PLANNING OUR FUTURE
Tackling Arlington’s Scarcity of Public Land for Public Facilities - Arlington has a growing population, resulting in the need for additional public facilities and schools – but we have limited public land. How do we pick the best sites? How do we maximize our resources and meet our needs? The recommendations, among others, are to build up/under/over, to build joint-use facilities, and to add more structure to enhance collaboration between the County and Schools.
The County and School Boards jointly created a task force in January that worked intently for 10 months. They were complemented by a Resident Forum of 200+ that joined the process. At a joint meeting, all but one County and School Board member supported the proposed next steps. Ms. Garvey abstained. View the Study Committee’s Final Report.
Huge Turnout for Lee Highway Visioning Workshop - The effort began with citizens along Lee Highway wanting to “get ahead of” future development of their neighborhoods. After several years of educational forums and community meetings, anintensive 4-day workshop was recently held at the Langston-Brown Community & Senior Center. The goal was to involve the broad community in a visioning effort for the future of this important corridor, and hundreds of people participated.
Columbia Pike/Crystal City Transit – I want a clear, smart consensus plan, and sooner is better. Despite calls for fast-tracking, we must seriously engage the community and integrate the new proposals into the update of our Transit Development Plan due to the State next Spring. The State must accept our plan before we can leverage State funds. Clearly bus enhancements can be implemented well before 2021 when the streetcar was to have been operating. And we continue to invest over $200M in streetscape, undergrounding improvements, the new Crystal City Transitway, and building23 new transit stations in this corridor on the original timeline.
ARLINGTON COUNTY BOARD STATEMENT ON SYRIAN REGUGEES
There has been a media frenzy in recent days reflecting honest and understandable concerns about terrorism, yet fueled by political opportunism. I hope you will appreciate the statement put out by the County Board on the issue of Syrian Refugees. The responses on the County’s facebook page have been overwhelmingly positive.
As always, I welcome your suggestions or questions. Thanks for all you do to keep Arlington strong!
NewsThursday, October 15, 2015 12:00 AM
Jay's October e-Newsletter
Sunday, October 11, 2015 7:56 PM
Statement of Jay Fisette
Thursday, January 15, 2015 10:37 PM
Monday, January 6, 2014 6:22 PM
Couldn't make it to the swearing-in ceremony in person? You can still see it online.
Monday, January 6, 2014 6:12 PM