On the Issues
Expand Government Accountability
Fully Fund the County Auditor ∙ Ranked Choice Voting ∙ School Transparency ∙ Police Oversight ∙ Better Communication from the County
In 2015, with the hard work of (then) County Board member John Vihstadt, Arlington established a County Auditor office to serve as the eyes, ears, and voice of the county’s taxpayers. Since then, all other County Board members have left it underfunded and barely staffed. It’s time to fully fund the County Auditor office and empower it to uncover information and release public reports on any fraud, waste, and abuse it uncovers.
In addition to the budget, we must ensure full transparency and independent accountability of the entire county including our police department, county jail, affordable housing programs, the public school system, as well as ethics and behavior complaints.
However, true reform of our government’s operations starts at the beginning of an elected leader’s political career: our elections. We must have strong election reform of our local officials with Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) – a method of electing public officials that makes it easier for new voices to be heard and rewards broad coalition-building instead of relying on a small voter base. The County Board must also commit to adopting as many recommendations as possible from the Civic Federation’s TiGER team.
Prioritize Public Safety
COVID Recovery ∙ Safer Streets ∙ Flood Management ∙ Criminal Justice Reform ∙ Focus on Violent Crimes
There’s a lot to public safety – more than most people realize. It’s an issue that touches every resident, job commuter, and tourist as well as every sector of our local economy. Sadly, our county leadership is often distracted from much-needed public safety solutions and siphons limited funds into expensive luxury amenity projects. Let’s change that!
We cannot tackle public safety without dealing with COVID prevention and emergency management of increasingly damaging flooding. We must help offices, restaurants, and other facilities improve sanitation, install air purification, implement remote work options, and increase vaccination of employees to not only bring COVID to an end but also become more resilient against future pandemics. Unfortunately, too many of the county’s current COVID efforts have neglected our lower-income residents and non-English speaking immigrant communities, causing lasting harm for years to come. Upgrading our infrastructure, establishing more effective networks with local non-profits, and forming better regional governmental partnerships will be critical for disaster management.
We need to be designing safer streets and better transit systems to protect pedestrians, cyclists, bus riders, people with disabilities, and even auto drivers themselves in order to achieve “Vision Zero” goals. Safety of our streets and transit is just as important for our busy urban areas as it is quiet residential neighborhoods – especially near hospitals and schools. Additionally, Arlington’s leaders must finally stand up to pressure Metro (WMATA) to fix its chronic safety issues.
Public safety is also implementing Police and Criminal Justice Reform to help our local police focus on issues they actually need to be dealing with – domestic assaults, robberies, DWI’s, and other violent crimes. Let’s make use of trained professionals in mental health, emergency housing (homelessness assistance), and parking enforcement as more effective alternatives in non-violent situations. Arlington is doing better than many other jurisdictions but there is still room for improvement with civilian oversight, decriminalization, and training so that our law enforcement can protect the public’s safety and their civil liberties.
Make Housing Affordable
Lower Property Taxes ∙ Allow Missing Middle Options ∙ Affordable Housing Ownership ∙ Reduce Homelessness
Arlington is facing a housing affordability crisis and our current approach to housing is unsustainable.
The first step towards housing affordability is to update land use for the “Missing Middle” to allow plenty of new housing and smarter growth across the entire county. Allowing many more moderate-density housing types (townhouses, duplexes, quadplexes, garden apartments, etc.) is needed for a strong middle class in Arlington. Without it we will follow in the footsteps of San Francisco, Seattle, and Manhattan and become an unsustainable community only for the wealthy while facing huge rates of homelessness and declining diversity.
Next, we must provide relief for homeowners by lowering real estate property tax rates, streamlining permits for renovations, and allowing more Accessory Dwelling Units and short-term rental licenses.
Solving the housing crisis is a multi-level effort and must also include those who are at risk of not having a home of any kind. We can reduce homelessness with emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing while reforming our affordable housing program to better support new ownership models. Although our county does a good job of developing affordable housing, leadership often only implements short-term band-aids without addressing the underlying root causes.
And of course, we must handle all of this while expanding our parks and tree canopy, tackling school overcrowding, and managing traffic concerns. This is the most complex challenge we are facing, and we need strong and clear leadership to get it done.
Rescue our Small Businesses, Schools, Environment, and the Arts
Reduce Business Taxes • Streamline Permits • School Board Communication • Do our Part for Climate Change • Incentivize Green Space • Diversify our Artists
Even before the prior two years of the COVID pandemic, Arlington’s small businesses were struggling under taxes, regulations, and poor communication. COVID has simply made all of that even worse. The current County Board has made it clear they will eagerly accommodate and change the rules for big businesses – especially Amazon, but only lift a pinky finger for local business. It’s time for that to change. It’s time for the county to save small businesses with regulatory and tax relief.
It’s useful to recognize the importance of schools, our environment, and the arts to our community as the “Mind, Body, and Soul” of Arlington and therefore critical for a balanced and healthy community. Sadly, all of those are in jeopardy.
Our schools are some of the most expensive in the country but too many parents are seeing declining results. Our teachers are burnt out, overworked, and still underpaid for the important role they have in our community’s future. The County Board cannot direct curriculum or staffing but should be a strong partner for transparency; channeling resources to where they are needed; and facilitating better communication between the School Board, other county staff, and outside stakeholders in a new partnership for our students.
A person without easy access to great parks and a clean environment cannot reach their full potential in life. All too often the neighborhoods with the wealthier residents have a better natural environment and receive the health benefits from it, whereas residents of poorer communities suffer more chronic health problems from pollution; lower life expectancy from reduced opportunities for outdoor exercise; property damage from flooding; and climate change.
Arlington should have art for the public, not politicians by keeping the County Board out of micromanaging public art projects and live performance spaces with a fair and equitable process of more diverse artists serving more neighborhoods – not just the wealthy re-developing ones.
Most golf courses lose money for governments. That is very true if the course is owned by the government as a public amenity, but also because it’s notoriously difficult to tax golf courses at market rate value because of lobbying by well-connected customers of those golf courses.
February’s general County Board meeting was an active one with over 100 public comments and the vote on the long-planned Pentagon City Sector Plan update. This revision to the neighborhood-wide framework will result in greater density, walkability, and hopefully expanded green space in the neighborhood immediately around the Metro station on the Blue and Yellow […]
With hundreds of Committed Affordable Units gained through the proposed Marbella affordable housing redevelopment, I’m particularly excited about 125 of those units being for senior residents.
This will give our new police oversight board the independence needed to be more effective, and not tied to the same power structures that it is supposed to be investigating under the County Manager.
There are a small handful of concerns with the Pentagon City Sector Plan, first of which is the gap in the protected bike lane plan along 15th street.
Last week, [ARLnow] invited the four candidates running in the general election for a seat on the County Board to write a post about why [ARLnow] readers should vote for them next Tuesday (Nov. 2).