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Protect Parks and our Environment

Implementing 100% renewable energy, expanding our tree canopy and open spaces, protecting against heat waves, and mitigating stormwater surges are efforts to fight for. Climate change is real, our actions are creating it, and it’s our responsibility to fix the mess we’ve been making since the Industrial Revolution more than two centuries ago.

There isn’t a single “silver bullet” fix for climate change, but there are some very big ones that are already proven to work and are being relied on in other parts of the world. The challenge is to implement them here quickly enough and to do so in ways that boost our local economy instead of harming it.

After public safety and COVID recovery, environmental protection and climate change mitigation is my next priority for county spending and investment.

The biggest tool in our arsenal is solar power. It’s proving to be one of the most revolutionary technologies for our future and the level of efficiency and manufacturing costs of solar infrastructure is now good enough to service the energy needs of almost every household and many businesses.

We must strive to not only become carbon-negative, not just carbon-neutral.

In many cases we can expand or better promote existing programs, while in some instances we’ll have to innovate new solutions.

Protecting Arlington’s parks and environment isn’t an academic or political photo-op thing for me. It’s how I’ve been living my life for years, leading the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia to adopt our own park (Herselle Milliken near Virginia Square) where I and others have spent the past 2 years laying mulch and top soil, maintaining walking path, replacing benches, and taking care of the trees and bushes. I also constantly try to consciously shop to minimize plastic and packaging that will end up in landfills, and despite living in a high-rise apartment in Ballston I compost my own kitchen waste on my balcony.

The feature that first attracted me to Arlington when I first moved to the DC area 12 years ago were its parks. Living in Reston at the time, I remember driving through Arlington as I explored and was immediately struck by how green the county was despite also having some amazing dense urban areas. Quicy park, Lubber Run park, Spout Run Drive, Four Mile Run trail, and Gunston Park and the countless smaller neighborhood parks are Arlington’s gems. Sadly, we’ve been sacrificing our emerald fields. That must end, and we must get them back.

SOLAR ASAP

The short-term boost for solar is to empower Arlington’s C-PACE program, where the county serves as a “matchmaker” between private sources of financing and businesses that want to install solar panels on their property. This is a great way to install renewable energy on private property (especially existing buildings!) without using taxpayer dollars. This program exists but is not widely known. That needs to change.

NEW SOLUTIONS, OLD RELATIONSHIPS

The new “Amazon Arlington Solar Farm” project will provide approximately 80% of the current energy needs for county buildings. Establishing similar partnerships is the key to our solar power success. Helping large and small businesses in Arlington band together through our Business Improvement Districts or the local Chamber of Commerce would be a great way to expand this effort to the private sector over the next decade.

Green Incentives

We need better development and more development while protecting and even expanding our tree canopy coverage and green spaces. These things do not have to be in opposition to each other. In fact, one of the great benefits of denser urban development is to allow more people to live, work, and play using less land – freeing it up for green spaces such as neighborhood parks, nature trails, and wildlife preserves.

The key is to provide “green incentives” for developers and better incorporate environmental concerns into our sector (neighborhood) planning. Just as we provide building height bonuses to developers who provide affordable units (a system which is flawed and needs serious reform, but that’s another topic), we should provide similar bonuses to developers who set aside green space and plant trees at or near the property. Use the county’s growth and desire for urban living as a mechanism for preserving green space, rather than set it up as a competitor in a “winner take all” battle royale.

Encourage more EarthCraft certified residential building in Arlington for improved ventilation, insulation, and water use.

MITIGATE THE STORMWATERS

We cannot rely on only traditional flood management methods of catching and funneling huge amounts of water into pipes to be taken away to far-off retention basins, natural watersheds, or pumping stations. We must encourage use of permeable pavers for sidewalks, driveways, and plazas whenever possible. Also incorporating small water infiltration ponds in neighborhoods and along street medians should be a part of all neighborhood plans. ‘Biophilic design’ is a buzzword right now, but its principles and procedures are sound. We need to turn Arlington into a “sponge city” able to absorb our floodwaters instead of just funneling them away.

FLEET OF THE FUTURE

The county really must convert its vehicle fleet over to Electric Vehicles (EV) as quickly as possible. Thankfully this is starting, although with a grant from the commonwealth of Virginia. However, we can’t rely on grants and increasing taxes to fund our conversion. Environmental sustainability and fiscal sustainability must go hand-in-hand. Instead county leadership needs to prioritize electrifying our public transit buses, school buses, police vehicles, Department of Environmental Services trucks, and other fleets over luxury amenities (Aquatics Center), expensive aesthetics (copper siding for Lubber Run), and subsidies to Fortune 500 companies (Amazon for HQ2). Build more basic buildings that are still energy efficient and direct the extra money to electrifying the fleet and building the recharging infrastructure until we’ve reached 100%.

Strategic downsizing of the vehicle fleet should also be pursued, with careful analysis of how work vehicles are used and even considering shifting high school students over to using public transit rather than APS buses.

NICKEL, DIME, & BUNDLE

The challenge with all of the above is, of course, funding. And I am the first to admit I don’t have as neat an answer for designing and constructing all of these many small infrastructure features as I do with the larger infrastructure or private-sector improvements. This is an effort than will take many hundreds of small improvements of a few ten-thousand dollars each over as much as two decades to fully realize. The best I can provide is to promise to squeeze as much of these “nickel and dime” biophilic and electric vehicle (EV) projects as I can out of other expenses, looking for every opportunity to capture and redirect small amounts of money away from unnecessary amenities towards creating our new future.

One good way to help with efficient project management and encourage financing of these many small biophilic and EV projects is to bundle them into Capital Improvement Projects.

Next Use the Stick

Using our regional elected representatives, lobby the state and federal governments to end all subsidies of fossil fuel production, distribution, and use. End tax breaks for oil companies, don’t give special environmental exceptions for oil and gas pipelines, and make sure polluters are sued and pay the full cost of environmental damages they cause from oil spills and dumping by ending liability protections. We must take these steps to create a more level playing field between fossil fuel and renewable energy sectors so we can see fossil fuels finally fail.

I’m also looking at the use of natural gas for heating and cooking in Arlington homes. I’m not a fan of outright bans for this admittedly greenhouse-gas causing amenity, but there may be opportunities to phase out county support of it.