The community ranking site Niche recently named Arlington the best “city” for millennials. That accolade came on the heels of the real estate marketplace site Zillow ranking Clarendon as the DC area’s best neighborhood for millennials.
Yet despite young peoples’ clear attraction to Arlington, they are often underrepresented in the County’s civic life.
“The common misconception is that millennials don’t care about government,” said Melissa Riggio, a millennial living in the Ballston area. “What, to me, is more accurate, is that we connect to government in different ways than the generation before us, so it can go unseen by those who are unaccustomed to it.”
To find out what aspects of the community and local government interest millennials, County staff decided to ask them. This spring, the County partnered with the Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) to host a “happy hour” with County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol.
The goal: determine the areas of civic interest to residents in their twenties and thirties and connect them with convenient ways to engage — online or in-person— with plenty of time commitment options.
More than five dozen young people attended the May 31 meet-and-greet at the BID’s offices, all contributing to an evening of thoughtful and constructive dialogue about trending topics in Arlington – from keeping exotic pets to rising housing costs – plus ways to grow County outreach and create an inclusive engagement model not just for millennials, but for all Arlingtonians.
Riggio said she found the event worthwhile. “I was able to talk one-on-one with Katie Cristol as well as several other [local leaders] in an informal environment,” said Riggio. “The more that millennials connect to their local government and see what they can do ‘hands-on’ so to speak, the more engagement there will be from them.”
In an effort to keep that conversation going, the County offers the new Engage Arlington forum for millennials – and everyone else – to share what matters most to them. It’s a quick way to contribute new ideas, comment on the insights of others and vote suggestions up or down on the viability of suggestions. It’s a robust online idea-sharing hub for those issues that are in the news, currently affecting you, or just on your mind.
Already millennials are using the page to speak up.
Katie Casey, an Arlington renter, expressed appreciation toward Arlington’s on-going commitment to the environment. But she’s hoping the County can do more to develop programs for renters committed to sustainability besides simple steps like using LEDs and blocking drafts around windows and doors. “There are efficiency rebates and solar co-ops, but those are for homeowners,” she points out, hoping to see more incentives for those who don’t own their residence.
The Engage page is worth revisiting on a regular basis to keep up with the latest Arlington engagement opportunities held either in-person or virtually. There are also subscription links for email updates, County emergency notifications, social media and other ways to become more involved. Learn about volunteering, join a civic association, or apply to serve on an advisory group or commission.
Young people inject new life and energy into Arlington’s neighborhoods, businesses, culture and nightlife. By getting involved, millennials can help shape and develop the kind of Arlington they’ll want to call home for a long time to come.