- Christian Dorsey named Vice Chair
- Cristol to focus on “Missing Middle” housing, improved childcare options
- Members warn FY 19 budget gap will require tradeoffs
- Commitment to affordable housing, schools, civic engagement, government openness reaffirmed
The Arlington County Board today unanimously elected Katie Cristol its 2018 Chair, and Christian Dorsey its Vice Chair. The vote came after the Board seated Erik Gutshall, elected in November. The Board acted during its annual Organizational Meeting.
In her remarks, Cristol highlighted the County’s growing need to create and protect housing options for middle class residents, particularly seniors and young families. “The middle class of government workers and civil rights activists and immigrants that built Arlington, and that Arlington built, is endangered as home prices continue to climb,” she said.
“Missing Middle” housing – offering a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types compatible in scale with single-family homes — offers Arlington the opportunity to “translate” its historic values of inclusion into its housing policy, Cristol said. “My goal – building on and with the ideas advanced by our new colleague, Erik Gutshall, and other community leaders – is to more substantively and specifically engage this ‘Missing Middle’ conversation in 2018, producing a few examples of what it might mean in Arlington,” she said.
Increasing childcare accessibility, affordability and quality
The newly elected Chair said she is looking forward to the January 25 public launching, at the Central Library, of a proposed multi-agency action plan aimed at increasing accessibility, affordability and quality of childcare in Arlington. The public kickoff will begin a process of the public, providers and neighbors analyzing the research-based action plan developed in 2017, Cristol said.
“As the action plan proceeds, I anticipate that some long-awaited actions will be before the Board soon,” she said, “such as re-examination of our local codes for alignment with the Commonwealth’s, potential zoning tools to increase the availability of affordable spaces for, and decrease barriers to entry of, childcare centers, and new partnerships to increase the supply of trained childcare workers.”
Working with region on dedicated funding for Metro
Metro, Cristol said, “is the backbone for our economy, our property values and our quality of life,” in Arlington. As chair of the legislative committees of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and Virginia Railway Express, Cristol said she will work with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam”s administration, Metro and outer jurisdictions to “present a common vision to the General Assembly as they deliberate on dedicated transit funding in the outgoing Governor’s biennial budget.” Every Arlington County Board Member, she said, “will play a role in advocating for the system’s future in the region, and in Richmond.”
Christian Dorsey calls for making Arlington more affordable
Newly elected Vice Chair Christian Dorsey called for the County to take concrete steps this year to provide more affordable housing. He urged a “rethinking of the requirements, conditions and incentives associated with committed affordable unit rehabilitation and new construction, while allowing sensible increases in density,” to stretch dollars from the County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The County, he said, should also “be innovative in permitting and encouraging housing that is affordable by design and not via public subsidy.” A strong demand exists “for different housing sizes and types,” Dorsey said.
Consumer Protection Bureau
Citing the move toward deregulation by “the state and nation,” Dorsey said Arlington should organize a Consumer Protection Bureau “that consolidates our efforts in educating businesses and consumers about their rights and responsibilities, aggregating and investigating complaints about illegal and unfair practices and providing guidance to those who seek a redress of their complaints.”
The bureau, he said, could handle complaints about predatory towing, billing and service issues with cable and telecommunications companies, predatory lenders, identity theft, hired transport, rental housing or general contract enforcement. It could be created “by consolidating existing resources, currently spread across departments, and by creating an on-line portal that provides consumers with a way to easily connect with the resources available to them.”
Dorsey, who represents the County on both the Metro Board and the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, said this year “is a pivotal year for the sustainability of the Metro system” that is “essential to what we are and indispensable to what we will be.” Arlington “cannot allow it to be degraded with insufficient funding, nor can we accept that our financial contributions continue while our governance role is eliminated,” he said.
Libby Garvey to focus on “code of conduct” for public discourse
In what she predicted “may well prove to be a very challenging and uncertain year,” Board Member Libby Garvey urged Arlingtonians to weigh-in on a draft guide on Civic Engagement, saying she will focus on helping the County develop a “code of conduct” for public discourse.
“I believe improving civic dialogue and general civility in our discussions is another challenge for us,” in 2018, Garvey said. “I’ve been hearing more and more, recently, about inconsiderate and unpleasant interactions in public meetings on County issues right here in Arlington…as we enter 2018 and all the challenges this year, we cannot afford to waste time and energy on ineffective conversations.”
Garvey applauded the County’s efforts to provide “smaller and more intimate settings for discussions to complement the traditional larger forums and work groups,” and said she plans to continue her series of book discussions as part of the effort.
The County will continue to work on improving customer service, Garvey said, and she hopes that it will complete a process for paying permits online this year.
John Vihstadt calls for cost/benefit analyses of new development
Board Member John Vihstadt called on the Board to focus on three key areas in 2018: managing growth; ensuring greater openness and transparency in County government and instilling a greater sense of fiscal discipline in how the County works.
Noting that the County’s population is expected to increase to 280,000 by 2040, Vihstadt called for “new partnerships with our public schools and with the private sector” to manage that growth. Every new development, he said, should require “cost/benefit fiscal impact analyses…including a study of the consequences for our schools, parks and tree canopy, infrastructure and more.” He called for leveraging “the new political dynamic in Richmond” to broaden the scope of community benefits “to find new ways to help offset the cost and stress of additional development on our surrounding neighborhoods.”
Vihstadt also called for County government to work with Arlington Public Schools on innovations in “the way we teach our kids,” by exploring ideas such as creating healthcare classrooms at Virginia Hospital Center and hospitality education at Crystal City hotels.
Warning of a tough budget year ahead for the County, Vihstadt said the Fiscal Year 2019 budget that the Board will adopt in April will require tradeoffs. “Cost and value must be a part of every conversation from the start,” he said. He also called on County Government to be more open and transparent in community processes and in data-sharing.”
Erik Gutshall: Our moral compass will guide us
Newly seated Board Member Erik Gutshall, noting that he has been “duly warned” that the Fiscal Year 2019 budget “will be rife with difficult choices constrained by a harsh revenue gap,” said it is easier to muster fiscal discipline “when guided by the moral compass of our core values.”
As the Board balances budget priorities this year, Gutshall said, he will be committed to excellent public education “for every single one of our children,” and on making sure Arlington “has housing for everyone and we remain steadfast in our resolve to implement the Affordable Housing Master Plan.” He expressed strong support for Chair Cristol’s initiative to create market-driven “Missing Middle” housing by “modernizing our old-fashioned Zoning Ordinance.”
A commitment to honest dialogue in civic engagement
As the Board steers the community’s direction in the coming year, Gutshall said, “I can only add to the chorus a resounding commitment to continual improvement of the manner, means and methods by which our County government seeks the consent of the governed.”
With the County needing to accomplish so much with limited resources of time and money, Gutshall said, he hopes to foster “civic engagement that delivers quality decisions in a predictable and timely manner.” He pledged to “hold myself, this Board, the Manager and his staff and every stakeholder who lobbies me accountable to the agreed upon framework,” of the County’s newly released draft Public Engagement Guide for Capital Projects. The draft framework identifies “up front for every process the expected level of citizen engagement,” and its guiding principles are designed to foster honest dialogue. “I will be a stickler for adherence,” to those principles, Gutshall said. “To be blunt, I will not tolerate a ‘play to win’ mentality from any side.”
Ways to engage with the County Board in 2018
You can chat with a Board Member, one-on-one, on any topic throughout the year at Open Door Mondays, held at locations across the County. No reservation is necessary – just drop in.
View the 2018 County Board Meeting schedule, including budget meetings.
Learn more about Missing Middle housing.