The Arlington County Board today unanimously elected Libby Garvey its 2020 chair. The Board named Erik Gutshall vice- chair.
First elected to the Board in March 2012, Garvey served as County Board Chair in 2016. She served as chair five times during her 15 years on the Arlington School Board.
In remarks made during the Board’s Jan. 2 Organizational Meeting, Garvey said that as the County celebrates the 100th anniversary of its naming in 2020, she will focus on equity, innovation, and resiliency while honoring the accomplishments of the past. “Equity, innovation, and resiliency all fit together,” she said.
“The arrival of Amazon has made the scope of our challenge really clear,” Garvey said. “We need to change a paradigm: the paradigm that the most vulnerable in a society are the first to suffer from change and the last to gain from it — if they ever gain at all. Economic change tends not to be equitable. That’s the usual paradigm. We want a different one.” In 2020, Garvey said, she will be guided by the Equity resolution the Board adopted in fall 2019, and the four questions it said should be applied to policymaking: “Who benefits? Who is burdened? Who is missing? How do we know?”
As it faces 21st Century challenges, Garvey said, the County must think innovatively and develop new solutions in many areas. She noted stormwater management, health equity, affordable housing and working across jurisdictions among them. “More and more the big systemic challenges we face will require innovation and cross-jurisdictional cooperation.” She warned that innovation will not be easy and said that “While there will be bumps along the road, we can navigate these bumps if we maintain good communication between our County government and our public… and if we all keep our sense of humor and goodwill.”
Stormwater management is one area where the Board will be considering new solutions when it takes up the Capital Improvement Plan budget in spring 2020, Garvey said. “Our July 8 storm showed clearly that our 20th-century infrastructure and approaches will not work well for 21st-century storms,” Garvey said. “When we begin work on our Capital Improvement Plan budget this spring we should see some very different solutions to stormwater management.” Board Chair Libby Garvey Jan. 2, 2020 Remarks.
Vice-Chair Erik Gutshall, first elected to the County Board in November 2017, will be serving his first term as vice-chair. In his remarks, Gutshall said that Amazon’s arrival in Arlington in 2019 was “a pivotal event,” that has given the County the “wherewithal to conquer the obstacle left in our path by BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) and structural office market disruptions.” At the same time, he said, Amazon’s arrival requires an increased focus, or “leveling up” by the County “how we grow matters.” Arlington’s next level of managed growth, he said, “will focus beyond first-order urban design principles of sidewalk widths, building heights, and traffic circulation, and instead level up to an essential focus on equity, infrastructure like schools and stormwater, and a broader definition of quality of life and livability.”
To achieve that sort of managed growing, Gutshall said, “will require new tools and a modernized zoning ordinance to expand our housing supply in a way that enhances the livability of our existing neighborhoods.” It also requires the development of a long-range, comprehensive Public Facilities Plan “to guide the collaborative, creative, timely and efficient siting and development of County and Schools facilities.” Gutshall said he looks forward to continuing to work with County and APS staff, and the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission to begin drafting the plan by July 2020 and looks forward to working with County staff to achieve the ambitious goals of the County’s updated Community Energy Plan and to conduct a campaign to highlight and profile small businesses. Read Gutshall’s full remarks.
Board Member Christian Dorsey named providing sufficient resources for Arlington public schools; funding Metro; keeping the County’s infrastructure in a good state of repair; investing in infrastructure resiliency in the face of the climate crisis, ensuring that “residential livability doesn’t lag commercial redevelopment” in Crystal City and Pentagon City, and “using our resources to leverage the creation and preservation of homes for low-and-moderate-income earners,” as his priorities for the year. Noting that both Arlington and the entire region are “witnessing a period of tremendous change,” Dorsey promised to engage “with as many Arlingtonians as I can, in any forum, to consider how we encourage sufficient and appropriate housing, improve our resilience to weather events, and enhance our natural resources while having the infrastructure to move people and educate our children.” Using equity as “a central framework for governance,” Dorsey said, will help the County “deliver public policy that is responsive to all and not only to those with power and influence.” Read Dorsey’s full remarks.
Board Member Katie Cristol said 2020 will be the year the County will take action to enable the creation of “missing middle” moderate-density ownership housing. “We have been painfully slow to address the evolution of many of our low-density neighborhoods into expensive enclaves out of reach for all but the wealthiest homebuyers,” Cristol said. The County also will work with the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission to develop a long-range plan for schools and other public facilities. The long-range plan will be “a genuinely exciting opportunity to recognize that Arlington does have room to grow and that we are constrained less by our 26 square miles than we are by our own imagination,” Cristol said. Through its Capital Improvement Plan discussion this year, the Board will discuss stormwater infrastructure, “specifically the kind of large-scale projects that can remediate last century’s suburban development practices,” Cristol said, and cautioned that such solutions “will be neither easy nor inexpensive.” Read Cristol’s full remarks.
Board Member Matt de Ferranti noted the progress Arlington made last year on economic growth and through the Community Energy Plan, pledging to continue the work set by Board policy in both areas.de Ferranti identified child hunger, housing affordability, and meeting our school capacity challenges as priorities for the coming year. “We know that child hunger exists in Arlington,” he said, citing data from Arlington Public Schools and from the non-profit Arlington Food Assistance Center. This year, the County will collaborate and coordinate with APS to collect more data “to better identify the gaps where students are not being served, and to make sure our children are receiving nutritious food,” de Ferranti said. de Ferranti also said the County must increase funding in the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget to build and preserve affordable housing and should prioritize high school capacity as it addresses the challenge of increasing school enrollment. Read de Ferranti’s full remarks.
About the Arlington County Board
Elected at-large, Arlington County Board members serve staggered four-year terms. The chair and vice-chair are elected at each year’s Organizational Meeting, for a one-year term. The chair is the official County head and presides over Board meetings.