What a start to 2017 we've had.
Here in Arlington, I've been working hard with other community members, as well as my colleagues, to resist the Trump administration's dark vision of America. We're marching for our long history of refugee resettlement, standing up for our public schools and seeking to strengthen our support for vulnerable community members (stay tuned for the launch of a new, one-stop webpage of resources for our immigrant community and FAQs on immigration enforcement).
Even better than protesting, though, is showing what great things a diverse, inclusive community can achieve together. With that in mind, here are a few developments I'm particularly proud of in Arlington in January and February:
Protection and Justice for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors
Survivors of domestic violence in our community are now safer from gun violence, thanks to an important new state law championed by State Senator Barbara Favola, and many weeks of coordinated, inter-agency work here in Arlington by Project PEACE (a group I'm honored to co-chair). The presence of a firearm makes it five times more likely that domestic violence will result in a murder, so this new protocol will save lives in Arlington County. See more in this ArlingtonTV video segment.
Additionally, thanks to the great advocacy of our Commission on the Status of Women to include a "Survivor's Bill of Rights" state law in Arlington's legislative package this year, Delegate Mark Levine has introduced a new bill that would keep forensic evidence longer after a child is victimized by sexual assault. The bill would allow childhood survivors more time to process their experiences and make a decision about prosecution as an adult. Hear more in this radio story, and big kudos to our CSW for continuing to lead on this issue.
Civic Leadership on Facilities Planning
After many months of recruitment, selection and careful development of their scope of work, our new Joint Facilities Advisory Commission is all aboard and getting to work. This group of 21 citizens will advise the School and County Boards on both long-term facilities issues like demographic projections and capital planning and short-term issues like land acquisition opportunities and use determinations. Tomorrow, I'll join the JFAC and hit the road on a bus tour of important sites around the County.
As you may know, we passed a "short term residential rental" ordinance at the end of 2016. In plain English: we legalized AirBnB in the County. For procedural reasons, we had to wait another month to take one more important step: Allowing renters, with permission from their landlords, to participate in listing their primary residences for short-term stays. It was encouraging to see many young Arlingtonians and renters raise their voices, participate in the development of this policy and ensure it fully included them.
Celebrating Economic Development Success
We are thrilled to welcome Nestle USA to Arlington and to Rosslyn. Their relocation is a once-in-a-generation economic development win and is terrific news, given our longstanding challenge with high commercial vacancy rates. Nestle's arrival is a reminder that, with great schools and neighborhoods, a strong transit system and one of the highest concentrations of educated millennials in the country, Arlington is ready to adapt and evolve our economy.
We have some hard work still ahead this year - and not only with regard to Administration and Congressional action. In particular, we're looking at an incredibly challenging budget year, including cuts and potential revenue adjustments to absorb the huge jurisdictional subsidy increases necessary to fix Metro. The budget process will kick off with the presentation of the County Manager's draft budget on February 25th; you can follow along on the FY18 Budget webpage.
Thank you, as always, for your support. And warm thanks for those of you who shared good wishes as I became Vice Chair of the Board last month. I can't imagine a better place to live and lead than Arlington County.
I hope you're looking forward to tomorrow's holiday. It's been a tough couple of weeks for many of us, and I hope the rest of this week brings you peace, and time to enjoy family and friends.
For my part, I am more thankful than ever to live in a community as giving as Arlington County. Not only in the philanthropic sense, or even in volunteer hours - although gifts of both kinds are many here. Arlingtonians are giving when it comes to their exchanges with one another: Giving in their willingness to share their global cultures, and giving in their openness to new ideas.
It's true that our values feel under threat in the days ahead. I've had conversations with many of you in the past two weeks, and they usually end with the same, passionate question: What can we do? I've put this question to a number of community leaders and champions, and I want to share with you the below list of ways to act locally to protect not just our values, but our neighbors, in the months to come. This list is by no means comprehensive, and I'll continue to share events and opportunities on the website and on social media.
I know that, here in Arlington, we will continue to represent the best of our beliefs. I'm grateful that, thanks to your help, I have a platform to act on the County Board (view my November 9th remarks reaffirming our longstanding policy commitments to inclusion and safety here). And you do, as well. Arlington's spirit of giving will be more important than ever before.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Election Day 2016 is nearly upon us. I'm sure that, just like Joe, you've made your voting plan for tomorrow. But here's some last minute information to help you:
- Vote: Polls will be open in Arlington tomorrow from 6 am to 7 pm, and if you need assistance in any form, our Arlington Elections team is here to help. Visit https://vote.arlingtonva.us/ for information about your polling location, accommodations, and the photo ID law.
- Volunteer: It’s still not too late – if you’d like to greet voters with a sample Democratic ballot at a polling place around town, email Democratic organizer Becky Dick (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Support Arlington’s Capital Planning Future: We need your support on four critically important bond questions on the ballot this year: Metro and Transportation; Community Infrastructure; Local Parks and Recreation; and Schools. Learn all about the projects included in each referenda in this month’s issue of The Citizen available in PDF here and starting on page 7, and please Vote Yes.
And do be sure to join the Arlington County Democratic Committee at Sehkraft Brewery in Clarendon once the polls close at 7 pm. I’m hopeful we’ll be raising a glass not just to our first woman President, but to our great local victors, too, including my colleague Libby Garvey and School Board candidates Nancy Van Doren and Tannia Talento, as well as Congressman Don Beyer.
Closer to home…
Launching the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission. It’s been a fall of close work with my School Board counterparts, particular among the four of us serving on the new Joint Subcommittee on Facilities. And later this week, the County Board will vote on formal adoption of a charge for a citizen advisory body (with the School Board soon to follow). The new “JFAC” will have a major, important task ahead and we are still seeking members for appointment.
If you’re interested in the short-term needs and long-term vision for schools, provision of environmental services, play fields and parks and other facilities issues, we could use your expertise. Especially if you’re a renter – renters tend to be underrepresented in our advisory bodies, and have a much-needed point of view on how housing trends in the County can shape facilities demands. Submit your name now through November 16th.
Improving Services for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Survivors. Arlington, and the region, has some good news in our efforts to improve our community response to sexual violence. This summer, I was pleased to coordinate elected officials from six Northern Virginia jurisdictions in a statement of support for Inova Hospital’s Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team to fund full-time Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners with a state grant. Nationally, shortages of SANEs can lead to long wait times or even diversions for brave survivors of assault and domestic violence who come to hospitals for evidence collection and medical services, and Inova FACT, which serves Arlingtonians, has been no exception.
We were thrilled to learn that the grant has been awarded. New funds will allow INOVA to develop a unique model of full-time Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners able to provide 24/7 and medical services, testify in cases and educate other health care providers. These full-time SANEs will also be a critical first step in the ultimate goal of bringing more services into Arlington as well as the region.
Regulating Towing. The commercial towing business in Arlington is often in the news, and the Board is currently reviewing our County Trespass Tow Ordinance. We’ve heard from the General Assembly, which unfortunately mandated that we raise towing fees this year, and we’ve heard from the Trespass Tow Advisory Board (TTAB) – now we want to hear from you.
On Saturday, my colleagues and I voted to advertise more aggressive consumer protections, such as requiring more signage identifying parking restrictions, requiring that towers take photos of a car’s current condition before hooking up a tow, and requiring a second authorization from retail and office property owners prior to a vehicle being towed. We’ll have a public hearing at our December 10 meeting. Learn more, and share your thoughts on the draft revised Towing Ordinance, by visiting this link: https://topics.arlingtonva.us/towing/private-property/.
See you at the polls,
This Labor Day is a sunny one, perfect for kicking off the final press of the 2016 campaign season with the Arlington Democrats (if this summer's political circus has you eager to get involved to ensure a Clinton-Kaine victory, visit http://www.arlingtondemocrats.org to learn about the opportunities to volunteer). And also celebrating the hard-working men and women whose labor keeps our buildings safe and clean, our public grounds beautiful, and our ill and aging family members well cared-for.
As we wrap up the summer recess, here are a few things on the September agenda:
Childcare in our community and Funshine Preschool. There's nothing that consumes my energies more than protecting and expanding high-quality childcare in Arlington. Whether it's working with providers to help navigate the zoning and permitting process or collaborating with our professional staff to investigate land use and regulatory strategies, childcare is one of my top priorities.
But the gears of government turn slowly, and one of our best providers - Columbia Pike's own Funshine Preschool - is facing an urgent move. Funshine, a more than 30-year-old institution, is partnering with the Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corporation to build out a new home at the Macedonia Baptist community center before their displacement from their current site at the end of the year. It's a wonderful opportunity to bring generations together and spur further revitalization in Nauck, but construction costs are a challenge. I'm proud to be supporting Funshine and its partners at a September 20th fundraising event, and I hope you'll join us.
Try Transit Week. Regional transit is on the brain these days, as the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and Virginia Railway Express Operations Board, on which I serve, plan for the upcoming General Assembly Session. And partners across the Commonwealth are getting in on the action with a statewide "Try Transit Week," from September 19th to 23rd. Arlington already leads the pack in Virginia when it comes to residents taking bus and rail (not to mention biking and walking), but you might be surprised to learn the full range of transit options, even beyond WMATA, serving our area. Visit http://trytransitweek.org to take the "Try Transit" pledge, and you could win a $50 SmartTrip card.
Joint School Board/County Board Facilities Planning. In the coming months, a joint subcommittee comprised of Barbara Kanninen and James Lander on the School Board, and Jay Fisette and me on the County Board, will launch, implementing one of the major recommendations of last year's Community Facilities Study. We'll be working regularly across the four of us, with the County Manager and Superintendent as well as our colleagues, and with citizen advisors. We aim not only to collaboratively address urgent facilities needs and opportunities, but also to develop a mutual understanding of how long-term trends and issues like housing patterns and the future of high school instruction will affect our facilities planning. I'll be sharing more in this newsletter and on social media as our joint work develops.
Happy end of summer to you and yours,
In the wake of killings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas, many of us are searching for ways to both support our law enforcement officers and ensure our own communities are places of justice as well as safety. Here in Arlington, I believe the community outpouring of support for the men and women who serve in the ACPD uniform reflects a level of trust that the Department has worked hard to establish.
In my time serving on the Board, I've watched our officers and community leaders seek to build the relationships that break down bias and misunderstanding, from the Crime Solvers program to the annual Gang Prevention Task Force Soccer Tournament. And learned how our Department leadership is commitment to the policy steps, like Crisis Intervention Training, implicit bias training and a Community Advisory Council, that can deescalate violence while protecting public safety.
Now, during such difficult times for law enforcement nationally, it's meaningful to see so many Arlingtonians share their support and thanks for our law enforcement team. On August 27th at Kenmore Middle School from 9 am to 4 pm, you can join officers at the annual ACPD Community Block Party, both to learn more about community policing and show your support.
Other updates for the month of July:
Transit Development Plan. Among the reasons I ran for County Board was my belief that Columbia Pike needed a strong advocate for a post-streetcar transportation plan. And although my colleagues and I had the opportunity to vote for a terrific ten-year Countywide Transit Development Plan yesterday, representing years of hard work and data analysis by our talented staff, I continue to believe we need more than just service enhancements on the Pike.
That's why I was proud to have shepherded through, to a 5-0 vote among my colleagues, guidance to pursue a more transformative vision. This guidance will allow us to continue the conversation about how transit can enable the Pike to realize its potential.
Meatless Mondays. On a lighter note, I'm pleased to be joining the Humane Society in promoting veggie Mondays, this week (and every week). Join me and Arlington's Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy in embracing delicious meat-free meal options next week at restaurants around Arlington, as I celebrate the Meatless Monday initiative that helps improve our health and lighten our environmental footprint.
As always, you can follow our work on the County Board and around the community on Facebook (@katiecristolforarlington) and Twitter (@kcristol).
P.s. A warm thanks to all who attended and participated in the First Annual Great Arlington Bake-Off on July 1st. We had great turn-out and some truly spectacular entries. Read about the event in the Sun Gazette.
The heat is upon us, school is (nearly) out for summer, and July 4th weekend is right around the corner.
I hope you can join me on Friday, July 1st to start your holiday weekend at the First Annual Great Arlington Bake-Off at Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan Street, starting at 7 pm. We're looking forward to launching a tradition, and hope you'll be there. Sign up to enter your prize-winning baked goods for a chance to earn a blue ribbon at http://goo.gl/forms/eOFaIAtX1o.
There's been no early summer slow-down for the County Board this year, as we continue evaluating and collaborating with our School Board colleagues on the 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan. Recent CIP work sessions have focused on the recommendations of our hardworking Fire Station 8 Task Force, which recently advised us to build a new, four-bay station at the current Lee Highway site, and APS' plan to meet growing student enrollments (view the School Board's adopted CIP here.)
We'll be listening to residents' priorities at our public hearing tonight, and adopting a CIP - and language for this fall's bond referenda - in mid-July. Learn more about what's in the proposed CIP, from neighborhood conservation to WMATA capital funding, here.
Finally, amid a busy docket of site plans and street lights, I'm proud of our recent Board actions in service of Arlington's key values of inclusiveness and diversity. At our June recessed meeting yesterday, we voted on a resolution introduced by my colleague Christian Dorsey to encourage General Assembly action on "driver's licenses for all": Policies like those passed in California, Utah and Maryland, among other states, that enable undocumented residents to seek drivers' licenses (and make our roads safer and insurance premiums lower in the process). In response to growing community concerns, I also shared a statement to remind our residents that they can seek help from public safety officials in Arlington County without fear of investigation of their immigration status. Read more at: https://newsroom.arlingtonva.us/release/arlington-county-board-reassures-immigrants-2/.
For more on what my colleagues and I are working on -- from bus service on Columbia Pike to historic designation of Stratford School in North Arlington -- follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/katiecristolforarlington/.
From preparing for WMATA SafeTrack impacts to launching the 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan process, May has been a busy month for the County Board. Here are a couple of items we're working on - plus, a tasty announcement about the First Annual Great Arlington Bake-Off on July 1st:
Preparing for WMATA SafeTrack Service Disruptions
For those of us on the County Board, as well as on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and Virginia Railway Express Operations Board on which I serve, the Metrorail SafeTrack maintenance program starting next month is top of mind. I support the long-overdue and badly-needed schedule of safety repairs, but know that the impacts of single-tracking and other disruptions will be frustrating for Arlington residents and commuters. County staff is working hard on plans for redeploying buses, beefing up BikeShare, and coordinating with other jurisdictions and employers on van pools and telework. As you plan for disruptions to your own commute, visit Arlington County Commuter Services for the latest on SafeTrack updates and details on alternative options that might be available to you: www.commuterpage.com/pages/safetrack-know-your-transportation-options.
Joint Planning for a New South Arlington Elementary is Underway - and Congratulations to Democratic School Board Candidates
For the coming months, I'm serving as the Board's liaison to the planning process for a new elementary school at Thomas Jefferson, joined by my School Board counterpart, Barbara Kanninen. We're working hard, along with staff and civic leaders, to knit together "school side" and "County side" citizen planning teams that have formerly worked in parallel. It's all part of an effort to more quickly surface and resolve challenges to meet the Fall 2019 deadline for opening the school. We're two joint meetings in, and although there will be a number of tough problems ahead - particularly on traffic management - I'm encouraged by the productive conversations that happen when parents, educators, neighbors, and community advocates get in a room together to review design drafts and resolve issues.
On a related note, congratulations to Nancy Van Doren and Tannia Talento, winners of this weekend's caucuses and Democratic endorsees for the Arlington County School Board. Nancy's analytical skills and advocacy for students with special needs are invaluable on the current Board, and Tannia will bring a unique parent perspective and miles-long civic resume. I'm proud to join the Arlington County Democratic Committee in endorsing Nancy and Tannia for the November election. Learn more about their candidacies at http://www.nancyvandoren.org and http://tanniatalento.org.
First Annual "Great Arlington Bake-Off" on July 1st
Join us on July 1st at 7 pm at Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan Street. I'm hosting the First Annual Great Arlington Bake-Off, a family-friendly event to start the 4th of July weekend. I hope you'll consider entering the competition as well as attending: Sign up to enter your famous apple pie, gluten-free brownies, alfajores or other prize-winning baked goods at: http://goo.gl/forms/eOFaIAtX1o.
Celebrity Guest Judges include Barcroft's own Former Virginia Delegate Karen Darner and Paty Funegra, founder of La Cocina VA (http://www.lacocinava.org/). Crowd favorites will also be awarded. The Bake-Off is free to enter and to attend. Contributions are welcome and can be made at www.katiecristol.com/donate or at the event.
Hope to see you there...
It's been a busy April for the County Board, including a new budget and some major facilities planning updates. A few highlights:
FY17 Budget Passes
Last night, we adopted a final FY17 Budget, along with guidance to the County Manager about expenditures and priorities for the year ahead. I'm proud to say that this budget emphasizes public safety, including critically needed new staff in our police, fire and Sheriff's departments, schools (an additional $540k in ongoing dollars and $2.5m in one-time dollars above the revenue-sharing agreement with APS) and housing - including nearly $14m in the Affordable Housing Investment Fund to help Arlington's partners tackle the important but complicated projects ahead, like the expensive work of preserving the remaining affordable apartments in Westover.
To ensure a strong economy in the future, we also lowered the tax rate by a half penny to help balance the taxes associated with rising property values, and raised the minimum wage earned by County employees and contractors to a living wage of $14.50.
A big thanks owed to our staff and Commissions who facilitated the critical priority-setting decisions of creating this budget. Hundreds of citizen messages, dozens of Commission requests, fifteen public work sessions and two nights of public hearings: All have left me more convinced than ever that we live in one of the most engaged, thoughtful communities in the U.S. On to the capital budget!
Long Bridge Aquatic Center Returns
High construction bids and real concerns about capital and operating costs led the County to table plans for the Long Bridge Aquatic Center - a major capital project and phase of the 30 acre Long Bridge park - last year. What has remained is a growing need for aquatics facilities in the County (we have lots of swim classes with more Arlingtonians on the waiting list than subscribed, and community hours at our high school pools are a crowded experience). That's why it was so encouraging to hear in a work session last week from our Department of Parks and Recreation staff and the Long Bridge Park Advisory Committee about their hard work to bring down - and keep down - costs with a more modest facility.
Their efforts this past year included seeking community input in terms of trade-offs (including an "LBP Card Game" that allowed participants to "play" different amenities against one another within a budget); shaving $15m off the 2013 plans; and pursuing new construction delivery methods to reduce possible cost overruns. My take: Their discipline and the resulting new design represent a much better balance of facility needs with conscientious spending. As one constituent wrote to me, "I was a bit skeptical of the former design and associated construction and operating costs.... [but] If the design and costs in the new proposal are more realistic, I strongly support it."
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Arlington advocates are leading the charge to ensure a safe and supportive community for survivors. Doorways for Women and Families hosted a "Start By Believing" campaign on April 6th: Search #startbybelieving on social media to see moving images of support for survivors from Arlington and across the nation. Next Thursday, April 28th, is the fourth annual Rally Against Rape / Take Back the Night in Gateway Park, beginning with a resource fair at 6 pm and speakers and stories at 7 pm. I hope to see you there.
Crystal City Makes National Headlines
And, ICYMI: The New York Times covered Crystal City's economic development renaissance this week, featuring the great work of our economic development team and Business Improvement District, as well as the large and small business interests who are making this neighborhood such a dynamic corner of the County. Read more about why, in the words of one Crystal City restaurateur, "Everyone’s clamoring to be here... It’s blown away our expectations" here.
Spring has arrived in Arlington County. I hope that, like me, you’ve been enjoying the cherry blossoms, APS Spring Break and the return of outdoor dining around town.
It’s been a busy season for the County Board. Some recent developments from February and March:
Follow FY17 Budget on Facebook: My colleagues and I are in the thick of budget work sessions with each County department – which are, for the first time this year, live-streamed and available on-demand here. But if you’d rather be streaming the new season of House of Cards than our sessions, you can catch slightly-more-digestible tidbits about the budget on Facebook in my “What’s in the (Proposed) Budget” series of posts. Follow along by “liking” www.facebook.com/katiecristolforarlington/.
- Community Budget Hearings Next Week: We’ll also be hearing from the community on March 29th and 31st: Sign up to speak or submit your comments online here.
"Including People with Developmental Disabilities" Month: On March 1st, I had the honor of reading a proclamation and celebrating the opening of two new group homes in our community to house Arlingtonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Throughout the month, I’ve also had the opportunity to visit with some of the exceptional non-profit organizations and governmental departments working hard to integrate Arlingtonians with IDD into housing, jobs and civic life. As one young woman at a Linden Resources employment preparation program told me this week, “I’m just looking for the right fit” in a job for her future.
Regulating and Increasing the Supply of Childcare: Last month, the Board engaged with the County Manager and Department of Human Services in a difficult conversation about a proposed set of childcare regulations that I and others found to be an overreach and excessively prescriptive– particularly at a time when childcare is in such short supply in Arlington. For now, DHS has withdrawn the draft regulations from public comment and will continue conversations with staff, providers and Board members about how we can best balance the need to increase the supply of childcare with the need to ensure safe and enriching childcare environments.
Women’s History Month: I was so glad to join our Board Chair this week in honoring both Women’s History Month and longtime Arlington and Virginia leader Mary Margaret Whipple. If you’re looking for a way to observe Women’s History Month in Virginia, consider following Senator Whipple's lead and getting involved with the Virginia Women’s Monument Commission, a movement to recognize Virginia women's contributions with a beautiful monument on the Capitol grounds in Richmond. Nominate a Virginia woman for inclusion on the monument wall, or consider making a contribution.
Throughout my first quarter as a Board member, I’ve been grateful to the many Arlingtonians who serve our community and engage with my colleagues and me. Thanks for your support, and all you do to keep our County such an exceptional place to call home.
My colleagues and I are so pleased to share the news of the Board's unanimous choice to hire Mark Schwartz as permanent Arlington County Manager.
I spent a lot of time talking with voters last year about what they wanted to see out of Arlington County government: A greater orientation towards customer service, more urgency in economic redevelopment, and more listening (as well as just great planning) when it comes to land use and facilities.
The upshot on today's news: Mark "gets it." He pulls off an impressive combination of extensive experience in Arlington and ability to see things afresh.
So many community stakeholders, including residents, business leaders, County staff and Schools leaders, sent unprompted notes and pulled us aside in recent weeks to share their strong support for hiring Mark. The most compelling comment, I thought, came from a civic leader whose neighborhood has had a number of difficult conversations with staff in recent months. But writing in support of Mark, this leader explained, "Mr. Schwartz did not accede to all our requests or agree with all our positions... he did, however, make himself available for real dialogue, and we have found him to be open, forthright and flexible."
I can't think of a better recommendation for a County Manager of a community like ours, and for the compromises we'll face ahead. Congratulations to Mark. The Board - and Arlington County - is lucky to have him.
(full press release after the jump)