Although it has been a difficult fall for our nation, I am inspired to see local action and advocacy for hurricane relief, for reform of our state and national gun laws, and for fairness for our DACA recipients - among other issues. And I'm grateful, as always, for the opportunity to work with you on addressing some of our own, local challenges and shaping a brighter future here in Arlington.
Here are just a few items on our busy fall calendar…
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Last week, Arlington’s law-enforcement and social services partners gathered to kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month at an event hosted by Project PEACE. This coordinated group serves survivors and works together on prevention and response policies. New milestones this year include a recent “Safe Havens” federal grant, which will allow our Court Services team to provide a supervised location where visitation rights can be exercised without endangering the safety of families (or the general public). We’re also one year in to our new protocols to remove firearms from those individuals with permanent protective orders against them, a partnership between many agencies - Court Services, the Magistrate, ACPD, direct service providers and others - that we know is saving lives in our community.
Lessons from Facilities Planning
Public facilities remain a top priority in our growing community, and the frequency of planning for new fire stations, schools, and community centers, means a lot of opportunities for all of us - the Board, the staff, Commissions and the broader community - to improve how we tackle these big projects.
In September, the Board approved a design and contract for a new Lubber Run Community Center, and I was grateful for the chance to meet with some key LRCC stakeholders - leaders of a youth and tenants’ empowerment group that uses the facility - to reflect and improve on the intentional outreach strategies to overcome barriers to participation, like language, work schedules, and childcare. We’re learning lessons of a different kind as we move forward with the Long Bridge Aquatic Center: The County is using a new procurement strategy to ensure that the project (which had been paused due to ballooning cost estimates) will be delivered on budget. You can learn about the “Design-Build" procurement approach, and see the four competing bids, at a community meeting on Thursday, the 19th, at 7 pm.
Next week, we’ll meet with our counterparts on the School Board to kick off the facility planning for the Reed Elementary School in Westover, and begin to talk about the future of more secondary seats at the Career Center on Columbia Pike.
Paying for Metro
Funding our mass transit systems in Northern Virginia is more complicated than the 95 interchange at Springfield, with an alphabet soup of agencies (NVTC, PRTC, WMATA, NVTA, and VRE) involved. But the bottom line is that these coming months are “all hands on deck” for a high-stakes year in state dollars for transit.
SafeTrack has begun the process of addressing decades of deferred Metrorail maintenance, but the capital required get to a state of good repair is just swamping localities like us - Arlington’s capital contribution jumped more 330% this fiscal year. We have to make sure Metro is no longer the only rail system in the country without a dedicated funding source, and we need action in the 2018 General Assembly Session.
My colleagues on the County Board are working on all fronts, and I’m personally leading legislative committees for the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Virginia Railway Express, as well as advocating on the Virginia Municipal League legislative committee. Our goal is to build a coalition with exurban jurisdictions and cities around the Commonwealth, in order to advance solutions in Richmond in January.
In Person Absentee Voting
Speaking of Richmond, transit funding is just one of many, many reasons that Arlingtonians need a progressive governor and more progressive members of the House of Delegates. Do you have a plan for voting on November 7th yet? Even better, consider whether you might qualify for in-person absentee voting and cast your ballot now, at the Courthouse Early Voting Location.
Ralph Northam and the remarkable slate of Democratic candidates running in Northern Virginia (many of them women and people of color with inspiring perspectives as well as policy expertise) need all of our help. Learn more about how you can volunteer in the next few weeks.
And as always, thanks for your partnership in helping Arlington County grow and improve.