May Updates: School Planning, WMATA SafeTrack and Save the Date

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: 

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 and

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:

Celebrity Guest Judges include Barcroft's own Former Virginia Delegate Karen Darner and Paty Funegra, founder of La Cocina VA ( Crowd favorites will also be awarded. The Bake-Off is free to enter and to attend. Contributions are welcome and can be made at or at the event. 

Hope to see you there...


April Updates from the County Board

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.


Welcome, Spring

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”


  • 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. 

And finally…

  • 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.


New County Manager Mark Schwartz

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)



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2016 Begins


In keeping with annual tradition, the Arlington County Board conducted our New Year's Day Organizational Meeting this afternoon. In addition to inaugurating Christian Dorsey and me to the dais, the Board elected a new Chair, Libby Garvey, and Vice Chair, Jay Fisette.

All five Board members made our remarks about priorities for the year ahead. I was encouraged to find the five of us very much on the same page about 2016, with emphasis on:

  • Transportation planning, particularly for the long-overdue Columbia Pike transit plan.
  • Establishing and improving transparency and accountability in everything from our budget process to citizen access to data. 
  • The essential (if somewhat unglamorous) work of streamlining permitting in Arlington County, for homeowners and businesses. This is the "meat and potatoes" work of making Arlington a friendlier place to do business, a major element of restoring our commercial tax base.
  • Protecting our most vulnerable citizens, including adults and children with special needs, with a strong safety net.

My full remarks from this afternoon are below. I'm looking forward to getting to work! Early 2016 will find me: 

  • Learning from the Shirlington / Four Mile Run community as we get a planning study underway;
  • Working closely with the School Board and the community on planning for the new elementary school at Thomas Jefferson;
  • Collaborating with my colleague, John Vihstadt, on a review of our Commissions to ensure new and more diverse perspectives; and
  • Continuing my push to ensure that survivors of sexual violence can get an evidence collection exam done in Arlington County.

Happy 2016 to you and yours,


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The Washington Post Endorses Katie Cristol for Arlington County Board

October 27 at 8:07 PM

ARLINGTON COUNTY, for years an almost unalloyed success story, has hit a patch of unfamiliar self-doubt. Sequestration and the effects of slower federal spending have driven up office vacancies, sapping tax revenue; at the same time, the county’s budget is under intense pressure from soaring school enrollment and demands for increasingly scarce affordable housing.

One result has been a year of political upheaval in a locality of 230,000 people long accustomed to consensus. The contentiousness has bled into the races for the county board, on which, owing to the retirements of a pair of long-serving members, two of the five seats are open for the first time in three decades. The elections are Nov. 3.

Four well-qualified candidates are running for those two seats. The best are a pair of Democrats: Katie Cristol, an impressively smart and committed education policy expert, and Christian Dorsey, a think-tank executive who is broadly knowledgeable about housing and community development.

Ms. Cristol is a first-time candidate whose energy, focus and analytic skills helped her to a first-place finish in the party primaries in June. She’s maintained a strong campaign in the general election, staking out clear and balanced positions on creating more affordable housing, which she favors, and expanding tax breaks for developers and businesses, which she opposes. In a county that has undergone rapid change, she is representative of a new wave of Arlingtonians — young, highly educated and attuned to the aspirations of young single residents and families, as well as immigrants, trying to make a life there.

Mr. Dorsey, director of external and government affairs at the Economic Policy Institute, has run a similarly constructive campaign, offering proposals to encourage home energy efficiency and to revitalize the county’s ample stock of aging retail businesses. His career path has included stints promoting literacy for indigent children, and he has extensive volunteer experience in the county. He’d make a fine board member.

Full story:

Arlington Education Association PAC Endorses Cristol and Dorsey

Arlington, VA- The Arlington Education Association Political Action Committee (AEA-PAC) has endorsed both Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, the two Democratic nominees for two open seats on the County Board, for November’s General Election.

Citing Cristol and Dorsey’s desire to work with both the community and the Arlington School Board to solve school capacity issues, the AEA highlighted both candidates as the best choices for Arlington’s educators and students.

“Following interviews with all four candidates, the Arlington Education Association Political Action Committee (AEA-PAC) has voted to recommend Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol for the two contested seats on the Arlington County Board,” said AEA-PAC Chair Jeff Elkner.

Elkner noted that while the group had supported Dorsey in the Democratic primary in June, the nod to Cristol reflected a new appreciation for her insight and leadership potential. “Christian’s positions on inclusive governance, support for our schools and community priorities continue to align with the views of AEA, and Katie brings an informed view of county issues and their potential solutions. We feel both candidates will bring a broader, community-centered perspective to the Board,” Elkner concluded.

"It was so gratifying to have the support of the AEA PAC in June's primary election, and I am thrilled to again earn their endorsement for the general election,” Christian Dorsey said. “As a parent with a child in our public schools, and as a macro economist who understands how a strong education system is the driver of our economy, I will work hard on the Board to make sure we address capacity issues head-on and that our schools have the resources they need to continue delivering quality instruction for our children."

Cristol expressed her gratitude for the endorsement and her commitment to ensuring that the County Board supports Arlington schools through growing student populations and tight budget environments.

“I am thankful to the Arlington Education Association for their support, and endorsement of our vision for Arlington’s schools,” Cristol, an education policy consultant, said. “We need leaders on the County Board who have the right experience if we are going to solve our growing capacity needs in harmony with our neighborhoods, our parks, and our budgets.”

The APS employees join every Arlington School Board Member in supporting both Cristol and Dorsey for November’s Election.


About Katie Cristol for Arlington County Board
Katie Cristol is one of two Democratic nominees for two open seats on the Arlington County Board in the Tuesday, November 3rd Election. An education policy consultant and community advocate for women and families, Cristol is running to bring her Arlington experience and a new perspective to County leadership. Learn more

About Christian Dorsey for Arlington County Board
Christian Dorsey has managed organizations recognized for their essential support of literacy development for at-risk children; connecting underserved residents to social services and building housing affordable to moderate income families. He currently works at an economic policy think tank, and would bring his economics background to the County Board to ensure our tax dollars are spent wisely. Christian has also served on the tenant-landlord and planning commissions, and on the boards of many community organizations, including A-SPAN and the Arlington Free Clinic. To learn more, visit:

Arlington's Elected Leaders Endorse Katie Cristol for Arlington County Board

Tuesday, September 29th

Arlington, VA – Twenty elected officials, comprising all of Arlington’s School Board, Constitutional Officers and Richmond delegation, and much of the County Board, today endorsed Katie Cristol’s campaign for Arlington County Board.

Citing Cristol’s policy background, community experience and new perspective, Arlington’s longstanding leaders are supporting her bid for one of two open seats on the County Board this year.

All five of Arlington’s current School Board members, including Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez, Vice Chair Nancy Van Doren, Barbara Kanninen, James Lander and Abby Raphael have endorsed Cristol for her commitment to education and the Arlington Public Schools. School Board Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez said, "As an educator and advocate for more than three decades in Arlington, I know how important it is to have County Board members committed to the success of all our children. I'm endorsing Katie because of her background and experience working with APS and in school systems across the country, and her passion for a more inclusive and diverse Arlington. I look forward to working with her to ensure that our kids have the school and County resources they need to learn, grow and thrive."

Four of Arlington’s current County Board members, including Libby Garvey, Jay Fisette, Chair Mary Hynes and Vice Chair J. Walter Tejada, have also shared their support for Cristol. In a statement, County Board member Libby Garvey noted, “Katie Cristol will bring new energy, enthusiasm and a willingness to listen to Arlington voters. Katie works with school districts, states, philanthropies, and nonprofits to tackle strategic planning and implementation challenges—skills that would be a great asset to the County Board."

In addition, all of Arlington’s five Constitutional Officers, including Treasurer Carla de la Pava, Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy, Sheriff Beth Arthur, Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson and Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, are endorsing Cristol’s campaign. “Katie will be an excellent addition to the County Board. She combines progressive Arlington values with new insights and perspectives. I know that she is committed to hearing from all parts of the Arlington community and will be uniquely responsive to neighborhood issues on the Board,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos this week.

Arlington’s State Senators and Delegates are also backing Cristol, citing the valuable partnership she will offer for their work in Richmond. “I enthusiastically endorse Katie Cristol for the Arlington County Board,” said Senator Barbara Favola of the 31st District. “Katie knows our values and knows how to translate those values into policy.  I need a strong partner like Katie in local government to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed.  Katie will work to create a bright future for all Arlingtonians.” Senator Favola is joined in her support of the Cristol campaign by Senator Adam Ebbin of the 30th District, Senator Janet Howell of the 32nd District, Delegate Patrick Hope of the 47th District, Delegate Rip Sullivan of the 48th District and Delegate Alfonso Lopez of the 49th District.

“I’m humbled and energized by the overwhelming support of Arlington’s elected leaders,” said Cristol. “I believe that Arlington can grow and evolve to meet our current challenges without abandoning our progressive values. We need County Board members who are good stewards of the public’s trust and resources, and I am honored to have this extensive support in my campaign to be such a Board member.”  

Statement on the Affordable Housing Master Plan

Statement on the Affordable Housing Master Plan

Friday, September 18, 2015


This Saturday, the Arlington County Board will vote on an Affordable Housing Master Plan. After close study, and extensive conversation with many neighbors, I join the Civic Federation, the Chamber of Commerce, The Commission on Aging, the Economic Development Commission, Mi Voz Cuenta, Doorways for Women and Families and A-SPAN in asking the Board to vote yes.  


The rapidly-rising costs of rental and ownership housing mean that the status quo in Arlington is increasingly hostile to middle- and working-class Arlingtonians. Families, seniors and young professionals are all squeezed by these costs: Nearly one in four Arlingtonians surveyed last year said they are "very likely" to be forced out of the community by housing costs in the next five years. Affordability is also a top concern for Arlington's economic health: Our capacity to attract business and employers also depends on the continued economic and generational diversity of our residents.


Arlington must act. For our long-term sustainability, for our seniors, for our firefighters and teachers, and for our young families, I believe this plan represents a step forward for the County.


The Affordable Housing Master Plan is not perfect. As the Arlington Parks Coalition has emphasized, for example, the language of the Plan ought to be amended to signal greater commitment to protection of natural resource areas from development (affordable or otherwise) before the County Board approves it.


But the Master Plan is also better for the involvement of our neighbors in recent months. The plan now emphasizes geographic distribution, including a recently-added map of targets throughout the County. Along with the accompanying land use tools and ideas in the Implementation Framework, this emphasis means that we are better positioned to achieve diversity -- a value central to so many Arlingtonians -- throughout the County and in our schools.  


And under this plan, our programs will serve current Arlingtonians first. The language of the Master Plan echoes a value I hear from many of our neighbors: “As a local government, the County has a responsibility first to provide for the needs of its existing residents.”

Our community conversation about affordability will not end with tomorrow’s vote, and I look forward to continuing to learn from and partner with our neighbors in all corners of the County as we seek to balance our values of inclusion, integration and good stewardship of resources.


Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association Endorse Katie Cristol for Arlington County Board

County Board Candidate Katie Cristol Earns Endorsement of the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association


Arlington, VA - The Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association Local 2800 of the International Association of Firefighters endorsed Katie Cristol for Arlington County Board on September 14th.


In a joint press conference, Cristol and Local 2800 leaders highlighted the need for resources to meet safe-staffing standards for local firefighters and paramedics, as well as their shared support for ensuring that firefighters and other County employees can develop long term residence in Arlington.

“The rapidly growing landscape of Arlington County requires a leader who understands the need for safe-staffing of firetrucks and medic units to provide a safe working and living environment for firefighters, residents, and visitors of Arlington County,” Nick Krechting, President of the Local 2800, said. “Katie has campaigned in support of these vital issues as well as the 'Live Where You Work' program which assists Arlington's firefighters, teachers, and other county employees to establish long-term residence within Arlington County.”


Cristol expressed her gratitude to the local union and her commitment to advocating for first responders in the County. “Any vision we have for the future of Arlington -- for our neighborhoods and for our commercial corridors -- is only as good as our public safety and our emergency services,” Cristol said.  “Arlington’s firefighters and paramedics are on the front lines when our residents and workers are in danger and need help. We’re all fortunate for their skill, training and hard work.  And I’m honored to have their endorsement.”

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