During her 2012 State of the County address yesterday (see video, above), Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes took time to point out the county’s stability, and to soothe fears about negative effects Arlington may experience due to federal budget cuts.
She said even in light of America’s recent recession, the county remains financially strong, as evidenced by the retention of its AAA bond rating.
“It’s a true measure of managing our money well and making great investments,” said Hynes. “Arlington is economically vibrant. We’ve weathered this recent recession rather well when you look across the country.”
Despite the current stability, Hynes recognized that uncertainty with the federal government could have an impact on Arlington in the future.
“We have depended on a growing federal government to create opportunities,” Hynes said. “This formula has worked to date, but we all know it could change as Congress grapples and comes to terms with the federal deficit.”
Arlington recently has felt the pinch from the federal government due to a loss of workers from the Defense Department’s recent round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) moves.
“We know that our office buildings’ largest tenant is the federal government,” Hynes said. “BRAC taught us that we need to be prepared for potentially fewer federal tenants and more vacant space.”
Hynes noted that moves were made to counteract the loss of workers through BRAC. For example, plans to strengthen Crystal City with new investments, and securing headquarters for big names like Deloitte, Boeing and DARPA.
“Unfortunately, assuming the future will be like the past doesn’t prepare us to address all the challenges that we’re going to face in the next few years,” said Hynes. “We need to take stock, anticipate the continuing and new challenges that will confront us, and make them opportunities rather than the threats they could become if we didn’t attend to them.”
In addition to the possibility of a shrinking federal government, Hynes listed terror threats and population growth as the other issues rounding out Arlington’s top three challenges. But she stressed that even with such significant trials, the county consistently takes charge of its assets and pulls through.
“None of it is easy, but it is doable,” Hynes said. “We’re blessed to live in this community with all of its challenges. It is still one of the very best places to live in America.”
During the State of the County speech, Hynes also touched on hot-button topics like Artisphere — the County Board is monitoring the cultural center’s quarterly financial reports, she said — and the Columbia Pike streetcar. It’s unlikely that the public will get to vote on the streetcar plan via a bond referendum in the fall, Hynes said.