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Progressive Voice: A New Column for a Great County

Progressive Voice is a new weekly opinion column. It will be written by a rotating group of contributors. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Carrie JohnsonArlington is a great place to live and work. Arlington has for many years enjoyed attractive communities, safe streets, excellent schools, wise planning and prudent investments. No community is perfect, to be sure, but Arlington continues to grow and attract new residents because it consistently delivers quality services and effective government.

Arlington’s successes are no accident; they are the result of decades of sound, fiscally responsible progressive leadership. This column – which will run weekly on ARLnow.com – will present articles from a series of authors who believe – as does a large majority of Arlingtonians – that Arlington’s progressive values matter and should remain at the core of Arlington’s decision making. Individual views on particular issues may differ, but what unifies us – and advances our Arlington community – is our shared commitment to keeping Arlington dynamic, diverse, and highly successful.

The result of over 30 years of progressive leadership in Arlington is a richly diverse, well-educated population and a community that continues to offer the best of urban living while retaining strong neighborhoods and the values of a smaller town.

A generation of farsighted planning, coupled with the community’s willingness to make investments in its future, have created the strong transit-oriented, mixed-use corridors that are so attractive to young adults, empty nesters and others who prefer to live and work in higher-density centers. For young adults, Clarendon was recently named the #1 place in the entire region – and one of the top places in America – to live.

These corridors have also generated much of the revenue supporting core County services. Commercial taxpayers account for approximately 50% of all property tax revenues, compared to approximately 30% regionwide. This growth has enabled Arlington to spend more per pupil than any other Northern Virginia jurisdiction and earn accolades for some of the country’s very best public schools. (Indeed, Arlington has continuously increased funding for its schools even though almost 88% of Arlington households have no school age children.)

At the same time, through smart planning, community input, and well-managed growth, Arlington has protected parks and open space and Arlington’s neighborhoods retain their basic character. Many such neighborhoods are attracting young families – a trend that has increased our school-age population.  In addressing the challenges of our growing schools population, we cannot shortchange investments in other priorities that attract people to Arlington and make our education spending possible.

Our progressive vision has also placed Arlington in the forefront of the effort — locally, in Richmond, and at the federal level — to promote affordable housing options and look for ways to accommodate those who want to keep living in Arlington as they enter their senior years.

All the while, these progressive policies, investments, and fiscal prudence have given Arlington one of the best credit ratings of any locality in America – saving millions of dollars in borrowing costs – and ranking Arlington among the top places in America across a broad range of success criteria.

To keep moving Arlington forward, we cannot abandon the progressive vision that has made our community such an attractive place to live. We cannot stifle managed, well-planned growth that we will need in order to generate revenues necessary to sustain core services and educational achievement. And we cannot ignore, or create false economies about, the infrastructure and transit investments that are necessary to achieve those revenues and objectives.

Our Progressive Voice columnists are looking forward to discussing this sensible progressive agenda with you in ARLnow in the weeks and months to come.

Carrie Johnson is a local civic activist, a progressive Democrat, and served as a member and two-time chair of the Arlington County Planning Commission.

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