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Progressive Voice: Welcome to 2015

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

The following is an excerpted version of a statement delivered at the Arlington County Board’s January 1 Organizational Meeting. The full text will be available on the County web site – countyboard.arlingtonva.us/county-board-members.

Mary HynesThe past year was a time of change in our community. Today is a day for reflection and making resolutions. I resolve to build upon our community values and to listen carefully to Arlington’s many voices as we strive to make Arlington an even better place for us all.

A challenge we face in 2015 as a community is how we move beyond our recent discord on key issues and work together to ensure that our County has the resources to meet our residentsfacilit yneeds while remaining the high-quality, caring community each of us has chosen to make our home?

We are always better when we listen to each other, seek to understand the breadth of the challenges we are facing, and work together to adjust our course.

So, in 2015, the County Board will work in partnership with our community to begin writing a new chapter in Arlingtons story. Joined by our School Board colleagues, supported by our many advisory commissions, the Civic Federation, civic associations, and PTAs as well as members of the business community, we are launching today the Arlington Community Facilities Study — a Plan for the Future. 

The Study Committee will be composed of Arlington residents and business leaders charged with developing a consensus framework to address our communitys need for additional schools, fire stations, and vehicle and other storage facilities in the context of our long-term economic and demographic growth. This Study is intended to give both Boards information needed to make critical decisions leading to adoption of an updated Capital Improvement Plan in July 2016.

This process will allow the community to address several key questions head-on: What are our facility needs for schools, fire stations, recreation, and transportation vehicle and other storage and how do we pay for them? What criteria should we use to decide their location? What opportunities and challenges are there in our aging affordable and workforce multi-family housing stock? What do changes in the Federal government presence and the residential and private commercial marketplace mean for County revenues?

The consensus framework the Study Committee will create, working with the larger community, will answer these questions as informed by our realities:

  • Arlington is small; no new land is being created.
  • We must use what we already have thoughtfully and equitably to serve Arlingtonians throughout the County.
  • Significant new funding is unlikely.
  • We must examine facility needs strategically and maximize use of available revenue.
  • We must have a sensible long-term financial plan for the County.

Our framework will acknowledge: change is unavoidable as our population grows; challenges loom as we reinvigorate our economy; and our available physical space limits some possible solutions.

Later this month at a joint public meeting with the School Board, the County Board will adopt the charge for this Study. The two Boards will stay involved. I am pleased to announce that John Vihstadt has agreed to join me as County Board liaison to the process.

Two especially important issues will intersect with the Study Committee’s work: housing affordability and business vibrancy.

Housing affordability — Some have wondered why housing affordability requires local government investment.  Simply put, a variety of home choices offers more opportunity to stay in the community. Those who live and work in Arlington share in the value that their work helps to create — rooting them firmly in the community. Through their work, volunteerism and engagement, they strengthen and enrich our community’s civic life.

Business Vibrancy — Arlington is experiencing unprecedented vacancy rates in our commercial sector. To help address the challenges facing the business community we will have on board a new Economic Development Director and we will host a quarterly Chairmans Breakfast with Business Leaders, joined by our County Manager. Thanks to the Chamber of Commerce for its support of this activity.

Good ideas can come from anywhere.I am grateful for the time so many have taken to share their views with me.  At the beginning of my year as Board Chair, now more than ever, I hope ideas will keep coming from all quarters of our community.

In a very real sense, government in Arlington is informed and driven by dialogue.

  • Dialogue within our neighborhoods, among friends, at PTAs, civic associations and other community meetings.
  • Dialogue among citizens involved in advising the County Board on the full range of issues.
  • Dialogue between citizens, businesses, the County Board and the County Manager and her staff.

It is this on-going, informed dialogue that makes us a better community.  Lets keep it going.

Mary Hynes will serve as 2015 Arlington County Board Chair. She was elected to the County Board in 2007. She previously served for 12 years on the Arlington School Board, including three times as Chair.

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