The past year was filled with revealing stories about Arlington and Virginia politics and government. Here are my top five:
5. Republicans retain control of VA State Senate
Democrats and Republicans combined to spend more than $43 million on Virginia State Senate political campaigns in 2015. After all that spending, the partisan breakdown of that legislative body remained exactly the same as before: 21 Republicans and 19 Democrats. Because the Republicans will continue to control the Virginia legislature, Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe will need to reach bi-partisan compromises with Republican legislators to enact critical legislation during the two remaining years of his term.
4. Arlington hires independent auditor
The County Board approved the hiring of an independent auditor. The auditor will report directly to the Board rather than to the County Manager. This initiative was championed by Vihstadt and strongly supported by Garvey. Del. Hope played a key role by obtaining authorizing legislation from Richmond. County Board candidates Dorsey and Cristol also supported this plan. The independent auditor was initially resisted by Fisette, Hynes and Tejada, but Fisette and Hynes ultimately supported the plan.
3. Community facilities challenges continue
Arlington’s Community Facilities Study Group (CFSG) highlighted five pressing challenges:
- Scarcity of land for public facilities
- Changing demographics — Arlington’s population is projected to grow from 216,700 today to 283,000 in 2040
- Threatened commercial tax base
- Strategic facility planning and priority setting — The County needs a clear and open structure for setting priorities among competing needs
- Revamping the community dialogue — To reach all members of our community, Arlington needs to make participation easier, earlier and more meaningful.
2. Pace of development remains controversial
As CFSG highlighted, the prospect of 66,300 more Arlington residents by 2040 brought renewed attention to the subset of development that can only occur if our local government acts to enable it. This subset includes changing zoning to permit greater density than now authorized. Many activists — including me — believe we need to step back and re-assess whether, when, where, how and under what terms and conditions local government acts with respect to this aspect of development.
1. Dorsey and Cristol elected to County Board
In 2011, Arlington County Board members included: Zimmerman, Favola, Hynes, Tejada and Fisette. Effective tomorrow, the members are: Garvey, Vihstadt, Dorsey, Cristol and Fisette.
The heavily-Democratic Arlington electorate has spoken clearly that it wants major changes in the ways by which the Board does business and significant changes in some policies and priorities. Dorsey’s and Cristol’s 2015 elections reflected voters’ judgments that they were best able to continue to move Arlington in these new directions.
These stories provide important background for 2016.