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County Making New Efforts to Engage Millennials in Civic Life

Arlington County says it is stepping up its efforts to get millennials involved in local government and civic life.

Arlington was just named the best city for millennials in the U.S. by the website Niche. Depending on how you define the millennial generation, it makes up between 30-40 percent of the county’s population of just over 220,000.

Yet when it comes to involvement with county government and civic organizations, millennials are underrepresented. Attend a County Board meeting, or a meeting of an Arlington commission or working group, and it is older residents typically speaking out or helping to shape policy.

To get millennials more involved, last month Arlington County partnered with the Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) and hosted a happy hour with County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol, herself a millennial. More then five dozen young people attended the happy hour and discussed local issues with Cristol.

Along with the event, Arlington County launched an interactive forum called Engage Arlington where people can publicly post and discuss county issues. Focused on feedback from millennials, Engage Arlington has a voting system, similar to Reddit.com, where posts that receive “likes” from other users move up the list.

Within Engage Arlington there is a separate forum specifically for Arlington millennials to engage and discuss. Popular topics include expanding transit options and affordable housing solutions. As of today (Friday) at noon, the last post on the forum was 14 hours ago.

In a press release, the county said its goal is to “determine the areas of civic interest to residents in their twenties and thirties and connect them with convenient ways to engage — online or in-person– with plenty of time commitment options.”

“The common misconception is that millennials don’t care about government,” Melissa Riggio, a millennial living in Ballston, is quoted as saying. “What, to me, is more accurate, is that we connect to government in different ways than the generation before us, so it can go unseen by those who are unaccustomed to it.”

“Young people inject new life and energy into Arlington’s neighborhoods, businesses, culture and nightlife,” concluded the county’s press release. “By getting involved, millennials can help shape and develop the kind of Arlington they’ll want to call home for a long time to come.”

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