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Peter’s Take: Addressing Arlington County’s Challenges in 2018

by Peter Rousselot December 28, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

In last week’s column, I explained that the Arlington County government is forecasting that in 2040 Arlington will have 55,300 more residents than it does today.

I noted these challenges:

  • Where will they live?
  • How well will Arlington serve them and at what cost?

Last week, I summarized seven initiatives that the County Board should pursue in 2018 to address these challenges.

Today’s column summarizes eight more initiatives that the Board should undertake to plan for Arlington County’s 25 percent population growth.

Growth and Development

  1. Dedicated funding stream for Metro: Metro’s success is central to the future growth and development of Arlington. A new dedicated funding stream for Metro is critical for Metro’s success. Departing Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) proposed package of reforms and new taxes has elements that seem promising. But, actually getting a new dedicated funding stream will require bipartisan support for tax increases from Republicans in Congress and in Richmond.
  2. Buck/VHC properties: The County Board (and APS) should utilize the Buck and Virginia Hospital Center properties (and any other parcels in a similar state of transition) as interim sites for school bus parking, flex/swing classroom space, infrastructure project staging areas, etc. Leaving such properties vacant and unused while spending years developing final community-based land use plans is imprudent in these fiscally challenging times.
  3. Permitting and Inspections: Finally fix this seriously-flawed process. What’s taking so long? What’s the deadline?

Fiscal Responsibility

  1. New accounting/budget software: Invest in a new, modern, reliable accounting/budget software system rather than continuing to spend large sums of money supporting Arlington’s outdated PRISM system (a legacy program that the vendor no longer supports). Allocate adequate funding to county staff training on the new accounting/budget system.
  2. Carryover surplus: In spring 2018, prior to the conclusion of deliberations over the FY 2019 operating budget, the County Board should direct the County Manager not to plan on spending any amount from any FY 2018 budget carryover surplus unless the proposed expenditure is for a genuine emergency. Instead, the Board should direct the Manager to defer any final decisions regarding what to do with any such surplus for consideration in Spring 2019.

Openness and Transparency

  1. Sexual harassment/youth protection training: The county (and Arlington Public Schools) need to provide the best available sexual harassment and youth protection training for all employees. The County and School Boards should act collaboratively and transparently to adopt the appropriate policies. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) already has taken the regional lead on these issues.
  2. Focus new civic engagement resources on key priorities: The County Board should advise the County Manager that it wishes to focus the County government’s promising new civic engagement resources (headed by Bryna Helfer, Engage Arlington) to engage with Arlington residents on key priority choices which drive major amounts of budget dollars. E.g.: “We have enough money for Option A or Option B, but not both. Which do you prefer?”
  3. Adopt 72-hour rule: The County Board formally should adopt a comprehensive 72-hour rule for posting on its website key documents relating to decisions on the agenda for County Board meetings. Failure to comply with the rule should mean the decision must be deferred unless at least four Board members vote to waive the rule.

Conclusion

Arlington needs to demonstrate that it has fiscally-sustainable longer-term plans to accommodate its projected population growth.

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