Katie Cristol will serve as Arlington County Board chair for 2018, with Christian Dorsey nominated as vice chair alongside her.
Both were nominated and unanimously voted in at the County Board’s organizational meeting (video) last night (Tuesday), where members lay out their agendas for the year. This year’s meeting avoided the political wrangling of last year, when Cristol was elected vice chair.
In her remarks after being elected chair, Cristol said she would focus on protecting and adding affordable housing and work to help Metro return to a “sound footing” financially. The Washington Post noted her relative youth — 32 — and said she is the first millennial to lead a county dominated by those in the 20-34 age group.
One of Cristol’s other priorities is to continue work on the county’s nascent childcare initiative, which began this year and is looking to expand options and the quality of child care available in Arlington.
“Child care accessibility similarly speaks to the foundational values of Arlington County,” Cristol said. “The idea that this place is a place for young families is part of our ‘old story,’ at least since an influx of veteran families in the postwar years made Arlington a ground zero for the Baby Boom.”
Dorsey called on the county to establish its own consumer protection bureau to educate businesses and residents about their rights and settle disputes between the two. Like Cristol, he also said affordable housing and Metro will be key priorities this year. The Board last year hiked property taxes to help, in part, to pay for increased Metro costs.
Dorsey said the consumer protection bureau could be a crucial addition, which he said “does not require substantial new funding.”
“We frequently hear complaints involving predatory towing, billing and service issues with cable and telecommunications companies, predatory lenders, identity theft, hired transportation, rental housing, and general contract enforcement,” he said. “I believe there are beneficial outcomes in dispute resolution and prevention that a consumer protection bureau can promote.”
Libby Garvey, now the longest-serving County Board member after the retirement of Jay Fisette last year, said she wants to work on public discussions and ensuring they remain civil. She urged residents to give feedback on a draft guide on Civic Engagement, which will be finalized this year.
“I believe improving civic dialogue and general civility in our discussions is another challenge for us,” Garvey said in her remarks. “[Perhaps] it is because of the poor examples we are seeing on the national stage, but I’ve been hearing more and more, recently, about inconsiderate and unpleasant interactions in public meetings on County issues right here in Arlington.”
Independent Board member John Vihstadt, who is running for re-election this year, said the county should strive for more transparency in government, have greater fiscal discipline and better mitigate the impacts of development.
Vihstadt said cost/benefit analyses should be required of every new development, something he called a “cardinal recommendation” of the 2015 Community Facilities Study.
“Other jurisdictions do this; so can Arlington,” he said. “Let’s leverage the new political dynamic in Richmond by broadening the scope of community benefits to find new ways to help offset the cost and stress of additional development on our surrounding neighborhoods.”
Erik Gutshall is new onto the Board for this year, having won last November’s election to replace Fisette, who retired after 20 years. He noted in his remarks that the budget “will be rife with difficult choices constrained by a harsh revenue gap,” but pledged to support public education, affordable housing and civic engagement.
“As we catch a glance in the rear-view mirror, check our current speed, and peer up the road ahead, it’s clear that we are blessed with a strong foundation, deeply rooted in our shared values, that will sustain our continued success as we meet the tumultuous challenges brought upon us by outside forces,” he said.
The County Board’s first regular meeting of the year is set for Saturday, January 27.