There has been no shortage of advice and criticism about the newest iteration of the County’s community engagement process.
A lot of words are used to discuss the input at the front end, but it is essential to ask what are our specific goals and how do we measure results in attaining them.
Is our county making good long-term financial decisions? For years, County leaders touted the bond rating as a measure of our fiscal health. That rating is primarily determined by two things: (1) annual debt service less than 10 percent of annual spending and (2) the County’s willingness to raise taxes to make sure the debt service level stays there. The County Auditor’s office still has not been given the resources to aggressively look into county programs.
Is our business environment attracting and retaining existing businesses and encouraging the creation of new businesses, and can they do it without offering massive subsidies? The commercial vacancy rate remains high. It is expensive to build it. It is expensive to lease it. And it is expensive to do business in the county.
The County touts are schools and our workforce, but those are not the only pieces of the puzzle when businesses are looking for a home. Arlington still has a big advantage in the marketplace, location, location, location. But we cannot take it for granted any longer.
Are our schools adequately preparing our kids to enter the workforce or college in the 2020s and 2030s? Next year our schools will spend more than $22,700 per child on their educational experience. Our standardized academic measurements are doing fine.
But who is asking the questions about whether our kids should worry more about measurements scaled to college preparedness or should we also spend more time considering how kids who want to go straight into the workforce are prepared?
On transportation, what Metro reforms are we insisting on and are we improving traffic flow or restricting it for those who choose to drive? In Board Chair Katie Cristol’s speech upon taking the gavel in January, she called for action on Metro. What has the Board done thus far under her leadership?
I went back and watched each of the County Board members give their January opening speeches for the year. Another goal from Board Chair Katie Cristol included changes to how the county regulates child care. How is that process going five months into the year, and how will that be measured on January 2, 2019?
Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey wanted affordable housing, specifically mentioning the permitting process and making it more affordable to build new housing. What changes has he proposed to make housing construction more affordable?
Every County Board member should go back and read their kick-off speeches and see how they are doing so far in 2018. And if they are so inclined, they should give us an honest assessment of their progress.