Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.
By Matt de Ferranti
Last year, Arlington voters gave me the opportunity to serve. I am deeply grateful and am working my heart out. Here’s how:
On January 2, I laid out two issues for my first six months: Amazon and the FY 2020 Budget. I also spoke about my five priorities: growing our economy to benefit all of us, building the schools we need, housing affordability, 100% renewable electricity by 2035, and ending child hunger here by 2022.
I voted for the targeted, performance-based incentive agreement for Amazon. I believed then and now that it will help grow our economy, bring down our office vacancy rate, and help us afford the investments we need. I admit, however, that the housing affordability issues that impact our community will require more commitment and creativity. My thoughts on Amazon: HQ2.
The FY 2020 Budget
I am also proud, on balance, to have voted for the FY 2020 budget. Helping Arlington Public Schools open five new schools this year and investing in the services our community needs via a 2-cent increase in tax rates was the right balance, all priorities and constraints considered.
My Five Priorities from Last Year
I believe we are moving in the right direction on the priorities I promised to work on. The office vacancy rate is down to 16.6% from over 18% last year and, though there are costs, the net additional revenue due to economic growth will make our budgets steadily easier, though by no means a cakewalk.
On 100% renewable electricity by 2035, we voted on September 21, 2019, to put this goal into policy in the Community Energy Plan. I am very proud to have pushed for the strongest plan possible.
On housing affordability, the Housing Grant and Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) investments this past year were a start, but I am eager to follow up and follow through in a thoughtful, equitable way on the ideas that Housing Arlington has and will bring forward. That means finding additional funding to help the 9,000 households in Arlington who live on less than $36,000 a year and addressing missing middle housing types to provide more options for middle-income households.
On building the schools we need to educate every child well, the annual budget plays a role, but next year’s Capital Improvement Budget (CIP) will be critical. I am working on this through the Joint Facilities Advisory Council.
On ending child hunger in Arlington by 2022, I have made the least progress on this important goal. I am hopeful that the Equity Resolution that the Board passed on September 21, 2019, will serve as a catalyst for the work I and we must do to help the more than 4,000 children who face food insecurity.
What’s Next? Stormwater and Housing Affordability
The July 8, 2019 flood brought to light stormwater issues that we must address. Walking through the homes damaged by the worst flood we have seen since 2007 brought tears to my eyes. The flooding was caused by many contributing factors, including the most rainfall ever recorded in Arlington in an hour period; policies from the 1930s through ’80s that undergrounded streams; and, to a lesser extent, recent growth, among other reasons. Two truths drive my thinking: we cannot and will not fix this overnight, and we must work diligently and with urgency to build a better stormwater system.
On housing affordability, we had big challenges before I took office, but the changes to the housing market that Amazon has accentuated cannot be ignored. We must bring forward new, Arlington-specific solutions to help make homeownership affordable and better serve renters in need. Those solutions will require that we evolve and apply our values to this new challenge. But, to be clear, we must and will invest in housing affordability in a smart, fiscally sound way.
As a whole, I am proud of and love the work we are doing together.
Matt de Ferranti was elected to the Arlington County Board in November 2018. He currently works as Senior Legislative Counsel for the National Indian Education Association. Before de Ferranti joined the Board, he served on Arlington’s Housing Commission, as Chair of the APS Budget Advisory Council, and on the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC).