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Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organization or ARLnow.com.

Garrett McGuireMetro is one of Arlington’s most valuable assets and a key to the county’s continued progress. At a time of high commercial vacancy rates, it is increasingly important to our economic future that Metro is a reliable, high-quality transit system.

However, as anyone who rides Metro knows, the system remains in need of repair, upgrades, and additional capacity even after improvements made through several years of more intensive maintenance.

That is why the decision by the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee to slash WMATA maintenance funding from $150 million to $75 million is extremely troubling for our county and region.

If this is a political statement or an attempt to send a message of disapproval to WMATA, such action should be viewed with outrage by residents of Arlington and Northern Virginia.

Now is not the time for political gamesmanship and punitive measures. Rather, we need a concerted effort to preserve Metro’s strengths, fix Metro’s problems, and recognize Metro’s major contribution to our region’s transportation and economic goals.

If the goal of reducing Metro funding is to ensure WMATA “is making significant progress in eliminating the material weaknesses, significant deficiencies, and minor control deficiencies” as the bill also requires, cutting the funding to achieve these goals in counterproductive. The regional economy and safety of individuals should not be so jeopardized.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which authorized $1.5 billion for WMATA over ten years — or $150 million a year – is a federal commitment that should be honored. It is money that was dedicated seven years ago to improve Metro services, specifically the safety of passengers. Additionally, in response to this federal commitment, Virginia, Maryland and the District agreed to match the federal funding with $50 million each in additional annual funding. This bipartisan support for Metro was and is a vitally important demonstration of federal and state governments working together to advance a key transportation priority.

Any attempt to reduce the federal share of this money undermines critical maintenance and safety improvements that need to be completed. It is imperative that the Republican leadership of this subcommittee, the full committee and the House of Representatives heed the bipartisan advice of Congressional leaders in Virginia (including our own Congressman, Don Beyer), Maryland and the District.

With Metro’s Momentum Plan on the horizon, the Potomac Yard Metrorail Station process underway, revitalization of Crystal City and Pentagon City, additions along the R-B Corridor, I-66 improvements with a focus on transit proposed, and new apartment buildings popping up along Metro corridors that will increase ridership, we need to ensure that WMATA is actively improving maintenance, enhancing capacity, and ensuring the safety of its riders. This requires that the federal government remain a full partner with the Commonwealth and our neighboring jurisdictions in funding Metro.

The WMATA Board also has an opportunity to address operations and management issues in hiring a new General Manager and CEO. This person needs to be a stalwart of efficiency and maximizing Metro’s upgrades with available funding to prepare Metro for future realities. They must also be given a chance to succeed through the full allocation of federal funds.

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Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Garrett McGuireArlington residents are focused on key community priorities — school capacity and instructional needs, housing affordability, Metro upgrades, community facilities, open space, and other areas that depend upon public funding.

However, as a recent Washington Post article highlighted, we face another threat to our community that has received less attention: a high (and rising) commercial vacancy rate. The recently launched Community Facilities Study Group was briefed last month on the current state of Arlington’s economy and the picture is sobering.

With one-quarter of the county’s 40 million square feet of office space vacant, Arlington is faced with reduced commercial property taxes at a time when the demand for county services continues to rise.

Our ability to fund county services at existing or enhanced levels requires a healthy local economy.

Arlington is the envy of many area localities because we have a balanced 50-50 tax split between commercial real estate and homeowner property taxes. However, rising commercial vacancy rates will slow commercial real estate tax receipts and homeowners could either pay more to cover the lost revenue — or services will have to be reduced.

Those are our real options. Even if the county and school budgets were scoured for every inefficiency, potential staff reduction, or unnecessary project or program, we would still face either increased residential taxes or service reductions if Arlington is not able to attract more commercial and government tenants.

Additionally, with school spending already a significant portion of Arlington’s budget, and school enrollment growing at nearly 5 percent a year, funding for schools could be in jeopardy at a critically important time if we are not competitive for major tenants with the District, Tysons, Alexandria, and outer suburbs.

Any County Board candidate (Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Reform, Bull Moose etc…) should have a strong economic development plan. Without a thriving business community that provides jobs, pays wages and drives county revenue, we will not be able to solve and fund our core priorities, and promote our core values.

The Arlington Economic Development (AED) team, under new leadership, is becoming more aggressive about marketing our community’s assets. This month, AED attended SXSW in Austin, Texas, to pitch companies on Arlington. We need our local government — and our elected officials — to continue developing innovative marketing techniques and have a clear understanding of what resources are needed to attract and keep major tenants.

Because Arlington’s success has relied upon federal government spending, we need a new push toward a more diversified local economy.

In addition to supporting the growth of local startups, we must focus on companies that are diverse in scope and can withstand reduced government spending — like Marriott, which happens to be looking for a new Metro-accessible office location.

We have a governor who is focused on, and has thrived during, his first year attracting businesses to every region of the Commonwealth. His energy and enthusiasm can be an added tool to recruiting world-class employers to fill Arlington’s empty office buildings. Just last week, the governor announced nearly 600 new jobs in Fairfax County with the expansion of Navy Federal Credit Union’s offices.

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