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The Arlington County Board unanimously elected Matt de Ferranti as its Chair and Katie Cristol as its Vice-Chair during a virtual meeting on Monday.

Elected in 2018, de Ferranti is serving as Chair for the first time, succeeding Libby Garvey. During the year that he occupies this role, he will set the Board’s meeting agendas and preside over the meetings. The first regular Board meeting of 2021 will be held on Saturday, Jan. 23.

Colleagues heaped praise on the new chair.

“One of the most under-sung attributes in an elected official is earnestness, [and] our colleague, Mr. de Ferranti has earnestness in spades,” Cristol said. “[With] a pandemic, a reckoning over racial injustice, it is a moment that calls for a chair like Mr. de Ferranti.”

Cristol, elected in 2015 and a former Board chair, fills a role that was vacated in April, when then Vice-Chair Erik Gutshall resigned after doctors discovered a brain tumor. He died shortly after, and his successor, Board Member Takis Karantonis, was elected in July.

Board member Christian Dorsey lauded Cristol for her activism for accessible, affordable childcare and her work with regional partners on transportation in Northern Virginia.

Dorsey said he nominated Cristol “with great confidence that she will not only be able to perform the role of Vice-Chair, but that she will join Mr. de Ferranti in a dynamic duo for leading Arlington.”

During the meeting, de Ferranti and Cristol commended Arlington for coming together during the pandemic, and outlined their visions for recovery. The new Chair said in his remarks that recovery efforts must focus on stabilization, recovery and a systematic commitment to racial and economic equity.

“Our response to COVID-19 is the biggest test we face as a community,” he said. “As difficult as this winter is and will be, spring will come: More and more will be vaccinated and a new Biden administration will lead our nation’s recovery.”

De Ferranti’s other stated priorities for 2021 include addressing hunger and food insecurity, preventing evictions, and boosting the production of missing middle housing.

“Without changes in our housing supply the 60% of Arlington residents who currently rent cannot realistically save up to buy a place,” he said. “We risk becoming as unaffordable as San Francisco if we do not plan for replacement of existing moderately priced housing and grow in a thoughtful, managed way.”

In her remarks, Cristol said that like 2020, the new year will be characterized by the coronavirus, as cases continue to surpass the peaks seen in March. With the vaccine, however, comes a chance to reimagine Arlington, the Vice-Chair said.

“Rebuilding after this once-in-a-century pandemic is a unique opportunity to think afresh about what future we want for ourselves and our children in our County,” she said.

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Morning Notes

Cristol Recovering from Surgery — County Board member Katie Cristol was absent from this week’s Board meeting. She is on medical leave after surgery to treat Graves’ disease, she said. [Twitter]

Axios Makes Local News Moves — Clarendon-based media company Axios has purchased North Carolina-based Charlotte Agenda as it makes a push into local news. [New York Times]

Board Balks at Preservation Request — “Efforts to place the 9-acre Rouse estate at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North McKinley Road into a local historic district appear to have pushed the property owner to move forward with the ‘nuclear option‘… And, county officials say, there is not much they can do to prevent it. ‘Our hands are pretty much tied,’ County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said Dec. 12, effectively rebuffing a request that the county government take stronger actions.” [InsideNova]

Board Responds to Reopening Request — “A request that Arlington County Board members use their influence – whether through sweet-talking or something more forceful – to get county schools back up and running fell largely on deaf ears Dec. 12. Board members said they were working with their School Board counterparts, but had no power to force a reopening of schools that have been shuttered since last March.” [InsideNova]

Local Nonprofit Expands Aid — “Since April of this year [Arlington] Thrive has provided more than $5 million is assistance to 1,300 families and individuals, a dramatic increase from the $805,000 Thrive provided to families and individuals during the same period last year. Typical requests to Arlington Thrive used to be for one or two months rent but since the pandemic now extend to six or seven months.” [Press Release]

Church Continues Drive-Thru Donations — “Clarendon Presbyterian Church recently announced that it will continue holding monthly Drive-thru Food and Toiletry Collections to support our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. Since the first Collection in June through the most recent one in December, the community donated the equivalent of 756 brown paper bags of groceries – an estimated value of $30,000.” [Press Release]

Northam Proposes State Budget — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Wednesday proposed a state budget that would restore some spending frozen earlier this year amid uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic, updating a spending document that the General Assembly just finished tinkering with last month.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

RBG Buried at Arlington National Cemetery — “The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was buried at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday. A spokesperson for the Supreme Court confirmed that she was laid to rest and said it was a private service. She was set to be buried alongside her husband, Martin David Ginsburg, who was buried there in 2010.” [WJLA]

DCA Work May Cause Traffic Delays — “Beginning on or about Thursday, October 1, portions of the Terminal B/C Ticketing (upper-level) roadway will close for work related to Project Journey. At least two vehicular lanes will remain open as the construction areas periodically change.” [Press Release]

Police Investigating Lyon Park Attack — “As the parties exited the business, the dispute continued and became physical. The suspect waved a knife at Victim One, who then fell to the ground. The suspect kicked her, at which point a second victim attempted to intervene, but was struck with the knife by the suspect. The suspect then fled in a vehicle.” [Arlington County]

Cristol Joining New Equity Program — “Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol has been named one of 14 Southern elected leaders who will form the inaugural class of E Pluribus Unum (UNUM) fellows. The program is designed to equip Southern leaders with resources that advance racial and economic equity within their communities.” [Arlington County]

Ballston Hosting Local Restaurant Week — “You’re invited to sip and savor your way through Ballston. Join our neighborhood’s Sip & Savor Restaurant Week. From October 1st through the 4th, support your favorite restaurants and eat local!” [Ballston BID]

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Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol says she was wrong to suggest that a local beer garden should be shut down over the weekend.

Cristol retweeted a photo posted by Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko on Friday night, which showed a large crowd — none wearing masks — outdoors at The Lot beer garden near Clarendon.

“A bunch of selfish a**holes in Arlington, VA this evening,” Parkhomenko said in his tweet, which went viral and racked up thousands of likes and retweets. Many of those sharing the post decried how such crowding could exacerbate the pandemic.

“Well, this sucks,” Cristol wrote in her response to the tweet. “We’re in this together, and are going to have a hard time continuing to move forward if folks/establishments won’t do the basics of masks & distancing. All: Please help us follow up (and shut this stuff down) by reporting.”

Cristol also shared a link to a “non-compliance of social distancing practices” reporting form created by the county.

In response, however, The Lot said in a social media post on Saturday that it followed “all CDC, state, and local guidelines,” noting that it has “a large patio so naturally there will be more people, attention, and visibility.”

While The Lot posted a sign encouraging mask usage, Virginia’s new mask requirement only requires it for indoor public spaces.

A huge thank you to all our amazing patrons for the support and patience last night. We’d also like to thank the county…

Posted by The Lot VA on Saturday, May 30, 2020

On Sunday, Crisol posted an apology, acknowledging that Arlington police and fire personnel had visited The Lot and verified that it was following all of the requirements. She added, however, that “too many ppl = an administrative problem the County needs to fix.”

The risk of coronavirus transmission outdoors is considered to be low, though extended exposure and close proximity to someone with the virus — particularly if they’re talking and not wearing a mask — can result in infections even outdoors.

Photo via Twitter

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Arlington County has seen a slight, week-long slowdown in new coronavirus cases, but is pushing back on Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to partially reopen statewide by the end of the week.

As of Monday morning, there were 1,399 known coronavirus cases in Arlington, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. That brings the trailing 7-day rise in cases to 293, down from a peak of 349 on May 4.

The state health department is also reporting 60 deaths and 286 hospitalizations in Arlington, up from 57 deaths and 227 hospitalizations on Friday.

Statewide, 25,070 cases have been reported, along with 3,300 hospitalizations, 850 deaths and 167,758 total tests.

According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, 1,504 confirmed and potential COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized statewide, while 3,273 have been hospitalized and subsequently discharged. There are 4,647 hospital beds available statewide and 21% of ventilators in Virginia are currently in use.

Over the weekend, Gov. Northam released more details about his “Forward Virginia” plan to reopen the state, which could happen as early as Friday. From a press release:

Under Phase One, the Commonwealth will move to a Safer at Home strategy, which continues the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people and maintains recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and wearing face coverings. All businesses should make modifications to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitization of high contact surfaces, and provide enhanced workplace safety measures.

Retail establishments will be allowed to operate at 50 percent occupancy, restaurant and beverage establishments may offer outdoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, personal grooming services may begin operating with one patron per service provider, and fitness centers may offer outdoor exercise services. Campgrounds may also begin taking reservations for short-term stays.

Places of worship have had a 10-person limit and have been allowed to hold drive-in services allowed. In Phase One, drive-in services may continue, and services may be held inside at 50 percent capacity. Specific guidelines for religious services can be found here.

Many of the restrictions put in place by Executive Order Fifty-Three will remain in place in Phase One. Entertainment and public amusement venues will remain closed and beaches will continue to be open only for exercise and fishing. Childcare centers remain open for children of working families. Overnight summer camps will remain closed in Phase One.

Arlington County and other Northern Virginia governments, however, are asking for the ability to delay its implementation. The county released the following statement Friday evening.

Arlington County supports Governor Northam’s detailed framework for “Forward Virginia,” and appreciates the Commonwealth’s acknowledgement that the Northern Virginia region faces challenges that differ in number and scale from the Commonwealth as a whole. Over half of the cases and hospitalizations and nearly half of the COVID -19 deaths are here in Northern Virginia — despite our constituting a little more than a quarter of the state’s population; and we continue to see a rise in hospitalizations. Arlington is working closely with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which comprises other localities in the region, to coordinate with the Governor’s office to determine the safest path forward, with an extended timeframe for entering Phase One.

Arlington County’s top priority is to ensure the safety of the entire community; and we believe we must meet the criteria for entering Phase One. At this point, based on the data for our region as well as Arlington specifically, the most responsible path forward is maintaining our current operating status until these criteria are met.

That message was echoed by County Board member Katie Cristol, in an interview on WAMU Friday. She was asked by host Kojo Nnamdi about potentially opening up on Friday, May 8.

“I think that is going to be a timeline that works for some part of Virginia. And we are grateful that, in recent days, it is recognized that that is not a timeline that is likely going to make sense here in Northern Virginia,” she said.

“Generally, we are coalescing around more or less the same criteria,” she said, “downward trend in positive tests, downward trend in hospitalizations, testing, tracing PPE, and so forth.”

Cristol also revealed a bit of news in the interview: Arlington County is planning to distribute cloth face coverings, as a way to further encourage their use.

“We recently put in a pretty significant order for cloth face coverings that were intended to be distributed around the county,” she told Nnamdi. “And we’ll have more details on that, we hope, in the next week or so. So, I suppose a carrot, not a stick approach on that one.”

“It makes more sense to make masks available and distribute those to whomever needs them, rather than trying to, for example, give tickets to those who aren’t wearing them,” she added.

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Progressive Voice is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the authors’.

By Katie Cristol and Matt de Ferranti

In a conference call, Progressive Voice editors asked Arlington County Board members Katie Cristol and Matt de Ferranti about their insights on the challenges of being a leader in local government during the trying time of the COVID-19 epidemic.

PV: Tell us about the challenge of making pressing leadership decisions, such as on the County budget, when there are fewer known facts, data and projections about 2021 and beyond.

MD: This isn’t an easy budget. In normal years, we have about 10-12 budget work sessions. You have time to learn, synthesize. This year, the fiscal reality has changed during the middle of the process, so it’s challenging to accept the new reality and adjust quickly.

Ultimately, we have to focus on values and what we must do: keeping people safe, making sure people are not evicted, and meeting our commitments and basic human needs. So we will do a pretty basic budget, and in the coming year, may come back and make adjustments. It’s a dynamic environment.

KC: It helps that Arlington’s fiscal fundamentals are still strong. Arlington is in very good fiscal health–such as our bond rating, our fully funded pension plan. What we are really talking about is lost opportunities–the investments we hoped to have made in this budget to attract good people to work here, expand human services, expand our capacity to fix street lights more quickly.

There may be harder times ahead. But what enables me to tell residents we can weather the pandemic as well as the economic challenges is that the fundamentals are still there. We have excellent public health and emergency response teams. We have staff who were with us during 9/11, during the recession starting in 2008. Our public health director got us through H1N1. I hope people feel confident by the amount of expertise brought to bear. We [County Board] are the faces on policy, but a lot of the pandemic response is at the professional expert level.

KC: I was reading through comments, a chat that the county manager did with staff, and it was a reminder of how dedicated the people who work for government are…. EMS, Fire are top of mind but also people who administer food stamps…they are risking their own safety to do that.

PV: What ways have you found to balance necessary health and safety (such as physical distancing) with the desire to shore up the economy, small business and workers? Any new insights about the role of government?

MD: Local governments and state governments have had to step forward, particularly because of an absence of leadership from the federal government, so the breadth of what local government can do is more clear to me than ever. There is an opportunity for innovation as we seek to serve all of our residents well.

KC: At the policy level, we’ve been providing small business technical assistance through BizLaunch, trying to help owners navigate SBA loans.

KC: We’ve been wrestling with how to support our restaurants, which are hurting so deeply. Very quickly, DES [Department of Environmental Services] traffic management set up free parking zones marked with signs outside the restaurants. Those are safer and easier for people [to pick up takeaway orders].

Doing things so quickly now will carry over to expecting it to always be so quick. When people discover how quickly we can do these changes…[laughs] without so much public engagement. People are used to [a long time of] hashing out pros and cons for something like curb space management.

PV: Will there be lingering after-effects on public engagement, move more quickly after the emergency passes?

MD: I think there will be some changes in public engagement. People will still want input and we will engage fully, but I think we will evolve a bit, so our input is both thorough and effective in making sure we hear from our whole community.

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Alternately billing it as a happy hour for renters and a millennial outreach event, a pair of Crystal City organizations is hosting an event geared toward younger residents tomorrow night.

The Crystal City Civic Association and the neighborhood’s business improvement district are co-hosting the event to engage renters in the quickly changing community.

More from Arlington County:

Co-hosted by the Crystal City Civic Association and Crystal City Business Improvement District, this happy hour is your opportunity to get engaged, get involved, and get a little refreshment in the process. Featuring special remarks from Katie Cristol, Arlington County Board member and former Crystal City resident. This event is targeted for renters in the 22202 area to promote how to get involved in civic engagement and advocacy, with the rapid changes in the neighborhood. Free drinks and light refreshments will be served. Find out more by checking out the Facebook event here.

Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol is expected to deliver remarks at the free event, which is being held at the JBG National Landing Marketing Center (241 18th Street S.) from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Attendees are asked to RSVP online.

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Morning Notes

Cristol Reacts to Lawmaker’s Arlington Suggestion — After another Republican state Senator suggested, jokingly, that Arlington and Alexandria go back to being part of D.C., Arlington’s state lawmakers and County Board member Katie Cristol were not amused. Cristol tweeted: “Hmmm, is it possible their grievance is that my diverse, progressive constituents are EXACTLY what it means to be a ‘Real Virginian’ in 2020?” [Twitter, Blue Virginia]

More on Planned Pentagon City Study — “County staff have been overwhelmed by a flood of new development applications in the area since Amazon announced its intentions to set up its second headquarters. And the sizes of some of those projects have been so large that staff have begun urging developers to be patient and wait for a revision of the area’s planning documents before pursuing them.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Man Struck, Killed by Driver — “A 29-year-old man from Arlington, Virginia, died early Saturday morning after being hit by a dark-colored SUV on Industrial Road near Backlick Road in Springfield. David Velasquez was walking in the right lane of Industrial Road at about 1 a.m. when he was hit by the driver, who did not stop, Fairfax County police.” [WTOP]

‘We Will Buy Your Tech Business’ Signs — “There are mysterious signs all over Ballston saying ‘We will buy your tech business…’ [A person who returned our call] said they’re just interested in talking to people looking to sell their business and are not interested in being the subject of a news story.” [Twitter]

W-L, Yorktown Face Off on Hard Court — “There was a double feature of nail-biting thrillers the evening of Jan. 30 in a packed and loud Washington-Liberty High School gymnasium. That’s where the Yorktown Patriots and Washington-Liberty Generals met in all-Arlington girls and boys varsity basketball games with close finishes. The Yorktown girls won in overtime, 53-50. Then, in the nightcap, the W-L boys won, 65-63, on a last second-shot in the Liberty District high-school contests.” [InsideNova]

Minor Apartment Fire — Arlington County firefighters responded to a small cooking fire in an apartment near Courthouse on Saturday. No one was hurt and only minor damage was reported, although the apartment did fill with smoke. [Twitter]

Gymboree at Pentagon City Mall — “A popular children’s clothing retailer that closed all of its stores a year ago is taking steps to re-enter the marketplace. Officials with Gymboree this week announced plans to relaunch the brand at more than 200 Children’s Place locations nationwide,” including at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. [Patch]

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Morning Notes

Never Ending Bike Rack Construction at EFC Metro — “Metro has been building a Bike & Ride facility at the East Falls Church Metro Station for nearly five years, and the project still is not finished. The covered bike shelter was supposed to open in December 2015, but Metro says due to ‘Numerous construction quality issues, including damage caused by a contractor repeatedly drilling into an underground duct bank, led to lengthy delays.'” [WJLA]

Another Sewage Release in Four Mile Run — “Avoid all contact with Four Mile Run south of 7th Street until further notice due to a sanitary sewage release. @ArlingtonDES crews are on scene investigating pipe’s condition.” [Twitter]

Delegate Wants to Retrocede Arlington to D.C. — Del. Dave LaRock (R) “said some counties and jurisdictions in the state ‘are becoming more like California and New York…’ [LaRock said he] could get behind a move to have more liberal jurisdictions such as Arlington and Alexandria become part of Washington, D.C.” [Winchester Star, Blue Virginia]

Weird Crash Leaves Car Hanging — “Rough night… at Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street.” [Twitter]

Cristol to Chair NVTC — “Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol has been tapped to chair the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for the 2020 calendar year. She succeeds Matt Letourneau, a member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.” [InsideNova]

Marine Corps Marathon Bans Cheater — “The Marine Corps Marathon Organization (MCMO) recently concluded an investigation into the running history of a 55-year-old female participant at both the Marine Corps 17.75K and the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). The research, including photographic evidence and timing data, indicates that the runner had cheated over multiple years by not running the entire course and then claiming the rewards of a finisher.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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(Updated at 10:20 p.m.) There were no surprises in Tuesday’s general election in Arlington, as Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was elected Arlington’s new prosecutor and all Democratic incumbents won new terms.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney race saw an elevated level of write-in votes — 10% of the overall vote — but the result was never in doubt as Tafti received 90% of the vote. She will take office as the top prosecutor for Arlington and Falls Church starting in January.

Tafti ran a progressive campaign centered on criminal justice reform during a contentious and expensive primary. She ran unopposed in the general election after beating incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos in a surprising upset in the primary, with 52% of the vote to Stamos’ 48%.

“It was really surreal,” Tafti told ARLnow of her win, after the final precinct results came in.

The incoming prosecutor added that she was “lucky” she had time between the June primary and the November election to start work on her transition. Tafti she’s looking forward to rolling out reforms come January — which one expert has said is the most aggressive policy transition for the office in living memory.

“I’m really excited to get a restorative justice program started,” she told ARLnow.

Elsewhere on the ballot, Arlington County Board incumbents Katie Cristol (D) and Christian Dorsey (D) defeated independent candidates Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell with 40% and 38% of the vote, respectively. Clement’s 13% and O’Dell’s 7% compares to the 10% Clement and 19% Republican Mike McMenamin received in 2015, when Cristol and Dorsey were first elected.

In contested General Assembly races in Arlington, state Sen. Janet Howell, who ran unopposed in the primary, won out over Republican candidate Arthur Purves, 73% to 27%. Del. Alfonso Lopez defeated independent challenger Terry Modglin, 83% to 16%.

Other Democratic candidates won bids for re-election tonight after running uncontested races:

  • Del. Patrick Hope
  • Del. Mark Levine
  • Del. Rip Sullivan
  • State Sen. Barbara Favola
  • Sheriff Beth Arthur
  • Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy
  • Treasurer Carla de la Pava
  • School Board member Reid Goldstein

Acknowledging that most of its candidates were not facing strong challengers, the Arlington Democratic party has instead focused on supporting other Virginia progressives they hoped could flip the GOP-controlled state House and Senate. As of 10 p.m., the Associated Press projected that Democrats would, in fact, win control of both.

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Last week, we asked the four candidates seeking a seat on the Arlington County Board to write a 750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 5 general election.

Here is the unedited response from Democratic incumbent County Board member Katie Cristol.

As you head to the polls this upcoming Tuesday, I ask that you consider casting one of your two votes to return me to the Arlington County Board. Over the past four years, I’ve sought to collaborate with residents and regional partners to find and implement smart, balanced solutions to hard problems and to position this community to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

Together, we’ve made real progress for Arlingtonians:

  • We adopted a comprehensive strategy to address child-care accessibility in Arlington that’s working: My colleagues and I approved hundreds more quality spots in the first year of the strategy, and within just a couple of months of new ordinance changes taking effect this July, nearly three dozen providers had submitted proposals to expand.
  • We’ve made critical progress on our high rate of commercial vacancy with new and renewed office tenants. Arlington has made international headlines with Amazon, but we also welcomed tech start-ups, national nonprofits and renewable energy companies to fill or redevelop our empty office buildings.
  • We’ve added over a thousand new committed affordable homes for our lower- and moderate-income neighbors, acted to preserve garden apartments, and expanded opportunities for new housing types. As a result, there are now more homes affordable to our neighbors making less than 60% of area median income than there were four years ago – even at a time of increasing rents.
  • We’ve tackled what looked impossible for our regional transit system. As a leader in multiple regional transit bodies, I’m proud to have been part of the coalition that achieved the extraordinary milestone of dedicated capital funding for Metro: a first in the system’s many-decades history.

We’ve made Arlington a more compassionate, effective place for those who need support: creating a legal services fund for our immigrant neighbors – the first in Virginia – and expanding services for survivors of sexual violence, including a comprehensive medical, counseling and justice response.

Importantly, I’ve endeavored to achieve these and other breakthroughs for our community while exercising good fiscal stewardship. I’ve supported needed capital projects in the County, while significantly reducing their costs. We’ve reduced use permit conditions and duplicative community processes to help Schools keep their projects on time and on budget. During my chairmanship last year, the Board held the tax rate flat, though it meant difficult program cuts, to avoid shifting the burden of lost commercial revenues to residential payers.

And I’m running for reelection because we have many more big things to do, together. If I earn your support on November 5th, I will prioritize:

  • Increasing moderately-sized ownership housing in neighborhoods throughout the County, through the study and legalization of alternative forms.
  • Planning for community infrastructure, specifically:
    • A long-term plan for siting future schools facilities beyond the ten-year horizon of our Capital Improvement Plan; and
    • Collaborating with our Northern Virginia partners to realize a truly interconnected transit system across the greater DC region.
  • Protecting our global and local environment by aggressively implementing public and private efforts in our updated Community Energy Plan; and prioritizing “Biophilic Cities” principles and practices for Arlington to prioritize natural spaces in our commercial corridors.

To learn more about these and other priorities ahead of the election, please visit www.katiecristol.com/issues. Thank you for the opportunity to serve this extraordinary community, and for your consideration on Tuesday, November 5th.

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