Our January organizational meeting had the usual speeches and the announcement of the Facilities Working Group that will take a long overdue holistic look at what property and facilities are owned by the County and what needs we will have over the next 20 years. I am hopeful this will help set the stage for a much needed County strategic planning process next year. You can watch all the speeches and the meeting (my remarks are short and are at the 54 min and 35 second mark.)
Thomas Jefferson vote and school crowding: Our Regular January meeting was a huge disappointment to me. We essentially told the School Board that the beautiful building they had designed that would have added 725 much needed elementary school seats, 1.6 acres of playing fields and improved traffic circulation to the Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Middle School site could not be built. We thereby managed to save a large ugly parking lot and condemn South Arlington to acres of trailers at all their schools for years.
The school was to be completed in 2018. The extra students that will now not be in a school will require 45 trailers to house them. Currently, South Arlington has 37 trailers at our schools. The Arlington Public School staff did a spectacular presentation and thoroughly answered every reasonable question and concern. You can watch the presentation and discussion. It is long, but well worth the time if you want to understand the issue and, I believe, how misguided the Board’s vote was. Here you see a picture of the parking lot we “saved” and the new playing field that we could have had over structured parking with the new school in the background. Schools have other less desirable, more expensive options that they now must look at. Once they report on those, I suspect it will be clear to all that the school at TJ was by far the best solution and we have wasted precious time and money.
Pike Transit: In March we will get a report from the Manager about moving forward on improved transit on Columbia Pike now that we are not doing the streetcar. I am very anxious that we move forward quickly to decide on and implement those transit improvements. Street improvements like undergrounding of utilities and new transit stops will continue without the streetcar. You can watch the manager’s report, which starts at about 1 hour and 43 minutes.