What a month November has been. I hope that you are all looking forward to time with friends and family next week and to reflecting on everything for which we can be truly thankful. Last week’s presidential election did not go as we had hoped, and I share many justifiable concerns about the direction of federal policy and its impact on the most vulnerable in our society. My colleagues and I addressed these concerns and our commitments to all Arlington residents at our meeting less than 24 hours after the election. I invite you to watch our remarks and to reply to this note if you would like to discuss further or share any of your concerns.
Against this national backdrop, local government is more important than ever and your Board has been hard at work to help us realize the full potential of our community. Here is a brief recap of our activity over the past few weeks:
The County Board approved a design concept for transit shelters along Columbia Pike. We are conscious of the costs involved and we adopted a plan that will allow builders flexibility in construction to reduce cost where possible. The “kit of parts” design that we selected is more expensive than some prefabricated options, but we expect these shelters to last for 50 years, reducing total cost in the long-run. Many of the project’s costs are also for features like level boarding to help us all move faster—especially with wheelchairs, strollers, or luggage—and would be part of the project regardless of the type of structure we select.
In keeping with the spirit of working with our community and being flexible to different needs, the Board passed a revised plan for ball field fencing at Bluemont Park. The new plan reduces the height of the outfield fences and removes fencing in foul ground along the baselines. This compromise allows our ballplayers better field definition and safety when playing ball, and our community better access for informal recreation when games aren’t in play.
The Board issued its Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Guidance to our County Manager to guide him in preparing a draft budget for February. We directed the Manager to continue our current service levels within the existing tax rate, while acknowledging the possibility of extraordinary needs by WMATA or APS. We also allocated some of the $17.8 million in unrestricted carry-over funds from FY 2016, while holding some unallocated so that our community can discuss how to spend it through our regular budget process in the spring.
We advertised a public hearing at our December 10th meeting on updated regulations about trespass towing. This is always a contentious issue because it balances the property rights of drivers and parking lot owners. The proposed changes relate to warning signage and when towing companies have to notify the County that a vehicle has been towed, among others. I welcome your feedback before or at the December meeting so we can shape the best possible regulation for everyone.
Our work to ensure an open and transparent local government continued in November. The Board hired Dr. Chris Horton former audit manager for Fairfax County Public Schools as our new County Auditor, reporting directly to us. Arlington has also expanded its financial fraud, waste, and abuse hotline — previously only for County employees — to the general public. You can reach this anonymous, confidential hotline at 1-866-565-9206 or arlingtonva.ethicaladvocate.com.
Looking to next year, the Board approved its preliminary 2017 calendar, including holding our annual Organizational Meeting at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, January 3rd. Historically, we have held this meeting in the morning on New Year’s Day. With this change, I hope that you can all enjoy the holiday with family and friends, and then come join us on Tuesday evening as my colleagues and I lay out our agendas and aspirations for the new year.
Have a wonderful, safe, and happy Thanksgiving.
While you are marking your calendar, please hold Tuesday, December 6th for our next Chair’s Book discussion, and Tuesday, December 13th at 5:00 pm for my swearing-in ceremony for my new County Board term. More information to come.