I hope everyone is enjoying this lovely fall weather. And I hope everyone is voting. These state-wide elections in Virginia are far too close for comfort. I encourage everyone to vote early. It is easy to vote early and you do not need a reason to do so. Life can be uncertain, so my daughter, grandson and I went and voted this week. We grabbed lunch together after. It was easy and fun.
— General 2021 election information may be found at: https://vote.arlingtonva.us/Home
— There are 4 Referenda on this year’s ballot, if you want to read about them ahead of time please click here. https://vote.arlingtonva.us/Elections
— There are only 4 more days (Oct. 26-28 & 30) to vote Early In-person at the following locations: Courthouse Plaza, Madison Community Center and Walter Reed Community Center. See link for days and hours: https://vote.arlingtonva.us/Early-Voting
— Ballot Drop Boxes are still available in 9 locations around the County. Ballots must be dropped off by 7:00 pm on Election Night. Here is an interactive map to show the closest location to you.
— On Election Day, November 2nd, all polling places are open from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Columbia Pike Form Based Code
At our Saturday Board meeting, the Board voted to advertise Columbia Pike Form Based Code amendments so that we can adopt code changes in November. The Form Based Code was created for Columbia Pike to give certainty to developers and businesses and make it faster to be able to get permits to build. It was adopted my first year on the Board in 2012. Over the years, it has become clear that more flexibility is needed, particularly on what uses are allowed along the Pike. The world is changing rapidly and we need to be able to adapt and be flexible to keep up. We advertised uses that are more general in some cases and those which specifically allow businesses like indoor farming, pet boarding, artisan manufacturing and shared commercial kitchens. I expect the expanded list to be adopted in November and think it is a big improvement for the Code and the Pike.
On Tuesday, the Board heard the preliminary financial results and close-out for the fiscal year that ended June 30. Our revenues continue to be down, especially from hotels, restaurants and our bus system. This continues to be a very unusual time for budgets. Federal funding has been a life-saver for us and for every local budget. That funding will continue to be available for us to spend until the end of 2025 by which time we h
ope our revenues will be robust again. Usually, one-time funding programs (which these are) are never, or almost never, used for on-going funding. However, given the extraordinary needs of the pandemic and the Federal funds available, we are continuing to use that support as a “bridge” to get us to what we hope will be a healthy post-pandemic economy. We are planning to depend less and less on federal funds each year moving forward, and are careful about using those and the close-out one-time funds for on-going expenses. We are also looking at using funds for some capital and other one-time spending. We will be discussing these actions over the next months, especially during our budget deliberations which begin early next year.
As I indicated last month, a crucial budget issue for us is improving pay for our employees, especially public safety employees. Our mental health staff and police have faced extraordinarily difficult situations over the past 18 months. This has caused some employees to seek other jobs, which increases the stress on those who remain. It is important to make sure we continue to have the staff we need to protect the safety and well-being of our residents. Therefore, the Board signaled our support for the Manager’s recommended $3,500 retention bonuses for these employees as well as a 1% pay increase for all employees effective January 1, 2022. Also, we indicated for the Manager’s FY23 budget preparation our willingness to provide a 4.25% pay increase for all Arlington employees, 6.5% increase for public safety staff, and a 3% increase in the maximum pay ranges for our staff. The issue of pay for employees is likely to be a major focus for the Board, indeed for the entire region, over the next several years as collective bargaining is instituted and everyone reexamines what we pay our essential employees.
Finally, my favorite non-profit, Phoenix Bikes, is holding an on-line auction. There are some great offerings,
including one from yours truly. I hope you’ll participate and help this great little Arlington non-profit. Here is the link to donate from October 25th through November 1st: https://secure.qgiv.com/event/phrenzy/
As always, questions and comments are welcome. I always enjoy hearing from my readers. Stay well….and remember to vote!