Two important items on our February agenda addressed the problem of affordable living in Arlington.
Child Care Initiative: Studies show Arlington has the most expensive childcare in the nation. That, on top of expensive housing, makes it very difficult for young families to live here. Our staff reported out on 18 months of work to amend 18 sections of our code updating it from the 1960’s. Their work should improve the quality, and increase the affordability and availability of childcare in Arlington. Many of our code sections did not make sense or did not align with national standards and best practices. We advertised these code changes and will be voting on them in March. We have a long way to go to having affordable quality childcare for any family needing it, but this is a big step forward and I look forward to more progress.
American Legion Affordable Housing: We moved forward with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) project in partnership with the American Legion. The project will build 160 affordable units for families and for veterans, and give the Legion a new post on the ground floor. Issues discussed included the nature of the whole site and whether it should have the usual street grid when the “Y” completes its project. While final decisions on street types were not made, the Board made clear it viewed the site as a campus and wanted priority for pedestrians rather than cars. Immediate neighbors were understandably concerned about the effect of construction and a large new building right next to their homes. APAH had already agreed to a number of mitigating measures and expressed willingness to work with the neighbors to minimize disruption.
FY 2020 Budget: The Manager presented his budget for next year and the Board voted to advertise a number of fees and the real estate tax rate for next year. By law, the Board must advertise a tax rate before it sets the tax rate in April and, while it can set a tax rate lower than we advertised when we vote on April 23rd, we cannot set a higher rate. We voted to set the cap for the tax rate at an additional 2.75 cents and will be working over March and April to bring that down. While the budget will not be as difficult as I feared a few months ago (changes include that commercial real estate revenues are up and medical costs for employees are down), we still have many increased needs (new schools opening, Metro, Medicaid). Our work sessions are informative. You can look online and decide which areas interest you the most and then either come to watch or watch online.
Amazon: We are planning to vote on the Amazon package at our March 16 meeting. Before then, Board members are going to civic associations and other groups which would like to hear from us about Amazon. Amazon reps have been meeting with some civic associations and other groups, such as non-profits, as well. They have expressed to me their desire to get to know our community and become a part of it themselves and their actions so far align with that desire.
2 Book Talks and a Debate: I will also be holding two book discussions at Central Library from 7-9 PM:
March 6th with Wilma Jones about her book My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood, a great personal history of one of our original African American communities, and
March 27th with Evan Burfield about his book Regulatory Hacking: A Playbook for Startups, an analysis of how technology can work with government to improve services for people.
On March 13th, I will be at the Committee of 100 to debate with my former colleague John Vihstadt: Should County Board Member be a full-time position?
This will be a busy month and I look forward to seeing many of you at a meeting or book talk soon.