My top priorities for additional spending are Libraries and Streets.
Arlington currently spends about $14 million a year to operate one central and eight branch libraries, but only three of those libraries are open all week. Libraries are essential to both reading and computer literacy. It makes no sense to spend $532 million on schools while beggaring our libraries. We need to keep all of our neighborhood branches open 7 days a week.
Arlington has budgeted about $137 million for street paving over the next ten years. That may seem like a lot until you actually experience the condition of arterials along the R&B corridor on a bike. When the streets become unsafe for bikes to travel, it's time to set a higher standard for street maintenance by increasing the County's paving condition index (PCI) from 75 percent to 85 percent.
My top two priorities regarding Amazon HQ2 is to dispel myths on the actual net economic benefit and who will receive the benefit.
First, the County provided no statistics to back up its $32 million estimate of the Amazon deal’s net economic benefit. In forecasting Amazon’s net benefit, the state itself relied on school cost data in the County's 2017 Consolidated Financial Report that was underestimated by $87 million. When actual school costs are factored into the cost/benefit calculation, the net benefit is $17 million or about half the County's number.
Second, according to a Northern Virginia Association of Realtor's (NVAR) report, Arlington’s housing prices are expected to go up 17.2 percent this year, which means double-digit assessment hikes are on the way. This will force a lot of people on fixed incomes out of their homes. So whereas HQ2 will benefit Amazon CEOs, employees, contractors, spin-offs and those cashing in on the sale of their homes, most residents will not.
First, the County should preserve mature trees as the first line of defense against flooding. It can do this by enforcing the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, which prohibits runoff inducing developments including mature tree destruction in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Not only is the County not enforcing the CBPA, it is actively destroying trees in watersheds as part of its ongoing stream restoration efforts. Also in 2018 the County permitted the demolition of a 75 year old Dawn Redwood near a Potomac tributary on a subdivided lot in North Arlington to make way for a runoff inducing McMansion.
Second, the County should increase its investment in storm water infrastructure. According to the County's adopted 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), investment in storm water management has been reduced by $20 million as compared with the previous CIP. That funding must be restored just to meet current needs and increased substantially to meet the threat of future flash floods.
The goals of the Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) have not been met, which is no surprise given that the County's commitment to affordable housing is strictly token. While 8,000 committed affordable units (CAFs) have been constructed, 15,000 market rate affordable have been demolished to make way for luxury apartment and townhouse developments--forcing many moderate income tenants who don't qualify for rent subsidies out of the County. Also at over $400,000 per unit, the cost of a new CAF exceeds the price of a luxury condo.
In Westover several dozen garden apartment units have been demolished since 2016 even as County Board sat on a citizen petition to preserve them by declaring them historic. Earlier this year County Board approved a plan to demolish a garden apartment building sitting squarely in a designated Special Affordable Housing Protection District. It is evident that the real beneficiaries of the AHMP are real estate investors and developers, not the middle class.
1. Housing is the most important policy work the Board does. Where we live, and whether we - as young professionals, working families, new Americans, or downsizing retirees - can afford to come to, stay, and grow in our neighborhoods has a profound influence on our local economy and diversity. While I am committed to developing land use tools - vs. budget resources - to address middle-class housing needs, the realities of our land values mean that housing our low-income neighbors requires financial subsidy (e.g. AHIF, Housing Grants)
2. Financial Sustainability: With high office vacancy rates, recent budgets have required careful stewardship - and difficult cuts - to avoid significant increases on residential payers. I am optimistic about the improved commercial forecast, but the full effects of the Amazon location will not be felt in FY21. We will require restraint in our expenditures, so that we can sustain our investments over time without major impacts for homeowners and renters
1. Global and Local Environment: With Arlington’s new Community Energy Plan, and Amazon’s history of energy-efficient and renewable-powered buildings, HQ2 buildings should be a model for sustainability. Locally, the redevelopment of Crystal and Pentagon City is a critical opportunity for adding green space and creating buildings, streets and public places that welcome and support nature to improve quality of life.
2. Economic Opportunity: I believe that we - as a local government - have an important role in ensuring that economic growth from Amazon lifts up not just white collar workers, but all workers, including those in the service and construction industries that will serve HQ2 and its employees. I am advocating aggressively for economic fairness reforms at the state level: specifically, local authorities like living wage ordinances, procurement reform and project labor agreements.
More thoughts about Amazon's impact on schools, transportation:katiecristol.com/economic-development
Though our system of 400+ miles of storm sewer pipe is in overall good condition, it is designed for a storm that has a 10% likelihood of occurring each year. With forecasts suggesting that “100 year” floods (like July’s) will become more frequent, I support a number of actions, including: Developing specific watershed-level projects for areas where our stormwater system is over capacity and flooding recurs, such those identified in our 2014 Stormwater Master Plan; creating new facilities, like green streets, permeable pavement, and rainfall harvesting projects, throughout the County; and evaluating alternative funding mechanisms (like green bonds, public/private cost-share, and increases to our Stormwater Fund) to ensure these projects can move forward speedily.
Such steps can only help us brace for the consequences of climate change, though - we also have an obligation to join other global communities in combating it. For more, please see: www.katiecristol.com/environment.
We’ve made real progress, adding over 1,000 new committed affordable homes, bringing Arlington’s inventory to an all time high of 8,000+; protecting garden apartments being redeveloped into luxury units, both by funding non-profits to preserve them and increasing community oversight into their redevelopment; and creating some low-density solutions to affordability, e.g. reforming our Zoning Ordinance to allow more “accessory dwellings,” like backyard flats" and to preserve duplexes. These efforts are working: There are now more homes affordable to neighbors making 60% AMI or less than there were four years ago.
But despite these strides, we’re a long way from the plan's goal that 17.7% of our rental housing stock will be affordable by 2040: Currently, only 8.8% of rental units are affordable to neighbors making 60% or less of the area median income; and we continue to lose middle-class ownership housing. This work is complex, but there's more we can do. More at katiecristol.com/housing
I am focused on approving budgets where every dollar provides value to our community. In the year ahead, I want to prioritize sufficient funding for our public schools to ensure retention of quality teachers and the delivery of an instructional program that meets the needs of all students and reduces opportunity inequities.
I also want to prioritize adequate investments in infrastructure. On the maintenance side, I want sufficient investment to reduce backlogs of deferred maintenance so that our assets don’t prematurely degrade depriving taxpayers of the asset’s full value and utility. I also want to prioritize new investments that address issues like flooding hotspots and gaps in our transportation network.
Amazon’s investment in Arlington provides the benefit of a predictable path of growth that both increases general revenue to support community priorities while leveraging additional resources from the Commonwealth and the private sector to complete transformative infrastructure projects and increase our supply of housing units affordable for income constrained Arlingtonians. Managing that growth so that negative impacts can be addressed proactively and thus mitigated is an essential priority as is ensuring that the benefits of the growth accrue to the broad community.
From constructing the facilities to staffing them, I want to connect workers, who are underserved in the economy, with opportunities at Amazon. And, I want to ensure that residents and businesses vulnerable to displacement pressures have the tools and resources to see that growth is inclusive.
Arlington must pursue an aggressive strategy to contribute to the world’s climate resilience by reaching the goals of our Community Energy Plan which targets carbon neutrality by 2050.
Our government must work with private property owners to reduce impervious surfaces on parcels that are to be developed or redeveloped while also providing for effective stormwater capture and diversion that don’t exacerbate issues elsewhere. With special exception development, we must continue the most stringent stormwater remediation policies and find ways to bring relief to areas prone to recurring flooding through underground and overland projects.
We also must engage in broad public education and develop partnerships so that a healthy tree canopy can be maintained, and provide better assistance to residents at risk of flooding on resources before, during and after flood events.
Our efforts, while robust and steady despite challenging budgets, have been inadequate in the face of market forces that have steadily increased demand for while reducing the supply of affordable units.
In light of this reality, I have used my leadership role as a Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board of Directors to implement a regional effort at housing affordability that will target the region producing 320,000 units over the next ten years—75,000 more than what the jurisdictions are planning for, so that we can reduce structural unaffordability.
Further, 3/4 of those units are targeted to be located in areas that access premium transit and 75% of the units should be affordable to lower and middle income earners.
This along with new resources from the state and the private sector, along with joint efforts with the City of Alexandria will help us make greater progress toward our AHMP goals.
When talking about the budget process my first goal is to find strategies used in other places that can make existing programs more efficient. I am not in favor of reducing services which are being used. We can all agree public transportation gives one of the best returns on investment and in parts of the county it is being under used. I would be most interested in finding ways to make it less expensive and faster. The second area I am interested in is affordable housing. Again, it is not necessary to create new untested programs. We should look at expanding existing programs the county already has like MIPAP and try to apply other practices that have been proven to be successful in helping people obtain stable housing.
Clearly with Amazon’s focus on the bottom line the biggest challenge is going to be finding techniques to encourage them to reinvest in Arlington. We must find ways to make this relationship symbiotic and not allow Amazon to become a drain on county resources.
The easy opportunity is to draw in other businesses who can benefit from being in close proximity to Amazon. If the county fails to do that what is the benefit of the deal?
Arlington is moving to become carbon neutral and that is wonderful. Arlington needs to incorporate the new reality that climate change is happening and will continue to get worse before it gets better. Future design and building code need to reflect what is happening and will continue to happen. Toughening standards now will save the county and residents money and heartache later.
Absolutely not. With the newest spike in housing prices and the moves to infill existing neighborhoods we will see the cost of living in Arlington will increase for all of its residents. It will not just be in the form of housing cost and property taxes which will continue to increase, because if you can have a second dwelling on your lot it is now more valuable. It will also increase the amount of time you are stuck in traffic with new residents that live outside of an efficient public transit corridor. Affordable housing for the middle-income bracket is disappearing because of market housing becoming more expensive.