From Matt de Ferranti <[email protected]>
Subject January: Chairing NVTC, Electric Buses, Metro, Our Form of Government, Housing & Chair Garvey
Date February 5, 2024 4:00 PM
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Dear Friends,

This month we moved forward toward electric buses in Arlington, a significant win on climate. We also learned of progress we made on Metro and approved additional housing that will help Arlington grow in a transportation friendly way. There has also been discussion about shifting who has the authority to make changes to our form of government, an issue which I want to share a few thoughts on. Board Chair Libby Garvey also announced that she will not seek re-election and said she intends to stay focused on the work ahead of us this year.
I was named Chair of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on January 4th,
succeeding Daila Palchik from Fairfax County.
On January 4th, I was named Chair of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, a regional body that works on bus, train, and on strengthening a robust and reliable regional public transportation system. I am honored to serve in the role at this particularly important time when the future of Metro is under debate. To learn more about the Commission and the important work NVTC's staff and Commissioners are doing, go here: Northern Virginia Transportation Commission ( ([link removed]) or watch this short video:
[link removed]
3 minute 27 second video on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission's work as a critical regional resource.
On Metro, the Governor, by all appearances, has made a commitment to fund Metro this year. Read this Washington Post article to learn more: Youngkin signals support for Metro boost as Democrats file arena bills - The Washington Post ([link removed]) Regular readers will recall that part of the reason I was so determined to win the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate last year was the additional leverage I thought we would have on securing Metro funding if we won. That helped, AND Governor Youngkin seems likely to have been motivated by the desire to move the Wizards and Capitals to Alexandria, in the Potomac Yard Neighborhood that abuts Arlington.

Fair questions remain on the arena--and we are asking them--about transportation to and from the proposed arena. This indication in the Post article that Metro funding for the next two years is forthcoming is a good sign. The Board is also doing work to address the Route 1 concerns that many have shared with us. The Governor's comments are helpful and important: we are working to save Metro from cuts that would lead to its demise and undermine Arlington. Our community is founded on Metro and we have the most Metrorail stations per-capita in the region.
[link removed]
2023 Year in Review Video--4 minutes 30 seconds
Transportation via buses and our climate were a focus in January in a win that environmental advocates and Mr. Karantonis and I have been working on for a long-time. The County Manager and staff decided to apply for eight battery electric buses by February 1, focusing on zero emission buses that are electric and not hydrogen. The entire Board agreed with the decision in the end, with credit to Board Members Cunningham and Coffey and Chair Garvey for agreeing at this stage that hydrogen buses are not worthy of a pilot without additional data to support that course of action.

Staff initially did not agree with this approach based on data from the last few years, but advocates brought forward data that made the case successfully. To staff's credit, they engaged and changed their approach. Natural gas buses are still part of our fleet and there is still more work to do on this. I am thrilled, however, that we reached this conclusion through a lot of hard work by the Sierra Club--Potomac Chapter, the Faith Alliance for Climiate Solutions, the Climate Change Energy and the Environment Commission, and EcoAction Arlington. Climate is one of the two defining challenges along with economic equity/racial justice of our times and we must act boldly.
[link removed]
February is Black History Month: Watch this 3-minute video
on the Federal Government, the Pentagon, and Queen City
The County Board Meetings in January
The Board approved a very important housing project that will add 448 units to a parcel of land between Rosslyn and Court House along Route 50, with 22 additional affordable homes, an environmentally friendly building all without any public money, and a thoughtful study of school impacts, which are manageable on the project. This is transit-oriented development, well-planned with no speakers or comments against it. The developer listened to neighbors and our planning process worked. This is a smart way to grow.

We also heard from Chair Libby Garvey that she will not be running for re-election this year. Her comments were concise and thoughtful, indicating that she is excited about this year while also feeling it is time to pass the baton. I am looking forward to working with Libby over the next 11 months as she Chair's our Board and works to get as much as possible done for Arlington.
The 2025 Budget is the topic for February and March
The fiscal year 2025 budget is a key topic for February and March. BIg picture: we face some revenue challenges, but, as I wrote to you last month, the real estate appraisals is a key factor in how our budget plays out this year. Our office values did decline by 11%, but new construction helped lead to overall numbers that will make this budget difficult, but manageable. To learn more about our economic status, go here: Arlington Property Values See Overall 2.5% Increase for 2024 ( ([link removed]) More to come on this.
Arlington's Form of Government & Who Decides
Arlington's form of Government--our system of rotating the Chair of the County Board, a County Board has five Members and not more, and having at large elections as opposed to districts were all part of a bill, HR 1225, that Delegate Patrick Hope put forward this session. Some of the elements in the bill are supported by the Civic Federation (longer term for the Chair of the Board of two years and seven members as opposed to five, but not districts.) The Arlington Branch of the NAACP also supports the bill's goals of returning authority to Arlington. (The bill would leave our County Manager form of government where the Manager is the chief administrative officer of our government, an approach I support that I will share more about in later emails.)

I support Delegate Hope's overall effort: he correctly points out that the bill only give powers to the County Board and Arlington voters via a referendum, the ability to engage in a dialogue to make the best decisions for Arlington and does not actually make the changes. In other words, under current law, the legislature in Richmond is the entity with the power via state law, to allow us to have seven members as opposed to five, to elect a County Chair like every other jurisdiction in Northern Virginia except Falls Church, and to allow us to consider whether say three districts and three at large seats might make it more likely that the Board would be better representative of the progressive ideas and accountability that we will need over the next decade. It was time to move this bill into the public dialogue, so I give credit to Delegate Hope.

For the bill text and an Arlnow article on this, go here: Hope files bill allowing form of government changes but County Board says more discussion is needed | ([link removed])

However, I think it clearly for the best that the bill will not be enacted this year so that our whole community can engage in a conversation about this bill. Many veteran Arlington Democrats are worried that these changes might undermine the progressive governance that makes Arlington a great place to live. Others want full dialogue regarding these changes. Both are fair concerns. I believe we already are changing, so our system of governance needs to evolve.

More importantly, I do not believe the Legislature in Richmond should be the entity that can make changes. That power should, in my view, be in the hands of Arlington residents through their elected officials on the County Board (after a full public process for consideration) and, in certain cases, referenda. Finally, I will share with you in subsequent emails how when I lived in Austin this type of change happened. I started out mortally opposed but came to agree that change was needed for some of the accountability and representative concerns that the Civic Federation and the NAACP support. I want to be clear that I want to keep Arlington consistent with progressive ideals and help us evolve for the future; my thinking on this will do both.

Particular credit on this should go to my colleagues, Chair Garvey for hueing to a process that will be over the coming year and not passing this bill without greater public debate, Board Member Cunningham for working to find a way forward, and Board Members Coffey and Karantonis who worked very hard to engage in Richmond and listen to the reasonable desire to move forward. I was tending to Evelyn via a modified paternity leave, so I engaged only where able and needed: I want to give credit where it is due.

More to come on this and the work to serve you and Arlington. For now, thank you for reading: I've shared plenty for this month :)



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