Good morning everyone, and congratulations to Ms. Hynes our new Chairman, and to Mr. Tejada our Vice Chair. I look forward to working closely with you this year. I will look forward to welcoming a new colleague in March.
I want to thank each of you that is here today, as an active community member or a dedicated staff member, or both, for all that you do to contribute to making Arlington the wonderful community that it is.
This year we have begun to rebound from the serious budget challenges that dominated the prior two years.
Every year we must reassert our fiscal discipline while giving careful consideration to the range of requests, needs, and opportunities. We have already given strict budget guidance to the County Manager for preparing her proposed budget for the next fiscal year that limits next year’s budget to a 1% increase over the current year – with a handful of exceptions.
Every day we read about the financial calamities and difficulties of local governments, states and countries around the world. Harrisburg recently filed for bankruptcy. A recent article cited the Italian Prime Minister’s relief at getting a 7% interest rate on the sale of bonds. In July, Arlington sold bonds at a 3.3% interest rate -- one of the lowest on record -- saving taxpayers millions and reaffirming our outstanding financial standing. We shall do nothing to threaten our triple AAA bond rating.
I applaud Ms. Hynes efforts to enhance our capital planning process. She brings experience to this long-term endeavor. Our infrastructure investments – both maintenance and new construction – are critical to continuing to move our community forward. BTW - if you have not visited Long Bridge Park yet – you must see it. Take a walk along the magnificent Esplanade.
The budget is the living, breathing reflection of the values of our community – fairness, compassion, and sustainability. Those values must be reflected in our ultimate choices.
Environmental and Economic Sustainability
Sustainability has an even more poignant importance as it relates to our environment and preserving the delicate balance with nature that allows us to live and flourish on this planet and within this ecosystem. I increasingly believe that sustainability should be the fundamental guiding principle at all levels of public policy making.
In 2011, the recommendations of the Community Energy and Sustainability Task Force received unanimous support from Task Force members and from this Board. In 2012, with the continued help of many business leaders, energy industry experts, citizens, Arlington Public Schools and others, we will propose a final Community Energy Plan and an implementation plan.
Our work has influenced others in the region. The Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments is now steeped in energy issues and energy planning is being done or considered by other localities. We have taken a leadership role among localities in developing achievable goals and strategies to reduce our energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions in the decades ahead.
For those few climate skeptics that still remain, the recent massive protest captured in this photo should put any of your doubts to rest.
In the last several years we have done many energy saving retrofits to county facilities, mounted solar PV panels on the Central Library, launched the “Green Games” friendly competition to encourage energy efficiency in commercial buildings and began energy performance labeling in County buildings.
Additionally, I will promote sustainability through:
We’ve got a good thing going. Once again, we have the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia, our office vacancy rate is the lowest around, our public schools are outstanding, crime rates are low and we can have mulch delivered to our curb. Our parks, trails and cultural resources are plentiful.
And as our new Chairman has stated, our greatest asset remains our people. It is your steadfast sparks of curiosity, creativity and compassion that keep Arlington’s flame eternally lit. Mary’s focus on Participation, Leadership and Civic Engagement is a thoughtful effort to further expand and refine the mysterious yet essential “Arlington Way.”
To me, a healthy community is one in which each person is important, each person has an ability to influence and shape the decisions of their government and no single person has the ability to sidetrack a decision. A good idea is a good idea, regardless of the source. Striving toward consensus is not confused with requiring consensus. And when we disagree, we do so respectfully. I am excited about this PLACE initiative. We have a lot of talent and compassion in this community. It was once said, “A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.” Arlingtonians are rarely indifferent.
Let us continue to learn and grow together while we also feel gratitude for what we already have.
Happy New Year!