Thank you. I congratulate our new Chairman and Vice-chairman. I know they will provide strong, experienced leadership for Arlington in 2012.
I would like to thank all my colleagues, as well as the Manager and County staff, along with so many citizens, for all their support during my chairmanship this past year. I am very pleased with what we were able to accomplish in 2011, and I look forward to working with all of you on several of the key projects that carry over into this new year. Among these are finishing work on the sign ordinance, and following through on reforms initiated to better support small business.
As always, there is much to be done in transportation, housing, and planning and development. A key priority this year is to conclude the Columbia Pike Land Use and Housing Study. I expect to devote much of my time working with citizens and staff completing the “Neighborhoods Plan” so that it can be presented to the Board for adoption this year. Then, we can move to implementation and the effort to achieve its twin goals of improved livability and continued affordability.
Housing affordability continues to be the most difficult challenge that Arlington faces. To meet it, I believe we will need to be even more aggressive than we have been. For a number of years we have maintained annual goals, and these are important. In preparing this year’s Consolidated Plan, I think we need to establish some long-term targets against which to measure our progress, and develop a plan to reach them over time. As one specific example, I believe we need to devise a plan that will shift up our support for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) in several stages over the next few years. I also believe we will need to be more willing to experiment with new tools; and I believe we should start this year.
I’ll continue to work on improving transportation, to include my work at TPB for a regional bus priority network, and the on-going effort here in Arlington and with our neighboring jurisdictions to implement a light rail network to better connect our region.
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In making “The Arlington Way” a focus for 2012, our new Chairman recognizes that, just like our physical plant and facilities, Arlington’s “civic infrastructure” requires periodic maintenance and renewal. There can be no better way to protect the legacy we have inherited, and prepare for continued success. I look forward to assisting in this effort.
The Arlington Hallmark – what our community enjoys about itself, as well as what our County is increasingly known for nationally and internationally – is the achievement of a high quality of life in a diverse community, built on sustainable development strategies. What people on the outside don’t necessarily see immediately, and may not sufficiently appreciate, is how much this is made possible because it is developed through a culture of civic participation.
The structure on which the varied richness of life in Arlington has been built is not simply a matter of economics, or finding technical responses to community problems. The ability to create, and maintain commitment to, plans that foster a walkable community and support transit-oriented development; achieving the consensus that acknowledges the value of our diversity, and allows us all to benefit from it; the collective willingness to take on difficult challenges, and to consistently generate workable solutions – these are the product of Arlington’s deep tradition of civic involvement in our policymaking.
As Jane Jacobs said many years ago, "Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody."
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Entering 2012, there is no denying that Arlington is a fortunate community. Even amidst recession, our County is doing very well, continuing to make strides in many ways. Arlingtonians have reason to feel pleased with what we have achieved to this point, and optimistic about our future. But we are not smug; we recognize that times are still hard for many, including right here in our otherwise prosperous community. We need to remember those in need now, and to continue the work that ensures success for all in the years to come.
Nonetheless, there is something right about a community in which the most acute problems result from its increasing desirability as a place to live, and because so many want their children to attend our schools. And we are very lucky to have the chance to work to make it even better. I know I’m grateful to be here, and to share this work with you.
Happy New Year.