From Matt de Ferranti <[email protected]>
Subject Board Action this Fall: October, November, and December
Date December 28, 2021 7:14 PM
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Dear Friend,

In October, November, and December, the County Board made progress on traffic safety, housing, and began a partnership with Arlington Public Schools to help the Arlington Community High School move to the Crystal City/Pentagon City/National Landing area.

We've also focused on COVID response, which feels so critical now as we are seeing the highest case numbers of the pandemic. The spike in cases is concerning, so I'll summarize where we are on COVID below.

In addition, we made budget decisions to transition away from gas powered leaf blowers and began a historic investment in affordable housing through a loan to preserve affordability at the Barcroft apartments.
[link removed]
Watch this 7 minute 20 second video about the County's Year In Review
COVID Response: Omicron
Omicron presents a new challenge to the most important priority we face as a community: protecting your health and keeping you safe and well. The number of cases over the last two weeks has shot up to the highest levels of the pandemic. As of yesterday, our percent positivity rate was 12.5%, way above the 5% that is the standard for concern. The number of cases reached a record yesterday at 1,028, the number of cases for just the day, December 27th. That is highly concerning. We are working to respond.

The data must be taken in context. The percentage of our population with at least one dose is 93%, the highest in the Commonwealth, now that Federal employee doses have been counted. Our fully vaccinated rate (2 doses or 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson) is 81.6%, also the highest in Northern Virginia and amongst the highest in the Commonwealth. We've also led the state in vaccinated 5 to 11 year olds and are among the highest in terms of percentage of the population that have been boosted, although that number--27%--must come up ASAP. All of this protects many of us, but there is more work to do to protect all of us.
[link removed]
Watch this 2 minute 56 second video on Booster shots.
Our high vaccination rates are helping slow the increase in hospitalizations and, I believe, preventing deaths due to COVID. Nonetheless, we've had 3 fatalities in Arlington due to COVID in December. Every life is important, so this is too many.

Over the past week, we've received emails the lines at testing sites. Testing is up significantly and last Monday, December 20th we were short on tests. We have been scheduling and fulfilling the appointments made since then, but there have been wait times. Concerns on this are reasonable--we are working to secure more tests. To learn more, go here: [link removed]

I've also received questions about whether the County Board can require vaccinations like DC and heard concerns about our data dashboard. With respect to DC's vaccination requirement for indoor spaces, I've checked with our County Attorney and we would be vulnerable to a legal challenge if we took that approach in Virginia due to the Dillon Rule. Further, Arlington taking such an action without other Northern Virginia localities would be unlikely to be successful. I understand the concern, but focusing on boosters is the best approach in my view under the facts, law and circumstances at this time. Further, with respect to both boosters and data, the best approach is to presume others have covid and take all precautions oneself. We have community-wide spread.
I found time to go to the Senior Farmer's Market at Culpepper Gardens, last month: great event with all masked and outdoors to help with nutrition.
October and November Board Meetings and Action
In October the Board took action on affordable housing, extending the timing on action for Park Shirlington, Ballston Station, and Columbia Grove, where we invested in our ongoing work on these projects.

Perhaps the step that received the most media attention was our decision to provide retention funding for our mental health counselors and police officers. I supported this funding as I believe it is necessary under the circumstances. We are experiencing retirement and a rapid rate of departures due to Amazon as well as raises offered in other jurisdictions that are also leading to retention challenges.

My overall reasoning here: both accountability and resources are important as we build/strengthen trust between all of our communities and our police department. To learn more about our budget actions, go here: [link removed]

A few other key administrative actions from October and early November:
* The Arlington County Sherriff's Officer terminated its medical contractor and the County Board later funded a new position to help oversee medical services. To learn more, go here: [link removed] The death of an individual in the jail in October has led to concerns from the NAACP and others. Additional resources to help make sure we are providing good health care are critical. For context on this and to learn about the regional response team that Chief Penn asked to investigate this death, go here: [link removed]
* The County Board named MinhChau Corr County Attorney. Ms. Corr was appointed to the position after a national search and brings experience serving Arlington. She is the first Asian-American to serve in the role and the second woman to do so. [link removed]
* Arlington County Police appointed a Latino Liaison Officer. [link removed]
* The County unveiled a new website, which led to broken links during the transition. The new site was necessary because the old one no longer had a strong enough foundation. A large majority of the broken links have been fixed and we will continue to improve the new site.
* The County held a commemorative look back/look forward event with a time capsule that was a lovely chance to look at history and think about our future. [link removed]

The Board Acts to Allow Additional Uses on Columbia Pike ([link removed])
In November, the Board expanded the uses allowable on the ground story of buildings along Columbia Pike, approved lower speed limits near schools to help keep our residents safe, and approved a new Public Art Master Plan. To learn about the Public Art Master Plan go here: [link removed] On Columbia Pike, the Board allowed additional uses to help improve economic opportunity for small businesses on the Pike. See the above button to learn more.

One additional step we took in November that I am proud to share with you is that we appropriated money to move County government from gas powered leaf blowers to electric leaf blowers by 2025. We set aside over $300K to make this transition. To be clear, private landscaping companies will still be able to use gas powered equipment, unless and until we enact legislation in Richmond or persuade these companies to go electric.

November also included an update on missing middle/expanding housing choices that you may want to consider. Phase 1 of the work is complete and we are moving into Phase 2. I am very hopeful that we will take steps in this area next year. [link removed]

[link removed]
On December 14th, Takis Karantonis was sworn in for a four year term that will begin on January 1, 2022. To watch the ceremony, go to 1 hour, 41 minutes in the above video.

December Board Actions
In December, the Board took significant action on affordable housing and I had the honor of serving as Master of Ceremonies for Takis Karantonis's swearing in ceremony.

First on Barcroft, the Board took the critical step of engaging in a loan that will preserve 1334 affordable units at 60% of area median income along the west end of the Pike. The $150 million in loan funding that the Board put into securing this level of affordability for 99 years is a significant financial commitment. We will now need to engage in the work to develop the property so that these units that were built from 1939 to 1954 can be rebuilt. That development process and the questions of how best to balance affordability and market rate units, open space, our school capacity and other questions about how we evolve as a County are all ahead of us. What would not have been acceptable to me is losing these neighbors and the affordable housing to by right, market-based development.

Second, on the swearing in ceremony, I was honored to help Takis celebrate his victory in November and what his service means to and for our community. Click on the picture of Dr. Varghese above and go to one hour and forty-one minutes in to watch the ceremony.
Arlington County Partners to Preserve 1300 Affordable Apartments at Bracroft ([link removed])
The Year as a Whole as Chair of the Board
I've served you as Chair of the Board this past year, focusing on the things that you elected me to do: affordable housing, our environment, inclusive economic growth, hunger, and school capacity. Collective bargaining and prevailing wage ordinances are two steps on economic fairness that I am very proud of. I've also sought to make your health and safety my priority through my work on COVID response and vaccines in the first 4 months of the year and throughout the year.

I have also worked on racial and economic equity, focusing on improving conditions at the Serrano and working to enact the best Police Oversight Board possible. I have considered my actions via a lens that seeks to work with urgency toward racial justice and serving those most in need.

As the year concludes and I pass the gavel as Chair of the Board, I will continue to serve you next year as a Board Member with a full and determined heart,


Authorized by Matt for Arlington

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