Renewed Commitment to Civic Engagement

As we face national uncertainty, it is more important than ever for Arlingtonians to embrace the shared progressive values that have always united us. Arlingtonians must work together to develop a road map to a shared future.  This is not new.  It is what comprises the “Arlington Way.”  But it is time to reboot the Arlington Way with a renewed focus on pushing the decision-making "down and out" from the County Board to the people.  The best decisions are rooted in our shared values, based on transparent evidence, and are informed by a full range of perspectives. Honest public engagement that seeks all voices is essential.

Our government has to be a learning organization, one that is not afraid to recognize error and pursue constant improvement. The Board must demand that, in every process, County officials include all who may be impacted by a proposal from day one.  Successful collaboration is based on a genuine desire to listen and learn from all those concerned.

As a past civic association President, I have seen Arlington’s progressive values at work.  We created  Clarendon, a mixed-use, walkable, livable community. As a Planning Commissioner, I know how to support a vibrant collaboration among different, sometimes conflicting, groups and interests. I have participated in and overseen efforts to continue to develop the thriving Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and have worked to preserve and improve Arlington’s traditional neighborhoods.

We've learned a lot about true civic engagement in recent years.  We have had successes and failures.  The aspirations in PLACE - the County Board's 2012 commitment to Participation, Leadership and Civic Engagement - have been met unevenly, although the 2015 Community Facility Study and the 2015 South Arlington Working Group both demonstrated that we can - even when we start out with significant differences - reach a consensus on tough choices.  I have also seen civic engagement fail: in the WRAPS process in Rosslyn, in early school siting decisions like Ashlawn, and in the first Thomas Jefferson elementary school planning process. 

Therefore, as a County Board Member, I will:

  • Leverage emerging technologies to enable all members of the Arlington community to contribute;
  • Unpack project pages on the county website so those new to a process or project can easily get caught up and join the conversation effectively;
  • Partner with AIM or the Career Center students to create 5-10 minute videos on complex issues to enhance engagement;
  • Expand the use of crowdsourcing to understand various views on upcoming important decisions;
  • Work with the civic federation to strengthen two-way communication between the county and civic associations;
  • Ensure that neighborhoods receive coordinated messages about construction activities in their area, regardless of whether it's housing, a road, a park, a recreation center or a school;
  • Build new relationships with multi-family buildings--condos and rentals--to ensure that timely information is getting to citizens living there;
  • Create a video archive of all County Board advisory group meetings;
  • Ensure that residents and businesses can reliably get straightforward, consistent, accountable accurate customer service answers from the organization--every day, regardless of who you are;
  • Focus on-going County and civic resources to assure that diverse community groups- racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, age, sexuality gender - get information from the County, and collaborate with other citizens;
  • Working collaboratively with the groups, develop metrics that measure the efficacy of the efforts;
  • Ensure our long range plans, collaboratively developed by citizens and government, are followed.  Where deviation occurs, ensure the Board fully and publicly presents its rationale for altering a plan;
  • Insist that every county government service delivery area track and regularly report key customer service metrics, and provide clear points of contact for parks, planning, transportation, environmental services, and public safety;
  • Ensure that key participating constituencies-- civic associations, the Civic Federation, nearby neighbors and interested citizens, and staff-- are debriefed with respect to public processes in a timely fashion.