Our Moral Compass for 2018
January 2 Speech
Thank you, Madam Chair and colleagues for the warm welcome and thoughtful invitation to reflect on the continuum of dedicated stewardship over many, many years of this wonderful community. As we catch a glance in the rear-view mirror, check our current speed, and peer up the road ahead, it’s clear that we are blessed with a strong foundation, deeply rooted in our shared values, that will sustain our continued success as we meet the tumultuous challenges brought upon us by outside forces. I am deeply honored to join a high-functioning Board with no shortage of needs or leadership to fulfill them, and therefore, my focus will be to facilitate solutions to the initiatives already identified by my colleagues.
As I have been duly warned, our budget this year will be rife with difficult choices constrained by a harsh revenue gap. Unfortunately, it’s likely that the budget we ultimately adopt will disappoint some very deserving needs. Fortunately, required fiscal discipline is easier to muster when guided by the moral compass of our core values over the rhetoric of minimalist core services.
For example, an excellent public education for every single one of our children is the north star of my moral compass. I am excited to join Libby representing this Board on the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) working with the School Board to build consensus for a long-range plan to squeeze the most out of our limited land and scarce dollars with a county-wide solution for how our schools, fire stations, parks, libraries, and senior centers will fit together.
Next, our moral compass has long guided a persistent focus on making sure Arlington has housing for everyone and we remain steadfast in our resolve to implement the Affordable Housing Master Plan. Recognizing that we cannot subsidize our way to mass affordability, I am thrilled to join Chair Cristol in pursuing market-driven solutions to Missing Middle housing options by modernizing our old-fashioned zoning ordinance.
Finally, our moral bearings would be fruitless without the economic prosperity to fund our high quality of life. I join my colleagues in adding my full support for the Manager’s initiatives already underway to improve the culture of customer service our County staff provide to businesses and residents. I will look for every opportunity to empower County employees to help their customers “get to yes” as quickly as possible while serving the public interest.
Indeed, the moral compass of our core values will guide the direction we steer this community, but leadership must also address the speed, and sometimes, baggage, we carry on our journey. For decades, every Board member who has sat on this dais has addressed the imperative for meaningful civic engagement – The Arlington Way. With a dysfunctional federal administration straining the bounds of civility and good governance, I can only add to the chorus a resounding commitment to continual improvement of the manner, means, and methods by which our County government seeks the consent of the governed.
In fact, given there is so much to do and precious resources – time and dollars – to achieve our goals, I hope to best serve the potential of this Board by fostering civic engagement that delivers quality decisions in a predictable and timely manner, balancing quality and quantity of through-put of our public processes.
Numerous studies, work groups, and outreach have culminated in the just-released Draft Public Engagement Guide for Capital Projects. Distilled from the 2012 PLACE Initiative and 2015 Community Facilities Study, this guide presents with clarity the four levels of engagement and the seven guiding principles that serve to engender trust between the County, neighbors, property owners, and the business community.
Recognizing that an error is only a mistake if we choose not to correct it, I intend to lead by example and hold myself, this Board, the Manager and his staff, and every stakeholder who lobbies me accountable to the agreed upon framework.
First, we will identify explicitly up front for every process the level of citizen engagement, which progresses from Inform to Consult to Involve to Collaborate.
Second, I will be a stickler for adherence to the guiding principles designed to foster honest dialogue. Trust is essential to good governance. Neighbors treating each other with mutual respect leads to consensus. County leaders and staff engender trust through transparent motives, timely information, and deliberate action. Because sound decisions are rooted in evidence-based deliberations, we should honor the wisdom that we are entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. To be blunt, I will not tolerate a “play to win” mentality from any side.
Third, if we follow these first two guide posts, I believe we will find greater success in reaching actionable conclusions in a time-certain process. We will find consensus often; but when we can’t, I will turn to our moral compass in fulfillment of my duty to the future of Arlington. I can not promise that everyone will get what they want, but I do pledge that there will be an inclusive and level playing field for everyone, with no pre-determined outcomes, and a constant commitment to honest dialogue that seeks a full range of perspectives.
As the five of us look forward to the year 2018 ahead of us, with both concern and optimism, pragmatism and aspirations, and as I begin my first term serving this Board, I note with solace and much gratitude that though the actions of the Administration across the river are likely to frame the future of this magnificent county perhaps for my entire tenure, we hold our own destiny within our hearts and minds, always guided by our moral compass and unique commitment to government of the people, by the people, and for the people.