I hope that everyone had a festive holiday season and that you have braced yourselves for whatever the New Year may bring! Here are a few fresh highlights, both County and State.

New Seniors Housing Options on Horizon

As Arlington’s population approaches a record 230,000 people, it’s no surprise that our 60+ cohort is also bigger than ever. While some elements of the County’s “Housing Arlington” initiative are controversial, including the potential for allowing increased density in single-family neighborhoods, I strongly support Arlington’s efforts to expand available housing choices for seniors. Last month, after intensive civic engagement, the County Board voted to hike the number of zoning districts that could host a range of seniors housing types from five to 18. Over time, this should encourage the development of more projects along the full “continuum of care,” from independent living to assisted living, nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities. Staff also pledged to study ways to make these pricey facilities more affordable. Dig into the details.

Meanwhile, in Waverly Hills, an Artis Senior Living project has filed for approval, the first in nearly 20 years. The six-story building with 80 memory care and 95 assisted living units would front Lee Highway and include both a private interior courtyard and public open space at Lee Highway and North Taylor Street.

High Time to End Gerrymandering

Every ten years in the wake of the census, politicians hell-bent on self-preservation armor up for the partisan redistricting wars that will decide their own—and their party’s—future. Except in a handful of states that mandate non-partisan redistricting, legislators of both parties go for the jugular and do their best to choose their own voters, rather than the other way around, as it should be.

I wrote to you last February that Virginia was on the verge of passing true non-partisan redistricting reform, and the 2019 General Assembly did, by heavy bipartisan majorities. But in Virginia, the process requires a Constitutional Amendment to be approved by two consecutive General Assemblies before it is placed on the November ballot for voter approval. Now, with one party controlling not only the governorship but newly in charge of both the State Senate and the House of Delegates, as well, some legislators are getting cold feet and finding fault with the pending legislation, or salivating at the prospect that they alone could draw the lines.

Here’s how the The Washington Post describes what’s at risk: We can’t assume Virginia Democrats will keep their promise …  and why our Congressman, Don Beyer, feels as strongly as I do that now’s the time to act.

In today’s hyper-polarized times, ending gerrymandering can help bring our state to the center rather than foster extremes on either end of the political spectrum. That’s why I joined One Virginia 2021, the citizens’ lobby advocating for comprehensive redistricting reform. Tell Arlington’s legislative delegation (Senators Howell, Favola and Ebbin, Delegates Sullivan, Hope, Lopez and Levine) to shut down hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle and say “yes” to once-in-a-generation government reform. Let’s get this done together!

Help Celebrate Arlington’s Centennial

Everyone loves a birthday—especially when it’s being celebrated by one’s hometown. 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the naming of Arlington (formerly Alexandria) County, when residents became frustrated at being overshadowed by the nearby City of Alexandria and decided they needed their own identity. Officials selected “Arlington” because both Arlington National Cemetery and Arlington House are located within its borders.

I’m serving on the steering committee helmed by County Board Chair Libby Garvey to plan a wide range of community activities to highlight the occasion. The theme of “100 Years: 1920-2020, Looking Both Ways,” will come to life through events ranging from book talks and workshops to concerts, contests, tours, and more. We’d love to know your ideas for celebratory affairs and topics, or if you just want to stay informed, visit our special interactive website.

I’d like to hear from you. Fire off a message at any time.

Thanks for reading.

John Vihstadt