Halloween may be over, but pay extra attention to these looming County tricks or treats—depending on your perspective.

How Would you Regulate e-Scooters?

Are e-scooters (aka micro-mobility devices, including e-bikes) literally hell on wheels for pedestrians and motorists alike, or a cheap, convenient and energy-efficient way to get from Point A to Point B and an essential part of a well-functioning multi-modal transportation system in an urbanizing county? After a year-long pilot, with preliminary requirements for everything from safety features and rules of the road, to scooter provider licensing, insurance and data-sharing, the County Board is set to consider a permanent regulatory protocol in November that could make fundamental changes from the current structure.

Among the variables up for grabs are:

  • whether scooters should now be allowed on sidewalks, if allowed on sidewalks, whether a slower speed limit should be mandated than the 15 mph street limit,
  • whether night-time restrictions should be imposed, and whether micro-mobility devices should be banned on arterial streets with speed limits of 30 mph and higher.

ArlNow columnist (and Transportation Commission Chair) Chris Slatt this week argues for a laissez-faire approach, fearful that the County will “regulate them into oblivion.”

What’s with our Budget Surplus this Year?

As sure as the falling leaves of autumn, politicians at every level smell “surplus” and think “spend.” Arlington was no exception to that axiom until last November, when finally, after three years of my advocacy, the County Manager and the County Board finally agreed to carry over 75% of the FY 2018 budget surplus for consideration with the spring budget cycle for FY 2019, rather than allocate or spend every penny on pet projects or other perceived “emergencies.” While no longer on the Board, I was encouraged to see the Manager recommend a similar approach again for the projected FY 2019 surplus of roughly $23 million (or 2.7% of the revised FY 2019 County General Fund budget, excluding APS).

The Manager recommends that:

  • $14.4 million (about 62% of the surplus) remain unallocated and set aside for consideration during the FY 2020 budget process;
  • $6.7 million (about 29%) be added to the County’s Budget, Economic and Revenue Stabilization Reserve (doubling this fund from 0.5% to 1% of the operating budget); and
  • $2 million (about 9%) be provided for the County Manager’s Operating Contingent to support extraordinary or unanticipated needs (e.g., large storms, federal budget cuts, litigation, special studies and the like).

Reserves are essential, and I won’t begrudge the Manager a modest discretionary fund to meet what he considers to be true emergencies and unanticipated expenses, but I do believe the Board should insist on a transparent accounting every year, in a format easily digestible to the general public.  If you agree with me, tell the Board now at: arlingtoncountyboard@arlingtonva.us to accept the Manager’s recommendation as-is and not raid the surplus like a Thanksgiving buffet!

Doubling Down on Density

It was terrific to see so many familiar faces at the Housing Arlington Initiative: How Much Density is our Destiny? panel that I moderated at the October 15th Arlington County Civic Federation meeting at Virginia Hospital Center. In case you missed it, here are the presentations by ArlNow columnist Peter Rousselot, who has written extensively about what he views as the negative consequences for schools, the environment and our fiscal health of greatly accelerated development, and by Richard Tucker, the Arlington County staffer on the Housing Arlington initiative, which, if fully implemented, will add major new density to both the Metro corridors and single family neighborhoods.

In case you’re eager for still more information about these questions that will impact both homeowners and renters in every corner of Arlington, consider attending the Arlington Committee of 100’s Wednesday, November 13, dinner panel, again featuring Rousselot but also Michelle Winters of the Alliance for Housing Solutions. Note that you can RSVP for just the 8 p.m. program if dinner and drinks don’t tempt you.

See you around town, and reach out at any time.

John Vihstadt