Victoria Farrar-Myers, District 7
1. Public Transportation (Part I) – please respond by March 8, 2018
Please describe, including price maximums, your thoughts on public transportation.
I believe that the narrative about “public transportation” needs to be changed to focus on mobility – how do people get to work, school, church, the grocery store, etc. and, from the perspective of a City Council member, what, if anything, can and should the City do to assist its residents meet their mobility needs. Doing so does not necessarily entail the City absorbing the expenses, but rather having the City pursue innovative approaches and, if appropriate, public-private partnerships to provide meaningful transportation options. Certainly, if the City commits funds toward a transportation project, any such expenditure should be coupled with regular and measureable assessment to ensure that the needs of the residents are being met at a cost that warrants continued support by the City. For example, because the evidence from the MAX bus showed that it was neither an effective mode of mobility nor a cost efficient one from the City’s perspective, I voted against the MAX for each extension that came before the City Council the past two years. I do support, however, the continued use of pilot projects, particularly for those modes of transportation supported by the citizen transportation board, to help find the modes of mobility that work best in Arlington.
2. Public Transportation (Part II) – please respond by March 15, 2018
Has the $922,500 [$600K from the federal government] VIA ride-share contract done anything to deserve to be renewed?
I support using pilot projects to identify modes of mobility that work best in Arlington. Doing so allows the City to obtain useful information without making a long-term commitment on an unproven model of transportation. To that end, since the City is just at the beginning of the VIA ride-share pilot project, this project has just started providing valuable data about both its potential to succeed as well as information about our residents’ mobility needs. Although there will be a need for continuing assessment of the project, the benefit of a pilot project like the VIA program is that, on one hand, if it is successful it could become a critical component of meeting the mobility needs of Arlington residents. On the other hand, however, if it is not ultimately successful, the City would be able to end the project but still could use the data obtained regarding rider usage, satisfaction, and needs to inform the next step of the City’s efforts to address mobility in Arlington.
3. Communications (Part I) – please respond by March 22, 2018
If a constituent e-mails you a question or comment, asking for a response, on an issue where you disagree, will you respond to the constituent?
I always strive to respond to constituents in as timely a manner as possible to thank them for their input. I value all input from my constituents so that I can better know and understand the concerns of Arlington residents. I am a “data person” and want to know as much as possible about an issue to make an informed policy decision. On numerous occasions, I have listened to constituent input on all sides of an issue to try to narrow the scope of a proposed ordinance to address the problem trying to be resolved while limiting unintended consequences. However, even if the constituent’s position is directly opposite to a position I hold or a vote I have taken, I will try to explain the reasoning behind my position.
4. Communications (Part II) – please respond by March 29, 2018
A year and a half ago there was a $500,000,000 Rangers bond issue where there were NO town hall meetings held to explain and answer questions on the issue. This coming November there will likely be a several hundred million city bond issue again on the ballot. If elected do you plan to hold any town hall meetings on this coming election?
I hold Town Hall meetings throughout the year. As an at-large Council member, I structure my Town Halls as “Walk & Talks” to highlight the wonderful park system in Arlington or to highlight some new project within the city. For example, my most recent Walk & Talk Town Hall featured a tour of the renovated and expanded River Legacy Science Center. I also regularly speak to, and will gladly speak at meetings for, community groups or neighborhood associations. Regardless of the setting, I always discuss and give constituents the opportunity to ask questions about upcoming elections and matters on the ballot. In both my capacities as a professor of political science and a City Council member, I believe in the fundamental importance of civic engagement and an informed electorate. I utilize Town Halls and other opportunities afforded to me as a Council member to promote these ideals, and always encourage residents to learn about the issues for which they are being asked to decide.
5. Taxes (Part I) – please respond by April 5, 2018
Currently, Arlington has 1/4-cent of sales tax that could be, but is not used. What, if anything, do you see yourself approving to place in front of the voters, for that 1/4-cent of sales tax? Why?
As I write the response to this question on March 27, 2018, I think Arlington is better served by holding the ¼-cent of sales tax capacity in reserve until it is needed, if at all. Circumstances could change, new opportunities could arise, or the analysis could be different after completing the annual budgeting process; all of which could lead to a different answer in the future. However, I think two principles should guide whatever decisions are made about the future use of the sales tax capacity:
First, just because Arlington has the capacity does not mean we should use it.
Second, any potential use of the capacity should be reserved, if possible, for the most impactful utilization and must be weighed against the impact of continuing to not use the available capacity.
6. Taxes (Part II) – please respond by April 12, 2018
Currently, Arlington is experiencing almost double-digit property tax evaluation increases. What do you feel is the appropriate tax rate that should be levied upon the citizens, a rate a little below the rollback rate, the effective tax rate, the same tax rate (even if above the rollback rate), or something else? Why?
As property values increase, the tax rate charged by the City should be reduced appropriately to address the City’s budget, but the budget should not be increased simply because property values increase. Setting the tax rate, though, is just one prong of the budgetary process. Our city runs on a relatively lean budget with nearly two-thirds going toward public safety. So, setting the City’s tax rate requires balancing property values, other sources of revenue the City receives, and the projected expenditures for any given budgetary cycle.
7. Issue – please respond by April 19, 2018
What is the most important issue the city council is facing? Why?
Arlington has grown into a big city with its own identity but also now faces new challenges. Arlington must smartly grow its tax base so that the City can meet these challenges while continuing to provide first-class services to its residents, but without putting undue tax burdens on our residents. We must create an environment in Arlington that promotes small businesses and gives people reasons to live in Arlington. As one example, I am part of a working group seeking ways to ease regulatory burdens on small businesses and to speed up the process of getting permits.