Monday, January 1, 2007

Arlington Co. Board Begins 2007 with a Breath of Fresh AIRE

Just got back from the Arlington County Board's traditional New Year's Day session. It was loaded with red meat for the tree-hugging crowd (and yes, I'm aware of the irony of connecting those two political phrases).

Just how green was it? Three different board members referenced An Inconvenient Truth (official site, my review, buy the DVD).

My biggest bone of contention with the County Board -- and I don't have many -- has been that in a green-and-getting-greener community like Arlington, there's no reason it shouldn't be pushing the envelope of environmentally-friendly policy. Yet DC gets the headlines for requiring green buildings and innovating on things like rubber sidewalks.

But today's meeting marked the start of a new era for Arlington's environmental policies, with new Board Chair Paul Ferguson kicking off his Fresh AIRE (Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions) program. Arlington County has already reduced its emissions 2% since 2000, and Fresh AIRE aims to cut emissions another 10% by 2012 from that 2000 baseline.

Ferguson pointed out several ways Arlington residents could quickly, easily, and affordably contribute to the effort, though he was careful to avoid nannyism, citing Jimmy Carter's sweater speech (not to be confused with Weezer's Sweater Song). The county will be providing some incentives for people to get started:

* Giving out 2,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs at county events over the next year
* Exploring personal property tax (car tax) discounts for drivers of hybrid vehicles
* The county and Dominion Virginia Power will pay for dozens of homes to get energy audits

You can watch video from the board meeting on the County website, or read the text of Ferguson's address.

The elephant in the room, as always, is funding. The dichotomy is visible in the Sun Gazette's coverage of the meeting -- separate articles detailing Ferguson's initiative and the possibility of a tight budget ahead, without mentioning how either might be affected by the other. Obviously I'm not the one writing the budget, but I'd certainly be willing to pay more (in my case, through higher property taxes via higher rent) to make sure the environmental initiatives have the money they need.

Please email board members to let them know you support all the new environmental initiatives and want to make sure they're fully funded!
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