It’ll likely be 2021 or later that Arlington government leaders start any consideration of asking for General Assembly authority to become a city.
“I’ve not heard any conversation lately about changing our status,” said County Board Vice Chairman Libby Garvey, who is likely to rotate into the board chairmanship for 2020 and would help determine whether the issue gets an airing in the coming year.
“That doesn’t mean people are not working on it, but just I am not aware of it if they are,” Garvey told the Sun Gazette.
Some community leaders have floated the idea of switching from a county to a city, for two main reasons:
• At just 26 square miles and with 240,000 people, Arlington feels more like a city than a county.
• Virginia law gives cities more inherent powers than counties.
It’s that second issue that Garvey said Arlington officials are focused on at the moment.
“What is being worked on, and which is a priority for the Virginia Association of Counties – and for us as well – is equal taxing authority for cities and counties,” Garvey said.
Granting similar powers to counties as held by cities is part of the County Board’s 2020 legislative-priorities package, which will be forwarded to Arlington’s seven-member legislative delegation in preparation for the upcoming General Assembly session, which opens Jan. 8.
Among those eager for a conversation about city status is former County Board member Jay Fisette, who broached the idea before his retirement from office in 2017 and says he still believes Arlington should be a city.
“It would recognize reality – that we are a city by any standard,” he said. “It would also be less confusing for everyone, and enhance our regional voice.”
Should Arlington end up making the transition to city status, it would be the most sweeping change in local governance since 1932, when the three-member Board of Supervisors (which had been in operation since 1870) was supplanted by a five-member County Board and a professional county manager.