5 Questions With Katie Cristol
Arlington's county board chair discusses housing affordability, bipartisanship and the bid for Amazon's HQ2.
Earlier this year, Cristol, 33, was unanimously elected by the five-member county board for a one-year term as chair after serving as an at-large member since 2016.
What’s your biggest day-to-day challenge as board chair?
When a constituent contacts the board, we want to give a thoughtful response. They take the time to write us and [they] don’t want a form letter back. We get hundreds of emails every day.
What do you hope will become this particular board’s legacy?
I hope this will be seen as a period where this community got serious about thinking of child care and young families as part of our affordability picture.
What is the most pressing issue facing Arlington right now?
Affordability, across the board, including the lack of ownership housing stock for middle-class families. Arlington’s values were built on the idea that this was a place where middle-class people could afford to live and put down roots. As our middle-class families start to get priced out, that could change the future of this community. And not for the better.
How are you working across the aisle?
Our board is [mostly] from the same party. The bipartisan work comes with projects such as the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. Ideologically, I may not have a lot in common with the Fredericksburg City Council, yet the sustained health of the Virginia Railway Express is crucial to both communities. So, leaving partisanship aside, we focus on the issue.
What would Amazon’s HQ2 mean for Arlington County?
It matters to have industry other than the federal government. We’ve got to diversify our office occupants. We have an office vacancy rate of close to 20 percent. That means we are scaling back on our operating budget, which is painful, or asking residents to pay more. Diversifying our commercial market [will allow] residents…to still get the same level of services they’ve come to expect without [a larger] tax burden.