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Arlington City Council candidate Rebecca Boxall: ‘I see opportunity everywhere’

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Arlington City Council District 5 candidate Rebecca Boxall recently provided the following responses to a Dallas Express questionnaire:

Question: Can you give us a little bit of background on yourself and why did you decide to run for city council?

Answer: I have lived in Arlington since 2007. I am an architect and small business owner for 30-plus years. I have a keen interest strong neighborhoods and cities and community engagement. As such, I have been involved in neighborhood organizations, various city boards and advisory committees including the Comprehensive Master Plan and Downtown Master Plan committees, served on the Zoning Board of Appeals and currently am a commissioner on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

I decided to run for city council because I think my background and experience can well serve the citizens of District 5 and Arlington as a whole as we plan for the future.

Q: Why should people vote for you?

A: I live in the center of Arlington District 5 and have been an active part of the community since I moved here. I have the background and experience to serve in this position. I have the passion for improvement and strengthening of neighborhoods and the city as a whole. I see opportunity everywhere.

Q: What are your strengths compared to your competitors? 

A: I live in Arlington District 5. My residence is my homestead. I own other property in Arlington and pay property taxes in Arlington.

As an architect, I have worked on many development projects both in Arlington and other cities. I have an understanding of design, development/planning and permitting of projects of all types and scales. Having served on Arlington’s ZBA and P+Z, I have gained experience from the regulatory side of development/planning. 

I have 30 years of experience in real-world, physical problem-solving and both short- and long-term planning. I have over 30 years of experience owning and running a small business. I come from several generations of small-business owners so am well aware of the challenges small businesses encounter.  

I have served on city boards and commissions and been involved with various initiatives and planning projects as an involved citizen. I have traveled extensively (5 continents, over 30 countries, 37 U.S. States) and countless cities of all types. I have lived abroad. I have real-world experience with and respect for people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, beliefs and modes of living. I have spent a lifetime researching, visiting and studying cities and how they thrive.

I am a practical, solution-oriented kind of person. I am comfortable working collaboratively and am open to new ideas and approaches from wherever they originate. People coming together to generate many different ideas is almost always fruitful. 

Q: What do you think of the proposal to defund the police and would you support it?

A: I do not support ‘Defund the Police.’

Q: What do you think about the Black Lives Matter movement?

A: The movement’s name/slogan is an obvious and fundamental truth but the message has been divisive by presuming mass bad faith. Individual hearts and minds change through more positive inducements.

Q: The city is constantly trying to provide more affordable housing, but it faces an uphill battle. How will you address the housing situation? Will you look at it from a property tax issue, a development issue or a resource issue? Will you vote for higher taxes so the city can build more affordable housing?

A: I have many ideas and proposals for addressing affordable housing. I see housing as a development, land-use and local citizen opportunity issue. I do not subscribe to one-size-fits-all approach to housing (or any other issue). There is no solitary solution to making housing more affordable but there are many smaller incremental approaches and we should try them 

My proposals to increase housing affordability are regulatory and creativity-based and therefore would not require an increase in the property tax rate for their implementation

Q: How will you address homelessness? Do you think the city should be providing more services to the homeless?

A: Homelessness is an issue everywhere in the world and is there is no easy solution. I see homelessness as mostly divided into resource-based and mental health/addiction based.

For resource-based homelessness, my proposals for affordable housing would go a long way to eliminating many homeless cases. Improved general education and job-skills education is another big part of resolving this issue.

For mental health and addiction-based homeless, we will need a larger effort and public commitment to mental health care and substance abuse treatment.

Q: Do you feel safe walking around City Hall at night? Should you?

A: Yes, for the most part I feel safe at night around City Hall, though I have never been there past, say 10 p.m. unaccompanied. This has more to do with how women are accustomed to operating in any city, especially at night.  

I have personally had safety issues in parking garages in Arlington and elsewhere both day and night. This is a concern, particularly for women, in enclosed or semi-enclosed environments where there are not many people around. 

I have specific proposals for making downtown and parking garages safer.

Q: Do you think crime is a problem in Arlington? If so, what changes would you fight to implement?

A: From statistics I have seen, Arlington, relative to other cities its size, has a similar or slightly lower crime rate. However, crime is always a concern. Community policing, more job opportunities and housing security would go a long way to reducing crime.

More recreational opportunities, particularly outdoor public recreation venues and more community events at all scales allow people to informally connect with each other. When people feel connected on a more personal level, they are less likely to transgress each other.

More mixed-use development adds “eyes on the street” at all hours. There are well-documented studies on how the design of our built environment can reduce crime. This is one area where we have endless opportunities to improve. We can enhance and invigorate Arlington’s CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) standards and require these standards be implemented in any new development or re-development.

Improve connectivity throughout the city. Isolation increases crime by precluding more “eyes on the street.” Improve the appearance of our public realm. Well-kept public areas and thoroughfares engender pride of place. I have specific proposals in the area of infill/incremental development that would reduce crime as an added benefit.

Q: How can Arlington address its trash problem?

A: Tough problem to address. I was a member of the now-disbanded Keep Arlington Beautiful board, which was created with this specific goal in mind. We investigated proposals that could help reduce trash/littering/dumping. This organization lacked funding but many of its proposals are available to implement. 

With regard to illegal dumping in/near our waterways, we need vigorous surveillance and enforcement. With technology available today, we could employ some of these resources at known trouble spots. There are other measures we can take with regard to securing Dumpsters at multi-family and commercial locations. This is yet another area where design standards can help alleviate a problem. 

Q: How will you help the local school districts improve those schools that have struggled?

A: I don’t have specific proposals to improve struggling schools but am open to all suggestions and proposals. I have long supported smaller, community-centered schools close to where students live over large-capacity schools with long-distance draws. This is preferable from an educational, environmental and safety viewpoint. Most recently, Covid-19 has highlighted flaws in large-capacity school facilities and calls into question their long-term viability

Physical school facilities have a long-term impact on student health, well-being and overall safety. There are numerous studies about how the physical school environment affects learning. In addition, the location of schools affects families by consuming time and other resources in transportation. This may have a negative effect on the time parents have to spend with children. 

I have been a long-time supporter of the Safe Routes to Schools program (now TAP)  by the USDOT and would like to implement some of their proposals in Arlington with or without federal participation. Also, overall land-use patterns, traffic, etc. may have downstream effects on families and schoolchildren.

Q: In order to solve a problem, it needs to be measured. So how do you measure systemic racism? How much is there? And what do you think the city’s role should be in solving it?

A: Measurement should be a data-gathering math calculation. However, people experience or sense discrimination on a personal rather than statistical level. Personal perception is difficult to measure and quantify. We must vigilantly preserve the most transparent, equality-based, race-neutral institutional standards possible and, in the case of a confirmed breech, take decisive action to rectify the specific problem.

Q: What regulations do you think the city should cut? Which regulations do you think the city should add?

A: We need to reduce regulatory barriers to job creation, housing (of all types), innovation, adaptability and mobility. The Uniform Development Code (UDC) is the one area I am most familiar with and a place to start. There are many areas where regulations could be updated, improved, reduced or made more adaptable to emerging conditions. In general, we need to move away from one-size-fits-all approaches, which often creates unintended consequences including sabotaging creativity and innovation.

Q: How are you going to help the poorest among us?

A: Increase small business, which will increase job opportunities.

Increase housing security. If you have a safe, stable and longer-term, secure place to live, no matter how humble, you have a base from which you can achieve other goals. Housing and also food security are key to mitigating poverty. 

Enhance connectivity and mobility.

Promote strong, cohesive neighborhoods and community engagement at many levels.

Q: What would be your first three priorities if elected to city council?

A: Safety; maximize existing assets/minimize ongoing liabilities; and stronger neighborhoods. 

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