County Urged to Address Environmental, Health Issues

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By Mark Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 26, 2008

Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada (D) said the county faces challenges including environmental issues, health concerns and its diverse makeup, all matters that he said would require the business community's help.

Speaking to a collection of county officials and business and nonprofit representatives Tuesday during the annual State of the County address, Tejada proclaimed that Arlington's state is "excellent," but he warned of challenges the county would face.

Issues such as health care, immigration, the federal debt, inflation and the housing market crisis remain topics of concern as the federal government fails to deal with such crises, he said.

"The national and state situations ultimately trickle down to local government," said Tejada, who is midway through his term as chairman. "We do not have the luxury to look the other way, to punt. We are the level of government where people live."

Arlington officials are the ones who get stopped while at the grocery store "pushing our shopping carts," Tejada said.

The event was hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Arlington. Organizers said about 160 people attended.

Tejada said on the big issues that the county will face, officials "critically need" the business community's partnership. He said one such major issue is the environment, which Arlington addresses through Fresh AIRE (Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions), aimed at decreasing energy consumption.

"The federal government will not solve our energy crisis alone, even if it chooses to act," Tejada said. "We have to face the problem ourselves, at the local level."

He called on "every business in Arlington to aggressively and visibly" move to reduce energy consumption and enhance environmental sustainability. He cited several simple steps, such as installing compact fluorescent bulbs, getting and implementing the results of an energy audit, subsidizing transit and encouraging actions such as telecommuting and walking or biking to work.

Tejada also emphasized the importance of a healthier Arlington, within the workforce and in the community.

"Without a healthy workforce, none of us can function," he said. "We can develop a culture of fitness in Arlington."

On this topic, Tejada emphasized the importance of prevention on an individual level, through an initiative known as FitArlington, and in businesses that encourage a healthy environment.


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