The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Alexandria, Falls Church, Arlington officials see ways to cooperate, save money

Libby Garvey, chair of Arlington County Board. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

The most mundane of municipal meetings, in which 18 local elected officials listened to reports on transportation planning, 911 service and residential rentals, somehow felt notable Tuesday night, as if three Northern Virginia communities were out to prove that cooperation in government can work.

Members of the Alexandria and Falls Church city councils and Arlington County Board officials met jointly to discuss how to collaborate on transit and land use, an enhanced 911 system and regulations governing short-term rentals such as Airbnb and to consider whether working together can save taxpayers money.

No major agreements emerged from the 2½ -hour session at Alexandria’s Durant Recreation Center. But the officials encouraged their city and county employees to keep sharing information and coordinating plans, which they were quick to point out has been happening informally for years.

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“With all the negativity going on at the national level, it’s good to see these three groups can come together,” said Alexandria council member Willie Bailey (D).

“I hope this is not a one-off,” said Falls Church council member David Snyder (R). “We need to tighten our relationship and exchange information and see where it takes us in the future.”

Other officials, who noted that those present had not all met before Tuesday, suggested working together on legislative requests to the General Assembly, focusing on housing affordability and joining to address airport noise.

The three relatively small jurisdictions have a lot in common, said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey (D), who added that the discussion was "better than I expected." Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg (D) urged colleagues to "borrow each other's ideas and share what works."

The populations of the communities — Arlington has 225,000 residents, Alexandria has 149,000 and Falls Church has 13,500 — are dwarfed by those of their neighbors, starting with Fairfax County, with 1.1 million residents. Across the Potomac River, Prince George’s County in Maryland has 890,000 residents, and the District has about 659,000.

The smaller and the larger jurisdictions participate in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. But the officials from the three smaller, inside-the-Beltway Virginia communities said they shared enough similarities to make their own annual meeting worthwhile.

The session began with Alexandria's official town crier, Ben Fiore-Walker, in his Colonial uniform, reading an original poem welcoming the officials. Falls Church Mayor P. David Tarter offered to host the next meeting, but he had a request.

“I want a town crier,” he said.