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Fisette to Announce Reelection BId

Sitting Arlington County Board vice chairman wants to focus more on financial and environmental sustainability.

Arlington County Board Vice Chairman Jay Fisette will announce tonight his intention to run for a fifth term.

"There's more to do," Fisette told Patch in a phone interview Tuesday. "This is a dynamic community. We face, as we always do, various challenges and opportunities — some of those from outside, in Washington and Richmond, and some economic sluggishness, and growing school enrollment… I want to continue to do my part to address those challenges."

Fisette, a Democrat, said his top priority would be balancing short-term budget adjustments with long-term community needs.

Arlington County is looking at a potential $50 million budget shortfall next fiscal year. Elected officials have given their initial blessing to using a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to close that gap.

Fisette has helped block three attempts by board members Chris Zimmerman and Walter Tejada to dramatically increase the county's commitment to its Affordable Housing Investment Fund, or AHIF. The AHIF, which subsidizes housing for low- to moderate-income families, next fiscal year will be funded at the same level as the current spending cycle — a near-$9.5 million commitment. Tejada, who currently serves as chairman, last tried in November to get the county to commit to increasing that to an annual $25 million investment.

Fisette on Tuesday called affordable housing "an important part of our community's health," but said the county needed to explore other resources in preserving it. "Right now, until we get into a better economy, is not the time" to more than double the county's commitment to AHIF, he said.

Fisette also said he wanted to focus on environmental sustainability, continuing a theme of his service so far. In 2009, the board prohibited the county from spending taxpayer dollars on single-use plastic water bottles — exceptions can be made — and Fisette reiterated his personal commitment to reducing the use of such plastic on New Year's Day. A "very active effort" on this front will launch in April, he said.

Couple this with Fisette's 2010 initiative to create a community energy plan. The board has adopted energy-saving goals and targets, though county staff is refining that into a formal document elected officials are expected to incorporate into Arlington's comprehensive plan later this summer. That would put sustainability on the same level as transportation, land use and historic preservation, among other areas of county oversight.

"I have always had a commitment to nature and the environment. It's an ecosystem. If you throw it off balance, it's very easy to hurt it, degrade it for the longterm," Fisette said.

"I'm really somebody looking for efficiency. No waste. I do that in problem solving. In finances. I have one credit card, and I pay it off every month, so I don't have to pay interest. I avoid it. It's the same with the environment. If you're trying to protect the ecosystem, waste is something to avoid."

In 1997, Fisette became the first openly gay elected official in Virginia. He and his partner, Bob Rosen, have lived in the Ashton Heights neighborhood since 1987.

"For me, it's fair to say that I've always felt the most important thing I could do in my job, as a gay man, was to do my job well," Fisette said. "And that's what I hope I've done."

Fisette will announce his reelection bid at the Arlington County Democratic Committee's monthly meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association building at 4301 Wilson Blvd.

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