The Right Note is a bi-weekly opinion piece. The opinions expressed are those of the author alone.
Arlington County Council is in the middle of its traditional August break. As such, it’s a good time for a performance review.
What should we expect from local communities?
Ultimately, the most important level of government in our day-to-day life, apart from self-government, is local government. This is where our taxes meet the asphalt. This is where our children go to school, our homes are secure, our water is distributed and our waste is collected. This is where we should be able most easily and directly to ask our elected officials for help. And, at least theoretically, it should be the most responsive to our needs with the least bureaucracy and red tape.
As part of the review, let’s ask all of our elected officials to do a self-assessment.
Please rate your job performance against the following four criteria and provide specific examples to explain your assessment:
1) demonstrate budgetary discipline
2) Responsiveness to community concerns, especially in light of the pandemic
3) Assume the responsibilities of basic government services
4) Actions to increase transparency and accountability
Points will be deducted for using buzzwords (such as in “equity”) without concrete examples to back it up.
So where are we?
If you remember, a year ago the county council had just passed a puzzling emergency ordinance that would have prevented a family of five from walking the sidewalk together and the school board was scrambling to figure out how to put it in. virtual learning implemented when teachers refused to come back to school.
While APS fulfilled Governor Northam’s mandate to return to part-time face-to-face teaching in March, school officials are scrambling as enrollment numbers again appear below expectations. While officials are hoping for a turnaround, it so far appears to be a vote of “no confidence” after a lost year of learning. Many parents who could afford to take their children out have done so, and they may not come back.
Elected officials responded to the increase in crime by relaxing the standards for prosecution, creating a new disciplinary board for the police, and removing school resource officers.
The County Council continues to raise the cost of living by raising taxes, spending surpluses rather than returning them to the taxpayer, increasing our debt, increasing labor costs and increasing so permanent construction costs. The sign has also made it more difficult and costly for many people to park in front of their own homes.
How would you rate your elected officials this year? Now consider re-rating them as if they’re all indie and due to show up on their record, not their party label.
Mark Kelly is a longtime Arlington resident, former Chairman of the Arlington GOP and two-time Republican nominee for the Arlington County Board of Directors.