After months of discussion and debate, the Arlington County Republican Committee decided last night by a vote of 40-12 to join forces with the Arlington Country Police, Firefighters and Paramedics Unions to endorse a petition to change the Arlington style government to shift more responsibility from an unelected County Manager position to elected Country Board officials and have the County Board positions elected by district instead of at-large. Most in favor of the petition were likely drawn to the idea that by electing board members by district there may be some strategic advantages in actually getting a Republican on the Country Board, which hasn’t happened in over a decade. The opposition to the endorsement cited “strange bedfellows” with the unions and the expectation that even more liberal candidates would get elected.
In the end, I voted for the endorsement, not because I think more Republicans will get elected but it was apparent to me that the current system is unfair and wrong. For starters, the Firemen who gave last night’s presentation explained that department heads (i.e. Fire Chief, Police Chief) are banned from directly speaking to elected officials and must only communicate with the County Manager. I have personally seen the County Manager, while capable, definitely wielding great power over the County Board. For anyone familiar with home or condo associations, it is the equivalent of the office manager making all the decisions for the association and basically having the board rubberstamp it (exceptions apply). In another graphic, the advocates of the petition showed how large parts of Arlington are unrepresented on the Board and that 3 of the members live in the same zip code. Anyone who lives here will tell you that there is a big difference between north and south Arlington. I strongly believe the closer elected officials are to their constituents and are held accountable by them, the better government is.
As a quick side note, want to thank Mark Kelly for his service as ACRC chairman for the last 2 years. He took the position to a new level and he will be missed. Chris Berg is the new chairman and I have high hopes for him as well.