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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com — October 24, 2012 at 8:25 am 2,816 35 Comments

Board Votes Against Taxi Driver Proposal — By a contentious vote of 3-2, the Arlington County Board last night voted against a proposal that would allow taxicab drivers to be issued taxi operating certificates on an individual basis. Currently, only taxi companies are granted certificates in Arlington. County Board Chair Mary Hynes, along with Jay Fisette and Libby Garvey, voted against the proposal, arguing that the current system is working well for riders. Chris Zimmerman and Walter Tejada took the side of a coalition of taxi drivers that has been pushing for a driver-based certificate system. [Sun Gazette]

Meetings for Noise Control Ordinance – Updated at 8:45 a.m. — The County Board last night voted unanimously to defer a scheduled hearing on a series of proposed changes to the county’s noise control ordinance. Instead, two public meetings will be held to discuss the changes, in advance of a Board vote on advertising and holding a public hearing on the revisions. The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 13, from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. at the 2012 Navy League Building (2300 Wilson Boulevard). The second will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 14, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Shirlington Branch Library (4200 Campbell Street). [Arlington County]

Examiner Endorses Murray — The Washington Examiner has endorsed Republican Patrick Murray in the race for Virginia’s 8th District congressional seat. The paper lauded Murray’s military experience and said he “is clearly the better choice.” Earlier this month the Washington Post endorsed Murray’s opponent, long-time incumbent Rep. Jim Moran. [Washington Examiner]

  • Already indifferent

    The Examiner endorses Murray. The Post endorses Moran. The sun rises in the east.

  • Larry Mayer

    The noise ordinance by unanimous vote was NOT advertised — earliest advertisement would be no earlier than December 8th meeting. The Civic Federation President James Schroll testified and sent a letter requesting such deferral until AFTER the public process — not before! Arlington Now, please correct – you look foolish otherwise. BTW, I requested and, the County promptly complied overnight with a correction to their press release since they originally had no link to what was the proposed new language. There are outstanding issues with language and undefined enforcement processes that will be hopefully corrected prior to a December RTA.

    • Citizen

      Speak English. Way, way too much inside baseball jargon.

      This comment highlights a problem with our County government that emphasis form over substance. The chattering know-it-alls drown out common sense with endless process jargon and nonsense. (My local citizens association operates in the same manner: process jargon trumps real solutions/ideas.)

      • Clarendon

        I agree with your sentiment, Citizen. But in the end, it is the know-it-alls with way too much time on their hands that show up time and time again so they end up having the most say in what happens. The problem seems to be that if the government solicits one round of input from the public at large, they get (of course) conflicting views on any given topic. It then always becomes a contest on who outlasts and makes more noise than everyone else. Not always, maybe but often. The people you see all the time know who to call and the casual participant has no chance. They (the regulars) will of course tell the casual participants to work through them and their well established “processes”, which of course only enhances their influence. I probably sound like I think this is a bad thing but it is a lot better than some other alternatives. Most of the time the worst thing that happens is that things slow down a lot (and therefore cost more) but also sometimes a less good outcome is the result.

        • Thes

          It’s true that people with “more time on their hands” get an out-sized voice. This is in part because the government often sets up very technical rules and procedures that limit the ability of first-time citizen participants to get a word in edgewise. For example, last night was a hearing to “advertise”. At those hearings, if a citizen goes to speak and tries to talk about their actual frustrations with noise, they will be told to go away and come back later. They are only “supposed” to talk about the “form and scope of the advertisement”.

          Not to worry! These two scheduled forums coming up (the ones the staff wanted to do after they had already finished drafting their proposed new law), individual citizens will be invited to explain their views semi-privately to a county staff member, who will try write it down on a 3×5 card. On that occasion, no one will tell them they are “wrong”. Instead the 3×5 card will merely be put aside if the staff don’t like what they’ve written on it. The Manager believes this addresses the problem you have identified.

          • Suburban Not Urban

            Did you get this process from watching the meeting? It seems to be different for every issue. I’ve seen a marked fall off of quality/bandwidth of communiciation in the last 3-4 years. They’ve had forums with comment cards for the HOT lanes discussions, focus groups for the energy plans and other formats. The last useful one of these I saw was the EFC sector plan meeting with public comment, questioning and staff response. Where folks actually got a chance to ask questions, and make comments and hear what their neighbors were saying, asking and what answers the staff were giving back.

          • Thes

            I hope that’s how they do it, but it’s not the new “standard practice” the Manager has been promoting, which is the 3×5 card method. The Manager didn’t specify at last night’s meeting.

          • Suburban Not Urban

            I think maybe I’ll do a FOIA on the cards afterwards and see if a non-county summarization of the results is the same as the one the county produces.

        • drax

          Well, maybe those who outlast and make more noise and work within the process care more about the issue and are willing to put that energy into it.

      • Thes

        Here’s a version in English:

        The County Manager proposed a complete overhaul of the noise ordinance. A lot of people care about this, because when they call the police to stop a loud party, barking dog, or jackhammers, they want to be sure to get results.

        Because of a Virginia Supreme Court case, the new law needs to include a list of many specific actions that are allowed and not allowed (as opposed to using a general standard of “reasonableness”). So that’s what staff did.

        For example, one of the things that staff says should never be allowed is a dog you can hear barking for more than 10 minutes. One of the things staff says should always be allowed (no matter how loud, no matter what time of day) is any sporting or school event.

        If the Board decided to “advertise” this last night, then they could not make any changes in December — it would only be an up-or-down vote. This what what the Manager and staff were hoping for.

        Instead, the Board decided to ask the Manager and staff to listen to the citizens first to see if there needed to be any adjustments, and then “advertise” in December, and take the up-or-down vote in January.

        The County’s first press release did not correctly explain all this.

        • drax

          Prediction: after they add all those specific actions that are allowed or not, some yahoo will point to it and say “look at the liberals trying to control every little aspect of our lives.”

          • Thes

            Correct, drax. That’s exactly how it will play out.

            The Virginia Supreme Court has forced Arlington to decide in writing in advance what specific time is a reasonable hour to begin using your lawnmower, or else they have to allow it 24/7.

            It’s a no-win situation for the local government, since letting lawn-mowing happen at 5:15 a.m. seems like “government’s not working” but forbidding it at 8:50 a.m. seems like “too much meddling”.

          • drax

            As long as they ban leaf blowers at all times and make it a Class II felony to possess one, I’ll be happy.

          • TLC

            Leaf blowers? Try pile driving! Now, that was a miserable six weeks…

      • Suburban Not Urban

        I agree that to get involved with the county gov’t you need to learn some “lingo” and that this is definitely a barrier, especially to just “jumping in” when someone wants to get involved- usually a bad thing for a participatory process .
        I’m not an official expert but here’s some of my translation.
        Jump down to “HERE” for what is probably your main question.

        Typically(there are exceptions but I’ll focus on the 99%), each board meeting is composed of 2 parts the Initial Sat meeting(The Regular meeting) and the follow up Tue meeting(Recessed meeting). A board meeting is held about 1/month – 9 months of the year. Remember that an official agenda gets published before Sat(Usually like a week early), it’s important below. The usual flow is first a public comment period(and response by Board members) intended for topics not on the agenda. The next section is a block of motions etc, that all get voted on with one vote called the “Consent Agenda”. What’s getting voted on, is on the agenda. These are typically procedural type stuff that there’s no argument/discussion about. If any board member or any citizen wants to discuss any particular issue individually on this list- it gets “pulled” from the Consent Agenda. The public does this by signing up to speak about the issue with the meeting clerk either On-line or in person on Sat before the meeting starts. The item will then get “moved” in the agenda to part of the Tue Recessed meeting.

        After the “winnowed down” Consent agenda is passed. The board can take up “Regular Hearing items” that are on the agenda for Sat – sometimes they have them sometimes, they’ll be handled only latter on Tue. Each Regular hearing item can(some of this varies) have a staff report(there are usually written staff reports attached to the agenda items online), public comment by citizens, board discussion, board questioning of the county staff, board questioning of applicants, then a board member makes one or more official motions and the board votes. For public comment on the items you just have to sign up before it comes up before the board(Or On-line before Sat).

        HERE
        Now(I think) Virginia law requires that certain types of motions(Like making changes to the county code, bylaws, tax rates, zoning etc) require that the board advertise to the public that they plan to make a change by passing a motion. That means they have to advertise the hearing(by posting in a newspaper of official record), it also means they usually release a press release. So at least one meeting before when they plan to take up the motion/hearing item, they also have to make a separate motion and pass a “Request to advertise the hearing”, giving date for the consideration and subject matter often with some limits like “plans to raise taxes by X amount” which limits them to that much or less. This “pre-notice” usually appears on the consent agenda, although on especially contentious items this gets “pulled” and public comments on the item become “mini-hearings” – but the board hates that.

        Usually Sat ends here and things start back up on Tue. The first thing on Tue is usually board business and reports, stuff like metro reports, staff reports that the board asked for on topics, board recognizing people like volunteers and award winners, general stuff- no motions or actual actions, mostly pat on the back stuff.

        Next the “pulled” items from Sat’s “Consent Agenda” are discussed one by one. Pretty much just like hearing items.

        Next the rest of the “Regular Hearing items” are discussed, just like those on Sat(if any).

        Lastly there is an “Additional Items” section catch-all. Theoretically the board can add some things here up to the last minute. But doing so goes against basic open-govt practices where the public gets notice in the agenda about what’s going to be decided. The Arlington board rarely does anything with this.

        The last topic raised above is that the county has decided to have 2 public meetings before even doing the advertisement(usually a coordinated decision between the county board and the county staff) . Now these are ad-hoc elements of the process at the county’s discretion(but often considered good parts of the “Arlington Way”). The format and functioning of these meetings are usually completely at the discretion of the county and can differ by meeting. The theory(I think) is to be able to do the advertisement, they have to decided exactly what the new code/legal language will be. The point being made above is that to be able to have citizen input taken and accommodated in the new language, these meetings need to happen even before the advertisement is voted on.

    • BluemontFred

      Sonds like someone didn’t take their happy pill this morning.

      • drax

        BluemontFREDTERP.

    • YTK

      Semantics wins over Sense?????

  • Arlington Cat

    I assume helicopters over Fairlington are exempt from any new ordinances; am I right?

    • coppa

      only the black ones

    • WeiQiang

      pretty much all helos all over Arlington are exempt … as is Arlington County ONE.

  • kj

    What’s the argument against individual taxi certs?

    • Mario

      The owner of Red Top is against it. That’s really all it takes in Arlington.

    • South Awwlington

      Taxi certs through companies allow for better QA, period. Add in fleet maintenance, insurance, fleet age, driver training, accountability, etc.

      Personally, I don’t want individual certs. We will have dirty cabs parked all through our neighborhoods.

      • kj

        Concur without comment

      • ArlingtonWay

        Imagine — dirty taxi cabs parked all through South Arlington. Really hard to imagine. Oh wait. Nevermind.

        If it’s any consolation, Zimmie’s precious little trolley will eventually make it too expensive for no cab drivers can live down there anymore.

        • South Awwlington

          It is and I can’t wait.

    • Jim Graham

      Keeping taxis tied to a few companies makes it easier for the government to interface with the industry, if you know what I mean.

    • avoiding mass hysteria

      In Alexandria, where they have individual certificates, taxi ‘service’ has become a race to the bottom, with drivers free-lancing without regard to dispatch availability, customer service, etc. And when business dries up, the drivers sell the certificate to the next guy. It becomes a market for certificates themselves, without regard to transportation service.

  • Citizen

    Why isn’t the taxi system designed to give the best taxis the certificates?

    “That is how we always do it” is not a good reason for anything.

    Recently, I saw a statement by GE’s Jack Welsh that said successful people start every day thinking about how they can improve whatever they are doing. This concept appears to be absent from too many government workers, including elected ones.

    • drax

      The concept is absent from most people.

      • coppa

        Personally I start the day thinking how can I get to 5 PM without wanting to kill one of my co-workers

  • xvr

    Let’s see an article on Jerome Green, taxi driver of the year!!

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