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Group Fires Back at Change-of-Government Memo

by ARLnow.com April 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm 2,003 16 Comments

The Committee for a Better Arlington is firing back at a memo released by the County Attorney’s office yesterday. The memo concluded that the change-of-government plan promoted by the committee would be “a step backwards for the County.”

The committee just issued a strongly-worded statement (below) and pointed us to a memo from Ron Carlee, the previous county manager, which talks about the limitations of the County Manager Plan of government currently in place in Arlington.

Here’s the full statement:

It is disappointing that taxpayer dollars spent on the County Attorney’s salary were used for the overtly political memo disguised as a legal opinion on this ballot initiative.

The Committee for a Better Arlington was established in order to improve the current form of government in Arlington County so that it is more accountable and responsive to its citizens. It was established to improve the transparency between elected officials and Arlingtonians. More importantly, it was established to curtail the power an unelected bureaucrat has over the services and citizens of Arlington.

Prior to embarking on this initiative, the Committee for a Better Arlington deliberately reviewed the various forms of government provided for in the Virginia Code. The Committee felt the County Board form of government was the least disruptive yet responsive form of government that would remedy the faults in the current system – mainly communication and transparency with the County Board.

To date, thousands of Arlington registered voters have signed the petition expressing the same desire to improve Arlington County. This is not simply a matter pushed by Arlington’s police and fire unions to increase their pay.

If the County Attorney believes those who are pushing this change are naive then he believes the thousands of Arlington voters we meet each weekend at grocery stores, metro stops and farmers’ markets are also naive. Perhaps these voters will be equally naive come November and vote to improve the current system – one that places political expediency over better government practices.

  • Steamed voter

    Considering that some of the petition gathers have been blatantly misrepresenting what this silly proposal would do and what impact it would have, yes, I’d say many of those thousands of Arlington voters were naive. I suspect they will be far less naive come November.

    • MB

      Yeah, I suspect a whole lot of people sign without really understanding/reading, generally trusting the folks gathering signatures here in Arlington.

  • Arlington

    I find it interesting that the Coalition’s statement does not attempt to challenge one single factual assertion in the County Attorney’s memo with respect to the loss of authorities that Arlington would experience if this proposal is approved. I also find it hard to believe that they “deliberately reviewed the various forms of government” and concluded that a form of government adopted only by the most rural southwestern counties in the state (and one that essentially requires us to have an Agricultural Extension service) would be better for Arlington than, say, the forms of government adopted by Alexandria or Fairfax. Perhaps they can shed some light on their analysis. The notion that all this is about “communication and transparency” and that somehow this draconian proposal will solve that boggles the mind.

    • Matt

      You should read the memo from Ron Carlee forbidding communication from Department Heads to the County Board on Budgetary Matters. It shows exactly why Arlington needs to update from the 1930’s style government that we currently have.

      • Jack

        Nothing, and I mean nothing, Matt, prohibits the fire fighters or other department heads from meeting with the County Board, which in fact they do regularly. And nothing prohibits them from coming to a county board meeting and speaking during public comment. Putting county board members directly in charge of hiring and firing and salary decisions guarantees that county staff will be politicized. It does not guarantee anyone a raise, unless maybe you spent a lot of time on the campaign. If that memo is all you got, this is really pathetic.

      • ilike22205

        I read the memo but I don’t really see the problem there, sorry. I don’t get to lobby my boss either.

        As for the “1930’s,” how is this remotely relevant? By your logic, we should also repeal our federal government form, seeing as it’s from the 18th Century. But since this is an argument you’re making, when was the proposed form created?

        • Richmond veteran

          All the optional forms of government in Virginia were adopted *at the same time,* with authority granted in 1928, and adopted into statute in 1932. This includes the “County Board Form” preferred by those who think our current system is outdated. Do your homework, and don’t mislead voters.

  • Tom

    I basically think the government works pretty good as is. If I would explore anything it would be going the opposite direction and have Arlington have an elected Mayor with Mayorial powers like a real city. But I suppose that isn’t an option for us.

  • John Antonelli

    The previous manager’s name was CARLEE not CARLEY

    I can’t wait for Zimmerman to have to run in his own district and raise his money there. See how long he lasts.

  • Matt

    Everyone should read the memo from Ron Carlee forbidding communication from Department Heads to the County Board on Budgetary Matters. It shows exactly why Arlington needs to update from the 1930’s style government that we currently have.

    • Jack

      I think this was answered above.

    • Thes

      Let’s take an imaginary journey to the land where Matt’s concern is valid, and we want to let the elected County Board directly hire and fire the police and fire chiefs (not a land I want to live in, by the way). In that land, we should STILL not sign the petition, because it is the wrong WAY to get that power for the Board. It’s using a jackhammer where a butter knife would do the trick.

  • Matt

    It is not just a matter of power, but accountability too. To have the accountability commensurate with the issues facing elected officials in Arlington requires this type of change.

    • Civil Servant

      You have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m stunned that current government employees are actually lobbying to gain political patronage, at the expense of professionalism and, by the way, the end of their civil service commission. If you want greater “accountability” you absolutely picked the wrong horse.

      This had to be someone else’s idea, because it couldn’t be worse for government employees. If you really want to be more like DC, please just move there.

  • Kris Mclaughlin

    Panicked? Not so much.
    Through Scott McCaffrey’s Sun Gazette articles, I recently learned about the firefighter’s gripes about staffing and resources that led to a union petition drive for a fundamental change of Arlington’s form of government. I’m not a member of Arlington’s “establishment” Democrats, but I am a co-chair of the Coalition for Arlington Good Government, which I named.

    The goal is to find real facts and present them real time to fellow Arlingtonians.

    As a proponent of human civility and past president of the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA), Mr. Scott McCaffrey’s Sun Gazette articles got my attention this spring. I’m worried that Arlington voters aren’t hearing both sides of Arlington’s 78-year-old County Manager Plan (current) vs. the 70-year-old County Board Plan that works now for four rural counties in southwest Virginia (proposed).

    The Coalition for Arlington Good Government is gathering factual info and building a website. We want to help Arlingtonians make informed decisions. For now, check out our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#%21/group.php?gid=114469401916512&ref=ts and decline to sign to the petition. Kris


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