Press Club

Arlington Dems Overwhelmingly Oppose Referendum Effort

Members of the Arlington County Democratic Committee voted unanimously last night to oppose an effort to change Arlington’s form of government.

By a vote of 74 to zero, committee members — including members of the county board and the school board — sent the message that the party’s brass will be active and united in their opposition to the proposed change.

The change is “very bad public policy,” one committee member said.

Mike Staples, chairman of the Committee for a Better Arlington, declined to participate in what was supposed to be a debate last night. Staples’ organization is currently trying to collect more than 14,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Democratic Committee chairman Mike Lieberman released the following statement after the vote.

Our committee had a thoughtful and thorough discussion of the many issues surrounding this petition drive. With this vote, we are eager to add ACDC’s voice to the growing chorus of organizations and Arlingtonians opposing this referendum – who are rightfully concerned about the impact this proposed referendum could have on the quality of life we have built over time in Arlington.

I’m grateful to [former Arlington county manager and change-of-government opponent Ron] Carlee for taking the time to speak with our members, who care deeply about the future of Arlington County. This is an important issue, and ACDC will work to educate voters on the significant consequences the proposed change-of-government initiative could have for Arlington County.

The reaction from the Committee for a Better Arlington, after the jump.

Last night the Arlington County Democratic Committee leadership voted to oppose the change of government initiative and work against any efforts that would get it on the ballot – a vote effectively against representative government for Arlington residents.

The 74-0 vote by credentialed members of the Arlington County Democratic Committee excluded the voice of the rank-and-file members. Credentialed members included those on the executive committee and those elected to office, such as County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, Board Members Barbara Favola, Chris Zimmerman and Walter Tejada, and School Board Member Sally Baird – who were all in attendance and voted against this measure.

“It’s unfortunate that 74 members of the Arlington Democrat elite were the voice of the entire Party,” said Mike Staples, Chairman of the Committee for a Better Arlington. “This referendum has never been about politics – it has always been about better representation and transparency in government.  The decision by this group of 74 is another example of why we need to change our form of government before no one is left with a voice,” Staples said.

Speaking out against the measure was former county manager Ron Carlee, who now works for the International City/County Managers Association, a professional membership association for county managers around the world.  Giving an impassioned speech about the potential downside of this change of government, Carlee resorted to scare tactics and stated the pro-referendum initiative was “an attempt to overthrow this government.”

“This ballot initiative is not a referendum against the current elected officials,” Staples said.  “It is an attempt to give our elected officials the authority and tools they need in order to be more responsive to the needs of Arlingtonians.  Mr. Carlee’s consistent opposition to this initiative makes me wonder if he is the one who doesn’t think our elected officials should have those additional powers. Perhaps Mr. Carlee is the one who doesn’t trust his own government,” Staples added.

Share your thoughts on the referendum effort here.

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