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Supreme Court Decision May Affect Change-of-Government Petition

by ARLnow.com June 25, 2010 at 5:04 pm 2,093 22 Comments

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that people who sign referendum petitions generally can’t claim a First Amendment privilege for keeping their names secret. The ruling may affect the change-of-government petition currently circulating around Arlington.

Change-of-government critics have suggested that the names of petition signers should be made public.

In a statement, the Coalition for Arlington Good Government, which opposes the petition, lauded the Supreme Court decision.

“The Supreme Court’s decision reaffirms the importance of transparency and open government by ensuring public disclosure of petitions,” CAGG said in a statement. “We wish that the referendum proponents were half as committed to transparency.”

The Committee for a Better Arlington, which supports the change-of-government referendum, declined to comment.

  • diana


  • Chris L.

    I signed the petition and will be proud to be on record as having done so. If we ever reach a point where people are afraid of their elected representatives, then the need for the reforms proposed by that referendum are needed more than ever.

    • Thes

      The “reforms” proposed by the COG petition would shift us back to a 1940’s rural-style County, in which political patronage hiring is again possible in Arlington. Personally, such a change would make me more afraid of my elected representatives, not less.

      • ArlSolutions

        The Committee for a Better Arlington is seeking to update Arlington from our 1930’s style government. The county manager form of government was formulated to keep minorities from having a say in government. I understand that you want to maintain the status quo, but you should know that you are on the wrong side of history on this one. The current political patronage system in Arlington County is completely unaccountable to the voters. Given the choice between two types of governmental structures, doesn’t it make sense to pick the one with more representation, accountability, transparency and equality over the county manager form of government that excludes, obstructs and discriminates?

        • 21st Century

          Oh, please. Can we just agree that this current fight has absolutely nothing to do with racial politics of the 1930s or 1940s? All the alternate board forms were created in this general time frame, for starters. And Arlington desegregated its schools in 1959, without needing a change in local government form. This is an unconstructive talking point that distracts from the realities of the current debate.

          Speaking of realities: the “political patronage” only gets worse under the proposed change of government. I don’t want elected officials following the Fenty doctrine of giving their fraternity brothers plum jobs, whether or not they’re qualified. Arlington’s electeds can’t do that now, but it’s one of the major powers granted under the proposed form. I realize not everyone has experience working in other parts of VA and experiencing the other forms of government, but this isn’t hard to look up, folks. CBA would sound a lot smarter if they were better informed about their own proposal.

      • Mike

        Thes is an ACDC hack spewing their party line of FUD. Fear, Uncertainty and Denial.

        It’s fine to sign!

        • diane

          It’s not fine to sign unless you support it. Make that clear, petitions are to show support for something and that’s exactly how proponents will present it.

          • Mike

            The petition is to put the proposal on the ballot. What is the ACDC afraid of? Democracy. Sad irony.

  • Mike

    Big deal. This won’t effect the petition one iota. Sign on!

  • Kirby

    I think this would not be a big issue if names on the petition were made public (and I do support transparency) – this isn’t one where people are secret bigots and no one’s rights are being stepped on.

    BTW: I was approached at a farmers market to sign the petition. The way I understood it at the time (and still) is that the petition would allow for a public discussion and vote on this proposed change. When I signed the petition, it was not a vote saying that I support changing the govt, just that I agree that the idea should be explored. I stand by that. I still don’t know which side of the fence I will land on concerning this issue. I am willing to bet many of the others who signed feel the same way. You won’t be outing anarchists or insurgents.

    • MB

      It’s being publicly debated and explored now. No signature or petition is required for that. Going through the time and trouble to put an issue on a ballot is a separate thing, and should require a higher level of care. And part of that higher level of care is honesty – something that the COG proponents and its band of signature gatherers hasn’t really demonstrated, in my view.

      • Mike

        Putting a petition on the ballot should require a higher level of care????

        It takes 14,000 registered voters to sign any petition to get it on the ballot. It takes fewer signatures STATEWIDE to get on the ballot to run as a Senator.

        How much more “care” do we need? The hacks are running scared!

      • Kirby

        At the time when I was approached with the petition, there was no discussion yet. And even the discussions happening now seem to get into personal insults more than give any effective rationale for one side or the other.

  • John

    Until the COG petition started I don’t think there was any meaningful debate about the isolation of staff from elected leadership and the extreme limitations on neighborhood advocacy created by the current at large system. I hope the democrats will come back with some real alternatives to the cog as I think it would be a step backwards for civil rights, neighborhood protection and housing. At the same time taking a step back is needed in order to go forward. The democratic political machine in Arlington no matter how enlightened is still a machine and the result of that kind of politcal system is always corruption and tyranny.

  • Let’s Be Free

    No “racial politics” still at work you think? Sure, look at all the public pools out there for the minority and poor kids to frolic in during the summer months. Arlington’s elite in the North have plenty of private pools (aka swim clubs built during the days of de facto segregation and before the Civil Rights Act of 1964) for their kids to swim in. Look at TJ middle school, which was built as a cave to handle to handle the influx of middle schooler during forced desegregation. The North wouldn’t stand for their kids going to school in tht environment. There are plenty of examples, just look around.

  • Efrem Hornbostle

    Disclosure of those that sign the petition is a moot point. It was elevated to the level of chaos by the ACDC and the CAGG to impede the implementation of a fair referendum from the outset. They failed.

    Remember, liberals are intolerant and trash democracy if their grip on power is being challenged in any manner whatsoever.

    I surmise that the ACDC and the current County Board members are meeting in secret trying to figure out how they can run as County Supervisors in a magisterial district.

    Rumor has it that two current County Board members are contempating relocating their domicles to other areas of Arlington County to prepare themselves to run in magisterial districts. I am sure the Sun Forgette is all over this matter.

    Stand tall fellow citizens of Arlingtongrad. The libs are running scared and are choking on their granola and tofu as referendum momentum gains traction.

    Believe in America.

    • diane

      I believe republicans are the intolerant party. Re: gays, immigrants, minorities, poor

  • John

    Efrem you should really give the tofu and granola a try, it would probably make you bit more regular and clear up that bile imbalance you have. The COG will be an opportunity to tell the incredible story of Arlington Virginia. We have top rated government services, the best schools in the county, and low unemployment and a diverse economy base. We were just ranked by Parenting Magazine as the top place in the world to raise children. I see this refferendum as a chance to tell our story and export our vision for Virginia to our neighbors around the state. We’re taking Virginia Blue ain’t nothing you can do.

  • charlie

    I am amazed that the republicans and organized labor are in cohoots of something. Doesn’t that alone suggest to you that there is something seriously wrong with this issue.
    I don’t get to negotiate my pay with our board of directors of my organization. And if this one union gets that right, what about the 47 other unions that represent employees in Arlington?
    We will become like the District — huge fraud and machine politics.

    • Tom

      Don’t forget the Greens! It seems like there are more Green Party people in Arlington than Republicans.

  • John

    A group of citizens declining to sign something is a perfectly democratic option. Since republicans are so eagar for democracy and local governance how about we modify the Dillon Rule in the state to give more power to the local governments. Also would you please tell us again which specific Arlington statues will face a legal challenge from Cooch if the cog passes. Or are you just hoping we won’t ask you about your big lawsuit plans and other phase II items until after it passes.

  • Cherrydaler

    I signed the petition this weekend. Not sure whether I’d vote in favor of the referendum or not, but don’t understand the Orwellian effort to shut this down before we have a full discussion.

    The clincher for me was the editorial piece on the issue written by the County Attorney. Not sure if he was on the clock when he wrote this, but if so, that report probably cost us $25 K or more of employee time for what is clearly a political piece. I was appalled that this was released by the government– if CAGG had written it, no problem– for a person that we are all paying to write it, big problem.

    And stop ripping DC, yes Fenty has had some questionable dealings, but he’s affected a heck of a lot more positive change in three years than any Arlington County politician has in decades.


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