Board’s 2012 Agenda: Backyard Hens And The Arlington Way

by ARLnow.com January 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm 8,045 90 Comments

Last year, then-County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman used the annual chairman’s New Year’s Day address to promise a pro-business agenda for 2011. Indeed, the agenda eventually became a reality. Throughout the year the county held a series of public forums for business owners, worked to streamline some regulatory process and finally, in December, the Board adopted a measure that allowed A-frame signs — a big item on local business owners’ wish lists.

This morning the new County Board Chairman, Mary Hynes, promised to enhance civic engagement in Arlington. Already famous for its process of including community stakeholders in decision making — a process broadly referred to as “The Arlington Way” — Hynes is seeking to more formally institutionalize Arlington County’s commitment to civic engagement.

To do so, Hynes is proposing to first create a “map” of the numerous nonprofit groups and community associations that make up Arlington’s civic landscape.

“Our hope is that this expands our understanding of what each Arlington group does… and becomes a valuable resource for each Arlingtonian, newcomer and old-timer, teen to senior, seeking to make connections in our community,” Hynes said.

Hynes also wants to officially define what “The Arlington Way” means. Appropriately, she proposes to come up with a definition by engaging in a wide-ranging community discussion.

“We will convene a formal county-wide conversation to develop a clear description of The Arlington Way as it applies to and should energize our decision-making going forward,” she said. “Working with County Board Members, Commissioners, County staff, and Arlington residents, non-profits, and businesses, we will delineate the roles and responsibilities of participants in our civic decision-making processes.”

In another new initiative, Hynes announced that every Monday night (except for federal holidays) a County Board member will hold a two-hour “open door” session, “where residents can discuss any County-related issue with a Board Member.” The sessions will be held from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.; session locations will be posted on the county web site.

“I believe it’s time to reinvigorate The Arlington Way,” Hynes concluded. “This is not an exercise. It is not about simply checking a box on civic engagement. Our goal is for more members of our community to be involved — actively and constructively — in the important local government decisions that affect their lives and those of their neighbors.”

Following Hynes’ address, Walter Tejada, the new County Board Vice-Chair, announced some new initiatives of his own. One was to emphasize better communication between the various groups that promote pedestrian and bicycle safety in Arlington. Another notable initiative is the creation of an “ad hoc Arlington County Urban Agriculture Task Force.”

The task force will examine issues like food security, health and fitness, hunger and obesity, and environmental sustainability, in addition to “best practices in sustainable urban agriculture policies and programs.” It will ultimately be charged with creating a “food action plan.”

Tejada said the task force will “explore new options like rooftop gardens, land exchanges, demonstration gardens and backyard hens.” The latter option will likely receive the most attention. Last spring a sizable group of vocal Arlington residents formed the “Arlington Egg Project” — to actively encourage the county to adopt policies that would more broadly permit the raising of egg-laying hens in Arlington.

More information about Hynes’ and Tejada’s proposals, and those of Board members Jay Fisette and Chris Zimmerman, is available on the Arlington County web site.

  • Rick

    “Already famous for its process of including community stakeholders in decision making — a process broadly referred to as “The Arlington Way” — Hynes is seeking to more formally institutionalize Arlington County’s commitment to civic engagement.”

    lolololololololololol. Come on.

  • E

    is she from the future? what in the hell is she wearing?

    • Mr. T

      She looks like Harry Potter.

      • R. Griffon

        When did this thing stop accepting image attachments? Grrr. Anyways…


        • porkchop_milkshake

          Maybe the spam filter saw that it was some 4chan garbage and blocked it? (I have no idea, but I’m speculating, since that’s usually what you find on memegenerator links. Your link there is broken as well.)

        • Probably when we started Photoshopping images of Zimmerman.

    • BillHoo

      Did you say, The FUTURE? Conan?

  • Bender

    The Arlington Way —

    If you agree with what the County already wants to do, it will listen. If you disagree with what the County wants to do, it will ignore you and do whatever the hell it wants.

    • ArlingtonWay

      Exactly. And also the identical story with my first marriage, by the way.

    • Dan


    • Charlie

      A vote for Melissa Bondi is a vote for Zimmerman so that means even less input and listening to others.

      • Jack

        Au contraire. A vote for Ms. Bondi means more citizen involvement, more listening, and better decisionmaking on the County Board.

        • ArlingtonWay

          Doubtful. Pretty clearly a rubber stamp. MoreArtispheres and trolleys and expensive homeless magnets.

  • TMP

    Pretty much hit the nail on the head Bender. I’d add that “The Arlington Way” includes doing things based on “wants” rather than quantifiable *needs*, practicality, or ability to pay for it (e.g. The Trolley Folly).

  • Allthatglimmersisnotgold

    Could officially “mapping” the various neighborhoods lead to possible real estate problems concerning advertisments of homes for sale? Or even some issues with more racially diverse neighborhoods feeling that they were unfairly marked? What do you guys think?

    • Louise

      All that glimmers,

      I read it differently. I think what Hynes is saying is that she wants to formally group the organizations (non profits, civic associations, etc) in a way that shows what they do and how they operate. Civic associations (i.e. neighborhoods), are already mapped out, aren’t they?

  • DC Dude

    I am sure the foxes and coyotes in the Arlington area are very excited about the new backyard hen project.

    • Templeton

      The rats are very excited about it! Big piles of seeds everywhere, it will be rodent nirvana!

      • drax

        The foxes and coyotes are excited about the rats too.

        • Templeton

          That’s okay, with lots of food the rats can reproduce even faster than the foxes and coyotes can eat them! It will be total rat domination! The rats vote yes on backyard hens!

          • drax

            Not with chickens eating the seed before the rats get them.

          • Templeton

            But chickens are slobs! They throw seed everywhere! Rat party!!!

          • Josh S

            Yeah, chickens will denude your backyard before the rats are even aware of their existence.

            And with various restrictions and a fairly small population of people who would be interested in the first place, I can’t see how there would be any noticeable change in the population of foxes and/or coyotes should backyard chickens be allowed.

      • BillHoo

        The whole DC/Northern Virginia area is know for already having a sizable rat population! – Search “car-eating rats DC”.

        A few hobby hens are not going to encourage an increase in population.

        Leaving out songbird bird-feeders, dog and cat food are more likely to breed a rodent problem.

        Just look at the yard of ANY home promoting feeders for songbirds and you will see scores of squirrels and rats coming to join the feast.

        A backyard hen owner is more likely to take care of their yard and keep it tidy.

        • D

          Hey Bill – are you an expert on backyard hens and rats! Why do you think a backyard hen owner is more likely to take care of their yard? I supposed you’ve researched this issue and done a study.

          Your email is wrong on every account. Backyard chickens do bring rats. Go to raisingbackyardchickens.com and even they admit to the problem. Rat infestations are common. Also, rats tend to next up to 150 feet from their food source which means if you are a neighbor, you will get rats also. I know, I lived throught this in Arlington.

  • Jamie

    I am excited about Tejada’s ‘Urban Ag’ Task Force. I’d like to see Arlington become a leader in community gardens and obesity prevention.

  • jim

    I’d like to discuss illegal aliens with Tejada. But he’s yellow and won’t talk about it. I’ve already tried.

    • Paco Wellington III

      Was does “But he’s yellow” mean?

    • porkchop_milkshake

      What color people like to discuss illegal aliens? Purple?

      What if he will talk about the issue at great length:


      but just doesn’t want to discuss it with **you** because people who use phrases like “he’s yellow” sound unlikely to engage in productive (or civil) discussions?

      • Icecream

        Thanks for the link. I now understand why he won’t discuss illegal aliens with jim. He doesn’t seem too knowledgeable on the subject – or maybe he just wasn’t prepared. Perhaps he’ll do better with exploring new options like demonstration gardens and backyard hens.

    • drax

      Why choose Tejada to discuss it with?

      • Icecream

        Good question. You should ask kojo.

        Maybe it was because kojo and jim were under the impression that as a board member he must know something about… well, anything.

        Why don’t you go on the kojo show and discuss it?

  • JimPB

    From what was reported above about the 2012 agenda, disappointing (to use a kind label).

    What about reducing government intrusion and control, i.e., substantially reducing the number of regulations that are not focused on public health and public safety? In this vein, the governmental concern about chicks would be limited to what intersection there may be with public health.

    What about increasing public safety, i.e., empowering residents on residential streets to choose from a menu of measures those (if any) that 70% of the residents want to have implemented in order to reduce vehicular traffic and vehicular speed and otherwise increase safety for children, pedestrians and bicyclists?

    What about increasing efficiency while reducing costs? This extends to the ARLCo public schools. To begin with: Is the ARLCo implementing strong extent research findings for increasing educational outcomes?

    • Thes

      JimPB, your first and second suggestions seem to be in contradiction with one another: reduce regulations… except the ones my neighbors really like to put on how people travel around.

      I would love to institute evidence-based practices in our education system, but that’s the School Board’s job, not the County Board.

      • Plunkitt of Clarendon Blvd

        “I would love to institute evidence-based practices in our education system, but that’s the School Board’s job, not the County Board.”

        And you say you are not a part of the county government ???

        • Thes

          Why do you keep asking this? I am still not paid by the County government. And what would it matter if I was?

          But where I work, we do have a policy to use evidence-based practices. EBP is a principle that applies well in the fields of public health and medicine and has now started to be applied in criminal justice, as well as other disciplines. It turns out our intuition, including the intuition of “experts” like doctors and engineers turns out to be wrong a lot of the time. For example, the complications from surgery may outweigh the benefits of many c-sections. Or, as another example, it turns out narrower streets lead to fewer deaths from cars than “nice,” wide streets. Also, the heavily-funded DARE program and “scared straight” experiences seem not to affect the rate of drug usage or criminal conduct by kids exposed to them, but pre-K education programs do reduce the risk of crime.

          Education is one such area (do smaller class sizes produce better educated children? turns out not always) in which evidence-based practices show promise. I support their application. JimPB is right on this, except he needs to direct his concerns to the specific elected officials responsible for our county schools.

        • AllenB

          My guess is that more than just county employees know that the school board controls education, not the county board.

    • Clarendude

      I thought Arlington had a lot of people who attend and speak at Board meetings. But, I was home in York County, Virginia which is heavily (all) Republican and watching a Board meeting. It was interesting. The Board had an agenda item to consider re-classifying some parts of the county so that agriculture (hens, roosters, fish farming, and more) could no longer be practiced without a waiver. Apparently some areas had been ‘sub-urbanized’ with cul-de-sac housing and a group of these new people didn’t want to allow this activity. However, about 100 people showed up and all that I saw were berating the Board on even considering this. They said it was “taking away their freedoms” and “liberty” etc etc.

      Kind of the same as here only different.

  • Nothingeverchanges

    I guess with zero murders in 2011, they think there is nothing left that’s more important than backyard hens and gardens. But we keep putting these clowns in office, so we have no one else to blame……
    Does anyone know where the six Dem. candidates stand on the trolley issue?

    • Paco Wellington III

      Does anyone know where the six Dem. candidates stand on anything? A visit to some of the candidate’s websites provides zero information other than each pledges to be nice, inclusive, blah, blah, blah. No wheat, all chaff.

      • When you run unopposed and are continuously voted into office by lemmings then there is no reason to share any viewpoint or listen to anyone else’s input.

        • drax

          Yes, every voter who votes for someone you don’t like is a “lemming.”

          • No. Just every voter who votes for the unopposed status quo and calls that a victory.

          • drax

            So nobody should ever vote for someone who is unopposed? That’s it?

          • Get in a plane drax and go up about 29,999 feet and maybe you’ll see it.

          • Josh S

            I think the point is that for you to dismiss the Arlington electorate as lemmings just because county board members have been re-elected is perhaps a bit offensive.

          • Josh, if so, no offense was intended. Merely an observation. Let’s apply the logic to another fictional town, governed by unopposed Republican leaders. These leaders go about doing this the electorate complains about, such as opening a multi-million dollar gallery of artistic no-smoking signs, funding an overpriced sky tram to be used as a transportation solution and excuse for massive dense development, and refuse to fill in pot holes as a deterrent to drivers. The electorate complains, but is so polarized there isn’t a chance a Democrat would ever run for office in this town; it would be a big waste of time and money. Yeah, I’d call that Republican electorate lemmings too. When you are complaining that the people you put into office aren’t doing the job, but you keep putting them into office out of idealism, you are a lemming.

          • Josh S

            OK. Thanks for the clarification.

            I’d just point out that it’s entirely possible to complain about decisions / actions in any one area while still be satisfied overall. I suspect that is where the majority of Arlingtonians are. (Heck, that probably applies to every politician in the country.)

            Also, the devil you know versus the devil you don’t….

            Also, the lesser of two evils….

            Also, who’s to say that a Republican (or non-Democrat) board member would be any more successful in filling potholes, etc.

          • True, Josh. A Republican may not fill potholes faster. In fact, it could be slower.

            Diversity in government allows for issues to be debated, with opposing viewpoints being presented and hopefully some kind of healthy balance being restored. Arlington is teetering on the edge of ridiculous with some of the decisions being made. That’s not a slant against the Democrats in power. I suspect if the Republicans had the same kind of control the same thing would happen. It is the blind polarization of the electorate and the extremism of the politicians that is the real problem. Both parties, but only one here.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Overgrown Bush wrote:

            “True, Josh. A Republican may not fill potholes faster. In fact, it could be slower.

            Diversity in government allows for issues to be debated, with opposing viewpoints being presented and hopefully some kind of healthy balance being restored. Arlington is teetering on the edge of ridiculous with some of the decisions being made. That’s not a slant against the Democrats in power. I suspect if the Republicans had the same kind of control the same thing would happen. It is the blind polarization of the electorate and the extremism of the politicians that is the real problem. Both parties, but only one here.”

            Bingo! Exactly! Perhaps as I get older my memory may not be what it used to be, but the Board compositions I remember from my childhood, teens and early twenties seemed much more balanced. Of course, even in those days of Vietnam and Watergate (which were pretty polarized), I can’t recall an era in my lifetime where both the politicians and seemingly much of the electorate were as polarized as the past 15-20 years. In any case, I’m a firm believer that when either party gets in position of complete dominance for a long period of time, the power goes to their heads. Keep the revolving door going (up to a point) and have term limits. May keep them more honest.

          • Josh S

            I don’t understand what you mean by “balanced?” Balanced simply in party representation? Why would that matter? Political parties are entirely artificial and have nothing to do with running a local government effectively. Balanced in viewpoint? What does that mean? There are approximately 130,000 viewpoints in Arlington. Which viewpoints are not represented? Are those viewpoints significant within the county population?

        • bemused bystander

          So when are you running for the County Board? Candidates remain unopposed only if nobody steps forward to challenge them.

          • Exactly my point. Thank you.

          • bemused bystander

            My point was that people who complain do have the option of trying to do something to promote change. Even here in the people’s republic, the electorate isn’t totally hypnotized into absolute unthinking allegiance to the incumbents. Why, on this site alone there are at least a couple of dozen advocates for fundamental change.

          • I offered an opinion, not a complaint. But, I take your point. I do cast my votes for the individuals who I believe are going to serve my interests, and the interests of the community, the best. Sometimes they are incumbants, sometimes not. Sometimes they are Democrats, sometimes not. Sometimes they are neither. So, while offering an opinion, I also offer the contribution of a well thought through vote.

  • Kony Thornheiser

    I’m curious if 2011 was a record year for banks robbed.

  • JH

    The Arlington County Board is a total joke. They spend money like they have it and do not care about anyone’s imput except their own.

  • MC

    If I understand the re-defintion of the “Arlington Way”, it seems to be some kind of institutionalization of hearings where only people from unelected nonprofits and associations are encouraged to testify, but ordinary voters and taxpayers who don’t have some special axe to grind are discouraged. I don’t feel I should have to “join” membership in some organization I don’t necessarily agree with in order to voice my views, but the Council is clearly privileging special interest groups over the concerns of individuals. Most Arlingtonians don’t belong to any “group” and shouldn’t be less important than those who want to lobby for special interests. No collectivism please – let voters speak for themselves individually.

    • Suburban Not Urban


    • Clarendon

      If participation in your civic associations were free, I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but many of them require a fee to participate and vote.

    • Arlingtron

      I suppose you will be compelled to join a group that’s against groups.

    • Josh S

      The problem when voters speak for themselves individually is that you don’t know how many people they represent. So Joe/Jane Neighbor shows up and rails against a proposed park or sidewalk or what have you – how is the Board supposed to know if he/she has a point of view that is shared by his/her neighbors or not?

      I’m not arguing against letting individuals speak or write or call the board. Of course they should and they should be treated with respect when doing so. But I think most indivduals would have greater success when banding together and forming a group of like-minded people.

      WHile on the topic, I agree that charging to vote in a neighborhood civic association seems a bit odd. This alone would cause me to call into question any civic association that claims to represent its neighborhood. That, and having seen how three or four particularly opinionated and active members can hi-jack these associations quite easily.

      • Paco Wellington III

        When it comes to citizens associations, the Board should be leery of any claims to represent the neighborhood. It is not even a fair sampling of the neighborhoods.

        My limited involvement with my citizens association reveals that only a handful of regular cranks attend the citizens association meetings. Participants with obvious untreated mental health issues seem to control. The concept of a quorum also appears to be absent, yet when talking to the Board the citizens association states that it represents 1500+ households.

        Recently, I watched the president of my citizens association outright lie to the County Board about the association supporting a change in a speed limit. The issue was not discussed or voted upon by the citizens association. When numerous negative comments arose on the neighborhood listserv, the proponents went silent — at least publicly, but then falsely represented to the Board that they represented the entire neighborhood in supporting the speed limit change.

        Unless the citizens association reveals the vote (example: 20 people in favor, five opposed and provides the minutes), then reliance on citizens associations is misplaced.

        Maybe the pre-radio, pre-TV, and pre-internet,purpose of the citizens associations should render them obsolete.

      • Clarendon

        “How many” should only be one small factor in what an elected official listens to. Whether an idea or an opinion has merit shouldn’t be based on how many people stand behind it. Elections are what answers the ‘how many’ question. Besides, they never do the due diligence to understand what any particular “Civic Association position” represents. Civic Associations have varying degrees of participation and vary in the way the leaders conduct their business (the high-jack problem). And each association varies from year to year in these areas. The County can’t possibly keep up with the situation at each Civic Association claiming to speak for some number (usually at most 50 or so) people.

        It’s OK to do things like allow the Civic Association rep a longer time to speak at Board Mettings because if they are doing their job, the CA position is typically more nuanced and theoretically not monolithic and so may take longer to explain. But the Board should not weight the ideas eminating from a CA more than those from an individual based on where the idea comes from alone.

  • John Andre

    Backyard hens…might increase the risk of bird flu jumping to human-human transmission.

    • Burger

      Pshaw…don’t be silly. Have you seen how many Arlingtonians clean up after their dogs. Bird and their droppings will be easily handled. I see no reason to bring up such obvious issues like flu, disease, predators and the like.

    • drax

      So would all birds. Lets shoot all the birds in Arlington! Cut down all the trees so they don’t come back!

    • BillHoo

      Yea, right! And dog and cat owners are responsible for the huge rise in ecoli infection too!

  • BlueLoom

    Way to sound really, really stupid, Mary. Homelessness? Clogged roadways? Crumbling infrastructure? Nope. Backyard chicken coops and a useless, gerbil-on-the-exercise-wheel process for redefining something (“Arlington Way”) that doesn’t need redefinition.

    • drax

      But people don’t want substance. Look at the comments about her dress, for instance.

    • Josh S

      Well, it is the county government here. They have limited ability to address things like crumbling infrastructure (most of the bridges in the county are owned by the state or the feds) and clogged roadways. (Even if there were clogged roadways….)

      • drax

        Yep, and they just bought a building for a permanent homeless shelter. So, in a county that’s pretty wealthy with low unemployment and has a good government that does what it has the power to do (despite being a in a pathetic state), the fact that we have time to worry about backyard chickens is a sign that we’re doing okay.

        • NotOK

          I’m for allowing people to conduct gardening and animal farming within reason in the County. I think keeping a few laying hens is within reason.

          This has become a topic nation-wide as people feel the need to at least try to be more self-sufficient and free themselves from being reliant on an industrial agriculture system that may operate in ways that people consider unsafe, unhealthy and/or immoral and which (some think) may become unstable or unsustainable due to various factors.

          Not sure worrying about this is fits the definition of ‘doing okay’.

          • drax

            And, of course, hens are already perfectly legal in the county, as long as they are a very large distance from an adjoining property line, which means few lots are large enough. Really, they’re no big deal.

          • Templeton

            Except for those of us who have already had the unpleasant experience of living next door to “backyard hens”. They most definitely do attract rats, much more than I’d ever had to deal with before. They smell, they make noise. They get out of their enclosures and wander around the neighborhood, and then the owners get mad if you complain.

            Seriously, the tiny back yards we have in Arlington don’t really count as “free range”. Farmers markets are a wonderful source of fresh free range eggs if that is what you are after.

          • Thes

            You may be surprised what the official definition of “free range” is.

          • Clarendude

            From your link:

            is a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones with attached edible meat under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue.”


            But at least…

            “Due to FSIS regulations enacted in 2004 to protect consumers against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, mechanically separated beef is considered inedible and is prohibited for use as human food.”


            “However, mechanically separated pork is permitted and must be labeled as “mechanically separated pork” in the ingredients statement. ”

            There’s your “McRib” right there !

          • Ron Paul

            But don’t forget – we should let the market take care of regulating this activity. Government inspectors are a waste of tax dollars.

          • I’m against it for the filth of it all. But, I’d be for it if we can get some of these PETA demonstrators to continually protest:


          • Josh S

            Filth? I imagine your average industrial chicken coop, hog farm, slaughterhouse, etc are far filthier.

  • Sherley

    Did she look in the mirror before leaving the house in that outfit?

  • Frustrated

    Yep – Condemnation – eminent domain all with out public comment.
    Back room politics as usual in Arlington – ever been to the islands
    and listen to the roosters crow at 4:30-5;00am ? We’ll see how long that
    lasts before a lot of chickens are in everyone’s pot !

    • Josh S

      This is a textbook example of fallacious argumentation.

      No one said anything about allowing roosters into Arlington. Only hens.

      Bringing up crowing roosters is entirely irrelevant.

  • Frustrated

    eggs without roosters ?

    • Clarendude

      ^^^ Did someone just write this ^^^


    • drax

      “Frustrated” is the kind of person who would benefit from having chickens in Arlington – to learn that they can lay unfertilized eggs, which are the kind we eat.

  • ArlForester

    I’m just glad Mary has taken to wearing the Dark Overlord outfit instead of just ruling as one. The effect is much more convincing. NO SIGNS FOR YOU!

  • Dwigt

    I am pretty sure that the best way to ruin the Arlington Way is to try to officially define it.

    • ArlingtonWay

      Im pretty sure the Arlington Way is some self congratulatory BS. Probably always was. Im always suspicious of places where people talk about themselves as having a collective personality. Usually a tip off that there are a large number of pretentious d-bags living there. See, for examples, Austin, TX, Ann Arbor, MI, Portland, OR.

      • The Borg

        You *will* be assimilated. Resistance is futile.


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