The Right Note: New Year’s Rhetoric and Reality

by ARLnow.com January 10, 2013 at 1:35 pm 1,760 78 Comments

Editor’s Note: This weekly column is written by Mark Kelly, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.. This is the third of three weekly opinion columns from local thought leaders across the political spectrum that ARLnow.com will be publishing in 2013.

GOP county board candidate Mark KellyAlong with the traditional dose of rhetoric — like a chicken in every backyard and a crusade against plastic water bottles — our County Board produced a predictably steady dose of self-congratulation, and what you might call “indirect” Republican bashing, at its traditional New Year’s Day meeting.

The annual passing of the gavel to the new chairman is followed by speeches from each member to outline their priorities.

Later joined by others, Vice Chairman Fisette bemoaned the fiscal cliff mess and unhealthy leadership in Washington, while specifically exempting President Obama from his critique.

Richmond, controlled by Republicans, did not escape blame. Outgoing Chairman Hynes zeroed in on a call for more transportation funding from the General Assembly.

Chairman Tejada did spend most of his speech laying out the agenda for his one year stint in the center chair. Unfortunately, it included another ill-advised plan to divert future revenue from the general fund to be earmarked for a pet project.

Libby Garvey made a commendable, but lonely stand against the trolley.

But, it was Chris Zimmerman who used his time to extol the virtues of Arlington’s style of governance while demonizing those who take a different view. It is a speech veteran Board watchers have heard before.

Unfortunately, Mr. Zimmerman suffers from two delusions. One is that fiscal conservatives are simply “anti-government.” The second, is that the policies and management of the County Board are responsible for our standard of living and financial stability, rather than our proximity to Washington, DC.

As an original piece of what was to be our nation’s capitol, no community is more heavily benefitted by the presence of the federal government. Most Arlingtonians are employed by the government, lobbying and PR firms, law firms, think tanks, non-profits, trade associations, political organizations or the service industries supporting them. Our fortunes are directly, and indisputably, tied to the never ending stream of dollars flowing into our nation’s capitol from around the U.S.

It is understandable that Mr. Zimmerman would take credit for things he has no control over, it’s what politicians often do. What cannot stand is the notion that all, or even most, fiscal conservatives are anti-government.

In fact, we believe there is an appropriate role for each level of government. The most important of which, outside of self-government, is local government. It is where our tax dollars meet the asphalt. It is where our children attend school, our homes are kept safe, our water is dispensed, and our trash is collected. It is where we can most easily and directly petition our elected officials for assistance. And, at least theoretically, it should be the most responsive to changing community needs with the smallest amount of bureaucracy and red tape.

What Mr. Zimmerman seems to actually have a problem with is the notion that not everyone thought driving up spending at two to three times the level of inflation for a decade was a good idea. He does not understand why many of us might oppose borrowing another $300 million for a trolley when the County already has $1 billion in debt. Or, he is perplexed that we ask why the Board would pay 50% more than the assessed value for a building, before millions in renovation costs, to house a new homeless shelter.

When we question these free-spending, debt-driving government exercises, it does not make us anti-government, it makes us pro-common sense.

  • novasteve


  • Boo-urns

    NStevey must have a rager right now!

    • novasteve


  • ArLater

    So your kick off article was to bash the County board for bashing Republicans who they beat. Sounds like some one is just acting like a sore loser.

    Instead of just bashing the other side like everything in politics/elections these days why dont you lay out new and different ideas. This is an opinion column not an election, give us your ideas not another bashing commerical/rant.

    • Patrick

      Did you not read the second to last paragraph?

    • Dezlboy


      • Dezlboy

        Er, the +1000 is to ArLater comments.

    • tumblebum

      “bash the County board for bashing Republicans who they beat.”

      The Republicans didn’t win a county board seat? Well, now we’ve got some news happening.

  • Douglas Parker

    “The second, is that the policies and management of the County Board are responsible for our standard of living and financial stability, rather than our proximity to Washington, DC.”

    I have to agree with this remark.

    “Vice Chairman Fisette bemoaned the fiscal cliff mess…”

    And yet the board seems to suffer from the same government motto of – spend now, run a deficit and raise taxes to make up the difference.

    How about operate within your means and save your constituents some money???

    Why on earth is that such a foreign concept?

    Full disclosure, I am a moderate.

  • Hank

    So… the entire purpose of his column is “Zimmerman sucks?” Is he going to offer any ideas in future posts?

    • novasteve

      What would be the point hank? He doesn’t have a (D) after his name.

      • drax

        All Democrats are stupid! They don’t think before they vote, they just mindlessly vote for the guy with the D!

        • novasteve

          So tell me why liberal dominated areas like major US cities like Chicago reflexively vote democratic despite the destructions of their cities that has come during democrat rule?

          • drax

            Because they don’t agree with you about their cities being destroyed by Democratic rule?

            If ever there was proof that you are wrapped tightly inside your own insular little mind, this is it.

          • novasteve

            So it’s just a giant coincidence that Detroit and Chicao and Newark, Baltimore, Cleveland, etc are horrible places and has nothing to do with democratic domination for decades? What’s one defintion of insanity?? Trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

          • drax

            No, steve. I completely disagree with you.

            But that just means I’m an idiot, right? So go away and stop talking to me, since you’re soooo much smarter than I am.

          • Hank

            Okay, we can play the game where you name metro areas in dire straits that have a majority of elected Democrats. Then I can point to cities that are left-leaning that are very successful. The fact is most urban areas tend to vote Democrat. Our hill-billy brethren in the “Real America” tend to vote Republican. I’m sure we can find examples of successful Republican communities in the sticks. And I’m sure we can find failing Republican communities in the sticks, as well.

          • Quoth the Raven

            I love how you are unable to describe right-leaning areas without being insulting. I’m sure you’re right – they’re all hillbillies and backwards, probably without running water or any education at all. Snob.

          • Hank

            @Quoth the Raven Yeah, I was taking some liberties with the “hill-billy” label, and yeah, I probably am a bit of a snob when it comes to some parts of the country. I did, however, spend half of my childhood area in a rural area, and it did indeed suck. I am sure there are nice hill-billy parts of the US, though.

        • Patrick

          It is the only possible explanation for the continued electoral success of Zimmerman and Tejada.

          • Josh S

            You forgot the exclamation point.

            Wait, you were kidding, right?

          • drax

            Keep insulting the voters you are trying to convince. That’ll work out.

          • novasteve

            @ drax, democrats constantly insult voters by treating them like braindead idiots, children and using scare tactics, like saying that expecting women to pay $9 a month for birth control is exactly the same as banning it, and a war on women.

          • drax

            When I see a Democrat do that on this forum, I’ll condemn it just as firmly, steve.

  • CW

    Soooo, to summarize the first week of political viewpoint columns:

    Democrat explains how he is not just another D and is going to think outside the box and go after the tough issues.

    Independent engages in flattery with readers, doesn’t really touch on issues.

    Republican, skipping any need for even so much as an introduction, launches into full-scale hateful tirade against the other side.

    Pretty much what I expected!!!

    • BBMS

      I’ll reserve judgement on the content. The entertainment value of seeing everybody get their britches all knotted up is worth it by itself.

      Although I prefer stuff like what Charlie Clark does over at FCNP, this will have to do.

      • CW

        I think the humor in these three, for me, came from the fact that the articles from the D and I were each basically like “Hi, this is who I am, this is my general point of view, this is what I’ll be talking about” – you know, an intro article to what will become a long-running series. Then the article from the R was like “RarrrrrghZimmermanTrolleyNannyStateTaxesANGER!!!”

        • John Fontain

          I didn’t get an ounce “angry tone” from this piece. All in all, it sounded pretty logical and well though out to me.

          • CW

            It was an attack piece, which stood in stark contrast to the introductory-type articles written by the other two. Whether it qualifies as anger or not, sure, is arguable based on how one infers tone from the written word.

          • hmmm

            except for the part where he took on Fissette for complaining about the mess on the hill but exempting Obama. Automatically assinging equal blame between a bunch of tea party radicals willing to shut the govt down to keep their promises to Grover Norquist, and a President who has leaned over so far to compromise he has ended up negotiating with himself, is not logical.

          • drax

            It was the only piece with substance that talked directly about the core issues. It wasn’t angry or aggressive. It “attacked” only because it’s by someone out of power who is critical of those who are in power, which is to be expected.

          • John Fontain

            CW said: “It was an attack piece”

            I’m relectant to believe that a piece that provides criticism should be labeled an “attack piece” just because it criticizes (fairly so, in my opinion).

        • ArLater

          hahaha +1 CW.

          You’d think we would atleast get a Hi?

          • CW

            I would have even accepted a “Hi, you bunch of dirty liberals!”

    • Captain Obvious

      +1, CW.

    • Josh S

      Yeah, ARLNow must be having a cow right about now. All three of the new columns pretty much fell flat. None were well written. None made much sense. All sort of rambled.
      To be fair to the columnists, if the concept wasn’t explained well to them, and if they don’t have much experience in writing opinion columns, then it’s not too surprising that all three failed to say anything terribly interesting or useful.
      But I’m willing to give them another shot. One hopes that future columns will have a point.

      • John Fontain

        Please write your own column and post it over in the forums. I’m anxiously awaiting it.

      • BBMS

        Funny, but I disagree with virtually every way you characterized the new columns.

        Rambled? No sense? Not sure where to even begin. So easy to just hurl stones.

  • drax

    It’s fun to watch a Republican say that the federal government is really important to our community and our economy.

    • Patrick

      Good reading comprehension. He said Arlington has prospored as a result of the largess of the federal government not the overspending policies of our county board. As opposed to our representatives on the county board who assure us it is our great local gov’t that makes this area prosperous. But then again you believe a decrease in anticipated spending growth is equivelent to cutting spending.

      • drax

        Nice try, Patrick.

  • kingbonehead

    It is nation’s capital, not capitol (assuming he does not mean that Arlington was originally part the building.)

  • Robert

    This angry rant is something that you might write to get your frustrations out and fantasize about publishing – but then sense kicks in and you tear it up. It says a lot about the character and class of the author. When are these politicos – on both sides of the aisle – going to figure out that the public is tired of all the name calling and bullying against their opponents? Enough. How about trying a different approach of civil communication, respecting a difference of opinion, finding common ground, participating in constructive dialogue, keeping an open mind, offering fresh ideas, and leaving egos at the door?

    • John Fontain

      Please cite the specific language in this op ed that leads you to conclude it is an “angry rant.” I just don’t see it.

      • drax

        Me neither. It was reasonable.

      • Robert

        First paragraph opens with one big rant and name calling. The tone continues throughout the entire piece.
        Nothing constructive. Nothing.

        • drax

          What names are called?

          Seriously, Robert, I’m a committed Democrat, and I can’t stand how Republicans talk most of the time. But this wasn’t like that.

          • novasteve

            @ Drax

            He was outraged someone who doesn’t shared his views viewed their opinion. Thus that is hateful, name calling etc. He can’t tolerate other opinions, and he belongs to the progressive side. There’s nothing very liberal or progressive about not being able to tolerate people who have different opinions. in fact, it’s bigoted.

          • drax

            Gee, steve, you kind of just summed yourself up.

        • John Fontain

          Thanks for replying without any specifics at all. Nothing constructive. Nothing.

  • Kim Arl Un

    Here’s a problem with the Rs: they act like the Taliban with their “hate” “hate” “hate” messages and hate legislation. Probing women’s vaginas and beating school kids with bibles is not conservative, not family values, not limited government, and not promoting freedom. Good grief, the Rs do not even want to promote more citizen participation by encouraging more voting.
    Pretending to be a country club fiscal conservative while trying to legislate like the Taliban leaves many people with no choice but to reject Rs.

    • novasteve

      Did you hear the footage of Eric holder in 1995 proudly admitting that he wants to brainwash the public into being anti gun? He said that gun owners should be cowering outside like smokers. He wants to shame people for exercising their constitutional rights.. You think this is good?

      • Kim Arl Un

        You are unable to understand, but it’s probably because of your lack of education or inferior education. BTW, your rant is off-topic but is typical of the Rs trying to distract.

        • Patrick

          Unable to provide a legitimate response Kim resorts to ad hominen attacks. What a great debate technique.

          • Kim Arl Un

            rant is off-topic, no response is necessary.

            And, yes, we all know that “Patrick” is Nova.

      • Dezlboy

        Novasteve, sounds incredibly interesting. Please post the link to the video.

  • G Clifford Prout


    (What would Jim Hunter do?)

  • Alex

    As the current board lives in the delusional world of never ending Federal spending supporting the local economy, it is refreshing to see another opinion on local governance. Just wish we could get some more representation from non-status quo bureaucrats around here. Otherwise I fear pet projects will trump sound budgets, if they haven’t already.

    • novasteve

      Opinions like yours have no place in a progressive place like Arlington!

    • ArLater

      No one is against him because he is not following the status quo. Actually, I like to see what the opinions and ideas are of those that do not follow the status quo. The problem is here is about 90%+ plus of his article is him just bashing the other side. How bad their ideas are and how they operate. Just pure attacking politics. Your first article and you are already jumping into the political attacks as if this was election season. Just quit it and give us your ideas to make Arlington better.

      • Patrick

        Just a guess but it appears he is against the increased spending (especially debt financed) on questionable projects.

  • Hellohello

    .” The second, is that the policies and management of the County Board are responsible for our standard of living and financial stability, rather than our proximity to Washington, DC.”

    PG county waves hello!!

    its quite silly to think that arlington would have done as well without transit, densification, etc.

  • hmmm

    “What cannot stand is the notion that all, or even most, fiscal conservatives are anti-government.”

    except they are constantly saying they are the party of small govt, and demonizing govt.

    Conservatives that is. Fiscal conservatives? There arent many in the GOP. If fiscal conservative means someone concerned about debts, rather than someone who simply wants to minimize taxes.

  • bemused bystander

    Are these three really “local thought leaders”? How about reaching out farther and inviting some pieces that don’t read like campaign handouts? Arlington does have experts in just about everything living and/or working here. Cmon, Arlnow — make a few calls and get some provocative commentaries about real issues.

  • Clifton

    Arlnow, if you’re looking for a column full of bitter tirades against Chris Zimmerman, just bring in Jim Hurysz and be done with it. At least he’s humorously creative about it unlike Mark. Maybe Peter will surprise me when his inevitable anti-trolley manifestos pop out.

  • Confused

    I’m kind of confused. I see three new columnists that share the same point of views: anti-street car, anti-County Board, basically anti-Arlington. Couldn’t you find a writer who is not part of the government but who feels that Arlington is well-run and is happy to live here to provide a counterpoint?

    • LEBELE


      • Jim Webster

        Amen. Amen.

  • Jim

    Anti-street car, anti-County Board and anti-Arlington. My kind of guy.

  • Buddy

    I consider myself an Independent voter..and try to keep up with
    all these issues, and watch the spending by the board.
    I think the board wants all the bells & whistles to make Arlington County stand out
    like the riches place on earth, with hundreds of millions being spent on the new aquatic center and the proposed new rail line, when & at a time we could accomplish the same
    good results and spend much less. (dedicated bus line instead of rail).
    As a home owner who pays a huge amount of property tax, already, I am not ready to pay even more just so the board can “go nuts” with the goodies.
    They is one overriding thing this county now needs:
    Better balance on the county board…..
    Liz can’t carry that ball all by herself, try as she will.

    • Jim Webster

      Buddy, check out what your “huge amount of property tax” would be if your house were located in Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince Georges, DC, Alexandria, etc. It would show the bargain we are getting, largely because of foresight by a long tradition of Democrats on the County Board going back at least 40 years.

      • drax

        Actually, DC property taxes are lower than ours. But their income tax is much higher than Virginia’s.

  • MC

    I’m to believe conservatives aren’t anti-goverment? Isn’t this what Remy acts out on his videos? Isn’t this the purpose of the Claredon Institute? Isn’t this the reason for the Mercatus Center at GMU? Or the Koch lobby in Courthouse?

  • Greg

    I am in 100% agreement. I’ll preempt the “Republicans are idiots” remarks by letting you know that I voted for Obama as well as Moran. We continue to spend like drunken sailors, believing that property assessments and tax rates will continue to rise, despite the prospect of significant cuts to federal spending. Streetcar? Sure! Big-ass pool? Sounds great! Oh, but we just realized we don’t have enough money for school busses.

    Arlington County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the entire United States, with real estate prices at or above the all-time high, yet we are facing a budget shortfall next year. It will not always be this good.

  • KidRobot

    The first sentence told me exactly what kind of person Mr. Kelly is. I think reducing plastic waste is commendable and keeping hens is perfectly fine, but sadly that disqualifies me from being addressed in a respectful manner. The fact he opens a dose of traditional rhetoric deriding such traditional doses of rhetoric would be entertaining if it weren’t so pathetic.

  • Skeptical

    (1) I usually vote for Democrats but I can’t express enough contempt for this streetcar idea. (2) From everything I’ve seen of Mark Kelly, his currency involves hating on anything that anyone on the Democratic side of the fence does, hence I am not looking to him for thoughtful departures from the County Board’s agenda — merely knee jerks. (3) Jay Fisette has been in office for over a decade; like him or hate him, can’t people at least learn to spell his name? There’s only ever been one S in it. If you can’t pay attention to endlessly reinforced details like that, why should anyone take your opinion seriously?

  • LPS4DL

    I’m glad there will be a Republican voice in this new series of columns, but you’re not the right guy for this, Mark. Your party is in deep trouble, and in deep denial. You represent everything that is wrong or outdated. Your column today reflects the worst of your party in that you offered nothing but complaints and snarky comments about your opposition. If the Republican party is going to survive, and I think it is important that we have at least 2 viable parties for the future, then the Republican party will have to remake itself. Here comes the painful part, Mark. The Republican Party used to be the good party and the Democratic Party used to be the bad party. That all changed, slowly and continually, since the last great Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt left office. The Republican Party used to be the party of small government but it has shifted closer to the party for no government. Your party is infested with Libertarians, who are one step removed from Anarchists. You also have fiscal reactionaries, they call themselves fiscal conservatives but they’re not. They are anti-tax and anti anything that increases taxes. They are against deficits only when it’s for programs they they don’t like. They have no problem running deficits for defense and immoral wars. Republicans also have all of the racist Southerners who used to be racist Democrats. And don’t forget the social reactionaries, who think they are social conservatives. These people want to bring us back to fundamentalism, forcing their religion on the rest of us. You also have the Confederate Sympathizers, notably in Richmond. These people are beyond redemption. They are dinosaurs who thankfully are dying off. Finally, you have the gun nuts. Guns don’t kill people, gun nuts do. Your challenge is to rid your party of all of these bad influences and once again become the party of Lincoln. If you decide to continue with your column here, then please change your tactics and start promoting your good ideas that will make the county a better place for all of us. And do your best to make the Republican party trustworthy again.


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