Press Club

The Right Note: New Year’s Rhetoric and Reality

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 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.

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