Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Last week brought the welcome news that the Arlington School Board has put out for comment a new draft policy to set stricter limits on the circumstances under which School Board employees and elected School Board members may accept gifts. Congratulations to the School Board for taking the lead in this area.
It’s time for the Arlington County Board to do the same.
The current Arlington County Ethics Policy is much too vague and weak. On the subject of gifts, for example, the current Arlington County policy urges its employees to “ensure that no favors, gifts, gratuities or benefits are received for actions taken.” This provision simply urges county employees not to violate current Virginia criminal law. Arlington County can do much better than this.
As months of scandalous disclosures about Star Scientific, Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli have demonstrated, current Virginia criminal law has become a national laughingstock because of what it allows rather than what it forbids. Should Arlington County be satisfied simply by telling its employees: “don’t be criminals?” No.
Nor should the County Board wait around to find out what the Virginia legislature might do next year in this area. Like the School Board, the County Board should start to work now because defining higher ethical standards correctly will take some time.
Fortunately, the County Board does not have to reinvent the wheel. There are models available to use as a starting point. For example, the office of the New York State Comptroller has created a model code of ethics for municipalities.
Even though the New York model code was created for local governments in that state, almost all of the issues it addresses are generic issues that should be addressed by a county in Virginia as well. Examples of such issues include:
- Gifts (Section 17)
- Recusal (Section 6)
- Investments (Section 8)
- Board of Ethics (Section 18)
As I wrote in an earlier column about Gov. McDonnell: just because something might not be illegal, doesn’t make it ethical.
Arlington County can and should set higher ethical standards for its employees and elected County Board members than those set by Virginia’s criminal laws.
It’s time to get started.
Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
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A march against drugs drew a large crowd of parents and community members to Wakefield High School, where a student died this week.
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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village