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Peter’s Take: The Five Most Revealing Stories of 2013

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

Peter RousselotThe past year was filled with revealing stories about Arlington and Virginia politics and government. Here are my top five:

5. NSF Leaves Arlington

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced it was moving its headquarters from Arlington to Alexandria. Arlington’s public reaction was troubling. County Manager Barbara Donnellan foolishly questioned whether NSF properly understood its own self-interest. Board member Jay Fisette admitted he underestimated the new competitive environment for commercial office space. Every current and aspiring County Board member needs to understand the significant negative implications for Arlington of the large, long-term glut of commercial office space.

4. McDonnell & Cuccinelli Ethics Scandals

Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli were crippled by scandals involving the CEO of a dietary supplement company. The scandals highlighted the laxity in Virginia’s ethics laws. Closer to home, the Arlington School Board demonstrated strong leadership by tightening its ethics policies. Regrettably, the County Board failed to follow suit.

3. $1 Million Superstop Fiasco broke the story of Arlington’s $1 million Superstop. The story led to national ridicule. It exposed major weaknesses in the ways in which Arlington decides upon and oversees major transportation projects. Arlington promised an independent review of this fiasco, but nine months later no plans regarding reforms have been made public.

2. Extremism of Republican Statewide Ticket

Using a convention process dominated by a handful of party extremists, the Republican Party of Virginia nominated a statewide ticket far outside the mainstream. The views of moderate GOP leaders like former Congressman Tom Davis and former Arlington School Board member David Foster were disregarded. All three Republican statewide candidates lost in November. Democrats now hold all five statewide offices. The jury is out as to whether Republicans have learned the correct lessons.

1. Arlington’s Flawed Budget Priorities

The most revealing story of 2013 is the persistent failure of the Arlington County Board to adopt budget priorities which reflect Arlington’s values. Despite cascades of new information exposing the many fatal flaws in projects like the Columbia Pike streetcar and the Aquatics Center, the County Board seems determined stubbornly to plow ahead with them. At the same time, the Board continues to devote far too small a share of the County’s budget to Arlington Public Schools.


Let’s turn things in a better direction in 2014.

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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