The Right Note: Ringing in the New Year

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Mark KellyWhile millions of Americans were settling in to watch the Rose Parade on Wednesday, I fired up the computer to stream the 90 minute New Year’s Day meeting of the Arlington County Board. The Board offered a handful of new insights.

We learned that the Board has jettisoned the idea of using any federal dollars for the Columbia Pike trolley project. Outgoing Chairman Walter Tejada even suggested accelerating the process now that federal dollars were no longer in the equation. Each defender of the trolley repeated a core message in their speeches yesterday: we decided to build this boondoggle project over the past decade — to question us, or turn back now, is unacceptable.

Of course, the Board has largely ignored all of the legitimate objections over that time — including the Board’s rejection of trolley opponents’ claims their cost estimates were low. The Board insisted the projections were correct right up until the time the federal government rejected the grant request over cost concerns. The federal government rejected the $250 million cost estimate. Instead, the cost was pegged nearly 25 percent higher, at $310 million.

Outside of their positions on the trolley, little new was offered in the speeches of Walter Tejada or Mary Hynes. Libby Garvey, the lone voice against the trolley project, responded predictably. Chris Zimmerman spoke briefly, saving his farewell speech for a later date.

Most of the time on Wednesday was taken by Jay Fisette in a lengthier than usual speech by an incoming Board Chairman. The speech had a few interesting elements, including an emphasis on economic development. As one who believes strongly we should hang a big “open for business” sign on our door in Arlington, I will watch this initiative with cautious optimism. At the same time, Fisette’s agenda may be far more ambitious than a single year as chairman allows time for.

While reviewing my other notes on Chairman Fisette’s speech, I received an email from civic activist Wayne Kubicki. In his message, Wayne asked if I heard Chairman Fisette’s call for Arlington to move to generate “zero waste” in regards to trash. Then Wayne asked, “does the zero waste concept apply only to trash? Why not the county budget?”

And that is my New Year’s resolution for the County Board — a zero waste county budget.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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