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The Right Note: Special Election Coming Into Focus

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 ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyChris Zimmerman’s official resignation on Monday will mark the kickoff of a two-month race to replace him. It appears the field will include five candidates.

Evan Bernick, a Libertarian. Bernick strikes familiar libertarian themes, running against County Board over-spending.

Stephen Holbrook, an Independent who ran a write-in campaign for County Board last fall on the issues of high taxes, too much spending, and a County Board that does not listen.

Alan Howze, winner of the Democrats’ firehouse primary. Howze supports building the trolley and aquatics center.

Janet Murphy of the Independent-Green Party. Murphy has previously run for the Virginia House of Delegates and the U.S. House of Representatives.

John Vihstadt, Independent, and winner of endorsements from the Republicans and Greens. Two years ago that coalition would have been enough to defeat Libby Garvey, who received less than 50 percent of the vote. Garvey is supporting Vihstadt this time around, primarily because he would join her in opposing the trolley.

The boondoggle trolley, as exemplified by the $1 million super stop, may not be stopped by ending one-party rule in this special election. However, electing a Board member opposed to the trolley makes stopping the trolley possible. A vote for Howze would be construed by the Board as a vote to continue the status quo.

The midway point of the campaign will occur at the March 4 Civic Federation debate. Howze, as the only candidate defending the Board’s plans on the big spending projects, should be prepared to defend against incoming fire from the other four candidates on both the pool and the trolley.

The sleeper issue in the race could be the growing community concerns over school enrollment, which is increasing by hundreds each year. While all parents are concerned about projected overcrowding, South Arlington residents are concerned it may be worse south of Route 50, particularly at the elementary school level; see Abingdon, Claremont and Oakridge.

When I met with the Arlington Education Association in early 2012 to discuss their special election endorsement, I asked them to consider ending the revenue sharing agreement. The current plan requires a few numbers to be plugged into what amounts to an excel spreadsheet plus a couple waves of a magic wand by the County Board. I argued that both schools and taxpayers would be better off if they came in and asked for what they needed rather than relying on a formula.

Currently, the Board claims the revenue sharing agreement covers school needs. However, if the County Board was forced to justify spending nearly $80 million on a swimming pool center versus more trailers rolling onto school campuses, they might better prioritize spending decisions.

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

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