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The Right Note: Tone Deaf Decisions

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

Mark KellyIn completely unsurprising news, Board Members Fisette, Tejada and Hynes have rejected calls for a referendum on the Columbia Pike trolley. What does that mean?

They would almost certainly lose the vote. Outside of a Presidential election turnout year, there is virtually no way the Board could win this vote — even if they could still get the endorsement on the Democrat’s sample ballot. The three trolley supporters may not care what the public thinks, but someone over in the County Manager’s office has certainly figured it out.

It makes you wonder whether Tejada or Hynes plan to run for re-election next year. Maybe they are taking advice and counsel on this project inside of their own political bubble, but their unwavering support of the project seems to leave them vulnerable in 2015.

Thus ends Alan Howze’s political stunt of calling for a referendum. Howze supports the trolley, and his wish to take it off the table by punting it to a public vote has been denied by the three Board members who endorsed him in the special election.

Chairman Fisette pledged not to use homeowner-financed general obligation bonds. That is an empty promise since the Board would have to take a request for those bonds to the voters. It has always been the Board’s plan to use other funding mechanisms. Federal dollars, the commercial property tax surcharge, tax increment financing, or public-private partnerships have been the options on the table since the start, almost certainly in no small part to avoid a public vote.

Walter Tejada said there are “other ways to address public concerns” on the trolley. This also rings hollow from someone who has repeatedly made clear statements that the Board has already taken into account all the public input it needs on the trolley before moving the project forward.

The trolley trio has no intention of turning back now. Chalk this announcement up to another tone deaf move that only further hardens the opposition.

In other news, the Arlington Police Department announced they would enforce the Virginia DMV’s decision to outlaw Uber and Lyft. From a law enforcement perspective, APD really had no choice here. But, this does open up some questions.

Where do our County Board members stand on the ban? And, where does Alan Howze stand?

Who ultimately made the decision in Richmond to prohibit Uber and Lyft from operating in Virginia? What is Arlington’s General Assembly delegation doing to rectify the issue with Governor McAuliffe?

Legislators could ask for emails from the DMV and Governor’s office to investigate the decision-making process, but it would be a shame to see any hard drives get the Lois Lerner/IRS treatment.

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

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