The Right Note: Four Suggestions for the Blue Ribbon Panel

Mark KellyThe 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

The County Board decided to appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission to order future county priorities found in the Comprehensive Plan.

The Comprehensive Plan currently contains 10 elements and receives a comprehensive review every five years. The last five-year review was completed by the County Board in December of 2011. This new panel seems to be timed with a Board review this year.

Arlington has a history of creating a lot of conversation, but not always conversation that produces action. But rather than critiquing the County Board decision to appoint this panel, here are some suggestions to those who are selected.

  1. Be specific. The report from this panel should produce readily identifiable action steps and establish an order of priorities based on meeting community needs.
  1. Talk to critics. Understanding why there is disagreement with County Board decisions or staff actions will better inform your decisions.
  1. Be tough-minded. Do not attempt to reach a consensus that will appeal to everyone. Make hard choices and identify the most pressing priorities. The Board is appointing you, at least in some small part, because they have to play politics. You do not.

Here is a further note on this point. If you agree to serve on this Board as a stepping stone to run for the County Board in the future, please reconsider. The last thing we need is someone wondering how their recommendations will play in a political campaign down the road.

  1. Think outside the box. Do not confine your discussions or recommendations to the Comprehensive Plan as it currently exists. No one needs to read the same report that county staff could have produced on their own. And if the county staff sends you a draft report that does not reflect your discussions, send it back.

The bottom line: if the final set of recommendations does not ruffle more than a few feathers, the panel will probably have failed to do its job.

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