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The Right Note: Quick Hits

by Mark Kelly May 26, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

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 ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyThe eyes of our nation turn to Arlington National Cemetery each year as we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms on Memorial Day. It is a debt we can never repay, but we can honor it by ensuring their sacrifice was not in vain.

Yes, Board Chair Garvey should have started the push for the Blue Ribbon Panel earlier. However, opponents effectively gutted the Panel when they were successful in delaying it. The Panel was supposed to bring a fresh set of eyes to a report due by December rather than leaving it to county staff. Fearing this independent review, status quo forces in Arlington carried the day — using Garvey’s hotly contested primary as a cudgel to do so. These special interests who lobby the Board are fine with spending tens of millions of dollars in the closeout process each year with virtually no public input. But empanelling a small group of people to provide input on a report due every five years is apparently a bridge too far.

Metro chief Paul Wiedefeld fired 20 managers at the transit agency — about 3% of the at-will employees. The move sends a signal to the public that he is serious about making real changes. The message he sent to all the other Metro employees who are still there — you will be held accountable. Next up for the region, working through the extended shutdowns and single tracking to address safety concerns.

The proposed CIP would put nearly $180 million in bonds before Arlington voters in November. This is before any bonds requested by the School Board, which could total more than $140 million. At first glance, at least some of the items seem to fall into the category of ongoing expenses, not one-time infrastructure needs. Any time you see the word “maintenance,” you should ask yourself, why we do not budget for it on an ongoing basis?

Also in the County Manager’s CIP presentation is a projection that debt service will continue to grow at a rate of 4.2%. However, annual debt service would rise from $109.6 million in FY 2017 to $149.1 million in FY 2022, or nearly 36% in the first five years. The idea that we assume smaller debt service increases in the out years to make the 10 year average look better is a nice accounting gimmick if you want to tax, borrow and spend more now. Not only are those lower out year levels unlikely to hold, but the increased debt-to-revenue ratio maintains an upward pressure on tax rates in the near term in order to maintain our bond rating.

And finally, Governor McAuliffe said he was in “shock” that the FBI was investigating donations to his campaign. McAuliffe’s ties with the donor in question go back at least to the days of GreenTech Automotive. Then Governor Kaine’s administration rejected economic development funds for GreenTech because of concerns it looked like a cash-for-visas scheme.

Mark Kelly is the chairman of the 8th District Republican Committee, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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