For much of the past decade, many community activists along with some political candidates have called for the County Board and School Board to streamline operations and avoid duplication of services. This month, the two Boards held a joint work session and produced a draft charter for a Joint Facilities Advisory Commission.
The new Commission would be made up of no more than 20 members, appointed to two year terms, who would not serve for more than six consecutive years. The members will be charged with long range planning of facility needs.
The draft charge also reads that the Commission should be a “forum where fresh and creative ideas can be discussed freely,” a directive that should be taken to heart. There should be no room for Commission members who are afraid to challenge the status quo or conventional wisdom.
While this is only a draft charge, it is unlikely to see major substantive changes. Here are some recommendations of changes to make before it is finalized:
- The Boards should appoint fewer than 20 members (12 may be ideal). In my experience serving on committees, smaller ones are generally more effective, particularly if the members are appointed for their substantive knowledge, not political considerations.
- The Boards should agree to charge the Commission with specific projects to consider each year. The current charge contains projects to be evaluated in 2017 (a list that may actually be a little long to cover adequately in just four meetings). Setting specific projects to be considered with a specific deadline for recommendations will keep the Commission focused.
- The Commission should be charged with quantifying savings to the overall county budget gained by consolidating a project. This is one of the main reasons people called for this process — to save taxpayers money (and maybe even return it to the taxpayers through lower property taxes). The budget analysis should also include any impacts joint use would have on the current revenue sharing principles.
While fiscal conservatives may hold out little hope our taxes will go down as a result of this process, we still value government that spends our money wisely. So, kudos to the Boards for bringing the idea one step closer to reality.
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.