As ARLnow recaps its most clicked on stories for the year, I wanted to share three stories I found interesting from a local, state and regional perspective.
The Blue Ribbon Panel never gets off the ground.
While this panel may have had limited impact on Arlington governance, the incident shows what can happen if the right inner circle of people engages on an issue.
Libby Garvey has a record of being out in front on reform-minded efforts. She helped shine a light on the fiscal impacts of the now-shelved streetcar and still-possible aquatics center. She supported an independent audit function and worked to shine more light on the closeout process.
The concept for this Garvey Blue Ribbon Panel initiative was simple: on a short term basis, empanel a small group of Arlingtonians who possessed a level of expertise, to bring a fresh perspective to the county’s comprehensive plan.
My concerns were that even if the panel were truly independent and actually made a set of common-sense recommendations on county spending priorities, that those recommendations would be largely ignored.
However, there was a group of well-connected Democrats in the county that did not want to take a risk of any independent recommendations seeing the light of day. And as the June Democratic primary approached, they successfully lobbied the Board to stop it and leave us with the status quo.
Governor McAuliffe used unprecedented, sweeping executive authority to grant voting rights to around 200,000 felons.
The Virginia Supreme Court struck down the order. In fact, the court took the unusual step of granting an expedited hearing to tell the Governor what prior legal counsel, both Republican and Democrat, had already found: he does not possess that sweeping authority under Virginia law.
Here at ARLnow, one columnist suggested that to oppose the Governor’s action was tantamount to an assault on voting rights themselves. Many were willing to toss aside the protection of every voter’s rights as well as adherence to the rule of law in order to achieve a desired result.
But our system of government relies on checks and balances to ensure one branch does not run roughshod over the people. With a new president moving into the White House, it is likely many Democrats will now renew their belief in this concept.
We all should.
Metro entered full blown crisis mode.
As public scrutiny of accidents intensified, Metro took drastic action to address safety concerns with the announcement it would shut down sections at a time for repairs. And the General Manager even took the unusual step of firing employees.
At the same time the Chairman of the WMATA Board remained adamant that a massive infusion of money could solve the problems. But the pleas for $1 billion are meeting a high level of skepticism from government officials who look at the system’s track record.
So the question remains: will Metro to continue operating as we know it?
Or maybe it’s time for the system effectively declare bankruptcy and start over.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.