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The Right Note: When One Era Ends

by Mark Kelly February 23, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

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 ARLnow.com.

This week, 20-year County Board veteran Jay Fisette announced he would not seek re-election.

Just a little more than five years ago, the Board was made up of Fisette, Chris Zimmerman, Walter Tejada, Mary Hynes and Barbara Favola. Between School Board and County Board service, they had each been elected multiple times over. After November it is likely that four of the five members of the Board will be in their first full term serving the County in any elected capacity. And this new perspective is certainly a good thing.

While Fisette had kept his intentions under wraps, signs were pointing toward this decision. Fisette helped engineer a closed nominating process for Democrats that would ensure maximum power for the party regulars in choosing a nominee to succeed him. Fisette also took the lead to stop spending on the gondola project — taking away an issue from a Republican or Independent challenger.

As someone who has run for local office and who has worked for elected officials, I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone who is willing to run for and serve in these positions. It is hard work, requires personal sacrifice and often results in intense criticism from those who disagree with you.

However, an Independent or Republican should not shy away from making a run at this open seat just because it’s hard. I can tell you that when you knock on all but the most partisan doors in Arlington, you will be greeted by people who are willing to listen. You will not be dismissed out of hand because you are not a card carrying Democrat. The people of Arlington are concerned about the direction of their community and are willing to listen to someone who shares that concern.

If you want to run, you should be prepared to make a case for how the County should approach housing, transportation, and working with the School Board on education issues. But here are two areas you could focus on to usher in a new era where we put an end to business as usual:

Spend time making Arlington a more business friendly community for everyone, not just looking for opportunities to provide taxpayer funded giveaways to new businesses that move here. That includes improving permitting, zoning and other processes that even partisan Democrats have complained about. And it means embracing the idea of doing away with the time sucking tangible personal property tax on businesses as well as the regressive business privilege tax — the name alone is troublesome let alone the gross receipts method of calculating it.

Reform the budget process which is built to add spending and increase the tax burden each year as well as create a year-end slush fund known as the closeout process. The budget should also focus more on core services and stop borrowing money for items that should be budgeted for each year. It should require increased transparency when it comes to spending — in particular, we should know more about how contracting decisions are made.

And a bonus item that might lead into any discussion of ending business as usual, is reinstating the ability of individuals to require public comment and debate on County Board agenda items. This would reestablish a longstanding check on their actions.

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