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The Right Note: Bipartisan Agreement to Make Government Work Better?

by Mark Kelly September 28, 2017 at 2:15 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.

A few weeks ago, Peter Rousselot revisited the issues surrounding launching or expanding a business in Arlington. If you missed it, you should definitely read the story about the business owner who had to install a front door system three times before getting it approved because two inspectors gave them different interpretations of the code.

The conclusion we can draw from the piece is that for years of promoting itself as a world class community, Arlington is still woefully short of offering world class service to businesses who wish to call Arlington home. This is unless you are a big name company who promises two hundred new jobs, in which case, Arlington will probably pay you to locate your business here.

The Board is also quick to jump into a national debate and put out a statement on immigration policy, but cannot provide the County Manager with a directive to streamline these processes. Board members have talked about the need for change, but no one seems to be held accountable.

This is not a question of tight budgets and resource allocation either. For years, I have opined that tens of millions county closeout funds be given back to taxpayers each year instead of being spent. A one-time exception to use unspent budget funds to fix this issue would certainly be appropriate.

At the October meeting, Board members should direct the County Manager to provide a good faith estimate on the cost to implement an online system that integrates applications, payments, approvals and inspections which can be used throughout the process by applicants as well as county staff. The estimate should include the cost of giving mobile devices to inspectors to access and update the system in real time.

The Board should direct the Manager to set aside an amount equal to the estimate in the closeout spending package he proposes. If the County Manager cannot provide such an estimate before the November meeting, then the Board should set aside any consideration of the closeout spending until the estimate is provided.

If you want a real incentive, include in the directive that the Board will refund 100% of the closeout revenue to taxpayers if the process is not complete before the January meeting. I would not hold my breath that three members of the Board would vote for a refund provision, but it would put in place a real incentive for producing the work in a timely fashion.

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