Press Club

The Right Note: You Get What You Vote For

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

Tolls are reported to have reached as high as $40 on I-66 this week. A Republican bill to block those tolls failed last year after Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) expressed his strong opposition. The Governor dismissed concerns the tolls would ever reach close to $20.

Maybe you are happy with the Governor’s decision because people who drive through Arlington to get to DC should be taken to the cleaners by the tolls. Maybe you have had to pay one yourself.

One thing is for sure – elections have consequences.

In Arlington, Democrats have completely dominated county government for the past three decades. A Republican or Independent has been elected, but never more than one at a time.

Every action taken by the Arlington County government is 100 percent owned by the Democratic Party here in Arlington. Sure, they occasionally try to blame Richmond or Washington, particularly when they can preface those statements with the words “Republicans in.”

And once in a while Richmond does take a direct swipe at Arlington, see the hotel tax or the recent towing ordinance (which Democratic state Sen. Barbara Favola helped overturn along with Governor McAuliffe).  But those are the exceptions, not the rule.

At no time did we ever see that elections had consequences here in Arlington more than 2014. After John Vihstadt won the special election early in the year, largely on the issue that the Columbia Pike Streetcar represented a big county boondoggle, Democrats claimed it was a low turnout fluke. The County Board continued to march forward with the plan. Within days of Vihstadt winning handily again in November, the County Board canceled the controversial project.

Voters should understand that the Board did not do a 180 degree turn on the project. Both Jay Fisette and Mary Hynes still wanted it to go forward. However, they recognized political realities. If they insisted on moving forward, they could lose additional seats on the Board.

Outside of the aquatics center, the issues before the Board now do not rise to the same level of “shiny object” as the streetcar. However, over the long term, they matter just as much.

How will we manage school enrollment? What will we do with metro? Will we continue to favor anti-car transportation policies which create more congestion on our streets? How will we invest in infrastructure? Will our budget process be transparent and will the Board continue to favor a budgeting process that requires annual tax increases? How will the county improve its permitting processes?

No level of government impacts your everyday life more than your local government. It was encouraging to see the voters be willing to set partisanship aside in 2014 and put an independent voice on the Arlington County Board. The need for that voice has not gone away just because the streetcar is in the rear view mirror.

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