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.
The County Board swings back into action this Saturday for its first meeting since July. The agenda is full of interesting items.
Last week I discussed the need to move forward on the Virginia Hospital Center expansion plans. The Board will most certainly approve it eventually, so they should avoid the urge to tinker with the plans for another six months (or longer).
The work on providing a new salt dome for winter road treatment is also on the docket. While area residents were not entirely happy with the process, the structure has been found to be unsafe and beyond repair. A change is necessary.
Also on tap is the elimination of the car tax decal. In the words of an iconic ad campaign, “just do it.”
The Board is also considering a plan to regulate dockless bikes and scooters. There is probably little chance a majority of this Board will resist the urge to regulate. So, let’s hope they take a “less is more” approach to the issue. Also on tap is an expansion of the Capital Bikeshare program, which is the government monopoly program in the region. It would be interesting to know if any of the pushback on the dockless program originated from the vendors who operate Bikeshare.
The other county-wide issue on tap is the cost of implementing Medicaid expansion. Initially, Arlington believes it will cost around $250,000 to add six new county staff to handle implementation for 3,000 Arlingtonians projected to join the program. The Commonwealth of Virginia will add $277,000 as well. Not reflected in those costs is a reduction in funding to Community Service Boards which officials in Richmond believe will not need as much funding as Virginians move onto Medicaid. Over the next two years, Arlington will see a cut of $2.2 million in state funds. While many questions remain about the long term impacts of Medicaid expansion, Arlington has little choice but to make these changes.
A final note on how the Board does business. The Board changed its rules for consideration of the “consent agenda.” Those are the items that pass with a single vote of the Board and without further input from the public. The public used to be able to ask for separate consideration of any item, but the new rules place 30 of the 57 consent agenda items off-limits to Arlington residents. The new consent agenda rules mean that no member of the public can ask for the Board to take testimony on Medicaid expansion or on Bikeshare expansion. You can, however, ask that the Board hear separately on the dockless bike and scooter issue or for the car decals. The hospital and salt dome issues are already scheduled for a public hearing.