Arlington, VA

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.

When faced with the need to find budget savings, budget writers have been known to cut one of the most popular budget line items in hopes of avoiding the cuts altogether. It is known as the “Washington Monument Strategy.”

If the National Park Service needed to make a cut, they could simply propose closing the Washington Monument to visitors. News crews would catch disappointed tourists on the National Mall and ask them how they feel about the site being closed, creating a public relations nightmare. Capitol Hill offices would be flooded with phone calls. To stem the tide, funding would be restored.

Our friends at the Progressive Voice opined this week against the proposed cut to the Equity and Excellence position at Wakefield High School. There is a good chance that the Superintendent’s staff was fairly certain when proposing such a cut that it will not be in the final budget.

Proposing cuts like this one is designed to help create a public outcry against cuts. The public is led to believe that all the fat has been cut in the budget, so we must either go to the bone or raise taxes to pay for it. It is also why we constantly hear the terms “tight budget times” and “shortfalls” and “difficult choices” despite rising revenues. The goal is that taxpayers will accept paying more in taxes to “save” critical needs.

The County Manager did the same thing in his budget. The County Board budget hearing went on for nearly three and a half hours last week as citizens called for restoring cuts. And, the resignation to pay more was in full effect as the tax rate hearing drew only a handful of Arlingtonians to speak against the full rate increase.

John Vihstadt did make an appearance at the tax rate hearing to speak against going above the County Manager’s recommendation. Vihstadt encouraged Board Members to roll up their sleeves and go back to work to find a way to keep the tax rate from rising further. Vihstadt’s message: rising equity in your home doesn’t pay the bills. In other words, if your household income isn’t rising by 6% in 2019, your family budget will be worse off if the County Board adopts the advertised tax rate.

In many places, raising taxes year after year would result in office holders being swept out of office. But in Arlington, the Washington Monument Strategy works and party loyalty prevails.

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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