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The Right Note: Progress Report for the Chairman

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

Reading through the remarks of Chairman Christian Dorsey from last week’s “State of the County” address to the Arlington Chamber, I was not surprised to find that the Chairman pronounced our status as “excellent.” But what is his report card so far?

Once again, the Chairman predictably talked about our bond rating and the customer satisfaction survey. He also talked about a desire for county officials to collaborate with the community. He took credit for ongoing improvements in public safety, economic incentive deals, and the county’s yet to be launched efforts to streamline the permitting processes. For keeping the trains running on time, Dorsey gets a C. This grade would have been a B if the Board had not claimed financial hardship before passing a 6.2% spending increase and a potentially massive pay raise.

Nothing new has really been accomplished when it comes to affordable housing, despite promises to the contrary. This is not unique to Chairman Dorsey. Every Board member talks about the rising costs of living in the county. In a 2018 speech, Dorsey himself previewed support for increasing housing density and reducing the size of single family houses that could be built on lots in order to combat market forces. However, little ever seems to change except for raising our property taxes, making it more expensive to live here. Grade: F.

Keeping an eye on Amazon. The county approved the package to finalize the deal and can claim a small victory as the online retailer agreed to send $3 million back to the county’s “efforts” on affordable housing. A lot is still to be determined here. Grade: C+.

Equity remains a high priority buzzword for Chairman Dorsey. No one really knows for sure what new policies he is seeking to implement or goals he is seeking to achieve, though he did discuss child care and public health.

Last year, Dorsey suggested Arlington should create a consumer protection bureau to make sure everyone is treated fairly. He also suggested it might mean an examination of county housing policies to ensure diversity is being achieved. Maybe we will need to wait till Dorsey’s wrap-up speech at the end of the year to find out what equity outcomes he accomplished? Grade: Incomplete.

Last but not least, Dorsey also gets an Incomplete for glossing over the subject of our schools in his speech. Despite the fact that the County Board cited the schools budget as a primary reason for increasing our property tax rate this year, Dorsey did not address it in his speech, except for brief mentions while discussing equity and diversity.

You can assign your own grades to Dorsey’s chairmanship so far. And remember, he still has six months to pull them up.

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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