Arlington, VA

The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

In the race for County Board, Libby Garvey, who courageously bucked her party and backed Independent John Vihstadt, is on the ballot this year.

Let’s face it. She is going to win. Her opponent is perennial candidate Audrey Clement, and Democrat turnout will be through the roof. Democrat loyalists will vote largely according to their sample ballot — hypocrisy on the redistricting amendment aside.

If you haven’t voted yet, consider writing someone else in for County Board.

Why cast what amounts to a protest vote? First, while Libby Garvey had often taken a cautious approach on gold plated community projects, the impact seems to have waned since John Vihstadt’s departure. Recently, she cast the lone vote to continue the rushed, poorly conceived, and eventually unenforceable sidewalk gathering ordinance that all four of her colleagues rightly chose to jettison. The Board, under her leadership, still took an August break rather than working through the challenges raised by COVID-19. The budget process is more uncertain than ever, yet the Board is backing even more debt.

So, if you want to send a signal to the County Board that we are watching how they run the county during these uncertain times, register 30% of the vote for someone other than Libby Garvey.

There are even bigger issues at play as we move into 2020 election and beyond. In the Progressive Voice column yesterday, there were a number of suggestions of what Republicans are for versus Democrats.

A philosophical point was made, and one that we hear a lot, that Republicans allegedly want to create an environment where people disdain government. Democrats on the other hand, according to the article, want a bigger, stronger government.

There is no doubt that as a party Democrats favor bigger government.

What most Republicans want is efficient and well-run government, appropriate and limited to its role at different levels. There are things local governments should do, state governments should do and the federal government should do. And we prefer that all levels of government empower the people as much as possible.

What Republicans also recognize is that our Founding Fathers had a healthy skepticism of a big centralized government that was far away from the people. That is why they set up a constitutional republic where power was not centralized in a federal government.

In Arlington, the federal government doesn’t feel far away because we live right next door. We know people who work for the federal government. They are our friends and neighbors.

While we reside inside the Capital Beltway, you can rest assured that many people in Florida and Michigan and California do not feel the same personal connection to the federal government. To many, it feels very far away, and its decisions often feel arbitrary. Distrust grows on its own when politicians repeatedly over-promise and under-deliver or when bureaucracy is difficult to navigate.

The Progressive Voice column also suggests, among other things, that a change in Administration in Washington would benefit kitchen table issues. As you can imagine, many of us on the other side would disagree with this and many, many other assertions contained therein.

Let’s be honest though, until we get past November 3rd, it is unlikely we can have a serious public policy discussion without it devolving immediately into partisan divides. Once we have a winner, let’s talk about what economic policies benefit the most people, how education can be reformed, how to lower health care costs and increase health care options, and how best to address criminal justice reforms.

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

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