The Right Note: Performance Review

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

The Arlington County Board is in the middle of its traditional August break. As such, it is a good time for a performance review.

What should we expect from local government?

Ultimately, the most important level of government to our daily lives, outside of self-government, is local government. It is where our tax dollars meet the asphalt. It is where our children attend school, our homes are kept safe, our water is dispensed, and our trash is collected. It is where we should be able to most easily and directly petition our elected officials for assistance. And, at least theoretically, it should be the most responsive to our needs with the smallest amount of bureaucracy and red tape.

As part of the review, let’s ask all of our elected officials to do a self-assessment.

Please rate your job performance based on the following four criteria and provide specific examples to explain your rating:

1) Exercising fiscal discipline
2) Responsiveness to community concerns, particularly in light of the pandemic
3) Meeting basic government services responsibilities
4) Actions to increase transparency and accountability

Points will be deducted for the use of buzzwords (as in “equity”) without concrete examples to back it up.

So where are we?

If you recall, one year ago the County Board had just passed a confusing emergency ordinance that would have prevented a family of five from walking down the sidewalk together and the School Board was scrambling to figure out how to implement virtual learning when teachers refused to return to school.

While APS met Governor Northam’s mandate to return to part-time in-person instruction in March, school officials are currently scrambling as enrollment numbers appear to be lower than anticipated again. While officials are hoping for a turnaround, it seems thus far to be a vote of “no confidence” after a lost year of learning. Many parents who could afford to get their kids out did, and they may not be coming back.

Elected officials have reacted to rising crime by relaxing prosecutorial standards, creating a new disciplinary board for police, and removing school resource officers.

The County Board continues to drive up cost of living by raising taxes, spending surpluses rather than returning them to the taxpayer, adding to our debt, building in higher labor costs, and permanently raising construction costs. The board also made it harder and more expensive for many people to park in front of their own houses.

How would you rate your elected officials this year? Now consider rating them again as if they were all independents and had to run on their record, not on their party label.

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