The Right Note: Be Careful What You Ask For

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

For years, Democrat politicians across Virginia campaigned on creating a redistricting commission. Arlington Delegate Rip Sullivan and former Governor Terry McAuliffe were leaders in the effort.

It always seemed like an interesting political maneuver from a party that, while in control of the Virginia Senate 10 years ago, drew a map that divided Arlington into three separate senate districts despite Arlington’s population being roughly equivalent to a single district. Alas, they wanted to use Arlington’s heavily Democrat population to impact three districts, not just one.

Democrats persisted in the redistricting reform push anyway and ultimately reached a deal with the Republicans to put a constitutional amendment to Virginia voters.

At the same time, Democrats won control of the House of Delegates, Senate and Governorship. Under the old system, they could now have total control of the map-drawing process. So what did the state Democrats do? They rejected the redistricting reform they had campaigned in favor of for years and officially opposed the commission when it went to the ballot last year.

Ultimately, only the loyal sample ballot following Arlington Democrats produced more votes against it than for it. Every other jurisdiction passed it. So, Democrats quickly passed statutory limitations on the commission in an attempt to shape the outcome.

As the commission approaches its deadline for House and Senate maps, many prognosticators believe that the commissioners will not be able to produce maps for approval by the General Assembly. If they fail, the decision will be left to the Virginia Supreme Court. The only upside of that outcome is that it would be extremely difficult for Virginia Democrats to challenge the constitutionality of the Supreme Court-drawn maps mid-decade like they did to gain seats a few years ago.

From the some issues never go away category, last week the Sun Gazette reminded us once again that some Arlington residents do not believe the County Board is doing enough to eliminate aircraft noise. Whether it is jets flying into Reagan National Airport or helicopters to the Pentagon, the issue comes up at fairly regular intervals.

This is because airplanes and helicopters have always made, and most likely will continue to make, noise. The FAA is well aware of it and spends a lot of time and money to study and address it. So too has Arlington County.

For residents who continue to complain about it, please keep in mind that Reagan National opened 80 years ago, just before the Pentagon 78 years ago. Meaning, there is a good chance the offending locations were in existence and receiving aircraft long before you bought your house. In other words, you knew or should have known about the offending noise when you decided to purchase your home.

The good news is that the continued existence of the Pentagon and Reagan National are big economic boosters for Arlington. So, every time you hear a helicopter or airplane just remember your house is worth more money than if it were located 30 miles away.

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