The Right Note: The Last One

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

As the readers of ARLnow know, this is the final week for regular opinion columns. First, let me say thank you to Scott Brodbeck for asking me to do this nine years ago.

Drafting the last one is a bitter-sweet moment for me. Along with Peter Rousselot, I have been writing faithfully since January of 2013 when his first column was published just hours before mine.

By my rough count, I have written 374 columns, and they averaged around 400 words each. So, I have typed enough words to fill a 500 page book. I have written on vacation, in the middle of the night, and occasionally an hour before one was due.

While I will not miss writing the columns on the weeks I have trouble locating time in the schedule or finding a topic I really want to talk about, I will miss running into random people across the county who tell me they read what I write. Some thank me. Some tell me they agree sometimes and disagree other times. To those who had nothing for me but a glare, thanks for letting me know I struck a nerve. And thanks for reading, even if it was just to see what “stupid” thing I would say next.

For the record, I never got paid a dime for any of it. I did it to insert a more conservative point of view in the public dialogue in a county where Democrats reign the political world. This became even more important as Republicans stopped regularly fielding candidates for the County Board. I tried to run myself twice, coming close once – close for a Republican in Arlington anyway.

Republican Mark Kelly speaks at the Civic Federation County Board candidates debate in 2010 (staff photo)

I generally didn’t read many of the comments, though I checked in from time to time. Once there was a less than favorable haiku left in the comments after I discussed Arlington’s decision to hire a county poet. I responded with one of my own in the next column:

Trolley has been nixed.
Taxpayers are rejoicing
gondolas are next.

Thinking of back to the comments section and the trolley leads me to one of the best moments of writing this column – getting the email that the Columbia Pike streetcar project was being cancelled in the wake of John Vihstadt’s election to a full term. Having written a lot about that project, one week some of the commenters expressed a great deal disgust at the frequency of my criticism along with the fact I called the project a “trolley” at all. The next week as I wrote a column on another subject, I used the first letter of each paragraph to spell T-R-O-L-L-E-Y. I am sure no one noticed, but I knew it was there. I also once paid tribute to my dad on his birthday with a similar first letter of the paragraph approach.

One of my biggest disappointments is that the budget process, including the closeout spending, and all of the “woe is me,” fake “budget shortfall,” “we had to make tough decisions” rhetoric has remained unchanged. Sadly, a majority of Arlingtonians do not find the spending habits of their elected officials objectionable enough to vote in a majority of Independents or Republicans or even Democrats who would do things differently.

I also regret not digging in more on the Arlington Public Schools budget and issues. We are spending what a really good college tuition costs every year for every child. The big question we should be asking is what are we getting in return? Scratching the surface over the years, there is probably a lot more I should have shined a light on.

The column I never wrote was about my experiences going through the building permit process in Arlington. It included one moment where we were going to be required to plant a dozen trees in exchange for the three we were removing. Needless to say, the process was enlightening.

To the County Board – airplanes and helicopters will keep making noise, people will continue to drive cars to work, housing prices will continue to rise, and Republicans will still have something to say about the future of Virginia. Oh, and now I may start coming to the monthly meetings to raise some of the concerns I used to put in my columns.

With all that said, if you see me out and about around Arlington, feel free to say hello – even if it’s to say, “I’m glad I don’t have to read your column on ARLnow anymore.” At least I’ll know I struck a nerve.

ARLnow columnists Peter Rousselot, Larry Roberts, and Mark Kelly speak at an event in 2016 (staff photo)

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