Arlington, VA

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 ARLnow.com.

On November 3rd, Virginians will have the opportunity to vote for a constitutional amendment requiring an independent redistricting commission.

After years of campaigning for it  and eventually passing it through the General Assembly on a bipartisan basis, Democrats across Virginia have reversed course. They are tripping all over themselves looking for an excuse to vote against it. Arlington Democrats rejected the yearslong efforts of Delegate Rip Sullivan and will ask voters to oppose it on their November sample ballot.

Some of us have maintained for quite some time that the idea was a false promise of reform. Map drawing commissioners would not be directly accountable to the voters, and elected officials could shrug off blame if the results from a commission were tilted in favor of one party or the other. Moreover in places like California, “independently” drawn maps do not necessarily result in districts that reflect the makeup of the state. Democrats there successfully pressed for their favored map.

Over the years in Virginia, Democrats suggested Republican opposition to a commission process was political. They argued that a Republican majority in Richmond simply wanted to maintain a partisan advantage. “Politicians want to pick their voters,” they would say.

However, nearly a decade ago a Senate Democrat majority drew the current Virginia Senate lines. They lost the majority under those lines in 2011 and 2015, only to gain it back again in 2019.

House of Delegate Republicans drew most of the current lines (judges redrew some of them prior to the 2019 elections). While the GOP held the majority for much of the decade, including a number of Republicans sitting in seats won by Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, they lost it in 2019.

Now that Democrats are on the verge of the redistricting commission becoming law, they are claiming the amendment is not quite good enough. In other words, if Democrats defeat it now they can rewrite the proposed amendment and tilt it in their partisan favor since they do not need to rely on Republican majorities controlling the General Assembly in order to pass it.

In the meantime, if they are successful in defeating the amendment the Democrats have the added bonus of being able to draw all the lines themselves without any Republican input. They can lock in General Assembly majorities and safe Congressional seats by picking their voters in 2021.

This politically driven about-face screams hypocrisy of the highest level.

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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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 ARLnow.com.

In a hastily called meeting before their traditional August break, the Arlington County Board passed an emergency ordinance that prevents groups of four or more from standing closer than six feet to each other in marked public spaces. There was no public discussion or input prior to the surprise announcement.

Under the ordinance, my family could not wait at a traffic light together even if we are wearing face coverings, without the risk of a $600 fine. However, we could walk into a restaurant and sit together without face coverings. Fellow columnist Chris Slatt rightly called it a mess.

The County Board should call another emergency meeting and withdraw the ordinance. If they cannot bring themselves to do that, they should consider rewriting it before the September meeting. It must be made clear whether family units are subject to fines. The Board must also make clear whether it applies to protests or marches.

The final point here is that the County Board should not be taking a break this August. They passed an emergency ordinance in the name of an ongoing public health emergency, but they are not planning to formally meet for nearly eight weeks. It sends mixed messages about how serious they are taking COVID-19 right now in Arlington.

Speaking of mixed messages, the Arlington Public Schools superintendent updated the community about the APS back to school plan in a presentation to the Arlington School Board.

In the presentation, Mr. Durán announced that APS was planning to make child care available to teachers with kids ages four to 11. While Durán acknowledged that child care was a pressing issue for parents as well, the schools are promising to use extended day staff in school buildings throughout the county as child care facilities for teachers. Presumably, these APS staff members will be making sure the children placed in APS provided child care are taking part in their online instruction.

When online learning begins September 8, parents will have to balance their own jobs with making sure their kids are logging in and participating in their school schedule. If your job requires you to be physically present outside the home, you will have to make alternative arrangements. Teachers with the same age kids will have a taxpayer-backed staffer and building available to do it for them.

Also, the Arlington Education Association stated that safety was the paramount concern when they demanded APS reverse course on in-person instruction. Have they weighed in on the safety concerns for the staff and possibly 1,000 children taking part in child care at the schools?

While APS is resisting the idea of setting forth metrics for reopening, the calls for specifics may grow when parents discover teachers are being treated differently when it comes to child care.

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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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 ARLnow.com.

Two weeks ago, Arlington Public Schools abruptly reversed course and decided to start the school year with all virtual learning.

As a reminder, in a June school survey 73 percent of Arlington parents indicated they would be comfortable sending their children back with safety protocols in place. As of mid-July, approximately two-thirds of parents had already signed their children up for the hybrid in-person model.

APS announced they would re-evaluate the decision for October and beyond. According to the APS website, they are committed to resuming instruction in the classroom “as soon as possible.” With that in mind, it is time for APS to answer the following:

  1. How does APS plan to measure the impacts of the all distance learning model on academic progress?
  2. What specific COVID-19 related metrics will the APS use as a basis for a decision to return to in-person instruction and how will those be communicated to students, parents and teachers?
  3. What guarantees do parents have that APS will not reverse course on a future reopening decision that meets the metrics, supporting scientific studies, and CDC and Virginia Department of Education guidelines at the behest of the Arlington Education Association?

Last week the Arlington County Board voted to join the lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s move to exclude those without lawful immigration status from the apportionment count. It took less than one minute to pass. It was not on the agenda. There was no real debate about why Arlington should join one of multiple lawsuits. There was no mention of how much it might cost the Arlington taxpayers.

For those who do not follow constitutional terms of art for a living, apportionment is the way states are allotted seats in the United States Congress. It has a corresponding impact on the Electoral College.

Constitutional experts on both sides have argued, and will continue to argue, whether this move will withstand Supreme Court scrutiny. If it stands, however, it would not impact how states can use Census data to draw congressional or state legislative districts. The Virginia Code says we have to use the most recent decennial population figures from the Census. In other words, Arlington would not lose any strength of representation in Congress or in Richmond unless the Democrat-controlled General Assembly changes the rules.

Excluding those without lawful immigration status from apportionment also does not impact the overall Census count. The Census Bureau is continuing the effort to count everyone, including the use of in-person visits beginning in August. As federal programs use population counts not apportionment, Arlington’s $50 million annual assistance for transportation, housing, emergency services and school lunch programs will see no impact from the change.

You may agree with the decision to join the lawsuit. You may not. But why were our County Board members unwilling or unable to spend even one minute each articulating the rationale for a decision to join a congressional apportionment lawsuit prior to taking a vote?

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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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 ARLnow.com.

After the sudden school closure and the controversial decision not to teach any new material to our kids this spring, Arlington Public Schools have been wrestling with the question of what school will look like this fall.

According to the recent APS surveys, 73 percent of parents are comfortable with sending their children back to school with safety measures in place. Just 9 percent of parents said they were not at all comfortable. Conversely, only 38 percent of teachers want to go back while 39 percent said they were not comfortable going back to school.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that the goal should be for students to be physically present in school this fall. The benefits of, among other things, face-to-face learning, nutrition, social skills, counseling services and physical activity contribute to the overall health of students. The report weighed available scientific evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on kids:

Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection. Policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within schools must be balanced with the known harms to children, adolescents, families, and the community by keeping children at home.

In late June, APS announced a compromise position. They created a hybrid learning model so kids could get back in the classroom two days per week. They also gave parents the ability to elect an all distance learning plan for their kids. Thousands of parents had already signed their kids up for their preferred option.

Arlington teachers began pushing back almost immediately. The pressure culminated in a statement by the Arlington Education Association yesterday which called for APS to abandon its plan and conduct classes in the fall by online-only learning.

Today, new APS Superintendent Francisco Durán abruptly reversed course. In an email to parents, he announced school would resume online only in September. And instruction will not begin until September 8th, two weeks later than planned.

Parents, particularly single parents, who do not have the option to telework will have to decide on how best to ensure their kids are cared for, and participating, during online learning. This would have been difficult three days a week, and it just got harder.

Hopefully Superintendent Durán will provide a more complete explanation in future communications. And hopefully our students will not be put at too much of a disadvantage because of today’s decision.

Disappointing GOP Performance

The Arlington voters have been open over the years to competing points of view on local decisions. While Democrat Takis Karantonis ultimately took 62% of the vote in last week’s County Board special election, the performance of Susan Cunningham proved that there is still some appetite for an independent voice. But after Republican Bob Cambridge received just 5% of the vote, the Arlington GOP has some serious work to do moving forward.

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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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 ARLnow.com.

Back in mid-March, no one could have fully predicted just how long or extensive the lockdown for COVID-19 would be.

Over the past three months, the County Board moved the most essential functions of governing to online platforms. Essential services and public safety continued largely without interruption. A modified budget moved through a revamped public comment process, though not without a couple blips. For example, the county’s pay plan set to take effect on July 1st still says County Board members will receive a raise. There has been no public announcement on how they will deliver the promised fix to prevent the raise from taking effect.

On June 9, the chairs of 25 county advisory groups wrote to the County Board and raised concerns that these avenues for public input were unnecessarily lying dormant. Despite plenty of online options, meetings were not happening at all. It was not until May that county officials unveiled a plan to determine how staff and other resources would be allocated as well as how meetings would be prioritized. Based on the county guidance, many groups may effectively be shelved for the remainder of the year.

The defenses of the County Board on Saturday rang a little hollow to the thousands of county residents who have been successfully teleworking for the past 90 days. Most of us participate in multiple video conferences every week — often multiple times on the same day. Meetings that used to take place in person simply moved online. Screen sharing is enabled. “Rules of the road” for recognition to speak are quickly developed. It has changed the way we exchange information.

Surely Arlington officials could do better than “we’re working on it” by now.

Restricting public input in this way is one concerning trend. On today’s County Board agenda is a report on the County Auditor’s work plan that should also raise some eyebrows.

For fiscal year 2021, the County Auditor is proposing new audits into COVID-19 cost reimbursement, non-profit funding allocations, housing grants, and risk management. These are all fine areas to look into for a robust audit function.

Unfortunately, the County Board never fully embraced the auditor’s role to identify waste and efficiencies on behalf of the Arlington taxpayer. They have not dedicated significant staff resources to evaluate a $1.5 billion budget on a regular basis. As a result, there have been just a handful of audits produced thus far.

According to the draft work plan for the coming year, the Auditor is suggesting they stop the audit of economic development incentives — presumably without a report. The audit was supposed to be done by the end of last year and feature a look into the taxpayer-subsidized Amazon deal. It was taking the place of a jettisoned audit of business improvement district activities which should have been done as well. If no audit is ever produced on the Amazon deal, it represents a disturbing loss of promised transparency. And it is being quietly jettisoned during this time of a pandemic and civil unrest.

The work plan is also proposing that an audit of real estate assessments and appeals be postponed until some unknown date in the future. The message from the County Board appears to be: taxpayers will just have to wait on accountability if they get it at all.

Surely the County Board can do better.

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

“Today may we all rally to the side of justice for the victims, to the side of using peaceful protests to effect change, and to stand against those who would use this tragedy as an excuse for violence, destruction and further division.”

Yesterday in the Progressive Voice, Delegate Rip Sullivan opined on the “virtues” of voting by mail. For Sullivan, first it was gerrymandering that made our elections unfair. Then it was having to show a government issued ID, free if you need it, to prove you were who you say you were.

Now voting in person is on his radar to be eliminated. What will it be next? Maybe voting by mail will be too hard because it requires someone to walk to the mailbox, so we should let them vote with two clicks on a smartphone?

We should ask ourselves if we want to make it harder and harder to identify who is actually casting the votes in elections?

In California, it is legal for someone to submit your ballot for you. Volunteers can pick up hundreds of ballots and drop them off with local election offices with no accountability in between. You may have read about this, it is known as ballot harvesting. In an April story, one Democrat strategist even suggested they would come and take ballots  out of mailboxes.

What would Delegate Sullivan say about that? Where would he draw the line?

For those with health concerns about voting in the Arlington County Board special election in July or the general election in November, our absentee voting system will accommodate you. Right now you can vote in person in advance, or you can vote by requesting an absentee ballot by mail. In the fall, you will not even need to provide a reason at all. You can just vote early because you feel like it.

Delegate Sullivan suggests he supports moving to all mail-in voting permanently. However, mailing a ballot to every registered voter on a list is problematic in an of itself. Voter registration lists, like any mailing list, are always out-of-date. People move, and sadly, people die. We would unnecessarily be opening ourselves up to fraud when it is already relatively easy to vote now.

Voting is both a right and a privilege. In fact it is one of the most sacred rights we have in this country. At the same time, you are not required to participate. Many people do not vote because they feel like they have no real choice, or that they feel like politicians on both sides have failed them. That is their right too.

But, your elected officials have an obligation to make it both accessible and secure for all those who do chose to participate. It should be accessible to those who are eligible to vote and secure to make sure those votes are not watered down by anyone who wishes to commit fraud.

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

There is a special election to fill the seat on the County Board now vacant because of the tragic death of Erik Gutshall. While the County Board is attempting to push the date for the election all the way to November, voters are likely to head to the polls July 7 or vote absentee in advance of that day.

Over the next seven weeks, voters will be able to consider the three candidates running for the position. Here are three big picture questions these candidates should be answering:

  1. Will you challenge the status quo?

Now more than ever, we should not accept the idea that we can keep doing things the way we  have done them in the past. The Board recognized this on an emergency basis as they passed a revised budget April 30th. However, they should use this time to ask themselves what they can do differently in the future. Every program, line item, rule and regulation should be evaluated to help us recover in the short term and make us stronger over time.

  1. Will you work to increase the levels of transparency and accountability provided by Arlington to its residents?

Two weeks ago, I noted a County Board pay raise mistakenly included in the pay plan approved by the Arlington County Board. When it was brought to their attention, they sprang into action to say it was not supposed to be there and would be fixed. Yet, the County Board met on Saturday and is meeting again today, and none of the agenda items listed thus far fix the pay plan to take back the raise. The Board Members who promised this would be fixed need to live up to their word and tell us how they plan to fix it before it takes effect on July 1st.

Also over the last two weeks, the County Board joined with other Northern Virginia jurisdictions to say “no” to reopening Arlington for business last Friday. The Board listed five metrics they were looking at for reopening. Last Friday during their virtual town hall meeting, they also regularly referenced the five metrics. Yet, nowhere on the County Board site can you view a dashboard which discloses how close, or far away, we are from meeting them.

While our ties to the federal government make our community more recession-resistant than most, our economy is still strained and our residents are losing jobs by the day. “Just trust us” should not be acceptable for such a huge decision, particularly in this unprecedented time of crisis.

  1. Will you commit to fiscal discipline as we recover from these challenging times?

Keeping the tax rate as low as possible is a key component for economic recovery. Beyond the costs on housing for our residents, many of whom have lost a job or could in the future, we must keep downward pressure on rents for our employers as well. It means designating 100% of any closeout funds to this purpose for the foreseeable future. It means the Board must also identify and fund only the most essential things in the budget for the next year or two to reduce the need for taxpayer revenue. And it certainly means a delay on the aforementioned pay raise for the Board.

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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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 ARLnow.com.

Last Thursday as I tuned into the County Board’s special meeting to pass the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, I began clicking on the links to the Board reports accompanying the agenda. One of the measures to be voted on was the Pay Plan to take effect July 1. Knowing the Board had originally planned a $10,000 pay raise for themselves, I searched the document to ensure the raise had been scrapped.

In less than 60 seconds, I located County Board pay on page 28. It called for a 3.5% pay raise. I double checked my figures with several Board watchers and online sources to make sure I had it right. Board Members are currently paid $55,147, and the Chair $60,662, and the Pay Plan was set to raise that pay to $57,077 and $62,785.

After no County Board member mentioned the pay raise during the debate on the Pay Plan, I began writing a column giving the County Board a big Thumbs Down on the raise and opining as to why the Board may have been trying to sweep it under the rug. Following submission of my column, ARLnow’s editor informed me that, during a fact check, county officials disputed whether a raise had been approved.

After some back and forth, including a call between me and county staff, I have to take the County Board at their word that they did not authorize any pay raise to be included in the Pay Plan. If it was in the plan, I was informed that there was no money in the budget for it, and it would be fixed.

I was left to wonder though, out of four County Board members it seems like not a single one read the Pay Plan closely enough to notice the pay raise was there. Do we think John Vihstadt would have missed this if he were still on the Board?

You might also wonder, if no one read the Pay Plan closely enough to notice the increase, are there mistakes in the items that were approved on last week’s agenda that will also have to be fixed?

Thumbs Down to all four County Board Members who did not notice the pay raise in the Pay Plan before they voted to approve it last Thursday.

Thumbs Down to County Manager Mark Schwartz for not ensuring the County Board instructions were reflected in the Pay Plan that was approved.a

Thumbs Up to ARLnow for starting the dialogue with county officials, and for what I’m sure will be a follow up to make sure the Board works to undo the raise.

Switching gears, I did want to offer a Thumbs Up to Governor Northam for allowing non-essential medical care to move forward again. With the COVID-19 curve long flattened and no longer threatening to overwhelm our health care system, it was past time to ensure people are receiving the deferred health care they need. It also ensures health care providers, particularly in more remote parts of Virginia, are able to receive the income they need to stay open and keep providing these essential services into the future.

While Governor Northam is moving slowly to reopen Virginia and still has not released the details of his larger plan for our overall economic health and well being, at least his administration retreated from the notion that a first phase could last two years. So a final thumbs up for hope that we can recover, and soon.

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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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 ARLnow.com.

Governor Northam has a duty as we move forward to balance this public health emergency with the substantial economic damage being done right now in order to promote the overall health of our Commonwealth. Getting to the other side of this crisis is a true test of leadership for the governor and the Democrats in charge of the General Assembly.

According to modeling, which admittedly has produced projections that regularly overstate the impact of COVID-19 in Virginia when compared to actual data, Virginia is just two days from peak resource use. Daily case increases have plateaued even with increased testing. More people have been discharged from the hospital than are currently being treated. There is no shortage of hospital beds or ventilator capacity. And Virginia’s share of national cases has remained constant. All of this means, what we have done is working in terms of slowing the spread of this coronavirus.

At this point, Governor Northam has not put forward his plan for how Virginia can reopen safely. In the absence of a plan from the governor thus far, here are some general guidelines they could follow:

Recognize Regional Realities. There are areas of the Commonwealth with few if any cases. Those areas can be reopened sooner and in a less restrictive way than the more urban and suburban areas which have seen a higher number of cases. One thing is certain, there are Virginians in rural and economically disadvantaged areas who can ill-afford for employers there to close permanently.

Public Health Response. What protocols can we put in place in areas with the worst outbreaks to do contact tracing or ramp up testing quickly if another surge in cases occurs?

Reasonable Temporary Regulations. Virginia businesses can implement common sense regulations for the next few months or even a year to keep workers safe. Split shifts. Closing common areas. Taking temperatures at the door. Rotating office employees with telework. Spacing in public spaces like movie theaters, mass transit, and restaurants when those can safely reopen.

Return of Restricted Health Care Services. Many medical procedures and tests were halted in the name of preparing for a surge in the need for hospital beds and personal protective equipment. It has delayed health care services to people who need them and put a tremendous financial strain on hospitals, clinics, physicians and even dental practices. It is time to determine how best to lift these restrictions.

Protect Vulnerable Populations. For example, the biggest outbreaks have been in long term care facilities. Restrictions can be put in place to recognize this threat.

Announce Benchmarks for a Return to Normal. The governor should announce what specific data points are necessary to achieve in order for us to move beyond temporary restrictions to the next stages of reopening. By doing so, he can also be held accountable for the progress.

Virginia can get past this crisis. We need Governor Northam to step up to the plate with the plan to help us do it.

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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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 ARLnow.com.

We are all feeling the effects of this extended mandatory coronavirus isolation.

It may be as simple as a canceled birthday party or missing the senior year of a spring high school sport. Some may have lost a job or fear losing a job. You or someone you know may be sick. Or you may have experienced the tragic loss of life of someone close to you from COVID-19.

Our elected leaders here in Arlington are dealing with all of the practical effects of governing through uncertainty. They are tackling the “must do” items that come with an unprecedented public health emergency.

Now we are seeing some encouraging signs that mitigation is working and the rate of spread is slowing, even with ramped-up testing. Over the past week, the University of Washington model dramatically reduced the time for Virginia to reach peak hospital usage from May 17 to April 20.

In other words, we may be seeing some of the first signs of light at the end of the tunnel. This reminds us that we need our leaders to find a path forward after the crisis has lifted.

Our government structure in America is set up to make local government the most important in assessing and addressing the immediate needs of the people it serves. While it may be awhile before we are fully back to normal, hopefully our local leaders are keeping one eye on what’s next.

We are in the middle of an interrupted annual budget season in Arlington. Yesterday, County Manager Mark Schwartz presented a revised budget to the County Board that would reportedly reduce spending by $56 million. Here are five suggestions as they continue to make plans for moving forward past this crisis.

Plan for the best case scenario first. If we are able to begin to resume normalcy on May 1 or May 15 or June 1, then what would that look like in Arlington?

  1. Scrub the county budget again to remove any more “nice to have” items that can wait for one, two or even five years. Arlingtonians have come to appreciate the essentials in life over the past three weeks, we are ok if the government does the same.
  2. Give individuals and businesses a substantial property tax rate cut to help our local economy get back on its feet faster. A rate cut of ten cents for one year would make a real difference.
  3. Dip into the rainy day funds to pay for things we need now. We set this money aside for an emergency. A once-in-a-century pandemic should qualify.
  4. Put forward a plan to bring down our long term debt to revenue ratio by 10 to 20 percent, so that we have some breathing room to protect our bond rating moving forward.

Finally, please take a positive and hopeful approach as you plan. Do not waste time pointing fingers or attempting to assign political blame in these uncertain times. Just get the job done for the people you serve.

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

We are 10 days into an initial 15-day nationwide effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Lives have tragically been lost. Jobs that seemed secure are now gone. Uncertainty surrounds every decision being made by individuals, families, businesses and our elected leaders. Decisions are being made daily, even hourly that in some cases drastically impact our lives.

Here in Arlington, our county leaders declared a state of emergency to maximize social distancing, even closing our parks. Closed schools are still serving school lunches and breakfasts to kids who rely on them. Local leaders worked together with Virginia Hospital Center to stand up a drive-through testing site.

County Manager Mark Schwartz announced last weekend he would come back to the County Board with a revised annual budget. Certainly, county officials are expecting to lose the revenue cushion that had lead Chair Libby Garvey to speculate the Board would cut the tax rate.

At the same time, the fiscal year does not begin until July 1, which hopefully will be after we have turned the corner on coronavirus. The Board will also have access to closeout funds later in the year to bridge the gap. And, for years Arlington has banked large emergency reserves that we can tap into if necessary. In other words, we should be able to get through this without taking drastic measures.

Sadly, yesterday Governor Northam announced an end to the school year. In Arlington, the Governor turned a 30-day school shutdown into a 100-day shutdown. By contrast, the Governor’s order only required non-essential businesses to close for the next 30 days.

It is not entirely clear why the Governor did not wait until mid-April to make this long-term school decision when he would have had more information available to him. However, there will be plenty of time for after-action reports, public criticism and public praise in the weeks and months after we get through this.

In the meantime, as we make our way through this unprecedented national crisis, may we all take a measured response to the actions and decisions of our leaders. We have to trust that every elected official is trying to both protect public health, particularly for the most vulnerable of our people, and guard against the potential of an economic collapse.

Arlingtonians can stay up to date on all of the latest news and information at the county’s website. Not only does it include announcements about what the county is doing in response to COVID-19, it also outlines resources to meet community needs during this difficult time.

Right now, if you have the means, please consider helping your neighbors. You can check in with local charitable organizations or reach out directly to those who may be in need. It certainly is a cliche, but we will come out of this stronger if we continue to remember that we are all in this together.

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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