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by Mark Kelly September 21, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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. 

The County Board is back from its traditional August break. Three items from the meeting remind us of how the Board too often operates.

The Board heard complaints from Crystal City area residents about cut-through traffic. This is my neighborhood, and I drive through the area every morning and evening on my commute.

It seems that residents have been complaining that the driving app Waze is sending people onto neighborhood streets to avoid U.S. Route 1 and S. Eads Street. Blaming an app is convenient, but it is not the source of the problem. Over the past two years, the County completed a narrowing of S. Eads Street from two travel lanes each direction to one as part of Arlington’s anti-car philosophy.

The action has caused dramatically increased congestion on S. Eads Street during the morning and evening commutes. So now drivers are bailing out onto neighborhood streets. This was a totally foreseeable consequence of eliminating travel lanes on a main thoroughfare, and is almost certainly not going to get any better.

The Board also deferred action on lighting the Williamsburg soccer fields. The County wants to light more fields and the growing soccer community supports it, but some in the neighborhood are opposed to it. The Board seemed to offer no good reason for the delay. They seem unprepared to deliver bad news to one side or the other.

The Board did have to deliver some bad news at the direction of the Governor and General Assembly. Arlington was forced to adopt the changes to its towing ordinance after the Chamber of Commerce and the industry successfully lobbied Richmond to tweak the law.

Board chair Jay Fisette largely gave Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) a pass along with Arlington’s State Senator Barbara Favola, also a Democrat, who helped lobby for the towing industry. Instead, the Board wanted to lay the blame at the feet of Republicans. The Board inexplicably fails to recognize that years of antagonism directed at Republicans in Richmond is not going to help their cause in situations like this one.

In typical politician fashion, there was no acknowledgment of the Board’s contributions to problems mixed with a little kicking the can down the road and a healthy dose at pointing the finger at someone else.

by Mark Kelly September 14, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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. 

The Washington Post reported that the Democrats’ nominee for governor Ralph Northam ran a recent television ad where he encouraged voters to compare his tax plan to Ed Gillespie’s.

The problem? Ralph Northam has never published a tax plan.

Back in April, he promised to put out tax reform principles within a week, but he never did. At one point, the Northam campaign  removed the promise to release the principles from the campaign website according to the Post report.

Northam confirmed he would run for governor over 30 months ago. The logical question to ask is what has he been doing to formulate ideas on tax policy, a key factor in economic growth, between February of 2015 and last month when he cut his TV ad? We do know he attended less than half of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership meetings in his role as Lieutenant Governor.

Virginians are tuning in with less than eight weeks to go to Election Day. Right now, it doesn’t look like Ralph Northam is working very hard to earn their vote.

Metro Reforms

Yesterday’s report of a possible fire at or near the Rosslyn Metro station, and the resulting single tracking of trains, reminds us once again that WMATA is still in need of major reform and real accountability.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) met recently and recommended principles for WMATA reform, including reducing the number of members, changing the representation and eliminating some committees and meetings from the Board.

The NVTC also called for the development of proposals to address labor costs, unfunded retirement costs, safety improvements and other operational improvements.

The NVTC’s efforts to push for substantive reforms should be applauded. Unfortunately, we should remain skeptical that WMATA is ever going to get the job done unless forced to by a change agent much greater than an NVTC resolution.

by Mark Kelly September 7, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

The Civic Federation’s annual debate reminds Arlington voters that there is an election just two months away.

While much of the focus is on who will win seats in Richmond including the Governor’s Mansion, Arlingtonians will be able to vote on local issues as well when they choose a new School Board and County Board member.

According to Inside Nova, Erik Gutshall, the Democrats’ nominee for County Board, was said to have positioned himself as a “fiscal conservative” in his campaign. Once you move past the “laugh out loud” nature of that notion, Arlingtonians must ask themselves what options they have in this November?

To his credit, Gutshall has put forward a comprehensive list of policy positions, but it is one that puts him right in line with the current majority on the County Board. While he certainly will have his own take on the issues, voters cannot anticipate a major shift from the status quo.

Perennial candidate and former Green Party endorsee Audrey Clement’s electoral fortunes have ebbed and flowed depending on who else is on the ballot. Her left-leaning views on most issues, however, are well known.

Newcomer, and currently Green Party endorsee, Charles McCullough is calling for the expansion of housing assistance, the creation of a program to begin school spending on infants and taking away the rights of property owners to build on their lots.

McCullough is not alone on the political left. New York City’s Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio recently commented that he would essentially like to overrule our nation’s protection of private property rights and give government the right to control how and where people can live.

Many in Arlington probably share this notion. But not all Arlingtonians are ready to endorse what de Blasio called the “socialistic impulse.”

Regrettably, Arlington Republicans (myself included) failed to find a candidate to run this year despite the County Board race being an open seat contest. So Arlington voters are left with a limited choice on a scale that ranges from status quo left to far left.

The “Vihstadt coalition” of Independents, Republicans and fiscally conservative Democrats could still produce a majority of votes in a non-presidential election year. Maybe it’s time for a spirited write-in campaign for County Board?

by Mark Kelly August 31, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

The Arlington League of Women Voters (LWV) this week announced the screening of the Zach Galifianakis “documentary” which purports to examine the process of drawing legislative districts in North Carolina and the influence of money on the political process.

The project is part of a series designed to fight against Republicans who are advancing public policy initiatives, particularly at the state level. In other words, Galifianakis and the LWV want you to believe that redistricting is an “evil Republican” issue which result in bad policy outcomes.

For decades, Democrats took advantage of the redistricting process to maintain control of state legislatures and Congress. Virginia Senate Democrats even drew the most recent map to in a failed attempt to maintain their majority.

Under redistricting precedents, courts have looked at districts to see if they are equal in population, compact, and represent “communities of interest,” with population being most important to ensure everyone’s vote had the same impact. Compactness and keeping communities of interest together were secondary. The standard has never been to create as many competitive districts as possible.

Take Arlington as an example. With a population almost exactly equal to the average Senate District after the last Census, our county should have been a single district. It is both compact and contains a clear community of interest. Instead, Virginia Senate Democrats put Arlington into three districts in order to maximize the Democrat political advantage.

In Maryland, Democrats drew this contorted map in order to win every Congressional seat but one.  Democrats there proved willing to use any means to gain a partisan advantage when they connected the Second and Third Congressional Districts using bodies of water.

Regardless of who is drawing the lines, the LWV in Arlington stated they want voters to “demand reform” in Virginia. The reform organizations like this one typically favor is a “non-partisan” redistricting commissions. (To be fair, Maryland’s Republican governor has called for the same.)

But who appoints the commissioners? The answer is almost certainly politicians. Are these commissioners accountable to the voters for the decisions they make? No. In other words, voters are even further removed from the redistricting process then they were before a commission gets involved.

And what is the goal? Is it competitive districts? The argument for competitive districts is that voters will elect more centrist candidates who will theoretically work together. However, it is virtually impossible to draw maps in a way that would not leave both political party bases in control of their caucuses, and thus in control the legislative agenda.

Do they believe competitive districts will bring in less money into the political process? Of course, groups like LWV favor limiting the ability of individuals to contribute to the candidate of their choice. They favor restricting 501(c)4 political spending, but allowing labor unions to spend without further restriction. And they often favor public financing of elections where you as a taxpayer are required to pay for the campaign of someone you fundamentally disagree with.

Redistricting has always been an inherently partisan process. Those on the losing side have always complained about it. And while reform sounds nice, it will result in a less accountable body controlling a process and having little impact on the laws that ultimately pass.

by Mark Kelly August 24, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Not a single member of the House of Delegates from Arlington received an endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the nation’s largest organization of small businesses. To be fair, not a single Democrat in Virginia received one of NFIB’s 53 endorsements.

While NFIB’s legislative priorities of lower taxes and a common sense regulatory environment does not regularly line up with the Democratic policy agenda, it makes one think, how are Democrats doing when they can implement their own agenda?

While the General Assembly is controlled by Republicans, Democrats in Arlington have a 4-1 majority on the County Board. This is not new. As Arlington has become more urban, its voting patterns have increasingly trended toward the Democrats. The Democrats have controlled the Board since the 1980s and have spent most of the time since holding all five of the seats.

Erik Gutshall, the Democrats’ current nominee for County Board, is almost certainly going to maintain that 4-1 split this November. To his credit, he has posted a number of issue statements on his website. In one of them, Gutshall repeats the line that many Democrat candidates have used when he says, “it is more important than ever for Arlingtonians to embrace the shared progressive values that have always united us.”

When I hear a Democrat make such a statement, it makes me wonder do they spend much time talking to people outside of their own bubble? While “progressive values” do unite about one-third of Arlingtonians, one in four Arlingtonians typically vote Republican. The remainder are left of center and generally vote for Democrats, but they are open to a common sense message that paved the way for the election of Republican-backed Independent John Vihstadt to win a seat.

But year after year Democrats in Arlington run on a similar set of so-called “progressive” issues. After three decades of controlling Arlington, maybe it’s time to ask how have their results stacked up against their own agenda? Here are three issues to start the conversation:

Commercial Vacancy Rate: This issue has come to the forefront in recent years, but it boils down to a simple question: do Arlington’s policies as they relate to owning and operating a business attract new businesses to our county?

Housing Affordability: For all of the efforts to address this issue and talk year after year from Democrat candidates, has the all-Democrat county leadership made housing in Arlington more affordable or less affordable?

The State of Metro: Arlington is not alone in this one, but the WMATA Board has almost exclusively been made up of Democrats. Under that leadership, is Metro structured and operated in a way that is safe and fiscally sustainable?

Democrats may have a virtual lock on electoral politics for the foreseeable future here in Arlington. They also benefit from Arlington’s location directly across the Potomac River from the greatest concentration of power and wealth on Earth which protects are tax base and gives our elected leaders a big margin for error in how they manage our resources. They should be held accountable for how they measure up to their own “progressive” standards.

by Mark Kelly August 17, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

As a result of numerous complaints about predatory towing practices, Arlington passed towing restrictions which required business owners to sign off on each tow.

The ordinance met resistance from some in the business community who felt the “second signature” requirement was unduly burdensome.

Unfortunately, managers of business, often restaurants, tell those towed they have no power over the decision. So what is a person to do as they stand in the parking lot with no car but a receipt from the business in hand? It is no wonder they often lash out at the Advanced Towing attendant like one ESPN reporter did.

There is little recourse for the person other to pay the $135 to get their car back. Most do not have the time or the resources to even attempt to get their money back, something Advanced knows. Even if they wanted to bring a small claims court action against the towing company or the business who owns the parking lot, the process seems daunting to most.

If business owners refuse to be held accountable and the towing company refuses to be held accountable, then who is to blame when the towing company gets it wrong? That is the question the Arlington County Board tried to answer with its new ordinance.

The coalition opposed to Arlington’s ordinance went to the General Assembly to overturn the County Board’s decision. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) initially rejected the legislation, but eventually signed it into law.

After hearing about another victim of Advanced Towing last week, I did another online search on the company. What did I find?

According to this NBC 4 report, the company made a $1,500 contribution to state Sen. Barbara Favola (D) to encourage her to meet with Gov. McAuliffe and share the “pros and cons” of legislation after she initially opposed it.

The contribution was made April 13. The meeting with the governor took place April 24. It was part of what was called “a full-court press by Democratic senators and the business community that convinced the governor to back the bill.”

Favola and McAuliffe eventually sided with Advanced Towing and the business owners who did not want to be hassled with signing off on each tow.

Arlington’s towing ordinance may not have been the perfect solution. To be sure, businesses have a right to ensure their parking lots are used by their customers. But Advanced has towed people who were lawfully parked and may continue to do so without fear of any meaningful repercussions.

by Mark Kelly August 10, 2017 at 2:15 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

It’s August and the County Board is on its annual summer hiatus, so why not talk about bringing back an annual holiday tradition?

Last year, incoming Board Chair Libby Garvey convinced her colleagues to move the New Year’s Day organizational meeting. Garvey’s rationale was that it was easier on the families of county staff and Board Members not to come back one day early and work for a couple of hours.

The Sun Gazette noted last week that presumed 2018 chair, Katie Cristol is at least open to the idea of moving the meeting back to its traditional place on January 1, which is a Monday this coming year. The story touched on the number one reason to end the one year experiment of moving the meeting – the public was not as interested in attending.

While some of the rhetoric can seem stale, or even empty, it is the one time each year that Arlingtonians can hear from each Board Member on their individual priorities, not on the pressing issue of the day. Sure, the same speeches can be made a few days later, but this year proved, it’s not quite the same.

6,204 Reasons Democrats Are Unlikely to Win the Virginia House?

Politicos from across the country will be watching our November elections here in Virginia and studying the results to see what it foreshadows for the 2018 mid-term Congressional elections. Democrats in the General Assembly and their activist supporters on the left are excited about the prospect of winning House of Delegate seats across the Commonwealth as well as holding the three statewide elected offices.

Delegate Rip Sullivan is Chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the Virginia House. As part of his leadership of the Democrats’ efforts to win control of that legislative body, he launched Blue Dominion PAC last year.

ARLnow gave Sullivan a recent shout out for his efforts. But as the races are heating up throughout Virginia, Sullivan’s PAC reported raising just $4,296 in the most recent quarter and having $6,204 in the bank.

To put that in perspective, the PAC could send out about 12,000 of those full color, oversized post-cards you receive in the mail around election time. That’s roughly 700 for each of the 17 districts Democrats need to flip.

In terms of attempting to help win these campaigns, that is drop in the bucket and an anemic effort from a member of the Democratic leadership who represents one of the wealthiest districts in Virginia. Maybe the excitement to toss all the Republicans out of office is not quite as widespread as the Democrats think?

by Mark Kelly August 3, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Ever been in your neighborhood grocery store and had to explain to a parent why their child will be switching schools next year because you voted to move an invisible boundary? If you have, you probably are, or were, on the school board.

Parents are, rightly, protective of their kids. Decisions about what happens in our schools is taken seriously, and changes can impact people on a very personal level.

It may be the job of the school board member to make those decisions, but it is not always an easy one. And on the tough calls, you almost certainly will be faced with heated dissent which may not be confined to the board room.

Right now, Arlington is in the painful process of redrawing its school boundaries and making difficult decisions on locating new schools. But hopefully our board members, parents and the community at large are looking well beyond seats for students.

What goes on inside the classroom is far more important than how old that classroom is or which school building it is in.

Our American education system is designed on a foundation from over half-century ago, built to prepare kids for an economy that is far in the rear view mirror.

We need elected leaders who are thinking about preparing kids in a way that does not just conform to the top-down models of the past. And, we should never make it a default position that a traditional four year college program is the next step for every student.

There are positive signs. Arlington Tech represents a new approach for high school students. The year-old school is encouraging students to tackle real world problem solving skills while integrating core curriculum.

We can and should get beyond infrastructure decisions and continue to look for new approaches to meet the needs of our student population. We have the resources here in Arlington to be a leader in the education system of the future.

by Mark Kelly July 27, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Every year the Arlington County Board takes one month off from its regular meeting schedule in August.

Having been on a policy maker’s staff, it is safe to assume county staff is even more grateful than the Board for the opportunity to take a breather and catch up.

Here five things a Board member could do in August to learn more about the impact of their decisions:

  1. Find a homeowner who wants to get a building permit and walk with them through every step of the process. Be copied on every email. Make all of the trips to the county offices, including those to pay fees.
  2. Work with a small business owner who is trying to start a venture in the county for the first time. Help them fill out every piece of paperwork. See if as a Board member you can explain the necessity for each and every form and tax. Ask them if they favor big businesses getting tax breaks and incentives while they receive nothing.
  3. Find another business owner who wants to put a sign on the front of their establishment or do some renovations. Fill out that paperwork. Go to the zoning office. Be with them when the inspector comes. Participate in the call with their contractor when the county requires a change.
  4. Spend a day in the life of county employees. Go out to a water main break and ask the people fixing them whether the aging infrastructure is maintained. Do a ride-along on the late-night shift with a police officer. Spend a day in a fire station. Work as a custodian in one of our public schools as they prepare buildings for the new year. Spend an evening cleaning up during the County Fair.
  5. Convene an off the record meeting with 5-10 Arlingtonians who did not vote for you and ask them what they think could be done to make this a better place to live, work and raise a family.

There are many other things the Board could do to step outside their bubble and gain perspective on the decisions they make. It would undoubtedly be beneficial to us all.

by Mark Kelly July 20, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

A report out of Toronto is that a local man built a set of stairs at a public park after the city quoted a minimum of $65,000 to do the job — the high end for the estimate was a whopping $150,000.

By contrast, the cost for materials and labor for the completed project was $550, which was paid for by asking some neighbors to chip in.

Toronto is now threatening to tear them down until they can build the more expensive version. The city attempted to block off the eight stairs with caution tape in the interim, but from the looks of the photos, people who like using the stairs are continuing to do so anyway.

Almost certainly, the stairs were not built to city code. Just as certainly, there is no acceptable reason the project should cost at least 120 times more than your average man on the street can build it. But as we have learned in Arlington, when the government is involved in a project or “solving a problem,” it almost always costs the taxpayers more than it should.

Arlington gained national notoriety for our $1 million, open air, not quite big enough to keep you dry if it rained, bus stop. That price tag was explained away as a prototype absorbing costs for design and engineering. Then it was announced the county had lowered the cost per stop to a still mind-boggling $575,000. Better, but still equivalent to the construction costs of a rather large custom home.

Arlington this week announced it would pay nearly $3.9 million for a building assessed at $2.4 million. According to County Board chair Jay Fisette, paying 44 percent over the assessed value was the best deal they could get from the building’s owner. The total cost of moving the county’s Head Start program to the location will come in at $10.5 million once renovations are complete.

In 2014, Arlingtonians looked at the county’s record under one party rule and voted in an independent. Following up on his campaign platform, John Vihstadt lead the effort to bring a County Auditor on board.

In June, the County Board approved the County Auditor’s FY 2018 work plan. And there is nothing wrong with the plan as a first step. However, if the Board is able to dole out an extra $1.5 million for a piece of property, they should be prepared to find an additional $150,000 for the Auditor’s office budget and hire two more people to speed up the pace of reviewing how the county spends our money.

by Mark Kelly July 13, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Outgoing Arlington County Board chair Jay Fisette says Arlington should be a city, not a county. From a practical standpoint, it would be a distinction without a difference. Having the word “county” in our name does not give us some massive inferiority complex.

The only explanation for Fisette’s musing is a political one. If Arlington became a city, the Democrats would almost certainly move all of the city council elections to November of presidential election years to give Republicans or independents the worst chance possible of winning.

Lest you think this is political paranoia, remember that outgoing Democrats on the Alexandria city council voted in 2009 to move their elections from the spring to November after losing seats.

There is further evidence that leaving office is making Fisette a little more politically honest. In his recent State of the County address, Fisette said current Arlington Public Schools’ spending growth “is not going to be sustainable” and further made the point that “we need to reduce per-student costs.”

We spend roughly $22,000 for every child enrolled in APS now, but calling that spending into question is politically treacherous territory in Arlington.

Speaking of APS, Superintendent Murphy received an early contract extension from the School Board just as he did in 2014. The 3 to 2 vote came a full year before his current deal expired.

James Lander, who had voted against the early extension three years ago saying it might set a bad precedent, cast the deciding vote in favor of the extension this time around. While Murphy surely will not turn down the pay increase, the split vote looks to the casual observer to be a vote of “no confidence.”

In the future, if 40 percent of the Board is not ready to grant an extension early, the Board should either stick it back in the drawer or work harder to find unanimity.

Four years ago, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s business dealings were called into question during his campaign. In the last week, we learned that the Governor’s former company GreenTech Automotive is being required to repay $6.4 million of public funds to the state of Mississippi, funds that McAuliffe helped secure while with GreenTech.

Fortunately for Virginia taxpayers, McAuliffe’s application for such assistance here was denied because of concerns about whether the company was a legitimate venture. The legitimacy of the company aside, this incident is a reminder of the danger inherent in handing out taxpayer dollars for economic development.

by Mark Kelly July 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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 spending over $17 million for the yet-to-be-opened ART bus light maintenance facility in South Arlington, the county announced it is close to acquiring land for a third ART bus facility in Springfield.

The land cost for the heavy maintenance facility in Springfield itself is reported to be $4.65 million before up to $32 million could be added in the design and build process.

County officials admitted when the first facility was announced that it was too small to meet actual maintenance and storage needs, but that did not stop them from moving forward with it. The maintenance facilities are on top of the acquisition of land for ART bus parking in Shirlington.

As noted at the time, the South Arlington facility would save tax taxpayers $57,000 a year that Arlington pays to use existing Metrobus maintenance facilities. At that rate, the facility will pay for itself in about 308 years. If Arlington taxpayers are lucky, the heavy maintenance facility will pay for itself in 100 years or less.

Sure, Metro could stop allowing us to use their facilities, though it is hard to imagine they are looking to shed any extra revenue sources right now. Yes, it’s nice to have a facility that is our own. But spending millions on a “nice to have” project is the type of decision that can eventually get governments into financial hot water.

To put this in business terms, the decision to move forward with these maintenance facilities represents a negative return on investment. Only in government would you justify them as saving taxpayers money.

Of course, the government also calls it a spending “cut” when programs only grow by 4 percent instead of 5 percent. They also call reducing travel lanes and the resulting rush hour traffic backups, “road improvements.”

Speaking of “saving” money, our friends at the “Progressive Voice” printed more of the resolutions that the 8th District Democrats adopted this spring. On top of their list for spending money is universal health care.

With estimates of $400 billion annually to pay for universal health care in California alone, nearly $20 trillion in federal debt, and a 2017 federal budget deficit of $693 billion, there is simply no way to pay for it. And no, there not enough rich people in America to pay for it even if we doubled the amount they pay in income tax.

by Mark Kelly June 29, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Now that the national political parties have moved past a $50 million special election for Congress in suburban Atlanta, all eyes will begin to move to the Old Dominion.

Virginians can expect a summer and fall filled with television ads, phone calls, and people knocking on your door asking you to get out and vote in the Governor’s race. Your Facebook feed will undoubtedly be filled with political opinions.

With all the political clutter coming our way, the opportunity to hear directly from the candidates for governor and compare them side by side will be limited to three debates. That is the number of debates Democrat nominee Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam agreed to appear at after Republican nominee Ed Gillespie agreed to 10.

Northam’s decision came on the heels of debating his fellow Democrat Tom Perriello five times in the run-up to the June 13 primary. Northam did say he would make seven other joint appearances with Gillespie, but showing up at the Shad Planking and making a stump speech is hardly the same thing as answering questions.

This is a growing trend for Democratic candidates for Governor in Virginia. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell challenged Creigh Deeds to 10 debates, but Deeds only agreed to four. Ken Cuccinelli asked for 15 debates, but Gov. Terry McAuliffe only granted three.

Northam made opposition to President Trump a key component of his primary message. Both he and Perriello made it abundantly clear they were tossing aside any nods to moderation as they raced to the activist far left base and the anti-Trump Resist movement.

Standing up to a President you do not agree with is certainly fair game as a campaign issue. And if more governors pushed back against the encroachment of the federal government, we would all be better off. However, Northam’s campaign engaged in name calling rather than pushing back on specific policies.

Right now the voters of Virginia deserve to know what the current Lt. Governor would do as Governor. How would you make Virginia’s economy the best in the U.S.? What would you do to improve educational options for all Virginians? How would you address the transportation needs of Northern Virginia?

Hopefully the next few months will be filled with policy specifics and not more name calling, but don’t hold your breath in this political environment.

by Mark Kelly June 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Virginia, like a few other states, still begins its school year after Labor Day. There is nothing wrong with maintaining this practice. And if you are going on a beach vacation, those last two weeks before Labor Day often bring reduced prices as competition for space subsides.

But the final day of elementary school in Arlington is tomorrow, June 23. There is no reason it could not be the second Friday in June in all but the snowiest of years.

The Superintendent builds in a number of days throughout the year for teacher work days, as well as adding other “cushion” days to the calendar, to account for school closures while still meeting the minimum number of days necessary for instruction required by the Commonwealth of Virginia. As most parents know, after the SOLs are completed the amount of instruction that occurs in the classroom falls off dramatically. The final days of school are often filled with field days and movies.

APS could adjust the calendar for next year now and tell parents in September that not later than March 1, the system would determine if it needed to add days due to weather events into the next week of June. That would give parents enough time to adjust summer plans as necessary and would happen only rarely.

School Board candidates can add this “give a week back plan” to “no homework” as an agenda item to gain my endorsement in November.

Bloomberg to Receive a Boost

Between Virginia and Arlington, Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) could receive $2.5 million in benefits over the next 3 years for bringing 125 jobs to Arlington. $500,000 would be provided by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. $800,000 would come from the Arlington County Economic Development Incentive. And $1.2 million would be allocated for the continuation of an expiring property tax exemption.

Unlike BNA and Nestlé, most employers are likely to receive $0 for creating jobs in the County over the next three years.

Meanwhile, the Arlington County Board passed another in the series of meaningless resolutions meant to weigh in on a national issue this week. The Board supported the Paris Agreement by recommitting itself to steps they were going to take anyway to make County Government more energy efficient.

That time could have been better spent on a discussion of how to make Arlington a better place to do business for those employers that aren’t receiving huge taxpayer-funded handouts.

by Mark Kelly June 15, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

There is rarely a shortage of issues to write about in Arlington, or Virginia more broadly. But today, none of them seemed appropriate.

I have worked on Capitol Hill for most of the past two decades where members of Congress and staff are generally able to work together in a civil manner across party lines.

We care about our community. And we greatly appreciate that our ongoing safety and security is owed to the Capitol Police officers who are prepared to run into the line of fire. Speaker Paul Ryan rightly said yesterday something that cannot be understated, “an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

Sadly, yesterday’s shooting is not the first attack directed at our community during my time here. In 1998, Capitol Police officers Jacob Chesnut and John Gibson were shot and killed while protecting Members of Congress, their staff and visitors in the Capitol building.

On September 11, 2001 as the Pentagon was already on fire, United Flight 93 was almost certainly headed toward the Capitol before being taken down by heroic passengers.

In October of 2001, deadly anthrax was mailed to Congressional offices.

In 2011, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot while hosting a public event in Tucson, Ariz.

And then yesterday, there was an attempted massacre on a baseball field in Alexandria as Republican Members of Congress were preparing to play a game that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.

Those of us who work here are thankful for the Capitol Police officers who stepped into the line of fire to stop the attack, and we are praying for the injured, all the while knowing “there but for the grace of God, go I.” This was exemplified by the prayers of the Democratic baseball team practicing on another field immediately upon hearing the news.

Many want to immediately assign blame on the means used to carry out this attack, on political rhetoric, or on people other than the shooter. It is a natural reaction to immediately look for an explanation of why someone would ever consider using a bomb, gun, knife, or even a vehicle driving down a sidewalk to kill fellow human beings.

But this act was pure evil carried about by a madman, and it cannot ever fully be explained to those of us who believe that every human life is precious. Today, it must simply be condemned.

As we move forward with time for proper reflection, we can consider what causes such attacks to take place: the tone of our politics; the anger fomented on social media; the threat from radical groups; and the state of our mental health care system. And if we can do that without attempting to score political points, we may actually make progress toward healing in our nation.

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