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by Mark Kelly — September 29, 2016 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 idea of a “Blue Ribbon Panel” charged with bringing independent thinking to Arlington’s strategic planning process left me cautiously optimistic. A temporary group empowered to break out of a status quo mindset and provide truly independent analysis could have been a good source of insight for Arlington’s leaders.

After initially moving the independent panel forward with the support of all but one of her colleagues, Garvey blinked in the face of pressure from a relatively small group of powerful insiders. And this week, the County Board officially surrendered to those who are afraid of what an independent group might recommend. Instead, the Board charged the County Manager with forming a staff team to review county priorities.

While I appreciate Board Chair Garvey’s desire to reach a compromise that advanced even the smallest of reforms, it seems like even calling it a small step forward is optimistic. This group may very well produce a new idea or two, but not from a fresh perspective. The County Manager will continue to control the process of how existing staff will provide advice to the Board.

Why isn’t the County Manager doing this type of ongoing review already?

And, if it so hard for the Board to agree to an independent panel to make reform recommendations, how hard would it be for them to vote for any real reforms?

Garvey is finding out about the biggest headaches of sitting in the center seat and holding the gavel: Arlington’s Board Chair only serves a one year term and really has only limited power in setting the Board’s agenda. If three of the other Board Members do not like an initiative, they can simply find ways to run out the clock.

This one-and-done tradition is long engrained in Arlington, and may very well prevent as many bad ideas from moving forward as good ones. But often it simply lends itself to allowing “the way we’ve always done it” to march on with little change for the better.

by Mark Kelly — September 22, 2016 at 2:00 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.

Promise to ban homework: through middle school or at least at the elementary school level.

Nothing causes more stress on an ongoing basis in our house then ensuring homework is completed during the school year. Turns out academic studies continue to show it may just be a lot of stress for no (or virtually no) academic benefit in return, particularly in elementary school and quite possibly all the way through high school.

Worse, at the elementary school level, studies have found it has a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school. And it’s certainly no picnic for parents who often find themselves at a kitchen table 30 minutes past bedtime forcing their child to complete an assignment.

If it’s not providing real benefits to our children, if it threatens to turn our children off to a love of learning and if it decreases quality of life at home, why do we continue to require it?

I have engaged in conversations with other adults about my belief in ending homework. Some were aghast at the suggestion. When I pointed to several academic studies on the topic, they had no real objective arguments in response other than something along the lines of, “well, it’s good for them,” or “it teaches them responsibility,” or “it’s good practice.”

A recent poll asked the following question:

A Massachusetts school system has now ended all homework and extended the school day two hours in hopes of improving student performance. Do you favor or oppose a no-homework policy coupled with a longer school day in your community?

After my informal survey, I’m not surprised that 51 percent of people polled oppose a policy to ban homework in exchange for a longer school day while 33 percent approved.

I cannot tell you whether people are more opposed to banning homework or to forcing kids to be in school longer every day. My best guess is it’s a little bit of both. But I would also venture a guess that a majority of those polled have no idea what the academic research on the topic actually says.

Arlington is among the most educated counties in the country. That should mean we are open to what the research says on the topic of homework. It is certainly worthy of a public debate, and could just be a vote-getter.

by Mark Kelly — September 15, 2016 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.

Recently, Arlington Democrats unanimously backed $316 million in new borrowing proposals. I was not at the meeting, but I would venture a guess that no one asked how much of this money should be paid for out of the regular budget, including road paving, park maintenance, facilities maintenance, landscaping, and street lights?

It is not to say that all of the spending in the bond proposals is without merit. And, the Board deserves credit for publishing a more detailed explanation of the bonds. However, the ongoing practice of pushing what should be annual budget items into bonds should come to an end.

And how much debt do we currently have?

For FY 2017, our total debt burden is $951 million. This round of bonds will push us over $1 billion. By 2021, our total debt will be $1.23 billion — an increase of 29% over current levels.

Currently, the per capita debt is $4,317. In 2021, every man, woman and child will owe $5,270.

For FY 2017, our total annual debt service budget cost is $109.7 million between the schools and general government. It is slated to grow to $143 million over the next five years. And our debt service to expenditure ratio is projected to rise and hover just under the 10% cap credit ratings agencies look to for maintaining our AAA rating.

These bonds will almost certainly pass because Arlington voters have proven time and again to be OK with the borrow, spend and tax philosophy. The voters continue to support the notion that maintaining a never-ending level of “manageable” debt is desirable.

But continuing to max out our credit card is a dangerous game. The current run of historically low interest rates combined with county revenue that has outpaced inflation has fueled this borrowing boom. What happens if there is a spike in interest rates? Or what if Arlington experienced the type of economic recession which makes it impossible for revenue to continue to rise?

Unfortunately, Arlington Republicans have failed to field a candidate for either the County Board or the School Board. Sure, it’s a presidential election year which presses the Democrat advantage to the maximum level in the county. However, without Republican candidates making a case of how to apply our principles to the issues facing the county, voters do not even have an opportunity to hear an alternative vision.

by Mark Kelly — September 8, 2016 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.

Two weeks ago, Paul Friedman wrote a piece on ARLnow claiming Democrats believe voting is a right and Republicans believe it is a privilege. The none-too-veiled suggestion was Republicans were somehow OK with limiting the rights of Democrats, or worse yet, on the basis of race.

Republicans believe voting is a right firmly rooted in the rule of law.

There are clear conditions you must meet to vote. You must be 18. You must be a citizen of our country. You cannot vote in two states in the same election. And in Virginia, you cannot vote if you committed a felony unless your voting rights have been affirmatively restored.

The Supreme Court found that Gov. Terry McAuliffe violated the Virginia Constitution when he issued the blanket order restoring voting rights to all felons who completed their sentence. Unfortunately, what Friedman appears to be arguing is it may just be OK for our governor to circumvent a provision in the Constitution because it achieves a desired outcome. Imagine Friedman’s outrage if a Republican governor were to do so in order to achieve a desired policy objective?

The bottom line is allowing a governor to unilaterally ignore the Virginia Constitution would be a dangerous precedent to set. It was rightly overturned by the court.

What was also missing from Friedman’s analysis was what happens to the rights of other voters when someone who should not be able to cast a vote in Virginia is allowed to. When just one person who is committing voter fraud — or is registered for any other invalid reason shows up the polls — it limits your rights by devaluing your vote.

Because voting is a right, it is meant to be protected. It should not be subject to the whims of an elected official. It should not be devalued by voter fraud.

What McAuliffe should have done was work with legislative leaders to find a process within the law to restore voting rights more easily. Many Republicans, including this one, support such a change, particularly when it comes to non-violent offenders.

by Mark Kelly — September 1, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark Kelly

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.

This week, Governor McAuliffe’s office sent a memo to state agencies asking for proposals to trim 5% from their budgets to help close a $1.5 billion budget gap. The gap is roughly 1.5%, but leaders are working to avoid any cuts to education, so some programs will take bigger cuts than others.

This much more realistic approach comes after Republican General Assembly leaders rejected the governor’s assertion that Medicaid expansion would relieve the budget woes.

Medicaid expansion has actually made state budgets worse. In Ohio, Medicaid expansion cost $1.5 billion more than expected in the first 18 months. In Washington it was $2.3 billion more over two years. And in Kentucky, the state had to pay $1.8 billion more for 2014 and 2015 combined.

And, this is before the federal cost share is scheduled to be reduced in 2017.

You cannot blame a Governor for trying to pass his number one priority. But he should not continue to suggest a program that has failed to have positive outcomes in other states will miraculously do the opposite in Virginia.

The Governor should instead go about the business of getting the government out of the way of job creators in Virginia. Then economic growth can drive tax revenue.

But where do independent groups rank Virginia’s economic potential?

13th by ALEC. This study found twenty-nine states have a lower top marginal corporate income tax rate and twenty-five states have a lower property tax burden.

15th by Wallet Hub. The group found Virginia ranked 21st in “Innovation Potential.”

13th by CNBC. CNBC found Virginia in 36th place when it comes to the cost of doing business.

And, we continue to slide in the wrong direction.

The ongoing (and bi-partisan) effort focusing on economic development incentives is not doing the trick. Nor should we seek out higher, and debt-financed, federal government spending. Instead, our leaders must work to create a more favorable environment for the economy to thrive for all businesses.

by Mark Kelly — August 25, 2016 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.

 Arlington voters will almost certainly approve another bond for Metro this November. Often voters vote for it without a second thought.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) is fighting to reinstate the mechanic who was fired for failing to report that the ventilation fan at L’Enfant Plaza was not working properly and later allegedly lying about it to investigators.

One disturbing allegation made by the mechanic is that that supervisors pressured him to falsify his report after the smoke incident at the stop. One has to ask, did Metro look into these allegations, have the supervisors in question been admonished in any way, and what steps have been taken to ensure there is no temptation to engage in a cover up in the future?

Those questions aside, ATU is suing in federal court for wrongful termination and to have an arbitrator’s ruling upheld that would require Metro to reinstate the mechanic. Last week, Metro filed a counter suit to vacate the arbitrator’s ruling.

The union contract has long appeared to be a substantial impediment to Metro’s ability to move forward. Not only has the union locked in pay scales and overtime provisions, but also makes it extremely difficult to make necessary workforce adjustments as Metro faces ongoing financial strain. Or in this case, seemingly is making it next to impossible to fire employees for cause.

This legal proceeding will put the union contract to the test and may answer the question of what’s more important, a union contract or rider safety?

If a judge finds Metro can fire this mechanic, then the precedent will be set that Metro has the authority to hold union employees accountable and everyone will be put on notice. If the court rules for the union, Metro will be essentially powerless to truly make rider safety a priority.

If the court sides with the union, it may be time to revisit the issue of whether Metro should be dissolved so it can start over.

by Mark Kelly — August 18, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark Kelly

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 month, Peter Rousellot wrote a column calling for a phase out of the Neighborhood Conservation Program. I agree.

While the idea of neighborhood input is a long-standing and worthwhile tradition in Arlington, the implementation of this particular program has never made sense to me. As Peter notes, the county’s consideration of a project is totally dependent on the quality of civic association leadership. But even then it could wait up to a decade to receive funding — at a much higher cost than if the county had been able to address it in a more timely fashion.

“Progressive” is a buzzword that the party in power likes to throw around. But we should never confuse “progressive” with “willingness to make positive changes.” So while it might make eminent sense to rethink a 52 year-old county program and reconsider the way Arlington addresses neighborhood needs, you might not want to not hold your breath waiting for it to change.

Former Delegate Krupicka outlined a number of issues for job creators trying to do business with the county government. These issues have been well-known among the business community for years, but the county has been slow to address them.

Last year, a move by Board Members Garvey and Vihstadt to re-examine the close out spending process was defeated. The Board voted to continue spending tens of millions of dollars outside the more intense public scrutiny of the annual budget process.

Earlier this year the County Board created a panel to rethink the evaluation of the Comprehensive Plan. This Blue Ribbon advisory panel was not going to be charged with changing policy. It would merely have been formed to make recommendations on how better to allocate county resources. But those who benefit from the current way of doing things rose up in vocal opposition and the Board reversed course, refusing to seek the advice of an independent group.

If nothing else, the County Board should evaluate whether reform to the Neighborhood Conservation Program is needed. However, we should all be aware that such a move would meet significant resistance if not outright opposition.

by Mark Kelly — August 11, 2016 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.

Upon first hearing that some wanted to run gondolas across the Potomac between Rosslyn and Georgetown, my first thought was to dismiss it out-of-hand. But when the backers commissioned an initial $215,000 feasibility study back in April, the project landed on my radar.

The long running battle over the Arlington streetcar seems like a distant memory. One thing I do remember is that streetcar proponents always cited Portland as an example of why we should implement the system in Arlington.

Never mind the fact that Portland’s streetcar construction, expansion and ongoing operations consistently cost more than projected when presented to the taxpayers. Auditors have raised questions about costs, ridership numbers and transparency in general. And of course nearly every city has had similar problems with their streetcar lines: Washington, Atlanta, Charlotte, Virginia Beach, Milwaukee, etc.

The first public meeting was held on the proposed gondola project in July. The meeting brought out many concerns from the public. Is there a need? Who will pay? Where will the stations be located? What will the connections be to Metro? Is it much faster than walking over the bridge?

As I reviewed the public meeting presentation, I was not surprised to learn that one of two city gondola projects currently operating in the U.S. was in Portland.

What happened when Portland constructed a gondola? According to news reports, the Portland Aerial Tram construction cost of $57 million was nearly four times the initial estimate of $15 million. Operating costs are nearly twice the original projections. And the fee charged to paying customers ended up coming in closer to three times the initial estimate as well.

The problems do not seem to stop Portland residents from coming back for more taxes and spending. In May, Portland voters approved a 10 cent per gallon gas tax to put toward transportation improvements. The Portland gas tax is projected to raise $64 million over the next four years. Here’s a guess, the revenue projection won’t hit the mark. Savvy consumers, particularly the 48.4% of the voters who voted against it, will remember to fill up outside the city limits whenever possible to avoid the tax.

When Arlingtonians are pointed toward Portland as an example, they should keep the full Portland experience with these projects in mind. However, like residents in Portland, a majority of Arlingtonians seem relatively immune from the argument that our tax rate, or debt, is too high or that shiny object projects often fail to meet expectations.

by Mark Kelly — August 4, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

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.

Mark Kelly

This week, Arlington announced its economic development successes for the past fiscal year. The tally: 53 “deals,” 2 million square feet of office space and 4,200 jobs that were “created or retained.” County Manager Schwartz says it’s his top priority.

The release does not indicate how many were created and how many were retained, something that would be good to know in measuring success. Just as when President Obama tried to count jobs he “created or saved,” we should be very leery of an announcement that contains such a qualifier. Maybe the county will provide a breakdown of created versus retained. But it is hard to argue the success of economic development if we are not adding to the job base.

Also, in evaluating jobs that were retained, it would be good to know an answer to the question of why were they going to leave? Were they just making a threat to get a better deal?

Moreover, if we are making special deals to make businesses stay, what about all the businesses who are staying here without getting a government deal? Where is their “piece of the action?”

At any level of government, there is a very real danger to the taxpayer when a handful of government officials get behind closed doors with a business and make a deal. Even with the best of intentions, there is the very real danger that a business will profit and the taxpayers will lose. Look at “deals” like the one Solyndra received from the federal government and what Governor McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive did to Mississippi (after they couldn’t get a good enough deal from Virginia).

This leads to the question of why do you have to make deals to lure employers to our community at all?

Sure, some would argue that every state and community serious about landing big employers are offering special deals. But as my dad used to say, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right.

Why not make our policies so friendly to job creators that they want to come here? If our tax policies, zoning, permitting are reformed, and if we improve their experiences in even little things like submitting online applications and payments, then we can attract and retain businesses without cutting deals.

Creating a more business-friendly environment both attracts new business we want to locate here, but also benefits the ones who have been providing jobs in our community for years. That should be the goal.

by Mark Kelly — July 28, 2016 at 3:55 pm 0

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.

Mark Kelly

Last fall, I wrote about the possibility of another Tax Increment Financing District in Arlington. This time for the redevelopment of the Ballston Mall.

This is what I wrote then:

“The argument for TIFs is that the development being paid for by the TIFs will increase revenue to the County above what we would have otherwise received. Therefore, despite setting aside a portion of that revenue to subsidize development, it is still a net benefit to the taxpayer.

However, if a private developer cannot secure financing for a project in one of the most attractive real estate markets in the country, why should taxpayers agree to make up the difference?”

My questions about TIFs then are my questions today. Should Arlingtonians continue subsidizing development with debt? And is it worth setting aside future tax revenue to the detriment of other county needs?

Last week, the County Board took a slightly different approach. For the first time, they are forming a Community Development Authority (CDA). The CDA could receive up to $46 million from bonds. The County is also kicking in another $9 million for transportation needs.

The bonds would still be financed by tax increment financing. This financing sets aside a portion of future tax revenue to finance the bonds. None of those funds will be available for schools or other county-wide obligations.

While a CDA sounds like a separate entity, the board members will be made up solely of County Board members, according to the county press release. If that’s the case, why set up a separate entity at all?

Also in the county press release was this statement, “the bonds issued are not on the County’s balance sheet and thus do not affect the County’s debt capacity or debt rating.”

Who pays if the tax increment funds do not meet the debt service requirements? Best guess is the Arlington taxpayers would still end up on the hook. The honest way to do the accounting is to recognize the bond for what it is, an obligation Arlington must pay.

Whether you call it a CDA or TIF, it is little more than a new way to borrow money.

by Mark Kelly — July 21, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

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.

Mark Kelly

The Virginia Supreme Court will now make a decision on Governor McAuliffe’s order to restore voting rights to over 200,000 felons who served their time.

Previous governors have agreed with legal advice that the right to restore rights was not a blanket one through the clemency powers. Instead, they were supposed to set up a review of each case.

Both Governors Kaine and McDonnell worked to make that review easier. And McAuliffe’s predecessors were applauded from across the political spectrum for doing so.

McAuliffe has fought to keep the list secret, and multiple mistakes have been uncovered — leading to ever-growing criticism.

The case should ultimately rest on one important question:  Did Governor McAuliffe violate the Virginia Constitution with his order? The Court is expected to decide in time for the general election in November.

But the Solicitor General asked that the case be thrown out because the legislators could not prove they were harmed by the Governor’s order. He said allowing the case to go forward could amount to a situation where “any voter is going to be able to challenge virtually any election law.” And there was a good deal of discussion on this question during the arguments.

The Supreme Court did agree to hear this case in an expedited fashion. That seems to indicate the justices are concerned there could in fact be harm if the General Election is allowed to proceed under the order.

However, high courts often make decisions based on procedural questions like this rather than creating a precedent on the merits. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of McAuliffe, they will almost certainly hang their hat, or robes, on this question.

The harm of the order does appear to be to anyone who is a valid voter in Virginia, including our elected officials. If the Governor’s order resulted in individuals having their voting rights restored in error and those individuals register and vote, it dilutes the votes of everyone else. Your vote and my vote would not have as much strength as they should have in the electoral process because of the actions of the government.

Our default position should be that any time the impact of an election law weakens our voting rights, a voter should be able to challenge it. The Solicitor General should stand ready to defend our election laws. And we can let the courts decide.

 

by Mark Kelly — July 14, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

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.

Mark KellyNext Tuesday, the County Board will consider the 2016 Bond Referenda to be placed in front of the voters in November. It is reported that this year will include $320 million in new debt for the county. Nearly $140 million on school projects alone.

As of the writing of this column, the County Manager’s report was unavailable online. In the past, the language of the ballot questions has been vague. And voters often rubber stamp them as necessary spending for “parks,” “schools,” “roads,” and “public safety.”

Once again it seems that the County Manager is rejecting a call by Arlington Republicans that every project with a price tag of $25 million or more to be taken up in a separate bond referenda.

Taking on debt for big ticket items should rise or fall on its own merits. On the flip side of that argument, many of the smaller ticket items pushed into these larger packages should be paid for out of the annual budget process.

Along with the slush fund spending in the annual close out process, the bond process should be subject to closer scrutiny and better accountability. Hopefully we’ll hear comments to that effect from more than one County Board member next week.

In September, the County Board will be asked to approve two new polling locations for Arlington.

For a few of the 13 hours polls are open every four years on the first Tuesday in November when voters choose a president, there are moderate length lines to vote on Election Day. Every other election it seems has virtually no line to speak of at any polling location throughout the county.

With all due respect to the good people of the Electoral Board, the reason for the additional polling locations is not readily apparent.

And in a story that surprises no one, taxi trips are down in Arlington as a result of Uber and Lyft.

I have little need for on-call transportation and was not one of the first to join one of these two services. Calling a taxi was going to be just fine for me and my occasional trip to the airport.

Then came the time a cab was 30 minutes late to pick me up to get to my flight. The next time, I tried to order a cab the night before for an early morning flight and could not due to some glitch in the company’s system.

When I went to pick up the phone for my next trip to the airport, I decided to download the ride sharing software instead. For me, it is infinitely more convenient, particularly when it comes to never having to exchange money at my destination.

If taxi companies want to regain market share, then they need to offer a competitive product people want to use.

by Mark Kelly — July 7, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

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.

Mark Kelly

This post may contain some controversial statements. But I feel like there are some common sense things that simply need to be said.

Here’s the first one: airports are noisy.

Unless you lived in Arlington before 1941 when Reagan National was opened, then you knew it was here when you arrived. Stand outside for any length of time anywhere near the flight path, and you are well aware that we live in a county right next door to a well-used airport.

The second simple fact is helicopters are noisy.

Construction of the Pentagon began in 1941 as well. You cannot miss the massive building. And if you stand outside for long in the area, you realize the military flies helicopters in and out of there regularly. Helicopters are also used in Arlington for medical emergencies and police activity. Activities we all agree are necessary.

Much of Arlington feels like you may be in the suburbs. However, we are a very urban area compared to most of America. Living in an urban area with regular police and medical activity that is home to the headquarters of the United States military and the closest-in airport to our nation’s capitol is going to bring with it some noise from the air.

While it is certainly appropriate for county staff to convey resident concerns on this issue, it is important to remember that tens of thousands of jobs exist in Arlington because of the Pentagon and Reagan National. The noise may be an inconvenience, but these are two of the key economic partners that make Arlington a desirable place to live.

My late grandfather worked at a paper mill. When I would go to visit as a child, I would sometimes complain about the smell that was produced from the facility. He would look at me and say, “that smells like money.” In other words, without that mill, he and so many other people may not have been able to find a good job in his town. The smell really amounted to a small inconvenience in the bigger picture.

The aircraft noise in Arlington may be inconvenient. And it is certainly understandable that if you live in the flight path that you would prefer to minimize the noise as much as possible. But when we chose to move here, we also chose to accept that living here comes with some noise. It seems like a lot of time and effort is put into fighting aircraft noise which is, well, inevitable. And, as my grandfather might say, “sounds like jobs.”

Mark Kelly is the chairman of the 8th District Republican Committee, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Mark Kelly — June 30, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

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.

Mark Kelly

The County Board last week approved a resolution calling on the General Assembly to pass legislation giving driver’s licenses to illegal or undocumented immigrants.

Merits aside, this is another in a long line of resolutions the Board has passed calling for another legislative body to act. The General Assembly in Richmond often pays little heed to such things the Arlington County Board has to say. In fact, one could argue that the Board’s support might actually hurt the chances of legislation passing in the far more conservative legislature.

But some have suggested Governor McAuliffe could go it alone on this issue.

Certainly, lack of action by the legislature, or specific authority under the Virginia Constitution, has not stopped Governor McAuliffe or Attorney General Herring from acting before. But if Governor McAuliffe is considering creating new administrative powers out of thin air to issue licenses by executive action, he should think again.

The blanket restoration of voting rights, which Governors Kaine and McDonnell said was not an authority granted to them, has proven to be ill-conceived at best. Even the Virginia Supreme Court has granted an expedited hearing on July 19th in order to determine whether McAuliffe acted properly.

In the meantime, story after story is emerging about individuals who wrongly had their rights restored. And only time will tell just how badly the administration of this decision was bungled.

Unfortunately, our Governor and other leading Democrats seem perfectly fine with using authoritarian and undemocratic means to achieve their goals. Ironically, it is often done in the name of our rights.

It should not matter whether you agree with the end goals or not. When anyone elected to lead our government does an end run of the law to get to a desired result, it erodes the protections afforded to us by our system of government.

No, the legislative process is not perfect. However, it is the system we are supposed to be living under. And we should all be grateful. It also protects us from a future Republican governor who wants to create new laws without any statutory or constitutional power to do so.

Mark Kelly is the chairman of the 8th District Republican Committee, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Mark Kelly — June 23, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

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.

Mark KellyAs part of her State of the County speech to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, County Board Chair Libby Garvey outlined concerns raised by former Delegate Rob Krupicka.

Krupicka experienced frustration with various county processes as he worked to open a Sugar Shack Donuts location on Columbia Pike. For example, Krupicka noted it took six trips to get approval for the sign alone.

In addition to the cumbersome sign process Krupicka called for improvements in other areas, including more coordination between county offices. Krupicka expressed a real concern that County offices do not appear to understand each other’s role. Krupicka rightly said, “That is crazy, as the small business person shouldn’t have to be an expert on government process, the process should be designed to be easy.”

Krupicka called for the ability to submit both applications and payments online, saying “Payments have to be made by mail or in person rather than online and for some things you can’t move forward without payment, so that means waiting in line in the planning office for hours to get your name called so you can hand a check to somebody.”

On this issue of working with the county online, it really is disappointing that Arlington County cannot get it right. Our government often touts its “world class community” status. And the County has made a commitment to the ConnectArlington project to bring high speed fiber to the government and businesses. Receiving online applications and payments from people who want to run a business here should be a simple thing that we could have been getting right a long time ago.

It is no surprise really that Krupicka said it was easier to open his business in Alexandria. This observation should be taken into account as the Board continues to look at the vacancy rate in Arlington – something Garvey also discussed in the speech.

Garvey noted investments in economic development activities. But we better start getting get the basics right first and take practical steps to ensure Arlington really is open for business. You simply cannot make it harder and more expensive to start and run a business in Arlington than your neighbor in Alexandria and expect to win in the competition for new businesses, let alone keep the ones you already have.

Kudos to Garvey for calling attention to Krupicka’s experience. But anyone who has run for County Board in Arlington and had frank conversations with small business owners would have heard these concerns years ago. It’s unfortunate that it took a former Democrat office holder, from Alexandria, to get the Board’s attention.

Mark Kelly is the chairman of the 8th District Republican Committee, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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