Ah, yes. The beauty of living in a ‘caring community,’ as a current County Board member referred to Arlington several years ago. Instead of speeches extolling the virtues of greater efficiency, effectiveness, and economy at their 2006 organizational meeting last Monday, January 2, the five County Board members spoke with such utopian terms as ‘livable communities,’ ‘sustainability,’ ‘new urbanism,’ ‘smart growth,’ and the Marxian ‘social justice.’
Although Mr. Fisette did refer to his program performance initiative, no Board member talked about cutting waste, or talked of eliminating employee deadwood (fewer than 1% of employees are denied their periodic step increases). None talked of ‘tightening the ol’ belt’ so that citizens can keep more of their own money. None talked about selling-off excess county buildings and land, deregulating taxi service, eliminating curbside recycling, closing branch libraries, suppressing vagrancy, or providing school choice.
Last week I growled that since 1998, when Mr. Zimmerman first chaired the Board, taxes on the average home have increased 79% after adjusting for inflation, and per capita bonded indebtedness has increased 31%, also after inflation. Instead, he is proposing transportation and other costly initiatives, e.g., increasing employee benefits. Instead of telling citizens how he would prevent future construction failures such as the two fire stations, which I growled about in late December, he talked of “planning and building for the future.”
While Mr. Fisette focused on his promotion of fiscal discipline and accountability, those words ring hollow given the increases in real estate taxes and bonded indebtedness cited in the previous paragraph. He does deserve an “A” for effort, however, since he does say that his fellow Board members must reduce their “appetite for new capital projects.” Ms. Favola continues to talk about affordable housing and early childhood education, but seems to offer no new initiatives. Curiously, though, she talks about the “heartless budget cutting at the Federal level.” An interesting choice of words since Federal spending now exceeds $22,000 per family annually (page 3, Adobe required). Mr. Tejada wants to begin a community discussion about physical fitness. When did that become a core purpose of government? And Mr. Ferguson wants to ensure “that site plan conditions are enforced.” If the Board didn’t have a mechanism to ensure that such conditions would be met, why did they include them in the original site place?
You are encouraged to read each of the Board members' New Year’s Day speeches. Be prepared, however, you will need plenty of coffee, or else you will soon doze off from boredom. In case you’re not sure about the term “tax eaters,” it’s a term from Steven Malanga’s book, “The New New Left.” Seems a fitting description for the Arlington County Board.