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Government by the Government for the Government -- Arlington County in Action

This morning, the Arlington County Board held its traditional New Year's Day organizational meeting at which it formally elects its chairman and vice-chairman and tends to other housekeeping duties. However, the most important thing the meeting provides is an opportunity for the chairman to bloviate on the initiatives on which he, or she, will justify their reelection later in the year. Interestingly, the incoming chairman noted in his speech that in 1998 he first assumed the chairmanship of the Board. And although he spoke at length about Arlington being the "model of an urban village," he failed to mention the cost of the Board's so-called vision.

I'll address the "initiatives" portion of the chairman's speech in a day or two, but for now, let me tell you what the chairman didn't say, which is that all of that bloviating has a cost. And in the case of the Arlington County Board since 1998 when he first served as the chairman, that cost has been significant. Let's look at two numbers. According to the Board's adopted budget for fiscal year 2006, real estate taxes on the average single family home has increased 78.6% since 1998 on an inflation-adjusted basis. Almost as bad, based upon numbers on page 166 of the FY2005 Comprensive Annual Financial Report, the net bonded debt per capita has increased 31% after inflation. The financial reports are available at the finance department's webpage. Inflation was calculated using the U.S. Department of Labor's CPI Inflation Calculator.

As a neighbor who looked at the chairman's speech commented, "Who says Arlingtonians want to be a social justice example to others? Perhaps they'd just like sufficient emergency services that they can get help when needed, deter crime, and still have money left after Co taxes to pursue happiness." Another friend describes Arlington's county government as "government by the government for the government." If you think that description is too harsh, check out the "slideshow" produced by the 2005 chairman to document his accomplishments.