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The Price of ‘Civic Charisma’ In Arlington County

Years ago, a friend introduced me to the term ‘Arlogance,’ a combination of Arlington and arrogance. I’m reminded of it when I see Arlington’s panjandrums using terms like ‘caring community’ or ‘world-class community.’ Now comes ‘civic charisma,' which surfaced at an Arlington County Board worksession on Tuesday on the future of Wakefield High School. According to a story posted today at the online Arlington Sun-Gazette:

“As School Board members and their County Board colleagues prepare for a Sept. 12 meeting on the future of Wakefield High School, a new phrase has entered the discussion: “civic charisma.”

“That's what architect and county government consultant Roger Lewis said should be the final outcome of the Wakefield design process, speaking during an Aug. 19 work session with County Board members.

“The work session was designed to prep for the conference with the School Board, as both sides stake out positions on the design of Wakefield's reconstruction. It gave County Board members both an overview of general design concepts, and specifics on the Wakefield site.”

Some in the county question just how much ‘civic charisma’ is worth. The Sun-Gazette also reported:

“Beth Wolffe, who chairs the schools committee of the Arlington County Civic Federation and is a former School Board candidate, had a different take on the new process.

“Wolffe voiced concern that, in their zeal to create a visual statement, self-appointed county architectural gurus may forget the main purpose of the school.

“It must first serve the instructional needs of students,” she said.

“The school's current cost is estimated at upwards of $170 million, but could run to more than $200 million if spending gets out of hand or construction costs continue to soar - making the Wakefield project twice as expensive as the reconstructions of Yorktown and Washington-Lee high schools.

“How much extra is the County Board or School Board prepared to spend for what this architect calls 'civic charisma'?” Wolffe asked. “If it's cheap, fine. If it's another $5 million . . . that's not so good.”

Just how much will the latest version of Arlogance cost? Inquiring minds want to know. Should you care to voice your concern, the phone number of the Board Office is 703-228-3130.

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