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Streetcar 'Deals' in the Works?

On Friday, we growled, and asked whether there is a conflict of interest on the Arlington County Board, based upon a story in the Arlington Sun Gazette. In the Growls, we wrote, "Sure sounds as if the taxpayers of Arlington County need an Inspector General to watch over county operations."

Now comes this online story in today's Arlington Sun Gazette headlined, "Streetcar Proponents Deny Any Deals are in the Works." According to the Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey:

"For those who think the fix is in and the County Board is greasing the skids for a pre-selected private firm to swoop in, build and operate Arlington’s planned streetcar network, several elected officials have a message: There’s no hidden agenda playing out.

"Plans to endorse the concept of public-private partnerships for transportation projects is simply “putting a new tool in Arlington’s toolbox,” County Board Chairman Mary Hynes said on Dec. 5, five days before board members were slated to consider the measure at a rare Monday board session.

"The issue took on heightened awareness after board member Libby Garvey publicly voiced concerns that the County Board’s moving forward with endorsement of Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act was premature. She cited “serious concerns affecting not only out streetcar decision, but also decisions on large projects in the future.”

"Other board members, who appeared ready to move forward at the Dec. 10 meeting, said voting on the partnership guidelines didn’t obligate the county to do anything down the road, but merely opened up options. County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac called it a “procedural device.”

"County Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada, speaking to the monthly meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, said public-private partnerships could be considered to address a host of transportation matters, from building a parking garage to operating the proposed streetcar network."

How's this? On November 29, we growled about the lack of citizen oversight over a large pot of transportation money. Now one of the Board masterminds talks about "a host of transportation matters" that could be resolved through public-private partnerships. Be sure you know how to spell corruption? One day soon, it may be necessary.

UPDATE (12/10/12): Last week, the Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan posted the story that "Columbia Pike streetcar options being mulled." She began the story noting:

"While Arlington County awaits word on whether it will receive federal transit funds for the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, elected officials have been weighing their options on who will manage the project and the size and type of streetcars they prefer.

"No sooner had Chairman Mary Hynes declared Tuesday night’s workshop a “learning journey,” then board member Libby Garvey called for an independent cost-benefit analysis of a streetcar system versus a bus rapid transit alternative. “There’s never been an informed and public conversation about this,” Garvey said."

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