The Arlington Way

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Former County Manager Ron Carlee wrote an article for the National Civic Review entitled “The Arlington Way: Public as a Community Expectation” I thought he made one very wise remark, and one very cute remark: The cute one – “..too short for such a name” was embedded in: “What is the Arlington Way? In its most positive framing, the Arlington Way means engaging with the public on issues of importance or concern (not always the same) in an effort to reach community consensus or, in the lack of consensus, a shared understanding and an opportunity for everyone to be heard.

In its negative framing, the Arlington Way was derided as a way to talk everything to death so that ideas are killed or that people are so worn-down by the end that they do not care what happens as long as it is just over. It was quipped that Arlington’s tagline should be, “. It’s our most important product.” During a site plan discussion at an Arlington County Board meeting, someone quipped that a new street within the complex be named the Arlington Way. Without thinking, I too-quickly responded that the street was much too short for such a name.”

The wise one – “Elected officials are elected to exercise their judgment in a representative democracy. They can be well-served by making their decision-making more democratically but have the prerogative and sometimes a leadership obligation to make difficult decisions. In any event, city officials should not pretend to seek advice when minds are already made.”

When forming commissions or task forces, the Board and the Manager should make much more effort to include people not already disposed in favor of their existing policy inclinations.

Author of this article, Dave Schutz, asked that his name be displayed on the publication

More under: #process #engagement

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