More Government Darkness During the Pandemic

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As the Pandemic continues, Arlington Elected Officials Drift into Opaqueness, Closed Door Sessions, and Lack of Public Review.

Starting off with the good. 

Arlington’s endless processes and faux outreach engagement which wasted resident’s time and just resulted in diluted outcomes favoring staff and the most organized individuals or groups are finally taking a rest during the pandemic. 

Now the bad.

Trump flopped big time by not having any plan at all to deal with the pandemic,  leading to a hodgepodge of information with states fending on their own for supplies, policy and guidance. In Arlington, you’d expect much better leadership — after all we’re better than Trump, right? During a crisis like this, the public relies on our leadership to make sound and rational decisions with explanations about why they are needed. 

I read the Chair of the Arlington County Transportation Commission’s article Modern Mobility: Arlington’s Emergency Sidewalk Ordinance is a Mess . It highlighted 2 things; how our elected leaders are really poorly informed on how things actually work not just in Arlington, but in the world! And how they are getting deeper into opaque governing with closed door sessions for no apparent reason and no explanation for their decisions. 

On the Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other through COVID19, Chanda Choun, pointed out these excerpts from Slatt’s piece which demonstrate these two serious concerns;

“Problems with the Ordinance

These sort of ordinances that criminalize common behavior or are difficult to accurately interpret are exactly the kinds of ordinances that tend to suffer from selective enforcement and can easily be weaponized to hassle the homeless, people of color or any other group a particular officer has a problem with.

Consistency is Needed

If standing outside on the sidewalk with others is too risky to be allowed, then sitting outside in a sidewalk café eating is too risky to be allowed. Our County leadership need to listen to expert advice, make a decision and then communicate and legislate a clear and consistent expectation.

We Need Our Public Processes Back

Normally in Arlington, these issues would be raised and addressed before the ordinance ever even got to a public hearing, let alone adopted. They would have been brought up by commissions, or by citizens who are not on commissions, but who were made aware of the proposed ordinance when it was released publicly for commission review. This pandemic looks to be with us for a long time — the County needs to adapt and reinstate our public processes so we can get back to thoughtful, informed decision-making.  Adopting surprise emergency ordinances after reviewing them in closed session is the exact opposite.”

If all that isn’t damning enough, Adam Genest, the ’s appointed Chair of the Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission, added this comment to the Facebook post. 

It gets worse

Yeah yeah it’s bad that the county is off making uninformed decisions, not explaining why or how these decisions are being made and not consulting experts like those on the Emergency Preparedness Commission, but could it get worse? Yes, actually it can. On a blog about one of the County’s Townhalls, the author says, 

“County Board members Matt de Ferranti and Katie Cristol spent an hour asking county staff prescreened questions in an effort to reassure everyone that Northam’s reopening plans are sound. No one from the public was allowed to speak. Much of the content was information that can be found on the county’s website.”

It’s bad enough that most of our lives are getting battered daily by the pandemic in one form or another, we do not need our elected officials to retreat from public participation, review, explanation and accountability.

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