The situation in Arlington continues to disturb me. Certainly, we don’t have elected leaders or staff that are suppressing voting rights, curtailing a woman’s reproductive rights, or supporting aggressive policing. However, our elected leaders and staff do seem to have a unique relationship with the real estate and development community in Arlington. That relationship seriously compromises other core values our community cherishes: education, the environment, and equity.
To a busy resident who is only getting the latest “Arlington Ranks [at the top]” emails and lacks the time for a thoughtful analysis of what is happening, Arlington seems to be doing great. But as The Arlington Way is pointing out, Arlington is not doing great. Decisions are designed for short term media headlines and not long-term investment and livability. I have struggled to reconcile living in a deep blue community with these actions that feel more like a deep red community.
Then, by accident, I watched “Knock Down the House https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wGZc8ZjFY4.” The movie is 100 minutes on Netflix, and follows a number of contenders for the 2018 election. The premise of the movie is not about how all of these unconventional candidates were inspired to take on Republicans. Rather it is focused on how these candidates took a critical look at what was happening in their Democratic districts and said, “this is messed up and our communities are not being served fully.”
“Knock Down the House” articulates what is happening in Arlington. The County Board and JBG or the Chamber of Commerce or Amazon are more often catered to in Arlington decisions and policy than our residents. The Arlington Spectator recently wrote a compelling piece on how the County Board blatantly ignored data and residents [once again] in a recent COVID townhall. The Arlington Way has created another voice to highlight the growing ineptitude by our leaders. However, The Sun Gazette, ArlNow, The Washington Post and others are all sitting silent and letting the leaders do as they want … just like in “Knock Down the House.”
How can it be that we have a fully Democratic elected County Board and yet the normal resident is being pushed out of the conversation, that there is a wholesale alignment with developers, that our natural spaces are being pummeled, that our school system is being poorly managed, that our equity issues are getting worse, not better? Shouldn’t we be concerned that our Country Board is consistently voting 5-0 on anything that the county staff recommends? Isn’t it alarming that the entire system of resident engagement has been put into a form of hiatus under the guise of COVID for the foreseeable future, and yet it is impossible to get a 1-1 with the Board members?
It is time for our Arlington voters to not just vote Blue, but to critically evaluate who they are putting on the County Board and School Board. It is time to say that we as residents are the priority. It is time to say that we want decision making based on data and resident input. The time is now to plant the tree so that we will have shade in the future.