Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz rarely misses an opportunity to place his personal short-term agenda ahead of Arlington’s long-term strategic interests. But a November 12 memorandum that Schwartz sent to the County Board reaches a new low even for small-minded Schwartz.
Over 1,825 days ago, the Community Facilities Study Group recommended that Arlington adopt a long-term public facilities plan locating new school seats and other new public facilities like parks, fire stations, and stormwater infrastructure, at specific sites. After prolonged delays, a new commission—the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC)—was created to help develop such a plan. Schwartz quickly intervened, successfully pleading with the County Board for JFAC to be given a series of short-term planning assignments on items like the Buck and Virginia Hospital Center properties, thereby diverting JFAC from its primary mission: long-term, county-wide public facilities planning.
In recent months, JFAC finally began to show signs that it might be on a path to creating the critically important, but MIA, long-term public facilities plan. Re-enter Schwartz to try once again to side-track this vitally needed plan.
Schwartz strikes again
At a time when COVID-19 makes long-term planning for Arlington’s future even more important than it was before, short-term-thinking Schwartz’s latest petulant memorandum to the County Board again tries to deflect us from the strategic thinking Arlington desperately needs. We just can’t afford to do it, according to Schwartz, because:
“The work in [JFAC’s] outline, to be done well, and to be accurate and thorough, requires staff from virtually every department to be involved, including department heads.
“Such a plan requires subject matter expert advice, along with citizen input beyond the JFAC members. In addition, the outline focuses on areas that I see as squarely within my purview as Manager.”
No shit, Sherlock! If you had been doing your job right, instead of spending years preventing JFAC from doing its job, Arlington would now have the long-term public facilities master plan it desperately needs.
It’s important to note that the public has not been consulted about any of the policy suggestions floated by Schwartz, including any radical long-term permanent shift to virtual classrooms. Whether APS or parents will accept that result is not even considered in the memo. But make no bones about it, yet another “pause” to locate school locations, and JFAC’s diversion to review virtual classrooms will cover up Schwartz’s own failure to plan for brick and mortar schools up until now, and will result in no other option but virtual learning.
Similarly Schwartz’s suggestion that level of service reviews for facilities, including those for infrastructure and parks, are exclusively under his purview is designed to shield Schwartz from any independent critical thinking for how facilities can be used more efficiently or removed from Arlington’s exclusive management through things like partnerships with neighboring jurisdictions.
Mark Schwartz does not have the strategic vision required of the Chief Executive Officer of a $1.5 billion enterprise. The County Board should replace him with someone who does.