Despite a surprising number of “no” votes that seemed to catch proponents by surprise, delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation on Nov. 15 approved a package of proposed changes to county governance.
The adopted proposal has no force of law, but it may help set the stage for future discussion with organizations and individuals that hold the power to adopt, or effectively veto, specific recommendations — the County Board, School Board, Arlington County Democratic Committee, other political parties, General Assembly, governor and State Board of Elections among them.
The 57-20 final tally (with seven abstentions) ratified a package that had been developed over the past three years. It included recommendations to increase membership on the County Board and School Board from five to at least seven and to revamp the current every-year election cycle, but shied away from more aggressive proposals such as moving to district-based seats, reducing the power of Democratic Committee’s nomination processes, directly electing a County Board chair, and seeking to convert the county to city status.
“We’re not trying to do revolution here; we’re trying to do what we can,” said Michael Beer, who served on the task force and pressed for adoption of its recommendations as a fair compromise among competing concerns.
The package from the Civic Federation’s TiGER (Task Force in Governance and Election Reform) was voted on as one piece, so it’s difficult to know what caused the votes against it. “Change is hard,” one proponent said after the tally.
Most of the delegates were participating remotely rather than brave the cold, rainy night to attend in person at Virginia Hospital Center, so a post-mortem on who opposed what was difficult to obtain. Supporters said that, during development of the package, they had not heard much opposition bubble up.
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