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Thursday, December 1, 2022
ArlingtonOpinionEditorial: And here comes Arlington's 2023 campaign season

Editorial: And here comes Arlington’s 2023 campaign season

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Arlington County Board members in a few weeks will give the Arlington County Democratic Committee an early Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa present by approving a switch from traditional winner-take-all County Board primaries to the more complicated but, some say, better “ranked-choice,” AKA “instant-runoff,” format.

The change will allow Democrats to use ranked-choice voting to select their County Board nominees next June while shifting the cost and logistics of the nomination process from a party-run caucus to a state-run primary.

We’re not reflexively against such a switch, which may (or may not) be extended to the 2023 County Board general election if things go well in the primary, but we don’t think County Board members have effectively passed the “Al Eisenberg test” explaining it to the public.

That one-time County Board member, who died last week, was well known for positing a simple but seminal question when ideas for change were floated.
“What is the problem we are trying to solve?” he would ask. And you’d better have an answer at the ready if you wanted Eisenberg’s support for the change being sought.

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Hopefully in December, when County Board members make the switcheroo (as they are all but guaranteed to do), there will be a cogent explanation of what the problem is with winner-take-all elections and how, on balance, ranked-choice voting will mark an improvement for the public. Proponents nibble around the edges, but never seem able to simply and directly make their case.

Ah well, bring on County Board campaign season 2023! With at least one (Katie Cristol) and perhaps the second (Christian Dorsey) of the incumbents having decided not to seek new terms, it could be a free-for-all, particularly now that current County Board-ers have lavished higher salaries on themselves with more of that gravy train likely to come via further raises already in the pipeline.

The pantheon of County Board legends Ellen Bozman, Jim Hunter, Roye Lowry and others like them, who saw the post as a part-time oversight role that was more community service than personal-enrichment effort, surely would be aghast at the self-aggrandizement and self-importance of some of their successors. And for all the talk by today’s leaders of how tough they have it, they sure seem to just vote the way staff want them to, most of the time.

Having watched the County Board and those who have rotated in and out over the decades, we’re not really sure why one would want the job these days, even at the higher pay rate, unless it was:

• To prep a bid for higher office, although the last one to successfully accomplish that was Barbara Favola more than a decade ago; or

• To ram through one’s vision of a progressive utopia on a docile and acquiescent county populace that.

Arlington County Board members in a few weeks will give the Arlington County Democratic Committee an early Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa present by approving a switch from traditional winner-take-all County Board primaries to the more complicated but, some say, better “ranked-choice,” AKA “instant-runoff,” format.

The change will allow Democrats to use ranked-choice voting to select their County Board nominees next June while shifting the cost and logistics of the nomination process from a party-run caucus to a state-run primary.

We’re not reflexively against such a switch, which may (or may not) be extended to the 2023 County Board general election if things go well in the primary, but we don’t think County Board members have effectively passed the “Al Eisenberg test” explaining it to the public.

That one-time County Board member, who died last week, was well known for positing a simple but seminal question when ideas for change were floated.
“What is the problem we are trying to solve?” he would ask. And you’d better have an answer at the ready if you wanted Eisenberg’s support for the change being sought.

Hopefully in December, when County Board members make the switcheroo (as they are all but guaranteed to do), there will be a cogent explanation of what the problem is with winner-take-all elections and how, on balance, ranked-choice voting will mark an improvement for the public. Proponents nibble around the edges, but never seem able to simply and directly make their case.

Ah well, bring on County Board campaign season 2023! With at least one (Katie Cristol) and perhaps the second (Christian Dorsey) of the incumbents having decided not to seek new terms, it could be a free-for-all, particularly now that current County Board-ers have lavished higher salaries on themselves with more of that gravy train likely to come via further raises already in the pipeline.

The pantheon of County Board legends Ellen Bozman, Jim Hunter, Roye Lowry and others like them, who saw the post as a part-time oversight role that was more community service than personal-enrichment effort, surely would be aghast at the self-aggrandizement and self-importance of some of their successors. And for all the talk by today’s leaders of how tough they have it, they sure seem to just vote the way staff want them to, most of the time.

Having watched the County Board and those who have rotated in and out over the decades, we’re not really sure why one would want the job these days, even at the higher pay rate, unless it was:

• To prep a bid for higher office, although the last one to successfully accomplish that was Barbara Favola more than a decade ago; or

• To ram through one’s vision of a progressive utopia on a docile and acquiescent county populace that.

Arlington County Board members in a few weeks will give the Arlington County Democratic Committee an early Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa present by approving a switch from traditional winner-take-all County Board primaries to the more complicated but, some say, better “ranked-choice,” AKA “instant-runoff,” format.

The change will allow Democrats to use ranked-choice voting to select their County Board nominees next June while shifting the cost and logistics of the nomination process from a party-run caucus to a state-run primary.

We’re not reflexively against such a switch, which may (or may not) be extended to the 2023 County Board general election if things go well in the primary, but we don’t think County Board members have effectively passed the “Al Eisenberg test” explaining it to the public.

That one-time County Board member, who died last week, was well known for positing a simple but seminal question when ideas for change were floated.
“What is the problem we are trying to solve?” he would ask. And you’d better have an answer at the ready if you wanted Eisenberg’s support for the change being sought.

Hopefully in December, when County Board members make the switcheroo (as they are all but guaranteed to do), there will be a cogent explanation of what the problem is with winner-take-all elections and how, on balance, ranked-choice voting will mark an improvement for the public. Proponents nibble around the edges, but never seem able to simply and directly make their case.

Ah well, bring on County Board campaign season 2023! With at least one (Katie Cristol) and perhaps the second (Christian Dorsey) of the incumbents having decided not to seek new terms, it could be a free-for-all, particularly now that current County Board-ers have lavished higher salaries on themselves with more of that gravy train likely to come via further raises already in the pipeline.

The pantheon of County Board legends Ellen Bozman, Jim Hunter, Roye Lowry and others like them, who saw the post as a part-time oversight role that was more community service than personal-enrichment effort, surely would be aghast at the self-aggrandizement and self-importance of some of their successors. And for all the talk by today’s leaders of how tough they have it, they sure seem to just vote the way staff want them to, most of the time.

Having watched the County Board and those who have rotated in and out over the decades, we’re not really sure why one would want the job these days, even at the higher pay rate, unless it was:

• To prep a bid for higher office, although the last one to successfully accomplish that was Barbara Favola more than a decade ago; or

• To ram through one’s vision of a progressive utopia on a docile and acquiescent county populace that.

Either way, it’s going to be very, very interesting to see who pops up to make runs on the Democratic side.

Either way, it’s going to be very, very interesting to see who pops up to make runs on the Democratic side.

Either way, it’s going to be very, very interesting to see who pops up to make runs on the Democratic side.

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