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Monday, August 15, 2022
ArlingtonOpinionEditorial: Arlington leaders go into rope-a-dope mode

Editorial: Arlington leaders go into rope-a-dope mode

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It was called the rope-a-dope, and it worked tremendously effectively for Muhammad Ali back in the day.

The younger Ali, when he was fighting older opponents, would simply let them whale away at him for a time, tuckering them out and sapping their energy. And then – blammo! – “The Greatest” went in for the kill.

The same strategy appears in the works as Arlington County Board members assume a defensive crouch and withstand criticism from those who are waking up to the implications of the proposed Missing Middle housing policy.

The June 18 County Board meeting was a case in point; large crowds (pro and con) showed up, yet board chair Katie Cristol held to the rules (or her interpretation of them, at least), and cut off most of those attempting to speak on the issue at the public-comment period.

Supporters of the policy say, hey, Missing Middle has been in the works for years. Indeed. It also has been largely under the public’s radar for years, and given that the County Board proclaims its support for equity at every turn and in every press release, it seems a tad inequitable to penalize those who are just getting looped in because they haven’t had years – pandemic years, especially – to keep up with a process where the real goal seems to have been to keep the great unwashed out of the loop for as long as possible.

And anyone who has watched the way Arlington is run for more than, say, a nanosecond recognizes that by the time “the time comes” for the promised public engagement, the decisions will have been finalized and such input will be meaningless.

It’s patently obvious that the plan is to have the zoning changes ready to go by fall. There may be some wordsmithing and modest changes between now and then, but anyone who expects serious consideration of the public’s views at this point in the game is in for a world of disappointment.

There are different points of view about the proposal to move to let-it-all-hang-out zoning. Our opinion is well-known, but we don’t claim to have the lone reasonable point of view. Others will differ.

But with more and more residents getting to know about one of the biggest policy changes in county history, it seems the time is ripe to expand outreach, not restrict it through selective enforcement of public-comment rules.

If the policy is as good for Arlington as supporters contend, why not give it more sunshine?

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