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Monday, March 27, 2023
Editor’s NotebookEditor's Notebook: Judge Dillon wins again (as he always does)

Editor’s Notebook: Judge Dillon wins again (as he always does)

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Those who have been around Arlington for some time will remember when the County Board would assemble on Jan. 1 each year for its annual organizational meeting, a tradition that lasted for decades until killed off by some of the current board members because they apparently didn’t want to get out of the house on the holiday morning, boo-hoo-hoo.

Having a meeting when nothing else was going on in local news the first day of the year was a public-relations masterstroke, as the event got all kinds of coverage from TV, radio and print.

Now, when the organizational meeting is held later that first week of the year, it gets lost in the shuffle and even the supposedly hyperlocal news coverers don’t pay it much heed. (Nobody ever accuses today’s Arlington County Board of public-relations masterstrokes.)


Anyhoo, let’s take the wayback machine for a spin and dial up New Year’s Day of 51 years ago (1972), when the great Joe Wholey had just rotated in as County Board chair and laid out his priorities for the coming year.

One of them was a perennial: Wholey was hoping that the state government would devolve more authority on localities, breaking the firm grip of the “Dillon Rule” that aggregated Virginia power at the state level.

Now, I have no doubt whatsoever that Virginia’s local governments today have slightly more power than they had at the start of the 1970s. But not by much. Nobody in the General Assembly ever seems eager to give up much more than a scintilla of the power that Judge Dillon (who was from Iowa, by the way) effectively handed their predecessors 125 years ago with his constitutional interpretations.

HYSTERIA RAMPED UP FROM AN UNUSUAL SOURCE: Yours truly usually is a fan of the editorials that appear in the Alexandria Times newspaper. But last week’s? Lordy, what a whiny, sniveling regression to the COVID panic of 2020, even though we’re in a much different place now.

Whoever authored said editorial clearly is buying in to the let’s-ramp-up-the-COVID-hysteria-once-again mantra that we’re seeing percolate. Sigh.

I do hope this hyperventilating and pearl-clutching was a one-off exception and not a new direction for the Alexandria Times’s editorial page. Because it usually is a beacon of sanity.

– Scott McCaffrey

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