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ArlingtonElimination of emergency-preparedness panel causes some brushback

Elimination of emergency-preparedness panel causes some brushback

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The Arlington County government does love its acronyms, and over the recently departed summer replaced “EPAC” with “CARRT.”

The move has not won universal approval, but perhaps first some definitions are in order.

EPAC stands for the Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission, appointed by and reporting to the County Board on issues related to preparedness.

Or perhaps it’s better to say EPAC stood for Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission, because the body was effectively abolished by County Board fiat earlier in the summer. Commission members got formal notification in June that they were no longer required. “Thank you for your service,” e-mailed staffer Hannah Winant, who told appointees that staff would be in touch as details for the new group were finalized.

That group is a new body called Community Advancing Resilience and Readiness Together, whose somewhat clunky name has been shortened into the equally clunky acronym CARRT.

When the matter was discussed at a July County Board meeting, it seemed details continued to be fleshed out.

“There is no set structure for how this is going to work,” said County Board member Christian Dorsey, who had served as liaison to EPAC.

But, Dorsey told board colleagues, the plan was an open-door, big-tent effort to “bring the whole community in” to readiness planning.

The new body is likely to report to the county manager, rather than County Board, which has led to suspicions that EPAC was providing recommendations and policy ideas to elected officials that staff didn’t like.

With the elimination of EPAC, “the [County] Board will not receive neutral, outside advice on such county issues, making them more reliant on the manager and staff for decisions,” noted one individual who had watched the process closely but asked not to be named because it could be problematic in their professional life.

“EPAC and CARRT could have coexisted,” the individual said.

Abolition of EPAC came at approximately the same time that the county government’s Aquatics Committee got the heave-ho. That committee had been jointly appointed by the County Board and School Board, and its usefulness may have been more limited after the opening, in 2021, of the Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center, a project with a 20-year odyssey from conception to completion.

The elimination of the two bodies will become part of the discourse during election season, if County Board candidate Audrey Clement has anything to say about it.

Clement has been critical of the decisions, saying the public had no input and arguing that both bodies have provided ongoing, useful service.

In terms of the EPAC, the body “took its oversight very seriously and wasn’t shy about giving advice to the County Board, all at a time when the pandemic was surging and a state of local emergency was in effect,” Clement said.

County Board members seem not bothered by the change. In an e-mail on the matter obtained by the Sun Gazette, Dorsey sniffed that “it is not only our prerogative [to change the format of advisory boards], it is the right thing to do.”

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