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ArlingtonGovernance proposal deferred to fall for more feedback

Governance proposal deferred to fall for more feedback

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In the immortal words of the 1970s Carolina beach band Chairman of the Board: “Give me just a little more time.”

The leadership of the Arlington County Civic Federation on June 14 announced a delay in consideration of a slew of recommendations on changes to Arlington governance, and will take the summer to provide more outreach and gather additional feedback.

The extra months will give the federation’s TiGER [Task Force in Governance and Election Reform] the ability to further think through the pros and cons of some of its proposals.

“The consensus . . . is that they need more time,” said Allan Gajadhar, who is rotating out as Civic Federation president but has been tapped to lead the TiGER process for the coming year.

(“I tried to escape and my resistance was futile,” Gajadhar joked.)

The task force, at work for much of the past year, in recent months has proposed a number of changes to Arlington’s 90-year-old governance structure, including expanding the County Board and School Board from five to seven members each and moving from local elections every year to every other year.

Also proposed was having board chairs serve for longer than the current one-year-in-and-out rotation, and moving from winner-take-all to ranked-choice voting for elections. But the recommendations do not include one potential seismic change that has garnered limited but fervent support: Moving from at-large elections to those based on districts.

A district approach “would move the needle” in getting elected officials to become more responsive to the public, said Miranda Turner, a federation delegate and former School Board candidates.

(From 1870 to 1932, Arlington did have district-based governance, with a three-ember Board of Supervisors elected from districts that roughly paralleled the north, middle and south of the county. That governing style was supplanted by the five-member, at-large County Board system that remains in place today.)

When, exactly, Civic Federation delegates will vote on the package remains to be determined. It’s unlikely to happen at the organization’s September meeting, which serves as a candidates’ night. Also an open question is whether the package will be presented as an up-or-down vote, or broken up into pieces.

Any adopted recommendations will go to the County Board and state legislative delegation for follow-up, but there is no guarantee proposals will be enacted. So far, County Board members have only taken up one of the proposed recommendations, giving themselves a whopping pay raise that kicks in next month, with pay slated to go even higher in coming years.

Gajadhar said a number of members of the TiGER task force, which has been led by Chris Wimbush, were stepping down, and new recruits were welcomed.
The entire draft proposal is online at civfed.org.

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