Editor: Good policy should be based on good data. Yet the Arlington County Board’s “Missing Middle” plan is a massive change to a 50-year social contract (Metro-focused density, forged by consensus), and the county government is rushing to enact this change in 2022 not on good data, or even bad data, but on NO data.
• First, board member Matt de Ferranti, the only one now up for re-election, gives his top reason to support Missing Middle as it will expand home-ownership for families and first-responders. Curious, I asked what informed his view. He wrote me: “instincts, no specific data.”
Imagine if all our leaders made crucial public policy decisions on hunches alone.
• Second, the County Board says only 19 to 21 lots per year will become 2- to 8-unit complexes in neighborhoods, so negative impacts will be negligible. But there is no public “math” on how they derived that.
In July, I and others asked County Board Chairman Katie Cristol, Vice Chairman Christian Dorsey and member Takis Karantonis to “show your work” during three “Open Door Monday” Q&As. None did. They passed the buck to staff. In August, the two lead Missing Middle staffers confirmed staff had not even seen “the math.” This, as they speedily rewrite the new ordinances for a November vote!
Without a sound, verifiable number, all of the county government’s projections on housing, schools, trees, parking, etc., are useless.
The county government’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request reveals why: The emperor has no clothes. There is no math or analysis. Someone essentially plugged “19” and “21” into a spreadsheet.
We deserve better than dart throwing and conjecture. Most troubling is the County Board’s flat refusal to share data, lack of curiosity and continued hubris in the face of rapidly growing, fact-driven opposition.
Perhaps if the County Board embraced diverse views, instead of trying to separate and silence them, the Arlington Way would not be astray.