The March 2023 newsletter is linked below. If you have any comments or questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Process is Everything
by Scott Sklar, President, AHCA
We will have two jointly-sponsored candidates’ nights with the Lyon Park Citizens Association (LPCA), to cover the entire spectrum of state and local Virginia candidates. I am using this column in a more philosophical bent, to address some underlying issues.
The County’s Missing Middle process winded me, but the precursors were in the planning processes – the planning commissions, the GLUPS — I was beginning to see a more controlled county-sponsored planning effort which focused less on process and less on genuine community input. Many of us involved in these processes have been grousing about it.
The county’s earlier signature issue was “the street car, on Columbia Pike” and what surprised me was how poor the public outreach was. As a result, the first time in a long time – the party-designated candidate did not win, nor was it unanimously supported on the Board, and the issue failed.
Now in the midst of Missing Middle Housing, 13 civic associations have formally polled their members and over 70% opposed the county plan in each and every poll. The county has issued its own poll, worded in ways that many of us do not believe captured the issues of concern. The county has also staged impromptu street events to take input, where they did not take down attendees information or make sure they were residents of Arlington.
To me it doesn’t matter where any of us stand on the above issues or other issues. I actually embrace the fact that people have different views, concerns, and philosophies. That’s all good.
And from that, it seems to me the role of civic associations and local governments, and their committees, commissions, councils, and bodies is to help upload these many viewpoints — the pros, the cons, the risks, and the benefits and create a stew that comes out that tastes reasonably good to most members and residents. This was called “The Arlington Way” and became a point that we as a county crowed about.
When I became your AHCA President 13 years ago, I established a formal committee structure so that our AHCA members could work together more formally on issues. What started as a few committees, is now over seven formal and subject committees: Development, Housing, Noise, Open Spaces, Safety & Security, Schools, Tree Canopy & Native Plants, Transportation, and some AHCA leads on COVID and Stormwater Management.
In 2023 I am concerned about our county. As we urbanize and densify — the tendency is to become more hierarchical and more contorted, and in many cases less representative. The pressure on issues, and growth mandates response, many times without thorough input.
So if what I laid out is a trend, how do we as caring residents in a great county and even a better community help re-orient where the county is going? Since Ashton Heights and Lyon Park are jointly sponsoring two candidate forums, I am hoping that many of us focus on process, on better planning, better risk & costs analysis. Request better surveys and input tools, where results are published and subsets are re-polled as a way to build consensus.
Frankly, it is up to us to help re-orient and improve governance. And build it up in a more positive way. We have raised our families, and built our careers, and participated in many events and organizations in our communities. I hope we pool our talents, ask questions to elected or aspiring elected officials, and writing to these officials as much we can. We need to energize ourselves and our inputs to let our County and State government know we are watching, what our expectations are and that we have on-going concerns.
Democracy and participatory government actually is hard work. But it is worth it. And I hope we can activate to re-energize the various government processes, established theoretically to assist us.