Liveblogging Arlington's Political Dorkapalooza

Friday, January 1, 2010

Posted by The Green Miles

Arlington County Board 2010 New Year's Day meeting on TwitpicAnd we're live from the Arlington County Government Building! The Green Miles has dragged himself out of bed (surprisingly hangover-free! 2010, I like you already!) for the Arlington County Board's traditional New Year's Day meeting.

Why have a meeting on New Year's Day? The County likes to brag that it's "the only local government that 'gets to work' on the first day of the year." But we all know the real reason" Because that's what ginormous political dorks Arlington residents are. We just can't wait until Monday to look ahead to the county's 2010 priorities. If you think I'm making fun of my county, ask yourself this: Who ranks higher on the dork scale, the ones who organized the meeting, or the one who liveblogs it?

It's already looking like an interesting meeting -- with 10 minutes until the start of the meeting, there were three people in the room under 75! That's already a new record in my years of attending the New Year's Day meeting. (I kid. Sorta. This thing doesn't exactly draw the young'uns.)

You can watch the meeting on the Arlington Video Network, either on Comcast or Verizon cable or online. Please add your thoughts in comments, and I'll be keeping an eye on the #acb tag on Twitter.

UPDATE 11:07am -- Outgoing Chair Barbara Favola gavels the session to order. The County Board rotates the gavel annually, so Jay Fisette takes the 2010 Chair, with Chris Zimmerman serving as Vice Chair.

11:11am -- Barbara Favola points out the Board will do two budget expenditure public comment sessions again this year in addition to one revenue hearing. Says they did two spending sessions for the first time in 2009 and it worked really well.

11:15am -- Chris Zimmerman begins explaining the County Board's tiebreaker rule. The dorks ooh and ahh! Literally! Apparently this has been something of a teeny tiny controversy at some point in the past that the state law could be interpreted that the Board could appoint a tiebreaker in case of a tie vote. However, the county attorney & board agree that any vote that doesn't get a majority should fail.

11:18am -- Lots of commission & committee appointments. Not terribly exciting. I emailed Lowell yesterday & asked, "So do you think I should live-blog the Arlington County Board meeting, or would people not be interested?" He basically answered, Meh, not like there's anything else happening on New Year's Day. The dorks carry the day!

11:20am -- Jay Fisette recognizes School Board Chair Sally Baird, School Superintendent Pat Murphy, and former Delegate Karen Darner. Pretty low turnout this year, usually there are more electeds in the house for the New Year's Day meeting & often a full house for public seating, but several empty rows this year.

11:37am -- Jay Fisette says 2010 will be about sustainability -- specifically, fiscal and environmental sustainability. Says that we must maintain our social safety net even in tough budget times. Announces the creation of a "green ribbon task force" -- the Community Energy & Sustainability Task Force, building off the Fresh AIRE effort. Announces the task force members, which include an impressive range of leaders from businesses, community organizations & utilities, along with State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple. Was a little surprised not to hear anyone from ACE on the panel, but there are other environmentalists involved like "Solar Scott" Sklar.

11:45am -- Chris Zimmerman echoes the importance of sustainability, pointing out that a few years ago, scientists had forecast the Arctic could be summer sea ice free within a century. Now, they say the Arctic could be free of summer sea ice within a decade. (The Green Miles tangent: Debates in the media are always focused on whether scientists are wrong on the low end of global warming, that climate change might not be as bad as predicted. What if scientists are wrong on the high end, and climate change will be worse than forecast?)

11:50am -- Walter Tejada says one of his top priorities in 2010 will be maintaining affordable housing, both for home owners and for Arlington's renters. He also pledges to further Gov. Kaine's leadership on clean air, promising to work towards a smoking ban on Arlington playgrounds and at building entrances.

11:55am -- Mary Hynes says she'll work to continue traffic calming measures even with little new funding expected to be available in 2010. She'll also work to provide alternative activities to teens to curb binge drinking.

12:05pm -- If you want to know why Arlington Republicans can't even win elections in GOP wave years like 2009, check out the Twitter feed of Arlington GOP Chair Mark Kelly. It's the triumph of ideology over reality. Sample tweet: "CB member Zimmerman also focusing on global warming. OK, but what budget cuts are U planning & what taxes/fees are U raising?" I know there are major community problems that need solving but I HATE TEH TAXES.

12:13pm -- Chair Jay Fisette gavels the meeting to a close. Overall, good to hear the board focused on what can be done in tough times. But while the members tried to stay positive, what they didn't say spoke just as loudly. No big promises, no major new commitments. 2010 will be about staying afloat locally in what is hopefully the beginning of a national economic recovery.