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“Arlington’s ‘process’ is pure smokescreen democracy...”
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posted
From: pro.wordsmith
To: Scott R. McCaffrey/Sun Gazette
Sent: Wed, Sep 25, 2019 9:34 am
Subject: Letter to the Editor: Arlington-Alexandria's shared indifference to the public

September 25, 2019

Dear Sun Gazette Editor:

The Gazette’s 9-25-19 editorial lauding Arlington's supposedly slavish devotion to "good governance" has me wondering. Where is the evidence of Arlington’s superiority in truth-telling, transparency or accountability? Arlington’s "process" is pure smokescreen democracy, designed to make it appear that board members have considered the public's input when in fact they simply ignore it and do whatever they had originally intended to do.

If you convince several people to attend the Herculean number of meetings comprising Arlington’s process but they then fail to parrot the exact same script, the board will pronounce a lack of "consensus." You lose. If you attend all the meetings and provide comments early and repeat them often but you don't have a huge posse of 100 other like-minded people — even if your concerns are backed by current science, documented by facts or supported by professional expertise — then you are dismissed as one of just a "few" malcontents. You lose. If, after arduous effort, you collect 1,000+ petition signatures supporting your position — which takes time — board members will declare your efforts "too late." You lose, again.

At every turn, the public's input and concerns are reflexively dismissed. This Groundhog Day set-up stymies any attempt to review past failures, much less to take corrective action. Instead, we just repeat the same mistakes. Case in point, having registered repeated concerns with staff and board members since 2016 regarding Arlington’s highly flawed approach to stormwater management and growing flood risk, the county appears to have made zero adjustments. Even after the catastrophic-flooding wake-up call of July 8, the board and staff stubbornly cling to the status quo.

Based on my own interactions with Arlington County government and my observation of others' interactions with Alexandria City government, I fail to see much difference in their indifference to the public.

Suzanne Smith Sundburg
5300 8th Road North
Arlington VA 22205
 
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