A recent Arlington Ridge Civic Association (ARCA) email alert pointed out that Vornado’s plan to construct two office towers twice the size of the current zoning limit with over 2,200 parking spaces and 6,800 car trips per day adjacent to a major Metro stop isn’t smart growth. It’s stupid. Not only that but Vornado and the County have steadfastly refused to consider the community’s recommendations for making the proposed PenPlace office complex more livable–by mixing office space with residential, eliminating setbacks and creating more open space.
ARCA explains that the County is pushing PenPlace in exchange for the $20 million it hopes to receive from Vornado to finance the Long Bridge Park Aquatic Center, a boondoggle that county taxpayers don’t need and can’t afford. The question is how can the County get away with this? The answer reduces to one word—HEGEMONY.
The Democratic Party exercises total hegemony over county government. Confident that the voters will always roll over, members of County Board have collectively determined that to get reelected they don’t have to listen to citizen groups, because the developers not the citizens are bankrolling the county’s growth. When civic associations object to projects planned for their neighborhood, all County Board has to do is cast them as nimbies, and everyone else goes along.
So, for example, when area residents objected to the mega-development planned for the East Falls Church Metro, the opposition was quashed, because voters elsewhere in the county were indifferent to their plight. No doubt East Falls Church residents are indifferent to the plight of Crystal City and Pentagon City. If they don’t live in the neighborhood, why should they care about anything but reelecting Democrats to County Board?
This isn’t to suggest that the problem of hegemony is unique to Arlington County or the Democratic Party. All over the state of Virginia, localities are balkanized or outright gerrymandered to assure that the dominant party remains in place. The result is that questionable policies once adopted never get changed. Worse still rampant development becomes legitimized under the cachet of “Smart Growth”.
There is only one way to open up the planning process in this county, and that is to replace partisan politics with grassroots democracy. Vornado can’t do it. County Board won’t do it, and the Planning Commission is in a strait jacket. If you really want to liberate your community, then end one party rule. Vote Clement for County Board. Business will never be as usual again.