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Arlington County Civic Federation

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Vice Chairman Fisette's Response to
the ACCF Letter and Resolution on the
Arlington County Board Meeting Process

Arlington County Board

December 29, 2004

Mr. Patrick A. Smaldore, Jr., President
Arlington County Civic Federation
3859 North Second Street
Arlington, Virginia 22203

Dear Patrick:

As the incoming Chairman of the County Board and the initiator of the Working Group on County Board Meeting Reforms, I am responding to your December 22nd letter from the Arlington County Civic Federation. I appreciate the Federation's comments on possible future changes in County Board meeting procedures and, again, I am grateful for your personal participation in the process to study and recommend reforms to improve the efficiency of meetings.

Let me say upfront that I understand the importance of seeking comments from the public on changes that impact the public participation process at Board meetings. This is exactly why the Focus and Working Groups on meeting reforms were established. As you know, the Working Group suggested some fairly significant changes. While no major changes are being proposed, some substantial modifications are being contemplated by the Board. The first involves having 22 (instead of 15) prescheduled meetings in 2005, including 11 regular meetings and 11 recessed sessions. The "Public Comment Period" remains at 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays; however, in order to get directly to the people's business, the Board will go right to regular hearing items directly after public comment and an abbreviated consideration of the Consent agenda, but no earlier than 9 a.m.

The second change involves items pulled from a Saturday Consent Agenda being carried over for hearing at the following prescheduled Tuesday recessed session at 6:30 p.m., with prescheduled regular hearing items heard no earlier than 6:45 p.m. that evening. Our typical "Reports" will be heard at 3 p.m. at Tuesday recessed sessions, but the Board will break before beginning the evening session, typically for a closed meeting. The purpose of the Consent agenda proposal is to allow outstanding issues to be addressed by staff with the affected parties before the Tuesday hearing. I believe it is more respectful of the time of the public, and applicants and their agents who will have a "time certain" when items will be heard. It also cuts down on the inefficient use of human resources at Saturday hearings for staff waiting around for items not pulled from the Consent agenda.

All other changes proposed are technical in nature to improve the understanding of the public participation process.

The Board is scheduled to consider adoption of the proposed CY 2005 meeting procedures at our January 1 Organizational Meeting. The process of adopting the meeting procedures has always been an administrative one since versus a public hearing item. If the changes are adopted, we will carefully monitor how they impact public participation. After a period of evaluation, we will either count it a success or propose other measures to ensure continued maximum public participation at meetings, according to the Arlington Way.

I look forward to working with the members of the Civic Federation in the coming year. Best wishes and Happy Holidays.


Jay Fisette
Vice Chairman

This page was last revised on: December 31, 2004.
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