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The Right Note: County Manager Eggs on Debate?

By Mark Kelly

Thursday - 11/14/2013, 1:00pm  ET

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyThis week, County Manager Barbara Donnellan raised a number of concerns about allowing backyard hens in Arlington. On her list: difficulty of enforcement, public health, sanitation, and even a Virginia law that could put local dogs in jeopardy from overzealous hen owners. In short, rumors that county staff were no fans of the hen proposal have finally been confirmed.

Both sides jumped into the fray after the County Board work session to claim their position was winning the day. If you have not been following, the groups have taken on the name Backyards Not Barnyards and the Arlington Egg Project.

What we know is that we will be waiting a bit longer for a final decision on whether chicken coops will ultimately be allowed in Arlington yards. Based on the slow pace this issue is making along the Arlington Way, it is more likely than not that the final decision will not come to a vote before Chris Zimmerman resigns in late January.

The current scoreboard indicates the remaining County Board Members are split. It seems as though Mary Hynes and Libby Garvey would prefer to table the issue and focus on other priorities, while Jay Fisette and Walter Tejada want to get it done. So, the next County Board member could hold the deciding vote next year. Soon-to-be Chairman Fisette will most certainly keep this issue alive once he assumes control over the gavel.

With Democrat candidates already out lining up support for the special election they should be prepared to tread lightly on this issue as it could be a deciding factor in a low turnout firehouse primary. Add hens to the Columbia Pike trolley as issues candidates will need to “finesse” as they work to build support for their campaigns.

More than an election issue, it represents a rare 3-2 split for a panel that usually agrees to agree. It is refreshing to see a difference of opinion on the Board instead of single party groupthink, but these instances are still too few and far between.

Chris Zimmerman’s departure will create a new dynamic on the Board, in more ways than just hens — or even the Columbia Pike trolley’s future. A new Board Member who has political independence from one-party rule, and pledges to create a new era of transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility, would be a breath of fresh air for Arlington.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.