Friday August 30, 2013, by Faith Bussey
Two Wednesdays ago the Arlington City Council held a special session to discuss the future of the Arlington Tomorrow Fund. While the session seemed to be free from any fireworks, there were certainly some issues raised by City Council members that should invite a thorough discussion of their plans for this fund.
Council’s first discussion was regarding their investment strategy to grow the fund. Currently the fund is headed in a direction that will put 50% of investments into higher- risk global markets for a higher rate of return. Councilmen Rivera and Parker were the lone voices of reason in this discussion citing the instability of the Euro, the Middle East, and other troubling economic factors as a deterrent for pursuing such an aggressive investment strategy. The point was brought home by the fact that the amount given out through the fund each year was equal to what we would get in interest through a low-risk CD. In other words, if 100 Million dollars is invested in an account that only gives a 1% interest rate, that would still make 1 million dollars for the fund every year. The board only gives out 1 million a year, which would mean the principal would be much safer and the return on investment would be much more predictable.
Council’s second and more troubling discussion was regarding who should have the authority and responsibility for the doling out of the funds. They all agreed it would be a huge responsibility to take on. As of now, there is a Board of Directors comprised of 3 City Council members and 2 citizen members appointed by the Mayor who look over and approve applications for grant money. What most council members seemed to be leaning towards was turning the current board into an advisory committee and the current Council into the Board of Directors who would have the final say on all applications.
Lana Wolff made specific mention of how difficult citizen members are to work with on these types of boards. The Founders insisted on forming a Federal government that would be a lumbering body who could accomplish little. This was much to our benefit. While local governing bodies are a completely different dynamic because things often must be done in a timely manner, it would take some serious convincing to make most citizens believe their money needs to be spent in a timelier manner. Sometimes deliberation and a thorough process is a better way to ensure this grant money is not wasted or abused by City Council members.
This past Tuesday at another special session meeting, Councilman Rivera brought up the discussion of citizen involvement again. His proposal is to bring in one citizen for every represented district, including the at-large seats and make them an advisory board. This would do wonders to promote the public’s trust in our elected representatives at the City Council.
Although no final decisions have been made yet, more citizen involvement is always a good thing to counterbalance the culture of greed and corruption that are so prevalent in politics, even on the local level. Giving the people a greater say in the Arlington Tomorrow Fund might seem more challenging to the likes of Lana Wolff, but it is not their money no matter how much they would like for it to be. It belongs to the citizens of Arlington, and we need to make sure it stays that way.