From Matt de Ferranti <[email protected]>
Subject Rank Choice Voting, Collective Bargaining, and an Invitation to Join the Fight for Women's Reproductive Rights
Date December 6, 2022 12:59 AM
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Dear Friends,

The November Arlington County Board meetings focused on rank choice voting, the County's budget for the coming year, and collective bargaining. I also want to invite you to a special event Brooke and I will be hosting for Planned Parenthood of Virginia on Thursday, December 15th.
With Senator Kaine at the opening of the Second Phase of the Silver Line to Dulles Airport
Rank Choice Voting
The County Board heard comments and approved a resolution to adopt rank choice voting in next year's June primaries. Rank choice voting allows voters to choose from candidates, leading to majority support for the candidate selected, instead of plurality support, the system used in most elections in the United States. (Plurality voting is when one of three candidates might win with say 37% of the vote, with two other candidates sharing the other 63%.)

Arlington is the first jurisdiction in Virginia to take this step. A voter would have the option to write their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and additional choices under the resolution and ordinance the Board is set to adopt in December.

Here's how it works. If there is a first choice with more than 50% support, a winner is declared. If not, the votes from the candidate receiving the lowest vote total are reallocated to the remaining candidates to see if there is a candidate with 50% support plus 1. If so, a winner is declared. If not, reallocation occurs again until a candidate has 50% plus 1 vote in support. (Rank choice is sometimes described as instant runoff voting, like the Georgia election that will be held tomorrow, except with choices made in one vote.)

Rank choice voting has the advantage of leading to broader, majority support and I believe is worth trying. Significant voter education will be needed and rank choice is not a cure all for good (little d) democratic elections. Nonetheless, I support the Board's decision to move forward on piloting rank choice voting in June next year.
On Friday, I went to Richmond for the Commonwealth Institute's Annual Summit, which included panels on collective bargaining, educational equity, tax reform, and the work ahead in Richmond and across Virginia.
The Budget and Collective Bargaining
The County Board also considered budget related items at its November 15th meeting. Specifically, we voted to use funding left over from the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which ended June 30th, to help add to the resources we have when we consider a shortfall for next year. That shortfall is $34 million--approximately 3.5%--of our draft budget.

Collective bargaining--the process we passed last year to help better compensate and engage with County employees--is impacting our budget by leading to increases in compensation. We expected this impact. We must value our employees AND provide great service to our residents. Three groups of employees have formed unions--our service, labor and trade staff, our police, and our firefighters.

In November, collective bargaining negotiations and the arbitrator's decisions took center stage. Our service, labor, and trade employees reached agreement on salary increases of 4.5%, an increase to minimum and maximum salaries, and a $2,000 one time bonus.

Our police reached an agreement on 24 of 28 issues, but salaries and moving from an "open range" to a "step and grade" system are two key issues that remained. Under the arbitrator's decision a 10% salary increase this year is followed by 3.5% increases in years 2 and 3. I support this 10% in year one because our police department has shown evidence of continued need for stabilization in retaining offices and compensation has started to make a difference in both retention and recruitment. With respect to years two and three, I see this as a floor and not a ceiling that can be reconsidered next year.

Our firefighters raised a larger number of issues, and reached agreement on 56 issues while 39 issues went to arbitration. In this first year of collective bargaining both the firefighters union as well as our labor administrator and County staff worked hard to reach agreement. A 4.5% increase in salaries in years one through three along with a $2,000 bonus were part of the arbitrator's decision. Our firefighters have significant concerns about the decision. I see the salary portion of it as a floor and not a ceiling for the years ahead. The issue of "step and grade" pay as opposed to open range pay is also an important issue for our firefighters that is worth further consideration with County staff. I do not, however, support reopening the arbitrator's decisions as collective bargaining as a whole is just getting started and I believe we will make more progress over the coming year.
The Fight for Women's Reproductive Rights in Virginia
Finally, I want to invite you to engage on an issue that is so very important--women's reproductive rights. The Supreme Court's Dobbs decision means that Virginia's elections next year will be critical for choice and reproductive rights. Brooke and I are hosting an event on Thursday, December 15th. Please join us: [link removed] or contribute via the link.
The event will be an opportunity to raise resources to support pro-choice candidates in Virginia. Please consider how much is at stake and contribute or come to the event if you can: [link removed]

Thank you for reading and caring about the Arlington and Virginia that we must build, together.


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