Members of the outgoing Republican majority of the Arlington County Board yesterday accused their Democratic board colleagues of partisan "game-playing," and outgoing Board Chairman Stephen H. Detwiler predicted that such behavior will certainly lead to increased divisiveness on the board in the months ahead.
Meeting with GOP board members Dorothy T. Grotos and Walter L. Frankland in a joint interview with Washington Post editors and reporters, Detwiler said he expects that the Democrats, who in January will hold a 3-2 majority, will be unwilling to strike compromises on such key issues as housing, development and the budget.
"It's going to be their show, and they're going to make that very clear from day one," said Detwiler, whose election loss last month to Democrat Mary Margaret Whipple will shift board control to the Democrats for the first time in four years.
Democrat-backed independent Ellen M. Bozman, who will be the next board chairman, said yesterday that the Republican fears were ill-founded. "I think they're fearful that they won't have as much to say or be listened to as much, and I think those fears are groundless," she said. "I think we're going to work together as a five-member board . . . but we're certainly going to differ when it comes down to a vote."
The Republicans also charged that the Democratic board members have deliberately used the Arlington Civic Federation to promote their goals on the board. Both Bozman and N. Edwin Demoney Jr., federation president and a Republican himself, denied the charges.
Citing the recent debate over the county's Court House Plaza project, Grotos said that federation members, working in concert with the Democrats, have raised bogus objections to final approval of the project. Their intent, Grotos said, is to embarrass the Republicans by making it appear they were ramming through a project without regard to community concerns.
"It was very obvious that they wanted to say the Republicans gave the courthouse to Crystal City developer Charles E. Smith," said Grotos.
Added Detwiler, "I would say, on any of the major issues -- the housing authority and development-type issues -- the Democrats use the civic association as a tool to back their position."
Demoney yesterday countered that charge, saying that the civic federation is "nonpartisan and nonpolitical" and includes members from both political parties.
"Some of the Republicans in Arlington seem to have a misconception that we are a liberal Democratic organization and it's not true . . . We're issue-oriented," said Demoney, noting that Grotos' husband, Gunnar, is a federation member and that many Republicans, including former GOP delegate candidate Ted Lattanzio, hold key positions.
The Republicans also charged that Bozman, Whipple, Democratic board member John G. Milliken and other Democrats have perpetuated an inaccurate and frequently negative image of the Republicans over the past several years, particularly on development issues.
Grotos said many county residents wrongly believe Republicans are responsible for controversial high-rise developments such as those in Rosslyn and Crystal City. She said those projects were approved when the Democrats held a board majority.
"If anyone took the record and checked the development votes, there's no way they could say the Republicans did that," Grotos said. "So it's a complete myth they [the Democrats] built out there."