THE POLITICAL noise level may not match that of local government election campaigns elsewhere in this region, but the caliber of the winners in Arlington County over the past few years speaks well of those who have been participating. It may help, too, that Arlingtonians have unusually frequent opportunities to review the makeup of their government: there's an election every November for one or two seats on the five-member county board. This year two seats are up, and four experienced candidates are in the running: Democrats Albert C. Eisenberg, current chairman of the board, and William T. Newman; and Republican-backed independents Dorothy T. Grotos, a former board member, and Jane H. Bartlett. Mr. Eisenberg's solid record of sensible leadership and Mr. Newman's credentials and breadth of interests make them the two strongest candidates in this contest.
There has been no overriding single issue in this campaign, with debates turning from the availability of affordable housing to tax relief for older residents and the makeup of the board and the bureaucracy. The GOP-backed candidates have argued that the board should not be totally without Republican representation; one seat has been held by Michael E. Brunner, a Republican-backed independent, but he chose not to run for reelection. But party labels have not been that important on the five-member board. More noteworthy this time around is the fact that Mr. Newman is a resident of South Arlington, an area that has had reason to feel slighted by the more affluent northern section of the county.
A measure of the county board's success in recent years can be found in the levels of services and taxes. As the Democratic candidates note, the county has the second-lowest tax burden in the region (behind Loudoun County), but has managed to offer a high quality of services to its residents. Voters intent on preserving this good standing should find comfort in retaining the valuable services of Mr. Eisenberg and adding the talents of Mr. Newman.