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by Max Burns — December 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm 652 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

MaxBurnsThis has been a year marked by a constant stream of contested political campaigns in Arlington that resulted in the election of new members of the School Board, County Board, House of Delegates and Congress.

During that time of intense internal political focus in Arlington, I also had a chance to participate in the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership — a program that promotes the values of trust, civility and respect in its graduates through direct engagement with communities around Virginia.

Over the course of 2014, as it has for 20 years, the Sorensen Political Leaders Program brought together each month professional, civic and political leaders and future leaders — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — from every region of the Commonwealth. The Sorensen Institute has long worked to provide meaningful conversation and consideration of the issues facing our localities and our Commonwealth. It stresses open dialogue, looking beyond surface and party/ideological differences, and clear, fact-based thinking about policy challenges we face.

My Sorensen experience has given me a broader perspective in which to view the eventful 2014 in Arlington. As we near the end of the year, it may also be worthwhile for our progressive community to step back and analyze the current political situation in our county.

It’s been a challenging year for the Arlington County Democratic Committee. We faced an unexpectedly strong challenge with John Vihstadt’s candidacy for the County Board. We struggled against the image of a local party so used to victory that no other outcome was possible.

Also, few political groups have to contend with normally dry discussions about membership bylaws and steering committee procedures becoming front-page news. Yet, ACDC found itself in that place this year when senior party officials decided to endorse and campaign for a non-Democrat contrary to national, state and local party rules. That difficult situation played out in a very public way.

While the rules were clear, we fell short in building understanding in the community about the way that party rules and ACDC procedures work, why those rules exist, and how few people they affect directly.

We now know that Arlington — like other parts of the country in 2014 — faced a shake up and increased skepticism about politics, elected officials and institutions generally.

Regrettably, this led to instances when civility broke down within ACDC and also within broader community conversations about the County Board, its policies and the 2014 election.

One of Sorensen’s most valuable lessons for me is that, difficult as it can seem, we are better served moving past our knee-jerk responses and exploring issues more deeply — even if the end result isn’t as self-validating as we’d hoped.

That is why I believe “The Arlington Way” deserves better than increasing derision in the community. While criticized as an empty buzzword, it does have the benefit of urging us to approach disagreements with civility and respect as we strive to make Arlington a better community.  Those core principles underpin good government regardless of party or candidate.

It’s time we reinvigorated the phrase and recommitted to building a community that takes seriously the input of a broader range of Arlingtonians, whether they are political activists or choose to spend their time contributing in other ways. How we conduct ourselves as we strive to build better schools and more responsive public services is every bit as important as the quality of schools and services we provide. So let’s set an example. (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — December 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm 655 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotThe past year was filled with revealing stories about Arlington and Virginia politics and government. Here are my top five:

5. APS Capacity Crisis Grew

County and APS demographers continued to present sharply differing forecasts of population growth and APS enrollment. The County and the schools failed to develop a unified plan that even came close to explaining how Arlington will pay for the construction of the new school facilities that will be required.  For no compelling reason, too many sites, designs, and financing options were not on the table for discussion.

4. Medicaid Expansion Failed

After Virginia Republicans gained control of the Virginia state Senate, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposal to expand Medicaid in Virginia was blocked by Republican majorities in both legislative branches. While Republican leaders in other states passed their own legislation to expand Medicaid, Republican leaders in Virginia failed to do so. The failure by Virginia Republican legislative leaders to present and lobby for their own alternative Medicaid expansion plan was a major disappointment.

3. McDonnell Convicted

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was found guilty of violating federal criminal law relating to public corruption. Most legal experts and political observers agreed that Virginia’s state criminal laws on public corruption are so full of holes that McDonnell could not have been successfully prosecuted under state law. Far from discouraging corrupt conduct, Virginia’s porous state laws continued to enable it. The McDonnell verdict highlighted the need for both Virginia and Arlington to strengthen their laws and ethics policies.

2. Streetcar Cancelled

The County Board’s decision to cancel the streetcar was the right decision as a matter of public policy. When the costs of a $500+ million project are so disproportionately greater than any possible benefits, no other decision would have made sense. A public majority correctly decided years ago that streetcars made no sense for Arlington. They could not understand the Board majority’s stubborn refusal to cancel the project. The abruptness with which the belated cancellation was announced reinforced the public’s conclusion of failed Board leadership.

1. Vihstadt Elected Twice

John Vihstadt’s elections to the County Board by landslide margins in April and November were a fitting recognition of his 30 years of community service. Independent Vihstadt’s decisive November victory, at the same time as Democrat Sen. Mark Warner also decisively carried Arlington, repudiated the insular thinking and policies of Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada on a wide range of issues. Arlington voted instead to prioritize spending our tax dollars on core services:

  • public schools,
  • basic infrastructure (sewers, water mains, roads),
  • sensible transit, and
  • public safety.

Conclusion:

These 2014 stories provide important background for 2015.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.\

by Ethan Rothstein — December 18, 2014 at 12:00 pm 851 0

John Vihstadt was sworn in for his first four-year term on the Arlington County Board yesterday evening before an overflow crowd in the County Board room.

It was the second time in a year Vihstadt was sworn in, after winning a special election in April to replace Chris Zimmerman, who resigned in February. In both cases, Vihstadt, a Republican-endorsed independent, defeated Democrat Alan Howze, who was in attendance yesterday.

“Our campaign brought so many people together, united with a message of fiscal responsibility, greater transparency, accountability and checks and balances,” Vihstadt said. Each of his electoral victories were by substantial margins, and came as surprises to many election observers.

“They were not victories based on one issue, despite what some have said, but many issues,” he continued. “They were not victories for national issues, but local issues. Issues that our county can do something about today, tomorrow and the next day.”

Vihstadt’s election was the biggest factor in the County Board’s decision to cancel the Columbia Pike streetcar last month, and as he laid out his priorities for his term, his fifth and final one was directed at the residents of the Pike, Pentagon City and Crystal City corridors. Despite the streetcar’s cancellation, he vowed to bring a more robust transit system to the corridor in the future.

“Yes there are wounds in our community,” he said, “but we need to work together to bind them up in a collaborative fashion.”

Vihstadt acknowledged his 94-year-old father, Ed, whose bible he was sworn in on, and his two sons, Ben, a college student, and Jack, a resident of the Columbia Pike area. He also reminded residents that his contact information is on his website. “Please use it,” he said.

Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette closed the ceremony, minutes before his last meeting as this year’s Board chair, and said he already has a good working relationship with his newest colleague.

“John’s sense of stewardship and responsibility have already become apparent and are very much appreciated,” Fisette said. “I have no doubt that Arlington’s future is bright and that John Vihstadt will be a part of that future success.”

by Ethan Rothstein — December 18, 2014 at 10:30 am 1,560 0

Signature Theatre (photo via Signature Theatre website)The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a $5 million loan and 19 years of free rent for Shirlington’s Signature Theatre at its meeting yesterday.

The decision came just hours after County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended closing Rosslyn’s Artisphere next June. The County Board ultimately decided that the two arts organizations’ situations were different enough to begin a new investment as it acknowledged the failure of a previous one.

“Signature really is an Arlington treasure,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “It reaches into our community and impacts our community in substantial ways.”

The theater will receive the loan at a low, 1 percent interest rate; it will no longer have to pay $411,000 in unpaid county taxes and fees; and $2.7 million of its $7.7 million debt to United Bank will be forgiven.

“Signature will pay back this loan in full and on time,” the theater’s managing director, Maggie Boland, told the Board. “We often joke that ‘hope is not a strategy’ at Signature. We don’t commit to a production plan that we can’t afford.”

Signature’s yearly debt payments will be reduced from more than $1 million to about $300,000, a difference that county Director of Management and Finance Michelle Cowen called “transformative.”

“It allows them to bulk up on their balance sheet, which is in poor shape,” Cowen said.

There were 11 speakers from the public, and eight of them spoke in support of the County Board’s action. Many of the supporters were either current or former members of the Signature in the Schools program, Shirlington business owners or those with active interests in the theater’s success.

“We believe Signature is vital to the overall success of Shirlington and the greater Arlington County community,” Ken Mosig, director of asset management for the Village at Shirlington’s parent company, Federal Realty Investment Trust, said. “Their programs attract people to the Village of Shirlington. Having Signature Theatre as an entertainment venue has helped bring 100,000 people to the area per year.”

Among the dissenters were Jim Hurysz and Tim Wise, two frequent County Board critics and opponents of government spending.

“Taxpayers who oppose public subsidies for the arts do not oppose the arts,” Wise said. “We just think the arts should pay for themselves.”

Board member Libby Garvey asked Boland why they couldn’t raise ticket prices to generate the additional revenue, needed, but Boland said that if the tickets were any more expensive, “that would be detrimental to our business.”

Although the County Board unanimously approved the loan — the money for which comes from FY 2014 closeout funds — several members indicated that this would be the last chance Signature has for county funding for some time.

“We don’t want to be here again,” Fisette said.

Photo via Signature Theatre website

by ARLnow.com — December 18, 2014 at 9:15 am 3,796 0

Artisphere Preview 015(Updated at 9:40 p.m.) Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending that the county close the Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn after the first half of 2015.

Donnellan said Artisphere “has not lived up to projections” and would likely require substantial taxpayer support to stay open — more than $2 million per year.

Based on subsequent comments from County Board members, it appears that the Board is likely to adopt the manager’s recommendation next year.

Do you agree that Artisphere should close?

by ARLnow.com — December 17, 2014 at 4:20 pm 4,984 0

Artisphere sign(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan says the county should close the Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn.

Donnellan made the recommendation at today’s County Board meeting, after being charged by the Board earlier this year to study Artisphere and suggest a way forward for the money-losing, county-run center.

“I will be recommending that the county close the Artisphere as a cultural center in fiscal year 2016,” Donnellan said. “This was a business decision… this was a tough decision, a disappointing one. The reality is that the Artisphere has not lived up to projections.”

Donnellan said Artisphere, in her opinion, would require “substantial ongoing tax support.”

“That is not what we promised our community when we opened Artisphere,” she said. Artisphere will remain open through June 30. It will close after that, if the County Board adopts Donnellan’s recommendation. After Donnellan gave her report, it became clear that the Board was behind her decision and it’s likely the art center will close on June 30.

“I support what you suggested, that next June, Artisphere would close as we know it,” Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “My hope is whatever option will move forward on our economic competitiveness goals one way or another.”

County Board member John Vihstadt, who had used the Artisphere as an example of wasteful county spending in his election campaign this year, obliquely referenced the county’s cancellation of the streetcar last month.

“I think we all realize the changing course on a long community initiative, as has happened in the last few years and months, is never easy,” he said. Speaking to reporters after the meeting had adjourned, he added, “I think it was the right decision. I was concerned about the Artisphere all along.”

County staff will be studying options for sub-leasing Artisphere to a private company or a private-public partnership in the “arts, media, technology” space, or returning it to landlord Monday Properties, Donnellan said.

She called the recommendation “a repositioning, not a retreat.” County staff will be tasked with coming up with a new art plan for the county, one that reflects current fiscal realities.

“Smart communities know when to reevaluate decisions,” Donnellan said.

Here Cafe + Bar in ArtisphereThe 62,000 square foot facility opened with a flourish, at a cost of $6.7 million in October 2010. Optimistic projections of a quarter million annual visitors quickly crashed down to earth in 2011. Visitor revenue was 75 percent below expectations, and Artisphere’s in-house restaurant closed after just a few months in business.

Arlington Economic Development assumed control of Artisphere by the end of 2011, and began implementing a business plan that included shorter hours and actively renting the facility for non-art-related events. The changes were successful by some measures, but problems remained — the facility again went over budget in Fiscal Year 2013. Last month, County Board allocated $1.3 million in its annual budget close-out for Artisphere-related expenses next year.

Donnellan told reporters after her report that 20 part-time and 12 full-time staff work at Artisphere, and some may be able to continue working in other areas of the county, but there will be some who lose their jobs.

The County Board may officially decide to close Artisphere before its April budget motion, Vihstadt said, and Donnellan said she will soon begin discussions with Monday Properties about the space’s future.

This evening, Donnellan will ask the Board to approve a $5 million loan to another art center, Signature Theatre. She said the two recommendations are “business decisions” and should be looked at separately.

by ARLnow.com — December 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm 1,150 0

County Board Chair Mary Hynes' chair was "yarn bombed"Mary Hynes is slated to take the chairman’s seat on the Arlington County Board next year.

Current Board chair Jay Fisette announced the expected leadership succession at the Board’s afternoon meeting today (Wednesday). Hynes is currently vice chair of the County Board.

Walter Tejada, meanwhile, is to be next year’s County Board vice chairman. The changes will take effect with the Board’s Jan. 1 organizational meeting.

Hynes and Tejada are both up for reelection in 2015.

by ARLnow.com — December 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm 456 0

Sen. Tim Kaine (D) (courtesy photo)Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia’s junior U.S. Senator, has issued a statement supportive of President Obama’s historic policy shift on Cuba.

Today Obama announced that his administration will normalize diplomatic relations and ease economic restrictions on the island nation. Also announced: that American Alan Gross and a U.S. intelligence asset were freed from Cuban jails, in exchange for three jailed Cuban spies.

Kaine’s brief statement:

“I am overjoyed by today’s announcement of Alan Gross’s release and wish him the very best as he reunites with his family and loved ones. His release marks a victory for American diplomacy. I’d like to especially thank Pope Francis and the Canadian government for their role as intermediaries in this effort.”

“Our relationship with Cuba will not change overnight – human rights and political freedom are important concerns that we will continue to raise with the Cuban government. But as the reestablishment of U.S. diplomatic ties with Vietnam proved, engagement rather than isolation is often more effective at advancing American interests and democratic values.”

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — December 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm 400 0

NOVA Legal Beat logo

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Mathew B. Tully of Tully Rinckey PLLC, an Arlington firm that specializes in federal employment and labor law, security clearance proceedings, and military law.

Q. My employer refuses to pay me overtime, claiming I’m an independent contractor. But I’m not. I’ve been working for this company for years. What can I do?

A. Employers often try to dodge responsibility for paying workers overtime by classifying them as independent contractors rather than employees. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay employees overtime for hours worked exceeding 40 hours per week.

Independent contractors can provide services to a business, just as employees do. But independent contractors are self-employed rather than employed by the business they serve. Of course, differentiating an independent contractor from an employee can be quite difficult. It is even possible for some independent contractors to become employees over time if their relationship with the contracting business changes.

“In determining whether a worker is an employee covered by the FLSA, a court considers the ‘economic realities’ of the relationship between the worker and the putative employer,” the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in Schultz v. Capital Integration Security (2006).

To determine whether someone is an employee or independent contractor, courts will conduct what is known as a Silk test, which is named after a 1947 U.S. Supreme Court case. As the 4th Circuit explained in Schultz, this test consists of six factors:

  1. the company’s ability to control how work was performed;
  2. opportunities to reap profits or incur losses, depending on the worker’s managerial skill;
  3. the worker’s investment in equipment or hiring of other workers;
  4. skill requirements;
  5. whether the working relationship was temporal or long lasting; and
  6. “the degree to which the services rendered are an integral part of the putative employer’s business.”

After weighing these Silk factors, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Kennedy v. A Touch of Patience Shared Housing (2011) concluded the plaintiff, who had sued for unpaid minimum and overtime wages, was not an independent contractor as the defendant had claimed.

She actually qualified as an employee under the FLSA. The plaintiff performed a variety of services for a housing facility operator, including, cooking, serving meals, cleaning, and helping residents with household tasks, such as laundry and taking medication.

The court in Kennedy noted that the plaintiff claimed she had not exerted supervisory or managerial control “and exercised no control, discretion, or independent judgment with respect to her own duties.” She was paid in fixed cash amounts “at generally regular intervals” rather than reaping or incurring managerial skill-dependent profits and losses.

Further, over four and a half months she worked at two facilities and performed tasks that did not require special skills. Lastly, the plaintiff had claimed her services “were integral to defendant’s business.”

Workers who believe they have been misclassified as independent contractors should consult with an experienced employment law attorney, who could prepare an FLSA lawsuit. Employers, too, should consult with an attorney to determine whether certain workers should be classified as employees or independent contractors.

Mathew B. Tully is the founding partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. Located in Arlington, Va. and Washington, D.C., Tully Rinckey PLLC’s attorneys practice federal employment law, military law, and security clearance representation. To speak with an attorney, call 703-525-4700 or to learn more visit fedattorney.com. 

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by Ethan Rothstein — December 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm 1,796 0

Water Pollution Control Plant and fence (photo via Google Maps)

(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Tejo Remy, an artist for the Netherlands whose work has been featured in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, is designing a fence for the plant that filters Arlington’s sewage.

The fence surrounds the Water Pollution Control Plant, on the 3400 block of S. Glebe Road, and it will be designed in Remy and design partner Rene Veenhuizen’s style of reusing common objects to create engaging works of art.

Tejo Remy (photo courtesy Alan Henney)The perimeter fence includes a long stretch along the Four Mile Run trail.

“The design-duo’s ethos stems from a strong industrial design background, reusing existing resources rather than consuming new materials, and building awareness about our connection to the environment,” Arlington Cultural Affairs spokesman Jim Byers said. “Remy and Veenhuizen have developed and will implement a compelling, innovative design concept which will serve as a unifying element within the Four Mile Run area, while creating distinct enhancements for the fence at the Water Pollution Control Plant.”

The project is expected in 2015, Byers said. It was approved by the Arlington County Board in April 2012.

Some of Remy’s noted work includes a “chest of drawers” displayed at MoMA and a chair made of rags. He spoke briefly about the fence project this week at an exhibition on Dutch design at the Netherlands embassy in D.C.

Photo (top) via Google Maps, (bottom) courtesy Alan Henney

by Ethan Rothstein — December 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm 959 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Duncan, a squirrel-chasing Westie with an Instagram following of thousands.

Here’s what owner Rick had to say about his hunting hound:

Duncan is a West Highland Terrier with a mission to chase every single squirrel out of Arlington County.

Duncan entered our life in November 2011 as a 5 month old. He is almost entirely white, with some streaks of beige along his back. He is a fit and energetic dog that loves long walks with lots of sniffing. He is always happy to say hi to other dogs and he is very gentle with children. He also just loves to be chased — by humans and (especially) other dogs.

Duncan’s favorite place to go is the Glencarlyn Dog Park. Nothing makes him happier than to be running off-leash in the woods. Woe be it to the squirrels in his field of vision for they will be chased (although never actually caught). He also loves to walk in the stream and run around with the big dogs, because he is a huge dog in a little dog’s body.

Of course, there are things Duncan does not love. He doesn’t like Arlington’s hot and humid July and August — it never gets that hot in the West Highlands! He also has a bitter history with the foxes in Lubber Run Park.

A lot of Duncan’s time is taken up with his Instagram community commitments. @duncan_the_westie has (literally) thousands of followers around the globe. It can be taxing being fabulous on a daily basis, but he seems to be handling the pressure well. He is trying to stay grounded and avoid the traps of fame.

We didn’t really know what to expect when this little guy entered our lives, but now we can’t imagine life without him.

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email office@arlnow.com with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet.

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Arlington and Northern Virginia.

by ARLnow.com — December 17, 2014 at 10:45 am 2,278 0

Arlington County has been trying to figure out how to better reach out to the hordes of young apartment-dwellers who make up a significant portion of the county’s population, but who are usually nowhere to be found during community meetings.

“It’s not always easy to reach certain parts of the community,” Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh says in a new county-produced video (above). “We’ve tried several methods over the years — community meetings in schools, in community centers — and typically the same people would come out each time. So what we decided we needed to do was try something different.”

To help design events and services tailored to the elusive mid-20s to mid-30s professional set — dubbed “Metro Renters” — county staff is taking an approach called “Design Thinking,” which builds a needs profile through interviews with members of a given group.

“Design Thinking is a system of methods and processes that uses a designer’s sensibility to match people’s needs with what is feasible and viable,” explains Dept. of Environmental Services program manager Joan Kelsch.

Via interviews, the county developed the following profile of “Metro Renters.”

  • They want their resources to be quick and convenient and are willing to pay top dollar if it fulfills their needs in a hurry
  • They’re tech savvy and they can’t function without their mobile devices
  • They’re highly educated with varied reading interests
  • They listen to NPR on weekday mornings and track the news online all day
  • They work hard and play hard
  • Hanging out with friends is important
  • They like good food
  • Many don’t have cars so location is important
  • They enjoy a quiet, relaxing environment for conversation with a friend
  • Many are also interested in meeting potential life partners, so activities and places that give them something to do where they can meet new people with common interests are good
  • They consider themselves hard working and busy people without a lot of free time, so anything they attend should have an immediate impact on their lives or otherwise be important to them

If you have first-hand familiarity with the “Metro Renter” set, how would you grade the county’s job of producing a broadly accurate profile of the average 25-35 year old Metro corridor renter in Arlington?

by ARLnow.com — December 17, 2014 at 9:00 am 1,618 0

Kirkwood Road near Clarendon (Flickr pool photo by Alves Family)

HOT Lane Lawsuit May Haunt County — At a time when the state is studying HOT lanes and other possible changes to I-66 inside the Beltway, Arlington County’s past actions may come back to haunt it. County officials “burned some bridges” when they filed a lawsuit against VDOT in 2009 to block HOT lanes on I-395. The county has also lost some regional credibility by abruptly canceling the streetcar project. Efforts by Arlington to oppose any changes on I-66, therefore, may fall on deaf ears. [InsideNova]

Incubator Launches in Crystal City — Eastern Foundry, a “veteran-owned government technology and innovation incubator,” celebrated its launch in Crystal City yesterday. The company held a ribbon cutting ceremony with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Vornado/Charles E. Smith president Mitchell Schear. [PR Web]

Man Arrested for Arlington Attack — Fairfax County Police have arrested a man wanted for allegedly attacking his ex-wife’s boyfriend in Arlington. In the June 15 attack on Columbia Pike, police say Edwin Patino-Medina ripped two necklaces off the boyfriend’s neck then tried to run him over with a car. [WUSA 9]

Menorah Lighting Tonight — Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. Tonight, in the park next to the Clarendon Metro station, Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington will hold a menorah lighting and community celebration. The event kicks off at 6:00 p.m. and features a “giant 6 foot menorah” plus music, potato latkes, chocolate gelt and “dreidels for all.” Tomorrow, the group will hold its annual Chanukah on Ice event at the Pentagon Row ice rink.

Flickr pool photo by Alves Family

by Ethan Rothstein — December 16, 2014 at 3:45 pm 4,721 0

Arlington Public Schools has released preferred and alternative plans for its revision of the North Arlington elementary school boundaries.

Under the preferred plan, five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Ashlawn, McKinley and Tuckahoe — would still be between 103.95 and 109.22 percent capacity, while Jamestown would be at 86.1 percent capacity and Nottingham and the new Discovery Elementary would each be around 90 percent.

The changes to the boundary plan the Arlington School Board approved less than two years ago are necessary, APS says, after a greater-than-expected influx of students to the county’s schools this fall. The approved plan, which was set to go into effect in fall 2015 with the opening of Discovery Elementary, is now expected to be revised at the School Board’s Jan. 22 meeting.

The revisions primarily affect McKinley Elementary School. If the Board approves staff’s preferred changes, 252 of the projected 304 students in the planning areas affected in 2016 would move or stay at McKinley by 2016. The remaining 52 students — in planning zone 1609 near Westover — would remain at Glebe Elementary. In the alternative plan, area 1607 would remain assigned to Nottingham, putting the school at 101.36 percent capacity.

Many of the students that will likely move to McKinley will stay in their originally intended schools in 2015 before moving to McKinley in 2016, when the school’s 241-seat expansion opens.

APS is also “considering moving some countywide programs” to accommodate more students in overcrowded schools. APS has kept the online survey open on its More Seats website, extending the time for resident submissions from last week until Friday at 4:00 p.m.

The decision to put McKinley at nearly 9 percent above capacity while leaving Arlington’s three northernmost elementary schools at least 9 percent under capacity has drawn some criticism.

“Instead of filling McKinley to capacity, APS is considering filling it and then adding an additional 60 students above capacity,” one anonymous tipster said. “Why aren’t they equally distributing the seats? Something looks wrong with this map!”

Amy Borek, a Nottingham Elementary School parent, also questioned APS’ decision, wondering why the scope of the changes was so limited.

“By concentrating on only these planning units, APS is choosing neither to consider how to fill the empty seats at Jamestown nor convert Tuckahoe’s bused students to walking students at nearby McKinley’s new addition,” Borek told ARLnow.com in an email. “This approach to solving the overcrowding problem in North Arlington elementary schools does not appear to be working.”

Before the School Board votes on Jan. 22, it will hold a work session on Jan. 5, then an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation to the Board. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before its vote. All meetings are at 1426 N. Quincy Street at 7:30 p.m.

by Ethan Rothstein — December 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm 1,722 0

(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) Arlington-based reggae band SOJA has been nominated for the “Best Reggae Album” Grammy award for “Amid the Noise and Haste,” released in August.

Amid the Noise and Haste is the nine-member band’s fifth full-length album and first Grammy nomination. The band’s 2012 album, “Strength to Survive,” was No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae charts in the U.S. for more than a year.

SOJA, which stands for Soldiers of Jah Army, played on the Tonight Show in 2012 and played Clarendon Day in 2006.

The band was formed by lead singer and guitarist Jacob Hemphill – an Arlington native who spent part of his childhood in Liberia while his father worked for the International Monetary Fund — and bassist Bobby Lee while the pair attended Yorktown High School in 1997. They recorded part of Amid the Noise and Haste at Lion and Fox Recording Studio in College Park, Md.

The band is currently on tour in Brazil and unavailable for interviews, its manager told ARLnow.com. The 57th Annual Grammy Awards will air on Sunday, Feb. 8 at 8:00 p.m.

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