A group of residents is organizing to oppose a proposed cut to child care regulation in Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget.
Donnellan’s budget, which is under consideration by the County Board, cuts the county’s Child Care Office, which regulates local daycare centers. Three full time positions would be eliminated, saving $250,000 annually.
If the cut were made, a local ordinance regulating daycare providers would be eliminated, and oversight of such daycare centers would be returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which opponents say has weaker standards than the county. In addition, family daycare centers with up to 5 children are not regulated by the state and would instead go unregulated.
“The County Code and Child Care Office PROTECT our children by requiring small home daycares to be licensed and by requiring SIGNIFICANTLY higher standards for all settings,” says the petition page. “Investing in early childhood is SMART ECOMONICS: research has shown high quality early care and education significantly decreases major social and economonic problems such as crime, teenage pregnancy, dropping out of high school and adverse health conditions.”
The petition was started by Sandra Redmore, director of the Clarendon Child Care Center.
In addition to eliminating local oversight of the county’s dozens of licensed daycare providers, the closure of the Child Care Office would eliminate professional development programs run by the office.
Child Care Office supporters are being asked to register today to speak at the upcoming March 26 public budget hearing.
Photo via Arlington County
Two H-B Woodlawn students have created a petition calling on Congress to pass stronger gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.
The online petition has gathered 133 signatures already and resulted in 336 letters and emails being sent to Congress. Seventh graders Nicole and Daniel created the children-driven petition with the hopes that it will garner student support beyond Arlington.
“We are representing the children of the United States who do not want to wake up every morning with a thought that someone close to us, or even ourselves, might die that day,” they said in the petition. “We do not want to see our friends or loved ones die in schools or movie theaters or malls any more.”
“Please help us stop the killings and the murders and the massacres by enacting legislation that will ban assault weapons and require a special license, a strict application process with a background investigation and a mental check for every person wanting to acquire a gun,” the petition said.
This morning, the National Rifle Association held a press conference in which the organization blamed the media, the entertainment industry and video games for a culture of violence, and called for armed security guards in every American school.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. ”If we truly cherish our kids more than our money… we must give them the greatest protection possible. And that protection is only available with properly-armed good guys.”
Nicole and Daniel’s father, Arlington resident Michael Getter, said that arming more citizens is not the answer.
“The time has come to take meaningful steps in preventing mass executions that have become practically a commonplace in our county,” Getter said. “There seems to be very little evidence that ease of access and proliferation of dangerous weaponry among US population is making this county any safer for its citizens.”
Photo via Arlington Public Schools
Bluemont residents will vote tonight on a petition (below) that calls for the county parks department to build and pay for a Petanque-Bocce court in the neighborhood.
The vote will take place at tonight’s Bluemont Civic Association meeting. Supporters say the court would “foster community spirit in a fun way for all ages.”
BLUEMONT PETANQUE COURT PETITION
We, the undersigned Bluemont residents, support the petition to construct a 4-meter wide and 15 meters (13’ x 50’) long Petanque-Bocce court along the Bluemont Junction Trail. At the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) general membership meeting on April 25, 2012, this petition will be submitted to the BCA for approval. Upon approval, the petition will be forwarded to the Arlington County Parks & Recreation Department to fund design and construction. We request the BCA to create a working group to coordinate with the Parks department, and homeowners residing along the Bluemont Trail to determine the site location between N. Illinois and N. Emerson Street.
Shawn D. Wilmoth was the president of Signature Masters, the company paid to collect signatures for the 2010 petition drive that sought to change Arlington County’s form of government. The initiative, which failed due to an insufficient number of valid signatures, was sponsored by Arlington’s police and fire unions and supported by the local Republican and Green parties.
Wilmoth was arrested this past April in Michigan and accused of instructing employees to fraudulently sign petition pages. He was extradited to Arlington in May and has been held without bond since. Today, Wilmoth pleaded guilty. A statement of facts entered as part of the plea reveals that Wilmoth hired two ex-cons, who were ineligible to collect petition signatures under state law, and asked them to not only collect signatures but to sign as a witness on dozens of petition sheets filled with signatures they did not collect.
As part of the plea deal, Wilmoth was given two concurrent 5 year sentences, with 4 years and 8 months suspended on the condition of good behavior and repayment of court and extradition costs, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Andy Parker. Wilmoth was also sentenced to 3 years of supervised probation. Parker said he would likely be released from jail today after being credited with time served.
The two ex-cons hired by Wilmoth, Cheryl Simmons and William Cockerham, both pleaded guilty to voter fraud earlier this year.
Petition Contractor Waives Extradition — The man whose company was hired to collect signatures for a petition to change Arlington’s form of government is likely headed to the Arlington County lockup. Shawn D. Wilmoth, 24, was indicted last month on voter fraud charges. Yesterday he waived extradition in Macomb County, Mich. [Washington Post]
McLean Residents May Sue Over Redistricting ‘Insult’ — McLean residents are apparently none too pleased that their pristine ‘burb has had its state Senate representation split in two by redistricting. One of the new McLean districts is the 31st, which also includes most of North Arlington. One resident said it was an “insult” to have their neighborhood lumped in with Arlington. A McLean citizens group is contemplating a lawsuit over the redistricting outcome. [Sun Gazette]
Curious Grape to Hold Moving Sale — The Curious Grape will be closing its Shirlington location at the end of the month. To help prepare for the move to a new, thus-far-unannounced location, the store is holding a moving sale. Alexandria-based wine-and-cheese retailer Cheesetique will be taking over the store after Curious Grape moves out. [Shirlington Village Blog]
How to Score Free Coffee — Patch has come up with a comprehensive guide for scoring free coffee in and around Arlington. Among the tips: pretend like you’re interested in the espresso maker at Williams Sonoma and ask for a sample, go car shopping and ask for coffee, or get free samples at Whole Foods. [Patch]
Del. Bob Brink (D) has introduced two bills in the House of Delegates that attempt to “address the irregularities discovered during the signature gathering process” for last year’s failed effort to change Arlington’s form of government.
One bill, HB 1646, calls for the name and address of a petition signature gatherer to be present on both sides of the petition form. The bill is in response to “numerous reports where the description of the person who signed the forms as petition circulator didn’t match the description of the individual actually gathering the signatures.”
So far, HB 1646 is still awaiting a subcommittee vote.
Brink’s other bill, HB 1670, is broader piece of legislation. The bill addresses an alleged conflict of interest — that the campaign manager for the change-of-government effort was also the notary public that certified the now-disqualified petition sheets.
The bill, which passed a subcommittee on Monday, says that “a notary shall not perform any notarial act with respect to any document, writing, or electronic document that presents a conflict between his personal interest and his official duty.”
On Brink’s web site, at least one constituent worried that bill may be “over-inclusive” and could affect real estate transactions where an attorney is also acting as a notary.
Brink says the legislation is necessary to “improve the voter referendum petition process” and “prevent fraud.”
“Last year’s referendum effort in Arlington taught us valuable lessons about weaknesses in the petition signature gathering process,” Brink said in a statement. “Learning from that experience and passing this corrective legislation will help protect the integrity of voter referenda.”
With the petition to change Arlington’s form of government heading toward near-certain defeat, the Coalition for Arlington Good Government is trying to slam the last nail in the coffin with explosive allegations of possible fraud and illegal practices by the pro-petition Committee for a Better Arlington.
CAGG, a largely Democratic group set up to oppose the change-of-government proposal, alleges that CBA used hired, out-of-state signature gatherers who were legally ineligible to circulate petitions in Arlington. Then, CAGG suggests, two individuals may have falsely signed affidavits claiming to have collected the signatures actually gathered by the out-of-town contractors. More than 6,000 signatures may be invalid as a result, CAGG says.
The two individuals in question collected a suspiciously large number of signatures in an unusual manner, according to CAGG. Other evidence, methodically laid out in a nine-page PDF file, calls into question the integrity of the affidavit portion of the petitions, some of which appear to have different handwriting for the same individual.
CAGG also questions the ethics and judgment of former CBA campaign manager Dena Kozanas. The group says Kozanas did double-duty as a notary for more than half the submitted petition sheets, in violation of the conflict-of-interest provision in the code of conduct for notaries in the state of Virginia.
ARLnow.com is awaiting comment from CBA chairman Mike Staples.
As of 2:30 this afternoon, election officials had counted 12,621 signatures, out of the 14,350 required by law to get a referendum on the ballot. Election staff are nearly finished with their “second pass” through the 761 petition sheets submitted by the Committee for a Better Arlington. A third pass is unlikely to yield a significant number of additional signatures.
Arlington County General Registrar Linda Lindberg says her staff has completed their second pass over about 700 petition pages. Since about 10,200 signatures were validated during the first pass, that means the second pass is, on average, validating 3.5 additional signatures per page. But with only 61 pages to go, it’s likely that the petition will only have about 12,900 valid signatures going into the third pass, which is expected to start Monday.
“I’d be surprised if we pick up another 100″ signatures during the third pass, Lindberg said. With those 100 additional signatures, the petition will be more than 1,350 votes short. This spreadsheet shows just how improbable it would be for the petition to reach the magic 14,350 number from this point out.
It’s not clear what the next step will be for the Committee. In an phone interview last week, a CBA representative did not rule out the possibility of some sort of legal action.
“We’re going to wait for the Registrar to do their count,” the representative said. “Once they make that announcement we will proceed accordingly.”
It’s looking increasingly unlikely that the Committee for a Better Arlington will reach the mark needed to get a proposed change to Arlington’s form of government on the November ballot.
With approximately 250 pages to go during their “first pass” through the 761 petition sheets submitted, county election personnel say they’ve have counted 8,123 valid signatures. A total of 14,350 valid signatures are needed.
A “second pass” will be conducted to count signatures that could not be readily verified during the first go-round. However, if current trends hold, that process will most likely not yield enough signatures for the petition to pass.
The “rejection rate” for batches that have been fully processed is around 19 percent, according to a county source. At that rate, the petition will fall more than 1,000 signatures short.
Officials counted a total of 16,432 signatures on the 761 petition sheets submitted before yesterday’s 4:00 p.m. deadline. The 57 sheets submitted yesterday contained 950 names, officials said.
Specially-trained staffers have begun the process of matching up the names and addresses on petition sheets to individuals on the county’s voter registration rolls. So far, about 3,100 names have been validated, according to county registrar Linda Lindberg.
Lindberg said she did not have a count of how many names have been rejected so far, but she did say that there have been a number of instances of people signing the petition more than once (an electronic system helps keep track of each recorded name and address).
It’s not clear how many extra signatures will be necessary to clear the 14,350 mark needed to get the change-of-government referendum on the November ballot. The 2,082 extra names give supporters a 12.7 percent buffer. There’s no comparable data from 1993, when Arlington had its last referendum effort.
Update at 10:05 a.m. — An additional 54 petition sheets have just been submitted to the county clerk’s office, and another batch may be on the way, we’re told.
Update at 12:05 p.m. — Unofficial signature count from the first batch: 15,482.
Update at 4:00 p.m. — The county clerk has received a final batch of three petition sheets. Applying the average number of signatures per sheet from the initial batch, the 57 sheets submitted today should yield about 1,254 signatures, for a rough total of 16,736 signatures submitted. That’s 2,385 more than the 14,350 signatures required by law. The big question going forward: will it be enough to make up for the inevitable number of invalid signatures?
Update at 4:15 p.m. — Committee for a Better Arlington representative: “We’re very happy with the number [of signatures] we turned in today and we’re looking forward to being on the ballot in November.”
Update at 5:00 p.m. — Statement from the Coalition for Arlington Good Government, which opposes the change-of-government proposal: “CAGG has confidence in the Registrar’s ability to complete this step in a thorough, accurate manner. If the proposed referendum gets on the ballot, CAGG remains committed to ongoing voter education efforts. CAGG looks forward to continuing a community dialogue about how to promote good government in Arlington.”
Update at 11:00 p.m. — Election officials say they have verified 1,548 names so far.
Arlington County election personnel are conducting an initial count of signatures on change-of-government petitions. A total of 704 double-sided petition sheets were submitted to the county yesterday morning.
The initial count should be completed within an hour. Change-of-government supporters have told the county to expect another batch of petitions to be submitted by the end-of-the-day deadline.
After the deadline, county workers will begin the monumental task of verifying each name by hand. That is expected to take until August 9 or 10, said county registrar Linda Lindberg.
Despite earlier talk of bringing in elections personnel from other jurisdictions to help out, Lindberg said she expects to be able to complete the verification with existing staff members.
The last time a petition made its way through Arlington was 1993.
Actually, there were two petitions. One was to change the school board from an appointed body to an elected body. That measure would ultimately be approved by voters in a referendum. Another proposal, which received enough petition signatures but ultimately not enough referendum votes, was to allow off-track betting parlors in the county.
Supporters of a proposed change in the county’s form of government submitted their petitions to the Clerk of the Arlington County Circuit Court this morning, the Sun Gazette first reported.
A formal hand-off of the petitions from the clerk to Arlington County General Registrar Linda Lindberg, whose department will verify the signatures, will take place at 9:00 tomorrow morning, the county said in a statement. Supporters need 14,350 valid signatures to get the proposal on the November ballot.
Thursday is the deadline for change-of-government supporters to submit 14,350 signatures to the county registrar in order to get a referendum on the November ballot. According one of the contract signature collectors hired by the Committee for a Better Arlington, which wants to change Arlington’s form of county government, they have already exceeded that number.
Speaking to ARLnow.com at the Columbia Pike Farmers Market Sunday afternoon, signature collector Robert Farrell said they’ve collected about 15,000 signatures already and are trying to collect about 2,000 more by the deadline as a “cushion” to make up for signatures that might be disqualified by the registrar (due to duplicate signatures or an out-of-county address).
Officially, the Committee has declined to discuss the exact progress of its signature-gathering effort, except to express confidence that it will be successful.
Signature collectors have had to put in “a lot of legwork” and overcome a number of challenges, Ferrell said. He cited demonstrators who show up at events with “decline to sign” signs from the anti-referendum Coalition for Arlington Good Government. The sign holders are generally respectful, Ferrell said, although he has encountered “hostility” from about one in every 1,000 people he approaches.
Meanwhile, the number of places where Committee contractors and volunteers are allowed to gather signatures has become a bit more limited. The Committee used to rely heavily on collecting signatures outside Giant and Safeway stores. Ferrell said he was told a week ago that they were no longer welcome outside the stores due to unspecified complaints.
Ferrell, a self-described native Arlingtonian who returned from living elsewhere to help the petition effort, said that means he will just have to “keep on trucking” at another high-traffic location.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that people who sign referendum petitions generally can’t claim a First Amendment privilege for keeping their names secret. The ruling may affect the change-of-government petition currently circulating around Arlington.
Change-of-government critics have suggested that the names of petition signers should be made public.
In a statement, the Coalition for Arlington Good Government, which opposes the petition, lauded the Supreme Court decision.
“The Supreme Court’s decision reaffirms the importance of transparency and open government by ensuring public disclosure of petitions,” CAGG said in a statement. “We wish that the referendum proponents were half as committed to transparency.”
The Committee for a Better Arlington, which supports the change-of-government referendum, declined to comment.
The Coalition for Arlington Good Government (CAGG), formed to actively oppose a proposed change in Arlington County’s form of government, is calling on supporters of the change-of-government referendum to submit the signatures they have gathered early.
Citing an ARLnow.com story in which a volunteer signature-gatherer commented that supporters have already gathered the necessary 14,350 signatures, CAGG co-chair Alan Howze wrote:
In the interest of good government and transparency, we call upon the referendum proponents to immediately submit the petitions that they have collected to Arlington’s Voter Registrar for review. Submitting the signatures now will not change the outcome, but further delays by referendum supporters in submitting petition signatures will impose additional expenses on Arlington taxpayers for overtime labor.
An earlier article by the Sun Gazette revealed that submitting all the signatures at once at the July 15 deadline could result in delays and extra expense for the county.