Arlington, VA

by Krysta Jones June 9, 2020 at 3:15 pm 0

Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Recently I was walking through a single-family neighborhood in South Arlington. As I turned onto the street of my destination I immediately second-guessed my decision to walk instead of drive. I wondered if I would be threatening as an unfamiliar Black person walking down their street.

As many of us have heard through countless testimonials of African Americans since the murder of George Floyd, on a daily basis, Blacks often have to assume that our presence and actions can be construed as dangerous. This is just one example of the effects of racism.

Arlington should be a leader in eliminating racism at all levels and in all spaces. The “Arlington Way” should include steps to actively combat racism. Here are just a few ways we can continue to incorporate anti-racism in the “Arlington Way”.

Take responsibility for your learning — I have heard several Black people over the last few days say, “I am tired. I can’t help white people right now; I am dealing with so many other issues.” It is critical that we talk to each other about race, but we also have a responsibility to read and learn through the vast amounts of information that exists. Arlingtonians should learn about Arlington as told through the perspectives of Black Arlingtonians including Wilma Jones Kilgo author of “My Hall’s Hill Family Neighborhood” and Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, author of “Bridge Builders of Nauck/Green Valley“, and visiting the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington.

Speak Up — While it’s hard to admit, white voices are valued more than Black voices. The reason that the conversation/protests around race feel different this time is because so many young white people are involved. Do you have an opinion or a personal story on racial justice issues, police brutality and inequality? Are you able to influence where your organization’s or company’s dollars are spent? You should speak up and consider requesting funding or adding thought leadership to one or more of the many organizations including the Arlington NAACP, Challenging Racism, and Vote Lead Impact, or not invest in organizations which do not support racial justice.

Support Black Economic Empowerment and Advancement — According to Black Enterprise, Black buying power is projected to reach about $1.5 trillion by 2021. I was heartened to see the list of Black businesses in ARLnow and several groups sharing Black business that covered the DC metro area, but it does make one wonder why there are not more Black businesses in Arlington. In a June 6 New York Times article, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and board member of Pepsi questions the authenticity and commitment of corporations that have issued statements supporting racial justice. He notes that “generations of well-intentioned pledges by businesses have resulted in only marginal advancement for the black community. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated grim employment trends, and today fewer than half of black adults in America have a job. Black workers make less money than white workers. That is due in part to the fact that they are more likely to have poorly paying service jobs, but research also shows that highly educated black employees are paid less than their white peers.” We should all advocate for fair wages, and support businesses and corporations which have shown their commitment through action.

Do your part to make sure Blacks are represented — If you serve on boards or commissions, and participate in civic associations, look at the racial diversity. Think about your current practices which may discourage a wide variety of participants including inconvenient meeting times, unwelcoming attitudes, or unwillingness to consider new points of view.

What I find most interesting is that we immediately look to Black organizations and leaders to solve racism, when whites perpetrate and condone it. The solution lies in us coming together. White leaders, white-owned businesses, and white-led organizations need to take an active role. Together, we must ensure the “Arlington Way” continues to complement the protests with sustainable action, and root out racism whether it be overt or implicit.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

by Krysta Jones May 12, 2020 at 3:00 pm 0

Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The organization Women in Government Relations held an excellent webinar last week on fine-tuning one’s executive presence in this new normal.

The panelists who represented national corporations and associations focused on the changing culture due to COVID-19. Specifically, they conveyed how we can look at past outcomes and determine how to achieve similar results now by changing our tactics through intentionality and over-communication.

For example, we previously could easily run into someone in the hall at work, or even go to a meeting for one purpose but also connect with others to communicate. Those interactions may now be harder to achieve in our new age of physical distancing.

While it is not new, this past week we were reminded of the consistent disparities and inequities which exist locally.  Even if there are disputes about how the data is analyzed, recent health data show that the Columbia Pike corridor is overrepresented in COVID-19 cases.

Arlington prides itself on the Arlington Way, a process that aims to ensure opportunity for civic engagement, participation and transparency to address our community challenges. Many look to the government when searching for solutions, but it is critical that we also focus on civil society. The formal and informal organizations in Arlington are an essential part of our culture. We should all question how we can do more as a community to confront and prevent challenges.

As we adjust to the new normal in Arlington, this is the perfect opportunity to rethink our organizations’ role in the Arlington Way. A few recommendations include:

Countywide all sector State of Arlington summit — An annual “State of Arlington” Summit which brings together several sectors of our community could foster and result in regular communication and collaboration. This would build on the great work of several organizations that have conducted similar events including the Arlington Community Foundation’s Shared Prosperity Initiative, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s State of the County and many other events throughout different sectors.

Regular communication among organizations — One of the basic lessons of crisis communications is regular updates and more opportunities for communication and feedback. We should continue this COVID-19 practice by intentionally sharing knowledge and raising awareness among organizations, to our members and the broader community on new issues on the horizon through regular online meetings, newsletters, and social media.

Standard (optional) organizational analysis — Groups and organizations should be encouraged to complete a customized Arlington organizational analysis which focuses on the attributes that Arlington values including equity, participation, digital and technological capacity and collaboration. The internal analysis could assist organizations in directing their efforts towards both their objectives and broader Arlington goals, and allow them to measure their progress towards increased engagement in Arlington and their organization.

Formal organizational capacity building and sharing — Organizations are at different levels in terms of experience and resources. Yet the ability of organizations to promote engagement and interaction with different sectors is a critical part of the Arlington Way and Arlington values. Access to online training, webinars and classes specific to achieving organizational objectives, and sharing and mentoring among organizations in Arlington could help strengthen our civil society.

Arlington’s new normal elucidates challenges that have always been present. We should rethink how we view the organizational component of the Arlington Way as a preliminary step in continuing to address the concerns which plague our community. We must be intentional and communicative in order to continue to move Arlington forward and leave a legacy of which we are all proud.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

by Jane Green January 6, 2020 at 2:30 pm 0

Making Room is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

I have lived in Arlington for almost 5 years and I’ve come to see the “Arlington Way” as both a blessing and a curse on the County.

For those not familiar, the Arlington Way as a tradition of citizen democracy, realized through an extensive culture and apparatus for public engagement around most County policies, as well as new commercial or residential developments. The goal is to give residents many opportunities to influence, or at least register their opinion, on a range of regulatory and administrative topics and projects that will have a broad impact.

However, the problem with this reliance on resident voices is the over-representation of the whiter, older, home-owning population. This does not reflect the Arlington’s diversity. County-wide, less than half of housing units are owner-occupied — 44.5%. These households are much more likely to be White than Black or Latino.

Because our tradition and apparatus for soliciting public input privileges homeowners and leaves out renters, many people have the opinion that renters are not invested in Arlington. We saw the manifestation of this attitude in the Sun-Gazette’s November 27 editorial, which argues that renters should not be mobilized to participate in local elections because they “have short-term interests in a community they do not plan to live in forever.” I’m heartened to see the results of ARLnow’s poll show a more inclusive attitude.

But the difficulties in engaging Arlington’s renter majority remain, and it should be the county’s New Year’s Resolution to bring more renters into the civic engagement process. I also encourage renters who are reading this to make a commitment to get more involved in their neighborhoods.

There are many civic organizations in Arlington that are conscientiously working to improve the representation of Arlingtonians in public discourse. My own civic association, Aurora Highlands, has a mix of single-family homes and multi-story apartment buildings. During my year on the executive board, I’ve been pleased by the effort to bring more renters into the conversations. The Arlington Civic Federation, a venerable institute for amplifying resident opinions, is also working to be more diverse as well.

But we can do more to bring renters and other underrepresented groups into to public discourse.

The County Board and its staff should use their influence with developers and property owners to ensure better communication about the Arlington Way with renters. Management companies need to help their residents be part of the community. This isn’t just the community within the building, but the broader neighborhood beyond their doors. Every apartment building, particularly those with professional management, should participate by distributing Civic Association newsletters, letting the Civic Association hold a meeting in their community space, and inviting County staff and board members to speak to residents. Some effort on the part of property managers can go a long way to show that renters want to have a voice in the County.

Happy New Year! Let’s resolve to make 2020 a great year for civic participation from all Arlingtonians.

Jane Fiegen Green, an Arlington resident since 2015, proudly rents an apartment in Pentagon City with her husband and son. By day, she is the Development Director for Greater Greater Washington and by night she tries to navigate the Arlington Way. Opinions here are her own.

by ARLnow.com December 19, 2018 at 10:10 am 0

(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) For years now, there have been calls to revamp, fix or rethink the “Arlington Way.”

There is no single, comprehensive definition of what the Arlington Way is, but broadly, according to one county document, “the Arlington Way refers to the form citizen participation takes in Arlington County.”

It is, essentially, the way the county government — along with the school system — goes about shaping its plan and policies, through input from stakeholders like civic associations and by convening committees and commissions.

While the stated goal is inclusion and seeking input, there have been grumbles over the years that the Arlington Way is actually about getting residents to accept a preordained outcome set by elected officials or county staff.

The recent elementary school boundary process, Four Mile Run Valley planning process and Washington-Lee renaming process all featured disgruntled residents complaining about getting railroaded. In those and other controversial decisions, we’ve often heard from those involved that they felt certain cogs in the community process — committee members, consultants hired as “facilitators,” etc. — were specifically chosen to help steer the process to a desired outcome.

On the opposite side of those arguments, others who’ve talked to ARLnow have expressed disappointment in the slow, trodding pace of decision-making in Arlington. The complainers, some have said, are simply trying to slow down progress or to use the process to get their way despite being ultimately being in the minority on a given issue.

There has been a notable amount of off-the-record criticism, for instance, about the County Board dragging out the approval process for a very necessary expansion to Virginia Hospital Center. The cost to the hospital and the delay in the project, some have said, was not worth trying — unsuccessfully — to appease a handful of residents who essentially didn’t like the idea of bigger buildings in their neighborhood.

That’s not to mention the fact that serving on committees is a massive time commitment — a big “ask” of those involved — and attending civic association and County Board meetings requires setting aside considerable time as well. Thus, those serving on committees and attending meetings are often those with strong opinions about the outcome — opinions not necessarily reflective of the view of most residents unwilling or unable to put in the time.

So today we’re asking: what should be done about the Arlington Way? Should it be scrapped altogether in favor of a more streamlined process of gathering community input — online or otherwise — and then letting those elected to make such decisions do so, taking into account the input received? Or should it be kept the same or even strengthened to be more inclusive and iterative, and less deterministic?

by Chris Teale June 29, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

A new name will appear on the ballot for November’s Arlington County Board election, as independent Charles McCullough II has thrown his hat in the ring.

The 10-year resident of Arlington Ridge and self-described progressive will join Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall and independent Audrey Clement on the ballot.

McCullough currently works as a consultant, having previously represented the Australian Embassy in D.C. on education policy in the United States and Canada, worked as an attorney for D.C. Public Schools and been part of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

He said one of his main priorities is to ensure residents’ voices are heard. He said the so-called Arlington Way should be restored in their favor, rather than what he said he perceives as a bias towards developers and planning decisions that have already been made.

“What is this Arlington Way that drives these bargains that favor developers, that only call upon certain communities when it comes to decisions being made?” he said. “I hear people say, ‘We’re not actively consulted, we’re not meaningfully consulted.’ I hear from other folks in North Arlington, who say, ‘When I am consulted, the decision’s already been made. What Arlington Way is this?'”

McCullough was especially critical of the county’s decision to woo Nestle to Arlington with a package of incentive-based grants, and suggested instead that money could be invested to help grow and retain small businesses.

McCullough said one of his other major priorities is adding to the county’s stock of affordable housing, and ensuring more seniors can keep living in Arlington and are not priced out. He suggested following other communities’ lead by expanding the housing voucher program, and requiring that new developments have more affordable units than currently called for by county code.

He added that older citizens must be able to stay in the county, and added that maybe Arlington should look at providing more communities for seniors.

(more…)

by Mark Kelly April 27, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

Mark KellyThe Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Last night Arlington Republicans honored longtime community activist Jim Pebley. Pebley is retiring and heading south to North Carolina.

From the Planning Commission to the Civic Federation, to leading community efforts on the U.S.S. Arlington and much more, Pebley built a stellar reputation across party lines for working to make Arlington a better place to live, work and raise a family. The only thing missing from his resume was holding elected office, something many of us tried to convince him to do over the years.

As a veteran of community activism, Pebley quipped during his remarks that “Arlington is Latin for having many meetings.” Regardless of the meeting-heavy “Arlington Way,” Pebley used his remarks to encourage Republicans to follow his lead and actively engage in the community and learn how the county is actually run.

Republicans also heard from County Board member John Vihstadt, who like Pebley was a longtime community leader before winning a County Board seat as an Independent.

After discussing items including the resurrected Long Bridge Aquatics Center, Vihstadt discussed the recently passed budget. To Vihstadt’s credit, he worked hard to cut back the tax increase on the average homeowner from around 4.7 percent to 4.2 percent.

What Vihstadt did not discuss was the County Board’s attempt to quietly include a pay raise of 3.5 percent to their salaries, roughly $1,800 for the members and $2,000 for the chair.

Vihstadt made a motion at the Saturday meeting to vote on the pay raise separately from the raises given to other county employees. He was met with strong opposition from all four Democrats, and the Board voted 4-1 against taking a straight up or down vote on raising their own salaries.

Both Libby Garvey and Katie Cristol defended the raise as warranted for the workload. Then Christian Dorsey said, “this is not a raise.”

Yes, it is. You knew what the job paid when you ran for it. And if you want to raise your pay before your next term, then please be willing to take a vote on it.

Dorsey also noted that he did not get a raise last year when, “we did a tax decrease.”

No, taxes went up last year. Assessments went up more than the tax rate went down, therefore people paid more in taxes. This phony notion that taxes don’t go up just because the rate went down is ludicrous and should be stripped from the vocabulary of every Board member.

Chair Jay Fisette then went on to scold Vihstadt for having the temerity to bring the issue up in an open session for public consumption where it would be reported rather than hashing it out behind closed doors. In other words, Fisette admitted he didn’t want to have a debate about raising County Board pay on the taxpayers’ dime in front of the taxpayers.

The comments made by Dorsey and Fisette are a perfect example of why the Washington Post-ABC poll found that nationally 67 percent of all voters, and 44 percent of Democrats, believe the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of the average person. They are also representative of why Vihstadt was elected in the first place.

by Progressive Voice May 26, 2016 at 11:30 am 0

Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes speaks to the Arlington Civic FederationProgressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Mary Hynes

In theory, everyone is for transparency in government – residents, politicians and public servants, businesses, non-profits, and government workers.

But what does transparency really mean for government operations and citizen interactions?

Is it the Board giving 48 or 72 hours of notice of its pending actions? Is it televising more government meetings? Is it posting information on the web or sending newsletters?

Recently, our current County Board Chair – someone who talks frequently about more transparency as a community solution – called the last minute, unadvertised (some would say non-transparent) announcement of a Blue Ribbon Panel the Board’s “biggest mistake.”

But she relieved the Board of any fault by saying “Our biggest mistake was thinking it would be a concept easily understood by the community.”

The Board did, at least, take a pause – until July 2016 — to hear directly from the community about their “idea”. I doubt the community will say that the task the Board laid out was clear or, in the scope of Arlington’s challenges, urgently necessary.

In evaluating the importance of transparency, let’s consider some other examples:

In 2009, the School Board hired a consultant to develop new school locations. That may have been transparent for school parents who were in the know about the process, but not for neighbors who, after repeated requests, couldn’t determine whether their needs were factored into a 50-year school location plan.

In August 2010, the School Board changed the rules on who could ride the bus in September without public discussion. That non-transparent action upended family plans all across Arlington with little time to develop alternatives.

In 2015, the County Board addressed the lack of success over three years in seeking publicly vetted solutions for the Reevesland property by directing the County Manager at a televised meeting without prior public notice to begin the legal process of creating a divided property. This was probably not transparent, though the public would have opportunities to weigh in on three additional public Board votes required before effecting changes at the property.

On the plus side, it’s good that the County Board is televising its works sessions. And it’s probably good that Planning and Transportation Commission meetings are being televised.

Both actions allow more people to watch, which can give a dedicated viewer a window into issues and choices and might spur an observer into broader participation in the process.

But for decisions that must stand the test of time — whether it’s the 50-year location of a new school or changes to bus routes that touch thousands of families – we need more than television.

Such decisions alter the very fabric of the community and they require broad resident participation and engagement. That special ingredient is what tends to make a decision a good one for the broad community.

When neighbors, government, community groups, and businesses sit and talk to each other about how to solve a real problem or address a complex challenge, the solution achieved is richer, more nuanced, better understood, and is more accessible even to those who couldn’t participate directly.

Such participation and the ability to explain is THE key ingredient our community has employed for many decades to create today’s great place.

Paying lip service to transparency for its own sake misses what really matters. Real community engagement isn’t more opportunities to watch or checking a box. Real community engagement – the roll-up-your sleeves hard work – is how great communities get great.

Today, more than ever, we need elected leaders who understand this on both the School Board and County Board. We need our County Manager and Superintendent to value the varied perspectives and needs that residents bring to the table.

We should commit to continuously developing strong civic engagement skills in County and School staffs so that our greatest resource — the talents and skills of those who choose to call Arlington home – are put to good use.

More than transparency for its own sake, we need greater opportunities for honest civic engagement. It’s our legacy and our future.

Mary Hynes served as an Arlington elected official for 20 years. In 12 years on the School Board she began the open office hours program and instituted a monthly newsletter and liaison meetings with PTA leaders. During eight years on the County Board, her PLACE initiative focused on civic engagement and the County’s commission structure. She instituted Open Door Mondays as an opportunity to meet a County Board member in a casual setting without an appointment. In 2015, she launched the citizen-led Community Facility Study that involved more than 200 residents.

by Terry Savela April 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

Terry SavelaProgressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Terry Savela

It is deeply disappointing when political leaders say one thing and do the opposite. That is why it was so troubling to see Tuesday’s County Board action violating the Board’s own public notice requirements – that Board Chair Libby Garvey had previously advocated for vigorously – in order to set in motion a review of “Strategic Priorities for Arlington.”

Acknowledging that Board members had discussed the proposal for months, she nevertheless initiated a wholesale review of County priorities by an unelected small group without providing any opportunity for comment by the public, Advisory Commissions, the School Board or Arlington’s many engaged community organizations. The draft Charge was not posted on the County’s website until the start of the Board’s Tuesday meeting where it was voted upon.

Whether or not one believes that the County’s priorities over recent years – schools, affordable housing, public safety, parks, environmental stewardship, and economic competitiveness – should be changed, this was not the way to do it.

The call for a six-member “Blue Ribbon” Panel – one member appointed by each County Board member and one appointed by the County Manager – will proceed without any selection by School Board members even though nearly half of our County’s budget goes to our excellent schools and we face a large and growing enrollment challenge.

The Panel’s Charge is to “provide an evaluation of the current policy goals and objectives for the County…and recommendations for a plan to reconcile and prioritize those goals.” Ms. Garvey talked at length about the need to “do things differently” and set priorities among all the service areas. Yet her repeated call to focus on “core” services suggests she has already decided which services she intends to downgrade. Those of us who take pride in services that reflect Arlington’s progressive values, including parks, trails, human services, arts, libraries and the environment, have reason to worry about service cuts.

In addition, it appears that the six Panel members will recommend which adopted County policies should be de-emphasized. I expect many Arlingtonians who labored on the Community Energy Plan, Affordable Housing Master Plan or Master Transportation Plan will be deeply concerned whether this small group will push to change or undo their recommendations.

By contrast, the well-received 2015 Community Facility Study resulted from a timely and efficient process involving more than 200 individuals and groups. The need for the Facility Study was identified in multiple campaigns and in both school and County advisory groups. The County and School Boards appointed a 23-member group that was a cross section of Arlingtonians – by age, geography, ethnicity, and leadership experience. And the charge mandated broad community involvement from interested Arlingtonians and organizations.

Perhaps, we shouldn’t be surprised by this contrast. It hearkens back to a failure by Ms. Garvey during her School Board tenure to engage our schools community in creating a long-term vision for addressing growing enrollment. The result has meant that every boundary change, proposed new school or programmatic adjustment stirs distrust from parents who care passionately about the education of their children. And she has shown little interest in acting on the widely-supported recommendations of the Community Facilities Study that would help address that earlier failure.

Perhaps the most telling moment of Tuesday’s discussion came when, addressing Jay Fisette’s comment about the importance of broad civic engagement in the development of Arlington’s plans, John Vihstadt noted that it would be up to the Board to decide in December whether the work of six Panel members would actually be used or might “end up in the proverbial circular file.”

So is the launch of the “Blue Ribbon” panel only the start of a longer process? Or is it meant to unwind community priorities that have evolved over a great deal of time and through broad-based discussions?

Is this the beginning of an effort to examine the Arlington County budget holistically and establish a common-sense approach for setting budget priorities? Or is it just a way to play favorites?

Whatever the motives, violating the Board’s own prior notice requirements and launching a wide-ranging review without input from residents, businesses or community groups is wrong. It certainly isn’t the Arlington Way.

Terry Savela has lived in Arlington since 1985 and served as a County Planning Commissioner, Transportation Commissioner, and as the vice chair of the Crystal City Task Force.

by Progressive Voice January 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

Greg Greeley (Progressive Voice)By Greg Greeley

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

The Arlington Way has been much discussed over the last few years amid concerns that the “Way” has been lost. Our experience on the South Arlington Working Group (SAWG) planning for a new school suggests that we can still achieve consensus while doing so in an inclusive and prompt manner.

We do still need a way of ensuring that our elected leaders’ decisions about Arlington’s future have broad community support, especially with the number of decisions needed to address school capacity concerns.

As we consider how to update the Arlington Way the SAWG process — swift and inclusive — may point to what we need to meet the demands of our changing community and growing school population.

In June of 2014, Arlington Public Schools (APS) identified the Thomas Jefferson site as its preferred location for a new elementary. The County Board, in response, formed the Thomas Jefferson Working Group to consider the feasibility of building a new school on the site. The TJ Working Group was able to establish a number of thoughtful considerations for the use of the site, but could not build a consensus that the Jefferson site should be for a new elementary school.

There were many community questions about alternative sites and how a school on the Jefferson site would be used. Ultimately, the County Board deferred on approving the site and asked the School Board to help develop a consensus regarding location of a new elementary school.

In response, the School Board set up SAWG and invited a broad cross-section of community participants. This included every Civic Association in south Arlington, PTAs from every south Arlington school, and a number of community-based organizations. These stakeholders brought different views to the table — and different ideas about how to address school capacity.

One challenge was that capacity needs in south Arlington were not evenly distributed. The three schools projected as most overcapacity in 2019 were Barcroft, Henry and Oakridge. Barcroft and Henry are on the western side of south Arlington and Oakridge is on the eastern side. Thus, it would be challenging to find a single school site that could relieve capacity issues for all three schools.

The SAWG members wanted new options. They considered every APS property and every County property in south Arlington. The members also reviewed potential privately-owned sites. This interest and outreach ultimately led to not one, but two private property owners coming forward. Both had serious proposals for providing the County with land in return for building more densely on their remaining property.

With a large, diverse group, some thought SAWG would not reach a conclusion. But, we pushed for open discussions and stepped outside of narrow, parochial viewpoints. We also sustained a healthy dialog with APS and County staff. Ultimately, we came up with three, interlocking recommendations.

First, we recommended that APS build a new home for Henry Elementary at the Jefferson site. These new seats are well-located to relieve crowding at Henry and Barcroft. Also, knowing that this new building would be a neighborhood school was an important consideration for many stakeholders.

Second, we paired the Jefferson/Henry recommendation with a plan to move the Montessori Program from Drew Model School to the current Henry building, opening approximately 400 seats at Drew. This pairing was important because it provides needed capacity for schools on the eastern side of south Arlington. And, by separating two programs now housed at Drew, it helps ensure the success of both programs.

Third, we concluded that a second elementary school would be needed in the Pentagon City area. Oakridge is our only elementary school east of Interstate 395. We expect that population growth will require another school. By starting planning now, we can thoughtfully consider such options as the potential joint use of the Aurora Hills Community Center and the offer of land for a school at the River House property.

SAWG members did get new options on the table that had not been considered before. We also moved quickly and came up with recommendations that met our charge — and more. Consensus was broad. Our site recommendation received unanimous support from both boards.

Most importantly, our recommendations quickly received support from our communities. This shows that what Arlington needs today in finding our “Way” forward can be achieved.

Greg Greeley was a member of the Thomas Jefferson Working Group and the Chair of the South Arlington Elementary Working Group. He is a long-time resident of Arlington and has been an active parent in Arlington schools.

by ARLnow.com December 11, 2015 at 12:55 pm 0

Arlington County government's offices at 2100 Clarendon Blvd

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Dave Schutz, a 30 year Ashton Heights residents, regarding the Arlington Way.

Dear Editor: This letter responds to the Dec. 3 Progressive Voice column by Mary Rouleau.

Ms. Rouleau suggests that recent dissension in our community shows that the Arlington Way needs to be updated, and that it’s time for an Arlington Way 2.0. Ms. Rouleau says that the current practice, even though advisory groups generally advocate the progressive options which the County should follow, does not adequately inform residents to build the necessary consensus for these options. She says it is “…important that the County government provide the public with facts that support its decisions and a description of the public purposes served by the decisions… there is a wide information gap on that set of issues alone… the County has the resources to reach more households and should be a primary source of information for explaining the use of public assets and resources..”

I agree with Ms. Rouleau that there’s an Arlington Way problem, but what I see is that the problem is basically that we have left behind the original Arlington Way 1.0, are already in Arlington Way 2.0, and this has led to the turmoil we have seen.

Arlington Way 1.0 involved the Board seeking input from citizens who brought to an issue group a wide variety of perspectives, and the Board sought a way forward which would leave most residents satisfied with the direction. It was widely popular. About fifteen years ago we shifted to Arlington Way 2.0, in which the Board would recruit mostly-advocate advisory group members whose views at the outset matched those of the County Board majority.

Since the shift, there has been a growing buzz of rejectionist comments directed toward task force products, as well as doubt and opposition from budget-minded people in civic organizations. To complete the picture, the County Board can push necessary approvals for a proposal to well before or after an election, and then claim that it’s been legitimated. Anyone who did not work the process earlier has no standing, it’s the Arlington Way, and it can’t now be changed because the board has decided. I think it would be well for our community if we went back to Way 1.0.

WTOP quoted Chris Zimmerman (a man who will never again face the voters) in Feb. 2014: “In the end, each Board member has to make a judgment about what is best for the community… Leadership is the unflinching exercise of that judgment without regard to momentary swings in popularity. I believe that the great success Arlington has had is the result of the combination of leaders who actively engage the people; listen closely to what they’re saying; and then chart a path that they, in their best judgment, believe is most likely to result in the ultimate happiness of the community; and the willingness of the people in this community to let them do so.”

I think this exemplifies the mindset which has led to Arlington Way 2.0. As an example, on the trolley, Zimmerman and his acolytes badly overestimated the willingness of the community to go down the road they had identified, and their advisory process did not adequately warn them of what was about to happen. Likewise on a number of other issues, including the Natatorium. Though the Board majority gavelled through the Affordable Housing Master Plan last month, it had been the source of a great deal of dissension — again, Arlington Way 2.0.

Ms. Rouleau suggested that the County government organize to advocate for new progressive initiatives. I’m not convinced that this would guarantee success: it’s very much what was done for the Columbia Pike trolley, hundreds of thousands of dollars went into the Mobility Lab for pro-trolley propaganda and the under-fifty thousand dollar oppositional spending of the Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit carried the day.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

by Progressive Voice December 3, 2015 at 1:15 pm 0

Mary Rouleau

By Mary Rouleau

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

Last year, I attended a workshop focused on crafting a conversation about and building public support for “the common good” in Arlington. In my view, the workshop helped counter the view that government was the problem — or at least a large part of it — in a climate of “no trust” and partisan gridlock.

While the “no trust” description readily applies to the other side of the Potomac, there have been threads of the “no trust” narrative in Arlington in recent years.

I believe Arlington has done many things right over the past 20 years, including balancing the tax base between commercial and residential sources, sustaining strong schools and crafting national best practice models of transit-oriented development, including affordable housing.

But we now face large, complex challenges, including sustained school growth, economic competition, a growing affordability gap and a large number of aging Boomers — and all must be placed in the context of limited available land.

A prior generation of Arlington leaders made tough but good decisions in leading the County. Among the best was siting the Metro underground instead of in the I-66 median. We now find ourselves with a set of “next era” decision points. Those decisions will determine where and how we go forward as a community.

Because we must make these decisions in an era of tight budgets and slower economic growth, it would not be surprising to hear sentiment along the lines of, “Why should I pay for things I don’t need?”

But Arlingtonians have, over the decades, been more sophisticated and progressive, showing a willingness to go where the facts lead, even if there is not a direct benefit to them. Perhaps the most important and consistent indicator of this is the continued support for our schools even though the vast majority of Arlington households have no direct ties to APS.

Pursuing progressive values does not require a blank check to government. And residents should be able to expect not only good outcomes, but also transparency and informed decision-making with public input of various kinds.

It is important that the County government provide the public with facts that support its decisions and a description of the public purposes served by the decisions. My experience with housing issues over the past several years has demonstrated again and again that there is a wide information gap on that set of issues alone.

Advocacy groups can play an important educational role, too, but the County has the resources to reach more households and should be a primary source of information for explaining the use of public assets and resources.

And what of the “Arlington Way” that has guided County decisions? No doubt it has been a key in the public’s support for most of those decisions.

But demographic shifts, the technology explosion, and increasing careers demands support the view that it’s time for an Arlington Way 2.0.

There was talk during the recent election cycle of the need to bring more segments of the community into the dialogue by creating more opportunities for feedback. While true, it’s not enough. We also need ways to get more information about the challenges we face into the community’s hands in a timely and a sustained way. For most issues, this will need to be an ongoing process and not a one-off exercise.

It strikes me that so much energy goes into a typical Arlington study process on the front end that little remains for the rollout. Yet for many people, the rollout is the first time they become aware that change is happening.

We can fairly expect that those who participated in the process understand the reasoning behind the recommendations and outcomes that follow. But to build and maintain a larger community consensus, it is probably even more important for good information — promoting understanding of the importance of the action and why the action serves the common good — to flow after a decision is made.

In a future column, I will discuss the importance of the just-completed Final Report of the Community Facilities Study Committee, both for its substantive recommendations and how it provides an opportunity for greater public awareness and consensus.

Mary Rouleau is a 25-year resident of Arlington. She is the Executive Director of The Alliance for Housing Solutions. This column reflects her personal views.

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