Arlington, VA

This is set to be a pivotal year for how Arlington County represents itself in its logo and its infrastructure.

At the close of 2020, Arlington County kickstarted the process of updating its logo — a process that will soon be inviting public input — and this fall, County Board members expect to review a new framework for considering the possibility of new names for things like parks, streets and building.

Board member Christian Dorsey and NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. previewed these upcoming changes during a recent discussion on renaming hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, a group that talks about local issues.

Meanwhile, Marymount University assistant professor Cassandra Good shed light on the history of Arlington’s street naming and made recommendations for a new approach.

Spurred by a national discussion of systemic racism and police violence in 2019 and 2020, Arlington County is re-examining its logo, which depicts Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial, the former plantation home of the Confederate general and descendants of George Washington. The county is also reconsidering the names of various roads, parks and local landmarks named for Confederate generals and soldiers, slaveholders, plantations, and historic figures known for their racism.

That work is ongoing. A county logo review panel has received more than 250 submissions to consider and narrow down to five for the community to rank in May, Spain said. The County Board will select a new logo in June.

Meanwhile, county staff members are hammering out a formal process for naming and renaming places in Arlington going forward, to bring a systematic approach to what has so far been a case-by-case process.

“We expect that during the fall of this year, we will have a proposal from our county manager for how we ought to think about the renaming issue,” Dorsey said. “There’s going to be a lot more that comes with that, I expect.”

Some Committee of 100 members wondered whether the panelists think the county ought to change its name, too, given that the county is named after the plantation house that’s being removed from the logo.

Panelists said such a conversation could take place but changing the name Arlington would not only pose an extreme logistical challenge but may also not reflect a nuanced view of renaming.

“When we’re talking about changing the name of Arlington, it may come a time when we need to have that conversation,” Spain said. “But Arlington — I believe changing the name of a county is a pretty heavy lift.”

Dorsey said he is not in favor of throwing out everything that was the product of a certain time in history as “the poisonous fruit of a poisonous tree.”

A recurring question for officials tasked with renaming has been whether to swap one historical figure with another. The community could choose a person whose character could come into question later on, they said.

Good, the Marymount professor, said while her preference is not to use names of historical figures, there ought to be a few new historical figures featured.

“There need to be some names for people,” she said, otherwise, “the names that remain will mostly white people.”

Dorsey added that while the county can think beyond individuals, there will be some figures who community members will want to honor.

“I would hate to lose that entirely,” he said.

Good said Arlington first formalized a naming process for streets in 1932, when a commission of, as far as she can tell, all-white Arlington residents finalized the names for the county’s streets. Several — including Lafayette, Hamilton and Pocahontas Streets — were renamed at that time, she said.

Going forward, she recommended that all renaming decisions include those who have been excluded and involve a professional historian. Renaming should be considered if the current name was originally chosen to honor somebody for reasons that are at odds with the community’s values, she said.

0 Comments

Don Zientara, owner of the legendary Inner Ear Studio — long the seat of Arlington’s punk rock scene — is at a crossroads.

This Saturday, Arlington County is set to consider buying two parcels of land near Shirlington — 2700 S. Nelson Street and 2701 S. Oakland Street — and the warehouse that sits on it, which houses Inner Ear.

The warehouse, which is also home to a Ben & Jerry’s catering outfit and part of the Arlington Food Assistance Center, is old and structurally worn down, he says, and county documents indicate it will likely be demolished to make way for an arts and industry district along Four Mile Run.

Arlington County previously announced its plans to one day buy the building, but Zientara said no specifics were laid out as to when he would have to relinquish his studio. Now, however, the county has set a deadline: Dec. 31, 2021.

“I could retire at this point,” he said. “I’m weighing a lot of options. Closing it down is probably a strong one… It all depends on what we want to do. I’m not ready, really, to move the studio.”

The business is picking up “slowly, very slowly,” since the pandemic started. Musicians anticipate live music opportunities this summer and want to have a record or a downloadable song to “get things going,” Zientara said.

Zientara has been recording for more than 30 years in his basement and the Shirlington location. The long list of those who have recorded at the hole-in-the-wall studio includes the Foo Fighters, Fugazi and Minor Threat.

“I’m sorry to see it go, but that’s the way that it is,” Zientara said. “So I’m OK with it — it’s just the natural evolution of things. You can’t stop progress. I hope what they do have is something that can complement the arts in the county.”

That is the county’s plan.

The purchase would “fulfill multiple goals of the Four Mile Run Valley Area Plan, the Public Spaces Master Plan and the County’s Arts and Culture Strategy,” according to a county report. “The property is uniquely positioned to host a variety of diverse programming such as musical, dance, and theatre performances, and a multidisciplinary arts festival, anchored by a weekly outdoor ‘Valley Market.'”

County staff said the 18,813 sq. ft. of land could be used for the following uses as early as summer 2022:

  • An outdoor market, similar to Eastern Market in DC, and inspired by the county’s holiday markets and Made In Arlington pop-up events.
  • A location for the county mobile stage for musical, dance and theater performances.
  • An outdoor movie screening spot, “possibly curated for audiences not otherwise being served.”
  • A space for county-sponsored multidisciplinary arts festivals, supporting “a diverse range of artistic and cultural expression.”
  • A parking lot for when the space is not accommodating the above uses.

This sale would culminate a nearly two-year agreement between the County Board and the building’s owner, South Oakland Street, LLC. In June 2019, the county agreed to one day purchase the property for $3.4 million on the condition it made three annual, non-refundable, payments to South Oakland Street to delay the final sale for up to three years.

For the last two years, the County Board opted to make the yearly payments. Now, county staff is advising the Board to buy the property. Staff also recommend that the county give tenants until Dec. 31 to relocate.

AFAC will not be moving far. The organization, with its main building at 2708 S. Nelson Street, is temporarily leasing the additional space while it renovates a warehouse next door, which it purchased last year.

“The building was in serious need of renovation which we began in January of this year,” AFAC Executive Director and CEO Charles Meng said. “Once our renovation is completed in September of this year we will be vacating 2700 and moving back to our renovated warehouse.”

Photos (23) via Google Maps, photo (4) via Arlington County

0 Comments

The third time may be the charm for a residential development slated to be built in Ballston where a vacated church stands.

McLean-based Jefferson Apartment Group is taking over plans to build apartments and townhomes at the intersection of N. Vermont Street and 11th Street N. The site used to house Portico Church Arlington, which, according to its website, is now found at 800 N. Illinois Street.

The project at 1031 N. Vermont Street has changed hands three times since the County Board first approved a redevelopment plan in 2018. It has also drawn some backlash from neighbors who said the plan added density to an already congested Ballston neighborhood.

The first developer, NVR, proposed to replace the two-story church and its parking lot with a 72-unit condo building and 12 townhouses. Arlington-based BCN Homes took over the development in 2019 and in June 2020, was granted an additional 4,300 square feet to develop.

With the County Board’s approval, BCN proposed a new plan: a 7-story apartment building with 98 units and 10 townhouses across the street. JAG indicates it will not be making major changes to this configuration.

“We plan to move forward with substantially the same plans that the Board approved last June,” the developer tells ARLnow. “We may pursue a few, minor changes related to the interior programming and unit mix but the project will look largely the same.”

The boutique apartment building will have a rooftop terrace, 120 underground parking spaces and 40 bicycle parking spaces, according to JAG.

Meanwhile, the 10 luxury townhomes across 11th Street N. will each have about 2,000 square feet of space, with three bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, a private rooftop terrace and a private, two-car garage.

“Ballston is one of the most desired submarkets in the Washington, D.C. region,” noted Greg Van Wie, Senior Vice President and Development Partner at Jefferson Apartment Group, in a press release.

The development, he said, “underscores [JAG’s] commitment to create a contemporary, sophisticated boutique apartment building with top-of-the line finishes and luxe amenities and underscores the strength of the housing market here in Northern Virginia.”

A private, Chile-based real estate company, STARS REI, has invested in the property.

“We are thrilled to be working with Jefferson Apartment Group again on this boutique apartment project in this amazing neighborhood,” said Joaquin Canessa, Vice President at STARS REI in the press release.

Construction is slated to begin this winter and is expected to be done in summer 2023.

Photos (1-2) courtesy Jefferson Apartment Group

0 Comments

Work could begin soon on the 65-year-old W. Glebe Road Bridge, which Arlington County says is “structurally deficient.”

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to approve a $9.9 million contract that would kickstart the project. Improvements include replacing the top of the bridge, repairing its supports and making it more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.

According to the county, the bridge is in poor condition and requires attention soon. The bridge has been restricted to vehicles weighing fewer than five tons since a routine inspection in November 2018 uncovered structural problems.

The bridge “needs immediate superstructure replacement as further deterioration of the beams may result in bridge closure for [an] extended period,” a staff report said.

W. Glebe Road Bridge will remain open to vehicles and pedestrians during construction, which is expected to last 18 months, the county said, adding that extra time is needed to move underground utilities.

“The project includes removing the existing prestressed concrete superstructure and constructing a new superstructure with steel girders and a concrete deck,” the report said. “The project also includes repairing the existing substructures, and installing new,
wider sidewalks, bike lanes, architectural features and enhanced lighting.”

This bridge is the first to be rebuilt as part of an agreement between Arlington and Alexandria to share the costs of rehabilitating and maintaining five bridges across Four Mile Run which connect the two jurisdictions. Once the repairs are complete, Arlington will be fully responsible for inspecting and maintaining the W. Glebe Road Bridge.

The next bridge slated for attention is Arlington Ridge Road, which needs to be repaired in two to five years, according to the county. Other bridges in the agreement are at Shirlington Road, Route 1 and Potomac Avenue.

The county said it has received community feedback in favor of replacing the bridge, adding separate areas for pedestrian and bicycle traffic and incorporating art.

Such art elements would “connect the design of the bridge to Four Mile Run and the communities that live in the area,” the report said.

According to the county, some people voiced concerns about the length of the project. A shorter build time would require closing the bridge, staff said.

“The public prefers the bridge remain open during the construction period,” the county said.

Photo (1) via Google Maps, (2-3) via Arlington County

0 Comments

The County Board is set to consider a set of projects that would upgrade sidewalks and improve a small park.

Of the four, three focus on pedestrian improvements with an eye toward walkability for Arlington Public Schools students in the Bluemont, Columbia Heights and Fairlington neighborhoods. The fourth would fund improvements to 11th Street Park in Clarendon.

These upgrades, at a cost of roughly $2 million in total, were given a thumbs up last December by Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee. This group identifies needed improvements such as sidewalks, street beautification, street lights and parks and recommends them to the County Board.

At the intersection of 6th Street N. and N. Edison Street in Bluemont, the committee proposes to widen some corners and build out the sidewalks as well as upgrade landscaping and accessible ramps.

“It’ll be very visible to cars that people are crossing,” project representative Nick Pastore said during the December meeting. “That will help slow the rate of speed of cars going around those corners.”

Drivers take these residential roads “at a pretty decent speed” to avoid N. George Mason Drive between N. Carlin Springs Road and Wilson Blvd, he said.

At the intersection of 12th Street S. and S. Scott Street in Columbia Heights, nearu Columbia Pike, NCAC is requesting $500,000 to conduct a feasibility study for improving the intersection by extending the street corners, and making improvements to the crosswalks, landscaping and accessible ramps.

“This improved crossing will help students walking from nearby S. Courthouse Road to Hoffman-Boston [Elementary School] safely cross a busy road,” said Kristin Haldeman, director of multimodal transportation planning for Arlington Public School, in a letter to the county.

She added that the extra curb space “will provide more room for students in the area who attend Gunston Middle School and Wakefield High School to wait for their bus at the intersection.”

Columbia Heights Civic Association member Sarah McKinley welcomed the project for the neighborhood of apartment buildings and condos, saying the committee has been criticized over the years for mostly benefitting single-family neighborhoods.

“Here’s an example of an NC project that can benefit both types of neighborhoods,” she said.

In Fairlington, the committee proposes a sidewalk, curb, and gutter along the north side of S. Abingdon Street between 31st Street S. and 31st Road S. — near the STEM Preschool and the former Fire Station 7.

Fairlington representative Ed Hilz said these changes would improve walking paths for students getting to Abingdon Elementary School.

“Currently, there’s a staircase that is not very convenient to negotiate for children,” he said.

Finally, a green space at 11th Street N. and N. Danville Street in Clarendon would get new furnishings, park signage and path lighting. Additionally, the lawn will be aerated.

“I think this park is heavily used so all these upgrades will be a tremendous benefit for the community,” project representative Alyssa Cannon said.

Money for the projects will come from the 2016 and 2018 Community Conservation bonds.

Images via Google Maps

0 Comments

Arlington Public Schools administrators are reiterating their commitment to getting more students into hybrid instruction this semester and five-day in-person instruction this summer and fall.

That’s unlikely to appease parents who want a quicker return to full-time in-school learning, however.

As announced last week, APS will be inviting more children — whose families initially opted out of in-person school in the fall and now want to return — to come to school twice a week in the hybrid model of instruction, as space allows on a school-by-school basis.

The push to incorporate more students responds to a change in social-distancing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which now allows for three feet of distance between students in classrooms, though six feet is still recommended between adults and adults and students.

Nearby school systems are using the new guidance to add days of face-to-face instruction to the school week. Next Tuesday, Loudoun County and Fairfax County public schools will offer four days of in-person learning. This applies to all students in hybrid learning in LCPS and to identified students experiencing the greatest learning challenges in FCPS. (The Fairfax County plan has faced some criticism.)

Most Falls Church students, meanwhile, are now back in classrooms full time.

“We are absolutely doing that in the fall,” Superintendent Francisco Durán assured Arlington School Board members during their meeting last week. “We are headed to five days in-person in the fall. All of our planning now until then will be dedicated to that. That will be the sole plan we are working on.”

A number of parents who spoke at last week’s School Board meeting called for more days of in-person instruction this spring. In some cases, they also called for the resignation of Durán and certain School Board members.

“COVID-19 shows that the problem in Arlington is leadership is lacking,” said Paul Brickley. “The board must pursue the removal of the superintendent and the chief of staff for cause… Should the board not act, Arlington parents who care about the state of public education should immediately pursue a recall petition for [the board members] here since the start of the pandemic began. Should either course prove unworkable, parents should take to the streets using available peaceful means.”

While many Arlington students are in two day per week in-person learning, those in countywide special education programs report to schools four days a week. Between 41% and 51% of students, on the other hand, are still fully virtual.

The rates of opting for distance learning are higher among Arlington’s more vulnerable populations, Durán noted.

“I’ve heard from some principals as they’ve reached out to families that they still want to remain in distance learning,” he said. “We know that our English-learner population — particularly our Latino population — has had more exposure to the coronavirus and that particular community does not feel safe coming back to school.”

Overall, English learners and economically disadvantaged students are more likely to be in full distance learning than the overall APS student population, according to a snapshot of enrollment by instructional model, shown below.

At one school — Carlin Springs Elementary School — Durán said 80% of families are choosing to remain in distance learning.

“It’s really important to understand the nuance that there are significant variances among zip codes in comfort with coming back into in-person learning,” School Board Member Cristina Diaz-Torres said. “A lot of students are working to support their families or are taking care of younger siblings during the day and are just experiencing a different reality than some of our other students are experiencing.”

Gabriela Uro, who is part of an association of Latino APS parents, said the network of 600 Latino families she speaks with are very concerned about returning to school. Many parents worry their children could bring home the virus and infect a working family member, making it harder to put food on the table and pay rent.

More than 80% of people who responded to a Spanish-language survey her group sent out said their No. 1 concern with return-to-school is getting sick, with a number concerned about whether staff and students would comply with safety strategies.

“The level of anxiety was palpable,” she said.

Read More

0 Comments

Arlington County’s projected revenue appears sunnier than when County Manager Mark Schwartz first presented his proposed budget for the 2022 fiscal year in February. 

The county can attribute this warmer outlook to two sources: the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan and strong business license tax receipts, Budget Director Richard Stephenson said during a public hearing on the tax rate last Thursday. While he did not specify the revenue from the business taxes, Stephenson said President Joe Biden’s relief bill will apportion $46 million to the county.  

Combined, the influx of cash could mean funding will be restored to libraries, community centers, Arlington Independent Media and the Virginia Cooperative Extension, for example.

Schwartz’s proposed budget delays the re-opening of Cherrydale and Glencarlyn libraries and reduces support for AIM and VCE. Between 2019-20 and the proposed budget, funding for AIM had dropped by 22%, while the proposed reductions to VCE would require the organization to find new funding sources or reduce its programs. Members of the public spoke in favor of restoring funding to these programs last Tuesday.

Still, Arlington County will be leaning on real estate taxes for the lion’s share, 59%, of its revenue. Specifically, it will be relying on increasing residential real-estate taxes due to rising property values as commercial property assessments drop. 

“We’ve experienced some significant reductions to several of our tax revenues and non-tax fees,” Stephenson said. “We were fortunate this past January that real estate assessments came in slightly higher than we were originally projecting. While we experienced a decrease in commercial property assessments, new construction and residential properties increased.”

While property values are rising, Schwartz is proposing to keep the rate flat — at $1.013 per $100 of assessed value — for the upcoming fiscal year. That will mean an overall tax increase for most homeowners.

The County Board is slated to vote on this rate next Tuesday.  

Members cannot increase the rate but they could decrease it, which is something that a few Arlington residents told board members they would like to see.  

While Arlington has proposed holding its tax rate steady, nearby jurisdictions — including Fairfax County and Loudoun County — have proposed lowering or approved a lower real estate tax rate, said Audrey Clement, who is running as an independent for a seat on the County Board. 

“The impetus for tax reductions elsewhere is to provide relief to homeowners hit by rising assessments, even as the pandemic has put a lot of them out of work,” Clement told the board.

She said the county is using falling commercial real estate tax revenue to justify freezing rather than lowering the residential tax rate.

“The county will tell you it can’t afford to reduce the real estate tax rate because the pandemic has drained the commercial real estate tax revenue, but where were your real estate tax rates heading when the county was flush with revenue from corporate tenants?” she said. “They were going up.”

Meanwhile, two residents, William Barratt and Cindy Nelson, both asked the County Board to reduce real estate taxes.

Barratt said the Bluemont Civic Association, of which he is a part, passed a resolution encouraging the board to reduce the tax rate. The homeowner said he and his wife have seen a 15% increase in their taxes in recent years.

“I don’t think this is a wise idea for anyone: poor and rich,” Nelson said. “It’s just not right.”

The stormwater tax rate is set to increase, which Stephenson said will help generate $15.1 million earmarked for stormwater improvements.

Eventually, the county plans to eliminate the stormwater tax completely in favor of a fee based on how much impervious surface covers a given property, Schwartz previously said.

A higher cigarette tax rate is also being proposed that could generate $600,000. Like most of the county’s tax revenue, almost half of that will go toward Arlington Public Schools, Stephenson said.

Images (2-4) via Arlington County

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

When Megan Gray was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 23, doctors told her she could never drive again.

She had to get rides from family and friends or hail Uber and Lyft drivers. Forgetting something at the grocery store meant more hassle than returning was worth and calling a car got expensive.

“Becoming epileptic changed my life,” Gray said. “People don’t realize how important driving is until you need it and can no longer do it.”

Rather than give up her independence, however, she decided to create a technology that could help her. Once she did, Gray founded Moment AI, which is developing an artificial intelligence system that can detect, monitor and analyze human health abnormalities that occur on the road.

“Moment AI can change the way drivers drive by providing the vehicle with more knowledge than it ever has had before about the driver’s health,” she said. “Our algorithms are made to adapt to the unique drivers in the U.S. Our goal is to provide more access to driving to people who have disorders.”

Gray tinkered in her 500-square foot apartment with technology she bought from Amazon using money she made playing poker. Her circle of epileptic friends tested out her technology along the way.

Once she established her company and brought on a co-founder, Gray said investors took notice. Within a year, SoftBank — the multinational Japanese company that runs the world’s largest venture capital fund (and famously invested big in WeWork) — backed her.

Another high-profile investor is Nvidia Corporation, which helped to develop the AI technology in Tesla vehicles.

And now, Moment AI is partnering with Samer Hamdar, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the George Washington University, to create a prototype of an in-vehicle AI system that could detect the start of a health problem, take control of the car and guide the car and driver safely to the side of the road.

“Mobility and certain core services should be available to all people, including those with health problems and demanding work environments,” Hamdar said in a press release. “Moment AI is a special project: it showcases the need for transportation equity and builds on a personal story to launch an academic-industry partnership that may have a significant impact on the lives of many in need.”

Now, Gray and her team have access to vehicles, simulators and graduate students to develop this potentially life-saving tech. Hamdar and his team will use driving simulators to create images and videos to train AI systems to predict and detect fatigue, seizures, strokes and heart attacks.

“We literally went from my living room to a WeWork in Arlington and now, a research lab in D.C.,” she said. “It has been pretty fast-paced.” Moment AI is headquartered at the WeWork in Rosslyn, after moving from the Crystal City WeWork, which recently closed.

Gray is also working on a way to get the tech into existing cars for those who cannot afford a new car with built-in AI.

The founder and CEO is the first woman and first African American to partner with the GWU transportation lab. In addition to breaking down such barriers, she is particularly proud that a record number of graduate candidates applied to work on her project with Hamdar.

Read More

0 Comments

Arlington County Board Communications Manager Mary Curtius was a journalist when the reporters wrote drunk and sometimes edited sober, and when the editors ashed their cigarettes on reporters’ desks if they were lucky.

She started writing when “cut-and-paste” literally meant cutting sections of type out and sticking paragraphs together with rubber cement glue.

“We probably went home high every day, we were inhaling so much rubber cement,” she said. (On that note, the photographers, stuck in dark rooms all day, were probably loopy from the developer and fixer chemicals.)

Curtius reported from Los Angeles, Jerusalem and Capitol Hill. She was the Middle East bureau chief for the Boston Globe and Christian Science Monitor. She covered Congress for the LA Times and before that was the paper’s National Security Editor. To have more time with her kids, she switched tracks 11 years ago and started handling communications for Arlington County.

Today is Curtius’ last day as Communications Manager for the County Board before she retires. After five decades of working — she started cleaning homes at 13 — she says she looks forward to visiting friends and family now that she is fully vaccinated, traveling and volunteering. And rest. She looks forward to rest.

“I don’t think there are a lot of people who can say they never had a bad job and never got to do anything fun,” she said. “I’m lucky. I’m really lucky. It’s been a great ride.”

And sometimes, the ride was dangerous. She remembers taking a road trip out of Jerusalem with two male reporters, and when she got into the car, she saw they were working through a bottle of whisky. The two polished it off over the five-hour drive.

“It was completely terrifying,” she said. “That was how they lived… I was always ‘the good girl.'”

She had to be, to get ahead in a male-dominated field.

But her distinguished journalism career took a toll on her family life. So Curtius joined the county 11 years ago to be home more with her kids. During her tenure, Curtius said the changing media landscape and the dawn of social media caused her job to morph too. She has been part of a few major crises — Snowmageddon and the Derecho storm and now the coronavirus — and has helped Arlington prepare for Amazon’s arrival.

“It was a great job,” she said. “It’s a great county — God’s truth — it’s a great county. It was an amazing experience to be doing something that directly related to my community.”

Curtius remembers spending 18 months documenting how Arlington transformed from a sleepy town to a bedroom community for Pentagon workers to a bustling metropolitan area. She found all the Board members and county managers who were still alive and put together plans in the 60s and 70s to accommodate the Metro and concentrate development around stations.

“That video captured the ‘Greatest Generation’ — people who had these ideas and laid the foundation of modern Arlington,” she said. “I really enjoyed meeting those people. Almost all of them are dead now.”

Over the last decade, she said local media coverage has waned. Before joining the County Board in 2006, she said TV stations would set up cameras to get clips from County Board meetings. No longer, except for major news like Amazon’s arrival.

“It seems incredible to think about that,” she said.

Since then, the Washington Post has pulled back on local coverage, and there are not as many news outlets focused on county government — the Sun Gazette and present company excluded, she added.

“Of course, it is happening across the country,” she said. “It’s really distressing, just as a reporter, that there’s not a lot of local coverage.”

Read More

0 Comments

Cardinal Elementary School is the official name of the new school under construction at the Reed site in the Westover neighborhood.

During the Arlington School Board meeting Thursday night, members unanimously chose Cardinal, a name they expressed a preference for during a meeting in March.

Last month, a naming committee presented the School Board with two possible names: Westover Village and Cardinal. The former was a last-minute addition in response to feedback a naming committee received in a survey, through NextDoor and neighborhood email lists.

Board members did not debate the name options further last night. During the previous School Board meeting, they strongly opposed Westover Village due to the possible association with Westover Plantation. It was owned by William Byrd II, who founded the City of Richmond and was noted for the often cruel treatment of enslaved people on the plantation.

“The best way to learn from this history is to not continue to allow it to live in the names of our institutions, especially the names of our schools, where students are meant to learn,” Board Chair Monique O’Grady previously said.

When the naming committee first met to brainstorm new monikers, members initially nixed Westover on those grounds, too. The top five names were Cardinal, Compass, Exploration, Kaleidoscope and Passport.

The committee had also already ruled out names of people, living and dead. Members reasoned that it would be better to avoid names of people whose character could, later on, be called into question.

That meant the school site’s current name — for Dr. Walter Reed, an Army physician who studied and treated yellow fever — was out. The name had, however, been mentioned 133 times, according to a community survey.

The no-people rule also excluded McKinley. Most of the students who attend the new school, at 1644 N. McKinley Road, will move from McKinley Elementary School, with others moving from Tuckahoe Elementary School.

President William McKinley is associated with imperialist policies that hurt Indigenous people, such as buying the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico and annexing Hawaii.

Cardinal Elementary School will open this fall and will accommodate around 725 students.

0 Comments

Arlington’s top prosecutor is partnering with a national criminal justice organization to reduce racial disparities in prosecution.

Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner are the first two prosecutors to participate in a new partnership program from the Vera Institute for Justice, an organization working to reform the justice system, per its website.

“The Vera Institute for Justice has done an incredible amount of work on public safety, incarceration rates, and also whether incarceration is an effective tool for public safety,” Dehghani-Tafti tells ARLnow. “They were an organization that I was always hopeful to work with.”

As part of the new partnership, Dehghani-Tafti and Gardner will be working to reduce race-based differentials in prosecution rates by 20% in their jurisdictions. The work is part of Vera’s Motion for Justice initiative, in which prosecutors are given support and opportunities to bridge the gap between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, according to a press release.

Dehghani-Tafti and Gardner’s offices will receive policy recommendations and staff training, as well as resources to analyze data on the ways marginalized people are disproportionately impacted by prosecution practices, the release said.

This partnership, which will last 18 months, singles out Arlington as a leader in this work, Dehghani-Tafti said. The Arlington and St. Louis prosecutors’ offices are the first of up to 10 prosecutors’ offices in jurisdictions across the country that Vera plans to invite on as partners. (Dehghani-Tafti’s office also prosecutes cases for the City of Falls Church.)

“This is the conversation that I started when I started running,” she said. “We need to look at the results of our system and figure out how and why we’re there.”

This partnership is one way Dehghani-Tafti said she is keeping her promise to use data and evidence to drive lasting criminal justice reform.

“We’re going to need some help with our data, making our case management system be able to analyze data and run reports that are actually meaningful,” the prosecutor said.

The system Dehghani-Tafti said she inherited was designed to store information, not answer larger questions such as who is disproportionately represented in certain case outcomes.

“You can go case by case but you’re still operating in a system that we know cements racial and economic divides, continues cycles of traumas, affects families and communities and treats people who are incarcerated and their families — who haven’t done anything wrong — as expendable,” she said.

Here in Northern Virginia, Vera will also provide financial assistance to the Courthouse-based nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration.

“OAR is an ideal partner for this,” Dehghani-Tafti said. “They’ve been looking at policies and practices, such as community service, through an anti-racism lens: Your economic means, your race, your zip code, your ability to speak English — that all can make it harder or easier to do community service.”

Dehghani-Tafti said she plans to get started with the Vera partnership “forthwith,” as soon as she can schedule 10 training sessions.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list