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

The following was written by guest columnist Alex Pilkington.

According to the most recent census bureau data, Arlington County is home to nearly 230,000 residents. Over 10 percent of these residents are disenfranchised from participating in deciding how our community should be governed. Although they call Arlington home, they have not yet acquired citizenship.

As an inclusive county that values civic participation, Arlington should seek to grant local voting rights to all people that call Arlington home, including those that might not be fully recognized citizens.

Non-citizen Arlingtonians have children in Arlington Public Schools, engage in commerce within our local economy, drive on Arlington roads, use public transportation, play within Arlington’s parks, and study and read within Arlington’s libraries. Regardless of where they emigrated from or how long they have lived here, they are Arlingtonians at their core and should be given the ability to vote for their representatives at the local level.

Although state and federal elections garner most of our attention, local races have a significant impact on daily life for all Arlington residents. This includes the County Board, Commissioner of Revenue, Treasurer, Sheriff, Commonwealth Attorney and Arlington County School Board. Our democracy would improve if more residents of Arlington engaged in these elections. Through extending such voting access, our elected representatives from these offices will need to seriously consider the additional input of a group of people that has traditionally been kept in the dark.

This isn’t some brand new proposal either. This past year, two cities in Vermont (Montpelier and Winooski) joined San Francisco and nine jurisdictions in Maryland in allowing non-citizen voting access in local elections. With Massachusetts, Illinois, New York City, and D.C. considering legislation that would extend voting access within their jurisdictions, Arlington should consider adding its name to this growing list.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an easy feat to accomplish. Based on the debate that previous jurisdictions have seen, there’s reason to believe that there would be significant opposition to such a proposal. In fact, some states have gone so far as to preemptively nullify any local jurisdictions from implementing such a policy.

However, just because something might be difficult shouldn’t preclude it from being considered and brought up for debate. Arlington should be doing everything it can to support and stand behind the immigrants who call our county their home.

I assume that many opponents of this proposal may argue that if people wish to participate in our country’s democratic process, they must go through the complex process of becoming a citizen. A policy analysis from the Cato Institute shows that the typical time it takes to apply for a green card, which is the first step in the naturalization process, is six years (up from about two and a half years in 1991) and that length of time is expected to only increase unless steps are taken to streamline our immigration processes.

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Progressive Voice is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the authors’.

By Gabe and Dolores Rubalcava

The editors of Progressive Voice recently talked with long-time Arlington residents Gabe and Dolores Rubalcava to hear their opinions on how Arlington has changed over the past decades, and what strategic decisions are most important now for county decision-makers.

PV: As an Army family, you moved to Arlington from Ft. Hood, Texas in 1991. Since then, you’ve both worked and raised a family, with all four children now college graduates in their careers. Over time, what have you seen as the most significant changes in Arlington?

Dolores: All the development has been the biggest change. When we first drove up, I thought, “No way this is close to Washington D.C.”…this was a cute little sleepy town…there were one-story houses in Ballston…the miniature golf course there had just been taken down.

Gabe: I was working at the Pentagon and a friend had told us to “find a house inside the Beltway” if we could [to avoid a long commute], so we squeezed ourselves into a smaller place close to Carlin Springs, even though we paid more than we would have farther away. Then later we moved [to the Bluemont area] to a bigger house.

Demographics have changed. When we got here, there were a lot of Vietnamese, Salvadorans. We were one of the few Mexican families. When the Vietnamese got more money they moved to Fairfax. Now we’re seeing Eritreans, lots of Mongolians.

PV: What county decisions and trends have concerned you or pleased you?

Dolores: The development has attracted new people, visitors . . . on the flip side, I wish the south side would get better. For one, the streetcar on Columbia Pike being nixed was so sad. Businesses were looking forward to it, restaurants were so hyped up about it.

Gabe: So instead of the streetcar, people were talking about what buses could do. But . . . that hasn’t happened. In the end, what did we get? Nada. So that was a promise not kept.

PV: How do you think Arlington County should change moving forward?

Gabe: Today it seems in Arlington we have people ’til they are about 30-35 years old, then they move out, whether because of children, or need a bigger house. So a big question is: what could Arlington do to keep people after that point? And then there are older people like us. I want to stay here until we kick off.

PV: What are your ideas to address such needs?

Gabe: On housing, we have to get more creative with solutions. What does it take to change the dynamic? Like recently they approved an apartment building with 228 apartments, and of those, you know how many committed affordable housing units? 12! Just one was set aside for [people with] disabilities! It’s well within our power to fix that. We’re a county with a $1 billion budget.

The county makes decisions on land use. Let the market decide the price point. But, do we want people to stay in Arlington? Let’s look at the duplex idea, other housing ideas so more people could stay here when they want to start families. Most of all, do not be afraid to try something. Sometimes we overthink solutions until we are overcome by events, or we fail to take advantage of the committee recommendation . . . we really do have an educated populace — let’s take advantage of it!

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

The following was written by guest columnist Thomas Bingham.

Virginia recently just decriminalized personal use of marijuana and passed reforms on use of police force. These are defining a step in the right direction and in the coming year, Virginia voters can hold candidates accountable and demand even more action on criminal justice reform.

Continued progress includes reducing sentences for crimes, improving policing, and expanding the legalization of recreational drugs. Below are policies that Arlington’s elected leaders should pursue to make the next steps toward criminal justice reform.

1. Ending mandatory minimums during the 2022 legislative cycle

Mandatory minimums of these laws have been passed during the tough on crime era. The intent of these laws was to reduce crime and take dangerous people off the streets. The result has led to minorities and low-income individuals being disproportionately targeted by the harsh drug laws. The harsh drug laws with mandatory minimums are why the U.S. has one of the biggest prison systems in the world.

The Virginia State Senate took the advice of the Virginia Crime Commission and passed a bill eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for most crimes. The bill failed in the House of Delegates. Arlington’s delegation could champion a more limited version of the bill that could pass in the next legislative session. At the very least, Virginia should end mandatory minimums for drug related charges and focus on better solutions to address drug addiction.

2. Democrats should abandon the “defund the police” movement and focus on reforms

News of car jackings and armed robberies have proliferated in recent months. Cutting funding for public safety does not help assure anxious residents and could be politically damaging to moderate Democrats seeking reelection this year.

This doesn’t mean that our elected representatives should abandon police reform. Law enforcement should narrow their focus on preventing violent crimes and use more discretion on victimless crimes, particularly crimes that have been used to target people of color for arbitrary arrest. The state legislature should focus on improving training, hiring more law enforcement personnel, giving law enforcement more tools to de-escalate hostile situations and changing tactics to protect citizens.

Along with these reforms, we should pressure our Senate and House representatives to end qualified immunity. Widely denounced in the wake of Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd in 2020, qualified immunity shields public officials from being personally liable from violating individual rights. This effort failed the Virginia House last year but there is a chance it could be revisited in the next legislative cycle.

Civil Asset Forfeiture, a practice that allows police departments to take money or property based on a suspicion of crime, should be banned much like Maine did recently. The easy fix would be to require a criminal conviction before taking someone’s property.

3. Adapt similar policies to Oregon to decriminalize most personal use of drugs

The War on Drugs, which has increased the surveillance and arrest of people of color for over 50 years, is at the root of our unjust and inequitable criminal justice system. The sanest route, even if it is the most controversial, would be to decriminalize the personal possession of most drugs. This radical experiment has proven to be effective in Portugal by reducing drug abuse and limiting the spread of HIV. Oregon is the first state in the US to pursue this approach.

Arlington doesn’t currently have the progressive leadership that would champion such a dramatic change from the status quo. The best route would be to build grassroots support and bring a referendum to the voters. We should start laying the groundwork now.

Conclusion

Virginia has made some important first steps in undoing its harsh drug laws and reforming its broken criminal justice system. There is a lot more work to do with police reform, reducing crime and ending the war on drugs.

Thomas Bingham is a California native and lives in Arlington. He has worked in the public policy field for over ten years defending liberty and advocating for limited government. In his personal time, he enjoys the outdoors and riding motorcycles.

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Last week, we invited the two candidates running in the Democratic primary for House of Delegates race for the 49th District to write a post about why our readers should vote for them next Tuesday (June 8).

Here is the unedited response from Karishma Mehta:

My name is Karishma Mehta and I’m running for the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s 49th House District here in South Arlington and parts of Fairfax County to be a representative for the working people of this district, not the special interests.

As I’ve knocked doors in this district, I’ve heard stories that remind me of my own. My parents came here from India seeking a better life and they struggled with rent, school lunch debt, and lack of healthcare, all without the protection of a union. After I graduated from college, I inherited these struggles. I worked long hours at jobs that paid starvation wages to help pay down student debt that I still have as a renter on Columbia Pike. When I became a teacher, I skipped meals and avoided the doctor to fund my own classroom while watching my students struggle with the same obstacles that I grew up with. That’s the reason I decided to run, to break that cycle of inequity for my students and their futures.

I’m running in the same tradition as so many amazing women who came before me. I’m a young South Asian woman. To say we aren’t represented in politics is an understatement and after seeing so many courageous women run in Virginia and with our historic passage of the ERA, I knew I was ready to take this step to be the first woman of color to ever represent South Arlington in the General Assembly. My experience as a working person, a woman of color, and daughter of immigrants informs my policy. That’s the type of experience and leadership we need in the House of Delegates during these difficult times.

People in the 49th deserve a leader who will stand courageously with them, not corporations, to take on our racist criminal justice system, an inequitable education system, and an economic system that allows the very rich to keep getting richer, while the rest of us continue to struggle paycheck-to-paycheck. In our district, as corporations like Amazon move in, we need bold representation pushing for the people who live here right now and have lived in Arlington for generations. I will be an advocate for all people in this district, and never be on the side of big business or the corporate landlords like AHC Inc. We need courage to move forward without these interests influencing our politics and pass legislation that safeguards the rights of every Virginian.

That means finally getting our commonwealth to universal healthcare coverage through a single-payer system. That also means passing a comprehensive Green New Deal for Virginia that prioritizes workers and Black and brown folks hit hardest by environmental injustice. That means providing universal Pre-K to all our families.

I’m asking for your vote because to do this we need a delegate who is out in front, fighting for these universal programs, not taking money from the companies who continue to commodify our human rights. I will work alongside anyone to pass legislation for working people and when I go to Richmond, I’m taking the stories and the people of the 49th with me. We have built a movement in Arlington and Fairfax and I’m asking for you to help build that momentum so we can pass a common agenda for all our people. Thank you for your continued support over these 8 months and I look forward to serving you in Richmond.

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Last week, we invited the two candidates running in the Democratic primary for House of Delegates race for the 49th District to write a post about why our readers should vote for them next Tuesday (June 8).

Here is the unedited response from incumbent Alfonso Lopez:

When first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, I promised to be a progressive champion for the Commonwealth’s most diverse district. That pledge included expanding access to health care, protecting a pregnant person’s right to make their own health care decisions, passing sweeping criminal justice reform, advancing the fight against climate change, and improving quality of life and community safety.

I am proud to say I’ve delivered on my promise and humbly ask for your vote for re-election.

As part of House Democratic leadership, I’ve helped us grow our majority and set a bold progressive agenda in order to build a Virginia that lifts everyone up and leaves no one behind.

We started by expanding Medicaid to over 500,000 Virginians — including 45,000 in Northern Virginia. This sets us on the path towards finally securing healthcare for everyone and the assurance that no family has to choose between putting food on the table or paying medical bills.

Our progress continued on health care. One of the proudest moments of my legislative career came in 2020, when I co-patroned and helped pass the Reproductive Health Protection Act. This eliminated barriers to reproductive health access across the Commonwealth and kept health care decisions exclusive to a pregnant person and their doctor.

Following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I worked with Majority Leader Charniele Herring and Delegate Luke Torian to pass sweeping criminal justice reform legislation banning no-knock warrants, chokeholds and the militarization of police departments. We also enacted my legislation to finally enable the Attorney General to act against police departments with a history of constitutional rights violations.

With 30 years of environmental advocacy experience, I’m proud to be the founder of the Virginia Environment and Renewable Energy Caucus and to have seen many of my bills in this area signed into law. I recently secured $800 million for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and was the chief co-patron on the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which transformed Virginia from among the worst states on climate change to one of the best.

This bill laid the groundwork to pursue a Green New Deal, bold legislation that I’ve co-patroned and voted for twice.

Improving quality of life and making our communities safer have been my priorities. In 2013, I created the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) and have fought every year for increased funding. This past session we secured $125.7 million – a significant increase over past years. The AHTF has helped alleviate housing instability and homelessness across Virginia and served as the backstop for eviction prevention and rental relief during the pandemic. Moreover, it has provided housing for hundreds of families here in the 49th district.

Providing housing was only one element of improving our communities; another was passing common sense gun laws. A key first step was requiring background checks for all firearms purchases, but that’s not enough. This past session, I helped close the “Charleston Loophole” and extended the period state police have to complete a background check to ensure we keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.

These accomplishments are among the highlights of over 150 bills I’ve authored, chief co-patroned, or co-patroned that have been signed into law. Others include securing in-state tuition for DREAMer students, repealing Virginia’s ban on project labor agreements, and creating the first LGBTQ+ advisory board in the South.

I’ve never lost touch with the people I represent and have used my role in leadership to produce outcomes that greatly improve our community. I successfully kept the DMV on Four Mile Run, and this past session I passed the Purple Lounge Bill to increase local oversight of ‘bad actor’ establishments.

Perhaps most importantly, considering housing affordability concerns in the 49th, I voted against Amazon’s HQ2 and refuse its campaign contributions.

My record speaks for itself: I’m a progressive Democrat who delivers results and works to improve lives in the 49th district and across Virginia.

I’m proud to have earned the endorsements of numerous organizations, activists and legislators, including:

  • S. Senator Tim Kaine
  • Congressman Don Beyer
  • Julius “J.D.” Spain – 2019 primary opponent
  • Emma Violand-Sanchez – former Arlington School Board Chair
  • Virginia Education Association
  • NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia
  • Virginia League of Conservation Voters, and
  • Every Organized Labor group in this race.

They understand — as I do — that politics is about improving people’s lives.

Together — there is much more to accomplish.

I hope to also earn your support for re-election in the upcoming June 8th primary. To learn more, please visit www.AlfonsoLopez.org.

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Last week, we invited the two candidates running in the Democratic primary for the 45th District House of Delegates race to write a post about why our readers should vote for them next Tuesday (June 8).

Here is the unedited response from incumbent Mark Levine:

For the past six years, I have had the honor of representing South Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax in the House of Delegates. I now ask for your vote as I seek to serve all of Arlington, and all of Virginia, as your Lieutenant Governor.

When deciding which candidate to support, I encourage voters to focus on two things: the record of what a candidate has done in the past and their vision for the future. I have a strong record of accomplishment, including doing some things everyone said were impossible to do. I also have a unique vision of being the first candidate in Virginia history to propose to transform the office of the Lieutenant Governor into a full-time job and to travel all across Virginia to bring your voice to Richmond.

My Record

To know what someone will do, look at what they’ve done. I have led the way on issues of affordable healthcare, economic opportunity for all, justice reform, strengthening democracy, and preventing domestic violence, sexual violence, and gun violence. I am the only candidate running who chairs two very important subcommittees (Public Safety and Constitutional Amendments)

Some of the dozens of laws I have spearheaded include:

  • Common-sense gun safety measures
  • Comprehensive protections for LGBTQ+ Virginians
  • Virginia’s only body-camera law
  • Protections for children in homes with domestic violence
  • Protecting the right to vote and making it easier to do

(A full list of the 47 bills I introduced last year, including the 23 of them that became law, is found here: Mark’s 2020 Session Letter)

I have also delivered results beyond new laws by:

  • Leading the effort to have Arlington relegate “Jefferson Davis Highway” to the dustbin of history
  • Mandating the live-streaming and archiving of all the General Assembly’s proceedings and recording all our votes, as the leader and co-founder of the bipartisan Transparency Caucus
  • Keeping Arlingtonians informed about testing of COVID-19 and vaccination efforts by organizing early town halls with public health leaders
  • Securing funding for Northern Virginia’s first program to make emergency medical assistance available 24/7 to survivors of sexual violence and domestic violence

To understand what I have yet to do, here are my “not-yet-successes.”

  • Banning the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
  • Guaranteeing Paid Family and Medical Leave for all Virginia workers
  • Reforming the Electoral College so we elect the President by National Popular Vote
  • Campaign finance reform, including capping political contributions at the federal contribution limit
  • Requiring police officers to report their fellow officers’ misconduct

My progressive principles have guided my work. The 2021 Virginia Progressive Legislative Alert Network’s review graded me as having the second most progressive voting record in the House of Delegates in 2021. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia named me a Champion for reproductive freedom on their 2021 scorecard, and the League of Conservation Voters of Virginia named me as one of their 2020 Legislative Heroes for my work to protect our environment.

My Vision

I’m running to transform the office of Lieutenant Governor into a full-time, year-round job. The Lieutenant Governor – the only person in all of Virginia government that serves both the executive and legislative branches – can play a meaningful role as the connective tissue Virginians desperately need right now.

We need a leader who will take action to protect Virginia from the scourge of gun violence – a fight I’ve led in the House of Delegates and will continue to lead as Lieutenant Governor.

I also want Virginians to feel connected to one another and know that their government cares about and works for them. That’s why I have hosted Mark’s Monthly Meetup every single month since I was first elected in 2015. Many of the bills I’ve championed, like my successful bill banning the inhumane tethering of pets or my broadband initiative have arisen directly from conversations with voters at these meetups. I will continue this tradition as Lieutenant Governor. I have pledged to visit every one of Virginia’s 133 localities to talk with Virginians about the issues that matter to them.

To learn more about my campaign, please visit LevineforVirginia.com. You can also read more about my biography and vision here.

My record and my vision are why I want to keep serving you in any capacity I can. I hope I earn your vote on June 8th.

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Last week, we invited the two candidates running in the Democratic primary for Arlington County Board to write a post about why our readers should vote for them next Tuesday (June 8).

Here is the unedited response from incumbent Takis Karantonis:

Last year I ran for office not in spite of, but because of the extraordinary and demanding circumstances, in the middle of a pandemic that was ravaging our community and our economy. Fifteen years of civic engagement, community leadership and deep-rooted community relationships motivated and prepared me for assuming the responsibility to make difficult decisions while carefully listening to what Arlingtonians told me during the campaign and while in office.

Last year I pledged to remain rooted in civic engagement and to bring the voice of our diverse communities to the County Board. I kept and I continue to keep this promise. COVID-19 and our national reckoning on racial inequity in the wake of the murder of George Floyd revealed Arlington’s multifaceted and challenging disparities. My vision for Arlington, my action and my voting record are firmly centered on equity, inclusivity, transparency, fairness and responsiveness and the belief that we are a successful community when:

  • We care for the Health and Safety of ALL, especially of those lacking access or coverage.
  • We care for Economic Resilience, especially that of Small Businesses and working families
  • We care for Social and Racial Justice and Fairness on all levels from Policing, to Housing, to Education, to equitable access to natural and recreational resources and beyond.
  • We share the sense of urgency and common cause to confront the Climate Emergency.

In other words, I believe that we are successful when we work together and leave nobody behind.

As an immigrant I hold these core-beliefs very close to my heart as they guide my thinking, my politics and my work for an Arlington that works for ALL: A community of safe, and walkable neighborhoods, with excellent public schools, great public places and facilities, accountable, ethical and fiscally sound governance, ethnic, cultural and socio-economic diversity and an unwavering commitment to community involvement.

If elected, I will,

  • use the lessons learned during the pandemic to address the inequalities that COVID has revealed; strengthen our local social safety net; eliminate food and housing insecurity; enhance access to health and mental health services and provide unfettered access to critical services such as broadband for all.
  • deepen and accelerate our local response to the Climate Emergency; electrify our transportation; prioritize safe walking and biking; decarbonize new construction and retrofit legacy buildings; invest in stormwater infrastructure; protect and enhance our tree-canopy and our natural resources and most importantly: make Climate Resiliency and Sustainability a ‘Whole-of-Government’ policy.
  • ensure that racial equity and accountability permeates all activities and policies of our government, and progress is transparently measured and reported.
  • prioritize support for our Small Businesses; support them with a revolving micro-loan and technical assistance program; reduce costly red-tape and treat them as the job-creating, innovative community partners and stakeholders they are.
  • address our housing crisis, which continues to displace Arlingtonians; invest in the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and enhance Housing Grant eligibility; focus on corridor development while continuing pursuing longer term policies aiming to enhance housing choices that fit the needs of all Arlingtonians.

I believe in democratic values, collaborative leadership and inclusive planning expressed in the four pillars of my platform: equitable governance; fiscal sustainability and resilience; environmental sustainability; and principled and inclusive long-term planning.

I am proud to have earned the endorsement of all my colleagues on the County Board and on the School Board, as well as the endorsement of most of Arlington’s elected constitutional officers and representatives in the General Assembly; professional organizations; citizen-led advocacy groups and community leaders (representing our Black Community; Latino and Immigrant communities; Senior and Young Democrats; supporting multi-modal, cycling and sustainable transportation; public education; affordable housing; environmental sustainability; and mental health services). These endorsements are the result of years of working on Arlington issues and a testament to my passion for good, responsive and responsible local governance.

I hope to earn your vote and the opportunity to serve you as a County Board member on June 8.

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Last week, we invited the two candidates running in the Democratic primary for Arlington County Board to write a post about why our readers should vote for them next Tuesday (June 8).

Here is the unedited response from Chanda Choun:

People always ask me why do I run for elected office.  As a 15-year Army Reserve veteran, business manager and technology professional, I continue to believe that I am the best person to provide missing skills and experience in local government that will lead us successfully into a post-pandemic new world. Each run adds to our collective story and forces changes, both large and small. But there are also other fundamental reasons.

As a Christian by way of the church that sponsored my family as Cambodian refugees to America during the Vietnam War era, I believe that giving my life to others is the ultimate act of love.

As a Buddhist by way of my family heritage, I believe that we are accountable for all that came before us and bear the responsibility for all who will come after us.

Thus, we have a system that needs fixing and wrongs that need righting.  My Freedom and Justice Plan for Arlington, a culmination of five years of community campaigning and study, calls for fundamental changes to local power and policy. It will:

  • Secure the local economy amidst the remote work revolution.

  • Be aggressive, adaptable, accountable with vaccine rollout.

  • Close the Digital Divide by ensuring that all Arlingtonians will have universal access to fast, affordable internet by 2023.

  • Protect our middle and working class.

  • Grow our diverse communities.

  • Update the local form of government to become more representative and responsive.

With me:

  • We can take a stand on what Arlington will look like 20 years from now.

  • We can get on a path that is sustainable — financially, environmentally, and socially.

  • We can get back to work, back to school, and back to living.

Folks, I’m not a flash in the pan.  This isn’t the first time I’ve run for local elected office.  This is the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time depending how you count it (see campaign platform again about updating local form of government).  My initial run last year got wrecked by the pandemic and then emergency Arlington County Democratic Committee party candidate nomination rules created in response to the special election, which only allowed little more than 200 party officials and current electeds to choose the Democratic nominee.

The people deserve a fair open election, and now they are getting one this June 8. I believe in the lower D democratic process.  I believe in the civic process: the Arlington Way.

I’ve been an officer of my civic association in Buckingham for many years.  I’m a delegate to the Arlington County Civic Federation and formerly on its Board of Directors.  I’m a current Arlington County Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commissioner and Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families Out of School Time Councilmember.  I’m also a member of the John Lyon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3150 located off of Lee Highway near Mom’s Organic Market.

For Arlington County, will we own up to our current transformative developments and challenges?

  • The lost diversity of people in both race and economic class the past 20 years.

  • The lost tree cover and historic neighborhood floods in the face of development pressures.

  • The increasing taxes and fees on residents by thousands of dollars year-after-year to close never-ending budget gaps.

I will be the transformative Arlington County Board Member that fundamentally takes on these challenges.  Vote for the Freedom and Justice Plan this June 8, and let’s have a good election.  It’s the democratic thing to do.

(Name pronounced CHAHN-duh CHOON): https://chandachoun.com/meet-chanda/

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

The following was written by guest columnist Kaydee Myers.

Over the next two years, the Arlington County Board and the Arlington School Board have the opportunity to create a more integrated community through four concurrent planning efforts.

Arlington County started its Missing Middle Housing Study and Affordable Housing Master Plan Review, while also drafting a plan for (the soon to-be-renamed) Lee Highway. Meanwhile, the School Board will adopt comprehensive elementary school boundaries in Fall 2022.

If the Boards coordinate these efforts, they could institute multi-family zoning in a portion of the area assigned to each neighborhood elementary school, leading to more mixed-income housing in neighborhoods currently lacking these options.

As in most public school districts in the nation, Arlington operates neighborhood schools, where most kids go to school based on where they live. Similarly, like most urban areas, Arlington County housing patterns reflect ingrained racial, ethnic, and economic segregation after years of discriminatory government policies and coordinated racist real estate practices. Our schools reflect this housing framework.

Past efforts, such as busing for integration, have fallen out of favor with parents, elected officials, and the courts. Other efforts, like option schools, are models for integration, but are not widespread enough to change the system. Plus, APS reports that Arlington parents voice a strong preference for walkable neighborhood elementary schools, and there are valid economic, environmental, and health benefits for promoting this walkability.

With this backdrop, APS is unlikely to challenge the status quo. However, APS can increase integration with intensive joint planning with the County Board to address school segregation where it starts — its neighborhoods. Many community members, including School Board member Reid Goldstein have called for this joint planning. But, despite being one of the 10 people in the County able to implement this collaboration, Mr. Goldstein didn’t elaborate on how to get started.

The most promising opportunity to improve integration within APS is the County’s Plan Lee Highway initiative. By reimagining Lee Highway as a walkable urban boulevard, a rezoning effort could add mixed-income housing in the northernmost quarter of Arlington — neighborhoods with the highest median incomes, which flow to elementary schools with the lowest poverty rates in the County.

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What’s Next with Nicole is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s. Today’s post was guest written by Nicholas Beirne.

Whitlow’s oh Whitlow’s
We will miss you so
Booths from St. Patrick’s
That beautiful woodwork show

A storied place for the townie Arlington crew
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving
Whatever will we do

A friendly staff that always had your back
Thank you for sneaking us the coffee
Giving us our evening comeback

Crab legs & lobster mac
A classic birthday brunch
That alone keeps us coming back

The beach bar and tiki rooftop
Lines so long it’ll make your heart stop

Did you really want to play the ring game
Or were you just bored with your crew

Soja and Footwerk – our local tried and true
Those vibes that make your feet hurt
And DFMOs to make your Sundays hurt

The smokers tent —
Was it legal?
Now we’ll never know

Whitlow’s oh Whitlow’s
We will miss you so
This is an ode to Whitlow’s
Ever sad to see you go.

Nicholas Beirne is a lifelong Arlington resident. His best Whitlow’s memory: Ryan Zimmerman buying him a drink on his 21st birthday, on Thanksgiving eve, oh so long ago. Whitlow’s Crew, you will be missed.

Mar. 30, 2020 – A cyclist passes Whitlow’s in Clarendon, which was closed at the time due to the pandemic (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)
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Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Del. Bob Brink (D-48)This week, I stepped down after 17 years as the 48th District’s Delegate in Richmond. This milestone gave me a chance to reflect on how I arrived at this point, what lies ahead — and how much this unique community means to me.

Unlike some people who have adopted a coiled snake as their mascot, I believe in government and the important and sometimes essential role it plays in improving people’s lives. From that belief came an interest from an early age in politics as a means of ensuring that like-minded people would serve in government. (The fact that I grew up in Chicago, where politics is in the water system, may have had something to do with it as well.)

The politics/government connection drew me to this area and to Arlington some 40 years ago. Here we were absorbed into the Arlington Democratic family: some became surrogate grandparents; our kids grew up together; and I developed lifelong friendships with people who would become colleagues and co-workers in Arlington’s positive, person-to-person brand of politics. Then in 1997, when Judy Connally (whose first campaign I had managed) decided to retire as Delegate, my personal and professional circumstances made it possible for me to run to succeed her.

My 17 years in Richmond have reinforced how fortunate we are to be part of this community. We know the statistics: we’re well-educated; we’re affluent; we continue to have a dynamic, vibrant economy (our unemployment rate is consistently Virginia’s lowest).

We champion efforts that don’t necessarily benefit us directly. A prime example is K-12 funding. If there’s anything like a litmus test in Arlington, it’s support for our public schools. Yet, due to Virginia’s K-12 funding formula, Arlington receives relatively little state money for its world-class public schools — by and large, we pay for them through our local taxes.

But Arlington’s delegation in Richmond is united in defending K-12 funding in the state budget — it’s the right thing to do and makes us a better and stronger Commonwealth. (A tragic irony in the debate over Medicaid expansion is that some downstate members most vociferous in their opposition to expansion represent areas with disproportionate numbers of low-income uninsured people who desperately need access to health care.)

Unlike many other delegations in Richmond, we work well together — within the delegation and with our local elected officials.

We’re generally of the same political party and share the same political goals. But that’s not the complete answer: there are other one-party delegations that fight like cats and dogs, both among themselves and with their local officials. Rather, it’s based on mutual trust and respect within the General Assembly delegation and with our hometown boards and constitutional officers.

That’s paid off for Arlington. When the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was in danger of moving out of Arlington, we worked together at the federal, state and local levels to keep DARPA headquarters here. Through strong working relationships developed over time in Washington, Richmond, and Arlington, we were able to achieve that goal.

DARPA is an example of how government investments in research and development as well as infrastructure pay enormous dividends in terms of national security, private sector growth and productivity — most famously as the place where the Internet got its start. DARPA’s continued presence is vital to Arlington’s economy and reputation for innovation.

A good share of my time in Richmond has been spent on “Arlington issues.” It’s a duty I’ve taken on gladly, and it’s one my successor must be prepared to assume.

This Arlington unity will become even more important. In a Dillon Rule state, Arlington’s delegation in Richmond must defend programs and policies in transportation, human rights, and other areas that reflect Arlington’s values and priorities developed through the community-centered process we call the “Arlington Way.”

A few weeks ago a Washington Post columnist noted that officials from surrounding jurisdictions sometimes refer to us as “Perfect Arlington” because sometimes we seem to view ourselves that way. While we have every reason to be proud of our accomplishments as a forward-looking, inclusive community, we need to be vigilant that satisfaction doesn’t become smugness and self-righteousness. I’ve found that a bit of humor doesn’t hurt either.

This is not a farewell address. While I’m moving on to new challenges, Arlington will always be my home. I’ll always be grateful to people who gave me the opportunity to be their voice and champion their values in Richmond. You’ll forever be in my thoughts.

Bob Brink is the Deputy Commissioner for Aging Services in the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. He represented Arlington in the Virginia House of Delegates from January 1998 to June 30, 2014.

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