78°Rain

by ARLnow.com — June 23, 2017 at 6:30 pm 0

It was an eventful week in Arlington County, with stories both serious and not-so-serious.

While we seek to cover all of the important stories that impact people’s lives in Arlington, not every story we publish is of the weighty variety. Some are just for fun — a glimpse at the silly and weird things that happen in our community.

Below are the top 5 most-read articles of the week.

  1. Police: Drunk Man Arrested for Tossing Wine Bottles Out of Whole Foods Window
  2. BREAKING: Man Stabbed in Jennie Dean Park
  3. A-Town Bar & Grill Turns a Corner in Latest County Review
  4. Large Power Outage in Clarendon Area
  5. Video: NYC Has Pizza Rat, Arlington Now Has French Bread Squirrel

Feel free to discuss those stories or anything else of local interest in the comments. Have a nice weekend!

by ARLnow.com — June 23, 2017 at 10:05 am 0

Earlier this week the Arlington County Board approved a resolution expressing the county’s commitment to fighting climate change and upholding the Paris Climate Agreement.

One could argue that fighting climate change starts with local action and that, at the very least, there is positive symbolic value in the county’s resolution.

One could also argue that despite passage of its Community Energy Plan in 2013, there’s little Arlington County can legally do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, beyond providing incentives for greater energy efficiency in buildings.

What do you think? Should the County Board be taking the time to address the issue of climate change?

Photo by Tyler Zarfoss

by Mark Kelly — June 22, 2017 at 1:45 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.

Virginia, like a few other states, still begins its school year after Labor Day. There is nothing wrong with maintaining this practice. And if you are going on a beach vacation, those last two weeks before Labor Day often bring reduced prices as competition for space subsides.

But the final day of elementary school in Arlington is tomorrow, June 23. There is no reason it could not be the second Friday in June in all but the snowiest of years.

The Superintendent builds in a number of days throughout the year for teacher work days, as well as adding other “cushion” days to the calendar, to account for school closures while still meeting the minimum number of days necessary for instruction required by the Commonwealth of Virginia. As most parents know, after the SOLs are completed the amount of instruction that occurs in the classroom falls off dramatically. The final days of school are often filled with field days and movies.

APS could adjust the calendar for next year now and tell parents in September that not later than March 1, the system would determine if it needed to add days due to weather events into the next week of June. That would give parents enough time to adjust summer plans as necessary and would happen only rarely.

School Board candidates can add this “give a week back plan” to “no homework” as an agenda item to gain my endorsement in November.

Bloomberg to Receive a Boost

Between Virginia and Arlington, Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) could receive $2.5 million in benefits over the next 3 years for bringing 125 jobs to Arlington. $500,000 would be provided by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. $800,000 would come from the Arlington County Economic Development Incentive. And $1.2 million would be allocated for the continuation of an expiring property tax exemption.

Unlike BNA and Nestlé, most employers are likely to receive $0 for creating jobs in the County over the next three years.

Meanwhile, the Arlington County Board passed another in the series of meaningless resolutions meant to weigh in on a national issue this week. The Board supported the Paris Agreement by recommitting itself to steps they were going to take anyway to make County Government more energy efficient.

That time could have been better spent on a discussion of how to make Arlington a better place to do business for those employers that aren’t receiving huge taxpayer-funded handouts.

by Peter Rousselot — June 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

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

Arlington Public Schools’ current strategic plan is up for revision. One of the goals of the current plan is “Development of the Whole Child.”

Part of APS’ current approach to this goal is what APS calls “personalized learning.” The one-to-one device program is an integral part:

In the APS 2011-17 Strategic Plan, the community set a goal to ensure that every student from grade 2 through 12 has a personal digital learning device to support instruction. The Strategic Plan states that APS should create vital and engaging, technology-rich learning environments, provide an infrastructure for learning and utilize state-of-the-art technology that creates engaging, relevant and personalized learning experiences for all learners regardless of background, language or disabilities.

In developing its new strategic plan, the Arlington County School Board should:

  • involve the Arlington community in a truly-interactive, transparent conversation about all the critical issues
  • offer compelling proof that all proposed instructional uses of personal digital learning devices provide evidence-based instructional benefits and consistent instruction to all students

By contrast, over the past three years, the use of these devices has been characterized by poor communications, inconsistent instruction, and lack of evidence-based benefits.

This column focuses on two controversial, critical issues.

One-to-One Program Devices Should Not Be an Integral Tool Used For Personalized Learning

APS definitely should continue to create “engaging, relevant and personalized learning experiences for all learners regardless of background, language or disabilities.” However, in its new strategic plan — in any grades in which APS ultimately decides to continue the one-to-one program, APS should make it clear that the program is not an integral part of personalized learning. For some children, e.g., those whose parents cannot afford a personal digital learning device, APS should provide one.

A June 2017 comprehensive and convincing history of the development of personalized learning in education provides a withering critique of the risks of making personal digital learning devices an integral part of personalized learning. The article describes at least four other approaches to personalized learning that do not entail such heavy reliance on personal digital learning devices.

Other relevant sources also criticizing such heavy reliance are available.

APS’ current linkage between personal digital learning devices and personalized learning should be severed and replaced with an alternative approach. The one-to-one program is actually a form of depersonalized learning.

The One-to-One Program Should Be Ended — At Least in the Elementary Years

APS definitely should continue to provide a “vital and engaging, technology-rich learning environment for every APS student.” However, at least in the elementary years, the one-to-one program should be ended.

Too many elementary school parents believe that Development of the Whole Child in elementary school is fundamentally incompatible with the one-to-one program. These parents are seeking less screen time, and more face-to-face teacher-student interaction, athletic activity, and socialization.

Moreover, scientific and health studies published since the current strategic plan was adopted demonstrate that there is too great a risk from the cumulative exposure to these devices that results when the 1:1 program in elementary school is combined with home use. APS’ current position that school screen time shouldn’t count because it is for educational purposes defies common sense.

Conclusion

In its new Strategic Plan, the School Board should reemphasize the role of Arlington’s great teachers and deemphasize the role of Silicon Valley.

by Progressive Voice — June 22, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

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.

By Matt de Ferranti

Over the past four months, Arlington Democrats have reached out to the community on issues at stake at the national, state, and local levels.

We’ve held forums with interested Arlingtonians on health care, immigration, climate change and labor/income inequality.

Our Issues Forum Team – part of the Arlington Democrats community outreach effort — worked to share facts about policies, increase awareness, and generate ideas for action.

The team consisted of Fatima Argun, Becky Dick, Eric Gibble, Susie Lee, Vivek Patil, and Jacki Wilson.

Here’s what we learned and what you can do to make a difference.

Health Care

Who would have known when we met at Key Elementary School in February that Obamacare would still be the law of the land today? Congress may well pass a bill to overturn the progress made under Obamacare, but activism and the CBO’s estimate that 23 million Americans would lose health care coverage under the House Republicans’ proposal has changed the conversation.

The health care forum included a panel of experts on federal, Virginia, and local health care policy and a discussion with community members. One shared conclusion: Virginia voters must hold accountable those who will not support expansion of Medicaid.

The most powerful moments were hearing personal stories from our neighbors, including one woman who shared the story of her fight with insurance companies over the care she was seeking for her son as he fought against the cancer that ultimately took his life. People in the room were moved to honor the mother’s request that we act so that affordable, comprehensive coverage — that actually pays claims — is available to all.

Immigration

During our immigration forum on March 28 at Patrick Henry Elementary School, we heard from two individuals who have been impacted directly by policies that veer from our nation’s founding values of welcoming those affected by poverty and violence elsewhere to join their stories with the American story.

A young Dreamer — valedictorian at Wakefield High School – told us how she had to leave Virginia to attend college, despite having lived in Arlington since she was a child, in large measure because the in-state tuition provisions put in place by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) were not yet the law.

A woman from Sudan described earning asylum to come to the United States and the fear she felt when President Trump tried to impose an unconstitutional travel ban that would have prevented her from returning from a trip to care for her elderly mother.

Both speakers and the broader discussion inspired us to ensure that Arlington’s leaders and residents are welcoming to new neighbors.

Climate Change

Discovery Elementary School, Arlington’s first net-zero school, was a perfect venue for our forum on Climate Change on April 27, which occurred prior to U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and Gov. McAuliffe’s subsequent commitment to carbon emissions reduction targets for Virginia.

The speakers encouraged the audience to call, write, and speak out. We collected signatures and provided an opportunity for participants to join ongoing advocacy efforts.

At the local level, we learned that Arlington is implementing a plan to convert County buildings to renewable energy.

Americans and Arlingtonians know that we must make better choices than the President’s withdrawal decision and embrace green technology now and in the years to come.

Labor, Income Inequality and the Middle Class

Our last forum addressed the central importance of an economy that helps create a country, Commonwealth and county where the middle class and the American dream thrive. We heard about the presence of real poverty even in affluent Arlington, how economic insecurity is threatening many in the middle class, and the need for policies to address these problems.

So What Did We learn?

Whether the subject is health care, immigration, climate change, or labor and income inequality, all will be addressed more successfully if we elect a Democratic governor and a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates in Virginia in November 2017.

So we ask you to join the Arlington Democrats at www.arlingtondemocrats.org to help make a difference on these issues and others at stake this year. With your help, a strong voter turnout in Arlington will be an important element in winning a very competitive election in November.

Matt de Ferranti is a Co-Chair of the 2017 Arlington Joint Democratic Campaign. He wishes to thank the Issue Forum Team members for their joint leadership on the Forums and their critical contributions to this column.

by Chris Teale — June 16, 2017 at 6:00 pm 0

It’s the end of another news-filled week for Arlington.

Here are the top five most-read news stories from the past few days:

  1. Police: Man Filmed Woman While in Bathroom of Clarendon Restaurant
  2. Wawa Considering Arlington As Part of D.C. Area Expansion
  3. Columbia Pike Beer Garden Opening Nears
  4. ACPD Officer Rescues Kitten From Car Engine
  5. Record Democratic Gov. Primary Turnout in Arlington

Feel free to discuss those topics and anything else that happened locally this week. Have a great weekend!

Flickr pool photo via GM and MB

by Mark Kelly — June 15, 2017 at 2:30 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.

There is rarely a shortage of issues to write about in Arlington, or Virginia more broadly. But today, none of them seemed appropriate.

I have worked on Capitol Hill for most of the past two decades where members of Congress and staff are generally able to work together in a civil manner across party lines.

We care about our community. And we greatly appreciate that our ongoing safety and security is owed to the Capitol Police officers who are prepared to run into the line of fire. Speaker Paul Ryan rightly said yesterday something that cannot be understated, “an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

Sadly, yesterday’s shooting is not the first attack directed at our community during my time here. In 1998, Capitol Police officers Jacob Chesnut and John Gibson were shot and killed while protecting Members of Congress, their staff and visitors in the Capitol building.

On September 11, 2001 as the Pentagon was already on fire, United Flight 93 was almost certainly headed toward the Capitol before being taken down by heroic passengers.

In October of 2001, deadly anthrax was mailed to Congressional offices.

In 2011, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot while hosting a public event in Tucson, Ariz.

And then yesterday, there was an attempted massacre on a baseball field in Alexandria as Republican Members of Congress were preparing to play a game that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.

Those of us who work here are thankful for the Capitol Police officers who stepped into the line of fire to stop the attack, and we are praying for the injured, all the while knowing “there but for the grace of God, go I.” This was exemplified by the prayers of the Democratic baseball team practicing on another field immediately upon hearing the news.

Many want to immediately assign blame on the means used to carry out this attack, on political rhetoric, or on people other than the shooter. It is a natural reaction to immediately look for an explanation of why someone would ever consider using a bomb, gun, knife, or even a vehicle driving down a sidewalk to kill fellow human beings.

But this act was pure evil carried about by a madman, and it cannot ever fully be explained to those of us who believe that every human life is precious. Today, it must simply be condemned.

As we move forward with time for proper reflection, we can consider what causes such attacks to take place: the tone of our politics; the anger fomented on social media; the threat from radical groups; and the state of our mental health care system. And if we can do that without attempting to score political points, we may actually make progress toward healing in our nation.

by Peter Rousselot — June 15, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

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

In his column last week, Mark Kelly asked whether fundamental reforms to Metro are “myopic GOP grumbling or necessary?”

Discussion

Mark is right that fundamental reforms to Metro are necessary.

Bipartisan support for a regional solution

Because Metro serves three independent jurisdictions (D.C., Maryland, Virginia), Metro had to be created by an interstate compact among those three jurisdictions. Under federal law, all interstate compacts also must be approved by the federal government.

The current interstate compact governing Metro establishes how it will be governed and financed. All amendments to the current Metro interstate compact similarly require agreement among those three jurisdictions and the federal government.

If anyone reading this thinks that Metro’s current problems can be solved using Metro’s current governing structure and financing, there is no point reading any further.

If you’re still with me, the reason I agree with Mark about the need for a bipartisan solution to Metro’s woes is that the Maryland and D.C. legislatures are currently controlled by Democrats, while the Virginia and federal legislatures are currently controlled by Republicans.

We cannot afford to wait to fix Metro in hopes (if you are a Dem) that the Democrats will take over the legislatures in Virginia and the federal government, or in hopes (if you are in the GOP) that the GOP will take over the legislatures in D.C. and Maryland. And I haven’t even mentioned the chief executives!

Since a partisan solution to Metro’s critical problems is impractical, we must arrive at a bipartisan solution to those problems — whether we like it or not.

More importantly, no matter which political party happens to control the legislatures at any given time in these four jurisdictions, millions of voters of the other party will still live there. Metro is vital to all of us regardless of our political affiliations.

Fundamental reforms

There are a variety of fundamental reform plans for Metro that already have been offered. For example, each of the following three fundamental reform plans would require Metro interstate compact amendments:

In addition to these plans, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has asked former Republican Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to lead a panel to develop a plan expected to be published this fall. It is virtually certain that whatever plan the LaHood panel develops also will require amendments to Metro’s interstate compact.

New, dedicated revenue stream

Most other metropolitan transit systems in America have a dedicated revenue stream to supplement the contributions of local governments. Our Metro system doesn’t have one:

“Instead, Metro relies on a patchwork of annual subsidies from local governments. In effect, Metro competes yearly against myriad other public spending priorities, its operating budget consistently facing some level of appropriations risk.”

Conclusion

Without a dedicated revenue stream (e.g., a regional sales tax), Arlington County and other local governments cannot afford to keep Metro afloat much longer.

Metro will eventually collapse without a dedicated revenue stream.

The only way for Metro to get a dedicated revenue stream is through interstate compact amendments.

Republicans won’t agree to a dedicated revenue stream unless Democrats agree to fundamental reforms of Metro governance and spending practices.

So, Arlington County needs to back a bipartisan deal to save Metro. 

by Larry Roberts — June 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

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.

By Larry Roberts

Three weeks ago, I wrote about how Arlington progressives and 8th Congressional District (Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and parts of Fairfax) Democrats were responding from a policy perspective to the November 2016 Presidential election outcome that few Democrats in Arlington anticipated.

Other recent elections reflect a challenge to the view that the election of Donald Trump and the earlier Brexit vote that might have anticipated a Trump election reflect a rightward turn in U.S. politics and in western democracies.

Closer to home, the 2017 statewide primaries in Virginia showed a markedly higher level of enthusiasm among Democrats than Republicans. In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, 542,615 Virginians cast votes compared to 366,244 votes in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Of the votes cast in the simultaneous primaries, 59.7 percent were Democratic and 41.3 percent were Republican.

This was a dramatic 70 percent increase in Democratic votes this year compared to the last contested Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia – from 319,168 in 2013 to 542,615 in 2017.

The 2017 turnout in traditionally Democratic Arlington was very high for a primary. Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 28,167 to 5,151.

Compared to the 2013 primary, Democrats saw a 42.8 percent increase – from 19,715 in 2013 to 28,167 in 2017.

Results in France and Britain have also reflected a move away from the right.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front party had led opinion polls from November 2016 until mid-January 2017 but ended up losing by 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent to Emmanuel Macron of the Republic on the Move, who criticized Le Pen as too far to the right and cast himself as a radical centrist. Macron’s party has gone on to dominate subsequent parliamentary elections and is expected to win over two-thirds of the seats.

And in Britain, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election to consolidate her party’s position strongly supporting Brexit backfired when the Conservatives lost 13 seats and Labour gained 30, a result substantially weakening Britain’s Brexit negotiation position.

Against this backdrop, below is a second piece of the progressive agenda as defined recently by a set of 32 resolutions adopted by the delegates to the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention – again presented without editorial comment.

Death Penalty: The Convention calls upon the Virginia General Assembly to abolish the death penalty in Virginia.

Defending the ACA: The Convention opposes any efforts on the part of the Trump administration, or anyone else, to undermine the Affordable Care Act; opposes any further efforts to repeal and replace the ACA with legislation that will reduce affordability and/or provide less coverage to Americans; and affirms that healthcare is a human right to be afforded to all Americans and endorses the eventual adoption of a universal single payer healthcare system.

Economic Prosperity and Justice: The Convention urges the Virginia Congressional Delegation to: re-prioritize the spending of tax dollars to focus on universal health care, public education, environmental protection, public infrastructure, and the equitable rule of law; make room for the above spending priorities by substantially reducing wasteful military spending; ensure that America’s wealthy, and corporations, pay a progressive share of taxes as a proven method to lower inequality, stimulate economic growth, strengthen businesses, and keep the public debt from exploding further – and that deductions and overseas loopholes be eliminated before any reductions in tax rates be considered; corporate tax revenues should be restored to 20 percent of Federal current tax receipts; pass a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act; and ensure the continuation and undiminished funding of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to protect the budget and public from further Wall Street excesses.

Election Transparency: The Convention urges enactment of a Virginia General Assembly bipartisan bill requiring all candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General to submit at least five years of Federal and state tax returns to the Board of Elections in order to appear on the ballot and all Presidential candidates to submit at least the last five years of Federal tax returns to the same body before the presidential primary. These returns shall be made open and available to the public at least 45 days prior to a presidential primary or any general election.

Expansion of Medicaid in the Commonwealth of Virginia: The Convention affirms that healthcare is a human right to be afforded to all Americans; supports Governor McAuliffe’s proposed amendment to the state budget to set the expansion of Medicaid in motion; believes Virginia cannot afford to be left behind by continuing to not expand Medicaid.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice, a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, and a former Counselor to the Governor. He has followed Virginia politics for more than 30 years and chaired three successful statewide political campaigns including the Lt. Governor campaign of Justin Fairfax, who won the Democratic primary on June 13.

by Chris Teale — June 9, 2017 at 6:00 pm 0

One news story this week has divided Arlington, and promises to dominate conversation for days to come.

Everybody has an opinion, but there is seemingly no resolution in sight to a question vexing residents and non-residents alike:

How did a stick of deodorant get on top of a bus stop in Clarendon?

As of Friday, the stick was still there, on top of the bus shelter around 3100 Clarendon Blvd. The plot thickens.

Elsewhere, some of our other popular stories included news of a closure of a 7-Eleven in Cherrydale, a replacement for the former Applebee’s in Ballston, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington opening the first kitten nursey in the region and a new startup offering free rides along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Feel free to discuss those and anything else of interest from this week in the comments. Have a great weekend!

by Mark Kelly — June 8, 2017 at 1:45 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.

On Monday, The Washington Post ran the following headline: “Metro hails SafeTrack as a success, but it has yet to translate into better services for riders.”

The article was not any better for the system than the headline. After one year and nearly $160 million spent addressing decades of deferred maintenance on its basic infrastructure, the system still has miles to go on repairs.

And despite what has been hailed as a good first step for safety, there is little evidence that Metro has been able to overcome the long held view that it is unreliable.

For years, many Metro riders were willing to look past the issues with reliability, including the inability to keep escalators and elevators in operational order, because fares remained relatively low. But as fares steadily increased and the severity of incidents increased, riders walked away from the system. Now you can jump on your smart phone, order an Uber or Lyft ride with little cost difference.

The Post also ran an editorial on Monday with its own solution for the problem: a 1 percent regional sales tax to pump $650 million into the system each year.

Such a measure would almost certainly pass if put before the voters in Arlington, though it would be up to the General Assembly in Richmond as well as officials in Maryland and D.C. And some additional funding is not necessarily an unreasonable ask if we want to put the system back on its feet.

But it is also not unreasonable to exercise caution and ask for real accountability in return. While General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is largely credited with taking Metro’s safety problems seriously, and has fired staff where appropriate and allowable, little has really changed to the underlying governance of the system.

However, Monday’s Post editorial continued by carping that, “Locally, some myopic GOP elected officials grumble” about Metro asking for more money when it’s not spending money wisely now. Setting aside the near unanimity of elected officials inside the beltway who are Democrats, what is wrong with expecting Metro to be set up for success before handing them $6 billion to spend over the next decade?

And in February the Post seemingly agreed with this political “myopathy,” editorializing in favor of reforms by saying, “governance reforms are critical, including enhanced flexibility for management to control costs and rein in unions, as well as a streamlined board of directors consisting of transit, finance and management experts rather than local politicians.”

And they continued, “It’s fair to demand management improvements, governance reforms and a workable long-term recovery plan at Metro.”

The Post was correct in February. The region should demand a transformational reform plan from Metro before providing any new revenue source. Metro’s failure to do so voluntarily by now means any new money must come with strings attached.

by Peter Rousselot — June 8, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

Peter Rousselot

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

APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy has recommended a short-term plan to add 1,300 new high school seats by 2022. Under Murphy’s “hybrid proposal,” 600 seats would be added at the Ed Center and 700 seats would be added at the Career Center.

Good news: need for long-term planning acknowledged

Murphy has publicly acknowledged that:

  • Arlington County forecasts continued total population and school enrollment growth for many years beyond the cut-off date (2026) in the current Capital Improvement Plan
  • Arlington’s total population aged 0-14 will exceed 40,000 by 2030
  • APS needs to develop its own long-term new school construction plans well beyond 2026:

In his report to School Board members, Murphy said the school system will need an additional 2,200-seat high school, plus up to two middle schools and up to four elementary schools, if enrollment continues to push toward and beyond 30,000 students.

So long as these population and enrollment forecasts continue to represent the County’s and APS’ best estimates, they should be employed systematically to make long-term planning decisions for all land use and public infrastructure investment (e.g., schools, parks, roads).

It is neither prudent, realistic nor fair to fail to plan for this growth because some people think or hope that it might not occur.

Murphy also made welcome remarks at the May 18 School Board meeting (between 1:37:30 and 1:40:25) that he is “hearing from the community some concern about the CIP”, and that for future new school construction projects “there will be three flavors of budgets: Low, Medium and High.”

This good news needs to be verified by careful scrutiny of the future “three flavors of budgets” to be sure that all three estimates are genuine and reflect new initiatives to bring per seat costs down substantially from current levels.

Bad news: long-term planning needs a jump start

Parent reactions on social media reflect justifiable disappointment at the lack of long-term planning. A substantial number of parents share this sentiment:

It is the lack of a meaningful long-term strategic plan that is troubling. If we go the smaller choice school route, what does that look like? What programs are we building out? What is the timing? We can’t keep doing this whack a mole approach to planning with the influx of students that we know is coming into the system over the next few years — the equivalent of a new elementary school every year.

Several parents are particularly critical of the disappointing Alphonse and Gaston routine between the County and APS relating to transportation challenges at Kenmore. In response to the excuse that such planning naturally ceased once the option of an elementary school at the Kenmore site was dropped, one parent convincingly counters:

  • The problem will get significantly worse as large, underutilized parcels become more fully maximized for whichever uses (speaking of 32 acres at Kenmore and approximately 17 acres at the Urgent Care site)
  • The County can’t wait for APS decisions in part because APS can’t move to use Kenmore without some promise of County assistance both with VDOT around Route 50 and with Fairfax County

Conclusion

The County and School Boards must demonstrate that they are:

  • collaborating seamlessly and transparently
  • listening to public concerns and adjusting accordingly
  • developing fiscally-sustainable, long term plans to build the new schools we need when we need them

by Progressive Voice — June 8, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

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.

By Christopher Gray

Today, many Virginia workers face stark choices without easy answers. Even as cuts in public funding cause college tuition to rise at an unreasonable rate and with a student debt crisis that threatens to spiral out of control, the percentage of Americans over 25 with a college degree continues to grow at historic rates.

Approximately 32 percent of American adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, and a high level of educational attainment has largely become a pre-requisite for finding a path to financial stability in today’s knowledge economy.

This means that as much as 68 percent of the population lacks the easy access to upward social mobility that is so foundational to the American Dream. Looking for a reason why our political climate has become less than sane? That’s a good place to start.

There are many other problems with our current social model, including professional jobs for college grads becoming increasingly clustered in a small number of metropolitan areas where the cost of living is exorbitant.

According to George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen, this dynamic has created a society with historically low rates of geographic and social mobility, high rates of racial and socio-economic segregation, low levels of innovation, and stagnant growth.

Indeed, the high cost of living in job-rich areas such as Northern Virginia costs the American economy as much as $1.7 trillion in GDP annually. Simply put, many highly qualified people lack the means or are otherwise unable to relocate to areas where they can find meaningful employment.

Having lived in a friend’s dining room for six months while working two jobs and an internship when I first arrived in the D.C. area, I am well acquainted with how the toxic mix of high student loans, insane housing market and uber-completive economy keeps workers on the razor’s edge of financial insecurity and personal uncertainty. I do not want future generations to struggle with this same reality. We need to do better for our Commonwealth.

With many high paying manufacturing jobs outsourced to low wage countries with poor labor and environmental standards, many Virginians are working two or three jobs just to maintain an increasingly unstable day to day life.

We need to guarantee a living wage for workers if we want a more stable economy and political environment. Automation is going to follow in the footsteps of free trade agreements in reducing working class jobs, while Virginia’s longstanding anti-labor politics continue to allow highly profitable companies to maximize their share of our state’s wealth at the expense of workers.

Some will argue that increasing the minimum wage will have a job killing effect on Virginia’s economy, even though there is no statistical evidence to support that conclusion.

I would counter that even if some low wage jobs are lost because we decide to adopt a living wage, others will open up as people no longer have to work multiple low paying jobs to make rent in the absence of a livable minimum wage. As of today, a fulltime worker making the state’s $7.25 minimum wage brings home about $1160 per month before taxes. That’s barely enough to pay for a room in Northern Virginia, let alone support a family.

The truth is, a full-time worker making Virginia’s minimum wage will bring home less than $14,000 a year. That’s not enough to make ends meet anywhere, even in less expensive rural areas.

We may have become conditioned to believe that workers are not supposed to see their living standards improve even as the economy and worker productivity continue to grow, but that’s only because when it comes to improving the lives of workers our politicians succumb to the disproportionate influence that a very small class of wealthy individuals have over our political process.

Virginia’s elected officials – Republicans and Democrats — need to confront their donors with support for basic redistributive economic policies that will more equitably share the wealth generated by Virginia workers.

Parents who are able to survive while working only one job can spend more time helping their children with school and improving their communities. Non-college educated workers will be able to live financially stable and secure lives — a basic dignity that anyone working a full-time job should be guaranteed.

There is no moral justification for living in a society that creates a permanent class of the working poor – and that is what happens when upward social mobility becomes a rare exception. Enough is enough: it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

Christopher Gray is a native Virginian, graduate of James Madison University, and Arlington Young Democrat. He has been active in the Democratic Party of Virginia for more than 15 years and has served as the Chair of Virginia Young Democrats Environmental Policy Caucus and Party Representative for the Arlington Young Democrats.

by ARLnow.com — June 7, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Though a bit of a roller coaster, it’s been a cooler spring than we’re used to in the D.C. area. It’s June and the high temperature today isn’t even supposed to break 70.

Good news for those who like it hot: A heat wave is on the way next week. And the first official day of summer is around the corner, on June 21.

What do you think of the relatively mild weather so far this year?

by Chris Teale — June 2, 2017 at 5:00 pm 0

Even in a shortened week thanks to the Memorial Day holiday, there has still been plenty to talk about around Arlington.

Here are the top five most-read articles this week:

  1. Applebee’s Has Closed in Ballston
  2. Visa Processing Issues Could Close Local Pools
  3. ACPD: 18 Drug Arrests on Public School Grounds This Year
  4. Police: Man Tried to Lure Boy into Car
  5. Letter to the Editor: Arlington Public Schools Turns Its Focus Away from Science

Feel free to discuss those or any other topics of local interest in the comments. Have a nice weekend!

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