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ARLnow Holiday Weekend Discussion

The long weekend is finally here, but the weather hasn’t exactly been all that welcoming.

While the rain soaking the region is set to clear out by the end of the night, the forecast calls for temperatures to drop quite low indeed for Veterans Day weekend.

At least the area’s fall foliage will reach its peak color this weekend, and the weather should cooperate for any and all events set for the holiday. Check out our event calendar for full details.

And don’t forget to catch up on our most popular stories of the past week:

  1. Police Arrest Stafford Man After Homicide in Crystal City Hotel
  2. De Ferranti Bests Vihstadt for County Board, Amidst Democratic Sweep in Arlington
  3. Sichuan Wok in Ballston Appears to Have Closed
  4. Punch Bowl Social Looks Set to Open in Ballston Quarter Next Month
  5. Westmont Shopping Center on Columbia Pike Could Soon Be Torn Down, Redeveloped

Head down to the comments to discuss these stories, your holiday weekend plans or anything else local. Enjoy!

Flickr pool photo via Tom Mockler

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The Right Note: Be Better

The 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.

Another election day is in the books. Gone, for at least the next nine months, are the over-the-top campaign ads, flyers and emails that invade our lives in the run-up to election day every year in Virginia.

Politics is, and has always been, a contact sport. The 1800 presidential election for example between Adams and Jefferson quickly devolved into name calling. And the negative tactics will almost certainly continue until they no longer work. With 24-hour cable news preaching to their own choirs and with the unlimited reach of social media to the devices in our pockets, there may be no end in sight.

We have heard a lot about the tone of our politics generally as well as the verbal “finger pointing” about who it is to blame. Some consider President Trump’s Twitter account or his campaign rally speeches to be too over the top or too anti-media. Some may blame the talk radio hosts, or talking heads on cable news, for whipping people into a frenzy. Others condemn the comments by former Attorney General Eric Holder about “kicking” Republicans or Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) calling for confrontations of Republicans in public places. Or the angry protests lead by a group on the left known as antifa that have too often turned violent.

In the run-up to the 2017 elections here in Virginia, Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) even called Republicans “evil” to the thunderous approval of her audience of fellow Arlingtonians. She may regret saying that in the heat of a campaign season, but hopefully she understands that she was not improving the tone in politics today. And her fellow Arlingtonians who are Republicans are left to wonder if those really are her true feelings.

None of us are perfect. But at the end of the day, we are all responsible for our own words and actions. Personal responsibility for what we say, how we treat others, how we contribute to our communities, how we work and take care of our own families, is the cornerstone of America. In a successful civil society, self-government is the most basic form of government and ultimately the most important.

There is an old cliche: don’t be bitter, be better. We must all ask ourselves if we are doing enough in our own sphere of influence to improve the level of civil discourse. We have a few months until the next election starts in Virginia to try and be better.

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Progressive Voice: The Truth About Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation Program

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.

By Howard Solodky

Much has been said recently about Arlington County’s Neighborhood Conservation (NC) program that pays for neighborhood infrastructure projects such as sidewalks, streetlamps and traffic safety improvements. Because of misconceptions and rumors about the program and its overlooked public benefits, some have even suggested the program be terminated, while others have simply advanced unfounded criticisms. It’s time to set the record straight.

The Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee (NCAC), formed in 1977, administers the program with the valuable help of county staff. Representatives from most of the county’s civic associations participate on the NCAC and review and recommend action on projects proposed for their respective neighborhoods. This “bottom up” approach has resulted in the completion of missing link sidewalks, traffic flow enhancements and other pedestrian and commuter safety projects that would otherwise go unidentified.

County bonds fund the projects, with awards made through a rigorous, but fair, “points” process managed by the NCAC. The program has completed hundreds of neighborhood improvement projects and demand remains high. Notwithstanding that, the 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) cut NC funding from $12 million to $5 million for 2019-2020 and then to $4 million for the following two-year cycle.

Recent criticism falls into two categories: Lack of equity; and cost effectiveness.

Lack of equity. Allegations of unfair distribution of NC projects among Arlington’s roughly 60 neighborhoods have arisen because some neighborhoods don’t participate in the program. The reality is that more than 85 percent of Arlington’s civic associations are active on the NCAC, and projects are not concentrated disproportionately in any particular neighborhood. One look at a map showing the dollar amounts and location of projects over the past 17 years reveals widespread geographic distribution. Three of the top five neighborhood beneficiaries, measured by dollars spent, are in south Arlington.

Length and cost of process.  While, historically, the time elapsed from project approval to completion could take five years or more, that is no longer the case. Through right-sizing county design and engineering staff assigned to the program, the time from County Board approval to project completion now averages roughly two and one-half years, similar to the time it takes to design, engineer and complete a typical county transportation project.

Another factor contributing to length of process is the county’s aging, and in some cases inadequate, infrastructure. With limited bond proceeds available to the NC program, and infrastructure repairs and improvements needed in many neighborhoods, only a fraction of the qualified NC projects can be funded each year. The rest must wait in line. Terminating or reducing the NC program won’t solve this problem; only more financial resources will.

Alleged cost overruns are also often cited, even though close to 90 percent of NC projects are completed within budget. Moreover, 15 years ago, if the NCAC approved the construction of a sidewalk along a neighborhood street, the program would only pay for the cost of the actual sidewalk. Today, because of state and local legal requirements, a “simple” sidewalk project also entails costs for site control and management, storm water management, water mains and meters and potentially for underground utility conduit repair or replacement. The county requires that those costs be borne by the NC program, rather than by the Department of Environmental Services (DES) that has historically paid for those items. These “cost overruns” are, in fact, hidden savings for the budgets of various DES departments.

The 2019-2028 CIP required that the County Manager form a Neighborhood Conservation and Community Infrastructure Working Group to review and make recommendations regarding the NC program. That Working Group might want to consider how to:

  • Account for and share within DES the numerous costs that have been imposed on the program;
  • Discuss with DES staff and the County Board how to shorten their project review and approval processes; and
  • Reach out to neighborhoods that do not participate actively to more effectively educate them on the benefits of the NC program.

The future of the NC program is uncertain during this period of budgetary belt-tightening. Decision-makers need to move beyond the unsupported criticisms of the program, gain a better understanding of the hidden benefits realized from an all-volunteer program that identifies needed infrastructure repairs and improvements before that infrastructure breaks down, and fairly apportion among the divisions of DES the costs associated with NC capital projects. These steps can help preserve the scope and vitality of a valuable, community-based, neighborhood improvement program.

Howard Solodky is a tax attorney who recently retired from the law firm of Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP, and is the Old Glebe Civic Association’s representative on the NCAC.

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Peter’s Take: Parks Countywide Planning Document is Still Seriously Flawed

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.

On Oct. 24, Arlington County posted on its website the latest draft of its proposed Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP), or POPS plan (Plan for Our Places and Spaces).

The POPS plan will guide all Arlington park and recreational planning decisions for the next 20 years.

The latest POPS draft incorporates highly inflated quantitative estimates of present and future demand for sports fields.

After the 2017 POPS draft was posted, Arlington residents sought information to understand the plan. The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) refused to provide many kinds of data and answers, so residents launched a series of FOIA requests in December 2017.

By late Spring 2018, DPR had produced a lot, but not all, of its data regarding field supply and demand. Those data demonstrate that a remarkable amount of inefficiency and mismanagement have resulted in a very large amount of unused field capacity. Further details are available here.

Despite the large discrepancy between DPR’s own supply/demand data and the public POPS recommendations, DPR continues to defend to the public, to the POPS Advisory Committee, and to the County Board that the POPS recommendations are valid because DPR is using a valid methodology which DPR has called a “Population Based LOS.” (LOS = Level of Service.)

While a properly performed estimate of Population Based LOS is indeed one methodology used to estimate park needs, DPR’s own expert consultants state that a properly performed LOS should be based on current and future supply/demand data. Their methodology statement was provided to DPR but was not made part of the POPS document.

Not only did DPR fail to incorporate that necessary data, it failed to tell the public that it had not done so. Further details are available here.

Approving erroneous supply/demand estimates is destined to misallocate land and tens of millions of Arlington taxpayer dollars

The POPS plan is intended to guide quantitative park and recreational decisions for 20 years. Therefore, basing that final plan on the erroneous and incomplete LOS recommendations will result in the misallocation of tens of millions of tax dollars and hamper efforts to meet residents’ needs.

That misallocation is destined to occur because in any subsequent proceedings, e.g., to develop an individual park’s master plan or whether to make investments (e.g., add synthetic turf or lights), it is inevitable that DPR and advocates for such investments will rely on the erroneous POPS quantitative estimates to justify those decisions.

In response to the concerns raised, some County Board members have suggested that subsequent individual park planning could consider a single facility’s usage to determine its need or new investment. However, county-wide demand needs to be determined in a county-wide proceeding.

It is completely impractical for any large park facility decision to be developed solely within its own park boundaries, ignoring the capacity of nearby and county-wide facilities (e.g., a decision to add synthetic turf to one field, while another field that could be used has enough excess capacity). Further details are available here http://parks4everyone.org/population-based-level-of-service/.

Conclusion

The best solution to the present situation is to:

  • remove the erroneous quantitative estimates for sports field demand from the final POPS plan
  • commence a new, independent and transparent process to:
  1. develop new quantitative estimates of county-wide supply/demand for sports fields
  2. replace the county’s current field scheduling system with a real-time, web-based system
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ARLnow Weekend Discussion

After a few days of summer-like conditions, it seems a weekend that feels much more like fall is on tap for the D.C. area.

Outside some showers tonight, the forecast is calling for a pair of crisp, windy fall days on Saturday and Sunday. That means weekend events like the Samuel Beckett’s Celtic Festival and the shrimp boil at the Rhodeside Grill should go off without a hitch.

Check out our event calendar for a full look at the goings on this weekend, and catch up on our most popular stories of the past week while you’re at it:

  1. Maryland Man Wanted for Assaulting Woman on Orange Line Train in Arlington
  2. Parent Takes APS to Court Over Handling of Special Education Classes at Carlin Springs Elementary
  3. Nazi Propaganda Mailed to ARLnow.com
  4. Pizza Autentica in Ballston Shuts Down
  5. Letter to the Editor: Sending South Fairlington Students to Drew Would be a Mistake for APS

Head down to the comments to discuss these stories, your weekend plans or anything else local. Have a great one!

Flickr pool photo via Michael Coffman

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Candidate Essay: John Vihstadt

Last week, we asked the two candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Nov. 6.

Here is the unedited response from independent John Vihstadt:

In 2014, you took a chance on me. Against the odds, I leveraged over three decades of community leadership – in our public schools, our neighborhoods, and our advisory commissions – to win a seat on the County Board as an Independent. This foundation enabled me to be an effective County Board member from Day One.

Arlingtonians want their local elected officials to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of local government. They expect their local government to deliver essential community services, programs and facilities, effectively, efficiently, on time and on budget.

I am keeping my commitments to you that I pledged four years ago.

I can’t take full credit, but we are moving away from extravagant and unsustainable capital projects. The streetcar was cancelled, there are no more $1.6 million dog parks or million-dollar bus stops. The former ArtiSphere is now on the tax rolls, and the Olympic-sized aquatics center was downsized.

We’re giving renewed focus to core services, like new seats for new students, shoring up Metro and Columbia Pike transit, augmenting our parks, fields and green space, improving public safety pay, speeding our street paving and holding up our social safety net.

I teamed up with Delegate Patrick Hope to obtain Arlington’s authority to hire an Independent County Auditor. We now have a Waste, Fraud & Abuse Hotline, and protection for employee whistleblowers. Yet while we’ve made progress, more must be done.

Going forward, I’m focusing on three key areas:

  • Growing our economy, while managing Arlington’s growth in a fiscally responsible, environmentally sustainable way. As we diversify our economy across all sectors, we must also ensure a reasonable tax and regulatory climate and user-friendly permitting and approvals for businesses big and small and individuals alike.  It’s time we get ahead of the curve on new public facilities rather than always playing catch-up.  At my urging, the Board has directed the Manager to craft models for cost-benefit studies for new development, and we need authority to direct some developer contributions to address impacts on schools, green space and more.
  • Ensuring greater openness, transparency and inclusion in how we work. With my leadership, we’ve expanded the wording of County bond explanations to give voters more details on big-ticket items. It’s essential we strengthen our Open Data policy by bringing real-time online transparency to the data that drives our decisions. While we’ve made progress, I’m committed to ensuring that our County advisory commissions reflect our diversity, and that we continue to be a welcoming community regardless of who you are. And while there will always be emergencies, a “no-surprises” community engagement process for all initiatives is critical.
  • Instilling a stronger sense of fiscal discipline in County operations. Current County expenditures outpace revenues by 1.5%, so we need new thinking. My repeated effort to ensure that most of our annual budget surplus not be spent, but saved and carried over to the next Fiscal Year, is finally gaining traction with colleagues. At my leadership, the Manager is appointing a reform group to address the cost, timing and coordination issues that often plague our infrastructure projects, and, as Audit Committee co-chair, I’m working with APS to control schools construction costs. This spring, I led the 3-2 Board majority in holding the line on the property tax rate.

In closing, it’s not big news when members of one party endorse their own for office. That’s the nature of tribal politics. What’s remarkable is that I have the endorsement of ten former School Board members, including six Democrats who don’t have to worry about their next election.  And, I’m supported by three incumbent Democratic officeholders who do: County Treasurer Carla de la Pava, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, and County Board colleague Libby Garvey.

In explaining her support, former School Board Chair Sally Baird said,

I so appreciate the balance and perspective John represents.  His presence ensures a broader dialogue.  At its core, for me, John at the table affirms the most fundamental of Democratic values: inclusiveness.

I hope you agree with Sally that I have brought inclusiveness to the Board, and our community is healthier for it.

Whether it’s pedestrian safety, community infrastructure, school funding or parks, in your neighborhood or elsewhere, I’m working hard for you every day.

As the only Independent, I’ve brought needed balance to the County Board. I need your help to keep it there. Let’s not go back to the echo chamber of unanimous one-party government. I ask for your vote. Thank you.

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Candidate Essay: Matt de Ferranti

Last week, we asked the two candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Nov. 6.

Here is the unedited response from Democrat Matt de Ferranti:

I am running for the County Board to bring new vision and fresh ideas to solve Arlington’s biggest challenges–reducing our office vacancy rate, building the schools we need to educate every child, increasing housing affordability, expanding opportunity for all, protecting our environment, and tackling climate change.

Addressing our Office Vacancy Rate

Our office vacancy rate has been hovering at 20% for four years. If we don’t fill the empty offices in Crystal City, Rosslyn and Ballston, we won’t be able to afford the services that make Arlington such a great place to live: our schools, the housing we need so that people can afford to live here, the parks and open space that are so vital for us, our transportation system, and other key services. And we won’t be able to avoid deficits like the one that is projected for the coming year–$78 million–8% of our operating budget.

Leveraging our Talented Residents and New Ideas To Grow our Economy

The tough work of solving this problem is not new to me. I’ve worked on economic development as an attorney for local governments, so I know how to convene and build relationships with thought leaders and businesses. We must focus on the fields of the future: cybersecurity, clean and green-technology, and medical technology. We must leverage our talented workforce–the most educated in the country–to become the intellectual research and development hub for Virginia and the region.

There are a lot of reasons for our 20% office vacancy rate. At some point, though, we need leadership from the County Board to bring it down. I’ve made this issue my top priority from the beginning of this campaign because I know reducing our vacancy rate is critical for our future and our shared prosperity.

Building the Schools We Need to Educate Every Child

I began my career as a teacher, currently work on Native American education, and served as Chair of the APS Budget Advisory Council last year. I helped bring down a $20 million gap without cutting core educational services. And we still provided a step increase for our educators and other school personnel.

I will continue my commitment to educational opportunity and fiscal responsibility by building and funding the schools we need to educate every child. The Arlington Education Association and all five members of the School Board are supporting me because of my commitment to education, and my honest assessment that we must lower the cost of construction per seat.

Addressing Our Housing Affordability Challenges

I have worked for Habitat for Humanity, serve on Arlington’s Housing Commission, and believe deeply that housing must be affordable for middle class Arlingtonians and those working to get into the middle class. Teachers, first responders, and young families must be able to afford to live here. Seniors must be able to age in place. I will work on this issue with creativity and relentless commitment if I have the honor of serving you.

Expanding Opportunity for All, Ending Child Hunger, and Focusing on Equity

Arlington is the fifth wealthiest county in the country, but we have more than 2300 families who seek help from the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) every month. If we work together, we can end child hunger in Arlington by 2022. We are a compassionate community and ended Veterans’ homelessness in 2015. We can end child hunger too.

Protecting our Environment and Tackling Climate Change

Climate change is a threat to our community, nation, and our world. It is an economic issue and a moral issue that Arlington must lead on. We must commit to 100% renewable energy by 2035. I will accelerate our Community Energy Plan, preserve our trees and open space, and protect our environment.

The Choice You Have on Tuesday

I have the support of leaders you trust: Senator Tim Kaine, Congressman Don Beyer, County Board Chair Katie Cristol, County Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey, Delegate Rip Sullivan, Delegate Alfonso Lopez, Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson, and all five Members of Arlington’s School Board. A full list of those who have endorsed me can be found at https://mattforcountyboard.com/endorsements/

Think about these leaders, the challenges I have outlined above, and our pressing needs. Go to https://mattforcountyboard.com to learn more. Then, hire the County Board Member you believe is best on the office vacancy rate, school capacity, housing affordability, expanding opportunity for all, protecting our environment, and addressing climate change.

I would be honored to earn your vote on Tuesday, November 6.

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Candidate Essay: Thomas Oh

Last week, we asked the two candidates for Virginia’s 8th District in Congress, covering Arlington and Alexandria, to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Nov. 6.

Here is the unedited response from Republican Thomas Oh:

Dear fellow Northern Virginians,

My name is Thomas Oh, and I am running for US Congress in our 8th Congressional District. I’m an Army Airborne Ranger, hardworking Korean- American, and public servant who would like to continue my service to the people by serving you. I’m a better alternative than my opponent for the following reasons:

1)     I am not a career politician

I’m serious about having term limits. I don’t care what political parties, corporations, or lobbyists want. I just need 6 years to make some real positive changes for our District, and I will act upon my words.

2)     I don’t accept dark money (PAC money from corporations or special interest groups)

Politicians shouldn’t be bought, especially when most politicians are already among the 1%. As a working- class member, I want to give the government back to individual citizens and serve the people. The concept is simple, DEMOCRACY IS NOT FOR SALE!

3)     I’m a voice for:

  • Immigrants

My family immigrated to the United States to seek opportunity, liberty, and freedom. I want to make sure that the American Dream is a dream that works for everyone.

  • Minorities

I attended the Black Chamber of Commerce, Asian Chamber of Commerce, and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce forums, while my opponent did not. We need someone who truly cares about the minority communities and will whole heartedly represent them.

  • Veterans

I served 8 years in the Army, and I understand the ultimate sacrifices made by our heroes. My campaign hosted a charity forum for local veterans and donated all proceeds to VFW Post 3150 in Arlington. My opponent refused to attend the forum while Congress was in recess, voted against the Veterans Affairs Accountability & Whistleblower Protection Act, and even continuously votes against the VA Accountability Acts.

  • Individuals with disabilities

I support the Disability Integration Act, alongside ADAPT DC and Coalition for Community Integration. It is a bi-partisan effort that my opponent has ignored 10 times when they reached out to him. I support organizations benefiting the disability community, such as Service Source, and enjoyed my time meeting everyone at their annual picnic when my opponent did not attend.

  • LGBT

Everyone should be treated equally, no matter who they choose to love. I marched alongside the Capital Pride Parade, and I also attended the annual Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance Annual Ice Cream Social. My opponent did not participate in either events.

4)     I want long-term solutions, not short-term bandages

As a 26 year-old millennial, I truly care about our future. My biggest concern is the $21 trillion dollar debt that my opponent has done nothing about, over his past 4 years in office. He even voted against the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act.

5)     I will always put people before politics

I have proven my ability to put politics aside and work across party lines. I am a proud ally of Activate Virginia which was an all Democrat and Green Party organization, until I was the first Republican to join. I do this because I listen to your concerns and want to represent you. My opponent speaks about climate change, yet continues to take over $20,000 from Dominion Energy and not join Activate Virginia.

6)      I am here to serve you, not for social status

If you are an elected official, it means that you have a commitment to serve. I have personally knocked on over 3,500 doors during my campaign. I would like to ask; how many doors has my opponent knocked on? I take running for office as a serious commitment to the people of this district, and that is why I will never miss an opportunity to address your concerns in order to see how I can be your servant. I attended all 11 out of 11 forums scheduled for my opponent and I, while he attended 5 out of 11.

I kindly ask for your vote on November 6. If you would like to learn more or donate to support my campaign, please visit my website at: www.letschangecongress.org.

Campaigning would not be possible if it were not for individual supporters like you! Thank you so much to everyone who have believed in me, and for giving me this opportunity to fight for a better 8th District.

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Candidate Essay: Don Beyer

Last week, we asked the two candidates for Virginia’s 8th District in Congress, covering Arlington and Alexandria, to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Nov. 6.

Here is the unedited response from Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District):

Going to work to represent the people of Virginia’s 8th is a wonderful responsibility, and I thank you for twice electing me to the US House. I ask again for your vote again on November 6th.

Now, the Democrats in the House of Representatives are in a significant minority. We have neither the White House nor the Senate, so our work has been to defend the policies we value, fight destructive proposals from the Trump White House, and lay out the agenda we want to enact once in the majority.

My staff and I read the tens of thousands of letters I receive annually from this highly educated constituency, and I work — as much as possible in a bipartisan way — to lay the groundwork for what northern Virginians and I believe we must accomplish. These policies and ideas are many. Allow me to briefly mention four.

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I am a leader on environmental protections, including climate change, clean water, and endangered species, to name just a few. In my roles on the Natural Resources  and Science, Space, and Technology Committees, I defend against oil and gas drilling in our federal waters, advocate for outdoor recreation and protecting America’s national parks, and work to mobilize advanced energy technologies that can transition our economy to a carbon-neutral future.

I work for an end to bigotry and for progress on civil rights. Discrimination on the basis of someone’s nation of origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other quality is intolerable. This is fundamental to American ideals, and we must return to an age of fairness and civility. I introduced the Freedom of Religion Act, to prohibit religious litmus tests as a way of banning immigrants or refugees, and I also introduced legislation to improve the reporting of hate crimes.

The entire Democratic caucus works to protect the Affordable Care Act, a critical piece of progress in our nation’s health care, one that moved millions of Americans from uninsured to insured. I voted against every effort by the Republican caucus to repeal or dismantle this law. And I will continue to work for universal health care.

Finally, we must work to shape the new American economy, one that regenerates our middle class and fosters economic mobility. This includes paid family leave, improved and affordable public education, comprehensive immigration reform, an increase in minimum and tipped wages, affordable housing, and infrastructure investment.

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Our country is facing some extraordinary challenges. There are few northern Virginians who can say with candor that they are satisfied with the leadership of our nation – that it represents our best values or who we strive to be. I have been part of campaigns and American democratic life for decades, and this is perhaps the most fraught but also the most engaged I have ever seen the electorate. People are stepping up, raising their hands, rolling up their sleeves, and working to redefine this nation. I am certain that collectively we will change the current course of history and turn it in a positive direction, starting on November 6th.

It is easy to get discouraged about the present state of our country. But we have pulled ourselves together before. Our parents did it in World War II. Young people in Florida and elsewhere are doing it right now against hatred and gun violence. In fact, Virginians did it last year at the polls, putting a record number of women and people of color in the state legislature.

Please do everything you can to work for our young democracy, and please send me back to Congress so that I, too, can continue this work.

My background as lieutenant governor, a successful businessman, an ambassador, and a husband and father — as well as my four years as a Congressman — enable me to serve you well and I ask for your vote.

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Candidate Essay: Barbara Kanninen

Last week, we asked the two candidates seeking a seat on the Arlington School Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 6 elections. 

Here is the unedited response from Barbara Kanninen, who has been endorsed by county Democrats in the nonpartisan race:

I’m Barbara Kanninen, and I’m running for re-election to the Arlington School Board. I’m seeking your vote so we can keep working together to support the whole child, support teachers and staff, and build a stronger school system that will provide a 21st-century education to all of our students.

My husband, Kevin, and I have lived in Arlington for 25 years and have two sons, Fred and Markus, who were both K-12 Arlington Public Schools students and are now in college. I am a Ph.D. environmental economist, children’s book author, and co-founder of the Youth Ultimate League of Arlington. Since I joined the School Board in 2014, I’ve put my passion, experience, and skills to work in service of Arlington’s schools. Here’s how:

Support for Students

I’ve worked to lift up student voices and develop innovative programs and policies to support all students. In the past four years, we have provided more resources to promote students’ mental, social, and emotional health and adopted academic supports for struggling learners. We continued to support our immigrant student population and DREAMers, LGBTQ+ student rights, and all student voices. We’ve expanded our STEM programs, career and technical education, music and the arts, and sports and fitness opportunities. And we’ve launched a strategic plan process to generate a fresh vision for Arlington Public Schools–one that will support the whole child, provide a vision for 21st-century teaching and learning, and is sustainable.

Respect for Teachers

The work of our teachers and staff–their engagement with children in the classroom everyday–is the whole point of our school system. Our teachers and staff deserve fair pay, and I’m proud to say that since I have been on the School Board, we have ensured that teachers received their step increases every year. I have also worked to provide teachers with professional development that they find relevant and productive, and, most important, a voice in the decision-making process and respect for their essential and tireless work. I’m honored that the Arlington Education Association, which represents Arlington’s teachers, has endorsed my re-election campaign.

Strong Schools in a Time of Growth

Our county has faced, and still faces, challenging rates of growth. I’ve worked to improve how APS makes projections and to engage the community in positive, constructive planning processes to ensure that our schools provide all students with high-quality opportunities. I have brought to this job a laser focus on our numbers so that today we have a plan that addresses our growth at all levels–elementary, middle, and high school.

Next Steps

Looking ahead to the next four years, I am committed to continuing to support all students and prepare them for the fast-changing challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. I will keep fighting for our teachers and staff and will work to improve staff retention, empower all staff to define their own professional paths, and provide the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. Our schools are still growing, and I will work hard to provide high-quality schools, with a range of options, to fit all types of learners, all across Arlington.

Let’s keep working together to make Arlington’s schools the best they can be. I would be honored to have your vote on November 6. To learn more about my campaign, please visit my website www.bk2018.org.

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Candidate Essay: Audrey Clement

Last week, we asked the two candidates seeking a seat on the Arlington School Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 6 elections. 

Here is the unedited response from independent Audrey Clement:

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board. As a 14-year Westover resident and civic activist-with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow-I’m running for School Board, because the County faces several crises that Arlington Public Schools (APS) has failed to address. These include:

  • excessive capital spending with millions wasted on schools that have insufficient capacity when built;
  • overcrowded schools with thousands of kids crammed into trailers;
  • declining high school test scores;
  • a persistent minority student achievement gap.

My opponent Barbara Kanninen has lost touch with the voters. As School Board chair, Kanninen recently rammed through a resolution to change the name of Washington-Lee High School with no public notice despite widespread opposition to the name change.

In addition state report card data indicate that during Ms. Kanninen’s tenure on the School Board, Arlington high school pass rates have declined. In fact W-L pass rates have declined from 2015 to 2018 in all 5 subjects measured, and Wakefield and Yorktown in 4. APS clearly needs new leadership to turn this situation around.

If elected, I pledge to:

  • Preserve the name: Washington-Lee High School.
  • Reverse declining high school test scores.
  • Close the minority student achievement gap.
  • Constrain School Board spending.
  • Build schools not trailers on time and on budget.
  • Listen to the concerns of all taxpayers on siting new schools.
  • Assign all kids except those opting into choice schools to the nearest neighborhood school.
  • Mainstream special needs students to the extent practicable.
  • End “teaching to the test”.
  • Install efficient renewable energy in all public schools.
  • Promote school safety with a focus on violence prevention.

As a long-time community activist and current member of the Arlington Transportation Commission, I am confident that I can deliver on my pledge.

If you share my agenda, then:

  • Spread the word about my candidacy.
  • Volunteer to help.
  • Donate to my campaign.

Together we can provide our children with a better education at less cost.

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ARLnow Weekend Discussion

Halloween weekend has arrived, and the forecast is looking a bit spooky.

A nor’easter seems set to bring plenty of rain tonight and tomorrow, and the temperatures just keep dropping.

Luckily, the rain should mostly leave the D.C. region by Sunday, meaning the Marine Corps Marathon and some of the Halloween fun scheduled for this weekend should go off as planned. Be sure to check our event calendar for a full list of the goings on this weekend.

And if you’re huddled up inside, you can always catch up on our most popular stories of the past week:

  1. Arlington Man Arrested After Sexual Assault, Homicide in Douglas Park
  2. Condominium Building Fire in Rosslyn Area
  3. Video: Soldier on Scooter Menaced by Driver in Pentagon City
  4. Man Killed While Trying to Stop Sexual Assault Remembered as Warm and Unassuming
  5. Police Investigating Fall from Ballston Apartment Building

Head down to the comments to discuss these stories, your weekend plans or whatever else strikes your fancy. Have a great weekend!

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Letter to the Editor: Sending South Fairlington Students to Drew Would be a Mistake for APS

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Mike Rosenberger, a parent of a second grader at Abingdon Elementary who has deep concerns about a proposal by Arlington Public Schools officials that would send some students in South Fairlington neighborhoods to Drew Model School instead of Abingdon.

The School Board has spent the last few months considering a redrawing of boundaries for eight South Arlington elementary schools, precipitated by the opening of the new Alice West Fleet Elementary next year, and tempers have frequently flared over how the changes will impact Drew, in particular. But one APS proposal designed to alleviate those concerns has prompted new worries among Abingdon parents.

The Board is still considering a variety of proposed maps, and will approve final boundaries in December. 

I am writing regarding the proposed elementary school boundary map released at APS’s “What We Heard” meeting on Oct. 17. APS’s proposal to bus the students of southern Fairlington from the walkable Abingdon school zone to Drew Model School is not in the best interests of the children and does not reflect the values or the limited transportation resources of the county. The failure of the “What We Heard Proposal” to address in a fair and appropriate way several of the county’s guiding principles in the redistricting process means that this map should be withdrawn from serious consideration.

One of APS’s objectives in establishing new elementary school boundaries is to ensure that most students can attend the school closest to their home. Under the current proposal the students of southern Fairlington, all of whom live within one mile of Abingdon, would be bussed up to two miles to Drew Model School. This proposal would effectively eliminate the popular options of walking and biking to school for all southern Fairlington students, despite the know health benefits of walking or biking to school. Virginia’s Safe Routes to School initiative recognizes that children who walk or bike to school are more active, more physically fit, and more ready to learn when they arrive at school than students who are driven or bussed to school.

Increasing the school transportation needs of Fairlington also has important consequences for APS’s future capital and operating costs. The fiscal year 2019 school budget already allocates $18.3 million for transportation and was only balanced by extending the useful life of buses by three years. Arlington County is already being forced to make difficult financial decisions about existing tax rates and services. The School Board must look for opportunities to stabilize or reduce transportation costs and concentrate its budget on children’s educational needs.

The walk from southern Fairlington to Abingdon is through a safe neighborhood that features contiguous sidewalks, crosses no major roads, has no traffic lights, and, for some children, would be as short as .3 miles. Expanding the Abingdon walk zone would be a common-sense decision that supports APS’s dedication to the welfare of the whole child and would seize a valuable opportunity to reduce transportation needs from the current levels.

I ask the School Board to consider the significant benefits of leaving the southern portion of Fairlington within the borders of Abingdon Elementary School. I understand that redrawing school boundaries is a difficult process. Finding a better alternative to the current proposal would not only be in line with Arlington County’s efforts to promote walkable communities, but would also serve the health interests of the children of southern Fairlington and APS’s limited transportation resources and budget.

I encourage APS to withdraw the “What We Heard Proposal,” to explore other options, and to think more creatively about possible solutions to the challenges we face as we work to ensure our schools meet the needs of our communities.

Sincerely,

Mike Rosenberger

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

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The Right Note: Better, But Still More Work to Do

The 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 the County Board agenda this past week was the County Manager’s recommendations on closeout spending for this year. The manager recommended that $16.5 million be set aside to offset next year’s budget.

This is certainly better than spending all of it now and causing tax rates to go even higher next year. However, the proposal still falls short of where we need to be.

The county manager is already previewing that he will ask County Board members for a tax rate increase in 2019. It will be necessary, he says, to address the $78 million “shortfall” for next year.

The schools are slated to receive $10 million to spend now in the closeout process. This money should be set aside to address a shortfall next year they project could be as much as $43 million.

The manager opted to recommend an increase in the county reserves from 5 percent to 5.5 percent. There is no demonstrable need to do so. Once again, millions more in revenue came in during the last fiscal year than was projected.

This was totally predictable, as it happens year after year. Just as the county does not spend its entire budget, year after year. In other words, next year’s budget “crunch” will also not be as dire as the county manager is predicting — just like it wasn’t this year. So, the $6.4 million added to the reserves should instead be set aside for next year.

Finally, the county manager recommended he receive a $2 million contingency fund to spend as he sees fit. Included as examples of items the manager could spend this money on is an airport noise study and a parking permit study.

It goes without saying that these are not emergencies, particularly if the budget is really “crunched.” There is no reason the County Board cannot approve these expenditures in a supplemental fashion. The County Board should reject this slush fund and set it aside for next year.

With all of this in mind, the County Board should modify the manager’s proposal. In total, $34.9 million from this year’s closeout funding should be used to pay for next year’s budget. That would cut the “gap” nearly in half without raising the tax rate one penny or making any cuts.

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Progressive Voice: Matt de Ferranti — The Better Choice for County Board

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 Nathan Zee

As an Arlington resident for 17 years, and a former PTA president with two elementary-age children in the Arlington school system, I’ve been closely following the race between Matt de Ferranti and John Vihstadt for County Board.

Four years ago I voted for John Vihstadt — and I now regret it. John campaigned on promises to reduce the commercial vacancy rate, proactively address school capacity challenges, support parks and recreation, including youth sports, and deliver other core services. He also promised to replace the Columbia Pike streetcar proposal with a robust Bus Rapid Transit System.

John Vihstadt has not delivered. Over and over again, he emphasizes a “delay and obstruct” approach to governing — often in response to only a few shrill voices — which results in rising costs for core services over time.

In the face of a capacity crisis plain to any parent of an APS student, John spearheaded efforts to delay the new Alice West Fleet Elementary School. The school is scheduled to open in 2019 instead of 2018, which increased construction costs and trailer expenses. He led the charge to postpone addressing youth soccer capacity challenges with his vote against adding lights at the Williamsburg Middle School and has aligned himself with a group focused on reducing the number of sports fields in Arlington. This is despite years of work from community groups and constructive solutions at other lighted fields across Arlington. He also voted to delay the contract award for the new Lubber Run Community Center.

John Vihstadt has failed to lead or advance Bus Rapid Transit on a meaningful timeline along Columbia Pike. Earlier he was loudly vocal against the streetcar, but over the past four years he has been strangely silent in showing what being “for” Bus Rapid Transit really means. His delay tactics, always pushing decisions on down the road, increase future costs to taxpayers while denying us much needed services today.

As I cast my vote for County Board on Nov. 6, this time I’m choosing Matt de Ferranti, a candidate who is more deliberately and urgently focused on making things better for future generations. Matt de Ferranti will make fiscally smart, prudent investments to achieve progressive goals like education, parks and recreation activities and the basics like storm water management. He will make decisions with plenty of community input, yet without dragging out decisions and actions for years.

Matt de Ferranti has clearly articulated what he will focus on as a member of the County Board.

His priority is bringing down Arlington’s commercial vacancy rate more quickly and more purposefully. Unless the county brings in new businesses (and revenue) more quickly, Arlington will never be able to fund our countywide priorities like schools. Matt advocates bringing in different types of businesses in the fields of the future, like cybersecurity, while investing in small and independent business to create jobs that grow our commercial tax base.

Matt de Ferranti supports our world-class school system. In his leadership role on the School Board’s Budget Advisory Council, he’s demonstrated the ability to make tough choices like taking the lead on reducing the APS budget deficit by $20 million in a tight budget year while prioritizing spending on core services for our students. Matt has actually shown he can make the tough choices on governing instead of just saying “no.”

Matt understands the importance of community centers, parks and youth sports. He is opposed to efforts that will shrink the number of sports fields, and is committed to identifying cost-effective solutions and putting them into action promptly, putting into practice the same sound judgment that helped the school system.

Matt’s values demonstrate fiscal responsibility. Please don’t fall for Vihstadt’s fear mongering about wasteful spending or tales from many years ago. John’s way is to rail “against” something, but it’s much harder to do the heavy lifting of government and nimble decision-making that shapes what Arlington is “for,” and there Vihstadt has failed. His delay and obstruct approach results in higher future costs while limiting progress for us today.

We need a fresh perspective on the County Board. Matt de Ferranti will make the tough choices in a timelier, cost-effective manner for investing our limited resources to address countywide challenges. Let’s elect Matt de Ferranti for County Board on Nov. 6.

Nathan Zee is a long-time resident of the Arlington Forest neighborhood. He’s married with two children and loves to call Arlington his home.

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