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by Chris Teale — April 28, 2017 at 6:00 pm 0

It’s been another busy week in Arlington, as the county looks to the future with several projects in the pipeline.

Some of our most popular stories have been a first look at the revamped Market Common in Clarendon, the County Board’s approval of changes at the “Five Points” intersection in Cherrydale, price increases coming to the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse and the decision to move ahead with the Long Bridge Aquatics Center.

Also this week, a major water main break caused problems for residents and business in South Arlington, and law enforcement and first responders were involved in an exercise to simulate a major response to an act of terrorism.

Looking ahead, it promises to be a scorching weekend, with thermometers set to hit 90 degrees for the first time this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Peter Rousselot — April 27, 2017 at 1:15 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.

Last week, ARLnow.com reported that the Neighborhood Advisory Conservation Committee voted to suspend its spring funding round.

Discussion

NC’s financial crisis provides yet another occasion to reconsider the program. The safety of pedestrians and need for safe, walkable streets continues to grow more acute in our urbanizing neighborhoods.

As I have written previously, the NC program should be phased out entirely.

NC has problems in at least three key areas: equity, timeliness and cost.

Equity. NC’s principal inequities arise because tens of thousands of Arlington residents are denied timely and critical neighborhood infrastructure improvements and access to the NC Program’s roughly $12 million bi-annual budget because they are:

  • Living in areas lacking a properly functioning civic association.
  • Required to have a County-Board approved NC Plan documenting all potential projects.
  • Lacking consistent NC volunteer representatives to complete projects.

Timeliness. The NC program’s labor-intensive volunteer requirements, including monthly meeting attendance — often for years — to gain “funding points,” and outreach and notification efforts, mean a complete NC project “process” can take anywhere from five to 10 years. If an association’s volunteer NC rep fails to attend meetings, a project can lose its place in the funding line.

Project engineering, always in short supply, further delays project funding. A recent status report for funded NC projects shows only 4 completed projects, with 36 still in process.

Cost. As I mentioned previously, project delays and unnecessary add-ons like street lights (which Dominion will install at no charge) and components like curbs, gutters and sidewalks (which sometimes are unnecessary), make projects more expensive.

Conclusion

Many commenters on last week’s ARLnow.com article on NC offered horror stories about how improperly functioning civic associations cripple the NC program. But, Arlington cannot mandate that any — let alone every — civic association function properly. Nor can Arlington mandate that residents volunteer for any activity, including the NC. Thus, the NC program cannot be fixed.

The County should not allocate further bonding authority to the NC program. Instead, the County Board should direct staff to phase out the NC Program entirely over the next two years, and re-allocate current NC Program bond funding.

In 2007-2008, County staff began assembling Neighborhood Infrastructure Plans to identify missing critical infrastructure: curb, gutter and sidewalk, storm drains, etc. Revised and updated NIPs can provide the tools needed to prioritize critical infrastructure projects and rotate among neighborhoods to allow greater and fairer access to funding. We cannot leave this job to NC’s volunteer patchwork quilt.

A revised and updated Neighborhood Complete Streets Program is one alternative funding recipient for street-related infrastructure.

An alternative to the current NC process could include:

For sidewalks:

  • High priority areas, schools and urban Metro corridors could be addressed by engineers and County staff first.
  • For missing links, neighborhoods could propose sidewalks directly to staff for analysis and priority.

For park beautification:

A reformed department of parks and recreation could allocate small sums annually and equitably so that neighborhoods could spend on their parks as they decide. Neighborhoods could request to withdraw funds for small improvements like flowers or trees, accumulate for a small amenity, or bundle their allocated share to apply to one neighborhood park in need of the most attention.

Finally, it’s important that the County commit to a robust, thoroughly updated civic engagement process for all projects across all departments.

by Progressive Voice — April 27, 2017 at 12:30 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 Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz

Early this year, the County Board and School Board voted to create the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission. I am honored to join 20 other Arlingtonians as JFAC members.

We are committed to finding innovative, practical and fiscally-prudent solutions to tackle Arlington’s big needs within our limited space reality.

Arlington’s population has grown approximately 1 percent per year over the past three decades and is forecasted to grow another 10.5 percent — 23,000 people — by 2026. School enrollment is also growing — projected within five years to exceed 30,000 students — which will increase capacity needs.

With growth comes increased demands for schools, fields, and other services, including essential operational and support services. Land to support these services is desperately needed.

I strongly believe that local initiatives such as JFAC that assess challenges and opportunities holistically can best promote community wellbeing in the years and decades ahead.

As I wrote last December, “local initiatives and solutions are stronger, more effective and efficient when the community is broadly represented throughout the decision-making processes.”

Four months into my tenure as a JFAC member, I believe it is a model for how to incorporate multiple voices, perspectives, opinions and needs at a broad, strategic level.

JFAC’s Mission

JFAC’s overall mission is to help the Boards assess capital facilities needs, capital improvement plans and long-range facility planning options for residents, county government and our schools. It can provide feedback and recommendations to the Boards on key matters that impact the lives of all people who reside, visit, play, and do business in Arlington.

JFAC’s Progress

Under the effective leadership of chair Ginger Brown and vice chair Greg Greeley, JFAC has met monthly since January. We have received briefings from County and APS senior management about their short- and long-term needs assessments, and we have started to develop a list of community aspirations and goals for the next 30-40 years.

While the Boards asked JFAC to place a special emphasis on long range planning for future County and APS facility needs, they have also directed JFAC to immediately undertake two time-sensitive matters: potential uses for the Buck site on N. Quincy Street; and what the County should seek as compensation from Virginia Hospital Center in return for the County-owned Edison site: cash, VHC property on Carlin Springs Road, or other VHC-owned properties, or a combination thereof. Two subcommittees within JFAC have been formed to dive more deeply into these time-sensitive matters.

By building a sufficient knowledge base about various needs and sites, we can proceed expeditiously to consider recommendations pertaining to longer range and big picture planning.

Public Involvement

JFAC wants to engage community members about two key goals: education and awareness about the facility and space challenges and opportunities facing the County; and insights from the public to help inform the JFAC’s recommendations.

Throughout March, JFAC hosted 10 community roundtables that provided a broad range of perspectives, interests, complaints, plans, ideas, ideals, visions, goals, and challenges. I had the pleasure of co-hosting a community roundtable at Washington-Lee High School on March 23.

It was great to hear the visions and ideas my neighbors shared on topics including traffic impact, recycling, bike lanes, park space, using I-66 air rights to create additional land, maximizing and/or co-locating County and APS facilities.

Arlingtonians can also get involved by:

  • Checking out JFAC’s website to stay updated on our meetings, presentations and reports;
  • Attending our monthly meetings; and
  • Joining us on May 24 (7-10 p.m.) for our interactive public forum at Wakefield High School, where you will have a chance to provide feedback on possible options JFAC members are exploring.

Next Steps 

Arlington can be a stronger as well as a more stable and equitable community by hearing from a broad range of voices. It helps when we get proactively involved in creating and developing public policies that will affect us for decades to come.

Our work at JFAC is just getting started. The right initial steps are being taken. Stay tuned and please assist us in ensuring we achieve our mission.

My own personal interest in JFAC’s success is that the better our community does, the better quality of life my family will have and the better educational opportunities our children will have in APS schools. My wife, our two kids and I are in it for the long-term.

Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz is the Associate Director of an asset-building and financial capability organization in Washington, DC. In the Arlington community, he is a JFAC member, a member of the Board of Directors of the Dream Project, and served on the South Arlington Working Group.

by Chris Teale — April 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm 0

It’s been quite a week for well-known national businesses getting set up in Arlington.

Some of our most popular stories have included the new Dunkin’ Donuts on N. Glebe Road, signs going up for a new McDonald’s in Rosslyn and Starbucks‘ impending move into Marymount University’s “Newside” building.

Also popular on the site: more details about the building replacing Ballston mainstay CarPool and a look at the three sites left in the running for the county’s new high school.

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

Flickr pool photo via thekidfromcumlin

by Mark Kelly — April 20, 2017 at 1:45 pm 2 Comments

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.

Arlington spent around $300 million building three new high schools over the past decade. The most logical solution to the need for additional classroom seats would be to add on to the existing structures.

The problem: those schools were largely planned when school officials were betting on studies showing school enrollments stable or going down, not up. As a result, little thought was given to the ability to expand those facilities at a later date.

Much will be made of this painful process over the weeks and months to come. Parents who quite possibly moved into a neighborhood so their children could attend their preferred high school in the future will be upset if new lines force them into a new school. Neighborhoods surrounding the new site will complain about traffic and loss of green space, even stadium lights. Fiscal watchdogs will not like the cost.

The fact is, there is no good solution to finding a new location. There is almost certainly only a “least bad” one.

And who agreed with my position on the Nestlé subsidy?

At this week’s Young Democrats candidate forum, the Democratic candidates for the County Board seemed to share my concern that the giant corporation received $12 million in tax incentives while existing Arlington businesses received nothing.

A quick check of the candidate’s websites finds a mixed bag of results as to how big a priority it is for them. Neither Kim Klingler or Peter Fallon’s issues pages have an entire section dedicated to making Arlington’s policies more business friendly, though Klingler does make mention of improving county services. Vivek Patil’s site has some talking points, but no real specific plans.

Erik Gutshall has the most extensive section on the economy. While it calls for regulatory improvements, it also restates things the County Board is already doing in the name of “economic development” including fully funding incentives like the one given to the candy giant.

Yes, a shot in the arm for the local economy benefits everyone. However, the current overriding philosophy is to give advantages to new businesses over existing businesses. Arlington, and Virginia as a whole, can and should do more than throw our tax dollars at economic development. Tax and regulatory relief along with streamlining bureaucratic processes should be the top priorities to make our economies thrive.

And an independent or Republican County Board candidate who made improving the local economy the top priority would be a welcome addition to the field.

by Peter Rousselot — April 20, 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.

A grudging admission by a representative of the county’s department of parks and recreation at a civic association meeting last week underscores that DPR still has a very long way to go to improve its civic engagement practices.

Background

In February 2016, the Aurora Highlands Civic Association developed a proposal to restore the west end of Virginia Highlands Park. The proposal was designed “to replace the exclusive softball fields on the west side with a different sort of community park.”

The 16-page AHCA proposal identified a problem and proposed a solution:

Problem: VHP is a popular and heavily used recreational facility that today is dominated by athletic space. The Pentagon City area, including Aurora Highlands, has insufficient park space to accommodate the broad constituency represented in our diverse and rapidly growing population.

Solution: To restore a balance to VHP by transforming the west side into a vibrant public park with creatively designed open green space that complements the existing recreational facilities on the east side.

The full proposal contains a detailed explanation why the softball fields should be eliminated.

Later that month, AHCA voted 35-0 to send a letter to the County Board requesting in part that the Board:

Direct DPR to begin a community-wide planning process to update the west side of VHP with the objective of achieving multi-use open green space that serves a broad cross section of Arlington County residents and a goal of updating the west side of VHP to include multi-use open green space within the next five years.

AHCA and Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks, which submitted a comparable redesign proposal, requested follow-up information earlier this year about the “scope, constraints, limitations, and any charges.” No DPR replies included any charge or limitation mentioning the softball fields.

Fourteen months after AHCA’s Proposal submission — on April 12, 2017 — DPR made a presentation to AHCA about elaborate (and apparently costly) plans DPR had to engage with the community about a VHP redesign. DPR representative Scott McPartlin repeatedly acknowledged that various community groups requested “civic lawns, green space, gardens, more trees…” He then asserted that was all very possible through the “transparent,” informative grand envisioning process he had just described.

After the presentation, Natasha Atkins, AHCA President, asked if the softball fields were then removable.

McPartlin’s response: “No. That is not our intention…The facilities are needed.”

Discussion

Regardless of the merits of DPR’s just-revealed conclusion that the softball fields could not be eliminated, DPR’s fourteen-month delay in responding to AHCA’s proposal to eliminate those fields, particularly with the off-hand acknowledgement finally extracted, is an inexcusable failure of civic engagement.

The centerpiece of AHCA’s 2016 proposal was the softball fields’ elimination and their transformation largely into open green space. AHCA reasonably expected a timely, open, and transparent public process in which:

  • AHCA could make its case,
  • Softball field proponents and any other interests could make their cases,
  • Sufficient data would be made available for informed discussion, and then
  • DPR would reach a transparent conclusion for or against retaining the softball fields with a reasoned explanation.

Conclusion

If DPR thought that the softball fields could not be eliminated, it should have responded to that effect within 30 to 60 days of receiving AHCA’s 2016 proposal. Otherwise, DPR should have launched a transparent public process specifically including the possible elimination of those fields.

by Progressive Voice — April 20, 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 Rip Sullivan

This year’s General Assembly session saw one highly partisan bill after another pass both Republican-controlled chambers, with little or no apparent interest in seeking input from Democrats.

This left Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to wield his veto pen to strike down such extreme bills as one that would shield from civil liability those who would actively discriminate against same-sex couples, and another that would legalize the carrying of concealed switchblade knives.

Veto Session is the day on which the General Assembly reconvenes to vote on whether to sustain or reject the Governor’s vetoes, and to consider amendments that the Governor made to legislation passed by the General Assembly. This year, every one of McAuliffe’s 40 vetoes was sustained, and the vast majority of his amendments were adopted.

For critics of McAuliffe’s extensive use of the veto power, it is worth a closer look at the bills that he prevented from becoming law in the Commonwealth. This year alone, the Governor vetoed bills that were directed at weakening LGBT rights, defunding Planned Parenthood and putting more guns in more places.

Some of the bills passed by the Republican majority were simply messaging bills, often redundant of current law. For example, McAuliffe vetoed one bill that would criminalize the act of giving or receiving any money in exchange for registering to vote. This is already a crime under federal law.

There were other bills that sought to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud by encouraging investigations into Virginia voters without clear standards for when and how those inquiries would be conducted. Voter fraud, though it is exceptionally rare, is already a crime in Virginia.

The Governor also vetoed a number of bills that Democrats universally agree would undermine the economic security of many of Virginia’s most vulnerable individuals. For those living in poverty and receiving public assistance, one bill would have prohibited anyone with a criminal history from receiving this help. Keeping those who have committed a crime – for example, petty theft – from receiving public assistance would make it even more likely that those individuals would be forced back into a life of crime and reduce public safety.

Other vetoed bills included one that would encourage companies to pay workers less – Democrats universally rejected these anti-worker bills and I am glad that the Governor vetoed them immediately. Two bills would have prohibited a state agency and a local government from entering into a contract with a company that requires that company to pay workers at rates above prevailing wages and benefits. We should be encouraging contracts with companies that are willing to pay workers more, not engaging in a race to the bottom for wages and benefits.

Another agenda item that Republicans targeted unsuccessfully was making life more difficult for immigrants and refugees. One particularly dangerous bill included a requirement that the Commonwealth publish personally identifiable information for every refugee settled in Virginia. A reminder: refugees are here legally.

This bill was not only an invasion of privacy, but also a reckless move that would put refugees in immediate danger. Refugees are classified as such because they are fleeing oppression – they have specifically been targeted by the government of their home country. To make a list of their personal information public would be to make those who have sought refuge in our country targets again – even exposing them to their oppressors.

Finally, perhaps the most widely covered issue of this year’s Veto Session was whether the Governor’s budget amendment to expand Medicaid to about 400,000 low-income working Virginians should stand. The Governor’s amendment would have allowed him to expand Medicaid on October 1, 2017, if the Affordable Care Act still stood in its current form with respect to Medicaid. The amendment was rejected along party lines, 66 to 34, meaning Medicaid will not be expanded this year and Virginia will continue to lose billions of Virginia taxpayer dollars reallocated to states that have expanded Medicaid.

During this Veto Session the priorities of both parties were revealed in stark contrast, and I am glad that Democrats were able to fight back through McAuliffe against the most extreme of the bills passed by Republicans.

It will be a far different Veto Session in 2018 if we do not have a Democratic Governor and a strong Democratic presence in the House of Delegates after this November’s election. As we have seen at the national level, turnout matters and elections have consequences.

Rip is a Northern Virginia community activist and a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Virginia’s 48th District, which encompasses parts of Arlington and McLean.

by Katie Pyzyk — April 14, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

It appears Arlingtonians were looking for a lot of things to do this week, based on some of the top ARLnow stories.

A lot of readers were interested in the Capitals offering free yoga classes during the NHL playoffs (the second one is tomorrow), Heritage Brewing Company opening on Wednesday and a number of farmers markets opening for the season.

Notable illegal activities also picked up a lot of attention, such as the return of dozens of ATV riders on county streets, two teens arrested for breaking into cars and two similar armed robberies that police believe could be connected.

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

by Katie Pyzyk — April 14, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

The weekend is shaping up to be warm and pleasant — despite high pollen counts — which is good news for those celebrating Easter on Sunday. That’s also the final day of spring break for Arlington Public Schools students.

There are plenty of special Easter happenings including church services, egg hunts and brunches.

Although county community centers are closed on Sunday, parks will remain open to visitors who may want to hike, picnic or use playground equipment.

Other spring activities include taking advantage of newly-opened farmers markets.

What are you planning to do this weekend?

by Mark Kelly — April 13, 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.

Republicans in the General Assembly have rejected Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) call to expand Medicaid once again. The governor made the last minute push after Congress failed to pass a new plan in March. Here are four reasons to question the wisdom of passing expansion.

Congress could still partially repeal the law this year. Reports from Washington are that the American Health Care Act could be amended in such a way that it will have the votes to pass. If so, Virginia’s expansion would not be able to go forward even if it passed the General Assembly.

Virginia is not losing out on a pot of federal money sitting out there just waiting to be spent. The federal government is running an estimated $559 billion deficit his year. We would simply be borrowing more money to pay for Medicaid expansion.

Virginians will be responsible for at least 10% of the expansion costs. Assuming McAuliffe’s assertion that Virginia could collect $6.6 million per day under Medicaid expansion, Virginians would have to pay around $700,000 per day to receive it. Even if the law remains in place, this share is likely to go up over time as the federal budget deficit moves toward $1 trillion a year.

My friend over at Peter’s Take noted that Virginia Hospitals have offered to cover Virginia’s share. It should make Virginians wonder exactly how much money hospitals stand to make under the arrangement? In many states that implemented expansion, costs to the state were higher than originally projected, so we could also ask just how much the hospitals are willing to pay and for how long?

Medicaid is still substandard healthcare. Many studies have found Medicaid produces worse health outcomes, in large part due to lack of access to primary care physicians. A better focus for McAuliffe and the Republican-controlled General Assembly should have been working together to pass tax and regulatory policy changes that result in economic growth and create jobs with health insurance benefits to move individuals into the private market.

by Peter Rousselot — April 13, 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.

ARLnow.com reported last week that one local resident has filed a request with Arlington’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board to designate the site on which the Ed Center and Planetarium are located as a “historic district.”

Discussion

The HALRB, the School Board, the County Board and all candidates for seats on the School and County boards should oppose historic-district status for this site.

In her request to the HALRB for historic-district status, this one local resident argues that such a status is justified because “these structures are literally visual landmarks of our shared history.”

By this standard, every public building on publicly-owned property in Arlington should be preserved forever. That would be an abuse of the legitimate role for historic-district status in appropriate circumstances.

With the best available projections  showing that APS’ enrollment will grow from 26,000 today to 40,000 by 2032, this one resident’s suggestion to impose such a standard should be quickly repudiated.

These reactions of an APS parent on social media accurately reflect how this historic preservation proposal should be evaluated:

 This person’s wish (or even a number of people’s wish) to consider this building “historic” needs to take a much, much lower priority under the needs of our kids. Save the historical designations for buildings that really ARE significant, and leave our school system alone otherwise, please. Hamstringing our school system from using its own property for school uses sets a horrible precedent and is unacceptable, regardless of the effect it might have on this particular process, so regardless of whether you’re a fan of using the Ed Center for HS seat needs. …

Preserving the genuine historical significance of Stratford was one thing, and had some importance to all of Arlington’s history. I agreed that the events there were momentous and worthy of commemoration, even while I felt that the reaction disallowing any of the more sensible renovations, and forcing more expensive and less useful design, plus the extra time required for the whole process, amounted to overreaction. But THIS is too much.

Ed Center

Anyone who has attended meetings inside the Ed Center is aware of the age and limitations of this building. APS already has made plans to move its administrative staff out of this building and into office space at another site. Regardless of what any one person might think about the quality, beauty, utility, or continued functionality of this building, APS should not be burdened by having it designated as part of a historic district. APS should be able to use this site for another school use.

Planetarium

The same reasoning that applies to the Ed Center also applies to the Planetarium.

But, there is an added issue that is unique to the Planetarium. Only a few years ago, APS entered into an arrangement with a private organization, Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium. This organization contributed nearly $500,000 toward the $900,000 cost to replace outmoded Planetarium equipment.

My understanding is that this equipment could be moved to another site. APS should be free from historic-district restrictions to decide whether to:

  • continue to use the current Planetarium site for a Planetarium, or
  • for another school use,

taking into consideration the equities arising from APS’ arrangement with this Friends organization.

Conclusion

Historic-district status for the Ed Center/Planetarium site should be rejected.

by Progressive Voice — April 13, 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 Paul Friedman

Although it is a tragedy that remains fresh in our minds, this week will mark 10 years since the shootings at Virginia Tech that cost the lives of 32 people, physically injured at least 24 others and traumatized many more.

One day after the April 16, 2007, tragedy — having traveled back overnight from a trade mission to Japan, then-Gov. Tim Kaine (D) spoke movingly to the Virginia Tech community at the memorial convocation on campus:

“There are deep emotions that are called forth by a tragedy as significant as this; grieving and sadness by the boatload,” he said. “Anne and I have unashamedly shed tears about this and I know virtually all of you have as well.”

Kaine added that anger is a natural reaction. He observed that there is anger at the gunman and the circumstance.

Then he asked a fateful question: “What could have been done different?”

It was not long after he spoke these words that Kaine did figure out what could have been done. The shooter should not have been able to buy the two guns he was able to purchase.

Although the shooter had been found by a court to be a danger to himself, he wasn’t entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System because he was receiving outpatient – and not inpatient – mental health treatment.

After hearing from some of the family members and survivors of the shootings and consulting with Virginia’s Attorney General, Kaine issued an Executive Order to clarify when a report to NICS is required. At its next opportunity, with the support of the groups including the National Rifle Association, the Republican-dominated Virginia General Assembly supported his action with legislation.

Family members of those who were killed as well as survivors and their families continued their work and helped to pass a federal law providing funds to incentivize states to set up a system that would ensure their full participation in NICS. That would mean states submitting the names of every person found to be a danger to themselves or others and committed for treatment. Once entered, those people would be barred from being able to buy a gun from a licensed dealer.

Over the years since the Virginia Tech shootings, the Brady Campaign, the Education Fund to Stop Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and, notably, the NRA and the National Shootings Sports Foundation, have been working to achieve this goal and have been making progress.

As well, it’s a goal supported by our nation’s largest mental health organization, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Yet the job is far from complete.

That’s why, in connection with the 10th commemoration of the worst mass murder on an American college campus, the Virginia Tech Victims Family Outreach Foundation – the independent non-profit formed by affected families and survivors of the Virginia Tech tragedy — is making this issue our top priority.

That’s also why we have decided to move to the forefront of the fight. After all, our story is the best known reason for why this must be done.

While Virginia is now an example of a state that has made progress, there are a number of others, including Maryland, Ohio, and Massachusetts for example, that could be doing far better or are not engaged at all.

Moreover, it is simply unknown right now how many states are submitting the names of people who have been ordered to get outpatient treatment, which constitute the bulk of commitments due to a lack of inpatient facilities.

Campaign 32, named for the 32 who were killed at Virginia Tech, will do the research and advocacy to get the job done. Together with people who want to join in this effort, we can make real, measurable and meaningful change. To make your voice heard, please donate $32 or more at www.campaign32.org!

Paul Friedman is a long time resident of Northern Virginia and is serving as the Executive Director of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation.

by Katie Pyzyk — April 7, 2017 at 5:00 pm 0

Following Thursday’s strong storms — which spawned a rare Arlington tornado — and today’s chillier temperatures, the weekend should warm back up. That’s just in time for APS students’ first days of spring break.

Local small business news created quite a buzz this week, as long-time retailer Casual Adventure announced it will close and CarPool poured its final beers after months of surviving on borrowed time. Despite previous rumors of it “not doing well,” the owner of Clarendon restaurant Oz said that the Aussie-themed eatery has experienced a turnaround.

ARLnow readers also showed a lot of interest in residential news, with articles about recommendations to change residential parking near Metro stations and an affordable housing lottery drawing the most comments this week. An article about a local historic district nomination for the possible site of a new high school came in third.

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

by Mark Kelly — April 6, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

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

Just as with our county budget, no one can argue with a straight face that our school budget is strained. We are consistently tops in the region in per pupil spending.

In the past I have asked for an explanation of what makes up the difference between the reported $18,957 per pupil spending and the $22,032 of actual spending. Per pupil spending would increase by $564 under the proposed FY 2018 budget.

It might also be interesting to see a study on budgetary savings from ending homework. There has to be some savings on paper and copier toner.

Last week, Peter’s Take discussed long range budget planning at Arlington Public Schools. His ideas to increase community and County Board engagement would represent a common-sense step in the right direction.

Here are two specific ideas to spark conversation about the APS budget:

Scrap the Revenue Sharing Agreement

As a candidate for County Board, I met with the Arlington Education Association Board and fielded their questions. One of the questions that day was whether I supported a revenue sharing agreement that guaranteed APS would receive 46.5 percent of county revenue.

I answered no.

As you might imagine, the answer met with shocked looks at the table. Why come to this meeting where I was supposedly seeking an endorsement and turn down one of the top requests?

My argument was simple. Why reduce the needs of Arlington schools to a few lines on an Excel spreadsheet? Why not leave open the possibility that sometimes they may need more, or less?

So instead of writing a school budget to an arbitrary 46.5 percent share of revenue, APS should write a budget based on demonstrable needs.

This approach could result in the school receiving a larger share out of the annual budget in some years. It might mean they no longer automatically receive a share of closeout funds, which would take away an administration slush fund.

This line of thinking would certainly require a closer relationship between the County Board and the School Board. It also would shine a brighter light on the APS budget, by requiring another layer of accountability for its spending.

Give APS Maximum Flexibility on Student-Teacher Ratios

Arlington’s enrollment is increasing. However, the growth has slowed down over the projections from a couple years ago. As Arlington works to deal with the uncertainty in increasing enrollment to determine the construction of new buildings, the community should give school administrators some room to make commonsense decisions in the short run.

Superintendent Patrick Murphy included increasing the ratios by one student per classroom as a way to find budget savings in this year’s budget proposal. Based on how the community has reacted in the past, the idea will almost certainly be shot down again.

This issue simply causes reflexive reactions from people who have been conditioned to think that any increase in ratios will have a devastating impact on educational outcomes. However, academic studies have not always backed up this view.

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