Arlington, VA

ARLnow Weekend Discussion

It’s the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, and everyone seems to be gearing up for the holiday weekend — assuming you’re not already out of town.

Unless you’re one of the thousands of residents who lost power during the storm, or suffered damage to your cars and houses. As of 3 p.m. Dominion was still reporting 4,019 customers out of power in Arlington.

The storm was also a somber affair for Arlington’s arbor amorists who lost one of the county’s most prized trees in the squall.

Memorial Day activities like the Arlington National Cemetery’s annual “Flag-In” and flower distribution are continuing nonetheless.

This weekend also marks the start Metro’s “summer shutdown” of six Blue and Yellow Line Metrorail stations until September, and the last Rolling Thunder parade.

But even aside from the storms, the holiday preparations and latest Metropocolypse, it’s been a busy week for Arlington. Here’s a few tidbits from around town you might have missed:

What are your plans for the weekend? Let us know, and feel free to discuss any other issues of local interest, in the comments below.

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This week’s honorary pet is Apple, an 11-year-old Golden Retriever who lives for people, according to her owner Lauren.

Here’s what Lauren has to say about the sporty pup some say is a good luck charm:

Apple joined our family when she was four, and has been a joyful addition ever since. Apple was born in Taiwan but was abandoned by her original owner. Fortunately for us and for her, a wonderful rescue group based in Delaware brought her to America so she could be adopted!

Apple is a fixture at local Arlington Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League baseball games. She loves hanging out at our local parks and getting lots of attention from the players and their families. Many players and teams have even said that Apple is a good luck charm!

Aside from watching baseball, Apple loves children, treats, snuggling, naps, and taking short walks around Lyon Village. Halloween is her favorite when she gets lots of visitors, even if she has to wear a silly costume!

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Please don’t send vertical photos, they don’t fit in our photo galleries!

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care is the winner of six consecutive Angie’s List Super Service Awards, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year and a proud supporter of the Arlington County Pawsitively Prepared Campaign.

Becky’s Pet Care provides professional dog walking and pet sitting in Arlington and all of Northern Virginia, as well as PetPrep training courses for Pet Care, CPR and emergency preparedness.

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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.

I enthusiastically support incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos for the Democratic nomination in the June 11 primary.

What is the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s role?

Unlike Virginia State Senators or Delegates who make Virginia laws and policies, Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorneys must operate within the complex framework of hundreds of criminal laws and policies established in Richmond.

Under Virginia’s Constitution, our Commonwealth’s Attorney is the chief criminal trial attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, responsible for prosecuting a full range of criminal cases, ranging from driving under the influence to murder. The office has 17 attorneys, 11 support staff and 7 victim/witness specialists who work daily preparing and prosecuting cases.

How is our criminal justice system working?

Arlington is a public safety success story. Crime rates have been brought to record lows. And, we’ve reduced crime without filling up the Arlington County Detention Center (our jail). In Sheriff Beth Arthur’s recent endorsement of Stamos, Arthur notes that the Arlington jail has “an all-time-low population averaging 370 inmates a day.” Arlington also has diversionary programs that benefit drug addicts, the mentally ill and juveniles.

Why Theo Stamos is the best choice for Arlington

As the County’s top prosecutor, Stamos has a deep understanding of Virginia law and a wealth of local criminal trial experience. Our Commonwealth’s Attorney must appear in court nearly every day, where experience and institutional knowledge are key. When not in court, Stamos spends much of her day monitoring, advising and mentoring her line prosecutors on the many felony and other cases they handle.

Theo Stamos has already proven herself up to the task. She has literally tried every type of criminal case and has overseen the Arlington/Falls Church Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the past 8 years. An active member of the Arlington County Bar Association, the statewide Virginia State Bar Council, and committees on best practices for prosecutors, Stamos is also active in our community — a member of Arlington’s NAACP branch and a member of Organized Women Voters.

As our top prosecutor, Stamos reflects Arlington’s core community values. She is decent, honest, engaged, independent, and fair. As someone who has known and worked with Theo Stamos for many years, I can attest that she embodies all these qualities, including a dash of humor, humility, and humanity.

Criminal defense attorney David Deane (Stamos’s opponent in the 2011 Democratic primary for Commonwealth’s Attorney) recently published a letter of support:

My law practice takes me to many jurisdictions; her open-door policy is something other offices around the commonwealth should emulate. She is always willing to engage in a dialogue about a case and to truly listen when defense counsel from both the court-appointed and private bar approach her with issues.

Theo Stamos has worked tirelessly to improve the criminal justice system in Arlington for victims as well as those who stand accused:

  • Chairs Arlington’s Sexual Assault Response Team and works with Project PEACE to address domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Led the creation of a state-of-the-art, sexual assault and intimate partner violence protocol that serves as a model for the Commonwealth
  • Initiated Arlington’s adult diversionary Drug Court 7 years ago
  • Started the Second Chance diversionary program for juveniles
  • Helped launch Operation Safe Station, giving drug addicts a way to turn in their drugs and get treatment without fear of arrest and prosecution

Why Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is seeking the wrong job in the wrong place

Dehghani-Tafti has almost exclusively post-conviction appellate experience, but seeks a job requiring extensive trial experience.

The most up-voted comment to a recent ARLnow.com story also captures why Dehghani-Tafti is the wrong choice:

The Soros-supported Parisa Dehghani-Tafti seems to be running a campaign based on principles espoused by progressives on the national level, without realizing that she’s in the wrong jurisdiction. She wants to “reform” Arlington’s criminal justice system… Tafti seems to be trying to reform Ferguson, MO, by running for Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. It doesn’t make sense. — oscar

Conclusion

Theo Stamos is a dedicated public servant with a proven record as a principled and progressive prosecutor. I wholeheartedly endorse her re-election. You can learn more about Stamos’ candidacy here.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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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.

Republicans have yet to field a candidate for any countywide office in Arlington this year. Unfortunately, fielding no candidates lets the Democrats sitting in office completely off the hook.

There would be no accountability for the tax increase that is putting the squeeze on homeowners and businesses alike. The two Board Members up for re-election would not have to answer for the 6.3% spending increase. They would not have to explain how that spending falls in line with their rhetoric that this was a “tough budget year.” The $2 million slush fund given to the County Manager gets the voters’ stamp of approval by default.

Christian Dorsey would not have to answer for his comments earlier this year that suggested that he does not want to work as hard as other Board Members. Dorsey has also served on the WMATA Board for years. If you think he has failed to demonstrate real leadership qualities in these capacities, you can just give him a piece of your mind during the next public comment period.

If you didn’t like how the County Board handled the Amazon deal, you can write a letter to the editor.

If you are unhappy with how the county processes permits and zoning, you can keep complaining to your neighbors.

If you think the County Board should do more to hold the School Board accountable during the budget process, you can write-in a friend when you go to the polls in November.

If you want answers to why the County Board approved a $50 million line of credit as a new mechanism to finance projects, you can send them a strongly worded email about the pitfalls of taking on too much debt.

But there is still time for someone to get on the November ballot.

Having run as a Republican in a November general election myself, it is certainly understandable that qualified people sit out of the process. If you are serious about running, you are committing to work the equivalent of a second full-time job for several months in the face of extremely long electoral odds.

While running against the party that controls everything is tough, there are some benefits to becoming a candidate.

You would gain a new appreciation for candidates who are willing to put in the hard work of running for office.

You would meet a lot of nice people and visit parts of the county where you may not spend much time. Most people, including the ones not voting for you, appreciate having an informed conversation about what is happening in their neighborhood. (You also learn how to deal with difficult people, but these are the exceptions.)

You would also get a lot of exercise knocking on doors. If you have never gone door-to-door here, you probably don’t realize just how hilly Arlington really is.

In all of this, you would learn a lot about yourself and the community in which you live. And, you would perform an invaluable public service by holding your elected officials accountable and by giving voters a choice.

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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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.

 To inform voters, Progressive Voice asked each candidate in the upcoming Democratic primary for the State House of Delegates to respond to this question: “If elected, on which progressive initiative will you lead that you believe would be beneficial to the constituents of the 49th District?”

Alfonso Lopez

During my first campaign, I made a pledge to my community that I would be a champion for our Northern Virginia values — leading the way on issues like protecting the environment, defending civil rights, supporting our schools, standing up for reproductive autonomy, and advocating for our immigrant neighbors.

In the General Assembly, I’ve taken that pledge to heart and have worked tirelessly over the last eight years to secure progressive victories that benefit our community, including:

  • Increasing incentives for solar energy projects and jobs in renewable energy
  • Raising the outdated felony threshold and combating the school-to-prison pipeline
  • Expanding Medicaid access to include immigrant mothers and children and working with the Attorney General to grant in-state tuition to DACA-recipients

In recognition of these efforts, I have consistently ranked among the most progressive legislators in Richmond and am proud of my record working to find solutions to the many problems we face.

In particular, I’m proudest of the bill I passed in 2013 creating the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (VHTF), which has already invested $1.7 million on affordable housing projects benefiting the 49th District.

As our region grows, our housing crisis will continue to worsen — unless Virginia dedicates sustainable funding for affordable housing.

Many of my constituents are deeply concerned about ever-rising rents and property taxes and fear that they’re being priced out of neighborhoods they’ve lived in for decades.

To address those fears, I’ve been fighting for a dedicated source of funding that would increase the VHTF’s budget and keep it on secure financial footing for years to come.

Every Virginian deserves the opportunity to live and work in the community they call home and, if re-elected, I will continue to lead on this issue until the General Assembly properly addresses this crisis once and for all.

Julius D. “JD” Spain Sr. 

May is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month, but the somber statistics of how many kids do not receive adequate medical care deserve our focus year-round. The obstacles are numerous: untreated mental illness in parents may prevent infants from receiving the responsive care needed for development. Toddlers may miss timely screening for developmental disorders unless childcare providers are trained to make referrals. Even timely diagnosis doesn’t ensure treatment — Virginia ranks 40th in the nation for access to behavioral health care treatment.

Access aside, low-income families may not be able to afford treatment. On top of everything, stigma surrounding mental illness remains.

Yet by neglecting to tackle stigma and invest in screening, training, and treatment options, we are making a terrible choice. If we wait, treatment often is less effective. The criminal justice system may become involved — 90% of incarcerated youth require mental illness treatment. Delaying care disproportionately impacts communities of color, because black youth receive a court referral three times as often as white youth.

I support the General Assembly’s recent efforts to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for psychiatric services and leverage pediatricians for certain mental health treatments. These stop-gap measures help while we implement an adequate system of care. I support funding school counselor positions and peer counseling programs. I want to stop the “schools to prisons pipeline” — Virginia schools have twice the referrals than the national average — by training school personnel in trauma recognition to better address what underlies student misbehavior.

We should increase the availability of crisis-prevention services and encourage community-supervision as a diversionary alternative to costly incarceration. Finally, I will aim to fully fund early intervention services, because provider availability and reimbursement rates have not kept pace with rising enrollment. We must make better choices because children, at the very least, deserve good mental health.

Del. Alfonso Lopez has represented the 49th District (South Arlington and Eastern Fairfax) in the Virginia House of Delegates since 2012, where he serves in Democratic Leadership. During his time in the General Assembly, he has been a Progressive Champion for his community fighting for Affordable Housing, expanding Medicaid to cover over 400,000 Virginians, increasing Teacher and Educator pay by 5%, and fighting for criminal justice reform.

Julius D. “JD” Spain Sr. has always been focused on the well-being of others and has dedicated his entire adult life to public service. A lifetime member of the NAACP and a 26-year Marine Corps veteran, JD believes in uplifting the community and fighting injustice and inequality.

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ARLnow Weekend Discussion

Summer is almost here and the weekend is now upon us — life is good.

Hopefully you had the opportunity to enjoy the nice weather today and bike to work — we spoke to several who joined in on the regional Bike to Work Day.

If you’re into alternative transportation you may also be interested in this week’s “Canstruction”ART bus at Ballston Quarter mall.

If this week rolled by quickly for you, here are some stories you might have missed along the way:

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

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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.

In these increasingly fast-paced times, Virginia’s 31st Senate District (where I live) needs a state senator who can quickly grasp our rapidly changing economic and technological challenges and champion innovative, new regional and state solutions.

We need a senator free from multiple conflicts of interest to advance solutions that are in our best interests, not some special interest. To develop sound energy and environmental policy that is best for us and fit for the 21st century, we need a senator who is free from entanglements with Dominion Energy. Nicole Merlene will be that senator.

Why Nicole Merlene should be nominated

Arlington is Merlene’s hometown. She’s running for Virginia’s State Senate after several years as a Virginia renter’s rights and transportation advocate. She is an economic development professional who has served as a leader in our community, including as an economic development commissioner, and on the boards of the Arlington County Civic Federation, Rosslyn Business Improvement District, North Rosslyn Civic Association, and a local transportation advisory committee.

Merlene has a detailed policy platform outlining her positions on major issues, including: workforce livability, transportation, protecting our environment, education, healthcare, equality for all, and family.

The issues that Merlene has highlighted during her campaign are the top priorities of the district as evidenced by questions raised in recent debates. We need Merlene’s fresh perspectives and know-how in Richmond.

During the 2019 first quarter, Merlene raised $20,936 from 293 donors, all of whom were individual contributors. Not a single dollar she raised in this reporting period came from a corporation, corporate entity, or corporate PAC. Adding to the grassroots nature of her campaign, Merlene’s average contribution was $71.45, and 92% of her contributions were $100 or less.

Why Barbara Favola should not be nominated

Barbara Favola has a continuing practice of representing clients or donors whose interests can conflict with the public’s interests, most significantly when those clients or donors require action by governmental bodies. For example, Favola has represented the following with major business interests in Arlington, the 31st District, and the Commonwealth of Virginia:

  • Donor, Advanced Towing, seeking to weaken towing regulations while Arlington County was trying to strengthen them.
  • Employer, Marymount University, seeking to aid Marymount in obtaining state grants and local permits.
  • Employer, Virginia Hospital Center, in negotiations about eminent domain and the hospital’s land-use plans, and introducing bills relating to health insurance that Virginia House Democrats opposed.

Even when these and similar entities are not doing business in the 31st District, there is too great a risk that Favola will end up representing those entities’ interests rather than the public interest.

The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) has posted a cumulative list of Favola’s top campaign donors since she was first elected to the Virginia State Senate in 2011. A few top donors on that list are:

Favola only announced this year that she wouldn’t accept any more Dominion Energy cash after learning that Merlene wasn’t accepting any.

Conclusion

Merlene has served our community in leadership roles by mobilizing support for local small business permit approvals, organizing community engagement processes, and planning neighborhood transportation patterns. She will be a strong, fair and impartial representative of all 31st District residents.

Favola says she deserves the Democratic nomination because, in over 20 years in elective office, she has compiled a record as a “pragmatic progressive.” But her representation of private clients and her acceptance of large sums of money from top donors with agendas are not the kind of pragmatism voters should continue to reward.

I enthusiastically endorse Merlene as the next Senator for the 31st District of Virginia. You can learn more about Merlene’s candidacy here.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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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.

Arlington School Board members are asking for information about staff turnover. Superintendent Patrick Murphy doesn’t have it. That fact is rightly causing the School Board to push for more information.

If you have ever left a professional job voluntarily, you have probably been asked to provide an exit interview. Many employers do this because they want to keep good employees. The information they gain in these exit interviews is designed to help them understand what they can do to make the work environment better.

Is it pay? Is it opportunity for advancement? Is the commute too long, causing someone to miss family time? Is there a toxic manager or staff member who is making it hard to come to work each day? Knowing this information and adjusting your policies accordingly may not keep the last employee who left, but it might help you avoid losing the next one.

According to Superintendent Patrick Murphy, APS is still “gearing up” to do some form of one-on-one exit interviews. Departing employees, not surprisingly, are generally not responding to what sounds like requests for participation in online surveys.

While the exit interview can help you after the fact, hopefully School Board members are asking other management and work environment questions.

How is Murphy training principals and other management level staff to regularly check in with the people who report to them? Are they encouraged to do regular one-on-one meetings with staff members to get feedback? Is Murphy doing the same thing with the staff members who report directly to him?

In other words, do staff at all levels feel like they have regular and open lines of communication to the person who is providing leadership to them on the organizational chart? Or is the environment one where they only communicate when there is a problem from below or a directive from “on high?”

And how is Superintendent Murphy held accountable for the level of communication?

While it seems like investing time in opening lines of communication might not seem to fit into a busy calendar, it can save so much time later in dealing with the crises caused by problems left bubbling below the surface. And ultimately, the information you gain by gathering input from your team on a regular basis is far superior to the information you gain from an exit interview after someone has already decided to leave.

If a change in the communications culture is in order at APS, it is never too early to start.

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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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 Laura Saul Edwards

From the time I began reading, the image of libraries that came to mind was of a building warehousing books that I checked out and tried returning on time to avoid fines. Thumbing through card catalogues and scrolling through microfiche film joined the memory bank in high school and college.

This outdated view of libraries is as much a historical relic as the Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt. The Arlington Public Library is more than a mere circulating book collection. It is an indispensable part of Arlington’s infrastructure with a diverse menu of services — and a leading example of data-driven, continual improvement that is a cornerstone of progressive governance.

A reason Arlington stands out among other communities is that our generally well-educated and well-off population places a high value on libraries. Arlington’s 2018 Community Satisfaction Survey reported an overall satisfaction rate with library services of 91% versus 74% elsewhere.

However, this high satisfaction does not mean the library can rest on its laurels. Continual improvement depends upon using data to develop budgets and policies that will make the library even more effective and responsive to public needs.

According to County Board member Katie Cristol, the satisfaction survey is helpful in this regard because it “sheds insight into the relative value that residents place on disparate functions of the government.”

For example, recent survey results revealed dissatisfaction with the rate at which the library was acquiring books. Arlington residents said they wanted more e-books and shorter wait times for borrowing titles. This information led to a $300,000 increase in the library’s acquisition budget, including e-books.

Read More

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ARLnow Weekend Discussion

Another day, another week, and before you know it, it’s Friday again.

It’s been a busy week for news in this here 26 square miles. This week we’ve seen a Yorktown high schooler gain fame for his award-winning painting of immigrant children holding a “Bring Back Our Mom.” The artwork won a Congressional art competition. His prize? Getting to hang the painting in the U.S. Capitol.

Commonwealth’s Attorney candidate Parisa Dehghani Tafti also sparked a heated debate after accusing incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos of not punishing instances of “police brutality” — an accusation several public safety groups denounced.

Speaking of public safety, today Arlington’s annual law enforcement memorial service was held in Courthouse.

Here are a few other articles from around town you might have missed this week.

Have thoughts on any of these articles you want to share? What about weekend plans? Let us know in the comments below.

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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Last month Arlington County announced that it would stop recycling glass collected curbside.

The decision, which only applies to the county’s residential recycling pickup and not to offices and apartment buildings, was explained as a matter of economics — it’s more expensive for the county to recycle glass than it is to incinerate and dispose of it in a landfill.

While recycling glass does save energy, it doesn’t save much compared to the more efficient aluminum, steel, paper and cardboard recycling processes. The cost to recycle glass isn’t worth the marginal energy savings, some say.

While there’s logic in that argument, some locals don’t like the idea of sending a recyclable material to landfills.

“If a community gives up glass, it is admitting defeat in the face of readily available alternatives,” said the writer of a letter published in the Sun Gazette.

The county does have an option for those who want their glass to be recycled, though it requires extra time and energy:

Alternatively, people can dump their glass at one of two designated drop-off locations — at Quincy Park (N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd) or the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street) — which carts it to Fairfax County for an experiment in paving roads with smashed up glass.

In a Facebook live chat yesterday, Erik Grabowsky, chief of Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau, said the public outreach process about change is still ongoing and Arlington will continue collecting glass in recycling bins through the end of July.

The county has not been recycling glass residents placed in blue carts, according to Peter Golkin, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Services. Instead, it was being pulled at the material recovery facility and trashed.

“By putting glass in the black carts, it goes to Covanta where it’s melted (not incinerated) with trash and those results are landfilled, saving the whole transportation/sorting issues with the recycling process that does also have an economic aspect,” Golkin said, in an email.

What do you think about the county no longer recycling glass?

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