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by Progressive Voice — June 1, 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 Elaine Furlow

Could you explain basketball’s March Madness to people in China? Who would even try?

A couple of years ago, the University of Dayton added a new angle to its basketball coverage — energetically broadcasting the Flyers’ games in Mandarin.

Why? The university wanted to better engage its international students on campus (about 450 speak Mandarin) and to promote its brand in China, where it has a research institute.

Results: More than 1,200 passionate listeners, here and in China, and lots of spinoff media attention. More people feeling connected to the university, and a brand with brighter luster.

This kind of approach goes beyond just niche marketing, and gets at something Arlington may need more of: getting outside our comfort zone.

Yes, Arlington, which already prides itself on extensive civic involvement, could try new ways to nurture wider community spirit. And progressive political leaders here are trying it to understand emerging needs, recast some political conversations, and prevent unwelcome outcomes in upcoming elections.

Getting outside our bubble could mean our place, our approach or our perspective. At a recent packed event at Central Library, author Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning book “The Sympathizer,” made a positive comment about refugees. It brought strong applause, and one woman murmured, “Good old Arlington.” Yes, Arlington has (and we enjoy) a mostly affluent, educated, fairly Blue bubble, one that cares for others — health care, housing, you name it.

Yet — for example — I have seen students industriously using the internet to research life in Ethiopia, perhaps not knowing that dozens of recent Ethiopian immigrants go to our schools. (They’d be able to give other students a first-hand account!)

How might we become more attuned to worlds different from our own? For starters, consider how we can make those worlds productively collide.

One example: Virginia Tech students are exploring the history of legacy businesses in the Nauck neighborhood and along Lee Highway. They interviewed people like Darryl Collins, owner of Friendly Cab and grandson of founder Ralph Collins. During the segregation of the 1940s and 1950s, women of color had to leave Arlington in order to give birth, usually at a hospital in D.C. Ralph Collins founded his cab company to serve such needs.

For another project in Rosslyn, where busy streets and highways block pedestrian access to the Potomac River, the county asked Virginia Tech students for ideas to make the waterfront more inviting. “We felt they could be both imaginative and unconstrained, unworried about ruffling feathers among the many landowners and agencies,” said one leader.

Arlington basks in our national rankings and urban buzz, yet some may not relish talking ideas, particularly politics, with people who don’t already lean the same way. On the other hand, many progressive leaders feel it’s urgent to escape an echo chamber where friends and media choices just reinforce our own opinions.

Those progressives believe that stepping outside the bubble can help us think better, solve problems better, and perhaps build community in new ways. We also think it may help us steer clear of surprises and shoals in elections to come.

We take a page from people like U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who recently spent several days in small towns in Virginia’s southwestern corner, an area not particularly friendly to Democrats. Just showing up and listening is a start.

Out in red state Montana, Steve Bullock, the Democratic governor, won re-election comfortably last November even when Hillary Clinton got just 36 percent of the vote in his state. He told The New York Times recently: “Ever since, national reporters have asked me whether Montana Democrats have some secret recipe….But it’s not all that hard to figure out. Above all, spend time in places where people disagree with you. Reach out. People will appreciate it, even if they are not inclined to vote for you.”

None of us knows as much about America — and perhaps about Arlington — as we think. Yet we don’t have to visit a faraway red state. If you travel along Glebe Road, Arlington is less than nine miles from end to end, but there are many different worlds along that road. If ever there was a time to expand our view, the time to stretch seems now.

Elaine Furlow was Director, Strategic Planning for AARP until her recent retirement. She also served as an Arlington School Board member from 1998-2005.

by ARLnow.com — May 31, 2017 at 5:30 pm 0

The following Letter to the Editor was written by former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and his wife Rohini. The Chopras are Arlington residents and parents of Arlington Public Schools students.

While many Arlingtonians are mobilizing to protect much needed science investments in the wake of proposed Trump administration budget cuts, a more pressing local threat has emerged that needs our immediate attention: the June 1st Arlington School Board vote that, if passed, will unnecessarily weaken our best shot at helping lower-income kids succeed in science and, thus, prepare for the jobs and industries of the future. And it does so without adding a single new seat to handle APS-wide over-crowding challenges.

The School Board notes that the proposed changes to its enrollment and transfer policy are to “make it easier for families to understand the school options available.” However, what the proposal actually does is arbitrarily change those options – re-classifying some schools to eliminate neighborhood access and others to eliminate choice or lottery access. How the Board re-classifies each school appears arbitrary with no published explanation, justification or criteria including whether it is a reflection on school quality, student demand, or any other factor.

Absent School Board transparency, a group of families have “crowd-sourced” as much publicly available data to piece together the net impact and the answer is bad news for families interested in boosting their child’s performance in science, especially for lower-income families. Roughly 20% of Arlington Science Focus enrollment is via choice/lottery, a figure that falls to zero if this passes. Worse, by eliminating the neighborhood zone for Key Elementary, up to 240 students who could lose in the lottery, including native Spanish speakers, will be forced into an already overcrowded ASFS (runing today at 120% capacity).

Why should this matter? For a low-income family wishing for their child to succeed in science, here’s the bad news: unless you live in the Key Zone neighborhood, you will not have access to ASFS, an award-winning school that delivers, for 93% of low income kids, proficiency or higher on the 5th grade science exam, a rate that places ASFS among top 5% of elementary schools statewide.

The School Board COULD have proposed to treat Key Elementary and ASFS similarly to allow that low-income family to apply for enrollment via lottery, but without justification as to why, they are poised to choose to limit access for ASFS while expanding it for Key.

More insidious is the risk to ASFS’ impressive results. Despite a taxpayer-funded evaluation of APS science results in 2014, not a single publicly available evaluation explains why ASFS is so successful. A fellow Obama White House policy maker and neighbor, Ben Harris, notes that children benefit–or suffer–from being in a classroom with children at a different educational level as their own. Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby found that economically disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic children in Texas showed marked benefits from being in a classroom with kids who had higher test scores.

In other words, diversity matters. And this policy hits right at the diverse enrollment mix currently at ASFS. Coupled with its award-winning integrated curriculum that embeds science and discovery in all classroom instruction, ASFS results need further study before materially changing its composition, curriculum, or level of parental engagement on account of family choice.

I urge you to call, write, or show up to the June 1st School Board meeting and demand a return to evidence-based policy-making that we have so loudly called for at the federal level when attempting to fight back the Trump Administration’s attacks on science, health, and the social safety net. Such a call will result in a call to expand access via choice/lottery slots to Arlington Science Focus. Anything less would be irresponsible.

(Update: APS just posted this FAQ which includes this depressing quote: “Ensure that no students who live outside of the current Science Focus/Key boundary zone are enrolling in Science Focus for the first time, beginning with the 2017-18 school year.”).

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

by ARLnow.com — May 30, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

The annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally rumbled into town late last week and has departed.

The Memorial Day weekend tradition, which is intended to honor military veterans and bring attention to the plight of those killed and missing in action, calls Arlington home. Its headquarters is at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City and its main rally point is the Pentagon parking lot.

While many appreciate the overall purpose of the event, others in Arlington do not love the noise that Rolling Thunder brings. Some living along I-395, I-66, Route 1 and other highways and main roads describe three nights of lost sleep, amid the constant rumble and roar of excessively loud motorcycle engines.

What do you think?

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by Chris Teale — May 26, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

We made it to Memorial Day weekend. Have a relaxing time, and keep in mind the various closures throughout the county on Monday.

It’s a time to remember those who made their ultimate sacrifice for our country, and with so many reminders throughout Arlington like the Pentagon, the Air Force Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day is particularly significant.

This weekend, Rolling Thunder will return in its 30th year for various ceremonies and a rally, so be on the lookout for road closures and be sure to welcome our visitors.

We’ll take a very brief hiatus, barring any breaking news, on Monday. We’re back on Tuesday, and in the meantime feel free to discuss whatever’s on your mind in the comments below. Have a great weekend!

by Mark Kelly — May 25, 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.

It is no secret that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) wants to expand Medicaid in Virginia.It is also no secret that the General Assembly will not vote to give him that authority.

It is perfectly ok for the Governor to keep taking his case to the public to try and put pressure on the General Assembly to come around to his way of thinking. He has continually done so, but with no success.

Not only has the General Assembly refused to pass expansion, it has gone so far as to include in its budget a prohibition against any attempt by the Governor to assume that authority through executive action. The Governor has attempted to line-item veto that provision in the budget.

The problem for McAuliffe is the Virginia Supreme Court has held that under our Constitution, a Governor cannot veto a condition of Medicaid without vetoing all of the funding for Medicaid. In light of this well-established precedent, the General Assembly rightly ignored that veto as being improper.

Then earlier this month, McAuliffe issued an executive order instructing state agencies to treat his veto as binding. Now if his administration attempts to implement Medicaid expansion through executive authority, it will open the entire subject up to legal challenges much like his executive order on restoring felon voting rights did — a case he lost for ignoring the law.

Whether you are for Medicaid expansion or against it, it should give you pause when a Governor attempts to do an end run around the Virginia Constitution. Worse yet, the Governor is trying to make this end run with the ultimate goal of re-writing Virginia’s Medicaid laws from the executive branch before he leaves office.

The Governor’s spokesman pointed out the Governor was issuing this executive order because he was elected on his promise to expand Medicaid. What the Governor’s spokesman left out of the statement is that a majority of the General Assembly was elected on the promise not to. And like it or not, they are the branch of government charged with writing the laws.

Democrats who support Medicaid expansion should ask themselves, is it worth establishing a precedent for a future Republican Governor to have power to both ignore line item veto restrictions and rewrite laws over the objection of the General Assembly in the executive branch?

by Peter Rousselot — May 25, 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.

At its May 23 meeting, the County Board authorized the issuance of $185.3 million in new bonds for various spending, added to $552.4 million in outstanding bonds issued since 2008. There are an additional $281.8 million in bonds already authorized, but not yet issued. Plus, there are $49 million in bonds that have been issued, but not yet spent.

Discussion

Does the County Board’s latest action leave Arlington with too much total debt?

For many years, the standard answer from county government has been and continues to be “no.” The reason given has been and continues to be that Arlington is one of the relatively few municipalities in America that has maintained the highest possible credit rating (AAA/AAA).

Whereas this is certainly one legitimate way to evaluate Arlington’s status, there are other legitimate ways — some of which raise cause for concern. A more extensive county government explanation of our current and projected future debt levels, followed by a full public discussion, is in order.

Arlington can maintain its current credit rating — despite having roughly $1 billion in total debt (including revenue bonds and other debts) compared to roughly $1.2 billion in total annual revenue (83 percent leverage) — because the bond/credit rating agencies have confidence in Arlington’s ability to continue raising property taxes to generate sufficient revenue to service (repay) its mounting debt load.

An authoritative municipal finance source  lists 10 financial ratios (e.g., per capita debt, total debt to fair market value, and total debt to average individual personal income) that should be analyzed and discussed publicly in determining the relative risks of a municipality’s debt load.

In a 2014 opinion column, the Sun-Gazette examined Arlington’s debt level in terms of these ratios, concluding:

Think the Arlington government’s debt has gone up significantly over the past decade? You have a 75-percent chance of being right. There are (at least) four ways to measure the county government’s bonded debt. Three of them show a significant increase, while the fourth shows almost no jump at all.

A 2014 study in The Connection Newspapers concluded that “Arlington County has one of the highest per capita debt loads in Northern Virginia”:

The Government Finance Officers Association recommends that government “issuers undertake an analysis of their debt capacity prior to issuing bonds” because a “comprehensive and routine analysis of debt capacity provides assurance that the amount of debt issued by a government is affordable and cost-effective.” In so doing, government officials can keep debt at affordable levels.

Further, assessing debt capacity on an ongoing basis is essential for effective debt management and ensuring that debt-planning activities are integrated into the capital improvement process. This assessment, in short, ensures that “an appropriate balance is struck between a jurisdiction’s capital needs and its ability to pay for them.”

Conclusion

By continuing to focus on maintaining our AAA/AAA credit rating as the determinant for deciding whether to incur more debt, we are making a mistake. Attaching too much weight to this factor ignores other county debt. It also assumes that borrowing the maximum amount allowed by the ratings agencies is wise, and that Arlington’s tax base has a virtually unlimited capacity to absorb ongoing tax-rate and assessment increases without suffering ill effects.

by Larry Roberts — May 25, 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 Lawrence Roberts

In the aftermath of the November 2016 election, Democrats in Arlington were stunned by an outcome few anticipated.

Once reality of the defeat was absorbed, it was time to assess signals President-Elect Donald Trump would send about his agenda.

Even before Inauguration Day, it became clear to local Democrats that the Trump agenda would run counter to their values and that the new President would seek to dismantle key Obama Administration accomplishments.

Thus began the resistance – the Women’s March; the March for Action on Climate Change; impromptu protests at airports around the nation to push back against detention of immigrants returning to the country; the March for Science; and the formation of groups such as Indivisible dedicated to resistance at the grass roots level.

Democrats and previously unaffiliated independents began showing up in droves to local Democratic events and committee meetings – in numbers not seen before.

The resistance has led to efforts to defeat Republicans around the country in special elections.

It has also led to efforts to define a progressive agenda that is more than opposing the actions of President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress.

It is no surprise that Arlington progressives are deeply involved in the efforts to resist and to define a progressive agenda.

One reflection of a progressive agenda was defined recently by a set of 32 resolutions adopted by the delegates to the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention held on May 23. The 8th Congressional District – represented by Rep. Don Beyer – includes all of Arlington County as well as the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and portions of Fairfax County.

Like Arlington, the 8th District voted overwhelmingly for President Obama and for Hillary Clinton.

It is not a stretch to say that the 8th District’s resolutions are a reflection of an agenda that Arlington County progressives would view as a blueprint for moving beyond resistance toward rising up and mounting a progressive comeback.

Presented here and in future columns without editorial comment is a summary of the resolutions adopted by the 8th District convention.

$15 Dollar State and Federal Minimum Wage. The state and federal minimum wage should be increased from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020 for all workers. Tipped workers in Virginia should be paid a $10 minimum wage instead of the $2.13 per hour they are currently guaranteed. Both the state and Federal minimum wage should increase annually as the cost of living increases.

Creation of Appalachian Power Administration District. Virginia state government and its universities should conduct a study of the feasibility of an Appalachian Power Administration District based on renewable resources. The study needs to determine the applicability of mountain-based renewables in Appalachia including wind, load sharing, and pump storage methods. The study should provide an actionable plan within four years.

Cannabis Reform. We support bi-partisan efforts to allow states to establish their own regulatory scheme for cannabis distribution and use. Virginia cooperative extension should conduct outreach programs on industrial hemp cultivation. Medical use of cannabidiol should be expanded beyond epilepsy and obstacles should be cleared from both the state and federal levels.

College Affordability and Student Debt. We support the Commonwealth’s investment in higher education through initiatives such as the Affordable Pathways grants. We also call on Virginia lawmakers to study and implement initiatives that would allow students to reduce debt after employment in public service and to explore similar opportunities for students to reduce debt after completing approved unpaid civil and/or community service.

Congressional Review Act. In response to the Trump Administration’s hasty partisan action that ignores the basic rights of citizens and the responsibilities of government, we call for the repeal of the Congressional Review Act and in the absence of complete repeal, call for the Congressional Review Act to be amended to provide that a 2/3 vote be required in the House and Senate House to adopt a resolution of disapproval.

Criminal Justice Reform. Virginia should: increase the threshold for felony larceny to $1000; increase payments to court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants to the national average hourly rate among states for such services; provide for payment of experts and translators as appropriate and approved by the court; permit a convicted defendant who obtains DNA evidence of his innocence to petition to have his conviction overturned even after a guilty plea; and cease suspending the driver’s license of a defendant who lacks resources to pay outstanding court fees for offenses unrelated to driving.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice, a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, and a former Counselor to the Governor. He has followed Virginia politics for more than 30 years and chaired two successful statewide political campaigns.

by Chris Teale — May 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm 0

It’s the end of another week, and there has been plenty to talk about all across Arlington.

Ballston got some attention as it will be the location for a new Target, while a fire at an under-construction building in that neighborhood led to some traffic headaches.

Meanwhile, police investigated a student attack on a teacher at Carlin Springs Elementary School and a tree coming down on some power lines caused a brush fire along Four Mile Run Drive.

Our most popular story of the week was the officer-involved shooting on the off-ramp from I-395 on Wednesday afternoon.

But in lighter news, Arlington has been named the best city for millennials according to new rankings by Niche.com.

Feel free to discuss this week’s news or anything else in the comments. Have a great weekend!

by Mark Kelly — May 18, 2017 at 3:45 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.

Congratulations to Erik Gutshall for winning the Democrats’ County Board caucus. Now Republicans should nominate an opponent.

I have met Erik on a couple occasions since he first decided to run against Libby Garvey last year. We have children who attend Gunston Middle School together. In this politically charged time, we have shared in civil conversations. I like Erik.

But Erik is running his campaign on the same “progressive values” as the man he seeks to replace. His website could very well say, “if you elect me, the next four years will be just like the last 20.”

So here are four reasons Republicans should nominate a candidate or endorse an Independent who is committed to shaking up the status quo:

  1. Erik Gutshall supported Arlington’s efforts to give economic development handouts to large corporations. While we may not be able to stop the “me too” economic development giveaway approach right away, the primary focus of the next county board member should be to improve the business climate for job creators of every shape and size. The time for talk on making Arlington’s bureaucracy better is over. The next Board member should offer a comprehensive reform plan from zoning to the business license tax and call on the Board to start acting on it within the first six months.
  2. We need a Board member willing to ask tough questions on transportation decisions, like narrowing streets in a way that creates more traffic congestion. But the number one transportation priority for the next County Board member is to demand a Metro reorganization in exchange for additional Arlington tax dollars. Arlington has simply not demonstrated enough leadership on this critical system dating back to the years Chris Zimmerman served on the WMATA board.
  3. John Vihstadt needs an ally with a 100 percent commitment to spending within our means. Vihstadt has found a niche on the Board. He has worked with fellow members to achieve some positive results to hold the county accountable. But it is difficult to imagine a scenario where anyone else on the Board would support a year over year freeze in spending, even if you could demonstrate why circumstances warranted it (school enrollments significantly declined for example). There is simply a super-majority bias, four to one, to spend more. Erik would not change this ratio.
  4. Vihstadt also needs an ally committed to reforming the year-end closeout process. It essentially amounts to a slush fund for County Board members to spend every year. In the same light, a new Board member should bring transparency to the revenue estimates which are continually low, require the Board to raise taxes, and yet produces tens of millions in year-end surpluses every year. Libby Garvey has expressed a willingness to consider reforms to the process, but two votes for it only gets you a discussion, not a majority for reform.

A Republican (or an Independent committed to similar principles*) may not ultimately win, but they should run. Republicans have until June 13 to make a nomination.

*With all due respect to perennial candidate Audrey Clement, it should be someone new.

by Peter Rousselot — May 18, 2017 at 2:15 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.

As Arlington grows and urbanizes rapidly, conflicts are increasing among different users of our parks.

Arlington should give higher priority to open, un-programmed and natural parkland

The county government continues to demonstrate that it is not giving fair, transparent and due weight to the wishes of those who desire access to multi-use, un-programmed, open or natural spaces.

Instead, the percentage of open green space in existing parks is declining, while:

  • dedicated, programmed space is increasing despite usage data not being publicly available for a transparent analysis
  • uses of existing programmed space are intensifying through paving, turf, lighting, fencing, expansion, pay-per-use only and access restrictions
  • not enough parkland is being acquired to accommodate residents’ needs

Some examples of prioritizing organized recreational use over other needs include:

  • refusal even to consider community proposals to convert existing softball fields to un-programmed space at Virginia Highlands Park
  • initial proposal to fence off entirely the diamond at Bluemont Park
  • more dedicated playground space at Nelly Custis Park
  • proposals to install new lights at Discovery Elementary School/Williamsburg Middle School
  • a request to buy more land for open green space in Alcova Heights denied because the proposed acquisition in part was too small “which limits recreational opportunities”

These decisions are at odds with the results of the county’s 2015 Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment Survey. That survey established that natural areas and wildlife habitats — as well as hiking trails — were two of the three most important outdoor facilities that Arlington residents want.

Best practices elsewhere do give higher priority to open green space

The best city park planning is based on the principle of the most uses for most of the community. Travel and Leisure magazine listed the World’s Most Beautiful City Parks where “for city dwellers and tourists alike, an urban park becomes a shared backyard.”

In New York City, many playgrounds and basketball courts are designed into urban space, e.g. on rooftops or located between buildings, and not into natural parkland.

New York is enormously more populated and denser than Arlington, but the principles of giving sufficient priority to natural, un-programmed spaces can and should be similar. Current efforts in Arlington appear to be designed to provide enough paved sports courts, playgrounds, and playing fields to accommodate every league, paying user and sports type – all occupying a larger percentage of our limited public parks.

In contrast, cities around the world place a high priority on their parks’ function as natural spaces interspersed and accessible throughout city landscapes: e.g., Atlanta’s BeltLine project and an excellent report from Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority on sustainability and parks planning.

Conclusion

The POPS Update Advisory Group is currently working on an update to the Public Spaces Master Plan. The Parks and Recreation Commission should propose, and the POPS Group should be directed now, to develop principles giving due weight to open green space based on best practices elsewhere.

Pending adoption of such principles, the County Board should direct the Manager to report how to prevent open green space from being short-changed.

Continued shoehorning of single-use sports fields into our limited park space guarantees increasing conflict. Applying reasonable principles of equitable expectations of use, while simultaneously expanding our parkland to keep pace with population growth, are the correct solutions for a rapidly growing county.

by Progressive Voice — May 18, 2017 at 1:30 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 Juan Arteaga

The gathering of so many Americans in Washington and around the country to demand action on climate change has inspired me to tell my personal story of moving to Arlington. I shifted my definition of success toward enacting values I learned as a youth to appreciate our environment — doing so through a job in which I now am able to support investment in energy generation that serves to protect our health and our planet.

An appreciation of nature became one of my core values early in my life. Growing up in Houston, Texas, I remember camping trips and visits to city parks. Those early experiences encouraged me to seek adventure and experiences rooted in a love for the outdoors and nature’s beauty.

One of the positives of moving to Arlington is that while living close to the Nation’s Capital, I can also enjoy accessible locations where I can explore more adventurous excursions such as rock climbing in the Shenandoah Valley and long hikes in national parks.

I am able to combine a professional career devoted to improving our environment in economically sound ways with a wide variety of outdoor activities. That balance has not always been how I defined success.

During my time in college, while I still loved being outdoors, I found myself increasingly caught up in a pursuit of financial success. When you are chasing success in Houston, that success is generally tied to money and the money is frequently tied to oil in some way. So when I landed a job with a large oil company while I was still in school, I was convinced that I had it made.

My work for big oil did not blind me to the effects of energy production on our environment, but signaled that the childhood value of appreciating nature and what I learned in history classes remained important to me.

I found myself paying more attention to the news, trying to put into context what I was learning and hearing at work with what I was seeing in the broader world.

As I witnessed environmental disasters either personally or through media reports, I became increasing concerned about how human activities were causing or exacerbating dangerous weather patterns. The lack of actions to counter these trends began to create serious cognitive dissonance for me.

I began to feel a direct conflict between the profession I was in and my desire to protect the natural spaces which had offered me so much throughout my life. The longer I worked with a major oil company, the more I felt certain that my own actions were making an impact — and not a good one. So I left the job.

As risky as that decision felt at the time, I was incredibly fortunate. I was hired for a position at a well-respected consulting company, a position I went after because the values of the organization match my own.

By letting go of a culture pushing money at the expense of the environment, I found a new definition of success. I am consistently able to learn more about the environment and our impact on it and I challenge myself to make sure that the actions that I take are making a positive impact. Now I’m part of a fight to get our community to commit to 100 percent renewable energy, something that I know is a huge part of protecting the outdoor spaces that have shaped who I am.

Anyone can change their definition of success. For me, it meant letting my fundamental principles guide me to greater involvement in the fight for our shared environment.

What is most important to you?

Juan Arteaga is an infrastructure analyst and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He moved to Arlington to become more active in environmental causes.

by Chris Teale — May 12, 2017 at 5:00 pm 0

This week has had all manner of interesting news: police-related stories, restaurant openings and the impending closure of a local grocery store.

Here are the top 5 most-read articles of the week:

  1. Food Star on Columbia Pike To Close This Month
  2. ACPD Seeking Sexual Assault Suspect Who Posed As Maintenance Worker (Note: police released new surveillance video of the suspect in this crime earlier today)
  3. Men Charged With Firing Shotguns at Cars in Lyon Village
  4. Japanese BBQ Restaurant Coming to Clarendon
  5. Police Investigating Credit Card Skimmers at Cherrydale Gas Stations

Tomorrow evening, look out for coverage of results from the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s caucus for a County Board nominee and School Board endorsement. Polls close at 7 p.m., and the final vote tallies are expected soon after.

Feel free to discuss that, this week’s news and anything else in the comments. Have a great weekend!

by Mark Kelly — May 11, 2017 at 12:45 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.

At the end of April, County Manager Mark Schwartz presented the County Board with a plan to put the construction of the Long Bridge Aquatics Center back on track. The timing of the announcement came as a surprise to many, but was met with excitement from those who have long pushed for a facility.

The facility had been shelved three years ago because the County Manager could not find a bid to build out the original plans with the $79 million available. According to some familiar with the process, none of the bids on the 116,000 square foot facility were even close. And there was little political will at the time to go back to the voters for more funding.

The already approved bonds had been voted on under a generic “parks and recreation” banner instead of holding a straight up or down vote on funding the facility. The Board has provided more detail about projects in recent bond questions, but future projects of this size and scope should receive a straight up or down vote to stand or fall on their own merit.

The Good – At a price tag of $63 million to $67 million for a 73,000 square foot facility, the County Manager looks like he may have solved the problem of going back to voters for more bonding authority.  There is currently $64 million earmarked for the project out of $79 million in bonds that voters originally approved.

The Remaining Questions

(1) The more recent update of operating cost information projects a $2 million drop in annual costs while slightly increasing revenue from programming. The projection reflects a drop in the net taxpayer subsidy to the facility from $3.2 million to about $1 million annually. As the pool project moved through the process a few years ago, the ongoing operational costs continued to balloon.

(2) The County Manager provided few answers into any real work he had done to investigate corporate partnerships, agreements with local universities or naming rights to help offset the construction or ongoing costs. It would be nice to know if this facility could be operated at zero net cost to the county on an ongoing basis.

(3) The Long Bridge project is still nearly three times the cost of an aquatics center that Alexandria plans to build. Both facilities will include a 50m pool, but the Arlington facility will be a custom designed building, include an additional pool and provide additional fitness space.

There is still work to be done before the aquatics center project receives the final go ahead. Taxpayers will be best served if the pressure remains to keep both up-front and ongoing costs in check.

by Progressive Voice — May 11, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Alfonso Lopez

On April 29, tens of thousands of people – including many Arlingtonians – made their way to the Nation’s Capital to march and demand action on climate change.

Supporters joined together for similar marches and rallies in hundreds of locations across the United States and around the globe.

With the impacts of climate change being felt worldwide, it was important to send a very clear message – we must not retreat from the actions that are necessary to address this crisis.

Marchers intended to resist the Trump Administration’s open hostility toward measures to address climate change. They also called on decision-makers to continue taking the necessary constructive and positive steps to combat the causes of climate change at the national, state, and local levels.

Over the last eight years under President Barack Obama’s leadership, the United States did more to combat climate change than ever before. We committed to the Paris Global Climate Change agreement, improved fuel efficiency standards, and put forward the Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. We invested in renewable energy, which has led to a rapid expansion of our clean energy economy and significant increases in the generation of wind and solar power.

However, it has become abundantly clear that we can no longer rely on the federal government to lead the way on environmental protection or renewable energy investments. In just the first 100 days, the Trump Administration has worked to repeal the Clean Water Rule, delayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan, delayed implementation of the new chemical storage rule and attempted to diminish the EPA’s effectiveness through budget cuts, staff cuts and dismissing scientific experts from advisory commissions.

With the EPA and environmental protections under attack, it is incumbent on the commonwealth to act on behalf of Virginia residents – especially since strong majorities in Virginia have expressed their support for staying on the path toward clean energy and climate action.

One such action for which we can be thankful is Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) issuance of Executive Order 57, which created a working group to develop carbon reduction strategies for Virginia’s fossil fuel power plants.

Last week, I submitted a letter to that working group – signed by 18 members of the Virginia Environment and Renewable Energy Caucus in the General Assembly – that called for the working group to recommend: investments in energy sources with low or zero emissions footprints; utility-run efficiency programs; allowing utility customers to work together to install carbon-neutral renewable energy systems; and identifying revenue sources for transition assistance packages to help coal communities adapt to our changing energy economy. We hope McAuliffe and the working group will take bold action to promote these and other clean energy initiatives.

While these are important first steps by the Governor, the Virginia General Assembly also needs to do more to protect our environment for future generations and help transition Virginia away from a dependence on fossil fuels, stay on the path of climate action, and build on the progress we’ve made to move America toward a climate-friendly 21st century clean energy economy.

Through investments in the development of solar and wind energy sources, the Governor and General Assembly can not only put Virginia at the forefront of harnessing the potential of clean, renewable sources of energy, but also grow our economy and create jobs throughout the Commonwealth.

In the 2017 elections, Virginia voters have a tremendous opportunity to send a clear message about the importance of addressing climate change and protecting our environment.

Through the June 13 primaries and the November 8 general election, voters will choose Virginia’s Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General for the next four years. All 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates will also be on the ballot in districts across the commonwealth.

If you care about climate change and want Virginia to keep moving forward toward a sound environment and a thriving economy, it will be vitally important that you vote and choose candidates who will make climate action a priority.

Whether it is ensuring that our water supply is not contaminated like that of Flint, Mich., or ensuring that we do not suffer chemical spills of the magnitude of the Elk River spill, we need to combat inaction at the federal level by electing leaders in Virginia who will push the commonwealth toward national leadership in climate action, renewable energy, and environmental protection.

Let’s make sure our voices are heard.

Alfonso Lopez represents Virginia’s 49th District in the House of Delegates, which includes parts of South Arlington and Eastern Fairfax County. He is the founder and Chair of the Virginia Environment and Renewable Energy Caucus in the General Assembly.

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

According to the Capital Weather Gang, today was the second wettest day of the year so far at Reagan National Airport, after 1.61 inches of rain fell during this morning’s stormy weather.

And perhaps the rain and colder temperatures had some of you yearning for the warm days of summer, based on some of this week’s most-read articles.

The planned new beer garden called The Lot and the soon-to-open Wilson Hardware, both in Clarendon, got plenty of attention this week, as did the Westover Beer Garden’s efforts to add more outdoor seating.

In other news this week, there are now five remaining options for the name of the new elementary school, while on Sunday police chased a man from Buckingham to Columbia Pike.

And in case you missed them, a bronze eagle was unveiled this week outside George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, and an umpire in Arlington Little League has gotten some attention for being the only female ump in the league.

Feel free to discuss these stories and anything else that’s on your mind below. Have a great weekend!

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