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(Updated 4:20 p.m.) Against the backdrop of Alexandria’s City Council voting to reinstate School Resource Officers, Arlington school and police officials say they’re confident kids and staff will be safe without daily police presence.

That’s because, leading up to the decision to remove SROs this summer, the county spent six years investing in other school safety pillars, adding counselors, enhancing building safety and beefing up emergency management operations, according to School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen.

When the School Board ended the program — out of concern for racial disparities in juvenile arrests — they did so knowing that staff could handle regular student disruptions without involving law enforcement, she said.

“I believe that background made us uniquely well-situated to think about the next step regarding SROs,” she said last night (Wednesday) during a discussion hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100 on school safety without SROs.

“It’s difficult talking about different jurisdictions in a harsh way, but the fact is that the Alexandria superintendent didn’t recommend removing SROs from schools for the simple fact that they didn’t believe they had the resources in place,” Kanninen continued. “They felt they needed SROs for safety.”

The discussion, which addressed current police engagement efforts and Arlington’s Restorative Justice program, couldn’t have been more timely. Not only did unsafe conditions in Alexandria schools lead the City Council to reinstate SROs this week, but also, APS recently had two safety-related incidents in which police got involved.

Panelists in the most recent Arlington Committee of 100 discussion Wednesday night (via Arlington Committee of 100/Facebook)

On Friday, allegations of sexual battery during Yorktown High School’s Homecoming football game resulted in a police investigation. Last Wednesday, police responded to false claims of a school shooter at Washington-Liberty High School.

As for Alexandria, Kanninen emphasized the fact that City Council narrowly voted to remove SROs against advice from the School Board, which voted 6-3 to keep them.

“We’re in a different situation,” Kanninen said. “We believe we have the resources and supports in place to keep kids safe as possible.”

In unsafe situations such as fights, she said APS has staff trained in defusing those situations and prefers this approach to introducing kids to the juvenile justice system.

“We don’t want their first interaction to be with a police officer,” she said.

Still, Kanninen said administrators will call 9-1-1 any time there’s a safety threat. For example, police were called to Washington-Liberty High School over the school shooter claim, conducted an investigation, found no threat and gave the “all clear” later that morning.

“Just like any other building, organization, or anyone in Arlington, if something happens, we’re going to call the police,” she said. “There have been situations where events happen in schools, and as a follow-up, parents may call the police. But for schools, we would do it if it’s a safety threat.”

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(Updated on 10/14/21) There have been 34 positive Covid tests among students at Wakefield High School this school year, more than three times the number at any other Arlington public school.

Many of the cases were recorded recently. At one point last week, the Arlington Public Schools Covid dashboard reported 20 cases over the previous seven days at Wakefield.

APS seven-day student Covid dashboard as of Oct. 7, 2021

Asked about a potential outbreak at the school, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow that “it’s 16 cases related to athletics/activities.”

The cases are among players of several sports, we’re told. Privacy concerns have previously prevented APS from providing more granular information than that contained in the dashboard.

The rate of new cases at Wakefield appears to be decreasing, with 10 cases reported over the past seven days as of this morning.

Drew Elementary and Washington-Liberty High School have the next-highest case total after Wakefield for the 2021-2022 school year so far, with 10 reported Covid cases apiece. Yorktown, Arlington’s other high school, has had six cases.

APS 2021-2022 school year student Covid dashboard as of Oct. 13, 2021

A geographic disparity is apparent in the APS Covid data.

So far this school year 80 positive cases out of the 185 total student cases across APS are linked to the 22204 zip code, which runs along Columbia Pike. The next-highest zip code — 22206, which includes the Shirlington and Fairlington neighborhoods — has less than a third as many cases, with 26.

APS 2021-2022 school year student Covid dashboard as of Oct. 13, 2021

Among the general population countywide, average daily cases have fluctuated this month, from a low of 29 to a high of 39.

Currently, the seven-day trailing average of new cases stands at 33. Nine Covid-related hospitalizations and two deaths have been reported since Oct. 1, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

Covid cases in Arlington as of Oct. 13, 2021 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)
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(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Yorktown High School’s homecoming football game Friday night was marred by “unacceptable behavior” by a group of students during halftime.

That’s according to principal, Kevin Clark, who sent a scathing email to Yorktown families on Saturday, ahead of the school’s homecoming dance.

“Students reported that during the halftime performance and thereafter, several students harassed fellow Yorktown students using inappropriate and unacceptable language of a sexual nature and inappropriately touched a student,” Clark wrote. “This created an unsafe environment and does not reflect the values of our students and staff at Yorktown.”

Clark promised to “fully investigate and address reported behavior from the football game.”

Several parents, citing a social post describing what happened, told ARLnow that the harassment was aimed at girls in the band and the color guard. That could not be immediately verified. No classes are being held today due to the federal holiday.

The Arlington County Police Department reported today that a girl was touched inappropriately during the game.

SEXUAL BATTERY (late), 2021-10090195, 5200 block of Yorktown Boulevard. At approximately 4:57 p.m. on October 9, officers were dispatched to the police station for the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 9:00 p.m. on October 8, the juvenile victim was walking in the area during the Homecoming Football Game when the unknown suspect inappropriately touched her. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

Last year Clark addressed another controversy with families, after a banner created for graduation was seen by some as racist.

The full letter about the behavior at the homecoming game is below.

Dear Yorktown Community,

I’m writing to follow up on last night’s Homecoming Football Game and provide an update about tonight’s Homecoming Dance. While the vast majority of our students enjoyed an exciting and positive experience, we are extremely disappointed and concerned about the unacceptable behavior of several students during the halftime performance and second half of the game.

Students reported that during the halftime performance and thereafter, several students harassed fellow Yorktown students using inappropriate and unacceptable language of a sexual nature and inappropriately touched a student. This created an unsafe environment and does not reflect the values of our students and staff at Yorktown, where we teach Respect for Others, Community and Self (ROCS) at all times.

We harshly condemn the actions of these students and will not tolerate such behavior at any Yorktown or APS activity. We are taking these reports seriously and are investigating them thoroughly. Students found to be responsible for this behavior will be held accountable. Additionally, we will take immediate measures (listed below) so that all students have a safe environment to learn and participate in school activities. This type of behavior impacts our entire school community. We need your support to address this moving forward and encourage you to speak to your child about the importance of positive and safe interactions.

If you have any information about what occurred last night or if you have any questions, please reach out to me directly […]

Next Steps Identified

  • Limiting student ticket sales to future athletic events to reflect facility limitations and capacities
  • On-field viewing of half-time performances for Seniors suspended
  • Designating specific areas for each grade level of students
  • Coaches of all sports will meet with their team to discuss appropriate behavior at events and to have players encourage peers to represent themselves appropriately at games
  • Continued supervision of students by administrators and security staff
  • Fully investigate and address reported behavior from the football game.

Homecoming Dance 

We also want to ensure that tonight’s Homecoming Dance is safe and enjoyable for all of our students who will be attending. We emphasize that inappropriate language and behavior will not be tolerated, and any student suspected of being under the influence will be denied entry and asked to leave. Tickets will not be for sale at the door, and there will be no re-entry if students leave the dance.

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You’ve probably seen the headlines about a youth trend called “Devious Licks” that challenged students to steal or damage items at school and post video of the act on TikTok.

Now Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán is warning parents about additional challenges that encourage behavior that could result in the school system seeking police intervention.

Durán said in an email to parents yesterday evening that the theft challenge in September “affected APS schools at every level – elementary through high school.” TikTok banned the trend on Sept. 15.

“We are seeking your help in reminding students of the consequences and serious nature of these challenges,” Durán wrote.

A statement from the superintendent on Friday linked to a WTOP report about additional monthly challenges, which encourage  “destructive and harmful acts at school.”

From WTOP:

  • October: Smack a staff member on the backside.
  • November: Kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school.
  • December: Deck the halls and show your b****.
  • January: Jab a breast.
  • February: Mess up school signs.
  • March: Make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria.
  • April: Grab some “eggs” (another theft challenge).
  • May: Ditch Day.
  • June: Flip off the front office.

“Any involvement including filming, assisting, and sharing videos could lead to school consequences,” Durán wrote. “Depending on the severity, engaging in the behaviors listed above could lead to law enforcement involvement.”

As described, the above challenges could rise to the level of criminal vandalism, indecent exposure or even sexual battery and assault.

This summer the Arlington School Board voted to remove sworn School Resource Officers from school grounds. The Arlington County Police Department and APS are now working on a new agreement for a “Youth Outreach Unit” that would “have meaningful conversations, answer questions, and build relationships.”

The Friday letter from the superintendent, encouraging parental vigilance, is below.

It has come to our attention that there is a list of social media challenges on TikTok similar to the most recent “Devious Licks” TikTok Challenge that encouraged kids to vandalize and steal random objects from their schools and post them in videos.

September’s challenge to vandalize bathrooms affected several APS schools, so we are sharing the list of upcoming challenges for your awareness and support. We ask that parents and guardians speak to your students about the serious nature of these challenges and help educate them that these are not appropriate for school or in the community.

These challenges could be disruptive and harmful to our school community and present a safety concern. Additionally, any involvement including filming, assisting, and sharing videos could lead to school consequences. Students are encouraged to contact their administrator if they are aware or witness any wrongdoing or harm against students, staff or property. Depending on the severity, engaging in the behaviors listed above could lead to law enforcement involvement.

The safety and security of our students, both physical and emotional, is our priority as we continue to create a learning environment that cultivates a culture of kindness, mutual respect, inclusivity and affirmation for our students and staff.

Thank you for your help as we all work together to be vigilant about our students’ online presence.

Sincerely,
Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent

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Morning Notes

Lockheed Downsizes Arlington Presence — “Lockheed Martin Corp. has re-upped its Crystal City presence, but for less space. The nation’s largest government contractor renewed its lease at 2121 Crystal Drive, but for only 180,000 square feet, downsizing from 220,000 square feet, according to CBRE. That 18% contraction accounts for one floor of the 12-story, 505,000-square-foot office building.” [Washington Business Journal]

More Office Interest in Ballston — “It’s masks on as Mark Witschorik readies for another tour at Ballston Exchange. The 783,000-square-foot office complex at the heart of the Arlington neighborhood was once the home of the National Science Foundation, but since it left in 2017, developer Jamestown has worked to bring new office users into the building… Witschorik, Jamestown’s senior vice president of asset management, says things are picking up.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Man Sentenced in Child Porn Case — “An Arlington man was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for production and receipt of child pornography… According to court documents, Abraham Razook, 43, admitted to sexually exploiting a prepubescent minor on multiple occasions and producing videos of this abuse.” [Dept. of Justice]

German Struggles at APS Abate — “Arlington school officials say they’re hoping to be back on track by the end of the month to address yet another crisis that popped up at the start of the school system – the lack of a teacher to instruct students in certain German-language classes. The educator who instructed the classes was among those who left the school system at the start of the school year, requiring some students taking German to receive instruction online as a stopgap measure. That provoked a furor among some impacted students and their parents.” [Sun Gazette]

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Morning Notes

Man Found Unconscious in Jail Cell — “A 58-year-old adult male has been transported to an area hospital for medical treatment after being found unconscious in his cell in the Arlington County Detention Facility. At approximately 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 5, 2021, the individual was found unconscious in his cell in the medical unit. Deputies and medical staff began immediate resuscitation efforts until the arrival of Arlington [County Fire Department] units. He was transported to Virginia Hospital Center for additional treatment and is in stable condition.” [Arlington County]

Expect More Pedestrians Near Schools — “On Wednesday, Oct. 6, Arlington Public Schools is taking part in Walk, Bike and Roll to School Day, an annual international celebration that encourages students to walk, bike or roll to school while teaching the health, environmental and community-building benefits of active transportation and safe routes to school.” [Arlington County]

New DCA Checkpoints Opening Soon — “Reagan National Airport’s new security checkpoints are set to open in about a month, in time for holiday travel. This will dramatically reshape the airport, putting most of what is now open space (Ben’s Chili Bowl) in the B/C terminals BEHIND security.” [NBC Washington, Twitter]

Honors for Fmr. W-L Volleyball Player — “Kate Sheire ’24 led the Bears offense, scoring 21 kills and blocking three shots to help bolster their defense… Sheire, who leads the Bears roster with 136.5 points over 11 games, added to her already-stellar rookie campaign with the performance against Yale. The Ivy League announced Monday that Sheire — whose 21 kills led all scorers in the first week of conference play – was selected as both the Ivy League Rookie of the Week and Ivy League Player of the Week Monday.” [Brown Daily Herald]

Historical Society Talk Planned — “In another sign of a rebound in the COVID era, the Arlington Historical Society is resuming in-person meetings. First up: An Oct. 14 gathering focused on the Syphax family. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at the Reinsch Library on the main campus of Marymount University… Historian and genealogist Steve Hammond will discuss the Syphax family, starting with those who were enslaved on the Arlington House plantation, continuing with the post-Civil War era and running through the modern day.” [Sun Gazette]

Football Trophy Returns to Yorktown — “After years of being elsewhere, a championship football trophy has returned to where it originated – in possession of the Yorktown High School football team. Back in 1976, when David Gebhardt was Yorktown’s first-year head football coach, the Patriots won the Great Falls District title. When Gebhardt moved to Jamestown, N.C., years later, that trophy unintentionally was taken along.” [Sun Gazette]

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Morning Notes

Inner Ear Records Its Last Track — “For the neighbors who first pushed for an arts district, it’s a cruel consequence of their idea — particularly because they wanted to complement, not end, Zientara’s longtime presence on South Oakland Street… ‘Losing a small, yet significant, arts-related business is antithetical to this vision,’ Robin Stombler, acting president of the Green Valley Civic Association, wrote in a letter about Inner Ear to county lawmakers earlier this year.” [Washington Post]

ACFD Rescues Worker in Ballston — “Our Technical Rescue Team responded for an injured individual located several stories below street level. Utilizing a crane on-site for access, the team packaged the individual into a stokes basket to bring topside to an ambulance for transport to an area hospital.” [Twitter]

APS Hires New Head of HR — “The Arlington School Board has appointed Dr. Dashan Turner as the new Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. Dr. Turner is currently the Superintendent of Colonial Beach Public Schools (CBPS). Dr. Turner brings 20 years of experience in education to Arlington Public Schools.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Route 29 Gets Its Own Print ‘Zine’ — “Arlington Arts and the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development are pleased to announce the release of a zine that brings the history, stories, and character of Langston Boulevard to life through illustrations by artist Liz Nugent. Created as part of Plan Langston Boulevard, the zine also celebrates the corridor’s new name after John M. Langston.” [Arlington County]

Covid Cases Falling in Va. — “The surge of the Delta variant of COVID-19 is noticeably waning in Northern Virginia and the rest of the state, according to new data from the Virginia Department of Health. Average new daily cases reported in Northern Virginia are down about 12% in the past week, to a seven-day average of 413, although that is still more than double the average on Oct. 1, 2020, before any vaccine was available. Statewide, the seven-day average of new daily cases has fallen 14% in the past week.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Seven Corners Ring Road? — There are few more self-evident testaments in Fairfax County to the shortsighted follies of 20th century land-use planning than Seven Corners… As part of a larger package of funding requests, the Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 14 to authorize transportation staff to seek $94.8 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for the first phase of a “ring” road that will eventually connect the west side of Route 7 to Wilson Boulevard.” [Tysons Reporter]

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Morning Notes

APS Staff Vax Update — “Overall, 67 percent of all staff and 91 percent of instructional staff are fully vaccinated, and we are following up with all those who have not responded to the survey. This data will be compiled and finalized in early October. Regular testing is required for staff who are unvaccinated or did not respond to the survey.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Dog Reunited With Rescuers — “Arlington County firefighters were reunited with a dog they rescued from under a vehicle in August, according to a post on the fire department’s official Twitter account. Fire units responded on the evening of Aug. 9 for the report of a crash with injuries. Arriving on the scene, fire personnel determined that a dog named Sonny was trapped under a vehicle.” [Patch]

Photos from Wakefield vs. W-L — “In an intra-Arlington rivalry game, Wakefield High School defeated Washington-Liberty, 7-0, in varsity football action at W-L on Sept. 24, 2021. It was the fifth straight Wakefield victory over W-L in football competition.” [Sun Gazette]

Masseuse Misses Commute — “The pandemic changed my commute. It changed everything, of course. First, my commute vanished entirely when I stopped working at a clinic in Arlington, Va., as a massage therapist and instead focused on freelance writing from my home office. No more biking to work… Commutes aren’t generally pined for, but I missed the transformation that happened from door to door.” [Washington Post]

Rowdy Suspect Tased on the Pike — “At approximately 1:00 p.m. on September 28, police were dispatched to the report of an individual screaming and throwing items inside a residential building. Upon arrival, officers heard loud banging from a residence and observed items thrown into the hallway. Officers made contact with the occupant who was acting erratically, disregarded verbal commands and charged towards the officers. A taser was deployed and the subject was taken into custody without incident.” [ACPD]

Yard Waste Issues in Fairfax Co. — “Fairfax County can’t hire enough trash/recycling drivers due to higher-paid jobs at Amazon and Fed Ex. The result – yard waste piling up on curbs.” [Annandale Blog, Twitter]

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Morning Notes

‘Innovation Studio’ Planned at HQ2 — “Amazon Web Services will open a new AWS Innovation Studio to collaborate on global solutions that leverage its cloud computing technologies to address issues such as housing insecurity, social justice, climate change, sustainability and health and education inequality. A first for AWS, the studio will launch at Amazon’s new HQ2 headquarters under construction in Arlington, Va.” [CRN]

First Responders Honor Fallen Marine — “ACPD and @ArlingtonVaFD paid our respects to USMC Sgt. Nicole Gee, who was tragically killed in action in Kabul, as her procession traveled through Arlington this evening. May we never forget her service and sacrifice.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Power Outage Near Rosslyn — “About 450 homes and businesses are without power in the Rosslyn area this morning. Initial reports suggest that residents heard a loud boom and firefighters subsequently found a very unlucky squirrel.” [Twitter]

Beyer Blasts GOP for Debt Limit Drama — “By filibustering legislation that would prevent a default, they are gambling with the full faith and credit of the United States. This is poor economic stewardship. The responsible course of action is to increase the debt ceiling to prevent a catastrophic default.” [Press Release]

APS Preparing for Collective Bargaining — “The push to give Arlington Public Schools’ staff collective-bargaining rights is expected to move another step forward in coming weeks. School Board members on Sept. 30 will review a draft list of budget priorities for next year to be handed to Superintendent Francisco Durán. Among the directives in the staff proposal: create a timeline for implementation of collective-bargaining, which until recently was banned for public-sector workers in local governments across Virginia.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s National Recovery Month — “September is celebrated as National Recovery Month with the purpose of educating communities about recovery from mental health, substance use, and co-occurring disorders; the effectiveness of treatment and recovery support services; and that recovery is possible. Arlington proudly stands alongside our recovery community.” [Arlington County]

Virginia Gubernatorial Debate — “Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe outlined sharply different pictures of Virginia and visions for its future Tuesday in the second and final debate of this year’s race for governor. Youngkin, a former business executive, described a state racked with crime and struggling under a dying economy, then pledged to fix it by slashing taxes and beefing up law enforcement. McAuliffe took credit for creating a booming economy when he served as governor from 2014 to 2018.” [Washington Post]

Tuesday Morning’s Big Boom — “A big boom was reported across a wide swath of Fairfax County from Reston and Herndon to McLean around 10:40 a.m. on Tuesday, leaving many residents confused regarding the possible source. The sound was likely caused by loud thunder that accompanied a storm that was crossing the area at the time.” [FFXnow]

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Arlington Public Schools has been named the second-best district in Virginia for the second year in a row.

The education research firm Niche ranked APS behind Falls Church City Public Schools in its new 2022 rankings of Virginia public schools. Prior to the 2021 rankings, APS enjoyed two years as the top public school system in the Commonwealth.

Niche, which specializes in K-12 school data and rankings, also ranked APS the best place to teach and the second safest school district in Virginia for 2022.

“I am proud of our staff, students and community for making APS one of Virginia’s best school systems, according to Niche’s ranking,” Superintendent Francisco Durán said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff who are devoted to serving the diverse needs of our students. Every accolade that we earn is the result of their talent and dedication to student success.”

Among individual high schools, Fairfax County Public Schools dominated the list, with seven of the top 10 in the state. In Arlington, Yorktown High School has climbed up the ranks while Wakefield High School lost ground and Washington-Liberty High School fell a few spots.

Between the 2019 Best Schools list and this year’s, Yorktown High School climbed from 21st to 13th, while Wakefield High School dropped from 44th to 55th, and Washington-Liberty High School slid from 13th to 17th.

Niche uses ratings from students, alumni and parents and data from the U.S. Department of Education and other sources to award overall grades and category-specific grades.

APS earned an “A+” in college preparation and an “A” in academics, teachers, clubs and activities, health and safety, sports and resources and facilities, according to APS’s Niche report card. It earned a “B” in administration and food.

Some users, described by Niche as seniors, gave APS high marks and constructive criticism. An H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program student, for instance, praised the school and the arts programming but said APS has to work on diversity at W-L and Yorktown.

This year, Wakefield ranked the second-most diverse public school in Virginia.

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Morning Notes

Shots Fired in Green Valley — “ACPD is investigating a shots fired incident in the 3200 block of 24th Street S. which occurred at approximately 8:14 p.m. No victims related to this incident have been located.” [ACPD, Twitter]

New Taco Ghost Kitchen — “Philadelphia-based Iron Chef alum Jose Garces is returning to DC with a delivery-only taco ghost kitchen, Buena Onda. The Baja-inspired taqueria, an offshoot of his brick-and-mortar Philly shop, will start running grilled fish tacos, guac, and “buena bowls” on Friday, September 24 from an Arlington kitchen.” [Washingtonian]

Another ACPD Departure — Adrienne Quigley, Arlington’s only female deputy police chief, retired from ACPD on Friday. Citing multiple sources, ARLnow previously reported that Quigley is expected to take a job at Amazon HQ2, amid an “exodus” from the department. [Twitter]

No APS Blue Ribbon Schools This Year — “One Fairfax County school was named among seven Virginia public schools honored as 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education, but the rest of Northern Virginia’s inner suburbs found themselves shut out… No Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church or Loudoun public schools made the grade this year, although one Prince William County public school – Mary G. Porter Traditional – was honored.” [Sun Gazette]

Officers Visit PEP Program — From ACPD: “Corporal Smithgall and Recruit Officer Divincenzo spoke with PEP Program students at the Arlington Career Center today and also had the opportunity to compete in a push-up challenge! PEP is a community based program for supported work experience, supported travel training, and independent living training.” [Facebook]

Bayou Bakery Owner Featured on CNBC — David Guas, owner of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse, was featured on CNBC Thursday night for his Community Spoon initiative, which provides meals to Afghan refugees. Guas is a Cuban-American, whose father fled Cuba in the 1960s. This isn’t the first time local business owner has provided food to those in need; he previously provided meals to families in need during the pandemic and supplied meals to National Guard personnel at the Capitol earlier this year. [CNBC]

De Ferranti on WAMU’s Politics Hour – Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti was on “The Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi” on Friday. In the 16 minute conversation, de Ferranti talked about the county’s new logo, schools, the shrinking police force, the newly-adapted bag tax, housing, and his hunger task force. He also fielded questions about the proposed Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, saying it was still premature to discuss, and the tightening Virginia governor’s race. The Board chair also revealed that he voted for Terry McAuliffe in the Democratic primary. [WAMU] 

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