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Morning Notes

Construction scaffolding in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Bye, Bye Bank Building — “A new residential development is on the boards for Columbia Pike. Marcus Partners filed plans late last week with Arlington County for a new 250-unit residential development at the site of the Bank of America office building at 3401 Columbia Pike. The six-story building will have ground floor retail, a central courtyard and 287 parking spaces on 2.5 below grade levels.” [UrbanTurf]

It’s Official: No Caucus — From Blue Virginia: “The @arlingtondems announce that their School Board Endorsement Vote process is canceled, as there is only one candidate (Bethany Zecher Sutton) left after the other withdrew.” [Twitter]

Rents Still Rising — “The median Arlington apartment rent in April was up 16.8 percent from a year before, the third highest growth rate among the nation’s 100 large urban areas, according to new data. The median monthly rental for an apartment in the county last month was $1,999 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,420 for two bedrooms, according to data reported by Apartment List.” [Sun Gazette]

Truck Crash Caught on Camera — From Dave Statter: “Just happened. 3rd crash in as many days on I-395S at Exit 8C/Rt 1. It appears the red car didn’t stop & no other cars struck. @VSPPIO has all lanes open.” [Twitter]

Protest Outside DEA HQ in Pentagon City — “I’m outside DEA headquarters in Arlington, where protests have gathered to draw attention to terminally ill patients’ rights to try experimental drugs like psilocybin.” [Twitter, The Hill]

WaPo Reporter Rappels Down Hotel — “On Thursday and Friday, about 80 people, including two local elected officials, a Washington Post reporter, and a member of the D.C. Divas women’s football team, dressed in full pads and uniform, rappelled down the side of the Crystal City Hilton to raise funds and awareness for New Hope Housing.” [Washington Post]

Boeing HQ May Draw More Companies — “Even without a sizable addition of jobs or expansion, Northern Virginia landing another major corporate headquarters has strategic ‘marketing value,’ Terry Clower, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, said in an interview. The presence of a headquarters attracts the attention of other corporations, as well as site-selection consultants who advise companies where to locate new facilities. ‘Nothing draws a crowd like a lot of people,’ Clower said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro: Ridership Rebounding — “Metro ridership is outpacing projections through the first three quarters of fiscal year 2022 by nearly 40 percent. Through March, ridership has exceeded the initial forecast by 28 million passenger trips as more people chose bus and rail for travel throughout the region. Metrobus leads the way, accounting for 60 percent of overall Metro ridership, compared to about 40 percent for rail.” [WMATA]

It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 68 and low of 48. Sunrise at 6:02 am and sunset at 8:11 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Arlington School Board candidate Brandon Clark (left) and the Clark family (right) (courtesy of Brandon Clark)

A candidate for the Arlington School Board has withdrawn his name from the Democratic endorsement process.

Brandon Clark, a teacher at Gunston Middle School, said he decided to remove himself from consideration this week so he could run independent of party affiliation. He realized the partisan process did not align with his beliefs, he said.

“The more I thought about it, the more I was like, wait, this shouldn’t be part of the process,” he told ARLnow. “Education shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

The caucus “represents a small microcosm of Arlington County,” Clark said. ‘It’s not up to the Arlington Democrats to decide who the School Board member’s going to be.”

The Arlington County Democratic Committee will now vote in June on whether to endorse Bethany Sutton, the only remaining candidate seeking the party’s endorsement, ACDC Chair Steve Baker said.

Clark had been steered in the direction of going through the Democratic Committee’s voting process when he decided to run in the otherwise nonpartisan election, he said.

“Because as a family, both of us being teachers, we don’t have a lot of disposable income to spend on a campaign, so I was told this is the only way you’re going to win,” he said. “It shouldn’t have this air of like, ‘this is the process where you win the race.’ No, the people need to decide and that happens on Election Day.”

Clark thanked the volunteers who began to lay the groundwork for the four-day caucus that will no longer take place.

James Vell Rives IV is also running without a party affiliation. Rives and Clark are the only two candidates who have qualified to be on the ballot so far, according to the Arlington elections office.

The Democratic endorsement process has been scrutinized for its overrepresentation of white, affluent Arlington residents, and discouraging participation in the general election while potentially making nonpartisan officials beholden to a political party, among other concerns. Calls for reform were ultimately defeated.

Clark said he hadn’t realized there were groups criticizing the caucus until he started going through the process.

“But I’m seeing now why these organizations have the grievances that they do,” he said. “In my opinion, it seems like a very insider kind of process.

This past weekend, before he pulled his name from endorsement consideration, he criticized local Democrats for selling a “Russian named vodka” at their Blue Victory Dinner, saying it “speaks to being out of touch on what our community might regard as tasteless and, although seemingly insignificant to others, [and] represents tacit support for Russia.”

He said as a teacher, he encourages his students to look at all sides of an issue to make well-informed decisions, so he didn’t think it was appropriate to align himself with a political party.

“In the future, I hope this process is more inclusive and more open and that there is a support for individuals who are trying to run,” Clark said.

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The Arlington School Board during its April 7, 2022 meeting (via Arlington Public Schools)

(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Arlington’s School Board race is starting to take shape.

With School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen’s seat up for grabs, a few hats have been tossed in the ring so far.

Wednesday marked the end of the filing date for the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s endorsement process, which has a few changes this year in light of calls for a broader reform that were ultimately defeated.

Two candidates are seeking the Democratic endorsement in the otherwise non-partisan November school board election. A four-day voting process to determine the endorsee will be held in June.

Bethany Sutton is hoping to get the endorsement over Brandon Clark, the first person to qualify to run for school board through the Voter Registration and Elections Office. And James Vell Rives IV has also qualified for the November ballot.

Sutton is a certified leadership coach, executive search consultant and a former PTA president. She has lived in Arlington for more than 20 years and has a background in governance, strategic planning, staff and leadership development, and nonprofit management, according to her profile in the ACDC announcement of candidates.

Sutton served on Randolph Elementary School’s PTA board for seven years, three of which she was president of the board. Since spring 2020, she has led the Randolph Food Pantry, a community-based volunteer effort to support families affected by the pandemic.

Bethany Sutton, who is running for School Board (via Arlington Democrats)

For her work at Randolph Elementary, she was awarded the APS Honored Citizen Award in 2021 and the Distinguished County Service Award in 2020 from Volunteer Arlington and the Leadership Center for Excellence.

She also serves on the Arlington County Food Security Task Force and is chair of the APS Advisory Council on Teaching and Learning, which she has been on since 2018.

“She has a passion for excellence in student learning and a deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” according to the ACDC writeup.

Sutton grew up in the Philadelphia area, attended college at the University of Mary Washington and graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She also completed a graduate program in leadership coaching at Georgetown University.

Arlington School Board candidate Brandon Clark (left) and the Clark family (right) (courtesy of Brandon Clark)

Clark, a Gunston Middle School teacher, says he wants to bring a needed employee perspective to the school board, while pushing to improve the school system’s communication and engagement efforts.

While Clark is seeking the Democratic endorsement, he expressed displeasure with the party over the weekend. He told ARLnow via email that he left ACDC’s Blue Victory Dinner, held at a Ballston hotel Saturday night, miffed at the choice of vodka offered given the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“I briefly attended an event hosted by Arlington Democrats as a school board candidate… I left early and before the event started, when I saw that Russian named vodka, originally started in Moscow, was being offered for purchase,” he wrote. “I am confused and appalled by this and would like to say that this is an oversight and greater symptom of a larger problem in Arlington politics.”

A day after the initial publication of this article, Clark clarified that the vodka issue was not the only reason he left the event early, while adding that it “speaks to being out of touch on what our community might regard as tasteless and, although seemingly insignificant to others, [and] represents tacit support for Russia.”

Rives, meanwhile, is not seeking the Democratic endorsement, and is running as an independent. He is a psychiatrist and serves as co-chair of Arlington Public Schools’ School Health Advisory Board.

Rives has lived in Fairlington with his wife Carmen since 2003, and their children attend Wakefield High School and Claremont Elementary.

As a physician with a background in mental health, he said he can bring a unique perspective to the board. He particularly wants to help as schools recover from the effects of the pandemic, keeping schools open so students can catch up on lost skills and ensuring the school system retains its teachers.

“Restarting has been bumpy,” he said. “I want to help get back on track.”

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Morning Notes

A cherry blossom with a few raindrops (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Two Local Spots on Best Bagel List — Arlington’s homegrown Brooklyn Bagel has ranked No. 4 on a list of the D.C. area’s best bagels, while Bethesda Bagel, which has an outpost in Rosslyn, ranked No. 1. [Washingtonian]

Dems Set School Board Caucus Rules — “The 2022 Arlington County Democratic Committee School Board caucus will be an in-person-only affair with the controversial party-loyalty oath retained, based on rules adopted by the party’s rank-and-file on April 6. Democrats will select their School Board endorsee during four days of voting in June, using the instant-runoff format that has been a familiar feature of Democratic caucuses in recent years.” [Sun Gazette]

Ukrainian Ambassador Lauds Local Donation — From County Board Chair Katie Cristol: “It was profoundly moving to have Ambassador Markarova join us as we send off pallets of emergency protective equipment and kit to Ukraine. With these supplies, we also send our solidarity and commitment to help our sister city and the Ukrainian people however we can.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Preservationists Push Pols for Protection — “The trigger for the discussion was the possibility that the circa-1949 Joyce Motors building in Clarendon could be torn down to make way for new development, even though it was one of just 10 commercial buildings, and just 23 properties overall, that were designated ‘Essential’ (the top tier) in the 2011 HRI. That 2011 document was the culmination of a study of 394 properties – garden apartments, shopping centers and commercial buildings – completed in 2009.” [Sun Gazette]

Va. Senators on Supreme Court Confirmation — From Sen. Mark Warner: “Justice is served! I voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson as our next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court because she’s qualified, brilliant, and honest. And for the first time in two centuries, the court will contain the voice of a Black woman.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington 9/11 5K Returns — “The Arlington Police, Fire, Sheriff and ECC 9/11 Memorial 5K is currently planning on having an in-person 20th Anniversary race on September 10, 2022. However, there is a possibility that some restrictions on runner capacity, social distancing measures and mask use may be in place in September due to COVID-19.” [Arlington 9/11 5K]

Fairlington 5K Returns — “After a 2 year pandemic hiatus, the 7th annual Fairlington 5K will take place on Saturday, May 7th. There is a new canine competitor entry this year! Here is the map route. The race will start at 8:30 AM.” [Twitter]

It’s Friday — A sunny morning, followed by a cloudy afternoon and possible rain later. High of 59 and low of 45. Sunrise at 6:43 am and sunset at 7:40 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Arlington School Board member Mary Kadera during the board’s Feb. 17, 2022 meeting (via Arlington Public Schools)

Mary Kadera says she’s had a change of heart about the Arlington’s Democratic party’s School Board endorsement caucus, which helped her to land a School Board seat.

Kadera, who said she initially voted to keep the process after careful study, wrote in a blog post on Monday that it’s time to listen to dissenting voices and try something else.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds a caucus to determine which School Board candidates are bona fide Democrats and should be considered for the party’s endorsement. It’s not a primary, since school board races in Virginia are nonpartisan, but the results are similar to one because losing candidates agree not to run in November.

It’s been criticized by the Arlington NAACP and the pandemic-era group Arlington Parents for Education for, among other reasons, effectively limiting participation by communities of color, confusing voters and limiting the range of qualified candidates.

Arlington Democrats debated in February whether to use the caucus this year. After a spirited discussion, members — including Kadera — voted overwhelmingly (117-22) to keep it.

Now, she says, the dissenting voices she heard made her realize “holding on to the Caucus comes at too great a cost.”

“[A]t its very heart, this question is about white people needing to cede and share power with people of color, and that doing so is not a zero-sum game,” she writes.

Many critics of the caucus who spoke in February were Black, including community activists Wilma Jones and Zakiya Worthey, an Arlington Public Schools parent representing a new group called Black Leaders of Arlington.

They said the caucus is a glaring exception to progressive Arlingtonians’ commitment to racial equity. They argue the majority of caucus voters come from heavily white areas of North Arlington and pick well-connected, establishment Democrats who don’t prioritize the students of color in APS who have fallen behind.

“It’s faux-progressive and surface level,” Worthey tells ARLnow. “A lot of Black advocates, when we’re fighting, we’re not fighting against Republicans — we’re fighting against so-called progressive Dems.”

Kadera credited Jones and Worthey for her change of heart.

“They reminded me that hearing and valuing the voices and lived experiences of people of color means that when many of them are telling me that I am perpetuating a system that does them harm, I need to prioritize that over any ‘what if’ scenarios that make me afraid to dismantle the system,” she said.

Caucus proponents, including current School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen, member Cristina Diaz-Torres, and former member Monique O’Grady, who is Black, posed those “what if” scenarios in their arguments for keeping the process. They and others said without it, the School Board is open to “Republican infiltration,” even in heavily Democratic Arlington.

Kadera conceded that this “very well could” happen, but it’s not for certain unless ACDC tests it out.

The local party says it is still open to suggestions for improving the process, the rules for which will be decided in mid-March and ratified in April.

“We are going to continue the community engagement and we’d love to hear from stakeholders and interested groups in the community who have ideas on how to make the process better,” ACDC Chair Steve Baker said during a meeting last night (Wednesday).

The caucus is slated for June with in-person voting at some public schools and likely a handful of other places that are in South Arlington or Metro-accessible. Voting last year was held electronically due to the pandemic and participation surpassed local records.

ACDC members will go door-to-door in under-represented precincts to inform people how they can participate.

Jones, Worthey and Arlington NAACP President Julius “J.D.” Spain, Sr. tell ARLnow that they are still formulating their next steps.

“We’re going to keep working,” Jones said.

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Arlington School Board at a meeting (file photo)

(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Arlington Democrats voted loud and clear: the School Board endorsement caucus process should stay. 

Members of the Arlington County Democratic Committee voted 117-22 to use the caucus process to select which School Board candidates to endorse during the general election. ACDC met last night (Wednesday) to hear both sides of the issue and the results were announced today (Thursday).

Now, ACDC has to establish rules for the 2022 process, informed by four listening sessions, last night’s debate and an internal review. 

“Education is a top priority for us and we support great public schools that provide children with the education and curriculum they need to succeed in life,” Arlington Democrats Chair Steve Baker said today in a statement. “Arlington Democrats will always be an ally and supporter in that effort and we want our process to be as open, inclusive and equitable as possible. We know it takes hard work to achieve real results but we’re ready and committed to that process.”

This vote applies only to using the process this year, and future votes can reprise the issue, Baker told ARLnow. A seat will open up next year following School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen’s resignation announcement.

Virginia school board races are nonpartisan, so Arlington Dems can only endorse candidates — not nominate them. As part of ACDC’s process, however, candidates agree in May not to run in the general election, making the end result similar to a primary.

This was the first time the committee voted on the use of the caucus, according to deputy chief Mike Hemminger, and it came after the Arlington Branch of the NAACP, the pro-open-schools group Arlington Parents for Education and a group of self-identified Democrats separately called on ACDC to end or significantly reform the process. 

“Last night, we heard genuine concerns regarding the equity of the endorsement process,” Hemminger said today in a statement. “Systemic inequities are present in any structural system. It is vital that Arlington Democrats partner with all community members to break down barriers to access and include these voices and perspectives in each of our processes.”

Arguments against the caucus include that whiter, wealthier North Arlington residents are over-represented in it, that it discourages broad election participation, discourages federal employees from running due to the Hatch Act, effectively determines who wins in November, and makes nonpartisan officials beholden to a political party. 

But the School Board is nonpartisan only on paper, according to some committee members. They said the caucus is the best means of ensuring Democrat values prevail in Arlington against the right-wing forces trying to influence Virginia school boards.

“Republicans have shown their hands,” said School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen. “In Richmond, they’re openly promoting a public school system that serves the haves better than the have nots. We Democrats cannot let them succeed.”

Without the caucus, she said, the board could not move forward “a progressive, Democrat agenda,” including removing School Resource Officers, supporting transgender students, removing Confederate names from buildings, adding world holidays to the school calendar, building green schools and approving equity policies, among other aims. 

School Board member Cristina Diaz-Torres and former member Monique O’Grady also offered their support.

“Conservatives who lost the White House are laser-focused on using their resources to target school board elections,” O’Grady said. “Virginia was a test case for this. It’s happening in other districts and there’s a thinly veiled attempt happening here in Arlington.” 

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The Arlington Branch of the NAACP levied sharp criticisms against the local Democratic party’s School Board endorsement caucus, which is up for debate next week.

On Wednesday at 7 p.m., the Arlington County Democratic Committee is set to consider the objections to its caucus and vote on whether and how to change this process. The vote will be just one month after new leadership took over ACDC.

In Virginia, all School Board races are nonpartisan, meaning parties like Arlington Dems can only endorse candidates, not nominate them as in a primary. But as part of the endorsement caucus, typically held in May, candidates agree not to run in the general election, making the end result similar to a primary.

Or, as the NAACP puts it, the caucus is a “shadow election overriding the democratic and regulated process.”

It argues that, months before the general election, the process influences who runs, how much they spend and how they campaign, who wins and whose votes matter.

“[H]olding a partisan caucus outside the general election schedule leads to voter confusion and thus undermines voter engagement, equitable voter representation, and candidate recruitment,” the group said in a letter to Arlington Dems President Steve Baker.

Part of the problem, the NAACP says, is that voters don’t understand the role of the caucus and will likely just pick the Democrat favored by the caucus when voting down-ballot at the polls.

“The partisan sample ballot and the ‘D’ designation of the endorsed candidate has the effect — in a county so heavily comprised of registered Democrats as Arlington — of rendering the official election in November predetermined by the prior shadow election of the partisan caucus,” the letter said. “Absent reform, the default winner of the proper democratic process always has been and presumably always will be the winner of the endorsement caucus.”

Defenders of the caucus say that’s the point.

“Many County residents lack the time to attend candidate debates or study candidates’ written policy positions and understandably look for a shortcut to winnow the field — the R or the D next to candidate names,” writes resident John Seymour, a precinct captain with Arlington Dems, in Blue Virginia.

Another issue is representation in terms of candidates and turnout, the NAACP says. Voting in the caucus heavily skews toward White Democrats living in North Arlington, meaning candidates with firm northern networks are more likely to run and receive support, according to the letter.

More from the NAACP:

[T]he 22207 zip code was consistently one of the highest represented areas in the caucus process, with almost one-third of the caucus votes (32%) in 2021; however, this zip code comprises only 14% of the total Arlington population and is 79% White. In contrast, the 22204 zip code is the most highly populated in Arlington (23%) and the most diverse (18% Black, 27% Hispanic, and 38% White), but disproportionately made up only 15% of the caucus vote in 2021.

… “If left to the insular implementation, the voting will continue to skew to benefit a specific geographic region in Arlington. It has for all of the years for which we have data and presumably the entirety of the endorsement caucus.”

Still, in recent years, voter participation in the caucus has trended upward, according to ACDC. Last May, 6,207 ballots were cast, exceeding the last county caucus record of 5,972 votes, set in 2017.

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Morning Notes

Rosslyn at sunset (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Dems to Discuss School Board Caucus — “Unsurprisingly, perhaps, into this climate of culture war skirmishes surrounding public education comes opposition to the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s long-standing caucus process and even opposition to Democratic endorsement of candidates for school boards seats… At its February meeting, Arlington Democrats will debate the issues raised by its critics and vote on whether and how to change its caucus and endorsement process.” [Blue Virginia]

Winter Outdoor Dining Guide — “Before the pandemic, we never imagined that al fresco dining season in Northern Virginia would stretch into the teeth of winter. And while the wave of the latest Omicron cases seems to have peaked (fingers crossed!), those who are cautious about Covid but still want to support local businesses might choose to eat outside in the fresh air. Here are 11 restaurants cranking up the heat on outdoor dining spaces, and adding fun elements like fire pits or tented igloos.” [Arlington Magazine]

Steep HQ2 Energy Offset Costs — “The cost for Amazon.com Inc. to offset carbon emissions at its PenPlace development and meet Arlington County’s energy expectations will run upward of $5 million, according to a study by the company’s Seattle consultant.” [Washington Business Journal]

Beyer Calls for Long Covid Data — “A pair of Democratic House members asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a letter Tuesday to release data on the number of Americans who suffer lingering symptoms of coronavirus infection, including breakdowns along race, gender and age… Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has sponsored legislation to fund studies of long covid, co-signed the letter with Pressley.” [Washington Post, U.S. House of Representatives]

More on Pentagon City Apartment Upgrades — “An existing 12-year-old apartment high-rise adjacent to what will be Amazon’s massive HQ2 campus, Metropolitan Park, in Arlington County, Virginia, has been acquired… and the investors plan a multimillion makeover fitting for HQ2’s panache. ‘We are going to make these apartments the coolest and most desirable homes on the park,’ said Steve Schwat, UIP founding principal.” [WTOP]

Two Crystal City Hotels Sold — “An Atlanta real estate investment manager has acquired a pair of Crystal City hotels a little more than a month after their former owner primed them for future redevelopment. Affiliates of Noble Investment Group paid a combined $64.3 million in mid-December for the 162-room Hampton Inn & Suites Reagan National Airport and the 248-room Hilton Garden Inn, according to Arlington County land records… There do not appear to be immediate changes planned for the hotels themselves, except for their names.” [Washington Business Journal]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 30. Sunrise at 7:18 a.m. and sunset at 5:23 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny, with a high near 33. [Weather.gov]

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A parent group that got its start advocating for a full return to school during the pandemic is calling on the Arlington County Democratic Committee to end its School Board caucus.

Arlington Parents for Education (APE), which has been vocal recently in its criticism of School Board leadership and Arlington Public Schools’ American Rescue Plan spending amid the coronavirus, says the caucus — most recently held in May, to determine who local Democrats endorse in the general election — discourages broad election participation and makes officials beholden to the political party.

“This ‘endorsement’ effectively decides the outcome of the general election during a little-known caucus in May, because the ACDC places the endorsee’s name on its coveted November sample ballot. To wit: every School Board member since 2003 has been endorsed by the ACDC,” APE said in a statement.

The group added that until this process ends, “the Arlington School Board will continue to put students’ needs last, move in lock-step, and avoid even voting on issues that may be unpalatable to the caucus-voting-minority within the party.”

In Virginia, all School Board races are nonpartisan, meaning parties like Arlington Dems can only endorse candidates, not nominate them as in a primary. But as part of the endorsement caucus, candidates agree not to run in the general election, making the end result similar to a primary.

In a statement, ACDC Chair Jill Caiazzo said the group has the same right as any private organization to support candidates for elected office.

“Arlington Democrats fights every year to elect candidates who will advance Democratic policy priorities at all levels of government, including local races,” she said. “Voters need look no further than the recent alt-right fracas at a Loudoun School Board meeting to understand the importance of Democratic leadership in our schools at this time. Arlington Democrats choose our endorsed candidates for this critical leadership position using the most robust endorsement process of any organization in Arlington, with record-breaking participation in each of the past two years.”

This year, the caucus was held to decide who Democrats will endorse during the Nov. 2 general election to fill a seat held by School Board member Monique O’Grady, who’s not seeking a new term. The 2021 caucus, in which ACDC endorsed former educator Mary Kadera, had in-person and online voting options due to the pandemic, and brought in 6,207 ballots, setting a local record. The lockdown-era mail-in caucus in 2020 brought in 5,700 votes.

For the parent group, that turnout is low, even if record-breaking.

“This means that a School Board seat for a 25,000+ student school system in a county of 233,000 is decided by just 2.5% of the population, and in most years it is even lower,” APE said. “We believe broad participation and civic engagement are cornerstones of democracy.”

The group pointed to a list of self-identified Democrats who also want to see the caucus abandoned, including Parent-Teacher Association members, local NAACP members and former School Board candidates Symone Walker and Miranda Turner.

This spring, Kadera and Turner also critiqued the caucus during a candidate dialogue hosted by the Arlington NAACP.

“With all due respect to Arlington Dems, I’d like them to see them be able to endorse a candidate in the normal way other community organizations do, without running a caucus that can artificially constrain the participation of some people,” Kadera said.

Turner agreed, saying the process — which happens in the spring — confuses people and generates low turnout.

“I think it does tend to discourage folks from voting who would otherwise be very interested in voting for a school board candidate,” she said. “It is in fact a nonpartisan race, and I do think it might be better for the school system as a whole to treat it as such.”

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Morning Notes

Arlington House’s Hidden History — “On Tuesday, the historic mansion in Arlington National Cemetery reopens after a renovation that has recaptured the glory of the house, along with clues to the secret lives of the enslaved Black people who were the main occupants of the land where it stood.” [Washington Post, NBC 4]

Developer Looks to Expand in Arlington — “One of JBG Smith Properties’ top executives handling the company’s massive Arlington portfolio — and its relationship with Amazon.com Inc. — has jumped to another developer. Longtime JBG Smith Executive Vice President Andy Van Horn made the move to Dweck Properties on May 17… he aims to transform Dweck from a small family company with a focus on apartment management to an active developer of properties in National Landing,” [Washington Business Journal]

Smash and Grab Theft in Pentagon City — “At approximately 6:57 p.m. on June 5, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that the two male suspects entered the business, smashed the glass display cases containing merchandise, stole several items and fled the scene in a waiting vehicle.” [ACPD]

County Board Resumes In-Person Meetings — “After more than a year participating in meetings largely from their own rec rooms or similar spaces, Arlington County Board members will be back on the dais later this month. ‘The board is looking forward to holding board meetings and interacting with the community in-person safely and responsibly,’ County Board Chairman Matt de Ferranti told the Sun Gazette.” [Sun Gazette]

Baby Deer Found Near Fire Station — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “This tiny (and we really mean tiny) fawn was found in the parking lot of a local fire station. Due to his location and condition, our officers knew they had to step in and help this little guy. He is now safe and sound with a local wildlife rehabber!” [Twitter]

GOP Questions Dem Caucus — “A key leader of the Arlington County Republican Committee last week mused publicly whether the powers-that-be of the Arlington County Democratic Committee put their thumbs on the scale to help a School Board candidate across the finish line. The Democratic leadership, in response, said the GOP attack line is based on a faulty supposition.” [Sun Gazette]

Masks Still Required Inside APS Buildings — “Fully vaccinated individuals may now remove their masks when outside on school grounds and are exempt from quarantine if identified in contact tracing. Masks are required for everyone while inside our facilities and schools. These measures are subject to change as we anticipate additional revised guidance for schools prior to the start of the new school year.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Man Clinging to Side of Overpass Stops Traffic — “I-66 and a portion of N. Glebe Road [are] currently blocked due to a man who was hanging off the side of the overpass. The man is now in police custody and the roads are reopening.” [Twitter]

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Arlington County’s form of government has largely stayed the same since 1930. Now, a local civic organization is inviting Arlingtonians to consider possible reforms.

The Arlington County Civic Federation, a nonprofit that provides a forum for about 90 civic groups to discuss community topics, is holding a series of Zoom meetings to discuss reforms, from changing the number of County Board members and their term limits to moving to ward-based Board representation to using ranked-choice voting.

“We are excited to engage in this important work of exploring ways to make our already well-functioning government even better and more representative of the communities it serves,” said Chris Wimbush, who chairs the subgroup looking into these changes.

That subgroup is the Task Force in Governance and Election Reform (TiGER), which was formed to look into implementing ranked-choice voting and other electoral reforms. CivFed launched the group after the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation allowing ranked-choice voting in local elections.

The committee’s deep dive includes these discussions, which kicked off May 17 and will continue every Monday through July, except Memorial Day. These meetings will evaluate the current state of Arlington elections, its form of government and public input structures, as well as models for reform.

“Arlington citizens can expect that the TiGER will, over the next year, conduct public fora and meetings regarding the current state of Arlington’s form of government and electoral system,” according to a press release. “TiGER will regularly report to the Arlington County Board, the Arlington School Board, community and civic groups, and the CivFed membership.”

The subgroup is also tasked with improving representation on the County Board and evaluating district representation rather than county-wide board elections. Already, the discussions have drawn people who want to see changes.

“I think in Arlington we’re so heavily Democratic,” attendee Douglas MacIvor said during the first meeting. “I like the district concept in order to get… different communities represented, but then I would worry that each district would end up becoming more polarized if we don’t have some mechanism to try to push towards more moderation from those candidates.”

Another meeting attendee, Michael Beer, said Arlington is diverse in ethnicity, gender and age but “where we’re falling short substantially is in competitive races.”

Ranked-choice voting, the main reason why TiGER was formed, is one of the biggest changes being discussed. People would rank their top County Board and School Board candidates and in cascading series of rounds the candidate with the fewest number of votes would be eliminated until a winner is selected.

Proponents say it can help more minorities get elected and reduce the impact of “spoiler” candidates who “siphon” votes away from leading ones. Still, some communities have repealed the election format after adopting it.

George Mason University’s Mark Rozell, the dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government, told ARLnow that ranked-choice voting can help more centrist candidates but not always.

“I give the edge to candidates who have broader rather than intensive factional support,” Rozell said about the people who benefit from instant runoffs.

Ranked-choice voting has already been tested in Arlington. Last year, the Arlington County Democratic caucus used it, resulting in Takis Karantonis leapfrogging to victory in the third round to capture the party’s County Board nomination. He went on to win a seat on the board last July.

This change would require the County Board to pass an ordinance but local officials are still waiting on more state guidance. Gretchen Reinemeyer, the county’s general registrar, said guidelines could be discussed in June by the Virginia State Board of Elections.

One TiGER member, Chanda Choun, is stepping aside while he challenges Karantonis in his bid for the County Board.

It’s not just civically-involved residents who have argued for changes to the way Arlington is governed. Longtime former Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette said shortly before his retirement that he thinks Arlington’s form of government should be changed from that of a county, governed by an elected County Board and managed by an unelected County Manager, to that of a city, with an elected mayor and city council.

In 2010, an attempt to change Arlington’s form of government, to one in which County Board members are elected by districts rather than at-large, failed to gather enough valid petition signatures.

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