Of the eight people who have died in the Arlington County jail in eight years, five appear to have been homeless, according to court records.
Most recently, Abonesh Woldegeorges, a 73-year-old Black woman with no fixed address, died in the detention center on Sunday morning.
She was found at Dulles International Airport four times between 2019 and 2023 and then, this month, at Reagan National Airport, where she was arrested by airport police and sent to Arlington’s jail, the Washington Post reported. Although eventually granted bond, Woldegeorges remained in jail so she could be taken to Loudoun County for a hearing related to her Dulles charges.
Her case is not unique. Her death, however, returns the jail to the spotlight after previous inmate deaths generated a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit and a civil rights investigation by the Dept. of Justice, as well as a slate of changes by the Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the lockup.
Over the past year and a half it changed medical providers, purchased biometric sensors for select inmates and made other protocol changes. All of this occurred amid changing leadership: Beth Arthur retired before the end of her term and appointed as interim sheriff her Chief Deputy, Jose Quiroz.
Quiroz campaigned on improving inmate well-being and, after winning the Democratic primary, is the sole candidate for Sheriff on the November ballot.
“Clearly, changing to a new medical contractor didn’t change anything,” says Michael Hemminger, president of the Arlington NAACP branch, which requested the federal inquiry he says is ongoing. “What level of care do these human beings deserve? Is it okay to continue outsourcing to a for-profit provider?”
A holding place for people without homes and with mental disorders
Court records indicate three other deceased inmates, dating back to 2015, had no address listed or their housing situation was fluid, with an address that varied by the year of their offense. A fourth the Washington Post reported was homeless and suffering from alcoholism.
Of this group, Paul Thompson (died 2022), Clyde Spencer (died 2021) and Edward Straughn (died 2015) were in jail on trespassing or public intoxication charges. Anthony Gordon (died 2015) had been convicted of assault and battery of a family member and was sentenced to five years.
The remaining inmates who have died were listed as D.C. or Maryland residents. This includes D.C. resident Darryl Becton, whose family sued Arlington County for wrongful death for $10 million and were awarded $1.3 million about three weeks ago, according to Hemminger.
That a majority of deceased inmates did not have stable housing comes as no surprise to Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood. He says the vast majority of inmates are indigent and his office has about a dozen clients right now with airport trespassing charges, specifically.
“People who have homes to go to never have to trespass. People who have money almost never steal. People who are urinating in public — everyone I know would rather have a place to go inside,” he said.
He added that more than half of jail inmates are also taking mental health medication. Statistics from the 2023 fiscal year indicate that psychotropic drugs were prescribed 1,582 times across 2,764 total commitments at Arlington’s jail. Other signs of elevated mental health issues inside the jail include the 1,102 inmates assigned a mental health alert.
That the jail has a large population of unhoused inmates with mental health disorders is both a funding issue and the result of a disconnect among the people and agencies reporting and arresting people for trespassing, he said.
“People don’t think about the social conditions that lead to this,” Haywood said. “It’s just a combination of a lot of issues that no one really wants to confront because they’re complicated and require a lot of resources.”
Arlington County Board vice-chair Christian Dorsey says he will not seek reelection next year.
He released the following statement to ARLnow this morning.
Now that the County Board has concluded its meetings for 2022, I am ready to turn my attention to 2023 and have decided that I will not seek re-election to the County Board.
It has been my distinct honor to have represented and served this community as a Board Member since 2016. Together, we have navigated tough times and advanced key priorities and initiatives that have made Arlington stronger, and I look forward to continuing that work in the year ahead while welcoming new leaders for 2024 and beyond.
Dorsey, the Board’s lone Black member, declined to answer additional questions about his decision “at this time.”
“We can wait a bit on the reflections,” he said. “Much work still to do.”
First elected in 2015 — along with Board Chair Katie Cristol, who is also not seeking reelection — Dorsey’s tenure on the Board was marred by a messy personal bankruptcy, tax filing and payment problems, and his resignation from the WMATA board following campaign finance ethics concerns.
His official county biography lists some of his accomplishments during his time on the Board.
During his tenure as Chair, Mr. Dorsey guided the Board’s adoption of: the Vision Zero transportation safety plan, the update to the Public Spaces Master Plan, the update to the Community Energy Plan, the renaming of Route 1 to Richmond Highway, the economic performance agreement and land use entitlements for Amazon’s headquarters in Arlington, principles of collaboration with the City of Alexandria on joint efforts to ensure inclusive growth with expected economic development, and an Equity Resolution that detailed the scope of work in Arlington’s mission to realize racial and social equity.
Christian is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), where he has represented Arlington since 2016. Previously, Mr. Dorsey served as Arlington’s Member on the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) in 2019 and 2021. Additionally, Christian served as a Principal Member of the Board of Directors for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, aka Metro, and as a Commissioner on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission from 2016-2020.
In 2022, Christian is serving as the County Board liaison to the Civilian Oversight Board, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Human Rights Commission, the Neighborhood Complete Streets Commission, the Sports Commission and Aquatics Committee, the Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission, the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center, the Clarendon Alliance, the Arlington County Fair Board, and the Rosslyn BID. Christian is also Co-Chair of the County Board’s Audit Committee.
Outside of public service, Mr. Dorsey engages as a policy and communications consultant supporting progressive organizations in realizing their missions. Prior to joining the Board, Christian was a senior leader at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that promotes economic policies that foster broadly shared prosperity.
Dorsey’s decision sets up a Democratic primary in June for two open Board seats. The primary will, for the first time in an Arlington County-run election, feature ranked choice voting.
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) A major rally is being planned for later this week in front of the county government headquarters, in a show of solidarity with recently-unionized Starbucks employees.
The president of the AFL-CIO and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) are both expected to attend, among others.
The rally is one of ten across the county, organized as part of a National Day of Action by Starbucks Workers United. It’s set for this Friday, Dec. 9, at 5 p.m. outside of the Bozman Government Center at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.
Organizers say Liz Shuler the president of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the country, will be there and speaking. Plus, a number of state and local elected officials are planning to attend, including Beyer, State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D- 49).
Several County Board members are also expected to attend, including Christian Dorsey, Matt de Ferranti, and Takis Karantonis.
Speeches are planned from Shuler, Beyer, and several regional union leaders — including Arlington and Fairfax County teachers union presidents, who will say they will be rejecting Starbucks gift cards as holiday presents for this year in protest.
THIS FRIDAY (12/9): Stand up against Starbucks Corporate bullies at the @SBWorkersUnited Solidarity rally at the Bozman Government Center Plaza in Arlington, VA at 5pm! Pizza party afterwards at Fireworks Pizza! #SolidarityIsBrewing
RSVP: https://t.co/lzpahW0ABE pic.twitter.com/91kQEjaFZs
— Metro DC DSA Labor Working Group (@mdcdsa_labor) December 5, 2022
This “Day of Action” is also meant to ask Starbucks to stop “bullying” unionized employees and to highlight its workers’ right to organize.
“The purpose of the Day of Action is for the entire community to tell Starbucks to stop its union-busting and respect its workers’ right to organize,” says a press release.
Dec. 9 marks the one-year anniversary of the first Starbucks union election victory in Buffalo, New York. Since then more than 260 stores have voted to unionize, involving more than 7,000 workers.
Over the last year, the coffee behemoth has been hit with hundreds of unfair labor practice charges, including retaliatory firings, closing union stores, and withholding benefits from employees. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is investigating more than 300 of these accusations.
On Nov. 9, Starbucks employees at the Courthouse Plaza location voted to unionize and join Starbucks Workers United. It was the second D.C.-area Starbucks to do so. Union members told ARLnow at the time they were seeking better pay, more consistent hours, and uniformly enforced rules and regulations.
Employees went on strike shortly thereafter.
“Starbucks has been dragging its feet coming to the negotiation table,” employee and union member Sam Dukore said at the time. “And even when they do, their lawyers stand up after like a minute and a half or so and just leave. And that is not negotiating in good faith.”
Since the strike several weeks ago, “the company is still not coming to the bargaining table” a union spokesperson told ARLnow.
Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol does not plan to run for reelection in 2023.
She released the following statement about her decision.
I plan to conclude my service on the Board after two terms for a number of reasons. Among the most important is the same reason I decided to run in the first place: Arlington is stronger when the full community is represented, and it’s time to make room for new perspectives.
In 2015, I argued that representation of the County’s growing plurality — under 35, renter (or in my case then, very recent renter and new homeowner), resident of our urban corridors — would benefit everyone. I believe that many of our accomplishments over the past eight years have borne that out. Young professional talent has been a key asset in Arlington’s major economic development achievements like landing Amazon’s HQ2, for instance. Major expansions in our supply of childcare for families have significantly improved our whole community’s resiliency. Having transit riders represent Arlington on, and chair, regional bodies as we achieved landmark infrastructure investments (in VRE, in the Long Bridge expansion, in the historic Metro capital funding agreement) has helped knit our whole region closer together and has elevated the County’s role in that region.
Eight years on, there’s a new generation that deserves its own chance to be heard. I’ve also had many conversations with community members over the past two years about race, equity and power in Arlington. For me, that’s highlighted that “stage of life” isn’t the only demographic experience that makes residents feel under- or unrepresented in decision-making in the County.
It’s of course up to the voters to determine who will serve next. But in the same way that Arlington voters took a chance and gave me an opportunity in 2015, I want to make space for a new perspective on the County Board now. I really do believe we’ll all benefit when we’re all represented.
Dorsey did not tip his hand when reached for comment.
“I have no announcement to make at this time,” he told ARLnow.
A proposed bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians between Crystal City and the Southwest Waterfront area of D.C. has received $20 million in federal funding to move forward.
When complete, the 16-foot-wide shared-use path will connect Long Bridge Park and East and West Potomac parks via the Mount Vernon Trail.
On the Virginia side, the bridge will be located behind the Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center (333 Long Bridge Drive), which opened last year. It will eventually provide a connection to the expanded and relocated Virginia Railway Express (VRE) station set to open in 2024.
Several local elected officials, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey and Alexandria Vice-Mayor Amy Jackson, gathered this morning (Friday) at the aquatics center to hold an oversized $20 million check and celebrate the project, which could be completed by 2030.
“This is going to be a major gateway for Arlington that allows residents and visitors who walk, bike or roll to come to this beautiful facility and the environs around Long Bridge Park, but then be able to move on to Crystal City and National Landing and points beyond via the Mount Vernon Trail and the robust bicycle infrastructure that we are developing that will go all the way through to the City of Alexandria,” Dorsey said. “This helps meet Arlington and our region’s goals of moving more people with less automobile traffic. ”
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) secured the funding from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, which was included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Warner co-wrote.
“I am thrilled to announce this new funding for the Long Bridge Pedestrian Crossing project. This $20 million investment was made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law I was proud to help write and will help the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VRPA) complete a new span across the Potomac dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians,” Warner said in a statement. “This project is a key component of the broader effort to fix a major rail chokepoint and expand commuter and passenger service over the Potomac River.”
The shared-use bridge serves as environmental mitigation for the Long Bridge Project to add a two-track rail bridge next to the existing two-track 117-year-old Long Bridge, owned by the freight railroad company CSX Transportation. Once completed, the expanded railway is projected to bring an annual $6 billion in benefits to the region by 2040, according to a press release.
“We would never even be in the running [for funding for this project] if it weren’t for the infrastructure bill,” Warner told reporters after the event. “That’s got $58 billion additional dollars for passenger rail. We intend to make sure the District and Virginia get its share and it’s our hope the passenger rail bridge would open before the end of the decade.”
The goal of the $2 billion Long Bridge Project, discussions for which began in 2010, is to alleviate rail congestion on the existing Long Bridge. Annually, up to 1.3 million Amtrak passengers and 4.5 million VRE commuters traverse the bridge, in addition to CSX freight trains, according to a project website.
Officials say that the aging bridge is heavily utilized and frequently experiences bottlenecks, and — as if to prove their point — a freight train and an Amtrak train sped by within five minutes of each other during the media event.
Meanwhile, pedestrians and cyclists looking to cross the Potomac at this point have to navigate crossings shared with vehicles and maneuver a 10-foot-wide shared-use path on the 14th Street Bridge.
The lead agency on the project will be the VPRA, which the Virginia General Assembly created in 2020 to “promote, sustain and expand the availability of passenger and commuter rail service in the Commonwealth,” said VPRA Executive Director DJ Stadtler.
While elected officials heralded the new pathway over the Potomac, pedestrians and bicyclists in attendance told ARLnow that the 16-foot bridge is still too narrow to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians alike.
Stadtler told ARLnow that VPRA’s initial 10% complete designs proposed a 14-foot bridge, but in response to feedback, is widening it to 16 feet for the 30% complete designs. The agency has “considered all options” and has determined the current proposal is an appropriate width, he added.
There will be opportunities for the public to weigh in next spring.
During the event, Dorsey joked about the bridge width.
“What did you say, a 20-foot bridge?” he said, to cheers from cyclists in attendance.
In a crowded Bozman Government Center on Saturday morning, one person urged the Arlington County Board to move forward with Missing Middle housing while another critiqued the push for county-wide zoning changes.
But Board members had only to read the room — and the signs people brought — to see a sea of residents who were as divided into pro- and anti-Missing Middle camps that day as they were during a raucous meeting this June.
“We owe it to our larger community to let more people live here through smaller multiplexes, yes, but especially through denser affordable apartment housing. Doing otherwise is environmentally unsustainable — and it’s exclusionary,” said Susan English. “I’ve lived in a pleasant tear-down in a nice neighborhood for 40 years, but I hope when I leave my house will be replaced with at least a duplex.”
Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement, the only candidate opposed to the Missing Middle upzoning proposal, told those attending and watching the meeting that she would “debunk some myths about it.”
Reciting excerpts of a speech she has presented during the Arlington County Civic Federation and Chamber of Commerce candidate fora, Clement argued that Missing Middle will not add to the county’s stock of 3-bedroom, and will reduce Arlington’s tree canopy, and will not increase home-buying opportunities for people of color — though the latter is an assertion with which the local NAACP disagrees.
Clement suggested alternatives such as office-to-residential conversions.
Board Chair Katie Cristol broke through the whooping and hollering that followed Clement’s comments, saying, “Alright, thank you ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to continue hearing from neighbors.”
But she later thanked attendees for respecting the rules for addressing the Board, which include restrictions on how many people can speak on a given matter not otherwise on the Board’s agenda.
“I also just want to give a sincere thanks to all who’ve come who respected our one-speaker-per-topic rule, helping us hear from more neighbors,” she said.
During the June meeting, some attendees shouted at Cristol when she cut off another speaker for violating the rule. The Board allows one speaker per topic, with opposing views on the same topic considered two separate topics.
Booing, which followed a speech this summer by a member of pro-density group YIMBYs of Northern Virginia, was also absent this time around. But there was plenty of applause — for every speaker, despite the range of topics, from the taxes nonprofits pay to climate change.
Resident Dima Hakura, who has spoken at length in meetings and with the Board about the Courthouse West General Land Use Plan, took the podium to urge the County Board to listen to its constituents, not “patronize us.” The room erupted in cheers after she finished her speech.
We need a leadership that builds consensus among us and unites us. A leadership that not only respects our opinions and values them, but also taps into them. One that considers our thoughts and makes constructive use of them to evolve the solutions possible… Interestingly, Arlington was always known for that, but somehow, somewhere we lost our way and we need to find it again.
… When I told people I was coming to speak before you today, the reaction was: “Why bother?” or, “It’s not going to make an iota of difference,” or, “Their mind is already made up. They have an agenda they want to push.” Regardless, I am hoping differently.
In addition to approving a new county budget Tuesday night, the Arlington County Board also approved a $20,000 pay raise for each of its members.
Board Chair Katie Cristol said she’s uncomfortable voting on her own salary, but nonetheless in the approved budget her salary as this year’s Chair will increase from $63,413 to $83,413.
“I think what ultimately has persuaded me to support this idea is sort of depersonalizing it and the recognition that it’s actually not about my salary, it’s about a Board member’s salary,” she said.
Cristol and Board member Libby Garvey pointed out that the increases make the positions more competitive. Higher salaries — the salary for a Board member is increasing from $57,648 to $77,648 — will make members less dependent on high-earning spouses or other sources of supplemental income like consulting jobs.
“I’ve talked to far too many people who, I think, would make great County Board members and they tell me, ‘I simply can’t afford to do it,'” Garvey said. “So I’m hoping this is going to be a step in the right direction to make it, I think, actually more democratic, better representation.”
The set salaries remain below the cap set by the Board in 2019 — $95,734 for the Chair and $89,851 for members.
The Board can only raise the salary cap in the year that two board members are up for reelection, which will next happen in 2023, when Cristol and Christian Dorsey are up for reelection.
After a community survey a few years ago on the compensation of Board members, the Board came to the general consensus that it would be appropriate for members to earn a salary equivalent to the area median income for a one-member household, Cristol said. The pay raise just approved will not reach that level, but will get closer to it.
“I believe that was the benchmark, the idea there being that Board members ought to make not more than the average Arlingtonian, but not less either,” she said. “So this would get us I think about half of the way there. I believe this roughly shakes out to about a Board member making 80% of the area median income for a household of one.”
De Ferranti said that a seat on the Board, while originally intended as a part-time position, is effectively a full-time job and ought to be paid as such.
“My view is that for a locality that is approaching 240,000 people, the job of being a Board member is a full-time job,” he said. “There’s been some analysis in the past as to the number of hours, sometimes it’s 50 or 60 hours per week and sometimes it’s 35 but I think this is a full-time job.”
Member Takis Karantonis said he’s struggled with juggling the amount of work that comes with the County Board and his other work. He has had to excuse himself from certain votes, which can be uncomfortable, he said.
“This is really not helpful. It is not helpful for the Board as a whole, it is not helpful for the way this body works, it is not helpful for anybody,” he said.
Dorsey said he didn’t want any part of this issue when it came up while he was chair in 2019 — he was in the midst of personal financial troubles that would later lead to a bankruptcy filing and accusations of unethical behavior related to political donations. He said he supports the raise now because public servants should be valued for their work.
Dorsey thanked Garvey for “pressing the cause.”
“When we do the public’s business, we cannot do that effectively without really good public servants and, you know, for far too long, public servants compared to their private sector counterparts make sacrifices that often go underappreciated,” he said.
The pay raise will take effect with the county’s new Fiscal Year 2023 budget on July 1.
Local officials are concerned that major work on the Yellow Line, starting in September, will cause significant problems — and are asking Metro to come up with solutions.
Last week, WMATA announced that the Yellow Line tunnel and bridge crossing the Potomac will shut down starting September 10 for up to eight months due to much-needed rehab work.
Additionally, for six weeks, rail service south of National Airport will also be shut down to continue work on the new Potomac Yard station.
The shutdown announcements were not unexpected. About a year ago Metro said its plan was to fast track the work, warning that the bridge was “beyond its useful life.” In October, Metro said riders should expect the shutdown to happen by fall 2022. At the time, though, timelines and the duration of the shutdown wasn’t entirely clear.
Now, we know that Metro is expecting seven to eight months of severely-reduced service. The Yellow Line won’t return to full operations until at least April or May 2023.
While Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) concedes that the work is very necessary, he’s concerned the long shutdown will cause major delays and disruptions for local commuters, as he wrote in a statement last week.
Announcements of the upcoming completion and opening of the Potomac Yard station and the Silver Line Extension are both good news for the region, and will bring substantial benefits to Northern Virginia.
The construction work needed to finish the Potomac Yard station and the closure of the Yellow Line tunnel over the Potomac for safety maintenance will result in major commute disruptions for many of my constituents beginning in September. I am especially concerned for those who commute through the Huntington and Eisenhower Ave. stations, and increased bus service from WMATA and its regional partners will be key to minimizing the impacts on these riders. I urge WMATA to maximize Blue Line service to the extent possible to help compensate for increased traffic as Yellow Line riders shift their commutes during this work.
Capital projects and infrastructure maintenance are important to provide safe, reliable service to the region, but especially given the recent disruptions from the pandemic and 7000 series car issues, it is vital that WMATA do everything possible to look out for riders affected by this work.
Christian Dorsey, County Board Vice-Chair and former WMATA board member, said in a statement to ARLnow that he’s asking WMATA for solutions, in particular requesting the agency to work with Arlington Transit to provide bus alternatives to train service.
WMATA’s closure of the Yellow Line between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations in September reflects both valuable and necessary investments in our transportation infrastructure and a tremendous disruption to transit riders. The shutdown will come at a most unfortunate time as our region attempts to return to our pre pandemic normal. WMATA must increase Blue Line service to the greatest extent possible, but even then, the capacity limitations of the Rosslyn crossing mean that the transit experience to the Pentagon, our National Landing activity centers, and to National Airport will be degraded. To mitigate these impacts, we need WMATA to provide sufficient increases in bus service crossing the Potomac and to work with transit providers like Arlington Transit (ART) to offer comparable alternatives to the vital service the Yellow Line provides.
Both Metro and Arlington Transit tell ARLnow that they are working together to “develop travel alternatives,” but specific plans will not be announced until the Yellow Line construction plans are finalized.
More information isn’t expected until “early summer,” according to Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.
In 2021, an average of more than 10,000 riders used one of the four Arlington Yellow Line stations (Reagan National Airport, Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Pentagon) on a daily basis, according to Metro statistics.
Arlington’s neighbor Alexandria is also preparing for the shutdowns, particularly as it relates to the new Potomac Yard station on the Yellow Line. Service is supposed to start in the fall, but Metro’s announcement noted that work to connect the tracks to the rest of the rail system will take until the end of October.
The County Board and the community have a small mountain of applications to Arlington’s new police oversight board to sift through.
Between October and December of last year, more than 100 people applied to sit on the county’s Community Oversight Board, according to Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey.
The County Board created the group last summer to receive complaints of police misconduct. Following the recommendations of the Police Practices Group — convened after 2020’s summer of nationwide racial justice protests — the Board endowed the COB with the power to subpoena for evidence or witnesses if the police department withholds them.
Now, the County Board and a panel of community members have the monumental task of winnowing down the 100 applicants to nine candidates — seven voting and two non-voting members — by mid-March.
“On behalf of all of us, I think we can say thank you, thank you for the tremendous outpouring of interest and support for this initiative in Arlington,” said Dorsey, who is a liaison to the COB along with Board member Matt de Ferranti.
A multi-step interview process is now underway, says Dorsey.
Candidates have been invited to participate in video interviews so they can be screened before they go before a panel, which will largely be composed of people who were engaged in the creation of the COB last year.
This panel will choose who will interview with the County Board.
Dorsey says the goal is to fully impanel the COB by the County Board’s March meeting.
“We are very, very thrilled that this is going to move forward,” he said. “We really thank so many Arlingtonians who are interested in transparency and accountability in law enforcement and working to build trust with our police department and community.”
Dorsey noted that he was pleased the applicant pool reflects Arlington’s diversity.
“This was very much a standard by which we want to establish our Community Oversight Board, and at least from the screening of the applicants thus far, we will absolutely be able to meet that important mandate,” he said.
The COB would be lead by an independent auditor-monitor who can conduct investigations concurrent with internal police department investigations. This position, however, is subject to approval by state legislature, possibly during the 2022 legislative session.
Preservation Bill Proposed After Rouse Razing — “Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) has introduced legislation that, if enacted, could give preservationists more of a fighting chance to retain properties they deem worth saving. Hope’s bill makes several changes to the state’s historic-preservation laws, most notably prohibiting a local government from permitting the razing of a proposed historic property until 30 days after a final decision on the matter has been made.” [Sun Gazette]
Students Getting At-Home Covid Tests — “Last week we received a large shipment of rapid at-home Covid-19 test kits. These kits are in the process of being delivered to our schools for distribution to students, beginning toward the end of this week or early next.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Dorsey to Lead Regional Board — “Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey will chair the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments for 2022.” [Sun Gazette]
Old Home Gets Rocking Aesthetic — “The white-stucco, black-shuttered exterior of this 1871 center-hall Colonial in Country Club Hills belies its rock-and-roll interior. That’s part of the fun. A century and a half ago, the stately home was likely built as a summer residence for a wealthy D.C. family. Today, it’s owned by Ben and Dina Hitch, a pair of concert-going music and art aficionados whose vast collection of original record albums and American artwork spans decades.” [Arlington Magazine]
Marymount Junior Stands Out on Court — “As a result of helping the Marymount University women’s basketball team improve to 5-0 and first place in the Atlantic East Conference, junior Symantha Shackelford recently was selected as the league’s Player of the Week in women’s college basketball.” [Sun Gazette]
Snow Incoming — “A major winter storm is set to slam parts of the Northeast on Saturday, with heavy snowfall, strong to damaging winds and coastal flooding all possible… For D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia, the storm probably gets going too late to drop more than a couple inches of snow, but areas just to the east have a chance to see more substantial amounts.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 37. Sunrise at 7:18 a.m. and sunset at 5:24 p.m. A low around 27 Thursday night. Friday will be cloudy, with a high near 37. Light snow possible in the morning, then probable in the afternoon, perhaps mixing with rain. Expect snow and wind gusts as high as 26 mph Friday night. [Weather.gov]
Members of the Arlington County Board say they have their work cut out for them in 2022.
They were unanimous in their chief priorities for the new year — COVID-19, housing, climate change and equity — just as they were unanimous in choosing a new board chair, Katie Cristol, and a new vice chair, Christian Dorsey.
“By no means is this pandemic over, but since it’s clear that COVID-19 will be providing us no respite for reflection, we will have to make our own,” Cristol said in her opening speech as chair. “Given the uncertainty of our commercial revenues, let me be clear: These commitments almost certainly mean less funding available for implementing new priorities or programs, but after two pandemic years, it is time to put our money where our ‘Thank you essential workers!’ window signs are.”
She celebrated the county’s high vaccination rates as a sign that Arlington will get through the pandemic, and the newest wave of cases fueled by the Omicron variant, together.
“[E]ven in this peak, our hospitalizations numbers remain in the very low single digits, and if we keep getting vaccinated, getting boosted, masking and demonstrating responsibility to one another, we will get through this — not as fast as we had all hoped, nor with the finality with which we all long for — but we will,” she said.
Dorsey likewise expressed his confidence Arlington will come out on the other side of the pandemic as a stronger county.
“I am not going to predict when we get to our new normal or even what our new normal will be, but I am certain and quite confident that if we rely on the resilience that has been honed during the pandemic and remain focused on achieving our goals for sustainability, housing our community and achieving racial equity, we will emerge on the other side both better and stronger,” he said.
Cristol will pick up her chief priority — child care — where she left off when she was last the Board’s leader in 2018.
“This pandemic has exposed what we’ve always known to be true: Our country is a hard place to raise children,” she said. “Arlington alone can’t fix all the obstacles facing families, but we can continue to make progress on our own vision, which is that all Arlington County families have access to high quality, affordable childcare.”
This year, she said, the county will focus on increasing the number of child care providers and eligible families who participate in Virginia’s child care subsidy program and providing child care during non-traditional hours.
2022 will be a big year for working toward Arlington’s energy goals for 2025, 2035 and 2050, Dorsey said. Arlington aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050.
“I propose we prioritize taking every practical opportunity through our budget work this year to de-intensify carbon use in our government operations, and as we look to develop our capital improvements plan, we should plan to utilize sustainable products and systems — even if they are not quite practical today. Let’s envision and dare to dream for when it might be,” he said.
And on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, Board members Libby Garvey and Takis Karantonis were thinking about the state of the nation’s democracy. Garvey said she will encourage civil discourse as much as she can in 2022.
“There are lots of angry people in this country and they have guns,” Garvey said. “We here are relatively sheltered, but some of those who attacked the [U.S. Capitol building] stayed in Arlington and many drove through Arlington on their way to the Capitol. The danger to our democracy is not a local issue but it is a local threat. I am not sure what we should do about it, but I do know that we and the entire region need to stay close and keep our public safety systems strong and nimble.”