Three days after members of the Arlington County Board expressed support for changing the county’s logo, officials outlined a process for changing it, the county seal and, potentially, names of some local roads and places.
The logo change comes after a push from the Arlington branch of the NAACP, which earlier this summer called the illustration of Arlington House a “racist plantation symbol” that “divides, rather than unites us.”
At the Board’s Tuesday evening meeting, County Manager Mark Schwartz presented a plan to review county symbols and names over the next few months.
The review will include “gathering perspectives on race and equity in Arlington,” and examining county symbols, street names and facility names that may be associated with systemic racism or oppression. The review will “build on this fall’s community process to update the County’s Historic Preservation Master Plan,” according to a county press release.
Schwartz said he will present in December a summary of community feedback, as well as recommendations to the Board for next steps.
In introducing the topic, County Board Chair Libby Garvey said that equity and the county budget are “the two most important things we’re tackling as a Board.” She, along with the four other members of the Board, reiterated their support for changing the county logo.
While newly-elected Board member Takis Karantonis said he agreed with local NAACP leader Julius Spain, Sr.’s call to retire Arlington House as the county’s logo as soon as possible, he acknowledged that the overall process of choosing a new logo and replacing the old logo on most county equipment and properties would “probably take several years.”
Board member Katie Cristol said the logo and some names currently in use locally “have come to feel so out of step with our current values in Arlington County,” while Board member Matt de Ferranti said he wanted to ensure the process of evaluating and changing them was thoughtful and inclusive.
Christian Dorsey, the lone Black member of the Board, said his support for changing the logo came down to the 1972 renaming of Arlington House by Congress as “Arlington House: the Robert E. Lee Memorial,” in honor of the Confederate general and one-time occupant of the historic home on the grounds of what became Arlington National Cemetery.
While some may believe Arlington House to be a symbol of slavery, Dorsey said, others see it as a symbol of the repudiation of the Confederacy, given that it was seized during the Civil War in order to serve as a final resting place for Union war dead. The 1972 renaming, however, “takes all nuance out of the equation.”
“Should a national memorial to Robert E. Lee be the official symbol of Arlington County?” Dorsey asked. “For me it’s a clear no. Period, full stop.”
Dorsey said that the logo change and renaming process will need to find a way to try to unite people who are “in different places along the journey,” but names that honor people who “actively promoted systemic oppression” have to go.
The county should also consider naming some things that are currently unnamed in order “to elevate the contributions of women, people of color, indigenous peoples, that have been suppressed in the telling of our country’s and our community’s history,” according to Dorsey. At the same time, he said, the county should “make sure that fiscal and human resources are not diverted from doing the work to address systemic racism” by the logo change and renaming processes.
(The county, through a local nonprofit, is currently in the process of renaming Lee Highway.)
More on the logo change and renaming process, from a county press release, below.
Fulfilling a long-delayed promise, Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey dropped off a cashier’s check for $10,000 to the headquarters of the Amalgamated Transit Union International yesterday.
The action is, one would assume, the last chapter in the saga of a political donation that caused Dorsey to lose his seat on the WMATA Board and lose the trust of some of his constituents in Arlington.
Dorsey was ordered by the WMATA Board to return the $10,000 political donation to his Christian Dorsey for County Board political committee due to a conflict of interest — between his role in helping to run the transit agency and his acceptance of a donation from its largest labor union. He also faced ethics scrutiny for not disclosing the donation for four months.
Dorsey resigned from the WMATA Board in February after failing to return the donation; at the time, he did not have sufficient funds in his campaign account to do so. Most of Dorsey’s campaign cash in 2019 went to himself and his wife, in the form of loan repayments and payments for campaign services, respectively.
Dorsey filed for personal bankruptcy in October 2019. The bankruptcy case was still active in federal court as of last week.
Friends helped to raise additional campaign funds for Dorsey in February and March, despite him not being up for reelection until 2023. In addition to donations from fellow elected officials and from individuals, Dorsey accepted $1,000 from the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and $2,000 from Steamfitters Local Union #602.
Dorsey wrote a $10,000 check dated Feb. 24, 2020 and sent it to ATU International but, according to reporting by the Washington Post last week, the check was somehow lost when it was sent from the union to the bank.
In response to subsequent inquiries from ARLnow, Dorsey said on Thursday that he had dropped off a cashier’s check drawn from his campaign account. He provided a photo of the check, and ATU International spokesman David Roscow confirmed that it had been received.
“I’d like for this saga to be closed as well, and will cooperate as necessary to do so,” Dorsey told ARLnow earlier in the week, though he added that he saw it as closed “at least as it pertains to my responsibility in the matter.”
“My promise was to return the contribution, which I did, as evidenced through the certified mail receipt and acknowledgment by ATU in February/March,” he said. “That they didn’t process it is a matter I cannot speak to, nor can I reasonably be held responsible for.”
According to the Virginia Dept. of Elections website, Dorsey’s campaign initially submitted a campaign finance report on July 15 that did not include the February return of the donation. That report was amended on July 19, to include the $10,000 check as an expenditure. The Post reported on July 23 that the check was never cashed.
Dorsey’s Union Check ‘Lost in the Mail’ — “The $10,000 donation that cost Metro board member Christian Dorsey his position was returned to the agency’s largest union five months ago, but the check was never cashed — because it was lost in the mail, Dorsey and the union said.” [Washington Post]
Opioid Overdoses Rise in Arlington — “Since the start of the year, nine individuals have recovered from opioid overdoses following the deployment of Nasal Naloxone (also known as Narcan) by responding officers. This comes as the number of police investigated incidents involving opioids begins to rise, with fatal incidents now surpassing those reported in 2019.” [Arlington County]
Crash in Crystal City Last Night — “ACPD on scene of an overturned vehicle and downed tree on Route 1 at 20th Street S. Two people self-extricated from the vehicle, reported to be a black Mercedes.” [Twitter]
Arlington Man Facing Child Porn Charges — “An Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force investigation by federal, state and local agencies has resulted in the arrest of an Arlington man. Detectives arrested Christopher Morse, 51, and charged him with five counts of Possession of Child Pornography.” [Arlington County]
5G Antennas to Be Deployed on Light Poles — Updated at 9:10 a.m. — “We are excited to share that a new 5G streetlight pole prototype is on display in Courthouse (southwest corner of 14th Street North and North Courthouse Road) until Aug. 7. ” [Twitter, Arlington County]
Differing Views on Trail Widenings — “Some who oppose NoVA Parks’ proposed W&OD Trail widening in Arlington, support widening the northern section of the Mt. Vernon Trail. Longtime bicycle activist Allen Muchnick says the proposed Mt. Vernon Trail widening is not really comparable to NoVA Parks’ proposed W&OD widening for multiple reasons.” [Audrey Clement]
Va. Real Estate Market Heating Up — “According to the June 2020 Home Sales Report released by Virginia REALTORS, home sales in most regions of Virginia are rebounding, following spring’s slowdown due to COVID-19. There were 13,176 home sales statewide in June 2020, up 0.5% from a year ago and up nearly 30% over May 2020 sales.” [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Cyrus W.
(Updated at 2 p.m.) A newly-formed group is calling for a sweeping set of police reforms in Arlington, including cutting the police department budget by 10%.
Arlington for Justice, whose founding steering committee members include Arlington’s top public defender and a prominent local Black Lives Matter organizer, published an open letter to the Arlington County Board over the weekend.
Among other things, the letter calls for:
- Reallocating “at least 10%” of the Arlington County’s Police Department’s $74 million annual budget, then freezing the budget for five years
- Using the budget savings to fund pre-arrest diversion programs, mental health services and addiction treatment
- Removing School Resource Officers from schools
- Require continuous use of body cameras and dashboard cameras by ACPD
- Make the disciplinary history of officers publicly accessible
- Establishment of a “Justice Transformation Commission… to manage the implementation of these recommendations”
The letter also calls for ACPD to conduct a national search for a new police chief “who is committed to justice system transformation, eliminating bias, and implementing new methods of policing.” A police spokeswoman confirmed to ARLnow that current chief M. Jay Farr “will be retiring from his position at the end of 2020,” as stated in the latter.
On Friday, County Board member Christian Dorsey appeared on WAMU’s Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi and discussed the police reform movement, which has received momentum locally after ARLnow broke the news of Arlington officers in riot gear assisting U.S. Park Police near the White House. (The officers were quickly pulled out of D.C. after helping to clear the way for a presidential photo in front of a church.)
“We’re getting a lot of letters from people with the defund the police calls,” Dorsey said. “I will just note that the budget for the police department over the last eight, nine years has risen only slightly higher than the rate of inflation. And, you know, of the 74 million, most of it, all but about 7.5 million, is tied to personnel [and a] substantial amount of that is devoted to community policing efforts.”
“So, when it comes to what you defund, I think you first look at any tactical weapons and gear that are not necessary to meet your police obligations, and we don’t have a lot of that in Arlington,” Dorsey continued. “We have very much looked on an annual basis to make sure we’re not prioritizing the spending on weapons and toys and things like that that create militarized police forces.”
Dorsey added, in response to a question from co-host Tom Sherwood, that calls to defund the police “will be weaponized” politically against Democrats.
“Let’s rethink policing, let’s restructure it and let’s take any savings and reinvest it in people,” he said. “That, unfortunately, is a little bit longer than defund the police. So, we’ve got this catchall slogan which will be weaponized by other folks. And I think that’s something that people need to be very wary about.”
More on the group and the reforms it is seeking is below, in a press release.
Black Lives Matter Protest Held Saturday — “As protests continue around the nation following the death of George Floyd, the Black Parents of Arlington group welcomed families and neighbors on Saturday for a special gathering and vigil for the man who died in police custody in Minneapolis in May. Over 100 people gathered at Drew Model Elementary School, some bringing signs while others wore shirts and face masks showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.” [WUSA 9]
Dorsey Discusses ‘Defund’ Demands — “‘We’re getting a lot of letters with the ‘defund the police’ calls,’ says [County Board member Christian Dorsey, on the WAMU Politics Hour]. He says that over the past few years, the police budget has only risen slightly above inflation. He said he’d be open to cutting tactical weapons and gear.” [Twitter]
Pentagon Entering ‘Phase 1’ Today — “Pentagon and Pentagon Facilities Employees: This Mon., June 15, begins Phase One of re-entering the buildings. Welcome back! Don’t forget your face covering and to social distance while inside.” [Twitter]
Current COVID-19 Hospitalizations Fall — “Fewer than 1,000 Virginians are now hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19, and the number of cases continued to slow both statewide and in Northern Virginia, according to reports Saturday morning. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported only 959 coronavirus patients in state hospitals, the lowest number since the organization began providing data in early April… Only 342 of those patients were in Northern Virginia, down from a high of 818 on April 30.” [InsideNova]
County Expanding Free Wi-Fi Spots — “Arlington residents can now access free Wi-Fi in the parking lots of the Charles Drew Community Center and Barcroft Sports & Fitness Center as part of the County’s ongoing effort to help residents without reliable internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with these two new locations, public Wi-Fi is available via the ArlingtonWireless network in the parking lots at Aurora Hills, Central and Columbia Pike libraries.” [Arlington County]
PTAs to Distribute Face Masks — “County staff from a variety of departments packing up more than 4,300 cloth face covers for [Arlington Public Schools] PTAs to distribute to families. Face covering is required in Virginia public indoor spaces. ” [Twitter]
Restaurants Seek Expanded Outdoor Dining Spaces — “Arlington County has allowed 19 restaurants to add new space for outdoor dining or expand existing options, as part of the growing trend of shifting tables outside and allowing safer dining while the Covid-19 pandemic persists… Through June 9, the county has seen a total of 66 applications and approved just under a third of them.” [Washington Business Journal]
Photo courtesy Jean and James Knaack
Dorsey on Death of George Floyd — Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey posted the following on Facebook Sunday afternoon: “Why is it when we are bird watching, retrieving mail, swimming in a pool, walking down the street, or living in our own homes that you view us as a threat? Why do these routine activities see us being reported to police and losing our lives? It is a question my daughters ask, as do the children of every black person in America. Yet that question needs to be seriously be pondered non-Blacks. We then need you to transform episodic outrage into all-the-time anti-racism.” [Facebook, Blue Virginia]
House Fire in Hall’s Hill — “1800 block of N. Cameron St — crews encountered fire in attic. Fire was quickly controlled, 6 occupants escaped without injury and one dog was rescued in good condition. @RedCross called in to assist occupants.” [Twitter]
County Creates Badges for Mask-Requiring Businesses — “In response to Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order that face coverings must be worn inside public places, the County created the ‘We Are Covered’ program. This gives Arlington businesses, multi-family residences, and houses of worship a way to show they have pledged to protect the people who come through their doors.” [Arlington County]
Tables, Tents in CC Sports Pub Parking Lot — “With outdoor seating now permitted as part of Phase One, Finlay and his staff worked to turn the restaurant’s parking lot into a patio. Outdoor tables are all set up six feet apart. ‘We’re lucky and blessed to have a parking lot that’s big enough to accommodate that type of spacing and still have the social distancing and be able to abide by all the rules and regulations we have to go by,’ he said.” [WJLA]
ACPD Releases Photo of Car That Struck Girl, Dog — On Sunday, Arlington County Police released photos of the dark-colored sedan that struck a girl and killed her dog Friday in the Donaldson Run neighborhood. ARLnow also obtained video of the car. [ARLnow]
Bayou Bakery Donates Thousands of Meals — “Back in 2005, [Bayou Bakery owner David] Guas saw first hand how Hurricane Katrina impacted his hometown and the importance of rapid response in rebuilding the community. In March 2020, when COVID-19 closed school doors, he knew he needed to provide the same fast-acting relief to area children and families left underserved.” [Washington Life]
Discussion with AED’s Telly Tucker — “We talked with Telly Tucker, the new head of Arlington Economic Development, about Friday’s reopening, what’s going on with the local economy, the plight of small businesses during the pandemic, and the growth of tech companies in Northern Virginia.” [Facebook, Apple Podcasts]
Transit Union Gets Its Money Back from Dorsey — “Union verifies (to me, 5 minutes ago) that it has received [embattled County Board member Christian Dorsey’s] repayment of $10,000 campaign donation.” [Twitter]
Board Advances Reeves Farmhouse Plan — “The [Reeves] farmhouse will be preserved and protected as a historic site, the parkland around the house will stay as parkland, and the County will get much needed housing for people with developmental disabilities without our taxpayers footing the bill. It’s a win-win-win.” [Arlington County]
Va. Legislature OKs Amazon Delivery Bots — “Amazon.com Inc. package delivery robots could soon hit Virginia’s sidewalks and roadways. The General Assembly has made quick work of a bill that would clear the way for Scout, Amazon’s six-wheeled delivery robot, to operate in the commonwealth.” [Washington Business Journal]
Airport Helper Service to Launch Tomorrow — “Goodbye, airport chaos… SkySquad is launching this week at Reagan Airport to improve the airport experience for anyone who needs an extra hand. Travel is stressful for most people, especially families with young kids; and senior citizens who need extra support.” [Press Release]
A Look at Arlington’s Oldest Families — A series of articles profiling long-time local families takes a look at the Parks, the Shreves, the Smiths, the Syphaxes, the Birches and the Thomases. [Arlington Magazine]
Sheriff’s Office Welcomes New K-9 — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office recently welcomed its newest K-9 officer – Logan, a one-and-a-half-year-old black Labrador retriever who is paired with handler Cpl. Matthew Camardi. The duo will work in narcotics detection and other specialized fields. [InsideNova]
Dorsey Steps Down from Transportation Board — “The Arlington County Board forced member Christian Dorsey to step down from a second transit board Saturday over a campaign donation from Metro’s largest union, and he apologized for misleading statements he made last month suggesting that he had already returned the money. Dorsey (D), who was reelected to the board in November, said he has sent back the $10,000 donation to the Amalgamated Transit Union and agreed to resign from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.” [Washington Post]
Thousands Attend Buttigieg Rally — Nearly 10,000 people attended Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign rally at Washington-Liberty High School yesterday afternoon. [Twitter, Twitter, The Pete Channel]
Klobuchar Had High Profile Local Landlord — “Chuck Todd — who helped moderate Wednesday night’s Democratic debate — is likely more familiar with one candidate than any other. He was Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s landlord, sources exclusively told Page Six. Klobuchar and her husband, lawyer John Bessler, rented a 3-bedroom home owned by Todd in Arlington, Virginia, sources said.” [Page Six]
Firm Floats Less Parking for HQ2-Adjacent Park — “The green space adjacent to the first pair of Amazon.com Inc. HQ2 towers could be so much grander if it weren’t for some redundant on-street parking. That is what New York-based James Corner Field Operations, the urban design and landscape architecture firm Amazon has enlisted to mold Metropolitan Park’s open space, said Thursday night during the first step of the park master planning process… the site has roughly 50 on-street parking spaces, but there is a significant number, about 350, of underused below-ground spaces.” [Washington Business Journal]
Iwo Jima Restoration Is Complete — “This Sunday, Feb. 23, marks 75 years since brave Marines raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts the historic moment, has been completely rehabilitated… The rehabilitation of the sculpture and surrounding parkland, the specially designed onsite exhibits and the new videos were made possible through a generous $5.37 million donation.” [Press Release]
Board Approves Child Care Funding, Park Contract — “The Arlington County Board today approved a contract with Crown Construction Service, Inc. to upgrade heavily-used Edison Park with new playgrounds and other amenities… [and] accepted a $200,000 donation to fund high-quality child care for low-income Arlington families, the first such donation to the Arlington Community Foundation’s (ACF) Shared Prosperity initiative from a private corporation.” [Arlington County, Arlington County]
‘Ball Cap Bandit’ Sentenced — “An Arlington man was sentenced today to five years in prison for robbing two Falls Church pawn shops of nearly $800,000 in jewelry and watches. According to court documents, in July 2014, Budder Khan, 30, entered Route 50 Gold and Jewelry Exchange, forced the store’s employees to the ground using what appeared to be a real firearm, smashed the business’s glass display cases, and took jewelry and watches worth over $650,000.” [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Phil
Christian Dorsey’s four colleagues on the Arlington County Board are “disappointed” in him and “considering what, if any, are the next appropriate steps to take.”
That’s according to an email from Board Chair Libby Garvey, sent to a constituent who expressed concern about Dorsey’s conduct and obtained by ARLnow.
Dorsey, who’s currently in personal bankruptcy proceedings, resigned from the Metro board last week after it was revealed that he had not returned a $10,000 political donation from Metro’s largest labor union, as he had been directed to do after being found to have violated Metro’s ethics rules.
Dorsey later told ABC 7 that he does not have the funds to repay the donation, but still plans to do so eventually. He also told the TV station that he has no plans to step down from the County Board.
ARLnow reported last week that Dorsey only had a few thousand dollars in his campaign account at the end of 2019, after paying himself and his wife $25,000 in the form of loan repayments and compensation for work on the campaign, respectively. (He is not accused of any legal wrongdoing.)
In the email to concerned constituents, below, Garvey said Dorsey showed a “lack of judgement” with respect to the $10,000 donation. It does not mention the bankruptcy or other campaign finance matters.
On behalf of my colleagues on the County Board, thank you for writing regarding Christian Dorsey’s failure to return the $10,000 contribution to his campaign from a union of Metro workers.
Mr. Gutshall, Mr. de Ferranti, Ms. Cristol and I understand your concerns and are deeply disappointed in our colleague’s lack of judgement. We appreciate hearing from you. The views of our residents are always important to us, but particularly on this serious matter.
As you may know, Mr. Dorsey has stepped down from the Metro Board. He has told us he fully intends to return the $10,000 donation as soon as he is able. We are considering what, if any, are the next appropriate steps to take. We are very disappointed in Mr. Dorsey’s lack of judgement in accepting the donation, failing to report it in a timely manner, and not returning it in a timely manner.
Libby Garvey, Chair
Arlington County Board
At the Board’s organizational meeting last month, Garvey expressed support for Dorsey.
“Christian is a real asset to this board, to this community — we’re lucky to have you,” she said.
A county spokeswoman confirmed the authenticity of Garvey’s email but declined to provide additional comments.
Bloomberg Event Prompts Protests — Dozens of gun rights protesters demonstrated in front of the Bloomberg presidential campaign office last night during an event featuring D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser. [Twitter, Twitter]
Dorsey Talks to Local TV Station — “Arlington County board member Christian Dorsey is speaking out about the ethics violation that led to his resignation from the Metro board… ‘I’m embarrassed certainly, and disappointed,’ Dorsey said.” [WJLA]
ACFD Responds to Four Alarm Blaze — “Fourteen townhomes and five buildings were destroyed in a massive blaze that tore through a five-story building in… Fairfax County Saturday morning and filled the air with black smoke that could be seen for miles.” [NBC 4, Washington Post, Twitter]
Superintendent Finalists Won’t Be Revealed — “Arlington School Board members will cloak their search for a new superintendent in as much secrecy as their predecessors have done. ‘We will not have a community-selection committee and will not share our finalists,’ School Board Chairman Tannia Talento said on Feb. 6.” [InsideNova]
Imperfect Arlington, Revisited — In the spirit of the late, lamented Imperfect Arlington: What’s up with the (supposedly) smaller scones at Northside Social? “Was told by @NorthsideSocial staff that they have ‘accidentally’ been making them too big, apparently for several years.” [Twitter]
Nearby: Skyline Offices to Become Housing? — “Fresh off acquiring the aging Skyline office park in Baileys Crossroads, a team of developers is sketching out plans to convert three buildings there into… a total of 764 residential units. Somera, out of New York, bought the 6.4-acre property on Leesburg Pike for $215 million back in November, pledging to bring residential and retail uses to the 1970s-era office buildings there.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) Arlington County Board member and now-former Metro board member Christian Dorsey cruised to easy election victories in 2019 and thus didn’t need to spend much on his campaign. He did, however, direct campaign cash to himself and his wife.
Dorsey, who is currently trying to resolve a personal bankruptcy, is not accused of wrongdoing in his campaign spending. But it does raise questions amid news that he has not yet fulfilled a promise to repay a $10,000 campaign contribution, deemed unethical by the Metro board after Dorsey failed to notify the board of the donation in a timely manner.
Dorsey has since resigned from the Metro board, the Washington Post reported Thursday afternoon.
It was just after the Nov. 2019 election that it was revealed that Dorsey had declared bankruptcy in October. He told ARLnow in December that he regretted not informing the community earlier.
The campaign was otherwise a breeze for Dorsey. He ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and easily defeated a pair of independent candidates, who sought his and fellow incumbent Board member Katie Cristol’s seats, in November.
Dorsey raised nearly $40,000 in 2019, including the aforementioned $10,000 from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 — Metro’s largest union — as well as $10,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, $5,000 from a carpenters union, and $1,000 from a laborers union.
As of Dec. 31, according to Dorsey’s latest campaign finance report, his campaign had $3,298 on hand. So where did most of the cash go? Just over $25,000 went to Dorsey and his wife, documents show.
Dorsey began 2019 with a balance of $17,547 on loans he had provided his campaign during the 2015 election. He repaid all but $200.99 of that to himself by the end of the year. He also paid $8,000 to his wife over the summer for campaign management graphic design work.
There has thus far been no suggestion that any of the payments were in any way illegal or improper, though a nearly $2,000 loan repayment was made after Dorsey was ordered to return the transit union donation.
The campaign’s other major expenses were $4,825 in donations and sponsorships to the Arlington County Democratic Committee and $4,399 to a local printing company for yard signs and grip cards, paid in September. Fundraising and web hosting expenses, along with other donations and food and drink purchases for events and volunteers, made up much of the remaining expenses.
Prof. Jennifer Victor, who researches campaign finance at George Mason University’s Schar School Policy and Government, said the pattern of payments amid personal financial problems and the union donation controversy at Metro at the very least “raises some ethical eyebrows,” regardless of whether or not state campaign finance laws were violated. Victor added that hiring a spouse for the campaign “looks nepotistic” and is something most candidates would avoid doing.