Arlington County Board candidates say they would like more coordination and transparency from the School Board when it comes to annual budgets and long-term plans.
The discussion arose last night (Wednesday) during an Arlington Committee of 100 candidate forum.
Candidates were asked if they support increasing the share of tax revenue the county transfers to Arlington Public Schools to, among other reasons, further tackle Covid-era learning loss. They were also asked how they would promote sustainable growth in Arlington County with an eye toward how that impacts the school system.
In their responses, Democratic candidates Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham hinted at closer scrutiny of the budget but pointed to a different issue they would to address: county-school coordination. Independent Audrey Clement and Republican Juan Carlos Fierro, meanwhile, said it may be time to revisit how much money the schools receive.
Every year, the county transfers money to APS, which it uses to fund most — around 75-79% — of its annual budget. The percent of revenue shared has remained fairly constant in the last two decades.
The dollar amount transferred, however, has risen steadily in the last three budgets after more modest upticks between 2017 and 2020.
Given the recent increases, Fierro says it is time to study the county’s revenue share to APS, which currently sits at 46.8%.
“That, plus the allowance we have to give to Metro, is a lot for Arlington County,” he said. “We have to find a way to study how we can try to lower that amount, but of course, the quality has to be the same.”
Fierro contrasted the rising contributions to APS with the county’s budget surplus, suggesting residents may be over-taxed. At the close of each fiscal year, the county puts surplus, or “closeout funds,” toward a variety of expenses, a practice that has its critics, who say it should instead help stave off tax increases.
“It’s a lot of money,” he said. “One of my radical ideas is that this money goes back to taxpayers. We’re living in challenging times.”
Clement said she agreed.
“We are really imposing a huge tax burden on our residents,” she said. “I believe it is unsustainable because it’s over twice the rate of inflation and I think we ought to look at ways to streamline our budget, not ways to increase it.”
Clement further argued against increasing the budget for APS, citing falling enrollment projections over the next decade.
“I understand that the greatest problem facing our schools is the achievement gap, which grew significantly during Covid,” she said. “I don’t think throwing more money at that particular problem is going to solve it.”
Coffey and Cunningham were modest in their suggestions to review county transfers to APS but said they were open to that conversation.
Like Clement, they said the main issue county leaders need to address regarding the school system is poor coordination. They argued this can lead to redundant spending and service gaps.
Sally Diaz-Wells, who coordinates the food pantry at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington, just got the weekly egg bill.
It was $2,000, which makes up nearly 20% of the church’s weekly budget of $12,000 for purchasing food for distribution.
Arlington Food Assistance Center CEO Charles Meng says the wholesale price for a dozen eggs in January 2021 was $0.98. This month, AFAC paid $4.45 per dozen. Overall, food prices are up 35% for AFAC, which is already over its $1.3 million budget by $160,000.
The uptick in food prices, driven largely by inflation, is squeezing local food and meal distributors, which are at the same time seeing more Arlington residents come, and come more often, for free food. Inflation again is to blame for this, as clients report their earnings are covering less of their grocery bills, local food assistance providers said during an Arlington Committee of 100 panel on hunger held Wednesday.
“These numbers are not pandemic-related numbers,” Meng said. “These are numbers related to the basic need in Arlington, plus the burdens based on our families by inflation in particular.”
Providers say this is hitting the working poor the worst.
“This group comes to us when they need us, once or twice a month,” Meng said. “When their other benefits start running out, they’ll come to us more often.”
They tend to come after paying for other necessities like rent, utilities and medical expenses, says Stephanie Hopkins, the food security coordinator for Arlington County Department of Human Services.
“We find that people spend their available income on rent, utilities and medical expenses, and other bills, and if there’s enough money to pay for food, they will pay for their own food,” she said. “If there’s not enough money, that’s when they lean on food assistance network.”
More families who otherwise would be able to pay are leaning on Arlington Public Schools for meals, too, says Amy Maclosky, the director of the Office of Food and Nutrition Services for APS.
“Student meal debt has increased a lot this year and it has increased for paying students,” Maclosky said. “Every student is entitled to a free breakfast and lunch, whether they have the funds or not, but they do incur debt. Our debt is up $300,000 right now among people who do not qualify for free or reduced but aren’t able to pay.”
The rising need for food assistance needs comes as Arlington County is preparing to launch this month a Food Security Coalition tasked with implementing some two dozen strategies for tackling hunger.
Food insecurity affects about 7% of Arlington residents — 16,670 people — says Hopkins. It disproportionately affects people of color: 53% and 20% of AFAC clients are Hispanic or Latino and Black, respectively, while comprising 16% and 9% of the county’s population.
Food insecurity can mean “‘I’m worried that my food will run out before I have enough money to get more,’ to ‘I have zero food in my house,” Hopkins said. “We know there are people on both ends of that spectrum in Arlington and people journey that spectrum all the time.” Read More
Jefferson Apartment Group has filed plans to redevelop the Clarendon Wells Fargo site with offices, retail space and apartments.
The company proposes to build a 128-foot tall, 12-story structure with 238 apartments, nearly 67,000 square feet of office space, about 34,500 square feet of ground-floor retail and 244 parking spaces across a two-level, below-grade garage.
The bank at 3140 Washington Blvd is situated on a parcel bordered by N. Irving Street and N. Hudson Street. Next door is the 97,000-square foot Verizon building at 1025 N. Irving Street.
Jefferson proposes only to redevelop the bank property for now. Wells Fargo — the seller of the property at 3140 Washington Blvd — is requiring the developer to keep the bank open for business during construction.
“The project must take a phased permitting and construction approach, first constructing a new bank branch on the northwest corner of the site, followed by demolishing the existing Wells Fargo building and constructing the new mixed-use building once Wells Fargo is operational in the new bank branch building,” writes Sara Mariska, an attorney for the project.
Including the Verizon site in the overall plan will “facilitate development of the Wells Fargo property, while also facilitating preservation of critical telecommunications infrastructure on the Verizon property,” Mariska continues.
The Verizon site “is not going to redevelop any time soon,” noted Brett Wallace, a county planner, during an Arlington Committee of 100 discussion about Clarendon area development projects on Wednesday.
The new filing comes comes a week before the Arlington County Board is set to consider adopting an update to the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan, which targets the western portion of the neighborhood. The Committee of 100 panelists discussed the plan and potential changes to the area.
The sector plan update was precipitated by multiple property owners expressing a “strong interest” in redevelopment around the Clarendon Metro station area, Jennifer K. Smith, a county planning supervisor, told attendees.
Forthcoming developments include: the Silver Diner/The Lot, Joyce Motors and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites, as well as projects proposed by the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.
“The process would provide an opportunity to showcase preliminary proposals that were being contemplated and share them in a broad way with all the civic associations and other stakeholders who may be reviewing those individually over time,” she said. “Some of the developers were seeking alternatives that diverged from sector plan guidance and zoning regulations that apply in this area and [Planning Commissioners] wanted to provide forum for review and consideration of those potential changes or divergences from the sector plan.”
She added that the county felt “it was important that we consult with the community on new ideas to meet public facility and public space needs going into the future.”
(Updated 4:20 p.m.) Against the backdrop of Alexandria’s City Council voting to reinstate School Resource Officers, Arlington school and police officials say they’re confident kids and staff will be safe without daily police presence.
That’s because, leading up to the decision to remove SROs this summer, the county spent six years investing in other school safety pillars, adding counselors, enhancing building safety and beefing up emergency management operations, according to School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen.
When the School Board ended the program — out of concern for racial disparities in juvenile arrests — they did so knowing that staff could handle regular student disruptions without involving law enforcement, she said.
“I believe that background made us uniquely well-situated to think about the next step regarding SROs,” she said last night (Wednesday) during a discussion hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100 on school safety without SROs.
“It’s difficult talking about different jurisdictions in a harsh way, but the fact is that the Alexandria superintendent didn’t recommend removing SROs from schools for the simple fact that they didn’t believe they had the resources in place,” Kanninen continued. “They felt they needed SROs for safety.”
The discussion, which addressed current police engagement efforts and Arlington’s Restorative Justice program, couldn’t have been more timely. Not only did unsafe conditions in Alexandria schools lead the City Council to reinstate SROs this week, but also, APS recently had two safety-related incidents in which police got involved.
On Friday, allegations of sexual battery during Yorktown High School’s Homecoming football game resulted in a police investigation. Last Wednesday, police responded to false claims of a school shooter at Washington-Liberty High School.
“We’re in a different situation,” Kanninen said. “We believe we have the resources and supports in place to keep kids safe as possible.”
In unsafe situations such as fights, she said APS has staff trained in defusing those situations and prefers this approach to introducing kids to the juvenile justice system.
“We don’t want their first interaction to be with a police officer,” she said.
Still, Kanninen said administrators will call 9-1-1 any time there’s a safety threat. For example, police were called to Washington-Liberty High School over the school shooter claim, conducted an investigation, found no threat and gave the “all clear” later that morning.
“Just like any other building, organization, or anyone in Arlington, if something happens, we’re going to call the police,” she said. “There have been situations where events happen in schools, and as a follow-up, parents may call the police. But for schools, we would do it if it’s a safety threat.”
Ranked-choice voting is supported by all four candidates for County Board, according to their comments at an Arlington Committee of 100 candidate forum held last night (Wednesday).
The event was the first candidate forum of the fall general election season.
Support is strong among the three independent candidates — Audrey Clement, Mike Cantwell and Adam Theo — who want to unseat Democrat incumbent Takis Karantonis. He won a special election in 2020 and his seat is now up for a full four-year term. Theo, a Libertarian, is the most recent addition to the ballot after officially launching his campaign this week.
While all four support ranked choice voting, the reform would not be ready for the upcoming Nov. 2 election, as the county is still hammering out the logistics of the system. Dismayed at the pace of implementation, the independents said the reform would reveal public support for candidates like them and add political diversity to the County Board.
“I’ve spent a lot of my free time promoting ranked choice voting in Virginia,” said Cantwell, who became the vice president of Fair Vote Virginia, which advocates for ranked choice voting in Virginia, in 2019. “I went to Richmond in February 2020 and lobbied to bring it to Virginia. At that time, to the surprise of many, the legislature passed bills 506 and 1103, which allowed it in [Arlington] and the rest of Virginia. Since that time, [the county has] taken very little action to implement that new law.”
Theo also criticized the lack of movement on implementing the new voting system and educating voters about it.
“It would’ve been awesome to have the logo-picking determined by ranked choice voting,” he said. “That would’ve been a great way to educate the public. Here we are, waiting for the county to proceed and provide results. I have a lot of skepticism for the County Board’s real willingness to push forward real reform. It puts their own positions, jobs, in jeopardy.”
Karantonis said he is on the record supporting ranked-choice voting and voted to fund an initiative to test it out.
“I put money where my mouth is,” he said. “I think this is a great improvement in democracy.”
During the forum the four candidates articulated their positions housing and on Arlington County’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Both Karantonis and Theo said “affordable housing” is the biggest issue facing Arlington.
“I’ve been a housing advocate from day one,” Karantonis said. “The first thing my wife and I experienced [when moving here] was not being able to find housing, not having choices… Arlington is a community that looks back to a solid record of planning carefully for housing, of matching development with assets like transportation, schools and natural resources. We need to bundle these to support the creation of new housing choices because displacement is a real thing.”
“[Housing affordability] poses the problem of pricing out the elderly, low-income, immigrant and disabled people who are clinging on as it is already,” he said. “The number of housing units built in this county is horrifyingly low.”
But he took a jab at the County Board for talking about affordable housing and posing for photos at new developments, while not doing more to prioritize affordability. He spoke favorably of the Missing Middle Housing Study, a county-led effort to see if single-family home areas should be rezoned for more types of moderate-density homes, as a means to increase housing options for the middle-class.
Cantwell said he worries about affordability both in terms of housing and taxes.
“I think the biggest problem facing Arlington is runaway spending and taxes and lack of accountability in county government, [which] stems from lack of political competition,” Cantwell said. “I’m for affordable housing, but I question the outcomes of $300 million spent on a government-run affordable housing program… I think most Arlingtonians are interested in finding a market rate affordable housing place to live in, but not that many are interested in being part of government run program, where they have to submit tax returns, W-2s [and other] bureaucracy.”
Clement said the Missing Middle Study will create more housing, but nothing truly affordable, predicting people will continue to get priced out of their neighborhoods. She added that it won’t promote racial equity, citing a study from New York University that found between 2000-2007, upzoning in New York City “produced an influx of whites in gentrified areas, even as white population plummeted.”
“A far better solution is to repurpose unrented luxury units in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor to moderate income housing,” she said.
(Another NYU study found little link between neighborhood gentrification and displacement of low-income residents, at least in New York City.)
Lebanese Taverna Helping to Feed Refugees — From World Central Kitchen: “Today’s scene at Dulles Airport outside DC To support families landing from Afghanistan, the WCK team is here to provide fresh, hot meals upon arrival. People have not eaten in hours — or days — by the time they land. Today’s plates came from @lebanesetaverna.” [Twitter]
Air Quality Alert Today — “The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments… has issued a Code ORANGE Air Quality Alert Thursday for the DC metro area. A Code Orange Air Quality Alert means that air pollution concentrations within the region may become unhealthy for sensitive groups. Sensitive groups include children, people suffering from asthma, heart disease or other lung diseases and the elderly.” [National Weather Service]
Missing Senior Found — From Virginia State Police: “Virginia Senior Alert CANCELLED: Per @ArlingtonVaPD, Mr. Charilaos Dimopoulos, 92, has been SAFELY LOCATED.” [Twitter]
Committee of 100 Stays Remote — “It will be the start of 2022 at the earliest before the Arlington Committee of 100 returns to in-person meetings. ‘Our board has decided to continue providing our programs ‘virtually’ through December,’ the organization said in a recent e-mail to participants. ‘Our hope is eventually to provide hybrid programs, where you can connect with fellow members in person or watch them from the comfort of your home.'” [Sun Gazette]
Girls Flag Football Coach Profiled — “Rivera remains here in Arlington, coaching… year-round in both flag and girls’ basketball under the banner of the Hurricanes organization, which he founded… Rivera has taken Virginia Hurricanes select flag teams to the NFL nationals — the championships for the official NFL flag football league — seven times. They’ve won the national championship three times–twice for the 14-and-under (14U) age group, and once for the 12U age group. The 10U and 12U teams qualified for the upcoming nationals in Nevada in January 2022, and the 14U team will compete to qualify in November.” [Arlington Magazine]
Reminder on a Hot Day — From AAA Mid-Atlantic: “We’re looking at another hot and humid day in VA, it’s time to focus on protecting children & pets from the heat: Never leave them in a vehicle unattended. Always look in the back seat every time you exit. Always lock the car and put keys out of reach.” [Twitter]
Arlington’s lack of affordable townhomes, duplexes and other housing types has a ripple effect across the D.C. region, housing experts say.
How Arlington tackles that deficit, they said, could help stem the tide of urban sprawl and its social, economic and environmental impacts — with more options, lower- and middle-income households are better able to stay in their communities, be near their jobs and access established transit areas.
“Leadership [in Arlington] is still needed,” said Michael Spotts, President of Neighborhood Fundamentals, during a recent Arlington Committee of 100 webinar on Missing Middle Housing. “This is an important issue and Arlington can’t solve it on its own, but it’s something that we should do because it’s good for the county and the region.”
With the multi-year “Missing Middle Housing Study,” Arlington County is examining whether the county should allow housing types that have been typically prohibited from many neighborhoods to reverse housing shortages. If approved, rewritten ordinances would not be implemented until 2022 or 2023.
The county recently published the results of six months of community engagement. Priorities include a greater supply and wider array of housing options, at lower costs, while concerns include the impact that would have on property values, school capacity and the environment.
Now, the county is asking people what kinds of housing options should be explored. Through June 8, respondents can choose from 10 options, including multiplexes, cottage clusters, townhouses and small-lot homes currently excluded from some neighborhoods.
Providing those options locally will help address a regionwide problem that panelists say is currently driving urban sprawl, which is harming the environment.
“We’ve seen more development in outlying counties, and significant losses in impervious surface,” Spotts said. “We are downstream from some of these locations and that has an impact on Arlington’s environment. By limiting development [here], we may be able to save trees but at the expense of much larger acreage of forest loss in other jurisdictions.”
It also contributes to higher greenhouse gas emissions in those outlying counties, since many drive to work in Arlington and D.C., he said.
With the average costs of homes in Arlington ranging from $500,000-$1.5 million, depending on type, that prices out many professions like teachers, mechanics, security guards and so on.
High land costs set a minimum price for any new Missing Middle construction, however, and more stock may not solve the affordability problem anytime soon given Arlington’s housing shortage, according to Huntley.
“The prices of new Missing Middle properties will have to reflect that alternative [to build very expensive single-family detached homes],” he said.
Since 2017, Huntley said Arlington has built 58 brand-new townhomes with an average selling price of $1 million. There were only eight duplexes built — for an average price of $1 million — and 35 stacked condos that went for up to $840,000.
“Townhomes and other missing middle properties will definitely become more affordable, but unless something dramatic happens this effect will happen in a timeframe measured in decades,” he said.
This is set to be a pivotal year for how Arlington County represents itself in its logo and its infrastructure.
At the close of 2020, Arlington County kickstarted the process of updating its logo — a process that will soon be inviting public input — and this fall, County Board members expect to review a new framework for considering the possibility of new names for things like parks, streets and building.
Board member Christian Dorsey and NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. previewed these upcoming changes during a recent discussion on renaming hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, a group that talks about local issues.
Meanwhile, Marymount University assistant professor Cassandra Good shed light on the history of Arlington’s street naming and made recommendations for a new approach.
Spurred by a national discussion of systemic racism and police violence in 2019 and 2020, Arlington County is re-examining its logo, which depicts Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial, the former plantation home of the Confederate general and descendants of George Washington. The county is also reconsidering the names of various roads, parks and local landmarks named for Confederate generals and soldiers, slaveholders, plantations, and historic figures known for their racism.
That work is ongoing. A county logo review panel has received more than 250 submissions to consider and narrow down to five for the community to rank in May, Spain said. The County Board will select a new logo in June.
Meanwhile, county staff members are hammering out a formal process for naming and renaming places in Arlington going forward, to bring a systematic approach to what has so far been a case-by-case process.
“We expect that during the fall of this year, we will have a proposal from our county manager for how we ought to think about the renaming issue,” Dorsey said. “There’s going to be a lot more that comes with that, I expect.”
Some Committee of 100 members wondered whether the panelists think the county ought to change its name, too, given that the county is named after the plantation house that’s being removed from the logo.
Panelists said such a conversation could take place but changing the name Arlington would not only pose an extreme logistical challenge but may also not reflect a nuanced view of renaming.
“When we’re talking about changing the name of Arlington, it may come a time when we need to have that conversation,” Spain said. “But Arlington — I believe changing the name of a county is a pretty heavy lift.”
Dorsey said he is not in favor of throwing out everything that was the product of a certain time in history as “the poisonous fruit of a poisonous tree.”
A recurring question for officials tasked with renaming has been whether to swap one historical figure with another. The community could choose a person whose character could come into question later on, they said.
Good, the Marymount professor, said while her preference is not to use names of historical figures, there ought to be a few new historical figures featured.
“There need to be some names for people,” she said, otherwise, “the names that remain will mostly white people.”
Dorsey added that while the county can think beyond individuals, there will be some figures who community members will want to honor.
“I would hate to lose that entirely,” he said.
Good said Arlington first formalized a naming process for streets in 1932, when a commission of, as far as she can tell, all-white Arlington residents finalized the names for the county’s streets. Several — including Lafayette, Hamilton and Pocahontas Streets — were renamed at that time, she said.
Going forward, she recommended that all renaming decisions include those who have been excluded and involve a professional historian. Renaming should be considered if the current name was originally chosen to honor somebody for reasons that are at odds with the community’s values, she said.
The pandemic has dealt a blow to Arlington’s economy, but the county may be well-positioned for a rebound rather quickly.
In a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100 — the second of a two part series — local experts said that unlike past downturns that resulted in a lengthy recovery, this one is driven not by structural economic factors but by a virus.
As people are vaccinated and the pandemic recedes — whenever that may happen — expect a strong recovery.
“The economy right now is reacting to the health crisis and [that] is driving the recession,” said Jeanette Chapman, economist and director of the Stephen Fuller Institute at George Mason University. “This is not a normal recession.”
Due to the pandemic, consumer spending dropped significantly. Compared to this time last year, credit and debit card spending is down nearly a quarter in Arlington (less than D.C. comparably, which is down nearly 30%).
However, that is an improvement from early spring when spending overall was down about 50%.
As expected, the drop in spending was mostly concentrated in the transportation, apparel, hotel, and food service sectors. Grocery and food spending rose in 2020.
While job losses continues to be a concern, the Northern Virginia region is above the national average. Chapman says this is due to “mostly being a knowledge services economy and can send a bulk of workers home [to telework].” A big chunk of the job losses, as expected, are in the leisure and hospitality sector, accounting for nearly a third from November 2019 to November 2020.
“Leisure and hospitality jobs tend to have lower wage scales,” says Chapman. “Those jobs are hardest hit.”
In general, says Chapman, the losses regionally are skewed toward lower wage jobs. However, because this recession is due to a health crisis, Chapman says we can expect a near full recovery by 2022 due to the widespread availability of a vaccine.
Arlington’s small businesses, particularly those dependent on in-person interaction, are also being significantly impacted.
Telly Tucker, director of Arlington Economic Development, said that any business with fewer than 50 employees is defined as a “small business.” This encompasses about 90%, or 6,000, of the county’s businesses.
Arlington’s small business emergency grant provided nearly 400 businesses with a combined $2.7 million. More than half of those businesses were woman and/or minority-owned.
As for bigger businesses, Tucker also spoke about how office building vacancy rates actually were decreasing going into 2020 from a high of over 20% in 2015.
While the vacancy rate has since risen and now sits at 16.3%, that remains below the office vacancy rates of the mid-2010s. Commercial real estate like office buildings are a major source of tax revenue for the county, Tucker noted.
What’s more, a number of large, multinational companies have made a home in Arlington over the last five years. This includes Microsoft, which made the announcement just last week that it would have a significant presence in Rosslyn.
The Arlington housing market, meanwhile, is doing well. Homes are typically selling for between 3% to 5% over listing price, noted Tucker, which is a positive sign.
The special election candidates — Takis Karantonis (D), Bob Cambridge (R) and Susan Cunningham (I) — all called for a focus on equity and discussed ways to navigate a tighter county budget.
Karantonis, who serves as vice-chair of the Alliance for Housing Solutions and is former executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, laid out a several-pronged approach to how to focus the budget as the county works to manage a more limited revenue stream.
“COVID is an unexpected stress on our budget,” Karantonis said. “Citizens expect to have a government that reacts to such unexpected impacts. Right now, don’t know how deep or broad COVID economic impact will be. The focus [should be] social safety net expenditures as our first priority. Five-thousand families are on food assistance and the region has lost 300,000 jobs.”
Karantonis said in reviewing capital investments, the County Board should prioritize those that leverage external funding, like state and federal grants. Other priorities, he said, include micro-loans to help small businesses get back on their feet and trying to rescue Metro and the Arlington Transit bus service, which have seen substantial ridership losses during the pandemic.
“Then [we can] come out of this with a better base to decide how we will structure the county later,” Takis said. “I’m an economist, I’m trained to do this, and I’ve done it in the private sector and non-profit sector. The best focus is on economic development to rebound.”
Cambridge, an Army veteran and former CIA employee who works as a lawyer in Arlington, said his campaign is built on the idea that different political ideologies have good ideas that can contribute to each other. Cambridge said his approach to recovery would be built on incorporating more flexibility into the budget to address these sorts of crises.
“The budget is highly strained right now,” Cambridge said. “We have got to be flexible and respond as our understanding of challenges become more and more obvious. We do have a lot of city services we need. That is the sinews we all need. We really need to do things in a different way.”
Cunningham, who worked at the Internal Revenue Service and founded the nonprofit EdBuild, said the county should do more to improve how projects are financed.
“There are a lot of opportunities in our budget for improving our spending,” Cunningham said. “Not eliminating, but improving implementation. Our projects take too long, our community engagement takes too long, we don’t look back and do audits of capital programs. There’s a lot of room to improve and be more accountable.”
Cunningham said the budget should prioritize updating the outdated infrastructure, particularly Arlington’s stormwater and flood mitigation systems.
Cunningham and Cambridge both argued for a data-driven approach to solving issues of inequality on Arlington.
“Data and facts should guide us,” Cunningham said. “Our data elements tell us the story of suspensions that begin in kindergarten for black and brown children at much higher rates, and of COVID outcomes right now with over 50% of cases in the Hispanic community. The numbers tell us where we’re doing okay and where we’re not. We should use that to guide our efforts and evaluate the implementation of changes.”
Karantonis argued addressing inequality in Arlington has to go deeper than data and statistics, though, and must look at how different communities in Arlington are prioritized or ignored in county discussions. He pointed to a situation where he said the civic association of a historically Black neighborhood was overlooked in county discussions.
“We have to be active about doing this… including restorative justice efforts and looking at the educational system, making sure people have access to resources,” Takis said. “The numbers are great, but what matters is how people feel.”
Also during the debate, the candidates discussed transit on Columbia Pike. None — including Karantonis, a booster of the Pike streetcar plan while at CPRO — expressed an interest in reviving the cancelled streetcar project, though the candidates “did press for increased attention to mass-transit along the Columbia Pike corridor, and leveled criticism at the county government for not acting fast enough or going far enough in meeting the transit needs of residents there,” the Sun Gazette reported.
The special election is scheduled to be held on July 7.
Image via Arlington Committee of 100
“Arlington has been one of the hardest-hit communities in the commonwealth for COVID-19,” the organization said in an event description. “Join us to learn more about how Arlington is responding and what you can do to stay safe and help others.”
The lineup is a who’s who of leadership handling the response on a local level, including:
- Libby Garvey — Chair, Arlington County Board
- Zachary Pope — Emergency Manager, Arlington Public Schools
- Dr. Reuben Varghese — Public Health Director, Arlington County
- Karen Coltrane — CEO of local nonprofit Leadership Center for Excellence
Varghese has been at the forefront of the coronavirus response in Arlington and has already participated in previous online discussions about the virus’ impact on how Arlingtonians should handle the crisis.
The Committee of 100, which normally holds in-person discussions and debates about community issues, said participants will be able to ask questions during a Q&A portion of the meeting.
The group will be hosting the webinar via Zoom on Wednesday, April 22, from 7-8:30 p.m. A link is sent after registering, along with an email address to which one can submit questions.
The event is scheduled to be moderated by Lynn Juhl, chair of the Committee of 100.