Last week the Arlington Committee of 100 hosted a debate at Marymount University among those running for local office.
At the debate, the six candidates for County Board and School Board in the 2017 general election clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.
The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office should rethink its relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a leader at a criminal justice nonprofit.
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director at the Falls Church-based Legal Aid Justice Center — which provides legal representation for low-income Virginians — said with President Donald Trump’s harder line on illegal immigration, Arlington and other jurisdictions should look again at how they work with ICE.
Under former President Barack Obama, he said, ICE was focused primarily on deporting illegal immigrants who are gang members and criminals. But now, according to Sandoval-Moshenberg, their orders appears to be broader as they seek to deport non-criminals as well.
Fellow panelist, Deputy Sheriff David Kidwell, said that Arlington is legally required to provide information on people under arrest electronically to Virginia State Police. VSP then shares that data with the FBI and ICE, among other law enforcement agencies.
If a person in jail is wanted by ICE for deportation and the Sheriff’s Office receives a request to hold onto them, it notifies ICE 48 hours before the person is released to come and collect them. But Sandoval-Moshenberg said that should change.
“I think there are a lot of assumptions and agreements under the old administration that need to be revisited given the new administration’s policies,” he said.
The pair were on a panel Wednesday night to discuss the impact of the changes in immigration law and enforcement as part of the Arlington Committee of 100’s monthly program at Marymount University.
Kidwell echoed County Manager Mark Schwartz’s statement earlier this year that Arlington cannot protect anyone from federal immigration enforcement. Instead, he said, Sheriff Beth Arthur has made the decision to “uphold the law.”
“She has decided once that request has been made [by ICE], to honor that request,” Kidwell said.
A third panelist, Laura Newton, director of Student Services at Arlington Public Schools, said APS will not require families or students to reveal their immigration status when they register. She added that families should not be afraid of sending their children to school.
“We need to make sure people know we are an open and welcoming county, and we will not stop anyone registering for school because of their legal status,” Newton said. She added that policy has not changed over the past several years, and APS has not received any complaints about it.
Still uncertain is the future of the approximately 800,000 people that will be affected when President Trump’s rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program starts to take effect in March. Trump is reported to be working on a deal with congressional Democrats to preserve DACA protections via legislation.
The decision, which affects people brought into the country illegally as children who were granted work permits and protection from deportation, was criticized by local members of Congress as well as the County Board.
Sandoval-Moshenberg estimated there are around 17,000 undocumented immigrants in Arlington. He said the dearth of affordable housing has meant the immigrant population has been slowly squeezed out. In 2000, 30 percent of Arlington residents were foreign-born, but in 2010, that figure went down to 20 percent.
“As the laws and policies have become more and more welcoming to immigrants and more and more friendly to immigrants, less and less are living here as fewer and fewer can afford to live here,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said. He said that ending DACA could mean more people go back into the shadows.
Both Kidwell and Newton said their agencies will not change their stances on illegal immigrants. Kidwell said sheriff’s deputies and police officers will not ask anyone under arrest about their immigration status, while Newton emphasized that APS mission to educate anyone and everyone who lives in Arlington.
“It’s not our place to judge the reasons why you are here,” she said. “Our job is to educate you.”
The Committee of 100 will discuss the impact of immigration policy and enforcement on private organizations and civic groups at its November meeting in the second of its two-part series on the issue. In October the group will hold a forum with local candidates for public office.
It’s March 1 — Not only is today the first day of March, with spring (March 20) and Daylight Saving Time (March 13) around the corner, but it’s also the Super Tuesday presidential primary day here in Virginia. Arlington’s 52 polling places opened at 6 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. [Arlington County]
Committee of 100 to Discuss Racial Tensions — On Wednesday, March 9, the Arlington Committee of 100 will hold a discussion entitled “Are Arlington’s Police and Justice Systems Prepared to Respond to Community and Racial Tensions?” Among the speakers are Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and Police Chief Jay Farr. [InsideNova]
It’s a Good Time to Lease an Office in Arlington — D.C.-based commercial real estate firm West, Lane & Schlager is advising companies to consider leasing office space in Arlington in the near future. The firm says the D.C. area is definitely a tenant’s market at the moment, but the tide will eventually turn. With vacancy rates stabilizing, companies can take advantage of lease concessions now, before the market turns in favor of landlords, the firm says. [Patch]
Four Courts Four Miler Coming Up — The popular annual Four Courts Four Miler race will take place Saturday morning, March 12. Registration is currently $40 and will, in part, benefit the Arlington County Police Benevolent Fund. As in previous years, those who beat the runner dressed up as a leprechaun — Ireland’s Four Courts manager Dave Cahill, a 3:10 marathon runner — will get a special gift from the pub. [Pacers Running]
You know a top executive’s gig is tough when an entire room applauds after someone gets up and says, “thank you for taking the job.”
Wiedefeld started the night by telling the crowd he has been fighting a cold since the January blizzard, when Metro shut down for a couple days, and will be taking a decidedly unglamorous trip to Lincoln, Nebraska later this month to check on the manufacturer of Metro’s problematic 7000-series railcars.
Turning around Metro is an exhausting job and Wiedefeld sounded, well, a bit exhausted.
During the audience question-and-answer session, he was asked whether Metro should lower the expectations of riders for the reliability of a two-track system built in the 1970s for a sleepier capital city
“I do think we need to be more realistic about what’s achievable and what’s not,” Wiedefeld said. “You can only fit so much through a small tube, that’s just reality. We need to do a better job of educating the public, for sure.”
Despite that, Wiedefeld acknowledged Metro’s problems, took responsibility for rider frustration and promised change.
“I don’t think we’re doing the best we can do,” he continued. “We’re not putting out the service the best we could, and that’s the first thing we need to do.”
Under Wiedefeld, who was formerly the CEO of BWI Airport in Maryland, Metro has three main priorities: improve safety, improve basic service reliability, and get its fiscal house in order.
Wiedefeld is approaching the challenge from the bottom up: he’s been trying to spend as much time as possible with Metro’s front-line employees: those maintaining the rails, driving the buses and cleaning the trains. He said Metro’s headquarters and leaders have been too removed from its day-to-day operations on the ground, something he wants to improve.
Wiedefeld has also been making an effort to be a more visible leader in the region. That’s what brought him to the Committee of 100. At the meeting, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey marveled that Wiedefeld was the first Metro general manager she had actually met in person in all of her years of public service.
The realities of Metrorail’s maintenance needs may require some fundamental changes in the way Metro operates. Poor maintenance, after all, is what’s causing much of Metro’s current unreliability. The agency doesn’t even have enough working rail cars to meet its promises about eight-car trains. The delivery of the new 7000-series cars — only 80 are in service so far — will help, but they must be maintained, in addition to track and the myriad other components of the Metro system.
“We need to take a hard look at how we’re doing things, particularly on the maintenance side,” Wiedefeld said. “These are big, complex systems.”
Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, who last year launched a “personal crusade” against bottled water, will debate a representative of the bottled water industry this weekend.
Fisette and Chris Hogan, Vice President of Communications for the Alexandria-based International Bottled Water Association, will speak at the Arlington Committee of 100’s monthly dinner meeting.
The debate, which is being held at Marymount University (2807 N. Glebe Road) will begin at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan 8. An RSVP is required by Jan. 5.
From the event’s Facebook page:
In 2009, the Arlington County Board passed a resolution banning the use of taxpayer funds to purchase single use, bottled water – with a very few exceptions. That resolution spoke to the environmental cost of producing, transporting and disposing of these bottles. While that may have reduced their use at county sponsored functions, many of us still use single use bottled water. Incoming Board Chairman Jay Fisette has begun a crusade to reduce the use of single use plastic water bottles. At our January meeting we will address the questions related to this initiative. What are the advantages of single use bottled water? What are the effects on the environment of the way we dispose of the empty bottles? Are there alternatives that provide the same or similar advantages?
Arlington County water department employees and representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council are also expected to attend.