More Coronavirus-Related Dispatches — ARLnow is starting to hear the Arlington County Fire Department responding to more suspected COVID-19 cases. Medics were just dispatched to assist a 44-year-old woman with severe trouble breathing and other symptoms consistent with the disease.
May Could Be Worse Than April — “It could still be weeks before the worst of the coronavirus crisis hits Virginia. State officials are preparing for a surge in the number of people who test positive between late April and late May, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that analysis of the latest models shows. Northam told residents he was planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” [NBC 4]
Prosecutors Have Video Evidence in Store Shooting — “The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office showed the judge security video from the Shirlington Road business, which prosecutors said captures Abushariah shooting one of the burglars ‘point-blank in the back…’ The prosecutor called the case a ‘callous disregard for human life’ because Abushariah had other options, such as hiding in the backroom and calling the police. Or running to safety out the back door.” [WJLA]
Arlington Resident’s YOLO Money Diary — “We then took some mushrooms around 12 PM and went on a long, trippy, and fun-filled walk through Rosslyn. We stopped at Northside Social for some pastries and a Bitburger beer while on our walk–more illegal public drinking, but we kind of just don’t care anymore.” [Washingtonian]
Two Green Pig Employees Test Positive — “We regret to inform you that two of our employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Both… had been working with customers assisting with order-pickups. Neither were working in the kitchen or with food prep.” [Instagram]
Bakeshop Now Mailing Some Items — Bakeshop in Clarendon is now taking orders of cookies, cream pies, bars and bread slices online. Orders are shipped on Mondays to ensure freshness. [Bakeshop]
Marymount Prof is 3D Printing Face Shields — “Marymount University professor Dr. Eric Bubar is getting in on the action, with hopes of utilizing his unique skills to make a difference. A longtime provider of 3D printed upper-limb assistive devices, he is now shifting his focus to creating 3D printed, reusable face shields for use at hospitals in Washington, D.C., New York and beyond.” [Press Release]
APS to Distribute Week of Meals to Families in Need — “On Fri, April 3, APS will provide a week’s worth of meals to families who come to one of the five grab-and-go meal distribution sites to ensure students have food during spring break. There will be no APS meal service provided April 6-10… Meal services will resume on Mon, April 13, with an expanded list of sites to include Key and Hoffman-Boston elementary schools. Additionally, the USDA has provided a waiver to the rule that children must be present to receive meals.” [Arlington Public Schools]
The number of coronavirus cases in Arlington has reached five, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.
The VDH website now lists 5 cases in Arlington, 6 in Fairfax County, and 1 in Alexandria. In total, there are 30 cases throughout the state and 10 hospitalizations.
The new figures represent a 150% rise in cases in one day. On Thursday, Arlington announced the second coronavirus case in the county.
Separately Friday afternoon, Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti announced her intention to push all criminal cases in which the defendant is not being held in jail back to at least April 10. It’s unclear whether that will affect those who are being called to jury duty.
On March 12, 2020, the office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney announced policies outlined in the attached letter to address the spread of COVID-19. We’re working with judges of the 17th District & other stakeholders to fulfill our oath to the community to maintain public safety pic.twitter.com/RhoEUxzYDq
— Arlington & Falls Church Virginia CA (@CA4Arlington) March 13, 2020
Thanks for asking that important question. The Clerk of Court is responsible for all jury summonses and operations of the Circuit Court. When there is publicly available guidance I will help push it out. In the meantime, here’s their website:https://t.co/9fKL7YxlFB
— Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (@parisa4justice) March 13, 2020
Also Friday afternoon, following the announcement that Arlington Public Schools would be closing through mid-April, Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation announced that all activities and programs were being canceled through April 20.
The full announcement from DPR is below, after the jump.
Biden Wins Virginia — “Virginia voters have overwhelmingly given former Vice President Joe Biden a sizable win over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary election. According to unofficial state election returns, Biden has been called the winner of the state with 53.3 percent of what was a record primary turnout, and will capture the largest share of its 99 delegates.” [Patch, Washington Post]
Bernie Underperforms 2016 — In the two-way race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016, Sanders captured 33% of the vote in Arlington. Yesterday, he received 19% of the vote, a close third to Elizabeth Warren at 20%.
FAA Taking Comments on DCA Noise — “After changing the routes for planes taking off from Reagan National Airport, in Arlington, Virginia, the Federal Aviation Administration is holding a public comment period. The comment period closes March 30. In an email, Libby Garvey, chair of the Arlington County Board, said that even if people in the community submitted earlier complaints, the FAA will not be officially considering them.” [WTOP]
Tafti Defends Changes at Prosecutor’s Office — “There’s this false critique that these reforms are making our communities less safe. We’ve been fed a story for decades that we have to incarcerate and have zero tolerance in order to be safe. More and more we are finding that harm reduction — for drug use, mental illness treatment, restorative justice — is more effective.” [Arlington Magazine]
Police: Two Arrested in Stolen Vehicle — “At approximately 2:40 p.m. on March 1, officers [in Pentagon City] were alerted to a license plate reader hit on a vehicle previously reported stolen out of Washington D.C. Officers observed two subjects walking away from the parked vehicle and conducted surveillance in the area. The subjects were taken into custody without incident as they returned to the vehicle… A search of the vehicle located suspected narcotics.” [Arlington County]
Chamber Cheers Tourism Tax Bill — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce celebrates the General Assembly’s establishment of permanent funding for tourism promotion in Arlington. This 0.25 percent Transient Occupancy Tax surcharge on hotel rooms is used exclusively by Arlington Convention and Visitors Service… to grow travel and tourism in Arlington. Previously, the tax surcharge was enacted with a July 1, 2021 sunset” provision. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Bill Could Boost N. Va. Metro Funding — “Northern Virginia localities could soon have the ability to spend more money on Metro service increases after state lawmakers approved a bill that tinkers with the dedicated funding agreement for the transit agency… Virginia’s total financial contribution to Metro can’t increase by more than 3% each year, a condition designed to impose fiscal discipline on the agency. The bill from Del. Vivian Watts, D-Annandale would exempt any costs associated with service increases from that cap.” [Washington Business Journal]
Trash Collection Cancelled — Updated at 8:55 a.m. — Trash and recycling collection is cancelled today, according to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. Christmas tree and brush collection will be completed as normal, however. [Twitter]
Rep. Beyer Calls for Peace — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted the following after Iran’s airstrike on U.S. military bases in Iraq — a response to the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general: “De-escalate. Exercise diplomacy. Talk. Listen. Give peace a chance.” [Twitter]
Civ Fed Worries About Upzoning — “‘None of us are interested in destroying all our single-family neighborhoods,’ new County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said during the board’s Jan. 2 meeting with the Arlington County Civic Federation… At the forum, Garvey promised that the Civic Federation would play an integral role in any civic-engagement process that transpires in coming months. She reiterated the board’s position that zoning changes are not a done deal.” [InsideNova]
Board Defends Amazon’s Housing Contribution — “Arlington County Board members are defending their decision to trade additional office-building density for affordable-housing funding, but the decision provoked tension with some delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation. Meeting with board members on Jan. 2, several federation members asked why the county government had decided to allocate all the $20 million contribution from Amazon to affordable-housing efforts.” [InsideNova]
Marijuana Possession Cases Dismissed — In court Tuesday, Arlington’s new top prosecutor successfully sought for judges to dismiss charges against those charged with simple marijuana possession. [Twitter]
Police Investigate Pike Robbery — A portion of westbound Columbia Pike was shut down near S. Glebe Road early Tuesday morning while police investigated a robbery. An ACPD spokeswoman told ARLnow that a victim was robbed and suffered minor injuries; no weapon was involved in the robbery. [Twitter]
New Coworking Space Coming to Crystal City — “Hana is coming to Greater Washington, and it’s going to be neighbors with HQ2. CBRE Group has picked a Crystal City office building to serve as the first East Coast location of its flexible space concept, named after the Hawaiian word for work.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Pawn Shop Helps Return Lost Ring — “Mary Nosrati, a certified gemologist who works at a pawnshop in Arlington, Va., likes to say that every diamond has a story. This is the story of Marsha Wilkins’s diamond, of how it was lost and how it was found.” [Washington Post]
Metro Tests New Tech in Pentagon City — The Transportation Security Administration and Metro rolled out new security technology at the Pentagon City Metro station on Tuesday. The system “can detect an individual concealing an improvised explosive device, such as a suicide vest or another weapon.” [Fox 5, Twitter]
HQ2 Leads to Development Boom — “Arlington officials, developers, market researchers — everyone, really — predicted that Amazon.com Inc.’s arrival in the county would generate a development boom in the company’s neighborhood. So far, they’ve been right.” [Washington Business Journal]
Tafti Sworn in as Prosecutor — Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was sworn in Monday as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. On Tuesday she warned a crowd at a progressive think tank there has been a “growing narrative in pretty extreme circles that trying to reimagine the criminal-legal system is somehow going to make us less safe…somehow disrespects victims.” [Twitter, Blue Virginia]
Airport Authority Voting on $15 Wage — After years of protests, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is set to vote today on a new policy that would increase the hourly wages of contracted workers — baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, lobby agents, skycaps, cabin cleaners, airport concessions and airline catering workers — from $12.75 to $15 by 2023. [Press Release]
Beyer Pushing for Quieter Airplanes — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has long advocated against excessive noise from aircraft landing at and taking off from Reagan National Airport, is calling on NASA to study ways to make commercial jetliners quieter and cleaner in a new bill. [Press Release]
Northam Proposes Nixing Vehicle Inspections — “Gov. Ralph Northam wants to end state-mandated vehicle safety inspections and cut vehicle registration fees in half, proposals his administration says would eventually save Virginians more than $280 million per year. But motorists would have to pay a few dollars more each time they fill up on gas under a proposal to increase the state’s motor vehicle fuels tax from about 22 cents per gallon to 34 cents per gallon over three years.” [Virginia Mercury]
Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has announced plans to visit the correctional facilities to which she and her assistant prosecutors will be sending guilty defendants.
Tafti, who will take over at the top prosecutor for Arlington and Falls Church on Jan. 1, says it’s important for prosecutors to understand the correctional end of the criminal justice system to ensure “a just punishment for defendants.”
Tafti and her staff will, over the next year, “complete visits to their local prison, jail and juvenile facilities, and implement ongoing requirements for staff,” according to a press release. Nearly 40 prosecutors across the country have committed to similar visits.
The future of Arlington’s juvenile detention center is currently up for discussion. Tafti, meanwhile, last week announced the appointment of her chief deputy, a respected veteran of the Commonwealth’s Attorney office.
More on the correctional visits, from the press release:
Today Parisa Dehghani-Tafti joined 38 elected prosecutors from across the country and committed to personally visit the correctional facilities in which individuals prosecuted by their office are placed. Recognizing that “it is vital for prosecutors to understand the true impact of their decisions and to see firsthand the jails, prisons and juvenile facilities in their jurisdiction,” these elected leaders also committed to implementing requirements for all prosecutors in their offices to visit these facilities and to incorporate this concept into ongoing job expectations.
Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Commonwealth’s Attorney Elect for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, said, “A prosecutor’s job is to hold in her mind and weigh in practice the safety of the community, the needs of victims, and a just punishment for defendants. How can we achieve that balance unless we see and understand for ourselves the outcomes of our decisions?”
Despite the fact that prosecutors have immense influence over who becomes incarcerated and for how long, many have never set foot inside a prison, jail or juvenile correctional facility. As more prosecutors implement reforms to shrink the footprint of the justice system, it is critical to develop a deep understanding of correctional facilities – including an understanding of how isolated, dehumanizing and unsafe conditions can impact an individual’s rehabilitation efforts, and in turn the safety of the communities to which they return.
“Prosecutors control the front door of the justice system through their charging decisions — and so much that follows in the lives of individuals in their community when that door is opened,” said Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution. “As such, they have an obligation to see and understand the conditions in the jails and prisons where their advocacy sends people, as well as the impact of those decisions on the individuals incarcerated within their walls, their families and the broader community. Today’s pledge, joined in by a wide swath of prosecutors from around the country, seeks to embed in the culture of DAs’ offices the recognition that decisions to incarcerate someone should never be taken lightly. We hope that by bringing prosecutors closer to those impacted by their actions, they will have a new perspective as they weigh the decision to incarcerate against other options that will keep individuals in community settings.”
The pledge will be implemented by Ms. Tafti’s Office over the coming year, during which time she, as well as all prosecutors in her office, will complete visits to their local prison, jail and juvenile facilities, and implement ongoing requirements for staff. This is a build out of the initiative launched by FAMM as part of their #VisitAPrison challenge, an effort to encourage elected policy leaders throughout all levels of government to personally visit correctional facilities.
Read the full pledge statement here and see below for a full list of pledge participants.
Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has announced her first planned appointment.
The incoming top prosecutor says she will promote current Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Cari Steele to Chief Deputy, lauding both her prosecutorial chops and participation in groups like the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Review Committee and the Sexual Assault Response Team.
Tafti, who will take office on Jan. 1, issued a press release about the move — perhaps signaling a departure from outgoing Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, whose office issued few such communiques, aside from coordinating with police on press releases about the resolution of major cases.
More from the press release:
As her first planned appointment, Commonwealth’s Attorney elect Parisa Dehghani-Tafti will promote to Chief Deputy Cari Steele, who currently serves as Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, effective January 1, 2020. Ms. Steele is a 17-year veteran of the office, having served since 2002. Throughout her career she has successfully handled numerous jury trials and bench trials before the courts of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, including homicide, sexual assault, and robbery.
Ms. Dehghani-Tafti noted that “Ms Steele is uniformly well respected by the bench, bar, law enforcement, and the community at large, and will be invaluable in maintaining the institutional memory of the office. But just as importantly, her deep experience as a member of the local Mental Health and Criminal Justice Review Committee, as coordinator for the Sexual Assault Response Team, and as a liaison to the Arlington County Drug Treatment Court makes her a wonderful fit to implement our restorative justice and diversion policies.”
For her part, Ms. Steele stated “It has been a privilege to serve the citizens of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church for the last 17 years and I am excited to continue that service in this new role under the vision and leadership of our Commonwealth’s Attorney-Elect.”
Ms. Steele is currently the liaison to the City of Falls Church Police Department, the Child Advocacy Center, and the Special Victims’ Unit of the Arlington County Police Department. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Arlington County Bar Association. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Methodist College and received her J.D. from the University of Richmond in 2000. Ms. Steele is married to William Wetzonis and they have three children.
Last night, reform candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was elected the next top prosecutor for Arlington and Falls Church, leaving questions about how her campaign promises could affect the area’s political and legal landscape.
Throughout her unusually contentious — and expensive — campaign, Tafti promised to stop prosecuting some marijuana possession cases, eliminate some cash bail requirements, and make it easier for defense attorneys to access case files, among other reforms.
Tafti declined to discuss details about her plans for the prosecutor’s office itself, but the other agencies most affected by her reforms say her tenure could have a big impact on their work.
Public defenders may have more time with their clients
Chief Public Defender Bradley Haywood has been a vocal critic of outgoing Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and donated to Tafti’s campaign. He told ARLnow her win will “absolutely” change the work his office can do, adding that her election was an “amazing opportunity” for judges, lawyers, and prosecutors to work together on criminal justice reform.
One reform Haywood said will majorly impact public defenders is Tafti’s promise to do away with the the requirement that defense attorneys hand copy all the prosecutor’s files about their criminal cases — a process several attorneys say is “horribly inefficient” and makes preparing large cases impossible.
“We estimated that there were about 1,000-1,500 hours we spent in that stupid room typing manually,” Haywood said of his office’s work in the past year. “It’s going to go down from 1,000 hours to zero probably in January. That will give us time to actually learn more about our clients.”
Tafti told ARLnow last night after the polls closed and her campaign declared victory that she was “absolutely” still committed to digitizing the document policy.
The Arlington County Bar Association, which includes private defense attorneys, declined to comment when asked how the new prosecutor’s policy priorities could affect members’ work.
The Sheriff’s Office may need a budget bump
Another one of the reforms Tafti focused on during her campaign was ending the practice of “cash bail,” which she said penalizes lower-income people who might instead remain jail as they await trial.
Outgoing prosecutor Theo Stamos announced last November she would stop seeking bail for people accused of low-level misdemeanors after seven state lawmakers urged her to fix the system. However, public defenders criticized the plan for still excluding too many defendants, calling it a “cynical PR move” to help her bid for re-election.
Sheriff Beth Arthur, who won her re-election last night, told ARLnow she didn’t necessarily oppose more changes to the bail system. But she did express concern about how to manage resources if judges choose to release defendants before trial with conditions — like weekly drug testing — in lieu of bail.
“I do have concerns from a staffing perspective and from an operational perspective on how how this impacts the poor people who are managing the program and who have a caseload of 60-65 people,” she said of her office’s pre-trial program that supervises such defendants. “That’s a lot.”
However, Arthur said she’s hopeful that the county will grant her office additional resources to staff pre-trial programs should they be affected by Tafti’s reforms — or the jail diversion program for people with mental illnesses.
In June, the Arlington County Board approved a $45.3 million total budget for the Sheriff’s Office in fiscal year 2020.
Tebebe Makonnen, charged with murder after a woman’s death at the Embassy Suites in Crystal City, avoided a lengthy jail sentence on a previous charge thanks to a plea deal earlier this year.
The victim, who fell from an upper floor of the hotel onto the interior lobby restaurant below around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, was identified as Makonnen’s mother, multiple news outlets reported. According to WUSA 9, Makonnen and his mother, 63-year-old Zelalem Abedje, were living in the hotel.
Makonnen was arraigned Wednesday morning before Judge George Varoutsos in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court, prosecutors say. He’s due back in court for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
In January, Makonnen struck a plea deal with prosecutors in connection to an incident last year, in which he was accused of inappropriately touching an employee at Virginia Hospital Center’s Behavioral Health Unit. The original charge of sexual battery was downgraded to disorderly conduct, and a Circuit Court judge agreed to a recommended 12-month jail sentence, with the entire sentence suspended — making Makonnen a free man, on the condition of treatment for mental health issues.
“The Commonwealth felt it was important that mental health treatment be a component of any disposition in the Circuit Court,” outgoing Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos told ARLnow.
Our office agreed to amend the sexual battery to disorderly conduct (also a Class 1 misdemeanor) with an agreed recommendation of 12 months in jail, all suspended for one year, with the added conditions that the defendant remain compliant with his mental health treatment under the supervision of [Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services] as well as refrain from any contact with the victim. Judge Louise DiMatteo ordered the defendant to return to court on January 10, 2020 to review his compliance. Defense counsel made a strong argument that the amendment to disorderly conduct would allow the defendant to avail himself of a broader range of treatment options as programs often don’t allow individuals with sex-related convictions in their programs.
However, in a video posted in March 2018 (below), two months before the Virginia Hospital Center incident, Makonnen talks into a camera and argues that antipsychotic medication has ruined his life.
Makonnen says in the video that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar, but asserts that he was not experiencing any symptoms. He says forced hospitalization is “ridiculous,” the medication he was given “would make me a zombie,” and forced medication is an “injustice.”
Arlington County Police are aware of the video, spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow yesterday.
Stamos and Savage declined to comment further on the pending murder charge. In addition to murder, Arlington Circuit Court records indicate Makonnen is also being charged with disobeying a court order.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Courts in Arlington County will no longer legally declare people drunks and arrest them for drinking alcohol after a federal court ruled the old law unconstitutional.
A full panel of judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a state law called “interdiction” which allows counties to label people “habitual drunkards” and prosecute them for having or drinking alcohol. The judges ruled 8-7 last week that the law left the meaning of habitual drunkards “unconstitutionally vague” and constituted cruel and unusual punishment — a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
“We hope that this means that our clients can have the debilitating label ‘habitual drunkard’ lifted from them and they can move through their lives without constant fear of prosecution,” said Elaine Poon, the managing attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center which has helped lead a class-action fight in court to overturn the law for the last three years.
Prosecutors in Arlington this week dismissed seven active cases brought under the nullified law, and police have suspended enforcement — though laws against public drunkenness and other alcohol-related crimes remain on the books.
“In accordance with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruling, the Arlington County Police Department has suspended enforcement of the Virginia Code sections related to alcohol interdiction,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “No arrests or charges will be sought in relation to those code sections.”
Brad Haywood, Arlington’s Chief Public Defender, said attorneys in his office were notified about the change Thursday morning when they showed up to court, and his office was “ecstatic” to hear the news last week.
“This has been an issue that defense attorneys and social workers have been fighting for decades,” he said. “Since the first day I’ve worked a public defender 15 years ago there were concerted efforts to overturn this law.”
The case, Manning v. Caldwell, is named after Roanoke man Bryan Manning. A judge declared Manning a “drunkard” nine years ago under the interdiction statute without Manning present because the man, who is homeless and had struggled with alcohol addiction for several years, can be difficult to find. Over the next eight years, Manning racked up over 30 charges related to possessing alcohol or being suspected of drinking it, and the frequent arrests often cost him jobs and led to him losing his possessions.
Manning isn’t the only one: in Arlington, one interdicted man has been charged 37 times, per data the prosecutor’s office shared with ARLnow.
The same data shows 12 people have been interdicted in Arlington since 2015, and in total there are 50 interdicted in the county — with each person averaging 19 prosecutions. Between 1996 and 2015, there were 1,220 people legally declared drunks across Virginia, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The following op-ed was written by Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, the Democratic nominee for Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney. As the presumed victor in the unchallenged November election, which followed a heated primary campaign, Dehghani-Tafti will be the area’s chief prosecutor amid questions about how the prosecutor’s office will change under her leadership.
Moments after 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, while standing on a sidewalk on Clarendon Boulevard near Courthouse, I received a phone call from my friend and deputy campaign manager excitedly telling me that the voters of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church had selected me as the Democratic nominee for Commonwealth’s Attorney. In that moment, with the sounds of supporters cheering in the near distance and the sight of young people milling about on a warm spring evening, I was reminded, as I knew from the very start of the campaign, that it would soon be my charge, together with other branches of law enforcement, to help maintain the safety, welfare, and wellbeing of nearly 250,000 people.
The campaign had been long and hard-fought, but in our very first debate, I was asked to name one thing I admired about Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos. I honestly answered that I found it admirable Ms. Stamos had chosen public service when she could have long ago leveraged her skills into more lucrative private sector work. Had I had another moment for thought, I would have added what I also believe to be true: she persevered in a field that had long been dominated by men and, in doing so, opened a path for other women, myself included.
The campaign, of course, is not over. As I prepare for the November general election, I will be guided by three principles. First, I want to keep faith with members of the community who supported, volunteered, and voted for me, and earn the trust of those who did not. Elections come and go, but what endures is community. Second, I want to approach the work ahead with both an open mind and moral courage. I fundamentally believe that the choice between safety and justice has always been a false one; at the same time, I have the utmost respect for the institutional knowledge and professional expertise that resides in the current office. Last but not least, I want to keep foremost in my mind that what’s needed for the office is both integrity and humility. Our delegates, senators, county board, and school board members have deep and intimate knowledge of the needs in our community; I see as one of my main tasks to be an honest partner with them, to listen to their expertise, and take heed of their priorities — because I know the criminal justice system cannot and should not be the tool to solve every problem.
Late Tuesday evening, after all the well-wishers had gone and I’d returned home to my family, I stayed up into the early hours of the morning, making two lists: one, of the people I needed to personally thank for making this moment possible; the other, of the immediate tasks I needed to accomplish to plan for the office. Both lists grew incredibly long but each list, in different ways, made it clear to me that at this moment we have a chance in Arlington and the City of Falls Church to show the Commonwealth and the country what it means to have a criminal justice system that is safe and transparent, truly cares for victims, treats everyone fairly and humanely, and honestly addresses systemic disparities in race and class. “The world stands before you,” James Baldwin once wrote, “and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.” I’m eager for the work ahead.