Arlington, VA

Nearly one week after advocates flooded the County Board with concerns that planned stormwater investments in the Capital Improvement Plan favor Arlington’s wealthier neighborhoods, staff returned to the County Board to argue that the proposed investments were addressing important issues below the surface.

The renewed push for improving the County’s stormwater capacity is tied to historic flooding that took place last year and devastated many Arlington homes and businesses. County Manager Mark Schwartz has proposed a $50.8 million stormwater bond, among other bonds, to be sent to voters in the November election.

Some speakers at the earlier meeting criticized the bulk of that investment, $26.9 million, for going to the Spout Run watershed that runs through affluent communities around Lee Highway. The watershed was identified by county staff as a location with some of the highest concentration of recent flood damage to homes.

In a work session with the Arlington County Board yesterday (Thursday) Dept. of Environmental Services Director Greg Emanuel said the stormwater investment was based on the status of pipes below the surface and not the economics of the neighborhoods above.

“As you know, we’re trying to apply an equity lens on all our policy decisions,” Emanuel said. “[For] investments to infrastructure, unlike services with transit, we believe should be based on system-condition and need or identified deficiencies. We believe that should be regardless of demographics or geography, basically who is on the surface.”

Emanuel argued that, just as earlier investments had cut down on flooding around Four Mile Run in South Arlington, the proposed investments in northwest Arlington would provide lasting relief to residents struggling with flood issues. It would also benefit a wider swath of the county, he said.

“This decade, our proposed investments are predominately proposed for watersheds in the northwest part of the county based on modeling and actual experience,” Emanuel said. “It’s an interconnected system. Improvements such as detention in upper parts of a watershed will provide benefits to everyone in a system downstream of that, down to Four Mile Run.”

Speakers last week criticized the county for focusing on benefits to low-density neighborhoods, but Emanuel said the County’s modeling indicated that’s where the most severe flooding is.

Arlington is “investing the most where the most flooding is occurring, which is the northwest watersheds,” Emanuel said. “Of course, it’s not just there, we’re doing important things like dredging and important flood controls on the southern end near the mouth of Four Mile Run.”

Emanuel’s assertion that the northwest watershed was the most in need of stormwater investment went mostly unchallenged by the County Board.

County Board member Christian Dorsey questioned why areas like Alcova Heights, Douglas Park, and Aurora Highlands weren’t listed as priorities when data showed flooding calls from those areas. Emanuel said the calls from those areas — Douglas Park in particular — were mostly from sewage backups. While those could be caused by too much water from storms getting into the system, Emanuel said it still left those areas ranked at medium or low severity compared to other places.

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Morning Notes

Seattle Tax Could Advantage Arlington — “It wouldn’t shock us if Amazon started encouraging more of its executives to up and move their teams to HQ2, or a neighboring city in Washington state, now that the Seattle City Council has passed a progressive tax targeting the wealthiest companies in the city.” [Washington Business Journal]

Analysis of County Board Special Election — From @A_Hendel on Twitter: “Takis Karantonis received most of his share of the vote from South Arlington… In fact, almost no precincts north of I-66 cast 50% or more of their votes for Takis.” [Twitter]

Organizations Getting Big PPP Loans in Arlington — The American Diabetes Association, tech company ByteCubed, American Service Center, Bishop O’Connell High School and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington are among the Arlington-based organizations to reportedly receive $2+ million federal Paycheck Protection Act loans. [Patch]

Another Local Tech Firm Gets PPP Help — “Amazon.com Inc. may have posted record sales during the pandemic, but many third-party sellers on the platform foundered… Some of those sellers — like the Arlington-based Amify Inc. and Etailz Inc., based in Spokane, Washington — received millions of dollars worth of help from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.” [Washington Business Journal]

Water Main Repairs Today in Bluemont — “Thursday Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crews will replace 3 valves in separate locations tomorrow in Bluemont area. Some 100 customers have been notified of potential service interruptions 8 a.m.-5 p.m.” [Twitter]

Letter: W-L Renaming Happened at a Good Time — “The Arlington School Board’s renaming of Washington-Lee High School was autocratic, manipulative, adversarial and punitive. In retrospect, though, they unwittingly did the W-L community a favor.” [InsideNova]

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Speakers at an Arlington County Board meeting on the county’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan hammered the plan’s perceived failure to live up to earlier talk of promoting equity.

The main target of most of the ire was the allegation that single-family home owners in North Arlington would receive outsized investment in stormwater protections under the plan, compared to proposed capital spending in the rest of the county.

Rather than the usual 10-year CIP cycle, County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed a one-year CIP focused on pausing and focusing on what the county describes as funding the bare necessities. Given the dramatic storms that wreaked major flooding across Arlington last year, Schwartz recommended a $50.8 million stormwater bond and millions in funding for initial projects.

“This year’s CIP also begins the County’s increased investment in stormwater infrastructure,” the County said in a press release. “The $14.6 million included in the FY 2021 plan will advance several current key projects and lays the foundation of what is expected to be a $189 million investment over 10 years.”

“For the first time, there will be a bond referendum for investments ($50.8 million) in stormwater infrastructure,” the County said. “The County is undertaking a comprehensive review to mitigate flood risks and design work is underway for significant investments in watershed-scale solutions in high-risk areas prone to flooding.”

Several speakers at last week’s online hearing, however, said that the stormwater projects disproportionately aim to protect higher-income areas of the county. Speaker Benjamin Nichols particularly targeted investments made in the Spout Run and Lubber Run watersheds.

“Making huge investments in affluent, low-density areas seems like a step in the wrong direction and seems perverse, given that single-family home development is the majority contributor to the growth of impermeable surface in Arlington County,” Nichols said. “If we’re going to make large investments in these areas on the idea that flooding is unacceptable anywhere in Arlington, we should make sure the benefits should be accrued to a broad constituency beyond the privileged few that can afford to buy a single-family house in North Arlington. Perhaps a significant upzoning would be in order.”

Nichols and other Arlingtonians have argued for funding to be restored to bicycle and pedestrian improvements cut as part of scaled-back CIP.

The criticism of the stormwater investment contrasts with sentiment in the aftermath of the flooding, which caused significant damage to homes and businesses in parts of the county like Westover.

“Do not let Arlington government off hook on flooding,” was the headline of one letter to the editor in the Sun Gazette newspaper. Another letter to the editor from last July similarly called for more county action:

“After years of study and inaction about what to do about the inadequate stormwater system, board members have been spinning rather than trying to assure residents that the problems will be solved,” the letter said. “The time to wait and sit on your hands is over — it is past time to take action.”

The CIP dedicates $26.89 million of the $50.8 million bond to the Spout Run watershed — an area north of Wilson Blvd. centered around Lee Highway communities. The first major investment in the stormwater plan is $1.2 million towards “relining of a 3,000-foot section of 33-inch Spout Run sewer main, which runs under the North Highlands neighborhood.”

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This week, we asked the three candidates in the County Board race to write a 750-word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the July 7 special election. 

Here is the unedited response from Independent candidate Susan Cunningham.

I am running for Arlington County Board as a progressive Independent. As a community advocate, mother, and business owner, I know Arlington needs experienced, practical, and effective leadership right now. Professionally, I have led business, government, and nonprofits through crises and change. Here in Arlington, I have worked closely with every County and School Board member, while leading the Hamm Middle School construction (BLPC) and the Historic Interpretation Committee for the Stratford Junior High site, and as a founding member of both the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) and the Lee Highway Alliance.  Grounded in 25 years of professional and community experience, I will ask good questions, bring people together, and get the right things done for Arlington.

Two months ago, I started this campaign with clear priorities around accountability, collaboration, innovation, and practical investments. But the last eight weeks have taught me much more about what Arlington really needs in a new County Board Member. I have talked with Arlingtonians who come from very different places – geographically, politically, demographically, and economically. I’ve listened to their concerns, contemplated their advice, and learned even more about what Arlington needs and wants. And so now, just days before this election comes to a close, I want to share with you what I’ve learned and what I will focus on as your next Arlington County Board Member:

  1. Arlington needs to prioritize our core services. Schools, infrastructure, transportation, housing, and health must be at the top of every agenda during our recovery and beyond. In particular, we must bring APS and County together to innovate and deliver. If we don’t get these right, our future prospects are in peril.
  2. Arlington wants to reconnect our communities. We have to focus on both the visible connections and those that impact our daily lives in other ways. We must physically connect through planning and transit, economically connect through support services, and emotionally connect through facing tough realities about racial equality and justice.
  3. Arlington needs to simplify. For both residents and businesses, our community engagement process is burdensome and unequal for too many. We need to streamline, ensure more representative participation, utilize virtual meeting options, and actually heed community input instead of moving forward with predetermined outcomes. We have innovated during COVID to make it easier to do business — shifting permits online and helping restaurants with grab-and-go parking, signage, and outdoor seating — and should continue to innovate all of our government services for greater ease and efficiency.
  4. Arlington wants bold leadership, during COVID and beyond. Instead of upholding the status quo, I will bring to the Board a focused eye and an open mind. Drawing on decades of experience leading change in government and business, I will challenge our County Board to think differently, hold staff accountable, and be more fiscally responsible and results-oriented in its deliberations and action. Arlington has a $1.4 billion annual budget — we deserve professional management and professional results.
  5. Arlington needs to move away from one-party control. This is the biggest thing I’ve heard — the issue that many blame for an increasing deafness from the County Board and a reluctance of highly qualified candidates to run for local office. Every elected official in Arlington today has been blessed by a single party. This encourages groupthink and discourages tough questioning and drilling down on the details. As an Independent, I will challenge the status quo, probe assumptions, and prioritize critical infrastructure and fiscal discipline over gold-plated projects.
    I am confident I can deliver all of these wants and needs as your next County Board Member. My campaign is heading towards the finish line with incredible momentum, widespread support, and a real shot at upsetting what many assumed would be a predictable sleeper race. Arlington deserves better than a predictable outcome and I’m willing to put in the work to make us better. I humbly ask for your vote on July 7th.

Please join me at susanforarlington.com to volunteer, donate, or find your polling place.

Thank you.

Susan Cunningham

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This week, we asked the three candidates in the County Board race to write a 750-word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the July 7 special election. 

Here is the unedited response from Republican candidate Bob Cambridge

Bob Cambridge has been an Arlington resident for over 40 years. He has had a varied background, Captain in the US Army (Military Intelligence Branch), three years with the Central Intelligence Agency as an information science instructor, and over 40 years as an attorney, both corporate and as a litigator. Ideas developed over that period appear to be relevant to a lot that is going on now, and the opportunity to run for Arlington County Board was an opportunity to get those ideas out where they might do some good.

My website, https://BobCambridge.com, has articles which provide more detail supporting what I will say here. I invite you to check that site out too. I read a lot, and my website brings together several ideas I have shamelessly plagiarized to support other ideas I wanted to share that may be useful.

The website refers to the parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant which illustrates the fact that people often disagree without necessarily disagreeing about the same thing. My experience has also been that we all have different perspectives about just about everything. The website refers to a book by Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, which offers some interesting suggestions for why there was male dominance for so long and why the recent emergence of a more balanced (and rational) arrangement should not be surprising. The website also provides observations that support the argument that we do better together because different perspectives properly solicited and actually considered can be a powerful tool for doing almost anything better. Please see https://bobcambridge.com/we-do-better-together/.

The one-party County Board we have had for forty or so years has not had incompetent or narrow-minded members. But that one-party board could have easily been better. Complaints I am hearing now often emphasize a perceived unwillingness of the Board to effectively consider a broader base of ideas. I hear of waiting three hours to speak two minutes at a Board meeting only to see no apparent effect that speech had on anyone. Promises are made, such as budgeting more for parks and Arlington’s tree canopy, only to see nothing actually budgeted and requests for information about that stonewalled by Board insistence that a Freedom of Information Act request be submitted. FOIA requests can be expensive and when our tax dollars pay for a study, why should we pay a second time to see the results of what we paid for?

My platform is different because while I definitely have preferences on some issues, I also freely acknowledge that I do not know everything and will not pretend that I do. The best decisions are made by decisionmakers who listen more than they talk. There seems to be a concern that comments and criticism of Board action will not be seriously considered. That concern will definitely act to suppress suggestions, many of which might actually be very effective and actually get us a bigger bang for some of our tax dollars. Five Board members, even supported by the County Staff, cannot provide number or quality of ideas anything near to what the quarter million Arlington residents supported by many more individuals who work in Arlington can provide. My platform, better laid out in my website, https://BobCambridge.com, is not so much support or opposition to specific issues, as to getting more transparency on the part of the Board and more involvement from a broader group of interested individuals. Why? Because that is a management process that has shown significant success in the private sector and it clearly should be used to make our government more successful too. The process is also oriented not to put in place a perfect solution – there is no such thing, promises of politicians notwithstanding – but to start and continue a process that makes unending improvement the goal. That is a goal shown to be achievable. Corporations have done it, continue to successfully do it, and there is no excuse why the Arlington County Government should not implement similar programs.

I ask that you vote for me if you choose, but please check out my website in either case. If you agree with the ideas, please pass them on. If you disagree, or if you can suggest an improvement (an inevitable occurrence) please send comment or criticism to [email protected]. I will do my best to respond, even after July 7.

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This week, we asked the three candidates in the County Board race to write a 750-word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the July 7 special election. 

Here is the unedited response from Democratic candidate Takis Karantonis

My name is Takis Karantonis and I am the Democratic candidate in the special election for the Arlington County Board on July 7. I was born in Greece and emigrated to the United States to join my wife, Lida, upon completion of her Ph.D. studies. Since moving to Arlington in 2007, I have experienced and appreciate the values that Arlingtonians hold important: safe and walkable neighborhoods; excellent schools; great public places and facilities; accountable governance; ethnic and cultural diversity; an unwavering commitment to community involvement; and neighbors who uphold and sustain these values.

My voice, my way of thinking, and my politics are rooted in civic engagement and day-to-day involvement with our community. I am running for County Board because I am proud of what Arlington is and stands for and because I truly believe in the importance of inclusivity of all voices in our governance. During the 60 days of this campaign two larger-than-life issues dominated my actions and thoughts: the permanence of COVID-19 conditions and their long-term effects on every aspect of life and the stark reminder, spurred by the murder of George Floyd, of racial inequity and divides in our community. To make Arlington a just and equitable place for all, I pledge to work with you to tackle inequities in housing, education, health, and life outcomes in our county. We must:

  • use the lessons of the COVID crisis to address the inequalities that COVID has revealed that have led to a disproportionate impact on our marginalized communities and communities of color;
  • actively advocate for a strong local social safety net that helps our less prosperous neighbors and all locally-owned businesses;
  • bring an equity lens to County Board work to identify metrics to chart progress; examine every decision to uncover who is helped, who is hurt, who benefits and who is left behind;
  • prioritize support for our small businesses by instituting a permanent revolving microloan program, which will also leverage private investment to boost small business creation and sustainability in the long term.

I am an economist and urban planner with over 25 years of urban and regional planning experience. I work for a non-profit micro-lender, currently helping Arlington’s small businesses recover from COVID-19. I have been involved with several Arlington non-profit organizations, appointed to advisory commissions and participated in many planning processes affecting progress in our community. My experiences as Executive Director of the ColumbiaPike Revitalization Organization, past chair of Eco ActionArlington and Vice Chair of the Alliance of Housing Solutions add to the vision, practical knowledge and insight I would bring to our Board. Politically, I have been an active and vocal supporter of local, progressive campaigns that challenged and changed the status quo (e.g., Erik Gutshall and Parisa Deghani-Tafti).

This campaign has been like no other due to the compressed timeline imposed by Virginia law and by COVID-19: to substitute for face-to-face conversations, meetings, and debates, I became adept at online media and hosted 20 Zoom-and-Greets covering all neighborhoods in Arlington in 40 days.

I responded to multiple questionnaires that allowed me to express my vision on many issues: arts, education, environment, housing, mental health, and more. The diversity of organizations which submitted questionnaires is just one indicator of the diversity of priorities in our community. As a Board member, I would have an obligation to listen to and provide a seat at the table for all, as we move forward with discussions and policies to equitably address our community needs.

I believe in democratic values, collaborative leadership and inclusive planning expressed in the four pillars of my platform: equitable governance; fiscal sustainability and resilience; environmental sustainability; and principled and inclusive long-term planning. I have earned the endorsement of Arlington’s elected officials from the County and School Boards to the General Assembly to Congress; professional organizations; citizen-led advocacy groups (representing the African-American community, Latino community, Seniors, and the Immigrant community; supporting multi-modal transportation; cycling; public education; affordable housing; environmental sustainability; and mental health services) and more than 200 community leaders. These endorsements are the result of years of working on Arlington issues and a testament to my passion for good, responsive and responsible local governance.

I hope to earn your vote and the opportunity to serve as your next County Board member on July 7.

Photo via Takis for Arlington/Facebook

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Morning Notes

‘BLM’ on Fairlington Bridge Restored — Residents of the Fairlington area used ties to restore a Black Lives Matters message on the bridge over I-395 over the weekend. The letters “BLM” had previously been placed on the bridge’s fence but later removed by an unknown party. Also this weekend, below the BLM letters someone scrawled “Trump 2020,” but that was later covered and “Black Lives Matter” written over it in chalk. [Twitter]

ACPD Details De-Escalation Training — “In response to community questions, ACPD has created this fact sheet highlighting how we train officers to de-escalate incidents and safely resolve situations.” [Twitter]

Update to Jim Pebley Obit — Per an email from former county treasurer Frank O’Leary: “You will be pleased to hear that, due to the actions of former commanders of our County’s namesake ship, it appears that Commander Pebley’s ashes will be spread at sea by the USS ARLINGTON. This is a singular honor and reflects the high respect the Navy feels for Jim. Nothing less than he deserves. There is an old adage, ‘The Navy takes care of its own.’ Perhaps, the same can be said of Arlington.”

Candidates on the Arts — “Arlington County voters will go to the polls on July 7 to determine who will fill the County Board seat of the late Erik Gutshall. In order to help voters understand each candidate’s stand on the importance of arts and culture in the County, Embracing Arlington Arts sent out a questionnaire for the three candidates to complete covering several issues pertaining to the arts in Arlington.” [Press Release, Embracing Arlington Arts]

TTT Now Serving Unlimited Weekend Brunch — “There’s a new all-you-can eat brunch in town. TTT in Clarendon, which stands for Tacos, Tortas and Tequila, has joined its Street Guys Hospitality brethren, including beloved Ambar, in offering unlimited eats on weekend mornings.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Reminder: Metro Stations Back Open — “Metro plans to reopen the Clarendon and Virginia Square Metro stations in Arlington, starting Sunday.” [ARLnow]

Nearby: Fairfax Teachers Revolt — “A day after one of the nation’s largest school systems announced its proposal for fall learning, teachers within Fairfax County Public Schools rose in revolt and refused to teach in-person, as the plan demands, until officials revise their strategy.” [Washington Post]

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While many elections are spaced out over months, sometimes even years at the presidential level, three Arlington candidates have been running for County Board in a 61-day sprint towards the special election on July 7.

Takis Karantonis (D), Susan Cunningham (I) and Bob Cambridge (R) are all first-time candidates in the most unconventional race in recent memory.

“It’s unprecedented and extremely short,” said Karantonis. “We have the COVID-19 [pandemic] and it is a special election [held] right after Fourth of July. Everything you can imagine that is non-typical for an election is typical for this one.”

The 61-Day Campaigns

The special election was triggered by County Board member Erik Gutshall’s resignation in April. Ten days later, Gutshall died after a battle with brain cancer. On May 7, Karantonis bested three other candidates to be chosen as the Democratic nominee in a closed caucus.

Karantonis, and economist and the former director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, faces opposition in the election from Cunningham, a business executive and independent who has been involved in several major planning efforts, and Cambridge, a Republican and former instructor in the CIA.

For each candidate, it’s been a struggle to adapt over the span of weeks to national and local changes — from the phased reopening to the Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd.

“It was right at the end of April [when Gutshall resigned], ” Cunningham said. “I mulled it over, talked it over, then filed before the end of the month and before the party caucuses. It was not particularly premeditated — it was an unusual time with a lot of grieving and a lot of need. The rest of us were shaken by Erik’s death and we had to get a lot of signatures in the middle of the pandemic.”

Without a party infrastructure to back her up, Cunningham said she has had to take a grassroots approach in a compressed election cycle when traditional door-to-door campaigning grassroots tactics weren’t viable. Cunningham considered throwing her hat into the ring for the Democratic primary but said she felt more comfortable running as an independent.

“I thought long and hard about whether to run as an independent because there’s only, like, one example of that working,” Cunningham said, referring to independent John Vihstadt’s victories over Democratic candidates until he was bested in 2018. “It really was a values-based decision. I’ve always through local government should be non-partisan. The issues are not the national party issues; it’s potholes and schools.” Read More

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) It was a seemingly uncontroversial item on the County Board agenda: shifting a temporary parking lot for television station WETA down the block, in order to allow renovations to Jennie Dean Park to proceed.

But the proposal, which was approved unanimously last night after a detailed discussion, ended up raising questions about race, equity and public engagement. It was the subject of a recent op-ed published by the Sun Gazette entitled “Arlington government again fails Green Valley,” accusing the county of repeatedly ignoring the wishes of the historically Black neighborhood.

“While millions marched for equity and racial justice last week, the Arlington County government posted a board agenda item that turns these actions into mere slogans,” wrote Green Valley Civic Association members Robin Stombler and Portia Clark. “A license agreement would have the county government turn a newly acquired $1 million property in the Green Valley community into a parking lot for WETA. This action is but one in a series of events that draw attention to the inequity systemic within the county.”

The discussion at Tuesday’s County Board meeting did not include much talk of race or equity. Instead, it mostly addressed the practical matter at hand: about 10 employees of the nearby WETA facility, which produces the PBS NewsHour, were parking on a temporary, county-owned lot that is set to become a playground in Phase 1 of the Jennie Dean expansion. To allow construction to move forward, they would be moved to a lot a short distance away on S. Four Mile Run Drive, between a small commercial building and the Weenie Beenie.

Demolition of the building that will become the new WETA lot started last week, a county staffer said. Heavy construction on the park is set to begin in late summer or early fall. Without use of the current temporary lot, “we would not be able to build out the project as designed,” the staffer said.

The Green Valley neighborhood didn’t want the current WETA lot and doesn’t want the new lot, said Stombler. And notification of the change — it was advertised in the lightly-read Washington Times newspaper, as are Arlington’s other public notices — was inadequate.

“Publishing notices in the Washington Times and considering it an outreach method is very telling of how the county regards Green Valley and community input in general,” Stomber said. We deserve much better… The county’s engagement processes must be improved.”

The remarks echo complaints from Green Valley residents two years about the lengthy design process for Jennie Dean Park.

“This community has been ignored repeatedly by the Arlington County Board while the requests and desires of several other, predominantly white, Arlington neighborhoods are being placed ahead of those of the people who live here,” one resident told ARLnow at the time.

“I feel like we’re second class citizens,” said a resident during the public comment period last night.

Nonetheless, under an agreement approved by the Board, WETA will be granted temporary use of the newly-created lot for a year, after which its use can be reevaluated. Eventually, the lot will become part of park, in the second phase of its expansion. And the county will get something in return for the temporary use.

“The compensation to the County for the Amended and Restated License Agreement will be in the form of 12, 15-second promotional underwriting credit spots on WETA’s radio programs during each calendar year,” a staff report says.

Stombler and Clark — who support the expansion of WETA’s Shirlington headquarters that will see its aging NewsHour studio eventually demolished — said that the radio ads will not do anything to benefit the neighborhood.

“The county government must reassess its engagement processes to correct these actions, and must be held accountable for practices that marginalize segments of our community,” the op-ed said. “More innovative and compassionate solutions should be encouraged. Local hiring, paid internships, job fair hosting and community clean-ups beat 12 ego-boosting radio spots any day.”

Photos (1-2) via Arlington County, (3-4) via Google Maps

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After public outcry and demands from activists, Arlington County is moving forward with long-delayed plans to equip the Arlington County Police Department and other county law enforcement with body-worn cameras.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is scheduled to present the plans to implement the program at a meeting on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) tonight (Tuesday).

A presentation for the CIP notes that a body-worn camera system would be implemented for the Arlington County Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, and Fire Marshal’s Office starting in January 2021.

According to a presentation on the budget, the Fiscal Year 2021 CIP includes:

  • $268K for body-worn camera hardware
  • $244K for upgrades to four County courtrooms
  • $536K for data storage, software, and maintenance
  • $755K for in-car camera replacement

The upgrades total $1.8 million. The presentation notes that the annual expense for camera maintenance, software and data storage — including the equivalent of 7.5 full-time employees dedicated to the effort — is estimated to be $1.6 million.

The CIP is scheduled for review throughout June and July, with a public hearing on Tuesday, June 30, and adoption set for July 18.

Update at 8:45 a.m. — The county has released more information in a press release, below.

As part of his proposed one-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), County Manager Mark Schwartz is including $1.05 million to begin implementation of a body-worn camera program for the Arlington County Police Department, Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, and Arlington County Fire Marshals.

The funding in the proposed FY 2021 CIP includes $268,000 for body-worn camera hardware​, $244,000 for upgrades to four County courtrooms​ to support the technology, and $536,000 for data storage, software, and maintenance​. Additionally, $755,000 is proposed to replace the existing in-car camera system to one compatible with body-worn cameras.

If the CIP funding is approved in July by the Arlington County Board, the program will be implemented in January 2021.

“My decision to propose the program now is prompted by the recent events in our country. As I have stated many times, I am proud of our police department and its long tradition of professionalism,” Schwartz said. ”The public’s perception of our officers has been highlighted in each of the resident satisfaction surveys of the past 10 years. We want to reinforce those positive public perceptions and to ensure actions, especially those involving use of force, are transparent. The time has come for body-worn cameras in Arlington.”

The Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office conducted a pilot for body-worn cameras back in 2015, and since then the department has consistently asked for the addition of these cameras to complement the existing in-car camera system. However, due to budget challenges the program has not been proposed previously.

“Our police have sought these cameras because they help promote ACPD accountability and transparency, can be a useful tool to increase officer professionalism and training, and to document police encounters,” Schwartz said. “Our community expects and deserves a culture of transparency, accountability, fairness, trust and respect, and the ultimate measure of success, and the ability to maintain public trust, is based on earning and re-earning the trust and respect of our citizens every day.”

In addition to funding in the FY 2021 CIP, the FY 2021 operating budget that was adopted by the board in April will have to be amended to begin to fund the employee positions associated with this program. That is estimated to be $476,000 in FY 2021 for a partial year.

In total, 7.5 FTEs will be needed in ACPD, Court Technology, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to fully support the program. Future operating budgets will include funding for FTEs and ongoing data storage, software, and maintenance, at approximately $1.6 million per year​.

The FY 2022 and FY 2023 CIPs will include funding for technology upgrades to the seven remaining courtrooms​.

Photo via Tony Webster/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Special County Board Meeting Planned — On Thursday at 6 p.m., the Arlington County Board “will hold a special meeting for a listening session on racial justice, systemic racism and policing. The County Board special meeting will be conducted using electronic means.” [Arlington County]

County Commissions Still Mostly Inactive — “Faced with a growing rebellion over the lack of meetings by Arlington government advisory panels, County Board members and top staff on June 13 offered (slightly defensive) apologies – but not much of a roadmap forward. Board members were responding to a June 9 letter sent to them by 25 chairs of advisory groups, complaining that the local government has been lagging in re-starting meetings that largely have been on hold since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March.” [InsideNova]

Pandemic Affects College Plans — From a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday: “The struggle extends to those already in college who are laboring to pay tuition and are weighed down by debt like 20-year-old Katherine Trejo of Arlington, Virginia. The daughter of a single mom from Bolivia, Katherine was supposed to graduate from George Mason next year. She is the first person in her family to attend college.” [CBS News]

Summer School Registration Underway — “Registration for distance learning secondary summer school is underway. Elementary students who qualify to participate in the Elementary Summer Learning Program will automatically be registered by APS.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Guilty Plea in Case Involving Arlington Company — “A former Arlington business executive pleaded guilty today to embezzling nearly $8 million that was intended to settle claims by children who alleged they were victims of medical malpractice. According to court documents, Joseph E. Gargan, 59, of Round Hill, was the Chief Executive Office of the Pension Company, Inc., an Arlington business that would execute settlement agreements entered into between civil litigants.” [Dept. of Justice]

ARLnow Operating Remotely — Since the first confirmed local coronavirus case in March, ARLnow’s employees have been working from home. We plan to continue working remotely until 2021, and may continue to have most employees work remotely most of the time after that. [Washingtonian]

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