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Arlington County courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 (staff photo by James Jarvis)

Costs are creeping up for a courtroom makeover in Arlington.

County Board members approved an extra $200,000 this past Saturday to complete renovations in Courtroom 10B, a project ambitiously dubbed the “courtroom of the future.”

The Board had initially approved a $1.9 million budget for the project, encompassing not only tech enhancements and layout modifications but also administrative costs and a $755,000 fee for Michigan-based contractor Sorensen Gross Company. A $135,000 contingency for unexpected construction hiccups was set aside, bringing the contract’s total value to $890,000.

The contingency is nearly gone, county staff said, prompting County Board action. Damaged stonework, deteriorating fabric wall panels and worn-out carpeting all brought unexpected costs and, as a result, additional funding was sought as the project enters its final phase.

Once completed, the oft-used courtroom will feature new capabilities, such as enabling police to upload and display body-camera and smartphone footage, simplified equipment mobility, and compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Arlington courtrooms have not had a major renovation since 1994, per a 2022 county report.

While construction was initially slated for completion in July, ARLnow saw signs of ongoing work during a recent courthouse visit, including plastic tarp over doors and covered windows.

A county spokeswoman said construction is now expected to wrap up in November.

A yard in the Forest Glen neighborhood in October 2016 (file photo)

Gardens with abundant native species could soon have an official definition in county code: “managed natural landscape.”

This definition would protect Arlingtonians who grow the kinds of native grasses, wildflowers and shrubs that make them prone to complaints from neighbors and visits from code enforcement.

While such gardens can “be perceived to be unmaintained or unintentional… they often involve as much intention and maintenance as more traditional landscaping” and bring “ecological, economic and aesthetic benefits,” per a county report.

The change would occur if the Arlington County Board approves the new wording in its carry-over meeting tomorrow (Tuesday). The Board was teed up to approve the changes on Saturday but the proposal was pulled from the agenda for more conversation — a move typically reserved for items deemed at least somewhat controversial.

In March, County Board members heard from local naturalists who urged them to adopt wording to shield residents from complaints that their gardens are unruly. The discussion arose when the Board considered, and approved, mechanisms to hold accountable commercial property owners for unchecked weeds.

The Board ultimately punted on redefining a “weed,” saying the proposed changes ought to be included in the forthcoming update to the Forestry and Natural Resources Plan.

Naturalists argued this prolongs conflict between county code and Arlington’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Plan and Stormwater Utility Program, which both encourage residents to ditch manicured lawns for native species. They criticized the Board for furthering more than a decade of inaction.

“While we’ve been wringing our hands about this for the past 10-15 years, other jurisdictions have also adopted policies that promote native landscaping and conservation landscaping and have also managed to update their ordinance,” Caroline Haynes, a member of the county’s Forestry and Natural Resources Commission, said in March.

“Arlington hasn’t been able to do that,” she continued. “How difficult can this possibly be?”

After the meeting, county staff committed to prepare updated code language that distinguishes between “managed natural landscapes” and existing requirements to manage weeds on private property.

They also redefined “foreign growth,” “lawn area” and “weeds” and added language enabling county staff to “take action in cases where trees on private property present a risk to the community in the public right-of-way or other public lands.”

In keeping with the Board’s recommendation, Arlington’s parks and planning departments launched a public engagement process on the potential changes in concert with the update.

That included an online survey, in which 124 people participated and nearly two-thirds said they “were comfortable” with the proposed changes.

In July, the Board authorized hearing this month on the proposed changes, now set for tomorrow.

If the changes are made, county staff expect that enforcing the new ordinances will not be a tall order. Some five cases annually are estimated to escalate to the point of requiring one-time civil fines, resulting in $2,500 per year in county revenue, the report said.


A severely eroded ditch along N. Glebe Road near Chain Bridge is set for some restoration work.

The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected to approve a contract of up to $1.2 million. At least part of that will be reimbursed by VDOT, which maintains the road.

The work follows a major water main break in November 2019, which damaged both the road and the roadside ditch.

More from a county staff report:

This project includes the restoration of the existing ditch located along the south side of North Glebe Road (Route 120) that was severely eroded following the 36” transmission water main break in November 2019. Arlington County Department of Environmental Services (DES,) Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the National Park Service (NPS) have partnered to implement this improvement and restoration project. The restoration includes 500 feet of the ditch downstream of the water main break and stabilization improvements for 1,000 feet of the ditch upstream of the break to be improved with Class II riprap, as well as new guardrail installation to replace a previous guardrail and temporary jersey wall and restoration of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, which crosses this ditch in the downstream segment underneath George Washington Memorial Parkway.

The work also includes tree removal and planting/seeding, erosion and sediment control, and all other related incidental work described and required in the contract documents. Most of the work is planned to be performed at night utilizing an overnight road closure of North Glebe Road as outlined in the VDOT approved Temporary Traffic Control Plan. VDOT is reimbursing the County for the construction costs of the improvements located upstream of the water main break.

The report goes on to note that the county hired a consultant, Wetland Studies and Solutions Inc., to develop the repair plan.

Additionally, the report says the accepted bid — from Fairfax-based Bright Construction Group — is 13% higher than an engineer’s estimate, likely owing to complications caused by the rugged terrain and the work area being on both National Park Service and VDOT property.

…it is believed that the bidders perceived more risk and challenges in these bid items, which we consider fair given the unique challenges of this project area, where the contractor will be working on an actively flowing stream channel on NPS Lands, as well as within the narrow shoulder of a two-lane undivided VDOT-owned arterial roadway, North Glebe Road (US Route 120), that carries approximately 11,000 vehicles per day. For the work on Federal Lands and in VDOT right-of-way, the contractor will have to comply with restrictive NPS and VDOT permit requirements and perform all restoration as per each agency’s specifications.

The Board is scheduled to vote on the contract during its meeting this Saturday.

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The Arlington Public Schools Syphax Education Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

High school-based behavioral health services could be in place by November or December of this year, according to the county.

In the wake of a mini-rash of student deaths earlier this year that included the fatal overdose of a 14-year-old Wakefield High School student, Arlington Public Schools and the county government began devising a joint response to the twin epidemics of substance use and mental health issues.

This included plans to place county therapists in schools. The intent was to make it easier for students to get mental health support from the Dept. of Human Services, overseen by Arlington’s Community Services Board, or CSB.

“Both APS and the County seek to reduce barriers for children and youth to receive services from the Arlington CSB,” a county report says. “This agreement will allow for the provision of outpatient services in the school setting rather than the office setting. It will significantly reduce or eliminate the need for transportation and potential family time away from work.”

As part of the 2024 budget adopted earlier this year, the Arlington County Board approved $520,000 in ongoing funding and four full-time employees for this program. Recruitment of the four employees is underway, per the report.

The county notes the program responds to calls from the community for more services to youth.

“Expanded behavioral health services for children and youth has been identified as a community need by both Arlington Public Schools and the County through ongoing dialogues with stakeholders,” the report says.

The report emphasizes that the School-Based Behavioral Health Program cannot be the single, defining solution for struggling teens.

It “supplements and reinforces families’ efforts to enhance youth mental wellness by teaching and coaching youth to develop coping skills for managing emotional challenges in order to improve functioning at home, school, and in the community,” the report says.

The county and APS spent the summer hammering out a memorandum of understanding permitting the DHS Children’s Behavioral Health Bureau to provide behavioral health support in high schools. This weekend, the County Board is set to ratify the document.

Once the four behavioral health specialists are hired and finish mandatory training, they could begin practicing in Arlington high schools in November or December, the report says.

Arlington County courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 (staff photo by James Jarvis)

Attorneys for residents contesting the new Missing Middle zoning ordinances and Arlington County squared off today (Tuesday) in court — but a decision will not be reached until at least next month.

Residents sued the county earlier this year, shortly after the Arlington County Board adopted the Missing Middle zoning ordinance changes authorizing 2-6 unit homes in areas previously zoned for single-family homes only.

They claimed the changes run afoul of state law on substantive and procedural grounds. The county disputes that and says the case ought to be dismissed because these residents will not be harmed — and are no more impacted than any other resident — by Missing Middle construction.

Gifford Hampshire, an attorney for the plaintiffs, argued the county made several missteps, including not commissioning studies to determine the impact of these changes; promulgating confusing ordinances; and failing to post online a document that the County Board was given ahead of the vote.

Documents should be provided to the public at the same time so “everyone is well informed and can participate meaningfully in the public process,” he said.

For Arlington County Attorney MinhChau Corr, the question at hand is not whether Expanded Housing Options, or EHOs, are a good idea. Rather, she told the court, the question is whether the County Board acted appropriately when it made its decision.

She said this case amounts to upset residents who disliked the decision, petitioning the court to overturn the decision. She said this tactic is a “subversion of our democratic process.”

After the arguments, retired Fairfax Judge David Schell informed those present he would render a decision on Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. He was appointed to handle the case after Arlington’s Circuit Court judges recused themselves, delaying the hearing process by a few months, the Gazette Leader previously reported.

Between now and next month, Schell said he will determine whether the plaintiffs have standing. This will determine whether he dismisses the case and will inform his judgment on the claims related to Freedom of Information laws.

Corr argued attempts to show the plaintiffs will suffer harm other residents will not face with EHO construction is speculative, saying “they don’t even know what [EHOs] look like.” Permits for EHO construction only recently started receiving approvals from the county.

Hampshire says the 10 plaintiffs own homes in neighborhoods where 2-6 unit homes would stress their water and sewer lines, overcrowd their schools and potentially increase their property assessments.

A few dozen people attended the arguments, including Dan Creedon, representing the Neighbors for Neighborhoods Litigation Fund, created to fund the lawsuit. He provided the following statement to ARLnow.

EHO/MMH zoning upends Arlington’s decades-old, successful land use policy to concentrate density along Metro corridors. The County Board eliminated single-family zoning in Arlington, allowing 6-plexes on single-family lots across the County, but failed to conduct the studies required by State law that would have revealed the impact of the increased density in residential neighborhoods.

Former Arlington County Board candidate Natalie Roy told ARLnow after the hearing that the county’s arguments “seemed to be based on an alternative universe.”

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JBG Smith is asking Arlington County to relieve it of restrictions that it says present serious obstacles to putting up new rooftop signs.

The real estate company is specifically asking the county to remove language restricting the number and size of signs allowed on two office buildings in the Crystal Park development it owns in Crystal City. The proposal is set to go before the County Board this Saturday.

Not everyone is comfortable with the language change, however. Two area civic associations told the county that the restrictions should stay, fearing this would pave the way for more signs going forward.

Currently, Crystal Park offices are governed by a document that “ties certain approved signs to specific tenants, some of which no longer occupy the premises, limits installation of rooftop signs to a single, prescribed rooftop sign and contains outdated requirements for approved signs,” land-use attorney Kedrick Whitmore wrote in an application to the county.

This hamstrings JBG Smith, he continues.

“Collectively, these restrictions complicate the ability to re-design existing signage for new tenants and present obstacles to achieving new rooftop signage,” Whitmore wrote.

JBG Smith is requesting the county remove restrictions for Crystal Park 1 and 3 office buildings, located at 2011 Crystal Drive and 2231 Crystal Drive. Instead, it asks the county evaluate new signage only in accordance to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance.

In 2012, the zoning code was updated, providing new clarifying parameters for signs and only requiring staff review. This change did not apply to a smattering of older developments throughout Arlington governed by more restrictive agreements.

County staff say this change would make it easier for JBG Smith to compete for tenants.

“As commercial buildings mature and market themselves for new tenants, it is imperative that building owners be able to avail themselves of sign permissions available to other similar buildings so as to not place themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” the report said.

The county notes that other building owners have made similar requests and had the support of staff, as this “allow[s] for fair administration of building signage.”

The report says Crystal City and Aurora Highlands civic associations told the county they do not support JBG Smith’s request because it could allow for more signs.

The other reason, leaders told the county, is that the current provisions were decided through negotiated community benefits during the site plan review process.

“The community accepted less in the way of other benefits to limit the number and size of signs, so they believe that changes to allow more signs would not be fair,” the report says.

The county says it found no evidence that the more restrictive language was related to community benefit packages.

“Rather these were common site plan conditions approved in the absence of comprehensive sign provisions of the [zoning ordinance], which are now in place,” the report said.

Eric Cassel, the president of the Crystal City Civic Association, told ARLnow this morning that, as of now, the issue is “relatively minor.”

“JBGS downgraded the proposal significantly and we are not spending resources to oppose it,” he said.

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Arlington County Board candidates at the Committee of 100 forum on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023 (via Arlington Committee of 100/Facebook)

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 table below shows the percentage of local tax revenue that allocated to the County and APS since 2008 (by ARLnow)

The dollar amount transferred, however, has risen steadily in the last three budgets after more modest upticks between 2017 and 2020.

The amount Arlington County transfers to Arlington Public Schools annually for its budget since the 2017 fiscal year (via Arlington Public Schools)

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.

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The updated West Glebe Road bridge between Arlington and Alexandria (via Arlington County)

Tomorrow, Arlington County officials will officially mark the reopening of the West Glebe Road Bridge after a year-long rehabilitation project.

Tuesday’s event comes after the bridge opened to pedestrians and cyclists last month, though it reopened to vehicular traffic this March.

In May of 2022, the county embarked on a $10 million project to shore up the 67-year-old bridge linking Arlington and Alexandria near the I-395 ramps to and from S. Glebe Road.

Deemed “structurally deficient” in 2018, the bridge had severely deteriorated since its construction in 1952, requiring partial closures over the years. In April of 2021, the Arlington County Board approved plans to make structural upgrades, improve the lighting and add dedicated lanes for cyclists and pedestrians.

To beautify the bridge, the county once again commissioned stylistic improvements by artist Vicki Scuri, who has adorned other county bridges — notably the bridges over Route 50 in the Courthouse area — with artwork.

Arlington and Alexandria split the project’s costs but Arlington County has taken on sole responsibility for inspecting and maintaining the bridge.

“This project was a partnership between Arlington County and the City of Alexandria to maintain safe passage between the two communities for all residents regardless of mode of transportation,” a county press release said.

More details on the ribbon-cutting, which is open to the public, are below.

When: Tuesday, Sep. 12, 2 p.m.

Where: Pizza Hut, 1049 W Glebe Rd, Alexandria, VA 22305 (this event will be held outdoors. In the case of inclement weather, the event will move into the Pizza Hut)

How to Get There:

  • By bus: ART 87 (Arlington side only); DASH 36AB, 103; Metrobus 23AB
  • Limited parking available onsite


  • Christian Dorsey, Chair, Arlington County Board
  • Justin Wilson, Mayor, City of Alexandria
  • Greg Emanuel, Director, Arlington County Department of Environmental Services
  • Vicki Scuri, Artist

After a summer lull, politicking in Arlington is back in full swing.

For candidates, the first big stop on the campaign trail was an in-person and virtual forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation, or CivFed, last night (Tuesday).

Democrat and Republican candidates for the state legislature outlined their top social and economic goals, while the four Arlington County Board candidates, meanwhile, were quizzed on more local topics, including government transparency — a key issue for CivFed that roiled the organization earlier this year.

State senate challengers emerge

Two Republicans are challenging Arlington’s two long-time incumbent Democrat state senators: Sophia Moshasha, vying for the 39th District seat against Adam Ebbin, and David Henshaw, going up against Barbara Favola for the 40th District seat.

Last night, the four candidates staked out their party-line positions on center-stage social issues, including abortion, gun violence, public education and crime.

Favola and Ebbin say they are both focused on codifying abortion rights and banning “assault-style” weapons.

Ebbin said his other top priorities “are a state government that fights for Virginians and an economy that works for Virginia, but we need to keep improving our K-12 public education system.”

Both incumbents pointed to their years of experience legislating under Republican and Democrat governors as reasons voters should re-elect them.

“I have always been very pragmatic,” Favola said. “I think I’m one of the more successful lawmakers in terms of gaining bipartisan support for my bills, and actually having my bill signed.”

Both Republicans styled themselves as “political outsiders.” Echoing similar language from GOP Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his race and tenure, the candidates called on the state to safeguard the rights of parents to “have a say” in their child’s education. They both also called for increased funding for law enforcement to address crime.

“I am concerned — and a little bit upset — with the direction that our country and our state are going, particularly with regard to education, the high cost of living and crime,” Henshaw said. “Arlington deserves a choice in the election coming up.”

Criticizing Favola’s support of abortion rights, Henshaw said he supports a 15-week abortion ban, with exceptions for the health of the mother as well as rape and incest, as well as lower state taxes.

Moshasha, meanwhile, has made technology and science a marquee issue. Going up against Ebbin, who chairs two senate committees focused on technology, she says she will push for more STEM programs at all educational levels and more policies to attract emerging industries to Virginia.

“I am not a career politician. I focus on the things that we need to move our economy and our community forward,” she said. “I think it’s time to get a fresh voice, a fresh perspective and an innovative mindset with the energy that will get things done on behalf of the greater community.”

Arlington County Board candidates on transparency

The County Board forum began with topics such as police staffing and the office vacancy rate, but heated up during a later question about transparency.

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Jail entrance at the Arlington County Detention Facility (file photo)

Of the eight people who have died in the Arlington County jail in eight years, five appear to have been homeless, according to court records. 

Most recently, Abonesh Woldegeorges, a 73-year-old Black woman with no fixed address, died in the detention center on Sunday morning.

She was found at Dulles International Airport four times between 2019 and 2023 and then, this month, at Reagan National Airport, where she was arrested by airport police and sent to Arlington’s jail, the Washington Post reported. Although eventually granted bond, Woldegeorges remained in jail so she could be taken to Loudoun County for a hearing related to her Dulles charges.

Her case is not unique. Her death, however, returns the jail to the spotlight after previous inmate deaths generated a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit and a civil rights investigation by the Dept. of Justice, as well as a slate of changes by the Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the lockup.

Over the past year and a half it changed medical providers, purchased biometric sensors for select inmates and made other protocol changes. All of this occurred amid changing leadership: Beth Arthur retired before the end of her term and appointed as interim sheriff her Chief Deputy, Jose Quiroz.

Quiroz campaigned on improving inmate well-being and, after winning the Democratic primary, is the sole candidate for Sheriff on the November ballot. 

“Clearly, changing to a new medical contractor didn’t change anything,” says Michael Hemminger, president of the Arlington NAACP branch, which requested the federal inquiry he says is ongoing. “What level of care do these human beings deserve? Is it okay to continue outsourcing to a for-profit provider?”  

A holding place for people without homes and with mental disorders

Court records indicate three other deceased inmates, dating back to 2015, had no address listed or their housing situation was fluid, with an address that varied by the year of their offense. A fourth the Washington Post reported was homeless and suffering from alcoholism.

Of this group, Paul Thompson (died 2022), Clyde Spencer (died 2021) and Edward Straughn (died 2015) were in jail on trespassing or public intoxication charges. Anthony Gordon (died 2015) had been convicted of assault and battery of a family member and was sentenced to five years.

The remaining inmates who have died were listed as D.C. or Maryland residents. This includes D.C. resident Darryl Becton, whose family sued Arlington County for wrongful death for $10 million and were awarded $1.3 million about three weeks ago, according to Hemminger. 

That a majority of deceased inmates did not have stable housing comes as no surprise to Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood. He says the vast majority of inmates are indigent and his office has about a dozen clients right now with airport trespassing charges, specifically. 

“People who have homes to go to never have to trespass. People who have money almost never steal. People who are urinating in public — everyone I know would rather have a place to go inside,” he said. 

He added that more than half of jail inmates are also taking mental health medication. Statistics from the 2023 fiscal year indicate that psychotropic drugs were prescribed 1,582 times across 2,764 total commitments at Arlington’s jail. Other signs of elevated mental health issues inside the jail include the 1,102 inmates assigned a mental health alert.  

Jail statistics for the 2023 fiscal year (via Arlington County)

That the jail has a large population of unhoused inmates with mental health disorders is both a funding issue and the result of a disconnect among the people and agencies reporting and arresting people for trespassing, he said.  

“People don’t think about the social conditions that lead to this,” Haywood said. “It’s just a combination of a lot of issues that no one really wants to confront because they’re complicated and require a lot of resources.” 

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A frustrated technology user (by Jane Michelle Sayson for ARLnow)

For the sixth year in a row, Arlington County has been named the No. 1 Digital County for 2023 for counties of comparable size.

The accolade highlights Arlington’s progress toward moving its operations onto the cloud — which Arlington County Chief Information Officer Norron Lee says makes county processes safer, greener and easier — as well as its broadband access study and the priority placed on customers.

These achievements exist alongside the reality that many residents have reported not-so-seamless experiences interacting with certain county processes online. Perhaps this happens once a year when the sign their kids up for camp or apply for a residential parking permit or more frequently, for instance when builders interact with Permit Arlington.

System crashes, delayed launches and slow service have made local news headlines over the past few years. While not headline grabbing, other issues linger: having separate logins for various county systems, minimal online-based support, and — in at least one recent case, for a specific business tax — a requirement to receive mail or make phone calls in order to register for a new “paperless” system.

One issue, according to multiple interviews conducted by ARLnow over the past month, is a highly siloed approach to technology at the county level, with departments making their own tech decisions despite limited expertise.

“I think we started to deviate from best practice when, in other parts of the world, technology was more of a component of every other department’s daily life, not a separate entity unto itself,” says Aneesh Chopra, a longtime resident, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama to be the first Chief Technology Officer of the U.S.

Arlington may have world-class broadband but, he says, “when it comes to these applications that are effectively run by different departments, it feels like they stopped innovating since the 1990s.”

Arlington County Board members and the County Manager’s Office say they are aware of the frustrations their constituents face and envision a day when technology does a better job of streamlining bureaucratic processes, freeing up staff for complex issues, and houses all government interactions in one place.

“We are in a good place, in my opinion, but I do think — instead of trying to adopt a relatively bureaucratic system with a digital face or front — we have to think about how those processes can be streamlined,” County Board member Takis Karantonis said, when talking about Permit Arlington. “This is a work in progress, still.”

He and County Board Chair Christian Dorsey say Arlington needs a one-stop shop for people to take care of all the ways they interact with government.

“There ought to be some… seamless way to [respond to bureaucratic needs] in a central web portal that’s also optimized for mobile use as well, where people can do this with a minimum of user names passwords to recall,” said Dorsey.

Dorsey alluded to “an articulation of way forward” before he leaves the Board this December.

“We can easily articulate what we need to be doing but getting there needs resources the Board has felt uneasy committing while we’ve had other pressing priorities,” such as the response to Covid, he said.

The county does not have someone whose sole responsibility is inter-departmental technology integration. The effort instead falls to the County Manager’s Office and the Dept. of Technology Services, which is guiding a cooperative effort across 26 county departments that have staff with varying technological literacy.

For Deputy County Manager Aaron Miller, the county’s “federated” structure has its pluses, like staff who are more responsive when there are problems, but there are downsides.

“When we do have to have centralized discussions it takes a lot of time to get everyone on the same page,” he said. “It’s a lot of time to pull everyone together… What we want to do is make sure that we are implementing systems that get the best experience but, sometimes, that comes with trade offs. When you look to centralize those systems, you essentially can water down functionality that might be important.”

Striking that balance and reaching this goal is fraught technological and legal hurdles, Miller says, but the county is motivated by hiccups people experienced getting permits and signing up for camp.

Already, the Dept. of Technological Services has stepped up its vetting of technology vendors for other departments. Miller says vendors often come “promising us that they can solve all of our problems,” but it can be difficult for someone without a technical background to evaluate a vendor’s ability to actually deliver on their promises.

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