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This is set to be a pivotal year for how Arlington County represents itself in its logo and its infrastructure.

At the close of 2020, Arlington County kickstarted the process of updating its logo — a process that will soon be inviting public input — and this fall, County Board members expect to review a new framework for considering the possibility of new names for things like parks, streets and building.

Board member Christian Dorsey and NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. previewed these upcoming changes during a recent discussion on renaming hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, a group that talks about local issues.

Meanwhile, Marymount University assistant professor Cassandra Good shed light on the history of Arlington’s street naming and made recommendations for a new approach.

Spurred by a national discussion of systemic racism and police violence in 2019 and 2020, Arlington County is re-examining its logo, which depicts Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial, the former plantation home of the Confederate general and descendants of George Washington. The county is also reconsidering the names of various roads, parks and local landmarks named for Confederate generals and soldiers, slaveholders, plantations, and historic figures known for their racism.

That work is ongoing. A county logo review panel has received more than 250 submissions to consider and narrow down to five for the community to rank in May, Spain said. The County Board will select a new logo in June.

Meanwhile, county staff members are hammering out a formal process for naming and renaming places in Arlington going forward, to bring a systematic approach to what has so far been a case-by-case process.

“We expect that during the fall of this year, we will have a proposal from our county manager for how we ought to think about the renaming issue,” Dorsey said. “There’s going to be a lot more that comes with that, I expect.”

Some Committee of 100 members wondered whether the panelists think the county ought to change its name, too, given that the county is named after the plantation house that’s being removed from the logo.

Panelists said such a conversation could take place but changing the name Arlington would not only pose an extreme logistical challenge but may also not reflect a nuanced view of renaming.

“When we’re talking about changing the name of Arlington, it may come a time when we need to have that conversation,” Spain said. “But Arlington — I believe changing the name of a county is a pretty heavy lift.”

Dorsey said he is not in favor of throwing out everything that was the product of a certain time in history as “the poisonous fruit of a poisonous tree.”

A recurring question for officials tasked with renaming has been whether to swap one historical figure with another. The community could choose a person whose character could come into question later on, they said.

Good, the Marymount professor, said while her preference is not to use names of historical figures, there ought to be a few new historical figures featured.

“There need to be some names for people,” she said, otherwise, “the names that remain will mostly white people.”

Dorsey added that while the county can think beyond individuals, there will be some figures who community members will want to honor.

“I would hate to lose that entirely,” he said.

Good said Arlington first formalized a naming process for streets in 1932, when a commission of, as far as she can tell, all-white Arlington residents finalized the names for the county’s streets. Several — including Lafayette, Hamilton and Pocahontas Streets — were renamed at that time, she said.

Going forward, she recommended that all renaming decisions include those who have been excluded and involve a professional historian. Renaming should be considered if the current name was originally chosen to honor somebody for reasons that are at odds with the community’s values, she said.

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Morning Notes

APS to Fully Return to Classrooms in Fall — “Arlington Public Schools will bring all students who choose it back for five days of in-person learning every week starting in the fall, Superintendent Francisco Durán told the school board Thursday.
He emphasized that any families… who want to stay virtual-only will be able to do so, and noted that staffers have already begun to plot out what the remote option will look like.” [Washington Post]

County Still Seeking New Logo Ideas — “Calling all artists, and artists-at-heart! The County will choose a new logo this year that better represents our Arlington community, and we need your help… Submit your logo concept/art by March 14.” [Arlington County]

Fire Breaks Out in Route 1 Median — From Dave Statter: “Watch your cigarettes, matches & ashes. Dry & breezy. A small brush fire on Rt 1 south of 23rd St briefly blocked traffic. @Reagan_Airport MWAA Engine 301 handled it.” [Twitter]

Brooks Basking in the Sunlight — From the Arlington County Police Department yesterday afternoon: “It’s a pawsitively beautiful day in Arlington County! FRK9 Brooks hopes you get out and enjoy the weather!” [Twitter]

Va. Booze Sales Soar During Pandemic — “Virginians bought considerably more liquor in the second half of 2020 than they did during the same period of 2019. That’s according to figures Washingtonian obtained from the commonwealth’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, which show statewide sales of spirits were up 15 percent over 2019 from July to December of the worst year in recent history.” [Washingtonian]

State Tax Revenue Higher Than Expected — “On a year-to-date basis, collections of payroll withholding taxes — 61 percent of General Fund revenues — increased 1.1 percent, behind the annual forecast of 2.7 percent growth. Sales tax collections — 17 percent of General Fund revenues — increased 6.7 percent through February, ahead of the annual forecast calling for a 4.8 percent increase. Recordation taxes advanced 38.3 percent on a fiscal year basis, ahead of the 24.4 percent annual forecast. Total revenues rose 8.0 percent through February, ahead of the revised annual forecast of 3.0 percent growth.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Reminder: Spring Forward This Weekend — “The second Sunday in March is when Daylight Saving Time begins in most areas of the U.S., so in 2021 we’ll ‘spring forward’ one hour and on Sunday, March 14, 2021, at 2 a.m. Be sure to set your clocks ahead one hour before bed on Saturday night!” [Farmers’ Almanac]

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The county is calling on the community to submit their ideas for a new county logo and seal.

The logo will phase out the depiction of Arlington House, also known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial, on all county communications and materials starting this summer. Over time, the new logo will appear on signage for county amenities such as parks, community centers and buildings, the submissions webpage said.

“We are writing a brighter chapter in Arlington’s story, one that aligns with the County’s important focus on racial equity,” the website said. Submissions are due by Sunday, March 14.

According to submission guidelines, artists only can submit one idea and it must be new and original. The art should “look good” in black and white and in color, and when it is printed on something as small as a pen and as large as a billboard. Designs in any media — from digital to crayon — are accepted.

Proposed design ideas have included dogwood trees, the Potomac River, the Rosslyn skyline, and the Pentagon, as well as abstract concepts like peace and diversity.

“As you create your design, think about the images, symbols and feelings unique to Arlington and shared by people across neighborhoods,” the county website said.

A submission form is available on the county website. It asks people to submit a .jpg, .png or .pdf version of their design, to share whether they are a current or former resident or have some “other” affiliation with Arlington, and to briefly describe the art and what it depicts or represents.

The move to update the emblem began with a push from the Arlington branch of the NAACP last summer, which decried the current logo as a “racist plantation symbol” that honors a slave-owning Confederate general. County Board members expressed their support in September and approved a process for replacing it in December.

County Manager Mark Schwartz previously told the board that the earliest instance of the logo’s use by the county was in 1974.

When the March deadline passes, a panel of community members picked by Schwartz will choose three to five top contenders. A professional graphic designer will further develop the concepts through April. The community will then rank their picks in May and the County Board is expected to choose one in June.

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A new logo and seal for Arlington County could be chosen from community submissions in June of 2021.

Members of the County Board gave the go-ahead to a logo-change process during their recessed meeting Tuesday evening. Before doing so, Board members agreed to shorten the process by one month and asked county staff to come back in June with a timeline estimating how long it will take to phase out the logo.

“We’ve had this discussion since July,” Takis Karantonis said. “This logo is offensive, therefore we are really in a hurry to retire it and make it disappear from our official documents, etc.”

County Manager Mark Schwartz promised to come back with a timeline next summer, anticipating it will take a while to figure out everywhere the logo pops up.

“I will not begin to even guess the number of places the symbol appears on the sides of vehicles and things,” he said.

Board Chair Libby Garvey, who said she no longer wears a pin with the county seal, predicted that “it’s going to take us a little while” to completely phase out the use of Arlington House — also known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial.

The County Board agreed to embark on a plan to change the logo this September, after the Arlington branch of the NAACP said it is time to remove the “divisive and racist” Arlington House, “a symbol of a slave labor camp,” from the County logo and seal.

With the Board’s blessing, Schwartz will start advertising a logo review panel. It will be filled with nine to 11 community members representing a range of races and ethnicities, ages and abilities, who hail from different neighborhoods and business communities. Schwartz will ultimately pick the panelists.

The County would ask for submissions in February. The panel will narrow them down to five at most and have the top contenders developed by a professional graphic designer in March and April. In May, the community would rank their picks and in June, the County Board will make the final choice.

The new design, whatever it is, will be used both as a seal and a logo.

Proposed design ideas have included dogwood trees, the Potomac River, the Rosslyn skyline, and the Pentagon, as well as abstract concepts like peace and diversity.

The history of the logo is fairly recent, according to Schwartz.

The first instance of the Arlington House on an official county document that the County could find was in 1974. In 1983, the County adopted the house to adorn the County flag, and in 2004, the symbol in use now was adopted as the logo. Today, the County has a separate seal and logo, both of which feature the house.

In 1972, Congress renamed the Arlington House as “Arlington House: the Robert E. Lee Memorial,” in honor of the Confederate general, who once lived in the historic mansion on the grounds of the future Arlington National Cemetery. In 1861, after Virginia seceded, the Lees fled the home and in 1864, the federal government seized the property because the Lees owed taxes on it.

The redesign joins a growing list of public spaces that have been or are being renamed. A renaming process for Lee Highway (Route 29) has recommended “Loving Avenue” as a new name for the commercial corridor and commuter route. On Saturday, the County Board approved a new name for Henry Clay Park: Zitkala-Sa, after an Indigenous writer and activist who lived in the area.

Previously, Washington-Lee High School was renamed Washington-Liberty and Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) was renamed Richmond Highway.

To streamline the renaming and naming parks, streets and buildings — which involves multiple departments — the County also approved on Tuesday a new process that includes the formation of a group that would review every proposed name or name change.

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Three days after members of the Arlington County Board expressed support for changing the county’s logo, officials outlined a process for changing it, the county seal and, potentially, names of some local roads and places.

The logo change comes after a push from the Arlington branch of the NAACP, which earlier this summer called the illustration of Arlington House a “racist plantation symbol” that “divides, rather than unites us.”

At the Board’s Tuesday evening meeting, County Manager Mark Schwartz presented a plan to review county symbols and names over the next few months.

The review will include “gathering perspectives on race and equity in Arlington,” and examining county symbols, street names and facility names that may be associated with systemic racism or oppression. The review will “build on this fall’s community process to update the County’s Historic Preservation Master Plan,” according to a county press release.

Schwartz said he will present in December a summary of community feedback, as well as recommendations to the Board for next steps.

In introducing the topic, County Board Chair Libby Garvey said that equity and the county budget are “the two most important things we’re tackling as a Board.” She, along with the four other members of the Board, reiterated their support for changing the county logo.

While newly-elected Board member Takis Karantonis said he agreed with local NAACP leader Julius Spain, Sr.’s call to retire Arlington House as the county’s logo as soon as possible, he acknowledged that the overall process of choosing a new logo and replacing the old logo on most county equipment and properties would “probably take several years.”

Board member Katie Cristol said the logo and some names currently in use locally “have come to feel so out of step with our current values in Arlington County,” while Board member Matt de Ferranti said he wanted to ensure the process of evaluating and changing them was thoughtful and inclusive.

Christian Dorsey, the lone Black member of the Board, said his support for changing the logo came down to the 1972 renaming of Arlington House by Congress as “Arlington House: the Robert E. Lee Memorial,” in honor of the Confederate general and one-time occupant of the historic home on the grounds of what became Arlington National Cemetery.

While some may believe Arlington House to be a symbol of slavery, Dorsey said, others see it as a symbol of the repudiation of the Confederacy, given that it was seized during the Civil War in order to serve as a final resting place for Union war dead. The 1972 renaming, however, “takes all nuance out of the equation.”

“Should a national memorial to Robert E. Lee be the official symbol of Arlington County?” Dorsey asked. “For me it’s a clear no. Period, full stop.”

Dorsey said that the logo change and renaming process will need to find a way to try to unite people who are “in different places along the journey,” but names that honor people who “actively promoted systemic oppression” have to go.

The county should also consider naming some things that are currently unnamed in order “to elevate the contributions of women, people of color, indigenous peoples, that have been suppressed in the telling of our country’s and our community’s history,” according to Dorsey. At the same time, he said, the county should “make sure that fiscal and human resources are not diverted from doing the work to address systemic racism” by the logo change and renaming processes.

(The county, through a local nonprofit, is currently in the process of renaming Lee Highway.)

More on the logo change and renaming process, from a county press release, below.

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