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Arlington County could use federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to take a swing at making the “Arlington Way” work for more residents.

From what a development project should look like to where protected bike lanes could go, Arlington often invites residents to have a say in policy-making, a local community engagement philosophy known as the “Arlington Way.”

Although it’s a point of pride for the county, officials and staff have acknowledged that these pathways privilege those with the time, resources and connections to invest in discussions about projects, studies and policies — typically older, more affluent residents.

Left out of important county conversations, then, is Arlington’s growing population of renters, parents of young kids, people who work non-traditional hours, people without access to reliable and affordable transportation, and those who are not fluent English speakers.

This is not just a topic Arlington is grappling with. Over in Richmond, the city gave out small stipends to people who participated in updating its citywide master plan. And nationally, compensation has emerged as a “best practice” to “ensure lived experience and community expertise are fairly compensated and publicly recognized,” according to the Urban Institute.

So now, the county is proposing to allocate $50,000 during this fiscal year for a pilot program exploring different ways to make it easier for underrepresented community members to participate in engagement processes through compensation. It would apply to one-time meetings for issues as they arise as well as the longer-term time commitment of an ongoing advisory commission.

“Improving engagement with, and representation in civic structures by, historically underserved communities is a key priority nationally and for Arlington County,” according to a county ARPA spending plan. “Recent Dialogues on Race and Equity surfaced community perspectives that Arlington’s structures for decisions and public input are narrow, advantage dominant perspectives and do not offer access or representation for communities of color to County government leadership.”

Compensation could look like gift cards, childcare and meals, or waived transportation costs. As part of the pilot, the county will collect data on whether these practices increase the diversity of those who participate in government processes.

Championing this cause is Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol, who told ARLnow earlier this month that there would soon be news about how the county aims to tackle the “Arlington Way.”

“From my perspective, this $50k in ARPA funding is important because it will help catalyze complicated, government-wide conversations about how to reduce barriers for underrepresented Arlingtonians to participate in public processes,” she said. “One of our most challenging issues is the question of how to value time spent, and address obstacles to participation, in our standing advisory bodies.”

She commended the county’s Communications and Public Engagement team for doing “some very exciting work engaging residents in more ad-hoc opportunities,” such as when the county went out to the Lubber Run Community Center to ask kids to sketch out what they’d like to see from a recreation facility.

“But we also do still derive a lot of value from groups, like Commissions, that advise the County over time and can serve as ‘laboratories’ for new ideas; and it’s clearly a lot harder to engage in that kind of ongoing commitment if childcare, transportation, opportunity costs of shift work, etc. are obstacles for you,” she said.

Previously, she said, this has been tested out in Arlington with private funding. When Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing hosted planning meetings about the future of Columbia Pike, it organized multi-lingual sessions with dinner and childcare provided with funding from an outside grant, she said.

Eventually, the county aims to turn the results of the pilot into “common policies that can be implemented across County departments and projects,” according to the funding plan.

When asked who will oversee the pilot program and when it could be rolled out, as well as who would monitor the money to ensure it gets to the right people and so that it isn’t used to engineer who participates, a county spokeswoman said answers will come when the pilot program kicks off.

“That will all be developed in an implementation plan if/when approved by the county board,” she said.

County Board members are expected to vote on the allocation plan when they meet in November.

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlington has long prided itself on the pathways available to residents to have a say in local policy-making, also known as the “Arlington Way.”

But a growing number of county officials, local leaders and civic groups think the tradition, while noble in aim, doesn’t work for everyone. They say it leans too much on affluent retirees and sabotages the county’s equity efforts.

For years, Arlington County has acknowledged that its traditional engagement processes privilege those with the time, resources and connections to invest in discussions about projects, studies and policies. That leaves out a growing segment of the population outside that mold: renters, parents of young kids, people who work non-traditional hours, people without access to reliable and affordable transportation, and those who are not fluent English speakers.

Suggestions to retoolreform or scrap the process are not new, but in recent months, the topic has bubbled up in county-level conversations.

References to the “Arlington Way” arose in a County Board public comment period this summer that ran long due to controversy over the start time of a north Arlington farmers market, which shut out participation from low-income residents there to speak about filthy conditions at the Serrano Apartments. More recently, diversity concerns prompted the Arlington County Civic Federation — which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss local topics — to pass a resolution prioritizing improved community outreach and representation.

Amid this renewed focus, some novel approaches and long-term reforms have been proposed that county and civic leaders and community engagement staff tell ARLnow could widen the Arlington Way.

“Generally speaking, Arlington residents care about the issues that impact them, but do they know about it? How do they get the information?” asks Samia Byrd, Arlington’s Chief Race and Equity Officer. “We take for granted that residents know how to participate in the process.”

Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol reprised the dilemma last week during a conversation about the community oversight board, which is currently seeking members to review cases of alleged police misconduct.

“We’ve been wrestling with… how we properly compensate people for that time and expertise,” Cristol said, as quoted by County Board watcher Stephen Repetski. “Because, frankly, that is… one of the biggest reasons you see our most heavy-hitting community engagement activities tend to rely disproportionately on well-off retirees.”

In a follow-up conversation, she told ARLnow that she’s been thinking about diversity in County Board-appointed commissions.

Six years ago, she believed that the solution would be finding and recruiting new faces at all levels of leadership. Over time, she’s realized the homogeneity of civic leadership is a consequence of how engagement is structured. Night meetings — or even day meetings — at county headquarters disadvantage students, parents and anyone who doesn’t work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including overworked young professionals.

“It actually was not just about inviting more diverse people to the table, as defined, but maybe the table was defined in a way that made it hard for certain people to sit there,” she said. “There have to be many ways to engage.”

Those involved in county communications tell ARLnow they likewise think about diversity, not in terms of commission composition and structure, but in terms of regular outreach.

Who’s left out? 

Assistant County Manager and Director of Communications and Public Engagement Bryna Helfer has been tackling community engagement homogeneity since she was hired in 2016. She and Byrd both say “it’s been a challenge” to reach people who aren’t white, affluent or a retiree, as well as people who don’t already know how to get involved or navigate the county website.

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(Updated 5 p.m.) Arlington Children’s Center, a childcare facility that has operated in a county-owned building for 30 years, will close temporarily at the end of August.

Doors to the facility at 1915 N. Uhle Street, near Courthouse, will shut on Aug. 31, when the contract expires between Arlington County and the company operating the program, AA Daycare, according to Arlington County spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith. The two could not reach an agreement to extend the contract ahead of major renovations slated for January 2022, she said.

AA Daycare has managed the program, which enrolled children of Arlington residents and county employees, for the last 17 years, according to owner Anna Wodzynska.

“This is a dramatic situation for all of us,” she said in an email to parents.

According to a letter to parents from the county, shared with ARLnow, the county and AA Daycare were negotiating an extension up until a week before the news of the closure. Parents were notified of the changing situation last Wednesday.

Parents tell ARLnow they are under immense pressure to find an alternative while childcare is in such high demand. One said this “is a herculean task given that most daycare centers in the area have waitlists of at least 6-9 months. If the county is serious about solving the childcare shortage issue, this decision is baffling.”

AA Daycare was notified about the planned renovations to the space, which has not been updated in 30 years, in January 2020, Smith said.

“We offered alternative space to AA Daycare to continue operations for the period of planned construction,” she said. “This offer, along with an option to extend the contract, was declined.”

Parents said they had heard about the upcoming renovations early last year. The county letter to parents said the planned improvements include reconfiguring the space to meet current standards for daycare and to reach compliance with the Americans with Disability Act, as well as an interior refresh.

“We started at ACC in January 2020 when our daughter was 4.5 months old,” said one mother. “Shortly after starting, I do remember receiving a flyer from the center detailing that, at some time, work would need to be done on the building… But it was not worrisome at the time, and it was certainly not presented in a way that the center would unexpectedly close forcing families to find new care within 6 weeks.”

Smith acknowledged the parents’ frustrations.

“We recognize this is short notice and have offered to assist parents as best we can — this was not the outcome we wanted,” she said.

Wodzynska, meanwhile, has assured parents that their children who are two-and-a-half years old and older will have a spot in a sister facility in Ballston, at 3850 Wilson Blvd. She said the transition “will be as smooth as possible,” with some staff transferring to BCC.

“The only consolation is that less than 2 miles away from ACC, we own another beautiful daycare called Ballston Children’s Center and we have space for all our children that are 2.5 years and older,” she wrote in the letter. “Unfortunately, BCC is not licensed for younger children, so we will not be able to enroll our youngest children.”

She declined to comment further on the closure.

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(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) With a snip of a ribbon, the newly-renovated Columbia Pike Branch Library officially opened for the first time since March 2020.

The library on S. Walter Reed Drive, which first opened in 1975, underwent a significant makeover including new furnishings, updated carpeting, fresh coats of paint, additional meeting rooms, modernized audio-visual equipment and new lighting.

The 21,000-item collection has been consolidated to the first floor to make room for an expansion of the Arlington Tech high school program. The program is part of the Arlington Career Center, located on the second floor of the facility.

“We didn’t lose any collections, we gained a couple of meeting rooms, and we gained more discrete spaces,” Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh tells ARLnow. “[The renovation] opened up what had been a lot of wasted space. It really feels bigger.”

Renovations for the entire project, on the first and second floors, cost approximately $4.45 million, according to a spokesperson from Arlington Public Schools, which owns the building.

Kresh says APS’s ownership of the building presented a chance to make the library better.

“The library has always shared the space with schools. It’s a well-loved facility and showed a lot of wear and tear,” says Kresh. “So, when the schools planned to renovate and increase the space of the Career Center, that gave us an opportunity to consolidate down here and do a redesign.”

Kresh notes that while closing the libraries last year due to the pandemic was difficult for staff and the community, there was a “silver lining” — the renovations could get done.

The library opened to the public on Tuesday, but the celebration was held yesterday evening (Thursday).

With a vaccination rate close to 70% for adults, people packed the community library. There were donuts and cookies, and kids eating said treats while darting one way and another. A magician performed for a rapt audience. After remarks and ribbon cutting, a cover band churned out classics such as “Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy.” The entire Arlington County Board was in attendance, as was County Manager Mark Schwartz and Del. Alfonso Lopez.

Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol says celebrating the reopening of this library — her neighborhood library — after such a hard year is welcome.

“It’s a sign of restoration of things, things coming back to normal,” Cristol tells ARLnow. “It is also the first sign of the community being able to come back together, which is definitely what we see going on around here.”

Cristol said her favorite thing about coming to the library was to browse new fiction releases, but that’s changed.

“I now have a two-year old who loves books, so I think my favorite thing about the library is about to be this community room,” she said.

As of Tuesday, library services have expanded at five locations: Columbia Pike, Central Library, Aurora Hills, Shirlington and Westover. This ends the express service model that APL had implemented earlier this year.

Patrons now have full access to library collections with no time limit on browsing. Spaced seating is available to use the public Wi-Fi along with full access to restrooms and water fountains.

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(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) A pair of Columbia Pike businesses say they’re planning to leave when their leases are up due to parking challenges at a county-financed garage.

Lost Dog Cafe and Joule Wellness Pharmacy both tell ARLnow that relatively high and confusing parking fees in the garage are costing them thousands of dollars a year in customer business. The owners of both say they will not be renewing their leases when they expire come 2023 and 2024, respectively.

“This parking issue has made it so untenable,” says Lost Dog Cafe franchise owner Jim Barnes. “We link this to our sales and our sales are not good. There’s a correlation with this parking lot.”

The parking garage, located at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, is owned by Ballston-based apartment developer AvalonBay. However, it was built based as part of an unusual 2006 agreement with Arlington County.

The county contributed $2.96 million to its construction with the promise of receiving 45% of parking revenue as a form of payback every month going forward, according to the “public parking development agreement” obtained by ARLnow.

It is one of only two parking garages in the county that has an agreement of this nature, county officials confirm, with the other also along Columbia Pike, at Penrose Square.

The agreement does not specify a duration for which the county will continue to receive the parking revenue and county officials declined to provide an “interpretation” of whether that could mean into perpetuity.

They also didn’t specify how much revenue the garage generated for the county in 2020.

The parking garage is owned by AvalonBay and was acquired by the company with its $102 million purchase of the since-renamed Avalon Columbia Pike apartment building — formerly the Halstead Arlington — in 2016.

While this agreement had been in place for a decade and a half, initially signed by a different developer, a majority of the issues for the businesses started in March 2020, just days before the pandemic began to hit Arlington.

That’s when, according to Lost Dog and Joule Wellness, the parking machines were turned on and enforced for the first time in years.

Lost Dog Cafe, a franchisee of the original in Westover, moved into 2920 Columbia Pike in May 2009. At the time, Barnes said that parking was free after 5 p.m. and on weekends, which he says was an adequate compromise. A large portion of their customer-base came when parking was free anyway, with the garage able to earn revenue at other times, he says.

When AvalonBay purchased the building, notes Barnes, those restrictions went away and the parking machines were turned off. Enforcement also stopped.

Then four years later, with little notice according to the businesses, the machines were turned back on, enforcement restarted, and parking fees were being charged 24/7. The machines require drivers to pay for parking in advance, and anyone who fails to do so — or who overstays the amount of time they paid for — gets ticketed or towed.

A sign outside the garage advertises a parking rate of $1.75 per hour, which can be paid via a cash-only machine inside the garage. Barnes claims the machine “has never worked” and “steals people’s money.”

Drivers can also use the ParkMobile app, but poor cell phone reception in the garage makes that difficult, and the app charges $2.25 for the first hour.

“Customers cannot use their phones to access it infuriating them and they simply choose to no longer come to our business as a result,” Barnes said.

Paid street parking is available nearby, but is limited. Parking on surrounding neighborhood streets, meanwhile, often requires a residential decal, and nearby parking lots are restricted to other businesses and their customers.

AvalonBay, in an email to ARLnow, disputes Barnes’ version of events, writing that parking was being collected prior to March 2020.

“Equipment had been in place and parking revenue was collected prior to March 2020,” writes a company representative. “In March 2020, an updated parking system was installed with the County’s approval.”

Barnes, however, says that he received “no notice whatsoever” about the change or any updates.

The management of Joule Wellness Pharmacy, which opened its Pike location in early 2014, said they did receive notice, but it was only two to three weeks prior to the change. What’s more, they said there’s no mention of paid parking in their lease.

“There was not no mention of that in our lease,” says manager Alex Tekie. “And in fact, we’re told parking is free for us and our employees and for customers coming on the retail side.”

Tekie and pharmacy owner Winnie Tewelde tell ARLnow they now shell out nearly $800 a month in parking, mostly so employees can park in the lot.

They’ve talked a lawyer about the situation, but grew weary of paying even more money to fight the parking changes against a large, publicly-traded developer.

“We got exhausted. Drained,” says Tekie. “It’s David vs. Goliath.”

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Arlington has long had a childcare shortage problem. During the pandemic, strangely, that helped its programs survive.

Although childcare programs across the nation have shuttered due to the coronavirus, in Arlington, only three licensed programs have closed, said County Board member and childcare advocate Katie Cristol. One is reopening in a new location better equipped for social-distancing, while two others closed permanently (one of those closures was virus-related).

“The good news is, what has been one of the biggest challenges of the landscape of Arlington has been an asset,” she said, adding that demand remained strong locally, buoying Arlington’s centers, “most of which have faired fairly well.”

Amid the three closures, Cristol — who helped launch the county’s Child Care Initiative in 2017 — helped welcome a new addition to Arlington’s stock of early education and childcare options this week. Looking to help address Arlington’s demand for early education options, two sisters, Saniya Dhala and Zahra Isani, opened Primrose School of Arlington in the Courthouse area yesterday (Thursday).

“There continues to be a great need for high-quality early education and child care options in our community and Primrose Schools delivers that in a convenient setting, close to neighborhoods and businesses,” Cristol said.

It is independently owned and operated by Dhala and Isani, who quit their jobs in the finance and food industries to open this Primrose School location, the 450th nationwide. The school at 2107 Wilson Blvd can accommodate up to 185 children.

“The pandemic has been devastating to so many businesses and industries, and the childcare industry is no exception to that,” the sisters tell ARLnow. “Some schools have had to shut their doors, and some have had to reduce hours and capacity. As we start to return to normalcy things are opening back up, many schools are ready to welcome families again and we are excited to be opening a high-quality option in an area where it’s needed.”

This location is one of five Primrose locations scheduled to open in the D.C. area — joining 11 existing outposts — in the middle of a pandemic that has shined a light on deep problems in the industry, such as a shortage of spots, high staff turnover and thin operating margins.

There are some signs of relief, however. President Joe Biden announced that $39 billion of the American Rescue Plan will help sustain these programs, Gov. Ralph Northam announced $203 million to expand eligibility for the Commonwealth’s Child Care Subsidy Program.

While Dhala and Isani said they started the process of opening their franchise location before the pandemic hit, the coronavirus did reinforce their decision to open a school.

“Being in the process of opening during the pandemic allowed us to be agile and adjust our space on the front-end to ensure we met and innovated around all the new safety guidelines,” they said. “Childcare is essential to our workforce and to our nation’s economic recovery, not to mention to prepare our next generation of leaders for the future.”

The pandemic made more people realize the dearth of options available, as waves of women have exited the workforce to take care of their children full-time, Cristol said. The county initiative she helped launch is still working to address the high demand and low supply of options.

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Passed Virginia legislation allows Arlington County to rename Lee Highway, but it’s unlikely to be “Loving Avenue.”

Yesterday (Feb. 23), HB 1854 passed the Virginia State Senate after passing through the House of Delegates late last month. The bill now goes to Governor Ralph Northam for his signature, which will officially codify it.

The bill specifically authorizes the Arlington County Board to name the section of U.S. Route 29, known for decades as “Lee Highway,” located within its boundaries.

However, it’s unlikely to be renamed Loving Avenue in honor of the Virginia couple whose fight to get married went to the U.S. Supreme Court despite the recommendation of the Lee Highway Alliance work group in December..

This is due to the family’s objection, says Arlington County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol. The Loving family has reiterated that the couple was extremely private and would not want a road named after them.

“I’m saddened but understanding that [the family] is strongly opposed to renaming [Route 29] in honor of their parents and grandparents,” she tells ARLnow. “Privacy is a prevailing value for them.”

Late last year, a task force put together by the Lee Highway Alliance recommended renaming Arlington’s section of Route 29 to Loving Avenue. However, they also suggested four alternatives: John M. Langston Boulevard, Ella Baker Boulevard, Dr. Edward T. Morton Avenue, and Main Street.

Ginger Brown, Executive Director for the Lee Highway Alliance, tells ARLnow that Langston Blvd is the “strong second” choice.

Cristol noted that there remains some follow-up to be done with the Loving family, but at this point, naming Route 29 in Arlington after Mildred and Richard Loving isn’t likely.

“At some point, I’ll have to take a vote on this,” she says. “With what the family has said, we know that it would be hurtful for them. It would be hard for me to vote for that.”

Either way, HB 1854 — first introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) — will allow the renaming, though it only applies to Route 29 in Arlington.

The bill notes that while the Virginia Department of Transportation will place and maintain the appropriate signage, the county has to pay for that signage.

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said the legislation is a “shared priority” at yesterday’s Board meeting.

“We are enthusiastic about the success of Del. Sullivan’s bill, and the County continues to work with our regional partners to seek a regionally consistent name for Lee Highway,” de Ferranti wrote in a statement to ARLnow. “The legislature advancing this bill to the Governor is an important tool now available to Arlington County in the renaming of Lee Highway and we will continue to seek a common name with our neighboring jurisdictions.”

Cristol says the timeline for the change is being coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions that the east-west artery also runs through, including Falls Church, Fairfax City, and Fairfax County.

“We have a shared interest in settling on the same name, for obvious reasons,” she says.

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Morning Notes

Distance Learning Only for APS — “Due to inclement weather… Level 1, in-person learning support, Level 2 Career & Technical Education students and staff supporting these programs will temporarily revert to distance learning.” [Arlington Public Schools]

County Government Open — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, & facilities are OPEN Friday, 02-19-2021. Courts will open at 10AM. All facilities will follow normal operating hours.” [Twitter]

Be Careful Out There — “Northern Virginia crews continue to clear and treat roads overnight, for both some additional wintry precipitation as well as refreeze from low temperatures. Drivers are asked to continue to limit travel if possible, or to use extreme caution and be aware of the potential for slick pavement, even where surfaces appear clear or were previously treated.” [VDOT]

Doses May Be Delayed — “Virginia is seeing delays in this week’s vaccine shipments due to severe winter weather in the Mid-Atlantic region and across the country. The Virginia Department of Health says the state will likely see a delay in the delivery of approximately 106,800 doses, due to distribution channels in the Midwest and elsewhere that are currently shut down.” [InsideNova]

Architectural Review of HQ2 Phase 2 — ” It very intentionally does not look like anything else in Pentagon City or Crystal City, or anywhere else in the region. The style, a populist, jazzy take on high-tech modernism, isn’t aimed at architecture critics, but at the public, which shows remarkable forbearance to the predations of large corporations so long as they have a reputation for being innovative and forward thinking.” [Washington Post]

County Board Members Endorse Candidate — “Alexandria City Council member Elizabeth Bennett-Parker has picked up the endorsement of two Arlington County Board members in her quest for the 45th District House of Delegates seat. Board members Libby Garvey and Katie Cristol endorsed the candidacy.” [InsideNova]

New Spanish Publication on the Pike — “As part of its increased business support efforts, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) has launched a new publication dedicated to supporting the area’s Hispanic business community. The publication, Boletín, is a small booklet of resources and information specific to those Spanish speaking businesses serving Columbia Pike’s residents.” [CPRO]

Arlington Man Arrested for Armed Robberies — “An Arlington man was arrested last night and is facing charges in connection with a series of recent armed robberies. Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau determined that in three of the four robberies, the suspect approached the victim, displayed a firearm and took their personal property. In the other case, the suspect took a victim’s purse by force.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

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Morning Notes

ACPD Salutes Fallen Officer — “ACPD Officers honored fallen @CapitolPolice Officer Brian Sicknick as his procession traveled through Arlington County. In Valor, There is Hope.” [Twitter, Twitter]

M.J. Stewart Makes Splash in Upset Win — “Former Yorktown HS standout M.J. Stewart was one of NBC’s players of the game in the Cleveland Browns’ playoff upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight.” [Twitter]

National Award for County Naturalist — “Alonso Abugattas, natural resources manager for Arlington County, VA, received a Regional Environmental Champion award at the 2020 Natural Latinos conference.” [Bay Journal]

Cristol to Chair NVTC Again — “Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol will go another round as chair of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) for 2021.” [InsideNova]

McAuliffe Picks Up Local Support — “Four of the seven members of Arlington’s legislative delegation, including all three state senators, have announced their support for Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s bid for governor. McAuliffe ‘has the bold vision and proven track record we need to push Virginia forward,’ said state Sen. Adam Ebbin.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Fairfax Vaccinating Teachers — “Starting as early as Saturday, Jan. 16, the Fairfax health department has partnered with Inova to vaccinate an estimated 40,000 teachers and staff of public and private schools and childcare programs across the health district.” [InsideNova]

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The Arlington County Board unanimously elected Matt de Ferranti as its Chair and Katie Cristol as its Vice-Chair during a virtual meeting on Monday.

Elected in 2018, de Ferranti is serving as Chair for the first time, succeeding Libby Garvey. During the year that he occupies this role, he will set the Board’s meeting agendas and preside over the meetings. The first regular Board meeting of 2021 will be held on Saturday, Jan. 23.

Colleagues heaped praise on the new chair.

“One of the most under-sung attributes in an elected official is earnestness, [and] our colleague, Mr. de Ferranti has earnestness in spades,” Cristol said. “[With] a pandemic, a reckoning over racial injustice, it is a moment that calls for a chair like Mr. de Ferranti.”

Cristol, elected in 2015 and a former Board chair, fills a role that was vacated in April, when then Vice-Chair Erik Gutshall resigned after doctors discovered a brain tumor. He died shortly after, and his successor, Board Member Takis Karantonis, was elected in July.

Board member Christian Dorsey lauded Cristol for her activism for accessible, affordable childcare and her work with regional partners on transportation in Northern Virginia.

Dorsey said he nominated Cristol “with great confidence that she will not only be able to perform the role of Vice-Chair, but that she will join Mr. de Ferranti in a dynamic duo for leading Arlington.”

During the meeting, de Ferranti and Cristol commended Arlington for coming together during the pandemic, and outlined their visions for recovery. The new Chair said in his remarks that recovery efforts must focus on stabilization, recovery and a systematic commitment to racial and economic equity.

“Our response to COVID-19 is the biggest test we face as a community,” he said. “As difficult as this winter is and will be, spring will come: More and more will be vaccinated and a new Biden administration will lead our nation’s recovery.”

De Ferranti’s other stated priorities for 2021 include addressing hunger and food insecurity, preventing evictions, and boosting the production of missing middle housing.

“Without changes in our housing supply the 60% of Arlington residents who currently rent cannot realistically save up to buy a place,” he said. “We risk becoming as unaffordable as San Francisco if we do not plan for replacement of existing moderately priced housing and grow in a thoughtful, managed way.”

In her remarks, Cristol said that like 2020, the new year will be characterized by the coronavirus, as cases continue to surpass the peaks seen in March. With the vaccine, however, comes a chance to reimagine Arlington, the Vice-Chair said.

“Rebuilding after this once-in-a-century pandemic is a unique opportunity to think afresh about what future we want for ourselves and our children in our County,” she said.

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Morning Notes

Cristol Recovering from Surgery — County Board member Katie Cristol was absent from this week’s Board meeting. She is on medical leave after surgery to treat Graves’ disease, she said. [Twitter]

Axios Makes Local News Moves — Clarendon-based media company Axios has purchased North Carolina-based Charlotte Agenda as it makes a push into local news. [New York Times]

Board Balks at Preservation Request — “Efforts to place the 9-acre Rouse estate at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North McKinley Road into a local historic district appear to have pushed the property owner to move forward with the ‘nuclear option‘… And, county officials say, there is not much they can do to prevent it. ‘Our hands are pretty much tied,’ County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said Dec. 12, effectively rebuffing a request that the county government take stronger actions.” [InsideNova]

Board Responds to Reopening Request — “A request that Arlington County Board members use their influence – whether through sweet-talking or something more forceful – to get county schools back up and running fell largely on deaf ears Dec. 12. Board members said they were working with their School Board counterparts, but had no power to force a reopening of schools that have been shuttered since last March.” [InsideNova]

Local Nonprofit Expands Aid — “Since April of this year [Arlington] Thrive has provided more than $5 million is assistance to 1,300 families and individuals, a dramatic increase from the $805,000 Thrive provided to families and individuals during the same period last year. Typical requests to Arlington Thrive used to be for one or two months rent but since the pandemic now extend to six or seven months.” [Press Release]

Church Continues Drive-Thru Donations — “Clarendon Presbyterian Church recently announced that it will continue holding monthly Drive-thru Food and Toiletry Collections to support our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. Since the first Collection in June through the most recent one in December, the community donated the equivalent of 756 brown paper bags of groceries – an estimated value of $30,000.” [Press Release]

Northam Proposes State Budget — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Wednesday proposed a state budget that would restore some spending frozen earlier this year amid uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic, updating a spending document that the General Assembly just finished tinkering with last month.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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