Arlington was just named the best city for millennials in the U.S. by the website Niche. Depending on how you define the millennial generation, it makes up between 30-40 percent of the county’s population of just over 220,000.
Yet when it comes to involvement with county government and civic organizations, millennials are underrepresented. Attend a County Board meeting, or a meeting of an Arlington commission or working group, and it is older residents typically speaking out or helping to shape policy.
To get millennials more involved, last month Arlington County partnered with the Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) and hosted a happy hour with County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol, herself a millennial. More then five dozen young people attended the happy hour and discussed local issues with Cristol.
Along with the event, Arlington County launched an interactive forum called Engage Arlington where people can publicly post and discuss county issues. Focused on feedback from millennials, Engage Arlington has a voting system, similar to Reddit.com, where posts that receive “likes” from other users move up the list.
Within Engage Arlington there is a separate forum specifically for Arlington millennials to engage and discuss. Popular topics include expanding transit options and affordable housing solutions. As of today (Friday) at noon, the last post on the forum was 14 hours ago.
In a press release, the county said its goal is to “determine the areas of civic interest to residents in their twenties and thirties and connect them with convenient ways to engage — online or in-person– with plenty of time commitment options.”
“The common misconception is that millennials don’t care about government,” Melissa Riggio, a millennial living in Ballston, is quoted as saying. “What, to me, is more accurate, is that we connect to government in different ways than the generation before us, so it can go unseen by those who are unaccustomed to it.”
“Young people inject new life and energy into Arlington’s neighborhoods, businesses, culture and nightlife,” concluded the county’s press release. “By getting involved, millennials can help shape and develop the kind of Arlington they’ll want to call home for a long time to come.”
A happy hour and listening session tomorrow (May 31) will look to encourage more young people to get involved in Arlington’s local government. County Board vice chair Katie Cristol is among those set to attend.
According to a brief blurb on the event, attendees can expect “an evening of lively conversation and discussion of the issues and topics of interest to millennials and young professionals in Arlington.”
The event is from 6-8 p.m. at the offices of the Ballston Business Improvement District (4600 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100).
The event is nonpartisan and is expected to be attended by those on both sides of the political aisle. In an email to supporters, Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans chair emeritus Matthew Hurtt said young people can play a key role in helping shape county policy. He pointed to the legalization of Airbnb last year and the AFCYRs’ role in helping beat back some proposed regulations on rentals.
“Whether you realize it or not, the AFCYRs is the largest Arlington-focused millennial political organization in Arlington — even bigger than the Arlington Young Democrats, according to club election statistics,” Hurtt wrote. “During the community conversation about legalizing Airbnb, AFCYRs made up a significant portion of the community feedback, rebuffing a number of destructive (and ridiculous) regulations. AFCYRs played a key role in the favorable outcome of that debate.”
The event is jointly sponsored by the county’s Office of Communications and Public Engagement and the Ballston Business Improvement District. Those interested in attending can register online.
There’s a new group of art enthusiasts in town. Called Embracing Arlington Arts, the new citizen group focuses on informing others about the importance of art in the Arlington community.
Some of the main goals of Embracing Arlington Arts include raising public awareness of the art events within the community, celebrating the contributions artists have made towards the county and honoring the diversity within Arlington arts.
Within Arlington County there are over 50 art groups and hundreds of independent visual artists, with specializations that range from the preforming arts to dance, symphony and children’s theater. These artists hail from dozens of different cultures, such as Bolivia, Mexico, Argentina and Vietnam. Together there are over 4,000 annual programs that attract over 600,000 people.
Several Arlington political members have joined the group, including Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) and County Board vice chair Katie Cristol.
“The arts are important to Arlington in so many critical ways,” said Janet Kopenhaver, the chair of Embracing Arlington Arts, in a press release.
Kopenhaver said nearly $7.5 million of economic activity in Arlington is derived from audience expenditures associated with arts events.
The group already has an active social media presence and will host the first annual celebration of the arts in Arlington on October 5.
After hearing from residents and prospective providers, Arlington will formally explore ways to add child care options in the county.
Under the recently-approved fiscal year 2018 budget, a full-time employee will join the Dept. of Community, Planning, Housing and Development to suggest changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance that would help child care centers open.
The County Board also directed $50,000 be spent on an independent study to determine gaps in child care offerings by age and location.
County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, an advocate for more child care options in Arlington, said zoning ordinance tweaks could be key in adding more centers.
“I am strongly of the opinion, having formed it from talking to a lot of providers or would-be providers, that our biggest obstacles are within the zoning ordinance in terms of the number of parking spaces required by childcare centers or the amount of indoor vs. outdoor space,” Cristol said. “It makes it very hard to find a space for rent in Arlington County that will actually meet the requirements.”
Cristol said the independent study, done in parallel to any work tweaking the zoning ordinance, should give more data on where the gaps in the market lie. WTOP reported in February that children outnumbered daycare and preschool openings by a ratio of roughly three-to-one in 2015.
“There are some things we know and there are some things that we don’t know, so we want to get a little bit more specific about where the geographic areas are where childcare is most lacking,” Cristol said. “We have some hypotheses about that but not as much data.”
The county’s child care ordinance could also be in for another examination, especially in light of Virginia’s statewide regulations not being revised upwards. Cristol said she had been hopeful of the Virginia Department of Social Services revamping its regulations around child care centers, and improving standards that she said could be “almost criminally low.”
Last year, Arlington dropped a proposed update to its own child care regulations after several County Board members, Cristol included, slammed the inclusion of certain controversial provisions, which were seen as overly-prescriptive. Cristol was also critical of adding to the regulatory burden of small daycare providers without a clear health or safety imperative.
State officials decided at the end of last year to leave Virginia’s regulations alone, and while Cristol said Arlington’s continue to be tougher, a fresh look led by the county’s Child Care Licensing Office could help.
“I think after the version you saw in early 2016, which was roundly understood and emphasized by myself and other Board members to be a huge overreach, there are opportunities to look afresh at what are the high expectations that we have and want to communicate, and what do we actually require as a condition of opening a childcare center,” Cristol said.
The study will begin sometime after the start of the fiscal year, on July 1, while Cristol said she anticipated any zoning ordinances changes will come before the community and County Board in around 18 months.
Locals who want to put their kids in preschool or daycare programs might have to wait for months before an opening appears. At Early Steps Bilingual Preschool in Lyon Village, the wait list for the upcoming 2017-18 school year is between 20 and 30 names long. And that’s fairly average, according to the preschool’s director, Michelle Clark.
“I have many parents who come to me before they have given birth who put their children on the wait list,” she said. “When parents ask me what the probability is of getting in, I tell them it’s kind of a strange science.”
What’s the problem? For one, says Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, there’s just too many kids and not enough daycare facilities. Cristol, who won her seat in 2015 after running on a policy platform that included child care, has long spoken out about the lack of affordable options in the county.
“Arlington has a child care supply problem, resulting, at least in part, from high commercial rents and growth in demand,” Cristol said.
The number of kids in Arlington vastly exceeds local availability. As WTOP reported this month, children outnumbered daycare and preschool openings by a ratio of roughly three-to-one in 2015.
But the supply problem isn’t only frustrating parents. In Cristol’s view, not having enough child care options can hurt the county’s prospects attracting and retaining young workers who either have a family or want to start one soon.
“Limited childcare supply creates not only personal strain on individual families, but also a problem for Arlington’s long-term economic competitiveness,” she said. “Our highly-educated young workforce is a key selling point for new businesses and organizations to locate, or existing organizations to expand, here.
Another issue is the lack of space for providers. Tatjana Vichnevsky, who heads the Full Circle Montessori School, said she’d like the county to rework the regulations that surround opening a new child care center. Specifically, Vichnevsky said rules regarding parking and green space at a daycare need updating.
“If you’re in Arlington and you want to open a school, not only do you have the state standards, but there’s also another layer of regulations and bureaucracy,” she said. “Just finding the space is an absolute nightmare.”
Arlington’s child care ordinance, Chapter 52 of county code, was last updated in 1981 and was primarily written in the 60s. In 2013, then-County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s budget-cutting proposal to adopt Virginia’s child care regulations and eliminate three county regulators was met with widespread parent outrage. The proposal was eventually scrapped, but attempts to update Arlington’s child care regulations have also been problematic.
Last year, Arlington dropped a proposed update to its child care regulations after several County Board members, Cristol included, slammed the inclusion of certain controversial provisions. Cristol was also critical of adding to the regulatory burden of small daycare providers without a clear health or safety imperative.
Moving forward, Cristol said her goal will be to look for ways to “clear obstacles to, and support, the provision of more high-quality childcare in Arlington.”
She added that the county’s upcoming 2018 budget could be an opportunity to advance that priority.
“Strategies include more technical assistance to new providers as they locate and develop their small businesses, exploration of land use and zoning strategies to increase the number of commercial spaces available for rent by childcare providers and reduced regulatory burden while still protecting quality,” Cristol said.
Norovirus Outbreak at School — More than 80 students at Oakridge Elementary in south Arlington are out sick as a result of a suspected norovirus outbreak. The virus causes symptoms like “stomach aches, fever, vomiting and, in some cases, diarrhea.” [NBC Washington]
Sign Controversy at Yorktown — Some conservatives are upset that teachers at Yorktown High School are being allowed to hang “politically suggestive” signs in their classrooms. The signs read: “Patriots Know: Facts are not political. Diversity strengthens us. Science is real. Women’s rights are human rights. Justice is for all. We’re all immigrants. Kindness is everything.” [Daily Caller]
Yorktown Lacrosse Star Nears 200 Goals — Yorktown senior lacrosse star Laura Crawford is nearing the 200-goal mark for high school career. Crawford, a three-time team MVP, has committed to Penn. [Washington Post]
Female UAE Hockey Player Visits Caps — Fatima Al Ali, a hockey player and coach from United Arab Emirates, has been visiting with the Washington Capitals this week as part of the NHL’s “Hockey Is For Everyone month.” The visit has included taking the ice at the Caps practice facility in Ballston and dropping the puck at last night’s game at Verizon Center. [Fox 5, Al-Arabiya]
Levine, Favola Advance Rape Kit Bill — Updated at 9:40 a.m. — Legislation sponsored by Del. Mark Levine and state Sen. Barbara Favola, which Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol helped to craft, has passed unanimously in the Virginia House of Delegates. The bill calls for police to keep rape kits for a longer period of time even if the victim is not ready to prosecute. [WVTF]
MMA Studio Gives Parents a Night Off — A mixed martial arts gym is not a place that one would usually think of as a babysitting venue, but that’s precisely what Pentagon MMA on Columbia Pike will be Saturday night. The business is hosting a “parents’ night out” event for Valentine’s Day, letting mom or dad “enjoy a worry-free evening with your special someone this Valentine’s Day while your child enjoys a night of structured activities in a supervised environment.” [Pentagon MMA]
The House of Delegates bill, HB 1960, was proposed by Del. Tim Hugo, a Prince William and Fairfax County Republican. It would modify Virginia’s existing towing law with a number of provisions that would only apply to Northern Virginia jurisdictions in the state’s “Planning District 8,” which includes Arlington.
Among the proposed Northern Virginia-specific changes:
- Raise the base towing fee to $150 and the maximum towing fee to $200.
- Prohibit Arlington’s new “real time authorization” requirement, which requires businesses to authorize each individual tow.
- Require that the chair of a local towing advisory board be a licensed towing operator. Currently, the chair of Arlington’s towing advisory committee is a local citizen.
An Arlington County fact sheet about the bill states that it “would unnecessarily restrict the ability of local governments to provide protections to vehicle owners in the taking of their property without their consent.”
“I would describe it as a very consumer unfriendly bill,” County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow.com. “It raises tow rates for the second year in a row with no fair market assessment to justify that.”
Cristol is encouraging residents to reach out to their local delegates and state senators to encourage them to work to defeat the bill.
“We think it’s a bad deal for our community and we hope people will let their state legislators know that they think so too,” she said.
On a statewide basis, the bill would require tow truck drivers to notify animal control when they tow a vehicle “that is occupied by an unattended companion animal.” It also establishes a $100 fine for towing operators that violate state towing regulations, to be paid to Virginia’s Literary Fund, and prohibits the appointment of anyone other than towing operators, law enforcement representatives and a single member of the general public to a towing advisory board.
Beyer Warns of Obamacare Repeal Ramifications — “The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act will have disastrous consequences for Virginia,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said Friday, citing recent studies. “Hundreds of thousands of our neighbors will lose life-saving, affordable health coverage. The state also stands to lose as many as 100,000 jobs, $30 billion in gross state product, and $50 billion in business output. This is unacceptable and irresponsible.” [House of Representatives, Commonwealth Fund]
Will Startup’s Growth Add Arlington Jobs? — Just before the new year, president-elect Donald Trump said that Rosslyn-based OneWeb will be creating 3,000 jobs as it prepares to launch hundreds of satellites to deliver broadband internet around the world. Will those jobs be coming to Arlington? An Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman said the agency was not sure, while a OneWeb spokesman told ARLnow.com only that it was opening a new office in McLean.
Op-Ed Warns ‘Ignore Arlington’s Bad Example’ — The Arlington County Board’s recently-passed home sharing regulations are a “bad example” for other Virginia localities considering similar rules, since Arlington prohibited renters from renting their homes on Airbnb and other platforms. “The opportunities created by the sharing economy shouldn’t be restricted to only those few who are deemed worthy,” says a fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, in an op-ed. [Richmond Times Dispatch]
County Board Members Take Regional Roles — “Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette will serve as 2017 Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol will serve as chair of the Northern Virginian Transportation Commission’s Legislative Committee, and has joined the leadership of the Virginia Railway Express Operations Board.” [Arlington County]
New Year, New Offer for New Advertisers — Join dozens of satisfied advertising clients and get your business’ message out to the greater Arlington community with ARLnow.com. Learn more about our advertising options and check out our new winter deal for new advertisers: book at least a month of advertising and get another month free. [ARLnow]
Jay Fisette was unanimously elected County Board Chair during the Board’s annual organizational meeting last night. This is Fisette’s fifth time serving as chair since he was first elected to the Board nearly 20 years ago.
It is a long-standing tradition that Board chairmanship rotate among members by seniority, with the vice chair assuming the chairmanship the next year. Often it corresponds with election cycles, with the member who is up for reelection the following year being elected vice chair. But the Board broke with tradition by electing one of its newest members, Democrat Katie Cristol, over independent John Vihstadt.
The snub was, however, in keeping with another long-standing practice: as the Sun Gazette’s Scott McCaffrey pointed out, the party in power on the Board has “always installed its own people in the leadership… going as far back as I can tell.”
In his remarks, Vihstadt suggested that “partisan politics alone” led to the contested race for vice chair.
“People with the word Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian or Socialist stamped on their foreheads, are sorted and stereotyped forever as a result,” Vihstadt said. “I’ve been there myself. It’s why I ran as an independent and have governed that way every day.”
Cristol responded: “In Arlington, being a Democrat is not just partisan, it’s shorthand for values and what we prioritize: meaningful investments and affordable housing, for deep commitments to schools.”
Fisette, who acknowledged the contested vote was an “unusual situation,” backed Cristol, while Libby Garvey, the outgoing Chair, backed Vihstadt.
Ultimately, the board followed the new Chair’s lead, with Garvey and Vihstadt on one side of the vote, and Fisette, Cristol and Christian Dorsey on the other.
After the polite political quarrel, Fisette outlined his priorities for the year. As chair, Fisette said he will focus on:
- The need for facilities, including schools, within the constraints of limited land; strengthening the County’s economic competitiveness;
- Housing affordability;
- Environmental sustainability; and
- Helping the region find a “sustainable path forward” for Metro and “staying true to our vision and values.”
Additionally, Vice Chair Cristol said she hopes to “work to ensure that Arlington will still be a home for all economic classes,” adding that she looks forward “launching a series of coffees focused on ‘big picture’ issues targeting young Arlingtonians in particular, as well as exploring other models to tap the brainpower of Arlingtonians across different walks of life.”
Arlington County can “no longer can we rely on the federal government to guide and support us with allegiance to shared purposes and our common humanity,” added Fisette, alluding to the recent affirmation of the Republican majority in Congress and the election of Donald Trump.
“This year is likely to bring dramatic, unsettling changes in our national government and on the international scene,” Fisette said. “Arlington will feel some effects. But we’ll respond as we have before in times of turbulence and periods of more gradual change: with sensible actions inspired by a shared community vision and shaped through thoughtful dialogue and open debate.”
It’s probably safe to say that “shock and horror” was the predominant reaction among local Democrats to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in Tuesday’s presidential election.
In Arlington, only 17 percent of those casting ballots voted for Trump, while 76 percent voted for Hillary Clinton. Early on, as the results just started coming in, some officials we spoke to at the Democratic victory party in Clarendon refused to even concede that there was even a possibility that Trump could be elected.
Both the surprise over the result and the fear over what a Trump presidency means for Arlington and the nation was on display at Wednesday’s Arlington County Board meeting. Each Board member weighed in with their thoughts on the election. (See video, above.)
Here’s a bit of what Christian Dorsey had to say:
The outcome of this Presidential election was not what I desired, nor what I ever thought possible. This morning, my wife Rachel and I had to tell our budding feminist, 8-year-old daughter, who just a couple of weeks ago dressed as a suffragette for Halloween and explain to her that our candidate lost. That was hard. But harder still was finding answers to her very natural follow up questions, why, how? But I have to tell you that hardest of all, were finding words of reassurance to an outcome that in my opinion has dramatic consequences for our country. I hope to be proven wrong. Tens of millions of Americans, 20,000 Arlingtonians, and for all I know, perhaps some of you in this room chose Mr. Trump. I won’t try to believe it, but I will try to accept it.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey said a Trump presidency will not change the nature of the Arlington community.
At this point, I know we need to not give into fear, we need to not give into anger, we need to not assume that we know why everybody voted the way they did. And we need to continue what we have been doing here. This is a beautiful, wonderful community and we will do everything we can to preserve it and I am hopeful that we can. The rule of law and the rule of our constitution must prevail.
Jay Fisette said he was trying his best to cope with the results and give the new president a chance.
Yesterday was likely the most consequential election in my lifetime, for our country, to our world, to our understanding of democracy, the economy and our environment. Earlier today, I watched Hillary Clinton’s poignant and gracious concession speech and I actually took to heart her advice.
Number one, to respect the orderly transition of power that which is fundamental of our constitutional democracy. Two, to work with ourselves to open our minds and give our President Elect a chance to lead. And three, to continue to believe in our vision, in our values for the community, for the country.
In each of these, the first is easy for me. Everyone must and will come together to respect and accept the election results, as that is how we work, via the example that was set by our very first president, George Washington. So congratulations, Mr. Trump.
The second will be harder for some, like me, to open my mind and give our President Elect a chance to lead, yet we must do that. After we each finish our own grieving, those that supported Mrs. Clinton, and our assessment of what happened and why it happened, we must give the President a chance.
Independent John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the Board, said he was disappointed by the slate of presidential candidates this year.
Regardless of our political perspective, everyone in the nation and across the globe is still processing the remarkable outcome of yesterday’s election. Many are jubilant, others are apprehensive, or even fearful, and many others no doubt are conflicted. In my view, all four party nominees on the Virginia ballot for President this year fell short of what our nation deserved and needed in 2016. I voted, but did not vote for any of them. Still, the American people have spoken.
I am confident that our democratic institution will heal and endure, and I hope and pray, that people of goodwill will come together, lower our voices, and work together to find common ground to advance the human condition.
I’m reminded of the statement chiseled in stone above the main door to the state capitol of my home state of Nebraska, “the salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.”
Katie Cristol said Arlington County would “navigate the coming days as we have other major economic and political events in the past” thanks to residents, county staff and prudent planning.
Cristol said the county would continue to respect the rights of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, in the face of Trump’s deportation promises.
I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm what has been a hallmark of Arlington County: inclusion and protection of our diversity and of our residents. I want to reaffirm that my commitment to the safety of our immigrant neighbors, emphasizing as this board did in 2016 that all residents and visitors to Arlington County have a right to public safety protection. That it is our longstanding policy that Arlington County law enforcement does not monitor, detain, interview or investigate people solely for the purpose of determining their integration status, and that the services we provide in Arlington County, including education, public transit, access to our parks and to our libraries are not restricted based on immigration status.
Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol’s Twitter account was hacked and started tweeting out dozens of spam links during Tuesday afternoon’s Board meeting.
The spam barrage started shortly after the meeting got underway at 3 p.m. As of 5:30 p.m. the tweets had not yet been deleted.
Kristol is perhaps the Board’s most active member on Twitter, often tweeting out community information and brief summaries of Board meetings.
Update at 6:25 p.m. — The hack has been fixed, Cristol tweeted.
Thx for concern, @ARLnowDOTcom. Hack fixed 2 hrs ago. but hard to delete 100s of tweets while doing the ppl's work in a board mtg!
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) September 27, 2016
At 30, she might not have been elected as the youngest County Board member ever — that distinction belongs to Paul Ferguson — but Cristol saw her election as an opportunity to engage a typically under-represented group in Arlington: those under the age of 35, who make up half of Arlington’s population.
“It seemed important to me to have that point of view represented in the mix,” she said.
Cristol is the first guest on ARLnow.com’s new podcast, 26 Square Miles, which you can subscribe to on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and some other major audio services. (Let us know, in the comments, if there are any we should add.)
Cristol discussed a number of issues that have faced the Board this year and that are on the Board’s agenda for this fall.
We asked about the so-called Blue Ribbon Panel that was proposed, debated, then ultimately scrapped — what was that all about? Cristol pointed out that it was an initiative of the County Board chair, Libby Garvey, and that the Board has typically given some leeway to the chairman to accomplish their set priorities.
“There’s generally been deference to the idea that when someone’s done their rotation, served their time and they get to be chair, they can push forward something they’re really interested in,” she said.
Cristol supported the panel because there was a need to get a handle on the “tremendous amount of planning documents in Arlington,” but added that “we got a lot of, very frankly, fair criticism about it.” If it were to be proposed again, she said, she wouldn’t necessarily support it.
On her and fellow County Board member Christian Dorsey’s support for striking workers at Arlington National Cemetery, she acknowledged that the Board “does not adjudicate labor disputes” but said that Board members do have a responsibility as leaders to support those who are struggling.
“I’m very proud to stand with workers who stand in the right in that particular dispute. We want people in our community to be treated with dignity,” she said.
On the topic of Fire Station No. 10 in Rosslyn, which is set to be torn down to make way for a development and a brand new fire station, Cristol said the decision on where to locate a temporary station has come down to two options, both of which are controversial: next to the future H-B Woodlawn or on Rhodeside Green Park.
“There are just no other options that meet the technical requirements and won’t affect response times,” Cristol said, calling it a “brutal decision.” The Board is expected to make a final decision this month.
On the loss of market rate affordable housing in Westover to new development, Cristol said even if the Board could legally stop the development, it would come with “unintended consequences.”
“I don’t think the most effective way is ever for the government to intervene in the market in such a dramatic way,” she said.
Nonetheless, the Board will be taking this fall about tools it can use to help preserve such affordable housing, perhaps with funding from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The Board will have to weigh whether it’s worth spending more per unit to preserve affordable housing in a pricey neighborhood like Westover, when it’s less expensive to build new affordable housing along Columbia Pike.
Cristol also addressed:
- Housing affordability in general: With the entry level for a family buying a home in Arlington around $700,000-800,000, there needs to be “more rungs on the ladder.”
- Child care affordability: “Existential for Arlington [so] can we keep our young families here.”
- The debate over proposed new child care regulations: “One of the things that really lit my fire was the idea that it ought to be government’s job to encourage child care providers to then encourage mothers to breastfeed their children.”
- On the “underwhelming” transit plan for Columbia Pike: “I am impatient. I want us to be thinking big and I want us to be thinking quickly. We’re putting a lot of pressure on staff to do exactly that.”
Arlington County Board members Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol joined more than 25 contract groundkeepers in their strike this morning outside of Arlington National Cemetery.
The strike by the members of Local 572 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) began today at 7 a.m. It comes after eight months of delays in reaching a new contract. The walkout is believed to be the first strike by workers at the cemetery, says LiUNA.
“This is about workers and their ability to provide for their families and their ability to live,” said Dorsey. “You really can’t do so if your wages don’t keep up with the cost of living.”
Cristol said she was at the strike to support “dignity and fair practices,” adding that the high cost of housing locally makes it hard to raise a family on the wages the groundskeepers are being paid.
The workers, who are jointly employed by Davey Tree Expert Co. and Greenleaf Services Inc., are looking for sick leave time and a pay raise of 4 percent from their current approximately $13 per hour rate.
“I don’t think our ask is that dramatic at all,” said LiUNA assistant organizing director Keon Shim. “We’ve negotiated on things that are non economic and when it came to economics, the company basically said no to everything that we proposed so far.”
“When you think about the incredibly enormous job and the important job of beautifying our cemetery, making it a sacred place and also making it hospitable for visitors, we shouldn’t take the low road with those employees who make that happen,” said Dorsey.
There will be negotiations tomorrow between the workers and the companies, according to the union. If the company is not willing to sign a new contract for workers, union representatives said, the strike will continue.
Rep. Don Beyer, County Board member Katie Kristol and U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — all Democrats — today praised the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision to strike down a Texas law that greatly restricted abortion providers there.
Beyer called the decision a victory for “common sense and justice for women” in a statement:
Common sense and justice for women and families prevailed at the Supreme Court today. This decision once again affirms our nation’s longstanding policy that women have the right to an abortion until viability, and that efforts by anti-choice forces to deny that right through lack of access imposes an undue burden. Anti-choice forces in Virginia apply the same tactics, and have also failed. We will continue every effort to maintain and expand women’s healthcare access in Virginia.
Cristol echoed Beyer’s praise in a tweet:
Thank you, SCOTUS! W/o access, there is no right to choose. "Each [restriction] violates the Federal Constitution.” https://t.co/0qCj9aBS1t
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) June 27, 2016
Warner also released a statement praising the decision:
Today the Supreme Court sent a clear message that all women have the right to make their own reproductive health decisions, no matter where they live. This is a victory for women’s health in Texas, in Virginia, and across the country.
As did Kaine:
I applaud the Supreme Court for seeing the Texas law for what it is – an attempt to effectively ban abortion and undermine a woman’s right to make her own health care choices. This ruling is a major win for women and families across the country, as well as the fight to expand reproductive freedom for all.
The Texas law is quite similar to arbitrary and unnecessary rules that were imposed on Virginia women after I left office as Governor. I’m proud that we were able to successfully fight off such “TRAP” regulations during my time in state office. I have always believed these sort of rules are an unwarranted effort to deprive women of their constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.
File photo of Supreme Court
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Arlington County has taken a proposed update to its child care regulations off its website after County Board members called the inclusion of certain controversial provisions “troubling.”
As ARLnow.com first reported Monday, the most recent draft of the child care regulations would have required child care centers to encourage mothers to breastfeed and would have dictated what type of milk, juice and birthday treats could be fed to children, among other provisions.
That’s in addition to new staffing and employee education requirements that panicked the operators of small and part-time child care centers, who said such rules would put them out of business or at least drive up the cost of daycare and preschool programs.
“This situation, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s really the most troubled roll-out of a county initiative since the ill-conceived and ill-fated Public Land for Public Good,” said County Board member John Vihstadt. “I really think that this is close to an unmitigated disaster. If our goal is to increase the supply and the affordability of child care throughout Arlington County, this in my view seems to do exactly the opposite.”
Anita Friedman, Director of Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services, said the creation of the new regulations is an “iterative” process that has been underway since 2014, with input from directors of child care centers and consultation from a Kentucky-based nonprofit association.
Despite what she described as a positive public outreach process, Friedman acknowledged that there has been “a lot” of negative feedback, particularly from owners of smaller child care centers and the parents who use them.
“There are some issues with the current version,” she told the Board. “In some places, I think, because some of the enthusiasm of the child care centers and our Arlington Way of striving for the best, we may have probably overreached in terms of the best practices that we want to incorporate in there, that don’t belong in the code.”
That didn’t satisfy new County Board member Katie Cristol, who included affordable child care as part of her policy platform. She called the inclusion of some of the provisions “silly season business.”
“At a time when we have young families leaving this county because it costs as much if not more to have your child in daycare as it does to pay rent… I think we have broader concerns than making sure kids have the absolute best environment,” Cristol said.
“This is really troubling to see this level of best practice conflated with code and with regulation,” she continued. “I am not comfortable inserting unbidden county government in encouraging anybody to tell a mother how to feed her child, whether that’s best practice or regulation.”
“Distraction is not a strong enough word for the real issue at play here. We have been hearing loud and clear from members of our community that this undermines trust in government. It exacerbates a sentiment that Arlington is hostile to child care centers and small businesses.”