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Letter to the Editor: Name W-L for William Lee, Push Back School Board Vote

Arlington’s School Board is set to pick a new name for Washington-Lee High School next week, putting an end to the simmering debate over how to best strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the building.

The Board voted in June to remove the Confederate general’s name from the school’s moniker, kicking off months of squabbling over potential new names and even a failed lawsuit seeking to block the change. A renaming committee has recommended “Washington-Loving” to honor the Virginia couple who successfully challenged the state’s ban on interracial marriage, while “Washington-Liberty” earned the support of some committee members as a secondary recommendation.

Others still supported swapping in one Lee for another, particularly William Lee, George Washington’s enslaved manservant. The following letter to the editor comes from a coalition of W-L alumni, former faculty members and even one of the original four black students to integrate the school in support of that option. 

The letter writers argue that the Board should delay its vote on Thursday (Jan. 10), and pursue a more “unifying solution” than its current options.

We are alumni and community stakeholders who care deeply about Arlington and the legacy of its oldest high school, Washington-Lee High School. We also support one of the renaming committee’s five finalist names, Washington-Lee High School, in honor of the African American Revolutionary War patriot William Lee.

A school that figures so prominently in Arlington’s history deserves a name that will inspire an understanding of our nation’s complex past and how it can move us forward. The clumsy attempts to retain the school’s nickname with the current Washington-Loving and Washington-Liberty proposals, however well-intentioned, do not meet that high standard. The name William Lee best “aligns with or reflects the APS mission, vision, and core values and beliefs” as stated in Policy F-6.1 Naming of Facilities.

William Lee, who served alongside Washington throughout the Revolutionary War, has long represented the contributions of the country’s “neglected patriots,” enslaved African Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War for their country and their own personal freedom. These patriots and heroes will soon be honored by the National Liberty Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Congress has approved a location for the memorial which, poetically, could be the last site on the Mall across from the Washington Monument. Their contributions, previously shunned, are among the most important in our nation’s history. Moreover, because of the intimate connection between the two men, Lee’s influence on Washington, his abhorrence of slavery, and our country’s founding are of profound importance. A newly renamed W-L could be a powerful impetus that redefines history and imbues our diverse community with a common purpose and pride.

Unfortunately William Lee had not been properly considered by the committee due to historical inaccuracies in its brief biography of his life and an incomplete assessment of his legacy. Regarding Mildred Loving, there are serious questions over how she viewed her own black heritage. While it is laudable a member of the Arlington Historical Society was appointed to the committee, historians and other experts should have been consulted as history is often more complex than it appears on the surface. Moreover, the significant number of resignations from within the committee further cloud the process. As the legacy of a school and county hangs in the balance, it is critically apparent that the five finalist namesakes need to be more thoroughly researched.

With a postponement of the Jan. 10 vote on a new name, the School Board could rectify these fundamental shortcomings. Moreover an extension would help build a bridge to alumni who have felt sidelined throughout the entire renaming process, which has lacked the transparency and public discourse typical of the Arlington Way. Hopefully, William Lee would then be fairly vetted by all stakeholders and the School Board. Alternatively, since Lee is one of the five finalist names chosen by the committee, the Board could opt to choose among all of those names on Jan. 10. Notably, many alumni who had been divided over the name change are now embracing the William Lee name as the school’s best opportunity to educate and inspire future generations of students.

The process is an understandably difficult one, made more painful by missteps that could have been avoided. We feel without reservation that the name Washington-Lee High School in honor of William Lee would be the most unifying solution, and one that will likely ensure continued alumni support that has been invaluable over the past 90-plus years. Most importantly, the school would have a dignified name and inspiring new namesake with an unmistakable connection to one of our country’s earliest African American heroes who helps us to better understand Washington and his extraordinary nature.

Sincerely,

Duy Tran, Ann Felker, Bill Sharbaugh, John Peck, Carmela Hamm, Kim Phillip, Maurice Barboza, Anne Ledyard, Anthony Varni, Peggy Jeens, Janeth Valenzuela, Charles Augins, Leonardo Sarli, Sally Mann, Max Golkin, Lauren Hassel, Margaret Jackson Bartolini, Betsy Debevoise Staz, Tom Dickinson, T.W. Dickinson, Betty Settle, Geraldine (Dresser) Frank, Marcia Bourkland Pauly, Fred Grover, Alfred Greenwood, John Dobson, Dana Gandy Croyle, Rebecca Mimms, Chris Fleet, Yolanda McDonald, Nancy Roberts, Gail Zucker Braunstein

We are a group of alumni, alumni faculty, and stakeholders. Many of us have contributed to local civic and cultural affairs over the years and devoted thousands of hours to support the excellent educational opportunities at Washington-Lee and APS. Our names are listed in no particular order. Bill Sharbaugh was the principal of Washington-Lee High School from 1976-1999. Maurice Barboza is CEO of the National Mall Liberty Fund, a non-profit that supports the establishment of a memorial to African American contributions to liberty during the Revolutionary War. Charles Augins is one of the four students who integrated Washington-Lee in September, 1959.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Letter to the Editor: Converting Drew into a STEAM Option School is a ‘Ridiculous’ Plan

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Amelia Black, a Nauck resident living within Drew Model School’s attendance boundaries and the mother of two young children.

She penned this note to the Arlington School Board as it weighs a redrawing of South Arlington school boundaries. Parents at Henry Elementary School have proposed converting Drew into a neighborhood school accepting countywide transfers for a “STEAM” program in order to address some of their boundary concerns. The Board has dismissed the possibility of such a proposal, and is set to vote on a final boundary map next month.

My name is Amelia Black, and I am a parent of two children under the age of 5, and I live in the Drew neighborhood walk-zone. The views expressed here are my own.

I am writing because I have been frustrated to learn of the recent proposal by some community members to scrap this whole boundary process and make the new Drew neighborhood school a ‘hybrid option school.’ I thought it was ridiculous on its face, but learned it has been shopped around with all School Board members and even has a full PR campaign complete with ARLnow article and attempts to convince neutral stakeholders like Drew’s principal and PTA president.

I am not sure what you all think about this proposal, but I am hoping it is non-idea for you like it is for me. The school has been an option school for decades and has not had the benefit of a single community rallying around its success like other schools have had. You all know the history of the school, how we all got this point, and I hope that going back now is not considered an option.

I personally support map 6 with some reservation, in particular about filling the school and students not opting out, ultimately delaying Drew congealing into a strong community school. Changes that I hope would be considered 1) all Pre-school seats, including leftover non-VPI seats, should be given to Drew families living in this boundaries so as to encourage families to come into the school 2) Large numbers of students should not be allowed to stay at their former neighborhood school just because it has some extra capacity.

However, I am also formally requesting that you do what you feel is the best long-term solution for all students. The inherent problem with having all us parents constantly engaged in any process like this is that we all would do ANYTHING to prevent real or perceived threats to our children’s’ optimal development.

Parents can pull out charts, spreadsheets, and videos but none of us are objective, and we all want what we feel is the best solution RIGHT THIS MINUTE for our precious children. But often, what is best for those being the loudest right now is not necessarily the best solution for the long-term. We elected you all to gather our input and then make an objective decision that is best for all students, not just the ones who have time and resources to make our voices heard.  I’ve shared my opinion, and I am telling myself I’m objective, but I’m biased like every other parent, and I hope you will each do what you feel is most fair to all involved.

As a final thought, please though there have been many flaws in this process that I hope you will seriously reflect on in making improvements for the future, please do not delay this decision. Please make efforts to pull the band aid off now and make a decision on December 6.  Delaying the decision will only give people more time to creatively combat the inevitably painful acceptance of changes coming next year.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity. 

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Letter to the Editor: Sending South Fairlington Students to Drew Would be a Mistake for APS

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Mike Rosenberger, a parent of a second grader at Abingdon Elementary who has deep concerns about a proposal by Arlington Public Schools officials that would send some students in South Fairlington neighborhoods to Drew Model School instead of Abingdon.

The School Board has spent the last few months considering a redrawing of boundaries for eight South Arlington elementary schools, precipitated by the opening of the new Alice West Fleet Elementary next year, and tempers have frequently flared over how the changes will impact Drew, in particular. But one APS proposal designed to alleviate those concerns has prompted new worries among Abingdon parents.

The Board is still considering a variety of proposed maps, and will approve final boundaries in December. 

I am writing regarding the proposed elementary school boundary map released at APS’s “What We Heard” meeting on Oct. 17. APS’s proposal to bus the students of southern Fairlington from the walkable Abingdon school zone to Drew Model School is not in the best interests of the children and does not reflect the values or the limited transportation resources of the county. The failure of the “What We Heard Proposal” to address in a fair and appropriate way several of the county’s guiding principles in the redistricting process means that this map should be withdrawn from serious consideration.

One of APS’s objectives in establishing new elementary school boundaries is to ensure that most students can attend the school closest to their home. Under the current proposal the students of southern Fairlington, all of whom live within one mile of Abingdon, would be bussed up to two miles to Drew Model School. This proposal would effectively eliminate the popular options of walking and biking to school for all southern Fairlington students, despite the know health benefits of walking or biking to school. Virginia’s Safe Routes to School initiative recognizes that children who walk or bike to school are more active, more physically fit, and more ready to learn when they arrive at school than students who are driven or bussed to school.

Increasing the school transportation needs of Fairlington also has important consequences for APS’s future capital and operating costs. The fiscal year 2019 school budget already allocates $18.3 million for transportation and was only balanced by extending the useful life of buses by three years. Arlington County is already being forced to make difficult financial decisions about existing tax rates and services. The School Board must look for opportunities to stabilize or reduce transportation costs and concentrate its budget on children’s educational needs.

The walk from southern Fairlington to Abingdon is through a safe neighborhood that features contiguous sidewalks, crosses no major roads, has no traffic lights, and, for some children, would be as short as .3 miles. Expanding the Abingdon walk zone would be a common-sense decision that supports APS’s dedication to the welfare of the whole child and would seize a valuable opportunity to reduce transportation needs from the current levels.

I ask the School Board to consider the significant benefits of leaving the southern portion of Fairlington within the borders of Abingdon Elementary School. I understand that redrawing school boundaries is a difficult process. Finding a better alternative to the current proposal would not only be in line with Arlington County’s efforts to promote walkable communities, but would also serve the health interests of the children of southern Fairlington and APS’s limited transportation resources and budget.

I encourage APS to withdraw the “What We Heard Proposal,” to explore other options, and to think more creatively about possible solutions to the challenges we face as we work to ensure our schools meet the needs of our communities.

Sincerely,

Mike Rosenberger

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity. Photo via Arlington Public Schools.

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Letter to the Editor: Hospital Expansion Would Better Serve Arlington’s Homeless Population

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Michael Garcia, a Columbia Pike insurance agent who serves as the board chair of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, a local nonprofit that works with homeless individuals in Arlington. A-SPAN is weighing in on the proposed Virginia Hospital Center expansion, which the Arlington Planning Commission and some residents who live near the hospital oppose in its current form.

I am writing in support of the Virginia Hospital Center expansion project. It is my hope that the County Board recognizes the enormous value that VHC brings to this community and approves the project, as soon as possible.

As Board Chair of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) and a long-time Arlington resident, I see first-hand the consequences of delayed healthcare visits. The homeless clients at the Homeless Services Center frequently suffer from infections, life threatening reactions to untreated chronic illnesses and other medical conditions. That is why we have the Medical Respite and Nursing Services Program at the Homeless Services Center. For most Arlington County citizens, when a doctor says to go home and recuperate, that’s what they do, but what do you do when you have no home? VHC and A-SPAN through our partnership work together to ensure that these homeless individuals and veterans have a safe, compassionate, high-quality environment in which to recuperate.

VHC staff make every effort to assess and treat patients in a holistic way. When homeless patients are discharged from the Hospital to the Medical Respite Program, A-SPAN is part of the follow-up care plan and clients are referred to VHC outpatient services, as appropriate.

I cannot stress enough the value of a new Behavioral Health Center like the one proposed by VHC. Over 70% of homeless veterans and individuals suffer from some form of mental illness and this condition must be treated. We are fortunate that VHC, an Arlington provider that was recently named one of America’s 100 top Hospitals for the third year in a row, is willing to respond to the community’s need for more outpatient mental health services. Moreover, the VHC has indicated that all patients would be welcome at the new Center, regardless of their ability to pay.

The distinction of VHC being named as one of the 100 Top Hospitals in the nation is an honor benefitting all Arlingtonians by providing excellent care to the community. I am confident that this commitment to excellence will extend to the newly proposed Behavioral Health Center services, as well. VHC is a community partner worthy of support and we hope our elected leaders demonstrate this support.

Sincerely,

Michael Garcia
Board Chair, A-SPAN

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Letter to the Editor: Don’t Overlook the Dangers of Electric Scooters

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Daniel Berkland, an Ashton Heights resident who was recently involved in an accident on a Bird electric scooter.

The dockless vehicles first arrived in Arlington in June, and county officials are planning to unveil a new policy governing their use later this month, as scooter-related injuries appear to be on the rise as the vehicles gain popularity nationwide.

Flippin’ the Bird:  A Cautionary Tale

On Labor Day afternoon I was in Clarendon when I decided it was time to go home. I texted my daughter and told her that I was on my way. Then I saw a Bird scooter and thought to myself it is so hot I really want to just ride this scooter home.

I rented the device and was soon on my way. About six blocks from home I turned down Irving because I thought it would be safer not to ride on the busier Wilson Boulevard. I noticed a couple of trucks coming towards me and I remember slowing down — that is my final memory until I woke up in the EMS vehicle. They were taking my vitals and asking me what year it was – a question that I could not answer. I was transported to GW Hospital because I had passed out and had a concussion. There I received a CT scan and a bed. They kept me over night so they could do a follow up scan and monitor my condition.

The good news is there was no bleeding in my brain and I could be released. The bad news was I had bruises on my head, shoulder, hands, elbows, and knees. I am going to be stiff and sore for quite a while. I’m getting a little better every day, but anyone who has been in this condition will recognize the special horror that is sneezing when one is hurt like this. The pain is simply excruciating.

The very worst part was I was given an alias when I checked into GW Hospital so my family couldn’t find me for a couple of hours. A terrifying experience for them while I was in the ER.

I also want to give special thanks to the unknown neighbor who called 911 for me. Who knows how long I would have lain there without someone’s intervention. I owe you one!

So take my unsolicited advice – stay off the scooters. While they may be convenient, they can also be very dangerous! Walking is good for you.

A postscript after this appeared in the Ashton Heights newsletter — the kind neighbor who helped me out was Doug Williams, the AHCA treasurer.  Neighbors helping neighbors is what Ashton Heights is all about!

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Letter to the Editor: VHC Expansion Too Important to be ‘Held Hostage’ By Neighbors

After many long months of debate, county officials are set to have their say next month on an extensive proposal for the Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion.

The project has attracted plenty of criticism from neighbors and transit advocates alike, prompting a brief delay of the county’s consideration of the 101-bed expansion of Arlington’s lone hospital.

But the county’s business community recently threw its support behind a swift approval of the project, as has another longtime civic leader. Julian Fore, a former president of the Arlington Community Foundation, is also urging the County Board to lend the project a full approval in a letter he shared with ARLnow.

Letter to the Editor:

I am an Arlingtonian and frequent user of Virginia Hospital Center (VHC).  This first-rate hospital provides excellent acute care and places an emphasis on needed follow-up services and disease management. VHC is a community jewel and is deserving of our support for its expansion project. I urge the County Board to approve the VHC application.

We should all be in favor of VHC’s desire to improve the efficiency, convenience and accessibility of healthcare. These are important community benefits and should be acknowledged. Moreover, the newly proposed Behavioral Health Center will enable our friends and neighbors who are suffering from mental illness to receive immediate outpatient care. The VHC proposal also expands the number of psychiatric beds based on a community-negotiated formula and subject to State approval.

It is important to note that under the VHC proposal, 1.3 acres of the 5.5 acre Edison Street site are either landscaped or open space to bring visual relief and more greenery to the site.  The placement of the landscaping and open space creates a “sense of place” and a welcome oasis to an urban village. This action demonstrates VHC’s commitment to enhancing the appearance and livability of the surrounding neighborhood.

At this point, we need to acknowledge that the cumulative effect of additional requested changes to the VHC proposal will affect the broader community goal of increasing the availability of low-cost, high-quality, patient-centered healthcare. VHC is the only stand-alone community hospital in the greater Washington D.C. Metro area. It is in the public’s interest to enable VHC to contain development costs, so the Hospital has more dollars available for needed state-of-the-art equipment and other patient related services.

I hope the County Board recognizes that the overall public benefits provided by the VHC expansion are too important to be held hostage by the narrow concerns of nearby neighbors.

Sincerely,

Julian Fore

ARLnow occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Letter to the Editor: Arlington Has An Arts District

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Mac McCreery, David Peete, Tom Prewitt, Robin Stombler and Jeff Zeeman. McCreery, Peete, Prewitt and Zeeman are all members of the Arts District Committee. Stombler serves as Chair of the Committee.

We didn’t always agree at first. As representatives of business, arts, industry, and community interests, we were bound to have divergent ideas, but we came together as members of the Arts District Committee, a component of the Four Mile Run Valley Initiative Working Group. Let us share with you what we found.

Arlington already has a burgeoning arts district. Along South Four Mile Run Drive, between South Nelson Street and Walter Reed Drive, there is an 85-seat black box theater, studios for dance classes and recitals, gallery space, a costume and property shop for a Tony-award winning regional theater, and a private recording studio where the country’s most widely recognized and acclaimed bands lay down tracks. Over 30 arts-related organizations already call this area home, including multi-ethnic heritage arts groups.

In this neighborhood, we also have the last vestiges of light industrial space in Arlington. It is a relatively affordable place for small businesses to operate, such as a new distribution brewery and multiple family owned mechanic shops that have operated through generations. We quickly determined that an arts district must embrace both the cultural arts and the industrial nature of the area. This melding of uses is important for sustainability and long-term economic viability.

For a revitalized arts and industry quarter, we define arts broadly. Imagine theaters, rehearsal halls, visual art galleries and craft spaces. But also fuse the arts with light industry to include culinary arts, metalworking, furniture making shops, and technological innovation/maker spaces. These examples are meant not to limit, but rather to highlight some of the uses envisioned. Using one scenario, the Arlington Food Assistance Center could be combined with culinary arts classes and catering and a rooftop garden could support those endeavors. The quarter should espouse innovation, creativity, skill and talent.

A sound infrastructure is necessary for this quarter to thrive. We researched and expounded on five elements: Mission, Physical, Financial, Development, and Arts Specific. Within these elements is a call to embrace the industrial roots of the area with a thriving mix of arts, culture, business and industry. We have the opportunity to expand on a unique area of Arlington, leverage existing institutions and buildings, and stop the cookie cutter development from settling in. While this area already provides value with its arts and industrial uses, our report outlines how it can offer so much more as a branded, place-making center for Arlington.

Unanimous in our support for the recommendations in our Committee report on an arts and industry quarter, we find that working in collaboration – business, arts and community – we have a strong opportunity ahead of us.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Letter to the Editor: Proposed Jennie Dean Park Plan Is a Significant Improvement

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Edith Wilson, president of the Shirlington Civic Association and a member of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group, regarding plans for Jennie Dean Park.

On February 6, the Parks & Recreation Department provided the Four Mile Run Valley (4MRV) Working Group with the staff policy framework for Jennie Dean Park over the next 20 years. Here’s a different view of the situation faced by decision-makers.

This park concept is vastly improved over initial proposals, reflecting many compromises where there is no perfect solution, Markedly responsive to a wide range of sharply competing interests and community input, it does right by the environment by respecting the flood plain and resource conservation area (RPA) and planting many more trees. It increases total recreation facilities by creating a new rectangular field where soccer and other casual sports can be played. A brand new playground would be located in the center of the park amid greenery and away from noisy trucks and buses from County facilities and the cement plant. It leaves the majority of new parkland along S. Four Mile Run Drive for landscaping and open space.

There is a lot of history to our valley, but part of that history is the new elements too. Take us for example. Over the last 40 years, residential multi-unit housing was built along the south side of the stream from the Village westward to S. Walter Reed Drive. Twenty years ago Arlington County worked hard to create the Village of Shirlington, a landmark mixed-use urban village with a population that celebrates its diversity. The Shirlington neighborhood now has over 2,200 households with tens of thousands of regular visitors to its business areas. How can this work, though, since there is no park, playground, not even a school or church with open space, in this area? What was the County thinking?

The answer is that literally across the street, though not within the boundaries of the Shirlington neighborhood, are the parks our community depends on: the long landscaped strip along S. Arlington Mill Drive, the dog park, and Jennie Dean Park. Arlington residents from all over come here with their families and pets. Shirlington residents are out there every single day, often several times.

What makes the valley between Shirlington and Nauck special is our beautiful section of Four Mile Run stream. This is presided over by Marvin, the elegant Great Blue heron who lives on a small rocky island in the lower stream, a stretch few visit because it is blocked by a large softball field fence. The Great Blue heron is the largest of all the North America herons, If you are lucky, you can see Marvin gliding down the center of the stream at dusk, dipping like a trick pilot under the pedestrian bridge. There are raccoons, turtles, ducks, geese, snakes, fish and lots of other birds too. Providing public access to the stream and wildlife such as this was the guiding principle of the enormously successful 20-year-old stream restoration project from Shirlington Road eastward to the Potomac River. Now it’s time to extend that principle westward.

This area has a high risk of flooding. – why do you think WETA needs to leave its old production center in the middle of the park? Environmental rules and common sense mandate addressing these conditions but the current softball field location stands in the way. The proposal shifts this field away from the stream, leaving a large open space for many more water-absorbing trees, traditional picnic areas, a nature overlook and a riparian pathway. Moving this field, in turn, also creates space for a new rectangular playing field lying across the back of two slightly repositioned diamond fields. Again, two-thirds of the frontage along Four Mile Run Drive would still be turned into casual space with landscaping and room for an impressive park entrance.

As Arlington’s population and density increases, demand for park and recreation space is shooting up. No one neighborhood owns any of these parks, not even those of us close by. Let’s absolutely respect and honor the important history of this particular neighborhood – including the baseball and softball leagues that have been played here for decades — but let’s focus on the future we need to build together. Let’s share.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Letter to the Editor: Jennie Dean Park Plan Is ‘Non-Starter’ for Nauck

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by long-time Nauck resident Portia Clark, the current president of the Nauck Civic Association.

My family has lived in Arlington for more than a century. I was raised in Arlington, and my children and grandchildren live here too. Some of my ancestors from the 1800’s are buried in the cemetery next to Lomax A.M.E. Zion Church, which was established in 1866. Lomax falls within the Four Mile Run Valley Study Area.

When I was young, I went to Arlington public schools. Yet, my mother growing up in Nauck, was not allowed to play in most Arlington County parks because of the color of her skin.

The the only park open to her and her siblings was Jennie Dean Park. Arlington County’s then- Department of Recreation noted in its 1949 report that Jennie Dean Park was the county’s “sole recreation area for colored citizens.” In the Park’s historical markers, there are photos of my family members, friends and neighbors.

After decades of waiting, Arlington County is now focused on revitalizing Jennie Dean Park and the surrounding area in Nauck. I have seen the draft plans for Jennie Dean Park put forth by Arlington County staff. The plans are astoundingly tone-deaf.

The Nauck community hasn’t asked for much with regard to Jennie Dean Park, other than to revitalize it and to minimize the impacts on our community. We certainly have ideas for what amenities we would like to see in the Park, but we understand – maybe better than anyone else – that parks should be for the entire community. So, when the County told us that they wanted the same amenities to stay in the park – no more, no less – we understood that everything we discussed at numerous meetings could not go into the park.

We did insist, however, that respect be paid to the Nauck community. This means that the front of Jennie Dean Park, the portion fronting the neighborhood at Four Mile Run Drive, be left open for casual use. We want this area to be a gateway for the community to enter the Park. We want it to be green. We want it to be landscaped. We want it to have flowers and trees and open space.

Instead, the County has drafted plans to place a baseball field in that spot, instead of another part of the Park. A baseball field, especially one with fencing and stadium lights, is not welcoming. The County’s draft plan also hides a playground and shelter area away from the community it would serve. This County plan offers no connection to the neighborhood and its cultural heritage, except for a historical marker with some friendly faces on it. This plan will negatively impact our community in a number of ways.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, the County drew up plans, which it insisted were viable, that accepts the placement we requested and the honor we deserve.

The Nauck Civic Association has already voted – unanimously – that this draft plan from the County on Jennie Dean Park is a non-starter. We hope others will join us in expressing this concern.

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Letter to the Editor: Thank You to the Drafthouse

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Douglas Park resident Dan Hauser.

I wanted to thank Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse for a really lovely gesture.

I took my four-year-old son to see the Last Jedi on December 30. (If any of the staff at the Drafthouse happen to see this, he was the kid wearing the army clothes and army helmet… it looked like he was going to the premiere of Saving Private Ryan.)

He was so excited! He was sitting on the edge of his seat, eating popcorn and drinking lemonade, and giggling all throughout the movie.

When the movie ended and the credits started to roll, Pete, the manager, asked my son if he might like something from Star Wars. He walked us across the stage and into a little office. He then gave my son a lightsaber and a bag that contained the original Star Wars trilogy on Blu-ray, a Star Wars puzzle, a Star Wars book, and four free movie tickets for the Drafthouse!

My son was over the moon, and I was really touched. We’ve read the book twice and have had some epic lightsaber battles.

My family loves going to see movies at ACDH. In fact, this was the second time I’d seen the Last Jedi here. The Drafthouse was a huge draw for us when we were looking for a neighborhood to buy a house. We’ve had so many nice memories laughing, having snacks, drinking some beers (well, my wife and me), and watching movies.

The Drafthouse is a verifiable Columbia Pike institution. Maybe one day my son will take his children here.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk

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Letter: Complete Streets Is a Complete Failure For Aurora Hills Residents

The following letter was written by Aurora Hills resident Ashli Douglas about the county’s Complete Streets Program and traffic congestion in her neighborhood that she said was exacerbated by changes to S. Eads Steet.

To the Editor:

Arlington has embarked on a transportation vision of providing a safe environment for all travel modes, also known as the Complete Streets Program.  Today I’m sharing a story of how this transportation vision for complete streets has played out in one Arlington County neighborhood, Aurora Hills.

As I reread the Arlington transportation presentation for our project on S. Eads St. from 2014, it occurred to me how benign and utopian the project seemed. That should have been the first clue.  Arlington was going to move more people without more traffic and they were going to protect our single-family neighborhood.  All good, what’s not to like?

And then came the medians, protected bike lanes, bike rental rack and central to all of this, the complete removal of two lanes of a four-lane street – S. Eads Street.  What could possibly go wrong?

So now we have the same (but probably more) number of cars on the same road with less lanes.  This is where the fairytale turns to a nightmare…enter aggressive driving and cut-through traffic.

I live on what Arlington refers to as a Minor Neighborhood Street, in which the distinctive feature of these streets is the nearly exclusive orientation to providing access to residences.  It also happens to be a one lane yield street!

One block away is S. Eads Street, an Arterial Street, by definition, the street primarily provides through travel rather that solely for access to adjacent properties.  According to Arlington’s street elements policies that are part of the county wide master transportation plan, streets should “…improve the efficiency of vehicular operation on arterial streets to minimize diversion of traffic onto neighborhood streets.”

So you see where this is going.  Since our arterial street has reduced capacity, the cars all cut-through our neighborhood street.  And just to be clear, we are not talking about a few cars.  We are talking over 1,300 commuters a day.

How do we know?  Since the county refused to share data or provide any form of relief to our neighborhood, we hired a certified traffic data collection firm to conduct traffic counts on November 1 and 2, a Wednesday and Thursday.  The counts were 1,347 and 1,369 respectively.

Our one lane section of S. Fern St. simply cannot handle this traffic.  According to Arlington County historical traffic counts, last performed in 2011 on our street, they measured 500 cars on a daily average. What a difference a “Complete Street” makes.  We now have approximately 600 cars who rip down the same street in a three-hour period  our school bus is dropping off children.

It is no longer safe for our children to play even near the street due to the cut-through traffic. We have experienced over 160 percent increase in vehicles, the majority with DC and MD tags that simply cut through our neighborhood to avoid the congestion morass on S. Eads Street.

As frustrated parents, neighbors and Arlington county citizens, we, individually as neighbors in an eight-block area, and collectively through our civic association have been engaged with the county for over a year to no avail.  We have requested that the county protect our neighborhood, and specifically, mitigate the cut-through traffic that originates on S. Eads Street and cuts through our neighborhood on S. Fern Street between 26th Street S. and 23rd Street S.

Our eight-block area has become a virtual highway of dangerous cut through traffic with constant stop sign running, speeding and hit and run accidents, and fearful and angry parents at Arlington county elementary school bus stops.

The S. Eads Complete Street project has been a complete disaster for the residents in our neighborhood and despite our continual pleas for help for nearly a year to protect our single family neighborhood; we have had no relief.

We will not give up our neighborhood and we demand the county remedy the problem they created.  And for anyone else that may be facing a complete street project – consider yourself forewarned.

Ashli Douglas has lived in Aurora Hills for 16 years and is the mom to two elementary school-aged children.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters about issues of local interest. To submit your thoughts for consideration, please email [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Letter: New Middle School Boundaries Must Respect County’s Diversity

The following letter was written by local resident Miranda Turner about the process of changing middle school boundaries in Arlington Public Schools.

To the Editor:

The current middle school boundary changes underway in Arlington represent a concerning turn away from demographic diversity as a consideration in boundary decisions.

During last year’s high school redistricting, Arlington Public Schools’ message was that a minor redrawing of lines wasn’t the time to address demographics, but that time was coming. Only a year later, APS seems to have thrown in the towel on the subject, in the face of “housing patterns in the county” that make it “not as easy” to address economically segregated schools (as stated by APS Staff at the October 25 meeting at Yorktown).

Each of the staff’s successive proposals has retreated from the opportunity to address concentrated low-income populations within the South Arlington middle schools. Under the current Staff recommendation, the low-income population in each South Arlington school, on average, exceeds the sum of the low-income percentages across all North Arlington schools together, and Williamsburg’s population of low-income students is 1 percent.

The staff’s explanation for its recommendation is that proximity – the option to walk up to 1.5 miles to school — is a priority for families. But only 55 percent of Arlington middle schoolers are in the walk zone, suggesting proximity is a priority for, at most, about half the county. Half the county attends South Arlington schools, yet that is apparently not enough for the staff to address the persistent economic segregation in those schools.

It is a given that each of the six APS considerations involve trade-offs. However, prioritizing proximity for the subset of families who live close to schools elevates the preferences of that small group over what is arguably best for the future of the entire school system and, in turn, the county.

Undoubtedly, the County Board has its own role to play in addressing housing patterns. This does not excuse the School Board from doing its part. Demographic diversity is not about “somebody else’s kids,” the staff’s chosen deflection at the October 25 meeting.  It is about all our kids and the values our county chooses to promote.

Sincerely,

Miranda Turner

Arlington

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters about issues of local interest. To submit your thoughts for consideration, please email [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Letter: Public Invited to Honor Female Aviators at Arlington National Cemetery Event

The following letter was written by Pat and Doreen Cappelaere, residents of Ellicott City, Md., regarding an event at Arlington National Cemetery this coming Saturday afternoon.

Our daughter, Valerie Cappelaere Delaney, achieved her dream of becoming a U.S. Navy fighter pilot and earned her Wings for Gold in February 2012.

Just a year later, at age 26, Valerie’s life was cut short when the EA-6B Prowler jet she was piloting crashed in a field near Spokane, Wash., during one of her last training flights prior to deployment. We were devastated, but soon realized that Valerie’s wings and her legacy would take flight in ways we could have never imagined.

At Valerie’s funeral, over 200 female military aviator wings from around the world were presented to our family in honor of her service and sacrifice, and in celebration of the strength and sisterhood of female aviators.

This impressive collection is now on display as part of the Wings for Val Exhibit at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and became the inspiration for us to start the Wings for Val Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to support and promote women in all fields, especially in the military and in aviation, and to inspire future generations of female leaders.

On November 4, we will be hosting a free event at the Women’s Memorial where a very special set of wings will be added to the collection from “Shutsy” Reynolds (see video below), one of approximately 1,000 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who flew military aircraft during World War II.

The event will also feature guest speaker, Erin Miller, the campaign leader for getting the law passed allowing her grandmother, WASP pilot Elaine Harmon, and other WASP to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  We hope that you will consider helping us grow our mission by joining us at our upcoming event. Details can be found at www.wingsforval.org. 

Pat and Doreen Cappelaere
Ellicott City, MD

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters about issues of local interest. To submit your thoughts for consideration, please email [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Letter: Arlington Public Schools Recycling Rate is Too Low

The following letter was written by Ryan Bloom, Chloe Fugle, Maria McGlone and Ethan Novak, student board members of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment.

A little-noticed Arlington County government report that was issued during hurricane season should be read as a call for action on a local issue that concerns a growing number of public school students and other Arlingtonians: recycling efforts in our public schools.

The September report by the County Solid Waste Bureau (SWB) concluded that, while Arlington County as a whole has a recycling rate of 46.8 percent, the rate for Arlington Public Schools (APS) is estimated to be 15 percent. This is below the minimum recycling rate of 25 percent mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The 15 percent estimate for APS recycling is not surprising given our observations and those of the SWB in school cafeterias, hallways and classrooms. SWB reported that 70 percent of schools are not fully compliant with County recycling code; even almost two years after the code came into effect.

For example, schools’ recycling bins sometimes lack clear, explanatory signs and these bins are often not co-located with trash bins. The result is often confusion about what goes in what particular bin resulting in students and teachers tossing both recyclables and trash in the nearest container.

The SWB reports that few schools have a successful cafeteria recycling system, which is the likely result of a “… lack of clear administrative standards and policies concerning a recycling culture campus-wide.”

Our public schools should be a model for effective stewardship practices, rather than a source of embarrassment. Students develop lifelong habits based on what they see and are taught in their homes, schools and communities.

Moreover, taxpayers benefit from effective recycling practices since disposing of trash is typically more expensive than recycling. The County Board has resolved to achieve “zero waste” by 2038, which will only be achieved if our families and institutions, including APS, take action today and implement an effective recycling system fully compliant with County recycling code.

Signed by,

  • Ryan Bloom, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
  • Chloe Fugle, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
  • Maria McGlone, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
  • Ethan Novak, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters about issues of local interest. To submit your thoughts for consideration, please email [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Letter: Arts District Should Not Come at Expense of Green Space

The following letter was written by Daniel Lopez, board member of the Arlington Soccer Association, regarding the proposed arts district in the Four Mile Run valley.

A few years back, using tax dollars and bond money earmarked for recreational parks, Arlington County purchased five properties adjacent to Jennie Dean Park to add to the overall park space inventory. The County Board recently charged the Four Mile Run Valley working group (4MRV) with developing “a vision for the comprehensive replacement and realignment of existing park features (exclusively for park purposes) and the addition of new park amenities to meet the growing demand for active and passive recreation, cultural resources and natural resource preservation.”

Part of the overall 4MRV project involves developing a plan for improving Jennie Dean Park. The space acquired with bond money is ideally suited for use as additional, new park space to complement the existing Jennie Dean Park. The new space could add to the inventory of peaceful green space in the valley, something that many Arlingtonians, including residents of Nauck, Shirlington and other local neighborhoods, have asked for time and time again.

However, some in the 4MRV group have reportedly strayed from the charge and are actively working to re-purpose this property as an ill-defined and unfunded “arts district.” The hope and presumption is that Arlington County will be able to provide subsidies and other financial support to enable the birth and growth of this arts district. For reasons not made clear, arts districts proponents seem focused on locating the arts district in space previously suggested as new park space. The overall 4MRV planning process encompasses a huge amount of space beyond Jennie Dean Park, much of which could support an arts district fully, and some in the working group have even spoken up in favor of locating any arts district closer to the new Nauck Town Square, and not in the Jennie Dean Park area.

Arlington County already actively supports the arts. The County supports the arts with, among other things, the Crystal City Underground gallery space, the Arlington Arts Center, the Signature Theater, Synetic Theater, and a variety of public spaces for art displays. It is unclear where the funding for any additional arts support will come from, and no one in the 4MRV group has provided any concrete visions of support.

Shared public spaces are the county’s most precious resources. Opportunities to add green space in Arlington don’t come very often, and we need to take advantage of those few opportunities when they present themselves. The Arlington Soccer Association supports the arts in general, but in this specific instance, ASA opposes attempts within the 4MRV working group process to re-purpose this new open space as an “arts district.” Let’s use park space for park purposes, and take advantage of the ability to add to the County’s functional green space inventory.

Daniel Lopez
Arlington Soccer Association

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters about issues of local interest. To submit your thoughts for consideration, please email [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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