Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

County Lauded for LGBTQ Inclusiveness — “Arlington scored 100 points out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 9th annual Municipal Equality Index for its high standards of inclusiveness and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities. While Arlington has been a top-ranked community in the past, this year it was recognized for adding gender identity/expression protections to its Human Rights ordinance and providing all-gender bathrooms in County-owned offices and facilities.” [Arlington County]

Traffic Cam Feeds Back On — After a few weeks of Arlington’s web-based traffic camera feeds being off due to technical issues, the feeds are back on. The traffic cameras can also now be viewed on the My Arlington mobile app. [Twitter]

Traffic Cam Policy Still in Place? — Some cold water on the traffic camera news, from local public safety watchdog Dave Statter: “Cutting cameras during @ArlingtonVaPD incidents is a bad look for the department… Giving a government employee the power to censor what’s in public view based on their own whims and/or a vague county standard sure gives the impression that 1A is not that important to @ArlingtonVA.” [Twitter]

CivFed to Get Aircraft Noise Briefing — “Arlington County government officials and their consultants will update delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation on the ongoing noise study related to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at the federation’s Dec. 15 meeting.” [InsideNova]

Audit Committee Seeking Members — “The Audit Committee is seeking new member applications for a two-year term beginning February 1, 2021. The committee advises the County Board on County government’s exposure to financial, operational, and reputational risks.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: School Names to Change in F.C. — “After six months of a lengthy and often contentious debate involving the entire City of Falls Church community, the Falls Church School Board voted unanimously tonight to change the names of two of its five schools, ones named for U.S. founding fathers who famously owned slaves, George Mason and Thomas Jefferson.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Not once, not twice, but four times, vandals have targeted a Black Lives Matter sign in front of the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington near Ballston.

Church officials were first alerted of the vandalism on Saturday morning, and presume that the destruction occurred overnight.

“It’s been a rocky history at this point,” said Scott LaGanga, an elder at the church, which is located at 601 N. Vermont Street in the Bluemont neighborhood.

First Presbyterian is at least the fourth church in Arlington reported to have a racial-justice sign vandalized this year.

The church has gone through four signs since one first went up on Oct. 4, LaGanga said. The sign read “Black Lives Matter” on a striped background imitating the Philadelphia Pride flag, which includes the colors for Gay Pride and Trans-rights flags as well as black and brown stripes to symbolize people of color.

“They’re clearly doing it in the dark because they have a certain viewpoint and don’t want to share that they have it,” LaGanga said.

After the first sign was stolen, the church invested in steel cables to secure it. Instead, vandals covered it in graffiti. Once, they crossed out the “V” in “Black Lives Matter” to read “Black Lies Matter,” LaGanga said.

This time, someone cut the sign out of the cables and took it.

LaGanga explained that the church has been more engaged in issues of racial justice, putting up signs and hosting a weekly outdoor vigil for an end to racial injustice. Acts of vandalism will not shaken the resolve of the church, he said.

“The church has taken a strong position on inclusion and racial justice,” said LaGanga. “It reaffirms the stance we are taking and the reason we’re going to replace the sign.”

(While the Black Lives Matter sign was destroyed, the church’s LGBT-friendly “God Loves Love” signs remained untouched.)

This time, LaGanga said the church is considering security cameras, which he hopes will catch whoever is targeting the sign.

“We’re so resolved that if someone wants to do it, they’ll do it on camera,” he said.

First Presbyterian has received strong support from people in the community, many of whom are neighbors but not members, LaGanga said.

“We were surprised in the uptick in support from others in the community who were upset by this,” he said.

The first time, the church submitted a police report, but LaGanga does not see much point in submitting more since there have been no leads to date on the vandal.

In the wake of the protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd this summer, a rash of church signs were vandalized. Black Lives Matter sign were vandalized at Rock Spring Congregational church and at St. George’s Episcopal Church as well as a racial justice sign was vandalized outside of Clarendon United Methodist Church.

Acts of vandalism against BLM signage also occurred in secular spaces this summer, including S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395.

Photos courtesy Mark Blacknell

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Shirlington Gateway. The new 2800 Shirlington recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center, and is adding spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village. 

Courthouse-based Storyblocks, an online platform for stock video footage, has released new video content meant to close the diversity gap in media and advertising.

The company, at 1515 N. Courthouse Road, trained eight creators to make video collections specifically depicting people of color and members of the LGBT communities doing everyday activities. These reels are part of a campaign, Re: Stock, which was launched to address the need for videos of people with different racial identities, sizes, abilities and sexual orientations.

“Sourcing from authentic places will lead to authentic footage and authentic representation,” said Sydney Carlton, Director of Brand Marketing at Storyblocks.

The first batch of videos were released starting in mid-October. Although the pandemic delayed the launch from this spring Storyblocks aims to double its diverse content by the end of 2021 and quadruple it by the end of 2022.

The push comes after years of feedback from clients asking for more diverse footage, since existing footage tends to skew towards white subjects and straight couples.

“We were receiving hundreds and hundreds of comments for more people of color and more same-sex couples,” Carlton said. “It really ran the gamut, but it was loud and a lot.”

A recent company survey found that 72% of users — who include independent filmmakers, advertisers and journalists — said diverse content is important for their projects, but people of color are represented in just 5% of Storyblocks’ current digital library.

“You can only find happy white women eating salads,” Carlton said.

The problem is primarily due to location and access, since most stock video contributors hail from Eastern Europe, where creators do not have the same access to a diverse array of subjects, she said.

The first collections were produced by Monica Singleton and Samson Binutu. They focused on Black families educating their children, Black teens and adults in romantic relationships, family dinners at home and Black women enjoying the outdoors.

“These are things people do every single day,” Carlton said. “That’s the power of the campaign.”

In a statement, Singleton said her personal experience searching footage libraries made her excited to join the project.

“In the past when I’ve looked for certain stock footage or music, it’s been really hard to find representation for people that look like me,” Singleton said.

Future Storyblocks projects will focus on people with from other racial identities, and with a range of body shapes and sizes as well as abilities. Going deeper, Carlton said the goal of Re: Stock is invert stereotypes of who plays board games, does homework with their kids, and lives together.

“That’s where you instill a sense of humanity in people,” she said.

The company has thrived during the pandemic and was acquired by a private-equity firm in Boston this summer.

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The Supreme Court issued a pair of momentous rulings this week, and Arlington’s Congressional delegation is celebrating both.

On Monday, the high court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ individuals from workplace discrimination. Earlier today, it blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Arlington’s Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said the DACA ruling is “a great moment” for the nation, but cautioned that more work is to be done to reform the immigration system.

Dreamers are Americans, they belong here. This ruling is a great moment for the United States. It is important to remember, though, that even with this decision from the Supreme Court very important work remains. The ball once again is in Congress’ court to pass meaningful, humane, and comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken immigration system in ways which reflect our values as a nation of immigrants. The Senate could take a big step forward in that regard at any time by passing the Dream and Promise Act.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) likewise cheered the decision.

President Trump’s decision to end DACA plunged hundreds of thousands of innocent young people into legal limbo and wreaked havoc upon nearly every area of American life. I’m so thankful the Court has put an end to this Administration’s ill-conceived broken promise. Congress should now pass the HEROES Act to prevent the deportation of undocumented essential workers during the pandemic and the American Dream and Promise Act to permanently protect these kids and young adults.

Earlier this week, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said via social media that the Supreme Court “did the right thing” in giving LGBTQ Americans protection against employment discrimination under law.

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The Virginia state legislature adjourned from its 2020 session last week, but not before a lawmaker from Arlington finally succeeded in his years-long quest to ban conversion therapy.

Virginia became the first Southern state to ban conversion therapy for people under the age of 18, thanks in part to Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope (D). Hope’s bill, HB 386, was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday, March 2.

Conversion therapy “is any of several dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth. Virginia is the twentieth state in the country to have banned the practice.

Hope first proposed the conversion therapy ban seven years ago, and has continued to do so during each legislative session, but before this year it kept getting killed in the Republican-majority subcommittees.

Hope deems the success of the bill “very partisan,” crediting the Democratic majority in both houses of the General Assembly in getting the bill passed. This is the first time in 26 years that the Democrats have controlled the state government.

The path to the ban, however, involved some bipartisan cooperation.

The Virginia Department of Health Professions played a role in building the bill. In 2018, the Chairman of the Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee, Bobby Orrock (R), turned to the Dept. of Health Professions to regulate conversion therapy practices without the help of lawmakers. The department had refrained from doing so for the past seven years because officials felt that the state legislature was sending them a message by killing the conversion therapy ban in subcommittee so many times.

However, after Orrock reached out, the department created a workgroup to look into the issue and, because of Hope’s work on the bill, he was asked to take part.

“[The Dept. of Health Professions] set up a workgroup, and I was a part of that workgroup,” Hope said. “They got all the chairs of all the different health professions that touch conversion therapy — so they had social workers, they had psychiatrists, they had psychologist, they had school counselors, etc. — they had everyone who might have a hand in conversion therapy. And they all decided in at that meeting for each of them to develop their own regulations prohibiting conversion therapy.”

The meetings informed the details of the bill. In the end, however, it was the Democratic majority that gave Del. Hope the victory he had been seeking for seven years.

“It really is a defining moment,” Hope said. “To be the 20th state and the first state in the South to [ban conversion therapy] really shows how hearts and minds have changed across the country and I couldn’t be more proud.”

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Op-ed: Arlington is Nonbinary

The following op-ed was written by D. Taylor Reich, a native of Arlington and a graduate of H-B Woodlawn, whose writings have also appeared on ARLnow sister site Tysons Reporter.

I am not a woman or a man. I am an Arlingtonian.

In the twenty-first century, gender is social limitation. Biological differences between sexes are irrelevant in the age of AC, GPS, and iPads for middle-schoolers. ‘Gender roles,’ we often say, are archaic and obsolete. Gender limits women’s salaries to four-fifths of men’s, and limits men to emotionally-stunted friendships and a suicide rate three times higher than women’s. It limits girls from enjoying the thrill of a touchdown and boys from the elegance of a flowing dress. It limits how we eat, how we speak, and how we love.

But gender doesn’t limit me. I deny its two traditional roles. My friends refer to me as ‘they,’ rather than ‘she’ or ‘he.’ At work, I might wear a necktie, button-down, and a skirt. I don’t deny that I grew up with a gender, but I have chosen to live beyond it.

I call myself ‘nonbinary.’ Others use other terms: ‘gender nonconforming,’ or ‘two-spirit,’ or ‘genderfluid,’ or ‘enbie.’ My generation has found many labels for an identity that defines itself through freedom.

This life comes with its own limitations. I uninstalled some dating apps because they don’t include nonbinary options. At work, I have to walk up an extra flight of stairs to get to the gender-neutral bathrooms (which are legally mandated in D.C., but not in Arlington). Sometimes people look at me funny on the Metro. But I’m freer than I ever could have been as a boy or a girl.

On a sunny Saturday a few weeks ago, I visited the new makerspace at the Central branch of the Arlington Public Library. It’s an inspiring place, embodying our community’s respect for learning. In the building where I learned as a child to love to read, people are finding creativity in mediums from embroidery to 3D printing. That afternoon, I learned to make buttons.

Buttons: they’re for politics, they’re for low culture, they’re for art, they’re for identification. I spun off a quick design. A shiny button an inch across, with the blue-pink-white-pink-blue transgender flag in the background (flip it upside-down and it’s the same). In the center, I drew the outline of our 26 square miles. Superimposed, three words: “Arlington is nonbinary.”

“Arlington is nonbinary.” What does that mean? For me, it holds three truths.

In the first sense, it’s literally true. Like me, this county is neither a woman nor a man. No geographic locale is a woman or a man. Maybe this is pedantic, but I think it’s a nice thing to remember.

In a second interpretation, Arlington is nonbinary because it is an exceptionally welcoming place for those of us who are nonbinary or transgender.

After I’d punched out a few dozen buttons, an adult at the next table interrupted.

“Excuse me,” she asked, “could I have one of those?”

She was a teacher at one of our middle schools, and had recently seen a student through a gender transition. The student, she said, never faced any bullying — at least, not for being trans. The teacher wanted a single button to put on her desk, and I gave her handfuls of them.

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Morning Notes

It’s Election Day — Voting today in Arlington will take place between 6 a.m.-7 p.m. at your local polling place. Most of the local candidates in competitive races penned essays describing why Arlington residents should vote for them. [Arlington County]

Almost A Century Since Suffrage — “Tomorrow represents 99 years of women voting in Arlington. Arlington’s celebrating with 19 events this year.” [Twitter, Arlington County]

‘Baby Trump’ Greeting Key Bridge Commuters — Arlington Democrats have inflated a 13-foot “Baby Trump” on the Virginia side of the Key Bridge as part of a get-out-the-vote message. [Twitter]

Anti-Trans Group is Based in Shirlington — “From the 12th floor of a glass office tower in the Washington suburbs, a campaign to sway the governor’s race in Kentucky on Tuesday is being waged with an alarmist claim that has little to do with the race itself: If Democrats have their way, soon boys will be able to compete against girls in school sports.” [New York Times]

Growing Season Over in D.C. Area — “As of this morning, the growing season has been declared to have ended across our entire forecast area. Frost and freeze [watches and warnings] will not be issued again until Spring 2020.” [Twitter]

Pedestrian Enforcement in Clarendon Tomorrow — “As part of the Street Smart campaign, officers will conduct high-visibility traffic enforcement… November 6th from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. [on the] 2700 block of Clarendon Boulevard (Pedestrian Enforcement Detail).” [ARLnow]

Nearby: Va. Tech Unveils Plan for Potomac Yard — “Plans are starting to take shape for North Potomac Yard. Virginia Tech has submitted its first concept plan, showing what its Innovation Campus will look like just as the design of the Potomac Yard Metro station nears its final design phase.” [ALXnow]

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Morning Notes

APS Students Now Can Identify as Nonbinary — “Students enrolling in schools in the District, Alexandria City, Arlington and Montgomery Counties now have the option to mark their gender as ‘X’ meaning nonbinary or unspecified. That’s in addition to male or female gender categories.” [WAMU]

Traffic Delays ACFD Response to I-395 Crash — “The I-395 incident happened shortly after 1 p.m. near the Duke Street overpass. Blunt said a crash left a woman trapped inside her car, but because of bumper-to-bumper traffic and other vehicles not moving out of the way, it took crews 24 minutes to respond when it would’ve taken them just eight minutes otherwise.” [Fox 5]

Pedestrian Tunnel Closure Date Set — “The 23rd Street tunnel is scheduled to close permanently on Tuesday, Sept. 3. The Virginia Department of Transportation will mobilize its contractor to begin deconstruction of the tunnel’s above-ground structures.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Nonprofit’s Student Program Deemed Success — “AHC Inc.’s college- and career-readiness program had a 100-percent high-school-graduation rate for participating students this year. A total of 24 students living in AHC’s local apartment communities participated in the non-profit housing provider’s readiness program.” [InsideNova]

Kiwanis Sell Lots of NJ Blueberries — “Those who purchased blueberries from the Kiwanis Club of Arlington earlier in the summer weren’t alone. Nearly 10,000 pounds of New Jersey berries were sold in the fund-raiser, netting nearly $10,000 that will be used to support grants aimed at serving children.” [InsideNova]

Storm Last Week Cast a Shadow — “A storm on the western horizon is casting a shadow on a storm on the eastern horizon. It doesn’t happen often. These are photos from last Wednesday.” [Twitter]

Nearby: Scooters Face Opposition in Alexandria — “Why scooters have drawn so much ire is among the most enduring mysteries of Alexandria ‘historic character’ activism. Alexandria’s history is replete with lots of vile historic character, like being a major center in the trade of enslaved people.” [Washingtonian]

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Morning Notes

Pence Visits Arlington, Again — Vice President Mike Pence again visited Arlington, this time the southern half of the county. The one-time Arlington resident gave a speech at an event for the “Alliance Defending Freedom” at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City hotel. As with his visit to Clarendon last week, the veep arrived via motorcade, accompanied by a sizable security detail. [White House, Twitter]

Arlington Company Facing Lawsuit — Employees of Arlington-based Evolent Health “have asserted in class-action lawsuits that the health care consulting company… has failed to pay them overtime for periods in which they worked more than 40 hours a week.” The company denied the allegations in court filings. [Insider Louisville]

Trans Events Coming to Crystal City — “An opening reception for people planning to participate in the [National Transgender Visibility March] will be held Thursday, Sept. 26, to be followed by a Friday, Sept. 27, Torch Award Ceremony in which prominent transgender and gender non-conforming leaders and activists will be honored. Both events will take place at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.” [Washington Blade]

Nearby: Serious Crash on Route 50 — Westbound Arlington Blvd was closed near the Arlington border Tuesday afternoon for a serious motorcycle crash and a subsequent Fairfax County Police investigation. The crash happened near the intersection of Arlington Blvd and Olin Drive in Falls Church. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

(Updated on 07/22/19) Office Vacancy Rate Dropping — “The commercial vacancy rate in the County continues to improve. The vacancy rate as of the second quarter of 2019 stands at 16.6%, down nearly 5% from its historic high of 21% in 2015. Arlington Economic Development also announced it successfully closed 26 deals in FY 2019, representing 7.2 million square feet of office space and 43,000 jobs.” [Arlington County]

County Adopts New Bathroom Policy — “The Arlington County government has adopted what amounts to a […] policy for government-building restrooms and locker rooms. The policy, outlined to County Board members on July 16, will formally allow any individual to use a male or female restroom ‘that corresponds with gender identity or expression,’ county staff said.” [InsideNova]

Human Remains Found Near GW Parkway — Human remains, in a skull, have reportedly been found near the GW Parkway and Reagan National Airport, in the same area where a D.C. cadaver dog was hurt earlier this week, prompting a medevac flight. The dog is now recovering from serious injuries. U.S. Park Police are investigating the source of the remains. [Fox 5, Washington PostWTOP]

New Provost, Plans for Marymount — “Marymount is proud to welcome the university’s new Provost, Hesham El-Rewini, Ph.D., P.E., who officially begins his duties on campus this week… ‘We have bold plans for the future of Marymount as we strive to become an elite Catholic institution that is nationally recognized for innovation,’ said Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University.” [Marymount University]

GoFundMe for Westover Residents — A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to benefit residents of Westover whose homes were damaged by flash flooding last week. So far more than $8,000 has been raised. [GoFundMe]

Big Crane Assisting With DCA Project — “A 250 ft. crane is being used to lift and put steel into place for a new 14-gate concourse that will replace Gate 35X” at Reagan National Airport. [Twitter]

Pentagon City Apartment Sold for Big Bucks — “Dweck Properties Inc. has picked up another multifamily property in Pentagon City, not far from where Amazon.com Inc. is settling into its second home. A Dweck affiliate paid $117 million July 9 for the Park at Pentagon Row, a 299-unit apartment building at 801 15th St. S.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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