Press Club
County Board member Libby Garvey (left) with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission delegation in Germany (via NVRC/Twitter)

Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey is quarantining in Germany after testing positive for COVID-19 while on a trip.

Garvey told ARLnow she’s doing relatively well, and feels mostly like she has a bad cold. She said she plans to keep up with Board work this week as much as she can.

“Hopefully I will have a negative test soon so I can fly home,” she said. “I’m checking on the regulations. I hope to get better quickly and be able to come home by this Thursday or Friday.”

At the County Board meeting Saturday, Chair Katie Cristol said Garvey was absent after being unable to return from her trip with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission “due to a medical condition.”

She was later able to join the meeting via video conference, about two hours in.

Garvey said she visited a family member in Germany and then joined the regional delegation, which was there to learn about the transition away from fossil fuels.

The delegation was in the Stuttgart region for five days and finished in Hamburg, where Garvey said she started experiencing symptoms that felt like allergies. She self-administered a Covid test, which was positive.

Garvey then went with the group to get a test at a German facility, and tested negative, she said. But she continued to have a runny nose, scratchy throat and was tired — although that could be attributed to the long days of walking and seminars.

In order to board the plane home, she was tested again Friday and was positive. The rest of the delegation tested negative and was able to fly home Saturday, she said.

Garvey said she’s lucky enough to have family in the country to quarantine with.

“I feel mostly like I have a bad cold, but it gets better and then worse again several times a day,” she said. “When it’s worse, I feel pretty yuck. When it’s better, I feel not too bad. I also feel a little dizzy at times, but not badly so.”

Garvey said she doesn’t know where she may have picked up the virus. She’s mostly been wearing a mask in Germany, except for meals or when all were seated and spaced apart, she said. She’s been fully vaccinated and had two booster shots.

Her takeaway: it’s really easy to get Covid given fewer people wearing masks and variants getting more contagious.

Garvey recommended residents get vaccinated and boosted so they won’t become seriously ill, “as I am very hopeful that I will not.”

“And, so far, so good,” she added.

Arlington recorded a new seasonal high today in its average daily case rate, with just over 175 new cases reported per day, on average, over the past week. That’s up from about 150 cases per day a week ago.

The test positivity rate in Arlington is currently 12.8%, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

Covid hospitalizations in Arlington remain relatively low but continue to rise. The county is seeing 4.9 Covid-related admissions per 100,000 in population, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Virginia Hospital Center is seeing small week-to-week changes in Covid hospitalizations, but is “generally hanging in a comfortable zone,” ER chief Mike Silverman said in his weekly update Friday.

“For the most part, people are not requiring hospitalization for COVID, which is the benefit of vaccines,” he said.

But the ER has remained busy. Silverman said the prior week was the second busiest for total ER volume in the last several years, only surpassed by the last week of 2021 when Omicron was surging.

Photo via Northern Virginia Regional Commission

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The Arlington County Board discusses the budget at a meeting (via Arlington County)

In addition to approving a new county budget Tuesday night, the Arlington County Board also approved a $20,000 pay raise for each of its members.

Board Chair Katie Cristol said she’s uncomfortable voting on her own salary, but nonetheless in the approved budget her salary as this year’s Chair will increase from $63,413 to $83,413.

“I think what ultimately has persuaded me to support this idea is sort of depersonalizing it and the recognition that it’s actually not about my salary, it’s about a Board member’s salary,” she said.

Cristol and Board member Libby Garvey pointed out that the increases make the positions more competitive. Higher salaries — the salary for a Board member is increasing from $57,648 to $77,648 — will make members less dependent on high-earning spouses or other sources of supplemental income like consulting jobs.

“I’ve talked to far too many people who, I think, would make great County Board members and they tell me, ‘I simply can’t afford to do it,'” Garvey said. “So I’m hoping this is going to be a step in the right direction to make it, I think, actually more democratic, better representation.”

The set salaries remain below the cap set by the Board in 2019 — $95,734 for the Chair and $89,851 for members.

The Board can only raise the salary cap in the year that two board members are up for reelection, which will next happen in 2023, when Cristol and Christian Dorsey are up for reelection.

After a community survey a few years ago on the compensation of Board members, the Board came to the general consensus that it would be appropriate for members to earn a salary equivalent to the area median income for a one-member household, Cristol said. The pay raise just approved will not reach that level, but will get closer to it.

“I believe that was the benchmark, the idea there being that Board members ought to make not more than the average Arlingtonian, but not less either,” she said. “So this would get us I think about half of the way there. I believe this roughly shakes out to about a Board member making 80% of the area median income for a household of one.”

De Ferranti said that a seat on the Board, while originally intended as a part-time position, is effectively a full-time job and ought to be paid as such.

“My view is that for a locality that is approaching 240,000 people, the job of being a Board member is a full-time job,” he said. “There’s been some analysis in the past as to the number of hours, sometimes it’s 50 or 60 hours per week and sometimes it’s 35 but I think this is a full-time job.”

Member Takis Karantonis said he’s struggled with juggling the amount of work that comes with the County Board and his other work. He has had to excuse himself from certain votes, which can be uncomfortable, he said.

“This is really not helpful. It is not helpful for the Board as a whole, it is not helpful for the way this body works, it is not helpful for anybody,” he said.

Dorsey said he didn’t want any part of this issue when it came up while he was chair in 2019 — he was in the midst of personal financial troubles that would later lead to a bankruptcy filing and accusations of unethical behavior related to political donations. He said he supports the raise now because public servants should be valued for their work.

Dorsey thanked Garvey for “pressing the cause.”

“When we do the public’s business, we cannot do that effectively without really good public servants and, you know, for far too long, public servants compared to their private sector counterparts make sacrifices that often go underappreciated,” he said.

The pay raise will take effect with the county’s new Fiscal Year 2023 budget on July 1.

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Visitors to Gravelly Point watch as an airplane comes in for a landing at Reagan National Airport (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated, 4:05 p.m.) As a new aircraft noise study comes in for a landing, Arlington officials admit there remains little the county can actually do about the noise above.

“I know how frustrating this is. I think people don’t understand how little power we actually have,” says Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey. “We really have almost zip.”

They’re not hopeful they can get the Federal Aviation Administration on board with changes, such as shifting National Airport’s flight patterns to less populated areas. A work group plans to ask the agency to shift incoming planes away from more developed areas and is expected to recommend doing the same for departures.

For years, residents have complained about aircraft noise, resulting from the flight patterns in and out of National Airport as well as Pentagon-bound helicopters. It’s gotten marginally worse in recent years after the FAA adjusted flight patterns to push flight paths further west, away from D.C., due to the Secret Service’s concerns about commercial flights encroaching into federal no-fly zones (Prohibited Area 56). The new patterns resulted in complaints among Arlington residents who live close to the Potomac River, including those in Rosslyn.

In 2019, the Arlington County Board sent a letter to the FAA expressing its “strong opposition” to the changes while accusing the federal agency of not engaging with the community and doing something that is “quite possibly in violation of federal law.”

“Aircraft noise is a real thing,” Arlington County Board Member Takis Karantonis tells ARLnow. “It’s a quality of life issue for many Arlingtonians who live under or near flight paths.”

Aircraft noise impact from flights to and from DCA (via FAA)

In May 2019, Arlington agreed to jointly fund a study with Montgomery County that would recommend to the FAA ways to reduce aviation noise and limit the impact on residents.

Now, after nearly three years, the “Aircraft Noise Mitigation Study” is reaching its conclusion.

The biggest takeaway is that the study recommends diverting flight paths in and out of National Airport so that fewer people are living directly under them. That means prioritizing noise reduction in more dense and populated areas, as well as “noise sensitive residential areas,” to the extent possible. The study also looked at how takeoff speed, trajectory, and height impact noise.

Last summer, new flight paths for incoming flights were proposed and, just this past December, departing flights were discussed. In addition to shifting paths, a recommendation was made for departures to be split into multiple segments so that there would be a “more equitable distribution of noise.”

The incoming flight paths were approved by DCA Community Working Group, which operates under the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), and the departure paths will be reviewed in April.

It’s expected those recommendations, with possibly a few tweaks, will be approved and proposed to the FAA. But officials are skeptical of whether the FAA and federal agencies take them into consideration.

“Arlington County against the federal government is kind of a little unbalanced in terms of a power setup,” Garvey said, echoing what she said at last week’s recessed Board meeting.

That’s one of the reasons Arlington partnered with Montgomery County on the aircraft noise study, so that two jurisdictions could come together with credible data to ask the FAA and Secret Service to make changes.

The counties are also in talks with D.C. and other local jurisdictions to apply more pressure to the federal agencies. But she understands why some residents may feel like just doing a study is not enough.

“Our residents who are frustrated with the noise see nothing [being done] and they’d like us to sue the FAA or something like that,” says Garvey. “I understand the desire to do that, but that actually would be very counterproductive and not actually get us anywhere.”

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Morning Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Updated 4:30 p.m.) Arlington County officials are acknowledging the fear, anger and frustration people feel and are asking for patience as vaccine plans change.

During the County Board meeting on Saturday, board member Libby Garvey said the state and federal governments are “moving the goalposts, changing the rules and switching out equipment.” County Manager Mark Schwartz said that in the distribution process, “chaos is reigning.”

“I hear the pain and the upset and I don’t blame people for feeling that way,” Garvey later told ARLnow.

About 50% of Virginians are eligible for doses because of their age, job or health condition, but the state is telling local jurisdictions that it will take until March or April to get through this group unless the slow drip of supply from the federal government is sped up.

“There are simply not enough doses available yet for everyone who is eligible to receive them,” said Craig Fifer, a liaison on vaccines between the state and local governments.

During the Saturday County Board meeting, when the news that Virginia Hospital Center had to cancel thousands of appointments was still fresh, Board member Christian Dorsey mused that the county cannot solve the bigger problems, but it can explain them better.

“Maybe we can lean into our role of helping our community understand [the rollout],” he said.

Here’s what we know.

Who has been vaccinated?

According to the state vaccine dashboard, nearly 24,000 doses have been shipped to Arlington County but as of this week, only 7,850 of them have gone to Arlington Public Health Division. Some went to VHC and others are earmarked for the federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate long-term care residents.

Public Health Division spokesman Ryan Hudson also attributed the gap to reporting delays, since providers sometimes take up to 72 hours to log administered doses.

Arlington County is not “holding onto the vaccine, except [to get] ready for the following week,” Arlington County’s Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese said on Saturday. He said he saves about 10% of vaccines as a contingency until a new shipment comes.

Hudson said that the county’s public health division and VHC can together administer at least 2,000 doses per day, based on infrastructure, staff and preparation.

“We can do more if we were assured a greater supply of doses from Virginia,” he said.

Virginia is currently receiving approximately 105,000 new doses per week, a pace that could increase by 16% in the near future, said Fifer, who also serves as communications director for the City of Alexandria.

Like Arlington, the Commonwealth is seeing gaps between delivered and administered doses. The state has worked to close these gaps by redistributing doses, reducing data entry backlogs and accounting for the status of doses sent to CVS and Walgreens, Fifer said. About half of doses marked as received, but not administered, are earmarked for second doses.

Who is eligible?

About 50% of Virginia is currently eligible under Phase 1B, which Gov. Ralph Northam has expanded to those 65 and older and those younger than 65 with high-risk medical conditions.

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(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) Arlington County police officers will be deployed to D.C. as mutual aid during pro-Trump rallies and counter-protests, starting today, ARLnow has learned.

The Arlington County Police Department tells ARLnow that they have received and agreed to a request from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department for mutual aid assistance for both today (Jan. 5) and tomorrow (Jan. 6).

“Arlington County has agreed to this request,” police spokesperson Ashley Savage said. “ACPD officers will be in D.C. and available to assist our regional law enforcement partners in maintaining peace and order in the event of a significant disturbance or unrest.”

The Arlington County Board, meanwhile, is urging residents to refrain from counter-protesting across the river, as thousands of Trump supporters descend on the region for demonstrations in the District.

The president has encouraged a large show of support among the MAGA faithful, ahead of Wednesday’s Congressional certification of the presidential election, as he continues to make unproven claims that the election was stolen.

Yesterday (Jan. 4), Arlington’s elected officials urged local residents to not jump into the fray, as clashes between protesters and counter-protesters are expected in D.C.

“This Board upholds free speech and the right for all to peacefully demonstrate,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a press release. “We understand the desire to show support for our election processes, for democracy and the constitution. But my colleagues and I have a responsibility to our constituents to keep them safe. With far-right extremist groups broadcasting their desire to engage in violent acts to upend the results of the presidential election, we ask everyone to stay home on January 6 so the District of Columbia can better manage the situation.”

Previous rallies in November and December both ended in violence, particularly after sunset, and additional threats of violence this week have been reported in online forums.

This has led Arlington and other local jurisdictions to caution residents to avoid D.C. on those days.

“Mayor Bowser has asked that people not come to the city to counter-protest, to avoid inflaming an already dangerous situation,” Garvey continued. “We support her request.”

It’s also believed that a number of supporters and Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group,” are staying at local hotels.

For the December protests, organizers suggested that attendees to stay in Crystal City. However, a number of counter-protesting groups asked hotels like the Crowne Plaza Crystal City and the Holiday Inn National Airport to refuse rooms to those coming for those rallies.

On social media, protesters coming to the area could be seen discussing hotel availability in Arlington over the past couple of days.

A protest against the Proud Boys was set to take place yesterday outside of the Holiday Inn in Alexandria, where it was thought that a number of members were staying. But that protest was canceled due to safety concerns.

The department has mutual aid agreements with a number of local and federal law enforcement agencies. This includes an agreement with U.S. Park Police, which came under fire this past summer when ACPD sent riot gear-clad officers to assist with crowd control near Lafayette Square.

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

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

Colleagues heaped praise on the new chair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The trajectory of coronavirus infections in Arlington continues to be up and to the right.

As of Friday the county again set a new record in its seven-day trailing average of reported COVID-19 cases. The Virginia Dept. of Health reported 109 new cases overnight, bringing the seven-day total to 671 and the daily average to 95.9 cases.

The county’s test positivity rate ticked down slightly this week, and is now 8.0%

Since Wednesday, seven additional hospitalizations have been reported, bringing the seven-day trailing total to 15. Two new COVID-related deaths have also been reported in that timeframe.

New statewide coronavirus restrictions were announced by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam yesterday and are set to go into effect Monday. The new rules include a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew, a 10-person cap on social gatherings and a strengthened universal nask requirement.

“Arlington welcomes the Governor’s actions to protect Virginians from the surging spread of the COVID-19 virus,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement Wednesday evening.

“We have all seen the numbers and the trends, and they are deeply disturbing. We know that pandemic fatigue is real, and that it is particularly difficult to hunker down during the holidays, when we all want to be with the people we love,” Garvey continued. “But we need everyone to comply with these measures to help avoid overwhelming our healthcare system. Stay home, wear a mask if you must go outside, keep at least six feet of distance between you and those outside your household, and wash your hands frequently.”

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Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey says she has confidence in her Board colleague Christian Dorsey, despite his continued legal and financial troubles.

As first reported by the Washington Post, Dorsey’s long-running personal bankruptcy case was dismissed by a federal judge last week after Dorsey overstated his debt obligations in “an act of overt misrepresentation,” according to the bankruptcy trustee.

Dorsey told the Post that he “vigorously disputes” the allegation that he deliberately and fraudulently misrepresented his finances.

It’s not the first time that money issues have landed Dorsey in hot water. He failed to disclose a $10,000 political donation from a transit union, leading to his resignation from the WMATA board earlier this year. He promised to return the donation but initially failed to do so, at one point claiming that a check was lost in the mail, before finally delivering a cashier’s check in person to the union this summer.

Despite all the issues, Garvey said in a statement to ARLnow that Dorsey has her confidence.

“Throughout this most challenging year, Mr. Dorsey’s work and support have been extremely valuable as the Board and Arlington have navigated multiple challenges and crises,” Garvey said. “Because of my experience with Mr Dorsey this year and over past years, I am confident, despite his personal financial issues, that Mr. Dorsey has provided and continues to provide important service to the people of Arlington.”

“While I do not believe his personal financial issues affect his standing on the Board, the question for us all is how this affects Mr. Dorsey’s standing among the people we serve,” Garvey continued. “All our work is affected by perceptions among those we serve and with whom we work. At this time, I do not know how those perceptions will develop after this latest publicity nor how they will balance out with the very real benefit Mr. Dorsey provides to the Board and Arlington.”

ARLnow asked Dorsey whether he intends to continue serving his term on the Board, which runs through the end of 2023. Through a county spokeswoman, Dorsey said he “has nothing to add at this time beyond his quotes to the Post.”

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Working remotely started as an experiment but is now a permanent option for some U.S. companies. Now, the trend may be coming for public meetings.

Virtual public meetings began in the spring after an emergency order from Gov. Ralph Northam authorized them. Normally, according to Virginia code, in-person meetings are required. Existing law lets officials attend up to two meetings virtually, if a majority is present in-person, and they must state for the record their reason for staying away.

For a group of women in public life from Arlington County to Spotsylvania, these rules represent barriers to equal participation.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey is one of those women. Today (Wednesday) she testified before the Virginia Freedom of Information Association Council –a state agency which helps resolve disputes over Freedom of Information issues — on behalf of the idea of virtual attendance. The Council will be making a recommendation to the General Assembly.

Recently, a bill introduced by Del. Mark Levine (D-45), allowing more flexibility in online meetings, was passed by the House of Delegates. It has yet to be passed in the state Senate.

But the women and men supporting virtual attendance, who also pledged their support in a letter to the FOIA Council dated Tuesday, are asking for more flexibility than in the event of a serious medical condition. They advocate for a virtual option whenever a public official needs it.

“A lot of us are realizing, particularly women, why are we not allowed to participate virtually if we need to?” Garvey said. “I think you could argue that mostly men run these things because they don’t have these responsibilities at home.”

Currently, if a member wants to participate virtually, she must tell the board why, which Garvey said was restrictive.

“Maybe your reason is that you have a child in a mental-health crisis,” she said. “Do you really want to tell the whole world why you’re home?”

Garvey said she feels strongly about the virtual option because juggling kids was part of the trajectory of her career. She stayed home with her kids, doing part-time work, and eventually got involved in local politics when her kids were old enough.

Anecdotally, Garvey said the virtual option has also been a boon for the number of people listening to meetings during the pandemic. The rates of people speaking, however, appear to have remained about the same, according to Arlington County Board Clerk Kendra Jacobs.

The county has not been collecting precise data about virtual meeting participation, Jacobs said, but based on her observations speaker participation has not changed drastically. Rather, there have been a few virtual meetings on hot-button issues, including a forum on race and equity and one on a gun ordinance, that would have drawn crowds, regardless of the venue.

“It really depends on the issue at hand, if people are interested in something, they’re going to participate,” she said. “The virtual options make it easier, because they don’t have to worry about things like childcare, missing out on work.”

Meanwhile, Garvey said she has been on many Zoom calls where the moderator has announced the number of participants with surprise, saying “We have a lot of people on” or “This is more people than we have ever had.”

There is one group of attendees who are notably absent, however: older citizens who have attended and spoken at meetings for years, Jacobs said. Roughly half have dropped off, and she attributed this to not wanting to figure out the virtual setup.

Jacobs said it seems that some younger people feel more comfortable coming to meetings, now that they are virtual, and could be replacing those who have dropped off because of tech barriers.

“The whole virtual meeting option has just continued peoples’ ability to speak out on issues that are important to them,” she said.

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Arlington’s former police chief says disagreements with the County Board led him to seek an early retirement.

M. Jay Farr, who retired in September, wrote a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette, which was published online today. In it, he refuted claims that he left amid agreements with Arlington’s new, reform-minded prosecutor.

“While it is true that Ms. Tafti and I did not look through the same lens all the time, we did strive to seek common ground wherever possible,” Farr wrote. “On those occasions where there was a difference of opinion, I found Ms. Tafti willing to consider the police department’s position. Overall, we had a very professional and respectful relationship.”

The former chief said his relationship with the County Board was not as positive.

Reference my retirement and early departure, I was in a deferred-retirement option that I entered into in December of 2017 and was obligated to depart the county in December of 2020. My decision to leave early was based entirely on my relationship with the Arlington County Board.

Board member Christen Dorsey’s comments regarding the Police Review Committee highlighted his concerns about the police department. He noted that this committee, a project out of the county manager’s office, once completed should finally provide recommendations for a police department that this community deserves. Not exactly a glowing endorsement of my efforts, or others’, over the past 30 years. It became apparent that the County Board and Mr. Dorsey were seeking to move in a different direction.

Farr added that he is “confident” that acting chief Andy Penn “is continuing to build a strong working relationship with the commonwealth’s attorney to provide the best service possible to the Arlington community.”

In an interview with ARLnow today, County Board Chair Libby Garvey said that while the Board had disagreements with Farr, he was a “consummate professional” and there was mutual respect between Board members and the former chief.

Garvey said the Board does want some policing practices to change — a public process to review practices and suggest changes was launched after the killing of George Floyd and an increase in local use-of-force complaints — but noted the such changes are likely to be incremental.

“We want to step back and look at our policing,” Garvey said. “I think the whole country is looking at policing. We’re part of that. I think our community expects us to do that.”

“I don’t expect there to be a major change because I think we have an excellent police force… but we’re moving into a different era,” Garvey added. “Moving into the 21st century you need to look at how you’re doing things. Life changes.”

Asked about the rise in crime in the county, Garvey said that potential reforms like removing uniformed police from mental health calls and traffic enforcement duties could allow officers to better focus on reducing crime.

“You want to have a community that’s strong and safe, I think we have that and we’re working to continue that,” she said.

As for disagreements among the police department, the County Board, and the prosecutor’s office, Garvey said it is healthy to have people from different backgrounds and perspectives hash out issues “in a professional and respectful way.”

“You don’t want groupthink where everyone agrees and thinks things are fine all the time,” she said. “I think the fact that there are some disagreements is a healthy thing — it’s about how you work them out.”

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