Arlington, VA

This weekend the League of Women Voters of Arlington is hosting a workshop to educate residents about the history of racism behind American — and Arlington’s — housing policies.

The free workshop is co-sponsored by the local NAACP branch and the nonprofit Alliance for Housing Solutions, and will run from 1-3 p.m. this Saturday, September 28 at Wakefield High School.

Local nonprofit Challenging Racism will explain how the federal government denied black homebuyers mortgages — a policy known as redlining — and subsidized white suburbs.

Former Wakefield teacher and co-founder of Challenging Racism, Marty Swaim, told ARLnow that the Federal Housing Administration started subsidized mortgages during the Great Depression — but only to whites. In segregated Arlington, this led to developers building suburbs for white buyers who could access the federal program helping them afford the properties.

“It depressed the value of black properties because it made those areas even less desirable,” Swaim said. “It’s a cascade of effects.” 

One 1971 HUD guide for homebuyers in Arlington, retrieved from the Center of Local History’s archives, mapped housing by price. Black neighborhoods like Hall’s Hill and Green Valley were color-coded in red to signify the lowest home values (under $20,000.) Whiter neighborhoods in North Arlington were shaded blue and purple to indicate more attractive homes valued between $40,000 and $50,000.

“A lot of Federal Housing Administration loans went to people who settled in these areas, and they were all white,” said Swaim.

Redlining was in addition to another form of discrimination prevalent in Virginia: restrictive covenants on deeds that prevented homeowners from selling to minority homebuyers. Some such covenants remain on deeds in Arlington, unenforceable but a reminder of the state’s segregated past.

Redlining and restrictive covenants were outlawed in 1968 with the passage of the Fair Housing Act, a bill which took years to gain traction. In 1965, activists in Northern Virginia led a petition drive to support it, garnering signatures from 9,926 Arlingtonians, some of whom reporters from the Arlington Sun described as signing the petition in secret from their husbands or neighbors.

“It is abundantly clear that the Negroes will be welcomed in hundreds of neighborhoods in Northern Virginia,” activist Arthur Hughes told the Sun at the time.

But even after the Fair Housing Act passed, decades of discrimination would affect black neighborhoods in Arlington, and nationwide, for years to come.

“Arlington is not immune,” agreed Carol Brooke, who heads the League’s Affordable Housing Committee.

Brooke said Saturday’s event is an opportunity to highlight how racist policies shaped neighborhoods and determined who has been allowed to call Arlington home.

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The head of Arlington’s chapter of the NAACP is launching a primary challenge to Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District), a powerful member of Democratic leadership in Richmond who has attracted criticism from within his own party in recent months.

Julius “J.D.” Spain told ARLnow that he’s filed to run as a Democrat in the South Arlington district, in the hopes of providing people there “with an alternative to the status quo.”

Lopez, who also serves as Democratic co-whip in the House of Delegates, first won the seat back in 2011, replacing now-Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District). Lopez hasn’t faced a primary challenge since he won a contest with Stephanie Clifford for the chance to run for the seat in the first place.

“No incumbent is entitled to stay in office forever,” Spain said. “And I believe I can sharply draw a contrast with some of what Alfonso has done, or hasn’t done, over the years and bring a fresh new face to the field, to the party.”

Spain is a 26-year Marine Corps veteran who has been active in Arlington’s civic institutions for years now. He’s served on the county’s Civil Service Commission since 2014, and worked in leadership roles in Nauck’s Masonic Lodge 58.

Spain adds that he’s been active with the NAACP for roughly two decades, and was elected as the group’s president just last fall. He’s also served as a precinct captain for the county’s Democratic committee, and describes himself as “a hard-core Democrat,” though this is his first bid for elected office.

He declined to offer specific critiques of Lopez’s record, only saying that he would lay out “temperate, discrete and pointed” rebuttals over the course of the campaign.

Other Democrats have not been nearly so reticent to criticize Lopez, however — Lopez has reported working in the past for a private company that runs an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Central Virginia, sparking all manner of protests over the past year. Lopez has since worked to defuse concerns over those ties by meeting with activists to explain his support for immigrant rights, particularly given his status as one of just a handful of Latino legislators in the General Assembly.

For his part, Lopez says he plans to run for a fifth term on the strength of his “record of fighting hard for our progressive values in Richmond,” citing his work on housing affordability, environmental issues, the Medicaid expansion and Metro funding.

“As the son of an undocumented immigrant, I grew up seeing discrimination firsthand and made it my mission in life to seek justice for all,” Lopez wrote in an email. “I will continue fighting every day to build a Virginia where we lift everyone up and leave no one behind. I look forward to a substantive conversation about how we can best serve the people of the 49th District in Richmond and in our community.”

Meanwhile, Spain says the primary focus of his run against Lopez will be on issues like housing affordability in South Arlington, a key concern for the community as Amazon moves in nearby, and the achievement gap between white students and students of color in Arlington schools.

He also hopes to “represent the people, and not just the people who have money,” and says he won’t accept any donations from corporations over the course of his campaign.

“I’m not taking any contributions from any corporations, or any businesses that infringe on the rights of those less fortunate or those that harm the environment,” Spain said. “I’m not a deep-pocketed politician with a lot of ties. I’m just your average American citizen, and that’s who I want to represent.”

The issue of corporate money in Virginia politics has become a particularly potent one among Democratic candidates for office in recent months, with many swearing off money from state-regulated utilities like Dominion Energy, in particular. Lopez himself has pledged to refuse money from Dominion, though he has taken cash from corporations — Gov. Ralph Northam is backing a ban on corporate campaign donations in this year’s legislative session, though Republicans have shown little interest in advancing such a bill.

Accordingly, Spain is hoping to run a “grassroots” campaign, though he says he’s still getting organized a bit. He hopes to make a formal announcement at a county Democratic committee meeting next month, then ramp up the campaign from there.

A June 11 primary will decide all races between local Democrats. All 140 state legislators are set to face voters this November.

Local activist Nicole Merlene has also launched a primary challenge to state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District), while Parisa Tafti is running against Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos.

Photo via Facebook

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Morning Notes

Arlington Employee Inspires New Child Care Policy — Lanette Johnson, an employee at the Pentagon City Best Buy store, is “the inspiration behind Best Buy’s new backup child-care benefit for all full-time and part-time employees. Workers at nearly 1,000 U.S. stores, distribution centers and corporate headquarters have access to 10 days of subsidized care each year through a Best Buy partnership with Care.com.” [Washington Post]

Weekend Rain Drenched Arlington — Arlington was among the parts of the region to see the most rainfall over the weekend. [Twitter]

Small Business Lender Active in Arlington Courts — “On Deck Capital Inc., a publicly traded online small business lender based in New York… which also has Arlington office space… accounted for 7 percent of all [small business] debt collection cases brought to that Arlington County courthouse through September.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Leadership for Arlington NAACP — “The Arlington branch of the NAACP will enter 2019 with a new leadership structure and a commitment to building on recent growth. ‘I’m all about community activism – we will go out and do good things,’ said Julius Spain Sr., who on Dec. 17 was sworn in to serve as president of the 78-year-old local civil-rights organization.” [InsideNova]

Arlington GOP Chief Steps Down — “The Arlington County Republican Committee will enter 2019 on a hunt for prospective candidates – and a hunt for a new chairman, too. Jim Presswood, who has chaired the GOP for nearly three years, announced recently he would be stepping down halfway through his second two-year term due to commitments at work.” [InsideNova, Facebook]

Photo courtesy Crystal Comiskey

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Morning Notes

Big Tree Fall on Car — A large tree fell across 8th Street S. late last week, crushing a parked car and causing a widespread power outage. [Twitter]

Local NAACP Reflects on Progress — “The Arlington NAACP’s 71st-anniversary Freedom Fund Banquet was a chance to look back on progress, but also to press for vigilance so it doesn’t slip away… The banquet on Oct. 13 drew a large crowd to the Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel.” [InsideNova]

Rosslyn LED Art Unveiled — “Cliff Garten Studio is pleased to announce, ‘Gravity and Grace,’ a site-specific large-scale LED public artwork integrated into the architecture of JBG SMITH’s Central Place Plaza in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington.” [LiveDesign]

Yorktown Tied for First — “With an important homecoming victory over the visiting Langley Saxons in Oct. 12 football action, the Yorktown Patriots (4-3, 2-0) upped their winning streak to three to remain tied for first place in the Liberty District.” [InsideNova]

ACPD Again Holding Take-Back Day — “On Saturday, October 27, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Arlington County Police Department, Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public its 16th opportunity in seven years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Morning Notes

Ballston (photo courtesy Noah Kaufman)

NAACP Wants War Memorial Plaque Changed — The Arlington chapter of the NAACP wants a plaque on the war memorial in Clarendon updated. The plaque lists Arlingtonians killed in World War I, but separates two “colored” military members from the rest of the local war dead. The NAACP says it would like to get the plaque removed and replaced. “We owe it to those who fought and died,” said local NAACP president Karen Nightengale. [InsideNova]

Two Restaurant Chains Coming to Arlington — Two regional franchise operators have signed agreements that will bring two expanding restaurant chains to Arlington. A former Domino’s Pizza franchisee is planning to open an Arlington location of Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza, in addition to locations elsewhere in Northern Virginia. Meanwhile a Five Guys franchisee says it will be opening 10 Newk’s Eatery locations in Arlington and Fairfax counties. The Mississippi-based soup, salad, sandwich and pizza chain is big in the Southeast U.S., with more than 100 locations in 13 states and an aggressive expansion plan. [WTOP, Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Hotels Hacked — Two Arlington hotels have reportedly had their payment systems compromised by hackers. HEI Hotels and Resorts says malware was found on its systems at 20 hotels, including the Le Meridien in Rosslyn and the Sheraton Pentagon City on Columbia Pike. The hack potentially exposed the credit card information of hotel guests and customers. [Associated Press]

Pokemon Go at the Pentagon — Department of Defense officials have put the kibosh on DoD employees playing Pokemon Go on government phones, citing concerns about the game tracking the movement of its employees. The DoD has also reportedly told Pentagon employees to only play the game outside of the building. A Pokemon “gym” inside the Pentagon has been removed. [The Guardian, Twitter]

Bethesda Man Bought $1 Million Lottery Ticket in Arlington — The $1 million-winning Powerball ticket that was sold at a Ballston 7-Eleven store last month was sold to a Bethesda resident. Larry Elpiner says he plans to “share his winnings with family and friends,” in addition to paying for his daughter’s college education. [WUSA 9]

Photo courtesy Noah Kaufman

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Morning Notes

Morning sky in Rosslyn

Terminal A Revamp Underway at DCA — A $37 million renovation project at Reagan National Airport’s Terminal A is proceeding swiftly. The project isn’t adding a significant amount of extra space to the historic terminal, but it will make the existing space seem brighter and more open. Most of the work is expected to be complete by the holiday travel season. [Washington Post]

Pupatella Makes National Pizza Rankings — Bluemont’s Pupatella Neapolitan Pizzeria (5104 Wilson Blvd) serves one of the top 40 slices of pizza in the country, according to new rankings. Pupatella’s capricciosa pizza was ranked No. 36 on the list, as judged by the Daily Meal website. [Daily Mail]

Students Receive Scholarships at NAACP Banquet — Through a partnership with the Arlington NAACP, a new scholarship fund awarded $2,500/year college scholarships to four high-performing local students over the weekend. The scholarship fund allows the NAACP to “invest in our youth,” said the head of the Arlington branch of the organization. [Sun Gazette]

Beer and Wine Walks Return to Crystal City — Crystal City’s 1K wine and beer walks will return next month. The walks — which allow participants to sample various wines and beers while walking through Crystal City’s underground shopping center — will take place on Nov. 16 and 17. [Crystal City]

County Board Adopts Public Safety Radio Resolution — The Arlington County Board adopted a resolution yesterday (Tuesday) that calls on builders to install technology that allows better police and fire department communications in new buildings. Modern construction materials have made it difficult for first responders to receive radio signals in newer buildings. The Board’s non-binding resolution calls on builders to install in-building wireless systems to better transmit public radio signals. [Arlington County]

Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser

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