Arlington, VA

(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) A month and a half ago, the Arlington branch of the NAACP publicly called for the county’s logo to be changed. Over the weekend, members of the County Board voiced support for that change.

Arlington’s logo, along with its flag, depicts Arlington House, the county’s namesake that sits atop a hill in Arlington National Cemetery. The house was built by enslaved persons in the early 1800s on the orders of George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington’s adopted son.

The house was later home to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who married into the slave-owning Custis family, before the property was seized by the federal government during the Civil War and ultimately turned into the nation’s most hallowed military cemetery.

Julius Spain, Sr., head of the Arlington NAACP, spoke at Saturday’s County Board meeting and reiterated the branch’s call for the logo to be nixed — saying it should be done as soon as possible, rather than after a prolonged process.

“Let me be perfectly clear: atrocities were committed in the area of Arlington House,” he said. “That is a fact, and for that reason alone that should be enough.”

Spain’s remarks were supported by a half dozen other locals during the virtual meeting, including former Arlington School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez.

Recently-elected County Board member Takis Karantonis was the first to respond to Spain’s comments and the most forceful in agreeing that the logo has to go now.

“It is nothing more and nothing less than a plantation house, and we cannot look away from this,” Karantonis said. “This simply cannot represent our government. For sure it doesn’t represent me and I don’t think it represents any of you, my colleagues, the County Manager, our civil servants.”

Karantonis then held his County Board business card up to the camera.

“I cannot say that Black lives matter today, in this summer of 2020, and at the same time pull out a business card with a plantation house printed on it,” he said. “So I believe this is urgent and compelling, and we can… retire this logo. It is time to move on from this.”

Other County Board members who spoke agreed with the need to change the logo, but did not commit to doing so as quickly as hoped for by Spain.

“It’s critical that we begin this community conversation,” said Katie Cristol.

“Arlington’s seal and logo must be replaced as soon as is reasonably possible,” said Matt de Ferranti. “Both are visible representations of a building that’s principal legacy is as a slave plantation, and thus must be replaced to be consistent with the inclusive, diverse community we aspire to be.”

De Ferranti said the Board needs to consider the process and standard for replacing the logo, while also remaining focused on other racial justice matters.

Christian Dorsey, the only Black member of the Board, said the county must deal with systematic racism, including the logo, in a comprehensive manner.

“I’d take perhaps a broader view that there are other symbols and names in our community that predate the confederacy, that postdate the confederacy, that are nonetheless symbols of systemic racism and oppression,” Dorsey said. “To address one without addressing the other to me is beneath the capability of our community to actually move forward with a symbolic and a substantive approach to dealing with systemic racism. I hope people will be patient.”

County Board Chair Libby Garvey said the county’s logo will be the topic of further discussion during the Board’s meeting on Tuesday. Arlington is also planning community roundtable discussions on systemic racism, and has kicked off an effort to rename Lee Highway.

Spain, meanwhile, said that the county flag and street names are not nearly as meaningful as the county’s chosen logo, and the latter should take priority. In a letter, he said the Board should be able to remove the logo within 2-3 months.

Read More

0 Comments

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Arlington County should change its logo and seal, the local branch of the NAACP says.

The civil rights group says the logo’s use of Arlington House — the former home of and a memorial to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — is “divisive and racist.”

Enslaved people were forced to build the Greek revival style mansion, which overlooks the Potomac and was the centerpiece of a plantation that utilized slave labor. Until it was seized during the Civil War, Arlington House had primarily been the home of descendents of George Washington. The house is now a National Memorial and part of Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington House, the NAACP said in a letter to the editor this afternoon, is “a symbol of a slave labor camp.” The “racist plantation symbol” should be removed, as it “divides, rather than unites us,” the branch said.

The call to change the logo — which adorns the county flag, website, parks and other county-owned property — comes amid a national reckoning about race, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent national protests.

Prior to the protests, the Confederate-inspired names of Jefferson Davis Highway and Washington-Lee High School were changed in Arlington. The county is also in the early stages of renaming Lee Highway.

In 2018, the County Board responded to a resident’s request for the logo to be redesigned by saying that the Board “will certainly give the matter more thought as budget and staff resources become available in future years.”

Reached for comment today, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said that the county has received numerous requests recently to change everything from the logo to the names of buildings, bridges and streets.

As for changing the logo, the county is “happy to consider it,” Garvey said, but only after a community engagement process — “a good solid conversation with everyone in Arlington.”

“When you take something away, you have to put something in its place,” Garvey said.

The letter to the editor was written by NAACP Arlington Branch President Julius Spain, Sr., as well as branch member Carolynn Kane and former Arlington School Board member Dr. Emma Violand-Sánchez. The full letter is below.

Arlington County’s most prominent symbol is its logo and seal. A symbol that is everywhere … on government correspondence, uniforms, buildings, vehicles, websites. A symbol of a slave labor camp. A symbol of the southern plantation economy designed to ensure White privilege and Black subjugation. A place that the National Park Service named, “Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial.” This is the symbol placed in the center of our flag. A divisive and racist branding of our diverse, usually progressive community. It is a symbol that divides, rather than unites us. Yet, despite community members bringing this problem to their attention, it appears that the County Board is uninterested in changing its logo. Instead the County proudly states in its manual that this symbol reflects its “values … identity … traditions;” and tells residents that there are “good sides” to this racist plantation symbol.

We ask, how can the County have courageous conversations on race, tackle the inequities in Arlington, heal the deep historical wounds here or enact its platform to address racial inequities when it will not confront and change its own symbol? If it refuses to acknowledge its own blindness to the logo’s meaning, it cannot. The County Board must end its embrace of this symbol of Black bondage, oppression and pain. The County’s Robert E. Lee Memorial logo, flag and seal needs to be “retired” and a new era of inclusiveness and equity ushered in immediately. We call on the County Board and County Manager to stop delaying, put this item on the Board’s Agenda, and vote. Now.

0 Comments

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The Arlington branch of the NAACP says School Resource Officers should be removed by Arlington Public Schools.

SROs are sworn Arlington County Police officers who are stationed in schools. In addition to providing added security, an SRO “mentors, educators and coaches” for students, the police department says.

In a statement, however, Arlington NAACP President Julius Spain, Sr. said that police should not be in schools when arrest statistics show Black and Latino kids being disproportionately charged with crimes.

We made this decision after nearly a year of data-driven research led by our Education Committee with input from our Criminal Justice and Political Action Committees. The data shows stark disparities in the percentage of Black and Latino juveniles arrested and sentenced to detention relative to their population in the county. In addition, there was extensive collaboration and discussion with families and key leaders in the community, including law enforcement officials, elected leaders, and social advocacy groups. Moreover, this decision brings the branch into closer alignment with priorities at the national level of the NAACP. The Executive Committee agreed that it is time for APS to consider alternative approaches. For example, SRO’s could be replaced with more counselors, mental health professionals, social workers and nurses and relationships with trusted adults can be fostered by staff within each school.

The latest ACPD annual report describes the SRO program as having a positive impact on students.

School Resource Officers (SROs) are certified by the Department of Criminal Justice Services through a specialized training course and complete additional training on early childhood development, active shooter response, crisis intervention, CPR and TEC-C emergency medical care. SROs engage with students in the classroom throughout the year to teach lessons about interacting with police and the legal system, as well as relevant crime prevention information. They also work collaboratively with substance abuse counselors to educate both students and parents on the effects and recognition of substance abuse.

In addition to their presence in the schools as educators and to ensure the safety of staff and students, the SROs are engaged in extracurricular activities and sports at many schools — serving as coaches, reading mentors and club advisors. In 2019, Detective McGuire led the Hamm Middle School Girl’s Soccer Team to an undefeated season and Detective Blow was named Everybody Wins DC’s Mentor of the Year for Arlington Public Schools.

ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the department “is preparing for the upcoming school year and will be meeting with Dr. Durán, the new Superintendent.”

Spain told ARLnow that the branch deliberated about SROs “for nearly a year,” and the Executive Committee vote last night to recommend removal was not unanimous.

“We don’t take it lightly,” he said.

The branch anticipates sending formal recommendations to Arlington Public Schools “in the coming weeks.”

0 Comments

Amid a national protest movement calling for police reform, the Arlington County Police Department launched an effort to consider ways to further restrict public access to law enforcement radio communications.

Unlike D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, which encrypts all but one channel, Arlington’s police channels have been mostly open to public monitoring — by those with scanners or smartphone apps — with the exception of some devoted to sensitive operations. That may be about to change.

“A radio workgroup has been established to review our current practices to ensure they are aligned with procedures that protect the privacy of involved parties, ensure the integrity of operations and investigations, and reduce the unintentional disclosure of tactical information,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. The workgroup started its work in June.

“We regularly review our technology needs and the workgroup has been reviewing radio practices for about a month,” she said last week.

The workgroup’s existence had not been previously reported. The revelation comes after ARLnow — which monitors police and fire department frequencies — noticed several weeks ago that we were no longer able to hear radio traffic on ACPD 1B, a commonly-used channel.

Savage said that 1B has been encrypted “for years,” so it’s not clear how ARLnow had been previously able to monitor it with consumer radio equipment. Typical communications on the channel included brief updates on minor police incidents from officers in the field to supervisors.

ACPD 1A, the main police dispatch channel, is unencrypted, as is 1C, a channel typically used by officers to communicate with one another during more significant incidents.

In a statement sent to ARLnow, County Manager Mark Schwartz said that 1A will likely to remain open, but said “no final decisions have been made” about secondary channels.

We encrypt some secondary public safety radio communications to maintain the integrity of the investigation, ensure we don’t unintentionally share tactical information, and safeguard the privacy of those involved (including name, social security number, birth date, etc.). We regularly review our technology needs and practices to align with best practices. There is a regional plan to encrypt public safety (police, fire, EMS) operating channels. Several agencies in the region have already implemented encryption and everyone is moving in that direction.  This review is unrelated to any current events involving law enforcement.

There is no plan to limit public access to the Police Department’s primary radio channel, 1A, where calls for service are dispatched to officers. Our Police Department remains committed to transparency and shares information related to criminal incidents through the Daily Crime Report, Online Crime Map, Open Data Portal and press releases. We also use Arlington Alert to provide emergency notifications in the event of a public safety threat to the community. The work group is evaluating which, if any, additional secondary channels may be encrypted; however, no final decisions have been made.

Late last year, Arlington County started disabling public traffic camera feeds during routine crashes and other incidents, similarly citing privacy concerns.

Scanners are mostly used by media outlets and hobbyists. While dispatch channels are useful for alerting media to significant incidents, it’s harder to suss out the routine incidents that may have news value without hearing updates from officers on scene via secondary channels. Also lost are things like road closures and small details that can be a jumping off point for other reporting.

ARLnow broke the story of ACPD officers assisting Park Police near the White House, for instance, in part because of scanner activity.

Concerns about operational security and personal privacy due to open police channels are addressed, at least in part, by current practices. ACPD currently has secure channels that cannot be monitored, private messages are often sent via the mobile computer system in every police cruiser, and officers will routinely arrange cell phone calls to relay sensitive information that is best not transmitted over the public airwaves.

ARLnow is not aware of any incident over the past 10 years in which a police operation in Arlington was disrupted as a result of someone using a police scanner.

Read More

0 Comments

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) are not the only ones to have mistakenly posted photos of the late Elijah Cummings while trying to honor John Lewis, who died on Friday.

Local state Sen. Barbara Favola (D) posted a photo on Facebook over the weekend that she said was Lewis, the civil rights leader and Georgia congressman, at her house four years ago.

“I had the honor of hosting John Lewis for a fundraiser at my home in 2016,” wrote Favola, who represents a portion of Arlington in the state Senate. “Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act and each of us must uphold John Lewis’ legacy each and every election by casting a ballot.”

The problem: the photo actually showed Cummings, the former Maryland congressman who died in October.

The mistake was pointed out in a comment by Julius Spain, Sr., the head of the Arlington chapter of the NAACP. The post was subsequently taken down.

Spain said he spoke to Favola about the error Saturday night.

“She apologized stating it was a mistake,” he told ARLnow.

0 Comments

(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) Arlington County is creating a new group of residents, officials and police officers to review law enforcement practices in Arlington.

The 15-member Police Practices Group will conduct a review to “ensure that the Arlington County Police Department is current with policing best practices and continue to build trust between our police and the community.”

The group, which will start meeting in August, will allow “all the people who are most concerned about [police practices in Arlington] to have an airing,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said Friday morning. It will also “provide an opportunity for people to get all the perspectives, including hearing directly from the police… and bringing in some outside parties who can take a look at what we do and discuss best practices.”

Schwartz noted that the county has received a number of complaints about police conduct, as well as calls for police reform from groups like the local chapter of the NAACP. Prior to Thursday night’s announcement of the group’s formation, activists were questioning whether the county was stalling in their response.

Among specific, actionable items for the group to discuss are the establishment of a police civilian review board, the role of the police department in traffic enforcement, and whether police officers should respond to certain calls for mental health services and civil disputes.

Schwartz said the review will not examine mutual aid agreements with other regional police departments, like the agreement that infamously led Arlington officers in riot gear to be deployed to the White House, as a regional review is already underway. Additionally, the group will not discuss the role of School Resource Officers — uniformed ACPD officers stationed in schools — as Arlington Public Schools is already reviewing that practice, according to Schwartz.

As for the nationwide calls to “defund the police,” Schwartz said budget decision are likely to follow recommendations group the group — for instance, are as many sworn officers needed if some duties, like response to mental health emergencies, are removed. There could also be discussions about raising officer pay to better help recruit qualified officers, he added.

The creation of the group comes after local and nationwide protests over the killing of unarmed civilians — particularly Black people — at the hands of law enforcement. It also comes as Police Chief M. Jay Farr prepares to retire by the end of the year.

More from a county press release:

Following recent events involving policing and racial justice across the United States, the County Board has asked the County Manager to lead a review of police policies and practices. This review will ensure that the Arlington County Police Department is current with policing best practices and continue to build trust between our police and the community.

The first step will be an external review and assessment of current policies and practices in six key areas:

  • Review of use of Force: De-escalation tactics; lethal and non-lethal force; and, foot and vehicle pursuits.
  • Training and Supervision: Police Academy training; and training for implicit bias and crisis intervention.
  • Cameras: Both body-worn and vehicle dash cameras; and policies regarding use of this equipment.
  • Recruitment and Retention: Screening for bias; psychological evaluation; mental health programs; process for officer evaluation; promotion and leadership development programs; and compensation, including pay and benefits.
  • Internal Affairs: Statistics; structures and procedures; effectiveness through an anonymous climate survey; grievance processes; and use of force investigations.
  • Data/Statistics: Reviewing data collected for arrests and stops over the past 3 years and ensuring its consistency.

This external assessment will begin on July 20, 2020 and be led by two parties with expertise in departmental assessments, police practices, policy review, criminal justice reform and conflict analysis: Marcia K. Thompson, Vice President at Hilliard Heintze, an attorney and law enforcement practitioner with more than 20 years working in the criminal justice field; and Dr. Julie Shedd, Associate Dean at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University Carter School (see biographies below).

The themes of this assessment will be shared with the 15-member Police Practices Group (PPG) early in the fall and will support the work of the group moving forward. The PPG will begin meeting in August and will also discuss the following four important policy areas:

  • Police civilian review board – what type and approach?
  • The role of the police department in providing mental health services;
  • The role for the police department in traffic enforcement; and
  • The opportunity for alternative dispute resolution, including restorative justice & mediation.

The PPG will use the themes identified during the assessment to inform discussion and work to offer options on the four policy areas and report to the County Manager by December 21, 2020. The PPG will hold public engagement sessions to gather community input on these issues. The results will be provided to the County Manager as he hires a new Police Chief after a national search. (Note: Chief Jay Farr will be retiring before the end of this year). The information will also form the basis of potential recommendations for improvements to the County Board.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey noted that “this group will start us on a journey to tackle the important issues we face as a community regarding public safety for all of our residents. We have a fine police department in Arlington, however, it can and should be better. Arlington Police welcome the review and look forward to being a part of this important effort. These times call for a new look at how our community addresses public safety and policing.”

“I want to thank each of those who have agreed to participate in this important work,” County Manager Mark Schwartz stated. “This group will hopefully strengthen the bonds of trust between officers and residents of the County and explore the difficult issues facing law enforcement today. Our Police Department has a longstanding history of working with the community to provide professional services and a mission to treat all individuals with respect but also recognizes the need for improvements. Arlington is not immune to the challenges seen elsewhere, and I know that we will be better for the work of this group.”

The PPG’s first meeting is scheduled for August 3, 2020.

Read More

0 Comments

The Arlington branch of the NAACP has thrown its voice into the push for body-worn cameras to be implemented in the Arlington County Police Department.

A Change.org petition calling for Arlington County leadership to prioritize body-worn cameras sits at 2,409 of its 2,500 goal at the time of writing.

“Arlington is the only jurisdiction of size in the entire DC-region without a Body-Worn Camera (BWC) program,” Arlington Branch NAACP #7047 said in the petition. “As leaders, we must prioritize programs that encourage public confidence in our government.”

The NAACP said in the petition that body-worn cameras:

  • Assist with collection of evidence
  • Enhance transparency, public trust and confidence
  • Provide the best evidence of police/public interactions
  • De-escalate situations

“We must implore our elected leaders in Arlington County to prioritize appropriate funding for the BWC program,” the NAACP said. “Removing programs that are non-essential, ineffective, or which disproportionately target minorities can generate funding for BWCs and support community resources. Additionally, exorbitant funding from Amazon could be immediately reallocated to fund 100% implementation of BWCs.”

The petition has attracted the attention of some local leadership who expressed support.

“I am writing in support of your efforts urging Arlington County to implement a Body-Worn Camera program,” Del. Patrick Hope said in a letter. “While I was aware that these devices are widely deployed throughout the United States, it came as a complete surprise to learn that Arlington County remains the only jurisdiction of size in the D.C.-region without a functioning Body-Worn Camera program.”

Neighboring Alexandria, which has a population roughly two-thirds that of Arlington, also has no body camera program for police officers, after a planned pilot program sat delayed for years due to budgetary concerns. Fairfax County began implementing body cameras in the first quarter of 2020. Body camera footage recently led to a Fairfax County officer being charged with assault.

“These devices help strengthen police accountability, improve agency transparency, reduce use of force incidents, reduce citizen complaints against officers, and help solve crime,” Hope said. “This technology also has proven to produce significant savings in time and expense for communities as both complaints and cases are resolved much faster using body-worn camera evidence.”

Hope wrote another letter to County Board Chair Libby Garvey urging the County to consider creating a body-worn camera program.

Efforts to implement body-worn camera programs on a local level could be stalled by legislation approved earlier this year that would require localities to follow policy and standards yet to be laid out by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

Arlington Chief of Police Jay Farr also recently said that costs are a major hurdle for the implementation of body cameras.

“It’s extremely expensive,” Farr said in an interview with local Black Lives Matter organizer Yolande Kwinana last week. “The County Board, after getting all the facts, made the decision not to fund them.”

Farr said the total for the first year of using the body cameras was $2.5 million, which he attributes primarily to regulations requiring departments to retain terabytes of data for years, in addition to the cost of new full-time employees to manage the data and the cost of the cameras themselves.

Body-worn cameras could be a tough sell for a county still reeling from the financial cost of the COVID-19 shutdown.

“While I recognize all localities are struggling due to the financial impact of COVID-19, as leaders we must prioritize programs which encourage public confidence in our government,” Hope said. “It is my belief that a fully-funded body-worn camera program would do just that.”

Part of the NAACP petition also included a call for the implementation of a civilian review board of the police department with subpoena power, something for which Farr had earlier expressed some support.

“We must implement this technology and civilian oversight to protect citizens from police brutality and enforce accountability,” the NAACP said. “This is a humanitarian crisis that should be acted upon now to end racial injustice and improve equity in our criminal justice system. Our demand for compliance and accountability from law enforcement will not go unheard.”

0 Comments

Morning Notes

NAACP Slams APS Diversity Czar Process —  “The Arlington school system’s effort to appoint a diversity czar has run into a buzzsaw of criticism from the county’s major civil-rights organization. The two co-chairs of the Arlington NAACP’s education committee took to the Dec. 5 School Board meeting to complain that the selection process was leaving out many of those the position is designed to support.” [InsideNova]

Snow Likely Overnight — “Temperatures are poised to leap to near 60 degrees Tuesday, and it won’t feel at all like it could snow. But, in a flash, that will change. An Arctic front charging to the East Coast will switch our weather from fall-like to winterlike in a matter of hours, setting the stage for possible wet snow overnight Tuesday into early Wednesday morning.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

Yorktown in Xmas Choir Competition — “Vote Now! The @yhschoir is a finalist in 97.1 WASH FM’s Christmas Choir Competition. The top prize is $5,000!” [Twitter, WASH-FM]

Local Bus Routes on Chopping Block — Metro is considering cutting or restructuring a number of local bus routes as part of its new, proposed budget. Among the Arlington bus routes that could be cut are the 5A, 16G, 22A and 22C. [WTOP]

Wardian Attempts Elvis Record — “Local ultramarathoner Michael Wardian has unfortunately failed to re-capture the world record time for the fastest marathon run while dressed as Elvis.” [Canadian Running]

Letter: County Shouldn’t Rescue Fallen Phones — “I question whether retrieving personal property is really an appropriate use of Arlington County resources. It must have cost significantly more than the value of the phone to provide the personnel for the recovery effort. As an Arlington County taxpayer, I resent that.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

0 Comments

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.

Read More

0 Comments

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

0 Comments

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

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list