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Arlington Branch NAACP First Vice President Kent Carter at a Black Lives Matter rally in June 2020 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

On Saturday afternoon, Kent Carter left Arlington to celebrate his 40th birthday on Turks and Caicos, the Caribbean islands southeast of the Bahamas, with his long-time girlfriend.

He was supposed to fly back on Tuesday.

Instead, while riding in a shuttle back from a jet-skiing excursion on Sunday evening, an alleged gang member opened fire on the vehicle. The gunman shot and killed Carter and an employee of a local business and wounded three others. The shooting has been covered by both local and national media outlets, including The New York Times.

His last act was to protect his girlfriend of eight years, who survived with minor injuries.

“He shielded me from being shot,” his girlfriend, who requested we not use her name, tells ARLnow.

Now, Arlington is mourning Carter’s death and paying tribute to his legacy as a local civil rights leader, loving father and caring partner. His story has attracted national attention and an outpouring of support from community members and local realtors with whom he worked, elected officials and regional and national leaders of the NAACP.

“We are devastated to learn of Kent’s loss and will be keeping his family in our prayers,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a statement to ARLnow. “Kent was a true leader in the Arlington community: knowledgeable and determined on civil rights issues and gifted at building relationships and coalitions.”

Carter, an Army veteran and a real estate agent by trade, was serving his second term as the First Vice-President of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, and the chair of the Criminal Justice Committee. He represented the NAACP on Arlington’s Police Practices Group, which came up with more than 100 ways to change policing in the county, and advocated for a Community Oversight Board with subpoena power, which was officially established last summer.

“Kent led that charge,” Julius “JD” Spain, president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, told ARLnow. “Many citizens in Arlington will benefit from the hard work that Kent put in. Words alone aren’t enough to express the level of gratitude for someone who not just wore the nation’s cloth, but one who’s a servant leader.”

The NAACP Arlington branch president said his First Vice-President was reserved but could command a room. He was duty-bound to his advocacy work and didn’t care about the accolades.

Arlington’s elected officials are now working to recognize Carter’s efforts, including his work with lawmakers on a criminal justice reform package several years ago, through a memorial resolution led by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30). It is expected to go before the Virginia legislature in January.

The memorial resolution recognizes “the esteem we in the Arlington delegation held Mr. Carter in,” Ebbin told ARLnow. “It is also in recognition of the impact of Kent’s work for social justice and in service to our country, which extended far beyond the borders of Arlington.”

Carter was born Sept. 28, 1982, and grew up outside Knoxville, Tennessee. He joined the military in 2000 and was first deployed to the Pentagon just after 9/11 to provide security. In 2002, he deployed to Afghanistan for six months as a member of a U.S. Army Personal Security Detail. While in Afghanistan, he met his ex-wife, Melanie Bell-Carter, to whom he was married for 11 years.

Carter also served as an airborne Army police officer and later, as a special agent in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Concurrent with his military career, he pursued his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice.

His lived experience as a Black man in the South, combined with his law enforcement experience, compelled him to tackle criminal justice reform where he could feel the impact directly: in his backyard in Arlington.

“He was one to stand up for those who couldn’t stand for themselves,” Bell-Carter told ARLnow in an email. “He frowned upon injustice and wanted to be a leader in changing how the country and the world treated people. Always one to look after those less fortunate.”

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The family of Darryl Becton with Arlington NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. (staff photo)

A man who was charged in connection to the death of Darryl Becton in Arlington County jail in 2020 has been found not guilty.

Antoine Smith was charged in September 2021 with the misdemeanor of falsifying a patient record.

Smith worked for Corizon Correctional Health, the jail-based medical provider at the time of Becton’s death, which has been sued multiple times across the nation for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care.

When reached by phone, Smith’s attorney declined to comment on the outcome of the case.

The charge was levied against Smith as part of a year-long investigation into the circumstances surrounding Becton’s death at the Arlington County Detention Facility.

In the wake of his death, the Arlington branch of the NAACP called for an independent investigation. The jail, meanwhile, cut ties with Corizon and updated its protocols.

One month later, Becton’s family filed a $10-million wrongful death lawsuit against Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, the elected official who oversees the jail and the Sheriff’s Office, as well as Corizon and four medical staffers, including Smith.

The suit alleges that medical staff did not treat and properly monitor Becton’s drug withdrawal symptoms or high blood pressure, despite being aware of his condition and the risks associated with it.

The lawyer for the case did not return a request for comment on how the not-guilty verdict for Smith impacts the lawsuit.

Becton was the fifth person — and the fourth Black man — to die in the facility while in custody in five years, according to the Arlington branch of the NAACP. Since then, the number of people who have died in the detention facility has risen to seven, prompting the Arlington County Board to pledge greater oversight over how the jail is managed.

For the NAACP, the charges against Smith were never its focus.

“Even had Mr. Smith been found guilty of that charge, it would not have answered the central question: why did Mr. Becton die?” Arlington NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain told ARLnow. “The NAACP remains committed to helping our entire community understand how this avoidable tragedy happened, so we can work together to ensure it never happens again.

“We will continue to advocate for a better public safety system that reduces the reliance on prisons as means of solving social problems, and advances effective law enforcement,” Spain continued.

The verdict does raise a host of questions about who supervises jail-based healthcare providers and their employees, and where was that supervisor when Becton died, Spain said.

“So, finally, why did it take this unnecessary and tragic death, seven in seven years, to ultimately cause the Sheriff’s office to find a new contractor?” Spain said. “To date, no one has been held accountable. Is it a toxic work environment, fear of retaliation, or improper management of personnel? Every day that passes without an answer, trust and confidence in leaders and the justice system erode.”

The jail has taken some corrective steps to improve its treatment of inmates, including hiring a quality assurance manager, planning to buy a new medical tracking device and updating health check protocols.

These actions led Virginia’s Jail Review Committee, part of the Board of Local and Regional Jails, to conclude that “no further measures are necessary” and close its investigation into the Arlington jail last month. Its investigation found evidence suggesting the jail had broken state regulations in Becton’s death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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The Serrano Apartments at 5535 Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

(Updated 4:40 p.m.) There are more than two dozen steps local affordable housing developers, Arlington County and the state can take to improve quality of life and respect tenants, according to a new report.

Written by a Joint Subcommittee on the Status of Aging Properties (JSSAP), the report walks through the kinds of protections tenants need to live safely in committed affordable dwellings in Arlington, many of which are affordable because they are older and more prone to maintenance issues.

Work on this document, unofficially dubbed “the Serrano report,” began last October in response to the attention tenant advocates drew in May 2021 to longstanding problems at the Serrano Apartments (5535 Columbia Pike). Residents of the affordable housing complex, owned by affordable housing operator AHC, Inc., were living with mold and rodent infestations and in units decaying due to deferred maintenance.

“I think it’s an important, historical document to say, ‘This is what happened,’ and to help the county and the state to prevent these issues from happening again,” said Kellen MacBeth, chair of the Arlington Branch of the NAACP’s Housing Committee.  “It was a lot of work, but I’m hopeful we can build on the changes the county has been making to further protect the rights of tenants and prevent another Serrano from occurring.”

The document could be presented to the Arlington County Board as early as next month.

Reaction to the report has been mixed. Advocates are urging the Board to implement the local recommendations and incorporate suggestions for the state into its annual legislative priorities. Some members of Arlington County’s Housing Commission critiqued the report, however, for not including the perspectives of affordable housing business partners or costs associated with implementing the recommendations.

“We went back and forth on that,” Housing Commission Chair Eric Berkey told the Tenant-Landlord Commission last week.

For its part, AHC said it respects the subcommittee’s work but is concerned about the financial impact.

“We appreciate the effort that went into the report,” AHC spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said in a statement. “As a non-profit organization, any recommendations that add cost without accompanying revenues would be burdensome. AHC has 23 properties in Arlington alone.”

Where to start

Tenant advocates say the county’s first order of business, after accepting the report, should be requiring housing providers to fund organizations that support tenant associations.

“We think it’s critically important for the Barcroft Apartments — and the redevelopment that’s going to be happening in the next year — so that tenants have a voice, if there are serious problems they’re facing,” MacBeth said. Maintenance issues, he added, are already arising.

Late last year, the county and Amazon agreed to loan more than $300 million to facilitate the sale of the Barcroft Apartments on Columbia Pike to developer Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, which agreed to preserve 1,334 units on the site as committed affordable units for 99 years.

Tenant education on their rights provided by a third party would ensure these tenant councils will have teeth, says Elder Julio Basurto, a former Serrano resident and co-founder of a new advocacy group called Juntos En Justicia (Together in Justice).

“They have to train the residents how to advocate for their needs,” he said. “Without the oversight, the residential councils won’t work.”

Janeth Valenzuela, who helped draw attention to conditions at the Serrano, said tenants need education to know how to report their problems. Residents would talk with the county, but if it wasn’t the right staff member, work would be delayed, she said.

“We still have tenants afraid to say things for fear of retaliation, and they don’t have training in how to file reports,” said Valenzuela, another co-founder of Juntos En Justicia. “They didn’t know who to go to, what to do or how to talk.”

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Townhomes in the Green Valley neighborhood (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at noon) A new report supports Arlington County’s consideration of residential zoning changes as a way to counteract past discriminatory practices. But critics of the changes could harm, not help, the local Black community.

The NAACP Arlington Branch hosted an online discussion last Wednesday (July 20) about the McGuireWoods report in light of local debate around the Missing Middle Housing Study proposal, which would allow small-scale multifamily housing in areas currently zoned only for single-family homes.

The County Board expects to vote on the zoning changes in December.

The report, which looked at local and state policy changes to address housing segregation in Virginia, pointed out that although Arlington did not adopt an explicit racial zoning ordinance, redlining and restrictive covenants resulted in most of the majority white areas permitting single-family detached housing only, thus raising the relative cost of homes in those areas.

The report recommended adding missing middle housing types to zones that currently only allow single family housing, as the study recommends. Since Arlington is considering allowing housing with up to eight units in those areas — depending on lot size — the report considered the county “well ahead of the curve compared to most places in the state,” Matthew Weinstein, an attorney with the legal and public affair firm, said during the presentation.

Organizations opposing missing middle housing content, however, that “missing middle” would not be affordable to lower-income groups. Officials expect households with an income between $108,000 and over $200,000 to be able to afford the new proposed housing types, according to a county report in April.

The median household income of Black Arlington residents is around $67,000, according to a county website.

“So we’re off target for African Americans currently living in Arlington,” said Anne Bodine, of Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, an advocacy group against increased housing density.

“Homeownership per se, for [the] current African American population in Arlington, we don’t see that this is an option for the majority of that population,” she said.

Although Weinstein did not believe missing middle housing could solve all issues, it was important to “increase housing availability and housing stocks so more people could live here affordably,” he said.

During the NAACP presentation, Weinstein also said that discriminatory housing policies in the past made it harder for Black residents to own homes, preventing many from accumulating wealth through generations.

However, since the County Board is not expected to restrict new missing middle housing to for-sale housing only, it would be more likely for those newly-created units to become rentals, Bodine said.

“Just the way [a] condo has to be set up in Virginia, it’s much more complicated legally and much more expensive,” Bodine said. “Those costs make it more likely that the units will end up becoming rentals.”

Other policies the report recommended include providing financial support to formerly redlined neighborhoods as part of Arlington’s comprehensive plan, a guide the county uses to set priorities. The report also suggested updating zoning ordinances to encourage mixed-use buildings with higher density in commercial areas, using density bonuses and other affordable housing incentives, and focusing on home ownership like community land trusts.

Bodine believed there are other ways to achieve more diverse and equitable housing, such as cash rental vouchers for people earning lower incomes, scholarships for children coming from low-income families, and keeping current income thresholds to qualify for affordable housing on Columbia Pike, among other things.

The local NAACP has endorsed the missing middle plan, but previously said that more action would be necessary to better integrate Arlington neighborhoods.

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Slide from Missing Middle Housing Study draft framework (via Arlington County)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The draft plan to allow more small-scale multifamily housing in Arlington has picked up another influential enforcement.

The county’s Missing Middle Housing Study draft framework recommends allowing everything from townhouses to an eight-unit apartment or condo buildings on land currently zoned exclusively for single-family detached homes. The lot size would determine the maximum number of units and the structure would be no bigger than what’s currently allowed by-right as a single-family home.

Following an endorsement by the Arlington branch of the NAACP two weeks ago, the framework — which is still under discussion and would require County Board action later this year to go into effect — has now picked up the support of the Potomac River Group chapter of the environmental organization.

In a letter to the County Board, the group says building more housing closer to jobs helps prevent sprawl and pollution from longer commutes.

The Sierra Club supports the Missing Middle Housing Study Phase 2 Draft Framework and urges its adoption by the County Board. This letter outlines the rationale for our support.

Adding missing middle housing to existing low-density development is an antidote to suburban sprawl. It results in far more compact and energy efficient housing located closer to jobs, transit, goods and services. It results in sharply reduced greenhouse gas emissions from both buildings and transportation when compared to housing developed in the outer suburbs, or to the enormous single-family homes typically erected in place of smaller homes in Arlington.

The environmental destruction caused by suburban sprawl also is well-documented. Entire ecosystems are bulldozed to create homes far from jobs. The environmental destruction caused by adding missing middle housing, in contrast, is minimal, as each multi-unit building will be no larger than the size already allowed for a single-family home.

Not every Sierra Club member is on board, however. Long-time civic activist Suzanne Smith Sundburg wrote an email to the group in response to the “missing middle” endorsement calling its leaders “shameless, green-washing political hacks.”

“That is the kindest description I can offer,” she wrote. “[The] group has now endorsed an upzoning plan in Arlington County that will reduce the tree canopy replacement requirement by half.”

“The Sierra Club’s endorsement of paving over the last bit of Arlington that isn’t already paved — with an 8-fold increase in housing density and the loss of half of our remaining tree canopy — has left many Arlingtonians speechless,” Sundburg added.

Her remarks were echoed by other “local environmentalists” she quoted and identified only by first name, as well as by several local residents on the Nextdoor social network, where debates over missing middle housing have been raging since ARLnow first reported on the framework.

Slide from Missing Middle Housing Study draft framework showing areas that would be opened to additional housing types (via Arlington County)

The Sierra Club, however, pushed back on the critics and refuted their assertions of significant tree canopy loss as “unsubstantiated.”

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Townhomes in the Green Valley neighborhood (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) The Arlington branch of the NAACP has come out in support of the county’s Missing Middle Housing Study draft framework.

The proposal calls for allowing small-scale multifamily housing in the residential areas of Arlington currently zoned only for single-family homes. The new “missing middle” homes — ranging from townhomes to 8-plexes, depending on the lot size — would be limited to the same physical size and footprint currently allowed for single-family homes.

The NAACP said in a letter to the Arlington County Board that such an action “is a first step in a series of necessary actions to reverse the damage done to Black and Brown residents by governmental and nongovernmental acts designed to segregate and disempower.”

“The recommendations successfully balance the needs of existing single-family home residents by keeping design standards the same while opening previously closed single-family home neighborhoods to diverse residents by allowing townhouses and buildings with 2-8 units in R-5 to R-20 zones,” said the letter, which was sent to the Board on Monday. “This change will begin to rebalance Arlington’s land-use policies with the makeup of its population; 70% of Arlington’s residential land reserved for single-family homes will potentially provide desperately needed housing to many more residents.”

Graphic used by the local NAACP in an email supporting ‘missing middle’ housing (via Arlington NAACP)

The proposal has faced criticism on local listservs and social networks, with some residents expressing concern about parking, traffic, school crowding and other issues that could potentially arise from higher-density housing. A Change.org petition entitled “Arlingtonians Opposed to Upzoning” has received more than 800 online signatures.

The group Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, which is leading the opposition to the proposal, wrote last week that “the county is declaring war on single-family areas of Arlington,” adding that the proposed changes would be “politically and legally impossible to unwind, even if it falls short of stated goals or produces negative results.”

Additional criticism has been aimed at the relatively short window for public comment, which is currently set to close on Friday. Three-quarters of respondents to a recent ARLnow poll said the window should be extended to allow more time for residents to weigh in.

The County Board is currently expected to take action on the proposal later this year.

The NAACP says the proposal, if enacted, “will not repair the harm done to communities of color in Arlington in the last hundred years,” but argued that it would open up more housing opportunities to lower- and middle-income residents.

“The proposed Missing Middle framework is an important first step to addressing the legacy of racial discrimination and segregation in the housing market,” the group wrote.

The local NAACP has been particularly influential in Arlington in recent years, notching victories in its calls to rename Lee Highway and remove Arlington House from the county seal and logo.

The full letter is below.

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Morning Notes

Layers of buildings and fog in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington Ranks in New ‘Best’ Lists — “Niche, a platform for community and school ratings, released its 2022 Best Places to Live rankings this week, and Arlington and its neighborhoods ranked high on the lists. This year, Arlington County ranked No. 3 in Best Cities to Raise a Family in America, No. 4 in Best Cities to Live in America, and No. 5 for Best Cities for Young Professionals in America.” [Patch]

NAACP Asks for Civil Rights Investigation — “The Arlington County, Virginia, jail is the subject of a civil rights complaint by the Arlington Branch of the NAACP. The civil rights agency wrote a letter Monday to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division asking for an investigation into the patterns and practices at the Arlington County Detention Facility.” [WTOP]

Ebbin Bill Heads to Governor — “A proposal to repeal a Virginia law that requires adult children to be financially responsible for their parents is headed to the governor’s desk. Senator Adam Ebbin, who is behind the bill, says while it is rarely enforced it can be misused and abused.” [Fox 5]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 71 and low of 47. Sunrise at 7:16 am and sunset at 7:19 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The family of a man who died in Arlington County jail in 2020 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit blaming his death on willfully negligent care by the county and nurses.

Darryl Becton, 46, died in the Arlington County Detention Facility on Oct. 1, 2020. A state coroner determined he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, which is caused by sustained high blood pressure, complicated by opiate withdrawal.

The $10-million lawsuit filed in Arlington County Circuit Court names Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, the elected official who oversees the jail and the Sheriff’s Office, and Corizon Correctional Health, the jail-based medical provider at the time, as defendants. Four medical staff, including one who was arrested in connection to Becton’s death, and a sheriff’s deputy are also named.

The Sheriff’s Office declined to comment. Corizon did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

Becton, a D.C. resident, was booked on Sept. 29, 2020, on an alleged probation violation following his conviction on a felony “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” charge in 2019.

The lawsuit says his death two days later — after succumbing to symptoms of heroin and fentanyl withdrawal and untreated high blood pressure — “was wholly avoidable.”

The lawsuit claims Becton told staff when he was booked that he had an opiate addiction and high blood pressure. These became obvious, the suit says, in the early hours of Oct. 1, when his blood pressure registered 191/102 — which would require immediate medical attention — and he began experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including vomiting, nausea, body aches, tremors and diarrhea.

The lawsuit alleges that, despite his obvious illness, medical staff did not properly address his withdrawal symptoms nor treat him for high blood pressure, while deputies assigned to periodically check in on him did not take note of his worsening symptoms.

“From 6 a.m. until 4:16 p.m., he was essentially left uncared for, untreated and alone,” said Mark Krudys, the attorney for the family during a noon press conference outside the jail today (Friday). “He was being casually monitored by the nursing and outright ignored by correctional staff. This did not have to occur. People don’t die from these conditions if they’re taken to medical [facilities] and receive the medical care they need.”

This is not the first time Corizon has been sued for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care. And Becton’s death, combined with the arrest of one nurse possibly connected to Corizon, prompted the county to cut ties with the provider and select a new provider, Mediko.

The lawsuit also alleges Becton was denied his civil rights in not receiving adequate medical care.

Many family members were present gave emotional tributes to Becton at the press conference.

His cousin, Janae Pugh, said it is every family’s “worst nightmare” to hear that a family member has died in the custody of people who are supposed to “protect and serve” the community.

“To stand here before you and expose my family’s suffering and pain is heartbreaking but very necessary,” she said. “The people in charge need to be held accountable for these preventable deaths. We are here today to seek justice and bring awareness to Darryl’s case.”

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The local NAACP is calling on the Arlington County Board to do more to encourage affordable homeownership opportunities for residents of color.

Although segregation officially ended last century, the Arlington branch of the NAACP says non-white residents are still effectively excluded from some neighborhoods due to county zoning codes, compounded by rising housing costs.

“The widespread single-family zoning scheme that prevents the construction of new housing in affluent, mostly white neighborhoods also worsens racial segregation by confining the construction of new affordable housing units to the Columbia Pike corridor and other parts of Arlington with large non-white populations,” the NAACP wrote in a letter to the county.

“People of color wishing to live in Arlington deserve meaningful opportunities to choose from a wide variety of housing types, in many parts of the county, at a reasonable cost,” the letter continues.

The NAACP says the county needs to adopt a comprehensive strategy to reform the county’s zoning laws and housing policies. It suggests reforms that go beyond those being considered in the Missing Middle Housing Study.

“We support the County’s many studies and other initiatives to promote affordable housing,” it concludes. “The best way to ensure the success of these initiatives is for the County Board and County Manager to show decisive leadership now and commit to supporting comprehensive zoning reform.”

Through Missing Middle, the county is considering whether and what kind of low-density multifamily housing could fit into single-family home neighborhoods. The county says allowing more housing types in these neighborhoods can reverse the lingering impacts of yesteryear’s racist zoning policies.

“The Missing Middle Housing Study has documented the role that Arlington’s land use and zoning policies have played in contributing to racial disparities in housing and access to opportunity,” says Erika Moore, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “Conducting the Missing Middle Housing Study is one of many deliberate choices the County is making to address the mistakes of the past and pave a new path for Arlington’s future.”

While supportive of the study, the NAACP suggests solutions beyond its parameters.

It recommends every redevelopment be assessed for whether it would perpetuate historical exclusion or displace the existing community. If so, developers would have to use a “displacement prevention and mitigation toolkit” to reverse those impacts.

This toolkit could include:

  • property tax deferrals for lower-income homeowners
  • funding for Community Land Trust acquisitions
  • preferences for first-generation homebuyers
  • stabilization funds for residents at risk of displacement

The toolkit would “address the unique needs of and the displacement risk experienced by the community in and around site-plan and by-right developments while also helping to address patterns of historical exclusion experienced by members of protected classes,” the letter says.

These and other tools should also receive county and state funding, like a quick-strike land acquisition account, which would be used to quickly purchase properties for affordable housing development, and targeted homeownership assistance programs, the NAACP says.

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Arlington School Board member Mary Kadera during the board’s Feb. 17, 2022 meeting (via Arlington Public Schools)

Mary Kadera says she’s had a change of heart about the Arlington’s Democratic party’s School Board endorsement caucus, which helped her to land a School Board seat.

Kadera, who said she initially voted to keep the process after careful study, wrote in a blog post on Monday that it’s time to listen to dissenting voices and try something else.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds a caucus to determine which School Board candidates are bona fide Democrats and should be considered for the party’s endorsement. It’s not a primary, since school board races in Virginia are nonpartisan, but the results are similar to one because losing candidates agree not to run in November.

It’s been criticized by the Arlington NAACP and the pandemic-era group Arlington Parents for Education for, among other reasons, effectively limiting participation by communities of color, confusing voters and limiting the range of qualified candidates.

Arlington Democrats debated in February whether to use the caucus this year. After a spirited discussion, members — including Kadera — voted overwhelmingly (117-22) to keep it.

Now, she says, the dissenting voices she heard made her realize “holding on to the Caucus comes at too great a cost.”

“[A]t its very heart, this question is about white people needing to cede and share power with people of color, and that doing so is not a zero-sum game,” she writes.

Many critics of the caucus who spoke in February were Black, including community activists Wilma Jones and Zakiya Worthey, an Arlington Public Schools parent representing a new group called Black Leaders of Arlington.

They said the caucus is a glaring exception to progressive Arlingtonians’ commitment to racial equity. They argue the majority of caucus voters come from heavily white areas of North Arlington and pick well-connected, establishment Democrats who don’t prioritize the students of color in APS who have fallen behind.

“It’s faux-progressive and surface level,” Worthey tells ARLnow. “A lot of Black advocates, when we’re fighting, we’re not fighting against Republicans — we’re fighting against so-called progressive Dems.”

Kadera credited Jones and Worthey for her change of heart.

“They reminded me that hearing and valuing the voices and lived experiences of people of color means that when many of them are telling me that I am perpetuating a system that does them harm, I need to prioritize that over any ‘what if’ scenarios that make me afraid to dismantle the system,” she said.

Caucus proponents, including current School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen, member Cristina Diaz-Torres, and former member Monique O’Grady, who is Black, posed those “what if” scenarios in their arguments for keeping the process. They and others said without it, the School Board is open to “Republican infiltration,” even in heavily Democratic Arlington.

Kadera conceded that this “very well could” happen, but it’s not for certain unless ACDC tests it out.

The local party says it is still open to suggestions for improving the process, the rules for which will be decided in mid-March and ratified in April.

“We are going to continue the community engagement and we’d love to hear from stakeholders and interested groups in the community who have ideas on how to make the process better,” ACDC Chair Steve Baker said during a meeting last night (Wednesday).

The caucus is slated for June with in-person voting at some public schools and likely a handful of other places that are in South Arlington or Metro-accessible. Voting last year was held electronically due to the pandemic and participation surpassed local records.

ACDC members will go door-to-door in under-represented precincts to inform people how they can participate.

Jones, Worthey and Arlington NAACP President Julius “J.D.” Spain, Sr. tell ARLnow that they are still formulating their next steps.

“We’re going to keep working,” Jones said.

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Morning Notes

An aircraft taking off from Reagan National is distorted by raindrops on a windshield (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

W-L Wins District Hoops Tourney — “Sometimes the hardest way to win a championship is being the favorite, as the Washington-Liberty Generals were in the Liberty District boys basketball tournament, with opponents motivated to knock off the top seed. Knowing that, the Generals were ready for the challenge. They played well and hungry, eliminating any chance for upsets with strong starts in winning their two games.” [Sun Gazette, Twitter, Twitter]

NAACP Blasts VLP Pause — From the Arlington branch of the NAACP: “It is a travesty that the educational future of 558 students – the equivalent of an entire school – has been decided based on an unclear budget process and fueled by a myriad of obscure decisions, outright incompetence at times, and mismanagement. Moreover, the VLP experiment was conducted at the expense of the most vulnerable students, which is unconscionable.” [Press Release]

Per Sq. Ft. Price Declines — “The District of Columbia, Arlington and Alexandria all saw declines in average per-square-foot sales prices in January, while other localities posted increases, according to figures reported by MarketStats by ShowingTime, based on listing data from Bright MLS.” [Sun Gazette]

Local FICO Scores Good, Not Great — “The median FICO credit score of Arlington residents is 754, according to new figures from Wallet Hub, which looked at credit scoring in nearly 2,600 U.S. communities. That puts Arlington in the 87th percentile nationally and 334th out of the 2,572 communities surveyed. Pretty good, but not as good as Arlington (Mass.) at 772, which ranked 49th nationally, and Arlington Heights (Ill.) at 763, which ranked 170th.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Tuesday, 2/22/22 — Rain later today. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph. High of 66 and low of 49. Sunrise at 6:52 am and sunset at 5:55 pm. [Weather.gov]

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