Press Club
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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Arlington School Board at a meeting (file photo)

(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Arlington Democrats voted loud and clear: the School Board endorsement caucus process should stay. 

Members of the Arlington County Democratic Committee voted 117-22 to use the caucus process to select which School Board candidates to endorse during the general election. ACDC met last night (Wednesday) to hear both sides of the issue and the results were announced today (Thursday).

Now, ACDC has to establish rules for the 2022 process, informed by four listening sessions, last night’s debate and an internal review. 

“Education is a top priority for us and we support great public schools that provide children with the education and curriculum they need to succeed in life,” Arlington Democrats Chair Steve Baker said today in a statement. “Arlington Democrats will always be an ally and supporter in that effort and we want our process to be as open, inclusive and equitable as possible. We know it takes hard work to achieve real results but we’re ready and committed to that process.”

This vote applies only to using the process this year, and future votes can reprise the issue, Baker told ARLnow. A seat will open up next year following School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen’s resignation announcement.

Virginia school board races are nonpartisan, so Arlington Dems can only endorse candidates — not nominate them. As part of ACDC’s process, however, candidates agree in May not to run in the general election, making the end result similar to a primary.

This was the first time the committee voted on the use of the caucus, according to deputy chief Mike Hemminger, and it came after the Arlington Branch of the NAACP, the pro-open-schools group Arlington Parents for Education and a group of self-identified Democrats separately called on ACDC to end or significantly reform the process. 

“Last night, we heard genuine concerns regarding the equity of the endorsement process,” Hemminger said today in a statement. “Systemic inequities are present in any structural system. It is vital that Arlington Democrats partner with all community members to break down barriers to access and include these voices and perspectives in each of our processes.”

Arguments against the caucus include that whiter, wealthier North Arlington residents are over-represented in it, that it discourages broad election participation, discourages federal employees from running due to the Hatch Act, effectively determines who wins in November, and makes nonpartisan officials beholden to a political party. 

But the School Board is nonpartisan only on paper, according to some committee members. They said the caucus is the best means of ensuring Democrat values prevail in Arlington against the right-wing forces trying to influence Virginia school boards.

“Republicans have shown their hands,” said School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen. “In Richmond, they’re openly promoting a public school system that serves the haves better than the have nots. We Democrats cannot let them succeed.”

Without the caucus, she said, the board could not move forward “a progressive, Democrat agenda,” including removing School Resource Officers, supporting transgender students, removing Confederate names from buildings, adding world holidays to the school calendar, building green schools and approving equity policies, among other aims. 

School Board member Cristina Diaz-Torres and former member Monique O’Grady also offered their support.

“Conservatives who lost the White House are laser-focused on using their resources to target school board elections,” O’Grady said. “Virginia was a test case for this. It’s happening in other districts and there’s a thinly veiled attempt happening here in Arlington.” 

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(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) Arlington has officially signed a contract with a new medical provider assigned to the county jail.

The contract was finalized Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after an inmate, Paul Thompson, died yesterday, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office tells ARLnow.

Thompson, 41, was found unresponsive yesterday afternoon in the Arlington County Detention Facility and rushed to Virginia Hospital Center after resuscitation efforts by medics, but he was later pronounced dead.

Mediko had been operating on an emergency order since Nov. 16, after the county dropped its previous correctional health care provider following a series of six inmate deaths in six years. The 2020 death of another inmate, Darryl Becton, resulted in charges against a man who appears to have worked for the jail’s now-former medical provider.

Thompson’s death brings the total number of inmates who died while at the county jail, which is run by the Sheriff’s Office, to seven in seven years. Six of the seven people who have died, including Thompson, were Black.

ACSO spokeswoman Maj. Tara Johnson says inmate deaths “absolutely” are rising, but she hasn’t found any clear trends driving the increase.

“Prior to five, six years ago… it wasn’t something we were looking at annually,” she said. “Now, we definitely have been seeing an uptick.”

The deaths happen for a variety of reasons, she says, including a lack of medical care outside of the jail for issues such as heart disease or diabetes or withdrawal from drugs. Thompson was in the jail’s medical unit when he was found unresponsive, having returned to the jail from the hospital about 10 days ago for treatment of a medical problem Johnson declined to disclose.

Heart conditions have been the listed causes for the two most recent inmate deaths.

Clyde Spencer, the 58-year-old man who died in 2021, died of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, caused when plaque builds up in the arteries, and his manner of death was ruled to be natural, the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Wednesday.

ARLnow previously learned Becton died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, caused by sustained high blood pressure, complicated by opiate withdrawal. His manner of death was likewise determined to be natural.

To prevent drug-related deaths, she said the Sheriff’s Office has a body scanner that examines inmates when they’re booked, as well as drug testing for when they leave and return to the jail on court-ordered furloughs.

“Our policy is pretty strong, but it requires a lot of training and a lot of review of policies… and adding extra safeguards to make sure they’re safe,” she said.

These include random checks at 15- to 30-minute intervals for inmates with mental health concerns, though not all inmates are under constant observation, she said.

The Sheriff’s Office will conduct an internal review into whether the correct policies and procedures were followed in the events leading up to Thompson’s death, Johnson said. Similar administrative reviews are still ongoing for the deaths of Becton and Spencer.

The results will be sent to the Virginia Department of Corrections for an independent review.

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Morning Notes

A runner along Long Bridge Park in Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Local GOP Supports NAACP’s Caucus Call — “We agree with the NAACP Arlington Branch when they exclaim ‘holding a partisan caucus outside the general election schedule leads to voter confusion and thus undermines voter engagement… and candidate recruitment,’ and we support the NAACP’s strong recommendation that the ‘ACDC cease its School Board caucus and endorsement process…'” [Arlington GOP]

New Mahjong Speakeasy in Pentagon City — “Scott Chung, the restaurateur behind Bun’d Up, was chatting with fellow chef Andrew Lo not long ago about how to best make use of the back room of his Taiwanese gua bao eatery in Pentagon City. Chung had a vision for a dive bar. Lo suggested a hub for mahjong… The end result is Sparrow Room, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar and dim sum restaurant at Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) that opens Thursday, Jan. 27.” [Arlington Magazine]

ACFD Rolling Out Telehealth Pilot Program — “Hospitals and emergency crews are stretched thin across the region, which has Arlington County turning to telehealth to help. Paramedics will still respond to 911 calls, but the new pilot program will give patients with less serious emergencies the option of skipping the trip to the emergency room and seeing a doctor through a screen instead.” [Fox 5]

Arlington Church Gets Grand Organ — “St. George’s Episcopal Church is slated to formally present Northern Virginia with an extraordinary and lasting musical gift, a magnificent $1.2 million pipe organ designed by world-renowned organ builder Martin Pasi. The grand instrument, to be used in public concerts as well as for congregational services, is described by Pasi as ‘unique in the Northern Virginia area and comparable to the best in Europe.’ And potentially, it could be making music for the next three centuries.” [Sun Gazette]

Lunar New Year Celebration at Eden Center — “Through February 6th, Eden Center will celebrate the Lunar New Year (called Tet in Vietnamese) with traditional lion dances, music, special dishes, and other activities. Like Japan, Korea and Taiwan, Vietnam follows the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, which assigns each year to an animal in the Chinese Zodiac. This year, the year of the Tiger, promises passion and tumult, according to astrologers.” [Arlington Magazine]

It’s February — Today, Feb. 1, will be mostly sunny, with a high near 40. Sunrise at 7:13 a.m. and sunset at 5:30 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 47. [Weather.gov]

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The Arlington Branch of the NAACP levied sharp criticisms against the local Democratic party’s School Board endorsement caucus, which is up for debate next week.

On Wednesday at 7 p.m., the Arlington County Democratic Committee is set to consider the objections to its caucus and vote on whether and how to change this process. The vote will be just one month after new leadership took over ACDC.

In Virginia, all School Board races are nonpartisan, meaning parties like Arlington Dems can only endorse candidates, not nominate them as in a primary. But as part of the endorsement caucus, typically held in May, candidates agree not to run in the general election, making the end result similar to a primary.

Or, as the NAACP puts it, the caucus is a “shadow election overriding the democratic and regulated process.”

It argues that, months before the general election, the process influences who runs, how much they spend and how they campaign, who wins and whose votes matter.

“[H]olding a partisan caucus outside the general election schedule leads to voter confusion and thus undermines voter engagement, equitable voter representation, and candidate recruitment,” the group said in a letter to Arlington Dems President Steve Baker.

Part of the problem, the NAACP says, is that voters don’t understand the role of the caucus and will likely just pick the Democrat favored by the caucus when voting down-ballot at the polls.

“The partisan sample ballot and the ‘D’ designation of the endorsed candidate has the effect — in a county so heavily comprised of registered Democrats as Arlington — of rendering the official election in November predetermined by the prior shadow election of the partisan caucus,” the letter said. “Absent reform, the default winner of the proper democratic process always has been and presumably always will be the winner of the endorsement caucus.”

Defenders of the caucus say that’s the point.

“Many County residents lack the time to attend candidate debates or study candidates’ written policy positions and understandably look for a shortcut to winnow the field — the R or the D next to candidate names,” writes resident John Seymour, a precinct captain with Arlington Dems, in Blue Virginia.

Another issue is representation in terms of candidates and turnout, the NAACP says. Voting in the caucus heavily skews toward White Democrats living in North Arlington, meaning candidates with firm northern networks are more likely to run and receive support, according to the letter.

More from the NAACP:

[T]he 22207 zip code was consistently one of the highest represented areas in the caucus process, with almost one-third of the caucus votes (32%) in 2021; however, this zip code comprises only 14% of the total Arlington population and is 79% White. In contrast, the 22204 zip code is the most highly populated in Arlington (23%) and the most diverse (18% Black, 27% Hispanic, and 38% White), but disproportionately made up only 15% of the caucus vote in 2021.

… “If left to the insular implementation, the voting will continue to skew to benefit a specific geographic region in Arlington. It has for all of the years for which we have data and presumably the entirety of the endorsement caucus.”

Still, in recent years, voter participation in the caucus has trended upward, according to ACDC. Last May, 6,207 ballots were cast, exceeding the last county caucus record of 5,972 votes, set in 2017.

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2021 James B. Hunter Award Winners (via Arlington County)

Arlington’s Human Rights Commission is honoring four organizations and two individuals for their contributions to diversity and human rights over the past year.

Recipients include a seven-decade-old church in Arlington Ridge, the Arlington Branch of the NAACP and a community activist in the Halls Hill neighborhood.

A virtual celebration for the honorees will be held on Thursday, Dec. 9.

The James B. Hunter Human Rights Awards are given annually to individuals, community groups, non-profit organizations and businesses that best exemplify “outstanding achievement in the area of human rights and diversity made in Arlington County.”

The award is named after the former County Board member who championed the 1992 amendment to county law that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Hunter died in 1998 at the age of 58 due to cancer.

Now in its 22nd year, the 2021 James B. Hunter award winners are Advent Lutheran Church, Arlington Thrive, the Arlington branch of the NAACP, Offender Aid and Restoration, Aurora Highlands resident Les Garrison and Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones Killgo.

Advent Lutheran Church (ALC) is located in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood and was first established in the 1950s.

“ALC willingly puts on the mantle of servant leadership and continually answers the call to help those in need, advance diversity, and advocate for human rights on behalf of the residents of Arlington County,” the press release says about why the church is being honored.

Arlington Thrive provides residents in need same-day, emergency financial assistance. The organization has been on the forefront helping the most vulnerable during the pandemic, providing a “safety net” for those who lost their livelihoods.

This year’s award also recognizes the Arlington branch of the NAACP for its recent work advancing racial, economic justice and equality. The organization called on the county to investigate an inmate’s death at the county jail, to fix conditions inside of the Serrano Apartments on Columbia Pike, and to change the county’s previous logo depicting Arlington House, the former home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“The award is validation that our all-volunteer organization is bringing crucial social justice issues and impacting the forefront,” branch president JD Spain, Sr. tells ARLnow, while noting that there’s still much work to be done. “So we thank the committee for the award and look forward to joining hands to create a better future here in Arlington.”

Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) is a five-decade-old nonprofit that provides a re-entry readiness program for those who have spent time at the county jail, amongst a host of other services.

“Racial equity and an authentic commitment to dismantling racism in Arlington flow through every aspect of how OAR operates — from service delivery to legislative advocacy to internal operations to community education and even to fundraising strategies,” said a press release about the awards.

Les Garrison of Aurora Hills is a long-time civic volunteer who worked to provide residents access to COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and food throughout the pandemic. His work to coordinate has been a “a beacon of selflessness and optimism for Arlington.”

Wilma Jones Killgo is a fourth-generation Arlingtonian who wrote a book about her childhood in Halls Hill, also known as High View Park. She’s a community activist, a fourth-term president of her civic association and a passionate voice for her neighborhood.

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