Lopez’s Dream Act Passes House — “In a landmark session, the Virginia House of Delegates today voted for the first time to approve HB 1547, a bill which would expand in-state tuition eligibility to undocumented students at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. The bill, also known as the Virginia Dream Act, was introduced by Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) and passed after many years of advocacy and hard work.” [Press Release]
One-Time Arlington Startup Founder Convicted — “A jury convicted CommuniClique founder and former CEO Andy Powers of six out of eight counts Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The jury found Powers guilty on three counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, according to court documents… Powers was based for years in Reston and Arlington before moving to Los Angeles in August 2018 as the head of what he billed as a communications and tech platform.” [Washington Business Journal]
New Funding for Local Startup — “The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) today announced that CIT GAP Funds has invested in Arlington, VA-based HyperQube, a cyber range as a service offering that enables enterprises to quickly and easily build an exact copy of any IT infrastructure.” [Globe Newswire via Potomac Tech Wire]
FYI Tipsters: We Can’t Open Nextdoor Links — Here at ARLnow, we appreciate everyone who emails us or sends us anonymous tips about possible stories. Recently, tipsters have started frequently sending us anonymous tips that link to a post on Nextdoor. The problem is: Nextdoor is a private, neighborhood-based social network and we can’t open the links. Please send us screenshots of posts instead.
Nearby: Falls Church Fire Cause — “Yesterday’s house fire at 400 S. Oak Street was accidental. ‘It’s not confirmed, but the cause could be a space heater plugged into an electrical power strip,’ said [fire official Henry] Lane. ‘If so, this is part of a bad national trend. Power strips cannot handle the demands of a space heater. People should plug them directly into an outlet.’ The damage to the property is valued at $150,000.” [City of Falls Church]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
The Arlington County Police Department has a new social media platform over which it can share information directly with residents.
The department is partnering which Nextdoor, a neighborhood-oriented social networking site built to connect residents in specific communities across the country.
“I believe this particular program offers unique opportunities we haven’t had in the past,” Arlington Police Chief Jay Farr said in a press conference Wednesday. “This is going to allow us to focus specifically on neighborhoods and concerns in those neighborhoods that are of interest to that particular community.”
However, Nextdoor is not new to Arlington County. According to the company, 73 of Arlington’s civic associations — about 88 percent of neighborhoods — are already represented on the network, and many have been for a few years.
For example, Marcia Burgos-Stone started a Nextdoor page for Columbia Forest shortly after she moved there.
“I wanted to know who my neighbors were, but I moved in and I didn’t really see, talk to or meet any of them,” she said. “It’s a way to help people out, plan social activities and share information. It brings people together.”
ACPD’s district teams will use Nextdoor to share crime and safety information with residents in specific neighborhoods. The department already does that by communicating with civic associations, condo associations and local email listservs, and Nextdoor is seen as another tool for getting information out to the public.
According to Nextdoor Senior City Strategist Joseph Porcelli, the department will operate on Nextdoor for Public Agencies, an interface specifically for government agencies that is also free.
“The interface allows the department to post messages to one, many or all of the neighborhoods in the county, and they can use that to inform residents about things that are happening in those neighborhoods,” Porcelli said. “There can also be a dialogue and conversation around that because it’s individual members of the departments who will be posting.”
Chief Farr emphasized Nextdoor will not be monitored 24/7 and it should not replace calling the police non-emergency line (703-558-2222) to report suspicious activity or 911 in case of an emergency.
Since residents must verify their address in order to join a neighborhood’s page, police officers and officials will not be able to see what residents post on the site — unless they’re specifically replying to a police post or including ACPD in a post.
The “neighborhood watch” functionality of Nextdoor — discussing crime and suspicious activity — is one of its most-touted features, but it has also subjected the company to criticism. Concerns about racial profiling on the site have bubbled up over the past year, in places like Oakland, California and Seattle, Washington. The phenomenon is not exclusive to Nextdoor — around the same time, some businesses in Georgetown were also accused of racial profiling on a different sharing app.
Chief Farr said the department will deal with such issues, if any arise, the same way it does on its other information-sharing platforms.
“Just like in the way you can post anything you want on our Facebook page or on our Twitter page, we don’t erase the negative comments, but we don’t engage in the negative commenting,” he said.
Porcelli said Nextdoor is aware of the issue and is working to combat it.
“We consider any kind of profiling absolutely unacceptable, and we take actions to address that with members who choose to participate in that way,” he said. “We’re working with our product to experiment with new ways to help people make sure what they’re communicating on the platform is neighborly, respectful and constructive.”
Porcelli noted that Nextdoor employees don’t monitor neighborhood activity, but said all members have the ability to flag messages they think are inappropriate. “Nextdoor leads” –neighborhood page founders and power users — also have the opportunity to remove such conversations.
At least in the case of Columbia Forest, Burgos-Stone said she hasn’t seen that kind of activity on the site.
“People are people, and people behave in certain ways, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the website,” she said. “I think it’s more important that people will feel safer and have accurate information when it comes to any kind of police activity in our area. Accurate information is the best information.”
County Apologizes for Political Facebook Post — Arlington County has taken down and apologized for a Facebook post that some called inappropriate. “No support or endorsement was intended” the county said of the post, which linked to an article about an Arlington County Democratic Committee resolution calling for a change to the Washington Redskins team name. [Facebook]
Arlington to Partner with Nextdoor — The Arlington County Police Department will be holding a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce a partnership with Nextdoor, a private social network for neighborhoods. The partnership will help “build stronger, safer communities with the help of Arlington residents.” Nextdoor has been criticized recently for becoming “a bastion of racial profiling.”
Bluemont Residents Concerned About Big Ballston Development — The Bluemont Civic Association is expressing concern over a massive proposed development on the western side of the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd. The development proposal calls for 483 apartments in a building with a grocery store and other ground floor retail. [Curbed]
Arlington-Built Satellite Blasts Off to Space Station — A tiny satellite built by elementary students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington is part of the cargo of a rocket that launched into orbit Sunday, bound for the International Space Station. [CBS News, Space.com]
‘Arlington Tech’ School Proposal — The Arlington School Board has signaled that it’s ready to move forward with the establishment of “Arlington Tech,” a high-technology coursework initiative to be located at the Arlington Career Center. [InsideNova]
Anti-Hunger Effort Draws Big Crowd — More than 1,000 people gathered at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center gym over the weekend to put together 100,000 meals for starving children around the world. [NBC Washington]
Arlington’s Official Song Turns 45 — “Arlington,” the official song of Arlington County, recently turned 45 years old. The song was written by a local clergyman and adopted as the county’s official song in 1970 with the encouragement of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf