Arlington, VA

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Two months beforethe July 8 flooding, a catastrophic and expensive sewer failure occurred not far from Amazon’s new HQ.

That May 5 sewer failure, combined with the multiple July 8 sewer failures, graphically illustrate Arlington’s lack of integrated long-range planning and investment in Arlington’s below ground infrastructure (e.g., sewer, storm water, water mains) even as new development continues to get a green light.

Arlington needs to provide its unsuspecting residents with a direct warning that theyare going to bear the costs of this situation until Arlington gets its act together.

May 5 sewer failure

Miriam Gennari and her husband own a rental property in South Arlington in 22202. That property is near Restaurant Row on 23rd St., and across from the Crystal Houses at 1900 S. Eads where building owners currently are petitioning the County to build 4-6 new buildings and add 798 new units, significantly increasing density.

Late on the evening of May 5, Gennari’s renters reported water in the basement. When Gennari arrived, she discovered 8 inches or more of raw sewage which filled the main basement area and utility room.

Recognizing this was not a backed-up toilet issue, Gennari called Arlington Waste Management’s emergency number (703-228-6555). County personnel arrived with equipment in less than an hour and a half. As shown in the photo below, they snaked the main sewer line.

Then, the liquid drained from the property, leaving a blanket of decaying grime all over the renters’ personal possessions, the interior structure and the mechanical systems of the home.

An Arlington County government representative gave Gennari and her husband a card acknowledging that the sewer discharge into this rental property was caused by a sewer main line back up. The discharge might well have been prevented by more frequent maintenance of trouble and grease spots.

The Gennaris first called their home insurance provider who denied their claim because that provider does not offer sewer-line backup coverage on rental properties.

“Our homeowners insurance carrier at the time told us that they do not even carry an option for such coverage on rental properties; if we had known, we would have found an insurance company that did. If County leaders only had explained how serious our infrastructure weaknesses were, many residents would be better prepared for system failures and the implications of climate change,” Gennari said.

The Arlington County government referred the Gennari’s damages claim to its third-party processor, PMA Companies. Gennari knew they were in deep trouble when the first question the PMA representative asked was “what was the cause of the clog,” signifying that any claim might depend on evidence that already had been washed down the drain.

Ultimately, PMA denied Gennari’s claim in a letter with two short paragraphs. PMA asserted that the claim had been denied based on the County’s sovereign immunity and lack of notice, and Gennari’s case had been closed. Gennari and her husband have been left to pay almost $20,000 in damages to repair and restore the premises. Gennari’s tenants similarly received only an apology for their losses.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Two recent columns discussing Arlington’s July 8 countywide flooding and Donaldson Run’s pollution and flood damage explained how the County’s development and construction policies and practices have increased impervious surfaces and resulted in the loss of mature trees. Combined, these factors have almost certainly heightened our flood risk and intensified the damage.

Today, I focus on the July 8 flood impacts on Lubber Run Park.

Lubber Run suffered severe flood damage on July 8

An Arlington resident captured the severe July 8 flood damage to Lubber Run and its park in a series of dramatic videos. This video depicts the destruction of one of the park’s pedestrian bridges, not far from the amphitheater.

Other videos capturing the July 8 flood’s ferocity are here, here, here, and here.

Traveling upstream, the videographer documents the severity of damage to the trail after the flood.

Several factors almost certainly compounded Lubber Run’s intense flooding on July 8.

  • Community Center construction: As part of the new Lubber Run Community Center’s construction, the County removed over 100 mature trees. Some of these trees were located on a steep grade and were within Lubber Run’s Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Area (RPA). Toward the end of 2018, every tree and every other living thing were removed from within the areas outlined in red (see image below) reproduced from Google maps:
  • Bridge replacement and sanitary sewer installation: At around the same time, the County replaced and widened the spans of the Carlin Springs bridge crossing George Mason Drive and installed new sanitary sewer infrastructure nearby. Both projects involved soil excavation and land disturbance in or near Lubber Run’s RPA. And the significant land disturbance associated with these projects likely exacerbated the stormwater runoff and flood damage to Lubber Run Park on July 8.
  • Ballston Pond “rehabilitation”: Further contributing to July 8’s flood intensity along Lubber Run is the still-incomplete restoration of the Ballston “Beaver” Pond (no beavers are in residence)–a project that has dragged on for years after this stormwater detention pond silted up and could no longer hold and filter large amounts of water. As part of the County’s plans to “retrofit” the pond, many trees and much of the existingvegetation will be removed and the sediment from the pond excavated. Since the pond no longer functions as designed, all the stormwater runoff from 300 urban and suburban acres flows directly downstream into Lubber Run without slowing down to settle out sediment or to filter contaminants from the water.

How the County fails to exercise regulatory powers it already possesses

The Arlington County Board’s repeated claims of powerlessness to take action to protect our environment ring hollow. Here is just one example of those claims.

While it is indeed true that some “rules” on some issues can only be made in Richmond, existing rules often permit adjustments to be made right here in Arlington–but only if County Board members are willing to seize these opportunities.

Stormwater management legislation offers a prime example. Arlington could do a lot more to protect our environment simply by exercising its existing regulatory authority under § 62.1-44.15:33 of the Virginia Code . This section grants Arlington powers to adopt more stringent regulations governing “existing water pollution including nutrient and sediment loadings, stream channel erosion, depleted groundwater resources, or excessive localized flooding within the watershed.”

Conclusion

Development, construction, increases in impervious surfaces, and the ongoing loss of mature tree canopy all exacerbate Arlington’s risk of severe flooding. As further discussed in July’s two columns, Arlington already possesses untapped powers to control each of these contributing factors.

Yet despite the tremendous damage that occurred on July 8, elected officials and staff continue to trot out “Act of God” or “flood of the century” arguments that inspire little confidence in local government.

Had Arlington fully exercised its existing regulatory powers, the damage to Lubber Run Park and other public and private assets almost certainly would have been far less.
Arlington was lucky that no lives were lost on July 8. Next time, there’s no guarantee.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

Image via Google Maps

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

In his column last week, Mark Kelly discussed the recent unfortunate Supreme Court decision (5-4) concluding that federal courts could not provide relief from partisan gerrymandering.

In her persuasive dissent in that case, Justice Kagan concluded:

“In the face of grievous harm to democratic governance and flagrant infringements on individuals’ rights — in the face of escalating partisan manipulation whose compatibility with this nation’s values and law no one defends — the majority declines to provide any remedy.”

Despite this Supreme Court decision, Virginia is on its way to less partisan redistricting

Like many other states, Virginia currently has a partisan redistricting system.

For at least twenty years–up until early this year, Republican leaders in the Virginia House of Delegates fought non-partisan redistricting. They wanted to retain their control and saw partisan redistricting as the best way to do it.

Many Democrats believed they would do better with non-partisan redistricting. But that did not stop some Democratic legislative leaders, like 28-year incumbent Democratic Senator “Dominion Dick” Saslaw, from spearheading the disastrous 2011 legislative deal under which Virginia Senate Democratic leaders gave Virginia House Republican leaders free reign to draw partisan Delegate lines while Virginia Senate Democratic leaders received free reign to draw partisan Senate lines.

Partisan redistricting has served us poorly. The reasons were explained convincingly by a group of 20 business leaders from Virginia, Maryland and DC in this January 2019 statement:

“The endemic dysfunction in our government stems from incentives in politics that promote ideological purity over pragmatic problem solving and cooperation. … We believe anti-gerrymandering measures are the logical starting point for reform, and they are urgently needed in both Maryland and Virginia. A system in which politicians pick their voters, rather than the other way around, is inherently wrong and dysfunctional. Partisan gerrymandering is a protection racket for incumbent politicians….”

Sweeping gains by Democrats in the 2017 Virginia House of Delegates elections, combined with the prospect that Republicans might lose control of one or both legislative houses in the 2019 general election, finally led the Virginia Republican House leadership to support a form of non-partisan redistricting.

With strong bi-partisan support, Virginia enacted a 2019 law that will lead to a less partisan redistricting system.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

As Arlington residents try to cope with the increasing frequency and severity of flooding, as outlined in last week’s column, a combination of code violations by Washington Golf & Country Club (WGCC), together with County errors and budget shortfalls, has polluted Donaldson Run and wreaked havoc on Zachary Taylor Park.

A WGCC course-redesign project has caused repeated, serious flows of mud and chemicals into Donaldson Run.

For months, mud and project-related chemicals from a WGCC course redesign project have run into Tributary A downstream of the bridge and into Donaldson Run. This Run flows under Military Road and becomes the stream flowing through the Potomac Overlook Regional Park (POP). (See December videos of Tributary C effluent from WGCC here and here and photo of mud ingress to clean Tributary A here.) POP is a 66-acre natural park with a Nature Center, streams and pathways for walking and hiking. Contamination of the streams poses a health risk to people and pets crossing the stream.

First observed by residents in June 2018, the matter was investigated by the VA Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) and deemed worthy of further oversight and penalties under Virginia law.

VADEQ then turned the matter over to Arlington County. According to sources at the Donaldson Run Civic Association, as of mid-July 2019, the County has identified six or seven serious violations, with fines against WGCC totaling somewhere between $11,000 and $15,000.

To its credit, the County has ordered that any golf course work related to renovating the course for purposes of play be suspended until the water flow in Tributary C has been stabilized. This is a consequential demand given the importance of the golf course to members.

On the other hand, the total financial penalties imposed as of this date are a pittance and are based on a staff interpretation of County codes limiting a fine for any “event” to $2,500. By contrast, if a private civil suit were to be initiated, the Virginia state code under which VADEQ operates states (at p.5) that “ultimately, civil charges and civil penalties cannot exceed the statutory maximum, usually $32,500 per day for each violation.”

To provide a real deterrent to future malfeasance, County code penalties for these kinds of environmental infractions should be increased substantially and scaled with inflation. Those revised, much higher penalties, also should be applied to destruction of important trees, currently limited to $2,500 per tree (County Code §67-8).

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com

Arlington’s massive July 8 flash flooding — vividly captured by ARLnow.com in videos and photos — exposes yet again Arlington’s failed approach to stormwater planning. That is the emergency Arlington also should have declared last week.

Preliminary County government stormwater-damage estimates set repair costs for public infrastructure, particularly bridges in local parks, at $4.1 million. Actual costs are likely to be much higher. Flood damage to private property will add millions more.

Climate change and sea level rise are here. Wake up, Arlington!

Arlington is in a floodplain

Make Arlington’s flood-prevention approach proactive

Arlington residents are suffering:

“Alexandra Lettow was near tears as she described the losses her family suffered from Monday’s flooding to neighbors and county officials gathered at a home in Arlington’s Waverly Hills neighborhood….

“She and other residents say the county government has taken far too long to study the problem without making any fixes, especially in an era where climate change is triggering more intense and frequent storms….

“Five years ago, several projects to fix Arlington’s aged storm drain system were on the capital improvements program list, only to quietly fall off without explanation. The repairs would have addressed Spout Run stream overflows in Waverly Hills.

Implement mitigation strategies now

County government has chosen not to exercise legal powers that Arlington already possesses to reduce our rapidly growing environmental threats.

Arlington’s land use and development practices — which the County Board controls — exacerbate increases in the speed and volume of stormwater runoff. Whether or not flooded areas lie in FEMA-designated floodplains is immaterial. Board members must acknowledge nature’s latest wake-up call by strengthening County codes and planning to address increasingly unsafe conditions in Arlington.

Slow dramatic increases in impervious surfaces

As Arlington redevelops and adds density, one statistic stands out: between 2001 and 2017, the percentage of impervious surfaces covering Arlington has grown from an estimated 40% to 45%, with 3% of that increase occurring within the past 4 years.

According to County staff, the pace and intensity of redevelopment adds nearly 9 acres of impervious surface area each year–about 29 acres every three to four years, equal to the size of the Pentagon’s footprint.

“Preserving undisturbed vegetative cover during land development is a much more cost- effective approach than destroying these features and having to construct new stormwater management practices to replace the functions they originally provided,” says the Center for Watershed Protection.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s conviction for having violated a federal bribery law spurred some small reforms to Virginia’s ethics laws, including a $100 cap on gifts to state legislators.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court, on somewhat narrow and technical grounds, overturned McDonnell’s conviction, ruling that his conduct didn’t violate the applicable federal bribery law.

However, even after the Supreme Court’s McDonnell decision, states like Virginia retained the power to enact state ethics laws. Virginia can decide whether politicians who do things like McDonnell did should be:

  • excused for doing something that is just part of the old-school “Virginia way,” or
  • subject to significant penalties for doing something that the community and a new legislative majority now believes is a conflict of interest or corrupt

We need further, more significant campaign finance and ethics reforms, but efforts to get them have failed so far. In the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions, when Democrats held only 34 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates (HOD), no such reforms were passed. And, even in the wake of the major Democratic HOD legislative gains in 2017, more significant reforms have been blocked by slim Republican majorities.

Democrats will need to take control of both legislative chambers this year to enable significant reforms to pass in 2020.

Campaign Finance Reform

In the recently concluded Democratic primaries for Commonwealth’s Attorney in Arlington and Fairfax counties, a PAC funded by George Soros contributed nearly $1 million dollars to the successful challengers. These contributions were legal under Virginia’s current campaign finance laws.
Our laws contain no campaign contribution limits.

Virginia’s campaign finance laws have been ranked 47th out of 50 in America, and received a grade of “F” from a State Integrity Investigation.

Three Democratic legislators (including Arlington Delegate Patrick Hope (D-47)) recently announced that they intend to introduce new legislation in the 2020 session substantially to reform these laws.

Their legislation will be modeled after an unsuccessful bill introduced in the 2019 session, and would “prohibit individuals and political action committees from making any single contribution, or any combination of contributions, that exceeds $10,000 to any one candidate” for statewide, General Assembly, or local offices, “of which no more than $5,000 may be contributed for the primary or other nominating event for the office the candidate is seeking.”

But wouldn’t such contribution limits violate the U. S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision? Maybe not. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to review a Court of Appeals ruling upholding Montana’s state campaign contribution limits. The Court of Appeals rejected a claim that Montana’s campaign contribution limits violated Citizens United.

The proposed new Virginia legislation co-sponsored by Delegate Hope would be a significant and desirable reform. But it is unlikely to pass unless Democrats take control of both legislative chambers this November.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

In April 2019, the Arlington County Board approved a new Public Open Spaces Master Plan (“POPS plan”). The POPS plan includes a commitment to “add at least 30 acres of new public space over the next 10 years.” Sadly, this commitment is merely an aspiration backed up by zero Arlington tax dollars.

Arlington’s Parks and Recreation Commission has rightly condemned (at p. 3) this lack of funding:

The commission is extremely disappointed with the lack of commitment by the county manager’s CIP [Capital Improvement Plan] proposal for park land acquisition funds… for the next ten years. This decision represents a retrenchment on established county policy to provide funds for strategic and opportunistic park land acquisition. As the county grows in population the need for open space opportunities, both for casual use and recreation purposes, and for natural resource preservation, continues to grow… [W]e believe that a proposal in line with what the current POPS process is proposing of acquiring 30 acres of land over the next 10 years must be supported with a realistic funding commitment…

Arlington continues to fall behind other localities and Arlington’s own prior practices in providing access to parkland

A comprehensive 2016 report from the Civic Federation (“Civ Fed report”) documents how Arlington has continued to fall behind other localities and Arlington’s own prior practices regarding:

  • ratio of parkland to population
  • dollars devoted to new parkland acquisition

The Civ Fed report explains (at p. 5):

As of 2015, Arlington County had 1,784 acres of parkland within its borders. Of those 1,784 acres, 949 acres were owned by Arlington County, 700 acres were owned by the National Park Service (most of which is Arlington Cemetery), and 135 acres were owned by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.

In 1995, Arlington County had 10.8 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. By 2014 the County’s population had grown by over 43,000 residents, and the parkland to population ratio had declined to 7.9 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.

By contrast, Washington, DC, has 13.2 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, and Fairfax County has 28.3 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.

The Civ Fed report also traces the history of Arlington’s declining investment in acquiring new parkland (at p. 3):

[B]etween 1995 and 2008, funding for parkland acquisition per two-year bond cycle was between $4.0 and $8.5 million, with most cycles at $8.5 million. Since then… there has been a decline…. Over the six years between 2008 and 2014, land acquisition bond funding totaled only $3.0 million, but [was]supplemented by a total of $5.47 million in pay-as-you go (PAYGO) annual budget allocations. Yet, the total funds of $8.47 million available for land acquisition during the latter six-year period was still far less than the $8.5 million that was typical for each two-year cycle between 1996 and 2004 (an eight-year period).

The next CIP must fully fund the open space acquisition targets in the POPS plan

In accordance with prior practice, all relevant County departments and agencies already are planning for the next CIP (covering fiscal years 2021-2030). The next CIP will be adopted one year from now.

Arlington County’s latest population growth forecast (Profile 2019) projects (at p. 5) that our population will rise from the current 226,400 to significantly more than 270,000 by 2040. Without allocating enough Arlington tax dollars for new open space acquisition, Arlington’s ratio of parkland to population will continue to degrade.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

In the wake of the mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has set July 9 for a special session of the Virginia legislature to consider new gun safety legislation.

Rising above political polarization

Gun violence, mass shootings, and what to do about them have been incredibly politically polarizing nationally and in Virginia. Calm, rational conversations in which people listen carefully to each other before inflexibly insisting upon their own points of view are rare. That’s a shame.

Sure, partisan politics are involved: Virginia Democrats are trying to take control of the legislature, Virginia Republicans are trying to retain control, and Governor Northam is trying to repair his reputation.

Nevertheless, our elected officials were elected to solve problems. Our tax dollars pay their salaries. We are entitled to a full public discussion, followed by up-or-down votes, on proposed key gun safety legislation because gun violence and mass shootings can kill any of us anytime.

Gun safety legislation that might be introduced by Democrats

Democratic Governor Northam is considering recommending legislation on the subjects discussed below, among others. If he or a Democratic legislator does so, that legislation should receive a full hearing and up-or-down votes on the floor at the special session.

Expand local options to prohibit guns in public buildings

Virginia localities like Arlington have very limited powers to regulate the use of guns. An analysis of the current law is here. Virginia law should be amended to give localities the option to limit the possession of guns in public buildings to only certain categories of owners (e.g., police officers).

Universal background checks

Private sellers of guns in Virginia are not required to conduct universal background checks. This loophole should be closed.

Virginia law should be amended to require private sellers to:

  • conduct background checks through a central law enforcement agency that has access to federal and state databases of prohibited purchasers
  • maintain records of all firearm transfers for a lengthy period
  • report all transfers to state and local law enforcement

Red-flag law

A red flag law permits police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves. Even Donald Trump has endorsed red flag laws. Unlike 15 other states, Virginia doesn’t have a red flag law. Virginia law should be amended to add one.

Reporting stolen firearms

Virginia does not require firearm owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm. Virginia law should be amended to require individuals to report to law enforcement the loss or theft of a firearm. Examples of laws like this that have been adopted by other states are available here.

One-a-month limits

Laws limiting the number of firearms an individual can purchase per month help reduce the number of guns that end up at the scene of a crime. For that reason, Virginia used to have a one-gun-a-month law. But Virginia repealed that law in 2012 at the request of the NRA. That law should be re-enacted.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

As ARLnow.com previously reported in 2015, the Arlington School Board unanimously amended its non-discrimination policy to add gender identity as a protected category.

The current version of that APS policy (J-2) is here.

Overwhelming health and scientific evidence support APS’ policy

The current SB policy is strongly supported by conclusions reached by prominent national health, scientific and educational organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, National Education Association, and National School Boards Association.

APS experience since 2015 underscores need for prompt adoption of implementation plan

Since the SB adopted its policy, there has been widespread confusion about how to implement it. Very inconsistent decisions about implementing the policy have been reached from one school to another.

The need for prompt adoption of an implementation plan is illustrated by the following actual situations APS students have faced:

  • a transgender student who was not comfortable using either the boys’ or girls’ locker room to change for P.E. was required to go down to the gym on the first floor to retrieve gym clothes from a P.E. teacher’s office, go up a flight of stairs to change in a private bathroom, then go back down the stairs in P.E. uniform to the gym for class… and then repeat this process in reverse after class
  • a teacher insisted that a student wear a skirt for band concerts, despite the student’s desire to wear the pants uniform (the student’s gender expression is masculine, she never wears skirts); the student ended up quitting band because the teacher would not relent
  • a non-binary student was left standing in the middle of the gym after the gym teacher divided up the students into boys’ and girls’ lines… and then had to instruct the teacher on what being non-binary means
  • a student had arranged with the administrators and PE teachers that he could use the PE teachers’ bathroom for changing. Halfway through the school year, one of the PE teachers (not the student’s) no longer liked the arrangement, and the child lost that option
  • students have been harassed by both staff members and other students while using the bathroom; some students have had staff and other students try to block them from entering a bathroom
  • students have avoided using the bathroom at school, due to both fear of harassment and inconvenience; students have avoided drinking water so that they can make it through the day without needing the bathroom
  • students have not been allowed to change their gender or name on school forms and records, even after getting a court ordered name change or new birth certificate
  • a transgender student was diagnosed with PTSD because of bullying and abuse from peers

These examples illustrate why it is vital for APS staff to adopt a formal policy implementation procedure (PIP). This is a K-12 issue. The PIP will lead to more consistency throughout schools, more understanding on the part of staff and parents, and more training for staff on best practices in supporting transgender and non-binary students.

Summary of draft PIP

The draft PIP that APS staff is proposing to adopt is discussed in the ARLnow story and posted here. It is supported by the overwhelming health and scientific evidence cited above.

Key topics covered by the draft PIP include definitions of “gender identity” and “transgender;” bathrooms and locker rooms; co-curricular and extra-curricular activities and athletic team student participation; dress code; extended instructional field trips or athletic events; names, pronouns, and classroom records; and privacy and educational records.

If this draft PIP had been in effect and properly implemented over the last four years, the traumatic incidents APS students experienced could have been avoided.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

As ARLnow.com reported in March, the Arlington County government is considering “long standing space issues” at the Trades Center.

The Trades Center is an approximately 38-acre complex located at the intersection of S. Arlington Mill Drive and S. Taylor Street. Arlington County owns approximately 32 acres of the site and approximately 6 acres are owned by APS.

The Trades Center complex consists of multiple buildings and utility structures used for various so called “back office” Arlington County government operations. The County departments that use the site include DES, DPR, ACPD, and ACFD. APS occupies space for bus storage and other facilities and operations.

A current aerial view of the Trades Center site is here.

As the County told ARLnow:

[T]he “siting of operations and offices developed when space was abundant. Now, room for growth is limited given the developed surrounding area, while service levels have increased in size and complexity”…

The Trades Center optimization study

To address its pressing space issues, the County just launched what it describes as a “Trades Center Optimization Study” designed to analyze existing programs and current and future programmatic needs.

The study is supposed to benchmark the County’s current programs and practices against those of similar municipalities. The study is intended to:

  • develop a concept plan to optimize business functions and operations on the site
  • present three alternative concept site plans
  • develop a cost estimate for the chosen site plan, with phasing of identified priorities over a 5 to 15-year period

The County says that the study will engage internal and external stakeholders and utilize feedback from stakeholders to inform recommendations.

Study consultant

The County has retained Stantec, a major consulting firm, to advise it about aspects of the study. According to a draft of the scope of work, Stantec will provide recommendations on a wide range of matters, including:

  • meet all current and future (next 15-30 years) programmatic requirements
  • incorporate co-location and “building up not out” principles
  • focus on core functions that must reside at the Trades Center
  • consider only the current footprint
  • mitigate impacts on neighbors to the extent possible

Promising things about the study

The County deserves credit for including these promising concepts in the study design:

  • long-range planning horizon (15-30 years)
  • request to present a minimum of 3 concept plans rather than just one
  • early introduction of costs into the equation

This study presents a welcome opportunity for the County to improve on its prior practices regarding long range planning and civic engagement.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

I enthusiastically support incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos for the Democratic nomination in the June 11 primary.

What is the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s role?

Unlike Virginia State Senators or Delegates who make Virginia laws and policies, Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorneys must operate within the complex framework of hundreds of criminal laws and policies established in Richmond.

Under Virginia’s Constitution, our Commonwealth’s Attorney is the chief criminal trial attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, responsible for prosecuting a full range of criminal cases, ranging from driving under the influence to murder. The office has 17 attorneys, 11 support staff and 7 victim/witness specialists who work daily preparing and prosecuting cases.

How is our criminal justice system working?

Arlington is a public safety success story. Crime rates have been brought to record lows. And, we’ve reduced crime without filling up the Arlington County Detention Center (our jail). In Sheriff Beth Arthur’s recent endorsement of Stamos, Arthur notes that the Arlington jail has “an all-time-low population averaging 370 inmates a day.” Arlington also has diversionary programs that benefit drug addicts, the mentally ill and juveniles.

Why Theo Stamos is the best choice for Arlington

As the County’s top prosecutor, Stamos has a deep understanding of Virginia law and a wealth of local criminal trial experience. Our Commonwealth’s Attorney must appear in court nearly every day, where experience and institutional knowledge are key. When not in court, Stamos spends much of her day monitoring, advising and mentoring her line prosecutors on the many felony and other cases they handle.

Theo Stamos has already proven herself up to the task. She has literally tried every type of criminal case and has overseen the Arlington/Falls Church Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the past 8 years. An active member of the Arlington County Bar Association, the statewide Virginia State Bar Council, and committees on best practices for prosecutors, Stamos is also active in our community — a member of Arlington’s NAACP branch and a member of Organized Women Voters.

As our top prosecutor, Stamos reflects Arlington’s core community values. She is decent, honest, engaged, independent, and fair. As someone who has known and worked with Theo Stamos for many years, I can attest that she embodies all these qualities, including a dash of humor, humility, and humanity.

Criminal defense attorney David Deane (Stamos’s opponent in the 2011 Democratic primary for Commonwealth’s Attorney) recently published a letter of support:

My law practice takes me to many jurisdictions; her open-door policy is something other offices around the commonwealth should emulate. She is always willing to engage in a dialogue about a case and to truly listen when defense counsel from both the court-appointed and private bar approach her with issues.

Theo Stamos has worked tirelessly to improve the criminal justice system in Arlington for victims as well as those who stand accused:

  • Chairs Arlington’s Sexual Assault Response Team and works with Project PEACE to address domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Led the creation of a state-of-the-art, sexual assault and intimate partner violence protocol that serves as a model for the Commonwealth
  • Initiated Arlington’s adult diversionary Drug Court 7 years ago
  • Started the Second Chance diversionary program for juveniles
  • Helped launch Operation Safe Station, giving drug addicts a way to turn in their drugs and get treatment without fear of arrest and prosecution

Why Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is seeking the wrong job in the wrong place

Dehghani-Tafti has almost exclusively post-conviction appellate experience, but seeks a job requiring extensive trial experience.

The most up-voted comment to a recent ARLnow.com story also captures why Dehghani-Tafti is the wrong choice:

The Soros-supported Parisa Dehghani-Tafti seems to be running a campaign based on principles espoused by progressives on the national level, without realizing that she’s in the wrong jurisdiction. She wants to “reform” Arlington’s criminal justice system… Tafti seems to be trying to reform Ferguson, MO, by running for Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. It doesn’t make sense. — oscar

Conclusion

Theo Stamos is a dedicated public servant with a proven record as a principled and progressive prosecutor. I wholeheartedly endorse her re-election. You can learn more about Stamos’ candidacy here.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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