Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.
By Arlington Blue Families parents
The cloud that passed over this country on Nov. 8, 2016 has brought with it a decidedly silver lining in the form of an energized progressive movement.
Nowhere is this energy more indispensable than with parents and their children who are coming of age in the Age of Trump.
Family is where moral and civic values first are learned. The core progressive values of empathy, tolerance, openness to new ideas and reason are under assault from our own federal government, and we parents can resist this attack through this easy three-step program.
Step one: Let’s talk values!
We can teach progressive values by connecting what our kids are experiencing in their day-to-day lives with the daily news. This, in turn, can encourage our children to be smarter news consumers. For example:
- The latest #MeToo moment can lead to a discussion of how our children interact with their peers, from cyber bullying to dating.
- Recent extreme weather and the current administration’s denial of climate change can spark a discussion of scientific evidence and facts as a basis for making decisions.
- The criticisms of immigrants can lead to a discussion of your own family’s heritage and the diverse backgrounds of your children’s friends.
If you don’t already have a paper or online newspaper subscription, get one. Encourage your kids to interrupt their Minecraft YouTube videos long enough to consume 20 minutes of genuine news each day. Just about any news event can be turned into an age-appropriate teachable moment at the dinner table. Such discussions create a safe space for debate, disagreement and critical thinking.
Step two: Let’s get engaged!
Being a good citizen is a proactive commitment, not a passive privilege. Now that we’ve started a dinner table conversation and connected national events to our core values and everyday lives, it’s time to look outward and model civic engagement.
We’re in the DC metro area, and every weekend a protest is likely to be a short Metro or Uber ride away. We still remember the pro-choice rallies that our parents took us to when we were kids.
Nothing inspires engagement quite like seeing thousands of people in the streets demanding change. We hope that decades from now, our own kids look back the same way on the Women’s March, March for Our Lives and Climate March.
But all the protests in the world won’t matter if we don’t vote, and it is never too early to show your kids that their votes count. We want people with progressive values to be elected to help put those very progressive values in place. So take kids into the voting booth with you, and not just for presidential elections. In Arlington, we have primaries every spring and important elections every November.
Read about the third step after the jump.
Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.
By Elaine Furlow
When Dale and Janet Oak shifted into semi-retirement, they got ready to sell their big Arlington home of 25 years and find a space that better suited their needs.
“We looked at condos in Rosslyn, but they did not seem like ‘us,'” Janet Oak recalled.
Nor was the frenetic pace in Clarendon, or the dense cityscape in much of Ballston.
“We didn’t want to put all our equity into the next place, and it was hard to find that middle ground.” The Oaks wound up in a relatively new condo building in an area “that is walkable to shops, quiet and fits our lifestyle,” Janet Oak said.
It’s in Falls Church.
As comfortable middle-class baby boomer homeowners in Arlington get ready for their next stage, many are planning on 20+ years of active living ahead. After hard-charging careers, they have time, talents and money to keep investing in Arlington.
Some may want to downsize their homes, but often, it’s a matter of “right-sizing” — leaving behind aging brick colonials with stairs or 4-bedroom houses with too much upkeep.
Renovating one’s current home to age-in-place is not always feasible, yet options aren’t great. Small, quality houses with one-floor living are scarce. And most townhouses have many stairs, a big minus as boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) think of aging knees and hips down the road.
“I know what’s out there, and it is bleak,” said Karen Close, a long-time real estate agent with Century 21. “Arlington doesn’t have a plan to deal with boomers.”
Arlington should be more alert to this need, so it doesn’t lose these successful contributors to our county. Non-boomers have a stake, too, since new solutions might free up our tight single-family housing stock. Can innovative builders/developers and far-sighted leaders envision a different, more livable type of home?
Older adults planning ahead are looking for one-floor living, a flat outside entry, quality construction, wide doorways, ample storage and features with the future in mind (like a large, walk-in shower with a bench).
Oh, and a reasonable price and attractive exterior.
“Wouldn’t you love something with the look of a townhouse, but built with single levels or with elevators, so you don’t have to do stairs,” Janet Oak said.
Yes, it’s tough to find the land. Yet we could repurpose (and likely rezone) certain commercial space. Imagine that attractive, well-built bank building, now empty, as the centerpiece of a modest-sized, innovative condo development.
Builders and developers could incorporate the desired features without drifting into “senior-only” territory since well-designed small-footprint homes will work for many ages. And most boomers also would like to keep interacting with a mix of neighbors, including school kids.
Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.
By Susan Robinson
After a long and difficult budget process, County and School Board members, staff and citizens heave a sigh of relief and move on. Decision makers balanced demands for services against limited resources. But still, Arlington faces some persistent headwinds:
- High commercial vacancy rates
- Growth in the number of current and projected schoolchildren
- Lack of land for school and county buildings, fields and open space
The county manager warns that population and inflationary pressures will require service modifications, efficiencies and likely increases in taxes and fees next year.
No doubt staff is hard at work looking for better ways of implementing services. Yet with the perspective of a finance professional who knows Arlington civic life well, I offer four suggestions to do things differently and change smartly.
Public participation in decision-making defines Arlington — but at a cost in dollars, time and focus. The two Boards and their staffs struggle to consider input while managing multiple time-consuming processes. A rumor that developers and contractors add significantly to their cost estimates on Arlington projects to cover the time of rounds of citizen engagement is believable.
The County recently developed a public engagement plan, a good first step. Here are a few additional suggestions.
- Being up front and clear about who is making each decision and when.
- Examine the role and effectiveness of the 50-plus county commissions. Streamline as needed.
- Use new procurement methods authorized by the state to retain the best of citizen engagement without increasing the bureaucracy and cost.
- Fellow citizens: engage without assuming you’ll get your own way but rather that you’ll improve the outcome for all.
Land Acquisition and Reuse
Two Arlington challenges — lack of land and the high commercial vacancy rate — may combine to create an opportunity. The county should be proactively acquiring land. Good examples are the County’s acquisition of Shirlington property and the schools’ purchase of a foreclosed house.
The County is developing a property acquisition policy; APS should do likewise. While most vacant commercial buildings are not appropriate for schools, they could be repurposed for many non-instructional uses.
We must also optimize our current facilities. For instance, before moving more vehicles and operations to new locations, the Trade Center should be redesigned to increase its current capacity.
Achievable Long-Term Plans
The County and APS have a long history of planning for the future. Each plan sets up high expectations. But while schools have a new Strategic Plan and the County has its Comprehensive Plan, all are essentially aspirational. The path to achieve them isn’t clear. Annual prioritized actions are in short supply. And when one goal collides with another, there seems little strategic sense of what takes top place.
Sharper strategic thinking and good implementation results in success. Remember President John Kennedy’s famous call to action in 1961: “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon.” Many people forget the second part of that, “…and returning him safely to the Earth.”
Arlington needs to think through the entire path of what we are trying to achieve–and then focus more clearly on developing realistic timelines for implementation.
By Rip Sullivan
Imagine this: a family of three living in Arlington County. The father and mother work hard at hourly wage jobs, cleaning hotel rooms and working at a fast food restaurant to try to make ends meet.
Together they make $18,000 a year — someone needs to be home at all times to watch over their very young daughter. Neither parent receives health insurance from their employer, and unfortunately they make “too much” to qualify for Virginia’s Medicaid program. These parents are stuck in what is known as the “coverage gap.”
Here in Arlington, approximately 7,000 of our citizens — our neighbors — are stuck in the coverage gap, according to the Commonwealth Institute. Virginia is ranked 13th worst in the country on percentage of population that is uninsured, and 8th worst in the number of people uninsured.
Having some of the country’s most restrictive Medicaid requirements doesn’t help. For instance, childless adults are not eligible. Neither are elderly or disabled people with incomes above 80 percent of the federal poverty level, or $15,273 for a family of three.
Being insured provides critical benefits not only to the individual with health care coverage, but to society at large. Cash-strapped hospitals save money by reducing the amount of uncompensated care, and individuals get preventive care before requiring expensive trips to the ER.
How can we shrink the number of uninsured in Virginia and help those in the coverage gap? Expand Medicaid now.
Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates in 2017 made Medicaid expansion a major part of our platform in districts across the Commonwealth. In November’s wave election — in which Democrats flipped 15 seats in the House and retained the Governor’s seat — voters made it clear that health care accessibility was a priority.
In a CNBC exit poll, nearly 70 percent of Virginia voters said that health care “was the most important or a very important issue in deciding whom to vote for as governor,” and a Washington Post poll found that health care was the number one priority for 39 percent of voters, the highest of all categories considered. A December 2017 NPR poll found that 70 percent of Virginians support Medicaid expansion.
Virginians are ready for more of their neighbors to get Medicaid coverage. So what’s the hold up?
Last week, the House of Delegates passed — for the second time — a budget that included Medicaid expansion. The breakthrough came from a compromise between House Republicans and Democrats and the governor.
This agreement would include work requirements (with several exceptions that would exempt a large percentage of the affected population), small contributions from enrollees, and permission for the Northam administration to seek a federal waiver to find ways to stabilize and make health insurance exchanges more affordable.
By Stacy Snyder
Repetition is part of the process I follow as a potter.
My work involves making cups, plates, platters, bowls and vases over and over again. Since there are handmade objects made of clay, each is different, and I frequently find myself having to solve problems. Why did that plate crack? Why did that plate crack again?
Sometimes the problems are within my control, and can be solved easily with a minor repair, and sometimes I am put in a situation where I am forced to have to rethink the way I am working and may need a wholesale rethinking of processes.
Having a problem to solve can be a positive thing. It can lead in a direction that enables me to learn new approaches so I can move my ideas forward in a way I had not thought of before.
It is from this perspective that I view the challenges that Arlington faces with building and planning for new schools. From my experience as chair of the APS Advisory Council on School Facilities and Capital Programs (FAC), here are my thoughts on how to strengthen and streamline the way Arlington builds new schools.
Our school system has added more than 8,000 students since 2007. Over the next decade, APS is planning to add at least two elementary schools, a middle school and 1,300 high school seats as 5,500 more students arrive.
At the same time both the School Board and the County Board are struggling with decisions to close budget deficits and keep bond and capital improvement requests reasonable. So finding money and land for building new schools is challenging.
Given future enrollment growth and facility needs, every school construction decision today needs to be made with a tough, clear-eyed view on how it impacts the long-term seat needs of our entire school system and our budget.
Approving a project over budget without understanding how and where funds will be found or what the impacts may be on other projects — such as the recent Reed project at $6 million over its $49 million budget — is unsustainable.
In my potter’s studio, it would be a mistake for me to continue using the same process if I knew that the outcome would be that darn plate cracking again. Same with school construction issues. It is time to look for new ways of addressing the issues using innovative, collaborative and forward thinking.
Beginning now to prepare for the future with a long-range planning vision will help us to manage community expectations, make early tradeoffs to keep projects on budget and ensure schools in the construction pipeline are treated fairly.
We must look for efficiencies in every part of the planning and building process. In Arlington it can take up to five years to open a new school.
By Kelley Coyner
When I first came to Arlington as a college student I stayed to launch a career, lured my city-centric fiancé to the suburbs and returned from graduate studies and other adventures. Back then Metro worked and walking and driving worked pretty well for me and my husband.
Over time, that changed. We added three children (now in their teens and 20s) to the mix, expanded our friendships across ages, focused our professional lives locally and adopted a lighter car diet — primarily for financial reasons.
Like others, we soon realized that even as Arlington pressed forward with travel options, things did not work so well for families with young children, for school-age kids and for older adults.
Want to use a car share to make the deadline for extended day or preschool pickup? Beware there is no car seat.
Your teens work after school or help with younger children? Teens may be able to take a school bus on a fixed schedule. But their independent travel is limited by the lack of cross-county north-south bus service.
Even walking and biking to school and to Metro is hampered by competing views of the value of sidewalks, safety concerns about biking and more.
Eager to get to sports practice, theater rehearsals, tutoring or dance lessons? If it’s not an after-school event, getting around is hard without a culture of carpooling or ways for older kids to get themselves where they need to go.
Although it has been a while since I had a preschooler, I still get flagged down in Ballston with the question, “Aren’t you the lady who used to carry a booster seat on your back?”
In the year we lived carless, our family started the transportation day waiting at the bus stop in a busy construction zone. Why the booster seat? On the way back to pick the kids up from school, I would snag a Zip Car to make the six o’clock pickups at Key School and at preschool in Clarendon.
More than 10 years later, car sharing still is not helpful for a family with carseat kids. Seems like if car shares can find a way to add bike racks, they could figure out something for car seats.
By Sally J. Duran
Arlington is a dynamic place and a lot of economic development happens within our small borders.
Our economy is fortunate to be powered by technology and innovation companies, federal government agencies, higher education institutions, small businesses like neighborhood coffee shops and big newcomers like Nestle.
However, maintaining a robust and diversified local economy doesn’t just happen; it requires a progressive development strategy that holistically considers many aspects of our community. How does Arlington stay resilient and attractive through all kinds of challenges? How do we ensure both large and small businesses stay competitive – and viable – for the future? What does it truly mean to have “progressive development” in a local economy?
It’s something Arlington has faced many times over the years, and it’s something we at the Economic Development Commission (EDC), a citizen advisory commission set up to monitor Arlington’s economy and make policy recommendations to the County Board, often consider when planning for the future.
Arlington has a growing technology sector and diversified corporate community along with the federal government, commercial business, non-profit and international communities. It’s no surprise that Arlington has access to one of the most educated and sought after workforces in the nation.
Our balanced and stable fiscal base allows for highly competitive tax rates that in turn provide world-class services and amenities to Arlington residents, businesses and visitors. The high incomes and low unemployment rates of our residents enable us to attract quality cultural events, excellent restaurants and varied retail establishments.
We have a long tradition of welcoming those from around the globe, and Arlington is supportive of varied lifestyles.
Our attractive economic landscape hasn’t just happened; it’s the result of careful planning, community engagement and aggressively addressing challenges such as those that arose in the past decade.
In 2008, the EDC created an economic development strategic plan to address the significant impact to the county’s commercial vacancy rate that resulted from the federal government’s decision to relocate federal tenants out of leased space in Arlington.
What we didn’t realize at the time was that subsequent federal government budget reductions would further erode the federal presence in Arlington. Equally significant changes were happening in the private sector. New ways of working — teleworking, 3rd spaces, hoteling, etc. — would shrink the per worker footprint in our office buildings across all markets and transform the definition of “workplace.” Clearly, we faced challenges that were neither fully anticipated nor understood a decade ago.
Nonetheless, Arlington’s economic development strategy has evolved thoughtfully in response to these changing dynamics. As a result of careful planning, we’ve maintained Arlington’s triple-AAA bond rating and balanced fiscal base with an approximate 50/50 commercial/residential split in property taxes — which is what’s key to Arlington’s economic prosperity.
By Laura Saul Edwards
Arlingtonians used to say that rising enrollment in our public schools was “a good problem to have.”
The catchphrase emphasizes the drawing power of the high quality instruction and student achievement at APS.
But these days, unprecedented enrollment growth, a shortage of seats and limited land for new school construction pose major challenges.
Fresh thinking and problem solving are needed as we face a space squeeze for schools — and for play space and other recreational needs. Building up — not out — is one solution. And building usable green space on rooftops has emerged as another promising option.
On the plus side, green roofs provide space for recreation and athletics when there is little to no available space for these activities at ground level. Just as important, they provide students with the chance to look at trees, plants and other natural amenities instead of industrial rooftops sprouting air conditioning units.
In this way, green roofs serve an environmental purpose while providing students with landscaped areas that can be used as a teaching tool, recreational areas for athletics and fitness and space for special events and programming.
For instance, in Rosslyn on a cramped urban site, construction is progressing rapidly on the new home of the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, opening in September 2019. With seven floors, this facility will be Arlington Public Schools’ tallest building to date.
These massive rooftop terraces on four levels include one large enough to accommodate the equivalent of three basketball courts. These terraces create more functioning space on this small site with its compressed ground-level athletic field than would otherwise be possible if the new school were simply a multi-story box.
The rooftop terraces on top of the fanning bars of this modern building (picture a spread deck of playing cards) are a radical departure from the large, grassy suburban campus. Currently the programs are located with a traditional school building, full growth trees and acres of space for Ultimate Frisbee games.
But most people involved in reviewing the unique fanning bars design with its innovative rooftop terraces agreed that it made moving to the urban location more palatable. And the move also made space possible for a sorely needed middle school on H-B Woodlawn’s old site.
As green rooftops take hold in design nationwide, architects are learning how to lower the cost while addressing concerns with maintenance and drainage. Green rooftops can’t be the answer everywhere because each project and site is different.
Yet, given Arlington’s scrunch for space, even the most unlikely sites are being snapped up and creatively re-envisioned, often bringing a plus for the environment.
Imagine the old Alpine restaurant on Lee Highway – vacant for eight years – torn down and replaced by a three-story glass-paneled contemporary building for The Children’s School, a non-profit pre-school.
Imagine two secure rooftop green decks, where kids can safely run and play. A tree buffer to the residential area to the south. Open air, sunshine and a revitalized stretch of land.
By Anne O’Brien
Child care in Arlington costs more than college–and not all families are lucky enough to find a spot.
Fortunately, the county is beginning to address the issue, with a Child Care Initiative that aims to increase the accessibility, availability and quality of child care in Arlington.
The average cost of infant care at a child care center in Arlington is $24,390 per year, according to a comprehensive analysis of child care in the county. That’s more than a year of in-state tuition, fees and room and board at Virginia Tech.
While home-based infant care is cheaper, averaging $16,929 per year, and the cost drops a bit as kids get older, child care remains a huge expense for Arlington families. That’s true for middle-class families (the median income of a family of four here is $108,600) but painfully true for our most vulnerable populations.
And child care expenses compete with money needed for transportation, food and a mortgage or rent.
In addition, there is a significant shortage of child care slots in Arlington. Nearly 70% of Arlington’s children under five live in a household where all parents work — but the county only has enough licensed full-time spots for about 33% of them. In some households, parents work nontraditional hours, or there is a language barrier or child with special needs — all of which can make it harder to find a quality child care option.
Enter nannies, au pairs, arrangements between friends and family, and hard decisions to leave small children with people who don’t have a license or other tangible child care qualification.
Also, enter withdrawal from the workforce. For some parents, there is not a choice–the high cost of quality child care or the inability to access it means that parents must give up jobs they love, impacting their earnings potential, future employability, retirement planning and mental health. It also means that valuable employees leave the companies that rely on them.
Consider the approximately 1,400 young Arlington children who live at or below the federal poverty level. Some of these children live in two-parent homes making the tough choices mentioned above. Others live in single-parent homes where no child care means no job.
What about child care subsidies for lower-income parents? State subsidies do exist, offering parents access to child care while working and gaining skills that can ultimately lead to higher income, allowing families to move off public assistance. Some families in Arlington use such subsidies, but others who qualify do not.
There is regularly a waitlist due to insufficient funds. Plus, few of Arlington’s providers accept subsidies, in part because a subsidy doesn’t cover the market rate for child care and state payments are sometimes delayed. There is also the “chicken and egg” issue: to qualify for a subsidy, you must have a job; to have a job, you must have child care.
So what needs to happen to make child care more affordable in Arlington?
By Brook Schaeffler, Emma Johnston and Cynthia Dillon
Today, the gun control movement is larger than ever because angry teenagers across the nation — students like us — are demanding change.
This growing movement was sparked by the tragedy that occurred on February 14 at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla. The 17 lives that were mercilessly taken there brought to light the epidemic of firearm violence caused by easy access to guns and inadequate enforcement of gun control laws.
As students, recent events leave us feeling vulnerable to the consequences of lenient gun control laws. We feel it is our duty to take a stand against what we believe to be an unsafe situation. To make our voices heard, we participated in a Teens for Gun Control Reform protest outside the White House on February 19 and afterward found ourselves on the front page of The New York Times.
We participated in student-organized walkouts from school on February 21 and March 14. We are using social media to contact like-minded students in Arlington, Parkland and across the nation to organize, develop messages, share support and offer housing for students traveling to Washington, D.C., to work for change.
We also will participate in the March for Our Lives on March 24 to focus attention on school safety and show those who oppose stricter gun control laws that we, among many other students nationwide, are ready to take a firm stand for overdue change.
Kids across the country should be able to attend school without being in constant fear for their lives. Yet, as noted in the Washington Post, the FBI reports that education settings such as K – 12 schools and college campuses are the second most common location for active shooters. Despite each of the horrific school shootings in the past and the most recent tragedy in Florida, little effort has been made to put an end to the gun violence.
Indeed, compared to other countries, obtaining a gun of any sort in the United States is particularly easy. Countries such as Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom have imposed much stricter laws on guns than in the United States and these restrictions have led to fewer guns in the hands of civilians and fewer mass shootings in these countries.
School is supposed to be a safe place, yet today getting an education is one of the many things put at risk by our nation’s pervasive and irresponsible gun culture. Although we are aware that complete reform will not happen overnight, we hope that students like us are willing to continue taking action for as long as necessary.
We encourage the President, Congress, the Governor and General Assembly to take time to understand the fears students face and then do something meaningful about it. They need to enact laws that protect people, not guns.
Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations of ARLnow.com
By Graham Weinschenk
On March 23, 2017, three young women from Wakefield High School attended the Arlington School Board meeting.
They spoke articulately about their experiences with school psychologists that Arlington Public Schools provides to assist them: one referred to her school psychologist’s office as a “place of refuge”; another spoke of how important the counselor was to her friend who she later lost to suicide; the third emphasized the impact the psychologist had on de-stigmatizing mental health concerns.
Last year, APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy proposed postponing the addition of more school psychologists and social workers (despite a three-year plan to increase the number of these specialists) because of budget concerns, prompting these students to speak out. Due in part to the efforts of these young women, the superintendent found the savings elsewhere.
This year, the addition of more school psychologists and social workers is on the chopping block again. This would be an incredibly huge mistake.
For each of these students, there are many more with similar experiences. According to the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 70% of high school students described being stressed “often or very often.”
Nearly 1 in 5 high school students reported being bullied in the past year, and 1 in 4 believe that bullying is a problem in their school. Of those bullied in high school, 14% identified sexual orientation or identity as a cause, and 22% identified race as a cause. About 53% identified “appearance” as a cause. Students could check as many causes as applied to their personal situation. Furthermore, 1 in 6 high school students inflicted acts of self-harm on themselves, 1 in 5 considered suicide, and 1 in 20 actually attempted suicide.
Stress can compound over the years and often leads to long-term anxiety. School psychologists and social workers have the ability to counter this, to help us cope with our issues. By providing a safe and accessible place for students to voice their concerns, school psychologists and social workers have the power not only to counter bullying and excessive stress, but also to recommend ways for healing and growing.
If a student is in a crisis, a school psychologist or social worker is an essential “first responder” who can help save the day be coordinating profession psychological care outside of the school or providing care themselves.
The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one psychologist for every 500 to 700 students. The planned expansion for FY 2019 would have moved the ratio of psychologists and social workers to students from 1:1,650 to 1:775. While this translates into a significant improvement in the availability of services for students, the superintendent’s requested delay would unfortunately leave many students underserved and at risk for at least another year.
Ultimately, it is the School Board’s budget and the School Board’s decision. In tough budget times, school psychologists and social workers might be considered a luxury. In reality, they are a crucial part of a frontline team of teachers, administrators, and parents that can help students when help is needed.
The 2020 Census is probably not anybody’s idea of a sexy topic. But ensuring an accurate 2020 Census count is vital to both getting the number of congressional seats a state deserves and to the day to day effective functioning of government.
As we currently sit, the upcoming 2020 Census is going to be a disaster.
The 2020 Census brings with is a technological redesign that relies on “many new and modified IT systems.” These changes include encouraging respondents to use the Internet and telephone instead of a paper survey, relying more heavily on local data, and using field technology to minimize data and increase productivity.
While these technological advances should make the census more cost efficient and accurate in the long run, the proprietary designs of the technology have been costly with well documented difficulties in implementation. This is in addition to the leadership vacuum created when former Census Director John H. Thompson resigned in the summer of 2017. The Trump administration has not yet appointed anyone to fill the position.
Beyond the institutional challenges are the societal concerns that could depress responses to a census questionnaire: cybersecurity threats, the climate of fear among immigrant communities regardless of their documented status and the growing digital divide between urban and rural areas and between wealthy and poor communities.
Why does this all matter?
First the Constitution requires a census every 10 years and declares it the official number for state populations in determining congressional representation. If the census undercounts individuals, a state could get less representation than it is entitled to.
The census has historically undercounted low-income households and households where English is not the first language. While Arlington is a largely affluent jurisdiction, an estimated 9 percent of Arlingtonians live in poverty. Moreover, a language other than English is spoken in nearly 30 percent of Arlington households.
Second, the federal government often relies on census data in allocating funding to state and local governments. More than 130 federal programs rely on census data to distribute funding to the states, including Medical Assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP or food stamps), Highway Planning and Construction, Special Education grants and Head Start. In 2015, the Commonwealth of Virginia received more than $10.2 billion from census-guided federal grant programs, which was approximately 20 percent of the state budget that year.
With the rapid population growth in Arlington and Northern Virginia over the past decade, an inaccurate census could lead to lower revenue to the Commonwealth to implement crucial programs.
What can we do?
First, we need to urge Congress to fully fund the 2020 Census. Last fall, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross requested the Census Bureau’s budget be increased by $187 million in FY 2018 to address some of the technological needs; however, that request did not include additional funding for the Integrated Partnership and Communications program that is crucial in addressing factors that may depress the census response rate.
By Alfonso Lopez
Last week the Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill, HB 1257, to prohibit any locality in Virginia from adopting an ordinance, procedure or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.
While that may sound reasonable to some Virginians, it ignores the complicated relationship between federal, state and local law enforcement with regard to immigration and contradicts Arlington policy. It also ignores the urgent need for immigrants to feel comfortable and confident in talking to law enforcement after a crime has occurred.
When immigrant victims and witnesses fear law enforcement, crimes go unsolved and perpetrators go free. Across Virginia, service-providers working with immigrant victims — and law enforcement investigating crimes involving immigrant victims and witnesses — report the significant obstacles this fear poses to the criminal justice system’s ability to transform crimes into convictions.
Domestic violence, sexual assault and street robberies are just a few of the types of violent crimes that routinely go unreported and unsolved. This public safety crisis needs to be addressed to keep criminals from taking advantage of the fear that is running rampant in Virginia’s immigrant communities.
Current policy in Arlington prevents victims and witnesses of crimes from being asked about their immigration status when speaking with the police, unless that information is directly relevant to the crime being investigated. This policy was put into place to keep Arlington law enforcement from having to shoulder the burden of federal immigration laws.
Arlington’s policy is also particularly designed to strengthen community policing — a style of policing that establishes a familiar, on-the-ground presence for law enforcement among residents — by ensuring that residents who are concerned about their immigration status are not afraid to report criminals and assist prosecutors in investigating criminal activity.
Furthermore, consistent with an advisory opinion released in January 2015 by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office is not required to hold an individual in custody past his release date based solely on a request to detain him by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
These non-mandatory requests neither impose a legal obligation nor provide the necessary legal authority to detain individuals past their release date, and must be accompanied by a court-issued warrant to be honored and avoid raising constitutional concerns.
Above all, each of these policies make our community safer by encouraging a free flow of communication between undocumented immigrants and law enforcement, and neither policy runs contrary to federal law.
HB 1257, however, could prohibit common-sense public safety policies like ours and replace them with a requirement that Arlington participate in ICE’s 287(g) program, which would effectively deputize our local police to act as enforcement for federal immigration law.
By Takis Karantonis
Four major corridors cut across Arlington — Columbia Pike, Crystal City-Route 1, the Rosslyn-Ballston (R-B) corridor and Lee Highway. “Corridor development” has been at the core of Arlington County’s growth strategy. Our “Main Streets” have merited dedicated policy focus and resources, starting with the development of Metro in the 1970s along the R-B corridor and Crystal City.
But it’s time to look anew at whether these corridors are all meeting their potential and all getting the resources they need. Corridors don’t occur “organically.” They emerge as products of community vision, policy, planning and timely public and private investment decisions.
Attention has been lavished on the corridors close to Metro, and understandably so, since Metro drove their commercial development. But it is time for Columbia Pike and Lee Highway to get the same kind of purposeful attention and long-term investment from the County.
Given the rising challenges in our local and regional economy, it is time to give our corridors a more urgent priority.
Twenty years ago, the Arlington County Board launched the Columbia Pike Initiative, a plan to revitalize Arlington’s most populous non-Metro corridor. A key aspect of that decision was the recognition that:
- Corridors connect our neighborhoods and business districts, thus forming a county-wide network on which economic activity occurs. Arlington’s potential for a thriving economy will continue eluding us until the pockets of inequality that dot our community are addressed by effectively developing all our corridors.
- Corridors are business-friendly and economically diverse. This is where small businesses start and often have the best chance for survival and growth. Big businesses prefer to locate here as they are optimally suited to make the most of a dense ecosystem of resources.
- Corridors provide the environment to address scarcities, such as housing and transportation.
At this year’s 20th anniversary of the Columbia Pike Initiative, we can list accomplishments, such as jumpstarting development after a three-decades-long doldrums and upgrading transit, both of which bring us closer but still not near to our development goals.
Lee Highway has been languishing and despite citizen volunteer work through the Lee Highway Alliance for more than five years, the County-staff-led planning process has been rather slow in delivery.
In the upcoming County budget, let’s show renewed focus and commitment to our corridors.
Let us re-invest fully in our urban partnerships (CPRO, the Clarendon Alliance and the Lee Highway Alliance) in ways that give them actual agency and leverage to act as true partners in advancing already stated stakeholder and community goals.
These organizations are the glue that holds business, neighborhoods, residents and local government together. They have a proven record of steering and aligning, with beneficial and tangible results for public and private interests in their respective areas.
By Steve Baker
Frederick Douglass said, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.” Last year, the Arlington Democrats reached their own limit and in response, sent volunteers beyond Arlington to House of Delegates’ districts around the Commonwealth.
Arlington, which is the smallest county in Virginia in square miles but one of the largest in terms of population, was in the highest Democratic performing congressional district in last November’s election.
Pleased with our own General Assembly delegation but eager to do better for Virginia and send a positive message of hope to the nation, we turned our focus to joining our neighbors and fellow Virginians in the burgeoning and ever more diverse suburbs and exurbs outside the beltway.
It wasn’t the first time we exported volunteers but in 2017 we elevated it to a grander scale, joining with many local groups, like WofA (We of Action), Arlington Indivisible and others. The Beyond Arlington program flourished in response to the confluence of our 2017 delegate races and a record number of 89 democratic candidates, with an enormous outpouring of volunteers due to the current administration in Washington.
The reasons for greater collaboration are clear. We have common goals: a growing need for schools, continued job growth and regional transportation solutions. We share many transit assets–Metro, VRE, our Interstates, toll roads and bike trails. We also have a need to protect the Potomac River watershed and our parks and open spaces.
Progress in these areas has often been difficult as an entrenched conservative General Assembly has, often by party-line votes, rejected progress or serious bipartisanship. Even after last year’s election, the 51% has refused to work with the other 49%, something Alexis de Tocqueville referred to as the “tyranny of the majority.”
This has been the case throughout our history. Conservatives in Virginia have fought federal authority vigorously, most notably over the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, school integration, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
These same conservatives have no qualms exercising far greater authority over our local governments in Virginia through the Dillon Rule and state constitution, denying localities their own decision-making.
We saw this most recently in preventing localities from removing a statue from a local park or renaming stretches of state roads within their jurisdiction. As Governor Northam said last year on the campaign trail, “If we can’t change their minds, we need to change their seats.”