Arlington, VA

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.

By Paula Lazor

Ever since middle school, Chloe Pilkerton wanted to become a veterinarian. Thanks to the animal science program at the Arlington Career Center, she was able to get a head start on her dream. In addition to her textbook studies about the anatomy and physiology of animals, she and her classmates had the unique experience of handling, feeding, and observing the behavior of up to 200 species all under one roof.

“Hands-on learning can’t be learned in a textbook,” Pilkerton noted. Nor was it limited to inside the animal science lab. Arlington students have participated in internships at local animal hospitals, nature centers, and the bird house at the National Zoo.

Arlington Public Schools (APS) has laid a firm foundation in career and technical education (CTE), offering more than 20 high school CTE programs at the Career Center. The question is what must APS do now to ensure even more students are well-prepared for post-secondary education or to enter the workforce directly from high school — with the right skills that are useful immediately in the jobs of tomorrow?

There is a huge skills gap in the United States. A recent report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce and JPMorgan Chase found an estimated 30 million jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree. This supports the need for more workforce training in high school. These jobs are available in skilled services industries such as health care, education, finance, leisure and hospitality.

To further students’ skills for tomorrow’s jobs, Arlington could focus on three areas:

First, we could boost our valuable work-based learning (WBL) internships, which are performed in partnership with local businesses and organizations. The Career Center’s auto technology program, for example, long ago established successful partnerships with local dealerships. Several auto tech and collision repair students participate in paid internships with dealers every summer.

Through Career Center partnerships with local hospitals, emergency medical technician students participate in clinical rotations visiting patients, ambulance ride-alongs, and emergency room visits. And the early childhood education program partners with the Career Center’s infant care center and preschool program and will provide field experience for students at the new Montessori Public School of Arlington. APS has made good headway in WBL internships and can do more.

Second, make CTE courses accessible to more high school students. Some students cannot take CTE courses at the Career Center because they conflict with the class schedule at their home school. To remove this obstacle, APS could better publicize a school policy provision that permits students to earn high school and college credits simultaneously at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). In some instances, taking dual enrollment courses on the NOVA campus could free up a student’s schedule to take the desired CTE course at the Career Center.

APS should also ensure CTE class availability so that every student who wants to enroll can do so, despite challenges posed by school construction projects affecting capacity at the Career Center, a situation that arose earlier this year.

Third, NOVA and Amazon Web Services recently partnered to establish an apprenticeship program to train military veterans to be Associate Cloud Consultants. It would be a wise move for APS to explore opening the Amazon-NOVA apprenticeship program to high school students who want to pursue advanced training in cloud support.

Having real-world, work-based experiences gives students a chance to test-drive a potential career and, in the process, determine what might or might not be the right fit. Too often, the CTE path is viewed as an either-or choice when, in fact, career and technical education prepares students to be ready for both, and to be ready to ensure their financial footing as young adults.

Paula Lazor is the author of Beyond the Box: How Hands-on Learning Can Transform a Child and Reform Our Schools. She is the host and producer of “Education Innovations” on WERA 96.7 FM and has been a parent advocate for nearly 20 years. Paula and her husband have been Arlington residents since 1981 and love walking and biking along the W&OD Trail. They have two adult children who have benefited from an APS education.

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Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Claire Noakes

Vacationing families expect a line at the funnel cake stand on the boardwalk, but they shouldn’t be surprised if there’s also a line at the monkey bars back at the schoolyard for the foreseeable future.

The latest Arlington Public School (APS) projected enrollment figures anticipate that a decade from now demand for elementary school seats will outstrip the planned supply by 2,472 seats — roughly 19% of the current amount. Meanwhile, development has reduced the availability of acreage for new school construction, especially along Columbia Pike and near Metro stations, where the housing pipeline growth is most concentrated. And parents continue to clamor for walkable neighborhood elementary schools. How will we resolve these competing pressures?

APS commits resources to keep elementary class size hovering around 21 kids, but classroom size doesn’t tell the whole story. The average number of kids attending an Arlington elementary school last year was 619, and planning efforts assume that future elementary schools will consist of 725 seats each, resulting in nearly three dozen classes at one location.

Yet much of the elementary school day occurs outside of the classroom — on bus rides, in the cafeteria, and at recess. Three dozen classes have to cycle through lunchtime — packed into a chaotic cafeteria, with shortened lunch periods that start at 10:45 a.m. Three dozen classes have to share recess space, and crowd control measures like banning games of tag are implemented. Class size can be exemplary, yet students may be miserable — one child at my son’s school would become tearful whenever the cafeteria noise level became too loud.

An elementary school is expected to house six grades (plus pre-school in some cases), but why are we packing these grades into one building, other than tradition? The youngest grades need close chaperoning during the school day, but don’t need the dedicated space for band or theater. Older grades access many resources electronically and need teachers to prepare them for standardized tests. We shouldn’t automatically conflate the different needs of these grades and then replicate the current model to address the upcoming 2,742-seat deficit.

Imagine instead if elementary school was sub-divided, with K-2 incubated at new, smaller scale schools, embedded in residential neighborhoods. Bus traffic might be minimal if the entire boundary had a walkable radius. Physical space could focus on social development and emotional wellness. APS might have better luck with acquiring contiguous residential parcels, rather than competing to find 6-acre lots or upgrading commercial space. Meanwhile, existing elementary schools could be repurposed to hold grades 3-5, or add grade 6, or converted to a middle school as needs dictate.

Of course, building smaller K-2 schools would require a re-think of assumptions for meal preparation, libraries, administrative staffing costs, and after-school activities. Given the shortage of land for building new elementary schools, however, planners should put all options on the table for consideration.

And Arlington wouldn’t be a trailblazer if we subdivided our elementary schools. Five years ago, Fairfax split Bailey’s Elementary School into two campuses, grades K-2 and 3-5. The location for the older kids had challenges — it lacked a playground and is located in a renovated commercial space. Still, we could draw lessons from their experience and emulate what works. Arlington must be nimble–and perhaps think smaller–to address our upcoming elementary school needs.

Claire Noakes serves on Arlington’s Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC). Her own elementary school experience involved lengthy bus rides, portables (as relocatables were called), and nacho cheese on everything, so things could be worse.

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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.

By Krysta Jones

It’s been about seven months since Virginia and the nation were stunned by the revelations that Gov. Ralph Northam “may have” posed in blackface or Ku Klux Klan uniform. In the subsequent days, Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted to posing in blackface.

A flurry of elected officials, leaders and organizations called for their resignations. Others took a more tempered approach and saw it as a moment of racial healing and atonement. Since then, the Northam administration has made several policy announcements that would impact minority communities. They are:

  • Hiring a new top diversity officer to develop a sustainable framework for the continued promotion of inclusive practices across Virginia state government.
  • Creating a Virginia African American Advisory Board. The authorizing legislation was signed into law shortly after the incident and could empower commission members to press for a more prominent role than originally laid out to address racial equity issues.
  • Announcing intentions to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Black people are more likely to do jail time for marijuana.

While there may be a reconciliation tour and conversations done out of the public eye, we have not used this opportunity to take bolder steps for racial healing. At the very least, the incidents encouraged conversation. After my last post, “We Know How You Can Cure White Guilt,” I received both positive and negative feedback.

One comment especially resonated with me. An older white gentleman, who has been intentional about using his “privilege” to help the less fortunate, wanted more tangible recommendations for racial healing.

Advocating for new policies is only one way to affect change. Other ideas to make real progress with racial healing include:

Recognize where you are and how you got there. Take personal stock of what you and others have observed about your sensitivities or lack thereof. It’s hard to see your blind spot, but after some thought, you may notice areas for improvement.

Listen.It may seem like a simple act but it is often hard to do. After the Northam incident, online and in-person conversations surged about a possible way forward. I witnessed some hurt feelings by African Americans who felt they were not being heard, and subsequently withdrew from what could have been worthwhile efforts.

Be conscious that groups are rarely monolithic. I attended the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival in August and viewed an interesting short film called “Four Points” by R. Cadell Cook. The film highlighted differences of opinion within the Black community. It was an important reminder that in politics — and in life — we can’t assume someone’s beliefs based on how they look.

Call out the lack of diversity. Catherine Read, an activist and fundraising and PR strategist, notes that when she observes a homogenous slate of panelists at conferences, she brings it to their attention. It is something to consider when organizing and attending presentations.

Do intentional outreach. I served on the steering committee for the June 2019 Network NOVA Women’s Summit. This Summit brought together over 900 attendees to learn, connect and strategize about progressive issues. The organizers recognized the lack of diversity at previous conferences and invited me to serve because of my work in the Black community. Don’t be afraid to find people with connections to certain communities and invite them to lead. As we recruited diverse presenters and attendees, it was critical because of their expertise, not their “difference.” Recruiting diverse leaders does not mean sacrificing quality or experience.

As I have spoken with people and navigated my personal journey toward greater diversity and inclusion, what is very clear to me is that this is not easy. To be successful, we have to come to terms with some of our past mistakes, experiences, and in some cases trauma. It requires that we ALL leave our comfort zone and have difficult conversations — not just white people. When we discuss this incident 20 years from now, let’s be able to say that it was a turning point in our history. Despite what the government did, as individuals we listened, grew, cried, learned and laughed toward equality — together. That is real progress.

Krysta Jones is founder and CEO of Vote Lead Impact, Inc., and a graduate of Leadership Arlington, the Sorenson Institute of Political Leadership, and the Women’s Campaign School at Yale.

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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 Martha Villanigro-Santiago

At any age, we must be intentional about living your best possible life, especially being healthy and active. It’s important that individuals, community and government use data and resources to develop policies, programs and other assets that enable aging residents to flourish in Arlington.

As a caregiver and aging advocate, every day I recognize that enjoying the services and choices of daily life later on requires serious planning now. Here are three lessons I’ve learned to help aging residents enjoy a fulfilling life.

Get to Know Your Neighborhood

For a happier life a few years down the road, we may want to make better-informed choices about where we choose to live based on where we like to eat and socialize. We might want to consider how easy will it be to travel to and from the supermarket. Will we want to drive, walk or ride public transportation?

Fortunately, Arlington County is a member of the AARP network of Age Friendly Communities. This means that it is a community that is beneficial to all ages. This initiative focuses on livability. “Livability” is defined in the context of the following eight domains: community support and health services; outdoor spaces and buildings; housing; transportation; social participation; respect and social inclusion; civic participation and employment; and community and information. In short, livability encourages individuals to engage in community life, stay healthy, and continue doing things they value.

The Age Friendly Arlington project has begun the process of identifying what makes Arlington a great place to live and plans on using this data to develop a plan to make it even better for aging residents.

Additionally, residents should make sure to let your leaders know what you think. For example, the Arlington Commission on Aging wants to know residents’ opinions about how livable Arlington is for them personally. Residents may communicate their experiences by participating in an online survey. The survey is an excellent way for residents to weigh in with their thoughts on growing Arlington to ensure it is a place where residents of all ages have options for living, recreation, community engagement and employment.

Make Smart Choices About Your Home

When looking for a new home or improving your current residence, universal design is a very helpful tool. Sometimes we think that the size of our home and the number of stair steps inside are unimportant until we need to use a walker or wheelchair. The reality is that we can fall at any age and be off our feet for weeks. We may be challenged when trying to access a bathroom located on a different level from the living room, for example.

Universal design represents smart living for all ages. The Commission on Aging produced a video demonstrating several examples of the benefits of this design principle for aging residents, and a brochure on smart design choices in homes for older residents is available from Arlington County.

Be Active

The benefits of physical fitness, social engagement and brain health have been widely recognized. Keeping active is not just about completing a marathon. Life may be easier following a smart and steady strategy of the exercise you enjoy best.

In Arlington, there are a wide variety of happenings and activities to experience. You can meet friends and make new connections in a number of places, from your local coffee shop to the library. Also, people age 55 and older may find more activities through programs and activities sponsored by Arlington County.

The bottom line is that life is constantly evolving. And there is no one size fits all solution for us to tackle the issues of aging and everything that life brings our way. Living in Arlington works for those who desire a community that is inclusive of every age and welcomes aging in place.
Being informed of your resources, being smart about your home, and being active are excellent ways to successfully navigate life and keep moving forward.

Martha Villanigro-Santiago is an attorney, advocate for the aging, the owner of Aging and Moving Forward, LLC, and a caregiver. She is a member of the Arlington Commission on Aging and has been living in Arlington for over eight years.

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Progressive Voice is a weekly column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or of ARLnow.

By Nick Dilenschneider

While young progressives across Virginia are mobilizing to retake both chambers of the legislature in this year’s elections, it is impossible for us to ignore the 2020 Democratic presidential primary already in full swing. Were you to ask 100 millennials whom they support right now, you would find answers as diverse as the generation itself. Some are looking to experience and electability, others are drawn to candidates taking aggressive stands on issues like healthcare and taxes.

The tension is understandable. On one hand, the daily chaos fosters an understandable desire for the stability of traditional politics. This path, it could be argued, offers the best chance of capturing voters disillusioned with the president and his party. This type of candidate may not grab the headlines, but by remaining moored to positions that helped Democrats retake the House in 2018, it is not unreasonable to believe it would work again in 2020.

On the other hand is the view that we must find a candidate who is bold and daring. Now is not the time for the “safe” politics of yesterday, but instead beckons us to pursue sweeping policy changes since the current framework isn’t adequately addressing the needs of so many people, including millennials. This perspective counsels us to pick a candidate whose vision goes beyond the 2020 election and who can help lead the nation into a new progressive era.

Though millennials’ support remains split among the various candidates, there are several broad areas where there appears to be general agreement. The first is that number of candidates must be narrowed–and quickly. Trying to accommodate 10 candidates on a debate stage, some of whom are barely registering any support, reduces the chances for a forum for thoughtful discussions. Ultimately, crucial time is lost and the quality of the debate suffers.

Talk to millennials and you will hear a related frustration that someone like Steve Bullock is running for president instead of eyeing the Senate seat in Montana. We know that the Republican-controlled Senate must be flipped for a Democratic president to pass any meaningful legislation and fill key vacancies, such as on the Supreme Court. Quixotic campaigns by candidates who have no path to the nomination waste time and energy. As these doomed campaigns stumble forward, money and manpower are being sucked away from important efforts to retake the Senate and hold the House majority.

Honest leadership means setting aside personal ambition. Any Democratic candidate for president who continues to poll below 2% by the middle of August should accept that reality and move on.

Young people are also aware of how important unity will be in 2020 for defeating the president and having any chance of controlling Congress. This means that presidential candidates should avoid poisoning the race with personal attacks and uncompromising stances. This does not mean contenders should abstain from engaging with each other with conviction on issues that may be uncomfortable, but it does mean that the debate should be framed with an eye toward the general election. To win, the Democratic Party must be a big tent that welcomes difficult discussions, but also respects the diverse viewpoints from moderate to liberal.

The final shared view among my cohort is simple: that we must win. The danger of this moment is real, and we can never forget that. Left, right or center–now is not the time for protest votes or ideological rigidity. The stakes are far too high. The candidate who wins the nomination will not align perfectly with my beliefs and may not even be one of my top choices.

But I do know already that the nominee will be someone who at least believes in democracy, the rule of law, and basic decency. And in the end, that will be more than enough motivation for me.

Nick Dilenschneider is an attorney who commutes to D.C for work, and who enjoys Arlington’s many neighborhoods, establishments and opportunities for civic involvement.

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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 Eric Harold

Floods, traffic, school capacity, lack of affordable housing. What do these increasingly recurring issues in Arlington have in common? All, in some form or fashion, are exacerbated by the increased growth and development throughout Arlington County for more than 20 years. There are many positive aspects to continued growth, but growth is not an unbridled good. The question is how to better manage it.

Arlington’s 2018 resident survey illustrates people’s increasing concerns over how the County has managed growth. Fewer than 50% of Arlingtonians are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with how well the county is managing growth. More than a fourth of residents (26%) are “dissatisfied.” This topic (see p. 7) ranked next to the bottom in residents’ satisfaction.

A separate question asked residents which Economic Development and Planning items were most important to them. “Efforts to manage and plan for growth/development” ranked first (42%) (see p. 31).

Since the 2018 survey, Amazon has chosen Arlington as “HQ2,” with up to 25,000 new jobs expected over the next 15 years. Development continues apace in Arlington, with Crystal City, Columbia Pike and Ballston being hot spots along the major transportation corridors. In addition, infill housing and residential additions/teardowns and rebuilds continue in neighborhoods away from the major corridors. All of this contributes to the continued increases in enrollment in Arlington Public Schools, as well as increased flood damage, more traffic, and less affordable housing.

Things will not get better without a rigorous assessment and substantial change in County policies. So what can be done to improve this situation?

Historically, the County has managed growth using “smart growth” principles from nearly 50 years ago as Metro was being constructed. These principles (see slide 15):

  • Concentrate high and mid-density redevelopment around transit stations, then taper down to existing neighborhoods
  • Encourage mixed-usage in these areas
  • Focus on pedestrian and open space environments
  • Preserve and reinvest in established residential neighborhoods.

The County developed a General Land Use Plan (GLUP) that zoned 11% of the County along the two rail corridors to encourage mixed-use, high density development, while leaving 89% of the County zoned primarily as low-density. It then developed a Site Plan process by which developers can get increased density in return for building consistent with the GLUP, including significant amount of public improvements, and compliance with LEED and affordable housing goals.

Arguably, encouraging greater density in the transportation corridors while limiting development options in the neighborhoods limits the supply of available housing. Ever greater density also contributes to overcrowded streets and schools.

Should the County Board exert tighter oversight? Should the County Board employ more strategic thinking on development decisions, or put less emphasis on increasing density? Does the County need changes or additional tools for better managing development?

The tools for managing growth often work at cross-purposes to each other. Recently “upzoning” (rezoning to allow taller buildings or denser development) has been proposed as a means to increase affordable housing. But denser development affects local infrastructure (roads, sewers, stormwater management).

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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 Del. Patrick Hope

An elderly constituent recently contacted my office upset over a phone call from someone claiming to be a Deputy with the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office. The caller accused my constituent of failing to appear for jury duty and said a warrant for his arrest was coming unless he paid a fine.

My immediate instinct was that this was a scam. We contacted the Arlington Sheriff’s Office and confirmed that it was. Fortunately, no money was exchanged, but it’s easy to go from being the target of a scam to the victim of one.

Scams are a growing problem–and we need to do much more to prevent them. Other examples reported to me include “utility companies” threatening to shut off services if not provided immediate payment; the “IRS” collecting fees for unpaid taxes; and family members allegedly having suffered an illness requiring payment. Scams can come through a phone call, email, or door-to-door salesperson. Someone may offer computer tech support and then gain access to the victim’s computer and bank accounts; a scammer may say you’ve just won a sweepstakes and need to wire money to pay fees, or offer to do home repairs, especially after a storm.

Scammers’ favorite targets? The elderly and other vulnerable adults, due to isolation, disability or cognitive impairments. A recent study lists Virginia as having the fifth-highest rate of fraud crime targeting older adults, noting “More than one in five Virginia seniors fell victim to elder fraud in the past year.” It estimated $1 billion was stolen in roughly 265,000 cases. And this was just what we know, since the vast majority of cases go unreported, often because of the victim’s embarrassment.

Unfortunately, it’s not just strangers who financially exploit elderly and vulnerable adults. It’s frequently a relative, caregiver or someone in a position of trust. The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services reported 1,016 cases of financial exploitation in 2015. But since most cases go unreported, the agency estimated there were probably more than 44,000 incidents that year. With an estimated average loss of $28,000 per victim, such exploitation costs victims $1.2 billion.

Bank tellers are often the last line of defense when it comes to preventing financial exploitation. This year, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law to give financial institutions the ability to refuse a transaction if they believe it may involve financial exploitation. This law also empowers those institutions to report their good faith suspicions, with immunity, to their local or state adult protective services.

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Progressive Voice is a weekly 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 Maggie Davis

While there are many ways to define the Arlington community — subjectively and objectively — one crucial factor is the baseline data of how many people live in the County, as collected by the decennial Census.

Last year, I wrote about how census data affects Arlington’s bottom line. While there are still concerns regarding the logistics of administering the Census, the larger concern now is the Trump administration’s aggressive and persistent fight to include a citizenship question in the Census. Wrangling over this question has sowed distrust that is expected to result in an undercount. Arlington has to come together and work harder than ever to ensure an accurate and thorough Census in 2020.

In July 2018, then Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol submitted a letter on behalf of the County Board to the U.S. Department of Commerce urging it to omit the Trump administration’s proposed citizenship question from the 2020 Census because it “is divisive in nature, is unnecessary and will result in an undercount of residents.” Similarly, several states and other interested parties sued the Trump administration to prevent the question from being included in the 2020 Census, with the issue eventually rising to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether the Commerce Department Secretary, Wilbur Ross, had the authority to include a citizenship question in the Census. In its June opinion, the Supreme Court determined Secretary Ross did have the discretion to include the question. However, a narrowly divided (5-4) court found the Trump administration’s stated reason for including the question — to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act — to be pretextual.

Recently uncovered evidence showed a key section of the administration’s rationale for the question was written by a longtime Republican strategist who asserted a census citizenship question would disadvantage Democrats and be “advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic Whites.” The Supreme Court did not rule that the census could not include the question — only that the administration needed to provide a different and more convincing rationale for the question to one of the U.S District Courts with pending cases (New York and Maryland).

Then the process got weird.

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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 Claire Noakes

Remember reading those books, with choices every few pages? Now we live in one, where we have multiple decisions to make on clean energy policy that could lead to breakthroughs and a resilient community, or to dead ends. Choose wrong, however, and we fall into a trap that lulls us into believing we have made virtuous choices when we have in fact overlooked a huge variable. Let’s start the storyline.

It’s 2013, and you generate 12.9 metric tons (mt) of carbon dioxide emissions annually, which is unsustainable. You create a Community Energy Plan (CEP), with goals (but no budget or regulations) to lower that amount to 3 mt by 2050, and to improve economic competitiveness and energy security. Turn the page to the year 2018. You read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, which states dire consequences if emissions are not dropped further.

It’s 2019, and the County Board responds in the CEP Update, aiming for 100% renewable electricity for County operations by 2025, 100% renewable electricity for the community by 2035, and net zero emissions by 2050. Net zero is ambitious– if a resident uses a gas stove, there must be a carbon offset. If this draft CEP Update is adopted (and you can provide input during the July 13 County Board meeting), where will we choose for this storyline to go next?

Here’s a favorable set of possibilities:

We have chosen well at every turn.

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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 Sheila Fleischhacker

It’s unthinkable any child goes hungry or experiences “summertime anxiety,” which is associated with summer’s unstructured nature and is marked by the lack of predictability in what each day is going to look like or, for some children, whether there will be enough to eat.

Yet hunger among Arlington kids does exist. One in 10 Arlington Public Schools (APS) middle and high school students reports having experienced hunger. A third of APS students qualify for federally assisted school meals — from less than 1% at Tuckahoe to 81% at Carlin Springs.

“Many Arlington children rely on school meals,” explained Charles Meng, executive director of the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), which served more than 12,000 people last year. “During the summer, our families face higher food costs on already-tight budgets (an estimated additional $800 per child).”

All APS summer school programs offer federally supported meal services. Any child not enrolled in summer school can participate in summer meal services at Barrett, Carlin Springs, Kenmore and Hoffman-Boston. “While enjoying a delicious school breakfast with Carlin Springs students, I have seen first-hand how dedicated our schools are to getting students excited about school meals,” observed Matt de Ferranti, an Arlington County Board member. “It’s inspiring to hear about creative solutions to ensure access to healthy meals while decreasing stigma, such as breakfast in the classroom at Oakridge and Hoffman-Boston.” Strengthening each school’s local wellness policy is another important tool.

Outside of school, Arlington’s community centers, parks and recreational centers, childcare centers, Boys & Girls Clubs, faith-based organizations, and others participate in federally assisted programs that provide free, healthy summer meals to children. SummerFoodRocks helps locate meal sites or text “FOOD” to 877877 and, after providing an address, you will receive a message about free summer meal sites.

Individuals can engage in partnerships or volunteer opportunities such as developing innovative transportation approaches to sites or providing musical entertainment during lunchtime. AFAC, for instance, depends on more than 2,200 volunteers to help bag, distribute, drive, glean or grow food for participating families.

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Progressive Voice is a weekly 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 Laura Saul Edwards

What’s a surefire way to get people talking in Arlington? Tear down an old house and replace it with still another McMansion that will be listed for more than a million dollars on the market.

“In neighborhoods across Arlington last year — at the doors, in coffees, and at civic associations — I heard concern regarding the size of single family homes being built to replace smaller, older homes,” confirmed County Board member Matt de Ferranti recently.

Meanwhile, teardowns continue. Neighbors and passersby watch an excavator methodically rip apart an old house, and they wonder how much the new house will affect the neighborhood, the environment, flooding and school crowding.

In one recent teardown, an approximately 1,500 square-foot home built before WWII was demolished, and all the surrounding trees were cleared, to make way for a new house more than triple the size of the one it replaces.

What can be done about this trend?

“While we can and should respect individual property rights, we also should recognize the impacts large homes can have on our neighbors, including storm water runoff,” de Ferranti said. “We must make sure the regulations are enforced, monitor and update our own ordinances, and work to obtain additional authority from Richmond, where appropriate, to make sure Arlington remains a sustainable place to live.”

The high price of land in Arlington and Virginia’s strong property rights laws generally mean a homebuilder will construct the largest allowable house to maximize economic value. Sales figures validate market demand for these large homes. Moreover, some of Arlington’s small older homes are too decrepit and outdated to make renovation a practical option.

This doesn’t mean, however, the county’s footprint and height allowances can’t be reviewed or tightened. The last time the County Board dug into this issue was in 2005, when Arlington’s 1950 zoning ordinance was amended to reduce the maximum lot coverage for single-family homes.

“Home sizes that were once the theoretical maximum are now the de facto minimum for new home rebuilds,” observed County Board member Erik Gutshall. “Arlington needs to initiate the modernization of our zoning ordinance with a frank discussion of just what character do we want in our neighborhoods.”

Longtime Arlington real estate agent Bob Adamson said, “Affordability is a worthy aspiration. Economic feasibility is crucial. The devil resides in the details.”

Updating Arlington’s zoning and land use requirements for single-family homes could be a genuine success story if it identifies practical, feasible changes responsive to factors that vary across the county, such as topography and lot size — while also honoring the rights of property owners.

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