Progressive Voice is a bi-weekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
By Cheryl Moore
In times of tragedy and uncertainty, those of us who are part of faith community often turn to that community for comfort and support. But since mid-March, turning to your faith community often meant turning on your computer and logging into Zoom.
The staff at Mount Olivet United Methodist in Arlington began preparing for disruption in early February upon hearing news about the strange new virus. The initial plans to figure out contact-less communion went out the window on March 12 when large gatherings were banned for health safety reasons.
Moving quickly is not the norm for many religious institutions, but when Covid-19 hit, things had to change immediately. And that has had implications for faith communities.
Times of crisis can also be times of opportunity and growth. Faith communities that are willing to provide new points of connection, experiment with new initiatives, and build community partnerships will likely prove resilient and more relevant.
Prioritize communication and connection
Mount Olivet associate pastor Teer Hardy related that he and other staff were first inundated with questions about the virus. He said that seminary didn’t train him about what to do in a pandemic, but it did train him in “connectedness.” Keeping its members feeling connected became goal one.
Mount Olivet expanded its Sunday worship online, and added online Sunday School, youth activities, and email devotionals. Volunteers made weekly check-in calls to older members. Callers found many seniors felt isolated even before the pandemic, so this initiative will likely continue.
Worship attendance has been surprisingly high. Said senior pastor Ed Walker, “Even members who haven’t been very active have been attending.” And one Sunday School class reported that a class member who is temporarily working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, gets up at 2:00 a.m. their time to join the class via Zoom.
For some in the Jewish community, however, technology has its limits. Rabbi Lia Bass, of Congregation Etz Hayim, explained that Shabbat services in her Conservative congregation cannot be live-streamed, because it would entail use of electronics, which is not allowed on Shabbat. Services on Thursday mornings and classes on Sundays are now live online, offering new opportunities for the community.
Our Muslim neighbors had the additional challenge of celebrating Ramadan, the holiest Muslim holiday, from April 23-May 23. The observant fast all day, and a nightly gathering with food and prayers at the mosque is an integral part. Those communal activities had to be canceled.
Hurunnessa Fariad, the outreach/interfaith/media coordinator at ADAMS (All Dulles Area Muslim Society) Center, said that she and her colleagues realized that social media was the most effective way to connect with its members. They quickly ramped up daily communication, reminding people to stay at home. “In the Muslim faith, saving a life is even more important than communal prayer,” Fariad said.
By Del. Richard C. (Rip) Sullivan, Jr.
While Arlington continued to confront the coronavirus epidemic, County residents also were preparing for several elections: the Democrats’ May 30 School Board caucus, the Republicans’ June 23 Senate primary, the July 7 County Board special election, and the November 3 general election. Arlingtonians take their civic duty seriously and vote at above-average rates, yet no one can predict exactly when the virus will stop being an immediate threat to our health, when life will go back to “normal,” or whether there will be a second wave of the virus.
To continue our strong record of voter participation and to stay safe, Arlingtonians should prepare to use absentee voting by mail until the General Assembly passes legislation to create a comprehensive no-excuses, vote-by-mail system. Democracy thrives when more voters participate. Voting-by-mail presents that opportunity and also can save money in the long run.
Voting by mail is not only useful during an outbreak – it strengthens our democracy. First, the system increases turnout and does not favor any one partisan bloc. A new Stanford University study finds that universal vote-by-mail programs do not advantage one party over another, but instead increase overall voter turnout. The more people who vote, the better for our democracy.
Second, access to the ballot box on Election Day is often difficult for individuals who, for example, are caretakers, do not have available transportation or depend on low-wage hourly jobs. Lines at the polls can be devastating to their schedules and livelihoods. Receiving a ballot at home to vote by mail would give these Virginians much-needed flexibility. By expanding the number of registered voters who can practically vote, we would again increase turnout and make sure that their voices are heard in the democratic process.
Third, voting by mail is less expensive for voters and states alike. Voters who work hourly wages do not have to lose any earnings by taking time off to cast a ballot. There is no cost of gas or a Metro card to the voter in order to get to one’s polling place. There is no cost of childcare when a parent or caretaker goes to vote. Voters mail in their ballot when it is convenient, leveling the playing field in terms of the cost of participation for voters of all socio-economic backgrounds.
States ultimately save money because they no longer need to staff as many traditional polling places and invest in expensive voting machines at each location. Oregon, for example, reports savings of 30 percent since its transition from traditional in-person voting to exclusively by-mail voting. The price of mailing pre-stamped ballots to voters may seem high at first, but it is outweighed by savings for states and jurisdictions that have tried it.
The local elections held in towns and cities across the Commonwealth on May 19 marked the first time that Virginians faced a choice between voting in-person, voting absentee by mail, or not voting at all in the midst of a pandemic. The results are clear – when given the opportunity, voters want to cast their ballot by mail. In Fairfax City, for example, 74 percent of voters cast an absentee ballot by mail. Turnout also increased slightly across Virginia due to the increase in the number of absentee ballots cast.
Before Covid-19, we already had made great progress in the General Assembly regarding access to the ballot box. We passed a bill making Election Day a state holiday (and doing away with Lee-Jackson Day), changing Virginia’s voter ID law to allow people without IDs to sign an affidavit, and allowing for no-excuse early voting 45 days prior to an election. We also implemented automatic voter registration at the DMV.
While we are not likely to see a fully implemented vote-by-mail system in Virginia by November, we can get close by ensuring that every voter who wishes to vote does so by requesting an absentee ballot. The Covid-19 outbreak may be a threat to our personal and community health, but we can take steps to ensure that it does not interfere with the health of our democracy.
Richard C. “Rip” Sullivan, Jr. is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Virginia’s 48th District, which encompasses parts of Arlington and McLean. He practices law in Arlington with Bean Kinney & Korman, P.C.
By Betsy Withycombe
Once upon a time, after trauma had stolen my health, I began to walk. But no matter how far I roamed the streets of Arlington, no matter how completely I exhausted my body, my mind continued to churn. It felt pointless. My tank of resiliency, normally full, was empty.
Among our family’s collection of books are several editions of dictionaries. I looked in each for the definition of “resilience.” Every edition included a primary definition which defined resilience as the ability to return quickly from hardship or adversity. Secondary definitions offered that resilience was a type of flexibility or elasticity. I prefer the latter definition. One’s ability to be resilient is not measured by the speed at which one addresses adversity; sometimes you have to be gentle with yourself as you adapt to the challenge in front of you and continue moving forward.
In the last ten years I have experienced a clinically significant amount of change, loss, and heartache. The details aren’t important, but I’m sure those of you who saw me in the grocery store never suspected the depth of chaos framing the rest of my life. I practiced good self-care and did all of the things that promised my resilience would return. I sought calm in books. My family and friends did everything they could to remind me that I had grit and that my hardest days were behind me. I tried very hard to listen. I was as gentle with myself as I could be. I walked.
Renewed resilience finally came in the form of a flower (which was probably a weed). As I was dragging myself down the sidewalk thinking many unhelpful thoughts, I noticed a small flower. I took out my cell phone to photograph it. I suddenly noticed many unseen flowers and plants on the very street I had been plodding down every day. I was almost home when I realized something very important: Focusing on something outside myself, I had stopped the continuous loop of despair running on repeat in my mind.
By Maurine Shields Fanguy
For many Arlingtonians, a School Board election may be far from top of mind. So many in our community are struggling to hold down jobs or to keep businesses afloat. Others are facing unemployment–many for the first time ever. Families in dire financial circumstances are cobbling together a patchwork of meals for their children from Arlington Public Schools (APS) and groceries from generous community organizations.
Even before COVID-19, this was set to be a critical year for the Arlington School Board. Two Board members announced they would not seek re-election. Five contenders are vying for two seats in the Democratic endorsement process. The two candidates selected in November have an opportunity to fundamentally reshape our schools and drive innovative strategies to address a broad range of issues.
Now, more than ever, it is important for us to thoroughly question the School Board candidates and carefully decide who are the best leaders for a yet unwritten chapter for Arlington schools. Although COVID-19 may have curtailed in-person campaigning, here are the questions I would ask each candidate in a virtual meet-and-greet:
- What is the most pressing policy issue the School Board needs to resolve in the coming year? What legal or policy impediments or community reactions do you foresee? Does this issue impact most or all students, and why?
- What do you see as increased needs in the school system because of COVID-19, and how would you appropriately budget for those, as well as your top three budget priorities in what will be tight budget cycles during your term in office?
- Share your advocacy and leadership experience with an issue that affected more than one school, and how you interacted with people countywide who did not share your view. Did you change your mind or change anyone else’s, and if so, how did you accomplish it?
- How can we build on the current remote learning to drive a more robust school resilience plan? What instructional and testing practices should we preserve, in whole or in part, when it is safe to reopen schools? How would these practices support achievement for all students?
I hope the candidates will answer these questions and share their responses with voters.
Experienced, countywide experience in Arlington school issues is particularly crucial because of multiple tough situations that already were challenging School Board members.
Difficult decisions earlier this year to move three schools laid the groundwork for even more challenging community discussions on elementary school boundaries that will move thousands of students to new schools in 2021. When Arlington landed Amazon HQ2 in 2019, many Arlingtonians voiced concern about the strain on a school system that already had more students than seats and was expected to grow by 7,000 more in the coming decade.
The 2019 U.S. Department of Justice settlement over services for English language learners underscored the need for tangible action on inequities between schools, long-standing achievement gaps and closer supervision by the School Board to enforce accountability.
Former Superintendent Patrick Murphy announced his retirement in June. Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson graciously stepped into the role, facing the challenge of leading through the most trying time for APS in decades. Every school is shut down until at least June and nearly 29,000 Arlington students and their families are struggling to adapt to learning from home because of Covid-19.
A schools’ budget that was already stretched has now been slashed by $54M in response to the economic uncertainties resulting from COVID-19. The cuts include hard-to-swallow teacher pay raises, class size increases, and dipping into reserve funds.
The challenging scenario was set in motion even before COVID-19 became our harsh reality and not a news story from another continent. So, who do I think should write the next chapter in Arlington schools? I believe that when voting for new School Board members this month, it is time we choose sound, experienced and clear-thinking leaders who have a countywide perspective and vision, and who can resolutely approach decision-making.
Maurine Shields Fanguy, a parent of 4th and 7th grade APS students, has served as a PTA President, on APS advisory committees, and in other volunteer roles. An Army brat who attended 11 schools, she is proud to have adopted Arlington as her hometown.
On April 24, School Board member Barbara Kanninen announced her candidacy for a seat on the Arlington County Board left open by the death of the Erik Gutshall. If she wins, a third seat will be open on the School Board.
This column has also been submitted in Spanish: Read More
Progressive Voice is a bi-weekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
By Scott Matties
In the face of COVID-19’s massive effect on the health, safety and economic welfare of Arlingtonians, our county decision-makers face hard choices as they re-consider the 2021 budget and five-year CIP. Many economic impacts are not yet certain — accurate revenue forecasts, the toll on health and human service needs, and what the future holds when schools and businesses are able to reopen. Emerging needs have been factored into the revised budget proposal, but updates later in the year will likely be necessary.
With these serious and immediate challenges, it is easy to lose focus on long-term community priorities and their need for funding. Both the public and private sectors should do more to improve sustainability as aging buildings and infrastructure are upgraded or replaced. How we bring about this change can be a model for protecting our environment–or not. We have an opportunity now, with the redevelopment of Lee Highway, to put big ideas into action.
One example is stormwater management. The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act regulations, first implemented in Virginia in 1989, have improved the health of the Bay by focusing on water quality through the collection and treatment of stormwater run-off to reduce pollutants. Arlington’s stormwater management regulations are written, in part, to ensure compliance with this law. These regulations will continue to improve the health of the Bay and our local waterways that feed it.
A more tangible impact on Arlington discussed much of late is flooding. The frequency of very intense storms will continue to impact Arlington due in large part to our inadequate stormwater drainage systems. To address this, we need a new focus on better management of stormwater quantity. It is worth noting that the Virginia regulations related to flood protection identify minimum requirements but do not prohibit local jurisdictions from requiring more.
There are a variety of criteria in the Virginia flood protection regulations, but they generally involve mitigating 2-year and 10-year storm events. The storm that hit our region in July 2019 was a 100-year+ event. The language we use to describe these events should change as it can be misleading. We should shift from colloquial terms like a 100-year storm to what it really means – a 1-in-100 (or 1%) chance of such a storm. Another storm like July 2019 could happen tomorrow. It may be statistically unlikely but it’s time for the public to discuss storms in these terms.
As we plan for the redevelopment of the Lee Highway corridor, how do we address this? Restricting redevelopment is not a realistic approach. Community needs and market pressures are already leading to redevelopment, mostly through by-right proposals meeting only the minimum stormwater requirements. The commercial core areas of Lee Highway are about 67% impervious, meaning covered by buildings, streets, and parking lots, making effective management of stormwater run-off in these areas very challenging. There is currently no requirement and little incentive for that existing condition to change.
So controlled redevelopment will be an important component of a broad-based plan to better manage stormwater along Lee Highway. Individual redevelopment projects can be required to do more, such as increased on-site stormwater retention and re-use allowing controlled release into the County system. But this must be balanced with the financial burden. This is a complicated and interconnected problem that cannot be solved site-by-site.
Arlington’s government should lead the way to upgrading the antiquated stormwater infrastructure county-wide. The County’s 2019-28 Capital Improvement Plan suggests about $19 million to address stormwater quality but less than $1 million to address stormwater quantity through system upgrades. The County’s current FY 2021 budget proposal appears to improve on that with about $2 million proposed in capital outlay. However, this does not reflect the sense of urgency felt in the community to get ahead of this issue.
One silver lining in the COVID-19 crisis has been improved air quality worldwide. It is encouraging to see clear evidence that a change in behavior, whether chosen or imposed, can improve our environment. This is likely temporary so let’s not to get complacent. Let’s use this time to get ahead of the problem and make changes, both in policy and implementation, that can improve our environment for the long term.
Scott Matties AIA LEED-AP is an architect who has lived in Arlington 25 years. He is the current president of the Lee Highway Alliance, a group of citizens, property and business owners that has been working on Lee Highway redevelopment for nine years.
Progressive Voice is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the authors’.
By Katie Cristol and Matt de Ferranti
In a conference call, Progressive Voice editors asked Arlington County Board members Katie Cristol and Matt de Ferranti about their insights on the challenges of being a leader in local government during the trying time of the COVID-19 epidemic.
PV: Tell us about the challenge of making pressing leadership decisions, such as on the County budget, when there are fewer known facts, data and projections about 2021 and beyond.
MD: This isn’t an easy budget. In normal years, we have about 10-12 budget work sessions. You have time to learn, synthesize. This year, the fiscal reality has changed during the middle of the process, so it’s challenging to accept the new reality and adjust quickly.
Ultimately, we have to focus on values and what we must do: keeping people safe, making sure people are not evicted, and meeting our commitments and basic human needs. So we will do a pretty basic budget, and in the coming year, may come back and make adjustments. It’s a dynamic environment.
KC: It helps that Arlington’s fiscal fundamentals are still strong. Arlington is in very good fiscal health–such as our bond rating, our fully funded pension plan. What we are really talking about is lost opportunities–the investments we hoped to have made in this budget to attract good people to work here, expand human services, expand our capacity to fix street lights more quickly.
There may be harder times ahead. But what enables me to tell residents we can weather the pandemic as well as the economic challenges is that the fundamentals are still there. We have excellent public health and emergency response teams. We have staff who were with us during 9/11, during the recession starting in 2008. Our public health director got us through H1N1. I hope people feel confident by the amount of expertise brought to bear. We [County Board] are the faces on policy, but a lot of the pandemic response is at the professional expert level.
KC: I was reading through comments, a chat that the county manager did with staff, and it was a reminder of how dedicated the people who work for government are…. EMS, Fire are top of mind but also people who administer food stamps…they are risking their own safety to do that.
PV: What ways have you found to balance necessary health and safety (such as physical distancing) with the desire to shore up the economy, small business and workers? Any new insights about the role of government?
MD: Local governments and state governments have had to step forward, particularly because of an absence of leadership from the federal government, so the breadth of what local government can do is more clear to me than ever. There is an opportunity for innovation as we seek to serve all of our residents well.
KC: At the policy level, we’ve been providing small business technical assistance through BizLaunch, trying to help owners navigate SBA loans.
KC: We’ve been wrestling with how to support our restaurants, which are hurting so deeply. Very quickly, DES [Department of Environmental Services] traffic management set up free parking zones marked with signs outside the restaurants. Those are safer and easier for people [to pick up takeaway orders].
Doing things so quickly now will carry over to expecting it to always be so quick. When people discover how quickly we can do these changes…[laughs] without so much public engagement. People are used to [a long time of] hashing out pros and cons for something like curb space management.
PV: Will there be lingering after-effects on public engagement, move more quickly after the emergency passes?
MD: I think there will be some changes in public engagement. People will still want input and we will engage fully, but I think we will evolve a bit, so our input is both thorough and effective in making sure we hear from our whole community.
By Chris DeRosa
Note: The person-to-person activities described in this article have been suspended to ensure health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The volunteers’ research, paperwork and electronic organization continue.
Kent* was in a local homeless shelter, discouraged and confused. He had completed his felony sentence years ago, but he had a disability, no job, and an uncertain future. A visitor wearing a t-shirt that said “Spread the Vote” asked if he wanted to request to have his civil rights restored. He was a bit leery, but he sat with her for a few minutes as they completed the online form.
Then it was a matter of waiting. It took nearly 8 months and many emails and phone calls to the Eastern District Federal Court and Federal Bureau of Prisons, plus calls to Richmond. In October 2018, his request was finally granted. Kent registered to vote, and has voted in every election since then. He also is in his own apartment now and his outlook on life is much brighter.
Many such citizens have been disenfranchised in Virginia because of a felony conviction. After completing their sentence and probation, they have a legal right to vote, but must apply to have their voting rights restored. Many don’t realize they can do this; many don’t have access to a computer to submit an application.
Carolina* was in her building’s computer room, fretting and near tears. Her ID had expired; without a current ID, she could not start her new job. A friend told her to contact Spread the Vote. A volunteer met with Carolina a couple of days later and ordered a birth certificate for her; after it arrived, she drove Carolina to the DMV. Carolina got her legal photo ID (paid for by STV), started her new job, and continues happily raising her two adorable little boys.
Kent and Carolina are but two of Arlington and Falls Church citizens who, for various reasons, don’t have government-issued photo IDs. Many cannot vote because of a prior felony conviction (voting rights can be restored but must be applied for); others just don’t have a photo ID due to circumstances like a lost birth certificate.
Without a government-issued ID, many also face barriers to housing, employment, and healthcare; they can’t cash a check or open a bank account. They need an ID for life. That’s where the trained volunteers from Spread the Vote can provide encouragement and experience to frustrated clients.
Spread the Vote/Project ID is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that aims to remedy these situations. It is staffed largely by volunteers who are working in communities throughout Virginia and in many other states. What do these states have in common? They all require voters to have photo IDs in order to vote. It’s estimated that 21 million Americans do not have government-issued photo IDs, though they are legally entitled to them.
Isn’t it easy to get an ID? That’s what I thought. How wrong I was! Many don’t have the money to pay for their IDs or the required documents such as birth certificates. Some have lost their documents when they slept under a bridge on a rainy night; others had their backpacks stolen as they napped on the Metro. Many have gone to the DMV to try and get an ID, but were turned away and gave up. Frustrating. Not easy at all.
Spread the Vote/Project ID volunteers have donated hundreds of hours to help our Virginia neighbors. This involves spending up to 6 hours meeting with each client, driving them to the DMV and SSA, and following up with agencies. Nationwide, Spread the Vote has obtained nearly 5,000 legal photo IDs. That includes IDs for over 1,000 Virginians, plus around 250 birth certificates. Spread the Vote/Project ID pays the cost of obtaining IDs and necessary supporting documents. The average cost of getting a valid photo ID is $40. (Non-citizens with visas and green cards can also get IDs.)
*Names have been changed to protect individuals’ identity.
Chris DeRosa is a longtime Arlingtonian and is the leader of the Arlington/Falls Church chapter of Spread the Vote/Project ID, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization.
By Wesley Joe and Carly Lenhoff
Public conversations about juvenile justice can quickly escalate into pitched battles. They involve some of the highest stakes: fateful decisions about the future of children. Unfortunately, these conversations often devolve into unproductive conflict. While some disagreements are inevitable and healthy, many become needlessly mired in unproductive disputes over basic facts. Arlington Public Schools (APS) can reduce some of this deliberative drag by collecting and sharing more data, and by making its existing data more accessible.
Reaching a community consensus about how to address a problem begins with agreement about key facts. Unfortunately, public stakeholders currently lack the information necessary to resolve controversies of fact regarding many serious student discipline issues.
For example, there is much discussion of the role of school resource officers (SROs) on school campuses. In May 2018, APS and the Arlington County Police Department signed an updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that more clearly defines the respective roles and responsibilities of SROs and APS personnel. Yet public stakeholders currently have no way to assess the impact of these measures on student life and achievement. The MOU does not specify criteria for “success.” Nor does it require the collection and disclosure of data needed to monitor compliance with and the effects of its provisions.
One potential solution is the adoption of a policy for routine, publicly reported assessment of the impacts of the MOU and other major discipline-related policies. The assessment process would generate and report useful data. For example, one MOU goal is to minimize the incidence of informal requests for law enforcement assistance with discipline that does not involve violations of law. APS’s presentation to the School Board in January reported no data about this issue. A thorough assessment would include, for example, demographic information about students whose conduct is informally referred to SROs, student perceptions of SROs, and the like. Within the limits required to respect student privacy, stakeholders need this kind of information to contribute more productively to policy conversations.
Progressive Voice is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the authors’.
Virginia’s presidential primary is March 3, so the editors of Progressive Voice asked Arlington supporters of a few Democratic presidential candidates to answer this question: “How would my candidate be best at connecting with undecided voters across the U.S. to show how Democrats can reflect and serve them?” (The choice of candidates to cover was solely that of the Progressive Voice editors.)
Brenda Eribo on Pete Buttigieg: Americans of all stripes have more in common than not. Pete Buttigieg’s empathy, character and service orientation tap into what unites us on big important issues. In Iowa, he came in first among healthcare and climate change issue voters because his progressive policies balance ambition with the possibility of realistically being effectuated.
Conscious of generational impact, Pete asks not only “is it bold enough” but also “can it be paid for responsibly.” It’s why his ambitious healthcare reform is a fraction of the cost of others and his Douglass Plan to dismantle systemic racism is the boldest, most comprehensive out there!
Most Americans support a version of the pragmatic progressive reforms Pete proposes on climate, healthcare, education, labor, immigration, guns, infrastructure, racial justice, national security, global leadership, and the economy. Being audacious yet sensible will expand our coalition and help down-ballot Democratic candidates change the balance in Congress. Onward together!
A longtime Arlington resident, Brenda Eribo has recently been devoting most of her free time to volunteering for Democratic candidates at the expense of more frequent walks along Four Mile Run Trail and nurturing her community garden plot. Embracing her West African and Eastern European roots and interest in social justice, Brenda serves as national founder of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. and is actively involved in the VA for Pete grassroots organization.
Debbie and Sam Kirzner on Amy Klobuchar: We support Amy Klobuchar to be the next President of the United States. Amy is experienced with an established track record of getting things done and working across the aisle. She holds the record in sponsoring bills that have been enacted, dwarfing that of her competitors. And, she wins. She wins in the Midwest and in rural districts. She had record turnout. She is wildly popular in Minnesota, a state that Trump almost won.
Amy has practical policies to address the issues that all people care about. Strengthening Medicare, addressing climate change, sensible gun safety, expanding economic growth and security through infrastructure improvements, educational opportunities and retirement reform.
Other candidates focus on far-left ideas that are widely unpopular and unaffordable. This is a must-win election. Amy will have wide appeal in the general election, with support from Democrats, independents and disaffected Republicans.
Let’s nominate someone who will win.
Debbie and Sam Kirzner are both retired and very active with Arlington Democrats and volunteer with several local cultural institutions.
Carole Lieber on Joe Biden: On the campaign trail, people shared they voted for Joe because they know and trust him. Joe connects personally. He speaks with everyone at an event. He listens, he relates. His volunteers and staff reflect our diversity. An African American staffer shared “He knows us, he grew up with us, he is us.” He has humble roots; at a young age his father lost his job, his family had to move to find work. As a young man he lost his wife and daughter in a car accident, soon raising two young boys as a single dad and dealing with mounting hospital bills. He later worried as his son Beau served our country bravely overseas, later mourning his death from cancer. Voters relate to these struggles. Joe will restore the soul of our nation. He models our democratic values, we can trust him, and he can beat Trump. Vote Joe!
Carole Lieber lives in South Arlington and is a community organizer and grassroots activist. She is a former President of Arlington Heights Civic Association, delegate to the Arlington County Civic Federation, appointed Human Rights Commissioner, and volunteer with multiple community organizations.
Maggie Davis on Elizabeth Warren: Dream Big, Fight Hard. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s rallying cry for Democrats speaks to both her philosophy of leadership and tenacity as a campaigner. A progressive with a strong record of transforming big policy ideas into reality, Sen. Warren has both the vision to inspire voters and the skills to effectuate change within the existing systems of Washington.
She spoke truth to power while building the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Engaging with voters in hours long selfie lines following her campaign rallies, she has touched voters of all walks of life and their stories have informed her numerous policy proposals. A clear anti-corruption leader, she directly contrasts the rampant corruption within the Trump Administration. With an eye toward defeating Donald Trump in November, we need a Democratic candidate that unites the party and inspires the Democratic base to turn out to vote for them. Sen. Warren is that candidate.
Originally from Ohio, Maggie Davis has called Arlington her home since 2013. An attorney by training, she works as an emergency management law and policy analyst and is an active Arlington Democrat.
Zeinab El-Rewini on Bernie Sanders: Too often, members of the Democratic Party have abandoned the people of this country – and of other countries – to appease the interests of wealthy donors, large corporations, and war profiteers. Bernie Sanders is a different kind of Democratic politician – one who consistently takes the just position, no matter the political cost.
No other candidate’s platform is more beneficial for working-class folks than Bernie’s, which includes a firm commitment to a single-payer healthcare system, debt-free public college, and medical/student loan debt cancellation. And no other candidate has the massive, diverse, grassroots volunteer army that helped Bernie win in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Yes, Bernie is an old white man. So what? His policies are more uplifting to young people, minorities, and women than those of any other candidate.
Undecided voters will be swayed by Bernie’s moral courage, unprecedented outreach efforts, and consistent 40-year track record of championing progressive policies.
Zeinab El-Rewini is a recent graduate of the University of North Dakota. Soon after moving to Arlington, she began volunteering with the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.
By Madaline Langston
While various panels and programs have explored racism in Arlington, dozens of students recently took a different tack, using site visits, interviews with community members, and creative drama to “Flip the Script.”
About 10 student actors — both black and white — interviewed local and academic historians and visited African-American communities before returning to their rehearsal space to devise a historically based play, “The Day Nothing Happened.” The stories they heard resonated with these young actors and compelled them to confront the difficult issues that African-American students still experience today.
During one visit to Arlington’s Hall’s Hill neighborhood, the students were astonished that a wall had been built in the 1930s to physically separate the African-American community from surrounding white neighborhoods, as if hidden from a society uncomfortable with our mere existence. The response of the students was of hurt, anger and disbelief. A portion of that wall still stands today as a reminder of the past injustices and present inequalities.
The play is structured around one day in 1959 when four black teenagers entered an all-white school for the first time in Virginia, with scenes and interactions from “on the bus, homeroom and cafeteria.” Parents’ concerns were woven in, too, such as a scene from the night before the four entered school.
Performances of the drama made powerful impressions on some in the audience. Claudine Bostick Sangaré, parent of one of the actors, said, “I recently witnessed an elderly black man, visibly moved and crying during the show.” She also recounted a Latina woman’s shock at learning Stratford Junior High (now known as Dorothy Hamm Middle School), located in her “backyard,” was that first school in Virginia to desegregate long ago.
Sangaré said her own 14-year-old daughter drew parallels to the experiences of her character in the play — one of the four black teenagers — and her current school environment. “Since her involvement with ‘Flip the Script,’ my teenage child had to become emotionally attached to the history to channel feelings of angst, anxiety and fear to portray her character.”
In the creative process leading to the drama, actors and others reflected on what they had heard and learned. “I have definitely gone through a roller coaster of emotions,” said one actor. “I was nervous to be vulnerable and raw, but ultimately excited to shed light on a story that is often swept under the rug.”
By John Giambalvo
Student enrollment projections by Arlington Public Schools (APS) impact all Arlington residents, and have a direct impact on spending for new schools, school bonds and debt service, parking and traffic, for example — which directly affect quality of life, property values and taxes. With Arlington’s population growing for the foreseeable future, APS must have accurate projections for effective school construction planning.
APS and Arlington County have made strides recently in sharing information to improve projection accuracy. For example, the county now shares residential construction information with APS that not only improves aggregate projections, but also helps APS understand where the growth will likely take place and which schools it will affect.
However, despite all the data analysis, these projections remain part art. The latest projections anticipate about 3,200 fewer students for 2028-29 than were projected in Fall 2018; and this significant difference potentially affects the school system’s new Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The CIP is a project and financial planning document covering a 10-year period and is updated every two years.
APS now estimates enrollment will grow to about 31,000 students five years from now and then level off over the subsequent five years (versus continued steady growth as previously projected), despite an estimated 1,400 housing units coming online annually in the next decade. This odd stalling of student growth — despite robust residential construction–is based on a lower projected birth rate. While the lower birth rate is based on expert input, I believe we must be prepared if this does not come to pass and thus student population grows more than anticipated or grows in areas where we are already struggling to provide sufficient school seats. But how?
Continued improvement in information-sharing between APS and the county will help, as more data generally yields better accuracy. But, this needs to then go one step further.
The county is a critical partner. It controls policy and development decisions that directly impact APS, and over which APS has no control. Approving new residential housing, especially with increased density, is a County Board function as is attracting Amazon and other businesses to the county. APS must be able to successfully educate the additional students arising from new housing units and businesses. The best way to do this is for the county to be even more explicit and comprehensive in weighing how its decisions on housing and economic development could impact student growth.