(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlington has long prided itself on the pathways available to residents to have a say in local policy-making, also known as the “Arlington Way.”
But a growing number of county officials, local leaders and civic groups think the tradition, while noble in aim, doesn’t work for everyone. They say it leans too much on affluent retirees and sabotages the county’s equity efforts.
For years, Arlington County has acknowledged that its traditional engagement processes privilege those with the time, resources and connections to invest in discussions about projects, studies and policies. That leaves out a growing segment of the population outside that mold: renters, parents of young kids, people who work non-traditional hours, people without access to reliable and affordable transportation, and those who are not fluent English speakers.
References to the “Arlington Way” arose in a County Board public comment period this summer that ran long due to controversy over the start time of a north Arlington farmers market, which shut out participation from low-income residents there to speak about filthy conditions at the Serrano Apartments. More recently, diversity concerns prompted the Arlington County Civic Federation — which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss local topics — to pass a resolution prioritizing improved community outreach and representation.
Amid this renewed focus, some novel approaches and long-term reforms have been proposed that county and civic leaders and community engagement staff tell ARLnow could widen the Arlington Way.
“Generally speaking, Arlington residents care about the issues that impact them, but do they know about it? How do they get the information?” asks Samia Byrd, Arlington’s Chief Race and Equity Officer. “We take for granted that residents know how to participate in the process.”
Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol reprised the dilemma last week during a conversation about the community oversight board, which is currently seeking members to review cases of alleged police misconduct.
“We’ve been wrestling with… how we properly compensate people for that time and expertise,” Cristol said, as quoted by County Board watcher Stephen Repetski. “Because, frankly, that is… one of the biggest reasons you see our most heavy-hitting community engagement activities tend to rely disproportionately on well-off retirees.”
In a follow-up conversation, she told ARLnow that she’s been thinking about diversity in County Board-appointed commissions.
Six years ago, she believed that the solution would be finding and recruiting new faces at all levels of leadership. Over time, she’s realized the homogeneity of civic leadership is a consequence of how engagement is structured. Night meetings — or even day meetings — at county headquarters disadvantage students, parents and anyone who doesn’t work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including overworked young professionals.
“It actually was not just about inviting more diverse people to the table, as defined, but maybe the table was defined in a way that made it hard for certain people to sit there,” she said. “There have to be many ways to engage.”
Those involved in county communications tell ARLnow they likewise think about diversity, not in terms of commission composition and structure, but in terms of regular outreach.
Who’s left out?
Assistant County Manager and Director of Communications and Public Engagement Bryna Helfer has been tackling community engagement homogeneity since she was hired in 2016. She and Byrd both say “it’s been a challenge” to reach people who aren’t white, affluent or a retiree, as well as people who don’t already know how to get involved or navigate the county website.
Workers Threatened During Rosslyn Theft — “At approximately 4:54 a.m. on June 30, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect allegedly entered a work site and attempted to steal equipment. When confronted by workers, the suspect produced a large wooden stick and threatened them. Responding officers located the suspect on scene and he was taken into custody.” [ACPD]
New School Board Leaders Chosen — “Today, the Arlington School Board held its annual organizational meeting for the 2021-22 school year and elected Dr. Barbara Kanninen as Chair and Reid Goldstein as Vice Chair. The terms for the new Chair and Vice Chair begin immediately and will continue until June 30, 2022.” [Arlington Public Schools]
APS Appoints First COO — “The School Board appointed Dr. John Mayo as the first Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Arlington Public Schools at its July 1 organizational meeting. Dr. Mayo currently serves as a Deputy Superintendent for Petersburg City Public Schools in Petersburg, VA. The COO is a new position that is part of the Superintendent’s reorganization, designed to strengthen operations and provide schools, students, teachers and staff with the needed supports and resources.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington GOP Gets Post-Trump Boost — “The Arlington County Republican Committee continues to see a resurgence in membership – driven, perhaps counterintuitively, by the results of the 2020 national election. ‘We’re close to 100 members,’ said Matthew Hurtt, communications chairman… It’s a major increase since the start of the year, and ‘a testament to excitement and enthusiasm that is happening here in Arlington,’ Hurtt said.” [Sun Gazette]
No Fireworks Viewing Access from DCA — From Reagan National Airport: “July 4 fireworks viewing… Due to major construction impacting our roadways and sidewalks, there is no pedestrian access to Gravelly Point and the Mount Vernon Trail from the airport.” [Twitter]
GMU Launching Center on Race — “George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government will launch its new Race, Politics, and Policy Center in Fall 2021 under the leadership of Professor Michael Fauntroy. Fauntroy, who taught at Mason for 11 years before joining the faculty at Howard University in 2013, returned to Mason in June.” [George Mason University]
Clarendon Nightlife Reminder — “As the region continues to emerge from the pandemic and more patrons participate in nightlife activities, Arlington County is reminding the public about designated weekend pick-up and drop-off zones in Clarendon.” [Arlington County]
The Arlington 9-11 Memorial 5K will once again be in-person after going virtual last year.
This will be the 20th anniversary of the race, which is run in honor of the Arlington first responders who helped at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and in support of 9/11-related charities.
The race is organized by members of Arlington’s public safety agencies, including the police department and sheriff’s office.
The event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 11 and around 3,000 people are expected to participate this year, Race Director and Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Jose Quiroz tells ARLnow. That’s in line with previous years.
Over the last two decades, the event has raised about $800,000 for charity. This includes HEROS, which helps local families whose loved ones have died in the line of duty, as well as the Pentagon Memorial Fund, which is still looking to build a new visitor center for the memorial.
The website doesn’t specifically exactly where the funds will be going this year but does note that “all proceeds will be donated to official charities that focus on the healing of military personnel and civilians directly affected by the war on terrorism and the attacks against America on September 11, 2001.”
The race will start at the Doubletree Hotel in Pentagon City, follow Army Navy Drive, passing the Pentagon Memorial, making its way along Washington Blvd, before hitting Route 110, and circling back to the hotel.
ACPD Officer Harley Guenther, who is is on the 9/11 Memorial Race Board and part of the outreach team, says the event has deep meaning to her. When the airplane hit the Pentagon two decades ago, both her mother and father worked for ACPD and were among the first on scene.
At the time, she was only six years old and was sent to live with relatives for several weeks while her parents aided in rescue efforts and evidence recovery at the Pentagon.
For her, this race is about them.
“Mom and dad were my heroes growing up. When disaster struck, they went to help,” says Guenther.
She isn’t much of a runner, she says, but she makes it a point to jog past the Pentagon Memorial.
“You can’t help but be affected. It’s an introspective time. You just run with your thoughts.” says Guenther.
Certain protocols could still be in place come September, the website notes, including capacity restrictions, social distancing, and masks. This could mean staggered start times and impact the post-race festival. All of this is currently being evaluated, Quiroz says.
There’s a virtual option for those not yet feeling comfortable with running in the race in person.
Every person who registers will receive a long sleeve commemorative t-shirt.
It’s important to hold the race in-person this year, Quiroz says, because there are still so many in the community who were significantly impacted on that day. For Quiroz, 9/11 was actually his second day on the job with the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office.
“We need to always honor those that responded that day,” he said. “It’s sacred and this event helps to remind the new generation.”
Free Vax Shots for Kids Ages 12-15 — “Arlington County will begin to administer free COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 12-15 years of age who live or are schooled in Arlington beginning Saturday, May 15. This follows the expansion of Pfizer’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to children 12 and over… Approximately 8,000 children aged 12-15 live in Arlington. Arlington will offer Saturday through Monday clinics over the next two weekends for children 12-17 years of age to help meet anticipated demand for the vaccine.” [Arlington County]
Blowback Over Summer School Limits — “Arlington school leaders are getting abuse from both ends when it comes to criticism of newly announced summer-school restrictions. A group that has pressed Arlington schools leaders for a faster reopening of classes says new limitations show a continued lack of leadership, while at the same time the Arlington Education Association is blasting school leaders for throwing teachers under the bus on the issue.” [Sun Gazette, NBC 4]
Neighborhood ‘Toolkits’ on Race — “Arlington County today released a set of new tools to help advance racial equity efforts in Arlington. The collection of neighborhood toolkits and data dashboards are products of the County’s Realizing Arlington’s Commitment to Equity (RACE) program… The Toolkits for Conversations on Race & Equity are self-guided programs that can be used to spark conversations with family, friends, and neighbors.” [Arlington County]
Lubber Run Performances Return — “After being closed for the entirety of the summer 2020 season due to the pandemic, the Arlington County government’s Lubber Run Amphitheatre will host free programming in July and August. Performances will be Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 11 a.m. The season opens with blues singer-songwriter Chris Pierce performing on Friday, July 9.” [Sun Gazette]
Beyer Suicide Bill Passes — “You’ve heard of 911 for emergencies and 411 for information. Now the House of Representatives is debating a bill that could educate people about a new number for the National Suicide Hotline, 988. Colleen Creighton at the American Association of Suicidology says a bill introduced by Congressman Don Beyer will help spread the word about the new hotline.” [WVTF, Twitter]
Nearby: New Owner for McLean Shopping Center — “McLean’s Chesterbrook Shopping Center has changed hands for the first time since the early 1980s… ‘Chesterbrook Center is well positioned for significant growth and perfectly aligns with our Northern Virginia strategy,’ Barry Carty, Federal Realty’s senior vice president of East Coast acquisitions, said.” [Tysons Reporter]
In the Before Times, when neither COVID-19 nor National Landing were part of the local lexicon, Crystal City would host a series of springtime races dubbed 5K Fridays.
The weekly races would attract thousands of runners. Alas, despite vaccinations quickening, gatherings of thousands of people in a relatively concentrated area remain frowned upon outside of sports stadiums.
Thus, to continue the 5K tradition in a more scaled-back fashion, the now-National Landing Business Improvement District is hosting a single event next month dubbed the Great Inflatable Race.
As the name suggests, participants are being encouraged to come “dressed in your wackiest summer inflatable attire.”
Only 250 participants will be able to register, and even then runners will start the race in waves and will be required to wear masks “at the start and finish lines and while passing within 10 feet of other runners.”
The race is scheduled for Friday, May 7 at 6 p.m., kicking off from the “Courtyard Green” at 2121 Crystal Drive.
Packet pickup will take place at the Pacers Running store in Old Town Alexandria the Sunday afternoon before the race.
A walk to bring attention to racial injustice, the first of its kind since last summer, is taking place on Saturday and with it will come a series of road closures.
The Run For Her Life 5K and Yoga Event is scheduled for this Saturday, March 12, from 2-4 p.m.
The 5K walk will start in the rear parking lot of Dorothy Hamm Middle School at 4100 Vacation Lane in Cherrydale and will follow a path winding path around the neighborhood. Masks are required at the event. Organizers say participation in the walk and yoga event is limited to women and girls, but men are welcome to volunteer to help out.
The Arlington County Police Department has announced a series of “rolling road closures” associated with the walk, which will be put in place over the course of about two hours.
The event route, per ACPD, includes:
- START: 4100 Vacation Lane (Hamm Middle School, rear parking lot)
- RIGHT onto Vacation Lane
- RIGHT onto Military Road
- CROSS Old Dominion Road onto N. Quincy Road
- RIGHT onto Lee Highway
- LEFT onto N. Taylor Street
- RIGHT onto N. 17th Street
- CROSS N. Glebe Road
- CONTINUE on N. 17th Street
- RIGHT onto N. Culpeper Street
- RIGHT onto Lee Highway
- LEFT onto Lorcom Lane
- RIGHT onto Vacation Lane
- FINISH: 4100 Vacation Lane (Hamm Middle School, rear parking lot)
“We come together to stand in solidarity, one year since the murder of Breonna Taylor, to call attention to the racial injustice and violence committed against ALL Black and Brown women,” says the event website. “Together we’ll honor and celebrate the resilience of Black and Brown women during this collective healing event.”
“The event proceeds will go to support the continued advocacy of Arlington For Justice and Black Parents of Arlington, Black women-led organizations, with a portion being donated to the Breonna Taylor Foundation,” the website notes.
While there were plenty of protests in Arlington over the summer, this event may be the first of its kind since then. It is also the first organized, in-person public event in Arlington to prompt an ACPD traffic advisory press release since Mayor Pete came to town prior to the pandemic lockdown.
Photo via ACPD
County Getting Paid for Glass Recycling — “Arlington’s glass recycling drop-off program continues to shatter expectations–surpassing 5 million pounds (2,500 tons) collected since its debut in 2019. And the effort is officially paying off. The County now receives $15 per ton for glass collected as the result of a new hauling and commodity contract with a Pennsylvania recycler.” [Arlington County]
VDOT’s Route 1 Proposal Bombs — “As a new vision for Crystal City’s portion of U.S. Route 1 comes into focus, local businesses, neighbors and the area’s dominant landlord are all becoming increasingly concerned… Renderings unveiled in a Virginia Department of Transportation meeting Wednesday night have united the National Landing Business Improvement District, JBG Smith Properties and some neighborhood activists in opposition over fears that the designs are still too car-centric.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]
Police Warn of Ongoing Scams — “The Arlington County Police Department is sharing information on common scams circulating in Arlington County and ways you can spot, avoid, and report them. The public should be particularly cautious of anyone calling, emailing, or interacting with them and requesting payment in the form of gift cards as this is often a red flag for fraud.” [ACPD]
Driver of Stolen Car Escapes — “At approximately 2:15 a.m. on March 3, a patrol officer observed a stolen vehicle traveling on S. Carlin Springs Road. Before a traffic stop could be initiated, the driver accelerated the vehicle and made evasive turns before pulling over and fleeing the scene on foot. A perimeter was established and officers, with aerial support from the Fairfax County Police Helicopter Division, conducted a search for the driver with negative results.” [ACPD]
New Race Planned Next Weekend — “Join Arlington For Justice and Black Parents of Arlington for the 1st Run For Her Life (Women’s Only) 5k WALK and YOGA Event… March 13, 2021 at 2 p.m.” [Facebook]
A giant photograph of four Black children who made history in Arlington was just installed in the new wing of Dorothy Hamm Middle School (4100 Vacation Lane), which is close to being completed.
The mural honors Ronald Deskins, Michael Jones, Lance Newman and Gloria Thompson, who set foot in Stratford Junior High School on Feb. 2, 1959, officially ending the practice of segregation in Arlington Public Schools.
“What a beautiful tribute and celebration of four amazing APS students!” School Board member Barbara Kanninen said on social media.
“It’s such an awesome, hopeful story,” said Ellen Smith, principal of the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School.
Smith is excited for her students to see history come to life at their school, which opened in September 2019 while construction on a new addition continued. Once the last touches on the wing are finalized, the school will be 100% complete.
The middle school weaves in history through its name — after Dorothy Hamm, a key figure in the charge to integrate Arlington Public Schools — plus installations recounting the history of racial integration, Smith said. Gone is the old identity as a segregated school named after Stratford Hall, the plantation where Confederate general Robert E. Lee spent his childhood.
From the beginning, the architectural team and Arlington Public Schools wanted to incorporate into students’ experience the idea that kids and the community advocated for integration, she said.
“The retelling and knowledge of this story is part of our mission as a school,” Smith said. “I expect it to be a part of students’ lived experiences every year.”
A new commemorative walk outside will have illustrated panels retelling the story of integration. Inside, historical artifacts from the Hamm family will also be on display.
Smith plans to recognize the first day of school for Deskins, Jones, Newman and Thompson every Feb. 2. Additionally, the school curriculum will include the topics of integration, civil rights and social justice, she said.
Although the building has changed uses since the four entered it 61 years ago — most recently housing the H-B Woodlawn program since the 1970s — the interior configuration has largely stayed the same, Smith said. The biggest upgrades include the new name and a new wing to the west of the school, which is a few finishing touches away from being completely done.
After the H-B Woodlawn program moved to Rosslyn, work began to convert the building into a neighborhood middle school. Construction started in early 2018 and continued after Smith opened the school last September. Just seven months later, students were learning remotely due to the pandemic, and the pace of construction has accelerated without students present, the principal said.
The new wing features a new library, a small gym and 15 classrooms, including a family consumer sciences (previously known as home economics) classroom and a makerspace.
“The architectural team did a fantastic job: It’s very bright, geometric and light-filled,” Smith said.
(Updated at 10:30 a.m. on 12/02/20) Arlington is seeking diverse voices in its Dialogues on Race and Equity, but so far the biggest group of respondents have been middle-aged white women who are relatively affluent.
Arlington County Chief Race and Equity Officer Samia Byrd and Challenging Racism Director Alicia Jones McLeod, who are promoting a new questionnaire on the topic of race, see this as a sign to keep pushing for broader participation.
“It has been interesting… we are seeing predominantly white women, middle aged, homeowners completing the assessment,” Byrd told the County Board last week. “So we really, really want to encourage everyone — so we can hear all of the voices that we typically do not hear — to complete the assessment.”
So far, 69% of respondents were white, but not of Hispanic origin. Hispanic people accounted for 7%, and Black or African American people accounted for 9%. Asian or Pacific Islander representation rests at 4.5% and American Indian or Alaska Native rests at 2.2%. Another 4.5% marked “other.”
Women represent 60% of respondents, and men 31%, with 8% preferring not to answer, and less than 1% marking gender non-conforming or not listed.
“We want to understand the full Arlington experience, or Arlington as experienced by everyone, so that we can continue to move forward,” Byrd added, in a conversation with ARLnow yesterday.
On Monday, the assessment was released in Mongolian and Arabic. It is being pushed via social media, email and the distribution of hard copies. The assessment closes on Dec. 31 and results will be presented to the County Board in the new year.
About 1,200 assessments have been completed since the survey went online on Oct. 12, as part of a broader initiative from Arlington County and Challenging Racism to engage community members in dialogues on race and equity, in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed.
More than 200 people have participated in a second component of this initiative — a series of six conversations — the last of which is set for Dec. 9.
The preliminary under-representation of people of color, immigrants and non-English speakers mirrors the feelings that participants have expressed about the Arlington Way, housing and Arlington Public Schools. Participants have frequently mentioned barriers that lead to under-representation in government processes, home-owning and APS gifted programs.
Byrd said the assessments and discussions will lay the foundation for her work with county officials and the community to dismantle systemic racism, where it exists, in Arlington County.
That work involves undoing the lasting effects from when unequal treatment was codified in law, Byrd said. While those historic policies no longer exist, they erected barriers that keep Arlingtonians from accessing housing, education, health and wealth to this day, she said.
“None of us here created the system, but we’re all a part of it, regardless,” she said. “Race is the center of it.”
In the assessments and conversations, many Arlingtonians identified the Arlington Way — a catch-all phrase for citizen engagement in local government — as an area where the means of participation disadvantage people of color, those who rent and those who do not have the luxury of time to participate in lengthy, iterative decision processes.
“The Arlington Way means different things to different people, but generally it is about engagement: how people interact with, and who has access to, decision-making, decision-makers and resources; who is at the table when those policy decisions are being made; who can weigh in when policy decisions are being made that affect everyone,” Byrd said.
The pandemic has, at least temporarily, resulted in one notable change to the Arlington Way: more public meetings are being conducted online, rather than in person, thus making it more feasible for some to watch or participate. Before, participation in in-person meetings might have required some combination of booking a babysitter, requesting to work a different shift, waiting for public transit, and sitting in a crowded room for hours on end.
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The company, at 1515 N. Courthouse Road, trained eight creators to make video collections specifically depicting people of color and members of the LGBT communities doing everyday activities. These reels are part of a campaign, Re: Stock, which was launched to address the need for videos of people with different racial identities, sizes, abilities and sexual orientations.
“Sourcing from authentic places will lead to authentic footage and authentic representation,” said Sydney Carlton, Director of Brand Marketing at Storyblocks.
The first batch of videos were released starting in mid-October. Although the pandemic delayed the launch from this spring Storyblocks aims to double its diverse content by the end of 2021 and quadruple it by the end of 2022.
The push comes after years of feedback from clients asking for more diverse footage, since existing footage tends to skew towards white subjects and straight couples.
“We were receiving hundreds and hundreds of comments for more people of color and more same-sex couples,” Carlton said. “It really ran the gamut, but it was loud and a lot.”
A recent company survey found that 72% of users — who include independent filmmakers, advertisers and journalists — said diverse content is important for their projects, but people of color are represented in just 5% of Storyblocks’ current digital library.
“You can only find happy white women eating salads,” Carlton said.
The problem is primarily due to location and access, since most stock video contributors hail from Eastern Europe, where creators do not have the same access to a diverse array of subjects, she said.
The first collections were produced by Monica Singleton and Samson Binutu. They focused on Black families educating their children, Black teens and adults in romantic relationships, family dinners at home and Black women enjoying the outdoors.
“These are things people do every single day,” Carlton said. “That’s the power of the campaign.”
In a statement, Singleton said her personal experience searching footage libraries made her excited to join the project.
“In the past when I’ve looked for certain stock footage or music, it’s been really hard to find representation for people that look like me,” Singleton said.
Future Storyblocks projects will focus on people with from other racial identities, and with a range of body shapes and sizes as well as abilities. Going deeper, Carlton said the goal of Re: Stock is invert stereotypes of who plays board games, does homework with their kids, and lives together.
“That’s where you instill a sense of humanity in people,” she said.
New Italian Eatery Opening Soon — “Antonio Ferraro, whose Napoli Pasta Bar in Columbia Heights was named a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant in 2018, is opening a new market concept in Arlington’s Pentagon Row. Napoli Salumeria is specializing in grab-and-go-style meals, including Neapolitan street food (fried mozzarella and focaccia), homemade pastas, and sauces. Expect classic sandwiches, including cheesesteaks, Italian subs, and sausage and peppers… the hope is to open the market late next week.” [DCist]
Arlington ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant Still On — Jason Foster, a former pro football player who lives in the Courthouse area, remains a contestant on ABC’s ‘Bachelorette,’ though Bachelorette Clare seems focused on another beau: Dale, who the other contestants spent part of Tuesday’s episode roasting. [Washingtonian]
Some Skeptical of County’s Race Conversations — “James Moore is an Arlington community activist and owner of a 60-year-old neighborhood barbershop in the Hall’s Hill neighborhood. ‘Our communities in Arlington will want action more so than just conversation,’ Moore said. Moore said he would like to see the county support Black people living in the community by providing more mental health and housing resources.” [The Wash]
Kid’s Skatepark Petition Gets 600 Signers — “I would like for the Arlington county board to add a new skatepark to our area. As you may have noticed the Powhatan Springs skatepark is starting to get very crowded and is hard to ride around without bumping into other people. This park is actually becoming dangerous with all of the people riding in the bowls at one time.” [Change.org]
Chamber Names ‘Best Business’ Honorees — “Last night, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce celebrated the 34th Annual Arlington Best Business Awards at the Crowne Plaza Crystal City-Washington, D.C., in a hybrid format that allowed attendees to join in person and virtually.” [Press Release]
Arlington Among Top Places for Nature Lovers — A list of the “best places in America for outdoor enthusiasts to live and work” has ranked Arlington No. 21, between Scottsdale, Arizona and Tampa, Florida. Seattle ranked No. 1. [SmartAsset]