Two residents of the Fairlington Arbor condominiums were told by the condo board to dig up their spooky gravestones that seek to lay bigotry to rest.
Katrina Reed and her husband Joe decked out their yard with six decorative gravestones, but they papered over the space for names of the deceased to bury hate, racism, religions discrimination, sexism, homophobia and white supremacy instead.
Both Reeds teach and coach high school basketball. As teachers, Katrina said they strive to create an inclusive environment in their remote and in-person classrooms.
“Our thought process was, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to be inclusive at home?'” she said.
The death-to-discrimination markers received a lot of love from neighbors, but drew the ire of the Fairlington Arbor management. The dispute centers around whether the gravestones are signs, which are not allowed unless the Board of Directors approve them, or seasonal decor, which are allowed if they are “modest and in keeping with community norms.”
A letter from management and addressed to the Reeds on behalf of the Fairlington Arbor Board of Directors asked them to “correct this matter” to “avoid further action by the Board of Directors.”
The letter treats the gravestones as decor, but the messages as signs.
“While the frames on your sign are compliant, the content is not,” the letter said. Joe disputed the application of the bylaw in an email to management.
“The signs displayed are not deemed ‘seasonal’ by the board since they display a message that does not fit the Halloween occasion,” Arbor management said in response.
The letter’s author, Fairlington Arbor’s general manager, declined to comment further. In an automated message, Matt Duncan, the President of the Board of Directors, said he is out of office and referred inquiries to management.
In a private neighborhood Facebook group, Katrina asked her neighbors for advice and to see if others had similar experiences. The response was overwhelming, with more than 175 comments on Katrina’s post so far.
“People went nuts,” she said. “They were ready to light their pitchforks and find the board members.”
One Facebook commenter said of the decorations: “We thought they were awesome. 10/10. Do not take them down.”
“These have made me very happy every time I walk by!” another said.
The couple maintains that stifling free speech causes more division than signs promoting inclusivity.
“If you can let people express First Amendment rights within a time period, I think it solves these issues,” Joe said.
The couple said the bylaws need to be clarified and they plan to speak about it during the next board meeting on Oct. 27. Joe said ironically, he was on the board and helped write the bylaws.
“I don’t envy them,” he said.
On Facebook, some theorized that the condo board was pushed to take action by a handful of complainers.
“Neighbors have been complimentary of our messages of inclusion, but I seem to have offended the racists, homophobes, etc.,” Katrina wrote in her post.
Others guessed that the current political climate might have caused an overreaction by condo management.
“It’s probable that no one is offended by your decorations but management just wants to head off something truly objectionable,” wrote one commenter, who congratulated the couple for speaking up.
This summer, the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington was the site of a showdown between those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and counter-demonstrators who replaced BLM slogans with pro-Trump messages.
In the Board chair’s annual State of the County address, Tejada touted Arlington as a “coveted area” that people want to live and work in. However, citing the planned departure of the National Science Foundation and its 2,200+ jobs to Alexandria, and the county’s 17 percent (and rising) office vacancy rate, Tejada said the county must work to “reinvent” itself.
“Arlington is facing some economic uncertainty,” he said. “One of the worst things… is to be complacent. It’s time to reinvent ourselves once again. An important strategy of our reinvention is our focus on science and technology.”
To that end, Tejada said the county will continue to fight to keep the NSF in Ballston.
“We are profoundly disappointed, but I believe the last word has not been written on this,” he said. “We still believe Arlington is the best home for the National Science Foundation, and we hope that it stays. We will work diligently to make sure that happens.”
“It just doesn’t make sense,” he continued. “Undoing a science cluster that the federal government itself has spent two decades and quite a lot of taxpayer money building? We believe this decision needs closer scrutiny. How much are Alexandria taxpayers paying for this deal?”
“Arlington has become a hotbed of startup technology companies,” he said. Emphasizing private sector commercial growth is important, he said, since the biggest office tenant in Arlington, the federal government, has become “unpredictable at best.”
Also part of Arlington’s “reinvention” is the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar system.
“The streetcar is our best transit option for Columbia Pike,” Tejada said. “The streetcar will create that main street feel that the community wants. It will reduce pollution and congestion. And yes, it is affordable in the long term. The Pike streetcar system is equal to the cost of one Metrorail station.”
The streetcar will be funded via a commercial property tax surcharge that’s earmarked for transportation projects. The financing would not qualify for a voter referendum under state law, Tejada said, and “the plan is well within the county’s self-imposed debt limit.”
Tejada said he would not have supported the streetcar had the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan not called for the preservation of affordable housing. He called on the business leaders in the room to contribute to the affordable housing effort on the Pike.
AWLA Wins ‘Best in Shelter’ Contest — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington will receive $50,000 in prize money after one of its dogs won the “Best in Shelter” contest. Gaston, a four-year-old American Bulldog mix, received the most votes in the contest, which was sponsored by author Martha Grimes. “The prize money will help us do even more for all the homeless animals that come into our shelter, including vaccines, medications, surgeries, and enrichment,” said AWLA Executive Director Neil Trent. Gaston was propelled to victory, at least in part, thanks to a music video produced by AWLA supporters.
Leonsis to Address Ballston BID — Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis will be the keynote speaker at the first annual meeting of the new Ballston Business Improvement District this evening. Leonsis is expected to talk about “entrepreneurship and the future of Ballston” at the meeting, which is being held from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the Westin Arlington Gateway (801 N. Glebe Road). The meeting is open to local residents but attendees are asked to RSVP in advance. [Ballston BID]
Officer’s Donation Noted at Shirlington Library — When Lt. Col. James R. Mailler died in 2011, he left a donation to one of his favorite places — the Shirlington Branch Library. Now Lt. Col. Mailler’s donation is being recognized with a plaque near the newspapers, where he used to spend much of his time. [Library Blog]
Flickr pool photo by Alex
President Obama spoke at OPOWER, a small energy efficiency business based in Courthouse, just before noon today.
A helicopter hovered overhead as roads around Courthouse were shut down for the president’s motorcade.
The president spoke for ten minutes about clean energy jobs. He also addressed new unemployment figures that revealed the loss of an additional 36,000 jobs in February.
“Even though it’s better than expected, it’s more than we should tolerate,” Mister Obama said of the job losses.
The president also took a tour of the OPOWER offices, greeting employees and cracking jokes. From the White House Pool Report:
Obama took a tour of the smallish office, stopping by each row of 12 two-computer rows to talk to employees, asking what they did. He joked a lot about the youth of the workforce. “Is there anybody over 30 who works here?” Obama asked, prompting laughs.
Here’s some background on OPOWER, which the president praised as “a model of what we want to be seeing all across the country.” The information is provided by the company.
OPOWER is a 75-person Smart Grid and Energy Efficiency software company that partners with utilities to help people use less energy by giving them better information.
OPOWER delivers its services to two million households and works with six of the ten largest utilities in the country and twenty-five utilities overall.
OPOWER is projected to save existing customers more than $250 million over the next three years. If the OPOWER model were deployed nationwide, it would save enough energy to power 3 million homes.
OPOWER grew from 30-60 people in 2009, and expects to add 100 new people in 2010.
The Administration’s focus and commitment on the creation of a clean energy economy – including the Recovery Act – has directly and indirectly supported OPOWER’s growth.
OPOWER’s corporate headquarters is located at 1515 N. Courthouse Road.
A transcript of the president’s speech, after the jump.