May is Bike Month, and from what I’ve seen out and about so far, lots of you are already celebrating.
The pandemic has caused a lot of folks to drag an old bike out of the garage, pick one up from a local bike shop or just ride more frequently, which is fantastic to see. There are some great, free activities this month to help keep you on your riding journey.
Celebrate Bike Month with BikeArlington
BikeArlington is doing a bunch of fun events and challenges for the whole month of May, you can still register here. The first week, we got a prompt to encourage us to ride (Replace One Car Trip: try to make one trip this week that you would normally make in a car, on a bike) as well as delicious weekend deals (25% off at Nicecream? Yes, thank you!).
Bike to Work Day
Bike to Work Day is back for 2021 on Friday, May 21, after being cancelled in 2020, with some modifications to support COVID safety. Get your free T-shirt, some exercise and some fresh air. You can register here. Aren’t going in to the office? No problem – it’s a good excuse to just bike to your local pit stop, or anywhere really.
Bike to Work WEEK
If Bike to Work Day isn’t enough for you, the National Landing BID is continuing their tradition of hosting Bike to Work Week from Monday (May 17) to Friday (May 21) from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. at the Crystal City Water Park. Again, modifications have been made to ensure COVID safety, so don’t expect to linger. Participants who check-in all 5 days will earn coveted, exclusive National Landing Cycling Swag. Register here.
This beautiful May weather is a great chance to explore and learn how easy it can be to bike for those short trips that make up the majority of our typical travel. The majority of trips the average American takes are less than 6 miles. Bike to dinner, bike to ice cream, bike to the park, bike to the dentist, or bike to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription. You won’t sit in traffic, you won’t have to pay for parking, and it’s amazing what you’ll notice about your neighborhood when aren’t inside a steel & glass bubble.
I hope to see you out there! Be sure to wave!
Chris Slatt is the current Chair of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County and a former civic association president. He is a software developer, co-owner of Perfect Pointe Dance Studio, and a father of two.
The Network NOVA Friday Power Lunch recently focused on how little lies, or misinformation, can grow into bigger lies if they go unchecked.
Lowell Feld, editor of Blue Virginia, noted that the Washington Post made the case that one fifth of Democrats were being challenged by far left challengers in the 2021 House of Delegates primaries.
After analyzing the data, he found that there were only four challengers who were running to the left of the incumbents. He asserted that there is a common refrain in the media that the Democratic Party is at war with its “left wing/progressives” and this story fit the narrative. This “misrepresentation” can help shape a false narrative and impact other issues.
He also mentioned the idea of false equivalencies. For example, lies and misinformation spread through the radical conservative community and led to the January 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. Furthermore, a ridiculous comparison was made between the attack and the earlier Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests. The police response was much different for the BLM protests, and included tear gas, detentions and multiple arrests, which likely falsely fueled the public perception of the intent of the protestors.
When one side promotes racial justice and one side promotes white supremacy, we have to be clear that one is right and one is wrong. Yet, they were presented as if they were two equal sides of an issue, which also means that we feel we have to give them equal time and attention.
If gone unchallenged, this cycle changes how we think of the issue, and fuels supporters on the side of the “wrong” issue. It makes it harder for those on the side of the truth to recognize that they are in fact supporting the truth, and not just the opposite of the other side.
It’s obviously not always simple. For example, similar to any cause, there are some rogue Black activists who have strayed from the original BLM mission. Highlighting the few bad actors on any issue is a misrepresentation. It changes public perceptions, our individual conversations and thinking, and muddles policy.
Arlington is debating several issues as a community. We have already made a concerted effort to engage community voices as we reform our police practices, and are in the process of selecting a new police chief. I challenge us all to remember why we are talking about police reform now, and push back if we see the coverage or conversations switch to a different narrative. We have also recognized a need to reform zoning laws through the Missing Middle Housing Study. Due to the history of housing discrimination and links to systemic racism, we know some may want to hold on to a system which has allowed them to thrive. As we continue to discuss these and other issues, it is important for us to check the facts, and challenge how views are presented in all forums.
The manner in which we handle each conversation, in addition to the outcome we seek, helps define who we are. A part of that process is expressing our views in a number of ways including through traditional media, social media, events, speeches and informal dialogue. We should all be aware of false equivalencies and misinformation that have insidiously shaped the narrative and coverage, and do our part to root out all lies, whether they are “sweet little lies”, or not.
Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.
If the last year has taught us anything, it is that half measure never provide real solutions to our most pressing problems.
In the realm of housing, our leaders should be taking bold action to address affordability and ensure a sustainable future. This means being courageous in championing an end to exclusionary zoning and embracing policies that will allow multifamily housing throughout the County.
Housing affordability and the terrible legacy of exclusionary zoning are making national headlines. In recent weeks, this has been spurred by a proposal within President Biden’s American Jobs Plan to “eliminate state and local exclusionary zoning laws.” National opinion writers have clarified that restrictive zoning policies are antithetical to both progressive values of inclusivity and conservative values of the free market.
As the national conversation moves toward acceptance of inclusive and open zoning, advocates at the local and state level have succeeded in pushing elected officials to act. Communities across the country are making news by taking bold steps to add housing, in the name of racial justice, as well as economic necessity.
The City Council of Berkeley, California, voted to eliminate single-family zoning, a century after it was the first city to establish the practice. This is a symbolic but significant step, recognizing the racist legacy of exclusionary zoning. Other cities in California have made similar moves, including Sacramento and San Jose. This follows Minneapolis’s transformative zoning change in 2018, and statewide zoning liberalization in Oregon in 2019.
Why isn’t Arlington making news on this front?
We were the beneficiaries of the biggest economic development decision of the past decade when National Landing was selected as the location for Amazon’s second headquarters. This decision made news across the country. The anticipated, and ongoing, challenges to housing affordability, displacement, and tenant advocacy also made news.
But Arlington County is not making news with its policy response. Instead, we are taking miniscule steps, deferring to entrenched interests at every point. Everything is undertaken from the perspective of an incumbent landowner who demands a low-density, car-centered neighborhood blocks away from corridors rich with opportunity.
Arlingtonians pushing for affordable and attainable housing, as well as safe streets and reduced car traffic, face a gauntlet of public meetings. It takes hours of our lives to get a half mile of protected bike lane or an extra unit of housing on a single-family lot.
The Vernon Street Duplex is a proposal for a two-unit dwelling on a corner lot along Washington Blvd. Because of zoning rules, the builder must go through the same site plan review process that the County has for large-scale apartment or office buildings. “Missing middle” housing will never be attainable for middle-income families if it is forced to incur onerous planning processes.
Arlington seems stuck in a relatively slow news cycle, with few significant breaking stories to speak of over the past few weeks, but that may change next week.
First, we have a County Board meeting next weekend that should keep us busy with coverage. Second, these slow cycles never last for long and we’re due for a big story or two. Third, you’ll be seeing a new byline here over the next couple of weeks, and more staffing allows us to cover more local stories.
Despite being a bit slow, there were still plenty of interesting local stories this week. Below are the most-read articles of the week.
- Police Investigating Bomb Threat in Crystal City
- Pupatella Named One of the Best Pizza Places in Virginia
- Pierogi Joint in Ballston Cooks Up Star Wars-Themed Specials
- Rodents, Mold, Shoddy Maintenance Plague Affordable Apartment Building
- Lower Enrollment Could Help Bail APS Out of $11M+ Deficit
- Police: Erratic, Armed Driver Arrested
- Morning Notes (May 4)
- Pedestrian Walkway Coming to Sidewalk-Less Side of Rosslyn Street
- Arlington’s Vaccination Rate Now Higher Than N. Va. Neighbors
- Coronavirus Cases and Vaccinations Both Down in Arlington
Feel free to discuss those or other topics of local interest in the comments. Have a nice weekend and, for all the moms out there, happy Mother’s Day!
Lyon’s Legacy is a limited-run opinion column on the history of housing in Arlington. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
A century ago, white supremacy in Arlington was bigger than Frank Lyon. It reached up into the County Board, down into secret societies, and so deeply into our county’s life that its fingerprints are still found in our elections, our zoning laws, and traces hiding in our rafters and backyards.
This is the fifth part of Lyon’s Legacy, a biweekly series on ARLnow (you can read the whole thing, with citations, here). It will tell an eight-part history of how Black people, and other groups that experience racial or economic discrimination, have been excluded from living in Arlington County.
Last time, we saw how Frank Lyon and other private developers used three strategies to keep Black people out of their new neighborhoods: racially-restrictive covenants, economically-exclusive zoning, and automobile-oriented design. This week, we’ll see how Arlington’s government — like governments across the country — adopted these techniques of segregation and imposed them everywhere.
Lyon wasn’t alone in wanting an all-white Arlington. In 1912 the County Board passed a segregation act preventing the sale of houses to Black people in all new developments. The law was in effect for five years until a 1917 Supreme Court decision nullified such government-imposed segregation policies across the nation. But private restrictive covenants like those used by Lyon, on individual homes and neighborhoods, weren’t made illegal for another few decades.
The County Board’s first attempt to keep Black people out of Arlington was vexed by the Supreme Court. But they didn’t give up. The Board adapted Lyon’s technique of exclusivity through expense into Arlington’s first-ever county-wide zoning code in 1930.
Almost the entire county was zoned exclusively for single-family detached houses. The code made it illegal to build apartments, rowhouses, duplexes, or stacked flats across Arlington. This ban kept poor people out of new suburbs and it arrested the growth of existing Black communities, most of which already had the middle-density housing that the zoning code forbade. Unlike the restrictive covenants, which were nullified decades ago, this economically-exclusive zoning remains in effect on almost three-quarters of our county.
Exclusive zoning was motivated, in part if not entirely, by white supremacy. The same zoning code also enabled the construction of a racial segregation wall to separate Hall’s Hill, which was Black, from the white neighborhoods of Fostoria and Waycroft. Parts of this wall still stand today, though many of the remains were toppled in 2019’s July flash flood. One of the code’s authors, Edward Duncan, helped to write the 1912 segregation law. The 1930 zoning code was not racist in its language, but it was racist in its intent and its impacts.
Arlington wasn’t uniquely racist. The story was familiar across the country.
Legal historian Richard Rothstein shows: “…there was also enough open racial intent behind exclusionary zoning that it is integral to the story of de jure [legal] segregation. Such economic zoning was rare in the United States before World War I, but the Buchanan decision [by the Supreme Court to ban explicit segregation] provoked urgent interest in zoning as a way to circumvent the ruling.”
Still today, in many major American cities, as much as 90% of residential land is zoned exclusively for single-family detached houses.
Nor was the zoning code the only county-wide racist policy that Arlington witnessed in 1930. In the beginning of that year, four members of Arlington’s Black community offered their candidacy for County Board. At the time, that body’s seats were determined on the basis of district, unlike our at-large elections today.
In the light of Arlington’s geographic segregation, the district voting system meant that a Black candidate actually had a shot at winning. For white Arlingtonians, this was unacceptable.
APS has promised a return to “as close to pre-pandemic normal as possible” for Fall 2021, but the details regarding what “in-person” really means have not been revealed.
Will the pandemic-era Plexiglas barriers, 10-foot distancing at recess, untouched libraries and art rooms, and no group work remain? What about the expansive quarantine policies, shortened days, and no aftercare that extend time out of school?
August 30, 2021 — the best of Sept 1, 2019
“In-person learning offers our young people the best opportunity to develop their passions, bond with their peers, and thrive. Let’s safely get our schools re-opened.” US Education Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona, April 27, 2021.
APS MUST provide five FULL length days with a teacher in the room for all students who choose it in the 2021-2022 school year. Children should be able to collaborate with and learn from each other, touch materials, and play together without restrictions.
APS must ensure that the full range of its programs are in-person and active in Fall 2021, including enrichment classes, sports with fans, and in-person after school and evening activities, many of which are some children’s only chance to feel successful outside the academic environment.
Having school as normal as possible is also the best route to helping children feel comfortable returning to normal life and to send the message that school is SAFE. In particular, APS should hold in-person open houses in August so that children can see the building and spend time in their classrooms to be comfortable.
Coming together to address the impact of the pandemic
The Arlington community must come together to address the disproportionate impact of pandemic education, particularly among our most vulnerable populations.
APS’s own statistics at the elementary, middle and high school levels establish that “Black and Hispanic students, English-language learning students, and students with disabilities are experiencing the deepest drops.”
This crisis should be addressed using Federal Recovery Act and local funding. APS must:
- Incorporate reading programs that better reach kids of all ability levels
- Screen younger children for disabilities
- Provide extra literacy instruction this school year and during summer school
- Provide additional social-emotional education and support to help students adjust and recover from the past year
The current shortened elementary day and expansive quarantine policies exacerbates this year’s childcare crisis. APS must update its quarantine policy to reflect CDC guidance, offer a full school day and aftercare to prevent additional childcare crises and lost learning time in Fall 2021.
“We cannot undo the past, but we can recover in a way that is truly different than the inequitable system we should leave behind.” Dr. Pedro Noguera USC Education School Dean, March 31, 2021
Restore a healthy screen-use balance–particularly for our youngest learners
APS must restore a healthy screen-use balance. Excessive screen time damages children’s mental and physical health at all age levels, but particularly for our youngest learners.
In 2019 — the last full year before APS shut down in-person learning — APS had decided to end its 1:1 digital device program for students in K-2. This was welcome news to parents who were insisting on less school time iPads and the bulk of their classroom time “personally interacting with others, manipulating objects, playing and exploring outdoors, and doing art and science projects.” But in this year’s operating budget, APS reversed course and funded a 1:1 device program for K-2.
Beginning with the Fall 2021 semester, APS must restore its 2019 practice of eliminating the 1:1 program in K-2 classrooms.
APS should pledge now also to eliminate 1:1 sequentially in grades 3-5 for in-person classrooms by the end of the 2024-2025 school year.
School Board accountability and responsibility
Access to a free, quality public education is a Constitutional right in Virginia. Voting by elected officials is a fundamental element of representative democracy and critical to sustaining open dialogue. But APS’s School Board has not taken a single vote on any aspect of Return to School. The Arlington School Board should vote this month on the Superintendent’s reopening plans for summer and Fall 2021, take every opportunity to ask questions, and push for a return to normal.
Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC, a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.
The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
For the second year in a row, the County Board voted to adopt what looks like a pay raise for itself.
On page 28 of the Pay Plan, the salaries for the five member board all jumped by 4.5% compared to the amount described on the county website. Board Members are currently paid $55,147, and the Chairman at $60,662. The Pay Plan for fiscal year 2022 appears to set to raise that pay to $57,648 and $63,413 respectively.
Last year when a 3.5% pay raise appeared in the Pay Plan, we were told in no uncertain terms that there was not funding for the pay raise included in the appropriated budget. However, no public explanation was given or correction made to clear up whether the county website was correct or the pay table was correct. For all the public knows, the Board could have taken the raise last year and just given itself another 1% increase, which mirrors what the Board voted for all county employees.
So for the second year in a row, a Thumbs Down to the County Board for at best creating unnecessary confusion about their compensation or at worst voting itself a pay raise and trying to keep it quiet.
A second Thumbs Down goes to the County Board for the effective 6% property tax increase for homeowners that was included in the budget. The increase was driven by assessments and a stormwater tax rate increase. Not only is the tax increase retroactive to January 1st, it comes as the Board is sitting on a $17.5 million contingency fund provided by the federal government.
Thumbs Up to the candidates for office, both Republicans and Democrats, who are asking questions about the possibility that the Virginia Board of Education may pull back its math curriculum. Our plan should be to maximize the academic opportunities and outcomes for every student, not to lower expectations in the name of equity.
Speaking of candidates for office, this coming Saturday tens of thousands of Republicans will go to convention sites throughout Virginia to cast their ballots for their statewide candidates. After four years of running against a former resident of Washington, DC, the Democrats in Richmond will have to run on their record in 2021.
Thumbs Up to the Republican candidates for focusing on key issues on the minds of many Virginians including: the loss of an in-person school year in too many places, the impact of lockdown policies on our economy, particularly our small businesses, and support for law enforcement to keep us safe.
Mark Kelly is a long-time Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
Progressive Voice is a bi-weekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
By Wesley Joe
“I ran [for governor] to get off the school board. That’s the worst job I ever had.”
–Former U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers (D-Arkansas)
A remarkable feature of this year’s Arlington School Board election was the last-minute drive to recruit candidates for the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) endorsement.
More troubling was the absence of more candidacies among our best prepared Arlingtonians — those who have led in unglamorous roles on the school advisory groups, such as Advisory Council on Teaching and Learning, Budget Advisory Council, County Council of PTAs, and Joint Facilities Advisory Commission.
Arlington Public Schools (APS) needs knowledgeable, experienced decision-making and oversight. APS is a complex $670 million per year system that helps to shape the lives of our 28,000, highly varied children. Its services range from preschool to career training to mental health and more. It is one of the county’s largest employers and maintains dozens of substantial physical plants. The leadership problem is even more urgent now, as Arlington seeks to recover learning losses sustained during the pandemic.
Can we do anything to encourage more of our best prepared leaders to join the School Board? To answer this, I asked several people who have served in the roles I identified above.
Some barriers, such as work and family commitments, are well known. As one long-time leader said:
[Beyond regular meetings and work sessions], the work…also includes attending events at their assigned schools, participating in the work of school board citizen committees…[and] thousands of hours informally meeting with and talking to parents and community members. It is more than a full-time job.
Another was more blunt:
“The job has crappy pay, long hours, and huge responsibility.”
We ought to enable Board members to serve full time and pay accordingly.
Nearly all of the long-term community leaders I talked with cited public incivility as a reason — often their top reason — for not running. This predates COVID-19, but the pandemic has only intensified this deterrent. Here, “incivility” means what one person referred to as “a lot of caustic, coarse, uninformed, nasty behavior” and personal attacks on School Board members’ values and character. The public should observe workplace norms with board members.
Another frequently cited concern is the ACDC endorsement’s influence over the general election outcome. ACDC’s endorsement provides a valuable information shortcut to the many general election voters who aren’t involved with the schools. In an overwhelmingly Democratic jurisdiction, the endorsement usually determines who wins the seat. That reality discourages some experienced Arlingtonians from running. ACDC has sound reasons for exercising its right to endorse a candidate. But as a lifelong Democrat, I think Arlington would be better off if independent candidates had a realistic chance of winning local elections.
It wasn’t the busiest of weeks for local news in Arlington, but this evening’s windstorm was a chaotic coda.
As this post publishes (late) there are about 600 Dominion customers still without power, down from a peak of more than 6,000. Trees and tree branches were reported down throughout Arlington after the storm
Aside from the wind, the big story of this week was about the finalists for the new Arlington County logo.
Here are the most-read ARLnow articles of the past five days:
- County Reveals Five Finalists for New Arlington Logo
- Here Are Some of the Rejected Arlington Logo Designs
- The Crossing Clarendon Has a New Name and May Be Getting a New Pedestrian Plaza
- Arlington Man Dies After Early Morning Crash Along Washington Blvd
- Morning Poll: Which Proposed County Logo Do You Like the Best?
- Sketches Show Proposed New YMCA Facility and Apartments in Va. Square
- East Fall Church Metro Station’s Nearly Empty Bike Facility Seen as COVID-19 Symptom
- Trees, Power Lines Down After Line of Strong Winds
Feel free to discuss those or any other local story of interest in the comments. Have a nice weekend!
Ed Talk is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
On April 12, the Arlington School Board presented its nearly $700 million proposed FY 2022 budget to the Arlington County Board. The proposed budget includes a deficit of $14.9 million.
During the meeting, County Board member Christian Dorsey asked if this deficit is a result of a structural problem with the Arlington Public Schools (APS) budget.
The answer is yes.
For years, it was the practice of the School Board to direct the Superintendent to propose a balanced budget, with expenditures equal to revenues. However, this year’s budget direction lacks that requirement, which was last included in the FY 2017 budget cycle.
APS Superintendents began proposing budgets to the School Board that included significant deficits beginning in FY 2020, with a proposed deficit of nearly $9 million. For FY 2021 the deficit was more than $27 million and for FY 2022 it was more than $42.5 million.
After receiving the Superintendent’s proposed budget and holding numerous budget hearings, the School Board adopts a proposed budget. Typically, that proposed budget is a balanced one — but not this year.
Compare this process with that of the County Board, which includes in its budget guidance to the County Manager a requirement that his proposed budget is balanced.
A structural problem with the School Board’s budget process is that it delays the hard choices that must be made to cut expenditures to produce a balanced budget, which ultimately the School Board adopts each year. It also leads the School Board to ask the County for more money than is provided by the informal revenue sharing agreement between the boards. This year, the School Board asked the County Board for $2.8 million more than the $527.1 million in ongoing funds that the County Manager recommended.
To address this problem, the School Board should amend its policies on budget direction and budget development to require that the Superintendent propose a balanced budget and that the School Board adopt a proposed budget that is balanced. This would allow more time, and citizen input, for consideration of reducing expenditures. In addition, if APS believes that it is underfunded by the County, it should propose changes to the revenue sharing agreement.
With the School Board’s final vote on its budget scheduled for May 6, little time remains to determine how to balance this year’s budget. The $42.5 million deficit proposed by the Superintendent has shrunk because of nearly $19 million in federal emergency relief funds, as well as higher than initially estimated County and state revenue. In addition, the County Board agreed to provide the additional $2.8 million that the School Board requested, reducing the deficit to just more than $12 million.
That deficit could be cut in half if APS adjusts its enrollment projections for next year. The Superintendent’s proposed budget projects an enrollment next school year of 29,653. This is 3,154 students more than the 26,499 students enrolled in APS in March of this year, and 1,503 more than the 28,150 students who were enrolled in March 2020 when APS closed its school buildings.
If the projected enrollment for next year were reduced to a more realistic number of 28,500 students, the budget savings would be $5.9 million. The School Board’s Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) recommends that the enrollment estimate be revised downward, along with other cost-saving measures.
The School Board’s proposed budget includes a projected deficit for FY 2023 of $64.7 million in FY 2023, $91.4 million in FY 2024, and $111.1 million in FY 2025. This is untenable. The School Board needs to address the structural problems with its budget.
Abby Raphael served on the Arlington School Board from 2008-2015, including two terms as Chair. She also led the Washington Area Boards of Education for two years. Currently she co-chairs the Destination 2027 Steering Committee, is a member of the Board of the Arlington YMCA, and works with Project Peace, the Community Progress Network, and Second Chance
Get ready: the massive, every-seventeen-year generation of cicadas known as Brood X is about to emerge from the soil in Arlington and the D.C. area.
According to the Capital Weather Gang, the emergence is expected to kick into high gear over the next two weeks.
We’ve analyzed soil temperatures and the weather projections and, in our first-ever cicada forecast, predict a noticeable emergence of cicadas next week, starting as soon as between May 3 and 6. Then they should arrive in large numbers by the beginning of the following week, between May 10 and 12.
The swarm and the attendant cacophony of buzzy mating calls is expected to stretch into June.
Though the real action is predicted to start next week, there are already reports of cicadas sightings around the area.
Visual confirmation! Prepare!!! pic.twitter.com/Eq6iMmGKBc
— SRtwofourfour (@SRtwofourfour) April 28, 2021
— Doug Errett (@MrErrett) April 28, 2021
Soon enough, cicada encounters will be unavoidable. But today we’re wondering how many readers have spotted the early birds.
Photo courtesy Fred Cochard