Arlington, VA

Progressive Voice is a bi-weekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

By Elaine S. Furlow

A while back, I was tutoring a young Afghan refugee when the time came for a statewide election. For that week’s real-life lesson, I dutifully collected campaign literature from both sides and used it for an invigorating session (I thought) on how Americans choose their leaders and vote.

“And in five years when you become a citizen, you can vote, too!” I concluded.

My friend recoiled in her chair — “Never!” — and instinctively clutched one arm over the other.

“But why?” I asked.

“Because they cut your fingers off if you vote!” came her quick reply.

Indeed, in her homeland there had been a few instances of the Taliban doing this, and rumors and fear had spread through the countryside. She at least had cause for her worry.

Today in the U.S., the reasons registered voters give for not voting are usually less drastic. Research from Pew shows non-voters mainly say, “My vote doesn’t matter,” “I don’t like these candidates or issues,” or “I’m too busy.”

Not good enough. You deserve to have others hear your voice. And your neighbors and family need to have your voice counted. Yes, turnout ratchets up in a presidential election year, (82% in Arlington in 2016), but still doesn’t reflect all our voices.

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ARLnow Weekend Discussion

We are now 18 days from Election Day. Let that sink in.

If you’re sick of hearing about the presidential election, however, perhaps a heaping helping of local news will help. Here are the most-read Arlington stories of the past week:

  1. Postal Inspector Seen Checking Mailboxes Amid Ongoing Complaints About Local Post Office
  2. ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant from Arlington Gets Rose on First Night
  3. Colony Grill, Connecticut Mainstay for Pizza, Now Open in Clarendon
  4. Ask Eli: Housing Market Update, Condo Slide Continues
  5. Joe’s Place Preparing to Reopen as ‘A Modo Mio’
  6. Morning Notes (Oct. 12)
  7. Large Outdoor Cafe Proposed in Clarendon
  8. Two Arrested in Clarendon Amid Ongoing Spate of Vehicle-Related Crimes
  9. Ballston Church Seeking Three-Year Extension for Affordable Housing Project
  10. County Considering Making Office-to-Apartment Conversions Easier
  11. Rate of New Coronavirus Cases in Arlington Highest Since August
  12. Del. Lopez to Get Primary Challenger in 2021

Feel free to discuss any of those articles, or anything else of local interest, in the comment section. Have a nice weekend!

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It’s perhaps the least-celebrated federal holiday at this point, but Columbus Day — also known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day — is still an off day for many.

After a long, pandemic summer, we’re giving our staff the day off, so ARLnow will be operating on a reduced publishing schedule on Monday. We trust that you’ll use the extra day for an even more substantive and civil discussion of local issues in the comments. 😉

Here are the most-read Arlington articles of the past week:

  1. You Can Now “Sip and Stroll” in Parts of Shirlington
  2. Amazon Donating $1 Million to Arlington and Alexandria Schools
  3. Arlington Public Schools Proposes New Elementary School Boundaries
  4. Hotel Near Rosslyn Has Closed, Ahead of Apartment Conversion
  5. New Report Shows Route 1 in Crystal City as a Tree-Lined Urban Boulevard
  6. Health Dept. Reports Spike in Local Coronavirus Cases
  7. Commonwealth’s Attorney Creates Community Advisory Board
  8. Arlington Dems Decry Campaign Sign Vandalism
  9. Arlingtonians Rally to Support Old Dominion Cleaners, Raise $15K
  10. Animal Welfare League Reports Fourth Recent Dog Abandonment Case
  11. New APS Enrollment Figures Show More Than 1,000 Fewer Students Than Last Year
  12. New Video Tackles Arlington’s History of Race and Housing

Have a great holiday weekend!

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What’s Next with Nicole is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Have you or your kid attended All American Sports Camp, Patriot Girls Basketball Camp, Orange Line Sports Camp, or Mojo Volleyball Camp?

Representatives from all of these organizations showed up to a recent Sports Commission meeting to voice their concerns over the new way summer camps will be administered, their ability to pay hourly employees, and new cost burdens on families.

Summary of changes

1) When you pay for a camp, that money will now go to the county instead of the camp. Arlington does not need to pay camps for their services until 45 days after camp finishes. This creates a serious cash flow problem for camps that could make them unable to feasibly operate.

As an employer, campes are required to pay hourly workers biweekly according to Virginia state law, and camps often last 5 days. This means after camp finishes, camps are legally required to pay their employees 9 days later, but the county does not need to pay the camps for another 45 days. Staff even stated that their contractor for this service is not known for speed on disbursements. This is a cash flow problem that effectively eliminates camp operators from effectively being able to run their businesses.

As conveyed by those at the Commission meeting, oftentimes these camps are run by teachers. These are not year-round businesses like normal county contractors. One camp administrator estimates their camp costs at around $100,000, which they would not have the ability to pay without having the registration revenue.

2) Increased fees given for the county will lead to increased costs to campers. Arlington now requires 30% of all revenues to be given to the county. This has increased from 20% in just three years.

Patriots Girls Basketball camp founder, Kip Davis, said, “In the 25 years I’ve hosted this camp I have increased my cost by just $55. I don’t make a ton of money doing this camp. I do it for the kids. We want to make sure all kids can afford to go to camp, see friends, and give parents a little break. This dramatic increase in cost plus us not being in control of funds will cause camp prices to noticeably increase, which is counter to my goal of camp affordability.”

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Peter’s Take is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The 2020 School Bond is worth $52.65 million. These bond funds will be used for the following projects:

Major infrastructure such as HVAC replacement which impacts air quality for schools: $15.4 million;

Building refreshes and kitchen renovations at ATS, Key and McKinley: $7.65 million;

Security entrances at Taylor, Gunston, Jefferson, Williamsburg, Wakefield: $5.30 million;

Planning and design to meet 10-year projected capacity needs at all school levels: $24.3 million*.

Arlington voters should vote YES, with the understanding that comprehensive long-term capital planning must be an urgent priority. More information on this bond is here.

Background

APS facilities are used more than 58,000 hours annually by the entire Arlington community, including: community membership in APS aquatics facilities; evening and weekend programs run by Arlington County Parks and Recreation; holiday and summer camps when schools are not in session; and a wide range of community fairs, arts events and other special meetings. All these uses are in addition to serving approximately 28,000 students in the pre-K through grade 12 programs.

When major work needs to be done ranging from replacing internal school systems or roofs, or if buildings require significant renovation, or additions or new buildings are to be built, these projects are referred to as Capital Improvement and Major Infrastructure Projects.

Why you should vote YES

This year, APS departed from the traditional 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) in order to align with the Arlington County FY 2021 CIP which is focused on the short-term due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This 2020 school bond sticks to sustainable decisions which address immediate needs without creating conflicts with imminent policy decisions under development in other departments. This school bond is focused on ensuring good financial stewardship by taking care of the facilities we have and carefully setting the stage for expected growth in the next 10 years.

I support a YES-vote. Read More

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Right Note: Back to School?

The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Thumbs up to the School Board for announcing the pathway for bringing kids back to school in person this year. According to the most recent update, Arlington Public Schools are on track to bring back students who need direct support this month and begin the in-person hybrid learning option in early December. After the false start this summer and a refusal to disclose specific metrics for the return, APS has a big communications hurdle to overcome over the next two months.

As parents continue to work through the logistical issues around their ongoing “home e-learning academies” and balancing their own work responsibilities, APS also put forward its proposed boundary changes for Fall 2021. According to APS, 1,400 students from Ashlawn, Science Focus, Glebe, Long Branch, McKinley, Taylor and Tuckahoe schools would be impacted, and the School Board will approve the changes December 3rd. There is no good time to finalize boundary changes, but the middle of pandemic school from home seems less than ideal.

Also of note, APS stated that the “data used in this process comes from elementary school enrollment on September 30, 2019.” First-day enrollment this fall was 911 fewer than a year ago. And APS has not yet announced the September 30th number for this year. Nothing in the announcement discussed how APS is taking into account any decrease in enrollment this September, or which schools are most impacted by it. We can only assume they believe enrollment will bounce back, but it is a question the School Board should answer before moving to a final vote.

Interested parents can join the first virtual meeting on the changes Wednesday evening and ask questions.

Thumbs up to the County Board for voting to end the sidewalk gatherings ordinance. Four members of the Board rightly recognized the ordinance as constructed was unworkable and did not continue to forge ahead anyway. The Board should consider looking for other unworkable ordinances to get rid of in the future.

Mark Kelly is a long-time Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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(Updated at 9:45 a.m.) Halloween has not been cancelled, but the pandemic is putting a damper on the usual spooky spirit of the holiday.

The owner of a local costume store in the Crystal City Shops told the Washington Post that his sales are down 80%, amid a nationwide drop in Halloween spending. Sales of adult costumes in particular are down significantly, as parties are curtailed.

Overall Halloween spending is expected to fall 8%, according to the Post, citing the National Retail Federation.

Around Arlington, Halloween decorations can still be found, but three-and-a-half weeks out from Oct. 31 it feels like there are fewer ghouls, goblins, fake spiderwebs and pumpkins to be seen.

Are residents reluctant to decorate when trick-or-treating will be much diminished and when fake skeletons feel a bit, well, insensitive? Or is it actually business as usual for most people, despite the deadly global pandemic?

Let’s find out.

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Progressive Voice is a bi-weekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

By Maya Jones

At five, I cast my first ballot for president, during an elementary school mock election.

In that moment, I felt I was making change, but that feeling was fleeting. I soon learned a hopeful child’s voice did not matter, and voting is a privilege. Frustrated, I vowed that at 18, I would exercise this privilege.

Seven years later, in 2008, I witnessed the world change as I watched the votes tally in favor of the first Black president. Being a young Black girl in Atlanta, I prayed my voice would matter someday. On my eighteenth birthday, keeping my childhood promise, I registered to vote.  Despite being excited and empowered, I was consumed with worry as I walked up to cast my first ballot. “Did I have my driver’s license?” Because without it, I could not vote.

Now, with the October 13 voter registration deadline approaching for the 2020 election, we must ensure every voter knows they matter. We must resist voter suppression tactics and register all eligible citizens. We must empower voters regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation to be the change they want to see in the world.

In July, there were only 434 net new registrations, in Arlington, compared to the 1,645 net new registrations in 2016. The pandemic’s reduction of person-to-person interaction is partially to blame. However, some Arlingtonians remain unregistered due to the limitations of Virginia’s Online Voter Registration (OVR) system. These eligible citizens may not have access to the internet, possess a Virginia identification card, or simply are new to the area.

That’s why I and many others spent many hot summer Saturdays, standing in front of places like the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), Shirlington Library Plaza or Penrose Square on Columbia Pike, registering voters (with our faces covered) hoping to encourage community members to join the electorate. Our efforts to help close the gap paid off and, in August, we saw 1,300+ net new registrations in Arlington, keeping pace with the upward trend in Virginia.

Our guiding principle is every person registered is a new voice being heard. A quick glance at history reminds us of the struggles we endured to obtain the privilege of voting and why we must keep fighting the good fight.

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ARLnow Weekend Discussion

It was, to be honest, a relatively light news week in Arlington.

Most of the local news revolved around restaurants, at a time when much of the population is still not even considering dining out at a restaurant. The restaurant stories did well, readership-wise, but not as well as we would expect during normal times.

The lived experience of this week probably doesn’t feel like it was light on news, given what’s happening nationally. Given the presidential debate, reports about the president’s past tax returns, the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis, and — for those sport-inclined — a constant barrage of sports news and post-season action, the last few days have been exhausting for many.

Here are the ARLnow stories that had the highest readership this week:

  1. Summers Restaurant Closing Permanently After 38 Years
  2. Reduced School Bus Capacity Prompts APS to Expand Elementary ‘Walk Zones’
  3. Democratic Precinct Captain Booted for Supporting Independent School Board Candidate
  4. Arlington World of Beer Location to Open Next Week
  5. New BBQ Restaurant Launches Fried Chicken Virtual Restaurant
  6. Connecticut Pizza Restaurant Sets Mid-October Opening Date for New Clarendon Outpost
  7. Man Arrested After Accidentally Firing Bullet into Apartment Below
  8. AWLA Still Seeking More Information on Abandoned Dog
  9. Making Room: Will Pentagon City Make Room for People or Cars?
  10. Punch Bowl Social in Ballston Sets Reopening Date

Feel free to discuss those articles or anything else of local interest in the comments. Have a nice weekend!

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Health Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Fall weather has arrived in Arlington, and colder temperatures mean more people migrating indoors to stay warm. For restaurants, cold weather presents a unique challenge since many patrons are still hesitant to dine indoors due to COVID. Restaurants are finding that they have to again adapt to ensure safety for their patrons and employees.

To preempt the “stay-in-your-laners,” I am clearly not a restaurateur. I am, however, a front line healthcare worker (HCW) and there is a surreal parallel between what I experience in the hospital and what I have seen in restaurants since reopening.

In the hospital, there are many of the familiar safety measures: masks for patients and HCW, constant cleaning of waiting, exam and operating rooms, hand sanitizers at every corner and conspicuous signage. In addition, appointments are staggered to minimize waiting room crowds, all patients are screened for COVID symptoms, temperatures are checked before entering areas with immunocompromised patients and chairs physically distanced in waiting rooms.

As an anesthesiologist taking care of COVID patients, I wear an N-95 respirator (usually a recycled one these days), eye shield, head cap, full gown and gloves. Every patient getting a procedure needs a COVID test within 5 days. If a known COVID positive patient comes for a procedure, it should be in a negative pressure room or at least have a large HEPA filter.

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The title of today’s column is a common adage in the planning world that’s at least 30 years old; I regret that I do not know its original source to provide credit.

At its heart, it reflects the insight that the best way to ensure people can quickly and easily get to the places that they need to go is to ensure that they don’t have to go as far to get there – trips, on average, become shorter.

For motorists, shorter trip lengths mean you drive through fewer intersections and along fewer segments of street which means fewer cars on each street at a time which means less congestion. Shorter trips are also more convenient for active transportation like walking and biking – many folks would walk a few blocks to a restaurant who wouldn’t walk a mile. Many folks would bike a mile to a doctor’s appointment would wouldn’t bike 10 miles. The result? More trips by means other than car.

Many parts of Arlington’s land use plan embrace this. Arlington’s original “urban village” planning maxim was designed around creating neighborhoods, centered around good transit, where people had ready access to work, play and everyday needs like shopping.

For someone living in the denser corridors of Arlington, a huge number of useful destinations are reachable on foot, many more by bike and even more by frequent transit. They may choose to have a car, or some may need a car because of a job located far from transit or a job that requires traveling to many different sites on a daily basis, but many are able to happily live car-free or car-lite and those who do drive generally make shorter trips in those cars.

This growth strategy, along with continued investment in multimodal transportation facilities has allowed Arlington to grow its economy and its population while also holding traffic levels relatively stead, adding new parks (like Long Bridge Park and Mosaic Park) and reducing the relative carbon impact of our residents.

As Arlington embarks on a Missing Middle Housing study, a look at transportation and density in Pentagon City, the Plan Lee Highway Study and a re-examination of some details of the Clarendon Sector Plan, we would do well to remember that everything is easier, from a transportation standpoint, if you let people live nearer to where they want to go on a regular basis.

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.

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