Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Police Notes for Buckingham, April 30, 2008

April 27: Burglary, 4300 block of N. 4th St. At 2 p.m., an employee discovered an equipment room had been broken into. Copper fitting were stolen. There is no suspect description.

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County Holds Inmates for Customs Enforcement

County police ususally do not ask about citizenship, but the County Sheriff must, by state law. ICE sees jail as a convenient way station for detainees.

Arlington County Police will not ask people they stop or arrest if they are United States citizens, in most circumstances, but the Arlington County Sheriff’s Department will. By Virginia law they have to. What might be most surprising is that the detainees answer. Truthfully.

“I would say 99.9 percent of the people will be honest in their responses,” said Maj. Susie Doyel, director of administration in the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office. She said those arrested probably think the sheriff will figure it out anyway, but that might not be the case. In fact, they are not really going to investigate it.

(Click to enlarge the image.)

“If you say you’re born in Germany, but you’re a U.S. citizen, we won’t say, ‘Well, produce your passport, produce your papers,’” she said.

However, the “born in Germany” response would require the sheriff’s department to run the person’s name through Immigration Alien Query, a database, and send the name on to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the name is flagged.

At that point, another form would be sent to the state police via the Central Criminal Records Exchange, a warehouse of criminal data run by the state police. If ICE is interested in the person, they will ask Arlington County to hold that inmate for 72 hours.

On any given day, the county might be holding 75 to 90 inmates for ICE, Maj. Doyel said.

A snapshot look at the inmates from April 23, showed that the county held 82 inmates for ICE, with an average stay of 52.56 days. One person at that point had been held for 260 days, more than eight months, according to figures released by the sheriff’s office. But those numbers are a bit misleading as most of those inmates likely were neither arrested in, nor had been living in, Arlington, said Maj. Doyel.

Ernestine Fobbs, a public relations officer for ICE, said her agency often uses the Arlington jail as a layover space because it is so close to federal offices and courts.

“Our numbers [of detainees] have gone up since this whole immigration thing has gone up,” Maj. Doyel said, referring to the crack-down on illegal immigration in Prince William County and elsewhere in the state and nation. ICE is using Arlington more, partly because of the location, and partly because Arlington has space.

Although the jail must first be used for local incarcerations, it can be used for federal detentions, too. Arlington not only houses inmates for ICE but for the U.S. Marshalls Service at $91.62 per day per federal inmate. The state takes $26.83 of that money. That compares to about $8 per day the county gets from the state for housing local inmates (the state also pays other money such as portions of salaries).

On average, the county spends about $146 per inmate per day, but the average drops with each additional inmate, so long the jail remains under about 650 inmates, Maj. Doyel said.

“It’s [the federal money is] just helping to offset our costs that we’re going to have anyway,” Maj. Doyel said. “I think it’s definitely advantageous to the county.”

At a recent meeting in Buckingham, Arlington County Police Officer J. Mike Lutz, said he knew of three people who had been deported after being arrested near the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive. The only details available on this so far are that the arrests happened last year.

The county cannot release the names and most recent addresses of the inmates without approval from ICE, Maj. Doyel said. [That approval is in process. –ST]

So it is impossible to know at this point how many people in the Buckingham neighborhood have been detained for immigration reasons.

How anyone might have ended up being held for ICE is a bit complicated. The Arlington County Police Department will not ask people about their countries of birth, generally. “We don’t stop everyone and ask everyone what they’re immigration status is,” said John Lisle, a spokesperson for the police. Police will not enter a person’s name into the IAQ database for routine traffic stops and other minor offenses.

But they will enter the name when people are arrested for violent felonies, for suspected human trafficking, for violent gang activity, and for terrorism or some other major crimes.

(Generally, Arlington police handle patrolling the county, arresting people and investigating crime. The sheriff’s department handles incarcerations, prisoner transfers, and works with the court system. The sheriff also handles civil matters such as evictions.)

If the person self-identifies as having been born outside the United States, the police will run the name through the database.

Anyone who is incarcerated at the county jail will be asked about their country of birth, and the names of people who say they were born outside the United States will be run through the various databases by the sheriff’s office at the time of the person’s booking.

(Click to enlarge the image.)

But what happens if the inmates do not identify themselves as from another country?

“That’s the sticky question right now,” Maj. Doyel said. “If you don’t speak one lick of English, we have to report that.” And if police find a passport from another country, the person must be reported. There is little else to go on. And probable cause for running a name through the database remains unclear, and skin-tone will not cut it, she said.

Once inmates have been flagged by the IAQ or other databases, the clock starts ticking. The county notifies ICE and the Virginia state police. The state police do little with the information other than catalogue it and send it on to ICE themselves, a spokesperson said.

ICE has 30 minutes to respond to the sheriff’s office. If the sheriff does not hear from ICE in that 30 minutes, and the local charges have been dealt with (for instance, the person has made bail), then the person can go.

If ICE responds in the first half-hour asking that the person be held, ICE then has 72 hours to determine whether to press charges. Again, if that time passes and ICE does not respond, the person will be released so long local charges have been dealt with.

According to Ms. Fobbs, local jurisdictions can decide how they want to identify potential illegal aliens. But once ICE, as the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, is notified, they will investigate, and if necessary will detain individuals on charges of immigration violations.

“We [ICE] make the final decision as to whether that individual is in the country illegally or has some status in the United States,” Ms. Fobbs said, adding that an immigration judge will rule in some cases.

For her part, Maj. Doyel said she thought ICE is much more likely to have Arlington hold them if the person is to stand trial.

“It’s much easier [to deport] them if they have been convicted,” Maj. Doyel said.

Related stories site…
  • VA Law says Sheriff must ask about citizenship
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    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Candidates Respond to Survey

    Just barely in time for the Democratic endorsement process for the school board, comes surveys from the school board candidates to the HeraldTrib. I wrote and emailed the survey out late last week and then called (when I had phone numbers) the candidates asking them to look for it in their email. (I did not have phone numbers for Terron Sims and Karla Hagan, so I emailed the survey to addtional addresses found on their web sites, if available.)

    Four of the six people running for the school board responded in time for today's deadline. [Mr. Sims responded a day late, but has been added below. --ST] I am not sure why the others did not, but I can think of many legitimate reasons, so I hope readers will not hold the lack of a response against them.

    Where I have added information for clarity, I put my writing inside [square brackets].

    The respondents are (alphabetically):

  • Libby Garvey (incumbent): response and campaign web site.
  • Reid Goldstein: response and campaign web site.
  • Karla Hagan: response and campaign web site.
  • Terron Sims: response and campaign web site
  • Emma Violand-Sanchez: response and campaign web site.

  • James Lander campaign web site did not respond to the survey.

    Remember that it is illegal in Virginia for political parties to nominate school board candidates, so the Democrats instead "endorse" after voting in a two-day affair, Thursday, May 1, 7-9p.m. at Jefferson Middle School, 125 South Old Glebe Road, or Saturday, May 3, 11a.m. to 7p.m. at Washington Lee High School, 1301 N Stafford St.

    Two people will win the nod of the party, one person to replace outgoing member Frank Wilson, and the other is fighting for the spot incumbent Libby Garvey is trying to hold onto.

    Voting Places…

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    Karla Hagan

    The following are the responses school board candidate Karla Hagan ( gave to the HeraldTrib's survey. --ST

    Question 1. Little was changed after last year's process to alleviate overcrowding in a few north Arlington elementary schools. Many parents were angry that county-wide programs at Arlington Traditional School and Drew Model School were removed from the charge that the Elementary Crowding and Capacity Committee considered when looking for solutions to overcrowding. The school board has pledged to continue the process of looking at capacity issues.

    Will the school board have to consider admissions priorities or moving/relocating ATS and Drew while looking at overcrowding issues in the coming year or two, why or why not?

    The evidence is clear: the number of school-aged children is increasing in Arlington, particularly in the northwest section. I served on the Elementary Crowding and Capacity Committee (ECCC). I share the frustration that all schools were not contributors to the conversation about potential solutions. I am also the only School Board candidate to speak out against the Superintendent's massive cascading boundary change plan.

    Having worked through the analysis in the ECCC process, it is my conviction that it will take an assortment of tools to fully address the overcrowding challenge facing our community. Ultimately, several different tools will likely be part of the solution.

    However, before choosing the tools to address this challenge, we first must do the analysis. There are several areas where potential solutions might lie. Some solutions might be shorter-term; others longer-term. Some potential solutions are program-focused; some are policy-based. Wholesale boundary changes should not be the first tool we turn to.

    We must fully understand the challenge. This includes

  • examining fully -- and realistically -- the current capacity of our school system.
  • being sure that underlying data from which we build projections is solid.
  • ensuring that policies (e.g., transfer policies) are consistently implemented across the school system, and being willing to revisit policies which are not best serving the school system as a whole.

  • North Arlington is at 97% capacity as a whole. There is some capacity in other parts of the County, but that capacity is not near the location of the overcrowding. Moving children to and from among a set of schools already at, or nearing, capacity does not address the issue.

    The fact is that we need to get students to where there is additional capacity. Where, and how, can that be done?

  • Wilson School. There are real possibilities at the Wilson School site in Rosslyn. We must pursue future improvement of that site with a priority to creating educational space, as well as a commitment to creating a facility that maximizes the opportunity for joint school-community use. I support partnering with the County to leverage the combined County-Schools assets at the Wilson site to meet these goals.
  • Leveraging Special Programs. I support the current process in which APS staff is meeting with schools to discuss various options. I believe this is the best way to come to a creative, fair, and community-minded solution. Arlington schools have found a reasonable and good balance between choice programs, neighborhood schools, and some "cluster" schools which offer both some degree of both choice and neighborhood component. The staff examination of potential non-boundary options is an opportunity for school communities, particularly those with additional capacity, to consider how their goals as a school community might align with the needs of the school system as a whole. Examples are Randolph and Campbell, two schools which presently have excess capacity. Both schools offer special programs which are potentially very appealing to out-of-neighborhood students, if not for the associated transportation challenges. During the recent boundary process, the Randolph and Campbell communities brought forth recommendations suggesting county-wide transportation to their schools. I supported these recommendations. I would hope that the current staff analysis revisits the viability of these earlier recommendations from Campbell and Randolph.

  • I do not know whether admissions priorities or the location of ATS or Drew's Montessori programs would ultimately prove to be workable, or reasonable, options for the School Board to consider as they endeavor to address this challenge. However, I believe that, in the best tradition of Arlington, each school community should come to the table to address the complex overcrowding situation we’re experiencing, and identify ways they might contribute to the solution.

    Question 2. What specific initiatives would you develop or enhance to ensure capital projects stay on time and at—or under—budget?

    We are nearing the end of a capital improvement cycle in Arlington. The remaining facilities -- Wakefield High School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and the Arlington Career Center -- are in desperate need of attention. In these, and in far too many additional school buildings, major problems with HVAC, fire suppression and other major systems are so woefully inadequate that learning environments are not conducive to education. This is not a drive to create fine facilities in an affluent community: this is remedying current realities which get in the way of learning -- and result in a noticeable disparity between school and neighborhood communities.

    Systemization of Needs Assessment. The County’s bonding capacity to raise funds for these much-needed renovations is limited. I will ensure there are tough, transparent, and realistic decisions made about renovation prioritization -- where all communities have an equal voice and where there are clear steps along the way to working toward the established goals. We must systemize the process for capital improvements. We must plan instead of being reactive.

    Setting Budget Parameters Earlier. Citizen and community input to vet ideas and create a common understanding for facilities design is absolutely essential. But, importantly, citizens and staff must also work within a budget framework. In the past, budgets for new school facilities have not been clear at the outset of design. Instead, education design concerns have driven projects, with budget impacts coming in to play only at the back end. This has been poor planning, and cannot continue into the future.

    We have a good start on processes that get input from all stakeholders in designing a schools facility – the Building Level Planning Committee process. However, the School Board must provide a clear budget framework at the outset of that process so that budget is a factor all the way through, not just after the fact.

    Question 3. Most of you have on your web site, in one form or another, concerns with the "achievement gap" between whites and minorities in the schools. Please consider the achievement gap in terms of a budgeting priority. Of the money that the school board controls (i.e., not "entitlement" monies from the state or federal government that must go toward specific programs), which program would you defend as having the highest priority in a shrinking budget and why?

    In Arlington, we have focused resources on the achievement gap and made significant strides over the years. However in the last three years we have stalled in making gains in closing the gap on multiple measures, among them: overall SOL pass rates, third grade reading scores, and high school graduation rates. We must do better.

    Budget realities necessitate that we prioritize programs that will have the most impact in tackling this tough issue. Especially in today’s challenging budget environment, we must maximize our educational dollars spent. Providing high quality preschool to our most at-risk children is the single most effective way to leverage our investment. We must ensure each child starts kindergarten ready to learn; indeed high-quality early childhood programs are the foundation of success for a lifetime of learning.

    Studies show that investment in preschool pays off, through a child’s school years and beyond. Children who have attended preschool have improved profiles on a staggering array of indicators: higher achievement throughout their school careers, fewer special education placements, higher graduation rates, higher incomes, higher rates of home ownership, and lower utilization of social services later in life.

    We are not yet meeting the need for preschool for all our at-risk children in Arlington. We must continue to provide our high-quality preschool program, and strive to expand this program as the budget allows, to meet the need for each at-risk child, so that all kids have the opportunity to get the right start in school, and in life.

    Question 4. Democrats will endorse only two of you on May 1 and 3. If you are one of the four not endorsed, will you stay in the race? If so, what is your strategy beyond that date, given the strength conferred with the endorsement to the two winners?

    As part of the filing process, each candidate who runs for the Democratic endorsement for School Board must pledge not to run against a Democratic endorsee in the fall general election. Like each of the other five candidates who have filed for the Democratic School Board endorsement, I made this pledge. I will run as hard as I can to receive the Democratic endorsement in the May 1 and May 3 election, but if I do not receive it I will support the endorsees in the general election this fall.

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    Emma Violand-Sanchez

    The following are the responses school board candidate Emma Violand-Sanchez ( gave to the HeraldTrib's survey. --ST

    Question 1. Little was changed after last year’s process to alleviate overcrowding in a few north Arlington elementary schools. Many parents were angry that county-wide programs at Arlington Traditional School and Drew Model School were removed from the charge that the Elementary Crowding and Capacity Committee considered when looking for solutions to overcrowding. The school board has pledged to continue the process of looking at capacity issues. Will the school board have to consider admissions priorities or moving/relocating ATS and Drew while looking at overcrowding issues in the coming year or two, why or why not?

    I believe that Arlington benefits from having a mixture of neighborhood schools and choice schools. Our choice schools originally were Arlington Traditional and Drew. Later, we added Spanish immersion, Science Focus, Campbell, H. B. Woodlawn and schools such as Barrett which have recently opened limited space for students from other attendance areas. I believe we should continue to give our families these choices.

    At present the Board has adopted a short term plan for dealing with overcrowding. We need long term planning that involves the Arlington community in a meaningful way. Recognizing the value of providing both neighborhood schools and choice schools, we need to consider creative solutions, rather than to diminish the rich array of strong educational options we have in Arlington. One size does not fit all.

    In the last redistricting process, there seemed to be a disconnect between School Board members, the Superintendent and parents. Such divisions are not good for the school system. In addition, we must make sure that the African American, Latino and Asian communities are involved in decision making.

    Question 2. What specific initiatives would you develop or enhance to ensure capital projects stay on time and at – or under – budget?

    Regarding capital improvement: at present, the work begun at Yorktown must be completed. Students at Wakefield must be given the same state-of-the-art facilities as those at the other high schools. We must also design and renovate the facilities needed for the students at Thomas Jefferson and the Career Center. Additionally, there are students in the High School continuation program for whom we must provide urgently needed classrooms.

    Funding these initiatives, and at the same time keeping our AAA Bond rating, will require the School Board to work closely with the County Board, and also to consider some possibilities for cooperation with other entities. At present, our swimming pools are being constructed with joint funding because we have made those facilities available to the public during non school hours. Similarly, we should make available opportunities for the community to make use of our schools during non school hours. Another possibility of joint funding is presented by the proposed joint use of the Career Center with Northern Virginia Community College. We need to seek additional innovative paths to providing all our students, throughout Arlington, with topflight facilities.

    Question 3. Most of you have on your web site, in one form or another, concerns with the “achievement gap” between whites and minorities in the schools. Please consider the achievement gap in terms of a budgeting priority. Of the money that the school board controls (i.e., not “entitlement” monies from the state or federal government that must go toward specific programs), which program would you defend as having the highest priority in a shrinking budget and why?

    Elimination of the Achievement Gap has been addressed by our school system through focus on the S.O.L.s. We need to continue to provide the highest quality education for all our students, and to be sure that our expectations are high for each student enrolled in our schools, which means funding the Superintendent’s operating budget as fully as possible. However, when we address the Achievement Gap, I would like to give particular emphasis now to the “Graduation Gap.” While 95% of white students who are enrolled in 9th grade become high school graduates, about 30% of non-white students drop out. It is not just providing the funding needed for counselors and mentoring programs which must be given attention; we also need to seek partnerships with community organizations and others outside the school system so that these students receive the individual support they need to stay in school and prepare for the future in our global, technologically driven society.

    Question 4. Democrats will endorse only two of you on May 1 and 3. If you are one of the four not endorsed, will you stay in the race? If so, what is your strategy beyond that date, given the strength conferred with the endorsement to the two winners?

    I am running as a Democrat. I will not remain in the race if I do not receive the Democratic endorsement.

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    Libby Garvey

    The following are the responses incumbent school board candidate Libby Garvey ( gave to the HeraldTrib's survey. --ST

    Question 1: Little was changed after last year's process to alleviate overcrowding in a few north Arlington elementary schools. Many parents were angry that county-wide programs at Arlington Traditional School and Drew Model School were removed from the charge that the Elementary Crowding and Capacity Committee considered when looking for solutions to overcrowding. The school board has pledged to continue the process of looking at capacity issues.

    Will the school board have to consider admissions priorities or moving/relocating ATS and Drew while looking at overcrowding issues in the coming year or two, why or why not?

    The School Board has already begun the process of looking at these issues for the next go around. We directed staff to examine ways of balancing enrollment without moving boundaries. I am very sure changes to ATS and Drew will be among the many things our staff looks at. That report should come to us in June.

    I discussed this issue back in January when I was putting issues up on my website. At the time, I had hoped we would be able to resolve the crowding issue with that process, but we did not. Your readers might like to look at the whole piece on my website but I've excerpted some below to explain my thinking:

    "One issue that came up during the process was a request by the Committee to change the charge and allow changes in admissions policies for Arlington Traditional School and Drew. That was a difficult vote and I drew on my years of experience both before and after being on the School Board to make my decision to deny that request. I agree that admissions policies need to be examined, but did not agree that they should be looked at in the context of this process. It was simply too complex to handle well in the time given and also craft a crowding solution."

    Question 2: What specific initiatives would you develop or enhance to ensure capital projects stay on time and at—or under—budget?

    When I came on the Board we instituted a number of initiatives and those have worked well to keep our projects on time and on budget. We've got a well thought out capital improvement program (CIP) and we need to keep it on track. Sometimes people do not understand that our CIP document is a planning document. Budgets for projects are not firm until they are bonded. What is firm in our CIP are the projects for the bond we are requesting. What is still in planning, and could be changed, are the projects further out. Sometimes people feel that the costs and projects we have in the further our planning stage should be firm and get upset when they change. A good plan that goes out that far is always being adjusted and change is to be expected.

    We have good experience now with buildings and know much better what to expect than we did a decade ago. We know we need to include a 7% escalator for costs because costs go up every year. We also include a 5% contingency fund for each project because there are always surprises in major construction, as I suspect every homeowner who has renovated their home knows all too well. We know we need a construction manager for every project. And we know we need to hire good construction firms to do the work.

    My biggest concern going forward is that we now have large projects and are beginning to involve the County in these projects. County involvement is important and can be very helpful, but County processes are very long and cumbersome. We are working on developing a process by which we can work together. This is our 3rd attempt to do so. I am hopeful, but worried that the County is used to taking a lot more time than we do, and this costs money. The County also does not have written down, as we do, guidelines for our buildings and clear statements of our processes to design those buildings. The County is working on that for this process and, again, I am hopeful this can work to make the process more clear and efficient. We on the school side are very aware that "time is money" and that our children are growing fast -- if we take too much time thinking about a project, a whole generation of children has moved through the school. The County side is much more used to working with developers, so it is not taxpayer money that is at stake. And they are not used to firm and fast deadlines as we are. When school starts, we have to have a building for all our students. A library or community center simply does not have the same time and deadline issues.

    I know there is much discussion about not having enough money for capital projects. I firmly believe Arlington has enough money to do all the projects we need to do. We do not have enough money to do all the projects we want to do. I believe we need a good public discussion of all the projects we have in order to determine a priority order that makes sense for this county. In other words, there are not County projects and Schools projects, there are just Arlington projects. Whatever gets done first is most important, second is second important etc. etc. Whether those projects are schools or curbs and gutters or fire stations needs to be determined by what is needed the most.

    Question 3. Most of you have on your web site, in one form or another, concerns with the "achievement gap" between whites and minorities in the schools. Please consider the achievement gap in terms of a budgeting priority. Of the money that the school board controls (i.e., not "entitlement" monies from the state or federal government that must go toward specific programs), which program would you defend as having the highest priority in a shrinking budget and why?

    Our budget is not shrinking at the moment. Neither is the County's. The School Board has said that its highest priority is attracting and retaining top teaching staff. Student educational achievement is most affected by the quality of teaching. We need to stay focussed on student achievement and make sure we do not get pulled off that focus by other interests and concerns. Maintaining our focus on student achievement over the past decade is why our school system has made good progress and is now nationally recognized as being among the top in the nation.

    Question 4: Democrats will endorse only two of you on May 1 and 3. If you are one of the four not endorsed, will you stay in the race? If so, what is your strategy beyond that date, given the strength conferred with the endorsement to the two winners?

    I will not stay in the race. I, and all the other candidates running for the endorsement, have pledged not to oppose the Democratic endorsee in the fall. I intend to keep my pledge so this question is moot for me.

    Therefore, I need everyone's vote if I am to continue to serve. I very much want to provide the continuity I think we need on our School Board to keep our schools strong. Come January, I will have 12 years of experience on the School Board, and the other 4 members will have 6 years combined. This is a crucial election. It will determine the direction our schools will take for the future. I hope I will have the support of the Buckingham neighborhood and ask for everyone's vote on May 1 or May 3.

    Again, thank you for informing your neighborhood about this important election.

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    Reid Goldstein

    The following are the responses school board candidate Reid Goldstein ( gave to the HeraldTrib's survey. --ST

    Question 1: Little was changed after last year's process to alleviate overcrowding in a few north Arlington elementary schools. Many parents were angry that county-wide programs at Arlington Traditional School and Drew Model School were removed from the charge that the Elementary Crowding and Capacity Committee considered when looking for solutions to overcrowding. The school board has pledged to continue the process of looking at capacity issues.
    Will the school board have to consider admissions priorities or moving/relocating ATS and Drew while looking at overcrowding issues in the coming year or two, why or why not?

    On the one hand we need to be mindful that moving countywide programs moves just as many students as boundary changes do. This can be as disruptive as changing neighborhood school boundaries. Still, our community processes should enhance the entire community and everyone should expect to be involved. Unfortunately, Arlington Schools’ citizen decision-making processes have historically divided neighborhoods and schools into winners and losers. This doesn’t have to happen. As a professional strategic planner, I create processes that result in successful outcomes for multiple stakeholders functioning in similar dynamic and chaotic environments.

    There are numerous other options. APS [Arlington Public Schools] failed to consider capacity trends prior to the 2006-07 ECCC process, despite the School Board directive in the previous round. As a result, very significant enrollment trends have been ignored. I’m thinking here of Barrett’s remarkable success attracting a strong base of families with a very attractive program; Campbell has had similar success. Both schools have brought families back to schools that had significant enrollment declines. Through their commitment and resources, they have created thriving school communities. These are examples that could be replicated elsewhere in the county—enhanced programs championed by School Board members and community leaders that attract families to under-advertised schools.

    Question 2: What specific initiatives would you develop or enhance to ensure capital projects stay on time and at--or under--budget?

    First, we need to tell the community the truth about what can be accomplished with the resources we have. We cannot promise what we know we cannot deliver. Second, we need to stop dividing neighborhoods into winners and losers. We should make a plan for all the needs, not hold a bi-annual scramble for who goes next, which is what seems to happen every two years when the capital plan is revised.

    Controlling budget growth is a matter of strategic planning, followed by diligent oversight. We need to plan years in advance. For example, the new W-L [Washington-Lee High School] building could have gone right on Washington Boulevard and been constructed for less cost, and with less impact on the neighborhood. But the School Board had already moved forward with renovation of the football stadium on that spot.

    Once the plan is set, make sure the original budget is realistic—we have seen many that were not—then require a justification for every change. Finally we should take time for lessons learned - to inform peer review of designs and specifications so we can make better choices of what works, without budget growth.

    Question 3: Most of you have on your web site, in one form or another, concerns with the "achievement gap" between whites and minorities in the schools. Please consider the achievement gap in terms of a budgeting priority. Of the money that the school board controls (i.e., not "entitlement" monies from the state or federal government that must go toward specific programs), which program would you defend as having the highest priority in a shrinking budget and why?

    The highest priority should be to ensure that every child has access to pre-K. For students who are already in school, the priority should be high expectations, beginning with effective English language skills. As [school board candidate] James Lander pointed out, the first step toward equal achievement is language achievement. Studies from other parts of the country have shown more than one generation remaining in poverty—a failure of the American Dream. We must also strengthen our network of teachers and community volunteers to consistently convey the high expectations the Arlington community has for all its students.

    Question 4: Democrats will endorse only two of you on May 1 and 3. If you are one of the four not endorsed, will you stay in the race? If so, what is your strategy beyond that date, given the strength conferred with the endorsement to the two winners?

    When we filed as candidates in the Democratic Party endorsement process, we pledged to not oppose the two winners of the May endorsement during the general election in November. If I’m endorsed on May 3, I will embrace the best ideas of the other candidates in this contest and reach out to them for their continued participation. This year’s six candidates represent an unprecedented slate of talent and experience. If I don’t succeed, I’ll be spending years paying my debt of gratitude to my long-suffering family and generous supporters. Help me avoid Payback Hell! Please vote for me on May 1 or May 3!

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    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today April 23, 2008

    A couple items about Barrett this week…

    Scroll down, and you’ll find a story about the final year of Barrett’s NASA Exploratory School status. I took a look at professional development, especially grant funding for conferences and the like.

    One thing I did not mention, and perhaps should have, was a paragraph in the letter of transmittal Superintendent Robert Smith sent with the the fiscal year 2009 Arlington Public Schools’ budget (approved April 17). The letter summarizes a new initiative for professional development:

    “We propose an Elementary Professional Development and Testing Initiative that would assign to each elementary school a full-time assistant principal. This strategy will strengthen the instructional leadership team in each school and will provide instructional coaching support for all teachers, especially in mathematics and reading. The assistant principal will also support principals in providing testing coordination and data analysis, very important functions if we expect to benefit from the extraordinary investment in assessing student progress that is a prominent feature of education today.”

    Barrett currently has a half-time principal. In the budget that is raised to full-time.

    Also below, I posted a few pictures from last Friday’s garden redevelopment at Barrett.

    Feds and County Continue to Share…

    The county and the State Department will continue to maintain together some property near the National Foreign Affairs Training Center just south of Buckingham along S. George Mason Drive after the county board voted Saturday to update a 14-year-old Memorandum of Understanding between the two bodies. The county can use the property as parkland, but they will continue to maintain it.

    County Manager Ron Carlee’s report to the board said there were “minor amendments,” and “There are no issues identified with the requested amendments.”

    The report went on, “the County will have continued temporary joint recreational use of the parcel of the federal property known as the ‘West Parcel’ (a portion of the National Foreign Affairs Training Center west of George Mason Drive), and a portion of the parcel of federal property known as the ‘East Parcel’ (the main portion of the NFATC site located east of George Mason Drive)…for a period of ten years from the date the Amended MOU is executed. The County Manager would be authorized extend the term of the MOU for additional five (5) periods, on the same terms specified in the Amended MOU.”

    The parcels contain soccer fields and playground on the “West Parcel” and a walking path on the “East Parcel.”

    View Larger Map

    UUCA Celebrated 40 years…

    The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, just south of Buckingham, on S. George Mason Drive celebrated 60 years earlier this month. The story was carried in the Sun Gazette—I just plain missed it. Rather than write my own, I’ll just point you that way. Click here.

    Some day, son, all this will be yours…

    I think it was the writer Flannery O'Connor, a Catholic who found Southern Baptists a bit funny,who put together a book of photos of marquis (marquises?) that graced churchyards and businesses throughout The South. The best that I remember was one that talked about the second coming of Christ and a dirt-cheap oil change. I think of that during my morning dog walks the few times I have passed this marquis on S. Taylor Street:

    It is not nearly so crass as the Second Coming Oil Change, but it is fun to read.

    Just around the corner on S. 9th Street, you’ll find this sign:

    Actually, there is a house on the property that I believe the sign goes with. But one tends to notice the sign and the entryway and the open space where a house should be before one actually notices the house!

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • Police Notes for Buckingham

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Barrett Will Miss NASA-funded Conferences
  • Barrett’s Garden Party
  • Another Accident at Thomas/Pershing
  • Letter: Bham Center Could Use Many Stores
  • Letter: Men Are Illegals (this letter continues to get comments—take a peek).
  • Labels: , , ,

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Police Notes for Buckingham April 23, 2008

    St. Thomas More Church Hit Again

    April 21: Commercial Burglary, 100 block of N. Thomas St. Between 5 p.m. on April 18 and 5:45 a.m. on April 21, someone broke into a school under construction and tore out copper pipes that were newly installed. Copper fittings and tools were also taken. The vandalism caused significant water damage to the site. The school is part of the St. Thomas More School at the intersection of N. Thomas and N. Cathedral Lane. The last report, also for stolen copper, can be found in the April 9 Police Notes.

    April 18: Felony Hit and Run, N. Glebe Road and U.S. Route 50. At approximately 11:07 p.m., a Toyota Camry was attempting to make a left turn from northbound Glebe Road to westbound Route 50 when another vehicle, a Ford Mustang, traveling southbound struck the Camry. After the collision, the driver of the Mustang fled on foot. Jorge Perez, 31, was later located by officers on Cathedral Lane and charged with Felony Hit and Run, Felony DUI and Driving Revoked.

    April 16: Robbery (Arrest), 4200 block of N. Wilson Blvd. At 8 p.m., two subjects approached a male in the Ballston Commons Mall. They demanded money and displayed a weapon. Once the victim complied, the suspects fled. One suspect was located by police. The second suspect is described as a white Hispanic male, in his early 20s, 5 feet, 7 inches, last seen wearing a loose white T-shirt, jeans, a black head wrap. Yuri Nicaragua Jaime, 27, of Falls Church, was charged with Robbery and held without bond.

    April 15: Robbery, 4200 block of N. Wilson Blvd. At 4 p.m., officers responded to the hospital for a call about a late robbery. A man stated that he had been assaulted on April 14 around 9 p.m., and that various personal items were stolen. The suspect is described as a white Hispanic male.

    April 15: Grand Larceny/Hit and Run, 200 block of N. Wakefield St. At 9:20 a.m., two vehicles were involved in an accident. The driver of the striking vehicle then stole the wallet of the other driver, and drove off. The suspect vehicle matched the description of a vehicle stolen on April 14, a 1996 green Ford Explorer with VA Tag KBF 8099. The suspect is described as a light skinned African American male in his late 30s, 5 feet, 7 inches, thin, with a short beard. He was wearing a blue long sleeved jacket and blue pants.

    View Larger Map

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    Monday, April 21, 2008

    Barrett Will Miss NASA Conferences

    This year marks the final year of Barrett's NASA Explorer School status. The program sponsored attendance for five teachers at professional-development conferences per year.

    Half the students in Todd Easley’s fourth-grade class hold flashlights a foot above their desks. The bulbs make small circles of light on the graph paper beneath. The rest of the children, partners to the first half, trace the outlines of each light spill, trying not to block the light with their hands as they draw.

    Then the light-wielders angle the flashlights, still a foot from the desks, and the spill is an oval that their partners trace. They count the number of graph squares contained within the shapes.

    Mr. Easley is teaching the seasons.

    Fourth-grade students in Todd Easley's class use flashlights and graph paper to learn the science behind the seasons. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “Has the flashlight changed?” Mr. Easley asks the class, which he calls “Fourth Grade” when he wants their attention. The light has not changed. And he asks them if the flashlight’s distance from the paper has changed. Again, it has not. But the angle has changed.

    The light that shines perpendicularly is more concentrated than the light that hits at an angle, Mr. Easley explains to his class on the second floor of K.W. Barrett Elementary School. When light is concentrated, when it is hitting perpendicular to the surface, as the sun’s light does at the equator, it produces more heat in that area.

    The idea to use the flashlights and graph paper came from a conference Mr. Easley attended at Yellowstone National Park this winter. NASA paid for Mr. Easley’s trip, as part of the NASA Explorer School program, aimed to help schools teach math and science. This school year, Barrett finishes its three-year stint in the program.

    As part of the program, NASA grants schools $17,500 over three years to purchase technology. That money is appreciated, but what educators said they will really miss are the conferences.

    Five teachers each year to go to conferences, paid in full by NASA. Barrett’s only cost for those conferences over three years has been the cost per day, about $100, they have had to pay for the substitute teachers, said Principal Terry Bratt.

    As part of a discussion about how the angle of sunlight affects the seasons, Barrett fourth-grade teacher Todd Easley shows student work on a document camera. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “I think what’s been great is the faculty development,” said Laurie Sullivan, a teaching specialist with Project Discovery, a special county-funded program that supports science instruction at the school.

    Under the budget rules for Arlington Public Schools, elementary schools are awarded $9.15 per projected student to be used for faculty professional development. The projected number is determined in March of the previous school year, according to APS. The number is not adjusted once the system tallies the actual student count.

    “Our projections are typically within 1.5 percent of total so it does not result in a significant change for schools in terms of budgeted amounts,” wrote Frank Bellavia in an email. He is a public relations specialist with APS.

    Barrett was projected to have 405 students in March 2007. At the $9.15 level, the professional development funding is $3705.75. However, this school year Barrett has 445 students, nearly a 10 percent, or $366, difference for Barrett’s professional development budget. In an email, the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Mark Johnston gave a number of reasons any school might have a large difference between the projected and actual number of students, including an unexpected influx of families, or a change in neighborhood housing. As well, schools such as Barrett that are below 95 percent capacity can receive a high number of transfer students, Mr. Johnston wrote.

    Mrs. Bratt said, “That [the $366] could be two registrations at a conference, for example.”

    “When you get down to it, $3,000 is hardly any money at all," she said.

    With the cost of conference fees, airfare and hotel, one teacher might use $1,000 for a single conference. That would mean only three of Barrett’s 60 teachers would be able to take advantage of that money in a given year.

    For fall 2008, Barrett is projected at 471 students, according to the 2009 budget approved by the school board last week.

    "This generates approximately $4,300,” Mr. Johnston wrote. “In addition, Barrett receives a little over $3800 in exemplary project funds."

    Money for exemplary projects, such as Barrett's "Project Interaction” (part of the communications arts curriculum), can be put toward faculty development, according to APS materials.

    So Barrett teachers look to local conferences, and “We buy books,” professional books, to supplement professional development, Mrs. Bratt said. That is where some of the exemplary project money goes, she said.

    As well, Barrett Elementary has teamed with other schools to bring in a speaker to conduct an in-house conference. One cooperative effort brought three schools and about 50 or 60 teachers together in 2001, she said. Although she called it a “worthwhile experience,” cooperation like that is difficult because the needs at each school can be a little different.

    In the past Barrett has brought in noted authors Ralph Fletcher and Margaret McKeown. Fees for top-flight speakers, if they even have room in their schedules, can run $3,000 a day, Mrs. Bratt said.

    “They all cost bucks,” she said. “Nobody’s cheap.”

    For all those reasons, the money that NASA provided for conferences was significant. And it was not easy to get.

    Ms. Sullivan and Mrs. Bratt were part of the team that wrote the proposal to become a NASA school.

    “I wrote that on my own time, at home,” Ms. Sullivan said.

    And there is no real system in place to help the teachers write the grants, both she and Mrs. Bratt said.

    The money is not easy to keep, either. NASA requires quite a bit of paper work such as receipts, surveys, and efolios from conference participants.

    “They’re like one of our model schools. They’ve taken advantage of all we’ve had to offer,” said Rudo Kashiri. She is NASA’s Explorer School coordinator for the Langley region which includes Virginia.

    Ms. Kashiri said that staff at Barrett has turned paperwork and surveys in on time, and that they have been actively searching for other money now that the NASA grant is ending.

    Barrett still has thousands of dollars left to spend from the NASA Explorer School grant, but that money goes toward technological equipment, not professional development. They received $10,000 in the first year, $5,000 the second and are expecting another $2,500. Of that, the fiscal 2009 budget shows that they spent $6,581 during the 2006-07 school year. Neither Mrs. Bratt nor Ms. Sullivan was sure what if any more money has been spent.

    “We’re going to have a chunk of change to decide where we want to go,” Ms. Sullivan said.

    They are looking to purchase a smartboard and three document cameras. Smartboards are an interactive projection screens that can operate a connected computer by touching the screen. Document cameras are high-tech, overhead projectors that can project anything on the desktop onto a screen at the front of the class. The style being considered look a little bit like clip-on lights.

    Still, it is the money for conferences that they say they will miss.

    In an interview, Mr. Easley admitted that he would not have applied for the conference at Yellowstone, limited to 24 teachers in fourth- to ninth-grades, if it had not been for Ms. Sullivan’s insistence. In only his second year at the school (he used to teach in Colorado), Mr. Easley said he saw why Ms. Sullivan was Virginia state teacher of the year in 2004. “She’s motivated,” he said.

    None of the Barrett teachers who applied for last year’s openings made it in, Ms. Sullivan said.

    In the past two years, Ms. Sullivan, who was county teacher of the year in 2003, has won two grants from Toyota, one for the student-produced podcasting program “Discovery Through a Scientific Lens,” and another to study whooping cranes.

    The Virginia Science Museum visited Barrett in February thanks to a $1,300 grant they awarded to the school. The remaining $200 was spent from Project Discovery’s budget, Ms. Sullivan said.

    She views her job as that of helping the teachers get what they need to teach science, and admitted that she has only a little flexible time to pursue various grants. She said other teachers do not have the time, either.

    “We all have ideas, but it takes time to write them.”

    Students in Mr. Easley's class use a ruler to keep the flashlight one foot from the graph paper. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Related sites…
  • School Board Approves 2009 Budget
  • APS Fiscal Year 2009 and 2008 budgets (pdf documents)
  • NASA Explorer School Program
  • Barrett's Project Discovery
  • Discovery Through a Scientific Lens podcast
  • Teacher Workshops at Yellowstone
  • Other Barrett-related stories at the HeraldTrib

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  • Barrett's Garden Party

    Allison Oberg and her pre-school daughter Lauren Alvarez spread mulch near the picnic table of the interior courtyard. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    K.W. Barrett Elementary School faculty, students and parents took the afternoon Friday to prepare the interior courtyard for growth and education. Weeds were pulled, beds were mulched, water was sprayed, and last year’s flowers were dead-headed. It was hot and sweaty work, but worth it by the looks of things.

    Anke Hobbs and her son Nicolas, a Barrett first-grader, water newly-planted flowers in one bed. (Click to enlarge the image.)

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    Another Accident at N. Thos. and Pershing

    The driver of the white Toyota pictured here said she hit a red SUV this morning as she headed west on N. Pershing Drive; the SUV entered the road from N. Thomas Street. The SUV spun and hit another car, the driver said. She did not give her name, but said that she lived in the Arlington Oaks Condominium, and that she was "OK."

    Related stories…
  • HeraldTrib Today April 2, 2008 (A funny thing happened on the way to the forum)
  • Bad Accident at Pershing and Thomas

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  • Sunday, April 20, 2008

    Letter: Bham Center Could Use Many Stores


    Great work as usual. I also enjoyed meeting you at the Buckingham redevelopment meeting. [Community Hits Hot Topics Civilly at Forum, April 2.]

    My wife and I thought a bit later and regretted that we didn't mention other shops we'd like to see: the hardware store (of course), a bakery (even if it has to be a chain), a bike shop, a book store, an IT repair shop, any retail boutique. Even lawyers' office. It would be great if the corner started to look like the strip mall on Randolph St. and Lee Highway, but I guess that's too upscale for Buckingham!


    Ken Moskowitz

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    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today: April 16, 2008

    Not much on the site this week—a couple letters mainly. See them as they are very interesting (scroll down for the links).

    I am working on a couple bigger stories, including one about grants funding at K.W. Barrett Elementary School. I am hoping to post that one tomorrow.

    The Barrett Auction…

    K.W. Barrett Elementary School PTA held its second annual auction Friday. Organizers have called it a huge success. The official tally has not been counted, but those in know (including PTA President Melanie Wilhelm) put it at over $20,000! That is not a bad haul. A huge shout-out should go to auction chair Karen Hildebrand, who is being treated to a week’s worth of home-cooked dinners for all her work.

    People enjoyed food, bidding and chat at the Barrett PTA auction Friday. (Click to enlarge the image, but it really does not get any better than what you see here. Stupid cell phone.)

    With that money, Principal Terry Bratt said that Barrett can buy about seven “smartboards,” interactive projector screens that allow users to operate a connected computer by touching the screen. If you have not seen them, they are cool (I am a tad jealous; we do not have those at Montgomery College as far as I know).

    I thought the night was a lot of fun. My daughter Hazel gets to have a lunch date with her teacher Julie Schneider, and she’s looking forward to that.

    I cannot get two things off my mind, however, and I go back and forth over them. I am one of those people who wonders about the fairness of PTA fundraising in general. I mean if we really need the smartboards, we should pay for them through taxes, right? Basically, we are taxing ourselves to pay for something we want. But is that fair? The money should go into a larger pool so that the schools and communities that need the most, get the most.

    Or, to switch it around, should the people in “really north” Arlington (not us in “just-barely-north” Arlington) who probably make much more than we do in auctions be forced to help us pay for our smartboards?

    As well, we all have to admit that the auction was a night of English speaking, which is not altogether Barrett. I know the argument there, too, that the purpose of an auction is not for parity in the winning, but to make the most money for the school. That money is then used to help everyone, including children in families who cannot afford to be there, or cannot afford to win a prize.

    Still, there must be some way to make the auction more inclusive. When my children went to Arlington Unitarian Cooperative Preschool, my wife and I worked on the auction there, so I know what a huge burden this event is, and Ms. Hildebrand did a stand-up job. My comments are not meant to pick at it, and I know my comments have been discussed by people more in-the-know than I.

    Comments like those, though, should come with a “put-up or shut-up” clause. So I’ll put up. I’ll help work on the auction for next year, and someone else could nitpik.

    Arts in the Schools…

    The opera guild of Northern Virginia has arranged a public discussion of arts in the schools.
    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Their release says: “Is there an arts education crisis in our own public schools? So far, Guild research has not been able to find one. Is the news all good, or should parents be concerned? What is the County’s vision? Can parents and community members help fill in any gaps? Four speakers will discuss some of the many issues involved.”

    Those four speakers include: K.W. Barrett Elementary School music teacher, Ms. Mary Hanna Klontz;.Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Robert Smith; Ms. Carol Erion, APS’s supervisor of arts education; Ms. Cecelia Espenoza, CCPTA in APS.

    The event is free, but the Opera Guild is asking that you bring cookies for the intermission, if you can. Contact: Contact Miriam Miller, OGNV, 703-536-7557,


    The View from the Bridge Ain’t So Bad…

    My wife, Cathy, and I took in A View from the Bridge at Arena Stage’sCrystal Forum.” The venue is a basement office space in Crystal City converted into a temporary theatre while Arena Stage builds a new space over the Potomac (it is set to open 2010).

    The space was nice enough, and I doubt there is a really bad seat in the house. This is part of Arena’s Arthur Miller Festival. The play, which had its American debut at Arena back in 1955 according to the playbill, is in rotation with Death of a Salesman through May 18.

    Really the worst part of the acting was in the accents. David Agranov as Rodolpho sounded Russian at times. Noble Shropshire (Alfieri) sounded more like a German Jew than the Italian-American lawyer he was playing. I had never read nor seen the play before and thought, until he said he was Italian, that the play was going to have some racial or ethnic strife between the Italian Catholics and the German Jews.

    Turns out the play does have ethnic (or cultural) strife, but not because the Catholic Italians were going to the Jewish lawyer. All the ethnic strife revolves around settled Italian-Americans and the influence of Italian illegal immigrants.

    Other than some bad accents, the acting was fine.

    Delaney Williams does a nice job as Eddie, a man whose care for his niece Catherine (Virginia Kull) borders on, or teeters into, obsessive. Ms. Kull did an excellent job as a girl-turning-woman. Her girlish bopping around the apartment slowly matures into sexual tension that she does not even realize at first. Naomi Jacobson as Eddie’s wife Beatrice does an excellent job as the woman caught in the middle, who orders Catherine to empower herself and “act like a woman” even though Bea has a hard time with her own empowerment.

    Before we entered the theatre one of the ushers said that the play would cover contemporary topics, especially of illegal immigration. But what my wife, who knows these things, noticed was the structure of conflict.

    Brothers Rodolopho and Marco (Louis Cancelmi), the illegal immigrants who move into Eddie’s small apartment, help show how the petty wants of individuals can become part of international conflicts. The play looks at how conflict boils up between newcomers that “don’t act right” in an established society.

    It’s worth the view.

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • Police Notes for Buckingham, April 16, 2008

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Letter: Woodpecker Not So Dumb (I love this sort of letter when the readers are paying better attention than I am.)
  • Letter: Men Are Illegal Aliens (This one has comments already. I also do not think we have seen the last word on all this.)
  • Labels: , , , ,

    Police Notes for Buckingham, April 16, 2008

    April 11: Stolen Auto. 200 block of S. George Mason Dr. South Carolina Tag Number: 320-UEF. The car is a 1992, gold Toyota Corolla.

    View Larger Map

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    Friday, April 11, 2008

    Letter: Men Are Illegal Aliens


    The "men on the corner" are illegal aliens, if they weren't they would go to the Arlington Employment Center. The loitering is tolerated because it is in community where low-middle income residents live. I don't see men standing on the corner in ZIPS 22201, 22207, and 22209, just to name a few.

    Having men loitering on the corners is neither good for the neighborhood or business and has often led to crime. I do not go to the CVS after dark because I don't feel safe. I have often wondered if the loitering would be tolerated if the men were white or black.

    I would prefer that the men hang out at the country club on N. Glebe Road or in community of million dollar McMansions on N. Military Road, but the property owners wouldn't put up with it for two seconds.

    I appreciate your trying to be politically correct, culturally appropriate, etc. Sometimes you have to call it what it is.

    Karen McMillan


    Letter: Woodpecker Not So Dumb

    Say Steve,

    Hate to tell you that the so called "dim-witted pileated wood pecker" [see the April 9 story here] actually was not in the same category as the cardinal pecking on a window, rather it was sending a signal that other wood peckers should keep away.

    A metal tower makes a lot of noise, and this is a signal going out to the neighborhood that this wood pecker is "Lord of the Realm," unless it gets some kind of challenge from another pileated wood pecker.

    Louis Quay

    My bad. When I saw the stupid cardinal, I knew enough to research their territorial habits. I just did not think of it for the woodpecker.

    But I took a minute to do so and found this, lifted from the California Partners in Flight web site: "Like most woodpeckers, the Pileated Woodpecker drums by forcefully rapping its bill on a tree or other resounding object. Drumming functions as a communication tool among woodpeckers, and serves to both attract a mate as well as for territorial defense."

    So it turns out the woodpecker was just picking up chicks. --ST

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    Wednesday, April 09, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today: April 9, 2008

    More on the Men of the Corner…

    Last week’s HeraldTrib Today column about the Buckingham Center and what will happen to the men who wait to get jobs on the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive got people reading and writing. Good. I am hoping to advance the discussion of race, culture, and economics in our divided community. I will admit that I am not always sure how best to do it, but I am willing to try. (Links to related stories can be found at the end of this column.)

    The letter from Patè McCollough got me thinking that I need to clarify a little of what I wrote. This is where my logic takes me:

    Whoever manages the property at the corner of N. Glebe and N. Pershing once the corner is redeveloped will not allow men to loiter. This will be the case whether the men are perfect, stand-up citizens or drunkards.

    So the men who stand there now will have to go elsewhere.

    Thus far, standing on the corner must, at some level, be working for them. They are not idiots, so they must be getting some benefit from being there.

    I will bet that most of the men who stand there are decent guys just trying to find work. To my way of thinking, this cannot be the best way to find work in a first-world country. I know, too, that the county offers job placement and training help at the Shirlington Employment and Education Center near Four Mile Run. As well, people can and do take classes in English, computing and other classes at the Buckingham Community Outreach Center on 4th Street here in the neighborhood.

    Yet still men wait on the corner of N. Glebe at N. Pershing. So something is going wrong. In this county, the best method of looking for a job should not be to stand on a street corner.

    As well, the only direct way that the county has been handling this problem is to arrest men who break the law on, and ban them from, that corner. That does nothing to get at why the men are there to begin with, and serves to intimidate men who are not breaking the law.

    Which leads me to this conclusion: the programs that the county has set up are not meeting the needs of the men on the corner. At the least, the programs are not helping the men in a way that will draw the good men from the corner.

    That is my main point.

    I do not mean to say that the county programs are poor (honestly I do not know if they are or not). I just mean that the law-abiding men who remain on the corner see a bigger value in staying on the corner than on going to one of the agencies that might help.

    This could be for any number of reasons. I am guessing that the distance to the SEEC is part of the problem, and the fact that employers looking for workers this minute do not stop at the Buckingham Community Outreach Center looking for men. It might also be that the men do not know of the programs or that they cannot both take part in the programs and work in the same day. I do not know.

    In an interview with Walter Tejada last fall when he was running for County Board (he is now the board chairman), I asked him if North Arlington needed its own job center. He said no, that he thought much of the problem might be eliminated with more education, letting people know what SEEC offers.

    Others in the past have recommended a shuttle that would take men from Buckingham down to Shirlington.

    I do not at this point know what the right answer is, but I know that the honest men on the corner need the county to start working on ways to help them now because next year at this time will be too late.

    The local environment...

    Take time to read up on a couple environmental pieces I posted earlier today. Greg Zell and the Champion Trees was fun to report and write. I always like going to Sparrow Pond to see the ducks. They’re back. See all the headlines below.

    Letters and the Chatham...
    Don't miss the stories in the "Other stories" section, below. All the letters and comments about the Buckingham Center had me clarify my letters policy. You'll want to see it.

    The Chatham story is one you won't want to miss; it deals with homelessness and free meals.

    Of course, you can find the Police Notes there, too.

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Buckingham Center Headlines:
    You may have read these stories already, but many have additional comments that have been trickling in all week. --ST

  • Letter: Poverty Isn't a Crime
  • Letter: Thanks for Community Notice
  • HeraldTrib Today April 2 (last Wednesday)
  • Community Handles Hot Topics Civilly at Forum
  • Last Fall's Interview with Walter Tejada

  • Environmental Headlines:

  • A Champion of the Urban Forest
  • Wood Ducks and Stupid Woodpeckers

  • Other Headlines:

  • Letters and Comments Policy at the HeraldTrib
  • Update: Church and Chatham Meet with Police
  • Police Notes for Buckingham April 9, 2008

  • Letters & Comments at The HeraldTrib

    Letters policy...

    I welcome emails-to-the-editor (I love to get them) as well as comments posted to stories or letters.

    I assume that any email that deals with news or issues of the day is meant for posting to the site, unless I am told otherwise. I will only post letters with full names (and I have to be sure that the email address it came from is owned/controlled by the person at the bottom of the letter).

    I will edit letters as little as possible.

    I value your opinions whether or not they match my own. I will never edit the meaning of your letter.

    I may edit for length, but the great thing about the ‘Net is the infinite size of memory and space. If needed, I will edit for clarity, while staying true to your ideas, for spelling, for punctuation and for AP style (i.e.: “I walked on Pershing Dr.” will be changed to “I walked on Pershing Drive”).

    I will not publish libelous items, and will remove personal information not necessary to the content (i.e.: your email address, your phone, the question you asked as an aside).

    Comments policy...

    Comments can be added to any story simply by clicking on the “Post a Comment” link at the bottom of the story. Anyone can do it, and I look forward to them. Unlike letters, however, comments can be anonymous, and I will not edit them.

    As with letters, comments that I disagree with will not be edited or removed.

    That said, I might, just might, remove comments when needed. Libelous comments will be removed the instant I see them. Comments that unnecessarily attack the writer, not the writer’s ideas, will be removed.

    I am bringing this up because...

    I do not always agree with what Patè McCollough says, but I respect the fact that she takes the time to write to me, that she is willing to have her ideas posted, and that she is willing to put her name to her ideas. She takes the same risks I take when I put my opinions out there, and I respect her for that. The same goes for Nancy Bukar who wrote a letter that she knew would cause her some grief, yet she took the chance anyway.

    Last week, Ms. McCollough wrote a letter that received an anonymous comment. It was mean-spirited, and I thought of pulling the comment. In the end I left it since I did not think it was quite bad enough. I cannot tell you how much happier I would have been had the writer had the same guts as Ms. McCollough. I know that at times anonymity is necessary, but I think it gets used too much.

    --Steve Thurston, writer/editor of The Buckingham HearldTribblog.

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    Wood Ducks and Stupid Woodpeckers

    At least one wood duck and one wood drake have come to Sparrow Pond this spring. Last year saw 10. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    I swung by Sparrow Pond on my morning walk today. I was looking for wood ducks, which I love for their colors, and I was not disappointed.

    The ducks, which county naturalists historically have tried to make comfortable, are back. At least, one pair is. I shot the photo of them with my cell phone, so you can barely see them. I don’t know if there are more mates. Last year about 10 showed up.

    From the stupid bird department...

    You may recall the video I shot from my basement in February showing a male cardinal attacking its reflection in the window.

    Well, we can add a dim-witted pileated woodpecker to the flock of flighty birds.

    If you look closely at the image on the right (again, shot with my cell phone, sorry). You’ll see the top of the metal tower has a small bump on it. That is the head of the wood pecker which was beating the living bejeesus, like a mad steel-drummer, out of the tower’s top. It flew off after awhile.

    Related stories…
  • Sparrow Pond Deluxe (Last May's coverage of the wood ducks and beavers.)
  • Sure They're Virginia's Bird (but they're not so bright).

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  • Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    A Champion of the Urban Forest

    This column was originally supposed to run as an "About Arlington" column in the Arlington Connection. For one reason or another, it didn't, so I'm running it here. --ST

    The big tree in the backyard, an American sycamore that is the Arlington County champion, spreads limbs over Rod Johnson’s roof, where it mingles with the branches of its sister in the front yard. The house was built intentionally between them, and their roots and limbs hug the house.

    Rod Johnson and Kim Finan stand near their county champion American sycamore tree on N. 15th Street in Arlington. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “It,” the big tree, “owns us,” Mr. Johnson said in an interview over the winter. He was joking, but not. He said he, and his wife Kim Finan, is not rightly the owner, but merely “a custodian for a period of time.”

    What they found as custodians when they began to landscape the backyard about a decade ago was that the trees find all the water in the ground beneath them.

    “Nothing can compete with the roots of that tree,” he told me as we chatted in his living room.

    They find water even though Lubber Run has been funneled into a pipe underneath their backyard on N. 15th Street. The tree finds so much water, and soaks up so much sun in the backyard, lariope is the only plant they can get to grow underneath it, so they stopped trying to grow shrubs and grass and put a patio under the big tree. With tables and chairs, and a circular bench at the base of the tree, it’s like a living room in the backyard.

    Mr. Johnson and Ms. Finan also found that caring for the tree ran about $3,000 over the past three years, which included paying an arborist to examine the tree.

    They want to care for it, but they will not let it fall into their house. It has hollowed sections and is cabled together, and they’ll take the tree down if it comes to that.

    What they didn't know when they first bought the house was that it was the county champion.

    That they learned from Greg Zell, a naturalist with the county, who knocked on their front door one day. He does that. He drives through the county looking for champions, especially when the leaves are gone and the spread of the limbs is easily seen.

    Arlington County Naturalist Greg Zell leans against the county champion black willow in Bluemont park last winter. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    He stops when he sees a big tree in a yard and knocks on the front door, asking permission to measure the tree.

    When Mr. Zell did that at the Johnson/Finan house, he asked to measure the tree out front, and they asked if he wouldn’t rather measure the “big tree,” which splits into two huge trunks, out back.

    Mr. Zell converted the tree’s measurements into points. With 386 points, that sycamore—the largest of the species in the county—was a champion.

    Cataloguing and databasing champion trees, other plants and natural resources in the county’s so-called “urban forest,” is part of Mr. Zell’s swan song, part of the Natural Heritage Resource Inventory that he began a couple years ago and that he hopes to finish before his retirement in the next couple of years. He and others in Arlington have found 84 county or state champion trees. Twenty of them are on private property.

    He and I spent one afternoon earlier this winter in snowy parks admiring the county treasures.

    A chestnut oak in Bluemont Park is large enough that three men could stand side-by-side inside it. A black willow nearby is not nearly so large, but a champion for its species. It is a leftover, Mr. Zell said, from a time when the park was still part field and part forest.

    Measuring the trees is an ongoing process, a process he hopes will be continued after his retirement.

    This mammoth chestnut oak in Bluemont Park (near the disc golf course) is the third largest in the state and a tree of "regional significance" according to the county's champion trees pamphlet for 2007-2008. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Related links…

  • Long Branch Nature Center
  • Arlington Champion Trees 2007-2008
  • Nominate a Tree
  • County Press Release: 10 Champion Trees Protected in Arlington
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