Reston, VA

Top Stories This Week

Before we head off into another weekend with a stay-at-home order in effect, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Fairfax County Seeks More Funding for Soapstone Connector
  2. Herndon Resident Opens Indian Fusion Dessert Business
  3. Artist Completes ‘Reston Wings’ Mural on Parking Garage
  4. Free COVID-19 Testing Coming to Southgate Community Center in Reston
  5. FCPS Superintendent Defends Rationale for Virtual Start to School

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your social distancing plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

Photo by Jay Westcott

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Although cancellations of many major Reston events were announced this week, Reston Community Center’s summer concerts have returned to Lake Anne Plaza and Reston Station. 

The 2020 Summer Concert series is free to the public and features two different recurring concert series. The Take a Break series is held at Lake Anne Plaza on Thursdays from 7-8:30 p.m. The Summerbration Fab Fridays series is held at Reston Station on Fridays from 7-8:30 p.m, according to the Reston Community Center website. 

The dates and performances for Take a Break include:

  • July 30: Cheick Hamala Diabate
  • Aug. 6: Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet
  • Aug. 13: Mambo Combo
  • Aug. 27: Alfredo Mojica & Friends
  • Sep. 3: David Bach Consort

The dates and performances for Summerbration Fab Fridays include:

  • July 31: Far Away
  • Aug. 7: King Teddy
  • Aug. 14: Cristian Perez Band
  • Aug. 21: Seth Kibel Band
  • Aug. 28: Swingin’ Swamis
  • Sep. 4: Tobago Bay

RCC will be mandating social distancing protocol and masks to ensure COVID-19 safety at the venue, according to the website.  Additionally, patrons are requested to bring their own chairs or blankets for seating, and capacity will be limited due to social distancing. 

Photo via the Reston Community Center website

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Penzance, a DC-based real-estate firm, is offering a peek into its revitalization plans for Spring Park, an office park located at 455 and 475 Springpark Place.

The office park is located within a mile of the company’s planned major mixed-use neighborhood near the future Herndon Metro Station. The firm acquired 10 single-story buildings for $75 million nearly one year ago.

In an Aug. 5 presentation to the Town of Herndon’s Architectural Review Board, Penzance indicated it is looking into “revitalizing the whole site” and improving its connection to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

So far, Penzance has pitched exterior changes to four buildings: 450, 455, 465, 470, and 485. New exterior materials — like terraces with synthetic wood flooring and trimming, buffed cultured stone, and repainted entrances — are planned for several buildings. New signage and wayfinding are also planned, including a new monument sign at the main entrance.

The building that has the most visibility from Spring Street — building 450 — will have the most substantial changes, including a new terrace, metal cladding over parts of the building, a pergola, and new lights.

Building 485, which is located on the southeastern corner of the site, will also include a new terrace, metal awning, and other structural changes. Other modifications to the remaining buildings are minor, according to the application.

Penzance is also moving forward on its new mixed-use project at 555 Herndon Parkway. A suburban-style office building will be transformed into a high-rise office building with a residential tower. Retail space and a garage are also planned.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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(Updated 11:10 a.m.) Be careful if you get a mailer from the Center for Voter Information, Fairfax County election officials say.

Fairfax County and City of Fairfax residents have received the mailers from the Center for Voter Information, which have incorrect return addresses.

“This mailing is causing great confusion and concern among voters who have been contacting our office,” said Fairfax County General Registrar Gary Scott. “While the mailing may appear to be from an official government agency, the Fairfax County Office of Elections did not send it.”

The Center for Voter Information, a voter registration group, says its working on returning the incorrect mailers to the right addresses. Roughly half-a-million mailers included incorrect information.

“Mistakes in our programming are very rare, but we take them seriously, and our methods overall are extraordinarily effective,” the center wrote in a statement yesterday.

“We know voters are on high alert as the November election approaches, and we regret adding to any confusion,” the center added.

Jonathan Shapiro, the president of Smith-Edwards-Dunlap Company, apologized in a statement, saying that the printing vendor is responsible for the “major error.”

“This mistake occurred because we incorrectly aligned a spreadsheet that matched the voter with their local election office,” Shapiro said. CVI did not review the spreadsheet and the printing vendor has taken steps to make sure mistakes are caught in the future, Shapiro added.

“This is not the level of work that SED and our partner, Quad Graphics, pride ourselves on. We have printed and mailed over 100 million vote-by-mail applications and voter registration applications without error and we are committed to the highest standards of quality control and excellence,” Shapiro said.  “In this mailing we fell far short of that goal. We apologize to CVI, to the staff at the affected local boards of election, and to the voters.”

County officials are warning voters about the “inaccurate and potentially misleading mailing” that asks people to return them to the City of Fairfax.

More from the county:

This group is mass mailing pre-filled, absentee ballot applications to county voters without their request — and the mailer includes return envelopes to send the application to the City of Fairfax, not Fairfax County.

The mailing is also confusing voters who have previously submitted absentee ballot applications themselves, Scott added. These voters are worried that their applications were not received, leading them to think they need to apply again.

Fairfax County is working with the City of Fairfax to ensure any applications received from the center’s inaccurate mailing will be processed by the county.

“The Virginia Department of Elections has no affiliation with this group nor coordinates with any third-party groups on campaign efforts,” according to the Virginia Department of Elections. The department noted that any applications that get sent to the wrong locality’s office will be sent to the correct office.

This is not the first time that mailers from the Center for Voter Information, which describes itself as a non-partisan organization that helps people vote, have confused Virginians.

The News Leader, a newspaper in Staunton, explained last year how organizations can obtain mailing addresses after the Center for Voter Information confused residents with a mailer about voter registration.

County election officials said that election information from the county will include a county seal on the envelope, along with the “Official Election Mail Authorized by the U. S. Postal Service” logo.

Fairfax County voters who want to return the Center for Voter Information applications should mail it to the Fairfax County Office of Elections (12000 Government Center Parkway Suite 323, Fairfax, VA 22035), Brian Worthy, a county spokesperson, said.

People who want to absentee vote by mail can apply online, which will allow them to track the status of their application, or vote in-person at 15 locations. Registered voters can expect their ballots to arrive after Sept. 18.

Photo by Element5 Digital/Unsplash, photo via mailer via Fairfax County

Catherine Douglas Moran and Fatimah Waseem worked on this story

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Friday Morning Notes

Volunteers Needed at Fellowship Square — The Reston and Lake Anne location need volunteers who can call seniors and deliver food to senior apartments. Sign up is available online. [Fellowship Square]

Hoskins Reflects on Year One — “Victor Hoskins took the helm of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) on August 5, 2019, after leading economic development in Arlington County for almost five years and winning the biggest economic-development competition in history: Amazon’s second headquarters, aka HQ2.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Sales Tax Holiday Returns — The three-day holiday starts today and ends on Sunday. Residents can buy qualifying supplies, clothing, footwear, emergency preparedness items and Energy Star products without paying sales tax. [Virginia State Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Prepare for more rain today (Friday).

A Flash Flood Watch is in effect from noon today through late tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

Here’s more from the alert:

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS MAY DEVELOP THAT LEAD TO FLASH FLOODING. FLASH FLOODING IS A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION SHOULD FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS BE ISSUED

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Fairfax County Public Schools’ superintendent said he is committed to tackling racism in the public school system during a town hall last night.

The Fairfax County NAACP met with FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand to talk about how to address systemic racism going into the 2020-2021 school year.

The discussion between Sujatha Hampton, the Fairfax County NAACP’s education chair, and Brabrand, along with several other guests, focused on a list of priorities from Fairfax County NAACP to address equity.

Brabrand repeated throughout the town hall that he was ready to be held accountable for making change. “We need to be more comfortable feeling uncomfortable,” Brabrand said at the end of the meeting.

The town hall began with a discussion on COVID-19 and the status of reopening schools. On July 21, Brabrand announced that schools would be opening virtually on Sept. 8. Hampton made it clear that it will be essential to address the inequities that online learning presents in minority communities.

What would an anti-racist school system look like and how can FCPS strive for that? Hampton had several proposals.

One would address the scope of the chief equity officer position within the county, with Hampton noting the importance of hiring someone with “anti-racist” policies versus a traditional hire for the position.

Hampton’s proposed job description included conveying “transformational leadership” and having “successful experience as a change agent.”

“Anti-racism is a fairly new thing for systems to be considering,” said Hampton when emphasizing the importance of radical change with leadership.

Another priority is creating an anti-racist curriculum. FCPS Social Studies Coordinator Colleen Eddy said that they are already in the process of auditing the existing curriculum.

A major topic of discussion was the disproportionate discipline statistics in the county’s schools. Hampton presented a series of data points showcasing the high number of Black students receiving referrals for “disruptive behavior” versus their peers. FCPS Deputy Superintendent Frances Ivey agreed that it’s time to reinforce positive behavior rather than disciplining students.

Hampton also discussed the lack of Black teachers and principles within the school system and emphasized the importance of creating a data-driven plan to hire more Black teachers in a transparent way. She said the culture of a school stems from a principal, and it is “criminal” to give kids a racist principal.

“I want everyone to remember that these are actual children’s lives,” Hampton said.

Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash

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The Town of Herndon is working to secure an agreement to ensure the proper use of a substantial COVID-19 grant from the federal government.

In order to keep a $4.3 million grant from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) act, the Herndon’s Town Council must approve an agreement that outlines proper uses and reporting procedures.

The funds needed to be used for “necessary expenditures due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus disease,” according to town documentation.

Herndon received the money from the CARES act in late April, but would theoretically have to pay it back unless the council signs a “sub-award agreement” with Fairfax County, the town attorney said at a council work session on August 4.

“This agreement specifies the amount awarded to the town and lays out the terms under which specific funding uses and reporting requirements and other procedures are to take place,” the attorney said.

Funds were allocated to localities based on population from the 2019 Census, town documentation said.

According to a council member at the meeting, Herndon received the relief money quickly compared to other Virginia jurisdictions.

“There are still jurisdictions in the Commonwealth that are struggling to get funding of any sort,” the council members said, adding that it only took a “quick” email from Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay to receive assistance.

Next week, the town council is expected to approve the agreement with Fairfax County, according to a recommendation from the town’s attorney.

Image via Town of Herndon

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

My mom and dad had little or no formal education which was not that unusual for children in large families growing up in rural Virginia in the 1920s. What they lacked in schooling they made up in basic values of honesty and hard work. Their ambition for their three sons of which I was the youngest was to finish school which for them meant high school. Mom’s advice to me for I had obvious interests in doing more than graduating high school and working a local job was captured in the words of the country music song of Earl Scruggs and later Ricky Skaggs, “Don’t Get Above Your Raisin.'”

Going off to college as the first in my family to do so was a frightening experience but one that soon became a labor of love. I could not learn enough about the world around me and most especially about history and politics. I was a product of a public school system in Virginia, and even as a youngster I knew that the story of the state was much more complex and involved than the glorification of its history presented in the state-approved textbooks. My love of learning led me to finish an undergraduate degree in history and political history at the then Old Dominion College. I went on to the University of Virginia where I received a master’s degree in teaching the social studies in 1967. That program had an internship experience that led to me being placed in Fairfax County Public Schools from which I retired thirty years later.

I refused to use the state-approved textbook on Virginia history in my classroom because of the distortions and misinformation it contained. My school administrator supported me, and a few years later I consulted with FCPS when it produced its own edition of a more-accurate Virginia history textbook. Also about the same time, I announced my candidacy for the House of Delegates and was elected on my third try. My interest was not to change school textbooks but to help alter the course of the state’s history to remedy the many wrongs of its past and to make it a state where all people had equal opportunity. I knew about the inequality of opportunity in the state by my volunteer work with the Community Action Agency.Setting aside challenges related to the pandemic and the craziness of the current federal administration, I feel a greater sense of hope for the Commonwealth than I believe I have ever had. I have written often about the transformative General Assembly session this year and the passage of much-needed legislation on fairness and equality that had been debated and never passed for years. This month the General Assembly will take another important step in reforming our criminal justice system.

As my friend and historian Bent Tarter wrote recently in a column “Black Lives and Confederate Monuments,” (www.virginiaforum.org) “We all have much to learn, or we will continue to repeat the sorry sequences of violence that exacerbate rather than solve problems. Learning, one of my college teachers explained, should involve a change in behavior.” As a native Virginian I sense that now more than ever we will at long last be seeing changes in behavior in the Commonwealth.

File photo

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