Comstock Revises Campaigning Policies at Reston Station Plaza

(Updated at 5:45 a.m. on May 31 to state candidates did not receiving ad pricing information from Comstock).

Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, will allow political campaigning and electioneering at Reston Station Plaza following a recent debate over the legality of the company’s longstanding policy to bar soliciting on its properties.

In a letter to Reston Now’s editor regarding the May 24 article, Chris Clemente, the company’s CEO, clarified Comstock’s position on the issue. His company’s vice president of communications, Maggie Parker, is running for Hunter Mill District Supervisor, and her campaign signs are plastered on the property.

“Given the local nature of the Hunter Mill District race, which is the first contested race since Reston Station existed, and the significant number of Hunter Mill District residents using the commuter facilities at Reston Station, it was decided that it would be appropriate to allow such activities for this political contest,” Clemente wrote.

A spokesperson for Fairfax County has stated that campaigning at the property is allowed by state election law, noting that Comstock leases Reston Station Plaza from Fairfax County under a 99-year ground lease.

Comstock leases the Wiehle garage plaza from Fairfax County pursuant to a 99 year ground lease.  State election law doesn’t prohibit campaign activities including voter registration on private property,” according to the county.

Clemente said the company has barred all types of soliciting “out of respect for the thousands of daily visitors’ time.” He also noted that the county has not raised any issues with Comstock’s policy.

A county spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request from Reston Now about why this was the case.

Parker pushed Clemente to give other candidates running for the seat the opportunity to erect signs at Reston Station, Clemente said. Requests to have signs were submitted by Walter Alcorn‘s campaign on May 25 and Laurie Dodd on May 28. Parker also requested permission to use Comstock’s property for an all-candidate meet and greet event, which Clemente said Comstock fully supports.

Clemente, a former Reston resident and parent of current Reston residents, is backing Parker for the seat. In a 19-point letter to Reston Now, Clemente expressed his support for Parker, who he called a “champion of affordable housing” and a “strong proponent of limiting significant development in the Hunter Mill District.”

In a statement, Clemente wrote the following:

This is why I support Maggie Parker in this important race, because she has the skills needed to create solutions to complex issues that can sometimes be divisive, build consensus, and put the interests of the Hunter Mill District residents first, rather than hurling misleading accusations for political purposes. It’s refreshing to see a political candidate take the high road!

Parker said that she organized the forum because she wants to have all five candidates campaign in a safe and open environment and meet some candidates’ interest in coming to the plaza.

“A free-flowing meet and greet is one way to accomplish both,” Parker said. “I am confident that my message and experience will win out.”

Her campaign manager pitched the meet and greet idea to other candidates running for the seat on May 28. A date has not been set.

Alcorn, whose volunteers were recently barred from distributing campaign materials at the plaza, says the gesture comes too late: 

Comstock responded to our community pressure with a token gesture that is too little, too late as Comstock’s candidate has enjoyed weeks of unlimited and exclusive advertising. Democracy does not happen in 3 hour windows. Comstock is attempting to buy a seat on the Board of Supervisors for developers. Voters should also be alarmed that Comstock is using a public private partnership with the County to limit freedom of speech for all candidates but their own.

Both Dodd and Alcorn stated that they have not yet heard back from Comstock regarding requests for the pricing of advertising on the plaza.

The Hunter Mill District primary is set for June 11.

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Severe Thunderstorm Warning in Effect This Afternoon

The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning that is in effect until 4 p.m. today (Thursday).

Winds of up to 60 miles per hour and hail damage trees, may cause large branches to fall, and result in widespread power outages.

NWS encourages residents to move into an inside room on the lowest floor possible.

The warning covers most of Northern Virginia.

Photo via NWS/Twitter

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True Food Kitchen in Reston Town Center Targets 2020 Opening

M & S Grill’s former spot in Reston Town Center will likely remain vacant for more than two years.

True Food Kitchen, a restaurant that aims to offer “healthy, chef driven, seasonal food,” will not open until June of next year. The chain will fill the vacant spot at 11901 Democracy Drive, which has been empty since M & S closed last year on New Year’s Day.

A spokesperson for the company told Reston Now now that opening day could be delayed if there are any construction hiccups over the next several months.

The restaurant offers food based on Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet. The chain has locations across the country, including one in Arlington and Fairfax.

Image via Google Maps

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Herndon School Earns Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence

Carson Middle School is among four schools in the state to earn the 2019 Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence — the highest recognition awarded for schools that excel in academics in the state.

The recognition, which is part of the Virginia Index of Performance awards, recognizes schools that go beyond state and federal accountability standards and achieve excellence goals set by the governor and the Board of Education.

The school met all state and federal achievement benchmarks and checked off on goals for elementary reading. Two schools in McLean — Chesterbrook Elementary School and Cooper Middle School — also got a nod from the governor, along with Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church.

In the county, 28 schools were named recipients of the Board of Education Excellence Awards and 22 schools earned the Board of Education’s Distinguished Achievement Awards.

Photo via FCPS

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Del. Ken Plum: Mental Health Awareness Month

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.

Before we tear off the remaining couple of pages on the May calendar, I want to address the important recognition of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. While Virginia is credited with having the first mental health hospital, or asylum as they were called in the 18th century, the Commonwealth has had difficulty in recent times coming to grips with the enormity of the need and the provision of funds to respond to those needs. In fact Virginia is ranked 40th in the nation in mental health care according to the results of a national study of the issue. It took a state senator’s mentally ill son attacking his father with a knife to shock the state to greater action. That father now chairs the Joint Subcommittee on Mental Health Services in the 21st Century, or the Deeds Commission, that includes Sen. Janet Howell as a member and has made critically important recommendations on which the state has made significant progress.

Special thanks go to The Commonwealth Institute for documenting recent progress and remaining opportunities in behavioral health in a recent edition of The Half Sheet. The Institute, which is a nonprofit organization focusing mostly on human service needs, used the term “behavioral health” to be more comprehensive than “mental health” to include mental health services and supports such as substance abuse treatment. The Institute recognized accomplishments this past year to include a 21 percent increase in Medicaid reimbursement to encourage more licensed mental health professionals to accept Medicaid thus increasing access to services for people with low income. Additional funding for emergency opioid kits will expand the access to and availability of Naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The General Assembly also passed and the Governor signed my bill to expand the health care providers authorized to dispense Naloxone to make it more readily available.

Increased funding was provided to increase staffing at state mental health facilities that are struggling to keep up with demand. Funding was also approved to replace the aging mental health facility Central State Hospital. In addition, monies have been made available for transportation of persons needing mental health hospitalization from having to be transported by law enforcement.

The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services indicates that there is a need for 5,000 permanent housing units for those who need supportive housing in the state. This year’s funding along with an increase last year will provide 1,300 units of supportive housing. Obviously, there is a severe need to do more in this area with a price tag of about $47 million.

Challenges remain to be addressed in providing greater access to programs and services for those who live in rural areas and to those who have experienced the trauma of having been exposed to the immigration and refugee system. A task force is looking at ways to increase the number of mental health professionals in the state.

Our awareness of mental health needs cannot end with the month of May. More needs to be done!

File photo

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Afghan Fusion Restaurant Opens Near Innovation Center Metro Station

Kabobi by the Helmand, a restaurant featuring Afghan cuisine, held its soft opening yesterday (May 29) in Herndon.

Owner Khaleeq Ahmad told Reston Now that the restaurant finally opened after delays with the permitting process. Ahmad said his restaurant offers “Afghan fusion” cuisine. It is located at 2321 Dulles Station Boulevard, Suite A — a short walk from the Innovation Center Metro station.  

The restaurant in Herndon offers a mix of traditional Afghan cuisine as appetizers, salads, bowls and wraps. Items range from “kabuli pallow,” a traditional Afghan dish with rice baked with chunk of lamb, raising and glazed carrots — to eggplants and mushroom wrapped in fresh bread.

The chain of Kabobi restaurants started in San Francisco in 1982 and expanded to Boston, Baltimore and Chicago. It is modeled after a sister restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland called Kabobi from the Helmand.

Photo by Khaleeq Ahmad

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Thursday Morning Notes

Herndon Festival Kicks Off Today — The first day of the four-day festival begins today from 6-10 p.m. at Northwest Federal Credit Union (200 Spring Street). China Grove will perform at the Herndon Family Medicine Stage and transit Vocal Band will perform at the Parkway Stage from 7:30-9 p.m.  [Herndon Festival]

Police Seek Help to Connect Annandale Man to County Burglaries — Local police believe Stephen Anderson, 55, of Annandale, could be responsible for other burglaries throughout the county. He faces burglary charges and is being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bond. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Creative Response Led by Co-owner of Bad Saint Set for Today — Genieve Villamora, co-owner of the buzzy Filipino restaurant in the District, will respond to the work of Stephanie William. The presentation will be followed by open conversation. The event starts at 7 p.m. [Greater Reston Arts Center]

A Recap of Reston Live — “The first Reston Live was held at Lake Anne Plaza on Sunday afternoon. This inaugural music festival featured a Children’s Area, a talent competition, a raffle, vendor booths, and special guest performances by Reston band, Catchin’ Toads, and Reston’s own singer/songwriter, Lindsey Hershfeld.” [The Connection]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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