Reston, VA

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.

The outpouring of generosity in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic has been incredible. I continue to learn of people who have responded in remarkable ways to the needs that have been brought on by the quarantine or that have been recognized as a result of our having to stay home. The lack of face masks resulted in dozens of persons working alone or as part of groups to sew face masks and make them available to first responders, medical staff and others. Access to food has been a major concern, and numerous food pantries and distribution centers have been expanded or established to make food available to those in need. Food donations have come pouring in. For a list of places where you can respond to the food crisis, my website, kenplum.com, includes a Food Resources Directory. I am so pleased and honored to live in such a caring community.

Just as I am celebrating the goodness of our community, some misguided individual or individuals show up and for whatever their motivation decide to spray paint hate symbols on the sidewalks and buildings in one of our shopping centers. For whatever has happened in their lives to fill them with the hate they express, they are unable to exist in an open society that so many worked hard to establish. Graffiti with the worst of the hate words and symbols is bad enough, but in our state and throughout the country there are too many acts of bullying and violence. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks more than a thousand hate groups with 36 of them located in Virginia. That is why in the last session of the legislature I introduced a bill that the Governor has signed into law to strengthen our hate crime penalties.

I thank Rabbi Michael G. Holzman of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation for his “Call for Courage” after the recent hate event in Reston for providing me a meaningful perspective: “The solution is to call these symbols what they are, marks of cowardice. While they claim to communicate hate and fear, they really belie the underlying weakness and loneliness of the perpetrator. We are all afraid, and courage is the ability to face a fear and carry on despite it. Cowards allow fear to drive their decisions and actions, undermining one’s duties and purpose.” (Full statement is at www.nvhcreston.org.)

I concur with Rabbi Holzman’s recommendation as to what we should do: “The moment calls for courage. We invite everyone to drown these cowardly messages with the message “Hate has No Home Here.” Write this on sidewalks, take photos, use the hashtag, and post it online. Let us show Reston, Herndon, Vienna, Northern Virginia, the Commonwealth and the Country that we go forward together.” And I would add, let us continue to show through our acts of generosity and support for our neighbors and those in need in this time of a pandemic that we are a caring and compassionate community. Hate has no place here! (Hate Has No Home Here yard signs available for purchase at hatehasnohome.org)

 

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Calling all local photographers: Reston Now is looking for your photos of Reston, Herndon and Great Falls.

Whether you’re a photography pro or just love snapping pictures with your smartphone, we are always looking to include seasonal photos in our Morning Notes on weekdays or reshare pictures on our social media accounts.

As we also followed the advice of public health experts, we’re especially interested to see your photos of social distancing (or lack thereof) in the area.

To send us your photos, email us at [email protected], tag us in your photo on social media or join our Reston Now Flickr page.

You will always receive credit for the photo — either with your username or actual name.

Thank you to photographers who have already sent us photos.

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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.

Passing by the elementary and high schools I attended as a youngster was a small yellow bus carrying about six children to a school 12 miles away in Luray. They were black children who by the constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia were prohibited from attending school with white children. I was reminded of that experience this past Sunday which was the 66th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision by the United States Supreme Court. In this landmark 1954 Supreme Court case, the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. They ruled that separate facilities were inherently unequal in public education. Among the cases that were heard along with the Brown case was a case coming out of Prince Edward County, Virginia, challenging racial segregation of public schools that I had seen as a young person.

It took more than a decade for black and white children to start attending school together in Virginia and throughout the Nation as state and local government actions and numerous lawsuits sought to reverse the Brown decision. Massive Resistance was the term applied in Virginia to the efforts over a decade of state legislation and court challenges to keep schools segregated.

The Brown decision 66 years ago was as critically important a step in moving towards equality in access to public educational opportunities as it was in helping to ignite the civil rights movement in the United States. Clearly it was a beginning and not a conclusion to the challenges of combating racial inequities in public schools. The concept it helped to foster was that there should be equality in funding among public schools regardless of the zip code in which they might be located.

Performance outcomes by minority students over decades demonstrate that equality of funding is not sufficient. Equal funding suggests that all students start at the same point and given the same support will progress equally. There are many social and economic factors as well as individual differences that affect student performance.

A depiction that has become popular recently demonstrates the differences among equality, equity and justice. Three children of different heights are shown looking over a fence at a sports game. With equality, the three children are given the same height box on which to stand; two children can see the game, but the shortest child cannot see over the fence. With equity the children are given the height box each needs to see over the fence. With justice, the fence barrier to seeing the game is removed.

More than six decades after the Brown decision there are real efforts to move forward on equity funding of our schools. The most recent General Assembly session did more in introducing equity concepts into school funding than ever before. School funding is to be divided along principles that more schools would get the funding they need and not the same as every other school. We cannot let the current economic depression take away that important step in supporting our schools. We have come too far in seeking to achieve equity to let it slip away. With equity in place we can move on to justice!

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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 Releases More Zip Code Data on COVID-19 Cases 
  2. Reports: Bear Spotted in Reston 
  3. Airbags Stolen from a Dozen Cars in Herndon Apartment Complex
  4. JUST IN: Northam to Delay Northern Va.’s First Reopening Phase 
  5. Northam: Northern Va. May Ease Restrictions ‘More Slowly’ as Virginia Reopens 

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 via Megan Marie

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Since emergency orders in Virginia went into effect several weeks ago, most local and county bodies have opted for online meetings.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors dove into its budget for the coming year and courted public comments virtually. Reston Association also transitioned its annual members’ meeting to an online platform, with members given the chance to provide live comments almost seamlessly. After sorting through kinks and technical issues, other bodies and organizations will continue online meetings in the coming weeks.

Do you think the county and other local entities should continue virtual meetings, even after COVID-19 pandemic concerns subside? Some contend that online meetings are easier to attend and result in more streamlined decision-making. Still, online meetings represent an equity barrier for those without access to certain technology and do not allow residents and groups to fully participate in the public engagement process.

Let us know what you think in the poll below.

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Del. Ken Plum/File photo

This 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.

Our personal lives will be returning to what we can call a more usual pattern of living over the next several months as the threat of the coronavirus passes or as a treatment or vaccine is developed. There will at some point be an official lifting of the stay-at-home requirement, hopefully when the medical experts say it is safe rather than when an angry crowd insists on it. In the meantime I think it may be useful to review what we have learned over the past several months and to consider what we have learned that will impact the way we live our lives in the future.

Every story will be different, and I ask that you please understand that as I muse about how my life may have been changed I understand that there are many others whose lives have been changed much more deeply than I can ever fully understand or appreciate. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to those who have lost or will lose family or friends to the coronavirus. My strongest appreciation goes to those who have fought the virus day after day as nurses, doctors, police officers, technicians and others who have had to walk into the face of the virus every day to help others while we stayed away at home. I will never look at all those in the health services the same way again. The bravery, the selflessness, and the dedication leave me in awe.

As someone in government service I have long been aware of the inequities in our economies and in some aspects of our community. The new normal has brought to me a renewed commitment to work for equity in our society. As members of the wealthiest nation ever on the earth, we cannot allow to continue the gross disparities in income and wealth that have grown greater for too many years in our history. We cannot allow people to go hungry and to be without health care. No one should feel comfortable returning to the society of the past once the gross inequities of that society have so glaringly been brought to our attention.

Our neighbors and our friends have become closer even as we have had to maintain a social distance. As we can officially return to a more open society, I trust that we can all make a commitment to reject blaming, hating, and bullying that have become much too evident in recent time. I plan to continue to speak out more strongly for justice and compassion and against inequality and hatred.

On a personal note, I hope that the new normal will leave me with a habit of exercising more with the wonderful programs that are available on streaming media, eating less, and being more mindful of the blessed life I live with a greater appreciation of the amazing people who are my family, friends and supporters. I would be pleased to learn of your hopes for the new normal. Write to me at [email protected]

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Virginia officials are looking to ramp up COVID-19 testing efforts.

Gov. Ralph Northam has said that increasing testing capacity is key to determining when to walk back restrictions on businesses and large gatherings, WTVR in Richmond reported.

The article noted that Northam created a working group to address test backlogs, increase the number of test sites and tackle shortages of equipment needed for tests.

The Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County and its towns and cities, has seen more than 13,000 test results, according to data earlier this week from the Virginia Department of Health.

Fairfax County has a list of resources for people seeking COVID-19 tests.

Let us know in the poll below if you have gotten a COVID-19 test.

If you live in Reston, Herndon or Great Falls and have gotten a test or plan to, please contact us at [email protected] if you are willing to share your experience for an article.

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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Del. Ken Plum/File photo

This 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.

Warren G. Harding was elected president by a landslide in 1920. He promised in his campaign speeches that he would deliver, in a phrase that he reportedly coined, “a return to normalcy” that people eagerly sought after World War I. Harding had a scandal-plagued administration and marital affairs that contributed to rumors that his wife poisoned him leading to the heart attack that killed him before the end of his term. But Harding liked to be liked, and his “normalcy” phrase captured the mood of the people.

Today there is certainly a desire to return to life as normal from the quarantine existence we are experiencing during the pandemic. There are politicians who suggest that a quick return to life as we knew it before the coronavirus is possible and that people should be “liberated” to live without the restrictions that governors have had to impose for public health and safety. At the reconvened session of the General Assembly last week there was a background blare of horns sounding as cars and trucks circled Capitol Square driven by protestors who wanted to let us know that they wanted restrictions lifted.

It would be a tragic mistake to lift health and safety restrictions too early based on politics rather that reliable scientific evidence. Every individual needs to act in a responsible way with social distancing, hand washing, and face masks, and we need to encourage others to do the same. There is no constitutional right to spread your germs around.

The economic crisis brought on in part by the pandemic is another issue that will be addressed in future columns.

An activity that I believe would be helpful to undertake while we are hunkered down is to review the old “normalcy” under which we grew accustomed to living and to ask ourselves if we have learned things over the past several weeks that might be applied to life in the future. Recently there has been a significant reduction in air pollution. We drive our vehicles less. Could we continue to make a list of what we need and make fewer vehicular trips to get those items. Walking and bicycling are on the increase that will contribute to better health in the community.

There has been a strengthening of community as neighbors support each other more, and there has been a wonderful outpouring of contributions and help to those in need. Many are looking at entertainment differently as there is a need to be more inventive and creative in entertaining ourselves.

Technology is being used more frequently to deliver information and services that should be continued into the future. Do not simply go back to the old way if we have been forced to recognize better ways to accomplish a purpose. Certainly teachers and public education have gained support by those who have had to teach their children at home!

I share the desire that a life without restrictions return as soon as medical science says it is safe to do so. In the meantime, let’s think about what we have learned through all of this that might make our life be even better in the future. Share your ideas with me at [email protected].

 

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Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Instead of holdings strikes around the globe to advocate for climate change activism, the organization behind Earth Day is urging activists to participate in virtual events.

“On Earth Day, April 22, 2020, we have two crises: One is the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The other is a slowly building disaster for our climate,” according to the Earth Day website.

Earth Day Live today is offering 24 hours of messages, performances and educational components, including appearances from Zac Efron and Al Gore.

While  Fairfax County’s 2020 Earth Day Festival has been canceled, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate virtually:

Let Reston Now know in the poll below if you plan to join Earth Day events:

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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. FCPS Officials Acknowledge ‘Leadership Failures’ in Botched Rollout of Distance Learning
  2. JUST IN: Northam Extends Closure of Non-Essential Businesses
  3. Fairfax County Under Tornado Watch Until the Evening
  4. Fairfax County COVID-19 Cases Top 1,000
  5. Local Fitness Centers Hit Hard by COVID-19 Economic Downturn

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.

Image via FCPS

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Since 2013, Reston Now has been reporting news about the Reston and Herndon areas. Recently, we started providing additional coverage of Great Falls.

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Today is National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day.

The “holiday” started when Pajamagram started a campaign in 2004 to give people a chance to relax after filing their taxes, according to National Day Calendar.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, wearing pajamas while working from home might have been more of a rare treat than the “new normal” for many people.

For essential workers, teleworking isn’t always an option. And there are some people who get dressed up to work from home.

Whether you’re in cozy flannel, pairing a dress shirt with pajama pants or wearing your uniform, let us know in the poll below if you’re participating.

Photo by FLOUFFY on Unsplash

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Del. Ken Plum/File photo

This 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 columns written over the couple of weeks after the ending of the annual General Assembly session this year as you may remember were filled were excitement and superlatives about the great work that had been accomplished this year. I even described the budget that was passed for the next two years as being the best on which I had voted over my legislative career. Many goals including to better fund education, mental health, homeless prevention, environment and other areas were not only met but were funded at historic levels.

Then suddenly, “poof,” the good news ended as the world sank into the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic collapse. Monies that had been projected to be received to support the very real needs of the Commonwealth as reflected in the budget we passed evaporated. The General Assembly is scheduled to meet on April 22 in a reconvened session to consider the Governor’s recommendations on legislation we passed including amendments that are needed to keep the budget in balance. Extra precautions are being taken for the meeting because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the meeting will be very painful for the decisions that must be made on the budget. There are no good choices.

Virginia has an all-time high in rainy-day reserve funds of about two billion dollars. Those funds are built up in the good times to serve as a cushion in challenging times like now. Ideally, reserve funds would be drawn on over the duration of the recession rather than being fully exhausted at the beginning, but the unknown is the length of the economic recession. Virginia has historically taken a very conservative approach to dipping into its reserves and is likely to once again with the high level of uncertainty about the future of the economy. While federal funds are expected to be made available to the states, the amount and timeline for assistance may be even more unpredictable than the future strength of the economy.

The tendency in budgeting is often to make reductions in those items last added to the budget and to protect more established programs. Such an approach at this time would put in jeopardy an increase in the minimum wage that affects state employees as well as those in the private sector. We are way past time to increase the measly $7.25 minimum wage that we had approved to go to $9.50 in January. I agree with the argument of advocates who insist that increasing the minimum wage would help with economic recovery because that increase would go immediately back into the economy as it is spent on groceries, rent, transportation and other necessities. The same argument applies to salary increases for teachers and state employees. These workers with the lowest of incomes should not bear the brunt of the declining economy.

More difficult decisions face us in a budget that proposes increases to programs that help the homeless, increase funding for preschool education, expand programs for persons with special needs, and expand environmental protection among others. There are no good choices!

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Advertising-supported local news outlets in the D.C. area and across the country are taking a big hit while the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.

As the crisis deepens, Reston Now is in a tough spot. Starting today we’re asking you — our readers — to help us keep our coverage going over the next several months.

Since we launched in 2013, we’ve always prided ourselves in providing free content to our community and we’ve never asked readers to support our operations. But during these unprecedented times, we need your help.

If you would like to continue reading Reston Now and you’re able to give us a few bucks a month, we would greatly appreciate you contributing to our coverage via PayPal or joining our Patreon.

We have two monthly options: $6 and $10. Every donation will help us keep our news operation going. If you’d like to give more, we would prefer you save the big bucks for local nonprofits like Cornerstones or the COVID-19 Response Fund for Northern Virginia.

This is a temporary measure and we will let you know when the coast is clear and we can resume being 100% advertising-supported. Thank you for your readership and, for those who are able to contribute, your support.

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Del. Ken Plum/File photo

This 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.

At a critical time in our history when our federal administration is displaying a level of ineptness that is head-shakingly unbelievable, the importance of community becomes more evident to us. Whether that community is at the state level as we live-stream on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 pm the quiet bed-side manner of our physician now Governor Ralph Northam as he tells us the steps we need to get through the COVID-19 crisis as best as humanly possible or whether it is the neighbors on the street who emerge to the stoops of their homes at noon one day to sing happy birthday to a young person who is celebrating a mile-marking 18th birthday, we as members of multiple communities are facing a history-changing crisis. The way we emerge on the other side is likely to be dependent more on our community support system than on government action.

The federal Congress has already passed legislation of historic proportions that at any other time in our history would have been called socialism. There seems to be widespread agreement that it is not enough and that further federal assistance will be required both for individuals and families as well as the economy. To ensure that you are aware of the various programs of assistance that might be available to you and your family, visit my website at kenplum.com for a description of programs.

The General Assembly is required by the state Constitution to meet in a reconvened session after the Governor has reviewed and signed, vetoed or proposed amendments to bills passed in the recent regular session. The reconvened session is scheduled for April 22 this year, but there are serious questions as to whether it is a good idea to have 100 delegates and staff meeting in one room while 40 senators and staff meet in another room. However, the issue is resolved we will be ploughing new legal ground. Whenever the General Assembly meets it will not bring good news; the sharp decline in revenue will wreck what was a historically good budget. The reductions will be many, and they will be deep.

What can we as a community do while we are hunkered down? As people are demonstrating in communities throughout the country, there are many life-saving and useful things we can do. First, we can, and we must respond to the needs of people who are hungry. On my website, www.kenplum.com, is a directory of food banks and pantries that are responding to the needs of the hungry. Congratulations and thank you to all who have put together these wonderful efforts. All of the rest of us can help them. Without leaving your home you can donate online to the food banks that can use your contribution to buy food. You can buy groceries online and have them shipped to the local food bank. Or if you choose you can buy extra when you are doing your own shopping and contribute it to a food pantry. We are community, and we can help our neighbors who are hungry.

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