Reston, VA

Morning Notes

Prosecutor Calls for State Investigation of Traffic Stop — Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano has called on Virginia State Police to conduct an internal investigation of a potential violation of the state’s new ban on pulling people over for dark taillights. The county has dropped all charges against a Black woman who was pulled over on the Capital Beltway by a state trooper. [Associated Press/WTOP]

Metro Behind on Safety and Training Protocols — A Washington Metrorail Safety Commission audit of Metro’s signal and automatic train control system found that the transit system has failed to keep up “with preventive maintenance, lacks needed safety certifications and is not training employees on how to maintain the system’s complex equipment and machinery.” [The Washington Post]

Association Drive Among Endangered Historic PlacesPreservation Virginia included Reston’s Association Drive Historic District among Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places, a list released each May to mark National Historic Preservation Month. The business park is considered threatened because of the Soapstone Connector project. [Independent-Messenger]

Reston Business Owner Featured on Today Show — Reston resident Radhika Murari appeared on The Today Show yesterday for an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month segment that highlighted her work as the founder of OmMade Peanut Butter. [Supervisor Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

Photo by Fred Dews/Twitter

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted a balanced budget for fiscal year 2022 yesterday (Tuesday).

It includes some funding adjustments that the board incorporated into the proposed budget during the board’s markup session last week.

The newly adopted budget supports a 1% pay increase for county employees, a 2% raise for Fairfax County Public Schools employees, and 15% salary supplements for staff in the Office of the Public Defender and state probation and parole officers.

“While there were many constraints on this year’s budget, I am tremendously proud of what this Board was able to accomplish,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay said. “My goal was to look for balance in lowering the tax rate, with the understanding of skyrocketing property assessments, while also supporting our County employees and teachers and furthering our priorities in education, affordable housing, environmental protection, and community resources. I am pleased we were able to achieve that.”

The proposed budget from February did not include pay increases for employees, whose pay was frozen in this year’s budget. The new 1% pay increase comes after Fairfax County employees advocated for salary bumps last month.

“The 1% wage increase and one-time bonus come as a response to union members making it clear that two years of frozen pay for essential county workers was unacceptable,” SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax Chapter President Tammie Wondong said. “We appreciate the approved change. That being said, the concessions fall short of the agreed-upon pay plan and workers are falling behind.”

The county employees’ union will now focus on its push for Fairfax County to adopt a collective bargaining ordinance. A new state law permitting localities to establish collective bargaining procedures took effect on May 1.

McKay said last week that county staff is drafting an ordinance that will be discussed at the board’s personnel committee meeting on May 25.

“Meaningful collective bargaining is the only way workers can ensure that the county keeps their promise on our pay plans so that we have the resources to provide the best services to the Fairfax community,” Wondong said.

The increase will be funded using $20 million that County Executive Bryan Hill had recommended setting aside in an “Economic Recovery Reserve.” As the county looks to rebuild, it will instead lean on the $222 million in federal relief funds it expects to receive from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“The redirection of this reserve does not exacerbate budgetary challenges in FY 2023,” the final budget document reads. “With this reserve, funding just shy of $30 million is available to be utilized for employee pay in FY 2022.”

Here are some other highlights:

As proposed in February, the real estate tax rate will decrease from $1.15 per $100 of assessed value to $1.14 per $100 of assessed value. Personal property tax rates and stormwater fees will remain the same, at  $4.57 per $100 of assessed value and $0.0325 per $100 of assessed value, respectively.

As considered during the budget markup last week, the refuse disposal fee will decrease from $68 to $66 per ton, but the refuse collection fee will increase from $370 to $400 per household. The rate was reduced from $385 last year because of a reduction in yard waste collection services during the pandemic.

Funding for county government operations and contributions to Metro and Fairfax County Public Schools, or general fund disbursements, totals $4.53 billion. That marks a slight increase from the advertised $4.48 million, and an increase of $55.40 million over the current fiscal year’s disbursements.

More than half of those disbursements (52.6%, or $2.38 billion) support Fairfax County Public Schools. This includes $2.17 billion for operations, $197.12 million for debt service and $13.10 million for school construction.

Fairfax County will create 109 additional positions in FY 2022 to staff new facilities, such as the South County Police Station, a new 61,000-square-foot police station and animal shelter, and the Scotts Run Fire Station. Positions are also being added for the county’s opioid task force and Diversion First initiative.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano says the budget marks an important first step toward solving Fairfax’s “longstanding justice crisis,” adding that the 15 new positions his office has been allocated will enable prosecutors to take on more cases.

“As the budget takes effect in July and we fill those, we will be able to expand our caseload to encompass all cases other than minor traffic infractions,” the Commonwealth Attorney’s office said. “We are already scaling up our caseload now and are prioritizing cases that contain an indication of violence between now and July.”

Descano says his office will complement its expanded case load with a “growing use of diversion and alternative sentencing to ensure we are keeping the community safe in a manner that accords with our values.”

Additional staffing alone won’t solve the problem, however. Descano says a multi-year investment is needed to address the “chronic shortcomings that plagued our system,” including a culture of producing as many convictions as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Charts via Fairfax County

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Morning Notes

Northam Signs Bill Legalizing Marijuana Possession — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday signed a bill legalizing simple possession of marijuana beginning this summer, making it the first Southern state to do so…The bill, signed a day after April 20 — marijuana’s unofficial holiday — allows anyone in the state 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana beginning July 1.” [CNN/WTOP]

Fairfax County Judge Orders Former D.C. Firefighter’s Release — “A former D.C. firefighter will be released from a Virginia prison this week after a Fairfax County judge Tuesday vacated his 2019 conviction on drug and gun charges, which were based on falsehoods told by a former Fairfax County police officer now under state and FBI investigation.” [The Washington Post]

Reston Banking Company Plans to Go Public — John Marshall Bancorp, Inc., the parent company of John Marshall Bank, announced yesterday (Wednesday) that “it intends to become a publicly-traded company, including potentially listing its shares on the Nasdaq or NYSE stock exchange. The Company anticipates becoming a publicly-traded company within the next twelve to fifteen months.” [Business Wire]

Fairfax County Tax Relief Workshop Today — “Join our virtual tax relief workshop: April 22, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Learn how to apply for real estate or car tax relief if you’re a senior or person with disabilities.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Leidos Lands Customs and Border Patrol Contract — “Reston-based Fortune 500 company Leidos Holdings Inc. announced Tuesday it has been awarded a $480 million contract by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide multi-energy portal (MEP) systems for nonintrusive inspections of commercial vehicles at land and sea ports of entry.” [Virginia Business]

Last Chance to Join Frying Pan Farm Photo Contest — “TOMORROW (April 22) is the last day to submit pictures for our photo contest! Pics can be from 1/1/2019-now, taken at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, VA. Proceeds from the contest will help support the farm.” [Friends of Frying Pan/Twitter]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Phase 2 of COVID-19 Vaccinations Begins — Fairfax County officially entered Phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout yesterday, making everyone 16 and older eligible. With the county retiring its registration system, appointments can be scheduled directly with providers through VaccineFinder, though limited supplies means they might be initially hard to come by. [Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter]

Fairfax County Gets First Community Vaccination Center — Fairfax County’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site will open tomorrow in the former Lord & Taylor store at Tysons Corner. The facility can accommodate about 3,000 people per day and will eventually be listed as an available site on VaccineFinder after the county health department finishes getting through its waitlist from Phase 1. [Tysons Reporter]

Former Fairfax County Police Officer’s Cases Under Scrutiny — “A Virginia judge on Friday [April 16] agreed to toss out the 2019 conviction of former D.C. firefighter Elon Wilson on drug and gun charges, agreeing with defense attorneys and Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano that racial bias may have been at play in the arresting officer’s initial stop and arrest. Descano…said the case was one of more than 400 stops by a former Fairfax County police officer his office has been investigating.” [DCist]

Virginia Reports First Cases of Brazil COVID-19 Variant — The novel coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil has been found in two samples from Virginia residents. One was an adult resident of the Northwest Region with a history of domestic travel during the exposure period, and the other was an adult resident of the Eastern Region with no history of travel. [Virginia Department of Health]

Celebrate Earth Day at Colvin Mill Run — “Looking for a volunteer opportunity this #EarthDay? On Thurs, April 22, Colvin Run Mill will be hosting a weeding and mulching party from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They’d love to have you spend a little time helping with the effort!” [Supervisor John Foust/Twitter]

Reston Author Publishes Children’s Book — Reston resident Jessica Sizemore turned the story of how her family came to adopt a dog named Rascal into her first published book. A Virginia Tech graduate, she started to write the book in 2016 and began the publishing process in 2019 with Herndon-based publisher Mascot Books. [Fairfax County Times]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County and Herndon Budget Hearings This Week — Fairfax County will hold virtual public hearings on its advertised FY 2022 budget and capital improvement program on Tuesday through Thursday (April 13-15). The Herndon Town Council will have a public hearing on its proposed budget when it meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, with a second public hearing scheduled for April 27. [Fairfax County Government, Town of Herndon]

Metro Phasing Out Original SmarTrip Cards — Metro will start phasing out fare cards that were made before 2012 starting in June as it prepares to rollout new faregates over the next year. The change will affect up to 400,000 out of the 6 million cards that were in active circulation prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. [WMATA]

County Talks Equity in COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution — At a town hall on Thursday (April 8), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay shared that the county “has set up three “equity vaccine centers” and plans to establish more of them as the county receives larger supplies of vaccine doses. The county also plans eventually to get mobile vaccine clinics…up and running as soon as vaccine supplies increase.” [Patch]

Reston Consulting Firm Receives $1 Million in Damages — “A Reston government consulting firm seeking $1 million in damages related to a lawsuit it filed almost two years ago, has finally received its judgment, netting more than half what it asked for. Counter Threat Solutions LLC…filed a suit against Herndon IT services and intelligence analysis company Consulting Services Group LLC (CSG) in July 2019, alleging breach of contract related to a consulting agreement held by the two companies.” [Washington Business Journal]

Reston Association Volunteers Help With Potomac River Cleanup at Reston Regional Library — “Thank you ⁦@RestonOnline⁩ and RA volunteers for participating in today’s (4/10) Potomac Watershed Cleanup activities. A tremendous effort for a spring cleaning of our beautiful community!” [Supervisor Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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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.

There is no more important function of government than ensuring public safety. The challenge in a constitutional form of government is achieving safety for the public without jeopardizing the rights and freedom of some to protect others. Public safety has been like a political football with some raising fears about crime and perceived threats to the community. Few is the number of politicians who until recently have been willing to suggest that our laws and institutions of justice require a review of the balance of public safety, the application of laws, and justice.

Over the last several decades there have been many political campaigns built around a suggestion of increasing crime rates and simplistic solutions to keep everyone safe. California started the trend with legislation with the slogan “Three Strikes and You’re Out” that increased penalties for repeated offenses. A governor’s race in Virginia was won by an underdog candidate with a slogan of “no more parole.” Legislative sessions during an election year would see more ideas about expanding the list of crimes for which the state could put someone to death, and the list lengthened of crimes for which mandatory minimum sentences were prescribed. At the same time guns became easier to purchase and own, and every mass shooting was followed by more gun purchases.

Capital punishment, extending the time prisoners were held, and arming more citizens resulted in Virginia being the number one state in putting people to death (first with an electric chair and more recently with lethal injections), increased prison construction, severe over-crowding of prisons, and protests at the state capitol in Richmond of over 22,000 armed persons.

The disproportionate impact on people of color and in minority communities has become glaringly clear as the videos of body-cam and other devices show us the unfair way some laws have been administered. The slogan “Black Lives Matter” hit a responsive chord as the inequities in administering laws became obvious.

With the outcome of the elections of 2019 and the election of more progressive members in the House of Delegates, Virginia has become more realistic in its dealing with criminal justice and law and order issues. Abolishing the death penalty was one of the first among many reforms taken. A recognition of the connection between Jim Crow laws of the past and current policing resulted in the repeal of laws that were most strongly felt in the Black community.

No-knock warrants were eliminated as were minor offenses that resulted in Black persons being stopped regularly by the police. A bill for the expungement of records of convictions for several misdemeanor crimes passed as did a bill to establish a process for seeking expungement through the courts for other crimes. Major progress was made in the discussion of eliminating mandatory minimum sentences with the likelihood that a bill will be passed in future sessions.

Some will call the actions of the legislature being soft on crime. I believe that a more realistic view is that the state has become less political and more balanced on ways to keep the community safe and to realize justice for more of our citizens. You will hear more of these opposing views in the campaigns coming up this fall.

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Boston Properties has filed a lawsuit against Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market alleging that the New-Jersey based grocery has failed to pay more than $225,000 in rent since December.

The lawsuit, which was first reported by the Washington Business Journal, was filed last month against Balducci’s Virginia LLC, which signed a 19,930-square-foot lease at 1871 Foundrive Drive in April 2016.

The grocer opened in June 2018 on the ground floor of The Signature apartments.  According to WBJ, the lease was changed a few months later to “provide rent relief” to the business.

“Balducci’s VA has continued to operate its grocery store business through the Covid-19 emergency period, and, on information and belief, has taken significant revenue during the emergency period as business that was allowed to continue operating as an essential service,” according to the complaint.

Here’s more from WBJ on three default notices sent to the company:

On Feb. 25, the Boston Properties affiliate sent Balducci’s a written default notice, which the grocer received the following day, according to court documents. Boston Properties claims in the lawsuit that, at that point, Balducci’s had failed to pay $95,157.07 in past due rent, following that up with another default notice two months later.

In an April 7 notice sent to Balducci’s VA, and received April 8, per the lawsuit, Boston Properties notified Balducci’s it had applied $189,244.33 of the retailer’s security deposit to the outstanding rent balance and demanded Balducci’s replenish the security deposit within three days by paying that same amount. It did not, per court documents.

On April 28, according to court documents, Boston Properties sent a “Final Notice of Continuing Default and Notice of Termination of the Relief Period,” demanding payment of $226,703.15, which was not remitted, according to the lawsuit. “Balducci’s VA did not pay any amount to Block 4 for May 2020 charges that were due under the Lease on May 1, 2020,” the suit states.

As of June 3, Boston Properties was seeking $256,436.37 in damages and an additional $226,703.15 if that amount was not paid by June 29, on top of attorney’s fees, interest and all other payments not made throughout the legal process, according to its complaint.

Balducci’s has eight locations throughout the country, including one in Alexandria, McLean and Bethesda.

Photo via Balducci’s

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Several government facilities around Fairfax County are closed today (Jan. 18) for Lee-Jackson Day and on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this coming Monday (Jan. 21).

Fairfax County 

Fairfax County’s courts are closed today and Monday.

Fairfax County’s government offices and libraries will be closed on MLK Day.

The county’s public schools will get off three hours early today and be closed on MLK Day.

The Fairfax Connector will run on a holiday weekday schedule MLK Day. A full list of routes running in the Reston area is available online.

Frying Pan Farm Park will remain open on MLK Day, while Colvin Run Mill Historic Site will be closed.

County trash and recycling collection will not have any changes to its schedule on MLK Day.

Reston

The Reston Association offices, including Central Facilities and the Nature House, will be closed on MLK Day.

Herndon

Town of Herndon government offices will be closed on MLK Day.

The Community Center will have altered hours from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. on MLK Day.

Metro, DMV and more

All Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) customer service centers will are closed today and Monday.

Metro will operate on a Saturday schedule, opening at 5 a.m. and close at 11:30 p.m. on MLK Day. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day, and parking will be free at all Metro-operated facilities. Meanwhile, Metrobus will run on a Saturday supplemental schedule with some late-night trips canceled on selected routes.

Speaking of closed offices, Reston Now will be on a break on MLK Day.

File photo

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The trial began earlier this week for Jude Lovchik, charged with abduction and sodomy.

In 1995, four roommates in Reston were held at gunpoint and sexually assaulted. The case had gone cold until Lovchik’s ex-wife told Arlington County police that Lovchik had confessed the actions to her and had her recreate the scenes.

According to the Washington Post, the victims of the assault testified during the opening day of the trial. The women said their attacker had forced the women to perform sexual acts on each other and on him, then worked meticulously to cover his tracks.

One woman testified that she was made to drink Gatorade to remove the evidence from her mouth and that he vacuumed the bedroom where the assault occurred. After going through their address book, the women said the attacker also threatened to kill their friends and family if they reported the assault.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jessica Greis-Edwardson, who said DNA swabs from Lovchik matched biological material found in the mouth of one of the victims.

But Fairfax County Public Defender Dawn Butorac said the evidence tying Lovchik to the crime was flimsy, saying there were inconsistencies in the DNA evidence and noting that Lovchick’s ex-wife, who was in the middle of the divorce when she reported Lovchick’s confession, had motive to lie.

Lovchik faces up to life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges, including abduction and sodomy. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

Photo via Marion County Jail

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A man accused of a series of sexual assaults across Fairfax in the 90’s, including four women in Reston, is scheduled to go to trial this Monday (Dec. 3).

Jude Lovchik is charged with a series of felonies including multiple counts of abduction, sodomy, robbery and firearms offenses.

While Lovchik is being investigated for other assaults in Fairfax and Prince William counties, his charges stem from a 1995 assault where Lovchik is alleged to have climbed onto the balcony of an apartment building and subseqently tied up, blindfolded and sexually assaulted four roommates.

According to the Washington Post, the break in the cold case came when Lovchik’s wife went to the Arlington Police after she said Lovchik assaulted her during their divorce. She also told the police that Lovchik had told her about his string of assaults throughout Fairfax in the early 1990’s and had her recreate the sexual assault scenes for him. Police said Lovchik’s wife provided information about the case that had not been disclosed to the public.

After Lovchik’s wife spoke with the police in early 2017, his home was placed under surveilence until DNA was collected from trash that police say was connected to DNA collected from the Reston assault.

Lovchik moved to Florida in 2017, but was arrested in October and returned to Vriginia, where he is currently being housed in the Fairfax County jail.

Photo via Marion County Jail

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Darwin Martinez Torres, 23, accused of raping and murdering Nabra Hassanen, 17, of Reston, will be going to trial in January.

According to the Fairfax Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, motions for the case are scheduled for Nov. 29 and the date for the full trial in January has not been established yet.

Torres’ seven-count indictment includes charges of rape and capital murder.

Prosecutors in the case plan to introduce evidence that Torres was a member of MS-13, though the police are not saying that the crime was gang-related, according to the Washington Post.

Hassanen was attacked when she was returning from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center in Sterling after a pre-dawn meal in June 2017. Fairfax County police say Hassanen was attacked with a baseball bat before she was abducted, sexually assaulted, and killed. Her body was found in a pond near Torres’ apartment and police believe the crime was not motivated by Hassanen’s religion, but was a road rage incident.

The Washington Post also reports that Torres’ defense team is alleging that Torres is intellectually disabled as a result of toxins in a gold mine near where he grew up in El Salvador. If Torres is found to have significant mental issues, he cannot receive the death penalty.

Photo via FCPD

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Monday Morning Notes

Attempts to introduce new evidence in Nabra Hassanen trial — According to recent court filings, prosecutors plan to introduce evidence during a capital murder trial suggesting the man accused of killing Nabra Hassanen, a Reston teenager, was suspected of being a member of the MS-13 street gang. Darwin Martinez Torres’s brother-in-law believed the 23-year-old alleged killer was affiliated with the gang. [The Washington Post]

What’s the state of the arts — Fairfax County government is conducting a survey to understand how to better meet the visual and performing arts needs of its residents. All responses will remain anonymous and confidential. [Fairfax County Government]

The Great American Read book club tonight — Join book lovers for a discussion about “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. The discussion is open to adults only. [Reston Regional Library]

Viewpoints from Herndon residents — Local residents offer their thoughts on their experiences living in Herndon, including the best places to go, events to check out and lingering concerns. [The Connection]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Gavel/file photoThe owner of a Reston-based financial services firm was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to a wire fraud that prosecutors say cheated investors out of more than $35 million.

William Dean Chapman, 44, of Sterling, was the founder of Reston-based Alexander Capital Markets. Prosecutors say 122 investors lost a collective $36 million over several years. One investor, an elected official identified in court papers only by the initials A.G., lost $18 million.

Officials said that investors would transfer stock holdings to Chapman as collateral for loans. Chapman then sold the stocks, despite promising investors that they would get back the value of their stocks.

Chapman tried to withdraw his guilty plea before Friday’s sentencing in federal court in Alexandria but was denied.

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