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.
Among the decisive moves taken by Governor Ralph Northam, also a physician, to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth was the closing of all public schools for the remainder of the school year. There is little or no opportunity for establishing social distancing in crowded school buildings with young people who are naturally inclined to do anything but keep their distance from each other. There have been many humorous references on social media to parents who find themselves unexpectedly having to home school their children. The situation created is another one during this pandemic for which there really are no good options. Classes will not be held, SOL tests will not be administered, traditional social and athletic events will not take place.
Do not make the mistake, however, of believing that learning will not be taking place while with our children and grandchildren we wait out the passing or defeat of the virus. The fact of the matter is that the children of our community as well as we adults are experiencing a lifetime event that we will never forget. Our country will have gone from a time of prosperity to the largest government bail-out ever in the history of our country. Many businesses will fail, and the breadth of our economic inequality will become even more painfully apparent. I am not sure what our social, governmental and business institutions will look like when we can proclaim that the pandemic is over, but I believe there is the potential that they will be improved.
For the children who are not in formal instruction there will be much learning beyond the fact that a virus not visible to the human eye can bring the world to a halt. Children will learn from what is happening in their own surroundings. Just how many children in our community depend on food available through the schools? Did we notice the adults who sprang into action contributing to school pantries to make sure that others are fed? Are we aware as we miss a favorite sports game or school party of the number of classmates who never had an expectation of being able to participate?
That learning on the part of our children will come from their observations of how adults around them in their homes or in the media react to what is happening. Do adults in the community play by the rules or stretch the rules to their personal advantage? Do adults hide behind words that have limited meaning in other situations to limit our response to what is needed? Do the adults in their lives show a selflessness in looking out for others?
Schools are closed for a very real emergency, but learning will continue to take place. No longer is the responsibility for teaching left to the classroom. Now more than ever it is up to us as adults to be role models in a crisis that will teach our children more than they ever would have learned otherwise!
Nightly Applause from Reston Residents — “Something is happening at 7 p.m. each day in a cluster of high rises in the heart of Reston. Residents of Midtown at Reston Town Center are stepping out onto their balconies each night to show their support by applauding for healthcare workers and first responders dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.” [Reston Patch]
Local Developers Seek Help from Northam — “The coronavirus outbreak has ground the development review process to a virtual halt across Northern Virginia — and that has developers spooked, sparking new calls for state officials to step in and lend a hand to the industry.” [Washington Business Journal]
2020 Herndon Festival Cancelled — The Town of Herndon announced that the annual festival has been canceled “pursuant to the governor’s order.” The event was slated to take place between May 28-31. [Town of Herndon/Facebook]
Reston Association Closes Tennis Courts, Recreational Facilities — Due to state mandates and public health guidelines, the association has closed tennis courts, tot lots, basketball courts and pavilions. Parklands and ballfields remain open. [Reston Association]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order for Virginia today (Monday) as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state continues to climb.
“Our message today is very clear — to stay home,” Northam said.
The order, which goes into effect immediately and will last until June 10, lets people leave their homes for essential services — including medical care, food, supplies, work and more — and social-distanced outdoor activities that do not involve gatherings larger than 10 people.
“Do not go out unless you need to go out,” he said. “This is very different from wanting to go out. Do not go out to the store just for one thing. Wait until you have a list of needs.”
Northam said that the order will limit access to the state’s beaches except for fishing and exercise, close private campgrounds and ban parties and gatherings with 10 people or more.
“If you can work remotely, you need to do so and companies need to allow that,” he said.
When announcing the new order, Northam said that recreational areas were “literally packed” this weekend.
“Everyone who is gathering in a crowd around the state is putting themselves at risk,” he said.
Northam recently received pushback from some residents and local officials for not issuing a stay-at-home order on Friday.
Earlier today, Maryland’s governor put the state, which has surpasses 1,400 COVID-19 cases, under a stay-at-home order that goes into effect tonight at 8 p.m., NBC 4 reported.
As of today, there are 225 coronavirus cases in Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church and towns in the county — almost double the number of cases on Friday (March 27).
Expanding testing capacity in the state could explain the increase in confirmed cases.
Statewide, 25 people have died from complications of the virus, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Two people in Fairfax County have died from the respiratory illness.
Northam also noted that almost half of the COVID-19 cases in the state are affecting people who are under the age of 50.
“Every age group needs to act responsibly,” he said.
Image via Governor of Virginia/Facebook
With social distancing protocols in place, the Herndon Town Council unanimously passed a local emergency declaration due to growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move allows the council to activate the town’s emergency management plan and seek aid as needed. Town departments, agencies, and volunteer organization can also develop a more coordinated response to handle the public health crisis.
The council also formally adopted its Emergency Management Plan, a 93-page document that outlines emergency roles, coordination responsibilities, and recovery options.
Lesa Yeatts, the town’s attorney, said that although the town used the plan since 2015, it had never been formally considered by the council.
The formal adoption of the plan on Tuesday night also makes Police Chief Maggie DeBoard the emergency management coordinator for the town.
Yeatts said the town is working “feverishly” to meet the needs of residents and ensure continuity of service.
Councilmembers thanked the town’s staff and the police department for their tireless work during the pandemic.
Vice Mayer Sheila Olem also urged town residents to practice social distancing as much as possible.
“This is really serious. Please stay away from each other as much as you can.”
Photo via Town of Herndon
As the number of coronavirus cases grows, Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed for the rest of the school year along with all other schools in the state.
In a press briefing today (Monday), Gov. Ralph Northam announced the closure of the schools.
All recreational and entertainment businesses must also close by midnight tomorrow (Tuesday), along with non-essential businesses that cannot limit patrons to 10 people or less, Northam said, adding that grocery stores, banks and pharmacies will remain open.
Northam said that restaurants can stay open for carry-out, curbside pick-up and delivery service.
“We are in this for months, not weeks,” Northam said. “So we are taking additional actions to keep Virginians safe.”
The state is currently seeking help to provide child care for essential personnel like health care providers.
So far, the state has 254 confirmed cases, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Fairfax County has the highest number of cases across all jurisdictions. The number jumped from 31 on Sunday to 43 today.
Carahsoft, a Reston-based IT company that was founded in 2004, is taking part in the state-based veteran employment program.
State Gov. Ralph Northam announced this week that the company will participate in the Virginia Values Veterans Certification Program, which aims to give veterans more employment opportunities through training and education.
The Reston-based company is the 1,000th to receive certification in the state program.
The program was created in 2012 and is describes the first state-based program dedicated to improving employment opportunities for veterans by training employers on national best practices for recruitment, hiring, and retention.
Northam plans to visit Carahsoft next week to present the certification.
Photo via Unsplash
A cybersecurity company that was founded in Virginia has announced plans to expand in the Town of Herndon, according to a release by Gov. Ralph Northam.
Expel, Inc. will expand its headquarters at 12950 Worldgate Drive, creating 164 new jobs in engineering, customer experience, IT, marketing and sales team over the next three years.
“There’s a fantastic pool of tech talent location in Northern Virginia, and we have close proximity to strong education institutions and major tech companies,” said Dave Merkel, Expel’s CEO.
The company, which is investing $1.4 million in the expansion, offers managed security on-premises and in the cloud, including 24/7 monitoring through security operations using security tools that customers already have.
The expansion was made possible through the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, which provides consultancy and funding services to help companies create new jobs.
Here’s more from Northam’s office:
“Virginia has emerged as a national leader in cybersecurity and continues to be at the forefront of workforce development in this rapidly-evolving industry, thanks to companies like Expel, Inc.,” said Governor Northam. “We are thrilled to support this homegrown Northern Virginia business as they grow and expand and look forward to their ongoing success in Herndon.”
“Herndon and the 86th District continues to attract tech companies and workers of all backgrounds because we work hard to create economic growth while maintaining an accessible community and excellent quality of life,” said Delegate Ibraheem Samirah. “I’m excited to see the growing tech center in Herndon and hope that it solidifies Herndon’s position as the best place to live and work in the Commonwealth.”
“I am proud to see that the Town of Herndon continues to attract and retain the best and brightest companies like Expel, Inc.,” said Senator Jennifer Boysko. “Working to recruit a diverse and talented workforce continues to strengthen our robust economy. I welcome Expel Inc.’s expansion in the 33rd Senate District.”
Image via Google Maps
Macedon Technologies, a privately-held software company, plans to invest $1.65 million to expand its corporate headquarters in Reston.
The expansion is expected to create 147 jobs, according to a Thursday press release by Gov. Ralph Northam.
The company, which is an Appian platform partner and provides programs for managing workflow and business, plans to lease 12,000 square feet at 11694 Plaza America Drive, next to its current offices at the shopping center.
In the oddities of the Virginia government calendar, the one-term limited governor spends the first two years of the term implementing a biennial budget proposed by the previous governor and passed by the General Assembly in the first two months of his term.
It is only after serving nearly two years that the governor has the opportunity to propose a budget reflecting the priorities on which he was elected. The governor then has two years to implement his budget before proposing a budget that will be implemented by his successor.
The complexities of changing the calendar are more than is likely to be undertaken at this time. Some like the system for it slows down the process of change for certainly the “Virginia Way” has never been to bring about any change too swiftly!
A fix that would take care of part of the snail pace of doing business in the Commonwealth would be to allow the governor to run for a successive term. I support such a change for it would allow the voters to decide if an individual should be granted a second term.
One area in which there is a need for haste in taking action is related to the environment and the role the state will take in reducing carbon emissions and responding to climate change and all of its ramifications.
Gov. Ralph Northam ran on a platform promising more protection for the environment. He and his staff worked busily on his new budget that was announced yesterday before this column was written. In the weeks leading up to his announcement, the governor held press conferences around the state on various parts of the budget including one on his environmental proposals.
The budget and legislative proposals he announced on environmental protection are the strongest ever proposed by a Virginia governor. He said of his proposals that “these significant investments in environmental protection, environmental justice, clean energy, and clean water will combat climate change and ensure we maintain our high quality of life here in Virginia.”
To reduce carbon pollution the governor recommends removing budget language added by the Republican legislature two years ago prohibiting Virginia from participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). He instead proposes legislation making Virginia a part of the regional effort to reduce carbon emissions by requiring the purchase of credits that through the marketplace will make fossil fuels more expensive than solar and wind sources of energy. The proposal is already being attacked as a “carbon tax.”
The governor’s proposals include $400 million for the Chesapeake Bay clean up that will keep that effort on track. Significant new investments in state agencies with environmental responsibilities will provide the staffing and resources for doing a more effective job in enforcing environmental regulations, improving public engagement, and ensuring environmental justice.
An investment of up to $40 million to upgrade the Portsmouth Marine Terminal will support the offshore wind supply chain and the development of offshore wind energy generating capacity to achieve 2,500 megawatts by 2026. Additional funding will also be provided for land conservation. This additional focus on the environment is sorely needed in Virginia.
Britepaths Seeks Volunteers — The Fairfax-based nonprofit organization is seeking volunteers to sponsor families in need throughout the county. Sponsors are matched with families and may opt to provide a December holiday meal and gifts for children under 18. [Britepaths]
First African American Appointed as State Fire Marshal — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced the selection of Virginia’s new State Fire Marshal, Garrett Dyer. Garrett Dyer will oversee the law and code enforcement branch of the Virginia Department of Fire Programs (VDFP), and lead more than 28 inspectors and administrative support staff. The Virginia State Fire Marshal’s role is to implement and enforce the fire code.” [Office of the Governor]
Toy Drive in Reston Town Center Kicks Off This Month — RTC’s “Toys for Tots” drive will run from the last week of November through the first week of December. The program is held in partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Toys will be collected in building lobbies. [Reston Town Center]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
One of the region’s worst bottlenecks is expected to get some relief after state Gov. Ralph Northam announced a plan to expand the American Legion Bridge.
Virginia and Maryland, which will take the lead on the project, which Northam said was a “once-in-a-generation achievement for the capital region.” The interstate compact has been named the “Capital Beltway Accord”
Once completed, existing lanes in each direction across the Potomac River will be replaced and two new Express Lanes will be added in each direction for roughly three miles between George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia to River Road in Maryland. Trails on both sides of the Potomac River are planned to improve bicycle and pedestrian access.
Proud to stand with @GovLarryHogan to announce our new, historic Capital Beltway Accord. Finally, our two states have come together to rebuild the American Legion Bridge—a big win for Northern Virginia, the metro region, and our entire Commonwealth.https://t.co/lamx5p3zqr pic.twitter.com/av4wOhzYjI
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) November 12, 2019
“This is once-in-a-generation project that will improve accessibility throughout the region,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “This is a milestone in regional cooperation. We in Virginia look forward to working hand-in-hand with Maryland to deliver this transformative transportation solution.”
Officials expect the changes to reduce congestion in regular lanes by 25 percent, providing 40 percent more lane capacity over the old bridge.
While Maryland would rebuild the Legion Bridge, Virginia would pay nearly half of the cost.
No homes or businesses are expected to require relocation as a result of the project, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Daily traffic on the American Legion Bridge has grown by 390 percent since the bridge opened in 1962.
The security systems of Dogwood Elementary School are expected to get an upgrade after state Gov. Ralph Northam awarded five Fairfax County Public Schools a state grant.
The $236,102 grant pays for video monitoring systems, mass notification systems, visiter identification technology, two-way radios and other security upgrades. It was established through the School Security Equipment Grants program, which was passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2013 following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Four other schools were selected for the grant: Crestwood Elementary, Parklawn Elementary, Riverside Elementary and Whitman Middle School. The grant is given to schools that are most in need of modern equipment, cannot afford the equipment, or have a relatively high number of offenses.
This year’s grant favored elementary schools at the recommendation of Northam’s Students Safety Workgroup.
A local match of 25 percent is required of most divisions to accept the grant.
Image via Google Maps
The commission is state agency tenant supports the arts by seeking funding from the Virginia General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Goudie is also the executive director of the Reston Town Center Association, where he expanded the RTCA’s programming. He also helped found Public Art Reston and serves on its Board of Directors. He is also a member of ArtsFairfax’s advocacy committee.
GRACE wrote the following about Goudie:
In the six years that Mr. Goudie has served as GRACE Board Chair, GRACE has built out its exhibition and educational content and Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival in service of a new vision to identify GRACE as an important cultural destination along Metro’s Silver Line and grow its voice in the DC metropolitan region’s cultural conversation; added to its board depth and diversity; grown its financial capacity; forged new partnerships with prestigious downtown institutions like the National Gallery of Art and others; built a strong strategic partnership with George Mason University and added collaborations with other educational institutions; added a satellite gallery at the Signature building in Reston Town Center; and was recognized as one of only four visual arts institutions in the entire Commonwealth to receive a VCA 50th anniversary award.
In a statement, Goudie described the appointment as an “institutional honor.”
“We have a very dedicated and talented Board of Directors, a superb staff led by our Executive Director and Curator, Lily Siegel, and fantastic supporters,” he said.
Photo via GRACE
Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions sailboat to speak at the United Nations Climate Action Summit this week. Thunberg has a strong reputation as a climate activist having staged weekly sit-ins outside the Swedish Parliament resulting in a growing movement of youth climate activists holding their own protests in more than 100 cities worldwide. Having a young person speak about climate issues is appropriate considering the higher-level interest shown by young people over adults on climate-related concerns. After all, it is their future that is being discussed.
Results of a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last week found that young people include climate change among the issues they think are most important facing the country. Eighty-six percent of youth think that human activity is causing climate change. Of considerable concern is the finding that 57 percent of the youth polled said that climate change makes them feel afraid. It is their future, and they feel afraid of the future we adults are leaving them. The good news is that 54 percent feel motivated to do something about it.
But young people fortunately are not alone in being fearful of climate change and motivated to do something about it. The 2019 Virginia Climate Crisis Forum held at the First Baptist Church in Vienna attracted nearly 300 activists to focus on climate justice. The forum was moderated by William Barber, III, son of the famous Rev. Dr. William Barber II, and Karenna Gore, the eldest daughter of former Vice President Al Gore. Reflecting the broad interest in the issue, panelists included representatives of the Green New Deal of Virginia, People Demanding Action, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions and others. Emphasis of the discussion was on working together to repair a damaged climate while ensuring that everyone most impacted–including low-income people, people of color, the vulnerable, and those on the front lines–are part of every solution and not disproportionally impacted.
Coming out of the Virginia Clean Energy Summit also held last week was an announcement by Governor Ralph Northam that the goal in Virginia is that by 2030, 30 percent of Virginia’s electric system will be powered by renewable energy resources and by 2050, 100 percent of Virginia’s electricity will be produced from carbon-free sources such as wind, solar and nuclear. In his Executive Order establishing the goals, the Governor expressed the concerns being heard from the young people and in the various meetings on the issue: “Climate change is an urgent and pressing challenge for Virginia. As recent storms, heat waves, and flooding events have reminded us, climate disruption poses potentially devastating risk to Virginia.” Reflecting the concern about economic justice, the Governor’s Executive Order stated that “These clean energy resources shall be deployed to maximize the economic and environmental benefit to under-served communities while mitigating any impact to those communities.”
Young people remind us that there are ample reasons to be afraid of an unknown future with climate change. The best response to that fear is to intensify the discussions such as have been going on while taking positive steps like that by the Governor to reverse impact on climate change.
When asked at a session at the National Conference of State Legislatures what is the most important thing the government should be doing today, the Honorable Robert “J.B.” Pritzker, the 43rd governor of Illinois, responded “preparing young children to be successful in kindergarten.” His answer was not surprising considering that he had written earlier in a publication of his Pritzker Foundation that “preparing young children to learn the first day they enter kindergarten is the single most important step we can take to ensure better K-12 education, healthier kids, lower poverty rates, increased wage-earning capacity, and a stronger, more competitive workforce.”
He is not a former educator turned politician. He is an extraordinary person, however. According to Wikipedia, he holds more private wealth than any other governor in U.S. history and is the second wealthiest U.S. politician to have ever held office, after Michael Bloomberg. Forbes estimates his personal worth at $3.2 billion including his interest along with his family in the Hyatt hotel chain.
Governor Pritzker along with his wife established The Pritzker Children’s Initiative which directs its investments on a single, attainable goal: that all at-risk infants and toddlers in the United States have access to high-quality early childhood development resources, increasing their likelihood of success in school and life. As the Governor explained further, “Early childhood development is an arena that’s long been overlooked by philanthropy and government. Even programs as large as Head Start cover a very small sliver of the population of at-risk kids. It’s an arena attractive for a private philanthropist like me because I see it as a terrific investment.”
There is an abundance of evidence to support the Governor’s conclusion, but government has been slow to invest in early education as he advocates. While Virginia has made some modest beginnings, there is much remaining to be done by state and local government. There are some hopeful signs. Last week Governor Ralph Northam announced release of an Early Childhood Education Needs Assessment and Draft Strategic Plan for public reviews and comment. Echoing the sentiments expressed by his counterpart in Illinois, Governor Northam said that “when children have access to quality, stable, affordable care during their earliest years they build the foundation they need for future success not only for themselves but for their communities.” I encourage everyone interested in this critically important issue to review the draft plan at vcef.org and to submit their comments on it to [email protected] by August 31, 2019. More information on the plan and an opportunity to discuss it is provided on August 14, 10:00 a.m. at the ACCA Child Development Center, 7200 Columbia Pike, Suite 2, Annandale, VA 22003. Sorry for the last minute notice that I just received.
The Virginia State Chamber of Commerce that has been a consistent supporter of early childhood education is teaming up with the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation for a conference in Richmond on “Smart Beginnings for Virginia’s Workforce Pipeline” for legislators and thought leaders to explore a strong, public-private early childhood system in Virginia.
The evidence of the importance of earlier than kindergarten programs must not be ignored by politicians.