Morning Notes

Thousands of Afghan Refugees Arrive At Dulles — About 14,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan since the Taliban’s takeover on Aug. 15 have arrived in Virginia through Dulles International Airport, according to Gov. Ralph Northam, who called the effort “one of the largest airlifts in history” on Friday (Aug. 27). The federal government has set up a COVID-19 vaccination site for the new arrivals, just 20 of whom have tested positive so far. [WTOP]

New Survey on Countywide Strategic Plan Opens — Fairfax County is seeking more community input on its proposed Countywide Strategic Plan, which will serve as a guide for the county’s priorities over the next 10 to 20 years. A fourth community survey is now available in multiple languages until Sept. 24, with the Board of Supervisors expected to take action on a final plan in October. [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Man Arrested for South Lakes BB&T Robbery — A man believe to be behind the Tuesday morning robbery of the BB&T Bank in South Lakes Village Shopping Center was arrested in Richmond, according to the weekly crime report. The suspect was arrested on Thursday (Aug. 26) on unrelated charges but now also faces two counts of robbery. He is awaiting extradition to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. [Patch]

Fairfax County Police Recruit Two New Canines — Bloodhound pups Duke and Luna will soon start a year-long training program to prepare them to join the Fairfax County Police Department’s K-9 unit, which currently consists of 28 dogs, including three other bloodhounds, and 15 human officers. The dogs will help the department find “critically missing people,” including people with dementia, children, and individuals who might be suicidal. [The Washington Post]

Reston Association to Hold Listening Sessions Next Month — “Reston Association will be hosting a series of Listening Sessions, one for each district, over the coming weeks on Zoom. These meetings will allow the Board to engage with each district and listen to the concerns, comments, and suggestions members have for RA.” [RA/Twitter]

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A majority of Reston residents would support having a larger performing arts venue in the area, a survey commissioned by Reston Community Center suggests.

RCC has been mulling the possibility of bringing a new performing arts venue to Reston since at least the summer of 2019, when it partnered with the Center for Survey Research at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service to conduct the community survey, which also measured public opinion of the organization’s facilities, programming, and priorities.

Center for Survey Research Director Dr. Kara Fitzgibbon presented the community survey results to the RCC Board of Governors on July 26. The board also reviewed the findings of a strategic plan survey that RCC sent out earlier this summer to see if people’s feelings had changed in the intervening two years.

According to the UVA presentation, 68% of the 1,906 people who responded to the 2019 survey are somewhat to very interested in Reston having a larger performing arts venue, with the largest percentage (29%) saying that they are very interested.

An additional 12% of respondents said they would be slightly interested, while 11% said they wouldn’t be at all interested, and 9% felt that RCC’s existing facilities, such as the CenterStage theater, are sufficient.

Reston Community Center gauged support for a new performing arts venue in its 2019 community survey (via RCC)

“The levels of general support indicate that the opportunity is one that RCC should explore and help the community realize in one way or another,” RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon said by email. “What happens next will be determined through study, engagement and development of a plan to realize what the community wants.”

Gordon says RCC’s interest in having a larger performing arts venue “is longstanding,” spurred in part by a proffer from Boston Properties for up to 65,000 square feet of development in its Reston Gateway neighborhood near the still-closed Reston Town Center Metro station.

Gordon told Reston Now in June 2019 that if a facility comes to fruition, RCC would advocate for it to have a stage spacious enough to accommodate dance, orchestral, and theatrical shows with large casts, and it would primarily serve community nonprofits and public school arts programs.

She clarified by email yesterday (Tuesday) that Boston Properties has offered to include that amount of space in “Block J” of its mixed-use development, but it hasn’t committed to making that an arts center.

A Fairfax County spokesperson confirmed that the proffer is still on the table and that the county has until July 2022 to decide whether to accept it.

RCC’s community survey indicates that the level of support for a new performing arts center would vary depending on whether it is built by a developer or by the community center, which would require voter approval for a bond referendum to fund the project.

The percentage of “very supportive” respondents goes from 37% if the facility is built by a developer to just 14% if RCC has to finance it. 32% of respondents said they wouldn’t be at all supportive of RCC issuing a bond to fund the project.

“The RCC board has long maintained that such a venue requires multiple funding partners to realize,” Gordon said. “We will continue to explore the opportunity with the community and see where it leads.”

The Center for Survey Research distributed the questionnaire to a sample of 5,500 Reston households. A version of the survey that anyone who lives or works in Reston could answer was also made available online and in paper form from Aug. 5 to Sept. 16, 2019, according to the presentation.

This year’s strategic plan survey obtained 267 responses. Respondents named facilities upkeep and modernization as their top priority, though some said RCC’s programs are “too niche” or duplicative of Reston Association offerings.

Gordon says she didn’t register any significant changes from 2019 to this year, but the number of people who cited time constraints — either from their own busy schedule or RCC’s schedule — as a barrier to participation in the 2019 survey stood out.

Reston Community Center’s 2019 community survey found time is a barrier to participation (via RCC)

“To the extent we can, RCC works collaboratively with Reston’s nonprofit and civic infrastructure to get Restonians the most ‘bang for the buck’ from their community investments,” Gordon wrote. “Ultimately, the 2019 Community Survey helps all of us better understand what people are seeking in their spare time (what precious little of it they have!) and how we can fulfill their expectations.”

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Morning Notes

Herndon Fire Causes $6K in Damages — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue units responded to a passerby’s report of a building fire in the 2400 block of Centreville Road around 7:22 a.m. yesterday (Monday). Investigators determined that the fire, which was seen on a countertop, was caused by an electrical event involving a power strip. There were no reported injuries, but the damage was estimated to be $6,000. [Patch]

Police Seek Assistance in Finding Great Falls Burglary Suspects — The Fairfax County Police Department’s Reston Station is seeking to identify two men who reportedly caused more than $20,000 in damage to a house in the 800 block of Hortense Place in Great Falls on June 12. Detectives have not yet determined if the incident is related to incidents involving damage to two homes in the same block on July 12. [Patch]

Virginia to Use COVID-19 Relief Funds for School Ventilation — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wants to allocate $250 million of the state’s federal coronavirus relief money to projects that will improve air quality in public schools. In a statement Monday, the Democratic governor said the state funding would be matched with another $250 million in local funds for an investment that would allow for the completion of nearly all Virginia school divisions’ currently planned projects.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Reston Hospital Completes First Spinal Implant Using AI and Augmented Reality — “Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR), top surgeons at Virginia Spine Institute deliver personalized spinal implants to a 17 year old patient. Spine Surgeons Dr. Ehsan Jazini and Dr. Christopher Good performed the procedure at Reston Hospital on Monday, July 26, 2021.” [Virginia Spine Institute]

Reminder: Weigh In On Future of Reston Parking — “Help us determine the future of parking in Tysons and Reston. We want to hear from residents, commuters, employees and patrons about how you use parking in these areas. Take our managed parking survey, open now through July 31.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

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Reston Community Center (via RCC/Facebook)

The Reston Community Center wants residents to share their leisure and recreational needs as well as their thoughts on social and racial equity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the pandemic temporarily stalled the effort, RCC launched a six-question survey on June 10 to get public input on its 2021-2026 strategic plan, which will guide the organization’s approach to funding and programming over the next five years.

RCC previously commissioned the University of Virginia to conduct a community survey in 2019. The goal of that survey was to gauge how people used the community center’s activities and facilities, along with their opinions on the possibility of a new Reston performing arts venue.

This new online survey will serve as a “kind of temperature check” on whether the issues identified in the 2019 survey “had been dramatically altered in any ways” by the pandemic, according to Reston Community Center executive director Leila Gordon.

RCC also plans to convene focus groups this summer to help craft the new strategic plan.

According to Gordon, the RCC Governing Board initially planned to meet in January to determine the core “pillars” of the strategic plan, but with Fairfax County seeing high COVID-19 transmission rates at the time, those discussions were postponed until April.

The board ultimately settled on six main themes for the strategic plan: facilities, equity, programs and services; community connections, communications, and stewardship and accreditation.

“Its goals and objectives will help us allocate resources, assess opportunities, establish priorities and hold ourselves accountable,” Gordon said.

One of the questions in the survey addresses social and racial equity issues in the community, asking, “How do you think RCC can help Reston continue to be a welcoming, inclusive and accessible place to live, work, learn and play?”

Gordon says RCC approaches social and racial equity from a variety of angles, from programs that deal with racism and related issues to an emphasis on diversity when it comes to hiring staff.

However, former police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 and the nationwide protests for racial justice that followed that summer served as a reminder that more work needs to be done.

“RCC has had programming focusing on racial and social equity for several years as an outgrowth of our long-time commitment to meaningful celebration of the King holiday, as well as honoring the values established by [Reston founder] Bob Simon at the outset of Reston’s creation,” Gordon said in an email. “With the response to the murder of George Floyd, it was clear that this journey for the community, county and country is far from over.”

After the survey closes on July 16, RCC will hold focus group meetings, which will include translation services for people the survey was unable to reach, to get feedback on the identified themes the survey discusses. A follow-up presentation from the University of Virginia will take place July 26.

Staff will draft the strategic plan and finalize it with the community center’s board in September, when the public will be able to weigh in on the plan itself.

The final plan is slated to be approved at the board’s Oct. 4 meeting.

Photo via Reston Community Center/Facebook

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Time is running out for community members to weigh in on Fairfax County’s first Countywide Strategic Plan, which will serve as a template for the county government’s vision and priorities for the next two decades.

A public survey on the strategic plan will close at the end of today (Thursday), though the county plans to conduct a fourth round of community engagement this summer before the document is revised and ultimately adopted in October.

The survey is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi. A form for individuals to submit more general feedback can also be found at the bottom of the strategic plan website.

“We view community engagement as a process that is never complete, and strongly encourage you to see the ways the strategies within this plan will positively impact your daily lives,” County Executive Bryan Hill said in a note to the community. “We are counting on you to help us track success, as well as how we can continue to improve — this is not only a government plan, but a way to shape our collective future in a way that benefits us all.”

The effort to develop a single, cohesive plan for the county’s future launched in early 2019 with an initial round of community engagement.

Hill presented what was supposed to be a final version of the document to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 25, 2020, but the county decided to pause work on the initiative when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March 2020.

After the county spent a year revising the document to take into account the pandemic’s impact, Hill delivered a new proposed strategic plan to the board on Feb. 23, alongside his presentation of the county’s advertised Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

The Board of Supervisors was previously scheduled to adopt the plan in conjunction with its mark up of the budget on April 27, but county staff agreed to push the adoption date back to Oct. 5 after “several” supervisors suggested more time was needed for both the board and the public to review the plan and provide input.

“We absolutely think that this makes sense, because while we recognize that the plan was originally designed to be flexible, adaptable, and future-oriented, we also recognize that COVID is our first real test of that design,” Countywide Strategic Plan Coordinator Aimee Brobst said during a budget committee meeting on March 16. “We want to ensure that the board has adequate time to fully focus on the countywide initiative that we, of course, consider to be extremely important.”

The 56-page strategic plan currently being considered categorizes the county’s goals and strategies for achieving those goals into nine priority areas:

In his note, Hill says that the pandemic has exacerbated existing health and economic disparities in Fairfax County, while posing “significant current and future budget challenges that will require us to focus our limited resources on our top strategic priorities and most urgent community needs.”

“Now more than ever, we must intentionally align existing government and community plans and priorities to respond to the areas of greatest importance to our residents, and strategically focus our resources on these priorities over the next 5, 10, 20 years and beyond,” Hill said.

Image via Fairfax County

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No more than once a year, Reston Now surveys readers about potential changes to the site.

This year might be one of the more important years for the survey. Our eight-question 2021 Reston Now Reader Survey asks about potential new features, adjustments to our news coverage, and your satisfaction with our Reston reporting.

The survey should only take about 5 minutes to fill out. We would greatly appreciate if you would take the time to do so, and to help Reston Now better serve you in the process.

Thank you!

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Fairfax County is seeking public input on the characteristics, skills, and values it should prioritize in selecting its next police chief.

Conducted by the search firm Polihire, the community survey asks respondents to share their thoughts on the most important public safety issues facing the county, the police department’s relationship with the citizens it serves, and the experience and skills that they expect from a police chief.

Available in English and Spanish, the survey has been open since mid-December, but this Friday (Jan. 8) is the deadline for contributing. The county is encouraging all residents and businesses to participate.

The survey is part of a nationwide search that Fairfax County hired Polihire to conduct after current Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. announced on Nov. 5 that he will retire in February.

The community engagement portion of the search process will also include focus groups with key community organizations, according to the county.

Photo via FCPD

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Reston Association is seeking feedback from members as it continues exploring a website redesign.

The association’s website was abruptly taken down in July and reverted to a simpler platform. RA officials noted then that the website was very outdated and unsupported.

RA’s recent survey will be used to determine what features membership finds most important. The results of the informal survey will be used to help determine the website vendor and website platform, according to an RA news release.

The current website uses Squarespace — a commonly used website building and hosting platform —  and is a pared-down version of “essential information,” but it does not offer much functionality or two-way communications with RA members. For example, most meeting materials and related documents are directly uploaded to a publicly-accessible Dropbox.

Here’s more from RA on the survey:

It is the goal or the association to provide a user-friendly website that will make it easier for members to conduct business, quickly find specific information and receive timely alerts online or on mobile devices. There are specific questions in the online survey that will assist us in creating a new site that meets industry design and web security standards, and includes enhanced contact features that will allow residents to interact with RA staff in an efficient manner. Members can take the survey through Nov. 6.

At a recent board meeting earlier this month, RA staff indicated that the new website could include chat options and a better interface for members to contact staff and ask questions.

Image via Reston Association/website

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Reston Association is surveying its members to determine preferences on receiving electronic ballots, which would require members to provide email addresses to RA and candidates running for the Board of Directors.

The two-question survey, which was released yesterday, asks members if they wish to receive electronic elections ballots and if they want to receive campaign emails directly from candidates without opting in.

In the past, RA has required members to opt-in for electronic ballots. Paper ballots are mailed to members who do not opt-in.

An increasing number of members have found online voting to be more convenient than mailing their ballots. Voting electronically helps increase participation in the annual board election, which is held throughout the month of March,” RA wrote in a statement.

The survey is intended to be an informal gauge to determine members’ preferences.

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Reston Association has launched an online survey to assess members’ opinions on the organization and its services.

The survey, which was emailed to some members on Wednesday (August 21) poses questions about RA’s services and amenities and will help guide the organization’s decisions about serving members’ current and future needs.

RA has hired The Brand Consultancy, a brand strategy company based in the District, to complete the survey. The firm plans to survey enough people to “make the results statistically valid,” according to RA’s website.

The survey — including data collection and results analysis — is expected to take several months to complete.

Photo via RA

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Reston Community Center is in the midst of launching a community survey to help the center improve its services.

The survey, which went live today and is now available online, will explore how the community uses the center’s programs, faciliteis and services. It will also explore people’s opinions on a potential new performing arts venue in Reston.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Survey Research is conducting the survey, which will be available online through August 31. Selected Small District 5 households received a paper survey in the mail earlier in the summer.

“It has been 10 years since RCC did a comprehensive, scientific survey of its constituents. During that time, the population in Reston has changed and is expected to experience major growth as both new residents and businesses come to the part of the community that is now served by Metro’s Silver Line,” said RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon in a statement. “RCC wants to know how people recreate, enjoy arts and culture, obtain information about leisure-time options, and what they hope RCC offers – both now and in the future.”

After the survey is completed, the Center for Survey Research will analyze the survey and share results with the community and RCC’s Board of Governors. A full report will be issued in October.

Here’s more from RCC about the survey’s purpose:

We want to understand the preferences and experiences of residents in Reston regarding leisure, recreational, and cultural activities. Specifically, we are interested in how people want to spend their leisure time, how they find out about leisure and cultural opportunities, and how people feel about the potential of a new performing arts center.”

All responses are anonymous and the survey should take between 20 to 25 minutes to complete.

In addition to the survey, RCC plans to reach out to Reston businesses and employees to gauge their opinions.

Photo via Reston Community Center

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Obviously, if you’re reading this, you are a Reston Now reader.

Maybe you’ve been reading us since the beginning, when we launched in 2013. Maybe you’re a more recent subscriber. Either way, we don’t ask much — there’s no paywall, no required login, and only a few unobtrusive ads from local businesses.

One thing we do ask, however, is that once a year you take a couple of minutes to tell us how we’re doing and how we can improve. That’s it!

So if you have the time today, we would very much appreciate if you could fill out our 2018 Reston Now reader survey.

Thank you!

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