Sunday, October 31, 2010

why run a marathon?

About twenty-two thousand runners ran into Rosslyn today to finish the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon.  Running a marathon -- 26.2 miles -- seems insane.  Why would anyone do this?

The Ode Street Tribune has investigated.  See the video below for the results of this investigation.

spectacular Halloween party at Clarendon Ballroom

A spectacular Halloween party occurred last night at Clarendon Ballroom.  About 8:30pm, the line to get in went past the corner of the block.  Patrons at Spider Kelley's, who themselves were finely costumed, crowded the window to enjoy the view of the line.  Rosslyn needs some parties like this.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

the dead are part of our community

Last Sunday I noticed a fresh stump surrounded by a pool of sawdust near the Netherlands Carillon.  The next day I asked a park ranger about the stump.  He said that the Park Service had cut down the tree because it was dead.

Some questions:
  1. How do you distinguish between the living and the dead?
  2. Judging by the stump, do you think that this tree was dead?
  3. Why is it necessary to cut down an allegedly dead tree in the middle of the park? 
The dead are neither frightful nor scary.  The dead should not be avoided or chopped down (burial or cremation is ok if they start to smell).  The Ode Street Tribune believes that a healthy, inclusive community should include the dead. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Park Service has agreed to Rosslyn boathouse

Speaking at the Rosslyn Renaissance's 20th annual meeting tonight, Congressman Jim Moran stated that the National Park Service has agreed to the construction of a boathouse in Rosslyn.  Rep. Moran also stated that he's looking forward to the construction of a skywalk in Rosslyn that will stretch across the Potomac.  We believe that his first statement was a factual report and that the second statement was a jest.  Those who have struggled for years to bring a boathouse to Rosslyn may judge differently.

Rosslyn Renaissance's 20'th annual meeting celebrated Rosslyn's development.  Rosslyn has experienced about a fifty-fold increase in commercial building space since 1961:
  • 1961: 200,000 sq. ft. of commercial space
  • 1968: 1,988,400 sq. ft.
  • 1981: 5,519,150 sq. ft.
  • 1995: 7,691,000 sq. ft.
  • 2010: 9,344,650 sq. ft.
The past weeks have seen major milestones in Rosslyn's development: the opening of the Artisphere; ground-breaking for the 1812 N. Moore St. building, which will be the tallest building in the Washington area; and beginning construction of a new Rosslyn metro station entrance.  

Four major planning efforts are helping to guide Rosslyn's development.  One is the Rosslyn Building Heights Study.  Another is the Rosslyn Multimodal Transportation Plan. A third is the work of Rosslyn Renaissance's Urban Design Committee.  A fourth is the Rosslyn Gateway Park Master Plan. Let's hope that this planning work is better than the planning that produced the renovation of Hillside Park.

The meeting recognize the work of Rosslyn Renaissance leaders over the past twenty years.  Past Rosslyn Renaissance presidents David Morrison (1991-1994), Maurice Fleiss (1996-1998), Brian Coulter (2000-2004), David W. Briggs (2005-2008), and Jeffrey L. Kovach (2009-present) reminisced about Rosslyn's developments.  All recognized the outstanding work of Cecilia Cassidy, Rosslyn Renaissance's Executive Director.  She has led Rosslyn Renaissance since the organization's inception twenty years ago.  

Rosslyn Renaissance will celebrate its twentieth anniversary with twenty special events.  One is likely to be a showing of a special Rosslyn video on the jumbotron at the Light Up Rosslyn ceremony.   Another will be a display in February in the Artisphere's Works-In-Progress Gallery of development work in progress in Rosslyn.  The Ode Street Tribune's network of covert sources are aggressively pursuing leads concerning the other eighteen events.  Stay tuned here for the latest breaking news on top Rosslyn stories.

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Note: Commercial space figures listed above are from Monday Properties posters displayed at the Rosslyn Renaissance meeting.  The figures are labeled "Rosslyn commercial inventory".

Update: Congressman Moran apparently was not well briefed.  The National Park Service is still considering various options, including no boathouse.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

commander leading walking tour of historic Fort Myer

Update:  Due to a tornado watch, this walking tour has been rescheduled for the next day, Thursday.  Other arrangements as described below.

This Wednesday at 6pm, Colonel Coffman, Commander of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, will lead a walking tour of historic Fort Myer.  Arlington County neighbors are invited to gather in the Old Guard Lounge, on the basement level of the the Fort Myer's Officers' Club, for a "meet and greet" from 5:30 to 6:00pm.  Dress is casual and a cash bar will be available.  The walking tour will start promptly at 6pm, rain or shine.  If you're interested in attending, confirm a space with Leah Rubalcaba at 703 696-3283, email leah.rubalcaba at

Fort Myer has some major history.  Beginning in 1887, it housed the best of the nation's calvary, including the fabled Buffalo soldiers.   The first military test flight of a powered aircraft occurred at Fort Myer, as did the first powered-aviation fatality.  The U.S. Army Band and the U.S. Army Chorus are stationed at Fort Myer.  So too is the Army's oldest infantry unit, the 3rd U.S. Infantry, also known as The Old Guard.

Yup, Rosslyn has everything from the avant-garde to the Old Guard.  Come see a great part of Rosslyn -- historic Fort Myer -- this Wednesday evening.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Michelle Clifton gains seat on Westmoreland Condo Board

At tonight's Westmoreland Condo Board meeting, Michelle Clifton officially took over the Board seat of Valerie Corda, who has moved away.  Condo Board positions are unpaid positions.  Condo Board members strive to ensure that condo fees are spent well and that Westmoreland remains a nice place to live.   Show some appreciation for your Condo Board members' service by not pestering them with personal requests or calling them in the middle of the night.

The perennials approved at the August Condo Board meeting have not yet been planted.  They should be planted latter this week. 

The Board approved a three-year landscaping contract with Lancaster Landscaping at a cost of $27 thousand per year.  If landscaping performance is poor, the Board can terminate the contract at no cost with 30-days notice. 

The snow removal contract with Lancaster Landscaping for this winter was also renewed.  While there has been some confusion about the size of last winter's large snow removal bill, figures presented at this meeting show the total cost to have been $21 thousand.

An annual unit maintenance reminder notice will be sent soon to all owners and renters.

The Board and residents discussed the projected 10-year, 10% per year projected increase in condo fees. A special assessment to raise funds for roof and facade repairs was considered less desirable than a multi-year increase in condo fees.  Views differed on how this projected increase in condo fees would affect the level of Westmoreland condo fees relative to other similar condo buildings in the area.  Views also differed on the likelihood that some years subsequent to 10 years from now Westmoreland condo fees will be reduced.

Residents are reminded that they should not go on condo building roofs.  Doing so damages the roofing and increases the likelihood of leaks and expensive roof repairs.

Attending the meeting were Board members Jose Calvo, Jennifer Hastings, Joseph Ruland, and Emil Tabakov; residents Alicia, Douglas, Mark, and Meredith; and Property Manager Dennis Freeman.

Regularly scheduled Board meetings occur on the last Monday of the month at 7pm.  The posted announcement for this month's meeting incorrectly listed the meeting time as 7:30pm.  The next regularly scheduled Board meeting is Nov. 29, 7pm, in the onsite management office.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

new power line to cross major transit thoroughfare

Dominion Virginia Power will construct a new Radnor Heights power substation and power line beginning in the first quarter of 2011 and finishing in the second quarter of 2012.  Dominion will construct the power substation on Joint Base Myer-Henderson just across Rt. 50 from the Courthouse Rd. intersection.  The new power line is a 3.7 mile, 230 kilo-volt underground electric transmission line that will connect the recently refurbished power substation at 3245 Wilson Blvd to the new Radnor Heights substation, and the Radnor Heights substation to a power substation near the crossing of Rt. 110 and I-395.  The underground power line will follow 10th St., then cross Rt. 50, then follow Marshall Dr. and Rt. 110.  Here's a map of the new power line's path.

The power line will be installed using open-cut trenching.  In areas where open-cut trenching would be particularly disruptive or infeasible, boring or tunneling can be used.  I suspect that the power line will be installed across Rt. 50 by boring under that road.

The new power line will also cross the major, human-powered transit thoroughfare in front of the North Gate of Arlington Cemetery along Marshall Dr.  Cyclists, skateboarders, runners, walkers, roller-bladers, stroller-pushers, and others traverse this thoroughfare in relatively high numbers.  In the area's transit network, this thoroughfare provides a vital link to major paths to Washington, DC, Alexandria, and Georgetown.   

Plans for constructing the new power line should seriously consider the effects on the major transit thoroughfare in front of the North Gate.  Dominion's Radnor Heights project page declares:
Installation of the underground lines will require lane closures in some areas. We will work with the County of Arlington and the Virginia Department of Transportation to create traffic control plans. Construction will be limited to certain times during the day to reduce traffic congestion. In nonresidential areas, it may be possible to work at night to avoid traffic. Proper flagging and signage will be used to minimize delays and make it as easy as possible for you to get where you're going.
What does this imply for human-power traffic through the North Gate thoroughfare?  If Dominion digs an open trench along Marshall Dr. without regard for human-powered traffic, it could seriously disrupt or shut-down traffic through this major transit artery.  

Reasonable accommodation for human-powered traffic requires attention to the issue and appropriate construction planning.[*]  Open-cut trenching segmented to accommodate human-powered traffic would imply only a short, safe detour at the North Gate thoroughfare.

The Ode Street Tribune pledges to do what it can to help ensure that the power line construction does not unnecessarily disrupt traffic.

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[*] While DC recently adopted a complete streets policy, Arlington's Master Transportation Plan adopted in 2007 explicitly requires a "complete streets" perspective.   Goal 1, Strategy 2 of that Plan declared:
Construct and manage streets to be “Complete Streets.” Streets should be safe and comfortable for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorists, and other users.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

expensive, ugly Hillside Park renovation

A half-million dollars was spent renovating Hillside Park.  The result isn't worth a tenth of that.  The North Meade Street Park renovation, which surely was much less expensive, created a space of great natural beauty.  The Hillside Park renovation added a lot of metal to the park.  Ponder what went wrong.  Figure out how to avoid fiascoes like this in the future.

The Hillside Park renovation added a long stretch of bare-colored metal fencing to the park. The need for this fencing seems to have been artificially created with the slightly raised platform.  It separates persons on the platform from the natural beauty of the park. Terrible, terrible design.

Randomly placed black fence pieces with metallic bird silhouettes (no kidding!) accentuate the metallic feel of the space.  Rosslyn has become a center of art and fashion and creativity.  These below-cutesy, pointless fence pieces are an embarrassment to Rosslyn's avant-garde artistic sensibility.

Sure the fence has an iron-like appearance. Irony and absurdity were fashionable in last decade's contemporary art.  But I've looked and looked at the Hillside Park renovations, and I just don't see that level of sophistication there.

Hillside Park now has a small helicopter landing pad in the middle of the park.  The Ode Street Tribune's team of investigative reporters has not been able to uncover plans to land a small helicopter in Hillside Park. If you have information about such plans, or any idea why a small platform (accessible only by steps) has been placed in the middle of Hillside Park, please let us know.

The concrete structure painted sky-blue on the top and decorated with large, painted blades of grass appears to be a bench. It falls a few thousand miles short of capturing the beauty of nature.  Anyone who renovates a park by adding painted green plants on concrete should be buried in dead leaves.

Children may soil their diapers when they see their new play area in Hillside Park.  It's a small, uneven cork surface with a weirdly shaped concrete piece in the middle.  That concrete piece has been painted brown.  It's unlikely to inspire children's imaginations.  But it may move their bowels in sympathy.

Much of the blame for the Hillside Park renovation fiasco belongs to the Ode Street Tribune.  Informative, influential, and inspiring news sources are essentially for a healthy community.  The Ode Street Tribune has failed to raise appreciation for the natural world.  It has failed to influence Rosslyn park renovation planners.  It has failed to secure fun playgrounds for our children.

The Ode Street Tribune hereby pledges to serve our neighborhood better in the future. As a reminder of this solemn pledge, we have added an image of the brown concrete Hillside Park children's production to the right, stationary column of this news outlet.

Note: Click on the images above to see larger versions.

Update: A well-connected correspondent reported that the helicopter landing pad is is a picnic spot awaiting a picnic table.  Evidently, in the course of this six-month-long construction project, the construction of this picnic spot was not well planned.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

recognize North Meade Street Park

The North Meade Street Park, at the corner of Arlington Blvd. and N. Meade St., was once a barren piece of ground.  Arlington County and the neighborhood worked together to transform that ground into a park with boulders, shrubs, and beautiful flowers in season.  The park is small, but no place is ever too small to become beautiful.

North Meade Street Park deserves to be included on Arlington County's list of parks.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

making neighborhood poles more erect

Some of the poles on 12th St. aren't fully erect.  The bent poles are being replaced with fully erect poles.  The new poles not only look more attractive, but also perform more reliably.

Related coverage:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

salsa Tuesday nights at the Artisphere

Top-notch Salsa bands are playing at the Artisphere on Tuesday nights from 8:30 to 11pm through November 30.  From 7:30 to 8:30, legendary DC-area salsa instructor Eileen Torres provides introductory salsa lessons.  The cost for admission is $15 ($12 for students).  

These friendly, casual salsa nights provide a good opportunity for getting closer to someone special without being crushed in a crowd.  They're also good for polishing flashy dance moves with space to experiment, or for just learning the basic salsa step.  You set the temperature at salsa Tuesday nights at the Artisphere.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ode Street sign returns

Every neighborhood has its downs and ups.  After struggling through a difficult period without the historic, iconic, and illustrious Ode Street sign, our neighborhood is showing clear signs of recovery.  Great news: the Ode Street sign is back up!

This Ode Street sign is not a plain metal-painted sign.  If you look carefully at the surface of the sign, you'll notice it has a reflective surface.  This makes the Ode Street sign shine even at night.  Just like the Ode Street neighborhood.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coltrane lives beneath Rosslyn metro escalator

Across the Washington metro system, 90% of metro escalators are in operation at any given time.  The operational availability of escalators in the Rosslyn metro seems to be below that figure.  But the Rosslyn escalators have a feature that's unbelievably better than high operational fidelity.

You may have caught whiff of some insinuations about Jerry Garcia, who was born on August 1, and Rosslyn's Dark Star Park.   What's under the Rosslyn metro escalator is bigger than Jerry Garcia and cosmic alignment.

Some claim that John Coltrane died of liver cancer way back in 1967. But consider the evidence. Miles Davis said, "Coltrane's death shocked everyone, took everyone by surprise. I knew he hadn't looked too good... But I didn't know he was that sick—or even sick at all." If Miles would come to Rosslyn, he'd get another surprise. But Miles can't, because Miles Davis is dead.

John Coltrane isn't dead. He's living and playing under the Rosslyn metro escalator.  Now age 84, he's lost some of his chops.  But he still enjoys wetting the reed, and he can still overblow.

You readers of the Ode Street Tribune are sophisticated, urbane, and highly intelligent.  Hence you tend toward skepticism.  We don't ask you to believe what you read.  Our hard-working staff has instead recorded a Rosslyn metro video.  All sounds on this video are 100% authentic Rosslyn metro escalator sounds.  It provides irrefutable proof that Coltrane lives beneath the Rosslyn metro escalator.

Watch it for yourself.  Then the next time you ride the Rosslyn metro escalator, pull out your earphones and listen.  Coltrane's living room seems to be under the rightmost down escalator.

Major construction is underway at the Rosslyn metro station.  Senior citizens tend to sleep late and go to bed early.  Due care should be taken not to annoy Mr. Coltrane.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

23 bikes stolen over last three months

In Arlington's police District 2, which includes Rosslyn, 23 bikes have been stolen over the past three months. Capt. Andy Penn, the new District 2 commander, encouraged residents to register their bikes.  Bike registration allows the police to return recovered bikes to the bikes' owners.

We can't image a more heinous crime than bike theft.  Bikes provide essential transportation and vital recreation.  Bike thieves should be put to hard labor planting trees.  After a few weeks of that, they should be sent to Phoenix Bikes to learn to build their own bikes from the many used bike parts readily available from dumpsters.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

candidate forum in Rosslyn

This past Tuesday, candidates for Arlington School Board, Arlington County Board, and the 8th District representative to the U.S. House of Representatives participated in a candidate forum in Rosslyn.  Rosslyn civic associations RAFOM and NRCA sponsored the forum.

Each candidate's name below links to the candidate's websites, which contain information that the candidates have asked voters to consider.  Following the candidate's name is a link to a video containing the candidate's opening statement, response statement, and closing statement at the Rosslyn candidate forum.  The candidates also answered questions from the relatively large and engaged audience.  The Ode Street Tribune did not videotape the questions and answers.

Candidates for member, Arlington School Board:
Candidates for member, Arlington County Board:
Candidates for member, House of Representatives 8th District:

The upcoming election is Nov. 2.  The names above are listed as they appear on the sample ballot.  Do your civic duty: vote!

Prior Ode Street Tribune candidate forum coverage:

fiesta for fun and exercise

For a fun dance exercise class, go to the Saint Charles Church Community Center gym on any Tuesday night at 6pm.  You will find Jairo Rodriquez of Joint Rhythms Bailoteca leading a "fiesta".   This exercise class isn't the usual flog-yourself-senseless aerobics class.  Jairo will lead you through movement routines set to Latin and popular music.  You can easily pick up some simple salsa, Tango, Rumba, Cha-cha and other Latin steps.  The class finishes at 7pm.  You'll leave moderately tired and very alive.

The class is open to everyone and has no cost.  You can drop in on any Tuesday.  If you enjoy the class, you are welcomed to put a donation into the donation box, but you are not pressured to do so.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Arlington County management in good hands

In response to the post Arlington needs more squeaking, Stan Karson, the President of our civic association RAFOM, wrote:
I know nothing more than you do about the reasons for Brown's leaving as County Manager, and I agree that he made a good impression at the RAFOM meeting last month. However, there is an upside: we will have in Barbara Donnellan a first-rate, dedicated, candid, experienced County Manager. I came to know and respect her during the several years we have served on the Rosslyn BID Board and through her impressive appearances at the County Civic Federation.
Donnellan has served Arlington County for 27 years, included as Deputy County Manager and Acting County Manager. She deserves recognition and appreciation for her service.

Monday, October 11, 2010

shared lane markers added on N. 15th St.

Between 9am and noon this morning, shared lane markers were added to N. 15th St. between N. Courthouse Rd. and N. Rhodes St.  Maintenance crew activity in the area suggests that the markers were added about 9:30am.

The shared lane markers remind cyclists and drivers of inhumanly powered vehicles that they share the lane.  The new markings on this major cycling thoroughfare are a great improvement that lessens the risks of a terrible accident.

Prior Ode Street Tribune 15th St. marking coverage:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tunde Jegede Ensemble at Artisphere

The Tunde Jegede Ensemble played beautiful, meditative classical African music at Artisphere's free open house today.  The Tunde Jegede Ensemble will perform again today at 7pm, as well as Monday at 8:30pm.  Don't miss Tunde Jegede and many other fine events at Artisphere's opening celebration.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

average Arlington 1BR condo fees reportedly in mid-$300s

Arlington Real Estate News has an interesting post about condo fees.  It states that average condo fees in Arlington for a 1-bedroom (1BR) condo are currently in the mid-$300s (per month).  The specific data underlying this calculation was not, sadly, made readily available.  But real estate search tools allow you to look at condo fees for individual Arlington 1BR condos that are for sale or were recently sold.  Condo fees depend on a variety of factors, and the selection of the sample from which an average condo fee is calculated can significantly effect the average.  So the mid-$300s figure probably is best interpreted as a well-informed judgment of condo fees for a typical 1BR condo.

Condo fees for a 1BR condo at the majestic Westmoreland Terrace Condominiums are about $280 per per month.  Condo fees this year rose 11.2%.  At last year's annual meeting of the Condo Board, the Board stated that Westmoreland condo fees are expected to rise 10% a year for the next ten years.  That would put the Westmoreland condo fee for a 1BR condo about $660 per month in 2019.  If such condo fee increases actually occur, Westmoreland condo fees are likely to be significantly higher than those in other Arlington condominium communities.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Arlington needs more squeaking

Last week the Arlington County Board fired, in the usual corporate way, its new County Manager Michael Brown.  Brown was hired after a seven-month candidate search, had been on the job only for four months, and left with a $110,000 severance payment.  Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette latter explained that Brown turned out not to be a "good fit" for the County.

More squeaking, creaking, pushing, and disputing would be good for Arlington.  Arlington has an arts center misnamed after a sphere, the most perfect of shapes, and local news source TBD actually has a news series informing the world about imperfections (gasp!) uncovered in Arlington.  How about a little ugliness here?  Ugliness makes the heart grow faster!

Michael Brown didn't offer the County much ugliness as County Manager.  At Brown's meeting with the RAFOM civic association, he showed patience, professionalism, and already a good deal of knowledge about Arlington.  He seemed to have some critical perspective on what the county does.  He did not simply roll over with platitudes in response to some tough questions about new LED streetlights. He recognized, as everyone should, that time are going to be tougher in Arlington with the economic downturn.  He seemed to be a County Manager who brought to Arlington some new perspectives.  He seemed very wiling to listen, learn, think, and find good solutions.  He did not seem to be a County Manager who sought to create difficulties simply because the same one-chorus harmony gets boring.

Forget about being one big happy family.  Arlington needs a strident, outspoken, belligerent, and contentious County Manager.

Artisphere is wonderful

Unlike other spheres, Rosslyn's Artisphere has many different curves and spaces. You enter through a diagonal walkway and stairs.  In a half-oval space just inside the entrance, the Artisan Center of Virginia will be selling fine handcrafts. Up the escalator is the the Town Square. It is not at all square.  The Town Square is pear-shaped, with a curving stairway ascending to an arc-shaped lounge.  The Dance Theatre on the far side of the Town Square is rectangular.  The Black Box Theatre is boxy.  The Terrace Gallery has a roughly triangular shape.  The Dome Theatre displays a large section of a sphere  All these curves and spaces will be accessible for your enjoyment at Artisphere's festive, free open house this Sunday and Monday.

Artisphere will officially open on Sunday, 10/10/10, at 10:10am.  At 11am, look for Sans Façon's "Limelight Saturday Night" video installation on the huge video wall spanning two floors of the Town Square.  The press/volunteer packet states:
In eight cities around the world, Scottish art collaborative Sans Façon has replaced a conventional streetlight with outdoor theatre spotlights, creating an open invitation to transform the street into a stage!  This simple intervention creates a witty forum for interaction, somewhere between spectacle and surveillance, whilst questioning our relationships with our built environment.
The Ode Street Tribune has received information suggesting that Sans Façon will be setting up this kind of stage on a street in Clarendon this Saturday.  Look for it on Saturday, and your neighbors on Artisphere's video wall on Sunday.

Some subsequent Artisphere events this Sunday:
  1. At 2:30pm in Artisphere's Ballroom, Joe Falero and the DC Latin Jazz All-Stars will playing greats of Latin jazz and hot salsa.
  2. At 4:00pm in Artisphere's Black Box Theatre, UrbanArias will present two mini operas, include Camera Obscura, "an amusing look at how a time lag wreaks havoc on a young couple's attempt to connect in the Internet age."
  3. From 9pm to 11pm, Chopteeth will be leading a dance party in the Ballroom.  Chopteeth is a "14-piece Afrofunk orchestra exploring the common groove beween the funkiest, most hip-shakin' West African and American popular music." 
Many other events will occur all day long.  Artisphere's Open House will extend through Monday evening.  Here's a schedule of performances for both days.  Complimenting the performances are art exhibits in three galleries.

Be sure to enjoy the lovely curves of Richard Vosseller's large, sensuous sculpture in the Terrace Gallery.  Earlier this week, expert skateboarders rode it.  A video of the action will available for viewing.  If you look carefully at the sculpture, you can see marks that the skateboards made on it.  Think of these marks as beauty marks.  This isn't a pedestal sculpture.  It's sculpture that gets down and participates in life's action.  Just like the irregular, inclusive, wonderful Artisphere.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

excellence in road marking

Every organization falls short of perfection.  Excellent organizations continually strive to do better.  The changes in the road markings on the 15th St. hill show that the Arlington County Department of Transportation is an excellent organization.

As reported in Ode Street's finest news source, the Department of Transportation recently added bike lanes on both sides of 15'th street between N. Rolfe St. and N. Rhodes Street.  The bike lane heading uphill represents a huge improvement.  Cyclists are already regularly using this bike lane.  The bike lane on the downhill side would not attract smart cyclists.  A cyclist going down the hill can easily ride in the middle of the road lane in the flow of traffic.  That position on the road lessens the risk of collision with an opening car door and makes it easier for drivers pulling into the road to see the cyclist.  While the bike lane on the downhill side was nice for pedestrians walking up the hill, it risked attracting inexperienced cyclists.

Apparently to mitigate that risk, the Department of Transportation has erased the bike lane on the downhill side.  That action shows outstanding organizational capacity for change.  The Ode Street Tribune applauds the Arlington County Department of Transportation for continually striving to do better.

Monday, October 4, 2010

fire stations open for visitors this Saturday

This Saturday is the annual Arlington County Fire Department's Open House.  All Arlington fire stations, including the legendary Fire Station 10 right here in Rosslyn, will be open for visitors from 10am to 4pm. 

Long-time Arlington firefighter Frank R. Higgins amassed a large collection of Arlington County Fire Department memorabilia.   Firefighter Higgins recently passed away.  But his collection is now being made publicly available through the Arlington County Fire Department Virtual History Museum.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

race and sex diversity in Arlington Public Schools

As a follow-up to the Ode Street Tribune's investigative report on race and sex diversity in Arlington Public Schools, I emailed current school board candidates Sally Baird (incumbent) and Miriam Gennari (challenger) the following questions:
1.  What is the sex composition of Arlington Public Schools' teachers, on an FTE basis, categorized by elementary schools, secondary schools, and overall?

2.  What will you do to seek more male teachers in Arlington County Public Schools, particularly in elementary schools?
Both candidates responded, in one case after a follow-up email, and in another, after an in-person request.  

Here are the most recent, publicly available, systematic, well-sourced facts about race and sex diversity in Arlington Public Schools

Here's Sally Baird's response:
In education circles, it’s often said that the single biggest factor influencing achievement is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. I believe that the first priority in hiring staff, can and should be ensuring that each brings the skills, expertise, and passion to inspire and support our students in achieving their greatest academic success. But, in that context, I also believe that it’s vital that, as school system, we bring great dimension to our perspective of how to assess a candidate’s skills, expertise, and passion. I have been a strong supporter of our school systems ongoing commitment to build cultural competence across the organization. Cultural competence plays out in the quality of the interactions and relationships which staff has with students, each other, and members of our community.

As a School Board member, I have been a strong advocate for innovative recruiting efforts to attract candidates reflective of our Arlington student body – which, yes, includes gender diversity.  It’s an inescapable fact, however, that minority and/or male candidates are a challenge to bring in large numbers to school system applicant pools. It is a nationwide challenge.  Proportionately, there are fewer such candidates available, and many school systems are vying for their interest. This is yet another reason why ensuring that compensation and benefits for Arlington teachers remains competitive in the region.

However, even with those qualifications, I am extremely proud of the strides APS has made in recent years to attract a broader range of candidates. There is work yet to do, but our hiring statistics reflect that we are moving in the right direction, especially in this most recent year. Our school principals are keenly aware of the value role models play in the classrooms and hallways of their schools. And, on the issue of gender diversity, I was recently talking to a dad friend of mine, whose son is in fourth grade – and this dad remarked to me that his son had had a male teacher for all but one of his elementary years. So, while that is certainly not the case in every school, it certainly is indicative of deliberate efforts to bring a diverse talent pool into the Arlington Public Schools.
Here's Miriam Gennari's response:
I know that the majority of teachers in Arlington are female. I feel that fact in many ways is a disadvantage to both male and female students. Studies have shown that boys and girls do learn differently. There have also been numerous studies that suggest having same gender role models for children benefit both sexes. Boys often struggle with their innate need to compete, while girls put in cooperative settings are found to excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

What I would like to see is at least one school community consider trying a model that separates girls and boys in all classes with the exception physical education, and free time. At this point I do not feel hiring should change, but think gender bias and traditional thinking should be put aside so that the administration make it it's policy to only hire the most inspirational teacher available to our children. That said, I am open to researching the issue should the citizen and parents of Arlington request that I do so.
The candidates' responses deserve careful consideration from Arlington residents.  Sally Baird states, "I have been a strong advocate for innovative recruiting efforts to attract candidates reflective of our Arlington student body – which, yes, includes gender diversity."  Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy's First Day of School 2010 presentation show no evidence of concern for gender diversity in recruiting teachers.  The Ode Street Tribune hopes that Superintendent Murphy's future statements and actions reflect strong advocacy for gender diversity in recruiting teachers.

Currently in Arlington Public Schools, 52% of the students are non-white.  Only 22% of the teachers (not accounting for the difference between part-time and full-time teachers, which inflates the teacher count by 70%) are non-white.  The share of boys in Arlington Public Schools is 51%, while the share of men teachers apparently is a Arlington Public Schools' secret.  Only 24% of teachers in public schools national-wide are men.  I think it's likely that the share of men teachers in Arlington Public Schools is less than 24%.  Hence Arlington Public Schools' teachers have a much different race and sex composition than do its students.  These large differences matter for the quality of education, broadly understood, that Arlington Public Schools currently provides to its students.

Miriam Gennari's response is more responsive to the questions asked and squarely considers the issue of gender diversity.   She puts forward the innovative idea of having one school community experiment with separate academic classes for boys and girls.  In Anne Arundel County, a proposal for single-sex education apparently is being seriously considered.  Arlington Public Schools might well consider experimentation and change.

For the school board candidates' presentation of their views on a wider range of issues, see Sally Baird's website and Miriam Gennari's website.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rosslyn important in aviation history

Fort Myer in Rosslyn is the site of the first passenger death in the flight of a heavier-than-air aircraft.   Orville Wright performed many flights of his pioneering airplane at Fort Myer beginning on September 3, 1908.   On Sept. 17, 1908 at Fort Myer in Rosslyn, Wright's airplane crashed.  It was carrying Wright and passenger Lt. Thomas Selfridge.  The crash killed Lt. Selfridge.  Selfridge, like Rosslyn itself, is under-appreciated in aviation history.

Note: Those photographs, which are stamped AFIP (Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) were probably made by U.S. Army personnel as work for the U.S. government.  The originals are available at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC.  Flickr user otisarchives1 has admirably served the public by making these photographs and others freely available worldwide.