Friday, October 12, 2007

Weekend Update

Focus or Unfocus?

The Growler was unable to attend yesterday's meeting at Jefferson-Houston school about the proposal to remove lift the troubled school's arts integration focus.

Instead, the Curmudgeonly One sat in on the Affordable Housing Task Force meeting, which was mostly about financing mechanisms and tax exemptions.

Still, it would have been nice to have been in both places at once, because the Growler is now hopelessly confused about the evolving situation at Jefferson-Houston.

Yesterday the Alexandria-Arlington section of The Washington Post featured a lengthy article on the debate over suspending the arts integration focus at Jefferson-Houston School. It was a hard-hitting piece that described the 1999 Alexandria school redistricting as "creat[ing] a band of wealthier, whiter schools on the east side and leave three schools, Maury, Lyles-Crouch and Jefferson-Houston, heavily populated by minorities and the poor."

In her story, reporter Brigid Schulte quotes PTA President Bill Campbell as saying "he supports suspending the arts integration program."

But Michael Lee Pope wrote in the Alexandria Gazette last week that Mr. Campbell told him "he would oppose suspending the arts-integration focus at the school."

Which paper and reporter got the story right and which one got it wrong? Maybe Mr. Campbell (who has announced his plans to run for the School Board) or one of the Growler's readers who went to last night's meeting can fill us in.

The vote on suspending the arts integration focus will be held at next week's Alexandria School Board.

Grand Theft Auto II

Lt. Jamie Bartlett, the Alexandria Police Department's public information officer, made an appearance at the ICCA meeting Wednesday night to discuss the Daily Crime Report (also known as the Daily Incident Report). The report is available via E-mail through the City's eNews initiative. A static version is available on the City Web site as well.

As readers know, questions have been raised about what crimes are reported and which are not. The daily E-mail itself now carries a disclaimer: "This report describes some of the most serious or otherwise noteworthy incidents since the last report. It does not encompass all of the reported crimes that may have occurred in the city."

According to Lt. Bartlett, the recent auto theft on Princess Street was not reported because the car was ultimately recovered.

Lt. Bartlett also noted that the City developed the electronic Daily Crime Report (which currently has some 2,800 subscribers) primarily to update the media and provide story ideas. He stated that the police department is in fact planning at some date in the future to discontinue the Daily Crime Report altogether. In the meantime, says Lt. Bartlett, the police are removing some of the less serious crimes from the report.

Lt. Bartlett suggested instead that residents use the online database on the City Web site to inquire about crime in their neighborhoods.

However, the online system provides few details beyond report date and time, disposition (open, pending, closed), case number, street and block number, and crime classification. The Daily Crime Report by contrast provides more narrative, including descriptions of possible suspects and the names, ages and addresses of those arrested.

Interestingly, it appears there have been no new monthly crime reports on the City's Web site since the April 2007 document was posted.

The monthly crime reports are summations of crime data and feature maps displaying offenses geographically as well as a list of top 10 sites for "calls for service."

Bringing Our Boys Home

In a front-page story printed yesterday, the Post noted that the Victory Center near the Van Dorn Metro Station has emerged as a possible alternative site for 6,200 Army jobs that would otherwise be shifted from Ft. Belvoir to a General Services Administration warehouse in Springfield (also close to Metro as well as VRE).

Fairfax County is understandably alarmed, but landing these jobs would be a real coup for our City.

However, the Growler would like readers to think about this news in relationship to bus rapid transit (BRT).

How strong is the case for BRT on Route 1 in Parker-Gray if defense jobs are being shift not to Ft. Belvoir but to sites adjacent to heavy rail (i.e., Metro), whether at Springfield or Van Dorn and the Eisenhower Valley?

And here's something else to ponder: how many other cities and municipalities invest millions in a BRT system that runs parallel — in fact only blocks away from — a heavy rail system? Especially one that has acknowledged unused southbound capacity at morning rush hour?

Have a pleasant weekend!