What is Procedural Justice?

by Jonathan Krall

In our work, we often focus on injustice and inequity. We ask for policy changes, such as restorative practices, that reduce injustice. In these discussions we have not always centered the issues of dignity and respect. Thanks to a podcasted interview with Judge Victoria Pratt, author of The Power of Dignity, we now have better vocabulary with which to articulate the importance of dignity and respect. According to Judge Pratt, procedural justice is the recognition that dignity is a human right and that any system that does not treat people with dignity and respect is unjust. Here in Alexandria, we can apply this lesson by asking that our police officers, in non-emergency situations, always practice respect.

Continue reading “What is Procedural Justice?”

Duke Street Transitway: Frequently Asked Questions

by James D. and Jonathan K.

Grassroots Alexandria advocates for effective mass transit as a matter of economic justice and as a response to the climate emergency. Alexandria’s Duke Street In Motion project is a potential step forward.

What is the Duke Street in Motion project?
What is the purpose of the project? What problems is it trying to solve?
Will this project include improvements for people walking and riding bicycles?
How will a dedicated transitway fit on Duke Street along with car traffic?

What is the Duke Street in Motion project?
Duke Street in Motion is a concept design project for improved transit on a 4-mile section of Duke Street, from the Landmark Mall area to the King Street Metro station. The design effort follows a 2008 Council decision designating this section of Duke Street as a future high-capacity transit corridor, and a 2012 Transitway Corridor Feasibility Study. The 2012 Feasibility study recommended dedicated bus lanes in the six-lane sections of the Duke Street corridor, i.e. in about 2/3 of the 4 mile section, and a two-phased approach for the four-lane section in the middle of the corridor, from Jordan Street to Roth Street. The study recommended that transit operate initially in mixed traffic in the four-lane section and later in a dedicated reversible lane. Continue reading “Duke Street Transitway: Frequently Asked Questions”

Housing: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself

by Jonathan Krall

In Alexandria and across the DC area, there is a basic fact that we must not ignore: it is currently impossible, even for a non-profit developer, to build housing for working class families without taking a loss. Thus, we have two types of affordable housing for working class Alexandrians: decaying buildings, where a landlord can make a profit by neglecting maintenance, and designated affordable housing, where the “loss” is covered by public or private subsidies. Recent public debate not only fails to elevate this basic fact, it fails to support the working class people already in our neighborhoods. Do we welcome them? Do we even see them? We say we value diversity, but our actions speak more impactfully than our words.

For example, the Washington Post tells me that “Starbucks is departing Union Station on Sunday while citing safety concerns…” That is the first sentence of the article. The second sentence tells me that crime in Union Station is decreasing. The safety concerns they cite? Houseless people.

Here in Alexandria, where the government is preserving green space by building taller instead of wider, I’ve learned that co-locating affordable housing and a school is a non-starter. It seems that people who live in affordable housing are a “quality of life” concern, even when the purpose of the project is to “provide affordable housing to teachers.” Continue reading “Housing: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

Alexandria Needs Medicare For All: You can help

By Isabelle A.

The proposed expansion of Medicare to all Americans (and Alexandrians) would solve an important health problem in our community: nearly 10% of Alexandrians are currently uninsured. This matters because under-insurance disproportionately impacts our marginalized and undocumented communities. Medicare For All would alleviate this disparity by providing universalized care. At present, 25% of pregnant Alexandrians do not receive early prenatal care. With reproductive healthcare under attack in the United States, this is unacceptably immoral. Medicare For All is an antiracist and intersectional method of minimizing disparities for Alexandrians, and will support our local service economy; 69% of restaurant-industry workers lack work-provided insurance. You can help by taking action today. Continue reading “Alexandria Needs Medicare For All: You can help”

In Defense of the Public Process

by Jonathan Krall

Lately, Grassroots Alexandria has been the subject of public criticism over our engagement with City Council and our efforts to shift school resources away from policing and towards wellness. In the latest example, published by the Alexandria Times on February 10, two Alexandrians take issue with the public process. Complaints about the public process are common, but they do not usually involve personal accusations and innuendo. While scorched-earth politics is sadly accepted on the national scene, it should not be tolerated at the local level. We should never pit neighbor against neighbor by demonizing each other. If people who engage in the public process are attacked for doing so, we might not have a public process at all. Continue reading “In Defense of the Public Process”

For healthy students, we need more care, not more cops

By Rebecca Loesberg, writing for Grassroots Alexandria

Recent fighting and community tragedy at and nearby Alexandria schools have many residents raising the issue of safety in our schools. These residents are right—there is a safety issue in ACPS, but it’s not the one you think. And, there is something we can do about it. What we do have is a bunch of children returning to in person school after over a year of at-home learning, some in-person learning, and continued isolation due to COVID-19. From a mental health perspective, it’s no surprise that these kids are overwhelmed and overstimulated during our collective trauma, resulting in increased tension and expression of that tension through physical violence. After all, we are also inundated with videos of grown adults losing control of their emotions in supermarkets, on airplanes, and in shopping malls.

Requested action: Please write to the school board and city council with a simple message:

“For the health and safety of our students, please increase the implementation of restorative practices, which models active discussion and resolution of conflict. Please add staff, training, and an active plan that can be measured for accountability. Please fast track the hiring and implementation of more mental health resources for our kids that was promised when the School Resource Officer (SRO) money was re-allocated. Please implement greater structure around free/lunch periods. Let’s please, listen to our students, many of whom spoke out against implementation of SROs. Let’s not rush back to implement an ineffective program, but use this as an opportunity to increase resources for our students.”

We do not make this request lightly. We urge you, when contemplating what safety means for you, your children, and our school system, to look at the broader context. To encourage you to act, we offer this fact-based assessment:

Continue reading “For healthy students, we need more care, not more cops”

Inova must address housing and health needs in Alexandria

by Jim D. and Jonathan Krall

The Affordable Care Act modified the Internal Revenue Code to require nonprofit hospitals, like Inova, to conduct “a community health needs assessment with an accompanying implementation strategy.” Inova’s 2019 Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs) recognized the nexus of health and housing, indicating that housing affordability significantly impacts the health of Northern Virginia communities In each of five reports for Inova’s Northern Virginia hospitals, including Alexandria’s CHNA, “affordable housing” was residents’ most common response to the question: “What would most improve the quality of life for our community?” Conducting studies and producing reports is not enough. Inova must deliver on the required “implementation strategy.” Inova must act. You can help make that happen (see below for requested action). Continue reading “Inova must address housing and health needs in Alexandria”

A prescription for fair housing in Alexandria is in reach

by Daniel Moshenberg

Like much of northern Virginia, Alexandria has been a kind of affordable housing desert for decades, actually decreasing the number of affordable units, especially deeply affordable units, as housing prices, both rental and mortgage, have risen steadily. With the arrival of Amazon and Virginia Tech, it was anticipated that housing costs would rise even more sharply. With the extraordinarily hot real estate market that has occurred during the pandemic, prices are rising more even more quickly and more steeply. But part of a solution is in sight … perhaps.

In December, Inova Health System announced its plan to build a billion-dollar medical campus on the currently vacant Landmark Mall lot, on Alexandria’s West End. This is welcome news, and the move is anticipated to occur in about seven years. That leaves open the question of the disposition of the land on which Inova Alexandria Hospital currently stand. There’s a great opportunity here, if the City of Alexandria and Inova Alexandria Hospital seize it, an opportunity for Inova to take an important step toward addressing inequities that impact the health of the communities it serves. Thus far, that’s not what the hospital seems to have in mind. Inova has applied to rezone its current property from the current designation as “Institutional” to “Residential Medium,” which would convert the land on which the hospital currently sits into single-family housing units. Alexandria doesn’t need more single-family houses, certainly not now. Alexandria needs affordable housing, which will mean higher density. Continue reading “A prescription for fair housing in Alexandria is in reach”

Grassroots Alexandria joins the Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness

Grassroots Alexandria has joined the Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness in the City of Alexandria (“the Partnership”) Governing Board in the Advocacy seat. The Partnership serves as the Continuum of Care for housing services in the City of Alexandria, responsible for the planning, coordination and implementation of an effective and system-wide response to homelessness within the city. Grassroots has a record of advocating for an “all of the above” method to increase affordable housing in Alexandria, partnering with different organizations to maintain current affordable housing options and push for increased opportunities. By joining the Partnership, Grassroots will expand its reach and the Partnership will have access to an organization of community members who support its vision. Grassroots is excited to grow its advocacy capacity with the Partnership, joining with the vision to ensure that every Alexandrian has access to affordable housing.