Opinion: Independent Progressive: Highlights and Lows in Reston’s First Half of 2020 Covid

Opinion: Independent Progressive: Highlights and Lows in Reston’s First Half of 2020 Covid

Here we are in July, half way through 2020. Is it my imagination or have these six months been longer than most years? Since the Covid-19 pandemic first began in February our lives have changed big time. We still can’t see when, or if, we are going back to something resembling where we were when Donald Trump first told us not to worry, that he had it under control! Five months later, pants on fire still mouths the same words! Here are some of the highlights and less highs of the first half as I saw them in self isolation through my mask. First, a few highs:

  • The murder of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer led to protests, confrontations with police nationwide. In Reston, a group calling themselves “Reston Strong” organized a vigil-protest which drew a Black Lives Matter sign-waving and chanting crowd of an estimated 5,000 lining Reston Parkway from Baron Cameron Avenue to Sunrise Valley Drive, 5 and 6 people deep! It made me proud of Reston!
  • Our new Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn got off to a fast start in January. He made himself quite visible—meeting with media and community groups before the onset of Covid. Honoring an important campaign promise, he organized a stake-holders task group to reopen the 5-year-old Reston Master Plan for review and revision. Due to Covid, group meetings are virtual. Some density reductions and a cap on overall growth are expected outcomes. A lot rides on the process, given the disappointing results of the last Master Plan review and amendment!
  • Surprising all observers, on May 9 the Reston Farmers Market opened its 23rd year in spite of the pandemic. Community support was a big factor in convincing sponsor, Fairfax County to approve the opening. A great volunteer team and 28 farmer/vendors greeted more tan 800 shoppers on opening day. It is now averaging 1700 shoppers, with nearly 100 percent wearing masks!
  • Reston businesses appear to have done amazingly well keeping Covid at bay. I am aware of only one instance of an infected employee in a food or drink business, with no spread to date.

There were a few lesser lights as well:

  • Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) badly fumbled the transition from classrooms to virtual, online instruction…and have not made up for the months lost. There was a contract in place for online instruction, but it took some time to stand it up, and it promptly crashed. It does not appear that the lost time will be made up this year. Planning for the next school year, as with many systems around the country, seems to be in a state of disarray. At this point it is unclear how a combination of in-school and virtual classes with actual teachers is going to happen. FCPS and many other systems must get their acts together for the sake of K-12 youth. They can expect no help from our heads-in-the-sand national government!
  • While sending all paid staff home for Covid time and figuring out how to meet virtually, the Reston Association Board left everything to absent staff, including the new-to-Reston CEO who spent about 3 months in the Norfolk area not Reston. The CEO and staff responded by doing imaginative things like borrowing $1.3 million from the federal Payroll Protection Program (Covid emergency bucks) without approval from the Board. There was no palpable need for the money and the funds were intended for charitable organizations, not home owners’ groups. The funds were returned before this promising scandal grew. After forceful complaints from a group of RA members, the Board finally ruled that the staff is not empowered to borrow without Board approval. The CEO in absentia also announced the closing of all kids’ summer camps without Board approval. The question left in the air it seems is: do we really need the RA Board?
  • As readers learned here, a Reston Condo association was dinged by a forensic audit for assorted instances of incompetence in managing funds and repeated appearance of self-dealing by their former Board of Directors.