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Editor’s NotebookEditor’s Notebook: An interesting part of a long life

Editor’s Notebook: An interesting part of a long life

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The death on July 16 at age 94 of acclaimed community and business leader Sidney Dewberry will lead to any number of obituaries focused on his long and distinguished career in the field of development. As should be the case.

But as was pointed out to me by another, there also is an interesting political sidebar to his life.

Back in 1971, Dewberry – who had chaired the Arlington Planning Commission – ran for County Board in Arlington during one of those once-every-four-years times when two seats were on the ballot.

Almost guaranteed victory was incumbent Democrat Joseph Fisher, seeking a new term. He was joined on the ballot by fellow Democrat (though both were running as independents) Everard Munsey and Republicans Dewberry and Franklin Harding.

Through Northern Virginia Sun archives held by the Library of Virginia, I found plenty of coverage of that race, including an overview from one of the editions (front page shown above) from mid-October of ’71.

Interesting stuff, particularly considering that the issues – development, transportation, housing – were the same ones we are talking about 51 years later and probably the same ones our descendants will probably be talking about 51 years from now. And while Dewberry and Harding were unsuccessful in defeating Fisher and Munsey, Dewberry certainly seemed prescient in a number of areas.

On the transportation front, Dewberry was pushing for a public takeover of the collapsing regional bus companies, something that would indeed happen with creation of the Metro system.

And in a view that foreshadowed 2022 pretty well, he also said that before deciding how much development Arlington should embark on to avoid a future of “blight and decay,” the county government should complete a proposed cost-benefit analysis of the various levels of development, so the public could see what the options were and, hopefully, the right option would be picked.

(Sounds kinda like what some reasonable people are asking for on the Missing Middle issue this very summer, huh? But I digress.)

Read enough copies of old newspapers and you quickly realize that while the names may change – we all are, as Kansas (the group, not the state) put it back in the underrated 1970s, just dust in the wind – most of the issues remain eternal. And often intractable.

R.I.P., Mr. Dewberry. You were and will remain a legend of the local scene.

A KERFUFFLE, AN UPROAR AND A BROUHAHA, ALL ROLLED INTO ONE: Those of us who watch our Arlington County Board meetings online a day after they occur and from the comfort of our living rooms (just like God does!) certainly were confused when, during the taped replay of the Saturday meeting, board members suddenly skedaddled from their chairs to the safety of the back room, then the live feed went blank for a while.

One source described it as “a riot” by a left-leaning advocacy group that didn’t feel the left-leaning County Board was being left-leaning enough for its taste. But since I wasn’t there, I can’t vouch for anything.

I remember a fun time – and you have to go back a quarter century for this – when activists, complaining about the pending demolition of the Arna Valley community in South Arlington and the displacement of the mostly Latino residents, filled the board room with protesters and, at one point during the meeting, all stood up and began shaking Coke cans that had been filled with pebbles. Quite the racket, but certainly, as Sheriff Buford T. Justice would put it, “an attention-getter.”

The next day’s Washington Post – current motto: “Our Arlington Coverage Has Died in Darkness” – had the story, accompanied by a photo of some 50 or so of the Latin activists shaking their cans with one white dude standing in the middle, taking notes.

If you’re guessing that honkie was me, well, dang, you’d be right!

– Scott McCaffrey

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