NVRC Currents

NVRC Currents

Apr 02

Webinar: Setting Foreign Policy Priorities at the Subnational Level

Posted on April 2, 2021 at 5:05 PM by Bob Lazaro

Tuesday, April 13 at 1PM (EST)
Registration Link:  https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/7716172937299/WN_NOIP93eGRaWTFdjbRllCQA

Nation states shape foreign policy, but to limit the focus to national governments is a mistake because it overlooks the important role of subnational governments in setting foreign policy priorities. The COVID-19 crisis has underscored the leadership role that cities, regions, and states play in addressing transnational threats. Increasingly subnational governments are playing a role on the international stage. Their foreign policy priorities are often based on their domestic competencies, in areas such as regional economic development and trade, health, education, climate, transportation, migration, and public safety.      

The Biden administration has announced the creation of an office of subnational diplomacy within the State Department, which will enable the U.S. government to leverage the global leadership and experience of subnational leaders while advancing its domestic agenda. This plans to build the capacity and expertise of cities, regions, and states to engage with counterparts around the world in ways that benefit their residents.


But, cooperation and collaboration between regions is nothing new. For example, for more than 20 years the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) has worked with the greater Stuttgart region to exchange best practices.  

oin the American Council on Germany, Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung, the NVRC, and the Verband Region Stuttgart for a discussion with Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) and Cem Özdemir, Bundestag Member (The Greens) about the subnational dimension of foreign policy. The conversation will be moderated by Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, Executive Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and Executive Director of The Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship at the Harvard Kennedy School and Co-Director of the ACG’s Eric M. Warburg Chapter in Boston.

About our Panelists 


Congressman Don Beyer is serving his fourth term as the U.S. Representative from Virginia’s 8th District, representing Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and parts of Fairfax County. He serves as the Chairman of Congress' Joint Economic Committee and also serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, and on the House Committee on Science Space and Technology, where he chairs the Space Subcommittee. He is a Co-Chair of the New Democrat Coalition's Climate Change Task Force. He was the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1998 and was Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein under President Obama. He is a graduate of Williams College and Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC. He was named a Presidential Scholar by President Lyndon Johnson.


Cem Özdemir (2001 ACG-AB Young Leader) is a member of the German Bundestag. When first elected to the Bundestag in 1994, he became the first son of Turkish emigrants ever to hold office in Germany’s lower house of Parliament. Between 2008 and 2018, he served as co-chair of the Green Party, together with Claudia Roth and later Simone Peter. He has been a Member of the German Bundestag since 2013 and he was a Member of the German Bundestag between 1994 and 2002 and of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2009.  Since 2018, he has been serving as Chairman of the Committee on Transport.


Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook is a German and American national and the founding Executive Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), which examines the challenges to negotiation and statecraft in the 21st century. In January 2018, she was named Executive Director of the Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship. From 2011-2017, she served as the Executive Director of the India and South Asia Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at HKS, a program which ended formal activities in 2018. Her areas of expertise include EU-US relations – including trade and security policy – and digital public policy in urban and national contexts.

Feb 19

Energy Efficiency Help for Small Business

Posted on February 19, 2021 at 9:23 AM by Bob Lazaro

picture of air conditioning unitWhile there are several programs to help families reduce their home energy use, there are also programs offered by Dominion Energy to help Northern Virginia’s small business community.

According to Dominion Energy website a Small Business Improvement assessment will be conducted to help you identify ways you can make your business more energy efficient and even have part of the improvement costs refunded to you by Dominion Energy.

A contractor will perform an on-site energy assessment of your facility. They will then make recommendations on what measures can be installed and/or what re-commissioning can be performed to make your facility more energy efficient.

After the measures are installed, you will receive a personalized report showing the estimated energy savings you can expect – and once you’ve provided documentation of the improvements, a portion of your installation costs will be refunded to you.

The energy assessment provides you with many benefits:

  • Access to pre-qualified contractors who can perform both the assessment and the recommended improvements.
  • An on-site analysis of your business’s energy use
  • A report containing cost-effective options and easy-to-follow recommendations to help reduce energy usage.
  • Assessment and improvements scheduled at your convenience.
  • Financial incentives that help to offset cost for installing the recommended improvements.

Areas included in assessment:

  • Direct Install Lighting
  • Variable Frequency Drives
  • Efficient Heat Pumps
  • Efficient Air Conditioning Units
  • Prescriptive Re-commissioning

For eligibility requirements and for answers to frequently asked questions please visit the Dominion Energy web site: https://www.dominionenergy.com/virginia/save-energy/small-business-improvement or you can call 888-366-8280.

Feb 12

Is Green Infrastructure Critical Infrastructure? - Corey Miles

Posted on February 12, 2021 at 8:09 AM by Bob Lazaro

Green Space Photo
When you think about infrastructure, transportation networks, water treatment plants, sewer systems, electrical grid, etc. is typically what comes to mind. The Department of Homeland Security identifies 16 critical infrastructure sectors1 . Natural landscapes and green infrastructure are not included in their list.  However, as the climate changes, it has become more apparent that green infrastructure such as wetlands, forests, and streams are just as critical and provide many benefits to a city and its residents.

For example, urban parks can be designed to act like sponges during storm events and decrease flooding while filtering pollutants. A range of Low Impact Development (LID) practices such as rain gardens, bioretention areas, and permeable pavement can be installed in parks and public spaces. Cities all over the world are leveraging green infrastructure to complement the gray infrastructure such as large underground networks of pipes and tunnels.

In addition to reducing the risk from runoff, parks and open spaces can help to preserve the urban tree canopy and provide a place for native plant gardens. A healthy tree canopy in an urban area can improve air quality, reduce the heat-island effect and create close-to-home opportunities for outdoor recreation and experiences with nature.

Beyond the challenges emanating from a changing climate, many areas are also facing a national health crisis. Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, and 1 in 3 children is obese or overweight. Mental illness affects more than 46 million adults in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health2 .

Physical activity can reduce or prevent serious health problems, and a nearby park equipped with the right facilities and programming can help get people outside and moving. Spending just 20 minutes outdoors, especially in green spaces, can improve overall health and happiness. It’s been shown to lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate, while encouraging physical activity and buoying mood and mental health.3 Some research even suggests that green space is associated with a lower risk of developing psychiatric disorders. 

[1]   Department of Homeland Security, Critical Infrastructure Sectors https://www.cisa.gov/critical-infrastructure-sectors

[2] The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Statistics on Mental Illness https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml

[3] Hon K. Yuen & Gavin R. Jenkins (2020) Factors associated with changes in subjective well-being immediately after urban park visit, International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 30:2, 134-145, DOI: 10.1080/09603123.2019.1577368