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ABC Store Could Return Near Colonial Village

by Ethan Rothstein | July 31, 2014 at 3:30 pm | 905 views | No Comments

The site of a possible new ABC store in Courthouse The site of a possible new ABC store in Courthouse

A Virginia ABC store may be coming to the Courthouse area.

The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is negotiating a lease for a liquor store in the new 1919 Clarendon Blvd building, an ABC official confirmed. That’s a block away from the Colonial Village Shopping Center, where another ABC store closed last year.

ABC has applied for a construction permit for the space, but it has yet to be approved.

The store, if it does finalize its lease, would move into the new building alongside Lucky Pot Asian restaurant, Oasis Nail salon — both under construction — and European Wax Center, which is already open. Also moving into the building, according to Elevation DC, is a location of H Street NE Lebanese eatery Shawafel, which also has a booth at Nationals Park.

Shawafel, owner Alberto Sissi told Elevation, plans to have two counters — one for its savory food items and one for sweets — along with a fresh juice station.

Progressive Voice: Another Step Toward an Equal Future

by Max Burns | July 31, 2014 at 3:00 pm | 627 views | No Comments

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Max BurnsVirginia is — finally — for all lovers.

In a landmark decision handed down Monday, the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Virginia’s state ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

For those used to the challenges of reading through the language of many recent Supreme Court decisions, the Fourth Circuit offered a refreshing clarity and unexpected boldness in stating what an ever-increasing majority of Americans have come to know well: “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable… However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.”

The Fourth Circuit judges understand that times and attitudes are changing. For young Americans soon to begin high school or college, even the phrase “gay marriage” seems clunky. They call it what it is: marriage, plain and simple. For this generation, gay and lesbian couples aren’t in some “other” category. They are friends and family, roommates and coworkers. They are people.

They are also the people who are bringing new energy to the institution of marriage.

It is sadly true that it has been the Republican-elected officials in Virginia who have fought hard against marriage equality and, indeed, many other rights for LGBT Virginians such as freedom from discrimination in the workplace. And, it is very unlikely that we will see many Republican-elected officials praise the Fourth Circuit’s decision.

It is also important to applaud the many Democrats who have promoted equal rights even when it was politically challenging to do so. Virtually every advancement of LGBT rights in Virginia has been initiated by Democrats and it was Democrats who fought hard, although unsuccessfully, against the Marshall-Newman amendment that for years banned marriage equality — and even civil unions — in Virginia.

As an Arlingtonian, I am proud that our Democratic County Board leaders have been at the forefront of efforts to extend workplace benefits and other civil rights to gay and lesbian Arlingtonians over the past 25 years.

While the institutional Republican Party may be reactionary and obstructionist on LGBT issues, the youngest adult members of the Grand Old Party are ready to acknowledge what our Founding Fathers saw as self evident: that all men — and women — are created equal.

It’s among younger voters that we see amazing progress on marriage equality, even in today’s hyper-polarized political environment. A Pew survey released in March showed that 61 percent of Republicans aged 18-29 support gay marriages. At the same time, over three-quarters of Democrats in the same age group support gay marriages.

What’s more, these young Republicans support gay marriage without feeling that it jeopardizes their credentials as “real” Republicans.

Fortunately, the vitriolic debate about whether gays and lesbians “deserve” marriage will soon belong to the past. Young leaders in both political parties are ready to move forward to economic and foreign policy issues. They know that we need the fully-engaged talents of all Americans to ensure our economic competitiveness, as well as security and a strong moral example in times of international conflict. We should all be encouraged.

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Peter’s Take: Board Should Vote on All $1 Million Contracts

by Peter Rousselot | July 31, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 412 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotAt the County Board’s July 17 work session on Arlington’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), John Vihstadt, seconded by Libby Garvey, introduced a motion:

[A]ny contracts between Arlington County or an instrumentality of the County and a third party vendor or service provider for services of $1,000,000 or more related to or impacting a CIP project require a vote by the Arlington County Board at a regularly scheduled meeting.

Vihstadt said his motion was prompted by the County’s May 30 announcement that a contract already had been awarded to Parsons Transportation Group. That contract provides for a sweeping range of professional services to consult about streetcars. Parsons will advise the County in areas ranging from financial management and reporting, environmental, right of way acquisition, vehicle acquisition support, construction management oversight, and public outreach. For their initial work, Parsons will be paid $7 million to $8 million.

The “public outreach” portion of the Parsons contract allocates $650,000 of taxpayer dollars to a P.R. campaign to try to promote the streetcar.

Vihstadt stated that his motion included the phrase “related to or impacting a CIP project” because the CIP was the topic under consideration at the work session. He was concerned that a broader motion might have been ruled out of order.

Despite Vihstadt’s care in limiting his motion to CIP-related contracts, County staff found a different technicality upon which to base an objection. Staff says that although all contracts for professional services in excess of $50,000 performed as part of a capital improvement project do require Board approval, “professional services” are narrowly defined only to include certain professions.

Staff believes that the $7 million to $8 million package of professional services Parsons will be performing all lie outside the County’s narrow definition of “professional services”. Therefore, no Board approval is required for the Parsons contract.

Under the staff’s interpretation, a contract for $50,001 for architectural services performed as part of a capital improvement project does require a Board vote, but the Parsons $7 million to $8 million contract does not require a Board vote. Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the staff’s interpretation of the County’s current policy is correct.

The staff — and the County Board — are missing the main point.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Healthy government transparency requires broad public awareness and a Board vote prior to committing our tax dollars to large contracts.

The Arlington County Board should change its current policy, and adopt a new policy that requires that the County Board itself approve all contracts of $1 million or more regardless of subject matter.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

The Right Note: A Little More Transparency, Accountability

by Mark Kelly | July 31, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 316 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyNew County Board member John Vihstadt is making a difference.

In response to the latest spending waste — the P.R. campaign to promote the trolley — he asked why the Board did not get to vote on the contract. The response he got was nothing but legalese.

Vihstadt, supported by Libby Garvey, proposed that the Board vote on any contract over $1 million in the future. Even the three “vote trolley” majority could not shoot him down on this common sense proposal.

Now, maybe Vihstadt can do something about the County Board funding meaningless surveys. This week it was announced that the Board believes Arlington residents approve of its housing policies. Those policies have done little to stop the loss of affordable housing stock, but of course they sound good when asked the right way on a telephone survey.

This latest survey ranks right up there with the survey the Board produces regularly to say Arlington residents like the services they get. It is completely useless to learn anything, but it makes them feel better. Funny though, the Board has never produced a survey to say whether Arlingtonians would approve or disapprove of the trolley project if given a vote on it.

Next up, the Board must get the promised County auditor function up and running — an auditor who should be reporting directly to the Board. Until that happens, the Board should ask County Manager to direct the auditor to identify at least 10 substantial ways the Board can trim the county budget for next year. Identifying more than 10 would be better, but it would be a good start.

Finally, our Board should do something about how the bond measures are placed on the ballot. In 2012, the average voter had no idea funding for the aquatics center was in the parks and recreation bond. The County Board should tell the voters exactly what they are voting on. And, if more than $10 million is going to one specific project, why not give Arlingtonians the opportunity to vote straight up or down on it as a standalone measure?

Transparency and accountability are good things. The Board should always be looking for ways to embrace them more.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Shirlington Store Holding Chocolate Tastings, Seminars

by Morgan Fecto | July 31, 2014 at 12:55 pm | 675 views | No Comments

The Curious Grape's selection of chocolate barsChocolate lovers have a new place in Arlington to learn about their favorite sweet.

The Curious Grape, at 2900 S. Quincy Street in Shirlington, held its first chocolate tasting last night, guiding attendees through tasting five high-end chocolates. It’s the first in a series of chocolate tastings and seminars that Curious Grape plans to offer through August.

During the tastings, which range in price from $3 to $5, customers can come in between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. and taste five “rare heirloom varieties of chocolate,” said Curious Grape owner Suzanne McGrath. Artisan chocolate-making, she said, has been on the rise recently.

“There have been developments with chocolate in the past few years,” McGrath said. “Chocolate really is like wine. It depends on where it’s grown, how it’s grown and how it’s processed.”

At the chocolate seminars, attendees will taste more than 12 chocolates, with guidance and commentary from McGrath, and watch informational videos on chocolate production, McGrath said. The seminars cost $15 and accommodate 34 attendees.

“People are pretty jazzed by the end,” McGrath said. “It’s a lot of caffeine.”

Chocolate tastings will be held Aug. 13, 15 and 22, and will explore the differences in chocolate offered by single brands, or the variance between different brands making chocolates at the same cacao percentage, McGrath said. The 90-minute chocolate seminars will be held Aug. 19 and Aug. 26 at 6:30 p.m and registration is still open.

The cafe and wine shop has offered wine tastings since it first opened in 2001, and also offers cheese tastings and seminars, although wine will not be served at the chocolate events, McGrath said.

“Once you start mixing wines and chocolates, you miss the complexities in the flavor,” McGrath said. “There will be no spitting of chocolate.”

Although McGrath had offered chocolate events at her store in the past, she said that the improvements in organic and heirloom chocolate production inspired her to hold tastings and seminars again. Among the more than 40 new, white, milk and dark chocolate bars at the cafe, there is a range of cacao percentages, roasting techniques and conching styles among them, McGrath said.

McGrath’s favorite chocolates come from Ritual Chocolate in Colorado and Fresco Chocolate in Washington.

“Those are big brands for me,” McGrath said. “Ritual is one that uses the same process to make chocolate from different origins, and Fresco uses different methods to make chocolate from one origin.”

But of all the options in her cafe, McGrath said the customer favorite is still Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar.

“That’s always been our best-seller,” she said.

Police: Arlington Resident Celebrating Birthday Stabs Woman in Neck

by ARLnow.com | July 31, 2014 at 11:15 am | 3,271 views | No Comments

Joanie Dunbar (photo courtesy ACPD)A 55-year-old Arlington woman is in jail after allegedly stabbing another woman in the neck and arm.

The incident happened on the 3200 block of 24th Street S. in Nauck early Wednesday morning. Police say Janie Dunbar was “celebrating her [July 29] birthday and consuming alcoholic beverages” just past midnight when she began arguing with the victim.

Dunbar became enraged and stabbed the woman just below the throat and in the left bicep, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The victim suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries and was rushed to the trauma center at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Dunbar has been charged with malicious wounding. She’s scheduled for a preliminary court hearing on Aug. 25.

Photo courtesy ACPD

Survey: Housing Costs to Push Out 25-34 Year Olds

by Ethan Rothstein | July 31, 2014 at 10:15 am | 3,645 views | No Comments

Graph from Arlington County's affordable housing surveyA majority of Arlington residents between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are likely to leave the county within five years because of the cost of housing, according to a county-sponsored survey.

According to the survey, which polled 1,744 Arlington residents, 60 percent of 25-34 year olds responded “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to the question: “In the next five years or so, how likely is it you will have to move out of Arlington because you would not have the kind of housing you want at the price you can afford?”

Thirty-four percent of respondents said it was “very likely” they would move away.

The survey is a component of the county’s ongoing affordable housing study, which launched in July 2012 and is being run by Arlington’s Affordable Housing Working Group. Michael Spotts, the vice chair of the working group, said the high cost of housing in Arlington is an impediment to those hoping to start families here.

“It was a little surprising to me,” Spotts, 30, said about the survey results, “but I think whether [current 25-34 year olds moving out of Arlington] will actually happen depends a lot on how consumer preferences change moving forward.

“I’m a millennial myself and my wife and I live in Arlington, and we bought a house in Arlington and are very happy here,” Spotts continued. “I think it was a little surprising, but given how expensive it is, especially as people get older and start a family, it’s not particularly surprising.”

According to the study, 39 percent of the 25-34 age range said they want to buy a home at some point in the future, and Arlington is out of their price range. The study also included the figures on which ARLnow.com reported earlier this week that suggested residents generally approve of the Arlington County Board’s affordable housing policies and priorities.

County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes is the Board’s liaison to the working group, and she presented the survey to the Board last week. While Hynes said everyone is aware of the housing struggle in Arlington, even she was surprised that so many younger residents were planning to leave.

County Board member Mary Hynes“The numbers do jump out at you,” Hynes told ARLnow.com on the phone from Los Angeles yesterday. “It is one of the reasons we’re being so proactive around housing, because we know it’s a challenge for people. It’s not just a challenge for Arlington, it’s a challenge for the whole region.”

The same question about moving within five years, when asked to minority groups, received a lower but still high “likely” response.

Forty percent of Hispanic respondents and 50 percent of African Americans said they were somewhat or very likely to leave Arlington within five years due to housing costs. The lowest “likely” response came from current property owners, at 28 percent.

The region’s economic prosperity is generally viewed as the main factor that housing prices have escalated to the point where such a study is even worthwhile, but Spotts said Arlington may have inadvertently contributed to its own predicament.

“One of the things that a lot of people, generally speaking, would find surprising is that all of the things that go into the county that make it great are also things that can add cost to housing,” Spotts, who studies affordable housing policy as his career, said. “You want to protect your parkland and streams, and there’s a direct cost of those elements in terms of maintaining green space, but there’s also sort of an indirect cost. If you’re restricting some of the housing you can build because of other goals, then that drives up the cost of housing.”

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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | July 31, 2014 at 9:15 am | 1,112 views | No Comments

Birthday party in Bluemont Park (Flickr pool by Dennis Dimick)

Att’y General to Consider Streetcar Referendum — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) will be asked by Del. Patrick Hope (D) to weigh in on whether Arlington County has the legal authority to hold an advisory referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. County officials say they don’t have the authority, and without General Assembly approval can only use a referendum for a general obligation bond issue. [InsideNova]

County Fair Adds Pentagon City Shuttle — The Arlington County Fair this year is adding a new shuttle option. In addition to shuttles from the Arlington Career Center, Ballston Metro and the I-66 parking garage, a shuttle will now run every 30 minutes from the Pentagon City Metro station. The fair runs from Aug. 6-10. [Arlington County Fair]

Falls Church, Arlington Treasurers Are Friends — Carla de la Pava and Jody Acosta, the new interim treasurers of Arlington County and Falls Church, are lifelong friends who grew up together in Alexandria. [Falls Church News-Press]

Rand Paul Makes News at Arlington Event — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made some headlines after speaking at the Young Americans for Liberty convention in Rosslyn last night. Paul told the libertarian group that he will no longer appear on MSNBC until the network apologizes for “lousy lies” about his position on the Civil Rights Act. [CNN]

Half-Priced Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory — The Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Clarendon (and others around the country) are offering half-priced slices of cheesecake for the second day in a row today in honor of National Cheesecake Day. The restaurant chain this week got some unwelcome attention with several “Xtreme Eating awards” for its calorie-laden meals. One slice of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake alone has 1,500 calories. [Cheesecake Factory, Fox News]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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