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by Peter Rousselot — March 26, 2015 at 2:15 pm 0

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 RousselotIn a recent column about the Arlington County Board’s TJ Elementary decision, I focused on three of the critical lessons learned for Arlington Public Schools:

  1. APS can’t choose the best option unless it knows what all the options are
  2. APS must be completely transparent in discussing all options
  3. Developers must be part of the solution

How do these lessons and other factors specifically impact the capacity crisis at Oakridge Elementary?

Oakridge parents have launched an online petition seeking capacity crisis relief from the School Board by September 2016. The parents’ petition points out that:

By the start of the 2015 school year, Oakridge Elementary School is projected to be the county’s largest elementary school with almost 800 students. It is projected to be at 117 percent capacity with seven incoming kindergarten classes. The anticipated rate of growth for Oakridge far exceeds every other elementary school in the county.

Because the capacity crisis at Oakridge is so severe, and because the County Board’s TJ decision has set back the general timeline for capacity crisis relief, the county should not wait until after the conclusion of the Community Facilities Study (CFS) before taking any action regarding Oakridge. Among the specific actions that the County Board ought to take before the conclusion of the CFS are these:

  • In consultation with the School Board, commit to granting some APS students access to appropriate county facilities on an interim basis until a final plan can be implemented for overcrowding at Oakridge. Based on a March 12 letter from Mary Hynes to James Lander, some movement in this direction might give Oakridge some relief by September 2015.
  • Insist that developers of projects that will generate new enrollment at Oakridge provide their fair share of financial support to alleviate overcrowding at Oakridge. Vornado has a long history of developing projects within the current boundaries of Oakridge Elementary. In a very real sense, Oakridge is Vornado’s neighborhood school. Vornado does and should have a vested interest in Oakridge’s success. (As I wrote in my earlier TJ decision column, if the county attorney believes Arlington currently lacks authority under state law to require Vornado to provide such financial assistance, the County Board now should direct the Attorney to publish his legal reasoning in detail.)
  • Commit in principle to increase APS’ share of the county-wide debt ceiling limit (the 10 percent rule) to speed up APS’ ability to build new schools, additions, or any renovations that are so substantial that they are appropriate for debt financing.

Conclusion

Both Boards must work together on this issue to ensure Oakridge remains a successful neighborhood school.

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.

by Garrett McGuire — March 26, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

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

Garrett McGuireArlington residents are focused on key community priorities — school capacity and instructional needs, housing affordability, Metro upgrades, community facilities, open space, and other areas that depend upon public funding.

However, as a recent Washington Post article highlighted, we face another threat to our community that has received less attention: a high (and rising) commercial vacancy rate. The recently launched Community Facilities Study Group was briefed last month on the current state of Arlington’s economy and the picture is sobering.

With one-quarter of the county’s 40 million square feet of office space vacant, Arlington is faced with reduced commercial property taxes at a time when the demand for county services continues to rise.

Our ability to fund county services at existing or enhanced levels requires a healthy local economy.

Arlington is the envy of many area localities because we have a balanced 50-50 tax split between commercial real estate and homeowner property taxes. However, rising commercial vacancy rates will slow commercial real estate tax receipts and homeowners could either pay more to cover the lost revenue — or services will have to be reduced.

Those are our real options. Even if the county and school budgets were scoured for every inefficiency, potential staff reduction, or unnecessary project or program, we would still face either increased residential taxes or service reductions if Arlington is not able to attract more commercial and government tenants.

Additionally, with school spending already a significant portion of Arlington’s budget, and school enrollment growing at nearly 5 percent a year, funding for schools could be in jeopardy at a critically important time if we are not competitive for major tenants with the District, Tysons, Alexandria, and outer suburbs.

Any County Board candidate (Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Reform, Bull Moose etc…) should have a strong economic development plan. Without a thriving business community that provides jobs, pays wages and drives county revenue, we will not be able to solve and fund our core priorities, and promote our core values.

The Arlington Economic Development (AED) team, under new leadership, is becoming more aggressive about marketing our community’s assets. This month, AED attended SXSW in Austin, Texas, to pitch companies on Arlington. We need our local government — and our elected officials — to continue developing innovative marketing techniques and have a clear understanding of what resources are needed to attract and keep major tenants.

Because Arlington’s success has relied upon federal government spending, we need a new push toward a more diversified local economy.

In addition to supporting the growth of local startups, we must focus on companies that are diverse in scope and can withstand reduced government spending — like Marriott, which happens to be looking for a new Metro-accessible office location.

We have a governor who is focused on, and has thrived during, his first year attracting businesses to every region of the Commonwealth. His energy and enthusiasm can be an added tool to recruiting world-class employers to fill Arlington’s empty office buildings. Just last week, the governor announced nearly 600 new jobs in Fairfax County with the expansion of Navy Federal Credit Union’s offices.

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by Mark Kelly — March 26, 2015 at 12:45 pm 0

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 KellyA few years back I went to the Arlington County tax rate hearing to listen to the comments of my fellow citizens. So few showed up to comment on the rate that the Arlington County Board actually took a recess while it waited to see if anyone else would come to speak.

If memory serves, all but one of the handful who did come asked the Board not to raise the rate.

Some would argue this shows most Arlingtonians like the level of taxes they pay and are always willing to pay more. Many more of us would argue that in the years immediately pre-Vihstadt, we had given up hope the Board would do anything but raise our annual out-of-pocket costs.

Last month, the Board voted unanimously to advertise a higher rate. If you do not show up tonight and ask for the Board to reject its advertised rate, they may just feel like you are OK with paying even more.

We need to get to the bottom of it

A deaf man with limited English proficiency was held for six weeks in the Arlington County jail last year for allegedly stealing an iPad. He eventually entered into a plea deal for time served.

He claims he was denied access to a proper interpreter, was not aware of why he was arrested for 24 hours, was given medical care without his consent, and frequently missed meals because the system in place at the jail requires inmates to hear. The Sheriff’s Department is not commenting on the specifics of the claims, but does note that services for the hearing impaired are offered.

It is safe to say that it is too early to assign any guilt or blame based on what we know so far. But, these allegations are serious and deserve a thorough review by county officials.

What will this survey really tell us?

Arlington announced it will be conducting another survey to assess the satisfaction with government services. The 2012 Survey claimed that 89 percent of residents were generally satisfied with the services provided. Of course, the 2014 elections spoke very differently.

Digging into the 2012 results, you can find more specific data. What policy makers should note are the areas where residents think they are doing a less than satisfactory job. In 2012, it was roads and traffic.

Forty-eight percent of Arlingtonians who took the survey did not rate the maintenance of county streets as satisfactory or very satisfactory. Fifty percent said they were less than satisfied with traffic management. By comparison, the next worst scoring area was code enforcement at 32 percent who were not satisfied.

It will be interesting in 2015 to see if the county learned anything from the last survey and improved specific areas local residents believed to be lacking.

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

by ARLnow.com — March 26, 2015 at 12:25 pm 0

The Blue Line will be the recipient of the first of Metro’s next generation of trains next month.

The first 7000-series train is scheduled to enter passenger service on Tuesday, April 14, Metro announced today.

“The introduction of the first new train will be the most significant milestone to date for a project that has spanned nearly five years from approval and funding, through design and engineering, to testing and certification,” Metro said today, in a press release.

The brand new eight-car is expected to depart the Franconia-Springfield station shortly after 7:00 a.m. on April 14, serving Blue Line stations in Fairfax County, Alexandria, Arlington County, the District and Prince George’s County. The Blue Line has weathered service cuts since Metro began Silver Line service last summer.

The 7000 series will feature a blue-and-gray interior color scheme and “new technologies that are generations ahead of Metro’s current railcars.” Among the features riders can expect, as detailed by Metro:

  • Stainless steel car body for increased durability
  • 64 vinyl padded seats and seat-back hand grasps
  • Six different station destination signs, including two dynamic LCD route maps and four video screens in each car
  • LCD map displays to allow customers to easily track their location
  • LED screens that provide current and upcoming station information
  • Improved seats that provide more knee room and better lumbar support
  • Wider aisles (34 inches verses 32 inches on older cars) to facilitate movement within the car
  • Additional space near the doors for standees and wheelchairs
  • Resilient nonslip flooring, rather than carpet
  • High-tech automated public address systems
  • Closed circuit cameras for added safety and security
  • More reliable door systems using proven technology
  • Added handholds in the door area and vertical poles added at each seat – for a total of 25% more linear feet of bars than in Metro’s 6000-series cars
  • Enhanced lighting and privacy screens in the vestibule area

There are also a number of significant new safety features, as outlined in the Metro press release, excerpted after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 26, 2015 at 11:30 am 0

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a new column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Geriatric is relative to the pet

It’s a common misconception that one “human” year is equivalent to seven “pet” years. In reality, bigger dogs age much faster than cats and smaller dogs, and the ratio is actually higher in the younger years, and decreases as the pet ages (for example: cats “grow up” faster than dogs in the first 1-2 years, but then age more slowly).

Age is not a disease (however, many diseases happen more commonly in older pets)

A thorough history and physical exam every six months is recommended after 6-9 years of age, depending on the species, age, and breed. Preventive care is important for the early detection of problems and often leads to earlier intervention and improved quality and quantity of life. Physical exams and geriatric blood work can aide in the screening of most of the more common age-related diseases such as heart, liver, thyroid and kidney disease. Cancer also develops more commonly in older pets, but not all cancers are created equal. Early detection can sometimes give a better prognosis depending on the type, location and nature of the cancer.

One of the most common age-related diseases, arthritis, can develop secondary to previous disease or from general wear and tear on the joints. The symptoms of arthritis can vary from a bit of slowness/stiffness upon rising, all the way to being unable to walk without assistance. In cats, it can manifest with urinary accidents, decreased grooming and reduced social interaction. Interventions include: physical therapy, acupuncture, glucosamine, fish oils and other supplements, as well as anti-inflammatory and pain modulating medications.

Making some easy environmental modifications can go a long way in easing your pet’s ability to get around comfortably (i.e. adding area rugs on slippery floors, or a ramp to the bed); and maintaining a healthy weight and routine exercise are some of the most important, not to mention cost-effective, options to address your old friend’s quality of life.

Cognitive problems are also more frequent in aging animals: nighttime waking, restlessness/inability to get settled down, increased vocalization, increased daytime sleeping, and elimination accidents are all frequently seen. These can be quite distressing as they can affect the quality of life of both the pet and owner. It is important to identify and address any underlying disease that may mimic cognitive problems such as liver, kidney or metabolic disease, pain/arthritis, and cancer. If indicated there are several medications and supplements that may be helpful with these behaviors, including: SAMe, casein, and melatonin.

Check out these senior pet checklists to see if your pet may be exhibiting some of the common aging-related ailments. You can then use these as guidelines to discuss any possible concerns with your veterinarian and together work to keep your pet healthy and happy for as long as possible.

Sometimes, we need to let go

Quality of life is of utmost concern in our aging pets and must be considered when making treatment decisions. As much as we would like our pets to live forever… they don’t. Hospice care and humane euthanasia are options owners have in the face of their pet’s declining health. There comes a time in most of our pets lives when pursuing treatment is not the right decision (for your pet, you/your family, or the disease) and difficult end of life decisions must be made.

Be sure to have an open dialogue with your veterinarian about your aging pet’s quality of life and make sure you’re all on the same page with the management, treatment goals and quality of life of your elderly companion.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by Ethan Rothstein — March 26, 2015 at 10:35 am 0

Arlington County government's offices at 2100 Clarendon BlvdRepresentatives from 16 different countries will visit Arlington to learn how the county assesses properties for tax purposes.

Arlington’s Dept. of Real Estate Assessments will be giving representatives from countries like China, India, Turkey and Greece “guidance on proper property tax management, including an overview of how Arlington County values land and property, and how these processes have generated revenue, while promoting fair and equitable property tax collection methods,” according to a press release from Thomson Reuters, which organized the meeting.

Thomson Reuters’ Tax & Accounting Division helps corporations and governments improve their bookkeeping and revenue-generating practices. Arlington boasts an enviable tax revenue split of 50 percent residential and 50 percent commercial tax revenue, and the assessor’s office is responsible for determining the value of each piece of property.

“Arlington County’s strong, successful tax management system has attracted the attention of government officials from emerging nations,” Brian Jaklitsch, a spokesman for Thomson Reuters, said in an email.

“Officials will get a first-person look at how a government in the US processes and records land rights, and how the information is then used to assign a land value and then to process and bill property tax,” according to a press release. “More than 70 percent of local government revenue in the US is generated from property tax, and generating similar revenue could be a major coup for countries that are impoverished and/or lacking proper recording channels.”

Photo via Google Maps

by ARLnow.com — March 26, 2015 at 9:45 am 599 0

Bicyclist on the Custis Trail with child

Police: Pair Stole Car, Shrimp, Underpants — (Updated at 2:00 p.m.) A man and a woman allegedly under the influence of crack cocaine and alcohol were arrested in Rosslyn Tuesday afternoon. Police say the pair had stolen a car, men’s underwear and a “large quantity of shrimp.” [MyFoxDC]

Playgroup Controversy in Fairlington — Members of a cooperative playgroup that uses the Fairlington Community Center say that Arlington County is attempting a “takeover of the group.” The parents say the county is trying to buy the playgroup’s toys, take over registration and raise the playgroup fee from $20 to $190. [Patch]

How One Teacher Is Using iPads — There’s some question about just how well Arlington Public Schools has trained its teachers on the use of technology in the classroom — particularly the individual iPads and MacBooks that are being assigned at certain grade levels. One teacher at Carlin Springs Elementary School, however, is taking advantage of the iPads in a big way, using them for various interactive lessons. That, officials say, is indicative of how such technology will increasingly be used in schools. [InsideNova]

ACFD Metro Training — Arlington firefighters are participating in department-wide Metro safety training this month. [Twitter]

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 26, 2015 at 5:00 am 0

Social Sports of Arlington is proud to announce that its leagues are now powered by the folks behind United Social Sports. This partnership  means more sports, more events, and more friends to make for all SSA players!

SSA & USS has a ton of awesome leagues to share with the Arlington community, including two brand new Tuesday and Saturday Kickball leagues!

Players will need to act fast to get in on the action though as some permits were just issued but have games starting soon! Capacity for for select leagues has already been reached… don’t miss your chance to get a little more social this Spring!

Below is a list of Arlington area leagues. For a full listing visit www.UnitedSocialSports.com

Arlington Kickball: Full Lineup

Arlington Flag Football:Full Lineup

  • Sundays @ Kenmore – New League!

Softball:  Full Lineup

Soccer:Full Lineup

Volleyball – Sand: Full Lineup

Volleyball – Indoor: Full Lineup

Arlington Bocce:Full Lineup

Arlington Cornhole:Full Lineup

Arlington Skeeball:  Full Lineup

Dodgeball: Full Lineup

  • Thursdays @ Crystal City Gateway Sport & Health

SSA & USS cater to a growing population in Arlington who love to stay active and have a focus on having fun and being social while staying active.

Registration closes for most Spring Team Sports on Tuesday, March 31st (or when leagues fill out) and for Spring Bar Sports on Tuesday, April 7th.

by Ethan Rothstein — March 25, 2015 at 5:00 pm 737 0

Rendering of the future Washington Blvd bridge over Route 110Construction on the project to replace the Washington Blvd bridge over Route 110 next to the Pentagon is now underway.

The $29.5 million endeavor will replace the existing bridge — built in 1941 and now “considered structurally deficient,” according to the Virginia Department of Transportation — with a new structure that expands the shared-use path to 14-feet wide, add an 8-foot sidewalk and is longer, wider and taller than the existing bridge.

While construction has begun, traffic impacts won’t start until May.

“VDOT will maintain a minimum of two lanes in each direction on both Routes 27 and 110, other than temporary night closures to install bridge girders,” VDOT said in a press release. “Pedestrian traffic will be shifted to a temporary bridge in 2016.”

The existing Washington Blvd bridge over Route 110 (photo via VDOT)When complete, the bridge will include homages to the military, with four medallions commemorating the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. This is the second Washington Blvd bridge VDOT is replacing with a medallion-adorned new structure — just down the road, the new bridges over Columbia Pike will have medallions commemorating Arlington’s Freedman’s Village.

The new bridge was originally scheduled to start construction in 2014 and wrap up this year. VDOT has adjusted its timeline, and now expects to complete the bridge by May 2018.

Images via VDOT

by ARLnow.com — March 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm 810 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Rudy, a labradoodle transplant from Portland who ditched the “hipster lifestyle” to move to, according to one metric, the seventh-most hipster city in America….

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