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County Board Backpedals on Cutting Staff Raises

by Ethan Rothstein | April 18, 2014 at 3:35 pm | 1,040 views | No Comments

County Board Chair Jay Fisette(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Two days after the Arlington County Board voted to offset a one-cent tax rate cut by eliminating a pay raise for county employees, the Board has changed course.

County Board Chair Jay Fisette told ARLnow.com Friday afternoon that, after the Board met with representatives from the police and firefighter unions this morning, it decided to cut from other areas to make up the $6.6 million gap in the budget the tax cut will create.

The Arlington County Police Union, the Arlington Police Beneficiary Association and the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association (Local 2800) each released statements denouncing the Board’s decision to go against County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation to keep the property tax rate at 2014′s level of $1.006 per $100 in assessed value — and to pay for it by eliminating pay raises in favor of a “modest” 1 percent Cost of Living Adjustment and a one-time $500 employee bonus.

The decision was made in the days leading up to Wednesday’s budget mark-up, leading the police and firefighters to question the process and transparency of the Board’s budget process.

“Throughout the budgetary process that started in September 2013, there were no discussions by the County Board that indicated that step increases would be eliminated,” Local 2800 said in a statement. “Only now, six days before the vote, have we been informed… We understand that there needs to be a balance and restraint in the current economic times but there also needs to be transparency.”

The APBA said the cut in step increases would have hit twice as hard because the county changed employees’ healthcare plans this year, resulting in increases in premiums as high as 7 percent for some employees.

“Not only is this budget cut targeting employees in one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., it also was made at the 11th hour, outside of Arlington’s well-accepted and long-established budget process and after the last opportunity for public comment,” the APBA said in a statement.

“It is the opinion of the APBA and Union that this last minute decision is politically motivated as a newly elected County Board Member was just sworn into office,” APBA member Jim Tuomey said in a separate email. “We feel this is a last minute effort for the County Board to try and ‘win over’ the voters by saving a penny on the real estate tax rate at the expense of all County employees and we have no opportunity to be heard at future work sessions with the budget adoption next Tuesday night.”

Fisette said the Board unanimously decided to cut the tax rate “a few weeks ago,” before the April 8 special election that saw John Vihstadt became the first non-Democrat elected to the Board since 1999 by a 57-41 percent margin over Democrat Alan Howze.

The decision to do away with the step increase came as a shock to the employees because it hadn’t been mentioned in any public hearings or meetings. Moreover, Fisette said, it’s rare that the Board goes away from the county manager’s recommendations on compensation. It’s particularly rare that the Board lowers salaries or cuts pay raises, Fisette said. (more…)

Your Beermonger: Just Because You Like It

by Nick Anderson | April 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 322 views | No Comments

Your Beermonger logo

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

The best teacher I ever had growing up was my high school art teacher, Jeff Meizlik. As a young man with an interest in art, music, Jeff’s skill as a sculptor and painter along with his interest in nearly every subject made him feel like a kindred spirit; someone I could look up to and relate to at the same time.

My school had an annual Art Day, where the students from the various art classes (visual arts, ceramics, photography, etc.) would display their work, making a sort of pop-up art gallery for the day. For my freshman year Art Day display, I’d asked Jeff if I could hang something I’d been working on at home. It was a simple pencil drawing, but something I’d put a decent amount of working into and that I thought I’d done a good job with.

When he said no, I argued my case for the piece that I liked so much before he dropped the best piece of advice I could have gotten on me, not to mention “words for life” that I refer to even now: “Just because you like it doesn’t mean it’s good.”

I thought about Jeff’s words when I read about Brewer’s Association Director Paul Gatza’s address at last week’s Craft Brewer’s Conference in Denver. You can read a more in-depth account of Gatza’s speech and some of the associated conversation here, but the big point of his address was that with craft beer growing at such an amazing rate, there are more and more homebrewers “going pro.” He talked about a beer festival he’d attended and the beers he’d tried from new breweries, many of which had only been founded over the past couple of years. Where these brewers (and their fans) thought their beers were great, Gatza found them lacking in quality.

“(W)e need to improve it,” Gatza said of the overall level of beer being produced by these new breweries. He noted that with the growth of the industry over the past few years, opportunities abound for those who want to get into the craft beer business, offering a simple plea to those who are planning to do so: “Don’t f–k it up.”

Gatza explained the dangers of new breweries putting out sub-par beer: “With so many brewery openings, the potential is there for things to start to degrade on the quality side, and we wouldn’t want that to color the willingness of the beer drinker to try new brands. If a beer drinker has a bad experience, they are just going to go back to companies they know and trust.”

Solutions include regular lab testing to catch potential chemical flaws that can make even the best recipes feel “off,” and willingness on the part of brewers to receive and process constructive criticism. The good news is that I’ve never met a brewer who isn’t open to getting “notes.” Also the craft brewing community is a tightly knit one; John Harris of the recently opened Ecliptic Brewing in Portland said it best to the Denver Post: “If you are having problems with beer, ask others for help…(d)on’t be too proud. We can help each other make our beer better.” (more…)

Wakefield HS Theater to Perform Monty Python Musical

by Ethan Rothstein | April 18, 2014 at 1:55 pm | No Comments

Wakefield Spamalot flyerWakefield High School’s theater department is conducting a performance of the Tony Award-winning musical “Spamalot,” based on the comedic film classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The production will be held at 7:00 p.m. May 2, 3, 9 and 10 in the school’s auditorium (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street).

The musical, which ran on Broadway from 2005 to 2009 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2005, is based around the classic movie, with original songs and, as Wakefield’s press release said, “a bevy of beautiful show girls, not to mention cows and killer rabbits.” The show is considered PG.

Tickets will be $10 and are sold at the door only. More information can be found on the Wakefield theater’s website.

Image courtesy Devin Shirley

I-66 Eastbound Shut Down Due to Accident

by Ethan Rothstein | April 18, 2014 at 12:45 pm | 1,644 views | No Comments

Crash on I-66Update at 1:20 p.m. — Arlington County announced that a tow truck is on scene and all lanes of traffic should open shortly.

All lanes of I-66 eastbound at N. Sycamore Street are currently shut down as police and firefighters clear the scene of a multi-vehicle accident.

Virginia State Police, and Arlington County police and fire and rescue workers responded just before 12:30 p.m. to a three-car crash, including one of the cars suffering a head-on collision, according to scanner traffic.

At least one driver was injured in the crash and required medical transport, but it’s unclear the extent of the driver’s injuries at this time.

Traffic is reportedly getting by on the left shoulder, but drivers should avoid the area for the time being.

Open Houses in Arlington This Weekend

by Ethan Rothstein | April 18, 2014 at 12:00 pm | 491 views | No Comments

After a week’s hiatus, open houses are back in Arlington this weekend, with even a few offerings on Easter Sunday.

See our real estate section for a full listing of open houses. Here are a few highlights:

834-s-greenbrier-street834 S. Greenbrier Street
2 BD / 1 BA condominium
Agent: Roberths Gil, Keller Williams Realty
Listed: $159,990
Open: Sunday, April 20, noon to 3:00 p.m.

3917-14th-street-s3917 14th Street S.
2 BD/ 1 1/2 BA single family detached
Agent: John Clayburn, Re/Max Executives
Listed: $499,650
Open: Saturday, April 19, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

3064-s-glebe-road3064 S. Glebe Road
3 BD / 3 1/2 BA condominium
Agent: Stacy Hennessey, McEnearney Associates
Listed: $525,000
Open: Saturday, April 19, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.

1530-key-blvd1530 Key Blvd
1 BD / 1 1/2 BA condominium
Agent: Keri Shull, Keller Williams Realty
Listed: $599,000
Open: Saturday, April 19,. 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.; Sunday, April 20, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

1618-n-kenilworth-street1618 N. Kenilworth Street
5 BD / 3 1/2 BA single family detached
Agent: Meg Ross, Keller Williams Realty
Listed: $925,000
Open: Sunday, April 20, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

5731-6th-street-n5731 6th Street N.
5 BD / 4 1/2 BA single family detached
Agent: Paul Donaldson, Re/Max Allegiance
Listed: $1,249,000
Open: Saturday, April 19, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Concrete Crosswalks in Ballston Deteriorating

by Ethan Rothstein | April 18, 2014 at 11:05 am | 1,383 views | No Comments

Crosswalk at Fairfax Drive and N. Stuart Street (courtesy photo)(Updated at 1:10 p.m.)The concrete, brick-like crosswalks that cross Fairfax Drive in Ballston and other main roads around Arlington are susceptible to disrepair and are more costly to fix than an average sidewalk.

The crosswalks, called “pavers,” were installed by the county on VDOT roads like Fairfax Drive, Lee Highway and Columbia Pike. They were built roughly 20 years ago as part of a county project to try to construct a brick-like crosswalk without material as fragile as the clay that bricks are made from.

“When brick sidewalks in old cities were in vogue, the industry developed concrete pavers as a flexible and durable surface for sidewalks that could adapt to tree roots without cracking and looked attractive in many areas,” county Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman told ARLnow.com. “However, the heavy volumes of large vehicles such as what is typical of Fairfax Drive and most major arterials where Arlington has such crosswalks installed have made them very difficult to maintain as they’ve aged and become more prone to failure.”

Heilman said the crosswalks, like the one on N. Stuart Street crossing Fairfax Drive, captured by an ARLnow.com tipster in a state of disrepair on Tuesday, costs $20 per square foot to repair, which is four times the cost of repairing a standard concrete sidewalk.

Because of this winter’s extreme weather, the many crosswalks have been repaired with asphalt, like the ones at Lee Highway and N. Military Road and Columbia Pike at S. Walter Reed Drive. In high-density areas like Ballston that see a comparatively high volume of car and foot traffic over the crosswalks, developers and property owners contribute to the repair of the crosswalks through a county pedestrian maintenance program.

The crosswalk above, however, was repaired quickly by the county because it’s near a major transit hub. Heilman said there are 70 crosswalks with concrete pavers in the county at 35 intersections, but there are no plans to install any more in the future. Residents can report crosswalk failures to DES online.

Courtesy photo

Taste of Arlington is One Month Away

by Ethan Rothstein | April 18, 2014 at 9:30 am | 1,121 views | No Comments

Taste of Arlington 2012Taste of Arlington, the annual street festival in Ballston, returns on May 18.

The event, hosted by the Ballston Business Improvement District, will close down Wilson Blvd and part of N. Stuart Street to accommodate about 50 restaurant booths, two live music stages, a beer and wine garden, three golf putting holes and a rock climbing wall.

Among the restaurants being featured are Willow, the yet-to-open Kapnos, World of Beer, Big Buns, Pete’s Apizza, Circa and Red Rocks, among others. The restaurants will compete in competitions for best appetizer, best entrée and best dessert. The beer and wine garden will also feature national and local breweries like Port City in Alexandria, Devil’s Backbone, Flying Dog and Starr Hill, plus wine and sparkling wine from Barefoot.

The event will go from noon to 5:00 p.m., rain or shine. Tasting tickets can be bought online 10 for $30 before May 1, and 10 for $35 after that. Tickets for unlimited beer, wine and champagne, plus seats to watch the tasting up close can be had for $100, and $110 after May 1,  in the VIP champagne tent. Starting April 23, Harris Teeter locations in Arlington will also be selling ticket packets at a discount.

Before the event, at 10:00 a.m., there will also be a 5k organized by Girls on the Run, open to runners of all ages.

Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. File photo

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | April 18, 2014 at 8:00 am | 1,686 views | No Comments

Fort Bennett Park (photo courtesy Rick Shewell)

Rosslyn Startup to Be Featured on ‘Shark Tank’ — Rosslyn-based startup Zoobean will be featured tonight on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Zoobean, which describes itself as “a web service that recommends apps and books for children,” will pitch itself to a panel of wealthy investors, including billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. The show airs at 9:00 p.m. on ABC. The company will also be profiled as part of ARLnow.com’s “Startup Monday” feature next week. [PR Newswire, Des Moines Register]

Pentagon City Mall Expansion Imminent — Work is expected to “begin soon” on a planned 50,000 square foot expansion of the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. The expansion will add two new levels of retail, restaurants with outdoor seating, new elevators and escalators, and an expanded food court. Mall owner Simon is also expected to announce some of the new restaurants and retailers coming to the mall “shortly.” [Washington Business Journal]

We, The Pizza Eyes ‘Late Spring’ Opening – We, The Pizza, the pizza restaurant helmed by celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn, will be opening soon in Crystal City. No specific date has been set, but a spokeswoman said the restaurant is expected to open in “late spring.” Mendelsohn also operates burger restaurant Good Stuff Eatery in Crystal City.

‘Miss Gay Arlington’ Pageant Tonight — The Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Freddy’s Beach Bar in Crystal City (555 23rd Street S.) will host the annual Miss Gay Arlington pageant tonight. Four contestants will compete in four categories: presentation, talent, evening gown, and on-stage question. The event starts at 8:00 p.m. and admission is $10. [AGLA]

Enterprise CarShare Launches in Rosslyn — A car sharing service from Enterprise Rent-A-Car has launched in the D.C. area. Two of its car share parking stations are located in the Rosslyn area. [Enterprise CarShare]

Photo courtesy Rick Shewell

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