There are eight community gardens around Arlington, and each has a wait list. At the South Four Mile Run garden, however, one gardener is wondering why the county is allowing the high-demand plots to fall into a state of disrepair.
“I am a co-gardener of a garden plot in the Fort Barnard Community Gardens, [and] if my garden plot looked the way that many of the plots on South Four Mile Run do, my plot would be considered abandoned and the privileges to the plot would be revoked,” the man wrote in an email to a county official. He asked that his name not be used in this article.
“Nearly all of the plots are in violation of one or more of the County Community Garden Rules,” the gardener wrote. “I waited for 2 years to get a garden plot. To see residents [who] have garden plots neglect them and not use them to their full potential is frustrating.”
The man called the Four Mile Run garden an “eyesore” and said sent photos along to prove it. He said the photos show:
- “Many of the plots were never cut back and cleared for the winter. Vines and weeds have overtaken many of the plots and fences. In some cases the vines have grown beyond the boundaries of garden plots.”
- “Many of the gardeners have erected 6-8 ft wooden structures that are crudely constructed to grow vines on. Many of the structures have collapsed, are broken, or leaning.”
- “Trash such as empty buckets, jugs, milk crates, tarps, propped up carpets that are used for weed barriers, wheelbarrows, shoes, lumbar, broken chairs, bed frames, and PVC pipes are some of the items that litter the garden plots.”
- “The fences that create the boundaries for the community garden are in disrepair. Many of the rails are broken and laying on the ground. In one garden plot the fence has been pulled down because of the weight of the weedy vines growing on it.”
The county’s 200+ community garden plots are in high demand among apartment and condo dwellers who have a green thumb but no land to call their own. But Jamie Bartalon, the landscape and forestry supervisor for the county’s parks department, says that regulations only require the gardens to be cleaned up in time for the summer growing season.
According to a recording of air traffic control radio, the pilot of the 737 reported a left engine failure as a result of the bird strike. The plane landed safely at Dulles just before 8:00 a.m.
The bird strike caused a bit of a scare on the ground. D.C. Fire and EMS crews near the Potomac River were put on alert after reports came in of an aircraft in distress. The situation recalled the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson” — when pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed a US Airways jet on the Hudson River after both engines were disabled by a flock of birds.
Bird strikes are actually not uncommon at Reagan National.
Despite the use of systems designed to scare birds away from the runways and alert air traffic controllers to their presence, a total of 24 bird-related incidents were reported at Reagan National last year, according to an FAA database. Of those incidents, 21 were reported as birds striking an aircraft and 3 were birds simply found injured on or near runways. Five incidents involved large birds, which are more likely to cause damage to an aircraft fuselage or engine.
Among the incidents:
- On May 1, 2010, a US Airways 737 ingested a large vulture into its #1 engine on approach. No damage was reported and the plane landed safely.
- On July 28, a United Airlines Airbus 319 struck a large bird on takeoff. The flight continued on to Chicago, where bird remains were then cleaned off the plane’s nose. No damage was reported.
- On August 8, a regional jet struck a large osprey on takeoff. Minor damage to the landing gear door was reported, but the plane continued on to Albany, N.Y.
- On October 7, an injured bald eagle was found near a runway. Crews retrieved the bird and brought it to an animal hospital. No bird strike was reported.
County staff notified residents that they intended to restrict parking to one side Edgewood Street between 1st Road and 2nd Road after finding that some fire trucks are too wide to fit down the narrow street with cars parked on both sides. As we reported after the Feb. 12 board meeting, members of the board seemed sympathetic to the association’s request that the restrictions to be put on hold until the county and neighbors could come to a mutually agreeable solution.
In a letter to County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman, LPCA President Natalie Roy makes it clear that the association views the parking question as an issue of county-wide importance. Roy says the group is worried about how the county plans to implement restrictions on other narrow streets.
“There are numerous streets similar to Edgewood in Arlington that are too narrow for a ladder truck – why single out Edgewood Street at this time?” she asks. “The parking policy should be reviewed immediately to arrive at a more objective, cohesive, defendable, and democratic approach to governing parking within the County.”
While acknowledging that Edgewood Street is indeed too narrow for a ladder truck to navigate, Roy suggested that the trucks may be less costly to change than the streets.
“To be clear, the LPCA is concerned about safety first,” Roy writes. “As opposed to re-engineering streets throughout the entire County, it might prove more cost-effective and less disruptive to explore acquisition of different emergency vehicle.”
See the full letter, after the jump.
Seventy degree temperatures and a tornado watch — sounds like spring, eh? Add this to the evidence: the Shamrock Shake has returned to McDonald’s.
The minty dessert has gotten a facelift since last year. All McDonald’s shakes now come in a clear McCafe cup with whipped cream and a cherry on top. And rather than a flat lime green color, the shake now appears to be a twisted green and white.
We’ve spotted the Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s restaurants in Crystal City and on Columbia Pike. Let us know in the comments if it’s at the McDonald’s closest to you.
Update at 12:50 p.m. — The tornado watch has been canceled.
Warm temperatures are going to give way to strong storms as a cold front moves through the region later today.
The National Weather Service just issued a Tornado Watch, warning that the storms could include tornadic activity. The watch is in effect until 4:00 p.m.
According to NBC 4, a person who was walking a moped across the Key Bridge was struck and killed by an SUV that then fled the scene. The officer was on the bridge investigating the accident when he was struck from behind by another vehicle.
The driver that hit the officer stayed on the scene and the SUV driver was later stopped in Maryland, NBC 4′s Tracee Wilkins reported. Both drivers are suspected of driving under the influence.
Initial reports suggest the officer briefly lost consciousness after being thrown into the striking vehicle’s windshield. He’s expected to be okay.
More Names Mentioned for Senate Seat — Is there a Democrat in Arlington County who’s active in local politics and who’s not thinking about running for the state Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple? Add Alan Howze, former Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman Peter Rousselot, county board member Jay Fisette and Del. Bob Brink to the five names we mentioned as possible candidates on Friday. [Sun Gazette, Washington Post]
Cava Still Hoping for Spring Opening — Construction has yet to begin on the new Cava restaurant on Clarendon Boulevard, but the owner of the upscale Greek restaurant still hopes to open by “late April or early May.” Cava currently has locations in Rockville and on Capitol Hill. [TBD]
Envirocab Still Wants to Expand – The general manager of Arlington-based Envirocab says the company is still hoping to expand. The county board rejected Envirocab’s request to add more cabs to its fleet of 50 hybrids in December. But the company says they don’t “even come close to covering the requests they get each weekend.” [WAMU]
Arlington Science Focus School Profiled — A local TV station takes a look at some of the unique learning methods at Arlington Science Focus school. [WUSA 9]
Numerous reports of downed power lines, toppled trees, dislodged traffic signs and blowing debris are coming in.
Among the reports we’re following right now:
- Downed power line on Four Mile Run Drive at George Mason Drive. Traffic is being diverted. Dominion is on the scene.
- Large tree down at 3700 North Harrison Street
- Awnings dislodged and glass broken at 3100 Clarendon Boulevard
- Compromised roof at 1300 South Arlington Ridge Road
- Updated at 5:05 pm. — Large tree down at 17th Street and North Utah Street
- Updated at 5:05 pm. — Wires down at 23rd Street North and George Mason Drive
- Updated at 5:05 pm. — Tree down at George Mason Drive and Four Mile Run Drive
- Updated at 5:05 pm. — Dominion is reporting 1,368 customers without power in Arlington
- Updated at 5:10 pm. – Wires down at 18th Street and South Edgewood Street
High winds have blown off part of the roof of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles building at 4150 South Four Mile Run Drive.
Firefighters report that a large section of the building’s metal roof blew off. The building has been evacuated. No injuries are reported.
A building inspector has been requested at the scene.
We took a few photos around Arlington this afternoon, before the really strong winds started blowing. The contrast between the blue skies and the quick-moving rain storms that passed through the area was quite striking.
Whipple has represented Virginia’s 31st Senate district since 1996. Before being elected to the state Senate, Whipple served on the Arlington School Board, the Arlington County Board and the Metro Transit Board.
News of Whipple’s retirement seemingly came as a surprise to some.
“Wow – another one!” Del. David Englin said on Twitter. “[Sen. Whipple has] been a champion for Arlington, good government, and progress.”
Others had press releases ready for the announcement.
“Senator Mary Margaret Whipple’s retirement from the Virginia Senate will leave behind a void that will be difficult to fill,” said Del. Adam Ebbin, who is running for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Patsy Ticer. Ticer announced her retirement last week.
Del. Patrick Hope had more praise for Whipple.
“Today, we honor the service of one of Arlington’s most dedicated and admired public servants,” he said in a statement. “I know I join Arlingtonians in thanking Senator Mary Margaret Whipple for over three decades of hard work, dedication, and service. She will surely be missed but her legacy will be long-lasting, not only to her constituents but to our entire great Commonwealth.”
As state political blogger Ben Tribbett points out on Twitter, Hope is thought to be considering a run for Whipple’s seat. Via an aide, Hope neither confirmed nor denied the rumors.
“Today is Mary Margaret’s day and we should honor her outstanding service,” Hope said.
Other names being floated as possible candidates for the seat are Tribbett, former lieutenant governor candidate Mike Signer, Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Mike Lieberman and county board member Barbara Favola.
“I applaud Sen. Whipple for her incredible insightful and thoughtful service,” Favola told ARLnow.com. “She has always been a wonderful role model and friend to me.”
“I think this is her day,” Favola said when asked whether she might run for Whipple’s seat. “I suspect over the weekend I’ll think about the next steps.”
Over the winter, crews narrowed the portion of Joyce Street from 15th Street to 16th Street. A sidewalk was added to the side of the road facing Virginia Highlands Park, and the width of the street was reduced from 40 feet to about 35 feet.
The changes were intended as traffic calming measures. Narrower streets, the county says, encourage drivers to slow down.
To slow traffic down even more, Arlington has added six car-length planters — three on either side of the street. Trees will be planted in the planters, which each take up what was once a parking space.
“They serve to visually narrow the roadway on a very long stretch that is not interrupted by intersections,” said Traffic Engineering and Operations Bureau Chief Wayne Wentz.
Wentz said that while one side of the street has cars parked on it throughout the day, the other side sometimes lacks parked cars. The empty parking spaces, in turn, make the street appear wider and result in people speeding up. The planters, Wentz said, will do the job of calming traffic even when parked cars aren’t present.
Wentz noted that the roadwork actually added two parking spots to South Joyce Street, so the net loss of parking is only four spots. But one resident worried that park-goers may soon be forced to leave their cars in the adjacent neighborhood.
“Those barriers on the side take up parking spots that fill up quickly during softball season!” said the resident. “I live at South Joyce and 20th and you can bet neighbors will be complaining about increased parking in their neighborhood.”
The construction was paid for by money set aside by the developer of the nearby Pentagon Row shops.
“The changes to Joyce Street were actually development conditions of Pentagon Row,” Wentz said.
Wentz expects the trees to be planted by mid-April. The county’s arborist will decide which type of tree will be planted. In addition to the six planters on the side of the road, road crews also added a planter in the middle of the road at a pedestrian crossing.
Dels. Bob Brink, Adam Ebbin, David Englin and Patrick Hope are all listed as members of the group.
“Progressive values are Virginia values,” Hope said in a press release announcing the caucus’ formation. “The Progressive Caucus serves to fight for the interests of the average citizen and to educate the public on Progressive issues.”
“While Virginia can be slow to change, we have to keep pace with the times when it comes to issues like stem cell research, global warming and society’s attitudes towards gays and lesbians,” said Ebbin. “As progressives, it is important that we stand together as we work to move Virginia forward.”
“It’s time for progressive legislators to organize and work together to advance the progressive values that we share, so we can keep our Commonwealth moving toward that day when every person – including the poor, the elderly, the week, the dispossessed – has a fair shake and an equal shot at the American dream,” Englin said.
Conspicuously absent from the group is Arlington’s state senator, Mary Margaret Whipple.
ECC Employees Overworked, Underpaid – Arlington’s emergency communications center is suffering from chronic understaffing and staff high turnover rates. The ECC, which handles 911 calls and police/fire/EMS dispatching, is hoping for a 10 percent boost in funding in this year’s county budget. [TBD]
Abortion Regulations Pass General Assembly — Gov. Bob McDonnell is promising to sign a bill that will impose new regulations on Virginia abortion clinics. The bill, which passed the General Assembly yesterday, would hold abortion clinics to some of the same stringent safety regulations as hospitals. Pro-choice groups are warning that the bill could force many clinics to close. [Washington Post]
Map Puts Arlington at Top of the Healthy Heap — Our congressional district, Virginia’s 8th, is the healthiest in the country, according to the American Human Development Project. As this map interactive shows, our residents are expected to live the longest of any other district in the country.
Hang On to Your Hats — Dangerously high winds are expected this afternoon.
Flickr pool photo by Reid Kasprowicz
(Updated at 9:20 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy proposed a budget Thursday morning that increases high school class sizes but grants teachers at least part of a desired pay raise.
The proposed FY 2012 budget includes a step increase for teachers and other school employees that was not granted last year amid a serious budget crunch. It does not, however, include a cost of living (COLA) increase. COLA increases used to be granted nearly every year until Arlington’s budget difficulties began two years ago.
Senior employees and employees at the top of the pay scale — who together make up about 33 percent of the work force — are not eligible for a step increase. Dr. Murphy is proposing a one-time payment of $1,000 to those employees. The total cost of all pay raises is estimated at
$16.4 $7.9 million. (The original $16.4 million figure included benefit and retirement increases.)
The new $470 million school budget raises the cost per pupil to $18,115, from a low of $17,322 last year and a high of $19,538 in FY 2009. The budget represents a $27.8 million — or 6.3 percent — increase over last year’s budget. It reflects, however, a projected enrollment increase of nearly 1,000 students over FY 2011.
The superintendent’s budget includes an increase in class sizes for grades 9-12, from 24.4 students per class to 25.4 students per class. Dr. Murphy leaves a one student increase in class sizes for grades K-8 as an “option” for the school board to consider. Dr. Murphy, facing a looming system-wide capacity crisis, also budgets for the purchase of 12 new relocatable classrooms.
“Capacity and enrollment will continue to be something we’re going to have to look at,” Dr. Murphy said, noting that Arlington schools still “have some of the smallest class sizes in the region.”
The budget includes some good news for supporters of the Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium.