Update at 11:20 a.m. on 8/27/2011 — An Arlington County spokeswoman says the county is not distributing sandbags, despite information provided to ARLnow.com yesterday.
Arlington County has declared a local emergency in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Irene.
Today, Acting County Manager Marsha Allgeier has signed a Declaration of Local Emergency for Arlington County in response to Hurricane Irene. The declaration was made because Hurricane Irene is a powerful storm with potentially damaging winds, rainfall, and storm surge that could cause flooding and other hazardous conditions in Arlington.
This declaration provides for increased coordination with state resources, and provides increased administrative authority permitting the County to take necessary actions to prepare for and respond to the storm. At this time, the County reminds residents to be prepared. For emergency preparedness information, storm updates, and information on cancellations and closings, visit the County website.
All county facilities — including libraries and community centers — will close at noon on Saturday and remain shuttered through Sunday. Artisphere will be closed all day Saturday. The lobby of the Arlington County jail will be open as a shelter of last resort for homeless individuals.
An emergency exercise scheduled to take place at Pentagon City mall on Sunday morning, meanwhile, has been canceled. In addition, the Columbia Pike outdoor movie scheduled for Saturday night, has been rescheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17 at 8:00 p.m. Also, we’re told that tomorrow morning’s Courthouse farmers market will be reduced in scope, as 14th Street and part of the county surface parking, where the market is held, will be reserved for emergency vehicle parking.
From the Associated Press to the New York Times to Iran’s Press TV, Wednesday night’s public forum on the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, held at George Mason University’s Founders Hall in Virginia Square, generated plenty of headlines.
The forum was organized as a listening session by a volunteer task force charged with recommending changes to Secure Communities, which Arlington tried and failed to opt out of last year.
After a raucous hour of impassioned speeches, about 150 pro-immigrant demonstrators marched and chanted their way out of the building, declaring the forum an “absolute sham” and demanding that the task force resign. The walkout — and many of the speeches and chants that preceded it — was choreographed by the group CASA de Maryland, which has been speaking out against Secure Communities since its inception.
Armed with signs and slogans, group members helped to pack the auditorium at GMU to its 300 person capacity. Numerous speakers — including ministers, monks, attorneys, activists and County Board member Walter Tejada — told of Secure Communities’ alleged impacts, from the deportation of teenagers to the threatened deportation of accident victims. While it’s supposed to help track down undocumented perpetrators of serious crimes, Secure Communities is not working as the Obama Administration intended, immigrant advocates argued.
The demonstrators’ pivotal moment came when two undocumented mothers, facing deportation proceedings, confronted Marc Rapp, who had been inconspicuously sitting in the audience, observing the proceedings. Rapp, the Department of Homeland Security official in charge of overseeing the Secure Communities program, was told through an interpreter that one of the women, Maria Bolanos, was picked up after she called police during a fight with her domestic partner. She decried Secure Communities and asked to be reunited with her children, as Rapp listened quietly.
Shortly thereafter the CASA protesters filed out of the room, shouting “end it, don’t mend it.” After a noisy demonstration outside the building, they marched down Fairfax Drive and into nearby St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.
Back inside at GMU, the discussion continued. Several people spoke in favor of Secure Communities. With the protesters out of the building, there were fewer hisses and boos as they spoke of the need to make sure the country’s laws are followed.
“If you’re going to be an illegal immigrant in this country, the least you can do is not do crime and not get arrested,” said Columbia Pike resident John Antonelli. Other speakers suggested the 9/11 terror attacks could have been prevented by stricter immigration enforcement.
Ofelia Calderon, an immigration attorney who works in Virginia Square, “thanked” members of the task force for the extra business she’s been getting because of Secure Communities.
We spotted some apparent earthquake damage in the Country Club Manor section of N. Arlington that may be at risk of getting worse if winds from Hurricane Irene are high enough.
The chimney of a stately brick house suffered significant structural damage near the top of the home’s roof after Tuesday’s quake. No word on whether it will be repaired or secured by Saturday evening, when the effects of the hurricane are expected to be felt in the metro D.C. area.
(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) Arlington County firefighters and paramedics helped to rescue an injured construction worker from one of the top floors of an unfinished office building in Ballston.
A large piece of glass reportedly fell on a worker on the 9th floor of the construction site at 800 N. Glebe Road around 12:30 p.m. Rescuers were apparently able to get the man down several flights of narrow stairs before loading him on to the basket of a ladder truck five floors below. The ladder was then lowered down to ground level as bystanders watched from across the street.
The man’s injuries were not said to be life-threatening.
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture is pressing for the ban after Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope succeeded in getting the state Department of Corrections to codify its pre-existing prohibition on the shackling of female inmates during and immediately after labor. The newly-implemented policy only applies to state prisons, however, not to local and regional correctional facilities.
“As people of faith, the members of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture recognize that restricting women prisoners during childbirth strips away the dignity from the sacred moment of a new life entering the world, desecrates the sanctity of both birth and life, and endangers the health and well-being of both mother and child,” the group said in a statement. “The cruel and inhumane practice of shackling in Virginia is a problem beyond the jurisdiction of the [Department of Corrections]. Virginia should join the 13 states that have enacted legislation to prohibit this barbaric practice. ”
Hope wants to do just that.
“Getting the Department of Corrections leading the way is a great thing,” he said. “They’re making [the policy] department wide… They’re sending a message that, I hope, the local and regional jails will mirror.”
Hope says that he will now ask local and regional facilities to change their policies internally, before pressing for legislation next year. Hope tried to sponsor an anti-shackling bill this year, but it failed to get out of a House of Delegates committee.
The Arlington County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the county jail, says it does not shackle pregnant inmates during labor, and only handcuffs one hand to the rail of the hospital bed during postpartum recovery, according to a recent article by The Crime Report. An inmate who gave birth 11 years ago, however, told the publication that she was shackled during the entire 12-hour delivery.
“Virginia cannot declare a victory in putting an end to the appalling practice of shackling of women inmates during childbirth until the Virginia General Assembly passes a law prohibiting it in all jails and prisons, at all levels, across the state,” the National Religious Campaign Against Torture said.
We’ve heard via email and Twitter that there’s a new door-to-door scam making its way around Arlington.
The sellers claim to be helping out “inner city kids,” perhaps by asking you to purchase books, according to tipsters. They also might mention something about “motivational speaking.” In the end, they ask for a large sum of money.
At least one resident called police after a visit by the salesmen. No word on which company or organization they claim to represent.
Storm Shopping Clears Shelves — Residents are taking the advice of emergency officials and shopping for essential items in advance of Hurricane Irene. At the Potomac Yard Target store last night, shopping carts were at a premium, milk was running low and bottled water was completely sold out.
Two Candidates Challenge Brink — Del. Bob Brink will have to work a bit harder to keep his 48th District House of Delegates seat. Brink is facing general election challenges from Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy and from McLean resident Kathleen Gillette Mallard, who has ties to the Tea Party. [Sun Gazette]
Major Crystal City Employer Purchased — Bloomberg LP has purchased the Bureau of National Affairs, a specialized industry reporting outfit headquartered in Crystal City. Bloomberg says it plans to run BNA, which has more than 600 employees, as a “stand-alone subsidiary.” [Washington Post]
Office of Emergency Management Video — Rest assured that Arlington County is ready for Hurricane Irene. But be a bit worried about the county’s ability to properly operate a video camera. [YouTube]
Fairfax Times Rips Off ARLnow.com Quote — The Washington Post-owned Fairfax Times has copied, verbatim, a quote from an ARLnow.com article on the 31st District state Senate primary without proper attribution. The quote from Betsy Wildhack only appeared on ARLnow.com — we were the only news outlet there at the time — but yet now appears at the end of a Fairfax Times article without any sort of credit or acknowledgement.