76°Light Rain

by ARLnow.com — March 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm 826 30 Comments

County Board budget on 3/26/13Dozens lined up Tuesday night to ask the Arlington County Board to open the county’s purse strings just a bit more.

Most speakers at the 3 hour, 45 minute public budget hearing addressed the $9.3 million in proposed cuts to social programs, environmental initiatives, the arts and other county services — though some came to encourage additional cuts, namely to the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar.

The top issue at the meeting by speaker count was County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed cut of the county’s Child Care Office. Some 16 speakers, wearing yellow in solidarity, asked the County Board to reconsider the $250,000 budget cut, which would deregulate small home-based child care operations and return the regulation of larger child care businesses to the state.

County Board budget on 3/26/13“These extra services and higher standards helped us feel comfortable about using an in-home daycare provider in Arlington,” said Michelle Sagatov, a full-time working mom with two kids. “The state does not have the same standards.”

Lauren Harris, the owner of Little Ambassadors Academy in Arlington, said she opposes the Child Care Office’s closure, even though reverting to state regulations could allow her to have a higher and more profitable child-to-employee ratio.

Affordable housing was another hot topic, with about 9 speakers urging the County Board to invest more in affordable housing. Donnellan’s proposed budget, which is currently under consideration by the Board, calls for a total of $32.3 million to go to affordable housing — or 4.9 percent of the County’s general fund budget (excluding schools).

Tim Wise, of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, countered that the county spends enough on “the so-called affordable housing special interest.”

Wise and about a half dozen other speakers also called for the Board to cancel the $250 million Columbia Pike streetcar project.

“As an Arlington county resident, I appreciate our services and our relatively low taxes compared to D.C. and Maryland and even Fairfax,” said Lee Schalk, who works at the National Taxpayers Unions “But with our current budget gap… we must pump the brakes on this quarter of a billion dollar streetcar project. Instead of throwing away our tax dollars on an inefficient form of public transportation, based on questionable assumptions… the local government should work to keep spending and taxes in check.”

Schalk called the streetcar a “boondoggle” and said he was “not amused by the $1 million bus stop” on Columbia Pike.

At least one speaker urged the County Board to press on with the Columbia Pike streetcar project.

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by ARLnow.com — March 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm 2,078 33 Comments

The $39 million Route 50/Courthouse Road/10th Street interchange project is apparently running behind schedule.

The project was originally slated for completion this fall but, in a new county-produced video, Greg Emanuel, Director of Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services, says the project is now slated to be complete by the summer of 2014.

The VDOT website now lists “mid-2014″ as the completion date, though a recently-updated Arlington County project page still lists “fall 2013.”

“It’s a multi-phased project,” Emanuel said in the video (above.) “It takes some time, because while it’s going on we need to maintain traffic.”

Arlington is contributing $1 million to the $39 million cost of the VDOT-led project. Construction started in April 2011. Recent work includes a realignment of the ramp from Courthouse Road to westbound Route 50, and the January demolition of the bridge from eastbound Route 50 to Courthouse Road.

The Courthouse Road bridge, and the 10th Street bridge that was torn down last year, were both originally built in 1954. No word yet on when they’ll be rebuilt, given the change in the project timeline.

Emanuel says the project will make the interchange safer and will help traffic flow more smoothly.

“Right now traffic is kind of complicated at these intersections,” he said. “This is going to provide new acceleration and deceleration lanes, and make it much safer for the traveling public that’s coming on and off these intersections.”

So far representatives from VDOT and DES have not responded to a request for comment.

by Jason Howell — March 27, 2013 at 2:35 pm 426 6 Comments

Independent’s Day is an occasional opinion column published on Wednesdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Photo courtesy Jason HowellAs a society do we accept the responsibility to care for those less fortunate? As I sat in a packed room at the American Legion Auxiliary Unit in Vienna last Saturday, I asked myself this very question.

Social Action Linking Together (S-A-L-T.org) sponsored a “Richmond Legislative Wrap Up” which attempted to summarize the effects of their efforts on Virginia’s 2013 legislative session. The SALT organization, founded just over 10 years ago by John Horejsi, is a volunteer led organization focused squarely on the poor. Their website references the Conference of Catholic Bishops and “solidarity with those who suffer, working for peace and justice.”

Wow. This is hardly a political winner but SALT is no political organization. From the vantage point of my campaign last year, SALT was one of the few organizations that highlighted the working poor; those who work in the shadows of our 3rd wealthiest county in the nation.

Photo courtesy Jason HowellWith a website copyright dated for 2008, SALT is hardly a well oiled machine but knowing how to get people active and involved has to count for something. Nearly 13 political leaders accepted invitations and our Delegates Patrick Hope and Alfonso Lopez spoke to an audience of about 100 on a cold Saturday morning. Perhaps the most raucous applause was reserved for a 7th grade girl (pictured) named Rae Moar. Rae led her 7th grade class, her parents and a couple faculty members on an initiative to support the “backpack bill.”

What is the backpack bill? From my memory, it was a bill to provide school supplies to children who can’t afford them. Unfortunately, I can’t find one article about this online. But Rae apparently raised money for a lot of backpacks, received a well earned award, and spoke eloquently. Even 35th District Delegate Richard Saslaw felt comfortable stating, tongue-in-cheek, that Delegate Hope better watch out in about nine years.

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by ARLnow.com — March 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm 879 75 Comments

Sig Sauer handgun (photo via Sig Sauer)Police are looking for a man who allegedly pistol-whipped a ball-throwing bar-goer near Clarendon.

The incident took place around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 23. Police say a group of friends were returning from a bar and throwing a ball around, when the ball struck a black Range Rover that was driving by.

The owner of the SUV — described as a skinny man with a moustache and a foreign accent — got out of the vehicle and allegedly pistol-whipped the victim. The suspect then fled the scene and the victim was taken to the hospital for minor injuries.

From this week’s Arlington County crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 03/23/13, 3300 block of N. Wilson Boulevard. At 3:33 am on March 23, three friends walking home from the bar were throwing a ball between them when it struck a moving vehicle. The driver of the black Range Rover stopped and brandished a handgun. The subject exited his vehicle and struck the victim in the right cheek with the firearm. The subject fled the scene and the victim was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 5’10” tall with a thin build and a mustache. He had dark hair and spoke with a foreign accent.

Also in this week’s crime report, a woman is accused of stabbing her husband twice with a kitchen knife. The alleged incident took place in an apartment three blocks from the Courthouse Metro station.

MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 03/20/13, 2100 block of N. 18th Street. At 6:15 pm on March 20, a subject and her husband got into a physical altercation. The subject stabbed the victim twice with a kitchen knife. The victim was stabbed once in the left side of his chest and once in his left arm. The victim was transported to George Washington Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Shavonne Duncan, 46, of Arlington, VA was arrested and charged with malicious wounding. She is currently being held without bond.

The rest of the crime report, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com — March 27, 2013 at 12:30 pm 559 0

This week’s Pet of the Week honor goes to a pair of quirky dwarf hamster brothers named Pockets and MIRV. While the two share the same genetics and an extravagant cage in Arlington, they could not be more different.

Here’s what their owner wrote about them:

Pockets and MIRV are brothers born five months ago from the same litter. I adopted them from a local pet shop and they continue to call Arlington home.

Despite being brothers, the two roommates have vastly different personalities, like a smaller and furrier Odd Couple. Pockets – named for his check-based storage capacity – is shy, relatively tiny, and the cleaner of the two. When he was adopted, we noticed he was missing part of his left ear, which gives him an ironic “bad boy” look. If his cage was the mean streets of The Outsiders, Pockets would definitely be more Ponyboy Curtis than Dally Winston. He loves yogurt chips and hiding in an old margarine container called Ft. Butter.

MIRV – named after a type of ballistic missile warhead because his owner works as a nuclear wonk in DC – is always curious, willing to defend his cage through finger bites, and very messy. MIRV enjoys running and making a mess in his wheel at 6:00 am, which is good exercise for him and a cheap alarm clock for me. His favorite snack is a peanut.

We try to give them a fun and spacious living environment with two levels, two wheels, a couple hideaways, and a fresh supply of fruits and veggies always on the menu. Pockets and MIRV really like their doctors at SEAVS in Fairfax and look forward to calling Arlington home for many years to come.

The Arlington Pet of the Week is sponsored by Dogma Bakery, which has locations at The Village at Shirlington (2772 S. Arlington Mill Drive) and the Lee Harrison Shopping Center (2445 N. Harrison Street).

Want your pet to be considered to be the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email steph@arlnow.com. Each week’s winner receives a $25 Dogma gift card.

by ARLnow.com — March 27, 2013 at 11:30 am 5,773 79 Comments

Marine Corps Marathon scenes (photo by Wolfkann)Update at 2:55 p.m. — After a registration process beset by technical problems, the Marine Corps Marathon officially sold out as of 2:27 p.m.

On Twitter, marathon officials acknowledged the frustration of would-be registrants, many of whom reported issues accessing the registration site and getting their registration to go through.

“Thank you runners for your enthusiasm for the MCM and, just as important, for your patience today,” the marathon tweeted.

Earlier: Runners in Arlington and across the country are getting ready to exercise their index fingers in the mad dash to register for the Marine Corps Marathon.

Registration for the marathon, which starts and ends in Arlington, opens at noon today. Last year the marathon sold out in 2 hours and 41 minutes. Organizers are hoping that registration goes smoothly this year despite the crush of online visitors vying for one of the 30,000 entries.

“To best support the high demand and heavy volume of online traffic, the MCM has been working with the
online registration service to test system capacity to avoid delays and server issues,” said Rick Nealis, the race’s director. “We expect runners will have immediate success on registration day.”

The marathon has released a series of tips for registrants.

  • Once the registration form has been opened, fill out all fields thoroughly and completely and consider which items you want to purchase. Brooks training shirts and hats, Carbo Dining-In tickets, the MarathonFoto super coupon and the MCM Online Trainer will additionally be on sale on MCM registration day.
  • After submitting registration payment, a confirmation message will appear on screen. Print the message as it includes each individual runner registration ID number.
  • Don’t freak out if you fail to receive a confirmation email immediately after completing the registration process. The distribution of confirmation emails will be purposely delayed to reduce stress on system throughout open registration.

In advance of registration day, organizers released a video (seen below) highlighting the training and dedication of those who run the “People’s Marathon.”

The Marine Corps Marathon, now in its 38th year, is the third largest in the U.S. and the eighth largest in the world. This year’s race will take place on Sunday, Oct. 27.

Photo (above) courtesy Wolfkann

by ARLnow.com — March 27, 2013 at 10:20 am 1,250 68 Comments

Gov. Bob McDonnell visits Barcroft Elementary School (file photo)A hard-fought legislative victory for Arlington has been vetoed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

McDonnell has vetoed two bills that would have allowed Arlington County to levy a 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge. The Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) surcharge would have helped fund the county’s tourism promotion efforts, and was actually lobbied for by the Hotel General Managers’ Committee of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

Del. Bob Brink (D-Arlington), the sponsor of the House bill (HB 2303) that passed last month, says the governor called him on Monday night to tell him that he was planning to veto the bill. Gov. McDonnell said he was vetoing Arlington’s TOT bill, and a similar bill for the City of Fairfax, because he was concerned about Northern Virginia hotels being “placed in a competitive disadvantage in comparison with D.C. and Maryland,” according to Brink.

Sheraton National Hotel in Foxcroft HeightsThe local hotel tax surcharge increase bills came at the same time as a legislated increase in the regional TOT in Northern Virginia, as part of the state’s sweeping transportation funding package. McDonnell also reduced the Northern Virginia TOT increase from 3 percent to 2 percent on Tuesday.

(Other amendments to the transportation package made by McDonnell include a slight reduction in the proposed vehicle titling tax — from 4.3 to 4.15 percent — a reduction in the new annual fee paid by owners of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles — from $100 to $64 — and the reduction of a regional congestion fee.)

In a statement, Brink said that McDonnell’s veto of his bill will hurt, not help local hotels.

I’m disappointed that the Governor has taken this action and that the Arlington bill got caught up in the larger politics of the transportation bill. The concern that the Governor expressed to me — our hospitality sector’s competitive position in relation to neighboring jurisdictions — is the precise reason that Arlington’s hospitality industry sought this legislation. In the uncertain economic climate of the DC region, Arlington’s hotels need all the tools available to compete for tourism and business travel. HB 2303 would have given them one powerful additional tool, and I regret that our business community won’t have it at its disposal.

File photos

by ARLnow.com — March 27, 2013 at 8:55 am 1,675 83 Comments

East West Grill by Ddimick

Coyote Spottings in Arlington? — Some residents in the Leeway Overlee area of Arlington have recently reported spotting a coyote in their neighborhood. While video has proven the presence of coyotes — or at least one coyote — in Arlington, naturalists question whether the animal spotted might actually be a fox or a mangy dog. [NBC Washington]

GOP AG Debate at GMU Law Tonight — The George Mason University School of Law in Arlington will host a debate between the two Republican candidates for Virginia Attorney General tonight. The event, which is open to the public, will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be moderated by former attorney general and governor Jim Gilmore. [Republican National Lawyers Association]

Arlington ‘Avoiding D.C.’s Traffic Nightmare’ — Arlington County has managed to avoid the “traffic nightmare” that’s facing nearby D.C. thanks to a “multifaceted effort to curb car-dependence” that serves as “a regional model,” according to WAMU. [WAMU]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

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