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by ARLnow.com — May 2, 2013 at 4:30 pm 604 0

Poor road conditions on Columbia PikeRoad construction season is underway in Arlington, but a concerted effort to improve overall road conditions won’t really ramp up until next year.

Arlington County crews will pave 49 lane miles this year, about 5 percent of the 974 lane miles of roadway maintained by the county. That’s a big step up from the 25 miles paved in 2009, 30 miles paved in 2010 and 36 miles paved in 2011. But it’s unchanged from the 49 miles paved last year.

The number of miles paved will jump next year, when extra funding kicks in thanks to the county’s FY 2013-2022 Capital Improvement Plan. Starting in 2014 and throughout the remainder of the CIP, the Arlington plans to pave 72 lanes miles per year.

Arlington County Paving Conditions as of FY 2013By paving 72 lane miles, Arlington will get on a 15-year paving cycle recommended by county engineers. As of 2012, the countywide average Pavement Condition Index (a measure of road quality from a scale of 1 to 100) was 68.9. The extra paving is projected to improve Arlington’s average PCI to 74.6.

(The average county street deteriorates to a PCI of 45 after 15 years.)

Arlington’s road construction season starts in March and ends at the end of October. Among the roads set to be repaved this year are portions of Wilson Blvd in and around Clarendon, as well as portions of N. Harrison Street, Four Mile Run Drive and Shirlington Road.

In Fiscal Year 2013, the county spent $7.55 million of its $1.05 billion budget on paving. In the just-passed $1.09 billion FY 2014 budget, it will spend $7.63 million. Next year, that is expected to increase to $11.24 million.

by ARLnow.com — May 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm 3,700 0

2013 NAIOP bus tour (photo via @RosslynVA)A bus tour of commercial real estate in Northern Virginia alarmed Arlington residents and workers who didn’t know what to make of the large police escort winding its way through local neighborhoods.

The annual tour is organized by NAIOP, a commercial real estate development association. This year the NAIOP Northern Virginia Bus Tour made stops in Arlington, Alexandria, and parts of Fairfax County including Tysons Corner.

“Considered to be one of the premier commercial real estate Bus Tours in the United States, NAIOP Northern Virginia’s 2013 Tour…  is a full day of information and news about our market,” said NAIOP’s website.

2013 NAIOP bus tour police escort (photo via @josephgruber)The tour involves multiple buses full of real estate professionals and local officials, and a sizable police motorcycle escort. Since it’s not very well publicized outside of the real estate community, locals didn’t seem to know what to make of it when it rolled by in Ballston, Clarendon, Rosslyn, Crystal City and elsewhere.

“Something weird is going on in Rosslyn,” said one reader, in a voicemail left for ARLnow.com. “There are cops everywhere.”

“A dozen or so ACPD motocycles, with sirens blaring, just escorted a number of buses, maybe 4 or 5, through Ballston,” said an email. “Any idea who was in the buses?”

“11 tour buses led by 30 cops on motorcycles riding through Clarendon… um what?” said a reader via Twitter.

“@ArlingtonVA PD has practically shut down Crystal Dr for the NAACP (sic) 2013 Bus Tour,” said another tweet.

The tour was scheduled to start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 3:00 p.m.

Photos via @RosslynVA and @josephgruber

by Mark Kelly — May 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm 909 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column by published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyLast week, I closed with a reference to the change in parking regulations for food trucks. If you talk to people in the restaurant business, they might find disagreement with what I had to say. It is not that they do not appreciate the the ability of entrepreneurs to start up a business. Their issues are more with the challenges they face in an area with a high cost of doing business. And, they take issue with the way Arlington County treats our existing business by way of taxes, fees, permitting issues, etc. Food trucks, they would argue, have it relatively easy by comparison.

It’s hard to argue with this perspective.

Our County Board once infamously took several hours to debate permits for the placement of sidewalk cafe tables for just two local restaurants. You had to be there to really appreciate the ridiculousness of the length of discussion. In fact, if you talk to most long-standing business owners around Arlington, they can probably tell you at least one story dealing with the county that will make you shake your head in disbelief.

The county certainly has not been able to fill ground floor retail space in new developments that had been promised. Yet, they have famously put businesses like the Westover Market through the wringer.

The way to benefit our employers and improve the options for consumers is to ease the burdens on our existing brick and mortar businesses. Here are three goals to start:

  1. Arlington should increase the efficiency of its permitting process. To further this goal, it should clarify its zoning rules and ensure greater consistency in their application.
  2. We should cut the commercial property tax surcharge in half permanently, or at least until it might be required for the ill-advised trolley project. Currently, this property is taxed at a rate 12.5 percent higher than residential properties. By cutting it in half, money would still be available for targeted transportation upgrades. More dollars would be left in our local economy, and it would not be at the expense of general fund dollars that go to county services.
  3. County Board members should investigate reducing or eliminating the Business Professional Occupational License (BPOL) tax. The BPOL tax is based on gross receipts rather than a tax on profits. In essence, it’s an additional sales tax that our businesses must remit. And, it is an additional paperwork headache for our small businesses.

In short, Arlington should constantly look for ways to hang a big “Open for Business” sign on the door. Encouraging more businesses to open and thrive will benefit all of us with more jobs for people who need them, more choices for consumers, and ultimately more taxpayers to help shoulder the load.

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

by Peter Rousselot — May 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm 627 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 Morning Notes story this week, ARLnow linked to a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette. The writer of the letter suggested enacting mandatory term limits for Arlington County Board members via a term limit ballot proposal.

Although the letter writer did not say so, his proposal would have to be authorized by a new Virginia law. Current Virginia law does not authorize such ballot proposals, although current law does authorize a petition process that could lead to the recall of an individual County Board member by Arlington’s voters.

The ARLnow story generated a huge outpouring of passionate commentary about the pros and cons of mandatory term limits. Many argued vehemently that term limits were the only way to change bad public policies. They attributed those bad policies to the dominance of Arlington’s local government by long-time Democratic incumbents.

Others argued just as passionately that in a democracy, it’s up to the voters to make these decisions. If the majority of Arlington’s voters keep electing Democratic incumbents, then the majority has spoken. For this group, that’s all there is to it.

Most people who participated in this ARLnow debate were convinced they were right, the other side was wrong, and they were not going to change their own opinions.

Regardless of the passion that mandatory term limit supporters are likely to retain, it just ain’t gonna happen. The Virginia legislature — composed entirely of incumbent elected officials — would have to change the law. Don’t invest your emotional energy counting on this possibility.

But, those who cavalierly dismiss complaints about Arlington’s public policy shortcomings, saying voters who want change can just vote out those long-time Democratic incumbents, are underestimating how hard that is to do.

So, what’s the solution?

The solution lies primarily in the hands of my party — the Arlington Democratic Party. There are two parts to it. The first is to make primary challenges more acceptable and more common. The second is to encourage more of our Democratic elected officials to limit voluntarily how long they remain in the same office.

We have a very talented and deep bench among Arlington’s Democrats. These men and women can hit major league pitching. They just need their turn at bat.

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by ARLnow.com — May 2, 2013 at 11:45 am 1,056 0

Building new schools may not be the only answer to overcrowding in Arlington Public Schools, School Board hopeful Barbara Kanninen said last night at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting.

Flexible scheduling, night classes in high school, and a school year that extends through the summer might ease crowding in middle and high schools without the expense and loss of open space associated building new facilities.

“We know right now that we have lots of kids coming… we’re building elementary schools right now but in five years they’re going to be heading to middle school and high school,” Kanninen said. “We need to think about where we’re going to educate them given that we might not have the money to build and we might not have the green space to build.”

Kanninen’s stance on building was one point of contrast between her and incumbent School Board member James Lander, who she’s trying to unseat. Kanninen and Lander debated at the ACDC meeting in advance of next week’s Democratic School Board endorsement caucus.

On school capacity, Lander emphasized the School Board’s existing construction plan and his “county-wide vision” — an apparent contrast to Kanninen’s north Arlington campaign focus.

“We’re growing by almost an elementary school per year,” he said. “We have a strategy in place, we’re building new facilities and we’re adding additions to existing facilities. We’re looking at and evaluating both middle school boundaries. This is something that takes experience and a county-wide vision.”

During the debate Kanninen spoke of her priorities: expanding STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — programs, individualized education and adult mentorships, and using analytics and her PhD in economics to help make “smarter, more efficient choices with taxpayer money.”

On many of those key campaign points, Lander echoed his own stances. He said students need STEM skills so they can grow up not to be workers, but “employers and entrepreneurs.” He touted a mentorship program he created for minority students. And he also emphasized the importance of a learning environment that adapts to the strengths of individual students.

“My approach to student achievement and student success is responsive education… and that mean meeting the needs of all groups,” he said. By way of an anecdote, he joked about how his sister was a bookworm while we was more likely to fall asleep while trying to read school books.

Both Kanninen and Lander said they support arts education and the use of school buildings by members of the community. Both also said that standardized tests have become too pervasive in schools and are detracting from the overall education of students.

Answering a question about bullying, Lander said APS has a “zero tolerance” policy toward bullies. Kanninen said adult support of “students’ social and emotional health” is paramount, and that students should always have an adult mentor to approach with issues like bullying.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — May 2, 2013 at 9:55 am 1,150 0

Tulip sunrise by Wolfkann

WJLA and NewsChannel 8 for Sale — Rosslyn-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7) has been offered for sale by Allbritton Communications. The company is seeking to sell WJLA and its companion cable channel NewsChannel 8 in order to continue investing in new media, like its Politico website and newspaper. Disney, owner of the ABC television network, is thought to be a likely buyer. [WBJ, Washington Post, Politico]

Brink, Lopez Announce Reelection Bids — Dels. Bob Brink and Alfonso Lopez announced their bids for reelection to the Virginia House of Delegates at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. As part of his speech, Lopez made fun of a Republican effort in the state legislature to study the creation of a Virginia-based currency. Lopez joked that he wanted his face on the Virginia $5 bill and Brink’s on the $10 bill, so that “in Virginia it would cost a Brink and a Lopez to buy a pizza.” [Blue Virginia]

‘Over the Edge’ Fundraiser in Crystal City — Today, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., people will be rappelling 15 stories down the Hilton Crystal City at 2399 Jefferson Davis Highway as part of a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. Among those scheduled to go “over the edge” today is Washington Nationals mascot Screech. The fundraiser will also run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. tomorrow (Friday). [Event Calendar, Special Olympics Virginia]

County Sells $206 Million in Bonds — Arlington County sold $206 million in bonds on Tuesday. The bonds were sold at a low 2.5 percent interest rate. The refunding of older bonds under the low rate will save the county about $5 million. [Arlington County]

Police Looking for Wallet Thief — Arlington police are looking for a man who allegedly stole a victim’s wallet in the Clarendon area last month. [ACPD]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

by ARLnow.com — May 2, 2013 at 8:25 am 3,265 0

Suspicious package in Crystal City 5/2/13 (photo courtesy Patrick McNeil)(Update 8:45 a.m.) Arlington police and the bomb squad closed the street in front of the TSA headquarters in Pentagon City for the third time in just over a week due to a suspicious package.

The package — described as a duffel bag or a backpack — was found on the 600 block of 12th Street S. around 6:15 a.m. The bomb squad carefully inspected the package and set up charges to “disrupt” it.

The “all clear” was given by a bomb technician just past 8:15 a.m. The road is now being reopened, as is the east entrance to the Pentagon City Metro station.

This was the third suspicious package on the same block in just over a week. Police say they don’t have any evidence of criminal activity.

“There’s a lot of construction in the area — a lot of laborers and construction workers bringing their stuff to that area, and with the heightened alert and the TSA headquarters there” authorities are taking every precaution, said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “We take every suspicious package call seriously, and it’s our duty and job to go out there and investigate and assume that it’s potentially hazardous.”

Photo courtesy Patrick McNeil

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