55°Clear

by Katie Pyzyk — June 28, 2013 at 4:45 pm 3,710 0

(Updated 6:10 p.m.) A short lived, yet strong, string of storms left patches of destruction and power outages after it whipped through the area this afternoon. Although all parts of the county sustained some damage, the worst reports seem to be coming from South Arlington.

According to Dominion Virginia Power spokesman Chuck Penn, as of 5:45 p.m. there were about 6,500 Arlington customers without electricity. Most of the 33,000 Dominion customers currently without power are in Alexandria. However, Penn noted that “this is a very dynamic, unfolding situation” so numbers are changing almost by the minute.

Crews are out right now determining what is causing outages in each neighborhood and fixing the problems as rapidly as possible. One area hit especially hard is in South Arlington at S. Columbus Street and Chesterfield Road. Penn says multiple power pole cross arms were broken and there are spans of wire down. Dominion crews re-routed the circuit and restored power to a number of customers in the surrounding neighborhoods, but others are still in the dark.

“It’s a rather labor intensive job that our workers are engaged in,” said Penn. “We are very much in the restoration mode right now.”

There are numerous reports of trees down and flooded streets. Motorists are reminded not to attempt driving through standing water, as it may be deeper than it appears. Drivers should also treat any dark traffic lights as a four way stop.

Arlington remains under a Flash Flood Warning until 7:30 p.m. and a Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 9:00 p.m. The Capital Weather Gang predicts storms off and on throughout the evening.

Photos via @Rock_Thrower, @Mrs_Dietz_, @Bruno8a

by Katie Pyzyk — June 28, 2013 at 3:50 pm 540 0

Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry logo (image via Facebook)The Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry (NOVAM) has released a statement saying it will cease operations at the end of the month, which is Sunday.

The non-profit organization is based just over the Arlington border in Falls Church, and has been in existence since 1987. It serves Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties, along with the City of Alexandria.

NOVAM offered a variety of services including HIV testing, prevention education for local youth, support for gay youth and transportation services for medical appointments.

The following is an excerpt from the statement released by NOVAM Executive Director Jane Beddoe:

“NOVAM was founded in 1987 with the mission to educate the community about HIV/AIDS, to combat the fear, prejudice and complacency that surrounds the disease, and to provide direct services to meet the needs of those living with HIV/AIDS. After 25 years of providing HIV/AIDS prevention education, testing, and outreach to the youth and young adults in Northern Virginia and basic assistance to HIV+ mothers and their families, we are proud of what we have accomplished and the people whose lives we have touched.

NOVAM is grateful for the collaboration we have shared with other HIV/AIDS service organizations and our community partners in Northern Virginia. It is our hope that the good work we have done continues through these organizations and those most vulnerable continue to be served.

The staff and board want to convey special gratitude to all of our donors and supporters who have sustained us over the years. Your generosity has been invaluable to our mission.”

According to the organization’s Facebook page, “NOVAM is supported by federal, state, and local grants, private foundations, diverse religious communities, and businesses and individuals in the community. It is assisted in its mission by dedicated volunteers who embody NOVAM’s philosophy of a compassionate response.”

There is no indication so far as to why NOVAM will cease operations. The organization’s website is not functioning and there has been no response to calls and emails from ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com — June 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm 1,145 0

From condos with views of the Washington Monument to cozy brick homes, check out these open houses in Arlington this weekend.

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

1020 Highland Street1020 Highland Street
1 BD | 1 BA condominium
Daniel Lesniak, Keller Williams Realty
Listed: $449,999
Open: Sunday, June 30 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

5724 8th Road North5724 8th Road North
2 BD | 2 BA single family detached
Patricia Toenniessen, Park Place Homes
Listed: $615,900
Open: Sunday, June 30 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

3216 7th Street South3216 7th Street South
3 BD | 3 BA single family detached
Ronald Cathell, Keller Williams Realty
Listed: $675,000
Open: Sunday, June 30 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

418 Edgewood Street418 N. Edgewood Street
3 BD | 2 BA single family detached
Ronald Cathell, Keller Williams Realty
Listed: $900,000
Open: Saturday, June 29 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

1201 Garfield Street North1201 Garfield Street North
2 BD | 2 Full BA, 1 Half BA condominium
Daniel Lesniak, Keller Williams Realty
Listed: $969,000
Open: Sunday, June 30 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

by Katie Pyzyk — June 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm 736 0

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) The National Weather Service has upgraded the Severe Thunderstorm Watch for Arlington and surrounding areas to a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. It is in effect until 4:30 p.m.

From NWS:

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR…
THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA…
SOUTHERN MONTGOMERY COUNTY IN CENTRAL MARYLAND…
NORTHEASTERN CITY OF FAIRFAX IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA…
CITY OF FALLS CHURCH IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA…
ARLINGTON COUNTY IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA…
CITY OF ALEXANDRIA IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA…
WESTERN PRINCE GEORGES COUNTY IN CENTRAL MARYLAND…
EASTERN FAIRFAX COUNTY IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA…

* UNTIL 400 PM EDT

* AT 328 PM EDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WAS DETECTED NEAR LAKE
BARCROFT…OR NEAR FALLS CHURCH…AND WAS MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH.
THIS STORM IS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60
MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE…
CRYSTAL CITY…
ROSSLYN…
GEORGETOWN…
THE WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE…
REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT…
ADAMS MORGAN…
NATIONAL HARBOR…
NATIONALS PARK…
ANACOSTIA…
US CAPITOL…

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

THIS IS A DANGEROUS STORM. IF YOU ARE IN ITS PATH…PREPARE
IMMEDIATELY FOR DAMAGING WIND GUSTS AND FREQUENT CLOUD TO GROUND
LIGHTNING. MOVE INDOORS TO A STURDY BUILDING AND STAY AWAY FROM
WINDOWS.

NWS has also issued a Flash Flood Warning until 6:00 p.m. Drivers are cautioned not to attempt to cross standing water, as it may be deeper than it appears.

More strong storms are possible tonight, and the area remains under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 9:00 p.m.

by Katie Pyzyk — June 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm 485 0

David Cristeal, Arlington County Housing DirectorArlington County has named David Cristeal as its new Housing Director. Cristeal had been acting in the position since the retirement of Ken Aughenbaugh earlier this year.

Cristeal has served as the County’s Housing Development Supervisor for nine years. He is lauded for leading his team in enhancing and implementing affordable housing financing and planning tools, working with partners to leverage federal and state funding and making policy recommendations to address the county’s affordable housing challenges.

“The County conducted a nationwide search for this key position and had a strong pool of applicants,” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan in a press release. “We chose David because he has a solid track record of working successfully with Arlington community members and non-profit partners to plan and preserve affordable housing. We know he’s the right person to carry out Arlington’s aggressive affordable housing program.”

Cristeal spent time working with the community to develop affordable housing recommendations for the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan. He is also recognized for his efforts in helping the county preserve or build more than 2,300 affordable housing units between 2004 and 2012. His team provided recommendations for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) on 20 developments totaling $120 million.

“David’s experience with the financial tools we use to develop affordable housing really set him apart from the strong pool of applicants,” said Robert Brosnan, director of Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

Prior to arriving in Arlington, Cristeal served as Housing Director and as Housing and Community Revitalization Director in Wake County, NC. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Geography and City Planning from the University of Wisconsin – Platteville and a Master’s in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina.

by ARLnow.com — June 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm 378 0

Your Cheesemonger logo

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Katie Carter, cheesemonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

Winter is, by far, the busiest season for cheesemongers. Holidays and family gatherings call for great food and cheese is always invited. The quieter summer months, on the other hand, allow cheese professionals to visit farms and creameries, attend cheese conferences and food shows, and compete in cheese competitions.

Events like these elevate our appreciation and knowledge of handmade cheese and help propel cheese to higher levels through the sharing of ideas and information. To a cheese professional, there’s nothing better than geeking out with other pros and enjoying many new cheeses, all while pondering the future of cheese. We come back to the cheese counter refreshed, full of insight, and ready to take on the next busy season. Here are just three out of many events coming up soon.

4th Annual Cheesemonger Invitational; June 29, 2013 in Long Island City, NY

This Saturday, hundreds of cheese professionals and lovers will flock to a cheese warehouse in Long Island City, NY for this annual cheesemonger competition. Cheesemongers from across the country (even a cheesemonger from Hawaii!) will compete for the title of best cheesemonger. Battles include an exam, crafting a “perfect bite”, and creating a beverage and cheese pairing on the fly.

This event, held by cheese importer Adam Moskowitz, is really more cheese insanity than a formal competition. It is a party, a friendly competition, and a celebration of the art of selling amazing cheese. And, yes, Your Cheesemonger will be there competing and mingling with her fellow mongers and makers. You can follow the competition on twitter @afinacheese or @larkin4life.

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival; July 21, 2013 in Shelburne, Vermont

This all-day festival, held at the historic Shelburne Farm, features over 40 Vermont cheese producers, as well as other Vermont food artisans. In addition to sampling handcrafted cheese, guests can attend cooking and cheesemaking demos and sit in on a few cheese related workshops. Though I have never been, I am sure Vermont is an absolutely beautiful escape from the D.C. region’s sweltering summer heat.

(more…)

by Katie Pyzyk — June 28, 2013 at 11:30 am 1,146 0

Rendering of proposed sports and entertainment complex in AlexandriaAn unsolicited proposal from a private entity has been submitted to the City of Alexandria to transform Hensley Park into a sports and entertainment facility. Although parts of the proposal appear strikingly similar to Arlington County’s plans for the Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, so far the County Board is not concerned.

The Alexandria City Council discussed the proposal it received from The St. James Group LLC during its meeting on Tuesday. The plan involves a long term lease of the 15 acre city owned property currently occupied by Hensley Park.

The Alexandria proposal includes amenities such as an Olympic sized pool and water play area, climbing wall and racquetball courts. Those features had already been included in Arlington’s long term plan for Long Bridge Park.

Arlington County Board Chair Walter Tejada said although there may be similarities, he doesn’t anticipate that a private facility in the southwest part of Alexandria would impact Arlington’s plans.

“I wouldn’t necessarily jump to conclusions. I think our approach is much different,” he said. “We have a public facility we are creating, but this is private proposal. The context is so different.”

In fact, Tejada believes it could be considered a compliment that other jurisdictions may be interested in creating facilities similar to Arlington’s.

“The best flattery or compliment is duplication,” he said. “It’s flattering that someone would want to copy or do something we’re already doing.”

Renderings of the future Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health & Fitness FacilityTejada noted that because Arlington’s complex is publicly funded, residents from all walks of life will be welcome to use it. Because that may or may not be the case with the private proposal for Alexandria, Tejada said “we aren’t concerned” about the threat of competition.

“For our project we are looking to be inclusive, so people of all incomes and backgrounds will have access to our facilities,” said Tejada. “Whereas in a private facility it’s for profit and the purpose is whatever the personal group sets forth, so that’s a different matter.”

Kendrick Ashton, Jr., Co-founder and Managing Partner of The St. James Group, agreed that the intent was not to create competition between the two jurisdictions. He said Northern Virginia has a great need for sports facilities that isn’t being addressed.

“There’s certainly a tremendous need in this area for enhanced aquatics facilities,” said Ashton. “I think given the dearth of high quality aquatic facilities at this point, the region needs more of them. It’s not competitive at this point.”

The group looked for potential locations for the complex in Arlington, Fairfax and other localities, but no options appeared as feasible as the Henley Park land. Ashton reiterated that although the Alexandria complex would likely draw visitors from around Northern Virginia, it isn’t expected to create competition for Arlington’s $80 million Long Bridge Park facility.

The City of Alexandria’s website assures the public that it has not gone forward with any plans, it has simply heard the proposal from The St. James Group. The website reads:  “All that has happened is that an outside party has made an unsolicited proposal to the City about a potential use of City-owned land. Neither City Council nor City staff have reached any conclusion about the merits of the proposal, nor have made any decisions other than the decision to evaluate it.”

The St. James Group will hold a public meeting to further explain the proposal on July 1, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on Eisenhower Avenue. The City of Alexandria stresses that the meeting will not be led by or sponsored by the city, so residents should not consider it an official public hearing.

According to the timeline offered in the proposal, the hope is to have a recommendation from Alexandria by October regarding whether or not to move forward. If the City Council determines that a sports and entertainment complex is a feasible option, it will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to allow any interested party to make a bid. If the City Council decides such a facility is unnecessary, the process will end without any further action.

“We have to wait and see what becomes of it. They’re evaluating it, like anyone would,” Tejada said. “We’ll see what happens. For us, we’re focusing on our own project.”

Meanwhile, there has been no change announced to the schedule for the next phase of the Long Bridge Park project. In January, Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.com that construction on the project is expected to begin this fall.

Despite some resident concerns over the cost of the facility, Tejada said the county will continue on with it and make all efforts to keep the project on budget.

“I think that we certainly will continue to practice our best fiscal management qualities that have earned us a AAA bond rating from all the bond rating agencies,” said Tejada. “It’s important to remember that we have a sound fiscal management record. I know sometimes that may get lost when one or two projects may be in the news.”

by Katie Pyzyk — June 28, 2013 at 10:00 am 964 0

16G Metrobus (photo courtesy WMATA)ART Bus on George Mason Drive

Starting next week, some riders of the two major bus service providers in Arlington will notice schedule changes.

Metrobus will begin its service changes this Sunday, June 30. Different schedules will go into effect on various lines throughout the metro area, but the following are the major changes in Arlington:

16A, 16B, 16D, 16E, 16J, 16P Columbia Pike

  • A new time-point will be created at Columbia Pike and Orme Street due to the demolition of Navy Annex. The westbound time-point for Columbia Pike and John Marr Drive will be moved one stop east to Columbia Pike & Evergreen Lane to allow for a common time-point for all lines. Scheduled times will be adjusted one minute earlier from the times shown for the John Marr Drive time-points.

16G, 16H, 16K Columbia Heights West-Pentagon City

  • A new time-point will be created at Columbia Pike and Orme Street due to the demolition of Navy Annex.

16X MetroExtra Columbia Pike-Federal Triangle

  • The westbound trip leaving 11th and E Street NW to Pentagon at 6:40 p.m. will be extended to Culmore arriving at 7:23 p.m. in response to customer requests for a later limited stop trip to Culmore.
  • MetroExtra designated stops will be added at Columbia Pike and Oakland Street in response to customer requests. This location is halfway between existing MetroExtra stops at Glebe Road and George Mason Drive. Scheduled trips will be adjusted by one minute to accommodate the additional stop at Oakland Street.
  • Weekday peak a.m. westbound and p.m. eastbound short trips between Pentagon and Federal Triangle will be adjusted to operate every 20-35 minutes. Trips leaving Federal Triangle at 9:24 a.m. and 9:44 a.m. and Pentagon Station at 6:40 p.m. will be discontinued.

16Y MetroExtra Columbia Pike-Farragut Square

  • MetroExtra designated stops will be added at Columbia Pike and Oakland Street in response to requests from customers. This is approximately halfway between existing MetroExtra stops at Glebe Road and George Mason Drive. Scheduled times will be adjusted by one minute to accommodate the additional stop at Oakland Street.

Information about all the schedule changes throughout the system can be found on WMATA’s website.

Changes to ART 45, 53 and 75 schedules will go into effect on Monday, July 1. They are as follows:

ART 45

  • Will no longer serve S. Greenbrier Street. Instead, from Carlin Springs Road, the route will remain on 8th Road past Greenbrier, turn right onto S. Dinwiddie St. and then turn left onto Columbia Pike. The schedule will remain the same. ART 41 will continue to serve S. Greenbrier Street.
  • The following bus stops will no longer be served by ART 45: Columbia Pike EB at S. Frederick St (#75106), S. Greenbrier St SB at #835 (#45015)
  • The following bus stops will be added to the ART 45 route: 8th Road S. EB at #5100 (#15041), S. Dinwiddie Street SB at 8th Road S. (#41233), S. Dinwiddie Street SB at Columbia Pike, NS (#41001)

ART 53

  • A new extension to Westover will be added to the route during morning and evening rush hours. The extension will go from East Falls Church Metro, down Washington Blvd. to Westover and then loop back to Washington Blvd. via Patrick Henry Drive and 16th St. N./N. Longfellow St. The extension will serve the shops at Westover, Swanson Middle School and the Westover Library.
  • New eastbound bus stops will be located at: Washington Blvd and N. Quantico Street, Washington Blvd and N. Ohio Street, Washington Blvd. and N. McKinley Street
  • New westbound bus stops will be located at: Patrick Henry Drive and Washington Blvd., N. Longfellow Street and Washington Blvd., Washington Blvd. and N. McKinley Road, Washington Blvd. and N. Ohio Street, Washington Blvd. and N. Quantico Street.

ART 75

  • Schedule frequency will be changed to every 30 minutes during morning and evening rush hours and every 45 minutes between 9:00 a.m.-2:15 p.m. and after 8:00 p.m.

More information about the ART changes, including route maps and full schedules, can be found on the Arlington Transit website.

by Katie Pyzyk — June 28, 2013 at 9:00 am 774 0

Virginia Square Fountain (Flickr pool photo by ddimick)

Officials See Positives in Voting Rights Act Ruling — Although civil rights activists have expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act earlier this week, some local officials see a few benefits in the decision. Election officials no longer need approval from the U.S. Department of Justice on election matters down to the precinct level. That will allow them to make decisions on the fly, such as extending absentee voting or holding a voter registration drive. [Sun Gazette]

State Reissues Arlington’s Municipal Stormwater Permit — The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) reissued Arlington’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. Arlington is the first municipality in the state to receive an MS4 permit that includes quantitative pollution reduction requirements to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The new permit is in effect through mid-2018, during which time Arlington is required to decrease its share of the nutrient and sediment reductions by five percent. [Arlington County]

Arlington Company Receives $100 Million from Goldman Sachs – Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), a Ballston-based maker of cloud based data analysis software, has received a $100 million minority investment from Goldman Sachs. APT plans to use the funding to open an office in Japan and take on more clients. The company lists Wal-Mart and McDonald’s among its existing customers. [Bloomberg]

Flickr pool photo by ddimick

by Katie Pyzyk — June 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm 11,756 0

Union Jack's in BallstonUnion Jack’s in Ballston got the go ahead to reopen tonight, following a forced closure by the county health department on Monday due to a lack of hot water. However, the establishment will close its doors for good next week.

According to a Union Jack’s employee, the pub’s last day in business will be on Monday, July 1. It has been in the Ballston Common Mall for about four and a half years.

The employee said a series of events led to the owners deciding to close the pub, including several pieces of equipment breaking down. The overall issue, however, is that the restaurant “just hasn’t been doing as well” as the chain’s other locations. All of the other locations will remain open, we’re told.

Although no formal farewell party has been announced, staff is considering the last few days in business an unofficial farewell. The Union Jack’s employee who confirmed the closure added that there will be decent specials over the next few days because the restaurant will be “getting rid of a lot of stuff.”

by Mark Kelly — June 27, 2013 at 2:45 pm 566 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column 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 KellyThe County finally launched its review of the $1 million Super Stop. The review will wrap up near the end of the year and promises to find a lower-cost alternative for the other planned stops.

The review will contract with three firms. One will review the design. Another will review the finances and performance of the original contract. These first two beg the question, why did we not make finding a better design that kept people dry when it rains and resulted in a lower-cost alternative a priority before we started the project?

In what can only be described as absurd, the County also announced it would pay $7,500 to a firm who will survey users of the Super Stop. Only in Arlington would the review of how to keep costs down on a project include spending $7,500 to see how bus riders feel about it.

It signals that County leaders are not the least bit serious about this review from a cost perspective. Had ridicule from national news not rained down on this project, the County would have most likely never agreed to undertake any study of its costs. Really, what’s a million dollars among friends and neighbors anyway?

The first Super Stop built in anticipation of the Columbia Pike trolley line gives us fair warning about what the real costs of building, operating and maintaining this project really will be. Worse, it gives us fair warning about our County Board’s lack of concern in keeping costs at a reasonable level.

It should also make us stop and ask, what other money is the County wasting? It goes back to my earlier call for 100% spending transparency. Put the County’s checkbook online. It is our money. We need to see how all of it is being spent.

The technology is affordable and readily available. A simple, searchable website could be stood up quickly and easily. Private data and information can be protected. In fact, we could most certainly stand it up for far less money than was wasted on the bus stop or what we will spend on the review.

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

by Katie Pyzyk — June 27, 2013 at 2:05 pm 635 0

In light of strong storms that are expected to blow through the area this afternoon and evening, the National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Watch for the D.C. metro area, including Arlington. It is in effect until 10:00 p.m.

From NWS:

TORNADO WATCH 377 IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1000 PM EDT FOR THE
FOLLOWING LOCATIONS

VA
. VIRGINIA COUNTIES INCLUDED ARE

ARLINGTON FAIRFAX LOUDOUN

VIRGINIA INDEPENDENT CITIES INCLUDED ARE

FAIRFAX

Storms could bring strong winds and flooding tonight and tomorrow. More from NWS:

LOW PRESSURE AND ITS ASSOCIATED COLD FRONT WILL LIKELY TRIGGER
SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING. SOME
THUNDERSTORMS WILL BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING DAMAGING WIND
GUSTS…LARGE HAIL AND HEAVY RAINFALL THAT COULD LEAD TO ISOLATED
FLASH FLOODING. AN ISOLATED TORNADO CANNOT BE RULED OUT IN THE
STRONGER STORMS…ESPECIALLY ACROSS NORTHEASTERN MARYLAND.

A SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE MARYLAND PORTION OF
THE CHESAPEAKE BAY AND LOWER TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER FROM 10 AM TODAY
THROUGH TONIGHT.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN…FRIDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY

NUMEROUS THUNDERSTORMS WILL DEVELOP ONCE AGAIN ON FRIDAY. A FEW OF
THESE STORMS MAY BE SEVERE…PRODUCING DAMAGING WINDS GUSTS.

LOCALIZED FLASH FLOODING WILL BE POSSIBLE SUNDAY THROUGH TUESDAY
DUE TO REPEATED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ACROSS THE REGION.

by Peter Rousselot — June 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm 775 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 an earlier column, I explained why Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell’s willingness to use a $15,000 gift from a Virginia businessman to pay for food at McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding was a serious lapse of ethical judgment — regardless whether the failure to report that gift violated Virginia’s notoriously lax conflict of interest laws.

Under existing Virginia law, public officials are allowed to accept gifts of any value (even $1 million!), provided only that they disclose gifts valued at more than $50. McDonnell has attempted to defend himself with respect to his failure to disclose the $15,000 gift on the grounds that the gift was to his daughter, not to him.

Little did I realize when I wrote that earlier column that Governor McDonnell and his family also have been guilty of a significant number of other bewildering and inexcusable ethical lapses involving charging Virginia taxpayers for various personal expenses. Those expenses included dog vitamins, sunscreen, body wash, nasal spray, sleep inducing elixirs, and a “digestive system detox cleanse.”

The dollar amounts of money improperly charged to taxpayers for these personal items do not appear to be of the same magnitude as the earlier $15,000 gift, but the insensitive and tone-deaf mindset revealed by these charges is even more troubling.

Regardless whether “it’s against the law,” elected officials have an obligation to set an example for the public by adhering to the highest standards of ethical behavior. They should be asking themselves this question: “if this is made public, what is the average person likely to say?”

If the average person is likely to say the behavior is wrong, then that same person will be justifiably unimpressed by an elected official’s defense that what was done “isn’t illegal in Virginia” or “is okay because the money I received was less than [insert dollar amount that triggers some legal liability.]”

When elected officials are in a position to grant public benefits to a private person or company, they just shouldn’t accept gifts from that person or company beyond some token amount (say, $50 or $100). Nor should they enter into any contractual relationship with that person or company — period.

Just because Virginia law says it’s legal, it doesn’t make it right.

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

by Katie Pyzyk — June 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm 1,899 0

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Tom Yum District has become the latest addition to the Rosslyn food scene. Following test runs during a soft opening period and a grand opening party last night, the restaurant officially opened its doors to the public today at 1515 Wilson Blvd.

Co-owner Mel Oursinsiri and co-owner/chef Aulie Bunyaratapan have been working on the concept for more than two years. The idea is to offer Thai food in a fast, casual environment instead of at a traditional sit-down restaurant.

The couple like the convenience of Chipotle and the freshness of Subway, so they decided to create a similar restaurant featuring Thai food.

“When I saw Chipotle when they first got here, we right away thought, ‘this is it,’” said Bunyaratapan. “Thai food with this type of concept is very new. People can enjoy fresh, healthy, fast, convenient, very simple food.”

Customers choose from four bases including jasmine rice or pad thai noodles, and from four proteins like chicken, shrimp or tofu. They can then mix and match with the five house-made sauces and 10 toppings.

Bunyaratapan said some people aren’t familiar with Thai food and are afraid to try it, but Tom Yum District lets customers dive in with less of a commitment than traditional restaurants. She said this concept allows people to try a variety of Thai dishes at once because “the price is right.”

In addition to the food, Tom Yum District serves Thai beers and will likely serve wine at some point in the future.

The restaurant will be open for dinner, but the couple said what really drew them to Rosslyn is the “great lunch crowd” and the fact that it’s “a great neighborhood.” They also own Bangkok Joe’s in Georgetown and T.H.A.I in Shirlington

by Katie Pyzyk — June 27, 2013 at 10:45 am 1,444 0

The Verve Pipe (photo courtesy Arlington County)The Second Annual Arlington County July 4th Celebration at Long Bridge Park is just one week away, and we now know the headlining act will be a multi-platinum selling rock band.

Revelers can listen to The Verve Pipe while waiting to watch the fireworks display on the National Mall, which is expected to begin at 9:10 p.m. The band is known for its 90s hit “The Freshmen.”

The event runs from 3:00-10:00 p.m. next Thursday. Live entertainment kicks off at 3:30 p.m. with WAMMIE award winning band “The Grandsons,” followed by the Army Voices ensemble from the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” and then D.C. area party band “Jeff from Accounting.”

"Fourth of July Fireworks from the Netherlands Carillon" by Clint FarrellFamily friendly activities include a hula hoop contest, potato sack races, kickball games, line dancing, moon bounces and face painting. Local food trucks will also roll in to feed the masses.

More details about the bands and all of the activities offered at the celebration can be found online.

Two other popular places to watch the fireworks from Arlington include the Marine Corps Memorial and the Air Force Memorial. Police will be working traffic control in those areas in addition to helping near Long Bridge Park. ACPD has not yet announced a list of road closures.

Anyone heading out to celebrate is reminded that grills, fireworks and alcoholic beverages are prohibited on county and federal park lands.

Disclosure: Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation is an ARLnow.com advertiser

Flickr pool photo by Clint Farrell

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