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UPDATED: Vihstadt Wins County Board Special Election

by ARLnow.com | April 8, 2014 at 7:40 pm | 10,983 views | No Comments

(Updated at 11:35 p.m.) For the first time in 15 years, a non-Democrat will sit on the Arlington County Board.

John Vihstadt, a Republican who ran as an independent with the endorsement of the local Republican and Green parties, has won the special election to replace Chris Zimmerman (D) on the Arlington County Board.

Vihstadt captured 57 percent of the vote to Democrat Alan Howze’s 41 percent. Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy and independent Stephen Holbrook each captured about 1 percent of the vote.

“We won the race by a higher margin than my most aggressive expectations,” Vihstadt told supporters at his victory party tonight. “The most exciting and gratifying measure of our victory was that it was north to south and east to west. There really is one Arlington, not two Arlingtons.”

Given that the race hinged largely on the hot-button issues of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar and Long Bridge Park aquatics center, the result is likely to be viewed by many as a voter rebuke of the County Board’s major capital spending projects.

“People want cost-effective, results-oriented solutions on the local level,” Vihstadt said.

Vihstadt touted his “true rainbow coalition” of supporters. Those supporters included all three candidates for County Board in 2012: current Democratic County Board member and fellow streetcar critic Libby Garvey, Republican ARLnow.com columnist Mark Kelly, and frequent Green Party candidate Audrey Clement. Also supporting Vihstadt was Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, a close friend of Vihstadt and his wife, Mary.

“It was an easy call for me,” said Stamos, a lifelong Democrat. “He’s a good man and we need to sometimes think outside the box.”

“This is a victory for good government,” Garvey said. “I’m going to get choked up, this is Democracy at its best. This is the way it’s supposed to be.”

“The people have spoken and the County Board needs to listen,” Garvey added.

Vihstadt, whose yard signs were purple to represent a blend of red and blue politics, said he plans to “work in a collaborative fashion to get things done for the county.”

“This was a victory not for one person or one party, but for Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians and people with no party,” Vihstadt said. “I’m not going to be a captive of any political party, any person, any ideology — I’m going to call issues as I see them.”

Voter turnout today was relatively light, which benefited Vihstadt. With no state or national-level races energizing the Democratic base, its appears that many party-line Democrats stayed home. Total unofficial turnout was 22,209, or about 16 percent of registered voters.

Vihstadt will be the first non-Democrat on the Board since Republican Mike Lane served briefly after winning a special election in 1999. Lane lost in the general election several months later. Similarly, Vihstadt is expected to face Howze again in the November general election, when a U.S Senate and a House of Representatives race will be on the local ballot.

Howze told dozens of his supporters at the Democrats’ election party at Whitlow’s in Clarendon that he continues to believe infrastructure and education investments are the core values of Arlington voters.

“The special election is behind us now, and I look forward to continuing this conversation into November and moving Arlington forward,” he said. “There’s a lot at stake.”

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BREAKING: Man Struck, Killed By Metro Train Near Arlington Cemetery

by ARLnow.com | April 7, 2014 at 8:40 pm | 6,048 views | No Comments

Arlington County fire truck(Updated at 8:55 p.m.) A man was struck and killed by a Metro train between the Arlington Cemetery and Pentagon stations tonight.

The incident happened just past 8:00 p.m. According to Metro, the man was “apparently trespassing” on the tracks when he was struck by an inbound train approaching Arlington Cemetery.

“Security camera footage shows [the] subject intentionally walk onto the trackbed,” Metro Transit Police said via Twitter.

The man is dead and his body is between the tracks and a fence, according to scanner traffic. The striking train is still on scene with 80-100 people on board, firefighters reported.

The Blue Line is single-tracking and trains are running every 20 minutes as a result of the incident, Metro says. The agency is advising riders to use the Yellow Line as an alternate between D.C. and Virginia.

UPDATED: Dogs Rescued from House Fire Across From Yorktown HS

by ARLnow.com | April 3, 2014 at 11:00 am | 6,718 views | No Comments

(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Arlington firefighters are on the scene of a house fire across from Yorktown High School.

Neighbors called 911 to report the fire at 10:54 a.m., according to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. The first units on the scene reported flames and smoke coming from the attic of the home,on the 5200 block of N. Yorktown Blvd. The fire is believed to have started in the kitchen and made its way up to the upper levels of the home.

No one was inside the house at the time and no injuries have been reported, according to Marchegiani. Firefighters, however, located two dogs in the house and brought them outside to receive oxygen for treatment of smoke inhalation. They’re being transported to an animal hospital, according to scanner traffic.

There were unconfirmed reports of a female teenager who ran into the house looking for the dogs, but who had to then run back out. She was reported to be safely out of the house by an assistant principal at the high school.

As of 11:15 a.m., the fire was reported to be under control and crews were checking for hotspots.

BREAKING: Attempted Bank Robbery on Lee Highway

by ARLnow.com | April 1, 2014 at 2:10 pm | 2,495 views | No Comments

(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Arlington County Police are on the scene of an attempted bank robbery at the M&T Bank at the corner of Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road.

The crime happened around 2:00 p.m. Initial reports suggest a man entered the bank and demanded cash from the manager, but fled empty-handed. The suspect was unarmed and no one was hurt.

Police set up a perimeter and were looking for the man, who reportedly fled eastbound on Lee Highway on foot. He’s described as a middle-aged white male, weighing about 200 lbs, wearing all black.

A suspect is currently in custody, according to scanner traffic.

BREAKING: Worker Falls Four Stories from Condo Roof

by ARLnow.com | March 31, 2014 at 4:05 pm | 2,920 views | No Comments

(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) A construction worker has suffered serious injuries from a four-story fall off a roof in the Buckingham neighborhood.

The incident happened just before 4:00 p.m. on the 400 block of N. George Mason Drive. According to initial reports, the man fell from the roof of an under-construction, four-story condominium building onto a concrete surface below. The construction is for new townhouses in the Ballston Row development.

The victim was at least initially conscious and talking to those who came to his aid, but was bleeding from the head, according to scanner traffic. His injuries are described as life-threatening. He’s being transported via ambulance to the trauma center at George Washington University Hospital.

State occupational safety inspectors are being requested to investigate the incident.

Man Arrested After Pepper Spraying GMU Law Prof

by ARLnow.com | March 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm | 14,952 views | No Comments

George Mason University's Arlington campus (photo via Google Maps)A George Mason University law professor was pepper sprayed in his classroom today after a man tried to place him under a citizen’s arrest, according to Arlington County police.

The incident happened at GMU’s Arlington campus, near Virginia Square, around 3:00 p.m. Police say the man entered the classroom and attempted to place the professor under a citizen’s arrest. The professor tried to get the man — described as a white male in his 20s or 30s — to leave, at which time the man pepper sprayed him and a scuffle ensued, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

The professor did not know the man, Sternbeck said.

An off-duty police officer heard the commotion and tried to intervene. The suspect fled but was arrested outside the school by Arlington County police officers, according to Stenbeck. He’s now being questioned by police. Several charges are pending.

Paramedics evaluated the professor and about a dozen students who were in the classroom at the time and suffered residual effects from the pepper spray. There were no reports of anyone being taken to the hospital.

Photo via Google Maps

BREAKING: ACFD Battles Two-Alarm Fire in Falls Church

by ARLnow.com | March 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm | 5,509 views | No Comments

(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) Firefighters from Arlington and Fairfax counties battled a two-alarm fire in the central business district of Falls Church.

Units on scene reported flames coming from a 5-story office building at 150 S. Washington Street. Falls Church Police Department spokeswoman Amy Betor said it took firefighters “about 30 minutes to extinguish.” Scanner traffic reported there were initial problems with water pressure at the scene.

There were no injuries reported, despite the office building being occupied at the time.

The fire appears to have started from an electrical room on the second floor, Betor said. A web search revealed real estate company Redfin has an office in Suite 200 of the building, but those on scene couldn’t confirm which company’s office the fire started in.

Randy Karn works on the third floor of the building, and said he started smelling “something electrical burning” about 10 minutes before the fire alarm went off. 

“I went out into the office and after about 60 seconds it was filled with smoke,” Karn told ARLnow.com as he was standing outside the building. “It was time to go. I left my wallet, I left my keys, I left my laptop and got out of there.”

Arlington County provides firefighting services to the City of Falls Church under contract. Karn said he estimated the firefighters took between 10 and 15 minutes to arrive. The fire “had a hell of a time getting going,” building slowly, but flames were already showing out of the window by the time firefighters arrived on scene.

County Employee Pleads Guilty to Taking Bribes

by ARLnow.com | March 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm | 3,595 views | No Comments

An Arlington County employee has pleaded guilty to taking more than $10,000 in bribes.

The employee — a tax assessor supervisor in the county’s Department of Motor Vehicles Select office — admitted to taking bribes in exchange for allowing an exporter to avoid paying state taxes on luxury vehicles, including a Lamborghini and Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes, according to federal prosecutors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued the following press release about the conviction.

Francisco Samayoa Hernandez (“Samayoa”), 33, of Silver Spring, Md., pleaded guilty today to receiving bribes in connection with his work as a tax assessor supervisor at the Arlington County, Va., Department of Motor Vehicles Select office.

Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.

Samayoa faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison when he is sentenced on June 9, 2014.

In a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Samayoa admitted to receiving approximately $11,480 in bribes from a vehicle exporter in exchange for providing vehicle titles and falsifying Department of Motor Vehicle paperwork that allowed the exporter to avoid paying state motor vehicle sales and use tax in connection with the registration and titling of various luxury automobiles. In exchange for the bribes, Samayoa enabled the exporter to avoid paying approximately $24,923 due to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the registration and titling of a Lamborghini and multiple Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes.

Samayoa was an Arlington County employee, and the Arlington County Commissioner of Revenue contracts with the DMV to provide vehicle-related services at its local office.

Samayoa also admitted to serving as a straw buyer for the exporter and purchasing three BMWs in his name. In connection with these transactions, Samayoa falsely certified to a dealership that he was not purchasing the vehicle for export, and the dealership relied on that certification in making the sale.

This case was investigated jointly by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Virginia DMV Law Enforcement Division Office of Enforcement and Compliance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Nathanson is prosecuting the case.

Any person who believes they may have information regarding public corruption in the Northern Virginia area is encouraged to call the FBI’s Northern Virginia Public Corruption Hotline at 703-686-6225 or send an email to NOVAPC@ic.fbi.gov.

BREAKING: Barcroft Elementary Locked Down After Assault

by ARLnow.com | February 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 12,766 views | No Comments

Barcroft Elementary School 2-19-14(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Barcroft Elementary School was briefly locked down this morning after an incident involving a cafeteria worker.

Police say a cafeteria manager got into a verbal and physical altercation with school administrators around 11:15 a.m. The altercation moved to a cafeteria office — out of view of students — where the manager punched an assistant principal, threw water on him, and then brandished a knife in a threatening manner, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

Police were called to the school. Upon arrival, the suspect threatened officers, said she had a gun and then reached into a bag, Sternbeck said. The woman was tased by police. No gun was found, but she was in possession of the knife, Sternbeck said.

Paramedics evaluated the suspect and she was then transported to Virginia Hospital Center on a mental evaluation order. The assistant principal was not injured. So far the school system is not pressing charges.

“While we understand that many people would like to have additional details of this incident, it is considered a personnel matter, and we cannot divulge additional information,” Barcroft principal Colette Bounet said in a written statement. “I want to assure everyone that students are safe and were not affected by the occurrence.”

The school was locked down for about five minutes during the incident, according to Sternbeck.

UPDATED: Apartment Fire Near Rosslyn Started By Hot Embers

by ARLnow.com | January 21, 2014 at 6:45 pm | 3,850 views | No Comments

Arlington County firefighters responded to an apartment fire near Rosslyn Tuesday night.

Units on the scene reported flames coming from a third story apartment at the Rosslyn Heights apartment building on the 1800 block of N. Quinn Street.

A fire on the exterior balcony had extended to the interior of an apartment, according to the fire department Twitter account. The fire was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported.

The residents of three apartments were displaced due to fire, smoke and water damage.

Update at 4:15 p.m. on 1/22/14 — In a press release, the Arlington County Fire Dept. says this fire started due to improper disposal of hot embers.

Last night, Arlington firefighters responded to a fire that started on the balcony and quickly spread to the inside of the apartment. Fortunately, no one was injured and the fire was reported early, keeping damage to an estimated $20,000. The fire was caused when occupants extinguished a fire in their fireplace with water and placed the logs outside on the deck. The occupants knew that it was dangerous to leave a fireplace unattended, but did not know how to properly dispose of hot ashes and embers.

It is a common misconception that the ashes are safe once the fire is extinguished; however, ashes and embers can smolder for hours. Ashes must be disposed of properly to prevent these types of fires from occurring. Once the fire is extinguished, place the ashes in a metal container with a lid. Never place ashes directly into a trash can or paper bag. Move the metal container outside and away from all combustibles, including decks, garages, and leaves. Soak the ashes with water and re-cover.

The Arlington County Fire Department recommends you follow these safety tips when using a fireplace:

  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
  • Always use a metal or heat-tempered glass screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room.
  • Use only newspaper and kindling wood or fire starters to start a fire, never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned wood.
  • Never leave the fireplace unattended.
  • Allow ashes to cool completely before disposing.
  • Place ashes in a metal container with a lid. Move the container at least 10 feet from the building and saturate the ashes with water.

More information at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/heating/fireplace.shtm

Photo courtesy @hilary1121

UPDATED: Rep. Moran Announces His Retirement

by ARLnow.com | January 15, 2014 at 9:05 am | 2,960 views | No Comments

Rep. Jim Moran speaks at a ribbon cutting for S. Joyce Street renovations(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) announced this morning that he will not seek reelection.

In a statement (after the jump), Moran lamented the sorry state of the budget process in Washington, but said he was hopeful that with the recent bipartisan budget deal, things are getting back on track.

“I prepare to leave Congress feeling very fortunate, grateful for what we’ve accomplished, and optimistic for the future of Northern Virginia, the Washington Metropolitan Region, and our nation,” he said.

The announcement puts Moran’s long-held Congressional seat — representing Arlington, Alexandria and parts of Fairfax County — up for grabs. Already, electoral prognosticators are weighing in on what will likely be a political free-for-all among local Democrats.

Ben Tribbett, of the Not Larry Sabato blog, opined that the theoretical front runners in this year’s race to replace Moran include Del. Patrick Hope, state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette, former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley, Del. Charniele Herring, Del. Mark Sickles and Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay. Other names circulating around Twitter include Alexandria mayor Bill Euille, Del. Rob Krupicka and former Lieutenant Governor candidate Aneesh Chopra.

2012 Arlington County Democratic Committee chili cook-off and pie-eating contestMoran, now in his 12th term in the House of Representatives, has been an outspoken advocate and an effective budget appropriator for his constituents and the causes he supported, including federal employees, transportation infrastructure, immigration reform, gay marriage, gun control, and animal rights. Moran’s Congressional tenure has also been marred by occasional controversies.

In 1995 he engaged in a “physical confrontation” with Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.). In 2000 he was accused of attacking an 8-year-old boy in an Alexandria parking lot. In 2006 he said he would “earmark the shit out of” his House appropriations subcommittee post to steer federal money to Virginia’s 8th Congressional District. In 2010 he said his Republican challenger, a retired Army officer, hadn’t “served or performed in any kind of public service.” In 2011 he was accused in a book of “insider trading” (but never prosecuted). In 2012 his son, Patrick, resigned from Moran’s campaign after being caught on hidden camera seemingly going along with a scheme to commit voter fraud.

Despite the controversies, Moran’s Capitol Hill staffers say he is a man truly dedicated to public service, who speaks his mind and does what he thinks is right.

Rep. Jim Moran visits the Phoenix House treatment center near Ballston“He is exactly what you want in your local representative — he loves the people of the 8th District and is in politics for the right reasons,” said Anne Hughes, a former press secretary. “Moran is a fierce advocate for Northern Virginia and I know will be remembered not only for his contributions to the region, but also for being on the right side of history — from Iraq War to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — and speaking out loudly for those who can’t speak for themselves.”

“I have enormous respect for Moran, he leaves giant shoes to fill,” Hughes added. “And I will especially miss watching his raucous floor speeches.”

State Sen. Ebbin said in a statement that Moran “has represented the progressive values of the people of Northern Virginia.”

“He has been an advocate for our environment, a fighter for equality, and a strong champion of universal health care and the Affordable Care Act,” Ebbin said. “Northern Virginia is a better place to live and work because of Jim Moran’s leadership. I am proud to have been represented by him in Congress, and to have represented him in Richmond. After his decades of service to our community, I wish him a long and happy retirement.”

The full statement from Moran’s office about the Congressman’s retirement, and a statement from President Obama, after the jump.

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BREAKING: Fire at Columbia Pike Days Inn

by ARLnow.com | January 13, 2014 at 11:40 am | 2,301 views | No Comments

(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) Firefighters from several jurisdictions responded to a fire at the Days Inn on Columbia Pike this morning.

The fire started in an unoccupied room on the second floor of the motel, according to the Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. The blaze was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported.

According to Marchegiani, the fire department received the first call about the fire at 11:36 a.m. and the bulk of the fire was extinguished by 11:42 a.m. Firefighters are now packing up their equipment and the county fire marshal is investigating the incident.

Earlier, flames and smoke could be seen from the motel, located at 3030 Columbia Pike. Early video of the incident shows a significant amount of smoke coming from the structure.

For a period of time the eastbound lanes of Columbia Pike were blocked in the area of the motel. The lanes have since reopened.

Photo courtesy @OwenHassig

BREAKING: Suspects Apprehended after Bank Robbery

by ARLnow.com | December 31, 2013 at 1:55 pm | 3,418 views | No Comments

(Updated 2:20 p.m.) Three suspects have been apprehended after a bank robbery on Columbia Pike.

The Wells Fargo Bank at the corner of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike was robbed this afternoon, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Three suspects have been taken into custody, he said.

The robbery occurred around 1:20 p.m., according to scanner traffic.

Significant police activity at the intersection is impacting traffic and 16-line Metrobuses. Northbound George Mason Drive is closed at Columbia Pike.

 

UPDATED: Water Main Break Shuts Down Columbia Pike

by ARLnow.com | December 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm | 1,829 views | No Comments

(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) A large water main break has been reported on Columbia Pike, just in time to cause significant issues with the evening commute.

The water main break was reported at Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road, on the Arlington/Fairfax county line. Fairfax County police are shutting down the Pike in both directions between Carlin Springs and Route 7.

Police have shut down the eastbound side of the Pike to pedestrian traffic, because workers are cautious to prevent the sidewalk from collapsing into a sinkhole, according to police on the scene. Fairfax Water workers are trying to turn off the water — which is still pouring out of the sewer grates in the closed-off section of Columbia Pike — before beginning repairs.

There are no estimates so far for the timeline of work to be completed, so drivers should avoid the area entirely on their commute, if possible. As of about 5:30 p.m., Carlin Springs Road was backed up all the way into the Buckingham neighborhood, and several other roads in the area were also suffering major backups.

BREAKING: Man Charged in Fatal Memorial Circle Crash

by ARLnow.com | December 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm | 1,589 views | No Comments

U.S. Park Police badgeA Maryland man has been arrested and charged with negligent homicide following a fatal crash on Memorial Circle.

The crash occurred in the early morning hours of Friday, Oct. 11. According to police, a vehicle was heading outbound on the Memorial Bridge when it “lost control and overturned for unknown reasons” at the circle. At the time, the deceased — 36-year-old Katharine Jane Rahim of Reston — was said to be the vehicle’s sole occupant.

However, police now say the vehicle’s driver, 24-year-old Carlos Joel Alonso, fled the scene prior to the arrival of first responders.

“United States Park Police investigated the crash which revealed negligence of the operator resulting in the fatality of passenger,” according to a Park Police news release. “Alonso… left the scene [and] was found several hours later at Columbia Island Marina.”

Alonso, a Maryland resident, was arrested yesterday (Dec. 3) on charges of negligent homicide. He surrendered his passport and was released on bond, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Dec. 13.

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