In an email to county employees (below), Donnellan — the top executive in county government — said she would step down June 30.
Pending the selection of a new, permanent county manager, Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz will serve as acting county manager.
Schwartz, a 30-year Arlington resident, has served in county government since 2005. He was the county’s Chief Financial Officer before being named Deputy County Manager.
Donnellan’s resignation, while somewhat unexpected, comes at a time when some local leaders have been privately questioning the county government’s ability to effectively execute large-scale projects. Such grumbles were exacerbated by the cancellation of the county’s delayed and increasingly expensive streetcar project.
In a press release (below, after the jump), County Board Chair Mary Hynes praised Donnellan’s leadership.
“Barbara has been the consummate professional County Manager,” Hynes said. “She has kept her eye on the needs of Arlingtonians — residents and businesses — and given her heart, her intellect, and her passion to serving this community for more than 30 years. All five County Board members are tremendously grateful to her.”
Donnellan’s letter to county staff:
It has been my honor and pleasure to serve Arlington County since 1983. From my various seats – including budget analyst, finance director, director of libraries, County Manager – I have had the privilege of being part of, and helping to build, our community. And we have a lot to be proud of.
I have served Arlington County with great pride for more than three decades. While I feel in my heart that I could lead this organization for many more years, it is the right time for me to retire and start a new chapter in my life. My last day will be June 30, 2015.
Any success that I have had throughout my Arlington career has only been possible thanks to you. You are energetic, thoughtful, smart professionals who dedicate yourselves to helping to build our community. My gratitude to you is boundless.
The County Board has named Mark Schwartz as Acting Manager; he will do a great job and I know you all will support him as you have supported me.
We have an excellent leadership team in place and I have every confidence that I will leave Arlington in great hands. I will honestly miss the laughter and joy that we all shared each day, while accomplishing much for the community. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all that you do for our community.
I’ll be on the job for another couple of months and I hope to see you around the County. I have built deep connections in Arlington over many, many years, and I will undoubtedly be seeing you around Arlington in the years to come. I hope our paths cross again, and often.
Barbara M. Donnellan
After the jump, Arlington County’s press release about Donnellan’s resignation.
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlington County Police were involved in a vehicle and subsequent foot pursuit through the Lyon Park and Courthouse neighborhoods this afternoon.
The pursuit started around 12:20 p.m. According to initial reports, an officer trying to make a traffic stop on Route 50 at 10th Street N. was dragged when the driver took off.
Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said the suspect, a D.C. resident, was pulled over for a red light violation. Police found a gun in the suspect’s car after taking him into custody.
The chase went through Lyon Park and ended following a foot pursuit at Fairfax Drive and N. Barton Street, next to Rocky Run Park in Courthouse. The suspect’s car blew out its two right tires and crashed into a squad car. He consequently took off running in the neighborhood and was caught soon afterwards.
Sternbeck said that initial reports that the officer was dragged were slightly overblown. He was leaning into the Chrysler Pacifica when the suspect took off, and was carried for about five steps before he could disengage. The officer didn’t suffer any injuries, Sternbeck said, just “muddy boots.”
N. Barton Street was blocked off between Fairfax Drive and 11th Street for about two hours. Police officers and a K-9 conducted searches for an item the suspect might have thrown out of the car during the pursuit, but Sternbeck said he didn’t know if anything was recovered.
(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Arlington County medics, firefighters and the hazmat team are on the scene of a Clarendon apartment building for a potential case of Ebola.
The call came in just after 9:30 this morning, for a possible Ebola patient in the new Beacon at Clarendon apartment building at 1128 N. Irving Street. According to ACFD spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani, the department dispatches an Ebola response out of an abundance of caution when a sick person has a travel history and symptoms consistent with a case of the deadly virus.
“While it’s unlikely it’s Ebola, the fire department and the responding hospital are taking all appropriate precautions,” Marchegiani told ARLnow.com.
As of 10:30 a.m., the patient had been transported to Virginia Hospital Center. No definitive diagnosis has been made at this point. Building management declined to comment.
N. Irving Street is blocked between Washington Blvd and 13th Street, according to scanner traffic, but as of 10:30 fire department units were starting to clear the scene.
The last and only other reported instance of a suspected Ebola case in Arlington happened at the Pentagon on Oct. 17. In that case, the patient was found to have made false statements about her travel history — she did not have Ebola.
Update at 5:40 p.m. — In a press release, Arlington County says that the patient most likely does not have Ebola.
Arlington County Fire Department this morning transported a person with fever and a history of recent travel from an Ebola-affected area to the Virginia Hospital Center (VHC) for evaluation. The person had no known exposure to any Ebola cases, and medical findings are not consistent with a diagnosis of Ebola. The person was being monitored by Arlington County Public Health Department (ACPHD) officials under the statewide Virginia Department of Health Arriving Passenger Monitoring Program.
ACPHD will continue to monitor this person, as well as other travelers in the monitoring program, through their entire possible incubation period (21 days). People in the travel monitoring program will continue to be instructed to call 9-1-1 if they are medically unstable or if they do not have private transport. If EMS staff respond, they will wear appropriate personal protective equipment before transporting the person with symptoms.
Arlington County Public Health and Virginia Hospital Center are working together — in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health — and followed the recommended course of action for such cases. There is no cause for public concern.
Hospital staff and first responders are highly trained to take appropriate precautions for all high-risk patients, routinely drilling and preparing for just such situations. The health and well-being of the community are a primary concern for both the County and VHC, and we want to reassure everyone that the hospital environment is safe for all patients.
To learn more about the Ebola virus, visit the County website, where you can also get answers to frequently asked questions about Ebola. You can also call the Virginia Department of Health’s Ebola Call Center at 877-ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343).
The smoke was originally said to be on the Foggy Bottom side, about 800 yards from that station. D.C. firefighters also responded to the Foggy Bottom station.
As of 9:00 p.m., Arlington firefighters were being told that the fire was closer to the Rosslyn station and firefighters prepared to enter the tunnel with Metro maintenance personnel.
Firefighters have not seen any sign of smoke, and as 9:20 p.m. it was determined that the fire was extinguished after power was cut to the third rail. Arlington fire units are now being put back into service.
*UPDATE* Rosslyn Metro. Fire is out. Releasing all units.
— ARL Firefighters (@IAFF2800) February 22, 2015
According to earlier scanner traffic, trains were single tracking outbound to Virginia through the tunnel, but are not currently running inbound. With Metrorail service suspended over the Yellow Line bridge due to snow and ice accumulation, that meant that no Metro trains were running from Virginia to the District.
— Shoshana Weissmann (@senatorshoshana) February 22, 2015
As of 9:15 p.m., Metro said service over the bridge had been restored and Yellow Line trains were running again. Metro also said trains were single tracking in each direction between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom. Metro is advising Blue, Orange and Silver Line riders to expect delays.
SERVICE UPDATE: Due to ice/snow buildup on Yellow Line bridge, all Yellow trains will run btwn Huntington & Foggy Btm, via Rosslyn. #wmata
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) February 22, 2015
Blue Line: Trains are single tracking btwn Pentagon City & Foggy Bottom due to track problem outside Foggy Bottom. Expect delays in both dir
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) February 22, 2015
During the incident, Arlington firefighters said they were having trouble communicating with their D.C. counterparts, possibly due to D.C.’s use of encrypted public safety radios.
— ARL Firefighters (@IAFF2800) February 22, 2015
Tejada, a Democrat, made the announcement on his Facebook page this afternoon. He thanked his supporters and promised that “a more comprehensive statement will be forthcoming.”
An advocate for diversity, affordable housing and Latino issues, Tejada has served on the Board since 2003. He said that he intends to serve out his current term through the end of the year.
At least four — probably more — Democrats are expected to announce their intention to run for County Board in the coming weeks, with many announcements expected to happen at February’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. County Board Chair Mary Hynes is also up for reelection this year — she has not yet said whether she intends to run.
Tejada’s full announcement is below.
Amigos/Friends, I want to let you know that I have decided not to run for reelection to the Arlington County Board. I want to THANK ALL OF YOU as well, regardless if you live in Arlington or not, as your support has always been and will always be important to me. Please also know that I’ll continue involved in the causes I believe in specially helping our community.Here is the statement I sent to the Chair of the Arlington Democratic Committee:
Kip Malinosky, Chair
Arlington County Democratic Committee
It has been and continues to be an enormous privilege to serve in elected office and I’m very proud that during my tenure, Arlington has been recognized time and again as one of the best run governments and one of the best communities in the country. After proudly serving the Arlington community for twelve years on the County Board, I have decided not to seek the Democratic nomination for another term.
Serving on the County Board has allowed me the opportunity to tackle a broad range of issues that have strengthened our community. It has also been a real privilege and honor to seek ways to empower low income, minority and immigrant residents in Arlington, the region, the state, and across the country, and to encourage their participation in our society. I remain committed to all of Arlington, in particular ensuring that the least privileged are heard, protecting our safety net, fighting for affordable housing, and providing a voice for many who frequently go voiceless. I have enjoyed upholding these core values, and will continue to do so in the future.
A more comprehensive statement will be forthcoming, but for now I wanted to let you know of my intentions. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the February ACDC monthly meeting, but look forward to addressing the committee in the future, perhaps at the March meeting.
At the moment I do not anticipate a need for a special election for my seat as I’m planning on fully serving my current term through December 2015.
I am, and always will be, grateful to the Arlington County Democratic Committee and to the Arlington community for their support. While on the County Board I’ve tried to serve as an unapologetic progressive, and will look forward in another capacity to always continuing to support those Democratic values. Please feel free to share this message as appropriate.
J. Walter Tejada
Update at 10:45 a.m. — An arrest has been made in the case.
A man is in critical condition after being run over by an SUV in a parking lot on Columbia Pike Tuesday evening.
The incident happened at approximately 4:45 p.m., in the parking lot behind a barber shop and a car dealership on the 3600 block of Columbia Pike.
Witnesses say a woman driving a white or silver Toyota Highlander was trying to exit the parking lot after a fender bender when two men tried to stop her by closing the parking lot gate. One man had his foot ran over, according to news reports.
The other man was knocked to the ground, ran over and dragged several feet under the car, we’re told. The driver then sped off westbound on Columbia Pike.
The man was transported to George Washington Hospital’s trauma center with life-threatening injuries, according to police. Witnesses on scene took video of the incident and police are reviewing the footage.
A group of witnesses said they were in Burger King next door and saw the incident unfold.
“While the guy was lying down, everyone was around screaming at her to stop,” one witness, who declined to be identified, told ARLnow.com at the scene. “She kept on moving and ran over the guy.”
Witnesses say the man’s face suffered severe-looking injuries, “his legs were twisted” and his hands were bleeding. Paramedics arrived to the scene and quickly transported him. There’s no word on the suspect or if she knew the victim.
(Updated at 7:05 p.m.) Arlington County firefighters are on the scene of a two-alarm in South Arlington.
The fire was reported in the basement and first floor of condominium on the 2800 block of S. Wakefield Street. As of 7:00 p.m., firefighters on the scene reported that the fire had been extinguished, although they’re still looking for hot spots.
Two people were reportedly transported to the hospital. Several paramedic units have responded to the scene
A large plume of smoke from the fire could be seen from apartments in nearby Shirlington.
Assessments county-wide rose 3.4 percent over 2014 values. The 4.9 percent rise in residential values (including condos, townhouses and single-family homes) was paired with a 4.7 percent rise in the assessments of existing apartment buildings.
Dragging down both was a 4.5 percent decline in existing office property assessments. Arlington County has been struggling with an office vacancy rate north of 20 percent.
“Arlington’s overall real estate market remains resilient,” Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. “The strength of our residential market balances the tremendous pressures we see in the office building market due to the effects of BRAC and regional competition.”
Real estate assessments are being mailed to all Arlington property owners today. The 2015 assessments will also be posted online and made available at 11:00 tonight.
Unless the Arlington County Board decides to lower the property tax rate, the rise in assessments will mean higher tax bills for homeowners. Either way, it should mean lower tax bills for commercial office building owners. Despite the rise in assessments, the county is still facing a multi-million dollar budget gap for its FY 2016 budget.
The full press release from Arlington County, after the jump.
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department is on the scene of a two-alarm fire at the Eden Center in Falls Church.
Three people were transported to the hospital after a reported explosion in the mall on the 6700 block of Wilson Blvd, according to ACFD spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. The injuries are described as non-life threatening.
Falls Church spokeswoman Susan Finarelli said initial inspections suggest that the explosion and fire is believed to be accidental.
Firefighters on the scene reported that the explosion might have originated in the utility closet of a jewelry shop. The windows of the Princess Diamonds store, in the Saigon East section of the shopping center, appear to have been blown out.
Building inspectors are being requested to investigate whether the explosion caused structural damage. Health inspectors are being called to the scene to evaluate a smoke-filled supermarket near the fire.
#ACFD 2nd Alarm and RIT Level II dispatched. Fire has been located and being extinguished. Checking for extension. Primary searches neg.
— ARL Firefighters (@IAFF2800) January 14, 2015
(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) This morning’s commute is officially a traffic nightmare for anyone still out on the roads.
The map above shows just how bad traffic is around the region as two and a half inches of slick, powdery snow have fallen. Numerous accidents have been reported around the county as students make their way to school and commuters make their way to work.
Metrobus service has now been limited to snow emergency routes — major roadways only. There is no Metrobus service on secondary streets.
Arlington snow crews so far are only treating primary and secondary roads, not neighborhood streets.
Conditions are bad enough on local roads that we’ve heard of at least one tow truck getting stuck en route to an accident scene An Arlington County Police spokesman, who himself was stuck in heavy traffic having moved only 3 miles in an hour and a half, said officers were doing their best to keep up with all the accidents.
“Obviously traffic is pretty [bad],” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The county’s 911 call center is “getting a steady flow of emergency calls. The majority of calls are for struck vehicles… we’re addressing accidents first, then stuck vehicles.”
Sternbeck noted that the police department has a normal staffing level this morning.
At least one crossing guard has not been able to make it to her post near Jefferson Middle School, but no police officers are available to replace her, according to scanner traffic. At N. McKinkey Road in 9th Street, medics are responding to a crossing guard who slipped, injured her knee and is lying in the middle of the road.
Students are tweeting ARLnow.com saying their buses are running late or are getting stuck. Others say their school bus never showed up at all.
There have been police reports of school buses getting stuck in various locations, including near Oak Ridge Elementary and on 16th Street S. at S. Taylor Street.
The following roads have been closed by police due to cars getting stuck on hills:
- 14th Street N. between Kirkwood and Kenmore
- S. Adams Street between 25th and 26th
- Wilson Blvd at N. Larrimore Street
- 16th Street between Taylor and Stafford
- N. Patrick Henry Drive at 9th
- 8th Road S. at Dinwiddie
- N. McKinley Road north of Wilson Blvd (several accidents reported)
Drivers and residents have been tweeting reports of accidents and stuck vehicles.
— Alana Sawyer (@AlanaSawyerDC) January 6, 2015
— David Kinney (@dnak17) January 6, 2015
— David Kinney (@dnak17) January 6, 2015
— Titoo (@_medinaugly4lif) January 6, 2015
— Titoo (@_medinaugly4lif) January 6, 2015
— JBurd (@jnburd) January 6, 2015
@ARLnowDOTcom multiple cars having trouble getting up Wilson Hill in Rosslyn next to Hyatt
— Ben (@WASHDCBEN) January 6, 2015
@ARLnowDOTcom art 77 and 16y (and another one) stuck at 6th and courthouse road south.
— C J (@hoborocks) January 6, 2015
avoid s. walter reed drive near shirlington. superman hill is a nightmare @ARLnowDOTcom
— Ashley Goff (@goffashley) January 6, 2015
— regular r (@cybersmell) January 6, 2015
@ARLnowDOTcom I have kids who take 3 different APS buses – not one showed up this morning. I've declared our own snow day.
— kc (@klcmurphy) January 6, 2015
@ARLnowDOTcom Our officers are working numerous accidents around the County. Drive slowly and seek alt transportation options, if possible.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) January 6, 2015
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) January 6, 2015
Trash collection is being delayed until later in the day today, according to the Dept. of Environmental Services.
A “ground stop” was in place for flights at Reagan National Airport for part of the morning. As of 8:50 a.m., the airport said the main runway had been treated and “our operations are back to normal.”
While numerous problems have been reported on the roads, at least one bike trail was well-treated this morning.
— BikeArlington (@BikeArlington) January 6, 2015
— BikeArlington (@BikeArlington) January 6, 2015
The National Weather Service belatedly issued a Winter Storm Warning just after 9:00 a.m.
… WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 PM EST THIS AFTERNOON…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR SNOW… WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 PM EST THIS AFTERNOON. THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
* PRECIPITATION TYPE… SNOW… HEAVY AT TIMES.
* ACCUMULATIONS… 4 TO 6 INCHES.
* TIMING… UNTIL 1 PM. THE HEAVIEST SNOW WILL BE THROUGH 11 AM.
* TEMPERATURES… LOW 20S.
* WINDS… VARIABLE 5 MPH.
* IMPACTS… HEAVY SNOW ACCUMULATING ON ALL SURFACES WELL BELOW FREEZING AND VISIBILITY BELOW HALF MILE WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE FOR VERY HAZARDOUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS.
A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE FORECAST THAT WILL MAKE TRAVEL DANGEROUS. ONLY TRAVEL IN AN EMERGENCY. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL… KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT… FOOD… AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.
Donnellan made the recommendation at today’s County Board meeting, after being charged by the Board earlier this year to study Artisphere and suggest a way forward for the money-losing, county-run center.
“I will be recommending that the county close the Artisphere as a cultural center in fiscal year 2016,” Donnellan said. “This was a business decision… this was a tough decision, a disappointing one. The reality is that the Artisphere has not lived up to projections.”
Donnellan said Artisphere, in her opinion, would require “substantial ongoing tax support.”
“That is not what we promised our community when we opened Artisphere,” she said. Artisphere will remain open through June 30. It will close after that, if the County Board adopts Donnellan’s recommendation. After Donnellan gave her report, it became clear that the Board was behind her decision and it’s likely the art center will close on June 30.
“I support what you suggested, that next June, Artisphere would close as we know it,” Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “My hope is whatever option will move forward on our economic competitiveness goals one way or another.”
County Board member John Vihstadt, who had used the Artisphere as an example of wasteful county spending in his election campaign this year, obliquely referenced the county’s cancellation of the streetcar last month.
“I think we all realize the changing course on a long community initiative, as has happened in the last few years and months, is never easy,” he said. Speaking to reporters after the meeting had adjourned, he added, “I think it was the right decision. I was concerned about the Artisphere all along.”
County staff will be studying options for sub-leasing Artisphere to a private company or a private-public partnership in the “arts, media, technology” space, or returning it to landlord Monday Properties, Donnellan said.
She called the recommendation “a repositioning, not a retreat.” County staff will be tasked with coming up with a new art plan for the county, one that reflects current fiscal realities.
“Smart communities know when to reevaluate decisions,” Donnellan said.
The 62,000 square foot facility opened with a flourish, at a cost of $6.7 million in October 2010. Optimistic projections of a quarter million annual visitors quickly crashed down to earth in 2011. Visitor revenue was 75 percent below expectations, and Artisphere’s in-house restaurant closed after just a few months in business.
Arlington Economic Development assumed control of Artisphere by the end of 2011, and began implementing a business plan that included shorter hours and actively renting the facility for non-art-related events. The changes were successful by some measures, but problems remained — the facility again went over budget in Fiscal Year 2013. Last month, County Board allocated $1.3 million in its annual budget close-out for Artisphere-related expenses next year.
Donnellan told reporters after her report that 20 part-time and 12 full-time staff work at Artisphere, and some may be able to continue working in other areas of the county, but there will be some who lose their jobs.
The County Board may officially decide to close Artisphere before its April budget motion, Vihstadt said, and Donnellan said she will soon begin discussions with Monday Properties about the space’s future.
This evening, Donnellan will ask the Board to approve a $5 million loan to another art center, Signature Theatre. She said the two recommendations are “business decisions” and should be looked at separately.
(Updated at 10:30 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating a possible homicide in the Westover neighborhood.
A man and a woman were found dead this afternoon in a garden-style apartment building on the 1200 block of N. Kensington Street, three blocks from Swanson Middle School. Homicide investigators are on the scene, taking photos and gathering evidence.
Police believe the deaths are suspicious. It’s possibly a case of murder-suicide, but that has not yet been confirmed, a police source tells ARLnow.com. According to ACPD spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm, “there’s no immediate threat to the community.”
Police initially responded to the scene around 4:00 p.m. for a call to check on the welfare of an apartment resident, Malcolm said. According to the building’s landlord, who declined to be identified, a window in the apartment had been open “for a few days” and the tenant had missed the last rent payment, which was “not like her,” he said.
It has been more than two years since the last murder in Arlington. The last confirmed homicide in the county was the death of 87-year-old Mack L. Wood on Oct. 13, 2012.
Police are not releasing the identities of the deceased nor the cause of death until family members can be notified. ACPD issued the following statement about the investigation Monday night.
The Arlington County Police Department’s Robbery/Homicide Unit is investigating the suspicious deaths of two Arlington County residents.
At 3:57 p.m., Arlington County Police received a “check on the welfare” call for a resident who resides in the 1200 block of N. Kensington Street. Responding officers were able to gain entry into the locked apartment utilizing a key. The bodies of two victims, a 29-year old male and a 31-year old female, were discovered inside. Detectives and crime scene technicians are on scene conducting the ongoing investigation.
At this time, there does not appear to be an immediate threat to the community.
(Updated at 6:00 p.m.) The Doubletree hotel at 300 Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City was evacuated this afternoon due to a large gas leak.
The gas leak was said to be in the hotel’s parking garage. Firefighters at the scene reported strong odor of natural gas inside and outside the hotel. Guests and employees were evacuated from the hotel.
An Arlington County hazmat team and Washington Gas crews responded to the scene. Police shut down down Army Navy Drive between Eads and 12th Streets to accommodate the large emergency response.
Firefighters and gas company crews managed to shut off the gas after about an hour. Army Navy Drive reopened just after 5:30, and people are being allowed back into the hotel.
No injuries have been reported.
Update at 3:55 p.m. — The County Board voted 4-1 in favor of Fisette’s motion to stop the streetcar project. The dissenting vote was Walter Tejada, who said the streetcar would have reduced congestion and helped the Columbia Pike’s revitalization. “Turning away from a modern streetcar system is a dramatic step backwards,” Tejada said. “Arlington’s credibility in the region will now be adversely affected.”
“I have come to the conclusion that the only way to move forward together … is to discontinue the streetcar project,” Fisette said solemnly, before a large crowd of reporters. “After close consultation with [County Board members Mary] Hynes and [Walter] Tejada, with our partners in Fairfax and Richmond and with members of the community, Ms. Hynes and I have agreed that all spending on streetcar must end.”
Fisette will make it official with a motion at this afternoon’s County Board meeting. Tejada is said to oppose canceling the project and may vote against Fisette’s motion.
The streetcar project was to be funded by commercial transportation revenue, along with funding from the state and Fairfax County, which was to benefit from the Pike streetcar running to the Skyline area.
Fisette said the county will instead explore options for improving bus service on Columbia Pike. The transitway between Crystal City and Alexandria will continue to operate and be developed, but will be served only by buses. Existing streetcar contracts — like the $26 million engineering contract awarded in September — will be “wound down” as quickly as possible.
Fisette acknowledged that many business owners and residents along Columbia Pike will be disappointed by the streetcar project’s cancellation.
“There are those who moved there or developed in anticipation of the streetcar,” Fisette said. “I will say that we are committed and remain committed to the Columbia Pike corridor. We will continue to work towards the realization of that vision [of high quality, mixed use development] in a modified form, and that is the commitment of this Board. We will enhance the bus system to the extent possible.”
Fisette said that he believes a streetcar still makes sense on Columbia Pike, as it would increase transit capacity and spur economic development, adding that he’s “proud” of his vote for it. The decision to kill the project was made after the election of streetcar opponent John Vihstadt on Nov. 4, which “sent a powerful message to the Board.”
“We cannot ignore the political realities… this was not a formal referendum, but I believe it serves as a proxy,” Fisette said. “Right now the level of discord is such that I haven’t seen for awhile. It keeps us from addressing other pressing needs in the community.”
Fisette said county staff and the county manager were “caught flat-footed” by organized opposition to the streetcar, which materialized in “the past year or so.” Efforts to communicate the streetcar’s benefits were ineffective, he said.
The cancellation is an improbable victory for Vihstadt and his anti-streetcar ally on the Board, Libby Garvey. Together, they have been pushing the county to cancel the streetcar project and instead work to implement enhanced bus service on Columbia Pike.
Garvey was in attendance at Fisette’s press conference (which can be viewed online) and said afterwards that Fisette’s announcement “was a complete surprise.” Hynes was at an event this morning and “gave a ringing endorsement” of the streetcar, Garvey said.
“I’m delighted,” Garvey said. When asked about the impact the decision will have on businesses and residents who moved to the area in anticipation of the streetcar, she said “people need to understand that we will get a bus rapid transit system going. It will do everything the streetcar could and more. They’re going to be just fine.”
The streetcar plan for Columbia Pike was developed over nearly a decade of community meetings and deliberations and approved in 2006. Its backers have consistently said that consensus was behind the streetcar and it’s what the community wanted, but Fisette conceded that the feeling around the county has changed.
“The D.C. streetcar was a gift for those of us who oppose the streetcar,” Garvey said.
(Updated at 2:00 a.m.) Incumbent County Board candidate John Vihstadt, running as an independent, has won a historic victory in Tuesday’s general election.
With all 53 precincts reporting, Vihstadt has captured 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Democratic challenger Alan Howze. Vihstadt’s margin of victory is just shy of 7,500 votes, with 62,663 total votes cast in the race.
Vihstadt won by attracting a sizable number of Democratic votes. All Arlington precincts reviewed by ARLnow voted for the top of the Democratic ticket, incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who is in a tight statewide race with Republican Ed Gillespie.
Vihstadt is the first non-Democrat to win an Arlington County Board seat in a general election since Republican Mike Brunner won in 1983. (Ellen Bozman was elected to the County Board in 1985 and 1989 while running as an independent, but she was endorsed by the Democratic party and in 1993 won reelection as a Democrat.)
“We’ve made modern history in Arlington County,” Vihstadt told ARLnow.com at his election party. “In my view, this was not a victory for any one person or any one party, it was a victory for a new way of doing things, a fresh perspective and a new paradigm in Arlington County where partisanship doesn’t mean much but citizenship means everything.”
Howze called Vihstadt to concede the race at 9:15 tonight. He said he was disappointed with the result, which came despite hard work on the campaign trail by his supporters.
“There was a message of dissatisfaction with the electorate,” Howze said. “I worked hard to bring new ideas and a new perspective to the County Board. They chose John and the alternative path he put forward. He ran a very good campaign, ultimately the voters rewarded him for that.”
Now off the campaign trail, Howze said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and three young children.
At the Vihstadt victory party, the mood was jubilant, with campaign manager Eric Brescia jumping for joy as more and more precincts reported wider and wider margins for Vihstadt. County Board member Libby Garvey was by Vihstadt’s side during his victory speech, and was giddy after the victory. A Democrat, Garvey resigned from the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s executive board in April after backing Vihstadt.
“This wasn’t just a squeaker, we won it big,” Garvey said. “It’s a validation of what I’ve been saying, what John’s been saying. We serve the people of Arlington and we presented them with what we think needs to happen, and they said ‘yes, that’s what we want.’ It’s democracy at its best. I’m thrilled.”
Barbara Kanninen defeated Audrey Clement in one of two School Board races tonight. Kanninen has 66 percent of the vote to 34 for Clement. Nancy Van Doren, running for School Board unopposed, has 97 percent of the vote.
Across Virginia’s Eighth Congressional District, which includes Arlington, Democrat Don Beyer has emerged victorious over his four opponents. Beyer captured 63 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Republican Micah Edmond, 2 percent for Libertarian Jeffrey Carson, 0.5 percent for Independent Green candidate Gerard Blais, and 3 percent for independent Gwendolyn Beck.
“My whole life has been leading up to this moment and this mission,” Beyer said in a statement tonight. “Together, we will move Congress and this nation forward.”
In the statewide race for U.S. Senate, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, Democratic incumbent Mark Warner has 49.18 percent of the vote, Republican Ed Gillespie has 48.27 percent and Libertarian Robert Sarvis has 2.48 percent.
Though news outlets like CNN have yet to project a winner in the race, an “energized” Warner took the stage at his election night party at the DoubleTree Crystal City hotel to declare victory. A centrist, Warner promised to work across the aisle in the newly-Republican controlled Senate.
“Whether it’s here in Virginia or anywhere around the country, the people of America want to move past sound bites, they want us to move past political bickering… to make sure that we get the job done for you and actually govern,” he said. “I’ll go back to Washington and recognize that we have to find that common ground. I know that most of us here are Democrats but neither political party has a monopoly on truth or virtue or patriotism. In this new Senate I’ll work with anyone — Democrat, Republican, independent, you name it — if we’re going to make sure we get our country’s problems fixed.”
Among other things, Warner pledged to a work to pass a budget “so we don’t go back to the stupidity of sequestration.”
Locally, voters on Tuesday approved the all four Arlington County bond questions on the ballot, including:
- Schools ($105.7 million)
- Metro and Transportation ($59.7 million)
- Community Infrastructure ($40.2 million)
- Parks and Recreation ($13 million)
Democrat Carla de la Pava, running unopposed for county treasurer, captured 97 percent of the vote. (more…)