Last night’s Streetcar Town Hall meeting pitted neighbor against neighbor on the topic of the planned Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar systems.
The meeting, which was held at Kenmore Middle School, drew a near-capacity crowd estimated between 300 and 500 people. And while many opposing viewpoints were presented during the question and answer session of the event, there was one thing on which most people at the meeting seemed to agree.
Chris Zimmerman’s pay from AECOM seems pretty tiny compared to the scandal it generated.
Zimmerman was the subject of controversy in December when fellow Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey raised red flags about consulting work Zimmerman did for the Canadian division of AECOM, the construction, design and transportation conglomerate. The work, which Zimmerman disclosed, came at a time when the Board was considering adopting Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act, primarily for use on the streetcar project.
AECOM has had various contracts with Arlington County over the past few years, including some planning-related work for the streetcar project.
Disclosure of Zimmerman’s work for AECOM fueled charges of “corruption” and became a talking point for streetcar critics — which led to the following question, asked by a resident Wednesday night.
“I’m sorry that I have to ask, but how is it not an ethics violation for a member of this board to be employed by a company that has financially benefitted from this project?”
“I believe that was aimed at me,” Zimmerman quipped. He then explained that he discloses all of his outside employment, even though he really doesn’t do much of it.
“Although this is nominally a part-time job, I have not done much in the way of outside work of any kind,” Zimmerman said. “I mostly work for you.”
“I do a little bit of consulting, and I’ve tried to do that in a way that avoids things that I do here,” he continued. “So I have done work outside this metropolitan area. Most of what I do is not subject to disclosure or reporting under Virginia law. Nonetheless, I choose to disclose everything, because my commitment to ethics in this job is something that’s of great importance to me. I think that’s something you want your elected officials to do.”
Zimmerman went on to say that most of his outside work is for nonprofits and government agencies not associated with Arlington. At that point he addressed the AECOM job, and made a somewhat surprising revelation.
“I did one job last year over the course of two days, on an hourly basis, for one company,” he said of the AECOM gig. “My total billing for that was $510.”
The crowd laughed, then applauded that disclosure. The topic of AECOM did not come up again during the nearly hour and a half question and answer session.
Editor’s Note: A more thorough recap of the Streetcar Town Hall will be published later today.
Now that a prototype has been built, and now that Arlington will be replacing WMATA as the project manager, the Columbia Pike Super Stop project should proceed in a much quicker, smoother and more cost-efficient manner, county officials said Tuesday.
The project will ultimately construct a network of 24 enhanced “Super Stop” bus stops along Columbia Pike, featuring real-time bus arrival screens, lighting, heating and a modern design. Arlington County officials briefed the County Board on the status of the project at its meeting yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, following a minor public outcry about the over $1 million construction cost of the first stop.
(The county funded just over $200,000 of the construction budget, with the rest coming from state and federal sources.)
“This is perhaps the first of its type in the Commonwealth,” Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach said of the newly-completed Super Stop, at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive. “In any new endeavor, you end up paying more in soft costs for the prototype. When you actually get the efficiency is… when you refine it and go out replicate the facilities.”
“This was a project that was a partnership between Arlington and WMATA,” he said. “Moving forward we are going to make a shift where these are going to be Arlington-managed construction projects. We hope to dramatically reduce the construction time, and we have already fine tuned the design… to make it easier to construct in the future.”
County Board member Chris Zimmerman said WMATA’s ability to run construction projects has been reduced over the past few years.
“Its capacity having been greatly diminished undoubtedly affected their ability to deal with a small project like this one,” he said.
Zimmerman said he believes the project is on track. Crews are expected to begin work this spring on a “Barton West” Super Stop near Penrose Square, followed by work on new stops at Columbus and Dinwiddie Streets later this summer.
“I’m a lot more confident going forward that we’ll be able to deliver these things on a reasonable basis in terms of time, budget and schedule,” he said.
Libby Garvey, a critic of the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar system (which will utilize the new stops, when built), asked a few tough questions about the project. She said she was still awaiting a breakdown of the costs of the project, and was skeptical that the open-air design would serve riders in bad weather.
“I did see the stop and it’s pretty, but I was struck by the fact that if it’s pouring rain i’m going to get wet, and if it’s cold the wind is going to be blowing on me,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to be much of a shelter.”
Zimmerman suggested there might be room for refining the design to provide more shelter in the rain, but said he was otherwise pleased with the distinctive design — which, he reminded the room, was chosen during a public process, with extensive input from residents.
“I personally think they’re extremely attractive,” he said. “Part of making people confident and comfortable using transit is creating places that they feel like they want to be, even in the dark.”
In a statement released to reporters Saturday afternoon (below), Board Chair Mary Hynes and members Jay Fisette and Walter Tejada said they were “dismayed” that Garvey released an internal email she sent to them regarding what she saw as a possible conflict of interest in Board member Chris Zimmerman’s business dealings.
The Board is set to vote Monday on adoption of Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA), which would allow the county to seek a public-private partnership for its streetcar project. Garvey asked whether Zimmerman should recuse himself, since he recently started doing consulting work for AECOM, a large planning, design and construction conglomerate that has worked on numerous streetcar and light rail project.
Hynes, Fisette and Tejada say that Zimmerman properly disclosed his work, and that Garvey’s “allegation that Mr. Zimmerman has a conflict of interest… has no basis in Virginia law.”
We are dismayed by recently-elected County Board member Libby Garvey’s public release of her email correspondence to us dated December 5. Her allegation that Mr. Zimmerman has a conflict of interest when it comes to voting on a change to our purchasing procedures for transportation projects has no basis in Virginia law or in fact – as the County Attorney has clearly laid out.
Mrs. Garvey strives to connect the Board’s consideration of the Virginia Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA) to the possibility of a future conflict due to Mr. Zimmerman’s recent work with AECom Canada East as a consultant on projects limited by his contract to the greater Montreal area. Being a County Board member is classified as a “part-time” job and each of us has, from time to time, done other work for which we have been paid. Each of us has disclosed that income as required by Virginia law. Mr. Zimmerman’s October letter is a reflection of his commitment to transparency, filed with the Board Clerk and given to each of us in advance of any legal requirement so that all could be aware of his limited contract with AECom Canada East.
The proposal to consider the PPTA guidelines has been up on the County website since November 9. Consideration by the County Board, scheduled for late November, was delayed to December 10 at Mrs. Garvey’s request with an invitation for outstanding issues and questions to be identified for staff and Board review. To date, the Board has received two letters — both supportive of adopting the guidelines.
In an effort to provide greater clarity to the community, the Board has drafted and made public a resolution for consideration on December 10, that accompanies the PPTA guidelines and gives further direction to the Manager. This resolution requires the Manager to provide information about any unsolicited proposals to the Board at key junctures – including posting them on the County website – and to implement a plan for public review should any proposal be deemed worthy of further consideration. Because the PPTA can be used for any transportation facility, the public review would be tailored to the specific project. All of these procedures are consistent with Arlington’s practice of checks and balances to protect the integrity of our processes.
We have every confidence that this level of transparency will provide the Board, County staff and interested Arlingtonians with the information they need to consider whether any PPTA proposal meets our goals in a way that is fiscally prudent and operationally efficient. Despite Ms. Garvey’s allegations, Monday’s proposed action presents no conflict of interest for County Board members and, again, have no basis in Virginia law.
(Updated at 2:35 p.m. on 12/7/12) County Board Member Libby Garvey was recently reelected, having run on a platform of being an independent voice on the Board. True to that promise, today Garvey raised questions about the propriety of another Board member’s business dealings, given a matter currently before the Board.
Garvey is calling for the Board to delay its scheduled vote on adoption of Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA). The vote is currently scheduled for Monday, after being deferred at the Nov. 27 Board meeting.
The County Board is considering using a private-public partnership for the design, construction and operation of the planned Crystal City streetcar. The Board would need to adopt the state PPTA in order to enter such a partnership.
Garvey, however, has expressed concerns about the PPTA, maintaining that additional public interest safeguards are needed. She cited “problems with the PPTA procurement for the [Metro] Silver Line,” and a recent report by the Southern Environmental Law Center that found “flaws” in the Virginia PPTA, as reasons why the Board needs “more time to study the implications of adopting the PPTA guidelines and to consider safeguards that will ensure full and open competition and true risk-sharing by the private sector.”
In an email sent to the rest of the Board this morning, Garvey took her concerns a step further, raising questions about whether Board member Chris Zimmerman should be voting on the PPTA, given that he recently disclosed that he’s working as a consultant for AECOM, a large construction, design and transportation conglomerate. AECOM has worked on streetcar and light rail projects in a number of U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Orleans, Minneapolis and Grand Rapids.
(A representative from the Minneapolis project spoke at a County Board work session last month about the city’s experience with its public-private partnership.)
In the email, Garvey asked Zimmerman to consider recusing himself from the PPTA vote given the appearance of a conflict of interest.
I spoke with Chris briefly yesterday afternoon about our possible vote on Monday concerning the PPTA and asked if he would consider delaying and then if he would recuse himself from the vote. At the moment, Chris sees no reason to delay or recuse himself.
So I am writing to all of you because I am very concerned about how this could look to our public and this concerns us all. Chris sent us a letter on October 25, 2012, notifying the Board of his consultant contract with AECOM Canada East. In that letter, Chris stated that “there is the possibility that at a future point it may be necessary for me to disclose my affiliation with the company in matters coming before the Board . . . and to even disqualify myself from participation in those matters.” In the letter, Chris also states that he wants “to be certain to anticipate any potential conflict of interest (or appearance of conflict) that could arise.” I think with the PPTA issue we are at that point and hope Chris will reconsider, and that we all can take a step back here.
Since I am new to the Board, I have only recently become aware of the extensive contractual relationships that have existed between AECOM and Arlington County Government for at least the last few years. With respect to Columbia Pike, AECOM has participated in the Transit Initiative Traffic Report, the peer review of capital cost estimates for the streetcar, the Columbia Pike Land Use and Housing Study and the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan. AECOM also has worked on the Crystal City Multimodal Transportation Study, the Four Mile Run Demonstration Project, and the Crystal City Second Entrance and Access Study. AECOM has several offices in Arlington, briefed us tonight on streetcar vehicles, and was one of the companies to brief us about public private partnerships — the exact issue we will be voting on. I think anyone would assume that it is quite likely they will be doing additional work for the County and, should we adopt the PPTA, they will be submitting an unsolicited bid.
AECOM has been and continues to work on streetcar projects and other transportation projects in the United States, Canada and elsewhere. Its website includes a section on public private partnerships (P3) and states: “AECOM has been involved in at least 90 percent of the Unites States P3 transportation projects.” The company states that P3 projects work well when, among other factors, there is “political support from the top.”
As you well know, the Board had on its November 27th agenda adoption of guidelines for public-private partnerships, pursuant to Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA). This Act, and our proposed guidelines, would allow a company to present an unsolicited bid to construct and manage major transportation projects, including the streetcar. Given the current economy and limits of federal and state funding, the Board has been receiving information about the possibility of a public-private partnership to fund the streetcar. Last week, I asked that we not act on the proposed guidelines because the PPTA has been flagged as having flaws that (contrary to what we have been told to expect) can allow, and have allowed, the shift of risk from the private to the public sector. These are serious concerns affecting not only our streetcar decision, but also decisions on large projects in the future. We did not have sufficient information to make such a significant decision then. We still do not have sufficient information to act on this, either about necessary safeguards we should implement, nor about Chris’ relationship with AECOM should he continue to decide he need not recuse himself.
A thorough understanding about necessary safeguards aside, in light of Chris’s letter regarding his consultant relationship with AECOM Canada East, I believe that the Board should not act at this time on guidelines that address the selection of contractors on transportation projects and the risks to be borne by the contractor and taxpayers. Chris notes in his letter his desire to anticipate any future conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest. I believe we all want that. I also believe there clearly could be an appearance of a conflict with the vote on the PPTA guidelines. I believe we all need to know the facts regarding the County’s contractual and other business relationships with AECOM and all the pertinent details regarding Chris’s consulting relationship with AECOM Canada East. Without these kinds of disclosures, it is not possible to determine the degree to which a conflict of interest, or the appearance of conflict of interest, may exist. As we all know, in the public realm, the appearance of a conflict is as important as the facts. Perceptions are everything.
Finally, I know that we all value the excellent reputation that Arlington has earned for good government and understand that even an appearance of impropriety can tarnish that reputation. That result can easily be avoided in this situation either by waiting to vote on the guidelines until all the facts are disclosed or by Chris deciding not to vote on the PPTA guidelines. Finally, since there are reasons other than those relating to an actual or potential conflict of interest to defer voting on the guidelines, that necessary delay would also allow us the time to obtain and review the facts relating to the conflict issues.
As always, I am happy to discuss this. Libby
Arlington County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac tells ARLnow.com he doesn’t see any reason Zimmerman would need to recuse himself. He pointed out that the vote pertains to adopting guidelines, not awarding a contract. Because no contract is being awarded and there’s no financial benefit to Zimmerman, he says there’s no conflict of interest.
“My advice to Zimmerman is he doesn’t have a conflict and he doesn’t need to recuse himself. I think all five Board members are eligible to vote on this,” said MacIsaac. “There’s certainly no reason for Zimmerman to recuse himself.”
MacIsaac adds that Zimmerman didn’t immediately have to inform his fellow Board members of his work as an AECOM consultant, but he appears to have done so to allow for transparency.
“He could have just kept it to himself and not said a word and worked out the conflicts when and if one arises,” said MacIsaac.
MacIsaac noted that there may be conflicts related to Zimmerman’s consulting in the future, but they will be dealt with should they arise. He stresses that currently no issue has been found.
“I think it’s unfortunate the Conflicts Act would be raised under these circumstances,” MacIsaac said. “It just doesn’t seem fair.”
MacIsaac sent a memo to the Board yesterday (Thursday) explaining his view. An excerpt from the memo reads:
“The claim of impropriety appears to be based on a projection into the future about what an entity related to the AE Com subsidiary with which Mr. Zimmerman has an employment relationship might do in the future. Such speculative forecasting about potential conflicts in the future creates a standard few elective officials can meet, because it is not grounded in actual facts. It suggests a rule that would prohibit Board members from participating in transactions coming before the Board because their personal interests or those of their family members might one day in the future intersect with County business.”
Earlier this month, the Board held a work session with officials from other North American transit agencies who spoke of their experience with public-private partnerships for light rail systems. By and large, said Board member and leading streetcar supporter Chris Zimmerman, those experiences were positive.
A public-private partnership “can save time and money,” he told ARLnow.com. ”We’re very seriously looking at the options.”
At the Nov. 15 work session, transit officials from Ottawa Denver, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City discussed both the positives and the risks, challenges and things didn’t work with their private partnerships. Such a partnership involves a contract between the local government and a private entity, with the company agreeing to design, build, operate and sometimes even finance the project — to the government’s specifications — in exchange for set payments.
The benefit for the public is that the company handles all the logistics — engineering, procurement, construction, etc. — and often can get more done with less money. The private company also has more flexibility to innovate and to accomplish goals.
In exchange for a long-term (30+ year) contract for operating the light rail system, the company agrees to certain performance benchmarks. The company and the government share some of the inherent risks in the project, instead of the government assuming all risk, like in a publicly-built system. In the end, the public retains ownership of the system.
“It’s pretty clear if you look around the world and increasingly around the county that things are moving that way,” Zimmerman said. He cited the experience of Vancouver, which was able to build a two-track light rail system through a public-private partnership for the same cost as it had budgeted to build a one-track system on its own.
Zimmerman said a public-private partnership is especially attractive for the county’s planned Crystal City streetcar, which will be funded using a TIF — tax increment financing, derived from gains in commercial real estate values in Crystal City.
“[Crystal City] might be very well poised for this kind of approach,” he said.
It’s possible that the Columbia Pike streetcar could be built using a public-private partnership, but it’s less likely since the county is seeking federal funds for the project and since it is further along in the process.
Zimmerman said the county hopes to have the Columbia Pike streetcar up and running sometime between 2017 and 2018, and the Crystal City streetcar operating between 2018 and 2019. The construction process for each will take about two years.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the County Board deferred consideration of a measure that would allow the county to pursue public-private partnerships under a 1995 Virginia law. The Board will take the matter back up at its December meeting, after Board members Libby Garvey and Walter Tejada expressed some reservations about the method by which the county will award such contracts.
Arlington Schools Make Washington Post List — All four Arlington public high schools have been ranked in the top 1 percent of all high schools in the U.S. by the Washington Post. The Post’s “Challenge Index” ranked H-B Woodlawn 48th in the nation and 2nd in the region, the highest ranking among the Arlington schools. [Arlington Public Schools]
Bishop O’Connell Softball Team Wins State Championship — For the 17th time in 19 years, the Bishop O’Connell Knights softball team has captured the Virginia Independent Schools Division I state championship trophy. The team had a 27-1 record this year. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Named Bike-Friendly City — Arlington has been named the 23rd most bike-friendly “city” in the country by Bicycling Magazine. The publication looked at areas with “robust cycling infrastructure and a vibrant bike culture.” [Bicycling]
Zimmerman to Visit France — Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman will be visiting three cities in France next month in order to study ways to make Arlington less car-dependent. [Transportation Nation]
Low Attendance at Tax Rate Hearing — At a public hearing last night, it only took half an hour for the County Board to hear all the speakers for and against raising Arlington’s real estate tax rate. In the end, those in favor of raising the tax rate to pay for additional government services outnumbered those who wanted less spending. [Sun Gazette]
Frida Kahlo Exhibit Closes Sunday — Arlington’s exclusive and much-publicized exhibit of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s personal photos will come to a close this weekend. Hours have now been extended on Sunday, the last day of the exhibit at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd). The remaining hours are: Friday 4:00 to 11:00 p.m., Saturday 12:00 to 11:00 p.m., Sunday 12:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Zimmerman: Metro Needs More Support — Arlington County Board member and former Metro Board member Chris Zimmerman says Metro needs more funding from governments, especially from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal government. Zimmerman also recommends keeping any potential fare increase small and making sure it doesn’t “punish the folks who take the shortest trips.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Crystal City Apartment Building Sold — The 442-unit Buchanan apartment building in Crystal City has changed hands for $175 million. The property was sold by Archstone to Dweck Properties, the same firm that bought the Crystal Plaza Apartments from Archstone last year. [CoStar]
Green Games Saved Some Green — Forget the Hunger Games, Arlington County says its “Green Games” competition was a blockbuster in terms of savings. The sustainability challenge saved $2 million in avoided energy and water costs, the county announced at an awards ceremony on Thursday. [Arlington County]
Arlington County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) and representatives from mall owner Simon Property Group were all on hand for the ceremony. Also present were reps from 350Green, the Los Angeles-based company that manufactures the charging stations.
The charging stations are located on level 2 of the mall parking garage. They can partially charge an electric vehicle in as little as 90 minutes, while the car’s owner shops.
Photo courtesy the Office of Rep. Jim Moran
The 18th annual Light Up Rosslyn ceremony was held last night, under the WJLA Jumbotron at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and N. Lynn Street.
Dozens gathered to listen to live holiday music, to drink free hot chocolate, and to see County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman flip the ceremonial switch to illuminate the rooftops of nearly 40 Rosslyn buildings. The annual event also featured a clothing drive for the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.
The opening of an affordable housing community in Ballston was welcomed with much fanfare on Tuesday evening. Numerous county officials joined new residents at The Jordan (801 N. Wakefield St.) for a grand opening ceremony.
The apartments are aimed at individuals or families earning 50-60% of the area’s mean income. A key selling point of the apartments is their proximity to local businesses and public transportation. They’re about one block from Ballston Commons Mall and about four blocks from the Ballston Metro. County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman pointed out that this is important because the people who typically need public transit the most are those with lower incomes. Residents at The Jordan are also eligible for a public transit subsidy.
Zimmerman said because Arlington is becoming a more expensive place to live, it’s vital to be creative and innovative in providing housing options. He said the county is at risk of losing its diversity without such options.
“We need to make sure this is a place in which everyone can live,” Zimmerman said. “Not just those who are privileged with a high income.”
The property is owned and managed by AHC Inc., a nonprofit developer of low and moderate-income housing. They acquired the property through a land swap with The JBG Companies. It’s part of the larger mixed-use development under construction at the corner of Glebe Rd. and Wilson Blvd.
The Jordan replaces the previous affordable housing complex nearby, Jordan Manor, which was demolished nearly three years ago. Residents at Jordan Manor who wished to move into The Jordan received first pick on the apartments. The Jordan houses 90 apartments, whereas Jordan Manor had only 24.
Five of the building’s units have three bedrooms and can accomodate larger families. Nine of the units are fully accessible to residents with disabilities. Amenities include a library, business center, courtyard with fountain and community room.
The first residents moved into The Jordan about a month ago, and the building is currently two-thirds occupied.
Examiner: It’s All Zimmerman’s Fault– In an editorial, the Washington Examiner encourages drivers stuck on I-66 to “call or tweet Arlington Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman” to complain, since “he’s one of the most vocal opponents of widening I-66 inside the Beltway.” Regarding local opposition to adding a third lane to I-66, the paper concludes: “This whole scenario is beyond short-sighted and incompetent. This is insane.” [Washington Examiner]
Flat Fare Could Cost Arlington Metro Riders — Arlington transit riders take, on average, the shortest trips of any local residents on the Metrorail system. As a result, county officials warn that Arlington riders will pay more if Metro ever switches to a flat fare system — as has been proposed as a way to simplify the agency’s fare system. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington’s First Female K-9 — The Arlington County Police Department recently received its first female police dog. Roxy, a Belgian Malinois, graduated from an intense, 15-week K-9 patrol school in June. Roxy and handler Cpl. Thorpe Lichtenberg are one of Arlington’s nine K-9 teams. [Examiner]
Exchange Students Arrive — Arlington fifth graders will be waiting at the airport today to greet 44 sixth graders from Aachen, Germany, as they arrive with their parents for “a whirlwind week in the D.C. area.” The German students will stay with the families of fifth graders who attend Nottingham, Tuckahoe and Arlington Traditional elementary schools. In addition to attending classes, they will visit memorials and museums, go on hikes and attend sporting events. Aachen is Arlington’s sister city, and the exchange is being organized by the Arlington Sister Cities Association.
The $132,000 project — which also calls for the addition of curb extensions, textured pavement crosswalks and painted parking edge lines — is being recommended by the county’s Neighborhood Traffic Calming Committee, as a way to slow down traffic on 16th Street.
The street has “documented speeding problems,” county officials said in a staff report. According to county data, the average speed on 16th Street between S. Monroe Street and S. Quincy Street is 24 miles per hour, with 48 percent of traffic traveling faster than the posted 25 mile per hour speed limit and 15 percent of traffic traveling at 31 miles per hour or higher.
Speed humps were not considered for the traffic calming project, because the “85th percentile” speed required by law for speed hump projects is 32 miles per hour.
This summer, residents of homes along 16th Street were polled on the plan — to add “mini-traffic circles” to the intersections with S. Nelson, Oakland and Pollard Streets. Of those surveyed, 66 percent supported the plan, just above the 60 percent threshold for the project to proceed.
County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman was likely among those who were polled. Zimmerman’s house is one block away from one of the proposed traffic circles.
(Residents will be asked to maintain the landscaping of the traffic circles.)
One 16th Street resident who opposes the project says she’s worried about the ability of emergency vehicles to navigate the traffic circles.
“My concern is that it’s an emergency response route,” the resident told ARLnow.com, adding that the county should “stop punishing 95 percent of the population for 5 percent — the speeders.”
The stretch of 16th Street in question is located south of Columbia Pike and just west of Glebe Road. The board is expected to vote on the traffic calming plan at its Saturday meeting.
Also on the board’s Saturday agenda is a traffic calming plan for 26th Street between N. Sycamore Street and N. Quantico Street in the East Falls Church neighborhood. The $92,000 project — for a stretch of road that has 71 percent of vehicles traveling above the speed limit — will include curb extensions (numbs) and one “speed cushion.”
Arlington County could be one of the Northern Virginia localities to lose its Aaa credit rating if lawmakers on Capitol Hill don’t resolve their stalemate over raising the debt ceiling.
The announcement focuses on reviewing 177 top rated municipalities across the country, including all of Northern Virginia. Earlier this month, Moody’s placed five Aaa rated states, including Virginia, on its Creditwatch list. At blame is the above average level of reliance on federal employment and spending in our area.
Arlington responded to the announcement by saying the county’s economy remains strong. County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said, “Nothing has changed in terms of the County’s financial and debt management practices and fundamentals of our economic base.”
Zimmerman added that the decision by Moody’s shows how lawmakers’ inability to agree on a debt limit deal is affecting real people and endangering economic recovery.
If Arlington does get downgraded, it could be more expensive for the county to borrow money for schools, roads and other projects. But Zimmerman pointed out that Arlington’s financial reserves and additional resources would provide flexibility to respond to potential declines in revenue.
Featuring next-generation internet connectivity, computational laboratories and multiple meeting and conference spaces, the new 144,000 square foot Virginia Tech Research Center building in Ballston (900 N. Glebe Road) celebrated its grand opening today.
Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, Rep. Jim Moran, and County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman were on hand this afternoon for a ribbon cutting ceremony on the glimmering glass-and-steel building’s seventh floor.
Zimmerman kicked off the ceremony with references to the “human bandwidth” and “internet firepower” that the building brings to Ballston, Arlington’s science and technology hub. Dr. Steger spoke about the research already underway in the building, including research into military medical care, renewable energy and cyber security.
Calling Virginia Tech’s Ballston presence an “international center of excellence” and an “investment in our future,” Rep. Moran remarked on the benefits it will bring to the area and to the university.
“It will pay substantial dividends to Virginia Tech and enhance its mission to become one of the leading research institutions in the world,” he said. Moran added that it would be a mistake to cut federal research funding in the interest of deficit reduction, citing what he said was the need to supplement the “short term, bottom line” focus of corporate research.
Community leaders marked the grand opening of The Macedonian (2229 Shirlington Road), a new mixed-use affordable housing development in Nauck (Green Valley), with a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning.
The $12 million development consists of 19 one bedroom and 17 two-bedroom apartments, as well as 2,000 square feet of commercial space for the Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corporation (BAJCDC) and a planned business incubator/shared work space. It was developed by AHC Inc. on land owned by the next-door Macedonia Baptist Church with county, state, federal, private and nonprofit financing.
While some of the attention surrounding the Macedonian is due to its environmentally-friendly features — it has a green roof and other energy-efficient accouterments, earning it the first EarthCraft Virginia certification for a multifamily development — the building’s real mission is the preservation and economic development of the diverse Nauck community against the pressures of higher rents and gentrification. The church, the county and BAJCDC have been fighting to keep Nauck affordable, and speakers today described the Macedonian as an important step in that continuing effort.
“There are more sheep to tend, there are more neighbors to help,” said David Bowers, Vice President of Enterprise Community Partners, which helped to fund the development. “Our work is not done.”
Attendees this morning included Rep. Jim Moran, County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman, Rev. Dr. Leonard Hamlin of the Macedonia Baptist Church and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker — a former Arlington resident and friend of Rev. Hamlin.