Arraignment for Air Force Officer — Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the airman who was removed from his post as head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program after being accused of sexual battery in Crystal City, is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in an Arlington County courtroom. While the Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney office is prosecuting the case, the Air Force has the option of bringing its own case against Krusinski. [Associated Press]
CivFed Opposes Tree Removal at Cemetery — The Arlington County Civic Federation voted Tuesday to oppose a plan to remove 800 trees at Arlington National Cemetery in order to make way for about 30,000 in-ground burial spots and niche spaces. The resolution asks Arlington’s congressional delegation to sponsor legislation to stop the plan and asks the County Board to officially support the legislation. [Sun Gazette]
Four Students Earn Nat’l Merit Scholarships — Four Arlington students have been awarded National Merit Scholarships. The students receiving the $2,500 scholarships are: Ariel Bobbett and Elizabeth Roy of Washington-Lee High School, Nicole Orttung of Yorktown High School, and Robert C. Wharton of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. [Arlington Public Schools]
Day One of School Board Caucus — The first day of the Arlington County Democratic Committee endorsement caucus for School Board will take place tonight from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Drew Model Elementary School (3500 23rd Street S.). The second day of party voting will take place on Saturday. Incumbent James Lander is facing off against challenger Barbara Kanninen for the Democratic endorsement. [Arlington Democrats]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Suzanne Smith Sundberg, a member of the Arlington County Civic Federation Revenues and Expenditures Committee, has written an eight page report detailing what she characterizes as a lack of audit oversight over the county’s finances.
The county eliminated two internal auditing positions during budget cuts in 2010, Sundberg writes, a move that raised red flags with her committee at the time. Recent news items have supported their concern and point to need to create a permanent internal auditing office, she says.
“Recent events in Arlington County — mounting discontent over the ongoing taxpayer support devoted to keeping the Artisphere afloat, taxpayers’ demonstrated opposition to the Columbia Pike streetcar at the recent town hall, and the public outcry over the eye‐popping $1 million price tag for a single bus Super Stop — provide clear evidence that citizens are losing confidence in their local government and its ability to utilize resources in an efficient, effective, and practical manner,” Sundberg writes.
The county employs an external auditing firm, CliftonLarsonAllen. Sundberg, however, pointed to the case of an Arlington County employee convicted of embezzling $12,000 from the county fair as evidence that external auditing is not comprehensive enough to catch many financial irregularities.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan has included $250,000 in one-time funds for “an internal audit function in the Department of Management and Finance” in her proposed FY 2014 budget – still subject to County Board approval – but Sundberg says that doesn’t go far enough.
“Although it’s a welcome step in the right direction, the County Manager’s proposal in her FY 2014 budget is vague and appears insufficient to support the establishment of a robust, permanent internal audit function in Arlington County,” she writes. “No effective internal audit function can ever be established if it is treated as an afterthought, subject to elimination or significant reduction when money is tight. In fact, the most advantageous time to have a strong, independent audit function is during economic downturns when difficult choices must be made and every dollar counts.”
Sundberg suggests that Arlington look to Fairfax County or Montgomery County for examples of effective internal auditing mechanisms.
Fairfax County has two separate internal auditing offices. Montgomery County created an Office of the Inspector General in 1997. Sundberg cites data suggesting that both counties save millions of dollars annually thanks to their internal controls. Arlington, she says, should do the same.
“If Arlington County cannot or will not provide sufficient resources, authority, and independence to sustain a robust and permanent internal audit function, then the establishment of an office of inspector general or special independent auditor — or whatever statutory option may be available — is all the more necessary,” she writes.
Sundberg’s report represents her own analysis and opinion. It has not been endorsed by the Civic Federation.
Bill Would Ban Cell Phone Use While Driving in School Zones — Sen. Janet Howell (D) has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving in a school zone or school crossing zone. Violations will be considered a traffic infraction and will be punishable by a fine of up to $250. [Richmond Sunlight]
Brink Supports Two-Term Va. Governor — Del. Bob Brink (D) of Arlington is one of several General Assembly lawmakers to introduce or patron a constitutional amendment that would allow the governor of Virginia to serve a second term. If passed, the amendment will take effect for the governor elected in 2017. [Richmond Sunlight]
USS Arlington Crew Members Get Decal Vote — Crew members of the USS Arlington, set to be commissioned soon, will get a vote on the new Arlington County parking decal. This year, the contest challenged entrants to design a decal incorporating the USS Arlington. Voting is open through Jan. 21. [Sun Gazette]
Civic Federation Supports LEAP — The Arlington County Civic Federation has approved a resolution to promote the non-profit Local Energy Alliance Program, or LEAP, which offers free home energy efficiency assessments to homeowners, along with cash rebates for energy efficiency measures. [Arlington Mercury]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Civic Federation Endorses All Bonds — The Arlington County Civic Federation has voted to endorse all four bonds on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Civic Federation voted by a narrow 26-22 margin to support the $50.5 million parks and recreation bond, which includes more than $40 million for a new aquatics center at Long Brige Park. [Sun Gazette]
Boxing Match Coming to Ft. Myer — A boxing match will be held at the Smith Gymnasium on Joint Base Myer/Henderson Hall on Saturday. The match will feature a number of local boxers, including heavyweight Duane Mobley and lightweight Terron “The Kid” Grant. Tickets are $30 and doors open at 6:00 p.m. [Boxing Along the Beltway, JBMHH]
Library Sets New Summer Reading Record — Arlington Public Library’s summer reading program set another participation record this year. According to the library, 7,415 kids registered for the program and some 30,000 books throughout the course of the summer.
Confederate ‘Gray Ghost’ Lived in Arlington — In a bit of local Civil War lore, columnist Charlie Clark and Arlington historian Kathryn Holt Springston recount how the legendary Confederate raider John S. Mosby lived in Arlington later in life. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
CivFed Wants Separate Vote on Aquatics Center – The Arlington County Civic Federation would like the County Board to make the $42.5 million Long Bridge Park aquatics center project a standalone bond vote in November. County Manager Barbara Donnellan had proposed that that the project be included in a larger park bond that will go to Arlington voter on Nov. 6. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Garbage Survey — The Arlington County Solid Waste Bureau is seeking feedback on its trash and recycling collection services. From an email: “The County would like your input on trash and recycling services. We invite you to take this ten minute Trash and Recycling Survey and help us determine the best way to meet the County’s waste management needs. Results will be used to assess our current services and offerings.” [Survey Monkey]
Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Tomorrow — The Arlington County Democratic Committee will hold its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner tomorrow (Friday). The keynote speaker at the event is former Virginia First Lady Anne Holton, wife of current U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine. Tickets to the event, held at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel in Ballston, are $125. [Arlington Democrats]
Last night, the Arlington County Civic Federation debated a proposed resolution regarding raising backyard chickens, but it didn’t get very far.
Jim Pebley, a member from the Waycroft-Woodlawn Civic Association, had proposed the resolution, which opposes changing the county ordinance in order to allow residents to raise chickens.
Currently, livestock or poultry must be kept at least 100 feet away from a property owner’s street and lot lines, which is a difficult feat considering the size of lots in Arlington. A group called the Arlington Egg Project has proposed eliminating that restriction so that residents can raise egg-laying hens in their backyards. The county’s recently-formed Urban Agriculture Task Force is tackling the issue and is expected to make recommendations to the County Board by early next year.
Pebley gave a presentation explaining why it would be detrimental to the community to allow backyard chickens. In addition to irking neighbors with noise, Pebley contends chickens in backyards would attract rodents, pose a health risk and pollute groundwater that drains to the Chesapeake. He said the chickens and their waste also produce odors, which would bother neighbors.
“The smell is unavoidable,” said Pebley. “This just really borders on nonsense.”
He also said it would be difficult for the county to enforce regulations for raising chickens, due to the animals being hidden in backyards. That, he believes, would push neighbors to report each other to authorities.
“You aren’t going to have any more staff to enforce this. Neighbors are going to have to be the ones who enforce it,” Pebley said. “We’re going to have to turn the neighbors into police.”
Ed Fendley, co-founder of the Arlington Egg Project, gave a presentation in favor of backyard chickens. He said the group is interested in allowing a limited number of hens, but not roosters. He explained that with a limited number of hens, waste problems and noise would be minimal.
Fendley doesn’t believe the proper avenues have been followed to get information about urban agriculture out to the public. He asked the Civic Federation members to keep an open mind and to let the facts get out as part of the proper process.
“The Arlington Egg Project wants to foster a community conversation about backyard hens,” said Fendley. ”All we’re asking you to do tonight is reserve judgment, we’re not asking you to join us.”
Fendley said the group is gaining support and more than 1,000 people have signed a petition requesting that Arlington allow backyard hens.
In addition to disagreeing with the way the backyard hen issue is being addressed, Fendley contends the Civic Federation’s resolution is unbalanced and biased as currently written.
“Let’s believe in Arlington, and let’s let the process work,” Fendley said. “If you believe in that process and if you believe in facts, then I ask that you join me in voting against this premature resolution.”
As it turns out, there wouldn’t be a vote on approving the resolution due to member concerns.
Civic Federation Budget Proposal — The Arlington County Civic Federation has unanimously approved its own vision for the county’s budget. The Civic Federation’s budget proposal would hold the current real estate tax rate steady, while providing more money for schools and public safety, funding an inspector general position and eliminating 16 long-vacant county government positions. The Civic Federation also voted 30-12 for a motion calling on the county to close Rosslyn’s Artisphere by the end of the year unless significant progress is made in turning around the struggling cultural center’s finances. [Sun Gazette]
Streetcar Stalemate with Alexandria — Arlington County’s plan to build a streetcar line from Crystal City to Potomac Yard is facing resistance from Alexandria. While Arlington has financing for the streetcar lined up, Alexandria says they don’t have the money for a streetcar line — and would like the planned Crystal City/Potomac Yard transit corridor to remain a bus rapid transit system for the foreseeable future. [WAMU]
Thousands Sign Up for Housing Aid — Arlington County opened up its waiting list for federal Section 8 housing assistance for one day, after keeping the list closed for the past seven years. In that one day the county received 5,300 pre-applications from those seeking rent assistance. [Patch]
Fund Set Up to House the Homeless — The Arlington Community Foundation has announced a $500,000 private gift that will allow it to create a new fund for the 100 Homes campaign against homelessness. With a $500,000 match from Arlington County, the $1 million public/private partnership will be “dedicated to housing Arlington’s most vulnerable citizens.” [Arlington Community Foundation]
Bomb Threat in Rosslyn — A bomb threat called into Argosy University (1550 Wilson Blvd) around 6:00 last night prompted a large police response. Traffic issues were reported in the Rosslyn area while authorities cordoned off the building and investigated the threat. Eventually, the all-clear was given and the building was reopened.
Arlington’s Top Employers, Past and Present — Arlington County has seen significant turnover in its list of the top local employers over the past decade. Companies like MCI/Worldcom, Qwest and The Hecht Co. made the county’s top 20 employers list in 2002. In 2011, those companies are off the list, while companies like Boeing, The Nature Conservancy and Booz Allen Hamilton are now on the list. [Washington Business Journal]
CivFed Wants Board to Keep Sign Powers — The Arlington Civic Federation wants the County Board to continue exercising discretionary power over signage in the county. A rewrite of the county’s sign ordinance is underway, and is expected to delegate most sign decision-making away from the Board, in favor of more administrative decisions by county staff. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Wins Tourism Award — Arlington County has won a 2011 Shining Example Award from the Southeast Tourism Society in the “Tourism for Tomorrow” category. The award specifically honored Arlington’s electric Mobile Visitors Center, which serves visitors at six different Metro stations, five days per week. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White
Obama to Visit Key Bridge — President Obama will make an appearance on the D.C. side of the Key Bridge tomorrow to “highlight the need for infrastructure investments.” The Key Bridge, the Memorial Bridge and the 14th Street Bridge are all structurally deficient and in need of immediate repair, according to a report released last month. [Washington Post]
CivFed Wary of A-Frame Signs — Arlington County Civic Federation delegates are wary of the county’s plan to allow A-frame — or sandwich board — signs on the sidewalks of commercial districts. The federation will vote tonight on a resolution that asks that the number of A-frame signs be limited, due to the potential for the signs to impede the mobility of the elderly and the disabled. [Sun Gazette]
Al Franken to Visit Four Courts — Updated at 9:30 a.m. — Comedian and U.S. Senator Al Franken is scheduled to appear at a Democratic fundraiser at Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse tonight. The fundraiser is reportedly off-limits to media. [Patch]
If you were hoping for fireworks in the closely-watched state Senate race between Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola (D) and McLean businesswoman Caren Merrick (R), you would have been sorely disappointed by last night’s Arlington County Civic Federation debate.
The unofficial kickoff to the general election campaign season lacked the audacious, back-and-forth recriminations of the 31st District Democratic primary. It did, however, set the stage for a clear battle of ideas in a race that could have significant repercussions in Richmond.
Smiling and effervescent, Merrick’s big debut to Arlington voters started out with her politely applauding Favola’s opening statement, then taking the podium, acknowledging her husband and sons, and describing herself as “the daughter of a Marine.” She recounted how she and her husband “started a software company in our basement” (it was sold to a German company in 2007 for $546 million) and touted her non-profit work with low-income families and “urban youth.”
Repeatedly, Merrick cited her business experience and argued that she was the stronger candidate on jobs and the economy.
“I believe that I have the experience that these challenging times call for,” Merrick said, adding that she would also focus on education and “bipartisan solutions for transportation.”
“I will not be part of the partisan gridlock,” said Merrick. “Above all, I promise that I will listen to you.”
Merrick stayed clear of hot-button topics like abortion and gay marriage in her opening and closing statements, but Civic Federation questioners pressed the issue.
“There are millions of good people on both sides of this issue,” she said when asked about abortion. “I’m pro-life. But I have a record of helping women who are homeless, who have been abused, who have had to rebuild their lives. The company that my husband and I co-founded… over half of the management team were women. So I’m pro-women.”
Favola, meanwhile, was unequivocal.
“I’m a strong supporter of pro-equality,” she said. “I’m 100% pro-choice as well.”
Favola and Merrick both said they supported increasing transportation funding, but differed in terms of how to pay for it.
“You have to remember that Virginia has one of the lowest gas taxes in the entire country,” Favola said in support of raising the state’s gasoline tax. “The bottom line here is: We have a problem, we have to fix it.”
“I don’t believe a gas tax is sustainable,” Merrick argued. “I agree with our Democratic Senators Warner and Webb, who are proposing that we sell off-shore [oil drilling] leases. I also support a myriad of other forms of revenue for transportation. I do not support the gas tax.”
General election candidates for the 30th, 31st and 32nd Virginia State Senate races and the 45th, 47th, 48th and 49th House of Delegates races will take questions from Civic Federation delegates.
The forum will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 6, at the Washington-Lee High School auditorium (1300 N. Quincy Street). The auditorium is taking the place of the normal venue, Virginia Hospital’s Hazel Conference Center, which is being renovated.
Another Candidate Night will be held on Oct. 4 for the candidates for County Board, County Treasurer, Commissioner of Revenue, Sheriff, Commonwealth’s Attorney and Virginia School Board.
Iota to Hold Memorial Day Fundraiser — Iota Club and Cafe (2832 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon will be holding a Memorial Day fundraiser for tornado and flood victims. It will be open for breakfast and brunch starting at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, then the music and the burger/hot dog cookout will begin at 3:00 p.m. Among the 21+ acts scheduled to perform are Alexandria folk-rockers The WeatherVanes, Arlington acoustic rocker Taylor Carson and Arlington singer/songwriter/vocal powerhouse Margot MacDonald.
Civic Federation to Discuss Public Safety — At its monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 7, the Arlington County Civic Federation will hear presentations from and ask questions of Arlington’s police chief, director of emergency management and a senior fire department official. Also at the meeting, the Federation will hear presentations from ask questions of Arlington housing and planning officials, regarding affordable housing.
Farm Animals in South Arlington — The Arlington Career Center apparently houses chickens, goats and a pony behind its concrete walls. [Pike Wire]
The Arlington County Civic Federation will discuss the county and school budgets at its monthly meeting tonight.
Among the recommendations:
- A one-time 1.6 cent real estate tax reduction. (The manager’s budget recommends that real estate taxes hold steady at 95.8 cents per $100 in value.)
- A $250,000 allocation for basic repairs to the Lubber Run Amphitheater
- Only $400,000 for continued operations at the money-losing Artisphere, half the amount requested by staff.
- Rejection of $239,000 in school funds for the David M. Brown Planetarium. The Federation calls for the planetarium to be supported with county funds, not school funds.
The meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Hazel Conference Center at Virginia Hospital Center (1701 N George Mason Drive).
Republican County Board candidate Mark Kelly says county government spending is out of control and he’s the man to help reign it in. If elected to replace incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman, Kelly said he would bring “diversity of opinion” to the “out of touch” county board.
“Between 2000 and 2009, the all-Democrat county board increased spending at a rate nearly three times inflation,” Kelly said in this opening remarks at Tuesday night’s Civic Federation debate. “Mr. Zimmerman recently called that ‘cautious and careful fiscal management… only inside the Beltway would we call that cautious and careful fiscal management.’”
Kelly proposes to scrap the $150 million Columbia Pike trolley system, championed by Zimmerman. If elected, Kelly said he would push for the release of all county spending information online and support a 10 percent pay cut for board members to help pay for it.
Zimmerman, meanwhile, cited the rosy state of the county’s economy and standard of living as evidence that Arlington is on the right track. He rattled off a list of accolades recently received by the county: best place to weather the recession, best place to raise a child, top 10 intelligent cities in the world, and the highest fiscal rating by bond agencies.
In particular, Zimmerman said he was proud of promoting smart growth, public transportation — including the creation of the ART bus system — and affordable housing.
“When you have prosperity, affordable housing becomes more of a problem,” Zimmerman said. “That’s what makes it the thing we have to work the most on.”
On the topic of zoning, Kelly called for more flexibility in the county’s dealing with local business. He said the recent controversy over dog murals in Shirlington and the three-and-a-half hour board discussion about signage and cafe seating is evidence the county is “micromanaging businesses.”
For his part, Zimmerman called for “new strategies to meet the needs of small business.”
“I continue to be dedicated to Arlington’s participatory tradition in planning and government,” he said.
Miriam Gennari, the Green Party candidate for school board, made her case for why she should replace incumbent Sally Baird last night. To Gennari, the biggest challenges facing Arlington Public Schools come down to sustainability and environmental stewardship.
“The questions that we’re going to face have more to do with our environment than anything else,” Gennari said. “As we continue to plan our community to become more dense… we have to determine how we can best make those transitions while not having a negative affect on our children.”
Gennari touted her fight against styrofoam in school cafeterias two years ago. She also questioned the nearly $100 million spent on a Washington-Lee High School that opened in 2008 and is already overcrowded.
Baird, meanwhile, emphasized student achievement, saying she wants to continue her efforts to boost the graduation rate.
“First and foremost, we’re about helping kids achieve,” she said.
Baird recounted that when she ran four years ago, the student population was declining and someone asked if she “would have the courage to close a school.”
“There are generational trends going on here, so we have to be very careful about how we manage it… understand that in some places where the population is growing it’s not going to keep growing,” Baird said.
Both candidates were asked about the planetarium, which was set for closure under the superintendent’s latest school budget. The 40-year-old facility was saved by the efforts of the Friends of the Planetarium, a coalition of concerned citizens who agreed to raise funds for renovations.