Building new schools may not be the only answer to overcrowding in Arlington Public Schools, School Board hopeful Barbara Kanninen said last night at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting.
Flexible scheduling, night classes in high school, and a school year that extends through the summer might ease crowding in middle and high schools without the expense and loss of open space associated building new facilities.
“We know right now that we have lots of kids coming… we’re building elementary schools right now but in five years they’re going to be heading to middle school and high school,” Kanninen said. “We need to think about where we’re going to educate them given that we might not have the money to build and we might not have the green space to build.”
Kanninen’s stance on building was one point of contrast between her and incumbent School Board member James Lander, who she’s trying to unseat. Kanninen and Lander debated at the ACDC meeting in advance of next week’s Democratic School Board endorsement caucus.
On school capacity, Lander emphasized the School Board’s existing construction plan and his “county-wide vision” — an apparent contrast to Kanninen’s north Arlington campaign focus.
“We’re growing by almost an elementary school per year,” he said. “We have a strategy in place, we’re building new facilities and we’re adding additions to existing facilities. We’re looking at and evaluating both middle school boundaries. This is something that takes experience and a county-wide vision.”
During the debate Kanninen spoke of her priorities: expanding STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — programs, individualized education and adult mentorships, and using analytics and her PhD in economics to help make “smarter, more efficient choices with taxpayer money.”
On many of those key campaign points, Lander echoed his own stances. He said students need STEM skills so they can grow up not to be workers, but “employers and entrepreneurs.” He touted a mentorship program he created for minority students. And he also emphasized the importance of a learning environment that adapts to the strengths of individual students.
“My approach to student achievement and student success is responsive education… and that mean meeting the needs of all groups,” he said. By way of an anecdote, he joked about how his sister was a bookworm while we was more likely to fall asleep while trying to read school books.
Both Kanninen and Lander said they support arts education and the use of school buildings by members of the community. Both also said that standardized tests have become too pervasive in schools and are detracting from the overall education of students.
Answering a question about bullying, Lander said APS has a “zero tolerance” policy toward bullies. Kanninen said adult support of “students’ social and emotional health” is paramount, and that students should always have an adult mentor to approach with issues like bullying.
Coyote Spottings in Arlington? — Some residents in the Leeway Overlee area of Arlington have recently reported spotting a coyote in their neighborhood. While video has proven the presence of coyotes — or at least one coyote — in Arlington, naturalists question whether the animal spotted might actually be a fox or a mangy dog. [NBC Washington]
GOP AG Debate at GMU Law Tonight — The George Mason University School of Law in Arlington will host a debate between the two Republican candidates for Virginia Attorney General tonight. The event, which is open to the public, will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be moderated by former attorney general and governor Jim Gilmore. [Republican National Lawyers Association]
Arlington ‘Avoiding D.C.’s Traffic Nightmare’ — Arlington County has managed to avoid the “traffic nightmare” that’s facing nearby D.C. thanks to a “multifaceted effort to curb car-dependence” that serves as “a regional model,” according to WAMU. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Schools, Gov’t Offices Closed Today — Arlington Public Schools are closed today for all classes and activities. All Arlington County offices, libraries, courts, schools, community centers and nature centers are closed. Federal government offices are also closed. ART bus service has been suspended for the day and Metro bus and rail service has been suspended for at least the morning.
Candidates Night Canceled — A local candidates debate scheduled for tonight at 7:00 has been cancelled. The debate was to be held at Resurrection Lutheran Church (6201 Washington Blvd) and was sponsored by a number of north Arlington civic association. In lieu of the debate, an informal candidate meet and greet may be held, weather permitting, at the Westover Beer Garden (5863 Washington Blvd) at 7:00 p.m. [Facebook]
Hurricane Hotline Set Up — Arlington County has set up a hotline for “frequent updates on Hurricane Sandy’s impact on Arlington.” The phone number is 415-655-0811 and the updates are given in English and Spanish. [Arlington County]
Sandy Impacts Weaken, But Linger — After dumping some 4 inches of rain on our area on Monday, Sandy is only expected to drop another 1 inch or so today. Winds won’t be quite as bad, forecasters say: 20-30 miles per hour with higher gusts possible. [Capital Weather Gang]
Photo via Arlington National Cemetery/Facebook
The participants were the three candidates for Arlington County Board: incumbent Democrat Libby Garvey, Green Party candidate Audrey Clement and Republican Matt Wavro.
Despite the fact that the audience lives north of Route 50, in a neighborhood that has plenty of concerns about traffic, development, aircraft noise and other issues, the main topic of the debate was the Columbia Pike streetcar. The streetcar so dominated the first half of the debate that the moderator had to eventually ask the audience to refrain from asking about it.
It’s ironic, then, that the candidates all essentially agreed with one another.
“We need sensible transit,” said Garvey, in her opening remarks. “I have been working deliberately to gather more information about the proposed streetcar and the more I look at it the more convinced I am that what we need is a bus rapid transit system, or BRT. That is by far the best solution for us at this point.”
Wavro also advocated for enhanced bus service along Columbia Pike instead of the streetcar, but he blasted Garvey for abstaining during a vote on the streetcar in July.
“We’ve had studies, more studies, then more studies on the Columbia Pike trolley,” he said. “With that amount of information out there, [Garvey] should be able to make a decision against the trolley.”
Clement echoed Wavro’s criticism.
“Board members are elected to take stands on controversial issues, not back away from them,” she said, adding that the streetcar will absorb tax dollars that could be used for capital improvements to Arlington’s existing transportation network and service enhancements like expanded weekend ART bus service.
There was disagreement over whether the Pike streetcar is a decision that can be reversed or not. Wavro argued that a lone board member would and should not be able to reverse the community process that led to the streetcar vote this summer. Garvey said the board only approved a “transit system” and that the “vehicle” for that system is a decision that will be made “down the line.”
“I think this will probably be the most important vote that I’m going to take in my time on the Board, and I’m hoping to be on the Board for about 12 years,” she said.
In addition to speaking out about the Columbia Pike streetcar, Clement also criticized Garvey’s vote to approve the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, which she said will eliminate affordable housing and “will transform the Pike into a gentrified urban canyon.” Wavro, meanwhile, spoke of the need to preserve market rate affordable housing — housing that’s affordable without government intervention — along the Pike and throughout the county.
Wavro made fiscal responsibility a pillar of his platform, saying the Board shouldn’t need to raise property tax rates — like it did this spring — on top of increases in property assessments.
“We should be able to fund our priorities through the increased assessments,” he said. “What we’ve seen from the County Board… is a trajectory of spending on capital projects that includes a tax or rent increase for every Arlington resident each year for the next ten years in order to maintain our AAA bond rating. I think we should have a much more responsible capital spending plan.”
Clement again agreed with Wavro, but delivered a sharper attack on Garvey and the Democrat-controlled County Board.
“In the current uncertain financial climate spurred by BRAC closures and the federal deficit, I view spending for key products in the [Capital Improvement Plan], including the [Long Bridge Park] aquatic center and the trolley, as reckless and irresponsible, and will oppose them unless the county’s economic outlook improves” she said. “In addition to opposing profligate capital spending, I have a specific plan for action to promote fiscal responsibility that emphasizes funding basic needs and investment in sustainable infrastructure.”
The private fundraiser will start at 6:15 p.m. tonight (Thursday) and is being held in advance of the vice presidential debate, which airs at 9:00 p.m. The event includes a roundtable meeting, a VIP photo reception, and a general reception that starts at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets for the fundraiser range in price from $100 to $5,000 and benefit the Romney campaign.
“Come meet a former vice president before watching the future vice president!” said an invitation to the event, which was organized by Young Professionals for Romney.
We’ve already established that Arlington is a company town — with some 46 percent of respondents to our poll saying they work for the federal government or a government contractor.
Since government is the predominant local industry, one would think that last night’s presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney would have been the programming of choice on most local TVs. But was that actually the case? Let’s find out.
Did you watch all or part of the debate last night?
Local Parties to Hold Debate Watching Parties — Local Republicans and Democrats will be holding viewing parties for the first of the 2012 presidential debates tonight. The Arlington Republican viewing party will be held at Mad Rose Tavern in Clarendon (3100 Clarendon Blvd). The Arlington Democratic viewing party will be held at Bailey’s Pub & Grille in Ballston (4238 Wilson Blvd).
Parents Say Bus Changes Are Taking a Toll – Students are not performing as well academically and at least one mom lost her job as a result of changes to the County’s school bus policies, according to a group of parents. Parents of Campbell Elementary students are planning to carpool — to Thursday’s School Board meeting, to voice their concerns. [WTOP]
More Local BRAC Moves Coming — According to one estimate, government agencies with leases expiring between now and 2015 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act occupy more than 4.5 million square feet of office space in Arlington and Alexandria. The BRAC move-outs are impacting the bottom line of some commercial property holders. Vornado, with office space in Arlington and Fairfax County, expects earnings to be down as much as $60 million as a result of BRAC. [Bloomberg]
Church Series on ‘Restoring Political Civility’ — The Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ (5010 Little Falls Road) will be holding a four-part series that will “discuss how citizenship is a responsibility rather than a privilege, and how to restore civility to the political process.” [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Keithhall
While Independent Jason Howell and Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy focused on changing the current state of affairs by overcoming partisan battles, Republican Patrick Murray largely set his sights on taking jabs at incumbent Jim Moran (D).
Murray said one topic he actually agrees with President Obama on is disgust over certain members of Congress using privileged information to benefit on Wall Street deals. He aimed his insider trading frustrations directly at Moran.
“You know, Jim’s done pretty well. He’s a pretty wealthy guy now. I’m sure that insider trading had something to do with it,” said Murray.
Moran denied any illegal involvement with such deals and downplayed his alleged wealth.
“I was never at this meeting where supposedly insider information was disclosed,” said Moran. “I have zero assets, I live in an apartment in Arlington with my son, and the financial disclosures will show you my asset value of zero.”
Regarding a question to candidates about the situation in the Middle East and strained relations with Israel, Moran said he supports the recent Syria uprising. He doesn’t, however, support sending American troops to assist with the situation.
“We have one solid, strong, democratic ally in the Middle East and that is Israel,” Murray said. “I have a great concern with where we are with our relations with Israel. If I’m your congressman, I will always support Israel 100 percent.”
Murphy was most adamant about not increasing support to Israel.
“I think we’re doing way too much for that ally,” she said. “I think they’re off base in Palestine entirely. I think we’ve had way too much of re-organizing the entire Middle East to their purpose.”
Howell suggested the U.S. foster other relationships in the Middle East, such as with Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
“With all the friends that we have in the Middle East, and all the challenges that there are in the Middle East, we should find better ways and nuanced ways, innovative ways to lean on those partners,” said Howell.
Turning to domestic issues, the candidates discussed the validity of more investments in clean energy. Moran stated his belief that America relies too heavily on fossil fuels, and pushed for more funding in areas like solar and wind energies.
“The fact is that this world is warming, that the climate is changing,” Moran said. “We will all pay the price, but not as steep a price as our children and grandchildren, if we don’t do something today.”
Moran stated that the collapse of Solyndra was an inexcusable, unfortunate incident, but it’s the exception and not the rule. He therefore advocates investing in other clean energy companies.
Also referring to Solyndra, Howell said the government isn’t always proficient at choosing companies to invest in, so he instead advocates “investing in ideas” rather than targeting specific companies to receive funding.
Murphy said America is “late to the game” in promoting clean energy, and she would like to see fossil fuel use end altogether. She would like to impose a 25 cent transaction tax on each Wall Street transaction, which would be set aside for green energy jobs.
Murray said he’s for green initiatives, if they’re functions of the free market. He also favors building the Keystone Pipeline.
“That is 200,000 jobs. And not only that, it is 50 percent of our reliance on OPEC oil right there,” Murray said. “It is the biggest no-brainer we have.”
One debate attendee brought up Americans’ dissatisfaction with Congress, as reflected in the downward trend of its approval rating. The person asked why any incumbents should be re-elected at all.
“Why should you re-elect any of them? You shouldn’t,” said Murphy. “We need to just snap out of it and stop getting dragged around by whatever subliminal messages we’re being told to respond to in these advertisements.”
Murray concurred, claiming current members of Congress are quick to point fingers at others for partisanship, but shirk their own responsibilities. Murray then took another jab at Moran, which garnered some gasps and boos.
“We have a situation now where 144,000 people in Virginia are going to start losing their jobs. It’s all defense spending,” Murray said. “Who sits on the Defense Appropriations Committee? Who’s the Congressman of this district? Who’s been spending money like a crack addict for 22 years?”
For the most part, Moran avoided slinging accusations and attempted to turn attention to what he’s achieved during his time in Congress. He mentioned working in a bipartisan manner to fund projects over the years, such as Metro’s expansion in Arlington.
“When you don’t want to share your policy and vision with your constituents, you rely on personal attacks,” said Moran. “This is one of the finest places to live and work and raise a family in the country. And I’m proud of the fact that I’ve had some small, constructive role in achieving that objective.”
In light of the sometimes nasty atmosphere during the debate, Howell capped off the night by reiterating his focus on civility and working together.
“Some of the problems we have in Congress is just a great deal of disrespect,” he said. “I’m going to bring the same respect to Congress that I’m happy to offer Mr. Moran and the other candidates tonight.”
The three candidates for Arlington County Board squared off last night at a forum hosted by the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association. Green Party candidate Audrey Clement, Democrat Libby Garvey and Republican Mark Kelly advanced cases for why they each should get voter support.
Garvey’s main push is for more communication and transparency in government.
“I think we’re having a little trouble keeping our priorities straight. Is it all about education, infrastructure, public safety? Or is it all about Artispheres and street cars and that sort of thing,” Garvey said. “I think we need to be very clear about our priorities and make them our core services.”
Kelly’s focus is on greater fiscal discipline. He’s also interested in getting the current board members to think outside the box.
“They talk a lot about the Arlington Way and including communities. But sometimes when the rubber meets the road, it’s a lot of talk,” said Kelly. “Someone needs to be presenting alternative plans and offering amendments even if they lose.”
Clement touted her fiscal responsibility as well. She distinguishes herself from Kelly by saying their ideologies are different, and cost reduction doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the welfare of residents. She advocates eliminating what she calls wasteful spending projects like Artisphere, the planned Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center and the planned Columbia Pike streetcar. She said a bus system would provide the same service at one-fifth the cost of the streetcar’s estimated $250 million dollar price tag.
Kelly also stated opposition to the streetcar project. Garvey, on the other hand, wouldn’t offer a firm opinion on the idea. She did, however, express interest in examining expanded bus service instead. Like other issues raised throughout the night, the streetcar is something she said she “questions.”
“I’m not taking a stand on it right yet, but I have lots of questions about whether it makes sense for the amount of money that we need to put in,” Garvey said.
A topic referred to throughout the forum is the Board green-lighting the purchase of an office building in the Courthouse neighborhood for a homeless shelter. The candidates assert that regardless of whether or not a year-round homeless shelter a good idea, the process for approving the deal was faulty. Garvey, while again stating she has questions about the project, reiterated the need for transparency. She said although the board may have had good reasons for their decision, residents don’t like it.
Romney Wins Va. Primary — Mitt Romney won Virginia’s Republican presidential primary yesterday, capturing 59.5 percent of the vote statewide. The only other candidate who qualified for the ballot, Ron Paul, received 40.5 percent of the vote. In Arlington, Romney received 64.6 percent of the vote to 35.4 percent for Ron Paul. Voter turnout was light, as expected. A total of 7,623 votes were cast in Arlington, representing 5 percent of registered voters and 6.3 percent of active voters.
County Board Candidates Square Off at Forum — The three candidates for County Board squared off last night at a candidates forum organized by the Arlington County Civic Federation. Democrat Libby Garvey was flanked by Republican Mark Kelly and Green Party candidate Audrey Clement, who together called for less spending and for the creation of an independent inspector general to monitor county spending. Kelly and Clement also took turns bashing the planned Columbia Pike streetcar. [Sun Gazette, Sun Gazette]
Republicans Blast Favola — Freshman state Senator Barbara Favola (D) has now been the subject of two critical press releases from the Republican Party of Virginia. The latest press release digs up an eight-year-old letter Favola signed, urging then-governor Mark Warner to avoid delays in adopting a budget. Favola is one of 20 Democrats who have voted against two Republican budget proposals in the state Senate. [Washington Post]
Clarendon: Hot Office Market — Bisnow says Clarendon is one of the region’s five hottest office submarkets. “If a company depends on young employees, it’s probably looking for space in Clarendon,” the online real estate publication wrote. [Bisnow]
Marine Corps Marathon Registration Opens Today — General registration for the 37th annual Marine Corps Marathon kicks off today at 3:00 p.m. Last year the marathon experienced a “record registration sell out” of 30,000 spots in a mere 28 hours. Registration costs $92 and includes a t-shirt and a finisher’s medal. [Marine Corps Marathon]
County Board Debate Scheduled — The six Democratic candidates for County Board, along with Green Party hopeful Audrey Clement, have been invited to participate in a candidate’s night debate on Tuesday, Jan. 10. The debate, which is sponsored by a number of civic associations as well as the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, will take place at McKinley Elementary (1050 McKinley Road) at 7:30 p.m. The Arlington County Democratic Committee has also scheduled its own candidate forum.
Petraeus Spotted in Shirlington — CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus was reportedly spotted eating and drinking with his wife at Guapo’s in Shirlington Village over the weekend. Petraeus isn’t the only powerful Guapo’s fan: House Speaker John Boehner has also been spotted there several times. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Changes to ART 62 Route — Several significant changes to the ART 62 bus route start today. [CommuterPage Blog]
Neighborhood College Registration Open — Arlington County’s ‘Neighborhood College’ is accepting applications for its 2012 Civic Leadership Development Program. The free, eight-week course is open to all residents. It seeks to give students “the inside scoop on how County government works… helping you hone your civic leadership skills.” Applications for the 25 available slots are due Jan. 30. [Arlington County]
Merrick started out the night with a stump speech that focused on her background as a successful businesswoman and on her desire “streamline regulation and taxation so we can unleash the entrepreneurial spirit.” During the speech Merrick, a McLean resident, tried to strike a bipartisan tone.
“I am not running as a partisan, I’m running to represent every one in this district,” she said. “I am not running on social issues.”
Alas, social issues quickly entered the conversation as questions from the audience focused on more divisive subjects.
“How will you stand up for my daughter’s right to choose?” one man asked.
“There are millions of good people on both sides of this issue,” Merrick replied. “I am pro-life and I am pro-woman.”
Merrick’s Democratic opponent, Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola, then answered and drew loud applause as she declared herself “100 percent pro-choice.” She went on to argue that if Merrick was elected, Republicans in the Virginia legislature would have a better shot at passing laws that restrict abortion rights and the rights of immigrants.
“I am very troubled by this social agenda,” she said of state Republicans.
Later, Merrick was asked about the A- rating she received from the National Rifle Association. The man asking about it was Omar Samaha, a three-year Cherrydale resident whose sister was killed in the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. Samaha asked if the candidates supported background checks on private gun sales.
“I’ve been around guns all my life, but in a safe way… a responsible way,” said Merrick, whose father was a Marine. Pressed on whether she thinks background checks should be required for all gun sales, Merrick said yes.
“I do think we should have a background check,” she said.
Favola was again unequivocal, saying she was proud of the ‘F’ she received from the NRA
“I feel very strongly that we have too many gun sales in this country, to people who are not mentally stable and should not be having access to guns,” Favola said. She went on to question why guns are allowed in Virginia’s bars and why localities like Arlington don’t have more power to regulate guns.
Another resident asked Favola and Merrick whether they’d release their answers to the survey the NRA sends to candidates. Favola said she, in fact, did not respond to the survey. Merrick said she would release the survey before the election, and then commented on the question itself.
“I have to say, these questions tonight have not been representative of what I’ve been asked as I’ve knocked on doors around the district,” she said.
“I am running on jobs and the economy,” said Merrick. “We need to diversify our economy. That is the most important issue.”
In her closing remarks, Favola said there’s “a definite choice” between herself and Merrick, adding that Merrick was listed on a Northern Virginia Tea Party website. Merrick, who earlier criticized the “rancor” on Capitol Hill, took the bait. She responded by saying that Favola “knows nothing about” bipartisanship.
“I’m not a member of the Tea Party, I don’t know how my picture got up there,” she said tersely. “Barbara Favola is not looking to solve problems, she’s looking to start a fight.”
On his blog yesterday, Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey reported that some residents have taken note of Republican state Senate candidate Caren Merrick’s propensity for skipping local candidate forums.
“Merrick, who is running against Democrat Barbara Favola for the 31st state Senate seat, has declined to appear at a number of joint appearances in Arlington,” McCaffrey wrote. “It’s happened so often, it must be a strategy rather than a series of coincidences.”
While skipping neighborhood-level political debates may not seem on its face like a great strategy, one wonders how much damage it could really do.
To what degree is your local vote influenced by watching a candidate forum or debate?
County Board Candidates Debate — The three candidates for Arlington County Board — two incumbent Democrats and one Green Party challenger — answered questions at the Civic Federation candidates forum last night. The Democrats, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, spoke generally about the advantages of living in Arlington, while challenger Audrey Clement sharply criticized the County Board as being “in bed with developers.” [Sun Gazette]
Unopposed Candidate Roundup — Six Democrats who are running unopposed for local offices also spoke at last night’s candidates forum. [Sun Gazette]
7-Eleven Move Causes Disruptions — Who knew that one 7-Eleven store (out of 24 in Arlington) can have such a significant impact on a community? After a store in the Williamsburg Shopping Center moved closer to the East Falls Church Metro, daily routines were disrupted and other businesses in the shopping center withered. “7-11 may have a fine national strategy, but it sends ripples around localities, affecting livelihoods as well as routines beyond mere convenience,” writes columnist Charlie Clark. Luckily, the store is now moving back to Williamsburg. [Falls Church News-Press]
Redesign Suggestion for Dangerous Rosslyn Intersection — Greater Greater Washington proposes a possible way to enhance pedestrian safety at the dangerous intersection of Lynn Street and Lee Highway, while also (possibly) improving traffic flow. [Greater Greater Washington]
DCA Workers Injured By Lightning Strike — Two workers at Reagan National Airport were injured after lightning struck near American Airlines Gate 32. The injuries were not considered life-threatening. [WUSA 9]
Recounting 9/11 at Va. Hospital Center — The injured came flooding into Virginia Hospital Center by private car, military vehicle and ambulance on Sept. 11, 2001, employees recalled at a recent commemoration. Now the hospital says they’re better prepared to handle all sorts of emergencies. [MyFoxDC, WTOP]
Rare, Unseen Pentagon Historical Photos — Life Magazine has release a set of previously-unpublished photos of the Pentagon while it was still under construction in the early 1940s. [Life.com]
More on Tuesday’s Candidates Debate — In case you missed Tuesday’s Arlington County Civic Federation-sponsored debate, the Sun Gazette has a summary of the 32nd District state Senate debate between incumbent Sen. Janet Howell and Republican challenger Patrick Forrest, plus the three-way debate between Del. Bob Brink and his independent and Independent Green challengers for the 48th District House of Delegates seat.
GOP Candidate Prepared for Everything — Trying to prove that his long-shot campaign is in it to win it, Republican 30th District state Senate candidate Tim McGhee told attendees at Tuesday night’s debate that he’s prepared for pretty much anything and won’t be making any major policy shifts. “This is a built to last campaign that, whether its hurricanes, earthquakes, UN votes, stock market swings, whatever may be happening, nothing has to change between now and election day,” he said.