Dems Debate in Ballston — The six Democratic candidates for County Board faced off in their first debate last night, before a standing-room only crowd at the NRECA conference center in Ballston. The debate was held by Arlington Young Democrats. Though knowledgable about current issues facing Arlington, candidates were light on specifics about what should be done to address those issues. [InsideNova]
Disruption Corp. Sold to 1776 — Disruption Corp., the Crystal City-based tech investment fund and office space, has been acquired by D.C.-based tech incubator 1776. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. [Washington Post]
Caps Pep Rally at Elementary School — Third grade students at Carlin Springs Elementary School have won a contest to bring a Washington Capitals playoff pep rally to their school today. The rally will start at 12:30 p.m. “There won’t likely be any players, but it will be a great time for all,” a teacher tells ARLnow.com. “The kids will be getting prizes, pictures with Slapshot (the Caps’ mascot) and learning some hockey skills. The Caps are also donating equipment to the school.” [Washington Capitals]
Artisphere ‘Doomed from the Start’ — Artisphere, which is on the budgetary chopping block next week, was “doomed from the start,” according to the artistic director of a theatre company that was booted out of its space at the cultural center two years after it opened. An anonymous Artisphere employee said of the early, over-optimistic attendance and revenue projections: “All of those numbers were so completely false.” [Washington Post]
McAuliffe Signs Special Needs Bill in Arlington — On Tuesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe came to Arlington to sign the ABLE Act, which will allow individuals with special needs, and their families, to set up tax-exempt accounts that will allow them to save for future living expenses. Virginia is the first state to enact such legislation, which received the blessing of the U.S. Congress in December. [WJLA]
Security of Va. Voting Machines Blasted — The touch screen voting machines now being replaced in Arlington and elsewhere in Virginia were “so easy to hack, it will take your breath away,” according to reports. [Ars Technica, The Guardian]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
The Arlington County Board voted on Saturday to approve the licenses for 60 new taxis, all wheelchair accessible. Ten of those taxis will be operated by Blue Top Cab while the other 50 licenses will be owned by new company All Access Taxi.
The Board’s unanimous decision adds 20 more taxis to the county’s fleet than County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended, bringing the total number of licensed cabs in the county to 847, 97 of which will be accessible cabs.
“Our taxi companies, members of the disability community and riders are telling us there is a growing demand for accessible taxi service in Arlington,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “We strive to be a fully welcoming community, and these additional cabs will provide more options and convenience to many people with a disability.”
County staff’s report on the licenses said people with wheelchairs have had to wait three hours for an accessible taxi and have had trouble getting taxis from Reagan National Airport. Julie Piche, the CEO of All Access Taxi, said the County Board’s approval will drastically improve the lives of disabled Arlington residents.
“This is ground-breaking because for the first time a local government has recognized that accessible and equitable service requires a fleet and a dedicated effort,” Piche told ARLnow.com today. “This is a victory for people with disabilities across the nation because their needs have been recognized and their quest for accessible, on-demand transportation has been validated. Arlington’s leadership will set the standard for the nation.”
All Access Taxi anticipates offering rides on demand — via phone, online and a mobile app — in February, Piche said, and its full fleet is expected to be operational by April.
Photo courtesy All Access Taxi
The Arlington County Board will vote on whether to approve 40 new taxi licenses — all for taxis accessible to those with disabilities — at its meeting this Saturday. County Manager Barbara Donnellan, after initially recommending no new taxi licenses be issued for 2014, changed her mind in October, pushing for the new licenses.
Thirty of the new licenses would go to new company All Access Taxi, which had requested 60 taxi licenses. Ten of the new licenses would go to Blue Top Cab, bringing the total number of accessible cabs in the county to 77, or 9.3 percent of the county’s 827-vehicle fleet.
At its Oct. 30 meeting, Arlington’s Transportation Commission recommended the County Board approve 80 new taxi licenses for accessible cabs. County staff noted that even the 40 licenses its recommending could have adverse impacts on crowding at taxi stands and could impair the ability of current drivers to earn a living.
“It is not desirable to add new vehicles to the taxi fleet if a drop in taxi utilization due to [companies like UberX and Lyft] is resulting in existing taxicabs being idled,” the county staff report states. “It is uncertain how much the size of the overall taxi consumer market would increase with the presence of additional accessible taxis and whether that market increase could offset the additional taxicabs.”
Staff also said it recognizes the challenges All Access Taxi will face as a new company with a “limited” fleet of vehicles, but added the approved 30 licenses will require a significant up-front investment and “if needed, other mechanisms, other than through Arlington County certificate process, could be pursued.” Staff also questioned both Blue Top and All Access Taxi’s ability to recruit professional drivers and train them to handle disabled customers.
The County Board is scheduled to discuss the licenses this Saturday morning as a regular hearing item.
Photo courtesy All Access Taxi
Donnellan said in a memorandum in July she would recommend issuing no new taxi licenses in the county. But when the Accessibility Subcommittee of the Transit Advisory Committee took up the issue in September, it found that there was a need the county had not adequately addressed.
“[The subcommittee] that the low level of taxi complaints reported in the 2014 Certificate Determination Report was not a meaningful measure to determine the amount of accessible taxis needed,” Donnellan’s memorandum, issued earlier this month, states. “Since taxi dispatchers are informing callers that a three-hour wait is required for an accessible taxicab ride, customers are unlikely to complain to the County or request a same-day accessible taxi trip in the future.”
All Access Taxi requested 60 accessible taxi licenses in the summer after Donnellan issued her initial recommendation. Donnellan revised her recommendation to allow All Access Taxi 30 accessible taxi licenses and 10 more licenses for Blue Top Cab, bringing the total number of accessible cabs in the county to 77. All Access CEO and Founder Julie Piché said that 30 is not the optimal number to serve the disabled population in Arlington.
“Sixty wheelchair accessible taxis in Arlington County would maximize service to this underserved population by providing 2 taxis per square mile,” Piché said in a press release. “This will allow the population of disabled individuals to receive spontaneous service for the first time in history. The days of having to call more than 24 hours ahead, or waiting over 3 hours for an accessible taxi after a spontaneous call will be a thing of the past with our 60 taxi accessible fleet.”
According to the county report, the need for accessible services is increasing in Arlington. Arlington’s STAR program and MetroAccess — two public paratransit services — have seen their registrations in Arlington increase 26 percent in the last two years, the memorandum states. Both services use cabs when they don’t have other vehicles available, and there have been more reported late pickups among Arlington STAR riders from March to June this year than during any period since March 2011.
The new taxi license recommendation will go before the county’s Transportation Commission on Thursday, and hopes to see a larger number approved by the County Board when the matter goes before them in December. If approved, accessible cabs will make up 9.3 percent of the county’s taxi fleet, up from the current level of 4.7 percent.
Photos courtesy All Access Taxi
All Access Taxi has submitted applications for 60 taxi licenses with Arlington County, which allows companies to request additional taxi licenses for two months every other year, according to county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel.
All Access Taxi COO Rick Vogel told ARLnow.com that his company would be the first in the region to offer 100 percent of its fleet as wheelchair accessible. The former Envirocab executive claimed that the standard wait for a wheelchair-accessible cab in the D.C. area is about three hours.
“There really isn’t anything for spontaneous service,” Vogel said. “Reagan lies within our boundaries, yet there’s no accessible service there. About once a week, someone gets stuck there with no way around. There are just no taxis.”
“I think Arlington has always been a leader in disabled issues,” Vogel continued. “All our buildings are accessible, everything is, except our cabs. At first I thought of it as a business idea, but now it’s becoming a cause. It upsets me because they can’t get around town.”
Vogel said he plans for the company to be headquartered in South Arlington and to train drivers in assisting people with disabilities. He plans on purchasing vehicles like the Ford Transit Connect (pictured), the Dodge Caravan, the Honda Odyssey and others. Each cab will be equipped with a wheelchair ramp in the back, a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit.
To operate as a taxi service in Arlington, however, a company needs to own a county taxicab certificate. There are 787 certificates in the county right now, only 37 of which are wheelchair accessible. County Manager Barbara Donnellan, however, recommended in a July 1 memorandum that no new taxicab certificates be issued until 2016, specifically including accessible taxis in her recommendation.
“Based on staff’s quantitative analysis,” Donnellan wrote, “there are sufficient bases to justify maintaining the existing number of taxicabs (750 vehicles and 37 wheelchair vehicles) authorized to operate in the county.”
Donnellan and her staff will make her final recommendations by Oct. 15, the Transportation Commission will make its alternative recommendation on Nov. 15 and the County Board will decide whether to approve new certificates, if any, at its December meeting. The county issued 22 new licenses in 2012, and didn’t issue any in 2010.
According to Donnellan’s memorandum, the county’s population has increased by 3,300 since 2012, but the workforce has shrunk by 6,900 jobs. While there are roughly the same amount of cabs per person now than before the new certificates were issued, there are now 3.47 taxicabs per 1,000 employees, as opposed to 3.36 in 2012. The overall number of cabs dispatched has increased 1.1 percent over the course of the last two years.
Donnellan wrote in the memorandum, however, that a new application for a certificate might be considered if the applicant provides adequate reason or innovation. Vogel believes his company deserves to be awarded certificates to serve a chronically underserved populace.
“I think this idea’s time has come,” he said. “These people have money to spend, but they can’t get to where they want to go. I think at the end of the day, we can make people’s lives better.”
Photo via Ford
The show is called “Making Their Mark: Art Brut,” and highlights pieces from artists with disabilities from ServiceSource day centers, a non-profit disability resource organization. It is put on in partnership with Purple Art, an art therapy program that works with individuals with disabilities and with military members and their families.
“Sometimes, I feel like Van Gogh,” artist Andrew Ross told ARLnow.com. “Music and art go together with me. I enjoy making both of them, they are big part of me”.
“Art Brut” translates to “raw art” and describes works created without classical art training. It’s an opportunity for the artists to overcome challenges and to express themselves in different ways. Some of the artists created pieces with little or no assistance for the first time.
“It’s good, I did a lot of work on the art,” artist Robert “Bobby” Hoffer told ARLnow.com
Volunteers donated many of the framing materials for the exhibition, in addition to volunteering to frame, mount and curate the show pieces.
“Making Their Mark: Art Brut” runs through August 23. More information can be found on the Gallery Underground website.
Ft. Myer Alarm System Test Today — In conjunction with Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Operations, the Department of State will test an alarm system on Summerall Field on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base at 2:30 p.m. today. Residents near the area can expect to hear high noise levels. For more information call 703-696-0573.
September Start Date for Ashlawn Addition Construction — A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for 5:30 p.m. on September 6 for construction on the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School. Construction on the three level addition is expected to take about two years. The new portion will add about 26,000 square feet to the existing 69,000 square foot school building, allowing the capacity to grow from 524 students to about 680. [Sun Gazette]
Grants for Non-profits — Arlington County is accepting grant proposals from non-profit organizations that help residents with physical and/or sensory disabilities. Projects should increase or maintain independence and community integration for residents with disabilities through empowerment focused services. The 2015-2016 Regional Grants to Disability Groups Application Packet can be found online. Grant proposals are due by September 30. [Arlington County]
Thousands of Armed Protesters Expected on July 4 — Pro-gun activists are planning an open carry protest march from Arlington National Cemetery, across the Memorial Bridge and into D.C. The protest, which is being organized on Facebook, is to take place on July 4. Participants are encouraged to march with loaded rifles slung across their backs. More than 2,000 have indicated their intention to participate in the “non-violent event.” [Huffington Post]
DJO Softball Finishes 24-1 — The elite Bishop O’Connell softball team has finished the regular season with a 24-1 record after consecutive victories against Yorktown and Paul VI. The nationally-ranked Knights will now advance to the playoffs. [Sun Gazette]
Too-Tall Parking Meters Being Replaced — A manufacturer of Arlington’s multi-space parking meters is replacing 16 meters that don’t meet current Americans with Disabilities Act requirements because they’re too tall. The replacements are being done at no cost to the county. [Arlington Mercury]
New Bus Shelters Vandalized in Arlandria — There has been a wave of vandalism directed toward new glass-paned bus shelters in the Arlandria section of Alexandria, adjacent to Arlington. [The Arlandrian]
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
Wakefield, O’Connell Advance in Tournaments — In high school basketball news, last night the Wakefield Warriors defeated Mountain View 83-76 to advance to the state semifinals, to be played Monday night. Earlier this week the Bishop O’Connell Knights defeated St. John’s 58-53 to capture the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament championship. After a quarterfinal victory, DJO will now play in the Virginia Independent School Athletic Association Division I tournament semifinals tonight. [Washington Post, Sun Gazette]
Parents Upset With School Boundary Changes — At a meeting Wednesday night, numerous parents expressed displeasure with Arlington Public Schools’ proposed elementary boundary changes. The changes are necessary due to overcrowding and the upcoming addition of a new elementary school. [Patch]
County Event to Highlight Intellectual Disabilities — On Tuesday morning, Arlington County will hold an “awards program and proclamation ceremony establishing Including People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Month as March 2013″ The county says it “is committed to empowering and supporting persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve healthy self-determined lifestyles through community-based education, living arrangements, employment, and other individualized support services.” [Arlington County]
Metro Seeks Input on Pershing-Rt 50 Bus Service — Metro will be holding two public meetings in Arlington next week to discuss potential improvements to the Metrobus 4A, B, E and H lines, also known as the Pershing Drive-Arlington Blvd line. [WMATA]
Kids with disabilities can learn to ride two-wheel bikes on their own at an upcoming camp co-sponsored by the Lose the Training Wheels organization.
This week-long camp for children between the ages of eight and 18 uses trained staff and adapted bicycles that can be modified as riders develop more skills and self-confidence. The success rate is high, as most riders are expected to begin pedaling independently by mid-week.
This is the third year that the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation Therapeutic Recreation Office will be teaming up with the non-profit Lose the Training Wheels organization. The camp will be held at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road), from July 30 to August 3.
There will be five sessions during the day: 8:30 a.m., 10:05 a.m., 11:40 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 3:35 p.m. The cost for a camper to attend five daily 75 minute long sessions is $265.
A short awards ceremony will wrap up each session on August 3.
Dr. Richard Klein, founder of LTTW and the designer of the adapted bikes that are available at the camp will be present as well as the organization’s executive director, Lisa Ruby. The camp is co-sponsored by the Ballston Holiday Inn hotel, Red Top Cab, Arlington Kiwanis, and John D. McClelland and family.
For more information call Michael Swisher, the camp director, at 703-228-4738, or call the Registration Office at 703-228-4747.
Photo via Arlington County
Sauca Ends Food Truck Service — Coming on the heels of the closing of the Sauca restaurant on Columbia Pike comes word that the Sauca food trucks have also ended their run. Owner Farhad Assari says it was a lifestyle choice — he was tired of working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. [Eater]
County May Need to Create New Group Homes — Arlington County may need to find some new group homes to house 33 people with intellectual and related disabilities. Arlington is just one of numerous Virginia localities scrambling to house disabled residents after a federal judge ordered state-run “training center” facilities closed. [Arlington Connection]
Lubber Run Performance Schedule Set — The summer concert series at the Lubber Run Amphitheater will start on June 15 and end on August 4. Concerts are scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. [Arlington Arts, Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
Employers are joining with the Wounded Warrior Project to hold a job fair for disabled veterans in Arlington tomorrow (Wednesday).
The daylong event is being held at the Sheraton National Hotel (900 S. Orme Street), near the intersection of Columbia Pike and Washington Boulevard. About 60 unemployed or underemployed disabled vets will have the opportunity to network with local employers while receiving job placement training.
In addition to helping to find employment for the disabled attendees, the event is also intended to bring attention to unemployment among U.S. combat veterans. As of 2010, the unemployment rate for those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces since Sept. 2001 was 11.5 percent.
“Despite their unwavering courage, many of these men and women return home from duty only to become part of a growing group of unemployed veteran,” said Gen. Richard B. Myers, retired chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, in a statement. “The Wounded Warriors Project provides these individuals with a tremendous opportunity to make a successful transition into the private sector and have a chance for economic prosperity.”
The event — the “Aon Salute to America’s Wounded Warriors” — has also been held in cities like New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Employers and individuals who make a difference in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities received special recognition from the county on Tuesday at a Proclamation Ceremony.
Those honored have helped people with disabilities participate in community activities, in addition to obtaining job skills and employment.
Families, friends, educators, employers and others packed the atrium at the National Science Foundation in Ballston to honor the two individuals and three employers.
Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Julia DeLeon, an instructional aide in Arlington Public Schools, and Sharon Raimo, CEO of St. Coletta of Greater Washington, Inc.
“Julia DeLeon and Sharon Raimo have dedicated their careers to helping children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “They embody the Arlington vision of inclusiveness, wherein ‘each person is important.’”
The three local employers who were honored for their long-term commitments to hiring people with disabilities are Revolution Cycles, Northrup Grumman Corporation and Joint Base Myer/Henderson Hall and Commissary. Hynes said she hopes these employers serve as a reminder to everyone in the community that people with disabilities can benefit the workforce.
“Employment often facilitates meaningful and wider community integration,” said Hynes. “It can lead to increased self-esteem and a higher status in one’s own family and social group. Higher income can lead to increased independence and participation in the community. This is as true for employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities as it is for all of us.”
The ceremony was part of March’s month-long celebration of what the county dubbed “Including People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Month.”
The Mary Marshall Assisted Living Residence first opened in November after $8.2 million in renovations. Officials held an open house this morning to show off the facility. Located at 2000 5th Street S. near Fort Myer, the residence boasts 52 apartments for adults 55 or older who meet low income criteria and who have a mental illness, or an intellectual or developmental disability.
The facility’s open house is coming at a time when Virginia is planning to close four of its five large state facilities for the mentally disabled, in favor of smaller, community-based residences (like Mary Marshall).
“We know smaller, community-based settings are the best places for people with intellectual disabilities and people with mental illness to receive the care they need,” said Mike King, president of Volunteers of America, a national faith-based nonprofit that’s helping Arlington County run the residence. “Mary Marshall is one of the first facilities of its kind in the United States, and we hope it will become a model of care for the growing number of seniors living with these kinds of disabilities.”
“Improved care has helped [intellectually disabled seniors] live longer, healthier lives than they could in the past,” noted Volunteers of America spokesman David Burch. “Today, as they’ve reached old age, these people now face their existing disabilities plus new issues, like limited mobility and vision, resulting from aging.”
Potential residents will be referred to Mary Marshall by the Arlington County Department of Human Services.
Will Capital Bikeshare Experience Distribution Problems? — Due to the one-way flow of commuters, bike share programs tend to experience some degree of distribution problems. At any given time, some stations will be full of bikes, making it impossible to return one, while other stations will be empty, making it impossible to rent one. Such a situation forces bike share officials to manually move bikes from place to place, adding costs to the system. More from TheCityFix blog.
Moran Throws Racy Fundraiser — Rep. Jim Moran is pitching a night at the theater for big donors — but they have to leave the kids at home. For $2,400, donors get two tickets to the anti-Vietnam War musical “Hair” at the Kennedy Center, along with an invite to a pre-show dinner reception. But the offer comes with a warning: “Please note: this performance contains strong language, mature content and brief nudity.” More from Politico.
Arlington Man Kicked Off Flight Due to Disability — Arlington resident Zuhair Mahmoud says a Dubai-based airline refused to allow him to board a flight because he is blind and was not traveling with a companion. The airline’s CEO says he’s sorry for the incident. More from the Associated Press.
Arlington Lawyer Stripped of License — An Arlington lawyer accused of practicing law without a license, who had his license to practice law reinstated in April, has been stripped of the license by the D.C. Court of Appeals. Howard Deiner is accused of representing families of children with special needs in cases while his license lapsed due to unpaid bills. More from the Washington Post.