New Gymnastics, Aquatics Fee Structure — In her FY 2016 budget, County Manager Barbara Donnellan is proposing a new fee structure for gymnastics and aquatics teams. The fees will recover “no more than 100 percent of direct costs,” and would be a savings of around 15 percent compared to the current fees. [Arlington County]
Tighter Security at Fort Myer — Some bicyclists are worried that tighter security measures put in place this week at Fort Myer will limit non-military personnel from accessing the base. Cyclists often use Fort Myer to travel safely between south Arlington and north Arlington without having to ride on Columbia Pike. Arlington County, meanwhile, has been working on some trail projects that would make north-to-south and south-to-north bike travel safer. [Greater Greater Washington]
Goldstein Announces School Board Run — Reid Goldstein has announced that he’s running for Arlington School Board. Goldstein, a “longtime Arlington schools, County and neighborhood advocate,” will seek the seat of the retiring Abby Raphael. “We must be honest and diligent stewards of our community’s money and trust as we work to preserve and improve the high quality of Arlington’s schools, even as enrollment increases,” Goldstein said in a press release.
National Airport Hits Passenger Record — Reagan National Airport set a new record for passenger traffic in 2014. Some 20.8 million passengers used Reagan last year, a 2 percent increase. With traffic decreasing at Dulles International, MWAA plans to share as much as $300 million in revenue from Reagan to Dulles over a 10 year span. [Washington Business Journal]
New Marine Corps Sergeant Major — Assuming they’re not deterred by the cold, the Marine Corps will hold a ceremony this morning at the Iwo Jima War Memorial, celebrating the appointment of Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green. Green will serve as the Corps’ 18th sergeant major, its highest enlisted rank. [Marine Corps Times]
Nick Anderson Leaving Arrowine — Former ARLnow.com “Beermonger” columnist Nick Anderson has announced that he is leaving Arrowine. Saturday will be his last day at the Lee Highway beer and wine store. [Arrowine]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
Thomas, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic County Board nomination last year, made the surprise announcement via Facebook this afternoon.
“To my friends and supporters, I want to thank you for the kind support and encouragement to run for the Arlington County Board,” Thomas said. “While my enthusiasm to represent our community remains, I have decided not to run in 2015.”
“At this time, with commitments to the continued growth and success in my business and family, I would not be able to focus 100% of my time on the needs of Arlington,” Thomas continued. “I am very encouraged that we have wonderful candidates currently seeking the office and I look forward to hearing how they intend to be good stewards of tax dollars and their vision for the future of Arlington.”
So far, two Democratic hopefuls have publicly announced their candidacy for the two open County Board seats: Andrew Schneider and Katie Cristol. Other widely-rumored candidates include Christian Dorsey and Peter Fallon.
“I’m excited to talk to Arlingtonians from all corners of the county to hear their ideas, frustrations and potential solutions. I believe in one Arlington, one community,” Schneider said in statement announcing his candidacy. “Our county is at its best when we’re having real dialogue with friends and neighbors about how to move our community forward together.”
This is not Schneider’s first foray into an Arlington election; last year, he came in third place in the Democratic primary in the special election to replace retiring Del. Bob Brink.
Schneider joins Columbia Pike resident Katie Cristol as the first two running for the open seat. Candidates are allowed to officially file to run for the primary on March 9.
Schneider has two children in Nottingham Elementary School and, if elected, would be the youngest member of the County Board. He’s a native Arlingtonian, a graduate of Yorktown High School and was named last year to Leadership Arlington’s 40 Under 40.
Schneider’s campaign announcement said his platform will be “managing the county’s financial situation with an understanding that we face a new fiscal reality, having honest conversations that include all Arlingtonians and treats our county as one community, and improving customer service for Arlington’s residents.”
APS Elementary Schools Get Top Marks — Ten of the top 11 public elementary schools in Virginia, as ranked by Niche.com, are in Arlington. “A high ranking indicates that the school is an exceptional academic institution with a diverse set of high-achieving students and faculty, and the students are very happy with their experiences,” the website said of its 2015 list. [Niche]
‘Blue Moon’ County Board Race — The upcoming Arlington County Board election will be the first in four decades in which two seats are open at the same time. That has led one political watcher to dub the race a “blue-moon” election. [InsideNova]
Fraber House Garage Moved — The detached garage near the historic Fraber House was moved closer to the home yesterday. The Fraber House was sold to a private homeowner after being designated historic by the county in 2013. The garage was not on the land that the county sold, but it allowed the homeowner to move it to the property. [Preservation Arlington]
Lopez Small Biz Legislation Passes — Del. Alfonso Lopez’s small business bill, HB 1901, has unanimously passed the House of Delegates. The legislation updates the definition of a small business in Virginia, which would in turn affect certain state purchasing contracts intended for small businesses. Currently, 95 percent of all businesses in Virginia meet the state’s definition of a small business: having 250 or fewer employees or annual revenue up to $10 million.
Robocall in County Board Primary — No candidate has officially announced for Arlington County Board yet, but one likely candidate is already doing some polling. Peter Fallon reportedly sponsored a “robocall” poll last night that asked questions about local issues important to the voter and whether the voter wants experience or a fresh face in this election cycle. [Blue Virginia]
Suspicious Item at Falls Church City Hall — Falls Church City Hall was evacuated yesterday evening due to a suspicious object found in the lobby. The Arlington County bomb squad investigated and determined that the object was “a training aid used by explosive K9 teams.” The building reopened around 8:15 p.m. [City of Falls Church]
Arlington Man Charged with Rape — A 33-year-old Arlington man has been charged with raping a Maryland woman in a Delaware hotel over the weekend. [News Journal]
Photo courtesy Peter Roof
Tejada, a Democrat, made the announcement on his Facebook page this afternoon. He thanked his supporters and promised that “a more comprehensive statement will be forthcoming.”
An advocate for diversity, affordable housing and Latino issues, Tejada has served on the Board since 2003. He said that he intends to serve out his current term through the end of the year.
At least four — probably more — Democrats are expected to announce their intention to run for County Board in the coming weeks, with many announcements expected to happen at February’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. County Board Chair Mary Hynes is also up for reelection this year — she has not yet said whether she intends to run.
Tejada’s full announcement is below.
Amigos/Friends, I want to let you know that I have decided not to run for reelection to the Arlington County Board. I want to THANK ALL OF YOU as well, regardless if you live in Arlington or not, as your support has always been and will always be important to me. Please also know that I’ll continue involved in the causes I believe in specially helping our community.Here is the statement I sent to the Chair of the Arlington Democratic Committee:
Kip Malinosky, Chair
Arlington County Democratic Committee
It has been and continues to be an enormous privilege to serve in elected office and I’m very proud that during my tenure, Arlington has been recognized time and again as one of the best run governments and one of the best communities in the country. After proudly serving the Arlington community for twelve years on the County Board, I have decided not to seek the Democratic nomination for another term.
Serving on the County Board has allowed me the opportunity to tackle a broad range of issues that have strengthened our community. It has also been a real privilege and honor to seek ways to empower low income, minority and immigrant residents in Arlington, the region, the state, and across the country, and to encourage their participation in our society. I remain committed to all of Arlington, in particular ensuring that the least privileged are heard, protecting our safety net, fighting for affordable housing, and providing a voice for many who frequently go voiceless. I have enjoyed upholding these core values, and will continue to do so in the future.
A more comprehensive statement will be forthcoming, but for now I wanted to let you know of my intentions. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the February ACDC monthly meeting, but look forward to addressing the committee in the future, perhaps at the March meeting.
At the moment I do not anticipate a need for a special election for my seat as I’m planning on fully serving my current term through December 2015.
I am, and always will be, grateful to the Arlington County Democratic Committee and to the Arlington community for their support. While on the County Board I’ve tried to serve as an unapologetic progressive, and will look forward in another capacity to always continuing to support those Democratic values. Please feel free to share this message as appropriate.
J. Walter Tejada
They would almost certainly get returned, given that the former Democratic donor is a convicted sex offender and has recently been in the headlines for claims that he used underage girls as sex slaves, with Britain’s Prince Andrew named as a potential beneficiary.
So why did Gwendolyn Beck, a long-shot independent candidate for Congress in Virginia’s 8th District last year, receive what appears to be Epstein’s only political donations of 2014, totaling $12,600?
Beck — a Rosslyn resident who used to work in the financial industry — tells ARLnow.com she simply asked a number of billionaires in her Rolodex for donations, and Epstein was one of them.
“I did call every billionaire I know to ask for campaign funds, and Mr. Epstein sent the donations,” Beck said via email. “I haven’t spoken with him personally in years. During my years at Morgan Stanley (started in 1995), I managed a portion of his investment funds (about $65 million), and knew him personally. While the press has tagged him ‘a man of mystery’ because they can’t explain how he made his money, it’s mostly a combination of real estate and complex derivatives.”
Beck continued: “At the time, he had a girlfriend he was very close to, and was a hardworking, thoughtful man (he comes from a poor background and made a lot of money really fast). I think he went off the deep end when she left (I left Morgan Stanley by this time and had no relationship with them), and got involved in very bad behaviors which he’s sought therapy for and paid his time in jail.”
Beck, who ran on a platform of being “financially responsible, socially inclusive,” said her decision to accept the cash — given to her campaign and two PACs she controls — “is a question of forgiveness.”
“Did voters forgive Marion Berry, etc. – the list is long,” she said. “I am deeply opposed [to] and shocked by his behavior, but he has paid his debt to society. Although humanly flawed, he can be a great asset to our nation because he understands finance on a level most people can’t comprehend.”
Beck finished a distant third in the November general election, with 2.7 percent of the vote, to 31.7 percent for Republican Micah Edmond and 63 percent for the winner, Democrat Don Beyer. That’s despite other large donations to her campaign coffers from a number of other wealthy, notable people.
Richard Kramer, chairman of Republic Holdings, donated $7,600. Mort Zuckerman, billionaire owner of the New York Daily News and U.S. News and World Report, donated $2,600. George Albrecht, owner of a Boston-area car dealership chain, also donated $2,600.
Beck said they all supported her centrist message.
“They all believe in our Fiscally Responsible, Socially Inclusive message and that Congress needs at least one independent,” she said. “This bipartisan fighting needs to stop. Mort Zuckerman and Richard Kramer have interests in VA08, believe in our message, and think I should continue to get a voice for independents. Mr. Albrecht is a ‘like-minded’ wealthy family friend who was helping me.”
Career-wise, Beck was a sales manager for the now-defunct Eastern Airlines before transitioning to the financial industry in the 1990s, working for firms like Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley. A few years ago, she wrote a book, Flirting with Finance, which teaches finance through romantic stories. She was photographed attending a state dinner in 2010 with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), as The Smoking Gun pointed out yesterday.
Most recently, Beck said she has been volunteering in Arlington, studying for a master’s degree in gerontology from George Mason University and working as an analyst for an investment firm. As for future political plans, she said she was still contemplating her next move.
“Not sure at this point,” she said. “I do believe Congress needs more ‘centrist’ independents and that our country would be better served with their voices being heard.”
Civ Fed Considering Retail Plan Opposition — The Arlington County Civic Federation is considering opposing the county’s update of its retail action plan. “What problem are we trying to solve here?” asked the writer of a resolution that calls for the county to scrap the effort. [InsideNova]
WaPo Supports County Outreach Initiative — The Washington Post editorial board has penned an editorial in support of the new community outreach effort that Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes announced at the Board’s New Years Day meeting. [Washington Post]
Arthur Announces Reelection Bid — Arlington Sheriff Beth Arthur formally announced her bid for reelection at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. Arthur touted her role in making the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse “one of the best jails in the country.” She also noted that her children, ages 3 and 6 when she first became sheriff, will be old enough to vote for her for the first time in November.
Stamos Running For Reelection — Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos also announced her reelection bid at Wednesday’s ACDC meeting. She cited her office’s drug addiction program for offenders and two recent murder convictions as notable successes.
Flickr pool photo by Mrs. Gemstone
Morroy Announces Re-election Bid — Arlington Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy announced that she will be seeking re-election in 2015 at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. Morroy, who is recovering from recent hip replacement surgery, outlined her goals for a new term. The goals include returning property assessments to the Commissioner of Revenue’s office, thus bringing it under the supervision of an elected official who’s directly responsible to taxpayers.
Arlingtonian Running for UK Parliament — Arlington resident Sonia Klein, who was born in London, is running for a seat in the UK House of Commons. Klein, who’s affiliated with the Labour Party, can run because residency is not required to run for House of Commons seats. Klein has previously served as vice chair of precinct operations for the Arlington County Democratic Committee. [InsideNova]
Whipple Appointed to Board of Health — Gov. Terry McAuliffe has appointed former state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple to the Virginia Board of Health. Whipple previously represented the 31st District, which includes Arlington, in the state Senate. [Commonwealth of Virginia]
New Cycletrack Proposed — Arlington County is proposing a sidewalk-level cycletrack along S. Walter Reed Drive to connect the W&OD Trail and the Four Mile Run Trail. However, some cyclists are concerned the cycletrack would be barely distinguishable from the adjacent sidewalk. [Greater Greater Washington]
Clarendon Office Building Sold — The recently-constructed office building at 3003 Washington Blvd in Clarendon has been sold. KBS Real Estate Investment Trust has reportedly agreed to purchase the building from Penzance Cos. for $146.8 million. The building is 95 percent leased to eight tenants. [GlobeSt, Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Desiree L.C.
Local political blogger and Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett, who correctly predicted that the election of John Vihstadt would doom Arlington’s streetcar project, recently analyzed the Nov. 4 County Board election on the public access program Inside Scoop Virginia.
Tribbett placed the blame for Democrat Alan Howze’s stunning defeat squarely on the shoulders of the County Board itself and its communication “meltdowns.”
“The Arlington County Board is insular, arrogant, doesn’t listen well to the community, insults people when they disagree with them,” Tribbett said.
In addition to discussing the role the streetcar, the million dollar bus stop and other spending projects played in stoking voter discontentment, he examined the precinct-by-precinct crossover vote — those who voted for Democratic Sen. Mark Warner but also voted for independent John Vihstadt.
The smallest crossover vote margin in a precinct was 28 percent, Tribbett said. The largest was 82 percent, in the Arlington Forest precinct, which has objected to a plan to build affordable housing on top of the neighborhood’s Lubber Run Community Center.
Tribbett also blasted the belief of some Democrats that John Vihstadt “tricked” voters by running as an independent and not as a Republican.
“Arlington County has just been full of debacles recently. You can see how Democrats are upset at the local level and making conscientious decisions,” he said. “This is where the Arlington County Board is really messing up. These are extremely well-educated voters. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’re not mistakenly voting for the Republican. And [Democratic leaders] keep expecting them to turn around as if it’s a mistake.”
“[It's] in the heart of the most liberal area of Northern Virginia… the whole thing in Arlington has just been breathtaking,” Tribbett concluded.
Most explanations seem to center around concern about county spending projects. Among them: the delayed and increasingly expensive streetcar system, the indefinitely delayed $80+ million Long Bridge Park aquatics center, the delayed and occasionally problematic $1.6 million Clarendon dog park, and the delayed and occasionally problematic $1 million bus stop.
If you voted for Vihstadt, which of the following, if any, was foremost in your mind in the voting booth?
No one, not even the closest of followers, expected Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt to win re-election on Tuesday by as big a margin as he did.
Vihstadt, an independent, became the first non-Democrat elected to the County Board since 1983. But the eye-opener was how he did it: by winning 39 out of 52 Arlington precincts, even though every one of those precincts chose Sen. Mark Warner (D). Vihstadt took almost 56 percent of the vote and received almost 7,500 votes more than Democratic challenger Alan Howze, out of 62,663 votes cast.
In his regular post-election report to the Arlington County Democratic Committee on Wednesday night, former Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary struck a somber tone and said he was surprised by low turnout.
“I woke up this morning and I didn’t feel so good,” he said. “We had a turnout of about 48 percent. That stinks, particularly when you’re expecting a turnout as high as 61 percent. What the heck is going on? Very disappointing… I had talked about the County Board race that if turnout gets down to 60,000, if Vihstadt had 30,000 he was going to win.
“He did it,” O’Leary continued. “It didn’t seem possible, it didn’t seem likely, but it happened. The end result, if we look in terms of comparisons: first our candidate won 13 precincts, Mr. Vihstadt won 40. That’s really unheard of. I can’t even think of the last time that occurred. Last time I can think of anything like this was 1979.”
The numbers blew Vihstadt’s campaign manager Eric Brescia away, he told ARLnow.com in a phone interview yesterday (Thursday).
“We were not expecting it to be like this,” he said. “When it came in, it was just euphoric. You always have doubts; it’s very rare in modern politics that you get this many people to split their ticket. Somehow this got pulled off. I didn’t fall asleep that night just because of the adrenaline.”
Brescia said the streetcar was on many voters’ minds, but voters had other concerns, too. Vihstadt is adamantly against the streetcar, while Howze supports it.
“The streetcar was the biggest one issue, and we definitely made it a big part of our materials,” the campaign manager said. “It definitely wasn’t the only thing going on. A lot of people have generic frustrations with the county, responsiveness issues, spending issues, feeling like they’re not being listened to.”
County Board Chair Jay Fisette — who, along with Board members Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes, still make up a pro-streetcar voting majority on the Board – said Vihstadt’s messaging related to the streetcar caught voters’ attention. Fisette suggested voters chose Vihstadt because they were misinformed about the streetcar.
“I think there has been a lot of focus in the last year on that issue,” Fisette said after the ADCDC meeting. “This community has such a history of being thoughtful and policy-oriented … Here on this issue, what has been created and what we see at the moment is a lack of even agreement on some fundamental core facts about the issue.
“It’s almost like climate change,” Fisette continued. “Is it based on science that it’s true, or is it not?” (more…)
APS Ranked in Top 100 — Arlington Public Schools has ranked No. 38 on a list of the top 100 school districts in America, published by the education website Niche. [WJLA]
Howze Won Pike Precincts — There was a bright spot for Democrat Alan Howze, who lost to incumbent John Vihstadt in a historic County Board election on Tuesday. Howze narrowly beat Vihstadt in the voting precincts along Columbia Pike. Howze supported the building of the Columbia Pike streetcar while Vihstadt vehemently opposes it. [InsideNova]
Preservation Arlington Opposes School Plans — The group Preservation Arlington wants its supporters to speak out against plans to build a new school on the Wilson School site in Rosslyn and to make changes to the Stratford School that would compromise its “historic integrity.”
No Tysons Wegman’s — A deal to bring a Wegman’s grocery store to Tysons Corner has fallen through. That will likely be disappointing to the many Arlingtonians who have been longing for a Wegman’s location closer than Fairfax or Woodbridge. Arlington isn’t the only D.C. suburb hoping for a Wegman’s, however. Reston residents have been calling for one, though the chain’s general requirement of a 80,000-150,000 square foot store with plenty of surface parking reportedly makes a Reston location unlikely. [Washington Post]
Sheryl Crow Musical Coming to Shirlington — The world premiere musical adaptation of the moving Diner is coming to Signature Theatre in Shirlington next month. Written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Barry Levinson, with music and lyrics by Sheryl Crow, Diner will run from Dec. 9 to Jan. 25. [Signature Theatre]
Crossover Voting Strong in N. Arlington — Throughout Arlington, Democratic voters “crossed over” to vote for John Vihstadt on Tuesday. Overall, however, the residential portions of North Arlington had the greatest crossover vote for the independent County Board candidate. [Not Larry Sabato]
Voter ID Rule Mostly Affected Seniors — About 60 Arlington voters did not bring a photo ID to the polls on Tuesday, election officials said. Under new ID rules in Virginia, they could only cast a provisional ballot then come back and present photo ID. Most of those without ID were senior citizens, and many of those senior citizens were from the same local retirement home. [InsideNova]
(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) The shockwaves around the re-election of John Vihstadt to the Arlington County Board last night continue to reverberate today, with many around Arlington wondering if the county is about to undergo a major policy shift.
“The streetcar is dead,” local political blogger and strategist Ben Tribbett told ARLnow.com last night at the Democrats’ election party in Crystal City. “The voters spoke so overwhelmingly tonight. There’s absolutely no way that [County Board members] Mary [Hynes] and Walter [Tejada] can win re-election if they’re running as pro-streetcar candidates next year. The voters have spoken on this now. It’s over.”
The growing chorus that the majority of the County Board — Chair Jay Fisette, as well as Hynes and Tejada — are out of touch with the voters was bolstered by Vihstadt’s margin of victory. The Republican-endorsed independent won 55.76 percent of the vote to Democrat Alan Howze’s 43.8 percent — less than his margin of victory in the April special election but still a big surprise to many who follow Arlington politics, who haven’t seen a non-Democrat win a County Board general election since 1983.
Howze won just 13 of Arlington’s 52 precincts. By comparison, Democrat Sen. Mark Warner won the majority of votes in every one of Arlington’s precincts, and took 70.59 percent of Arlington ballots.
It’s that result that led Arlington County Democratic Committee President Kip Malinosky to determine that Vihstadt’s victory was not from a lack of Democratic voter turnout, but rather the issues and candidates themselves.
“At this point, I’m not prepared to say what the message [voters sent] was, I’d like to look deep into it and hear a lot more,” he told ARLnow.com last night. “Arlington is a wonderful place to live, it’s well-governed, low crime, low unemployment rate. But people are obviously unsatisfied about something, so we’re going to have to do better.”
County Board member Libby Garvey, a Democrat, threw her support behind Vihstadt before the April special election to replace Chris Zimmerman, and was forced to resign from the ACDC executive committee for it. Last night, she experienced a mix of elation and relief at Vihstadt’s home in Tara-Leeway Heights, realizing her efforts had been validated by tens of thousands of Arlington voters.
“This is a mandate,” she said emphatically. “I think our colleagues on the Board have gotten out of touch with what people want, including Democrats. It’s just really a wonderful validation of what we’ve been saying and what we’ve been thinking. I think the people of Arlington are taking back control of their county and that’s a good thing.”
Tribbett agreed, taking it a step further. He said Howze shouldn’t take the blame for the loss; instead, it’s on the Board’s own lack of trust with voters and on the local Democratic leadership.
“It’s on the County Board 100 percent,” Tribbett said.
“This is the problem with Arlington Democrats. They spent the time after they lost the special election, and here’s the arrogant response: ‘When we get more voters, they’ll just take our sample ballot, and they won’t know the issues, so they’ll vote for our candidate,’” he continued. “Their plan is to hope that people aren’t informed? Well, this is one of the most educated electorates in the country, and they just told them basically to eff themselves with that kind of strategy, to rely on them being misinformed. Gimme a break. They ought to be embarrassed.”
While Tribbett believes the Columbia Pike streetcar to be a political impossibility at this point, groups that support it say the election shouldn’t be seen as a referendum on the streetcar.
“It would be reading too much into Arlington voters’ intentions to ascribe the election of John Vihstadt to a full term on the Arlington Board over Alan Howze primarily to the debate over the Columbia Pike streetcar,” said the Coalition for Smarter Growth, in a press release this afternoon. “Streetcar opponents linked the price tag of the streetcar to general concerns over government spending and the state of the economy… [but] we are confident that the streetcar will continue to stand up to scrutiny and prove to be the best investment for the Columbia Pike Corridor.”
Tejada said he hopes the Board can “work together in a respectful manner” and “find as much common ground as possible.” He deflected questions about the future of the streetcar and concerns over his and Hynes’ ability to win re-election in 2015. Instead, Tejada championed the achievement of agreeing on the streetcar plan without sacrificing any affordable housing on Columbia Pike.
Tejada also obliquely referred to Garvey and Vihstadt’s rhetoric as “divisive,” saying many of the Board’s critics are “condensing” the issues into “sound bites.” He said he looked forward to “continue to inform details to the community, particularly factual information that it took quite a long time to get to.”
“I think this is a crossroads moment in time for Arlington,” Tejada said. “We need to decide whether we’re going to become a timid and stagnant community or are we going to continue to be bold and innovative and craft difficult strategic policies that will sustain us in the future in all parts of the county.”