The federal government and Arlington Public Schools are both closed today due to the “Snowquester” or “Saturn” snow storm.
Although the ground in parts of Arlington has yet to become snow-covered, forecasters say the storm is intensifying and should soon start accumulating here.
Today the House of Representatives passed a bill (261-154) that would freeze the pay of federal workers for a third straight year.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) spoke out against the bill, comparing it to Irish satirist Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”
“Today, the House majority, unfortunately without Mr. Swift’s humor or irony, offers its own Modest Proposal,” Moran said. “To ensure our elderly are cared for, let’s cut the pay of those responsible for their health. To make sure our food and drugs are safe, let’s diminish the benefits of those whose job it is to screen for safety and unintended effects. To find a cure for cancer, let’s punish the researcher who toils daily to save millions of Americans from the disease. To care for our veterans, who were sent by this body to fight in foreign lands, let’s make their caretakers find a second job.”
The proposal, H.R. 273, is not expected to be taken up by the Senate, and thus not expected to become law. Federal workers are currently slated to receive a 0.5 percent pay raise after March 27, thanks to an executive order issued by President Obama in December.
Update at 10:40 p.m. — The Office of Personnel Management is telling federal employees to stay off the road until 10:00 a.m. Federal offices will open to the public at noon.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Arlington and the D.C. region.
Forecasters warn that sleet and freezing rain might make for a slippery commute tomorrow (Monday) morning. The following advisory was updated at 7:45 p.m.
… WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT FROM 3 AM TO 10 AM EST MONDAY…
* PRECIPITATION TYPE… FREEZING RAIN… POSSIBLY MIXED WITH SLEET AT THE ONSET.
* ACCUMULATIONS… A FEW HUNDREDTHS OF AN INCH OF ICE FROM FREEZING RAIN. LITTLE OR NO SLEET ACCUMULATION.
* TIMING… DEVELOPING IN THE VERY EARLY HOURS MONDAY MORNING… AND CONTINUING THROUGH MID MORNING ON MONDAY. TEMPERATURES WILL RISE ABOVE FREEZING BY 10 AM MONDAY MORNING… CHANGING THE PRECIPITATION TO RAIN.
* TEMPERATURES… IN THE UPPER 20S TO NEAR 30.
* WINDS… SOUTH 5 TO 10 MPH.
* IMPACTS… ICING WILL PRODUCE SLIPPERY CONDITIONS ON UNTREATED ROADS… BRIDGES AND SIDEWALKS… PARTICULARLY DURING THE MONDAY MORNING COMMUTE.
A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW… SLEET… OR FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES… AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.
Streetcar Referendum Might Be Necessary — Arlington County might be forced to hold a bond referendum for the Columbia Pike streetcar if it’s unable to sell a certain type of revenue bond to partially fund the $250 million project. For now, the project is awaiting word on whether it will receive up to $75 million in federal funding. [Sun Gazette]
Higher-End Stores at Pentagon City Mall — The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City has undergone a transformation that brought higher-end “aspirational luxury” stores to the mall. Recent addition to the malls include Oakley, Sperry, Mezlan and Cole Haan. Among the stores that have recently left is Aeropostale, which was forced out by a Microsoft Store. [Washington Post]
‘Dooring’ Law Proposed in Richmond — A law has been proposed for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session (which starts tomorrow) that would make a vehicle occupant liable in the event they open their car door in the path of a cyclist, causing an accident. Similar laws are already on the books in Maryland and D.C. [WTOP]
State Dept. Cancels Search for Lease in Rosslyn — The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, based on Lynn Street in Rosslyn, has canceled a search for a new lease. The agency is now looking for a building to buy, raising the prospect that it may be looking to move into the District. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Jkurl11
Federal government employees have made a substantial contribution to federal debt reduction efforts already, say local lawmakers who are trying to ensure that federal workers don’t take a big hit in any upcoming debt reduction package.
The lawmakers are cautioning President Barack Obama and leaders in the House of Representatives to “carefully consider the implications that any proposed agreement would have on these Americans so that it reflects the substantial budget savings that the Federal workforce has contributed thus far.”
The lawmakers — Democratic Reps. Jim Moran (Va.), Steny Hoyer (Md.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), Donna Edwards (Md.) and John Sarbanes (Md.), plus Republican Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Robert Wittman (Va.) — sent a letter to Obama this week highlighting $103 billion in cuts taken by federal employees in the form of pay freezes, delayed raises and increased benefit contributions.
“The letter comes as Congress and the White House work toward a solution to avoid sequestration cuts mandated to go into effect on January 2, 2013,” Moran’s office noted in a press release.
The text of the letter, which was also sent to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, after the jump.
Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg
Metrorail and Metrobus service will not resume service Tuesday morning. An announcement on when service may be restored will be made after Metro is able to assess damage and weather conditions in the morning. Metro personnel will need to perform a comprehensive damage assessment, including inspections of track, bridges, aerial structures, stations and facilities. Metrorail service restoration is also contingent on adequate commercial power to support operations and repair of any storm-related damage. For Metrobus, service restoration will vary by route and depend on road conditions.
MetroAccess service will remain suspended all day Tuesday.
Metro will restore service only when it is safe to do so.
Also this afternoon, the Office of Personnel Management announced that federal government offices would once again be closed to the public on Tuesday.
Non-emergency employees (including employees on pre-approved paid leave) will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) for the number of hours they were scheduled to work unless they are:
- required to telework,
- on official travel outside of the Washington, DC, area,
- on leave without pay, or
- on an alternative work schedule (AWS) day off.
Telework-Ready Employees who are scheduled to perform telework on the day of the announcement or who are required to perform unscheduled telework on a day when Federal offices are closed to the public must telework the entire workday or request leave, or a combination of both, in accordance with their agencies’ policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements.
Emergency Employees are expected to report to their worksites unless otherwise directed by their agencies.
Virginia State Police, meanwhile, asked media outlets to help correct a rumor that the agency is telling drivers to stay off the roads. VSP is only asking drivers to limit their travel. Earlier today, however, Arlington County asked residents to “stay where you are.”
Virginia State Police are advising motorists to limit their travels and avoid being on the roads, if/when possible, as Hurricane Sandy continues to make its inland path. NO ONE is being told they have to be off the roads by 3 p.m. Monday, as is incorrectly circulating on social media.
Foreign intelligence agencies often recruit spies and double agents within the American government by targeting federal employees in financial distress. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says the passage of a bill in the House of Representatives today will prevent those intelligence agencies from finding financially-troubled feds with only a few clicks of the mouse.
Moran applauded the passage of bill S. 3625, which will delay certain provisions of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act from taking effect. The provisions would have required automatic online posting of the financial disclosure forms of 28,000 senior federal employees (GS-15 and SES level). The forms could reveal information about employees’ stock portfolio, real estate investments, and retirement funds.
In an Op-Ed in the Federal Times, Moran wrote:
Under the proposed online system our enemies around the world might be able to search thousands of records with a single keystroke — anonymously exploiting an easily accessible database to search for subtle differences in financial disclosures.
If analyzed closely, these differences might betray the identity of members of the intelligence community, while simultaneously providing information to our enemies as to which employees might be struggling financially — a known criteria used by foreign intelligence services to target individuals for espionage.
The bill, which will now head to the president’s desk following today’s voice vote in the House, will delay the online reporting provisions for senior federal employees from taking effect until Dec. 8. It also requires a study of “issues raised by website publication of financial disclosure forms” by the National Academy of Public Administration.
Earlier this month, a federal judge blocked enforcement of the STOCK Act until Oct. 31, after the American Civil Liberties Union argued that posting employees’ financial information is a violation of their privacy.
The full press release from Rep. Moran’s office, after the jump.
Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg
VDOT has lifted all rush hour HOV restrictions on I-66 inside the Beltway through Tuesday.
The agency says it made the decision to waive the HOV requirement today and tomorrow in order to “help ease delays on arterial routes due to signal outages.” Across Northern Virginia, VDOT says there are more than 80 traffic signals affected by power outages and about 50 roads closed due to downed power lines and trees.
Regular HOV restrictions will remain in effect on I-395 and on I-66 outside the Beltway. HOV rules on I-66 will also be waived on Wednesday due to the July 4 holiday.
Separately, the Office of Personnel Management announced today that it will extend its unscheduled leave/unscheduled telework policy through Tuesday for federal government employees affected by Friday’s storm.
I-66 HOV Restrictions Lifted — To ease congestion on arterial routes, which might be affected by traffic signal outages from Friday’s storm, VDOT lifted the HOV requirement for I-66 inside the Beltway during the morning rush hour.
Federal Gov’t Under Unscheduled Leave Policy — With nearly a quarter of all electricity customers in the D.C. area without power, the federal government is operating under a Unscheduled Leave/Unscheduled Telework Policy for today, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
Tejada Still Thinking About Streetcar — Walter Tejada says he still hasn’t decided whether he supports the planned Columbia Pike streetcar line. Tejada says he’s concerned about the streetcar’s impact on affordable housing. ”Transit-oriented development has been cruel” to low income people in Arlington, Tejada is quoted as saying. [Arlington Mercury]
Bolivian Parade Held — Despite the sweltering heat and continuing storm cleanup, Saturday’s AGROBOL Bolivian heritage parade was held as scheduled on Four Mile Run Drive. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
Obama to Visit W-L Today — President Obama will be making a lunchtime visit to Washington-Lee High School today. Expect heightened security in the area.
Bus Stop Improvements — The County has been making improvements to certain bus stops around Arlington. One recent stop to get a makeover — complete with a shelter and a Capital Bikeshare station — is at 15th and Hayes Streets in Pentagon City. [Arlington Transit]
GMU Green Patriot Award — George Mason University has issued its first annual ‘Green Patriot’ environmental award. The honor was given to Martin Ogle, the chief naturalist at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, who is retiring this month after 27 years with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. [Sun Gazette]
Federal Agency Offers Zombie Classes — In an apparent attempt to bring some levity to federal bureaucracy, classes on how to be a zombie are being offered at the Arlington offices of the Fish and Wildlife Service. [Washington Post]
The military base announced a policy change today that will open up most recreation facilities there to non-Department of Defense federal employees. Among the facilities that federal workers can now take advantage of are the Fort Myer Bowling Center and the Fort Myer Officers’ Club. The club has a swimming pool, tennis and racquetball courts and fine dining facilities.
Federal workers don’t have to be an Officers’ Club member to use the facilities, but they will have to pay a non-member fee. Official government ID is required to access the facilities. The policy change announced today also allows federal employees to join the Officers’ Club, if they wish.
The fitness centers and child development center at Fort Myer will continue to be for DoD personnel only.
The Officers’ Club and the bowling center can be accessed through the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Hatfield Gate.
Crews are also pre-treating roads with salt and brine this afternoon in preparation for the winter weather, according to the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services.
The Office of Personnel Management announced this morning that federal employees may use unscheduled leave to go home early today, if desired.
The National Weather Service has issued a freezing rain advisory, in effect until 6:00 a.m. Monday. Forecasters say periods of freezing rain will leave a trace to a tenth of an inch of ice on local roadways before tomorrow’s morning rush hour.
VDOT says it’s prepared to treat slick spots overnight.
“About 770 trucks are patrolling roads in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, continuously treating icy spots such as ramps, bridges, elevated surfaces and other problem areas,” VDOT said in a press release. “With icy road conditions expected during rush hour, VDOT recommends motorists consider teleworking or delaying travel until after 10 a.m. Monday.”
The federal government, meanwhile, has told its hundreds of thousands of D.C. area employees to stay off the roads until at least 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.
“Due to expected icy conditions, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management recommends that Federal employees remain off the road until 9:00 a.m. on Monday, January 23,” OPM said in a statement. “Federal Government offices will open to the public at 11:00 a.m. Employees who commute to the office will be granted excused absence for the delayed arrival. Employees have the option to use unscheduled leave and/or unscheduled telework for the entire workday in lieu of a delayed arrival.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) is among the local congressional sponsors of a new bipartisan bill that allow federal employees to donate unused sick days to “sick leave banks.” The banks would then serves as a way to help federal employees who are suffering prolonged illnesses.
Below is the press release from Rep. Moran’s office.
Today, Representative Jim Moran (VA-08) introduced the “Federal Employees Leave Transfer Act of 2011” to allow federal employees to voluntarily transfer unused sick leave to agency-wide leave banks. Joining Moran as original cosponsors are Representatives Frank Wolf (VA-10), Chris Van Hollen (MD-08), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), and John Sarbanes (MD-03).
The legislation builds upon current annual leave banks in most federal agencies and is expected to be nearly cost neutral. Once enacted, federal employees will be permitted to donate their excess sick leave to agency leave banks, augmenting currently established annual leave banks.
“This legislation provides an equitable way for federal workers to help out fellow employees in times of prolonged illness,” said Congressman Jim Moran. “The success of this policy in the Federal Aviation Administration and in the private sector should be replicated throughout all federal agencies.”
“This legislation increases the pool of available leave days for those federal employees who are, for example, welcoming home a newborn baby or caring for a sick family member. It carries virtually no cost, but will help the federal government remain competitive when attracting new employees,” said Congressman Chris Van Hollen.
“This is a proven policy in the private sector, and I witnessed its success firsthand during my years with Fairfax County, which has a similar policy. If the Federal Government is going to continue recruiting and retaining highly-qualified employees, this must be part of the menu for a competitive benefits package,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly.
Currently, federal employees can apply accrued sick leave towards their retirement annuity calculation in full year or month blocks. Employees nearing retirement must then “use or lose” any remaining sick leave, a practice that once lead to an estimated $68 million in annual lost productivity.
The Federal Aviation Administration is the only federal agency that allows employees to donate both annual and sick leave. FAA employees donated over 22,000 hours of sick leave in FY 2010 alone.
On a conference call today, Rep. Jim Moran (D) said he believe the odds of a federal shutdown at the end of the week is about 50/50 — a dark omen for Arlington and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions whose economies rely heavily on federal employment.
If such a shutdown were to happen, Moran says he believes that furloughed federal employees would not be reimbursed for their time off due to Republican opposition to such a move. A shutdown could last several weeks and have a “severe impact” on the local economy, Moran warned.
“This is very, very, serious,” Moran said. “Federal employees need to understand that this is not 1995, when we closed down… and [employees] were fully reimbursed.”
“About a million federal employees will not be working, and it is highly unlikely they will ever be reimbursed,” Moran continued. “Not only is this going to hurt the overall economy in the metropolitan Washington area that I represent, but it is going to have a very severe impact on employee’s abilities to make their mortgage payments, their car payments, etc.”
“Every private sector element in my district’s economy is going to be adversely affected,” Moran added.
Others on the conference call pegged the number of federal employees who would be furloughed during a shut down at around 800,000 nationwide, including Department of Defense civilians. Moran said the impact would likely to extend to government contractors.
“If this continues I think there’s going to be a number of smaller contractors that will simply go out of business because the [federal agencies] aren’t giving them the kind of cash flow they need to survive,” he said. Backing up that suggestion, Moran’s office pointed out that 20 percent of government contracts in the D.C. area were adversely affected during the 1995 shutdown.