Concealed Carry Permits Spike in Arlington — The number of applications for concealed-carry permits in Arlington has quadrupled in the past 8 years, and continued to spike. Last year the Circuit Court received 1,042 applications from whose who want to carry concealed weapons. This year the office is expecting nearly 1,600. [Sun Gazette]
Whipple Pens Pro-Streetcar Op-Ed — In an op-ed, former state Senator Mary Margaret Whipple compares the heated debate over the planned Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar systems to the debate over the construction of Metrorail through Arlington in the 1970s. “A small but vocal faction of our community claimed that the proposed Orange, Blue and Yellow lines were too expensive and risky and argued that we should just use buses instead,” Whipple writes. “After much deliberation, Arlington invested in rail.” [Washington Post]
New Gym for George Mason? — George Mason University’s Arlington campus currently lacks a fitness center for students. A plan to build a new gym, put in place after a student petition in 2011, has not moved forward because it was determined that the project would go over budget. The university is currently exploring options for either constructing a new fitness center or partnering with a nearby office building to use its gym. [Connect2Mason]
DCA Fight Attendants Protest Knife Decision — Flight attendants have been handing out flyers to passengers at Reagan National Airport, encouraging them to sign an online petition against a recent TSA decision that will allow small knives to be carried on to planes. [WAMU]
Fisette will moderate and George Mason University’s Arlington campus will host “a special public forum to discuss the environmental and economic implications of single-use plastic water bottles,” from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Monday, April 15. The forum, entitled “Say NO to Bottled H2O,” will be held at GMU’s Founders Hall Auditorium (3351 Fairfax Drive).
In addition to a panel discussion with environmental and water experts, the event will feature a screening of the documentary “Bag It,” which critically explores the use of single-use disposable bags. The forum is being co-sponsored by GMU, Arlington County, The Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, Arlington Public Schools, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Marymount University and the George Mason Environmental Law Society.
The forum is also the kick-off for a new grassroots organization called “Tap in Arlington,” which asks residents to “choose to drink tap water instead of purchasing single use plastic water bottles.”
The organization says 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce billions of single-use plastic water bottles annually, and less than 30 percent of those bottles are recycled. Bottled water is 2-4 times the price of gasoline, according to statistics cited by Tap in Arlington.
Fisette said the effort reflects the public commitment he made on New Years Day to bring attention to the use of bottled water and its environmental impacts.
“I raised the issue on January 1, stating that I would begin a ‘personal crusade’ to reduce the use of plastic water bottles,” Fisette said. “Well, the crusade is about to begin.”
Career Fair Coming Next Week — Registration is now open for the second annual Arlington Employment Center Fall Career Fair. The career fair will allow job hunters to “meet with over 50 area top employers with jobs in IT, administration, education, construction, banking, retail, healthcare, transportation and more.” It will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 23, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at George Mason University’s Founders Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive). Registration is free. [Arlington County]
Liberty Tavern Makes Fall Dining Guide — Clarendon’s Liberty Tavern is the sole Arlington entrant on food critic Tom Sietsema’s 2012 Fall Dining Guide. The guide lists 40 of Sietsema’s favorite restaurants around the region. [Washington Post]
Elevation Burger Still Expanding — Arlington-based Elevation Burger is celebrating the opening of its 30th store. The burger chain’s main corporate office is located in Ballston and an Elevation Burger restaurant is located at 2447 N. Harrison Street, in the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center. [Restaurant News]
Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White
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]
‘Housing 4 Hipsters’ Attracts a Crowd — Arlington’s inaugural “Housing 4 Hipsters” event attracted a crowd of about 100 young people Monday night, though it seems unlikely that any of the attendees were actually “hipsters” in the literal sense. [Washington City Paper]
ShoeFly to Close — Clarendon shoe store ShoeFly is closing up shop after 10 years in business. The store is planning on holding a going-out-of-business sale. [Washington Business Journal]
Va. Congressional Districts Approved — The U.S. Department of Justice has approved Virginia’s redrawn congressional districts, allowing the state’s congressional primaries to move ahead on time. The primaries are scheduled for June 12. [Office of the Attorney General]
‘Green Patriot’ Award Nominations — George Mason University is seeking nominations for its “Arlington Green Patriot” awards. The award “recognizes an individual, business or organization that exemplifies sustainability in more than one aspect of their recent life or operations to better civic life in Arlington.” An online nomination form is available. The deadline for nominations is March 30.
Startup Virginia, part of the privately-funded Startup America Partnership that President Obama helped to launch last year, promises to “support entrepreneurs and help startups drive job creation” in the Commonwealth. Organizers say Northern Virginia in particular is fertile ground for startups, with the numerous corporate headquarters in the area and with the area’s focus on science and technology.
“It’s about time this region got the recognition it deserves,” said a panelist at this morning’s launch event, which was attended by several hundred business leaders, academics and other attendees. Another panelist suggested that entrepreneurs can help pick up some of the economic slack that will be caused by expected cuts in defense spending.
Among the speakers at the event were Aneesh Chopra, the outgoing Chief Technology Officer for the White House, and Steve Case, co-founder of America Online, Chairman of the Startup America Partnership and a prominent local investor. Chopra cited Courthouse-based Opower as an example of a Virginia startup that’s making it big.
“Right down the street here in Arlington, Opower didn’t exist five years ago,” Chopra said. “[It has] over 300 employees to help compete to bring down your energy bills.”
Chopra made some news at the event when he hinted at a new bipartisan legislative package that’s expected to be announced by the White House later today. According to Chopra, the legislation would cut taxes for small businesses and entrepreneurs, would reduce barriers to accessing capital markets for high-growth companies, and would seek to reduce administrative backlogs for high-skill immigration.
Case said entrepreneurs helped to build the United States into the world power it is today.
“We didn’t become the leading economy by accident,” Case said. “It was the work of entrepreneurs creating companies, and really creating entire industries, that in the last two centuries has propelled us to the position we now have globally.”
Case cautioned, however, that other countries are trying to catch up with America in the realm of entrepreneurship. The U.S. must focus on “winning the global battle on talent,” he said.
Construction Progress in Rosslyn — Progress is being made on two major construction projects in Rosslyn. Despite a partial collapse of a retaining wall over the summer, the shell of one of the future Sedona and Slate apartment buildings (above) is nearing street level. We’re also told that the shell of the future 1812 N. Moore office tower is steadily making its way, floor by floor, toward the top of the construction pit and may be visible from street level in the near future.
Shirlington Lights Up the Village — Shirlington held its “Light Up the Village” holiday event last night, complete with angels on stilts, jesters on unicycles, horse-drawn carriage rides, live music and a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. [Shirlington Village Blog]
Puppies Help Stressed GMU Law Students — The Virginia Square-based George Mason University law school called in some cuddly support for its over-stressed students on Thursday. With exams approaching, students got to de-stress with 15 puppies from the Forever Home rescue organization. [Washington Post]
Another Possible County Board Candidate — Lyon Village Citizens Association president H.K. Park is mulling a run for state Senator-elect Barbara Favola’s Arlington County Board seat. If he does, he’ll be the seventh candidate to announce his or her candidacy. [Sun Gazette]
Tejada Endorses Bondi — County Board member Walter Tejada has announced that he’s supporting Melissa Bondi in the upcoming County Board special election. Bondi, who has been active in local Democratic politics for more than a decade, is also being supported by Delegate-elect Alfonso Lopez, Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson and School Board member James Lander. [Bondi for County Board]
GMU “Protest” Quiet, Peaceful — A protest last night against Nonie Darwish, an outspoken critic of Islam who was speaking at George Mason University’s law school, proved to be a peaceful, academic exercise. Students gathered in a classroom to hear Muslim speakers talk about the experience of practicing their faith in the United States at a time when many are suspicious about Islam. “They don’t want to see an America that’s diverse and pluralistic,” said one protest speaker. Darwish’s well-attended speech, meanwhile, focused on what she saw as the injustices of Islam, Sharia law and Jihad.
Post Looks at Favola/Merrick Race — Does Republican Caren Merrick have a chance to win in the redrawn, Democratic-leaning 31st state Senate District? The Post takes a look at the race between Merrick and Democratic Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola. [Washington Post]
New White House Chief Usher Has Local Ties — This week Angella Reid was appointed the new Chief Usher of the White House — in charge of the operation of the White House executive residence. Reid, who had been general manager of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City, is the first woman to assume the title. [BET]
Moran Gets New Website — Rep. Jim Moran has a brand new website. “The new Moran website improves accessibility to information that can help residents navigate and expedite the federal bureaucracy,” the congressman’s office said. “[The site] offers a straightforward format for residents to provide feedback on issues, learn of Moran’s policy positions and legislation, and find information on constituent services.” [Congressman Jim Moran]
(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) A number of groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Arab Law Students Association and the American Constitution Society, will be participating in an “anti-hate” protest at the George Mason University School of Law in Virginia Square tonight.
The groups will be protesting a speaking engagement at the school by Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian-American author and speaker who has brought her anti-Islam, pro-Israel message to numerous college campuses in the U.S. and abroad. Critics call Darwish a “radical anti-Muslim Islamophobe” and point to a recent video of her speaking at a protest in Florida as evidence.
“Islam is a poison to a society. It’s divisive. It’s hateful… It’s full of anti-Semitism,” Darwish said in the video. “Because Islam should be feared, and should be fought, and should be conquered, and defeated, and annihilated, and it’s going to happen… Islam is based on lies and it’s not based on the truth. I have no doubt whatsoever that Islam is going to be destroyed.”
Darwish, who is particularly critical of Islam’s treatment of women and minorities, was invited to speak at the school by the GMU student chapter of the Federalist Society and the Jewish Law Students Association. The controversy over her invitation has attracted attention from the popular Above the Law blog and a blog called “LoonWatch.”
GMU law dean Daniel Polsby was even compelled to weigh in on the controversy. In an email, Polsby told students that “the law school will not exercise editorial control over the words of speakers invited by student organizations, nor will we take responsibility for them, nor will we endorse or condemn them.”
“Sometimes speakers are invited who are known to espouse controversial points of view,” Polsby wrote. “Just as speakers are free to speak, protesters are free to protest.”
The protests are scheduled to start at 4:00 p.m. at Hazel Hall, Room 225, at 3301 N. Fairfax Drive. The speech by Darwish is scheduled to take place at 5:00 p.m., and is open to GMU law students only.
Photo via Wikipedia
From the Associated Press to the New York Times to Iran’s Press TV, Wednesday night’s public forum on the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, held at George Mason University’s Founders Hall in Virginia Square, generated plenty of headlines.
The forum was organized as a listening session by a volunteer task force charged with recommending changes to Secure Communities, which Arlington tried and failed to opt out of last year.
After a raucous hour of impassioned speeches, about 150 pro-immigrant demonstrators marched and chanted their way out of the building, declaring the forum an “absolute sham” and demanding that the task force resign. The walkout — and many of the speeches and chants that preceded it — was choreographed by the group CASA de Maryland, which has been speaking out against Secure Communities since its inception.
Armed with signs and slogans, group members helped to pack the auditorium at GMU to its 300 person capacity. Numerous speakers — including ministers, monks, attorneys, activists and County Board member Walter Tejada — told of Secure Communities’ alleged impacts, from the deportation of teenagers to the threatened deportation of accident victims. While it’s supposed to help track down undocumented perpetrators of serious crimes, Secure Communities is not working as the Obama Administration intended, immigrant advocates argued.
The demonstrators’ pivotal moment came when two undocumented mothers, facing deportation proceedings, confronted Marc Rapp, who had been inconspicuously sitting in the audience, observing the proceedings. Rapp, the Department of Homeland Security official in charge of overseeing the Secure Communities program, was told through an interpreter that one of the women, Maria Bolanos, was picked up after she called police during a fight with her domestic partner. She decried Secure Communities and asked to be reunited with her children, as Rapp listened quietly.
Shortly thereafter the CASA protesters filed out of the room, shouting “end it, don’t mend it.” After a noisy demonstration outside the building, they marched down Fairfax Drive and into nearby St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.
Back inside at GMU, the discussion continued. Several people spoke in favor of Secure Communities. With the protesters out of the building, there were fewer hisses and boos as they spoke of the need to make sure the country’s laws are followed.
“If you’re going to be an illegal immigrant in this country, the least you can do is not do crime and not get arrested,” said Columbia Pike resident John Antonelli. Other speakers suggested the 9/11 terror attacks could have been prevented by stricter immigration enforcement.
Ofelia Calderon, an immigration attorney who works in Virginia Square, “thanked” members of the task force for the extra business she’s been getting because of Secure Communities.
The Department of Homeland Security will be holding a public meeting in Arlington on the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program.
The meeting will take place between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at George Mason University Founder’s Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive) in Virginia Square. The Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Task Force on Secure Communities is seeking public comments about the controversial program, which Arlington tried and failed to opt out of last year.
From a press release issued by Arlington County this morning:
Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Task Force on Secure Communities is making recommendations to the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on ways to improve the Secure Communities program, including ideas on how to best focus on individuals who pose a true public safety or national security threat. This panel is composed of chiefs of police, sheriffs, state and local prosecutors, court officials, ICE agents from the field, and community and immigration advocates. The advisory committee is considering proposals on how ICE may adjust the Secure Communities program to mitigate potential impacts on community policing practices, including whether special procedures should be adopted for ICE enforcement actions directed toward individuals charged with, but not convicted of, minor traffic offenses.
Anyone planning on attending the meeting is asked to RSVP via email to TFSC@dhs.gov. Attendees are asked to indicate whether or not they plan on making any comments to the task force.
More than 100 demonstrators marched through the busy streets of Virginia Square, Clarendon and Courthouse last night in support of immigrant rights and against deportations.
The protesters, assisted by a police escort, marched from George Mason University’s Arlington campus to the Arlington County jail. Holding signs and chanting slogans in English and Spanish, the protesters made their message loud and clear for scores of bewildered bystanders and outdoor diners in Clarendon.
Once at the jail, a number of speakers addressed the crowd. Most condemned the federal ‘Secure Communities’ immigration enforcement program while praising Arlington for attempting to “opt-out” of the program.
“Arlington was one of the first communities to opt out of Secure Communities,” said Tenants and Workers United Interim Director Jennifer Morley. “When people who live in Arlington heard about it, they spoke out, the organized. Arlington knows that Secure Communities is not the kind of initiative we want in our community.”
“Washington, D.C. is a sanctuary community!” shouted Johnny Barnes, executive director of the ACLU’s National Capital Area chapter, to loud cheers.
A woman identified as “Elizabeth” tearfully spoke about how she was deported before, but made her way back to the area so she could support her young daughter, who has a heart condition.
Also speaking at the rally was Arlington County Police Capt. Jim Wasem, who spoke on behalf of the department. ACPD Chief Doug Scott has previously expressed concern that Secure Communities could dissuade immigrants from cooperating with police investigations.
Protesters will march from George Mason University Founder’s Hall, at 3351 N. Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square, to the Arlington County jail, at 1435 N. Courthouse Road in Courthouse, where they will hold a rally against the federal ‘Secure Communities’ immigration enforcement program.
The march is scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. Organizers expect the rally outside the jail to start at 7:15 p.m.
“Speakers at the rally will include representatives from Virginia, Maryland, DC, New York, Illinois, California and other locales affected by the discredited deportation program,” organizers said in a statement.
The march and rally will coincide with the start of the Turning the Tide National Summit, a three-day pro-immigration gathering that’s being held this year at GMU’s Arlington campus.
Secure Communities helps federal authorities enforce immigration laws by checking the fingerprints of those arrested by local law enforcement through a Department of Homeland Security immigration database.
In September the County Board voted unanimously to attempt to withdraw from the program, saying that Secure Communities “will create divisions in our community and promote a cultural fear and distrust of law enforcement.” County officials eventually determined that it was not feasible to withdraw from the program. A coalition that helped organize local opposition to Secure Communities was later given the county’s James B. Hunter Human Rights Award.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s recent actions make the state look “small and backward,” Jay Fisette said to the 70 protesters who gathered on the steps outside the George Mason University School of Law in Clarendon Tuesday.
They were there — in the words of organizer Cathryn Oakley — to “send Attorney General Cuccinelli a message.” That message: discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong, no matter how you interpret the law.
“This is about our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said Fisette, chairman of the Arlington County board and Virginia’s first openly gay elected official.
Cuccinelli, a graduate of GMU law, was at the school to speak to a group students. He entered the building through a back door, away from the protest.
“Welcome to March Madness, Cuccinelli-style,” Ebbin told the crowd . “We’re here to call Ken Cuccinelli on his fouls… no Virginian has been so out of touch with the realities of the 21st century.”
“Ken Cuccinelli is not only an embarrassment to our Commonwealth, but sadly he is an embarrassment to this institution,” Ebbin said.
Cuccinelli later told ABC7 that he is doing what voters elected him to do.
“I got more votes than anyone ever running for AG in Virginia history,” Cuccinelli said in the interview. “People of Virginia knew what they were getting when they elected me.”
More photos and raw video of some of the speeches, after the jump.