Dust at Courthouse Metro Station — We’ve heard from several readers who were concerned about a high concentration of construction dust at the Courthouse Metro station yesterday. Apparently, the dust was left over from track work over the weekend. Not to fear, says WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel. According to Stessel, the dust was “not harmful.”
General Assembly Approves ‘Conscience Clause’ Bill — The state legislature has passed — and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) says he will sign — a bill that would allow private adoptions agencies legally discriminate against gay couples for religious or moral reasons. [Associated Press, Reuters]
McDonnell Reconsidering Abortion Ultrasound Bill? — Gov. Bob McDonnell “is backing off his unconditional support” for a bill that would require women to receive a potentially invasive, medically unnecessary ultrasound before receiving an abortion. The bill drew more than a thousand protesters to Richmond over the weekend, and has attracted national attention. Both Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show have recently taken turns poking fun at it. Lawmakers are said to be working on a compromise version of the bill. [Washington Post]
Lopez Claims Free Clinic Victory — Del. Alfonso Lopez says his budget amendment to restore $1.6 million in funding to Virginia’s free clinics has been approved by the House Appropriations Committee. Gov. Bob McDonnell had called for cuts to free clinics, arguing that the federal health care reform bill will grant health coverage to many of the low income individuals who use the clinics. The cuts would have impacted the local Arlington Free Clinic. [Del. Alfonso Lopez]
Seventeen-Year-Olds to Vote in Board Election? — Civic-minded 17-year-olds will be allowed to vote in the upcoming March 27 County Board special election — provided they turn 18 by this year’s general election date (Nov. 6). [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
Dems Hold County Board Caucus — A sizable crowd showed up at last night’s Democratic caucus at Washington-Lee High School. The Democratic blog Blue Virginia notes with some surprise that those who stood in line to vote for a County Board nominee appeared to be “overwhelmingly white and… older” — in contrast to the youth and diversity more often associated with the Democratic party. Those who didn’t vote last night will have a chance to do so on Saturday. [Blue Virginia]
Garvey Leads Fundraising Race — Democratic County Board candidate Libby Garvey is leading the fundraising race with $33,940 collected through Dec. 31, including a $5,000 personal loan and a $5,000 donation from Patsy Ticer’s Senate campaign fund. Melissa Bondi was next with $30,941 in receipts, followed by Kim Klingler, Terron Sims, Peter Fallon and Audrey Clement. [Washington Post]
McDonnell Endorses Romney — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, mentioned as a possible Republican vice presidential pick, endorsed Mitt Romney for president this morning. McDonnell said Romney was “a ‘results-oriented conservative’ who can appeal to Democrats and independents.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Arlington Little League Registration — Registration for Arlington Little League’s spring baseball season is now open. The league offers six levels of recreational baseball for boys and girls ages 4-12. The league also has teams for mentally and physically challenged players. Registration is open until March 4 with discounted fees available through Feb. 16. [Arlington Little League]
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has proposed cutting the $455,000 program, which funds sex education and birth control for teens in seven areas with some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state. McDonnell says the program has not worked.
In a statement, Favola said the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) helps teens make healthier decisions.
This is a recipe for unintended pregnancies and significant health risks to young women. Teens need good information to make healthy decisions, but not all of Virginia’s youth are receiving medically accurate information from trusted sources.
The prevention of teen pregnancy is a critical issue in Virginia. In 2010, 367,752 children were born to girls 15-19, nationally. That’s a rate of 34.3 pregnancies per 1000 women. In 2010, 10,970 of those teen pregnancies were in Virginia. That’s a rate of 21.1 pregnancies per 1000 women. Though Virginia’s teen pregnancy rate is below the national average, 28 cities and counties in the Commonwealth are above the national average, and the TPPI program targets areas that are most vulnerable.
TPPI has been a key part of Virginia’s teen pregnancy prevention efforts since 1994. It provides convenient, on-site access to wellness education and preventive health services. TPPI’s goal is for teens to receive medically accurate information, make healthy choices, and provide pregnancy prevention resources. TPPI aims to reduce teenage pregnancy through life skills training, education, health services, and awareness.
The program provides essential services to teenage girls in high-risk areas. It provides convenient, on-site access to wellness education and preventive health services. Not all parents feel comfortable having ‘the talk’ or discussing other topics important for our youth’s health and safety. The only way to ensure teen pregnancy rates continue on their long-term downward trend is to provide teens with the necessary education and resources so they are empowered to make healthy decisions. TPPI helps to inform teens with medically accurate information so they can make safe and responsible decisions.
The governor’s decision to eliminate TPPI’s funding does a great disservice to Virginia’s teens. His proposed budget cut will deprive teenage girls in the most high-risk areas of the state of the critical services and education necessary to make responsible and healthy life decisions.
McDonnell Supports August Start for Va. Schools — A legislative priority of Arlington Public Schools may actually get some traction in the General Assembly this year. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has thrown his support behind the repeal of a state law that prevents Virginia schools from starting before Labor Day. Known as the “King’s Dominion law,” the law was originally intended to benefit the state’s tourism industry. Arlington has repeatedly applied for a waiver from the requirement, arguing that an August start to the school year would allow for more instruction time, but the request always been denied. [Washington Examiner]
Arlington Loses Vote on Metro Board — Arlington has been “demoted” on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board. County Board Chairman Mary Hynes, previously a voting member of the board, has been moved to alternate status in favor of voting status for a Fairfax County representative and a state government representative. [Sun Gazette]
Do Board Candidates Lack Conviction on Smart Growth? — Writing for Greater Greater Washington, environmental activist Miles Grant asks whether the Democratic candidates for County Board lack conviction when it comes to their support of traditional Arlington Democratic priorities like smart growth, affordable housing and transit. [Greater Greater Washington]
The lane was built as part of a 18 month, $14 million VDOT “spot improvement” project. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is touting the lane opening as a relief for drivers who face frequent heavy delays on that stretch of highway.
From a press release, issued this afternoon:
By 7 p.m. tonight, motorists will have some much-needed congestion relief on westbound I-66 between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street in Arlington County with the opening a two-mile auxiliary lane. It is the first of three spot improvements designed to reduce congestion and increase safety on westbound Interstate 66 inside the Beltway, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“Our Administration is focused on helping Virginians spend more time at work and with their families, and less time stuck in traffic,” said Governor McDonnell. “This spot improvement is another step forward in that effort. When it opens this evening, all motorists heading west out of Arlington will find a slightly smoother commute, and hopefully gain a little more time off the road. Through improvements like this one we are continuing to make progress in getting traffic moving again in the Commonwealth.”
The westbound acceleration and deceleration lane between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street has been lengthened to form a continuous auxiliary lane between the two ramps. The improvement includes a new 12-foot wide shoulder constructed with full-strength pavement so that it is capable of carrying traffic during emergency situations. The $14 million improvement took 18 months to complete.
Future spot improvements, not part of this contract, are planned from Haycock Road to Westmoreland Street, and from Lee Highway to Glebe Road. These next phases of spot improvements will reduce congestion and travel times during peak periods, and increase safety by lengthening merge areas and reducing the risk of stop-and-go accidents.
The estimated cost for the second and third spot improvement projects is $49.6 million. These will be funded after the I-66 multimodal study is completed next year.
There’s a silver lining for Caren Merrick, the one-time Republican candidate for state Senate who was soundly defeated by Democratic Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) has appointed Merrick, a successful businesswoman, to the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. If the appointment survives a potential legal challenge, Merrick will be one of 17 members of the MWAA board.
The Authority has been facing scrutiny recently amid accusations of mismanagement, according to the Washington Post.
The Arlington company announced a partnership today with one of Britain’s largest utility companies. Opower will supply home energy management software to the customers of First Utility, the U.K.’s largest independent energy provider.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell hailed Opower in a statement announcing the deal.
“In addition to developing our diverse domestic sources of energy, we must learn to use the energy we generate as efficiently as possible,’ McDonnell said. “This innovative Virginia company is leading the way in creating new tools to help us do that. It is one of the many energy businesses located in Virginia contributing to making the Commonwealth ‘The Energy Capital of the East Coast.’”
Opower’s says its software “helps people better understand how they’re using energy in their homes so they can make smart choices and reduce usage.”
The company, which was visited by President Obama last year, has grown from 7 employees to over 200 employees in just two years.
The bill will create a “Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund,” which will distribute affordable loans to help power customers install solar panels and solar water heaters at their homes or businesses. The fund will receive funding from voluntary contributions and grants. Utilities will be required to promote the funds and let customers opt-in for monthly contributions.
“Virginia has some of the highest solar energy potential in the region, but we’re being outpaced by our neighbors like Maryland, which has only two-thirds our population but thirteen times the number of homes powered by solar energy,” Ebbin said. “We all recognize the need to increase the use of renewable energy resources and my legislation will make the environmental choice a more affordable choice for Virginians.”
The bill received support from both utility companies and environmental groups.
“We have been informed that the Navy is considering commissioning the USS Arlington at several ports outside of the Commonwealth,” the delegation wrote in a letter sent today to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “Given that the ship is named to honor the vital role Virginia played in responding to the attacks of September 11th, we believe it would be a mistake to commission the USS Arlington at any location outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The bipartisan letter was signed by Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Mark Warner, Rep. Jim Moran, Rep. Frank Wolf, Rep. Eric Cantor and the rest of the Virginia delegation. Gov. Bob McDonnell has also been lobbying for the commissioning to be held in Norfolk, where the ship will be homeported.
The Arlington, an amphibious transport dock ship, was christened at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. in March. The USS New York, another San Antonio-class ship named following the Sept. 11th attacks, was commissioned in New York City in 2009.
(Updated at 2:00 a.m.) Academy Award winning actor Jeff Bridges, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stopped by Barcroft Elementary School today to launch a statewide anti-childhood-hunger campaign.
Kids, teachers, school officials, politicians, photographers and reporters crammed into the school’s auditorium to watch the hour-long event, which was part press conference and part school assembly. Bridges, McDonnell and Vilsack were joined on stage by representatives from the Federation of Virginia Food Banks and the non-profit group Share Our Strength. Also on stage were a pair of wise-cracking vegetable puppets.
“I’m surprised that broccoli is here today,” said Vilsack, gesturing to one of the puppets in front of the youthful crowd. “I just had him for lunch.”
The campaign — dubbed No Kid Hungry — seeks to reduce childhood hunger nationwide by connecting kids and parents with existing (but sometimes hard to find) food assistance programs. Today’s event marked the start of the campaign in Virginia, where fewer than 20 percent of eligible children are enrolled in summer nutrition programs, according to a new report.
“It’s not acceptable and we need to do much, much better,” McDonnell said of childhood hunger in the state. “There’s plenty of money that’s in these programs at the federal government level… we just need your help, you young people, to tell your parents, tell your friends about the fact that these programs are available.”
Bridges says he became the national spokesperson for the No Kid Hungry campaign to help promote a “big picture” solution to childhood hunger.
Asked about President Obama’s pledge to end childhood hunger by 2015, Bridges conceded that it would be tough to accomplish.
“It is kind of unlikely in a way, but it’s certainly not impossible,” he said. “But goals, the purpose of a goal, is to bring attention to something. So you might fail in achieving that goal, but if you don’t even set that goal, then you’re going to have to settle for the status quo.”
More photos after the jump.
Actor Jeff Bridges, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Gov. Bob McDonnell will help launch a new statewide anti-hunger campaign at Barcroft Elementary School (625 S. Wakefield Street) next week.
The Academy Award winner is the national spokesperson for No Kid Hungry, a campaign that aims to “end childhood hunger in America by 2015.” The organization says they hope to do so by creating “public-private partnerships at the state level to break down barriers that prevent kids from accessing the food they need.”
The Barcroft event, which is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, is the launch of No Kid Hungry’s Virginia campaign. According to a press release, more than 218,000 kids in Virginia are facing hunger. The state campaign will specifically attempt to stamp out hunger this summer by increasing participation in food and nutrition programs like the Virginia Summer Meals for Kids Program.
Spearheaded by the anti-hunger group Share Our Strength, the Virginia No Kid Hungry campaign is receiving support from the Walmart Foundation, the Sodexho Foundation, Kaiser Permanente and Dominion Resources.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The Base Realignment and Closing Act (BRAC) mandates that the moves take place by September 15, 2011. But Moran is asking Gates to include the Mark Center move among seven BRAC recommendations that the Secretary of Defense will have the authority to delay for up to a year, under a defense funding bill currently making its way through congress.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is also asking for a delay. Earlier this month McDonnell sent a letter to Gates asking for the moves to be delayed while major infrastructure improvements are made to the Seminary Road exit off I-395, which is expected to handle the traffic from thousands of new Mark Center workers.
Virgina Gov. Bob McDonnell vetoed a redistricting plan approved by the General Assembly, adding another layer of drama to the local races for state legislature.
McDonnell, a Republican, said the districts in the Democratic-controlled state Senate’s redistricting plan did not “preserve communities of interest, ensure compact districts and maintain generally equivalent populations in each district.” That, the governor said, is a violation of state and federal law.
This is the first time a Virginia governor has vetoed a redistricting plan since 1981.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, meanwhile, is accusing Gov. McDonnell of “playing politics” with his veto. He pledged to approve the exact same redistricting plan again while daring the governor to veto it.
The plan approved by Saslaw and the state Senate would have extended the Arlington-centric 31st District (above) into eastern Fairfax and Loudoun counties. McDonnell’s veto will throw the races for the 30th and 31st state Senate districts into a state of uncertainty — candidates will have no way of knowing the final boundaries of the district they’re running for.
McDonnell Gets Seat on Metro Board — Gov. Bob McDonnell “scored a major unexpected victory” last night when the state legislature approved a bill that will allow the governor to appoint a representative to the Metro board. The seat will come at the expense of one seat allocated to Northern Virginia jurisdictions. County Board member and Northern Virginia Transportation Commission chairman Jay Fisette blasted the legislature’s decision, saying McDonnell had “circumvented the process.” [Washington Post]
Slug Passenger Says McKinney Was “Angry and Belligerent” — Former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Gene McKinney was in Arlington County District Court Tuesday, accused of intentionally hitting a slug commuter with his Mercedes back in October. The commuter testified that he asked to be let out of the vehicle after McKinney started driving 95 miles per hour on the highway. After being let off in Pentagon City, the commuter said McKinney hit him with his car. [WTOP]
Dems Announce at ACDC Meeting — Three Democrats announced their candidacy for state and local offices at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. Among those announcing were Walter Tejada, Barbara Favola and Rob Krupicka. [Blue Virginia]
Clarendon Car Dealer On CBS Undercover Report — A Clarendon used car dealership showed up on a CBS Early Show report about recalled cars. According to the report, the dealer did not tell the undercover reporter about a recall for a vehicle they picked out, even when the reporter specifically asked about recalls. [CBS News]
Flickr pool photo by Madame Meow
According to a new study, auto commuters in Washington and Chicago spend about 70 hours — nearly three whole days — of extra time in the car thanks to traffic. We beat out the famously congested Los Angeles area, where commuters only spend 63 extra hours in the car each year.
Washington also ranked #1 for “fuel wasted per peak auto commuter” and #2 for “commuter stress” and “cost of delay per peak hour auto commuter” (at $1,555 per year).
In the wake of the study’s release, the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a group that supports additional spending on highway capacity and other transportation projects, issued a snarky press release “congratulating” the region for the distinction.
“Persistence pays off!” the Alliance proclaimed. “Years of state fiscal neglect and local opposition to planner’s priorities have finally moved the Commonwealth’s economic engine, Northern Virginia, to the top of the congestion-delay heap.”
The news comes less than two weeks after Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced plans to roll out billions in additional transportation spending.
Researchers with the Texas Transportation Institute, which conducted the study, came up with a number of general strategies to help alleviate traffic congestion, including:
- “Get as much use as possible out of the transportation system we have.”
- “Add roadway and public transportation capacity in the places where it is needed most.”
- “Change our patterns, employing ideas like ridesharing and flexible work times to avoid traditional ‘rush hours.’”
- “Provide more choices, such as alternate routes, telecommuting and toll lanes for faster and more reliable trips.”
- “Diversify land development patterns, to make walking, biking and mass transit more practical.”
- “Adopt realistic expectations, recognizing for instance that large urban areas are going to be congested, but they don’t have to stay that way all day long.”