More than a hundred people swarmed the Z-Burger near Clarendon this afternoon (Tuesday), hoping to make the best of the first day of the federal government shutdown by scoring a free cheeseburger.
Z-Burger (3325 Wilson Blvd) is one of several restaurants in Arlington offering specials to workers with government IDs to try to ease the burden of workers forced to take a furlough after government shut down at midnight tonight. Z-Burger is offering free burgers to workers with government IDs from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Jaleo (2250 Crystal Drive) is offering free sandwiches to government workers with valid IDs from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. every day of the shutdown, owner/chef José Andrés tweeted last night. District Taco (5723 Lee Highway) also announced that their brick-and-mortar store at 5723 Lee Hwy would be offering a free taco to government employees on furlough.
The Washington Post has a full list of specials restaurants in the D.C. area are offering during the shutdown.
Many of those waiting in the line that snaked all the way around the shop said they had resigned themselves to the shutdown well before Monday’s deadline. When one Department of Defense worker, who declined to provide his name, was asked if he was frustrated, he shook his head.
“It happens so often that if you get frustrated every time, you’ll get an ulcer,” he said. Defense employees began their second furlough of the year Tuesday morning.
Another government worker said after all the deadlines Congress has waited until the 11th hour to avoid, the shutdown was almost a relief, he said.
“It’s about time they gave us a day off,” he said. “It does suck for people living paycheck to paycheck, but I don’t expect it to last more than a week.”
A National Science Foundation worker said multiple times that he wished that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) — a pivotal Senate Republican in the buildup to the shutdown — would “go back to Canada,” before lamenting the millions of dollars in grants in jeopardy at the NSF if the shutdown lasts an extended period of time.
“It’s so nice out, I want to use this time to go to the [National] Mall, some museums, maybe get my passport updated,” he said. “Oh wait, it’s all closed.”
A controversial bill amendment to limit the federal government’s collection of Americans’ personal information failed by a narrow margin last night in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Jim Moran (D) had voted in favor of the measure, which was defeated in a 217-205 vote.
The amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, would have ended funding for the program that allows the blanket collection of personal records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. It would have placed restrictions on the National Security Agency and other federal agencies, only giving them the authority to gather data from individuals connected to ongoing investigations.
Amash brought forth the amendment in response to the information recently leaked by Edward Snowden, indicating the NSA collects residents’ phone and internet records. Moran voted in favor of restricting the NSA.
“I supported the Amash amendment because Section 215 opens the door to serious abuses by a future administration. I also opposed the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act and FISA Amendments Act that provided the legal justification for this program,” said Moran in a statement. “We have to view these issues through the lens of how a future ‘Nixonian-style’ administration could misuse this type of information. It’s our best safeguard against the abuse of presidential power.”
Democrats and Republicans were split on the issue, which pitted national security against Americans’ privacy. Long-time adversaries Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), for instance, both ended up on the same side and voted against the amendment.
With the proposal’s defeat, the NSA may continue to collect residents’ private information.
Last week, an opinion piece in Bloomberg View theorized that the Washington area is boring and un-hip “because it’s full of people who work for and around the government.”
Undoubtedly, there are lots of people in the area, and in Arlington in particular, who work for or around the government. And employment estimates bear that out. But does that really tell the full story?
Putting aside whether we’re collectively boring, let’s find out just how many of us are directly connected to the government.
You may have seen the IBM ads on TV talking about “building a smarter planet.” Those ads reference the company’s Smarter Cities Challenge, which seeks to award 50 cities (or counties) in North America with $250,000 to $400,000 in free technology and consulting services to solve a key problem facing each locality.
The company is now hoping that Arlington applies to the program.
“There could be a number of ways for IBM to help in Arlington, from traffic problems to Metro efficiency and safety,” said IBM rep Max Luckey. “The IBM grant could help fund new infrastructure improvements, streamline administration costs, or even help with projects like the Rosslyn Gateway Park redevelopment.”
The solutions provided by IBM are data and technology-driven, but such solutions can be applied to most problems facing local governments, we’re told. Better citizen engagement and improved delivery of services are two other examples of ways in which the Challenge can help.
The deadline for applying to the program is Dec. 31.
If you ran the county government, what problem would you try to solve?
Governor Robert McDonnell has appointed two Arlington lawmakers to his government reform panel.
State Delegate Bob Brink and state Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, both Democrats, will join 29 other appointees on the Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring.
“The Commission members will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the state’s agencies, programs, and services to find out how we can make our state government work better for its owners, the people of Virginia,” Gov. McDonnell said while announcing his selections for the panel. “I look forward to working with these reform-minded leaders to examine how Virginia can better serve the taxpayers.”
In addition to Del. Brink and Sen. Whipple, several top government reform thinkers who live or work in Arlington were appointed to the commission.
One appointee, Bill Eggers, is a government reform expert, a global director for Deloitte Research and the brother of author Dave Eggers.
Maurice P. McTigue, a distinguished visiting scholar at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, and Geoffrey Segal, director of privatization and government reform at the Reason Foundation, were also named to the governor’s commission.
Commission members will hold their first meeting next month.
Arlington Makes AP’s “Least Stressed” List — Arlington has placed 12th on the Associated Press’ list of the 20 least economically stressed counties in the U.S.
County Gov’t Getting Paid By Feds — Arlington County will be reimbursed more than $300,000 for expenses associated with President Obama’s inauguration, the Sun Gazette reports. The county government is now turning its attention to securing about $800,000 in reimbursements from FEMA for December’s “Snowpocalypse” snow storm.
Affordable Housing Lawsuit Dismissed — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the county’s plan to partner with Clarendon’s First Baptist Church for an affordable housing development. More from ABC7.
Health Dept. Asks “How Are We Doing?” — The Arlington County Public Health Division wants public feedback on how it handled its H1N1 vaccination campaign. Fill out the online survey here.
But this is not SimCity 2000. It’s Arlington County. And here, increasing taxes provokes a fairly balanced response between those who think taxes are high enough already and those who take an “increase my taxes, please” approach.
Of the people who spoke at Thursday night’s tax rate hearing, eight asked the board to increase taxes to the maximum advertised rate to prevent cuts to programs and services.
Ten people, a plurality, asked the board to either keep taxes steady or at least not raise taxes to the maximum rate. Find ways to cut expenditures, which rose rapidly during the run-up to the real estate bust, the anti-tax crowd said.
Several pro-tax speakers said they believed they actually represented the majority of Arlington residents. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate, but what is true is that Arlington’s real estate taxes are not egregiously high when compared to neighboring jurisdictions.
The City of Fall Church’s tax rate is already well above Arlington’s maximum advertised rate. And Fairfax City recently proposed a tax rate identical to Arlington’s maximum rate.
The Arlington board will adopt the final FY 2011 budget on April 24.
Update at 4:30 PM – From Arlington Alert: “Arlington County Libraries, Schools, and Park activities are cancelled & facilities closed through Sunday”
Update at 1:15 PM – Fairfax County government is shutting down at 2:00 PM. Crystal Couture is canceled tonight. One place that’s opening for business instead of closing: Bakeshop is opening its doors at 2.
Arlington County government offices, as well as libraries and recreation facilities, are shutting down at noon today.
Also, the steady stream of weekend cancellations continues. Arlington National Cemetery has announced that it will be closed Saturday and Sunday due to the weather.
Arlington Public Schools will be closed Friday. The Arlington County government will be open, with a liberal leave policy for staff.
The Montessori School of Northern Virginia in Falls Church will also be closed tomorrow. And the Diocese of Arlington’s Catholic Charities Ball has been postponed.