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by Ethan Rothstein — July 31, 2014 at 10:15 am 6,711 0

Graph from Arlington County's affordable housing surveyA majority of Arlington residents between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are likely to leave the county within five years because of the cost of housing, according to a county-sponsored survey.

According to the survey, which polled 1,744 Arlington residents, 60 percent of 25-34 year olds responded “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to the question: “In the next five years or so, how likely is it you will have to move out of Arlington because you would not have the kind of housing you want at the price you can afford?”

Thirty-four percent of respondents said it was “very likely” they would move away.

The survey is a component of the county’s ongoing affordable housing study, which launched in July 2012 and is being run by Arlington’s Affordable Housing Working Group. Michael Spotts, the vice chair of the working group, said the high cost of housing in Arlington is an impediment to those hoping to start families here.

“It was a little surprising to me,” Spotts, 30, said about the survey results, “but I think whether [current 25-34 year olds moving out of Arlington] will actually happen depends a lot on how consumer preferences change moving forward.

“I’m a millennial myself and my wife and I live in Arlington, and we bought a house in Arlington and are very happy here,” Spotts continued. “I think it was a little surprising, but given how expensive it is, especially as people get older and start a family, it’s not particularly surprising.”

According to the study, 39 percent of the 25-34 age range said they want to buy a home at some point in the future, and Arlington is out of their price range. The study also included the figures on which ARLnow.com reported earlier this week that suggested residents generally approve of the Arlington County Board’s affordable housing policies and priorities.

County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes is the Board’s liaison to the working group, and she presented the survey to the Board last week. While Hynes said everyone is aware of the housing struggle in Arlington, even she was surprised that so many younger residents were planning to leave.

County Board member Mary Hynes“The numbers do jump out at you,” Hynes told ARLnow.com on the phone from Los Angeles yesterday. “It is one of the reasons we’re being so proactive around housing, because we know it’s a challenge for people. It’s not just a challenge for Arlington, it’s a challenge for the whole region.”

The same question about moving within five years, when asked to minority groups, received a lower but still high “likely” response.

Forty percent of Hispanic respondents and 50 percent of African Americans said they were somewhat or very likely to leave Arlington within five years due to housing costs. The lowest “likely” response came from current property owners, at 28 percent.

The region’s economic prosperity is generally viewed as the main factor that housing prices have escalated to the point where such a study is even worthwhile, but Spotts said Arlington may have inadvertently contributed to its own predicament.

“One of the things that a lot of people, generally speaking, would find surprising is that all of the things that go into the county that make it great are also things that can add cost to housing,” Spotts, who studies affordable housing policy as his career, said. “You want to protect your parkland and streams, and there’s a direct cost of those elements in terms of maintaining green space, but there’s also sort of an indirect cost. If you’re restricting some of the housing you can build because of other goals, then that drives up the cost of housing.”

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by Ethan Rothstein — July 29, 2014 at 11:30 am 1,485 0

Arlington County Board 5/10/14Arlington residents seem to approve of the County Board’s recent work on affordable housing, according to a county-funded study.

According to a survey, cited during last week’s County Board meeting, 65 percent of 1,744 respondents believe it’s “very important” to help senior citizens age in place. Meanwhile, 60 percent believe affordable housing options for the county’s workforce are “very important,” and 58 percent believe it’s important for “moderate and low-income families with children in public schools” to have affordable housing options.

When “very important” answers were combined with “somewhat important,” those figures jump to 92 percent, 88 percent and 90 percent, respectively.

The survey, which was conducted in English and Spanish, is a component of the county’s ongoing affordable housing study, which was launched in July 2012. The study’s recent work includes a review of best practices, a preliminary report on housing needs and a “complete assessment of strategies/program approaches, with community review.”

County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said the survey revealed “strong support for what [the County Board] has been doing.” She also said that the survey wasn’t an attempt to “duplicate census information,” but rather measure the priorities of the community.

“We were instead trying to find out what people thought about how housing is at the moment in Arlington,” she said. “As well as their attitudes about housing objectives and policies that this board has been pursuing… It’s good validation for us, and really helpful information for our group as they continue to work on refining what will become, we hope, a comprehensive plan.”

The study weighed residents’ opinions on the county’s affordable housing policies. Forty-six percent of respondents “strongly favor” Arlington’s affordable housing ordinance — which allows developers bonus density if they dedicate affordable housing units or donate to the county’s affordable housing fund — while 44 percent strongly favor the county’s affordable housing grant program. Twenty-four percent of survey takers either somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the affordable housing ordinance.

The County Board is expected reveal more survey results at its September meeting. Another phase of the affordable housing study is expected to conclude in June 2015.

Arlington County dedicates about 5 percent of its non-school budget to affordable housing investment.

Morgan Fecto contributed to this report

by Ethan Rothstein — July 23, 2014 at 10:30 am 2,219 0

The County Board discusses the CIP 07/19/14County Board members weighed in on the ongoing Uber and Lyft controversy during Saturday’s monthly meeting, largely expressing support for the taxi drivers and companies.

None of the County Board members expressed an explicit desire to ban Uber, citing its popularity, but Board Chair Jay Fisette, Vice Chair Mary Hynes and Board member Walter Tejada each expressed sympathy for the county’s taxi drivers — who have organized protests of Uber and Lyft — who are losing business to the ridesharing services.

“As a Board, as individuals, there is a recognition that some of these new services have stolen some people’s hearts or gotten their business because of the technology they provide and some of the customer service they provide,” Fisette said. “We are very respectful of the drivers… that do need to make a living in this community and do a fine job of it, and then we need to figure out as a state and as a community what authority we have and how we might effect and take advantage of that authority as that unfolds.”

Uber’s UberX service and Lyft allow smartphone users to book rides with non-professional drivers. The drivers drive their own cars and Uber and Lyft don’t have licenses to operate as taxi or car service companies. The lack of regulatory oversight led the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a cease and desist order against the companies, but both Uber and Lyft have continued to operate in the state.

Most recently, eight Northern Virginia taxi companies — including Arlington Blue Top Cabs — have filed a lawsuit requesting an injunction against the two companies, requesting a judge order them to stop operations in the state before the DMV and Attorney General Mark Herring make a ruling on their requests for operating authority.

“I thought the cease and desist order from the state was very appropriate,” Tejada said. “Who knows what other issues are going on that we don’t know about because these [companies] are not regulated. I want to make sure the cab drivers, who are working very hard in this area, get the respect they have earned. These are hard-working individuals, and some of these companies charge them an arm and a leg to operate a cab. I hope that everyone will indeed play by the rules.”

Only John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the County Board, sang a different tune in responding to the issue, remarking about the popularity of services while pointing out he’s a loyal Arlington Red Top Cab customer.

“I think we need to keep in mind that the marketplace is responding to a need and responding to a demand,” Vihstadt said. “Competition is a good thing and we should not stifle innovation… At the same time, I think we need to consider the current regulatory scheme that we have for our established cab companies to allow them to be more competitive and able to better respond to the needs of the marketplace.”

Hynes pointed out that while Uber and Lyft have grabbed a sizable portion of the market share, they leave out customers who don’t have access to smartphones.

“The state has to explore how you make sure this service is available to all the people who might need it and that nobody is dealt out of the process by their age, disability or income,” she said. “It’s not just about the young people who use Uber and Lyft, but it’s really how it functions as a piece of our transportation system overall.”

by Ethan Rothstein — July 18, 2014 at 11:30 am 1,431 0

(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Officials from Arlington County and Alexandria gathered near Potomac Yard this morning to break ground on the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit line.

The 4.5-mile Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, when it’s completed, will connect the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria to the Pentagon City Metro station with a dedicated bus lane. The bus route, which WMATA is calling Metroway, will open Aug. 24 and run from Braddock Road to the Crystal City Metro at first.

“Unless you invest in growth for the future, all you have is memories of the past,” Rep. Jim Moran said. “Many other communities across the country are not growing, yet Arlington and Alexandria are growing. The principal reason is they’re willing to invest in infrastructure for the future.”

The dedicated lanes, already under construction in Alexandria, were approved for a $10.2 million construction contract in February and are expected to be completed by 2015. The right-of-way in which the buses will operate is planned to eventually turn into the Crystal City streetcar system, which will connect to the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar. The streetcar’s two opponents on the Arlington County Board, Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt, attended the groundbreaking and Vihstadt passed out press releases elucidating his support for the transitway, but not the streetcar.

“Even the county’s own press release on the new Crystal City Transitway says it will ease congestion and support both redevelopment and high-density growth,” Garvey said in the release. “This is exactly what we have been saying BRT can do and this is why we don’t need an expensive streetcar. We appreciate the validation of BRT and look forward to watching how it performs.”

Alexandria has not yet committed to building a streetcar system to connect to the Crystal City project — something Arlington officials say the city is “open to” — but the transitway is seen as a piece to connect the two communities even further.

“I think it makes amenities on both sides of the [boundary] line available to people on both sides,” County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said. “Our communities are good friends and our borders are kind of invisible. This just knits this place into a much more cohesive place over time.”

The construction is expected to take about 10 months. When completed, the bus will operate in dedicated lanes near Potomac Yard, with stops on Crystal Drive, S. Bell Street, Clark Street, 15th Street, 20th Street and 26th Street. During morning and evening rush hours, the buses will use a dedicated lane south on S. Bell and Clark Streets and north on Crystal Drive, replacing an existing traffic lane. The lane will be open to normal traffic during other times.

The groundbreaking ceremony was put on brief hold in the middle when one of the attendees suffered an apparent seizure. Arlington County medics responded and the individual was transported to a nearby hospital.

Crystal City Business Improvement District President/CEO Angela Fox said the transitway is key for Crystal City in that it’s simply another layer of accessibility for its residents and workers.

“I think one of the most amazing aspects of Crystal City, which we’ve built our marketing and integrity around, is how accessible Crystal City is,” Fox said. “The transitway is just one more step to ensure Crystal City is competitive as we reach the next step. We support any and all things that make transit easier for Crystal City.”

by ARLnow.com — June 7, 2014 at 10:55 am 2,108 0

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Mary Hynes and Noah Simon. Mary is Vice Chair of the Arlington County Board and a former School Board member. Noah is an Arlington County School Board Member. This letter represents their individual views.

Arlington residents value education. We are, after all, a community where 70% of residents hold bachelor degrees and over 25% hold advanced degrees. We see the commitment to education daily – in engaged parents, committed teachers, active PTA’s, and strong business partnerships. That commitment has been demonstrated for more than three decades by voter support for upgraded and expanded schools.

Still, our community now faces school enrollment levels that we have not seen for nearly 50 years in Arlington. People want to live in Arlington because of our high quality schools and to entrust their children’s education to our dedicated school professionals.

We know that Arlington supports education because of the way our tax dollars are spent. As has been true for decades, both the County’s and the Arlington Public Schools’ FY15 budgets reflect Arlington’s sustained commitment to public education and academic excellence. And the School Board maintained the community’s vision of a high quality education for all students while aligning community priorities with fiscal prudence.

In terms of dollars invested in education, the APS budget totals $539.4 million, an increase of 3.1 percent. It includes a County transfer of $432.2 million as well as one time payments that provide an even higher percentage increase. The increases address the growing enrollment trend that shows no sign of slowing in the next several years.

This schools investment represents approximately 47% of Arlington County’s locally generated revenue. We spend more on schools than on any other community priority. We invest far more per pupil – approximately $19,200 — than other jurisdictions in our region, largely a product of low class size and high quality teachers. Considering that only 13 percent of Arlington households have school-age children, the community’s commitment to education is substantial.

What do Arlington students and residents get for this education investment? Successful students, great schools, expanded adult education opportunities, high graduation rates, strong higher education attainment rates, more efforts to eliminate achievement gaps, and a highly ranked education system that attracts quality businesses and employers.

Here are a few highlights from the budget:

  • A reaffirmed countywide commitment to current low class sizes;
  • Additional County transfer funding to address enrollment growth;
  • Full funding for all available Pre-Kindergarten slots in recognition that early childhood education is critical to student success — Arlington remains the only Northern Virginia county that uses all available state funding for Pre-K;
  • Funding to prepare students to meet the demands of a global marketplace by eliminating early-Wednesday release at three schools and enabling those schools to implement the Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) Program;
  • A strong commitment to students with special needs;
  • Numerous opportunities for Advanced Placement courses, athletic participation and arts education;
  • A 2 percent salary increase and $500 one-time bonus payment for employees; and
  • Opportunities for adult English language learners to earn their high school diploma and enhance their future career opportunities.

Our community knows that education is a key contributor to our economic growth and to the success of future generations. That is why Arlington is so committed to having excellent schools.

As the needs of the school system change over time, we remain committed to addressing those needs. Today, enrollment growth is one of the most pressing challenges we face. That is why the County Board and School Board are working together to come up with solutions and resources – including a look at how we can take a fresh look at how best to structure a revenue sharing agreement to manage taxpayer funds efficiently and plan effectively to keep our schools strong.

With the passage of the County and Schools budgets, attention now shifts to the Capital Improvement Planning (CIP) process. In the coming weeks, the Schools capital plan will request funding to meet enrollment needs. Getting more seats into the pipeline – at all levels – is a priority that both Boards are committed to meeting.

It will take all of us — parents, educators, civic associations, School Board and County Board colleagues – the entire community – to solve the challenge of school capacity in a timely and responsible manner. Arlington remains committed to providing the best in public schools – and we are committed to keeping it that way by growing our economy, investing for the future, and aligning community priorities with fiscal responsibility.

by ARLnow.com — February 3, 2014 at 9:00 am 863 0

Icy Potomac River as seen from Metro's Yellow Line bridge

‘Team Kids’ Launches in Arlington — Arlington County is the first locale outside of California to participate in the Team Kids Challenge, which empowers elementary school-aged children to learn about community needs while working alongside police, firefighters, parent volunteers, and other mentors. [WJLA]

Hynes to NVTA Board — Arlington County Board Vice Chairman Mary Hynes will succeed retiring County Board member Chris Zimmerman on the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority board. [Sun Gazette]

County Launches Transit Tech Initiative — Mobility Lab, the research and development arm of Arlington County’s transit agency, is launching the “Transit Tech Initiative.” The initiative aims to use technological tools “to look beyond traditional approaches to journey planning and travel visualization.” [Mobility Lab]

by ARLnow.com — January 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm 1,981 0

Renderings of the future Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health & Fitness FacilityWith operating costs projected at twice the original estimates, and construction bids “significantly higher” than anticipated, it may be a case of downsize or die for the proposed Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility.

The project, which was at one point supposed to be under construction by now, is on hold as a result of contractor bids well exceeding the $79.3 million budgeted for the first phase of construction. The county has yet to reveal exactly how high the bids were.

Last night, meanwhile, Arlington County officially acknowledged that a 2012 estimate of the facility’s operating deficit — $1.9 million in Fiscal Year 2020 — has doubled to an annual deficit of $3.8 million. That excludes the cost of running the existing facilities at Long Bridge Park.

After pausing the project, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan instructed her staff to analyze the rising costs of the facility and recommend a course of action. That course of action may be to downsize the county’s lofty ambitions for the “world-class” facility, push it back until economic conditions improve, or scrap it altogether.

Speaking at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, County Board member Mary Hynes left open all possibilities.

Renderings of the future Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health & Fitness Facility“We’re in the process of trying to figure out what the costs will be should the Board decide to move forward on the project at this time,” she said. Speaking to ARLnow.com, Hynes said she would not support spending additional money on the facility at a time when capital funding is urgently needed to increase school capacity.

“We have a certain amount of money set aside for this, we don’t have more than that,” she said. “We have been building pretty significantly for the last 20 years, we’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in schools. We’ve done fire stations, we’ve done other things. We have a 10 percent self-imposed debt limit and we’ve been bumping around in the 9′s.”

“The only way you get more debt capacity is to raise taxes,” she continued. “I guess that’s a choice that some people would make, that’s not a choice I’d make for a swimming pool.”

Scrapping the facility altogether could prove difficult. Voters have already approved a $42.5 million parks bond for the facility and Vornado has committed $15 million as part of the PenPlace development.

Renderings of the future Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health & Fitness FacilityJay Fisette, a stalwart supporter of the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, says nearly a decade was spent on the center’s design in order to address a community need. Noting that the design of the facility was “incredibly energy efficient,” perhaps driving up costs, Fisette said he’s hoping that those bidding on the project will be swayed to lower their bids and “value engineer” some savings.

“It’s certainly my hope that there’s some ability to look at the bids and talk to the bidders… and narrow that gap,” he said. “The park and the facility design itself came out of a community needs assessment. It was supported by 64 percent of the voters just 14 months ago. I hope we can responsibly move forward.”

Blaming earlier reports that the projected operating costs had increased up to 350 percent on “a complete error” by county staff, Fisette said there are numerous misconceptions about the costs. He added that earlier “exaggerations” about the exact extent of the cost increases have been “celebrated by longtime opponents of the facility.”

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by ARLnow.com — December 5, 2012 at 8:55 am 3,427 67 Comments

Va. to Consider Tougher Texting Laws — In January, state lawmakers will consider bills that would stiffen the penalties for texting while driving in Virginia. Currently, texting while driving is a secondary offense — you can only be charged with it if pulled over for another violation — and the penalty is a $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. Del. Scott Surovell (D-Mt. Vernon) wants drivers to be charged with reckless driving if they get in an accident while texting. [Lynchburg News & Advance, Daily Press, WTOP]

Road Closures for ‘Jingle Bell Run’ — Parts of S. Joyce Street and Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City will be closed from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning for the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis. Race attendees are encouraged to take Metro. [Arlington County Police]

Hynes Lauds Animal Welfare Efforts — Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes has issued a proclamation praising the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and The Humane Society of the United States “for working together to improve the treatment of animals, including farm animals in the food industry.” [Humane Society]

PG Lawmaker Called ‘Too Arlington’ — Prince George’s County Council member Eric Olson, a progressive Democrat and noted environmentalist, recently lost his bid to become chairman of the Council. One lawyer who represents developers in Prince George’s County said of Olson: “Some people think he is too ‘Arlington.’” [Washington Post]

by ARLnow.com — November 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm 3,037 25 Comments

At the County Board’s New Years meeting in January, new Board Chairman Mary Hynes announced a new initiative called PLACE, which stands for Participation, Leadership and Civic Engagement.

The initiative has resulted in weekly “open door” meetings with County Board members, civic engagement training for county staff members, and the new PLACE Space “community networking” web site.

PLACE Space allows Arlington residents to engage in online conversations about community issues and to join “circles” for specific neighborhoods or interests. There’s a circle for cyclists, hikers, church-goers, and even for “fig aficionados.”

In the video above, the county’s television channel takes a look at progress on the PLACE initiative so far.

by ARLnow.com — November 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm 3,198 12 Comments

A classical musical group is promising to transform Artisphere’s Spectrum Theatre (1611 N. Kent Street) into a Russian palace this weekend.

The National Chamber Ensemble will be opening its sixth season with a concert dubbed “Night At the Palace II,” at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3. The event is a collaboration with the Russian Chamber Art Society and will feature classical music from Russian composers like Glinka, Rachmaninov and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes is expected to be on hand as the concert’s “guest host.” Tickets are $28 for adults or $15 for students, and are available online. A reception will follow.

A description of the concert, from a press release:

The continuation of last season’s great success, the stage of the Spectrum Theatre will be transformed once again into a palace in St. Petersburg Russia. This concert, in collaboration with the Russian Chamber Art Society will showcase Russian romances, as well as instrumental music that will include the gorgeous “Trio Pathetique” by Michail Glinka, [Rimsky-Korsakov's] Flight of the Bumblebee, Sarasate’s Introduction and Tarantella as well enticing collaborations with the singers. NCE will be joined by RCAS Artistic Director and Founder, pianist Vera Danchenko-Stern, baritone Anton Belov and soprano Yana Eminova to bring back to life the beauty and grandeur of musical life at the palace. Featuring music of Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and more.

The Washington Post hailed Anton Belov’s “voluminous sound, appealing stage presence and tone of rich vibrancy” while Opera News praised his “great emotional honesty; singing straight from the heart.” Soprano Yana Eminova has sung widely to great acclaim. Her singing has been called “a joy to hear,” and “a most satisfying operatic experience.”

The National Chamber Ensemble is redefining the meaning of “chamber music.” With its creative five seasons of programming, incorporating tango, ballet, jazz, guitar, opera, children’s choruses, stage sets and multimedia with traditional classical fare, the ensemble attracts a whole new audience while keeping traditionalists happy! The concerts are fun, inspiring, educational, listener-friendly and offer the areas most enjoyable musical evening.

by ARLnow.com — October 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm 6,348 16 Comments

Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes had her chair “yarn bombed” at this afternoon’s Board meeting.

A group called the “Guerilla Stitch Brigade” created a colorful, monogrammed yarn cover for Hynes’ chair and presented it to her at the meeting. Hynes, whose gavel was also covered in yarn, seemed delighted.

“We have a really cool chair here today,” she said, before introducing a speaker from the stitch brigade.

Jennifer Lindsay, project member of the group, thanked county staff for allowing them to “infiltrate” the County Board office. She then used the occasion to promote a “secret” public art project the guerilla stitchers are creating in partnership with the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, Artisphere and Arlington Public Library.

Lindsay said knitters will be working over the winter to create a temporary “yarn bomb” public art project that will be deployed in Rosslyn this coming spring. She was careful not to divulge details about the planned finished product, but promised “an explosion of color and fiber” around Rosslyn.

The group will meet most Wednesdays at Artisphere between now and Feb. 27, 2013 to work on the project.

“We’ll help you get started with materials, instruction and inspiration,” the Artisphere web site says. “Meet other knitters and crocheters while sharing your creativity for a top secret, guerilla-style, collaborative installation early next year! Experienced stitchers are welcome to bring their own needles and hooks.”

Lindsay said the knitters who decorated Hynes’ chair were from the Westover and Glen Carlyn libraries and from the Aurora Highlands Senior Center.

by ARLnow.com — September 28, 2012 at 9:30 am 2,053 19 Comments

Officials Prepare for USS Arlington Commissioning — Arlington County Board Chairman Mary Hynes, county treasurer Frank O’Leary and other local leaders traveled to Norfolk on Wednesday to meet with Navy officials to plan for the commissioning of the USS Arlington, a new amphibious transport ship named after the county. The commissioning ceremony is currently planned for April 2013. [Sun Gazette]

José Andrés Food Truck Coming to Arlington — Famed local chef José Andrés (of Jaleo fame) is bringing his new food truck venture in Arlington. The “Pepe” food truck is expanding its service area from the District to Montgomery County and Arlington. The truck serves a rotating selection of flautas — a type of Spanish sandwich. [Huff Post DC]

Arlington Scores Above Average, Below Fairfax on SATs — Arlington Public Schools students in the class of 2012 scored an average of 1641 (out of 2400) on the SATs. That score is above the national average of 1498 and above the state average of 1517, but slightly below the Fairfax County average of 1654. [Patch]

Pentagon Exhibit Seeking Veteran Artists — An organization called the Veteran Artist Program is seeking art submissions from military veterans for a new veteran art exhibit at the Pentagon. Organizers told ARLnow.com that they’ve received numerous submissions from around the county, but not many from the Northern Virginia area. The entry deadline is Oct. 30. [Veteran Artist Program]

Clarendon Salon to Hold Grand OpeningCasal’s de Spa and Salon has been open at 3033 Wilson Blvd in Clarendon since June, but the business will be holding its official “grand opening” ceremony this weekend. The non-tipping salon will be offering food, libations, and music from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29.

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

by Katie Pyzyk — June 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm 2,155 68 Comments

During her 2012 State of the County address yesterday (see video, above), Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes took time to point out the county’s stability, and to soothe fears about negative effects Arlington may experience due to federal budget cuts.

She said even in light of America’s recent recession, the county remains financially strong, as evidenced by the retention of its AAA bond rating.

“It’s a true measure of managing our money well and making great investments,” said Hynes. “Arlington is economically vibrant. We’ve weathered this recent recession rather well when you look across the country.”

Despite the current stability, Hynes recognized that uncertainty with the federal government could have an impact on Arlington in the future.

“We have depended on a growing federal government to create opportunities,” Hynes said. “This formula has worked to date, but we all know it could change as Congress grapples and comes to terms with the federal deficit.”

Arlington recently has felt the pinch from the federal government due to a loss of workers from the Defense Department’s recent round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) moves.

“We know that our office buildings’ largest tenant is the federal government,” Hynes said. “BRAC taught us that we need to be prepared for potentially fewer federal tenants and more vacant space.”

Hynes noted that moves were made to counteract the loss of workers through BRAC. For example, plans to strengthen Crystal City with new investments, and securing headquarters for big names like Deloitte, Boeing and DARPA.

“Unfortunately, assuming the future will be like the past doesn’t prepare us to address all the challenges that we’re going to face in the next few years,” said Hynes. “We need to take stock, anticipate the continuing and new challenges that will confront us, and make them opportunities rather than the threats they could become if we didn’t attend to them.”

In addition to the possibility of a shrinking federal government, Hynes listed terror threats and population growth as the other issues rounding out Arlington’s top three challenges. But she stressed that even with such significant trials, the county consistently takes charge of its assets and pulls through.

“None of it is easy, but it is doable,” Hynes said. “We’re blessed to live in this community with all of its challenges. It is still one of the very best places to live in America.”

During the State of the County speech, Hynes also touched on hot-button topics like Artisphere — the County Board is monitoring the cultural center’s quarterly financial reports, she said — and the Columbia Pike streetcar. It’s unlikely that the public will get to vote on the streetcar plan via a bond referendum in the fall, Hynes said.

by ARLnow.com — May 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm 2,206 13 Comments

Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes will help dedicate a new obelisk monument honoring Civil War dead at a North Arlington church over the weekend.

Hynes will be the featured speaker when the monument is dedicated at the historic Mount Olivet United Methodist Church cemetery (1500 N. Glebe Road) at noon on Sunday, May 27.

The dedication is taking place as the state and the county continue to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The 150+ year old church, it turns out, played an important role in the aftermath of the war’s first major land battle.

“The church was used as a field hospital during the summer by Federal troops retreating from the First Battle of Bull Run, July 21-24, 1861,” church officials noted in an email. “Several who gave their lives in the Civil War found their final resting places in unmarked graves in the cemetery. The new monument now marks their presence and honors their service.”

“Mount Olivet United Methodist Church is proud of its Civil War heritage,” said Hank Hulme, church historian emeritus. “This dedication will be one more important event in the Sesquicentennial celebrations honoring Arlington’s place in Civil War history.”

In addition to the Civil War graves, Mount Olivet also has a connection to the Memorial Day holiday itself. The church contains the grave of Sue Landon Vaughan, one of the early founders of Memorial Day.

Photo courtesy Mount Olivet United Methodist Church

by ARLnow.com — May 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm 3,029 118 Comments

A streetcar line in Crystal City is essential for keeping the area from becoming clogged with traffic as the population and workforce grows over the next 30 years, Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in an opinion piece published in the Arlington Connection on Wednesday.

Making a case for the large investment required to build a streetcar system, Hynes argued that the streetcar is part of Arlington’s “smart growth” philosophy.

“Traffic on many major Arlington streets is less than it was in 1970, even though our population has doubled in that time,” Hynes wrote. “The secret sauce is Arlington’s commitment to ‘smart growth’ planning — our commitment to transit-oriented development that keeps density along our transit corridors, while preserving neighborhoods. In fact, more than half of Arlington’s real property values are on just 11 percent of our land — our Metrorail corridors. It is a philosophy that is the backbone to Arlington’s success, the envy of many in the region and the nation.”

Hynes said that by 2040, Crystal City and Pentagon City are collectively expected to add 8,500 residents to the existing population of 17,400. Through the Crystal City Sector Plan, Hynes also expects the neighborhoods to add 35,500 jobs during that time.

That growth doesn’t necessarily have to result in additional traffic headaches, but it will if investments are not made in transit, according to Hynes.

“The modern streetcar for Crystal City — a line that will initially connect Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — is an important first step,” Hynes wrote.

“Eventually, this ‘Route 1′ line will meet up in Pentagon City with the planned streetcar line on Columbia Pike, providing riders with a one-seat option to travel from Potomac Yard to the Skyline area in our partner jurisdiction, Fairfax County,” Hynes continued. “Without these strategic investments, our streets could become clogged with traffic, our quality of life could decline, and our robust economy could be at risk — the exact opposite of what we’ve achieved since the 1960s and what we know is possible when a community plans carefully.”

Hynes’ op-ed comes at a time when the county is seeking public comment on the planned Columbia Pike streetcar line. It also comes as Arlington and Alexandria engage in a mini war of words over federal funding for the potential Alexandria portion of the Route 1 streetcar line.

“We hope [the streetcar] may even stretch further south into Alexandria one day,” Hynes wrote.

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