‘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]
With 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.
“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.
Jay 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.”
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]
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.
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.
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.
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 Opening — Casal’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
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.
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
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.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) invited community leaders to be among the dozens to attend a ceremony marking the opening of its new headquarters today.
DARPA headquarters, which used to be at 3701 N. Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square, is now in the recently finished building at 675 N. Randolph Street in Ballston. The new development is being touted as more secure and environmentally sound than the previous location.
Congressman Jim Moran (D) and several Arlington County Board members, including Chair Mary Hynes, attended the event. Moran and Hynes spoke of how local officials spent years working to keep the defense contractor in Arlington.
“DARPA is the center of the wonderful knowledge economy that’s become part of our identity,” said Hynes.
Moran, who held a cybersecurity summit last month, noted that one of DARPA’s accomplishments is attracting top workers who can help prevent threats to the United States, particularly cyber threats. He also cited work on stealth technology and prosthetic limbs. He said all of the defense agency’s work helps Arlington’s economy.
“DARPA represents an enormous economic boost,” Moran said. “We’re extraordinarily proud that we have DARPA as part of this community.”
The new 13-story facility is considered one of largest secure conference centers in Northern Virginia, and more than 1,100 people work there. It’s expected to receive a LEED platinum designation for commercial interiors from the U.S. Green Building Council.
After 21 years in business, Rosslyn Renaissance (RR) will cease to exist and its urban design work will be taken over by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID).
RR was created by the Arlington County Board in 1991, and lists its mission as “to work with residential, commercial, cultural, and government communities to realize Rosslyn’s potential as a distinctive urban environment through a focus on urban design and development.”
“Rosslyn Renaissance has helped to lay the foundation for Rosslyn’s future growth,” said Board President Jeffrey L. Kovach in a press release. “The BID will build upon and continue RR’s work, planning for Rosslyn today and in the future.”
RR’s work has helped with accomplishments such as securing a donated space for Artisphere, adding 98 additional affordable housing units and installing a pedestrian esplanade to Key Bridge.
“RR board members were the drivers to create the BID in 2003, and that is among the greatest of RR’s accomplishments,” said BID Executive Director Cecilia Cassidy. “The new organizational structure will bring us full circle. It is a graduation of sorts for the two groups – to Rosslyn’s benefit.”
The BID board has created an Urban Design Committee, which will incorporate all members of the Rosslyn Renaissance committee.
The two organizations will host a tribute event tonight in the main ballroom of the Key Bridge Marriott. The event is scheduled to include remarks from Rep. Jim Moran, Del. Patrick Hope and County Board Chair Mary Hynes. Board members and founders of Rosslyn Renaissance will also be recognized during the tribute.
The county held its annual Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony yesterday. Six individuals and two teams were chosen as outstanding volunteer service. They include Jeffrey Altice, Mary Brasler, Vince Henneburg, Jane Larsen, Allie Pinson, Mary Van Dyke, Arlington Spellbinders and Women Artisans of Harvey Hall. The Arlington Department of Human Services also gave a special recognition award to Arlington County 100 Homes Campaign volunteers for service during registry week, and for supporting Arlington’s 10 year plan to end homelessness.
County Board Chair Mary Hynes extended thanks to all volunteers, saying they play a vital part in keeping the community running smoothly.
“Arlington County Government volunteers serve the community in many ways,” Hynes said. “The bottom line is that volunteers help to enhance our services and help us serve Arlington residents in ways that otherwise would not be possible.”
More than 5,000 people volunteer each year in Arlington County programs, accruing nearly 400,000 hours of service. The county estimates that to be worth about $7.5 million annually.
Full write-ups about the volunteers and their service can be found on the county’s website.
What is the “Arlington Way,” exactly?
It’s essentially an open conversation between the local government and the people who live and work in Arlington. But the Arlington Way can mean different things to different people, as the video above seems to prove.
Last month, under the leadership of County Board Chair Mary Hynes, Arlington held launch events for the PLACE (Participation, Leadership and Civic Engagement) initiative. PLACE is Hynes’ effort to “refresh and reinvigorate” the Arlington Way.
The video above was created as part of the PLACE launch events by the Arlington Virginia Network, the county’s cable TV channel.
OpenArlington encourages residents to give their opinions on specific topics introduced by a county moderator. The first question — “What would make it easier for you and others to engage with Arlington County Government?” — has so far drawn five responses from residents.
In addition to suggestions about having an “Arlington County Ombudsman” or finding better ways to engage with those who do not have a computer, there have also been off-topic requests to fix a specific street light, for better traffic light synchronization, and for traffic control at Kenmore Middle School after events like school concerts.
OpenArlington is part of County Board Chair Mary Hynes’ PLACE (Participation, Leadership and Civic Engagement) initiative, which she announced at the beginning of the year. Hynes says the online forum will be monitored by county government and Arlington Public Schools officials, and will help make civic involvement “easier and more effective.”
“Through PLACE, we are trying new ways of reaching out to the community, hoping to hear great ideas from people about how we can work together more effectively,” Hynes said in a press release. “OpenArlington makes it easy for people to join the conversation, share their ideas, and see what others are saying.”