Streetcar Referendum Might Be Necessary — Arlington County might be forced to hold a bond referendum for the Columbia Pike streetcar if it’s unable to sell a certain type of revenue bond to partially fund the $250 million project. For now, the project is awaiting word on whether it will receive up to $75 million in federal funding. [Sun Gazette]
Higher-End Stores at Pentagon City Mall — The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City has undergone a transformation that brought higher-end “aspirational luxury” stores to the mall. Recent addition to the malls include Oakley, Sperry, Mezlan and Cole Haan. Among the stores that have recently left is Aeropostale, which was forced out by a Microsoft Store. [Washington Post]
‘Dooring’ Law Proposed in Richmond — A law has been proposed for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session (which starts tomorrow) that would make a vehicle occupant liable in the event they open their car door in the path of a cyclist, causing an accident. Similar laws are already on the books in Maryland and D.C. [WTOP]
State Dept. Cancels Search for Lease in Rosslyn — The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, based on Lynn Street in Rosslyn, has canceled a search for a new lease. The agency is now looking for a building to buy, raising the prospect that it may be looking to move into the District. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Jkurl11
The County Board has approved a revised list of legislative priorities for the 2013 General Assembly session. As anticipated, the focus is to reverse some of the funding cuts Arlington has experienced in recent years.
Board members first presented a draft of the priorities at November’s Board meeting, noting that balancing the state budget will prove to be a major issue. Board members requested that the state restore at least some of the $7.2 million that was cut between fiscal year (FY) 2008 and FY 2013 to balance the state budget.
One of the major areas the members hope to receive funding is for transportation. The Board wishes to secure funding for new projects as well as some for maintenance of existing modes of transit.
Arlington is also seeking the power to collect local transient occupancy (hotel) taxes from online travel companies like Expedia and Orbitz, and asking that state legislators “oppose any state mandates to localities requiring local law enforcement officers to evaluate the immigration status of individuals encountered during lawful stops or other routine police activities.”
Other priorities include housing, human services and the environment.
Since November’s meeting, county staff members have been collecting public recommendations for changes or additions to the draft. Based on those suggestions, those of Board members and a work session with the Arlington General Assembly delegation, eight changes were made. Among those legislative requests:
- Requesting that Virginia pass a law in order to join the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Program, which allows the collection of local sales tax on internet and mail order sales.
- Requesting that transportation funding formulas not be adjusted in a way that reduces revenue to Northern Virginia
- Requiring nursing homes and long-time care facilities to have auxiliary power generators and adequate emergency sheltering and evacuation plans
The Board unanimously approved the legislative priorities.
This year’s General Assembly session begins on January 9, 2013 and is scheduled to last for 45 days.
On Saturday (November 17), the County Board took time at its meeting to discuss Arlington’s legislative priorities for the 2013 General Assembly session. During that discussion it quickly became clear the Board members fear significant cuts in the amount of funding the county receives from the state.
Board members are preparing to take a hit, although it’s unclear how serious the situation will be until legislators at the federal and state levels figure out their own financial issues.
In its legislative priorities package, the Board is requesting the restoration of state funds for Arlington, which have been cut in recent years to balance the state’s budget. A county staff report indicates that between fiscal year (FY) 2008 and FY 2013, the state cut $7.2 million in funding to Arlington.
The Board is also making a big push for more state funding for transportation, and requested around $1 billion annually for maintenance and continued operations on roads and the transit infrastructure. Board member Jay Fisette said state funding for transportation over the next three years is “disastrous.”
“We in Arlington and every local government in Virginia, we keep saying it, it sounds like we’re beating a dead horse, but the reality is that is the context in which we do all this work. That’s the context in which the manager has to balance a budget,” Fisette said. “Support from the state level has decreased substantially.”
Board member Libby Garvey shared Fisette’s concern.
“One of the things that I keep hearing, and it’s starting to sink in more and more, I think we all understand the fact that the federal government cuts things to the states, states cut things and it all falls down to the localities to have to do more and more,” she said. “As it gets tighter and tighter and we’re going to be raising taxes and cutting services, which it looks like we’re going to have to do, there’s going to be a lot of push-back from the public.”
County Manager Barbara Donnellan confirmed that the amount of funding coming into Arlington has slipped.
“The degradation [of funding] over the years has been significant,” Donnellan said. “The good news is we don’t have a ton of money from the state and the feds. The bad news is even what you have is still a significant hit if it goes away.”
A county press release offered the following highlights of the legislative priorities package:
- Fully restore state aid to localities funding – Between FY 2008 and FY 2013, the state cut $7.2 million in funding to critical services in the County to help balance the state’s budget. Cuts in state aid have reduced funding to the Public Library, the Courts, the police department, the Dept. of Human Services, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and other services.
- Increase transportation funding with new, permanent and reliable sources — There is a critical need for increased funding for transit capital, operations and maintenance. Arlington joins jurisdictions along the I-95 and I-64 corridors in supporting a substantial increase in dedicated funding for roads and transit from new, sustainable sources. Arlington will advocate for at least $1 billion annually to support maintenance and continued operations of Virginia’s existing road and transit infrastructure.
- Require on-line travel companies to collect and remit all state sales and local transient occupancy taxes — Currently on-line travel companies, such as Expedia, Orbitz or Hotel.com, buy rooms from hotels, then resell them at a higher rate. They are remitting taxes to the state and localities at the wholesale rate they have paid the hotels,not the retail rate that they sold on-line. Arlington County, and other localities, are urging the General Assembly to adopt language that would require these on-line travel companies to pay the full amount of sales and use taxes to the state and local governments and Transient Occupancy Taxes to the localities.
- Ensure that the state provide adequate resources to support individuals leaving Virginia Training Centers under the Justice Dept. settlement — Arlington expects to need to provide for 23 individuals with severe mental and physical disabilities who will be discharged from the Northern Virginia Training Center External link by June 30, 2015.
- Housing – Support additional funds for the state Housing Trust Fund that was established in the 2012 budget with one-time money.
- Immigration – Oppose any state mandates to localities requiring local law enforcement officers to evaluate the immigration status of individuals.
The board will vote on the final version of its legislative package at its December 8 meeting, after hearing from the public. Arlington residents are invited to read the details of the proposed legislative priorities package online and offer feedback until Friday, November 30.
The General Assembly session begins on January 9, 2013, and runs until February 23, 2013.
Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland, a former Navy fighter pilot whose judicial nomination was supported by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), failed to receive the 51 votes necessary in the 100-member House of Delegates. Del. Bob Marshall (R), who led the charge against Thorne-Begland’s nomination, cited his public opposition to the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy 20 years ago, while still in the Navy, and his expressed support for same-sex marriage.
Thorne-Begland is “an aggressive activist for the pro-homosexual agenda,” Marshall said in a press release. “Can this candidate swear the required oath to support our state’ constitution if he has already indicated by his past actions that he does not support that section of our constitution barring same-sex legal relationships?”
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, argued that Thorne-Begland was rejected solely on the basis of being openly gay. He also condemned the state Senate leadership for dodging a vote on the nomination.
“The debate in the House of Delegates was homophobic and embarrassing, and showed a disrespect to a chief deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney and decorated veteran who was honorably discharged,” Ebbin told the Washington Post. “It’s also offensive that the Senate Republican leadership wouldn’t even grant Lt. Thorne-Begland the courtesy of a Senate vote.”
On Twitter, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), who along with Del. Patrick Hope (D) was among the 33 “yes” votes for Thorne-Begland, Tweeted about the vote in real time early yesterday morning.
“Shameful,” Lopez said. “Virginia and Mr. Thorne-Begland deserved better. I have a feeling the Commonwealth will be in national headlines again.”
Del. Bob Brink and Del. David Englin, Democrats who both represent portions of Arlington, were among the 26 lawmakers who did not cast a vote on Thorne-Begland.
Update at 1:55 p.m. — Del. Marshall and Sen. Barbara Favola (D) appeared on NewsChannel 8′s NewsTalk program this morning to discuss the judicial vote.
Update at 3:35 p.m. — Del. Brink has issued a statement to ARLnow.com regarding his absence from the voting.
Due to previously scheduled travel out of the country, I was absent for the May 14 session of the House — the first session I’ve missed in my 15 years as Delegate. The House minutes reflect that I was granted a leave of absence for this reason.
Tracy is my friend. For several weeks, after the right-wing threat to his nomination became known, along with other concerned members of the General Assembly including my colleague Adam Ebbin, we strategized on the steps needed to get him confirmed. I deeply regret that we were unsuccessful.
The rejection of this eminently well qualified lawyer, in addition to its unfairness to him, is a loss to Virginia’s justice system and another black mark on Virginia’s reputation.
It goes without saying that I would have vigorously supported and voted for Tracy if I had been present.
Photo via Office of Sen. Adam Ebbin
Anti-Obama Metro Ad to Stay — A controversial advertisement in the Clarendon Metro station that tells President Obama to “go to hell” will not be taken down early. Metro General Manager Richard Sarles says he’s offended by the ad, but Metro cannot legally remove the ad due to its content. The ad is scheduled to be taken down on Sunday, March 11 following the end of a one month run. [NBC Washington]
Rosslyn as San Francisco — Civic boosters once tried to brand Rosslyn as “Manhattan on the Potomac.” But Arlington’s new planning director has another comparison in mind. He says Rosslyn reminds him of San Francisco. [Ode Street Tribune]
Couric Honored By State — The late John Couric, who died last year, has been honored by the Virginia General Assembly. Couric, an Arlington resident, was recognized in a memorial resolution sponsored by state Sen. Barbara Favola. In addition to being a Navy veteran, journalist and public relations executive, Couric is also well known for being the father of broadcaster Katie Couric. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Man Busted for Illegal Cigs — A 25-year-old Arlington man has been arrested in Delaware and accused of trying to transport 574 cartons of untaxed cigarettes from Virginia to New York City, where he intended to sell them. [WGMD]
Va. Budget Standoff — There’s a standoff in Richmond as the 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats in the state Senate remain evenly divided over the state’s two-year budget. Democrats say their opposition stems from the budget’s inadequate funding for public education, transportation and health care. Republicans, meanwhile, are accusing Democrats of obstructionism and “Washingtonian behavior.” The budget needs at least 21 votes to pass. The last vote was 20-19. [Washington Post, Washington Times]
High School Graduation Date Moved — The graduation date for Arlington public high schools is now Wednesday, June 20. The date was switched from the 21st because the graduation venue, DAR Constitution Hall, was not available that day. The last day of school was also moved back a day, to Tuesday, June 19. [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington Au Pair Recognized — An au pair from Arlington has been named the winner of the national ‘Ultimate Au Pair’ contest. AuPairCare, an agency that places international au pairs with host families in the U.S., says they selected Mariana Moujan, of Buenos Aires, as the Ultimate Au Pair “for her compassion and dedication to the Edwards family in Arlington, Virginia.”
Yesterday the Virginia Senate narrowly passed a controversial bill that requires pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion.
The bill passed by the state Senate had been amended to only require an external ultrasound, following a furor over the fact that the original version would have mandated invasive transvaginal ultrasounds for most first trimester pregnancies.
On a bipartisan vote, the bill was also amended to exclude rape and incest victims from the ultrasound requirement. That amendment was proposed by Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents part of Arlington. Other amendments proposed by Howell, including amendments that would have mandated insurance companies to cover the cost of the procedure, were rejected on a party line vote.
Howell criticized the bill, even in its amended form, for requiring a medical procedure that’s not medically necessary.
“Before this bill was amended, there were those who talked about it as ‘state rape.’ And Republicans voted for it,” Howell said. “The amended bill goes from state rape to state assault. And Republicans have now voted for state assault on women.”
Sen. Barbara Favola (D), of Arlington, also weighed in.
“I’m personally offended as a woman that the state of Virginia doesn’t trust my judgment about making intimate personal decisions about my body and my reproductive health,” Favola said in a statement. “This is the height of government intervention stomping on my constitutional rights. What will be next?”
Republicans argued that the ultrasound bill allows women to make a better informed decision before getting an abortion. The amended bill will now head to the House of Delegates, where it’s expected to pass, before landing on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed.
Could the recent controversy in Richmond over social issues be hurting Virginia businesses? Yes, says Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D) and a group of local business leaders.
This year’s state legislative session has been marked by heated partisan debate over the merits of Republican-sponsored bills concerning abortion, women’s health and gay adoptions. Most of the controversial bills have been either killed or delayed, and the legislature is now starting to focus its attention on the state budget, but Democrats are still decrying the renewed focus on social issues and the media attention it brought to Virginia.
(Update at 3:00 p.m.: a modified version of a bill requiring mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions has passed the Virginia Senate by a vote of 21-19.)
Yesterday Del. Brink took to the floor of the House of Delegates (see video, above) to read a letter from a number of Northern Virginia business leaders, including representatives of the Consumer Electronics Association and Vornado/Charles E. Smith. Addressed to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and the entire state legislature, the letter argued that “extreme proposals governing social issues” are detrimental to Virginia’s ability to attract “the best and the brightest employees and entrepreneurs.”
As business leaders and employers in Virginia we applaud your successful bi-partisan efforts to keep Virginia first in national rankings as the most business-friendly state.
We urge you to maintain this ranking going forward by ensuring Virginia is a magnet for the best and the brightest employees and entrepreneurs.
Specifically, we urge you to reject extreme proposals governing social issues on which Americans are passionately divided. Otherwise it will be difficult for Virginia to attract and retain the entrepreneurs and talent we need to grow Virginia.
Del. Brink minced no words in describing how he felt about the outward image projected by Virginia General Assembly this year.
“All you have to do is turn on your TV, open any national newspaper, or go to YouTube, and it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that we’ve allowed ourselves to be portrayed as a bunch of ignorant, backward-looking buffoons,” Brink said. “It’s not just our image that’s taken a hit: it’s the economy — the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century — that’s in danger.”
Senate Dems Defeat HPV Immunization Repeal — State Senate Democrats are taking credit for killing a bill that would have repealed the 2007 law that requires sixth grade girls be immunized from the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Said Arlington’s Sen. Barbara Favola (D), in a statement: “The best way to eradicate cervical cancer is widespread HPV vaccination. In the past, the most successful immunization programs, such as those for smallpox or polio, required universal vaccination. Cervical cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in the world, but with this vaccination, there is hope for ending the suffering caused by cervical cancer.” [Washington Post]
Favola Criticized for Skipping Budget Vote — State Sen. Barbara Favola is being criticized by Republicans for skipping a vote on the state budget in favor of making a TV appearance. Favola appeared on MSNBC’s ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews’ while votes were being taken on the Republican-supported budget plan. In the end, however, her vote wouldn’t have changed the outcome — the budget didn’t pass. [Sun Gazette]
Cat Enters Va. Senate Race — A cat is running for Virginia’s open U.S. Senate seat. The “Hank for Senate” campaign has launched, amid a flurry of publicity, with a campaign TV ad and the campaign slogan “Milk in every bowl.” Hank has quite the personal story — including being saved from euthanization by an animal rescue group. [WTOP]
Cherrydale Library Book — The 50-year history of the cozy Cherrydale branch library has been documented in a new book. “Fifty Years of Cherrydale Library,” by Greg Embree, is available online (for free) and in print. [Blurb]
Fetus Personhood Bill Defeated — A coalition of Democrats and Republicans helped defeat a bill that would have granted legal “personhood” status to unborn children at the moment of conception. The Virginia House of Delegates had approved the bill, but the state Senate voted yesterday to delay consideration of the bill until next year in order to allow further study. Pro-choice advocates argued the bill would have had unintended consequences, like outlawing some forms of contraception and granting expectant mothers use of HOV lanes. [Huffington Post]
Amazon to Pay Sales Tax in Virginia — Get ready to start paying a 5 percent sales tax on your Amazon.com purchases. The online retailer agreed yesterday to start collecting sales taxes in Virginia. Traditional brick and mortar retailers were pushing state legislators to force Amazon to pay sales taxes, saying that the company’s sales tax “loophole” gave them an unfair competitive advantage. [WAMU]
Klingon Casting Call — Arlington’s WSC Avant Bard is seeking some local Klingons for its “Shakespeare in Klingon” show on March 4. The theater company is holding a Klingon casting call in Dupont Circle from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. [Washington Post]
Improv Class This Weekend — An “Introduction to Improv” class is being held on Saturday at Arlington’s Theater on the Run (3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive). The class is being hosted by The Arlington Players and taught by Dunbar Dicks of the legendary Chicago improv troupe Second City. [The Arlington Players]
Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief
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
Management Change at Hotel Palomar — After being sold for some $45 million, Rosslyn’s upscale Hotel Palomar (1121 19th Street N.) will be changing management companies. Effective Feb. 22, Kimpton Hotels will no longer manage the property. Instead, it will be managed in partnership with Starwood Hotels and Le Meridien. [Hotel Palomar]
Legal Advertising Bill Fails in Richmond – A bill that would have lifted the requirement that Virginia localities place legal notices in newspapers has failed in the General Assembly. The bill could have saved localities thousands of dollars per year. Most of Arlington County’s legal advertising is placed in the Washington Times. [Sun Gazette]
Candidates Answer Affordable Housing Questions — The three candidates for Arlington County Board have each answered three questions about affordable housing in the county. Their answers have been published verbatim, in PDF format, by an Arlington-focused affordable housing advocacy group. [Alliance for Housing Solutions]
Will Kahlo Photos Give a Boost to Artisphere? — County officials are hoping that a month-long exhibit of the personal photos of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, which opens on Feb. 23, will help draw crowds and positive attention to the struggling Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn. [Sun Gazette]
The goings-on within the Virginia General Assembly generally do not make national news, but that changed this week after legislators passed a Republican-sponsored bill requiring women seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound.
Incensed by what he saw as unnecessary government intrusion into the private lives of women, Del. David Englin (D) issued a scathing statement about the bill.
“This bill will require many women in Virginia to undergo vaginal penetration with an ultrasound probe against their consent in order to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion, even for nonsurgical, noninvasive, pharmaceutical abortions,” Englin said. ”This kind of government intrusion shocks the conscience and demonstrates the disturbing lengths Republican legislators will go to prevent women from controlling their own reproductive destiny.”
The statement apparently attracted the attention of cable news bookers. Englin, who represents parts of Arlington and Alexandria, was invited on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show last night to reiterate his point for a national audience.
Before the interview, Maddow argued that should the bill be signed as-is by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), it could hurt his chances of becoming a Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012.
The amendment proposal, which has the strong support of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, passed the state Senate and House of Delegates this week, by votes of 24-16 and 83-14 respectively. It’s expected to be put to Virginia voters as a referendum in November.
The amendment would make it harder for governments to seize private property via eminent domain. It specifies that property may only be taken for public uses, and not for the purpose of economic development. It would also provide property owners with compensation for “lost profits and lost access,” in addition to the fair market value of the property.
“This is really a goldmine for attorneys,” County Board member Jay Fisette said during yesterday afternoon’s Board meeting. Fisette cited a statistic suggesting the amendment could cost the Virginia Department of Transportation at least $40 million due to lawsuits.
The amendment could also have implications for Arlington, which recently threatened to seize a Courthouse office building via eminent domain.
“I can tell you that local governments throughout Virginia have raised numerous concerns that seem to have fallen on deaf ears,” Fisette said.
The bill, which passed the House of Delegates yesterday and the state Senate two weeks ago, would require an ultrasound to determine a fetus’ gestation age. It would then give the woman the option to view the ultrasound before her abortion.
Englin said the bill represents a level of government intrusion that “shocks the conscience.” According to Englin’s office:
… only an invasive transvaginal probe ultrasound can effectively determine gestation age during much of the first trimester, which is when most abortions occur. Englin offered an amendment to require the pregnant woman’s consent prior to subjecting her to a vaginal penetration ultrasound, but House Republicans rejected the amendment by a vote of 64 to 34.
Englin issued a statement in response to the bill’s passage:
This bill will require many women in Virginia to undergo vaginal penetration with an ultrasound probe against their consent in order to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion, even for nonsurgical, noninvasive, pharmaceutical abortions. This kind of government intrusion shocks the conscience and demonstrates the disturbing lengths Republican legislators will go to prevent women from controlling their own reproductive destiny.
I offered an amendment that would have protected women from the unwanted vaginal penetration required by this bill. House Republicans rejected that amendment. The next time Virginia Republicans speak the words ‘government intrusion’ I hope voters will remember this vote and hold them accountable for their hypocrisy.
Republicans, however, countered that the abortion itself is an invasive procedure.
“If we want to talk about invasiveness, there’s nothing more invasive than the procedure that she is about to have,” said bill sponsor Del. Kathy Byron (R), according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.