Arlington, VA

Daniel T. Lopez was ceremonially sworn in last Friday (May 17) as a General District Court judge, becoming the first Latino to serve as a judge in Arlington County.

“I’m very proud to represent my community,” Lopez told ARLnow.

Michael F. Devine, a circuit court judge for the 19th Circuit in Fairfax County, administered the investiture ceremony.

Lopez and his family were joined by members of the Arlington County Bar Association, as well as Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th) and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), who helped shepherd his nomination through the General Assembly.

“I was honored to be on hand with Delegate Hope to present the Commission at the Investiture of Daniel Lopez as a Judge of the General District Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,” said Del. Lopez, who shares a last name with but is not related to the new judge. “Judge Lopez is immensely qualified and a truly wonderful person. If his work over the years as a substitute judge is any indication, he will be an exceptional judge for our community for years to come.”

A 22-year Arlington resident, Judge Lopez had previously served as a substitute judge in the Circuit Court and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts. He said he was delighted to become a full-time judge.

“It’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for years,” he said.

Lopez was also pleased to be the first Latino to serve as a judge in Arlington. Judges should reflect the community they serve in, he said, and having a Latino on the bench in such a diverse county was a sign of great progress.

Friday’s investiture ceremony was not Lopez’s official swearing in. That will take place 3o days prior to July 1, when he signs the oath of office and begins his six-year term on the General District Court bench. Lopez will succeed Judge Richard McCue, who is retiring.

“My job is to uphold the Constitution and to be fair and impartial, and make sure everyone is welcomed and respected in the courtroom,” he said.

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Amid difficulties for American shopping malls, Arlington’s two malls are betting on new eateries to turn more diners into shoppers.

Management at the newly-renovated Ballston Quarter and the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City say elevated dining options — from Ballston Quarter’s trendy local eateries to newer, healthier options at Pentagon City mall — are becoming an increasingly important part of mall design.

Commercial real estate experts say food options are now the key driver of mall traffic.

A new study released by the International Council of Shopping Centers shows that 40 percent of customers choose which mall they go to based solely on the food there, and nearly 38 percent of those surveyed said healthy options were a priority, according to CNBC.

“People increasingly value experience-based shopping and place higher expectations on how they spend their time,” said Will Voegele, senior vice president of mixed-use development for Brookfield Properties, in an email to ARLnow. “We designed the revitalized Ballston Quarter with the community in mind and our vision reflects a strong focus on experiential retail, innovative food and beverage concepts, and diverse entertainment offerings to create a new all-season neighborhood experience with the density of an urban center that is purposeful, thoughtful and unique.”

Voegele said part of the redesign for Ballston Quarter was to maintain a focus on local vendors for the 25,000 square-foot food hall.

“The uniform array of national names that we associate with the traditional food court does not provide the richness and authenticity that is so important to our mission at Ballston Quarter,” Voegele said. “Families and young professionals still want grab-and-go, but they are also looking for better quality and healthy dining options. Food halls offer the perfect solution in this case.”

Voegele said the new food hall design has gradually supplanted the traditional fast food-oriented food court of the archetypical ’80s and ’90s malls.

“The fundamental design of the traditional mall no longer supports the way people like to shop and dine as consumers are craving visually stimulating and creative experiences,” Voegele said. “The boxy retail behemoths of yesterday are just not practical for today’s landscape.”

Healthy options were also a big part of the expansion and renovation of the Pentagon City mall.

“Fashion Centre at Pentagon City has introduced enhanced dining options over the recent years, including Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirit, honeygrow, Sugar Factory and Shake Shack,” management at the mall said in an email. “In addition, the center added modern furniture, finishes and additional seating during the renovation in 2016 to offer an even better experience for shoppers visiting the dining pavilion.”

But does this translate into sales at other retail options in the mall? Voegele said the Ballston Quarter’s food hall, Quarter Market, has seen consistent traffic across all age groups — and events like Quarterfest last weekend boosted its local profile. The study said transactions increase as much as 25 percent at malls with quality food and beverage options, with shoppers who eat at the mall spending 15 percent more per trip.

Shoppers inside Ballston Quarter weren’t so sure. While several said they came for the food hall and loved the dining options, many also said this wouldn’t necessarily translate into going into the upstairs part of the mall to shop.

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Arlington County Board members announced they were considering giving themselves a raise in the coming year, pending input from residents.

Vice Board Chair Libby Garvey broached the topic during the Tuesday night meeting, saying she’s “concerned increasingly about the level of salary” that the county currently offers to Board members, and she intends to ask the public what they think.

Garvey highlighted the dozens of local and regional group meetings that members attend, saying, “I talk to people about how we’re a five-member basketball team with no back-ups so we have to play the entire game all the time.”

Serving on the County Board is intended to be a part-time position, though in practicality the schedules of Board members leave little time for other jobs.

County Board members currently earn $55,147 annually, while the Board Chair earns $60,662. Garvey noted that was lower than the county’s actual salary cap of $57,337 for members and $63,071 for the Chair.

“At some point we’ll publicize very soon some mechanism to collect feedback from our community about raising County Board member salaries,” said Board Chair Christian Dorsey.

Board member Matt de Ferranti supported the idea. “To have a great community you need the ability for everyone to serve and it shouldn’t be that some folks can serve and others cannot,” he said, referencing current salary levels in relation to the local cost of living.

“It kind of boils down to what kind of County Board we should have,” said Garvey.

Garvey said Board members are required to wait to raise their pay caps until at least two members are running for re-election. This means members would have decide by July 1 of this year whether to give themselves a raise, or otherwise wait another four years.

During her presentation Tuesday night, Garvey shared a graph comparing County Board’s salaries with other neighboring jurisdictions.

Her graph stated that D.C. Council members earn the most in the area at $140,161 annually, but recent records indicate council members actually earn $141,282 and are currently allowed to work additional jobs, although recent scandals mean some are reconsidering that provision. The Council Chairman currently earns $210,000 annually.

The second highest pay rate is for Montgomery Council members, who earn between $139,119 and $153,031 a year, according to the most recent 2018 data.

Next is Fairfax County, where Board members earn $95,000, while the Chairman earns $100,000.

Garvey noted that Loudoun County and Alexandria both pay their local legislators less than Arlington.

Alexandria recently bumped City Council member’s pay from $27,500 to $37,500, and Loudoun increased pay two years ago to $50,000 for the Chair of the Board of Supervisors, $45,320 for the Vice Chair, and $41,200 for the other members, with more raises promised in 2020.

“It’s an uncomfortable thing, that we are the only ones who can increase Board member salaries,” said Board member Katie Cristol, who described asking the public about a salary bump as a “slightly awkward consideration.”

“Short of putting this formally to a vote of every single one of our 230,000 bosses, I think at least asking for folks’ input is an excellent idea,” she said.

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This Community Post was written by Arlington Arts Center, and underwritten by Washington Workplace.

Join Arlington Arts Center for a festive evening of art-inspired cocktails and delicacies from the area’s finest restaurants, along with exceptional art and creative happenings!

RATED ART 2019: June 8, 8-11 p.m., VIP Cocktail Hour & Sneak Preview: 7-8 p.m.

Tickets available at www.arlingtonartscenter.org. Enjoy delicious food and custom cocktails, participate in our silent auction, visit our resident artists in their studios, interact with exhibiting artists and engage in creative activities! Purchase VIP tickets to receive early access to this year’s unique cocktail and food pairings, a special performance by artist Lorenzo Cardim and a chance to win a unique VIP-only raffle prize.

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Morning Notes

Fire Outside Shirlington Apartment BuildingUpdated at 9:30 a.m. — “ACFD working to extinguish a dumpster fire near an apartment building at 3000 S. Randolph Street in Shirlington. ‘Smoke conditions’ reported in portions of the building.” [Twitter, Twitter]

The Cost of Renaming Washington-Lee — “It will cost taxpayers about a quarter of a million dollars to change ‘Lee’ to ‘Liberty’ on the name of Arlington’s oldest public high school. School officials have released an estimate of $224,360 for the name change, with about two-thirds of the total for ‘soft costs’ (uniforms, athletic equipment and the like) and the remainder ‘hard costs’ such as signage.” [InsideNova]

Local Teen Gets Celebrity Shoutout — “When [H-B Woodlawn student] Cole Goco, 17, sits down to draw his comic Billy the Pop, every line and contour is decisive. He uses pen, after all. And, after five years, hundreds and hundreds of strips published regularly to a blog, two self-published comic books, a dedicated following, and — most recently — the recognition of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s safe to say Goco knows what’s doing.” [DCist]

Rosslyn Startup Gets Another Investment — “Frontier Capital, a Charlotte-based growth equity firm focused exclusively on B2B software, today announced a strategic growth investment in Phone2Action, a digital advocacy platform that connects citizens to lawmakers.” [BusinessWire]

Bomb Squad Investigates Suspicious Car at DCA — “A portion of the daily parking lot at Reagan National Airport was closed [Wednesday] morning after suspicious contents were spotted inside a parked car. Authorities checked out the car ‘out of an abundance of caution’ and nothing hazardous was found, per an airport spokeswoman.” [Twitter]

Local Pedestrian, Bicycle Crash Reduction Effort Honored — “The Arlington County Pedestrian Bicycle Crash Reduction Campaign aims to reduce bicycle and pedestrian-involved traffic crashes through the coordination of education, engineering and enforcement… Arlington County saw a seven percent decrease in pedestrian crashes and a 29 percent reduction in bicycle-related crashes in 2018.” [Virginia DMV]

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On the heels of being named the fittest “city” in America, Arlington has also earned a fourth-place ranking in parks from the Trust for Public Land (TPL).

The national ranking has been fairly consistent for Arlington, while neighbor D.C. surpassed Minneapolis to take the first place spot. The “ParkScore” rankings rank the quality of the park system of the top 100 cities in the United States, including Arlington.

Arlington scored in the top percentiles for access, investment and amenities, though it scored fairly low in overall acreage.

The TPL noted in its report that 98 percent of Arlington residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park — exceeding the national average of 54 percent — and that park access was consistent across all income levels.

“Parks build community. Our mission is to promote wellness and vitality through dynamic programs and attractive public spaces. And it looks like we are right on track,” Jane Rudolph, Director of Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation, said in a statement. “Our public spaces, which include parks, playgrounds, trails, fields and nature and community centers, bestow a unique and irreplaceable benefit to everyone in Arlington. Our public spaces make us happier and healthier.”

The assessment noted that Arlington has a particularly high amount of basketball hoops — 7.8 per 10,000 people — and playgrounds — 4.4 per 10,000 people.

Arlington was commended for the amount the county spends on parks: $267.23 per resident.

But with 11 percent of Arlington’s land used for parks and recreation, the TPL noted this as being below the national median of 15 percent and D.C.’s 21 percent.

The TPL also pointed to locations across Arlington in need of a new park, mainly locations around the northwest periphery of the county.

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This week’s honorary pet is Apple, an 11-year-old Golden Retriever who lives for people, according to her owner Lauren.

Here’s what Lauren has to say about the sporty pup some say is a good luck charm:

Apple joined our family when she was four, and has been a joyful addition ever since. Apple was born in Taiwan but was abandoned by her original owner. Fortunately for us and for her, a wonderful rescue group based in Delaware brought her to America so she could be adopted!

Apple is a fixture at local Arlington Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League baseball games. She loves hanging out at our local parks and getting lots of attention from the players and their families. Many players and teams have even said that Apple is a good luck charm!

Aside from watching baseball, Apple loves children, treats, snuggling, naps, and taking short walks around Lyon Village. Halloween is her favorite when she gets lots of visitors, even if she has to wear a silly costume!

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Please don’t send vertical photos, they don’t fit in our photo galleries!

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care is the winner of six consecutive Angie’s List Super Service Awards, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year and a proud supporter of the Arlington County Pawsitively Prepared Campaign.

Becky’s Pet Care provides professional dog walking and pet sitting in Arlington and all of Northern Virginia, as well as PetPrep training courses for Pet Care, CPR and emergency preparedness.

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Last night, the Arlington County Board denied developer Penzance permission to extend construction hours on a luxury condo project in Rosslyn.

The Board unanimously rejected the request to add an extra hour of work in the mornings, allowing crews to start at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends, after dozens of residents testified about numerous problems they have already endured with the existing schedule.

Board member Katie Cristol introduced the motion denying the request during the Board’s Tuesday night meeting. While she appreciated Penzance’s desire to speed up its construction process, she couldn’t support “literally unprecedented” construction hours that would be, “an awfully extraordinary action given the resounding comments we’ve heard from the neighboring property owners.”

Cristol noted that the request would only shave a few weeks off the construction schedule, which is projected to wrap up in January 2020. Penzance is building a trio of high-rises on the 1500 block of Wilson Blvd — collectively dubbed The Highlands — with 884 luxury housing units and 40,000 square feet of retail space.

Dozens of residents of the Atrium Condominium building, which is located behind the development site, showed up to Tuesday’s meeting to voice their opposition to Penzance’s request.

“I apologize and thank the community on behalf of the county for what sounds like pure hell for some of you, and I can appreciate that that’s no fun,” said Board member Erik Gutshall, after listening to their testimony. “So stick with us. Nobody sell your unit. No one leave. We will get through this. It’s going to be a beautiful great place and I appreciate folks who can see past that.”

Susan Miller, a 30-year resident of the Atrium, said she has “never seen anything like the horror that this project has brought to this community that we are in,” citing noise and dust and dirt that permeate her balcony.

Another long time resident, Pendita Welch, said that the noise is so loud she has to take phone calls in her closet, and worried that vibrations could be causing her walls to crack.

“I live on the back of the building, and I am partially deaf,” said resident Kelly Davidson, who spoke through tears. “And I can tell you that the noise is loud enough, at nearly the top of the building, partially deaf, to wake me in a startle.”

Davidson told the Board she now has to take medication for frequent migraines.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

I enthusiastically support incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos for the Democratic nomination in the June 11 primary.

What is the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s role?

Unlike Virginia State Senators or Delegates who make Virginia laws and policies, Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorneys must operate within the complex framework of hundreds of criminal laws and policies established in Richmond.

Under Virginia’s Constitution, our Commonwealth’s Attorney is the chief criminal trial attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, responsible for prosecuting a full range of criminal cases, ranging from driving under the influence to murder. The office has 17 attorneys, 11 support staff and 7 victim/witness specialists who work daily preparing and prosecuting cases.

How is our criminal justice system working?

Arlington is a public safety success story. Crime rates have been brought to record lows. And, we’ve reduced crime without filling up the Arlington County Detention Center (our jail). In Sheriff Beth Arthur’s recent endorsement of Stamos, Arthur notes that the Arlington jail has “an all-time-low population averaging 370 inmates a day.” Arlington also has diversionary programs that benefit drug addicts, the mentally ill and juveniles.

Why Theo Stamos is the best choice for Arlington

As the County’s top prosecutor, Stamos has a deep understanding of Virginia law and a wealth of local criminal trial experience. Our Commonwealth’s Attorney must appear in court nearly every day, where experience and institutional knowledge are key. When not in court, Stamos spends much of her day monitoring, advising and mentoring her line prosecutors on the many felony and other cases they handle.

Theo Stamos has already proven herself up to the task. She has literally tried every type of criminal case and has overseen the Arlington/Falls Church Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the past 8 years. An active member of the Arlington County Bar Association, the statewide Virginia State Bar Council, and committees on best practices for prosecutors, Stamos is also active in our community — a member of Arlington’s NAACP branch and a member of Organized Women Voters.

As our top prosecutor, Stamos reflects Arlington’s core community values. She is decent, honest, engaged, independent, and fair. As someone who has known and worked with Theo Stamos for many years, I can attest that she embodies all these qualities, including a dash of humor, humility, and humanity.

Criminal defense attorney David Deane (Stamos’s opponent in the 2011 Democratic primary for Commonwealth’s Attorney) recently published a letter of support:

My law practice takes me to many jurisdictions; her open-door policy is something other offices around the commonwealth should emulate. She is always willing to engage in a dialogue about a case and to truly listen when defense counsel from both the court-appointed and private bar approach her with issues.

Theo Stamos has worked tirelessly to improve the criminal justice system in Arlington for victims as well as those who stand accused:

  • Chairs Arlington’s Sexual Assault Response Team and works with Project PEACE to address domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Led the creation of a state-of-the-art, sexual assault and intimate partner violence protocol that serves as a model for the Commonwealth
  • Initiated Arlington’s adult diversionary Drug Court 7 years ago
  • Started the Second Chance diversionary program for juveniles
  • Helped launch Operation Safe Station, giving drug addicts a way to turn in their drugs and get treatment without fear of arrest and prosecution

Why Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is seeking the wrong job in the wrong place

Dehghani-Tafti has almost exclusively post-conviction appellate experience, but seeks a job requiring extensive trial experience.

The most up-voted comment to a recent ARLnow.com story also captures why Dehghani-Tafti is the wrong choice:

The Soros-supported Parisa Dehghani-Tafti seems to be running a campaign based on principles espoused by progressives on the national level, without realizing that she’s in the wrong jurisdiction. She wants to “reform” Arlington’s criminal justice system… Tafti seems to be trying to reform Ferguson, MO, by running for Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. It doesn’t make sense. — oscar

Conclusion

Theo Stamos is a dedicated public servant with a proven record as a principled and progressive prosecutor. I wholeheartedly endorse her re-election. You can learn more about Stamos’ candidacy here.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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