School Board Warns of More Budget Challenges Ahead

The School Board is warning of more tough budget times ahead for the county’s school system.

In a memo to Superintendent Patrick Murphy to be discussed at the group’s meeting tonight (Thursday), the Board urges Murphy to be wary of the fact that the county’s planned revenue transfer to Arlington Public Schools “is not sufficient to meet our critical needs” as “cost pressures” for the system only continue to increase.

The school system only narrowly avoided class-size increases as it set its last budget, thanks to the County Board finding some additional money to keep classes at their current levels. But as APS gears up to start the budget process for fiscal year 2020, the Board expects that, as the school system opens five new schools and programs over the next two years, the change will “increase baseline operating costs significantly.”

“We anticipate that, as budget deliberations continue, additional funding for APS’s critical needs will be a top funding priority,” members wrote.

As Murphy works up his new budget, the Board is also directing him to “if possible” avoid additional class size increases, and find funding for other cuts the school system was prepared to make if the county hadn’t come through with the additional revenue last year.

“No new, major initiatives should be presented,” the Board wrote.

The Board expects that its decision this year to cut back on devices offered to second graders will save some money, and it’s also directing Murphy to “explore longer-term strategies for efficiencies, such as collaboration with the county on swimming pools reimbursement and Transportation Demand Management funding.”

County Board members have frequently spoken about their commitment to finding more money for schools, yet the county’s own tight budget picture, brought about by complications stemming from the Metro funding deal and persistently high office vacancy rates, will likely complicate the debate. County Manager Mark Schwartz has repeatedly warned that more tax hikes will likely be on the table in 2020 and beyond.

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JBG Smith Changes Course on Crystal City Property, Flips From Residential to Office

Despite continued high office vacancy rates, developer JBG Smith has abruptly reversed course on a plan to convert an aging Crystal City office building to apartments.

At an Arlington County Site Plan Review Committee meeting on Monday, the company presented an updated plan to renovate the 12-floor, 242,000 square foot building at 1750 Crystal Drive and modernize the building facade. The change comes less than a year after JBG Smith filed a plan to convert the office building into a 21-story residential tower, which in turn was a change in course from an approved circa-2015 plan to modernize the building and keep it as office space.

The new-new plan changes the building’s address to 1770 Crystal Drive and better integrates it into planned pedestrian improvements and the “Central District” retail cluster, which is to include an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, restaurants with outdoor seating and a possible small-format grocery store.

The flip back to office will undoubtedly pique the interest of those trying to read the Amazon HQ2 tea leaves.

Betting markets and industry observers think the D.C. area is the most likely destination for the company’s second headquarters, and sources tell ARLnow.com that Crystal City is by far the most likely D.C. area location for it. Meanwhile, office vacancy in Crystal City remains high — it was just below 20 percent as of a year ago, according to county data — and the neighborhood’s largest and most influential landowner has scrapped an ambitious residential conversion plan in favor of sprucing up currently-vacant office space.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said last week that an HQ2 decision will be announced by the end of the year. The company’s request for proposals specifies that HQ2 will require a large amount of office space — 500,000+ square feet — in a relatively short period of time after the announcement.

A spokesman for JBG Smith was not immediately available to comment, according to a PR rep for the company.

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BREAKING: Police, Medics On Scene of Reported Shooting in Nauck

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating a reported shooting in the Nauck neighborhood.

The shooting happened along S. Kenmore Street, less than a block from a preschool, an elementary school and a church. Initial reports suggest at least one person was either shot, grazed by a bullet or injured by shrapnel. A police helicopter has been assisting with the search for suspects as K9 units and heavily-armed officers comb the area.

“At 2:00 three gunshots were heard in the vicinity of S. Kenmore and S. Shirlington Road,” a tipster told ARLnow.com via email. “Children from Drew Elementary School were urgently ushered inside by a running staff member from their playing outside on the school basketball court.”

The victim’s injuries are reported to be minor and he was treated and released on scene, according to police.

The incident started as a verbal dispute among three people at a nearby 7-Eleven store, according to ACPD spokesman Ashley Savage. That dispute escalated and shots were fired near the intersection of S. Kenmore Street and 22nd Street S. One person was injured and two fled the scene, Savage said.

A traffic stop on southbound I-395, not far from the shooting scene, did not turn up either of the shooting suspects, according to Savage.

Drew Elementary had been placed in “secure the building” mode as a result of the shooting, according to an Arlington Public Schools spokesman. The school eventually dismissed on time, according to an email sent to parents by principal Kim Graves.

Dear Drew Families:

We just received the “all clear” from the Arlington County Police Department.

We will proceed with dismissal as scheduled. Due to the ongoing police investigation, buses are just arriving at the school. As a result, students who ride the bus will be delayed in leaving school.

Thank you for your understanding and patience. Please feel free to call if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Kim Graves,
​​​​​​​Principal

Photo via Google Maps

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Opioids and Addiction Series at St. George’s Church

Addiction and Opioids Series: 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday Evenings in the Nave

Awareness ~ Personal Perspectives ~ Collective Responses
September 26th ~ October 3rd ~ October 10th

All are invited to gather for a series of evening conversations, focused on the challenges of addiction, as well as the paths forward, for prevention and recovery.

Arlington County officials as well as other experts will share their expertise, with opportunities for Q&A and discussion.

The recovery community has shared so many gifts with wider church: how can the church respond faithfully to today’s addictions? Some of our focus will be on opioid addiction in particular, although persons impacted by or concerned about any form of addiction are invited to participate, learn, and share their perspective.

Our series will also lead into a special worship service and forum at St. George’s on Sunday October 14th. Hosted by Community of Hope at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Arlington.

Original Bob and Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike Listed for Sale

The building that’s been home to the original Bob and Edith’s Diner for the last 50 years is now listed for sale.

The real estate and development firm BM Smith is advertising the diner, located at 2310 Columbia Pike, for sale with an asking price of $2.5 million. Yet what that means for the restaurant chain, which operates four locations around Northern Virginia, remains unclear.

An attorney for Greg Bolton, the owner of Bob and Edith’s, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the listing agent for the property at BM Smith.

The Bolton family opened the chain at the Columbia Pike location back in 1969, though county records show that a company controlled by BM Smith — the owner of a variety of other South Arlington properties — took over ownership of the location in 2015.

The chain opened two new locations that same year, and even acquired Linda’s Cafe along Lee Highway this year with plans to eventually expand there as well.

Jonathan Reed, a local realtor, first drew attention to the Bob and Edith’s listing when he shared BM Smith’s posting on his own website this week. As a longtime Arlington resident, he told ARLnow he was “shocked” to see the space listed on an internal database for realtors, and has even since directed two potential buyers to BM Smith since sharing the post.

Based on Reed’s examination of the listing, he believes Bob and Edith’s has a “four-year term” left on its current lease, and could opt to renew the lease for another term. Accordingly, he isn’t so sure that the building being listed for sale necessarily means the restaurant is on the move, though it certainly could be.

“It doesn’t seem like they’re closing or leaving, it could be that they opted not to buy the place,” Reed said. “Of course, there could be someone that buys it that doesn’t want to continue their lease… but whoever buys it will have to contend with the lease that’s already there.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Virginia Tech Helps Working Professionals Advance Their Careers in Tech

No matter what industry you work in, technology is constantly changing. Companies are searching for candidates with new skillsets and experience with emerging technologies.

At Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center, adjacent to the West Falls Church Metro station, an administrative team manages more than 600 online graduate students looking to develop new skills and fill gaps on their resume.

Virginia Tech developed its #2 nationally-ranked Master of Information Technology program (VT-MIT) in 1999 in response to a request by the Commonwealth of Virginia to help meet the growing demand for employees in the information technology field.

Since then, the 100% online program has kept pace with changes in technology, in both course delivery and course options.

Working professionals from across the country are taking the online courses at their own pace and designing a degree that works for their individual goals, whether they are a seasoned IT professional or looking to shift into a tech career.

VT-MIT currently offers 11 areas of specialization, including Analytics and Business Intelligence, Big Data, Cybersecurity, Health Information Technology and Software Development.

The program also offers six Graduate Certificate options for professionals that are not looking to pursue a full degree.

VT-MIT plans to continue adding new courses and Graduate Certificates that keep up with current trends in tech, particularly as the wider university takes on a central role in the cybersecurity ecosystem.

In 2010, Virginia Tech launched the Hume Center to lead the university’s research and experiential learning programs in national security. The center now has a research facility in Ballston.

Just this past summer, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced that Virginia Tech will lead its $25 million Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.

For more information about Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology Program, visit www.vtmit.vt.edu or sign up for an upcoming information session.

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Healthy Paws: Safe Disposal of Medicines and Preventing Environmental Contamination

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

While research continues, it is becoming clear that chemical pollutants are impacting animal health, human health and the environment.

Human-made chemicals flow into streams and waterways where it comes into contact with wildlife. Wildlife interacts with these products in unpredictable ways. Pharmaceuticals are in the mix of contaminants arriving from various places like wastewater treatment plants, drains of manure fertilized fields, washed off livestock farms, landfills and septic systems.

Any household or farm product has the potential to become an environmental contaminant. One of the largest concerns is also the easiest to source and reduce, unused drugs that are flushed down the drain.

The pollutants are dangerous to fish, insects and other life with the potential to kill, prevent reproduction, change behavior or alter appearances.

Potential human health concerns are unknown because the pharmaceutical dosage in waterways is low. However, research shows that antimicrobial concentrations in wastewater may be high enough to create selection pressure and harm beneficial microbes.

Antibiotic resistance is also a big concern. Thousands of pharmaceutical compounds, including animal-use drugs, are used in the U.S.

Along with current research and studying the ability of wastewater treatment plants to remove pharmaceuticals, we as veterinarians and clients of veterinarians have a role and responsibility to dispose of unused drugs properly to reduce the risk of environmental contamination as much as possible.

The AVMA and FDA have developed guidance on how to get rid of unwanted drugs. The best choices for disposal of unused or expired medications are the following:

  • Medicine take-back options
  • Disposal in the household trash
  • Flushing certain potentially dangerous medicines in the toilet

For more information on these options, what is available in your area, and the potential environmental impact of flushing medicines please visit this FDA web-site.

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County Unveils Dockless Vehicle Pilot Program, Plans to Cap Number of Scooters and Bikes in Arlington

(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) Arlington is rolling out its promised pilot program to guide the use of dockless vehicles, clearing the way for more companies to offer electric scooters and bikes in the county.

County officials have been mulling how best to regulate dockless vehicles since Bird started offering its scooters in Arlington this June without any warning to the local government. Now, the County Board is set to approve a program requiring companies to register with the county to avoid similar surprises, while also capping the number of vehicles they can deploy in Arlington.

The nine-month program limits companies to operating a total of 350 vehicles each within county limits. Under its terms, any business looking to deploy dockless scooters or bikes will have to pay the county $8,000 for an operating permit, and would then be able to operate a fleet of 200 vehicles. The companies could then apply to increase the size of the fleet by 50 vehicles each month, up to the 350 cap, so long as it can demonstrate that each vehicle is recording at least six trips per day.

Those strictures are similar to D.C.’s own strategy for managing dockless vehicles, which the District put in place last year and caps companies at 400 vehicles each. Transportation advocates in the region have been especially critical of those limits, with some companies ditching D.C. due to the caps, and county staff noted in a report prepared for the Board that the county’s own Transportation Commission “recommended that the demonstration refrain from capping numbers of devices.”

“This proposal retains what staff considers a reasonable cap, reflecting other community input,” staff wrote. Bird started off its deployment in Arlington with 50 scooters, staff wrote, but the company has declined to release exact numbers on how many vehicles it’s since brought to the county.

Staffers added in the report that county officials consulted with some “vendors” last month to gauge their thoughts on the design of the program. Lime, in particular, has spent months working with local business leaders to ensure a more favorable regulatory environment in the county, while Skip, the third dockless scooter company operating in D.C., has also signaled an interest in expanding to Arlington.

Staff also wrote that they fully expect that this pilot program could encourage the remaining dockless bike companies operating in D.C. — Spin and Jump — to start operating in the county as well.

Additionally, the program clarifies that there is no helmet requirement for scooter riders, the county plans to bar anyone younger than 16 from using the scooters, and that the scooters can’t be used on county sidewalks, without some policy tweaks. The policy also adds that both scooters and electric bikes won’t be permitted on county trails.

“While there is enabling authority for localities to ban electric scooter riding on sidewalks, it does not grant localities authority to affirmatively allow such riding,” staff wrote. “Thus, to enact an ordinance authorizing electric scooter riding on sidewalks would require a legislative change.”

The county is also planning on collecting community feedback on all manner of dockless vehicle issues, and will require the companies themselves to regularly turn over ridership data, which can then be released publicly.

The Board first has to sign off on the policy at its meeting Saturday (Sept. 22). It’s currently slated to be considered as part of its consent agenda, generally reserved for non-controversial items to be approved as a block, though it can be pulled from the consent agenda at the request of Board members.

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Clarendon Day Street Festival Returns Saturday

Clarendon Day, one of Arlington’s oldest and largest street festivals, will return this Saturday (Sept. 22).

The event will dominate the heart of Clarendon’s main strip of businesses from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., offering all manner of exhibits, food, drinks and performers. The Clarendon Alliance, which organizes the event, is expecting as many as 20,000 attendees this year.

The fair will run rain or shine, and offer dozens of vendors, Virginia wine and beer and food booths from restaurants in Clarendon and elsewhere around Arlington, per its website.

Performers at the event’s two stages include:

Main Stage

  • 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Ruepratt
  • 12 p.m.-1 p.m. Soul Stew
  • 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Calista Garcia
  • 2 p.m.-3 p.m. Dave Kline Band
  • 3 p.m.-4 p.m. SubRadio
  • 4 p.m.-5 p.m. Fellowcraft
  • 5 p.m.-6 p.m. Bushmaster featuring Gary Brown

Performers Stage

  • 12 p.m.-12:30 p.m. Adagio Dance Company
  • 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Carley Harvey
  • 2 p.m.-3 p.m. Ballet Nova
  • 3 p.m.-4 p.m. Melissa Elizabeth Wright
  • 4 p.m.-5 p.m. Jaleo Arte Flamenco
  • 4:30 p.m.-5 p.m. O’Neill – James School of Irish Dancing

The Clarendon Day 5K and 10K races, backed by Pacers Running, will also return Saturday. The races are set to begin at 8 a.m.

Arlington police are warning of plenty of road closures associated with the race and the event itself. From 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. the following will be closed:

  • Wilson Boulevard between Washington Boulevard and N. Garfield Street
  • Clarendon Boulevard between Washington Boulevard and N. Garfield Street
  • N. Highland Street between 11th Street N. and N. Hartford Street

And the race will prompt the following closures from around 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.:

  • Wilson Boulevard, between N. Garfield Street and Route 110
  • N. Kent Street, between Wilson Boulevard and 19th Street N.
  • The entirety of Route 110 northbound, from Route 1 to Wilson Boulevard

Organizers recommend biking, walking or using public transit to reach the event to avoid those closures.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Pentagon Declares War on Scooters — “The Pentagon hates your little scooters, too. In fact, DoD would like you and your ride-sharing company to know that if you leave your rental scooters or shared-bicycles anywhere on Pentagon property, they will be impounded, right quick.” [Defense One]

ACPD Ticketing Bike Lane Blockers — Arlington County police have been ticketing delivery truck drivers who block protected bike lanes — including the new bike lanes on N. Quincy Street in Ballston — as part of an “enforcement and education” effort. [Twitter]

Ballston Farmers Market to Extend Season — “Arlington County Board members on Sept. 22 are expected to vote to permit the Ballston Farmers’ Market to operate through the end of November each year, an extension of one month from earlier years.” [InsideNova]

Stuck Window Washer Rescues Self — A large fire department response to a report of a window washer trapped outside the sixth floor of a high-rise building in Rosslyn turned out to be for naught; the worker was able to “self-extricate” before the technical rescue team arrived. [Twitter]

Reminder: Free ART Bus Rides Today — “In celebration of ART’s 20th Anniversary, we’re letting everyone ride ART for free on Thursday, September 20! It’s our way of saying thank you to our loyal customers for riding ART and also an invitation for those who have never been on ART to give it a try.” [Arlington Transit]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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