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JUST IN: APS Opening on Two Hour Delay Friday

Arlington Public Schools will open on a two hour delay Friday, the school system announced Thursday afternoon.

Dangerously low wind chills are expected overnight. Nearby, Montgomery County Public Schools has also announced a two hour delay Friday, while Fairfax County public schools will be closed.

More from APS:

All APS schools and offices will open two hours late. The Extended Day program will also open two hours late and morning field trips are canceled. Essential employees and food service workers should report to work at their regularly scheduled time. All other employees should report to work two hours past their usual start time. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.

File photo

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UPDATED: SWAT Team Arrests Man in Crystal City Parking Lot

Update at 3:25 p.m. — The charges have been posted in Friday’s Arlington County Police Department crime report.

NARCOTICS VIOLATION (Significant), 2018-01040111, 2200 block of S. Clark Street. At approximately 3:30 p.m. on January 4, police executed a narcotics search warrant and one suspect was taken into custody. Jacob Hill, 36, of Fairfax, VA was arrested and charged with manufacturing, selling, giving, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute a controlled substance and transporting a controlled substance.

Earlier: A man was arrested by a heavily-armed SWAT team in the middle of Crystal City today, to the surprise of residents and office workers who watched it happen.

It happened around 3:30 p.m. in the parking lot behind the WeWork and WeLive building in Crystal City (2221 S. Clark Street). Video and photos posted to Twitter show three dark SUVs filled with heavily-armed law enforcement personnel surrounding a man in a light-colored SUV. Damage is visible on the light SUV’s windshield as the man surrenders to police.

In a brief statement, the Arlington County Police Department confirmed that they were involved in the arrest and that it was drug related.

“Arlington County Police executed a narcotics search warrant in the 2200 block of S. Clark Street,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “A diversionary device was utilized and one suspect was taken into custody. No injuries were reported. The investigation is ongoing at this time.”

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Ms. Peacock’s Champagne Lounge Open at The Board Room

The Board Room, which opened late last year in Clarendon, has a new addition: Ms. Peacock’s Champagne Lounge.

The extra space at 925 N. Garfield Street, which once was the butcher shop at the former Sehkraft Brewing, describes itself as “an update on the classic, elegant salons of a bygone era — a relaxing oasis amid the hustle of modern life.”

“People come in here and say they feel underdressed,” joked owner Mark Handwerger.

It offers 41 different varieties of champagne and sparkling wine, as well as specialty cocktails, including ones that rotate on a seasonal and monthly basis. Champagne is also available in tasting flights.

And along with the usual fare of small plates, cheeses and salads, it has caviar available accompanied by diced shallots, chives, grated eggs, creme fraiche and blinis, a Russian pancake.

Ms. Peacock’s will also host events, including talks with champagne and wine makers. It is adjacent to another small room, known as The Chairman’s Lounge, through a retractable bookcase.

It adjoins The Board Room, which offers board games for rent in addition to a large food and drinks menu. It is The Board Room’s second location — its first is in Dupont Circle.

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The Right Note: Missed Opportunities

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

On Tuesday, the Arlington County Board bypassed the longest serving member of the Board not to serve as its chair, independent John Vihstadt, in order to elect Democrat Katie Cristol. Congratulations are in order for the first millennial to take the center seat.

But hopefully voters will return Vihstadt to the Board this fall, and then the Board will give him the opportunity to serve as its chair in his next term.

As Board chair, Cristol is broadly given the opportunity to set the agenda for the year. However, as with every chair, the term is only for one year. It is difficult for anyone in this position to drive even a single pet project through the process in a year.

Cristol, like every Board chair before her, gave the opening speech about her priorities. The speech not only gave a shout out to Odysseus, but provided a lengthy laundry list of issues facing the county. It included everything you can imagine, from community engagement, to housing, to access to childcare and Metro, among many others.

The speech was fine, but it was a missed opportunity to focus like a laser on doing some big things right.

Cristol discussed working for dedicated funding for Metro. Where was the call for Metro to be completely overhauled in a way that warranted our confidence in a long-term funding solution?

Cristol discussed a desire for real growth in our local economy that did not just rely on landing the big fish with economic development incentives. Where was the statement that the time for excuses was over and that by the time the Board met next January, county staff would not be trying to improve processes, but that processes are actually improved? What about ending the regressive BPOL tax?

Cristol referenced the fake “budget gaps.” Where was the commitment to budget process reforms that stopped spending away the annual surplus?

Cristol also took a swipe the “still-unknown” impacts of the recently passed tax reform bill. We know one impact. Many Arlingtonians rushed to advance pay their next property tax bill in late December, hoping they could count it against their 2017 taxes. In doing so, they also hoped to be able to deduct up to $10,000 of state income taxes in 2018.

Why are they doing that? Because the average tax bill could top $7,500 in Arlington in 2018. By comparison, the Virginia average is just under $2,000. The national average is about $2,150.

In other words, we pay a lot to live here. And largely wealthy residents, of all political stripes, are hoping to reduce their federal tax burden as much as possible. Cristol could have made it a priority to keep property tax increases in check via responsible spending. She didn’t.

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Progressive Voice: Find the Beginning

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Katie Cristol

The following is an abridged version of remarks delivered at the Arlington County Board’s January 2nd Organizational Meeting. The full text, with specific proposals and further details on each of these themes, is available online.

“Tell the old story for our modern times. Find the beginning.” 

(The Odyssey, in a new 2017 translation by Emily Wilson)  

In 2018, what does it mean to translate Arlington’s history, our community’s values, and even our foundational texts – planning documents, rather than literary – for our modern times?

For example, “to tell the old story” of Arlington is to tell of the fight for inclusion: Defiance of Massive Resistance and integrating our schools; waves of immigrants and refugees shaping the County’s culture and economy. In our current national political moment, Arlingtonians have risen to affirm that history, and those values. Inclusion is why housing affordability – an issue given structure and a policy agenda in the 2015 Affordable Housing Master Plan – continues to be such a bedrock issue for us all. What this community looks like, and who calls it home, is in part a function of the cost of its housing.

Last year, I described my hope that our 2017 Zoning Ordinance amendments regarding accessory dwellings could be a springboard to a broader community discussion about the themes of “Missing Middle Housing.”

My goal — building on and with the ideas advanced by our new colleague, Erik Gutshall, and other community leaders — is to more substantively and specifically engage this “Missing Middle” conversation in 2018, producing a few examples of what it means in Arlington. The Lee Highway Planning effort and the development of Housing Conservation District tools ahead both represent opportunities to explore these forms, and to translate our values of inclusion into housing policy.

Childcare accessibility similarly speaks to the foundational values of Arlington County.

On January 25, we will launch an Action Plan, drafted by a multi-agency partnership, with parents, providers and neighbors. As the action plan proceeds, I anticipate that long-awaited steps will be before the Board soon, such as a potential re-examination of our local codes for alignment with the Commonwealth’s; potential zoning changes to decrease barriers to entry of childcare centers; and new partnerships to increase the supply of trained childcare workers.

2018 is a critical year for restoring and supporting Metro, achieving a sustainable source of funding for Metro, and engaging constructively with the many reform proposals for its governance and operations. The regionalism of the 1950s and 1960s is our map here: Arlington will be most effective in partnership with our fellow Northern Virginia jurisdictions.

Christian Dorsey’s leadership on the Metro board will be essential to representing Arlington’s interests in any reforms adopted this year, and to establishing a more effective system. In collaboration with colleagues from Northern Virginia’s Metro jurisdictions, and from jurisdictions like Prince William, Fredericksburg, and Stafford, I will be leading legislative efforts on behalf of NVTC and the Virginia Railway Express.

We must present a common vision from the region to the General Assembly as they deliberate on dedicated transit funding in the biennial budget.

Returning Metro to sound footing is a necessary but not sufficient step to turning around our commercial vacancy rate, which will continue be a priority for 2018. We are wrestling with anticipated budget gaps: Significant ones in FY19, growing greater in the out years. The only way we get out of painful choices that pit our priorities – a moderate tax rate, quality schools, transportation, parks – against one another is growth in the commercial sector. This year, we must continue aggressive pursuit of expanded and new commercial tenants.

None of these objectives will be without controversy. So to translate the Arlington Way for our modern times, it’s time to return to these big conversations, and talk more directly to one another as neighbors. To do that, we need more citizen leadership of the public dialogue. I look forward to launching, with our Commissions, a series of “Big Idea Roundtables,” that will provide constructive venues for residents to discuss the big questions about the County’s future with each other.

I’m also looking forward to the implementation of County Board and County Manager efforts to improve the customer service experience of those interacting with their local government in 2018.

Finally, in 2018, we will need to be steady in the face of federal instability: Still-unknown implications of the new tax reform law; continued deportation threats to our young people if and as DACA expires; threatened cuts to the funding streams our safety net depends upon. Through it all, however, Arlington will be made sturdier by our proud history and by our striving to constantly live and evolve our values.

Katie Cristol was elected to the County Board in November 2015 and elected by her colleagues as County Board Chairman for 2018. She has been a community advocate and public policy professional during her time living in Arlington.

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Peter’s Take: New Public Engagement Draft Guide Shows Promise

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.

On December 21, Arlington County’s public engagement team (led by Bryna Helfer) posted a new draft Public Engagement Guide for Capital Projects.

This latest draft incorporates feedback received from residents and County staff during 2017. Over the next two weeks (until January 18), Bryna and her team are very interested in receiving your feedback on this draft.

Discussion

The latest draft guide shows promise in an area crying out for major improvements.

In late 2016, the County Manager created the Office of Communication and Public Engagement in the wake of multiple public engagement fiascos. Bryna Helfer was appointed an Assistant County Manager to lead this office.

During 2017, while Helfer and her team appropriately were conducting multiple community meetings and seeking public input on an earlier version of the guide, these fiascos continued at Nelly Custis Park and Virginia Highlands Park.

The persistence of these fiascos, many involving the Department of Parks and Recreation, underscores the urgency of approving and implementing a final guide.

As was the case with the prior draft, the latest draft raises issues, some mentioned, some not.

MENTIONED

Strategies for different projects and policies

The final guide should be very clear that its public engagement processes also will apply to county decisions in addition to those about capital projects, like all significant new policies or plans and the annual operating budget. Each of these other types of decisions should have its own appropriately-defined and publicly-understood levels of engagement.

Project and policy definitions

If the county only asks, “where shall we put the basketball court?”, and never asks, “do you want a basketball court?”, the county and its residents are in serious trouble.

Setting priorities

Our new public engagement resources should be focused on key priority choices which drive major amounts of budget dollars. The question should be: “We have enough money for Option A or Option B, but not both. Which do you prefer?” Statistically-valid surveys should be used in appropriate circumstances.

Civic Associations

Arlington’s civic associations, ranging from the many superbly-managed ones all the way to some non-existent ones, always will display a spectrum of effectiveness. The county government, not civic associations, ultimately must be accountable for public engagement with respect to taxpayer-funded projects and policies.

Transparency

The county should maintain a separate, interactive webpage with all information, data, assumptions and public engagement results regarding each project or policy.

NOT MENTIONED

Limits of public engagement

Even the best public engagement practices cannot prevent fiascos caused by other factors such as:

  • Wrong policies
  • Lack of proper staff training
  • Changing needs
  • Lack of accountability

The best public engagement practices cannot cure poor substantive policies or poor management.

If the policy is wrong, change it. If staff lacks training, train them. If needs change, then processes need to be flexible. If staff members are never disciplined, transferred, nor fired for repeated mistakes, that is a fundamental management failure.

Neutral facilitators

If necessary, neutral facilitators should be employed to conduct public engagement.

Conclusion

No guide or plan can be perfect. However, the county must ensure that it is delivering the best possible opportunities for fair, transparent and inclusive public engagement.

The latest draft guide helpfully reflects significant improvements suggested by Arlington residents over the past year.

The May & June 2017 Friends of Aurora Highlands Park newsletter contains excellent additional public engagement suggestions.

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Democrat Matt de Ferranti to Run for County Board

The first Democrat has thrown his hat into the ring — or, at least, made a media announcement — for this year’s Arlington County Board race.

Attorney Matt de Ferranti filed the paperwork for his bid on Tuesday (January 2). He currently is legislative director for the National Indian Education Association and previously worked as a teacher in Houston.

He is the first declared candidate against incumbent John Vihstadt (I), who is running for re-election.

In a statement, de Ferranti said he is “running to expand opportunity for everyone in Arlington County.”

“Staying true to Arlington’s history and our shared values is the recipe for Arlington to continue to be a great place for everyone,” he said. “Our commitment to housing affordability, building the schools we need to educate every Arlington student, and maintaining our great transportation system are key. Investing in our parks and open spaces, working locally to address climate change and keeping our community safe and inclusive are sound investments in our future. We can — and must — make smart investments while also being fiscally responsible.”

de Ferranti has been on the county’s Housing Commission since 2014, and served on the Affordable Housing Study Working Group from 2014 through the adoption of the County’s Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015.

He has also been a member of the Budget Advisory Council for Arlington Public Schools since 2014, and has served as chair since June 2017. He has also worked with Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and the Education Trust.

“I’m running for the Arlington County Board because I know and love this community,” he said. “And because I know that, together, we can put our shared values into practice and expand opportunity for everyone in Arlington County.”

de Ferranti is expected to make his first speech as a candidate at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s meeting on Wednesday, January 10. In the near future, ACDC will decide how it will choose its nominee: whether through a primary election, the preferred choice of Arlington Young Democrats and others, or a caucus like it used last year.

Outgoing ACDC chair Kip Malinosky said that “there are a couple other people interested in running, but no one [else] to my knowledge that has filed or ready to announce.”

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Local Business Owner Warns of Biking Dangers on Columbia Pike

A local business owner is urging road users on Columbia Pike to be more cautious, after what he said is a recent spike in accidents involving cyclists.

John Harpold, who manages the Papillon Cycles bike store at 2805 Columbia Pike emailed ARLnow.com just before Christmas after one such crash.

The crash took place at the intersection of Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd on December 21 at around 9 a.m. Photos that Harpold took at the scene show a bicycle that had been bent by the impact and an SUV with a damaged windshield.

Harpold said more must be done to make the Columbia Pike corridor safer for all road users.

“These cyclist-involved accidents are bad, and increasing,” Harpold said. “These are my customers and while I waited 10 minutes to get my car free of the resulting jam, 20 cyclists negotiated the mess from this accident and there were ample opportunities for more carnage. This really is a big safety community issue for our part of Arlington, and all road and sidewalk users.”

Columbia Pike was recently the scene of a separate enforcement effort around road safety by the Arlington County Police Department, as officers cited 20 for failing to yield to pedestrians.

Photos by John Harpold

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Statutes of Liberty: Asylum — Let’s Get Political

This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq., the principal of Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact him for an appointment.

By James Montana, Esq.

The law of asylum is one of the most complex and misunderstood areas of our laws. What follows here is a basic overview, intended to answer the following question: Why do some people get asylum, but not others?

To apply for asylum, a foreigner must be physically present in the United States, and must complete an application for asylum. (Read it if you like, here.) The application is twelve pages long. The instructions are fourteen pages long and are written in fragrant legalese.

Applicants for asylum do not have the right to counsel. If you can’t afford a lawyer, one will not be appointed for you. This is a generally true fact about our immigration system, but it is especially significant for asylum applicants, most of whom are recent arrivals who do not speak English well. And they’re on the clock. If you don’t apply for asylum within one year of your arrival in the United States, your asylum application is blocked by a rule called the One Year Deadline. (The government is not subject to any penalties to delay; one of my clients recently had his asylum hearing delayed by two years, just a month before the trial.)

Let’s say that you manage to get through the entire Form I-589, complete it properly, send it to the right address (there are five possible addresses) and go to your asylum interview. Will you win?

You should win, so long as the following statement is true: You either demonstrate past persecution on account of a protected ground, or you demonstrate a subjectively genuine, objectively reasonable fear of persecution on account of a protected ground, and you must demonstrate that you merit a grant of asylum as a matter of discretion. I have highlighted the terms of art here. I will unpack the most important ones briefly.

Persecution means more than harassment or legal prosecution. It means, typically, beatings, imprisonment without trial and death threats.

On account of a protected ground means: Race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a particular social group. Brevity precludes a full description of what each of those terms of art means, but let me just tell you what isn’t included: poverty, starvation, civil war, endemic crime, social chaos or endemic disease. Our asylum system is good at protecting people from particular species of harm of harm (Nelson Mandela) and bad at protecting people from other species of harm (gang violence, plague, anything that happens in Haiti).

The chances of winning an asylum case vary enormously both by location and by individual judge. Here are the denial rates by judge for every judge in the country; as a quick scan will show you, some judges grant almost all applications and other judges grant almost none. This is true even within individual courthouses. In San Antonio, Judge Miles grants 97.7% of asylum applications, and Judge Burkhart grants 24.9%. You are assigned randomly to Judge Miles or Judge Burkhart, or to one of the others in the middle.

Thoughtful people disagree on what sort of immigration policy we ought to have. It may be that our national interest demands that we be less generous. Perhaps we should be more generous. All sides should understand, though, the facts about our asylum system. Our asylum system is slow, bureaucratic, unpredictable and legalistic. It is not an open door.

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Animal Welfare League Seeks Foster Homes for Dogs Rescued from Mississippi

Twenty puppies and a few older dogs will arrive at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington on Sunday after being rescued from deplorable conditions in Mississippi.

In a Facebook post, AWLA said the dogs were kept in “near-freezing and near-starvation” before being saved by a rescue group. When the new dogs arrive Sunday (Jan. 7), AWLA said it is looking for foster families who can take care of them.

“We are looking for families that would be willing to welcome them into their hearts and homes,” AWLA wrote. “We need foster homes for a range of litters, from single puppies to a mom and her nine puppies. We know it’s a lot to ask, but with your help, we know we can give these puppies a chance at a new life.”

Anyone who applies to be a foster family must be able to come to AWLA’s headquarters at 2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive around noon on Sunday to pick them up, and commit to looking after them for up to six weeks.

Arlington community, we need your help! Twenty puppies (and a few mom dogs) will be arriving at AWLA on Sunday morning…

Posted by Animal Welfare League of Arlington on Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Photos via Facebook

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Longtime Outdoor Store Casual Adventure Has New Location ‘In Mind’

The ongoing uncertainty over the future of Virginia Square outdoor store Casual Adventure could be close to resolution, according to its owner.

Owner Eric Stern told ARLnow that after receiving several extensions on its lease at 3451 Washington Blvd, the company is now close to signing a lease on a new location. Stern declined to go into specifics, but said there could be more progress in the near future.

He added that television commercials noting Casual Adventure’s lease extension are correct, but he did not say for how much longer it will last. The long-time outdoor retailer had been set to close last spring after 61 years in business. It first announced its closure last April.

“We’re still in the process of getting it all signed and sealed,” Stern said. “We have a location in mind and a backup if it falls through.”

The store continues to be open as normal, with its winter stock marked down by as much as 70 percent off regular price. A sign also indicates that Casual Adventure is looking to hire new staff.

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Wind Chill Advisory Tonight As Strong Winds Push In

It is about to get very windy and very cold in Arlington.

The strong winds are whipping up on the tail end of the “bomb cyclone” that brought snow to the area this morning. The resulting sub-zero wind chills have prompted a Wind Chill Advisory that will be in effect tonight through midday Friday.

From the National Weather Service:

… WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 AM EST THIS MORNING… … WIND CHILL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 10 PM THIS EVENING TO NOON EST FRIDAY… * WHAT… SNOW OCCURRING THIS MORNING. VERY COLD WIND CHILLS EXPECTED LATE THIS EVENING THROUGH FRIDAY MORNING. PLAN ON SLIPPERY ROAD CONDITIONS, INCLUDING DURING THE MORNING COMMUTE. SNOWFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF 1 TO 2 INCHES EXPECTED. EXPECT WIND CHILLS TO RANGE FROM 0 TO 10 BELOW ZERO. * WHERE… THE WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA… INCLUDING THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. * WHEN… FOR THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY, UNTIL 11 AM EST THIS MORNING. FOR THE WIND CHILL ADVISORY, FROM 10 PM THIS EVENING TO NOON EST FRIDAY. * ADDITIONAL DETAILS… BE PREPARED FOR REDUCED VISIBILITIES AT TIMES THIS MORNING FROM SNOW. THE COLD WIND CHILLS WILL CAUSE FROSTBITE IN AS LITTLE AS 30 MINUTES TO EXPOSED SKIN. NORTHWEST WINDS WILL AVERAGE BETWEEN 20 AND 30 MPH WITH GUSTS AROUND 40 MPH THROUGH THIS EVENING… DECREASING TO 15 TO 25 MPH LATER TONIGHT. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW MEANS PERIODS OF SNOW WILL CAUSE PRIMARILY TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SNOW COVERED ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES, AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING. THE LATEST ROAD CONDITIONS FOR THE STATE YOU ARE CALLING FROM CAN BE OBTAINED BY CALLING 5 1 1. A WIND CHILL ADVISORY MEANS THAT COLD AIR AND THE WIND WILL COMBINE TO CREATE LOW WIND CHILLS. FROST BITE AND HYPOTHERMIA CAN OCCUR IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN. MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND GLOVES.

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Schools Closed, County Government Opening Delayed Due to Snow

(Updated at 7:25 a.m.) The inch or so of snow that fell overnight was enough — possibly in combination with frigid wind chills later today — for Arlington public school students to get a day off on what was already a shortened holiday week.

“All APS Schools will be closed and offices will open at noon,” APS announced this morning. “Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled.”

County government, along with the federal government, is opening on a two hour delay.

“Most facilities will open at 10 a.m.,” the county said. “Unscheduled leave and telework options are available to County employees, with supervisor’s approval.”

Courts will also open at 10 a.m., as will the Arlington Mill Community Center. All other community centers are slated to open at noon (“unless their normal operating hours have them opening later.”)

The following county programs are closed today:

  • All Early Childhood Programs (Preschool and Co-ops)
  • Dept. of Parks and Recreation elementary or teen after school programs
  • All Enjoy Arlington classes, 55+ classes, trips and nature center programs
  • Sports league activities in APS standalone buildings

Trash, however, is still being picked up.

And Metrorail says it is running just fine for a change.

For those hitting the roads, neighborhood streets are still largely untreated, and there is at least one report of a car abandoned in the middle of a roadway. As of 7:25 a.m., Arlington County says its plow crews are working mostly on clearing primary routes.

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