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Max BurnsProgressive 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: Max Burns

A little over a month since its blockbuster launch, Arlingtonians have probably seen the massive crowds of people engaging in the latest summer trend — Pokémon Go.

Now the most popular mobile game in history, Pokémon Go encourages players and their friends to venture into community parks and open spaces to capture the 151 Pokémon that became a global craze in the mid-1990s.

There’s a massive thread on Reddit’s Northern Virginia board sharing the best locations for catching Pokémon, battling other players in “gyms”, and meeting up for conversations and Happy Hours. It’s difficult to visit a local park — or even walk Wilson Boulevard — without encountering hundreds of eager players striving to be the very best.

But Pokémon Go may be more than just a mobile game. It’s also an opportunity for Arlington County officials to engage a tough-to-reach demographic on an issue that is often not at the forefront of their attention: community parks.

Look around a County Board meeting or any meeting of parks advocates and you likely won’t see many Millennials. Discussions about projects like the Long Bridge Park Aquatic Center largely target other demographics. But with the surge in youth utilization of parks after Pokémon Go’s release, younger Arlingtonians may be primed to think about parks as their concern.

There’s evidence that Arlington’s Pokémon Go players are increasingly conscious of the greenspace and public land that makes up the game’s field of play. I reached out to several players hunting Pokémon in stop-rich Clarendon and along Columbia Pike for their experiences playing in Arlington.

“It’s brilliant seeing parks that used to have three or four people and their dogs now have four or five times as many Pokémon fans using them,” a level 33 player who goes by Fulliautomatix, said. “The game has spurred a greater connection — a real connection — between folks in the neighborhood and the parks in the community.”

There’s merit to Fulliautomatix’s sentiment. A casual tour of Pokémon gyms and stops in Arlington shows a diverse collection of ages, races and genders swapping stories from the hunt and commending the accessibility and safety of Arlington parks. Nationally, Pokémon Go also received commendations for bringing players with Asperger’s and other social disorders into their communities.

Pokémon Go has mobilized a broad demographic of players who previously paid little attention to dry debates about Arlington parks. It’s a unique opportunity for the Arlington County Board, Parks and Recreation Commission, and County staff to develop and promote entertaining and educational events and programming targeting an often overlooked audience of young Arlingtonians who during this time are much more aware of and more likely to use community greenspace.

They wouldn’t be alone in such a response. Nationally, the National Parks Service has leaned into the Pokémon Go craze by urging rangers to engage tourists visiting national forests and monuments. Last month, Fairfax County hosted a community “Pokethon” that combined neighborhood walks with discussions of safety and the importance of maintaining community spaces. Hundreds turned out.

“I don’t know if I cared about parks around here as much before Pokémon Go,” level 24 player LiteraryCritic said between captures at Windy Run Park last weekend. “I went on the Parks and Rec website to find good spots, and actually found a lot of things I’d get involved with.”

Pokémon Go may be a summer trend destined to fade. But its growth shows no signs of slowing, and the enthusiasm of its players shouldn’t be overlooked by County officials. Engaging even a fraction of active players in Arlington County would represent an incredible change in the community audience engaged on greenspace issues.

And it’s the kind of tech-forward experiment in civic engagement that could encourage more Millennials to participate in County processes and make a long-term commitment to involvement in their community. We’ve already heard multiple County Board members — including new members Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey — urge innovation in County outreach to Millennials. Here’s a tailor-made opportunity. Piggybacking discussions of community greenspace onto a mobile game may seem like an unorthodox method to start public policy conversations, but if creating new support for parks and park resources are a priority for Arlington County, it’s an attempt worth pursuing.

Max Burns is the Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia Technology Working Group. He is also a former President of the Arlington Young Democrats.

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Remember that weird costumed Pokemon thing taking place near the Clarendon Metro station Tuesday afternoon?

Well, they were filming a YouTube video and one of the creators, Cabot Phillips, tweeted the finished product to us last night. This morning he explained some of the story behind the video.

The video, above, is entitled “Pokemon Go in Real Life Prank.”

You might have seen the work of the Phillips siblings before. Earlier this year they scored a national viral hit with a video in which they convince their sister, who just had wisdom teeth surgery, that they were in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

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Pokemon Go being played in Courthouse (photo via @ReadyArlington)Arlington officials have some seemingly-obvious advice to players of the hot new smartphone game Pokemon Go.

First of all, says Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management, don’t walk into traffic while playing the game. Also, don’t try to play the game and drive at the same time.

Beyond that, OEM and the Arlington County Police Department have other practical advice for game players to remain safe:

“Always be aware of your surroundings. Play with other people, there’s safety in numbers. Tell people where you’re going, especially if it is somewhere you’ve never been. Parents should limit places kids can go. Be considerate of where Pokemon are displayed and don’t trespass on private property.”

Even some public property may be off-limits. There have been recent reports of people playing Pokemon at Arlington National Cemetery (see below).

Spokesman Stephen Smith said players are asked to refrain from playing on cemetery grounds.

“In respect for those interred at Arlington National Cemetery, we do request and require the highest level of decorum from our guests and visitors,” Smith told ARLnow.com. “Playing such a game on these hallowed grounds would not be deemed appropriate.”

Photo via @ReadyArlington

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An iPhone user playing Pokemon Go in Fairlington, with a dog oblivious to the nearby virtual PokemonIf you have no idea what the headline of this article means, you’re not alone but you’re part of a rapidly dwindling group.

Late last week and into the weekend, the smartphone-based game Pokemon Go exploded in popularity and has become a pop culture phenomenon. That’s especially remarkable if you consider that the game was only officially released on Wednesday.

Walk around any given Arlington neighborhood last night and you were likely to see people loitering about, glued to their phone — more so than usual, at least. The game takes place on local streets and gathering places across the world, in augmented reality.

Pokemon creatures may appear on the sidewalk in front of you. A park or a community center may be a Pokemon gym (there’s even a Pokemon gym inside the Pentagon). A local business may make a payment in the game to attract Pokemon — and thus attract Pokemon-playing potential customers.

Given the game’s popularity, we were interested in knowing which team local players were joining. Let us know in the poll below.

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Arlington County police carArlington County Police responded to an unusual burglary call yesterday in the Donaldson Run neighborhood.

A homeowner returned to his or her residence on the 2700 block of N. Beechwood Street after a few days away, only to find that something wasn’t quite right — someone had been inside the house and had helped themselves to some sweet treats.

“Between 12:00 p.m. on August 9 and 9:00 p.m. on August 12, an unknown suspect(s) entered a residence through a doggie door and ate the homeowner’s popsicles and whipped cream,” according to a crime report. “The suspect(s) proceeded to play with Pokémon cards that were found in the residence.”

“After they enjoyed some popsicles, they played a bit with some Pokemon cards and left,” ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said of the suspect or suspects, whose identity and motive remains a mystery.

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A convention of furries — a subculture interested of anthropomorphic animal characters — has taken over the lower levels of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City (2799 Richmond Highway) this weekend.

The 8th annual Fur the More convention is happening today through Sunday, March 8. Attendance at the convention starts at $55.

Starting today (Friday), the lower three levels of the building are filled with art, costumes and panel discussions of various fandoms. There are a few dozen full-body character suits called a fursuit that has become the iconic image of the fandom, but most of the couple hundred of attendees at the convention’s opening range from Pokémon kigurumi to subtle tails or cat ears sported by hotel staff.

The theme of the convention this year was science fiction, so several costumes blended anthropomorphic animals with sci-fi convention staples like Firefly and Star Trek.

“I like these smaller cons,” said KiwiNiwi, one of several attendees at the convention who goes by a nom de guerre. “The bigger ones are usually rushed. These are chiller. You can talk to friends.”

Many people descending the escalator waved to friends waiting in the ticket line and greeted each other by the respective character names. KiwiNiwi said several people travel across the country to see friends at these conventions. It was KiwiNiwi’s fourth year at Fur the More, which was previously been held in Tysons and Baltimore.

Starla (real name Ashton Spenner) acted as furry liaison for ARLnow and said the main theme among the furry fandom is acceptance. Starla, who also works at other conventions for fandoms like anime, said the furry community stands out to her for its accommodating and accepting nature.

“There are a lot of people here with social anxiety, but fursonas give people confidence,” Starla said. “It allows people to express themselves.”

The anonymity of a mask can also be a problem at conventions. Signs around the hotel remind people to keep their hands to themselves, as the anonymity has sometimes resulted in overly frisky furries. Starla said there have been a few issues over the years, but they’re the exception rather than the norm to what is typically a G-rated environment.

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Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

Tuesday, February 18

Oddball Cinema
Westover Library (1644 N. McKinley Road)
Time: 7-8:30 p.m. 

Are you into offbeat films? Head over to the Westover Library to watch animated, post-apocalyptic fantasy film, 9 (2009). Attendance is free and on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wednesday, February 19

Family Trading Card Game Night
Shirlington Library (4200 Campbell Avenue)
Time: 6-7:30 p.m. 

Play modern trading card games that are simple to learn. Join players for Pokemon, Magic and other popular card games, while trading cards with fellow players.

Thursday, February 20

Home Buying Event!*
Washington Fine Properties (4100 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 250)
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m. 

This event is an informal happy hour conversation on the home buying process and current market trends. Hear from regional experts obtaining financing, the title process, and path to closing.

Metropolitan Park Public Space Open House
JBG Marketing Center (241 18th Street S., 1st floor)
Time: 6:30-8 p.m. 

Learn about the Metropolitan Park’s current conditions, discover opportunities for new features, and share your input regarding how the space can best be used.

Phantom of the Opera
Synetic Theater (1800 S. Bell Street)
Time: 8 p.m. 

Paata Tsikurishvili applies Synetic’s signature gothic storytelling to one of the most famous supernatural novels of all time with a physical adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera.

Friday, February 21

Meetup: Righteous Minds Trying to Understand Other Political Tribes
Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd) 
Time: 7-9 p.m.

In this free Meetup course that will be held once a week over four weeks at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, participants will try to understand their values and beliefs.

*Denotes featured (sponsored) event.

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Parents and community members are being asked to help choose the name of the new elementary school that’s being built next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

A naming committee has narrowed down the choices, which included suggestions submitted via an online survey, to five. The finalists, each with an explanation from the naming committee, are below.

  1. Alice West Fleet Elementary School — “A native Virginian, a granddaughter of slaves, and a long-time Arlington teacher, resident, community activist and leader… she broke down racial barriers, serving as the first black reading teacher in Arlington and the first black teacher to teach in an all-white school in Arlington.”
  2. Grace Hopper Elementary School — “Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was an acclaimed computer scientist, professor, and long-time Arlington resident… Ms. Hopper was key to the development of COBOL, a computer programming language that helped make coding more accessible.”
  3. Journey Elementary School — “The new elementary school building is designed with different levels and sections representing different biospheres… The name ‘Journey’ was recommended through the Community Input Form and represents the students’ journey through the building as they explore our diverse world as well as the educational journey that students and their families experience.”
  4. Liberty Elementary School — “The name ‘Liberty’ is a tribute both to Patrick Henry’s famous ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!’ speech and to his support of the Bill of Rights. This option represents a name change that maintains a connection to the school’s existing name.”
  5. Patrick Henry Elementary School — “Patrick Henry Elementary School was given its name in 1925, renaming the original school name, Columbia Elementary School. Patrick Henry was a lawyer, orator, and statesman who served as the first and sixth governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He was also a slave owner.”

The new school is expected to open in September 2019. Students and staff will be moving from the existing Patrick Henry Elementary, near the Columbia Pike Branch Library, to the new school.

The naming committee says it received input on both sides of the debate over the current school’s name.

The committee heard compelling arguments both for keeping and for changing the name of the school. Some felt that keeping the name would provide continuity and maintain a connection to the school’s history, while continuing to honor one of our nation’s founding fathers. Others thought that the school name should be changed in order to avoid confusion between the new and existing school, or to reflect the creative design of the new building. Some also felt that Patrick Henry’s name should no longer be used since he owned slaves.

The committee says it received more than 500 survey responses via its online form. Among the serious suggestions were at least a few from pranksters, we’re told; other name suggestions included Howard Stern Elementary and Pokemon Elementary.

This time around, the committee is hoping to only receive input from Patrick Henry Elementary and Jefferson Middle School parents, students, staff and nearby neighbors.

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Morning Notes

Ballston (photo courtesy Noah Kaufman)

NAACP Wants War Memorial Plaque Changed — The Arlington chapter of the NAACP wants a plaque on the war memorial in Clarendon updated. The plaque lists Arlingtonians killed in World War I, but separates two “colored” military members from the rest of the local war dead. The NAACP says it would like to get the plaque removed and replaced. “We owe it to those who fought and died,” said local NAACP president Karen Nightengale. [InsideNova]

Two Restaurant Chains Coming to Arlington — Two regional franchise operators have signed agreements that will bring two expanding restaurant chains to Arlington. A former Domino’s Pizza franchisee is planning to open an Arlington location of Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza, in addition to locations elsewhere in Northern Virginia. Meanwhile a Five Guys franchisee says it will be opening 10 Newk’s Eatery locations in Arlington and Fairfax counties. The Mississippi-based soup, salad, sandwich and pizza chain is big in the Southeast U.S., with more than 100 locations in 13 states and an aggressive expansion plan. [WTOP, Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Hotels Hacked — Two Arlington hotels have reportedly had their payment systems compromised by hackers. HEI Hotels and Resorts says malware was found on its systems at 20 hotels, including the Le Meridien in Rosslyn and the Sheraton Pentagon City on Columbia Pike. The hack potentially exposed the credit card information of hotel guests and customers. [Associated Press]

Pokemon Go at the Pentagon — Department of Defense officials have put the kibosh on DoD employees playing Pokemon Go on government phones, citing concerns about the game tracking the movement of its employees. The DoD has also reportedly told Pentagon employees to only play the game outside of the building. A Pokemon “gym” inside the Pentagon has been removed. [The Guardian, Twitter]

Bethesda Man Bought $1 Million Lottery Ticket in Arlington — The $1 million-winning Powerball ticket that was sold at a Ballston 7-Eleven store last month was sold to a Bethesda resident. Larry Elpiner says he plans to “share his winnings with family and friends,” in addition to paying for his daughter’s college education. [WUSA 9]

Photo courtesy Noah Kaufman

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Arlington Agenda: Aug. 1-7

(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

Wednesday

Sparkling Wine Tasting*
Osteria da Nino Cucina Italiana (2900 S. Quincy Street)
Time: 5-7 p.m.

The Italian restaurant and bar hosts a free wine tasting every first Wednesday of the month. This month’s wine tasting is centered around sparkling wines and will include four different wines from across Europe.

Pokemon Go Meetup
Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 5:30-9 p.m.

The Drafthouse invites patrons to meet up and take advantage of its two Pokestops. Employees will activate lures and “random incense areas” before, during and after screening “Pokemon: The First Movie.” The event promises “pizza and wing buffet, prizes and Pokemon trainers get in for free.

Thursday

The Bow Tie Guy Launch Party
Don Tito (3165 Wilson Blvd)
Time: 5-8 p.m.

Guys in bow ties will drop by Don Tito to celebrate the official launch of BeTheBowTieGuy.com, a website that aims to unify the bow tie community and dole out free bow ties in the process. Attendees are strongly encouraged to show up in bow ties.

Saturday

Kennan GarveyThird Annual Kennan Garvey Memorial Ride
Phoenix Bikes (4200 S Four Mile Run Drive)
Time: 7 a.m.-4 p.m.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey will join other cyclists for the third annual Kennan Garvey Memorial Ride, dedicated to her late husband. The full 100 mile-long ride begins at the Phoenix Bikes shop on Four Mile Run Drive.

Iceland: A Changing Landscape*
Cherrydale Branch Library (2190 Military Road)
Time: 2-4 p.m.

Photographer Robin Kent will exhibit photos of Iceland and give a talk about her journey photographing the beautiful landscapes on the balcony of the Cherrydale Branch Library.

*Denotes featured (sponsored) content

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Morning Notes

Roosevelt Island (Flickr pool photo by xmeeksx)

Military Base: No Pokemon Players, Please — Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is advising visitors that hunting Pokemon is not a valid reason for visiting the base, even though Pokemon supposedly abound there. “There’s multiple Pokestops and gyms on post,” noted a military police officer, who added that she has played the game “to learn more about it.” [Pentagram]

‘Oasis’ For Runners Near Key Bridge — Amid sweltering temperatures, local running store Pacers is setting up an “oasis” Saturday morning from 7-10 a.m. near the Key Bridge and the Mt. Vernon and Custis trails. The oasis will offer “nutrition, hydration, and a shady place to take a break.” [Pacers]

Twilighter 5K Saturday — Crystal City will hold its annual Twilighter 5K race Saturday evening. The race starts at 8:30 p.m. Expect lane and road closures in the area. [ARLnow]

Flickr pool photo by xmeeksx

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