Arlington, VA

Editor’s Note: See previous profiles of Rep. Jim Moran (D) and Jason Howell (I).

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Republican congressional candidate Patrick Murray says he has a better chance this time around, his second shot at unseating longtime 8th District Rep. Jim Moran (D).

He is more well known, redistricting has cut out Reston from the map and added more conservative areas near Mount Vernon, and he expects the presidential election to help get-out-the-vote efforts.

But from a practical perspective, Murray knows Moran’s more than 20 years of representing Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County is not likely to end after Nov. 6.

“I can’t help that. Just because the district is difficult, the cause is the same,” said Murray, the first Republican challenger to take on Moran for a second time since Demaris Miller in 2000. “So many people were just happy to see that somebody was running against this guy for the second time, that I had stuck around. These guys come out of the woodwork, they run once against Moran and then they vanish.”

“He scares them off,” Murray added.

That seems to be a point of pride for Murray, the retired Army colonel who three years ago passed up a chance to attend the prestigious Army War College — which trains future generals — to run for office.

(Murray lived in Alexandria for eight years earlier in his military career, but moved back there in 2009.)

In the 2010 election, he briefly vaulted into the national spotlight when Moran characterized him as a “stealth” candidate without “public service” experience. Murray said it was a criticism of his military career, which he felt was a type of public service. Moran said he was simply pointing out Murray’s lack of local service to Virginia communities.

Once that happened, campaign contributions from 26 states started coming in.

“It was mostly veterans. They’re not rich,” Murray said. “But it was $25, $50 bucks saying ‘Go kick this guy’s ass because now I see how he feels about us.'”

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Editor’s Note: We will profile Patrick Murray, the Republican challenger for Congress, next week.

Rep. Jim Moran’s conversion from “hardcore economic libertarian” to solidly liberal Democrat began in 1969, more than two decades before his first turn representing Virginia’s 8th District.

As Moran, 67, seeks his twelfth consecutive term amid a divisively bitter atmosphere on Capitol Hill that has severely stunted legislative progress, he spoke about the experience that has informed much of his 33-year political career.

“I was fairly conservative when I graduated from college,” said Moran, who was eyeing a career as a stockbroker when he left the all-male College of the Holy Cross in his native Massachusetts. “I was always pretty progressive on civil rights issues, but from an economic standpoint, I was quite conservative. I used to read Ayn Rand. I thought that life was simple.”

He took a job as a budget officer at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, during the Nixon administration, to take advantage of a federal program that helped pay for his graduate education.

At the department, Moran was sent to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to save the agency money by consolidating migrant worker programs. He found laborers in a “cycle of poverty,” brought on by loans from farmers who would not pay them enough to pay the loans off. He encountered a Kindergarten-aged girl who suffered corporal punishment for blurting out an answer in Spanish during school.

Speaking Spanish was forbidden at that time in the Texas school system.

“That offended me,” Moran said. “It totally conflicted on my sense of what’s right and the way things are to work.”

Moran said he was escorted out of a state Board of Education meeting after speaking out about the unfairness of allowing corporal punishment while prohibiting the use of Spanish. He went back to Stan Pottinger, the head of the agency’s civil rights division and set up an office of migrant farmers at Health, Education, and Welfare.

“It showed me that you could make a difference. That’s why I got involved in politics, why I’ve stayed in politics,” Moran said. “It’s why I became somebody who recognizes the world is not fair and that we should be spending our energies and influence toward achieving some form of economic justice and equality of opportunity.

“The world is not how Ayn Rand said it was.”

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Gulf Branch Nature Center (Flickr user Kevin Borland)The Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Rd.) is hosting its popular annual Bat Fest Arlington event on Saturday, with a live bat presentation and a “bat walk” for adults, weather permitting.

“Bat rehabilitator” Leslie Sturges will explain the mysterious nocturnal mammals with a 6:30 p.m.- 7:15 p.m. live presentation.

The event includes crafts and games for families and a walk through the woods to check out the bats’ habitat. Adults are welcome to stay until later, when Nature Center guides will go out to search for flying bats.

The bats typically don’t start flying until 8:30 p.m.

Bat Fest draws about 100 people each year, so the Nature Center is asking those interested to register in advance online. Admission is $5.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Borland

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Civic association leaders, with an assist from the county’s Wisdom Works group, are hoping to establish a county-wide “Senior Village” to help Arlington’s sizeable population of seniors remain independent and in their own homes.

The project is based on a concept that has taken root in a number of communities across the country. A network of volunteers band together to provide services to older residents who wish to remain in their neighborhoods and out of retirement homes or senior living communities.

Services can include daily check-ins, home maintenance, social events or tasks as minor as help opening email or a ride to the supermarket.

“As people get older, there are some things they just can’t do,” said Pete Olivere, a longtime Glencarlyn Citizens Association member who last October started talking to other neighborhood groups about forming an Arlington village. “We wanted to build on the very active civic association type bases that Arlington has and use those as building blocks toward delivering volunteers.”

There are about 25,000 over-60 residents in Arlington, reflective of the expected nationwide surge in the senior population as members of the “baby boomer” generation age into retirement.

Wisdom Works, organized by the county’s community engagement program, came up with much of the design of the village, which Olivere said is likely a year or two away from launching. The group will be promoting the concept and looking for volunteers today (Friday) through Sunday at the Arlington County Fair.

A Wisdom Works “project team” of mostly retired residents came up with a hub-and-spoke model for the village, with volunteers assigned to senior residents in, or close to, their own neighborhoods.

The team also deals with non-senior issues. Program Manager Barbara Karro said they’ll likely take on childhood obesity soon.

“We were able to go county-wide, and that enabled Pete to have a group outside of a civic organization to work with,” Karro said. “Particularly in Arlington, we have just an amazing resource in terms of their skills and lifetime experience. As this group of seniors gets larger, that would be a shame to waste.”

The hub would provide record-keeping and liability insurance (a major hurdle to some village set-ups) for volunteers. Villages come in a variety of forms. Some are funded by private donations. Others require  monthly membership fees.

The Arlington senior village, which will be set up as a nonprofit agency independent of the county, will require “a modest membership fee.”

Olivere, 64, said the group has about 30 willing volunteers after a couple of presentations to civic and senior groups. He hopes the fair will open up the concept to more.

“A lot of these things foster a neighbor helping neighbor type environment, just to make sure an older person isn’t struggling” Olivere said. “These are things that can make a difference.”

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In an attempt to fix bus crowding, delays and long travel times, Arlington Public Schools will go to a new, voucher-based bus transportation system this school year.

School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy announced the new policy, devised after an independent study of the system last fall, in a letter to parents in July. APS sent parents another letter on Aug. 1 urging them to update their addresses.

From the July letter:

With the start of the school year this fall, we will be moving forward with the plans that the Office of Transportation has outlined. One of the first steps underway includes the implementation of bus-routing software to help us plan routes that are more efficient so we can maximize the capacity of our bus fleet.

The second step that is critical to this plan is to serve students who are eligible to receive bus transportation services. As outlined in School Board policy, elementary school students who live more than one mile from school and secondary school students who live more than 1 1/2 miles from school will receive bus transportation.

In early August, principals will be sending families of students who are eligible for transportation services a letter that will include their child’s bus stop and route. This addresses a critical safety concern for students who ride buses and allows us to better communicate and serve families when we may experience a delay or other changes in service.

The distance rules are not a change to the transportation policy, APS spokesperson Linda Erdos said. Students who live within the mile or 1.5-mile radius who would have to cross large roadways or highways to get to school will still be allowed to take the bus.

The vouchers will be a way for bus drivers to become accustomed to the students on their routes, Erdos said, providing for what APS hopes is a safer, more efficient system with an expected 900 more students and the same amount of buses.

“We have had problems in the past when students who live in the walk zone walk outside the walk zone and get on the bus,” Erdos said. “Our priority is to add classroom teachers to teach children, not more buses. More important, the new system will let us know every student who is on a bus route. If something happened, this will let us know who’s on that bus.”

Students within the “walk zone” are being encouraged to walk or bike to school. Still, one parent thinks the new system will actually increase the number of students from inside the walk zone who drive or who hitch a ride to school, which could cause traffic and safety issues.

“I applaud Dr. Murphy on working to reform the bus system,” wrote Donaldson Run blogger Robert Cannon. “But creating a voucher system, and refusing to transport students who live just less than 1.5 miles from school is only going to make things worse.”

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The Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant slated for the former Cafe Parisien space at 4520 Lee Highway in the Lee Heights shopping center is scheduled to open on Oct. 16, according to a company spokesperson.

The franchise owner and a team of contractors were on site today (Monday) to tour the still-empty interior. But a sign on the boarded-up front of the store promised the “Burritofication” of the former French restaurant and long-time Lee Heights fixture, which closed suddenly last summer.

This will be Chipotle’s fifth Arlington location after one opened in June in the Pentagon City Mall food court.

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The 2012 Bluemont 5K will start at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Belmont Park South Pavilion (399 N. Manchester Street).

The course is on both the Four Mile Run and Washington & Old Dominion trails and will wind back toward the South Pavilion. Online advance registration is open until 6 p.m. today (Monday) and is free for DC Road Runners members and $5 for non-members. On-site, day-of-race registration is $5 for members, $10 for non-members.

There will be free parking, but Metro riders can take one of the 1-series buses from from the Ballston Metro to Wilson Boulevard and N. Manchester Street.

Check out the race page at DC Road Runners for more information.

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Area wildlife experts are warning area homeowners to keep their pets inside at night after a couple of recent coyote attacks — including an attack at Daniels Run Park in the City of Fairfax on Monday.

Arlington is no stranger to the predatory canines, which have easily adapted to surburban and urban environments across the country. After years of reports of sightings, county naturalists in April confirmed their existence with video from Potomac Overlook Regional Park.

But naturalists are discounting the threat from a coyote-like animal that some residents have caught on camera around the Rosslyn area.

Last week reader Katherine Doty emailed us with a photo of the canine (above), which shows it with a bird in its mouth near the Iwo Jima memorial. Another reader sent in the photos below of what appear to be the same animal around 9:00 a.m. today (Friday) on Route 50 near Rosslyn.

“Some other pedestrians and I think it was a coyote,” the tipster wrote.

The animal, however, is very likely a dog (or a fox) and not a coyote, according to county naturalist Christina Yacobi.

“That is not a coyote,” Yacobi said last week after taking a look at Doty’s photo. “That’s a really long tail for a coyote and coyotes have tails that are really bushy. They looked like they are dipped in ink. And they don’t have that long, pointy snout and those big, giant ears.”

Yacobi said it reminded her of a dog resembling an Ibizan hound or Pharaoh hound that went missing four years ago from a family traveling at Dulles Airport. Yacobi volunteered in the search effort.

Naturalists also say that spotting a coyote out in a populated area in the middle of the day is quite unlikely.

“Coyotes are very good at avoiding people, so residents shouldn’t be overly concerned,” Long Branch Nature Center naturalist Cliff Fairweather said in April. “The key is for residents not to feed them or encourage them not to be afraid of people. The longer they are afraid of people, the better it will be for coyotes and people.”

For a comparison, another shot from this morning near Route 50 and a file photo of a coyote (via Wikipedia) can be found below.

 

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former Virginia governor Tim Kaine spoke about his economic development record during a Thursday afternoon campaign stop at Clarendon-based clean energy company GridPoint, Inc.

The company sells efficiency-monitoring software to electrical utilities, government agencies and private corporations. According to CEO John Spirtos, it employs about 100 people between its corporate headquarters (2801 Clarendon Boulevard) and its manufacturing facility in Roanoke.

In a statement, Kaine touted GridPoint as an industry leader in energy efficiency solutions.

“GridPoint’s innovative energy management systems are saving companies up to a fifth of their total energy costs per month,” Kaine said. “These are dollars that can be invested back into the business to expand and hire new workers. Their advancements in energy efficiency and conservation technology are absolutely essential to ensuring our businesses can compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

Kaine also touted his own record of helping to bring GridPoint to Arlington. In 2007, Kaine approved a $500,000-incentive package from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to entice GridPoint to move its headquarters to Arlington from Washington, D.C.

“My economic development team played a big part in bringing GridPoint’s headquarters here. We considered it a big victory because of the kind of business that it has and the kind of talent that it has,” Kaine told a roomful of GridPoint employees on Thursday. “Where we really have thrived is we just try to bring the best talent here. If you win the talent race, you win the economic race.”

Kaine toured part of the company’s 30,000-square-foot space at the corner of Clarendon Boulevard and N. Edgewood Street with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Spirtos to highlight his “Strengthening Our Economy Through Energy Innovation” plan.

“Oregon and Virginia are really kind of innovation economies and we know that today we aren’t just competing against people sort of 20 miles down the road, or in my case, California or Seattle. But we are competing against the Chinese. We are competing against the Indians,” Wyden said. “The governor is proven in terms of some of the energy investments he’s been able to invest in and make.”

Professional and technical services accounted for a fifth of Arlington County’s jobs, according to the county’s annual profile. Spirtos said that local base of highly-trained workers is one reason why GridPoint fits among Clarendon’s high-end retail shops and restaurants.

“D.C. is a great place to be but it’s a tough place to get [computer] developers to go to work. We needed access to the talent. There’s a lot of folks who won’t cross the river to go into D.C. There’s a lot of folks who won’t cross the river to go into Maryland,” Spirtos said. “And in this location, we have the Apple Store and the Whole Foods and the whole thing and that’s great. This is a great neighborhood. It’s an ideal neighborhood.”

It was revealed this week that Gridpoint has received another $23 million in venture capital funding, bringing its total funding to $263 million, according to GigaOm. In addition to its Virginia locations, Gridpoint has offices in Austin, Texas; Ottawa, Ontario; and Seattle, Washington.

 

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Wednesday’s “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” brought record nationwide sales to the fast food chicken chain, CNN reported today (Thursday).

The event, organized on Facebook to demonstrate support for the restaurant after its CEO came under fire for remarks critical of same-sex marriage, drew large crowds across the country, including in Arlington.

Natalie Yang, owner of the Crystal City franchise at 2200 Crystal Drive, said her store had one of its busiest days in memory. She added her staff “treated it just like any other busy day.”

A reader sent in the photos above, which show a long lunchtime line stretching down the sidewalk on Crystal Drive.

The Ballston Common Mall Chick-fil-A also reportedly had a larger than normal lunchtime turnout. Franchise owner Andrea Hevia said Wednesday morning that her store hadn’t made any special plans to accommodate the rush, but one tipster said an ‘Appreciation’ crowd showed up anyway.

“This was one of the biggest expressions of support for free speech and free enterprise in recent Arlington memory,” the tipster wrote.

Yang said the line at her store reached Ted’s Montana Grill, about a half-block distance.

“We were too busy to even take pictures,” Yang said.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee promoted “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on Facebook to counter a boycott of the Atlanta-based chain by same-sex marriage activists.  The boycott came after Chick-fil-A President and CEO Dan Cathy spoke publicly about his company’s opposition to gay marriage.

In July, the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco made clear their distaste with Cathy’s remarks, and discouraged the company from placing franchises in their cities. Huckabee praised the company, which doesn’t operate on Sundays, as a “true American success story.”

“Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion, or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we’re considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant,” Huckabee wrote on Facebook.

There were reportedly no counter-protests or demonstrations on Wednesday at the Crystal City Chick-fil-A location. Yang said her staff was too wrapped up with serving customers to notice anything past the long line.

“We treat every one here with honor, integrity and respect,” Yang said. “We appreciate their support. And we didn’t run out of food.”

Courtesy photos

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The 22nd annual Rosslyn Jazz Festival is set for Saturday, Sept. 8 at Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway).

This year’s event, co-sponsored by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) and the Arlington Cultural Affairs division, will run from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free. The festival will feature “Afro Blue,” the Howard University a cappella group that made the 2011 finals of NBC’s “The Sing-Off.”

From the press release:

Afro Blue was named be The Washington City Paper as 2011 Jazz Artist of the Year, received a WAMMIE for best A Cappella Group and best video (Nature Boy), and an honorable mention in the Critics Poll, a professional vocal group category by JAZZ TIMES.

Warrenton native Rene Marie will also perform:

Rene Marie, the award-winning, Warrenton, VA-born singer whose style incorporates elements of jazz, soul, blues and gospel, is a heroine to many. Given an ultimatum by an abusive husband, she began her professional career after 40, leaving a 23-year marriage. Since her debut recording, Renaissance, the singer has evolved into one of the most intriguing vocalists of our time. With her latest release Voice of My Beautiful County (Motema Music), listeners will hear her trademark vocals but will also be struck by the wide variety of songs that she interprets — from Motown to Tin Pan Alley to “America the Beautiful.” The CD is a celebration of America’s cultural diversity.

The lineup also includes clarinetist and saxophonist Don Byron and two-time Grammy-nominated saxophonist Joshua Redman.

Photo courtesy Rosslyn BID

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