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Office buildings, including the Nestle building, in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated 11:20 a.m.) Arlington has the second highest work-from-home rates in the nation, U.S. Census Bureau data from 2021 show.

The county falls just behind Fremont, a city in California’s Silicon Valley that is home to numerous tech companies, while D.C. ranks third. And within the metro D.C. area, the remote work population in northern Arlington specifically is second in size only to the central and downtown parts of the District.

People who study these trends, like Economic Innovation Group economists Adam Ozimek and Eric Carlson, say Arlington’s high ranking does not surprise them. They analyzed data on remote work for ARLnow, comparing the 46 commuting zones that make up the D.C. area.

At 55%, “North Arlington has one of the highest work-from-home rates in the D.C. region,” said EIG Chief Economist Ozimek. “Even South Arlington does pretty well in terms of the region overall, 43% is high overall, even though the income divide you can see.”

Looking at five-year population estimates, they found that the D.C. area as a whole topped the charts with a 34% telework share overall, followed by San Francisco (33%) and Austin (32%). San Jose and Seattle came in fourth and fifth, and much larger cities, including Chicago and New York City, ranked 18th and 20th with teleworkers comprising around 23% of the workforce.

“The D.C. area is just about as work-from-home as we would expect based on underlying factors,” Ozimek said. “Higher-educated places have more work from home. More expensive places have higher rates of working from home. And occupation matters: you’ve got a lot of skilled workers in general. The more skill, the more likely it is to be remote.”

Arlington, he said, has some of the highest average home values and education levels in the region. In addition, nearly half of jobs in the D.C. area can be done remotely, compared to other parts of the country, like Las Vegas and Grand Rapids, Michigan, where 30% or fewer jobs can be done remotely, they found.

While the pandemic precipitated this pivot to remote work, working from home — at least a few days a week — appears to be settling in as a permanent fixture of how many Arlingtonians get their jobs done.

And that is impacting Arlington County’s record-high office vacancy rate, which reached 20.8% during the second quarter of 2022. The county generates 45% of its property tax revenue from taxes on commercial properties like office building, helping to fund Arlington schools and county services while taking some of the pressure off of homeowners.

The office vacancy rate is higher now — with masks no longer required and vaccines and boosters readily available — than it when the pandemic first took hold (16.6%) and at the beginning of 2021 (18.7%).

“The challenges are really deep,” County Manager Mark Schwartz told the County Board last week. “Long-term leases are becoming rarer. To ask people who used to come to the office five days a week to do so again… might not be met with universal acclaim from those who used to drive into the office five days a week.”

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Groups of Arlington Public Schools students walked out today (Tuesday) to protest model policies the Commonwealth says local school boards should adopt regarding the treatment of transgender children.

Released last week, the draft policies from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), among other things, direct schools only to affirm a transgender student’s identity if parents request it. The document is perceived as a rebuttal to last year’s Democratic-led policies, which advised schools to affirm the child’s gender expression regardless of their family’s support.

In less than a week, a student-led LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization in Virginia mobilized kids across the state to protest the proposed revisions. The group said these changes would allow students and teachers to misgender transgender students while forcing those students to use restrooms corresponding to their sex assigned at birth.

In Arlington, walkouts were scheduled at Wakefield and Washington-Liberty high schools, the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, and Thomas Jefferson and Kenmore middle schools, according to the student group, Pride Liberation Project.

A few dozen W-L teens gathered this morning in nearby Quincy Park (1021 N. Quincy Street), and some — including a few transgender students — made speeches and spoke to the media. The walkout was not school-sponsored, per an email to W-L parents.

“It’s just so bad. I don’t understand why [Gov. Glenn Youngkin] wants to bully these kids, including myself, I don’t see what’s so scary about using the name Matteo, using he/him pronouns, and why that threatens him so much, but it’s really sad that it does,” W-L junior Matteo Hope, a transgender boy, told ARLnow.

Mars Cirtain, a W-L junior, said politicians and family members cannot override how transgender students choose to express themselves.

“For a parent to tell a child that they are not the person they identify as is the same as their parents telling them, ‘You are not the person I raised you to be,'” Cirtain said. “It’s not about what your parents think you are, and it’s not about what your family thinks you can be. It’s about who you are and you get to decide that for yourself, not Gov. Youngkin, or your parents.”

Under the draft, teachers could not be compelled to use a student’s preferred pronouns, and students would use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their sex assigned at birth. Schools would only accommodate students who identify as transgender at the written request of their parents. The document says these changes respect parents’ rights and beliefs and reverse Democrats’ attempts to “promot[e] a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools.”

Waltz Fellone, W-L senior and a school organizer for Pride Liberation Project, told participants that Youngkin’s policies were “cruel and evil.”

“All of you have made a difference,” they said. “I know it may not feel like it because we are just a small school in Arlington. We might not even be affected by this, but it still means a lot.”

Generally, the W-L students in attendance expressed optimism that Arlington Public Schools would continue to affirm transgender students’ right to self-expression, with support from residents of Arlington, which runs deep blue. W-L junior Sophia Braier said she has “several” friends who would be affected by this decision if they lived in more conservative, rural areas.

“Beyond just protecting people here, we’re doing it to garner attention all over Virginia,” Braier said.

The walkout drew a large crowd at Wakefield this morning, according to Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), who posted about it on social media.

APS and neighbor Fairfax County Public Schools are adhering to their current policies while they review the updates, ARLnow previously reported. FCPS students also held walkouts at a number of schools today.

Yesterday (Monday) marked the start of a 30-day public comment period in which people can respond to the policies and potentially change VDOE’s approach. APS says it is currently reviewing the draft policies and would not take action until it has reviewed the final document.

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Leaf cleanup in Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Cool fall mornings mean leaf collection season is near.

And Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services is reminding homeowners collecting their leaves and cleaning out their gardens to use only paper yard waste bags.

“Plastic ones can’t be composted and won’t be collected. If you have a landscaper, make sure they know,” spokesman Peter Golkin said. “The issue with yard waste in plastic bags is the most glaring problem for organics.”

Leaves bagged in paper can be composted along with other yard waste and food scraps, and turned into compost residents can use in their gardens.

Since September 2021, Arlington County has collected residents’ food scraps mixed in with their yard waste. Participation hovers around 40-45% of homes, and the county says participating residents diverted 27% of their food waste from the incinerator in April 2022, up from 21% in January 2022 and 15% in October 2021.

“As with any new program, there is a learning curve. Arlington is one of the first localities to collect food scraps at the curb,” Golkin said. “Food scraps collection is just over a year old but we hear from new users and even won a 2022 Achievement Award from the Virginia Association of Counties.”

He reported that there is demand for learning more about the organics collection process.

“We had a big turnout for the Rock-n-Recycle Solid Waste Bureau open house this month and got to share loads of information and compostable bags for food scraps, particularly with young families,” he said. “Same for the County Fair. More educational opportunities to come.”

The department will soon distribute a cart hanger with a rundown of what can, and can’t, be put in the cart.

Golkin has two rules of thumb: “If it grows, it goes” and “When in doubt, leave it out.”

So go ahead and put hairs from the hairbrush or fingernail clippings in the food scrap collection bin. Other bathroom trash, like used tissues, however, cannot be composted.

While a variety of products are advertised as “compostable,” residents should take care when disposing them, Golkin says.

“Products that are 100% bamboo are compostable but if you can’t tell, best to put an item in the trash,” he said. “Read disposal instructions carefully. If there are no disposal instructions, that’s probably a sign to use the garbage can.”

For example, the handles of bamboo toothbrushes are compostable but the nylon bristles are not. Meanwhile, plastic-looking compostable cups or flatware must be Biodegradable Products Institute or Compost Manufacturing Alliance certified compostable.

“Apple cores, banana peels, chicken bones and even greasy pizza boxes are easier,” Golkin said. “Toss them in the green cart.”

The free food scrap bin Arlington County provided to residents starting September 2021 (file photo)

Since the initiative launched, he said, more than 100 cubic yards of finished compost has returned to Arlington for residents to pick up — similar to the county’s free mulch program. More will be available “in the next few weeks,” with details forthcoming on DES’s social media account.

The county’s curbside pickup is not an option for apartment dwellers, but officials encourage residents to discuss food scrap collection with their apartment or condo management.

For now, they can drop off their food scraps at the Trades Center in Shirlington, at local farmers markets and at the MOM’s Organic Market near Courthouse.

Based on current waste stream data, staff and a public advisory committee are working on a new, state-mandated Solid Waste Management Plan for the county, to be released in 2024, he said.

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Washington-Liberty High School football game versus Chantilly High School on Sept. 9, 2022 (via YouTube)

(Updated 09/27/22) High school football season is in play, but this year, fewer students in Arlington Public Schools will be in the stands cheering on their friends.

That is because Arlington County Police Department does not have enough officers to staff events, police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.

Only students who attend the competing schools will be able to sit in the stands this year, according to one parent’s recap of a recent meeting between the Washington-Liberty Parent-Teacher Association and school leaders, which was posted to a Facebook page for parents and shared with ARLnow.

Siblings who attend other schools can attend if they come with their families, the post said. Students of the Arlington Career Center and H-B Woodlawn and those in Virtual Virginia courses can attend the games of their home schools.

This policy applies to all athletic events, not just football, the parent wrote.

Last fall, ACPD advised APS that it would not be able to provide physical security at games and special events for the 2022-23 school year due to ongoing staffing concerns, Savage said. (The police department also announced earlier this year that it would be scaling back some services due to the thinning of its ranks.)

“ACPD continues to work with APS on a plan to ensure a safe school community,” she said. “These security plans are similar to procedures APS implemented when the school board voted 5-0 to remove School Resources Officers.”

School Board members previously said they removed officers in response to arrest statistics indicating Black and Latino kids are disproportionately charged with crimes.

Despite not being in the schools daily, Savage said department participates in the school system’s Threat Assessment Team and School Safety Audit, has a liaison to APS and remains in contact with school leadership on any public safety concerns they may have.

“The decision to revise our admission procedures for high school athletic events is based on our commitment to providing safe, secure environments for students, staff and spectators, as well as to support the school staff who are charged with managing the crowds and maintaining safety and security during these events,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow on Tuesday. “This has been our previous practice and is not directly related to the absence of police officers at our games.”

But some parents were surprised by the policy change, saying they only learned of it two weeks ago, ahead of the Washington-Liberty High School football game against Chantilly High School on Sept. 9.

The change has already prompted a parent to launch a petition calling for the decision to be reversed. The petition has just over 175 signatures as of publication time and the author, W-L Boosters Club Co-President Kevin Hughes, asked members of the School Board last week at their meeting to drop the policy.

“This is a small community. Many high school students attended elementary and middle school together and remain friends even though they are enrolled in different high schools,” he said in the petition. “By virtue of being an Arlington resident, all high school students should be afforded the opportunity to watch live football games in person regardless of what school they attend.”

Hughes said that most incidents occur after the game concludes, and could be mitigated “proper crowd dispersal procedures.”

APS has had its share of incidents surrounding football games. Police had to use pepper spray to break up a fight during a W-L game in 2016, Wakefield football players allegedly were the target of racial slurs in Fairfax County and some Yorktown students allegedly were sexually harassed during half-time at a game. APS noted last school year that fights were on the rise, particularly among middle-schoolers, as students reacclimated to in-person education.

And Arlington is not alone in taking steps to tighten security at athletic contests.

After a football game ended in a brawl and charges against five people, Montgomery County Public Schools now requires fans to stay in their seats and limits fans to students from the competing schools.

Some parents have expressed mixed feelings about the new APS policy, acknowledging its likely necessity while critiquing its implementation.

“At the end of the day, of course everyone I would rather have this policy — if absolutely necessary — than have them going to restricted attendance or no students at certain games,” said W-L parent Mark Weiser. “There are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers and what irks me is that the policy was thrown out there without a lot of discussion.”

This story has been updated to include comment from Arlington Public Schools. 

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Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington banner (courtesy photo)

In a bid to generate more visitors, Arlington Arts Center has renamed itself the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington.

The non-profit arts organization at 3550 Wilson Blvd in the Virginia Square area is one of the largest non-federal venues for contemporary art in the D.C. area, per its website.

But the center’s leaders say it needed a new name to elevate its work to show contemporary art, support artists-in-residence and organize art classes.

“Our new name will help us increase our visibility and reflect our position as a premiere hub for contemporary art and artists and as the only art museum in Arlington County,” Catherine Anchin, its executive director, said in a press release. “Our mission to connect you with contemporary art and artists through exhibitions, education programs, and artist residencies remains the same.”

Over the last year, those involved in the rebranding initiative conducted research and interviews to see how the arts center could improve how it communicates its mission.

Last winter and spring, the arts center searched for and hired a new executive director likewise charged with raising its visibility.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington will be one of the few museums in the D.C. area without a permanent collection on display. Anchin says this will allow “MoCA Arlington” to keep up with contemporary art as it evolves.

“It is our goal that, when you visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington, you will experience some of the most cutting-edge art by local, regional, national, and international artists, explore the power of your own creativity, engage with living artists, and further embrace Arlington’s place within a global contemporary art sector,” she said.

M0CA Arlington will reopen under its new name on Saturday from 12-8 p.m. with two new exhibits to peruse. The reopening day celebration will feature curator-led tours, art-making activities and visits to the studios of its artists-in-residence.

The first exhibit, “Assembly 2022: Time and Attention,” highlights trends in concepts and materials among today’s working artists. It features 12 artists from nine states, including Virginia, who were nominated by curators at peer organizations around the nation and selected by Blair Murphy, the curator of exhibitions for MoCA Arlington.

The second, “Let Them Kids Be Kids” by resident-artist Lex Marie, uses the playground as “a framework with which to examine the joys of Black childhood and the ways in which issues of race and equity are inscribed on the site,” Anchin said.

After Saturday’s grand reopening, the museum will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 12-5 p.m. through Dec. 18. Meanwhile, registration for fall art classes has opened.

Galleries reopened in spring 2021 and have had several exhibitions since then, Anchin told ARLnow. The museum has been closed so staff could install the forthcoming exhibits.

After the show ends in December, the center will close for two to three weeks to set up for its second show, she said.

MoCA Arlington was founded in 1974, has undergone several name changes and is located in the historic former Maury School. The building is leased through a partnership with Arlington County and holds nine exhibit galleries, studio space for artists, three classrooms, offices, and event rental space.

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Ballston-based Federated Wireless is moving its corporate headquarters to Crystal City — and it is bringing 5G connectivity with it.

The move marks the next step developer JBG Smith is taking to turn the area into the world’s first large-scale “Smart City,” with futuristic experiences such as self-driving cars and virtual reality powered by a speedy wireless network.

Federated Wireless, currently located at 4075 Wilson Blvd, will occupy approximately 36,000 square feet of office space at 2121 Crystal Drive, per a press release from property owner and developer JBG Smith.

This building is home to aerospace company Lockheed Martin and a park, as well as a forthcoming restaurant called “Surreal.”

As part of the move, the wireless services company will design, deploy and manage 5G Private Wireless networks for commercial tenants and residents living and working in JBG Smith’s offices and apartments in Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard (known collectively as National Landing).

The area is saturated with companies that need what private 5G provides: high-speed data and few communication delays. National Landing’s roster includes Amazon’s second headquarters, Boeing’s recently relocated global headquarters, Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and numerous tech, defense and cybersecurity companies.

“We will be developing a showcase to demonstrate the power and cutting-edge capability that Private Wireless can bring defense contractors, government, retail clients, residential tenants, smart cities, and other customers and citizens in the area,” Federated Wireless Chief Commercial Officer Chris Swan said in a statement.

That could draw more innovative companies to the area, too.

JBG Smith has said its “smart city” would be replete with Internet-connected devices supporting futuristic experiences such as self-driving vehicles, immersive and augmented reality, building automation and environmental sustainability.

2121 Crystal Drive (via Google Maps)

The company already had expansive real estate holdings, from existing office space and apartments to developable land, to realize this goal — but it needed the technology to do so.

Over the last two years, it has assembled the radio frequencies and fiber networks needed to support the vision.

In 2020, JBG purchased seven blocks of Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum from the Federal Communications Commission. In 2021, it announced partnerships with AT&T and Arlington County to bring about ubiquitous indoor and outdoor public 5G in 2021.

And now, Federated Wireless is providing a third piece to the puzzle.

Cloud, Edge, and [Internet of Things] combined with 5G Private Wireless represent a once in a generation opportunity to transform buildings, cities, and citizens’ experience. The game-changer here is that the 5G Private Wireless network we’re building with JBG Smith is the catalyst that will bring that reality to life in National Landing,” Federated Wireless CEO Iyad Tarazi said in a statement.

“Our partnership with JBG Smith is all about enabling shared spectrum solutions to power the next generation of connected businesses, cities and people,” he added.

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Early voting at Arlington County government headquarters on Sept. 23, 2022 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Early voting got off to a muted start today (Thursday) at the Arlington County government headquarters in Courthouse.

“We had a line of five voters when we opened at 8 a.m.,” Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer told ARLnow. “We’ve had 72 voters as of 11 a.m. Flow is slow but steady. The first day of voting last year we processed around 400 voters. We might be slightly under that today.”

Through Nov. 4, registered voters in Arlington can cast their ballots at the county’s election offices for Arlington County Board, School Board and Virginia’s 8th Congressional district, as well as six local bond referenda totaling $510 million.

One seat on the Arlington County Board is up for grabs, with incumbent Matt de Ferranti (D) and independents Adam Theo and Audrey Clement vying for the spot.

One seat on the Arlington School Board is open once member Barbara Kanninen steps down. Bethany Sutton, who has the endorsement of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, and Vell Rives, her independent challenger, are competing for the position.

Arlington’s representative to U.S. Congress, Rep. Don Beyer, is running again for re-election. His challengers are Republican Karina Lipsman and independent Teddy Fikre.

The bonds, if approved, would fund some of the next 10 years’ worth of capital projects for the county and Arlington Public Schools. If needed, the Arlington County Board can reallocate approved bond funds to other projects within the same bucket, such as transportation or parks.

Though interest rates have been rising, the county says it typically gets lower rates, relatively speaking, thanks to its high credit rating.

“Arlington currently holds AAA general obligation bond ratings from the three major bond rating agencies,” the county website says. “These strong ratings allow the County to borrow at very low interest rates, resulting in lower costs to Arlington taxpayers.”

The planned bonds are as follows.

Metro & Transportation ($52.63 million)

  • Paying Arlington County’s share of Metro’s capital improvement program: $42.6 million
  • Paving local streets and roads, $7.2 million
  • Conducting maintenance on local vehicle and pedestrian bridges, $1.5 million
  • Improving street lighting, $1.1 million
  • Replacing intelligent transportation system devices, $200,000
  • Addressing missing links in curbs and gutters, $100,000

Parks and Recreation ($22.46 million) 

  • Parks maintenance capital and master planning projects, $10.8 million
  • Additional funding for the completed renovations at Jennie Dean Park, $4.4 million
  • Initial planning and designs for the Arlington Boathouse, $2.9 million
  • Arlington’s Natural Resiliency program, which conserves natural resources makes upgrades at parks to prevent destructive flooding, $2 million
  • Funding for the Emerging Uses program, which responds to “emerging recreational activities and casual use spaces,” $2 million
  • Maintenance of synthetic turf fields, $300,000

Community Infrastructure ($53.3 million) 

  • Courthouse and Arlington County Police Department building upgrades, $13.1 million
  • Facilities design and construction, $12.7 million
  • Courthouse renovations and infrastructure, $12 million
  • Fire station replacements and additions, $7.4 million
  • Neighborhood Conservation projects, $5 million
  • Facilities maintenance capital, $3.1 million

Arlington Public Schools ($165 million) 

  • Career Center expansion project, $135.97 million
  • Improvements to kitchens and secure entrances, $12.24 million
  • Major infrastructure projects, $16.8 million

Stormwater ($39.76 million)

Capacity Improvements

  • Spout Run Watershed, $13.26 million
  • Langston Blvd and Sycamore Street culverts, $6.75 million
  • Torreyson Run Watershed, $5.95 million
  • Other capacity improvement projects, $8 million

Water Quality Improvements

  • Gulf Branch Stream, $2.75 million
  • Sparrow Pond Watershed, $1.275 million
  • Other water quality improvements, $1.75 million

Utilities ($177.36 million) 

  • Meeting more stringent environmental regulations at the Water Pollution Control Plant, and increasing capacity there to meet Arlington’s growing population and development, $159.5 million
  • Improving the Washington Aqueduct system, $15 million
  • Improving gravity transmission mains, $2.9 million

The deadline to register to vote this year is Oct. 18. Voters can check their registration status online through the State Dept. of Elections.

Those planning to vote on Election Day may have a change in their polling location. Arlington County is sending out mailers with their district and polling place information for the General Election.

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The Serrano Apartments at 5535 Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

(Updated 4:40 p.m.) There are more than two dozen steps local affordable housing developers, Arlington County and the state can take to improve quality of life and respect tenants, according to a new report.

Written by a Joint Subcommittee on the Status of Aging Properties (JSSAP), the report walks through the kinds of protections tenants need to live safely in committed affordable dwellings in Arlington, many of which are affordable because they are older and more prone to maintenance issues.

Work on this document, unofficially dubbed “the Serrano report,” began last October in response to the attention tenant advocates drew in May 2021 to longstanding problems at the Serrano Apartments (5535 Columbia Pike). Residents of the affordable housing complex, owned by affordable housing operator AHC, Inc., were living with mold and rodent infestations and in units decaying due to deferred maintenance.

“I think it’s an important, historical document to say, ‘This is what happened,’ and to help the county and the state to prevent these issues from happening again,” said Kellen MacBeth, chair of the Arlington Branch of the NAACP’s Housing Committee.  “It was a lot of work, but I’m hopeful we can build on the changes the county has been making to further protect the rights of tenants and prevent another Serrano from occurring.”

The document could be presented to the Arlington County Board as early as next month.

Reaction to the report has been mixed. Advocates are urging the Board to implement the local recommendations and incorporate suggestions for the state into its annual legislative priorities. Some members of Arlington County’s Housing Commission critiqued the report, however, for not including the perspectives of affordable housing business partners or costs associated with implementing the recommendations.

“We went back and forth on that,” Housing Commission Chair Eric Berkey told the Tenant-Landlord Commission last week.

For its part, AHC said it respects the subcommittee’s work but is concerned about the financial impact.

“We appreciate the effort that went into the report,” AHC spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said in a statement. “As a non-profit organization, any recommendations that add cost without accompanying revenues would be burdensome. AHC has 23 properties in Arlington alone.”

Where to start

Tenant advocates say the county’s first order of business, after accepting the report, should be requiring housing providers to fund organizations that support tenant associations.

“We think it’s critically important for the Barcroft Apartments — and the redevelopment that’s going to be happening in the next year — so that tenants have a voice, if there are serious problems they’re facing,” MacBeth said. Maintenance issues, he added, are already arising.

Late last year, the county and Amazon agreed to loan more than $300 million to facilitate the sale of the Barcroft Apartments on Columbia Pike to developer Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, which agreed to preserve 1,334 units on the site as committed affordable units for 99 years.

Tenant education on their rights provided by a third party would ensure these tenant councils will have teeth, says Elder Julio Basurto, a former Serrano resident and co-founder of a new advocacy group called Juntos En Justicia (Together in Justice).

“They have to train the residents how to advocate for their needs,” he said. “Without the oversight, the residential councils won’t work.”

Janeth Valenzuela, who helped draw attention to conditions at the Serrano, said tenants need education to know how to report their problems. Residents would talk with the county, but if it wasn’t the right staff member, work would be delayed, she said.

“We still have tenants afraid to say things for fear of retaliation, and they don’t have training in how to file reports,” said Valenzuela, another co-founder of Juntos En Justicia. “They didn’t know who to go to, what to do or how to talk.”

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Woman at an Oktoberfest in Crystal City (courtesy photo)

Update on 9/28/22 — This event has been postponed until Saturday, Oct. 22.

Earlier: Pull out your lederhosen and dirndls for an Oktoberfest celebration returning to Crystal City next weekend.

German lagers and cider will flow freely at the outdoor festival on Saturday, Oct. 1 from 12-4 p.m. There will be games and live polka music from Alte Kumpel Band.

The festival, sponsored by the National Landing Business Improvement District, will be held at the patio and terrace space between 22nd and 23rd Streets S., near 556 22nd Street S. — formerly Athena Pallas restaurant, before it closed this summer.

Entry to the event, dubbed the National Landing Oktoberfest, is free and open to all ages and dogs (on leashes), but attendees must register and show their ticket to get in.

Food and drinks are available for purchase, and attendees’ first beer comes with a free stein — while supplies last.

That stein unlocks specials from participating restaurants on Crystal City’s “Restaurant Row“:

The Oktoberfest is being held rain or shine and drink tickets are non-refundable, according to the event website.

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Troop 167 member Griffin Crouch addresses the Arlington County Board during its meeting on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 (via Arlington County)

A local scouting troop says it has been blindsided by a $3,000 personal property tax bill on its vans.

So a scout decided to seek relief from the bill — which would take a big chunk of its $21,000 budget — by going to the Arlington County Board.

“These vans take scouts on campouts and hikes, and to once in a lifetime adventures, backpacking in New Mexico and scuba diving in Florida,” Griffin Crouch told the Board on Saturday. “A lot of members are first-generation immigrants and the vans help us ensure that every scout gets to participate in practicing leadership and serving the community and have fun doing it — regardless of their families’ income.”

He told the County Board he hopes Arlington can find a way for the troop to remain tax-exempt, like Arlington’s other scout troops and youth organizations, before taxes are due.

More than 50 boys and girls who make up Troop 167 meet at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church (1500 N. Glebe Road), near Ballston. Up until last year, he said, the church officially sponsored the troop.

But this summer, the United Methodist Church, the largest supporter of scouting troops, told local churches to stop officially sponsoring local troops. Troops can still use their facilities, however.

The decision came the Boy Scouts of America declared bankruptcy following numerous legal battles over child sexual-abuse and dwindling participation due to the pandemic. As part of the BSA’s sexual-abuse bankruptcy and settlement plan, United Methodist Church paid $30 million to victims.

So Troop 167 decided to incorporate a nonprofit to sponsor the troop, Crouch said.

What the troop didn’t realize was that getting 501(c)(3) status and federal tax-exempt status did not protect it from state tax code or Arlington’s personal property tax.

“We have discussed the matter with our Commissioner of Revenue (COR), and although we are prohibited under state law from discussing the details of a particular taxpayer’s liability, the COR has confirmed that as a general matter, personal property belonging to a federally income-tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity is subject to the personal property tax in Arlington with a few limited exceptions,” Arlington County spokeswoman Jessica Baxter told ARLnow.

Boy Scout troops are not a mentioned in the list of entities whose property is tax exempt: churches, museums, the YMCA and similar religious groups, for example.

“It seems wrong a scout troop has to pay that because it’s being sponsored by a non-religious nonprofit rather than a church,” Crouch said. “We still help the church and it considers us a part of its social justice ministries.”

Board Chair Katie Cristol praised Crouch for demonstrating “the best of the values of scouting: community organization, leadership and critical thinking and analysis.”

“I know some of my colleagues have started this conversation with you all, and will continue it,” she said. “The principle that’s at stake here is one of fairness. We don’t exempt nonprofits in general from personal property taxes, and so exceptions we would make we would need to understand in context of, or have a framework for how we can be fair across nonprofits.”

Cristol said she will follow-up personally regarding next steps.

“I think you have done a great job of summarizing how it’s been a complicated series of events to get the troop here,” she said. “I wonder if there may be some opportunities for us to figure out your incorporation status, and if there are ways we can help in that regard.”

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Voting stickers (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Ranked-choice voting could be coming to Arlington as soon as next spring.

But first, the county wants residents to share whether they would like to vote this way for Arlington County Board members. The system, also known as “instant runoff,” prompts voters to rank candidates and a winner is selected over the course of many elimination rounds.

The Board could vote in November to introduce ranked-choice voting (RCV) during the primaries next June.

“In proposing we do this resolution in November, I’m trying to maximize the amount of time for outreach,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said during a meeting on Tuesday. “We probably don’t want to start advertising a new election system before this year’s election, lest we sow confusion.”

The survey of voter preferences went live yesterday (Wednesday). From now until Nov. 4, locals can share any comments and questions they have about RCV, whether they’ve voted that way before and — on a scale of “very unfavorably” to “very favorably” — how they view it.

“I know Board members are still forming their opinions, but I do think there is more appetite for taking on primaries as a pilot,” Cristol said. “We’re all really looking forward to hearing from the community directly.”

Ranked-choice voting graphic (via Arlington County)

She said 2023 is an ideal year to introduce the new system, since two County Board seats will be on the ballot.

“Voters are more likely to see a difference between ranked-choice voting and the traditional system, and learn how the system works,” she said.

Two-seat years already have an element of ranking, said Board Member Libby Garvey. During such races, she said she would ask voters for their second vote if she wasn’t their No. 1 pick.

“So it really keeps you from being too partisan and too negative, which I think will be a very good thing these days,” she said. “It might bring back some civility in our public life, which would be great.”

Proponents also say it helps more moderate candidates get elected while opponents say it confuses voters.

Legally, the Board has until March 22, 2023 to enact RCV for the June 20 primary, Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer tells ARLnow. State law requires a lead time of 90 days.

“Since Ranked Choice Voting could impact someone’s decision to run for office, it’s my understanding that the preference is to determine if RCV will be used in advance of the campaign filing window,” she said in an email. “The filing deadline for candidates is January [to] March.”

The change would only apply to primaries run by the Office of Elections, she said. Early next year, local political parties will declare whether they will pick their nominee via a primary run by Arlington’s election office or a party-run convention.

“If the County Board approves a resolution that the primary in 2023 will use RCV, then that is the only option the parties will have if they choose to have a county-run primary,” she said. “They still have the option to choose to run their own nominating event.”

This time last year, Board members signaled interest in using instant runoff for the 2022 primary but that didn’t happen because Arlington needed the state Department of Elections to update its machines and codify standards for administering elections this way, Cristol said.

Technically, the county has had the ability to enact RCV since 2021. At the request of Del. Patrick Hope (D-47), the state granted Arlington the ability to test out the system one year before other Virginia localities, which were permitted to implement ranked-choice voting on or after July 1, 2022.

Moving forward before the state “would’ve cost us millions of dollars” to buy new machines to process the votes, Cristol said.

Independent candidates for County Board have criticized the decision to wait last year and this year. Candidate Adam Theo has chalked it up to a lack of political will, seeing as the system could make it easier for candidates without a party endorsement to win.

Last fall, the Arlington Electoral Board conducted public engagement with a Q&A and a “mock election,” in which participants used ranked-choice voting to choose their favorite farmers market.

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