86°Partly Cloudy

by ARLnow.com — August 26, 2016 at 4:30 pm 0

Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Sunny skies should prevail this weekend, making sunscreen a valuable commodity if you hike to historic points of interest in Arlington or attend a police block party this weekend.

If you want to do something indoors, there also are open houses and a new Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirit in Pentagon City to check out.

But traveling on Metro’s Yellow Line could pose a challenge to riders Sunday, when the agency is scheduled to close part of it for a train derailment drill.

Feel free to discuss happenings in Arlington this weekend, or any other topic of local interest, in the comments.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by Mark Kelly — August 25, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

 Arlington voters will almost certainly approve another bond for Metro this November. Often voters vote for it without a second thought.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) is fighting to reinstate the mechanic who was fired for failing to report that the ventilation fan at L’Enfant Plaza was not working properly and later allegedly lying about it to investigators.

One disturbing allegation made by the mechanic is that that supervisors pressured him to falsify his report after the smoke incident at the stop. One has to ask, did Metro look into these allegations, have the supervisors in question been admonished in any way, and what steps have been taken to ensure there is no temptation to engage in a cover up in the future?

Those questions aside, ATU is suing in federal court for wrongful termination and to have an arbitrator’s ruling upheld that would require Metro to reinstate the mechanic. Last week, Metro filed a counter suit to vacate the arbitrator’s ruling.

The union contract has long appeared to be a substantial impediment to Metro’s ability to move forward. Not only has the union locked in pay scales and overtime provisions, but also makes it extremely difficult to make necessary workforce adjustments as Metro faces ongoing financial strain. Or in this case, seemingly is making it next to impossible to fire employees for cause.

This legal proceeding will put the union contract to the test and may answer the question of what’s more important, a union contract or rider safety?

If a judge finds Metro can fire this mechanic, then the precedent will be set that Metro has the authority to hold union employees accountable and everyone will be put on notice. If the court rules for the union, Metro will be essentially powerless to truly make rider safety a priority.

If the court sides with the union, it may be time to revisit the issue of whether Metro should be dissolved so it can start over.

by Progressive Voice — August 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

Paul FriedmanProgressive 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: Paul Friedman

When Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order returning voting rights to over 200,000 ex-felons, it led to some 13,000 people around the commonwealth — including Arlington, Alexandria,, Fairfax, Fairfax City, Prince William, and Loudoun residents – successfully registering to vote.

After a Republican legal challenge, the Virginia Supreme Court voted 4-3 to invalidate that order. Now, the governor has issued individual restorations of rights to the 13,000 who had registered and announced procedures for restoring rights for approximately 200,000 additional ex-felons by the end of his term designed to withstand further legal challenge.

At the heart of this issue is whether voting is a right or privilege. A right can only be limited under special circumstances. A privilege is granted by those in power.

Democrats believe voting is a right that should be restored upon completion of a felon’s sentence.

By contrast, Republicans legislators in many states have treated voting as a privilege — leading various federal courts to reject Republican measures discriminating against African Americans and others perceived as likely Democratic voters.

Given Virginia Republican legislators’ efforts to limit people — especially Democrats — from voting, it’s not surprising they thought McAuliffe’s goal was to help Hillary Clinton win Virginia in the upcoming presidential election by expanding the number of people eligible to vote.

In reality, the governor sees voting as a fundamental right and wants to overcome Virginia’s sad history of limiting ballot access. That is why he wants every Virginian who has paid his penalty to society to be able to exercise their Constitutional right to vote — “I personally believe in the power of second chances and in the dignity and worth of every single human being.”

Such votes — even if they skewed Democratic — would not likely change the outcome of the 2016 election in a state Barack Obama won decisively in 2008 and 2012. Given new polls showing Clinton-Kaine with double digit leads in Virginia, Republicans can no longer plausibly pretend that restored voter rights are likely to affect the 2016 outcome.

The governor also wants to end current de facto discrimination and continue moving us forward on the civil rights path — likening voting discrimination to segregation, poll taxes and bans on interracial and same-sex marriages.

Politifact reported the Virginia Department of Corrections’ most recent racial breakdown of its prison population in mid-2014 showed that of “almost 37,000 inmates . . . 58.5 percent were black, 38.6 percent were white, [and] 2.2 percent were Hispanic … [whereas, the] U.S. Census Bureau estimates blacks comprised 19.7 of Virginia’s population in mid-2014.” Thus, the discriminatory impact of depriving voting rights to ex-felons speaks for itself.

This comes on top of Virginia’s tragic treatment of African Americans over the course of its history.

The Virginia Historical Society describes some of it this way:

After the Civil War, African Americans were free but not equal. The Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, were made virtual dead letters by hostile court decisions, culminating in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson, which gave legal sanction to the principle of “separate but equal” facilities segregated by race.

In Virginia, the South, and some northern states, Plessy v. Ferguson both confirmed the status quo and gave impetus to even more rigid segregation laws. For example, Blacks had to sit at the back of streetcars or stand if there were not enough seats for whites. They were made to sit at separate sections of theaters, libraries, and train stations. They could not use water fountains, bathrooms, beaches or swimming pools used by whites. They could only order takeout food from restaurants that served whites. They attended separate, usually ramshackle schools. Social life and everything from sports teams to funeral parlors were segregated.

Even after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, where the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was neither equal nor Constitutional, Virginia fought to retain a Jim Crow world. Its opposition was so infamous it was named “Massive Resistance.”

Through the actions of great Virginians such as former Republican Gov. Linwood Holton (the father of former Education Secretary Anne Holton and father-in-law of her husband, current U.S. Senator and Democratic VP nominee Tim Kaine), Virginia has taken steps to overcome its blatantly racist past.

Now, under McAuliffe, Virginia is taking an essential further step toward overcoming other vestiges of past racism that remain in place today. We should be proud, but far from complacent. There’s still more work to do.

Paul Friedman is the President of Paul Friedman Strategies, a Democratic political and non-profit consulting firm. He also does development work for business clients. He and his wife Lori, long-time Virginia residents, live with their black lab rescue dog Sadie and three-legged tabby rescue cat Martin.

by Peter Rousselot — August 25, 2016 at 12:15 pm 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’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.

A recent article (“Arlington Studying A Plan That Would Pay for your Uber to Metro”) in The Washington Post triggered feverish comments on its website, ARLnow.com and social media, like:

So my South Arlington taxes will be used to chauffeur the 1% from North Arlington?

Let them snarlingtonians ride in old crowded buses. We want our mini limos!

The county government subsequently issued a media advisory clarifying the nature of the county’s ride-sharing study. The clarification included a denial that a decision had been made to subsidize ride sharing.

According to the media advisory:

The new service is being analyzed for the following neighborhoods, where bus ridership does not meet our productivity standards (at least 15 passengers per hour):

  • Rock Spring, Williamsburg Middle School, and Dominion Hills
  • Chain Bridge Forest, Rivercrest, Bellevue Forest, Gulf Branch, and Stafford-Albermarle-Glebe
  • Douglas Park, Nauck, and Arlington Village

The proposed service could connect these areas to a transit center, such as the Ballston or East Falls Church Metrorail stations, or to a transit corridor, such as Columbia Pike

Discussion

Very low ridership on Arlington’s ART Bus 53 led to suggestions to cancel that route. Some commenters supported outright cancellation (“save the money; refund it to the taxpayers”). For now, this route has been saved, and a study of ride sharing as a substitute has begun.

I agree that ride sharing is worth studying.

One knowledgeable commenter observed that, when he last checked, “ART Bus 53 carried only 11 people per revenue hour and recovered only 12% of its cost.” Regardless of the actual numbers, the principle is certainly valid: if ridership on any ART bus route anywhere in the county drops too low, some action — whether outright cancellation, consolidation with another ART bus route, or ride sharing — are all potentially valid responses.

Standards for a ride-sharing subsidy

Arlington County should study a variety of standards for a ride-sharing subsidy, including:

  • Limiting the trip only to certain origins/destinations, like home to a Metro or bus stop or return home from one.
  • Having a maximum personal individual income ceiling for any participant.
  • Having an over-all dollar cap on program utilization in any particular defined area. (Use a lottery if the program is over-subscribed.)
  • Ending the ride-sharing program, and resuming/substituting ART bus service, if demand rises to a point above a pre-determined level of ART bus service viability (like the current 15 passengers per hour or some higher number).

Types of ride-sharing options

In addition to Uber and Lyft, the county should explore the costs and benefits of partnering with a transit provider like Bridj . Bridj currently offers limited pop-up bus service in D.C. Bridj is considered by some as the best hope to bring urban transportation into the 21st century.

Paratransit policy

County residents with disabilities should be offered the widest possible range of ADA-compliant transit options at the lowest possible cost. The county should study these ride-sharing recommendations from a metropolitan Boston report.

Conclusion

Fortunately, Arlington isn’t grappling with these transit policy questions in a vacuum. Other communities across America are doing so as well. The American Public Transportation Association sees ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft as complementary to traditional transportation options.

Let’s find the best options for Arlington.

by ARLnow.com — August 19, 2016 at 7:30 pm 0

It was a hot and then stormy week for Arlington.

Wednesday’s storms resulted in a large tree falling in the backyard of a Lyon Park home on the 400 block of N. Fillmore Street. As seen above, the tree damaged a fence and also made contact with a detached garage and the house itself. The exact extent of the damage is unclear but no injuries were reported.

For those planning on driving after 10 p.m. this weekend, here’s a VDOT press release sent this afternoon that may be of interest:

Lane closures, including intermittent total stoppages, will occur on Route 110 at the Route 27 interchange weeknights from Monday, August 8 through Friday, August 19 for work on the new overpass, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Traffic will be reduced to one lane on northbound Route 110 each night beginning at 10 p.m. Monday, August 8 through Friday, August 12. There will be full lane closures up to 30 minutes each between midnight and 4 a.m., with all lanes reopening at 5 a.m.

Traffic will be reduced to one lane on southbound Route 110 each night beginning at 10 p.m. Monday, August 15 through Friday, August 19. There will be full lane closures up to 30 minutes each between midnight and 4 a.m., with all lanes reopening at 5 a.m.

Motorists should expect delays and are advised to use alternate routes.

The work is part of the Route 27 over Route 110 project, which is replacing the 75-year-old original bridge. The $32 million project is scheduled for completion in spring 2018.

Assuming you’re not on vacation — perhaps among the mere 37 percent of readers who aren’t traveling this month — feel free to discuss storms, road closures or any other topic of local interest in the comments.

by ARLnow.com — August 19, 2016 at 10:35 am 0

Road Work in RosslynAugust is a slow month in the D.C. area.

Congress is out of session. People are fleeing the area left and right to get their vacations in before the summer ends. This year, many media and political types are on the campaign trail. Heck, traffic becomes somewhat bearable and even the Arlington County Board gets a break for the month.

On ARLnow.com, we haven’t run out of local stories to cover — in fact, this is shaping up to be our highest-traffic August yet — but there’s no denying that the pace of news coverage drags big time compared to a busier month like April or October.

The most oft-cited reason for why August is slow is that people are out of town. Anecdotal evidence — the number of people who we email only to get those automatic “Out of Office” auto-replies — seems to support this. But we wanted to check to see just how many people are fleeing Arlington this month and for how long.

So… unless you’re on military or foreign service duty, or any other long-term absence, how many days will you be out of town in August?

by Mark Kelly — August 18, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark Kelly

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.

Last month, Peter Rousellot wrote a column calling for a phase out of the Neighborhood Conservation Program. I agree.

While the idea of neighborhood input is a long-standing and worthwhile tradition in Arlington, the implementation of this particular program has never made sense to me. As Peter notes, the county’s consideration of a project is totally dependent on the quality of civic association leadership. But even then it could wait up to a decade to receive funding — at a much higher cost than if the county had been able to address it in a more timely fashion.

“Progressive” is a buzzword that the party in power likes to throw around. But we should never confuse “progressive” with “willingness to make positive changes.” So while it might make eminent sense to rethink a 52 year-old county program and reconsider the way Arlington addresses neighborhood needs, you might not want to not hold your breath waiting for it to change.

Former Delegate Krupicka outlined a number of issues for job creators trying to do business with the county government. These issues have been well-known among the business community for years, but the county has been slow to address them.

Last year, a move by Board Members Garvey and Vihstadt to re-examine the close out spending process was defeated. The Board voted to continue spending tens of millions of dollars outside the more intense public scrutiny of the annual budget process.

Earlier this year the County Board created a panel to rethink the evaluation of the Comprehensive Plan. This Blue Ribbon advisory panel was not going to be charged with changing policy. It would merely have been formed to make recommendations on how better to allocate county resources. But those who benefit from the current way of doing things rose up in vocal opposition and the Board reversed course, refusing to seek the advice of an independent group.

If nothing else, the County Board should evaluate whether reform to the Neighborhood Conservation Program is needed. However, we should all be aware that such a move would meet significant resistance if not outright opposition.

by Progressive Voice — August 18, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

Joe Montano

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: Niharika Chibber Joe

It was a proud week for Virginia when our Senator and former Governor Tim Kaine accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for Vice President of the United States.

That same week was also one of shock and grief as we learned that Joe Montano, one of Senator Kaine’s key aides – and his staff representative in Arlington and across Northern Virginia – had passed away. Senator Kaine’s moving remarks at the Virginia delegation breakfast was a testament to the love that so many felt and feel for Joe.

I would like to put into my own words what the loss of Joe meant to so many people in this area – especially to Asian Americans:

Our dearest friend, Democratic Asian-Americans of Virginia (DAAV) co-founder, AAPI stalwart, community leader, Virginia Democrat, and all-round inspirational kuya Joe Montano was laid to rest in his beloved Norfolk, Virginia, on Sunday, August 7, 2016. He was 47 years old.

Hundreds of friends and colleagues from all walks of life joined the Montano family amidst crying, hugging, laughing, and even dancing and basketball to bid farewell to Joe. Only Joe, say his friends, could pack a church and a high school gym to capacity; shut down major streets; have his Senator and boss, Tim Kaine, deliver a heartfelt eulogy for him; and have everyone in tears and laughter at the same time.

The outpouring of camaraderie, love, and support from Washington, D.C., through Northern Virginia, and all the way down to Norfolk and Virginia Beach in the wake of Joe’s passing has been nothing short of remarkable. But then, Joe was a truly remarkable person.

He was the guy whose laugh long preceded his entrance into a room. He was always the first to jump up to serve his community and the first to lend a hand. He brought people together. He was a uniting presence in the way he lived. And in death, he has united a community of friends and family from each facet of his wonderfully spirited, indefatigable life.

A proud Filipino American, Joe was passionate about social justice issues. He most recently served as Northern Virginia Regional Director of Constituent Services for Senator Kaine.

In a statement released shortly after Joe’s death, Senator Kaine said, “Joe was an outstanding representative of this office, enthusiastic servant of the people of Northern Virginia, and admired colleague by all who worked with him. We will remember him by his positive energy, tireless work ethic, and infectious smile.”

Joe’s best friend Marlan Maralit spoke of him with passion. “Joe Montano’s was a purpose driven life where his actions were explicit and not far from his vision for the world — a world where he was quickly becoming an emerging voice for communities fighting for a seat at the table.”

Virginia Delegate Mark Keam eulogized Joe on his Facebook page. “Joe was one of my closest friends and fellow foot soldiers on the battlefield of civil rights and progressive politics.”

At DAAV, Joe was our go-to guy. He was our sounding board, our adviser, our galvanizer, our rock. He was selfless and dedicated and he immediately put everyone at ease. He was the commanding presence in a room full of people, yet, he was quietly comfortable chatting with high school students.

He fired up volunteers the same way he fired up elected officials — like no other — with a passionate, loudly delivered call to action. He mentored and inspired the next generation, led by example, and encouraged them to give back to their communities. And he did it all with kindness and compassion – with that bright Joe Montano grin, never uttering a negative word.

With Joe’s passing, the Democratic Asian Americans of Virginia have not only lost our star community organizer and activist — we have lost our best friend. Joe is irreplaceable. We miss him dearly. Yet in his honor DAAV members look forward to building on his decades of hard work to elect Democrats at every level across the Commonwealth of Virginia and at the national level.

Maraming Salamat, Joe Montano! Thank you for your tireless service. Rest in peace, dear friend. Your spirit will live on with us. We will not let you down! #LiveLikeJoe #BeLikeJoe

Niharika Chibber Joe is a South Arlington resident. In 2014-15, she served as Secretary of the Democratic Asian Americans of Virginia.

by Peter Rousselot — August 18, 2016 at 12:15 pm 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’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.

The Virginia Association of Counties recently granted an achievement award to Arlington County’s Startup Arlington program.

Discussion

Startup Arlington is an innovative program. It has generated valuable information about factors that might motivate tech startups to move to Arlington or launch here.

Arlington must continue to bring down its 20.2 percent office vacancy rate. Each one percent in that vacancy rate translates into $3.4 million in lost tax revenue. A continued vacancy rate in the 20 percent range threatens to shift about $800 a year in property taxes onto the average Arlington homeowner.

Startup Arlington Concept

When it began in 2015, Startup Arlington was a competition organized by Arlington Economic Development (AED) to “encourage startups or potential startups on the cusp of finding their first office space to consider Arlington for that first office.” A local extended stay hotel agreed to provide the competition winner with complimentary hotel space for three months, and a local co-working space agreed to provide office accommodations. A local law practice agreed to offer ten hours of legal counseling for the winner, and transportation partners provided access to public transit.

The only costs for the County were those on taxes paid on the hotel lodging and nominal advertising fees, approximately $3,500. The entire value of the program was estimated at $15,450.

Publicity

The existence of the program was publicized via a variety of media, including social media channels estimated to reach more than 180,000 users. A total of 78 companies from 14 states and 13 different technology industries submitted completed applications. Applicants were judged based on criteria ranging from how the company would benefit from locating in Arlington to growth potential and business plans.

To be eligible, applicants had to be (1) from outside the greater DC metropolitan area (thereby avoiding poaching regional companies) and (2) a founder and/or CEO of a technology-based company.

Winning Applicant

The program produced one winning applicant. That winner was Montana-based Oppleo. This company offers a cloud-based software called Sikernes that helps defend against cyber-attacks. Oppleo’s founders relocated to Arlington in November 2015. The company still remains in the area.

Lessons Learned

Various real estate companies and residential complexes have contacted AED seeking more details regarding how AED marketed the program to potential applicants. They expressed an interest in marketing their properties/area to the same entrepreneurial audience Startup Arlington reached.

AED’s business development group cultivated several leads regarding companies that are being tracked to understand when they grow to the point of needing commercial space. AED sees Startup Arlington as an ongoing program providing ways to reach out to company founders who previously may have been unaware of Arlington’s resources and opportunities.  The program also can serve as a catalyst to form new collaborations with Arlington’s existing business and hospitality communities.

Conclusion

An important report by the 2030 Group identified seven private sector clusters (including cybersecurity) that are the most likely to generate the most significant future regional economic growth, and therefore be most likely to generate new demand for office space.

AED can help Arlington showcase its strengths in this highly competitive regional economy by continuing to analyze, publicize and exchange information obtained from worthwhile experiments like Startup Arlington. Repeating the Startup Arlington competition should remain an option.

by Jackie Friedman — August 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm 0

Flower

The weekend has returned and so has the heat and humidity.

Throughout the weekend, temperatures will be in the mid-90s and humidity levels will be in the sticky 60 percent range. There will also be a chance of thunderstorms on both days.

Whether you want to stay indoors in the air conditioning or brave the outdoors, see our event calendar for a listing of things to do. (Admittedly, things are a bit slower around here in mid-August.) Or, if home shopping is your thing, check out some of the open houses happening Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

Feel free to discuss the heat or any other topic of local interest in the comments.

by ARLnow.com — August 12, 2016 at 3:50 pm 0

Welcome to Arlington Sign

After interning for the past three months at ARLnow, we all had different experiences working in and learning about the area.

The three of us came in from different backgrounds: One of us is an Arlington native (Jackie Friedman), another is a New Yorker who moved last year to the D.C. area (Adrian Cruz) and the other (Omar DeBrew) commutes from Maryland.

As a result, we all had different experiences and opinions to share about our summer covering news in Arlington.

Cruz:

While I had lived in Arlington for most of the past year, there were still a lot of places and areas I had no idea existed. Because I lived in Lyon Park, I tended to stick around the Orange Line corridor, wandering into Pentagon City and Columbia Pike once in a blue moon. Throughout the summer, my work has sent me to all corners of the county, allowing me to explore and learn about neighborhoods I had never even known existed. Now, I can say with confidence that I know my way around the county and that names such as Cherrydale, Buckingham and Fairlington aren’t just stereotypical names for small English towns.

Arlingtonians as a people are an interesting bunch. The county is extremely diverse with people from all walks of life and one never knows what to expect. Just in my time working here, I have encountered people ranging from a lawyer who’s a finalist on “American Ninja Warrior” to a grumpy British man. Also, by reading our comments section, I’ve also learned they’re an opinionated and sarcastic bunch, with lots to say.

As a place to live in, Arlington is what I’d like to call Washington’s Disneyland. What I mean by that is that it’s cleaner, safer, quieter than anywhere I’ve ever lived in, almost as if it was designed by Walt Disney himself. Coming from New York City, I’m used to a dirty, gritty city with lots of crime and weird stuff going on. In contrast, the weirdest things that happen in Arlington are weekends in Clarendon. I currently live in Buckingham, an area that many call “Arlington’s ghetto.” I come from the South Bronx. Buckingham is no ghetto. What it does have is a thriving Latin American community with many amazing restaurants. The only drawback about living in Arlington is that it’s expensive! Finding a decent meal under $10 in Clarendon is close to impossible, and as my fellow interns will attest to, finding cheap parking is just as difficult. Nonetheless, this is definitely somewhere I could see myself living in the future.

Friedman:

While I have lived in Arlington my whole life, I wasn’t really aware of everything that goes on in the area. It’s amazing how someone can live in the same place their whole life, but have no clue about the people living around them. Your next door neighbor could be a craftsman like Jeff Spugnardi or the person working out next to you at the gym could have starred on “America Ninja Warrior” or even be 100 years old. Interning this summer at ARLnow allowed me to meet different people living in my community and learn about their interesting stories and lives. Everyone has an interesting story, especially in Arlington, so I encourage you to get to know the people around you. Maybe if you strike up a conversation with a stranger about how sad you are about Minh’s closing (I’m still mourning the loss), you could find out that the person you are talking to happens to be an Olympic gold medalist. But beware that person could go on and complain to you about the Clarendon stores that keep their doors open during the heat or how their child’s swimming instructor has man boobs.

DeBrew:

Covering Arlington as a videographer is easy with all the history and new development taking place. Any issue big or small has some meaning to the community, such as a restaurant closing, a new 7-Eleven, or a fire station about to be demolished. The coverage helps Arlingtonians form opinions and decide for themselves. My only advice to those driving in Arlington is to take Metro when possible, and if you have to drive, find 24-hour parking areas near parks. Some spots are free; with others, you’ll have to pay. But that parking is cheaper than city areas.

by ARLnow.com — August 12, 2016 at 10:30 am 0

Police escort of 2010 America's 9/11 Foundation Memorial Ride (photo via Facebook)Next weekend, the America’s 9/11 Ride will rumble through Arlington one final time.

The motorcycle ride — with its rolling highway closures, dire traffic predictions and police escort — has not always won over locals, despite raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Sept. 11-related causes over the years.

The first leg of the ride travels from Shanksville, Pa. to Arlington, before continuing to its third and final 9/11 crash site in New York City.

As the Associated Press reports, the ride is ending after this year as a result of a clash between the event’s organizer and state governments, with each side pointing the finger at each other as to the reason for its demise.

Ted Sjurseth, the Virginia man who founded the ride, says Virginia and Maryland state government agencies have become uncooperative with his police escort requests and have insisted on unacceptable changes to the ride’s route. State officials, meanwhile, describe Sjurseth as, in the words of the AP, “a malcontent whose gripes are nothing new.”

A Maryland State Police spokesman added that “complaints are received every year” about the ride’s traffic impacts and that the agency does not have enough troopers to escort an uninterrupted procession more than a thousand bikers.

How do you feel about the 9/11 ride ending?

by Mark Kelly — August 11, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe 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.

Upon first hearing that some wanted to run gondolas across the Potomac between Rosslyn and Georgetown, my first thought was to dismiss it out-of-hand. But when the backers commissioned an initial $215,000 feasibility study back in April, the project landed on my radar.

The long running battle over the Arlington streetcar seems like a distant memory. One thing I do remember is that streetcar proponents always cited Portland as an example of why we should implement the system in Arlington.

Never mind the fact that Portland’s streetcar construction, expansion and ongoing operations consistently cost more than projected when presented to the taxpayers. Auditors have raised questions about costs, ridership numbers and transparency in general. And of course nearly every city has had similar problems with their streetcar lines: Washington, Atlanta, Charlotte, Virginia Beach, Milwaukee, etc.

The first public meeting was held on the proposed gondola project in July. The meeting brought out many concerns from the public. Is there a need? Who will pay? Where will the stations be located? What will the connections be to Metro? Is it much faster than walking over the bridge?

As I reviewed the public meeting presentation, I was not surprised to learn that one of two city gondola projects currently operating in the U.S. was in Portland.

What happened when Portland constructed a gondola? According to news reports, the Portland Aerial Tram construction cost of $57 million was nearly four times the initial estimate of $15 million. Operating costs are nearly twice the original projections. And the fee charged to paying customers ended up coming in closer to three times the initial estimate as well.

The problems do not seem to stop Portland residents from coming back for more taxes and spending. In May, Portland voters approved a 10 cent per gallon gas tax to put toward transportation improvements. The Portland gas tax is projected to raise $64 million over the next four years. Here’s a guess, the revenue projection won’t hit the mark. Savvy consumers, particularly the 48.4% of the voters who voted against it, will remember to fill up outside the city limits whenever possible to avoid the tax.

When Arlingtonians are pointed toward Portland as an example, they should keep the full Portland experience with these projects in mind. However, like residents in Portland, a majority of Arlingtonians seem relatively immune from the argument that our tax rate, or debt, is too high or that shiny object projects often fail to meet expectations.

by Progressive Voice — August 11, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

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.

by Peter Rousselot — August 11, 2016 at 12:15 pm 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’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.

Last week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the state of Virginia is in “very serious negotiations” with the Washington Redskins to help the team build a new stadium in Virginia.

Governor McAuliffe explained how he plans to negotiate:

“What I always say is it’s got to make sense for the taxpayers of Virginia. We’ve got to negotiate a deal — my job as governor is to get economic activity — but you’ve also got to protect the taxpayer dollars. And we’ve got to be creative with this thing, so we’re protecting the taxpayers, it’s in the taxpayers’ best interests, and it’s a win-win for the Redskins.”

Discussion

The evidence is overwhelming that subsidizing the construction of a proposed new Redskins stadium will never be in the best interests of Virginia taxpayers.

Sports stadiums do not spur significant economic growth

Independent experts (like Roger Noll, a Stanford professor emeritus of economics and specialist on sports economics) repeatedly have concluded that sports stadiums do not spur significant economic growth:

“By comparison, other billion dollar facilities–like a major shopping center or large manufacturing plant–will employ many more people and generate substantially more revenue and taxes.”

These conclusions by independent experts contradict the rosy publicity bankrolled by self-interested owners or any government partners they can recruit.

The direct costs far outweigh the benefits

A very extensive study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found that a typical stadium costs taxpayers more than four times more than any long-term benefits from jobs and tax revenues. Or, as this study diplomatically put it:

“Proponents of using public funds to finance stadium construction argue that the benefits from increased economic activity and increased tax revenue collection exceed the public outlays. But independent economic studies universally find such benefits to be much smaller than claimed.”

The opportunity costs further tilt the balance against taxpayer funding

The costs of a new Virginia stadium for the Redskins are even higher when you factor in the opportunity costs. Money spent on such a stadium is money that could have been spent:

  • on a new dedicated funding stream for Metro’s capital replacement program, or
  • to redress some of the critical deficiencies in Virginia’s mental health facilities, or
  • for additional job retraining in areas of persistently high Virginia unemployment.

And, these are only three of hundreds of far more deserving uses of our Virginia taxpayer funds.

Dan Snyder doesn’t need the money

Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder is a billionaire who doesn’t need a public hand out. Public subsidies for a new Redskins stadium in Virginia will go directly into Dan Snyder’s pockets and into the pockets of already highly-compensated Redskins football players. A 2003 study by a member of the University of Texas economics department documented that a new stadium increases:

  • team profits by an average of $13 million annually,
  • payroll salaries by $14 million annually, and
  • team book value by $90 million.

All these numbers are likely to be much higher in 2016 and into the future.

Conclusion

I admire Governor McAuliffe tremendously for all of the excellent work he has done to promote Virginia as a place to do business. In this particular case, he should hand the ball back to Dan Snyder.

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