Arlington, VA

ARLnow Weekend Discussion

It’s looking like a rainy night in Arlington — though those with evening plans that end before midnight should be fine.

Despite the shortened holiday week, it was an exceptionally busy one in Arlington, with lots of breaking news, business news and previews of items up for a vote at Saturday’s County Board meeting.

Here are the most-read articles on ARLnow over the past five days:

  1. Man’s Death in Ballston Ruled a Homicide
  2. Person Struck By Train at Courthouse Metro Station (update)
  3. PETA To Protest at Clarendon Starbucks Tomorrow
  4. A-1 Cleaners in Clarendon is Closing and Can’t Promise You’ll Get Your Clothes Back
  5. Police Investigating ‘Suspicious Death’ in Ballston Apartment Building
  6. Papyrus Closing All Stores, Including at Pentagon City Mall
  7. Excerpts From the W-L Alumni Lawsuit Over the High School’s Name Change
  8. ACPD Investigating Armed Robbery on Lee Highway
  9. Marine Corps Marathon Issues Third-Ever Lifetime Ban for Cheating (Press Release)

Feel free to discuss those stories, or anything else of local interest, in the comments.

But first, here it is: your moment of zen. Have a great weekend!

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A three day weekend is here, meaning extra rest and relaxation for many, and no need to feed the parking meter on Monday.

Some snow and freezing precipitation may make for hazardous travel on Saturday — even though Arlington is outside the current Winter Weather Advisory — so be careful if you’re on the roads. The main event in Arlington on Sunday, other than the NFL playoffs on TV, will be the scheduled Martin Luther King Jr. tribute at Wakefield High School.

ARLnow staff will either be off or working on other projects on Monday, so nothing will be published except in the event of breaking news.

For the die-hards reading this, you might wonder whatever happened to our top vote-getting rejected t-shirt design. Well, the “King of the North (Arlington)” shirt is here and you can order it today.

Get it as either a short sleeve or long sleeve t-shirt.

Here are the most-read articles on the site this week:

  1. Arlington County Ready to Hit the Gas on Lee Highway Transformation Plan
  2. Uber Driver Arrested After Pedestrian Struck at Advanced Towing Lot
  3. Red Hook Lobster Pound Pinches New Space Near Clarendon
  4. Police Investigating Death on Yellow Line Train
  5. Arlington County Moving Forward With Pedestrian Bridge Near Shirlington
  6. There’s a Simple Explanation for High Recent Water Bills, Officials Say
  7. Windows Smashed, Airbags Stolen in Car Larceny Spree
  8. New Apartment Building Now Open Near Courthouse
  9. Quick-Service Lebanese Eatery LEBTAV Opens in Ballston

Feel free to discuss those or any other topics of local interest in the comments. Have a great long weekend!

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What’s Next with Nicole is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

There is somewhat of a false dichotomy in our community right now about growth. Are you pro-growth or not?

Plainly, an economy does not succeed without growth. It is my belief, too, that for long-run economic success and stability, growth must be built on sustainable infrastructure.

I would define infrastructure as anything that we issue a bond for. In the past decade that has included schools, transportation, parks, and miscellaneous for projects such as fire stations; in years prior it has also included utilities and government buildings. Bonds theoretically support assets that last ten years or longer.

TLDR: We need growth to provide housing and office space for our growing economy. This does not preclude us from proactively planning for that implication on our schools, parks, transportation, utilities and basic infrastructure needs.

How Do We Track Growth Impacts

I asked the County Board what steps are in the site plan review process for new development to measure the impact on infrastructure.

Christian Dorsey gave a nod to a useful tool, the quarterly development tracker, that shows every development by sector, units, and square foot.

Matt de Ferranti noted that in the site plan review process there is an accounting for estimated number of seats added to designated school districts from new housing development. In my research there is also typically a requirement for a developer to create a Transportation Management Plan that includes items such ongoing payments to Arlington County Commuter Services and loaded SmarTrip cards for new tenants.

All of this is intended to help various departments plan for the future. Unfortunately that information from the site plan review process is not included in the development tracker and doesn’t include future planning outside of schools.

There was an acknowledgement that we do not measure the long term fiscal impacts of development like other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, but that “smart growth” studies support the notion that we will receive net positive benefits.

To understand that process between the planning and budget departments, I asked the county’s Budget Director about the communication between their offices. He indicated that beginning this year they had more frequent and informal discussions about what projects are in the pipeline and how it would impact revenues. There was not a mention of how it would impact infrastructure or future expenditures.

 Growth Impact Varies

Growth’s impact on Arlington varies by development type. This seems to not be acknowledged in current planning processes.

For example, apartment buildings are taxed as commercial buildings, not residential buildings. How we assess taxes on commercial and residential buildings are different and the fact that over half of residential units in Arlington are rented means that the distinction of if a development is going to be condos or rentals has an impact.

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The Arlington County Police Department is considering changing up the look of its dress uniform.

The “Class A” uniform — which differs from the standard navy patrol uniform worn by most officers in the field (the patrol uniform is green for K9 handlers) — is due for a change because its heather blue color is “increasingly difficult to obtain” from distributors, ACPD said.

The new options are navy blue and gray. The department is testing out both before reviewing feedback and making a decision.

More from a press release:

The Arlington County Police Department has launched a test and evaluation of new Class A dress uniforms. Members of the public can expect to see select officers wearing dress uniforms in navy blue or gray as they evaluate the fabric, fit, function and durability of these garments. All officers participating in the test and evaluation will be easily identifiable as Arlington County Police Officers as the test uniforms will be adorned with the police department’s patch, officer’s name tag and badge of authority.

The department proposed exploring new uniform options after discovering that unique uniform colors, including our current heather blue shirt and pant stripe, are increasingly difficult to obtain. The new Class A selection is expected to simplify and streamline the distribution of uniforms across the department.

The test and evaluation will occur through March 2020. The department will then review the feedback before selecting and implementing a new Class A uniform by the summer.

Which uniform option do you like best?

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Peter’s Take is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

For years, County Board members have talked green about Arlington’s environmental problems.

Those issues include preserving our mature tree canopy, slowing impervious-surface increases and protecting Arlingtonians from development-and climate change-related flood risks.

But when it comes time to act green, they hide behind the Dillon Rule, claiming Arlington can’t enact stronger environmental protections without new state legislation.

Their claims are environmentally insensitive and legally incorrect. Last July’s catastrophic flooding underscores the urgency of addressing these environmental threats.

Arlington must begin using legal powers it already has to

  • preserve our remaining mature tree canopy and slow impervious surface growth

Preserving and increasing our mature tree canopy protects Arlington’s environment. Mature trees provide well-documented benefits in urban areas, including reducing energy use; removing air pollutants; improving water quality; reducing runoff volume; providing diverse wildlife habitats, increasing property values, and improving human health.

Mature trees naturally prevent stormwater runoff: their roots soak up water; their leaves intercept rainfall, and they re-emit water vapor to help cool the atmosphere.

Arlington should exercise these powers it already possesses:

Adopt a countywide stormwater utility fee (as Albemarle County already has). Stormwater utility fees are charged based on a property’s percentage of impervious surface cover, placing a greater burden on those who generate more runoff. See here and here. This fee should be enacted in addition to Arlington’s current service-district method to incentivize landowners to keep space open and green or to restore land to natural condition.

Enact a tree preservation ordinance to conserve trees during development based on Arlington’s status as an EPA-designated ozone nonattainment area. See here. Fairfax (also a nonattainment area) has such an ordinance. Passage in Arlington may help preserve trees located outside Chesapeake Bay resource protection areas (RPAs) — particularly if changes to current zoning would result in lower tree cover.

Enforce permit requirements on public sites. Arlington must stop giving itself and APS free passes when permit requirements are violated. When APS cut more trees than permitted on the Ashlawn Elementary School site, the County Board simply changed the permit terms instead of imposing penalties.

Stop relying on Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act loopholes for RPAs on public land. Projects at just 9 publicly owned sites accounted for the loss of 979 trees between 2014 and 2018.

Adopt a use-value assessment program (as Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun and others have) to reward property owners for keeping 5+ acre tracts of land open and undeveloped. Details here. While opportunities to take advantage of such a provision in land-constrained Arlington are quite limited, some of the pool clubs and other recreation associations might have sufficient land as does the Febrey-Lothrop House at Wilson and McKinley.

  • protect Arlington residents from development-and climate change-related flood risks

Leverage existing federal/other regulations to support tree preservation as a runoff-control tool. Example: Arlington’s Four Mile Run Flood Control Agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires Arlington to limit “post-development peak runoff” and prevent increases in the Run’s “100-year peak flow.” See §60-11, subsection C.

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The Right Note: 2020 Vision

The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The “no longer a New Year’s Day tradition” Arlington County Board organizational meeting once again gave our elected representatives an opportunity to lay out their priorities for the year.

Much like cabin air on a flight, the speeches you receive at the County Board’s annual organizational meeting are in many ways recycled.

This is especially true when it comes to the issue of affordable housing. According to our Board, 2020 is going to be the year when the County Board makes significant strides toward defeating market forces and making housing affordable in Arlington — just like 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, etc.

There were a two nuggets from incoming Chair Libby Garvey’s speech that hinted at things we could see in 2020.

First, a consulting firm will make a pretty penny from a joint contract with Arlington and Montgomery County, Maryland to fight airplane noise. It may make elected officials feel better to say they are doing something about this, but airplanes and helicopters are likely to remain noisy as they fly over populated areas.

Second, this year’s CIP process may see a greater emphasis on stormwater management. Many community activists, and more than one Republican candidate for County Board, have argued basic infrastructure needs like this have been neglected for years.

At the same time, this newly rediscovered desire to address infrastructure will almost certainly be paired with ongoing school enrollment challenges to justify the level of revenue the Board will take from taxpayers in April. In other words, do not hold your breath for a tax rate cut this spring in the face of what many believe will be a robust revenue boost from assessments.

Looking back at 2019, outgoing Board Chairman Christian Dorsey summed up his main priority this way:

“That is why I prioritized advancing equity as a central framework for governance last year. By developing the capacity to recognize the barriers that marginalized and vulnerable populations face in trying to thrive, we can deliver public policy that is responsive to all and not only to those with power and influence.

I am excited about what we are doing right here in Arlington, but my aspirations in: housing, transportation connectivity, sustainability, resilience, and human development exceed our ability to achieve needed results alone. I will look to multiply our efforts through collaboration with our fellow Northern Virginia jurisdictions, our neighbors in the national capital region and with our state government.”

While it is hard to point to a lot of policy changes the Arlington County Board made in this regard, Dorsey did put forward an equity resolution in the fall that Garvey promises to honor. For decisions moving forward, the resolution outlines an approach that is effectively what government officials should already be doing — determining who policies help and hurt before you pass them.

As with all of the County Board’s priorities, we will wait and see how it plays out in reality.

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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Progressive Voice is a bi-weekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s. 

By Patrick Hope

Virginia continues to make strides to reform our behavioral health system. Too many Virginians, some of them children and adolescents, lack access to basic preventive care and emergency intervention services. Many end up in our criminal justice system rather than being provided the necessary treatment to avoid such occurrences.

To address the gap, we in the General Assembly are laying a solid foundation on two fronts aimed at prevention–STEP-VA and Behavioral Health Redesign–with Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed FY2021-22 budget making significant investments.

STEP-VA (System Transformation Excellence and Performance) was initiated to improve access, consistency, quality, and accountability of community-based behavioral health services.

  • Same-day Access: The goal is to provide same-day access to a behavioral health assessment for anyone in crisis and to reduce wait times for services. We measure success when an individual can receive a follow-up appointment within 10 days from the initial assessment.
  • Primary Care Screening: The goal in Phase 1 is to identify individuals who pose the greatest risk for physical health issues and connect them to primary care. Frequently, someone in crisis also has other health care issues: diabetes, heart disease, asthma, obesity. You have to treat the whole person and CSBs (Community Services Boards) have to connect the individual to primary care too. In Phase 2, we will expand primary care screenings to all consumers.

Since 2018, Virginia has appropriated over $60 million toward this effort, launching 2 of the 9 steps set for completion July 2021.

Behavioral Health Redesign seeks to integrate all behavioral health services to provide a continuum of care. The focus is on access to services that are: high quality regardless of the setting (e.g., home, school, and primary care); evidence-based (e.g., preventive care and care provided in a least restrictive environment); trauma-informed to yield better outcomes; and cost effective.

The goal with Redesign is to provide alternatives to involuntary hospitalization (Temporary Detention Orders or TDOs) and lower our reliance on inpatient psychiatric beds. Virginia still lacks alternatives to crisis services, such as outpatient treatment, leading to a significant increase in the number of court-ordered TDOs. My legislative efforts in the 2020 session will be to make reforms so that we can provide more appropriate care in a least restrictive environment.

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ARLnow Weekend Discussion

It was a cold and snowy week in Arlington, and your ARLnow team is exhausted.

There was a lot to cover during a week in which most of the office was ailing with a cold bug that seems to be going around.

Here were the most-read stories of the week:

  1. Cosi Closes Two Additional Locations in Arlington
  2. Police Investigating Crash Involving Scooter, School Bus
  3. Power Outage Leaves Large Portion of Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor in the Dark
  4. Four Arlington Metro Stations to Close This Weekend
  5. Arlington Under Winter Weather Advisory as Officials Warn of Tough Evening Commute
  6. Virginia Hospital Center is Now Operating As a Trauma Center
  7. New Cafe Brings Odd New Eastern European Coffee Trend to Clarendon
  8. Gallery Clarendon to be Replaced with Connecticut Pizza Restaurant Colony Grill
  9. Despite New ‘Tacos’ Sign, Goody’s Is Still Selling Pizza in Clarendon

Feel free to discuss those or any other topic of local interest in the comments. Have a nice weekend and enjoy the warmer weather!

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Ed Talk is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The word “equity” derives from the Latin aequus, meaning “equal,” or “fair.”

Arlington Public Schools’ (APS) strategic plan refers to “equity” this way: Eliminate opportunity gaps and achieve excellence by providing access to schools, resources, and learning opportunities according to each student’s unique needs.”

Arlington County defines “equity” as “…all populations having access to community conditions and opportunities needed to reach their full potential and to experience optimal well-being.”

APS’ reference implies an individual approach to equity, whereas the County’s definition suggests a systemic approach. Indeed, APS consistently employs a non-systemic approach to matters: targeting programs and community partnerships at individual schools; relying on principals and PTAs to identify and fulfill each school’s needs, instituting exemplary projects to create a unique focus for each neighborhood elementary school, and supporting diversity through option schools rather than promoting diversity in all schools.

This approach has resulted in strikingly different academic experiences from school to school, notable disparities in perceived school quality and student achievement, exaggerated anxieties about potential boundary changes, and divided communities.

Whereas, with a systemic approach to equity:

  • Every school should be able to meet the needs of any student at any time;
  • No middle or high school teacher would know which elementary or middle school a student attended based on their academic preparedness in any given subject; and
  • Boundary discussions would be void of phrases like “lesser than,” “worse,” or “less desirable.”

Any student should be able to transfer from any neighborhood school to another for any reason – moving, boundary change – and pick-up right where they left off. No student should find themselves notably behind their new classmates academically, or conspicuously ahead and repeating instruction. No student should be obliged to live within a particular school’s attendance zone in order to receive the educational or social support they need, or struggle because they live where those supports are not readily available in their assigned school.

Instructional consistency across the district helps ensure students from every school are similarly prepared for middle and high school coursework so that there is no distinguishable correlation of students’ preparedness in math, or level of achievement in a world language, with the school they previously attended.

An equitable school system offers fewer reasons for pushback against boundary changes and, therefore, more civil discourse. All APS schools are good, but they are not equal. Academic and social experiences and opportunities differ widely, fueling divisive rhetoric and pitting neighborhoods against each other.

What is the pathway to equity? De-segregation.

The most effective way APS can ensure equity is to create a reasonable balance in socioeconomic demographics across schools.  Economic diversity facilitates equality in available resources such as PTA funding, parent and community volunteers, and other community assets. This in turn enables each school to sufficiently support its teachers and students and vastly narrows the range of disparities between schools.

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Yesterday we told you about a new Clarendon cafe called This is Fine Coffee, but more importantly we told you about one of their signature drinks: an espresso, orange juice and caramel concoction called the Bumble Coffee.

It’s apparently popular in Eastern Europe, and fairly rare here stateside.

The immediate reaction in our office was that of horror upon hearing about an espresso drink made with OJ. But reporter Vernon Miles now swears by it, so much so that as this post is being written he’s en route to the office with several Bumble Coffees for a tasting by now-intrigued colleagues.

We were wondering how other Arlingtonians felt about this. Would you try a Bumble?

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The Hurtt Locker is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The Arlington County Board held its 2020 organizational meeting on Thursday, January 2. It is not uncommon for the Board to elect as their chairman the member up for re-election in that year, and – as expected – they selected Libby Garvey to lead the Board.

This is perhaps a tacit endorsement by the Arlington establishment, since Garvey will have to fend off a potentially contentious Democratic primary challenge in June from Chanda Choun, who lost to Matt de Ferranti in the Democratic primary for County Board in 2018.

Since de Ferranti’s defeat of independent County Board member John Vihstadt in the 2018 general election, Garvey is one of the most fiscally-conscious members of the Board, a role she should embrace with vigor as the Board makes plans for 2020.

Each Board member outlined their priorities for the year in brief remarks during last Thursday’s organizational meeting, and I couldn’t help but think of the county budget’s bottom line with the mention of every new project and priority.

Here are three resolutions Garvey and her fellow Board members should adopt as they roll up their sleeves and get to work in the new year:

  1. Embrace fiscal responsibility. From childhood hunger and accommodating Arlington’s growing school-age population to stormwater management and flooding, Board members highlighted priorities and projects for 2020. With the economic uptick compounded by Amazon’s HQ2 and the drop in the commercial vacancy rate, Arlington has the capacity to re-prioritize county goals, make wiser use of taxpayer dollars, and make it more affordable to live, work, and play in Arlington.Arlington’s “Tax & Fee Compendium” lists more than 500 taxes and fees levied across the county, from big taxes like property taxes and BPOL to fees we pay for metered parking or facilities rental or online permit processing. County leaders should halt the relentless increase in these taxes and fees where possible. Being nickel-and-dime’d at every turn impacts Arlington’s perception and affordability, and we can and should be leaders in the region over the next decade.
  1. Push for expanded government transparency. While Arlington residents expect and generally receive good county services from helpful county employees, the county lacks a level of transparency consistent with residents’ expectations.Throughout public conversations about Amazon HQ2 in 2018 and 2019, the county’s Freedom of Information Act office attempted to charge more than $900 for emails between county employees and interested parties regarding Amazon negotiations, many of which excluded redacted information provided by other jurisdictions that were then in the running for HQ2. Those who requested relevant emails were informed much of the substance of those emails would be unavailable for public inspection. Both Arlington Republicans and area Democratic Socialists (DSA and Our Revolution), as well as at least one reporter from the Washington Post, inquired about access to these emails with no success. Conceivably, the exorbitant costs of these requests would go to pay for the time to redact thousands of email exchanges and supplementary attachments.In the wake of public scrutiny over Board member Christian Dorsey’s Metro union campaign contribution and financial misgivings, there is one set of documents noticeably absent from the County’s Open Data Portal – Board member financial disclosure statements, which are on file with the County Board Clerk’s office. Publishing these documents online would increase the ability of citizens and other interested parties to research and understand potential conflicts of interest in a timely manner.
  2. Recommit to the Arlington Way. After the close of last Thursday’s organizational meeting, members of the County Board answered questions from members of the Arlington County Civic Federation. During the Q&A, Board chair Libby Garvey noted the important role the Civic Federation plays in public discourse and encouraged community leaders to reach beyond the involved and engaged population to those who may not have time or resources to dedicate to civic engagement. This is a significant challenge in a participatory democracy, and the responsibility falls on elected leaders, community leaders, and even columnists like the ones you read here at ARLnow.It is important to remind Board members, however, as one participant said during the Q&A, “Engagement is not telling us what you’ve done.” To augment what fellow columnist Jane Green wrote earlier this week, recommitting to the Arlington Way means collaborating with interested parties every step along the way, taking their feedback into consideration, and shaping public policy based on that feedback.

Lastly – and with a watchful eye toward Richmond – I hope the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly can work closely with Republicans to continue the progress made on criminal justice reform we’ve seen in both Washington and in states across the country. This means permanently ending driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court fees, at the very least decriminalizing marijuana possession and use (if not outright legalizing it), and abolishing the death penalty.

Happy New Year! Let’s make it a good one.

Matthew Hurtt is a 10-year Arlington resident who is passionate about localism and government transparency and accountability. Hurtt is a member of the Arlington Heights Civic Association and was previously the chairman of the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans. Hurtt prides himself on his ability to bring people of diverse perspectives together to break down barriers that stand in the way of people realizing their potential. He is originally from outside Nashville.

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