45°Overcast

by ARLnow.com — January 13, 2017 at 5:00 pm 0

Firefighters rescue dog from Lee Highway apartment fire (Photo courtesy Andrew Pang)

It’s a long weekend after what seemed like a long week — with weather that ranged from freezing cold with snow on the ground to springlike warmth.

This week’s big stories included Sehkraft Brewing closing, America Seafood closing and its owners moving, Lyft and Uber insanity in Crystal City, a dog rescued from an apartment fire on Lee Highway (photo above) and hateful graffiti that was turned into peace signs near Yorktown High.

The week will end with Arlington County’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. tribute event, on Sunday from 5-6:30 p.m. at Wakefield High School. The event is free but all tickets appear to have been claimed.

We’ll be publishing a post or two Saturday, during the expected snow and ice event. Following that, like many others, we’ll be off Monday for the observance of MLK Day, though Startup Monday will be published as usual and we’ll be here should there be any breaking news to report.

Your regularly-scheduled local news coverage will resume Tuesday. In the meantime, feel free to discuss the stories above or any other topics of local interest in the comments.

Photo courtesy Andrew Pang

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Many of our daily appointments consist of pets that are not feeling well for a variety of reasons. In many instances, we can determine the problem and treat effectively by obtaining a thorough history, performing a comprehensive physical exam, perform in-office diagnostics or send lab work out to a reference laboratory, and dispensing appropriate medications or treatments. However, in some instances, problems may be more complicated or require diagnostics beyond the scope of a general practice, and a veterinary specialist may be recommended.  

Many people are surprised to hear that there are specialists for animals! So, what exactly is a veterinary specialist you may ask? A veterinary specialist is a veterinarian who has gone through at least four additional years of training above and beyond the four-year veterinary school education. This typically consists of a one-year internship program, followed by a three-year residency program focusing on their preferred area of specialty. They then have to sit for their national specialty examination before receiving their board-specialty certification.  

Below are some examples of specialists and why we may refer a pet to them. We’ll discuss other specialities in two weeks with our next post.

Emergency & Critical Care SpecialistLet’s face it, sometimes our pets get so sick that they needs some pretty intensive care! Emergency clinics that have a criticalist on staff have the capacity to do some extremely intensive care, including ventilatory support (i.e. breathing for the patient in an acute lung injury), in-hospital feeding tubes, extensive nursing management and tend to be on the cutting edge with treatment options for some really complicated, really sick cases.

InternistWhen we just can’t seem to find the answer to a pet’s metabolic woes or advanced diagnostics (such as endoscopy or bronchoscopy) are needed — and an internal medicine specialist is often recommended. They excel at complicated case work-ups and are very good at long-term patient and chronic disease management. The types of cases that we often request their assistance with are complicated diabetics, certain respiratory disease, multiple metabolic disease processes occurring at once, and certain infectious, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Their wealth of knowledge can be invaluable with making treatment decisions and when changing medications, doses, etc. to find just the right balance for a given patient. Subspecialties within internal medicine include:

Cardiologist: Sometimes we will hear a heart murmur or abnormal heart sound when performing a physical examination. A murmur is turbulent blood flow through the heart, but just listening to the heart doesn’t tell us exactly why the murmur is present. In these cases, we will refer your pet to a veterinary cardiologist to perform an examination and an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart). This will help determine the source of the abnormality. Puppies and kittens may have congenital abnormalities that can be fixed via surgery. Cardiologists also can place pacemakers in certain conditions where the abnormality has to do with the electrical conduction through the heart.

Neurologist: Unfortunately, sometimes our pets go through a variety of neurological disorders. This can include herniated disks in their back, tumors within the brain, congenital abnormalities, seizures, etc. Seeing a veterinary neurologist can help narrow down the cause for some of the signs you are noticing at home and they can also perform MRIs/CT scans on your pets to determine the next best step for treatment. Veterinary neurologists are also trained to perform spinal and brain surgeries.

Oncologist: Many types of cancers in veterinary patients can be surgically removed by your primary care veterinarian, but there are certain types of cancers that do best with surgical removal followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. These are two types of treatments have to be administered by a veterinary oncologist and may help prolong the quality of life-span of your pet.

SurgeonMost primary care veterinarians can perform routine surgeries, including limb amputations. However, sometimes your pet has injured themselves to the point of needing a veterinary surgeon to repair the damage, or requires a complicated surgery that is beyond the scope of general practice. Examples of this include torn ACL repairs, performing a total hip replacement, complicated tumor removals, surgery entering the chest cavity or around the heart, repairing complicated congenital defects, to name a few.

Veterinary specialists are great resources for your pets when your primary care veterinarian thinks their expertise will be needed to help make your pet feel better, faster! We are fortunate to live in an area with numerous specialty-trained veterinarians to help us provide the best care for our pets.

by Mark Kelly — January 12, 2017 at 1:15 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.

The fireworks from the January 3 County Board kick-off meeting were generated by the partisan efforts of the three lowest vote-getters on the Board during the Vice Chairman election. The remainder of the meeting went to script, except for the little noticed move to make it harder for Arlingtonians to request a public hearing on an agenda item.

As with every year, each Board member also made remarks outlining their thoughts for the upcoming year. You can find links to all five here. And the speeches could be summed up like this: “We have a tough job, but take heart, we’re doing it pretty well.”

While re-reading the rather predictable speeches, I began to ask: what would a majority of Board members say in their speeches if they were being completely honest with the people?

“Projecting the future is hard.”

Just ask the local meteorologist. Or ask the county staff which never gets the revenue projections right (the underestimates fuel the annual year-end spending spree). Or you can ask the School Board who for years operated under the projections that school enrollment before having to pivot and face rising projections. The truth is enrollment was almost certainly never going to get as low, and may not get as high, as projected.

The bottom line: the Board should let projections inform decisions, but they should never be the only thing that informs the decisions.

“We cannot exactly account for how every dollar of the County’s budget is spent.”

John Vihstadt has asked county staff for a detailed accounting of payments to all of the county’s consultants and contractors. So far, it sounds like staff is balking at putting a spreadsheet together for him.

“But we sure enjoy spending as much as we can get away with.”

Every year the Board points to budget shortfalls but still manages to increase spending, increase revenue and spend all of the hefty year-end surplus. And they come up with shiny object projects like a Georgetown gondola as new priorities while Metro continues to flounder.

“Regardless of the initiatives we point to, we will not solve the affordable housing issue.”

Board members talk about it every year as a priority, and every year fight a losing battle because they are up against immovable market forces. But hey, the Board did pass overly restrictive rules on accessory dwelling units and Airbnb.

“We plan to blame the Trump Administration for everything that goes wrong the next four years. And if a Republican is elected Governor of Virginia, some of it will be their fault too.”

Some on the Board have already hinted at this move. It almost certainly will happen.

by Progressive Voice — January 12, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

L. Karen DarnerProgressive 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: L. Karen Darner

The recent public spat over the Vice Chair election at the County Board’s organizational meeting was a sad new chapter in our civic life.

The simple and standard selection of Board leaders from the ranks majority was instead turned by Mr. Vihstadt into a public and political issue. The move was unnecessary and unwise at a time when federal and state Republicans are moving aggressively to undermine liberal values, policies, and programs strongly supported by Arlington’s electorate.

The meeting should have focused on community issues and aspirations, not overtly political efforts followed up by a paid Facebook ad seeking to capitalize politically on the Vice Chair maneuver.

I have attended over 30 such organizational meetings. At nearly all, we had on display hard work and collaboration of Board members to build a place where people want to live and work, of which most of us have been very proud — as we should be.

Board members shared their priorities for the new year with County residents and voted for Chairs and Vice Chairs collectively identified as best able to lead the County forward.

The County Board has had a decades-long liberal majority of Democrats and/or Arlingtonians for a Better County members.

Arlington voters still maintain a strong liberal voting record. All but one of our elected officials locally, in Richmond, and on Capitol Hill are Democrats — generally elected by wide margins.

Arlington voters in 2016 gave Hillary Clinton an extraordinary victory margin — a reflection of liberal values and fears of what Donald Trump and highly partisan Republicans would do to undermine so much of the progress made by Democrats.

Our County Board has reflected the electorate’s support for a government that promotes those values, implements progressive policies, conducts government with fiscal prudence and a strong safety net, and delivers public services efficiently and effectively.

For those reasons, I believe that Arlington voters expect the County Board — with a 4-1 Democratic majority — to be led by Democrats.

And until now, Board members have been able to work together, without partisanship and overweening personal ambition, to elect Chairs and Vice Chairs.

Through it all, we saw high levels of mutual respect. When Board members did not agree, we saw healthy discussion, persuasion and compromise focused on what’s best for Arlingtonians. We learned the rationale for policies, processes or projects, changes that might be possible and how compromises were achieved.

Unfortunately, in the last few years, we saw increased divisiveness in our politics — pitting parts of the County against each other and an elected official hurling accusations of impropriety and unethical behavior against elected colleagues.

When I endorsed Katie Cristol (and Christian Dorsey) to be 2015 Democratic nominees, I looked forward to returning to a more positive mindset. I saw Katie as a creative mind with a strong commitment to Democratic values — the worth of each person, quality education, fairness and justice, compassion and unselfishness.

She has developed a strong track record on the Board, fusing her interest in public policy with a practical sense of good governance and an openness to hearing and understanding the viewpoints of all Arlingtonians. She has represented us ably in her regional responsibilities.

An added plus is that Katie’s a millennial. Giving someone from the next generation a chance to step up, especially in a county with the highest proportion of millennials in the country, provides for an important perspective.

To favor Katie for the Vice Chair position is not to denigrate the John Vihstadt’s public service. But John is neither a Democrat nor a liberal.

The January remarks by each Board member about priorities and policies reflected substantial difference between Mr. Vihstadt and his Democratic colleagues. He sounded like a Main Street Republican — and someone with a partisan perspective.

The Board Chair and Vice Chair are the public face of our community and set the Board’s agenda. Our leadership team should not equivocate on fundamental Democratic values that have made Arlington such a great community.

Moreover, at a time when liberal values will be under threat at the state and federal levels by highly partisan Republicans, it is certainly not time for decidedly Democratic urban and suburban jurisdictions to turn to a Republican to lead our governing efforts.

That’s why Mr. Fisette and Ms Cristol were properly selected as County Board leaders and spokespeople. They represent what Arlington stands for and they will continue to work with all residents to seek solutions while showing respect to the people of Arlington.

Karen Darner served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1991 to 2004. In 2009, she received the Arlington Community Foundation’s William T. Newman Jr. Spirit of Community Award in recognition of over 30 years as an educator and an active member of numerous community organizations.

by Peter Rousselot — January 12, 2017 at 11:45 am 0

Peter Rousselot

Peter’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. 

As I explained last year, Arlington has set aside too little parkland to adequately meet current demand, no less a projected 29% population increase of 63,000 people by 2040.

Discussion

The gap between demand and available parkland has resulted in conflicts among users and between users and adjacent communities negatively impacted by intensified use. Examples include controversial conversion of “multi-use” green areas at Virginia Highlands Park to sports uses, limitations on multi-use of a baseball field at Bluemont Park and plans to install new lighting on fields at Discovery ES/Williamsburg MS.

The current approach to resolving these conflicts seems ad hoc, with at least the appearance that those users who are best organized and advocate the longest will prevail.  As I noted last month, County staff may not always be serving as neutral facilitators in proposing changes in use and then resolving ensuing conflicts.

The POPS Update Advisory Group is currently working on an update to the Public Spaces Master Plan, and has recognized the importance of responding to the wide range of park and recreation needs in the community.

Current parkland uses

Although there are many uses of our parkland, one possibly useful perspective is that there are four overall “use” categories:

  • (1) natural areas and wildlife habitats,
  • (2) designated sports fields and court areas,
  • (3) “multi-use” green areas, and
  • (4) other use-specific facilities, e.g., dog parks, playgrounds and pavilions.

Staff has undertaken mapping current natural areas, sports fields and other uses in our parks. Completion of this project could provide a baseline against which to assess proposed new uses or changes in current uses.

Guidance as to desired uses

The County has published the results of its statistically valid 2015 Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment Survey which indicated that natural areas and wildlife habitats–as well as hiking trails–were two of the three most important outdoor facilities to respondents.

Possible framework principles

Therefore, one core principle for approaching conflicts in use is that we must preserve and enhance our remaining natural areas. Once lost they are unlikely to be replaced. Other core principles are ensuring continued adequate availability of multi-use green areas as well as distributed and equitable access to all park amenities. Finally, with limited park resources, not every possible use can have its own allocated, exclusive space, nor should it.

Longer term approaches

The primary driver of these conflicts remains the demand/park resources gap. The best way for the County to minimize these conflicts is to undertake an aggressive parkland acquisition program, including the Board adopting the goal set forth in last year’s Civic Federation resolution for the County to acquire on average 3 acres of new parkland per year. The Board must then authorize sufficient ongoing funding to support this goal through both planned and opportunistic acquisitions.

Even aggressive land acquisition will not by itself adequately close the demand/resources gap, and the County needs to also “create” new space, especially for sports activities, e.g., basketball and tennis courts and soccer fields in high rises and on top of buildings.

Conclusion

With 63,000 more residents by 2040, people will need parks more than ever. Committing to and funding the aggressive land and space acquisition goals discussed above, and implementing a conflict resolution framework, can convert too limited parkland into diverse and accessible parkland.

by ARLnow.com — January 11, 2017 at 10:10 am 0

Question markWe’re in the second full week of 2017 and it’s already shaping up to be quite the year.

While it’s impossible to know how the year will end, we do know a bunch of the milestones — including local events and openings — that will be taking place along the way.

Which of the following 20 things are you most looking forward to this year?

Wondering about one of the items? Here are some links to help: Drafthouse, Artomatic, G.O.A.T. Sports Bar, District Taco, Continental.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 5, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

Ready Arlington banner

This biweekly column is written and sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

Elizabeth Dexter is a Watch Officer, for the Office of Emergency Management in Arlington.

Life Happens. Life is messy. — In 2007, my trip into work took four hours. It normally takes 45 minutes. I left the house while it was raining, but it quickly turned into snow. I remember being angry and stressed that I was going to be late for work. Almost everyone has a similar story, whether it was the Angry Inch or Snowzilla (in 2016), or Snowmageddon (in 2014). After each of these events, people often ask, “How can I stay informed about things like this? How can I avoid these emergencies?”

Wireless Emergency AlertsCan You Reach Me Now? — As technology continues to improve, so do our options for being notified about emergencies where we work, live and play. In the past, people had to wait for a radio broadcast, the 11 o’clock news or newspaper to find out if an emergency was happening in their area. Now people have access to several notification methods:

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) — Ever been startled by a blaring siren on your phone? It was probably a WEA. These alerts are sent out to all cell phones inside a designated area. These messages only happen in rare situations:

  • Alerts issued by the President of the United States
  • AMBER Alerts
  • Alerts involving the immediate threat to lifeArlington Alert

Arlington Alert — If you’ve heard us say it once, you’ve probably heard us say it 1,000 times: Arlington Alert is a free service that provides you information when major traffic events, mass transit issues and other emergencies occur in Arlington. It also issues weather alerts from the Weather Service. These alerts can be set up to go to cell phones, pagers or even an email address! In certain situations, they can even call a phone and deliver a message by voice.

Emergency Subscriber Listings (you may have heard this also referred to as “Reverse 9-1-1) — A system that uses landline listed and unlisted telephone numbers to call the home or business and relay critical information. Here in the county, this has been used to tell individuals about police activity in an area, and also to ask for assistance in looking for a missing child.

Facebook Safety CheckFacebook Safety Check — If you happened to be in an area where a major crisis has happened, they will allow you to mark yourself safe and let you see which of your friends who are also in the area have also checked in. On the same page, you can also get basic information about the crisis (location, date, what happened and who to call for assistance).

Social Media — It’s fast, it’s crowdsourced and it can be accurate — but not always. Many people have turned to social sources like Facebook and Twitter for information about what’s going on around their neighborhoods. The quantity and quality of information can be mixed, so don’t forget to check verified, official sources as well. For instance, on December 13th, residents had questions about sirens they heard in South Arlington on I-395. Many people took to Facebook and Twitter to ask questions and share what they knew or had seen. Someone tweeted at the Arlington County Police Department and ACPD responded with an official explanation of what was going on — even before the story broke here on ARLnow!

It’s not just Social Media — In the moments after the Paris Terror attacks businesses, such as Airbnb and Uber, reached out to their customers to let them know what had happened and actions they should take.

by Mark Kelly — January 5, 2017 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.

The traditional New Year’s Day meeting for the County Board moved to Tuesday night. Insert sad trombone sound here as this probably marks the end of the traditional January 1 meeting.

In what came as a surprise to few, three Democrats on the Board refused to give Independent John Vihstadt the position of Vice Chairman. Vihstadt has been a community leader for three decades and has served on the County Board for nearly three years.

Newly installed Chairman Jay Fisette, along with Board Members Cristol and Dorsey, rejected Vihstadt’s nomination. Instead, the Board chose first-year Board Member Katie Cristol.

The reasons given by each of the three Democrats could basically be boiled down to two things. First, they used the “we’ve always done it that way” excuse. The majority party, they said, has always elected one of their own to serve in that role. Second, they argued that Vihstadt did not represent the values of the community.

In case they missed it, Vihstadt won not one, but two elections over the Democrats’ nominee. And he won both handily. The message they should have received from those elections is that nearly 35,000 Arlingtonians do like Vihstadt’s values. In fact, that’s nearly 12,000 more votes than Ms. Cristol received, nearly 11,000 more than Mr. Dorsey, and more than the average votes received by Mr. Fisette since he was first elected.

The three Democrats’ message back to the voters was simple — at the end of the day, partisanship and protecting the status quo trumps all. Voters should take note as Chairman Fisette may be asking them to re-elect him later this year.

On a lighter note, under a unique quirk of Virginia law the County Board could elect an individual to act as a tie breaker to cast the deciding vote in the unusual event that the Board was deadlocked on a question. The Board waives the appointment of a tie breaker every year which means if there is a tie vote, the motion fails.

If the Board ever changes their mind, I am happy to serve.

by Progressive Voice — January 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

Jay-Fisette-USE-006n-upright-201x300-1-201x300Progressive 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: Jay Fisette

The following is an excerpted version of a statement delivered at the Arlington County Board’s January 3rd Organizational Meeting. The full text will be available on the County web site.

It’s said that the only constant in life is change. But the pace and impacts of change vary greatly. This year is likely to bring dramatic, unsettling changes in our national government and internationally. Arlington will feel some effects, but respond as we have before in times of turbulence and more gradual change: with sensible actions, shared community vision, thoughtful dialogue and open debate.

What makes us such a healthy community?

Let’s recognize how fortunate we are in our location next to the Nation’s Capital, income and education levels, community values, and tradition of strong, open government with engaged citizens.

Arlington continues to excel in the provision of core government services — public safety, education, transportation and basic social services for those in need. Of course we’re not perfect, yet in our last resident survey, overall satisfaction with the quality of local government services remained at 89% — 32 percentage points above the national average.

Our smart growth planning is a national model, relying on transit and thoughtful land use planning as prime engines of redevelopment. Our resulting tax base is well balanced between commercial and residential properties. Our tax rate is among the lowest in the region. Our triple-AAA bond rating reflects strong fiscal management. Our unemployment rate remains the lowest in Virginia and well below the national rate.

So what’s our job in 2017?

Listen and lead.

Ensure Arlington continues to move forward.

Improve the predictability and equity of services with County agencies responsive to residents’ and businesses’ questions and needs.

Harness technology, adapt to the sharing economy and improve our communication and notification tools.

Some challenges I intend to focus on in 2017 are: (1) the need for facilities, including schools, within constraints of limited land; (2) strengthening economic competitiveness; (3) housing affordability; (4) environmental sustainability; (5) METRO; and (6) staying true to our vision and values.

On facilities, we continue to work well with our elected School Board colleagues — as partners in local government, sharing fiscal resources, facilities and land. We are all in this together. We all need fire stations, bus storage facilities, parks, schools and more.

Regarding economic competitiveness, our commercial vacancy rate has recently dipped below 20%, though still much higher than our historic averages. We have attracted and retained businesses, but must continue to brand Arlington as an innovation economy hub and market our assets aggressively.

Affordable housing has become a bellwether issue that expresses the soul of our community. We are victims of our own success. Far more people want to live here than we have homes to fill.

To further the Affordable Housing Master Plan, we will review and update our accessory dwelling unit ordinance, consider tools for preserving our attractive and affordable garden apartments, and explore more options for people of modest means, multi-generational households and aging in place.

Environmental sustainability is our generation’s planetary challenge. Arlington must be a leader. Our 2013 Community Energy Plan was adopted after three years of collaborative effort. We did not just sign a proclamation. We have implemented policies and programs to achieve our targets.

Ensuring the success of METRO is the region’s top priority and will require all our attention in 2017. It is a backbone of our transportation network and our economy. 84% of office development in the region’s pipeline is within ¼ mile of a METRO station.

WMATA, under strong new leadership, has taken bold steps to address the system’s safety and reliability. Having the only large U.S. rail system without a dedicated funding source, we must help our region find a sustainable path forward.

A significant task in 2017 will be to advance our values, our vision and our community ethic as we collectively grapple with broader uncertainties and threats to social and environmental programs and individual liberties anticipated with the incoming federal administration.

Local governments will be called upon to lead. Communities like Arlington can serve as a model for combining progressive social policies with conservative and responsible fiscal policies.

Arlington must continue to: stand by our convictions; pursue our aspirations; value the common good; prize public education; look after the most vulnerable among us; strengthen environmental protection; build public trust through broad civic engagement and careful fiscal management; and treat our foreign-born residents with respect and human dignity. We embrace people’s differences as a source of this community’s strength.

Arlington will work to create a more sustainable, equitable and healthy community — a community that works. We will do this together.

Jay Fisette will serve as 2017 Arlington County Board Chair. He was elected to the County Board in 1998 and previously served as the Board’s chair in 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2014.

by Peter Rousselot — January 5, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Peter RousselotPeter’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.

In my December 22 column, I highlighted a flawed public engagement process recently employed by Parks & Recreation. I also cited examples of other recent controversial County public processes. These controversies demonstrate systemic problems and the need for Arlington to develop an improved model of public engagement.

Discussion

The engagement processes used for the Community Facilities Study (CFS) and the South Arlington Work Group (SAWG) were innovative, transparent and productive.

Reports such as CFS and PLACE have pointed the way. Now we need a plan for getting there.

This new model needs to be grounded in an overall framework of basic principles, including facilitating the broadest realistic consensus, process legitimacy and real-time fact-based decision-making.

Ten core process improvements that should be implemented by the County in 2017 include:

Standard Models: Develop a limited number of standard public engagement models with clear guidance as to what types of processes require a specific model so that the public understands what these processes should look like. The siting model proposed by the CFS provides a starting point.

Ethical Communication: Arlington County’s Code of Ethics should guide both County staff and Board-appointed volunteers serving on project groups during community engagement. Staff must be neutral facilitators.

Civic Engagement Plans: Each project should include a civic engagement implementation and communications plan approved by the County Manager’s Office.

Consultations Hub: Increase transparency and participation with a one-stop-shop online portal to access all ongoing, planned and closed County public engagement processes, including input, questions, survey results and associated documents. These hubs have become standard in government. Three examples: here, here, and here.

Charges: All Charges developed to govern a proposed public engagement process should be published for public comment sufficiently prior to submission to the County Board for adoption.

Disclosure of Material Facts: Disclose relevant material facts upfront, or if arising during a community engagement process, then promptly after being known.

Scientifically Valid Surveys: Surveys conducted by the County need to be scientifically valid. A set of principles for all surveys needs to be published to assure citizens that the surveys are fair, balanced and accurate. Promptly publish all survey results.

Diversity of Views: Project groups should include members with critical or alternative viewpoints. The CFS Residents Forum was a welcome innovation in this direction.

Notification and Minimum Review Cycles: Standardize time periods and processes for notification of stakeholders and for review of decision-making documents. Materials to be submitted by County staff for action should be published no less than five business days and subject to public comment prior to action by Staff or Board. Hold public hearings well in advance of Board consideration, not immediately prior.

Fiscal Stewardship: Project groups must consider best use of resources and be informed upfront of any applicable dollar authorization for their project. Any options considered by the project group must have needs assessments and associated dollar estimates, including maintenance, so that budget impacts are a real-time part of deliberation.

Conclusion

Recent actions by the County, including tasking a senior manager with civic engagement oversight, seem to indicate a willingness to rethink our approach to public engagement. Such rethinking and relevant reforms are vital and long overdue.

Acknowledgement of the community principles and implementation of the core improvements discussed above would confirm that the County is willing to move toward a new model of Arlington civic engagement.

by Mark Kelly — December 29, 2016 at 2:00 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.

As ARLnow recaps its most clicked on stories for the year, I wanted to share three stories I found interesting from a local, state and regional perspective.

The Blue Ribbon Panel never gets off the ground.

While this panel may have had limited impact on Arlington governance, the incident shows what can happen if the right inner circle of people engages on an issue.

Libby Garvey has a record of being out in front on reform-minded efforts. She helped shine a light on the fiscal impacts of the now-shelved streetcar and still-possible aquatics center. She supported an independent audit function and worked to shine more light on the closeout process.

The concept for this Garvey Blue Ribbon Panel initiative was simple: on a short term basis, empanel a small group of Arlingtonians who possessed a level of expertise, to bring a fresh perspective to the county’s comprehensive plan.

My concerns were that even if the panel were truly independent and actually made a set of common-sense recommendations on county spending priorities, that those recommendations would be largely ignored.

However, there was a group of well-connected Democrats in the county that did not want to take a risk of any independent recommendations seeing the light of day. And as the June Democratic primary approached, they successfully lobbied the Board to stop it and leave us with the status quo.

Governor McAuliffe used unprecedented, sweeping executive authority to grant voting rights to around 200,000 felons.

The Virginia Supreme Court struck down the order. In fact, the court took the unusual step of granting an expedited hearing to tell the Governor what prior legal counsel, both Republican and Democrat, had already found: he does not possess that sweeping authority under Virginia law.

Here at ARLnow, one columnist suggested that to oppose the Governor’s action was tantamount to an assault on voting rights themselves. Many were willing to toss aside the protection of every voter’s rights as well as adherence to the rule of law in order to achieve a desired result.

But our system of government relies on checks and balances to ensure one branch does not run roughshod over the people. With a new president moving into the White House, it is likely many Democrats will now renew their belief in this concept.

We all should.

Metro entered full blown crisis mode.

As public scrutiny of accidents intensified, Metro took drastic action to address safety concerns with the announcement it would shut down sections at a time for repairs. And the General Manager even took the unusual step of firing employees.

At the same time the Chairman of the WMATA Board remained adamant that a massive infusion of money could solve the problems. But the pleas for $1 billion are meeting a high level of skepticism from government officials who look at the system’s track record.

So the question remains: will Metro to continue operating as we know it?

Or maybe it’s time for the system effectively declare bankruptcy and start over.

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

by Progressive Voice — December 29, 2016 at 1:15 pm 0

Krysta JonesProgressive 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 Krysta Jones

The Arlington section of Columbia Pike runs from Arlington Cemetery and Fort Myer to the western end of Arlington approaching the Skyline area of Fairfax County. For decades, Arlington County, in partnership with local organizations, has sought to make the Pike a destination instead of a thoroughfare, a hub of economic development and a community of vibrant, diverse neighborhoods.

County and regional plans show two-thirds of Arlington’s population growth and nearly half of its employment growth over the next 30 years will occur along Columbia Pike.

In the wake of the cancellation of a streetcar project that was a key element of the plan to revitalize the Pike and protect affordable housing, determined residents are working to find other ways to continue to attract development to the area.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) and numerous civic associations have stepped up their efforts to work with the County government to transform the Pike, albeit more slowly, into a model of community development.

While more — and more sustained — focus is needed, in light of recent changes along the Pike 2017 is shaping up to be a year of progress for the community.

  • In July 2016, the County Board unanimously adopted a new Transit Development Plan that includes improvements through 2026 and will explore the possibility of customized bus vehicles, larger articulated buses and more frequent off-peak service that could encourage more people to use transit.
  • Orr Partners is scheduled to break ground on the Columbia Pike Village Center in 2017 at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive. The Village Center will include a 6-story mixed-use building on the site currently occupied by the Food Star grocery store. In addition, there will be 350 new residential units, ground floor retail including a Harris Teeter and three levels of below-grade parking. The development will also include a public square.
  • The iconic Rappahannock Coffee shopping area (now referred to as 2400 Columbia Pike) across from Penrose Square will be converted to a 6-story mixed-use building with 105 new residential units.
  • The revitalization of Columbia Pike is integrally tied to the growth of recreation and entertainment opportunities. The Pike has been home to the Columbia Pike Blues Festivals and a Sunday farmers market. Recently the Fall Wine and Craft Beer Fest has been a popular attraction. The Penrose Square and Arlington Mill movie nights are also welcome additions for family nights for those who live on the Pike and throughout the area. The Arlington Mill Community Center is a refreshing addition to the west end of the Pike and hosts County and civic meetings and activities.
  • Despite some concerns expressed about affordable housing, particularly from several residents on the west end, the County seeks to preserve 6,200 affordable housing units along the Pike. Some residents fear the concentration of affordable housing along the west end will deter new retailers from investing in new developments in that area. As previous Progressive Voice columnists have written, affordable housing is an important aspect of Arlington’s economy, schools and public safety and mobility. Continued conversations about affordable housing are critical to the area’s future development.

These are just a few of the changes that have occurred along the Pike in recent years, but many would not have occurred without years of planning and discussions by visionary officials and determined community leaders.

If the Pike is to reach its potential and be able to accommodate successfully the likely population and employment growth it will experience, Pike residents will need the County to keep up its commitment to preserving the diversity and economic vitality of the Pike.

Our hope for 2017 is that Arlington County will continue to reflect our progressive values as it works to make Columbia Pike, and all of our communities, better places to live, work and play for all Arlingtonians.

Krysta Jones is founder and CEO of Virginia Leadership Institute and serves on the board of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.

by Peter Rousselot — December 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm 0

Peter RousselotPeter’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.

As 2017 looms, the Arlington County government’s best estimate (Profile 2016) is that Arlington will have 63,000 more residents in 2040 (283,000) than we have now (220,000).

That 29% population increase will require substantial investments in new or refurbished core public infrastructure. These investment requirements will extend well beyond the 2026 end date of our current Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

Discussion

Arlington prides itself on planning. Writing in last week’s Progressive Voice column, Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz aptly recommended “a special emphasis on long range planning.” I agree.

Longer-term forecasts are subject to greater potential for error. But, flexible longer-term plans can be adjusted as new information becomes available. Flexible longer-term plans are better than no longer-term plans.

Here are 8 of the initiatives that the County Board should pursue in 2017:

FINANCE

  1. Longer-term financial modeling: Develop financial projections out to 2040 for both capital and operating budget spending, utilizing at least 3 assumptions: most likely case; optimistic case(s); pessimistic case(s). Publish the results and the assumptions. Invite community input, and publicize what the community says.
  2. Revise the CIP process: While retaining the current practice of formally adopting a new CIP every other year, develop and publish revised CIP projections in the “off” years (e.g., 2017) to show the impact of significant changes since the prior year’s CIP was adopted. Invite and publicize community feedback.
  3. To protect affordability, maintain stability in property tax rates.

GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT

  1. Project-specific impact statements: As the Community Facilities Study Group recommended, prepare project-specific impact statements for each special-exception site plan development project. Reject the myth that Arlington lacks the legal power to require such statements.
  2. Revise Community Benefits Allocation: Link the allocation of “community benefits” to the demonstrable impacts on community services and infrastructure as revealed by the project specific impact statements. In all appropriate cases, community benefits should include compensation from the developer for the costs of incremental school enrollment directly attributable to the project.

SCHOOLS

  1. New Arlington high school: Collaborate with APS on APS’ existing plan to decide by October 2017 whether the next new Arlington HS should be a comprehensive HS or a choice HS. Our current CIP is based on the assumption that we will need 1300 new HS seats by 2026. However, if it were to turn out that our best population growth estimate suggests a need for 2000 new HS seats by 2032, how should that 2032 estimate impact our 2017 decision? What is the relative public demand for individual, specialized HS programs vs. comprehensive HS programs?
  2. Lower per-seat costs of new school construction: Jointly with APS, adopt appropriate revisions to the design standards and community review processes for constructing future new schools, utilizing a mandated specific percentage numerical target for per-seat cost-cutting (say, 25% less per-seat than recent new schools).

PARKS

  1. Adopt specific numerical targets for new parkland acquisition: To keep pace with population growth, formally commit to acquiring 3 acres per year for new parkland.

Conclusion

The Arlington County government should make greater use of longer-term planning. Arlington needs to demonstrate to the public that it has fiscally-sustainable plans to accommodate the substantial development and population growth that Arlington says will occur between now and 2040.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by ARLnow.com — December 28, 2016 at 10:05 am 0

Clarendon Grill New Year's 2017New Year’s Eve is only three days away.

While one might think of New Year’s as a time to get dressed up and head into the city — or, if you’re a parent, stay home and go to sleep at 12:05 a.m. — it seems that going out here in Arlington is also a popular choice.

Already, NYE parties at Don Tito and A-Town are completely sold out, according to their respective Eventbrite pages. Another big local NYE event at Sehkraft Brewing is nearly sold out, as of 10 a.m. Wednesday.

(There are more Arlington options, as detailed in our previous NYE article and on our event calendar.)

So do more Arlingtonians stay home, go out in Arlington or go out elsewhere in D.C.? Or are most people heading out of town? Let’s find out.

by Mark Kelly — December 22, 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.

While we were traveling for Thanksgiving, my seven year old lost both of his front teeth. It brought back memories of the old song, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” And yes, I asked him to sing it for me.

As we wrap up what has been a crazy 2016, here are some things I would like to see “under the tree.”

  1. A promise from the County Board that this year’s closeout spending spree will be the last by dedicating all future excess revenues to tax relief. And start by cutting the tax rate this Spring.
  1. Our county leaders will never again claim they are making financial decisions based on “shortfalls.” We are blessed to live in a prosperous nation. And our county leaders are blessed to make relatively easy financial decisions for one of the most prosperous tax bases in the U.S. The financial decisions they make in this prosperity are just as important as the ones they would make in times of austerity.
  1. County leaders taking real steps to hold Metro accountable for the Arlington tax dollars they receive.
  1. If not a total reset, then a quick fix of the Airbnb regulations to ensure it is the least restrictive regulatory structure possible.
  1. A promise to restore the New Year’s Day meeting for 2018 before it is lost forever. Moving it from a Sunday was understandable this year, but let’s keep the tradition
  1. The announcement of Republican candidates for Arlington County Board and School Board instead of another year of no opposition. John Vihstadt could use the help.
  1. Knowing we would see the election of a Republican governor and attorney general who will follow and defend the law.
  1. An honest accounting by the School Board of per pupil spending.
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