by Heather Mongilio — October 2, 2015 at 5:10 pm 354 0

Rainy fall day in Bluemont Park (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)Virginia may dodge Hurricane Joaquin, but Arlington County will see more rain as it continues to be hit by a nor’easter.

National Weather Service is predicting the county will see a couple inches of rain over the weekend, with the heaviest rain today and tomorrow. Arlington is under a flash flood warning through Saturday evening.

The county is urging people to prepare for continued heavy rain due to the nor’easter. Wind speeds are predicted to pick up tonight and Saturday, with gusts as fast as 31 miles per hour. The storm may cause trees to fall, causing power outages and safety hazards.

A couple of events in Arlington, including the Shirlington Oktoberfest and the county’s E-CARE recycling event have been postponed due to the rainy weather.

If you’re looking for something to do over the weekend, the Teens Make a Difference club is holding Bounce-A-Mania on Saturday from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center (3501 2nd Street S.). For $3, kids will have a chance to climb over and through 19 different inflatable structures and climb an inflatable rock wall. There will also be arts and craft stations.

Rain is may slow down on Sunday, just in time for the Afghan Arts and Culture Festival at Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway) from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The National Weather Service is predicting a 60 percent chance of rain on Sunday, but organizers of the festival have not cancelled the event.

If the festival happens, the Arlington County Police Department is planning to close the southbound lanes of N. Fort Myer Drive between east and westbound Lee Highway from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Feel free to talk about the rainy weather in Arlington, power outages, downed trees or any other topics of local interest. Stay dry!

by Krysta Jones — October 1, 2015 at 2:00 pm 0

Krysta Jones

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s organization or of ARLnow.com.

“When women succeed, America succeeds.

Women play an instrumental role in the U.S economy. Forty percent of American households with a child under the age of 18 depend on a woman’s salary as the sole or primary source of income.  Women are estimated to make more than 70 percent of all retail purchasing decisions, and women investors are the fastest growing sector making investments on Wall Street.

Just-released findings by McKinsey and Company note that efforts to advance women’s economic equality could improve global Gross Domestic Profit by $12 trillion. Since the 1970s, female labor participation has accounted for fully a quarter of the United States’ total GDP growth.

Yet, nearly a century after women earned the right to vote, America still has a gender pay gap. Women of all races and ethnicities working full time, year round in the United States earned an average of only 78 percent of what white men earned in 2013. For black women, it was 64 percent. For Latina women, it was 54 percent. These disparities have a detrimental effect on our families and communities.

On Oct. 10, Rep. Don Beyer will host his first “Women Driving the Economy” conference, aimed at helping women in Northern Virginia acquire the skills needed to succeed professionally, build critical relationships with their peers, and learn valuable lessons from leadership experts.

The event’s keynote speaker is U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, a pioneer in establishing women in leadership roles in the economy as a public and private sector manager and philanthropic champion. As of 2014, it is estimated that there are nearly 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating over $1.4 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.9 million people.

Administrator Contreras-Sweet’s keynote delivery will be followed by a plenary panel moderated by Megan Beyer with Judith Warner from the Center for American Progress and author of the 2005 New York Times best-seller “Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety,” local small business owner El Brown and Rebecca Shambaugh, a leadership trainer for women in the workforce.

Following the panel discussion, participants will choose leadership training sessions on a number of topics, including:

  • Interview skills with Mary-Claire Burick, President of the Rosslyn BID;
  • Image and Branding with Sonya Gavankar, Journalist and Co-Founder of HerExchange.com;
  • Resume building with Sonja Henderson and Virginia Lyon of the HR Certification Institute;
  • Social Networking and Career Advancement with Dagny Evans, a senior operations and technology leader;
  • Strategies for Financial Security with Laurie J. Blackburn, CFP® and First Vice President – Investments with the Speck Caudron Investment Group of Wells Fargo Advisors;
  • Salary Negotiation Strategies with Barbara Mitchell, Managing Partner of The Mitchell Group;
  • Mindfulness Exercises with Patrice Winter, Assistant Professor in the Department of Global and Community Health at George Mason University.

This event is free to the public and will be held at George Mason University-Arlington campus, from 8 a.m. to noon.  The address is 3351 North Fairfax Drive and public transportation to and from the Arlington campus is available. Child care is also available. Attendees must register online at https://beyer-womendrivingtheeconomy.eventbrite.com.

Although it is important to cite statistics and talk about the barriers facing women’s economic empowerment, it is even more important to try to do something to help women overcome those barriers. By providing a forum for discussion, fostering networks and developing key skills, we can help women — and America — succeed.

Krysta Jones is founder and CEO of the Virginia Leadership Institute, and in 2014 was named by Leadership Arlington as a Top 40 Leaders Under 40 awardee.

by Mark Kelly — October 1, 2015 at 1:30 pm 312 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.

Earlier this week, ARLnow ran a piece on Barbara Donnellan’s comments on the loss of public trust in relation to big ticket projects. The entire video interview with Donnellan provides an interesting insight into how the former County Manager did her job. Donnellan had 32 years of experience in the Arlington County government, so she has a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge to share.

As she began to talk about public trust, Donnellan said it was her role to listen, and help those who wanted to invest in our community. Kudos to Donnellan for taking this approach to her work.

The discussion turned to light rail, aquatics center, Artisphere and the Arlington Way. For Donnellan, the failure of these projects came down in large part to the erosion of the people’s trust of government at all levels.

She is exactly right. But it is not the people’s fault for not trusting government. Government at all levels continues to take more of our money, or take on more debt, and cannot seem to get the basics of government right.

 In Arlington’s case, instead of focusing on infrastructure, safety and schools, our elected leaders appeared focused on spending hundreds of millions on light rail and other shiny objects.

Donnellan cited the organized effort spreading misinformation for the downfall of the streetcar. After knocking on doors to talk to people in two elections for County Board, it was clear to me the organized effort merely synthesized already existing opposition in the community. While Donnellan may have been doing a good job listening to those with business before the County Board, she and the Board either missed this widespread opposition or chose to ignore it.

Donnellan went on to say that the only reason the aquatics center is not being built is that the bids came in to high. Exactly. The price tag kept going up all throughout the process to the point where the Board is now unwilling to go back to the public to ask for more borrowing authority.

A final revealing part of the conversation centered on the bailout of the Signature Theater. Donnellan admitted the reason for the bailout was that the County did not know the original deal they sold to the community was simply never workable. This is not unlike the over-promise, under-deliver problems the Artisphere had.

Is it any wonder that the public’s trust has eroded?

It should now be clear to our elected leaders that we have reached the point where the community is going to ask how much is too much for a swimming facility or insert boondoggle here, when we are still losing parts under our cars by hitting potholes? We want them to get the basics right first, then ask for the extras.

by Peter Rousselot — October 1, 2015 at 1:00 pm 549 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.

Is Airbnb legal in Arlington? It’s hard to tell, and that’s a problem.

Airbnb certainly is doing business in Arlington. Airbnb’s website currently boasts 300+ Arlington rentals, including:

  • a “cozy Ballston 1bd” @ $45 per night,
  • a $350 per night “huge 3bd” one block from Metro, and
  • hundreds more all over Arlington.

At the same time as it promotes these listings, Airbnb is passing the buck of regulatory and tax compliance to Arlington property owners via a “help center” on the Airbnb website:

When deciding whether to become an Airbnb host, it is important for you to understand the laws in your county. As a platform and marketplace we do not provide legal advice, but we want to give you some useful links that may help you better understand laws and regulations in Arlington County.

The website then lists some of the laws and regulations that might apply to Arlington property owners who use Airbnb’s services:

  • zoning ordinance
  • building code
  • short-term rental building registration and record-keeping
  • transient occupancy tax
  • other rules (like those set by condo boards, home owners associations, etc.)

Finally, this Airbnb website urges property owners to contact Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD) or other county agencies or to “consult a local lawyer or tax professional.”

Airbnb nowhere mentions the laws or regulations that might apply to Airbnb itself.

Where have we seen this movie before? Although there are differences, the name Uber comes to mind. Last year, we began the Uber conversation when some argued that Uber was operating taxis illegally in Arlington. This year, some are arguing that Airbnb is operating hotels illegally in Arlington.

As was the case with Uber, in a Dillon Rule state like Virginia, the appropriate regulatory framework for a service like Airbnb must first be established at the state level not the local level. The need for the state to act now is underscored by the fact that the legality of Airbnb’s operations already has been questioned in:


Right now, Arlington County should NOT go down the path of cities like Richmond, Charlottesville and Roanoke by spending time and energy looking for strictly local ways to regulate and tax Airbnb or its participating property owners. Instead, Arlington first should focus on seeking a fair and uniform state-wide regulatory framework for Airbnb and entities like it.

A Virginia state-wide solution ultimately might lead to an agreement by Airbnb and similar entities to act as the tax collection agents for localities like Arlington. Airbnb already has worked out such deals in D.C., San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.

by ARLnow.com — September 30, 2015 at 11:00 am 535 0

Fire Station 8 (Courtesy of Arlington County Fire Department)The saga over the proposed relocation of Fire Station No. 8 continues.

Following resident outcry from those who didn’t want the Lee Highway fire station to move from their neighborhood, and from those who didn’t want it to move to theirs, last week the Arlington County Board approved the creation of a task force to study the issue and come up with a recommendation.

Now, the county is also conducting a survey of residents via its “Open Arlington” website. The survey, which closes on Oct. 6, is intended to “gather input on the proposed project criteria and the possible direction this task force may take.”

Those who argue in favor of relocating the fire station further north — including fire department officials — say it would improve fire response times to the northern reaches of Arlington, while allowing for a larger and more advanced fire station to be built within budget. Keeping the station where it is would require pricy renovations and potential land acquisition that would be more expensive than simply building the station new on exiting county land.

Those who argue against the station say that it’s a community fixture with an important history, and they like it where it is. Further, some residents around the proposed relocation site near Marymount University say the fire station would disrupt their quiet neighborhood.

We’re conducting our own survey this morning: do you think it’s a good idea to relocate Fire Station No. 8?

by Heather Mongilio — September 25, 2015 at 6:00 pm 846 0

Clarendon Day 10K race by WolfkannIt’s going to be a wet weekend with the National Weather Service predicting a 30 percent chance of rain on Saturday, before 2 p.m., and more rain on Sunday.

If the rain holds off, you can head down to Wilson and Clarendon Blvds for the annual Clarendon Day.

The free festival will have food, five different stages of live music and entertainment, a kids zone and the annual chili cookoff.

The morning kicks of with the annual Clarendon 5K/10K/Kids Run, organized by Pacers.

Arlington County Police Department will close Clarendon and Wilson Blvds from N. Highland Street and Washington Blvd starting at 5 a.m. for the festival. N. Highland will also be closed between 11th Street N. to the Views at Clarendon (1210 N. Highland Street).

Wilson Blvd will be closed from N. Highland to N. Lynn Streets from 5-9:15 a.m., and the southbound lanes of Route 110 will also be closed from 8-10:30 a.m. for the race.

On Sunday, people can celebrate Latin American culture with a festival in South Arlington. The Latinoamerican Festival kicks off at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27 at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road).

The free festival, which runs until 5 p.m., will have live music, dance performances and authentic Latin American food.

This year, there will also be a fútbol, or soccer, game. Bata and Arlington United, two teams from the county’s Bolivian league, will play at 3:15 p.m. on the soccer field at Kenmore Middle School.

The event will happen rain or shine, but will move indoors in the case of rain. National Weather Service is predicting a wet Sunday, with an 80 percent chance of rain, likely after noon.

Feel free to talk about the two events or any other topic of local interest in the comments.

by ARLnow.com — September 25, 2015 at 3:30 pm 629 0

H-B Woodlawn (via Google Maps)

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Joan K. Lawrence, Chair of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Board.

The recently posted “Peter’s Take” commentary calling for the rejection of historic designation for the Stratford School is both premature and uninformed. Arlington does not create local historic districts lightly. There are many public hearings involving the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB), the Planning Commission and the County Board, as well as the School Board, when the property in question is a school. This process is still in progress.

The designation process was started by a request from Arlingtonians and included one of the four African-American students who made national headlines on February 2, 1959. On that day, in the face of the massive resistance movement in Virginia, four students, escorted by police, walked from Old Dominion Drive and entered Stratford through a door in the back of the building to begin the integration of Virginia’s public schools. This door and the adjacent central portion of the building remain part of Stratford and are clearly visible.  It is still possible today to experience the site and enter the building as those courageous students did over 56 years ago. Children and adults can actually put themselves into the picture of what happened that day because the façade of the school has not been altered.

Capacity can be added to the current Stratford building without covering over the central portion of the rear of the building. This has been demonstrated over and over at public meetings. We just need the will to maintain the visual link with our past.

Stratford’s significance in our history was recognized over a decade ago when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. We owe this designation to these four brave students and to the current and future generations of students and citizens of Arlington.

Joan K. Lawrence
Chair, Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Board

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about local issues. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.

by Peter Rousselot — September 24, 2015 at 2:00 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.

On Aug. 17, Arlington County launched a six-month food-truck-zone pilot program in Rosslyn:

The program — designed to create pedestrian-friendly food truck access for area workers and residents — sprang from discussions among food truck owners, local restaurateurs and County and [Rosslyn] Business Improvement District [BID] staff. Participation is voluntary, meaning food trucks can park in other areas of Rosslyn and the County, provided owners observe the parking rules for those streets.

Four Rosslyn pilot zones have been established:

  • On 19th Street N. just past N. Lynn Street
  • Along Wilson Blvd above N. Kent Street
  • At the intersection of N. Nash Street and Wilson Boulevard
  • On N. Pierce Street along Wilson Blvd

Food trucks can park for four hours rather than two in these zones.


In developing this pilot, the County took a holistic view of curbside management, soliciting input from both food trucks and brick and mortar (B&M) establishments. In selecting the zones, the County and the BID pursued a consumer-centric approach. The goal: maximize public spaces, parking and infrastructure so that all retail establishments (B&M and trucks) are visible and easy to access.

Since the launch, the BID has continued proactively to communicate with and collect feedback from the community, food trucks and other stakeholders. The goal: to help inform how the zones might evolve. Most people in Rosslyn who were surveyed about the zones (through an online survey and by BID staff on the street) appreciate that N. Lynn Street is less congested. A majority of the respondents initially surveyed (68.75 percent) indicated they approve of the zones.

For the most part, those who do not approve of the zones would like to see the trucks return to N. Lynn Street. During the current Central Place construction, this is not feasible, but it may make sense for the trucks to return after construction ends in the first quarter of 2016.


Any fair appraisal of this Rosslyn experiment must answer the question: compared to what?

Based upon the experience and feedback developed during this worthwhile pilot program, the County and the Rosslyn BID will be better positioned to answer critical questions about food trucks.

If some zones are better than no zones, the County and the BID must find a balance among:

  • expanding zones in size to allow each to hit a critical mass, while
  • complying with Arlington’s Vending Ordinance, and
  • trying to avoid empty or near-empty zones, and
  • deciding whether two or some other number of hours is the most appropriate incremental food-truck-parking benefit

If there continue to be advocates for no zones, the County and the BID must provide convincing reasons why some zones are better than none.

by Mark Kelly — September 24, 2015 at 1:30 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 year, the County Board election was a referendum on shiny object budgeting by the County Board. The Board chased vanity projects like the streetcar, Artisphere and aquatics center without broad community support. The result was that an otherwise qualified Democrat nominee lost two elections he would have most certainly won nearly any other year.

Since that election, the streetcar and Artisphere projects are no more, and the aquatics center is still on the shelf. Now, we can focus on how a Board still dominated by Democrats is doing on the basics of governing.

The first obvious question for voters is do they believe the Board is really listening to them or were the decisions on the streetcar and Artisphere a way to release the political pressure without making fundamental changes to how they operate?

Do we believe the County Board is doing enough to work with the School Board to address school enrollment issues?

Should we be satisfied with what the Board is doing to maintain streets and roads? Will the Board put pressure on WMATA to drastically improve Metro?

Do County policies, and the staff who enforce them, work for Arlingtonians in a way that creates an environment to encourage more economic opportunity, fill vacant office spaces, create jobs and raise wages?

Will the Board ever acknowledge they use the closeout process to unnecessarily drive up spending, and thus our taxes, every year?

These are not headline grabbing questions like whether we should spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a single project without even giving voters a say on a bond question. But for the long term health of our County, they are equally, if not more important.

The CivFed debate did not provide a lot of insight into how these candidates would govern. But, all four will be out and about in Arlington asking for your vote. When you see them, you can ask them about how they will approach transportation, schools, economic development and budgeting in general.

You have an opportunity to elect two new voices to the Board on Nov. 3. Arlington deserves two new County Board members who will roll up their sleeves and get back to the basics of good government regardless of party affiliation.

by Larry Roberts — September 24, 2015 at 1:00 pm 0

Larry Roberts

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organization or ARLnow.com.

Medical evidence trumped ideology in Richmond last week when the state Board of Health voted to scale back regulations that had threatened to put many abortion providers out of business.

By a 9-6 vote, the Board took a major step forward in rolling back medically unnecessary restrictions on women’s health clinics.

The Board approved recommendations from the state’s Health Commissioner to rescind regulations requiring Virginia’s abortion facilities to comply retroactively with standards designed for construction of new hospitals. The Board’s vote included approval of key amendments by former State Senator from Arlington (and now Board of Health member) Mary Margaret Whipple to clarify and strengthen the Commissioner’s proposal.

These changes grandfathered existing facilities, eliminated hospital transfer agreement requirements, and ensured that regulations applying to existing, expanded and new abortion facilities would be limited to those focused specifically on patient health and safety.

Sen. Barbara Favola, who succeeded Mary Margaret Whipple and represents Arlington in the Virginia Senate, applauded the vote against “ideologically driven and medically unnecessary TRAP regulations” as a “decision of the Board [that] reflects the triumph of reason over politics.”

The TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) regulations to be eased under the new rules were put in place by a Board of Health dominated by appointees of former Governor Bob McDonnell – only after then Attorney General (and staunch anti-abortion activist) Ken Cuccinelli threatened to withhold legal representation in the event Board members voted against his wishes and were sued.

There was no medical evidence that the TRAP regulations were necessary to protect women’s health. Indeed, abortion services are among the safest of medical procedures. When the Department of Health conducted an exhaustive two-year study of abortion facilities, it found no evidence of violations resulting in harm to patients at clinics that had performed tens of thousands of first-trimester abortions.

By contrast, there was plenty of evidence that TRAP regulations placed enormous economic burdens on women’s health centers – leading to a further reduction in Virginian’s limited access to reproductive health services. Already, many women must travel 100 miles or more to reach the closest clinic.

This is not just a “downstate” problem. In recent years, a clinic in Fairfax City closed and another in Manassas recently announced that it would be closing.

The process for undoing the unnecessary and burdensome TRAP regulations began with a lawsuit filed in Arlington County Circuit Court to stop the regulations from taking effect. Although former Attorney General Cuccinelli moved to have the lawsuit dismissed, the Court rejected his request.

The lawsuit was put on hold after Governor McAuliffe issued an Executive Directive in May 2014 ordering an expedited review of the TRAP regulations by the Board of Health. In addition, most facilities in Virginia received temporary waivers of the TRAP regulations that allowed them to remain open while the review was being completed.

In May 2015, Attorney General Herring issued an opinion that the previous administration had provided incorrect legal advice to the Board of Health and intervened in a process that is supposed to be driven by medical professionals.

There are more steps in the process before the TRAP regulations are finally taken off the books, but the Board of Health’s actions take immediate pressures off the remaining healthcare centers in Virginia that provide abortion services.

This is a victory for Arlington and the entire Commonwealth. As Governor McAuliffe concluded in his statement last week: “This Commonwealth should be a leader in bringing people together and building a new Virginia economy – not in partisan crusades against women’s rights. I applaud the Board of Health for ending this disturbing chapter in our history and for heeding the advice of experts, medical professionals, and Virginia women about the best way to provide safe access to health care.”

Arlington also has a role to play. As advocated by a candidate in this year’s County Board election, Arlington should ensure that its zoning practices are friendly to the establishment of women’s health centers in the County.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice. A resident of Arlington for over 30 years, he also spent four years in Richmond as Counselor to the Governor. He has represented the Falls Church Healthcare Center in litigation and regulatory matters.

by Heather Mongilio — September 18, 2015 at 6:30 pm 1,154 0

Air Force Memorial

The Capital Weather Gang may have declared summer over in the D.C. area, but National Weather Service’s predictions for this weekend look pretty summery. NWS expects a high of 86 degrees for Saturday and a high of 78 degrees on Sunday.

One way to enjoy the beautiful weather may be a trip to the Air Force Memorial, located off of Columbia Pike, to say happy birthday. The Air Force turned 68 years old this week.

This morning you may have seen or heard fighter jets flying over parts of Arlington. The Air Combat Command, which is part of the Air Force, flew two F-22 aircrafts at approximately 9:10 a.m. over Arlington National Cemetery and two F-15C planes over the Pentagon around 10:40 a.m.

Arlington’s future may look a little more affordable, at least in terms of housing, after the County Board meeting on Saturday. The Board will take up the Affordable Housing Master Plan during their meeting first meeting since July. Under the plan, the county will add approximately 15,800 affordable housing units by 2040.

At least two groups from South Arlington have organized in response to the housing plan. While both groups support adding more affordable units, the Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development has been lobbying the Board to include more geographic distribution of affordable units. New group, Mi Voz Cuenta, supports the plan as is and says it welcomes more affordable housing on Columbia Pike. Mi Voz Cuenta is allied with Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, which supports affordable housing.

County Board candidates have also weighed in on affordable housing with Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol announcing their support of the plan and independents Mike McMenamin and Audrey Clement saying they would not vote for it.

The County Board’s meeting starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday in the County Board room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.

Feel free to weigh in on affordable housing or any other topics of local interest in the comments section.

by Mark Kelly — September 17, 2015 at 2:00 pm 501 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.

Today is Constitution Day. It is a time to remember the document on which our nation was founded.

 Unlike the process in the U.S. Constitution, the right to appoint justices to the Virginia Supreme Court does not rest with the executive branch. That right ultimately rests with the General Assembly according to the Virginia Constitution. A Virginia governor cannot even veto a justice they do not like.

 There is simply no other way to read it.

 Yes, the governor may make a temporary appointment. However, that temporary appointment expires 30 days after the General Assembly is called into session.

 The clock started ticking on the temporary appointment of Justice Jane Roush when the General Assembly convened on Aug. 17 for a special session Gov. Terry McAuliffe called on redistricting. The temporary appointment of Roush ended yesterday.

 In an unprecedented move, McAuliffe reappointed Roush yesterday. The problem is, he has no right under the Virginia Constitution to do so.

 The special session may have effectively ended shortly after it began on Aug. 17. That is when the 19 Senate Democrats were joined by one Republican and the lieutenant governor in voting to adjourn shortly after calling the session to order. The Senate Democrats not only refused to take up redistricting, but they also refused to take up the question of this Supreme Court appointment.

However, because one house of the General Assembly cannot adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other, and the House of Delegates never offered such consent, the General Assembly officially remains in session. Another temporary appointment is simply not in order, at least if you are following the Virginia Constitution – a document the governor swore to uphold.

Yes, both sides are engaged in a political showdown over this Supreme Court nominee. However, the rule of law is on the side of the Republicans whether or not the governor disagrees with the assessment of the Speaker that the House of Delegates is still technically in session.

 And, whether you might like McAuliffe’s decision to stand up to Republicans as a political matter or not, any case that Roush were to take part in moving forward could later be challenged as invalid.

 A big question remains. Why did McAuliffe instruct the lieutenant governor to cast the tie-breaking vote to adjourn the Senate for a special session the governor called rather than having a public debate on redistricting and this judicial appointment? In so doing, he jeopardized any chance of reaching a civil conclusion on either question. Now, he has put the validity of future Supreme Court decisions in question.

 The governor should instruct the lieutenant governor and Senate Democrats to return to Richmond as soon as possible to do their jobs, not run away from them. Otherwise, while there is always plenty of blame to go around when it comes to political posturing, any blame for this potential constitutional crisis will belong primarily to the governor.

by Harrison Godfrey — September 17, 2015 at 1:30 pm 886 0

Harrison GodfreyProgressive 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.

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board will consider whether to adopt the proposed Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) and accept an Implementation Framework (IF).

Together, these documents represent the best of Arlington’s values and an important first step towards addressing housing affordability. Board members should adopt them.

The AHMP represents years of studying the changing Arlington housing landscape. Its goals — to preserve and grow the supply of affordable housing, make our community more accessible, and promote sustainability — were developed through inclusive community dialogue. The IF lays out public policy tools to achieve these goals and, by 2040, return the affordable housing stock to the levels present in Arlington in 2000.

A key goal of the AHMP is preserving and restoring the rental housing stock affordable to low-income families. This is a critical challenge. Since 2000, Arlington has lost roughly 13,000 affordable units to rent increases and redevelopment.

Addressing this challenge is morally just and economically wise. The loss of affordable rental housing has forced low-income Arlingtonians to relocate, imposing additional costs on those who can bear them least. The resulting labor scarcity makes it harder for business – especially small businesses like restaurants, dry cleaners and hardware stores – to operate. That is one reason why the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Commission have endorsed the AHMP.

Moreover the AHMP also looks beyond this immediate crisis to broader housing challenges. Over the next 25 years, Arlington needs to add 2,700 new homes affordable to families below 120 percent of the area median income so they can stay in Arlington. Yet, the County’s own analysis shows that without public policies to stimulate the production of these homes, there won’t be enough.

This is an acute issue for Arlington’s young professionals. We love the County’s robust job market, great transit options, restaurants and culture. Perhaps that’s why the County’s Millennial population has skyrocketed. Today, 25- to 34- year olds make up roughly 27 percent of Arlington’s population.

However, as the population of young professionals has grown over the past 15 years, home prices have almost doubled — far exceeding wage growth. The median sale price of an Arlington home, including townhomes and condos, is now above $550,000. Many of us are renting and just making ends meet. While the most fortunate amongst us may be able to buy, most young public servants, artists and entrepreneurs are left to wonder: “Can I afford to stay?”

Growing Arlington’s stock of affordable ownership units is key to preserving Arlington’s cultural and socioeconomic diversity. Keeping Millenials in Arlington will relieve congestion by reducing commutes into and through Arlington from outer jurisdictions. And it is essential to the county’s economic future. As Patricia Sullivan, long-time reporter for the Washington Post recently wrote:

“Keeping as many of these highly educated and tech-savvy residents as possible is a critical factor, experts say, if the County wants to attract employers and build its’ tax base” Given the commercial vacancy rates in Rosslyn and Crystal City resulting from federal cutbacks and facing a burgeoning school-age population, attracting employers and building the tax base are “must do’s” for the County.

Fifteen years ago, when the last affordable housing plan was developed, these demographic and economic issues did not exist. Addressing changing realities is a key reason why the Board should adopt a new AHMP.

Nor are Millennials alone. Changing realities facing older Arlingtonians impact affordable housing too.

I was prompted to write about housing affordability because of my mother’s journey. Almost 40 years ago, she moved to central Arlington and bought a home. Over ensuing decades, the rise in home prices in Arlington – while posing an obstacle to new residents – has served my parents well.

However, like many Boomers looking towards retirement, my parents are faced with the same quandary as many young professionals: “Can we afford to stay?” The AHMP acknowledges this demographic shift. Alongside affordable rentals and home ownership, it makes “Aging in Place” a priority, with new policies aimed at affordability and accessibility for older residents.

The bottom-line is this: our community faces a unique and unprecedented set of economic and demographic realities. By and large, they’re good news. Arlington is younger, more diverse, and more prosperous than most of America. But those same realities leave us facing distinct challenges, like housing affordability. If we’re to remain the vibrant and appealing community we’ve become, we need to face and respond to those challenges.

The AHMP is an important step in doing just that.

Harrison Godfrey is a life-long Arlington resident and Democratic precinct captain for the Ashton Heights neighborhood. A graduate of William & Mary and former White House legislative aide, Harry works on clean energy policy at the state and Federal levels.

by Peter Rousselot — September 17, 2015 at 1:00 pm 1,050 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.

It’s time for the County Board to vote to reject historic designation for Stratford. The mere possibility that Stratford might receive such a designation is substantially hurting APS’ ability to design a new middle school to add desperately needed seats.

The current process–which relies on the false hope that a reasonable compromise can be reached between the Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) and APS staff–already has proven that no such reasonable compromise will occur. Why prolong the agony?

(1) APS staff’s top priority is to design a school that makes sense – for programming, student circulation and overall school community. HALRB’s top priority, per its guidelines, is that there be minimal changes to the original building. These are two irreconcilable priorities.

(2) APS staff has announced publicly that its preference is the “link” design, which builds an atrium over the historic south building façade. During two work sessions (the Aug. 11 School Board work session and the Aug. 19 APS-HALRB work session), HALRB strongly criticized the “link” design. APS has proposed a wide variety of ways to honor Stratford’s desegregation history, but would definitely change the outward appearance of the building.  HALRB’s mission is to protect the history of the building by maintaining its appearance.  These are two irreconcilable historic preservation strategies.

(3) The idea of a compromise is clearly unrealistic. APS staff continues to present options partially to appease HALRB, but APS continues to promote the design APS believes works best for students. HALRB continues to throw up roadblocks, coming up with additional problems for each APS design. For instance, HALRB provided significant pushback to one of the APS “compromise” designs because the soccer field’s position relative to the school was changed by a matter of several yards. HALRB’s alternative solution basically eliminated a new parent drop-off plaza–an important safety enhancement. HALRB’s unwillingness to make even minimal changes to the outside view of the school is unreasonable. While some of APS’ own designs might prove to be too elaborate or expensive, that is a separate issue that can and should be addressed separately.


The County Board should vote now to reject historic designation for Stratford because it is clear that there will not be a reasonable compromise between two such diametrically opposed organizational missions as those of APS and HALRB.

The new Stratford Middle School should:

  • Incorporate design elements that sensitively and appropriately celebrate the historic desegregation events that took place at Stratford, BUT
  • Only celebrate them in a way which does NOT significantly add to the cost of the building nor otherwise restrict its use as a new middle school, as determined by APS not by HALRB.

by ARLnow.com — September 14, 2015 at 10:15 am 1,939 0

KeyboardWhen we talk to ARLnow readers, they invariably bring up the comments section of the site.

Most people say they enjoy reading the comments, even though they might not agree with what’s being said. A vocal minority, however, say they dislike the comments — they don’t like the general tone and disagree with many viewpoints.

The one constant: everybody seems to have an opinion and no one can be dissuaded from reading the comments, even if they profess to not liking them.

ARLnow believes in giving readers a relatively open forum to discuss the news of the day. The comments are often a force for good: providing valuable tips, first person insights into breaking news and some useful corrections.

However, there are some unresolved issues with the comments: consistent negativity that’s not reflective of the views of the general populace, petty back-and-forth fighting that discourages substantive discussion and occasional comment spam.

One possible solution to these problems could be to require that commenters be registered in order to post comments. That would effectively shut out some trolls and spammers, while allowing us to more effectively manage and moderate comments.

(We are not considering shutting off the comments altogether. We believe that a reader dialogue about the news is a good thing, as long as discussions don’t get out of hand.)

What do you think?


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