55°Partly Cloudy

by ARLnow.com — February 22, 2017 at 10:30 am 0

Blossoms on a tree in Arlington 2/22/17

It’s February on the calendar but the weather forecast for the next three days looks more like May.

Arlington — and indeed much of the country — is experiencing what could be described as an early spring, despite what the groundhog said. Blooms are forming on trees, outdoor restaurant patios are open and it’s not uncommon to see shorts and short sleeves being worn outdoors.

It’s unclear whether winter will try to make a comeback next month, but how would you feel if the weather stayed springlike until… the actual calendar start of spring?

by Tim Regan — February 17, 2017 at 5:00 pm 0

Southwest plane in flight, (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

It’s been a busy week, especially for local wildlife. On Tuesday, animal control officers rescued a raccoon that got stuck in a drain at Wakefield High School. Then, earlier today, a curious creature dubbed the “trash raccoon” hitched a ride on a garbage truck from Rosslyn to Falls Church.

In other news, are IOTA Club’s days numbered? The new owner of Market Common Clarendon is proposing major changes to the development, including the possible demolition of the building that holds the well-loved cafe, outdoor bar and live music venue. IOTA co-owner Jane Negrey Inge told us, however, that she didn’t expect the renovations to happen “any time… soon.”

And whatever happened to the couch that firefighters pulled from a tree on Monday? Hopefully, someone bolts it down before we have another windy day.

Also, don’t forget that Arlington County government offices, courts, libraries and other facilities will be closed Monday. Parking meters will not be enforced on Monday for George Washington Day.

ARLnow.com will return with full local news coverage on Tuesday due to the holiday. In the meantime, feel free to discuss these stories or any other topic of local interest in the comments.

Have a good — and hopefully long — weekend!

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by Mark Kelly — February 16, 2017 at 3:45 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.

By now, you have probably heard about the controversy over signs at Yorktown High School. There is little doubt the signs were intended to make a political statement about issues surrounding the Trump Administration, albeit in an clever way.

You may support the posting of the signs as statements our community supports or you may oppose them as political propaganda. For the purposes of furthering the discussion, what if a teacher posted a sign in his or her classroom at Yorktown that said the following, complete with red, white and blue color scheme?

Patriots Know:

We have the right to pray and protest.

Government should enforce the laws.

Science continually discovers new theories.

You have the right to defend yourself.

Group think is dangerous.

We are YORKTOWN

Would that sign make it past lunch without being removed by the school administration? Maybe. It certainly would be interesting to hear the thoughts of the principal, superintendent and school board responding to complaints about it.

If there is a teacher who wants to do a thought experiment with their students, a sign like this one might spur a good discussion or make for a good writing assignment. If you do, be sure to let the media know how it goes.

In other news this week, the County Board said no to funding the Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, at least for now. Fiscal watchdogs let out a big sigh of relief that the county would not chase another shiny object and instead focus on other transportation priorities.

This most certainly reflects at least a slight change in philosophy from the previous Board which threw good money after bad trying to build the Columbia Pike streetcar. Seems that electing four new Board Members in the past five years has given rise to more caution when it comes to this type of project.

Now if we could only get them to pay for all ongoing maintenance needs in the regular budget rather than borrowing more money to do it, we would really be getting somewhere.

by Progressive Voice — February 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

Emma Violand SanchezProgressive 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: Emma Violand Sanchez

The Trump Administration’s words and actions regarding immigration and refugee ban have sparked fear in many communities across America, including Arlington County. They have also sparked broad discontent among Americans who believe, as I do, that the United States has been and IS a nation of immigrants — a land of opportunity where newcomers can, through hard work and perseverance, achieve better lives for themselves and their families.

But in today’s world, realizing the American Dream is becoming nearly impossible for our undocumented youth, our Dreamers. Instead of focusing on their education and the positive contributions they already bring to our nation, many immigrant and refugee families are now terrified that their hopes will be quashed and their hard work will have been for nothing.

Already we are hearing news of ICE raids in communities across Northern Virginia. These news reports do not even begin to describe the tragedy that is happening in our immigrant communities.

When you see a headline that says “ICE rounds up ‘illegal’ immigrants for deportation,” I want you to picture this: Picture a family that is working two or three jobs (jobs that other Americans do not wish to do); children who arrived here as toddlers or perhaps were eve born here and feel that this is their home; high school students who, like other young Americans, have dreams for the future – dreams of college, of marriage, of good jobs – paying back to society many times over the cost of their education.

Most importantly, I want you to picture your neighbors, for this tragedy is happening under your nose, to people who you cross paths with every day — to children who sit in the same classrooms and play in the same playgrounds as your children.

Currently public schools in Arlington serve students from 122 countries, including refugees from countries banned by President Trump’s executive order. Among those immigrant and refugee students enrolled in our schools are some exceptional students who add many positives to the school environment. 

In light of this reality we founded the Dream Project Inc. in 2011 in order to raise money to fund college scholarships for Dreamers – young people who live in and contribute to our community but whose immigration status (or that of their parents) prevents them from benefiting from in-state tuition rates at Virginia colleges.

In 2016 we provided 76 such Dreamers with scholarships to allow them to pursue post-secondary education at 18 different universities. 

One such student, Ola, came to the United States with her mother and sister after fleeing a dangerous political situation in Sudan. For Ola’s mother, who was raising her children alone, the last straw was when extremists in Sudan tried to force her daughters to undergo female circumcision.

Ola was behind in her studies but was able to enroll in a local high school to catch up. With the help of the Dream Project’s mentoring program and scholarships, Ola achieved academic success is now enrolled in a four-year university. As Ola told me, “My past is not a dark story – it is an engine that drives me to shoot for the stars.”

Under the new administration, major obstacles have arisen. Ola’s mother had an interview as part of her quest to gain political asylum; but asylum approval now have been placed on hold. As a result, Ola’s mother has lost her job. A family that had hoped their nightmare was behind them is now confronting new fears and anxieties. Ola continues to persevere with her studies at Marymount University. What possible benefit is served by denying someone like Ola an opportunity to pursue her dreams?

As I wrote at the beginning, many communities across America are feeling anxiety in the new political environment. I share their concerns and encourage all of you to join us in solidarity. Because only in solidarity will we be able to turn back the forces that have lost sight of what America truly stands for – as recognized by our iconic Statue of Liberty.

Dr. Emma Violand Sánchez is the founder and President of the Dream Project Board. She is a former chair of the Arlington School Board member and retired administrator. In January 2017 she was selected as a Washingtonian of the Year.

by Peter Rousselot — February 16, 2017 at 2:15 pm 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.

In January, I discussed 10 steps that the County Board should take in 2017 to improve Arlington’s model of civic engagement. I noted that the goal should be to reach the broadest possible consensus and ensure a legitimate, fact-based process to inform real-time decision-making.

To achieve this goal, the County Board should adopt an additional reform often called the “72-hour rule.”

Discussion

During their 2015 election campaigns, County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol and County Board member Christian Dorsey each expressed support for the 72-hour rule. In January 2017, County Board member John Vihstadt supported an alternative version he described as the 48-hour rule.

The County Board should formally adopt the 72-hour rule for all significant Board votes.

Under this rule, all critical supporting documents underlying any agenda item for which a significant Board vote is scheduled must be sent to all Board members and posted on the County website at least 72 hours before the meeting at which the vote is scheduled.

At a minimum, a “significant Board vote” should include votes on any of the following:

  • Approval of any contract, agreement, appropriation, grant, plan, project or budget committing $1 million or more of taxpayer funds,
  • Site plans/amendments review,
  • Ordinances, plans and policies, and
  • Acquisition of private property or the sale/vacation of public property.

At a minimum, “critical supporting documents” should include all information, reports, presentations and recommendations from County staff, consultants, advisory bodies or applicants. Any history of previous Board votes on the item should be included.

Once approved and if County staff fails to comply with the 72-hour rule, then postponement of the Board’s vote on the item would be required unless at least four Board members vote to waive the 72-hour requirement in case of emergency.

Why should the Board adopt the new rule?

Arlington citizens, taxpayers and Board members themselves have a right to receive transparent, complete and timely information before significant government decisions are made and actions are taken. Without timely access to complete information, the public lacks a reasonable opportunity to communicate with elected officials before a vote is taken.

Seventy-two hours permits elected officials sufficient time to review all supporting agenda documentation–running anywhere from several hundred to several thousand pages–for final and last-minute changes before making decisions. Based on past experience, significant Board votes almost always rely upon very extensive and complex documentation.

Likely arguments against the new rule lack merit.

The County Manager, County Attorney and staff might oppose the new rule, arguing that it might require extra work. Such arguments lack merit. No extra work will be required. The same work simply needs to be completed earlier. If that is not feasible in a particular case, then the vote should be postponed.

Though the Manager and staff also might argue that Board members already receive briefings much earlier than the 72-hour rule would require, this argument misses at least two critical points:

  • Even if such briefings occur, without this rule the public lacks the 72-hour minimum access to review the underlying documentation, and
  • Last-minute, substantive changes in the underlying documentation often deny Board members sufficient access.

Conclusion

Adopting the new 72-hour rule offers far greater benefits–transparency and accountability–than any costs it might entail.

by Mark Kelly — February 9, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

Mark KellyThe Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Arlington schools have called in an outside consultant to evaluate their enrollment projections. No matter who makes them, projections outside of the next one to two years are extremely difficult to make. Nowhere was this more evident than Washington-Lee High School which was built too small because of bad projections in the other direction.

The Arlington School Board should continue to proceed with caution in the efforts to create more seats for more students.

School Board members are also apparently contemplating the option of refusing federal funds to avoid federal education mandates from new Secretary DeVos. The story is a reminder of just how small a percentage of local school budgets come from the federal government despite producing so many of the mandates — roughly 2% in Arlington, but more in other places.

Based on DeVos’ testimony, it seems her goal is to return even more power to local school districts, resulting in fewer federal mandates, not more. Only time will tell.

Political parties in Virginia have the right to select nominees as they see fit. Over the years Virginia Democrats have often piled on the criticism of Republicans for selecting nominees in a closed process using a so-called “loyalty oath.”

So what did Arlington Democrats do this past week? They opted to hold a closed Democrat caucus with a loyalty oath to determine their County Board nominee. In order to vote, you will be required to pledge to support Democrat nominees in the fall.

Yes, Arlington Democrats, who often try to draw Independents to their cause by ridiculing Republicans for closing their nominating process, are now doing the same thing. I guess you can file this turn of events alongside their newfound discovery of the separation of powers and 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

Speaking of finding the 10th Amendment, Attorney General Mark Herring this week was in the news defending the lawsuits against the Trump Administration’s temporary travel ban. Regardless of your view of the policies surrounding the ban, the plain language of federal law authorizing the President to implement such a ban is clear. In fact, President Obama implemented a similar ban under the law without so much as a peep from Herring. But Herring said he opposes the law based on states’ rights now.

Herring’s record is full of partisanship just like this. Voters should remember this when he promises to uphold the law on the campaign trail this year.

by Progressive Voice — February 9, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

Matt de Ferranti Progressive VoiceProgressive 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: Matt de Ferranti

If the past three weeks are prologue, we will be called upon frequently over the next four years to oppose policies that threaten longstanding American and Arlington values.

One way we can respond is to work locally to make sure that every Arlington student, regardless of his or her income or ethnicity, has a real opportunity to obtain an excellent education and pursue his or her version of the American Dream.

Education in Arlington

Two truths about the Arlington Public Schools (APS) stand out simultaneously: (1) APS is very good for many, many students across all demographic groups; and (2) for some students, our work to make sure they receive the education they need to succeed in the 21st Century is not done.

Good news

APS’s overall graduation rates, rates of proficiency on the Standards of Learning (SOLs) that the Commonwealth of Virginia requires for high school graduates, and other external indicators of school quality and student success are very good.

APS graduates 91.1 percent of its students by the most recent measure available and has one of the highest graduation rates in the state.

On SOLs skills proficiency Arlington also does well. In both the reading and math Standards of Learning Assessments, Arlington had an 87 percent pass rate in the 2015-2016 school year. Both rates beat the statewide averages by 7 percent.

Our challenge

The numbers also show that access to the American Dream through high quality education is not yet real for all students in Arlington. 

For example:

  • Arlington graduates only 74 percent of its low-income students compared to the overall APS rate of 91 percent. Graduation rates for Latino and African-American students are slightly below the statewide average.
  • As for proficiency on the SOL’s, low-income students reading pass rates are 71 percent, slightly better than the statewide average but well below the overall Arlington average of 87 percent. Similarly, proficiency rates in math for low-income students are better but still more than 10% below Arlington’s average. Proficiency rates for Latino and African-American students, while above 75 percent, are below the 87 percent average for APS as a whole.

So, what do these statistics mean?

To be clear, this does not mean APS does a bad job. APS leadership and the committed educators in APS are skilled, high quality, relentless, and do inspiring work.

This isn’t to be critical of the significant investments Arlington makes in education. We have the best results in the Washington DC region in part because we believe in education as the path to success for all and invest accordingly. As we continue to grow, we’ll need to keep our eye on investing appropriately to educate our growing and changing student population.

This isn’t to say that more money spent on schools is the only way to improve schools. Accountability for student outcomes for every student at the APS and school level is essential.

Instead, these numbers show that Arlington is not yet a community where every child attains an excellent education.

How can we strengthen the American dream in Arlington?

It is going to take broad-based community engagement — parents and non-parents — to help all our kids get there. To be clear, APS has an important role to play, focusing more directly on identifying students who are at risk of not demonstrating proficiency of SOLs or not graduating at all and providing additional resources to improve their odds of succeeding in life.

For example, some students joining the system are behind students who have been in APS from the beginning. We should analyze with more granularity the needs of these students and how to maximize their chances for success.

Similarly, APS should focus additional resources on Arlington’s Tiered System of Support, which improves instruction for all students. APS needs a targeted strategy with specific actions and a timeline to ensure measurable progress.

But Arlington parents, community members, and volunteers should also play a greater role. We can volunteer through our PTAs and APS Advisory Committees. We can ask questions about graduation and proficiency rates for all students.

And our decisions about important topics such as boundaries, academic expectations, and investments in our schools should reflect a broad community commitment to the success of all students in Arlington.

By engaging as a community and living our values, we can successfully take responsibility for making sure all our students, from Westover to Carlin Springs and from Nauck to Spout Run, graduate from APS ready to realize the American Dream. 

Matt de Ferranti works at a nonprofit that improves education outcomes for Native American students. He is a member of the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on the Elimination of the Achievement Gap, the Budget Advisory Council to the APS School Board, and the Joint Facilities Advisory Board.

by Peter Rousselot — February 9, 2017 at 12:20 pm 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.

ARLnow.com reported last week that APS has hired a consultant to study the way APS projected enrollment during the recent high school boundary adjustment process.

Discussion

APS needs independent professional help on enrollment forecasts (and closely-related issues like per-seat construction costs). Since literally tens of millions of our tax dollars are at stake, properly designed consultant studies can produce benefits that far exceed the costs. As a community, we need a fully-transparent conversation on these issues.

December’s HS boundary decision

The period leading up to APS’ December decision to adjust the boundaries for Arlington’s three current comprehensive high schools (Yorktown, W-L, Wakefield) was plagued by many enrollment data errors that savvy parents identified and called out. Doubts justifiably were cast on the competence and credibility of APS staff who prepared the data.

Last week’s Discovery Elementary meeting

Last week, the Discovery Elementary PTA hosted an important meeting to discuss policy issues surrounding APS’ booming enrollment. Over 100 people attended. Once again, savvy and engaged parents were quick to spot new errors and inconsistencies in some of the APS slides presented at the meeting.

Discussing her reactions on social media, one parent captured the sentiments of many when she observed:

I hope parents will push for full transparency in the projections going forward. While it’s ridiculous that parents have to be the ones to catch the mistakes, it’s even worse when APS hides the numbers and the methodology so that no one can even see the errors. During the boundary process, many of us thought that Yorktown’s projections looked way too low, and it appeared that APS was making wacky assumptions as to how many kids would transfer out of YHS in order to make their numbers “work.” But APS wouldn’t release their transfer projections and they still won’t. If they had released them during the boundary process, perhaps this mistake could have been fixed before they voted to change boundaries.

January’s consultant study

The best enrollment forecast study prepared to date is a consultant study presented at a joint County Board-School Board meeting in January. A related joint study presented at that meeting concluded (at p. 23) that Arlington’s total population aged 0-14 will exceed 40,000 by 2030.

The County and APS should continue to refine the methodologies and conclusions of January’s consultant study as we move forward.

JFAC’s role

As I discussed last week, the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) has an important role to play with respect to county-wide facilities planning decisions. JFAC should play a leadership role in fostering continuing updates and improvements to January’s consultant study.

Conclusion

Arlington needs to make the best possible policy decisions regarding what new schools, parks, and other public infrastructure we will need, and when and where we will need them. To do that requires us to have the best possible forecast data for these purposes.

As I noted in December, Arlington must 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.

It is neither prudent, realistic nor fair to fail to plan for this growth because some people think or hope that it might not occur. Instead, we must plan now for the consequences of our most accurate forecasts.

by ARLnow.com — February 3, 2017 at 6:00 pm 0

Snowpocalypse - Crystal Drive during the 2009 Snowpocalypse

This past Sunday marked the 7th anniversary of the launch of ARLnow.com. Above is the first photo we ever published, showing Crystal Drive in Crystal City during the 2009 “Snowpocalypse.”

Seven years later, we’re still going strong and providing up-to-the-minute, on-the-ground coverage of breaking news and important community stories — plus local opinions, event listings, photo essays and the occasional light feature or weird news story.

The top three most-read articles of the week we launched had to do with snow, snow and cupcakes, accumulating a total of 277 pageviews. That’s 78 times smaller than the readership of the past week’s top three articles.

This week’s top stories: Arlington’s first homicide of 2017, the announcement of Nestlé moving its U.S. headquarters to Rosslyn, and the armed robbery of a store on S. Glebe Road.

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

by Mark Kelly — February 2, 2017 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.

Yesterday, Governor McAuliffe was in town to announce that Nestlé USA is moving its corporate headquarters to Arlington in September of this year. Finally, the long-vacant 1812 building will have a major tenant, which is certainly good news for Arlington’s commercial vacancy rate.

The move is touted as a $40 million investment by Nestlé USA. However, it does not come without a cost to Arlington taxpayers. The company will receive a $6 million grant from the Commonwealth Opportunity Fund, a $4 million grant from Arlington, and a commitment to $2 million in Arlington spending on infrastructure as well as “extensive relocation assistance” from Arlington County.

The last point also serves notice that while the county’s press release claims it will “create 748 jobs,” these are not new jobs for our regions. Some of those jobs — exactly how many we were not told — will be filled by people relocating with the company from California.

Granted, a thriving employer in the county helps everyone regardless of how many new jobs it creates. And in this day and age of states in a bipartisan fashion offering huge financial incentives to employers looking to relocate, it is understandable that Virginia is playing in the economic development sweepstakes.

However, it once again raises the question of whether we should take a different approach, one that helps existing businesses and new businesses looking for a better economic environment.

California has seen thousands of businesses leave the state over the past few years. One study indicated businesses could see operating cost savings of as much as 35% due to the unfavorable business climate.

Virginia is consistently ranked in the top 10 to 15 places to do businesses by those who rank these things. However, our ranking is moving in the wrong direction. In CNBC’s rankings, Virginia slid from 3rd to 13th over the past four years.

Arlington, and Virginia as a whole, should have one goal — make us the number one business climate for creating and operating a business. It will not only make us more attractive to businesses looking to move, but will allow our current businesses to grow and thrive.

Unfortunately, Democrats praising the $12 million of taxpayer money given to Nestlé today would almost certainly demonize any moves to simplify and reduce taxes and regulations as “giveaways to the rich and powerful” tomorrow.

by Progressive Voice — February 2, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice columnist Jill CaiazzoProgressive 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: Jill Caiazzo

I have often questioned the effectiveness of marches. This confession might be surprising, coming from one of the organizers of the Arlington Democrats’ participation in the Women’s March on Washington. Marches can be large, fun affairs — but also somewhat unfocused. Even in their most focused form, marches by themselves rarely result in concrete change. They may succeed in sending a message to those in power, but the likelihood of future action based on that message seems low. So, why march?

In a word: inspiration.

While a march may have minimal relevance to a disinterested policymaker, it is deeply meaningful to its participants. To know that your outrage and frustration are shared, to see the many diverse faces of those who share it, and to find unexpectedly that you are emboldened to share your own views — no participant could walk away from an experience like the Women’s March without feeling moved and motivated. I certainly did not.

Capturing that sense of inspiration is critical to the future success of the Democratic Party, especially in non-presidential election years. Although multiple factors contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss in November, a failure to inspire broad swaths of Americans surely was one of them.

It pains me to make this point, because I was profoundly inspired by such a well-qualified candidate who fought her heart out to break that highest of glass ceilings. I worked hard to elect her, and I met scores of volunteers who felt the same.

Still, it is undeniable that many others did not share that enthusiasm. The winning Obama coalition did not turn out in the same force, and a large portion of millennial voters stayed home. Lacking inspiration, these voters critical to Democratic victories opted for apathy — with devastating consequences for Democratic candidates and, ultimately, the country.

Rekindling Democrats’ foundering inspiration is no easy task. Inspiration is organic; it cannot be manufactured. Still, it can be encouraged and guided. President Trump proved this point on the campaign trail. Much of President Trump’s electoral success can be attributed to the fear that he inspired — fear of being left behind in the new digital economy or being marginalized in an increasingly diverse culture. These fears existed before President Trump’s candidacy, but his rhetoric amplified them and fueled his ascent.

Should the Democratic Party similarly seek to inspire based on fear? Certainly, there is much to fear in this new Trump era: inability to access lifesaving medicine without brokering bankruptcy; suppression of scientific information necessary for sound environmental stewardship; replacement of religious freedom with unconstitutional bans. And that was just the first week.

Democrats can find potential fear-based sources of inspiration at the state level too. In Virginia, only the veto power of our Democratic governor has saved us from the dramatic job loss and economic stagnation that would be wrought by needlessly divisive bills passed by our Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Our neighbors in North Carolina — home of the infamous “bathroom bill” (whose Virginia corollary was introduced this year) — have not been so fortunate. In 2017, a year when Virginians will elect a new governor, there is indeed much to fear in state politics. Democrats, in turn, should not be afraid to make this fear-based case. We should make it forcefully and loudly.

Yet, as a Democrat — as an American — I cannot advocate for an inspiration strategy based solely on fear. The American Dream is the product of an inherently optimistic people. Democrats must inspire with positivity as well.

The Women’s March, like this weekend’s immigration-related protests, did that wonderfully — but we cannot stop there. We must find other ways to inspire — in particular, ways that counteract the specific fears stoked by President Trump.

When he invokes fear in the new digital economy, for example, we must harness its promise. We can do so by engaging everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, in that economy, such as through skills-based training and affordable access to broadband internet. Initiatives like these benefit both workers and employers, when communicated effectively. 

Here in Arlington, we have a unique opportunity not only to generate inspirational ideas but to ensure that our Democrat-controlled local government implements them successfully.

The Women’s March has inspired me and many others to work even harder to seize that opportunity. In that way, the Women’s March has done a great deal — and its inspiration will continue to pay dividends now and for months and years to come.

Jill Caiazzo is senior counsel for government and regulatory affairs at a Fortune 50 technology company. She is a member of the Arlington Economic Development Commission and the Board of the Virginia Democratic Women’s Caucus. The views expressed are her own.

by Peter Rousselot — February 2, 2017 at 12:30 pm 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.

ARLnow.com reported last week that local developer James Burch proposes to “build a 325-foot Space-Needle-like tourist destination, dubbed the Spirit of America Tower, in Rosslyn.”

The tower would be built on currently open-space, VDOT-owned land. In one of more than 25 comments he personally posted to that story, Burch (using the last name “Bureh”) revealed “we have been working on this, quietly, for about a year and a half.”

After ARLnow broke the story, Washington Business Journal (WBJ) reached out to a VDOT spokesman who acknowledged VDOT had met with Burch, but denied VDOT had made any commitments. And, County Board Chair Jay Fisette described Burch’s proposal as a “fantasy”.

Discussion

While Burch’s proposal deserves scorn, his quiet pursuit of it highlights the need for a long-range (out to 2040) strategic plan, prepared jointly with VDOT and other interested stakeholders, regarding how best to utilize the air rights throughout the I-66 corridor. That plan should include the VDOT parcel in Rosslyn with respect to which Burch currently seeks a long-term lease.

I-66 Air Rights

If we allow piecemeal, scavenger development of important individual parcels to occur in the absence of such a long-range plan, by the time we get around to it, the plan that’s best for Arlington will be hopelessly compromised.

This past October, WBJ reported that both Arlington and VDOT temporarily had suspended such planning, but that both sides still were open to it:

[A] VDOT spokeswoman … said Arlington has chosen not to pursue air rights development “to date,” but VDOT “would continue to work on any requests to explore other opportunities and locations.” …

I-66, from Falls Church through Rosslyn, acts as a “gash through part of our community,” said Arlington Board Chair Libby Garvey. Filling it in, she said, is a “long-term thing,” but the discussion is worth having, whether in Rosslyn or East Falls Church (where Garvey envisions a deck with parking below and a field above).

There may well have been good reasons for the temporary suspension of talks, but Arlington County now needs to work hard to:

  • quickly resolve any remaining obstacles,
  • further develop its own long-range land-use vision and negotiating strategy, and
  • then resume the conversations with VDOT.

JFAC Community Facilities Plan

JFAC’s overall mission importantly includes a directive from the County and School Boards to:

Place a special emphasis on long range planning for future County and APS facility needs…. Big picture, visionary thinking is encouraged, and the Commission should be a forum where fresh and creative ideas can be discussed freely.

Arlington County and JFAC should indeed engage in “big picture, visionary thinking” by carefully exploring all opportunities for Arlington to acquire new land either via air rights from VDOT, a land swap with VDOT, or some combination. The long-range plan for air rights in the I-66 corridor should be made available to JFAC.

Conclusion

Burch commented last week that “with our proposal, it is not costing the state or the county anything, and the project provides millions of dollars in tax income.” Despite such siren songs from Burch — or anyone else — Arlington should complete the two long-range planning studies described above, and discuss them thoroughly with the community, before making any deals that could undermine our long-range best interests in the I-66 corridor.

by ARLnow.com — February 1, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

Valentine's Day heart candy by Chris RiefValentine’s Day is only two weeks away.

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, V-Day is a day to plan.

For those in relationships, do you stay home and plan a romantic dinner, or go out and pay a premium at a nice restaurant?

For those who are single, do you stay in or join your single friends for a night on the town?

Which are you planning to do on Feb. 14?

Flickr pool photo courtesy Chris Rief

by ARLnow.com — January 27, 2017 at 6:00 pm 0

Electric vehicle charger at the Walgreens in Clarendon

The weekend is here and not a moment too soon for us here at ARLnow.com.

After all, it’s been a busy week. The top five most-read recent news stories this week were:

  1. A history teacher at Yorktown High School was charged with indecent exposure by Fairfax County Police after an incident in Tysons Corner Thursday night.
  2. The Walgreens store in Clarendon is slated to close on Feb. 21.
  3. Duane Chapman, the bounty hunter known as “Dog,” visited Don Tito (3165 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon last weekend. He reportedly ordered a plate of fajitas.
  4. Police investigated a dead body found between Windy Run Park, in north Arlington, and the banks of the Potomac River on Tuesday.
  5. The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office on Monday served an eviction at 201 Chain Bridge Road, the palatial former home of former multimillionaire Rodney Hunt, on Monday.

What will next week bring? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, feel free to discuss these stories or any topic of local interest in comments.

by Mark Kelly — January 26, 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.

Meeting the transportation needs of both Arlington’s residents and the greater region is no easy task. And Metro’s problems have only made it harder. While there is no doubt our county leaders take the issue seriously, they do often make decisions that can leave Arlingtonians scratching their heads.

1. Planning to spend $575,000 for each bus stop on Columbia Pike.

It is still hard to fathom that Arlington officials view reducing the cost of a bus stop from $1 million to $575,000 as a win. The $13.3 million the county plans to spend to construct 23 of them over the next four years could be used to shore up Metro instead.

2. Supporting changes to improve two lane I-66?

The Arlington County Board is set to vote on whether to support the latest plans on I-66. Our Board had historically opposed any real changes to the corridor, but in recent years has moved to support some widening of the highway. Unfortunately, acting as an impediment to improvements both on I-66 and I-395 in the past has put us years behind in addressing transportation needs.

The congestion on I-66 in particular has forced traffic onto secondary surface streets through our neighborhoods. It is also worse for the environment. Increased time sitting in traffic produces more tailpipe emissions than when traffic moves at normal speeds.

As long as the federal government is centered in Washington, cars are going to drive through Arlington. The only question is, how long will it take them and what route will they take?

3. Narrowing streets.

Chairman Fisette is passionate about bikes, as are many other Arlingtonians. But the resulting increase in traffic congestion on roads reduced from four lanes to two to accommodate dedicated bike lanes seems to indicate that there may not be enough people interested in using bikes for commuting to justify the changes.

In the meantime, a good deal of street parking has been eliminated. And on some streets that were narrowed but where parking is maintained, it is virtually impossible to crack the door of your car without it entering into a traffic lane.

The money used for street narrowing should have been prioritized for repaving and improving our existing transportation infrastructure.

4. Using staff time and resources to study a taxpayer-funded gondola.

With an estimated $80-90 million price tag, the Arlington share of the project would presumably be at least $40 million if those cost projections are realistic. But when Portland constructed its gondola, the costs escalated by nearly 400%, and operating costs nearly doubled.

Arlington taxpayers wasted a good deal of time and money on the Columbia Pike Streetcar before it was ultimately shelved. The Board should remember the lessons learned from that exercise before committing more time and money to the gondola.

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