81°Partly Cloudy

by Heather Mongilio — August 28, 2015 at 5:00 pm 1,266 0

Generic park image (via Arlington County Parks Dept.)Stores might be stocking up on pumpkin ale and other fall goodies, but the weather this weekend does not indicate the end of summer any time soon.

National Weather Service predicts a high of 88 degrees for Saturday and 90 degrees for Sunday.

One way to enjoy one of the last weekends of summer break is at one of Arlington’s numerous parks. Some Arlington parks have shade and water features to help beat the heat, as well as playgrounds, tennis courts and picnic spaces. However, as we reported this week, not all visitors have had glowing reviews of local parks.

If spending time in the sun, isn’t for you or your family, it might be a good opportunity to pick up last minute back-to-school items. It may be a good weekend to drive, walk or bike, as all Metrorail lines in Arlington will be experiencing delays.

The Blue, Orange, Yellow and Silver lines will run trains every 18 minutes this weekend due to single tracking and repairs.

Feel free to head to the comments section to lament over the impending end of summer, the pre-season state of Washington’s professional football team or the one-star reviews of local parks. Or, as always, you can discuss any topic of local interest.

Photo via Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation

by Progressive Voice — August 27, 2015 at 2:00 pm 852 0

Frederico Cura

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.

Arlington’s progressive voters played a significant role in electing Democrats to all five of the Commonwealth’s statewide offices – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Governor Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring. All five won highly competitive races that reflect Virginia’s highly competitive political environment. Arlington’s vote margins mattered.

Yet progressive policies favored by a large majority of Arlington voters, set forth in Arlington County’s legislative agenda and advanced by Arlington’s representatives in the General Assembly and in Congress are very often opposed and killed by strong Republican majorities that do not reflect the composition of Virginia voters or the overall partisan breakdown of national votes for House of Representatives candidates.

These majorities do not reflect the values or competitive nature of Virginia’s electorate, but result from Republican redistricting decisions in the General Assembly in Richmond — packing Democratic voters into districts in Northern Virginia and in majority-minority districts in order to create many more safe Republican districts.

The impact on Arlington from this district packing is that political priorities for Arlington requiring legislative approval – and they are many – face a steep uphill battle in a House of Delegates that has a 67-32 Republican majority.

Packing of Democratic voters into strongly Democratic districts dilutes the political strength that Arlington shows in statewide races.

Recently, a federal court ruled that Virginia’s Congressional districts were drawn improperly (with a similar suit pending that challenges the Delegate districts drawn by Republicans in the House of Delegates).

Governor McAuliffe called the General Assembly into special session to fix the problem with Republican gerrymandering of Congressional seats, but the General Assembly took no action.

How did that happen? Why did it happen? What can Arlingtonians do about it?

During the recent special session, Republican legislators in Richmond turned their backs on Arlingtonians and fellow Northern Virginians who bear the brunt of irresponsible gerrymandering that has gone on -by both parties over the years — for too long.

One example occurred in the House Privileges and Elections Committee.

“We’re no longer in session, so we can no longer take your testimony.”

With these words, Committee Chairman, Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania) interrupted the testimony of a woman’s rights leader and essentially sent home the 19 scheduled speakers at a critical public hearing on how to respond to the federal court order that Virginia fix the Republican-created districts.

Indeed, Republican legislators who control the General Assembly did not even introduce a new map for consideration. With these and other actions and inactions, the Republican legislators failed to meet a unique opportunity for their party to show the world that it stood for strengthening freedom and democracy, and not for undermining the right to vote of many Virginians.

My brother and I were raised by a single mother in South America. My caring, resilient and talented mother made something clear from the get go: if you break something, you take responsibility for it and you go out of your way to fix it. The House Republicans certainly failed my mother’s test.

The key reason why nothing happened is that legislators like the notion of legislators choosing their constituents rather than constituents choosing their political leaders through a fair and equitable redistricting process.

Indeed, “Virginia is ranked as one of the most gerrymandered states in the country both on the congressional and state levels based on lack of compactness and contiguity of its districts,” according to OneVirginia 2021, a Richmond-based multi-partisan organization advocating for fair redistricting in the Commonwealth. Throughout the Commonwealth, counties and cities are being broken up in half or into multiple pieces to create heavily partisan districts.”

What can Arlingtonians do about the need for fair redistricting? An important first step is supporting the efforts of OneVirginia 2021.

Another step is to be vigilant about what happens in the General Assembly and voice your concerns to legislators across the state.

The bottom line: our constitutional right to vote is sacred – it’s our voice. People should pick their political leaders, NOT the other way around. A GOP truly committed to freedom and democracy would support nonpartisan redistricting, which is gradually taking hold in several states and should become the law nationwide. Electoral districts should be compact, contiguous, and grounded on the principles of equal representation. Nonpartisan redistricting should be a moral imperative for all of us and we should demand it from our leaders now.

Federico E. Cura is a strategic communication trainer, outreach specialist and grassroots organizer. He spent years as a K-12 educator teaching Spanish and ESOL, and served on the Arlington County Transportation Commission.

by Mark Kelly — August 27, 2015 at 1:30 pm 413 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.

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy received a raise at the School Board’s Aug. 13 meeting. Similar to the case with paying County Board controlled staff, the item appeared on the agenda with no report, no discussion and no recorded vote. If these top staff are doing such an outstanding job, why do Board members – County or School – feel the need to appear as though they are sneaking a pay raise through?

Being the Superintendent or County Manager in Arlington is no walk in the park. The job requirements call for a strong compensation package. At the same time, being the highest paid county employees means there should be the highest level of transparency when it comes to setting that compensation. If the Boards feel that strongly about increasing the pay, they should be willing to go on the record as to why.

On Sept. 28, the Columbia Heights Civic Association will host a meeting and discuss the idea of putting a gondola system along Columbia Pike. As pictured, the “pods” remind me of a childhood trip to the Magic Kingdom to ride the now dismantled Skyway. It is far too early too tell what the feasibility of such a system along the Pike would be, but the flyer says it would be privately funded. That would be a good place to start.

Delegates Hope and Sullivan picked up the endorsement of the Virginia Farm Bureau. Seems a little odd to endorse candidates with no real farming interests to speak of in their districts. But every political interest group likes to up its “win percentage,” so they can tell their members 90 percent or more of their endorsed candidates won. Endorsing Hope and Sullivan seem like an easy call to do just that.

A recent study from Realtor.com found a household income of $87,000 could afford a $403,800 home in the region. Not that you can find many places to live at that price in Arlington, but that income figure seems low, particularly if you have more than one person trying to live on it. It certainly would be difficult for a family of four or more to pay that mortgage and the rest of the family’s bills. By way of comparison, In Arlington the median income is just over $103,000, and the average home sales price is right around $600,000.

by Peter Rousselot — August 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm 1,390 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.

For nearly a year, residents of the Claremont neighborhood adjacent to Wakefield High School have been trying to get Arlington Public Schools (APS) to replace dead trees and address other landscaping problems on portions of the Wakefield site. Photos of some of these dead and dying trees and landscaping problems are available here and here. Thus far, APS has failed to fix these problems. APS’ latest promise is to try to do so by the end of September.

The experience of these Claremont residents exposes serious APS management issues. The issues need to be resolved before they inevitably are magnified as APS continues to pursue major school facilities construction projects throughout Arlington.

Michael Graham is a concerned neighbor who lives on South Chesterfield Road directly across the street from Wakefield. He has tried–unsuccessfully–to get APS to fix things:

APS has failed to do what was needed on its landscaping and planting tied to the final stages of the Wakefield HS tear-down and rebuild. Trees, shrubs, etc. all planted within the past year or so are dead and dying. The whole trees thing has turned into a time wasting, frustrating nightmare.

Environmental Benefits of Trees and Landscaping

Trees and landscaping provide aesthetic and environmental benefits. The environmental benefits, including removal of atmospheric CO2, have been documented repeatedly. Arlington’s Urban Forestry Commission is an important local resource. This Commission provides advice on tree and plant care, including watering and other important maintenance tips. A glance at the photos of the dead Wakefield trees shows that APS did not follow this locally-available advice.

Trees and Landscaping as a Neighborhood Buffer

Trees and landscaping also act as a buffer between school property and adjacent residential neighborhoods. Regrettably, APS’s earlier experience in cutting down mature trees at Ashlawn Elementary may show a pattern of insensitivity to the role of trees in community relations.

At Wakefield, there also are community dangers such as metal poles sticking out of the ground, exposed electrical wires, and dirt craters big enough to hold/hurt small children. Some neighbors believe APS has failed to use trees to conceal adequately the backs of scoreboards on an athletic field. Future uses of that field also will require APS to consult with Claremont residents.


APS consistently needs to be a thoughtful steward of its trees and grounds and a good neighbor. If the School Board and Superintendent currently can’t do that due to budget constraints, that needs to rectified. If the issue is not budgetary, the Board and the Superintendent still need to fix it.

At Wakefield, APS must move quickly to solve the identified problems, involve Claremont residents in the proposed solutions, and restore goodwill.

by Heather Mongilio — August 21, 2015 at 9:00 pm 664 0

Puppy (flickr pool photo by Chaita_1)It’s Friday, which means tomorrow is the Village at Shirlington’s annual Wags N’ Whiskers.

This annual pet shopping expo has more than 60 exhibitions, where shoppers can buy treats, food and pet goods. Pets can also get their pictures taken for $5, so make sure they look their best.

The event will also have live music and kids activities. Pets are welcome to attend.

Campbell Avenue and S. Randolph Street will be closed from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the festival. Campbell Avenue will be closed from S. Quincy Street to the parking garage in front of the Harris Teeter (4250 Campbell Avenue). S. Randolph Street will be closed from Arlington Mill Drive to the alley south of Campbell Avenue.

If four-legged friends are not for you, the Gulf Branch Nature Center and Park (3608 N. Military Road) is holding a bat festival from 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Saturday.

There will be habitat walks, games, crafts and a chance to explore the nature center’s bat cave.

The event will also have talks led by Leslie Sturges, who works at a campaign helping to protect and conserve bats. Each talk is tailored for a specific audience, with two 30-minute kids talks and two 45-minute talks for adults and older children. The event costs $8, and there is currently a waitlist for the event.

Feel free to talk about Wags N’ Whiskers, bats or any other local topic.

Flickr pool photo by Chaita_1

by Mark Kelly — August 20, 2015 at 2:00 pm 1,087 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.

Turns out inspectors had discovered the rail defect that caused the Aug. 6 Metro derailment at a July inspection. News that WMATA knew but did nothing about it is the latest safety failure for the system. WMATA is fortunate no one was injured this time as opposed to the tragic incident in January.

General Manager Jack Requa said what he should say about the defect being ignored. It is unacceptable, should never have happened, should never happen again.

At what point, however, do we say enough is enough?

In July, the Washington Post reported that Metro’s former general counsel Kathryn Pett quit her $200,000 job to sign a contract for more than $311,000, plus travel expenses. That contract was canceled, according to the Post, because it violated a ban of hiring former employees for a year.

In 2010, I campaigned against my opponent’s support for hiring an art director for WMATA. A six figure salary for the position, I argued, was money that could be better spent on a broken elevator or escalator or any of the other seemingly never-ending maintenance issues of the system.

The relative drops in the budget bucket from these personnel decisions were symptomatic of larger problems and a lack of the right priorities.

There seem to be a multiple of fundamental problems with WMATA, and its governing body seems incapable of getting the whole thing under control. The union contract was renegotiated in 2013 to require WMATA employees to contribute to their pensions, but personnel costs still put a tremendous strain on the system.

No amount of political pressure, including Congressional hearings, or public shaming seem to make a difference. Fares go up. Promises are made. But little improves.

So, is it time for a bankruptcy-like reorganization of the system? One where the federal government or a federal judge steps in temporarily to facilitate the process of turning Metro around.

Tearing down and rebuilding the current management structure or replacing it with a private contractor, reconstituting the WMATA Board, and creating a new labor agreement from scratch all seem like fairly reasonable options at this point.

Yes, it is a radical approach. But do we honestly a light at the end of the tunnel now?

It seems like the time has come for dramatic changes. But whatever the path forward for WMATA is, the end results need to be dramatically different than what we are getting now.

by Peter Rousselot — August 20, 2015 at 1:30 pm 1,560 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.

Arlington County is considering selling approximately 5 acres of County-owned land known as the Edison site adjacent to the Virginia Hospital Center (VHC). This County land could be sold for cash, VHC land or a combination. The VHC land would consist of other Arlington properties VHC owns. The County has created a special website for this proposal.

Arlington faces a crisis. It lacks adequate County-owned land for both current and future needs for core services like parks and schools. If we are to avoid–or at least minimize–continuing community conflict by trying to address too many public needs in too limited space, the County must enlarge “the box” of available County land. The County’s proposal to sell its Edison property in exchange for VHC land represents just such an opportunity.

aerial photo of the Virginia Hospital Center Carlin Springs Road propertyThe County has scheduled a Sept. 9 public meeting to discuss the proposal. While many details remain to be worked out, one of the really promising aspects of the proposal is that Arlington might be able to acquire an 11.57 acre VHC property located at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road.

Due to the relatively large size and location of the Carlin Springs Road property, it offers great potential to enlarge our public land inventory and thereby address a number of critical needs the County faces over the next decade. This potentially can be done for no, or relatively limited, tax payer dollars.

Among the critical public needs that could be met by this South Arlington property are additional parkland and school capacity.


As shown in the aerial photo, the site contains at least 2.7 acres of natural areas and open space abutting Glencarlyn Park. The site offers a unique opportunity to add material acreage to a park at little or no cost. Typical park additions are a fraction of an acre of developed land at a cost of millions of dollars per acre.


The site currently contains a former hospital building, an adjacent multi-story parking garage, and a multi-story office building.

The site could become a future location for multiple school uses, such as:

  • choice or magnet school programs;
  • swing space for both North and South Arlington to permit additions to existing schools, enabling “building up” rather than out; and
  • short or long-term locations for other APS programs and functions, thereby potentially freeing up hundreds of seats at already over-crowded schools.


Obviously, issues such as compatibility, transportation, and refitting costs will have to be considered. However, obtaining the Carlin Springs Road property is a great win-win opportunity for Arlington.

by Progressive Voice — August 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm 757 0

Emma Violand-SanchezProgressive 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.

The Arlington Public Schools’ mission is to instill a love of learning in students and to prepare them to be responsible and productive global citizens.

To help achieve that mission, APS develops a six-year strategic plan with staff and community involvement. Our 2011-2017 Strategic Plan has helped guide our schools to significant successes. We look forward to building upon those successes in the upcoming school year and to addressing capacity issues that arise, in part, from our achievements.

As Chair of the School Board, I am asking our community to focus particular attention this year on Goal 5 of the APS Strategic Plan, “Meet the Needs of the Whole Child.” In pursuing this goal, we commit to nurturing students’ intellectual, personal, social, physical and emotional development and to providing learning environments that are safe, healthy, engaging and responsive to student needs.

With nearly four decades of experience as an educator, I have come to believe that this goal, to support the Whole Child, is the most important. If our students do not feel safe, are not healthy, and do not feel engaged, they will struggle to learn. I believe the ultimate goal in education is, at its heart, a call to care and support our students so they can succeed.

National and local studies, such as the 2014 ASCD/CDC report, “Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child” substantiate the need for this increased emphasis on the Whole Child. The Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families reported in its 2014 Community Report Card that one quarter of Arlington children entering kindergarten are obese or overweight. Both reports note that children who are physically active and receive proper nutrition are better learners.

For this reason, I am asking that we, as a community, put greater emphasis on compassion and caring, on the promotion of the overall physical and mental well-being of our students. We need to change the conversation about accountability. We need to expand our definition of success beyond test scores to include a focus on the development of the Whole Child, making sure each student is healthy, safe, engaged, and supported by caring adults.

In this regard, I believe we must look at enhancing physical, mental health and wellness services in our schools, community and county. We must collaborate and align resources with the child’s needs at the center. Families, educators, community organizations and county services must provide the solid network of support essential for student success. We have so many resources here in Arlington. We now need to make sure they fully work to support our students.

The result will be students who are prepared for college, career and citizenship as well as the full breadth of experiences that their multifaceted adult lives will bring. We will continue to look to test scores as one indicator of our children’s success and well being. In this measure, Arlington students do better and better each year, as APS’ recent release on SOL scores reports.

During the new school year and beyond, we can continue to improve both academically and in our support for the Whole Child. To do so we must work collectively to address our students’ needs. We all must share responsibility for our students and their success. With this focus on the Whole Child, our students will be knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, and ready for the world beyond APS.

Emma Violand-Sanchez is Chair of the Arlington County School Board. She joined the Board in January 2009 and previously served as Chair during the 2012-13 school year. She is a career educator and has lived in Arlington since 1978.

by ARLnow.com — August 18, 2015 at 10:00 am 1,755 0

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Jim Whittaker, chairman of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.

Dear Editor,

I am writing to express my support for Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan and for its goals of ensuring that middle and lower income workers can continue to call Arlington home. Frankly, I am confused by the controversy that has been stirred up regarding the Plan. This plan is the logical extension of efforts that have been underway here for years to limit the loss of existing affordable housing units and to create some new ones. The plan is not radical, nor will it be sufficient to entirely stop the loss of affordable housing, but it presents a reasonable approach for stemming the tide.

I serve as Chairman of the Board of A-SPAN, and we are working hard to lift hundreds of our most vulnerable neighbors out of homelessness. To accomplish this we depend on the availability of affordable housing. In Arlington the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $1,700 per month and rising.  When one of our veteran or other homeless clients qualifies for a VA or HUD housing voucher we must find a willing landlord and an apartment that rents for $1,300 per month or less. While these are becoming harder to find, the plan before the County Board gives us hope that enough units will be available for us to achieve our goal of ending chronic homelessness in Arlington.

It’s not good for anyone to leave our homeless neighbors on the streets. It’s also expensive. A recent American Medical Association study found that homeless individuals cost a community about $45,000 per person per year in police, court, and hospital costs. We can provide housing and other services to that person for about $22,000, improve their health, and in many cases get them back into the workforce.

We have learned how to solve the problem of homelessness. But, we need Arlington to adopt the Affordable Housing Master Plan so that when A-SPAN clients are ready for housing there’s an affordable apartment available for them.


Jim Whittaker
Chairman, A-SPAN Board of Directors

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 Heather Mongilio — August 14, 2015 at 5:00 pm 1,128 0

Watching the sunset while on a Metro train crossing the Yellow Line bridge over the PotomacIt’s the weekend, which means the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will be doing rail work.

This weekend, the Orange, Blue and Silver lines will all be operating every 20 minutes due to single tracking between Federal Center Southwest and Eastern Market stations while WMATA conducts tests and installs emergency call boxes.

Metro is continuing to experience rush hour delays, with another station malfunction yesterday. Last week’s train derailment has caught the eye of area lawmakers, and they are not happy with the agency.

If you need a laugh to get over a week filled with Metro delays, head over to the Rosslyn BID’s showing of “The Hangover” tonight, which is part of the Rosslyn’s Outdoor Film Festival. Oscar-winner “Birdman” is also playing at Penrose Square on Columbia Pike on Saturday.

Feel free to vent about Metro or any other topic of local interest in the comments.

by Peter Rousselot — August 13, 2015 at 2:00 pm 834 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.

An excellent new report (“Valuing Arlington’s Community Parks and Open Space“) demonstrates the value of parks in our community dialogue about major issues, including:

  • Development
  • Zoning
  • Siting school facilities and housing

The new report should help us avoid serious mistakes like Arlington’s decision to sacrifice Rosslyn Highlands Park to the interests of a private developer.

The new report is sponsored by the Arlington Park & Recreation Commission. The principal authors are Elizabeth Gearin, who has a PhD in Urban Planning and Development and William Ross, who has a PhD in Economics. Both are long-time Arlington residents. They combined their individual expertise to highlight both the qualitative and quantitative benefits parks provide.

Neither author has any direct financial interest that would be served by accepting their conclusions. They prepared this report as a community service. Backed by extensive research and analysis, the report cites both intangible and tangible benefits of parks and green space.

Intangible Benefits (traditional literature review)

  • Health

Parks provide opportunities for exercise, creative play, and lowered stress levels.

  • Community Cohesion

Parks reinforce the social fabric, providing opportunities for residents and visitors to participate in activities, socialize with one another, and form a neighborhood geographic focus.

  • Environmental

Trees, shrubs and grasses improve air quality by reducing air pollution; ameliorating the urban heat-island effect with shade and cooling; acting as a noise barrier, and reducing urban runoff as roots capture and filter rainwater.

Tangible Benefits (economic analysis)

Some of the intangible benefits of parks are priceless, but the report provides a helpful methodological framework to quantify the tangible benefits of Arlington’s parks. The report quantifies for Arlington the dollar impacts of these 10 benefit categories:

  • Increased Property Values from Park Proximity
  • Increased Property Sales Taxes from Park Proximity
  • Increased Value of Annual Property Sales from Park Proximity
  • Direct Use Value for Park Users
  • Tourism Tax Benefits Attributed to Parks
  • Tourism Profits Attributed to Parks
  • Health Value of Parks
  • Storm Water Management Value of Parks
  • Air Pollution Mitigation Value of Parks
  • Community Cohesion Value of Parks

As summarized on the Arlington County website, the bottom line is that:

[T]he annual, ongoing benefits from Arlington parks and open space is $155 million. On top of that, “the existence of parks and open space may have resulted in a one-time increase in residential property values estimated at $160 million…”

These valuations represent a preliminary approximation. Arlington should study these issues further.


Arlington’s parks and open space are not “free.” When we use our parkland for other purposes, not only do we bear the replacement cost (if we even can afford it), we lose the benefits outlined in this excellent White Paper.

by Larry Roberts — August 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm 570 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.

This week, the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit turned down former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request for a rehearing en banc (by all of the Circuit’s judges) of his conviction on public corruption charges. McDonnell now has only one hope left for overturning his conviction – the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court hears only a small fraction of the requests it receives.

In all likelihood, the former Governor will soon begin serving his two-year sentence in a federal prison. One might expect that as a Democrat, I would be pleased to see Bob McDonnell’s fall from a potential Vice Presidential candidate to a likely federal prisoner. I am not.

Certainly I don’t condone the actions that led to McDonnell’s conviction and I do not quarrel with the unanimous jury verdict.

And I have had major disagreements with many of McDonnell’s issue positions during his career as an elected official and actions he took as Attorney General and Governor.

Yet I had a chance to work closely with McDonnell and his senior staff while he was in statewide office and found that it was possible to find common ground to move Virginia forward and serve the interests of the Commonwealth’s residents.

As Counselor to the Governor, one of my roles was to serve as liaison to the Office of the Attorney General. We worked across party lines on a range of issues of importance to Virginia – among them were budgeting, transportation, criminal justice/law enforcement, restoration of rights, matters affecting the military and veterans, mental health reforms, immigration, and the Commonwealth’s response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

In some instances, the Governor and Attorney General were largely in agreement. In others, their positions were very different.

Yet no matter the situation, we found that the Commonwealth was better served if we looked for as much common ground as possible, worked through our differences to understand each other’s positions, aired our differences with respect for each other and the offices in which we served, and made sure that once decisions were made by the executive, legislative or judicial branches that we worked to implement those decisions as effectively and efficiently as possible.

We worked closely together – even through differing legal interpretations of the Governor’s powers — to help insure that the Commonwealth did not suffer a government shutdown during a budget and possible constitutional crisis in 2006. That crisis was averted by the signing of a budget on the last possible day before a shutdown began. Many residents in Arlington and across Virginia would have suffered had we failed.

Also, we worked together on a 2007 transportation package that put in place many funding sources that are beginning to have an impact of transit and other transportation improvements in Arlington and throughout Northern Virginia. Although regional funding pieces of that package were thrown out by the Supreme Court of Virginia, many were corrected and put back in place as part of McDonnell’s landmark 2013 transportation package.

McDonnell and his team were also allies in Governor Kaine’s successful effort to secure federal funding and develop a construction plan for Phase I of the Silver Line that began operation in 2014 with significant transit and economic benefits for Arlington and across Northern Virginia.

We also worked together in responding to the terrible tragedy on the Virginia Tech campus in April 2007. The Commonwealth’s response included a creative and comprehensive settlement with families who suffered the loss of loved ones and surviving victims, mental health reforms, closing a loophole on the acquisition of guns by those found mentally incompetent, developing improved protocols for first responders, and developing more effective campus security measures.

While McDonnell and I disagree – often strongly — on what government should do, we have agreed that what government does it should do so effectively and efficiently. He was not a conservative who was happy when government failed to do its job.

It is not easy to know how and why some leaders put themselves in harm’s way. Yet in watching McDonnell’s fall, I also want to remember ways in which he served the Commonwealth well.

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 Governor Tim Kaine and chaired successful statewide campaigns in 2005 and 2012.

by Mark Kelly — August 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm 504 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.

It appears Arlington County is throwing a lifeline to the mothballed aquatics center at Long Bridge Park by floating the idea of a partnership with Alexandria. The pool project went on the shelf after the funding from a bond increase in 2012 still could not cover the projected bid.

Arlington not only needs a partner to cover the construction costs, but also what could be as much as a $4.3 million annual operating deficit.

The last round of bond funding included authorization for $42.5 million of the $79.3 million, at the time, projected to be needed to construct the facility. Many critics in 2012 called for such a large bond sum to be voted on separately from other parks and recreation funding. But the bond passed comfortably under the heading of “Local Parks and Recreation” not “$42.5 million for aquatics center.”

The County Board then issued $10-12 million in bonds to cover anticipated construction costs in 2013. We are paying interest on those bonds but the money is sitting idle.

Fast forward to today. Arlington Republicans are circulating a petition to call on the county to stop future bundling of bonds issues.

Specifically, the petition calls “on the Arlington County Board to commit to presenting stand alone bond referenda for projects that would represent more than 50% of the amount of the bond referendum dollar amount or authorize $25M or more in total project spending.”

Simply put, if the Arlington County Board committed to this course of action moving forward, they would have to let the funding for big ticket projects rise or fall solely on their own merit.

It still would be a tall order to defeat a bond question in Arlington. One could argue that all projects would still pass and move forward, particularly if they secured a positive recommendation on the Democrats’ sample ballot.

However, in the case of a project without widespread public support, it would require the County Board to at the very least debate its merits. Voters could decide if $80 million was too much to pay for a new swimming complex or not. That really is not too much to ask of our elected officials when it is our tax dollars that have to pay for it.

by Heather Mongilio — August 7, 2015 at 5:35 pm 1,156 0

Girl at Arlington County Fair

It’s Friday, which means the weekend is here. National Weather Service is predicting a sunny weekend, with highs in the upper 80s for both weekends.

The Arlington County Fair will be open from until 11 p.m. tonight, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. There will be concerts throughout the weekend at the fair.

This weekend is also the tax-free holiday for Virginia. With school around the corner — school starts on Sept. 8 — it is a good weekend to get school supplies and clothing.

Feel free to talk about the county fair or any other topic of local interest.

by Progressive Voice — August 6, 2015 at 1:45 pm 1,273 0


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.

Arlington has long been known for mastering smart infrastructure investments that have boosted the local economy, made Arlington an attractive place to live, and led to high levels of satisfaction in surveys of County residents.

Now, County leaders face a public that is cool to ambitious approaches to transportation, planning and infrastructure other than, perhaps, new and expanded schools.

For many, Arlington’s 2014 decision to cancel streetcars in Crystal City and Columbia Pike dealt not only a blow to transportation, but to community pride as well. What if, however, this gives us a timely, useful pause to consider improvements that are less capital-intensive? While I do not believe they can be the only solutions, it is important that we explore such alternatives.

Several fast-changing trends are converging to change how we live, work, shop, play – and get around. This is happening all over the world, but has special relevance for Arlington as we expand a planning focus from Metro station areas to other ways of delivering services, opportunity and quality of life.

These trends – technology, demographics, and shifts in work and workplaces – require new types of planning.

For transportation, Uber and Lyft are mainly known for disrupting the taxi industry, but it is really the smart phone platform that is transforming everything from biking to parking to travel.

So what are the opportunities in Arlington and what does it mean for planning?

Ride and Van Share – New companies like Bridj and Split are building new “microtransit” services that range from $2-$7 per trip. They fit a service level somewhere between solo driving and ART bus lines. They work by using algorithms to assign passenger pick-ups based on the most efficient origin-destination routes among several shuttle buses.


For example, residents living near the intersection of Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive can hail shuttles going to Seven Corners, Ashburn and other job centers not served by Metro (or that require multiple transit connections). These new transit companies are eager to work with localities to share data, incorporate services into formal transportation planning, and optimize public transit routes.

ParatransitArlington Transit offers on-demand rides for travelers with limited mobility. While costs have decreased (28% over the past three years to $27 per trip), these new services could reduce the costs of transportation further. As Arlington develops aging-in-place strategies throughout the County, these rides are incredibly important.

Car Owners – Yes, we have the Car-Free Diet, but what about support for drivers? Let’s face it, many Arlingtonians live in areas where a car is really the only practical travel option. However, many drivers want to reduce the hassles of driving, finding a parking space and car ownership. Fortunately, there are apps for all of these. The availability of these resources means that we should expand our transit programs to find ways to use our roads and parking resources in ways that help drivers — since reduced driving through efficiencies and easier route and parking navigation can result in less congestion for us all.

Locally Grown Transportation Companies – Arlington and DC are home to transportation companies like TransitScreen. Mobility Lab tracks new trends at the intersection of transportation, cities and technology. Arlington’s Economic Development chief Victor Hoskins wants to focus on tech for security, health and education. Given Arlington’s leadership in land use and transportation, and with the addition of 1776 to Crystal City, it makes sense to add smart cities to the list.

But there are also questions. How do public agencies incorporate private companies into transportation and infrastructure programs? For land use, what is Transit Oriented Development (TOD) when the transit comes to you through more individualized services? How do people without smart phones access broader mobility services? And finally, how will self-driving cars and transit ultimately disrupt the current disruptors?

Certainly tech-enabled ride sharing apps won’t exactly replicate the performance of a streetcar line. But they can provide immediate, cost-effective mobility options and supply the data needed to support the right kind of larger transportation and other infrastructure investments in the future.

In times such as these, the winning bet may not always be the big bet, but a series of strategic, iterative bets can help continue moving us forward.

Lisa Nisenson is a long-time civic advocate in Arlington and is founder of GreaterPlaces, a startup and member of the tech incubator 1776.


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