60°Light Drizzle

by Mark Kelly — September 1, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark Kelly

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

This week, Governor McAuliffe’s office sent a memo to state agencies asking for proposals to trim 5% from their budgets to help close a $1.5 billion budget gap. The gap is roughly 1.5%, but leaders are working to avoid any cuts to education, so some programs will take bigger cuts than others.

This much more realistic approach comes after Republican General Assembly leaders rejected the governor’s assertion that Medicaid expansion would relieve the budget woes.

Medicaid expansion has actually made state budgets worse. In Ohio, Medicaid expansion cost $1.5 billion more than expected in the first 18 months. In Washington it was $2.3 billion more over two years. And in Kentucky, the state had to pay $1.8 billion more for 2014 and 2015 combined.

And, this is before the federal cost share is scheduled to be reduced in 2017.

You cannot blame a Governor for trying to pass his number one priority. But he should not continue to suggest a program that has failed to have positive outcomes in other states will miraculously do the opposite in Virginia.

The Governor should instead go about the business of getting the government out of the way of job creators in Virginia. Then economic growth can drive tax revenue.

But where do independent groups rank Virginia’s economic potential?

13th by ALEC. This study found twenty-nine states have a lower top marginal corporate income tax rate and twenty-five states have a lower property tax burden.

15th by Wallet Hub. The group found Virginia ranked 21st in “Innovation Potential.”

13th by CNBC. CNBC found Virginia in 36th place when it comes to the cost of doing business.

And, we continue to slide in the wrong direction.

The ongoing (and bi-partisan) effort focusing on economic development incentives is not doing the trick. Nor should we seek out higher, and debt-financed, federal government spending. Instead, our leaders must work to create a more favorable environment for the economy to thrive for all businesses.

by Progressive Voice — September 1, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

Abby RaphaelProgressive 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: Abby Raphael

Arlington is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, with a median 2016 household income of $110,900. Yet 8.8% of all Arlington residents live in poverty, with an income of about $24,000 or less for a family of four. Twelve percent of Arlington’s children live in poverty. Arlington must address the effects of this economic inequality, particularly on our children, in a coordinated way so that all children and families can be successful.

During the last school year, nearly 8,000 students in Arlington Public Schools (APS), 30% of all APS students, were eligible for free or reduced price meals. Families of four with an annual income of about $45,000 or less qualify for this program.

While Arlington students across income levels score well on standardized tests, there remains a relationship between socioeconomic status and achievement that should be addressed. For example, in 2015-16, 71% of economically disadvantaged school students in Arlington passed the English standards of learning tests (SOL), compared with 87% of all Arlington students. For the math SOL, the pass rates were 73% versus 87%.

National efforts to address achievement gaps as part of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) have focused on standardized testing, charter schools, and national standards, known as the Common Core. Diane Ravitch, a former Assistant Secretary of Education and NCLB proponent, concluded in a recent New York Times article that these efforts have failed. Ravitch wrote that one of the main causes of low student achievement is poverty and “[w]hat is called ‘the achievement gap’ is actually an ‘opportunity gap’.”

So, how do we address childhood poverty and the opportunity gap to help all students achieve at higher levels?

First, we must recognize that this is a responsibility of the entire Arlington community and not just APS. Through a shared vision and coordinated efforts of County government, APS, non-profits, businesses, the faith community, and individuals, we can make a real difference. This is the power of collective impact: a model that brings people together in a structured way to achieve positive results.

Community schools, a form of collective impact, bring together school and community resources for children. They integrate academics, health and wellness, social services, and family and community engagement to improve student achievement for all students, especially low-income students. Carlin Springs Elementary School is a community school, supported with federal funding. In addition, Barcroft Elementary School, Gunston Middle School, and Wakefield and Arlington Mill High Schools are community schools, with staffing from Communities in Schools of Northern Virginia, part of the national non-profit network, Communities in Schools (CIS).

CIS was founded 40 years ago by Arlingtonian Bill Milliken, who writes in The Last Dropout that to be successful, students need: “a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult; a safe place to learn and grow; a healthy start and a healthy future; a marketable skill to use upon graduation; and a chance to give back to peers and the community.”

Whether assisted through CIS, federal grants, or other similar programs with track records of success, community schools bring existing community resources together to provide greater opportunities for students and families. National research shows that the community school model works for all of us – improving attendance and performance on standardized tests, reducing behavioral problems, and reducing the dropout rate.

In Arlington, we have many non-profit organizations, faith communities, businesses and individuals partnering with APS and County government that do excellent work to help low-income students. They provide mentors, tutors, food, after-school programs, and more. However, these efforts need to be coordinated in a more systematic way to identify which students have the most need, evaluate what efforts are most effective, and best match the community’s existing resources with those needs.

To best serve our low-income students and families, and to be equitable, Arlington should expand the community school model from five schools that now have it to all schools with significant populations of students eligible for free or reduced price meals. This requires additional staffing to leverage the community’s existing resources, coordinate efforts, establish and monitor measures of success, and communicate effectively.

As APS and County government leaders consider their priorities for the coming budget, I urge them to expand community schools, which have demonstrated effectiveness in improving outcomes for low-income students. Such a strategic investment aimed at economic inequality will benefit the entire community. 

Abby Raphael is co-Chair of Arlington’s Project Peace Prevention Committee, which addresses domestic violence and sexual assault. She also serves as a member of the Board of the Arlington YMCA and the Second Chance Advisory Committee. She was a member of the Arlington School Board from 2008-2015, including two terms as Chair, and is a former Arlington Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney.

by Peter Rousselot — September 1, 2016 at 12:15 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.

Last week, Mark Kelly, my fellow columnist at ARLnow.com, and David Alpert over at Greater Greater Washington each posted a column about fixing Metro. Both arrived at essentially this conclusion:   

Metro can’t be fixed unless its Board and senior management have sufficient freedom to hire and fire.

Discussion

I agree with both David and Mark.

David framed the issue as Metro’s badly needing a culture change:

“Metro’s culture, clearly, is lacking. Many employees, whether front-line or managers, don’t take responsibilities seriously. If employees falsify reports, and their managers encourage them to, and other departments hang up on them without solving a problem, something is very wrong not just with a few people or a department, but a culture.”

Mark focused on the need for Metro to have sufficient flexibility under its union contract:

“The union contract has long appeared to be a substantial impediment to Metro’s ability to move forward. Not only has the union locked in pay scales and overtime provisions, but also makes it extremely difficult to make necessary workforce adjustments as Metro faces ongoing financial strain. Or in this case, seemingly is making it next to impossible to fire employees for cause.”

Metro’s culture can’t be changed without sufficient freedom to hire and fire

Metro’s senior management has no hope of changing Metro’s culture without sufficient freedom to hire and fire its unionized workforce. The most important union in this case is Local 689 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). “ATU Local 689 covers 8,576 workers, or about 82 percent of the unionized workforce, including train operators, maintenance crews, and other employees.”

Metro’s contract with ATU Local 689 is currently being re-negotiated. If the ultimate outcome of these negotiations is a voluntary agreement between management and ATU Local 689 that gives Metro’s senior management sufficient freedom to hire and fire, then there will be a reasonable prospect that Metro’s culture can be changed. These negotiations must not drag out too long.

Metro shouldn’t get a new dedicated revenue stream without first demonstrating that it has changed its culture

Metro critically needs to get a new dedicated revenue stream sufficiently large to enable it to:

  • replace its existing capital assets at the end of their useful lives, and
  • gradually expand the Metro system over the coming decades.

A dedicated revenue stream is usually defined as money that flows from a source–like an earmarked sales or gas tax–that isn’t subject to an annual appropriations process.

Metro is the only major transit system in the United States without such a dedicated revenue stream. While the need for such a revenue stream is critical, this new revenue cannot be provided without:

  • unanimous agreement by Virginia, Maryland and DC on what that new funding source is–and the specific terms and conditions under which funding will be provided, plus
  • federal government approval of that tri-jurisdictional compact.

It is both imprudent and politically impossible for such agreements and approvals to occur without a prior demonstration by Metro that it has changed its culture sufficiently to justify this substantial new investment.

Conclusion

Metro can be fixed if it is able to change its culture enough and in time. If it can’t, the three jurisdictions and the federal government will have to agree upon and enable a new organization to operate this vital transit system.

by ARLnow.com — August 31, 2016 at 10:05 am 0

Clarendon MetroIt’s the week before Labor Day, which — in our experience — is the runner up for slowest week of the year in the D.C. area, second only to the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

There’s not a whole heck of a lot going on locally and lots of people are out of town. The weather is nice for outdoor activities, but otherwise it’s a pretty boring week.

On the plus side, traffic is noticeably lighter than the usual terribleness, everything is less crowded and it’s easier to get a table at popular restaurants.

Do you prefer a slow week like this to busier, more traffic-clogged but less exciting weeks?

by ARLnow.com — August 30, 2016 at 10:20 am 0

The polling place at Barrett Elementary School is slow for the 2014 special electionThe presidential election showdown between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has been endlessly covered on cable news, online and in print this summer. The Arlington County Board race — considerably less so.

Next week, the week of Labor Day, is the traditional kickoff of the local election season, with such landmark events as the Arlington County Democratic Committee chili cook off and the Arlington County Civic Federation candidates forum.

The rule of thumb is that most voters aren’t paying much attention to local races between the primaries and Labor Day.

But that hasn’t stopped certain local candidates from doing some campaigning this summer. Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement, for instance, just sent out a press release detailing a number of campaign pledges, including building more school capacity at a lower cost.

Clement is facing off against Democratic incumbent Libby Garvey in November.

Republican congressional candidate Charles Hernick, meanwhile, sat down for a Reddit Ask Me Anything session in July. And Mike Webb, who’s running as an “independent conservative” write-in candidate in the congressional race, has blasted out some 100 press releases since he lost to Hernick in the Virginia 8th District GOP convention. (During that time Webb also accidentally made national news.)

Hernick and Webb will face incumbent Democratic Rep. Don Beyer and little-known independent candidate Julio Gracia in November.

Our question for readers: what has been your level of interest in these general election races so far? Is it even worth trying to campaign in the summer, or should candidates perhaps stick with the Labor Day conventional wisdom?

by ARLnow.com — August 26, 2016 at 4:30 pm 0

Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Sunny skies should prevail this weekend, making sunscreen a valuable commodity if you hike to historic points of interest in Arlington or attend a police block party this weekend.

If you want to do something indoors, there also are open houses and a new Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirit in Pentagon City to check out.

But traveling on Metro’s Yellow Line could pose a challenge to riders Sunday, when the agency is scheduled to close part of it for a train derailment drill.

Feel free to discuss happenings in Arlington this weekend, or any other topic of local interest, in the comments.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by Mark Kelly — August 25, 2016 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.

 Arlington voters will almost certainly approve another bond for Metro this November. Often voters vote for it without a second thought.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) is fighting to reinstate the mechanic who was fired for failing to report that the ventilation fan at L’Enfant Plaza was not working properly and later allegedly lying about it to investigators.

One disturbing allegation made by the mechanic is that that supervisors pressured him to falsify his report after the smoke incident at the stop. One has to ask, did Metro look into these allegations, have the supervisors in question been admonished in any way, and what steps have been taken to ensure there is no temptation to engage in a cover up in the future?

Those questions aside, ATU is suing in federal court for wrongful termination and to have an arbitrator’s ruling upheld that would require Metro to reinstate the mechanic. Last week, Metro filed a counter suit to vacate the arbitrator’s ruling.

The union contract has long appeared to be a substantial impediment to Metro’s ability to move forward. Not only has the union locked in pay scales and overtime provisions, but also makes it extremely difficult to make necessary workforce adjustments as Metro faces ongoing financial strain. Or in this case, seemingly is making it next to impossible to fire employees for cause.

This legal proceeding will put the union contract to the test and may answer the question of what’s more important, a union contract or rider safety?

If a judge finds Metro can fire this mechanic, then the precedent will be set that Metro has the authority to hold union employees accountable and everyone will be put on notice. If the court rules for the union, Metro will be essentially powerless to truly make rider safety a priority.

If the court sides with the union, it may be time to revisit the issue of whether Metro should be dissolved so it can start over.

by Progressive Voice — August 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

Paul FriedmanProgressive 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: Paul Friedman

When Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order returning voting rights to over 200,000 ex-felons, it led to some 13,000 people around the commonwealth — including Arlington, Alexandria,, Fairfax, Fairfax City, Prince William, and Loudoun residents – successfully registering to vote.

After a Republican legal challenge, the Virginia Supreme Court voted 4-3 to invalidate that order. Now, the governor has issued individual restorations of rights to the 13,000 who had registered and announced procedures for restoring rights for approximately 200,000 additional ex-felons by the end of his term designed to withstand further legal challenge.

At the heart of this issue is whether voting is a right or privilege. A right can only be limited under special circumstances. A privilege is granted by those in power.

Democrats believe voting is a right that should be restored upon completion of a felon’s sentence.

By contrast, Republicans legislators in many states have treated voting as a privilege — leading various federal courts to reject Republican measures discriminating against African Americans and others perceived as likely Democratic voters.

Given Virginia Republican legislators’ efforts to limit people — especially Democrats — from voting, it’s not surprising they thought McAuliffe’s goal was to help Hillary Clinton win Virginia in the upcoming presidential election by expanding the number of people eligible to vote.

In reality, the governor sees voting as a fundamental right and wants to overcome Virginia’s sad history of limiting ballot access. That is why he wants every Virginian who has paid his penalty to society to be able to exercise their Constitutional right to vote — “I personally believe in the power of second chances and in the dignity and worth of every single human being.”

Such votes — even if they skewed Democratic — would not likely change the outcome of the 2016 election in a state Barack Obama won decisively in 2008 and 2012. Given new polls showing Clinton-Kaine with double digit leads in Virginia, Republicans can no longer plausibly pretend that restored voter rights are likely to affect the 2016 outcome.

The governor also wants to end current de facto discrimination and continue moving us forward on the civil rights path — likening voting discrimination to segregation, poll taxes and bans on interracial and same-sex marriages.

Politifact reported the Virginia Department of Corrections’ most recent racial breakdown of its prison population in mid-2014 showed that of “almost 37,000 inmates . . . 58.5 percent were black, 38.6 percent were white, [and] 2.2 percent were Hispanic … [whereas, the] U.S. Census Bureau estimates blacks comprised 19.7 of Virginia’s population in mid-2014.” Thus, the discriminatory impact of depriving voting rights to ex-felons speaks for itself.

This comes on top of Virginia’s tragic treatment of African Americans over the course of its history.

The Virginia Historical Society describes some of it this way:

After the Civil War, African Americans were free but not equal. The Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, were made virtual dead letters by hostile court decisions, culminating in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson, which gave legal sanction to the principle of “separate but equal” facilities segregated by race.

In Virginia, the South, and some northern states, Plessy v. Ferguson both confirmed the status quo and gave impetus to even more rigid segregation laws. For example, Blacks had to sit at the back of streetcars or stand if there were not enough seats for whites. They were made to sit at separate sections of theaters, libraries, and train stations. They could not use water fountains, bathrooms, beaches or swimming pools used by whites. They could only order takeout food from restaurants that served whites. They attended separate, usually ramshackle schools. Social life and everything from sports teams to funeral parlors were segregated.

Even after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, where the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was neither equal nor Constitutional, Virginia fought to retain a Jim Crow world. Its opposition was so infamous it was named “Massive Resistance.”

Through the actions of great Virginians such as former Republican Gov. Linwood Holton (the father of former Education Secretary Anne Holton and father-in-law of her husband, current U.S. Senator and Democratic VP nominee Tim Kaine), Virginia has taken steps to overcome its blatantly racist past.

Now, under McAuliffe, Virginia is taking an essential further step toward overcoming other vestiges of past racism that remain in place today. We should be proud, but far from complacent. There’s still more work to do.

Paul Friedman is the President of Paul Friedman Strategies, a Democratic political and non-profit consulting firm. He also does development work for business clients. He and his wife Lori, long-time Virginia residents, live with their black lab rescue dog Sadie and three-legged tabby rescue cat Martin.

by Peter Rousselot — August 25, 2016 at 12:15 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.

A recent article (“Arlington Studying A Plan That Would Pay for your Uber to Metro”) in The Washington Post triggered feverish comments on its website, ARLnow.com and social media, like:

So my South Arlington taxes will be used to chauffeur the 1% from North Arlington?

Let them snarlingtonians ride in old crowded buses. We want our mini limos!

The county government subsequently issued a media advisory clarifying the nature of the county’s ride-sharing study. The clarification included a denial that a decision had been made to subsidize ride sharing.

According to the media advisory:

The new service is being analyzed for the following neighborhoods, where bus ridership does not meet our productivity standards (at least 15 passengers per hour):

  • Rock Spring, Williamsburg Middle School, and Dominion Hills
  • Chain Bridge Forest, Rivercrest, Bellevue Forest, Gulf Branch, and Stafford-Albermarle-Glebe
  • Douglas Park, Nauck, and Arlington Village

The proposed service could connect these areas to a transit center, such as the Ballston or East Falls Church Metrorail stations, or to a transit corridor, such as Columbia Pike

Discussion

Very low ridership on Arlington’s ART Bus 53 led to suggestions to cancel that route. Some commenters supported outright cancellation (“save the money; refund it to the taxpayers”). For now, this route has been saved, and a study of ride sharing as a substitute has begun.

I agree that ride sharing is worth studying.

One knowledgeable commenter observed that, when he last checked, “ART Bus 53 carried only 11 people per revenue hour and recovered only 12% of its cost.” Regardless of the actual numbers, the principle is certainly valid: if ridership on any ART bus route anywhere in the county drops too low, some action — whether outright cancellation, consolidation with another ART bus route, or ride sharing — are all potentially valid responses.

Standards for a ride-sharing subsidy

Arlington County should study a variety of standards for a ride-sharing subsidy, including:

  • Limiting the trip only to certain origins/destinations, like home to a Metro or bus stop or return home from one.
  • Having a maximum personal individual income ceiling for any participant.
  • Having an over-all dollar cap on program utilization in any particular defined area. (Use a lottery if the program is over-subscribed.)
  • Ending the ride-sharing program, and resuming/substituting ART bus service, if demand rises to a point above a pre-determined level of ART bus service viability (like the current 15 passengers per hour or some higher number).

Types of ride-sharing options

In addition to Uber and Lyft, the county should explore the costs and benefits of partnering with a transit provider like Bridj . Bridj currently offers limited pop-up bus service in D.C. Bridj is considered by some as the best hope to bring urban transportation into the 21st century.

Paratransit policy

County residents with disabilities should be offered the widest possible range of ADA-compliant transit options at the lowest possible cost. The county should study these ride-sharing recommendations from a metropolitan Boston report.

Conclusion

Fortunately, Arlington isn’t grappling with these transit policy questions in a vacuum. Other communities across America are doing so as well. The American Public Transportation Association sees ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft as complementary to traditional transportation options.

Let’s find the best options for Arlington.

by ARLnow.com — August 19, 2016 at 7:30 pm 0

It was a hot and then stormy week for Arlington.

Wednesday’s storms resulted in a large tree falling in the backyard of a Lyon Park home on the 400 block of N. Fillmore Street. As seen above, the tree damaged a fence and also made contact with a detached garage and the house itself. The exact extent of the damage is unclear but no injuries were reported.

For those planning on driving after 10 p.m. this weekend, here’s a VDOT press release sent this afternoon that may be of interest:

Lane closures, including intermittent total stoppages, will occur on Route 110 at the Route 27 interchange weeknights from Monday, August 8 through Friday, August 19 for work on the new overpass, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Traffic will be reduced to one lane on northbound Route 110 each night beginning at 10 p.m. Monday, August 8 through Friday, August 12. There will be full lane closures up to 30 minutes each between midnight and 4 a.m., with all lanes reopening at 5 a.m.

Traffic will be reduced to one lane on southbound Route 110 each night beginning at 10 p.m. Monday, August 15 through Friday, August 19. There will be full lane closures up to 30 minutes each between midnight and 4 a.m., with all lanes reopening at 5 a.m.

Motorists should expect delays and are advised to use alternate routes.

The work is part of the Route 27 over Route 110 project, which is replacing the 75-year-old original bridge. The $32 million project is scheduled for completion in spring 2018.

Assuming you’re not on vacation — perhaps among the mere 37 percent of readers who aren’t traveling this month — feel free to discuss storms, road closures or any other topic of local interest in the comments.

by ARLnow.com — August 19, 2016 at 10:35 am 0

Road Work in RosslynAugust is a slow month in the D.C. area.

Congress is out of session. People are fleeing the area left and right to get their vacations in before the summer ends. This year, many media and political types are on the campaign trail. Heck, traffic becomes somewhat bearable and even the Arlington County Board gets a break for the month.

On ARLnow.com, we haven’t run out of local stories to cover — in fact, this is shaping up to be our highest-traffic August yet — but there’s no denying that the pace of news coverage drags big time compared to a busier month like April or October.

The most oft-cited reason for why August is slow is that people are out of town. Anecdotal evidence — the number of people who we email only to get those automatic “Out of Office” auto-replies — seems to support this. But we wanted to check to see just how many people are fleeing Arlington this month and for how long.

So… unless you’re on military or foreign service duty, or any other long-term absence, how many days will you be out of town in August?

by Mark Kelly — August 18, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark Kelly

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

Last month, Peter Rousellot wrote a column calling for a phase out of the Neighborhood Conservation Program. I agree.

While the idea of neighborhood input is a long-standing and worthwhile tradition in Arlington, the implementation of this particular program has never made sense to me. As Peter notes, the county’s consideration of a project is totally dependent on the quality of civic association leadership. But even then it could wait up to a decade to receive funding — at a much higher cost than if the county had been able to address it in a more timely fashion.

“Progressive” is a buzzword that the party in power likes to throw around. But we should never confuse “progressive” with “willingness to make positive changes.” So while it might make eminent sense to rethink a 52 year-old county program and reconsider the way Arlington addresses neighborhood needs, you might not want to not hold your breath waiting for it to change.

Former Delegate Krupicka outlined a number of issues for job creators trying to do business with the county government. These issues have been well-known among the business community for years, but the county has been slow to address them.

Last year, a move by Board Members Garvey and Vihstadt to re-examine the close out spending process was defeated. The Board voted to continue spending tens of millions of dollars outside the more intense public scrutiny of the annual budget process.

Earlier this year the County Board created a panel to rethink the evaluation of the Comprehensive Plan. This Blue Ribbon advisory panel was not going to be charged with changing policy. It would merely have been formed to make recommendations on how better to allocate county resources. But those who benefit from the current way of doing things rose up in vocal opposition and the Board reversed course, refusing to seek the advice of an independent group.

If nothing else, the County Board should evaluate whether reform to the Neighborhood Conservation Program is needed. However, we should all be aware that such a move would meet significant resistance if not outright opposition.

by Progressive Voice — August 18, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

Joe Montano

Progressive 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: Niharika Chibber Joe

It was a proud week for Virginia when our Senator and former Governor Tim Kaine accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for Vice President of the United States.

That same week was also one of shock and grief as we learned that Joe Montano, one of Senator Kaine’s key aides – and his staff representative in Arlington and across Northern Virginia – had passed away. Senator Kaine’s moving remarks at the Virginia delegation breakfast was a testament to the love that so many felt and feel for Joe.

I would like to put into my own words what the loss of Joe meant to so many people in this area – especially to Asian Americans:

Our dearest friend, Democratic Asian-Americans of Virginia (DAAV) co-founder, AAPI stalwart, community leader, Virginia Democrat, and all-round inspirational kuya Joe Montano was laid to rest in his beloved Norfolk, Virginia, on Sunday, August 7, 2016. He was 47 years old.

Hundreds of friends and colleagues from all walks of life joined the Montano family amidst crying, hugging, laughing, and even dancing and basketball to bid farewell to Joe. Only Joe, say his friends, could pack a church and a high school gym to capacity; shut down major streets; have his Senator and boss, Tim Kaine, deliver a heartfelt eulogy for him; and have everyone in tears and laughter at the same time.

The outpouring of camaraderie, love, and support from Washington, D.C., through Northern Virginia, and all the way down to Norfolk and Virginia Beach in the wake of Joe’s passing has been nothing short of remarkable. But then, Joe was a truly remarkable person.

He was the guy whose laugh long preceded his entrance into a room. He was always the first to jump up to serve his community and the first to lend a hand. He brought people together. He was a uniting presence in the way he lived. And in death, he has united a community of friends and family from each facet of his wonderfully spirited, indefatigable life.

A proud Filipino American, Joe was passionate about social justice issues. He most recently served as Northern Virginia Regional Director of Constituent Services for Senator Kaine.

In a statement released shortly after Joe’s death, Senator Kaine said, “Joe was an outstanding representative of this office, enthusiastic servant of the people of Northern Virginia, and admired colleague by all who worked with him. We will remember him by his positive energy, tireless work ethic, and infectious smile.”

Joe’s best friend Marlan Maralit spoke of him with passion. “Joe Montano’s was a purpose driven life where his actions were explicit and not far from his vision for the world — a world where he was quickly becoming an emerging voice for communities fighting for a seat at the table.”

Virginia Delegate Mark Keam eulogized Joe on his Facebook page. “Joe was one of my closest friends and fellow foot soldiers on the battlefield of civil rights and progressive politics.”

At DAAV, Joe was our go-to guy. He was our sounding board, our adviser, our galvanizer, our rock. He was selfless and dedicated and he immediately put everyone at ease. He was the commanding presence in a room full of people, yet, he was quietly comfortable chatting with high school students.

He fired up volunteers the same way he fired up elected officials — like no other — with a passionate, loudly delivered call to action. He mentored and inspired the next generation, led by example, and encouraged them to give back to their communities. And he did it all with kindness and compassion – with that bright Joe Montano grin, never uttering a negative word.

With Joe’s passing, the Democratic Asian Americans of Virginia have not only lost our star community organizer and activist — we have lost our best friend. Joe is irreplaceable. We miss him dearly. Yet in his honor DAAV members look forward to building on his decades of hard work to elect Democrats at every level across the Commonwealth of Virginia and at the national level.

Maraming Salamat, Joe Montano! Thank you for your tireless service. Rest in peace, dear friend. Your spirit will live on with us. We will not let you down! #LiveLikeJoe #BeLikeJoe

Niharika Chibber Joe is a South Arlington resident. In 2014-15, she served as Secretary of the Democratic Asian Americans of Virginia.

by Peter Rousselot — August 18, 2016 at 12:15 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.

The Virginia Association of Counties recently granted an achievement award to Arlington County’s Startup Arlington program.

Discussion

Startup Arlington is an innovative program. It has generated valuable information about factors that might motivate tech startups to move to Arlington or launch here.

Arlington must continue to bring down its 20.2 percent office vacancy rate. Each one percent in that vacancy rate translates into $3.4 million in lost tax revenue. A continued vacancy rate in the 20 percent range threatens to shift about $800 a year in property taxes onto the average Arlington homeowner.

Startup Arlington Concept

When it began in 2015, Startup Arlington was a competition organized by Arlington Economic Development (AED) to “encourage startups or potential startups on the cusp of finding their first office space to consider Arlington for that first office.” A local extended stay hotel agreed to provide the competition winner with complimentary hotel space for three months, and a local co-working space agreed to provide office accommodations. A local law practice agreed to offer ten hours of legal counseling for the winner, and transportation partners provided access to public transit.

The only costs for the County were those on taxes paid on the hotel lodging and nominal advertising fees, approximately $3,500. The entire value of the program was estimated at $15,450.

Publicity

The existence of the program was publicized via a variety of media, including social media channels estimated to reach more than 180,000 users. A total of 78 companies from 14 states and 13 different technology industries submitted completed applications. Applicants were judged based on criteria ranging from how the company would benefit from locating in Arlington to growth potential and business plans.

To be eligible, applicants had to be (1) from outside the greater DC metropolitan area (thereby avoiding poaching regional companies) and (2) a founder and/or CEO of a technology-based company.

Winning Applicant

The program produced one winning applicant. That winner was Montana-based Oppleo. This company offers a cloud-based software called Sikernes that helps defend against cyber-attacks. Oppleo’s founders relocated to Arlington in November 2015. The company still remains in the area.

Lessons Learned

Various real estate companies and residential complexes have contacted AED seeking more details regarding how AED marketed the program to potential applicants. They expressed an interest in marketing their properties/area to the same entrepreneurial audience Startup Arlington reached.

AED’s business development group cultivated several leads regarding companies that are being tracked to understand when they grow to the point of needing commercial space. AED sees Startup Arlington as an ongoing program providing ways to reach out to company founders who previously may have been unaware of Arlington’s resources and opportunities.  The program also can serve as a catalyst to form new collaborations with Arlington’s existing business and hospitality communities.

Conclusion

An important report by the 2030 Group identified seven private sector clusters (including cybersecurity) that are the most likely to generate the most significant future regional economic growth, and therefore be most likely to generate new demand for office space.

AED can help Arlington showcase its strengths in this highly competitive regional economy by continuing to analyze, publicize and exchange information obtained from worthwhile experiments like Startup Arlington. Repeating the Startup Arlington competition should remain an option.

by Jackie Friedman — August 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm 0

Flower

The weekend has returned and so has the heat and humidity.

Throughout the weekend, temperatures will be in the mid-90s and humidity levels will be in the sticky 60 percent range. There will also be a chance of thunderstorms on both days.

Whether you want to stay indoors in the air conditioning or brave the outdoors, see our event calendar for a listing of things to do. (Admittedly, things are a bit slower around here in mid-August.) Or, if home shopping is your thing, check out some of the open houses happening Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

Feel free to discuss the heat or any other topic of local interest in the comments.

×

Subscribe to our mailing list