Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
As ARLnow.com previously reported, Representative Don Beyer’s office announced earlier this month that the FAA had scrapped a proposal to transition to a new departure procedure for northbound planes leaving National Airport. The proposed path, known as “LAZIR B,” would direct flights directly over Rosslyn, moving planes further away from Georgetown and restricted airspace around the National Mall.
The problem LAZIR B created
The region has had a growing problem with noise caused in part by recent changes to the regional airspace mandated by the FAA’s NextGen program. In October 2015, a Community Noise Working Group was established with appointees representing communities in Virginia, DC and Maryland. In December 2015, the group recommended the LAZIR B departure procedure to maximize flight time over the Potomac.
How Don Beyer helped
Following the working group’s recommendation, Rep. Beyer wrote a letter to the FAA asking for a more thorough analysis of the noise impacts, and telephoned the FAA Administrator to voice his concerns with the proposed flight path.
Rep. Beyer also was a leader in the effort to find new ways for Arlington citizens to provide feedback directly to the FAA about the increased noise levels they were experiencing. He helped facilitate communication between airport area neighborhoods, local government, and the FAA.
As part of this new community engagement process, the FAA held a September 2016 workshop at Washington-Lee High School to listen to Arlington citizens. At the workshop, Arlingtonians explained their frustrations. Some questioned why Arlington should be subject to more noise so that D.C. residents could have more peace and quiet.
How Arlington County Board members helped
Rep. Beyer certainly doesn’t deserve all the credit for the FAA scrapping LAZIR B. The Arlington County Board also deserves credit. Board members Libby Garvey, Katie Cristol, and John Vihstadt attended the community meeting at W-L, and Garvey wrote a letter to the FAA on behalf of the County Board, expressing concerns about aircraft noise in Arlington:
Arlington County firmly believes that improvements for both those on the ground and the flying public are possible and necessary,” the letter says. However, “it does not seem reasonable to the County that local communities, who are not experts on the needs, constraints and opportunities with regards to aviation, should be tasked with solving this problem.
Rep. Beyer and his regional colleagues in Congress worked collaboratively with the County Board to make FAA more responsive to community concerns.
The flaws exposed in NextGen
All this heightened public scrutiny of NextGen exposed a serious problem. Although its goal for NextGen was to improve efficiency, the FAA used what many consider to be a flawed procedure to estimate the likely noise impacts of the flight-path changes NextGen produced. While the FAA did perform an environmental review of the new flight path, noise impact testing was done through modeling, rather than through in-field testing, without using an agreed upon established baseline noise level.
A much more extensive review of Rep. Beyer’s leadership on these issues can be found here.
As is evident from its decision to scrap LAZIR B, FAA now is listening to and considering community input. This would not have happened without Rep. Beyer’s leadership. Moving forward, the FAA working group will continue to evaluate proposed changes.
In the meantime, the outgoing president, Barack Obama, is leaving town for a well-earned California vacation — but only temporarily, as the Obamas be back and taking up residence in northwest D.C.
In the meantime, feel free to discuss the inauguration, the new administration, or any topic of local interest in comments.
This week’s announcement that residential real estate assessments are up again was not a surprise. The average homeowner will pay an additional 2.3% in taxes for 2017 unless the County Board reduces the tax rate.
By way of further comparison, the average assessed value is now $617,200 which is still lower than the average sales price was $639,137. (The average sales price included new construction while the County’s assessed numbers only take existing homes into account).
So home values remain strong. In the short term, this is good for sellers and investors, but means more money out of your pocket again this year as a homeowner.
It is also “good news” for the County. In the press release announcing the assessment increase, County staff proceeded to make the case that they would need all of your extra money for Metro and schools.
The County is already making that case because the December budget planning forecast showed weaker numbers. When determining the mythical budget gap, they based their numbers on a 2.1% growth in total commercial and residential assessments.
Property values actually increased by 2.9% when you include new construction. Which means the County will now have just under 1% more from these sources to spend for FY 2018 than they anticipated just one month ago. That is a roughly $6 million increase in revenue.
It also means when the Board retroactively approves the tax rate levels later this spring, they will also have more revenue to spend in the closeout process at the end of this year.
How? Our fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. However, every year when the Board approves the tax rate, it applies retroactively to January 1 in the previous fiscal year (current calendar year). So, half of the increased revenue for calendar year 2017 will be available during the closeout process.
The bottom line is County officials will use every part of the budget process available to them to try to maximize the amount of your tax dollars they can spend this year and next. And by telling you it is for schools and transportation, they are hoping you are happy to do it.
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.
By: Kip Malinosky
Democrats must be an effective, aggressive opposition party to President-Elect Trump. When President Obama was elected 8 years ago with nearly 10 million more votes than Senator McCain, in the face of the worst economic crisis in 80 years, Republicans settled on a strategy of total congressional opposition to his agenda.
When President Bush was elected 16 years ago, during a time of peace and prosperity, while losing the popular vote by 500,000 votes, dozens of Democratic legislators voted for Bush’s tax cuts and the war in Iraq.
Now President-Elect Trump will take office while losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, what will Democrats do?
To me the answer is clear. We must resist, organize and try to win every elected office we can through 2020. It’s unfortunately more apparent than ever that playing nice in politics is dangerously naive.
People mostly view politics through the prism of the presidency: if the President is popular his party performs well and if he is unpopular his party performs poorly. We should not hurt people through legislative resistance. Therefore, we should avoid anti-government and economy-damaging tactics like the Republican threat to default on our national debt.
But on every effort by the Republicans to push nominees and legislation that are contrary to the will of a majority of American voters, Democrats should place holds, filibuster and vote no. If Republicans are willing to pursue a radical conservative agenda based on a razor-thin victory in a few states that created an electoral majority for the President-Elect, we Democrats must resist.
Let’s make no mistake, Trump’s agenda is frightening: beginning a new nuclear arms race, mass deportations, a Muslim travel-ban, stripping away every regulation preventing runaway climate change and of course, massive tax cuts for billionaires. There’s no giving a President with these plans a pass, especially one who got a smaller percentage of the popular vote than Mitt Romney, who in turn lost decisively to President Obama.
Even on an issue where there would seem to be symmetry between the parties, like infrastructure spending, what Trump is proposing would harm more than help the country. As Bernie Sanders put it, “Trump’s plan to repair our infrastructure is a scam that gives massive tax breaks to large companies and billionaires.” It skimps on public investment and is a giveaway to proponents of projects that would have been built even without the tax cuts. Voting ‘no’ is the principled and politically advantageous position to take.
In 2004, when President Bush was re-elected, he bragged about earning political capital and intending to spend it on privatizing Social Security. Congress stopped him. Democrats in the minority were united in resistance, Republicans in the majority were divided, and Democrats won. Bush’s second-term agenda unraveled shortly thereafter. Once again, the specter of privatization of Social Security and now even Medicare, along with repeal of the Affordable Care Act haunts the land. Democrats need to be united in resistance to these privatization schemes.
Ironically the Tea Party, formed in large measure to prevent the Affordable Care Act, may show the best tactics to save Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act itself. Several Democratic congressional staffers created a guide (www.indivisibleguide.com) to show how the Tea Party was stunningly effective at grinding the gears of Congress to a halt.
In short, we need to focus on members of Congress, partner with other progressive groups, and advocate resistance to Trump’s agenda through attending town halls, district office meetings/sit-ins and coordinated calls.
You can meet one of the authors, at our Commonsense Commonwealth Rally with Leah Greenberg this Sunday at Mad Rose Tavern.
Arlington Democrats have already initiated action by taking a resolution against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Medicare.
And you can call Senator Warner’s office at 703-442-0670 and call Senator Kaine’s office at 703-361-3192 and tell them to join us in resistance.
Finally, we need to win elections at the state and local level. We can start now. In Virginia a new Governor will be elected this year. We have two great candidates — Lt Governor Ralph Northam and former Congressman Tom Perriello vying for the Democratic nomination. You can hear them both speak this Sunday at the Commonsense Commonwealth Rally.
For the New Year let’s resolve to resist and win.
Kip Malinosky is Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee. A different version of this column originally appeared in the ACDC Voice.
The start of the 2017 Virginia legislative session has brought with it a batch of proposed bills relating to voting rights.
Many of these bills address issues that have been raised in the recent past, and have — rightly or wrongly — provoked hyper-partisan arguments between Democratic and Republican legislators and governors. Well-known examples include bills on voter ID requirements and re-enfranchisement of convicted felons who have served their sentences.
After the passionate arguments on both sides have been made, it won’t be surprising if the current law on issues like those specified above remains the same after the 2017 Virginia legislative session ends.
Both Democrats and Republicans should support no excuse absentee voting
No excuse absentee voting has been enacted by a majority of U.S. states — both “red states” and “blue states.” You can see which states have adopted no excuse absentee voting here.
Like other voting rights issues, Arlington voters could only obtain the right to no excuse absentee voting if that right is enacted at the state level because Virginia is a Dillon Rule state.
Virginia has developed a series of 15 narrowly-defined “excuses” that entitle voters to vote absentee. Unless your reason for wanting to vote absentee fits squarely within one or more of the 15 categories on the authorized list, you can’t vote absentee. Review the 15 categories here.
No excuse absentee voting is good for Virginia
Virginia’s current system should be changed. It should be replaced by a system that permits any qualified voter to vote absentee without first having to provide any excuses.
The bedrock reason why the current system should be changed is that experience in other states has demonstrated that no excuse absentee voting offers a greater number of qualified voters the opportunity to choose their elected officials. The broader the base on which our political leadership rests, the more likely that decisions made by our leaders will be respected.
Opponents of the no excuse system have argued that it encourages too many voters to vote too early, thereby foreclosing their opportunity to vote based on late-breaking developments in a political campaign. There is no question that some voters experience such regrets some of the time. Weighing this risk against the depression of voter turnout under the current system, the benefits of providing greater opportunities to vote outweigh the risks that some voters might regret that they voted too early.
Virginia 2017 legislative status
Del. Betsy Carr of Richmond is sponsoring HB 1935, to establish no-excuse, in-person absentee voting in Virginia. However, at least at this writing, no legislation has been introduced to establish no excuse, absentee voting by mail.
The Virginia ACLU properly has pointed out the reasons why no excuse, absentee voting by mail also should be approved for Virginia’s voters:
If Virginia law limits no-excuse absentee voting to in-person only, qualified voters may be excluded from participating based upon a lack of readily accessible transportation, geography, income status, physical disabilities, and the constraints of modern-day individuals and families.
No excuse absentee voting should be a subject on which Virginia Republicans and Democrats can agree. No excuse absentee voting will enable more Virginians to vote. The patchwork quilt of 15 authorized excuses that we have now should be replaced by: no excuses necessary.
This week’s big stories included Sehkraft Brewing closing, America Seafood closing and its owners moving, Lyft and Uber insanity in Crystal City, a dog rescued from an apartment fire on Lee Highway (photo above) and hateful graffiti that was turned into peace signs near Yorktown High.
The week will end with Arlington County’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. tribute event, on Sunday from 5-6:30 p.m. at Wakefield High School. The event is free but all tickets appear to have been claimed.
We’ll be publishing a post or two Saturday, during the expected snow and ice event. Following that, like many others, we’ll be off Monday for the observance of MLK Day, though Startup Monday will be published as usual and we’ll be here should there be any breaking news to report.
Your regularly-scheduled local news coverage will resume Tuesday. In the meantime, feel free to discuss the stories above or any other topics of local interest in the comments.
Photo courtesy Andrew Pang
Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.
Many of our daily appointments consist of pets that are not feeling well for a variety of reasons. In many instances, we can determine the problem and treat effectively by obtaining a thorough history, performing a comprehensive physical exam, perform in-office diagnostics or send lab work out to a reference laboratory, and dispensing appropriate medications or treatments. However, in some instances, problems may be more complicated or require diagnostics beyond the scope of a general practice, and a veterinary specialist may be recommended.
Many people are surprised to hear that there are specialists for animals! So, what exactly is a veterinary specialist you may ask? A veterinary specialist is a veterinarian who has gone through at least four additional years of training above and beyond the four-year veterinary school education. This typically consists of a one-year internship program, followed by a three-year residency program focusing on their preferred area of specialty. They then have to sit for their national specialty examination before receiving their board-specialty certification.
Below are some examples of specialists and why we may refer a pet to them. We’ll discuss other specialities in two weeks with our next post.
Emergency & Critical Care Specialist: Let’s face it, sometimes our pets get so sick that they needs some pretty intensive care! Emergency clinics that have a criticalist on staff have the capacity to do some extremely intensive care, including ventilatory support (i.e. breathing for the patient in an acute lung injury), in-hospital feeding tubes, extensive nursing management and tend to be on the cutting edge with treatment options for some really complicated, really sick cases.
Internist: When we just can’t seem to find the answer to a pet’s metabolic woes or advanced diagnostics (such as endoscopy or bronchoscopy) are needed — and an internal medicine specialist is often recommended. They excel at complicated case work-ups and are very good at long-term patient and chronic disease management. The types of cases that we often request their assistance with are complicated diabetics, certain respiratory disease, multiple metabolic disease processes occurring at once, and certain infectious, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Their wealth of knowledge can be invaluable with making treatment decisions and when changing medications, doses, etc. to find just the right balance for a given patient. Subspecialties within internal medicine include:
Cardiologist: Sometimes we will hear a heart murmur or abnormal heart sound when performing a physical examination. A murmur is turbulent blood flow through the heart, but just listening to the heart doesn’t tell us exactly why the murmur is present. In these cases, we will refer your pet to a veterinary cardiologist to perform an examination and an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart). This will help determine the source of the abnormality. Puppies and kittens may have congenital abnormalities that can be fixed via surgery. Cardiologists also can place pacemakers in certain conditions where the abnormality has to do with the electrical conduction through the heart.
Neurologist: Unfortunately, sometimes our pets go through a variety of neurological disorders. This can include herniated disks in their back, tumors within the brain, congenital abnormalities, seizures, etc. Seeing a veterinary neurologist can help narrow down the cause for some of the signs you are noticing at home and they can also perform MRIs/CT scans on your pets to determine the next best step for treatment. Veterinary neurologists are also trained to perform spinal and brain surgeries.
Oncologist: Many types of cancers in veterinary patients can be surgically removed by your primary care veterinarian, but there are certain types of cancers that do best with surgical removal followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. These are two types of treatments have to be administered by a veterinary oncologist and may help prolong the quality of life-span of your pet.
Surgeon: Most primary care veterinarians can perform routine surgeries, including limb amputations. However, sometimes your pet has injured themselves to the point of needing a veterinary surgeon to repair the damage, or requires a complicated surgery that is beyond the scope of general practice. Examples of this include torn ACL repairs, performing a total hip replacement, complicated tumor removals, surgery entering the chest cavity or around the heart, repairing complicated congenital defects, to name a few.
Veterinary specialists are great resources for your pets when your primary care veterinarian thinks their expertise will be needed to help make your pet feel better, faster! We are fortunate to live in an area with numerous specialty-trained veterinarians to help us provide the best care for our pets.
The fireworks from the January 3 County Board kick-off meeting were generated by the partisan efforts of the three lowest vote-getters on the Board during the Vice Chairman election. The remainder of the meeting went to script, except for the little noticed move to make it harder for Arlingtonians to request a public hearing on an agenda item.
As with every year, each Board member also made remarks outlining their thoughts for the upcoming year. You can find links to all five here. And the speeches could be summed up like this: “We have a tough job, but take heart, we’re doing it pretty well.”
While re-reading the rather predictable speeches, I began to ask: what would a majority of Board members say in their speeches if they were being completely honest with the people?
“Projecting the future is hard.”
Just ask the local meteorologist. Or ask the county staff which never gets the revenue projections right (the underestimates fuel the annual year-end spending spree). Or you can ask the School Board who for years operated under the projections that school enrollment before having to pivot and face rising projections. The truth is enrollment was almost certainly never going to get as low, and may not get as high, as projected.
The bottom line: the Board should let projections inform decisions, but they should never be the only thing that informs the decisions.
“We cannot exactly account for how every dollar of the County’s budget is spent.”
John Vihstadt has asked county staff for a detailed accounting of payments to all of the county’s consultants and contractors. So far, it sounds like staff is balking at putting a spreadsheet together for him.
“But we sure enjoy spending as much as we can get away with.”
Every year the Board points to budget shortfalls but still manages to increase spending, increase revenue and spend all of the hefty year-end surplus. And they come up with shiny object projects like a Georgetown gondola as new priorities while Metro continues to flounder.
“Regardless of the initiatives we point to, we will not solve the affordable housing issue.”
Board members talk about it every year as a priority, and every year fight a losing battle because they are up against immovable market forces. But hey, the Board did pass overly restrictive rules on accessory dwelling units and Airbnb.
“We plan to blame the Trump Administration for everything that goes wrong the next four years. And if a Republican is elected Governor of Virginia, some of it will be their fault too.”
Some on the Board have already hinted at this move. It almost certainly will happen.
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: L. Karen Darner
The recent public spat over the Vice Chair election at the County Board’s organizational meeting was a sad new chapter in our civic life.
The simple and standard selection of Board leaders from the ranks majority was instead turned by Mr. Vihstadt into a public and political issue. The move was unnecessary and unwise at a time when federal and state Republicans are moving aggressively to undermine liberal values, policies, and programs strongly supported by Arlington’s electorate.
The meeting should have focused on community issues and aspirations, not overtly political efforts followed up by a paid Facebook ad seeking to capitalize politically on the Vice Chair maneuver.
I have attended over 30 such organizational meetings. At nearly all, we had on display hard work and collaboration of Board members to build a place where people want to live and work, of which most of us have been very proud — as we should be.
Board members shared their priorities for the new year with County residents and voted for Chairs and Vice Chairs collectively identified as best able to lead the County forward.
The County Board has had a decades-long liberal majority of Democrats and/or Arlingtonians for a Better County members.
Arlington voters still maintain a strong liberal voting record. All but one of our elected officials locally, in Richmond, and on Capitol Hill are Democrats — generally elected by wide margins.
Arlington voters in 2016 gave Hillary Clinton an extraordinary victory margin — a reflection of liberal values and fears of what Donald Trump and highly partisan Republicans would do to undermine so much of the progress made by Democrats.
Our County Board has reflected the electorate’s support for a government that promotes those values, implements progressive policies, conducts government with fiscal prudence and a strong safety net, and delivers public services efficiently and effectively.
For those reasons, I believe that Arlington voters expect the County Board — with a 4-1 Democratic majority — to be led by Democrats.
And until now, Board members have been able to work together, without partisanship and overweening personal ambition, to elect Chairs and Vice Chairs.
Through it all, we saw high levels of mutual respect. When Board members did not agree, we saw healthy discussion, persuasion and compromise focused on what’s best for Arlingtonians. We learned the rationale for policies, processes or projects, changes that might be possible and how compromises were achieved.
Unfortunately, in the last few years, we saw increased divisiveness in our politics — pitting parts of the County against each other and an elected official hurling accusations of impropriety and unethical behavior against elected colleagues.
When I endorsed Katie Cristol (and Christian Dorsey) to be 2015 Democratic nominees, I looked forward to returning to a more positive mindset. I saw Katie as a creative mind with a strong commitment to Democratic values — the worth of each person, quality education, fairness and justice, compassion and unselfishness.
She has developed a strong track record on the Board, fusing her interest in public policy with a practical sense of good governance and an openness to hearing and understanding the viewpoints of all Arlingtonians. She has represented us ably in her regional responsibilities.
An added plus is that Katie’s a millennial. Giving someone from the next generation a chance to step up, especially in a county with the highest proportion of millennials in the country, provides for an important perspective.
To favor Katie for the Vice Chair position is not to denigrate the John Vihstadt’s public service. But John is neither a Democrat nor a liberal.
The January remarks by each Board member about priorities and policies reflected substantial difference between Mr. Vihstadt and his Democratic colleagues. He sounded like a Main Street Republican — and someone with a partisan perspective.
The Board Chair and Vice Chair are the public face of our community and set the Board’s agenda. Our leadership team should not equivocate on fundamental Democratic values that have made Arlington such a great community.
Moreover, at a time when liberal values will be under threat at the state and federal levels by highly partisan Republicans, it is certainly not time for decidedly Democratic urban and suburban jurisdictions to turn to a Republican to lead our governing efforts.
That’s why Mr. Fisette and Ms Cristol were properly selected as County Board leaders and spokespeople. They represent what Arlington stands for and they will continue to work with all residents to seek solutions while showing respect to the people of Arlington.
Karen Darner served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1991 to 2004. In 2009, she received the Arlington Community Foundation’s William T. Newman Jr. Spirit of Community Award in recognition of over 30 years as an educator and an active member of numerous community organizations.
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.
The gap between demand and available parkland has resulted in conflicts among users and between users and adjacent communities negatively impacted by intensified use. Examples include controversial conversion of “multi-use” green areas at Virginia Highlands Park to sports uses, limitations on multi-use of a baseball field at Bluemont Park and plans to install new lighting on fields at Discovery ES/Williamsburg MS.
The current approach to resolving these conflicts seems ad hoc, with at least the appearance that those users who are best organized and advocate the longest will prevail. As I noted last month, County staff may not always be serving as neutral facilitators in proposing changes in use and then resolving ensuing conflicts.
The POPS Update Advisory Group is currently working on an update to the Public Spaces Master Plan, and has recognized the importance of responding to the wide range of park and recreation needs in the community.
Current parkland uses
Although there are many uses of our parkland, one possibly useful perspective is that there are four overall “use” categories:
- (1) natural areas and wildlife habitats,
- (2) designated sports fields and court areas,
- (3) “multi-use” green areas, and
- (4) other use-specific facilities, e.g., dog parks, playgrounds and pavilions.
Staff has undertaken mapping current natural areas, sports fields and other uses in our parks. Completion of this project could provide a baseline against which to assess proposed new uses or changes in current uses.
Guidance as to desired uses
The County has published the results of its statistically valid 2015 Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment Survey which indicated that natural areas and wildlife habitats–as well as hiking trails–were two of the three most important outdoor facilities to respondents.
Possible framework principles
Therefore, one core principle for approaching conflicts in use is that we must preserve and enhance our remaining natural areas. Once lost they are unlikely to be replaced. Other core principles are ensuring continued adequate availability of multi-use green areas as well as distributed and equitable access to all park amenities. Finally, with limited park resources, not every possible use can have its own allocated, exclusive space, nor should it.
Longer term approaches
The primary driver of these conflicts remains the demand/park resources gap. The best way for the County to minimize these conflicts is to undertake an aggressive parkland acquisition program, including the Board adopting the goal set forth in last year’s Civic Federation resolution for the County to acquire on average 3 acres of new parkland per year. The Board must then authorize sufficient ongoing funding to support this goal through both planned and opportunistic acquisitions.
Even aggressive land acquisition will not by itself adequately close the demand/resources gap, and the County needs to also “create” new space, especially for sports activities, e.g., basketball and tennis courts and soccer fields in high rises and on top of buildings.
With 63,000 more residents by 2040, people will need parks more than ever. Committing to and funding the aggressive land and space acquisition goals discussed above, and implementing a conflict resolution framework, can convert too limited parkland into diverse and accessible parkland.
While it’s impossible to know how the year will end, we do know a bunch of the milestones — including local events and openings — that will be taking place along the way.
Which of the following 20 things are you most looking forward to this year?
This biweekly column is written and sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.
Elizabeth Dexter is a Watch Officer, for the Office of Emergency Management in Arlington.
Life Happens. Life is messy. — In 2007, my trip into work took four hours. It normally takes 45 minutes. I left the house while it was raining, but it quickly turned into snow. I remember being angry and stressed that I was going to be late for work. Almost everyone has a similar story, whether it was the Angry Inch or Snowzilla (in 2016), or Snowmageddon (in 2014). After each of these events, people often ask, “How can I stay informed about things like this? How can I avoid these emergencies?”
Can You Reach Me Now? — As technology continues to improve, so do our options for being notified about emergencies where we work, live and play. In the past, people had to wait for a radio broadcast, the 11 o’clock news or newspaper to find out if an emergency was happening in their area. Now people have access to several notification methods:
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) — Ever been startled by a blaring siren on your phone? It was probably a WEA. These alerts are sent out to all cell phones inside a designated area. These messages only happen in rare situations:
- Alerts issued by the President of the United States
- AMBER Alerts
- Alerts involving the immediate threat to life
Arlington Alert — If you’ve heard us say it once, you’ve probably heard us say it 1,000 times: Arlington Alert is a free service that provides you information when major traffic events, mass transit issues and other emergencies occur in Arlington. It also issues weather alerts from the Weather Service. These alerts can be set up to go to cell phones, pagers or even an email address! In certain situations, they can even call a phone and deliver a message by voice.
Emergency Subscriber Listings (you may have heard this also referred to as “Reverse 9-1-1) — A system that uses landline listed and unlisted telephone numbers to call the home or business and relay critical information. Here in the county, this has been used to tell individuals about police activity in an area, and also to ask for assistance in looking for a missing child.
Facebook Safety Check — If you happened to be in an area where a major crisis has happened, they will allow you to mark yourself safe and let you see which of your friends who are also in the area have also checked in. On the same page, you can also get basic information about the crisis (location, date, what happened and who to call for assistance).
Social Media — It’s fast, it’s crowdsourced and it can be accurate — but not always. Many people have turned to social sources like Facebook and Twitter for information about what’s going on around their neighborhoods. The quantity and quality of information can be mixed, so don’t forget to check verified, official sources as well. For instance, on December 13th, residents had questions about sirens they heard in South Arlington on I-395. Many people took to Facebook and Twitter to ask questions and share what they knew or had seen. Someone tweeted at the Arlington County Police Department and ACPD responded with an official explanation of what was going on — even before the story broke here on ARLnow!
It’s not just Social Media — In the moments after the Paris Terror attacks businesses, such as Airbnb and Uber, reached out to their customers to let them know what had happened and actions they should take.
The traditional New Year’s Day meeting for the County Board moved to Tuesday night. Insert sad trombone sound here as this probably marks the end of the traditional January 1 meeting.
In what came as a surprise to few, three Democrats on the Board refused to give Independent John Vihstadt the position of Vice Chairman. Vihstadt has been a community leader for three decades and has served on the County Board for nearly three years.
Newly installed Chairman Jay Fisette, along with Board Members Cristol and Dorsey, rejected Vihstadt’s nomination. Instead, the Board chose first-year Board Member Katie Cristol.
The reasons given by each of the three Democrats could basically be boiled down to two things. First, they used the “we’ve always done it that way” excuse. The majority party, they said, has always elected one of their own to serve in that role. Second, they argued that Vihstadt did not represent the values of the community.
In case they missed it, Vihstadt won not one, but two elections over the Democrats’ nominee. And he won both handily. The message they should have received from those elections is that nearly 35,000 Arlingtonians do like Vihstadt’s values. In fact, that’s nearly 12,000 more votes than Ms. Cristol received, nearly 11,000 more than Mr. Dorsey, and more than the average votes received by Mr. Fisette since he was first elected.
The three Democrats’ message back to the voters was simple — at the end of the day, partisanship and protecting the status quo trumps all. Voters should take note as Chairman Fisette may be asking them to re-elect him later this year.
On a lighter note, under a unique quirk of Virginia law the County Board could elect an individual to act as a tie breaker to cast the deciding vote in the unusual event that the Board was deadlocked on a question. The Board waives the appointment of a tie breaker every year which means if there is a tie vote, the motion fails.
If the Board ever changes their mind, I am happy to serve.
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: Jay Fisette
The following is an excerpted version of a statement delivered at the Arlington County Board’s January 3rd Organizational Meeting. The full text will be available on the County web site.
It’s said that the only constant in life is change. But the pace and impacts of change vary greatly. This year is likely to bring dramatic, unsettling changes in our national government and internationally. Arlington will feel some effects, but respond as we have before in times of turbulence and more gradual change: with sensible actions, shared community vision, thoughtful dialogue and open debate.
What makes us such a healthy community?
Let’s recognize how fortunate we are in our location next to the Nation’s Capital, income and education levels, community values, and tradition of strong, open government with engaged citizens.
Arlington continues to excel in the provision of core government services — public safety, education, transportation and basic social services for those in need. Of course we’re not perfect, yet in our last resident survey, overall satisfaction with the quality of local government services remained at 89% — 32 percentage points above the national average.
Our smart growth planning is a national model, relying on transit and thoughtful land use planning as prime engines of redevelopment. Our resulting tax base is well balanced between commercial and residential properties. Our tax rate is among the lowest in the region. Our triple-AAA bond rating reflects strong fiscal management. Our unemployment rate remains the lowest in Virginia and well below the national rate.
So what’s our job in 2017?
Listen and lead.
Ensure Arlington continues to move forward.
Improve the predictability and equity of services with County agencies responsive to residents’ and businesses’ questions and needs.
Harness technology, adapt to the sharing economy and improve our communication and notification tools.
Some challenges I intend to focus on in 2017 are: (1) the need for facilities, including schools, within constraints of limited land; (2) strengthening economic competitiveness; (3) housing affordability; (4) environmental sustainability; (5) METRO; and (6) staying true to our vision and values.
On facilities, we continue to work well with our elected School Board colleagues — as partners in local government, sharing fiscal resources, facilities and land. We are all in this together. We all need fire stations, bus storage facilities, parks, schools and more.
Regarding economic competitiveness, our commercial vacancy rate has recently dipped below 20%, though still much higher than our historic averages. We have attracted and retained businesses, but must continue to brand Arlington as an innovation economy hub and market our assets aggressively.
Affordable housing has become a bellwether issue that expresses the soul of our community. We are victims of our own success. Far more people want to live here than we have homes to fill.
To further the Affordable Housing Master Plan, we will review and update our accessory dwelling unit ordinance, consider tools for preserving our attractive and affordable garden apartments, and explore more options for people of modest means, multi-generational households and aging in place.
Environmental sustainability is our generation’s planetary challenge. Arlington must be a leader. Our 2013 Community Energy Plan was adopted after three years of collaborative effort. We did not just sign a proclamation. We have implemented policies and programs to achieve our targets.
Ensuring the success of METRO is the region’s top priority and will require all our attention in 2017. It is a backbone of our transportation network and our economy. 84% of office development in the region’s pipeline is within ¼ mile of a METRO station.
WMATA, under strong new leadership, has taken bold steps to address the system’s safety and reliability. Having the only large U.S. rail system without a dedicated funding source, we must help our region find a sustainable path forward.
A significant task in 2017 will be to advance our values, our vision and our community ethic as we collectively grapple with broader uncertainties and threats to social and environmental programs and individual liberties anticipated with the incoming federal administration.
Local governments will be called upon to lead. Communities like Arlington can serve as a model for combining progressive social policies with conservative and responsible fiscal policies.
Arlington must continue to: stand by our convictions; pursue our aspirations; value the common good; prize public education; look after the most vulnerable among us; strengthen environmental protection; build public trust through broad civic engagement and careful fiscal management; and treat our foreign-born residents with respect and human dignity. We embrace people’s differences as a source of this community’s strength.
Arlington will work to create a more sustainable, equitable and healthy community — a community that works. We will do this together.
Jay Fisette will serve as 2017 Arlington County Board Chair. He was elected to the County Board in 1998 and previously served as the Board’s chair in 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2014.