80°Partly Cloudy

by Jackie Friedman — June 24, 2016 at 6:00 pm 0

Sign on the door of the Clarendon Starbucks, which is closed due to the Market Common Clarendon power outage

School is out and it’s officially time to kick off summer break.

It looks like a great weekend weather wise for graduation parties, trips to the pool and other end-of-school celebrations. Saturday and Sunday will be sunny with pleasant highs of 83 and 84, perfect weather for going to the Animal Adoption Fair or other weekend events.

One place that was particularly toasty this week was the Market Common Clarendon shopping center, which suffered a devastating electrical fire Tuesday. While the Whole Foods across the street reopened the next day after regaining power, many of Market Common’s stores remain closed, including the adjacent, stand-alone Starbucks (pictured above.)

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

by Mark Kelly — June 23, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

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.

Mark KellyAs part of her State of the County speech to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, County Board Chair Libby Garvey outlined concerns raised by former Delegate Rob Krupicka.

Krupicka experienced frustration with various county processes as he worked to open a Sugar Shack Donuts location on Columbia Pike. For example, Krupicka noted it took six trips to get approval for the sign alone.

In addition to the cumbersome sign process Krupicka called for improvements in other areas, including more coordination between county offices. Krupicka expressed a real concern that County offices do not appear to understand each other’s role. Krupicka rightly said, “That is crazy, as the small business person shouldn’t have to be an expert on government process, the process should be designed to be easy.”

Krupicka called for the ability to submit both applications and payments online, saying “Payments have to be made by mail or in person rather than online and for some things you can’t move forward without payment, so that means waiting in line in the planning office for hours to get your name called so you can hand a check to somebody.”

On this issue of working with the county online, it really is disappointing that Arlington County cannot get it right. Our government often touts its “world class community” status. And the County has made a commitment to the ConnectArlington project to bring high speed fiber to the government and businesses. Receiving online applications and payments from people who want to run a business here should be a simple thing that we could have been getting right a long time ago.

It is no surprise really that Krupicka said it was easier to open his business in Alexandria. This observation should be taken into account as the Board continues to look at the vacancy rate in Arlington – something Garvey also discussed in the speech.

Garvey noted investments in economic development activities. But we better start getting get the basics right first and take practical steps to ensure Arlington really is open for business. You simply cannot make it harder and more expensive to start and run a business in Arlington than your neighbor in Alexandria and expect to win in the competition for new businesses, let alone keep the ones you already have.

Kudos to Garvey for calling attention to Krupicka’s experience. But anyone who has run for County Board in Arlington and had frank conversations with small business owners would have heard these concerns years ago. It’s unfortunate that it took a former Democrat office holder, from Alexandria, to get the Board’s attention.

Mark Kelly is the chairman of the 8th District Republican Committee, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Progressive Voice — June 23, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

Abby Raphael
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 Abby Raphael

Today we celebrate the accomplishments of our high school seniors, as they cross the stage to receive their high school diplomas. This is a time to reflect on how families, friends, schools and the community have supported our students’ success.

In Arlington, we work together to help our young people make good choices to be healthy, safe, and successful in school and in life. Despite our best efforts, many choose to use drugs and alcohol. According to the 2014 Arlington Community Report Card: “Youth who regularly use alcohol and drugs are more likely to be victims of violence, commit violent acts, engage in unplanned and unprotected sex, have trouble in school, and engage in other unsafe activities.”

Thousands of Arlington high school students use drugs and alcohol. Data from the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey in Arlington shows that 33% of 10th and 12th grade students are current users of alcohol (used alcohol in the last 30 days), and 17% of them are current users of marijuana. It also appears that more students are starting to drink alcohol at a young age.

While 9% of 12th grade students reported having used alcohol for the first time before the age of 13, the same survey showed that 16% of 8th grade students began their alcohol use before they became teens.

We are fortunate in Arlington to have the Second Chance Program for middle and high school students to intervene early in their drug and alcohol use.

Now in its fifth year, Second Chance teaches teens about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol and how to make healthy choices. Parents learn how to set clear expectations and limits for their teens. Families can refer their children to the program, which is free to all Arlington residents.

Successful completion of Second Chance also can be an alternative to school suspension and criminal prosecution. That second chance can make a real difference in teens’ lives when they apply for a job, to college, or the military.

Second Chance has its roots in the Partnership for a Healthier Arlington, which found that Arlington teens were drinking at rates higher than the national average and in surrounding jurisdictions. In response, the community recognized the need for an early intervention program. Stakeholders focused on youth came together to create Second Chance, including developing the curriculum and securing funding.

The work continues today under the auspices of the Partnership for Children, Youth and Families Foundation, with the commitment, collaboration and support of the School Board and County Board, Arlington Public Schools, the Arlington County Police Department, the Courts, the Probation Office, the Arlington Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, the Department of Human Services, and many others.

Students referred to Second Chance attend a three-day program, learning about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the developing teen brain, practicing skills to deal with peer pressure, and creating an action plan to help them make healthy choices.

Parents or guardians must attend a three-hour session to educate them as well, to discuss effective communication with their teens, and to help them set clear limits and expectations.

Students and their families return for a booster session to review their action plans and to evaluate what changes are needed for students to remain drug and alcohol-free.

Second Chance has received the National School Boards Association Magna Award and the Virginia Municipal League’s Achievement Award. More importantly, students who have completed Second Chance have changed both their attitudes and their behaviors about drugs and alcohol.

In the last four years, 88% of students referred to the program by APS have not been involved in any additional school substance abuse violations. Students and parents report that Second Chance has had a positive impact on their lives.

Since 2011, about 465 students have attended Second Chance – a small fraction of the number of students we know use drugs and alcohol. Second Chance Program Coordinator Sarah Gortenburg reports that students have been using alcohol or drugs for 9 months to two years before being referred to the program.

Many parents think that teen alcohol and drug use is a rite of passage: it is not. Parents who know or are concerned that their children might be using drugs or alcohol are encouraged to refer them to Second Chance. Together, we can help Arlington youth be healthy, safe, and successful.

For more information about Second Chance, go to: SecondChanceArlington.org, or call: 571-340-8368; or email: [email protected].

Abby Raphael is a founding member of the Second Chance Advisory Committee. She served on the Arlington School Board from 2008-2015, including two terms as Chair. She also is a co-chair of Arlington’s Project Peace Prevention Committee.

by Peter Rousselot — June 23, 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.

In a recent Progressive Voice column, Larry Roberts presented the case for Yes in My Backyard (or “YIMBY”) development as a better alternative than NIMBY. However, many issues relating to future development in Arlington will not present a clear YIMBY or NIMBY choice. The best initial answer will be MIMBY (Maybe in My Backyard).

Discussion

Arlington is forecasting, and our Comprehensive Plan now enables (often on a by-right basis), an estimated additional 75,400 people living here by 2040.

For analytical purposes, it is helpful to subdivide the potential for new Comprehensive Plan development into at least two broad categories: (1) by-right development and (2) development that can only occur via affirmative government action to change existing zoning.

By-right development

A local government like Arlington has limited legal power to constrain plans by a private land owner to develop land according to existing zoning as provided in Arlington’s General Land Use Plan (“GLUP”). Arlington thus lacks the legal power to impose a moratorium on such development just because it might negatively impact schools, parks, or other public infrastructure. If marketplace conditions are right, this kind of development will take place in your backyard or someone else’s whether you like it or not.

What Arlington should be doing right now is to utilize the best available forecasts of population growth to estimate quantitatively where and when this development is likely to occur throughout Arlington. (Recently revised Sector Plans for Rosslyn and Crystal City exemplify plans that substantially increased authorized density under the GLUP.) Next, Arlington should use the best available financial modeling tools to estimate and make public the incremental extent and associated costs of all new public infrastructure (e.g., schools, fire stations, roads, parks) that will be required to serve the forecasted population growth.

Development that can only occur via affirmative government action

Armed with this baseline information, Arlington will have the best available database to determine the impact on the community each time Arlington is asked to take affirmative action to enable new development that exceeds applicable by-right zoning, whether that development is confined to a single site, a localized region around a site, or an entire sector. The proposed increase in density currently envisioned in the Lee Highway corridor is a good example.

Before any kind of new up-zoning is approved, Arlington should make available to the public an estimate of both (1) the incremental public infrastructure costs that would be incurred if the requested zoning change is authorized compared to the public infrastructure costs that would be incurred if the land were developed in accordance with existing zoning and (2) comparable estimates of incremental tax revenues. Loudoun County and many other jurisdictions routinely perform and publicize these project-by-project impact analyses.

If the net incremental public infrastructure costs of approving the up-zoning substantially exceed the net incremental tax revenues, Arlington could choose among a number of different options, including conditioning approval on an agreement by the private developer to pay a portion of the net incremental public infrastructure costs. If this really is not legally possible (which is dubious), more outright denials of requested zoning changes may be the only responsible option.

Conclusion

Arlington and its citizens need to understand the incremental cost and revenue impacts well before the County Board votes on any future up-zoning request. With that information, the community is best positioned to approve or reject discretionary development.

by Jackie Friedman — June 17, 2016 at 8:00 pm 0

Rosslyn Sandbox

Father’s Day weekend is here and so is the great weather.

Saturday and Sunday will be sunny and less humid with highs of 81 and 84.

The perfect weather will bring plenty of opportunities this weekend to celebrate dad in Arlington such as the Columbia Pike Blues Festival on Saturday, and the Crystal Car show and ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk on Sunday.

Feel free give dad a shoutout or to discuss any topic of local interest in the comments.

by Mark Kelly — June 16, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

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.

Mark Kelly

It wasn’t a landslide, but Libby Garvey handily won Tuesday’s primary in the race for County Board. In a presidential election year and with no Republican on the ballot, she is almost assured of re-election in November.

Garvey’s willingness to break away from the insular group think of her predecessors on the County Board earned her a comfortable majority of her fellow Democrats — many of whom had undoubtedly crossed over to vote for Republican-backed Independent John Vihstadt two years ago. Many County Board watchers are now curious whether this will have any impact on the only holdout from the old board, Jay Fisette, and his decision about seeking another term in 2017?

Unfortunately, the efforts of Garvey and Vihstadt on the new audit function of the county took a blow this week when County Auditor Jessica Tucker announced her resignation. Tucker came to Arlington from Fairfax County and she brought a background as a government auditor from the local to the federal level.

As the County Board re-opens the search, they should also use the opportunity to re-examine the charge for the position.

First, the Board should consider candidates with a private sector background. If we truly want to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of our government operations, maybe we should consider someone with experience outside of other government bodies. It doesn’t mean we have to run government exclusively like a business, but running it more like a business could be helpful.

Second, the Board should provide the budget for at least one or two additional dedicated staff members who report directly to the Auditor, not the County Manager. If we are going to have an independent audit function, the office needs to be able to have the capacity to operate independently.

Third, the Board should consider removing the County Manager and Director of the Department of Management and Finance from the Audit Committee. If this function is to be truly independent and report only to the Board, then why does the county staff have a direct say in what will be audited?

Starting over with a new person is an unfortunate step backward. Hopefully the Board will use the opportunity to move toward more independence while working diligently to fill the position as quickly as possible.

Mark Kelly is the chairman of the 8th District Republican Committee, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Peter Rousselot — June 16, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Donald Trump’s campaign has suffered severe damage over the last several weeks.

Four out of ten GOP party insiders are seriously exploring ways to dump Trump as the GOP nominee, but a majority of GOP insiders still believe that would be disastrous because it would flout the will of the people who voted for Trump.

Refusing to be part of any Dump Trump movement, however, is nowhere near the same thing as the type of solid party support that is typical this many weeks after clinching the nomination. As Virginia GOP insiders put it:

“Republicans can’t do anything to hurt Trump now without knee-capping our other GOP candidates up and down the ballot. … It would be like Coca-Cola admitting that Coke Classic is toxic and expecting it not to hurt the sales of Diet Coke. For better or worse, we’re all in this together now. … Let him have it. But Republicans should have nothing to do with him or his campaign. Walk away. Let him lose, in spectacular fashion, on his own.”

Prominent Virginia Republicans, like 10th Congressional District Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, have been highly critical of Trump, describing him as:

“A casino owner who bankrupted casinos … Daddy gave him his money. He played with it … He doesn’t know anything about the economy … I don’t think he believes in anything aside from himself.”

Representative Comstock has returned a $3,000 contribution Trump made to her campaign, but still hasn’t definitively ruled out the possibility that she might endorse him for President.
Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli admitted to NBC 4’s Tom Sherwood that unconvinced Virginia conservatives might just stay home in November, and longtime Northern Virginia conservative activist and former GOP member of the House of Delegates, David Ramadan, said he has suspended his party membership because of Trump’s candidacy.
Signs of serious trouble for the Trump campaign in Virginia already were evident back in April when a Virginia poll found that:

[R]oughly 30% of likely Republican voters in Virginia are unsure whether they would vote for GOP front-runner Donald Trump in the general election if he is their party’s nominee. In contrast, 90% of Virginia Democrats polled said they would support Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the general election, even if they are currently Bernie Sanders supporters.

An examination of voter turnout patterns in the March Virginia Republican Presidential primary confirms that Trump’s likely support in voter-rich areas such as Northern Virginia and the Richmond suburbs will be sustantially weaker than Mitt Romney’s was in 2012 when Romney lost Virginia to Obama. For example, John Kasich received a substantial percentage of the vote in the Republican primary in Northern Virginia, including 23 percent each in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church. Given his recent performance on the national stage, Trump’s appeal to those Kasich voters is likely to be significantly lower today than it was in March.
Mitt Romney himself has stated he will neither support nor vote for Trump because a Trump Presidency would be characterized by “trickle down racism,” “trickle down bigotry,” and “trickle down misogyny.”

Conclusion:

The Trump brand is toxic. The Trump brand sure isn’t Coke Classic. It’s New Coke.

by Progressive Voice — June 16, 2016 at 12:15 pm 0

Joseph-Leitmann-Santa-CruzProgressive 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 Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz 

I am proud to call myself an Arlingtonian. One of the reasons for this pride is that I believe our community recognizes the importance of creating opportunities for all to succeed regardless of one’s country of origin and/or immigration status. Ours is an inclusive community that proactively gets involved in the process of effecting positive change, especially on education-related matters. 

My blended Welsh, Latin American, Jewish and German heritage as well as my having been born outside of the United States and having migrated here at the age of 16 enables me to see immigration from different angles.

I am the descendant of different immigrant communities and experiences. Some of my ancestors sought new and better economic opportunities in the New World (working the mines in Pennsylvania and working the land in Guatemala) and others had to flee Austria to survive fascism and the Holocaust. For those who came to the United States, this country granted them the opportunity to achieve a better life through hard work, service, and education.

Post-secondary education continues to be a critical pathway toward achieving the American Dream. Here in Arlington, we have an amazing organization providing opportunities for low- and moderate-income immigrant youth to be given a shot at achieving the American Dream.

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of being on the Board of Directors of the Arlington-based Dream Project. Dream Project is a non-profit organization with a mission to empower students whose immigration status – over which most had no control — creates barriers to education by working with them to access and succeed in college through scholarships, mentoring, family engagement, and advocacy. 

On June 10, Dream Project hosted the 2016 Scholarship Awards Ceremony at Wakefield High School. On that day, we awarded college scholarships to 76 hard-working young immigrant scholars who graduated from high schools in Northern Virginia.

The young scholars came to the United States from countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

While we are pleased to be able to assist dozens of young scholars in their quest to become American success stories, there is still a lot more work to be done. Just this year, we received over 115 scholarship applications from seniors in more than 15 Northern Virginia high schools as well as from college students who graduated from high schools in this region. Our mentoring program is also assisting students from Arlington, Fairfax County, the City of Alexandria, and even from Prince William County, a jurisdiction that at times has been at the forefront of anti-immigrant legislative efforts. 

I encourage you to be part of our efforts to build bridges and not walls amongst the multiple ethnic and national groups that make up our community.

The logic behind supporting and empowering these immigrant neighbors is simple: the better educated these scholars are the more productive members of our society they can be. As with the hard work, innovation, and success achieved by previous generations of American immigrants, we can all benefit from their success.

Just as importantly, it is the right thing to do for students who have embraced American education, succeeded academically, and demonstrated their commitment to making a positive contribution to our community and our society.

To learn more about Dream Project, please visit www.dreamproject-va.org and engage with us on Twitter. We welcome supporters and community members to assist in our mentoring, advocacy, family engagement and scholarship programs.

Dream Project’s work is guided by our vision of a supportive and inclusive community where all people are empowered through education to pursue their dreams and achieve their full potential. This is the type of community I believe Arlington aspires to be. And that is one of the key reasons my wife and I have made it our home; and why we are raising our two children here.

Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz works for an asset-building organization in Washington, DC and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Arlington-based non-profit organization Dream Project. 

by ARLnow.com — June 9, 2016 at 2:45 pm 0

Erik Gutshall debates at an Arlington Young Democrats eventLast month we asked the two Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the June 14 primary

Here is the unedited response from Arlington Planning Commission Vice Chair Erik Gutshall:

As the June 14 Democratic Primary nears, I ask you for your support and your vote.

I am running for the future of Arlington, not for the past. I want Arlington to stay wonderfully diverse and inclusive. This campaign is about how we go forward together — about seriously getting ahead of our sky-rocketing student enrollment, about addressing housing affordability creatively with a focus on the “Missing Middle,” about providing more ways for people to move around our community, and about a commitment to ensure sufficient open spaces and access to nature — building on Arlington’s successes and our progressive vision to ensure a sustainable future for our kids.

I want to take this opportunity to share my vision, and in the process, hopefully dispel some things about me you may have heard!

On School Overcrowding: It’s time to get ahead of school overcrowding. Enough is enough! The Community Facility Study recommendations give us a blueprint for moving forward. We need to implement them yesterday. With three kids in APS, I am committed to working tirelessly with my School Board colleagues to get this done.

On Fiscal Responsibility: I would be the only small business owner on the County Board. I launched my business right here in Arlington and, in 2012, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce recognized us as the Small Service Business of the Year. I must balance budgets and make payroll and I know the difference between an expenditure and an investment. There will be no $1M bus stops on my watch! I will demand that every tax dollar be spent wisely while ensuring we make smart long-term investments focused on Arlington’s sustainability.

On the “Democratic Establishment”: A year ago, I thought ACDC was a rock band! Though a life-long Democrat, my prior partisan activities were knocking on doors for President Obama and hosting coffees for local candidates. My civic resume includes civic association president, soccer coach, board member for Doorways for Women and Families, and Transportation and Planning Commissioner. I am proud to have earned the support of Arlington leaders representing more than four decades of public service and as a member of the County Board I will answer only to Arlington voters.

On Transportation: The streetcar is dead. I have never proposed bringing it back. I’m not interested in re-litigating the past or dividing us further. I support forward-thinking transportation solutions. From Columbia Pike to I-66, we must invest in enhanced bus service, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian paths. Our focus has to be on moving people, not just vehicles. We must invest in our transportation network, the lifeblood of our economy, to ensure we do not lose our competitive advantage.

On Development: On the Planning Commission, I’ve pushed back against developers, fighting for community benefits like open space and parks to ensure that redevelopment adds value to surrounding neighborhoods. The Planning Commission is a voice for our residents, balancing our adopted policies/plans and the legitimate needs of businesses. We must be careful as we grow. I will ensure that physical changes to our community fabric add to, not degrade, our quality of life. I will make sure Lee Highway is an opportunity for smart planning where we get ahead of and guide development to create the future the surrounding community desires.

On My Mailings: Some have raised concerns with the tone and imagery of my seniors mail piece. I agree that the overall message could have been communicated without such emotional imagery. It’s become a distraction from our continued disagreement on this important policy issue. I remain confident that my mailing content is factual and encourage people to review the citations on arlingtonfacts.com. As 11 current and former elected leaders stated, “We believe that Erik’s well-documented discussion of the issues in the County Board race falls well within the bounds of robust healthy democratic debate.”

I’m proud to have earned endorsements from the Sierra Club, Arlington Educators, Take Action Virginia (a coalition of labor organizations), Greater Greater Washington and 22 current and former Arlington officials.

I am ready to engage with our community as we work collaboratively and creatively to address our challenges.

Arlington Democrats have a very clear choice for the future of Arlington. Let’s turn the page. I ask for your vote in the Democratic Primary for County Board on June 14th. Vote at your regular polling place between 6AM and 7PM.

by ARLnow.com — June 9, 2016 at 2:00 pm 0

Libby Garvey debates at an Arlington Young Democrats eventLast month we asked the two Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the June 14 primary

Here is the unedited response from County Board Chair Libby Garvey:

I have been privileged to serve you on the County Board for the past four years, following fifteen years on School Board, and I am seeking your vote for a second full County Board term. Our work together has helped make Arlington a great place to live, work, and play, but we have the potential to be better. I am running for reelection to the County Board to help Arlington achieve our potential. County government can do that by providing excellent customer service, expanding civic engagement, and helping residents build our community.

We must make sure all our services work well for all people. We recently introduced e-filing of building permit applications so residents no longer have to pay for costly printed drawings and wait to hand them in. In my next term, I will work to continue improving processes and tools like these. I will also work to make it easier for people to get around, including realizing premium bus service on Columbia Pike and throughout Arlington and the region. Regional cooperation is particularly important for transportation because so many of us travel from Arlington to DC, Alexandria, Fairfax, and even Maryland. In my years in office, I have built the relationships we need with leaders around the region to improve Metro and to build new regional transit to benefit all of us. Similarly, I will use my experience to support our School Board as they work to solve our capacity crunch.

Many talented Arlingtonians want to participate in our community processes, but cannot through our traditional, very time-intensive ways of involvement because of family and work commitments. We need to try different ways of connecting so that everyone who wants can interact with their local government. This year, the County Board started webcasting our work sessions so residents can follow our work without having to sit in long meetings. This simple solution makes it easier for everyone to participate. I will continue to push for online tools that allow easy access to public data so residents know what’s happening. I will also work to explore how we can use technology to create new channels for residents to connect with each other and to provide feedback to their government.

We need to make sure Arlington is a place where it is easy for everyone to live and work. This year, I supported dialogues to bring people together on different sides of issues like Fire Station 8 and the Stratford school driveway to discuss options openly before moving forward. Everyone can’t have their preferred outcome, but the people involved tell me that they feel like they are finally being heard and can contribute to the ultimate decision. We still need a strategic plan to bring all of our specific master plans together. Coming up with an overall strategic plan will take time and must include everyone; and we must design a process that brings us together to ensure we hear everyone’s voice and perspective. I look forward to focusing on this process in my next term.

Together with residents and businesses, Arlington County government can be a force for bringing out the best in our community. I ask for your vote on Tuesday to continue serving you to work to realize our full potential.

by ARLnow.com — June 6, 2016 at 8:35 am 0

Traffic map on 6/6/16 (via Google Maps)Today is the first weekday of Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance surge.

Via Twitter there are reports of crowded trains and long waits at stations, although Metro says early indications were that everything was going according to plan. Via Google Maps, traffic appears to be heavier than usual, with lots of red on the traffic map.

Whether you commute via Metro, car or otherwise, we want to know: was your commute slower than usual today?

by Peter Rousselot — June 2, 2016 at 2:30 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.

By some measures, Arlington parks are doing well, but without changing course, we’re falling behind.

Arlington Parks are Ranked 4th in the Nation…

Congratulations to Arlington County on our park system being ranked as 4th among the nation’s 100 largest cities by the authoritative Trust for Public Land (TPL) in its ParkScore® index, based on the three factors of Park Access, Park Size, and Facilities and Investment.

But, Our Parkland Acreage is Already Inadequate for Current… and Future… Population

As I detailed in earlier columns, our public parks and recreational facilities are a core government service. They provide social, health and environmental benefits critical to the quality of life in our community. Unfortunately, as a snapshot in time, the ParkScore® index doesn’t reveal that current demand in Arlington for active and passive parks and recreation already far exceeds current resources. County land acquisition has not kept pace with population growth, resulting in increased shortages and overcrowding of all forms of recreational and outdoor space.

Over a 20-year period, Arlington County acquired an annual average of 3.8 acres of new public parkland. The most recent trend has been lower — just 0.63 acres were purchased in 2015. The result is an ongoing decline in the ratio of parkland per 1,000 residents, declining from a ratio of 10.8 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents in 1995 to 7.9 acres per 1,000 residents in 2015 with a considerably lower average in our high-density corridors.   Our neighbors are doing much better: D.C. has 13.2 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents; Fairfax County has over 20 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, and is planning to purchase an additional 2,015 acres for parks.

Yet, our Comprehensive Plan contemplates the addition of 35,300 households or an estimated additional 75,400 people by 2040, a dramatic increase of 36%. What is now an acute shortage in active and passive park and recreation resources will turn into a crisis by 2040 unless the County accelerates its parkland acquisition now.

We need increased CIP Funding

Unfortunately, the County Manager’s proposed CIP includes only $3 million of parkland acquisition funding for fiscal years 2017 and 2018, at p.B-5, well below funding levels before the Great Recession.

Between 1995 and 2008, funding for parkland acquisition per two-year park bond cycle was between $4.0 and $8.5 million, with most cycles at $8.5 million. Yet between 2008 and 2014, a six year period, parkland acquisition funding, from both bonds ($3.0 million) and budget allocations ($5.47 million), totaled only $8.47 million.

With land in Arlington costing on average at least $4 million per acre and increasing every year, the $3 million of land acquisition funds now proposed for the CIP for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 will potentially purchase approximately only three quarters of an acre of parkland! This is woefully inadequate to meet current, no less projected, demands for passive and active recreation in our County.

Conclusion

The County Board needs to dramatically increase the parkland acquisition funding in the 2017-2018 CIP to at least $8 million, the same approximate level as prior to the Great Recession, for inclusion on the November 2016 ballot.

Let’s ensure that we have adequate parkland for all of our people in the future… and that Arlington continues to rank highly in the ParkScore® index.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Mark Kelly — June 2, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

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.

Mark KellyLibby Garvey and I ran against each other in 2012. At the time, Libby was still undecided on the Columbia Pike streetcar issue. A point I made to everyone I met on the campaign trail who was against the project. Libby won the fairly (for Arlington) close race and eventually came down on the right side of the streetcar issue – becoming the sole dissenting voice on the County Board.

Regardless of whether you agree with her, speaking out against four other fellow Democrats on a signature big ticket issue like the streetcar was an act of political courage.

The streetcar project was emblematic of what the County Board had become — an insular echo chamber. In spite of escalating costs, the project’s questionable transportation benefits, and the failures of the similar D.C. project across the Potomac, the other four Board members were marching forward. They were relying on a years-old “decision” rather than honestly re-evaluating the plan based on current facts and circumstances.

Many Board watchers, including this one, knew that to shake up the status quo, it would require a seismic shift. Only if it was proven a Democrat could actually lose an election in Arlington, would there be an impetus for a change.

Libby seemed to put her finger on pulse of the community. And at the risk of her own career, Libby reached out to support John Vihstadt when he ran as an Independent candidate in late 2013 after Chris Zimmerman’s resignation.

Vihstadt not only won the Special Election, but he handily won the full term in November 2014. The streetcar project was shelved shortly thereafter.

Since that time, Vihstadt and Garvey have worked together on a number of issues to reflect the concerns of a majority of people in Arlington who want to see more fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability from the County Board. Late last year, they even raised concerns about the tens of millions of dollars spent in the closeout process being done with virtually no public comment.

Libby’s decision, however, was not without political consequences. Her willingness to think independently of her party earned her a primary challenge from a fellow Democrat this spring. The case for his candidacy is nothing more than Garvey’s decision to dare to upset the apple cart in 2014.

I offer no endorsement in this race for two reasons. One, I have never endorsed a Democrat. Two, it probably would cost a candidate votes in an Arlington Democratic primary.

I do offer a question. I have often heard Democrats say they want to find Republicans who are willing to work across party lines. Now that they have a fellow Democrat willing to work with an Independent, will Democrat primary voters toss her overboard for doing so?

Mark Kelly is the chairman of the 8th District Republican Committee, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Larry Roberts — June 2, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

Larry RobertsProgressive 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 Lawrence Roberts

In generations past, the American dream for many was a home in the suburbs. That dream served our country and our County well for those who could afford to make that dream a reality.

The growth of the suburbs represented a massive shift of wealth, human capital, employment, education, and innovation away from cities and urban centers that, in turn, saw declines across most measures of urban quality of life.

In recent generations, we have seen continued demand for suburban living matched by a desire by many residents and businesses to be located in urban centers.

Millenials have sought a lifestyle that is less dependent on long commutes and is more focused on transit and urban amenities. Baby boomers who raised families in the suburbs have shown an interest in returning to urban areas to downsize their housing and find walkable communities.

And businesses have shown an increasing interest in locating near transit – in our region that means primarily near Metro stations. This is a competitive advantage for Arlington and is a primary reason for our County to show leadership in improving Metro’s facilities and finally creating a realistic financial plan for system maintenance.

The revitalization of urban and transit-oriented centers need not be at the expense of suburban living. Indeed, the vision of Arlington leaders and taxpayers in supporting high-quality schools and planning for urban corridors near Metro stations, lower density growth along highway corridors, and strong protection of suburban-style neighborhoods has made the County a highly desirable place to live.

But Arlington can’t meet the challenges generated by growth and its own success by striving to keep things just as they are or have been. Keeping the status quo is simply not possible. Retrenchment and disinvestment are even worse.

We must continually move forward or we will inevitably see a decline.

Housing affordability is an issue that requires our attention if we are to move forward. Healthy, vibrant urban centers and nearby suburbs require housing affordability in order to sustain economic growth. A modern economy needs workers across a range of income levels who do not have to commute long distances. When people can afford to live closer to work, then they can free up roads and lessen traffic congestion that constrains an economy.

The unsustainable desire to keep things just as they are has been given the term NIMBY – not in my backyard.

Of course, there have been many times when communities have rejected poorly-conceived projects that would have destroyed neighborhoods, failed to deliver economic returns, or wreaked environmental havoc.

But today, increasing numbers of people view NIMBY actions as preventing the investments in infrastructure and creative housing policies that will be necessary to accommodate the desire of people of all ages to live in settings much like Arlington – urban and close-in suburban areas that have access to multiple transportation options.

Will Arlington continue to achieve a sustainable balance that accommodates growth and preserves neighborhoods? Will we find ways to make housing affordable so that people can live and work in Arlington?

Across the country, communities have done far worse than Arlington in planning for growth and sustainability. The result is a housing crisis with growing demands for building more housing.

The movement is coalescing around the name “YIMBY” – “Yes in My Backyard.”

The epicenter has been in California, which has often been at the forefront of national movements. San Francisco and Silicon Valley are experiencing the most painful housing affordability and displacement problems. But well-organized YIMBY groups have also grown up in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Toronto, Austin, and elsewhere – places that are economic competitors of Arlington and the greater Washington region.

The national momentum will build later this month with the first national YIMBY conference, in Boulder, Colorado.

Hopefully, Arlington will find creative solutions that need not be caught up in a NIMBY/YIMBY battle.

For the foreseeable future, people of all ages will want to move to places like Arlington. We can embrace that trend, try to stop it, or be overrun by it.

Arlington’s success has been due in large part to getting ahead of problems, building consensus, and implementing forward-moving change to avert crises.

It is time for us to meet the challenge of housing affordability through creativity, flexibility, consensus, and uniquely Arlington solutions.

Larry Roberts has lived in Arlington for over 30 years and is an attorney in private practice. He has been active in County civic life. He also chaired two successful statewide campaigns, served as Counselor to the Governor in Richmond, and served as Chief of Staff to the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

by ARLnow.com — June 1, 2016 at 3:30 pm 0

The following letter to the editor was submitted by 26 Arlington residents, regarding the Arlington Public Schools proposed Capital Improvement Plan.

With an exploding school population leading to hundreds of Arlington students spending their school days in trailers, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s proposed solution falls far short of meeting the needs. The Superintendent’s Proposed Capital Improvement Plan (“CIP”) only funds 53% of the needed seats district-wide. Our school system is facing a 4,600 total seat deficit but the Superintendent’s Proposal is for only 2,445 additional seats.

Perhaps the worst looming problem is at the high school level. Arlington will soon be short 2,775 high school seats, but the CIP would fund just 43% — fewer than half! — of the needed seats. That shortfall would be more than enough to fill an entire high school but the Superintendent does not plan to build one.

Instead, Superintendent Murphy wants to use incremental measures such as “internal modifications” to existing buildings, which would leave 1,575 Arlington students without a seat in high school. He would address that huge shortfall by having students attend school in shifts, partnerships with local colleges, and even more trailers. Cost estimates or details have not been provided for these stop-gap measures.

As parents of APS students, we are seriously concerned about Superintendent Murphy’s plan and its inadequate approach to Arlington’s demonstrated school enrollment boom. We don’t want our children to attend high school in shifts or be off-loaded to local colleges because of poor capacity planning. We don’t want our children spending their school days in villages of trailers. We don’t understand why Arlington’s many community centers sit under-utilized while our children sit in trailers.

We believe Arlington can do better for its students, and we call on the School Board, APS Superintendent Dr. Murphy and the Arlington County Board (which controls the overall size of the school CIP) to work together now to create real seats in real school buildings for Arlington’s students.

Bob Adamson, Arlington
Katie Adamson, Arlington
Rasha AlMahroos, Arlington
Jon Berroya, Arlington
Meghan Berroya, Arlington
Sarah Botha, Arlington
Stephanie Carpenter, Arlington
Christopher Carpenter, Arlington
Lee Davis, Arlington
Ben Eggert, Arlington
Kelly Fado, Arlington
Robin Frank, Arlington
Yahya Fouz, Arlington
Brian F. Keane, Arlington
Kate S. Keane, Arlington
Mary Kusler, Arlington
Kim Lipsky, Arlington
Michelle McCready, Arlington
Tamara McFarren, Arlington
Geoffrey Megargee, Arlington
Peter O’Such, Arlington
Valerie O’Such, Arlington
Wendy Pizer, Arlington
Stacy Rosenthal, Arlington
Jesse Rosenthal, Arlington
Laura Simpson, Arlington

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

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