by Progressive Voice — September 10, 2015 at 2:00 pm 736 0

Michelle WoodsProgressive 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.

Labor Day is the traditional start of campaigns in Arlington, and the time between now and Election Day will be full of candidate debates, forums, joint appearances and neighborhood events.

Arlington County is attractive to many because of its history of smart growth, walkable urbanism, a population with the highest levels of educational attainment, and an unemployment rate half the size of the nation’s average.

At the same time, however, Arlington can be a transient location for millennials, young couples looking to start a family and families headed by single women, due to steep housing prices and other high costs of living.

I believe 2015 will be a year in which issues that resonate particularly with women will be an important feature of the campaign season. These issues involve some of the greatest opportunities to improve the welfare, quality of life and advancement of Arlingtonians.

We all need to work together to ensure a safe community. A recent series of attempted sexual assaults in Arlington show us we cannot take safety for granted. The three different failed attempts reported by Arlington County Police Department in July have made many women in Arlington, like myself, reconsider our everyday decisions about how to most wisely travel from location to location.

In addition to greater mindfulness about risks and supporting the efforts by law enforcement officials and officers on the street to deter assaults and apprehend those who have committed assaults, we should address gaps in justice for survivors of sexual violence.

One important priority is ensuring the availability in Arlington of SAFE kits and SANE programs, and reducing backlogs in the processing of rape kits.

Another priority is supporting and monitoring the County’s work with nonprofit organizations to extend the County’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline services to sexual violence hotline and companion services. We also need to ensure sufficient staffing of our Violence Intervention Program.

Quality of life for women and families in Arlington is about more than safe communities.

Economic opportunity for women often depends on access to affordable and stable housing options, quality schools and lifelong learning opportunities for their children and themselves, and sensible child care options.

Housing stability is a key consideration for women and men of all ages in Arlington. Rising rents and home prices create concerns that people will be forced out of their communities. Our economic vibrancy, and our capacity to attract business and employers, depends on the continued economic and generational diversity of our residents.

Renters, young people and older residents seeking to “age in place” share common cause in preventing displacement and ensuring that we continue to proactively and innovatively address the issue of housing affordability and the continued presence of affordable units.

While child care in Arlington sets the quality standard in Virginia, our young families are bearing the burden of very high costs for that care. These costs often drive young families, and single mothers in particular, from our community.

Arlington childcare costs, like much of Northern Virginia, are a quarter to a third higher than in the rest of the Commonwealth. This issue is a result of a supply gap. Without sacrificing quality, we can find ways to reduce costs and address the child care supply gap by pursuing flexibilities in zoning to attract new child care centers.

Finally, Arlington should continue to pursue progressive values that help make it such an attractive place to live and a model community in many respects. For that reason, we should continue to build on our emerging collaboration with statewide reproductive choice advocates to ensure our zoning practices are friendly to the location of women’s health centers closest to our community.

We have much to be proud of and much to accomplish in Arlington. We can continue to address important priorities for women in ways that are innovative, cost effective, and both family-friendly and taxpayer-friendly.

I look forward to hearing more from our candidates on these important issues.

Michelle Woods is the Women’s Caucus Chair of the Arlington Young Democrats.

by Peter Rousselot — September 10, 2015 at 1:30 pm 970 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.

Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine justifiably are worried about the Virginia economic impacts of the automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration. Absent a Congressional budget deal by Sept. 30–less than three weeks from now, we face either those automatic cuts, a partial federal government shutdown or both:

“If we have the return of sequestration, it’s going to be even worse than it was a couple of years ago, because every agency, particularly the Defense Department, has cleared out most of their coffers,” Warner said. “So that’s why they’ve got to get rid of sequestration and those negotiations need to be starting now, and not wait until the end of September.”

The Virginia economic effects will be dramatic and negative, Warner warned even more recently. And Northern Virginia, including Arlington, is the area of Virginia that is most at risk.

Even prior to this latest threat, Arlington and the Northern Virginia regional economy were experiencing the significant negative impacts of the slowdowns in federal spending that began in 2011. Federal government downsizing “has seen the D.C. region’s gross regional economy shrink two years in a row beginning in 2013.” Federal government downsizing has led to the large increases in commercial office vacancy rates in Arlington and throughout Northern Virginia. There is no end in sight.

The ripple effects are predictable:

As government contractors consolidate, they’ll need less office space. That puts pressure on lease rates region-wide, there will be less construction work, and the necessary process of restructuring from inefficient and expensive land-use patterns to more cost-effective patterns will drag out.

For these reasons, Northern Virginia business leaders are speaking out in favor of a bi-partisan Congressional budget deal:

Where we want to see bipartisan support and having the parties work together is the avoidance of a government shutdown”, says Jim Corcoran, chief executive of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. … Another shutdown “is the most disruptive thing that can happen.”


The slow-down in federal spending that began in 2011 already has had a serious negative impact on Arlington’s economy. That negative impact has manifested itself in our average 21 percent commercial office vacancy rate, producing annual losses of tens of millions of local tax dollars, and putting added pressure on the residential tax rate. Sequestration and/or a partial government shut-down would have additional dramatic and negative impacts.

It’s time to contact our Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders, and urge them to reach a bi-partisan budget deal to avoid this. You can do that by emailing them as follows:

by Mark Kelly — September 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm 818 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.

In an editorial last Friday, the Washington Post almost came to the conclusion that a massive overhaul of Metro is in order. The Post’s concerns – the possibility of “massive disruption” or some sort of “culture war.”

It is good to see that the Post is not condemning the possibility of a dramatic shake-up by the WMATA Board. To anyone who uses the system or watches as the failures pile up, it is pretty clear that disruption to the current culture is exactly what the flailing system needs.

If the Board does opt to bring in a “czar” to oversee such an overhaul, they need to be prepared for some discomfort, and they need to be committed to seeing it through to the end. If a small faction on the Board would even consider being peeled off by political pressure the first or second time a controversial decision is made, they might as well not move forward.

Affordable housing plan debated at CivFed.

As could have been predicted, the two Democrats vying for the County Board, Dorsey and Cristol, expressed support for the new housing plan. Clement opposes it and continues to back an additional layer of government bureaucracy through a housing authority to address the issue. McMenamin said the priorities for Arlington should be on economic development and schools, not necessarily affordable housing.

It does not require anyone to go too far out on a limb to predict the plan will ultimately pass. And, we can safely predict that in 10 years we will be debating the issue again because the plan did little if anything to make housing more affordable.

School is back in session.

If you are like me, that means often discovering a school bus stopped along your morning commute. If you are in a hurry, you may find yourself tempted to ignore the flashing lights and continue on your drive.

That course of action is unsafe for kids who, despite parents’ best efforts and instruction, will occasionally dart across the street. And, the Arlington police will pull you over and write you a ticket if they see you. Now, some of the buses are equipped with cameras that will send your photo to the police to determine if you will receive a ticket.

So, no matter whether you are behind the bus or it is on the other side of the street in front of you, please be prepared to stop for one or two minutes. Take a sip of your coffee as you wait. And then you can proceed when the red lights stop. It is safer for everyone and might just end up saving you time and money from a law enforcement stop.

by Heather Mongilio — September 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm 1,223 0

Backyard BBQ cookout in Arlington (Flickr pool photo by thekidfromcrumlin)

Despite possible storms tonight, National Weather Service predicts a sunny three-day weekend. Saturday and Sunday both have highs of 84 degrees, and a a high of 88 is predicted for Labor Day on Monday.

Most county government offices will be closed for Labor Day, and ART and Metro will both run on holiday schedules. Metered parking in Arlington will not be enforced on Monday.

ARLnow.com will also be taking the day off, barring any breaking news. We will be back on Tuesday with plenty to report, from the beginning of school to the upcoming election.

As always, feel free to comment on the holiday, Labor Day traffic or any other local topic. Have a nice three day weekend.

Flickr pool photo by thekidfromcrumlin

by Peter Rousselot — September 3, 2015 at 3:00 pm 846 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.

It’s time for Virginia legislators to do their very best to re-examine carefully and calmly what further legislative steps Virginia should take to reduce the number of people who are killed or injured by mentally unstable shooters.

Andy Parker, the father of Alison Parker, one of the two Roanoke, Virginia TV reporters who were killed while conducting an on-air broadcast last week, put the issue this way:

I’m not going to rest until I see something happen. We’ve got to have our legislators and congressmen step up to the plate and stop being cowards about this…describing himself as a supporter of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. How many Alisons is this going to happen to before we stop it?

We owe it to Andy Parker and other Virginia family members who have been seared by similar tragedies to take another look at this issue.

Arlington Del. Patrick Hope launched an online petition to assess support for his proposal to take another look. Hope’s petition received more than 20,000 signatures in the first 24 hours. As Hope explains:

Many people feel powerless in these situations because of the political climate that holds us back from real change. I’m asking my colleagues to put people first to get this done once and for all. I know we can’t end all acts of gun violence, but that doesn’t need to stop us from advancing common sense solutions like background checks that can help keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

Hope is aware that if there is any chance of legislative success, large numbers of Virginia Republican legislators must support any bill. No such bi-partisan support will emerge if Democrats and Republicans spend their time accusing each other of “callous disregard of a tragedy” or trying to “capitalize on a tragedy.” Also, no progress will be made if politicians refuse even to discuss issues relating to tightening Virginia’s current background check system by arguing that “no system could have prevented this particular shooting.”

Instead, our legislators should approach with open minds a stem-to-stern re-examination of every aspect of the ways in which Virginia collects mental health data to be entered into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) system. There should be some quiet, behind-the-scenes discussions among legislators from both parties to explore potential areas of agreement.

There are many local and national resources available. For example, The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police supports strengthening background checks.


Hope deserves praise for his leadership on this. If you have suggestions for him, you can send them to [email protected].

by Larry Roberts — September 3, 2015 at 2:30 pm 0

Larry Roberts

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organization or ARLnow.com.

Over the past two weeks, many Arlington families have taken their daughters and sons to college for the start of the fall semester. As the home to university campuses and education centers affiliated with colleges and universities, Arlington also welcomed many students arriving for the new school year.

Arlington’s public schools have demonstrated over the years that they provide excellent preparation for success at colleges and universities in Virginia and across the country.

Yet success in the classroom is not the only important component of a successful college education. We have seen ever stronger evidence of the prevalence of unwanted sexual advances on college campuses. We are gaining greater knowledge of the impact of binge drinking. And we are making advances in identifying and working with students suffering from depression.

Fortunately, very few parents will ever experience losing a loved one on a college campus.

However, in one of the darkest days in the history of our Commonwealth, 32 families lost loved ones at the hands of a mentally disturbed gunman. More than two dozen others were wounded or seriously injured that day in April 2007 in Blacksburg. Many of the victims and survivors were from Northern Virginia.

The loss felt by the victim’s families and the impact on the survivors was profound.

Despite their losses, however, the families were determined to make a positive and lasting tribute to the 32 who were killed — through programs designed to help colleges and universities be safer and more secure.

As Counselor to the Governor, I worked closely with many of the families in developing a comprehensive settlement of their potential claims against Virginia Tech and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Part of that settlement was the establishment of a VTV Family Outreach Foundation.

In that effort, I came to admire the families for their desire to honor their loved ones through insuring that survivors received the health care they needed to recover from their injuries, through applying lessons learned in how to work effectively with grieving families, and by joining together to uncover all of the dimensions of campus security.

Over the past several years, the VTV Family Foundation has laid the groundwork for a new integrated approach to improving campus safety.

In August, the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative was unveiled in a moving launch event at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts. We heard from a family member of a student victim, a student who survived three bullet wounds, law enforcement personnel, national leaders in school safety, and deans of students at participating universities that include George Mason and the University of Florida.

The Initiative creates a forum where national experts can develop best practices and resources with the guidance of survivors and victims’ families.

To improve campus security in a positive, proactive way, the 32 NCSI also provides a free, confidential, self-paced program of that provides colleges and universities with a new resource to better assess themselves in areas such as alcohol and drug use, campus public safety, emergency management, hazing, mental health, missing students, physical security, sexual violence, and threat assessment.

The determination of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation to prevent another tragedy of the magnitude of the one that took place in April 2007 is a testament to the human spirit and the determination of good women and men to selflessly help students and their parents feel a greater sense of security.

The Foundation will need additional private and public support to expand its mission. I encourage parents of college students and Arlingtonians generally to learn more at www.vtvfamilyfoundation.org or www.32NCSI.org.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice. A resident of Arlington for over 30 years, he also spent four years in Richmond as Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine. As Counselor, he was tasked with leading the Commonwealth’s ongoing response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

by Mark Kelly — September 3, 2015 at 2:00 pm 706 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.

Election season kicks off in Arlington on Tuesday, Sept. 8, when the Arlington Civic Federation hosts its annual candidate forum. The forum traditionally allows CivFed delegates to ask questions of the four County Board candidates. If you are a delegate, here are some questions Arlingtonians might want to have answered.

None of you have held elected office before here in Arlington, what specific, singular professional accomplishment makes you the most qualified to serve on the County Board?

What three actions would you take to make it easier to start and run a business in Arlington?

Would you support a bond that asks voters for any more money to construct the currently mothballed aquatics center?

Speaking of bonding authority, would you support a County Board policy of not bundling any projects whose total cost would be $25 million or more with other projects in a proposed bond? In other words, would you commit to putting projects like the aquatics center or trolley up for a stand alone vote?

What is your position toward the current revenue sharing agreement with Arlington Public Schools? And if you are not satisfied with it, what would you do differently?

Currently the County Board either spends, or places, into flush reserve accounts, all excess tax revenue. Would you vote to return all excess revenue to the voters in the form of tax relief during the annual closeout process?

If you gained a seat on the WMATA Board, what are the first three specific actions you would advocate for getting Metro back on the right track?

Do you believe that any County Board housing policy can overcome market forces at work in Arlington without dramatically increasing spending of taxpayer dollars?

Would you vote to end the process of narrowing streets like Wilson Boulevard where it causes excessive congestion?

What is your position on predatory towing practices?

Will you vote to require the next County Manager to live in Arlington?

Will you pledge not to waste board meeting time by offering or supporting any resolutions that purport to tell the federal government or NFL sports teams how they should act or vote?

by ARLnow.com — September 2, 2015 at 10:30 am 645 0

Plane taking off at Reagan National AirportAAA Mid-Atlantic came out with its annual Labor Day travel forecast earlier this week, predicting that 850,700 D.C. area residents will head out of town for the holiday.

That’s a paltry 0.4 percent increase from last year, with 743,200 residents expected to drive to their vacation destinations, 62,500 expected to fly and the rest expected to take trains and other modes of transportation.

AAA says there would have been more locals traveling this year, had Labor Day not fallen on Sept. 7, the latest possible day it can occur. Historically, that dampens holiday travel.

“While increasing travel volume is great news for the industry and economy, our survey shows a decidedly ‘un-laboring’ take on the Labor Day holiday,” said AAA’s John Townsend II, in a press release. “Many would rather spend the holiday at cookouts, relaxing or simply at home to avoid heavy holiday traffic congestion or additional spending, especially if they have already taken a vacation this summer.”

Are you planning on skipping town for one last summer trip — or staying put and firing up the grill?

by Heather Mongilio — August 28, 2015 at 5:00 pm 1,364 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo via Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation

by Progressive Voice — August 27, 2015 at 2:00 pm 880 0

Frederico Cura

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organization or ARLnow.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One example occurred in the House Privileges and Elections Committee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Mark Kelly — August 27, 2015 at 1:30 pm 434 0

Mark Kelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Peter Rousselot — August 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm 1,442 0

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

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

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

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

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

Environmental Benefits of Trees and Landscaping

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

Trees and Landscaping as a Neighborhood Buffer

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flickr pool photo by Chaita_1

by Mark Kelly — August 20, 2015 at 2:00 pm 1,087 0

Mark Kelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Peter Rousselot — August 20, 2015 at 1:30 pm 1,560 0

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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