Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Crystal City Water Park to Get Big Upgrade — “JBG Smith Properties is pitching a major makeover for a small park at the heart of its Crystal City holdings, envisioning some new retail and even a bar atop a water feature. The developer filed plans with Arlington County earlier this month requesting an additional 6,100 square feet of density for the 1.6-acre park, located across the street from JBG Smith’s massive ‘Central District’ project at 1770 Crystal Drive.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

Vote By Mail Facts — “The first round of vote-by-mail ballots have been sent to people who requested them, but it’s not too late to request yours. Ballot applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Oct. 23. To help you understand how voting by mail works — and feel confident in submitting your ballot — we’ve broken down the facts you need to know.” [Arlington County]

Deer Rescued from Country Club Fence — “On Tuesday night, a curious fawn tried to get through a metal fence in the Washington Golf and Country Club. Unfortunately her adventurous plan backfired, and the fawn ended up stuck and stranded. The country club called animal control, which is under the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and that’s when Officer Shannon Rose sprung to action.” [Washingtonian]

Weekday Afternoon Robbery in Ballston — “At approximately 4:21 p.m. on September 23, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business, approached the front counter, and passed the employee a note demanding money and threatening them if they didn’t comply. The victim complied, and the suspect stole an undisclosed amount of cash, then fled on foot prior to police arrival.” [Arlington County]

National Landing Food Program Extended — “Thanks to generous support from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Amazon, JBG SMITH, Equity Residential and individual Arlington residents, the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) announced today that its Farm-to-Families food assistance program will be extended through the fall.” [Press Release]

Addiction Recovery Org Rebrands — “The name will change but the mission will remain the same – working to help those struggling with addiction turn their lives around. Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic announced Sept. 16 that it would change its name to National Capital Treatment and Recovery, following its split last year from the national Phoenix House organization.” [InsideNova]

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(Updated at 10:45 p.m.) Democrat Takis Karantonis will fill the late Erik Gutshall’s former Arlington County Board seat.

Karantonis, an economist and the former director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, captured 62.4% of the vote. He overperformed among absentee ballots, with 71% of the more than 10,000 absentee ballots cast amid the pandemic.

Susan Cunningham, who described herself as a “progressive Independent,” received 32.6% of the vote. A civically-involved professional and mother of two, Cunningham was endorsed in the race by John Vihstadt, the last non-Democrat to win a seat on the County Board.

Republican Bob Cambridge, a former CIA instructor, received 4.8% of the vote.

In all, 19,866 votes were cast — a turnout of 12.6% of the Arlington electorate. That’s below the 22,264 votes tallied in the 2014 special election, in which Vihstadt first won his seat on the Board.

Besides taking place during a pandemic, today’s election was also hampered by a relatively short campaigning period, and an election day just after the Fourth of July. Karantonis won the Democratic nomination in a closed caucus of about 250 local Democratic party insiders, as the party decried not having enough time to organize a broader primary or caucus.

Karantonis’ initial term on the Board will run through Dec. 31, 2021.

In a press release issued by the Arlington County Democratic Committee, Karantonis pledges “true progressive policies and effective leadership.”

“Arlington voters responded overwhelmingly to Takis’ positive, issues-oriented campaign, surmounting the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus to elect an experienced leader to the County Board,” Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said. “Takis will be a leader for all Arlingtonians. He has the expertise and empathy to build on the impressive legacy of Erik Gutshall. We know he’ll serve Arlington well.”

During the campaign, Karantonis touted his status as an immigrant as a reason he’ll be particularly effective during these fraught times for the country. He has been a resident of Arlington for 14 years, currently living with his wife in the Arlington Village neighborhood.

“As an immigrant and a first-time candidate, I did not expect to receive the overwhelming amount of support from Arlingtonians throughout every zip code in our county,” Karantonis said shortly after the election was called. “Our victory is meaningful for two specific reasons: it is the recognition of my many years of civic engagement in Arlington and it serves as a testament to Arlington voters’ expectation of true progressive policies and effective leadership.”

Karantonis previously served as executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, and now directs micro-lending for the Ethiopian Community Development Council, an Arlington-based nonprofit. He serves as vice chair of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, and previously was president of the Columbia Heights Civic Association and board chair of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (now known as EcoAction Arlington). A native of Greece, Karantonis lived and worked in several European countries before immigrating to the United States. He speaks eight languages.

Cunningham, in a statement, thanked her opponents “for a spirited and hard-fought race” and wished Karantonis well on the County Board.

“Tonight I want to thank each and every voter in Arlington,” Cunningham said. “And I also want to thank my daughters and my husband, along with an incredible army of volunteers, who pulled out all the stops during a pandemic. This was always an uphill battle — not just against my opponents but also against an entrenched one-party system in Arlington… I truly hope we started some important conversations about the perils of one-party rule and the need for greater accountability.”

“I hope all of our elected officials will get serious about transparency, accountability, and improved School-County collaboration,” Cunningham concluded. “I have been deeply honored to meet and talk with so many Arlington residents. I look forward to many more discussions in the future.”

More on the turnout from the county elections office:

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Morning Notes

HQ2’s Employee Count Keeps Growing — “Amazon.com Inc.’s Arlington headquarters seems to get larger by the week. At latest count, there are just shy of 715 employees in leased office spaces in Crystal City and about 125 pending starts.” [Washington Business Journal]

MS-13 Members Plead Guilty to Shooting — “Two MS-13 members pleaded guilty today to their respective roles in a December 2018 shooting and stabbing that occurred in Four Mile Run Park on the border of Alexandria and Arlington. According to court documents, Juan Francisco Rivera-Pineda, 25, and Jefferson Noe Amaya, 24, both Alexandria residents… confronted the victim in the park, shooting him in the throat and arm, and stabbing him in the back. The victim was transported to the hospital where he underwent surgery and survived.” [USDOJ]

Pentagon Suspect Was Out on Bail — “Matthew Richardson, who is facing charges in Arlington, Va., after police say he tried to blow up a car in a Pentagon parking lot, was released from the Washington County jail in December after The Bail Project posted his bond.” [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]

Vaping Is Prevalent in Arlington Schools — “Sneaking doses from e-cigarettes or, ‘juuling,’ has emerged as ‘the No. 1 offender at Arlington Public Schools,’ according to substance abuse counselor Jenny Sexton, speaking at the Feb. 12 exploration of the hot topic at the Arlington Committee of 100… It’s a tricky discipline challenge, said Sexton, who is “stretched thin” counseling populations at 24 elementary schools and two Arlington middle schools.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Strong Primary Absentee Voting Turnout — “Former Arlington County, VA Treasurer Frank O’Leary: ‘A new record has been set in Arlington for absentee voting in a Presidential primary. In fact, over the last seven days an amazing 1,722 absentee votes have occurred – 61 percent in person.'” [Blue Virginia, Twitter]

Beyer Campaigning for Mayor Pete — “As Pete Buttigieg struggles for momentum going into the South Carolina Democratic primary and Super Tuesday, two members of Congress from the Washington region are traveling the country to promote his presidential campaign. Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) were early endorsers of the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who they say has the personal story and calm demeanor to unite a nation divided by Donald Trump’s presidency.” [Washington Post]

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As next week’s election approaches, the county is reminding residents to check their polling place and  familiarize themselves with this year’s ballot.

The General Election next Tuesday, November 5 follows a tumultuous, pricey primary election in which incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos lost to challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who is now unchallenged on the ballot after running a campaign centered on criminal justice reform.

Incumbent state Sen. Barbara Favola and Del. Alfonso Lopez both defeated their progressive challengers in the the June primary, and will be on the ballot. However, Lopez will now face a challenge to his bid for reelection from independent candidate Terry Modglin.

Del. Janet D. Howell, who ran unopposed in the primary, faces a challenge from Republican candidate Arthur G. Purves, who is focusing his campaign on what he describes as problems with progressive education.

Residents will also be casting their votes for two County Board seats — currently filled by Democratic members Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol and contested by independent candidates, Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell.

The ballot will also feature several other incumbent Democrats running unopposed including:

  • Del. Patrick Hope
  • Del. Mark Levine
  • Del. Rip Sullivan
  • Sheriff Beth Arthur
  • Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy
  • Treasurer Carla de la Pava
  • School Board member Reid Goldstein

Today (Tuesday, October 29) also marks two important days for voters.

First up the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot be mailed to your address today at 5 p.m. Voters who want to request a mailed ballot can do so by emailing, faxing, or mailing Arlington’s Office of Elections (2100 Clarendon Blvd.)

Second is the start of absentee voting in-person, also at the Office of Elections, which runs from today until Thursday, October 31, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Those interested in absentee voting must present a reason why they are unable to vote on Election Day.

Voters who cast their ballots in person will given the county’s newly-designed “I Voted” stickers.

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Arlington Democrats will be holding a part get-out-the-vote, part pro-impeachment rally in Courthouse this weekend.

The event, organized by the Arlington County Democratic Committee, will feature a 13-foot “Baby Trump” balloon — billed as “similar to the ones that have attracted crowds across the country and in Europe” — as well as remarks by outspoken impeachment proponent Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.)

“Virginians have a beautiful, amazing, really unbelievable opportunity to show Trump that his time is nearly up: by voting bigly in this November’s election!” Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said in a press release (below). “In all seriousness, it’s time for people of conscience to stand up against this corrupt president and his Republican enablers — at our family-friendly rally in Arlington and at the polls across Virginia Nov. 5.”

The rally is happening at Courthouse Plaza, outside Arlington County government HQ (2100 Clarendon Blvd), starting at noon on Saturday. Attendees will be encouraged to vote absentee immediately after the rally.

The full Arlington Democrats press release is below.

A 13-foot “Baby Trump” balloon, similar to the ones that have attracted crowds across the country and in Europe, will dominate the stage at an Arlington County Democratic Committee (Arlington Dems) “Impeach Trump, Then Vote!” rally, at noon Saturday, Oct. 19, in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood.

The rally will feature remarks by U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who represents Arlington and has been a strong proponent of Congress’ ongoing impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Beyer will be joined by the “Baby Trump” balloon, like the ones that have appeared at protests in Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, London, and elsewhere.

The rally will take place in the Metro-accessible Courthouse Plaza at 2100 Clarendon Blvd., which is adjacent to the Bozeman Government Center, where “absentee voting in person” is underway in Virginia’s critical Nov. 5 election. Rally attendees are encouraged to come prepared to vote absentee immediately after the rally. Absentee voting information, including eligibility criteria, is available on the Arlington Registrar’s website. For example, Arlington voters who work in DC are eligible to vote absentee and are encouraged to do so now to avoid Election Day logistical challenges.

Absentee voting in person is available at various hours Mondays-Saturdays until Nov. 5. It’s open 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. on Oct. 19.

Virginia is the only state in the country in which Democrats are regarded as having a serious shot at flipping both houses of its legislature blue this year. Virginia Republicans now have only a two-seat majority in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. The state’s Democratic Party has mounted a formidable #RetakeTheMajority campaign to flip both houses blue, but success will require robust voter turnout between now and the Nov. 5 election.

“Virginians have a beautiful, amazing, really unbelievable opportunity to show Trump that his time is nearly up: by voting bigly in this November’s election!” Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said, mocking the loquacious, superlative-loving Trump. “In all seriousness, it’s time for people of conscience to stand up against this corrupt president and his Republican enablers–at our family-friendly rally in Arlington and at the polls across Virginia Nov. 5.”

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Arlington County’s Election Board asked residents to vote on a new design for its 2019 “I Voted” sticker and they responded, picking the winner by a slim, two-vote margin.

Election officials, in partnership with the Arlington Artists Alliance and Arlington Public Library, solicited votes on the county website earlier this month. Voters cast their votes for five different designs over four rounds of voting.

John Musco’s design, “Shout It From the Skyline,” received 543 votes in the final round, edging out Anna Radjou’s “Voting, the Language of Arlington’s Diversity,” which received 541 votes.

The winning “Skyline” sticker will be distributed to voters who vote at the polls on Nov. 5.

Because the final voting was so close, election officials decided the second-place design will be given to voters who cast in-person absentee votes. Absentee voting for the November general election begins on Sept. 20.

Arlington first-grader Mira Shomali’s design, “The Arlington Stars and Stripes,” received an honorable mention. Her design will be adapted as a new Future Voter sticker, which will be given to kids accompanying their parents to the polls.

The county is currently in the run-up to a primary election, which decides the candidates for the November election.

Images via Arlington County

 

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(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Arlington voters seem ready to flood the polls in record numbers on Nov. 6, with early turnout numbers presaging a “blue wave” that could — potentially — wipe independent County Board member John Vihstadt out of office.

New figures compiled by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project show that the county has seen a 114 percent increase in the number of absentee ballots cast through Wednesday (Oct. 17), compared to the same time last year. The county’s surge to 4,236 ballots cast, compared to 1,976 a year ago, mirrors similarly boosts around the state.

While absentee voting can be an imperfect measure of Election Day enthusiasm, the numbers in Arlington are strong enough to convince some observers that the county could see huge turnout levels for the midterm elections. Former county treasurer Frank O’Leary, a close watcher of Arlington elections, projects that the current absentee numbers are robust enough that the county sees as many as 95,000 votes cast next month.

That figure would be higher than what the county might expect in a midterm election with a Senate seat on the ballot, without a heavily Democratic electorate itching to send a message to President Donald Trump. It would be close to 10,000 votes more than the 85,300 people who turned out for last year’s closely watched governor’s race that swept Democrat Ralph Northam into office with a hefty victory.

Given Arlington’s overwhelmingly blue political complexion, O’Leary expects “at greater levels of turnout, the blue tide will become increasingly the determining factor” in down-ballot races. That includes Vihstadt’s contest with Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti, who is hoping to return the Board to unified Democratic control after Vihstadt won a pair of upset victories back in 2014.

O’Leary notes that turnout in the county was severely depressed six years ago, when Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) very nearly lost to Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrats took a beating nationwide, and he doesn’t expect those conditions to repeat themselves this time around.

The county lacks a competitive race in the 8th Congressional District, but with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine up for re-election against Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, a politician disavowed by members of both parties for his frequent embrace of white nationalists and the Confederate flag, O’Leary expects that “an expanded electorate coupled with an odious opponent will net Tim Kaine more than 80 percent of the Arlington vote.”

While O’Leary notes that Vihstadt benefits from the “advantage of incumbency, name recognition, and the support of a number of prominent Democratic elected office holders and the benefit of a well-organized, highly-focused campaign,” he also expects that some of the galvanizing issues Vihstadt seized on in his 2014 bid — the Columbia Pike streetcar and “million-dollar bus stops” among them — aren’t as relevant this time around. It doesn’t help, either, that Vihstadt will have to contend with “a re-vamped (and equally determined) Democratic Party structure” and “the curse of ‘The Donald.'”

“In the event that total turnout exceeds 88,000 (with 75,000 or more votes cast in the County Board race), [Matt] de Ferranti will defeat John Vihstadt and win election to the County Board,” O’Leary predicted.

“Mr. Vihstadt starts with a proven base of 35,000, de Ferranti, perhaps 27,500. (That totals 62,500.) Thereafter, at greater levels of turnout, the blue tide will become increasingly the determining factor,” he explained.

Of course, Vihstadt has out-fundraised de Ferranti so far, and some Democrats remain concerned that the challenger has done little to separate himself from his opponent. For his part, the independent remains confident that he can once again shock the county’s political establishment this year.

“I was the underdog in 2014 and may be again this year,” Vihstadt told ARLnow. “I wasn’t supposed to win in the first place, but Arlingtonians proved that they are sophisticated voters. As I knock on doors across Arlington, people, regardless of partisanship at the federal and state levels, say they value the balance and independence that I bring to local government. I’m confident that my purple tugboat will survive the blue wave.”

Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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Virginia’s voter registration deadline is now just a few days away.

Any Virginia resident hoping to cast a ballot on Nov. 6 has until Monday (Oct. 15) to ensure they’re properly registered.

Anyone looking to vote for the first time, or who has changed addresses since last fall’s election, will need to register in the coming days. You can check your registration status online.

The state offers online voter registration in most cases, though anyone can also register by mail or at Arlington’s elections office, located at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Suite 320. Registration applications are available there, and at most county libraries, schools, post offices, DMV locations, rec centers and more.

Anyone looking to vote absentee can register to do so through Oct. 30. Mailed-in ballots must be received by Nov. 6, or people can vote early at the county offices, a process known as “in-person absentee voting.”

The county headquarters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd is now open most days for anyone hoping to vote early, with full details available on the county’s website.

Sample ballots are also available online. Beyond high-profile races for Congress, including the U.S. Senate race and the contest for the 8th District, the ballot will include one County Board seat, one School Board seat, two constitutional questions and four bond referenda.

File photo

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Several absentee voting measures have been sent to the House of Delegates’ Privileges and Elections study committee for review in 2019, meaning the legislation is effectively dead for 2018.

The bills, introduced by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), included a measure which would have allowed for senior citizens to vote with an absentee ballot up to and including the day of an election. Another, SB602, would have allowed for “no-excuse” absentee ballot voting beginning 21 days prior to an election, meaning that anyone could have voted with an absentee ballot without needing a qualifying reason for not being able to wait in line at the polls.

“We want to make it easier for people to vote and participate in democracy rather than harder,” said Ebbin. “In Arlington in particular, there are a lot of busy people who work a lot of unpredictable hours. Right now, working late is not a valid excuse for absentee voting.”

“It should be easier to vote, and we don’t want anyone to be disenfranchised.”

Though the bills will not have a chance to be passed until after the 2018 midterm elections, Ebbin told ARLnow.com that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to wait, saying it “can be a good thing” as the bill will “get a more full hearing and more education and more consideration and more chance to educate legislators on these issues.”

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