Arlington, VA

(Updated on 05/17/19) A new bus will arrive tomorrow in Ballston, but the only place it’s going is to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).

Arlington Transit (ART) is organizing a “food drive” for AFAC by building a 10’x10′ bus sculpture from canned food to celebrate the transit agency’s 20th anniversary, per a press release. ART will then donate the food to AFAC after disassembling the sculpture.

ART staff and volunteers will start building tomorrow at 1 p.m. inside Ballston Quarter mall, nearly the newly-opened, health food-focused True Food Kitchen.

The construction is part of AFAC’s annual slew of “Canstruction” food drives. In the past, architecture groups have built elaborate sculptures from thousands of dollars worth of canned goods at the Dulles and Reagan National airports as part of a national movement of donation-by-can-sculpture.

In 2016, the American Institute of Architects Northern Virginia Chapter built a lighthouse out of soup and bean cans in the Ballston mall for one of the building competitions.

Image via Twitter

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For all of the problems caused by the government shutdown across the D.C. region so far, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) fears things could get “exponentially worse” as soon as next week if federal employees are still going without paychecks.

Warner, like the rest of his Democratic colleagues in Congress, already sees the standoff over border wall funding engineered by President Trump as “outrageous” and a “disgrace.” Thousands of federal workers in the D.C. area alone missed their first paychecks of the shutdown last week, putting a severe strain on their finances and the whole region’s economy.

But Warner foresees government employees reaching a crisis point should they miss another paycheck in the coming days, which looks like a sure bet as Trump refuses to give an inch in discussions with congressional Democrats.

“When people go without a second paycheck, which is coming next Thursday, and they hit the beginning of the month of February, there are mortgages due, their rent is due, other bills are due,” Warner told reporters during a visit to the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s food distribution center in Nauck today (Friday). “That’s when things get really bad… And what’s happening in our region, it’s already a crisis. But this is going to be a crisis that spreads all across the country. “

Warner pointed out that Congress and Trump could at least agree to provide back pay for furloughed workers, but he warned that restitution alone “doesn’t make you whole.” He’s already heard stories from people taking out loans to make it through the shutdown, or missing payments and seeing their credit scores take a hit.

And he’s especially concerned about federal contractors, which include not only high-priced tech workers but people working in cafeterias or custodial services, who may not make much money.

Charlie Meng, the executive director of AFAC, told ARLnow that “many of the contractors who are most affected are our clients already.” He says the food bank has seen a “slight uptick” in interest since the shutdown started, and it began urging federal employees to swing by for free groceries, but he said that people who are already struggling to get by are the ones hardest hit by missing out on paychecks.

“We serve the working poor, and that includes many of the people who work for the government indirectly but are just hanging on,” Meng said. “Something like this happens, and it really hurts them.”

Warner notes that the shutdown will likely spell big trouble for Metro the longer it drags on. WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told the D.C.’s regions senators yesterday (Thursday) that keeping federal workers at home is prompting a steep drop in ridership, costing the rail service about $400,000 per day.

It doesn’t help matters either that federal officials haven’t been able to reimburse Metro for about $33 million in expenses it has incurred over the course of the shutdown, an amount Wiedefeld estimates could balloon to $50 million by the end of the month. He warned that Metro would need to start relying on its line of credit to afford major capital improvements soon enough, or simply delay badly needed projects.

“In a way, it’s like Metro can’t catch a break,” Warner said. “Finally, the region stepped up, Virginia, Maryland, the District to provide additional, dedicated funding for Metro. Now we’ve got this crisis, not due to Metro’s performance but due to the government shutdown. It’s going to put Metro even further behind.”

Warner says Democrats are “absolutely” willing to negotiate on increased border security measures with the White House to end this standoff — but only if Trump agrees to open the government back up first.

“If you reward this bad behavior, he will try this again, he will try this again with spending bills going forward,” Warner said. “You don’t reward a bully.”

Warner points out that a bipartisan group of senators wrote a letter to Trump, urging him to fund the government for three weeks to let negotiations to start back up. But that effort fizzled, and he says it was “disappointing” to discover that the White House was actively pressuring Republicans not to sign on to that push.

“It’s tough if you’re a Republican senator to sign onto a letter, even a reasonable letter, when you’ve got folks like Jared Kushner and others lobbying against it,” Warner said.

Broadly, he believes Trump is hanging over the whole debate. Even though the Senate already voted unanimously to fund the government before Trump started demanding money for a border wall, Warner feels his Republican colleagues haven’t been willing to take action for straightforward political reasons: “You’ve got a lot of Republicans who are afraid of upsetting the president.”

So even as Republicans privately tell Warner that they’d like to end the shutdown, he doesn’t see much hope for any resolution soon. And that, he says, sits squarely on Trump’s shoulders.

“The president has said he was proud to own this shutdown,” Warner said. “This will be part of his legacy, which is already the worst legacy in modern American history.”

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Arlington will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a free annual event featuring local performers this Sunday (Jan 20).

“Supernatural” actor Christian Keyes is set to host Arlington’s MLK Tribute, which is now in its 50th year. The event will run from 5-6:30 p.m. at Wakefield High School.

Community members and county staff created the annual tribute one year after King’s assassination in 1968 as a way to bring the community together around King’s vision for social equality.

“Arlington’s beloved MLK tribute event is a joyful celebration of Dr. King and his powerful advocacy for social and economic justice, non-violence and empowerment that continues to serve as a beacon for our nation more than a half-century after his assassination,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a press release.

The program features music, dance and spoken word roles.

The lineup includes:

  • Spoken word artist Outspoken Poetress (Audrey Perkins)
  • Inspire Arts Collective
  • Soloist Jackie Pate
  • Soloist James Gibson
  • Arlington resident Joy Gardner
  • The Hoffman-Boston All Star Chorus led by Molly Haines
  • Teen Network boardmembers
  • Winners of the Arlington Public Schools’ MLK Literary and Visual Arts Contest

Guests will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis, and overflow space with a live stream of the program will be available if the auditorium reaches capacity. Anyone attending is encouraged to bring non-perishable goods to donate to Arlington Food Assistance Center.

Photo via Arlington County

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Arlington’s local food bank is urging furloughed federal workers to swing by for free groceries, should times be getting tough as the government shutdown drags on.

The Arlington Food Assistance Center is reminding all Arlingtonians that anyone having trouble making ends meet is eligible to pick up a bag of groceries from the food bank on a one-time basis.

All you have to do is provide a government-issued photo ID and proof of your address (either on an ID or a bill mailed to your home). AFAC stresses that it has “does not impose income limits — ever,” making one-time assistance available to any furloughed fed missing out on paychecks these days.

“If your bills are high, your paychecks are withheld, or you just need something to get you through the week, AFAC is available to you,” the food bank wrote on its website.

Anyone looking for some more extensive help can also apply for three months of food, with a referral from the county’s Department of Human Services or an Arlington Public Schools social worker.

The food bank works to provide families, at a minimum, with staples like milk, fruit, vegetables, cereal, canned goods and other dry goods. AFAC operates three food distribution centers around the county, at the following places and times:

AFAC Nelson: 2708 S. Nelson Street, Arlington 22206
Monday to Friday:  10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Tuesday and Thursday evenings:  7:00 – 8:00 PM
Saturday morning: 9:00 – 11:00 AM

Gunston Community Center: 2700 S. Lang Street, Arlington 22206
Thursday evening: 7:00 – 8:00 PM

Clarendon United Methodist Church: 606 N. Irving Street, lower level, Arlington 22201
Saturday morning: 9:30 – 10:30 AM

As the shutdown smashes records for the longest of any kind in the nation’s history, county officials have also been offering payment plans and fee forgiveness for some services.

Arlington’s also planned a variety of hiring events and financial management workshops for federal workers.

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As the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history continues without an end in sight, Arlington officials are continuing to offer help to federal government workers missing out on paychecks.

Two events scheduled for later this week are meant to reduce financial burdens facing furloughed workers.

The Arlington Public Library system plans to host a workshop on Thursday (Jan. 17) to help furloughed federal employees with their budgets and access county resources.

Entitled “Finding Help During Difficult Financial Times,” the workshop will provide how-to’s on the following:

After the presentation, Latrice Robinson, a financial coach and contractor who is a part of the CFPB Financial Coaching Program, will be on hand to answer any questions, along with AFAC Client Services Manager Lily Duran and outreach staff from the Public Assistance Division in DHS.

The workshop will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Barbara M. Donnellan Auditorium in the Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).

Arlington Public Schools also announced today (Tuesday) that it will hold a job fair on Friday (Jan. 18) for federal employees interested in substitute teaching.

The job fair will run from noon to 4 p.m. at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd). Participants should bring two forms of identification to the job fair and are encouraged to submit their application beforehand.

File photo

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(Updated at 9:40 a.m.) Good Sweat, an indoor cycling studio, is set to open in Rosslyn’s Colonial Village Shopping Center in early 2019.

Alessandra Hashemi, the founder of Good Sweat, told ARLnow that she is aiming for a March opening.

More than 180 people helped Good Sweat raise roughly $26,000 in 21 days, surpassing the studio’s goal of $25,000 in 25 days, the company posted on Facebook on Oct. 21. The money will fund the opening next year at 1711 Wilson Blvd.

A portion of the money from the campaign was donated to Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network to sponsor its “Sixth Annual Happy Hour Benefiting Veterans” on Nov. 7, Hashemi said.

The studio plans to have metered bike and offer classes in the mornings throughout the week and in the evenings on weekdays, according to a brochure sent to ARLnow.

“I have been indoor cycling for over 10 years, and I have seen it all (the good, the bad, the underwhelming),” Hashemi, said in the brochure. “Indoor cycling classes can be cathartic if you have amazing coaches, music and motivation.”

The brochure says that a percentage of every purchase will get invested in the community by hosting subsidized rides for low-income individuals and donating to a different local nonprofit every month, including Urban Alliance, A-SPAN Doorways for Women and Families and Arlington Food Assistance Center.

Good Sweat held two pop-up events earlier this year — a yin yoga class in February and a body weight boot camp in August.

The studio is currently selling discounted packages, some of which include pre-opening access, ranging from one drop-in class to unlimited access for three months.

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Morning Notes

McChrystal Speaks Out Against Lee — Amid the furor over changing the name of Washington-Lee High School, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who attended W-L, says it’s time to set aside icons like Robert E. Lee and “combat our desire to mythologize our history and our leaders.” [Washington Post]

Soft Opening for Shirlington Ice Cream Shop — Rolled ice cream shop I-CE-NY is scheduled to hold a soft opening tonight in Shirlington from 4:30-9:30 p.m. [Instagram]

Fill the Cruiser Tonight — The Arlington County Police Department is holding one of its three planned “Fill the Cruiser” holiday toy drive events today from 2-6 p.m. at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. “A cruiser will be located in the food court next to the Christmas tree,” ACPD notes. [Arlington County]

E-CARE Stats — This month’s Arlington E-CARE disposal and recycling event collected more than 100,000 pounds of hazardous household materials and used electronics products. [Twitter]

AFAC Helps Less Fortunate Celebrate Thanksgiving — The Arlington Food Assistance Center gave away 2,500 turkeys, along with other Thanksgiving staples, over the past week. Hunger remains an unresolved issue at a time when Amazon’s future arrival will likely exacerbate inequality and housing unaffordability in Arlington. [Washington Post]

Nearby: Big New Development in Falls Church — “The development team of EYA, PN Hoffman and Regency Centers was chosen by the Falls Church City Council Monday night to orchestrate a dense and diverse $500 million development of 10.3 acres of City-owned land where its George Mason High School currently sits,” near the West Falls Church Metro station. [Falls Church News-Press]

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Democrat Matt de Ferranti wants to end child hunger in Arlington if he wins a spot on the County Board next week, and he says he can achieve that goal in the next four years.

In debates, campaign mailers, and his official platform, de Ferranti has pledged to ensure that no child in the county goes hungry by the time his first term on the Board would be up in 2022.

It’s a target that some observers think Arlington can meet, but gives others pause. And, crucially, it’s a key area of difference between de Ferranti and the man he’s hoping to unseat: independent John Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999.

Both of the contenders for the lone Board seat on the ballot this fall want to reduce hunger in the county, of course. Yet the pair differs on how to achieve that goal, and how much the Board should prioritize it in the first place, providing a clear contrast between candidates who otherwise broadly agree on many of the pressing issues facing the county.

“The differences between me and my opponent are not always in votes, they’re often in agenda and focus,” de Ferranti told ARLnow. “I think we have to call Arlingtonians to be committed to this equity and be a caring, compassionate community on hunger in ways that we haven’t been called to until this point.”

Vihstadt and de Ferranti agree that the county could use more data on hunger and food insecurity in Arlington, and say they’d support a new study of the matter. The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) teamed up with Virginia Tech to release a paper on the matter back in 2012, and both Board contenders are eager for an update to that document.

Yet the incumbent admits to being a bit puzzled that de Ferranti is bringing up the issue so frequently in the first place, and would much rather wait for more information before acting.

“He is the only one who’s talking about critical gaps in child hunger,” Vihstadt said. “I haven’t heard an explanation of why we’re doing this by 2022 and why we’re only talking about child hunger versus senior hunger. He’s raised a good issue, but I would want to see more analysis on this.”

De Ferranti says he’s so focused on child hunger, specifically, because research links food insecurity to stunted development among children, and suggests that kids learn less if they come to school hungry. But he’s also relying on data from AFAC, the most prominent Arlington nonprofit focusing on hunger, claiming the numbers demand urgent attention to child hunger.

Charlie Meng, the executive director of AFAC, says de Ferranti is right to do so, and notes that he’s raised the issue with the County Board. In data Meng provided to ARLnow, AFAC has indeed seen a steady increase in the number of people requesting meals through the center, and an increase in the number of children served, specifically.

The numbers show that, in fiscal year 2014, AFAC served meals to 3,034 children. That number crept slowly upward over the years, and AFAC served 4,349 children in fiscal year 2018, an increase of about 43.3 percent over those four years.

“The question to the county is always: what’re your priorities?” Meng said. “It’s not always the government’s responsibility, but better support and coordination would go a long way to solving this issue.”

Meng believes that de Ferranti is absolutely correct that the county could effectively cut the number of hungry kids to zero within the next few years, “especially if the coordination and the desire to is there.

On that front, Meng thinks a good place to start would be sending AFAC more money each year.

The county currently allocates about $478,000 annually to help the nonprofit stay afloat, but Meng says AFAC largely depends on private donors to afford its roughly $7.5 million yearly operating budget. For the last two years, the county tacked on an extra $50,000 in one-time funds to send to the center, but the Board declined to do so this year amid a tight budget crunch.

Meng says he hasn’t needed to cut back on any of his programs after losing out on that money, but he has had to work a bit harder to fundraise to make up the difference. He believes that restoring that money, and even sending AFAC a bit more, would make a huge difference in helping the nonprofit identify hungry kids and reach them.

“They give me $478,000, and I give them $7 million in services,” Meng said. “The deal I give these guys is crazy. If you take money away, I can make it up, but it never makes anything easy.”

De Ferranti says he strongly disagreed with the Board’s decision not to send AFAC the additional funding. Even in a challenging budget environment, he argues “we should not be cutting back when the need in terms of the number of families per month has not decreased.”

Vihstadt is sympathetic to Meng’s case, but points out that AFAC already receives more county financial support than most nonprofits in Arlington. Similarly, he said the Board decided not to tack on any more funding in this year’s budget because members trusted in Meng’s fundraising prowess.

“There are nonprofits who are struggling and who do great work: AFAC is not one of them,” Vihstadt said. “I know he used that $50,000 reduction as an opportunity to raise money. I would love to know how much he raised as a result.”

Others working on the issue of child hunger across the state wonder if a focus on services in county schools might be the surer way for Arlington to reach de Ferranti’s goal.

Claire Mansfield, the director of No Kid Hungry Virginia, says her organization largely focuses on making sure schools offer “healthy, nutritious” meals for breakfast and lunch, as that’s generally the easiest way to reach kids who might not know where their next meal is coming from at home.

She’s particularly interested in making sure that schools not only serve a healthy breakfast, but do so as part of the regular school day, which can “remove the stigma” around students looking for a free or reduced price meal.

Mansfield points out that some, but not all of Arlington’s schools offer breakfast in the classroom — Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says Randolph Elementary, Oakridge and Hoffman-Boston all do so, though Randolph only offers it to preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Mansfield says expanding such programs can have a huge impact, and that Oakridge has already seen a difference since starting breakfast in the classroom. According to her data, only 24 percent of students at the school eligible for free and reduced lunch ate breakfast in the 2014-15 school year; by last year, that number was up to 85 percent.

She added that schools can be key destinations for hungry kids looking to receive meals over the summer. Bellavia said the school system set up nine such “summer meal sites” this year, and Mansfield believes such options are a key way to fill in “gaps” in reaching families in need.

However, she’s a bit more hesitant than Meng to declare that simply following her prescriptions could definitively end child hunger in the county.

“I’m not one to put a timeline on that per se; if I could do it tomorrow I would do it tomorrow,” Mansfield said. “It’s just a case of making a commitment and saying, ‘We know how to solve this and we’re going to do what it takes.'”

Meng says he’s more than willing to do more work with county schools — in fact, one of his priorities is to expand AFAC’s “summer backpack program,” partnering with schools to reach hungry kids when class isn’t in session.

But to do so, he needs more money, and he says that’s where the County Board’s leadership matters on this question.

“We hear all the time, ‘Where are these people who need food?'” Meng said. “All you have to do is look around. Where do you think these people come from who are washing your dishes, doing your laundry, getting paid $7.25 an hour? We have them in this community. But we may not very long.”

Photo via @NottinghamSCA

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Morning Notes

Flash Flood Watch Issued for Arlington — Arlington, D.C. and points west are under a Flash Flood Watch today, starting at 10 a.m., as the remnants of Hurricane Florence drop heavy rain on the area. [Twitter]

New Food Distribution Site in Ballston — “The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) has joined with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to open a new food-distribution site at The Springs, an apartment complex in the Ballston area. The site will distribute food on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m., and will serve eligible residents from the apartment as well as neighboring APAH communities.” [InsideNova]

Rosslyn Fire Station Leveled — Rosslyn’s Fire Station 10 has been demolished as construction proceeds on a new fire station on the ground floor of a new development. [Twitter]

‘Coffee With a Cop’ Planned — “Wednesday, October 3 is National Coffee with a Cop Day and the Arlington County Police Department is hosting two events with our Community Outreach Teams to celebrate. Community members are invited to join police at this informal event to ask questions, voice concerns, get to know their neighbors, interact with the Community Outreach Teams and meet officers from other sections of the department.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Memorial Bridge Closure Delayed — “Work on Arlington Memorial Bridge was scheduled to close all lanes this weekend, but with the expected arrival of Hurricane Florence, the National Park Service announced that the closure has been pushed back. Now, instead of Friday, the temporary closure of both sidewalks and all six lanes on the crumbling bridge is planned for 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 through 5 a.m. on Sept. 24.” [WTOP]

Economist Food Truck Comes to Rosslyn — Today The Economist is scheduled to bring its food truck to Central Place Plaza in Rosslyn from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. The truck offers “a taste of the future,” including free meatless burgers. Also offered: a 12-issue subscription to the magazine for $12. [Rosslyn]

Bezos and Amazon Board in Town — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the Board of Directors of his $1 trillion company are in town for meetings and a much-anticipated speech at the Economic Club of Washington Thursday night. Some speculate the board is helping to evaluate the D.C. area as a possible location for Amazon’s second headquarters, while the company has denied rumors that Bezos will be making an HQ2-related announcement during his speech. [Washington Post]

AFAC Asks For More Cash — “The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) has announced a special appeal to its donors, volunteers and the public to raise $50,000 to offset the funds lost when the Arlington government reduced its support… In fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the county government provided $50,000 in addition to the base grant of $477,925 to address a spike in families needing food assistance. The additional funding was not included in the fiscal 2019 budget.” [InsideNova]

Iota Book in the Works — The co-owner of the late, lamented Iota Club is trying to raise money online to compile a book showcasing memorabilia from the former Clarendon music venue. More than $1,000 of a $90,000 goal has been raised so far. [GoFundMe]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Morning Notes

Social Media Threats Against Arlington Schools — “There is an increased police presence at a middle school and high school in Arlington Friday after authorities say they were the targets of social media threats Thursday night. Arlington County Police say ‘threats of violence’ were made to Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School… police have identified a person in connection with the incident.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Cannonball Found Near the Run — “A remnant of the most turbulent period in Arlington’s history was unearthed during the recent renovation of the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s warehouse space in the Four Mile Run corridor. A 24-pound spherical shell was found during the construction period.” [InsideNova]

Snow Showers Dust Area — Winter is not over yet. A brief period of snow showers left some white patches on lawns this morning. Meanwhile, a potential snowstorm looms for next week. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

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