Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

A woman photographs Dark Star Park in Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by John Williams)

Howze Endorsed By Teachers PAC — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze has been endorsed by the Arlington Education Association’s political action committee. The teachers group said Howze “has clearly and consistently talked about the need to support our educators and address the overcrowding challenges we face.” [InsideNova]

Young Republicans: Don Beyer Is Old — The Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans used today’s “Throwback Thursday” as an opportunity to remind voters that Democratic congressional candidate Don Beyer was first elected to office as Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor in 1989. “Roxette’s ‘Listen to Your Heart’ was the number one song, Seinfeld premiered, a gallon of gas was $1.12, Taylor Swift was born, and the Soviet Union was still intact,” said Matthew Hurtt, AFCYR Chairman. “Don Beyer is campaigning on the same failed policies Michael Dukakis espoused in 1988.” [AFCYR]

‘Historic Home’ Is ‘A Labor of Love’ — Aurora Hills resident Patrick Johnson loves his “historic home,” a Sears catalog house built in 1931. Originally home to Arlington’s first paid fire marshal, the house is now “a labor of love and dedication” to maintain. [Preservation Arlington]

Pumpkin Decorating This Weekend — Families will be able to decorate pumpkins together this Saturday, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., at the Arlington Mill Community Center. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by John Williams

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Morning Notes

Taxis queued up at Reagan National Airport

‘Pups and Pilsners’ Photo Contest — Want to sample some brews and make your pet famous? Head on over to Crystal City’s Pups and Pilsners event from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, snap a photo of your pooch and tweet it to us and our sponsors, @CCBID and @BeckysPetCare. Pups and Pilsners is a free dog-friendly event featuring a massive beer garden and food from local restaurants. [Crystal City BID]

Planners: Bank Shortchanges Courthouse — The office building slated to replace the Wendy’s in Courthouse will have a Wells Fargo bank prominently located on the ground floor, and Arlington planners don’t like it. County staff says the bank use is “not appropriate” and should be at least moved so that a more active retail use can occupy half of the plaza area. Developer Carr Properties says the bank must stay, since Wells Fargo owns the land under the existing bank that will be torn down for the project. [Washington Business Journal]

Vihstadt Out-Raises Howze — Incumbent, independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt is out-raising his Democratic opponent, Alan Howze. Vihstadt raised $31,367 in July and August, compared to $20,607 raised by Howze. Vihstadt recently reported $58,746 cash on hand while Howze reported $16,906. [Washington Post]

Fugazi to Release ‘Lost Album’ — Fugazi is planing to release a “lost album” of 11 songs recorded in 1988. The legendary local rockers recorded the songs on the album, First Demo, at Inner Ear Studio in Arlington. [Spin]

Road Closures for Clarendon Art Fest — Parts of Washington Blvd, Clarendon Blvd, and N. Highland Street will be closed Saturday and Sunday for the 2nd Annual Arlington Festival of the Arts. “Over 100 artists will showcase their works including glass, mixed media, paintings, jewelry, and pottery; providing all sorts of opportunities to appreciate — and purchase — art,” according to the festival’s website. [Arlington County, ArtFestival]

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Morning Notes

Traffic on the GW Parkway at night (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

APS Mulls Contract for School at TJ — The Arlington School Board tonight will consider a $4.7 million contract for architectural and engineering work on a proposed elementary school on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson Middle School. That’s despite well-organized neighborhood opposition to the school encroaching on Thomas Jefferson Park. [InsideNova]

Unreliable Mail Delivery in Douglas Park — Residents of Arlington’s Douglas Park neighborhood say their mail delivery has become considerably less reliable in the past year. Talk of missing mail, misdirected mail and delayed mail has reached a crescendo. The Postal Service says it’s investigating. [WJLA]

HOT Lanes Lawsuit Had ‘Unintended Consequences’ — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze acknowledged at Tuesday’s debate that Arlington County might have erred in pursuing an aggressive lawsuit against proposed High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. Howze said the suit “had unintended consequences with our relations with Richmond.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Alan Howze at the County Board candidates debate 3/4/14(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Alan Howze, the Democratic candidate for the Arlington County Board, has announced a new platform to improve the planned Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar.

Howze reiterated his support for the half-billion-dollar system that is slated to run from the Skyline area of Fairfax County to Crystal City to Alexandria. He also reiterated his support for a public referendum on the streetcar — which needs General Assembly approval to be placed on the ballot — and called the project a “once-in-a-generation investment.”

“The streetcar has been used as a wedge issue by those who seek political gain by dividing our community,” Howze said in a press release. “Rather than use the streetcar to score political points, let’s focus on responding to community questions and using innovation to make the planned streetcar even better.”

After “talking to thousands of Arlington residents at their doors,” Howze created five proposals to improve the streetcar system. The proposals are:

  1. “Speed and accountability in government matters. Timely construction should be a key contract requirement. This will minimize disruption, protect taxpayers, and accelerate the benefits from the streetcar.”
  2. “Create a small business contingency plan to support small businesses affected by streetcar construction.”
  3. “Create a business and residents advisory council to ensure community issues that arise during construction are dealt with in a timely manner.”
  4. “Examine the feasibility of using streetcars that can run without wires for sections of the streetcar line to reduce the use of overhead wires.”
  5. “Secure 100% renewable energy power supply for the streetcar. This would ensure that the streetcar is a zero emissions system.”

County Board member John Vihstadt is Howze’s opponent in the November general election. It’s a rematch of their April primary in which Vihstadt, a Republican-endorsed independent, won by a 57-41 percent margin. In response to Howze’s statement, Vihstadt responded in a press release, saying “Let’s be careful about who is calling whom divisive.”

“We have a strong contingent of voters who oppose streetcars, and are ready to vote in November,” said Vihstadt, who voted, along with County Board member Libby Garvey against the county’s 10-year Capital Improvement Plan last month because it included the streetcar.

“I’m glad to learn that my opponent is hearing the same concerns that I am in door-knocking and listening to constituents up and down Columbia Pike, along Route 1 and across the County,” Vihstadt said, “including deep anxiety about construction time and cost, disruption to small businesses, commuters and residents alike, unsightly and potentially unsafe overhead wires, environmental and energy concerns and more. Unlike my opponent, I believe that the way to deal most effectively with these concerns is not to build the streetcar in the first place!”

Howze compared the debate over the streetcar to the 1960s debate over building Metro’s Orange Line underground instead of in the median of I-66, saying “for 50 years, transit opponents have used the call for more buses to attempt to block the expansion of rail transit.”

Vihstadt fired back to that claim, referencing the vote Arlington residents took to approve building the Metro along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

“My opponent’s references to Metro are inaccurate,” he said. “I support and take Metro every day. The fact is that Metro was put to a vote in the late 1960s and Arlingtonians embraced it. They have voted to continue to support Metro in bond votes nearly every two years since. Metro ties our entire region together across Maryland, the District and Virginia. None of this is — or ever will be — true of a streetcar.”

File photo

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Morning Notes

Fluorescent office lights can be seen as reflections in a window overlooking Reagan National Airport

Vihstadt Outraising Howze — County Board member John Vihstadt is outraising Democratic challenger Alan Howze ahead of the upcoming November election. Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, has raised $33,773 to Howze’s $6,801. [InsideNova]

‘Revenge of the Understudies’ at Signature — They prepare for roles that they rarely get to actually play, at least in front of a paying audience. On Saturday, however, the understudies at Signature Theatre will take center stage for the annual “Revenge of the Understudies” cabaret. Tickets to either of the show’s two performances — at 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. — are $25. [Washington Post]

Ben’s Chili Bowl Opening at DCA — Ben’s Chili Bowl will be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Reagan National Airport location this morning. Bill Cosby won’t be there, but the Chuck Brown Band will be performing. The restaurant is located before the security checkpoints in the B/C terminal.

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Democratic County Board candidate Alan HowzeDemocratic Arlington County Board candidate Alan Howze is calling for a “broad-based community process” to develop a plan for better utilizing public lands around the county.

Howze is running for a four-year term on the County Board in the general election Nov. 4 against Republican- and Green-backed independent John Vihstadt, who defeated Howze in a special election for the Board seat in April.

The county has promoted its “Public Land for Public Good” platform during its deliberations over the 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan. County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation for moving a fire station to green space near Marymount University and the Arlington School Board’s proposal to build an elementary school on a park next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road) have drawn criticism for, among other reasons, not including sufficient community input.

“The County Board and School Board have made good faith efforts to address very pressing community needs and their staffs have presented options for some of the most critical of these needs,” Howze said in a press release. “But I share the frustration of community members who feel that key decisions that will affect our community for decades should have more meaningful public input at an early stage as proposals are being developed.”

In his 577-word press release, Howze declines to state a position on any of the specific public land use proposals, simply advocating for more discussion while pointing out the “critical need for school capacity, affordable housing, open space, and public safety and public works infrastructure.”

Vihstadt will have a hand in determining the fate of public land when he and the County Board vote on the 10-year CIP on Saturday. He sent ARLnow.com the following response to Howze’s call for a discussion on the issue:

Land and money are finite. Setting county priorities often requires hard decisions. I heard loud and clear that citizens believe many major decisions made by both the County Board and the School Board too often originate and get settled from the top down rather than from the ground up. As a County Board member, I’m working with my colleagues and communities across Arlington to help ensure that our planning process begins earlier, includes all stakeholders, and truly considers and accommodates the sometimes competing needs and diverse interests of our County.

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Morning Notes

Air Force Association Cycling Classic on 6/8/14 (Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi)

Voting Starts in Congressional PrimaryPolls opened at 6:00 this morning in the seven-way race for the Democratic nod to replace Rep. Jim Moran. The polls will close at tonight 7:00. The candidates seeking the nomination are Don Beyer, Bill Euille, Lavern Chatman, Adam Ebbin, Patrick Hope, Derek Hyra and Mark Levine. [Washington Post]

Few Surprises in Howze Speech — County Board candidate Alan Howze addressed the local Democratic faithful at the Arlington Jefferson-Jackson dinner on Saturday. Howze talked about school overcrowding and global warming in the speech, which was described as “low-key,” and said little that would suggest a significant change in strategy since his special election loss to independent candidate John Vihstadt. [InsideNova]

County Employee Sentenced for Taking Bribes — Francisco Hernandez, who worked in Arlington County’s Dept. of Motor Vehicles Select office, has been sentenced to two years in jail after being convicted of taking bribes in connection with his job as a tax assessor supervisor. [FBI Washington Field Office]

Crystal Car Festival This Weekend — In honor of Father’s Day, Crystal City will hold its second annual Crystal Car Father’s Day Auto Festival from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 15. The free event features cars on display, live music, kids activities and a beer/wine garden. [Crystal City]

Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi

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Alan Howze speaks at the Democrat's election party 4/8/14(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) The latest edition of the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s monthly newsletter, The Voice, indicates that many Democrats feel the Arlington County Board is to blame for the results of last month’s special election.

New County Board member John Vihstadt defeated Democrat Alan Howze by a 57-41 percent margin, becoming the first non-Democrat elected to the Board since 1999.

“The overriding conclusion of Democrats who campaigned long and hard was that voters were ticked off at what they perceived as ‘arrogrance’ by the County Board,” The Voice, written by Editor-in-Chief Warren L. Nelson and Deputy Editor Eric Wiener, said in a front page story. “What was most remarkable, however, was that this concern about arrogance was not just voiced by those who voted for John Vihstadt but by legions of voters who stuck by the Democratic candidate, Alan Howze.”

“The overriding issue of the special election was the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar,” the newsletter noted.

The Voice wrote that ACDC President Kip Malinosky addressed the local party’s Steering Committee and asked for assessments. The committee members, the Voice writes, “disagreed strongly” with the voters’ claims of Board arrogance, but “found it prevalent as they campaigned and talked with voters.”

“This election wasn’t about Alan or John or the ACDC,” one Steering Committee member wrote, “it was about the current ruling coalition on the County Board, and their aloofness, hubris and tone-deaf attitude toward their constituents.”

“I believe real changes need to be made about the way Arlington is run,” another Steering Committee member said, “and about the specific policies the Board has committed to without obtaining citizen approval… Real changes need to be made to show Arlingtonians we have absorbed the lessons of [the special election].”

The newsletter also argued that Vihstadt may not be as much of an underdog in the upcoming November rematch against Howze as some Democrats like to think.

Many around the party argued that this was only a special election with a small voter turnout — the typical scenario where the GOP does well–and that things will be different in November. But that was not the view that prevailed among those party workers who were most active in contacting voters.

The turnout was large for a special election, a record, in fact. ACDC’s ground campaign effort was widely seen as very effective in getting out the Democratic vote. But as one campaigner said, “Many of them then voted for Vihstadt.”

The newsletter, released this week, comes on the heels of County Board member Libby Garvey, who supported and donated to Vihstadt’s campaign, resigning from the ACDC after Malinosky called for a hearing to potentially remove her.

Garvey spoke to ARLnow.com after she resigned, saying she hopes the party will become stronger in the long run after it “figures out what the real questions and issues are.”

“I’m not the problem,” she said after her resignation, “I’m a symptom.”

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Columbia Pike streetcar rendering(Updated at 10:20 a.m.) Del. Patrick Hope, Democratic candidate for Congress, and Alan Howze, Democratic nominee for Arlington County Board, joined forces yesterday to call for a voter referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar.

Hope and Howze are both streetcar supporters, but they said the controversial issue should be put to a referendum so that “we can put the streetcar debate to rest.”

Arlington County in the past has said that a referendum could not be legally held since it’s not planning on funding the streetcar via bonds. Hope and Howze, however, point out that an advisory or binding referendum could be held if approved by the Virginia General Assembly.

The candidates released the following statement on their referendum push yesterday afternoon.

Delegate Patrick Hope (D-47 and candidate for VA-08) and Alan Howze (Democratic Nominee for Arlington County Board) joined together to call for the Arlington Streetcar project to be put to a public referendum. Both Hope and Howze have been on the record supporting the streetcar- and continue to do so- but believe the citizens of Arlington need to have a referendum to make the final decision.

“This issue has clearly divided the Arlington community”, Patrick Hope said. “It’s time to move forward and have a public referendum to settle this issue. I represent parts of Columbia Pike in the General Assembly and I support major transportation investments in that corridor that will ease congestion and stimulate job creation and economic development. We need to move forward quickly with those improvements and I believe a referendum on the streetcar is the only way to settle this issue once and for all. The time has come for a full public debate on this issue and we need to respect whatever the public decides.”

“As we have done with Metro, Schools, the Water Pollution Control Plant, and other important community investments, we should give voters the final decision through a public referendum vote”, Alan Howze noted. “I continue to support the streetcar project because of the broad transportation, economic and environmental benefits it will provide for our community. I heard the concerns expressed by voters in the recent special election, and we can put the streetcar debate to rest and ensure public confidence by allowing a referendum vote.”

There are multiple options for the Arlington County Board to consider regarding a referendum and both Hope and Howze are open to whichever one the Board decides would be the best way for voters to weigh in on the streetcar. These include voting on the streetcar in the 2014 general election through the County’s transportation bond or an advisory referendum that may need General Assembly approval.

Democrat Mark Levine, who is also running to replace Rep. Jim Moran in Congress, said last week that he supports a voter referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar.

Howze’s opponent in the November Arlington County Board election, meanwhile, released a statement that lauded the referendum idea but took a shot at Howze’s streetcar support.

Independent County Board member John Vihstadt, whose election was considered by some to itself be a referendum on the streetcar, is pushing for the county to halt all spending on the streetcar. He says that any referendum on the issue should be clearly worded.

I am pleased to see that Alan Howze now agrees that Arlington taxpayers should have a voice regarding the County Board’s misguided proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to install streetcars in Arlington. I regret that Mr. Howze still believes that streetcars are a good investment for Arlington. Many people have already stated that my election on April 8 with 57 percent of the vote was referendum enough on the wisdom of Arlington streetcars. Yet, if a further specific streetcar voter referendum is to be truly meaningful and anything beyond a gimmick or a political tactic, it is imperative that the County Board direct the County Manager immediately to cease all County expenditures relating to streetcars, as I attempted to do at our April 16 County Board work session. Not a penny more of taxpayer dollars should be spent on promoting, planning for, or in any way implementing Arlington streetcars until such a referendum is held and Arlington voters have had their say once again.

Accordingly, I call on Delegate Hope and Candidate Howze, as well as my Board colleagues, to support my and colleague Libby Garvey’s efforts to ensure that (a) no funds shall be expended in the FY 2014 or FY 2015 operating budgets for the purpose of furthering a streetcar on Columbia Pike or anywhere else in Arlington, except to the extent that such expenditures are required to meet contractual or other legal obligations entered into by the County prior to the date of this motion; (b) no funds be included in the FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for similar purposes and that (c) any referendum question on streetcars to be included on the general election ballot in Arlington in 2014:

  • be clearly worded to specify in detail the estimated total costs for all proposed Arlington streetcars,
  • detail the proposed financing plan for all of them, and
  • not combine streetcar financing with any other project so that it is clear to voters precisely on what subject they are voting.

County Board Chair Jay Fisette told the Washington Post that he wasn’t sure a streetcar referendum was such a good idea.

“I lived in California for a while when we had 100-plus referenda on the ballot,” Fisette told the paper. “I became very disillusioned about the use of selective referenda on public policy issues.”

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Morning Notes

Sunset over the Memorial Bridge (Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber)

Vihstadt Backs Off Independent Auditor Push — Newly-elected County Board member John Vihstadt is backing off a campaign promise to push for an independent auditor for Arlington County. Vihstadt “learned of the internal auditing that the county does and its plans to make that role more robust.” He plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the county’s auditing project around mid-year. [Washington Post]

Howze Won Pike Precincts — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze, who lost to John Vihstadt in the April 8 special election, narrowly won the precincts around Columbia Pike. Opponents of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar say the slim victory — Howze supports the streetcar while Vihstadt does not — is proof that even Columbia Pike residents who stand to benefit from the streetcar are lukewarm on the project. [InsideNoVa]

A Weekend in Courthouse in 2.5 Minutes — Timelapse photography of Arlington’s Courthouse Square area shows 2.5 days in just 2.5 minutes. The video includes a view of the Courthouse farmers market from setup to break down. [YouTube]

Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber

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New County Board member John Vihstadt at his election party 4/8/14As the dust settles from Republican-backed independent John Vihstadt’s victory in the Arlington County Board special election last night, those in and around Arlington politics are surveying what could be a new political landscape.

Vihstadt won by a significant margin — 57 percent to Democrat Alan Howze’s 41 percent — in a special election that saw an unofficial tally of 22,209 votes. Democrats saw the result partly as a result of not enough voter turnout, while Vihstadt’s supporters — Republicans, Democrats, Greens and independents among them — viewed the election as a referendum of County Board policy.

“John’s overwhelming victory tonight is a testament to the growing number of Arlingtonians who are tired of a County Board that dictates its own priorities instead of listening to the voices and concerns of the community,” the Arlington County Republican Committee, said in a press release.

“Despite attempts to nationalize the issues in this race, the principles of fiscal responsibility and local project prioritization won out — and with a 15-point lead,” Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans President Matt Hurtt said in a press release. “John is perfect for the job, and will bring balance to an overwhelmingly Democrat-controlled county government.”

Board member Mary Hynes focused on the work the Board has to do — including pass a budget later this month — with its newest member, who’s expected to be sworn in as soon as the election results are certified.

“The Board has a lot on its plate this month — budget being the first among many right now,” Hynes told ARLnow.com in an email. “It’s hard to come in at the end of a multi-month process like the budget. I know Board members and staff will do their best to answer any questions John may have as we move to adopt the budget on April 22.”

Many observers viewed this special election as centered primarily around the planned streetcar from Fairfax County on Columbia Pike to Pentagon City and Crystal City. Arlington Streetcar Now congratulated Vihstadt on his victory, but reiterated its beliefs that the streetcar would be better for Arlington than the enhanced bus service Vihstadt supports.

“Mr. Vihstadt’s election does not change any of the facts that have led the Arlington County Board to conclude on numerous occasions that the streetcar system is needed in Arlington and will provide tremendous benefits both for the neighborhoods directly served and for Arlington as a whole,” the group said in a release.

One local political observer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said Vihstadt’s victory was attributable to strong fundraising efforts, his experience and his liberal position on social issues, among other factors. The observer also said Democrats may have been distracted by the June primary in the 8th District congressional race.

“I think the thing to watch will be the CIP, due out soon,” the observer said. “Will there be a financing plan finally put forth for the Pike streetcar? What will be proposed to do for the Aquatics Center? Garvey and Vihstadt have common ground here — what will the other three do?”

Howze will again run against Vihstadt in November, when the general election for the retiring Rep. Jim Moran’s House of Representative seat and Sen. Mark Warner’s (D) Senate seat will take place.

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