Press Club

Morning Notes

Bon Air Park azaleas (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

More Bad Driving on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “WATCH THIS! I thought I saw a crash in the distance. Nope. An I-395S driver stopped in the left lane for 30 secs to cross 4 lanes to get to the right hand Boundary Channel exit!” [Twitter]

Drug Take-Back Day Tomorrow — “If you have expired or unused prescription drugs taking up space in your medicine cabinet, Arlington County residents will have an opportunity to safely get rid of them this weekend. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Saturday.” [Patch]

Civic Association to Celebrate Anniversary — “The John M. Langston Citizens Association has set a weekend’s worth of activities to celebrate its 85th anniversary, running May 13-15. The association represents residents in the communities of Halls Hill and High View Park, straddling what long was known as Lee Highway but has been renamed Langston Boulevard.” [Sun Gazette]

AHC Honors Volunteers — “Providing services where residents live is AHC’s secret sauce. Volunteers are the key ingredient. This Volunteer Month, AHC is celebrating the nearly 350 individuals and groups who generously contribute their time and talents annually through our education and social services programs.” [AHC Inc.]

Art Truck Marks Five Years — “Not long after I began working for Arlington County, Arlington Arts launched the Arlington Art Truck: a bold new project to take curated and interactive visual art experiences out into the community to where people congregate. Five years in, the program has succeeded beyond our wildest expectations.” [Arlington County]

Rep. Beyer Interviewed — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) “has cast over 2,100 proxy votes for his colleagues in the last 2 years, by *far* the most of any lawmakers. I spoke w/ him about what that’s like, how it could change, and how he’s cast more votes to impeach Trump (6) than anyone else.” [Business Insider, Twitter]

Va. Requires Digital School Floor Plans — “Every second counts for first responders when it comes to saving lives and now a new Virginia law aims to help those heroes navigate better as they respond to emergencies at schools. Public schools will be required to digitally keep an up-to-date and accurate floor plan for each building.” [Fox 5]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 63 and low of 40. Sunrise at 6:14 am and sunset at 8:00 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Metro Service Still Affected by Derailment — “On Thursday, October 14, there will be no rail service between Rosslyn and Pentagon stations due to the ongoing investigation into Tuesday’s derailment. In addition, Orange and Silver line trains will single track between Clarendon and Foggy Bottom. Customers should expect delays in both directions. Free local shuttle buses will operate between Rosslyn, Arlington Cemetery, and Pentagon stations, with free express shuttles between Rosslyn and Pentagon stations.” [WMATA]

Portion of Train Removed from Tunnel — From NBC 4’s Adam Tuss: “Almost 24 hours after the Blue Line derailment — a section of the derailed train is on the move. Only 3 railcars here. We were told the 4th railcar was the one that derailed. There were 8 railcars total.” [Twitter]

Camera Truck to Drive Around Arlington — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Starting [today]: A County contractor’s camera truck will be driving around Arlington for two weeks (weather permitting), gathering imagery and and GPS data exclusively for evaluation of roadway conditions. They come in peace for all mankind.” [Twitter]

Amazon to Fund Transit-Accessible Housing — “Amazon will fund a new grant program to help local governments and nonprofit developers pursue affordable projects near transit stations, directing $500,000 of its recently announced $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to this effort… said Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey… ‘Providing this source of funding, that’s not going to need to be paid back, is really going to be the key in unlocking innovative projects to help meet our goals.'” [Washington Business Journal]

Anniversary Event at Tomb of the Unknowns — “When Arlington National Cemetery marks the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknowns next month, members of the public will be allowed to place flowers there for the first time, the cemetery said Tuesday… ‘This is a rare opportunity for the public to walk next to the Tomb … a privilege otherwise given only to the sentinels of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, ‘The Old Guard,” who stand watch over the site 24 hours a day, the cemetery said.” [Washington Post]

New DCA Security Checkpoints Unveiled — “The public got its first look Wednesday at the buildings that will be home to new security checkpoints set to open next month at Reagan National Airport — an upgrade that officials hope will speed screening times and ease congestion in time for the holiday travel season. The checkpoints are set to open Nov. 9 and will be housed in separate 50,000-square-foot buildings across from Terminals B and C.” [Washington Post]

Nearby: SROs Reinstated in Alexandria, For Now — “After significant outcry from a school system concerned about weapons in schools, the Alexandria City Council took a dramatic 4-3 vote around 1 a.m. this morning (Wednesday) to temporarily return school resource officers (SROs) to two middle schools and Alexandria City High School until the end of this school year.” [ALXnow]

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Ten years ago today, at 1:51 p.m. a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Virginia and the D.C. region, an unexpected jolt that sent residents and workers fleeing into the streets.

Damage from the earthquake locally was scattered and relatively minor. Loose items fell from store shelves. Some brick structures like chimneys were damaged. Walls cracked at historic Arlington House. The foundation at Arlington Fire Station No. 2 was damaged. The Thomas Jefferson Theater had to be closed for repairs. There were also reports of broken glass.

And that’s not to mention what happened across the Potomac River.

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, cell phone service was overloaded by people calling loved ones. Numerous gas leaks were reported and hundreds of Dominion customers in Arlington lost power. Office buildings closed for damage assessments, and highways were jammed with workers heading home early. In Courthouse, court employees, police and other county workers gathered in the middle of the street.

ARLnow’s initial article on the quake published two minutes after it started, but due to a crush of web traffic our server crashed and remained only periodically reachable for at least an hour.

“I remember sitting in my office, in my then-apartment along Columbia Pike, and feeling the shaking. My initial thought was that the somewhat creaky building was giving way,” recalls ARLnow editor Scott Brodbeck. “When I realized it was an earthquake, and saw our Twitter mentions blow up with people wondering what was happening, I worked to get something up on the site as soon as possible. It took about three minutes after that for our server to start crashing.”

Luckily, no significant injuries were reported, and the day’s Democratic primary went off without a hitch.

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Four years ago today, one of the strangest stories in Arlington history played out.

It was a slow Thursday in August when an ARLnow editor was on the phone while walking around Clarendon, where our offices were located at the time. Along Wilson Blvd, next to the Metro station, an odd sight caught his attention: a van with rhythmic blinking lights at the top of the windshield.

As it drove by, there was something missing — a driver.

Quickly the editor apologized to the person on the other end of the phone call, hung up, and took a series of cell phone videos. Published that night, the video would end up making regional and even national news.

“A mysterious, seemingly driverless van was spotted cruising the streets of Arlington’s Courthouse and Clarendon neighborhoods Thursday evening,” we reported that night. “The unmarked gray van with Virginia license plates drove up and down Wilson and Clarendon Blvds more than a half dozen times — with no one in the driver’s seat or passenger seat. The rear windows of the Ford Transit Connect van were darkly tinted.”

“The van appeared to drive cautiously but keep up with traffic. Cameras and a light bar could be seen behind the windshield,” the article continued. “The lack of a driver went mostly unnoticed as Clarendon residents went around their after-work routines near the Metro station, though occasionally people could be seen pointing at the car or asking someone nearby if they saw a driver.”

Arlington County, Arlington County police, VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration told us they had no knowledge of any autonomous vehicle testing in the area. It remained a mystery for several days, with many wondering whether autonomous vehicle technology had advanced to the point where a van could safely drive itself in circles around a densely populated area.

Then, an unexpected revelation and some made-for-TV theatrics helped the story attain even greater fame. NBC 4’s Adam Tuss, after leaving an interview at ARLnow’s offices the following Monday, spotted the van, peered inside and found… arms and legs.

“Brother, who are you? What are you doing? I’m with the news, dude,” Tuss said. “Dude, can you pull over and we can talk for a second?”

As it turns out, the “driverless” car was actually an experiment run by Virginia Tech and Ford to see how people reacted when they saw a car with no one in the driver’s seat.

In reality, the driver was disguised as a car seat. The university admitted its role after Tuss’ tweet went viral.

Ford said the light bar in the van was intended as a way to communicate the car’s intentions to pedestrians.

“Anyone who has crossed a busy street likely knows the informal language between pedestrians and drivers,” [Ford researcher John] Shutko wrote. “A driver might wave her hand to indicate to the pedestrian it’s okay to cross, or a pedestrian could throw up his hand like a stop sign to signal he plans to cross first. But what happens in the future, when self-driving vehicles operate without drivers - and in some cases, without anyone even in the vehicle itself?”

After being first reported by ARLnow.com, and famously further investigated by NBC4 reporter Adam Tuss — who was startled to discover a person in a seat costume inside — VT admitted it was behind the driverless car.

Ford said people are put in the cars — and dressed as car seats — for safety reasons, as self-driving technology is still in the early stages of testing and development.

And if not for some meddling reporters, the experiment might have been able to continue to roam Arlington streets and startle pedestrians for a bit longer. Without the mystery and the “news dude” moment, however, the story would not have been nearly as memorable.

A man dressed as a seat for research purposes (via Ford video)
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Morning Notes

Pupatella Gets Millions for Expansion — “Arlington’s own Pupatella pizza restaurant chain has raised $7.5 million to continue its growth spurt, with plans to open more more than a dozen restaurants in the coming years. The round was fully subscribed and had participation from almost all of the investors who participated in the company’s first round in 2018, when it raised $3.75 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

Steel from WTC Donated to Arlington — “Two pieces of steel from the World Trade Center will now be on permanent display in D.C. and Virginia ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. The words ‘never forget’ are written on the front of a piece of steel beam unveiled during a ceremony in front of the Arlington County Police Officer Memorial on Sunday.” [WTOP]

Crystal City Getting Cooler? — “Nearly three years after Amazon announced it would be bringing its second headquarters to Arlington — and specifically to ‘National Landing,’ a name conjured by local officials to sell the area as a tech hub — its reputation may be changing.” [Washington Post]

Big Win for Fmr. Youth Soccer Star — “Congratulations to #TeamArlington alum [Eryk Williamson] and the @usmnt on winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup.” [Twitter, ALXnow]

Food Scrap Caddy Being Delivered — “With Arlington’s weekly food scraps collection program launching next month, a County-provided countertop caddy, instructions and even introductory biodegradable bags will be delivered to curbside customer homes beginning this week.” [Arlington County]

Fire Engine Involved in Crash — “An Arlington fire engine was involved in a crash at the intersection of 18th Street S. and S. Fern Street this morning around 9:30. No firefighters were injured. One person in the second vehicle involved was taken to the hospital but is expected to be okay, per an ACFD spokesman.” [Twitter]

CPRO to Mark 35th Anniversary — “As the group’s 35th anniversary looms on the horizon this fall, the recent annual meeting of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) was a chance to take stock of tumultuous times and fly the organization’s flag in the march toward the future.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Poetry Book — “I picked up a copy of the ‘Written in Arlington: Poems of Arlington, Virginia’ edited by Katherine E. Young, our poet laureate emerita. Published quietly last fall during the pandemic, it showcases storytelling via 150 poems by 87 poets who ‘live, work, study, worship in or simply pass through… and in so doing, make Arlington their own,’ Young explains. She nodded to famous Arlington-based poets — George Washington Parke Custis, Doors singer Jim Morrison, and Zitkala-Sa.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Morning Notes

Photographer Taking Silly Cicada Snaps —  “Oxana Ware is a talented photographer based out of North Arlington, but along with her business side, she likes to have fun and be a little silly at times. That’s why it just seemed right to her when she decided to have a full photoshoot with cicadas, complete with handmade props.” [WJLA]

County Marking Sit-In Anniversary With Art — “It was delayed a year due to the pandemic, but a commemoration marking the 1960 civil-rights sit-ins in Arlington is now beginning. The Arlington County government had planned to mark the 60th anniversary of sit-ins at Arlington lunch counters with special programming on the Arlington Art Truck, using prints by artist Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. to immerse the public in the experience, in 2020. But the effort was a victim of the pandemic – until now.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington-Based Axios Making Moves — Digital news outlet Axios, based in Clarendon, is launching local news publications in a number of cities this year, including Washington. It is also reportedly in discussions to be acquired by a German news conglomerate. [Washington Post, Marketwatch]

Masks Coming Off For APS Athletes — “It looks like Arlington school officials have abandoned their masks-on policy for most athletes while engaged in competition.” [Sun Gazette]

ACFD Assists with Potomac Search — “Person seen going into Potomac River & not resurfacing… [After a search involving D.C., Arlington and other water rescue teams, medics] transported an adult female in critical life threatening condition. Law enforcement will investigate the circumstances.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Secretary Pete at DCA This Afternoon — “U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Mary Kay Henry, International President of the two million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will host an immigration roundtable discussion with 32BJ SEIU’s airport workers at National Airport (DCA).” [Press Release]

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It was one year ago today that the first “presumptive” coronavirus case in Arlington was announced by county and state officials.

Though the first Northern Virginia coronavirus patient had started feeling symptoms three weeks prior, on Feb. 16, this first Arlington case was a mental turning point, making the pandemic feel close to home for county residents. Tens of thousands read ARLnow’s article that day, making it the third-most-read story of the year.

The news also came amid a major stock market selloff, adding to the feeling of impending doom.

From our article on March 9, 2020:

Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Health have announced the county’s first “presumptive” case of coronavirus.

An individual in their 60s who recently returned from international travel tested positive for the rapidly-spreading disease, the county said.

“The positive result returned Sunday evening is considered presumptive, pending confirmation by the CDC,” Arlington County said in a press release. “The individual had limited contact with others while ill and the risk to the general Arlington community remains low.” […]

Arlington Public Schools said in an email to parents Monday afternoon that schools are staying open for now, despite the first local case.

“At this time, our schools remain open and there are no changes to school-sponsored activities,” APS said. “Any change to normal operating status would be based on a recommendation from health officials.”

Arlington Transit, meanwhile, has announced that it distributing hand sanitizer to employees and will now “deep clean and sanitize all buses thoroughly at the end of each night by using approved disinfectant to wipe down all stanchions, hand rails, passenger seats, windows and all components in the driver’s area.”

Just four days later, as the country started to lock down, grocery stores and pharmacies in Arlington were picked clean of many essentials and Arlington Public Schools announced it would close — a closure that would last nearly a year, until the recent return to schools on hybrid, two-day-a-week basis.

A year after that first case, however, there is hopeful news. As reports of new cases remain well below the previous winter peaks, the seven-day trailing rate of daily vaccinations in Arlington reached a new high today: an average of 1,310 doses per day.

Photo (top) by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

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Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) next month will host an exhibition that pays tribute to women who have helped to shape Arlington.

The exhibit, open from March 5 to April 2, will display “stories, photographs, letters and memorabilia, which spotlight individuals and groups of Arlington women who dedicate their work to improve their community and the lives of others,” according to the library website.

Dubbed “Women’s Work: Then & Now,” the exhibit coincides with both Arlington County’s centennial and the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote and was passed in 1920.

Liza Mundy, the author of “Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II,” will participate in an author talk after the opening reception, which is being held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5. Attendees are asked to RSVP for the event.

More from the library website:

Discover and learn about the work of Anna Barber, Charlene Bickford, Ellen Bozman, Judith Brewer, Elizabeth Campbell, Gertrude Crocker, Pauline Haislip Duncan, Alice Fleet, Alice Foster, Saundra Green, Critchett Hodukavich, Seema Jain, Carolyn (Carrie) Johnson, Cintia Johnson, Dr. Phoebe Hall Knipling, Puwen Lee, Marguerete Luter, Mary A. R. Marshall, Sushmita Mazumdar, Ruby Lee Minar, Constance (Connie) Ramirez, Caroline Gary Romano, Cornelia Bruere Rose, Jr., Virginia Lillis Smith, Florence Starzynski, Margarite Syphax, Nancy Tate, Marjorie Varner, and Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez.

The nominees, selected by the 16 exhibition partners, were based on their groundbreaking, visionary and ongoing contributions to the communities they serve. Also included in this exhibition, are women who were curated from the Center for Local History’s online exhibition, “Women’s Work: Stories of Persistence and Influence.”

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Morning Notes

Small Apartment Fire in Waverly Hills — “At approx 2 p.m. units were called to the 2000 blk of N. Woodrow St. Firefighters quickly extinguished fire in kitchen with minimal fire spread. Occupants escaped unharmed, not expected to be displaced. No firefighter injuries. Cause of the fire is under investigation.” [Twitter]

Parents Anxiously Waiting for APS Schedule — “Some Arlington parents are frustrated school leaders have not confirmed when school will start this fall. ‘We all like to plan ahead,’ said Arlington parent Meghan Thomas who is trying to plan her family’s summer travel and her kids sports schedule. ‘It is very frustrating not knowing right now what the August schedule is going to be.'” [WJLA]

Home Maintenance in Historic District May Get Easier — “Residents of Maywood soon may find it less onerous to make rudimentary changes to their properties. County Board members in coming months are expected to approve a change in rules governing the community’s local historic district, shifting some of the workload from the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) to county historic-preservation staff.” [InsideNova]

More on ARLnow’s Anniversary Party — “On Wednesday night, Jan. 29, a large crowd gathered at Bronson Bierhall in Ballston to help… celebrate ARLnow’s 10th anniversary. ‘We have had the privilege of continuing to serve the community for 10 years, and I’m just blown away,’ [founder Scott] Brodbeck said about the party.” [Patch]

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Morning Notes

Public-Private Partnership for Pentagon City Planning — “County Board members on Jan. 25 approved a memorandum of understanding with the coalition of property owners in [Pentagon City], which will guide planning efforts and allocate $1.5 million – about two-thirds of it from the county government, the rest from landowners – to complete it. County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said the aim was a coordinated strategy for redevelopment of the target area, which totals about 85 acres.” [InsideNova]

APS Investigating Swastika Incident — “School officials launched an investigation this week after a student drew a swastika on a piece of paper and handed it to a classmate at a Northern Virginia middle school. The incident took place Tuesday at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Arlington, according to a letter that Principal Keisha Boggan sent parents Wednesday. The hate symbol was later reported to Arlington County police.” [Washington Post]

Industry Supporting Glass Drop-Off Program — “Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) members are partnering to create a circular economy for high quality recycled glass in Northern Virginia. O-I Glass, Inc. (O-I Glass) and Strategic Materials are teaming up to create strong markets for glass in the region through a new glass recycling drop-off program.” [Press Release]

Thanks, Arlington — Thank you to everyone who came out to our 10th anniversary party at Bronson Bierhall in Ballston last night. It was a packed house and we are incredibly grateful to have that kind of support from members of the community, local institutions like the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, local government, and our advertisers — who help support ARLnow and keep our local news free for all. We also met a few commenters and a few soon-to-be commenters last night (you know who you are). Finally, a big thank you to our current and former employees, whose tireless work has helped us reach this anniversary while growing to serve other communities in Northern Virginia.

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Morning Notes

It’s ARLnow’s 10th Anniversary — On this day 10 years ago ARLnow quietly published its first article. It has since grown to be Arlington’s local news publication of record, read by a majority of those who call our county home. Join us to celebrate this milestone tonight at Bronson Bierhall in Ballston (4100 Fairfax Drive) from 5-7 p.m. [Facebook]

County Board Approves Solar Farm Deal — “‘This is a groundbreaking partnership for the County,’ said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. ‘It will take us a long way toward our goal of 100 percent use of renewable sources for all electricity used in government operations by 2025.’ Arlington County is the first locality in the Commonwealth to enter into a power purchase agreement of this scale for off-site solar energy with an investor-owned utility company.” [Arlington County, Dominion Energy]

Local Pharmacies Selling Out of Surgical Masks — Preston’s Pharmacy at 5101 Lee Highway is sold out of surgical masks amid worries about the deadly coronavirus outbreak. The store “reported that people are calling, and coming in asking about surgical masks… they are having re-ordering issues from their supplier.” [WUSA 9]

Investors Buying Up Crystal City Properties — “In another indicator of how sought-after the real estate near Amazon’s HQ2 has become, even an NBA player with no ties to Greater Washington is an investor in the Crystal City market. Jeff Teague, a point guard for the Atlanta Hawks, bought a 935-square-foot apartment at 1200 Crystal Drive.” [Washington Business Journal]

Home Sales Way Down in Arlington — “Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. reports the median price of a home that sold in Arlington County in December was $649,000. That’s up 19% from the median selling price a year earlier. The number of sales in Arlington County was down 24% from a year ago, and, with only 148 homes on the market last month, active inventory was down 51%.” [WTOP]

Another Title for Local Girls Flag Football Team — “Congratulations to the [Arlington-based] Virginia Hurricanes 14U girls flag football team for winning the NFL Flag Football National Championship tournament at the NFL Pro Bowl event in Florida this past weekend. This is the second NFL Flag Girls National Championship title for the Hurricanes.” [Virginia Hurricanes]

Chamber Holds Hospitality Awards — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce today honored 98 front-line workers in Arlington’s hospitality industry at the 16th Annual Hospitality Awards at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel. These prestigious awards are presented each year to hospitality workers who deliver outstanding customer service, exhibit excellence in their roles, and continuously exceed their job descriptions.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

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