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Video: Pupatella Neapolitan Pizzeria

The county-run Arlington Virginia Network’s “Food For Thought” program recently visited Pupatella Neapolitan Pizzeria (5104 Wilson Blvd), in the Bluemont neighborhood (just west of Ballston).

Owner Enzo Algarme, donning sunglasses and a bright orange fedora, explained to host Katie Greenan how Pupatella make pizza that tastes like it came straight from Naples, Italy.

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Comcast Renewal Meeting Tonight

The ‘franchise agreement’ that allows Comcast to provide cable television services in Arlington County is up for renewal, and residents are being asked to share their thoughts on what services the company can provide as part of a new franchise agreement.

Currently, Comcast helps to equip Arlington County’s government access channel, the Arlington Virginia Network, and helps to fund Arlington Independent Media, the independently-run public access channel. It also provides the fiber optic network and internet access service used by Arlington County government and Arlington Public Schools.

At tonight’s meeting, residents are encouraged to “share your own comments on potential services that might be part of a new cable franchise agreement.”

The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the County Board room at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard. The county-produced video, above, and the Comcast Cable Renewal Process page of the Arlington County website provide more information about the process.

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County Asks: What Should We Get From Comcast?

Every 10-15 years, the ‘franchise agreement’ that gives one company a virtual monopoly over cable TV service in Arlington is put up for review. The current agreement with Comcast is expiring in 2013, and the county is asking for citizen input into whether it should renew the company’s franchise, and under what conditions.

Right now, if you exclude fiber optic TV provider Verizon FiOS, Comcast is Arlington’s sole cable provider. Under its current franchise agreement, Comcast provides a number of guarantees, including customer service standards, regular system testing and maintenance, and free internet service for Arlington Public Schools. It also makes annual contributions to support the television channels run by the county government, county schools and by public access organization Arlington Independent Media. (About one percent of your cable bill goes to support AIM.)

Arlington, a lucrative market for cable operators, must now decide what to ask for as part of another 10-15 year agreement with Comcast. As part of that process, the county will be holding a number of focus groups that will discuss ways to improve cable service and while providing additional community benefits.

The focus groups will involve specific interest groups with a stake in the outcome of the franchise negotiations. A total of eight focus groups — each open to the general public — are planned for the month of June. Among them:

  • K-12 Schools, Teachers, Staff, Students, and Parents (June 16)
  • Local Government Agencies and Departments (June 20)
  • Emergency Services, Federal Agencies & Institutional Network (June 20)
  • Non Profit, Health and Human Service Organizations, Civic Societies and Groups (June 21)
  • Arts, Culture, Music and Heritage (June 21)
  • Churches and Faith-Based Organizations (June 22)
  • Neighborhood Organizations, County Board Commissions (June 22)
  • Higher Education, Healthcare Institutions, and Businesses (June 23)

“These focus groups… provide a chance for interested community members to learn about the franchise renewal and to share opinions about future services that could be available to our community through the Comcast cable system,” the county said in a press release. “The process of granting a new franchise to Comcast deserves serious consideration and public input.”

See more information on the meetings on the county’s web site. The focus groups will be conducted by The Buske Group, a consulting firm that’s assisting the county during the franchise renewal process.

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Columbia Pike Documentary Video Earns Emmy Nod

A county-produced video about the Columbia Pike Documentary Project has received a regional Emmy nomination.

The video was produced by Arlington Virginia Network producer/photographer/editor Roger Munter. It’s nominated in the Historical/Cultural category along with video segments from the Washington Post, Baltimore’s Fox 45 television station and others.

Munter’s video follows a group of residents that has been documenting life on Columbia Pike through photographs and oral histories.

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USS Arlington Christening To Be Broadcast Live

The christening of the USS Arlington will be broadcast live on the county’s cable channel on Saturday.

The amphibious transport dock ship, named in honor of the heroes and victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon, will be christened at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.

Arlington County Fire Chief James Schwartz, who was incident commander at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, will deliver the keynote address at the christening. Former County Manager Ron Carlee, current County Manager Barbara Donnellan and several Arlington County Police officers who were first responders on 9/11 will also be in attendance.

“No County taxpayer money will be used to pay travel expenses,” the county noted in a press release.

The proceedings will be broadcast live, starting Saturday at 10:00 a.m., on the county-run Arlington Virginia Network, which is available on Comcast channel 25 or Verizon FiOS channel 40. A webcast of the christening will also be available.

Ship sponsor Joyce Rumsfeld, wife of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, will christen the ship. See more information about the ship here.

Photo courtesy Northrop Grumman

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Meet Your Neighbor, the Food Stylist

In the latest installment of the county-run Arlington Virginia Network’s “Food for Thought” segment, host Katie Greenan interviewed local resident Lisa Cherkasky, who has made a 25-year career out of preparing food to be photographed.

Cherkasky has an eclectic set of tools for making food look good, from spraying Armor All on bread to prevent it from drying out to using glycerin to make meat look juicy.

She also runs a local food blog, Lunch Encounter, which recently profiled the Waffle Shop on Mt. Vernon Avenue in the Arlandria section of Alexandria.

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Arlington Resident Who Survived Katrina Recounts Rescue

Five years ago, Suzette Walker was stranded inside her empty apartment building in New Orleans. Flood waters caused by Hurricane Katrina had surrounded the building. For eight days, Walker survived in an apartment hallway, until she was finally rescued via helicopter.

Now a “proud Arlington resident,” Walker recounted her survival story for the county-run Arlington Virginia Network. She recalled how she had a suitcase packed when Katrina hit, because she had been booked to go on a Carnival Cruise later that week. She also recounted how the kindness of a stranger helped her survive the ordeal.

Walker made it to Arlington by accident. She was on a flight to Houston to stay with family when the captain announced that Texas was no longer taking refugees and that the flight was now going to Washington, DC. Arlington, Walker said, put out the welcome mat after she arrived and she has been here ever since.

Watch the nine minute video, which includes actual footage of Walker’s helicopter rescue, below.

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New County Manager Talks About the Job Ahead

New County Manager Michael Brown has been so busy with staff briefings and catch-up readings this week that some county officials say they’ve barely seen him outside his office.

Despite his busy schedule, AVN (the county-run TV operation we wrote about on Wednesday) managed to sit down with Brown earlier this week to get his thoughts on Arlington and on the job ahead. He also talked about his passion for the outdoors.

You can also see the interview we did with Brown here and here.

Residents will get their first opportunity to see Brown in person on Saturday morning, when he makes his debut at the county board meeting.

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Why Don’t More People Watch AVN Online?

Yesterday we linked to a couple of great videos that gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at two Columbia Pike restaurants. The videos were produced by the Arlington Virginia Network, the county-run television channel.

AVN’s production values are impeccable. It’s remarkable that the county is producing interesting community video content that could be mistaken for a Food Network show or a local news broadcast.

But it’s a bit discouraging that, before we linked to them, the two videos had barely 100 views between them on YouTube. It begs the question: is there a better way to promote AVN online?

While it’s virtually impossible to know how many people watch AVN shows on the county’s cable channel (channel 25 on Comcast and channel 40 on Verizon), AVN videos get about 50,000 views per year online (UPDATE: AVN Executive Producer Rob Farr says their online views have grown dramatically since the county estimate cited here — see his response in the comments section). Given the office’s budget of about $557,000 this year (according to the county manager’s proposed budget), that’s more than $10 spent per online view.

How can the county better promote AVN online? A Facebook and a Twitter account would help. As would a standalone domain name for the AVN website. What are your thoughts? (In addition to the comments section, feel free to contribute to the discussion on our Facebook page).

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Behind the Scenes at Columbia Pike’s Favorite Restaurants

In honor of Columbia Pike’s bicentennial, the county-run Arlington Virginia Network has been profiling residents’ favorite off-the-beaten-path restaurants on the Pike.

Among the places featured is Abi’s Azteca Grill (3005 Columbia Pike), a Mexican/El Salvadorian restaurant that’s one of several serving up muy auténtico Latin and South American cuisine on the Pike.

Also featured is Dama Restaurant (1503 Columbia Pike), a family owned and operated Ethiopian eatery near the Air Force Memorial. The well-reviewed restaurant has been called the best Ethiopian spot in the D.C. area.

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