Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4 p.m.) President Biden visited Arlington National Cemetery this afternoon.

A week after the First Lady visited a nonprofit in Clarendon that supports military families, Biden is visiting Section 60 of the nation’s most hallowed ground, where servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.

The visit immediately followed a speech at the White House in which Biden said all remaining U.S. forces will be withdrawing from Afghanistan, starting Saturday, May 1. The withdraw is expected to be complete by Sept. 11.

Some roads near the cemetery, including the Memorial Bridge, were temporarily closed due to the presidential motorcade. The president arrived at the cemetery around 3 p.m. and departed about 20 minutes later.

During the brief visit, Biden walked past a row of headstones carrying an unopened umbrella, the grass wet amid a light rain. He saluted a wreath and said of the many headstones, “it’s hard to believe, isn’t it?”

He expressed amazement at the sacrifice of those “prepared to give their lives for their country,” generation after generation, and said in response to a reporter’s question that it was not a hard decision to end America’s longest war.

“For me it was absolutely clear,” the president said.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Call for Public Input in Police Chief Search — “The head of the Arlington branch of the NAACP wants the county government to include more public involvement as it prepares to select a new police chief… Community groups should ‘have the opportunity to participate throughout the entire selection process,’ Spain wrote. ‘Now more than ever, we need openness and transparency, and all candidates should understand the needs of the community.'” [Sun Gazette]

Reminder: Arlies Voting Now Underway — “Voting for the spring 2021 Arlies is now live! The Arlies are ARLnow’s community awards, highlighting Arlington’s favorite local places, people and organizations — as chosen by you.” Each season brings a new group of categories. [ARLnow, SurveyMonkey]

Arlington Homes Selling for Near Ask — “If Arlington homeowners appear to be getting a little too aggressive in setting listing prices for their homes, they are in good company. The same seems to be true for neighboring Alexandria and Falls Church, as well. For the first two months of the year, Arlington home-sellers garnered an average 98.47 percent of listing price.” [Sun Gazette]

Nearby: POTUS Visits Alexandria — “President Joe Biden visited the Neighborhood Health vaccine site at Virginia Theological Seminary today (Tuesday) just before he was scheduled to announce that states should open COVID-19 vaccination appointments to all adults by April 19. ‘We passed 150 million (vaccine doses distributed) yesterday,’ Biden said. ‘When you go home, get all your friends and tell them, ‘Get a shot when they can.”” [ALXnow, Twitter]

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President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan has added a glimmer of hope to those who would like to see an expanded Metrorail system.

The initial planning for the system in the 1960s envisioned a line down the Columbia Pike, ultimately terminating in Annandale, but the proposed line was nixed in order to save on costs. A physical remnant of the planning is a pair of stub tunnels near the Pentagon Metro station, built to accommodate a potential future Columbia Pike expansion.

Decades later, in 2019, Metro published the results of a study that suggested a number of ways to expand the capacity of the Metrorail network, including a second Rosslyn Metro station and tunnel, and a Silver Line expansion down the Pike and up Route 7.

Proposed new Silver Line Connection through Columbia Pike (via 2019 Metro study)

The possibility was especially enticing considering the disappointment of transit advocates following the 2014 cancellation of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar line.

While Metro faces plenty of maintenance, service, budget and ridership challenges — the latter three exacerbated by the pandemic — that hasn’t stopped some from dreaming of a world in which more local residents are within easy walking distance of a light rail commute.

Among those discussing such a possibility, given the massive infrastructure spending that would result should Biden’s plan pass, are some of Arlington’s state lawmakers.

Even should the stars align and federal funding become available, digging up Columbia Pike and building a new Metrorail tunnel and stations would be fantastically expensive and would likely require a decade or more of planning and construction.

The new connectivity would also result in new development, sharply higher property prices, and other big changes, which could be viewed in a positive or a negative light, depending on your perspective.

What do you think about the idea of a Metro line on Columbia Pike?

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It was President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s day, but for many, it was former First Lady Michelle Obama who stole the spotlight at the Inauguration.

Wearing all burgundy and plum ensemble in an outfit by LA-based designer Sergio Hudson, her bouncy curls matched the day’s mood. Quickly after Obama’s grand entrance, it was revealed by NBC 4’s Jummy Olabanji that the hair stylist behind her look was Arlington’s Yene Damtew.

The 2015 grad of Arlington’s Marymount University owns Aesthetics Salon at 2444 26th Road S., near the Glebe Road exit of I-395.

Damatew was one of a number of Black entrepreneurs, along with Hudson and Christy Rilling who designed the couple’s masks, that Obama has continuously sought to highlight.

But Damtew has worked with the former First Lady for more than a decade, having also styled her hair during her time in the White House and for best-selling 2018 memoir, “Becoming.”

ARLnow asked Damtew via email about how she became the former First Lady’s go-to hairstylist, what it was like on that special day, and what business been like since word got out.

The interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

What’s the story behind styling Mrs. Obama’s hair for this inauguration? 

I have had a relationship with the Obamas since 2009. I was working for her then-stylist, Johnny Wright, and he brought me to the White House where I assisted with hair needs for the entire family.

Working in the White House for eight years was one of the highest honors of my life.

My relationship with Mrs. Obama has remained strong in her post-First Lady life. I’ve been blessed to stay on her style team along with my friends Carl Ray (makeup) and Meredith Koop (clothing). I did hair for her best-selling book “Becoming” and accompanied her on her two-year book tour across the world.

I consider her not just a client, but a friend and mentor.

What did you want to accomplish with her look? 

I do always keep in mind that America LOVES Mrs. Obama and she always makes headlines based on what she’s wearing and how her hair looks.

Today was a day about celebrating their good friends, the Bidens, and the first Black woman Vice President. I wanted her look to match the moment! Volume and curls seemed like the way to go and I’m glad so many people loved it.

How long did it take to style? 

I don’t talk specifics about any client, out of respect, but I’ve been doing hair long enough that I’m able to be very efficient!

I think I spent more time in the car navigating D.C. traffic and road shutdowns!

There were days in the White House and on the book tour where I would have to make changes very quickly. Once my client and I talk about what kind of look we want to create, it doesn’t take long.

Like with anything else the things that take the longest are sitting under the dryer with color treatments.

While it’s only been a few hours since the world found out, how has business been since? Is your salon being inundated with calls and appointments right now? 

It’s been overwhelming — in a good way!

Our website has been inundated with requests for appointments. We do everything via email, so our inbox is very full. We hope to get back to everyone by the end of the week. I

In only a few years, I’ve grown my salon from one building to two and have added several more stylists on staff.

Whether a client meets with me or one of my other stylists we want them to walk out of our doors feeling like they have the confidence they need to take on the day.

The Arlington community has been so wonderful and supportive to my salon. I graduated from Marymount University in Arlington and live in Arlington.

It was only right to have my business in Arlington, too.

Photo (top) via Aesthetics Salon

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Despite everything that transpired leading up to it, Inauguration Day saw a peaceful transfer of power as now-former President Donald Trump departed the White House and President Joe Biden was sworn in.

Overlooking it all from across the Potomac, Arlington played a bit part in pomp and circumstance.

Those with a vista across the river could catch a clear view this morning of President Trump departing the South Lawn of the White House on Marine One.

The inauguration ceremony that followed was devoid of members of the general public, as security and virus concerns closed the National Mall. Some who wanted to experience history unfold in person headed instead to the Marine Corps War Memorial, near Rosslyn.

A sizable security presence could be seen near the Rosslyn Metro station as the inauguration ceremony concluded and as President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — joined by former residents Clinton, Bush, Obama — headed via motorcade to Arlington National Cemetery.

Biden and Harris paid their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before heading back into D.C., via the Memorial Bridge, for their arrival at the White House.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report. Photos (as marked) by Jay Westcott, Joanna Hitt Kim and Kevin Wolf.

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Morning Notes

Arlingtonian to Join Administration — “President-elect Joe Biden said Monday he will nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who served as the top U.S. diplomat overseeing African affairs in the Obama administration, to be his ambassador to the United Nations.” Thomas-Greenfield is a long-time Arlington resident. [USA Today]

Arlington’s Average Income Falls — “The county’s weekly wage averaged $1,926 in the second quarter of 2020, according to figures reported Nov. 18 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up slightly more than 12 percent from the rate recorded a year before, but down from the $2,018 reported for the first quarter of 2020, which had placed Arlington in the rare company of just a handful of localities with incomes that high.” [InsideNova]

Police Investigating Stabbing Near the Pike — “At approximately 6:18 p.m. on November 20, police were dispatched to the report of trouble unknown. Upon arrival, it was determined the witness was running in the park when the victim approached him and fell to the ground. Medics arrived on scene, began treating the victim and determined he was suffering from a stab wound. He was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries.” [ACPD]

Airport Construction Continues — “Anticipating the day passenger traffic returns to a semblance of normalcy, the new 14-gate concourse at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport continues to make progress toward a planned opening next year. The new concourse, attached as a pier off of Terminal C at the airport, is now fully enclosed, with half the passenger jet-bridges on site, according to a recent update from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.” [InsideNova]

Changes for Drivers at DCA — “Construction has reduced lanes on Baggage Claim (lower) level in front of Terminal B/C. Drivers should use any door on the Ticketing (upper) level to pick up and drop off holiday travelers. Taxis are still available downstairs.” [Twitter]

Thanksgiving Travel Tips from VSP — “This year overall, state police have seen fewer crashes on Virginia highways but those crashes have been more deadly. Making sure you are driving the posted speed limit, driving for conditions and wearing your seatbelt are the best ways to stay safe on the road.” [Press Release]

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Development Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved JBG Smith’s plan to develop Crystal Gateway, a nine-story office building with ground-floor retail,  at 101 12th Street S. in Crystal City. Community benefits associated with the project include the developer conveying 54,500 sq. ft. of land for Gateway Park, which will connect Long Bridge Park to Crystal City.” [Arlington County]

Teacher Groups Banding Together — “Representatives from teacher associations in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Arlington and Manassas Park will host a news conference Monday urging a return to virtual-only learning. In a statement Sunday evening, the Fairfax Education Association said it ‘stands with our colleagues from the Northern Virginia region to ask the Governor to return the Commonwealth to a full Phase II of the reopening plan and to recommend that our schools return to a fully virtual method of instruction.'” [InsideNova]

Feedback Sought for Police Chief Search — “The County Manager has launched a search for a new leader of the Arlington County Police Department. During the first phase of the search, the County is interested in hearing from the community. ‘We value the perspective of every resident and business,’ said County Manager Mark Schwartz… You can offer feedback through December 11.” [Arlington County]

Joint Chiefs Chair’s Wife Saves the Day — “When a bystander collapsed at the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, a nurse was nearby and rushed to his aid. She happened to be the wife of the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Mark Milley.” [NBC News]

‘Click It or Ticket’ Starts Today — ” The Thanksgiving celebration is traditionally one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. As the holiday approaches, the Arlington County Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on a high visibility Click It or Ticket campaign.” [Arlington County]

State Sen. Pushing Pot Legalization — “We’re continuing to build a bipartisan coalition to #legalize responsible adult use of #marijuana in Virginia. I am working hard to ensure that ending the war on drugs is a top priority.” [@AdamEbbin/Twitter, Virginia Mercury]

N. Va. Delivered State for Biden — “Updated counts from the Virginia Department of Elections show that President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, defeated Trump by over 520,000 votes in Northern Virginia, defined as the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park… Across the rest of Virginia, Trump, a Republican, defeated Biden by about 70,000 votes, winning 50.2% to Biden’s 47.9%.” [InsideNova]

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Despite record-setting levels of early and mail-in voting, the final 2020 general election turnout in Arlington slightly underperformed that of 2016.

Last week’s election set a local record in terms of votes cast, but a rise in population and voter registration meant that the final turnout figure was a few points below the 82% turnout from 2016.

“In all, 131,518 voters, or about 79 percent of 166,416 registered voters, cast ballots on Nov. 3,” Arlington County revealed yesterday in a press release, after all the votes were tallied. “In 2016, turnout was 82 percent (122,023 of 148,032 registered voters).”

“Absentee turnout this year was record-breaking, with more than 108,394 Arlingtonians (65.1% turnout) casting their ballots by mail, drop box, or in person before Election Day,” the press release continues. “With so many Arlingtonians voting before Nov. 3, turnout remained light throughout Election Day, with only 23,124 people voting (14% turnout).”

Mail-in voting accounted for 29% turnout — just under 50,000 votes — an unprecedented number, albeit not unexpected this year due to the pandemic. In the end, now-president-elect Joe Biden prevailed in Virginia and in Arlington, with 80.6% of the county’s vote to 17.1% for President Donald Trump.

Although the general election did not set turnout records, about 45% of registered voters cast ballots in the March presidential primary, held just before the pandemic prompted widespread lockdowns, exceeding the primary turnout from 2016. Biden received 48.3% of the Democratic primary vote in Arlington, well exceeding that of Elizabeth Warren (20.0%) and Bernie Sanders (18.8%).

County officials say there were “no reports of significant technical issues” at the polls last week, noting that more than 750 election officers and about 100 high school students helped to staff the county’s 54 voting precincts and the central absentee vote counting center.

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Morning Notes

Arlington, MoCo Hire Consultant — “Montgomery and Arlington counties have hired a consultant to develop alternatives to the flight paths at Reagan National Airport that have led to dramatic increases in noise complaints from residents across the region. ‘This will be a game changer,; said Ken Hartman… Montgomery County’s point person on the airplane noise issue.” [Washington Post]

Biden Breaks 100K Mark in Arlington — “It likely won’t be the highlight of his political career, but Joe Biden will go down in history as the first presidential candidate to win more than 100,000 votes in Arlington. Biden garnered 102,510 of them, according to unofficial tallies reported immediately after the election… Trump’s performance, both in total votes and in percentage of the vote, slightly outperformed his 2016 tally in Arlington.” [InsideNova]

What the School Bond Will Fund — “The $52.65 million will be used for the following projects: $24.3 million for planning and design to meet 10-year projected capacity needs at all school levels; $15.4 million for major infrastructure projects such as HVAC replacement for schools; $7.65 million for building refreshes and kitchen renovations at ATS, Key and McKinley; $5.30 million for security entrances at Taylor, Gunston, Jefferson, Williamsburg, Wakefield.” [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]

Firefighter Follows in Fallen Father’s Footsteps — “The son of a Washington, D.C. fallen firefighter is following in his dad’s footsteps. When Anthony Phillips Jr.’s father died in the line of duty on May 30, 1999, he never thought he would do that work that took the life of his father 21 years ago. But, never say never… Phillips just graduated from the Arlington Fire Academy Recruit Class 78.” [WJLA]

Some Fog This MorningUpdated at 8:55 a.m. — From a National Weather Service tweet last night: “Some patchy dense #fog is developing over portions of central and northern Virginia. Remain alert if traveling overnight, as visibility could quickly fall to a quarter mile or less.” A Dense Fog Advisory is in effect until 10 a.m. [Twitter, Twitter]

Nearby: Downtown D.C. in Trouble — “Now,empty streets are the norm. The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the District’s once-thriving downtown area into a ghost town over the past nearly eight months… Downtown D.C.s’ economy has been crushed by the pandemic, though it has made a slight recovery since the BID issued its last report in July.” [DCist]

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With former Vice President Joe Biden being named president-elect this morning by the Associated Press and others, celebrations in D.C. area leading to traffic on the 14th Street Bridge.

“Expect traffic delays around [northbound I-395] at the 14th Street Bridge due to street closures in DC around the White House,” said an Arlington Alert. The closures were prompted by impromptu celebrations around D.C., including large gatherings outside the White House.

Around Arlington — which voted for the Biden/Harris ticket over Trump/Pence by a margin of 81%-17% — horns honked and people cheered after the race was called.

https://twitter.com/trilly__vanilly/status/1325116257063084032

https://twitter.com/JulieMalear/status/1325122833253425155

A number of local officials have released statements about Biden’s presumptive electoral victory.

From Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.):

I extend my warmest congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on their massive victory in the presidential election. Though it is taking time to count, they are on track for major wins in every region of the country, with more votes than any candidate in history. When he is sworn as Commander in Chief in on January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden will have a strong governing mandate.

I recognize that this election has shown we are a divided nation, but we also have grave challenges that require immediate action. The time has come for President Trump to accept his defeat, pass the torch, and ensure an orderly transition of government for the Biden Administration. He has a unique power in this situation to promote national unity and to spare the country further dangerous civil strife by following the example of every American President, beginning with George Washington: the peaceful transfer of power.

We have been bitterly divided, but what unites us – including love of country, the Constitution, and our democratic ideals – must be stronger. Inflammatory rhetoric which undermines Americans’ faith in their national elections threatens lasting harm to our society, and it must stop. The country must come first.

“Our nation faces serious threats, including the pandemic and the stalling economic recovery. At this time of crisis, all leaders regardless of party must come together to support the President-Elect. He must be given the support he needs to take the helm of government, including swift consideration and confirmation of his team, so that he can take the country forward. We have no time to lose – there is serious work to be done.”

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(Updated at 7:30 a.m.) To no one’s surprise, the Arlington electorate has turned out in a big way for the Democratic ticket.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris have 80.7% of the vote to 17.1% for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Arlington, with more than 120,000 votes counted and all precincts reporting.

By contrast, 75.8% of Arlington voters picked Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, to 16.6% for Trump.

The Associated Press called Virginia for Biden just over half an hour after polls closed at 7 p.m.

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, overall turnout in Arlington County was over 75%. The voter turnout in 2016 was 82%, shy of the Arlington record of 85% in the 2012 presidential race between President Barack Obama and current Senator Mitt Romney.

Among local races, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey (D) is cruising to an easy victory, with 71.6% of the vote, compared to 26.6% of the vote for independent challenger Audrey Clement.

In the Arlington School Board race — for two open seats — Democratic endorsees Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy currently have 43.1% and 35.8% of the vote, respectively, leading independent candidate Symone Walker, who has 19.2% of the vote.

All five county bond issues will pass, with between 75-80% of the vote. That’s despite some organized opposition to the school bond.

Arlington voted against Constitutional Amendment #1, to establish a bipartisan redistricting commission in Virginia — 45% for, 55% against — though it has garnered the support of nearly two-thirds of voters statewide. Constitutional Amendment #2, providing vehicle tax relief to disabled veterans, easily passed statewide and received 81.5% of the vote in Arlington.

In the statewide race for U.S. Senate, incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D) was declared the projected winner by the Associated Press early on.

In Virginia’s 8th Congressional district, which includes Arlington and Alexandria, incumbent Rep. Don Beyer (D) is winning handily, with 75.6% of the vote to 24.2% for Republican Jeff Jordan. The AP called the race at 8:10 p.m.

The initial returns that included early and mail-in votes were overwhelming Democratic, but with Election Day results rolling in the non-Democratic candidates have added to their totals and cut into the Democrats’ margin of victory.

Around Arlington, the pandemic has most people watching election coverage from their homes, rather than from bars. In Clarendon and Shirlington tonight, only a relative few could be seen in front of TVs inside the neighborhood’s usual watering holes.

As the election returns continue to come in, Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol said tonight that the county is “committed to ensuring every vote is counted.”

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