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Election Day in Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

On Election Day, a majority of Arlingtonians approved six bond measures, worth $510 million, that will fund a variety of projects throughout the county.

The biggest expenses for the next 10 years include upgrades to its Water Pollution Control Plant, where local sewage goes, and funding to build a new Arlington Career Center campus.

Arlington County finances these big-ticket projects by selling bonds, mostly to institutional investors like Travelers, State Farm and Blackrock, but also — to an extent — to retail investors and residents. It uses bonds, in the aggregate, to pay for smaller-ticket items: new park playground equipment or upgraded HVAC units, lighting and kitchens and new, more secure entrances in Arlington Public Schools.

But earlier this month the bond market took a huge hit, falling more in one day than it had in a decade, the Wall Street Journal reports. Investors had sold off government bonds — normally seen as an “ultrasafe” investment for companies and retirement accounts — in response to higher interest rates, which the Federal Reserve raised to tackle inflation.

That might mean a new type of investor buying Arlington’s bonds.

“With the historically low interest rates over the past decade, smaller retail investors have not been as big a presence, however with recent rate increases their participation may increase,” county spokesman Ryan Hudson said.

A list of top bond holders from 2020 (via Arlington County)

But for Chris Edwards, a researcher with the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, the current market is more of a reason why wealthy jurisdictions like Arlington should not be using bonds to pay for projects.

“There’s more of an argument for a government to issue debt when interest rates are near zero, which they were a few years ago,” he tells ARLnow. “The era of historically low interest rates for last 10 years is over. It seems we’ll have inflation for a number of years now and that means Arlington’s borrowing costs are going to be higher. It’s the same reason now is not a good time to buy a house with a 30-year mortgage.”

For the county, bonds are a “generational equity issue,” Hudson said.

“The use of municipal bonds spreads payments over ten or twenty years, which more closely aligns with the useful life of County projects and requires future residents to bear some of the burden of paying for the costs of projects from which they directly benefit,” Hudson said.

In other words, it wouldn’t be fair or financially feasible for current residents to fully fund multi-year capital projects, like the $48 million issued for the Lubber Run Community Center, in one year.

Support for county bond referenda has plateaued since the 1980s, after climbing from an average passage rate of 58% from 1951 to 1979 to an average rate of 75% from 1980 to 2021, Edwards wrote in a blog post discussing bond passage margins in Arlington since the 1950s.

Bond support in Arlington since the 1950s (courtesy of Chris Edwards/Cato Institute)

While the 2022 bond referenda all passed, registered voters were marginally more supportive of wastewater plant updates (85% approval) and stormwater improvements (80% approval) — perhaps in response to recent flooding events — than they were for renovations to county buildings (72%), parks (79%) and schools (77%), according to results from the Virginia Dept. of Elections.

Although three-quarters of Arlington residents generally vote for bonds, there is some criticism about the method for funding projects as well as to the kind of projects it is applied.

“I think, especially a place like Arlington, I don’t see an advantage in using debt,” Edwards tells ARLnow. “If the County Board thinks it needs a new library or high school, they should make the case to raise property taxes to fund the things they want. In my view, that would be more transparent.”

Voters tend to reject tax increases but they tend to support bonds, he said. That dissonance, he concludes, is the result of “a case of misinformation.”

“Bonds increase taxes in the future because the government is going to have to pay the interest on those bonds,” he said. “Who are we, today, to impose interest costs on Arlingtonians 10-20 years down the road?”

He said he is not against debt for big projects with long-lasting benefits, such as D.C.’s bonds to fund sewage improvements. But smaller things, like school improvement projects, should not be bond-funded.

There is also concern from some that the county is close to maxing out some of the limits that it self-imposes in order to regulate how many bonds it issues. These limits exist to ensure Arlington maintains its triple-A bond rating, given by credit agencies that have determined the county has an excellent track record of paying back its debts.

The county tries to keep how much debt is paying off to 10% of its general expenditures. Over the next 10 years, the ratio is expected to peak at 9.85%.

Ratio of tax-supported debt service to general expenditures (via Arlington County)

Another ratio that the county is close to maxing out is the ratio of debt per person to income per person, which cannot exceed 6% and over the next 10 years could range from 4.5-5.9%.

It is possible for the county to max out on how many bonds it can issue, Hudson said. But when asked if Arlington County could still issue bonds in the next 10 years, Hudson said “the short answer is yes.”

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The Water Pollution Control Plant in South Arlington (via DES/Flickr)

Your poop could give Arlington County natural gas to power buildings or buses.

The county is developing plans to upgrade its Water Pollution Control Plant, where local sewage goes. One change involves installing technology that can harness the methane emitted when human solid waste is processed, turning it into renewable natural gas, a process some municipalities have already implemented.

The energy could be used to power the wastewater plant, homes and commercial buildings or become an alternate fuel for ART buses. The “sludge” created through this process can also be used as a fertilizer for gardens, forests, farms and lawns. (If you’ve ever used Milorganite brand fertilizer, you’ve used dried sewage sludge from Milwaukee.)

How sewage can become power (via Arlington County)

Improvements to the wastewater treatment facility, to the tune of $156 million, are part of a $177 million bond request for utilities upgrades, which also includes improvements the regional Washington Aqueduct system ($15 million) and new gravity transmission mains ($3 million).

Funding for this work would come from a half-billion dollar bond referenda that voters will be considering on Election Day tomorrow (Tuesday). Over $510 million will go toward this work as well as a host of initiatives, upgrades and maintenance projects that Arlington County adopted as part of its 2023-32 Capital Improvement Plan.

Some big-ticket items have already grabbed headlines, like the $136 million requested to build a new Arlington Career Center campus and $2 million to design a proposed Arlington Boathouse on the Potomac River near Rosslyn. But there are dozens of other upgrades proposed for facilities that Arlingtonians of all ages use on a regular, and sometimes daily, basis.

Renovations to existing county buildings and the construction of new ones surpass $53 million.

Highlights include:

  • $13.1 million for various renovations to Arlington’s police headquarters and, for the county’s courts building, technology upgrades, new finishes, a redesigned entrance and a relocated Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts division.
  • $12 million to fund the construction and renovation of some floors of 2020 14th Street N. to make room for ACFD Fire Marshal and Battalion Chiefs offices and other public safety staff and functions. It will also see the replacement of the building’s 60-year-old HVAC system.
  • $7.5 million to acquire land next to the Serrano Apartments to build a fire station there and improve response times on the west end of Columbia Pike, given the pace of development along the Pike.

Overall, Arlington Public Schools is asking for $165 million. Of that, some $12.24 million would pay for safer school entrances, a measure many school systems nationwide are implementing in the wake of high-profile shootings, and new kitchens to allow more meals to be made in-house.

“Upgraded kitchens will allow students to eat high-quality meals that include more fresh fruits and vegetables that are prepared on-site,” according to APS. “The entrance and security vestibule updates will comply with current safety and security standards while ensuring all visitors check in at the main office.”

Existing and modernized school kitchens (via APS)

Another $16.8 million would pay for a new roof for Escuela Key, the Spanish-language immersion elementary school, HVAC replacement at Hoffman-Boston Elementary School and lighting upgrades across schools.

The Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation is asking for nearly $22.5 million for a dozen projects.

That includes some funding $1.5 million to replace and renovate some stretches of the county’s nearly 40 miles of off-street, multi-purpose trails, 56 pedestrian bridges and 11 low-water fords.

Preschool- and school-aged kids could have new playgrounds at Bailey’s Branch, Monroe and Woodmont parks sometime in 2024 ($2.8 million). Douglas Park will see $2 million in improvements, including a new picnic shelter, pedestrian bridge, stormwater management, invasive species removal and reforestation.

Athletes who play at Kenmore Middle School could have new turf fields ($300,000).

There’s $1.1 million in funding to design new facilities at Short Bridge Park, near the border of the City of Alexandria, as well as $1.8 million to redesign Gateway Park in Rosslyn, which the budget says is “difficult and dangerous to access due to the surrounding high-speed roadways” and is “under-utilized.”

People who live in the Ballston and Virginia Square areas would be able to get in on the ground floor of master planning processes ($1.5 million) next year to upgrade Maury, Herselle Milliken and Gum Ball parks starting as early as 2025.

The second, $4.4 million phase of work on Jennie Dean Park will move forward, including demolishing the existing WETA building, two parking lots and a portion of 27th Street S., installing a lighted basketball court and converting the existing court for tennis use.

The growing pickleball population, sometimes at odds with neighbors, and the dirt trail-less mountain bike enthusiasts could get new facilities through $2 million to convert tennis courts at Walter Reed Community Center for pickleball use, draw pickleball lines on some multi-use courts and fund “design improvements to natural surface trails and mountain biking improvements.”

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Early voting at Arlington County government headquarters on Sept. 23, 2022 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Early voting got off to a muted start today (Thursday) at the Arlington County government headquarters in Courthouse.

“We had a line of five voters when we opened at 8 a.m.,” Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer told ARLnow. “We’ve had 72 voters as of 11 a.m. Flow is slow but steady. The first day of voting last year we processed around 400 voters. We might be slightly under that today.”

Through Nov. 4, registered voters in Arlington can cast their ballots at the county’s election offices for Arlington County Board, School Board and Virginia’s 8th Congressional district, as well as six local bond referenda totaling $510 million.

One seat on the Arlington County Board is up for grabs, with incumbent Matt de Ferranti (D) and independents Adam Theo and Audrey Clement vying for the spot.

One seat on the Arlington School Board is open once member Barbara Kanninen steps down. Bethany Sutton, who has the endorsement of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, and Vell Rives, her independent challenger, are competing for the position.

Arlington’s representative to U.S. Congress, Rep. Don Beyer, is running again for re-election. His challengers are Republican Karina Lipsman and independent Teddy Fikre.

The bonds, if approved, would fund some of the next 10 years’ worth of capital projects for the county and Arlington Public Schools. If needed, the Arlington County Board can reallocate approved bond funds to other projects within the same bucket, such as transportation or parks.

Though interest rates have been rising, the county says it typically gets lower rates, relatively speaking, thanks to its high credit rating.

“Arlington currently holds AAA general obligation bond ratings from the three major bond rating agencies,” the county website says. “These strong ratings allow the County to borrow at very low interest rates, resulting in lower costs to Arlington taxpayers.”

The planned bonds are as follows.

Metro & Transportation ($52.63 million)

  • Paying Arlington County’s share of Metro’s capital improvement program: $42.6 million
  • Paving local streets and roads, $7.2 million
  • Conducting maintenance on local vehicle and pedestrian bridges, $1.5 million
  • Improving street lighting, $1.1 million
  • Replacing intelligent transportation system devices, $200,000
  • Addressing missing links in curbs and gutters, $100,000

Parks and Recreation ($22.46 million) 

  • Parks maintenance capital and master planning projects, $10.8 million
  • Additional funding for the completed renovations at Jennie Dean Park, $4.4 million
  • Initial planning and designs for the Arlington Boathouse, $2.9 million
  • Arlington’s Natural Resiliency program, which conserves natural resources makes upgrades at parks to prevent destructive flooding, $2 million
  • Funding for the Emerging Uses program, which responds to “emerging recreational activities and casual use spaces,” $2 million
  • Maintenance of synthetic turf fields, $300,000

Community Infrastructure ($53.3 million) 

  • Courthouse and Arlington County Police Department building upgrades, $13.1 million
  • Facilities design and construction, $12.7 million
  • Courthouse renovations and infrastructure, $12 million
  • Fire station replacements and additions, $7.4 million
  • Neighborhood Conservation projects, $5 million
  • Facilities maintenance capital, $3.1 million

Arlington Public Schools ($165 million) 

  • Career Center expansion project, $135.97 million
  • Improvements to kitchens and secure entrances, $12.24 million
  • Major infrastructure projects, $16.8 million

Stormwater ($39.76 million)

Capacity Improvements

  • Spout Run Watershed, $13.26 million
  • Langston Blvd and Sycamore Street culverts, $6.75 million
  • Torreyson Run Watershed, $5.95 million
  • Other capacity improvement projects, $8 million

Water Quality Improvements

  • Gulf Branch Stream, $2.75 million
  • Sparrow Pond Watershed, $1.275 million
  • Other water quality improvements, $1.75 million

Utilities ($177.36 million) 

  • Meeting more stringent environmental regulations at the Water Pollution Control Plant, and increasing capacity there to meet Arlington’s growing population and development, $159.5 million
  • Improving the Washington Aqueduct system, $15 million
  • Improving gravity transmission mains, $2.9 million

The deadline to register to vote this year is Oct. 18. Voters can check their registration status online through the State Dept. of Elections.

Those planning to vote on Election Day may have a change in their polling location. Arlington County is sending out mailers with their district and polling place information for the General Election.

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Morning Notes

A runner passes a construction site in Courthouse (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Capital Plan, Bond Referenda Approved — “The Arlington County Board has unanimously approved a $3.9 billion ten-year Capital Improvement Plan that focuses on stormwater management and flood response, climate and environmental programs, parks, transportation, and community infrastructure over the next decade… [as well as] bond referenda totaling $510.5 million to be put before Arlington voters on the November ballot.” [Arlington County]

GOP Group Wants Fewer Vote Drops — “A Republican group seeking to have Arlington election officials reduce the number of 24-hour voting dropboxes in the county got something of a cold shoulder at the July 14 Electoral Board meeting… Representatives of a national Republican voter-integrity effort asked that the number of dropboxes be reduced from nine to as few as three, citing both cost and ballot-integrity issues.” [Sun Gazette]

Primary Voting Stats — “About 57 percent of the just over 25,000 voters who cast ballots in the primary did so on Election Day at polling precincts, according to data reported to Arlington Electoral Board members on July 14. About 30 percent cast ballots by mail, and the remaining 13 percent cast ballots in advance at one of three early-voting sites.” [Sun Gazette]

Car Show This Weekend — The Green Valley antique and classic car show is happening this Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. at Drew Elementary School. The 8th annual event will also feature a parade. [Twitter]

Family Bike Ride Planned — From Kidical Mass ARL: “Tour de Spraygrounds! This Saturday 7/23 meet at 11am at Mosaic Park in @Ballston (come early to play in the water!) We’ll bike on neighborhood streets down to the sprayground at @PenroseSquare. All are welcome. Tell your friends.” [Twitter]

Car Crash PSA — From Dave Statter: “Video of the crash with 1 hurt this afternoon on I-395N at Boundary Channel provides a good reminder. Before getting out of your vehicle after a collision make sure it’s safe to do so & your vehicle is secure & won’t continue to roll.” [Twitter]

Arlington-Born Gym Expanding — “A boutique gym is bringing its boxing-inspired workouts to Fairfax County. Introduced to Rosslyn in 2018, BASH Boxing will soon extend its reach beyond Arlington County for the first time with a new studio at the Mosaic District in Merrifield.” [FFXnow]

It’s Thursday — Humid and partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 92 and low of 78. Sunrise at 6:02 am and sunset at 8:31 pm. [Weather.gov]

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An Arlington County police car with lights flashing (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 9:40 p.m.) The man who was arrested on Sunday for robbery and carjacking after an inter-jurisdiction car chase on I-395 was awaiting trial in Fairfax County for stealing a car, court records show.

Laysohn Jones, 21, of Suitland, Maryland, had a hearing date set for May 2 for the auto theft charge, as well as a preliminary hearing for a failure to appear and charges for driving without a license and eluding police. He had been “released on recognizance,” according to court records, or released without bail when he allegedly committed the crime.

And two weeks ago, a man who has committed a slew of petty thefts over the last five years — from the Springfield Mall, Tysons Corner Center, and a CVS pharmacy and Macy’s in Pentagon City — was arrested on nearly a half-dozen charges.

Ronald D. Thomas, 24, is now being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility for his most recent alleged crimes — spitting on an officer, grand larceny, petit larceny, trespassing and identify theft — as well as an outstanding warrant from Fairfax County for grand larceny. Court records indicate he also had a felony second-degree assault charge from Maryland and a misdemeanor assault charge in D.C.

These cases have some blaming recent bail reforms, championed by many prosecutors who were elected on pledges to reform the criminal justice system.

“Repeat criminals are crossing jurisdictional lines and facing no consequences in first, second and third jurisdictions due to progressive policies like abolishing bail,” said Sean Kennedy, a spokesman for Virginians for Safe Communities, an organization that launched efforts last year to unseat the Commonwealth’s Attorneys for Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties.

“They go on to commit more crime elsewhere and those jurisdictions don’t understand their full criminal history because the same prosecutors have downgraded serious charges to light misdemeanors,” he continued. “More and more people are suffering because of that.”

Those who champion reforms to the criminal justice system, however, say repeat offense cases like these have long existed and systems like jail and bail did not deter people from offending over and over again. They add that these policies did nothing to solve underlying problems driving the criminal behavior, such as drug addiction and unstable housing.

“The inclination is, ‘We need to send him to jail for longer.’ We tried that before — that doesn’t work either,” said Arlington’s Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood.

He refuted the idea that there is a “progressive prosecution angle” at work, referencing the ongoing political tug-of-war between reform-minded prosecutors like Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, whose changes have prompted some backlash, and those who advocate for more stringent prosecution and punishment.

“This is a problem that has been an issue for decades in the U.S.,” Haywood said. “This is an issue, very broadly, with the criminal justice system.”

Bond reforms 

Eliminating cash bail was a campaign promise of both Dehghani-Tafti, whose office does not ask for cash bail, and her counterpart in Fairfax, Steve Descano, who formally eliminated cash bail in 2020.

In the case of the carjacking, Randall Mason, the president of the Arlington Coalition of Police, said Fairfax County’s release of the alleged carjacker put officers, the driver and the public at risk of injury.

“He went out and did the same thing again, and it put Arlington officers at risk because pursuits are inherently dangerous,” Mason said. “Luckily everyone was safe, and no citizens injured.”

Police are concerned about and frustrated by the pattern of people who are arrested for serious offenses and released without bond, Mason said.

Dehghani-Tafti countered that her office does seek to hold people deemed to be dangerous or a flight risk.

“It’s the danger you pose, not whether or not you have cash, that should control whether you are released pre-trial or not,” she said.

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Morning Notes

Police Make Numerous DUI Arrests — From the Arlington County Police Department: “ACPD Officers are committed to making our roadways safer by identifying, stopping, and apprehending impaired drivers. Last week (September 12 – 18), officers made 16 arrests for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Motorists are reminded that it is never okay to drink and drive.” [Twitter]

ACPD Warning of Tainted Cocaine — “Please take steps to protect yourself and others who may be in possession of cocaine purchased in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The nasal spray Narcan (also known as Naloxone) can save the life of someone who is overdosing from substances containing opioids, if given in time, and test strips can detect dangerous fentanyl-laced drugs before they are used.” [Arlington County]

Man Stabbed Near Columbia Pike — ” The investigation revealed that at approximately 1:15 a.m., the victim was walking in the area when he was pushed from behind by the unknown suspect and fell to the ground. The suspect then brandished a knife and demanded money from the victim before stabbing him and stealing his wallet. The suspect fled the scene on foot and the victim returned to his residence before determining he was in need of medical services.” [ACPD]

Gusty Storm Yesterday Afternoon — “A 39 mph wind gust was recorded at National Airport with the storm that passed through Arlington earlier this afternoon, per the National Weather Service.” [Twitter]

Power Outages After Wednesday’s Storm — “More than 1,000 homes and businesses are currently without power in Arlington. The largest outage is affecting the area around Kenmore Middle School.” [Twitter]

School Bond Funds New ‘Heights’ Entrance — “A new entrance to the Shriver Program, which is collocated with H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Rosslyn, is needed to make it easier for those with disabilities to access the building and the parking lot… More funds are need to permit ‘the completion of a design that we had intended in the first place – complete it the right way,’ Kanninen said. The $11.39 million project accounts for nearly half the proposed $23 million school bond that goes to voters on Nov. 2.” [Sun Gazette]

Klobuchar to Canvass in Arlington Sunday — “Join us for a Weekend of Action canvass in Arlington with Senator Amy Klobuchar & Governor Terry McAuliffe! We’ll be talking with our neighbors about the issues that are important to them — and why Terry McAuliffe, Hala Ayala, Mark Herring, and Alfonso Lopez are the right people to move Virginia forward in 2021.” [Mobilize]

Update to Metro Story — A report from the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission suggests that the person who fell from a train while walking between railcars near the Clarendon station was the son of a WMATA employee. He was able to continue on to Tysons but suffered significant injuries, was bleeding heavily and was later hospitalized. [ARLnow]

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Morning Notes

New Rosslyn Food Hall Nears Opening — “American Real Estate Partners is nearly ready to take the wraps off Assembly, the food hall atop the Rosslyn Metro station, a project that’s been more than two years in the works and was thrown a curveball by the Covid-19 pandemic. Assembly at Rosslyn City Center, a 29,000-square-foot space spread over two levels at 1700 N. Moore St., is slated to open this week for a sneak peak for tenants and next week to the wider public.” [Washington Business Journal]

Northam Announcement in Arlington Today — “Gov. Northam will announce a ‘budget proposal for federal American Rescue Plan funding’ at the Arlington County offices in Sequoia Plaza on Wednesday afternoon, per a press release.” [Twitter]

Bonds Likely to Be on Ballot — “Arlington County Board members on July 20 formally requested the placement of four local-bond referendums on the Nov. 2 ballot, which if approved by voters – as seems likely – would lead to a further increase in the government’s debt-service payments… the following bonds will go to voters: $38.7 million for transportation and Metro. $23.01 million for schools. $17.035 million for community infrastructure. $6.8 million for local parks and recreation.” [Sun Gazette]

ART Buses Lifting Capacity Restrictions — “Starting August 1, rider capacity restrictions will be lifted on all ART buses. Seats inside the buses will no longer be blocked off.” [Twitter]

Ceremony Held for Urban Garden — “Project HUG revitalizes underused land at Virginia Highlands Park and illustrates how marginalized space in National Landing’s urban environment can be transformed into vibrant, sustainable, food producing ecosystems. This pilot project serves as a model of modern sustainable agricultural practices to demonstrate how community-driven farming can address food insecurity by leveraging partnerships across public, private, civic, and non-profit communities.” [Press Release]

Va. Unemployment System Struggling — “As the embattled Virginia Employment Commission has been scrambling to move through a massive backlog of unemployment claims, thousands more cases have been pouring in from jobless residents. Staff who review disputed claims have been leaving the agency, and the General Assembly’s watchdog has sounded alarms about measures being taken by the commission to hasten the process in response. Many unemployed Virginians say the commission’s unresponsive call center has stopped picking up the phone.” [Washington Post]

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Morning Notes

New County Infrastructure Plan Proposed — “County Manager Mark Schwartz has proposed a $1.25 billion three-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) that focuses on meeting Arlington’s existing commitments, increasing infrastructure maintenance, and beginning investments in long-term plans and programs. The three-year proposal follows a one-year CIP that was adopted last summer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The County anticipates returning to a traditional 10-year plan next year for FY 2023 – FY 2032.” [Arlington County]

Rosslyn Developer Dies from Covid — “Marvin Weissberg, a herald of Northern Virginia development whose portfolio of early projects still mark Rosslyn’s modern skyline, has died. He was 94. The founder of Weissberg Investment Corp. passed away Monday at his home in Annapolis of complications from Covid-19.” [Washington Business Journal]

Marine Corps Marathon Returning — “Good news for runners: the Marine Corps Marathon will take place in-person this year after it was held virtually in 2020 due to Covid. The 26.2-mile race follows a course through DC and Arlington, and typically sees more than 20,000 participants. This year, the marathon and accompanying races and events will be held over the weekend of October 29 through 31.” [Washingtonian]

New Gold’s Gym Opening in Rosslyn — “Rosslyn’s newly constructed Gold’s Gym officially opens for members [today], May 20. Located inside Rosslyn City Center (1700 N. Moore St.), this space is nearly 40,000 SF of brand new equipment and modern facilities!” [Rosslyn BID/Instagram]

Cemetery Flyover Planned Today — “Four Air Force T-38 Talon jets are scheduled to fly over the National Capital Region at 1:50 p.m. The formation is part of a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery for retired Air Force Col. George Benoit.” [Patch]

This Year’s Bond Referendums — “Arlington voters will be asked to approve a modest package of bond referendums in November, if County Board members accede to a request made May 18 by County Manager Mark Schwartz. The proposal calls for a bond package of $62.5 million (not counting an expected school-bond request) that would fund Metro, paving, courthouse renovations and Neighborhood Conservation projects.” [Sun Gazette]

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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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A group of Arlington Public Schools parents has organized to vote ‘no’ on the $52.65 million school bond.

In recent days Vote No Arlington launched a last-minute online campaign against the county’s 2020 public school bond, to voice their frustration with how APS is handling the return to school.

“Right now is a very emotional time,” Vote No Arlington founding member and APS parent Geoff Olinde said. “People feel they are not being served well by APS, and this is one of the few avenues to get APS’s attention.”

The $52.65 million bond will be on the ballot on Nov. 3. According to APS, the bond would fund four major types of capital improvements, which range from increasing space to accommodate projected higher enrollment rates to renovating kitchens.

But Olinde said the middle of an economic downturn is not the right time to take on $52 million of additional debt that will burden taxpayers. Furthermore, enrollment projections went “out the window” due to COVID-19, and many children may stay in private schools, he said.

Olinde — who earlier this week was a guest on the Larry O’Connor show on WMAL radio — said he is far from being a political activist, but the breakdown in education due to COVID-19 motivated him to get involved. He said he has supported previous bonds, and would have supported one that was specifically to support schools reopening.

According to APS, this school bond does focus on the short term as well as longer-term capital needs.

“The 2020 School Bond funds will address immediate needs by providing best-practice security entrances to schools that do not yet have them, expanding kitchens to better serve more students, and upgrading older HVAC systems for healthier school environments,” according to the district.

Alexandra Bocian, who also has supported school bonds in the past, said now is the time to focus on returning kids to school, not brick-and-mortar improvements.

Voting ‘no’ is the only way her voice for reopening schools will be heard, she said. Bocian said teachers and parents who prefer virtual learning have a voice, but parents who want to return are not being heard. She also worries that a ‘yes’ vote would note get her children any closer to returning to school.

“I can talk until I’m blue in the face, but if I hit you in the pocketbook, maybe you’ll listen,” she said.

As a Black working mother of three children, Bocian said she knows what her children can obtain being educated face-to-face, as opposed to online — and said the current solution is not equitable. Instead, it favors wealthy families, who can afford small tutoring groups called “pods,” which can cost up to $2,000, and those where a parent or both parents are home to help their kids.

While countries like France are exempting schools from lockdown orders, APS is just beginning to figure out who returns to school and when, and that is also not equitable, Bocian said.

“How do you think those kids who are going to get to school feel versus those who don’t?” she said. “That causes an issue.”

The school bond is being supported by the Arlington County Democratic Committee. Supporters say the funding is needed to address important school needs.

More information on the planned use of the APS school bond is below.

The $52.65 million will be used for the following projects:

  • Planning and design to meet 10-year projected capacity needs at all school levels $24.3 million*
  • Major infrastructure projects such as HVAC replacement for schools $15.4 million*
  • Building refreshes and kitchen renovations at ATS, Key and McKinley $7.65 million
  • Security entrances at Taylor, Gunston, Jefferson, Williamsburg, Wakefield $5.30 million *Additional funds for these projects will be included in future Capital Improvement Plans
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Morning Notes

Board Shelves Pike Housing Proposal — “Arlington County Board members on Oct. 17… [removed] from consideration a staff proposal to change rules governing affordable housing on Columbia Pike. Board members, who had weathered intense community skepticism of the proposal when it first was heard in June, had placed the proposal back on their October agenda, and had recommendations from both the Planning Commission and county manager to approve it. But when critics again suited up to do battle, board members threw in the towel.” [InsideNova]

Another Top Bond Rating for County — “For the 20th year in a row, all three credit ratings agencies have reaffirmed Arlington County’s debt ratings of Aaa/AAA/AAA — the highest possible rating. Arlington is one of just 48 counties in the United States, and one of nine in Virginia, to receive this designation.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Donates to Antiracism Effort — “Amazon.com Inc. has donated $100,000 to Arlington County’s antiracism initiative. The company, which is setting up a headquarters in the Northern Virginia county, made the donation Oct. 14 and the county board will vote on whether or not to accept the funds on Tuesday.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Sculpture at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — “A new sculpture honoring military women and military working dogs was unveiled outside Arlington National Cemetery. The life-size bronze sculpture called ‘The Pledge’ is being placed at the Women In Military Service For America Memorial, located at Arlington National Cemetery’s entrance.” [WTOP, DCist]

Arlington Woman Featured as Face of COVID — “One of those laid off was Serenety Hanley, whose career in digital communications included a stint in the White House under President George W. Bush. The 45-year-old single mother was let go from a retail job in March and now makes a living by shopping for Instacart… Hanley said she still can barely make ends meet.” [Thomson Reuters Foundation]

Va. Ventilator Usage Declines — “The number of Virginians being treated on ventilators for COVID-19 fell to a new low Monday, and case levels also declined somewhat from recent trends. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported that just 81 patients were being treated statewide on ventilators, down from 95 the day before and the fewest since the association began publicly reporting COVID-19 data in early April.” [InsideNova]

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