Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

NAACP Slams APS Diversity Czar Process —  “The Arlington school system’s effort to appoint a diversity czar has run into a buzzsaw of criticism from the county’s major civil-rights organization. The two co-chairs of the Arlington NAACP’s education committee took to the Dec. 5 School Board meeting to complain that the selection process was leaving out many of those the position is designed to support.” [InsideNova]

Snow Likely Overnight — “Temperatures are poised to leap to near 60 degrees Tuesday, and it won’t feel at all like it could snow. But, in a flash, that will change. An Arctic front charging to the East Coast will switch our weather from fall-like to winterlike in a matter of hours, setting the stage for possible wet snow overnight Tuesday into early Wednesday morning.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

Yorktown in Xmas Choir Competition — “Vote Now! The @yhschoir is a finalist in 97.1 WASH FM’s Christmas Choir Competition. The top prize is $5,000!” [Twitter, WASH-FM]

Local Bus Routes on Chopping Block — Metro is considering cutting or restructuring a number of local bus routes as part of its new, proposed budget. Among the Arlington bus routes that could be cut are the 5A, 16G, 22A and 22C. [WTOP]

Wardian Attempts Elvis Record — “Local ultramarathoner Michael Wardian has unfortunately failed to re-capture the world record time for the fastest marathon run while dressed as Elvis.” [Canadian Running]

Letter: County Shouldn’t Rescue Fallen Phones — “I question whether retrieving personal property is really an appropriate use of Arlington County resources. It must have cost significantly more than the value of the phone to provide the personnel for the recovery effort. As an Arlington County taxpayer, I resent that.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Hospital CEO Retiring Next Year — “Virginia Hospital Center President and CEO Jim Cole is stepping down after more than three decades with the organization. Cole, chief for 25 of his 35 years with the Arlington hospital, announced his retirement internally Monday. It’s set to take effect Sept. 1, 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Crew Rescues Phone from Storm Drain — “So they got specialized shovels. And then the guy GOT INTO THE DRAIN and dig through the leaves, following the pinging and vibrating and found the phone! The phone was at 1% power when it came out. Still can’t believe it. Above and beyond. Kudos to Arlington County.” [Facebook/Arlington DES]

Bijan Ghaisar 911 Call Released — “Police in Arlington County, Virginia, have released part of a 911 call that set in motion a chase that ended when U.S. Park Police shot and killed Bijan Ghaisar in 2017… a caller tells Arlington County police that she is an Uber passenger whose ride-share was just involved in a crash, and the other driver, Ghaisar, has left the scene.” [WTOP, Fox 5]

It’s Giving Tuesday — Among the local nonprofits to consider donating to today, on Giving Tuesday, are: Doorways for Women and Families, Melwood, Arlington Thrive, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Arlington Food Assistance CenterOffender Aid and Restoration, the Arlington-Alexandria Gay & Lesbian Alliance, and Culpepper Garden. [Twitter/@ARLnowDOTcom]

Del. Alfonso Lopez Named Co-Whip — “Majority Leader-elect Charniele Herring has appointed key leadership positions within the House Democratic Caucus. The whips and policy chairs will help guide the new Democratic majority through the 2020 legislative session.” [Press Release]

Ballston BID Holding ‘Cupcake Wars’ Event — “Join BallstonConnect Club and Cookology for a fun and interactive day of cupcake baking and decorating. Based on the popular Food Network show of the same name, guests will compete to create the most unique cupcake and take home the title of Cupcake Champion!” [Ballston BID]

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A man yelling at an employee in a Rosslyn business did not take kindly to a patron filming the encounter on a cell phone, according to an Arlington County Police crime report.

The incident happened on the 1900 block of Fort Myer Drive — the same block as the Holiday Inn hotel — around 7 a.m. this past Saturday.

“The suspect entered a business and allegedly began acting disorderly, engaged in a verbal dispute with an employee and damaged property,” police said in the crime report. “The suspect then observed a patron filming him, struck the patron with a closed fist and stole their cell phone.”

“The suspect fled the business and threw the phone, causing it to break,” the crime report continues. “Arriving officers located the suspect still in the vicinity of the business. Olubunmi Osinuga, 36, of No Fixed Address, was arrested and charged with Robbery, Destruction of Property (<$1000) and Destruction of Property (>$1000). He was held on no bond.”

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Faster wireless networks may be coming soon to a street near you, thanks to a new vote from the Arlington County Board.

The County Board approved an ordinance change to allow wireless carriers to install the small-cell technology needed to deploy 5G on public property. This paves the way for carriers to begin installing the necessary antenna systems on light poles throughout the county.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey said he was excited for 5G’s possibility to enhance emergency services by letting paramedics diagnose problems while still in the ambulance, and making it easier for people to connect with doctors through telehealth conferencing, among other new possibilities.

“To me it’s those kinds of things that make it worth our pursuing this,” he said. “Not for the faster speeds on our on our smart phone.”

The decision comes after a year of discussions in Arlington and state legislation from Richmond encouraging the technology.

Nate Wentland, the county’s chief business technology officer shared how the wireless technology is about 20 times faster than the current 4G networks, allows more people to connect to it, and would allow more Smart City technology like telehealth and autonomous vehicles.

Dorsey added that the “appreciated” the dozen residents who took to the podium to express concerns over possible health effects from exposure to the radiation.

“This is something that we have our eyes wide open about,” he said. “We want to measure the impact.”

Several residents criticized the plan during Tuesday night’s meeting out of concerns over possible health effects from the antenna radiation. Residents in neighboring jurisdictions have also raised concerns about the issue.

“We’re all basically guinea pigs,” said one resident.

“I don’t believe it’s unreasonable to ask the county how it plans to mitigate that risk,” said independent Board Candidate Audrey Clement.

But officials pushed back on the health concerns, saying that widely-accepted science finds no harmful effects from 5G technology. Wentland cited research from the FCC, the FDA, the CDC, and the American Cancer Institute that radiation from small cell technology is not known to be carcinogenic.

Board Member Erik Gutshall said that if new evidence arises demonstrating negative health effects from the technology the county “has the opportunity to protect ourselves and terminate [the license] with the public interest.”

Vendors (like AT&T or Verizon) that want to install the small cells will have to foot the $9,000 bill for the tech and the new pole, but Arlington County will own the pole. VDOT turned down proposal for traffic signals because of concerns about visibility.

Under the county’s listening agreement with cell carriers, the county will require radiation emission testing from a independent party for each pole 60 days after installation, and can request additional testing any time afterward. County Manager Mark Schwartz told residents that the data from these tests will be shared publicly.

Vendors will also have to sign a 10 year agreement with the county to install the tech, with the option of a five-year extension. Arlington will require them to pay a one-time $250 administrative fee to the state, an annual $270 fee to the county, and cover any utility costs.

“We are becoming a center for innovation and high technology with the advent of… Amazon coming here,” said Jonathan S. Adelstein who heads the Wireless Infrastructure Association and is a former FCC Commissioner.

“We need that capacity and residents here expect the highest quality of wireless services,” said Adelstein, who lives in Bellevue Forest. “I think it adds to property values here.”

The county has issued 75 permits allowing companies to install the antenna system on private property as of March 2019, per a staff presentation to the Board.

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Morning Notes

Amazon and Local Real Estate — “Amazon has yet to break ground in Northern Virginia for its second headquarters, but residents are already turning away persistent speculators, recalculating budgets for down payments on homes and fighting rent increases.” [New York Times]

Low Young Adult Home Ownership — “Arlington ties with Richmond for the lowest home-ownership rate among young adults in the commonwealth, according to a new analysis… only 16 percent of young adults living in Arlington were homeowners – perhaps not surprising given the cost of real estate in the county.” [InsideNova]

HQ2 Helps Va. Rank as Top State for Business — “CNBC has named Virginia America’s ‘Top State for Business’ in 2019. CNBC unveiled Virginia as the top state for business [Wednesday] morning during a live broadcast from Shenandoah River State Park, and Governor Northam was on location to discuss the announcement.” [CNBC, Gov. Ralph Northam, Twitter, Arlington Economic Development, Washington Business Journal]

Amazon Information Meeting — Officials from Amazon and Arlington County discussed the company’s HQ2 plan and its approval process at a public meeting near Shirlington last night. [Twitter]

More on 5G in Arlington — “Arlington is preparing its commercial corridors for the next generation of mobile broadband technology — 5G. The impact? Mobile download speeds for movies, video games, apps and more up to 100 times faster than today.” [Arlington County]

County Seeking Volunteers for Disaster Drill — “The County is seeking volunteers to participate in Capital Fortitude, a full-scale emergency exercise designed to evaluate the National Capital Region’s ability to dispense medication quickly in response to an anthrax attack. From 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, July 19, Arlington will join 24 jurisdictions around the region in hosting a Point of Dispensing (POD) exercise.” [Arlington County]

Flood-Damaged Road Reopening — “Update [on] July 10… Crews expect to have one lane of 18th St N between N Lexington St and N McKinley Road reopen to traffic this evening. Repairs to the other lane set for completion tomorrow. 20th St N at George Mason is [reopened] with minor repairs still pending.” [Twitter]

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Has the following happened to you?

You’re in a car, bus or on a bike, waiting at a traffic signal. The traffic light turns green, but a driver in front of you doesn’t budge. Other drivers honk, and you see the perpetrator hurriedly putting down a phone and mashing the gas pedal.

Anecdotally, it happened to one ARLnow employee every single day last week.

Needless to say, distracted driving (or distracted non-driving) is bad. It’s first and foremost incredibly dangerous to you and those around you. It is also infuriating, particularly at rush hour as those behind you are trying to get home and safely make it through short turn signals and green lights.

It sends a message: what’s taking place on my phone is more important than you, your time and your safety.

It is, however, not entirely illegal — Virginia’s existing texting-while-driving law applies to use of the phone in a moving vehicle, not when legally stopped. This year Virginia’s legislature failed to pass a more expansive bill, though it did pass a bill prohibiting phone use while driving through highway work zones.

We’re wondering: have you experienced what’s described above? And do you think it’s getting better or getting worse?

File photo

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This year, half of all calls to your mobile phone could be robocalls, according to predictions by call protection company First Orion. And ARLnow wants to know: have you noticed more robocalls to your phone?

There were 27.2 million robocalls placed to 703-area-code numbers in March, per call tracker YouMail, and 13.2 million calls to 571 numbers.

That’s up from 17.2 million robocalls to 703 numbers in March of last year, and 8.5 million calls to 571 numbers.

One Arlington resident who’s definitely getting spammed with robocalls is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver set up a robocall system to call Pai every 90 minutes and leave a voicemail urging him to take action to reduce robocalls.

First Orion’s prediction that robocalls will make up half of all cellphone calls was based on an analysis of 50 million calls which showed an increase from 3.7 percent of cellphone calls were robocalls in 2017 to 29.2 percent in 2018.

It may be a reason why one analysis of monthly calls by caller ID provider Hiya found people now only pick up their phone about half the time it rings.

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If you ever wanted to refresh your Twitter timeline or text a selfie while on a Metro train under the Potomac River between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, that is now a viable option.

Metro announced Wednesday afternoon that it and the four major wireless carriers had completed wiring the tunnels between Rosslyn and Metro Center and between Rosslyn and Ballston for mobile voice and data service. Also online: a stretch of Green Line tunnel between College Park and Fort Totten.

The three tunnel segments that are now mobile-ready are in addition to six other tunnel segments that are already online in D.C. and Maryland, as part of Metro’s effort to add wireless service for all of its 100 miles of tunnel track. The effort, which will also eventually wire the Blue and Yellow line tunnel between the Pentagon and National Airport, is expected to wrap up by mid-2020.

More from a WMATA press release:

Today Metro and the nation’s leading wireless carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless announced that more than half of Metro’s tunnels are now wired for cellular and data service. The milestone was accompanied by the formal announcement of three new tunnel segments coming online as “wireless ready.”

The three new “wireless ready” tunnel segments announced today are:

  • Orange Line and Silver Line between Ballston and Rosslyn (5.6 track miles)
  • Blue Line, Orange Line and Silver Line between Rosslyn and Metro Center (4.8 track miles)
  • Green Line between College Park and Fort Totten (7.4 track miles)

The new tunnel segments will undergo ongoing testing and optimization by the wireless carriers to address any performance issues and ensure reliable service for customers.

Cellular service is currently available in all Metro stations and on portions of all six Metrorail lines, including most of Downtown DC. Just over 50 of Metro’s 100 miles of tunnel track have been wired for the new system, with new underground segments coming online as the work is completed. Cellular service in all tunnel segments is expected by mid-2020.

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Arlington is gearing up to embrace the arrival of the next generation of cell network technology, though some observers worry county officials aren’t acting fast enough to expand access to 5G in the area.

Telecom companies are slowly, but surely moving to deploy equipment for 5G, the fifth generation of network tech, in communities around the country, in order to realize the new network’s promise to drastically increase mobile internet speeds and enable all manner of new innovations, from driverless cars to virtual reality video games.

Workers typically have to attach antennas and other equipment to street poles or traffic signals as part of that process, meaning that local governments (and, often, concerned neighbors) can have a say in how companies handle the installation.

While some utility companies are working directly with network providers to allow 5G tech on street lights, many localities are increasingly moving to craft zoning regulations to allow telcos access to government-owned street poles. Arlington hasn’t gone quite that far, but the county is at least dipping its toe in the water with 5G tech.

After state legislators passed a new law last April, the county began allowing companies to attach “small cell facilities” on privately owned structures in the public right-of-way. Even more recently, Arlington’s begun accepting applications for companies looking to attach the equipment to “cobra-style street lights” — smaller poles named for their snake-shaped heads — in public areas, according to Department of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin.

Golkin expects the change “will allow for deployment of 5G infrastructure in dense areas throughout the county,” and Arlington leaders see the move as an incremental step for the county to take to meet the demands of the telecom industry.

“We’re trying not to be a hindrance to this, while still balancing community concerns,” said County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “Before, this sort of thing required a County Board review and a long process. Now, within a couple of months, it can get approved administratively. Whenever a carrier company is looking to deploy small towers anywhere, this is a predictable and affordable way to get it done.”

Even still, the change doesn’t seem drastic enough to Jonathan Kinney, an attorney at the Arlington firm Bean, Kinney and Korman, who works with developers and business owners on land use and zoning matters.

He laments that the county still won’t allow 5G tech on larger, 30-foot-high poles in urban neighborhoods along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, which he sees as a key step for the county to achieve full 5G coverage in its most populous areas.

“My point has always been that 5G is going to come here, but it really doesn’t do us any good as a community to act otherwise,” Kinney said. “With all the defense contractors and cybersecurity companies here, we shouldn’t be one of the last communities to do this. We should be one of the first.”

Kinney believes the county’s failure to act more aggressively on 5G tech will hamstring its chances to lure all manner of big companies to the area, most notably Amazon. He points out that the company singled out access to advanced network tech in its list of requirements for picking a second headquarters, and he feels the county just hasn’t lived up to the pace set by other HQ2 contenders like those in Texas or California.

“It just seems like this is low hanging fruit, this is something we could do pretty easily,” Kinney said. “But there’s not any strong advocate on the County Board pushing it forward… it just needs a little bit of leadership.”

Dorsey, however, argues that the Board has indeed tried to provide that leadership, and claims that 5G is “not something where we think we’re behind at all.” He says the county “just hasn’t had much unsolicited interest [from the private sector] that’s evolved beyond exploration and discussion at this point,” but that the county has been responsive when called upon.

For instance, Golkin notes that the county has “approved several permits over the last year for vendors to attach small wireless facilities to private structures.” That includes Verizon, who worked with some county apartment owners to install some 5G equipment on several large buildings to test out the tech in a residential setting.

Verizon spokesman John O’Malley says the test “was part of a series of trials” the company did in 11 large localities over the course of 2017. The company’s since removed that equipment, and moved on to testing 5G broadband service in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Dorsey says the county “would be open to exploring” additional partnerships with telecom companies moving forward. He suggested that, as the technology evolves, Arlington could agree to buy a new round of street lights that already have 5G equipment installed on them, instead of retrofitting it to existing poles.

“I would argue that we’re an ideal community for that kind of partnership, because we’re so small and so dense,” Dorsey said. “We are well aware that, if the potential of all the lab tests are realized, we’re talking about an incredible expansion of productivity, which will be incredible for our businesses.”

Yet Kinney cautions that Arlington’s ability to experiment with 5G could soon be constrained by new regulations the Federal Communications Commission is mulling, which would require states and localities to quickly approve 5G deployments, eliminating some discretion in setting personalized standards.

Those changes may be a ways off yet from going into effect, but Kinney notes that Arlington’s lengthy public engagement process for any policy change means the county can’t afford to wait much longer.

“It could take a year to get through the whole process,” Kinney said. “But they could make the legal changes pretty quickly and then come up with the specific policy, and just move it along… We just need to start now.”

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Morning Notes

New Weapon in Battle Against Opioid Addiction — “Arlington County has taken a proactive measure in the fight against prescription drug abuse by installing three permanent drug-take back boxes. The public can now safely and securely dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 day a year. This disposal service is free and anonymous with no questions asked.” [Arlington County]

Lack of 5G Could Hurt Amazon Bid — Arlington’s lack of 5G wireless service could hurt it in the eyes of Amazon as the online giant considers the county for its second headquarters, says a letter to the editor writer. The county should have more actively adjusted policy and lobbied carriers for 5G, the writer suggests. [InsideNova]

Woman Arrested After Victoria’s Secret Assault — “A D.C. woman was arrested for attacking two employees at a Victoria’s Secret in Arlington after she says one of them followed her around the store, according to authorities.” [WJLA]

Average I-66 HOV Round Trip Cost — The average round trip cost for single occupant drivers on the I-66 Express Lanes, from their December opening to the end of April, was $12.72, according to new data. Some drivers have faced steeper tolls during “peak of the peak” times. [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani

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Arlington County will participate in what is being billed as the country’s first live multi-jurisdictional wireless emergency alert system test tomorrow (April 5) from 10-11 a.m.

Residents in participating jurisdictions will receive an alert on their cell phone “or other mobile devices,” according to a county press release. At least 20 jurisdictions, including D.C., College Park, Md., and Manassas, Va., are scheduled to simultaneously send out the test message.

The text, accompanied by a loud noise, will reportedly read as follows: “A test of the Arlington County Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action required.”

A back-up test date is scheduled for Monday (April 9) for the same time “if a real-world event impacts the [wireless emergency alert system] test on Thursday.”

The system is designed to send targeted emergency information to those in a specific area to a person’s mobile phone.

As the technology relies on carrier towers to relay messages within a “geo-targeted map,” those close to jurisdictions that are conducting the test may receive a message as well.

File photo

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