Arlington, VA

Ever wondered why Arlington County gets scooped up in “cityrankings so often, despite being technically a county? Turns out it’s by design.

The county is marked as a “Census Designated Place” (CDP) within the U.S. Census, which allows officials to compare it to cities as if the Arlington were one, too. And because data on CDPs and cities are both published in the same level of the federal survey, Arlington gets ranked against other U.S. cities by companies eager to rank everything from parks to bike friendliness.

“So that allows us to be ranked with cities, with counties, with neighborhoods, with other areas that have all receive that same designation,” said Elizabeth Hardy, a county planner.

In the U.S., places are officially “incorporated” as cities and towns by a voting process determined by each state. Although some new places still get incorporated, most states have already incorporated all their land into cities or towns — like how the City of Alexandria and Richmond were both incorporated in the 1700s.

But some of the states settled earlier in America’s history, like Virginia, have places left unincorporated after a history of land grabbing — including Arlington.

The exact history of why Arlington was left unincorporated and in need of a CDP is murky, but Hardy says it likely goes back to 1846 D.C. retrocession of the area, which led Virginia to declare Arlington and Alexandria independent jurisdictions.

“I think people will be surprised, especially in our region for Virginia and Maryland, a lot of the places out here are actually not incorporated,” said Vincent Osier, Branch Chief of the Geographic Standards and Criteria Branch at the U.S. Census Bureau.

“When people are looking in the data tables, ‘Oh I want data for Silver Spring’ or some other area — Tysons — they just assume that’s a place,” he said. “But without CDPs there would not be data qualification for that named area.”

There has been some talk of Arlington incorporating as a city, to better reflect its status as an urban area and to give the local government additional policy-setting powers, but nothing official on that front has emerged recently from county government headquarters.

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Morning Notes

Wawa Planning 40 New N. Va. Stores — “Wawa Inc. has big plans for the Northern Virginia. Upon breaking ground on its latest project in Vienna Tuesday, the Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain officially unveiled its expansion plan for the area, which includes 40 new Northern Virginia stores in the next 15 years totaling $240 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

National Honors for Arlington Traditional School — “Arlington Traditional School is one of nine Virginia schools, and 362 across the nation, to be named 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. It is the third time since 2006 the school – known as ATS – has received the national honor.” [InsideNova]

Census Is Important for Emergency Management — “The Census provides emergency managers and public safety officials with critical information to better prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters in Arlington County. Data from the Census provides us with key demographic, socioeconomic and housing data that form the basis of Census Bureau tools we use in emergency management.” [Arlington County]

Outdoor Lab Ready for Another School Year — “The Arlington Outdoor Lab starts the school year with a host of initiatives, as well as a new incoming director. Michele Karnbach, who previously served as a resource assistant at the facility, has been tapped as its next director. Karnbach most recently was a science teacher in Prince William County’s school system.” [InsideNova]

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Arlington’s population and median household income continues to reach new heights.

Data from 2018 American Community Survey (ACS), just released by the U.S. Census Bureau, pegs Arlington’s population at 237,521. That compares to 234,965 for 2017 and 230,050 for 2016.

Arlington County’s more conservative planning division population estimate currently stands at 226,400. The last official Census population count was 207,627 in 2010 — that is set to be updated next year with the 2020 Census.

The latest ACS data puts Arlington’s median household income at $122,394, nearly double the national median of $63,179. Arlington’s median household income in the 2016 ACS was $110,388.

Means of commuting to work showed some minor trends in the latest ACS.

Those driving alone to work dropped to 47.8% of workers over the age of 16, compared to 51.6% in the 2016 ACS. Those working from home rose to 8.8% from 5.7% two years prior, while those taking public transit rose to 28.9% from 26%. Bike commuting dropped from 2.4% in 2016 to 1.5% in 2018, though it rose within the margin of error year-over-year and Arlington now outpaces Alexandria in the category.

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Scientists are asking Arlingtonians to brave the great outdoors Friday night and listen to bugs.

The effort of part of the 7th annual “Cricket Crawl” to “crowdsource” data on the crickets and katydids that residents can hear on their streets and in their backyards.

“This is the census of our singing nighttime insects,” said Park Naturalist Jennifer Soles with the Gulf Branch Nature Center told ARLnow.

People interested in participating are asked to listen for the sounds of one of six species for one minute this Friday night, and write down what they hear. Participants can then text or and call leave a message at (240) 801-6878 with their observations, or email their notes to [email protected].

One of the six insects to listen for is the common true katydid, which Soles said can be found in the places with heavy tree cover and sounds like it’s saying “katydid, katydid, katydid.” Other species on the list — the regular field cricket, greater angler katydid, and jumping bush cricket — can generally be found throughout the county.

Soles said the field cricket makes a “chirp chirp chirp” noise familiar to most people and the greater angler katydid makes a “tick tick tick” similar to the sound an ignitor makes on a gas stove. The jumping bush cricket by comparison, makes a “little peeping trill” with long pauses in between peeps.

More pictures and audio clips of the all six insect types in the census can be found on the event website.

One of the species that scientists are hoping to learn more about from the data is the japanese burrowing cricket, which has a similar, but faster, call compared to the field cricket.

The non-native species of insect was first discovered in 1959 in D.C., Virginia, and other nearby states, according to research published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

She said the hope is that the Cricket Crawl could turn into the next Christmas Bird Count, and show trends of signing insects over time and indicate whether any of them is in danger of disappearing.

“When they started doing the Christmas Bird Count, maybe wasn’t the data wasn’t that good, or that strong, but after you start doing it for fifty years you saw we’re losing huge numbers of migratory birds,” said Solo.

She added that Friday’s census is an opportunity for the whole family to participate in the data collection.

“It’s about being aware of what’s in their environment, and what they could lose.,” she said.

Photo 1 via USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab/Flickr, photo 2 via James St. John/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Police Nab Sex Assault Suspect — “Following a tip from a member of the public, the suspect has been identified as Wondimagegn Azemach, 19, of Riverdale, Maryland. He has been charged with Abduction with Intent to Defile and Sexual Battery.” [Arlington County]

Fire at Ambar in Clarendon — A small fire temporarily closed Ambar restaurant in Clarendon during prime brunching time on Saturday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Board Approves Va. Square Development — “The Arlington County Board today approved a plan to replace aging commercial buildings on the northwest corner of Washington Boulevard and Kirkwood Road, in the Ballston-Virginia Square neighborhood, with a seven-story apartment building that will include 16 affordable units and achieve LEED Silver energy efficiency.” [Arlington County]

GW Parkway Sinkhole Work Continues — “The repairs to a crumbling section of the George Washington Parkway between Turkey Run Park and the Capital Beltway are now expected to continue through most of the summer. The long-term repairs to a failed drainage inlet will keep at least one right lane on the parkway closed for 10 weeks once the contractor is ready for work, the National Park Service said Friday. Engineers have determined that a 60 year old brick drainage structure buried deep under the parkway needs to be replaced.” [WTOP, Press Release]

Fire Victim Identified — The person killed in an apartment fire in the Ashton Heights neighborhood last week “has been identified as Brian Green, 50, of Arlington. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.” [Arlington County]

Football Team Joins Arlington Chamber — “Welcome new member @Redskins! We are thrilled to have you as part of our membership at the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.” [Twitter]

County Kicks Off Census Effort — Arlington County and its Complete Count Committee (CCC) are gearing up for the 2020 Census – working toward the goal of counting every Arlingtonian… It’s not too early to get acquainted with the Census and what to expect next year.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

New Census Population Estimate — “Arlington’s estimated population was up 14.4 percent from 2010 to 2018, more than double the increase statewide and nationally, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. The federal government’s recently released guesstimate of Arlington’s population as of July 1, 2018, stood at 237,521, up about 1 percent from a year before.” [InsideNova]

Fraudster’s Arlington Home Sold — “The Arlington home of real estate developer Todd Hitt — who pleaded guilty in February to eight counts of fraud — has found a buyer, according to court documents. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, approved the $1.3 million sale of the 5,500-square-foot house on North Kensington Street.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Working With MoCo on DCA Noise Study — “Arlington government officials plan to formalize their agreement with leaders in Montgomery County, Md., to fund a study on the northerly aircraft departure route out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The County Board plans to ante up half the projected cost for a consultant, with the Montgomery County Council putting up the other half.” [InsideNova]

County Proposes New Development Review Fee — “Arlington County staff is proposing a new fee for the acceptance and review of conceptual site plan applications, a process through which developers can get input on their projects before their formal submission.” [Washington Business Journal]

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County officials are trying to drum up participation in the next U.S. Census — a year before the feds start surveying and counting.

Arlington has joined other neighboring jurisdictions in creating a group called “Complete Count Committee” tasked with convincing residents to fill out the 2020 Census form when it arrives next April.

Wanda Pierce, a Nauck resident who co-chairs of the committee, said the group is “representative of all different types of organizations, ethnicities, religions, everyone across Arlington, because to reach a lot of the hard-to-count populations, we have to have those members on the committee,” per a press release.

“The U.S. Census Bureau cannot conduct the 2020 Census alone,” the website for the committee reads.

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey also signed a proclamation calling on “the Arlington community to rise up as leaders and partners in this effort to reach 100% participation in the 2020 Census campaign.”

“It’s not enough to want to count everybody,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz at the event. “We’re going to have to go out and tell people that we want to work with them to make sure they are counted.”

Each member of the committee is tasked with recruiting at least 1,000 Arlington residents to take the annual survey, per the committee’s website.

Previously, Principal Planner and co-director of the Arlington County Census 2020 campaign Elizabeth Hardy spoke at a March meeting with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments where she noted the county began 2020 census preparations in 2018.

“This time I feel like every resident is in a hard-to-count community,” said Hardy, who worked on the awareness campaign for the 2010 census.

She said there “were a lot of lessons learned” from the 2010 campaign, and that this time around the county planned to share more resources with neighboring jurisdictions.

The census is administered once every ten years by the federal Census Bureau.

Next year’s Census has drawn controversy after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to collect information about respondents’ about the citizenship status, a largely unprecedented move that’s been criticized by civil rights advocates and defended by President Trump.

The Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on the citizenship question on April 23.

The most recent Census estimate of Arlington’s population — made in intervening years between official Census counts — was 234,965 as of July 1, 2017. That showed Arlington’s population has continued to grow, from 230,050 in 2016, 226,908 in 2014 and 207,627 from the last Census count in 2010.

Every level of government studies the population data gleaned to make funding decisions. The number of people counted also determines how many House of Representative seats each state is awarded.

Image via U.S. Census Bureau

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Morning Notes

First Debate in Prosecutor Race — “In a contentious series of exchanges that marked their first debate, candidates for Arlington commonwealth’s attorney left no doubt they have decidedly different views on the role of prosecutor – and aren’t particularly fond of one another, either.” [InsideNova]

Road Closures Tonight in Crystal City — “The Crystal City 5K Fridays races will take place each Friday evening in April (5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th). The Arlington County Police Department will close the following roadways each race day from approximately 6:15 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. to accommodate these events…” [Arlington County]

Pentagon City Ritz Hosting Easter Event — “Based on the huge success we had in 2018 holiday season with Breakfast with Santa, we have decided to celebrate Easter with the Easter Bunny for our little ones.” [Ritz-Carlton]

School Board Challenger Announces Candidacy — “He aims to knock off incumbent School Board Chairman Reid Goldstein, but in a kickoff April 3, David Priddy avoided mentioning the incumbent by name and only tangentially touched on reasons he thinks Goldstein should be ousted.” [InsideNova]

County Starts Census Push — “In a packed room at Arlington Mill Community Center, County Manager Mark Schwartz launched Arlington’s Complete Count Committee — a group of 39 community members who will serve as Census ambassadors to ensure that every person in Arlington County is counted in the 2020 Census on April 1, 2020.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Tech Firm Acquired — “Tetra Tech, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTEK) announced today that it has acquired eGlobalTech, a high-end information technology (IT) solutions, cloud migration, cybersecurity, and management consulting firm based in Arlington, Virginia.” [BusinessWire]

Police Warn of Numerous Scams — Arlington County Police are warning members of the community about a number of scams that have recently been reported, among them the “Imminent Account” fraud, the “I am in Trouble” scam and the “Jury Duty” or “IRS” scam. [Arlington County]

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New research suggests that people living in Arlington’s poorest neighborhoods also have the fewest opportunities to lead healthy lives when compared to other communities throughout the entire D.C. region.

A study commissioned by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University show that many of Arlington’s most diverse neighborhoods with the lowest median incomes, such Columbia Heights, Nauck, Douglas Park and Buckingham, also scored the lowest in their measure of “health opportunities” across metropolitan Washington. The results closely mirror a previous study’s findings that people living in many of the same neighborhoods lack economic opportunities as well.

The researchers developed a “Healthy Places Index,” known as HPI, to evaluate not only health outcomes (like life expectancy) in each community, but also to understand whether people have the opportunity to be healthy based on where they live. That includes evaluations of factors like air quality, access to healthcare, housing affordability, the availability of public transportation and education levels.

The study applies that index to neighborhoods across the D.C. area, examining communities using granular Census tract designations to detect patterns within counties and cities in the region. Though the group found that the overall health of the 4.5 million people living in the District and its suburbs is “excellent” and “well above the national average,” they also uncovered “islands of disadvantage” within even wealthy localities like Arlington.

Even though some of the more affluent, higher educated areas of the county rate quite highly in the study’s measure of health opportunities, others rank among the lowest in all of Northern Virginia. The researchers identified the Columbia Heights neighborhood, just off Columbia Pike, as having one of the “the lowest HPI scores in the region,” noting that about 23 percent of adult residents there live in poverty. Buckingham, located along Route 50, also posted poor HPI scores, and the study noted that its residents have a median income of about $38,125 annually.

“The researchers found stark contrasts in socioeconomic and environmental conditions in Northern Virginia, often between neighborhoods separated by only a few miles or blocks,” the VCU academics wrote. “As was observed elsewhere in the region, people of color were disproportionately exposed to adverse living conditions.”

To illustrate those points, the study compared McLean — one of the wealthiest and whitest communities in the area — to Columbia Heights. The former ranked among the top-scoring neighborhoods in the region on the HPI, a far cry from Columbia Heights’ own performance.

“The population in the McLean tract was predominately white (70 percent) and Asian (19 percent), the population in Columbia Heights was largely Hispanic (51 percent) and black (19 percent),” the researchers wrote. “More than half was foreign-born, and most immigrated during 2000-2009.”

While the researchers identify a whole host of factors that could be contributing to such a split, they also stress that it is impossible to ignore the impact of “institutional racism” in understanding why such a divide exists between the races when it comes to health opportunities. They note that discriminatory housing and economic policies mean that people of color are “more likely to live in racially and ethnically segregated neighborhoods that suffer from decades of disinvestment,” which can have a whole host of negative consequences for their health.

“As a result, neighborhoods of color often lack access to affordable high-quality housing, stores that sell healthy foods, green space, clean air and clean water,” the researchers wrote. “These communities are often targets for fast food outlets, tobacco and alcohol marketing and liquor stores. These conditions affect not only the health, economic opportunity, and social mobility of people of color, but they also weaken the health and economy of the entire region.”

Accordingly, the study recommends approaches recognizing that history to officials sitting on the Council of Governments, as they try to craft a response across the region.

“Real solutions require targeted investments in marginalized neighborhoods to improve access to affordable, healthy housing as well as affordable transportation, child care, and health care (e.g., primary care, dental care, behavioral health services),” they wrote. “Everyone benefits from this approach, not only the residents in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, but also the entire regional economy. Economic and racial inequity saps the strength of the economy. Everyone pays a price for inaction: persistent poverty and social isolation fuel discontent, unhealthy behaviors (e.g., drug addiction), crime, and violence.”

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(Updated at 6 p.m.) Striking new research reveals that where children are born in Arlington can have a decades-long ripple effect on their futures, with kids in the county’s more ethnically diverse neighborhoods growing up to make less money and end up in jail at higher rates than their counterparts.

The analysis, compiled by the Census bureau and a team of academic researchers, shows that children born to a family in a wealthy, predominantly white North Arlington neighborhood earn tens of thousands of dollars more, on average, than kids from a more diverse, lower income South Arlington neighborhood. Incarceration rates generally follow the opposite pattern.

These effects largely persist regardless of a child’s race, or the income level of their parents, mirroring results researchers found around the country in creating this new “Opportunity Atlas.” The interactive map combines anonymized data on 20 million people born 30 years ago with granular Census tracts, in order to provide a glimpse of the gaps in opportunity across different neighborhoods nationwide.

Researchers are still sorting out the exact reasons behind these disparities — everything from the quality of local schools to an area’s employment rate could help explain the variations. But officials and public policy analysts increasingly view this data as a key way to guide where government intervention might be most needed to lift people out of poverty, particularly when evaluating which neighborhoods have borne the brunt of decades of racially discriminatory policies.

In Arlington, the atlas helps provide concrete examples of how the split in income levels and diversity between the northern and southern halves of the county affect residents of each neighborhood.

For instance, kids born in the Douglas Park Census tract, an area just off Columbia Pike with the largest share of non-white residents in the county as recorded in the 2010 Census, grew up to record an average household income of $36,000, regardless of their race or income level. That figure is the second lowest in the entire county.

Low-income children, defined as those born to families making $27,000 a year or less, in the area grew up to make $33,000 a year. High-income kids, who were born to families making $94,000 a year, grew up to make about $51,000.

In Nauck, a historically black community, children grew up to earn $34,000 a year, the lowest salary in the county.

Children born to low-income families made $30,000 a year, the lowest figure among that cohort in the county. Kids in high-income families there grew up to make $42,000 a year, again the lowest for the income bracket in Arlington.

People in Nauck are also incarcerated at the highest rate in the county — 4.8 percent of the people studied in the area are currently in jail. That includes 6.9 percent of children born to low-income parents and 1.6 percent of those born to high-income families, rates that are both among the highest in the county.

The results are also striking in the High View Park Census tract, which encompasses the historically black Halls Hill neighborhood, which was literally walled off from its white neighbors for decades in the Jim Crow era.

Kids growing up in the area, of all income levels, went on to make about $44,000 a year, roughly the median for the county. Low-income children, however, recorded the third lowest salary among that group in Arlington, at $29,000 per year. High-income kids went on to make about $57,000 per year, much more towards the county’s median. The neighborhood has the second-highest share of incarcerated residents in the county, with 9.2 percent behind bars.

By contrast, children born in the county’s whitest areas tend to grow up to become considerably wealthier, regardless of their family’s income level.

In the county’s Census tract with the lowest share of non-white residents (an area including neighborhoods like Bellevue Forest, Dover Crystal and Woodmont), children grew up to make an average of $68,000, tied for the second highest salary in the county. Low-income kids recorded that same $68,000 average, as did high-income kids.

Similarly, the county’s second whitest Census tract — an area in Northwest Arlington containing neighborhoods like Country Club Hills and Arlingwood — kids grew up to make $80,000, the highest salary in the whole county. Low-income kids eventually made an average of $51,000 per year, while high-income children made it to $70,000 a year.

And, in the vast majority of the county’s whitest areas, incarceration rates were below 1 percent.

Graphic via Opportunity Atlas

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Update, July 25 at 4:25 p.m. 

County attorney Steve MacIsaac clarified that the county is intervening on behalf of the Census Bureau in a different case than the one originally described in this article. We regret the error.

Arlington County is weighing filing a lawsuit targeting pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis, and intervening in a separate case as well to protect the Census Bureau’s practice of counting undocumented immigrants in population surveys.

The County Board voted unanimously last Wednesday (July 18) to move ahead with the legal action, after consulting with county lawyers behind closed doors.

The county is retaining the services of some outside lawyers to explore the possibility of joining dozens of other localities in suing drug manufacturers over fallout from the opioid crisis. Arlington recorded a 245 percent spike in patients seeking treatment for addiction to drugs like heroin and fentanyl from 2015 to 2017, and any lawsuit would seek to secure damages against pharmaceutical companies involved in flooding the market with prescription drugs that can often lead to addiction.

However, the Board would need to approve the specifics of any opioid lawsuit before the county moves forward with legal action.

The county also plans to lend its support to the Commerce Department in an ongoing federal case, after the state of Alabama mounted a legal challenge to the “resident rule.” The state is looking to ban the Census Bureau from counting undocumented residents in any count of an area’s population, as census data is used to determine boundaries of congressional districts and hand out federal money.

Arlington is joining with a variety of other localities to oppose that move, considering that the county has a large undocumented population. Census data show that Arlington had roughly 29,400 non-citizens living in the county through 2016. That was equivalent to roughly 13 percent of the county’s total population, one of the highest margins in the country.

 

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