The forum is being organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. It will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Hyatt in Rosslyn (1325 Wilson Blvd). ARLnow.com, a Chamber member, is the event’s media sponsor.
During the forum, incumbent Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall will be asked a variety of questions, with a special focus on local business.
“This business-themed candidate forum will feature a moderated discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, and will provide each candidate with the opportunity to engage with local business leaders and address the key issues for the business community,” the Chamber said. “This event will also offer attendees the chance to gain an inside look into the candidates’ views on business in Arlington County.”
(Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement, who has qualified for the ballot again this year, has also been invited to participate.)
In a debate earlier this month, Gutshall lamented that Arlington County’s economic development efforts are “geared towards the types of businesses that are going to fill office buildings,” more so than helping small businesses. Garvey said the county is “aware that small businesses are having issues” and is holding a small business summit next week.
Meanwhile, the county’s high office vacancy rate — some 8 million square feet of office space is vacant in Arlington — remains a significant issue.
This candidate forum is open to the general public. Registration is $10. Light refreshments will be provided.
The Arlington County Democratic Committee is planning its own candidate debate from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4. The debate will be held at GMU’s Founders Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive).
Valor Awards Recount Harrowing Moments — Saving a suicidal woman who was about to jump from the seventh floor of a parking garage. Saving the life of a man who had just been run over by an SUV twice. Smashing a car window in order to resuscitate the victim of a major crash on I-395. Those are a few of the acts of valor recognized at the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s Valor Awards this week. [InsideNova, Arlington Chamber]
WaPo Questions Crystal City-Brooklyn Comparison — The Washington Post isn’t letting the New York Times get away with a quote that compared Crystal City to Brooklyn. The area’s hometown paper instead quoted a number of Twitter critics, one of whom called Crystal City a “Ballardian hellscape.” The Times story suggests that Crystal City — with its new restaurants, emerging tech scene, transportation improvements and community events — is experiencing something of a mini renaissance. [Washington Post]
Nauck Town Square Designs — Arlington County is seeking feedback on the draft design of the forthcoming Nauck Town Square park. The design includes a large sculpture of the word “FREED.” [Arlington County]
County Gets Adorable Letters — Arlington County gets adorable letters from children, who ask about things like raising backyard chickens and saving worms that might have gotten swept up as yard waste. [Arlington County]
The trip will take place Nov. 10-14. With the thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba, many in the business community see a land of opportunity in the Communist-ruled island nation just 90 miles from Key West.
A press release from the Chamber (below) has details on the itinerary and the costs.
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce a new partnership with Chamber Explorations to send travelers on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to explore Cuba, a country where time has stood still. From November 10-14, participants can travel to Cuba with business colleagues, family, and community members. Travelers have the option of beginning their trip from Miami, or flying locally from Washington Dulles International Airport at an additional cost.
“We are thrilled to expand our Chamber travel program with the addition of the Cuba Getaway,” said President & CEO Kate Bates. “We look forward to continuing to provide our members and the community unique opportunities like this trip to Cuba.”
In a key time for Cuban-United States relationship building, current travel to Cuba is limited to “people-to-people” trips such as this one. With an itinerary reflecting a leisure trip, Cuba Getaway travelers will visit sights such as Ernest Hemingway’s farm, the Museum of the Revolution, and a Havana cigar factory. Travelers will also have the opportunity to meet with the local Old Style Car Club owners and learn why Havana’s streets are filled with vintage American automobiles and understand what it takes to keep them on the road.
- The trip package includes:
- Flights to and from Cuba
- First class hotel accommodations
- Bilingual Cuban Tour Guide
- Itinerary Interactions & Admissions
- Eight meals – three breakfasts, three lunches, three dinners
- Cuban medical insurance
- Deluxe Air Conditioned Motorcoach
- And more!
Full details can be found in the trip itinerary on the Arlington Chamber Travel page.
The Cuba Getaway early bird cost (ending May 31, 2016) is $2,695 for Chamber members, their families, and guests. Non-member early bird registration is $2,895. After May 31, registration increases to $2,795 for Chamber members and $2,995 for non-members. To register, visit the Chamber website and download the Cuba Getaway 2016 Registration Form (also found here). Final registration deadline is August 27, 2016.
For more information about the trip, contact the Chamber office by calling 703-525-2400 or emailing [email protected] Trip itinerary is available through the Chamber.
Please note: Rates are based on double occupancy. There is a $500 fee for travelers who choose to have a single room.
Police Seek Witness in Pentagon City Investigation — Arlington County Police are trying to find a witness who rendered aid to an injured man found face down in the street in Pentagon City. The incident happened around 9:30 p.m. on February 25, on the 1200 block of S. Eads Street. The 65-year-old man remains in critical but stable condition. [Arlington County]
Group Forms to Oppose Gun Store — Updated at 11:05 a.m. — A group called Act4LyonPark has formed to oppose NOVA Armory, the gun store that’s planning to open on March 26 at 2300 N. Pershing Drive. So far, Act4LyonPark has raised $6,300 to support its activities. The group says that in a recent vote, 88 percent of residents who responded voted for the Lyon Park Citizens Association to take an official stance against the gun shop.
Board to Consider Relaxed Historic Rules for Schools — The Arlington County Board is expected to vote Saturday on a proposal to make it easier for Arlington Public Schools to make changes to schools within local historic districts. The proposal would remove schools from the oversight of the county’s rigid Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. Facing a school capacity crunch, APS says going through HALRB adds unnecessary delays and costs to projects. [InsideNova]
One Person Filed 6,500 Noise Complaints Against DCA — A single individual is responsible for 6,500 of the 8,670 noise complaints filed against Reagan National Airport last year, according to the airports authority. [WTOP]
Chamber Savors Hotel Tax Victory — With Arlington’s 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge reinstated, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is celebrating a long-awaited legislative victory. “Reinstating Arlington’s [Transient Occupancy Tax] was the Chamber’s top priority for the 2016 legislative session, with the funds generated by the additional TOT providing much needed support to ensure that Arlington remains competitive in attracting leisure and business travel,” said Chamber president and CEO Kate Roche. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
In 2014, Arlington had 6 million visitors who spent nearly $3 billion in the County, making Arlington the number one county for economic impact of tourism in Virginia.
This is a substantial boost to our local economy. In just tax dollars alone, tourism revenue generates approximately $81 million in County taxes and $108 million in state taxes per year. Without these revenues, each Arlington household would pay an average of $1,800 each year in taxes to receive the same services.
Tourism also accounts for about 25,000 jobs in Arlington. As the President & CEO of the Chamber, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many in our hospitality industry who work hard every day and reflect positively on our community to those who visit.
Every year the Chamber hosts our Hospitality Awards which recognizes individuals in the industry who go above and beyond. These awards are not for managers or properties, but for the front-line individuals who make a difference – whether it’s the concierge who takes off his own tie and irons it for a guest who spilled mustard on his, or the parking attendant who rescues a guest during a blizzard. These are the people who make Arlington’s first impression on visitors and keep them coming back to our great county.
While our hospitality industry is thriving, its potential to grow has been significantly limited by budget constraints. As the chart below shows, the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service’s budget pales in comparison to our neighboring jurisdictions’ tourism budgets. While the ACVS staff is effective with the resources available, they are severely financially constrained.
More than twenty years ago, the Chamber successfully lobbied the General Assembly for an additional 0.25% Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) surcharge on hotel rooms in Arlington with all revenues to fund tourism. The Chamber has an active Hotel General Managers Committee who were, and continue to be, fully supportive of this. Even with this tax, our hotel room tax rates are extremely competitive, particularly compared to DC. This is a surcharge that pays for itself in additional revenue generated.
The TOT surcharge had a three year sunset clause and was renewed consecutively until 2011 when it lapsed. That lapse had nothing to do with tourism, but with the political climate in Virginia and some legislators’ view of Arlington.
The Chamber is working hard to make sure that politics don’t get in the way of what is not only good for Arlington County, but also good for Northern Virginia and the entire Commonwealth. Reinstating the additional TOT has been the Chamber’s top legislative priority this session. We have worked closely with the entire Arlington delegation to the General Assembly on this issue, with Senator Janet Howell introducing SB160 and Delegate Patrick Hope introducing HB 1147. I, along with our Chair Todd Yeatts and a number of Chamber members, have gone down to Richmond several times for these hearings. At this time SB160 has passed the Senate and HB 1147 passed the House of Delegates just last week.
The Arlington Chamber is hopeful this legislation will be signed into law by Governor McAuliffe and is incredibly optimistic about the impact these additional tourism funds will have not only on Arlington business, but the larger community.
The County Board voted 4-1 on Saturday to approve the plan, which has been years in the making and will replace an outdated retail plan originally passed in 2001. The new plan moves Arlington from a “retail everywhere” approach — policies designed to put ground floor retail in most commercial buildings, regardless of whether a business could actually survive in a given location — to what’s billed as a flexible but “curated” approach.
Color-coded maps will now define where the county would like certain types of retail businesses to set up shop. The owners of buildings in high foot traffic areas will be encouraged to adopt certain building standards that are conducive to ground floor retailers, from higher ceilings to smaller building lobbies.
“By partnering with our business community and our residents, we’ve developed a plan that takes important steps to improve and strengthen the retail sector in Arlington,” Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “We believe the consistent, clear guidance and definitions, as well as flexibility of use, design and timing in the plan will better serve those who live and work here when they shop, dine, get their hair cut and bank on streets throughout the County.”
The plan passed with two notable amendments, both proposed by County Board member John Vihstadt and both addressing concerns of the local business community.
The first further codified that the plan is intended as a guiding principle — to be applied primarily during development approval processes — rather than explicit county rules and regulations. The second added service and repair businesses to the types of businesses encouraged in “red zones” — the parts of Arlington’s business districts with the highest foot traffic. In the draft plan, staff had recommended limiting those zones to shopping, dining and entertainment.
“This plan has come a long, long way,” Vihstadt said after the motions passed by 4-1 and 3-2 respectively. “It was not a good plan when it started out.”
The plan passed with tepid support from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which had expressed concern about earlier versions of the plan it deemed “too proscriptive.”
“Explicit addition of a statement that the retail plan is not regulatory is paramount,” Chamber President and CEO Kate Roche told the Board. “Moving forward into implementation, we emphasize the importance of the plan being understood as a guideline… we want to make sure this plan isn’t codifying anything that will prevent Arlington from becoming the great, flexible place that we all want it to be.”
The changes still weren’t enough for Libby Garvey, who was the lone vote against the plan.
“I’m much more conformable with the plan with the changes, but still not comfortable enough to support it,” she said. “Both the people who have to make it work and the people we serve are saying, ‘it’s too proscriptive.'”
Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes told the Arlington Chamber of Commerce today that the cancellation of Arlington’s streetcar project was the toughest decision she made during 20 years in office — and she’s still not sure of the long-term consequences.
Hynes, who’s retiring at the end of the year, made the remarks during a question-and-answer session following her “State of the County” address.
“The hardest decision I had to make not just on the County Board but in 20 years of elected office was to discontinue the streetcar,” said Hynes, who previously served on the School Board for 12 years.
“The reasons had to do with my belief and care for the community overall,” Hynes explained. Given the strong opposition to the streetcar, “I really didn’t believe there was enough bandwidth in our community to address these other pressing needs. Everything was being evaluated under this streetcar lens, not on its own merits. I was worried that we were going to miss other things that needed to be attended to if we continued to keep it alive.”
Hynes still suggested that the streetcar was a sound plan to improve transportation on Columbia Pike.
“Let me just say for myself personally, if the plan that the Board adopted for Columbia Pike continues to build out, I don’t have a whisper of a doubt that bus service will be insufficient in the long run,” Hynes said. “But our community wasn’t there, our community didn’t understand it, and it was just coloring the conversation to an extent where we couldn’t move forward.”
Hynes said her second-toughest decision was on the 2012 update to the county’s sign ordinance. The Board was considering more restrictive measures, including a ban on roofline signs on office buildings that was supported by Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman. Ultimately, Hynes sided with Board members Jay Fisette and Libby Garvey, plus county staff and the business community, in arguing that banning such signs would discourage businesses from locating in Arlington.
“I was the swing vote,” she recounted. “I thought my job was to find the compromise.”
During the speech, Hynes said Arlington is unlikely to experience the rapid economic growth of the early- and mid-aughts again, at least any time soon, due to economic pressures from federal government belt-tightening to regional competition with Fairfax County and the District.
“The reality is that those incredible ups that Arlington experienced will not be coming again,” she said.
Hynes encouraged the business community and the next generation of Arlington leaders — she and Tejada are both retiring from the Board at the end of the year — to continue to honor Arlington’s values of diversity and inclusiveness, make long-term investments in infrastructure like Metro, and build consensus for decisions through robust community processes involving residents and other stakeholders.
“I challenge each of you to be part of the solution,” she said. “I look forward to watching it on TV.”
The following op-ed article is written by Kate Roche, president & CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
Arlington currently faces trying economic conditions. Approximately 50 percent of the County’s tax base comes from business. Thus, these challenges affect Arlington as a whole and matter not just to businesses, but to all County residents.
The current office vacancy rate is 21.7%, over ten percent higher than the 15-year historical average. A ten percent improvement in occupancy rates (4.4 million sq. ft.) would represent $34 million annually in local tax revenues. No matter what issues are important to you as a citizen – great schools, social services, parks, art – a healthy business community is utterly essential to sustainably fund those initiatives.
As a community, we can’t keep operating the way we have been and expect to attract businesses. We have grown complacent that our strengths, our location, amazing workforce, and early adoption of transit-oriented development would entice companies to Arlington.
This may have been sufficient in the past, but Arlington faces rapidly growing competitiveness in the region as other localities copy our successful blueprint. To some degree we are a victim of our prior success, in the form of higher property costs and rental rates. Pressure on commercial real estate is accelerated by the dramatic shift in the way companies utilize space to maximize employees per square foot.
So what can Arlington do?
We can be proactive in attracting business and fostering a more welcoming culture for business:
- We are encouraged by the recent high-level appointments made by County Manager Barbara Donnellan, including Carol Mitten, Steven Cover, Victor Hoskins, and Shannon Flanagan-Watson. Arlington needs to ensure that the enthusiasm and willingness to work with businesses to find solutions at the highest levels percolates throughout the County staff.
- The recent funding of Arlington Economic Development by the County Board above what the County Manager specified in her base budget is another good sign. However, Arlington still remains significantly behind competing localities when it comes to funding the core components of economic development. More can be done.
- Long term planning efforts should incorporate more robust economic analysis so that decision makers can better understand the trade-offs when making their decisions. For example, the County is in the process of possibly reducing previously planned density from Rosslyn without studying the effects on our long term tax base.
- We must review and revamp both the site plan and permit processes for length, focus, and consistency. The site plan process is currently both overly lengthy and sometimes uncertain in terms of any type resolution. The permit process has gotten a bit better in recent years, but can still be frustratingly inconsistent.
- Better communication is crucial. This includes better communication by the County with businesses, but also better communication by the County about business to the community.
The onus for better communication lies not just with the County, but also with the business community itself.
This article is the first in an ongoing opinion column authored by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce to share that business perspective for the benefit of the Arlington community. We look forward to participating in helping steward Arlington to a vibrant and exciting future.
School Bus Stop Violations in Arlington — There were 155 traffic violations issued over a three year period in Arlington for drivers who passed school buses at bus stops. That compares 655 such violations issued in Fairfax County over a three year period. [NBC Washington]
County Board Art Debate? — The operatic organization Opera Nova is trying to host a forum among Democratic Arlington County Board candidates that will cover the topics of the arts, humanities and civic engagement. Should the candidates accept their invitation, the candidate forum will be held on Friday, June 5, just a few days before the June 9 Democratic primary. [InsideNova]
40 Under 40 Nominations Underway — Leadership Arlington is currently accepting nominees for its Arlington 40 Under 40 honors. The group is seeking individuals under the age of 40 who “demonstrate impact through leadership personally and/or professionally.” Nominations are being conducted online. [Survey Monkey]
Chamber Names ‘Business of the Year’ — Rosslyn-based LMO Advertising, which bills itself at the largest advertising agency in the D.C. area, has been named Business of the Year by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “Our team loves working in Arlington and I am proud that we have been recognized as one of the community’s best businesses,” LMO CEO Chris Laughlin said, in a press release. “I look forward to many more years of doing business in Arlington.” [LMO Advertising]
Photo courtesy Valerie
(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) Some of Arlington’s most ambitious teenagers will go before a panel of judges, “Shark Tank”-style, to present business ideas they have cultivated for weeks.
The event is called the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Investor Panel, is May 7 at Marymount University’s Reinsch Library (2807 N. Glebe Road), from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. It’s hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which has taken a dozen students from ages 12 to 18 from Arlington schools and taught them the fundamentals of starting a business, every Wednesday evening since Jan. 7.
“It’s important for them to see how the process of starting a business works,” Chamber Communications Manager Meredith Smith said. Each business group will go through the process of applying for business licenses. “It’s been really good seeing these kids develop their businesses.”
The 12 students have split into seven different businesses, and each startup will have six minutes to present to a panel of eight members of the Arlington business community, including from Vornado, Graham Holdings Company and the Ballston BID. Those judges will ask questions, debate and “invest,” just like on the ABC reality show “Shark Tank.”
Among the businesses the kids have come up with are custom-denim shorts, mobile apps and an e-commerce marketplace for “local streetwear/lifestyle brands,” according to the Chamber. They have been instructed by Charlie Sibbald, an entrepreneur and adjunct business professory at MU.
“[The academy] helps the Chamber build the next generation of business leaders by introducing young people early to entrepreneurship and its rewards and challenges,” Chamber President and CEO Kate Roche said in an email. “The program also provides a significant number of meaningful ways for our members to engage with the students. Business leaders are instrumental to the curriculum and the program, serving as mentors, guest speakers, graphic designers, and business plan reviewers.”
Tickets for the event are $10, and it is open to the public. The winning team will be entered into a national scholarship competition and could present its idea to the Americas Small Business Summit in D.C. this June.
Marriott International occupies 900,000 square feet of office space in Bethesda, but CEO Arne Sorenson told the Washington Post last month that the hotel chain with more than $12 billion in annual revenue “will be moving.” Sorenson said he still wants the company to stay in the D.C. region, and made more comments sure to make Arlington real estate owners’ ears perk up.
“I think it’s essential we be accessible to Metro and that limits the options,” Sorenson told the Post’s Jonathan O’Connell. “I think as with many other things our younger folks are more inclined to be Metro-accessible and more urban.”
Sorenson also said Marriott has engaged with “local leaders,” but the company won’t move for several years; its lease in Bethesda expires in 2022.
A giant tenant like Marriott doesn’t come to market very often, and it would be a huge get for Arlington Economic Development, which is still reeling from the impending loss of some large tenants like the National Science Foundation. If the hotel chain moves its headquarters to Arlington, it could occupy almost triple the combined space of recently touted deals for Accenture (90,000 square feet in Ballston), CNA (175,000 square feet in Clarendon) and Graham Holdings (35,000 square feet in Rosslyn).
“Because Marriott is, from what I’m reading, a 700,000-800,000-square-foot group, they would sign a long-term deal with probably some new construction,” Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chairman Kevin Shooshan told ARLnow.com today. Shooshan is also the vice president of Shooshan Company, a Ballston-based real estate firm. “Because of the size of that deal, it’s very attractive to everyone involved in the real estate market. Marriott has good credit. It would be twice the size of [Rosslyn-based] Corporate Executive Board. All parties on the commercial side are interested.”
Shooshan said the number of jobs Marriott would bring — more than 2,000 work in Bethesda — could be a boon for the county’s economy, including the added employee spending on retail, restaurants and housing. Another benefit would be the real estate revenue. Arlington’s commercial real estate market has stagnated in recent years, and landing Marriott would be a financial windfall.
“A headquarters tenant like that brings in tens of millions of dollars in real estate taxes over a 10-15 year lease term,” Shooshan said, “and hopefully that term turns into a true long term headquarters location, resulting in hundreds of millions, not to mention more sales and entertainment spending, more residents, more traffic for hotels, restaurants, etc.”
Where could Marriott go in Arlington? Real estate publication Bisnow created a list of 16 potential places it could relocate in the D.C. area that fit its criteria, and four are in Arlington:
- The site of the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn, the longest continually operating Marriott in the company’s portfolio
- 1812 N. Moore Street, the Monday Properties skyscraper in Rosslyn that opened in October 2013 but still sits vacant. That building holds 560,000 square feet, so it could be paired with planned, 513,000-square-foot redevelopment of 1400 Key Blvd just steps away
- PenPlace in Pentagon City, a sprawling, 2.1 million-square-foot planned office park owned by Vornado and already approved by the Arlington County Board
- Crystal City, where Vornado owns a number of office towers that are already vacant and ripe for redevelopment
Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell couldn’t confirm if AED or anyone else from the county have been in talks with Marriott. She did, however, make it known that Arlington will be lobbying hard for the hotel powerhouse.
“Marriott’s corporate headquarters would be an ideal fit for Arlington,” O’Donnell said in an email. “We are known for our urban villages and metro accessibility, which have been cited as important factors both in Marriott’s search criteria and in hiring and retaining the best workforce.
“Arlington has several existing and build-to suit sites that accommodate Marriott’s needs for a corporate campus,” she added. “Additionally, Arlington is also already home to nine Marriott properties and 3,300 Marriott rooms. These factors all demonstrate Arlington would be a model location for a headquarters of a premier hotel operator.”
Marriott is expected to have its pick of just about every local jurisdiction, in Maryland, the District and Virginia. We’re told also Tysons Corner figures to be a premiere player with its new Metro stops and massive redevelopment plans.
Marriott’s decision is several years away, and the competition will only get fiercer. Although AED would not comment on what type of package it would offer Marriott, it’s worth looking at what CEB received in exchange for simply staying in the county and the state: $4.5 million from the governor’s office, $5 million from the Virginia Economic Development Fund and a pledge from Arlington County to match any funding for infrastructure improvements.
CEB’s 15 stories in the under-construction tower that will bear its namesake will contain 350,000 square feet of floor area. Marriott should occupy at least twice that. Wherever it goes, it likely will see a significant financial commitment from its new home.
The big-ticket question in that referendum will be $105.7 million for Arlington Public Schools, $50.25 million of which will pay for either a new elementary school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, or additions onto Randolph and Barcroft elementary schools.
The voting public can only vote to approve or reject to each of the four bond questions on the ballot — for public schools, Metro and transportation, parks and recreation funding and community infrastructure. Each question requests at least $13 million in funding, and all of the referenda roll multiple projects into the larger categories.
The items in the $105.7 million schools bond, aside from the $50 million elementary school, are:
- $28.75 million for a 136-seat expansion at Abingdon Elementary School;
- $10.31 million for “minor construction/maintenance” at school facilities;
- $7.47 million toward a 241-seat addition and renovation at McKinley Elementary School;
- $5 million for a 300-seat expansion at Washington-Lee High School;
- $4 million in planning and design for a new, 1,300-seat secondary school at a yet-undetermined location.
The funding items in the $59.74 million transportation bond question:
- $39 million for continuing funding of the Metro system;
- $15.5 million for road paving;
- $1.3 million for bridge renovations;
- $2.39 million to be divvied up among WALKArlington, BikeArlington and “improvements to major travel corridors [outside] principal boundaries.”
The biggest items in the $40.15 million community infrastructure bond are:
- $12 million for neighborhood conservation projects; $10 million for facilities maintenance;
- $2.2 million for planning of the Salt Dome site on 26th Street N.;
- $1.4 million toward a new Lubber Run Community Center;
- $6.1 million combined for a new parking deck, wash bay and fueling station at the Arlington Trades Center.
The $13 million parks and recreation bond question includes:
- $10 million for parks maintenance;
- $2 million for land acquisition and open space;
- $450,000 for Crystal City parks and open space;
- $220,000 for Four Mile Run near-stream improvements.
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the transportation and education bond packages, with assurances from county officials that the additional debt won’t affect the county’s triple-AAA bond rating. The chamber doesn’t take a position on the community infrastructure and parks and rec bonds because they “are not directly tied to economic development.”
“Maintaining and improving quality transportation and education are two of the key components of our public-policy positions, and these bonds will assist in easing the traffic crunch and provide seats for Arlington’s growing student population,” Chamber Chair Timothy Hughes said in a press release.
GOP, Democrats Support Amendment — The Arlington County Republican and Democratic committees agree on at least one thing: they both support a proposed Virginia constitutional amendment that would exempt the the principal residence of a fallen U.S. servicemember’s spouse from taxation. [InsideNova]
Chamber Launches Program for Young Entrepreneurs — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has launched a local affiliate of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy program. The program will help students ages 11-18 develop entrepreneurial skills after school. [Patch]
AAA Warns of Sun Glare — AAA is warning that sun glare could make the evening commute more hazardous for east-to-west commuters through the end of daylight saving time on Nov. 3. “Motorists should take additional precautions to avoid being blinded by the light including wearing sunglasses, cleaning their windshields, slowing down, and altering their commutes whenever possible,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend.
Photo courtesy @jdsonder
(Updated at 9:30 a.m.) New Arlington Chamber of Commerce President Kate Roche, 29, knows she will face questions about her age, but she and the Board of Directors that promoted her view it as an asset.
“My age is a positive,” Roche told ARLnow.com, days after her new promotion was announced. “It’s a change for the business community. When people traditionally think of business, they think of older men, not younger women. Appealing to more demographics makes it a more welcoming place.”
Roche replaces now-retired President Rich Doud, 71. Doud hired Roche as the chamber’s director of member services and development in 2007 after she worked at D.C. nonprofit Women in Government. Roche called Doud “a great mentor and leader,” and said Doud was in tears when they spoke last Friday after she was officially given the job.
The chamber’s Board of Directors Chairman Tim Hughes, an attorney in the Bean, Kinney and Korman law firm, said the search committee for a new president agreed that Roche’s youth was a good thing for the chamber in the midst of changing times.
“She has had just unparalleled enthusiasm, energy, passion and commitment,” Hughes said. “I would say that Kate brings a really interesting and intriguing mix of continuity and experience, along with obvious youth, energy and a change in the face of an organization.”
Roche said she’s focused on partnerships she’s already been building as vice president — her last position. That means working with the Ballston Business Improvement District, Arlington Economic Development and other business and community groups. Roche said leveraging those partnerships will allow the chamber to attract new members, a crucial mission in the changing economy.
“Chambers are being pushed harder to prove why people should join and to demonstrate their value,” Roche said. “There was a time when you joined the chamber just because that’s what you do.”
Hughes said that means attracting more of the tech businesses sprouting up seemingly every week in Arlington and enticing them to join the chamber.
“You think about the people starting businesses and developing software products doing all kinds of great and interesting things,” Hughes said. “We’re attracting these types of folks to the county, so they see why membership in the chamber helps them be effective in their business.”
Coming up, Roche plans to roll out a “Shop Chamber” initiative — member businesses will encourage their customers to shop at other member businesses, with the chamber ultimately keeping track of how much additional money a business can earn from being a chamber member.
Roche said she’s also focused on retaining and engaging current businesses, which includes seeing which members haven’t been to a meeting or event in six months, and reaching out to them. She said the chamber should play a big role in helping local businesses, whether it’s via networking events or by helping to shape county policy.
“The chamber is the only all-county business organization,” she said. “The chamber’s role is to help businesses do business well. When business issues come up, we’re not part of the government, so we can do the lobbying that you can’t do if you’re a part of the county.”
(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette says the streetcar is a “strategic investment” that will drive economic development. But he acknowledges that it has an image problem.
Delivering his State of the County address to members of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Fisette said “the workhorse modern streetcar” gets a bad rap from critics who say it would be waylaid frequently by vehicle accidents and other possible obstructions on the tracks.
Fisette pointed to an image that has popped up on blogs and in Powerpoint presentations given by critics. The image, above, shows the aftermath of a minor vehicle accident in Toronto that caused at least a half dozen streetcars to back up behind a damaged car on the tracks.
“It’s an image emblazoned in people’s minds that has distorted the debate a bit,” Fisette told the crowd.
In reality, Fisette said, such accidents will happen “very infrequently.” When it does, obstructions will be cleared from the tracks as expediently as possible. “There is a protocol in place for dealing with that quickly,” Fisette said.
Plus, Fisette argued, it’s not exactly uncommon for accidents to cause delays for vehicle traffic.
“Backups happen daily on the Beltway due to broken down cars and accidents,” he said.
Critics, like Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt, say an enhanced bus system would offer many of the benefits of streetcar without the high cost and inflexibility of fixed rail. They have at times pointed to a “streetcar-like bus” in use in Las Vegas (pictured, right) as an alternative.
Fisette said fixed rail is, at least partially, the point. People — himself included — are more likely to ride a train with a fixed route than get on a bus.
“I fundamentally disagree” that buses are better than streetcar, Fisette said. “Streetcar is much more comfortable, much more accessible… multiple doors, better for wheelchairs, much smoother ride. I myself know that when I go to another city, do I jump on buses? No. Really, would I get on a rail system that’s fixed and tells you where you’re going? Yes.”
Fisette’s most oft-repeated argument for the streetcar was its higher ridership capacity. He said that prior to the Board’s streetcar approval, during a long planning process that asked Columbia Pike residents what they wanted, the community signaled that it did not want Metro and the density that would come with it, but did want more amenities.
In order to continue to revitalize Columbia Pike — and thus build more housing and retail — Fisette said there needs to be more capacity for transit than buses can provide. Already, the Pike is Virginia’s busiest bus corridor, with 600 bus trips daily carrying more than 17,000 passengers. With the Pike and Crystal City expected to account for 65 percent of the county’s population growth and 44 percent of its job growth over the next 30 years, Fisette said the streetcar is the right system to get people to where they need to go.
On the issue of how to pay for the streetcar — which carries a total price tag of more than half a billion dollars — Fisette said 93 percent of streetcar funding will come from “federal, state and regional money,” including a 12.5 cent commercial real estate tax designated for transit. He said he opposes using homeowner tax dollars for streetcar
At the same time, Fisette said he’s looking for a possible way to move forward without federal funds, since federal funding would come with strings attached, would increase costs and would slow the project down.