Didn’t get a chance to attend this year’s Arlington Chamber of Commerce candidate forum? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Four candidates — independent Audrey Clement and Democrats Kim Klingler, Peter Fallon and Erik Gutshall — participated in the forum, fielding questions about issues of particular importance to the local business community. (Democrat Vivek Patil was unable to attend.)
Four of the five candidates for County Board argued that county government must be easier for small businesses to navigate in order to better encourage economic growth.
With less than two weeks to go until the start of the local Democratic Party’s caucus to determine its nominee, tax relief and helping new businesses were high on the agenda at a forum hosted last night by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at Synetic Theater in Crystal City.
Peter Fallon said county staff must be less “zealous” in enforcing rules and become more focused on customer service, while Erik Gutshall argued for a wider culture change in county government.
“When you’re that zealous, you don’t have the flexibility of thinking about what you’re trying to do,” Fallon said.
“The culture of ‘get to yes’ doesn’t exist because it doesn’t have a champion,” said Gutshall. “And I want to be that champion.”
Independent Audrey Clement, on the campaign trail ahead of November’s general election in the race to replace retiring Board chair Jay Fisette, said the best way to help small business is to cut taxes.
She criticized the recent 1.5-cent hike in property taxes, and accused the County Board of “basically hoarding money” by keeping tens of millions of dollars in cash reserves.
Clement added that the Board was “bamboozled” on raising taxes by County Manager Mark Schwartz, who was directed to provide a series of budget cuts to halve his proposed tax rate increase from two cents to one.
The cuts to a variety of neighborhood and other programs brought out droves of local residents to oppose them, and the County Board backed off.
Kim Klingler, a Democratic candidate, said putting those 24 projects on the table for cuts was a mistake given their direct impacts on the community.
“That makes it really hard when you have 24 lightning-rods on the table, and then have to talk about cutting taxes,” she said.
Candidates also said that the County Board should do a better job of ensuring residents’ concerns about development are heard, and that decisions on new projects are not, as Gutshall put it, “baked in.”
“If residents are going to participate in the ‘Arlington Way,’ we need to make sure they are heard, and they have clear expectations set for them,” said Klingler.
In Vivek Patil’s absence, his campaign manager Nathan Saxman read a prepared statement arguing for a “green and clean tech economy” focused on innovation and new industries.
“This is an economic model that places Arlington at the epicenter of job creation in the commonwealth,” said Saxman.
The four Democratic candidates will debate next Wednesday at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s monthly meeting, ahead of May’s caucus.
Local businesses will not have to authorize each individual tow from their property after Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) signed a bill ending the would-be practice.
HB 1960 overrides Arlington County’s towing regulations that required a so-called “real-time authorization” of each tow during business hours. The county’s regulations were set to come into effect on July 1.
The bill, introduced by Del. Tim Hugo (R-40), prevents any jurisdiction in Northern Virginia from requiring the authorization, also known as a second signature. The first signature is the contract that authorizes a company to tow from a particular property.
Having previously railed against the requirement, Arlington Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Kate Bates praised McAuliffe’s decision.
Bates said in a statement:
The signing of this important legislation into law is a huge win for the Arlington business community. Arlington businesses rely on being able to provide clear, available parking for customers, employees and visitors in order to stay viable, and HB 1960 empowers and protects these businesses so they can continue to do just that. By removing the ability of local lawmakers to force businesses to adhere to a second authorization towing requirement, this legislation returns the decision-making power about the removal of illegally parked vehicles back where it belong: in the hands of private property owners and business owners.
McAuliffe said in an interview on WTOP this morning that he signed the bill after having conversations with representatives of local chambers of commerce and small businesses.
“I always will come down on the side of the small business community, so I signed the bill,” McAuliffe said.
County Board chair Jay Fisette told ARLnow.com he was “disappointed” at McAuliffe’s decision, after he initially tried to amend the bill. Fisette said the second signature is necessary to prevent predatory towing.
“For us, it’s important because predatory towing has gotten worse over recent years, and an increasing number of people are affected by it,” Fisette said. “There is a better balance that can be struck to reduce the number of tows that occur in the first two minutes that somebody parks in a space.”
Fisette said he hopes the Chamber and county can now work together to find a way to address both parties’ concerns.
One minor change requested by McAuliffe, concerning fines for towing operators in Northern Virginia that will apply each time they make an improper tow or violate certain towing regulations, was made to the final bill by the legislature. The bill also calls for towing operators to notify the local animal control office when a car is towed with a pet inside.
Local Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) spoke forcefully against the bill on the floor of the House of Delegates during the General Assembly’s reconvened session earlier this month to discuss McAuliffe’s amendments and vetoes.
He said the fact that other localities like Virginia Beach and Stafford County have a second signature provision shows inconsistency. He said the General Assembly should have “left well alone” for jurisdictions to decide.
“My big concern with this bill is I don’t quite understand why having granted this authority to localities over a decade ago, Northern Virginia is being now carved out and this authority to pass ordinances like the one Arlington did is being stripped away in some localities but not others,” he told ARLnow.com. “There are other localities that do use this authority and apparently it works well without any hue and cry and uproar.”
Numerous county businesses have been selected for the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s annual Best Business Awards, set for next week.
The awards recognize businesses that go above and beyond to serve their clients and make the county a great place to live and work. Businesses earn the awards through good customer service, if they are industry leaders or offer a unique approach, or if they are active in the community.
This year, the awards will be given out on May 2 at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Rosslyn. A VIP past winners reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by the main ceremony at 7 p.m.
The finalists by category are:
Large Business Award (General)
Update on New Hotel Near Rosslyn — A new Homewood Suites hotel being built near Rosslyn recently celebrated its “topping out.” The 11-story hotel, which replaced the former Colony House Furniture store, is expected to be completed by early 2018. [Commercial Property Executive]
Gov. Recommends Changes to Towing Bill — Gov. Terry McAuliffe has sent a trespass towing bill back to the General Assembly with significant recommended changes. The bill in its current form would raise towing fees in Northern Virginia and prohibit Arlington from enacting its new “second signature” requirement on tows during business hours. [InsideNova]
Hospitality Workers Lauded — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce held its 13th annual Hospitality Awards on Tuesday. From a press release: “One winner, Fayssal Samaka of the The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City once checked in a family at the hotel, when he overheard that the father was recovering from cancer. Samaka arranged for the family to stay in the Presidential Suite and even booked them a tour. A few months later, the family informed the general manager that the father had passed away, and because the last trip they took together as a family was at The Ritz-Carlton, they would come back every year on vacation.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Project Explores Arlington Communities — A just-submitted doctoral dissertation examines “the processes of community development, suburbanization, and segregation that Arlingtonians, black and white, used to create lasting communities that met their own needs and reflected their own preferences.” The project’s exhibits include the local history of government housing during World War II, Arlington’s historically black communities, and the history of the American Nazi Party in the county. [Built By the People Themselves]
Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak
The Chamber is very much opposed to a proposed addition to the county’s towing ordinance that would require business owners to individually authorize each tow from their parking lots. The Arlington County Board is set to take up the issue this coming Tuesday, with the County Manager recommending against the so-called “second signature” requirement.
On Airbnb and other short term rentals, the Chamber has actively engaged its members on the county’s new proposed regulations, which are going before the Board on Saturday. With hotels in support of additional regulations, and apartment owners against (they would like the option of generating revenue through Airbnb while they lease up new buildings), the Chamber has declined to take a stance beyond encouraging its members to make their own voices heard.
In this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we asked Kate about those issues, about the current business climate in Arlington — including why so many restaurants and retailers have been closing lately — and about her ascension to the role of President and CEO of the Chamber at a relatively young age.
Post-Election Harassment in Arlington — Among the incidents of “harassment and intimidation” reported across the country following the election was one in Arlington. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a woman was crossing the street when two men in a car yelled, “you better be ready because with Trump, we can grab you by the p***y even if you don’t want it.” [Independent UK, Southern Poverty Law Center]
GOP Wants Va. Electoral College Change — Following another year of Virginia being a blue state in the presidential election, state Republicans are pushing to change Virginia from a “winner take all” state to one that allocates Electoral College electors by congressional district. [InsideNova]
Heavy Traffic This Morning — With rain and fog slowing things down, heavy traffic has been reported on local highways throughout the morning rush hour. [Twitter]
Chamber Threatens to Go to Richmond on Towing — If Arlington County follows through on a proposal that would make it harder for property owners to have trespassing cars towed off their lot, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce says it may go to Richmond to lobby for a law superseding Arlington’s regulation. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Drew H.
Dogs Die in Seven Corners Fire — Two dogs perished in a Sunday morning house fire in the Seven Corners area, although three dogs and four people were able to make it out of the burning home okay. Arlington County firefighters responded to the scene, assisting Fairfax County units in battling the blaze. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]
Water Main Break in Fairlington — Parts of north Fairlington had low or no water pressure for most of the day Monday due to a water main break. [Twitter]
Remembering Obama’s Local Bookstore Visit — Even four years later, not a day goes by when One More Page Books owner Eileen McGervey doesn’t hear from someone about the time in 2012 when President Obama visited her store on Small Business Saturday. She recounted how it happened recently on a local public radio show. [WAMU]
Carpool Still Hanging On — Once believed to be closing this fall to make way for a redevelopment, popular Ballston bar Carpool is now likely to remain open through March 2017, co-owner Mark Handwerger tells ARLnow.com. The Washington Business Journal reported last month that the redevelopment has hit a bit of a snag.
Yorktown Senior Joins Chamber — Mark Yates, Jr., a senior at Yorktown High School and the founder of a lawn care business, has joined the Arlington Chamber of Commerce as a member after participating in the Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy. [Arlington Chamber]
Jonathan Kinney Honored — Prominent local attorney Jonathan Kinney was honored by the Arlington Community Foundation earlier this month, in front of a record luncheon crowd of nearly 400. Despite his low-key demeanor, Kinney, a land use and estate planning attorney, was described as “Arlington’s most indispensable citizen.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The Board voted to advertise a series of changes — final approval is set for next month — but not before making some alterations to the County Manager’s recommendations.
The alterations were essentially intended to prevent towing malfeasance. Among them:
- The Board inserted a provision that requires towing companies to receive authorization from the property owner to tow a vehicle, which would apply only to non-residential properties during business hours.
- The Board kept the current requirement that tow truck drivers photograph the condition of a vehicle before towing it, and added a requirement that tow companies notify those who have been towed that they may view the photos upon request.
- While the County Manager recommended language stipulating that tow companies must notify police of a tow within 10 minutes, rather than “immediately,” as currently worded, the Board gave itself the option of requiring police notification prior to a tow.
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce objected to the authorization requirement — also referred to as a “second signature” — on the grounds that it could cost businesses more time and money to remove trespassers who park on their lots.
The Chamber sent a letter to the Board expressing its “vehement opposition” to the requirement. Chamber President and CEO Kate Bates also spoke at the meeting.
“Nobody likes it when their car is towed but that is not justification for putting significant burden on property owners,” said Bates.
County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette proposed the addition of the second signature requirement. It passed, but with at least two County Board members saying they were unlikely to support it when a final vote is taken next month.
Fisette said that the low number of formal complaints against towing companies — there were 87 towing complaints and seven violations recorded by the county in 2015 — does not reflect the reality of widespread disdain for so-called “predatory towing” practices in Arlington.
As evidence, Fisette cited an ARLnow.com poll from last year in which 84 percent of respondents — nearly 2,300 people — said towing companies in Arlington were more predatory in their conduct than “just doing their job” for local businesses.
“It’s actually refreshing to have the Vice Chair cite an ARLnow poll,” said Board member John Vihstadt, to laughter in the County Board room.
Fisette also cited an ARLnow.com opinion column that recounted someone being towed from the former Taco Bell lot on Wilson Blvd in 2000 while eating at the restaurant — because a spotter saw him walk next door to get cash from an ATM.
A resident who spoke at the Board meeting agreed with Fisette’s assessment of towing practices.
“Many mom and pop restaurants are being harmed by aggressive and predatory towing… it’s driving business away,” said Sarah McKinley, a towing critic and the vice president of the Columbia Heights Civic Association. “A second signature creates a balance and gives retail owners some control over this situation so they aren’t so damaged.”
The Chamber, however, said towing companies provide a valuable service to local businesses. The Chamber supported the County Manager’s original proposal, which it described as a “compromise.”
“We… emphasize our vehement opposition to the addition of a second signature requirement for the removal of illegally parked vehicles or the prohibition of parking ‘spotters’ to monitor parking areas,” the Chamber wrote in its letter to the Board.
“The addition of either would present significant administrative and cost burdens to implement and would deteriorate the level of service provided by towing contractors to local businesses who must keep parking areas clear and available to their employees, visitors and customers to remain financially viable,” the letter said. “We appreciate the steps the County has been working towards to make Arlington a more business friendly community, and urge extreme caution to the Board in exploring proposals that would shift things in the opposite direction.”
Average Paycheck Decreases — The average weekly paycheck in Arlington was $1,734 in the first quarter of 2016, down 0.2 percent compared to one year prior. Nationally, however, the average paycheck was down 0.5 percent. Arlington ranked in the top 10 of U.S. counties with the highest pay. [InsideNova]
New Media Venture Based in Clarendon — Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei’s next media venture is headquartered in Arlington. VandeHei, along with Politico’s Mike Allen and the publication’s former Chief Revenue Officer, are among those helping to found the venture, which has reportedly secured $10 million in financing and is said to be “a media outlet targeting corporate executives and other professionals with a mix of business and political news.” While Politico remains in Rosslyn, VandeHei’s new venture is based in MakeOffices in Clarendon. [Wall Street Journal]
Porn Discussion at DJO — Last night Bishop O’Connell High School hosted a public discussion, aimed at parents and teens, about “the effects of pornography on teenagers.” Today the founder of the website The Porn Effect will address DJO students and “present the reality behind pornography to the entire student body.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]
First Responders Cup This Weekend — The annual First Responders Cup fastpitch softball tournament will take place in Arlington this weekend. Among the participants, one team from Salem, Va. is paying tribute by wearing the name of fallen firefighters on the back of their jerseys. The players, who also wrote letters to the families of the firefighters, will be visiting Arlington’s Fire Station No. 5 near Pentagon City today. [WDBJ]
New Website for Chamber — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has launched a redesigned website. [Arlington Chamber]
AHC Seeking Volunteer Mentors — Updated at 2:15 p.m. — Affordable housing organization AHC Inc. is seeking volunteers to serve as mentors and tutors for middle- and high school students. Before the start of the school year, AHC provided backpacks filled with school supplies to more than 900 low-income, school-aged children living in its apartment communities. “Along with scores of generous individuals, several local organizations donated funds or supplies, including Arlington County Community Outreach, BM Smith, Boeing, The Reading Connection, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington,” AHC noted in a press release. [AHC Inc.]
Arlington hotels are offering free coffee, cookies and other perks to the county’s cops to thank them for their service.
At an Arlington Chamber of Commerce ceremony yesterday, Arlington County Police Department chief Jay Farr received the gifts from six local hotels.
“Each day, the hardworking men and women of the Arlington County Police Department work tirelessly to protect us,” DoubleTree general manager Dori Familiant said in a press release. “It is an honor to work with the other hotels through the Chamber to extend our appreciation to the ACPD officers for their dedication to keeping our businesses, residents, and visitors safe.”
According to the Chamber, the gifts included:
- Arlington Court Suites Hotel
- A three-day free access to its Capital View Lounge for a choice of breakfast or dinner along with free parking and free access to the Capital View
- DoubleTree by Hilton Crystal City
- Free coffee anytime in Made Market, the grab and go located in the lobby
- Complimentary lunch and dinner any day in the employee cafeteria
- Complimentary DoubleTree by Hilton cookies at any time (Available at the front desk)
- Holiday Inn Rosslyn
- Complimentary cup of coffee daily from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. from the Potomac Perk Cafe
- Hyatt Arlington at Washington’s Key Bridge
- Complimentary items from Starbucks on an ongoing basis
- Key Bridge Marriott
- Complimentary beverages to be picked up in the staff breakroom
- Residence Inn Arlington Capital View
- Free cup of coffee at Illy’s Cafe from 6 a.m.- 6 p.m. every day.
Photo via Arlington Chamber of Commerce
Arts Truck, Grants Approved — The Arlington County Board last night approved $215,810 in grants to local arts organizations and nearly $70,000 for the purchase and deployment of a new mobile art studio. [Arlington County]
Snow Plowing Policy Change — Starting this winter, Arlington County will plow residential streets at the outset of snowstorms, reversing its previous policy of only focusing on major arterial routes before moving on to residential streets after the snow stops and major roads are clear. [InsideNova]
Ballston Mall Redevelopment Authority Approved — Arlington County is creating its first Community Development Authority. The CDA will be focused on making infrastructure improvements around the future Ballston Quarter mall — the new identity of Ballston Common Mall, which is being renovated. As part of a public-private partnership, the county plans to spend around $55 million to improve local roads, public plazas and the public Ballston parking garage. [Arlington County]
Chamber Supports Aquatics Center Plan — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has penned a letter in support of building a scaled-down version of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center. “One of Arlington’s main assets is the employee talent pool we have residing in our county,” wrote the Chamber’s president. “The proposed facility will help attract and retain this talent, as well as the businesses looking to employ them.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has recognized seven local businesses for its 30th annual Arlington’s Best Business Awards.
The award ceremony was held Tuesday at the Sheraton hotel on Columbia Pike.
The seven business honorees were:
- Strategic Consulting Partners – Home-Based Small Business of the Year 2016
- Virginia Center for Orthodontics – 2016 Service Small Business of the Year
- Joe’s Place Pizza and Pasta – 2016 Retail Small Business of the Year
- Design TLC, LLC – 2016 Technology Small Business of the Year
- Phoenix Bikes – 2016 Nonprofit Small Business of the Year
- Crystal City Marriott – 2016 Business of the Year
- Snagajob – 2016 Business of the Year
Three local business luminaries were also inducted into the Chamber’s Arlington Business Hall of Fame:
- Emerson G. Reinsch (posthumously)
- Bill Buck of Buck & Associates
- John Shooshan of The Shooshan Company
Photo courtesy Arlington Chamber of Commerce
The three candidates for Arlington County Board debated business and other public policy issues Monday, at a forum sponsored by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
Both Democratic contenders — incumbent County Board Chair Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall — vowed to make it easier for companies to do business in Arlington, for companies large and small.
Early on, Garvey pointed to the difficulty Boeing encountered in trying to build its D.C. area headquarters in Arlington as an example of something that shouldn’t happen again.
“Boeing had planned to build a second building but found the process here so unpleasant that they said they’d never build another building in Arlington,” said Garvey.
Gutshall, who is the owner of a small business, Clarendon Home Services, focused on customer service as the key to improving the experience of operating a business in Arlington.
“I firmly believe that Arlington County needs leadership that will accept nothing less than a culture of get to yes,” said Gutshall. “Too many citizens and business owners continue to have frustrating horror stories of the lack of transparency, accountability and helpfulness of our county. I know because I have more than a few of my own.”
They also discussed transportation, mentioning the need for improved transit infrastructure.
“Transit is largely regional and we really need to make it easy with a single seat ride for folks from Fairfax to Loudon to Prince William to get into Arlington and D.C. This is how we will get more cars off the roads,” said Garvey.
A common theme raised by Gutshall was the need to make infrastructure investments.
“For the sake of our economy and quality of life, we must be forceful advocates for a second river crossing for Metro,” he proposed. Gutshall and Garvey both spoke about transit on Columbia Pike; Gutshall has been critical of Garvey and the county’s lack of action following the cancellation of the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar project.
“I’ll also work to ensure that bus routes on Columbia Pike contribute to the achievement of our main street vision by providing providing frequent 6-10 minute service, 18 hours a day that connects our diverse residents and businesses efficiently to the places they want and need to go — beyond work including more north to south connections in the county.”
Said Garvey: “I am pleased with the proposal to expand the transit way from Crystal City to Columbia Pike essentially running the same route as had been planned for the streetcar and we will have a one seat ride the west end of Columbia Pike all the way west through Crystal City.”
Also discussed was the proposed gondola connecting Rosslyn with Georgetown. Garvey has expressed skepticism about the gondola, while voting to approve funds for a feasibility study. Gutshall said he supported the study.
“I think that the gondola study is worthwhile,” said Gutshall. “I have my reservations and doubts seriously that it will come to fruition… It seems that it was a relatively modest sum for Arlington to kick in a little bit of funds just to see if it has legs and if it might go somewhere. But I will be very honest. I don’t think in the long run its going to have legs.”
Big Changes Planned for Ballston Church — The Central United Methodist Church at 4201 Fairfax Drive in Ballston is planning a complete redevelopment of its 30,000 square foot property. Preliminary plans have been filed to build “a new church, a new preschool space, and a seven-story, 132-unit apartment building — 60 percent market-rate and 40 percent dedicated affordable.” [Washington Business Journal]
McAuliffe Signs Bills at Wakefield HS — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed two pieces of education legislation at Wakefield High School yesterday, as pictured above. The new laws “will lead to an overhaul of the state’s high school graduation requirements, aiming to make high school more relevant to the working world” and better supporting students who start a career after high school. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Reagan Airport Bridge Closed This Weekend — Starting at 11 p.m. tonight, through early Monday morning, drivers heading to Reagan National Airport will not be able to access it via the Route 233 bridge over Jefferson Davis Highway. Ongoing construction prompted the planned closure. [Patch]
Solar House for Sale — A “one-of-a-kind luxury home” is for sale in Cherrydale. The five-bedroom house features a 10KW photovoltaic solar panel array, an energy recovery ventilation system, two-story screened porch, two-car garage, third floor loft with wet bar, a 560 square foot rooftop deck, exercise room with yoga/MMA flooring and an outdoor shower. It’s listed at just under $1.9 million. [Truplace]
Reminder: Chamber Hosts Candidate Forum Monday — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is hosting a County Board candidate forum this coming Monday. The forum, featuring a discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, is taking place from 6-8 p.m. at the Rosslyn Hyatt (1325 Wilson Boulevard). Democrats Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall, and independent Audrey Clement, are set to participate in the forum, which will be moderated by ARLnow.com editor Scott Brodbeck. Tickets are $10. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Photo via Arlington County