Arlington resident Charles Hernick kicked off his candidacy at last week’s Arlington County Republican Committee meeting.
While Hernick supports limited government, free markets, gun rights and a strong military — to “strengthen diplomatic efforts and keep our country safe” — he doesn’t sound much like his party’s presidential candidates, who often speak against regulation and the EPA, when describing his career.
“I’ve worked at the crossroads of economic development and environment for my entire career,” Hernick says on his website. “I understand the complexities and cost of government regulation, but I also understand the benefit that well-designed policies and programs — supportive of free markets — can bring.”
“I’ve worked with the private sector and state governments across the United States to keep our waters drinkable and swimmable while the economy grows,” Hernick continues. “I’ve worked with Muslim business owners in Africa whose livelihoods are under threat from religious extremists. I’ve seen the effects of intolerance, poverty, violence, and terrorism. I know that it takes a willingness to listen and take decisive action to keep peace.”
On the issue of immigration, Hernick writes: “Our approach to immigration should be balanced; we need to prevent illegal entry, while keeping the door open to migrants who believe in the American Dream.”
Hernick, who has yet to send a press release — at least to ARLnow.com — is a contrast compared to his GOP rival, Mike Webb, who is also seeking the party’s nomination for Virginia’s Eighth Congressional District. Webb has emailed 37 lengthy press releases to media outlets since Dec. 22.
The Republican nominee will be chosen at a party convention on May 7. The nominee is expected to face Beyer, who would be seeking his second term, in the fall.
Mike Webb announced his candidacy with a with a press release yesterday.
Webb says he’s a conservative Republican and a military veteran. A New Jersey native, Webb wants to bring “responsiveness and accountability” to Virginia’s Eighth District. He’s trying to assemble a diverse group of supporters to propel him to an unlikely victory.
“If we succeed in winning this race as a conservative Republican in the most liberal district in the nation and the most Democratic in the South, that will be a real revolution that will have national implications,” he said in a press release.
Webb’s Facebook page describes everything from his military background to his favorite movies.
“I own over 3000 DVDs and videocassettes, but still find myself at a movie theater looking for the latest film,” he writes. “I don’t think I have a favorite, but, I really like Good Fellas, and my favorite movie moment is Barbara Streisand singing ‘My Man,’ at the end of Funny Girl.”
After the jump: two of the first press releases sent by Webb.
Photo via Facebook
Arlington’s members of Congress are touting wins for federal workers, veterans, Metro and the Virginia economy in a new federal spending bill.
The bill, a rare bipartisan budget compromise, passed both houses of Congress this morning. It includes a raise for the federal workforce, $150 million for WMATA, $30 million for Arlington National Cemetery, and billions for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and various other military spending priorities.
The office of Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) described it as “good news for federal employees” in a press release.
There is finally some good news for federal employees in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress this morning. The $1.1 trillion spending package included a pay raise for federal employees and service members, as well as significant additional funding for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), some of which is earmarked for cybersecurity.
“Federal employees suffered through enough with years of wage stagnation, furloughs and shutdowns, and, perhaps most egregiously, the theft of their personal information as a result of the OPM hacks,” said Rep. Beyer. “In addition to cybersecurity investments to prevent future breaches, this deal gives our federal workforce a modest 1.3 percent pay raise for the second year in a row.”
“These efforts will help improve the recruitment and retention of federal employees to help our government grow the new American economy,” Beyer added.
The agreement provides $272 million for OPM and the OPM Inspector General, a $132 million increase over the previous year. The legislation also provides $21 million for critical upgrades to OPM’s cybersecurity infrastructure and to ensure protections to prevent similar security breaches are installed. Individuals affected by the OPM data breaches will be provided with identity protection coverage for 10 years — much more than the previous commitment — and identity theft insurance in the amount of $5,000,000.
After the jump, a joint press release from Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, including details of specific spending and tax provisions of note for Virginia residents, businesses and federal workers.
Senator Pays Tribute to Arlington Dad Who Died in China — Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) yesterday paid tribute on the Senate floor to an Arlington resident who died suddenly while on a business trip to China. Nathan Graham died of a “random infection,” Hatch said. He was 37 and a father of four. A former Senate staffer, Graham was born and raised in Utah and was a volunteer bishop in the Crystal City LDS church. Friends are raising money to help support Graham’s family. [Sen. Orrin Hatch, Facebook]
Support for Theater Troupe Blasted By Senator — Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) cited Crystal City physical theater company Synetic as an example of federal waste this month. Why? Because the National Endowment of the Arts has given the troupe a total of $61,000 since 2000 to, as Lankford characterized it, cut the English language out of Shakespeare productions. A local letter to the editor writer, meanwhile, says that a better example of federal waste is the fact that Oklahoma receives approximately $1.31 from the feds for every dollar it pays in taxes. [Washington Post]
Constitutional Officers Sworn In — Arlington’s five incumbent constitutional officers were all reelected by voters last month. The reelected county sheriff, clerk of the Circuit Court, treasurer, commissioner of the revenue and commonwealth’s attorney all took the oath of office yesterday, the first time all five positions were sworn in together since 2007. [InsideNova]
More Traffic Cameras, Higher Fines in D.C. — For those who drive to the District, get ready for more speed and red light cameras, lower speed limits and higher fines over the next two years. The traffic enforcement measures are part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s “Vision Zero” plan for reducing loss of life from accidents on D.C. streets. [Washington Post]
School Board Compromise on Stratford History — While opposing efforts to designate the former Stratford Junior High a historic district, the Arlington School Board has adopted a renovation plan that keeps its facade intact and has set aside $250,000 for commemorative artwork and educational displays. Currently the home of the H-B Woodlawn secondary program, the school — which was the first in Virginia to integrate — is slated to become a new neighborhood middle school. [Washington Post]
Arlington Reservist Suing Benghazi Committee — Arlington resident Bradley Podliska is suing his former employer, the House Select Committee on Benghazi, claiming he was wrongly forced out of his job and then was defamed on national TV by the committee’s chair. Podliska, an Air Force reservist, says the committee was too hyper-focused on pinning blame on Hillary Clinton. At the same time, he says he was reprimanded for looking into the post-Benghazi talking points of United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. [Courthouse News Service]
APS to Hold Community Budget Meetings — Arlington Public Schools will be holding three community meetings in December to gather public feedback ahead of the creation of its proposed FY 2017 budget. [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington’s Secret Santa Program — Arlington County is again organizing a Secret Santa program, which will distribute gifts to more than 1,000 needy individuals in the Arlington community this holiday season. Residents, churches and school groups who’d like to participate are encouraged to donate $25 gift cards to local grocery, drug, and clothing stores. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The State and Local Predatory Towing Enforcement Act introduced by congressmen Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) was added to an existing transportation bill as an amendment on Wednesday morning.
As it stands, federal law limits the ability of state and local governments to regulate the towing industry. The bill-turned-amendment would give them the ability to do so in an attempt to prevent predatory towing.
“State and local governments provide the best authority to regulate the towing industry and protect Virginians from unfair, predatory practices,” Rep. Beyer said in a press release. “We need more common-sense, consumer friendly solutions like this amendment to protect our constituents’ wallets.”
The predatory towing debate isn’t new to Arlington. The issue received national attention this past spring when ESPN sportscaster and WJLA alumna Britt McHenry was caught on camera losing her temper at an employee at Ballston-based Advanced Towing.
Shortly after the video of the incident was published online, Beyer’s bill was first introduced to the House.
In May, County Board Member Jay Fisette told ARLnow that under the legislation, he would support giving a towing veto to local businesses, requiring the owner’s approval before a vehicle is removed from their property.
The legislation Beyer’s bill would be amending, called the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act or STRR Act, is expected to pass in the House of Representatives by the end of the week, according to the Congressman’s office.
The bill is nearly 600 pages long and would authorize more than $300 billion for transportation across the country. Specific plans for the funds include improving infrastructure, highway safety programs and public transportation.
According to The Hill, Beyer’s and Hollen’s amendment is one of nearly 300 up for debate by the House before voting on the STRR Act.
Arlington Generates $3 Billion in Travel Spending — Arlington County generated $3 billion in tourism spending in 2014, a 5 percent increase over 2013, according to data released Monday. Tourism supports almost 25,000 jobs in Arlington and generated $80 million in local tax revenue. Arlington accounted for about an eighth of Virginia’s $22.4 billion in tourism spending. “These record numbers are a testament to the excellent quality and value of Arlington’s travel and tourism offerings, and the strong collaboration between the County and local businesses in promoting our destination both domestically and internationally,” said Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins. [Arlington County]
Tejada: Crazy Transportation Ideas Better Than No Ideas — Retiring Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada says monorail-like pod transit on Columbia Pike may seem like a crazy idea, but at least it’s an idea. “The JPods or gondolas – some folks might chuckle, but at least the residents are coming up with options, and those who oppose things are not,” he said in an interview. [WTOP]
Moran: Federal Shutdown Coming — Former Democratic congressman Jim Moran, who represented Arlington in Virginia’s Eighth District, says he believes a federal government shutdown is coming because of a budget impasse between Republicans and Democrats. “We have a dysfunctional legislative branch,” said the 12-term congressman, who took a job as a legislative advisor for a D.C. law firm after leaving office. [WTOP]
Future I-66 Tolls May Be Steep — A plan to toll vehicles with fewer than three occupants on I-66 may cost commuters up to $16 round trip just for travel between D.C. and the Capital Beltway. [Washington Post]
County to Buy, Tear Down Home for Park — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to approve the purchase of a home at 2827 N. Harrison Street. The county plans to raze the home and incorporate the 9,632 square foot site into adjacent Chestnut Hills Park. The total cost will be nearly $800,000 and will come from the county’s parkland acquisition fund. [InsideNova]
(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) Arlington County and VDOT are considering building a bus maintenance facility on the east end of Columbia Pike, according to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
The powerful Arizona Senator sent a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh on Wednesday urging him to oppose a planned realignment of Columbia Pike that’s being sought by the county. McCain said the alignment would allow construction of the bus facility but would reduce the number of potential interment spaces available to Arlington National Cemetery as it expands to include the former Navy Annex site.
“We should instead pursue an alignment that maximizes the number of interment sites and places restrictions on the remaining property that ensure whatever is built reflects the solemnity of this national cemetery,” McCain wrote. “It would be shameful to have to tell the family of a fallen American hero that there is no space available at Arlington National Cemetery, because rather than expand its grounds, Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation decided to build a bus maintenance facility.”
Brian Stout, the county’s federal government liaison, said late Friday afternoon that a bus facility is just one use that’s being considered for the land along a realigned Columbia Pike. There are no concrete plans for such a facility, and a formal planning process will not begin until the land swap takes place, he said.
An Arlington County heritage center and parking for the Air Force Memorial are among the other potential uses for the land, said Stout.
Stout said Arlington County, VDOT and the U.S. Army reached a “verbal agreement” on July 16, outlining a swap that would give the Army 38 acres of interment space for Arlington National Cemetery north of a realigned Columbia Pike.
According to Stout, that that represents a 250 percent increase in burial space provided to the cemetery compared to space that would be available without a land swap. The swap would reduce the footprint of the road network from 23 to 9 acres, and would provide Arlington County with 7.5 acres of land south of the Pike for county use, Stout said.
Stout said it’s incorrect to say that the county is “planning” to build a bus facility on the land, though it is a potential use. He denied that discussion of a bus facility has “stalled” talks with the Army, as McCain claims.
Earlier this year the Arlington County Board approved a $14.2 million project to expand and enhance its Arlington Transit bus facility along S. Eads Street and Route 1. Construction on the project is expected to begin this month and last 18 months.
Despite the large investment, the county notes on the project page that an additional ART facility is needed, especially in order to enhance bus service on Columbia Pike in the wake of the cancellation of the Pike streetcar project.
“The new bus facility will not be large enough to fully house the existing ART fleet, or current plans for fleet expansion, nor will it accommodate additional buses that may be necessary to enhance bus service along Columbia Pike and Crystal City-Pentagon City,” the county says. “Where to add bus maintenance and parking space is one of many County needs being examined by the Community Facilities Study, a broad-based, year-long planning effort launched in January 2015 by the Arlington County Board and the Arlington School Board.”
The full letter from Sen. McCain, after the jump.
Flickr pool photo (bottom) by Jeff Reardon
Fire at Columbia Pike Gas Station — A small fire, reportedly started by an acetylene torch, prompted a large fire department response at the Citgo gas station on Columbia Pike yesterday morning. The fire was quickly extinguished. [Twitter]
Bills Proposed to Scuttle Immigration Office — Three Republicans are sponsoring legislation in the House of Representatives that would block the Obama administration from opening a new immigration office in Crystal City. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office could bring some 1,000 jobs to the area, but Republicans worry that it may eventually be intended to process cases of what they term Obama’s “executive amnesty” program. [Washington Business Journal, Breitbart]
Arlington Housing Cools a Bit — Arlington’s hot real estate market cooled a bit in May, according to recently released housing sales data. The volume of sales was down 10 percent in May while the median selling price held steady. [Washington Business Journal]
Association Moving to Crystal City — The Aluminum Association, a trade group, is moving into a new headquarters in Crystal City this week. The association is moving into the refurbished, LEED Gold certified office building at 1400 Crystal Drive. [Associations Now]
Flickr pool photo by Alves Family
Arlington Unemployment Down — The unemployment rate for Arlington County residents fell below 3 percent in April. The jobless rate fell to 2.9 percent from 3.1 percent in March. Arlington has the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia. [InsdeNova]
Office Vacancy Still Rising — The office vacancy rate in Arlington rose to 21.7 percent during the first quarter of 2015. That’s up from 20.5 percent one year prior. [InsideNova]
Evolent Health IPO — Updated at 9:45 a.m. — Ballston-based Evolent Health is completing its initial public stock offering. The software company is raising about $195 million at a price of $17 per share. Public trading of ticker symbol EVH on the New York Stock Exchange is expected to begin today (Friday). [DC Inno, Venture Beat]
Beyer Speaks Out Against Metro Cuts — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and a group of eight other D.C. area members of Congress have joined to oppose Republican-proposed cuts to WMATA. “We saw earlier this week at Memorial Bridge what happens when Congress abdicates its responsibility to fund our nation’s infrastructure,” Beyer said in a press release. “Now is not the time to back out of our commitment to the national capital metro system. For the safety of all the thousands of tourists, commuters, and federal employees that ride it every day, Metro has to improve. Bleeding the system dry with shortsighted reckless funding cuts is no way to do that.” [U.S. House of Representatives]
Congressmen Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) today reintroduced The State and Local Predatory Towing Enforcement Act, a bill they say would solidify state and local governments’ ability to end predatory towing practices.
As federal law currently stands, state and local governments are prohibited from regulating local towing industries. Though a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision is considered to have given local governments the ability to regulate those industries, the reintroduced bill would codify it and reduce some legal uncertainties.
An identical bill was introduced by former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), but died in the U.S. House of Representatives in February.
“Unfair and predatory towing practices take money out of our constituents’ wallets and strain their budgets,” said Rep. Beyer in a press release. “I am proud to join Rep. Van Hollen to provide our state and local governments with the authority they need to properly regulate this industry with common sense, consumer friendly towing protections.”
The predatory towing debate in Arlington has been revived as of late thanks to the national coverage of ESPN sportscaster Britt McHenry’s caught-on-camera rant against Ballston-based Advanced Towing. Despite the opportune timing, Beyer’s office says the high-profile incident did not have any impact on the congressman’s decision to introduce the bill.
Arlington County Board Member Jay Fisette has kept his eye on local predatory towing practices since 1999.
“Predatory towing is something I’ve thought about a lot,” Fisette says. “Next to cable, this has been the second-highest number of complaints [by residents].”
Fisette, who supports the bill, sees it as a way to help reinforce local governments’ ability to regulate predatory towing. “It’s always nice to have it in black and white where no one can challenge it,” he says.
For instance, Fisette says he’d like to give a towing veto to local businesses. “Have the property owner sign off on the tow before the tow company is allowed to remove the vehicle,” he says.
The end goal is to give drivers the confidence to park without fear of being towed at a moment’s notice.
“I try to create a community where people are able to park one time and go do five things,” Fisette says. “Walk to one store, walk to another, then go back to their car. I don’t want them moving five spaces down. It creates community, reduces congestion, and cuts down on pollution.”
Traffic Switch on Columbia Pike — VDOT crews will open a new ramp from Washington Blvd to Columbia Pike tonight. Crews will also activate a new traffic signal on the Pike and remove an old one. The Pike/Washington Blvd bridge replacement project is expected to wrap up this summer. [VDOT]
Rep. Beyer’s First Bill Passes — Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) Science Prize Competition Act has passed with bipartisan support. The bill “will encourage federal agencies to use prize competitions to incentivize innovative scientific research and development.” It’s Beyer’s first bill to pass the House of Representatives after replacing the retired Rep. Jim Moran. [Twitter, U.S. House of Representatives]
County to Consider Board Reduction — The Arlington County Board will hold a public hearing on a proposed reduction to the Board of Equalization of Real Estate Appeals. The body hears appeals on real estate assessments, which are down by half from their peak in 2009. The proposal would cut the seven member board to five. [InsideNova]
Petition Against Gun Store Created — Residents have created an online petition against a gun store that’s set to open in Cherrydale. Think of the children, the petition creators say. “It is unconscionable, in an era where our children are forced to practice ‘lock down’ drills designed to train them how to protect themselves from armed intruders, to locate a gun shop anywhere in the vicinity of schools,” the petition states. “The fear of armed intruders permeates their education, and placing a shop that sells guns and/or ammunition within immediate distance of schools is confusing to students at best, and sparks fears of access to them at school at worst.” So far, the petition is more than 2/3rds of the way to its 1,000 signature goal. [Change.org]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Todd Moore, inventor of the White Noise app and founder of app development company TMSoft, testified before Congress this week (his testimony begins at 1:06:40), advocating for a bill that would curb “patent trolling.”
Patent trolling, Moore says, is when a company that has bought patents threatens small businesses with frivolous patent infringement lawsuits, which, if a small business tried to fight, will often bankrupt it. As relief, the trolls tell the company to send them thousands of dollars to obtain a license.
“It feels like you’re being bullied,” Moore told ARLnow.com yesterday. “That’s what these guys are, they’re well-financed bullies, and they’re abusing the system.”
Moore was eventually saved from paying thousands — if not millions, he says — by the nonprofit Public Patent Foundation, which provided him with a pro bono lawyer. Once Lodsys, the shell corporation suing Moore, learned the entrepreneur had retained a no-cost lawyer, it dropped the suit.
Most startups aren’t so lucky, Moore said. Many will simply pay the licensing fee to make the patent troll go away — which makes them susceptible to other trolls seeking to profit from more frivolous lawsuits. Others will fight, but the way patent law is set up leads to lawsuit defenses, even against lawsuits with minimal legal standing, prohibitively expensive.
Moore tells a story about college students developing a product in a startup incubator who were threatened with a lawsuit by a patent troll. They were developing promising technology, but instead folded their company because they couldn’t even pay the licensing fee — $3,500 in Moore’s case — that trolls ask for to avoid a lawsuit.
“It’s hard enough to build and run a successful startup,” Moore said. “I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent trying to fix this issue. That’s time I could have spent building my products.”
Moore went before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet to advocate Congress passing the Innovation Act, which would close several loopholes in patent law. It would require anyone suing for patent infringement to: specifically name which part of a patent is being infringed upon, the principal business of the suing party, and the actual company or person suing the business.
Lodsys is said to be a “patent monetization firm” with “no assets or employees other than a few patents.” The company asked Moore to mail the money overseas, presumably so the company doesn’t have to pay U.S. taxes. It’s an issue that’s stifling the innovation economy, Moore says, which is what Arlington is trying to grow.
“It’s harming startups and small businesses, and, big picture, it’s hurting the economy,” he said.
Beyer is one of the newest representatives of the 47-member House Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). During his campaign last year, Beyer made the environment a chief platform, and he told ARLnow.com this afternoon that he asked to be placed on the natural resources committee.
“This is a great platform for continuing the discussion on climate change,” Beyer said. “Every day we seem to discover some new climate change fact that should inform the legislation we pass.”
Beyer campaigned on instituting a carbon tax, which will be introduced soon by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Beyer said he will be “an early co-sponsor” of the legislation, which is likely doomed to fail in the firmly Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“I have no illusions, I’m a freshman in the minority,” Beyer said about his ability to get his pet legislation passed. “I think there will be some playing defense, but there will be some things we can do together too. Trying to continue to surface basic scientific facts, basic data observation points about what’s happening in the climate worldwide. They don’t have to have a significant label on anything, but they’ll hopefully lead all of us to good decisions.”
The ranking member of the 21 Democrats on the natural resources committee is Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who said in a press release he’s “tremendously pleased to welcome” Beyer to the committee.
“Rep. Beyer joins our committee as a welcome and established voice for conservation who understands the importance of protecting our natural resources and public lands, including the Chesapeake Bay,” Grijalva said. “Environmental allies like Clean Water Action support him because of his commitment to address climate change, promote renewable energy and stand up to Republican deregulation schemes. Those priorities are exactly what we need more of in this Congress, and I can’t wait to get started with him on our team.”
Beyer has requested to be placed on the subcommittee for the environment. He’ll also likely be placed on another House committee, and he believes it will either be the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology or the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform. Each, he said, would be an opportunity to impact the 8th District.
“The science, space and technology committee would be great because the National Science Foundation is moving to Alexandria and DARPA is in Arlington,” he said. “Oversight and government reform would be perfect because it has so much impact on the federal government.”
Beyer said he’s been texting Moran for advice — “Jim’s a dear friend,” he said — and hired five of Moran’s former staffers for his office in Capitol Hill, and two more for his district office. After less than two weeks in office, he’s already “been on the losing side of a lot of votes” and frustrated with the majority party’s actions so far.
“I hope the rest of the session isn’t like the first two weeks,” he said. “It seems to have been largely political symbolism, where the Republican majority has put bills up for passage confident they’ll pass, but probably with little confidence they’ll get through the Senate or the president will sign them.”
Photo courtesy the office of Rep. Don Beyer
Moran is a former college athlete, having played football at Holy Cross, and said in a press release that the current system is broken, neither sufficiently protecting the student athletes nor effectively regulating the schools’ allotment of funding.
“We know our intercollegiate athletic system is broken. Scandal after scandal in the news continues to undermine our faith in the integrity of the intercollegiate athletic system,” Moran said in the release. “Despite piecemeal efforts at reform, we still see gaps that leave our student athletes vulnerable, whether through due process or appropriate health protections.”
Moran is proposing a “Presidential Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Reform,” which would be a “blue ribbon commission” that includes members of Congress, college sports and education experts.
The commission would be charged with reforming the NCAA which has come under fire in recent years for its handling of scandal investigations at Penn State and the University of Miami. The NCAA was also successfully sued by a group of former athletes who said the organization profited from their names, images and likenesses while illegally preventing the athletes from doing the same.
You can read Moran’s full press release after the jump. (more…)