For years, visitors to our country’s most recognizable military monument have had but one nearby option should they need to use the restroom: a line of green porta-potties.
The porta-potties near the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington might be convenient, but they were also “unsightly and they smelled,” says Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). Plus, they presented big challenges for disabled veterans visiting the memorial.
Luckily, the local philanthropist David Rubenstein stepped up last year with a pledge of $5.4 million to rehab the monument, the lighting and the landscaping around the 62-year-old monument, colloquially known as the Iwo Jima memorial. Rubenstein’s gift will now also fund permanent restrooms.
A bill sponsored by Beyer passed last week, authorizing the construction of the restrooms. The bill had bipartisan support, although its passage came a year after Rubenstein’s donation was first announced and it was made necessary by a provision that stemmed from a debate over the location of the Air Force Memorial 14 years ago.
“It’s a small victory but it moves us in the right direction,” Beyer said.
Amid congressional gridlock on important issues like the budget, immigration and gun safety, Beyer said there is still plenty of work getting done in Congress — provided the work is politically uncontroversial.
“There are places where we really can’t get things done,” said Beyer. “But those are all places where there are significant philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans. On things where there is consensus, we can actually move pretty quickly.”
But the fact that this pretty obvious improvement is getting done mostly because a billionaire ponied up for it may make a larger point about the current state of American governance and budget priorities.
“We’re fortunate to have the David Rubensteins of the world,” said Beyer, “but it is sad that we can’t free up more money for investments in public infrastructure.”
Beyer cited figures that suggest the U.S. is $3 trillion behind on needed infrastructure work due to deferred maintenance. The U.S. Park Service alone has $11 billion in infrastructure needs, including the funding still needed for repairs to Memorial Bridge.
For needs not deemed essential enough to receive taxpayer funding, private donations may be the only way to get it done in the near term.
“Until we get our arms around entitlement reform, finding ways to grow our discretionary resources for things like infrastructure, we’re going to be dependent on good folks like David Rubenstein,” Beyer said.
Though Beyer said he had not seen a timetable yet, he expects that the Iwo Jima improvements will take at least 12-18 months to complete.
“Arlington is a wonderful place to live — it gets all these awards for best suburb or best small city — and hopefully getting rid of the porta-potties at the Iwo Jima memorial will be another small step in improving the livability of Arlington.”
Photo (below) via Google Maps
Permanent Bathrooms Coming to Iwo Jima Memorial — Congress has approved a bill to add permanent bathrooms to the Marine Corps War Memorial near Rosslyn. The bathrooms will replace the current porta-potties and will be accessible to those with disabilities, including wounded veterans. The cost of the project will be paid for by philanthropist David Rubenstein. [WUSA 9]
Arlington 9/11 5K Registration Closing — Online registration for the 15th annual Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K is closing at 10 a.m. this morning. The race will take place Saturday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. [Zippyreg]
Remembering 9/11 in Arlington — Arlington County is holding events in remembrance of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. Tomorrow, Sept. 8, the county’s Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission is holding a public event reflecting on the response to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, moderated by NBC 4’s Doug Kammerer. On Sept. 11 this year, the county will hold its annual wreath-laying ceremony at Courthouse Plaza. [Arlington County]
Police Car Involved in Crash — An Arlington County Police cruiser and an SUV collided yesterday afternoon while the police officer was responding to a call. The crash happened near the intersection of Walter Reed Drive and S. Arlington Mill Drive, roughly between Shirlington and Wakefield High School. No injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Arlington Not a ‘Sanctuary City’ — Does GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s pledge to crack down on “sanctuary cities” put Arlington in danger? Probably not, county officials say, because Arlington is not a sanctuary city. “It is, and has always been, Arlington County’s policy to comply with requests from all other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies including detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” the county said. [NBC 4]
Photo courtesy James Mahony
Avant, who lives in Arlington, falsely claimed he was exempt from federal tax withholding, prosecutors say. He made more than $170,000 per year during tax years 2009-2013, but did not file a tax return during that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Avant faces up to five years in prison. From a press release:
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Isaac Lanier Avant, of Arlington, who is currently employed as a staffer by the U.S. House of Representatives, has been charged with five counts of willfully failing to file a tax return.
According to the criminal information and affidavit, Avant has been employed as a staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives since approximately 2002. For tax years 2009 through 2013, Avant earned annual wages of over $170,000, but did not timely file a personal income tax return for any of those years. In May 2005, Avant filed a form with his employer that falsely claimed he was exempt from federal income taxes. Avant did not have any federal tax withheld from his paycheck until the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mandated that his employer begin withholding in January 2013.
Avant faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Caroline D. Ciraolo, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, made the announcement. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Hanly and Assistant Chief Todd Ellinwood of the Tax Division.
Photo via cbcfinc.org
Beyer Participates in House Sit-In — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) was among the Democratic members of the House of Representatives participating in a sit-in for gun control. Beyer gave a speech on the House floor at 4:15 this morning. [C-SPAN, Twitter]
Arlington’s 11-Year-Old Police Chief — Carlin Springs Elementary student Nathnael Abraham, 11, served as Arlington’s Police Chief-for-the-Day on Tuesday. As chief Nathnael was especially concerned about bank robberies. “I think the most important crime problem would be robberies — bank robberies, because they’re taking money that belongs to other people, and that’s not OK,” he told NBC4’s Pat Collins. [NBC Washington]
Garvey: Vacancy Rate Still Too High — Even though it’s come down by 1 percent in the past year, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey says Arlington’s 20.2 percent office vacancy rate is way too high. The county has been actively working to attract businesses and bring the rate down. Each 1 percent of vacancy costs the county about $3.4 million in tax revenue. [Arlington County]
Whistleblower Hotline to Be Expanded — Arlington County will be expanding its recently-implemented waste, fraud and abuse hotline this fall. The hotline, currently only available for county employees, will be opened to the general public. In its first year, the hotline received 13 complaints, one of which resulted in a policy change and two of which are still under review. No widespread waste or fraud was uncovered, the county says. [InsideNova]
New Agreement With JBMHH — On June 15 Arlington County and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall signed a new memorandum of agreement for a partnership that will provide services and cost savings to the base. [Pentagram]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Gravelly Point may be renamed after Nancy Reagan, if a newly-introduced House bill passes.
Gravelly Point is just north of the main runway at Reagan National Airport, which was named after President Ronald Reagan, Nancy’s husband, in 1998. It’s a popular spot for cyclists, runners, recreational team sports, picnics and for those watching planes land and take off.
Hice’s bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources for further consideration.
Arlington resident and 86-year-old World War II veteran Rudy Panaglima delivered a heartfelt speech on Capitol Hill Thursday morning, thanking lawmakers for a new immigration that allow Filipino veterans to be reunited with their families.
Panaglima was just 13 years old when he joined a Philippine guerrilla unit that secretly worked with the United States during World War II. Eventually, he became a member of the United States Army in the Philippines.
Filipino veterans who served for the United States during World War II received citizenship in appreciation for their service. However, many of their children were not able to.
Panaglima and his 83 year old wife Pura, have been waiting since 1995 for their two sons to come to the United States.
“We need our sons to take care of us because of our age,” said Panaglima.
Other speakers included Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D), Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono (D), Nevada Sen. Harry Reid (D) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Chief of Staff Juliet Choi.
“For too many years, Filipino veterans who fought valiantly alongside the United States in World War II – including many who call Virginia home – have been waiting for the promise of reunification with their families to be fulfilled,” Kaine said. “I’m so pleased that implementation of the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program has finally begun and that families like Rudy and Pura Panaglima of Arlington will soon be reunited with their sons who can provide them with much-needed care.”
Panaglima and his wife Pura have been living in the United States for over 21 years. Throughout the years, they have moved all around the D.C. area. However, now they currently reside along Lee Highway.
The Filipino World War II Veterans Parole (FWVP) Program, which officially took effect Wednesday, allows Filipino veterans or their spouses, whose service has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense, to apply to bring their children to the United States. The policy also allows the families to be together in the United States while the applications are processed.
“In a few months, my two sons will be with us in America because of this program. On behalf of the Panaglima family I would like to convey our gratitude,” said Panaglima.
Simon will be taking over for Susie Warner, who was district director for former Rep. Jim Moran (and then for Beyer) since 1990. Warner is retiring as of Wednesday, June 1.
“We really looked hard for someone who was deeply embedded in the community,” said Beyer. “It’s tough to bring in someone who doesn’t know too much about the community, so finding Noah was like a godsend.”
Simon says he resigned from the School Board to care for his two kids.
“My schedule wasn’t fair to my kids who were 8 and 10 at the time,” said Simon. With his children now a bit older, Simon decided it was time to re-enter the workforce and, given his continued community involvement, he found a natural fit with Beyer’s office.
“Everyone that I have talked to since the news has come out about how he is going to start as our District Office Director has been full of praise, so I am really looking forward to working with him,” said Beyer.
(In the intervening years, Simon remained active in the community. He is currently the PTA president at Swanson Middle School, vice chair of the Dream Project board and a board member of Doorways for Women and Families.)
A district director typically handles specific constituent requests, for help with Social Security, pensions, visas, immigration or other issues.
Simon will be busy: so far in 2016, Beyer’s office has opened 546 individual constituent service cases. For all of last year, the office handled 1,179 cases.
“Constituent service is most enjoyable for me.” Simon said. “I am very interested in conflict resolution, so my skills will transfer well. I am not coming in to fix broken things, because nothing is broken, I plan to keep things going.”
A screenshot posted on the Mike Webb for Congress Facebook page is going viral for all the wrong reasons.
The post was intended to suggest that an Arlington County Republican Committee officer might have had something to do with a prank call Webb received. Instead of getting that point across, as of 3 p.m. the post had some 80 shares and 60 comments on Facebook due to an apparent inadvertent inclusion: the screenshot shows two web browser tabs associated with pornography websites.
Webb, an Arlington resident, was soundly defeated in his recent bid for the Republican nomination to challenge Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), but has announced his intention to run as an independent. In his voluminous press releases and social media posts, Webb has blamed the local Republican establishment for his defeat. There’s no evidence, however, to support the suggestion that the individual named in the post might have prank called him.
A Google search for the web page titles in question — “LAYLA RIVERA TIGHT BODY” and “IVONE SEXY AMATEUR” — point to a number of pages on various porn websites. Webb has not responded to a request for comment sent earlier this afternoon.
Some of those commenting on the Facebook post seemed incredulous that it had not yet been taken down.
“Still up 2 hrs later. Priceless,” said a post from more than an hour ago.
Some commenters, however, suggested the post might be a stroke of inadvertent genius.
“Refreshing for a politician to air their vices publicly instead of trying to hide it till a leak,” said one. “Keep up the good work.”
“What if he was desperate to take his social media platform to the next level?” asked another. “Genius. Tight booty porn for the win.”
While many comments were critical, others took a somewhat more forgiving tone.
“We all f–k up from time to time,” said a Facebook user, “but I’ve never used Yahoo instead of Google.”
Last month ARLnow.com reported that Webb had failed to file a report to the Federal Election Commission on time and had blamed the failure on a “cyber attack.”
Update at 12:25 a.m. — Webb said in an email to ARLnow.com that he was testing the porn sites for viruses.
Photos via Facebook
But Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said today, after a lunchtime meeting with Garland, that he’s hopeful Republicans will change their mind. He is pressing for Garland to get “the hearing he deserves,” followed by an up or down vote on his confirmation.
“I have to remain an optimist in this business,” he said. “I hope that public pressure maintains that some of my colleagues will rethink their position and go ahead and hold the hearing.”
Warner didn’t specify what he thinks may finally sway Republicans from their position, that in a presidential year it should fall to the next president to make the nomination to the nation’s highest court. The resolve of those lawmakers is made even stronger given that Garland, who’s widely considered a moderate, would be replacing the late Antonin Scalia, a staunch conservative.
Could the outcome of the presidential nomination process — say, if the general election race turned out to be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — be the turning point?
“To me that would be kind of whacky,” Warner said. “Although this has been clearly a kind of whacky election year.”
Warner said he hopes the nomination process can be de-politicized.
“I think it is terribly important that the process proceeds,” he said. “The Constitution is explicitly clear that the president shall nominate. He did his job on March 16 when he nominated Judge Garland, now it’s up to the Senate to advise and consent. I strongly hope that my Republican colleagues will take this out of the realm of politics and do their job.”
“The notion that we’re going to use political gamesmanship about decision-making on the Supreme Court would be a further deterioration of our political process in this country,” Warner added. “That’s not what the country wants.”
District Taco Gets New Neighbor — The new District Taco in Rosslyn will soon have a new neighbor at 1500 Wilson Blvd. A Wells Fargo bank is “coming soon” to a next-door ground floor retail space. There is an existing Wells Fargo branch down the street at 1300 Wilson Blvd. A branch in Courthouse recently closed. A bank spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. [Twitter]
Scaled-Down Long Bridge Aquatics Center Proposed — Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz last night proposed a scaled-down version of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center. The original aquatics center design was shelved before it could be built due to construction estimates and an operating budget that were higher than expected. [InsideNova]
Congressional Delegation Writes to NPS Director — Arlington’s congressional delegation — Sen. Mark Warner, Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Don Beyer — has written to National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, urging him to make sure NPS applies for a “FASTLANE” grant for reconstruction of the decaying Memorial Bridge, before the April 14 application deadline. However, the Park Service is said to be likely to miss the deadline. [Scribd, Washington Post]
Maker Economy Event in Crystal City — TechShop in Crystal City will be hosting a discussion of the “the maker economy and local manufacturing in the DMV region” next Wednesday, April 20. Early bird registration ends tomorrow. [LERCPA]
Beginning of the End for Metro’s 1000-Series — Metro retired the first of its aging 1000-series rail cars from service yesterday morning, calling it the “end of an era.” [YouTube]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
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