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As Richmond Scandals Drag On, Arlington Democrats Urged to ‘Keep the Faith’

(Updated Tuesday at 9:50 a.m.) The head of Arlington’s Democratic Party is urging local activists to “keep the faith” in the wake of the cascade of scandals plaguing top leaders in Richmond.

Jill Caiazzo, the chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, penned an email to the party’s mailing list Sunday (Feb. 10), in the hopes of buoying spirits dampened by recent revelations about Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring.

While any one of the state’s top three elected Democrats could yet resign — Northam and Herring for admitting to wearing blackface as young people, Fairfax over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women — Caiazzo sought to remind party faithful that “the 2017 election was never about one or two individuals.”

She joined the growing calls for Fairfax to step down late last week, after a second woman accused him of rape, and has already demanded that Northam step aside. But, with all 140 state lawmakers and a variety of local offices on the ballot this fall, Caiazzo is urging her committee to work to “have an impact in our own community.”

Her full email to the committee is as follows:

We are all struggling to deal with the disturbing news from Richmond. I have sat down to pen this email to you multiple times over the past week, only to have my sentiments overtaken by the latest news cycle. I do not know how these controversies will end.

ARLINGTON DEMOCRATS’ ROLE IN NAVIGATING THIS CHALLENGE

But as I said at our monthly meeting on Wednesday, I do know that Arlington Democrats have a role to play in moving our community forward through these difficult times. We may not be able to affect the outcomes of the dramas happening in Richmond, but we can have an impact in our own community. We can reject hate and support sexual assault survivors. We can channel our collective anger that issues of racism and sexual assault still plague us into finding positive solutions for the manifestations of these issues in our own community.

We also can remember that the 2017 election was never about one or two individuals. It was about a movement of grassroots activists of all backgrounds and ages rising up to provide a badly needed course correction for our country. The rise of progressive activism was the central victory of the 2017 election. No subsequent controversy, however hurtful, can take that victory away from us. Only we have the power to do that — only we can decide whether we will allow this heartbreak also to break our activist spirit.

TOO MUCH TO ACCOMPLISH TO GIVE UP
To that question, Arlington Democrats, I say NO. I will not allow the failings of individual leaders to dampen my activist spirit. I cannot — there is simply too much work to be done to achieve a fairer, safer and more prosperous Commonwealth. The stakes are too high. As in early 2017, I am once again picking myself up and dusting myself off. Two steps forward, one step back: it’s time for the heart of the Democratic Party — its local activists — to keep moving forward again.

In that spirit, and mindful that Democrats must re-earn the trust of voters and volunteers that has been lost over the past few days, I respectfully invite you to join me at several upcoming events, detailed below. Some are organized by Arlington Democrats; others are community events. Now more than ever, we need both: to lead in our own right, and to meet our neighbors where they are. I hope that you will join me in the struggle to lead our Party, our community, and our Commonwealth forward.

Caiazzo is referring both to previous listening sessions held by activists on both race and sexual assault, and to some upcoming community discussions on the county’s history with Nazism and school desegregation.

Meanwhile, the situation in Richmond remains unsettled.

Arlington Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) made headlines this weekend for threatening to introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax if he refused to resign, and circulated a potential resolution to start the process among his Democratic colleagues. But he backed off that threat this morning (Monday), writing in a statement that he is “open to discussions on other avenues” that would allow for a full investigation of the accusations against Fairfax.

Some reports have suggested that Hope faced resistance from within his own party for the move, particularly from members of the Legislative Black Caucus.

The lieutenant governor is still telling reporters that he does not plan to resign, and is currently looking for an FBI investigation into the claims against him — one incident is alleged to have happened in Boston in 2004, the other in North Carolina in 2000.

Northam also gave some of his first interviews since the scandal broke with the news that a racist photo appeared on his medical school yearbook, saying that he is “not going anywhere” and pledging a renewed focus to racial justice in the remainder of his term.

Herring has been silent, and criticism has been markedly more muted of his conduct, after he voluntarily admitted to wearing blackface once while in college, and apologized.

“I should additionally note that I have not called for the resignation of Attorney General Mark Herring, despite my strong disapproval of his conduct at age 19,” Del. Mark Levine (D-45th District) wrote in a Sunday email to constituents. “Herring’s voluntary admission of his blackface representation of a rapper, his lack of racist intent and his profound apology all seem sincere to me.”

However, Levine did note that he is one of just a few voices calling on Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3rd District) to step down, after reports that he edited a college yearbook that was filled with photos of students in blackface and racial slurs. Norment has denied any knowledge of the photos.

Photo via Facebook

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BREAKING: Hope Threatens to Work to Impeach Fairfax, After Another Woman Accuses Lt. Gov. of Sexual Assault

(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) Arlington Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) now says he’ll introduce articles of impeachment to remove Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax from office on Monday if he doesn’t step down, now that another woman has come forward to accuse the second-most powerful Democrat in the state of sexual assault.

Hope announced the move tonight just a few hours after Meredith Watson accused Fairfax of raping her when the pair attended school together at Duke University in 2000. She wrote in a statement that the details of her assault mirrored those laid out by Vanessa Tyson, who previously said that Fairfax assaulted her in a Boston hotel room in 2004.

Democrats had been hesitant to call for Fairfax to step down since Tyson’s statement, but pressure is now mounting for the lieutenant governor to step aside. Friday night, the state House and Senate Democratic caucuses released a joint statement, urging Fairfax to resign.

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus issued a similar statement.

The bulk of Virginia’s congressional delegation has also demanded Fairfax’s resignation, including Arlington Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District).

“Lt. Governor Fairfax has also shown exceptionally poor judgment in his handling of these allegations,” Beyer and Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District), Elaine Luria (D-2nd District), Abigail Spanberger (D-7th District) and Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District) wrote in a statement. “He repeatedly attacked his accuser, he reportedly used vile and degrading language to describe her, he mischaracterized an investigation into the encounter, and he sought to blame others for events in his own past. These actions do not meet the standard to which we hold Virginia’s highest elected officers.”

For now, it would seem Fairfax is resisting pressure to step aside.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has been similarly steadfast in the face of calls to resign over a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page, writing an email to state employees today saying he does not plan to step down. The fate of Attorney General Mark Herring (D) is also unclear, after he revealed he wore blackface while in college.

Earlier today, Hope posted a video on Twitter urging Northam and Herring to learn from their experiences, but stopped short of demanding their resignations. He’d previously supported calls for Northam to step down, but was silent on Herring, who he previously endorsed in Herring’s early stages of mounting a campaign for governor in 2021.

Hope said in the video that he believed Fairfax’s first accuser and thought an investigation was necessary.

Around 9 p.m. Friday, Hope held a press conference in front of Arlington Central Library in Virginia Square, laying out his case for the impeachment of Fairfax, should he refuse to resign. The press conference was attended by CNN, CBS, NBC and local D.C. stations.

Photo via Facebook

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County Democrats, Activists Plan ‘Listening Sessions’ to Discuss Issues Fueling Virginia Scandals

County Democrats and local activists are planning a series of community forums to talk through the issues of race and sexual assault that have roiled Virginia politics for the past week.

With all three of the state’s top Democrats — Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring — now mired in scandal, many within the party are searching for a way forward. There’s no telling whether any or all of the group will resign, leading to quite a bit of uncertainty at the top ranks of the party’s leadership.

In the meantime, the county’s Democratic Committee is planning two “listening sessions” covering some of the matters at the heart of the scandals in Richmond.

The first will focus on “racial equity” and will be held tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street S.).

The revelation that a racist photo appeared on Northam’s medical school yearbook page, and the governor’s subsequent admission that he once wore blackface, kicked off the current crisis plaguing state government. Herring’s admission yesterday (Wednesday) that he too once donned blackface added further fuel to the political fire.

The next listening session will focus on sexual assault, after a college professor accused Fairfax of assaulting her in Boston in 2004. The lieutenant governor has faced a bit less pressure to resign than Northam, but some have started to ramp up calls that his accuser deserves to be heard.

The event will be held on Sunday (Feb. 10) at 6:30 p.m. at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).

A group of local activists also plan to hold a listening session to discuss the Northam controversy and its “implications for those who want to be allies in the fight for racial justice,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

The event will include four panelists, and will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd) at 7 p.m. on Friday (Feb. 8).

Photo via Facebook

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Herring Admits to Wearing Blackface in College, Prompting Shock, Silence from Democrats

Democrats across Virginia have been shocked by yet another scandal today (Wednesday), after Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he also once donned blackface at a college party.

Herring called a sudden gathering with the General Assembly’s Legislative Black Caucus this morning to deliver the news, then released a statement to that effect shortly afterward. Herring said he dressed up in a wig “and brown makeup” in order to imitate a rap artist when he was in college, explaining it was due to a “callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others.”

“It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then,” Herring wrote. “That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt.”

His admission comes as politicians of both parties continue to press Gov. Ralph Northam to resign for similar reasons, after the discovery that a racist photo appeared on the governor’s medical school yearbook page and Northam’s subsequent admission that he once wore blackface rocked the state capitol. The man in line to replace Northam should he step down, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, has become mired in scandal as well since then, as a woman has come forward to accuse Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004.

The attorney general’s disclosure leaves the state’s top three elected officials in limbo — should all three resign, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would be in line to become governor.

Herring said in his statement that he would have “honest conversations and discussions” about whether he’d seek to stay in office, as both Northam and Fairfax have so far sought to do. Herring joined virtually all of the state’s Democrats in calling on Northam to resign soon after the discovery of his yearbook page, but other Democrats have yet to demand that the state’s top lawyer step down with the same speed that they called for Northam’s job.

Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine expressed shock and surprise at the revelation when reporters questioned them about it this afternoon.

Other state lawmakers have yet to comment on Herring’s admission, including Arlington’s delegation or local Democratic committee.

The news could also torpedo Herring’s nascent campaign for governor — he’d already announced plans to run for the top spot in Virginia politics in 2021, and earned the early endorsement of local Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) a few weeks ago. Hope did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Herring’s admission.

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Letter to the Editor: Hospital Expansion Would Better Serve Arlington’s Homeless Population

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Michael Garcia, a Columbia Pike insurance agent who serves as the board chair of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, a local nonprofit that works with homeless individuals in Arlington. A-SPAN is weighing in on the proposed Virginia Hospital Center expansion, which the Arlington Planning Commission and some residents who live near the hospital oppose in its current form.

I am writing in support of the Virginia Hospital Center expansion project. It is my hope that the County Board recognizes the enormous value that VHC brings to this community and approves the project, as soon as possible.

As Board Chair of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) and a long-time Arlington resident, I see first-hand the consequences of delayed healthcare visits. The homeless clients at the Homeless Services Center frequently suffer from infections, life threatening reactions to untreated chronic illnesses and other medical conditions. That is why we have the Medical Respite and Nursing Services Program at the Homeless Services Center. For most Arlington County citizens, when a doctor says to go home and recuperate, that’s what they do, but what do you do when you have no home? VHC and A-SPAN through our partnership work together to ensure that these homeless individuals and veterans have a safe, compassionate, high-quality environment in which to recuperate.

VHC staff make every effort to assess and treat patients in a holistic way. When homeless patients are discharged from the Hospital to the Medical Respite Program, A-SPAN is part of the follow-up care plan and clients are referred to VHC outpatient services, as appropriate.

I cannot stress enough the value of a new Behavioral Health Center like the one proposed by VHC. Over 70% of homeless veterans and individuals suffer from some form of mental illness and this condition must be treated. We are fortunate that VHC, an Arlington provider that was recently named one of America’s 100 top Hospitals for the third year in a row, is willing to respond to the community’s need for more outpatient mental health services. Moreover, the VHC has indicated that all patients would be welcome at the new Center, regardless of their ability to pay.

The distinction of VHC being named as one of the 100 Top Hospitals in the nation is an honor benefitting all Arlingtonians by providing excellent care to the community. I am confident that this commitment to excellence will extend to the newly proposed Behavioral Health Center services, as well. VHC is a community partner worthy of support and we hope our elected leaders demonstrate this support.

Sincerely,

Michael Garcia
Board Chair, A-SPAN

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Morning Notes

Hurricane Florence Update — The Tomb Sentinels at Arlington National Cemetery will remain on guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as they have for 81 years, regardless of what happens with Hurricane Florence. However, according to forecasters, “there is no need to cancel outdoor plans, events, or travel in the Washington region this weekend” due to the hurricane. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

DEA Lease Renewal Is Official — “The Drug Enforcement Administration will remain in its Pentagon City headquarters for at least 15 more years. The General Services Administration announced Wednesday it signed a 511,487 SF lease renewal for the DEA at 600-700 Army Navy Drive, two buildings owned by the California State Teachers Retirement System.” [Bisnow]

Neighbors Still Peeved Over Salt Dome Plan — “This is an emergency caused by rust. I know Neil Young says rust never sleeps but it doesn’t move that fast,” said Michael Hogan, president of the Old Dominion Citizens Association, regarding the “emergency” plan for a temporary salt storage facility next to the deteriorating salt dome near Marymount University. “This is just a terrible land-use decision.” [Washington Post]

Living in Arlington On a $80,000 Salary — Not much of interest happens in this millennial money diary, set in Arlington, but there is this discussion of tea vs. coffee: “I drink my third green tea. I’m trying to drink less coffee, so today I’m trying tea instead, but this is not cutting it. To all those people who say green tea gives them as much energy as coffee — I’m calling shenanigans.” [Refinery 29]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Arlington County Fair Pledges to Cover ‘Racist Caricature’

The Arlington County Fair says it will find a way to remove or cover an image that at least one fairgoer decried as “racist.”

The fairgoer tweeted an image painted on the “Monkey Maze” fun house that depicts a monkey with braids putting on lipstick.

“This is not OK at our county fair,” the man said in a tweet. “Racist caricatures don’t represent our values.”

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol agreed.

“This is awful,” Cristol tweeted in response. “We’ll connect with the Arlington Fair Board about this vendor.”

Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the fair followed up with a pledge to take action.

“We appreciate you reaching out us,” the fair said via Twitter. “We are working with our ride vendor to ensure the image is no longer visible.”

Monkey Maze fun houses are used by other traveling carnival companies, though photos posted online show different illustrations on the front of the trailer. A Google search did not turn up any other references to the Monkey Maze and accusations of racism.

The fair runs through Sunday on the grounds of the Thomas Jefferson Community Center (125 S. Old Glebe Road).

Photos courtesy David Rosenblatt (photo illustration by ARLnow.com)

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Morning Poll: Should Washington-Lee HS Be Renamed?

The Washington-Lee High School renaming process continues to move forward, despite a lawsuit and opposition from many students and alumni.

The School Board is hoping to have a new name ready for the school in time for the opening of the 2019-2020 school year next September, ARLnow has previously reported.

But it will be an uphill battle for school officials, judging by emails we continue to receive from upset alums and other anecdotal reports; Sun Gazette Editor Scott McCaffrey wrote today that he and other staffers at the paper frequently run into W-L alumni, all of whom thus far have expressed opposition to the change.

Last time we did a poll on the subject was five years ago this month, when a name change was still just an idea batted about by letter to the editor writers. At that time, 87.5 percent of respondents said they were against changing the name, agreeing that Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy are “part of our history and… not worth changing the name over.”

Since then, the emergence of an emboldened white nationalist movement and last summer’s deadly rally in Charlottesville have changed the conversation. But is it enough to change opinions on removing Lee’s name from W-L? Let’s find out.

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Family Separations Prompt Action from Local Lawmakers

The issue of children being separated from parents seeking asylum at the U.S. border has prompted both words and actions from Arlington’s members of Congress.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) yesterday signed on as a cosponsor of the Keep Families Together Act — Democratic-backed legislation that would end the family separation policy that has sparked nationwide and even international outrage.

“Donald Trump’s family separation policy is immoral and Congress must put a stop to it,” said Beyer, in a statement. “Treating legal asylum-seekers, many of whom are fleeing violence which endangers their lives, in such a cruel manner is a violation of our country’s values and internationally-accepted agreements on human rights.”

Beyer yesterday also visited two fathers who were separated from their children at the border and being held at a detention center in Maryland. TV cameras were there as Beyer and his wife Megan described a “very emotional, very difficult” discussion with the men.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), meanwhile, have written a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, requesting an “immediate response” to a number of questions about the family separations, including:

  • Whether any facilities in Virginia are being used to house children separated from their families
  • The rationale for the “zero tolerance” policy that prompts separations
  • The plan for detention infrastructure to hold asylum seekers
  • Resources for separated children, including medical and mental health services
  • Specific information on the conditions for girls and toddlers
  • Plans for facilitating family reunification

Also yesterday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) recalled four members of the Virginia National Guard from their service on the U.S. border.

There’s more local fallout from the family separation issue. The Methodist church is considering expelling Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a member over his enforcement of the policy and justification of it by citing a Bible verse.

News outlets reported that Sessions is a member of the Clarendon United Methodist Church in Arlington, in addition to a Methodist church in his home state of Alabama.

Photo via @RepDonBeyer

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Duckling Rescue Effort at Fairlington Pool Sparks Neighborhood Dispute

Trista Nealon and some of her neighbors thought they were doing the right thing when they forced their way into the neighborhood pool to rescue some wayward ducklings — but now, their condo association is threatening them with criminal charges for their efforts.

Nealon tells ARLnow that one of her fellow condo owners in Fairlington Glen noticed seven ducklings stuck in the neighborhood’s community pool back on May 10 and she decided to go ask the pool’s manager if she could get in and help them leave.

When Nealon was rebuffed, she and her neighbors tried contacting a member of the Wildlife Rescue League to come help — again, they had no luck. So a group went back over to the pool, unlocked its gate by reaching in through a well-positioned mail slot, and fished out the baby ducks.

Nealon says a woman accosted the group at the time and threatened to call the police, before storming off, but she otherwise didn’t think much of the encounter. Yet when last Thursday (May 31) rolled around, Nealon and a few other neighbors involved in the rescue effort received a letter from attorneys representing the Fairlington Glen Council of Co-Owners informing her that the group’s Board of Directors “is currently considering whether to press charges or take other enforcement action.”

“I am a [27-year] Glen resident owner, and it is ridiculous that I am being threatened with criminal charges for being a Good Samaritan and saving baby ducks,” Nealon wrote in an email. She shared a copy of the letter with ARLnow and also posted it to a Facebook group for Fairlington residents.

Kristen Buck, an associate with the firm Rees Broome, said in the letter that the condo board felt a lock around the pool was damaged in the process of this rescue effort, and she’s requesting the people involved to pay the board $100 each to help reimburse the cost of replacing it.

“Such a good faith payment may influence whether the Board decides to press charges or take other action,” Buck wrote.

Nealon insists that no one damaged any property over the course of this episode, and she finds Buck’s suggestion that the neighbors should have simply called the county’s animal control to be without merit, given the “imminent danger” she felt the ducklings were in at the time.

Buck declined comment on the matter, as did Thora Stanwood, president of the condo association’s Board of Directors.

But, in a newsletter distributed by the condo association, there is a reference to a “break in” at the Fairlington Glen pool.

The newsletter claims a police report was filed about the incident, and that condo association’s Board of Directors “consulted with legal counsel about the recovery of damage from the break in.” County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage says she has no record of any police report being filed from the area that day.

Nealon isn’t sure what she’ll do next, but she at least plans to attend the condo association’s next meeting to protest her treatment, and she doesn’t expect she’ll be alone.

Her post on the Fairlington Appreciation Society Facebook page about the incident already has 125 likes and dozens of supportive comments.

Photo courtesy of Trista Nealon

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Morning Notes

‘Indivisible Arlington’ Event Wracked By Division — “A town hall with local Virginia lawmakers dissolved into chaos Saturday and police were called after Latino activists confronted Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) about his previous consulting work for a private company that operates detention facilities for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

H-B Victorious at Ultimate Tourney — The H-B Woodlawn girls ultimate frisbee team won the prestigious Amherst Ultimate Invitational over the weekend. [Twitter, Greenfield Recorder]

No County Board Candidate for Arlington GOP — No one filed by the May 9 deadline to run as a Republican against incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt, the Arlington GOP announced over the weekend. Vihstadt, an independent, was endorsed by the local GOP when he first ran in 2014.

ACPD Sergeant Tapped as School Police Chief — Sean Bryson, a 20-year veteran of the Arlington County Police Department, has been named the chief of police for the Upper St. Clair School District, outside of Pittsburgh. It’s a homecoming for Bryson, who graduated from Upper St. Clair High School. In addition to his police work, Byson co-founded and has served as race director for the annual Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K. [Trib Live]

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Morning Notes

Water Disinfectant Switch — With the annual pipe spring cleaning complete, the Washington Aqueduct will be switching back to chloramine as its water disinfectant after today. [ARLnow]

Car-B-Que on the Pike — A car caught fire on Columbia Pike between S. Oakland and Quincy streets Friday night. The road was closed while firefighters extinguished the blaze. [Twitter, Twitter]

Auction Item Prompts Mini Controversy — Ethical concerns were raised over the weekend by an item donated by State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) to an auction at the annual Fairfax Democrats dinner. The winning bidder was promised an official introduction on the state Senate floor. Favola responded by saying she was “horrified” and that she “never approved this auction item.” [Twitter, Twitter, Blue Virginia]

Choun Profiled By VOA — Democratic Arlington County Board candidate Chanda Choun had his campaign highlighted by the Voice of America. [Voice Of America]

Nearby: Wonder Woman and J-D Highway — Two items of note in Alexandria: first, Wonder Woman 2 is set to film some scenes at the Landmark Mall. Also, Alexandria is replacing signs marking Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) with its new name in the city: Richmond Highway. [Washington Business Journal, WTOP]

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Morning Notes

ACFD Battles Kitchen Fire — Arlington County firefighters last night extinguished a kitchen fire in an apartment building on the 1900 block of N. Calvert Street, just north of Lee Highway and east of Spout Run. No injuries were reported. [Twitter, Twitter]

Taylor P.E. Teacher Pleads to Drug Charge — A second former P.E. teacher at Taylor Elementary School has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a drug bust in December. Michael Diaddigo, 28, will reportedly “serve 1 of a 12-months jail sentence if he follows probation, which includes a $500 fine and substance abuse treatment.” [Twitter]

Central Place Bus Tunnel Still Closed — “A bus tunnel in Rosslyn critical to many commuters — which Metro said more than a year ago would open in days — remains closed due to outstanding construction concerns, WTOP has learned.” [WTOP]

Lanes Closures in Crystal City Tonight — The lanes of certain roads around Crystal City will be closed for about two hours tonight to accommodate the first of the annual Crystal City 5K Friday races. [Arlington County]

Residential Parking Permit Applications — “It is now time to renew your Residential Permit Parking Program permits and passes for the new program fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018. Remember enforcement continues throughout the year, so new passes/permits must be displayed by July 1st, 2018.” [Arlington County]

Actor Says No to WJLA Interview — Amy Schumer has turned down an interview with Arlington-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7) because it is owned by Sinclair, the broadcast station owner under fire for making its anchors read a script denouncing “biased and false news” from other outlets. [Buzzfeed]

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‘Friends of Upton Hill’ Protest Park Paving Plans With New Website

A group calling itself ‘Friends of Upton Hill’ has created a website to oppose a plan for a new ropes course and a new parking lot at Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington.

Upton Hill park hosts a water park, a mini golf course, batting cages, and walking trails. NOVA Parks — the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority — plans on adding 33,000 square feet of asphalt to the park in the form of a entrance road and parking spaces, as well as a “high adventure course” and other amenities.

The project cost is estimated at $3 million, according to a November presentation.

The park’s “friends” wrote on the site that they believe NOVA Parks has been deficient in maintaining the mostly wooded park and that “trash and invasive species are taking over the forest.”

Preferring that the park authority shift its focus from bigger parking lots to forest restoration and facilities maintenance, the group quoted Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song Big Yellow Taxi, writing that “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

“NOVA Parks should focus on restoring the forest, removing trash and invasives, and improving maintenance of the existing facilities — the water-park, miniature golf, batting cage, playground and picnic pavilion — to make for a more pleasant and attractive park experience,” the website says.

This past fall, however, a renewed effort to combat the invasive species was undertaken at the park, according to the Arlington Sun Gazette.

NOVA Parks representatives presented the Upton Hill plan to the Arlington County Board on Nov. 28. Paul Gilbert, the NOVA Parks executive director, asserted that the parking lot expansion would not “impact the natural resources.” He said that the ropes course, with sweeping views of Arlington, would be a marquee feature for park and for the county at large.

Gilbert noted that the existing parking lot is packed in the summer months. However, the Friends of Upton Hill website argued that the lot is nearly deserted during chillier months of the year.

“We started our group because NOVA Parks is more bent on paving over Upton Hill Park than preserving it as parkland,” wrote says the Friends of Upton Hill website. “In the Seven Corners area we need to keep and improve every existing square foot of green space rather than add yet another parking lot — particularly one that sits empty for three quarters of the year.”

NOVA Parks operates 32 parks across Northern Virginia, including three parks in the county — Upton Hill, Potomac Overlook, and the W&OD Trail.

An email sent to a listed Friends of Upton Hill email address was not immediately returned.

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Morning Poll: What Do You Think About That ‘F–k the NRA’ House?

Opinions seem to be divided about the house in Arlington’s Highland Park neighborhood with the chalk message declaring “F–k the NRA.”

On one hand, many people — even those who are not fans of the National Rifle Association and pro-gun policies — object to writing a large profanity on the front of a house along a busy road. There are children in the neighborhood who walk by this house, those who object to it say.

On the other hand, the resident who wrote the message is exercising his or her right to free speech and addressing an important topic. When guns are being used to kill children in schools, supporters say, the “F-word” should be the least of people’s concerns.

What do you think?

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