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.
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.
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
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.”
@DaveMRosenblatt, we appreciate you reaching out us. We are working with our ride vendor to ensure the image is no longer visible.
— Arlington Co. Fair (@arlingtoncofair) August 16, 2018
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)
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.
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.
Today I visited an ICE detention facility outside Baltimore with @Call_Me_Dutch.
There we spoke for an hour with two fathers, Carlos and Mario, who had been separated from their children, a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, for months.
What they told us was so disturbing: pic.twitter.com/MZTifSlKzc
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) June 19, 2018
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.
Today I'm recalling four Virginia National Guard soldiers and one helicopter from Arizona. Virginia will not devote any resource to border enforcement actions that support the inhumane policy of separating children from their parents. https://t.co/AmdbE0XoFi
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) June 19, 2018
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
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
‘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]
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]
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]
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]
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]
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.”
An email sent to a listed Friends of Upton Hill email address was not immediately returned.
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?
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) An Arlington resident decided to voice an opinion on gun control via a message scrawled in chalk onto the front of their house, after the mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida two weeks ago, but the message is causing some controversy not related to politics.
The house is located along busy Washington Blvd, roughly between East Falls Church and Westover Village. Despite Arlington’s deep blue political leanings, the words have been a hot button conversation among neighbors because the message — “F–k the NRA” — includes a profanity in plain sight of anyone driving or walking by.
“I have no issue with their freedom of expression, but I am concerned that my young kids are going to see the profanity as we drive by and ask what it means,” one resident said on the local NextDoor message board. “I also tend to think it’s possible to express the same sentiment without public profanity. Is this kind of thing even allowed under Arlington code?”
“Regardless of how you feel on the issue, it’s highly offensive and inappropriate,” another said. “But we can explain to kids that vulgarity is evidence of a weak mind.”
“I’m no fan of the NRA but it’s outrageous and counterproductive to boot,” said yet another peeved resident. “Freedom of speech and expression does not need to sink to this level,” echoed a neighbor.
One resident who lives nearby told ARLnow.com that he contacted police, to no avail.
“I called ACPD non emergency number as kids shouldn’t be seeing that kind of language in my opinion,” he said. “Their response, ‘police have been out and there is nothing that they can do.’ First Amendment protection is needed absolutely but it was shocking that there was no profanity law that was being broken.”
Some message board posters, however, said they did not have a problem with the sign.
“I pump my fist in the air every time I drive by,” said one, “in case the owners are reading this and think everyone is against their statement.”
“That house usually has pretty artwork or other positive statements. Obviously the profanity is pushing the limits for some neighbors but personally I don’t have a problem explaining the use of profanity to my kids because the intention behind it is good,” said another supporter. “The artist isn’t promoting violence, unhealthy or dangerous behavior. Has anyone close to the neighbor talked to them and explained how the language is affecting them?”
A plan to detour some traffic through the Bluemont neighborhood during a weekend bridge demolition has prompted a letter to the County Board.
In the letter, the Bluemont Civic Association’s president singles out one of the four detours — which would send southbound traffic down 6th Street N. — for criticism.
Residents say they have been trying for more than a decade to get an all-way stop at the intersection of 6th Street and N. Edison Street. The intersection is dangerous and has been the scene of crashes, according to residents, and sending additional traffic through it is “concerning.”
During the work — set to start Friday night and end early Monday morning — the civic association is asking for 12-hour-a-day traffic enforcement at the intersection. That’s in addition to requests for new traffic studies and permanent intersection changes.
The letter is below.
Dear Chair Fisette, Honorable Members of the Arlington County Board, and County Manager,
First, thank you for your service and for your attention to Bluemont Civic Association matters. I am following up on the below request for safety improvements for 6th St N and N Edison St. I learned this afternoon, through ARLnow, that Carlin Springs Road Bridge traffic will be routed through 6th St N and N Edison St. This is concerning for three reasons:
- No notification was provided to the residents or the Bluemont Civic Association that thousands of vehicles will flood our already problematic streets this weekend when our kids are most likely to be outside playing
- No plan for targeted enforcement and safety considerations have been made, and if they were, they have not been communicated
- Previous requests for regular targeted enforcement, stop signs, and other traffic control/calming measures have received little or no measureable action even with the resulting density from the Ballston Quarter and local construction projects
On behalf of the Bluemont Civic Association and residents that live on N Emerson St, 6th St N, and N Edison St, I request the following:
- Permanent safety improvements as outlined in the previous Bluemont Civic Association letter (attached) and as detailed in the original thread to this email
- Targeted enforcement from 7AM – 7PM at the intersections of 6th St N and N Edison St, the intersection of Bluemont Dr and N Emerson St, and 6th St N and N George Mason from 8-11 DEC
- Ongoing traffic studies effective immediately at the intersection of 6th St N and N Edison St to measure the impact to our neighborhood
- A detailed plan of action & milestones for all safety improvements and targeted enforcement for this named area of interest
Last, I invite you to the intersection 6th St N and N Edison St to meet with parents at the bus stop during drop-off time Friday and Monday. The bus drop off typically occurs between 4:00-4:07 PM. Please let me know in advance if you can make it and I’ll email the neighborhood letting them know.
I have copied the neighborhood distro for 6th St N, N Emerson St, and N Edison St. These are past and current residents who may want to weigh in on this conversation directly. I have also copied ARLnow and thank them for providing real-time local news and alerting us to the traffic diversion.
I look forward to a continued open and solution oriented dialogue. I hope that the aforementioned request can be brought to fruition.
President, Bluemont Civic Association
The permanent changes to the intersection requested by the civic association are:
- “Add stop signs to stop Eastbound and Westbound traffic on 6th St N at the intersection of 6th St N and N Edison St to make a 4-way stop”
- “Paint crosswalks across all four street crossings at 6th St N and N Edison St”
- “Add pedestrian crossing signage to the intersection of 6th St N and N Edison St”
- “Bump out each corner curb at 6th St N and N Edison St to enhance the visibility of pedestrian traffic and encourage complete stops with resulting slow turns”
Photos via Google Maps
Tolls higher than $30 — for the trip from I-495 to D.C. — have been reported since the HOT lanes launched on Monday. The new system replaces the former HOV-only rush hour regime with one that also allows solo drivers to pay, while eliminating exemptions for fuel efficient vehicles and those heading to Dulles airport.
Today, lower tolls — peaking around $23.50 — were reported, though that is still well above the $7-9 tolls originally predicted by VDOT. Meanwhile, traffic on alternative east-west arteries, like Route 50, has increased since the tolls went into effect.
VDOT says Route 50 has seen 8-percent increase in traffic since 66 toll began. Here's what traffic looks like on 50 inside Beltway. pic.twitter.com/ISaenPuolT
— Neal Augenstein (@AugensteinWTOP) December 6, 2017
VDOT says the toll prices are demand-based, which presumably means that some drivers are choosing to pay upwards of $30 for a one-way trip to the Roosevelt Bridge.
For those of means, along with bus riders and carpoolers, the change has at least resulted in a breeze of a commute on I-66 — higher average speeds during peak times than before the change. The average speed during Monday and Tuesday’s commutes was 57 miles per hour, according to VDOT.
Should VDOT decide to lower toll prices, it might result in slowdowns and congestion, some fear.
So what would be the price most people would be willing to pay? Let’s find out.
The Arlington County Republican Committee led a chorus of condemnation after state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) suggested Republicans are “evil” at a rally Tuesday night.
Speaking to more than 200 supporters at an Arlington County Democratic Committee rally alongside Democratic nominee for governor Ralph Northam, lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring — who is running for re-election — and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), among others, Favola said that if Republican nominee Ed Gillespie becomes governor, it will be “dangerous.”
“My colleagues didn’t tell you how dangerous it will be if the other sides wins,” Favola said in a speech. “They’re evil, we’re the good guys… Every one of you is an angel. You’re not only fighting for yourselves, you’re fighting for hundreds of thousands of people in Virginia.”
(ACDC posted a video of the entire rally on its Facebook page. Favola’s remarks begin just before the 31:00 mark.)
The use of the word “evil” brought swift condemnation from Arlington GOP chair Jim Presswood, who pushed back on Favola’s statement.
Senator Barbara Favola crossed the line when she said that Virginia Republicans are “evil.” This language goes well beyond the realm of civil debate and demeans the moral character of Republicans.
Senator Favola and other Arlington Democratic leaders often talk about “Arlington values.” There are indeed many values Arlingtonians across the political spectrum share, including cultural and ethnic diversity, good schools, a well-run public transit system, and the need for public parks. But Senator Favola apparently does not include ideological diversity in this list. The term “Arlington values” should not be code for Democratic values.
There are many Republicans who live in Arlington — about thirty-thousand people in the county voted for the Republican Congressional candidate last year. Senator Favola needs to remember, even during a heated political campaign, that we are her constituents too.
In a tweet, Gillespie also condemned the comment.
Now just saying out loud what their campaign has shown they think of millions of their fellow Virginians… https://t.co/BbU6g8C6Od
— Ed Gillespie (@EdWGillespie) November 2, 2017
Photo via Facebook video.