The forum is being organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. It will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Hyatt in Rosslyn (1325 Wilson Blvd). ARLnow.com, a Chamber member, is the event’s media sponsor.
During the forum, incumbent Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall will be asked a variety of questions, with a special focus on local business.
“This business-themed candidate forum will feature a moderated discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, and will provide each candidate with the opportunity to engage with local business leaders and address the key issues for the business community,” the Chamber said. “This event will also offer attendees the chance to gain an inside look into the candidates’ views on business in Arlington County.”
(Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement, who has qualified for the ballot again this year, has also been invited to participate.)
In a debate earlier this month, Gutshall lamented that Arlington County’s economic development efforts are “geared towards the types of businesses that are going to fill office buildings,” more so than helping small businesses. Garvey said the county is “aware that small businesses are having issues” and is holding a small business summit next week.
Meanwhile, the county’s high office vacancy rate — some 8 million square feet of office space is vacant in Arlington — remains a significant issue.
This candidate forum is open to the general public. Registration is $10. Light refreshments will be provided.
The Arlington County Democratic Committee is planning its own candidate debate from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4. The debate will be held at GMU’s Founders Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive).
A near-capacity crowd packed into Mad Rose Tavern in Clarendon Wednesday night for a Democratic showdown between County Board member Libby Garvey and primary challenger Erik Gutshall.
The Arlington Young Democrats-hosted debate was perhaps not the battle royale some were expecting, but there were a few pointed barbs from Gutshall and an assertive defense from Garvey of her record.
Gutshall started his line of attack before the debate even started, by CCing news outlets that morning on a letter to Garvey, questioning why former Republican Congressman Tom Davis donated $1,000 to her campaign. (In 2014, Davis also donated $1,000 to the campaign of independent County Board member John Vihstadt, who Garvey endorsed over Democrat Alan Howze.)
“I was shocked to learn that someone running to be the Democratic nominee would so openly solicit, and accept, campaign contributions from someone whose job and mission it was to defeat Democrats,” Gutshall wrote. He asked Garvey to sign a pledge to only support Democratic candidates and to reject campaign contributions from current or former Republican elected officials.
At the debate, Gutshall said it was “not acceptable” that Garvey had not signed the pledge, also citing her decision not to endorse Del. Rip Sullivan during his campaign.
“Absolutely, unequivocally, 100 percent I will support the Democrat, period,” Gutshall said.
Garvey, meanwhile, declined to make any absolute promises, saying she would make decisions based on “what is the right thing for Arlington… what is best for the people I serve.”
“Generally, that’s the Democrat,” she said. Her answer was followed by a couple loud boos from the crowd.
Gutshall attempted to re-litigate the streetcar battle, saying that Garvey “has sat on the sidelines” since she and Vihstadt helped to scuttle the project, which would have brought light rail transit to Columbia Pike. (The county has said an alternative transit plan will be coming this year.)
“We don’t have the transit that’s there to meet the needs of density” along Columbia Pike, said Gutshall. “We have the right to expect more and do better.”
Garvey said that until January, when she took over the County Board chairmanship, she “did not have the votes” to push a Bus Rapid Transit plan for the Pike. With the addition of like-minded Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey this year, she said the County Board is functioning well as a team.
“Your board is a very exciting board right now,” she said. “I have done a lot since January. I would like to build on this experience and build on this work.”
Gutshall accused Garvey of abandoning the infrastructure investment mindset that led previous generations of local Democratic leaders to support, for instance, the building of the Metrorail system.
“Progress comes by investing in the future,” he said. “The main reason I’m running here is that I have heard rhetoric that we should turn and look inward and that we cannot afford to meet these challenges.”
Eleven homes on the 900 block of N. Daniel and Danville streets are connected to a failing sewer line that runs through their backyards. The line is believed to date back to the 1920s, when the first of the homes in the neighborhood were built.
As we reported in 2013, county workers had been clearing occasional blockages of the line, until the county determined that it did not actually own the line — it was privately constructed and the county had “no rights to operate or maintain this line.”
Facing steep plumbing and excavation costs for connecting to a public sewer line, homeowners threatened legal action. On Tuesday, the County Board settled the matter by voting unanimously to approve a compromise agreement with the homeowners.
Arlington will roughly split the cost of connecting all 11 homes — $253,980 plus a $50,000 contingency — and will advance the other half of the money to seven homeowners who asked for help financing the work. The seven homeowners will repay their share over seven years, at 2 percent interest, via the establishment of a “service district” that will levy a frontage assessment on their property.
Arlington County said the compromise was necessary because the private sewer line was failing and beyond repair, and a major sewage backup in the midst of a protracted legal dispute could have resulted in a significant public health hazard.
” The amount of time required to resolve the disagreement would delay the time when remedial action could be taken, thereby threatening the likelihood of a public health emergency, and would result in costly litigation for all involved,” notes the staff report. “In an effort to prevent further delay, the County and the property owners negotiated an agreement that would promptly address the looming public health concern.”
The Board voted Tuesday afternoon to create the six-member panel, with each Board member and the County Manager appointing one member apiece. The panel will mull “recommendations for how the Board should develop strategic priorities” to supplement the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
The panel was advanced by County Board Chair Libby Garvey, with the support of Board members John Vihstadt, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey. Jay Fisette, the longest-serving member of the Board, questioned the need for such a panel and the manner in which it was proposed.
“What is the problem we’re trying to solve?” Fisette asked, calling the proposal “a lot of foam and not a lot of beer.”
Fisette, the last of the former old guard Democratic establishment on the Board, worried that the panel could be used to reduce environmental or human services priorities in favor of “core services.”
Cristol and Dorsey, the newest Board members, disagreed with that assessment, with the latter saying he wouldn’t support the creation of the panel if he thought that was the goal.
Fisette also pointed out that while the idea of the panel had been discussed internally by the Board for several months, it had not been made public and was not part of the day’s County Board agenda online. That, he said, ran counter to the stated desire of other Board members that County Board agenda items be posted online at least 48 hours in advance.
“Nobody in the community has seen this quote blue ribbon panel charge to actually weigh in or give us feedback on whether this is a good idea,” he said.
Garvey said the panel would not be setting policy — it would be advising the Board. She also suggested that applying the “Arlington Way” to too many county functions may be a hinderance to good governance.
“This is not the traditional Arlington Way where we get input from as many people as possible and we have a huge process,” Garvey said. “This is really getting us a small group of smart, experienced people who are going to bring different things to the table that we value, and they will advise us. I’m looking for ways to be more adaptable and quick on our feet on things.”
Garvey said an overabundance of priorities in the Comprehensive Plan results in pressure to fund the many groups that come to the Board around budget time saying, in her words, “well this is a priority, you have to fund it.”
“They’re right, it is a priority, it’s one of many priorities,” she said. “I have been feeling for some time that we need to look through our priorities and set them in some sort of priority order.”
“Our own Facilities Study working group recommended that we do a better job of planning and setting priorities,” Garvey added.
Members of the panel will be announced “in the coming weeks,” according to a press release (below, after the jump).
The Board largely took the recommendations of County Manager Mark Schwartz, who presented his proposed budget in February, and voted unanimously for the new, $1.2 billion FY 2017 budget.
Under the budget, the property tax rate will be reduced by half a cent, to $0.991 for every $100 in assessed value, while the overall property tax burden on the average homeowner will increase from $7,640 to $7,829. The increase is due to a 2.8 percent rise in residential property assessments.
The budget provides more money for Arlington Public Schools than APS asked for, in stark contrast to the budget battle in Fairfax County.
APS, which is continuing to grapple with a burgeoning student population, will get a $466.9 million budget transfer from the county, a 3.3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. That includes “$1.1 million in one-time and ongoing funding above the School Board’s funding request.”
The budget includes the biggest boost to Arlington’s public safety funding in years, satisfying some long-sought requests.
The fire department will get eight additional firefighters to convert existing three-person fire units to the recommended safe staffing level of four per unit. ACFD will also get four additional firefighters to address persistent strains to medic unit staffing during peak times.
“A positive step forward for public safety,” the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association said via Twitter.
The police department will get six new officers to help the department “meet its core mission responsibilities.” The Sheriff’s Office, which is facing a lawsuit over the alleged mistreatment of a deaf jail inmate, is getting five new positions to “improve safety and security at the Courthouse and the Detention Center, bolster its administrative staff and add a uniformed American with Disabilities Act coordinator.”
Other notable budget items include:
- An additional $1.5 million for Arlington Economic Development, “to focus on lowering the commercial vacancy rate.”
- $13.6 million for the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which is $1.1 million more than proposed by the manager.
- “Modest funding to continue the County’s open data efforts” and funding for livestreaming County Board work sessions and certain commission meetings.
- Merit pay increases for county employees.
- An increase in the living wage for county employees to $14.50 per hour, plus tuition reimbursement and continued funding for the Live Where You Work program.
“This is a good budget,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “Even as our population and school enrollment continue to grow, and our office vacancy rate remains high, the Board was able to put together a budget that preserves our community’s values, gives schools more funding than they requested, and adds funding for public safety, economic development and other key services – with a slight decrease in the tax rate.”
The budget is a complex document and the adopted budget is not yet online. Know of any other notable budget items not included here? Any quiet boosts or cuts in funding to a certain group or county department? Let us know in the comments.
Times Lauds Crystal City’s ‘Reboot’ — Arlington’s Crystal City community is “is quietly and persistently reinventing itself,” with tech startups and co-working spaces moving in and taking advantage of office space left vacant by departed federal and military tenants. Crystal City stakeholders are positioning it as a less expensive but still amenity-filled alternative to the District. “Think Brooklyn and Manhattan,” said Mitchell Schear, president of property owner Vornado/Charles E. Smith. [New York Times]
Ballston Named One of the Area’s ‘Hottest Neighborhoods’ — Ballston is among the top 5 “hottest neighborhoods in Washington,” according to Washingtonian. The magazine notes that Ballston’s median home price rose by nearby 10 percent last year, and that the forthcoming renovation of Ballston Common Mall will convert it into “an airy, downtown-like destination, akin to Fairfax’s Mosaic district.” The other four hot neighborhoods are Mount Pleasant, Trinidad, Shaw and Hyattsville. [Washingtonian]
Archaeological Dig Unearths History — An Arlington County-supervised archaeological dig at Dawson Terrace, near Rosslyn, has unearthed “243 ceramic objects, 1,603 glass objects, 74 metal objects and 13 others.” Most of the objects are believed to be from the 18th and 19th centuries. Dawson Terrace is Arlington’s oldest stone house, dating back to around the Revolutionary War. [Falls Church News-Press]
County Recognizes ‘Notable Trees’ — At yesterday’s Arlington County Board meeting, the county recognized this year’s batch of “notable trees.” Among the record 23 trees bestowed the honor for “their importance to our community, our environment and our sense of identity” was a Southern magnolia in Clarendon, planted in 1965 in honor of a fallen firefighter. [Arlington County, InsideNova]
Four Mile Run Initiative Advances — The County Board yesterday appointed a working group, charged with “providing advice, guidance and feedback to the Board and County staff on developing a comprehensive vision for Four Mile Run Valley.” The 95 acre area between Shirlington and Nauck, also known as Shirlington Crescent, is currently home to various light industrial businesses but may be ripe for redevelopment. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
Yorktown High School is getting new synthetic turf for its stadium at Greenbrier Park.
The Arlington County Board on Saturday voted 5-0 to approve a $674,000 contract with Fieldturf USA for the project, which is described as a “total makeover” of the field, which is “worn beyond reasonable repair.”
The Greenbrier Park field is used for school events and sports like football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, in addition to use by the community. Arlington Public Schools will pay half of the field replacement cost.
“Improvements to the Greenbrier Park/Yorktown High School field will consist of replacement of the synthetic turf surfacing, inlaid game field markings (including mid-field logo and end zone lettering), replacement of corner flags, combination football/soccer goals, and discus cage, as well as necessary repairs to the field base,” notes the project website.
The new turf will utilize an alternative infill, EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer), instead of crumb rubber from recycled tires. Some have raised concerns about a possible cancer risk from crumb rubber, though in a press release the county said the decision to use EPDM was about athlete safety and turf durability.
“The product is softer than crumb rubber and is less abrasive on turf fibers than rubber,” notes the county. A shock-absorbing pad is also being installed under the turf, to improve safety and reduce concussions among youth athletes.
Construction is expected to take place during the summer, wrapping up in time for the new school year. The total project cost, including design and project management, is pegged at $1.6 million.
The full press release about the project, after the jump.
Arlington residents getting displaced from their apartments due to redevelopment, renovations or other work will be getting a bigger payout from their landlords starting July 1.
The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved the county’s first increase in tenant relocation payments since 2004.
The change applies only to those living in unfurnished apartments. County staff say that moving costs have increased substantially since 2004, and the hike in relocation payments will help cover those costs.
Households that qualify as Very Low Income under Dept. of Housing and Urban Development guidelines will receive a payment 50 percent higher than the standard payment.
Residents living in furnished apartments also are eligible for relocation assistance, but those rates are lower — there’s ostensibly no furniture to move, after all — and will not change.
“Tenant displacements result in personal hardship for those directly affected and also impact the surrounding neighborhoods and other communities within the County,” notes a county staff report. “The fundamental goal of the County’s relocation policy is to enable displaced tenants to move directly to decent, structurally safe and affordable replacement housing convenient to their place of employment and/or education.”
The payments are voluntarily for owners of by-right developments, but are required if a development is a site plan project or receiving a form of financial assistance from the county.
The press release from Arlington County, after the jump.
The Board will consider tax rates and the annual county budget on Tuesday. A staff report published in advance of the meeting suggests that the Board has settled upon a tax rate reduction.
“After a lengthy public review process that included work sessions, public hearings, input from residents, employees, boards and commissions, and updated revenue forecasts based on FY 2016 mid-year and third-quarter updates, the County Board, after deliberations, has approved an FY 2017 budget that is balanced at the real estate tax rate of $0.978 per $100 of assessed property value,” the report says.
That will bring the residential tax rate to $0.991 per $100 in assessed value, including the $0.013 stormwater rate.
Despite the rate reduction, the average Arlington homeowner will be paying more in taxes, thanks to a 2.8 percent rise in residential real estate assessments.
“The average Arlington homeowner would pay $5,981 per year in real estate taxes, a $133 or 2.3 percent increase over CY 2015,” county staff writes.
Commercial property assessments this year were deemed flat, “with only 0.7 percent growth from CY 2015 to CY 2016, primarily fueled by a slight decrease in vacancy rates.”
Arcing Insulator Causes Metro Delays — An arcing insulator in the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom caused some Metrorail delays this morning. Arlington County firefighters responded to the track fire, which occurred around 6 a.m. [WUSA 9]
New Bus Lanes Open in Crystal City — A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Sunday for Arlington’s portion of the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, the region’s first bus rapid transit system. The system’s 1.5 miles of bus-only lanes that run through Crystal City are now open and serving riders. Cars that use the lanes during rush hour face a $200 ticket. [WTOP]
Gutshall Out-Raises Garvey, Speaks at Board Meeting — Erik Gutshall, who’s challenging incumbent Libby Garvey for the Democratic Arlington County Board nomination, raised almost $52,000 during the most recent quarter, while Garvey raised about $34,600. Garvey still maintains a cash on hand advantage, however. Gutshall, meanwhile, spoke at Saturday’s County Board meeting and called for the Board to do more to oppose the gun store in Lyon Park. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Wardian Running Boston Marathon Today — Elite runner Michael Wardian is among the many Arlington residents competing in the Boston Marathon today. The 42-year-old, known for his prolific pace of race running, has been particularly prolific as of late — so much so that his international adventures recently prompted him to get his passport expanded. [Competitor]
Board Approves Car2Go, Google Proposals — The County Board on Saturday approved a proposal to allow the Car2Go car sharing program to operate seamlessly between Arlington and D.C. (approval is still needed from the District). The Board also voted to join Google’s Connected Citizens Program, which facilitates the sharing of traffic and road condition data. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Van Doren, Talento Endorsed By Education Association — The political action committee of the Arlington Education Association, which represents local teachers, has endorsed incumbent Nancy Van Doren and newcomer Tannia Talento in the race for the Democratic School Board endorsement. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Arlington County is likely to join Google’s Connected Citizens Program, which shares road condition and traffic data gathered from its Waze app with localities across the country and around the world.
The County Board is expected to give its okay to joining the program at its meeting on Saturday.
“Launched by Google in October 2014, the Program exchanges transportation data with local law enforcement agencies, cities, state DOTs, and countries around the world,” wrote county staff.
It’s a two-way exchange — the County would be sharing road closure information while Waze would be sharing crash, traffic and road condition reports, as submitted by the app’s users.
“With the County sharing up-to-date disruptive event information with Waze, the County is contributing to the safety of drivers and easing traffic congestion by allowing drivers to re-route in real time,” county staff write. “The County intends to integrate the Waze reported incident data into the County’s My Arlington mobile app to provide enhanced real-time reporting of high impact traffic disruptions in Arlington.”
Car2Go launched in Arlington this past fall as a pilot program, but it only allows trips that start and end in Arlington. The Board is considering taking a first step to allowing cross-jurisdictional service between D.C. and Arlington.
After launching Oct. 22, Car2Go got off to slow start with customers, according to a county staff report. In response, Car2Go reduced its Arlington fleet from 95 cars to only 25 in January.
So far, 2,000 Arlington residents have joined as members, taking 6,600 trips, but the fleet reduction has resulted in “less availability overall and reduced usefulness to members,” said county staff.
The company has also had to contend with complaints about their cars being parked in one place for too long. In residential permit parking areas, the maximum idle time is 24 hours; it’s 36 hours everywhere else.
“Membership and vehicle use in the first couple months of the program was lower than anticipated and several complaints were received from residents reporting car2go vehicles that were idle/parked for longer-than-permitted durations,” said the staff report. “All of these relocation requests were resolved by car2go staff.”
With only 25 vehicles — up to 200 were authorized by the county — “the pilot does not indicate that an Arlington-only system is viable,” say county staff.
By allowing Car2Go to operate across state lines, it can “provide a more useful service to members in Arlington and D.C.,” “operate a fleet size sufficient for proper evaluation
of operational viability in Arlington” and “reduce vehicle idle times and rebalancing costs that have been a barrier thus far.”
Even though county staff says their D.C. counterparts support cross-jurisdictional service, approval by the County Board this weekend would not result in an immediate service change, Car2Go said.
“Approval from the Arlington County Board would be a very positive step toward cross-jurisdictional access, and we’re also working to gain support from DDOT,” said spokesman Brad Ducey. “As soon as we are able to get support from both jurisdictions, we would be able to implement quickly.”
“It has always been our goal to create a seamless regional carsharing solution, similar to what members of Capital Bikeshare experience,” Ducey added. “We know car2go members are eager for access between Washington D.C. and Arlington, and we’re continuing to work hard to make that a reality. We’ll be sure to keep our members informed since we know car2go is an important part of how they get around, and cross-jurisdictional access would make it even more convenient.”
VDOT Holds HOT Lane Meeting — Last night VDOT gave the first formal public presentation of its plan to expand the I-395 HOV lanes and convert them to High Occupancy Toll lanes. The meeting was held at Wakefield High School and addressed issues from toll pricing to transit improvements to sound walls. [WTOP, Fox 5]
Bike-on-Bike Crashes Problematic for the Law — A new article asserts that Arlington County Police normally do not file reports for bike-on-bike crashes. “This is a bike accident. Life happens,” an officer reportedly told a victim after one recent incident. Incomplete or nonexistent police reports have frustrated victims and attorneys seeking legal redress — and led to the hiring of private investigators who try to gather evidence and find witnesses. [Washingtonian]
Disability Advocates Protest in Arlington — Disability rights advocates made their frustrations personal yesterday by protesting in front of the Arlington home of Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division. [Disability Scoop]
Proposal: Allow Older Cabs in Arlington — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to consider a policy change that would allow older cabs on the road, among other changes. Currently, cabs entering service may be no older than two years old and then must be retired after reaching seven years old or 350,000 miles. Recognizing advances in vehicle reliability, the new policy would do away with the two year provision and set the maximum age of cabs at 10 years old. [Arlington County]
Free Donuts for Lawyers Today — It’s Be Kind to Lawyers Day and to mark the occasion Sugar Shack Donuts on Columbia Pike is offering a free “house donut” to lawyers today. Sugar Shack is also beginning a promotion that will give select customers free donuts to distribute to their favorite local teachers. “To participate, folks just need to use the hashtag #Treats4Teach to tell us on Facebook or Twitter why they should be picked to deliver donuts to their local school teachers and to which school,” said a press release.
Nice Weather at Last — After this morning’s rain, expect clearing skies and pleasant weather that should stretch into next week. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten discussed the change during last week’s Arlington County Board meeting. She said the problem isn’t county policy — which was updated in 2011 — it’s the application of that policy.
The county’s Master Transportation Plan calls for 4-5 foot wide sidewalks in residential neighborhoods, with the narrower sidewalk in areas where it would preserve mature trees, parking, slopes or structures.
County staff’s approach, however, has been to design and “start the conversation” with a five-foot-wide sidewalk, even in areas that would otherwise call for the four-foot-wide sidewalk. That led to conflicts and neighborhood consternation.
“There are important accommodations to preserve neighborhood character,” Mitten said. “We think that the policy the Board passed strikes the right balance, whereas our application of the policy perhaps has not.”
While “it is desirable to have a five foot minimum width where possible in order to comply with ADA regulations and for general ease and safe accessibility,” Mitten said, the new approach — of starting the conversation with a four-foot-wide sidewalk where appropriate — “maximizes the opportunity to provide sidewalks along streets where now there are none without compromising the integrity of the overall policy.”
County Board member Jay Fisette said the issue was first raised more than a year ago, after a five-foot-wide sidewalk plan led to the cancellation of some potential Neighborhood Conservation projects.
Libby Garvey, County Board chair, said the county shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good, especially in areas where there currently are no sidewalks.
“There are too many streets where to get the perfect sidewalk they’re getting no sidewalk, and that’s not safe for anybody,” she said.
The county has been soliciting resident feedback on its snow removal effort and there has been no shortage of opinions: some 3,000 constituents responded to an online survey alone.
In response, County Manager Mark Schwartz yesterday presented an initial report for the County Board, outlining a number of snow removal changes that are being considered.
Among the proposed changes:
- Plow both major roads and residential streets simultaneously during large snow storms, rather than only focusing on major roads and leaving residential streets snow-covered until after the storm.
- Adding “backup drivers” for large snow storms.
- Better utilizing staff and contractors “to minimize snow piling at intersections and sidewalks and reduce missed streets.”
- Improving training and oversight of contractors “to minimize obstructive snow piling.”
- “Improving technology used to track, monitor and communicate progress during snow and ice removal.”
- Better utilizing volunteers and coordinating with Arlington’s civic associations.
Longer term changes also being consider include:
- Adding a snow removal staging area in north Arlington and adding new equipment like backhoe plows and a new snow melter.
- Odd-even parking requirements, enforcement of snow emergency routes and opening parking garages during large snow events to reduce obstructions on residential streets for snow plows.
Schwartz is expected to present a more comprehensive report later this year.