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Video: Scooter Safety in Arlington

E-scooters have been proliferating around Arlington over the past few months, but their growing ubiquity has brought with it some challenges.

A new public service announcement from Arlington County seeks to answer some key questions that can improve safety for scooter riders and those around them: Who can ride e-scooters? How can you ride safely? Where do you park after riding?

The video is above. The county has also set up its own website for dockless scooter safety and regulation information.

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Morning Notes

Dorsey: Safety Over Late Night Hours — “Metro Boardmember and Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey… says Metro’s first responsibility is not to run as much service as possible, but to keep the service that is being run as safe as possible. He supports more maintenance.” Meanwhile, Metro is considering a plan to subsidize late night Uber and Lyft service. [Twitter, Washington Post]

Arlington Redistricting on Kojo Show — The always-controversial redrawing of school boundaries in Arlington was the topic of a recent discussion on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, featuring APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy and community leaders. [Kojo Nnamdi Show, Twitter]

Zoning, Permitting Offices Closing Tomorrow — “Arlington’s planning and DES permitting offices are running away for a long romantic Valentine’s weekend. When they return [on Tuesday], they will live as one exclusively on the tenth floor of 2100 Clarendon Blvd.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

Snow Threats Coming This Weekend, Next Week — “In the past day, computer models have begun advertising the potential for a snow event on Saturday. And it may mark the start of a series of winter storms that streak across the Washington region.” [Washington Post]

Check Out ARLnow’s Instagram — ARLnow’s Insta currently features photography from around our fair county. Coming soon: more photos, plus contests and other exclusives. [Instagram]

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County Manager, Other Top County Employees Score Pay Raises

Arlington leaders are doling out raises for County Manager Mark Schwartz and several other senior county employees.

The County Board signed off on modest pay hikes for Schwartz, County Attorney Steve MacIsaac, County Auditor Chris Horton and County Board Clerk Kendra Jacobs at its meeting Tuesday (Jan. 29).

Each one scored 3.25 percent pay bumps on their previous contracts, matching raises the Board handed out last year to the group. All four report directly to county lawmakers.

Schwartz, the top executive in the county government, now stands to pull in just under $262,000 next year. This raise marks the third one he’s earned from the Board since he was hired as permanent county manager in 2016, when he started out with an annual salary of $245,000. His predecessor as manager, Barbara Donnellan, reached a top salary of about $270,000 a year by the end of her five-year tenure.

MacIsaac now pulls in about $253,000 per year, his tenth salary bump since taking over as the county’s top lawyer in 2000. Horton now makes nearly $143,000, earning his second raise since joining the county in 2016.

Jacobs now makes just over $108,000 annually, with the pay bump coming just a few months after the Board hired her to manage meeting materials this past July.

The good news for these county employees, most of whom rank among the highest-paid in the county workforce, comes as Schwartz is warning of some potential bad news for other county workers.

He’s already ordered a hiring “slowdown” to cope with the county’s dire fiscal picture, and has warned layoffs could be in the forecast (alongside tax increases and service cuts) to close a large budget gap in the new fiscal year.

File photo

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UPDATED: Feds, Students and County Workers to Leave Work Early

(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Due to an expected snowy evening commute, federal employees are being allowed to leave work early.

“Employees should depart 2 hours earlier than their normal departure times and may request unscheduled leave to depart prior to their staggered departure times,” employees were told.

Other organizations and facilities are also closing early due to fears of a messy commute like that of January 20, 2016 or January 26, 2011. Arlington Public Schools announced Monday night that all schools will close two hours early “because of the current forecast for freezing rain and snow at dismissal time tomorrow.”

Arlington County government offices and facilities are closing at 4 p.m., while courts are closing at 3 p.m. Tonight’s County Board meeting, however, is still continuing as scheduled.

More closures, announced Tuesday morning by Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

Arlington Public Schools have announced they are closing two hours early and have cancelled all afternoon/evening activities in school buildings. DPR will proceed as follows:

  • All Enjoy Arlington classes, 55+ classes and nature center programs with start times of 3:30 p.m. or later today are cancelled in all County and School buildings.
  • Sports activities, leagues and instructional programs in APS buildings are cancelled.
  • Sports activities, leagues and instructional programs in County buildings with a start of 3:30 p.m. or later today are cancelled, including the Clubhouse and covered batting cages.
  • Carver, Drew and Gunston Community Centers are closed today.
  • All other community centers and the Gunston Bubble will close at 4 p.m.

Advice to drivers from VDOT:

Crews have brined bridges and ramps throughout northern Virginia and are staging along roadways today in preparation of winter weather expected during the p.m. rush hour.

VDOT Asks Drivers To:

  • Monitor weather closely, as forecasts can improve or worsen quickly.
  • Plan ahead to avoid driving during snow and freezing conditions today. Plan to leave and be home early if possible.
  • Check road conditions along your route before leaving, and plan to delay travel if road conditions become hazardous.
  • Download the free 511 app for Apple and Android, visit www.511virginia.org, or call 511 from any phone in Virginia.
  • Give plows and treatment trucks plenty of room. Ensure that you have enough gas, wiper fluid, proper tires, medication, and an emergency car kit.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Medical Emergency at Yorktown — A student suffered a serious medical emergency at Yorktown High School this morning. Police and medics rushed to the scene, CPR was performed and the student was reportedly revived. He was taken to a local hospital.

Arlington Tourism Website Wins Award — “The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International… on Jan. 22 presented the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS) with a 2018 Adrian Award for the StayArlington tourism website.” [Arlington County]

Best Bowls of Soup in Rosslyn — A new list exhaustively details “where to go for a good bowl of soup” in Rosslyn, “because it’s everybody’s favorite cold-weather lunch.” [Rosslyn BID]

Gymnastics Competition at W-L — “The annual Barbara Reinwald Invitational girls high-school gymnastics meet was held Jan. 19 at Washington-Lee High School. The high-school meet, which has been held for decades, included 11 teams and was won by the host Washington-Lee Blue team.” [InsideNova]

Chef Geoff Winning Happy Hour Fight — Chef Geoff Tracy is poised to withdraw his lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Virginia, which seeks to overturn restrictions on advertising happy hour specials and prices, after the state legislature overwhelmingly passed bills that would remove those and other happy hour restrictions. [Tysons Reporter]

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Morning Notes

Chamber Backs Amazon Incentives — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has provided its formal stamp of approval, supporting the planned Arlington County government incentive package for Amazon. The package ‘will have positive benefits for the Arlington community as a whole,’ the business organization said.” [InsideNova]

New County Finance Director Appointed — “Maria Meredith has been named Arlington County’s new Director of the Department of Management and Finance (DMF), effective January 14, 2019. She will be responsible for approximately 50 staff involved in the County’s financial operations, including management and budget, accounting, purchasing and real estate assessment.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Road Project Recognized — “We’re ready to announce the winners of our highest honor of the year — the 2018 Streetsie Award for Best Urban Street Redesign. Our readers weighed in and chose… Arlington, which received more than 1,000 votes for its road diet/protected bike lane project on Veitch Street.” [StreetsBlog]

Local Startup Struggling to Pay Bills — “Trustify, the Arlington company that provides private investigation services through digital platforms, has had trouble making payroll since October and is in arrears to its landlord and several other vendors, according to at least five employees who recently left the company.” [Washington Business Journal]

Button for Filing Air Noise Complaints — Residents in Maryland, Northwest D.C. and elsewhere have a new tool for filing complaints about noise from Reagan National Airport air traffic: a converted Amazon Dash button that does the heavy lifting of filing complaints with aviation authorities. [Washington Post]

‘Floss-Cutting’ Ceremony for Dental Clinic — “The Arlington Free Clinic recently celebrated completion of a $1.5 million fund-raising drive to support construction and outfitting of a dental facility to support those in need across Arlington. The capital campaign, which was launched by support from longtime volunteer and donor Mary Mellon (whose father died of a tooth infection he could not afford to treat when she was a teen), will allow the clinic to triple the number of dental patients it can serve.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Christmas Closures in Arlington — “Arlington County Government offices, courts and libraries will be closed on Mon., Dec. 24 and Tue., Dec. 25, 2018, for Christmas and on Tue., Jan. 1, 2019, for New Year’s Day. Courts will also be closed on Dec. 31, 2018, and libraries will close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31.” [Arlington County]

Low-Income Workers Finding Metro Alternatives — “As Metro fares have risen, hours for train service have been cut and gentrification has made it more difficult for low-income workers to live near rail stations, workers making lower wages in Washington and in Arlington have become less likely to commute by transit… down 5 percent from the previous five years.” [Washington Post]

Arlington, Alexandria Firefighters Learning Yoga — “It’s a revolutionary training course helping firefighters cope [with] stress & sleep deprivation. One firefighter who was at the Pentagon on 9/11 says it helps him deal [with] the memory of that day.” [NBC Washington, Twitter]

Rain, Flood Watch Continues — “The Flood Watch continues through this afternoon. Unseasonably warm today with showers and perhaps an isolated afternoon/evening thunderstorm.” [Twitter]

Holiday Wrapping Paper Alternatives — Local designer Beth Singer, whose firm designed the ARLnow logo, has penned a new blog post just in time for the holidays: “Five Reasons I Will Never Buy Wrapping Paper Again.” [Beth Singer Design]

Eclectic Estate Sale Near Clarendon — “Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for that special person? Are you a collector of unusual paintings, furniture, or sculpture? A curious browser of all things uncommon and quirky? You won’t want to miss this special estate sale, this weekend in Ashton Heights.” [Team Cathell]

Nearby: Amazon’s Effect on Chirilagua — “Between Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood and the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington is a swath of land home to a vibrant Hispanic community… For many Chirilagua residents, Amazon’s arrival threatens the end of the community they love, bringing increased housing costs, new residents and creeping gentrification.” [NBC Washington]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Poll: Moving on from the Arlington Way?

(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) For years now, there have been calls to revamp, fix or rethink the “Arlington Way.”

There is no single, comprehensive definition of what the Arlington Way is, but broadly, according to one county document, “the Arlington Way refers to the form citizen participation takes in Arlington County.”

It is, essentially, the way the county government — along with the school system — goes about shaping its plan and policies, through input from stakeholders like civic associations and by convening committees and commissions.

While the stated goal is inclusion and seeking input, there have been grumbles over the years that the Arlington Way is actually about getting residents to accept a preordained outcome set by elected officials or county staff.

The recent elementary school boundary process, Four Mile Run Valley planning process and Washington-Lee renaming process all featured disgruntled residents complaining about getting railroaded. In those and other controversial decisions, we’ve often heard from those involved that they felt certain cogs in the community process — committee members, consultants hired as “facilitators,” etc. — were specifically chosen to help steer the process to a desired outcome.

On the opposite side of those arguments, others who’ve talked to ARLnow have expressed disappointment in the slow, trodding pace of decision-making in Arlington. The complainers, some have said, are simply trying to slow down progress or to use the process to get their way despite being ultimately being in the minority on a given issue.

There has been a notable amount of off-the-record criticism, for instance, about the County Board dragging out the approval process for a very necessary expansion to Virginia Hospital Center. The cost to the hospital and the delay in the project, some have said, was not worth trying — unsuccessfully — to appease a handful of residents who essentially didn’t like the idea of bigger buildings in their neighborhood.

That’s not to mention the fact that serving on committees is a massive time commitment — a big “ask” of those involved — and attending civic association and County Board meetings requires setting aside considerable time as well. Thus, those serving on committees and attending meetings are often those with strong opinions about the outcome — opinions not necessarily reflective of the view of most residents unwilling or unable to put in the time.

So today we’re asking: what should be done about the Arlington Way? Should it be scrapped altogether in favor of a more streamlined process of gathering community input — online or otherwise — and then letting those elected to make such decisions do so, taking into account the input received? Or should it be kept the same or even strengthened to be more inclusive and iterative, and less deterministic?

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Morning Notes

Arlington County Prepares for Winter Weather — Though a winter storm this weekend is looking increasingly unlikely for the area, Arlington County says it is preparing for a snowy winter and “will be ready to fight back” against snow and ice. [Arlington County]

More Solar Panels for APS — “Arlington County Public Schools signed a contract on Thursday night that they say will save them millions of dollars. Five of their schools will be made over with solar panels as part of a power purchase agreement, or PPA, with a Charlottesville, Virginia firm called Sun Tribe Solar.” [WUSA 9]

Fire at Ledo Pizza — Firefighters responded to an electrical fire at the Ledo Pizza restaurant in the Red Lion hotel in Rosslyn yesterday. The fire was extinguished by a sprinkler system. [Twitter]

Amazon, Pentagon City and Housing — Most or even all of Amazon’s permanent presence in Arlington could actually be in Pentagon City, not Crystal City. That presents an opportunity to add more housing, including affordable housing, in Pentagon City. [Greater Greater Washington]

American May Add Flights at DCA — “American Airlines is closely ‘studying’ online retailer Amazon’s plans to open a second headquarters steps away from its hub at Ronald Reagan Washington National airport, where it is already planning to add seats at the slot-controlled facility. ‘We absolutely plan to upgauge at DCA,’ the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier’s vice-president of network Vasu Raja tells FlightGlobal.” [FlightGlobal]

Our Lady of Guadalupe Celebration — “On Saturday, December 8, approximately 300 people are expected to pour into Saint Agnes Catholic Church’s Parish Hall in Arlington to celebrate the anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother to Juan Diego on December 12, 1531. Following the Mass, there will be a candle lit procession with some of the faithful carrying a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, followed by praying the rosary, and a potluck dinner with live entertainment -a mariachi band!” [Diocese of Arlington]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Morning Notes

ACPD Helps With Bush Funeral — Arlington County Police Department motor officers “had the honor of assisting with escorts” for the George H.W. Bush funeral yesterday. [Twitter]

Arlington County Named LGBTQ ‘All-Star’ — “For the third year in a row, Arlington has received national recognition for its protections of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community members. The County scored 92 out of 100 on the Municipal Equality Index (MEI)… because it scored at least an 85 despite being in a state without supportive state-level LGBTQ protections, the County also earned ‘all-star’ recognition.” [Arlington County]

Bikeshare Station Coming to Gravelly Point — A Capital Bikeshare station was being installed along the Mt. Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point Park yesterday. [Twitter]

County, Volunteers Planting Trees — “This fall alone, the Tree Stewards has planted about 300 trees. The group planned on planting 900, but the ice and snow in early November steered it a little off track. Arlington County contractors picked up the rest of the job.” [WDVM]

Flickr pool by Tom Mockler

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Morning Notes

Rare, Tropical Dragonfly Spotted in Arlington — “There was quite the discovery at this year’s Bioblitz in Glencarlyn Park. After a photo posted on the crowd-sourcing tracker, iNaturalist, started to spark a lot of interest… the consensus was that what had been photographed was a Great Pondhawk Dragonfly (Erythemis vesiculosa).” [Arlington County]

Frost Fest Rescheduled — Frost Fest at Pentagon Row, originally planned for Saturday, has been rescheduled due to expected rainy weather. It will now take place this Sunday from 4-7 p.m. [Twitter]

County to Open Garages During Snowstorms — “If a big winter storm – or two, or three – hits the region in coming months, Arlington residents will be able to leave their cars safe and sound in county-owned garages for the duration. It’s all part of an effort to keep residential streets as free of vehicles as possible so snow-plow operators can do their job.” [InsideNova]

Crafthouse Going Big — Beer-centric local restaurant chain Crafthouse, which has a location in Ballston, has inked a $250 million deal to franchise nationally. [Reston Now]

Portion of W&OD Trail to Get Separate Lanes — “A major 1.2-mile stretch of the W&OD Trail bike path that traverses the City of Falls Church… will soon be enhanced with the benefit of $3.2 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and turned into a dual path — one for bikes and the other for pedestrians.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Amazon News Roundup — Virginia economic development officials say they have “accounted for a host of risks that might arise related to Amazon, from a shift in direction for the company to antitrust litigation.” The Arlington Civic Federation “will host a discussion of the proposed Amazon economic-incentive package at its monthly meeting, to be held on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. at Virginia Hospital Center.” Arlington County’s building and permitting staff “won’t be doing anything out of the ordinary to accommodate Amazon, such as fast-tracking, a common incentive offered to big economic development prizes.” And, in a new report on the oft-reported subject, “Amazon’s Northern Virginia headquarters could exacerbate existing economic disparities.”

Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi

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Morning Notes

Human Rights Award Winners Announced — The 2018 winners of Arlington County’s James B. Hunter Human Rights Award have been announced. The two individuals and two groups to be honored at a Dec. 13 ceremony are: former Arlington Public Schools social study teacher Marty Swaim, former Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette, the Arlington chapter of Awesome Women Entrepreneurs, and Arm & Arm, “an Arlington-based community group providing a variety of services to veterans and the incarcerated to aid in their reentry to society.” [Arlington County]

Fill the Cruiser Tonight Near Crystal City — Today, on Giving Tuesday, the Arlington County Police Department will bring its “Fill the Cruiser” toy drive to Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Aurora Highlands, from 6-8 p.m. [Twitter]

JBG Re-Ups Crystal City Tenant — “JBG Smith, just weeks removed from winning D.C.’s biggest economic prize in a generation in Crystal City, is already reaping side benefits. The REIT signed National Cooperative Bank to a 15-year extension on its 66K SF lease at 2011 Crystal Drive, it announced Monday. The building is a few blocks from where Amazon is leasing space from JBG Smith for Phase 1 of its HQ2 requirement.” [Bisnow]

Amazon News Roundup — Questions are being raised about the nondisclosure agreements Amazon required of jurisdictions bidding for HQ2. Alexandria officials “are confident housing prices and rental rates won’t become unbearable when Amazon sets up shop in Crystal City.” The spillover effects of Amazon’s Crystal City campus on the commercial real estate market may not extend much beyond Arlington’s Metro corridors. And finally — no, Amazon did not rename Crystal City.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Names New Resident Ombudsman — “Ben Aiken has been named as Arlington’s Resident Ombudsman and Director of Constituent Services in the County Manager’s Office, effective October 8, 2018. Arlington’s Resident Ombudsman is part of the Constituent Services Team helping to ensure Arlington’s government works effectively and maintains a high degree of transparency.” [Arlington County]

Senior Alert for Man Last Seen in Arlington — “The Virginia State Police Department has issued a Senior Alert for 78-year-old James Oliver… Oliver was last seen in Arlington around 3 p.m. Sept. 19, walking near the intersection of North Wakefield [Street] and 24th Street. He was reportedly wearing a blue blazer, silver shirt, pink neck tie and blue jeans.” [WDBJ7]

It is PARK(ing) Day — Today is PARK(ing) Day, ” an annual international event where the public collaborates to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into small parks to elicit a reconsideration of the designation of public space.” There are five PARK(ing) day sites in Arlington: AECOM (2940 Clarendon Blvd), “The Bird Nest” – Communal Space (555 23rd St. S.), Bike Arlington et al (2040 15th St. N.), Solid Waste Bureau (4115 Campbell Ave.), Little Diversified Architectural Consulting (1061 N. Taylor St.). [Arlington County]

Log Cabin For Sale Near Marymount — The log cabin on 26th Street N. near Marymount University is listed for sale. Built in 1836, the home was later a favorite destination for Theodore Roosevelt, who would ride horses and eat ice cream there. [Washington Post]

Video Tour of New ART Buses — The new buses in the Arlington Transit fleet are more comfortable and feature-rich than older models, according to a video tour posted online. The 13 buses will allow ART to add new service. [YouTube]

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Arlington Often Charges Hefty Fees to See Public Records, Or Fails to Respond to Requests

In recent weeks, Arlington County and its school system have sought to charge ARLnow hundreds of dollars to fulfill public records requests, or simply not responded to them — and others around the county have noticed similar issues accessing public documents.

The county has asked for more than $1,140 in all to provide records in response to three requests by ARLnow under the Freedom of Information Act, using accounting practices that raised eyebrows at one of Virginia’s open government watchdog groups. In another case, Arlington Public Schools has gone more than a month before providing any response to an ARLnow FOIA request, missing a state-mandated deadline by weeks.

Other reporters and political activists told ARLnow they’ve received even larger bills, or similarly been stumped by radio silence from the county on the requests.

Virginia’s FOIA, designed to open up public documents for public inspection, has frequently been criticized by transparency advocates for its litany of exemptions allowing government officials to withhold vast swaths of information from disclosure. Rather than claiming any of those exemptions in these instances, however, the county could be running afoul of the law itself.

Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, was particularly taken aback by the size of the fees the county has sought to assess ARLnow. While the FOIA does allow government agencies to “make reasonable charges” to offset costs associated with tracking down the necessary documents, Rhyne expressed bewilderment at some of the county’s tactics for calculating those fees.

For instance, in response to one ARLnow request for six months worth of data on Arlington Transit service, the county estimated that a “management analyst” would need to spend 13.5 hours searching for records that could match ARLnow’s request, at a rate of $40.39 per hour.

Then, the county said an “associate planner” would need to spend three hours on the request, at a rate of $35.95 per hour. Finally, the “acting transit services manager” would spend an hour on the work, to tack on another $40.76.

“That’s a LOT of time,” Rhyne wrote in an email. “And what will the ‘associate planner’ need to take three hours to do different from the analyst? And then the ‘manager.’ What do any of them DO as part of this process? That’s three layers, with more than 17 of those hours going to people all making over $74,000/year.”

Rhyne points out that “the amount of the fees charged does not tell the whole story,” noting that what’s really important is how the county arrived at those figures. But if Arlington is adding unnecessary steps to the process, she says that wouldn’t match up with the law’s requirements.

“Fees must represent the actual cost to the government, and the costs must be reasonable,” Rhyne said.

It’s difficult to pin down, however, just how often the county is assessing such large fees for FOIA requests.

Logs released through a separate ARLnow FOIA request show that the county charged an average of $28.50 to respond to records requests over the first six months of this year — however, those logs do not include fees assessed on requests that weren’t completed, meaning people could be choosing not to move forward with a request if the price tag is too steep. The logs do show that the county’s completed five requests with fees of $100 or more from January through the end of June, including ones with fees of $316, $550 and $614.50.

Other would-be requesters around the county say such large fees are not unusual, however.

Matthew Hurtt, a local Republican activist, says the county sought to charge him more than $1,100 when he asked for email correspondence related to Arlington’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. He says even a “significantly refined” request came with a fee north of $900.

Jonathan O’Connell, a reporter with the Washington Post, says the county wanted to charge him $319.55 for Amazon-related documents — and even if he’d paid, officials informed him they’d be claiming an exemption to withhold all the information anyway.

“Arlington actually gave me a pretty similar response to what other Virginia jurisdictions gave me, which is nothing of value,” O’Connell told ARLnow. “I didn’t pay them because they told me they weren’t going to to give me anything related to HQ2.”

In other cases, the county’s responses have been confusing or non-existent.

Roshan Abraham, an activist with Our Revolution Arlington, filed a request on July 30 for documents related to the county’s incentive package to bring Nestle to Arlington, but didn’t hear back from the county for weeks. When informed by ARLnow that documents posted to the county’s website on Aug. 17 could match his request, Abraham said he never received any communication from the county about it, and that some documents he’d asked for remain missing.

Similarly, county transit bureau chief Lynn Rivers told ARLnow in early August that staff had erred when they attached a $323 fee to a June 29 request for two months’ worth of Arlington Transit data. She pledged to deliver the documents free of charge, but even after several calls and emails seeking clarity, ARLnow hasn’t received any response.

And in the case of the school system, officials have yet to respond to a July 30 request from ARLnow seeking documents related to plans to rename Washington-Lee High School.

The FOIA calls for officials to respond to requesters within five “working days,” and either detail whether the records are available or ask for more time to track them down. Linda Erdos, Arlington Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for school and community relations, wrote in an email on Aug. 21 that she’d provide such a response the following day.

After two follow-up emails to Erdos since then, ARLnow still has yet to receive any answer.

File photo

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ACFD Taps Northern Virginia’s First African-American Female Battalion Chief

Almost 24 years after she answered a radio ad seeking to recruit new firefighters, Tiffanye Wesley has been selected as Arlington’s southern battalion chief.

The county’s fire department tapped her for the post Sunday (Sept. 2), making her both Arlington and Northern Virginia’s first African-American female battalion chief.

There are two battalions in the Arlington Fire Department, divided between north and south, with each encompassing five stations. Wesley is chief of the southern battalion, coordinating operations not only between the five stations but with partner agencies across Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax.

“If there is a fire call, I’m in charge of that call,” said Wesley. “My job is to ensure everyone goes home safely.”

When Wesley first joined the Arlington Fire Department, she said she walked in the door with no expectations. She’d never known any firefighters or been into a fire house, and said she failed the physical ability tests twice, but she kept training and going back to try again.

Before being selected as battalion chief, Wesley was commander of the Crystal City station, Arlington’s largest and one of its busiest stations. Wesley stepped into the battalion chief role temporarily in 2016, which she said gave her an opportunity to get to know the other stations in the battalion.

“Every station is different,” said Wesley. “My goal is to go sit down with the officers and let them know up front what [my] expectations are and to give me theirs. I believe, as long as you set up right up front what you expect, it makes it easier. The problem comes in when you don’t know what your leader expects, then you tend to fall back and do whatever you want to do.”

Currently, Wesley says the department is also awaiting news of who will replace Fire Chief James Bonzano.

“Right now, the department is looking for a new fire chief,” said Wesley. “Everyone is in a holding pattern, we’re not sure who that person will be, whether they’re from inside the department or someone totally new, we will have to learn that person; their ideals and expectations.”

As Wesley settles into her new role as battalion chief, she says the outpouring of support from friends and followers of her active social media accounts has been overwhelming. Among the most interesting was a call from a fire chief in Nigeria congratulating her on the promotion.

“My promotion was not just for me, it’s for everyone who has watched me, who has been sitting back and passed over and doubted their own self, whose doubted it would ever happen,” said Wesley. “It’s all for those people. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t give up.”

Photo courtesy Arlington Fire Department

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