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Morning Notes

A man rides a personal watercraft in Boundary Channel near Columbia Island Marina (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

APS Enrollment Down — “Despite intensive efforts to get them back, Arlington Public Schools has about 4 percent fewer students in class than it did pre-pandemic, according to new figures. Superintendent Francisco Durán on Oct. 14 said the school system’s official count for the 2021-22 school year is 26,911 students, based on enrollment Sept. 30 that will be submitted to state officials as is required by law. That’s down slightly from the 26,932 students reported on hand at the start of classes in August.” [Sun Gazette]

Update on Metro Woes — “While Metro aims to provide service consistent with the announced basic service plan through the rest of the week, customers should anticipate trains every 15-20 minutes on the Red Line and every 30-40 minutes on all other lines to account for any unplanned disruptions. There is currently no capacity to fill unforeseen gaps, which will result in longer wait times. Crews are working as quickly as possible to put more trains into service.” [WMATA]

County: Update Your Bookmarks — “With the launch of our new website, your favorite page or service has a new home! While we have redirect links for our most visited and discussed pages, we couldn’t do it for all 5,000+ pages. But the content you want is still there!” [Arlington County, Twitter]

Birds Banging into Arlington Windows — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “We’re starting to see a lot of migratory birds come into the shelter, likely due to hitting windows as they fly. But we are here to help! This little Golden-Crowned Kinglet stayed with us overnight before heading off to a licensed rehabber this morning!” [Twitter]

IPO for Local Multinational Company — “Renewable energy storage firm Fluence Energy Inc said on Tuesday it is aiming to fetch a nearly $4 billion valuation in its U.S. initial public offering, as investor interest in such technologies soars alongside growing calls to limit climate change… Arlington, Virginia-based Fluence serves major utilities, developers, as well as commercial and industrial businesses, promising increased efficiency through its digital platform designed for renewables.” [Reuters]

Event to Mark Genocide Anniversary — “November 4, 2021 will mark exactly one year to the day that the Ethiopian & Eritrean regimes waged a devastating and ongoing genocide on the people of Tigray. You are welcome to visit our Arts & Photo Exhibition ‘Call It A Genocide’ which runs from November 5 to 7, 2021 at the ECDC in Arlington.” [Eventbrite]

Halloween Bike Ride for Families — “The Kidical Mass Arlington Halloween ride is BACK! Meet Sun 10/24 4pm at Zitkala’Sa (nee Clay) Park Costumes and decorations encouraged! Enjoy some pizza from our friends @TrekBikes Clarendon after the ride.” [Twitter, Facebook]

It’s Wednesday — ☀️ It’s another sunny day today, with a high near 76. West wind 5 to 7 mph. Sunrise at 7:23 a.m. and sunset at 6:22 p.m. Tomorrow is will be sunny, with a high near 78.

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Morning Notes

Basketball under the lights at Alcova Heights Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Metro Delays All Week — “Reduced Metrorail service is expected to continue until at least Sunday, October 24, as the investigation into the October 12 derailment continues. Beginning tomorrow, trains will operate every 15 minutes on the Red Line and will continue to operate every 30 minutes on all other lines. Silver Line trains will operate between Wiehle-Reston East and Federal Center SW only.” [WMATA]

WMATA Knew About Defects — “Wheel assemblies on Metro rail cars like the one at fault in last week’s Blue Line derailment had failed 31 times since 2017 — and renewed inspections last week identified almost two dozen similar defects, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority pulled the 7000 series cars from service Sunday night, leaving the agency down more than half its fleet.” [Washington Post, WJLA]

Beyer on Metro Mess — From Rep. Don Beyer: “This is going to be a very frustrating week for commuters. I’m maintaining close contact with WMATA and NTSB as we seek a safe return to regular service.” [Twitter]

Issues With New County Website — From Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt: “The new @ArlingtonVA website has broken SSSSOOO many links. The fact that the old link for the County’s IT Advisory Committee is broken and doesn’t redirect is the most ironic though.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Flags Lowered in Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered flags lowered throughout the Commonwealth in honor of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a McLean resident, who passed away from COVID-19 complications on Monday. [Commonwealth of Virginia]

It’s Tuesday — ☀️ Sunny, with a high near 71 today. West wind 5 to 10 mph. Sunrise at 7:22 a.m. and sunset at 6:23 p.m. Tomorrow is will be sunny, with a high near 75.

Join the ARLnow Press Club and get the Morning Notes four hours earlier.

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Morning Notes

Blue Line Reopens — “On Friday, October 15, normal service will resume on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines. Intermittent delays are possible as the investigation into Tuesday’s derailment continues.” [WMATA, Twitter]

New County Website Launching Soon — “Arlington County Government is launching a new website, the first major refreshment of the County’s online presence in more than seven years. The site will launch Monday, Oct. 18. Users will continue to access the site by visiting www.arlingtonva.us.” [Arlington County]

Spotted: Bizarre Banner Bedecked Bus — From Nicole Merlene: “Outside the Courthouse today… What in the world? Civil service sure ain’t for wimps with crazies like this.” [Twitter]

Reuters Photo Shows Local Apartments — “A man sits on his balcony amid a sea of balconies at an apartment building in Arlington, Virginia. Photo by Kevin Lamarque.” [Twitter]

New Utility Vault Near Clarendon — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Behold the 40-ton concrete utility vault installed under Washington Boulevard yesterday between N Kirkwood and Wilson. That stretch’s big safety upgrades and lane-shift makeover continues into next year.” [Twitter]

National Airport Getting Busier — “New data suggest the airport, which has had one of the most sluggish returns to normal(ish) performance in the COVID era, may be seeing better times for the rest of the year. New data from the trade group Airlines for America suggest that the airport will see just 11 percent fewer flights during the fourth quarter than during the same period in pre-pandemic 2019. That projected performance also is less than the 14-percent drop reported nationally, based on current flight schedules.” [Sun Gazette]

Water Main Break Closes SchoolUpdated at 9 a.m. — Arlington Science Focus School is closed today due to a 6-inch water main break on the 1400 block of N. Lincoln Street that’s affecting about 200 water customers. [Twitter, Arlington Public Schools]

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Free2Move car in D.C. (courtesy photo)

One minute after midnight this morning, car-sharing company Free2Move ended its services in Arlington over issues with parking in the county.

It marks a short-lived run in Arlington for the European company, which launched its services in July 2019 after expanding into D.C. in October 2018.

Free2Move, which offers free residential and metered parking to members, says its attempts to renew this parking arrangement were unsuccessful. As a result, users can no longer start or end their trip in Arlington, although they can drive through the county.

“Over the past few months we have been working with the City of Arlington to renew our permits to operate in Arlington,” the company told members in an email, mistaking the county for a city. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to renew the permit and we were notified today by the City of Arlington to cease our operations in the area.”

The service said it’s not pleased with the result of the negotiations.

“We understand for many of you this will come as difficult news and it’s not one Free2Move is happy about,” the email said. “We have enjoyed being part of the community and supporting our members with their transportation needs.”

The county department that’s responsible for car-sharing programs has a different account.

“Carsharing provider Free2Move notified the County on Sept. 17 that the company would be unable to commit to obtaining the required insurance to operate within Arlington County this year,” a Department of Environmental Services spokesman said. “Although Transportation staff worked with Free2Move representatives during the last several months to help them meet the requirements for their permit, the company instead decided to no longer provide services in Arlington.”

A number of users reached out to ARLnow to share the word of the service ending. Darsh Suresh, a three-year resident of the Rosslyn area, said he’s saddened by the news, as he relied on these cars for short trips he can’t make by transit.

“I usually take Metro or the Bus to commute or get around, but having Free2Move has made it easier for trips to other areas, such as driving to visit family in Loudoun County,” he said. “It’s one of the primary reasons I haven’t gotten my own car. I’m very disappointed at this surprise announcement, and hope that the county government and Free2Move can come to an agreement to keep service operational in Arlington.”

The news got some traction on Twitter from transit advocates, including Aaron Landry, who oversaw the brief operations of German car-share company Car2Go in Arlington.

The full email from Free2Move is below.

To our community,

As you are aware, as part of our Car Sharing service Free2Move offers all members both residential parking and metered parking at no cost to you. Over the past few months we have been working with the City of Arlington to renew our permits to operate in Arlington. Unfortunately, we have not been able to renew the permit and we were notified today by the City of Arlington to cease our operations in the area.

What does this mean for our members? Starting at 12:01am on September 30th you will no longer see vehicles listed on our app in Arlington for rent. Trips can continue to be started in DC and drive through Arlington but you will no longer be able to end your trip in Arlington.

Additionally it will be the members responsibility to adhere to all parking regulations and costs in Arlington. We understand for many of you this will come as difficult news and it’s not one Free2Move is happy about. We have enjoyed being part of the community and supporting our members with their transportation needs.

If you have any questions please reach out to our customer support team.

Thank you,

Free2Move

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Morning Notes

Arlington Has High Kid Vax Rate — “Virginia schools have about 420,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15, and about 63 percent of them have received at least one shot, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said during a news conference Monday. But vaccinations are not evenly spread: Alexandria has the highest vaccination rate for children in the state, at 98.5 percent, followed by 92 percent in Arlington.” [Washington Post]

Film Crew at DCA Today — “No parking except film crew” signs near Long Bridge Park are in place for some sort of a documentary that’s being filmed at National Airport, Arlington’s film office coordinator tells ARLnow. [Twitter]

Man Throws Drink at Honking Driver — “At approximately 8:41 p.m. on September 25, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred. A lookout was broadcast and officers located the suspect in the 3500 block of Columbia Pike. The investigation determined that the victim was driving in the area when the male suspect, who was on foot, blocked his passage. The victim honked his horn to alert the suspect and as he was driving past, the suspect threw a beverage through the window, striking the victim in the head. The victim declined medical treatment and sustained minor injuries.” [ACPD]

County Reluctant to Loosen Lifeguard Rules — “It was a problem felt across Northern Virginia all summer – a lack of available lifeguards to keep watch over community pools. But should local governments provide exemptions for some pools to help alleviate a similar crisis next year? [Arlington] seems very hesitant.” [Sun Gazette]

Marymount Grad Wins Design Competition — “Tran Truong is a talent to be reckoned with in the design world. For the second consecutive year, the 26-year-old Marymount University student (now alumna) in May took top honors in a national competition hosted by the visual merchandising company WindowsWear. This year’s challenge: Design a store concept for the 40th anniversary of fashion label Michael Kors with an eye toward sustainability and social change.” [Arlington Magazine]

Photo courtesy Anthony Russo

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For nearly one year, Arlington County has studied whether the zoning code should be rewritten to allow low-to-moderate density housing types like duplexes in more neighborhoods.

The initiative is dubbed the “Missing Middle Housing Study.” It refers to mid-sized housing types, such as duplexes, triplexes, quads and townhomes, which are denser than a single-family home but smaller than an apartment or condo building.

The county says adding homes in the “Missing Middle” could tackle a local housing shortage. Since its launch, the study has been debated in panels and County Board candidate forums and referenced in discussions about changing zoning ordinances that have hurt some duplex owners.

But something simple may be hindering public perception of the study: the name.

“Everybody assumes it has to do with affordability… and they hang their own viewpoints on that,” said Jim Lantelme, who chairs the Planning Commission.

Speaking on behalf of himself as a resident, Lantelme says a name change may help people disassociate “Missing Middle” and affordable housing, which are separate (but related) issues. He presented this idea to during a joint Planning Commission-County Board meeting last week.

“Missing Middle, for whatever reason, people have a negative reaction right off the bat,” he tells ARLnow. “Why go off a name that’s closing off minds, rather than one that encourages dialogue — one that people have an open mind toward? By renaming it, we might have a better dialogue without having to overcome misapprehensions.”

The county is primarily examining whether different forms of housing can blend into existing, single-family home neighborhoods. The goal is a greater variety and supply of housing, including units that are less expensive than single-family homes but not necessarily affordable to those making well below the area median income in the same way as dedicated affordable housing.

Whether “Missing Middle” housing can be purchased by people in different income brackets depends on size, location and market forces, says Elise Cleva, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

To uncouple “Missing Middle” and affordability, Lantelme suggested names that clarify the study’s exploration of form. He pointed to “Low-Rise,” the name Los Angeles gave to its effort to add more low-rise multi-family buildings to the city.

“Why hobble yourself at the front, when you can try to get a term that is more accurate, that doesn’t have the connotations that people seem to be associating Missing Middle with, which is affordability,” he said.

Cleva said CPHD is also picking up on a disconnect. Over the next few months, during targeted engagement with members of harder-to-reach populations, she said CPHD will debut a clarifying tagline.

“In our interactions with them, we’ll be using a new tagline for the study, ‘Expanding Housing Choice’ and also continuing to articulate that the term ‘Missing Middle’ describes the size and type of a home — in the middle of a spectrum of housing options ranging from single detached homes to mid- and high-rise apartments and condos,” Cleva said.

She says CPHD is trying to address some misconceptions that resulted from a lack of engagement with certain populations.

“Basically, while we’ve reached many people, our engagement data thus far shows that there are many we have not reached, especially among renters and populations that have historically had less access to participate in planning processes,” she said. “It follows then that people we have not had a chance to dialogue with about the study may be unclear about its purpose and scope.”

On the question of renaming the study, Cleva said it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

“[We] remain open to the possibility of renaming the study, should we continue to receive feedback about the name causing confusion,” she said.

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The lower levels of the county government’s headquarters in Courthouse will undergo renovations starting next Monday, Sept. 20, and lasting through January 2023.

Most public areas of the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd) will remain accessible while the lower levels are being revamped, according to the county.

The $4.8 million project, which the County Board approved in July, includes a variety of renovations to the first three floors and the creation of additional spaces.

“The renovations are designed for better, more concentrated use of space by the public and staff,” the county said. “They also include a new reception area on the lobby level, more conference rooms, and security enhancements.”

There will be renovations to the lobby, second and third floors, the ninth-floor break-room and parking garage-level common areas. Arlington Public Library’s Plaza Branch, located in the lobby, will get a children’s area. More conference rooms will be added and the first-floor reception area for the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development will be reconfigured.

A county report from July said the renovations will support the county’s “new approach to building security as well as enhance customer interaction and engagement.”

Visitors will still be able to access lower-floor public service counters, including Voter Registration and Elections, the Treasurer’s Office and the office of the Commissioner of Revenue. Directional signs in common areas will guide visitors to their destinations.

Starting Monday, Sept. 27, the Treasurer’s Office will move to the first floor so people can pay their real estate and vehicle taxes in-person through the Tuesday, Oct. 5 due date.

The library’s Plaza Branch, which has been closed throughout the pandemic, will remain closed to the public during construction.

The County Board awarded the $4.8 million contract to Vienna-based Cooper Building Services. Funding will come from a $23.7 million tenant improvement allowance that was provided by landlord JBG Smith when the county renewed its lease in 2018.

The county previously used part of its tenant allowance on a contract to design the interior upgrades. There will be around $14 million left over after these renovations are complete.

Arlington County owns the land under the Bozman Center while JBG Smith owns the building. A letter of intent to restructure the ground lease agreement, announced in March, could eventually extend the land lease to JBG from 2062 to 2119.

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Morning Notes

County Closures for Labor Day — County-run Covid vaccination clinics and testing will be closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday. County offices, libraries, rec centers, courts and schools will also be closed. Trash will be collected, but parking meters will not be enforced. [Arlington County]

Two Libraries Reopening Next Week — “Starting September 7, 2021, Arlington Public Library will reopen two locations — Cherrydale and Glencarlyn Libraries… ‘The Library continues to make steady progress toward filling an unprecedented number of public service vacancies caused by the pandemic and subsequent hiring freeze. We believe we are turning the corner and look forward to seeing more of our patrons,’ said Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh.” [Press Release]

No County Cash for Amazon This Year — “Arlington won’t pay Amazon.com Inc. any cash incentives this year — the second year in a row the pandemic has essentially thwarted that deal… ‘As a result of the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions in place during much of the year, Arlington’s FY2021 Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenues did not yield the incremental growth necessary for Amazon to receive a grant for the second year of the 15-year performance period.'” [Washington Business Journal]

VRE Ridership Remains Low — “Despite upticks over the summer months, passenger counts for Virginia Railway Express (VRE) remain well down from pre-pandemic levels. For the weeks ending July 30, Aug. 6, Aug. 13 and Aug. 20, passenger counts were down 85.7 percent, 85.8 percent, 85.8 percent and 86.5 percent from the same periods in 2019, according to information provided by VRE officials to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.” [InsideNova]

New Restaurants Coming to Crystal City — “The Kabob Palace in Crystal City will soon have new neighbors. A halal restaurant franchisee has signed a lease for about 2,400 square feet at 2323 S. Eads St., where it plans to open a combined Peri Peri Original and Kallisto Steakhouse inside an end-cap space where the buffet-style Kabob Palace Family Restaurant had been.” [Washington Business Journal]

Map Chronicles Close Calls — “Developed with the help of Virginia Tech graduate students, the Near Miss Survey allows walkers, bicyclists, drivers, and other road users to report instances where they came close to getting into a crash or accident but were fortunate enough to avoid it. The resulting map highlights specific incidents as well as hotspots that are especially accident-prone, with the goal of helping local transportation and public safety officials see what areas need their attention.” [FFXnow]

Flickr photo by Bekah Richards

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Parking along N. Ivy Street near Clarendon (courtesy of Abigail Brooks)

Abigail Brooks and her husband moved into their new home on N. Ivy Street, which was built in 2020, in April of this year.

Since then, she says they’ve been stuck in a Residential Permit Parking program quagmire. While they live on a street that is in an RPP zone, they have not been able to get their address approved for a permits, meaning the couple could get ticketed for parking on their own street.

“Our house was built along with two others and it is only ours that is not showing correctly for parking,” she said. “I have tried different forms, emails, calling, etc. and still cannot get this resolved.”

Brooks said she has also found some people with the same issues through the gym to which she and her husband belong.

“A couple of us did new construction at the same time so we’ve shared lessons learned, timelines, etc.,” she said.

In a months-long email back-and-forth with the parking team, provided to ARLnow, county staff repeatedly said the Brooks’ address is not eligible for the program. Even an attempt to get a county real estate appraiser to confirm her home’s assessment information and thus parking permit eligibility was unsuccessful.

But Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet found that Brooks is correct: her home should be eligible.

“The resident is likely facing this issue because of a technical problem we’re experiencing that is preventing us from adding newly created addresses to our database,” he said. “This problem only affects newly created addresses… not existing addresses.”

The problem — affecting four households that the county knows of — was first identified in June 2021, but staff had a workaround in the database. That workaround stopped functioning in mid-July, Balliet said.

“We anticipate having the problem fixed by next week,” he said.

Until this issue is resolved, Balliet said residents can fill out a paper permit application and pay the permit fees in-person at county government headquarters. Staff will manually add the resident’s parking permit order to the system.

Brooks said it is unfortunate that she couldn’t get the same answer from the county.

“If they had responded and explained the issue, I would have understood and stopped bothering them for it to be fixed,” she said.

She praised other county functions for finding ways around the issue.

“Utilities, trash, recycling, etc. found workarounds for the issue we had with our address and personally ensured we got what we needed,” she said. “The real estate assessment team also were trying to be so helpful during the parking situation and we really appreciated how much they followed up with us to see if there is anything they could do to help resolve.”

Earlier this year, the county approved a number of changes to the Residential Permit Parking program. After considering paid, two-hour parking in RPP zones, the idea — which elicited public outcry — was nixed, but the program was expanded to make some multi-family properties, like apartment buildings, eligible.

Although the changes are in place, county staffers are still focused on renewing resident and landlord permits and passes for the 2021-2022 program year. They are still not processing petitions to establish new permit parking zones; the creation of new RPP zones has been frozen since the summer of 2017.

“We are finalizing updated petition procedures that incorporate changes the County Board adopted in February,” Balliet said. “We look forward to releasing those to the public in the coming weeks.”

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Morning Notes

Some Automatic Ped Signals Ending — “The County will be rolling back automatic pedestrian phase activations at several signalized intersections across Arlington. This measure was enacted in 2020 in response to low traffic volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to minimize the need to press push buttons to trigger the pedestrian phase at a signal. This initiative was accompanied by ‘Do Not Push’ signage posted at various intersections.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

Mostly Back to Usual for School Buses — “APS will operate with normal bus capacity and follow normal procedures. Properly fitted masks are required for everyone on school buses and inside schools. There will be no temperature checks or verification of health screening completion upon arrival at the bus or school. Families will continue to receive the daily Qualtrics Symptom Screener as a reminder to complete health screening with their children prior to arrival at the bus, and to check temperatures daily. Please keep students home if they are sick.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Armed Robbery of Phone in Penrose — “The victim and suspect connected online regarding the sale of a cellphone. When the male victim arrived at the agreed upon location, he approached the two suspects and asked if he could see the cellphone prior to purchasing. Suspect One reached into his backpack, brandished a firearm and demanded the victim give him all of his money while Suspect Two brandished a knife. The victim gave the suspects an undisclosed amount of cash and the two fled the scene on bikes.” [ACPD]

AWLA Caring for Cat Hit By Car — “Last week, Gomez was hit by a car and needs eye removal surgery, a weight -gain diet and monitoring for neurological symptoms. You can make sure Gomez, and more pets like him, get the lifesaving care they need by donating.” [Twitter]

County Mulls Joining Sports Event Consortium — “Should Arlington government leaders wish to join an emerging regional consortium aimed at jointly promoting sports facilities in Northern Virginia, they’d be welcome to do so, officials with the new group said. In return, Arlington officials said they would be interested in being part of the effort down the road, if opportunities present themselves.” [Sun Gazette]

Free Cuts for Kids at Local Barbershop — “Moore’s Barber Shop in Arlington is part of the initiative, ‘Kuts For Kids,’ with Building Blocks Mentoring Program… giving kids free back-to-school haircuts.” [Fox 5]

Segment Draws Customer from a Distance — From barber James Moore: “Yesterday, @fox5dc @gwenfox5dc did a story at the barbershop. A man 70 miles away saw it and came in for a haircut today. My new friend Mike gave me tomatoes, peppers, apricot preserve and a FD patch for our ‘good deeds.’ It was so cool!” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Order in Briscoe Case Likely Unconstitutional — “A judge dismissed the protective order Wednesday, and two legal experts said such blanket bans on speech violate the U.S. Constitution. Yet [local TikTok personality Coco] Briscoe, who has filed her own police report, could still be guilty of a misdemeanor, in a case that shows how social media disputes can run out of control and into the First Amendment.” [Washington Post]

County Recruiting for New Mental Health Group — “Arlington County is seeking community members to join a stakeholder group that will help Arlington County Government implement the requirements of Virginia’s new Marcus-David Peters Act. The Act, which was signed into law in late 2020 by Governor Ralph Northam, will create a statewide mental health alert system, also known as Marcus Alert, to ensure behavioral health experts are involved in responding to people in crisis.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Touts Va. Investments — “Out of Amazon’s total dollars dedicated to infrastructure and compensation in Virginia, Northern Virginia has collected the vast majority — almost 84% — a tally of $28.5 billion from 2010 to 2020, company spokeswoman Emily Hawkins said… Amazon’s most recent tally of hiring for its Arlington second headquarters is 1,600 corporate employees, Hawkins said — an early step toward the company’s plans to hire at least 25,000 total by 2030.” [Washington Business Journal]

Recognition for County Code Enforcers — “The Arlington County Code Enforcement Section of the Inspection Services Division (ISD) is the first property maintenance enforcement agency in Virginia to obtain accreditation from the International Accreditation Services (IAS).” [Arlington County]

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