Want to see for how much your neighbor just sold her house? That’s one of the streams of information in Arlington County’s new mobile app.
My Arlington, the recently-released app for iPhone and Android devices, “puts popular County information about events, real estate, permits and more in the palm of your hand,” says a county press release.
Among the noted features are:
- “County Board and commission meetings, searchable by geographic location, date and other criteria”
- “County sponsored events, searchable by geographic location, date, age group and other criteria”
- “Permits information (status, permit type, description of work, contractor, location owner, etc.), searchable by geographic location and permit type”
- “Real estate sales and assessment information, searchable by geographic location, price and property type”
- “Newsfeeds for County Government and Arlington Public Schools”
- “Alerts, including Arlington Alerts and transit-related alerts and updates for WMATA and ART”
- “County contact information including links to the County’s Service Directory and a feedback form for the app”
“My Arlington is a terrific new tool that will help us better engage and communicate with our community,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “We are already working on making the app even more robust – we think this, and other technologies we are looking into, will help us better serve residents and make County government more accessible and transparent.”
The county is “already working on adding more functions to the app, including: traffic disruptions, crime statistics and other useful information.”
My Arlington will supplement other county apps like the ArlingtonVA Service Requests app, which launched in 2014 and allows residents to report potholes, trash collection issues and other non-emergency problems.
The Office of Personnel Management announced Monday night that federal offices would remain closed Tuesday, though “emergency and telework-ready employees required to work must follow their agency’s policies.”
Arlington County government offices, facilities and courts — with the exception of General District Court — are scheduled to reopen at noon on Tuesday.
“Unscheduled leave and telework options are encouraged for County employees, with supervisor’s approval,” the county noted in a press release.
Arlington public libraries will open at noon on Tuesday, but children’s programs are cancelled. Many Arlington parks and recreation programs are also cancelled. Schools remain closed.
Trash and recycling collection, meanwhile, is also still suspended, but may resume on Wednesday.
County snow crews and contractors are continuing to work around the clock to clear snow and ice from local streets.
“County crews are now deep into Phase 3 of snow cleanup operations, focusing on residential streets,” the press release said. “In many areas, crews have had to bring in heavy construction equipment to break through snow/ice banks at the ends of streets so plows can get in.”
“The goal is to get to all neighborhood streets by Tuesday night but it may take until Wednesday, Jan. 27, to reach some sections given the amount of snowfall and related conditions, including buried parked cars,” the press release continues. “County officials are asking residents for continued patience as enormous amounts of snow are removed from roadways and, in many cases, transported miles away.”
The county’s snow removal ordinance remains suspended “because of the massive amounts of snow that fell on area sidewalks.”
“No citations will be issued during the cleanup,” the county said. “However, the goals behind the ordinance remain… so all efforts to clear sidewalks for the community are appreciated.”
Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management warned that an overnight refreeze could make for treacherous driving early Tuesday morning. “Please use extra caution,” OEM urged in an Arlington Alert.
Among the county officials getting back to work on Tuesday will be members of the Arlington County Board.
“The Arlington County Board will convene as scheduled Tuesday, Jan. 26, at 3 p.m.,” said the county press release. “It will defer consideration of both the January Consent and Regular Agendas to the Recessed Meeting now scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28.”
Photo courtesy James Mahony
Garvey, a Democrat who has clashed with the local Democratic establishment over her endorsement of independent John Vihstadt and opposition to the Columbia Pike streetcar, was unanimously elected County Board Chair at the Board’s annual New Year’s Day organizational meeting on Jan. 1.
Garvey is up for reelection this year and it is a long-standing tradition that the Board member who is up for reelection serve as Chair.
Jay Fisette, meanwhile, was elected vice chair. Fisette, who has served on the Board since 1999, is now the body’s most senior member, following the retirements of Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada. Their successors, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, served their first day on the Board at Friday’s meeting.
Garvey, who was first elected in 2012, outlined her priorities at the meeting. Among them:
- Improving county government customer service, including by reforming the “Byzantine” zoning and permitting process for homeowners, small businesses and developers.
- Moving forward with a new transit plan for Columbia Pike. Garvey said she was frustrated with the slow pace of planning following the streetcar’s cancellation, and instructed the County Manager to report back later this month on plans including off-board fare collection and traffic signal prioritization.
- Broader civic participation in county government. Garvey wants to see busier people — those with kids or jobs that prevent them from attending long meetings — have a greater voice in local policymaking.
- More flexibility in local regulation. Garvey said Arlington should be careful not to stifle innovation and to not over-regulate to the point where there’s too much sameness in Arlington’s local communities.
Garvey said she also wants to “ensure that every Arlingtonian, people of all ages, interests, and from across the socioeconomic spectrum, can live and work here comfortably.”
Acting County Manager Mark Schwartz said he and county staff are focusing on improving the county’s use of technology in service delivery and to promote government transparency and accountability. Possible new initiatives include streaming county commission meetings, which currently are not recorded for public broadcast.
Vice Chair Fisette, meanwhile, said his focus will be on schools and county facilities
In her remarks, Garvey said she looks forward to “the need for facilities, including schools, while constrained by limited land,” along with strengthening Arlington’s economic competitiveness, balancing the budget and focusing on housing affordability.
“Clearly, some things are going to be different this year, but a lot will stay the same,” Garvey said. “My goal is to see that Arlington achieves its potential.”
“We have challenges, like our commercial vacancy rate, our growing need for more school space, and our shrinking supply of affordable housing but this remains a wonderful community,” Garvey continued. “I’m confident that, together, our residents, our businesses, our staff, and this new Board will make sure that Arlington delivers outstanding customer service to all our residents and businesses, that every Arlingtonian who wants can have a voice in our government, and that we will work strategically to make this wonderful County even better.”
Garvey Named 2016 Arlington County Board Chair — Libby Garvey, who is facing a challenge in this year’s Democratic primary, has been named the Chair of the Arlington County Board. Articles to follow.
Update: Family Given Lease Extension — An Arlington family with a disabled son has been given a 30-day lease extension, after they went to the media to protest the landlord’s reported refusal to renew their lease. The family said the manager of Columbia Pike apartment complex complained about them making too much noise. [Washington Post]
Dorsey to Serve on Metro Board — Christian Dorsey, who along with Katie Cristol began his first County Board term on Jan. 1, has been chosen to serve as Arlington’s non-voting representative on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors. [InsideNova]
Reminder: Arlington Is the Smallest Governing County — Arlington County is the smallest self-governing county in the United States. Kalawao County in Hawaii, New York County in Manhattan and Bristol County in Rhode Island are smaller, but don’t have their own separate county governments. [Arlington County]
Favola Proposes Allowing Cigarette Tax Hike — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) has proposed a bill that would allow Arlington and Fairfax counties to double local cigarette taxes. The extra funds would be used to support education. [InsideNova]
Free Breakfast at Northside Social — It’s unclear whether the promotion is still going on as of publication time, but Northside Social this morning was giving away free breakfasts and coffee courtesy of the new CBS show Angel from Hell, starring Jane Lynch. [Twitter, Twitter]
Christmas Tree Collection Starts Today — Christmas tree collection in Arlington County starts today and runs through Friday, Jan. 15. Trees will be collected curbside on regular trash collection days. Those who live in apartments or condos without county trash collection can bring their trees to the Solid Waste Bureau near Shirlington. [ARLnow]
Family: We’re Being Evicted Because Our Disabled Son Is Too Loud — A family of a disabled boy says they’re being evicted from the Oakland Apartments on Columbia Pike because the 10-year-old boy makes too much noise. Local tenant advocates Bravo and Bu-Gata have taken up the cause of the Diaz family and held a press conference yesterday. [Washington Post, NBC Washington]
Arlington County Ready for Winter Weather — While there’s been little evidence of winter so far, given the procession of record warm temperatures, Arlington County says it’s ready to do battle with snow and ice when the time comes. The county says it has reviewed its operations, reinforced its training and acquired an additional 1,200 tons of salt compared to last year. [Arlington County]
View of Rosslyn Skyline in 1964 — The Key Bridge looked pretty much the same, but downtown Rosslyn looked a lot different in 1964. A historical photo shows only a handful of mid-rise office buildings and at least one of the River Place co-op buildings — but none of the towering buildings that characterize the modern Rosslyn skyline. [Twitter]
Webb Books Clinton’s Spiritual Advisor — Mike Webb, the Republican who hopes to challenge Rep. Don Beyer in next year’s election, says he’s booked Bill Clinton’s former spiritual advisor to speak at a campaign-sponsored prayer breakfast next month. The press release also pokes fun at Beyer’s Taylor Swift ticket fundraiser and notes that “earlier press releases from Webb published in ARL Now were met with derision.” [PDF]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
In a press release, the county said that it received perfect marks for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender protections, but was held back on overall rankings due to restrictive state laws.
From Arlington County:
The County received a score of 87 out of 100 in this year’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) issued by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group. The annual report card graded 408 localities across the nation, measuring the effectiveness of state and local laws in achieving inclusivity.
Arlington won perfect scores for ensuring that LGBT constituents receive the fullest measure of County services, law enforcement efforts and outreach. It also received bonus points for having openly LGBT officials and for being “pro-equality despite restrictive state laws.”
County Board member Jay Fisette says Arlington’s high score in the MEI “validates us as a community that not only espouses a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, but applies those values in real ways that make a difference in people’s lives.” The index also shows, however, “that there’s still plenty of work to do to protect each and every Virginian.”
Although 47 jurisdictions in the United States achieved overall perfect scores, Virginia can claim none. Arlington and the eight other participating local governments in the Commonwealth were held back by a lack of state protections in areas such as transgender benefits for employees.
The so-called Dillon Rule prevents localities in Virginia from acting on those issues in which authority is not expressly granted by the General Assembly.
Fisette was the first openly gay elected official in state history.
There are currently no statewide laws in the Commonwealth that prevent discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Since Arlington County updated its website two years ago, officials have seen significant increases in the number of mobile site visitors and e-mail subscribers, making it more critical than ever for the site to stay optimized for its on-the-go users.
According to the county’s Digital Communications Manager Jennifer Smith, 37 percent of site traffic is from mobile devices, up from 25 percent before the upgrade. Mobile phones account for 30 percent of site traffic, with the remaining 7 percent attributed to tablets.
“When we first redesigned the site our goal was to make it mobile-friendly,” Smith said. “Having mobile use increase from about a quarter to more than a third is huge, and the importance of being mobile-friendly is more critical than ever.”
With the upgrade came new features designed to be especially easy for mobile users, including the site’s calendar feature Arlington Today, more forms available online that can be completed on a mobile device, and organizing the site by topic rather than by department.
The County also rolled out a new e-mail subscription services feature over the summer with an easy sign-up option on the site’s homepage. Users can choose from a list of more than 100 topics they would like to be notified about, from police-related news to trash and recycling updates.
Smith said more than 65,000 people now subscribe to the service, and the average user is subscribed to 2.3 different topics.
She added this progress has inspired the County to do make more improvements to its digital offerings in the new year.
This includes plans to “do more in the mobile application space” in 2016. Though the County already has an app for reporting problems, there’s opportunity to expand it and make more services easily accessible on mobile devices.
“Our goal is to continually look for ways to improve the site and make it easier for those people coming to it,” Smith said. “I don’t think any organization in this day and age is moving away from mobile. It was a key part of revamping the site a couple years ago, so we’ll continue to look for ways to improve in that space.”
Dec. 24 and 25 Closures
County government offices will be closed this Thursday and Friday for Christmas. That includes the courts, the DMV and public libraries.
While the Parks and Recreation office will also be closed, park grounds will remain open on those days. The Sheriff’s Office will also hold detention center visiting hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on both days.
Trash pick up and recycling will run normal operations on Thursday, but there will be no collection on Friday. Regularly-scheduled Friday pick up will occur on Saturday, Dec. 26 instead.
As for getting around, Metrorail and Metrobus will operate on holiday schedules both days. On Thursday, ART will offer regular service, with the 43 and 84 routes starting at 12:30 p.m on Christmas Eve to accommodate the federal government’s early release.
Only ART routes 41, 45, 51, 55 and 87 will operate Christmas day, and those routes will operate on a Sunday schedule. All other routes will be closed.
Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 Closures
The County will experience the same closures for New Year’s Day next Friday with a few minor differences.
Public libraries will close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31 and remain closed on New Year’s Day.
There will be no trash collection on Friday. Pick up will occur on Saturday, Jan. 2 instead.
For transportation on New Year’s Day, the Metro will operate on a holiday schedule again. The same select ART routes — 41, 45, 51, 55 and 87 — will operate on Sunday schedules, and all other routes will be closed.
Other Holiday Notes
On Dec. 24, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, parking in meters and residential zone restrictions will not be enforced.
All public schools will remain closed, on holiday break, until Monday, Jan. 4.
More details on this holiday schedule and other closures are available on the County website.
Arlington County has plugged a vulnerability in its automated services system for homeowners, after the vulnerability was brought to officials’ attention by ARLnow.com and a local IT services provider.
The vulnerability was in a phone system and website used by the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services to automate waste pickup scheduling and water service changes.
The phone system would allow a caller to enter either an account number or their address. When one entered an address, however, the system would then provide that homeowner’s name and account number.
With the account number, one could theoretically go online and shut off the home’s water service, or order a big pile of mulch to be delivered to their yard and billed to their account.
ARLnow.com tested the vulnerability and came one click away from sending a big mulch pile to the front yard of a national media personality who lives in Arlington. Through a spokeswoman, that individual declined to comment or be identified in this article.
Within a week of ARLnow.com notifying the county, the automated phone system had been taken offline — callers now only have the option of speaking to a customer service representative — and some account number fields were removed from online forms.
“Our approach is customer-focused and to make it convenient for residents to make service requests, order mulch and report problems through the County website or by telephone,” said Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “It is a philosophy our customers value based on their feedback.”
“To date, we have not had a problem with people misusing the system,” Baxter continued. “As with any system, we are always looking for ways to improve while balancing the needs of our customers. Thanks for bringing this matter to our attention.”
Alexander Chamandy, the founder of Arlington-based IT services firm Envescent, LLC, was the first to spot the vulnerability.
“I discovered this unauthorized information disclosure issue by accident when scheduling a curbside pickup with Arlington,” he said. “It was disconcerting that one’s account information, name, address and other details could be shared with an unauthorized party. Because identity theft and data breaches are on the rise I felt it was important to alert ARLnow.com and Arlington County.”
County Apologizes for Political Facebook Post — Arlington County has taken down and apologized for a Facebook post that some called inappropriate. “No support or endorsement was intended” the county said of the post, which linked to an article about an Arlington County Democratic Committee resolution calling for a change to the Washington Redskins team name. [Facebook]
Arlington to Partner with Nextdoor — The Arlington County Police Department will be holding a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce a partnership with Nextdoor, a private social network for neighborhoods. The partnership will help “build stronger, safer communities with the help of Arlington residents.” Nextdoor has been criticized recently for becoming “a bastion of racial profiling.”
Bluemont Residents Concerned About Big Ballston Development — The Bluemont Civic Association is expressing concern over a massive proposed development on the western side of the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd. The development proposal calls for 483 apartments in a building with a grocery store and other ground floor retail. [Curbed]
Arlington-Built Satellite Blasts Off to Space Station — A tiny satellite built by elementary students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington is part of the cargo of a rocket that launched into orbit Sunday, bound for the International Space Station. [CBS News, Space.com]
‘Arlington Tech’ School Proposal — The Arlington School Board has signaled that it’s ready to move forward with the establishment of “Arlington Tech,” a high-technology coursework initiative to be located at the Arlington Career Center. [InsideNova]
Anti-Hunger Effort Draws Big Crowd — More than 1,000 people gathered at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center gym over the weekend to put together 100,000 meals for starving children around the world. [NBC Washington]
Arlington’s Official Song Turns 45 — “Arlington,” the official song of Arlington County, recently turned 45 years old. The song was written by a local clergyman and adopted as the county’s official song in 1970 with the encouragement of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Passenger Thrown from Minivan in Crash — Three people were hurt in an early morning crash on S. Arlington Ridge Road today. Police say a car traveling at 55 mph on the residential street slammed into the back of a minivan near 23rd Street S., causing one passenger in the van to be ejected from the vehicle. [WJLA, NBC Washington]
School Board Approves $100 Million H-B Design — The Arlington School Board has approved a concept design for the Wilson School in Rosslyn, future home of the H-B Woodlawn secondary program. With a 92-space parking garage factored in, the construction cost of the school may exceed $100 million. Also last week, the School Board confirmed that it will again ask the County Board for permission to build a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson Middle School campus. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
County Facebook Post Raises Eyebrows — Democratic political operative Ben Tribbett, among others, is calling an Arlington County Facebook post about a local Democratic resolution on the Redskins team name an “inappropriate use of a government Facebook account.” Tribbett was previously hired by the team to defend its name. [Facebook, Blue Virginia]
Nine Arlington Restaurants Make Top 50 List — Nine Arlington establishments have made Northern Virginia Magazine’s Top 50 Restaurants list. The highest on the list is new-this-year Kapnos Taverna in Ballston. [Patch]
Fisette on County’s Support for I-66 Plan — Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette says the county supports a plan for tolling I-66 because it is a regional compromise that’s cost effective, multimodal and not “the typical knee-jerk reaction [of] just widening roads.” Fisette notes that Arlington “was traumatized by the building of I-66 right through some of our neighborhoods” in the 1970s and 80s. [Washington Post]
Four Mile DMV Moving After Losing Lease — Dozens of angry Fairfax County residents came out to a meeting Thursday night to express opposition to a new DMV office in the Barcroft Plaza shopping center. The meeting also revealed more information on why the DMV is moving from its current location on S. Four Mile Run Drive. The DMV reportedly lost its lease due to a planned redevelopment, which has since fallen through. [Annandale VA]
More Info on Courthouse Redevelopment — We now know a bit more about the planned redevelopment of a low-rise office building in Courthouse. A 15-story, 91-unit condo building with 2,000 square feet of ground floor retail space is planned to replace the office building at 2000 Clarendon Blvd. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
County Creates Veterans Committee — Arlington County is creating a Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, to “identify, prioritize and implement programs and initiatives to recognize and support our active duty military population, our veterans, and their families.” The committee will also serve as the county’s liaison to the Vietnam War 50th anniversary commemoration. [Arlington County]
Pot Legalization Advocates Meeting in Arlington — The 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference is being held in Crystal City today through Saturday. The group holding the conference is planning to lobby Congress for laws that would make it easier for states to legalize marijuana and decrease penalties for non-violent drug offenders. [Associated Press, Drugpolicy.org]
Arlington Startup Gets $2 Million Investment — Arlington-based cybersecurity startup TruStar Technology has raised $2 million in seed round funding, led by Silicon Valley-based investors. [Washington Business Journal]
Weather Gang, Topper Predict Less Snow — Contrary to NBC4’s Doug Kammerer, who predicted a snowier-than-average winter, the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang and WUSA9’s Topper Shutt both are predicting less snow than usual and warmer than usual temperatures. [Washington Post]
Following the terror attacks in Paris, there has been a backlash against plans to bring refugees from Syria’s bloody civil war to the U.S. More than half of the nation’s governors — mostly Republicans — have expressed opposition to hosting Syrian refugees in their states.
In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) says he will not ban refugees from the Commonwealth. Arlington, meanwhile, says it’s ready to help refugees who are sent to the county.
“While there is no official role for the Arlington County government in resettlement decisions or in receiving refugees, we have expressed our interest in serving as a receiving community for refugees,” said Brian Stout, Arlington County’s federal liaison.
Once in Arlington, the county’s Dept. of Human Service would offer a number of free services to refugees through its Community Outreach Program, including:
- Citizenship classes and workshops
- English language classes
- Computer classes
- Job readiness training
- Food and nutrition classes
- Health screenings and presentations
Those services are available in Arabic and other languages, according to information on refugee resettlement in Arlington provided to ARLnow.com. The document also states that county staff is able to “signal our interest in assisting” with refugee resettlement by communicating “the benefits of Arlington as a placement site to the State Department and the placement agencies.”
In order to come to Arlington, a refugee would either need to have family in the area, or it would need to be determined by federal authorities that Arlington was best suited to the refugee’s needs. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement would refer the refugee to the Virginia Dept. of Social Services, which would in turn refer him or her to the local, contracted refugee service provider — which for Arlington is Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.
So far, the county is unaware of any Syrian refugees that have been resettled in Arlington, Stout said. ARLnow.com was unable to reach Catholic Charities for comment.
Per security concerns about ISIS-affiliated terrorists posing as refugees, Gov. McAuliffe’s office said in a statement that each refugee “undergoes intensive security screening” from federal authorities. Even so, McAuliffe has also specifically asked his homeland security secretary to “ensure that every proper precaution is taken to keep Virginians safe.”
Republicans in the House of Delegates say they will introduce legislation early next year to ban Syrian refugees from Virginia.
Arlington County, along with other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, is currently conducting a blanket and coat drive for Syrian refugees.
Arlington County courts, libraries, public schools and other government offices will be closed for the holiday, and metered parking will not be enforced, the county said. Arlington Transit will operate on a holiday schedule.
Trash and recycling services, meanwhile, will operate on a normal schedule.
Arlington has set up a text line and a new website to gather suggestions for digital tools that could “make it easier to communicate and do business with the County.” The website says the suggestion-gathering effort will wrap up by Nov. 15.
From a press release:
The County is always looking for new opportunities to engage its residents and gain their input on the issues that matter. Today, we’re launching a month long outreach effort to ask Arlingtonians what future mobile or online services they think would make it easier to communicate and do business with the County.
Participants should visit http://insights.arlingtonva.us or or send a text to 703-270-0070 to share their ideas for a new mobile or online service. Once we conclude the input period, we will gather the ideas, develop insights and then use the information as part of our overall decision making process. We’ll be sharing our findings with participants and others along the way.