Arlington, VA

Arlington County has undergone drastic changes over the last 100 years to become what it is today.

In celebrating the county’s history and the 2020 census, County Manager Mark Schwartz will compare a snapshot of the area from 100 years ago and today’s Arlington during a virtual discussion.

The two-hour program will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. and can be viewed on the county’s Facebook page, YouTube channel, or on Arlington TV (Comcast 1085/Verizon 40).

An interactive storybook and map will be paired with the discussion. The session will also feature a “conversation with the members of the Complete Count Committee appointed in 2019 on their experiences with working on the 2020 census,” according to Schwartz.

“Viewers can expect a summary of how Arlington of today compares with the Arlington of 100 years ago on a number of measures, including population, family size, demographic makeup (race, age, gender, languages spoken, housing types),” Schwartz wrote in an email.

Schwartz added that the discussion will include “a history lesson on what Arlington looked like and some stories from 100 years ago that shed some light on the Arlington of today.”

The broadcast will explore the county’s transformation since its naming as a nod to the Arlington House in Arlington National Cemetery — an association that is now under scrutiny. The name was officially changed from Alexandria County in 1920 to avoid being confused with the city of Alexandria.

Arlington County grew from a primarily rural area of farms — the last of which closed in 1955 — as its population steadily increased and new developments were established.

Farms gave way to housing developments, new businesses and modernized infrastructure over the years. The population followed suit as an increase of federal workers spilled into the area during the 1930s, as National Airport opened in 1941, as World War II saw the construction of the Pentagon, and as the Metrorail corridors were introduced in the 1970s.

The county’s population has grown exponentially from the 16,040 residents counted in the 1920 census, which included sections of Del Ray and the City of Alexandria that were part of the county then, according to Arlington’s website.

Arlington County has grown every decade since 1920, except in the 1970s when the area’s population dropped by 12.4%. However, the population rebounded and steadily grew to 207,627 in 2010, according to census data.

The latest estimates peg the county’s population at 228,400, a 10% increase from 2010. A forecast by the county shows the population growing to 301,200 in 2045.

“Today, Arlington is a diverse and inclusive world-class urban community with a population that continues to grow at approximately 1% per year,” the county website says.

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Deputy County Manager Samia Byrd has been promoted to the new position of Chief Race and Equity Officer, Arlington County announced today.

Byrd, a long-time county employee who previously worked in the Department of Community Planning, Housing and a Development, will oversee work “to inform the County’s development of its plan for addressing race and equity issues.”

A University of Virginia graduate and Hampton, Va. native, Byrd said she is looking forward to the challenges ahead in the new role.

“The time is past due to dedicate and commit our time, resources and effort to advancing race and equity in achieving Arlington’s vision of a diverse and inclusive community,” she said in a statement. “It is an opportunity we should not take lightly or as a response to the moment, and one I approach with humility.”

More from a county press release, below.

As the Chief Race and Equity Officer for Arlington County, Samia Byrd will lead the County’s work to advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion both internal and external to the organization. This includes guiding and facilitating the development and implementation of important policies and practices through an equity lens.

“Samia will be instrumental to helping Arlington better understand the cracks in our foundation,” stated County Manager Mark Schwartz. “I am excited to have her in this new leadership role as we identify the solutions moving forward to ensure that everyone in Arlington has the same opportunities regardless of the color of their skin, their education level, their housing type, their job, or the Arlington ZIP code where they live. I am honored that she will take on this work.  She will bring a deep sense of commitment, faith, and insight to a subject that is profoundly, at its core, about what type of community we want to be.”

Ms. Byrd will continue to oversee and manage the County’s coordinated work with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government (COG) Racial Equity Cohort comprised of Senior County and Arlington Public Schools staff, to inform the County’s development of its plan for addressing race and equity issues. This includes working closely with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, a national network of governments working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all, to help guide the development of a racial equity tool later this year.

Once developed, the racial equity tool will be used in guiding policy, practice, program and budget decisions and offer new strategies for achieving racial equity outcomes in Arlington. Ms. Byrd will also have a pivotal role in developing and implementing a Countywide Racial Equity Action Plan.

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Masks significantly reduce the transmission of coronavirus, making their usage during the pandemic a public health priority.

To encourage wider use of masks, Arlington County is planning to give them away for free.

Earlier this month County Board member Katie Cristol revealed that Arlington had “recently put in a pretty significant order for cloth face coverings that were intended to be distributed around the county.” The idea, she said, was to encourage rather than mandate mask usage — a carrot vs. stick approach.

During last night’s Board meeting, County Manager Mark Schwartz said the masks will be given out in various parts of the county.

“We’re going to be setting up locations across the county where people who do not have masks could go and get them if needed,” he said, adding that more details will be released next week.

The county, Schwartz noted, has established something of an “emergency logistics operation” since the start of the pandemic, distributing hundreds of thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to first responders, healthcare providers and others.

A county spokeswoman tells ARLnow that much of the new mask distribution effort will be accomplished through community organizations and nonprofits.

“Arlington County has procured cloth facial coverings to distribute to Arlington’s most vulnerable populations,” said Jennifer K. Smith. “The County is planning to enlist the help of community-based organizations (CBOs), including safety net nonprofit partners, to help distribute the facial coverings. The County will be reaching out to these CBOs in advance of the delivery of the face coverings, which is expected in the coming weeks.”

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Arlington County is working to publicly release data on payments to vendors, according to an email exchange between county officials and a local resident.

The new initiative came to light after a local resident filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to obtain a list of county expenditures, sorted by vendor, for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Some other localities publicly list such information, in the interest of transparency and showing which companies were being paid by the local government.

The county’s initial response to the FOIA request was to demand payment of $8,750 to produce the information, citing a need for a budget analyst to spend 250 hours to compile it.

“The County is permitted to make reasonable charges to cover the County’s actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for any potential responsive records. The estimated cost associated with the request is $8,750.00,” the Arlington County FOIA office said in a letter. “Arlington County must review the financial data for potential exemptions to protect sensitive information on a line-item basis, which is the reason for this cost estimate.”

The resident, Patrick Lockhart, then appealed to the County Board and the County Manager to intervene. In response, the County Manager’s office agreed to waive the fee, noting that vendor payment information is set to be released through the county’s Arlington Wallet portal.

The website, which launched in early 2019, contains charts and graphs intended to give residents a clearer look at how officials are spending money each year.

There’s no word yet on when the new vendor-level expenditure information will be released, but a county official said it’s coming soon.

“Our Department of Management and Finance (DMF) has been working on the next phase of Arlington Wallet for some time now, and is actually getting close to being able to roll that out publicly,” wrote Ben Aiken, Director of Constituent Services in the County Manager’s office. “This next phase will contain the transaction level detail that will include vendor name and transaction descriptions, amongst other attributes.”

The full email is below.

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The upshot of most Arlingtonians being confined to their homes is that Arlington is seeing fairly high rates of responses to the 2020 census.

County Manager Mark Schwartz said at Tuesday’s County Board meeting that the Arlington is already seeing higher rates of people turning in census forms than at this time in the 2010 census. The rate currently sits at 27.4%.

“We went back and looked at 2010 and we’re doing better than we were doing in 2010,” Schwartz said. “I think part of that is because people are at home… It’s really good for where we are in the process.”

County officials are pushing census participation, the upshot of which is more representation in Congress and more federal assistance. County Board member Katie Cristol said that respondents should remember to “count their babies” in the census, noting that populations under five-years-old were the most underreported demographics in the last census.

Households can respond to the census online, by phone, or by mail until Aug. 14. Households should have recently received census mailers.

Schwartz said county officials are still hoping to set up mobile census assistances stations outside places like grocery stores and community centers once the pandemic concerns have died down.

Many of the traditional methods the county uses to encourage people to fill out the census, like pop-ups, have been canceled. The county government is still finding other ways to promote responding to the census.

“We’re including information about the census with food distribution that’s going on,” Schwartz said. “Several hundred tote bags have been given to AFAC as a way of emphasizing that.”

If you were curious about whether County Manager Mark Schwartz has a poem for the moment, you won’t be disappointed. He recited the following self-written verse at the meeting.

Covid has us all feeling frustration

What a great time to ensure our county’s enumeration

Take a minute or two to complete your census form

Perfect to do while social distancing is the norm

Just go to census.gov and complete all the questions

So Arlington can get our full representation

Schwartz’s full presentation is below.

Image via Arlington County

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Several senior Arlington County employees left the Saturday, Jan. 25, Arlington County Board meeting with renewed contracts and some notable pay bumps.

The County Manager, County Attorney, County Auditor and Clerk to the County Board all had their contracts unanimously approved in a 5-0 vote with no discussion.

County Manager Mark Schwartz got a 4.5% raise to $282,489 annually. It’s a little less than his neighbor, Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks, who earns $288,000 annually, according to the Alexandria Gazette Packet. On the other hand, it’s a little more than the $268,000 salary for Bryan Hill, who has the equivalent position in Fairfax County.

This is also the first time Schwartz’s salary has surpassed his predecessor, Barbara Donnellan, whose salary was $270,000 annually by the end of her five-year tenure. Schwartz became County Manager in 2015.

County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac, meanwhile, got a 3.5% raise to $261,933 per year — more than the $243,812 annual salary paid to Alexandria City Attorney Joanna Anderson.

County Auditor Christopher Horton got a 3.25% raise to $147,493 per year. Horton became the county auditor in 2016 and is the County’s second auditor. The first left the job after less than seven months.

Kendra Jacobs, Clerk to the County Board, had the biggest raise at 6.75%, increasing her salary to $115,749. Jacobs was appointed to the role in 2018.

The top county employees also received a raise last year; for all but Horton the raise was higher this year.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The Arlington County Board will soon vote on whether to spend over $700,000 upgrading the County Manager’s Office.

Member are scheduled to vote on the proposed renovation to the third floor office suite in the Bozman building (2100 Clarendon Blvd) during their meeting this Saturday, November 16.

If members vote to approve the project, the county will award $631,535 to Manassas-based Juniper Construction Company, Inc, plus an additional $126,307 for unanticipated costs.

A staff report to the Board indicates that the contract would fund upgrades to:

  • Create a “joint reception area” for the County Manager and County Board offices as well as a new “huddle room”
  • Several “open office concept work spaces” for staffers
  • Renovated conference rooms on the 3rd floor
  • “New finishes” in the offices and hallway

As of today (Thursday), the item is listed on the Board’s consent agenda, a place usually reserved for issues members expect to pass without debate.

The work is funded by a tenant improvement allowance negotiated as part of the county’s lease renewal and is part of a larger project to renovate the local government headquarters.

“The total project budget for the Bozman Government Center Renovation Project is $23.5M with the 3rd Floor CMO Suite renovation at $757,842.17,” the report notes.

Recently, the Board approved a multimillion dollar contract to replace the heating system at the county’s jail and courthouse building.

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As one fire station faces permanent closure, Arlington County is considering plans to open another one.

Fire Station 7 in Fairlington (3116 S. Abingdon Street) temporarily closed in October due to structural safety concerns. The crews relocated to other stations, with Fire Station 9 and nearby Alexandria and Fairfax stations assigned to cover Fairlington and nearby parts of South Arlington.

The station hasn’t reopened since, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Ben O’Bryant.

That closure could become permanent. Since at least 2014, the station has been on the chopping block. A report from 2012 noted that the station is beloved by the community, but lacks the efficiency of other stations throughout the county.

According to the report:

Station 7 is located in a residential community that has narrow streets and limited access. It does not provide as wide coverage area as do other fire stations in the County. Well maintained and in excellent condition, Station 7 is considered a ‘neighborhood treasure’ to residents of the community. The Routley study also recommended the elimination of Station 7, or its relocation to South George Mason Drive near Wakefield High School. This study found that Stations 7 and 9 could be merged to a location near the intersection of South Walter Reed Drive and South Four Mile Run Drive.

At an audit meeting last week regarding the overuse of overtime in the Fire Department, County Board Vice Chair Libby Garvey said part of the reasoning behind Fire Station 7’s closure is that 60 percent of the station’s runs are to Alexandria and Fairfax.

The County Manager is close to making a decision on the future of Fire Station 7, according to county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith, and more information should be forthcoming “soon.”

Meanwhile, the County is in the early days of scouting sites for a new fire station on Columbia Pike. No timeline or site has been identified, but County Manager Mark Schwartz noted that the eastern end of Columbia Pike is a desirable location based on previous studies.

In the audit meeting, County officials also noted that new development planned for the eastern end of Columbia Pike and in the Crystal City/Pentagon City area — notably, Amazon’s HQ2 — will also likely increase demand for fire services in that area over the next few years.

“The current high demand at Fire Station 5 in Aurora Hills, combined with anticipated development and population growth in Crystal City/Pentagon City, may affect priorities in the next Capital Improvement Plan, which will be proposed in May 2020,” Smith said.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated on 07/29/19) Arlington County will not be paying for the cost of clean-up from sewage back-ups into people’s homes during the July 8 flash flood emergency.

A spokesperson for the County Manager’s office said today (Friday) that the county “sympathizes with proper owners” recovering from the unusually strong storm and “regrets” any damage caused, but “unfortunately, the County is not in a position to accept responsibility for damage to private properties resulting from this storm.”

As the rainstorm dumped water on Arlington two weeks ago, stormwater runoff filled basements in homes and businesses — as did some sewage. The Department of Environmental Services previously told ARLnow that water flooded some sewer pipes, backing up sewage into people’s homes.

The result was raw sewage flowing into basements, and in some cases, potentially washing up to the first floor of homes, as evidenced by the smells still lingering days after the storm in some houses hit hard in Westover.

“Under Virginia law, the County is legally immune from these sorts of claims and using County tax dollars to pay for damages for which the County is immune would constitute an illegal gift to a private individual,” said County Manager’s office spokesman Ben Hampton. “While the County will investigate all reported claims on a case-by-case basis, there is no legal basis for it to accept liability in the vast majority of cases resulting from the July 8 storm.”

One tipster who lives near the Cherrydale and Waverly Hills neighborhoods said his house was flooded after the main sewer line near his house flooded, “leaving us pretty much helpless as the county sewage flooded into our basement.”

When asked how many homes were affected by damaged sewer lines during the sewer line, county spokeswoman Bryna Helfer did not yet know and added that, “our primary focus right now is on pursuing the federal and state assistance.”

Over 1,000 residents and business owners filed post-storm damage claims with the county as part of Arlington’s preparation to request aid from the state or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Hampton said the county is currently reviewing the the damage assessment from the claims which determines the county’s aid eligibility.

“At this time, we have no reason to believe that homeowners with major damage would not be eligible for aid if it’s approved,”  added Helfer.

“The most likely form of aid is from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which provides low-interest loans to disaster victims, including homeowners, renters, and businesses, for repairs or replacement of disaster-damaged buildings and property,” she said. “SBA can also provide capital to businesses. The County is also pursuing aid under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Individual Assistance program, which provides financial assistance to individuals and families who have sustained losses due to disasters.”

Prior to the July 8 flooding, damage from clogged county sewers has occasionally damaged homes, including several incidents in the Madison Manor neighborhood, leaving residents on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in clean-up costs.

The full response from the County Manager’s office is below.

The County sympathizes with property owners recovering from the July 8, 2019 storm, which dumped an unprecedented amount of rain in the region and caused significant damage to public infrastructure as well as private property. The County regrets any damage that may have been caused to private property from the County’s public sewer lines being damaged or overwhelmed by this storm. Unfortunately, the County is not in a position to accept responsibility for damage to private properties resulting from this storm. Under Virginia law, the County is legally immune from these sorts of claims and using County tax dollars to pay for damages for which the County is immune would constitute an illegal gift to a private individual. While the County will investigate all reported claims on a case-by-case basis, there is no legal basis for it to accept liability in the vast majority of cases resulting from the July 8 storm. Property owners are encouraged to check with their insurance carriers and to explore the possibility of obtaining flood insurance for their properties. Additional information regarding the July 8 storm is available on the Flood Recovery Center at arlingtonva.us/flood-recovery.

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Arlington County has a plan to lure in fitness-lovering tourists with retro sports ads.

The County Board is considering accepting $10,000 in state funds for a marketing campaign designed to attract exercise enthusiasts to Arlington, as the state celebrates the 50th anniversary of the “Virginia Is for Lovers” slogan.

staff report to the Board said the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS) will use the money to promote sports tourism in the county:

The goal is to attract travelers from at least 50 miles away to stay in Arlington hotels on vacation. Centered on the fall race season and major Arlington-based events like the Army Ten-Miler and Marine Corps Marathon, ACVS’s initiative will appeal to fitness-focused leisure travelers through retro, 1969-style visuals and sports accessories, along with creative storytelling via blogs, videos and national social-media influencers.

The item is included in the Board’s agenda for its meeting this Saturday.

If approved, the county would accept $10,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation and apply the funds to the Arlington’s Economic Development Commission.

“This fall, ACVS will use the grant funds to collaborate with local fitness and neighborhood organizations to fuse Virginia’s ’50 Years of Love’ campaign with the idea that ‘Arlington is for Fitness Lovers,'” said the report.

The report also noted the county’s 2018 ranking as the fittest American “city” — a title it won again this week.

Photo via Arlington Sports Hall of Fame

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Morning Notes

VHC Land Swap Ready to Move Forward — “Nearly six months after a divided Arlington County Board approved a major expansion of Virginia Hospital Center, board members are set to take the next step.” [InsideNova]

Ballston IHOP Reopens — “Good news IHOP fans: the Ballston location is back open and serving customers. Here’s why it closed.” [Twitter]

DEA Finds Temporary Digs — “The Drug Enforcement Administration has found temporary space in Crystal City for its employees while its… headquarters in adjacent Pentagon City gets a major makeover. Representatives for the DEA recently applied to Arlington County for interior alteration permits to renovate three floors at 2200 Crystal Drive.” [Washington Business Journal]

Road Closures for Ballston 5K Race — “The 2019 Girls on the Run 5K Race will be held in the Ballston-Virginia Square area on Sunday, May 19, 2019. The Arlington County Police Department will implement the following road closures from approximately 8:15 AM to 10:15 AM to accommodate the event.” [Arlington County]

Carlee Defines the ‘Arlington Way’ — “‘In its most positive framing’ [the Arlington Way] means ‘engaging with the public on issues of importance or concern (not always the same) in an effort to reach community consensus or… a shared understanding and an opportunity for everyone to be heard,’ [former County Manager Ron Carlee] writes. ‘In its negative framing’ the phrase has been ‘derided as a way to talk everything to death so that ideas are killed or that people are so worn-down that by the end, they do not care what happens as long as it is just over.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

Photo courtesy @klk_photography11/Instagram

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