Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Man Punched Outside Ballston Subway — A man was punched in the face outside the Subway on Fairfax Drive in Ballston yesterday. The assault occurred just before lunchtime and those flocking to the restaurant for footlongs had to step over splatters of blood on the sidewalk. No word yet on what prompted the fight nor whether the suspect, who reportedly fled into the Metro station, was later apprehended. [Twitter]

Tonight: Committee of 100 County Board Debate — The Arlington Committee of 100 will be holding a County Board debate tonight at Marymount University. The program, moderated by ARLnow’s Scott Brodbeck, will start at 8 p.m. after a meet and greet and dinner. [Committee of 100]

History of the W&OD Railroad — Before it was a bike and pedestrian trail, the W&OD was a regional railroad that transported goods and people across Northern Virginia. How would the area and our transportation problems be different if it had stayed a transit corridor, asks a GGW contributor. [Greater Greater Washington]

Local Social Media Influencer Profiled — Clarendon resident and mother of two Angelica Talan “has made a career out of building a loyal following on social media.” She blogs at Clarendon Moms and Angelica in the City and also has done some modeling and acting. [Arlington Magazine]

Tree Group Wants More Trees — The Arlington Tree Action Group replied on Twitter to a posting of the photo above: “Beautiful sky! It would look even better with more trees! #ArlingtonVA #trees.” [Twitter]

Nearby: Alexandrians Worry About Takeout Window — A proposed takeout window for a new Mexican restaurant on King Street prompted a protracted debate among members of the Alexandria city council. Said one opponent on the council, who ultimately lost out on a 4-3 vote: “I think this is maybe one small step in the direction of what we don’t want Old Town to become.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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When it comes to how to best grapple with Arlington’s gloomy economic future, the two contenders for County Board are pitching two decidedly different strategies: one with a look inward, another with a look outward.

Independent incumbent John Vihstadt spent a Wednesday night candidate forum hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce outlining ways he hopes to change county policies to wring more money from developers and manage growth, and strategies for reforming the county’s permitting processes for new businesses.

Democratic nominee Matt de Ferranti, however, dedicated most of his time to discussing his commitment to luring in businesses to reduce the county’s persistently high office vacancy rates, while pursuing tax increases in the meantime.

The business-focused debate, moderated by ARLnow, was perhaps best defined by an exchange where Vihstadt emphasized “the cold truth that we can not afford to do everything we might like to do, especially all at once.” The independent has been a sharp critic of some county infrastructure projects since winning a pair of elections to the Board back in 2014, particularly the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center.

De Ferranti says he fully recognizes that Vihstadt’s assessment of the economic challenges ahead are certainly accurate, but he had a “cold truth” of his own to offer.

“The cold truth is that if we don’t grow, and don’t invest in the vision of a greater version of the American dream applied to Arlington, we won’t be able to address our challenges,” de Ferranti said. “We do face challenges, but the sky is not falling. We have resources, and we can invest in them.”

The Democrat reiterated his belief that “we can’t cut our way to prosperity,” pledging to work with the relentlessness of ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe to attract businesses to Arlington and slash the county’s office vacancy rate to 15 percent over the next four years — it’s hovered around 20 percent for the last several years.

But de Ferranti noted that tax increases would have likely have to be part of the equation as well. He worked to make it clear that he’s “not a tax-and-spend liberal,” but also slammed Vihstadt for his decision to vote against soliciting community input on a tax rate hike this year.

“I am not saying that I necessarily would’ve voted for a half-cent tax increase,” de Ferranti said. “But we did not have that debate that we need to have. And I’m concerned that our community might be at risk over the coming years of having some shock at the struggles we’re going to face because we’re opening four schools this coming year… It’s about how soon to be honest with the community about difficult decisions that we face.”

Yet Vihstadt pointed out that the county just raised taxes last year, including a property tax rate hike that was “the largest in years,” and he felt that the county was better served by taking a “pause” this year. After all, he noted that County Manager Mark Schwartz fully expects to propose tax hikes next year, and perhaps the year after as well.

“We trimmed in some places, we hiked fees in others; it wasn’t easy,” Vihstadt said. “But we honored our commitments to schools, Metro and public safety personnel.”

Vihstadt took no firm stance on the possibility of tax increases going forward, but did stress that rate hikes could provide further challenges to seniors looking to remain in the county, a demographic he felt is often overlooked in the debate over affordable housing.

But he also pointed out that he believes there’s a better way to secure more cash for government services: extracting more concessions from developers.

The county can currently secure transportation improvements or affordable housing commitments from developers — but those changes only come on the site of the properties being developed. Vihstadt would rather see the county require developers kick in money for countywide services, even if the county’s own legal team believes such a move would ultimately be counterproductive.

“A new development, depending on what it is, means material impact on our already bursting schools, our limited green space, public safety resources and more,” Vihstadt said. “Our lawyers and planners have issues with modifying the way we do things. Change is tough… but I believe we need to start this community conversation soon.”

De Ferranti agreed that such a conversation might indeed be a worthy one to have. But he believes “those [changes] alone will not be sufficient to get us growing.”

“We have to have some tough discussions about where we’re going to invest to move our economy forward,” de Ferranti said.

The Board contenders will square off in several additional forums between now and the Nov. 6 election, including ones hosted by the Yorktown Civic Association on Oct. 1, the Committee of 100 on Oct. 10 and the League of Women Voters on Oct. 25.

Photo via @ArlChamberVa

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Morning Notes

Civic Federation Holds Candidate Forum — The unofficial kickoff to the local fall campaign season took place on Tuesday: the Arlington County Civic Federation candidate forum. Contenders for County Board, School Board and Congress squared off in front of a standing-room-only audience at Virginia Hospital Center’s auditorium. [InsideNova, InsideNova, Blue Virginia]

Drug Take-Back Boxes Deemed a Success — “In June, Arlington County installed three permanent drug take-back boxes to address a crucial public safety and public health crisis facing communities across the country – prescription drug abuse. In the first three months of the program, the public safely disposed of 407 pounds of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications. Due to the success of the program, the police department is exploring expanding the program.” [Arlington County]

New Commuter Store Opens — A new Arlington Commuter Store opened at the Pentagon on Tuesday, near bus bays 7 and 8. [Commuter Page]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Road Closed Due to Downed Tree — Williamsburg Blvd is closed at N. Westmoreland Street due to a tree that fell overnight and took down several utility lines with it. Arlington’s emergency management office says the closure “may last through evening rush hour.” [Twitter]

Reminder: DUI Checkpoint Tonight — The Arlington County Police Department will conduct a sobriety checkpoint in an undisclosed location tonight. “Officers will stop all vehicles passing through the checkpoint and ask to see the licenses of drivers. Any driver suspected of operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be directed to a safe area off the roadway for further observation.” [Arlington County]

Metro Could Become Larger Financial Burden — “Metro expects to turn to state and local governments across the region to cover the costs of pay raises for workers an arbitration panel ordered last week, but the Metro Board chairman is warning of a more significant fiscal ‘ticking time bomb’ just over the horizon.” [WTOP]

Annual CivFed Candidate Forum Scheduled — “The unofficial kickoff to Arlington’s fall election season begins on Tuesday, Sept. 4, when the Arlington County Civic Federation holds its annual candidate forum. Candidates for 8th District U.S. House of Representatives, County Board and School Board have been invited to participate.” [InsideNova]

Basketball Player Punched at Gym — A man who plays professional basketball for LaVar Ball’s Junior Basketball Association says he was sucker punched while playing a pickup game at a Crystal City gym. [Fox 5]

One Hurt in Lee Highway Apartment Fire — A resident of a Lee Highway apartment building suffered burn injuries after a fire broke out in an apartment kitchen Wednesday morning. The fire was out by the time firefighters arrived on the scene. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by Arlington VA

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The two Democrats vying for the chance to run for a seat on the Arlington County Board this fall will square off in another debate tonight.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee will host the debate between Chanda Choun and Matthew de Ferranti at 7 p.m. at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association building in Ballston. Karen Nightengale, president of Arlington’s chapter of the NAACP, will moderate the event.

Voters will pick a Democratic nominee in the June 12 primary. The winner of the two-way race is set to run against incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt, an independent who is vying for his second term on the board after winning in 2014.

Arlington Republicans endorsed Vihstadt in that race, though the committee has put out a call for candidates that’s set to close next Tuesday, May 9. The GOP will hold a mass meeting on May 23 to pick a nominee if multiple candidates express interest in running, though committee spokesman Matthew Hurtt says it’s possible that no Republican steps forward for the race. Heitham Ghariani, an IT worker at the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, has filed to run as an independent.

Democrats hope that a surge of enthusiasm associated with the national midterm elections helps the party restore its total control of the five-member County Board; Vihstadt was the first non-Democrat to win a seat on the board in 15 years.

De Ferranti, who currently works as legislative director of the National Indian Education Association and sits on several county advisory committees, has so far earned the support of local elected Democrats in his primary bid. Former County Board Chairman Jay Fisette announced his endorsement of de Ferranti on April 30, joining several other state legislators and local officials.

Choun works for a cybersecurity company and as a part-time U.S. Army reservist. He’s also the vice president of the Buckingham Community Civic Association and serves as a delegate to the Arlington County Civic Federation.

Photo by Anna Merod

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This month, the three candidates for the Arlington School Board faced a series of questions at a forum hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100.

Like the three Arlington County Board candidates earlier this week, they then faced additional unanswered questions from the audience — due to time constraints — that ARLnow collated and emailed to them.

Two candidates’ unedited responses are below. (A third candidate, Mike Webb, did not respond.)

1. How do you plan to deal with the exploding student population in Arlington schools?

Alison Dough:

The simple and easiest answer would be to build more schools. If land is not available – build schools up. Ashlawn Elementary is an example of a school that recently and successfully built-up to address the increase in students.

I think that the school board needs to partner with the county board on this issue as it economically impacts both boards and together we should be able to work towards a possible solution that resolves the need for overcrowding in the schools and classrooms.

Monique O’Grady:

APS must get in front of its capacity crisis with better planning and a strategy on how to effectively provide seats for all of its students. As a member of the school board, I will work with my colleagues to plan with members of the county board to make best use of our limited dollars, limited space, and limited time. Through this collaborative effort we can reach decisions that will not only best serve our students, but also make efficient use of Arlington tax dollars.

2. Do you think a career teacher should be paid enough to afford to live in Arlington?

Dough:

Perhaps we need to consider housing-vouchers for teachers that make a very good case for the need to live in Arlington County. I work for a non-profit in Arlington and I know many of my coworkers would rather not commute in from Fairfax, Alexandria, Loudoun, eastern Maryland, Baltimore – but they do because they cannot afford to live in Arlington.

O’Grady:

Yes. Arlington should continue to find ways to support middle class residents who are at risk of being priced out of living in Arlington. This “missing middle,” as County Board candidate Erik Gutshall calls it, is an essential and invaluable component of our community and workforce. Teachers want to be able to live where they work. It fosters a closer connection between educators and their students as well as between educators and the larger community; this connection assists teachers with their work, making them even more effective in their jobs. Therefore, it makes sense to look for ways to attract the best and brightest teachers, including supporting policies that make it easier for our teachers to make Arlington home.  This will help recruit and retain teachers – one of the current strategic plan goals.

3. Identify the area of waste you would like to eliminate if elected.

Dough:

I propose looking at areas that do not directly impact the children. We should first take a look at administrative costs and other overhead.

O’Grady:

As a new member of the school board I would welcome an emerging practice that gives APS the ability to consider three different plans for new school buildings. Plans will be offered that show a design using the minimum budget, a mid-range budget, and maximum budget. This policy would seek avenues to eliminate waste, yet not at the expense of essential, quality services.

I also welcome more collaboration between the school board and county board. I think collaborative planning will help eliminate wasted time, eliminate wasted dollars with consultants and contractors, and will lead to more efficient use of our tax dollars and limited county- and school-owned land. 

4. If elected, would you support changing the name of Washington-Lee High School?

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Earlier this month, the candidates for Arlington County Board faced a bevy of tough questions at a forum hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100.

But after the audience went home and the microphones were turned off, that wasn’t the end of the candidates’ work.

Attendees submitted written questions to the candidates throughout the evening, but due to time constraints, they could not all be answered. So with Election Day just two weeks away, ARLnow collated the unanswered questions and emailed the three County Board candidates for their responses.

(A similar article with responses to follow-up questions for the three School Board candidates will follow in the near future.)

Candidates’ unedited responses are below.

1. What are the challenges you would tackle in the area of affordable housing?

Audrey Clement: 

The biggest challenge would be to convince my fellow Board Members to:

1)  amend the tax code to create Housing Conservation Districts (HCDs) where landlords would be given incentives to rehab rather than tear down existing affordable housing; and

2) loosen accessory dwelling unit (ADU) regulations to allow renting space in private homes, while limiting the impacts of such rentals on residential neighborhoods.

Erik Gutshall:

While Arlington is a great place to live, it’s undeniably getting harder and harder to put down roots here and stay rooted if a smaller home is what you need as your family shrinks.  Housing affordability is a critical component of the progressive values I espouse; it is also an essential component of a strong middle class in Arlington.

As a County Board Member, I will follow a multi-point plan that includes: (1) the creation of medium density “missing middle” housing along our major commercial corridors, (2) modernization of the our zoning ordinance to enable home sharing and facilitate aging-in-place, (3) tireless support for the 2015 Affordable Housing Master Plan, and (4) continued annual funding for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and Housing grants.  I will also continue the existing, strong partnerships with non-profit housing providers as well as others in the non-profit community who provide services to Arlington residents living in affordable housing.

As detailed in my “missing middle” housing proposal, Arlington cannot subsidize our way to mass affordability, instead we must unlock the potential of the market to deliver the housing we need.  The good news is that there is ample opportunity in Arlington for us to create the neighborhood-scale housing and retail areas known as “missing middle.”  The missing middle framework uses market forces to diversify our housing supply and responds to the needs of residents both young and old.  These modestly scaled lofts, stacked flats, co-ops, and micro units are designed to preserve neighborhood character and can fit into the edges of single-family neighborhoods and along commercial corridors, with ground floor retail and restaurants to serve adjacent homes.

Charles McCullough:

In the area of affordable housing, I would tackle these three main challenges:

Ensuring that developers pay their fair share:

  • Increase the zoning fee for apartment developers who forego affordable units, as it is currently just 1/3 of the fee allowed under state law.
  • Shift housing assistance funds to direct housing grants in order to support more residents earning less than 40% of the area median income.

Approaching certified and market rate housing with a multifaceted approach:

  • Incentivize the development of multifamily structures designed to address senior mobility needs, as well as co-living spaces designed to meet the needs of young professionals.
  • Ensure accessory dwellings become a viable option for housing while not contributing to parking and density concerns.
  • Explore Housing Conservation Districts as a way to maintain larger-scale areas of market rate affordability with careful caution not to unintentionally make these areas into suburban ghettos.

Providing housing affordability programs to address the needs of low- and middle-income Arlingtonians:

  • Develop new homeowner affordability programs to support community/developer partnership models like community land trusts and low-equity housing cooperatives.
  • Bolster existing homeowner assistance programs that enable our teachers and first responders to live in the communities where they serve.

As a progressive, independent voice on the Arlington County Board, I have the ability to advocate for a variety of reasonable housing affordability solutions that “Put People First” instead of defaulting to developers’ demands.

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Last week the Arlington Committee of 100 hosted a debate at Marymount University among those running for local office.

At the debate, the six candidates for County Board and School Board in the 2017 general election clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.

For those who missed it, we have the audio from the full event on this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast. Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Morning Notes

ACPD Sending Supplies to Houston — The Arlington County Police Department is sending relief supplies to Houston Police, “who have been tirelessly serving those affected by Hurricane Harvey,” the department announced yesterday in a tweet. [Twitter]

More on County Board Debate — At Tuesday night’s Arlington Civic Federation debate, the two independent candidates blasted the County Board for supposedly being too pro cozy with business interests. Charles McCullough “several times ripped the county government for extending millions of dollars in ‘payola and corporate welfare’ in an effort to win economic-development successes,” while Audrey Clement “portrayed Arlington leaders as sharing a matrimonial bed with the development community, rubber-stamping new projects to reap the tax revenue they generate.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Encouraging Vanpools — Arlington County, via its Arlington Transportation Partners program, is encouraging commuters to join a vanpool, touting savings of up to $10,000 a year compared to solo commuting. [Arlington Transportation Partners]

Arlington Free Clinic Women’s Health Program — Grants from the Susan G. Komen foundation are funding a women’s health program at the Arlington Free Clinic and in turn saving the lives of breast cancer patients who otherwise could not afford their healthcare costs. Among those who beat breast cancer with the clinic’s help is one of its employees, a mother of three who found a lump while attending a breast health event in 2003. [WJLA]

Nearby: Rabid Raccoon Found — A raccoon found in an Alexandria park has tested positive for rabies. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by Vandiik

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Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) and Republican challenger Adam Roosevelt clashed on whether Virginia should expand Medicaid, but found agreement on immigration, during a candidate forum on Tuesday night (September 5).

Lopez, who has represented the 49th District for three terms in the Virginia House of Delegates and serves as the Minority Whip, said expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act should be done for moral and economic reasons. That plan has been unsuccessful both through the General Assembly and executive action.

“There are working families without health insurance in Virginia,” Lopez said. “It’s immoral not to expand Medicaid.”

But Roosevelt, who is challenging Lopez in the district that includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, around Pentagon City and west to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County, said it is unaffordable and will cost Virginians more in tax dollars.

“That is what they will not tell you: your taxes will increase, and we have enough taxes as it is,” Roosevelt said. The debate, at Virginia Hospital Center, was attended by about 100 people.

The rivals appeared to be in broad agreement on immigration and the status of illegal immigrants, the same day as President Donald Trump announced he would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. To start, they agreed that illegal immigrants who commit crimes in this country should be deported.

Both also pledged to protect legal migrants and undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children and have otherwise not committed crimes. Lopez said decisions about immigration must come from the federal level, not the state.

“What we have is a fundamentally broken immigration system at the federal level,” he said.

At times, there were frosty moments between the two as they sparred over issues like climate change, a woman’s right to choose and redistricting reform. After Lopez outlined his record on the environment, including co-founding the Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy caucus to advocate for issues in Richmond and across the state, Roosevelt cut in.

“I’ll remind my opponent we’re talking about the 49th District here,” Roosevelt said, arguing that the discussion should be focused more on local issues than statewide topics.

Later, the two disagreed on how boundaries should be redrawn for Virginia’s Congressional and General Assembly. Boundaries will be redrawn after the next census in 2020, but that could come sooner depending on a case making its way through the courts.

Lopez called for a non-partisan commission to draw new boundaries separate from General Assembly leadership, but Roosevelt said he had not done enough in Richmond to bring about such changes.

“My opponent has quite a voice tonight and quite a position to stand in to effect these changes,” he said.

And the pair differed on their belief in a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. Roosevelt said the life of both the woman and a fetus must be protected and said the issue should not be politicized, but Lopez did not equivocate in his view and criticized others in the General Assembly who have tried to take the right to choose away.

“How many times do we have to get up on the floor of the House of Delegates and fight people who want to take away a woman’s right to choose?” he asked.

Lopez and Roosevelt are on the ballot on November 7, while Arlington’s three other delegates are all unopposed.

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Morning Notes

Police Warn of Fraud Scheme — The Arlington County Police Department is warning that home repair and tree service fraud schemes become more prevalent in the spring. Police say to be wary of would-be service providers who approach or knock on your door unannounced, pressure you to make an immediate decision, claim to have leftover materials or to be working in the area, and only accept cash payment. [Arlington County]

Arlington Restaurant Makes Sietsema’s Top 10Ambar in Clarendon has been included in restaurant critic Tom Sietsema’s list of the top 10 new restaurants in Washington. It is the only Virginia restaurant on the list. [Washington Post]

Beyer Supports Budget Bill — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) says that while it’s not perfect, he supports the compromise omnibus funding bill that passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Beyer says the bill contained key environmental protections and funding for scientific research. [Rep. Don Beyer]

No Endorsement from Garvey — County Board member Libby Garvey says she will vote in the upcoming Democratic caucus, but so far she is not endorsing any candidate for County Board. [InsideNova]

ACDC Candidate Forum — The Arlington County Democratic Committee held its candidate forum/debate last night, with all four candidates for County Board weighing in on topics from affordable housing to WMATA and transit to diversity in county government. [Blue Virginia]

Trustify’s Swanky Digs — Arlington-based startup Trustify’s new 8,000 square foot office in Crystal City has “a view that arguably is one of the dreamiest” among local startups. The design of the office was “‘film noir’-inspired.” [DC Inno]

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