Arlington, VA

Gov. Bob McDonnell visits Barcroft Elementary School (file photo)A hard-fought legislative victory for Arlington has been vetoed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

McDonnell has vetoed two bills that would have allowed Arlington County to levy a 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge. The Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) surcharge would have helped fund the county’s tourism promotion efforts, and was actually lobbied for by the Hotel General Managers’ Committee of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

Del. Bob Brink (D-Arlington), the sponsor of the House bill (HB 2303) that passed last month, says the governor called him on Monday night to tell him that he was planning to veto the bill. Gov. McDonnell said he was vetoing Arlington’s TOT bill, and a similar bill for the City of Fairfax, because he was concerned about Northern Virginia hotels being “placed in a competitive disadvantage in comparison with D.C. and Maryland,” according to Brink.

Sheraton National Hotel in Foxcroft HeightsThe local hotel tax surcharge increase bills came at the same time as a legislated increase in the regional TOT in Northern Virginia, as part of the state’s sweeping transportation funding package. McDonnell also reduced the Northern Virginia TOT increase from 3 percent to 2 percent on Tuesday.

(Other amendments to the transportation package made by McDonnell include a slight reduction in the proposed vehicle titling tax — from 4.3 to 4.15 percent — a reduction in the new annual fee paid by owners of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles — from $100 to $64 — and the reduction of a regional congestion fee.)

In a statement, Brink said that McDonnell’s veto of his bill will hurt, not help local hotels.

I’m disappointed that the Governor has taken this action and that the Arlington bill got caught up in the larger politics of the transportation bill. The concern that the Governor expressed to me — our hospitality sector’s competitive position in relation to neighboring jurisdictions — is the precise reason that Arlington’s hospitality industry sought this legislation. In the uncertain economic climate of the DC region, Arlington’s hotels need all the tools available to compete for tourism and business travel. HB 2303 would have given them one powerful additional tool, and I regret that our business community won’t have it at its disposal.

File photos

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Morning Notes

Red bench in Arlington by Wolfkann

Bill Would Ban Cell Phone Use While Driving in School Zones — Sen. Janet Howell (D) has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving in a school zone or school crossing zone. Violations will be considered a traffic infraction and will be punishable by a fine of up to $250. [Richmond Sunlight]

CaBi Trip Data Online — Where do trips from your local CaBi station usually end? A new visualization tool allows you to see where CaBi users are traveling to. [MV Jantzen, Mobility Lab]

Brink Supports Two-Term Va. Governor — Del. Bob Brink (D) of Arlington is one of several General Assembly lawmakers to introduce or patron a constitutional amendment that would allow the governor of Virginia to serve a second term. If passed, the amendment will take effect for the governor elected in 2017. [Richmond Sunlight]

USS Arlington Crew Members Get Decal Vote — Crew members of the USS Arlington, set to be commissioned soon, will get a vote on the new Arlington County parking decal. This year, the contest challenged entrants to design a decal incorporating the USS Arlington. Voting is open through Jan. 21. [Sun Gazette]

Civic Federation Supports LEAP — The Arlington County Civic Federation has approved a resolution to promote the non-profit Local Energy Alliance Program, or LEAP, which offers free home energy efficiency assessments to homeowners, along with cash rebates for energy efficiency measures. [Arlington Mercury]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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Morning Notes

Thieves Steal Wheels from Hotel — Two suspects were seen stealing tires and rims from two vehicles parked at the Crystal City Gateway Marriott (1700 Jefferson Davis Highway) early Thursday morning. A security guard tried to intervene but the suspects fled. Arlington, particularly south Arlington, has seen an apparent uptick in wheel thefts recently. [NBC Washington]

Santa Coming to Clarendon Saturday — Santa Claus will be coming to Clarendon on Saturday evening. The Jolly Old Elf will arrive at Market Common Clarendon (2700 Clarendon Blvd) on a “big red sleigh,” otherwise known as an Arlington County fire truck, at 4:00 p.m. He will be on hand for photos until 7:00 p.m. There will also be strolling carolers and other family-friendly entertainment. It’s the shopping center’s 12th annual “Winter Wonderland” event. [Market Common Clarendon]

Last Westover Farmers Market of 2012 — The new Westover Farmers Market will hold its last market of the year from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. The market, located at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. McKinley Road, will go on a holiday hiatus before returning on Jan. 13, 2013. The  market’s winter hours run through April. [Westover Farmers Market]

Brink Commends Funding for Blind Students — Del. Bob Brink (D-Arlington) is praising Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) for his proposal to add $4.9 million in funding for blind and visually impaired students to the upcoming Virginia budget. The funds will help localities cover the cost of teachers, teacher’s aides and staff for blind and visually impaired students. [Alexandria News]

Bike Advocates Call For Plowed Trails — Bicyclists are calling on Arlington County to start plowing snow from bike and pedestrian trails. “By failing to plow the trails, [Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services] puts more people onto the streets in cars,” said one bicycle advocate during yesterday’s county-organized online snow chat. “Is that really what you want, during a snow event?” [Along the Pike]

Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99

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Could the recent controversy in Richmond over social issues be hurting Virginia businesses? Yes, says Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D) and a group of local business leaders.

This year’s state legislative session has been marked by heated partisan debate over the merits of Republican-sponsored bills concerning abortion, women’s health and gay adoptions. Most of the controversial bills have been either killed or delayed, and the legislature is now starting to focus its attention on the state budget, but Democrats are still decrying the renewed focus on social issues and the media attention it brought to Virginia.

(Update at 3:00 p.m.: a modified version of a bill requiring mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions has passed the Virginia Senate by a vote of 21-19.)

Yesterday Del. Brink took to the floor of the House of Delegates (see video, above) to read a letter from a number of Northern Virginia business leaders, including representatives of the Consumer Electronics Association and Vornado/Charles E. Smith. Addressed to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and the entire state legislature, the letter argued that “extreme proposals governing social issues” are detrimental to Virginia’s ability to attract “the best and the brightest employees and entrepreneurs.”

As business leaders and employers in Virginia we applaud your successful bi-partisan efforts to keep Virginia first in national rankings as the most business-friendly state.

We urge you to maintain this ranking going forward by ensuring Virginia is a magnet for the best and the brightest employees and entrepreneurs.

Specifically, we urge you to reject extreme proposals governing social issues on which Americans are passionately divided. Otherwise it will be difficult for Virginia to attract and retain the entrepreneurs and talent we need to grow Virginia.

Del. Brink minced no words in describing how he felt about the outward image projected by Virginia General Assembly this year.

“All you have to do is turn on your TV, open any national newspaper, or go to YouTube, and it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that we’ve allowed ourselves to be portrayed as a bunch of ignorant, backward-looking buffoons,” Brink said. “It’s not just our image that’s taken a hit: it’s the economy — the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century — that’s in danger.”

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Last week we asked the three candidates for the 48th District Virginia House of Delegates seat to write a sub-750 word essay on why the district’s residents should vote for them on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Here is the unedited response from incumbent Del. Bob Brink (D):

For the past 14 years it’s been my honor to represent the 48th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. I ask for your vote for my re-election on Tuesday, November 8.

I understand our priorities because I’ve been actively involved in our community for over three decades. Throughout that time, I’ve sought to provide thoughtful, effective leadership to see that these priorities are addressed. I know how much we value our public schools because my kids, now grown, attended Glebe, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. I know the importance of Virginia’s world-class higher education system because I’ve seen the contributions that Northern Virginia’s public and private higher education institutions make to our economy. With the 48th District running along the Potomac from Chain Bridge to National Airport, we’re reminded every day of our obligation to protect the environment.

In Richmond I’ve taken the lead on issues that are important to our region and the Commonwealth.

HEALTH CARE: I worked to expand the federal-state partnership that provides medical care to the children of the working poor — stepping up outreach, easing restrictive regulations, and getting more kids enrolled. And I teamed with community activists to advance programs to address the mental health needs of older Virginians.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: I know that we can maintain our region’s prosperity through uncertain economic times by building a 21st Century “Knowledge Economy” – one that’s based on research and development of intellectual capital. I led the effort to keep the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – a magnet for our region’s research community – headquartered in Arlington. I’m dedicated to helping George Mason University and Northern Virginia’s technology community achieve their potential as academic and business leaders in discovery and innovation.

TRANSPORTATION: As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I’ll continue to press for long-term solutions to our transportation gridlock rather than stopgap measures – providing adequate funding from sustainable revenue sources, supporting public transportation such as rail to Dulles, and seeking a comprehensive statewide effort that addresses the transportation needs of all Virginians.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: Preserving clean air and water is our responsibility as stewards of the environment. Based on my strong support for vigorous environmental protection, the League of Conservation Voters named me a “Legislative Hero” in 2010 and 2011.

MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK BETTER: In current fiscal conditions, it’s more important than ever that government services be delivered as efficiently as possible, and that taxpayers have confidence their dollars are being spent wisely. I spearheaded the effort to establish a statewide Office of Inspector General, to examine the management and operation of state agencies and investigate cases of fraud, waste, abuse or corruption.

The progress we’ve made in Richmond has been a team effort: Arlington’s Delegates and Senators work closely together to advance our priorities. To meet the challenges we face, we need to maintain the quality of leadership that our area has enjoyed in the legislature. With the retirement of Mary Margaret Whipple and Patsy Ticer — two thoughtful and dedicated State Senators — I hope you’ll join me in supporting Barbara Favola and Adam Ebbin to succeed them. I also hope you’ll help re-elect Senator Janet Howell, whose district includes a portion of Arlington.

I appreciate the confidence the 48th District’s voters have shown in asking me to be their voice in Richmond, and I look forward to representing you in the future.

Bob Brink

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Morning Notes

Storm Shopping Clears Shelves — Residents are taking the advice of emergency officials and shopping for essential items in advance of Hurricane Irene. At the Potomac Yard Target store last night, shopping carts were at a premium, milk was running low and bottled water was completely sold out.

Two Candidates Challenge Brink — Del. Bob Brink will have to work a bit harder to keep his 48th District House of Delegates seat. Brink is facing general election challenges from Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy and from McLean resident Kathleen Gillette Mallard, who has ties to the Tea Party. [Sun Gazette]

Major Crystal City Employer Purchased — Bloomberg LP has purchased the Bureau of National Affairs, a specialized industry reporting outfit headquartered in Crystal City. Bloomberg says it plans to run BNA, which has more than 600 employees, as a “stand-alone subsidiary.” [Washington Post]

Office of Emergency Management Video — Rest assured that Arlington County is ready for Hurricane Irene. But be a bit worried about the county’s ability to properly operate a video camera. [YouTube]

Fairfax Times Rips Off ARLnow.com Quote — The Washington Post-owned Fairfax Times has copied, verbatim, a quote from an ARLnow.com article on the 31st District state Senate primary without proper attribution. The quote from Betsy Wildhack only appeared on ARLnow.com — we were the only news outlet there at the time — but yet now appears at the end of a Fairfax Times article without any sort of credit or acknowledgement.

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Two fellow Democrats are taking state Senate candidate Jaime Areizaga-Soto to task for campaign mailers sharply critical of his opponent, County Board member Barbara Favola.

The latest mailer shows Favola between Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli with the headline “These politicians have a lot in common” — a reference to the fact that all three have accepted donations from local real estate developer, philanthropist and Republican political donor Preston Caruthers. (Favolva accepted a $5,000 donation from Caruthers.)

“I’m disappointed that my friend Jaime Areizaga-Soto has been persuaded that victory in the primary can be achieved through slick negative campaign mailings,” Del. Bob Brink said in a statement said in a statement last night.

Brink, who intended to stay neutral in the race, said he’s now endorsing Favola because of Areizaga-Soto’s negative mailers.

“Voters in our region have shown repeatedly that they want their public officials to talk about the issues that touch their daily lives, and that they have little tolerance for Karl Rove-style mudslinging,” he said. “Any candidate who doesn’t understand that is unqualified to represent us.”

Technology consultant and Not Larry Sabato blogger Ben Tribbett, who was once considering a run in the 31st District state Senate race, took particular exception with Areizaga-Soto’s accusation that Favola “sold her vote” to developers.

“We have so many voters in Arlington who are national political people, they’re too savvy to be misled like that,” Tribbett said. “I agree with Jaime, I don’t think that Barbara should be accepting donations from developers. It creates the appearance of impropriety. But she’s not doing anything illegal and she certainly has not sold her vote. If she sold her vote she would be in prison… Making an accusation like that really crosses the line.”

“I think a hard-nosed primary campaign on legitimate issues would be welcome,” Tribbett added. “That being said, I think the mailings are way too negative, they’re not factually accurate… and I think that Jaime loses a lot of credibility when he overstates his case.”

Favola has been fighting back against the Areizaga-Soto campaign’s allegations.

“My opponent has decided that the only way he can win is to peddle untruths, distort the facts and use personal attacks,” Favola said last month. “I have always been transparent on where I stand on the issues and I have always been loyal to my values. I have never sold my vote to anyone, ever.”

The comparison to McDonnell and Cuccinelli, meanwhile, is a serious allegation in a Democratic primary. In a debate at Wednesday’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, Areizaga-Soto repeatedly referenced the two Republicans, calling their agenda “the biggest threat for the well-being and for the future of our Commonwealth.”

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The battle lines are still being drawn in the race to replace state Sen. Patsy Ticer.

In the battle of endorsements, the current divisions among Democratic candidates are quite clear. Del. Adam Ebbin has the support of fellow state delegates. Alexandria City Councilman Rob Krupicka has the support of fellow Alexandria officials. And Arlington School Board Chair Libby Garvey has the endorsement of Ticer herself.

Ebbin officially announced the endorsement of ten members of the House of Delegates from Northern Virginia this morning. Those supporting him include local Dels. Bob Brink and Patrick Hope.

“Adam Ebbin is ready to be the next Senator from District 30,” Brink said today in a statement. “With his experience in the House, he will be prepared to hit the ground running on day one.”

“A founding member of the Progressive Caucus, Adam Ebbin has a record that speaks for itself,” said Hope. “He’s a leader Northern Virginians will be able to count on in the Senate.”

The primary is scheduled for Aug. 23.

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Del. Bob Brink, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the state Senate seat of the retiring Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, announced this morning that he will not be seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat.

Brink released the following statement regarding his decision this morning.

In the days since Senator Mary Margaret Whipple announced her intention to retire from the General Assembly, I have been weighing the possibility of running for the seat she has held with such distinction since 1996. I am gratified that many people have encouraged me to seek the Senate nomination, and it would be a tremendous honor to succeed Mary Margaret in the Senate. However, I have decided that I can best serve Arlingtonians by remaining in the House of Delegates.

This has been a tough year for Arlington in Richmond. Despite the unified efforts of Arlington’s General Assembly delegation, important measures that were aimed at bolstering the County’s economy, protecting its interests, and upholding its values, met a hostile reception. Next year the entire Arlington delegation, including the new Senator from the 31st District, must be prepared to work at restoring the trust and respect for the County that it deserves and that so many have sought to achieve.

Eyes now turn to Del. Patrick Hope, another possible candidate who was expected to defer to Brink should he have decided to run. Hope would face county board member Barbara Favola in the Democratic primary.

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It was ladies night at the Lyon Park Community House last night. A capacity crowd that included most of the local political establishment applauded as four Democratic women announced their candidacy for public office.

Stephanie Clifford, a Democratic precinct captain and a new Green Valley (Nauck) homeowner, was the closest thing to a surprise. Clifford announced that she is running for the 49th District House of Delegates seat currently held by Del. Adam Ebbin, who’s running for state Senate.

“I’m sure a number of you are surprised to see me up here,” she said. “But I found a reason to serve and thought I’d step up.”

Former Arlington County Young Democrats President Gordon Simonett introduced Clifford.

“One thing that is clear when you meet Stephanie is that she has a true commitment to community values and progressive values,” he said.

School Board Chair Libby Garvey announced that she will be seeking the nomination for the state Senate seat held by the retiring Sen. Patsy Ticer.

“No work gives me greater satisfaction then public service,” Garvey said. “But there are things i want to do for you now that I really can’t do as a school board member.”

“We’re in trouble as a nation and a state,” Garvey continued. “We’re digging ourselves into a hole. We’re not investing like we need to. Education, transportation, infrastructure, the environment, the health and welfare of our citizens — we need to invest in the future. That’s why I want to be a state Senator.”

Ebbin, who is also running for Ticer’s seat, attended the meeting but did not give a speech. Instead, supporters did the talking by wearing “Ebbin for State Senate” stickers and distributing fliers that beckoned Democrats to “join the A-Team.”

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The newly-minted Progressive Caucus of the Virginia General Assembly includes the entire Arlington delegation to the House of Delegates.

Dels. Bob Brink, Adam Ebbin, David Englin and Patrick Hope are all listed as members of the group.

“Progressive values are Virginia values,” Hope said in a press release announcing the caucus’ formation. “The Progressive Caucus serves to fight for the interests of the average citizen and to educate the public on Progressive issues.”

“While Virginia can be slow to change, we have to keep pace with the times when it comes to issues like stem cell research, global warming and society’s attitudes towards gays and lesbians,” said Ebbin. “As progressives, it is important that we stand together as we work to move Virginia forward.”

“It’s time for progressive legislators to organize and work together to advance the progressive values that we share, so we can keep our Commonwealth moving toward that day when every person – including the poor, the elderly, the week, the dispossessed – has a fair shake and an equal shot at the American dream,” Englin said.

Conspicuously absent from the group is Arlington’s state senator, Mary Margaret Whipple.

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