Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Summer School Enrollment Limited — “Despite having offered financial incentives to teachers to teach summer school, there are fewer applicants than the number of students who are eligible for summer instruction at the elementary level, making it impossible for APS to offer summer strengthening support to all eligible elementary students.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Car Driven onto W&OD Trail — “We were riding our triple bike and came across someone who had driven onto the W&OD Trail from Park Rd S… it was rather scary that they barely stopped before we passed by.” [Twitter, YouTube]

New Location for Free Covid Tests — From Arlington County: “Our no-cost, no-appointment mobile COVID-19 testing has moved! It’ll be based in the parking lot of Unitarian Universalist Church (4444 Arlington Blvd) through May 28.” [Twitter]

Dems Prepare for Apartment Outreach — “Voters [in multi-unit buildings] may have tipped the outcome of the 2018 County Board race, in which Democrat Matt de Ferranti ousted independent John Vihstadt… This year, races for local and legislative posts are probably not in much doubt across Arlington. But Democrats are hoping to run up the score in the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in order to offset Republican strongholds downstate.” [Sun Gazette]

Va. GOP Selects Gov. Nominee — “Former private equity chief Glenn Youngkin became the Republican nominee for Virginia governor Monday night after his closest rival, business executive Pete Snyder, conceded while votes were still being tabulated.” [Washington Post, Associated Press]

D.C. Planning Full Reopening — “D.C. plans to lift a slew of coronavirus capacity restrictions starting May 21, with a full reopening to come in June.” [WTOP, PoPville]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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There’s word this morning that the idea of a Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola might not be as dead as we first thought.

Just over four years since the Arlington County Board said it was “not in favor” of the $80-90 million project, which always seemed to be more attractive to Georgetown business interests than to those on the other side of the river, a D.C. Council member is raising the hopes of the gondola’s cult-like following with a new funding request.

Per the Washington Business Journal’s Alex Koma:

https://twitter.com/AlexKomaWBJ/status/1375439112237424643

While the idea of aerial lift transportation from Manhattan on the Potomac directly to the Exorcist steps — not to mention the sweeping views in between — may make gondola advocates giddy, the initial estimate of $3.25 million in annual operating costs puts a damper on the chances of it actually happening.

Nonetheless, should Councilmember Brooke Pinto’s proposal go through, purchasing the former Exxon station and completing an Environmental Impact Study would eliminate major hurdles to the gondola project moving forward. Next stop: getting Arlington County elected officials to climb on board.

What do you think of this latest gondola news?

(If you can’t see the emojis, here is the key: 1 = happy, 2 = unhappy, 3 = shrug.)

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Two Arlington County firefighters were the only paramedics present at ground zero of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, treating and triaging injured law enforcement officers and attackers alike.

That’s according to a new report from the Associated Press, citing dozens of documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

From the AP:

Two firefighters loaned to Washington for the day were the only medics on the Capitol steps Jan. 6, trying to triage injured officers as they watched the angry mob swell and attack police working to protect Congress.

Law enforcement agents were “being pulled into the crowd and trampled, assaulted with scaffolding materials, and/or bear maced by protesters,” wrote Arlington County firefighter Taylor Blunt in an after-action memo. Some couldn’t walk, and had to be dragged to safety.

Even the attackers sought medical help, and Blunt and his colleague Nathan Waterfall treated those who were passing out or had been hit. But some “feigned illness to remain behind police lines,” Blunt wrote.

Blunt, who’s also the Public Information Officer for the Arlington County Fire Department, said he and his colleagues were “among the first mutual aid teams to arrive,” and they “were critical to begin the process of driving protestors off the Capitol,” according to the AP.

The reporting suggests Arlington first responders had an earlier and more active role in defending the Capitol than previously known. County officials have not provided much specificity around what support Arlington police and firefighters provided in the District that day, and when.

ARLnow previously reported on large convoys of Arlington first responders that were seen heading into D.C. in the midst of the Capitol chaos that afternoon, and on video footage showing riot gear-clad ACPD officers pushing back unruly protesters that night.

At the time, a department spokeswoman declined to provide ARLnow with additional information on the deployments of Arlington police officers, citing the need to not divulge tactical information. Blunt, reached via email on Friday, declined an interview.

“Since the incident is still under investigation, we have decided not to provide interviews at this time,” he wrote. “Hopefully, my memo provided to the press via the FOIA request gives you some perspective of the challenges we had to face that day.”

ARLnow reported on Jan. 5 that Arlington police would be in D.C. as a result of a mutual aid request from the Metropolitan Police Department. Arlington officers would “assist our regional law enforcement partners in maintaining peace and order in the event of a significant disturbance or unrest,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

The AP report notes that county officials were informed that Arlington officers were responding to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol around 3:30 p.m., an hour or so after the ACFD medics started treating injured people on the Capitol steps.

…it was 3:39 p.m. when Penn emailed county officials that he had “just been notified” that Arlington officers were responding to the Capitol attack and had been absorbed into the overall response led by Capitol Police.

That was almost 90 minutes after the mob first busted into the Capitol and more than an hour after the medics began treating injured police on the steps.

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When Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse delivered food to the security personnel in the District on Monday, it took two-and-a-half hours and many phone calls — even to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser — to pass each checkpoint. 

“When I arrived the Commander of that unit and the policeman literally cheered, [saying] ‘Bayou Bakery is here,'” Guas tells ARLnow.

Bayou Bakery and Arlington-founded District Taco are helping nourish the 25,000 servicemen and women, along with law enforcement, deployed to protect the nation’s capital during the 59th Inauguration.

The homegrown Mexican chain donated 2,000 burritos to the National Guard on Monday. The day before, Guas said he and his crew worked into the night to prepare biscuits and sandwich lunches for the Monday delivery.

The two join about 30 D.C.-area restaurants distributing meals to the multitudes, hailing from Maine to Guam. The heightened security is in response to the mob of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.  

District Taco donated burritos that were pledged during a “Buy One, Give One Burrito” campaign in December.

On Monday, CEO and co-founder Osiris Hoil cashed in all 2,000 BOGO burritos to feed the National Guard. He said they were so popular that supplies ran out long before the lunch hours ended.

“When I saw the brave servicemen and women protecting the Capitol building, I knew exactly where I wanted those pledged burritos to go,” Hoil said in a press release. 

District Taco also donated hundreds of burritos to essential workers in hospitals and food banks last October and November. Hoil said he is proud to continue this longstanding tradition of giving back.

“Thanks to the support of our community, our restaurants are still open,” Hoil said. 

Guas also uses his food for good. He co-founded Chefs Feeding Families during the pandemic and has cooked for the annual awards dinner put on by Blue Star Families.

“Not having served in the military myself — but having grandparents that did — I’ve always jumped at the opportunity to help our men and women in uniform who protect our freedom,” he said.

Guas credits his involvement to Micheline Mendelsohn Luhn and Spike Mendelsohn, his friends and two of the family members behind We, The Pizza. The duo told ABC News that D.C. restaurants — despite struggles during the pandemic — are pitching in to provide fresh food to upwards of 5,000 people, who might otherwise have to rely on pre-packaged military meals, each day.

Photos (1) via District Taco, (2-3) via Bayou Bakery

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(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Traffic is light. Police dispatches are run-of-the-mill. Many residents are at home, watching their televisions.

In contrast to the chaos of two weeks ago, Inauguration Day has been uneventful in Arlington.

Arlington County Police confirmed this morning that its officers are remaining in the county, not needed for the unprecedented security presence in D.C. Instead they remain in Arlington, albeit on high alert.

Arlington County Fire Department personnel are, however, supporting their counterparts in the District today.

“It’s an all hand kind of a day,” said ACFD spokesman Taylor Blunt.

Blunt said the fire department responded to a regional call for mutual aid from the D.C. fire department, which is supporting the inauguration. Firefighters from Arlington, along with other Virginia and Maryland fire departments, are helping to fill D.C. fire stations and respond to calls in the District.

The fire department also has “additional resources” active in the county, should anything happen here.

Arlington emergency personnel are monitoring the inauguration activities in the county’s Emergency Operations Center, ready to respond to threats and incidents as needed.

At the U.S. Capitol, meanwhile, the American tradition of a transfer of power to the new administration is underway. Among those attending the inaugural ceremony is Arlington’s congressman, Rep. Don Beyer.

The newly-sworn-in President and Vice President will briefly visit Arlington this afternoon, as they and several former presidents — the Obamas, the Clintons and the Bushes — lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

https://twitter.com/JWPascale/status/1351947439155118081

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There will be more police officers on Arlington’s streets on Inauguration Day and the days leading up to it.

Some officers will be easily spotted, said acting police chief Charles “Andy” Penn. Others, not so much.

“There will definitely be an increased police presence throughout Arlington,” Penn said in an interview with ARLnow. “Some visible, some not visible.”

ACPD “will deploy increased police resources,” but there are “no known threats to Arlington County as this time,” the department noted in a press release Thursday.

The current focus is on the public safety and protection of Arlington residents, Penn says. He didn’t comment on whether ACPD has received any mutual aid requests from D.C. police or the federal government as of yet, but did say the police department hasn’t agreed to anything.

“At this point, we’ve not committed to any mutual aid requests outside of… the Commonwealth,” he said.

Prior to the U.S. Capitol riots, ACPD did receive and agree to mutual aid requests from D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department.

Arlington police officers were seen defending the U.S. Capitol from pro-Trump rioters and insurrectionists in a video from Jan 6. They helped to replace “hurt and tired D.C. officers on the front lines,” according to a new Washington Post account of the chaos.

As previously reported, no ACPD officers were seriously injured and Penn confirmed that this remains the case.

Penn says that the department had a “significant number” of officers assisting MPD over three days last week, but none are deployed in D.C. currently.

Two U.S. Capitol Police officers and one Anne Arundel County officer are currently under investigation for alleged actions during the insurrection. Penn says no such investigations are taking place in regards to Arlington officers.

I am not aware of any allegation that any members of this agency were involved in any unlawful behavior, he says. “And if we become aware, it’s certainly something we would investigate.”

Penn reiterated that as inaugural preparations are underway, the situation remains “fluid” and plans are subject to change. They’ve had staff assigned to inauguration efforts for weeks now, he says, but the events of the last ten days have changed some previous plans.

Penn added that the county is in constant contact with regional, state, and federal agencies and Arlington is committed to sharing both intelligence and resources with those partners.

“Our goal, collectively, is to make sure that we’re ensuring the safety of this region and doing everything proactively that we can to be prepared for that, have good response plans, and have appropriate numbers of staff,” he says.”

That could mean road closures. As of right now, no road closures are planned but discussions are underway about the potential necessity of doing that.

Same for potentially implementing a curfew, like last Wednesday.

“I think the curfew would depend on the situation at the time. There has been some minimal conversation about that, but there’s no plan to do that at this point,” Penn says.

Travel options Arlington and the District will be limited between. D.C. has announced road closures and Metro has announced numerous downtown Metro closures. Heeding the advice of local officials, Arlington Democrats have arranged special inauguration events in Arlington, in lieu of heading to the District.

ACPD is encouraging anyone who spots suspicious activity on Inauguration Day or in the days leading up to it, particularly in areas where crowds gather — “shopping centers, restaurant districts, religious services, and public transportation hubs to name a few” — to report it immediately.

“The more we work collectively as a community, the safer we’re going to be,” Penn said. “We’re always better when we’re working as a large team in the Arlington community.”

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Yesterday (Wednesday) was Matt de Ferranti’s second full day as the Arlington County Board’s 2021 chairman.

Yet, he was already faced with a crisis and had to determine how to best protect the citizens of Arlington during one of the more frightening days in modern American history when a mob of Trump supporters rioted at the U.S. Capitol.

In an exclusive interview, de Ferranti tells ARLnow that he heard from more than 300 Arlingtonians via emails and calls throughout the day. He was also in conversation with County Manager Mark Schwarz and Alexandria mayor Justin Wilson.

Based on those conversations, he convened a closed meeting of the County Board at 4:45 p.m to discuss “the events that have occurred” in D.C. and protecting Arlington from “potential terrorist activity.”

This is where last night’s curfew, requested by the Board and approved by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, was decided.

“We felt it was in the safety interests and the best interests of our residents to have a curfew starting at six o’clock,” said de Ferranti. “We thought it was best to air on the side of precaution and safety, given the disturbing images that we saw in Washington and at the Capitol.”

And last night, Arlington was calm.

“I checked with the county manager this morning and last night, there were no incidents at all in Arlington,” says de Ferranti, referencing a lack of activity related to the Capitol chaos. “The curfew was the appropriate step out of an abundance of caution.”

He was aware of at least one hotel in Arlington that hosted group of Trump supporters. The situation was monitored, he says, but he was not aware of any behavior that rose to a level of concern.

Scanner traffic and social media reports also suggest that groups returning from D.C., including individuals flouting mask requirements, were congregating at the malls in Pentagon City and Ballston around the start of the curfew. They quickly dispersed, apparently after getting dinner. ARLnow reporters driving through Arlington’s Metro corridors spotted no large groups congregating outside after the curfew.

“Arlington was safe last night and is safe now,” said de Ferranti. He does not anticipate a curfew in Arlington tonight.

As reported, Arlington County Police did receive and agree to a request from D.C. police to send officers to the District.

“We got a request and we felt that it was in the interest of safety as we were watching, really, what I would describe as rioters, not protesters, but rioters,” de Ferranti says. “Our officers helped the D.C. police department.”

ACPD received a mutual aid request from MPD for today as well, which they are fulfilling.

However, de Ferranti says the intention was to assist D.C. police and not federal government agencies.

“We were very clear that they were going to only operate under an incident commander who was with the D.C. police. We are not at all interested in working with the federal government at this stage because of what we saw in June,” he said, referring to the controversial use of Arlington officers as mutual aid to U.S. Park Police outside the White House this summer.

When asked if ACPD received any mutual aid requests from any federal government agencies yesterday, de Ferranti responded, “no, not to my knowledge.” He noted, however, that the police department did receive a mutual assistance request from U.S. Capitol Police for today, but are unable to provide officers due to already fulfilling the request for MPD.

More than 50 Capitol and D.C. police officers were injured, some seriously, in Wednesday’s violence, the U.S. Capitol Police Chief said in a statement.

The County Board Chair said none of the Arlington officers who were deployed across the river were “seriously injured.” He says one fell “in the course of trying to protect,” but beyond a bit bruised, that officer is “fine.”

Last night Arlington officers in riot gear could be seen alongside Virginia State Police — who were also deployed en masse at the D.C. mayor’s request — protecting the front of the Capitol.

As for inauguration which is less than two weeks, de Ferranti says the county is preparing for it.

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Arlington County Police officers in riot gear could be seen defending the U.S. Capitol tonight in a new video.

The video (below) shows ACPD officers alongside Virginia State Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police in front of the Capitol, keeping back an angry pro-Trump crowd. The video-taker says it was taken around 5:40 p.m., just before a curfew took effect in D.C. and Arlington.

Later in the video, Metropolitan Police officers can be seen pushing back the crowd, to jeers. At one point, a man holding a large Confederate flag starts fighting with police and is taken to the ground by a group of baton-wielding D.C. officers.

Large contingents of Arlington police and Virginia State Police are in the District as a result of a mutual aid request from D.C. authorities amid the storming of the Capitol.

The sight of riot gear-clad Arlington officers in the District is striking given the events of this past summer, when similarly-equipped Arlington officers — supporting U.S. Park Police outside the White House after a mutual aid request — were pulled from D.C. after being pressed into service clearing crowds for a presidential photo op.

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(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) Arlington ambulances have been ordered to avoid transporting patients to hospitals in the District, amid ongoing chaos around the U.S. Capitol.

The broadcast went out on Arlington County Fire Department channels just before 3 p.m.

ARLnow is hearing that additional Arlington police officers are heading to D.C., perhaps as well as officers from other law enforcement agencies. Video shows and at least one witness reports numerous emergency vehicles heading into the District.

As of 3:25 p.m., a convoy of more than dozen Arlington police and fire department vehicles — some unmarked — could be seen heading down Washington Blvd in Clarendon.

Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage declined to provide additional information about deployments today, beyond confirming her earlier statement that ACPD is assisting D.C. police under a mutual aid agreement.

“ACPD does not provide tactical information such as the number of officers deployed,” Savage said. “There has been no change to the deployment of officers to D.C. under the mutual aid agreement with the Metropolitan Police Department.”

The District has instituted a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz, via a spokeswoman, said Arlington has no plans for a curfew.

Just before 3:30 p.m., Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said members of the Virginia National Guard and Virginia State Troopers will be sent to D.C., at the request of Mayor Muriel Bowser. Maryland’s National Guard is also being deployed.

Arlington’s congressman, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), tweeted just after 4 p.m. that he is “in a safe location” on Capitol Hill.

Businesses, including Safeway (in the District but not in Arlington or elsewhere) and the Arlington Community Federal Credit Union, are closing early due to the violence in the District. Metrorail service is ending early, at 8 p.m., while Metrobus and ART bus service is ending at 9 p.m., per the transit agencies.

As of 5 p.m., the Arlington County Board was discussing a possible response to security threats in closed session.

More via social media:

File photo (top). Matt Blitz contributed to this report.

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(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) After two years of construction, the Arlington Memorial Bridge is completely open for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

The 90-year-old bridge, which connects Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial, was renovated to save it from potentially closing for good in 2021. The $227 million rehabilitation project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in National Park Service history, will give the bridge another 75 years of service, officials said on Friday.

According to NPS, although the bridge is officially open, workers will continue putting final touches on the bridge and the Memorial Circle, replanting staging areas, completing small projects on the deck and installing bird netting.

In addition to the heavy infrastructure work on the bridge, a key Potomac River crossing, NPS repaved, improved crossings, added new signs and made the area easier and safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate, officials said.

The overhaul closed lanes and created traffic headaches for the 68,000 daily commuters that use it — by pre-pandemic counts, at least.

Local members of Congress — including Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Reps. Don Beyer and Gerry Connolly and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton — pushed for funding the project, after the discovery of corrosion led officials to close outer lanes and impose a weight limit.

In a joint statement issued Friday, the lawmakers said they worked to save the bridge because a closure would hurt their constituents.

“Memorial Bridge is now fully operational, and stands not only as a historic and functional monument, but also as a symbol of the kind of progress that is possible on rebuilding key transportation infrastructure through smart government investment,” they said in a statement.

Warner added that the project’s funding only came together as a result of a long-running, concerted effort among lawmakers and local officials.

“In 2015, we were warned that Memorial Bridge — a critical artery between Virginia and the nation’s capital — was literally falling apart,” said Sen. Warner. “Today’s reopening is a testament to years of work by the region’s congressional delegation, our local partners, and the National Park Service. Commuters can now rest easy knowing that this nearly 90-year-old landmark will carry them safely over the Potomac for years to come.”

The completed project preserves a national memorial to the sacrifices of veterans, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt said.

“The completion of this project marks one of the largest infrastructure projects in National Park Service history, which was done on time and on budget,” Bernhardt said. “I hope that all Americans are brought together to remember and honor our veterans every time they cross this bridge into the capital of our nation.”

Flickr pool photo (top) by Kevin Wolf, photo (bottom) courtesy of Office of Sen. Mark Warner

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Morning Notes

Arlington, MoCo Hire Consultant — “Montgomery and Arlington counties have hired a consultant to develop alternatives to the flight paths at Reagan National Airport that have led to dramatic increases in noise complaints from residents across the region. ‘This will be a game changer,; said Ken Hartman… Montgomery County’s point person on the airplane noise issue.” [Washington Post]

Biden Breaks 100K Mark in Arlington — “It likely won’t be the highlight of his political career, but Joe Biden will go down in history as the first presidential candidate to win more than 100,000 votes in Arlington. Biden garnered 102,510 of them, according to unofficial tallies reported immediately after the election… Trump’s performance, both in total votes and in percentage of the vote, slightly outperformed his 2016 tally in Arlington.” [InsideNova]

What the School Bond Will Fund — “The $52.65 million will be used for the following projects: $24.3 million for planning and design to meet 10-year projected capacity needs at all school levels; $15.4 million for major infrastructure projects such as HVAC replacement for schools; $7.65 million for building refreshes and kitchen renovations at ATS, Key and McKinley; $5.30 million for security entrances at Taylor, Gunston, Jefferson, Williamsburg, Wakefield.” [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]

Firefighter Follows in Fallen Father’s Footsteps — “The son of a Washington, D.C. fallen firefighter is following in his dad’s footsteps. When Anthony Phillips Jr.’s father died in the line of duty on May 30, 1999, he never thought he would do that work that took the life of his father 21 years ago. But, never say never… Phillips just graduated from the Arlington Fire Academy Recruit Class 78.” [WJLA]

Some Fog This MorningUpdated at 8:55 a.m. — From a National Weather Service tweet last night: “Some patchy dense #fog is developing over portions of central and northern Virginia. Remain alert if traveling overnight, as visibility could quickly fall to a quarter mile or less.” A Dense Fog Advisory is in effect until 10 a.m. [Twitter, Twitter]

Nearby: Downtown D.C. in Trouble — “Now,empty streets are the norm. The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the District’s once-thriving downtown area into a ghost town over the past nearly eight months… Downtown D.C.s’ economy has been crushed by the pandemic, though it has made a slight recovery since the BID issued its last report in July.” [DCist]

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