An existing state law on the books says specialty license plates issued for members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans may not include an emblem, like the Confederate battle flag. An injunction on First Amendment grounds prevented the Commonwealth from enforcing that law, but a Supreme Court ruling in June prompted Attorney General Mark Herring (D) to file a motion to vacate the previous order.
In a press release, the attorney general’s office says that Judge Jackson Kiser will next file an order that will specify whether nearly 1,700 previously-issued Confederate plates may be recalled.
Today in federal district court in Danville, Judge Jackson Kiser ruled from the bench that he will dissolve his 2001 injunction that had allowed the Sons of Confederate Veterans to place the confederate battle flag on certain specialty license plates in Virginia. On June 26, Attorney General Mark R. Herring filed motions (see below) to dissolve the injunction and vacate the order that had required placement of the flag on SCV license plates. The Commonwealth will now be able to enforce its existing law regarding SCV plates which states “No logo or emblem of any description shall be displayed or incorporated into the design of license plates issued under this section.”
“This ruling will allow Virginia to remove a symbol of oppression and injustice from public display on its license plates,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Virginia state government does not have to and will not endorse such a divisive symbol. I appreciate Governor McAuliffe’s leadership in calling for the removal of the flag and those on my team who moved quickly to get it done.”
Judge Kiser’s ruling will not be official until he enters his order, which will also address whether the decision will apply prospectively to new license plates, or retroactively to include existing ones. Deputy Attorneys General Rhodes B. Ritenour and Jeffrey M. Bourne and Senior Assistant Attorney General Janet Westbrook handled the case on behalf of the Commonwealth.
The DMV asserts that the smartphone-based services, which allow drivers to make money by using their own cars like a dispatched taxicab, are illegal because they have not received the proper authorization from the DMV to operate in Virginia.
In letters to company officials, the DMV says it will “enforce existing laws by companies… and by individual drivers that lack authority to provide passenger transportation.”
Tonight the Arlington County Police Department said it plans to assist in that enforcement, effective immediately.
“We will enforce it, but it will not be a primary focus of our operations,” ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told ARLnow.com. “We are going to take a soft approach, but we will not turn a blind eye.”
Both Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, told news outlets that they’ll keep operating in Virginia.
Sternbeck did not clarify how, exactly, officers plan to single out Uber and Lyft drivers for enforcement. While Uber drivers typically operate discreetly, with nothing to outwardly distinguish their vehicles, Lyft drivers are supposed to drive around with a large, pink moustache attached to their car’s grille.
Jon Liss, Executive Director of Tenants and Workers United, which has been rallying local cab drivers against Uber and Lyft, applauded the DMV’s action and called on the Arlington County Board to do more to protect cab drivers.
“It is time for Arlington to get in sync with the state DMV and enforce one set of rules for all taxi-like services,” he said. “Drivers in Arlington deserve ‘dispute resolution’ protections and fair and enforced regulations.”
Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans slammed the state’s response to Uber and Lyft, placing blame on Virginia’s Democratic governor.
“The DMV’s decision to crack down on Lyft and Uber is reprehensible,” said AFCYR Chairman Matthew Hurtt. “During his campaign, Governor McAuliffe emphasized the importance of efficient government and transportation in making the Commonwealth the best place for business. Yet, less than six months into his term, he stands idly by while his administration cracks down on a thriving industry that not only brings jobs to the region, but also provides safe and efficient transportation at an affordable price.”
“The DMV should withdraw their cease and desist letter along with their preposterous interpretation of this law,” Hurtt concluded.
Arlington County Police responded to an accident at the Department of Motor Vehicles (4150 S. Four Mile Run Drive) today, after a car crashed into a fence.
Police say the driver was at the DMV to take a driving test. Shortly after 1:00 p.m., the driver somehow jumped a curb in the parking lot and smashed into the fence.
Police are not able to release many details about what happened because the investigation into the incident is still ongoing. For now, it has not been determined if the driver will be charged.
Nobody was hurt in the incident.
Using the long weekend to catch up on errands at the DMV doesn’t look like it will be an option for everyone. In addition to being closed in observance of Columbus Day on Monday, certain services will not be offered on Saturday.
Because the DMV’s Social Security Verification system will be unavailable tomorrow, services like applying for a first-time Virginia driver’s license will not be offered. A small number of renewals will be affected as well.
The system maintenance will affect branches across the country, including the one in Arlington at 4150 South Four Mile Run Drive. The branch will still be open from 8 a.m. to noon for other services.
Here’s more information from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles:
RICHMOND – Certain services provided by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), including applying for a first-time Virginia driver’s license, will be unavailable on Saturday, October 8, 2011.
Due to system maintenance by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), social security number verification will not be available in DMV customer service centers (CSC) on October 8. DMV verifies social security numbers when processing new driver’s license transactions and some driver’s license renewal transactions.
Customers who need first-time or renewed driver’s licenses are encouraged to visit DMV before October 8; all DMV offices will be closed on Monday, October 10 in observance of the Commonwealth’s Columbus Day holiday.
Customers who are unable to obtain a new or updated driver’s license on October 8 will receive a letter during their visit to the DMV customer service center. Customers may return to any CSC during the week of October 11 through 14 and present the letter at the information desk for expedited service.
If a customer’s driver’s license expires, Virginia law requires the customer to show proof of legal presence to renew at DMV, even if legal presence has been proven in the past. Legal presence means that a person is either a U.S. citizen or is legally authorized to be in the United States. Examples of documents used to prove legal presence include a government-issued birth certificate or a U.S. passport. For more information on acceptable documents, see DMV’s Guide to Obtaining a Driver’s License or Identification Card.
The statewide licensing outage lasted “a couple of hours” and was resolved by noon, according to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Melanie Stokes.
The problem was caused by a faulty server, Stokes said. Licensing systems at some DMV offices may still be experiencing latency issues as a result.
“We’re still having some locations that are experiencing slow transaction times, but that should be worked out fairly quickly,” she said.
This morning’s outage may increase DMV wait times this afternoon, depending on how many of the customers who were turned away this morning decide to return later today. Stokes said that some customers may have been given “return letters” that will allow them to skip the line when they return.
A similar outage occurred on Wednesday, March 9, but only lasted 20 minutes, Stokes said. Both outages were isolated to DMV licensing computers and did not affect other DMV transactions. Stokes said the outages were not related to the extended Virginia DMV outage last summer, which was caused by statewide computer problems.
This is at least the third time in a month that the Four Mile Run DMV office has had to turn away customers. On Feb. 25, a wind storm damaged a large section of the building’s metal roof, forcing it to close for the day.
Man Killed on Key Bridge Was Arlington Resident — Police say 23-year-old Arlington resident Aliester Elizardo Pineda-Medrano was walking his broken-down moped across the Key Bridge when he was struck and killed by an SUV Sunday night. The man who police say struck Pineda-Medrano and kept going has also been identified. [WUSA 9]
DMV Back Open After Roof Blown Off — A large section of the metal roof atop the DMV building on South Four Mile Run Drive blew off during Friday’s fierce winds. Nonetheless, the DMV opened as usual on Monday. [TBD]
Women of Vision Finalists Named — The Arlington Commission on the Status of Women has unveiled the four nominees for its 2011 ‘Women of Vision’ award. The winner of the award will be announced at a reception on March 10. [Sun Gazette]
ArlingtonSenator.com Registered — State political blogger Ben Tribbett has been mentioned as a possible candidate in the race to replace retiring state Senator Mary Margaret Whipple. The 31-year-old is at least considering a run. Domain records show Tribbett has registered ArlingtonSenator.com. [Network Solutions]
High winds have blown off part of the roof of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles building at 4150 South Four Mile Run Drive.
Firefighters report that a large section of the building’s metal roof blew off. The building has been evacuated. No injuries are reported.
A building inspector has been requested at the scene.
On WTOP’s Ask the Governor program this morning, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was asked about the state law that allows vehicles with clean fuel license plates (like hybrids) to travel on HOV lanes without occupancy restrictions.
“Is there any point at which that will formally and permanently be canceled?” a caller asked the governor, adding that single-occupant hybrids “clog up” the HOV lanes during rush hour.
McDonnell, who signed a one-year extension of the law in March, noted that the law was “put in place in previous administrations… to create an incentive for using fuel-efficient cars.”
McDonnell said the exemption, which expires on June 30, 2011, will be examined as part of his administration’s transportation effort.
“The overall idea behind these… high occupancy lanes is to reduce congestion, and one person in a car doesn’t do that,” McDonnell said. “It’s part of one of the overall things that we’re looking at in the Department of Transportation in order to get people moving faster. Being able to have more people in one vehicle, or in rail or other modalities, is part of the solution.”
The company’s drivers will watch over restricted parking spaces and wait for some unfortunate schmo to park there and walk off the owner’s property, at which point they snatch the car and drive off. They do this at the Four Mile Run branch of the Virginia DMV, at the Westmont Shopping Center on Columbia Pike, and elsewhere around Arlington. Needless to say, it has not won them many friends.
They have earned themselves a steady stream of hate on Yelp. They have been the subject of a not-safe-for-work screed by a prominent local blogger. And they’re often involved in disputes that have to be settled by police.
The dispute that led to the photo above happened last week when a driver thought his car was damaged by an Advanced tow truck. Police concluded that it was preexisting damage.
One day later, a man contacted TBD and ARLnow.com after his car was towed from the same private lot adjacent to the DMV. He accused Advanced of using a “decoy” to attract people to the spaces, then threatening him when he tried to warn others. “Aggressive towing, intimidation at Arlington DMV parking lot,” TBD’s headline read.
This all brings up the inevitable question: Is Advanced unethical? Are they preying on unsuspecting drivers without regard to circumstance? Or are they delivering justice to people who ignore no parking signs?
Nearly 100 people chanted slogans, held signs and beat drums outside the Arlington office of the Virginia DMV this afternoon, decrying tougher policies on immigrants enacted in the wake of a nun’s death in Prince William County.
The protesters, many of whom were affiliated with the Laborers International Union of North America and Alexandria-based Tenants and Workers United, were noisy but peaceful. Their hour-long protest was watched closely by a dozen Arlington County police officers.
The demonstrators were protesting two recent actions that they say amounts to a “war and persecution of Virginia’s immigrants.” Last week, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell barred the Department of Motor Vehicles from accepting “employment authorization documents,” commonly used by immigrants, as proof of legal residency. Then this week, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency revealed a change in policy that will put illegal immigrants charged with DUI on the fast track to deportation.
Both policy changes come after a Benedictine nun was killed in a crash that police say was caused by an illegal immigrant who was driving drunk. Carlos Martinelly Montano, 23, was awaiting a deportation hearing on two prior DUI charges at the time of the August 1 wreck.
While calling Sister Denise Mosier’s death “tragic,” organizers of the protest said the crash should not be used to “promote an anti-immigrant agenda that would effectively segregate immigrants from society.”
“Some people are going all out to turn Virginia into the next Arizona,” Tenants and Workers United Suyapa Hernandez said in a statement. “We will not stand for this… we must unite and fight back against policies that divide and weaken our communities.”
“Racist application of the rule of law and state resources is an unfortunate legacy in Virginia politics,” said John Liss, executive director of Tenants and Workers United. “From slave-owners of the old South to the life-long disenfranchisement of ex-felons and recent attempts to… detain and deny immigrants their basic civil rights, we are witnessing the struggle of the dominant class to maintain control as the demographics… in the Commonwealth change.”
It’s not every day you hear someone complementing the way things are done at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s also fairly rare these days to hear a progressive Huffington Post blogger saying nice things about the Commonwealth of Virginia, land of the Confederate History Month and the anti-anti-discrimination directive.
But blogger Tamar Abrams was so delighted with her teen daughter’s experience with Virginia’s unique “juvenile licensing ceremony” that she felt compelled to tell the world.
There is one shining beacon of brilliance that I witnessed yesterday in the Arlington County Courthouse and which makes me want, for a moment, to brag about the state in which I’ve resided for 18 years.
Instead of just being handed a shiny new driver’s license at the DMV counter, new drivers under the age of 18 are summoned to appear in family court with a parent. There they watch a driving safety video (narrated by Arlington-born newswoman Katie Couric), hear a talk about teen driving laws, and are finally handed their license by a stern-looking judge.
Abrams wrote that the ceremony left a lasting impression.
It feels good to be proud of my home state, even for a moment. I can’t find any statistics proving that the juvenile licensing ceremony has reduced teen accidents in Virginia, but I know for one teen and her mom it reminded us of the gravity of earning a right to drive.