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Candidate Essay: Don Beyer

Last week, we asked the two candidates for Virginia’s 8th District in Congress, covering Arlington and Alexandria, to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Nov. 6.

Here is the unedited response from Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District):

Going to work to represent the people of Virginia’s 8th is a wonderful responsibility, and I thank you for twice electing me to the US House. I ask again for your vote again on November 6th.

Now, the Democrats in the House of Representatives are in a significant minority. We have neither the White House nor the Senate, so our work has been to defend the policies we value, fight destructive proposals from the Trump White House, and lay out the agenda we want to enact once in the majority.

My staff and I read the tens of thousands of letters I receive annually from this highly educated constituency, and I work — as much as possible in a bipartisan way — to lay the groundwork for what northern Virginians and I believe we must accomplish. These policies and ideas are many. Allow me to briefly mention four.

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I am a leader on environmental protections, including climate change, clean water, and endangered species, to name just a few. In my roles on the Natural Resources  and Science, Space, and Technology Committees, I defend against oil and gas drilling in our federal waters, advocate for outdoor recreation and protecting America’s national parks, and work to mobilize advanced energy technologies that can transition our economy to a carbon-neutral future.

I work for an end to bigotry and for progress on civil rights. Discrimination on the basis of someone’s nation of origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other quality is intolerable. This is fundamental to American ideals, and we must return to an age of fairness and civility. I introduced the Freedom of Religion Act, to prohibit religious litmus tests as a way of banning immigrants or refugees, and I also introduced legislation to improve the reporting of hate crimes.

The entire Democratic caucus works to protect the Affordable Care Act, a critical piece of progress in our nation’s health care, one that moved millions of Americans from uninsured to insured. I voted against every effort by the Republican caucus to repeal or dismantle this law. And I will continue to work for universal health care.

Finally, we must work to shape the new American economy, one that regenerates our middle class and fosters economic mobility. This includes paid family leave, improved and affordable public education, comprehensive immigration reform, an increase in minimum and tipped wages, affordable housing, and infrastructure investment.

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Our country is facing some extraordinary challenges. There are few northern Virginians who can say with candor that they are satisfied with the leadership of our nation – that it represents our best values or who we strive to be. I have been part of campaigns and American democratic life for decades, and this is perhaps the most fraught but also the most engaged I have ever seen the electorate. People are stepping up, raising their hands, rolling up their sleeves, and working to redefine this nation. I am certain that collectively we will change the current course of history and turn it in a positive direction, starting on November 6th.

It is easy to get discouraged about the present state of our country. But we have pulled ourselves together before. Our parents did it in World War II. Young people in Florida and elsewhere are doing it right now against hatred and gun violence. In fact, Virginians did it last year at the polls, putting a record number of women and people of color in the state legislature.

Please do everything you can to work for our young democracy, and please send me back to Congress so that I, too, can continue this work.

My background as lieutenant governor, a successful businessman, an ambassador, and a husband and father — as well as my four years as a Congressman — enable me to serve you well and I ask for your vote.

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Republican Thomas Oh Rejects Party Orthodoxy in Long-Shot Challenge to Democrat Don Beyer

Read through Thomas Oh’s campaign platform too quickly, and you might come away with the impression he’s a Democrat.

Consider that he supports efforts to combat climate change, he backs some gun control measures and he’s refused to accept any money from Virginia’s electric utility companies or from political action committees, a series of positions favored by most on the left in this day and age.

But Oh, of course, is the Republican nominee hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. Don Beyer this year in the 8th District, which includes Arlington and parts of Alexandria.

Oh faces the longest of long odds, considering that the district last elected a Republican back in 1988 and voters have twice sent Beyer to Congress with margins of victory larger than 30 percent. With good reason, Beyer, once Virginia’s lieutenant governor and the owner of several local car dealerships, is widely seen as one of the safest members of Congress in the entire country.

Regardless of his chances, however, Oh’s candidacy presents an interesting question for Republicans around the state, and around the country. In an increasingly conservative GOP, led by a combative president, is there room for a moderate Republican like Oh?

“You can pet the base and make them like you, just keep saying you’re pro-life, you love the Second Amendment and the base will love you,” Oh told ARLnow. “Or you can try your best to win it and piss a lot of your base off by trying to be in the middle of the road… but someone needs to do it, otherwise we’ll continue going down this road we’re on.”

Oh is hoping that embracing some positions running against the party platform will win him votes from independents, Republicans and even some Democrats looking for a change. But he notes that his views have frustrated plenty of hard-core Republicans, and he hasn’t exactly attracted an outpouring of support from traditional GOP groups and donors — the National Rifle Association’s political arm has refused to endorse him, and Oh says he hasn’t had much in the way of support from either the state Republican party or the National Republican Campaign Committee.

It doesn’t help matters either that Oh is on the ticket with Corey Stewart, the party’s nominee against Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who has attracted scorn from all corners for his tirades against undocumented immigrants and his embrace of Confederate symbols and white nationalists.

It all adds up to an unusual fit for Oh, as he tries to present a moderate, more libertarian vision in the deep blue district, while the rest of the party moves sharply in the other direction.

“He may not be likely to win a statewide Republican primary, but it’s been a while since Republicans have won a statewide election,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. “Presenting the party as an aggressive, conservative voice isn’t leading to success… so it does seem the Republican party is going to have to do some redefining to be competitive, and this candidate may be the shape of things to come.”

The 26-year-old Alexandria resident certainly hopes so.

Oh says he decided to run for office in the first place because he wanted to “do something, rather than just complain about our problems.” He grew up in Northern Virginia, graduated from Centreville High School and joined the Army right out of school. He earned his degree from George Mason University, and ultimately moved back to the area as a federal contractor.

Most of Oh’s positions are familiar ones among traditional Northern Virginia Republicans. He worries the federal deficit is too high, he wants to cut taxes and address Metro’s rising costs by confronting expenses generated by its labor union.

His arguments are also mirror those made by most long-shot challengers to entrenched incumbents — he claims that Beyer “takes the seat for granted” and has been unresponsive to constituent concerns, particularly those of veterans. In a statement, Beyer forcefully pushed back against the latter notion, calling it “absurd” and noting his office has taken on more than 400 veterans’ cases during his time in Congress.

Where Oh diverges a bit more from Republican orthodoxy is on guns — he supports modest gun safety measures and, like Beyer, has earned a “gun sense candidate” distinction from the advocacy group Moms Demand Action — and the environment.

He not only supports investments in renewable energy, but he’s refused to accept any money from Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, the state-regulated electric monopolies who have long been the state’s most generous political contributors. The group “Activate Virginia” began asking candidates to swear off such contributions last year in order to encourage politicians to be more skeptical of their interests, and Executive Director Josh Stanfield says Oh is the only Republican to have taken his group’s pledge.

“Dominion has been buying Democrats and Republicans for years,” Oh said. “My opponent talks about climate change all the time, but you can’t take money from Dominion Energy.”

Records show that Dominion’s PAC has given Beyer $16,500 over the course of his three campaigns, and Stanfield notes that his request that Beyer sign the anti-fossil fuel money pledge was “apparently not worthy of a response.”

But Beyer points out that Oh is taking an unusual tack by impugning his credentials on the environment. Beyer has been especially vocal on climate change, even introducing carbon tax legislation, and he was a leading voice in calling for the resignation of former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

“If the assumption is that financial support from utility companies (many of which have significant clean energy portfolios, by the way) means that I’ve been bought, well, those companies aren’t getting very much for their money,” Beyer wrote.

But Oh sees Beyer’s decision to accept that cash as hypocritical, and he believes people appreciate his stance as a “political outsider” willing to take a strong stance on such issues.

It’s certainly put him at odds with Stewart, who is also skeptical of Dominion contributions, but disagrees with Oh on just about every issue. Oh says he doesn’t worry too much about that split, noting that he’s “running my own campaign, more towards my own philosophy.” The Arlington County Republican Committee has also campaigned for both Oh and Stewart, despite their differences.

But has the state GOP and the NRCC, the chief fundraising arm of the party’s congressional leadership, come in to help him out? As Oh puts it, “not so much.”

For his part, Virginia Republican Party Spokesman John March insists that the GOP “is a big-tent party and we make room for everyone who supports limited government and lower taxes,” and he pushes back on any implication that the party has been anything less than fully supportive of Oh.

Yet Oh’s campaign finance reports make it clear that he hasn’t exactly benefited financially from institutional support — outside of a $5,500 donation from the 8th District Republican Committee, Oh hasn’t gotten much in the way of cash from Republican groups to power his campaign. Oh himself has lent the campaign $5,000, and only reported taking in about $56,000 in contributions. Beyer, by contrast, has raised more than $1.9 million to support his re-election bid.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Farnsworth doesn’t see much chance of success for Oh. He points out that Oh would need some sort of major scandal involving Beyer to have a chance — none have been forthcoming — or a “generous national environment.” However, Farnsworth notes that Donald Trump has “generated extraordinary hostility in the suburbs,” making Oh’s task ever more difficult, regardless of his moderation.

“But sometimes what elections can do is get you noticed,” Farnsworth said. “You run for state legislature, get a job in an administration, move to a more favorable district. Any of these things might happen.”

Oh wouldn’t say whether where his ambitions might lie should he lose on Nov. 6, saying he’s learned to “focus on what’s in front of you.” Considering his reluctance to toe the party line, however, he stresses that he’s not taking on this quixotic bid for his own selfish reasons.

“I don’t have an ulterior motive, I’m just here to do it,” Oh said. “I just want to do something to help the community.”

Photo via Facebook

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Arlington Candidates Blanket Facebook With Hundreds of Ads in Run-Up to the Midterm Elections

Elections around Arlington may not attract the sort of expensive TV ads that have come to dominate local stations ahead of the midterm elections, but candidates around the county have shelled out thousands to bring their messages to Facebook.

An ARLnow analysis of the social media site’s political ad database shows that Arlington’s six candidates for Congress and local office on the ballot this fall have combined with the county’s party committees to buy 549 Facebook ads from Jan. 1 through today (Oct. 29).

Thomas Oh, the Republican mounting a longshot bid to unseat Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District), led the way among the county’s candidates, buying 100 ads on the site since launching his campaign in February. According to campaign finance reports, he shelled out about $2,100 to pay for those posts.

But Oh was far from the bigger user of Facebook ads in Arlington — that distinction belongs to the Arlington Young Democrats, who have purchased 270 ads on the platform over the course of the year. The Arlington County Democratic Committee wasn’t far behind, buying 91 ads.

The county’s candidates for local office have relied on social media advertising a bit less, but have still used Facebook to reach thousands of potential voters.

In the lone race for a County Board seat this year, pitting independent incumbent John Vihstadt against Democrat Matt de Ferranti, the challenger has run a bit more Facebook ads so far.

According to Facebook’s database, de Ferranti has run 34 ads on the platform since launching his campaign in January. Records show he’s spent nearly $1,900 on Facebook ads in all, though campaign finance documents only detail spending through end of September — candidates will release their final reports of the campaign later this week.

Of the Democrat’s ads, 19 ran in the run-up to his primary victory over Chanda Choun in June, with 15 reserved for the general election contest with Vihstadt. In general, de Ferranti’s ad buys have each been less than $100 each, with only seven falling in the range of $100 to $500 — Facebook only provides ranges, not specific numbers, for spending and traffic figures.

Two of de Ferranti’s ads picked up between 50,000 and 100,000 impressions, while two others range between 10,000 and 50,000.

By contrast, Vihstadt has only run 10 ads on Facebook so far. His current campaign finance reports only show him spending about $100 on the posts, but he’s ramped up his activity on Facebook in October, meaning his spending will be reflected in the next set of reports.

However, Facebook’s database shows that the incumbent has recorded four ad buys of $100 or more, and one of more than $500, in all. He’s also had two ads reach between 50,000 and 100,000 impressions and two more range between 10,000 and 50,000.

Notably, Vihstadt has also turned to television advertising, and recently started running a single ad on local cable stations.

In the contest for the only School Board seat on the ballot, independent (and frequent candidate) Audrey Clement has outpaced incumbent Barbara Kanninen, who has the endorsement of local Democrats in the nominally nonpartisan race.

Clement has run 32 ads this year, spending about $1,520, according to campaign finance reports. She’s only spent more than $100 on three separate ad buys, but she’s still managed to reach plenty of people. Eight of her ads have secured between 5,000 and 10,000 and impressions, while two have managed between 10,000 and 50,000.

Kanninen has run just 12 ads, by comparison, sending about $241 to Facebook in all. Her ads have been viewed a bit less, with three ranging between 1,000 and 5,000 impressions and one making it to the 5,000 to 10,000 range.

Beyer appears not to have a run single ad on Facebook, despite raising more than $1.9 million over the course of his bid for a third term in Congress. However, he has benefitted from plenty of ads touting his candidacy from the local Democratic committee and the Young Democrats.

Oh faces quite the uphill battle to best Beyer, considering that the 8th (covering all of Arlington and parts of Alexandria) is among the safest districts for Democrats in the country. But the first-time candidate has managed to attract some attention to his Facebook ads at least, with four attracting between 10,000 and 50,000 impressions and seven attracting between 5,000 and 10,000. He’s spent more than $100 on seven different ad buys, which has surely helped boost those traffic numbers.

Facebook’s records don’t show any evidence of any ad spending from the county’s Republican committee, or its Green Party.

Disclosure: both Clement and Vihstadt have purchased ads on ARLnow.com. Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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Beyer Convenes Fourth ‘Women’s Conference’ at GMU Saturday

Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) is gearing up to hold his fourth annual “women’s conference” Saturday (Oct. 13), with speeches planned from groundbreaking female lawmakers and activists.

Beyer has titled this year’s event “Breaking Through: Women Work for Change,” and it will run from 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. at George Mason University’s Virginia Square campus (3351 Fairfax Drive).

While Beyer is set to give some opening remarks at gathering, the rest of the speakers will be women.

Del. Danica Roem, the state’s first transgender lawmaker who represents Manassas Park and parts of Prince William County, is set to deliver the event’s keynote address and discuss her work in Richmond.

Beyer will then present the “Clara Mortenson Beyer Women and Children First Award” to Naomi Wadler, an Alexandria fifth-grader who gained national notoriety for organizing protests in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting earlier this year.

Subsequent panel discussions include the following, per Beyer’s office:

Making History in Virginia with the ERA

Megan Beyer — Former executive director of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
Lynda Johnson Robb —  Advocate for literacy and the eldest daughter of President Lyndon Johnson
Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-2nd District)
Bettina Hager — D.C. Director and COO, ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality

Starting a Movement – Mobilizing Support and Driving Solutions

Michelle Millben – CEO and Founder, MGMC Enterprises LLC
Kim Anderson – Executive Vice President, Democracy Alliance
Jennifer Herrera – Virginia Chapter Leader, Moms Demand Action
Miriam Gennari – Environmental Advocate

Gender and the Supreme Court — Understanding the Impact on Women’s Issues

Jill Morrison — Executive Director Women’s Law & Public Policy Fellowship Georgetown University
Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza – Journalist
Emily Martin – Vice President for Education & Workplace Justice, National Women’s Law Center

The event is free to attend, though participants should register online or by calling Beyer’s district office at (703) 658-5403.

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Morning Notes

Vida Fitness Eyeing Second Arlington Gym — Vida Fitness has signed a letter of intent to open a gym and a “Sweatbox” boutique fitness studio in western Rosslyn, likely by the end of 2020. The company is expected to open its first Arlington location in Ballston in late 2019. [Washington Business Journal]

Beyer: If Impeachment Comes, It Must Be Bipartisan — “U.S. Rep. Don Beyer is no fan of Donald Trump. But he’s against moving forward with impeachment of the president unless it becomes a true bipartisan effort. ‘I don’t believe impeachment should ever be partisan – it should be done together,’ Beyer (D-8th) said at a campaign forum.” [InsideNova]

Warning About Swollen Streams — After an almost disastrous incident yesterday, the Arlington County Fire Department tweeted: “Remember, even a few inches of rushing water can be deceivingly powerful.” [Twitter]

Cemetery to Hold Expansion Dedication — “Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 6 will formally dedicate a 27-acre expansion that will provide more than 27,000 additional burial spaces… The expansion will provide for 10,882 in-ground burial spaces and 16,400 above-ground niche spaces for cremated remains.” [InsideNova]

Mongolian School Fights Fee Increase Proposal — “The Arlington school system’s proposal to vastly increase rental fees charged to the non-profit Mongolian School of the National Capital Area has outraged supporters of the school and led to predictions it might have to close if the increase isn’t reduced or rescinded… The proposal to jump the facility-use charge to $28,000 a year would be ‘devastating to our children and hard-working families,’ said Jane Batsukh, president of the Mongolian School Parents Association.” [InsideNova]

New Metrorail Cars Coming — Metro has kicked off the procurement process for its next-generation 8000 series rail cars. The transit agency plans to purchase hundreds of such cars and to put them into service as soon as 2024. [WMATA]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Beyer Rips Trump’s Federal Pay Freeze

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is no fan of Trump administration, but the president’s decision today (Thursday) to stop pay raises for civilian federal employees is hitting a particular nerve for Arlington’s local congressman.

In a statement, below, Beyer called the move “dishonest” and “an attack on another class of people he does not like.”

Beyer’s office also noted that the congressman “represents the largest number of federal employees of any Member of the House of Representatives.”

President Trump’s decision to deny pay raises is a slap in the face to the hardworking civil servants who help keep us safe, care for our veterans, and faithfully serve the American people.

No one will believe his dishonest justification of a ‘national emergency or serious economic conditions,’ which is contradicted by Trump’s own commentary painting a rosy picture of the economy. This newfound concern for the fiscal prudence is impossible to credit, given Trump’s willingness to create massive deficits and determination to waste money on pet projects like his border wall. This is merely an attack on another class of people he does not like.

It is a harsh indictment of President Trump’s values that he is freezing workers’ pay to offset his multi-billion-dollar tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Power Outage at National Airport — Reagan National Airport went dark for several hours last night after a rare power failure. Emergency generators did kick in but only powered a portion of the airport’s systems. [NBC Washington, WTOP, Twitter]

More About Rosslyn’s Pop-Up Retail — “The Alcove, a 5,000-square foot storefront in Rosslyn’s Central Place opened last Wednesday with an activity-packed bang: think kombucha tastings, fabric-stamping, decoupage-making, and more… The Alcove was born when developer JBG Smith offered up one of their properties to the [Rosslyn] BID for a two-month period.” [Washingtonian]

Free Pet Adoptions This Weekend — Adoption fees will be waived at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington on Saturday as part of the annual “Clear the Shelters” event. [DCist]

Recess Changes at APS — “Many APS schools already provide at least 30 minutes of recess, and the new guidelines will help ensure consistency in recess time across all APS elementary schools… Unstructured play and physical activity are an important part of student learning and well-being, and we are pleased to provide this opportunity for our students.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Rep. Beyer on CNN — Arlington’s local congressman, Rep. Don Beyer (D), was interviewed on CNN’s Situation Room last night on the topic of President Trump stripping former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Rep. Beyer Celebrates Pruitt’s Resignation as Head of EPA

Few members of Congress have been as outspoken against Scott Pruitt and his scandal-plagued tenure as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency as has local Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).

Now, with Pruitt’s resignation today (Thursday), Beyer is taking a victory lap.

“Finally,” the Congressman said in a single-word first sentence of an otherwise adjective-filled statement celebrating the resignation.

The congressman’s office, along with the Safe Climate Caucus he co-chairs, has sent out at least 32 press releases mentioning Pruitt since his nomination to the EPA’s top position was announced in December 2016.

“We urge President Trump to mark Earth Day by firing Scott Pruitt and replacing him with someone who will return the Environmental Protection Agency to its core mission, rather than using their position for perks and schemes at Americans’ expense,” said one such press release, sent this past April.

Today’s full statement from Beyer is below.

Finally.

Scott Pruitt was able to keep his position for so long — despite astonishing megalomania and unethical behavior – only because of Donald Trump’s historic embrace of corruption. Pruitt acknowledged behavior in Congressional hearings and televised interviews that violated federal regulations and spoke to extreme levels of wasteful spending and abuse of public office. He committed dozens of offenses which would have led to immediate dismissal in any previous administration.

Pruitt now joins the growing ranks of ex-Trump officials, a testament to President Trump’s chaotic management style and poor judgment. Sadly, some of those who remain may be nearly as corrupt, as antithetical to the purposes of the agencies they lead, and as willing to besmirch their public offices with dishonest and unethical behavior.

Scott Pruitt stood out, even in Donald Trump’s uniquely corrupt administration, for his willingness to cede direct influence and control over EPA policy to industries and special interests which harm public health. His scandals were inextricably linked to his antipathy to environmental protection, and to his close association with those who value profit over clean air and water.

The only way to really turn the page on the Pruitt era will be for Trump to appoint an EPA Administrator who is committed to environmental stewardship, and willing to clean house and wrest control of the EPA back from polluters and lobbyists.

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Beyer, Democratic Members of Congress Visit Arlington’s Immigration Court

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and some of his Democratic colleagues believe most children up for a hearing at Arlington’s immigration court are being treated fairly — but they worry that could soon change.

Beyer, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and several other members of Congress sat in for some hearings at the federal immigration court in Crystal City today (Thursday), and broadly came away pleased with what they saw, despite the chaos surrounding the Trump administration’s recent practice of separating children from families at the Mexican border.

Yet Beyer and his fellow Democrats fear what might happen should leadership at the court change. They’ve heard rumors that Jack Weil, a longtime immigration judge at the Department of Justice, could soon start hearing cases in Arlington, and they’re disturbed by his history.

Weil attracted nationwide attention after testifying that he believes children as young as 3 years old can represent themselves in immigration proceedings. Though all of the kids the members of Congress saw Thursday had legal representation, the Democrats expressed disbelief that any judge would decide whether a toddler should be deported without a lawyer present.

“It’s really disturbing, especially because we understand [Weil] is training other judges,” Beyer told reporters. “Look at all the conversations we have about the poor decisions of our 20-year-olds… The thought that even a 12-year-old, 13-year-old can make good decisions in court is silly.”

Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) noted that many of the cases the congressional delegation observed involved complex asylum applications, underscoring just how complicated an immigration hearing could be even for adults who speak English. She believes it would be “insane” to ask a child to attempt to navigate the process.

Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) felt Arlington’s courthouse generally represented “the best process possible” for kids seeking asylum. But she added that even this court only had Spanish translation services available, when people coming from somewhere like Guatemala could speak one of the country’s other 22 languages instead.

Beyer said Congress should act to provide funding for lawyers for immigrant children, given that that nonprofits stepping up to help can only provide representation for a small fraction of kids making their way through the system. With President Trump tweeting that immigrants should be deported “with no judges or court cases,” the Democrats said they realized the odds were long, but said it would be worth the effort.

“We can do this if we have the will and compassion to do this,” Hoyer said. “This is America. We believe in due process.”

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Accenture Opens Rosslyn Cyber Center to Draw on Arlington’s Vast Tech Talent

It might seem odd that the consulting firm Accenture would open a second Arlington office in Rosslyn, just a 10-minute drive from its current location in Ballston and a brief Metro ride away from its office in D.C.

But company executives believe Arlington’s pool of talented tech workers is so deep that such a move makes perfect sense — and state leaders are hoping tech giants from Apple to Amazon are similarly swayed by the strength of the county’s workforce.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) helped Accenture christen its new “cyber fusion center” inside the new CEB Tower at Central Place (1201 Wilson Blvd) today (Wednesday), hailing the company for its plans to create 1,000 high-paying tech jobs in the D.C. region by 2020.

Marty Rodgers, Accenture’s metro D.C. office managing director, says the firm ultimately plans to have 4,500 employees at its Arlington locations alone, and they’ll have plenty of company. As of last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than 17,000 people in Arlington work in IT-focused jobs, and Rodgers adds that 185 cybersecurity startups in the area won outside funding in 2017.

Observers have speculated that those numbers are part of why Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook are eyeing Arlington so closely for expansion. Northam hopes they’re right.

“I’ve always been a big believer that if we bring talent to the area, talent will attract other talent,” Northam told reporters Wednesday. “We’ve made that pitch and we’re excited about that opportunity, and we’ve had those discussions with Amazon. But whether it’s Amazon or Apple or any other company, in order for them to grow or come here, we’ve got to be able to train our workforce.”

Northam credits his predecessor, ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, for putting a focus on tech training programs at both the higher education level and in K-12 schools. But it also helps that many of those workers have gained experience in the area’s bevy of federal government tech jobs, making them even more attractive to companies like Accenture that do plenty of business in D.C.

“This is where all the talent is,” Rodgers said. “You need people who have that combination of experiences, with for-profits, with nonprofits, with government.”

Rodgers noted that those sorts of employees will be particularly important at the company’s new Rosslyn center. It’s designed as not only a cybersecurity research hub, but also as a meeting space for Accenture to help its clients, from governments to massive corporations, investigate cyberattacks in real time.

Accenture executives demonstrated for the gathered elected officials and journalists how the company might educate an oil and gas company about how to prevent a phishing attack on a refinery. After hackers tried, and failed, to blow up a Saudi Arabian refinery by breaking in to a company’s networks via a fraudulent email, company officials warned that such a scenario isn’t terribly far-fetched.

Rodgers believes the center will even be innovative enough to help the D.C. region become the top global destination for cybersecurity companies.

“This region is fundamental to cybersecurity for the country and the world,” Rodgers said. “This is a mantle we hope this cybersecurity fusion center can claim here, as compared to Silicon Valley.”

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Family Separations Prompt Action from Local Lawmakers

The issue of children being separated from parents seeking asylum at the U.S. border has prompted both words and actions from Arlington’s members of Congress.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) yesterday signed on as a cosponsor of the Keep Families Together Act — Democratic-backed legislation that would end the family separation policy that has sparked nationwide and even international outrage.

“Donald Trump’s family separation policy is immoral and Congress must put a stop to it,” said Beyer, in a statement. “Treating legal asylum-seekers, many of whom are fleeing violence which endangers their lives, in such a cruel manner is a violation of our country’s values and internationally-accepted agreements on human rights.”

Beyer yesterday also visited two fathers who were separated from their children at the border and being held at a detention center in Maryland. TV cameras were there as Beyer and his wife Megan described a “very emotional, very difficult” discussion with the men.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), meanwhile, have written a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, requesting an “immediate response” to a number of questions about the family separations, including:

  • Whether any facilities in Virginia are being used to house children separated from their families
  • The rationale for the “zero tolerance” policy that prompts separations
  • The plan for detention infrastructure to hold asylum seekers
  • Resources for separated children, including medical and mental health services
  • Specific information on the conditions for girls and toddlers
  • Plans for facilitating family reunification

Also yesterday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) recalled four members of the Virginia National Guard from their service on the U.S. border.

There’s more local fallout from the family separation issue. The Methodist church is considering expelling Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a member over his enforcement of the policy and justification of it by citing a Bible verse.

News outlets reported that Sessions is a member of the Clarendon United Methodist Church in Arlington, in addition to a Methodist church in his home state of Alabama.

Photo via @RepDonBeyer

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Arlington’s Lone Social Security Office Set to Close on June 22

The lone Social Security Administration field office in Arlington is officially set to close its doors two weeks from now, as county leaders continue to press for answers on why the location is shutting down.

The SSA announced in a news release Wednesday (June 6) that the office, located at 1401 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, will close on June 22. That will force the roughly 25,000 Arlington residents who visit the office each year to leave the county to receive an in-person consultation on their benefits.

In its release, the SSA suggested that Arlingtonians will be able to visit the administration’s offices in Alexandria, Fairfax or D.C. instead, or even use the SSA’s online services. Yet, ever since news of the office’s closure became public last month, advocates for seniors and local elected officials have argued that Social Security recipients often lack the transportation options and technical savvy to make those alternatives viable.

“This field office is conveniently located for our older and disabled Arlington constituents who trust and rely on the direct assistance provided at this location and may lack close access to transportation, or wish to discuss their affairs in-person rather than over the internet,” U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) wrote in a May 21 letter to the SSA’s acting inspector general. “At a time when our nation’s population of seniors is growing, it would be imprudent to reduce access to services seniors need and demand.”

The SSA claims, however, that its “expiring lease” at the Rosslyn building is forcing it to close the office. That argument doesn’t hold much water with Arlington leaders, who have long lamented that Rosslyn boasts an office vacancy rate of more than 20 percent.

“Given the vacancy rate within Arlington County and the likely continued availability of existing space, office space availability is not an issue,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) wrote in a May 1 letter to the administration’s inspector general.

Beyer also noted in his letter that the county has “made an overture to assist with finding a suitable space” for a new office in Arlington — a county spokeswoman confirmed that County Manager Mark Schwartz made such an offer. An SSA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on what discussions the agency has had, if any, with Arlington officials about staying in the area.

Kaine and Warner added in their note that county leaders have even floated the possibility that “it may be possible to extend the field office’s current lease because redevelopment of the Wilson Boulevard location is unlikely to occur for several years.” The County Board approved a full redevelopment of the block — also the location of the famed “Deep Throat” parking garage where Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward met with a source to help break open the Watergate scandal — back in 2014, but demolition work still has yet to start in the area.

Accordingly, Beyer, Kaine and Warner all demanded an investigation into how the SSA ultimately decided to close the office, and the administration’s inspector general agreed to order a review of the matter on May 21.

“The Social Security Administration should postpone the closure of its Arlington office while this review goes forward,” Beyer wrote in a statement. “It would be inappropriate for the office to be closed before the effects on the community are assessed. I thank the Acting Inspector General for undertaking this review, and look forward to its conclusions.”

The SSA office closure in Arlington is hardly an isolated decision, however. The administration has closed 125 of its roughly 1,250 offices since 2000, according to the advocacy group Social Security Works.

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Joe’s Place to Celebrate 40 Years Serving Pizza and Pasta

(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Joe’s Place Pizza & Pasta will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next week, and several state legislators and Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol are expected to be in attendance.

On Wednesday, Joe’s Place will offer its pizza, pasta and salad buffet bar at the original price of $3.99 for both lunch and dinner.

The restaurant, at 5555 Lee Highway, is the final remaining branch of a family-run chain that began in Woodbridge in 1978, a rep noted. It was founded by Joe Farruggio, who came to the U.S. from his hometown of Agrigento, Sicily. It is now managed by Joe’s nephew, Rosario Farruggio, and hosts numerous community events and fundraisers for local schools, sports teams and nonprofits each month.

A private event will also be held at the restaurant next week and is expected to feature a brief program during which a Congressional proclamation from Rep. Don Beyer’s office will be presented to the office.

“We have so much to be grateful for, especially all of our longtime staff and loyal customers,” the restaurant’s staff wrote. “Thank you!”

File photo

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Local Reaction to Trump’s Decision to Pull Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of an international nuclear deal with Iran is prompting condemnation from Arlington’s congressional delegation.

Trump announced Tuesday afternoon that he plans to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran, reversing an agreement hammered out by President Barack Obama’s administration and a variety of other countries to slow Iran’s progress toward building a nuclear weapon. Both of Virginia’s senators, in addition to Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), were quick to criticize Trump’s move as one that will undermine the nation’s security.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is up for re-election this year, was a particularly vocal backer of the Iran deal. He issued a statement today blasting Trump’s move.

President Trump showed us again today that when he says “America First,” he actually means “America alone.” By violating the Iran deal, the President is creating a new global nuclear crisis while we’re trying to address another one with North Korea. His decision to break from the deal makes our country less safe by damaging our diplomatic credibility, weakening our alliances, and reopening the door for Iran to start enriching uranium. The Iran deal states that “under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” Why would the President blow up this deal and free Iran of that obligation? President Trump has set us on a dangerous road where war becomes more likely, especially as his advisers beat the drums for regime change, which should never be a goal of U.S policy.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was similarly critical of the president’s decision.

The President’s refusal to waive certain sanctions on Iran sets in motion the dismantling of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has successfully prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons. While the JCPOA was far from perfect, by signing the agreement, Iran gave up 98 percent of its uranium stockpile, dismantled 2/3 of its centrifuges, rendered its heavy water nuclear reactor unusable, and agreed to unprecedented inspections that provide critical insight into, and early warning about, any attempts by Iran to accelerate its nuclear program. Trump Administration leaders, all parties to the agreement, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with its verification, have agreed that Iran has complied with its terms.

Simply withdrawing the United States from the JCPOA will not benefit the American people and U.S. national security: it will only succeed in driving a wedge between us and our allies, whose help we need to enforce any future sanctions regime against Iran, and will effectively green light Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Withdrawing from this agreement makes the United States, and the world, less secure.

Beyer also condemned the move in a statement.

President Trump’s extremely shortsighted decision to exit the JCPOA is another major step backward for our national security. Simply put, the President’s actions have made a nuclear-armed Iran more likely, and therefore made the world a more dangerous place. It will have serious negative consequences for the stability of the region, for our relationships with our allies, and will further embolden hardliners in Iran who want to develop nuclear weapons.

Now it is left to our European allies to attempt to pick up the pieces of the agreement and hold Iran to its commitments, even though we have not honored ours. Functionally, they are being held responsible for this administration’s irresponsibility.

At a time when we are trying denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, ideally with a similarly robust monitoring and verification scheme, this decision severely damages the United States’ credibility as a diplomatic and negotiating partner.

Both the US defense and intelligence communities, including Secretary Mattis, General Dunford, and the IAEA, have consistently certified Iranian compliance with the agreement and the robust nature of the verification regime. The President has embarked upon a path where the risks of both Iranian nuclearization and war with Iran are significantly increased. Unfortunately, it is hard to believe that President Trump has taken this path with a thoughtful plan in mind to address both the significant ongoing issues posed by the Iran as well as the renewed threat of nuclearization.

Once again and to our detriment, the President has shown that he will place domestic political considerations and his disdain for his predecessor above our national interest and global reputation.

Photo via @WhiteHouse

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Beyer Seeks To Appease Aircraft Noise Concerns With Amendments

Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) has added several amendments to the FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4) intended to reduce aircraft noise in the region.

One of the amendments would provide for soundproofing “residential buildings located on residential properties that are subject to increased perceived noise levels as a result of the NextGen initiative of the Federal Aviation Administration.”

A press release promoting the amendment did not provide further detail as to how this soundproofing would be executed, though it did note the expansion of discretionary grants to fund “noise compatibility programs” and “noise mitigation projects” in addition to soundproofing.

One of the amendments would charge the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration with developing “a noise inquiry website… to receive, track, and analyze complaints on an ongoing basis from individuals in the National Capital Region.”

There is already information on the FAA’s website about how to report complaints, however the advice generally instructs residents to either contact the FAA ombudsman or to complain directly to the airport about the alleged noise problem.

A separate amendment proposes a monthly helicopter noise abatement working group, led by the FAA and with Department of Defense officials in attendance, to “collect, correlate, and identify trends” relating to regional helicopter noise.

Another amendment seeks to “review and revise helicopter flight paths, including those used by the Department of Defense and all military helicopters, identifying and issuing new official paths for the areas in which helicopters may be able to fly at higher altitudes.”

The FAA’s official website also touches on military-related aircraft noise, noting that the agency “does not have the authority to regulate the operations of military aircraft.”

Back on January 16, Beyer held an aircraft noise community forum in Fairlington to discuss the issue with a few dozen attendees.

“It is frightening, it is often daily, and it is very disruptive to my life,” one woman said at the forum, adding that the noise upsets her pets and rattles her windows.

More from the press release:

Rep. Don Beyer today offered a series of amendments to H.R. 4, the FAA Reauthorization Act, designed to mitigate the effects of aircraft noise on communities in the National Capital Region.

“Hundreds of my constituents have expressed to me their frustrations with the slow pace of change prompted by their input to government authorities about aircraft noise,” said Rep. Beyer. “This problem isn’t getting better quickly enough. Northern Virginians have been patient, but there is more that can be done to reduce the toll taken by noisy aircraft on our community.”

He offered two amendments related to airplane noise which would expand discretionary grants which fund noise compatibility programs, noise mitigation projects, and soundproofing of houses in affected communities.

Additionally, Beyer will throw his full support behind an amendment to the same legislation offered by Rep. Barbara Comstock, which would block the expansion of flight slots in the region’s airports, increasing the quantity of flights and the resulting noise from aircraft.

Beyer also offered two amendments based on feedback from constituents presented during his Fairlington town hall on helicopter noise in January. One amendment would require the FAA to review helicopter flight paths, including Department of Defense and all other military helicopters, to find areas where they may fly at higher altitudes to reduce noise for communities below.

The other would require the FAA to set up a noise inquiry website using data from local airports, and to establish a helicopter noise abatement working group to look for ways to reduce helicopter noise in the region.

File photo

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