Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Coronavirus Case in Falls Church — “On Mar. 9, a U.S. Navy civilian employee at the US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) in Falls Church, Virginia, tested ‘presumptive positive’ for the coronavirus (COVID-19)… The individual is currently at a hospital in Northern Virginia.” [U.S. Navy]

Northam Signs Arlington Tourism Tax Bill — “The governor’s signature on March 2 made it official – Arlington will now be able to impose a surtax on hotel stays, with the proceeds going to tourism promotion, in perpetuity. Gov. Northam signed legislation patroned by state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax-Arlington) removing the ‘sunset clause’ from existing legislation allowing Arlington to tack on an additional 0.25 percent to the 5-percent transient-occupancy tax imposed by the county government on those staying in hotels and motels.” [InsideNova]

Lawmakers Support Long Bridge Project — Virginia’s delegation to Congress “sent a letter to Secretary Chao in support of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s (DRPT) application for an Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant for the Long Bridge Project.” [Press Release]

No Arlington Rep on Metro Board — “For the first time in recent memory, Arlington will have no representation on the board of directors of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates the Metro system… The shifts came about due to the resignation from the WMATA board of Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey, due to issues over reporting of campaign contributions during his 2019 re-election bid.” [InsideNova]

Beyer Gains a GOP Challenger — “On Friday, Mark Ellmore officially filed to seek the Republican nomination for Congress from Virginia’s Eighth District in 2020…. It is currently represented in Congress by Democratic Rep. Don Beyer.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Joe Biden had a commanding lead in nearly every Arlington precinct in yesterday’s Super Tuesday race, but Arlington’s second-choice was not as universal.

Across Arlington, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg all found small enclaves of support.

Amid record presidential primary turnout in Arlington, a plurality of voters countywide cast ballots for Joe Biden. Biden garnered 48% of the vote, to 20% for Warren, 19% for Sanders and 10% for Bloomberg — who suspended his campaign today and endorsed Biden.

While Biden tended to score higher in the lower-density residential neighborhoods of Arlington, the former Vice President’s support was not quite as strong along Metro corridors and Columbia Pike, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Elections.

Along Arlington’s two Metro corridors, Biden won every precinct but rarely with more than 50% of the vote. Countywide, Biden only dipped below 40% in two precincts — one along the Pike and one near Rosslyn.

Along the Metro corridors it was predominately Warren holding the second place, though along Columbia Pike Sanders held leads in some precincts. In Ballston, Biden won 47% of the vote while Sanders and Warren won 23% and 21% respectively. In Crystal City it was 46% with Warren at 22%.

In the wealthier, northernmost precincts of Arlington, Bloomberg won his sole second-place finishes in Arlington in the Rock Spring, Madison, and Thrifton precincts. In each of those, however, Bloomberg never won more than 17% of the vote.

In only one place did Biden lose: the Campbell precinct, encompassing an area on Arlington’s western end of Columbia Pike. Sanders won 40% (310 votes) and Biden followed with 37% (282 votes). In 2016, Sanders lost the precinct to Clinton, who got 69% of the vote there.

The biggest anomaly of the night was the absentee voting results. A number of candidates who had since dropped out of the race received significant absentee vote totals in advance of Super Tuesday, notably Amy Klobuchar (9%) and Pete Buttigieg (16%). Klobuchar and Buttigieg — who held a large rally in Arlington last month — both dropped out and endorsed Biden after his South Carolina primary win over the weekend.

Among active candidates, Warren came out on top of the absentee heap with 25%, followed by Biden with 19%, Sanders with 16%, and Bloomberg with 14%.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Biden Wins Virginia — “Virginia voters have overwhelmingly given former Vice President Joe Biden a sizable win over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary election. According to unofficial state election returns, Biden has been called the winner of the state with 53.3 percent of what was a record primary turnout, and will capture the largest share of its 99 delegates.” [Patch, Washington Post]

Bernie Underperforms 2016 — In the two-way race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016, Sanders captured 33% of the vote in Arlington. Yesterday, he received 19% of the vote, a close third to Elizabeth Warren at 20%.

FAA Taking Comments on DCA Noise — “After changing the routes for planes taking off from Reagan National Airport, in Arlington, Virginia, the Federal Aviation Administration is holding a public comment period. The comment period closes March 30. In an email, Libby Garvey, chair of the Arlington County Board, said that even if people in the community submitted earlier complaints, the FAA will not be officially considering them.” [WTOP]

Tafti Defends Changes at Prosecutor’s Office — “There’s this false critique that these reforms are making our communities less safe. We’ve been fed a story for decades that we have to incarcerate and have zero tolerance in order to be safe. More and more we are finding that harm reduction — for drug use, mental illness treatment, restorative justice — is more effective.” [Arlington Magazine]

Police: Two Arrested in Stolen Vehicle — “At approximately 2:40 p.m. on March 1, officers [in Pentagon City] were alerted to a license plate reader hit on a vehicle previously reported stolen out of Washington D.C. Officers observed two subjects walking away from the parked vehicle and conducted surveillance in the area. The subjects were taken into custody without incident as they returned to the vehicle… A search of the vehicle located suspected narcotics.” [Arlington County]

Chamber Cheers Tourism Tax Bill — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce celebrates the General Assembly’s establishment of permanent funding for tourism promotion in Arlington. This 0.25 percent Transient Occupancy Tax surcharge on hotel rooms is used exclusively by Arlington Convention and Visitors Service… to grow travel and tourism in Arlington. Previously, the tax surcharge was enacted with a July 1, 2021 sunset” provision. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Bill Could Boost N. Va. Metro Funding — “Northern Virginia localities could soon have the ability to spend more money on Metro service increases after state lawmakers approved a bill that tinkers with the dedicated funding agreement for the transit agency… Virginia’s total financial contribution to Metro can’t increase by more than 3% each year, a condition designed to impose fiscal discipline on the agency. The bill from Del. Vivian Watts, D-Annandale would exempt any costs associated with service increases from that cap.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Update at 10:3o p.m. — With all the votes counted, at least unofficially, the 2020 Democratic presidential primary in Arlington was “one for the record books.” Arlington’s election office reported a turnout of 45% of registered voters, compared to 27% in 2016. A total of 70,451 people voted, compared to the previous primary record of 44,694 in 2008.

A plurality of voters in Arlington County cast ballots for Joe Biden. The results are as follows:

  • Biden: 48.3%
  • Warren: 20.0%
  • Sanders: 18.8%
  • Bloomberg: 9.5%

Earlier: Voting has been relatively smooth sailing in Arlington today, despite very high turnout for a single-party primary.

As of 1 p.m., about 27% of registered voters had cast ballots in today’s Democratic presidential primary, 24% at the polls and 2.5% absentee, according to Arlington election officials. That’s about the same as the overall Democratic primary turnout in 2016, which featured Hillary Clinton squaring off against Sen. Bernie Sanders.

As of 4 p.m. about 31% of registered voters had cast ballots and Arlington was on track for “historic Democratic presidential primary turnout,” according to the county’s elections office.

(There is no Republican primary today, as President Trump is uncontested for the GOP nomination in Virginia.)

“Things have been running very smoothly,” said Gretchen Reinemeyer, Arlington County’s Director of Elections, adding that “we’ve had anecdotal evidence of many first-time voters.”

The only issue at the polls Reinemeyer was aware of was a brief power outage at Taylor Elementary School.

Virginia is one of 14 Super Tuesday states, voting in a hotly-contested Democratic presidential primary that currently features Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Like Arlington, Alexandria is also set to exceed its 2016 Democratic presidential primary turnout. As of noon, turnout in the City of Alexandria was just over 23% compared to 15% by that time in 2016.

Polls across Virginia close at 7 p.m. Anyone in line at that time, however, will be allowed to cast ballots.

Expect lengthening lines at precincts as voters head home from work, particularly in transit corridors, Reinemeyer said.

“That last hour between 6 and 7 will definitely be a busy hour for our Metro corridor precincts,” she cautioned. “We’re also monitoring the weather” for potential approaching storms.

Still, Reinemeyer said, “there’s still lots of time for voting left.”

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Morning Notes

It’s Primary Day — Today is Super Tuesday, the presidential primary day in Virginia and 13 other states across the U.S. In Arlington, polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Arlington public schools are closed to students today. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Beyer, Lopez Endorse Biden — Following his decisive victory in the South Carolina primary, former Vice President Joe Biden has picked up endorsements locally from Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D). Lopez and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe were stuck in an elevator in Richmond for a half hour yesterday while heading to a Biden event. [Press Release, Twitter]

County OKs Five Scooter Companies — “The lone applicant seeking to provide electric-bicycle service in Arlington has been rejected by county officials, but five operators of electric-scooter devices did make the grade, County Manager Mark Schwartz told County Board members on Feb. 25. The five e-scooter firms – Bird, Jump, Lime, Razor and Skip – were among eight that had sought permission to operate in the county. The other three were rejected for various reasons, including having no speedometers on their devices.” [InsideNova]

Cristol Encourages Volunteering for Erik — “As you may have seen in the news, our colleague and friend, Erik, is facing a tough health challenge…  here’s what we can do for him: Go to a civic association or commission meeting. Volunteer. Embody Erik’s example & make this place better by showing up. And take a picture, and tag it #HereForErik so we can share.” [Twitter]

I-66 Tolling Deemed a Success — “About 700 more people each day total are commuting along the Interstate 66 corridor inside the Capital Beltway now compared to before tolls for solo drivers and an expanded rush-hour period began, and there are also fewer car trips each morning… Virginia state officials have said the goal of the tolls has been to move more people in the corridor, and see the higher count of commuters as a sign the system is working.” [WTOP]

Coworking Space Coming to Courthouse — “Flexible workspace provider Venture X is making its first foray into the Washington, D.C., market, after reaching a deal to take the top floor of the Navy League Building in Arlington, Virginia.” [CoStar]

Cupid the Cat Now Up for Adoption — “Two weeks after undergoing emergency surgery to remove an arrow from his head, Cupid is ready to find a new home. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s veterinary director cleared Cupid on Monday, March 2, for adoption.” [Patch]

ACFD Assists With McLean FireUpdated at 8:25 a.m. — Arlington County firefighters helped Fairfax County’s fire department battle a massive house fire in McLean last night. [Twitter]

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Local education activist Symone Walker is no longer seeking the Democratic endorsement in her campaign for School Board, instead opting to run purely as an independent in the fall.

In Virginia, all School Board races are nonpartisan, but parties can still endorse candidates. In a statement, Walker said she is no longer seeking the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s endorsement.

Walker “will not participate in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s (ACDC) school board caucus for the party’s nomination, citing the committee’s inability to effectively address ongoing harassment her campaign received from an opponent in the race and instead will continue as an independent candidate for one of two seats on Arlington’s school board,” the statement said.

“Walker started her campaign in January after having received a favorable ethics opinion from her federal agency employer finding her candidacy compliant with the Hatch Act and citing a federal statute that allows her to run for the school board,” the statement continued. “Despite this, an opponent has continued harassing her by filing and purposefully escalating a series of complaints with a clear goal to reverse these initial, favorable determinations and derail her candidacy.

“After the political harassment against Walker succeeded in characterizing the ACDC caucus process as partisan enough to be not compliant with the intent of the law, ACDC needs to reconsider that the process now unfairly disenfranchises the approximately 37,000 federal employees living in Arlington, who comprise one-third of the electorate, many of whom are well qualified for the school board,” the campaign added.

It was not immediately clear which of the five other candidates challenged Walker’s candidacy by citing the Hatch Act, which “prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government… from engaging in some forms of political activity.”

Arlington Democrats said that the committee has “no standing to intervene in her employing agency’s decision-making about the nature of those restrictions and has no authority to countermand the agency decision.”

“Arlington Democrats appreciate Ms. Walker’s cautious approach to complying with the Hatch Act legal restrictions applicable to her as a Federal employee,” ACDC Chair Jill Caiazzo said via email. “Like other organizations that endorse candidates in school board races, such as education associations and teacher unions, Arlington Democrats believe that its endorsement is one of many valuable data points about these races for voters.”

“With respect to the harassment concerns associated with the raising of this legal compliance matter by another campaign, Arlington Democrats leadership spoke separately to both candidates in an effort to address the concerns, as well as offered the opportunity for Ms. Walker to speak directly to the Arlington Democrats Steering Committee to determine whether action by the organization could or should be taken about her concerns,” Caiazzo added. “We look forward to the continued exchange of ideas in this year’s school board race, as we work toward our shared goal of a strong school system that empowers all students, teachers, and staff. “

The other School Board candidates who have announced their intention to seek the Democratic endorsement include Cristina Diaz-TorresDavid PriddySandy MunnellSteven Krieger and Terron Sims. The deadline to file as a candidate is today.

Walker, a Jamaican immigrant who has lived in Arlington for more than 20 years, has advocated on various school and community issues. Recently, she has been quoted making the case for shorter summer breaks for students, revamped literacy testing, and better vetting of Arlington Public Schools’ new diversity chief.

Photo via Facebook

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(Updated at 9:15 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools will close next Tuesday, March 3, due to the primary elections.

The Super Tuesday primary in Virginia is expected to draw large crowds to the polls, as voters cast ballots for the Democratic presidential nomination. With 23 schools serving as polling places, and citing the “safety and security of APS students,” the school system said it has decided to cancel classes and instead make Tuesday a teacher work day.

In a brief statement on its website, APS said “we understand that it may be difficult for some families to make alternative arrangements for the care of their children given the timing of this decision.”

The full statement:

Arlington Public Schools will be closed to students on Tue, March 3, 2020 which is Virginia’s Presidential Primaries Day (Super Tuesday). Currently, 23 APS buildings serve as polling places and the decision to close is in response to the anticipated challenges as a result of the increased accessibility to our buildings by the community on Primary Election day. All APS staff will be expected to report to work on March 3.

We understand that it may be difficult for some families to make alternative arrangements for the care of their children given the timing of this decision.

As always, the safety and security of APS students is our top priority.

Prior to the announcement, some questioned why APS was seemingly planning to remain open, when neighboring jurisdictions like Alexandria and Fairfax County already canceled classes.

“Having hundreds of people in and out of the schools all day goes against the safety protocols already in place,” said one concerned parent. “I can’t even pick up my own student without showing ID and wearing a tag, yet a large number of people will have to be in and out of their polling place (our school). Also, where are the students going to be when their gyms and cafeterias are used for polls?”

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A new challenger, Steven Krieger, has entered the already crowded race for the Arlington School Board.

In late January, Krieger joined five other candidates vying for two openings on the School Board after incumbent members Tannia Talento and Nancy Van Doren announced they would not be running for reelection. Candidates Symone Walker, Cristina Diaz-Torres, David Priddy, Sandy Munnell, and Terron Sims made their case for an endorsement to the Arlington County Democratic last month with the caucus scheduled for May 7 and 9.

Krieger is a local attorney with one child currently in Arlington Public Schools. He describes himself as a “social justice advocate” who is, admittedly, “not an educational policy expert.”

Krieger’s platform includes strong opposition to the controversial school swap approved last week, echoing criticism from parents that the shift does little to address school overcrowding. From his website:

Stand Up Against Boundary Changes and Program Moves that Destroy Communities. For Arlington Public Schools to continue its excellence, we must ensure that we have the correct number of seats for our students in the right areas – especially as the county grows and neighborhoods are developed.  However, determining exactly where seats are needed, how many seats are needed, when the seats are needed, and how new seats are obtained is a huge challenge. Without this critical information, decisions should not be made. Moving schools and destroying communities should be the absolute last resort for APS – not the first solution attempted.

Other topics on Krieger’s campaign page include working to reduce the disparities between white students and minority students, supporting policies that reduce the schools’ ecological footprint, and getting students more involved in School Board policy.

“For too long, Arlington Public Schools hasn’t paid enough attention to input from students and parents,” Krieger said. “In short, they haven’t listened to us. I’m running for the School Board because that needs to change.”

The deadline to file as a candidate is March 2.

Photo via Steven Krieger

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Hasn’t Returned Union Donation — Arlington County Board and WMATA board member Christian Dorsey, “who promised three months ago to repay a $10,000 campaign donation that violated the board’s ethics policy, has not yet refunded the money and is likely to be replaced as Virginia’s representative on the regional board. Dorsey said Wednesday that he is working on a wire transfer to return the money to a transit union that routinely negotiates with Metro.” [Washington Post]

Beyer Slams Impeachment Trial — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) issued the following statement… ‘Today Senate Republicans ended their impeachment show trial. It will go down as one of the most craven events in American history.'” [Press Release]

County Board Race Fundraising Update — “The two Democrats vying for Arlington County Board entered 2020 with roughly the same amount of cash on hand, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Elections. Incumbent Libby Garvey had $16,823 in her campaign kitty as of Dec. 31, while challenger Chanda Choun had $16,155, according to data reported after the Jan. 15 filing deadline.” [InsideNova]

West Glebe Road Bridge Open House — “The deteriorating West Glebe Road Bridge, on the Arlington border near I-395, will be the topic of an open house next week. The bridge is currently closed to large vehicles weighing more than 5 tons due to structural deficiencies. It’s set for a major rehabilitation project, likely starting later this year.” [ALXnow]

Forum to Discuss Repealing Second Amendment — “Encore Learning will present a forum on ‘Repeal the Second Amendment: The Case for a Safer America’ on Monday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. at Central Library. The speaker, American University professor Allan Lichtman, will discuss his perspectives on gun safety and will argue for national legislation and the potential revision of the U.S. Constitution.” [InsideNova]

Dirt Closes Restaurants in Miami, Too — “On Thursday at 11 p.m., employees were told via a text message from DIRT Regional Director of Operations Aaron Licardo that both the Sunset Harbour and Brickell locations were closing for good. The two Miami spots closed on the heels of the Virginia location shuttering; that restaurant, located in Ballston, lasted less than a year. The message employees received claimed the company ‘found no other way to keep these locations open.'” [Miami Herald]

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Former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg recently opened a campaign office in Pentagon Row (1301 S. Joyce Street) amid an unprecedented blitz of campaign spending.

The new office for the largely self-funded candidate is located between the DSW shoe store and Planet Fitness, on the ground floor of the shopping center.

As of Tuesday afternoon, staff at the campaign outpost were making phone calls to voters to talk about Bloomberg’s gun control plans, which have been a centerpiece of the billionaire businessman’s campaign. The office is also scheduled to phone bank from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Thursday.

Bloomberg has not made any public appearances in Arlington so far, but did hold a campaign event in Alexandria last month.

Other 2020 candidates also have active campaigns in Arlington.

Donald Trump has his secondary reelection campaign office in Rosslyn. While Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren don’t seem to have official campaign offices in Arlington, Sanders-supporting group Our Revolution is active in Arlington and the Elizabeth Warren campaign has phone banked from local residences. Pete Buttigieg, endorsed by local Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), held a campaign fundraiser in an Arlington backyard this past summer.

While Sen. Amy Klobuchar does not currently have any campaign events listed in Arlington, she does reportedly rent a house here.

H/T to @CartChaos22202

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Equity was the buzzword of the night as five Arlington School Board candidates announced their candidacy at an Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting last week.

Two incumbent School Board members, Tannia Talento and Nancy Van Doren, are not running for reelection, leaving two of the five School Board seats open. A video posted by Blue Virginia showed each of the five Democratic candidates running for those two seats making their pitch at last week’s meeting.

(While School Board races in Virginia are nonpartisan, Arlington Democrats hold an endorsement caucus that functions as a defacto primary.)

In speaking order, the candidates were:

Symone Walker: An attorney and parent of two students at Gunston Middle School, Walker’s campaign speech was the first of the evening to focus on equity. Walker said every decision needs to be made “through an equity lens.” Walker also suggested that schools being more adept at handling student trauma, from training administrators to educating parents on ways to handle emotional situations, could help prevent school shootings.

Cristina Díaz-Torres: Díaz-Torres is a former geometry and AP statistics teacher who said her experience in a classroom that had more students than desks helped inform her decision to try to change education administration.

“[Policies] were made and written by folks who were well intentions but had no experience in classroom,” Díaz-Torres said.

During her speech, Díaz-Torres pledged to deliver teacher compensation that would allow educators to live in Arlington and to eliminate what she described as “deceptive” practices in the way the school system presents data and information to the public.

David Priddy: Priddy — who previously ran for School Board — is an Arlington Public Schools graduate and parent to a student in Thomas Jefferson Middle School. He told Democrats that his business experience gave him experience making cuts and difficult decisions that will help bring a sense of fiscal responsibility to the School Board. Like Walker, Priddy said his campaign would center on securing equity between students. Priddy also vowed to revamp the school district’s boundary process.

Sandy Munnell: A retired Washington-Liberty High School teacher, Munnell’s speech focused around achieving competency through teacher retention.

“We are starting to lose teachers to neighboring jurisdictions who offer better support in the classrooms… and yes, better pay,” Munnell said. “That’s a real change for Arlington. If we don’t keep quality teachers in the classrooms, we can’t keep quality results.”

Terron Sims: An Iraq War vet and former County Board candidate, Sims said his military experience taught him lessons about accountability and management that he hopes to bring to the School Board. On Sims’ website, he says his goal is to promote more apprenticeship programs at Arlington Tech and the Career Center and to continue to work on securing more community partnerships to help offer opportunities to students.

After the Democratic endorsement caucus, the date of which has yet to be announced, the two new School Board members will be chosen in the Nov. 3 general election.

File photo. Hat tip to Blue Virginia.

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