Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Crystal City Development Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved JBG Smith’s plan to develop Crystal Gateway, a nine-story office building with ground-floor retail,  at 101 12th Street S. in Crystal City. Community benefits associated with the project include the developer conveying 54,500 sq. ft. of land for Gateway Park, which will connect Long Bridge Park to Crystal City.” [Arlington County]

Teacher Groups Banding Together — “Representatives from teacher associations in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Arlington and Manassas Park will host a news conference Monday urging a return to virtual-only learning. In a statement Sunday evening, the Fairfax Education Association said it ‘stands with our colleagues from the Northern Virginia region to ask the Governor to return the Commonwealth to a full Phase II of the reopening plan and to recommend that our schools return to a fully virtual method of instruction.'” [InsideNova]

Feedback Sought for Police Chief Search — “The County Manager has launched a search for a new leader of the Arlington County Police Department. During the first phase of the search, the County is interested in hearing from the community. ‘We value the perspective of every resident and business,’ said County Manager Mark Schwartz… You can offer feedback through December 11.” [Arlington County]

Joint Chiefs Chair’s Wife Saves the Day — “When a bystander collapsed at the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, a nurse was nearby and rushed to his aid. She happened to be the wife of the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Mark Milley.” [NBC News]

‘Click It or Ticket’ Starts Today — ” The Thanksgiving celebration is traditionally one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. As the holiday approaches, the Arlington County Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on a high visibility Click It or Ticket campaign.” [Arlington County]

State Sen. Pushing Pot Legalization — “We’re continuing to build a bipartisan coalition to #legalize responsible adult use of #marijuana in Virginia. I am working hard to ensure that ending the war on drugs is a top priority.” [@AdamEbbin/Twitter, Virginia Mercury]

N. Va. Delivered State for Biden — “Updated counts from the Virginia Department of Elections show that President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, defeated Trump by over 520,000 votes in Northern Virginia, defined as the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park… Across the rest of Virginia, Trump, a Republican, defeated Biden by about 70,000 votes, winning 50.2% to Biden’s 47.9%.” [InsideNova]

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Despite record-setting levels of early and mail-in voting, the final 2020 general election turnout in Arlington slightly underperformed that of 2016.

Last week’s election set a local record in terms of votes cast, but a rise in population and voter registration meant that the final turnout figure was a few points below the 82% turnout from 2016.

“In all, 131,518 voters, or about 79 percent of 166,416 registered voters, cast ballots on Nov. 3,” Arlington County revealed yesterday in a press release, after all the votes were tallied. “In 2016, turnout was 82 percent (122,023 of 148,032 registered voters).”

“Absentee turnout this year was record-breaking, with more than 108,394 Arlingtonians (65.1% turnout) casting their ballots by mail, drop box, or in person before Election Day,” the press release continues. “With so many Arlingtonians voting before Nov. 3, turnout remained light throughout Election Day, with only 23,124 people voting (14% turnout).”

Mail-in voting accounted for 29% turnout — just under 50,000 votes — an unprecedented number, albeit not unexpected this year due to the pandemic. In the end, now-president-elect Joe Biden prevailed in Virginia and in Arlington, with 80.6% of the county’s vote to 17.1% for President Donald Trump.

Although the general election did not set turnout records, about 45% of registered voters cast ballots in the March presidential primary, held just before the pandemic prompted widespread lockdowns, exceeding the primary turnout from 2016. Biden received 48.3% of the Democratic primary vote in Arlington, well exceeding that of Elizabeth Warren (20.0%) and Bernie Sanders (18.8%).

County officials say there were “no reports of significant technical issues” at the polls last week, noting that more than 750 election officers and about 100 high school students helped to staff the county’s 54 voting precincts and the central absentee vote counting center.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Shirlington Gateway. The new 2800 Shirlington recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center, and is adding spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village. 

A global pandemic, nationwide social-justice campaigns and a contentious presidential election: 2020 threw three curveballs at Rosslyn-based startup Phone2Action.

“What a year, right?”

That is Jeb Ory, the founder of Phone2Action, which offers software that promotes civic engagement through mobile phones. Last week he announced that his company is acquiring fellow startup GovPredict, following 10 months of user engagement levels that his staff have never seen before.

“We have had far and away record usage of our software this year,” he said.

Ory called the acquisition of GovPredict a “natural fit” and a “game changer.”

Founded in 2015, GovPredict builds software for nonprofits, lobbying firms, campaigns and corporations. Acquiring the startup will help both companies stay ahead of trends in digital advocacy, he said.

“It became so clear that if we were to combine forces, we would be able to solve challenging problems for our clients, to help them do their jobs better, to have better policy campaigns and make better decisions,” he said.

Unlike Phone2Action, which Ory said had a very active office culture until the shutdown orders, GovPredict has a 100% remote workforce, with many staff in the D.C. area. The 1500 Wilson Blvd office will remain Phone2Action’s headquarters as it continues offering its hybrid home-office work plan to its 160 employees. The company grew by 60 with the acquisition.

Phone2Action’s software proved to be what associations, nonprofits and organizations needed to inform and “activate” people from a distance during the COVID-19 relief efforts this spring, the social-justice initiatives this summer and the election campaigns this fall.

During the week leading up to the passage of the CARES Act, Phone2Action saw 1.5 million people advocate for policies, most of them new to their clients.

When restaurants closed, the National Restaurant Association rallied industry members to share their stories with lawmakers, he said. Another client, the American Nurses Association, changed the conversation around what personal protective equipment is and how to make sure hospitals have them.

“We saw massive engagement because regular people understood how serious this is,” Ory said. “Whatever the role, they wanted to pitch in.”

Phone2Action saw another wave of engagement after the police killing of George Floyd. During the summer of social-justice campaigns and protests, nonprofits saw spikes in online and offline engagement.

This fall, more than 10 million people visited Phone2Action’s customizable “Get Out the Vote” centers. One client, Headcount, ran celebrity-promoted voter registration drives that saw hundreds of thousands of new voters register.

“It’s been exciting and humbling to be a part of,” Ory said. “These issues are life-and-death for so many people.”

The pandemic has also changed Phone2Action’s work culture for the better, he said. With some employees fully remote before the pandemic, and others in the office full-time, the company has had a chance to evaluate what each worker needs to succeed, without priority being given to those who happened to be in the office.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge how fortunate we are to” be able to work remotely, he said.

Photo courtesy Phone2Action

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Morning Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With former Vice President Joe Biden being named president-elect this morning by the Associated Press and others, celebrations in D.C. area leading to traffic on the 14th Street Bridge.

“Expect traffic delays around [northbound I-395] at the 14th Street Bridge due to street closures in DC around the White House,” said an Arlington Alert. The closures were prompted by impromptu celebrations around D.C., including large gatherings outside the White House.

Around Arlington — which voted for the Biden/Harris ticket over Trump/Pence by a margin of 81%-17% — horns honked and people cheered after the race was called.

https://twitter.com/trilly__vanilly/status/1325116257063084032

A number of local officials have released statements about Biden’s presumptive electoral victory.

From Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.):

I extend my warmest congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on their massive victory in the presidential election. Though it is taking time to count, they are on track for major wins in every region of the country, with more votes than any candidate in history. When he is sworn as Commander in Chief in on January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden will have a strong governing mandate.

I recognize that this election has shown we are a divided nation, but we also have grave challenges that require immediate action. The time has come for President Trump to accept his defeat, pass the torch, and ensure an orderly transition of government for the Biden Administration. He has a unique power in this situation to promote national unity and to spare the country further dangerous civil strife by following the example of every American President, beginning with George Washington: the peaceful transfer of power.

We have been bitterly divided, but what unites us – including love of country, the Constitution, and our democratic ideals – must be stronger. Inflammatory rhetoric which undermines Americans’ faith in their national elections threatens lasting harm to our society, and it must stop. The country must come first.

“Our nation faces serious threats, including the pandemic and the stalling economic recovery. At this time of crisis, all leaders regardless of party must come together to support the President-Elect. He must be given the support he needs to take the helm of government, including swift consideration and confirmation of his team, so that he can take the country forward. We have no time to lose – there is serious work to be done.”

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(Updated at 10:45 p.m.) Dozens gathered in front of Arlington County government headquarters in Courthouse for a rally calling for every vote from Tuesday’s election to be counted.

The “Protect the Results” rally, which kicked off at 5 p.m., was organized and promoted by a variety of local Democratic and progressive groups. It was held as the 2020 presidential race hangs in the balance, still too close to call in a number of key states.

The rally was intended as a show of support for the continued counting of ballots, including mail-in ballots. President Trump’s campaign said earlier today that it is suing to stop ballot counts in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

“This morning, the president declared victory prematurely. Neither candidate has reached the threshold of 270 electoral votes,” said Democratic organizer Matt Royer. “We have millions of voters who have not been counted yet. It’s time for us to mobilize and get ready.”

“We will stand together to make sure that every vote is counted,” Royer continued. “We will not let this election be stolen from the people. Hold the line.”

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Arlington County Democrats enjoyed a clean sweep in their bids for County Board and School Board, with clear results in early on Tuesday night.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey (D) was awarded four more years in office, garnering 72% of votes. Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy — endorsed by the local Democratic party in the nonpartisan School Board race — earned 43% and 36%, respectively.

NAACP Education Committee Co-Chair Symone Walker and frequent local candidate Audrey Clement had unsuccessful independent bids for the School Board and County Board, respectively. Clement garnered 29,923 27% of votes, while Walker received 19% in the three-way School Board race for two open seats.

More than 75% of active voters had cast ballots by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, including a record-setting 63% who voted early and by mail by Sunday. Since mail-in ballots have until Friday to arrive, the county elections office will not have a final turnout number until then, Arlington Director of Election Gretchen Reinemeyer said in an email.

Local Democrats said they are pleased with the local turnout, hailing a “decisive” vote for the entire Democratic ticket, even as they anxiously watched developments in the still-undecided presidential race.

Garvey said today that she will continue focusing on equity, innovation and resilience during the pandemic during her next term.

“People are tired of the virus,” she said. “This is a difficult time and I hope we can remember to treat each other kindly. We’re all under stress and doing our best. It’s important to take a deep breath and continue to stay together as a community as we work through a lot of difficult issues.”

“Arlingtonians are smart and informed,” Garvey added. “It’s an honor and a privilege to serve Arlington for four more years.”

Turning to the question of reopening Arlington Public Schools classrooms for in-person instruction — which is now delayed until next year for most students — Diaz-Torres and Priddy said today that any plan must focus on safety metrics.

“We need to be careful and make sure we’re proceeding with caution, making sure we’re following the science, not the emotions of the day,” Diaz-Torres said.

With cases rising, APS needs to focus on keeping the kids with severe needs — who returned to schools today — safe, while making virtual learning as high quality as possible for others, she said.

As a School Board member, Priddy said he will be talking with other public school systems and even private schools to see what APS can learn from them.

In an email Wednesday morning, Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo thanked the candidates who ran for office in Arlington and congratulated the winners on their “resounding and well-deserved victories.”

“We know that they will work hard on behalf of all Arlingtonians and lead our county and country through these challenging times,” she wrote.

On social media this morning, County Board member Katie Cristol thanked election volunteers for their hard work, and Arlington voters for overwhelmingly approving the five local bonds on the ballot. Cristol also welcomed Priddy and Diaz-Torres to the School Board and thanked Walker for her advocacy

Walker, who dropped out of the Democratic endorsement caucus after her federal employment raised Hatch Act questions, said her defeat was unsurprising but she does not count it as a failure.

“I think I accomplished change by changing the narrative of the School Board race to focus on curriculum and instruction, particularly equity through literacy,” she said.

Walker was less conciliatory in tone last night, writing in a Facebook post that her defeat was attributable to the power of the Democratic endorsement.

It’s unfortunate that a majority of “low information” voters who are oblivious to the serious plight being faced by our schools are electing the school board by blindly voting straight down the ACDC sample ballot, which, ironically, was silent about the education of our students in listing why this is the most important election of our lifetime. Nevertheless, I pray that Cristina and David will rise to the challenge of turning this ship around to put our students first amidst having to live with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future

Nonetheless, Walker told ARLnow this morning that she and her small team — nearly all APS moms — ran a grassroots, issues-focused campaign to be proud of.

“I ran for the School Board because I thought I had the opportunity to push for change on the inside,” she said. “Since that did not work, I’m going to continue pushing APS from outside.”

Clement said her results follow the nationwide trend in polarization: Democrat-leaning counties are becoming more blue, and Republican-leaning counties more red.

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(Updated at 7:30 a.m.) To no one’s surprise, the Arlington electorate has turned out in a big way for the Democratic ticket.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris have 80.7% of the vote to 17.1% for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Arlington, with more than 120,000 votes counted and all precincts reporting.

By contrast, 75.8% of Arlington voters picked Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, to 16.6% for Trump.

The Associated Press called Virginia for Biden just over half an hour after polls closed at 7 p.m.

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, overall turnout in Arlington County was over 75%. The voter turnout in 2016 was 82%, shy of the Arlington record of 85% in the 2012 presidential race between President Barack Obama and current Senator Mitt Romney.

Among local races, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey (D) is cruising to an easy victory, with 71.6% of the vote, compared to 26.6% of the vote for independent challenger Audrey Clement.

In the Arlington School Board race — for two open seats — Democratic endorsees Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy currently have 43.1% and 35.8% of the vote, respectively, leading independent candidate Symone Walker, who has 19.2% of the vote.

All five county bond issues will pass, with between 75-80% of the vote. That’s despite some organized opposition to the school bond.

Arlington voted against Constitutional Amendment #1, to establish a bipartisan redistricting commission in Virginia — 45% for, 55% against — though it has garnered the support of nearly two-thirds of voters statewide. Constitutional Amendment #2, providing vehicle tax relief to disabled veterans, easily passed statewide and received 81.5% of the vote in Arlington.

In the statewide race for U.S. Senate, incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D) was declared the projected winner by the Associated Press early on.

In Virginia’s 8th Congressional district, which includes Arlington and Alexandria, incumbent Rep. Don Beyer (D) is winning handily, with 75.6% of the vote to 24.2% for Republican Jeff Jordan. The AP called the race at 8:10 p.m.

The initial returns that included early and mail-in votes were overwhelming Democratic, but with Election Day results rolling in the non-Democratic candidates have added to their totals and cut into the Democrats’ margin of victory.

Around Arlington, the pandemic has most people watching election coverage from their homes, rather than from bars. In Clarendon and Shirlington tonight, only a relative few could be seen in front of TVs inside the neighborhood’s usual watering holes.

As the election returns continue to come in, Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol said tonight that the county is “committed to ensuring every vote is counted.”

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(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) It’s been a relatively quiet day at the polls in Arlington for one of the most contentious presidential elections in modern memory.

As of 4:30 p.m., only 13% of active voters had showed up at the polls. But that’s in addition to the 63% that had already voted via early voting or mail-in ballots as of Sunday.

“Things have run pretty smoothly throughout the day,” Arlington County Director of Election Gretchen Reinemeyer told ARLnow this afternoon. “It’s been pretty quiet for a presidential [election].”

As of 1 p.m., no more than 500 voters had cast ballots at any one Arlington precinct, Reinemeyer said. No issues have been reported at the polls so far, she added, though there have been numerous provisional ballots requested — likely a result of those who requested mail-in ballots deciding to vote in-person instead.

As for what to expect tonight, Reinemeyer said the bulk of the results should be released early on, after the polls close. Some 100,000 early votes that had been counted by Sunday should be tabulated and on the state election website shortly after 7 p.m.

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(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) President Donald Trump visited Arlington on Election Day.

The president is greeted campaign staff at his national reelection headquarters, located in an otherwise unremarkable Rosslyn office tower, as voters nationwide continue to head to the polls.

The presidential motorcade arrived around 12:15 p.m. A few dozen Trump supporters waved signs and flags across from the headquarters for the president’s arrival, as police blocked several streets in the area.

The president spoke to campaign personnel, in brief remarks that were aired on cable news. Afterward, just before 1:30 p.m., the motorcade departed.

The Trump headquarters — also referred to as the Republican National Committee annex — has generated some minor protests and local controversy over the course of the year.

Rep. Don Beyer and Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, both Democrats, called on the campaign to enforce mask wearing after a reported COVID outbreak at the HQ, and a Trump speech at a conference in Pentagon City in which many attendees did not wear masks.

The president’s last reported appearance at the Rosslyn headquarters was a surprise visit in February.

Arlington, owing to its prime location near D.C. and the area’s base of political talent, has been home to a number of presidential campaigns, including:

  • John McCain 2008 (in Crystal City)
  • Hillary Clinton 2008 (in Ballston)
  • George W. Bush 2004 (in Courthouse)
  • Ronald Reagan 1980 (near Columbia Pike)
  • The campaigns of Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Joe Lieberman and Mike Gravel
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It’s Election Day and across Arlington County thousands are voting at dozens of polling places staffed by hundreds of volunteers.

So far no issues have been reported at the polls, election officials tell ARLnow.

Turnout may be lighter than usual for a hotly-contested presidential election, on account of 63% of active voters in Arlington having already cast early and mail-in ballots. As of 9:30 a.m., the county elections office said that “an estimated 5% of remaining voters” had voted since the polls opened at 6 a.m.

“Polling places were busy early, but most are running smoothly now,” the elections office said.

On the ballot in Arlington this year is the presidential race — President Donald Trump (R) facing off against former Vice President Joe Biden (D), plus Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen — along with races for U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, County Board and School Board. There are also referenda for two proposed state constitutional amendments and five county bond issuances.

Polls will stay open tonight until 7 p.m.

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