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JUST IN: Fairfax Teacher Arrested in Arlington on Child Pornography Charges

A 56-year-old of the Columbia Forest neighborhood, near Columbia Pike, has been arrested on child pornography charges.

Arlington County Police say that the suspect, Robert Keith Rowe, lived in Arlington but was a teacher at Sandburg Middle School in Fairfax County. Online records suggest he was a chair of the school’s math department.

Rowe is being held without bond at the Arlington County jail in Courthouse.

More from an ACPD press release:

Detectives with the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit have charged 56-year-old Robert Keith Rowe of Arlington, VA with Possession of Child Pornography. He is being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

An Arlington County detective assigned to the regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force began an intensive investigation into the online activities of Mr. Rowe after receiving a tip about possible criminal behavior. Following the execution of a search warrant at his residence in the 1200 block of S. Forest Street on the morning of March 15, Mr. Rowe was taken into custody. Evidence collected at the scene resulted in the charge against him.

Mr. Rowe is currently a teacher at Sandburg Middle School in Fairfax County. At this time, detectives have not located evidence to suggest he has had inappropriate contact with children. This remains an ongoing and active criminal investigation and anyone with information about Mr. Rowe that may be pertinent to this case is asked to contact either Detective G. Sloan at 703-228-4198 or [email protected] or Detective H. Molina at 703-228-7037 or [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).

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Tipsters Given Cash Reward for Helping Identify Armed Robbery Suspects

Citizen tipsters were rewarded with $650 for helping the Arlington County Police Department track down two men suspected of armed robbery in 2016.

Police arrested Jorgito Cruz, 37, of Alexandria and Alexander Ruiz, 21, of Puerto Rico for trying to rob Sacramento Jewelers on the 2700 block of Washington Blvd in Lyon Park just before 5:45 pm. on December 7, 2016.

The pair were armed with guns, and tried to hold an employee hostage before fleeing the scene.

Police were led to the men after tipsters spotted a suspicious vehicle stopped on the Washington Blvd exit of I-395 shortly after the robbery. The tipsters reported seeing a man removing tape from the license plate and throwing something away.

Noting the large police presence in the area, the tipsters copied down the license plate number and contacted police. They were arrested in Fairfax County, south of Alexandria, just before midnight that night.

The tipsters were given the cash reward by Arlington County Crime Solvers, a community program that sponsors a 24-hour confidential tip line — 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) — for individuals to anonymously report potential leads or information. Callers who provide information leading to arrest, the recovery of drugs or stolen property, are eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

“During the commission of their crimes, Jorgito Cruz and Alexander Serpa Ruiz endangered the lives of innocent and hardworking citizens,” said Police Chief Jay Farr said in a statement. “Thanks to the assistance of the witnesses and the diligent investigative work of detectives, two violent offenders have been removed from our streets and will no longer be in a position to cause harm in our community. This case highlights how police and the public can work together to maintain the safety and security of Arlington County.”

In June 2017, Cruz pled guilty to two counts of attempted armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, two counts of abduction and use of a firearm during the commission of a robbery. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison and 20 years of probation upon release.

Ruiz pled guilty to three counts of robbery and use of a firearm during the commission of a robbery. He was sentenced to six years in prison and 10 years of probation upon release.

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Morning Notes

Garbage Truck Crash — Among a number of other potentially weather-related crashes this morning, a garbage truck ran into a utility pole on the 4600 block of 27th Street N., near Marymount University. Dominion crews responded to the scene for a report of downed power lines. No injuries were reported.

Four Mile Run Valley Meeting Cancelled — A meeting of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group, scheduled for tonight, has been cancelled. The cancellation is due to county staff reviewing “key pieces of the 4MRV transportation analysis,” the county wrote. “Staff will provide an update on the process schedule and timeline at the next scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6.” [Arlington County]

Lee Highway Planning Moving Forward — “Funded with two county grants, donations and sponsorships, the Lee Highway Alliance is now back on the front burner of Arlington’s planning agenda, said county board Chairman Katie Cristol, who promised forward movement in the next couple of months.” Meanwhile, businesses along Lee Highway are generally supportive of redevelopment, according to the alliance. [Falls Church News-Press]

ACFD Helps Battle Fairfax Fire — Arlington County firefighters assisted Fairfax County on an apartment fire near Tysons Corner early this morning. About 34 residents were displaced by the fire. [Twitter, Twitter]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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Mediterranean Restaurant Delia’s to Replace Tazza Kitchen in Arlington Ridge Shopping Center

A Mediterranean and pizza restaurant with locations in Alexandria, Springfield and Sterling will replace the former Tazza Kitchen in the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center.

Signs at the storefront at 2931 S. Glebe Road, near the county’s border with Alexandria, show Delia’s Mediterranean Grill & Brick Oven Pizza will move in soon. Tazza Kitchen closed last year in the space next door to the sweetfrog frozen yogurt store.

And permitting applications filed with the county show it is looking to remove a half wall in the dining area and bring in new cooking equipment.

Delia’s serves Mediterranean-inspired food, and has a full bar with cocktails, wine and craft beer, as well as catering services based in Falls Church. It describes its Springfield and Sterling locations as family-style restaurants, which offer a “more casual experience.”

Hat-tip to Thomas N.

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Morning Notes

Disparities in New Middle School Boundaries — “Under a staff plan slated to go to the School Board Dec. 14, middle schools will have economically-disadvantaged populations ranging from 1 percent of the student body at Williamsburg Middle School to 52 percent of the student body at Kenmore Middle School, with the other schools falling in between.” [InsideNova]

Winner of Marine Corps Marathon Works at 7-Eleven — The winner of this year’s Marine Corps Marathon lives in Nauck and works at an Arlington 7-Eleven store. Desta Beriso Morkama, a 32-year-old Ethiopian immigrant, arrived in the U.S. in September 2016. He has been receiving training and assistance settling into his new Arlington life from a number of local people and groups, including local running coach Jay Jacob Wind. [Falls Church News-Press]

JBG Installing Giant Screens at Central Place — JBG Smith plans to exceed the county-imposed public art requirement at its new Central Place development, thanks to a project that will install giant screens in various places around the apartment and office building. The screens will display moving images, including artwork and nature scenes. [Washington Business Journal]

Hybla Valley = The Next Shirlington? — Fairfax County has big plans for a car-oriented neighborhood south of Alexandria: “The plans also include a 3.1-mile extension of the Yellow Line that would connect the Huntington station to the Hybla Valley section of Richmond Highway, in hopes of creating a pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhood akin to nearby Shirlington.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Joe Green

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Police: ‘Mob’ of Young Males Chased Victim, Dragged Him into Woods

Police are investigating a frightening “assault by mob” incident that happened early Sunday near Campbell Elementary School.

Police say a male victim was walking along the 700 block of S. Carlin Springs Road, near the Fairfax County line, when more than a dozen young males “chased him before dragging him into the woods, where he was threatened at gunpoint.”

The motive for the alleged attack is unclear.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report, below.

ASSAULT BY MOB, 2017-10220037, 700 block of S. Carlin Springs Road. At approximately 2:18 a.m. on October 22, police were dispatched to the report of a large group of males chasing an individual across the roadway. The call was transferred from Fairfax County dispatch and arriving officers made contact with Fairfax County Police officers who were also dispatched to the area to investigate. The victim advised that while walking in the area, a large group of male suspects with weapons chased him before dragging him into the woods, where he was threatened at gunpoint. The victim was able to fight back and flee the scene. Officers canvassed the area with negative results. The group of male suspects is described as being approximately 13 young, Hispanic, white males, wearing either black or blue hooded sweatshirts. All of the suspects were described as approximately 5’6-5’8 in height with dark features. The investigation is ongoing.

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County to Consider Leasing ART Bus Maintenance Facility in Fairfax County

The Arlington County Board will vote Saturday on a seven-year lease for an ART Bus maintenance facility in Fairfax County.

Currently, British transportation company National Express leases the space and has a contract to maintain ART buses at 6100-A and 6104 Farrington Ave., in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. The space has a 10,000-square-foot building and a 32,833-square-foot parking area.

National Express’ contract with the county and its lease on the property both expire on June 30, 2018.

Under this plan, the county would control the facility for bus maintenance to, staff said, “promote more competition for the ART operations and maintenance contract, leading to more advantageous pricing for the county.”

The County Board voted last December to buy a maintenance site in Springfield for $4.65 million. But staff said that it will take at least five years to acquire the site and build it out, so this lease helps fill in the “gap years” until it is ready.

This new lease would begin on July 1, 2018, and expire on June 30, 2025. The initial base rent would be just under $180,000 a year, with an annual increase of 3 percent, which staff says would ultimately save the county money.

“The County’s new lease agreement cost of $178,345.80 for Fiscal Year 2019 is $16,483.32, which is 8.6% less than the amount National Express Transit would have paid,” the staff report says. “In the new ART operations contract, the payment to the contractor will be reduced accordingly.”

Photos No. 1 and No. 2 via Google Maps.

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Giant Wind Turbine Art Project Planned for Columbia Pike

Columbia Pike is set for a new piece of public art: a 60-foot wind turbine blade on Arlington County’s western border with Fairfax County.

The blade, entitled “The Pike,” is designed by the noted sculptor Donald Lipski, and will stand on the southern side of the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Jefferson Street in the Arlington Mill neighborhood.

At a talk at the Columbia Pike Branch Library last month, Lipski said he was inspired by the design of wind turbine blades and the pike weapon, which is a long thrusting spear. He also noted that there are still disused windmills along Columbia Pike that were once used to pump water.

“It’s just put up as this big beautiful thing,” Lipski said. “It’s a found object, it’s recycled, it’s emblematic of wind energy, it’s emblematic of a Pike, but one that’s vertical, one that’s in the open position and says, ‘Come on in. Everybody is welcome. You don’t have to pay a toll even though it used to be a Pike'”

Lipski said he will reuse an old 50-foot-long turbine blade, stand it up vertically on a 10-foot pedestal and then cover the pedestal in coins from the various countries and nationalities represented along the Pike. The sculpture will be lit at night by a series of lights around its base.

The use of coins also harks back to when the Pike used to be a toll road, first designed to connect the District of Columbia with areas to the west.

“Citizens of Arlington would go and rummage around in their drawers and find coins from their home country and give me those coins, and I would build them into the sculpture,” Lipski said.

And in return for letting him use their coins in his sculpture, Lipski said he will design a commemorative coin and give one to each person who donates in exchange.

The work had been intended to coincide with the opening of the since-canceled streetcar, but will go ahead as the Pike prepares for the launch of the “Premium Transit Network” of buses.

But not everyone is so sure about the new piece of art. In letters provided to ARLnow, leaders at the Arlington Mill Civic Association said a decision approving the project was made without enough input. Planning for the art has been underway since 2012, and Lipski was selected from 88 applicants the following year.

“Remember, Lilly [Mancilla, the neighborhood’s representative on the county’s Art Advisory panel] specifically requested — and assurances had been made — that we would have input in this design process so that our neighborhood would have a piece of sculpture that pleases us,” association president Kay Langenbeck wrote in a letter to County Manager Mark Schwartz on September 18. “So you can imagine our surprise when, late in 2016, someone shared a rendering of this sculpture and told us the county had moved ahead without us.”

In response, Michelle Isabelle-Stark, the county’s Cultural Affairs Division Chief, said the project selection “followed County Board policy and County Manager approved guidelines for project development.” Isabelle-Stark said panels were convened to discuss the project in 2012 and “were fully inclusive and representative of the diversity of the residents of Columbia Pike and its Civic Associations.”

Some also objected to the design of the sculpture, in particular the use of a turbine blade, in a June letter to Angela Adams, the county’s director of public art.

“Recognizing Arlington Mill is the county’s most impoverished neighborhood, we firmly object to the implementation of any form of blade as representative of our community,” former association president Ric Birch and Douglas Park Civic Association president Adam Henderson wrote. “Further, turnpike gates are never welcoming. Their purpose and design is to stop traffic. They disrupt the flow. Surely this is not how Arlington County’s Southwestern Gateway should be depicted.”

The pair also said in the same letter that the art’s location at a heavily-trafficked intersection means further contemplation on the meaning of the sculpture by those passing by is unlikely.

“Regardless of the merits of the symbolism embedded in the art, it is doubtful that people will have the ability to, or make a point to linger to ruminate its significance,” they wrote.

Lipski said installation of the project could begin as early as next year.

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Morning Notes

Today Is ‘Terrible Traffic Tuesday’ — Today is the Tuesday after Labor Day, when students in Arlington and around the region go back to school. As a result of the extra school buses, parents and students on the roads, and the end of summer vacations, it is also dubbed “Terrible Traffic Tuesday” by AAA Mid-Atlantic. In reality, however, the day after — which now has a name: “Woeful Wednesday” — is worse in terms of commuting times, and next week should be even more woeful. [Washington Post, WTOP]

Chili’s Dying Out in D.C. Area — The Chili’s in Bailey’s Crossroads has closed. The restaurant chain closed its Crystal City location last year and its Reston location the year before that. The nearest Chili’s to Arlington is now along Route 1, outside the Beltway, in Fairfax County. [Twitter]

Roosevelt Profiled by Conservative Media — GOP candidate Adam Roosevelt is getting some attention from conservative media outlets. Roosevelt “is a moderate Republican running for the Virginia House of Delegates against current Democratic Delegate Alfonso Lopez, who has never before faced a GOP opponent during his six years in office,” writes the Daily Caller, calling the district he’s running in, which includes part of Arlington, “far left.” The lead sentence in Newsmax’s article about Roosevelt has a different focus: “A conservative Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, who happens to be black, has recently emerged as one of the most spirited advocates of keeping Confederate statues up in the Old Dominion State.” [Daily Caller, Newsmax]

Webb Removed from Civ Fed Debate — School Board candidate Mike Webb has had his invitation to tonight’s Arlington County Civic Federation debate — the unofficial kickoff to campaign season in Arlington — rescinded because he reportedly “failed to return required paperwork in time to allow participation.” Allison Dough, the other candidate to challenge Democratic endorsee Monique O’Grady, has said she has other commitments and will be unable to attend the debate. [InsideNova]

Arlington Man Evicted From ‘Big Brother’ House — Arlington resident Matt Clines, 33, has been evicted from the Big Brother house. Clines had advanced about half-way through the CBS reality show before being voted off. [Reality TV World, Parade, Hollywood Reporter]

DeVos to Make Big Announcement in Arlington — Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is reportedly planning to make a “major announcement on Title IX, the campus gender equality law,” from George Mason’s Antonin Scalia Law School in Arlington on Thursday. [BuzzFeed]

Flickr pool photo by Jim Webster

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Truck Pulls Down Power Lines, Causes Outage in Seven Corners

Power is out in parts of Seven Corners after a truck brought down power lines behind the Eden Center in Falls Church.

The incident happened around 2:30 p.m. in the rear of the shopping center. Two utility poles were snapped in half as a result of the collision.

At one point, nearly 2,500 Dominion customers were without power in the area, including in parts of Arlington County. As of 3:30 p.m. Dominion was no longer reporting any outages in Arlington.

The Arlington County Fire Department responded to the scene for sparking power lines and a spill of mineral oil from the transformers. ACFD has since turned over the scene to Dominion, which will be cleaning up the spill, according to scanner traffic.

Some traffic signals in Seven Corners may be affected by the outages, according to Fairfax County Police.

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395 Express Lanes Project Breaks Ground

The project to extend the Interstate 395 Express Lanes from Fairfax County through Alexandria and Arlington to the D.C. line celebrated its ground-breaking ceremony this morning.

The toll lanes will be extended for eight miles north from Turkeycock Run near Edsall Road to the vicinity of Eads Street in Arlington, near the Pentagon.

The Virginia Department of Transportation partnered with toll road manager Transurban and contractors AECOM Engineering Company and Lane Construction to deliver the project. Construction is now underway and scheduled for completion in fall 2019.

The project will add a third reversible HOT lane on I-395, accessible for free by vehicles with three or more occupants and an E-ZPass Flex transponder, or for a toll by all others.

The lanes will generate funding for other transportation options in the region. Using toll money, Transurban will pay $15 million each year to local jurisdictions to help them pay for improvements. Among other projects, the south parking lot at the Pentagon is set for an overhaul, as are several nearby bridges.

The ceremony, atop a Pentagon City parking garage, marked the official start of construction. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was joined by Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne and elected officials from across the area, including Arlington County Board chair Jay Fisette and fellow Board member Libby Garvey.

Layne said such partnerships between state government, local agencies and federal stakeholders have been crucial to move the project along, heralded as the largest in the United States.

“We knew what the construction was going to be, but it took collaboration and trust to get this project underway,” Layne said.

McAuliffe hailed the project for solving a “major headache for so many commuters going into and out of the District, and going to and from our great Pentagon.”

He added that as Virginia’s population continues to grow — with people attracted by its low taxes, strong business environment and other amenities like breweries and wineries, McAuliffe said — projects to improve congestion on the Commonwealth’s roads are vital.

“This is finally going to be solved, and this is going to be a game-changer for residents of Northern Virginia,” McAuliffe said.

For its part, Transurban promised to be good partners throughout construction and beyond.

Jennifer Aument, Transurban’s group general manager for North America, said workers are committed to the safety of all road users during work, and urged drivers in the area to avoid distractions, wear their seatbelt and watch their speed around the construction zone.

Aument also said Transurban would be a “good neighbor” and work with nearby neighborhoods to minimize any other disruptions.

“Now, we’ll get to work,” she said.

Work has already got underway in the existing I-395 high-occupancy toll lanes. On Monday, August 7, VDOT announced full night-time closures of the lanes in both directions from the southbound HOV exit ramp near Boundary Channel Drive to the northbound exit ramp from the 95 Express Lanes near Edsall Road.

And weather-permitting, some southbound regular lanes of I-395 will be closed overnight this week between Duke Street and Edsall Road. VDOT advised drivers to travel safely and pay attention to signs posted on the road.

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ACFD Assists on Route 7 Mattress Store Fire

Arlington County firefighters assisted Fairfax County on a fire at a strip mall near Bailey’s Crossroads Friday afternoon.

The fire broke out in a mattress store on the 5900 block of Leesburg Pike (Route 7) just before 4:30 p.m. A second alarm was sounded shortly thereafter.

Several ACFD units responded to the scene after a Rapid Intervention Team was requested by Fairfax.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Taking Roadwork Suggestions — “Arlington’s Neighborhood Complete Streets Program is asking residents to nominate neighborhood streets they believe could be made safer and more comfortable for all users for potential improvement projects. If you know a neighborhood street that is missing a section of sidewalk, needs an accessible curb ramp or better street lighting, consider nominating it. The County is accepting submissions through Friday, June 16.” [Arlington County]

Commuting Habits in Arlington — Arlington County’s new “Profile 2017” data packet has a surprising statistic on community habits: more Fairfax County residents commute into Arlington each day than Arlington residents commute into D.C. [Twitter]

Candidates Dither on Exotic Pet Ban — Three out of four of the Democratic candidates for County Board would not give a straight answer to the question of whether they support a proposed ban on wild and exotic pets. [InsideNova]

Metro 29 Named Best Diner in Va. — A new list of the best diner in all 50 states lists Metro 29 diner on Lee Highway as the best in Virginia. [Mental Floss]

Beyer on House Healthcare Bill — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) says yesterday’s narrow passage of the GOP healthcare bill is “a dark stain on the history of the House of Representatives.” [Rep. Don Beyer]

Comment Ads Turned Off — To improve the user experience, we’ve turned off those semi-trashy tile ads below the comments. They’re prevalent on lots of websites, especially news websites, and they generate decent revenue, but we could not longer stand having them associated with our site. Replacing the ads are links to previous ARLnow.com articles.

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Major Terrorism Exercise Coming to Arlington Tomorrow

A “full-scale” exercise to simulate the response to a terrorist attack in the National Capital Region is set for tomorrow, with Arlington one of six sites where the action will be taking place.

From 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Arlington police’s SWAT team will take part in the exercise near George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School at 3301 Fairfax Drive.

Residents can expect to see an increase in public safety vehicles and law enforcement officers in the area, and those traveling nearby may hear noise originating from the training site. All activities will be confined to the training site.

Law enforcement officials and other first-responders will take part in the exercise organized by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The exercise is intended to prepare for a “complex” attack involving multiple target locations and teams of perpetrators.

Arlington is one of six locations for the exercise, along with neighborhoods in Northeast and Southeast D.C., and Prince George’s and Fairfax counties.

MWCOG spokeswoman Jeanne Saddler said the exercise is designed to be as realistic as possible. She said that residents nearby will be notified beforehand and that disruption should be minimal for those in the area.

“To some degree they’re trying to make it a surprise for the participants,” she said. “In order to maintain the exercise for participants and first-responders, we have to avoid making a mention of locations… I don’t think there’ll be disruption for residents or people traveling.”

Hundreds of police, fire, and emergency medical service personnel and volunteer actors will be involved in the exercise. The timing of the exercise is a secret too.

“Law enforcement officials practice and exercise their skills on their own regularly because that’s the best way to ensure we are always ready to respond quickly and professionally,” said Scott Boggs, managing director of Homeland Security and Public Safety at MWCOG, in a statement. “On April 26, we’ll go one step further and stage a very realistic emergency event involving multiple sites and actors posing as the casualties. However, there is no reason for residents to be alarmed because the exercise will occur in a controlled environment.”

File photo

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Morning Notes

Soggy jog (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Florida Men Arrested for Credit Card Skimming — Three men from Miami, Florida were arrested earlier this month on the 5600 block of Columbia Pike, in Fairfax County. They’re suspected of using Bluetooth-enabled credit card skimming devices to steal credit card numbers from gas station customers. [Falls Church News-Press]

School Board to Consider Wakefield Modifications — The Arlington School Board is expected to approve a $4 million internal modification project at Wakefield High School that will increase its student capacity to 2,300 from 1,900. [InsideNova]

School Board Members Can Now Get Raises — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed a state bill that removes a cap of $25,000 on the salaries of Arlington School Board members. Arlington was the only jurisdiction in the state the salary cap applied to; school board members will now have the ability to approve a salary increase in 2021. [InsideNova]

Northern Virginia Restaurant Week Kicks Off — Nineteen Arlington restaurants are participating in Northern Virginia Restaurant Week, which starts today and runs through Monday, March 27. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Top 10 Shirlington Area Restaurants — Eater has compiled a list of the top 10 restaurants to try in and around Shirlington. And yes, the Weenie Beenie is on the list. [Eater]

It’s the First Day of Spring — “While warm spring days will be tough to come by in the short term, the equinox is a reminder that the sounds of chirping birds and humming lawn mowers aren’t too far off.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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