Arlington, VA

While many companies have started requiring employees to work from home during the coronavirus outbreak, one really large employer is conspicuously absent from the telework trend: the federal government.

The Trump administration had previously been cutting back on telework, but Rep. Don Beyer, who’s currently in self-quarantine, says enough is enough — it’s time to send federal office workers home. He penned a letter to the director of the federal Office of Personnel Management today.

“Now is the time to act before more employees become sick and lose their lives because of inaction,” Beyer wrote.

The full letter is below.

Dear Director Cabaniss:

I write today to encourage you to implement remote teleworking for all capable federal employees as the country takes steps to mitigate the COVID-19 global pandemic and to protect our federal workers and their families. As the virus continues to affect Americans in almost every state, it is vital that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) take immediate steps to mitigate community spread of the virus, including social distancing measures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to stress the importance of social distancing practices to reduce the likelihood of being infected by the coronavirus. Currently, it is believed that the virus is spreading primarily through person-to-person contact via airborne particles from those infected. Expanded telework would decrease the susceptibility of spread via person-to-person contact and therefore is essential that it is mandated for all capable federal employees. The current lack of telework options increases social contact and limits the positive effects of social distancing to reduce community spread.

Federal employees make up a significant portion of my constituency and I have heard from numerous federal workers who feel uncomfortable taking public transit and working in environments with hundreds to thousands of people, potentially unaware they have the virus.

Cases are continuing to spread at a rapid rate and OPM has not yet issued guidance on expanded telework options for federal employees. In keeping with guidelines recommended by the CDC, we urge you to expand telework options for all capable federal employees before the virus continues to spread. COVID-19 has been spreading in the United States for months without a sufficient response from federal agencies. The current OPM policy for individuals deferring to their direct supervisors to telework is not an acceptable response given the severity of this outbreak. Now is the time to act before more employees become sick and lose their lives because of inaction.

Sincerely,

Donald S. Beyer Jr.
Member of Congress

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Morning Notes

Ballston-Based E*TRADE Acquired —  “Morgan Stanley and E*TRADE Financial Corporation have entered into a definitive agreement under which Morgan Stanley will acquire E*TRADE, a leading financial services company and pioneer in the online brokerage industry, in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $13 billion.” [BusinessWire, Wall Street Journal]

County Wants Feedback on Capital Projects — “As part of this year’s budget season, you’re invited to share your input on capital priorities for Arlington County Government. Where should we make investments? Which types of projects top your list? We want to know what you think. Your input will help guide development of the County Manager’s Proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Fiscal Years 2021 – 2030, which will be presented to the Arlington County Board in May.” [Arlington County]

More on Upcoming EPA Move — “‘Facing budget constraints during the past few years, the agency has tried to reduce impacts on its programs by using rent savings to absorb appropriations cuts,’ said the EPA spokeswoman. ‘The lease for [Potomac Yard South] expires in March 2021 and by not renewing it, the agency can expect to attain approximately $12.7 million in rent savings annually,’ she said.” [E&E News]

New AED Director Settling In — “Tucker is pledging not to lose focus on helping the county’s existing businesses, particularly its small, family-owned companies. Critics of AED have long accused it of pursuing large corporate tenants at the expense of supporting mom-and-pop shops, a perception Tucker is keen to reverse.” [Washington Business Journal]

AHC Returns $$$ to Affordable Housing Fund — “AHC Inc., an Arlington, VA-based affordable housing developer, deposited more than $710,000 this week into the County’s revolving low-interest loan program, the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF). This year’s annual repayment boosts AHC’s total repayments to more than $45 million since the AHIF program began in 1988. The payments vary from year to year. Last year, AHC returned $4.9 million to the fund.” [Press Release]

Saturday: Census ‘Celebración Comunitaria’ — “Join us at the Gates of Ballston Community Center for food, family activities, an art contest, a kid’s raffle, and information about the upcoming 2020 Census 2020! Event sponsored by Arlington County, Census 2020, Alfo-Conce, Producciones POPB’IL.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Warren Blasts Bloomberg at Arlington Event — “Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Thursday that Michael R. Bloomberg should not be the Democratic presidential nominee because of newly surfaced comments he made 12 years ago in which he said the end of a discriminatory housing practice had helped contribute to the 2008 financial crisis.” [New York Times]

Warren Draws Big Crowd at Wakefield — Last night’s Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign event at the Wakefield High School gym drew national media, a crowd of thousands and lines that stretched around the block. The gym’s scoreboard was programmed to say “ELIZABETH WARREN” and “20:20.” Warren later addressed the overflow crowd outside the school.

Bike Rack at EFC Metro Has Cost Millions — “Metro has spent $3.8 million and taken five years to build two unfinished bike racks — at East Falls Church and Vienna Metro Stations. WMATA originally budgeted $600,000 for each rack, but the price tag has soared to $1.9 million each. The covered bike shelters will house 92 bikes, putting the price tag at more than $20,000 per bike… The projects were supposed to be completed in December of 2015 but remain unfinished in 2020.” [WJLA]

EPA May Move Out of Arlington — “The Trump administration is planning to move the Environmental Protection Agency from leased space at Potomac Yard to the federally owned William Jefferson Clinton complex in downtown D.C… The GSA plans to shift workers from One Potomac Yard in Arlington starting in March 2021, boosting occupancy in the Clinton building by about 1,200 employees.” [Washington Business Journal]

Megamansion Skews Arlington Real Estate Stats — The average sale price of a single-family home in Arlington was more than $2 million, though that figure was skewed by the nearly $45 million sale of an estate along the Potomac River, the priciest home sale ever in the D.C. area. [InsideNova]

Arlington Startup Sells to Texas Firm — “Mobile Posse announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Digital Turbine, a mobile delivery and app advertising company headquartered in Austin, TX. The acquisition by Digital Turbine builds on both firms’ strategies of creating frictionless mobile app and mobile content solutions for carriers and OEMs, thus creating effective advertising solutions for brands and app developers.” [Mobile Posse via Potomac Tech Wire]

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(Updated at 8:15 a.m.) Arlington public schools are opening on a two-hour delay Wednesday, due to expected icy conditions.

APS announced the delay Tuesday night “based on the current weather forecast and conditions,” leaving open the possibility that worse-than-expected road conditions Wednesday could prompt a cancellation. Fairfax County Public Schools announced earlier that its schools would be closed tomorrow.

Wednesday morning, APS affirmed the two-hour delay decision.

The federal government, meanwhile, will open on a three-hour delay.

Authorities are asking anyone driving overnight and in the morning to take extra precautions due to the likelihood of dropping temperatures turning wet roads into icy hazards. Around Arlington Wednesday, there were some reports of black ice, particularly on local roads.

“VDOT asks that drivers be aware of weather and road conditions prior to making decisions to travel tonight and Wednesday morning,” said VDOT’s Northern Virginia office, in a press release. “Plan for the potential need to delay commutes Wednesday morning, as low temperatures overnight will freeze precipitation and create potential hazardous conditions.”

At least one significant crash was reported Tuesday night — a multi-vehicle wreck on I-395 near the Pentagon — but it’s unclear if weather was a factor.

As if the deep freeze wasn’t bad enough, the National Weather Service issued a Wind Advisory Tuesday night.

…WIND ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 9 AM TO 6 PM EST WEDNESDAY…

The National Weather Service in Baltimore MD/Washington has issued a Wind Advisory, which is in effect from 9 AM to 6 PM EST Wednesday.

* TIMING…Mid-morning through late afternoon Wednesday.

* WINDS…West 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.

* IMPACTS…Strong winds may blow down limbs, trees, and power lines. Scattered power outages are expected.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A Wind Advisory means that winds of 45 to 55 mph are expected. Winds this strong can make driving difficult, especially for high profile vehicles.

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(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Due to an expected snowy evening commute, federal employees are being allowed to leave work early.

“Employees should depart 2 hours earlier than their normal departure times and may request unscheduled leave to depart prior to their staggered departure times,” employees were told.

Other organizations and facilities are also closing early due to fears of a messy commute like that of January 20, 2016 or January 26, 2011. Arlington Public Schools announced Monday night that all schools will close two hours early “because of the current forecast for freezing rain and snow at dismissal time tomorrow.”

Arlington County government offices and facilities are closing at 4 p.m., while courts are closing at 3 p.m. Tonight’s County Board meeting, however, is still continuing as scheduled.

More closures, announced Tuesday morning by Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

Arlington Public Schools have announced they are closing two hours early and have cancelled all afternoon/evening activities in school buildings. DPR will proceed as follows:

  • All Enjoy Arlington classes, 55+ classes and nature center programs with start times of 3:30 p.m. or later today are cancelled in all County and School buildings.
  • Sports activities, leagues and instructional programs in APS buildings are cancelled.
  • Sports activities, leagues and instructional programs in County buildings with a start of 3:30 p.m. or later today are cancelled, including the Clubhouse and covered batting cages.
  • Carver, Drew and Gunston Community Centers are closed today.
  • All other community centers and the Gunston Bubble will close at 4 p.m.

Advice to drivers from VDOT:

Crews have brined bridges and ramps throughout northern Virginia and are staging along roadways today in preparation of winter weather expected during the p.m. rush hour.

VDOT Asks Drivers To:

  • Monitor weather closely, as forecasts can improve or worsen quickly.
  • Plan ahead to avoid driving during snow and freezing conditions today. Plan to leave and be home early if possible.
  • Check road conditions along your route before leaving, and plan to delay travel if road conditions become hazardous.
  • Download the free 511 app for Apple and Android, visit www.511virginia.org, or call 511 from any phone in Virginia.
  • Give plows and treatment trucks plenty of room. Ensure that you have enough gas, wiper fluid, proper tires, medication, and an emergency car kit.

File photo

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The longest federal government shutdown in the country’s history now seems to be over, at least temporarily, and Arlington’s congressional delegation is feeling cautiously optimistic.

President Trump announced today (Friday) that he would sign a bill to fund the vast majority of government agencies for the next three weeks, through Feb. 15, as Congress continues to negotiate on Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to construct a wall on the country’s southern border.

So long as lawmakers, and Trump himself, follow through on this plan, the government would re-open for the first time in 35 days. The proposed funding deal does not include any money for a wall, in a capitulation for the president, who orchestrated the shutdown in order to force a conflict over funding for one of his signature campaign promises.

The tentative deal strikes Northern Virginia’s representatives as quite good news indeed, as many had spent the shutdown railing against its impact on federal workers and the region’s economy, arguing that the shutdown was all in service of a goal that few Americans support.

Of course, Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) did point out that Trump is currently backing a deal Democrats offered him back in late December.

“I’m grateful that the shutdown will end soon, but I do not understand why it happened at all,” Beyer wrote in a statement. “Why did President Trump inflict this shutdown on the country?… It inflicted extreme pain on the people I represent, and there was no reason for it. As the president approaches the new deadline he just agreed to for the expiration of government funding, he must think of people besides himself. This must never happen again.”

Trump said in his speech Friday that he plans to ensure that federal workers receive back pay to cover the costs of the month-long shutdown “very quickly or as soon as possible.”

Businesses around Arlington and the rest of D.C. had rallied together to offer a variety of deals to support furloughed workers, while the county itself offered limited financial aid as well. Metro’s leaders had even contemplated making rides free for federal workers in a vote this afternoon, but officials have backed off from those plans.

Photo via @whitehouse

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Morning Notes

Housing and the County Budget — A new Greater Greater Washington article explores ways to add new housing at a time when Arlington County is facing a serious budget gap. [GGW]

Trails Treacherous for Cyclists — Despite efforts to plow local trails, many stretches in Arlington were still icy or snow-covered yesterday. [Twitter]

Police Warn About Phone Scam — “The Arlington County Police Department is warning the public about a fundraising phone scam targeting County residents. Residents have contacted the police department after receiving unsolicited phone calls from individual(s) claiming to be with the Arlington County Police Department and requesting donations to benefit the disabled and underprivileged children.” [Arlington County]

Fraser Among Those Called By Scammers — Arlington resident and local media personality Sarah Fraser was among those to be called by the scammers posing as ACPD. [Twitter]

A Modest Proposal for Stop Signs — “Close observation of local driving practices confirms the view that stop signs have become irrelevant, since no one obeys them. The closest drivers come is to slow and then slide through the intersection. It would be a cost-saving measure if Arlington County were to remove all its stop signs and replace them with ‘Yield’ signs.” [InsideNova]

Va. 8th District Has Most Federal Workers — “The House member with the most federal workers in his or her district is Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, whose Virginia district includes 86,900 federal workers. (Among districts with no military bases, Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly’s neighboring Virginia district has the highest number of federal workers.)” [Pew Research h/t Patricia Sullivan]

Stuck School Bus in Maywood — “#ArlingtonVA school bus stuck this am on N Fillmore St & 23rd St. N 3 days *AFTER* the snow! This hill on Fillmore is NEVER timely plowed or cleared. Do not put children at risk! Can @ArlingtonVA please clear this street.” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Kevin Spacey Pulled Over at DCA — “After appearing in court Monday morning to address sexual assault allegations in Massachusetts, actor Kevin Spacey had yet another brush with law enforcement in the afternoon, this time around Reagan National Airport.” [TMZ, WTOP]

Family Trio All Serves on ACPD — “33 years ago, Corporal Diane Guenther swore she’d never date another police officer. Police Lieutenant Mark Guenther persuaded her otherwise, and they married a year after they started dating. Their daughter, Harley, just celebrated two years as an Arlington County police officer.” [WDVM]

Police Holding Outreach Meetings — The Arlington County Police Department’s latest quarterly outreach meetings will be held at the Fairlington Community Center on Thursday, Jan. 24 and at Arlington Central Library on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Both meetings start at 7 p.m. [Twitter]

Group to Hold Forum on Entrepreneurship — “The Arlington branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) will feature a program on starting a business, led by the founders of Amazing Women Entrepreneurs. The meeting is slated for Monday, Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 527 of Arlington Mill Community Center. The community is invited.” [InsideNova]

Federal Workers Driving for Uber to Make Ends Meet — “‘With the government shutdown, you have more people working for the government doing Uber, and for the full-time Uber drivers, that is really affecting us too, and our money,’ said rideshare driver Nate Murrell.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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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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Despite this afternoon’s heat, dozens of protesters crowded the sidewalk in front of Rosslyn’s Social Security Administration office to rally against its potential closure.

The office, those speaking at the megaphone argued, is a vital component of serving the area’s Social Security benefit recipients.

“If you close this office, you’re cutting a social security benefit,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “It’s just like cutting somebody’s social security check — you’re cutting the ability for them to access the services that they need.”

The activists’ argue that many people who receive benefits are either aging or disabled and need an easily accessible, local office. That portion of the population needs to be able to consult a human being face-to-face in order to maximize their benefits.

Using an internet portal, they say, was inefficient for some benefit recipients because they tend to not include sufficient or accurate information on forms, have difficulty using a computer, or don’t have the ability to access the internet.

County Board member Christian Dorsey made an appearance, arguing that there’s plenty of room for the Social Security Administration to maintain an Arlington presence.

“This pains me to say as a public official, but office space is not that expensive in Arlington right now,” said Dorsey, pledging to use county resources to find the SSA a more amenable lease. “There are plenty of opportunities for the SSA to stay.”

The Social Security Administration has an office in Alexandria, but anyone looking to get there from Arlington would have to take a trip down the Blue Line to the Van Dorn Metro station and then hop on a bus. The SSA’s website doesn’t even list that office as being nearby if users enter a Rosslyn zip code to find a location.

“To lose the ability to connect people to an office thats within a short walk of heavy rail and to put them in an office more than a mile away from the closest Metro station speaks of poor planning and speaks of insensitivity,” said Dorsey. “We want to reverse that.”

Dorsey himself only learned of the closure a few weeks ago from an Arlingtonian who works with AFGE.

“You would expect, in a world where there’s a governmental asset, that you’d at least get a heads-up when there’s a rethinking of delivering that service — but that’s not the world we live in,” Dorsey said.

About 90 people come to the office every day to use the office, according to Dorsey.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has also written a letter to the SSA’s internal watchdog requesting an investigation into the agency’s decision to close the office.

A full video of the rally has been made available by Social Security Works, an organization in favor of expanding the program.

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(Updated at 8:05 a.m.) Those waking up expecting a winter wonderland were instead greeted by icy but mostly snowless roads and sidewalks this morning.

Still, local governments, agencies and schools are taking no chances as snow starts to ramp up in the metro area.

Arlington County government offices, courts, community centers and other facilities are closed today and the county is urging residents to “stay off the roads as the snowstorm enters the area.”

Schools are also closed and all parks and rec programs and activities are cancelled. Trash and recycling collection has been bumped back a day.

Trash & Recycling collection for today, March 21, 2018, has been cancelled. Service will resume tomorrow with the collection schedule shifting by 24 hours. Wednesday collection will occur Thursday, Thursday collection will occur Friday, Friday collection will occur Saturday.

The federal government is closed today, the Office of Personnel Management announced. Along with federal agencies, Joint Base Myer Henderson-Hall is also closed. Emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agency’s procedures, OPM said.

VRE and MARC service is cancelled, most Amtrak service is cancelled, and Metrobus and Metrorail is operating on a modified service schedule. Arlington Transit buses, meanwhile, are also operating on a reduced schedule.

“Expect snow today 8AM-8PM. Metrobus avoiding hills & narrow streets. ART will provide limited service as conditions permit,” ART said via email.

VDOT is urging drivers to “avoid being caught in hazardous conditions such as limited visibility and slick or snow-covered roads, as well as to allow crews plenty of room to work safely.”

For those who must drive, HOV restrictions have been lifted on local highways.

High occupancy vehicle (HOV) restrictions are lifted on I-66 (inside and outside the Beltway) and on I-395 (from Edsall Road to D.C.) for the morning and afternoon rush hours today. Because HOV restrictions are lifted, tolls on the 66 Express Lanes inside the Beltway will also be suspended today. Please also be aware that shoulder lanes on I-66 and I-495 may be closed through the day to allow crews room to treat.

Even before the bulk of the snow arrives, issues are being reported on the roads. As of 7:10 a.m., firefighters were responding to a report of two vehicles that spun out and off the road along the GW Parkway near Roosevelt Bridge.

More weather updates via Twitter:

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