Arlington, VA

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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An Arlington-based smoothie chain is now offering giveaways over the next month for federal employees feeling a squeeze from the seemingly interminable government shutdown.

South Block will now hand out free regular smoothies every Friday between now and March 1. All you have to do to claim one is show a valid federal government ID.

The smoothie and juice shop has been blending up drinks at its original Clarendon location (3011 11th Street N.) for years now, and also operates stores in East Falls Church, Alexandria, Vienna and some neighborhoods in D.C. South Block will also be opening locations in Rosslyn and at the Ballston Quarter development in the coming months.

The company has even recently partnered with a Georgetown-based coffee roaster, Grace Street Coffee, to offer some caffeinated beverage options alongside its normal drink selection at the chain’s Clarendon location.

South Block is far from the only local business offering deals for government employees across the region.

The salad chain Sweetgreen has also been offering giveaways, and even recently announced it would be handing out free signature bowls to federal employees this Saturday (Jan. 26) from 6-8 p.m.

County officials have also offered a variety of resources for feds missing out on paychecks, as has Arlington’s main food bank.

File photo

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Morning Notes

A Wall that Divided Arlington Still Stands — “The wall was erected in a section of Arlington County in the 1930s to separate black residents from white residents. And for decades, it did just that. It kept segregation intact by creating a physical barrier between an ‘us’ and a ‘them.'” [Washington Post]

Coming Soon: Happy Hour Advertising? — “A lawsuit filed against the state by a Northern Virginia restaurateur could be the motivation the General Assembly needs to change laws that restrict happy hour advertising.” [Virginia Mercury]

Demand for Free Pet Food Rises — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington says it has seen an increase in demand for its free pet food pantry during the government shutdown. [Twitter]

Resources for Furloughed Feds — Congressman Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) office has compiled a list of resources for those affected by the federal government shutdown. [Rep. Don Beyer]

Anti-NIMBY Legislation Proposed in Va. — “[Del. Jeff] Bourne and Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, are pursuing legislation in the General Assembly this year that would explicitly prohibit local governments from denying permits for housing developments because of the expected race or income levels of the residents.” [Virginia Mercury]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Memorial Bridge Potholes — Large potholes made for dangerous driving on the under-construction Memorial Bridge over the weekend, but crews started repairing the bridge’s pockmarked surface Tuesday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Poke Restaurant Coming to Ballston — Local restaurant Poke It Up is expanding with a second location. The restaurant, which first opened in the Pentagon City mall food court, is now planning to open this summer at 4401 N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston, next to a new soup shop, Zoup. [Eater]

Shutdown Costing Local Economy Big Bucks — “About $119.2 million per day is removed from the gross regional product each day the shutdown drags on, according to local economist Stephen Fuller, thanks to lost pay of federal workers, contractors and suppliers and the multiplied economic effects of their lost spending. That daily hit… drops to $46.4 million per day once federal workers are ultimately repaid their lost wages.” [Washington Business Journal]

Overturned Vehicle in Crystal City — A driver managed to flip his or her vehicle in a crash last night on 18th Street S., near the Crystal City Metro station. [Twitter]

Board Set to Endorse VRE Funding — “Arlington County Board members on Jan. 26 are expected to endorse a request by Virginia Railway Express (VRE) for state funding to support construction of a new Crystal City station. The transit agency will seek grant funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which if approved could cover up to 70 percent of the cost of construction. VRE will fund the rest.” [InsideNova]

Changes to State Inspection Stickers — “The stickers are smaller, in response to complaints that the new sticker placement on the bottom left of the windshield, which started in 2018, resulted in reduced visibility for drivers.” [Tysons Reporter]

Nearby: Alexandria Warns About Opioids — “The City of Alexandria has responded to four suspected opioid overdoses in the last 72 hours, including two fatalities. While recreational use of opioids is always dangerous and illegal, City officials are urging residents to be aware of the medical safety of the drugs, including heroin, that could be extremely concentrated or mixed with something unusual that is resulting in life-threatening situations.” [City of Alexandria]

Flickr pool photo by Eschweik

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Federal workers can swing by Crystal City this week to score a free lunch as the government shutdown drags on, thanks to a new partnership among businesses based in the neighborhood.

The new “Lunch on Us” program will offer free food for feds at one restaurant each day, according to a press release from the Crystal City Business Improvement District.

Anyone with a valid government ID can grab one free meal and non-alcoholic beverage from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each day at the following restaurants:

  • Today (Tuesday): Timber Pizza at The Stand (1601 Crystal Drive)
  • Tomorrow (Wednesday): Federico Ristorante Italiano (519 23rd Street S.)
  • Thursday: Kora (2250 Crystal Drive)
  • Friday: Crystal City Sports Pub (529 23rd Street S.)

“Federal workers are the backbone of our government and important members of our community,” BID President and Executive Director Tracy Gabriel wrote in a statement. “We hope that ‘Lunch On Us’ communicates our shared appreciation while helping to ease the financial burden during the shutdown for workers and our small businesses.”

The BID also said that it will likely add locations as the shutdown continues, with updates available on its website.

JBG Smith, the Consumer Technology Association, Gates Hudson, the We Company and Eastern Foundry are also helping the BID offer the free lunch program.

This effort is the latest in a series of initiatives around the D.C. region designed to help federal workers who are hurting while missing out on paychecks, and county officials have also stepped in to lend a hand while the shutdown continues.

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Morning Notes

Apartment Fire in Nauck — Firefighters extinguished a fire in an apartment Monday evening. The fire broke out around 5:15 p.m. on the 2100 block of S. Quincy Street, in the Nauck neighborhood. No injuries were reported. [Twitter]

Board Members Reluctant to Give Themselves a Raise — “Rather than seeking higher pay, current Arlington board members might take the opposite route – start scaling back their workload. ‘There is definitely a renewed emphasis on, ‘what is our role?” [County Board Chair Christian] Dorsey said at the Jan. 17 forum, responding to a questioner who suggested board members of recent years are more mired in the nuts-and-bolts of governance than their predecessors.” [InsideNova]

Local Restaurant Delivers Free Pizza to Air Traffic Control — Over the weekend Joe’s Place Pizza and Pasta delivered free pizza to the air traffic control tower at Reagan National Airport, where controllers have been working without during the government shutdown. [Instagram]

Restaurant Week Extended — Winter Restaurant Week has been extended until Sunday, Jan. 27 due to the government shutdown and last week’s snow. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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For all of the problems caused by the government shutdown across the D.C. region so far, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) fears things could get “exponentially worse” as soon as next week if federal employees are still going without paychecks.

Warner, like the rest of his Democratic colleagues in Congress, already sees the standoff over border wall funding engineered by President Trump as “outrageous” and a “disgrace.” Thousands of federal workers in the D.C. area alone missed their first paychecks of the shutdown last week, putting a severe strain on their finances and the whole region’s economy.

But Warner foresees government employees reaching a crisis point should they miss another paycheck in the coming days, which looks like a sure bet as Trump refuses to give an inch in discussions with congressional Democrats.

“When people go without a second paycheck, which is coming next Thursday, and they hit the beginning of the month of February, there are mortgages due, their rent is due, other bills are due,” Warner told reporters during a visit to the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s food distribution center in Nauck today (Friday). “That’s when things get really bad… And what’s happening in our region, it’s already a crisis. But this is going to be a crisis that spreads all across the country. “

Warner pointed out that Congress and Trump could at least agree to provide back pay for furloughed workers, but he warned that restitution alone “doesn’t make you whole.” He’s already heard stories from people taking out loans to make it through the shutdown, or missing payments and seeing their credit scores take a hit.

And he’s especially concerned about federal contractors, which include not only high-priced tech workers but people working in cafeterias or custodial services, who may not make much money.

Charlie Meng, the executive director of AFAC, told ARLnow that “many of the contractors who are most affected are our clients already.” He says the food bank has seen a “slight uptick” in interest since the shutdown started, and it began urging federal employees to swing by for free groceries, but he said that people who are already struggling to get by are the ones hardest hit by missing out on paychecks.

“We serve the working poor, and that includes many of the people who work for the government indirectly but are just hanging on,” Meng said. “Something like this happens, and it really hurts them.”

Warner notes that the shutdown will likely spell big trouble for Metro the longer it drags on. WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told the D.C.’s regions senators yesterday (Thursday) that keeping federal workers at home is prompting a steep drop in ridership, costing the rail service about $400,000 per day.

It doesn’t help matters either that federal officials haven’t been able to reimburse Metro for about $33 million in expenses it has incurred over the course of the shutdown, an amount Wiedefeld estimates could balloon to $50 million by the end of the month. He warned that Metro would need to start relying on its line of credit to afford major capital improvements soon enough, or simply delay badly needed projects.

“In a way, it’s like Metro can’t catch a break,” Warner said. “Finally, the region stepped up, Virginia, Maryland, the District to provide additional, dedicated funding for Metro. Now we’ve got this crisis, not due to Metro’s performance but due to the government shutdown. It’s going to put Metro even further behind.”

Warner says Democrats are “absolutely” willing to negotiate on increased border security measures with the White House to end this standoff — but only if Trump agrees to open the government back up first.

“If you reward this bad behavior, he will try this again, he will try this again with spending bills going forward,” Warner said. “You don’t reward a bully.”

Warner points out that a bipartisan group of senators wrote a letter to Trump, urging him to fund the government for three weeks to let negotiations to start back up. But that effort fizzled, and he says it was “disappointing” to discover that the White House was actively pressuring Republicans not to sign on to that push.

“It’s tough if you’re a Republican senator to sign onto a letter, even a reasonable letter, when you’ve got folks like Jared Kushner and others lobbying against it,” Warner said.

Broadly, he believes Trump is hanging over the whole debate. Even though the Senate already voted unanimously to fund the government before Trump started demanding money for a border wall, Warner feels his Republican colleagues haven’t been willing to take action for straightforward political reasons: “You’ve got a lot of Republicans who are afraid of upsetting the president.”

So even as Republicans privately tell Warner that they’d like to end the shutdown, he doesn’t see much hope for any resolution soon. And that, he says, sits squarely on Trump’s shoulders.

“The president has said he was proud to own this shutdown,” Warner said. “This will be part of his legacy, which is already the worst legacy in modern American history.”

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Morning Notes

Roads ‘Looking Good’ After Light Snow — Per Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: snow removal crews are “reviewing school routes, especially bridges and County sidewalks, with @APSVirginia on a 2-hour delayed opening. Roadways looking good, treated as needed, but go slow and remove snow from vehicles before pulling out.” [Twitter]

Gov’t Closures Today and Monday — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Jan. 21, 2019 for Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s birthday. NOTE: Commonwealth of Virginia offices (including Courts & DMVs)  will be closed Friday Jan. 18, 2019 for Lee-Jackson Day.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Incentives Clear First Richmond Hurdle — “A powerful General Assembly committee has passed and forwarded to the full state Senate legislation that would grant Amazon up to $750 million in financial incentives for locating a secondary headquarters in Arlington and Alexandria.” [InsideNova]

Who Said This? — A “big D.C. developer” reportedly called Crystal City “Ballston with lipstick,” which is more flattering than what an executive for Crystal City’s biggest property owner said about the community earlier this week. For its part, Crystal City is continuing to bask in the afterglow of its big Amazon win and this week’s announcement that PBS will be keeping its headquarters in the neighborhood. [Twitter]

Famers Market Offers Shutdown Discounts — The Westover Farmers Market, held on Sundays at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. McKinley Road, is offering discounts of 10-25 percent for furloughed federal employees and contractors until the government shutdown ends.

Arlington Family’s Furlough Story — An Arlington couple who both work for the federal government and are missing paychecks during the shutdown is more fortunate than many, given that they have savings with which to keep paying the bills. But it has meant cutting back on discretionary spending and things like child care and retirement contributions. [MarketWatch]

Arlington Man Arrested for ‘Ruckus’ in Ohio — “A man from Arlington, Virginia is facing charges in Youngstown after police say he created a ruckus at the downtown DoubleTree and threatened police… officers say he kept threatening them saying, ‘You guys are going to be sorry, and you’re going to regret this. I will find you when I get out.'” [WKBN]

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Arlington’s local food bank is urging furloughed federal workers to swing by for free groceries, should times be getting tough as the government shutdown drags on.

The Arlington Food Assistance Center is reminding all Arlingtonians that anyone having trouble making ends meet is eligible to pick up a bag of groceries from the food bank on a one-time basis.

All you have to do is provide a government-issued photo ID and proof of your address (either on an ID or a bill mailed to your home). AFAC stresses that it has “does not impose income limits — ever,” making one-time assistance available to any furloughed fed missing out on paychecks these days.

“If your bills are high, your paychecks are withheld, or you just need something to get you through the week, AFAC is available to you,” the food bank wrote on its website.

Anyone looking for some more extensive help can also apply for three months of food, with a referral from the county’s Department of Human Services or an Arlington Public Schools social worker.

The food bank works to provide families, at a minimum, with staples like milk, fruit, vegetables, cereal, canned goods and other dry goods. AFAC operates three food distribution centers around the county, at the following places and times:

AFAC Nelson: 2708 S. Nelson Street, Arlington 22206
Monday to Friday:  10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Tuesday and Thursday evenings:  7:00 – 8:00 PM
Saturday morning: 9:00 – 11:00 AM

Gunston Community Center: 2700 S. Lang Street, Arlington 22206
Thursday evening: 7:00 – 8:00 PM

Clarendon United Methodist Church: 606 N. Irving Street, lower level, Arlington 22201
Saturday morning: 9:30 – 10:30 AM

As the shutdown smashes records for the longest of any kind in the nation’s history, county officials have also been offering payment plans and fee forgiveness for some services.

Arlington’s also planned a variety of hiring events and financial management workshops for federal workers.

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Morning Notes

Spike Mendelsohn Planning New Restaurants in Crystal City — “Already in National Landing with Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza, Mendelsohn has a letter of interest out for two new spaces. One will bring his Mexican taco shop already on Capitol Hill, Santa Rosa, to Virginia. Another is a new concept: fried chicken.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Shutdown May Fry Local Economy — “Come February — perhaps by the beginning of the month, probably the middle and definitely by the end — the financial, occupational and psychological impact of this now-record government shutdown will go from the theoretical to the very, very real.” [Washington Business Journal]

Trump Signs Shutdown Backpay Bill — President Trump has signed a bill championed by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) that will provide backpay to federal employees affected by the government shutdown. Now Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are working to provide a similar guarantee for low-wage federal contractors. [Federal News Network]

JBG’s ‘Brutally Honest’ Amazon Pitch — A quote attributed to JBG Smith Chief Development Officer Kai Reynolds, talking about his pitch to Amazon’s HQ2 team: “So we literally sat down at 8 in the morning, and I started the presentation by saying ‘I’ve lived [in this region] a number of years, I had never been [to Crystal City]. While it’s better than I thought, it’s kind of a shithole.'” [Bisnow]

Snow May Disrupt Evening Commute — “The main band of snow is likely to come through during the evening and overnight hours. As the onset of snow may coincide with the evening commute, especially in our western areas, build in extra time to get home or consider leaving a little early to beat the rush. Some slick spots could develop, especially on untreated roads.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

Nearby: Attempted Kidnapping in Georgetown — “As she neared her front door about 5 p.m. Tuesday, a woman grabbed the child from behind and tried to abduct her, D.C. police said. The girl fought back and broke free. The nanny in the car screamed, and the woman ran.” [Washington Post]

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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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