Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Confusion Over CVS Vaccine Reservations — “The confusion began early Tuesday morning, with people reaching out to ABC7 to express their frustration over the COVID-19 vaccine registration process at CVS pharmacies in Virginia. ‘They didn’t do what they said they were going to do, and it’s just really frustrating,’ said Roxanne Grandis, who’s been trying to make vaccine appointments for her elderly parents.” [WJLA]

Some Kudos For County Vaccination Effort — “Virginia’s been struggling for weeks to administer vaccine doses. Out of the 1.38 million doses the Commonwealth received, officials only injected 1.1 million. That’s roughly 80%. Meanwhile, Arlington County is setting the standard at 97%. How did they do it? With other areas struggling, how did Arlington Public Health succeed on all levels? Local officials say it’s been a team effort.” [The Dogwood]

Chase Young’s Arlington Connection — “Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young, whose father was in law enforcement, testified before the Maryland House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, expressing support for police reform… Young, named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year on Saturday, grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, but his father spent 22 years as a police officer in Arlington, Virginia.” [ESPN]

Arlington Man Running for Governor — “Another Northern Virginia executive is joining the Republican race for governor. Peter Doran of Arlington said Tuesday he is seeking this year’s GOP gubernatorial nomination. It is his first run for office.” [Associated Press]

Arlington Dems Eye High Rises — “Mid-rise and high-rise living represents a large swath of the Arlington population, and ‘many of them are inaccessible to outside groups,’ said Carol Fontein, who heads the robust precinct-operations efforts of Arlington Democrats. As a result, the party aims to recruit those living in multi-family complexes to help with outreach – within the limits set by owners of the properties.” [InsideNova]

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Nearly one year after Arlington Public Schools closed classrooms, the end of distance learning is in sight for students and teachers.

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Francisco Durán said today (Friday) that on Tuesday he will announce dates when students can return to their school buildings — with students expected to return by mid-March.

The forthcoming timeline for the announcement is one-and-a-half weeks ahead of Durán’s schedule. The push to announce the phased return dates next week comes in response to a press conference that Gov. Ralph Northam held this morning.

During the School Board meeting last night (Thursday), Durán told board members and listening community members that he would provide dates on Feb. 18. This morning, Northam urged all K-12 school divisions in Virginia to make in-person learning options available to students by March 15.

“Given Governor Northam’s press conference this morning, I will announce the dates in my Return-to-School Update this coming Tuesday,” Durán said in an APS School Talk update sent this afternoon. “Our timeline aligns with the Governor’s guidance.”

Principals and school staff have been preparing for student returns in March, he said.

Arlington teachers and staff have been re-entering their classrooms in phases since last week. Durán came under fire last night for not following other Virginia school divisions, which have announced firm return dates.

“I’m certainly aware of the announcements of other divisions in Northern Virginia and others that are moving forward, but we are taking the time to do what is asked… to make sure we’re safe and ready to go back in person,” he said during last night’s meeting. “I’m going to continue to make decisions to best serve the needs of students in Arlington while ensuring the health and safety of everyone.”

Student groups will return in this order:

  1. Preschool through 2nd grade students and countywide elementary special education students
  2. Grades 3-5
  3. Grades 6-12

Students from grades 3-12 will learn via “concurrent instruction” models. They will remain in their current classes, with their current teachers, regardless of whether they are in-person part-time or fully virtual. Teachers will instruct both online and in-person students whether they are in the classroom or working remotely.

On Wednesday, students enrolled in select technical education courses, from cosmetology to auto collision repairs, were able to return to their classrooms at the Arlington Career Center, Durán said. Students with disabilities who need in-person supports were the first to return on Nov. 4.

This week, APS launched a health screening application for teachers and staff to use daily, providing the school system with information on who tests positive, experiences symptoms or comes in contact with coronavirus-positive people, he said. The app will be available to students and families on Feb. 18.

Meanwhile, Durán said in-person instruction and support are having a “moderate” impact on reports of positive cases and close contacts with sick individuals. He cited the following statistics on positive cases and reports of close contacts among staff and students:

This morning, Northam also encouraged school divisions to offer summer school for families who want their children to make up for any loss of learning incurred during this school year.

“The health and safety of students, educators, school personnel, and communities continues to be our top priority,” Northam said. “We know that children learn better in classrooms and that going to school is vital for their social-emotional needs and for receiving critical services like meals. It is also important for our youngest learners, students with disabilities, and those with limited access to technology who have struggled most with remote learning. By focusing on mitigation measures, we can provide our kids with safe and equitable learning environments.”

Responding to early signs of falling grades during distance learning, two former School Board members indicated their interest in summer school options in December.

Photo via Arlington Public Schools Twitter

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(Updated at 8:50 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a new round of coronavirus-related restrictions this afternoon.

The changes, which are to take effect early Monday morning, include tightening the limit on social gatherings from 25 to 10 people, and a “modified stay at home order” between midnight and 5 a.m. daily.

The new restrictions come with some exceptions.

The social gathering rule does not apply to “religious services, employment settings, or educational settings.” The midnight curfew doesn’t apply to those “obtaining food and goods, traveling to and from work, and seeking medical attention.”

Another change: a tightening of the state mask mandate, for those five and over. It will now apply “in indoor settings shared with others and when outdoors within six feet of another person.”

Despite the new restrictions, Northam said restaurants will be able to stay open with existing rules in place, including no on-site alcohol sales after 10 p.m.

During his Thursday afternoon press conference, Northam said coming COVID vaccines are cause for optimism, but with nearly 4,000 new cases and dozens of deaths per day in the Commonwealth, “hard realities” necessitate tighter restrictions.

Intensive Care Unit hospitalizations have been rising, Northam said, and nurses and doctors are becoming exhausted. Here in Arlington, the rate of new cases hit a new high on Monday.

“If you don’t have to go out, stay at home,” the governor said. “This is just plain common sense.”

The new rules will go into effect until Jan. 31, but may be extended beyond that.

Northam also took a dig at President Trump near the end of the press conference, saying that the president had “checked out” on the pandemic and “it’s time for real leadership.”

The full press release from the governor’s office is below.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Three young, tech-focused startups in Arlington were among 41 projects across the state awarded $2.51 million in funding.

The Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CRCF) awards, announced by Gov. Ralph Northam on June 6, included grant funding for Fend Incorporated — a Startup Monday frequent guest — NOVI LLC and SeeHear LLC.

The CRCF is run through the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), a non-profit corporation funded in part through the state to promote technological development in Virginia.

Fend Incorporated adds a system with a physical beam-link used to transfer data in otherwise digital systems, making them less prone to hacking. The company was awarded $50,000.

NOVI LLC develops autonomous, intelligent satellites and was awarded $48,700.

SeeHear LLC is a corporation that commercializes earlier government research into web-based speech programs for adults with hearing loss. The company was awarded $50,000.

According to a spokesperson for CIT, proposals undergo a multi-stage review process, including assessments by subject matter experts and evaluation by the CIT Board of Directors.

“Virginia is recognized as one of the most innovative states in the nation, and we know that identifying and supporting Virginia innovators at critical early stages through state-funded programs like CRCF is key to maintaining and expanding our leadership role,” Northam said in a press release. “The Commonwealth will continue to deliver programs that facilitate bringing pioneering technologies and ideas to market and create a culture where entrepreneurs will thrive.”

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has vetoed legislation that would have dramatically reduced Arlington County’s tax revenue from two country clubs.

HB 1204 would have reduced the tax bills for Army Navy Country Club and Washington Golf and Country Club, but would have cost the county’s coffers nearly $1.5 million annually.

The state legislature will now have an opportunity to override the veto.

More from an Arlington County press release:

“We are grateful to Governor Northam for vetoing HB 1204,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The governor, by his action to keep authority over local property assessments in the hands of local government, and not in Richmond, has shown real leadership.  This legislation had major implications for all localities across the Commonwealth.”

Arlington encourages all local governments to unify and ask their legislators to sustain the veto when the General Assembly reconvenes April 18 at the State Capitol, Cristol said.

“We are committed to resolving the assessment issue with the golf courses, and we are confident that we can find an equitable solution,” she said. “I want to thank our Arlington delegation for standing strong with us throughout this process.”

In his veto message, Northam says that he expects Arlington and the clubs to reach a compromise soon. The clubs are suing the county, fighting back against what they say is an unfair way to assess what is essentially open space — treating the many acres of golf courses as developable land.

The governor’s veto message is below.

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 1204, which requires the County of Arlington to assess two private country clubs within its boundaries as land dedicated to open space rather than its current method of highest and best use.

This is a local dispute over a local government’s method of assessing land for property taxation. As such, the solution to this dispute should be reached on the local level without the involvement of the state.

I have been assured that an agreement acceptable to both sides of this dispute is close to being reached. I encourage the parties to continue negotiations to find a solution so that similar legislation will not be necessary in the future.

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

Sincerely,

Ralph S. Northam

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Morning Notes

IRS Rules on Tax PrepaymentsUpdated at 12:35 p.m. — Taxpayers hoping to get an additional deduction by prepaying their local property taxes may be out of luck. The IRS ruled late Wednesday afternoon that prepayments can only be deducted in limited circumstances that may not apply to many local jurisdictions — but are, reportedly, applicable to others. The ruling comes after local residents have already prepaid millions in taxes. One tipster told ARLnow.com that there was a line of “probably forty people,” some “paying for up to three years,” at the Arlington County treasurer’s office Tuesday morning. [Washington Post]

Disabled Train Delays VRE — Virginia Railway Express trains were delayed during the morning rush hour due to a disabled freight train north of Crystal City. [Twitter]

Ebbin Proposes Multiple Terms for Va. Gov. — State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-31) has proposed legislation that would take the first step towards allowing governors in Virginia to be elected to two consecutive terms, rather than the current one term limit. [InsideNova]

County Crews Treating Roads for Snow — Arlington County crews were out yesterday pre-treating local roadways with brine, in anticipation of a winter weather event. According to forecasters, the only snow in the forecast is an expected dusting on Saturday. [Twitter, Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

AED and SCORE Partnering — “Beginning this January, BizLaunch and SCORE DC will formally partner on a variety of entrepreneurial workshops from advanced social media training to lead generation to how to become an 8(a) contractor and much more.” [Arlington Economic Development]

Flickr pool photo by Fritz Myer

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After a contentious race for governor in Virginia, the campaign managers for the two major candidates had a few flashpoints as they reflected on the contest in Arlington on Monday night.

Chris Leavitt, who managed Republican Ed Gillespie’s campaign, said his opposite number on Democratic candidate Ralph Northam’s campaign, Brad Komar, was a “liar” for saying he and his colleagues had no knowledge of an attack ad run by the Latino Victory Fund against the Republican.

Komar said the ad came from a community that felt it was “under attack,” but that the Northam campaign was not involved.

“It’s not how I would have responded,” he said. “We did not see the ad; I did not authorize it.”

The ad showed a white man in a pickup truck with a Gillespie bumper sticker and a Confederate flag threatening minority children. It ran on Spanish-language channels for two days before being taken down after the terrorist attack in New York by a man driving a pickup truck.

The pair were in conversation before more than 250 people at George Mason University’s Arlington campus at an event by the Virginia Public Access Project and GMU’s Schar School of Policy and Government. It came less than a week after Northam beat Gillespie to the governor’s mansion, thanks in part to the 68,315 votes he received in Arlington to Gillespie’s 16,160.

Komar said he regretted the campaign leaving then-lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, who also triumphed last week in a Democratic clean sweep alongside Attorney General Mark Herring, off a mailer that was sent to some houses in Northern Virginia.

At the time, the campaign said it was accommodating the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which did not endorse Fairfax as he opposes two planned natural gas pipelines, but endorsed the other two.

“We handled a regular, normal thing badly,” Komar said, noting that it should not have been sent out by the campaign but by someone else.

Leavitt defended the Gillespie campaign’s decision to run television ads attacking Northam as weak on the Central American street gang MS-13, and supporting so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” where local authorities do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

Such “sanctuaries” do not exist in Virginia, but Leavitt said that the Gillespie campaign had data that suggested that some independent voters were concerned about a rise in crime committed by illegal immigrants.

“You have to pick certain spots where there are avenues where you can go after your opponent,” Leavitt said. “This was one of those avenues.”

And Leavitt said trying to find weaknesses in Northam to attack was especially problematic, given his personal history as a U.S. Army doctor then a pediatric neurologist, as well as a stellar career in Richmond.

He said the Gillespie campaign hoped for a bruising Democratic primary against former Rep. Tom Perriello to expose more weaknesses.

“Frankly, the Governor-Elect did not have as many vulnerabilities as we would have liked, and we thought a primary could open up a few more,” Leavitt said.

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The 55 percent of registered voters who turned out to vote in Tuesday’s election was the highest percentage turnout in an non-presidential year since the early 1990s, according to figures from the county’s elections office.

It was the highest turnout in a gubernatorial election year in Arlington since 1993, when 56 percent of registered voters turned out as Republican George Allen triumphed over Democratic nominee and then-Attorney General Mary Sue Terry.

The county’s highest turnout in a governor election since 1958, the first year of reliable statistics, was in 1981 and 1989 when it hit 60 percent for both years.

(This year’s turnout did set a local record for highest number of votes cast in a gubernatorial election, thanks in part to population growth.)

Arlington County voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic ticket of Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively.

Northam (D) took 68,315 votes in Arlington out of 1.4 million statewide, ahead of Republican Ed Gillespie with 16,160 in Arlington and 1.1 million across Virginia.

Fairfax garnered 66,687 votes in Arlington of 1.3 million statewide, ahead of state Sen. Jill Vogel’s 17,594 in the county and 1.2 million total. And Herring won re-election with 67,111 votes ahead of John Adams’ 17,366 votes, winning the statewide count with 1.3 million to Adams’ 1.2 million.

In an email to supporters on Wednesday morning, Arlington County Republican Committee chair Jim Presswood said that while the ticket suffered a “tough loss,” the GOP will be back in Virginia:

Our canvass operation was typically among the top three in the Commonwealth. We knocked over 10,000 doors last Saturday. You represented our party and our conservative values well.

Despite yesterday’s results, I am confident about our prospects over the longer term. The Democrats ran a campaign focused on what they are against. Their governing vision, however, simply won’t solve the problems facing our Commonwealth and country.

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With one weekend left until Election Day, candidates and parties of all stripes are looking to get their messages out.

The statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general continue to draw a lot of attention, and Arlington’s local Democratic and Republican parties will use this weekend for last-minute political activities.

Both will be out canvassing voters this weekend, both door-to-door and at the county’s farmers’ markets. The Arlington Young Democrats promised a “special” canvassing in south Arlington this weekend to support Del. Alfonso Lopez in his re-election bid against Republican Adam Roosevelt.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee has also made use of a social media campaign entitled, “#TURNOUT2017” to encourage its supporters to vote through Facebook and social media ads for candidate for governor Ralph Northam, lieutenant governor nominee Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring, who is running for re-election.

And Arlington County Republican Committee communications director Matthew Hurtt promised an “unprecedented” get-out-the-vote operation in an email to supporters to help elect governor nominee Ed Gillespie, lieutenant governor candidate Jill Vogel and attorney general nominee John Adams.

Arlington Young Democrats will host a get-out-the-vote rally of their own on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., headlined by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), while both parties will have poll watchers at voting stations across the county to monitor what happens on Election Day.

Earlier this week, the Arlington Democrats hosted a rally alongside Northam, Fairfax, Herring and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) as well as local elected officials.

And on October 29, Gillespie and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) dropped by for a rally to coincide with a viewing party for the Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys NFL game.

And while the social media accounts and websites of the candidates for the local races of Arlington County Board and School Board, residents can expect to see them and their supporters out this weekend pushing for votes.

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A Crystal City-based startup is planning to add 184 jobs here as part of an expansion, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Monday.

Trustify, which moved into new offices overlooking Long Bridge Park earlier this year, is planning to spend just over $1 million on building and equipment costs associated with the expansion. The 184 jobs are expected to be added over a period of three years, according to Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

A VEDP spokeswoman said Trustify will be eligible for nearly $120,000 in state reimbursement for job recruitment and training.

Trustify is a sort of “Uber-for-PIs,” using the internet to connect businesses and consumers with trained private investigators. It makes money by taking a cut of the hourly fee charged to customers.

In a press release, McAuliffe and other officials, including Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and state Sen. Adam Ebbin, heaped praise on Trustify for its rapid expansion.

“Trustify’s impressive growth in a short amount of time is a strong example of what high-tech, entrepreneurial companies can accomplish in the Commonwealth,” said the governor. “Arlington County and the Northern Virginia region are home to a dynamic IT industry… We are proud to have this innovative business in the Commonwealth contributing to the new Virginia economy, and look forward to Trustify’s continued success.”

Trustify President Jennifer Mellon, in turn, lauded Arlington County as a place to do business.

“We decided on Arlington, Virginia for many reasons,” Mellon said. “The community here in Arlington is a fantastic place in which to work and commute. Arlington provides employers and employees many benefits and advantages that are not available in other areas and communities. We believe the DC Metro area, in general, is a beacon of inclusive innovation with some of the best percentages of women and diversity in tech compared to the rest of the country. We have transportation, office, and community options and benefits that made this area the clear choice for Trustify.”

Trustify says it raised $6.6 million in new funding this year, according to the Washington Business Journal. With that funding the company hopes to grow and capture more of the U.S. private investigations market. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that Trustify is after at least a $1.5 billion dollar market; there are some 28,500 private investigators nationwide making an average annual wage of around $53,500 a year, according to the BLS.

By the numbers, the company is one of the hottest tech startups in Arlington, but it is not without its critics. It has a very vocal, persistent critic in Glen Hellman, a local tech scene commentator and strategist who also goes by the nickname “Mr. Cranky.”

Hellman ripped what he characterized as an uncritical Washington Business Journal article on the governor’s Trustify announcement, despite being mentioned in that very article.

“It’s a good thing Washington Business Journal doesn’t have a sports page because they’d be writing headlines about every kid who ever received a participation trophy for being the bench warmer on the worst team in the lowest league of some minor 3rd grade soccer team,” Hellman said in an incendiary blog post this morning. “I believe the reason Trustify puts out these press releases is to counter any bad press they receive, to push down the SEO of negative stories and obfuscate… the truth in order to raise money from poor unsuspecting widows and orphans.”

The full press release from the governor’s office, after the jump.

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