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BREAKING: Governor Vetoes Country Club Bill

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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Northam, Gillespie Campaign Managers Reflect on Governor’s Race

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.

Looming over the race was President Donald Trump, who was elected last year and has inspired more Democratic activism but left many Republicans walking a tightrope on whether to embrace his rhetoric.

Leavitt said that while it may have appeared Gillespie struggled to find that balance, campaign staff were determined to keep the race about Virginia issues and not “nationalize” it.

Trump did not campaign for Gillespie, and criticized him on Twitter for not embracing “me or what I stand for.”

“At the time, it seemed like the right path,” Leavitt said, noting Gillespie’s emphasis on providing policy to help Virginians rather than be dragged into the national discussion.

For his part, Komar said he and his colleagues looked to capitalize on Gillespie’s apparent reluctance to embrace Trump.

“Trumpism without Trump, I think, is a win for us,” Komar said.

Both agreed that they did not see the wave of anti-Trump sentiment coming in Virginia, a sentiment that has helped almost wipe out Republicans’ advantage in the House of Delegates.

And Komar said the Northam campaign looked to capitalize on Republicans’ inability to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and shift the attention onto Virginia’s proposed expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, unsuccessful both through the General Assembly and executive action.

“The fact that this remained an issue through the election… this was very important,” Komar said.

“It wasn’t an area where we really wanted to debate,” Leavitt said in response. “We wanted to turn the conversation to something else.”

With this year’s elections over, political attention now shifts to the 2018 mid-terms. Both said that with full control of government, it is on Republicans to get something done, or else they will face the wrath of voters.

Republicans have a “lot to think about and recalibrate,” Leavitt said. “Good luck, because it’s going to be a challenge.”

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Election Day Turnout Arlington’s Highest in Over Two Decades

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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Local Parties, Candidates Brace for Campaign’s Final Push

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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Governor: Trustify Planning to Add 184 Jobs in Arlington

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.

Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Trustify, an IT startup that connects clients to trained private investigators, will invest $1.04 million to expand its operation in Arlington County creating 184 new jobs.

“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 Governor McAuliffe. “Arlington County and the Northern Virginia region are home to a dynamic IT industry, including cutting-edge degree programs that support a steady pipeline of talent for both established and emerging technology companies. 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, founded in 2015, is the first technology platform to connect clients across the United States to the only nationwide network of highly trained, vetted private investigators. The company was founded on the premise that it would have a social mission, be fully data-driven, and built by the most talented and diverse team in the industry. Trustify values itself as a different kind of technology startup and works to make a true difference in the community.

“Trustify truly hit the ground running in Arlington County, and we’re excited to see the company’s rapid success,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore. “With one of the largest, most diverse tech workforces in the nation, Virginia is a world-class center for the IT sector, which also fosters our startup culture. Trustify’s unique and impactful mission will continue to attract top-notch talent and provide Virginians with jobs of the 21st century.”

“We decided on Arlington, Virginia for many reasons,” said Trustify Founder and President Jennifer Mellon. “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.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership will support Trustify’s new job creation through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). VJIP provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs or experiencing technological change to support employee training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies. VJIP is state-funded, demonstrating Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for its citizens.

“Trustify’s rapid expansion in Arlington is nothing less than extraordinary,” said Jay Fisette, Chair of the Arlington County Board. “We are thrilled to have the company as a partner in Arlington’s business community and believe our top-notch workforce will well serve the company as it continues to thrive.”

“Trustify’s growth is a testament to Northern Virginia’s burgeoning role as the nerve center for innovation and technology in the Mid-Atlantic region,” said Senator Adam Ebbin. “By expanding into Crystal City, Trustify has positioned itself to leverage Arlington’s world-class talent, highly educated workforce, and welcoming community toward future success in implementing its innovative business model.”

“I want to thank Trustify for expanding its business and making critical investments in Arlington,”said Delegate Rip Sullivan. “We were thrilled when this innovative company chose Crystal City for its new headquarters, and its further commitment to the region is more proof that Arlington continues to be a great place to start and grow a company thanks to its pro-business environment, highly skilled workforce, and strong infrastructure.”

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New Voting Location Needed For Crystal City Ahead of November Election

A plan to host a polling place at a condo building in Crystal City has been nixed, but elections officials said they are confident of finding a new location before November.

County staff had planned to move the polling station for the Crystal City 006 Precinct to the Crystal Gateway condo building at 1300 Crystal Drive from Crystal Place (1801 Crystal Drive) in time for November’s elections.

But a staff report on various changes to voting locations ahead of the elections said the Crystal Gateway “no longer wishes” to host a polling place. Likewise, the report notes that Crystal Place “no longer wished” to do the same.

Arlingtonians will go to the polls to elect a Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and local members of the Virginia House of Delegates, as well as representatives on the Arlington County Board and School Board.

Gretchen Reinemeyer, the county’s deputy director of elections, said the building “did not provide any information on why they would not like to be a polling place.” Crystal Gateway’s property manager and a spokesman for Equity Apartments, which owns both the Crystal Gateway and Crystal Place, did not return calls requesting comment.

Reinemeyer said staff is “in the process” of finding a new polling place for the precinct, and they are “optimistic that we will have a new location soon.” She said that when looking for new polling places, staff try and find county-owned buildings in the precinct first before assessing other options.

“If there is not a suitable county facility available, we look at other buildings used by the community that have a ground level meeting room such as churches or community rooms in apartment or condo buildings,” she said. “Once we find a location that we think will work, we begin negotiating with the management of the space.”

The County Board will vote on the proposed voting changes at its meeting Saturday (July 15). Also on the table is a change for the Rosslyn Precinct to move its voting place to the 1800 Oak Apartments from the soon-to-be-redeveloped Fire Station 10, and a technical change for the Virginia Highlands Precinct to reflect that votes are cast at the recently reopened Aurora Hills Community Center.

Photo via Google Maps.

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Morning Notes

Northam, Gillespie Win Va. Primary — Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie, establishment figures in the state Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, beat back party insurgents to win the nomination for Virginia governor on Tuesday. The primary was a test of the “Trump effect,” according to political analysts. [Washington Post, Washington Post, Politico]

Python Found in Apartment Hallway — An Arlington animal control officer recovered a python from an apartment hallway Tuesday morning, prompting an article in by the Washington Post’s Martin Weil. In his signature style, Weil notes that “matters appeared to end satisfactorily.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Developer, 91, Wants to Move Into New Building — Longtime local developer Marvin Weissberg is enthusiastic about the 24-story, 407-unit residential tower he’s proposing to replace the RCA building in Rosslyn. So enthusiastic is Weissberg, 91, that he says he wants to move in when it’s completed. [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Shooting at Congressional Baseball Practice — A gunman opened fire at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria this morning, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a number of congressional aides and two police officers. The gunman was reportedly shot by U.S. Capitol Police. [Fox News, Twitter]

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Residents Report Misleading Get-Out-The-Vote Texts Days Before Primaries

(Updated 5:55 p.m.) With statewide primary elections just days away, late last week numerous local residents reported receiving text messages encouraging them to vote, but with incorrect information including their name and polling place.

Multiple readers reported receiving texts this weekend from a group identifying itself as “NextGen Virginia.” The texts use what they say is publicly available information on voters’ names, addresses and polling place, and reminds them to vote on Tuesday in the primary elections for Governor and Lt. Governor.

But for many, the information was incorrect.

Some, who live in the Fairlington area, were to vote at Abingdon Elementary School, which is under construction and so not a designated polling place this year. More received texts intended for someone else, sometimes containing that individual’s address; one, for instance, was sent to the mobile phone number of the intended recipient’s sister.

Linda Lindberg, the county’s director of elections, said she had no details on the group involved but said voters should check all their information before going to the polls. The county has been tweaking its precincts and voting locations since last year, when two new voting districts were added.

“We encourage all voters to check their voting locations at vote.virginia.gov before they go to the polls,” Lindberg said. “This is especially important because we’re had some changes since the last election. All affected voters were sent notices in April, but some may have overlooked the notices.”

A representative of the state chapter of NextGen Climate, which advocates for political action to prevent what it calls “climate disaster,” said it has been sending text messages to potential voters, and may have received incorrect data to help it do so.

“NextGen volunteers are sending text messages to a list of young people from numbers we get from a reputable political data firm,” a NextGen spokeswoman said. “No list is perfect, which may occasionally lead to people getting text messages intended for other people. Our text messages inform people that if they live at the address that we assume they live at based on publicly available data, then they vote at a particular voting location. Again, this is based on the best publicly available election data.

“Our goal is to increase turnout in the gubernatorial primaries, and we believe text messages will help us do that. Texting can provide the electorate with critical information on how to participate in the voting process.”

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Morning Notes

Perriello Campaigns in Arlington — Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello canvassed in Arlington yesterday with former Obama speechwriter and Pod Save America co-host Jon Lovett. [Twitter]

Key Bridge Lane Closure — One southbound lane of the Key Bridge, heading from D.C. to Rosslyn, is scheduled to be closed from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. today through Friday. The closure is part of the Key Bridge Rehabilitation Project. [DDOT]

Beyer Blasts Trump, Again — “Have you no decency?” was the Twitter response of Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) to President Donald Trump’s tweet criticizing the mayor of London in the aftermath of Saturday’s terror attack there. [Twitter]

‘Jungle Book’ at Encore — DC Metro Theater Arts has a review of Encore Stage & Studio’s production of The Jungle Book, which pays through June 11 at Thomas Jefferson Community Theater (125 S. Old Glebe Road). [DC Metro Theater Arts]

Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber

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