Press Club

A grant program is providing cash to local businesses to help with expenses — and offering one day of discounts to those businesses this weekend.

The “Love Local” relief program is giving $100,000 to more than 30 Crystal City and Pentagon City retail shops, salons, and restaurants. The grants are to provide “financial and promotional support covering wages and operator-related expenses.”

The program is a partnership between the National Landing Business Improvement District and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

Each business is receiving the same grant amount, a spokesperson said, which works out to about $3,000 apiece.

“As National Landing continues to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, Love Local grants will help our local businesses continue to support their employees while providing our neighbors with important services,” National Landing BID Executive Director Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said in a press release. “We are proud to be a part of this critical initiative and look forward to supporting our local businesses and seeing them thrive.”

The criteria for a business to be selected for the grant money included having a brick and mortar location within the BID’s borders and being open for at least a year.

Additionally, all grant recipients are being asked to participate in this weekend’s “Love Local Day.”

On Saturday, the businesses will be offering exclusive one-day discounts and promotions — from free engraving at Ship’s Hatch to 20% off high-end watches at Real Jewelers to 10-15% discounts at local restaurants like Saigon Saigon.

This is the second year of the grant program. In 2021, the program also handed out nearly $100,000 to 30 local businesses.

The list of the grant recipients is below.

  • Asia Bistro
  • Axis Rehab & Chiropractic
  • Bonsai Grill
  • Commonwealth Joe
  • Coqui Boutique
  • Crystal City Sports Pub
  • Crystal City Wine Shop
  • Enjera Restaurant
  • Extreme Pizza
  • Flowers with Love
  • Freddie’s Beach Bar
  • Frederico Ristorante Italiano
  • Gallery Underground
  • Garden Fantasy
  • Good Stuff Eatery, Crystal City
  • Highline RxR
  • La Bettola Italiano
  • Lily Bubble Tea & Smoothie
  • Mind Your Body Oasis
  • Nail Spa
  • Pentagon City Wine Merchant
  • Potomac Social Tavern
  • Portofino
  • Pure Barre Pentagon City
  • RASA
  • Real Jewelers
  • Saigon Saigon
  • Ship’s Hatch
  • Subway Crystal City Metro
  • Subway Crystal City
  • Synetic Theater
  • The Freshman
  • Urban Thai Restaurant
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Arlington County will be studying a two-mile stretch of S. George Mason Drive, from Route 50 to the border with Fairfax County, to identify potential transportation improvements.

The study is happening now because the road is a solid candidate for grants that have applications due in the winter. But before they can apply, county staff need to examine current conditions and hear from locals about their biggest safety concerns, according to Leah Gerber, an county transportation planner.

She said one reason staff are optimistic about grant funding is because the upgrades would benefit residents of census tracts with high concentrations of ethnic minorities, or “equity emphasis areas,” according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Over the next two months, staff will analyze data such as transit ridership and traffic counts and develop concept plans for three segments of the road:

  • North Segment — Arlington Blvd to Columbia Pike
  • Middle Segment — Columbia Pike to S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • South Segment — S. Four Mile Run Drive to county line

Staff will also develop 15% designs for the Columbia Pike-county line segment.

“The southern portion we feel will really be eligible for grant funding,” said Valerie Mosley, the bureau chief of Transportation Planning and Capital Project Management for Arlingtons Department of Environmental Services.

The study is slated for commission and County Board review this fall, in time for applications to go out this winter.

“We’re working on a fairly truncated timetable for this study and we wanted to start by asking about your experience,” public engagement coordinator Nate Graham said during a community kick-off meeting last week. “That feedback from the community will help us, along with data analysis, plan a study and identify solutions that can resolve those issues.”

A survey, open through Sunday, May 1, asks respondents how safe they feel walking, scooting, driving and biking the road. People can signal their preferred upgrades from options such as protected bike lanes, sheltered bus stops, bus-only lanes and widened sidewalks. Using an interactive map, respondents can pinpoint specific locations they say need attention.

The segments of S. George Mason Drive being studied by the county (via Arlington County)

What staff members know so far is that some residents have long requested safer pedestrian crossings through improvements such as flashing beacons. One oft-cited intersection is with 6th Street S., near the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, where shrubbery and trees make it hard to see oncoming cars.

Some cyclists, meanwhile, have pointed out inconsistent bike infrastructure, with lanes that start and stop at random. Other residents say more parking enforcement is needed between Columbia Pike and S. Four Mile Run Drive, where large commercial trucks park despite being too wide for the parking spaces available.

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Gavel (Flickr photo by Joe Gratz)

The philanthropic arm of the Arlington County Bar Association is looking to support local nonprofits with a connection to the legal community.

From now through the month of April, the Arlington County Bar Foundation is accepting grant applications from organizations promoting or improving the justice system in Arlington and the City of Falls Church. The foundation helps local charities through grant funding and personnel support, says Paul Ferguson, the Arlington Bar Foundation Grants Committee Chair.

Grants are largely funded by members of the legal community through tax-deductible donations to the Bar Foundation, said Ferguson, the elected Clerk of the Circuit Court in Arlington, a former County Board member, and a GMU law alum.

“The Arlington County Bar Foundation is a charitable board made up of mostly attorneys,” he said. “Grants are awarded to organizations that have a connection to the law [or] legal community. Sometimes the grants go to specific projects or initiatives but they also can be non-specific.”

Awards typically range between $250 and $2,000, although the foundation has given out larger amounts in years past.

Traditionally, Ferguson says, the highest-dollar grant recipient is Legal Services of Northern Virginia, which provides legal advice and services to the region’s neediest populations, including veterans, human-trafficking victims and people with disabilities.

Other past recipients used the funding to tackle domestic violence and homelessness, including SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) of Northern Virginia and Doorways, or to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-enter society, such as Offender Aid & Restoration and Arm & Arm.

Many recent award-winners work with Northern Virginia’s immigrant population: Ayuda, the Borromeo Legal Project, the immigrant advocacy program at Legal Aid Justice Center and immigration attorney James Montana, who used the money to cover citizenship costs for his pro-bono clients.

Grant applications — which can request up to $5,000 — are due by Friday, April 29. They must be no longer than one page and include the following information:

  • Name of the organization, name of the person submitting the grant and a primary address, phone number and email
  • Purpose of the organization and how it serves Arlington and/or Falls Church
  • Connection to the legal community and/or how the project promotes and improves justice system
  • Amount requested
  • Specific project and/or what grant funds will be used for
  • Tax ID # and IRS Tax Status

Those who are interested in applying are asked to email Ferguson.

Applicants will be notified of the foundation’s decision by the end of May with grant payments available in July.

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Morning Notes

Spotted: Robot Dog in Courthouse — “Several people were standing outside one of the Colonial Place buildings today. I thought it was a fire drill at first, but they were too close to the building. Then I saw it.” [Twitter]

Yorktown High’s ‘Dull’ Scoreboard — “The scoreboard at Greenbrier field is not shattered, opaque or severely damaged, but it is dysfunctional and has been for some time. This is especially frustrating for athletes whose sports play in broad daylight, as the scoreboard’s bulbs are so dim they are nearly impossible to see. Parents of these athletes have voiced their complaints about the dull board, arguing that each of the other high schools in Arlington have modern, working scoreboards, while our school’s model has been in use since 2003.” [Yorktown Sentry]

TR Bridge Delays Could Get Even Worse — “Emergency repairs that will enable the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to safely support the weight of regular traffic will probably last through the summer and cost about $6 million, the District Department of Transportation said, becoming the latest hindrance to the Washington commute as more employees return to in-person work.” [Washington Post]

More Grants for Nat’l Landing Businesses — “A grant program to support restaurants and small businesses in the National Landing area of Arlington will return for a second year… This latest round of funding totals $100,000. Grants will support small businesses’ pay for workers and other operating expenses.” [Patch]

Wakefield Gymnast Going to States — “Gabby Watts will have her opportunity to participate in the girls state gymnastics meet. The Wakefield Warriors gymnast qualified for the Virginia High School League Class 6 competition by winning the balance beam with a 9.583 score at the 6D North Region championships.” [Sun Gazette]

Reminder: ARLnow’s Reader Survey — If you want to weigh in on some changes ARLnow might make this year, please take our annual, three-minute survey before it closes at the end of the month. [SurveyMonkey]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be mostly sunny and breezy, with a high near 53. Sunrise at 6:57 a.m. and sunset at 5:47 p.m. Tomorrow there’s a slight chance of showers after 1 p.m., otherwise it will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 66 and wind gusts as high as 29 mph. [Weather.gov]

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Local authorities thwarted potentially fraudulent attempts to obtain Covid grant funds intended for struggling Arlington small businesses.

Seventy-four applications for Arlington Economic Development’s GRANT 2.0 program were identified as suspicious, officials say. While AED was reviewing the 529 applications it received, it noticed unusual data in some, such as incorrect contact information or submissions for businesses that had been previously closed.

“Upon further review with the Treasurer’s Office and Arlington County Police Department, staff learned some of these questionable applications contained incorrect business license numbers and/or suspicious/blacklisted IP addresses,” AED spokesperson Cara O’Donnell told ARLnow.

Thanks to its “multi-tiered review process and cross-departmental verification of records,” the activity was caught early before any distribution of funds.

“At no time were these attempts successful,” an email AED sent to business owners reads. “Your security is our utmost concern, and it is extremely disheartening that individuals would use federal rescue funds targeted to small business recovery for potentially criminal activity.”

The Arlington County Police Department is investigating the applications. AED and the police department recommend business owners watch their financial activity and remain vigilant.

“In cases of business identity theft, individuals are sometimes able to gain access to business and/or business owners’ financial information, account numbers or other personal data and then open lines of credit or obtain business loans based on the business’ identity and creditworthiness,” the email states.

If business owners see any unusual financial activity in their accounts, the police department recommends it be reported online or to 703-228-4300.

“At this point in the investigation, police have not uncovered evidence nor received any reports from affected businesses that their information was used in any other manner,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow.

AED announced in September that the  Small Business GRANT 2.0 program would provide $2 million to up to 200 eligible businesses and nonprofits. The program focuses on industries most affected by stay-at-home orders and those that had not previously received state or federal funding.

The grant application period was between Oct. 6-10 for small businesses in industries including arts and entertainment, child care, hotel and accommodations, personal services, restaurants and food service, and retail.

There were 76 eligible businesses and nonprofits selected from the applicants and awarded $10,000 to go toward salaries, benefits and other capital and operating expenses affected by Covid.

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Arlington County is applying for a $4.5 million grant to further offset a proposed west entrance to the Ballston Metro station.

On Saturday, the County Board is set to approve this request for funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC), which would come from I-66 toll revenues.

This is the latest application from the county, which is trying to offset the $140 million project with regional and state dollars even as some of these sources have dried up due to the pandemic.

The entrance would be located at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street, almost a quarter of a mile west of the existing entrance. The county previously said this second entrance would greatly expand access to the station, increase Metro’s capacity and make it more efficient.

Map showing potential location of new Ballston Metro entrance (via Google Maps)

If all the funding comes through, designs could be completed next year and construction could start in 2024 and end in 2027, Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors tells ARLnow.

“The team is looking to finish the 35% design update this year and procure design-build services in 2023, pending funding from NVTA,” Pors said. “Construction is projected to start in 2024 and we anticipate a construction period of 3 years.”

The $4.5 million represents a revised request to the NVTC. Arlington had previously applied for $10 million from the same program in January 2020 but — despite being “the top scoring project” — the project was cut from the funding round due to a drop in toll revenue caused by COVID-19.

“Following a request from NVTC staff, the County withdrew its application for the Ballston-MU West Entrance in August 2020,” the report said. “I-66 Commuter Choice Program revenues have still not fully recovered from the effects of the pandemic, and so for Round Five the County has lowered its funding request from $10 million to $4,500,000.”

And while available funding is scarce, the cost to build the second entrance is increasing. A 2019 estimate put the project at $130 million; a 2021 estimate puts the project at $140 million.

“The use of the known information on items such as station entrance layout and elevator location from the design updates instead of previous assumptions in the 2019 cost estimate, along with the impact of inflation, are the two drivers of the cost increase,” the report said.

More than half of the project’s costs could come from a pending application with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) for $80 million. The county says this sum would cover the rising costs as well as the loss of funding from NVTC and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which also lost revenue for new projects during the pandemic.

Pors said the NVTA will make a funding decision later this spring or in the early summer months.

Meanwhile, Arlington County intends to increase how much it’s budgeting for the project, from $25 million to $30 million.

Arlington’s Transportation Commission — while supportive of the project — is sounding the alarm on the $5 million increase at the local level.

“The Commission is concerned specifically about: 1) The appropriateness of making a change this large in how capital funding is being allocated completely outside of the CIP process and seemingly hidden within grant applications,” chairman Chris Slatt said in a letter to the County Board. “2) The high overall cost of the project and whether it still represents a good ‘bang for our buck’ in increasing access to transit for Arlington residents.”

He said $30 million could be used locally to bring every bus stop in Arlington into full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, increase Capital Bikeshare’s 10-year capital budget or cover the costs to design and build more local projects intended to lower traffic congestion and improve public transit.

Map via Google Maps

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Arlington County is set to receive more than $3 million to entice tourists to visit Arlington and help the hard-hit tourism industry recover from the pandemic.

The county’s tourism division, Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS), would use the $3.25 million grant for advertising, media outreach, marketing research, promotional events and tourism development to support the travel and hospitality industry, according to a county report.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider the grant during its meeting this Saturday. The Virginia Tourism Corporation awarded ACVS the money through the American Rescue Plan Act Tourism Recovery program, but the County Board must approve the funding.

In November, the Board cited this grant as the reason it did not consider direct financial support to hotels in its allocation of about $9 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds, which went toward housing assistance, expanding critical behavioral health services, meal distribution for senior citizens and more affordable child care options, among other initiatives.

Board members said the ACVS grant will instead help hospitality workers through training and job search support.

“Unfortunately, unlike the ARPA funds Arlington County received earlier from the Commonwealth, [the ACVS] funds can’t be used for grants or other direct financial support to our hotels, which is what we continue to hear would be the most impactful for their recovery and for maintaining sustainable, predictable compensation for their employees,” Arlington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kate Bates told ARLnow.

In Arlington Economic Development’s survey of local hotels, employee pay and benefits was the top spending priority across hotels of all sizes, Bates said.

“Moreover, employment data show that Arlington has lost about half of its hotel workforce during the pandemic,” she said.

ACVS has gathered input on how to use the grant funding from representatives of Arlington hotels, the Chamber of Commerce, local Business Improvement Districts, the Clarendon, Columbia Pike and Langston Boulevard neighborhood partnerships, Arlington Economic Development and the Department of Parks and Recreation, the report said.

The conversations are expected to continue over the 30 months the grant will be distributed.

“The funds are designated specifically for marketing Arlington as a destination to generate visitor spending, and I’m confident that Emily Cassell and the great team at ACVS will develop a plan to successfully do that, with continued feedback from the hotels along the way,” Bates said.

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Arlington County is applying for an $80 million grant to help pay for a proposed west entrance to the Ballston Metro station.

On Saturday, the County Board authorized the application to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), which helped cover the cost to develop designs for the second Metro entrance in 2016.

The entrance would be located at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street, almost a quarter of a mile west of the existing entrance. A county report says the second entrance would greatly expand multimodal access to the station and provide greater capacity to, and efficiency for, Metro.

As part of the proposal, the county would build two street-level elevators and stairs connecting to an underground passageway, the report said. A new mezzanine with stairs and elevators would connect riders to the train platform.

Map showing potential location of new Ballston Metro entrance – via Google Maps

“This is an economic development application in addition to a transportation step,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said in the Saturday meeting. “This is a very important step as we continue to plan smart and build well for our community and future.”

The county unsuccessfully asked NVTA for $33.5 million for the project in 2019.

New cost estimates are firmer, and higher, than the 2019 proposal, according the report. The project is expected to cost $140 million, an increase of $10 million from 2019.

Rising costs can be attributed to inflation and having more detailed plans, the report said.

“The County’s funding plan for Ballston West Entrance has shifted since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated impacts to local, regional, and state funding,” the county said.

In addition, the county is no longer relying on two additional funding sources that were both hit by the pandemic: Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s (NVTC) I-66 Commuter Choice Program or the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

NVTC grant funds are generated by toll revenues from I-66 inside the Beltway, which is down due to COVID-19, while the state rail department is focusing its resources on helping with transit maintenance and replacement projects.

“Therefore, a proportion of planned project funding for the Ballston West Entrance now unrealized from DRPT and NVTC is now being covered by the County’s application to the NVTA,” the county said.

The rising costs dismayed members of the Transportation Commission, according to a letter from Commission Chair Chris Slatt.

“While supportive of this project, multiple commissioners expressed great concern about the ballooning cost of these Metrorail second entrance projects and the large opportunity cost it presents,” Slatt said. “It is hard not to think about the other transportation projects that could be built for $140 million that would potentially move more people. That would build a lot of sidewalks, protected bike lanes or dedicated bus lanes.”

Arlington County plans to put the project into its next 10-year Capital Improvement Plan, which would begin in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

If approved, the grant and other regional transportation projects will be included in NVTA’s 2022-27 Six Year Program Update. The authority is slated to take action on that update, which will also have a schedule for each project, next July.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Charges Dropped Against TikToker — Charges of violating an emergency protective order were dropped earlier this week against Coco Briscoe, the local TikTok personality whose accusations against a pair of local bars and their employees went viral on the video app. A judge previously ended the order, which Briscoe was accused of violating, citing a lack of physical threats. In the comments of one of her videos this week, Briscoe threatened to sue ARLnow for defamation for our coverage of her case. [Twitter, TikTok]

Buyer for Ballston Health Tech Company? — “Evolent Health Inc. saw its share price shoot up Wednesday after Bloomberg reported Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., the Illinois holding company that owns pharmacy chain Walgreens, is considering a purchase of the Arlington health system consultancy.” [Washington Business Journal]

Grand Opening for Fire Station No. 10 — “This morning we held our grand opening ceremony for new fire station 10 in @RosslynVA. This fire station provides modern accommodations for our firefighters and allows us to serve our community for decades to come. We are grateful to all who came out to share in this special day.” [Twitter, Patch]

Grant for Local Senior Program — “The Arlington Neighborhood Villages program has received a $30,000 grant from the Community Care Corps to support its mission to help older adults in Arlington age in place while staying connected with the community. The funding will assist the social-safety-net organization in partnering with Culpepper Garden and the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to bring services to residents of their apartment communities.” [Sun Gazette]

How Local Nonprofits Faced the Pandemic — “The new report, Safety Net Arlington: rising together to meet historic needs for our community, is told through the voices of the 21 nonprofit leaders in Safety Net Arlington and through the lens of how they worked collaboratively with each other and the County to face unprecedented levels of need through the first 18 months of the pandemic and the economic and racial justice crises.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

New Gym Open in Bailey’s Xroads — “Gold’s Gym is now open at 5718 Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads. There will be a grand opening on Oct. 9, noon-1 p.m., with a ribbon-cutting, food, membership deals, free classes, and prizes for members, including those who sign up on that day. The gym has relocated from its former location on Carlin Springs Road to the former HHGregg store.” [Annandale Blog]

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Morning Notes

Board OKs More Small Biz Money — “The Arlington County Board voted 5-0 today to approve the Small Business GRANT 2.0 program, which will provide direct financial assistance to small businesses as they continue to recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The GRANT 2.0 program will provide immediate funds to businesses and nonprofits to aid in their short-term recovery.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Ramps Up HQ2 Hiring — “That job posting is one of roughly 2,700 openings newly unveiled by Amazon for its HQ2 campus, 99% of which are full-time corporate roles. The slew of new openings was added to the company’s jobs site earlier this week, ahead of Wednesday’s annual Amazon Career Day, held virtually… This is one of the bigger hiring pushes by the tech giant, which disclosed this month that its latest HQ2 employee tally tops 3,000, nearly double its last count in December.” [Washington Business Journal]

Amazon Charts Path to Net Zero Carbon — “Amazon.com Inc.’s design for the second phase of its HQ2 development must be carbon-neutral to comply with both Arlington County’s policy, as well as the tech giant’s own climate pledge to reach that status by 2040… The company’s consultant, Seattle-based Paladino and Co. Inc., found that carbon neutrality is “likely feasible” based on the current PenPlace [HQ2] design.” [Washington Business Journal]

Another Video of Columbia Pike Flooding — “We needed some scuba gear out on Columbia Pike” during Thursday’s flash flooding near S. Greenbrier Street. [Twitter]

Lots of Locals Want to Work at the Polls — “Arlington has too many people wanting to serve as poll officials in the upcoming election. Way, way too many. About 440 are needed and more than 1,100 expressed interest in serving, said Eric Olsen, Arlington’s deputy registrar. He called it, without hyperbole, ‘an extraordinary amount of interest.'” [Sun Gazette]

Remembering the Alexandria Canal — “The canal was completed in 1843. It roughly followed today’s Metro blue line and South Eads Street in Crystal City. Canal shipping, though interrupted by the Civil War, continued until 1886, by which time, railroads had rendered it obsolete. In modern times, remnants of the Aqueduct Bridge are visible from both the Virginia and Georgetown sides of the Potomac.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Morning Notes

APS Getting EV Buses — “Arlington Public Schools (APS), working collaboratively with the County’s Department of Environmental Services (DES), will receive a $795,000 grant from the state, to be spent on three fully electric buses (EV buses) that will replace three with diesel engines. The EV vehicles, each with a capacity of some 65 passengers, will be equitably assigned to routes throughout Arlington. Currently there are no EV buses in the APS fleet of 200. The vehicles slated for replacement each travel some 8,000 miles a year.” [Arlington County, Gov. Ralph Northam]

No PARK(ing) Day This Year — “PARK(ing) Day is an annual international event where the public collaborates to temporarily transform drab parking spaces into small parks… Due to continuing COVID-19 issues, Arlington County will not participate in 2021 PARK(ing) Day. We hope to welcome participants back in 2022.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

USS Arlington to Help in Haiti — “The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) departed Naval Station Norfolk to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to Haiti in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) led mission, Aug. 17.” [Navy]

Arrests in Ashton Heights Armed Robbery — ” The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is announcing the arrest of three suspects in an armed robbery that occurred during the early morning hours on Wednesday, August 18… At approximately 1:08 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a robbery that had just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the two male victims and a witness were sitting at a bus stop in the 700 block of N. Randolph Street when the three suspects approached.” [ACPD]

Arlington Org Deals with Afghanistan Fallout — “The young women of Ascend were used to spending their days doing yoga, preparing for mountain climbing excursions and teaching women at mosques in Kabul how to read… After the Taliban swept through Afghanistan this week, retaking control after two decades as the Afghan government collapsed, most of Ascend’s participants have been sheltering at home in fear of reprisal. Some have destroyed documents that would associate them with the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit group, and are pleading for assistance from its leadership to help them find refuge in other countries.” [Washington Post]

Arlington Bishop Talks About Trans Youth — “The topic of transgenderism is discussed routinely in the news, on television shows and in schools. This prevailing ideology — that a person can change his or her gender — is impacting Catholic families, too, said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington… Burbidge knows many will be criticized and ostracized for their belief that men and women cannot change their sex, but he asks the faithful to speak out anyway. ‘We cannot be silenced. The mandate to speak on this issue clearly and lovingly is greater than ever,’ he said.” [Catholic News Service]

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