Ballston Movie Theater to Close Again — “Cineworld Group, the owner of Regal Cinemas, will suspend operations at all of its theaters in the United States and the United Kingdom beginning on Thursday. The closures will affect 45,000 employees.” [CNN, Axios]
N. Va. Trending in Right Direction — “The health department’s new pandemic metrics, updated Monday based on data through Saturday, show that the disease is currently at a ‘low burden’ level in Northern Virginia, is trending downward, and has low levels of community transmission. All other region’s of the state either have moderate or high levels of burden of the virus and community transmission.” [InsideNova]
County Joins Eviction Task Force — “Arlington has joined the Northern Virginia Eviction Prevention and Community Stability Task Force, a diverse coalition of stakeholders from the housing sector in Northern Virginia, to identify best practices to prevent evictions and stabilize households.” [Arlington County]
Greens Want Local Bag Tax — “The Arlington Green Party is pushing the Arlington County Board to enact a tax on single-use grocery bags, now that the General Assembly has given localities the permission to do so. Party members on Sept. 2 endorsed the proposal to enact a 5-cent tax on bags, and plan to present a petition to the County Board in November.” [InsideNova]
New Police Dog’s Official Photo — “FRK9 Brooks recently sat for his official department photo and gave the camera his best puppy dog eyes.” [@ArlingtonVaPD/Twitter]
More I-66 Ramp Closures — “Alternating overnight ramp closures are scheduled to occur this week on I-66 East in Arlington for final asphalt paving and striping as part of the I-66 Eastbound Widening Project.” [VDOT]
Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler
Labor Action Planned at DCA — Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is among those expected to participate in a rally and picket at Reagan National Airport this evening, in support of airline catering workers who are seeking better wages and healthcare options. [Unite Here]
Restaurant Coming to Apartment Building — Update at 9:35 a.m. — Permit applications have been filed for a new restaurant that’s planned for the grounds of the recently-renovated Dominion Apartments at 333 S. Glebe Road. [Twitter]
Green Presidential Hopeful Visits Arlington — “The Arlington Greens recently welcomed one of their party’s presidential aspirants to the community. Dario Hunter, a member of the Youngstown (Ohio) School Board, participated in a roundtable discussion with Green Party members on July 16 at Central Library.” [InsideNova]
Author to Talk Hockey at Local Bookstore — “We’re bringing Sportsnet contributor and YouTube sensation Steve Dangle down to Washington, D.C. on Saturday, August 24, to sign copies of his hit book This Team is Ruining My Life (But I Love Them): How I Became a Professional Hockey Fan… One More Page Books, an independent bookstore in Arlington, Va. (which is run by Caps fans), will be hosting the signing from 2-4 p.m.” [Russian Machine Never Breaks]
Army Flying Secret Missions Over Region — “The Pentagon has revealed a few details about a secret Army mission that has Black Hawk helicopters flying missions over the Washington, D.C., area backed by active-duty and reserve soldiers. The mysterious classified operation was disclosed when the Army asked Congress for approval to shift funds to provide an extra $1.55 million for aircraft maintenance, air crews and travel in support of an ’emerging classified flight mission.'” [Bloomberg, PoPville]
Photo courtesy Clarendon Alliance/Instagram
Local skeptics of Arlington’s efforts to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to the county are convening a community forum tomorrow (Thursday) for people to air their own concerns about the project.
Our Revolution Arlington, the local chapter of a national group created out of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid, is planning a “community town hall” on the issue from 7-9 p.m. at Arlington Central Library. Other activist groups, including the Arlington Green Party and the county’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, are co-hosting the event.
The county’s bid to lure the tech giant to Arlington has attracted concerns ranging from the impact the company might have on rent prices to the wisdom of the county and state offering tax breaks for the massive company. With observers of all stripes hypothesizing that Arlington has an excellent chance of winning HQ2, organizers say they wanted to create a space to get these issues out in the open.
“This whole process has been so secretive and Northern Virginia happens to be one of the most secretive places in the running,” Roshan Abraham, a member of Our Revolution Arlington’s steering committee, told ARLnow. “This is about raising awareness, because I think most people don’t really know what’s at stake, they don’t know what is being offered by the various finalists or what Amazon’s clear record of behavior of is.”
Abraham said the event will primarily be a chance for the County Board to “listen to what we have to say,” rather than the other way around. Abraham even swung by the Board’s meeting Saturday (June 16) to invite members to the gathering — he says both Erik Gutshall and John Vihstadt subsequently told him they’d try to attend, while the others either didn’t respond or had conflicts.
In response to Abraham’s request, County Board Chair Katie Cristol noted Saturday that the Board does not “have any new information to report” on the company’s decision-making. Vice Chair Christian Dorsey also pushed back against any insinuation that the county is somehow holding back a chance for the public to make their voices heard on the issue.
“We don’t know anything about it, there’s been no discussions with this board, there’s been no chance for public engagement that we’ve denied,” Dorsey said.
Those responses struck Abraham as the Board just “spewing off talking points,” underscoring his desire to shine a light on what the public thinks about Amazon.
“Getting that response made it all the more clear to me that the County Board needs to be listening to us,” Abraham said.
The Arlington GOP has also raised persistent concerns about the transparency of the county’s efforts to woo Amazon, bringing them into rare alignment with groups like Our Revolution. Some local Republicans also attended Saturday’s meeting to raise the issue once more.
— Matthew Hurtt (@matthewhurtt) June 16, 2018
It may appear overshadowed by this year’s statewide races and political strife nationally, but the three Arlington County Board candidates are hard at work preparing for the fall campaign season.
Things get into high gear as the Arlington County Civic Federation hosts its first candidate forum, the traditional curtain-raiser on the final few months before Election Day. The forum will be held on Tuesday, September 5 in Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel Auditorium ( ive).
And the candidates — Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall, and independents Audrey Clement and Charles McCullough II — said they are looking forward to getting into the campaign’s final stages and winning over more voters in upcoming debates.
“It’s also education of people, because I think there can be misconceptions about what I stand for and where I come from and those that don’t know me real well… might believe things about me that are flatly untrue, demonstrably untrue,” Gutshall said. “People getting a chance to see who I really am and what I stand for, I think could happen from those forums to the extent I’m able to reach people who didn’t participate in the Democratic caucus process.”
First-time candidate McCullough said he welcomed the opportunity to keep putting his progressive message forward and introducing his policy ideas to more and more people.
“What’s nice about getting in front of folks, just like I’ve been doing this entire time, what’s good is to be able to present that inclusive vision of Arlington and what it means to have a putting people-first attitude of policymaking,” he said. “[When] I’m able to forward that vision, the momentum is going to grow.”
Clement, a perennial candidate, said she is hopeful of picking up more votes as the statewide races come into the spotlight more and more. In last year’s election against Libby Garvey and on the same ballot as the Presidential race, Clement received just over 27,000 votes, something she put down to the high-profile nature of that race.
She said after the violence in Charlottesville at a white supremacist rally, Virginia’s elections take on added significance and that could help her.
“Last year, even though basically Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly took the county, I got a very sizable number of votes because the turnout was so high,” Clement said. “That’s not going to happen this year, but the Charlottesville incident has probably increased interest in the Governor’s race and that should help me. Insurgents always benefit from increased turnout.”
Greens Endorse McCullough — The Arlington Green Party is backing Charles McCullough, an attorney who lives in Nauck, in his run for Arlington County Board. McCullough is “a young progressive who will bring new ideas” to county government, said Green Party head John Reeder. [InsideNova]
Arlington Cops Jump Rope with Kids — The Arlington County Police Department’s Twitter account posted photos of police officers hula hooping and jumping rope with kids at the Gates of Ballston affordable housing complex yesterday. [Twitter]
Rosslyn BID Helped to Woo Nestle — The Rosslyn Business Improvement District played a significant role in helping to convince Nestle to move its U.S. headquarters to Rosslyn. In a bit of a departure from typical functions of a business improvement district, the BID “helped coordinate a series of neighborhood tours for Nestle employees weighing whether to move east with their jobs, showcasing the various restaurants and shops in Rosslyn, brokering discounts and exclusives to local restaurants and playing the overall role of ambassador.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Touts State Dept. Lease — “The federal government’s decision to keep its State Department offices in Rosslyn for another 15 years and create a mini campus there is the latest win for what has been an exciting 2017 for Rosslyn and all of Arlington’s business community,” Arlington County said in a press release. “The State Department, long a fixture of Rosslyn’s economic footprint, is keeping its 280,000 square feet in its existing Fort Myer Drive building, and adding 60,000 square feet of space next door at 1200 Wilson Blvd., which it will share with one of its contractors already in that building.” [Arlington County]
A group of residents want to have Westover designated a local historic district.
Most of Westover — which was developed between 1938 and 1948 — is currently designated as a national historic district, but that hasn’t prevented redevelopment of some properties, most recently an aging garden apartment building that’s being torn down and replaced by townhouses.
The Arlington Green Party is pushing for a local historic designation, which would impose restrictions on tear-downs and renovations.
“This action occurs because developers have demolished about a dozen historic apartment buildings in Westover to build luxury townhouses,” wrote the Green Party’s John Reeder. “In the process, many old trees and green space was destroyed as well as over 60 moderate income rental apartments. These apartment buildings were built in 1940, and have housed moderate income renters in Westover for the past 75 years.”
“With local historic designation, building owners [would] be required to maintain the current building, and could not demolish it unless it was offered for sale for one year to another property owner who would maintain the building,” Reeder explained.
This summer Arlington County officials have participated in community meetings, explaining the process and what it would mean for the community. Cynthia Liccese-Torres, coordinator of Arlington County’s historic preservation program, says the county has not yet taken a stance on the designation.
“The local historic district designation process for Westover is still only in the very beginning stages,” she said. “The County did not initiate this designation request, but since a formal request was received on June 23 the County staff will facilitate the public process as detailed in Section 11.3.4 of the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance.”
Some in the neighborhood are not convinced of the virtue of a local historic designation. A anonymously-distributed flyer that recently wound up on Westover doorsteps warned of a loss of property rights with a historic designation.
“You and all future owners will permanently lose the right to change the exterior of your property, including demolishing it to build a new dream home,” the flyer said, calling a historic designation “a discriminatory action” and encouraging residents to petition the county to call off the process.
Liccese-Torres said a local historic designation does not preclude all changes to homes.
As we explained at the meeting, developing design guidelines will be a collaborative process with the community and involve many conversations with owners about what types of changes they would like to manage in their neighborhood. It does not mean that 1940s-era materials would be the only ones allowed to be used, nor does it mean that homes and buildings could never be changed. Rather, the design guidelines and the design review process itself help ensure that certain types of exterior changes respect the architectural character of what’s already there. Design guidelines are not one-size-fits-all but crafted to address the particular characteristics of each district and the desires of the property owners. We will rely on community input to help shape the draft guidelines.
Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) is expected to hold a public hearing on the Westover historic designation this fall. If the board votes to move the designation request forward, a study would officially begin. Ultimately, it will be up to the Arlington County Board as to whether to approve the request, its proposed design guidelines and the historic district boundaries.
“Overall, from start to finish, the local designation process will take many months to complete, including the updated architectural survey, continuous outreach with the property owners and community, and multiple public hearings with the HALRB, Planning Commission, and County Board,” Liccese-Torres said.
Photos by Jackie Friedman
Party members recommend voters say no to the bonds because they are too broad. They believe approving the bonds would be the equivalent of offering blank checks to the Arlington School Board and the Arlington County Board to spend money on non-specific items.
The four bonds total nearly $219 million and include issues such as funding a new elementary school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, as well as continuing funding for the Metro system.
“Arlington parents distrust the school board, and many feel duped by the School Board’s failure to approve a detailed CIP (Capital Improvement Plan),” said Arlington Green Party Chairman John Reeder. “South Arlington parents were promised years ago a new elementary school, now proposed to be built on scarce parkland next to TJ Middle School. Arlington parents should remember that critical on-going school programs were put on the chopping block in the past spring; and now a confused school board and a superintendent propose to rush spending $106 million on plans that are less than educationally optimal for our students.”
Party members point to past bonds approved by voters that apparently were vaguely worded and ended up funding controversial developments around the county.
“This county board built a million dollar bus stop on Columbia Pike, diverted many millions of park bond dollars approved by voters for park land acquisition to remodeling a failed Artisphere, and now proposes to spend over $300 million on a doomed trolley,” said Reeder. “Voters should be wary of allowing the county board to spend over $100 million without detailed engineering and vetted plans because of these past abuses.”
Although it has traditionally has run its own candidates in recent County Board elections, the Arlington Green Party has endorsed independent board member John Vihstadt in the November election.
Board to Consider Sign for Rosslyn Skyscraper — The Arlington County Board next month will consider lifting a prohibition on rooftop signs on two new Rosslyn office towers. The action would potentially allow the JBG Cos. to begin work on its Central Place office tower, which is expected to be anchored by the Corporate Executive Board. [Washington Business Journal]
Fisette Asks for Alternative Streetcar Funding Plan — Federal funding is currently expected to pay for half of Arlington’s $287 million share of the Columbia Pike streetcar system’s costs. But federal funding is not guaranteed and, at last night’s Capital Improvement Plan work session, County Board Chair Jay Fisette asked Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach to work on an alternate streetcar funding plan that does not use federal dollars or county funds from residential taxpayers. [Mobility Lab]
Green Party Endorses Vihstadt Again — The Arlington Green Party, which endorsed independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt in this spring’s special election, has announced that it will endorse him again in November’s general election. [InsideNova]
UberX Lowers Fares — Two weeks after Virginia started cracking down on ridesharing services, UberX — the service where regular people drive you around in their personal cars — has lowered its fares in the D.C. area by 25 percent. The new fares are significantly lower than comparable cab fares, the company says. [InTheCapital]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Greens Skeptical of Affordable Housing Task Force — A task force appointed by Arlington County to conduct a three-year study of affordable housing issues is being criticized by the Arlington Green Party, which believes the county isn’t doing enough on affordable housing. “Yet another example of government appointing yet another task force and coming up with recommendations not likely to be implemented, nor to be effective in any event, if even implemented,” the party is quoted as saying. [Sun Gazette]
Road Closures for Four Courts Four Miler — The annual Four Courts Four Miler race will take place Saturday morning and will close down large portions of Wilson Blvd and northbound Route 110. [Arlington County]
Sickles Drops Out of Congressional Race — Democrat Del. Mark Sickles, who represents part of southern Fairfax County, has dropped out of the crowded field of candidates vying to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran in Congress. Sickles said he decided to drop out after performing poorly in a survey of likely voters. [Falls Church News-Press]
The Arlington Green Party has voted to endorse John Vihstadt, who’s running as an independent for Arlington County Board.
The Greens are endorsing Vihstadt in lieu of nominating their own candidate for the upcoming County Board special election. The party says Vihstadt shares their “opposition to expensive vanity projects, such as the Columbia Pike trolley and the Long Bridge aquatics center.”
From a press release:
Arlington Greens voted on January 16 to endorse independent candidate John Vihstadt for Arlington County Board election to be held this spring to fill the vacant seat left by the resignation of Chris Zimmerman.
Arlington Green Party Chair Steve Davis noted, “The Arlington Green Party endorsement of John Vihstadt shows that people across the political spectrum can find common ground in supporting independent-minded candidates like John who have a positive, inclusive vision for Arlington’s future. We look forward to working with John on his election campaign.”
This is the first county board election in the past seven years in which the Arlington Greens have not nominated their own candidate. This year the Greens have chosen to endorse Vihstadt who shares the Greens’ opposition to expensive vanity projects, such as the Columbia Pike trolley and the Long Bridge aquatics center, at the expense of funding core county programs such as schools, safety net spending, and affordable housing.
In 2013, the Arlington Greens nominated Audrey Clement who received about 32 percent of the votes cast against Democrat Jay Fisette. The Arlington Greens also supported in 2013 the creation of a housing authority to keep more affordable rental housing in the county.
Green Party, VOICE at Odds on Affordable Housing — Two groups that both support more affordable housing in Arlington, the Arlington Green Party and Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), are seemingly at odds over the means to that end. VOICE didn’t support the Green Party’s housing authority referendum, and now the Green Party is blasting VOICE because the group “prefers, apparently, to work closely with the Democratic ruling party behind closed doors and support a dysfunctional housing-assistance program.” [Sun Gazette]
New Year’s Eve Events — If you’re still trying to decide where to celebrate the arrival of 2014 in Arlington, our New Year’s Eve guide has 10 ideas for you.
New Year’s Day Closures — Most Arlington County facilities and services will be closed tomorrow, Jan. 1. The Arlington County Board, however, will hold its traditional New Year’s Day organizational meeting at 11:00 a.m.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann