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Arlington County Fair Pledges to Cover ‘Racist Caricature’

The Arlington County Fair says it will find a way to remove or cover an image that at least one fairgoer decried as “racist.”

The fairgoer tweeted an image painted on the “Monkey Maze” fun house that depicts a monkey with braids putting on lipstick.

“This is not OK at our county fair,” the man said in a tweet. “Racist caricatures don’t represent our values.”

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol agreed.

“This is awful,” Cristol tweeted in response. “We’ll connect with the Arlington Fair Board about this vendor.”

Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the fair followed up with a pledge to take action.

“We appreciate you reaching out us,” the fair said via Twitter. “We are working with our ride vendor to ensure the image is no longer visible.”

Monkey Maze fun houses are used by other traveling carnival companies, though photos posted online show different illustrations on the front of the trailer. A Google search did not turn up any other references to the Monkey Maze and accusations of racism.

The fair runs through Sunday on the grounds of the Thomas Jefferson Community Center (125 S. Old Glebe Road).

Photos courtesy David Rosenblatt (photo illustration by ARLnow.com)

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Plans to Build New Ballston Metro Station Entrance Could Stall

Arlington officials worry that their plans to build a second entrance to Ballston Metro station could stall and be delayed indefinitely if the county and WMATA can’t make progress soon.

To get a move on and finally construct a western entrance for the highly trafficked station, county leaders say they need millions more in funding, and they’ve had trouble tracking down that money.

Arlington asked for $72 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to help pay for design work and construction, but the regional group passed over the project entirely in its new six-year funding plan. Without that cash, County Board Chair Katie Cristol worries that the roughly $25 million Arlington’s already received in state transportation funding for the project could go up in smoke, throwing its future in jeopardy.

“We have not spent down… very much of the design funds that have already been awarded,” Cristol told ARLnow. “I don’t think it’s imminent that they’re about to be clawed back if we don’t make progress. But I think they could be, especially in a time where resources are constrained everywhere.”

Cristol, Arlington’s representative to the NVTA, says the group ultimately chose not to award more money for the Ballston project because its leaders just didn’t see enough forward momentum on design work for the effort.

“We’re a little stuck, and we do need to show progress,” Cristol said.

It doesn’t help matters, as Cristol pointed out, that the group will lose roughly $80 million a year as a consequence of the deal to provide dedicated annual funding to the Metro system, and has had to scale back how many projects it will fund around the region.

Even still, the NVTA was able to send the county $5 million to pay for additional design work on a second entrance for the Crystal City Metro station, falling far short of the county’s $87 million request but still helping push the project forward.

What set the Ballston project apart from Crystal City, Cristol notes, is the work the county still needs to do with Metro to draw up what the construction will actually entail. Broadly, officials know they’d like to build another entrance near the intersection of N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street to improve access to the spate of new developments on N. Glebe Road.

Beyond that, however, Cristol says the county and Metro need to work out the details. As WMATA grapples with the existential issue of how to bump up service levels and lure riders back to the system, Cristol worries Ballston could get lost in the shuffle.

“It’s not opposition to the project,” Cristol said. “I don’t even think it’s a sense that the project is too complicated, it’s just a bandwidth problem.”

WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld warned County Board members at a Tuesday (June 26) work session that the Ballston project is not without its challenges.

He expects that construction at such a busy station would have “huge impacts on service,” noting that Metro would likely need to build a “temporary platform” while work proceeded. Wiedefeld reiterated his commitment to the project, but he also told the Board that he’d like to see a lot more preliminary work done with such consequences for Orange and Silver line riders at stake.

“We need to make a commitment together that we’re going to spend dollars on it, look at this in detail and make some hard decisions on what will come out of that,” Wiedefeld said. “I’m not comfortable with any of the costs that been bantered around, to be frank, without that level of engineering.”

That sort of tone struck Cristol as good news, even as she urged Metro to address the project sooner rather than later. Fundamentally, she believes additional access to the Ballston station will help WMATA meet its goals of boosting ridership once more, so it should become a natural priority for Wiedefeld and company.

“I do believe this is a project that is good for Metro,” Cristol said. “It would help them get new riders, when they need them the most.”

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County Board Will Unveil Long-Debated Childcare Policy Overhaul Next Month

Arlington officials plan to unveil their long-awaited overhaul of the county’s childcare policies next month.

County Board Chair Katie Cristol announced those plans her first “State of the County” address today (Thursday) while speaking to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in Crystal City. The overhaul is a substantial step forward in the debate over how to improve the availability and affordability of daycare in the county.

While Cristol said she was broadly “optimistic” about the county’s future, she stressed that the Board needs to take action to bring down the cost of childcare and ease the financial burden on working families. County leaders have been examining a “draft action plan” to tackle the issue since December, and Cristol says the Board plans to unveil a final product and debate it in full at a July 24 work session.

“For many families, child care can cost more than rent,” Cristol said. “In just a few weeks time, the Board will consider a detailed plan to address this… including a new set of land-use strategies, public-private partnerships and more.”

She noted that county staff and a host of community partners have been studying the issue since early last year, and will finally be able to present a path forward in some “granularity” next month.

Some items will be able to put into motion immediately, while others will require more Board debate, particularly if they involve zoning changes.

Cristol also stressed the childcare plan would be just one of the Board’s priorities as it moves into the back half of 2018. Following the “Big Idea Roundtables” the county convened to spark conversations among county residents, Cristol said she’s newly hopeful that the Board will be able to revisit its zoning policies to increase Arlington’s supply of market rate affordable housing.

Specifically, she’s interested in tackling the problem of the county’s “missing middle,” or homes available for county residents who might make too much money to qualify for dedicated affordable housing but still can’t afford detached single-family homes or high-priced luxury condos.

Cristol is hoping to find new ways to encourage the development of duplexes, moderately-priced townhouses or even “accessory” homes small enough to fit on another single-family home’s property. The county has already loosened its rules for such construction, known as “accessory dwelling units,” but she believes there’s more work still to do.

“We cannot lose sight of affordability as the fundamental challenge of Arlington’s future,” Cristol said.

She expects that the “overdue” kickoff of planning along the Lee Highway corridor, which the Board found new funding for this year and will start in earnest in the coming months, will have some role to play in that conversation.

Cristol would acknowledge, however, that the specter of Amazon’s arrival in Arlington hovers over any discussion of affordable housing or any other pressing issue in the county.

She declined to “break any news” on that front, but would say that she felt the county’s pursuit of the tech giant’s HQ2 “will make the county stronger.”

“Whatever choice Amazon makes on HQ2, it means the national spotlight has found our county,” Cristol said.

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Morning Notes

Woman Pleads Guilty to Oxycodone Conspiracy — A former medical assistant at doctor’s offices in Arlington and Alexandria has pleaded guilty “for her role in leading a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone,” according to federal prosecutors. “From 2011 through December 2017, [Louise] Edwards stole blank prescription pads and electronically-generated fraudulent prescriptions using a medical recordkeeping system… Edwards facilitated the fraudulent filling of at least 353 prescriptions, totaling 42,360 pills of 30 milligram oxycodone.” [Alexandria News, Patch]

Elected Officials Support Striking Workers — Local elected officials, including Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol and state Sen. Barbara Favola, are scheduled to meet this morning with Didlake Inc. employees who work at the Army National Guard Readiness Center on S. George Mason Drive. The employees are on strike after the company refused to recognize their vote to join a union.

Thousands Attend RFK Memorial at ANC — Thousands of people attended a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. Speakers at the memorial included Rep. John Lewis, Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez, and former President Bill Clinton. Country music star Kenny Chesney played a rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” [Associated Press]

Meeting Space Coming to Rosslyn — “Meeting and event space provider Convene has inked a deal to open a new location high atop the CEB Tower at Central Place in Rosslyn, where it plans to join the building’s namesake tenant as early as October. The New York-based company has signed a 14.5-year sublease for 35,000 square feet from Gartner Inc., CEB’s parent company, at 1201 Wilson Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]

Sun Gazette Endorses de Ferranti — The Arlington Sun Gazette has endorsed Matt de Ferranti in the Democratic Arlington County Board primary, which will be held this coming Tuesday. However, the paper has little good to say about him, instead opining that he and fellow candidate Chanda Choun lack “deep roots in the community and, we fear, each has yet to develop an ingrained grasp of local issues to provide a viable challenge to the very plugged-in incumbent [John Vihstadt].” [InsideNova, InsideNova]

Photo via @ArlingtonVaFD

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Would Amazon HQ2’s Arrival Supercharge Arlington’s Growth Or Just Change its Timing?

Concerns abound about how the arrival of Amazon’s second headquarters might squeeze an already space-starved county — but could HQ2 merely speed up population growth in Arlington that would inevitably happen over time even if Amazon chooses another location?

It’s a possibility that county leaders say they’re increasingly beginning to consider, as Arlington has emerged as a top contender to earn HQ2, among its competitors both locally and nationally.

The way Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol sees it, the D.C. region is already set to grow exponentially in the next few decades. For instance, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments projects that 1.5 million people will move to the area by 2045, an estimate worked up long before Amazon cast its eye towards the region.

Accordingly, Cristol reasons that Amazon’s arrival in Arlington would indeed prompt a sudden surge in growth in the county, but not substantially change how officials are preparing to handle an ever-growing population.

“It’s not as though we are in this perfect equilibrium now and Amazon will upset the apple cart,” Cristol told ARLnow. “Growth is coming to this region… but I think Amazon could really force the issue by probably condensing how fast that growth could happen, maybe we’re talking 10 years over 20.”

That’s why she says county officials are already putting such an intense focus on issues like affordable housing and transportation, and encouraging residents to do the same. She sees the “Big Idea Roundtables” the county is convening this month as a key step in the process, designing them as forums for people to have frank discussions about all of the problems and opportunities associated with the county’s growth in the coming years.

Cristol fully expects many of those conversations to center around the arrival of huge companies like Amazon, or perhaps Apple. But, as she tries to take a long view of the region’s future, she expects they’ll be helpful no matter what Jeff Bezos decides.

“Whether Amazon comes and hastens that [growth] or whether Amazon doesn’t come and the general projected job growth and population growth comes over a longer period of time, the questions and the need for the community conversation are the same,” Cristol said.

Amazon critics, however, are less convinced that leaders like Cristol should accept such growth as unavoidable. Margaret McLaughlin, chair of the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America, says her group has led a campaign highlighting HQ2’s potentially negative impacts on marginalized communities in order to get officials thinking differently about the region’s future.

“By them saying that growth is coming inevitably, they’re taking their own agency out of the economic decisions they’re making,” McLaughlin said. “Rents are going to go up, and that ends up pushing out renters, people of color, people working in the service industry… so they’re ones making choices, they’re pushing families out. They’re making the economic situation better for the rich and worse for the poor.”

Other experts wonder if Cristol is even right in believing that Amazon might speed up growth in the area, but not fundamentally change it. Yolanda Cole, owner of a D.C. architecture firm and chair of the Urban Land Institute’s Washington District Council, thinks that sort of assumption is “unrealistic.”

“If they come here, it’s not just Amazon on the way,” Cole said. “It’s going to be all the companies and people who serve Amazon.”

Jenny Schuetz, who studies housing policy as part of the Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program, cautioned that it’s likely too early to tell if Cristol is right until Amazon reveals more about their hiring plans at any future HQ2 in Arlington. However, she does agree with Cristol’s broad point about the region, noting that the arrival of the second headquarters would still have “localized impacts as it grows.”

“Someplace like Crystal City could absorb it easily, since there’s a lot vacant office space, but the question is whether workers would live close by,” Schuetz said. “Somewhere like Ballston would have a lot more of the residential infrastructure and amenities nearby… but housing there is already in such high demand.”

Cristol stresses that those neighborhoods are likely to wrestle with those same issues in the coming years, regardless of whether Amazon shows up one day.

“The pressures are coming,” she said. “So how do we deal with them?”

File photo

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Morning Notes

Action Coming on Child Care Initiative — “When it comes to addressing issues related to child care, “this is a year we’re looking to see some concrete action,” [Arlington County Board Chair Katie] Cristol said during a May 30 meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Arlington.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Ridge Closures Continue — Daytime work will continue today on a collapsed 18-inch stormwater pipe, necessitating the daily closure of Arlington Ridge Road between Glebe Road and 23rd Street S. Rain and a leaking water main break slowed crews down last week. [Twitter]

County Board Primary Update — “The two candidates competing in the June 12 primary for the Arlington County Board are what voters might expect of a Democrat in the affluent, educated, rapidly urbanizing enclave — highly prepared, willing to get into the details of local issues and claiming fealty to the county’s tradition of careful, long-term planning.” [Washington Post]

GW Parkway Bridge Work Next Week — Work to repair a bridge carrying the GW Parkway over Windy Run in Arlington is scheduled to begin next week. The work will result in lane closures that could snarl traffic, especially when more impactful repairs start — likely in late July. [WTOP, InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Rosslyn Opens ‘Parklet,’ Kicks Off Experiment in Adding Green Space to Urban Areas

Arlington’s first “parklet” is now open to the public, providing a small splash of green space amid Rosslyn’s urban landscape — and perhaps giving county officials a new tool for adding more open spaces across Arlington.

Rosslyn’s Business Improvement District teamed up with the county to design the mini-park, located adjacent to the Roti Mediterranean restaurant at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and N. Oak Street. Starting today (Thursday), anyone can take advantage of the parklet, which is just 30 feet wide — about the size of two parking spaces.

These sorts of mini-parks have become increasingly popular in heavily populated cities like New York and San Francisco, and Arlington tested out a temporary parklet at the same location last fall for PARK(ing) Day, an international event for cities to experiment with temporary green spaces built in parking spaces. Now, planners are hoping to make this parklet permanent, and even set up more elsewhere to help compensate for the county’s dwindling supply of available land.

“Cafe seating used to be the sum total of outdoor seating around here,” County Board Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow. “But we know that mixed-use places need mixed-use spaces.”

Lucia deCordre, executive director of the Lee Highway Alliance and an architect of the parklet project back in her days working with the Rosslyn BID, says she came to the idea of creating a parklet like this as she started working on improvements to Rosslyn’s streetscape. As the BID looked at ways to add new benches and bike racks to make its streets more attractive, deCordre says her team “realized we needed to do something for pedestrians.”

“It’s all about helping create an identity for Rosslyn,” deCordre said.

She says the BID selected the space next to Roti because it didn’t have much existing sidewalk seating, and they needed “somewhere safe,” without too much vehicle traffic to test out  a parklet. Ultimately, N. Oak Street ended up being an ideal side street for the mini-park to sit next to, deCordre said.

But she didn’t want to simply see a few tables added to the sidewalk. She also wanted something that was both “flexible” and “user friendly,” so she made sure to include lots of greenery as well — the parklet includes a total of 18 chairs, five tables and four planter boxes.

“This should really boost retail here, but also bring together different stakeholders in the community,” said Mary-Claire Burick, the BID’s president. “And it’s particularly valuable here where open space is at a premium.”

Doug Plowman, the BID’s urban planning and design manager, is hoping that everyone from Rosslyn residents to tourists take advantage of the parklet. But he also says the BID is keeping an open mind on the matter — he’s looking at this space as a two-year prototype, and each table directs visitors to an online survey so they can share their thoughts on the space.

“Is it workers using it, or residents?” Plowman said. “How long are they staying here? Should it be bigger or could it be smaller? This is all stuff we want to know.”

Cristol says county leaders will certainly be monitoring that feedback closely.

As the county increasingly grapples with development gobbling up green space — not to mention a financial squeeze that could prevent Arlington from buying up any new park land over the next decade — Cristol fully expects that plans for more parklets could wind up included in the County Board’s long-planned update of Arlington’s Public Spaces Master Plan.

“The old model of creating green space in retail corridors is getting tougher,” Cristol said. “So let’s bring it on, and do these sorts of public-private partnerships to get creative. This is our first foray into that.”

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County Board Plans ‘Big Idea Roundtables’ to Gather Feedback on Arlington’s Future

The Arlington County Board wants to hear directly from you about how the county should grow in the coming years.

The Board is convening a series of “Big Idea Roundtables” next month, in order to have “big picture conversations about our county’s future,” according to a news release.

“These roundtables, framed around some critical issues, are open-ended and not limited to any one issue, policy or site proposal,” County Board Chair Katie Cristol wrote in a statement. “Our goal is to create a space for and spark a conversation among civic leaders and residents of all backgrounds about their hopes for our county’s future as we grow and change. We look forward to lively conversations about diversity, density, affordability, traffic and beyond.”

Chairs of Arlington’s citizen commissions will help facilitate the seven discussions, in conjunction with Board members. The roundtables are planned for the following days:

  • Saturday, June 2 from 2-4 p.m. —  Langston-Brown Community Center, Rooms 108 and 109 (2121 N. Culpeper Street)
  • Monday, June 4 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. — Drew Community Center, Room 118 (3500 23rd Street S.)
  • Saturday, June 9 from 9-11 a.m. — Arlington Mill Community Center, Rooms 411 and 413 (909 S. Dinwiddie Street). Translation services available for Spanish-speaking residents at this session.
  • Monday, June 11 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. — Ellen M. Bozman Government Center, Room 311 (2100 Clarendon Blvd)
  • Wednesday, June 20 from 9-11 a.m. — Lubber Run Community Center Multipurpose Room (300 N. Park Drive)

The Board is asking anyone interested in attending to register for just one roundtable each, as space will be limited. Registration is open on the county’s website.

Anyone with questions about the project can email [email protected].

Photo via Arlington County

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Arlington Officials Fear Metro Funding Deal Could Imperil Ballston, Crystal City Station Projects

Funding to help WMATA keep running and catch up on maintenance may end up jeopardizing major projects slated for two busy Arlington Metro stations.

A new deal brokered by state lawmakers will send about $154 million to Metro each year, providing funding for badly needed improvements to the system — but Arlington officials fear the structure of the agreement could imperil planned Metro entrance projects.

For years, the county has been hoping to add second entrances to the Ballston and Crystal City stations to make it easier for people in those neighborhoods to access the Metro. But Arlington planned to pay for those projects with the help of a regional group that doles out money for transportation improvements: the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, commonly known as the NVTA.

Yet the NVTA can only afford to fund that kind of construction effort with the tax revenue it brings in, and the dedicated funding deal hashed out in Richmond will divert a substantial chunk of that money to Metro for ongoing operations and maintenance.

Gov. Ralph Northam and his fellow Democrats had hoped to avoid that outcome by bumping up a few Northern Virginia tax rates instead, but the slim Republican majority in the House of Delegates scuttled that plan in favor of sending the NVTA money to Metro.

NVTA leaders aren’t yet sure just how much money the group will lose — they’re currently projecting a roughly $80 million drop in annual revenue for the next six years — but they are reluctantly admitting that the group will have to trim the list of projects it can fund in the coming years.

Arlington County Board Chair and NVTA board member Katie Cristol expects that will prompt indefinite delays of the projects at Ballston and Crystal City, or it could force the county to find new funding streams for them entirely, an unwelcome prospect given Arlington’s increasingly stretched finances.

“When there’s less money to go around, it forces a re-racking of priorities,” Cristol told ARLnow. “These would be transformational projects for us, but the need is different elsewhere.”

NVTA chairman Marty Nohe, a Republican who also serves as vice chair of Prince William’s Board of County Supervisors, says his group largely focuses on funding projects that relieve traffic congestion around the area. While he fully expects that adding second entrances at those Arlington stations would pull some cars off the road, he also notes that they likely won’t have the same impact as other road improvements elsewhere in Northern Virginia.

“That’s the nature of these multimodal projects,” Nohe said. “It doesn’t put more trains on the track, it makes it easier for people to get there and opens the station up to a larger segment of the Arlington population… so it’s a good example of the type of project that will absolutely be affected by a loss of NVTA funds due to the Metro bill.”

Del. Tim Hugo (R-40), a leading opponent of tax increases associated with the Metro funding bill, has frequently dismissed Nohe’s concerns as overblown. He’s often noted that Metro is already cancelling some of its own requests for NVTA funding with the state deal secured, which could very well free up more money for localities like Arlington and lessen the need for such a drastic reordering of funding priorities.

But Cristol and Nohe are both taking the prospect of the deal delaying the Ballston and Crystal City improvements seriously. Cristol is concerned that further delays for the second entrance at Crystal City will have ripple effects on the nearby Virginia Railway Express station — without another Metro entrance closer to the VRE station, she fears the county might not be able to effectively encourage commuters to transfer between the two transit systems.

“We’re trying to create this nexus with VRE there,” Cristol said. “But if people have to do a bunch of walking and cross the street to transfer, they might be inclined to just get in their car and drive.”

State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) points out the county could apply for “Smart Scale” funding to pay for the projects, putting Arlington in competition with localities around the state hoping for transportation dollars. That could mean less money is available for other, smaller municipalities, and Favola predicts that could prompt more action on the issue in Richmond next year.

“Every Northern Virginia lawmaker, particularly on the local level, they’re concerned,” Favola said. “I really think we’re going to have to go back and revisit this.”

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Yorktown Grad Chosen in NFL Draft — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose Yorktown High School graduate M.J. Stewart in the 2018 NFL draft. Stewart was working with his youth foundation at Langston-Brown Community Center when he learned that he was the 21st pick in the second round of the draft. [InsideNova, Twitter]

Amazon Speculation Boosts JBG Stock — JBG Smith Properties’ stock is up 13 percent in the past month on speculation that Amazon could build its second headquarters in the D.C. metro area. Many of the company’s holdings are based in Crystal City, which is seen as a contender for the site of Amazon’s new HQ2. [Washington Business Journal]

Drug Take-Back Day Numbers Up — Arlington police collected nearly one-third more prescription drugs at Saturday’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day than at last spring’s event. Residents handed over 744 pounds of prescription drugs to police on Saturday, compared with 562 pounds last April. [Twitter]

Arlington Recognized for Tourism Event — The Virginia Association of Destination Marketing Organizations presented the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service with an award for its June 2017 Monumental Views IPW Travel Trade Reception, which showcased Arlington to international travel trade and media during the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW 2017 event in Washington, D.C. [Arlington County]

Rosslyn Circle Beautification — Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol was among the volunteers with the Tree Stewards of Arlington and Alexandria and the Children’s International School to team up with the National Park Service to beautify Rosslyn Circle on Sunday (photo above). They planted 32 trees and plan to add more later this year.

Red Flag Warning Today — Northern Virginia is under a Red Flag Warning through 8 p.m. today, indicating a heightened danger of outdoor fires. “Dry and windy conditions will create an environment conducive for the rapid spread of wildfires,” the National Weather Service said. “All outdoor burning is discouraged today.” [Twitter]

Photo via Katie Cristol on Twitter

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BREAKING: Gerber Moving Headquarters to Rosslyn

(Updated at 2 p.m.) Baby food and products company Gerber is moving its headquarters from New Jersey to Rosslyn and creating 150 jobs, officials announced Monday afternoon (April 16).

The company, a Nestlé subsidiary acquired in 2007, will invest $5 million in the relocation.

The announcement comes a little over a year after Nestlé announced its move to Arlington to a 250,000 square foot office space at 1812 N. Moore Street.

Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement at Nestlé’s Rosslyn headquarters, noting that his excitement in announcing the move partially stemmed from his 30 years as a pediatrician.

“We want to be the most business-friendly state in the country,” said Gov. Northam at the relocation announcement.

A line of elected officials at the state and local level praised the relocation at a brief media event, including Rep. Don Beyer, Del. Rip Sullivan, and County Board Chair Katie Cristol.

Esther Lee, Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade, who also spoke at the event, was quoted in a press release saying that “gaining the headquarters of the iconic Gerber brand is an important win for Arlington County and the Commonwealth.”

At the event, Cristol presented a key to the county to Steve Presley, Nestlé’s chief financial officer.

More from the press release regarding funding:

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Arlington County Economic Development to secure the project for Virginia. Governor Northam approved a grant in the amount of $862,500 from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist the County with the project. The company is also be eligible to receive a Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit.

Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

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Arlington GOP Wants More Info About County’s Amazon HQ2 Bid

Arlington Republicans are calling for greater transparency with regards to the county’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Jim Presswood, Chair of the Arlington GOP, issued a statement Wednesday calling for the county to release “the basic framework” of its offer, arguing that “backroom deals are not the Arlington Way.”

The full statement is below.

Arlington County needs to let its citizens know what kind of deal they are offering Amazon to lure the company’s new headquarters to our county. Its discussions with Amazon have been behind closed doors and without public input. While we appreciate Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol promising transparency, it’s time for the County to make public at least the basic framework of what it is offering. Backroom deals are not the Arlington Way.

While an Amazon headquarters would bring benefits to Arlington and the region, Arlington citizens deserve to know the cost before any deal is struck. Arlington is under great budgetary pressure from increasing school capacity needs and a broken Metro. The citizens are entitled to know if the County is offering subsidies that will ultimately result in a bill being handed to Arlington taxpayers. Creating an attractive environment for businesses and residents is a far more fair and fiscally sound approach to bring jobs to Arlington than offering sweetheart deals to specific firms.

Update at 7:40 p.m. — Katie Cristol has responded via Twitter.

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County Removes Confederate Memorial Near Bluemont Park

Arlington County officials have removed a Confederate plaque marking the location of a lookout during the Civil War after discovering the stone memorial was placed without the county’s permission.

The bicentennial marker and a red oak tree were placed by the Arlington chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at the intersection of N. Arlington Mill Drive and Wilson Boulevard near the Bluemont Park’s parking lot.

“There are no records that it was placed with our permission,” said Katie Cristol, chairwoman of the Arlington County Board. “Now, county government is trying to get in touch with the owners.”

In August last year, following violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, an Arlington resident petitioned the Board to remove the memorial, to challenge individuals and organizations that seek to “make statues and symbols their battlefields.” Officials then discovered it was placed without county permission.

The marker read:

This Red Oak and stone were placed here as a Bicentennial Memorial to the men in gray who served on Upton Hill

County staff said it’s unclear when the memorial was erected. A Washington Post article published in 1979 indicates it was placed in 1976 to commemorate a Confederate outpost.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy declined a request for comment on Thursday.

Another historical marker, about a clash between Confederate and Union soldiers near the removed marker, was damaged in a car accident, Cristol said.

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Feedback Sought on Childcare Options at Thursday Community Meeting

Arlington County officials are seeking the public’s input on how to improve the accessibility and quality of childcare at a community meeting on Thursday.

The meeting is part of the county’s Child Care Initiative, which aims to promote the development of an inclusive, integrated child care system that serves Arlington County families, especially vulnerable populations.

A draft action plan created in December outlined ways to make childcare more accessible for all income levels. Recommendations included creating a financial assistance program to help families defray childcare costs and updating the county’s zoning ordinance to create more facilities.

At the meeting, officials will hear feedback before the draft plan heads to a county workgroup. Attendees will circulate through different stations to provide written and oral feedback. At one station, attendees can also give first-hand, personal accounts of their experiences with childcare.

The meeting will take place at the Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Registration is requested online.

Caitlin Hutchinson, an assistant director with the county’s Dept. of Human Services said Arlington County has a unique opportunity to enact policy changes that drive meaningful progress.

“We’re one of the few jurisdictions in the state in that we can enact our own child care code. We really have an opportunity to think about what we want to look like as a community,” she said.

In March, a 22-member Leadership Roundtable will review the revised action plan. A final plan is expected to come before the county manager and board in April. Implementation of recommendations will begin in late spring, county staff said.

The plan highlighted “significant gaps between supply and demand” for childcare. There are only 6,984 licensed spaces available for children in daycare facilities, but more than double the number of children under the age of five in the county.

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said the child care initiative is one of her top priorities this year. In a Jan. 2 speech, Cristol said policy changes are necessary to make childcare more accessible and affordable for Arlington County residents.

“I anticipate that some long-awaited steps will be before the Board soon, such as a potential re-examination of our local codes for alignment with the Commonwealth’s; potential zoning changes to increase the availability of affordable places for, and decrease barriers to entry of, childcare centers; and new partnerships to increase the supply of trained childcare workers,” she said.

In addition to attending the meeting, community members can share feedback by Feb. 2 in the following ways:

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Morning Notes

Arlington Chamber Seeking State Help — Possibly in response to the push for housing conservation districts, “the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is asking the General Assembly to ‘serve as a backstop and a safeguard’ against overreach by localities on planning and zoning matters.” [InsideNova]

Reminder: SmarTrip Change Next Week — As of Monday, Metro riders will no longer be able to run a negative balance on their SmarTrip cards. [WMATA]

‘Meet the Chair’ Scheduled — Arlington residents will be able to meet newly-minted Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol on the evening of Jan. 18, when the Leadership Center for Excellence holds its annual Meet the Chair event. [Leadership Center for Excellence]

SoberRide New Year’s Record — A record 1,225 people used the free safe ride service SoberRide on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Thanks to its new partnership with Lyft, SoberRide’s organizer says it “has removed well more than two times as many would-be drunk drivers from Greater Washington’s roadways as compared with the previous year.” [PDF]

District Taco Continues to Expand — Five Guys may be given a run for its money as the most successful Arlington-born restaurant chain. District Taco is now opening a location in the Center City section of Philadelphia. [Eater]

Snow Shovel Contest Winner — “This is Susan. She won our snow shovel, writing that her favorite phase of snow treatment/removal is Phase 1. Brine makes her giddy. Susan’s old shovel is from Nebraska and cracking. Way to go, Susan.” [Twitter]

Photo courtesy @BoccatoGelatos

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