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Katie Cristol (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol does not plan to run for reelection in 2023.

Cristol confirmed her decision to ARLnow last night, after it was mentioned near the bottom of a Washington Post article about Tuesday’s election.

She released the following statement about her decision.

I plan to conclude my service on the Board after two terms for a number of reasons. Among the most important is the same reason I decided to run in the first place: Arlington is stronger when the full community is represented, and it’s time to make room for new perspectives.

In 2015, I argued that representation of the County’s growing plurality — under 35, renter (or in my case then, very recent renter and new homeowner), resident of our urban corridors — would benefit everyone. I believe that many of our accomplishments over the past eight years have borne that out. Young professional talent has been a key asset in Arlington’s major economic development achievements like landing Amazon’s HQ2, for instance. Major expansions in our supply of childcare for families have significantly improved our whole community’s resiliency. Having transit riders represent Arlington on, and chair, regional bodies as we achieved landmark infrastructure investments (in VRE, in the Long Bridge expansion, in the historic Metro capital funding agreement) has helped knit our whole region closer together and has elevated the County’s role in that region.

Eight years on, there’s a new generation that deserves its own chance to be heard. I’ve also had many conversations with community members over the past two years about race, equity and power in Arlington. For me, that’s highlighted that “stage of life” isn’t the only demographic experience that makes residents feel under- or unrepresented in decision-making in the County.

It’s of course up to the voters to determine who will serve next. But in the same way that Arlington voters took a chance and gave me an opportunity in 2015, I want to make space for a new perspective on the County Board now. I really do believe we’ll all benefit when we’re all represented.

Cristol and Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey will be finishing up their second term next year. There have been rumors for months that neither are running again.

Dorsey did not tip his hand when reached for comment.

“I have no announcement to make at this time,” he told ARLnow.

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Troop 167 member Griffin Crouch addresses the Arlington County Board during its meeting on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 (via Arlington County)

A local scouting troop says it has been blindsided by a $3,000 personal property tax bill on its vans.

So a scout decided to seek relief from the bill — which would take a big chunk of its $21,000 budget — by going to the Arlington County Board.

“These vans take scouts on campouts and hikes, and to once in a lifetime adventures, backpacking in New Mexico and scuba diving in Florida,” Griffin Crouch told the Board on Saturday. “A lot of members are first-generation immigrants and the vans help us ensure that every scout gets to participate in practicing leadership and serving the community and have fun doing it — regardless of their families’ income.”

He told the County Board he hopes Arlington can find a way for the troop to remain tax-exempt, like Arlington’s other scout troops and youth organizations, before taxes are due.

More than 50 boys and girls who make up Troop 167 meet at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church (1500 N. Glebe Road), near Ballston. Up until last year, he said, the church officially sponsored the troop.

But this summer, the United Methodist Church, the largest supporter of scouting troops, told local churches to stop officially sponsoring local troops. Troops can still use their facilities, however.

The decision came the Boy Scouts of America declared bankruptcy following numerous legal battles over child sexual-abuse and dwindling participation due to the pandemic. As part of the BSA’s sexual-abuse bankruptcy and settlement plan, United Methodist Church paid $30 million to victims.

So Troop 167 decided to incorporate a nonprofit to sponsor the troop, Crouch said.

What the troop didn’t realize was that getting 501(c)(3) status and federal tax-exempt status did not protect it from state tax code or Arlington’s personal property tax.

“We have discussed the matter with our Commissioner of Revenue (COR), and although we are prohibited under state law from discussing the details of a particular taxpayer’s liability, the COR has confirmed that as a general matter, personal property belonging to a federally income-tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity is subject to the personal property tax in Arlington with a few limited exceptions,” Arlington County spokeswoman Jessica Baxter told ARLnow.

Boy Scout troops are not a mentioned in the list of entities whose property is tax exempt: churches, museums, the YMCA and similar religious groups, for example.

“It seems wrong a scout troop has to pay that because it’s being sponsored by a non-religious nonprofit rather than a church,” Crouch said. “We still help the church and it considers us a part of its social justice ministries.”

Board Chair Katie Cristol praised Crouch for demonstrating “the best of the values of scouting: community organization, leadership and critical thinking and analysis.”

“I know some of my colleagues have started this conversation with you all, and will continue it,” she said. “The principle that’s at stake here is one of fairness. We don’t exempt nonprofits in general from personal property taxes, and so exceptions we would make we would need to understand in context of, or have a framework for how we can be fair across nonprofits.”

Cristol said she will follow-up personally regarding next steps.

“I think you have done a great job of summarizing how it’s been a complicated series of events to get the troop here,” she said. “I wonder if there may be some opportunities for us to figure out your incorporation status, and if there are ways we can help in that regard.”

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Arlington County Courthouse (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Arlington County is shifting its restorative justice efforts to local nonprofits.

During the County Board meetings held this weekend and last night, members voted to shift nearly $200,000 to nonprofits that are set to continue Arlington’s restorative justice push.

This includes $91,029 in unspent grant money that will go back to the charitable foundations that provided it. Then, the money will be “re-awarded” to the county’s nonprofit partner, Restorative Arlington.

Additionally, $100,000 is being provided by the county as one-time funding to another locally-based nonprofit, the Center for Youth and Family Advocacy. In April 2022, a Notice of Funding Availability was distributed in the community asking relevant nonprofits “to describe innovative programming to work within Arlington County on the goal of enhancing restorative justice, racial equity, and diversion efforts.”

A review panel selected the Center for Youth and Family Advocacy due to its “multi-pronged approach.”

It was more than a year ago when the county first announced its intention to transition Arlington’s restorative justice efforts “from a government-based initiative to a community-based initiative.”

In April 2021, the County Board asked the County Manager in its Fiscal Year 2022 budget guidance to start moving its restorative justice efforts — then also called “Restorative Arlington” — to an initiative run by local nonprofits.

“This transition will also allow for a more efficient approach to leveraging grant and endowment resources,” the guidance read.

Then, in May 2022, the county launched its new “Heart of Safety” program after two years of work and planning. A program of this nature was also what Arlington’s top prosecutor, Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, promised during her 2019 campaign.

A month later, in June 2022, Restorative Arlington officially transitioned “from a public program rooted in the County Manager’s office to a private nonprofit,” per director Kimiko Lighty at Tuesday’s County Board meeting.

Board Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow late last week that this had always been the intention. The county’s role was to act as an “incubator” and “fiscal agent” with grants for a limited amount of time while the nonprofits worked to get set up and ready to take on the programs.

“As the government, the relationship with restorative justice has always been sort of unusual from the start… the goal has always been ultimately to have a community-based provider,” Cristol said. “Community-based allows this initiative and this effort to truly be centered on the needs of the individuals who were harmed and being able to bring about that restitution and reparation. That’s opposed to institutions, especially criminal justice institutions, that are always going to have interests — important [ones] — but interests other than the needs of the individual who was harmed.”

While local officials might say this was the intent all along, some feel that this is a departure from the original aim.

Brad Haywood, the county’s chief public defender, said he was a bit “surprised” by the move, particularly because they had someone from their office go to all the planning sessions, helping to build the program. Haywood feels like it’s somewhat “a change of plans” from the initial intent.

“We haven’t been told much,” he told ARLnow. “We felt like we were building momentum with Arlington leading the way.”

Nonetheless, Haywood is “optimistic” that Arlington’s restorative justice programs will continue in a manner that will benefit residents — particularly if multiple programs meeting several needs arise out of the shift to local, nonprofit partners.

“Then, that would be value-added,” he said.

Cristol noted at Tuesday’s meeting that this move does not mean the county will no longer be part of local restorative justice efforts.

“The idea of shifting the locus of restorative justice to a community-based organization, which has always been the goal, does not mean that government does not continue to play a role,” said Cristol. “We want our agencies that have been part of traditional justice to be partners in shifting towards a more restorative approach.”

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Drunk driving — the alleged reason why a woman was killed in a hit-and-run last month — is on the rise in Arlington.

The fatal crash in the Arlington Heights neighborhood has county leaders considering greater emphasis on curbing drunk driving. Neighbors, meanwhile, are asking the county to add more traffic calming measures to combat risky driving, particularly near Alice West Fleet Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

On Aug. 1, a driver hit Viviana Oxlaj Pérez while she was walking near the Thomas Jefferson Community Center at 3501 2nd Street S. She was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital, where she died.

The Arlington County Police Department arrested Julio David Villazon at his home on Aug. 2 and charged him with involuntary manslaughter, hit and run, driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license.

There has been an uptick in alcohol-involved crashes in Arlington. Last year, ACPD recorded 143 alcohol-involved crashes, up nearly 49% increase from 96 in 2020, according to its 2021 annual report. In 2022, ACPD has recorded 116 alcohol-involved crashes, says police spokesman Ashley Savage.

Bicycle, pedestrian and alcohol-involved crash statistics in Arlington County from 2017 to 2021 (via Arlington County)

Driving under the influence is one of the top contributing factors to a “disproportionate” number of critical and fatal crashes in the county, says Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. The others are speeding, turning left at an intersection, turning right across bicycle lanes and failing to yield to pedestrians.

Each of these behaviors is being addressed during an ongoing “Critical Crash Mitigation Campaign” through December.

The recent rise in alcohol-related crashes chips away at what had been a broader downward trend in drunk driving. Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol attributed this initial decrease to efforts, such as the ACPD Arlington Restaurant Initiative and the Washington Region Alcohol Program, as well as the growing popularity of ride-sharing services — which have been getting more expensive.

“Now, however, national trends are indicating major increases in alcohol-related traffic fatalities during the pandemic (regional data is lagging but reasonable inference suggests our local trends may be similar),” Cristol said in an email to ARLnow. “This indicates to me that there is a greater role for the County Board in public education about the threat that drunk driving poses to our own community.”

Alcohol-related traffic injuries in the D.C. area from 2013 to 2020 (via Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments)

Cristol said the most important message she can communicate about last month’s crash is that “there is no safe way to drive drunk.”

“In this situation, the driver was impaired, and there is no ‘safe’ BAC above zero to get behind the wheel. Any intersection or roadway — irrespective of the physical safety improvements, visibility interventions, or other designs to the built environment — is unsafe when a drunk driver is present,” she said.

The DUI is Villazon’s second driving offense within the last 10 years, according to court records. He was previously found guilty of “improper driving” in the Arlington General District Court. Under state code, the misdemeanor charge of reckless driving can be knocked down to improper driving if either the judge or the prosecutor find that the offense was not serious.

His next court date is in February 2023.

The crash that killed Oxlaj Pérez is being examined by a broad swath of local agencies, including Arlington’s transportation staff, the police and fire departments, Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services, Virginia State Police and the County Manager’s office.

But neighbors say the problem is not hard to understand. They say drivers, particularly during school drop-off and pick-up times, speed down S. Glebe Road and Arlington Blvd (Route 50), run red lights, roll stop signs, make illegal U-turns, block crosswalks and go the wrong way on 1st Road S., a one-way street — and they’re not drunk.

“I understand the tragedy that occurred a few weeks ago involved alcohol and likely wouldn’t have been prevented with traffic changes,” said one neighbor, Kelly Cherry-Leigh Davison. “But we have brought up these safety issues numerous times to everyone we can think of and are getting nowhere. I’m worried every day another tragedy is going to occur and we could be preventing it.”

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Arlington fire truck (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A firefighter who rescued a construction worker in cardiac arrest via a crane. Police officers who tased a knife-wielding man outside of police headquarters. Paramedics who saved a woman’s life after she was accidentally run over by her own vehicle.

These were among the first responders who were given accolades at this morning’s annual Public Safety Awards, organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

Thirteen first responders and public safety workers were awarded for their efforts over the last year in helping, saving, and protecting members of the Arlington public.

  • Dr. Aaron Miller — Director of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management — meritorious award for his work organizing the distribution of personal protection equipment and at-home Covid testing kits to the public, as well as managing public testing sites.
  • Corporal Shellie Pugh-Washington — Sheriff’s Office — meritorious award for her 30-year career, first as a corrections officer and now as a background investigator.
  • Deputy Babatunde Agboola, Deputy Christopher Laureano, and Deputy Seaton Sok — Sheriff’s Office — life-saving award for saving the life of an individual in law enforcement custody who was found bleeding and unconscious.
  • Master Police Officer Tara Crider — Police Department — meritorious award for her work in the crime unit investigating forensic evidence as well as teaching others about her job.
  • Officer Jesse R. Brown, Corporal Thomas C.J. DeNoville, and Corporal Juan P. Montoya — Police Department — life-saving award for successfully de-escalating a situation involving a knife-wielding man outside of police headquarters.
  • Captain Cheryl Long — Fire Department — meritorious award for her work devising a system that helped organize first responders’ mandatory days off, saving hours of administrative work.
  • Firefighter/EMT C.J. Kretzer and Firefighter/EMT Aaron Scoville — Fire Department — life-saving award for saving a woman’s life after she was accidentally run over by her own vehicle, partially severing one of her legs.
  • Firefighter/Paramedic Jeremy Tate, Fire Department — a valor award for rescuing a construction worker who had gone into cardiac arrest at an excavation site, using an industrial crane.

ACPD provided additional information about each of the police awards above via social media.

The program was hosted by ABC7/WJLA reporter Victoria Sanchez, who noted that both her father and husband were police officers.

“I know how hard you guys work. When you go home today, thank your [family] for supporting you,” she said. “Your job is so difficult and they worry about you, just like I worried about my dad and my husband every single time they went out on patrol.”

2022 Public Safety Awards issued by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at a virtual event (courtesy photo)

Prior to the awards being announced, County Board Chair Katie Cristol provided a 12 minute “State of the County” address.

Cristol spoke of continuing recovery from the pandemic, office vacancy rates, Crystal City becoming a transportation hub, approving salary increases for first responders, and — notably — the missing middle housing study.

With the average sale of a home in Arlington spiking to beyond a million dollars, there are now “existential questions,” she said, about who Arlington will be for “if only the wealthiest can buy homes here.” Cristol said that legalizing alternate forms of housing on a single lot may not fix everything, but it could help.

“It can unlock opportunities that are currently off limits for far too many of our neighborhoods and make homes affordable to significant percentages of our black and Latino populations, affordable to moderate income earners like teachers,” she said. “It creates a pathway for innovations and ownership tools like community land trusts or expansions of the Moderate Income Purchase Assistance Program.”

County Board Chair Katie Cristol delivering her 2022 State of the County address (courtesy Arlington Chamber of Commerce)

After her address, there were several pre-selected questions including one about making temporary outdoor seating areas for restaurants permanent. Cristol noted that she was in favor of doing that, but cautioned that sidewalks and curb space where many of these seating areas are much desired.

“I joke that these are some of the most hotly contested areas of real estate in the county,” she said. “It’s about how we use sidewalks and manage that space between everything…from street trees to ADA accessibility to parking to bike lanes. So, it’s really about trying to balance all of those different interests.”

More on Cristol’s address from a Chamber of Commerce press release, below.

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Morning Notes

The U.S. Air Force Memorial and surrounding construction at twilight (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Cristol Calls Out Displacement ‘Lie’ — “Time will tell, as it always does, but Arlington elected officials say the public and some activists are mistaken if they believe there will be wholesale displacement of residents of the Barcroft Apartments complex in South Arlington. At a May 14 meeting, County Board Chairman Katie Cristol – not one normally known for getting rattled while on the dais – decried as a ‘lie’ the displacement rumors at the sprawling, 1,334-unit apartment complex.” [Sun Gazette]

Crash Last Night on GW Parkway — From Alan Henney: “Another auto went over the wall on the northbound side of the GW Pky prior to the Key Bridge in Arlington. Amazingly driver is out uninjured after his auto slid down the embankment.” [Twitter]

Marymount University Commencement — From Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S.: “It was my tremendous privilege to give the commencement at @marymountu, a university that like many around the U.S. hosts Saudi students. It was my absolute honor to receive an honorary doctorate, thank you to the faculty and Dr. Becerra for this special day.” [Twitter, Sun Gazette]

Metro CEO and COO Resign — “The WMATA Board of Directors has accepted Paul Wiedefeld’s decision to make his retirement effective today. In addition, Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader has resigned, effective immediately.” [WMATA, DCist]

New Skyline Development Proposal — “Madison Marquette has filed plans to convert two Baileys Crossroads office building into live/work lofts, advancing a vision to resuscitate the huge multibuilding cluster known as Skyline Center. By repurposing the mostly emptied office spaces — which meet planning and code requirements to serve as apartments and/or offices for small firms — Skyline can once again become ‘the gravitational center for the area.'” [Washington Business Journal]

Body Cams for Falls Church Police — “Police officers with the City of Falls Church will now be equipped with body-worn cameras beginning this month.” [WJLA, City of Falls Church]

It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 77 and low of 59. Sunrise at 5:55 am and sunset at 8:17 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Ground was officially broken yesterday morning on the first phase of the $29 million extension of the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway.

At a brief ceremony on Monday (May 9) near the site of a future Crystal City bus station, at the intersection of 12th Street S. and Long Bridge Drive, local officials gathered for remarks and photos with golden shovels to christen the first phase of the long-planned transit project.

“The transit way extension is really important because it is going to support the increase in regional travel demand in Pentagon City, Crystal City, and our partners in Potomac Yard,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol during the ceremony. “As they continue to boom with the arrival of new businesses.”

Just last week, aerospace company Boeing announced it was moving its corporate headquarters to its existing Crystal City office — a short distance from where the groundbreaking was taking place.

The planned Pentagon City extension will add just over a mile to the 4.5-mile rapid bus transit corridor, eventually to connecting Amazon HQ2 and the Pentagon City Metro station. The Transitway will include center-running transit-only lanes cutting through 12th Street.

The first phase is expected to take about a year to finish, with an estimated April 2023 completion date. The work over the next 12 months will include the installation of two new transit stations at Crystal Drive and 15th Street S. and at 12th Street S. and Long Bridge Drive.

Locals will also see streetscape improvements along 12th Street S. between S. Eads Street and S. Clark Street, as well as the intersection of 12th Street S. and Crystal Drive. Some existing street parking  along the route will become part of the dedicated bus lane.

Added transit stations that are set to be constructed during the first segment of the Transitway to Pentagon City extension (image courtesy of Arlington County)

Surveying work started last month with actual construction expected to start in June, a county spokesperson told ARLnow. Street parking will be limited in some of those areas when construction begins, but residents will be notified prior.

The Transitway is dedicated infrastructure for the Metroway rapid bus transit line. It first debuted in 2014 and was hailed for being the first of its kind in the region. While it has achieved some of its initial goals,  a lack of ridership, planned features not yet implemented, and confused motorists sometimes driving the wrong way in bus-only lanes have been ongoing challenges.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) is contributing most of the funds needed for the extension, including $19 million to the first phase alone.

Despite recent significant shifts in commuter patterns due to the pandemic, NVTA chair Phyllis Randall says the project remains a necessity and a good investment.

“I believe in the scope and I believe in the extension,” said Randall, who is also the Loudoun County Board Chair. “We know that people are going to keep moving to Northern Virginia… for jobs, for schools, for so many reasons. We need these transit options because people are coming here. I don’t think the need is diminished at all.”

Boeing’s increased presence in the neighborhood was noted several times in the ceremony as further proof that this extension is needed.

While it may not result in many new jobs, Cristol said the corporate giant’s decision shows that the county’s efforts in becoming more business-friendly are working.

“Arlington has spent a lot of time during my tenure on the [County] Board to reoriented ourselves to be more business friendly, to be more creative, to be more flexible, and to build better relationships with our commercial tenants. So, it feels like validation,” she told ARLnow.

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Stay. Lost Dog Cafe is going to stay.

With help from the Arlington County Board, Lost Dog Cafe’s parking situation is now nearing a resolution which has prompted the restaurant to renew its lease on Columbia Pike.

Last June, ARLnow reported that confusing and high parking fees in a county-financed Columbia Pike garage, owned by Ballston-based developer AvalonBay, was potentially costing Lost Dog Cafe and fellow tenant Joule Wellness Pharmacy thousands of dollars a year in customer revenue.

Because of this, both businesses were planning on not renewing their leases on the ground floor of the Avalon Columbia Pike apartment building.

But, in January, the County Board revised an unusual 2006 agreement that essentially allows AvalonBay to stop paying back the county for contributing nearly $3 million to the construction of the privately-owned garage.

This has led the developer to agree to lower parking fees inside of the parking garage at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive.

Starting as soon as the end of this month, the developer is changing the fee structure at the parking garage to allow customers to park for free for one hour, AvalonBay spokesperson Kurt Conway confirmed. It’s $2 per hour after that.

Additionally, more employee parking spots will be available to the businesses.

This change has resulted in Lost Dog Cafe signing a six-year lease extension to stay on the Pike. Added to the two years left on its current lease, the neighborhood eatery is planning on staying at its current location until at least 2030.

“We believe that the change in the parking situation will allow us to run our business more successfully,” Lost Dog franchise owner James Barnes tells ARLnow.

Joule Wellness Pharmacy director of marketing Alex Tekie also says that this change will significantly help their business. However, he notes that the pharmacy has actually not yet been informed by AvalonBay of this change.

Most of the parking woes began back in March 2020, when the pandemic hit and, incidentally, higher fees, tickets, and threats of towing began after years of lax enforcement, according to tenants.

At a time when many businesses were struggling and shifting towards more take-out, charging for even just a few minutes of parking made it even more difficult for the local businesses.

“This parking issue has made it so untenable,” Barnes said last June. “We link this to our sales and our sales are not good. There’s a correlation with this parking lot.”

Joule Wellness Pharmacy ownership also told ARLnow at the time they were shelling out nearly $800 for employee parking. This prompted both businesses to threaten to leave the development and Columbia Pike.

This was all coming to a head as the Pike, in general, continues to grapple with redevelopment and questions of how to keep small, local businesses on Arlington’s “main street.”

But, at least in this instance, a change to a 16-year-old agreement appears to have solved at least a couple of tenant renewal issues, for now.

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Morning Notes

Washington Blvd and N. Nelson Street at night (Flickr pool photo by Cyrus W)

APS Looking for New Academic Officer — “The Arlington school system is on the hunt for a new academic chief, after the incumbent in the position was dispatched to serve for a second tour of duty as a middle-school principal. Bridget Loft, the current chief academic officer, on April 28 was appointed principal at Swanson Middle School, a post she held from 2011-17 before moving on to serve as principal at Yorktown High School and then hold the school system’s top academic-focused leadership post.” [Sun Gazette]

Taxes Up By a Sixth in Three Years — “Another year of no reduction in the Arlington real-estate tax rate to offset spiraling assessments means that the typical county homeowner will be paying 17 percent more in taxes to the government compared to three years ago.” [Sun Gazette]

Cristol Weights in on Possible Roe Decision — From Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol: “Anticipating the impending decision to fully overturn Roe vs. Wade didn’t make it any less shocking. The reality that our nation is moving backwards on the fundamental right of women to exist in a democratic society without being forced by the state to give birth is chilling.” [Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — Possible light rain in the morning and storms around midday. High of 77 and low of 60. Sunrise at 6:08 am and sunset at 8:05 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Cyrus W

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The Arlington County Board discusses the budget at a meeting (via Arlington County)

In addition to approving a new county budget Tuesday night, the Arlington County Board also approved a $20,000 pay raise for each of its members.

Board Chair Katie Cristol said she’s uncomfortable voting on her own salary, but nonetheless in the approved budget her salary as this year’s Chair will increase from $63,413 to $83,413.

“I think what ultimately has persuaded me to support this idea is sort of depersonalizing it and the recognition that it’s actually not about my salary, it’s about a Board member’s salary,” she said.

Cristol and Board member Libby Garvey pointed out that the increases make the positions more competitive. Higher salaries — the salary for a Board member is increasing from $57,648 to $77,648 — will make members less dependent on high-earning spouses or other sources of supplemental income like consulting jobs.

“I’ve talked to far too many people who, I think, would make great County Board members and they tell me, ‘I simply can’t afford to do it,'” Garvey said. “So I’m hoping this is going to be a step in the right direction to make it, I think, actually more democratic, better representation.”

The set salaries remain below the cap set by the Board in 2019 — $95,734 for the Chair and $89,851 for members.

The Board can only raise the salary cap in the year that two board members are up for reelection, which will next happen in 2023, when Cristol and Christian Dorsey are up for reelection.

After a community survey a few years ago on the compensation of Board members, the Board came to the general consensus that it would be appropriate for members to earn a salary equivalent to the area median income for a one-member household, Cristol said. The pay raise just approved will not reach that level, but will get closer to it.

“I believe that was the benchmark, the idea there being that Board members ought to make not more than the average Arlingtonian, but not less either,” she said. “So this would get us I think about half of the way there. I believe this roughly shakes out to about a Board member making 80% of the area median income for a household of one.”

De Ferranti said that a seat on the Board, while originally intended as a part-time position, is effectively a full-time job and ought to be paid as such.

“My view is that for a locality that is approaching 240,000 people, the job of being a Board member is a full-time job,” he said. “There’s been some analysis in the past as to the number of hours, sometimes it’s 50 or 60 hours per week and sometimes it’s 35 but I think this is a full-time job.”

Member Takis Karantonis said he’s struggled with juggling the amount of work that comes with the County Board and his other work. He has had to excuse himself from certain votes, which can be uncomfortable, he said.

“This is really not helpful. It is not helpful for the Board as a whole, it is not helpful for the way this body works, it is not helpful for anybody,” he said.

Dorsey said he didn’t want any part of this issue when it came up while he was chair in 2019 — he was in the midst of personal financial troubles that would later lead to a bankruptcy filing and accusations of unethical behavior related to political donations. He said he supports the raise now because public servants should be valued for their work.

Dorsey thanked Garvey for “pressing the cause.”

“When we do the public’s business, we cannot do that effectively without really good public servants and, you know, for far too long, public servants compared to their private sector counterparts make sacrifices that often go underappreciated,” he said.

The pay raise will take effect with the county’s new Fiscal Year 2023 budget on July 1.

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George Mason University has ceremonially broke ground on the quarter of a billion dollar expansion of its Arlington campus.

At an event held yesterday (Wednesday), ceremonial shovels picked up ceremonial dirt to mark the beginning of construction of Fuse at Mason Square, a new $235 million building in Virginia Square that will house the university’s new School of Computing.

In fact, work had actually already begun a few months earlier on the 345,000 square foot facility. It’s the main piece of the quarter-billion-dollar expansion of the Arlington campus, which was recently renamed “Mason Square.”

The groundbreaking, which was one of this week’s events celebrating the university’s 50th anniversary, was marked by a litany of speeches, food, and shoveling of dirt.

In attendance were a number of Arlington officials including Board Chair Katie Cristol, County Manager Mark Schwartz, Arlington School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen, Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, and Arlington NAACP President Julius “J.D.” Spain, Sr.

Cristol spoke of her pride that this state-of-the-art facility will have a home in Arlington.

“The vision of Fuse [reminds] me of a term I learned in a laboratory in St. Louis — serendipitous collisions. What an evocative image of the kind of partnerships and encounters that are going to happen here at Fuse at Mason Square,” she said. “Between cutting edge facilities, labs with futuristic devices, and human talent of educators and entrepreneurs as well as this rising generation of creators. The serendipitous collisions that occur on this campus are going to shape our community in ways that we can only imagine today.”

Back in the early 1970s, the late Arlington developer John “Til” Hazel acquired the Virginia Square property that included the former Kann’s Department Store in order to house for GMU’s new law school. The property eventually became a larger graduate school campus, and the former Kann’s building is being replaced with the new computing school.

Hazel died last month at the age of 91. His son James revealed at the ceremony that his dad grew up “not a few blocks away, not down the street. It was right there at [N.] Kenmore [Street] and Wilson Blvd.”

Hazel shared other memories of spending time in this neighborhood before GMU moved in.

“If my mom wanted to take us to get new clothes for school, we came to our grandparents. We parked the car, we came over to Kann’s, got the clothes, and saw the monkey display,” he said, to some laughter. “But best of all, we got pizza from Mario’s Pizza.”

The ceremony was also supposed to include an announcement of a “landmark tenant” at the new building, but that didn’t happen, with GMU officials telling ARLnow that the announcement was delayed.

The $235 million building will house faculty from the Institute for Digital InnovAtion as well as the university’s new School of Computing. Also being planned is an atrium, a 750-seat theater, a public plaza, and a below-grade parking garage.

About 60% of the available space will be occupied by the university, with the remaining 40% aiming to be leased out to tenants and private companies.

Fuse at Mason Square is expected to be completed in the summer of 2025.

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