Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Trash Collection Delays — “Due to truck breakdowns, some residential trash/recycling routes were not completed yesterday and today. If your trash and/or recycling carts have not been emptied, please leave them at the curb for collection.” [Arlington County]

BLM Event Planned on Saturday — The group Arlington for Justice is holding a March for Black Lives on Saturday from 4-6 p.m. The event will start at the Charles Drew Community Center in Green Valley (3500 23rd Street S.). [Facebook]

Pro-School Opening Group Planning Rally — The group Arlington Parents for Education is planning a rally in support of opening Northern Virginia schools in the fall. The event is planned from 9-10 a.m. Saturday at Arlington Public Schools headquarters (2100 Washington Blvd). “Wear green. Social distance and wear masks. Bring banners and friends & families who support this cause,” the group says. [Twitter]

Marymount Offers to Host Int’l Students — Marymount University is currently planning to bring students back to campus in the fall, including international students. With Immigration and Customs Enforcement not allowing international students to enter the country if their school is operating entirely online, Marymount is also offering to host international students from other schools. [Press Release]

Arlington Ranks High for Single Homeownership — A new set of rankings from the website SmartAsset puts Arlington at No. 25 for places “where singles are increasingly choosing to buy over rent.” [SmartAsset]

Startup CEO Facing SEC Lawsuit, Too — “Former Trustify CEO Danny Boice is accused of spending millions of investors’ dollars on private jet flights, vacations, jewelry and mortgage payments on a beach house as part of what’s alleged to be an $18.5 million fraudulent scheme, according to a lawsuit the Securities and Exchange Commission filed Friday against both Boice and Trustify Inc.” [Washington Business Journal]

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The Arlington County Board voted Thursday night to sue President Trump.

The Board directed the County Attorney to join other localities in legal action over the president’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census tally that determines Congressional representation.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey called the action “clearly illegal and another effort to undermine the Census” prior to the unanimous vote.

More from an Arlington County press release:

Tonight, the Arlington County Board voted 5-0 to authorize the County Attorney to join the County as a party in legal actions filed against the United States President and others challenging the lawfulness of the President’s July 21, 2020 “Memorandum on Excluding Illegal Aliens from the Apportionment Base Following the 2020 Census.”

The President’s Proposal is Unconstitutional

In Section 2 of the Executive Memo, the President specifically calls ‘to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status’. The United States Constitution says the census counts everyone living in the United States — every immigrant, every child, every neighbor, every student, everyone. This action by the President attempts to circumvent a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court and is unconstitutional.

“The Constitution requires an accurate count of our population every 10 years. The information from the Census is a crucial record that helps determine the Federal resources we receive over the next decade and is used for planning and research”, stated County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “We must have an accurate count of everyone living in Arlington and refuse to allow this unlawful effort to scare people and suppress the Census count of our immigrant community. Whether documented or undocumented,  our immigrant residents are valued members of our community.  We are determined that they will be accurately counted.”

Other Damaging Actions

The President is also trying to shorten the Census time frame and end the response collection period before Halloween – even when the U.S. Census Bureau has said it needs through December to ensure a complete and accurate count. In short – the administration is trying to undermine the accuracy and integrity of the 2020 Census and create fear of participation among undocumented immigrants.

Arlington County Residents Benefit from Taking the Census

Arlington receives approximately $50 million in funding based on census data to support transportation, housing, emergency services, free and reduced lunch programs, and more. To date, 71% of Arlington residents have responded to the 2020 Census, but we are still working to increase this number before enumerators start reaching out to households who haven’t been counted yet.

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(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Advanced Towing, long accused by critics of predatory towing, is being sued by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

The Commonwealth alleges that Advanced often unsafely tows vehicles, sometimes tows without legal authority, and in general exhibits conduct that is “frequently predatory, aggressive, overreaching and illegal.”

“Advanced frequently tows vehicles quickly and carelessly in an effort to tow as many vehicles as possible,” the lawsuit said. “This predatory and overly aggressive behavior causes consumers to become irate and results in many phone calls to the local police department.”

One such irate customer was current Fox News personality Britt McHenry, who famously was caught on video berating an Advanced Towing employee after her car was towed from a restaurant parking lot in Clarendon.

The suit cites instances in which Advanced has towed food delivery vehicles and Amazon vans. It also alleges that on at least two occasions — in August 2019 and February 2020 — Advanced illegally towed Arlington County Police Department vehicles.

The suit discusses how the company has managed to become such a prolific tower of cars determined to be trespassing on the lots of local businesses. Advanced “has employed the use of ‘spotters,’ who are individuals (sometimes children or teenagers) who patrol a parking lot and contact Advanced’s drivers when they see a vehicle they believe is impermissibly parked,” the suit says.

The company operates a tow lot in Ballston, a frequent destination for Arlington police responding to towing disputes. Such disputes led an Uber driver to allegedly strike Advanced owner John O’Neill with his car in January. Another towing dispute, at a Crystal City gas station, led to a stabbing in 2018.

Advanced Towing has even made political headlines.

“Incumbent candidate Barbara Favola was recently criticized by challenger Nicole Merlene for allegedly helping to loosen state towing regulations after accepting combined contributions of $7,250 over previous years from Advanced Towing, with an additional $2,500 coming from company owner John O’Neill,” ARLnow reported last year.

Critics of Advanced Towing have, over the years, frequently emailed ARLnow with tales of alleged bad behavior and have given it a rare one-star review on Yelp. One even created a website with an exhaustive list of complaints about the company.

The lawsuit is “seeking restitution on behalf of consumers, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, and asking the court to ban Advanced Towing from further violating the Virginia and Arlington County towing code provisions,” notes a press release (below).

Attorney General Mark R. Herring has filed a lawsuit against Advanced Towing Company, LLC, a towing and recovery operator based in Arlington, Virginia. The Complaint alleges that Advanced Towing has violated Virginia and Arlington County towing code provisions, resulting in towing conduct that is “frequently predatory, aggressive, overreaching and illegal.”

“Virginia consumers should not have to worry about towing companies acting illegally or employing predatory, unsafe business practices,” said Attorney General Herring. “My team and I will continue to hold towing companies and bad actors accountable when they break the law and take advantage of consumers.”

The Complaint alleges that Advanced Towing has employed tow truck drivers who are not properly registered with the Commonwealth, implemented a practice of unsafely towing vehicles, towed vehicles without the proper legal authority, unlawfully towed police vehicles and commercial delivery vehicles like Amazon delivery vans, and failed to maintain appropriate contracts with property owners authorizing tows.

Attorney General Herring is seeking restitution on behalf of consumers, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, and asking the court to ban Advanced Towing from further violating the Virginia and Arlington County towing code provisions.

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A lawsuit has been filed against Arlington Public Schools’ controversial elementary school swap.

The swap, which was approved by a 4-1 School Board vote in February, would move Key Elementary students and staff to the current Arlington Traditional School, Arlington Traditional students and staff to the current McKinley Elementary, and McKinley students and staff to a new school being built in Westover.

The suit was filed in March by Louisa Castillo, an Arlington resident and Key Elementary parent, against the School Board. It claims the School Board violated a Virginia law “when it adopted a proposal to relocate thousands of Arlington County elementary school students… rather than engaging in the necessary process to enact a school boundary change.”

Specifically, the suit alleges that the School Board failed to take into account six factors — financial efficiency, student proximity, educational stability, student alignment, school demographics, and and boundary contiguity — when considering the changes.

The swap was done before a planned boundary change process, which is set to start this fall. Like past boundary processes, it is likely to be contentious.

School Board members who voted for the swap said it was a tough decision but agreed with APS staff that it was the option that would impact the smallest number of APS students, at a time when the school system continues to build and expand schools to keep up with rising enrollment growth.

Steven Krieger, who finished a close third in the recent Democratic School Board endorsement caucus, emailed supporters last night to encourage them to support the lawsuit with donations.

Krieger, who was critical of both APS decisionmaking and the caucus process, said the suit will give the School Board “another opportunity to correct a wrong decision.”

“This decision won’t solve our capacity issues, and moving forward with this proposal without a proper review of its impacts is intellectually dishonest,” he wrote. “Despite the current pandemic and corresponding budgetary issues, APS is still planning to spend about $3 million to move these three schools.”

“Louisa Castillo, a Key parent, hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against the School Board. Logistically, her son may not be able to move with the program to ATS and does not know what school she will be zoned for because the school moves decision was separate from the boundary decisions,” Krieger continued. “Many other families at Key, ATS, and McKinley are living with similar levels of uncertainty about where their children will attend school when we return to in-person instruction.”

“Instead of doing the right thing and analyzing the school moves in conjunction with the boundary process, the School Board hired a large law firm to fight Louisa’s lawsuit,” wrote Krieger.

So far the GoFundMe campaign has raised just over $300 of a $20,000 goal.

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The Dept. of Justice has filed a civil action that would seize nine acres of county land on the eastern end of Columbia Pike by eminent domain, in order to expand Arlington National Cemetery.

The suit appears to be part of the long-standing plan to expand the cemetery around the Air Force Memorial, and includes no indication of resistance from the county. Arlington endorsed the federal proposal in April, which realigns and upgrades a portion of Columbia Pike in exchange for the county-owned land next to the cemetery.

As of Tuesday morning neither the Justice Department nor the county responded to requests for comment by ARLnow.

The action was announced Monday, with the DOJ touting it as a win for both military veterans and local residents.

“When completed, the Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Project will provide for approximately 60,000 additional burial sites, including an above ground columbarium,” said a press release. “The expansion will extend the timeline for Arlington National Cemetery to continue as an active military cemetery.”

“The expansion project will benefit Arlington County and its residents by, among other things, burying overhead power lines and incorporating the Air Force Memorial and surrounding vacant land into Arlington National Cemetery,” the press release continues. “The project will transform Columbia Pike from South Oak Street to Washington Boulevard by re-aligning and widening it. The project includes streetscape zones with trees on both sides of Columbia Pike, adding a new dedicated bike path, and widening pedestrian walkways. The project also provides for the construction of a new South Nash Street.”

The full press release is below.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Riot Cops Sued by ACLU — “Defendants John Poe 1 – 20 are officers of the Arlington County Police Department and other non-federal law enforcement officials who participated in the attack on peaceful protesters in and near Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020. They are sued in their individual capacities.” [Associated PressWashington Post]

Washington Monument Struck By Lightning — As seen from the Crystal City / Pentagon City area, the Washington Monument took a direct lightning strike last night. [Twitter]

Marymount Apologizes for Removed BLM Tweet — “One specific concern we heard in the Listening Session referenced the removal of a social media post last Saturday which included the message, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ This was the wrong decision. We apologize and acknowledge the impact this decision has had on our Marymount community.” [Marymount University]

Arlington Unemployment Spikes — “The COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent government-imposed lockdown and resulting economic freefall cost nearly 17,000 Arlington residents their jobs between mid-March and mid-April, according to new state data… The county’s unemployment rate, which in March had been a miniscule 2.2 percent, ballooned to 7 percent, knocking the county off its longstanding perch of having the best jobs picture in the commonwealth.” [InsideNova]

Local Centenarian Gets Neighborhood Parade — “Right around 5 p.m. on her 100th birthday, her usually quiet neighborhood in North Arlington was shaken up by loud sirens and flashing lights. A caravan of vehicles blaring sirens, tooting horns and shouting greetings snaked down the street for several blocks. The parade of sorts was led by two Arlington County Police officers on motorcycles followed by countless police vehicles, Arlington County Fire Department engines, sheriffs’ vehicles and several private cars and trucks, one sporting an inflatable unicorn on its roof.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

APS Welcomes New Superintendent — “This is Dr. Francisco Durán’s first week as Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools. Welcome aboard! As a reminder, there are several Virtual Town Halls scheduled this month for our community, students and staff to get to know Dr. Durán.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Trash Collection Still Facing Delays — “Arlington’s trash/recycling contractor continues to experience staffing issues due to COVID-19. As a result, some routes recently have not been completed on their scheduled day, requiring a follow-up run the next day. If trash and/or recycling is not collected on your service day, leave the carts at the curb the next day.  If carts have not been serviced by noon the second day, submit a missed collection ticket.” [Arlington County]

County Offers Mask Flyers — “If a business or residence needs ‘face coverings required’ signs (in multiple languages), we have flyers for download here.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

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(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Across the country, restaurants have started suing insurance companies over their refusal to pay business interruption claims.

Many businesses have insurance policies that cover loss of income due to disasters. Restaurants say being forced to shut down by state and local governments to help slow the spread of the coronavirus is such a case and are seeking payments. Insurance companies, however, say the policies mostly cover interruptions caused by property damage, not diseases.

Here in Arlington, at least one restaurant is seeking to press its claim in court. Guajillo Mexican restaurant, at 1727 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, filed suit in Arlington Circuit Court against its insurance company on Tuesday.

The restaurant is suing Twin City Fire Insurance Co, which is a part of the Hartford Insurance Group. Guajillo says in the suit that its policy “explicitly covered such loss when caused by a virus, including the salaries and other expenses owed.”

“Guajillo has been in Arlington for about 20 years, and is family owned. They paid for insurance, including business interruption insurance, and expected to get coverage when their business was interrupted,” Scott Rome, an attorney with D.C.-based Veritas Law Firm, tells ARLnow.

“Restaurants operated with the understanding that they were paying for this insurance for just this type of situation, and are being denied across the board by every insurance company,” Rome said. “Here, the policy covers viruses, and yet the insurance company has made no payment yet.”

While Guajillo asserts that its policy covered diseases, the head of an insurance company association suggested otherwise, at least for most business insurance policies, in an interview on CNBC yesterday.

“Virus and bacterial related events are not covered under business interruption,” said David Sampson, president and CEO of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

“A pandemic specifically is not something that appeared in many policies,” Sampson said. “The reason that businesses are shut down is not because of damage to property. It’s for fear of human to human transmission of a communicable disease. That’s not a property insurance claim. Now, I’m sure that there are going to be some very enterprising plaintiff’s lawyers out there that are going to try to expand coverage. That’s what they always do. But exploiting this crisis with litigation profiteering will stop America’s recovery even before it starts.”

The Guajillo suit outlines a case that may run counter to the insurance industry’s assertions.

The Policy states that “period of restoration” “begins with the date of direct physical loss or physical damage caused by or resulting from a Covered Cause of Loss at the ‘scheduled premises’.”

The Policy explicitly provides for loss due to a virus through an endorsement: “We will pay for loss or damage by ‘fungi’, wet rot, dry rot, bacteria and virus.” […]

Twin City’s refusal of coverage breached its obligation and responsibility to provide coverage available through the Policy to Guajillo due to its covered loss of business income because its premises are unusable and uninhabitable and have lost all function, which constitutes a direct physical loss under the Policy.

Guajillo is still open for delivery and takeout, but Rome says the pandemic has greatly reduced its revenue.

“Rolando Juarez can be found in his kitchen every day, he is trying to keep all of his staff employed,” the attorney said. “This pandemic has devastated his business. The insurance coverage that he paid for could help this neighborhood family-owned business survive.”

Photo via Facebook

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Morning Notes

Big Costco Crowds Over the Weekend — The Pentagon City Costco drew big crowds and long queues of cars over the weekend, as people stocked up on supplies amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. There were some reports of the store running low on items like toilet paper. [Twitter, Twitter]

Vets Visit Iwo Jima Memorial — “This February marks 75 years since the American flag was raised atop Mt. Suribachi, depicted in the famous photograph by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. That photo became the model for the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. This milestone is the reason a group of more than 50 Battle of Iwo Jima veterans descended on the memorial this week.” [WJLA]

Strong Finishes for W-L Teams — Among other action this weekend, the Washington-Liberty boys placed second in the 6D North Region boys basketball tournament — and will now advance to states — while the W-L girls track team placed third at the state track tournament. [InsideNova, Twitter]

Arlington Deploys Mobile Library Truck — “Arlington Public Library announces the arrival of The Truck, a traveling library designed to hold hundreds of books, games, crafts and DVDs for all ages and interests. The Truck’s first outing will be to Plaza Library on Wednesday, March 4 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.” [Arlington Public Library]

Voice of America Profiles Local Cornhole League — “A number of bars in Arlington, Virginia, offer their customers more than a selection of craft beers and cocktails, they offer them a chance to try their hand at cornhole, a game in which players take turns throwing small bags of corn kernels at a raised platform with a hole in the far end. It’s a unique bit of Americana that’s bringing people together.” [VOA News]

Owners of Bar Bao and The Lot Squabble — “The owners of Social Restaurant Group are accusing one another of fraud, financial mismanagement, and breach of contract in half a dozen lawsuits spanning the past year. The litigation involves at least five restaurants.” [Washingtonian]

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The Washington-Lee High School Alumni Association filed suit against the Arlington School Board last week, alleging that changing the school’s name to “Washington-Liberty” was done unlawfully and is causing harm to the association.

The 48-page suit, filed in Alexandria federal court, can be found here in PDF form. Arlington’s current interim superintendent, former superintendent and former deputy superintendent were also named as defendants, in their official capacities.

In the suit, the Alumni Association alleges that school administrators “deceived” the public by conducting a “sham process” that was predetermined to remove Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s “prestigious” name from the school.

This is a case where politicians and their associates actively deceived their constituents, including the Alumni Association and its members, in order to deprive them of their opportunity to comment on changes that would greatly harm their educational reputations. Specifically, these politicians conspired to impose their own political values on the community by changing the prestigious, century-old name of Washington-Lee High School to Washington-Liberty High School, without concern for the fact that the students and alumni would no longer have the prestige of the original name.

Defendants knew that the public would not support such changes, and sought to actively stymie public debate on this issue. To that end, Defendants repeatedly and falsely promised their constituents that there would be a lengthy comment period later in the year where members of the public could weigh in on whether the school’s name should be changed. Then, instead of providing the promised comment period, Defendants suddenly and without warning made the decision to change the school’s name.

Alumni were denied Constitutionally-protected due process by school officials, the suit says, detailing how dissenting voices were allegedly shut out of the name change discussion.

As a result of Defendants’ strong-arm tactics, three Committee members resigned in protest of the sham process. These resignations included two of the three non-Board-affiliated Washington-Lee alumni. As a result, the version of the Naming Committee that delivered the “recommendation” to the Board contained only one Washington-Lee alumnus other than the daughter of the former Board member who had campaigned for the name change.

Although Defendants had promised that this time period would be designed to facilitate public commentary, Defendants banned members of the public from making any comments at the Naming Committee’s meetings. Instead, public comment was limited to a suggestion box that only allowed very brief statements. Moreover, comments in that suggestion box were subject to screening by Defendants and their agents before the Naming Committee could see them. Ultimately, the Naming Committee rarely discussed any of the public suggestions, in contrast to Defendants’ earlier promises that this phase existed to obtain public feedback.

The suit claims that the Alumni Association is suffering financial and membership losses as a result of the name change.

These actions have greatly harmed the Alumni Association and its members by, among other things, causing confusion in the Alumni Association’s operations, causing the Alumni Association to suffer financial loss and a decline in membership, and causing the Alumni Association’s members to lose the prestige associated with the school’s original name.

The association might have to shut down if the name of the school is not changed back to Washington-Lee, the suit suggests.

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Morning Notes

W-L Alumni File Suit Over Name Change — “A local alumni group is filing suit in federal court over their high school’s name change. The Washington-Lee High School Alumni Association claims the public did not get the chance to weigh-in on the school board’s decision to change its name to Washington-Liberty High.” [WTOP, DCist]

Wrong-Way Driver Nearly Strikes Officer — “As officers approached the vehicle to investigate, they observed a handgun with extended magazine in plain view. The suspect disobeyed the lawful commands of the officers, placed the vehicle into drive and allegedly accelerated towards an officer. The officer quickly moved out of the way to avoid being struck and the vehicle fled the scene at a high rate of speed.” [Arlington County]

NPR Highlights W-L Esports Team — NPR’s All Things Considered profiled the Washington-Liberty High School esports club this week. Colleges are offering millions in scholarships for esports players, the segment noted. The W-L team was also profiled by the Washington Post this fall.  [NPR]

New Credit Union Open in Ballston — “Northwest Federal Credit Union recently celebrated the grand opening of a new branch in Ballston… its ninth public branch and first in Arlington County.” [Press Release]

ART Switch Successful Thus Far — “So far, so good, as the Arlington Transit (ART) system has a new contractor settling in. ‘The transition to ART’s new service provider – First Transit – has gone well during the initial weeks,’ County Manager Mark Schwartz told the Sun Gazette.” [InsideNova]

APS Launches Superintendent Survey — “The Arlington School Board is seeking community input through an online survey to help shape search criteria for the next superintendent. The survey is now open.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Flickr pool photo by GM and MB

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Morning Notes

Arlington Woman Sues Moby Dick House of Kabob — “An Arlington woman is suing Moby Dick House of Kabob after a salmonella outbreak related to hummus made at least 17 people sick in Maryland and Virginia since September 10.” [WTOP, Bethesda Magazine]

Driver Cited for Striking Cars at McKinley Elementary — Per an Arlington County Police spokeswoman: “At approximately 4:28 p.m. on October 3, police were dispatched to the 1000 block of McKinley Road for the report of a hit and run just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the driver of the striking vehicle hit three unoccupied parked vehicles in the parking lot. The driver of the vehicle was identified, the incident was determined to be a medical emergency and the driver of the striking vehicle was issued a summons for violation of Arlington County code § 14.2-17 Vehicle to be Kept Under Control.”

Arlington: Too Crowded for Some — Arlington has “grown crowded enough to prompt even deep-rooted residents to escape ever farther out to nature. Take my friends Tim and Beth Reese… They’re now ensconced on a 77-acre grow-your-own-organic-food farm a 90-minute drive out in Capon Bridge, West Virginia (pop. 371).” [Falls Church News-Press]

Fire Prevention Week Reminders — “It’s Fire Prevention Week, and this year the Arlington County Fire Department and fire departments across the country are working to educate their communities about the small but important actions everyone can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Amazon Opening Store in D.C. — “Amazon.com Inc. is preparing to grow its brick-and-mortar retail presence along one of D.C.’s growing retail corridors: 14th Street NW.” [Washington Business Journal, PoPville]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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