School Board Compromise on Stratford History — While opposing efforts to designate the former Stratford Junior High a historic district, the Arlington School Board has adopted a renovation plan that keeps its facade intact and has set aside $250,000 for commemorative artwork and educational displays. Currently the home of the H-B Woodlawn secondary program, the school — which was the first in Virginia to integrate — is slated to become a new neighborhood middle school. [Washington Post]
Arlington Reservist Suing Benghazi Committee — Arlington resident Bradley Podliska is suing his former employer, the House Select Committee on Benghazi, claiming he was wrongly forced out of his job and then was defamed on national TV by the committee’s chair. Podliska, an Air Force reservist, says the committee was too hyper-focused on pinning blame on Hillary Clinton. At the same time, he says he was reprimanded for looking into the post-Benghazi talking points of United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. [Courthouse News Service]
APS to Hold Community Budget Meetings — Arlington Public Schools will be holding three community meetings in December to gather public feedback ahead of the creation of its proposed FY 2017 budget. [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington’s Secret Santa Program — Arlington County is again organizing a Secret Santa program, which will distribute gifts to more than 1,000 needy individuals in the Arlington community this holiday season. Residents, churches and school groups who’d like to participate are encouraged to donate $25 gift cards to local grocery, drug, and clothing stores. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Another Jury Duty Scam — Scammers are once against targeting Arlington residents with phony phone calls about jury duty. At least 15 cases were reported in September of residents receiving calls from someone claiming to be a law enforcement officer and demanding a “good faith” payment over the phone for failing to appear for jury duty. The calls are fraudulent and police are investigating. [Arlington County]
Deaf Inmate’s Lawsuit Against Arlington — A deaf Ethiopian immigrant says the six weeks he spent in the Arlington County jail was torturous. Abreham Zemedagegehu has a limited ability to read or write English, and as a result missed meals and went without needed pain medication during his stay. A lawsuit against the county, filed pro bono by the law firm Akin Gump, says the jail should have had a sign language interpreter. [Washington Post]
Arlington Wages on the Rise — Wages for those who work in Arlington rose 2.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, higher than the national average of 2.1 percent. Arlington has the 10th highest wages among the largest 342 counties in the U.S. [InsideNova]
New Process Proposed for New Schools — The county’s Community Facilities Study Committee has made recommendations for a new “siting process” for new and expanded schools and county facilities. “The siting process is intended to improve upon current practices and function as a project management tool to make siting decisions efficiently, effectively and with ample community input,” according to a press release. [Arlington County, Arlington Public Schools]
Lots of Debates for County Board Candidates — The four Arlington County Board candidates are scheduled to participate in 14 debates in various parts of the county by the time election day rolls around in November. [Washington Post]
Va. State Police Cruisers Hacked — Computer security experts were able to hack into Virginia State Police vehicles, preventing the cars from starting or moving. The hacks were done as a security measure, as part of a state initiative to prevent future hacks of Virginia’s fleet of police cruisers and official vehicles. [Dark Reading]
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — Today is Oct. 1, the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “The Arlington County Police Department has partnered with Doorways for Women and Families, our community advocate, to bring attention to this worthy cause,” according to a press release. During October, many ACPD vehicles will display a purple ribbon donated by Doorways. Last year, Arlington police were called to 2,086 incidents of domestic violence, resulting in 196 arrests. [Arlington County]
(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) Last year it looked like Arlington County would soon be starting year-round yard waste collection. That is, until Arlington’s waste hauling contractors lost out on the yard waste contract and sued the county.
The year-round yard waste collection proposal has since been in limbo. With the lawsuits withdrawn, it is now on track again to becoming a reality — as soon as Spring 2016 — but only if it garners enough public support.
Arlington is conducting an online survey through Friday (Sept. 25) to gauge resident interest in the service.
“Results from the survey will be presented to the County Board this fall, who will then make the decision about whether to add year-round yard waste to the other waste collection services,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter.
Adding the year-round collection would mean an optional third cart for residents to bring to the curb every week and a not-optional extra $33 per year added to their current $271 per year residential waste collection bill. The county says that even at $304 per year, Arlington’s rate would remain the lowest in the area.
Currently, Arlington conducts a seasonal yard waste collection: 10 weeks of leaf collection in the fall and 6 weeks of yard debris collection in the spring. The collected items are then composted. At all other times during the year, organic material is treated as trash and incinerated.
In addition to environmental benefits, “the logistics for handling year-round yard waste would be less demanding than turning the system on and off at points during the year,” according to a county press release.
Arlington has since dumped KMG Hauling and Bates Trucking, the contractors that filed suit, and is touting the benefits of its new contract with American Disposal Services. Among them:
- “Reduced pollution from compressed natural gas collection vehicles.”
- “$5.5 million savings on core services through the length of the 10-year contract.”
- “More responsive customer service through advanced collection vehicle and cart monitoring.”
Arlington Woman Sues Restaurant — Laura Donahue, a 36-year-old Arlington resident, is suing the new D.C. restaurant Fig & Olive, saying she became ill with salmonella after eating there.The restaurant was shut down by the health department for several days after numerous reports of diners afflicted with salmonella. [Washington Post]
County Board Approves Street Projects — At its meeting on Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved $2.9 million in neighborhood street improvement projects. The projects, in Ashton Heights, Lyon Village, Arlington Ridge and Leeway, will be paid for with neighborhood conservation bond funds. [Arlington County]
Refinancing to Save County Millions — Arlington County expects to save $2.2 million over 14 years via a refinancing of wastewater and water system bonds that was approved unanimously by the County Board on Saturday. [Arlington County]
Water Main Rehab Contract Approved — The Arlington County Board has approved a $2.4 million contract to rehabilitate some of the county’s aging water mains. Some of the mains set for a cleaning and a cement mortar lining are more than 60 years old. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Police Answer Resident Questions About Murder — Arlington County Police held a community meeting in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood last night to answer questions about the murder of Bonnie Black. Police said that Black was stabbed in the chest and neck. Officers have been conducting extra patrols but police say no immediate danger to the community. Meanwhile, it was revealed that police are searching the home of Black’s estranged husband, who so far is not being named as a suspect. [MyFoxDC, WTOP]
Judge Considering Deaf Inmate’s Suit — A federal court judge is considering testimony in the lawsuit against the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office by a deaf inmate who says he was denied access to an American Sign Language interpreter during a jail stay last year. [Associated Press]
TDM For APS Teachers — Arlington County has launched the first transportation demand management (TDM) program in the U.S. for public school faculty and staff. The program is “aimed at reducing the drive-alone rate of the more than 5,000 employees of Arlington Public Schools (APS), one of the top employers in the county.” [Mobility Lab]
No ‘Bells and Whistles’ for Lubber Run — Arlington County is in the early stages of a plan to renovate the Lubber Run Community Center (300 N. Park Drive), but the officials are already tamping down any expectations of gold-plated features. “We’re not going to build everyone’s wish list,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes on Tuesday. A community forum about the renovation project is scheduled for next Wednesday at 6:30 at the community center. [InsideNova]
Arlington Native Named People’s ‘Most Beautiful’ — Actress Sandra Bullock, a 1982 graduate of Washington-Lee High School, has been named People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman of 2015. [Patch]
Photo courtesy @TheBeltWalk
Last year, the county approved moving to year-round yard waste collection, which would require Arlington residents to put leaves, branches and grass in new, green tubs to be collected every week alongside trash and recycling.
The yard waste would have increased the county’s recycling rate by 13 percent, then-Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said.
The county was forced to put the program on hold last June when, after awarding an all-in-one waste collection contract to American Disposal, the county’s former waste contractors, Bates Trucking and KMG Solutions, sued over the bid process, claiming “cronyism.”
The lawsuit from KMG was withdrawn last November, according to court records, and Bates’ suit was withdrawn in January. Neither the county attorney nor Bates Trucking have returned requests for comment on the lawsuits.
Once the lawsuits had been filed, the county canceled its contract with American Disposal and instituted an emergency contract without year-round yard waste collection, charging homeowners $271 per year for waste collection — cheaper than the previous fees when Bates and KMG were providing services.
During budget talks this year, according to county Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter, the year-round yard waste question is back on the table.
“Arlington County will finalize a new contract this spring for refuse and recycling services to single-family, duplex and townhouse properties,” Baxter told ARLnow.com in an email. “The County Board will consider whether year-round yard waste will be added to the other waste collection services during its annual budget process.”
The annual fee for homeowners has not yet been determined, Baxter said, nor has the fate of the green cans residents were supposed to receive last year. The County Board will adopt its FY 2016 budget later this month.
Rosslyn Skyscraper Still Empty — The D.C. area’s tallest building, 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn, is still empty a year and a half after its completion. Owner Monday Properties, however, is feeling good about the regional economy and about Rosslyn specifically. The company is reportedly not planning to lower its asking rent for the building. [Washington Post]
Deaf Man Suing Arlington County — Updated at 9:20 a.m. — A homeless deaf immigrant who was wrongly jailed for six weeks, allegedly without access to an interpreter, is suing Arlington County in federal court for failing to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The man, Abreham Zemedagegehu, is originally from Ethiopia and was unable to communicate with his jailers via written English. [Associated Press]
Advertising on ART? — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday briefly discussed the possibility of adding advertisements to the side of ART buses — but no action was taken. It was also revealed that the cost of a Metrobus route is about 2.5 times more expensive than the equivalent ART bus route. [InsideNova]
Local Business 40th Anniversaries — Two local businesses are celebrating a 40th anniversary this month. Heidelberg Pastry Shop (2150 N. Culpeper Street) celebrated its 40th year in business this past Saturday, while the Crystal City branch of Navy Federal Credit Union (2450 Crystal Drive) is celebrating its 40th with cake, refreshment and giveaways to those who stop by the branch.
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Summers and Soccer — Summers Restaurant in Courthouse, set to close after Dec. 31, is being eulogized as the Washington area’s premier soccer bar. Though holding out hope for a “miracle,” owner Joe Javidara says he is being forced to close due to financial woes. With more international soccer games available via cable and at other, newer bars, business at Summers has “dropped… off the cliff.” [Washington Post]
Moran Objects to Killing Birds Near Airports — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) wants airports, like Reagan National, to deploy new avian radar technology and stop the practice of euthanizing birds that live near airports. NBC4’s I-Team reports that more than 100,000 animals, including birds, have been “chased away” from the runways at Reagan, Dulles and BWI, to reduce the risk of animal strikes. [NBC Washington – WARNING: Autoplay video]
Arlington Contractor Settles Civil Claim — Arlington resident Keith Hedman, 55, has agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle civil claims related to a fraud sceme. The government sued Hedman, the CEO of security contracting firm Protection Strategies, Inc., alleging that he fraudulently obtained $31 million worth of government contracts intended for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses. Last year Hedman pleaded guilty to criminal charges. [U.S. Attorney’s Office]
Arlington Woman Sentenced for Sex Trafficking — Arlington resident and Peruvian national Ruth Antuanet Miller, 35, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for leading a sex trafficking company. Miller pleaded guilty last year to charges that she led a criminal enterprise that prostituted women at hotels and motels around Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and in Fairfax County. On Dec. 19, Miller was sentenced to 84 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $341,437 in restitution.
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
APS Mulls Contract for School at TJ — The Arlington School Board tonight will consider a $4.7 million contract for architectural and engineering work on a proposed elementary school on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson Middle School. That’s despite well-organized neighborhood opposition to the school encroaching on Thomas Jefferson Park. [InsideNova]
Unreliable Mail Delivery in Douglas Park — Residents of Arlington’s Douglas Park neighborhood say their mail delivery has become considerably less reliable in the past year. Talk of missing mail, misdirected mail and delayed mail has reached a crescendo. The Postal Service says it’s investigating. [WJLA]
HOT Lanes Lawsuit Had ‘Unintended Consequences’ — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze acknowledged at Tuesday’s debate that Arlington County might have erred in pursuing an aggressive lawsuit against proposed High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. Howze said the suit “had unintended consequences with our relations with Richmond.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The suit, filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court, requests the judge issue an injunction that would prevent the ride sharing companies from operating in Virginia without a broker’s license. The DMV has issued “cease and desist” orders against the two ride-sharing companies, but they have continued to operate in the state.
Uber and Lyft have applied for temporary operating authority while the DMV reviews their applications for broker’s licenses. According to a DMV official, neither company has been granted operating authority — temporary or otherwise — while the department awaits guidance from Attorney General Mark Herring.
The 41-page lawsuit claims Uber and Lyft operate without regulation and without requiring detailed background checks or comprehensive auto insurance, and by doing so “pose an immediate, real and substantial threat to the business of Alexandria White Top, Fairfax White Top, Arlington Blue Top, Love Limousine, VIP Cab Company, Checker Cab, Prince William Yellow Cab and King Cab.”
“The primary concern of Arlington Blue Top Cabs is the safety of our passengers and driver,” Arlington Blue Top Cabs Vice President John Massoud told ARLnow.com through a spokesperson. “Companies such as Uber and Lyft have proven their lack of concern for these people by not requiring adequate insurance and background checks. That’s why we filed this complaint in Fairfax Circuit Court.”
Taxi drivers have mounted protests against Uber and Lyft in recent months, and before that were protesting cab companies for “unfair working conditions,” and requesting Arlington enact a “driver’s bill of rights.”
During the legal disputes, Uber and Lyft have maintained service to Northern Virgina — Uber is even expanding farther out into the outskirts of Northern Virginia — as local police, including the Arlington County Police Department, have committed to upholding the DMV’s cease-and-desist order by ticketing drivers.
Uber and Lyft have combined to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital as they expand to more cities nationwide and internationally. Uber launched in the D.C. area last summer.
Bates Trucking — which was contracted for all of the county’s curbside recycling pickup and half of its trash pickup until the contract expired yesterday — is in the process of suing the county to prevent it from awarding all of its waste pickup to American Disposal. KMG Hauling, which also sued the county last month, handled the other half of the county’s trash collection.
The county has delayed its recently-approved year-round yard waste pickup program in light of the lawsuit. It canceled its one-year contract with American Disposal, but awarded the company an emergency services contract, for garbage and recycling pickup only, which took effect today.
Bates claims that its proposed contract was the best value and would have saved taxpayers money.
According to a Bates Trucking press release, the county’s now-canceled collection contract with American Disposal would have cost $15 million more over a period of 9 years than that offered by Bates, thanks in large part to Bates offering $9.45 million worth of free recycling processing.
Despite the unsubstantiated claim of “cronyism” in the press release, Bates said its lawsuit has merit and it hopes to continue serving Arlington residents.
“Our protest is not sour grapes or frivolous,” Bates Trucking President Bruce Bates said in the release. “Both incumbent companies are long time vendors for the residents of Arlington County. We have some real concerns over the practices that are being used to ‘usher in’ American Disposal Services, who has higher prices and less experience. Both Bates and KMG are local firms that have provided outstanding service to the residents of Arlington County. Bates wants to understand why we are being bullied and pushed out of the back door.”
The county has declined comment on Bates’ release or lawsuit. It did, however, release the terms of its emergency contract with American, which will reduce Arlington residents’ yearly solid waste disposal costs from $307.04 to $271.04 per year, until a full contract has been re-bid and approved. The Arlington County Board will vote at its meeting this month to reduce the solid waste allocation for FY 2015 by more than $1.1 million as a result.
According to Bates Chief Business Development Officer Willie Wainer, Bates has requested an injunction against the emergency contract, saying the county never put it out to bid as required by law.
“The county had the option, which was the most logical, to keep us in place since we knew the routes and knew the customers until they put a new bid or [request for proposals] on the street,” Wainer told ARLnow.com, “but they decided not to do so and gave American an emergency contract.”
Bates has been conducting trash and recycling pickup in Arlington for 17 years, Wainer said. It expects to put in another bid when Arlington re-issues the request for year-round collection. One anonymous ARLnow.com reader, in the comment section of the initial story on the lawsuit, says he was pleased with the former waste collection service.
“I can say without hesitation that the present garbage removal contractor does a fantastic job and I have to give them 100% marks in any assessment,” said “Bob,” who claims to be a Donaldson Run resident. “The county needs to issue a clarification as to why they have decided to change the garbage removal contractor and what cost competitive procurement process has been followed in selecting the new one.”
Wainer expects the injunction request to be heard in Arlington Circuit Court, where Bates and KMG filed their initial suits, within two weeks.
Photo via KMG Hauling
Arlington County will not roll out year-round yard waste collection next month as it had planned because it is being sued.
KMG Hauling and Bates Trucking have filed separate lawsuits against the county in Arlington Circuit Court “over denial of contract,” according to county spokeswoman Mary Curtius. Bates filed its lawsuit June 3 and KMG filed its own on June 18, according to court records, and both are scheduled for a pretrial motion hearing tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.
The county announced today that the delivery of green yard waste cans, which was expected in August or September, has been postponed, as has the ban on placing yard waste in plastic bags on the curb. Trash and recycling pickup service will continue uninterrupted.
“We regret any inconvenience caused by the delay in rolling out this new service,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. “The County is working hard to resolve the contractual issues with our residents in mind. We are committed to bringing year-round yard waste collection to our residents as soon as possible.”
The Arlington County Board passed an emergency ordinance yesterday reducing the quarterly waste fee for residents by $9 to account for the lack of yard waste service, the release said. The waste fees will be reinstated with yard waste collection.
The county awarded the contract for year-round yard waste collection to American Disposal, Curtius said. KMG and Bates already hold a current waste contract with the county, but Curtius said because of the pending litigation, the county could not confirm which services they currently perform.
Photo via KMG Hauling
Yorktown Defeats W-L in Basketball — Yorktown’s boys basketball squad defeated Washington-Lee on Friday by a score of 60-52. During the game Washington-Lee senior Jonah Sens scored his 1,000th career point. [Sun Gazette]
Court Orders Yelp Critics Identified — A Virginia Appeals Court last week ruled in favor of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning in a case against the online reviews site Yelp. Under the ruling, Yelp must reveal the identities of seven negative reviewers that Hadeed believes are not actual customers. Hadeed was represented by Raighne Delaney, an attorney with the Arlington law firm of Bean, Kinney & Korman. [Washington Times]
Exhibit-Goers Might Wonder ‘Y’ — An exhibit at Artisphere by artist Alicia Eggert features “a rock sit[ting] on the keyboard of a Macbook Air laptop, typing the letter ‘Y’ into infinity.” The exhibit runs through Feb. 2. [Ode Street Tribune]
Infamy for Arlington Nonprofit’s Former Logo — A former logo of the Arlington Pediatric Center, a local nonprofit healthcare provider in South Arlington, has been named one of the “15 Worst Corporate Logo Fails” by a popular online publication. [Business Insider]
Photo courtesy Becky Barnes
A group of activists sued Arlington County on Friday over its fact sheet about the housing authority referendum on the ballot tomorrow, but a judge quickly dismissed the lawsuit.
As it has in previous years, the county distributed a “frequently asked questions” fact sheet with the stated goal of informing residents before voting on the measure. Members of the Arlington Committee to Save Affordable Housing, which supports the creation of a housing authority in Arlington, filed the lawsuit on Friday to protest the page, with treasurer John Reeder — who filed the suit on behalf of the committee — calling it “a biased fact sheet with bogus data slanted against the housing authority, and misleading voters.”
Judge William Newman dismissed the suit without opinion the same day, prompting Reeder to send out a press release denouncing his decision. Newman is a former member of the Arlington County Board, whose members oppose the formation of a housing authority.
“Virginia Code section 24.2-687 requires that any statement on the referendum issued by Arlington County be no longer than 500 words, be neutral, and not use arguments either for or against the referendum,” the press release said. “The county FAQ statement of over 1,100 words made factual errors about the availability of Federal housing funds and other revenues… [and] included arguments and bogus claims cited by opponents including the Arlington Democratic Party.”
“Judge Newman dismissed the legal petition with no legal opinion issued late on November 1, and refused to grant even a public hearing on whether the state law on elections and referenda had been violated,” the press release continued.
The last time the referendum was on the ballot in 2008, the county distributed a similar flyer which also drew criticism, notably from the Arlington Green Party, of which Reeder is a member. The county has stood by that flyer and stands by this year’s version.
“Judge Newman’s action speaks for itself regarding the merits of the lawsuit on the housing referendum,” County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac said in an email. “It is within Judge Newman’s discretion to take the action that he took … The County put out a factual set of questions and answers, with neutral information about the referendum.”
The referendum, if passed, would create an independent housing authority, appointed by the County Board, focused on eliminating and redeveloping “blighted areas,” and promoting the availability of affordable housing.
Currently, the county handles affordable housing through its Housing Commission and through cooperation with local affordable housing nonprofits. The county draws funds from local taxes, developer contributions, federal and state grants and other affordable housing programs. The county says in its fact sheet that a new housing authority would have access to the same or similar funding sources.
Tighter Security at Marathon — This Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon will include tighter security than years past. Camelback-style hydration backpacks have been banned, as have Halloween masks. Runners will only be able to check items in clear plastic bags. [WJLA]
Google Maps Arlington National Cemetery — Google has used its Street View technology to map Arlington National Cemetery from the ground. Using a backpack-mounted array of 15 cameras and a hired walker, the company has gathered 360 degree images from around the hallowed grounds. [Washington Post]
Virginia ABC Wine Tasting Crackdown — Virginia ABC is cracking down on wine tasting events organized by wine distributors. Virginia law only allows winemakers or winery representatives to hold tasting events in restaurants. Among the retailers impacted by the recent enforcement effort is Cheesetique, which has locations in Shirlington and the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. [Washington Business Journal]
Lawsuit Filed Over NSF Lease — The broker that helped arrange the National Science Foundation’s pending move from Arlington to Alexandria is suing Hoffman Family LLC, the owner of the land where the new NSF headquarters will be built. Hoffman is only offering to pay $1 million of the $6.7 million that Jones Lang LaSalle says it’s owed. The deal is also being criticized for incentives that exempted payments to Alexandria’s affordable housing fund. [Washington Post]
Plantations in Arlington — Writer Alison Rice takes a look back at some of Arlington’s former plantations. Among them are Abingdon Plantation, located on what’s now Reagan National Airport; Analostan Island, on what’s now Theodore Roosevelt Island; and Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee. [Arlington Magazine]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick