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Morning Notes

RCA Building Redevelopment Nixed — Plans to tear down the aging RCA office building at 1901 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn and replace it with a 24-story residential tower have been placed on hold “indefinitely.” Instead, owner Weissberg Investment Corp. is now seeking to lease up vacant spaces in the building. [Washington Business Journal]

New County Board Clerk Announced —  “The Arlington County Board today named Kendra M. Jacobs the Clerk to the County Board. She will join the County Board Office in her new role on Monday, July 9. Jacobs comes to Arlington County Government from the City of Alexandria, where she has managed the Department of Planning and Zoning’s Boards and Commission Unit since 2003.” [Arlington County]

LWV to Host Gerrymandering Forum — The Arlington League of Women Voters is hosting a forum entitled “Gerrymandering in America and the Future of Popular Sovereignty” on Thursday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlington Mill Community Center. [League of Women Voters, InsideNova]

More ART Mechanical Issues — The bus serving the ART 43 route today “died on [Route] 50 right before the Crystal City exit,” a rider reports. Per the transit agency, which has been plagued by problems recently: “Due to mechanical issues ART 43 to Court House Metro from Crystal City Metro at 8:51 AM will not operate. We apologize for your inconvenience.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Eric

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League of Women Voters to Screen Zach Galifianakis Film

The Arlington League of Women Voters is hosting a free screening of a new Zach Galifianakis film.

Better known for comedies like The Hangover and The Campaign, Galifianakis tackled the serious topic of gerrymandering and money in politics in his new film, “Democracy for Sale.”

The League is sponsoring the film’s screening at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) on Wednesday, Sept. 27.

More from an email from LWV:

A border and barbeque aren’t the only things Virginia and North Carolina have in common. The two states also have some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country. Cozy relationships between regulators and industry are another commonality. A new film called Democracy for Sale featuring NC native and comedian Zach Galifianakis puts a spotlight on the ways big money political interests have influenced the drawing of district lines and led to a lack of environmental protection and tax cuts for the upper class and corporations, education cuts, gerrymandering, and laws designed to decrease voter turnout.

After a successful tour of Democracy for Sale in North Carolina, we’re excited to bring the film to Virginia on a statewide tour beginning on September 19th. The showings are presented by the Virginia Civic Engagement Table in partnership with local organizations throughout the state. Each screening event will be followed by a Q&A and discussion with local leaders.

While the film focuses on NC as a case study, the parallels to Virginia are innumerable. We hope these screenings will shed light on the similarities and show audiences how to get involved in demanding reform.

Come and bring your friends!

Photo via League of Women Voters

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Morning Notes

Autumn in Arlington (Flickr pool photo by Eric)

LWV to Address Pike Changes — Scheduled well before yesterday’s news that the county’s streetcar project is being canceled, the League of Women Voters tonight will hold a forum entitled “Columbia Pike in Transition.” The forum will explore the future of the Columbia Pike corridor. [InsideNova]

Board Approves Affordable Housing Loan — The Arlington County Board has approved a $8.5 million loan for developer AHC Inc. to purchase the Spectrum Apartments at 5055 S. Chesterfield Road and convert 80 market-rate apartments to committed affordable units. [Arlington County]

Va. Liquor Price Hike — The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has approved a price hike for liquor that’s expected to raise an extra $5.4 million for the state coffers. [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Stabbing Victims Recovering — Arlington law firm Bean, Kinney & Korman says its managing shareholder, Leo Fisher, and his wife are recovering from a brutal stabbing in their McLean home. “There has been universal concern for the welfare of Leo and Sue, and we are thankful to be able to assure everyone that they are recovering steadily,” the firm said in a statement yesterday. Meanwhile, new details have been revealed about the hours-long “torture session” former Bean Kinney attorney Alecia Schmuhl and her husband Andrew allegedly put Fischer and his wife through on Nov. 9. [Washington Post]

Rip Sullivan Joins Bean KinneyRecently-elected House of Delegates member Rip Sullivan has joined the Courthouse-based law firm of Bean, Kinney & Korman, the firm announced yesterday. [Bean, Kinney & Korman]

Flickr pool photo by Eric

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League of Women Voters Fights for Redistricting Reform

(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Every ten years, following the U.S. Census, the Virginia legislature gathers in Richmond to redraw the state’s legislative boundaries. And every ten years, the party that’s in power at the time attempts to draw the borders in a way that favors their electoral chances.

It’s called ‘gerrymandering,’ and it’s practiced in state houses across the country.

But the Virginia chapter of the League of Women Voters has seen enough. Together with the national LWV organization, they’ve been pushing for the past seven years to take redistricting responsibility away from state legislators and put it into the hands of some sort of nonpartisan commission or process.

“We believe that although we have some great state legislators, them drawing their own lines is like having the foxes guarding the hen house,” said Olga Hernandez, president of the LVW of Virginia, at a forum in Ballston last week. “We just think there should be a fairer way of representing people and the interests of the community”

It may be too late for this go-round; the redistricting process is set to get underway in April. Since the forum, Gov. Bob McDonnell has created a bipartisan commission to help oversee this year’s redistricting process. But Hernandez is hopeful that lawmakers may finally be on the verge of passing more permanent reform that would promote transparency instead of the past preponderance of backroom deals.

Redistricting reform has made for some strange but powerful political bedfellows. Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D), Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), former gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds (D) and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) have all been supportive of the League’s efforts, Hernandez said.

“It’s not just one side” of the political spectrum, she said.

Hernandez points to California as a state that was heavily gerrymandered after the last census, but which has since reformed its system thanks to a voter referendum and support from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. While she believes Virginia could be on the same path, she acknowledged that it’s still an uphill battle.

“It’s hard to get people to give up power,” Hernandez noted.

This year, as far as Arlington’s state legislators and congressman are concerned, redistricting is not expected to have much of an effect. While rapidly-growing Northern Virginia counties like Prince William and Stafford are likely to add districts and radically change district boundaries, Arlington has grown at a more modest pace and will likely only see minor changes and contractions in district borders.

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League of Women Voters in Dust-Up with Committee for a Better Arlington

The League of Women Voters of Arlington is bristling at a snub by the Committee for a Better Arlington (CBA).

The Committee did not respond to the League’s repeated requests for information about the effects of CBA’s proposed change to Arlington’s form of government, prompting the League to issue a press release today saying it’s “concerned” about “the depth of the public dialogue” regarding the change.

The League, which has no official position on the change-of-government initiative, says it wants “an open discussion focusing on the practical implications of the proposed… changes that could greatly affect County residents.”

“Arlington voters have the right to be informed on issues of such important to our community,” League preisdent Nancy Tate said. “Any proposed changes to our government should be discussed in a concrete and practical manner.”

The Committee for a Better Arlington, meanwhile, responded today with a statement of their own.

Since this past winter, the Committee has met with numerous organizations and civic associations to speak with their membership about this referendum. The League of Women Voters was the only community organization to decline our request – on more than one occasion. Our focus continues to be educating voters and collecting signatures so Arlingtonians will have a choice at the ballot box this November.

The Committee’s request to speak to the League’s membership, referenced in the statement, may be granted after all.

“Should [the League] sponsor a public forum, which we may do, we will of course invite representatives from both sides of the issue, as we have indicated to the CBA,” Tate told ARLnow.com in a subsequent email.

The full statements from both groups, after the jump.

From the League of Women Voters:

The League of Women Voters of Arlington today expressed concerns about the depth of the public dialogue regarding proposed changes to Arlington’s form of government. League president Nancy Tate called for an open discussion focusing on the practical implications of the proposed structural, managerial, and electoral changes that could greatly affect County residents should the issue be brought before the voters.

“The League has no position about what form of government or electoral system is best. We do, however, have a long-standing commitment to providing a forum for discussion when key aspects of life in the county are impacted,” said Tate. “This proposal has the potential to impact everything from access to affordable housing and critical community services to land use and the quality of our schools.  That is why we have asked the two organizations formed around this issue to answer key questions about how the proposed changes to the County Board would impact our community.”

The League sent a letter to the Committee for a Better Arlington (CBA), which supports the proposed change of creating a County Board form, and the Coalition for Arlington Good Government (CAGG), which supports maintaining the current County Manager Plan. Despite an initial agreement to respond within the one week deadline, CBA did not do so and has not responded to further inquiries. CAGG did.  The questions, and the CAGG responses, are pasted below and available online at http://lwv-arlingtonva.org. If responses are received later from CBA, the League will publish those as well.

“Arlington voters have the right to be informed on issues of such importance to our community,” Tate concluded. “Any proposed changes to our government should be discussed in a concrete and practical manner.  We look forward to that conversation.”

From the Committee for a Better Arlington:

Like the League of Women Voters, the Committee for a Better Arlington believes it is important to educate the public about the proposed change of government referendum circulating in Arlington. Once Arlingtonians hear both sides of the issue and understand that the current form of government is not accountable or responsive to the needs of a progressive and modern Arlington, the Committee believes even more voters will want to sign the petition. Since this past winter, the Committee has met with numerous organizations and civic associations to speak with their membership about this referendum. The League of Women Voters was the only community organization to decline our request – on more than one occasion. Our focus continues to be educating voters and collecting signatures so Arlingtonians will have a choice at the ballot box this November.

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