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A 1,300-mile network of trails that connects Arlington to the two other sites of the Sept. 11 terror attacks could be granted federal designation next month.

Initially founded in the weeks after the attacks, the expansive September 11th National Memorial Trail, which runs through six states and D.C., has yet to be fully completed.

Federal designation would give the network of trails name-recognition and help the nonprofit alliance administering the trail fund its completion in the coming decades, proponents say.

A bill advocating for federal designation, put forward and sponsored by Northern Virginia Reps. Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer, respectively, is with the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. It passed unanimously in the House of Representatives last week.

If approved by the Senate, locals riding on the Mount Vernon Trail — which is part of the 9/11 Memorial Trail — or near Arlington National Cemetery may see new, standardized signage within the next year heralding the “September 11th National Memorial Trail Route,” according to Thomas Baxter, President of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance, which administers the trail.

“The designation will help in our visibility of the 9/11 National Memorial Trail and will enhance our partnership with the National Parks Service,” the trail’s founder, David Brickley, tells ARLnow. “It’ll enhance the experience of the visitor and assure that that story of what happened on 9/11 are not forgotten.”

Brickley, a Virginian, says the move will be at little to no cost for local municipalities or the taxpayer. Outside of consistent signage across the six states and D.C., other practical implications — such as new construction — have yet to be teased out, according to Beyer’s team.

The trail route from the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial to the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania will be administered by the National Park Service. Brickley said maintenance will remain the responsibility of the trail’s alliance.

Still, the connection to NPS will help, as much of the trail runs through national park land, he said.

To make sure the trail isn’t too much of a burden to municipalities, Baxter said the trail alliance works with local community foundations to maintain individual sections.

In Arlington, “we are in discussions with several community foundations, but one has yet to be selected,” he said.

As for whether designation will bring long-term projects down the road, Beyer’s spokesman Aaron Fritschner said “we don’t know yet.”

“The first step is to get the federal designation, which is what Rep. Connolly’s bill does, and which would create a federal status so the 9/11 Memorial Trail remains protected by federal law along its full length, some of which runs through jurisdictions where you might have less certainty about it remaining protected without a federal designation than you would expect in a place like Arlington.”

About 51% of the 1,300-mile trail is designated for off road multi-use trails, meaning another 49% is not built up or runs through land that could one day be developed, Baxter said. Finishing the trail involves securing property, writing grants and working with local partners.

“It’s going to take a long time, probably decades, to get it all the way complete,” he said.

Designation will make the trail more competitive when applying for state, federal and private grants for building the trails and maintaining them, he said.

With federal designation possibly coming soon, Brickley thanked Beyer and Connolly for their support.

“Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer have been tremendous friends to the trail and the alliance,” he said. “We couldn’t ask for better congressmen helping with this project.”

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This afternoon near the Rosslyn Metro station, Bob Marley was playing and a flag featuring a joint and the words “Come and Take It” was flying.

The event was the legalization of marijuana in Virginia and a giveaway that attracted a line of some 100 people.

Those in line were waiting to receive six marijuana plant seeds — tokens to commemorate the first day of legalized cannabis possession on this side of the Potomac River. The seeds are from Virginia Marijuana Justice, an advocacy group celebrating legalization today with “The Great Commonwealth Cannabis Seed Share.”

Virginians 21 and older can now possess, consume and grow small amounts of the plant, but unless a doctor has signed off on a prescription, there’s no legal way to buy it, the Virginia Mercury reports. Lawmakers aim to begin recreational retail sales in 2024, giving the Commonwealth three years to establish a Virginia Cannabis Control Authority to regulate the market.

Outside the Rosslyn Metro station was one of four locations where volunteers with VAMJ gave out seeds. The Arlington seed share lasted from 12-2 p.m. and among the four sites, more than 20,000 seeds were distributed, said organizer Adam Eidinger.

“We are very happy on this historic day,” Eidinger said. “All four locations in Virginia had long lines and are giving away all the seeds we raised. Authorities were only concerned with large numbers of people, not the cannabis.”

The organization’s celebration started last night on the Key Bridge.

Chinara and Maurice, who only gave their first name, were among the crowd standing in line this afternoon.

Maurice said he was there “to partake in this transition that’s occurring,” saying he is glad “there is more acceptance for things that are natural.”

Despite the crowd’s size, Chinara said the line moved quickly. The R&B and Neo Soul singer-songwriter said she appreciates marijuana because “it makes me feel like I’m able to interact more smoothly with people.”

VAMJ gave out the seeds to people 21 and older with a valid ID. Organizers reminded participants to be patient, let senior citizens go first in line and make friends. They also reminded people that the law only permits four plants in a home.

The giveaway finished about 45 minutes before the thunderstorms rolled in.

Although the mood this afternoon was joyous, advocates say work remains to be done.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, the leader of a parallel Virginia-based group, Marijuana Justice, said the new law has a lot of gaps and she is skeptical that Black and Brown people will actually be treated equally for possessing the plant.

Her group is advocating for next year’s legislature to “repeal, repair and [make] reparations.” It has formed a Legalize It Right coalition to discuss the new Virginian law and how to tackle these goals.

Specifically, the group wants the legislature to remove an open container law that punishes people for possessing the plant in anything but the original manufacturers’ container. The group wants to see public consumption legalized — right now Virginians can only partake at home — and zero tolerance policies on college and university campuses removed.

In addition, Marijuana Justice wants records for marijuana-related crimes expunged and reparations for people arrested and convicted for committing such crimes.

VAMJ also wrote in a blog post that the fight is not over.

“Just because you can grow your own cannabis, doesn’t mean that the war on drugs is won,” the post said. “We still have a lot of work to do to ensure not only local legalization, but legalization across the country, to benefit all interested parties. There are still friends and family members in jail for cannabis in Virginia. We need to demand their immediate release.”

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Morning Notes

Key Bridge Marker Rediscovered — “A recently identified marker in Virginia hitherto thought lost to history has been rediscovered – hiding in plain sight… The newly-rediscovered marker stands at the Virginia entrance to Key Bridge in the furthest north grassy median separating the westbound entrance to the George Washington Parkway, North Fort Myer Drive, and North Lynn Street.” [Sun Gazette]

Vet Punched By Litterbug — “Arlington County police are looking for two suspects who beat up a military veteran after she asked them to pick up trash dumped outside their car… on 28th St. South near Arlington Ridge Road about 9:30 a.m. Sunday.” [NBC 4]

Northam Signs Bill at Marymount — “In what he called a move that will make the commonwealth more welcoming and inclusive, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill extending financial aid benefits to students who came to the country illegally and who are eligible for in-state tuition. ‘They are Virginians, in every sense of the word, except for the immigration status,’ Northam said before signing the bill at Marymount University in Arlington on Monday.” [WTOP]

Free Clinic Continues Vax Effort — “AFC has vaccinated 65% of our patients… Vaccine hesitant patients require a different, more intensive effort, but having doses on-site will allow us to use any encounter to encourage the vaccine for those who haven’t yet received it.” [Twitter]

Drunk Man Robbed in Clarendon — “At approximately 1:29 a.m. on June 11, police were dispatched to the report of an intoxicated male walking in the roadway. Upon arrival, officers made contact with the individual who stated that between 12:00 a.m. and 12:30 a.m., he was exiting an establishment when he was approach by the unknown male suspect. The suspect told the victim to go to the ATM and withdraw an undisclosed amount of cash. After failing to obtain money, the suspect demanded the victim give him whatever money he had, and lifted his shirt to reveal a firearm.” [ACPD]

Crash Along Lee Highway — “Two WB lanes of Lee Hwy are partially blocked, and the NB lane of N George Mason Dr. is completely blocked due to a motor vehicle collision.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

APS Working With Nonprofit on ‘Cultural Competence’ — “This week, RISE, a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, began facilitating interactive workshops with Arlington Public Schools Student-Athlete Advisory Council members and coaches. This is the first in a series of interactive cultural competence workshops that APS and RISE will be providing to athletes and coaches as part of a new partnership.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Northam to Sign Bill at Marymount — “This coming Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will be visiting Marymount University to hold a ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 2123 and Senate Bill 1387. The legislation will make Virginia students eligible for state financial aid if they are eligible for in-state tuition in the fall of 2022, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.” [Press Release]

GOP Candidate Running Against Del. Hope — A Republican challenger has emerged to contest the re-election campaign of Del. Patrick Hope. Laura Hall said she filed paperwork last week. Hall said she would share more publicly when she hears back from the state regarding her filing. A Democratic primary for the delegate’s district did not occur, after the state Board of Elections determined challenger Matt Rogers did not meet a filing deadline. [Twitter]

Metro Changes On the Way — “Rail service will be extended to midnight, seven days a week, in July, and other bus and rail service improvements and fare changes will start being implemented in the Fall, beginning Labor Day weekend, as many in the region prepare to go back to work and school.” [WMATA, DCist]

Domino’s Is Offering a Signing Bonus — The Domino’s Pizza location on Columbia Pike has signs advertising a $500 hiring bonus for new employees, amid a national labor shortage that is hitting restaurants particularly hard. [Twitter]

Video Shows Wrong-Way Driver on I-66Updated at 8:20 a.m. — “Scary video footage shows a driver speeding the wrong way on Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia on Thursday morning.  Virginia State Police say the driver headed the wrong way on the Capital Beltway and I-66, hit at least one car and set off a wave of 911 calls… The driver finally pulled over in the Rosslyn area because of a flat tire. No information on an arrest or charges was immediately released.” [NBC 4]

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Morning Notes

Winning Lottery Ticket Sold in Crystal City — “A Maryland man walked away with the top prize in the Virginia Lottery’s Double Dollar Crossword, after the ticket from ann Arlington convenience store turned out to be a winner.
Silver Spring resident Elvis Umana Hernandez works in construction and carpentry. He recently bought the winning ticket worth $250,000 during a visit to the 7-Eleven at 1500 S. Fern St.” [Patch]

‘Walking Marine’ Walks Through Arlington — “Terry ‘The Walking Marine’ Sharpe has been walking through Arlington today and giving out toy soldiers to raise awareness of veteran suicide.” [Twitter]

Goldman Sachs Investing in Local Startup — “Arlington startup MotoRefi, whose platform aims to make refinancing car loans easier for consumers, is closing in on an eight-figure round involving a blue-chip investor. The company is poised to raise about $45 million in new funding, the lion’s share of which comes from Goldman Sachs, according to sources familiar with the deal.” [Washington Business Journal]

Catholic Diocese Lifts Restrictions — “The Catholic diocese in Arlington, Virginia, has lifted COVID-19 restrictions for masses and other activities. Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge said in a video message released Tuesday, ‘We can once again celebrate as a community, without the need for social distancing or capacity limits.’ People who are not vaccinated are ‘encouraged to wear a mask for the time being,’ the bishop said.” [WTOP]

ACFD Helps Battle Fairfax House Fire — “The Fairfax County and Arlington fire departments also responded to a house fire in the 7700 block of Virginia Lane in Falls Church last night. A cause and estimate of damages have not been announced yet, but the blaze did not result in any reported injuries.” [Tysons Reporter]

Affordable Housing Bill Takes Effect July 1 — “Thanks to HB 2046 from Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, beginning on July 1 localities across Virginia will no longer be allowed to deny building permits to projects ‘because the housing development contains or is expected to contain affordable housing units occupied or intended for occupancy by families or individuals with incomes at or below 80% of the median income of the area.'” [GGWash]

Reminder: We’re Taking The Day Off — ARLnow’s staff has been working hard during the pandemic and we’re getting the day off to enjoy a four-day Memorial Day weekend. As such, except in the event of breaking news, we will not be publishing today.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Last week the Virginia General Assembly approved a marijuana legalization law that will take effect this summer.

Yes, come July 1, you can legally possess, cultivate and share small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Regulated, commercial sales of cannabis products are not set to take place in Virginia until 2024 under the legislation.

When we asked ARLnow readers what you thought about marijuana legalization in the Commonwealth, about 85% of respondents said they supported it, either this summer or a few years from now, as originally proposed. (Gov. Ralph Northam sent the bill back to the General Assembly to move up the timeline for legalization to July.)

Given the support for legalization, we were wondering how many readers were actually planning to partake in the newly-legal weed.

Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced this morning a proposal to move up the legalization of marijuana in Virginia to this summer.

A legalization bill championed by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), who represents part of Arlington, passed the General Assembly earlier this year. But it called for legalization of recreational marijuana possession and cultivation on Jan. 1, 2024.

Northam is sending the bill back to the state legislature to consider a July 1, 2021 implementation.

“Governor Ralph Northam today proposed moving up the legalization of simple possession of marijuana to July 1, 2021, nearly three years sooner than previously planned,” said a press release. “The Governor also announced he is proposing changes that advance public health protections, set clear expectations for labor protections in the cannabis industry, and begin to seal criminal records [of past marijuana convictions] immediately.”

Ebbin told news outlets he thinks the sped-up timeline will be approved.

“My colleagues and I worked closely with Governor Northam to ensure this bill prioritizes public health and social equity,” Ebbin said in a press release from the governor’s office. “I look forward to adopting these amendments and passing this important legislation into law.”

While small-scale marijuana possession was decriminalized in Virginia last year, Northam said those facing fines under the new statute are disproportionately Black.

“Virginia’s communities of color deserve equity — and that means taking action now to end the disproportionate fines, arrests, and convictions of marijuana offenses,” Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax said in the press release.

The bill allows people 21 and over to “legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis, without intent to distribute,” and will also “allow households to grow up to four plants… out of sight from public view, and out of range of individuals under the age of 21.”

Smoking marijuana while driving and possession of it on school grounds will remain illegal.

Previous ARLnow polls revealed strong local support for marijuana decriminalization. When Ebbin proposed it in 2016, nearly 80% of poll respondents said they supported decriminalization. In 2019, when then-candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti pledged not to prosecute simple marijuana possession charges as Commonwealth’s Attorney, more than 75% of poll respondents said they supported that.

Legalization obviously goes beyond decriminalization, however, and there are some who believe the risks associated with marijuana use call for something less than full legalization. There are also some who think Virginia should take more time to legalize weed, in order to allow a more orderly establishment of a statewide marijuana industry.

Still, Northam’s changes to the legalization bill reportedly have support on both sides of the aisle and are expected to pass

What do you think?

Photo by Roberto Valdivia/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Pandemic Doesn’t Change Amazon’s Plans — “Schoettler, who oversees Amazon’s global portfolio of office space, said the past year hasn’t changed the way the company thinks about its office strategy… Amazon still views the office as the best place for work because of the ability for employees to collaborate, and it still envisions its footprint centered around large corporate campuses like its Seattle headquarters and its HQ2 development in Northern Virginia. ” [Bisnow, Twitter]

Sheriff’s Deputy Charged with Fraud — “India Middleton, a deputy sheriff with the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, was indicted in Georgia by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service on conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Middleton was one of 10 defendants indicted in a multi-state scheme to submit fraudulent loan applications for non-[existent] businesses as part of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to a U.S. Department of Justice release.” [Patch, Arlington County]

New Irish Pub Opening Soon — From the social media account of Mattie & Eddie’s, Chef Cathal Armstrong’s new Irish restaurant and bar in Pentagon City: “Practice test! All your grand Irish pints coming soon!” [Facebook]

APS May Cut Magnet High School from Budget — “As part of his proposed budget for the 2022 Arlington Public Schools (APS) fiscal year, Superintendent Francisco Dúran has suggested cutting funding for Arlington students to attend [Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology]. Should the proposed cut pass, current Arlington students at Jefferson will be allowed to remain, but all future classes — including this year’s rising 9th graders — will be barred from attending the school.” [TJ Today]

Lopez’s Gun Loophole Bill Signed — “Introduced by House Majority Whip Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington), HB 2128 was one of the first pieces of legislation signed into law by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam before the end of the session. The bill expands the amount of time state police and agencies have to conduct a background check on a ‘default proceed’ gun sale, from 3 days to 5 days.” [Press Release]

View of Old Coal Trestle from New Bridge — “A new view of the 1926 W&OD Railroad coal trestle remnants next to the new Lee Hwy bridge.” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Tornado Drill Today — “Virginia’s annual Statewide Tornado Drill will occur on Tues., March 16 at 9:45 a.m. If widespread severe weather threatens the Commonwealth on that date, the drill will be rescheduled for Wed., March 17, at 9:45 a.m. The Statewide Tornado Drill is an opportunity to prepare Virginians for tornado threats and to test public warning systems.” [Va. Dept. of Emergency Management]

Pentagon Row Harris Teeter’s Future in Flux — “Despite concerns from nearby residents, Arlington County Board members on March 20 could give the owner of Pentagon Row the ability to, potentially, significantly downsize grocery-store operations… Located on a 15-acre parcel in Pentagon City, the site has long included a Harris-Teeter supermarket. But that initial lease term is expiring, and there is no guarantee the supermarket chain will want to stay in the existing space.” [Sun Gazette]

Coronavirus Tests Available at DCA — “Coronavirus testing launched Monday at Reagan National and Washington Dulles International airports, which became the latest airports across the country to offer the tests. The centers are outside the security checkpoints at both airports and are operated by XpresCheck, which runs centers at a number of U.S. airports.” [Washington Post]

New Building to Have Temporary Hotel Rooms — “Arlington County Board members next month are expected to allow another developer to temporarily convert apartment space to hotel use. The developer of the 809-unit property at 1555 Wilson Blvd. is asking permission to use 100 of the residential units as hotel space starting in late summer. Eventually, the units would revert to their originally intended purpose.” [Sun Gazette]

Cherry Blossom Sculptures Arrive in Arlington — From the National Landing BID: “Two official @CherryBlossFest sculptures have landed! One at the Esplanade at Long Bridge Park and one at the Crystal City Water Park. They will be up through May 31.” [Twitter]

Bill Would Allow 15 MPH Speed Limits in Va. — “Currently, any city or county looking to slow traffic in a busy shopping district or on a quiet residential street can go no lower than 25 mph. A bill passed during this year’s General Assembly session, however, would change that, permitting posted speed limits to drop as low as 15 mph. A ten miles per hour difference may not seem huge, but for pedestrian safety advocates and the families of victims of traffic collisions, the change could mean the difference between life and death.” [Greater Greater Washington]

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The Virginia General Assembly official adjourned on Monday (March 1), wrapping up a significant legislative session.

After years in the legislative minority, Democrats currently hold all the House of Delegates, the state Senate, and the governorship.

This has allowed for a number of progressive-minded bills that have garnered both regional and national attention to pass , including abolishing the death penalty and legalizing recreational marijuana.

The General Assembly also passed a budget.

Bills that have moved through both the House of Delegates and the Senate will now go to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk.

It’s expected he will sign most — if not all — of the legislation by March 31, 11:59 p.m deadline.

All of Arlington’s lawmakers are Democrats, which led to high hopes that a number of proposed pieces of legislation would pass. This proved to be true.

Here are a few notables:

  • HB 2131 — Introduced by Del. Alfonso Lopez, representing the 49th District, the bill allows greater input from localities about what businesses are granted liquor licenses by the Virginia ABC. It also expands the definition of “criminal blight,” making it easier for a license to be denied in cases of criminal activity. The bill was inspired by the former Columbia Pike business Purple Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge.
  • HB 2123 — Also from Del. Lopez, this bill allows students access to state financial aid and grants no matter their citizenship or immigration status as long as Virginia is their permanent home. While it passed the House relatively easily, it barely passed the Senate with only a two vote margin.
  • HB 1854 — Passed last month, this legislation first introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) allows Arlington County to rename the portion of U.S. Route 29, otherwise known as “Lee Highway,” within its boundaries. While a work group initially recommended the road to be renamed “Loving Avenue,” this is unlikely to happen due to objections from the family.
  • SB 1220 — The bill repeals requirements that state mental health facilities to report the immigration status of patients when admitted. If the person is an undocumented, the United States immigration office had to be notified. This requirement discouraged some to seek mental health care. It was introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31).
  • HB 1911 — This bill from Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) removes the requirement for a corroborating witness for a no-fault divorce to be granted.
  • HB 2081 — Introduced by Del. Mark Levine (D-45), the bill bans guns from being within 40 feet of a polling place or meeting place of a local electoral board. The only exceptions are law enforcement, a licensed armed security officer, or if a person’s private property lies within 40 feet of these locations. It passed the Senate by a relatively thin margin of only three votes.
  • SJ 270 — This Constitutional amendment introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) repeals the prohibition on same-sex marriage in Virginia. While the ban was technically not enforceable because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling allowing same-sex marriage, it remained a goal of the Ebbin to have it amended. This legislation received national attention, particularly due to Ebbin’s status as Virginia’s first openly LGBTQ legislator.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Morning Notes

Reminder: In-Person School Resuming Updated at 8:55 a.m. — “@APSVirginia elementary schools re-open for preK-2nd grade on Tuesday, March 2, followed by 3rd-5th + 6th (middle school) and 9th (high school) grades on March 9, then all returning students on March 16.” [Twitter, Twitter]

County Buying Fairlington Area Apartments — “A push to redevelop the Park Shirlington apartment complex in South Arlington has fallen through, prompting county officials to take the unusual step of buying part of the aging affordable community. Arlington leaders signed off on plans in late January to purchase about half of the property, located along I-395 near the county’s border with Alexandria. The county will end up paying about $27.9 million for 105 apartments on a 6.3-acre parcel should the deal close in August.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Rosslyn Apartments Start Leasing — “Today, Penzance… announced the start of leasing and the opening of their interactive leasing center for Aubrey, the first luxury apartment tower to deliver at The Highlands, a dynamic mixed-use development project along the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor.” [Press Release]

Amazon Donates to Wakefield HS — “As part of it’s celebration of Black History Month, Amazon presented a $15,000 donation to support Wakefield High School. This is the latest in Amazon’s ongoing work to support education and racial equality initiatives in communities across the country where its employees live and work. The donation to Wakefield High School of $15,000 will include the book Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Food Stand Operators Expand into Alpacas — “What started as just a food truck eight years ago [and later a food stand in Crystal City] has now turned into an expanded business. The Peruvian Brothers are actually selling a new product — selling alpaca poop. Yes, that’s right.” [WJLA]

Jaywalking Now No Longer a Primary Offense — “Though it didn’t garner as much attention as other police reform measures during the special legislative session that ended this fall, a provision to decriminalize jaywalking in a pretextual policing bill from Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, means that come March 1, police will no longer be able to stop folks for the act of crossing the street outside of a marked crosswalk.” [Virginia Mercury, NBC 4]

Amazon Funds Affordable Housing in Falls Church — “In response to concerns about the anticipated impact of its second headquarters in Arlington on the region’s housing prices, Amazon pledged $75 million over five years to affordable housing in Northern Virginia… Falls Church will get $3.4 million for a new affordable housing homeownership program and $350,000 to extend the availability of nine committed affordable apartments at the Read Building (402 W. Broad Street).” [Tysons Reporter]

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