Since 1972, Arlington House — the recognizable Greek revival mansion atop the hill in Arlington National Cemetery — has been officially called “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is now planning to propose legislation that would remove the Confederate general’s name.
Beyer said today, as first reported by the Associated Press, that it’s time to drop Lee from the official name of the house, from which Arlington County gets its name, logo and seal. The general lived in the house, but its history goes beyond his time there, both before — it was built by George Washington’s adopted son around the turn of the 19th century — and after — when it was seized during the Civil War.
“The choice of Lee’s home for the site of a national military cemetery was intended to be a punitive measure against Lee, who himself said after the Civil War that he opposed erecting Confederate monuments,” Beyer said in a statement sent to ARLnow. “Given these considerations and requests from members of the community, including descendants of enslaved people in the area, I am working on legislation to remove the reference to Robert E. Lee from the official name of Arlington House.”
“Part of the reckoning with the history of racism and slavery in America and in our own community has been a reexamination of public symbols,” Beyer continued. “I absolutely support that process, including the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from the U.S. Capitol and taking other actions that make it clear we do not revere Confederate leaders or approve of the cause for which they fought.”
Beyer’s push to remove the name comes as Arlington County is in the midst of a series of proposed renamings, some brought about by the national racial reckoning that followed George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police.
A name change process has been launched for Lee Highway (Route 29), and new names have been proposed for Henry Clay Park and the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington. Previously, Washington-Lee High School was renamed Washington-Liberty and Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) was renamed Richmond Highway.
The Arlington branch of the NAACP, meanwhile, called last month for Arlington’s logo and seal to be redesigned in order to remove Arlington House from each, calling it “divisive and racist” and “a symbol of a slave labor camp.”
Coronavirus Cases at Arlington Nursing Home — “Rossie Bratten, a 21-year-old Virginia resident, is calling on nursing homes to be more transparent about COVID-19, claiming an Arlington facility caring for his mother never informed the family of positive cases at the site. Bratten claims they only called to be told their mother had tested positive.” [Fox 5, YouTube]
Construction Continuing at DCA — “The coronavirus pandemic has slowed air travel to a trickle, but it has not hindered Project Journey at Reagan National Airport. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reports that the new 14-gate north concourse at Reagan Airport remains on schedule to open in July 2021.” [Washington Business Journal]
Bullet Hole Found in Roof of Douglas Park Home — “At approximately 2:31 p.m. on April 13, police were dispatched to the report of a missile into occupied dwelling. Upon arrival, it was determined that contractors performing maintenance on the victim’s house located a hole in her roof and recovered a bullet in the crawl space. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.” [Arlington County]
Sen. Ebbin Lauds Signing of Marijuana Bill — “The prohibition on cannabis has for too long had life long impacts on Virginians and disproportionately affected communities of color. Thank you @GovernorVA for signing my and @C_Herring’s bills to decriminalize marijuana.” [Twitter]
County Observes Sexual Assault Awareness Month — “Arlington County’s Project PEACE is recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) with virtual observances and daily online opportunities. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, survivors of sexual assault need support, champions and affirmation of their stories and voices.” [Arlington County]
County Forms Hunger Task Force — “In anticipation of increasing need, County Manager Mark Schwartz and APS Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson have created the Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington (CHFA) and tasked it to help coordinate efforts to make sure that every Arlington resident who needs food has it during the pandemic.” [Arlington County]
ACPD, Bayou Bakery Distribute Free Meals — “Yesterday, ACPD assisted with the distribution of over 100 meals and school supplies to families in our community. This successful event was a collaborative effort by Real Food For Kids, Bayou Bakery, Abingdon Elementary PTA and private donations.” [Facebook]
Del. Lopez Celebrates Va. Dream Act Signing — “After years of work in the legislature — and decades of activism from educators, students, and advocates across the Commonwealth — the Virginia Dream Act has finally been signed into law, expanding in-state tuition to undocumented students for the first time.” [Press Release]
Wardian Went to Work After 63 Hour Race — “Q: How much did you sleep when you were done with the race? A: I didn’t sleep at all. I came right back from the race and I had a work deadline Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. I work from home, so I came right to my desk. I started working until I passed out on my keyboard. I told everyone to please double check all my work.” [New York Times]
County Again Encouraging Clapping Tonight — “Join us in saluting healthcare workers on Monday night! At 8 p.m., clap in front yards, balconies, windows and cars to show gratitude.” [Facebook]
Rosslyn Couple’s Very Mini Golf Course — “When your fiancée sets up a 9-hole mini @TheMasters for your quarantine birthday, you want @Buck to call play-by-play on the disappointing 9th hole.” [Twitter]
The following op-ed was written by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), chair of Virginia House Public Safety Committee, following Gov. Ralph Northam signing several gun violence prevention measures into law.
Knocking on doors last summer and fall, I asked Arlington voters their top legislative concerns. The largest response, by far, was for the General Assembly to take action to reduce gun violence.
That same sentiment has been growing across the commonwealth for years due to the lack of response to tragedies, such as, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Columbine, and more recently, Virginia Beach. But the gun violence prevention movement is not just about the mass shootings you see and hear about in the media. It’s the daily acts of gun violence — over 100 a day — occurring in our communities and firearm suicides that you don’t hear about.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 there were 1,041 gun deaths in Virginia. The Virginia firearm suicide rate has increased by 15% over the last decade and the firearm homicide rate increased 45%. Of all the suicides, nearly two-thirds are by firearm. Thirty-two children die by firearm every year in Virginia. Year after year, advocates from Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Brady Campaign, Giffords, and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence come to Richmond to lobby for commonsense solutions only to be rejected.
But the 2020 legislative session would be different. I could tell gun violence prevention was going to be a rallying point for voters ever since Governor Ralph Northam, who called for a July 9 special session following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, had his call to action thwarted by Republicans who immediately adjourned the session without taking any action. Virginia Democrats made gun violence prevention a central campaign theme in the 2019 election. Legislators finally listened to the voices of voters and we delivered.
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn tapped me to chair the House Public Safety Committee to oversee the passage of one of the House Democrats highest priorities: gun violence prevention. Those items that passed and recently signed by the Governor include:
- Universal background checks on all firearm sales;
- Reinstate the law allowing the purchase of only one handgun within a 30-day period;
- Requiring lost or stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 48 hours;
- Create an Extreme Risk Protective Order that would allow a court to order the temporary separation of firearms from an individual determined to be danger to self or others (this bill was patroned by Del. Rip Sullivan);
- Prohibiting the person the subject of a protective order from possessing a firearm (this bill was patroned by Sen. Janet Howell);
- Enhancing the penalty for recklessly allowing child access to a loaded firearm;
- Allowing localities, such as Arlington, to prohibit firearms in County buildings, parks, or recreation centers.
These laws will save lives.
Other bills that passed include the requirement for a person to receive a concealed handgun permit to demonstrate competence in-person (patroned by Del. Alfonso Lopez); creation of a Virginia Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund; adding child day centers to the list of schools where firearms are not allowed; prohibiting the possession/sale of bump stocks; and my bill to clarify school boards are prohibited from arming untrained personnel for school protection; and another to require family day homes to lock up firearms during operating hours.
The House passed a bill to ban military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines but, unfortunately, the bill was defeated in a Senate Committee. This bill was patroned by Del. Mark Levine.
Critics say the House moved too fast. It may seem that way if you are used to doing nothing or preferred we did nothing. In my view, however, we struck the right balance acting only on measures that have been proven to save lives. Many of these bills have been introduced, studied, and debated for years. It was time to be responsive to Virginia voters and act.
Why does this issue mean so much to me and so many others? Kris Brown, Arlington resident and President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, summed it up best when she recently tweeted: “There are too many children living in constant fear in their schools, in their homes, and in their neighborhoods. We owe them all a better future.” As the father of three children, I couldn’t have said it better.
The bill is expected to be signed by President Trump Friday evening.
Beyer released the following statement after the bill was approved.
The only way we will get the economy going again is by first containing the spread of the coronavirus. This bipartisan bill will help us do that by providing public health and economic resources to cities, states and hospitals, as well as those who are doing what experts are saying we all must – staying home to flatten the curve.
Workers who lose their jobs will have 100% of their wages replaced, including those who are self-employed or contractors and were — until now — previously ineligible for unemployment insurance. These same workers will also receive direct cash payments from the federal government, a progressive policy that I was among the first to push for. There’s also substantial support for small businesses that lose customers or are under state or local directives to close temporarily.
In addition, the Marshall Plan for hospitals will enable them to care for the rapidly rising number of coronavirus patients and buy the much needed medical supplies they’re running out of. In no country should healthcare workers have to make their own masks but that’s what’s happening right now at hospitals across America. I urge the President to help hospitals out soon by using the powers he has under the Defense Production Act.
As Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee, I’ll continue to closely monitor how the economy is doing over the coming weeks. The American people will need sustained help from their government to weather this crisis, and Congress must take every action necessary to protect their health and prevent another Great Depression.
(The president did, as Beyer urged, reportedly invoke the Defense Production Act to force General Motors to start producing ventilators Friday afternoon.)
“Beyer was among the first in government to call for direct payments to support families,” a press release from Beyer’s office said. “He helped shape negotiations on the stimulus package as Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee and as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.”
Coronavirus Case in Falls Church — “On Mar. 9, a U.S. Navy civilian employee at the US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) in Falls Church, Virginia, tested ‘presumptive positive’ for the coronavirus (COVID-19)… The individual is currently at a hospital in Northern Virginia.” [U.S. Navy]
Northam Signs Arlington Tourism Tax Bill — “The governor’s signature on March 2 made it official – Arlington will now be able to impose a surtax on hotel stays, with the proceeds going to tourism promotion, in perpetuity. Gov. Northam signed legislation patroned by state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax-Arlington) removing the ‘sunset clause’ from existing legislation allowing Arlington to tack on an additional 0.25 percent to the 5-percent transient-occupancy tax imposed by the county government on those staying in hotels and motels.” [InsideNova]
Lawmakers Support Long Bridge Project — Virginia’s delegation to Congress “sent a letter to Secretary Chao in support of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s (DRPT) application for an Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant for the Long Bridge Project.” [Press Release]
No Arlington Rep on Metro Board — “For the first time in recent memory, Arlington will have no representation on the board of directors of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates the Metro system… The shifts came about due to the resignation from the WMATA board of Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey, due to issues over reporting of campaign contributions during his 2019 re-election bid.” [InsideNova]
Beyer Gains a GOP Challenger — “On Friday, Mark Ellmore officially filed to seek the Republican nomination for Congress from Virginia’s Eighth District in 2020…. It is currently represented in Congress by Democratic Rep. Don Beyer.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Biden Wins Virginia — “Virginia voters have overwhelmingly given former Vice President Joe Biden a sizable win over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary election. According to unofficial state election returns, Biden has been called the winner of the state with 53.3 percent of what was a record primary turnout, and will capture the largest share of its 99 delegates.” [Patch, Washington Post]
Bernie Underperforms 2016 — In the two-way race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016, Sanders captured 33% of the vote in Arlington. Yesterday, he received 19% of the vote, a close third to Elizabeth Warren at 20%.
FAA Taking Comments on DCA Noise — “After changing the routes for planes taking off from Reagan National Airport, in Arlington, Virginia, the Federal Aviation Administration is holding a public comment period. The comment period closes March 30. In an email, Libby Garvey, chair of the Arlington County Board, said that even if people in the community submitted earlier complaints, the FAA will not be officially considering them.” [WTOP]
Tafti Defends Changes at Prosecutor’s Office — “There’s this false critique that these reforms are making our communities less safe. We’ve been fed a story for decades that we have to incarcerate and have zero tolerance in order to be safe. More and more we are finding that harm reduction — for drug use, mental illness treatment, restorative justice — is more effective.” [Arlington Magazine]
Police: Two Arrested in Stolen Vehicle — “At approximately 2:40 p.m. on March 1, officers [in Pentagon City] were alerted to a license plate reader hit on a vehicle previously reported stolen out of Washington D.C. Officers observed two subjects walking away from the parked vehicle and conducted surveillance in the area. The subjects were taken into custody without incident as they returned to the vehicle… A search of the vehicle located suspected narcotics.” [Arlington County]
Chamber Cheers Tourism Tax Bill — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce celebrates the General Assembly’s establishment of permanent funding for tourism promotion in Arlington. This 0.25 percent Transient Occupancy Tax surcharge on hotel rooms is used exclusively by Arlington Convention and Visitors Service… to grow travel and tourism in Arlington. Previously, the tax surcharge was enacted with a July 1, 2021 sunset” provision. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Bill Could Boost N. Va. Metro Funding — “Northern Virginia localities could soon have the ability to spend more money on Metro service increases after state lawmakers approved a bill that tinkers with the dedicated funding agreement for the transit agency… Virginia’s total financial contribution to Metro can’t increase by more than 3% each year, a condition designed to impose fiscal discipline on the agency. The bill from Del. Vivian Watts, D-Annandale would exempt any costs associated with service increases from that cap.” [Washington Business Journal]
Lots of New State Laws May Be Coming — “In the 35 days since the 2020 legislative session began, Democratic lawmakers in Virginia advanced laws to restrict access to guns, raise the minimum wage, decriminalize marijuana and ease restrictions on abortion. They sprinted to pass hundreds of bills before a deadline: February 11th, ‘crossover day,’ when all bills must be passed by at least one chamber or be scrapped.” [WAMU]
Plastic Bag Tax Among Bills Under Consideration — “The Senate passed a version of the bag fee bill shortly before midnight that would impose the five cent tax in Northern Virginia but allow localities elsewhere in the state to decide for themselves whether to have the fee… The House also voted to ban foam takeout containers starting in a few years.” [WTOP]
Tomorrow: Winter Bike to Work Day — “It’s cold outside but that doesn’t mean you have to give up riding your bike. In fact, we want to encourage you to warm up to cold- weather biking on International Winter Bike to Work Day. This year we will have our pit stop at Gravelly Point on the Mount Vernon Trail.” [Eventbrite]
Per-Square-Foot Home Prices — “The city of Falls Church zoomed past the District of Columbia to be the local jurisdiction where home-buyers spent more, per square foot, than anywhere else in January. The median per-square-foot cost of $453 for Falls Church property for the month was up 13 percent from a year before, while the $449 recorded in Washington was down 7.2 percent… Arlington placed third, up 9 percent to $399 per square foot.” [InsideNova]
Lopez’s Dream Act Passes House — “In a landmark session, the Virginia House of Delegates today voted for the first time to approve HB 1547, a bill which would expand in-state tuition eligibility to undocumented students at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. The bill, also known as the Virginia Dream Act, was introduced by Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) and passed after many years of advocacy and hard work.” [Press Release]
One-Time Arlington Startup Founder Convicted — “A jury convicted CommuniClique founder and former CEO Andy Powers of six out of eight counts Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The jury found Powers guilty on three counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, according to court documents… Powers was based for years in Reston and Arlington before moving to Los Angeles in August 2018 as the head of what he billed as a communications and tech platform.” [Washington Business Journal]
New Funding for Local Startup — “The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) today announced that CIT GAP Funds has invested in Arlington, VA-based HyperQube, a cyber range as a service offering that enables enterprises to quickly and easily build an exact copy of any IT infrastructure.” [Globe Newswire via Potomac Tech Wire]
FYI Tipsters: We Can’t Open Nextdoor Links — Here at ARLnow, we appreciate everyone who emails us or sends us anonymous tips about possible stories. Recently, tipsters have started frequently sending us anonymous tips that link to a post on Nextdoor. The problem is: Nextdoor is a private, neighborhood-based social network and we can’t open the links. Please send us screenshots of posts instead.
Nearby: Falls Church Fire Cause — “Yesterday’s house fire at 400 S. Oak Street was accidental. ‘It’s not confirmed, but the cause could be a space heater plugged into an electrical power strip,’ said [fire official Henry] Lane. ‘If so, this is part of a bad national trend. Power strips cannot handle the demands of a space heater. People should plug them directly into an outlet.’ The damage to the property is valued at $150,000.” [City of Falls Church]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Local Crossing Guard Honored — “Zeleke Taffesse, a crossing guard serving Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, was one of four crossing guards statewide named tops in their field as part of the Feb. 10-14 commemoration of Crossing Guard Appreciation Week.” [InsideNova, Twitter]
Inexpensive Condos Still Exist in Arlington — “There are still some bargains to be had in Arlington, particularly if you’re willing to downsize to an older condo. For example, Unit 49 in the Lorcom House Condo at 4401 Lee Hwy. in North Arlington is priced at $225,000. The monthly condo fee of $552 includes all utilities as well as trash and snow removal.” [Washington Post]
Hope’s Instant Runoff Bill Advancing — “A proposal that would allow, though not require, Arlington to elect its County Board members by ‘instant-runoff’ (also known as ‘ranked-choice’) voting has cleared its first hurdle in Richmond, but still faces an uncertain future. The measure, by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), won passage in the House of Delegates on a 68-30 vote and was forwarded across the hall for consideration by the state Senate.” [InsideNova]
Beyer Holds ‘Real ID’ Event — “Congressman Don Beyer partnered with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Saturday to host a REAL ID application event for constituents of the 8th District at Wakefield High School in Arlington… Beginning October 1, 2020, U.S. residents who want to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility using their state-issued driver’s license or ID as identification must have a version of the credential that is REAL ID compliant.” [Press Release]
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) With a new Democratic majority, Arlington’s state Senators have doubled down on earlier efforts to pass gun control reform and make progress on other issues — like marijuana decriminalization — that made limited progress under a Republican majority.
Some of these proposals have already faced substantial pushback, particularly from a crowded gun rights rally on Monday that drew national headlines. Democrats notched a gun control victory today, however, with the state Senate narrowly passing a “red flag” gun law that allows guns to be taken away by those judged as dangerous to themselves or others.
Nestled among the high profile issues are other items of interest for Arlingtonians, like the ability to require labor agreements as part of the zoning approval process.
Sen. Barbara Favola
Among the bills introduced by Favola in the 2019-2020 legislative session are SB 116, which would say that defendants in a capital case who have a severe mental illness are not eligible for the death penalty, and SB 179, which adds gender, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation to the state’s hate crime definition. SB 116 was moved to the Judiciary committee and SB 179 was referred to the Finance and Appropriations committee.
Favola is one of the chief co-signers of SB 35, which authorizes localities to prohibit the possession or carrying of firearms, ammunition, or components thereof to government buildings, public parks, or any public right of way being used for an event. The bill was passed in the state Senate on Jan. 16.
Sen. Adam Ebbin
According to Henry Watkins, communications director for Ebbin, the bills he has proposed are:
SB 868 — Prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Also includes additional protections for veterans and pregnant persons.
SB 2 — Reduces penalty for possession of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil penalty.
SB 852 — Institutes a tax on e-cigarettes at 39% of the wholesale price. Also raises the Virginia cigarette tax to $1.80 per pack and the tax on other tobacco products to 39% wholesale.
SB 11 — Imposes a five-cent fee on throw-away bags to reduce litter and waste.
SB 838 — Makes construction contractors liable for their subcontractors if the subcontractor does not pay their employees, and allows employees to sue employers for nonpayment of wages.
Ebbin has also proposed SB 839, which would allow localities to require project labor agreements and worker protections on high-density development projects that go through a special exception zoning process. While approving an incentive package for Amazon’s HQ2, Arlington County Board members lamented not being able to require such labor provisions.
Board member Katie Cristol lobbied for the bill in Richmond on Monday.
Testifying at the Capitol this am for @AdamEbbin’s bill to allow us to require labor protection agreements in site plans. Hugely important for making Arlington’s redevelopment more economically inclusive. Committee “passed by” for a week; hopeful prospects w/ amendments… pic.twitter.com/kWyNt1LREb
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) January 20, 2020
Sen. Janet Howell
Like many other Democratic Senators from Northern Virginia, Howell introduced gun control legislation during the current session. SB 75 would make it a Class 3 misdemeanor to leave a loaded, unsecured firearm “in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18.” The current law makes it illegal for under the age of 14.
Other bills introduced by Howell include SB 111, which allows people to vote absentee without needing to list a reason why they can’t vote in person. SB 111 was passed in the Senate on Monday.