(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Advanced Towing, long accused by critics of predatory towing, is being sued by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.
The Commonwealth alleges that Advanced often unsafely tows vehicles, sometimes tows without legal authority, and in general exhibits conduct that is “frequently predatory, aggressive, overreaching and illegal.”
“Advanced frequently tows vehicles quickly and carelessly in an effort to tow as many vehicles as possible,” the lawsuit said. “This predatory and overly aggressive behavior causes consumers to become irate and results in many phone calls to the local police department.”
One such irate customer was current Fox News personality Britt McHenry, who famously was caught on video berating an Advanced Towing employee after her car was towed from a restaurant parking lot in Clarendon.
The suit cites instances in which Advanced has towed food delivery vehicles and Amazon vans. It also alleges that on at least two occasions — in August 2019 and February 2020 — Advanced illegally towed Arlington County Police Department vehicles.
The suit discusses how the company has managed to become such a prolific tower of cars determined to be trespassing on the lots of local businesses. Advanced “has employed the use of ‘spotters,’ who are individuals (sometimes children or teenagers) who patrol a parking lot and contact Advanced’s drivers when they see a vehicle they believe is impermissibly parked,” the suit says.
The company operates a tow lot in Ballston, a frequent destination for Arlington police responding to towing disputes. Such disputes led an Uber driver to allegedly strike Advanced owner John O’Neill with his car in January. Another towing dispute, at a Crystal City gas station, led to a stabbing in 2018.
Advanced Towing has even made political headlines.
“Incumbent candidate Barbara Favola was recently criticized by challenger Nicole Merlene for allegedly helping to loosen state towing regulations after accepting combined contributions of $7,250 over previous years from Advanced Towing, with an additional $2,500 coming from company owner John O’Neill,” ARLnow reported last year.
Critics of Advanced Towing have, over the years, frequently emailed ARLnow with tales of alleged bad behavior and have given it a rare one-star review on Yelp. One even created a website with an exhaustive list of complaints about the company.
The lawsuit is “seeking restitution on behalf of consumers, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, and asking the court to ban Advanced Towing from further violating the Virginia and Arlington County towing code provisions,” notes a press release (below).
Attorney General Mark R. Herring has filed a lawsuit against Advanced Towing Company, LLC, a towing and recovery operator based in Arlington, Virginia. The Complaint alleges that Advanced Towing has violated Virginia and Arlington County towing code provisions, resulting in towing conduct that is “frequently predatory, aggressive, overreaching and illegal.”
“Virginia consumers should not have to worry about towing companies acting illegally or employing predatory, unsafe business practices,” said Attorney General Herring. “My team and I will continue to hold towing companies and bad actors accountable when they break the law and take advantage of consumers.”
The Complaint alleges that Advanced Towing has employed tow truck drivers who are not properly registered with the Commonwealth, implemented a practice of unsafely towing vehicles, towed vehicles without the proper legal authority, unlawfully towed police vehicles and commercial delivery vehicles like Amazon delivery vans, and failed to maintain appropriate contracts with property owners authorizing tows.
Attorney General Herring is seeking restitution on behalf of consumers, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, and asking the court to ban Advanced Towing from further violating the Virginia and Arlington County towing code provisions.
APS Creates Learning at Home Guide — “We have created a Learning at Home webpage that pulls details on instruction, additional educational resources for families, activities and resources for coping with stress. If you have questions, please send them to [email protected]” [Arlington Public Schools, Twitter]
How to Report Price Gouging in Virginia — “If you see excessive price increases for coronavirus (COVID-19) necessities, report it to Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.” [Facebook, Attorney General Mark Herring]
Costco Encouraging Social Distancing — Costco in Pentagon City has had lines out of the door every morning since the start of the coronavirus crisis. The line has gotten longer — and more spread out — in the interest of social distancing. [Twitter]
Signature Theater Show Goes Online — “Signature Theater in Arlington, Va., is looking to make its production of Dani Stoller’s ‘Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes’ available online to ticketholders.” [New York Times]
Ramen Shop Offering Free Food for Seniors — “Gaijin Ramen Shop management and staff are heartbroken by elders without food because of the COVID-19 pandemic… We are offering FREE delivery of fresh vegetable ramen soup to any elderly in need.” [Community Post]
Free Pizza for Kids at Troy’s Italian — “On March 20, from 12-8 p.m. we will be doing free pizza slices for kids. We are also offering contactless curbside pickup. Call us at (703) 528-2828 when you get here, and we will bring the food out, and put it into the trunk of your car for you.” [Facebook]
Vehicle Inspection Enforcement Suspended — “Governor Northam has directed the Virginia Department of State Police to suspend the enforcement of Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections for 60 days.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]
New Local Facebook Page — “Community activist and Arlingtonian Kellen MacBeth has centralized tools and resources for people in need during the coronavirus outbreak. His Facebook page, Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19, is up to 2,000 members in just one day of its existence.” [WDVM]
Nearby: Coronavirus Strikes Falls Church Senior Center — “A resident at The Kensington assisted living center in the City of Falls Church has tested positive for COVID-19, the Fairfax County Health Department reported today. It is the first reported case of the coronavirus in the City.” [Falls Church News-Press, Twitter]
Thousands Expected at Today’s Amazon Event — “Thousands of job-seekers are expected to swarm the site of Amazon’s future headquarters at a ‘career day‘ in Crystal City on Tuesday, as the online retail giant begins to accelerate its hiring and presence in Northern Virginia.” The opening time has been pushed up to 8 a.m. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Suspect Chomps on Cop Along Lee Highway — “The officer initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle and made contact with Suspect One, when he observed Suspect Two attempt to flee on foot. With the assistance of additional officers arriving on scene, Suspect Two was stopped. While officers attempted to remove Suspect One from the vehicle and detain him, he actively resisted and bit an officer.” [Arlington County]
Race No Longer Required on Marriage Licenses — Updated at 8:45 a.m. — “Virginia will no longer require couples to identify by race on their marriage licenses, the state’s attorney general announced this week. Under a new policy — which Attorney General Mark Herring detailed in emails to court clerks and members of the media late Friday — people getting married will be able to select ‘Declined to Answer’ in a box asking about race.” [Washington Post]
‘Mabel’s Restaurant’ Coming to Arlington Heights — The restaurant coming to the grounds of the Dominion Apartments, at the former Sherwin Williams paint store (3411 5th Street S.), is called “Mabel’s Restaurant.” An outdoor seating area is planned for the restaurant, according to permit filings. [Arlington Economic Development]
Northam Visits Amazon — “In June, we were excited to open our first temporary office space for our Arlington headquarters in Crystal City. Today, we welcomed @GovernorVA to tour our new work space and meet with Amazonians from the Commonwealth.” [Twitter]
Crystal City Conducting Survey — “The area encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard – Arlington is a dynamic mixed-use urban center and Virginia’s largest walkable downtown… we are embarking on a place branding effort to uncover our neighborhood story and create a striking visual identity.” [Crystal City BID]
History of Heidelberg Bakery — “Heidelberg Bakery is a local landmark in Arlington… In this oral history clip, Carla and Wolfgang Buchler, owners of the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, discuss the lack of diversity in breads that Wolfgang found in America when he first came to the U.S. in the 1970’s–and how tastes have changed, partly due to Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe’s delicious treats.” [Arlington Public Library]
Glebe Road Bridge Project — “The Virginia Department of Transportation on Tuesday, Aug. 13 will hold a community forum on its plans to rehabilitate the Route 120 (North Glebe Road) bridge over Pimmit Run to improve safety and extend the bridge’s overall lifespan. The event will be held on from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Williamsburg Middle School, 3600 North Harrison St. in Arlington.” [InsideNova]
‘Drunkard’ Ruling Won’t Be Appealed — “Virginia’s attorney general on Friday said he will not appeal a ruling that struck down a state law allowing police to arrest and jail people designated as ‘habitual drunkards.'” [Associated Press]
Oil in Sink Causes ‘Fatbergs’ — “If you pour used cooking grease down the kitchen sink, you’re not alone — according to a new survey, 44 percent of respondents in the D.C. region pour cooking oil, fat, or grease down the sink at least occasionally. In doing so — rather than dumping it in the trash–you may be contributing to the creation of something truly horrifying — a fatberg.” [DCist]
Riding Amazon’s Coattails — “As Amazon.com Inc. builds and staffs up HQ2, other tech companies who orbit the online retailer could follow, according to a JBG Smith Properties investor presentation released Tuesday. ‘Amazon isn’t just 38,000 jobs,’ the JBG Smith documents say. ‘It’s a catalyst for significant growth.'” [Washington Business Journal]
Amazon Effect on Real Estate — “While the average sales price in Northern Virginia stayed steady at $565,000 in January, according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, the number of homes under contract rose by 70 percent compared with January 2018, and the number of homes for sale fell by 20 percent year-over-year. Limited availability of homes drives prices higher.” [Washington Post]
More Details on Rosslyn Holiday Inn Plan — “New renderings also show that the [Rosslyn Holiday Inn redevelopment] is set to include a ‘public gallery,’ providing an east-west connection through the property between Fort Myer Drive and N. Nash Street. The space would be bookended by public plazas and provide access to the development’s retail offerings.” [Washington Business Journal]
ACFD Safety Initiative Kicks Off — “Beginning Sat., April 6, 2019, and continuing through Sat., Oct. 5, 2019, Arlington County firefighters will be going door to door offering home safety checks to include inspecting smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms and giving relevant fire safety tips.” [Arlington County]
Va. AG Sues Over Trump Wall — “‘President Trump is flagrantly disregarding the law in his quest to justify his fake national emergency and build a needless border wall,’ said Attorney General Herring. ‘He is trying to unlawfully divert resources that law enforcement agencies in Virginia and around the country need for their actual work, and his larger plan could threaten half a billion dollars in military construction projects around Virginia.'” [Blue Virginia]
Late last week, a mini legal bombshell dropped: Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion that Arlington County can, in fact, initiate a renaming of Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) within its borders.
After years of unsuccessfully pushing for state legislation to allow it, the Arlington County Board can now just go ahead and pick a new name for “J-D Highway” and ask the Commonwealth Transportation Board to make it so, bypassing the change-resistant General Assembly.
Herring’s opinion came at the prompting of local state legislator Del. Mark Levine (D), who cheered Arlington’s newfound ability to request the removal of the Confederate leader’s name from the main thoroughfare through Crystal City and Pentagon City.
Thrilled that @AGMarkHerring, in a formal opinion to me, has confirmed that Arlington County can change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway without going through the Virginia legislature.https://t.co/d8hMUITCi1
— Mark Levine (@DelegateMark) March 22, 2019
County Board Chair Christian Dorsey told the Washington Post that he expects the Board to move forward with a renaming.
So what should Route 1 now be called as it runs through Arlington? The obvious option is Richmond Highway: that’s what it’s already called in Alexandria and what Google Maps has unilaterally decided to label it as of January.
Of course, there will also be those who think that Jefferson Davis Highway should remain named as such, for old time’s sake. And still others may want a completely different name — Jeff Bezos Highway, anyone? (Just kidding.)
What do you think?
Jill Caiazzo, the chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, penned an email to the party’s mailing list Sunday (Feb. 10), in the hopes of buoying spirits dampened by recent revelations about Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring.
While any one of the state’s top three elected Democrats could yet resign — Northam and Herring for admitting to wearing blackface as young people, Fairfax over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women — Caiazzo sought to remind party faithful that “the 2017 election was never about one or two individuals.”
She joined the growing calls for Fairfax to step down late last week, after a second woman accused him of rape, and has already demanded that Northam step aside. But, with all 140 state lawmakers and a variety of local offices on the ballot this fall, Caiazzo is urging her committee to work to “have an impact in our own community.”
Her full email to the committee is as follows:
We are all struggling to deal with the disturbing news from Richmond. I have sat down to pen this email to you multiple times over the past week, only to have my sentiments overtaken by the latest news cycle. I do not know how these controversies will end.
ARLINGTON DEMOCRATS’ ROLE IN NAVIGATING THIS CHALLENGE
But as I said at our monthly meeting on Wednesday, I do know that Arlington Democrats have a role to play in moving our community forward through these difficult times. We may not be able to affect the outcomes of the dramas happening in Richmond, but we can have an impact in our own community. We can reject hate and support sexual assault survivors. We can channel our collective anger that issues of racism and sexual assault still plague us into finding positive solutions for the manifestations of these issues in our own community.
We also can remember that the 2017 election was never about one or two individuals. It was about a movement of grassroots activists of all backgrounds and ages rising up to provide a badly needed course correction for our country. The rise of progressive activism was the central victory of the 2017 election. No subsequent controversy, however hurtful, can take that victory away from us. Only we have the power to do that — only we can decide whether we will allow this heartbreak also to break our activist spirit.
TOO MUCH TO ACCOMPLISH TO GIVE UP
To that question, Arlington Democrats, I say NO. I will not allow the failings of individual leaders to dampen my activist spirit. I cannot — there is simply too much work to be done to achieve a fairer, safer and more prosperous Commonwealth. The stakes are too high. As in early 2017, I am once again picking myself up and dusting myself off. Two steps forward, one step back: it’s time for the heart of the Democratic Party — its local activists — to keep moving forward again.
In that spirit, and mindful that Democrats must re-earn the trust of voters and volunteers that has been lost over the past few days, I respectfully invite you to join me at several upcoming events, detailed below. Some are organized by Arlington Democrats; others are community events. Now more than ever, we need both: to lead in our own right, and to meet our neighbors where they are. I hope that you will join me in the struggle to lead our Party, our community, and our Commonwealth forward.
Caiazzo is referring both to previous listening sessions held by activists on both race and sexual assault, and to some upcoming community discussions on the county’s history with Nazism and school desegregation.
Meanwhile, the situation in Richmond remains unsettled.
Arlington Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) made headlines this weekend for threatening to introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax if he refused to resign, and circulated a potential resolution to start the process among his Democratic colleagues. But he backed off that threat this morning (Monday), writing in a statement that he is “open to discussions on other avenues” that would allow for a full investigation of the accusations against Fairfax.
My statement this morning – I remain committed to the victims first. pic.twitter.com/01xynHwOdj
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) February 11, 2019
Some reports have suggested that Hope faced resistance from within his own party for the move, particularly from members of the Legislative Black Caucus.
NEWS: A House Dem conf call grew heated last night when members of the legislative black caucus demanded @HopeforVirginia step back from trying to impeach @LGJustinFairfax, per 2 Dems familiar w the call.
Hence the Hope climbdown this am…
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 11, 2019
A third Va Dem, this one briefed on the call said none of @HopeforVirginia's allies spoke up. Members of @VaBlackCaucus, which has been steering much of the reax among Va Dems since last Fri, spoke first and that was that.
"It was a pre-set massacre," says this Dem.
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 11, 2019
The lieutenant governor is still telling reporters that he does not plan to resign, and is currently looking for an FBI investigation into the claims against him — one incident is alleged to have happened in Boston in 2004, the other in North Carolina in 2000.
Northam also gave some of his first interviews since the scandal broke with the news that a racist photo appeared on his medical school yearbook, saying that he is “not going anywhere” and pledging a renewed focus to racial justice in the remainder of his term.
Herring has been silent, and criticism has been markedly more muted of his conduct, after he voluntarily admitted to wearing blackface once while in college, and apologized.
“I should additionally note that I have not called for the resignation of Attorney General Mark Herring, despite my strong disapproval of his conduct at age 19,” Del. Mark Levine (D-45th District) wrote in a Sunday email to constituents. “Herring’s voluntary admission of his blackface representation of a rapper, his lack of racist intent and his profound apology all seem sincere to me.”
However, Levine did note that he is one of just a few voices calling on Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3rd District) to step down, after reports that he edited a college yearbook that was filled with photos of students in blackface and racial slurs. Norment has denied any knowledge of the photos.
Photo via Facebook
County Democrats and local activists are planning a series of community forums to talk through the issues of race and sexual assault that have roiled Virginia politics for the past week.
With all three of the state’s top Democrats — Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring — now mired in scandal, many within the party are searching for a way forward. There’s no telling whether any or all of the group will resign, leading to quite a bit of uncertainty at the top ranks of the party’s leadership.
In the meantime, the county’s Democratic Committee is planning two “listening sessions” covering some of the matters at the heart of the scandals in Richmond.
The first will focus on “racial equity” and will be held tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street S.).
The revelation that a racist photo appeared on Northam’s medical school yearbook page, and the governor’s subsequent admission that he once wore blackface, kicked off the current crisis plaguing state government. Herring’s admission yesterday (Wednesday) that he too once donned blackface added further fuel to the political fire.
The next listening session will focus on sexual assault, after a college professor accused Fairfax of assaulting her in Boston in 2004. The lieutenant governor has faced a bit less pressure to resign than Northam, but some have started to ramp up calls that his accuser deserves to be heard.
The event will be held on Sunday (Feb. 10) at 6:30 p.m. at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).
A group of local activists also plan to hold a listening session to discuss the Northam controversy and its “implications for those who want to be allies in the fight for racial justice,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
The event will include four panelists, and will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd) at 7 p.m. on Friday (Feb. 8).
Photo via Facebook
Democrats across Virginia have been shocked by yet another scandal today (Wednesday), after Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he also once donned blackface at a college party.
Herring called a sudden gathering with the General Assembly’s Legislative Black Caucus this morning to deliver the news, then released a statement to that effect shortly afterward. Herring said he dressed up in a wig “and brown makeup” in order to imitate a rap artist when he was in college, explaining it was due to a “callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others.”
“It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then,” Herring wrote. “That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt.”
His admission comes as politicians of both parties continue to press Gov. Ralph Northam to resign for similar reasons, after the discovery that a racist photo appeared on the governor’s medical school yearbook page and Northam’s subsequent admission that he once wore blackface rocked the state capitol. The man in line to replace Northam should he step down, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, has become mired in scandal as well since then, as a woman has come forward to accuse Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004.
The attorney general’s disclosure leaves the state’s top three elected officials in limbo — should all three resign, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would be in line to become governor.
Herring said in his statement that he would have “honest conversations and discussions” about whether he’d seek to stay in office, as both Northam and Fairfax have so far sought to do. Herring joined virtually all of the state’s Democrats in calling on Northam to resign soon after the discovery of his yearbook page, but other Democrats have yet to demand that the state’s top lawyer step down with the same speed that they called for Northam’s job.
Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine expressed shock and surprise at the revelation when reporters questioned them about it this afternoon.
SEN. WARNER reacts to the news coming out of Virginia, saying he’s “shocked and disappointed” by what he’s heard thus far about the Attorney General.
“This has been an awful week for Virginia,” he said for the first time on camera since the Gov. Northam news broke last week. pic.twitter.com/ruucjbGTHx
— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) February 6, 2019
.@timkaine on Herring: "I am shocked and saddened to learn of this incident. This revelation throws salt in a wound opened wide in recent days."
— Jenna Portnoy (@jennaportnoy) February 6, 2019
Other state lawmakers have yet to comment on Herring’s admission, including Arlington’s delegation or local Democratic committee.
The news could also torpedo Herring’s nascent campaign for governor — he’d already announced plans to run for the top spot in Virginia politics in 2021, and earned the early endorsement of local Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) a few weeks ago. Hope did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Herring’s admission.
Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) is swearing off campaign contributions from Dominion Energy and calling on his fellow Democrats to do the same, becoming the latest in a line of state lawmakers to reject money from one of Virginia’s only regulated monopolies.
Hope announced at his annual pancake breakfast Saturday (Jan. 5) that he’ll now stop accepting campaign cash from the electric utility, according to a video posted by the Democratic blog Blue Virginia. Hope has accepted $9,500 from Dominion since he was first elected back in 2009, but decided to stop doing so as he gears up to run for a sixth term in office this fall.
“I’ve heard from a lot of my constituents that the perception that you’re taking money is influencing your vote, whether it’s true or not,” Hope told attendees. “I can’t give enough speeches to convince my constituents that I’m voting not because they gave me a check, but because it’s the right thing to do. And I’m tired of making that speech over and over.”
Hope added that “every single Democrat that’s running for office should make that commitment” to refuse Dominion dollars, and many around the state already have.
Dominion has long been one of the top political donors in the whole state, yet politicians of both parties have increasingly argued that members of the General Assembly shouldn’t accept money from a company they’re charged with regulating — just last year, lawmakers oversaw an extensive rewrite of the state’s regulatory authority over electric utilities like Dominion.
The activist group Activate Virginia brought a focus to the issue during the last round of state elections in 2017, eliciting a pledge from dozens of Democrats running for the House of Delegates to refuse the company’s money.
Some of Arlington’s legislative delegation also followed suit, including Dels. Mark Levine (D-45th District), Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) and Rip Sullivan (D-48th District). Lopez, like Hope, did previously accept Dominion contributions in the past, taking in about $4,500 since he was first elected in 2012.
The county’s three state senators, however, all still take thousands from Dominion. Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) has accepted $50,000 from the company over the course of her long career, while Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) has taken in $9,500 and Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District) has pulled in $12,500. Local Democratic activist Nicole Merlene even recently launched a primary challenge against Favola, calling for a ban on contributions from state-regulated utilities as part of her campaign.
But Hope sees a sea change coming in Virginia politics on the issue. Attorney General Mark Herring became one of the most senior Democrats in the state to refuse Dominion cash when he announced he wouldn’t accept any of the company’s money as he ramps up a campaign for governor for the 2021 cycle, and Hope “wholeheartedly” endorsed the former Loudoun state senator’s nascent bid to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam.
“I’m going to take the same commitment he made because I don’t want him to be the only one there making it,” Hope said, with Herring in attendance.
PREDICTION: there will never be another statewide Democratic candidate for office that accepts money from Dominion. https://t.co/kjjgYfJoAL
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) January 5, 2019
Northam himself rolled out a series of campaign finance reform proposals today (Monday), officially announcing his support for a ban on all corporate campaign contributions. Unlike 2017 primary rival Tom Perriello, Northam accepted nearly $73,000 in contributions from Dominion over the course of the gubernatorial campaign, but he pledged to push a ban on corporate cash once he was elected.
However, unless Democrats win an uphill battle in convincing the Republicans controlling both chambers of the General Assembly to embrace such a change, Northam plans to continue accepting such donations for his political action committee.
“Until we’re able to do that, I will continue to operate in the existing landscape,” Northam told reporters.