Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

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]

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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.

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?

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(Updated Tuesday at 9:50 a.m.) The head of Arlington’s Democratic Party is urging local activists to “keep the faith” in the wake of the cascade of scandals plaguing top leaders in Richmond.

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.

Some reports have suggested that Hope faced resistance from within his own party for the move, particularly from members of the Legislative Black Caucus.

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

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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

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is warning that some voters are receiving calls falsely telling them their polling place has changed.

In a tweet this afternoon, VDEM said these calls are false, and that registered voters can confirm their polling place online.

The Arlington County elections office said it estimated turnout of 40 percent today at the polls, plus another 8 percent of registered voters voting absentee. That represents a slight slowdown from the noon estimate, when turnout was at about 31 percent at the polls.

Arlington County registrar Linda Lindberg told ARLnow earlier that the arrival of steady rain slowed turnout somewhat. But it still means Arlington is well on track to beat the final turnout of 49 percent in 2013, when Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Plus, a break in the steadier rain is expected as Northern Virginia residents start to leave work.

Earlier today, the candidates in today’s election hit the streets, making their final pitches to voters as they headed to the polls.

Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey tweeted a photo of her meeting voters alongside Erik Gutshall, the Democratic nominee for an open County Board seat and her one-time primary opponent.

Gutshall also tweeted a photo alongside Arlington School Board Democratic endorsee Monique O’Grady, while fellow School Board candidate Alison Dough has rolled out yard signs made by her children to try and swing voters her way.

A few of my favorite signs hitting the roads today… art work courtesy of my children – even the baby added hand-art 💕

Posted by Alison Dough on Sunday, November 5, 2017

Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement was out in the Fairlington neighborhood near the Abingdon precinct this morning, sporting a rain jacket and an umbrella while she greeted voters and passed out flyers.

On social media, Independent County Board candidate Charles McCullough shared photos of him out meeting voters across the county.

And Attorney General Mark Herring visited Arlington this morning as his bid for re-election entered its final hours. Herring tweeted a photo of him meeting potential voters at Bob & Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike, also part of the 49th House District, where Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) has faced a challenge from Republican Adam Roosevelt.

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Morning Notes

Birds and a plane (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Changes for Former Department Store? — The future of the former Kann’s department store on Fairfax Drive, which later became a law school and then became part of George Mason University, is being discussed by GMU and county officials. An earlier plan to raze the aging building and construct a new one fell through. [InsideNova]

Mentors Honored at County Board — A pair of “Connect with Kids Champions” were honored for their mentorship work with Arlington youth at Tuesday’s County Board meeting. [Arlington County]

Va. Joining Immigration Lawsuit — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced yesterday that Virginia plans to join a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration. “You’ve made Virginia proud today,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) in response to the announcement. [Virginian-Pilot, Twitter]

House Hunters Home for Sale — A townhouse in Nauck that was previously featured on the HGTV show “House Hunters” is back on the market. The home at 2553 Kenmore Court, in the Shirlington Crescent community, is listed at $824,900. The couple featured on the show, TV news producers Allison and David Gracey, bought the home in 2010 for $672,781, records show. [Zillow]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Wet leaves in early fall, in Fairlington

Major Traffic, Metro Woes — It was extremely slow going for commuters crossing the 14th Street Bridge this morning. Wet roads and a couple of crashes backed up traffic on I-395 and feeder routes for miles. Traffic issues were also reported on Columbia Pike, due to malfunctioning traffic signals at S. Queen Street. Meanwhile, a fire response at the L’Enfant Metro station and track issues on the Yellow Line bridge have resulted in speed restrictions and delays for Yellow Line riders. [Twitter, Twitter, Washington Post]

Waiting for Joaquin — Arlington County is keeping a close eye on Hurricane Joaquin, which some models are suggesting may have a big impact on the D.C. area. [Twitter]

Cristol Touts Endorsements — Following a snub by County Board member John Vihstadt, who endorsed her Democratic ticketmate Christian Dorsey and independent candidate Mike McMenamin, County Board candidate Katie Cristol is touting her own endorsements. “Twenty elected officials, comprising all of Arlington’s School Board, Constitutional Officers and Richmond delegation, and much of the County Board, today endorsed Katie Cristol’s campaign,” the campaign said in a press release Tuesday. [Katie Cristol]

Juror Qualification Process Begins — A random selection of Arlington and Falls Church residents are being mailed juror questionnaires, which will be used to qualify residents for jury duty in 2016. [Arlington County]

Attorney General Holds Arlington Newser — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced a new training initiative for police at a news conference in Arlington yesterday. The training is intended to help officers de-escalate dangerous situations, thus preventing the need to excessive use of force, while also recognizing potential biases they may bring to the job. Arlington County already conducts similar training. [NBC Washington]

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Rainbow flag(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) Local officials and politicians have spoken out in support of this morning’s historic Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states.

The 5-4 ruling was almost immediately decried by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, but others in the county have enthusiastically endorsed the landmark decision.

Board member Jay Fisette, who in 1997 became the first openly gay elected official in Virginia, said he was overjoyed by today’s ruling.

“I had absolutely no idea that this day would come in my lifetime — let alone while I was still in office,” said Fisette. “The Court’s action validates the lives of millions of Americans, reinforces the value of equality to our nation, and puts us in step with the civilized free nations on the planet.”

Board member Libby Garvey echoed Fisette’s excitement about the Supreme Court decision, telling ARLnow that she was delighted by the news and had “been exchanging happy texts this morning with my sister and her wife and other family.”

In a statement today, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring called the vote “an extraordinary moment in our nation’s recognition that Americans cannot and will not be denied dignity, rights, and responsibilities, including those of marriage, simply because of who they love.”

“I am proud we put Virginia on the right side of history on this issue,” Herring said, referencing the fact that gay marriage has been legal in Virginia since 2014. Herring held a press conference about marriage equality outside the Arlington County courthouse this afternoon.

Don Beyer, member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Virginia’s 8th district, also issued a statement this morning in which he applauded the Supreme Court and called the nationwide guarantee of marriage equality a “watershed moment in American history.”

“Gay rights are human rights and today we have ensured that all Americans, regardless of their sexuality, have the right to share the rest of their lives with the person they love,” said Beyer. “I could not be prouder to stand with my LGBTQ constituents and celebrate this incredible moment.”

Several of the area’s gay pride groups have upcoming events where residents can celebrate. The Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance is hosting a Pride Month Social this Sunday evening from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant (555 23rd St S.), and NOVA Pride has a SCOTUS Ruling Happy Hour scheduled for Monday night at A-Town Bar & Grill (4100 Fairfax Drive) from 5-10 p.m.

Arlington officials cautioned that this ruling only deals with one aspect of discrimination against the LGBTQ community, however. According to Fisette, the next big LGBTQ issue facing the nation is employment discrimination, and though some local governments — like Arlington’s — prohibit hiring discrimination on the basis of sexual identity, many still don’t.

“In most states, including Virginia, it is legal to fire someone simply because they are gay,” said Fisette.

Delegate Patrick A. Hope of the Virginia General Assembly agreed with Fisette, saying “Tomorrow, we must continue our efforts to end LGBT discrimination in other areas, such as in workplace, with the goal to treat every American fairly and equally.”

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Following a surprise U.S. Supreme Court decision this morning, a same-sex couple became the first to legally receive a marriage license and get married in Arlington.

Arlington Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson quickly approved the couple’s application for a marriage license, and the women then took part in a wedding ceremony outside the Arlington County Courthouse.

“It’s wonderful to be able to stand here today and perform this ceremony,” said Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles, a minister at Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, who has been performing same-sex unions for more than 20 years. “The Commonwealth of Virginia agrees with us that every person has worth and dignity and that love matters no matter what your sexual orientation is. We all have the right to be married to the person we love.”

Newlyweds Erika Turner and Jennifer Melsop both are 26 years old and live in Centreville. They have been together for four years and planned on getting married in the District next year. They traveled to Arlington immediately upon learning of the court decision this morning because they heard an officiant may be available to perform a ceremony. They had no idea they were the first same-sex couple to request a marriage license in Arlington until they arrived.

“Not everyone in the United States has this opportunity,” said Turner, referencing the states where same-sex couples still cannot legally wed.

Ferguson noted some changes to the state-approved marriage application.

“Now, instead of saying ‘bride’ and ‘groom,’ it says ‘spouse’ and ‘spouse,'” Ferguson said. “When we got the word this morning, we were not prepared for this. But we’re doing our best to prepare now and welcome anybody that would like a marriage license to please come to Arlington. At this point, we can process it in the next 15 minutes or so. But if we get big crowds there could be a little bit of a wait.”

Ferguson explained that same-sex couples now will go through the same process to request marriage licenses as all other couples. They can go to the sixth floor of the county courthouse, pay $30, fill out an application, take an oath and then get married within the next 60 days. No appointments are necessary and applicants are attended to on a first-come, first-served basis. The Commonwealth also will recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring spent part of the afternoon in Arlington to speak about the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex marriages in Virginia and four other states.

“This is the outcome that we have hoped for. It is the outcome we have fought for. And it is the outcome the Constitution requires,” said Herring to a crowd in front of the Arlington County Courthouse. “The rights and privileges of marriage, which are guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution, are now available to all loving, committed couples in Virginia.”

Herring explained that the court’s action would allow same-sex couples to adopt children, file joint tax returns, share employer benefits and make medical decisions for each other.

“Simply put, this ruling allows all Virginians to be full members of our society, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage,” he said. “A new day has dawned, and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution are shining through. All Virginians have a constitutional right to be treated fairly and to have loving, committed relationships recognized and respected, and to enjoy the blessings of married life. We should all be proud that our fellow Virginians helped lead us forward. This is a tremendous moment in Virginia history.”

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