It’s Groundhog Day — Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, suggesting that we’re in for six more weeks of winter. The meteorological scolds at the Capital Weather Gang, however, think the prognosticating groundhog is wrong and that spring may arrive early. [Capital Weather Gang, Accuweather]
More Details on Nestlé Deal — Landing Nestlé is a huge win for Arlington County, for Rosslyn and for 1812 N. Moore Street owner Monday Properties, which stuck to its plan of keeping the skyscraper’s top floors empty as it awaited a big tenant. As part of the deal, Monday will put the company’s logo on two sides of the building, will nix a restaurant space to build a separate entrance for Nestlé’ employees, and will “more than double the size of the building’s wellness center to include space for spinning, yoga and pilates.” [Washington Business Journal]
Towing Bill Fails in Senate — A legislative effort to sandbag Arlington with state-mandated towing regulations that are friendlier to towing companies has failed in the state Senate. But a similar bill is still alive in the House of Delegates. [InsideNova]
Library Tells Story of Stratford Desegregation — Arlington Public Library is launching “a unique online exhibition and searchable database – built from thousands of photos, documents and recordings – surrounding the legal and moral battles that culminated with four courageous African American students taking their seats on Feb. 2, 1959 at Arlington’s Stratford Junior High School.” Dubbed “Project DAPS,” the collection will debut Feb. 25. [Arlington County, Project DAPS]
Catholic Diocese Launches New Website — The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has launched a new website. The new bishop, Bishop Michael Burbidge introduced the redesigned website in a video. [Catholic Diocese of Arlington, YouTube]
Arlington Men’s Club Turns 10 — Arlington has a “secretive and haphazardly organized” group called the Men’s Development Club. The club, formed 10 years ago, is basically an excuse for dads to get out of the house and drink beer with other dads. [Falls Church News-Press]
Photo courtesy Alexis Fedoroff
Earlier this month, Arlington Public Schools relaunched its website with an updated design and new technology.
There are still some minor bugs evident — many older links to specific pages on the site are not working — but for the most part the transition appears to be complete.
Here’s what APS said about the relaunch, in a press release.
The multi-year redesign will relaunch the APS website with improved functionality and technological integration for the future.
After a rigorous search, APS selected local vendor Materiell to custom-build the new website using the WordPress platform, which was chosen for its adaptability to new technology, and its potential for future development as an open-source platform.
APS invited staff, families and the community to provide feedback in three rounds of user testing over the past year; the most recent was completed mid- April. Their comments and suggestions have been incorporated into the site functionality and design
When the site launches, it will feature:
- an intuitive user interface
- seamless integration with our back-end systems
- improved video and social media integration
- an elegant new design
Among other features, the APS homepage now includes academic highlights from the previous school year at the bottom of the page.
Lawmakers Ask Gun Store Landlord to Reconsider — Seven state legislators who represent Arlington have written to the landlord of a planned gun store in Lyon Park, asking her to reconsider the lease. The letter cites Virginia’s 1990s reputation for being the “gun-running capital of the East Coast” and says the new store, which is located near a private preschool and daycare center, “could be the site for potentially nefarious and illegal activities.” [Washington Post]
Three Arlington Bars Make D.C. Dive List — The website UpOut has compiled a list of “10 Ridiculously Cool Dive Bars in Washington D.C.” Among them are three Arlington favorites: Galaxy Hut, Cowboy Cafe and L.A. Bar and Grill. [UpOut]
More Millennials Coming to Arlington? — In Arlington, 35-40 percent of the population is of the Millennial generation. That makes Arlington one of the most Millennial-heavy places in the country. But the county’s demographer doesn’t think the county’s Millennial boom has peaked yet. “Whether Millennials choose to stay or leave Arlington could have a major impact on schools, since the bulk of that population group has not yet embarked on creating families,” notes the Sun Gazette. [InsideNova]
Memorial Bridge May Close in Five Years — After years of deferred maintenance, the 84-year-old Memorial Bridge is in such bad shape that the National Park Service could be forced to close it by 2021 unless it can get funding for a $250 million complete reconstruction. [Associated Press, Twitter]
Where You Might Bump into an Arlington Trump Voter — Chris Slatt has again compiled some interesting Arlington election data into map form. Slatt’s maps show Democratic turnout by precinct, Republican turnout by precinct and the population density of Donald Trump voters — the highest concentration of which are along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. Separately, another sage election watcher, Carrie Johnson, estimates that 5,500-6,000 voters who usually vote Democratic in Arlington voted Republican in Tuesday’s presidential primary, thus in part explaining why John Kasich and Marco Rubio outperformed here compared to the rest of the state. [InsideNova]
New Rosslyn-Based Online Publication — Rosslyn continues to cement its reputation as Arlington’s media hub. ABC 7 (WJLA) parent company Sinclair Broadcast Group is launching “D.C. Refined,” a new online-only local culture magazine. The publication will “fall under the umbrella” of Rosslyn-based WJLA. [Washington Business Journal]
More Metro Delays — A disabled train outside of the Farragut West Metro station produced big delays for those heading into Virginia via the Orange, Silver and Blue lines this morning. [Twitter]
Local Credit Card Holiday Spending — Arlington residents are charging an average of $718.43 on credit cards for holiday gifts this year, estimates the website Nerd Wallet. While that seems like a high number, collectively those in Arlington buying holiday gifts without using a credit card are missing out on $138,846.46 in rewards points, the website says. [Nerd Wallet]
Arlington Still Tops for Va. Tourism — Arlington remains the top tourism destination in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The county attracts more than 6 million people who spend nearly $3 billion here and generate some $81 million in local taxes annually. The tourism industry accounts for about 25,000 jobs in Arlington. [Arlington County]
County Unveils New Online Calendar — Arlington County has rolled out Arlington Today, a new and improved calendar of local events. First up this morning on the calendar: a performance by The Rocking Chairs, the “in-house band” of the Lee Community and Senior Center. [Twitter]
Local Startup Raises $16 Million — Want to start a company in Arlington that can raise big bucks? Do so in the cybersecurity field. Data security software maker ThreatConnect, which recently moved from Shirlington to the Ballston area, has raised $16 million in a new round of funding. [DC Inno]
Arlington Recognized as Bike Friendly Community — Arlington has been named a Silver-level “Bicycle Friendly Community” for the third time since 2007. We’re one of 75 communities in the U.S. to achieve that rating. [Arlington County]
This responsive website design allows mobile users to easily read our articles without having to zoom in and out. It also reduces mobile load times for readers.
While we kept key features on mobile, like our swipe-able photo galleries and Disqus comments section, mobile users may find it a bit more difficult to navigate to some of our pages — like our event calendar or real estate listings — which are now accessible via a mobile menu (button, top right).
Also, in the interest of faster load times and quicker navigation, the homepage now only displays excerpts from articles instead of the articles themselves with photos and full text. Some tablet users have told us they prefer seeing the full homepage.
What do you think? If you’ve checked us out on mobile in the past two weeks, please let us know what you think of the experience below. Also, please use the comments to offer any specific suggestions or requests you might have regarding mobile functionality.
Artisphere Executive Director Left in Feb. — Jose Ortiz, executive director of Artisphere, quietly left the position in February. Ortiz is now working as the deputy director of the Bronx Museum in New York City. Artisphere programming director Josh Stoltzfus, meanwhile, has been promoted to acting executive director of the cultural center, which is on the county’s budgetary chopping block.
CivFed: No Tax Hike — Members of the Arlington County Civic Federation approved a resolution this week urging the County Board not to approve any increase in Arlington’s real estate tax rate. Fiscal conservatives on the Civic Federation argued that the county has plenty of reserves and surpluses to tap without the need to further tax struggling homeowners. [InsideNova]
Planning Comm. Rejects Wilson School Historic Status — Arlington’s Planning Commission on Monday voted to oppose a historic designation for the Wilson School in Rosslyn, by a vote of 5-4. That follows the School Board’s unanimous vote again a historic designation for the school, which was built in 1910 but was subsequently renovated significantly from its original form. The school system says trying to preserve parts of the school would require additional time and expense as it plans to build a new facility for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program on the site. [InsideNova]
Urban Igloo Debuts Clarendon Page — Local apartment matchmaking service Urban Igloo, an ARLnow.com advertiser, has debuted a number of neighborhood information pages, including one for Clarendon. The company says its recently revamped website makes it “one of the first real estate companies to take an online hyperlocal approach to connect renters to specific neighborhoods.” [Urban Igloo]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Arlington County is preparing to launch its new website homepage.
The new website has been in the works for awhile. Based on open source WordPress software, the new system will reduce the cost of development and upkeep, and make it easier for employees to update web pages.
A number of sections of the county’s website have already been updated, including Water and Utilities, Budget, Real Estate, Police, Fire, Sheriff, Voting & Elections and Housing. The homepage, environment page and trash and recycling page are up next.
“We expect the new homepage to go live by the end of the month,” Arlington County spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith told ARLnow.com.
A new county-produced video (above) explains some of the changes. Advantages of the new site for residents include a simpler and more mobile friendly interface, better navigation (around topics instead of county departments), fewer links on the homepage and a better search system.
New, easy-to-use features of the site include the ability to quickly find the parks closest to you and finding out whether certain items can be recycled.
The county recently asked residents to participate in an online survey to gauge how user-friendly the website is. Arlington has kept its essential blue-and-white color-scheme, but changed the layout of the site to make it easier to navigate for residents and less focused on county government’s hierarchy.
The site will use the open-source content management system WordPress, and is designed to respond to frequent resident tasks — such as paying parking tickets and checking in on building construction — right from the home page.
The typeface is considerably larger than the current website, while there are distinctly fewer items on the homepage, streamlining it for the most common uses. The new design is expected to be implemented by the end of the year.
Screenshot via Arlington County
The site is being built in phases, according to county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith. The first components of the project — some interior portions of the website — should be launched in “the next couple of months.” If all goes well, the rest of the project is expected to be complete — homepage and all — by the end of the year.
The new county website will built on an enterprise version of WordPress, an open source content management system utilized by tens of millions of websites, including ARLnow.com. By building on WordPress, instead of the current proprietary code, the county should be able to reduce the cost of development and upkeep, and make it easier for employees to update web pages.
Arlington County is also trying to improve the navigation of the site.
“We’re trying to make it more resident-focused, as opposed to county hierarchy-focused,” Smith said. “We’re pretty excited. I think it’s going to be a positive change.”
County staff have proposed making the code that’s custom-developed for its new website open source — in other words, freely available for other developers to copy and tinker with. The County Board is set consider a measure that would allow open source publishing at its meeting this Saturday.
“As new functionality and features are developed by County staff, in the spirit of the open-source community and open government, staff desires to release code developed by County teams under an open-source license, so that others may use and/or improve the code,” staff wrote in a report to the Board.
County staff says developing open source code would come with the following benefits.
1) Open and transparent government
2) Enhances the County’s attractiveness as a workplace; benefits recruitment of programmers who believe in open-source
3) The possibility of even more enhancements being available for County use. Arlington’s changes may inspire others to contribute as well.
4) Lower maintenance needed for code, if County contributions are accepted into the main distribution. If Arlington’s modifications are not shared, the County will have to ensure that any updates made by others and which County staff want to incorporate do not interfere with Arlington’s customizations.
“Website code is a large part of the open-source community because websites are so versatile and have become so easy to set up,” staff wrote. “County staff has found many open-source bits of code that will help the County’s website meet the County’s customers’ needs, and in some cases, staff can easily customize the code for an even better fit. Since the County is benefitting from someone else’s open-source code, staff members want to reciprocate and release County modifications back to the open-source community.”
Although it might sound like a security risk, Smith says allowing the public to view the county’s website code shouldn’t open the site up to illicit activity.
“It shouldn’t present any security risks,” she said. “There are many, many government sites running on open source code.”
Zimride, a company that connects long-distance carpoolers through Facebook, launched its “digital ridesharing” operation in the Washington area today.
Arlington residents looking for rides to New York can pay an average of $50 round-trip for a seat in another person’s car, according to Zimride’s Nick Greenfield, who described the concept as “non-creepy hitchhiking,” and the “long-distance version of slugging.”
Users match up with drivers and potential carpoolers by listing whether they smoke, their musical preferences and other personal details. The program first gained traction on college campuses as a way for students to more easily afford travel.
Now, the company is hoping to attract users in Arlington by opening up the site for Northern Virginia to New York road trips.
At least one Arlington resident has posted a ride for this weekend to New York. For $80 round-trip, “Clinton L.” is offering to drive passengers to Manhattan in his Infiniti FX45.
“[I] drive around 90 mph on the highway [and] listen to electronic dance music,” Clinton L. wrote. “Will take a total of 4 people… to ensure the comfort of all passengers.”
Arlington County has launched a new website for residents and businesses. The site, Building Arlington, is being billed as a “one-stop shop for your Zoning, Permitting, Plan Review, Inspections and Code Enforcement needs.”
Building Arlington is an effort to simplify what the county admits “can be a confusing process.” For those looking to build a house, an addition, a store, or a new commercial building, the site offers the following features:
- “Simplified design and content in a centralized location to find all Zoning, Inspection Services and Code Enforcement information.”
- “Information uniquely relevant to our customers; whether you are a resident, business owner, contractor, developer or design professional.”
- “Accessible on mobile devices from anywhere. Browse permit requirements, schedule inspections and zoning regulations via your smartphone, tablet or other devices.”
- “Popular project content that explains the process and requirements to start and complete common building projects.”
- “Resource library & keyword search so you can quickly access forms, applications, checklists and links to topically related resources.”
- “Question & answer section for ‘commonly asked questions’ about development services.”
- “Email sign-up for latest news on changes to zoning, codes and regulations.”
OpenArlington encourages residents to give their opinions on specific topics introduced by a county moderator. The first question — “What would make it easier for you and others to engage with Arlington County Government?” — has so far drawn five responses from residents.
In addition to suggestions about having an “Arlington County Ombudsman” or finding better ways to engage with those who do not have a computer, there have also been off-topic requests to fix a specific street light, for better traffic light synchronization, and for traffic control at Kenmore Middle School after events like school concerts.
OpenArlington is part of County Board Chair Mary Hynes’ PLACE (Participation, Leadership and Civic Engagement) initiative, which she announced at the beginning of the year. Hynes says the online forum will be monitored by county government and Arlington Public Schools officials, and will help make civic involvement “easier and more effective.”
“Through PLACE, we are trying new ways of reaching out to the community, hoping to hear great ideas from people about how we can work together more effectively,” Hynes said in a press release. “OpenArlington makes it easy for people to join the conversation, share their ideas, and see what others are saying.”
General Assembly Votes to Lift Gun Purchase Limit — The Virginia General Assembly has voted to lift the state’s limit of one gun purchase per month. The limit, which has been in place since 1993, was intended to reduce gun trafficking and gun-related crimes. Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents part of Arlington, said lifting the limit could turn Virginia into a “gun-runners’ paradise.” [Washington Post]
Arlington’s Triple-AAA Rating Reaffirmed — Arlington has once again received a top AAA rating from each of the three major bond rating agencies. “With these ratings, the County will be able to continue making critical capital investments at the lowest possible cost to residents and businesses,” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan. [Arlington County]
Library Launches New Web Site — Arlington’s library system revealed a newly-designed web site over the weekend. The new library site includes “fresher-looking pages… richer graphics… catalog browsing that might remind you of strolling the shelves… a friendlier study room reservation system… [and] a customized events calendar with more options to find what you want.” [Arlington Public Library]
New Leadership for BRAVO — The nonprofit Buyers and Renters Arlington Voice (BRAVO) has appointed a new Executive Director. Dennis Jaffe, a longtime community activist, says he’s looking forward to advocating for the rights and needs of tenants in Arlington County. “I have a personal mission… and that is to increase tenants’ connectedness to each other and to the Arlington community,” Jaffe said in a statement. Tenants make up about 57 percent of the Arlington County population, according to BRAVO.
The website offers one-stop shopping for residents seeking more information on winter weather preparations, winter weather safety tips, road condition and snow plowing updates, and answers to snow removal ordinance questions. The site also links to the county’s snow issue reporting page.
One of the new features introduced with the new portal is a “snow phase system,” which will designate how far along the county is in its snow clearing efforts after a storm. The page will indicate whether the county is in Phase 1, 2, 3, or 4.
Phase 1 is the “Alert” phase, when snow crews are pre-treating roads and residents are being encouraged to park their cars off-street, if possible.
Phase 2 is the “Primary Routes” phase, when the storm is in progress or has just concluded. In this phase, county and VDOT crews are working to clear primary and secondary roads only. Residents are encouraged to stay off the roads and help clear sidewalks during this phase.
Phase 3 is the “Residential Streets” phase, when crews are working to make residential streets passable while widening the clear path on primary roads.
Phase 4, the “Clean Up” phase, is when crews will focus on removing ice and slush from roads while using the sun as a tool for melting leftover snow.
Arlington County said it’s ready to respond should winter weather strike.
“When forecasters predict winter weather — snow, ice or freezing rain — Arlington’s plows and salt trucks are prepped and ready to go,” the county said in a press release. “Residents, at any time, can check the storm’s progress, track the County’s efforts to clear streets of snow, and learn how to best prepare for the winter weather. The current phase will be posted on the County web site and social media channels.”
GMU “Protest” Quiet, Peaceful — A protest last night against Nonie Darwish, an outspoken critic of Islam who was speaking at George Mason University’s law school, proved to be a peaceful, academic exercise. Students gathered in a classroom to hear Muslim speakers talk about the experience of practicing their faith in the United States at a time when many are suspicious about Islam. “They don’t want to see an America that’s diverse and pluralistic,” said one protest speaker. Darwish’s well-attended speech, meanwhile, focused on what she saw as the injustices of Islam, Sharia law and Jihad.
Post Looks at Favola/Merrick Race — Does Republican Caren Merrick have a chance to win in the redrawn, Democratic-leaning 31st state Senate District? The Post takes a look at the race between Merrick and Democratic Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola. [Washington Post]
New White House Chief Usher Has Local Ties — This week Angella Reid was appointed the new Chief Usher of the White House — in charge of the operation of the White House executive residence. Reid, who had been general manager of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City, is the first woman to assume the title. [BET]
Moran Gets New Website — Rep. Jim Moran has a brand new website. “The new Moran website improves accessibility to information that can help residents navigate and expedite the federal bureaucracy,” the congressman’s office said. “[The site] offers a straightforward format for residents to provide feedback on issues, learn of Moran’s policy positions and legislation, and find information on constituent services.” [Congressman Jim Moran]