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My Time Working for Hugh Hefner (RIP)

Editor’s Note: Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died last night at the age of 91. Arlington resident Buzz McClain, a writer and communications professional, was a regular contributor to Playboy for two decades. Below, McClain shares a brief recollection of his time at Playboy.

From 1992 to 2012 I did a monthly home entertainment column on the movie pages of Playboy. I would review several B-movies or direct-to-tape (later, direct-to-disc) films, with the occasional A-list movie.

There are few bigger thrills than getting your first paycheck with an embossed “bunny head” on it signed by Hugh Hefner’s daughter, Christie. (Hef led the way in empowering women; his daughter was chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises. His considerable philanthropy for women’s rights and free speech is largely unnoticed, and he liked it that way.)

Hef was probably the world’s biggest movie fan, with his every-Wednesday night screenings of new movies at the Mansion for his close friends and buying one of each of just about every film that became available at retail. And he watched them! No pressure on the critics, right?

Only once in 20 years did he change the “bunny head rating” on a review of mine, bumping up “Superbad” (2007) from 3 to 3.5 bunny heads. I’m OK with that.

Somewhere in the house I have an autographed copy of “Hef’s Little Black Book” he sent for my birthday. I was hoping it was his personal phone book (ahem), but it turns out it was his rules for living a full and meaningful life. No doubt that was the better option.

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Op-Ed: Cancer Claims About Artificial Turf Fields Not Based on Science

Athletic field at Long Bridge Park

The following op-ed was written by Michael Peterson, a board-certified toxicologist at Gradient, an environmental and risk sciences consulting firm. He serves as scientific adviser to the Recycled Rubber Council

Given some concerns that have been raised over recycled rubber infill in artificial turf fields by your publication (“Time To Re-Examine Artificial Turf Fields,” 4/21/16), I wanted to lend a scientific perspective to the conversation to clear up some misconceptions.

Recycled rubber is the most commonly used infill — the shock absorbing layer — in artificial turf fields, and as the author states, recent reports have suggested it poses significant health risks. The actual science performed on the issue, however, shows that such fears are unfounded.

Based on the lack of citations, it is unclear if the evidence the author points to has been peer-reviewed by other scientists, a critical component in establishing scientific credibility.  The linked Change.org petition generally only cites news reports, and not reputable scientific journals or regulatory reports.  On the other hand, there have been more than 90 peer-reviewed studies, reports, and evaluations from academics, state health departments, and third-parties that have concluded that the best available evidence support that chemical exposures associated with recycled rubber are below levels associated with health effects.

So while it is certainly true the EPA (and two other federal agencies) are doing a comprehensive study of recycled rubber, many local and state governments have already weighed in, and among them, the Connecticut Department of Public Health in 2015 found “no scientific support for a finding of elevated cancer risk from inhalation or ingestion of chemicals derived from recycled tires used on artificial turf fields.” In short, the author’s suggestion that the federal government will conclude otherwise lacks any scientific basis — in particular since EPA’s preliminary study in 2008 did not find that chemical exposures were of concern.

Children’s safety should be placed above all else, but when making decisions about Arlington County’s fields, unsubstantiated fears shouldn’t undermine science. The best available science indicates recycled rubber does not pose health concerns.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Op-Ed: Scaled-Down County Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility Should Proceed

North Arundel Aquatic Center in Glen Burnie, Maryland, which is similar in scale to what is being proposed by the author's committee

The following op-ed was written by Tobin Smith, Chair of the Long Bridge Park Citizen Advisory Committee. Smith is also a past chair of the Arlington Park and Recreation Commission.

Earlier this week, the Long Bridge Park Citizen Advisory Committee, which I chair, recommended that the County proceed with designing a new aquatics, health and fitness facility at Long Bridge Park.

This is not an attempt to revive the large aquatics center that was shelved by the County in 2014 after construction bids far exceeded the bond funds authorized by Arlington voters in 2004 and 2012. We have learned many lessons from that. The current proposal is one-third smaller and more modest. It should have a more sustainable design and less ambitious energy-saving systems. It should be bid and built with much stronger controls on costs. And perhaps most importantly, not a dime more should be spent for this project than what voters already approved. Additional features should only be added if they meet a clearly identified community need and if an outside sponsor/partner is willing to bear the costs.

The scaled-down facility would feature two pools: a 50-meter pool for lap swimming, fitness and competition and a multipurpose leisure/training pool for family fun and swim lessons/classes. It would also include ample space for exercise equipment and fitness activities, which generate revenue to offset costs. The facility our committee envisions is comparable to those enjoyed by residents of many neighboring jurisdictions, including the District and Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Loudoun and Anne Arundel Counties.

Besides the aquatics and fitness facility, the project known as Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park includes 10 more acres of parkland for informal recreation and community gatherings; extension of the esplanade, rain gardens, public art, and parking. The authorized, available county funds for all this totals $64 million. Based on staff estimates, the hard costs for construction of the facility we are recommending should be about $44 million of that.

Our committee’s recommendations were based on extensive community engagement. Several hundred Arlingtonians provided input at the County Fair and other events. Over 1900 responded to an online survey. A statistically valid, countywide recreational needs survey found that aquatics resources ranked as the highest indoor recreational need for over 60 percent of Arlington households. Additional indoor fitness and exercise spaces also got substantial support.

Our committee also found that despite the recent improvements of Arlington’s three high school-based community pools, the Department of Parks and Recreation is not able to meet Arlington residents’ demand for county-sponsored aquatic programs such as learn to swim classes and senior water aerobics. County staff report that in the last two years, the number of aquatics class participants has grown 24%. Nearly 40% of those who tried to register for these classes have been waitlisted. Arlington’s expected population growth will make the wait lists even longer in the future. Moreover, because our existing pools are used for school instruction, they are unavailable for seniors and other community users during school hours.

The facility we recommend will be able to accommodate a wide variety of aquatics and fitness programs and activities for Arlingtonians of all ages and abilities. Such consolidated, community-run facilities have the added benefit of achieving economies of scale that maximize cost recovery, compared to the performance of much smaller neighborhood or school-based pools.

Some will say that Arlington should not build a new recreational facility right now because other county needs are more pressing. They will say that the recreational needs so clearly identified can wait, or are “wants” rather than “needs.” I disagree. As our population rapidly expands, we have a responsibility to provide ample opportunities within Arlington where our kids can learn to swim, where our county-sponsored swim team and Arlington-based water sports teams don’t have to travel elsewhere to practice and compete, where seniors can get vital exercise, and where families can exercise, recreate and play together when kids are not in school. We need to catch up with our neighbors and provide ample recreational and fitness opportunities for all parts of our population if we are to maintain Arlington as an attractive community in which to live.

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Op-Ed: Letter To NoVa Communities Concerned About Gun Stores

Don Beyer (courtesy photo)The following op-ed is an open letter written by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).

The arrival of two new gun stores in Northern Virginia in close proximity to families and schools set off a wave of concern from constituents. First, NOVA Firearms opened near Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean.  Then NOVA Armory opened its doors in Arlington’s vibrant Lyon Park neighborhood. Almost every person who contacted me expressed strong opposition to gun stores at these locations.

Thanks to Virginia’s Dillon Rule, state control preempts local authority. In these cases, it means Arlington and Fairfax Counties cannot prohibit these stores from opening, regardless of the overwhelming will of local families and schools. The power to stop this from happening rests with a gun-friendly General Assembly, which has refused to help, despite the efforts of Northern Virginia’s delegation in Richmond.

It is difficult to reassure constituents that the federal government can help them when Congress has spent a decade undermining oversight of gun dealers by the agency tasked with inspecting them: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Over time the gun lobby and its allies in Congress have deliberately limited the enforcement capability of the ATF, using “appropriations riders,” restrictions snuck into must-pass spending bills that are meant to force a change in policy. The gun lobby has used appropriations riders to prevent the ATF and other law enforcement from properly regulating the sale of guns and investigating illegal gun purchases. Limits on trace data could be used to crack down on bad apple gun dealers, but use of trace data has been blocked by Congress. These tactics jeopardize the oversight ability of the ATF and potentially put our communities in danger.

Yesterday I introduced a bill, the ATF Enforcement Act, to undo these restrictions on the ATF’s enforcement authority. The bill would also remove the requirement that the ATF’s Director be confirmed by the Senate. Since 2006 lawmakers backed by the gun lobby have refused to confirm the nominees of both Democratic and Republican presidents. Only one Director has been confirmed in the last decade.

My bill would repeal these restrictions on the ATF and let them do their job of inspecting gun dealers and preventing criminals and people who are legally barred from owning guns from acquiring them.

It is not the role of the federal government to intervene in local zoning, but we can at least make sure that the federal entity charged with regulating the sale of guns is able to do so properly, without the insidious roadblocks which Congress has put in their way.

Whether or not you agree with their trade, most gun dealers are law-abiding. It is nearly impossible, however, to discipline or prosecute the ones which break the law in the current environment, even the ones who repeatedly supply guns used to commit crimes.

The ATF Enforcement Act will not solve the problem of gun violence or wipe away the objections which so many have expressed against these gun stores. If it passes, however, it will at least help the ATF hold them accountable.

Congress tells ATF to protect the public from criminals who commit crimes with guns, but simultaneously hampers their enforcement capabilities. It’s hypocrisy of the worst kind, and innocent people die because of it. I’m putting forward this legislation to call the gun lobby’s bluff and give ATF the tools it needs to effectively protect our communities.

Congressman Donald S. Beyer Jr.
Virginia’s 8th Congressional District

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