Arlington, VA

You might have trouble trying to reach Arlington County via phone today.

The county government has been experiencing technical difficulties with its phone lines since earlier this morning.

“We are currently experiencing intermittent disruptions to some of the County’s call center numbers and are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” says the county’s website.

“Try the appropriate email addresses off arlingtonva.us for now,” advised Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services.

Update at 12:40 p.m. — The phone issue “has been resolved.”

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Police are looking for a man who broke a window at a fast-food restaurant along Lee Highway last night.

The incident happened around 11:30 p.m. on the 5000 block of Lee Highway, according to Arlington County Police. The restaurant is not named but that block is home to a Wendy’s.

“Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect, who was a passenger in a vehicle in a drive thru line, became irate while waiting for his order, exited his vehicle and threw a cell phone at the window of the business, causing damage,” ACPD said in a crime report. “The suspect re-entered the vehicle and fled prior to police arrival.”

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The second time was not the charm for a robbery victim who was trying to get his stolen property back.

Police say they were called to the area of Penrose Square, along Columbia Pike, around 3:15 p.m. this past Friday for a report of a theft. The victim told officers that he tried for confront two men who previously stole his phone, but during the confrontation the pair stole his iPad.

To add insult to injury, the suspects allegedly shoved the victim as he attempted to call police, before then fleeing the scene. So far, no arrests have been announced.

The full Arlington County Police crime report item is below.

ROBBERY, 2020-01170195, 2500 block of 9th Road S. At approximately 3:14 p.m. on January 17, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim made contact with two subjects who previously stole his phone. He attempted to confront them to retrieve his phone, however, during the encounter, the suspect stole the victim’s iPad. When the victim attempted to call police, the suspects pushed the victim and fled. Suspect One is described as a black male, with long black dreads, about 5’8″, medium build, late 20’s years old and wearing a blue jacket. Suspect Two is described as a male, homeless, possibly from Pakistan, in his 40’s, about 6’2″, with a skinny build, short black hair and wearing a green jacket. The investigation is ongoing.

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Morning Notes

NAACP Slams APS Diversity Czar Process —  “The Arlington school system’s effort to appoint a diversity czar has run into a buzzsaw of criticism from the county’s major civil-rights organization. The two co-chairs of the Arlington NAACP’s education committee took to the Dec. 5 School Board meeting to complain that the selection process was leaving out many of those the position is designed to support.” [InsideNova]

Snow Likely Overnight — “Temperatures are poised to leap to near 60 degrees Tuesday, and it won’t feel at all like it could snow. But, in a flash, that will change. An Arctic front charging to the East Coast will switch our weather from fall-like to winterlike in a matter of hours, setting the stage for possible wet snow overnight Tuesday into early Wednesday morning.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

Yorktown in Xmas Choir Competition — “Vote Now! The @yhschoir is a finalist in 97.1 WASH FM’s Christmas Choir Competition. The top prize is $5,000!” [Twitter, WASH-FM]

Local Bus Routes on Chopping Block — Metro is considering cutting or restructuring a number of local bus routes as part of its new, proposed budget. Among the Arlington bus routes that could be cut are the 5A, 16G, 22A and 22C. [WTOP]

Wardian Attempts Elvis Record — “Local ultramarathoner Michael Wardian has unfortunately failed to re-capture the world record time for the fastest marathon run while dressed as Elvis.” [Canadian Running]

Letter: County Shouldn’t Rescue Fallen Phones — “I question whether retrieving personal property is really an appropriate use of Arlington County resources. It must have cost significantly more than the value of the phone to provide the personnel for the recovery effort. As an Arlington County taxpayer, I resent that.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Hospital CEO Retiring Next Year — “Virginia Hospital Center President and CEO Jim Cole is stepping down after more than three decades with the organization. Cole, chief for 25 of his 35 years with the Arlington hospital, announced his retirement internally Monday. It’s set to take effect Sept. 1, 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Crew Rescues Phone from Storm Drain — “So they got specialized shovels. And then the guy GOT INTO THE DRAIN and dig through the leaves, following the pinging and vibrating and found the phone! The phone was at 1% power when it came out. Still can’t believe it. Above and beyond. Kudos to Arlington County.” [Facebook/Arlington DES]

Bijan Ghaisar 911 Call Released — “Police in Arlington County, Virginia, have released part of a 911 call that set in motion a chase that ended when U.S. Park Police shot and killed Bijan Ghaisar in 2017… a caller tells Arlington County police that she is an Uber passenger whose ride-share was just involved in a crash, and the other driver, Ghaisar, has left the scene.” [WTOP, Fox 5]

It’s Giving Tuesday — Among the local nonprofits to consider donating to today, on Giving Tuesday, are: Doorways for Women and Families, Melwood, Arlington Thrive, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Arlington Food Assistance CenterOffender Aid and Restoration, the Arlington-Alexandria Gay & Lesbian Alliance, and Culpepper Garden. [Twitter/@ARLnowDOTcom]

Del. Alfonso Lopez Named Co-Whip — “Majority Leader-elect Charniele Herring has appointed key leadership positions within the House Democratic Caucus. The whips and policy chairs will help guide the new Democratic majority through the 2020 legislative session.” [Press Release]

Ballston BID Holding ‘Cupcake Wars’ Event — “Join BallstonConnect Club and Cookology for a fun and interactive day of cupcake baking and decorating. Based on the popular Food Network show of the same name, guests will compete to create the most unique cupcake and take home the title of Cupcake Champion!” [Ballston BID]

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A man yelling at an employee in a Rosslyn business did not take kindly to a patron filming the encounter on a cell phone, according to an Arlington County Police crime report.

The incident happened on the 1900 block of Fort Myer Drive — the same block as the Holiday Inn hotel — around 7 a.m. this past Saturday.

“The suspect entered a business and allegedly began acting disorderly, engaged in a verbal dispute with an employee and damaged property,” police said in the crime report. “The suspect then observed a patron filming him, struck the patron with a closed fist and stole their cell phone.”

“The suspect fled the business and threw the phone, causing it to break,” the crime report continues. “Arriving officers located the suspect still in the vicinity of the business. Olubunmi Osinuga, 36, of No Fixed Address, was arrested and charged with Robbery, Destruction of Property (<$1000) and Destruction of Property (>$1000). He was held on no bond.”

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Faster wireless networks may be coming soon to a street near you, thanks to a new vote from the Arlington County Board.

The County Board approved an ordinance change to allow wireless carriers to install the small-cell technology needed to deploy 5G on public property. This paves the way for carriers to begin installing the necessary antenna systems on light poles throughout the county.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey said he was excited for 5G’s possibility to enhance emergency services by letting paramedics diagnose problems while still in the ambulance, and making it easier for people to connect with doctors through telehealth conferencing, among other new possibilities.

“To me it’s those kinds of things that make it worth our pursuing this,” he said. “Not for the faster speeds on our on our smart phone.”

The decision comes after a year of discussions in Arlington and state legislation from Richmond encouraging the technology.

Nate Wentland, the county’s chief business technology officer shared how the wireless technology is about 20 times faster than the current 4G networks, allows more people to connect to it, and would allow more Smart City technology like telehealth and autonomous vehicles.

Dorsey added that the “appreciated” the dozen residents who took to the podium to express concerns over possible health effects from exposure to the radiation.

“This is something that we have our eyes wide open about,” he said. “We want to measure the impact.”

Several residents criticized the plan during Tuesday night’s meeting out of concerns over possible health effects from the antenna radiation. Residents in neighboring jurisdictions have also raised concerns about the issue.

“We’re all basically guinea pigs,” said one resident.

“I don’t believe it’s unreasonable to ask the county how it plans to mitigate that risk,” said independent Board Candidate Audrey Clement.

But officials pushed back on the health concerns, saying that widely-accepted science finds no harmful effects from 5G technology. Wentland cited research from the FCC, the FDA, the CDC, and the American Cancer Institute that radiation from small cell technology is not known to be carcinogenic.

Board Member Erik Gutshall said that if new evidence arises demonstrating negative health effects from the technology the county “has the opportunity to protect ourselves and terminate [the license] with the public interest.”

Vendors (like AT&T or Verizon) that want to install the small cells will have to foot the $9,000 bill for the tech and the new pole, but Arlington County will own the pole. VDOT turned down proposal for traffic signals because of concerns about visibility.

Under the county’s listening agreement with cell carriers, the county will require radiation emission testing from a independent party for each pole 60 days after installation, and can request additional testing any time afterward. County Manager Mark Schwartz told residents that the data from these tests will be shared publicly.

Vendors will also have to sign a 10 year agreement with the county to install the tech, with the option of a five-year extension. Arlington will require them to pay a one-time $250 administrative fee to the state, an annual $270 fee to the county, and cover any utility costs.

“We are becoming a center for innovation and high technology with the advent of… Amazon coming here,” said Jonathan S. Adelstein who heads the Wireless Infrastructure Association and is a former FCC Commissioner.

“We need that capacity and residents here expect the highest quality of wireless services,” said Adelstein, who lives in Bellevue Forest. “I think it adds to property values here.”

The county has issued 75 permits allowing companies to install the antenna system on private property as of March 2019, per a staff presentation to the Board.

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Morning Notes

Amazon and Local Real Estate — “Amazon has yet to break ground in Northern Virginia for its second headquarters, but residents are already turning away persistent speculators, recalculating budgets for down payments on homes and fighting rent increases.” [New York Times]

Low Young Adult Home Ownership — “Arlington ties with Richmond for the lowest home-ownership rate among young adults in the commonwealth, according to a new analysis… only 16 percent of young adults living in Arlington were homeowners – perhaps not surprising given the cost of real estate in the county.” [InsideNova]

HQ2 Helps Va. Rank as Top State for Business — “CNBC has named Virginia America’s ‘Top State for Business’ in 2019. CNBC unveiled Virginia as the top state for business [Wednesday] morning during a live broadcast from Shenandoah River State Park, and Governor Northam was on location to discuss the announcement.” [CNBC, Gov. Ralph Northam, Twitter, Arlington Economic Development, Washington Business Journal]

Amazon Information Meeting — Officials from Amazon and Arlington County discussed the company’s HQ2 plan and its approval process at a public meeting near Shirlington last night. [Twitter]

More on 5G in Arlington — “Arlington is preparing its commercial corridors for the next generation of mobile broadband technology — 5G. The impact? Mobile download speeds for movies, video games, apps and more up to 100 times faster than today.” [Arlington County]

County Seeking Volunteers for Disaster Drill — “The County is seeking volunteers to participate in Capital Fortitude, a full-scale emergency exercise designed to evaluate the National Capital Region’s ability to dispense medication quickly in response to an anthrax attack. From 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, July 19, Arlington will join 24 jurisdictions around the region in hosting a Point of Dispensing (POD) exercise.” [Arlington County]

Flood-Damaged Road Reopening — “Update [on] July 10… Crews expect to have one lane of 18th St N between N Lexington St and N McKinley Road reopen to traffic this evening. Repairs to the other lane set for completion tomorrow. 20th St N at George Mason is [reopened] with minor repairs still pending.” [Twitter]

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Has the following happened to you?

You’re in a car, bus or on a bike, waiting at a traffic signal. The traffic light turns green, but a driver in front of you doesn’t budge. Other drivers honk, and you see the perpetrator hurriedly putting down a phone and mashing the gas pedal.

Anecdotally, it happened to one ARLnow employee every single day last week.

Needless to say, distracted driving (or distracted non-driving) is bad. It’s first and foremost incredibly dangerous to you and those around you. It is also infuriating, particularly at rush hour as those behind you are trying to get home and safely make it through short turn signals and green lights.

It sends a message: what’s taking place on my phone is more important than you, your time and your safety.

It is, however, not entirely illegal — Virginia’s existing texting-while-driving law applies to use of the phone in a moving vehicle, not when legally stopped. This year Virginia’s legislature failed to pass a more expansive bill, though it did pass a bill prohibiting phone use while driving through highway work zones.

We’re wondering: have you experienced what’s described above? And do you think it’s getting better or getting worse?

File photo

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This year, half of all calls to your mobile phone could be robocalls, according to predictions by call protection company First Orion. And ARLnow wants to know: have you noticed more robocalls to your phone?

There were 27.2 million robocalls placed to 703-area-code numbers in March, per call tracker YouMail, and 13.2 million calls to 571 numbers.

That’s up from 17.2 million robocalls to 703 numbers in March of last year, and 8.5 million calls to 571 numbers.

One Arlington resident who’s definitely getting spammed with robocalls is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver set up a robocall system to call Pai every 90 minutes and leave a voicemail urging him to take action to reduce robocalls.

First Orion’s prediction that robocalls will make up half of all cellphone calls was based on an analysis of 50 million calls which showed an increase from 3.7 percent of cellphone calls were robocalls in 2017 to 29.2 percent in 2018.

It may be a reason why one analysis of monthly calls by caller ID provider Hiya found people now only pick up their phone about half the time it rings.

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If you ever wanted to refresh your Twitter timeline or text a selfie while on a Metro train under the Potomac River between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, that is now a viable option.

Metro announced Wednesday afternoon that it and the four major wireless carriers had completed wiring the tunnels between Rosslyn and Metro Center and between Rosslyn and Ballston for mobile voice and data service. Also online: a stretch of Green Line tunnel between College Park and Fort Totten.

The three tunnel segments that are now mobile-ready are in addition to six other tunnel segments that are already online in D.C. and Maryland, as part of Metro’s effort to add wireless service for all of its 100 miles of tunnel track. The effort, which will also eventually wire the Blue and Yellow line tunnel between the Pentagon and National Airport, is expected to wrap up by mid-2020.

More from a WMATA press release:

Today Metro and the nation’s leading wireless carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless announced that more than half of Metro’s tunnels are now wired for cellular and data service. The milestone was accompanied by the formal announcement of three new tunnel segments coming online as “wireless ready.”

The three new “wireless ready” tunnel segments announced today are:

  • Orange Line and Silver Line between Ballston and Rosslyn (5.6 track miles)
  • Blue Line, Orange Line and Silver Line between Rosslyn and Metro Center (4.8 track miles)
  • Green Line between College Park and Fort Totten (7.4 track miles)

The new tunnel segments will undergo ongoing testing and optimization by the wireless carriers to address any performance issues and ensure reliable service for customers.

Cellular service is currently available in all Metro stations and on portions of all six Metrorail lines, including most of Downtown DC. Just over 50 of Metro’s 100 miles of tunnel track have been wired for the new system, with new underground segments coming online as the work is completed. Cellular service in all tunnel segments is expected by mid-2020.

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