Arlington, VA

Anyone familiar with ARLnow and our little corner of the digital media universe knows that we have a prolific comment section.

Voices from every spectrum of the community can be seen weighing in on local topics, often just minutes after an article on any given topic publishes. Driving the comment section is a community of regular commenters that has developed over time, and one of the leading voices in that comment community is Dave Schutz.

Dave is an Arlington resident who’s active in civic life and has a political bent that one might call middle-of-the-road. He is noted for being one of the few commenters to use his or her real name in the comments.

Dave has some signature opinions that he shares often — that the county should acquire the two country clubs that reside in Arlington, and their extensive acreage, for instance. But aside from a couple idiosyncratic takes, Dave can often be described as a voice of reason in the midst of heated discussions — he helps, to some degree, to keep comment threads focused and civil, and to make the comment section more of a community.

We talked with Dave about the comment community on ARLnow, about our comment moderation, and about his opinions on various topics — a unilateral audio comment section, of sorts.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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If the Avengers were a local enterprise, Chris Slatt would be the Guardian of the Arlington Transportation Galaxy.

Slatt serves as the Chair of the Transportation Commission and has a steel trap memory for county transportation projects — and the politicking behind why some never happened.

He’s weighted in on toll enforcement, infrastructure planning, and he’s organized everything from a protest for bicycle safety on the Pike to the cutest free library in Penrose with tools to fix your bike.

For this episode of the 26 Square Miles podcast, we sat down with Slatt to talk about why the Columbia Pike-Crystal City streetcar never took off, what Amazon means for local public transportation, and what it would really take to build safe bike routes across the county.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

Photo via Jas Sanchez Photography

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Podcast: Chef Mike Cordero

Mike Cordero is one of the most prolific restaurateurs in Arlington.

He’s the man behind local hotspots like Don Tito, The G.O.A.T., Barley Mac, Bronx Pizza and soon — The Bronson and Taco Rock. Also, you might have seen him cruising the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in his Bentley.

On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked with Cordero about his background, the success of his restaurants, the partnerships that helped build that success, and his new concepts.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

Courtesy photo

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On his last day on the job, we sat down with outgoing ARLnow managing editor Alex Koma to talk about Arlington, Amazon, ARLnow, our new editor Airey, and a bunch of other topics that don’t start with the letter “A.”

Alex is now reporting on real estate development at the Rosslyn-based Washington Business Journal, but you can hear from him on this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast. For more about his new employer, check out last week’s episode with WBJ Editor-in-Chief Doug Fruehling.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn. We used some new recording equipment this go-round, so please forgive the resulting audio glitches — we’ll try to get them ironed out prior to the next episode.

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Doug Fruehling has had a two-decade career with the Washington Business Journal, assuming the top newsroom job of the Rosslyn-based publication in 2009.

As editor-in-chief, Fruehling has been overseeing WBJ’s coverage of Amazon’s forthcoming HQ2 in Arlington. On the latest 26 Square Miles podcast, Fruehling discussed the ramifications of Amazon coming to “National Landing” and how the subscription-based Business Journal has managed to expand its coverage in the face of news industry struggles.

Also discussed: WBJ’s hiring of current ARLnow editor Alex Koma.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn. We used some new recording equipment this go-round, so please forgive the resulting audio glitches — we’ll try to get them ironed out prior to the next episode.

Photo via Washington Business Journal

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Podcast: Del. Patrick Hope

The state legislature is now in session and among those representing Arlington in Richmond is Del. Patrick Hope (D).

In an interview over the phone from his office at the state capital, Hope discussed his decision to refuse donations from Dominion, the state incentives offered to Amazon, his bill to limit solitary confinement in state prisons, why the effort to rename Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington is stalled, and more.

At the end, Hope surprised us with a very candid answer to the question of whether he’s running for reelection this year.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Amazon’s arrival in Arlington has been hailed as a massive boon for the county and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

But are the incentives offered to the company worth the economic development benefits it promises to bring? We discussed Amazon and the HQ2 process with Michael Farren, a researcher at GMU’s Mercatus Center who studies the effects of government favoritism toward particular businesses.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Facebook has been making headlines lately for all the wrong reasons, so we checked in with Justin Bensan, Social Communications Specialist at the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, to talk about what’s going on in the world of social media.

This episode was recorded prior to Amazon’s HQ2 announcement, but we asked Justin about what it means for a place like Rosslyn nonetheless.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Local nightlife king Scott Parker is branching into fitness, launching BASH Boxing with fitness instructor and manager Alex Trakas.

We asked Parker and Trakas about their new venture, which officially opens on Friday, Nov. 16 in Rosslyn and is also coming to Ballston Quarter mall. We also talked with Scott about the state of the local bar scene and about that time the Washington Capitals brought the Stanley Cup to Don Tito in Clarendon.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

Courtesy photo

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Arlington’s lone County Board race this fall has largely been a genteel affair so far, but Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti is sharpening his attacks on incumbent John Vihstadt’s record, claiming the independent hasn’t done enough to address the county’s high office vacancy rate.

County officials of all stripes have long identified Arlington’s challenges filling vacant office space in corridors like Crystal City and Rosslyn as a prime reason that the county’s tax revenues have shrunk, squeezing its budget and creating a whole host of challenges for the county government.

Accordingly, both Vihstadt and de Ferranti have made the issue a central one for their respective campaigns, particularly because whoever wins a spot on the Board will likely need to wrestle with a budget that includes tax increases to tackle those revenue challenges.

Yet the Democrat has pledged a laser focus on the issue in recent debates and forums, and the Committee of 100 Board debate on Wednesday (Oct. 10), moderated by ARLnow’s Scott Brodbeck, was no exception. De Ferranti even went a step further to critique Vihstadt’s handling of the vacancy rate since he first won a special election four years ago, when he became the first non-Democrat on the Board since 1999.

“It’s been at 20 percent for four years,” de Ferranti said. “We need to bring it down and make it our priority to bring it down… and we need new vision to bring down that vacancy rate.”

Vihstadt pointed out that the county has successfully lured major companies during his tenure, with few bigger than Nestle and Gerber, in addition to smaller firms like trade associations and tech companies.

He added that he remains committed to “business and tax base diversification” to address the office vacancy rate as federal tenants increasingly go elsewhere, noting that “we’re not just a company town anymore.”

“We need green tech, med tech, cybersecurity and so forth,” Vihstadt said.

De Ferranti agrees on that point, but noted he’s been discussing the prospect of luring those industries to Arlington since his successful primary campaign this spring, charging that Vihstadt was coming to that particular talking point a bit late in the game.

“I’m glad that we’re both mentioning now, clean tech, green tech, energy efficiency technology,” de Ferranti said. “Those are the right fields, but we should’ve identified those four years ago.”

The spat over the office vacancy rate also carried over to perhaps the most contentious topic in Arlington at the moment: whether Amazon’s potential arrival in the county should be welcomed, or feared.

Vihstadt, as he has for months now, struck a cautious tone on the matter, noting that the county winning HQ2 would be a “mixed bag” in terms of its impacts on Arlington.

“We need to confirm the purported positives of this development coming to Arlington, but we also need to be mindful about addressing mitigants and negatives,” Vihstadt said.

De Ferranti acknowledged that caution is warranted, given the myriad ways in which the sudden arrival of 50,000 Amazon workers could disrupt the county’s housing market and strain its infrastructure. But he was also considerably more bullish on how the company could solve the very problem he spent so much time discussing, should Jeff Bezos follow through on the rumors and tab Crystal City for his second headquarters.

“With a vacancy rate of above 20 percent in Crystal City, we can’t turn it down,” de Ferranti said. “Count me as someone who says, we have conditions, but we have to move forward. That’s not to say your anxieties, and all Arlingtonians’ concerns on this, aren’t relevant, but eventually you have to take a position. My position is we need to ensure there are net benefits…but we also need to have a solid plan before we sign on to anything.”

You can listen to the entire debate on this week’s edition of the 26 Square Miles podcast.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Podcast: Unsuck DC Metro

The Metrorail system has been “rebuilding” for years and now has a dedicated stream of funding. On top of that, its general manager just received a big vote of confidence from the Metro board: a new contract and a sizable raise.

So why does Metro still kind of suck?

On today’s 26 Square Miles podcast we talked with the semi-anonymous creator of Unsuck DC Metro, a blog and Twitter account that is perhaps Metro’s biggest and most vocal critic.

We talked about Paul Wiedefeld’s new contract, his adversarial relationship with Metro’s main union, the system’s new railcars and more — and tried to arrive at an explanation for why Metro is in its current state.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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