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?
The Arlington County Board members voted last night to give themselves the ability to raise their pay by more than 50% next year.
Currently, Board members are paid $55,147 annually while the Board Chair is paid $60,662. Board members set a salary cap for their jobs every four years and last night voted for a significant hike.
The Board voted to “set the new cap at 100 percent of the Individual Area Median Income for the Greater Washington Region, or $89,851 for a Board Member and $95,734 for the Board Chair.” The new salary cap will take effect Jan. 1, 2020, but the Board has to take a separate vote to actually set their salaries.
More from a county press release:
“It is important to underscore that the Board’s action today sets a new salary cap, but does not increase Board salaries,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. “The Board will not consider an increase in salaries in this calendar year, and whether we consider an increase in our salaries in 2020 will depend greatly on the overall outlook for the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. “While it is awkward for the Board to have to vote to increase its own maximum salaries, state law leaves that responsibility to the Board,” Dorsey said. “We have not voted to increase the salary cap since 2011, and if we did not do so today, we would not be able to, under state law, for four more years. I support increasing the salary cap because I believe it will encourage more people, from varied economic backgrounds, to think about serving on this Board.”
Under state law, the Board may set a new maximum salary only once every four years, when 40 percent of the Board (two members) are standing for election. Dorsey and Board Member Katie Cristol are both up for re-election in November 2019. Any increase in salaries under the new cap would require separate Board action.
Board members, in their discussion of the proposed salary cap increase, noted that Board salaries are below the average salaries of jurisdictional comparators, and currently are at the level of 64.9 percent of Individual AMI for the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Metro Area for a Board Member.
The Board heard from 223 people who took an online survey that asked respondents to indicate what salary level they thought was appropriate for members of the County Board and provide comments on the Board’s consideration of setting a new salary cap. The Board also received messages from more than three dozen residents on the proposed increase in the salary cap. The Chair sent letters to every civic association in the County, and community organizations, seeking their input through the online survey, and the County included a link to the survey in “Inside Arlington,” the County’s weekly e-newsletter, which has 135,000 subscribers.
The Board was considering setting the cap even higher — up to $135,312 for the chair, commensurate with the area median income for a family of four.
Arguments in favor of a pay raise for the County Board center around the belief that being a Board member for a prosperous county of 230,000 residents has become a full-time job, even if the position is technically considered part time. Being a County Board member, proponents argue, shouldn’t just be an option for the well heeled, and even a $90,000 salary isn’t high for leaders of a county with a $1.4 billion budget.
Arguments against the pay raise mostly assert that the Board has willfully made their jobs full time, when really it should function as more of a part-time, decision-making body supported by full-time county staff.
What do you think of the pay raise?
Now that she has defeated incumbent Theo Stamos, Tafti is likely to have the opportunity to keep her campaign promise while in the prosecutor’s office.
More from the candidate’s website:
Between 2013 and 2018, the current Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office prosecuted over 3200 cases of simple marijuana possession. African-Americans are at least 8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite the fact that studies show that different racial groups use marijuana at about the same rates. Marijuana should be the subject of civil regulation, but we should put our limited prosecutorial resources to better use focusing on serious crimes. Parisa will not prosecute simple possession of marijuana and support decriminalization and legalization, with appropriate government regulation.
The Arlington Green Party supports that stance, penning an open letter just before primary day calling for Stamos to “stop prosecuting people caught with small amounts of marijuana in Arlington.”
“Arlington police and prosecutors should concentrate on crimes of violence and significant felonies, and not waste our public dollars jailing and prosecuting mostly youth caught with a marijuana cigarette,” the party said in an email.
What do you think?
(Updated at 9:25 a.m.) Summer is great. Warm weather, cookouts, swimming pools — everything.
Well, not everything. There are some downsides to summer in Arlington, of course. It’s hot and swampy, mosquitos abound, frequent storms ruin your outdoor plans and, thanks to all those summer vacations, there’s less going on and less excitement.
Of the above, which is your least favorite part of summer here in town?
By popular demand, we’re adding the following poll about your favorite parts about summer in Arlington.
Kaine Event at Federico’s — Updated at 8:55 a.m. — “On Monday, May 13, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will hold a roundtable in Arlington with fair housing advocates to discuss the work ahead to ensure equal access to housing for all Americans and address discrimination that LGBTQ Americans continue to face as they search for homes.” The event is now being held at 9 a.m. at Federico’s Ristorante Italiano (519 23rd Street S.) in Crystal City, per an updated media advisory.
Amazon Hiring for Alexa Job in Arlington — Among other open job positions for Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington, the company is now hiring a “Principal Product Manager” for its Alexa Experience team. [Amazon]
Puppy Recovering from Pike Crash — “Earlier this week Yoda ran into oncoming traffic after escaping his leash. I ran after him in attempt to save him, which resulted in both of us getting hit by a car. I am okay but Yoda was not so lucky. He has two major fractures in his back leg which lead him into surgery. He is resting but having a difficult time.” [GoFundMe]
Satisfaction with Metro Rebounds — “Metro’s reputation in the region has improved dramatically in the past two years and has almost reached the positive levels it enjoyed before a fatal smoke incident in 2015, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll… A 68 percent majority of Washington-area residents rate Metrorail positively, up from 42 percent in 2017. In 2013, 71 percent had positive ratings of the subway system.” [Washington Post]
Post Endorses Tafti — The Washington Post has endorsed challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti over incumbent Theo Stamos in the Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney primary. [Washington Post]
SoberRide Record for Cinco de Mayo — “Nearly 800 (792) persons in the Washington-metropolitan area used the free safe ride service, SoberRide, this Cinco de Mayo as opposed to possibly driving home drunk.” [WRAP]
(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Last month Arlington County announced that it would stop recycling glass collected curbside.
The decision, which only applies to the county’s residential recycling pickup and not to offices and apartment buildings, was explained as a matter of economics — it’s more expensive for the county to recycle glass than it is to incinerate and dispose of it in a landfill.
While recycling glass does save energy, it doesn’t save much compared to the more efficient aluminum, steel, paper and cardboard recycling processes. The cost to recycle glass isn’t worth the marginal energy savings, some say.
While there’s logic in that argument, some locals don’t like the idea of sending a recyclable material to landfills.
“If a community gives up glass, it is admitting defeat in the face of readily available alternatives,” said the writer of a letter published in the Sun Gazette.
The county does have an option for those who want their glass to be recycled, though it requires extra time and energy:
Alternatively, people can dump their glass at one of two designated drop-off locations — at Quincy Park (N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd) or the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street) — which carts it to Fairfax County for an experiment in paving roads with smashed up glass.
In a Facebook live chat yesterday, Erik Grabowsky, chief of Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau, said the public outreach process about change is still ongoing and Arlington will continue collecting glass in recycling bins through the end of July.
The county has not been recycling glass residents placed in blue carts, according to Peter Golkin, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Services. Instead, it was being pulled at the material recovery facility and trashed.
“By putting glass in the black carts, it goes to Covanta where it’s melted (not incinerated) with trash and those results are landfilled, saving the whole transportation/sorting issues with the recycling process that does also have an economic aspect,” Golkin said, in an email.
What do you think about the county no longer recycling glass?
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.
Hey, FCC! It's ringing! pic.twitter.com/kGcnkyCs4g
— Last Week Tonight (@LastWeekTonight) March 11, 2019
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.
It was an April Fools’ Day joke, but an interesting one.
"The Rosslyn-Georgetown Zipline will provide a direct link for commuters and visitors who want a faster connection across the Potomac River and fills a gap in our regional transportation network," said BID President @MaryClaireBuric. (2/3) https://t.co/NeKyMs1eBd pic.twitter.com/ERbPcDsoOA
— Rosslyn, Virginia (@RosslynVA) April 1, 2019
Putting aside questions about feasibility — for instance, is it a good idea to have a zip line running across a major airline and helicopter flight path? — an argument could be made that a zip line would be a fun local activity and tourist attraction.
If this was a real proposal — again, putting aside whether it could actually work — would you be in favor of it?
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.
Thrilled that @AGMarkHerring, in a formal opinion to me, has confirmed that Arlington County can change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway without going through the Virginia legislature.https://t.co/d8hMUITCi1
— Mark Levine (@DelegateMark) March 22, 2019
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?
Over the weekend, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to approve an incentive package that will help bring Amazon and its expected 25,000 or so jobs to the Pentagon City and Crystal City areas.
The approval followed impassioned public testimony from about 100 speakers.
Those in favor of the incentives, which include an estimated $23 million over 15 years from an expected rise in hotel tax revenues attributable to Amazon’s presence, says it’s a small price to pay for one of the biggest economic development prizes in a generation. Amazon, proponents say, will bring thousands of good jobs to the area and act as a magnet for other employers considering their next destination.
Those against the incentives say sending any tax revenue to one of the world’s largest companies, led by the world’s richest man, is a particularly egregious form of “corporate welfare.” That’s doubly so given Amazon’s oft-criticized treatment of its warehouse workers and the effect the company is having on brick-and-mortar retailers, critics say. Also, Amazon’s arrival may bring with it higher housing prices that could push out lower-income residents.
In the end, the Board decided that the benefits outweighed any potential negatives. Do you think they made the right decision?
Hope: No Impeachment Filing Yet — Updated at 9:50 a.m. — Del. Patrick Hope (D) says he’s delaying filing articles of impeachment against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is facing two accusations of past sexual assaults. “An enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback… has led to additional conversations that need to take place,” Hope said. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]
More Trailers for Arlington Tech — “Students coming into the Arlington Tech program at the Arlington Career Center for the next two years may find themselves spending more time in trailers than they had thought, and more time than School Board members are happy about.” [InsideNova]
State Split on Northam’s Fate — “Virginians are deadlocked over whether Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should step down after the emergence of a photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page depicting people in blackface and Ku Klux Klan garb, with African Americans saying by a wide margin that he should remain in office despite the offensive image, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.” [Washington Post]
Beyer on Face the Nation — “Democratic Virginia Reps. Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton renewed their calls for Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax to step down over their respective controversies” on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday morning. [CBS News]
Local Chef on CBS This Morning — Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse made an extended appearance on CBS This Morning Saturday, talking about his food, his restaurants and how his aunt inspired his love of cooking. [CBS News]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk