Arlington, VA

Yesterday we told you about a new Clarendon cafe called This is Fine Coffee, but more importantly we told you about one of their signature drinks: an espresso, orange juice and caramel concoction called the Bumble Coffee.

It’s apparently popular in Eastern Europe, and fairly rare here stateside.

The immediate reaction in our office was that of horror upon hearing about an espresso drink made with OJ. But reporter Vernon Miles now swears by it, so much so that as this post is being written he’s en route to the office with several Bumble Coffees for a tasting by now-intrigued colleagues.

We were wondering how other Arlingtonians felt about this. Would you try a Bumble?

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We hope you enjoyed our series of locally-themed t-shirts available for the holiday season.

In case you missed them, check out our Clarendon Cheesecake Riot shirt, Gondola Now! shirt, South Arlington 4 Life shirt, Definitely Not an ARLnow Commenter shirt and Local Is Everything shirt.

Today, we’re going to show you some of the rejected shirt designs — and let you pick one to send to production. Here are the shirts that didn’t make the cut:

ARLnow logo shirt: It seems like kind of a no-brainer to produce a shirt with our logo on it. So we sent the logo to the designer with a note to “make this look cool… be creative!” The resulting design seemed, well, a bit like a t-shirt design from the early aughts. Maybe we’re wrong and it’s actually cool? We could potentially ditch the purple design elements on either side of the logo, if desired.

The Cheesecake Incident 2018: Continuing the theme of designing shirts that reference last year’s Cheesecake Factory incident in Clarendon and niche 1990s bands, we asked our designer to come up with a psychedelic design reminiscent of a String Cheese Incident tour shirt. It’s appropriately weird, but we weren’t sure it was distinctive enough to make the band reference clear.

Keep 23rd St. Weird shirt: We “borrowed” the rallying cry of businesses along the 23rd Street S. Restaurant Row in Crystal City and turned it into a shirt that looks kind of like those “Keep Austin Weird” shirts from Texas. It looks good, but it gave us pause to appear to be supporting any particular policy — in this case, preserving parking spaces for the businesses on a lot not owned by those businesses. Consider this shirt an expression of general support for local businesses on 23rd Street and for retaining some of Arlington’s unique and quirky places.

King of the North (Arlington): We really wanted to make this shirt design work to accompany the South Arlington 4 Life shirt. But after three rounds of revisions with our designers that came back disappointing and not sufficiently Game of Thrones-eque, we gave up. If you select this shirt, we’ll send it back for one last revision to add some color and maybe change the font. We might also make a “Queen of the North (Arlington)” variant.

Which of these designs should we revive and turn into a t-shirt for sale?

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An editorial in the Arlington Sun Gazette newspaper last week, on the topic of single-family zoning, seems to suggest that renters are ill-informed and should have less of a say than homeowners.

Those who live in Arlington’s single-family neighborhoods traditionally have dominated the direction of local governance. They are the ones who have controlled the selection of local officials and then, through activism, ensured public policy proceeds the way they desire.

But if Arlington’s 2019 election season taught us anything, it was that – given enough cash to barrage apartment-dwellers with campaign mailers of questionable veracity – it’s possible to sway those folks (who often have short-term interests in a community they do not plan to live in forever) to get out and vote in races that previously had been of purely local import.

“Be prepared: The ‘woke’ culture that was swayed to enact purported criminal-justice reform will be gunning for others – perhaps even single-family neighborhoods – next,” the editorial concludes.

The debate over whether the “Arlington Way” — the catch-all term for the county’s system of community engagement — advantages certain types of residents over others occasionally flares up in the halls of local government.

Generally, the most engaged tend to be homeowners, older residents and people outraged about a particular proposal. Renters, younger residents, those who are generally satisfied with local government but not passionate about it, and those busy with work and/or family are less likely to serve on commissions or wait to speak at Saturday morning County Board meetings.

In a democratic election, one vote counts as much as the other, but once elected, officials are able to set their own priorities. As seen in the Sun Gazette editorial, some feel that those who have invested in a community — homeowners — should generally be given more of a voice than those who haven’t put down roots.

What do you think?

Photo courtesy @dcaman

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Anecdotal as it may be, it seems that the Thanksgiving holiday has already started for a lot of local folks.

On the way to ARLnow’s office in Ballston during the peak of the morning rush hour, the usual backups on eastbound Wilson Blvd at N. Glebe Road were gone. So was the usual line at a certain chain coffee shop near the Ballston Metro station.

Ballston wasn’t a ghost town by any means, but there just seemed to be a modest reduction in the usual delays and hubbub. The same couldn’t necessarily be said for post-Express Lanes traffic on I-395, however.

That has us wondering just how early does Thanksgiving break start for our readers — when is the first day you’re taking off for the holiday?

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Our reporting yesterday about plans to eliminate Route 1 overpasses in Crystal City and replace them with more urban-style, at-grade intersections was greeted with some skepticism.

Though the idea of making Route 1 — also known as Richmond Highway — more of an “urban boulevard” as Amazon moves in may seem appealing at first glance, the prospect of crossing the busy commuter route to get to and from the Crystal City Metro Station, as opposed to just walking underneath as one can currently on 18th Street, elicited some strong opinions.

There is, as some have suggested, another option, though it would be considerably more expensive: send Route 1 underground instead and build something pedestrian-oriented on top.

As seen in the illustration above, the original 2010 Crystal City Sector Plan actually presented a vision of Route 1 below grade, with roundabouts and some green space on top, at least at one intersection. It’s not an outdated concept — sending highways below ground and putting parks on top is a noted, recent urban design trend.

And it doesn’t need to be a park. Perhaps a pedestrian promenade surrounded by retail, restaurants and entertainment options — like the popular Third Street in Santa Monica — would work as the area grows. It could extend all the way from 12th Street to after 23rd Street, becoming a hub rather than a hindrance between the Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods.

Undoubtedly, such a project would be expensive. And it would be disruptive in the short term. But would it be worth it, in your opinion?

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September will arrive this weekend, heralding the unofficial start of fall.

Yes, the actual season starts on September 23, but with pools closing after Labor Day, football being played, Oktoberfest beer being poured and Pumpkin Spice Lattes being brewed — well, it’s basically fall.

(Note: In an affront to summer, Starbucks launched its pumpkin spice beverages today. More like pumpkin spite, right?)

With the weather feeling a bit fall-like to start the week, we thought we’d ask: what part of September are you most looking forward to?

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Astronaut John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. He was also an Arlington resident for about 5 years.

The group Preservation Arlington points out that Glenn’s former home, a mid-century rambler near Williamsburg Middle School, is now for sale with the listing hinting — “the value is in the land,” it says — that it will likely be a tear-down. The property is listed for $1,050,000.

During the lead-up to Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 mission, reporters camped outside the house on N. Harrison Street and Vice President Lyndon Johnson tried to visit, but was rebuffed by Mrs. Glenn. After, Glenn continued working in D.C., and at one point hosted at his home a cookout with special guest Gherman Titov, the Russian who was the first human to orbit the earth, according to an Arlington Public Library history.

Glenn moved with his family to Texas in 1963, but his presence in Arlington is still felt. In 2012, the home’s owners told WUSA 9 that people still stopped by to gawk at the space hero’s former house. Glenn died in 2016 and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

There’s likely little that could be done to legally prevent the house from being torn down at this point, if that’s what the eventual buyer wants to do. But if you could call the shots regardless, what would you do? Would you allow the owner of the property to do whatever they want with it, or prevent demolition on the basis of the house being historic?

Photo via Washington Fine Properties

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Despite only being a few miles apart as the crow flies, some residents of Arlington and D.C. are reticent to date people who live in the other jurisdiction.

For some, it’s the perceived differences among people who live on opposite banks of the Potomac. For others, it’s more practical concerns: the distance makes Metro travel slow and Uber travel pricey.

Yet, cross-Potomac romances do happen, as sometimes a river is not enough to deter two people who feel a real connection.

How do you feel it?

Photo via Flickr/John Sonderman

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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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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?

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Throughout her Democratic primary campaign for commonwealth’s attorney, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti pledged to stop the prosecution of simple marijuana possession cases.

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?

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