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AIM board members addressing the public at a virtual meeting (via Arlington Independent Media/Zoom)

Updated 3/27 After an intense several weeks involving a county audit, a board president’s resignation and a mass layoff of all staff members, Arlington Independent Media is attempting to turn a new leaf.

The beleaguered nonprofit’s board members, now the only operational staff of the longstanding public access television and radio broadcaster, sketched out a tentative path forward yesterday (Monday) while fielding questions — and occasional accusations — from members of the public.

AIM is currently awaiting the results of an audit into the shaky finances that led the organization to terminate its entire staff — including the CEO — and elect a new president and treasurer last week. In the meantime, the board plans to seek more public support in the form of fundraising and volunteer efforts — a collaboration that leaders hope to earn through a renewed focus on transparency.

No matter what, Treasurer Amanda MacKaye told a Zoom room of about 40 attendees, AIM is not going anywhere.

“The Arlington County Board is not interested in shutting AIM down. That’s not what they do,” she said. “And that’s a narrative that’s been tossed around, and we are asking you kindly to stop using that term. The only people who can shut AIM down are its members, and we are also the only people who can make AIM stick around for as long as we want.”

MacKaye announced that AIM’s “new home” will be at the Arlington Cultural Affairs building at 3700 S. Four Mile Run in Green Valley, rather than the Courthouse location that the organization previously planned to use. Efforts at the Courthouse site are currently “on pause” because AIM lacks the funds to build it out, board member Richard Archambault said.

AIM still owes about $5,000 per month in rent for the two properties and is currently in arrears.

On Friday, the nonprofit shut off the transmitter to its low-power radio station, WERA 96.7, which had been broadcasting an endless loop of lo-fi beats since Dec. 1. The station is “temporarily on hiatus,” AIM says on its website.

The organization does not intend to hire an interim CEO to replace now-former CEO Whytni Kernodle, members were told last night.

AIM notified members last week that a closed-session meeting would be taking place on Monday. Then, about three hours before the meeting started, the nonprofit sent a second email clarifying that a portion of the meeting would be open to the public.

A number of participants expressed deep concerns about the group’s finances and communications.

Thomas Schaad, a former producer and board member who has been a member of AIM since 1991, said he was “stunned” by the amount of money the organization has been spending on salaries and consulting.

“I just have to advise you that if you are serious about doing fundraising after the general meeting next time, there had better be a whole lot of answers about how that’s gonna go, or you’re not going to get people to raise any money at all,” he said.

For many members, Schaad said donating to AIM seems like throwing money “down an endless, bottomless, recurring pit.”

Board President Rhonda Snipe acknowledged the group’s financial troubles and said they were the main reason for laying off all staff members. She added that the move to Courthouse “wasn’t planned out appropriately.”

“We certainly take responsibility as a governing body, that we did not oversee the staff completing that,” she said. “We weren’t involved enough, and as a result, we just didn’t have visibility on what was really going on.”

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Arlington Independent Media staff at work (via Arlington County)

(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) Arlington Independent Media has laid off all staff members while electing new leaders amid a county audit of the group’s finances.

AIM’s board, now under the leadership of President Rhonda Snipe and Treasurer Amanda MacKaye, will be “taking over operations of the organization for the time being,” the organization announced Monday following a closed special meeting.

“This decision was not made lightly, and we understand the impact it will have on both our team members and the community we serve,” AIM CEO Whytni Kernodle said of the layoffs, in an email sent just before the meeting. “We want to express our deepest gratitude for the dedication, passion, and hard work that each member of our team has contributed to AIM over the last two and a half years.”

Kernodle is among those who have received layoff notices, Snipe said, adding that the board is “working with auditors to fully understand the financial health of the organization.”

This development comes just days after more than a dozen AIM members and former board members signed an open letter on Thursday alleging financial mismanagement and calling for a special meeting.

Former board president Chris Judson announced his resignation that same day, citing “differing visions for AIM,” one of which “is not achievable in the current financial environment, especially considering the recently proposed County budget.”

AIM, which has produced public access TV since 1982 and radio since 2015, plans to host another special meeting April 17 in the Black Box Theater at 3700 Four Mile Run Drive.

“This will be a season of belt-tightening for AIM, and we fervently believe it will be a temporary one,” the organization said. “The Board believes that AIM has the potential to achieve an ambitious new vision of what public access, community-produced media can be in the 21st century, but we have to take some necessary steps to get there. We need to rebuild trust, conduct a financial audit, and return to radio and TV production.”

Arlington County initiated its audit of AIM’s budget earlier this month. This cut off money flowing into the organization from cable subscription-generated revenue that the county, schools and organizations like AIM can tap into for capital expenses.

Kernodle said in a letter last week that the freeze “has created a crisis within our organization.”

“Without these funds,” she said, “we are unable to meet our financial obligations, including paying our dedicated staff and freelance engineers and other teammates who are instrumental in keeping our organization running smoothly.”

Prior to yesterday’s announcements, Station Manager Alvin Jones told ARLnow that the audit had created uncertainty and made it more difficult for AIM to fundraise.

“The plans, desires and hopes of our bright future [are] now in limbo,” he said last week. “This limbo causes the newly founded contacts and relationships to allocate their funds to other organizations.”

The AIM members who called for last night’s meeting argued that the group has likely been improperly spending the cable money — also known as Public, Educational and Government funds — on non-capital costs. Citing the 2023 annual report, they say AIM reported spending $622,937 on employee compensation and $104,662 on office operations yet only netted $453,048 in funds that can go to operating costs such as salaries.

AIM, which was in the process of moving from its longtime Clarendon location to Courthouse, furloughed some staff members from December to mid-January and again starting this month, a staffer told ARLnow last week.

Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Takis Karantonis said at a Saturday meeting that the county increased support for AIM by 30% in Fiscal Year 2024, “yet the organization has managed to run aground financially three times in this year alone.” He stands by the ongoing audit.

“We wouldn’t do all this is we weren’t really committed and supportive of the mission of AIM,” Karantonis said. “We do it because we are.”

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A screenshot from a social media post from Arlington Independent Media last week (via Arlington Independent Media/Instagram)

Amid its stalled move from Clarendon to Courthouse, Arlington Independent Media is being audited by the county, according to the nonprofit’s leadership.

Meantime, simmering divides among the organization’s leadership, AIM members and people currently or formerly on AIM’s Board of Directors boiled over this week.

Board chair Chris Judson announced his resignation today (Thursday) after assuming the role in December, continuing the board’s high turnover rate. More than a dozen AIM members and former board members signed an open letter released today alleging financial mismanagement and calling for a special meeting. The letter has enough signatures to require the special meeting, according to one signing member, Lynn Borton.

“There were differing visions for AIM,” Judson writes. “The more expansive version is not achievable in the current financial environment, especially considering the recently proposed County budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In light of that, I have stepped down from the board so that others can take the next steps, which include responding to the audit and refocusing the organization on community broadcast. I wish them and the organization success in that endeavor.”

The audit, initiated this month, has tamped money flowing to AIM from cable subscription-generated revenue that the county, schools and organizations like AIM can tap into for capital expenses. It has so far received about $220,000 of the $368,000 in Public, Educational and Government (PEG) funds and recent social media posts by the organization urge supporters to tell the Arlington County Board this weekend to release the remaining funds.

“The freeze in funding from the County has created a crisis within our organization,” CEO Whytni Kernodle said in a letter published this week. “Without these funds, we are unable to meet our financial obligations, including paying our dedicated staff and freelance engineers and other teammates who are instrumental in keeping our organization running smoothly.”

Arlington County says it is pulling back until it wraps up this review.

“The Arlington County Board and County staff continue to monitor requests made by Arlington Independent Media for PEG funding, and are performing due diligence in reviewing previous expenditures before determining next steps,” county spokesperson Ryan Hudson told ARLnow in a statement.

This has prevented the build-out of AIM’s TV and radio stations, station manager Alvin Jones told ARLnow, which means more days without TV programming and more continuous lo-fi beats for viewers and listeners. He adds that the audit has made it more difficult to fundraise, which the county has asked the organization to ramp up.

“The plans, desires, and hopes of our bright future [are] now in limbo,” he said. “This limbo causes the newly founded contacts and relationships to allocate their funds to other organizations.”

In a letter that we are told blindsided AIM’s board, Kernodle blames members of the board who do not support her efforts to “amplify underrepresented voices and address critical issues” such as racial equity and climate change. These members went to the County Board to voice their discontent with her financial management, she writes.

“Consequently, the County has decided to freeze payments until they conduct an audit to address the raised concerns,” she said. “I want to assure you that there has been no misuse of funds within our organization. Rather, these issues stem from a difference in opinion regarding the direction of our initiatives and programs and the County’s desire to prioritize their own initiatives with PEG funds, which evades the spirit, if not the letter, of the FCC’s rules on these funds.”

The AIM members calling for a meeting, meanwhile, allege AIM is interpreting what is PEG-eligible too broadly to include operating costs it cannot afford. Citing the 2023 annual report, they say AIM reported spending $622,937 on employee compensation and $104,662 on office operations yet only netted $453,048 in funds that can go to operating costs such as salaries.

Revenue (left) and expenses (right) for AIM in the 2023 annual report (via Arlington Independent Media)

The letter notes there has not been an annual audit since October 2021 and 990s forms have not been filed “in a timely manner,” threatening its nonprofit status. Its 990 for the 2021-22 fiscal year was filed last November and its 2020-21 Form 990 filed in April 2022, per ProPublica.

“We believe AIM Members, Arlington residents, and Arlington County leaders have been misled about AIM’s financial health and well-being,” it says. “Social media messages in the last week suggest that AIM is imperiled because the County is withholding funds. In fact, AIM has been grossly mismanaged.”

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Arlington Independent Media in Clarendon (file photo)

Arlington’s local radio station has been playing the same music on repeat since December.

The continuous lo-fi beats, noted by listeners more than a month ago, are a result of aging equipment and financing delays complicating Arlington Independent Media‘s move into a new office building that is home to a transmitter critical to AIM’s operations.

The nonprofit community media outlet — which has TV and radio programming and offers media training courses — is mid-way through its move from its Clarendon outpost at the corner of N. Danville Street and Wilson Blvd, behind the Beyond Hello dispensary, to a new location at 2300 Clarendon Blvd.

Staff packed up and stored all AIM’s non-technical equipment in its new Green Valley outpost while its TV and radio broadcasting equipment sits in the lobby, awaiting contractors who can rewire it in 2300 Clarendon Blvd, a new space dubbed AIM Live!

It is a point of consternation for Alvin Jones, the station manager for the community media outlet’s radio station, WERA 96.7 FM.

“It’s been frustrating,” he told ARLnow. “I don’t get to hear, when I’m in my car, the great programming 50 producers are putting out.”

Former radio show producer Bennett Kobb says he has noticed the same music playing since Dec. 1, 2023. The beats are intended as a backup when interruptions arise, whether that is due to a power outage, a delayed DJ or problems with a station computer, he said.

“It is not permitted to broadcast ‘dead air’ for any significant length of time, that is, a radio signal with no content and no station identification,” he said. “Many radio stations have such arrangements in place… But this was never intended to go on for weeks as it has.”

As of Jan. 12, he had not heard of any communications to the public explaining what was going on. AIM did ultimately provide an update that listeners should expect the radio to go silent on Jan. 20, followed by TV on Jan. 24, as a result of the move. The post noted listeners “will continue to hear music through our transmitter on WERA 96.7 FM.”

The reason for the prolonged continuous loop is because the equipment that relayed microwave signals from AIM’s Clarendon location to the transmitter at 2300 Clarendon Blvd went down, says Jones. AIM will not need this equipment once it is set up in the same building as the transmitter. Jones likened fixing it before the move to upgrading the tires on a car just before trading it in for a new vehicle.

AIM originally had until Dec. 31, 2023, to move out but now predicts that full move-out will happen next week. The delays come down to finances, according to Jones and AIM CEO Whytni Kernodle.

They say they are waiting for Arlington County to approve the rest of a funding request from November for Public, Educational and Government (PEG) funds — subscription revenue that the county receives from franchise agreements with Comcast and Verizon.

These funds only cover capital expenses, which include hiring contractors to take down and rewire equipment.

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Arlington Independent Media in Clarendon (file photo)

This weekend, the Arlington County Board adopted a new agreement governing how Arlington’s public access station, Arlington Independent Media, can request funding.

AIM has a claim on Public, Educational and Government (PEG) funds that Arlington County receives as part of its franchise agreements with Comcast and Verizon. It competes with Arlington Public Schools and county government initiatives for this pot of money, which is dwindling as people end their cable subscriptions.

The new agreement establishes rules for requesting funds, a heretofore ad-hoc process. It requires AIM to maintain and present a detailed capital budget and make PEG requests only as part of the annual budget process, though emergency requests will be considered.

AIM has to provide a host of supporting documents for PEG requests as well as receipts demonstrating it is not using the funding on salaries, rent and utilities. The county reserves the right to audit the nonprofit’s records or require a third-party audit as often as necessary and will take back PEG funding if AIM uses it improperly.

The agreement was approved as AIM prepares to move its headquarters from Clarendon to Courthouse and, to stay afloat, has furloughed staff and will be selling equipment and memorabilia.

“AIM staff is currently on furlough throughout the holidays and thus only working on critical assignments,” the organization said in an email to supporters today, recapping its annual meeting earlier this month. “This has been structured to minimize producer impact, however we ask for your grace & patience while we transition to our new spaces.”

Periods of unpaid work are not a new issue, according to one source close to a former staff member, who had been asked to work without pay before.

Meanwhile, AIM’s current lease ends at 2701 Wilson Blvd, next to the Beyond Hello dispensary in Clarendon, is up on Dec. 31. The organization will make a new Green Valley satellite location, in a county-owned building at 3700 S. Four Mile Run, its home base until the Courthouse location is set up.

The new “AIMLive!” radio and TV broadcasting space in Courthouse is part of AIM’s goal to have a number of locations across Arlington, “with an eye on a new HQ sometime in the next 2-3 years,” the email said.

Despite the upheavals, Board President-elect Chris Judson remained upbeat in his remarks to supporters.

“This year presents a new beginning after a long effort to reinvent the organization,” he said in an email. “We owe tremendous gratitude to AIM staff for the extensive planning and execution that saw this plan to completion.”

During the annual meeting earlier this month, nonprofit leaders were frank about the organization’s financial status, detailing the furloughs and saying AIM was in survival mode. Still, they dismissed recent criticism over financial management from some people previously affiliated with AIM as a bad-faith attempt to defund the nonprofit.

They also addressed mixed public opinion about the role and importance of a primarily cable TV and radio-based nonprofit going forward, in an increasingly online world. Outgoing board president Demian Perry said he read the comments on ARLnow’s most recent article about AIM and they stung him but they were “nothing new.”

As for the new agreement governing PEG requests, AIM CEO Whytni Kernodle has told ARLnow in several interviews that she has pushed for this document to improve accountability — both for AIM and the county.

“They weren’t giving money to the ‘P’ or the ‘E’ and the PEG. So when I came on board, I recognized that… I’ve been asking for this memorandum,” Kernodle said. “What I’m saying to the county is, ‘You took us out, and now you’re not giving us money, and then you’re acting as though you don’t have to give us money when you have… an ethical obligation to your own public access center.”

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Arlington Independent Media in Clarendon (file photo)

(Updated at 12:20 a.m. on 12/7/23) After a 2-year search for new digs, Arlington Independent Media is on the cusp of moving from its long-time headquarters in Clarendon.

Next week, Arlington’s public access TV channel, community radio station and media training provider intends to sign a lease for space in Courthouse Plaza, says its CEO Whytni Kernodle. The building is owned by JBG Smith and home to Arlington County headquarters.

The cash-strapped organization is having to look outside its coffers to leave before its Dec. 31 deadline. The organization disclosed it had $31,000 in cash on hand during its November meeting, according to Lynn Borton, a former producer with AIM who was in attendance.

Kernodle requested $350,000 in funds that Comcast sets aside for expenses by public institutions, Arlington Public Schools and the county government. She also intends to fundraise another $25,000.

Once settled in Courthouse, Kernodle envisions an “On Air!” sign attracting passers-by to come and listen to music and watch AIM produce live shows. Next year, she wants to add public speaking events.

“The really great community media organizations are out in the community without waiting for people to come to their location,” she said. “We’re coming to the community as opposed to expecting the community to come to us.”

AIM will retain its rent-free second location in a county-owned building in Green Valley, for which it pays an “affordable license fee,” according to the county.

Kernodle says it was not a viable headquarters because it was too small and too far from the broadcast tower AIM uses in Courthouse for live shows. She also did not want to give up a North Arlington presence.

The move comes as the organization faces pressure to clarify its finances and rely more on fundraising, membership fees and advertising, and less on county funding, for its operational expenses.

AIM also faces existential pressures from consumers choosing streaming over cable, as fewer cable subscriptions means less funding for Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) Access Channels — and fewer viewers.

Streaming, along with better technology and the dominance of social media, can also weaken the value of AIM’s core offerings — professional-grade equipment, studios and training for content creators — says Rodger Smith, a senior instructor in the George Mason University Department of Communication.

“Why go to AIM when I can be in my house and I can create a podcast that still sounds broadcast quality or I can produce video,” says Smith, who is also the faculty advisor for WGMU, the campus online radio station. “They have to offer a service that [people] can’t find anyplace else.”

Rocky finances and a forthcoming  governance document

AIM will be leaving a building where the rent almost sank it financially, but its woes are not behind it.

When AIM lost free rent at 2701 Wilson Blvd as part of a 2016 local cable franchise agreement, it racked up $80,000 in debts and nearly went under, even after the county paid its market-rate rent for several months, says Borton.

While serving as AIM’s president, she got collections officers to stop calling in 2019 and negotiated a lower rent. The organization has known it needed to move since 2021, when the new owner of 2701 Wilson Blvd opened the Beyond Hello dispensary next door, with plans to take over AIM’s space, Borton said.

All this time, the county tried to wean AIM from county support, proposing, then lessening, cuts after outcry from AIM staff and listeners.

The organization continues to face financial transparency challenges, as it is behind on its Form 990s. The IRS makes public these nonprofit tax forms so people can gauge an organization’s financial health.

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The future home of Arlington Independent Media’s podcast and broadcasting studios in Green Valley (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 6:30 p.m. on 08/25/23) Arlington Independent Media is seeking sponsors for a free community event it will host early next month.

Arlington’s public access TV channel, its community radio station and a media training provider is throwing its first-ever “MusicFest.” The event, on Sept. 7, from 5:30-10 p.m. at its Clarendon studios at 2701 Wilson Blvd, will have live music, food and drinks and vendors.

Ahead of the event, the organization is seeking individual donations as well as sponsors, who can get perks such as logo placement, free beer and wine and radio announcements on WERA 96.7 FM for contributing $1,000 to $5,000.

The event comes as the Arlington County Board is encouraging the organization to vary its funding sources. The fundraiser coincides with AIM’s 40th anniversary and will “honor our legacy as Arlington’s premier community media center and to celebrate AIM’s exciting future at the forefront of media arts,” per a letter to supporters.

“Arlington Independent Media has witnessed tremendous growth in 2023,” it continued. “We have been continuing the build-out of our new podcast/broadcasting multimedia studios at our South Arlington location, pioneering our new youth-centered journalism initiative, upgrading our cabling system and reimagining our training and membership programs.”

The new studio, located in Green Valley, is set to have a ribbon-cutting on Oct. 20, AIM CEO Whytni Kernodle says. As for the Youth Journalism Initiative (YJI) vaunted in the letter to prospective sponsors, she says 10 students have come through the program. Another 20 participated in a Youth Journalism Club that AIM hosted with Arlington Public Library and 35 attended a camp intended to prepare them for YJI.

Kernodle, who has made a commitment to racial justice part of her mission as AIM’s leader, says the organization is changing its selection process for training programs to uplift marginalized voices. It is also looking to make membership free so people do not feel excluded based on cost.

Next month’s fundraiser could offset the financial impact of striking membership fees and bigger financial headwinds AIM faces. For instance, a once-reliable funding source — a cable franchise agreement, which provides funding based on local cable TV subscription numbers — become increasingly unpredictable.

After years of trying to lessen AIM’s reliance on tax dollars for operating expenses, the County Board approved a 33% increase its support to the organization in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, giving it $506,579.

Still, the County Board wants AIM to demonstrate it can fundraise and clean up its budget.

The organization’s federal Form 990s are behind schedule and a profit-and-loss document ARLnow reviewed from 2018-2021 shows the organization had lost more than $345,500 between 2018-2020. A copy of AIM’s 2022-23 fiscal year budget, which ARLnow also reviewed, appears to show AIM is working on meeting the Board’s directive.

In all, AIM took in $1.3 million this immediate past fiscal year, which ended in June, up from $564,587 last year. This includes a 30% increase in unrestricted grant funds, a $35,000 increase in revenue from underwriting sponsors, and new revenue from camps and studio fees.

Still, more than half of the $750,000 increase comes from an infusion of “restricted grants” equivalent to the Public, Educational and Government (PEG) funding it logged: $433,054. The sudden infusion, earmarked for capital expenses, came after three fiscal years in which no PEG funds were allocated, per the profit-and-loss statement.

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Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey speaks at a press conference announcing new flight patterns to mitigate noise on April 25, 2023 (courtesy photo)

The delay in the second phase of Amazon’s HQ2 may not be for all that long, according to Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey.

Garvey appeared on WAMU’s The Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi late last week, talking about whether Amazon is still good for Arlington County and defending the current number of flights out of Reagan National Airport against attempts to add more, particularly long-haul flights.

The first phase of Amazon’s second headquarters in Pentagon City is basically complete and is set to open next month, with some 50,000 square feet of retail space filled with everything from a bike shop to a doggy daycare to several restaurants and bars.

Plans for the second phase, including the futuristic double helix, are still in flux. The “pause” announced earlier this year coincided with other announcements the company made to lay off more than 18,000 employees and pause office construction projects in Nashville and around Seattle.

“I know there’s been some concern that Phase 2 has been delayed but it’s not been delayed by a lot,” Garvey said. “We’re understanding it’s just a year, which, actually — if you think about what’s been happening in the last couple of years — a delay in some ways is quite reasonable.”

Here, Tom Sherwood, the radio show’s resident analyst, interrupted to say he had only heard speculation that the delay would only be for one year.

“I don’t know what they’ve said publicly. I know what I’ve heard,” Garvey responded, with a chuckle. “How public that is, I don’t know. I guess it’s public now.”

The biggest concern for the Arlington County Board regarding the second phase is the construction of a permanent home for Arlington Community High School and child care facilities, she said, adding that “our understanding is that is continuing to move forward.”

Overall, she said, Amazon is “absolutely right” for Arlington.

“In fact, it’s been helpful,” she continued. “One of the big concerns of any large metropolitan area right now is the vacancy rate and whether businesses are going to be coming. Amazon continues to be doing quite well and attracts folks here which I think is very good for us.”

She credited the company for investing significantly in local affordable housing to meet “a major need.”

Across all of its communities, the tech company has said it is investing $2 billion in affordable housing.

“Everything is in transition but it’s still a good deal for Arlington,” she said, adding that Arlington County has yet to pay Amazon any economic incentive money.

Garvey said the county agreed to pay Amazon for meeting office occupancy targets using expected revenue from the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax, which is levied on hotel rooms and other lodging. The county intended to draw from this because HQ2 would generate more business travel, she noted.

Speaking of travel, Garvey was quizzed about why National Airport should not expand and have more flights in response to a proposed bill proposed by members of Congress from Georgia and Utah. The bill is opposed by local lawmakers but has support from many locals and an advocacy group.

“It’s a small airport and it doesn’t have long runways for the really big planes,” she said. “There’s a limit to what you can do and what is safe and what makes sense. It’s plenty busy. Lots of planes go in and out.”

Garvey says it makes sense for DCA to handle shorter flights and Dulles to handle long-distance ones, especially now that people can take the Silver Line all the way to Dulles. Besides, she added, DCA is already noisy enough for people who live nearby.

“The noise of the airplanes drives some of our residents crazy,” she said.

Takis Karantonis (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

County Board member Takis Karantonis says if the county has the “political will,” a sufficient amount of affordable and “missing middle” housing can get built.

Karantonis appeared on Friday’s “Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi” on public radio station WAMU. In addition to housing, the discussion touched on a new redistricting lawsuit, the Washington Commanders’ increasingly unlikely move to Virginia, and the bear that was roaming Arlington last week.

The trio spent a majority of time talking about the newest draft proposal of the county’s Missing Middle Housing Study, which calls for amending the zoning ordinance to allow housing types that are denser (like duplexes, townhomes, etc.) but not larger than single family homes. The proposal was released last month and has, since, picked up several notable endorsements.

After what promises to be a contentious community engagement process, the County Board is expected to vote on whether to amend the zoning ordinance this fall.

On the radio program, Karantonis described his and the Board’s efforts “to lift barriers” that might better allow young families, middle class households, and seniors to afford buying a home in Arlington County. As the study proposes, that could mean building duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, and other smaller-scale multi-family dwellings on lots that were previously zoned for only a single family house.

“More than 70 percent of Arlington are single households [or] detached family homes. And it’s absolutely not available [for more households],” he said. “It’s outlawed to be able to have more households in these buildings.”

While Karantonis continued to tout the potential plan, both Nnamdi and frequent program guest Tom Sherwood pushed back a bit.

Sherwood, a long-time local reporter and political analyst, noted that, since such a large portion of Arlington’s residential property is made up of single family homes, this plan may not have as broad support as the County Board may hope.

Additionally Sherwood played the role of devil’s advocate by asking if “economic forces” are so strong that no matter what local government enacts in terms of housing policies, it won’t be enough.

“That’s either a very pessimistic or very cynical take. I think that governance matters and we can deliver a lot,” Karantonis said in response. “It’s a very difficult thing but we can do it. The question is whether we have the political will and whether we have the anchorage in our community to honor these priorities.”

Nnamdi asked for the Board member’s thoughts on the criticism that this change in zoning won’t lead to more broadly affordable housing, as “missing middle” housing is likely to be priced significantly higher than levels typically seen for subsidized affordable housing in the county. Karantonis responded that dealing with the zoning ordinance question doesn’t mean the Board’s work is done on this matter.

“Once we find a way that is tailored to Arlington and works for the housing environment, I can imagine that there will be a very long to-do list that would be looking at housing affordability in these districts, as well,” he said.

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Morning Notes

Grand Opening for Big Rosslyn Development — “Real estate developer Penzance welcomed Arlington County officials to the grand opening of The Highlands, a mixed-use project in Rosslyn at the top of the hill on Wilson Boulevard. The Highlands, a 1.2-million-square-foot development, consists of three high-rise residences — named Pierce, Aubrey and Evo — with views of the D.C. area and several amenities. ‘We’re proud to be here today welcoming these 890 new residences, exciting retailers, Fire Station 10 and the beautiful Rosslyn Highlands Park.'” [Patch]

Reward Boosted in Ballston Murder Case — “The Ratigan family is announcing an increase in their reward fund from $25,000 to $50,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the suspect(s) responsible for Scott Ratigan’s homicide on January 17, 2020. Detectives continue to follow-up on any and all investigative leads in this case and remind the public that any information, regardless of how small it may seem, could be the tip that leads to justice on behalf of Scott and the Ratigan family.” [ACPD]

Retired Police K-9 Dies — “With great sadness, ACPD announces the passing of retired K9 Drago, a 14 year-old old German Shepard, Belgian Malinois mix. He loyally served Arlington from 2008 to 2019 as a patrol and narcotics detection K9. We kindly ask that you keep him and his handler in your thoughts.” [Twitter]

APS Getting Ready for Kid Vax Approval — “APS continues to work with the County on plans for rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to students ages 5-11 once it is approved, which we anticipate very soon. Once approved, we will inform the community about the availability of doses and how to schedule appointments. Arlington County Public Health anticipates holding clinics and scheduling vaccinations by appointment, hopefully by mid-November. We will keep families informed as new information is received.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Man Seen Stealing GOP Signs — “We’ve received reports of stolen yard signs, and — while we appreciate your updates — almost none of those are actionable because the tipsters don’t provide us any physical/visual evidence. But kudos to one resourceful sleuth, who provided us with these fairly clear photos of a guy taking down Youngkin signs in Arlington last night.” [Arlington GOP, Twitter]

In Defense of Audrey’s Age Answer — “Apparently what happened is that the paper wanted candidates to fill out online questionnaires, and the computerized program didn’t allow respondents to skip the ‘age’ question. So Clement wrote in a younger figure as something of a protest in requiring candidates to answer a question she feels is inappropriate. From this, the Post tried to make a big deal. Turns out the Posties, as is often the case, missed the context. Clement wasn’t lying to them, as they contend. She was f*cking with them. A big difference.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Artist Performs on NPR — From National Public Radio: “The Tiny Desk is back… sort of. The first concert recorded at Bob Boilen’s desk since March 2020 is 2021 Tiny Desk Contest winner Neffy!” [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — Today will be partly sunny, with a high near 65, getting progressively cloudier throughout the day. Sunrise at 7:31 a.m. and sunset at 6:11 p.m. Tomorrow (Friday) will be rainy and windy, with storms and flooding possible. Expect a high near 63.


Morning Notes

Shots Fired in Green Valley — “ACPD is investigating a shots fired incident in the 3200 block of 24th Street S. which occurred at approximately 8:14 p.m. No victims related to this incident have been located.” [ACPD, Twitter]

New Taco Ghost Kitchen — “Philadelphia-based Iron Chef alum Jose Garces is returning to DC with a delivery-only taco ghost kitchen, Buena Onda. The Baja-inspired taqueria, an offshoot of his brick-and-mortar Philly shop, will start running grilled fish tacos, guac, and “buena bowls” on Friday, September 24 from an Arlington kitchen.” [Washingtonian]

Another ACPD Departure — Adrienne Quigley, Arlington’s only female deputy police chief, retired from ACPD on Friday. Citing multiple sources, ARLnow previously reported that Quigley is expected to take a job at Amazon HQ2, amid an “exodus” from the department. [Twitter]

No APS Blue Ribbon Schools This Year — “One Fairfax County school was named among seven Virginia public schools honored as 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education, but the rest of Northern Virginia’s inner suburbs found themselves shut out… No Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church or Loudoun public schools made the grade this year, although one Prince William County public school – Mary G. Porter Traditional – was honored.” [Sun Gazette]

Officers Visit PEP Program — From ACPD: “Corporal Smithgall and Recruit Officer Divincenzo spoke with PEP Program students at the Arlington Career Center today and also had the opportunity to compete in a push-up challenge! PEP is a community based program for supported work experience, supported travel training, and independent living training.” [Facebook]

Bayou Bakery Owner Featured on CNBC — David Guas, owner of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse, was featured on CNBC Thursday night for his Community Spoon initiative, which provides meals to Afghan refugees. Guas is a Cuban-American, whose father fled Cuba in the 1960s. This isn’t the first time local business owner has provided food to those in need; he previously provided meals to families in need during the pandemic and supplied meals to National Guard personnel at the Capitol earlier this year. [CNBC]

De Ferranti on WAMU’s Politics Hour – Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti was on “The Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi” on Friday. In the 16 minute conversation, de Ferranti talked about the county’s new logo, schools, the shrinking police force, the newly-adapted bag tax, housing, and his hunger task force. He also fielded questions about the proposed Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, saying it was still premature to discuss, and the tightening Virginia governor’s race. The Board chair also revealed that he voted for Terry McAuliffe in the Democratic primary. [WAMU] 


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