Porter Drama Centers Around Arlington — The resignation of White House aide Rob Porter, which has been a national headline this week, has a number of Arlington connections. Porter reportedly has an apartment here, which he shared with a girlfriend before starting to date White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, and the protective order Porter’s second wife filed against him was to keep him away from her Arlington residence. [Daily Mail, New York Times]
Arlington Kid’s Star Continues to Rise — Nine-year-old Iain Armitage stars as the title character in the CBS comedy Young Sheldon and also was featured HBO’s Golden Globe-winning Big Little Lies. That’s in addition to film roles Armitage, an Arlington native whose family owns a house in Ashton Heights, is getting as he continues to build his Hollywood career. Just 3.5 years ago, Armitage was best known for his viral reviews of Signature Theatre shows. [Toronto Star]
Flyover This Morning — There will be a military flyover around 11:30 this morning for a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. [Twitter]
Local Lawmakers’ Bills Defeated in Richmond — A number of bills introduced by Democratic lawmakers that represent parts of Arlington have, predictably, failed to gain traction in the GOP-controlled state legislature. Among the current batch of bills being defeated in committee: a bill to force the release of presidential candidate tax returns (Sen. Janet Howell), create an state-level Office of Immigrant Assistance (Sen. Adam Ebbin) and expand the list of IDs accepted for voting (Del. Rip Sullivan).
Photo via @NCPCgov / Twitter
(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Arlington’s representatives will push hard in the Virginia General Assembly on Metro funding, the authority to rename Jefferson Davis Highway and absentee voting, among other issues.
At a work session Thursday, Arlington County Board members discussed their legislative agenda — bills they would like to see passed and issues they would like to see emphasized — for the 2018 session with local Delegates and state Senators.
The General Assembly will convene in Richmond on January 10 and sit through March 10, with Gov.-Elect Ralph Northam (D) to be inaugurated on January 13.
High on Board members’ list of priorities is securing a dedicated funding source for Metro, and ensuring that state funding allows it to keep up with its rebuilding needs.
Outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has committed to adding a dedicated funding source in his budget proposal later this month, and local representatives said they must do more to show their colleagues from outside Northern Virginia how valuable Metro is to the whole Commonwealth’s economy.
“A lot of work has been done to show this is not just a Northern Virginia giveaway, that this gives a lot of money and benefits to the rest of the commonwealth,” said County Board member Christian Dorsey.
Later, Dorsey noted that a study by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission made a “conservative estimate” that Metro brings in $600 million to state coffers every year through income and sales taxes.
All agreed on a plan to bring legislators into Northern Virginia and have them take a tour of the region’s various transit options, as well as experience rush-hour traffic congestion, something that state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) said has been effective in the past.
State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) urged cooperation between business and governmental groups in lobbying Richmond.
“We really need a united voice on this,” Favola said. “We can’t afford to have the Northern Virginia Chamber in opposition to a strategy you may like.”
Favola said she will file a bill to give localities the power to rename their primary highways, of which Jefferson Davis Highway is one in Arlington.
The question of whether to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway has swirled for several years, and Board chair Jay Fisette said the county is “exploring all options” on renaming.
Del. Mark Levine (D-45) disagreed with Favola, and said that in his opinion localities already have the right to rename primary highways. Fisette emphasized that no stone shall be left unturned.
“At this point, we believe we have multiple options, we’re just going to work them sequentially to do that,” he said.
The question of renaming Jefferson Davis Highway remains controversial. At the Board’s public hearing on its legislative agenda on Tuesday, local resident Bernard Berne derided a name-change as a “bad idea” that will stoke racial tensions and create division.
“It divides the community, and these historical things are part of our heritage. You don’t mess with it,” he said.
Another item on Arlington’s legislative agenda is a desire to enact “no excuse” absentee voting, meaning that any voter can request an absentee ballot without having to give a reason for voting absentee.
Dorsey said with a young and transient population in the county, “no excuse” absentee voting would be helpful. Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) agreed, and said that after significant Democratic gains in the House of Delegates, this year might be right to get it done.
“I think this is the year for absentee no-excuse voting. I absolutely think we can get there,” he said, adding that it could make elections less vulnerable to hacking. “There are other arguments that frankly we haven’t tried yet, that can carry the day.”
Ebbin expressed cautious support for the plan, but said that funding must be found to reimburse local registrars to cope with extra demand.
And on environmental issues, there appeared to be broad consensus that the General Assembly can pass measures limiting greenhouse gases, encouraging solar power and preserving trees, among others.
Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), co-chair of the bipartisan Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy Caucus alongside Sullivan, said “everything is on the table” on energy and the environment. He added that Arlington’s agenda on those issues is one of the best he has seen.
“You guys have hit a lot of very strong things,” he said.
Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act remains a hot topic for Democrats in Richmond, albeit a controversial one that has been unsuccessful both through the General Assembly and executive action.
But this year, Levine said Democrats “are cautiously optimistic for the first time in a long time,” on Medicaid expansion, which he called their “single greatest priority.” Northam said later that day he is hopeful of passing the expansion.
“It’s incredibly important that we get this done, finally,” Lopez said.
Arlington County’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly will hold its annual public hearing to discuss with residents the legislative priorities for the new General Assembly session that begins on January 11.
The public hearing will be held on Thursday, January 5, in the Arlington County Board Room (2100 Clarendon Blvd., #300) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Citizens can sign up on the night of the hearing to address the legislators. Each speaker will have up to three minutes.
“The direct participation of an active citizenry helps me represent the 30th District more effectively,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin. “I encourage and welcome all residents… to attend our delegation’s hearings.”
Some of the legislation on the 2017 roster that has been proposed by Arlington representatives includes:
- Paid family leave, proposed by Sen. Barbara Favola: Under this legislation, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry would develop an implementation plan for a paid family leave program.
- Reporting lost or stolen firearms, proposed by Sen. Barbara Favola: This bill would require a person who legally possesses a firearm to report its loss or theft to police within 24 hours of discovering that it’s missing.
- Same-sex marriage, proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin: This legislation would repeal the parts of Virginia’s constitution banning same-sex marriages and civil unions.
- Governor’s term of office, proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin: This legislation would allow Virginia’s governor to serve consecutive terms. Currently, governors cannot run again immediately after serving one four-year term, but they can run again in a future election.
- Firearm locks, proposed by Sen. Janet Howell: The bill would make it illegal to sell or transfer a handgun to anyone without the person being provided with a locking device for the handgun.
- No-excuse absentee voting, proposed by Sen. Janet Howell: This would make it acceptable for any registered voter to vote absentee in person without having to provide a reason.
- Required immunizations, proposed by Del. Patrick Hope: The bill would require children to receive an immunization for meningococcal disease (which causes bacterial meningitis) in order to attend school.
State Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents parts of Arlington, has proposed a bill to exclude the name and address of registered sex offenders’ employers from the publicly available registry system.
The proposed bill would amend a section of the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry Act that deals with sharing registry information via the internet.
Howell’s bill would remove employer information from the part of the online system that’s available to the public.
Convicted sex offenders often have difficulty getting a job after being listed on the sex offender registry. Removing employer information would eliminate at least one disincentive from hiring a sex offender who has already served their time.
This is not the first time in the last five years such a bill has been proposed to the state legislature. Two previous bills also attempted to stop publishing employer information on the public online system. In 2010, the bill passed in the state Senate but was tabled in a House committee. It had less success in 2012, tabled again in a House committee without Senate consideration.
Howell didn’t introduce either of those bills, and could not be reached for comment on this year’s proposal. However, fellow local legislator Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) was one of the House members who proposed the bill in 2012.
In addition to their employer’s name and address, an offender’s name, age, current address, photograph and a description of the offense they committed with the date they were convicted are available to the public via the online registry system, which is maintained by the State Police.
Virginia’s 2016 General Assembly legislative session is scheduled to last for 60 days, beginning on Jan. 13 and ending on March 12.
DoD Renews Leases on Crystal City Buildings — In a win for Arlington County’s beleaguered commercial real estate market, the GSA has renewed leases on two buildings with some 912,000 square feet of office space, in Crystal City, for the Department of Defense. [Washington Business Journal]
Church Decided to Sell After Hearing from Residents — While initially skeptical, a majority of the membership of the Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike approved a plan to sell the church to an affordable housing developer after hearing the stories of working class residents who said they worked in Arlington but couldn’t afford to live there anymore. [Washington Post]
Fisette: Arlington Will Work to Improve Bike Rating — County Board member Jay Fisette says Arlington will work to improve its Bicycle Friendly Community rating. Arlington received a silver-level designation, but there are 29 U.S. communities that are either gold or platinum level. In order to achieve that, Arlington will need more bike lanes, bike programs for lower-income residents and bicycle-themed street events. [InsideNova]
Howell Introduces Courthouse Security Bill — State Sen. Janet Howell (D), whose sprawling district includes part of north Arlington, has introduced a bill intended to improve courthouse security. The bill would increase from $10 to $20 the maximum amount a local jurisdiction could charge a defendant convicted on traffic or criminal charges, to help fund security measures. [Richmond Sunlight]
Webb Responds to Criticism in Comments — Michael Webb, who hopes to run as a Republican against Rep. Don Beyer next year, has personally responded to criticism in the comments of the article about his campaign announcement. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
Arlington Remembers 9/11 — Arlington County is marking the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks with a solemn ceremony in Courthouse. A moment of silence will be held at 9:37 a.m. [Arlington County, Twitter]
Sidewalks on the Pike Still Need Work — The new Freedman’s Village Bridge over Columbia Pike includes new, wider sidewalks along the Pike, but there are problems. Just up from the new sidewalks, narrow old sidewalks have telephone poles in the middle of them, obstructing pedestrians and bicyclists. And there are multiple crossings among the new sidewalks that make the going slow. [Greater Greater Washington]
Letter Writer: Everything Is Awful — Most people probably find Arlington a pleasant place to live. But a resident who wrote a guest commentary about Arlington for a Falls Church newspaper finds a lot to dislike, warning Falls Church residents of Arlington as a “cautionary tale” of development gone wrong. The letter blasts Arlington’s overcrowded schools, “scorched-earth development practices,” “critical shortage of parkland and green space,” “failed policies and inadequate planning,” “poor local air quality,” lack of mature tree canopy and “urban heat island effect.” [Falls Church News-Press]
AHC Repays Loan — Nonprofit affordable housing developer AHC Inc. has made a $2.5 million loan repayment to Arlington County, one of the organization’s largest lump sum repayments. AHC presented retiring County Board members Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, along with other county officials, a giant check to mark the occasion.
Janet Howell Announces Breast Cancer Diagnosis — State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd), who represents part of Arlington, announced yesterday that she was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer. She has undergone treatment and says her prognosis is “excellent.” [Reston Now]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
State Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents the westernmost part of Arlington as well as a large chunk of Fairfax County, called the state’s budget outlook “bleak” while praising Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposed budget, which closes the projected shortfall through a series of tax changes and spending cuts. However, Howell and other Democrats say the budget doesn’t go far enough in improving the state’s K-12 education system.
“Fortunately, the Governor’s budget closes the budget gap. His budget is balanced,” Howell said in a newsletter to her constituents. “What we do not have, however, is any real ability to make investments in public education, higher education, human services, or workforce development.
“Direct aid to public education has been spared additional state cuts,” she continued. “However, unless we have a sudden, unexpected upswing in our economy, we will have to jettison a proposed and deserved salary increase. For context, in terms of per pupil general funds for public education, by FY 2016 we will be just back to FY 2008 levels on a statewide basis.”
This past summer, McAuliffe announced Virginia was projected to have a $2.4 billion budget shortfall over the next two years. Much of that deficit, Howell said at a recent Arlington Democrats meeting, can be traced back to cuts from the federal budget sequestration and the layoffs at government contractors it prompted.
Additional revenue growth has since reduced the deficit, and cuts to the state prison system and elsewhere have saved millions. Del. Patrick Hope (D) says the closing of tax loopholes for some corporations — most notably coal producers — are necessary to even preserve the current level of education funding.
“There are a lot of companies in Virgina that don’t pay any taxes,” Hope told ARLnow.com yesterday. “We’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars that Virginia gives out every year to companies for job creation, and research is coming out that that’s not happening today. We need to take a hard look at what those tax credits are, and if they’re not doing what the intended purposes are, we need to pull it back.”
Hope said a state yacht tax credit should also be stripped — “I can’t look my voters in the eye if I vote for a budget” that includes that tax credit, he said — but said that the budget should become more ambitious in terms of education spending. Funding K-12 education millions of dollars less than before the recession, without accounting for inflation, isn’t enough, he said.
“There’s no reason why spending shouldn’t go in the opposite direction,” he said. “We are out of the recession now, it’s time to fill those holes back up.”
Although some form of a balanced budget is expected to pass — which may include cuts to education, according to Hope, if the Republican-controlled General Assembly balks at the loophole cuts — Howell said the realities of the budget situation don’t figure to change anytime soon, especially after the sequester’s cuts to federal defense spending.
“Growth has halted or declined in the good-paying ($77k+/year) jobs in the ‘business and professional services’ categories. Instead, we are seeing more growth in lower-paying jobs, such as health, leisure and hospitality ($45k/year on average),” Howell wrote. “Unfortunately, no one believes this situation is a temporary one.”
The three state senators and four delegates that represent Arlington in the Virginia General Assembly have sent a letter to state Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne in support of the Columbia Pike streetcar project.
The letter calls out County Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt for their continued opposition to the project. On Friday, Garvey laid out alternative uses for the hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local transportation funding that are being directed toward the streetcar.
“We strongly disagree with the efforts of Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt to deprive Arlington of those state funds dedicated to the streetcar project,” the letter states.
The letter also cites the return on investment study the county funded that predicted more than $3 billion in economic impact in the first 30 years of the streetcar system. It refers to the support the streetcar has already received from state officials, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
The letter was signed by state Sens. Janet Howell, Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola and Dels. Alfonso Lopez, Patrick Hope, Rob Krupicka and Rip Sullivan.
The full letter is posted, after the jump.
Dear Secretary Layne,
As Members of the Arlington County General Assembly delegation, we strongly support the Commonwealth of Virginia’s commitment to provide funding for the regional streetcar system that the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has included in its six-year improvement program.
We are particularly pleased to see that Jennifer Mitchell, Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, confirmed in response to a press inquiry that the Commonwealth remains fully committed to providing Arlington and Fairfax Counties with $65 million over the course of the six-year improvement program in addition to other state funding.
We concur with Director Mitchell that this “project is an important regional priority and a key part of the economic redevelopment along Columbia Pike and the Pentagon City and Crystal City corridors.”
We strongly disagree with the efforts of Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt to deprive Arlington of those state funds dedicated to the streetcar project. In testimony before the CTB, Libby Garvey noted that although she and John Vihstadt are Arlington County Board members, she was speaking in her individual capacity and on behalf of Mr. Vihstadt in his individual capacity.
The reason for that distinction is that it is official County policy to support the planning, development, construction and operation of the streetcar system and the majority of County Board members in Arlington and Supervisors in Fairfax remain strongly supportive of the streetcar project.
We urge you and Governor Terry McAuliffe to keep this critical funding for the streetcar project in place. We agree with Director Mitchell that the addition of the streetcar is vital to the economic growth and redevelopment of the corridor served by the streetcar system. And we agree with you and Governor McAuliffe about the importance of diversifying and strengthening the Virginia economy — and the importance of key transit projects to that effort.
An independent study confirmed that the streetcar will generate $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion in new real estate value (compared to $1 – $1.4 billion generated by additional bus service), nearly $1 billion in new tax revenues and create 6,600 jobs for the region. It is simply irresponsible to request the removal of state funding for a project with such a strong impact on jobs and the economy.
Your July 10, 2014 letter to local officials indicated that “implementation of a seamless streetcar system between Columbia Pike and Crystal City will provide significantly more mobility benefits than enhanced bus service”. The Commonwealth’s recent pledge of up to $65 million in additional state transportation funds to the streetcar project reflects the importance of well-planned, fiscally prudent transit solutions for our region.
Modern streetcar systems have consistently shown around the country to reduce congestion, move people,
promote regional connectivity, enhance capacity, reduce environmental impact and foster economic development. Studies of the proposed streetcar system in Arlington show that we can expect all of those benefits to occur here once the system is operational.
We concur with numerous experts that have concluded that bus rapid transit does not work well without dedicated lanes — which are not possible along Columbia Pike — and that buses cannot match the capacity that a streetcar system affords. There simply cannot be enough bus traffic along the Pike to accommodate the ridership expected over the next 25 years. No buses that match the streetcar’s capacity have been approved for use in the United States because of the heavy damage such buses would inflict on roadways. Only a rail-based solution can be safely and effectively operated to meet the projected demand for rides along Columbia Pike.
We cannot allow the Garvey-Vihstadt position to affect the Commonwealth’s commitment without jeopardizing the careful plans adopted by Arlington County based on the Columbia Pike Neighborhood Plan and Crystal City Sector Plan. These reflect years of sound planning and wise transit-oriented development that promise to create jobs, move people, protect neighborhoods, develop our economy, and protect the substantial affordable housing that exists along these corridors.
Their flawed strategy would not save any taxpayer dollars, but would instead move funding to other transit projects around the state that would not match the economic development and diversification that the streetcar would promote along the Pike, in Pentagon City, in Crystal City and in neighboring jurisdictions.
We call on you, Governor McAuliffe, and the Commonwealth Transportation Board to keep the dedicated funding for the Arlington streetcar project in place, because we know it is the best investment for the future of Arlington and the Northern Virginia region.
Bill Would Ban Cell Phone Use While Driving in School Zones — Sen. Janet Howell (D) has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving in a school zone or school crossing zone. Violations will be considered a traffic infraction and will be punishable by a fine of up to $250. [Richmond Sunlight]
Brink Supports Two-Term Va. Governor — Del. Bob Brink (D) of Arlington is one of several General Assembly lawmakers to introduce or patron a constitutional amendment that would allow the governor of Virginia to serve a second term. If passed, the amendment will take effect for the governor elected in 2017. [Richmond Sunlight]
USS Arlington Crew Members Get Decal Vote — Crew members of the USS Arlington, set to be commissioned soon, will get a vote on the new Arlington County parking decal. This year, the contest challenged entrants to design a decal incorporating the USS Arlington. Voting is open through Jan. 21. [Sun Gazette]
Civic Federation Supports LEAP — The Arlington County Civic Federation has approved a resolution to promote the non-profit Local Energy Alliance Program, or LEAP, which offers free home energy efficiency assessments to homeowners, along with cash rebates for energy efficiency measures. [Arlington Mercury]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The surcharge expired on Jan. 1, 2012 after Del. Tim Hugo (R), of Fairfax County, blocked a renewal bill in retaliation for Arlington’s lawsuit against high occupancy toll lanes on I-395. The Hotel General Managers’ Committee of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce has been calling for the Virginia General Assembly to reestablish the taxing authority, which brought in nearly $1 million per year to fund tourism promotion efforts.
A bill proposed by Howell today would allow Arlington County to reinstate the tax surcharge on hotel rooms, and extends the taxing authority in perpetuity. The bill has been referred to the state Senate’s Committee on Finance.
Arlington Office Vacancies Up — Arlington and Alexandria were the only two D.C. area markets that saw a significant increase in office vacancies in 2011, according to recently-released data. Arlington, which had the lowest office vacancy rate at the end of 2010, ended 2011 with the same vacancy rate as the District of Columbia. The loss of government office tenants as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act is said to be to blame for the rise in vacancies. [Washington Post]
Howell Tries to Insert Viagra Provision Into Abortion Bill — State Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents part of Arlington, tried to insert a bit of “gender equity” into a bill being considered by the Virginia Senate. The bill, SB484, would require that a woman seeking an abortion be offered the opportunity to view an ultrasound image of her fetus. Howell’s amendment, which was narrowly defeated along party lines yesterdsay, would have required men to receive a “digital rectal exam and cardiac stress test” before receiving a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication. [Blue Virginia]
Eleventh Street Lounge Closes — Eleventh Street Lounge in Clarendon closed up shop over the weekend to make way for a new office development. The restaurant’s management is reportedly hoping to relocate to a new space, at least temporarily. [Clarendon Nights]
Marine Beaten in Crystal City — Updated at 9:00 a.m. — NBC4 is revealing new details about a malicious wounding incident reported in last week’s Arlington County crime report. A Marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan and who’s up for a Silver Star medal was severely beaten with a club outside the 7-Eleven on 23rd Street in Crystal City. The attack, which was caught on surveillance video, may have been precipitated by a racial comment. [NBC Washington]
Photo courtesy Dan Gifford