Arlington’s members of Congress are touting wins for federal workers, veterans, Metro and the Virginia economy in a new federal spending bill.
The bill, a rare bipartisan budget compromise, passed both houses of Congress this morning. It includes a raise for the federal workforce, $150 million for WMATA, $30 million for Arlington National Cemetery, and billions for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and various other military spending priorities.
The office of Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) described it as “good news for federal employees” in a press release.
There is finally some good news for federal employees in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress this morning. The $1.1 trillion spending package included a pay raise for federal employees and service members, as well as significant additional funding for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), some of which is earmarked for cybersecurity.
“Federal employees suffered through enough with years of wage stagnation, furloughs and shutdowns, and, perhaps most egregiously, the theft of their personal information as a result of the OPM hacks,” said Rep. Beyer. “In addition to cybersecurity investments to prevent future breaches, this deal gives our federal workforce a modest 1.3 percent pay raise for the second year in a row.”
“These efforts will help improve the recruitment and retention of federal employees to help our government grow the new American economy,” Beyer added.
The agreement provides $272 million for OPM and the OPM Inspector General, a $132 million increase over the previous year. The legislation also provides $21 million for critical upgrades to OPM’s cybersecurity infrastructure and to ensure protections to prevent similar security breaches are installed. Individuals affected by the OPM data breaches will be provided with identity protection coverage for 10 years — much more than the previous commitment — and identity theft insurance in the amount of $5,000,000.
After the jump, a joint press release from Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, including details of specific spending and tax provisions of note for Virginia residents, businesses and federal workers.
Metro announced yesterday that Paul Wiedefeld, the former CEO of BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, has been selected as the agency’s next General Manager and CEO.
Following a lengthy search process, the WMATA Board of Directors is expected to make Wiedefeld’s appointment official on Nov. 19.
With Metro in turmoil due to ongoing rail service reliability problems and financial challenges, state officials and lawmakers welcomed the appointment of an experienced executive to Metro’s top post.
From Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.):
“Today’s news concludes a period of uncertainty for Metro. Paul Wiedefeld’s transportation and executive experience gives him the tools to provide WMATA with the leadership a first class transit system needs. I look forward to working with him to ensure a safe, reliable future for Metro as a critical part of the national capitol area’s transportation infrastructure.”
From Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe:
“I am pleased to see that the WMATA Board has unanimously chosen Paul Wiedefeld to lead the agency as its General Manager and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Wiedefeld’s significant experience in managing safety and operations in the transit industry will surely serve him well as he steps into his role with Metro. I am hopeful that this appointment, though overdue, will give WMATA the stability and expertise it needs to produce meaningful change across the agency. I look forward to Mr. Wiedefeld’s formal confirmation by the Board on November 19th.”
A joint statement from U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.):
“We’re pleased to finally see this progress in bringing on new management for Metro after a year-long search.
“As federal lawmakers, we have been strong advocates and effective partners for Metro. In his years of service to BWI, Mr. Wiedefeld has proven himself to be a creative and successful infrastructure manager in the public sector. We are eager to meet with him to emphasize our shared commitment and steady focus on turning-around the troubled Metro system.
“We’re prepared to work with Mr. Wiedefeld as he accepts the challenge of improving the safety and reliability of this pivotal regional investment for Metro passengers and visitors to the national capital region.”
After a jump, a press release from the recently-formed WMATA Riders’ Union.
Arlington’s representatives on Capitol Hill are calling for action after additional restrictions were put in place on the structurally deficient Memorial Bridge.
Starting this morning, both outside lanes of the Memorial Bridge were closed to traffic and a 10-ton load limit put in place, closing the bridge to bus traffic. That follows an inspection that found corroding support beams and “significant deterioration” of the bridge’s concrete deck.
The 83-year-old, 2,100-foot-long bridge opened in 1932. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and — since it connects the Lincoln Memorial with Arlington National Cemetery and Robert E. Lee’s Arlington House — it is considered a national symbol of reunification of the North and the South following the Civil War.
The National Park Service, which oversees the bridge, is planning 6-9 months of emergency repairs starting next month. It says that with the restrictions, the bridge is safe for drivers and pedestrians. The load limit will “help extend the life of the deck for passenger vehicles,” NPS said.
The Park Service is currently seeking $250 million from Congress for permanent repairs and rehabilitation.
Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Rep. Don Beyer, called the state of the historic bridge the “latest evidence of federal neglect.” In strong statements, the lawmakers said it’s time for Congress to fund crucial transportation infrastructure projects.
From a press release:
Senator Mark Warner (VA), Senator Tim Kaine (VA), Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC) and Congressman Don Beyer (VA-8) called for stronger federal infrastructure investment, citing the closure of a second lane on the iconic and congested Arlington Memorial Bridge as the latest evidence of federal neglect.
“There is nothing more emblematic of Congress’ failure to invest in our nation’s infrastructure than the bridge that brings people into our nation’s capital, a national memorial, falling apart. Memorial Bridge has already been labeled ‘structurally deficient’ and one lane was closed just last week due to safety and infrastructure concerns. Today, we have news that another lane will be shut down. It’s time for Congress to stop kicking the can down the road and pass a federal transportation bill to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, starting right here in DC,” said Rep. Beyer.
The National Park Service (NPS) announced today that it will close a second lane of traffic on the bridge, which stretches from Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial and is a major artery across the Potomac. The rush hour effects of the six-month closures will be dramatic.
“Unlike other infrastructure, NPS roads and bridges like the Arlington Memorial Bridge are 100 percent funded by the federal government, and there are almost no alternative sources of funds for maintenance and improvements other than federal funds. With a cost of up to $250 million to replace the Memorial Bridge, it is no wonder that NPS is unable to do this work when it only receives $15 to $20 million for its transportation projects in the National Capital Region and only $240 for the entire nation. Our region must offer leadership and work with Members of Congress as far away as the western states that are also deeply affected. Beginning with our region, we must create a coalition of Members of the House and Senate determined to begin the uphill climb of rescuing priceless and essential federal assets like the Memorial Bridge that bring millions to the states by providing everything from workplace corridors to tourist sites,” said Del. Norton.
Nearly 68,000 vehicles cross the 83-year-old bridge on a typical work day. The cost to fully repair the bridge is estimated at more than $250 million over several months. Memorial Bridge is just one of more than 70,000 US bridges deemed “structurally deficient.”
“Today’s announcement that we have to close yet another lane of the Memorial Bridge highlights the decrepit state of our infrastructure,” said Senator Kaine. “This additional lane closure will cause unbearable congestion and delays for the approximately 68,000 drivers who use theMemorial Bridge to travel between Virginia and Washington every day. Today’s frustrating news represents a nationwide issue. It’s estimated that there are 4,800 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in Virginia alone. It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and address our nation’s crumbling infrastructure by passing a bipartisan, long-term transportation bill.”
“How can Congress fail to act while the Memorial Bridge – which is not only a vital artery for local commuters, but also the entrance to our nation’s capital - is literally falling apart? This is not just embarrassing – it’s outrageous,” said Sen. Warner. “We have to get serious about fixing and upgrading our roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure. Until that happens, Virginia commuters will be stuck sitting in even more traffic – and crumbling and inefficient infrastructure will remain a serious drag on our economic growth.”
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Gillespie is behind by double-digits in statewide polls, but he sees an opportunity in Arlington to connect with young voters frustrated by the lagging economic recovery.
“We enjoy a lot of strong support here from a lot of young professionals,” he said. “There’s big numbers here, and we have to get our numbers up. It’s an important part of the Commonwealth. I want to be a servant leader for all Virginians, that means taking your message everywhere, including places that I know historically, in the voting patterns, aren’t Republican strongholds. But that doesn’t matter to me. I think it’s important to take your message everywhere.”
Gillespie served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee and counsel to President George W. Bush, and started his own lobbying and consulting firms. His consulting firm, Ed Gillespie Strategies, closed in Old Town Alexandria earlier this year to allow Gillespie to focus on his campaign.
Gillespie is against same-sex marriage, but said he prefers to let the states legislate their own marriage laws.
Gillespie lives in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, and said “there was a time when I used to play golf,” but he spend most of his time on the campaign trail or with family nowadays. The time he spends in Arlington, he said, is either campaigning or making the occasional trip to the Pentagon City mall. Gillespie visited Rosslyn’s ÜberOffices last week and sat down with ARLnow.com for an interview.
Around his favorite Arlington hangout, office vacancies have skyrocketed in the years since the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure plan that moved thousands of defense jobs out of Arlington. Gillespie said he doesn’t think the BRAC process needs to be changed, but admitted “it has made mistakes.”
“We’ve cut about $986 billion from our military and our defense since Sen. Warner took office, $500 billion through the sequester, which is a random, arbitrary and deep cut,” he said. “I would work to restore those cuts because I think our military does need to be a higher priority than it is under this administration. ”
Gillespie wants to replace the Affordable Care Act and “supports oil, coal and natural gas production, including deep sea drilling.” He also said he advocates widening I-66, both inside and outside the Beltway.
Gillespie said he realizes Arlington “has got a set of priorities” — county leaders have repeatedly opposed proposals to widen the Arlington stretch of I-66 — but thinks the highway should be widened regardless.
(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) says he “had to stand up for Arlington” this morning in his office with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) who rankled folks in Arlington over the line in her book calling the county a “soulless suburb.”
Warner wrote in a tweet “All is forgiven” and thanked Gillibrand for “being a class act.” He posted three photos, including one of him and Gillibrand holding an “Arlington, We Got Soul” T-shirt.
“Senator Gillibrand says she meant no offense,” Warner told ARLnow.com in an email, “and she certainly was a good sport about the whole thing.”
Warner Press Secretary Beth Wanamaker said Gillibrand came into their office “and was immediately apologetic to all of us. She said she had no idea that she would cause such a kerfuffle.”
The shirt is produced by Fairfax-based CustomInk, and it can be bought online here for $20 each. All of the funds from T-shirt purchases will go directly to the Arlington Food Assistance Center, per the T-shirt seller’s website.
Photos courtesy Sen. Mark Warner’s office
Crystal City will soon be the home to dozens of early stage technology companies, housed in the just-opened Crystal Tech Fund coworking space.
Located on the 10th floor of 2231 Crystal Drive, the $50 million Crystal Tech Fund — founded by Paul Singh, an early partner in the venture capital firm 500 Startups — provides office space to companies while also giving each of them significant capital investments and entrepreneurial mentorship.
The fund’s office space opened this week with six companies inside, and partner Brooke Salkoff said the floor — which has an acre of space — can fit up to 30 or 40 companies. The idea isn’t to bring in new startups and be an incubator or accelerator, she said — the startups eligible for space must already have an average of $1 million in annual revenue.
“These startups need more money in order to grow,” Salkoff said. “We fund startups to scale nationwide, and it’s scalable because once they grow, there’s more space around Crystal City.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D) toured the space this morning and Gov. Terry McAuliffe will do the same tomorrow morning, meeting the companies, some of whom are D.C.-area natives and others that moved to Crystal City from other tech hotbeds like Austin, Texas. Warner was briefed on the concept by Singh and Vornado/Charles E. Smith President Mitchell Shear. Vornado contributed $10 million in investment capital as well as the space.
“The combination that’s taking place here is the kind of thing I want to see all over Virginia,” Warner told a group of reporters. “I think Crystal City is being remade. If we could create a tech entrepreneur hotbed here, that would be great for Virginia.”
Among the space’s first tenants are Power Supply, a platform that allows chefs to deliver healthy meals directly to customers, and SupplyHog, an e-commerce platform for contractors. Warner, a former tech investor and one of the founders of Nextel, asked each company to give him “an elevator pitch.”
“We’re going to find the best companies from around the world,” Singh said, “and bring them to Virginia.”
Arlington County Democrats were joined by Sen. Mark Warner at their annual Labor Day Chili Cook-off in Lyon Park on Monday.
Between chatting with local Democratic elected officials and activists, Virginia’s senior U.S. senator cheered on contestants during the event’s popular no-hands-allowed pie eating contest. Finishing first in the contest was Ben Tribbett, of the Not Larry Sabato blog.
The main attraction, of course, was the chili contest. A dozen and a half entries competed for the votes of a panel of judges — the “electoral college” — and for the votes of all attendees — the “popular vote.”
Del. Patrick Hope captured top honors from the popular vote, with attorney Betsey Wildhack and School Board member Noah Simon in second and third respectively. Rep. Jim Moran’s “Animal Lovers Chili,” meanwhile, won the electoral college vote.
Among other attendees at the cookout were all five Arlington County Board members, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Del. Bob Brink and Del. Alfonso Lopez, whose son won the cupcake decorating contest.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) called the Orange Line corridor in Arlington “the core of startups in Washington” during a Q&A with entrepreneurs in Rosslyn today (Thursday).
Warner spoke to several dozen attendees at ÜberOffices (1400 Key Blvd) as part of “Startup Across America” Day, focusing on ways to boost the local startup economy, which has been a driver of job growth in the area.
Warner suggested the local and state governments provide discounts on rent and incentives to preserve the startup community in Arlington. He also spoke against over-regulation of crowdfunding and in favor of additional funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.
During the wide-ranging talk, Warner addressed several other issues facing entrepreneurs and young people — a group that is overlapping more and more in Arlington — such as Bitcoin, entitlement reform and the national debt.
“You guys are up a creek,” Warner said. The national debt of “$17 trillion is a big number, even for the United States.”
Members of the audience asked questions about the Keystone XL pipeline and how Big Data has changed political campaigns. Warner, who was a co-founder of Nextel and a founder of Columbia Capital, a venture capitalist firm in Alexandria, said the young, tech-savvy generation has better answers to the new technology questions, even from a policy standpoint, than he or his colleagues in Congress do.
“This is the future of the economy,” Warner said. “[Entrepreneurs] are the future employers of the region. I can learn from them as much as they can learn from me.”
The issue Warner focuses most on in the Senate is the budget, and when one of the audience members asked him about the budget, he spread his arms wide, smiled, and said, “thank you for asking me that question.” He then delved in to how the U.S. accumulated its deficit, citing Bush-era tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan funded on credit, additional funds into entitlements and longer life expectancy.
“Medicare and Social Security are great programs,” Warner said, “but the math doesn’t work anymore.”
Warner, a moderate Democrat, had a few nuggets of advice for the crowd on how they can personally try improve national politics.
“If you’re frustrated with politics, don’t vote for anyone who signs one of those stupid pledges,” he said, acknowledging both parties. “Turn off Fox News and MSNBC, they both lie.”
Warner spoke in favor of reforming congressional redistricting by making it a process independent of politics. Politically driven redistricting is at least partially responsible for the current hyperpartisan environment on Capitol Hill, he said.
Warner also encouraged the audience to vote across the aisle on issues they believe in — voting for Republicans who aren’t opposed to raising taxes and Democrats who are open to entitlement reform.
Closing the discussion, Warner encouraged the crowd of mostly 20- and 30-somethings to contribute to the Commonwealth by building successful businesses here.
“Make a whole lot of money and stay in Virginia,” he said, smiling. “Don’t even think about moving to D.C.”
McAuliffe and Warner will “will launch McAuliffe’s Arlington campaign and roll out his plan to strengthen Virginia’s K-12 education systems in order to prepare Virginia’s students and workforce for the jobs of tomorrow and grow the Commonwealth’s economy,” according to a media advisory.
The event will take place at George Mason University’s campus in Virginia Square at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, May 9.
McAuliffe fell to 10 points behind Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli in a Washington Post poll published over the weekend.
Following word last week that ports outside of Virginia were being considered for the commissioning, the delegation wrote a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, saying that it would a “mistake” to commission the Arlington anywhere other than Commonwealth.
“We applaud the Navy’s responsiveness and decision to commission the USS Arlington in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” the delegation said in a statement today. “Commissioning the ship in Virginia is the appropriate way to honor the bravery and sacrifice of the thousands of local police officers, fire fighters, Pentagon employees, emergency first responders and all who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.”
The delegation includes Rep. Jim Moran, Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Mark Warner and other Virginia lawmakers.