The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously passed a $1.276 billion balanced budget that includes a number of fee increases but no real estate tax rate hike.
The FY 2019 budget notably restores $70,000 in funding for Arlington Independent Media — County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed cutting about $90,000 in county funds for the community TV and radio broadcaster — after AIM collected more than 1,300 online petition signatures against the cut. The Board also boosted first responder pay, particularly starting pay which police and firefighter associations say is low and hurting recruitment, by $1.6 million above the manager’s recommendation, which already included a pay boost.
Funding the increased spending is the reallocation of $2.5 million from proposed renovations to the county government headquarters in Courthouse and the freezing of 16 vacant public safety positions.
Per the manager’s recommendations, the budget also increases parking meter rates and extends metered hours until 8 p.m., while increasing utility taxes, household waste fees and various departmental fees.
“The Board largely accepted the $8.4 million in spending reductions, $6.6 million in fee and tax increases and $5.5 million in funding realignments recommended by the County Manager in his proposed budget,” notes a county press release, below. County Board Chair Katie Cristol called the adopted budget “sustainably progressive.”
County funding for Arlington Public Schools will top the $500 million mark, as the school system continues to face pressures from enrollment growth and the opening of new schools. Metro, meanwhile, will receive a 3 percent increase in funding, receiving $73.1 million from the county’s coffers and state transit aid earmarked for Arlington.
In addition to AIM and first responders, the Board nixed the following cuts proposed by Schwartz, according to the markup record:
- $620,000 for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund
- $365,000 for Lee Highway planning and $25,000 for the Lee Highway Alliance
- $40,000 for the Legal Aid Justice Center, which serves immigrants
- $200,000 for a body scanner at the county jail
- $50,000 for the Arlington County Fair
- $20,000 for community shredding events
- $40,000 for the Arlington Neighborhood College program
- $184,000 for a youth mental health therapist
Among the proposed cuts not restored: the elimination of the printed Citizen newsletter, the elimination of two ART bus routes, the elimination of Arlington’s poet laureate and a $555,000 cut to the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy residential rebate program.
The latter drew some pushback from Board members.
“The cuts that we’re doing this year to AIRE — nobody’s going to die, there’s nothing fundamentally that any of us are going to lose sleep over or should be ashamed of,” said Erik Gutshall. “But while people don’t die, our planet is dying, its ability to sustain our life at least.”
“In future budgets, while we’re going to continue to make tough choices, we’re not going to let our commitment to the environment fall behind,” he added.
Despite the disagreements, the Board was unanimous in its vote on the budget, which Board members praised for prioritizing key areas while avoiding a tax rate increase. (The tax burden on the average homeowner will still increase by $296.)
“Despite the reductions, there are investments our community can be proud of in this budget,” Cristol said in a statement. “We prioritized funding our public schools, especially teachers, and investing in our workforce, especially public safety personnel. We preserved our social safety net and sustained funding for affordable housing and core services.”
“I see this budget really as a transition from the way we’ve been doing things to the way we’ll need to do things going forward,” said Libby Garvey. “This community has pretty much gotten used to having as much money as we need to do what we want to do. This year it’s starting to change. It’s likely to be even harder in the future with the stresses we have moving forward. I think it’s a good transition to what we’ll be doing moving forward.”
“What I think we’ve done is really weatherize our fiscal house for the inclement weather ahead,” echoed John Vihstadt. “It’s only going to get tougher as we move forward, but we took some important steps here that, while not greeted uniformly favorably, were necessary to be done.”
Arlington Independent Media and public safety associations, meanwhile, expressed gratitude for the additional funding.
Thanks to all our members, producers & supporters for sharing your stories with @ArlingtonVA County Board. Thanks to @kcristol @Arl_CDorsey @libbygarvey @jevarlington & @erik4arlington for listening! We appreciate the work you do. We look forward to the future! #ArlingtonVA
— AIM (@arlington_media) April 21, 2018
THANK YOU to the Arl CB for adopting the FY19 budget w/ enhanced public safety pay! This will help retain & recruit high-quality police officers & firefighters. #FairPayforFirstResponders @kcristol @Arl_CDorsey @libbygarvey @voteforvihstadt @erik4arlington https://t.co/yf3AWNI1Vn
— Arlington Police Beneficiary Association (@ArlPoliceAssoc) April 21, 2018
Yes…thank you to the Board and County Manager for listening and supporting us. This was a positive step forward for public safety. https://t.co/P2NytKBoJT
— IAFF Local 2800 (@IAFF2800) April 21, 2018
Arlington County’s press release about the budget, after the jump.
In partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, county residents can safely dispose of expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs. The service is free and anonymous, with no questions asked.
Drugs will be collected at the following sites from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.:
- Fire Station 1 (500 S. Glebe Road)
- Fire Station 5 (1750 S. Hayes Street)
- Fire Station 8 (4845 Lee Highway)
- Fire Station 9 (1900 S. Walter Reed Drive)
- Pentagon parking lot between S. Fern Street and S. Eads Street (551 Army Navy Drive)
The DEA cannot accept liquids, needles or sharp objects. Only pills or patches will be accepted.
More from an ACPD press release:
Last April Americans turned in 450 tons (900,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at almost 5,500 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 13 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 8.1 million pounds–more than 4,050 tons–of pills.
This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines–flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash–both pose potential safety and health hazards.
If residents are unable to participate in this event, please visit the Arlington County website for information on how to prepare unwanted medications for disposal. For additional information about the October 28 Take Back Day Event, please visit the DEA Diversion website.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
The Arlington County Police Department has gotten national and international attention after a video of its officers performing a synchronized swimming routine went viral.
The video, to advertise the third annual Police, Fire and Sheriff Block Party on August 26, has put the department in the spotlight, with the likes of ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight showing it to a national audience.
Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said all four major networks — NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX — all reached out to ask for permission to use the video, with ABC’s national Facebook post receiving more than 1.8 million views.
There have also been attempts to recreate the routine, too, from local news anchors in Texas, while police departments even further afield in places like Australia and the United Kingdom have given the video international exposure.
In a radio interview with WFTL in South Florida, Sgt. Damon Washington, one of the officers who throws themselves in the pool in full uniform to perform, said the department never planned to go viral. Instead, he said, they just wanted to engage local people in their work.
“In all honesty, we didn’t do this to go viral,” Washington said. “Me and our guys really care about the community we serve. It’s one of our initiatives, and one of the [Police Chief Jay Farr’s] initiatives is community engagement.”
Washington said the department gave the pool video, and the series of other light-hearted videos promoting the block party, its full support.
The department released another video today (below) to advertise the block party. This time, officers and firefighters are shown enjoying themselves while washing cars. Attendees can get a voucher for a free car wash after taking a distracted driving course, one of the many activities at the block party.
“We’re a very talented group up here in Arlington County,” Washington said.
The block party will take place on August 26 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road). The event is free and will be geared towards families.
After weeks of anticipation ahead of its August 26 block party, the Arlington County Police Department on Thursday, August 10 released its video of officers synchronized swimming to advertise the festivities.
The video begins with officers looking at hundreds of bottles of water, wondering if it will be enough to quench the thirst of attendees. Then the video cuts to show five officers removing some of their bulkier equipment before diving into the pool — it was filmed at the Dorchester Towers apartments along Columbia Pike — to perform a synchronized swimming routine.
The video is one of several created to promote the third annual Police, Fire and Sheriff Block Party. Another released on August 2 shows an officer and a child demonstrating the ninja obstacle course, one of several activities at the event.
The block party will take place on August 26 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road). The event is free and will be geared towards families.
Activities scheduled throughout the day include: “Behind the Badge,” an interactive activity that will simulate police scenarios for residents; a training on police tactics to get a taste of what it’s like being an officer; VIN etching; demonstrations from police K-9s and motorcycle officers; a distracted driving course; a “helicopter and vehicle expo” and more.
Police said multiple residents reported receiving phone calls from someone either claiming to be a Sheriff’s Deputy or with another local law enforcement agency, accusing them of failing to appear for jury duty.
The scammer then said a warrant for their arrest was to be issued unless a fine is paid over the phone.
Earlier this month, a reader reported receiving a call of this nature from a man claiming to be a Sgt. Jimmy Jackson with Arlington police. The reader said the caller did not ask for money right away, but instead stated that they had to schedule an in-person affidavit, and the money paid would arrange that.
Police and the Sheriff’s Office warned of a similar scam earlier this year.
More from an ACPD press release:
If you receive a call of this nature, immediately hang up with the caller and verify the claim by calling the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office at 703.228.4460. Never use a phone number provided to you from the caller to verify their credibility. Also, never provide personal information such as bank account numbers to anyone over the phone.
Subjects will use a variety of different phone scams and the Arlington County Police Department wants the public to be aware of the recent string of scams and past cases so you don’t become a victim. In addition to the recent jury duty scam, the Police Department has received fraud reports in the past regarding utility companies threatening to shut of services if not provided immediate payment; IRS collecting fees for unpaid taxes; and family members allegedly being held hostage or having suffered injury requiring payment. If you receive a call of this nature, please hang up immediately and report this information to the non-emergency line. Individuals seeking additional information about fraud can contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unit at [email protected] or visit the police website.
(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) Arlington’s Peace Officers Memorial Day ceremony this morning added a new name to its memorial for police officers killed in the line of duty: the county’s seventh and its first since 1977.
Corporal Harvey Snook, an Army veteran, died in January 2016 from cancer he contracted from responding to the Pentagon after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Snook spent a week at the Pentagon after a plane crashed into its western side at 9:37 a.m. that day, collecting evidence and the remains of some of the 189 people killed.
Snook’s plaque was unveiled at the memorial outside Arlington police headquarters in Courthouse, with more than 200 people present, including law enforcement officials from around the county and the region, U.S. Park Police and representatives from the Metropolitan Police in London.
His plaque was the first to be added to the memorial since it was dedicated in 2005.
Arlington Police Chief Jay Farr paid tribute to Snook’s lively personality, which persisted even after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and said his response at the Pentagon on 9/11 “encompassed who he was.”
“Harvey was the kind of guy who brought joy to this job,” Farr said. “He brought joy to it every day.”
The ceremony included bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace,” readings from police and county officials, and a flyover by the Fairfax County Police helicopter. During the ceremony, a dispatcher from the county’s Emergency Communications Center read a tribute to Snook over a police radio channel and announced that Snook — identified by his ACPD unit number, 884 — had ended his tour of duty.
“In valor, there is hope,” the dispatcher said.
Larson joined the Sheriff’s Office in September 2008. He was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Sheriff’s Office and supervised its Administration, Corrections and Judicial Services Divisions.
Before joining the Sheriff’s Office, Larson worked for the Arlington County Police Department from 1988-2008. With the police, he commanded the department’s Criminal Investigations Section, the Third Patrol District, the Special Operations Section and the Internal Affairs Section.
“Chief Deputy Larson has had a tremendous impact on the office during his tenure and I appreciate his commitment and dedication,” said Sheriff Beth Arthur in a statement. “He has been an impactful member of Arlington County public safety and the county during his 28+ years of service.”
Retired Major Dave Kidwell will succeed Larson as the next Chief Deputy. Kidwell spent more than 25 years in the Sheriff’s Office, and retired in September 2015 as Director of Corrections.
“His experience, character and loyalty to the Sheriff’s Office will make this transition as seamless as possible,” Sheriff’s Office representatives said in a statement. “He has the values, dedication and passion to continue the strong traditions of the office and understands the challenges that the law enforcement profession faces in the future.”
High Water Bills Prompt Questions — A number of Arlington residents say their quarterly water bills for the summer and fall spiked to inconceivably high levels, in some cases in excess of $2,000. The county government, however, says no systemic billing issues have been found and blames the high bills on hot and dry weather combined with homeowners irrigating their yards. [InsideNova]
News Photog Saved By Arlington Medic — WUSA9 photographer Dion Wiggins suffered a massive heart attack while shooting video of traffic along I-395 last month. It was an Arlington County paramedic, Chris Abrahams, who together with firefighter Jason Griffith revived Wiggins from cardiac arrest, stabilized him and transported him to George Washington University Hospital. Wiggins is now back at home and on the road to recovery. [WUSA9]
ACPD: Don’t DUI After the Super Bowl — Super Bowl Sunday is two days away and the Arlington County Police Department is reminding residents to designate a driver for the big game. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest days of the year for DUI, with a third of all U.S. traffic deaths due to drunk drivers. [Arlington County]
D.C. Metro Work This Weekend — Major scheduled track work will close six downtown D.C. Metro stations along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines this weekend. The Blue and Orange lines will be split in two and the Silver line will end at Ballston. “Customers traveling between Virginia and DC are encouraged to use the Yellow Line, if possible,” Metro says. [WMATA]
Kudos for Sheriff’s Office — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office has been awarded reaccreditation by the American Correctional Association Commission (ACA), whose standards are the national benchmark for the effective operation of correctional facilities in the United States.” [Arlington County]
WHS Swimmers in Regionals — “With three Wakefield swimmers heading off to regionals — the most in recent history — the Wakefield community is overflowing with enthusiasm and excitement in anticipation of a splashing victory.” [Wakefield Chieftain]
Obit: Mel Labat — Long-time Arlington tennis coach Mel Labat passed away last week. A memorial service will be held tomorrow (Saturday). A scholarship fund has been established, with the proceeds going to the Arlington Youth Tennis Program. [YMCA, Legacy]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
Election Security in Arlington — Arlington County Police are on alert for election-related incidents, with additional officers on duty today, though there’s no recent history of election violence or fraud. “We haven’t had any issues of Election Day fraud in Arlington,” says the county’s top election official. [NBC 4]
DMV Opening Date Delayed — The opening of the new Dept. of Motor Vehicles office in Virginia Square has been delayed until Wednesday. [ARLnow]
Sheriff to Receive Bar Association Award — On Nov. 15, Arlington Sheriff Beth Arthur will receive the Arlington County Bar Foundation’s William L. Winston Award. The award “is presented to a prominent member of the Northern Virginia legal community for a record of public service distinguished by efforts to advance the principles of enlightenment, knowledge and education in the American system of jurisprudence, as well as to promote democratic ideals and advance the rule of law.” [Arlington County]
Real Estate Firms Collecting Food, Clothes — Ahead of what may be a cold and snowy winter, 13 Arlington real estate firms have joined forces to collect clothing and food donations for the Arlington Food Assistance Center and the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network. [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Arlington County paid its annual tribute to fallen law enforcement officers this morning.
The county’s observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day took place at 8 a.m., in the Arlington County Justice Center Plaza at 1425 N. Courthouse Road. The six Arlington County Police Department officers who have died in the line of duty were remembered during the ceremony, as was a seventh officer who died after suffering a heart attack and falling to his death in the 1920s.
Among those participating in the ceremony was the son of Officer George Pomraning, who was shot to death at the age of 26 while bringing a prisoner to jail on Sept. 2, 1973. Pomraning’s son, who was born around the time of his father’s death, wiped tears from his face after placing a rose in his honor next to the police memorial statue.
Other event participants included Police Chief Jay Farr, Sheriff Beth Arthur, County Board Chair Libby Garvey and County Manager Mark Schwartz. There were also representatives from the Alexandria Police Department, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies.
The memorial ceremony coincides with National Police Week, which brings law enforcement officers from around the country and around the world together in the D.C. area. Police motorcades running down local highways, as well as to and from the airport, are a common sight in Arlington before and during the week-long event, which officially starts on May 15.
Among the pre-Police Week activities, several Arlington County officers took part in a cross-state Law Enforcement United bike ride that arrived at the Iwo Jima memorial near Rosslyn yesterday afternoon.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) May 12, 2016
I-66 Public Hearing at W-L — VDOT is holding a public hearing on the changes planned for I-66 tonight. The hearing is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School’s cafeteria. Meanwhile, one letter-writer is decrying the “whining” from Arlington residents who complain about the proposed partial widening of I-66 while using it to make a reverse commute to Fairfax County — and the protestations from Arlington policymakers who are more than happy to have large employers come to Ballston and other dense neighborhoods along I-66, thus increasing traffic on the highway. [VDOT, Washington Post]
Wakefield, Yorktown Victorious in Key Games — The Wakefield boys basketball squad defeated Deep Run 50-48 on Saturday to advance to the semifinals of the 5A state basketball tournament. This will be the Warriors’ third semifinal appearance in four seasons. Yorktown’s hockey team, meanwhile, defeated Washington-Lee 5-3 at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Friday night. [InsideNova, Twitter]
Abingdon Elementary Design Approved — On Thursday the Arlington School Board approved a final design for an addition and renovation to Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington. The project will add 12 classrooms and 136 seats to the school, while renovating the gym, kitchen and media space. [Arlington Public Schools]
Retired Fire Officials Speak Out Against Station Move — Two retired Arlington County Fire Department officials say a proposed relocation of Fire Station 8 from Lee Highway to a county-owned location farther north does not make practical sense and would mostly benefit residents of Fairfax County. Residents around the current fire station and around its proposed new location have been protesting the planned move. [InsideNova]
Arlington Complying With Immigration Detainers — Arlington County law enforcement is complying with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests for jail inmates, but only if ICE reimburses the county for certain expenses and picks up the inmate within 48 hours. Fearing that some jurisdictions are not complying with federal detainers, Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly have proposed bills to make such requests mandatory. [Washington Post]
County Board to Meet With Commission Chairs — The Arlington County Board tonight is holding a meeting with the chairmen of the county’s advisory commissions. ARLnow.com hears that the Board has received complaints about certain commissions overstepping their bounds or operating inefficiently. The meeting will address diversity in commission membership, training for commission members and potential improvements to commission communication and community outreach. [Arlington County]
Varius, a 13-year-old black lab, is retiring from the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office tomorrow after 11 years of service as a narcotics-sniffing K-9 officer.
The dog “will remain in the care of Deputy Patrick Grubar, who has been his partner since teaming up at the U.S. Customs Service K-9 Training Academy in 2004,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. “The duo shared in the Arlington County Crime Solvers 2013 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.”
Varius, who’s a senior citizen in dog years, “plans to spend his days watching Animal Planet with his pug ‘little sister’ and keeping up with fans on his Facebook account.”
A sobriety checkpoint will be set up in an undisclosed part of Arlington Thursday night, according to an Arlington County Police Department press release.
“Officers will stop all vehicles passing through the checkpoint and ask to see the licenses of drivers,” the police department said. “Any driver suspected of operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be directed to a safe area off the roadway for further observation and possible testing for intoxication.”
The checkpoint is being conducted by ACPD, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police, as part of a “national crackdown program on drunk driving that focuses on combining high-visibility enforcement with heightened public awareness through advertising and publicity.”
“The maximum penalty in Virginia for the first conviction for driving under the influence is 12 months in jail, a $2,500 fine and a 12-month suspension of driving privileges,” the press release notes.
Justice Dept. Investigating Arlington Jail — The Justice Department has launched an investigation into treatment of deaf inmates at the Arlington County Detention Center. That follows a lawsuit by a deaf inmate who said he was not given access to a sign language interpreter during a six-week stay at the jail. [Associated Press]
Deer Takes the Stage at Signature Theatre — A deer wandered onto the stage at Signature Theatre in Shirlington on Tuesday. The deer apparently entered through a loading dock while crews were working on the set for an upcoming production. [NBC Washington]
‘Most Wanted’ Deadbeats — The Arlington Sheriff’s Office is making a push to promote a program for tracking down “deadbeat parents” who are late on child support payments. Many of the addresses on file for deadbeat parents are no longer valid, so deputies have taken to finding the offenders on social media. [Connection Newspapers]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Police Answer Resident Questions About Murder — Arlington County Police held a community meeting in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood last night to answer questions about the murder of Bonnie Black. Police said that Black was stabbed in the chest and neck. Officers have been conducting extra patrols but police say no immediate danger to the community. Meanwhile, it was revealed that police are searching the home of Black’s estranged husband, who so far is not being named as a suspect. [MyFoxDC, WTOP]
Judge Considering Deaf Inmate’s Suit — A federal court judge is considering testimony in the lawsuit against the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office by a deaf inmate who says he was denied access to an American Sign Language interpreter during a jail stay last year. [Associated Press]
TDM For APS Teachers — Arlington County has launched the first transportation demand management (TDM) program in the U.S. for public school faculty and staff. The program is “aimed at reducing the drive-alone rate of the more than 5,000 employees of Arlington Public Schools (APS), one of the top employers in the county.” [Mobility Lab]
No ‘Bells and Whistles’ for Lubber Run — Arlington County is in the early stages of a plan to renovate the Lubber Run Community Center (300 N. Park Drive), but the officials are already tamping down any expectations of gold-plated features. “We’re not going to build everyone’s wish list,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes on Tuesday. A community forum about the renovation project is scheduled for next Wednesday at 6:30 at the community center. [InsideNova]
Arlington Native Named People’s ‘Most Beautiful’ — Actress Sandra Bullock, a 1982 graduate of Washington-Lee High School, has been named People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman of 2015. [Patch]
Photo courtesy @TheBeltWalk