Opinions seem to be divided about the house in Arlington’s Highland Park neighborhood with the chalk message declaring “F–k the NRA.”
On one hand, many people — even those who are not fans of the National Rifle Association and pro-gun policies — object to writing a large profanity on the front of a house along a busy road. There are children in the neighborhood who walk by this house, those who object to it say.
On the other hand, the resident who wrote the message is exercising his or her right to free speech and addressing an important topic. When guns are being used to kill children in schools, supporters say, the “F-word” should be the least of people’s concerns.
What do you think?
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) An Arlington resident decided to voice an opinion on gun control via a message scrawled in chalk onto the front of their house, after the mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida two weeks ago, but the message is causing some controversy not related to politics.
The house is located along busy Washington Blvd, roughly between East Falls Church and Westover Village. Despite Arlington’s deep blue political leanings, the words have been a hot button conversation among neighbors because the message — “F–k the NRA” — includes a profanity in plain sight of anyone driving or walking by.
“I have no issue with their freedom of expression, but I am concerned that my young kids are going to see the profanity as we drive by and ask what it means,” one resident said on the local NextDoor message board. “I also tend to think it’s possible to express the same sentiment without public profanity. Is this kind of thing even allowed under Arlington code?”
“Regardless of how you feel on the issue, it’s highly offensive and inappropriate,” another said. “But we can explain to kids that vulgarity is evidence of a weak mind.”
“I’m no fan of the NRA but it’s outrageous and counterproductive to boot,” said yet another peeved resident. “Freedom of speech and expression does not need to sink to this level,” echoed a neighbor.
One resident who lives nearby told ARLnow.com that he contacted police, to no avail.
“I called ACPD non emergency number as kids shouldn’t be seeing that kind of language in my opinion,” he said. “Their response, ‘police have been out and there is nothing that they can do.’ First Amendment protection is needed absolutely but it was shocking that there was no profanity law that was being broken.”
Some message board posters, however, said they did not have a problem with the sign.
“I pump my fist in the air every time I drive by,” said one, “in case the owners are reading this and think everyone is against their statement.”
“That house usually has pretty artwork or other positive statements. Obviously the profanity is pushing the limits for some neighbors but personally I don’t have a problem explaining the use of profanity to my kids because the intention behind it is good,” said another supporter. “The artist isn’t promoting violence, unhealthy or dangerous behavior. Has anyone close to the neighbor talked to them and explained how the language is affecting them?”
The ceremony is set for Saturday, November 11 from 11 a.m. to noon at the center at 909 S. Dinwiddie Street. Members of the Army of the Potomac Living History Society portraying Union soldiers will provide a color guard, and a short video will be shown to show the Civil War history in the area.
“On June 1, 1861 one of the early skirmishes of the Civil War occurred near Arlington Mill when Union pickets were attacked by a handful of Confederate soldiers,” an announcement reads. “After a brief fight, the Confederates fell back. One Union soldier was killed.”
While the “Patriots Know” signs remain up in classrooms, according to an Arlington Public Schools spokesman, Pasi apologized for the “distress” the issue — which has received national attention from conservative media — may have caused.
“We sincerely regret any distress this may have caused our students, parents or anyone in the Yorktown community,” Pasi wrote. “We want our focus to continue to be instruction, while at the same time providing a safe and supportive environment for discussion, consistent with the YHS and APS mission, vision and core values.”
Pasi said that Yorktown has adopted sign policies in place at other Arlington high schools, although he did not elaborate on the specifics of those policies nor their application to the current controversy.
The full letter is below.
For many years, Yorktown High School’s philosophy and goal has been to work deliberately, daily and collectively on fostering respect for ALL. Our long standing social-emotional learning (SEL) and ROCS (Respect for Others, Community and Self) programs are designed to help foster a positive, respectful school climate for ALL. It’s a feature of our educational program we take seriously and have worked on each day. We want every student here to feel valued, supported and respected.
We all know that we live in a challenging and sometimes difficult political climate. With that, many schools (including Yorktown) are dealing with new situations and issues. Here at Yorktown, one of those issues has been signs that have been posted with good intentions that some members of our community have supported while others have taken exception to for one reason or another.
We sincerely regret any distress this may have caused our students, parents or anyone in the Yorktown community. We want our focus to continue to be instruction, while at the same time providing a safe and supportive environment for discussion, consistent with the YHS and APS mission, vision and core values.
Last year, some APS high schools experienced a few difficulties with how and when students could post signs equitably because so many student clubs and organizations were interested in promoting their activities and events. To help provide clarity, a set of procedures and guidelines for posting materials in high schools were developed by a team of high school staff that is also consistent with the APS Printed Materials Policy.
While this was not a concern for Yorktown at that time, last week we experienced confusion over how to determine what should be posted. Moving forward, we have decided to use the same guidelines and process here at Yorktown that the other APS high schools are following so that all high schools are approaching these decisions in a uniform way.
On Friday, I met with teachers and many of our students to discuss this and we have revised our processes to be consistent with the other high schools. We also will be meeting with representatives of each YHS student organization so that everyone knows and understands our process as we move forward.
In the future, there may be differences of opinions on one issue or another. We need to recognize that it is in the best interest of our entire community that we work together to create our future. That comes through cooperation and understanding our similarities as well as accepting our differences. We will continue to strive to create a school climate that is inclusive and supportive of all students.
Kasich, McAuliffe at GMU Today — Govs. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) and John Kasich (R-Ohio) will help dedicate the newly-named Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Arlington this afternoon. The school is being named after Dwight C. Schar, founder of homebuilder NVR, Inc., who has pledged $10 million to GMU.
Vornado Considering Short-Term Stays — Remarkably, the 699-unit Bartlett apartment tower in Pentagon City is more than 60 percent leased only a few months after opening. To temporarily fill vacant apartments, however, owner Vornado is asking for permission to open 50 units to short-term visitors, turning those units into a kind of extended stay hotel. [Washington Business Journal]
Police Raid Near DJO — Residents in the Williamsburg neighborhood near Bishop O’Connell High School say there was a police raid at a house on the 2800 block of N. Tacoma Street on Friday. An Arlington County Police spokeswoman would only tell us that “officers were executing a search warrant pursuant to an ongoing and active criminal investigation.”
Clement Accuses Dems of Stealing Signs — Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement says he signs are being stolen and she’s pointing the finger at Democrats. The chair of the local Democrats says some of their signs have disappeared as well and called on whoever is removing any candidate’s signs to stop. County Board John Vihstadt believes the sign stealer is someone opposed to roadside signs in general. [InsideNova]
Ann Broder Dies — Former Arlington School Board member and longtime local activist Ann Broder has died at her Arlington home. She was 87. Broder was married to the late, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Broder, who died in 2011. [Washington Post]
Sign Regulations Updated — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved changes to its comprehensive sign plan that loosens signage regulations on buildings with older sign plans. The Board voted to make its sign regulations a bit more flexible in 2012, but the changes did not apply to existing sign plans. [Arlington County]
Marriage Jubilee Mass in Arlington — Arlington’s outgoing Catholic bishop, The Most Rev. Paul Loverde, celebrated the church’s annual Marriage Jubilee Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington on Sunday. Among those in attendance were “150 couples celebrating their 25th anniversary and 109 couples celebrating their 50th anniversary.” [Associated Press]
Va. Voter Registration Deadline — Today is the last day to register to vote in Virginia before November’s election. [NBC Washington]
There were enough people jaywalking between the Starbucks and the Whole Foods in Clarendon that it apparently prompted Arlington County to install a
recently appeared mid-block on the Whole Foods side of Clarendon Blvd. It instructs pedestrians not to cross and to use one of the marked crosswalks up the block.
The block is often congested with traffic turning into the Whole Foods parking lot, making it even more dangerous for pedestrians trying to cross the street outside of a crosswalk.
Update at 1:05 p.m. — As readers are pointing out, the sign has, in fact, been there since at least 2014, as proven by Google Street View. It is not “new” except, perhaps, on a geological timeframe. The 2012 Street View image does not show the sign. The 2007 and 2009 Street View images both show people standing where the sign currently is, apparently waiting to cross the street.
An electronic road sign in Clarendon is reminding drivers to be aware of and yield to pedestrians and bicyclists.
The Arlington County Police Department-owned sign was placed near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Edgewood Street, where traffic is approaching Clarendon’s main bar district.
The sign flashes three separate messages: “yield to people in crosswalk,” “watch for bikes on your right” and “people don’t have airbags.” It’s part of an ongoing ACPD traffic safety campaign, said a police spokesman.
“We’re trying to modernize the message that we send in regards to traffic safety,” said Lt. Kip Malcolm. “Most mundane traffic safety messages get overlooked by motorists. Anything we can do to help promote or draw attention to their driving behaviors is going to get the message across faster and make it more memorable.”
In 2013 the electronic sign was placed at an accident-prone on-ramp, at Route 50 and Washington Blvd, with the simple message: “don’t hit the car in front of you.”
Signs reading “Marine Corps Marathon Drive” will adorn street poles on Wilson Blvd. from N. Lynn Street to N. Moore Street in honor of Sunday’s annual marathon.
The signs will remain through race day to signify how much the Marine Corps Marathon has become a part of the Arlington community.
“It is fitting that we rename part of Wilson Boulevard ‘Marine Corps Marathon Drive.’ The renaming anticipates a day that inspires and energizes us all, while also paying tribute to our heroic U.S. Marines,” said Mary-Claire Burick, the new president of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.
“On MCM day, Rosslyn is eager to welcome runners and celebrate their accomplishments as the host of the Marine Corps Marathon Finish Festival,” Burick said.
The Marine Corps Marathon route starts near the Pentagon and runs through Rosslyn, up Lee Highway, down Spout Run and into the District, before crossing the 14th Street Bridge into Crystal City and ending near the Marine Corps War Memorial in Rosslyn. The race, which draws more than 30,000 runners, starts just before 8:00 a.m. on Sunday.
Photo courtesy of @StayArlington
The electronic sign the Arlington County Police Department stationed at Washington Blvd and Route 50 with the seemingly obvious message “don’t hit the car in front of you” may have accomplished its intended goal. ACPD reports a reduction in accidents at the intersection.
The department targeted that particular area with an electronic message due to the high number of crashes there. It was the county’s top area for accidents during the second quarter of 2013. After the sign went up, however, the department saw a change.
“It appears the sign worked because there was a sharp decrease in accidents from July to August,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The sign went up in early July, and from then until today (September 11), police have only responded to two accidents. That’s down from about 15 during the second quarter.
The department believes the simplicity of the sign’s message may be what caused drivers to take notice and heed the warning. Despite the large amount of attention it received, the message did not produce any complaints to police.
The electronic sign is one of four ACPD owns, all of which are mounted on trailers so they can be easily moved around the county. The signs are rotated on a regular basis; messages typically remain for about two months, unless they show a short term alert such as a special event or one-time road closure. This specific sign was changed a few days after ARLnow.com ran the story last month.
An electronic sign the Arlington County Police Department stationed at Washington Boulevard and Route 50 is raising some eyebrows. Not because the message it displays is risqué, but rather because it seems so obvious.
Earlier this month, @CruiseInDeCarr tweeted a photo of the sign to ARLnow.com, adding: “You wouldn’t think we’d need a sign for this.” While that may be the logical assumption, it appears drivers haven’t heeded the obvious advice, considering that intersection came in as the top area for motor vehicle accidents in Arlington during the second quarter of 2013. During that time period, police responded to 11 accidents at the site, nearly all of them rear-end collisions.
The ACPD believes the sign has caught drivers’ attention due to the simplicity of the wording.
“The current message was an attempt to simplify the message to reduce the amount of accidents as much as possible,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “It’s intended to have a positive effect in terms of reducing the number of accidents because that site has been identified as a top accident location in Arlington. As long as people are paying attention, it [the sign] may affect their driving behavior.”
The sign is one of four the ACPD purchased from 2004-2006. It cost around $16,000, with about half of the cost being covered by grant money from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. All the messages displayed on the boards rotate and are changed after two months. Previous messages included “high accident area ahead”, “no merge area”, “safety is no accident” and “maintain safe following distance.”
The signs are mounted on trailers that can be moved around the county to warn drivers of construction zones, inform them of traffic safety campaigns or alert them to special events. The ACPD says the signs operate on deep cycle 12 volt batteries and the necessary maintenance is minimal.
Photo courtesy @CruiseInDeCarr
Last week, a tipster told ARLnow.com that signs for eastbound traffic on 12th Street (pictured) indicated there two through lanes, when in fact there’s only one available lane on the other side of the intersection. This caused confusion for drivers, which could lead to accidents, the tipster said.
(The road and intersection was recently re-striped and reconfigured as part of the Crystal Drive two-way project, which converted Crystal Drive from a one-way to two-way road between 12th and 15th Streets.)
Arlington County spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman said this morning that the signs have been fixed.
“The signs in question at the intersection were corrected yesterday evening,” Heilman said. “They shouldn’t have been uncovered until the new signal at the intersection is turned on by Dominion Virginia Power.”
A Dominion rep told ARLnow.com that a new transformer is scheduled to be installed as part of the project on Saturday. Meters and power could be switched on as soon as Monday, Aug. 19.
Signs are popping up in some Arlington County parks telling patrons to play elsewhere. The signs simply read “Field Closed” — but there are no other measures to keep residents away from that portion of the park. So what gives?
Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said workers post the signs in some of the county’s sports fields and parks during the winter to allow the turf to rest. The signs are intended to discourage larger gatherings and sports games on the affected fields.
“It’s not like we don’t want people walking through the areas, but we want to discourage pick-up soccer games and things that could stress the grass,” said Kalish.
Kalish said because grass doesn’t grow at this time of year, any damage that would be done to turf during the winter wouldn’t be able to begin mending until spring. Preventing winter damage from occurring in the first place cuts down on the amount of mending necessary in the spring.
Despite the fact that the election was two weeks ago, some political signs still have been spotted in public spaces around town in recent days. That’s against county code, but residents are being told to report, not remove rogue campaign signs.
Per code, all political signs were to be removed from the public right of way (such as road medians) by the campaigns within five days after the election. Those that remain are subject to confiscation by county staff. Residents who notice lingering signs are asked not to remove them; the signs are to be removed only by the organization that originally placed them, or by county zoning staff.
The regulations are part of the larger sign ordinance, which has been revamped this year. Audrey Clement, who ran for County Board as a Green Party candidate, spoke at the Board meeting on Saturday (Nov. 17) to complain about the lack of enforcement for the sign rules. Clement pointed out that leading up to the election, no more than two signs are to be placed in a public space. She reported to have sometimes seen “six to a median.” Clement also said she went around the county to remove her own signs after the election.
“Given the level of abuse, what is the point of wasting countless hours of community and staff time to revise an ordinance that the county itself ignores?” said Clement. “If the losers uphold the law, why can’t the winners enforce it?”
Board member Jay Fisette noted that candidates at the federal level would probably be less likely to know Arlington’s ordinances, but said they should have been informed of the regulations. He said Clement’s concern was warranted.
“Whether they’re federal, state or local candidates, the county should be enforcing them,” Fisette said.
Not all signs in Arlington fall within the county’s authority, however. Campaign signs along VDOT-maintained roads are subject to enforcement and removal by the state.
County staff has been removing signs they see or that are reported along county roads. Anyone who wants to report a political sign in violation of the ordinance may call code enforcement at 703-228-3232. The county is encouraging residents who wish to dispose of a political sign on their own personal property to recycle it.
There’s been a large scale revamp of the sign regulations in Arlington’s Zoning Ordinance. The County Board approved changes to the ordinance during a marathon meeting last night (Tuesday) that stretched into the early morning.
The effort is intended to clarify gray areas, modernize the regulations and to make them easier for everyone to understand. Major issues included signs placed in the public right-of-way by private parties, the County Board’s involvement in reviewing sign requests and regulations for roofline signs.
Board members Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman pushed for a ban on commercial roofline signs — those installed above a height of 40 feet — but it didn’t pass. The county Planning Commission favored the ban, but county staff recommended keeping the signs. The remaining three Board members ended up siding with county staff.
The Board acknowledged the difficulty of resolving the issue and pleasing all involved parties; speakers representing business interests (and some residents) at the meeting spoke in favor of keeping the signs, while a number of residents said they’d like them removed.
“We are being overwhelmed by this development,” said resident Jim Hurysz, speaking against rooftop signs. “If I wanted to live in downtown Las Vegas, I’d live there.”
“I like signs. I look for signs to know where I am. It’s useful, it’s attractive,” countered Rosslyn resident Valerie Crotty. “You’re not living in a suburb. You’re not living in a rural area.”
“All of these companies are now asking themselves ‘does Arlington not want us here?'” said Arlington Economic Development Commission member Marty Almquist. “‘Are they embarrassed that we’ve decided to locate here? Are they not interested in this live, work, play concept that has been touted for the Metro corridor?'”
“In the past, Arlington could rely on companies to relocate here,” Almquist continued. “That will all change when the Silver Line opens in 2013. Tysons Corner and Reston are going to be Metro accessible… that means Arlington needs to have at its disposal a variety of incentives to our tenants to persuade them to move here or stay here… one of those incentives needs to be signage.”
Board member Libby Garvey supported the signs, saying they distinguish Arlington and highlight its exciting atmosphere as an urban village.
“It’s so hugely personal,” Garvey said. “To me, if they’re done well, the sign, it gives the building a personality.”
Under the new regulations, businesses will have to limit the use of lighted signs to 8:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m. (a midnight cut-off was originally proposed) if they face national monuments or lands, such as Arlington National Cemetery or the National Mall. Those signs also will be limited to only one per facade. The Board approved limiting the brightness of lighted signs that are within 100 feet of residential high rises.
Board member Jay Fisette noted that whether for or against lighted signs, addressing the issue in the ordinance is “evolutionary.” Previously, the county did not have any set standards for these types of signs.
Existing signs that previously had been approved but may not meet the new standards will be grandfathered in, at least for now.
Much of the approval process for new signs will now lie with county staff, instead of requiring Board approval. It was noted that this provision is not designed to allow the approval of a higher percentage of signs or to make the regulations less stringent, it’s simply to reduce how often individual sign issues have to go before the Board, so members are freed up to deal with other issues. Small businesses had frequently expressed disapproval over the length of time involved with the sign permitting process, considering 30-40 percent of them had to be approved by the Board.
The final point garnering attention dealt with signs in the public right-of-way. Under the new regulations, temporary signs advertising lost pets or community events — such as a meeting or spaghetti dinner — will be allowed, provided they meet size requirements, are secured to the ground, and stay in place for no longer than seven consecutive days. Noncommercial signs that aren’t secured to the ground — like most A-frame signs — would be prohibited in the public right-of-way, but will still be allowed on private property.
The process of updating the signs regulations in the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance has been ongoing since December 2010. County staff members gathered input on the three revised drafts at a number of public hearings and workshops before presenting the Board with the final proposal last night.
Despite nearly six hours of back-and-forth debate on individual aspects of the ordinance, the Board eventually unanimously voted to approve it.
“I think it is not perfect, and I think it is like anything, going to change. But I’ve been unhappy with the sign ordinance in this county since I first got involved with the Board,” said Zimmerman. “I do think the bulk of this is a real step forward for the county.”
The unanimous approval set one public hearing on the Zoning Ordinance changes for July 9, and another for July 24. Both will be in the third-floor Board Room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.
One issue residents consistently raised at public workshops last year, and continue to contact the county about, is that of signs in the public right away — on road medians and the like. Currently, only two types of signs are allowed in the right of way — political and directional real estate signs. The real estate signs are allowed on weekends, typically to identify open houses, and political signs can remain for 31 days prior to an election.
A proposed amendment would allow non-commercial signs to remain in areas like medians for seven days at a time. Examples of those signs include lost pets, civic association meetings and community fundraisers. Directional commercial signs would be allowed on weekends for events in residential districts, such as yard sales and open houses. The signs would all have to be within half a mile of the events they are advertising.
A number of residents have suggested permitting volunteers to enforce the signs ordinance, and to remove non-compliant signs in the public right of way. Although citizen enforcement originally offered some appeal due to citizens being able to respond more quickly to offending signs, county staff says complications arose upon further examination. For instance, injuries or property damage during sign removal could be a liability to the county, and citizens may make mistakes if they don’t have an extensive knowledge of the zoning ordinance. Thus, that idea was scrapped.
Other proposed changes to the ordinance came up at a county work session in January, and include standards for lighted signs as well as provisions that would reduce the number of sign issues that need to go before the County Board for approval.
Work on the revised sign regulations has been ongoing since December 2010, and has involved “intensive” participation from County Commissions, residents and business owners.
“This proposed overhaul of our sign regulations will make it easier for everyone — both residents and business owners — to understand and follow the rules,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “The proposed regulations also set the stage for businesses to put up creative signs that enliven our commercial areas and meet residents’ expectations.”