Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Special Election Voting Today — Voting is underway in the three-way special election to fill the late Erik Gutshall’s County Board seat. Polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. The candidates are Takis Karantonis, Susan Cunningham and Bob Cambridge. “Don’t forget your photo ID, ballpoint pen, and face mask,” Arlington’s election office said this morning in a tweet. [Twitter]

No Incentive Payments for Amazon This Year — “Amazon.com Inc. won’t receive any direct cash payments from Arlington County, this year at least, for its HQ2 office leases… because Amazon’s incentive payments are tied to Arlington’s tourism industry. And many rooms remain empty to this day.” [Washington Business Journal]

APS Working to Offer Free Internet Service — “In May, the Arlington County Board allocated $500,000 of funding for a joint County/School Internet Essentials Grant Program to provide broadband internet access to APS students in need. The grant, allocated as part of the federal [CARES] Act, will provide free, high-speed internet access to low-income families who qualify for Internet Essentials from Comcast. Arlington is the first community in Virginia to partner with Comcast to offer free broadband services to students and their families.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Flying Squirrel Rescued from Chimney — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “This little flying squirrel had been stuck in a local resident’s chimney since Saturday, but thankfully, Sgt Ballena was able to remove him and release him safely nearby!” [Twitter]

Synetic Organizing Joint Fundraiser — “Synetic Theater has partnered with the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) to raise $20,000 during the month of July to be split evenly between the organizations. This partnership was initiated by Synetic Theater to help fulfil the company’s desire to invest in their local community while they are unable to host live performances at their Crystal City/National Landing theater space.” [Press Release]

Interview With New Poet Laureate — “When Hollynd Karapetkova learned that she had been selected as Arlington County’s poet laureate, she saw it as a wonderful piece of good news and positive recognition at a time when everything in the world seemed so chaotic. ‘I’m really grateful that Arlington has gone ahead with this program in spite of all the chaos that’s unfolding,’ she said.” [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Thieves Hit Three Local Car Dealerships — A group of thieves stole a dozen cars from three car dealerships in Arlington. Some of the thefts were caught on surveillance video. In one instance, five vehicles were damaged as the thieves made their getaway. [WJLA, Arlington County]

Some Amazon Neighbors Wanted More — “Amazon.com Inc. easily won approval this weekend to start work on its first new HQ2 construction in Arlington, yet many of the company’s new neighbors remain exasperated over the benefits the community will receive… Though Amazon’s proposed investments may seem substantial, some people residing close Met Park feel that these benefits will inevitably fall short in mitigating the impacts of the construction.” [Washington Business Journal]

Spotted: Albino Squirrel — An albino squirrel was caught on video in Arlington’s Waverly Hills neighborhood. [Facebook]

Accounting Firm Touts ‘Zero-Waste’ Office in Rosslyn — “Grant Thornton LLP has consolidated its workforce in the Washington, D.C., area in the firm’s MetroDC office – its first zero-waste office in the country. The office, located at 1000 Wilson Blvd in Arlington, unites staff from other Washington-area locations and is the firm’s largest, by headcount, in the United States.” [Grant Thornton]

Nearby: Alexandria Bans Scooters from Sidewalk — The Alexandria City Council has voted to ban electronic scooters from sidewalks across the city. [ALXnow]

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Morning Notes

HQ2 Odds Ever in Our Favor — Business Insider says it has “long seen the evidence pointing to the DC area” as the eventual destination for Amazon’s second headquarters. Online betting odds, meanwhile, favor Northern Virginia, and ARLnow.com hears that Crystal City is the far and away the most likely Northern Virginia locale for HQ2. [Business Insider]

High School Football Season Underway — “For the second straight season, but this year at a different venue, the Wakefield Warriors opened their high-school football campaign with a victory over the Washington-Lee Generals.” Yorktown, meanwhile, gave up a lead and lost to Wilson 37-29. [InsideNova]

McCain and Vietnam Vets Calls Nam Viet Home — A group of Vietnam War veterans, including the late Sen. John McCain, who was laid to rest over the weekend, regularly met up at Nam Viet restaurant in Clarendon. [Cronkite News]

First Day of School Reminder — Today is the first day of school for Arlington Public Schools and the school system is reminding residents that passing a school bus with its stop arm out is a traffic infraction punishable by a $250 fine. Police, meanwhile, are participating in a back-to-school safety campaign that includes extra enforcement of such traffic laws. [Twitter, Arlington County]

School Board: Don’t Go Over Building Budget — “Should Arlington Public Schools hold firm, no matter what, to budgets on upcoming construction projects? Or allow a little maneuvering room, if the opportunity arises, in an effort to get more bang for their buck? That question played out again Aug. 30, as School Board members split 3-2 in directing an advisory body to not even think about returning with a plan that exceeds the $37 million budget for turning the Arlington Education Center’s administrative offices into classroom space.” [InsideNova]

Police Prepare for Plane Pull — “The public is invited to cheer on the Arlington Police and Sheriff Team during the Plane Pull at Dulles Airport on Saturday, September 15, 2018.” [Arlington County]

New MU Prez Focuses on Real-World Experience — Irma Becerra, Marymount University’s new president and the first person of color in that role, plans “to further connect the Arlington university with its surrounding business community, making internships an equal pillar of her vision as enrollment, graduation and retention rates.” [Washington Business Journal]

Empanada Thief Caught on Camera — Arlington squirrels, apparently, are now blatantly stealing and eating empanadas in broad daylight. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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New York City had Pizza Rat. And now it has Trash Bag Rat.

But Arlington now has something much classier: French Bread Squirrel.

This ambitious squirrel was spotted in Fairlington this morning, deftly scaling a fence and jumping onto a tree, all while hanging on to a piece of French bread about twice its size.

After the video stopped rolling the squirrel cleverly hid its prize in the tree branches and retreated to a safe distance to watch for any would-be bread thieves.

The video quickly became a sensation after we posted it on our Facebook page.

“Here in Arlington, our squirrels like a nice French baguette,” said one commenter. “That’s how we roll in A-Town.”

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Morning Notes

A bike tire is all that remains of a bike parked in Shirlington (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Albino Squirrel Sighting — There has been another sighting of an albino squirrel in Arlington. Video of the snow white squirrel was posted to Arlington County’s social media accounts. [Facebook]

‘Day Without Immigrants’ Hits DoD Food Court — Yesterday’s “Day Without Immigrants” strike resulted in multiple restaurants being closed in the Pentagon food court and long lines at the restaurants that remained open. [Fox News]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Lyon Park Community Center (Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok)

Balcony Fire in Arlington View — Arlington County firefighters battled a small fire on an apartment balcony in the Arlington View neighborhood yesterday afternoon, following reports of an “explosion” sound. The fire was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported. [Twitter]

Carpool’s New Owner Trying to Sell — The fate of Carpool is once again uncertain. The Ballston-area bar was supposed to close later this fall to make way for a new high-rise residential development. Despite County Board approval of the project, and the just-completed sale of the bar, developer Penzance is now reportedly trying to sell the site. [Washington Business Journal]

Student Population Growth Lower Than Estimate — The student population at Arlington Public Schools grew 3.6 percent from last school year to the beginning of this school year. That’s an increase of 914 students, the equivalent of a new middle school, but it is 262 students below APS projections. [InsideNova]

Pedestrian-Only Streets on County Board Agenda — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is slated to consider allowing pedestrian-only streets in Arlington. Currently such streets are not part of the county’s Master Transportation Plan. Pedestrian-only streets are being discussed for parts of Rosslyn and Courthouse. [Arlington County]

White Squirrel Hit By Car? — A commenter says an albino squirrel that was often seen in neighborhoods near Columbia Pike has been hit by a car and killed. [ARLnow]

Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok

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White squirrel spotted in the Columbia Heights neighborhood (photo courtesy Joan O'Keefe)

A rare white or albino squirrel was spotted near Columbia Pike this week.

Reader Joan O’Keefe sent along the above photo, showing the squirrel from a distance on 12th Street S. near S. Cleveland Street, in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, two blocks from Columbia Pike.

“The mailman said there’s a big family of them somewhere on 16th S.,” O’Keefe said. “Too bad it is a dark, drizzly day so the photo really doesn’t show its true white coloring, but you can get an idea by comparing the squirrel to the yellow in the grass. I don’t know if these are common in Arlington, but I have lived here since 1979 and I never saw another white squirrel. Solid black squirrels, yes, but white, possibly albino, never.”

We asked Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas about it.

“We have had a couple reports this year about the white squirrels. White squirrels, and specially albinos are very unusual,” he said.

“Black squirrels are fairly common due to the introduction of 18 black squirrels from a Canadian colony at the National Zoo during Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency, not so much white ones,” Abugattas explained. “White squirrels are much rarer since their coat color makes them stand out and become easier prey… Albinos with their pink eyes, because their eye sight is also compromised, are even rarer.

He continued:

I’ve only seen a couple of white squirrels in my life personally. So they’re rare in our area and all over for sure, but not unheard of. With few predators and maybe some help from folks feeding it, it looks like it will make it fine and be something the neighborhood may find a neat backyard critter.

I’m not sure about a colony of them (yet anyways), we’ve certainly had white squirrels reported to us. It is possible that that recessive gene, since there are no real predator pressures, could be carried on like the black genes were and we end up with a local colony someday like the ones previously mentioned.

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Morning Notes

Road construction on Key Blvd

Immigrant Group Launches Get-Out-the-Vote Campaign — The immigrant rights group CASA Virginia launched a new get-out-the-vote campaign aimed at women yesterday. “It’s time we raise the minimum wage and improve child care,” said a CASA representative, at a press conference yesterday held at the Arlington courthouse plaza. County Board chair Mary Hynes and vice-chair Walter Tejada were at the press conference and issued a proclamation calling on residents to support the campaign. [Washington Post]

Longer Parking Meter Hours Still on Hold — A plan to extend the hours of parking meters in Arlington from 6 to 8 p.m. is still on hold due to “a backlash from the public and business leaders.” Said acting County Manager Mark Schwartz: “It needs more work.” [InsideNova]

Albino Squirrel Spotted in Arlington — An all-white squirrel has been spotted in a North Arlington neighborhood. Such albino squirrels are “extremely rare” but have been spotted in Arlington before. [Washington Post]

Firefighters Endorse Dorsey — Arlington County Board candidate Christian Dorsey has picked up the endorsement of the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association. The firefighters previously endorsed Dorsey’s Democratic ticketmate Katie Cristol. [InsideNova]

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Pizza Squirrel (photo courtesy Valerie Crotty)

This week, a very determined rat that was caught on video dragging a slice of pizza down the stairs of a New York City subway station made viral headlines across the country.

Arlington now has its own version of the pizza rat.

Local resident Valerie Crotty says she spotted a squirrel (above) trying to bring a slice of pizza home with it. In lieu of a video, she relayed an eyewitness account.

“Well, he did not go to the Metro because the Silver, Blue and Orange lines were delayed,” Crotty said. “But, I did watch him drag the pizza into bushes on 16th Road so that I would not take it away from him.”

When one is used to scarfing down nuts all day long, a piece of pizza sounds like a nice change of pace that’s well worth the effort.

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Squirrel in ArlingtonA sure sign autumn has arrived is the number of squirrels scampering around the county collecting nuts. But residents in many parts of Arlington will notice a lot less squirrel scampering than in years past.

It appears most parts of the county have fewer squirrels this year. Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas confirms that from spring through October — although no hard numbers yet are available — there have been “reports of fewer squirrels and anecdotal evidence” of a smaller population.

Abugattas said although many people immediately point to last year’s cold winter as the culprit, that’s probably not directly the cause. He said it would be very unlikely for large numbers of squirrels to die here by freezing to death.

“These animals, squirrels and so forth, if they have an adequate food supply, their little motors can keep them going and they can survive. If they have food they can keep their metabolism up and the cold won’t affect them as much,” he said. “Remember, we have squirrels way up in Canada, so they’re used to that weather. These animals are remarkably resilient.”

A more likely scenario, according to Abugattas, is that last year’s small acorn crop negatively affected the squirrel population. Many squirrels probably struggled to find adequate food with the decrease in acorns, but the problem is very localized. Certain neighborhoods where the animals managed to find other sources of food — such as bird feeders or berries — didn’t see the sharp decline other neighborhoods experienced.

“Places where they’ve been able to find an alternate food source, those may have been able to bounce back. It really depends on local conditions at that site. I still don’t think there are many places where there are extra squirrels, which we saw a few years ago,” said Abugattas.

Because it is the beginning of the season, so far the robustness of the 2014 acorn crop is not known. Researchers have begun analyzing acorn production but won’t have a better idea of the crop specifics for another couple of months. It’s something naturalists are paying close attention to due to the amount of wildlife that oak trees support.

“I don’t think I’ve come up with a more important tree in our woods, as far as its importance to wildlife,” said Abugattas. “More than 600 different species depend on oaks. Caterpillars, birds, bears, turkeys, deer.”

And of course, the squirrels. Although this year seems to have been an overall down year for the local squirrel population, Abugattas offers a reminder of how quickly it could see a resurgence.

“Squirrels are rodents, so like other rodents they can reproduce fairly quickly. If they have an adequate food supply they can reproduce twice or three times per year,” he said. “In fact, we’ve probably just had another batch born. Again, it’s all anecdotal at this point, but we could see the population bounce back in many areas rather quickly.”

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Flyer distributed to residents at Washington & Lee ApartmentsAn Arlington apartment complex that’s been battling squirrel issues for years is sternly warning residents to stop making matters worse by feeding the animals.

The flyer at the left was recently posted at the Washington & Lee Apartments (2200 2nd Street N.), threatening “legal action and fines” against those who feed the squirrels. Sandra Rose, who has been the apartment property manager for 18 years, stresses she’s not trying to be nasty, but the animals have been causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to the property.

“People think they’re cute and cuddly, and they are. But they don’t always understand they’re a rodent,” Rose said. “As a rodent they do rodent type damage.”

The squirrels recently have chewed holes in roofs on the buildings and residents have complained about the animals getting into their attics. Rose said she has had to hire exterminators to try to capture the animals once they’re loose in the building.

Washington & Lee Apartments (photo via Google Maps)“What we try to do is trap and release. We relocate them,” Rose said. “It’s very expensive but that’s what we do.”

The roof damage isn’t the only problem with the squirrels the property manager has encountered. Rose said in the past, she’s sent out similar flyers when the squirrels managed to get into residents’ car engines and strip spark plug wire material, which they then used to pack their nests.

Rose said one of the exterminators actually spotted residents feeding the animals, which is why she sent out the flyer. She recommends other property owners inform their residents of how destructive the squirrels can be.

“I think they should let tenants know not to feed them because that’s domesticating them,” said Rose. “When they become domesticated they become dependent on you and won’t go away.”

Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas shared Rose’s concerns. He said feeding any wild mammals, squirrels or others, is a bad idea.

“In a nutshell, with mammals the overall idea is it’s not a good idea to feed them,” Abugattas said. “When you start feeding more unusual wildlife — squirrels, deer, foxes, raccoons — that’s a bad idea. It changes their behavior, and not only will they hang out in places where they shouldn’t, but they lose some of their fear and healthy respect for humans. Wild foods are always healthier for the animals anyway.”

While contracting rabies is a rare occurrence, it could be a possibility if the animals become so domesticated that they approach people, and perhaps bite them. Abugattas said it’s one of the many health concerns stemming from feeding wild animals. Another concern is the the spread of diseases to pets.

smaller acorn crop in Virginia and West Virginia this fall is prompting squirrels to change their behavior this winter, Abugattas added. As a result, squirrels and other animals have been seeking out non-traditional food sources to make up for the lack of acorns.

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