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Morning Notes

Effort Returns $68K to Arlington Residents — Staff from the Virginia Dept. of the Treasury were on hand at county government headquarters in Courthouse earlier this month to encourage those coming to pay their local taxes at the deadline to see if they have any unclaimed cash or property being held by the state. In all, the officials were able to return about $68,000 to people who stopped by. [InsideNova]

Population Growth Outstripping New Housing — A potential major worry should Amazon bring its HQ2 to the D.C. area is what it will do to the cost of housing. The region has fallen significantly short of housing production since 2010, according to a new report: “While the inner region’s population increased 7 percent, the number of housing units increased only 3 percent.” [Urban Institute]

County Defends Using Bonds for Artificial Turf — Despite suggestions otherwise, Arlington County Board members said Saturday that the county only uses bonds to fund artificial turf project when the lifespan of the bond equals or is less than the expected lifespan of the turf. [InsideNova]

Signature Partners with Yale — “[Signature Theatre] announced Monday a pioneering partnership to bolster musical-theater writing talent at the college level — a fairly underdeveloped avenue for professional American theaters. With financial backing from longtime Signature supporters Ted and Mary Jo Shen… Signature will produce one graduating Yale senior’s musical-in-progress annually in a three-week workshop, beginning next summer.” [Washington Post]

Mea Culpa — Yesterday, ARLnow sent a promotional email for a townhouse community with the pithy subject line, “So many reasons to move to Chantilly, VA.” While we didn’t get any complaints, this subject line does not reflect our commitment to serving the Arlington community and sending it as-is was a mistake for which we apologize.

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Arlington Democrats Push for Redistricting Debate, But Special Session Hopes Fade

Arlington Democrats say they’re pushing for an open debate down in Richmond on a redrawing of some of the state’s electoral lines, but hope seems to be fading among state lawmakers that a special session convened on the issue will yield many results.

Gov. Ralph Northam reconvened the General Assembly today (Thursday) for its second gathering outside of normal business this year, with the avowed purpose of approving a new map governing district lines for 11 districts in the House of Delegates.

A three-judge panel on a federal court ruled last month that those districts, concentrated in the Richmond and Norfolk areas, were improperly drawn to pack African American voters into safely Democratic districts. The court gave lawmakers an Oct. 30 deadline to correct the problems it identified, or else it will appoint an independent arbiter to do so.

House Democrats introduced their own attempt at crafting a new map yesterday (Wednesday), but Republicans have so far declined to do the same. They’re appealing the federal court’s ruling on the districts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the GOP’s slim, 51-49 majority in the House potentially hanging in the balance ahead of next November’s elections.

“We just feel Republicans are delaying, delaying on this,” Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) told ARLnow. “The fact is, we’ve gone through four cycles with racially unconstitutional maps, and that’s eight years too long. It’s high time that we changed these maps.”

Republicans have charged, however, that Democrats haven’t engaged in the process in good faith. They argue that the map lawmakers presented is simply gerrymandering the map in the direction of Democrats, claiming that it would imperil five Republican-held districts while further shoring up margins of four Democratic districts.

“It’s clear that this is hypocritical partisan power grab that would fail to pass legal muster,” House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-15th District) wrote in a statement. “For almost a decade Democrats have pushed for so-called independent redistricting commissions. Yet when they had the chance to do so, they drew a partisan plan in secret without any input from the public or Republicans.”

Yet local Democrats like Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th District) point out that Republicans controlled the General Assembly by wide margins when these lines were first drawn back in 2011, creating these “constitutional infirmities” in the first place.

Lopez, who doubles as House minority whip, believes there are a whole host of reasons why the Democratic proposal is worth considering — arguing it creates districts that are “compact, contiguous and protects community interests” — but he also notes that Republicans have so far declined to offer their own alternative.

“They’ve shown indication they’ll propose their own map,” Lopez said. “Even the court is calling them out for stalling, so we are in an interesting place right now. Hopefully, it’ll all work out.”

House Republicans agreed to debate the Democratic map in committee this afternoon, and Lopez and Sullivan would both like to see them bring it to the floor for debate in the coming days.

Yet Lopez’s hope is flagging on that count. The Supreme Court has already sent back a previous appeal of a ruling on the district lines to a lower court, but that was before then-Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. With President Donald Trump’s nomination for a replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, expected to receive Congressional consideration next month, the GOP could hold out for a hearing from a court with a newly replenished conservative majority — and Lopez added that Democrats proposed setting a firm date to return and debate the maps, but Republicans defeated that measure.

“It’s up to the call of [Speaker Kirk Cox] for when we come back for next steps,” Lopez said. “We just don’t know right now.”

Sullivan, however, is a bit more hopeful. While he’d greatly prefer to see an independent commission of some kind draw district lines instead, he claims that Democrats are committed to “address the court’s concerns until the process changes.”

“I’m sort of a cockeyed optimist,” Sullivan said. “I would hope that the Republicans would engage on this issue, would debate the map we put in or put in one of their own. The court has asked them to do that, I think the citizens of Virginia want them to do that, and hopefully that’s what they’ll do.”

File photo

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Lopez Announces Formation of Virginia Latino Caucus in General Assembly

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) announced last week the formation of the Virginia Latino Caucus in the General Assembly.

Lopez, who represents the 49th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, a district that includes swathes of south Arlington, said the bipartisan caucus will initially include Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) and first-term Dels. Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala (both D-Prince William).

“Latinos make up 9 percent of Virginia’s total population,” Lopez said in a statement. “It’s long past time that we have more representation in the General Assembly to reflect that reality. I’m honored to welcome Delegates Guzman and Ayala to the House of Delegates and look forward to working with them to represent Virginia’s Latino community.”

Lopez announced the caucus’ formation on the House floor on Friday, January 12. The caucus is open to all members, regardless of ethnicity.

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Levine Re-Introduces Va. Bill to Give Localities Ability to Set Own Minimum Wage

Del. Mark Levine (D) will re-introduce a bill to the Virginia House of Delegates designed to give jurisdictions the ability to set an alternative minimum wage.

The bill, HB 39 in the 2018 legislative session that starts in early January, would allow local jurisdictions to set an alternative minimum wage, different from the state minimum of $7.25 an hour.

It would mean that jurisdictions in higher cost-of-living areas like Arlington County could impose a higher alternative minimum wage if local lawmakers vote to do so. The bill would set a maximum minimum wage, which could change every year depending on the cost of goods and services in the federal Consumer Price Index.

When Levine introduced the measure for the first time in 2016 as a freshman legislator, he told the Alexandria Times that he hoped for bipartisan support as it pushes control back to local government, rather than the state.

“My hope is that my bill is local control, a conservative value, the idea that localities would be in charge,” Levine said at the time. “It allows each locality the ability to raise the minimum wage to what their representatives want. It’s complete local control.”

The 2016 iteration was tabled on a party-line vote by a Republican-controlled subcommittee of the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

Democrats made big gains in the House in the 2017 elections, which will mean committees will have a different balance between the two parties. It could also mean a power-sharing agreement between the two parties for this year’s session, depending on pending recounts.

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Metro, Renaming Jefferson Davis Hwy Among Priorities in 2018 General Assembly Session

(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Arlington’s representatives will push hard in the Virginia General Assembly on Metro funding, the authority to rename Jefferson Davis Highway and absentee voting, among other issues.

At a work session Thursday, Arlington County Board members discussed their legislative agenda — bills they would like to see passed and issues they would like to see emphasized — for the 2018 session with local Delegates and state Senators.

The General Assembly will convene in Richmond on January 10 and sit through March 10, with Gov.-Elect Ralph Northam (D) to be inaugurated on January 13.

High on Board members’ list of priorities is securing a dedicated funding source for Metro, and ensuring that state funding allows it to keep up with its rebuilding needs.

Outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has committed to adding a dedicated funding source in his budget proposal later this month, and local representatives said they must do more to show their colleagues from outside Northern Virginia how valuable Metro is to the whole Commonwealth’s economy.

“A lot of work has been done to show this is not just a Northern Virginia giveaway, that this gives a lot of money and benefits to the rest of the commonwealth,” said County Board member Christian Dorsey.

Later, Dorsey noted that a study by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission made a “conservative estimate” that Metro brings in $600 million to state coffers every year through income and sales taxes.

All agreed on a plan to bring legislators into Northern Virginia and have them take a tour of the region’s various transit options, as well as experience rush-hour traffic congestion, something that state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) said has been effective in the past.

State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) urged cooperation between business and governmental groups in lobbying Richmond.

“We really need a united voice on this,” Favola said. “We can’t afford to have the Northern Virginia Chamber in opposition to a strategy you may like.”

Favola said she will file a bill to give localities the power to rename their primary highways, of which Jefferson Davis Highway is one in Arlington.

The question of whether to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway has swirled for several years, and Board chair Jay Fisette said the county is “exploring all options” on renaming.

Del. Mark Levine (D-45) disagreed with Favola, and said that in his opinion localities already have the right to rename primary highways. Fisette emphasized that no stone shall be left unturned.

“At this point, we believe we have multiple options, we’re just going to work them sequentially to do that,” he said.

The question of renaming Jefferson Davis Highway remains controversial. At the Board’s public hearing on its legislative agenda on Tuesday, local resident Bernard Berne derided a name-change as a “bad idea” that will stoke racial tensions and create division.

“It divides the community, and these historical things are part of our heritage. You don’t mess with it,” he said.

Another item on Arlington’s legislative agenda is a desire to enact “no excuse” absentee voting, meaning that any voter can request an absentee ballot without having to give a reason for voting absentee.

Dorsey said with a young and transient population in the county, “no excuse” absentee voting would be helpful. Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) agreed, and said that after significant Democratic gains in the House of Delegates, this year might be right to get it done.

“I think this is the year for absentee no-excuse voting. I absolutely think we can get there,” he said, adding that it could make elections less vulnerable to hacking. “There are other arguments that frankly we haven’t tried yet, that can carry the day.”

Ebbin expressed cautious support for the plan, but said that funding must be found to reimburse local registrars to cope with extra demand.

And on environmental issues, there appeared to be broad consensus that the General Assembly can pass measures limiting greenhouse gases, encouraging solar power and preserving trees, among others.

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), co-chair of the bipartisan Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy Caucus alongside Sullivan, said “everything is on the table” on energy and the environment. He added that Arlington’s agenda on those issues is one of the best he has seen.

“You guys have hit a lot of very strong things,” he said.

Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act remains a hot topic for Democrats in Richmond, albeit a controversial one that has been unsuccessful both through the General Assembly and executive action.

But this year, Levine said Democrats “are cautiously optimistic for the first time in a long time,” on Medicaid expansion, which he called their “single greatest priority.” Northam said later that day he is hopeful of passing the expansion.

“It’s incredibly important that we get this done, finally,” Lopez said.

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Virginia Warns of Scam Investment Opportunities After Hurricane Harvey

Virginia’s State Corporation Commission is warning of investment scams as Texas and Louisiana begin to recover from Hurricane Harvey.

The SCC warned of Virginians receiving unsolicited emails, social media messages, pitches or telephone calls promoting investment pools or bonds to help storm victims, or to make investments in water-removal or purification technologies, electricity-generating devices and distressed real estate remediation programs.

“Disasters bring out the best in some people, but they bring out the worst in others,” Ron Thomas, director of the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising, said in a statement. “Fraudsters often follow the headlines to peddle their schemes. Be leery of unsolicited investment opportunities that seek to capitalize on Hurricane Harvey’s devastation.”

The SCC advised people to do the following:

  • Delete unsolicited emails or social media messages and hang up on aggressive cold callers promoting hurricane-related investments, especially those from small companies touting unproven or new technologies or products.
  • Don’t be pressured to make rushed decisions about investments you don’t understand. Before making a decision to invest, request written information that fully explains the investment.
  • Don’t fall for unrealistic claims or offers touting guaranteed returns with little or no risk. Every investment involves some degree of risk.
  • Do your homework. Contact the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising to check that both the seller and investment are registered. If they are not, don’t invest. Contact information is available on the division’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/srf/srf_contact.
  • If you suspect you are the victim of fraud, report it to your state securities regulator immediately.

There are numerous ways to donate to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, including through the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Team Rubicon among others.

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New Voting Location Needed For Crystal City Ahead of November Election

A plan to host a polling place at a condo building in Crystal City has been nixed, but elections officials said they are confident of finding a new location before November.

County staff had planned to move the polling station for the Crystal City 006 Precinct to the Crystal Gateway condo building at 1300 Crystal Drive from Crystal Place (1801 Crystal Drive) in time for November’s elections.

But a staff report on various changes to voting locations ahead of the elections said the Crystal Gateway “no longer wishes” to host a polling place. Likewise, the report notes that Crystal Place “no longer wished” to do the same.

Arlingtonians will go to the polls to elect a Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and local members of the Virginia House of Delegates, as well as representatives on the Arlington County Board and School Board.

Gretchen Reinemeyer, the county’s deputy director of elections, said the building “did not provide any information on why they would not like to be a polling place.” Crystal Gateway’s property manager and a spokesman for Equity Apartments, which owns both the Crystal Gateway and Crystal Place, did not return calls requesting comment.

Reinemeyer said staff is “in the process” of finding a new polling place for the precinct, and they are “optimistic that we will have a new location soon.” She said that when looking for new polling places, staff try and find county-owned buildings in the precinct first before assessing other options.

“If there is not a suitable county facility available, we look at other buildings used by the community that have a ground level meeting room such as churches or community rooms in apartment or condo buildings,” she said. “Once we find a location that we think will work, we begin negotiating with the management of the space.”

The County Board will vote on the proposed voting changes at its meeting Saturday (July 15). Also on the table is a change for the Rosslyn Precinct to move its voting place to the 1800 Oak Apartments from the soon-to-be-redeveloped Fire Station 10, and a technical change for the Virginia Highlands Precinct to reflect that votes are cast at the recently reopened Aurora Hills Community Center.

Photo via Google Maps.

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Record Attendance at Democratic Straw Poll

A record number of people turned out for last night’s Democratic Party straw poll, where County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and School Board candidate Monique O’Grady were some of the victors.

Hosted at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), more than 120 people cast ballots for Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board, Arlington School Board, lieutenant governor and governor. The attendance set a record for the event, now in its third year.

Lopez said the event raised around $12,500 from ticket sales, which he said will be funneled to Democratic candidates in other House of Delegates races across the commonwealth. Lopez added that getting people excited about the upcoming races was a big point of emphasis, as opposed to focusing purely on the straw poll results from a limited voter pool.

“I think what’s wonderful about it is people are so fired up,” he said in an interview. “They’re coming into the room fired up, excited about the campaigns, they’re excited about the candidacies, they’re excited about their friends running for office.”

Gutshall won the County Board poll with 38 percent of the vote, ahead of Vivek Patil with 30 percent, Peter Fallon with 22 percent and Kim Klingler with 10 percent.

Gutshall, who won the straw poll last year in his unsuccessful bid for a County Board seat, said creative thinking is required to solve problems like school overcrowding and housing affordability.

“We’ve got a wonderful county here that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said. “But we can’t stay the same.”

In her remarks, O’Grady cited her “experience keeping our school system strong,” as well as being co-chair of last year’s successful $138.83 million school bond campaign.

O’Grady won the School Board straw poll with 46 percent of the vote, ahead of incumbent James Lander with 36 percent and Maura McMahon with 18 percent.

In the statewide races, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the straw poll for the governor’s race against former Rep. Tom Perriello with 67.5 percent of the vote. Speaking on Northam’s behalf, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) said Northam is a “fighter for our progressive values” and has advocated tirelessly for women, children and ethnic minorities.

“We can count on Ralph to be with us as the 73rd governor of Virginia,” Ebbin said.

Justin Fairfax took victory in the straw poll for lieutenant governor with 64 percent of the vote, ahead of Susan Platt with 20 percent and Gene Rossi with 16 percent. County Board member Christian Dorsey, who spoke on Fairfax’s behalf, praised his grueling campaign schedule and his long-term view on solving problems.

“The question is, who has the skill and the will and will fight for you?” Dorsey said. “In this regard, I am so impressed with Justin Fairfax.”

The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds its caucus for County Board nominee and School Board endorsement on May 9, 11 and 13. Statewide primary elections will be held on June 13.

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Judge Rules in Favor of Removing Confederate Flag from Va. License Plates

Virginia Confederate license plateA federal judge’s ruling today will allow Virginia to remove the Confederate flag from specialty license plates.

An existing state law on the books says specialty license plates issued for members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans may not include an emblem, like the Confederate battle flag. An injunction on First Amendment grounds prevented the Commonwealth from enforcing that law, but a Supreme Court ruling in June prompted Attorney General Mark Herring (D) to file a motion to vacate the previous order.

In a press release, the attorney general’s office says that Judge Jackson Kiser will next file an order that will specify whether nearly 1,700 previously-issued Confederate plates may be recalled.

Today in federal district court in Danville, Judge Jackson Kiser ruled from the bench that he will dissolve his 2001 injunction that had allowed the Sons of Confederate Veterans to place the confederate battle flag on certain specialty license plates in Virginia. On June 26, Attorney General Mark R. Herring filed motions (see below) to dissolve the injunction and vacate the order that had required placement of the flag on SCV license plates. The Commonwealth will now be able to enforce its existing law regarding SCV plates which states “No logo or emblem of any description shall be displayed or incorporated into the design of license plates issued under this section.”

“This ruling will allow Virginia to remove a symbol of oppression and injustice from public display on its license plates,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Virginia state government does not have to and will not endorse such a divisive symbol. I appreciate Governor McAuliffe’s leadership in calling for the removal of the flag and those on my team who moved quickly to get it done.”

Judge Kiser’s ruling will not be official until he enters his order, which will also address whether the decision will apply prospectively to new license plates, or retroactively to include existing ones. Deputy Attorneys General Rhodes B. Ritenour and Jeffrey M. Bourne and Senior Assistant Attorney General Janet Westbrook handled the case on behalf of the Commonwealth.

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Morning Notes

A lunch-goer looks at a construction area at the Pentagon City mall food court

Prostitution Arrests on the Rise — Arrests of prostitutes are on the rise in Arlington. Halfway through the year, ACPD has made 26 prostitution arrests, compared to 32 for all of 2013 and 18 in 2012. Police say many of the prostitutes come from the West Coast and are attracted to areas like Crystal City, Ballston and Rosslyn due to high-income clientele and easy access to highways. [Washington Post]

Artists Build Art Studio After Fire — Husband and wife artists Bryan and Julie Jernigan have built a freestanding, 16’x20′ art studio in their North Arlington backyard. The project follows a period of hardship in their lives: a fire broke out in the couple’s home in 2012. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

State Budget Woes — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has revealed that the state is facing a $2.4 billion budget shortfall and that additional budget cuts are necessary. McAuliffe blamed the shortfall, in part, on federal defense spending cuts. [Washington Post]

Arlington’s Best-Reviewed Apartment? — The Concord, an apartment building in 2600 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, has been named the best apartment building in Arlington by a national research firm. The firm ranked 120 properties in Arlington based on online reviews and reputation. [Multi-Housing News]

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UPDATED: Virginia Kicks in Add’l $65 Million for Pike Streetcar

Columbia Pike streetcar rendering(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) The Commonwealth of Virginia is increasing its funding of the Columbia Pike streetcar system by up to $65 million, Arlington County announced today.

The county says the new funding will enable to Arlington and Fairfax to proceed with the streetcar project more rapidly — accelerating the construction timetable by at least a year — partially thanks to eliminating the need to obtain federal funding.

“The Commonwealth is committed to supporting the Columbia Pike project as a funding partner,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said, in a letter to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova.

The new funding will also help save $25 million in project costs, according to an Arlington County press release. The Columbia Pike streetcar is now estimated to cost $333 million, about half of which will be funded by the state. The other half of the cost will come from regional transportation funds and local commercial property taxes dedicated to transportation projects.

“No Arlington County homeowner-funded General Obligation bonds will be used to finance design and construction of the streetcar,” the county said.

County Board member Libby Garvey, who along with recently-elected Board member John Vihstadt oppose the streetcar, slammed the state’s decision. Garvey issued the following statement, in which she expresses hope that “the wise voters of Arlington” will vote out Board members who support the streetcar.

I could not be more disappointed in the quick decision by Secretary Layne to devote much needed and scarce transportation dollars to a project as foolish and wasteful as the Columbia Pike streetcar. This project will not improve transit on the Pike. In fact, it will make traffic worse as slow streetcars clog up an already congested thoroughfare. Fortunately, I am pretty sure that within 2 years the wise voters of Arlington will have voted out board members who support the streetcar. That will end the project and allow the Commonwealth, despite this ill advised decision by the Secretary, to spend its money on much more worthwhile and needed projects. I hope that will include a modern and cost effective bus rapid transit system on the Pike in Arlington. That’s what both Arlington and the region need.

Vihstadt also issued a statement, in which has charged that the Commonwealth “rushed to judgment and failed to perform the independent due diligence expected of a state agency to fully analyze this ill-advised local government request.”

“Many valuable transportation projects for which there is a broad public consensus, ranging from improved Metro and bus service to road and pedestrian safety enhancements, will be sacrificed for this controversial project that has deeply divided Arlington County and contributed heavily to my election on April 8 as the first non-Democrat to the County Board since 1999,” Vihstadt said.

The county’s press release, after the jump.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne has notified Arlington and Fairfax County officials that the Commonwealth will increase its funding for the Columbia Pike streetcar by up to $65 million, using new funding available for fixed-guideway projects. The new funding will bring the state’s contribution to the Columbia Pike streetcar to as much as 50 percent of total design and construction costs.

“The Commonwealth is committed to supporting the Columbia Pike project as a funding partner,” Layne said in his July 10 letter to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.

The State’s commitment enables Arlington to put together a financial package for the project that does not include Federal Transportation Administration New Starts funding.

Arlington and Fairfax Counties are partners in the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, which will stretch 4.9 miles from the Skyline area of Fairfax to Pentagon City in Arlington along the most heavily traveled bus corridor in the Commonwealth. The Columbia Pike streetcar, one of two segments in Arlington’s planned 7.4-mile seamless streetcar system, will support the community’s vision of transforming the Pike into a more transit-oriented, walkable Main Street.

Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Sharon Bulova wrote to Layne in June, asking that the Commonwealth consider funding the Columbia Pike streetcar project.

“This additional state funding is great news for the streetcar,” Fisette said Friday. “It is both a strong vote of confidence that the streetcar is a transit investment that will benefit the entire Commonwealth, and brings funding certainty that significantly boosts our efforts to build the Columbia Pike segment more quickly, at reduced cost.”

The state’s total contribution to the project, which will include standard transit reimbursement funding, is expected to account for up to half of the streetcar’s design and construction costs. The new grant will be split between Arlington and Fairfax, with Arlington receiving $52 million and Fairfax receiving $13 million.

“The state is making a sound transportation investment by increasing its funding for the Columbia Pike streetcar,” said Bulova. “This funding will help this important transit project get built more quickly, at a lower cost, and will help transform one of the region’s most important corridors.”

In his letter, Layne noted that “the Columbia Pike corridor currently has the highest transit ridership within the Commonwealth for a corridor without fixed-guideway service.” The streetcar project, he wrote, “provides a sound example of leveraging transportation investment to enhance economic competitiveness and provide access for residents of the DC metropolitan area to reach employment opportunities in Virginia.”

Allows project to advance more rapidly

Arlington estimates that the increased state funding will shave at least a year off the construction time for the project, allowing both jurisdictions to more quickly realize a return on investment from the streetcar. The time savings, combined with a lower escalation rate, would save an estimated $25 million.

In June, Arlington signed a contract with Parsons Transportation Group to help manage the entire streetcar program. In the coming months, one of Parsons’ primary tasks will be to assess options for cost reduction by analyzing ways to deliver the streetcar sooner. This could include combining final design and construction work in a single contract or exploring potential public-private partnerships.

The latest estimated cost to build the Columbia Pike streetcar is $333 million. With the new state grant, the County Manager will recommend that Arlington cover the rest of its share through a combination of new regional transportation funding and local commercial real estate tax revenues dedicated by law solely to new transportation projects. No Arlington County homeowner-funded General Obligation bonds will be used to finance design and construction of the streetcar.

After a lengthy public process, the Arlington County Board is expected to adopt its Capital Improvement Plan, which will include the latest cost and schedule estimates for the streetcar, on July 19.

Arlington’s streetcar system

Arlington’s planned streetcar system includes the Columbia Pike segment and the Crystal City-Potomac Yard segment. The two segments will intersect at Pentagon City, where the streetcar will also connect with the regional transportation system – both Metrorail and Virginia Railway Express (VRE). The streetcars will operate along with buses to serve the growth in jobs and population expected along these corridors.

Streetcar expected to generate up to $895 million in new local tax revenues

The Columbia Pike streetcar segment, based on a study released in March, is expected to generate a substantial economic and fiscal return. The study estimated that the streetcar will generate $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion in new real estate value for Arlington and Fairfax Counties over 30 years. That is over and above project capital and operating costs. The streetcar investment is also projected to generate $455-$895 million in new tax revenues for Arlington and Fairfax over a 30-year period, attract 6,600 new jobs to the corridor within 10 years of project construction and increase state income and sales taxes.

Next steps

The two Counties now will work with the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to put together a milestone schedule that would outline the steps needed to move the project forward and execute a grant agreement with the state that will address the final amount and timing of the funding.

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ACPD to Enforce Va. Uber, Lyft Cease and Desist

UberX driver in RosslynThe Virginia Dept. of Motor Vehicles today sent cease and desist orders to Uber and Lyft, ordering the popular ride-sharing services to stop operating in the Commonwealth.

The DMV asserts that the smartphone-based services, which allow drivers to make money by using their own cars like a dispatched taxicab, are illegal because they have not received the proper authorization from the DMV to operate in Virginia.

In letters to company officials, the DMV says it will “enforce existing laws by companies… and by individual drivers that lack authority to provide passenger transportation.”

Tonight the Arlington County Police Department said it plans to assist in that enforcement, effective immediately.

“We will enforce it, but it will not be a primary focus of our operations,” ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told ARLnow.com. “We are going to take a soft approach, but we will not turn a blind eye.”

Both Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, told news outlets that they’ll keep operating in Virginia.

Sternbeck did not clarify how, exactly, officers plan to single out Uber and Lyft drivers for enforcement. While Uber drivers typically operate discreetly, with nothing to outwardly distinguish their vehicles, Lyft drivers are supposed to drive around with a large, pink moustache attached to their car’s grille.

Jon Liss, Executive Director of Tenants and Workers United, which has been rallying local cab drivers against Uber and Lyft, applauded the DMV’s action and called on the Arlington County Board to do more to protect cab drivers.

“It is time for Arlington to get in sync with the state DMV and enforce one set of rules for all taxi-like services,” he said. “Drivers in Arlington deserve ‘dispute resolution’ protections and fair and enforced regulations.”

Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans slammed the state’s response to Uber and Lyft, placing blame on Virginia’s Democratic governor.

“The DMV’s decision to crack down on Lyft and Uber is reprehensible,” said AFCYR Chairman Matthew Hurtt. “During his campaign, Governor McAuliffe emphasized the importance of efficient government and transportation in making the Commonwealth the best place for business. Yet, less than six months into his term, he stands idly by while his administration cracks down on a thriving industry that not only brings jobs to the region, but also provides safe and efficient transportation at an affordable price.”

“The DMV should withdraw their cease and desist letter along with their preposterous interpretation of this law,” Hurtt concluded.

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Few Problems on Election Day in Arlington

Arlington’s polling places have been open for about four hours, and so far election day appears to be proceeding without a hitch.

As of 9:00 a.m., Arlington County Registrar Linda Lindberg reported being very busy but said there had been no significant issues to report. Although not a major incident, people at the Barrett Elementary School (4401 N. Henderson Road) polling place reported the school’s principal pulled campaign signs out of the ground, claiming they weren’t allowed to be there. After witnesses made a few phone calls to lawyers and the superintendent, the principal learned he was incorrect and apologized for taking down the signs.

Last week, Lindberg noted that already there had been an increase in absentee voting over the 2009 election. This morning she said is was still too early to estimate how many people might turn up to vote in person.

“It’s been pretty steady, that’s about all we know at this point,” Lindberg said. “It’s not outrageous, just pretty steady.”

Voters, however, have been reporting short lines at places like Barrett Elementary.

“I was pretty surprised at how few people were here,” said Melanie Papasian. “After the long lines last year, I expected to see more. Hopefully they come in more by the end of the day.”

“Last year, I got in line at 7:30 a.m. and left the polling place at 9:45,” said Brian Lemak. “I know off-year elections aren’t as big but I got in and out in 10 minutes, which I was really surprised by.”

At the River House (1600 S. Joyce Street) polling place in Pentagon City, voters repeatedly expressed particular interest in voting in this gubernatorial race, compared with others in recent years.

“This is an important election,” said Dan Bailey. “The governor of Virginia can set a tone and I haven’t liked the tone we’ve had for the last few years.”

Haydn Kuprevich recently moved to Arlington and wanted to fulfill his civic duty.

“It’s something I do every time there’s an election,” said Kuprevich. “It’s important for me to understand the issues people are talking about and what their positions are.”

“I was passionate about everybody having equal rights, I was passionate about women’s rights, I was passionate about looking out for all the people and not a select group in the state, because the governor represents everybody,” said Mary Elizabeth Boyd. “I think the whole country’s going in a certain direction right now and we just have to settle it down and keep hanging in with what we believe in.”

Polls in Arlington remain open until 7:00 p.m. More information, including sample ballots, can be found online.

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Morning Notes

Trolley Pub in Clarendon (photo by N ARLINGTON ST)

Real Estate Tax Delinquencies Rise — The number of real estate tax delinquencies in Arlington rose slightly this year, compared to one year prior. A total of 407 taxpayers missed the June 15 real estate tax deadline this year, compared to 387 last year. Those who miss the June 15 deadline are subject to a 10 percent penalty plus accumulating interest. [Sun Gazette]

Comic-Making Exhibit at Artisphere — Starting today through Nov. 3, comic book artists will be taking up residency in Artisphere for the creation of a new comic. On Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons, the public can watch the artists at work, and try their hand at their own comic creations. [DC Conspiracy, Ode Street Tribune]

Lt. Gov. Debate at GMU Arlington Campus — A debate between the Republican and Democratic candidate for Virginia lieutenant governor will be held at Founders Hall on George Mason University’s Arlington campus next month. E.W. Jackson (R) will be debate Ralph Northam (D) starting at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

Flickr pool photo by N ARLINGTON ST

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Arlington Resident Chopra Announces Run for Lt. Gov.

Arlington resident Aneesh Chopra announced today that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for Virginia Lieutenant Governor in 2013.

Chopra, who lives with his wife and two children in the Donaldson Run neighborhood, says he’s running to create “new opportunities” for Virginians and to help solve the state’s “biggest challenges.”

Chopra, who was appointed the  first Chief Technology Officer of the United States by President Obama, said he’s also going to work to support the president’s reelection. Last month he joined actor Kal Penn at two events for Obama supporters in Arlington.

The following statement was issued by Chopra this afternoon.

“We live in a time of profound change. In our communities, our Commonwealth and our country, people are looking for pragmatic solutions that address our biggest problems, create opportunities and improve our lives.

Ideas matter. And so does action to make our economy work for everyone.

Since I left my position as U.S. Chief Technology Officer, friends, neighbors, business and community leaders have encouraged me to take action by running for statewide office. I’m humbled by their support and pleased to announce that today, after months of reflection, I enthusiastically filed my candidate qualification to seek the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor in 2013.

As Virginia’s Secretary of Technology, I worked with communities across the Commonwealth to plant the seeds of new ideas to ensure all Virginians have the skills they need to compete in the 21st Century economy. We created hands-on high school technology training through Virginia STAR, accelerated efforts to prepare more people without a high school degree for jobs of the future through PluggedInVA, and harnessed the power of mobile technology to support great teaching through our Learning Without Boundaries initiative.

I remain excited about these efforts and the new opportunities we have to bring Virginians together to solve our biggest challenges in the years ahead. I am committed to seeding innovative ideas that support a quality workforce and educating Virginians throughout their lifetime to strengthen and maintain a state economy that is built to last.

Over the next several months, our Commonwealth and our country face important choices. I will work hard to help elect President Obama, Governor Tim Kaine, and our exceptional roster of Democratic Congressional candidates this November. In addition, in the days, weeks and months ahead, I look forward to continuing to listen to Virginians, hearing directly from them about the issues affecting their families and serving as an enthusiastic advocate on their behalf.”

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