Arlington, VA

The D.C. Council is reportedly considering making some pandemic-era alcohol rules a new fixture of the local dining scene.

Barred in DC reports that the provision, in Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed budget, would make restaurants’ newfound ability to offer beer, wine and cocktails for delivery and takeout permanent. It would be a shot in the arm for struggling restaurants that have seen business drop precipitously during the coronavirus crisis.

With dining rooms closed, table service restaurants lost their main profit driver: alcoholic drinks. Both D.C. and Virginia have responded with emergency rules allowing restaurants to let customers carry out beer, wine and cocktails in sealed containers, or to have those adult beverages delivered.

Making such rules permanent can help the industry recover, and perhaps avoid the worst of the “restaurant apocalypse” that some predict could result in 20% to 40% of U.S. restaurants closing for good.

Do you think Virginia lawmakers should make the temporary takeout and delivery drink rules permanent?

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This weekend’s Arlington County Board meeting has been postponed.

It’s a rare step during unprecedented times. The announcement was made today less than 48 hours before the Saturday morning meeting.

In a press release, County Board Chair Libby Garvey said all items on the agenda are being deferred a week and the meeting will now be held on Saturday, April 25. The Board’s Tuesday recessed meeting is also being postponed by a week, and is now set for April 28.

The reason for the delay: to allow the state legislature to act to make it legal to hold meetings virtually.

“We have items that need to be taken up in our April meeting, but that do not, under current Virginia law, qualify to be taken up virtually. We have been assured that the Virginia legislature will vote to allow local governments to meet virtually for all business during the coronavirus when it meets next week on April 22,” Garvey explained. “Therefore, we decided that it would be good to delay our meeting by a week to enable the Regular and Recessed sessions to occur virtually, which is in the best interests of everyone’s health. We regret any inconvenience this change causes.”

The full county press release about the rescheduling is below.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey announced today that the County Board plans to defer all items on its April 18 Board Meeting Agenda for a week, until after the General Assembly’s April 22 veto session. Legislators are reconvening to act on amendments and vetoes sent down by Gov. Ralph Northam, including an item that clarifies and confirms the authority of public bodies to meet virtually during emergency declarations.

“We have items that need to be taken up in our April meeting, but that do not, under current Virginia law, qualify to be taken up virtually. We have been assured that the Virginia legislature will vote to allow local governments to meet virtually for all business during the coronavirus when it meets next week on April 22. Therefore, we decided that it would be good to delay our meeting by a week to enable the Regular and Recessed sessions to occur virtually, which is in the best interests of everyone’s health. We regret any inconvenience this change causes.”

Regular Meeting set for Sat., April 25, Recessed for Tues., April 28

The Board will convene its meeting virtually on April 18 at 8:30 am to take a vote to defer all agenda items originally scheduled for the April 18 Meeting to 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 25, and to defer all agenda items on the April Recessed Meeting, originally scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, to Tuesday, April 28, starting at 3 p.m.

The April Board Meeting agendas and staff reports are available on the County website.

Public comment

The County Board will meet virtually on both April 25 and April 28 and will take no in-person public comment. The Board will publish procedures for virtual public testimony on the County Board website once they are finalized.

The public may email comments on April agenda items for the Board’s consideration until Friday, April 24, 2020, for the April 25 Regular Meeting and until Monday, April 27, 2020, for the April 28 Recessed Meeting, to: [email protected]

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Morning Notes

Coronavirus Cases at Arlington Nursing Home — “Rossie Bratten, a 21-year-old Virginia resident, is calling on nursing homes to be more transparent about COVID-19, claiming an Arlington facility caring for his mother never informed the family of positive cases at the site. Bratten claims they only called to be told their mother had tested positive.” [Fox 5, YouTube]

Construction Continuing at DCA — “The coronavirus pandemic has slowed air travel to a trickle, but it has not hindered Project Journey at Reagan National Airport. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reports that the new 14-gate north concourse at Reagan Airport remains on schedule to open in July 2021.” [Washington Business Journal]

Bullet Hole Found in Roof of Douglas Park Home — “At approximately 2:31 p.m. on April 13, police were dispatched to the report of a missile into occupied dwelling. Upon arrival, it was determined that contractors performing maintenance on the victim’s house located a hole in her roof and recovered a bullet in the crawl space. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.” [Arlington County]

Sen. Ebbin Lauds Signing of Marijuana Bill — “The prohibition on cannabis has for too long had life long impacts on Virginians and disproportionately affected communities of color. Thank you @GovernorVA for signing my and @C_Herring’s bills to decriminalize marijuana.” [Twitter]

County Observes Sexual Assault Awareness Month — “Arlington County’s Project PEACE is recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) with virtual observances and daily online opportunities. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, survivors of sexual assault need support, champions and affirmation of their stories and voices.” [Arlington County]

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The following op-ed was written by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), chair of Virginia House Public Safety Committee, following Gov. Ralph Northam signing several gun violence prevention measures into law.

Knocking on doors last summer and fall, I asked Arlington voters their top legislative concerns. The largest response, by far, was for the General Assembly to take action to reduce gun violence.

That same sentiment has been growing across the commonwealth for years due to the lack of response to tragedies, such as, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Columbine, and more recently, Virginia Beach. But the gun violence prevention movement is not just about the mass shootings you see and hear about in the media. It’s the daily acts of gun violence — over 100 a day — occurring in our communities and firearm suicides that you don’t hear about.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 there were 1,041 gun deaths in Virginia. The Virginia firearm suicide rate has increased by 15% over the last decade and the firearm homicide rate increased 45%. Of all the suicides, nearly two-thirds are by firearm. Thirty-two children die by firearm every year in Virginia. Year after year, advocates from Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Brady Campaign, Giffords, and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence come to Richmond to lobby for commonsense solutions only to be rejected.

But the 2020 legislative session would be different. I could tell gun violence prevention was going to be a rallying point for voters ever since Governor Ralph Northam, who called for a July 9 special session following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, had his call to action thwarted by Republicans who immediately adjourned the session without taking any action. Virginia Democrats made gun violence prevention a central campaign theme in the 2019 election. Legislators finally listened to the voices of voters and we delivered.

House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn tapped me to chair the House Public Safety Committee to oversee the passage of one of the House Democrats highest priorities: gun violence prevention. Those items that passed and recently signed by the Governor include:

  • Universal background checks on all firearm sales;
  • Reinstate the law allowing the purchase of only one handgun within a 30-day period;
  • Requiring lost or stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 48 hours;
  • Create an Extreme Risk Protective Order that would allow a court to order the temporary separation of firearms from an individual determined to be danger to self or others (this bill was patroned by Del. Rip Sullivan);
  • Prohibiting the person the subject of a protective order from possessing a firearm (this bill was patroned by Sen. Janet Howell);
  • Enhancing the penalty for recklessly allowing child access to a loaded firearm;
  • Allowing localities, such as Arlington, to prohibit firearms in County buildings, parks, or recreation centers.

These laws will save lives.

Other bills that passed include the requirement for a person to receive a concealed handgun permit to demonstrate competence in-person (patroned by Del. Alfonso Lopez); creation of a Virginia Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund; adding child day centers to the list of schools where firearms are not allowed; prohibiting the possession/sale of bump stocks; and my bill to clarify school boards are prohibited from arming untrained personnel for school protection; and another to require family day homes to lock up firearms during operating hours.

The House passed a bill to ban military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines but, unfortunately, the bill was defeated in a Senate Committee. This bill was patroned by Del. Mark Levine.

Critics say the House moved too fast. It may seem that way if you are used to doing nothing or preferred we did nothing. In my view, however, we struck the right balance acting only on measures that have been proven to save lives. Many of these bills have been introduced, studied, and debated for years. It was time to be responsive to Virginia voters and act.

Why does this issue mean so much to me and so many others? Kris Brown, Arlington resident and President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, summed it up best when she recently tweeted: “There are too many children living in constant fear in their schools, in their homes, and in their neighborhoods. We owe them all a better future.” As the father of three children, I couldn’t have said it better.

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The Virginia state legislature adjourned from its 2020 session last week, but not before a lawmaker from Arlington finally succeeded in his years-long quest to ban conversion therapy.

Virginia became the first Southern state to ban conversion therapy for people under the age of 18, thanks in part to Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope (D). Hope’s bill, HB 386, was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday, March 2.

Conversion therapy “is any of several dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth. Virginia is the twentieth state in the country to have banned the practice.

Hope first proposed the conversion therapy ban seven years ago, and has continued to do so during each legislative session, but before this year it kept getting killed in the Republican-majority subcommittees.

Hope deems the success of the bill “very partisan,” crediting the Democratic majority in both houses of the General Assembly in getting the bill passed. This is the first time in 26 years that the Democrats have controlled the state government.

The path to the ban, however, involved some bipartisan cooperation.

The Virginia Department of Health Professions played a role in building the bill. In 2018, the Chairman of the Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee, Bobby Orrock (R), turned to the Dept. of Health Professions to regulate conversion therapy practices without the help of lawmakers. The department had refrained from doing so for the past seven years because officials felt that the state legislature was sending them a message by killing the conversion therapy ban in subcommittee so many times.

However, after Orrock reached out, the department created a workgroup to look into the issue and, because of Hope’s work on the bill, he was asked to take part.

“[The Dept. of Health Professions] set up a workgroup, and I was a part of that workgroup,” Hope said. “They got all the chairs of all the different health professions that touch conversion therapy — so they had social workers, they had psychiatrists, they had psychologist, they had school counselors, etc. — they had everyone who might have a hand in conversion therapy. And they all decided in at that meeting for each of them to develop their own regulations prohibiting conversion therapy.”

The meetings informed the details of the bill. In the end, however, it was the Democratic majority that gave Del. Hope the victory he had been seeking for seven years.

“It really is a defining moment,” Hope said. “To be the 20th state and the first state in the South to [ban conversion therapy] really shows how hearts and minds have changed across the country and I couldn’t be more proud.”

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State Senator Adam Ebbin celebrated a win on Sunday as the Virginia legislature approved the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Under the new legislation, recreational marijuana will remain illegal, but the penalty is reduced to a $25 civil fine rather than the current penalty of up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. The decriminalization also includes hash and oil concentrates, of which it is currently a felony to possess, according to Virginia Mercury.

It’s been a long-running fight for Ebbin, who represents parts of Arlington and has frequently proposed decriminalization laws with limited success.

“This is going to make a tremendous difference in up to 30,000 Virginians lives who receive a criminal charge each year,” Ebbin told ARLnow. “They’ll no longer have the repercussions that come with a criminal charge. I think we’ll be in a much better place with a modest fine.”

Ebbin described decriminalization as a necessary step forward. Legalization is the eventual goal, and Ebbin’s legislation has faced some pushback from advocates like the ACLU who says it doesn’t go far enough.

Ebbin said a study of the impacts of decriminalization — which was also approved by the newly Democrat-controlled legislature — is necessary before the state can more broadly legalize marijuana.

“I want to make sure we get it right in terms of taxation, distribution, keeping it away from minors,” Ebbin said. “Those are all things to be considered as we come up with the structure. No state, to my knowledge, has ever legalized without decriminalizing first.”

The bill still has to be signed by Governor Ralph Northam, but if it is, Ebbin noted that decriminalization would take effect on July 1.

The move toward decriminalization was celebrated by some on Twitter, including Arlington Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who was elected last fall with a platform that included ending prosecution of some marijuana possession cases.

Ebbin said the next steps are to work on the study and get more information to start on the path to legalization.

“[Then] we can start to work on the structure by which we might legalize or introduce legislation to legalize, but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Ebbin said. “Nothing decriminalized until July 1, but I think it would put us in a good place.”

File photo

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On Thursday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he had signed HB 1071 into law, repealing a law on the books since 1792 that prohibits profane swearing in public.

The repeal will take effect July 1, after which it will no longer be a misdemeanor to curse up a storm while out and about in the Commonwealth. Well, except in Arlington.

Arlington County still has its own ordinance on the books, prohibiting public intoxication and profanity.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to be intoxicated or to profanely curse or swear in any public place in the County,” the ordinance says. “Any person convicted of such public intoxication or profanity shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”

The good news is that even if you are somehow arrested for profanity, you probably won’t be prosecuted.

“I don’t see prosecuting the use of profanity on its own as a reasonable or efficient use of resources, so no,” said new Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, when asked by ARLnow whether she would prosecute someone just for cursing.

Nonetheless, the ordinance remains. Prior to the governor signing HB 1071, we asked whether Arlington officials had any plans to repeal the county’s cussing prohibition.

“The County routinely reviews its ordinances whenever a new state law may impact them,” said county spokeswoman Mary Curtius.

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Morning Notes

Transit Union Gets Its Money Back from Dorsey — “Union verifies (to me, 5 minutes ago) that it has received [embattled County Board member Christian Dorsey’s] repayment of $10,000 campaign donation.” [Twitter]

Board Advances Reeves Farmhouse Plan — “The [Reeves] farmhouse will be preserved and protected as a historic site, the parkland around the house will stay as parkland, and the County will get much needed housing for people with developmental disabilities without our taxpayers footing the bill. It’s a win-win-win.” [Arlington County]

Va. Legislature OKs Amazon Delivery Bots — “Amazon.com Inc. package delivery robots could soon hit Virginia’s sidewalks and roadways. The General Assembly has made quick work of a bill that would clear the way for Scout, Amazon’s six-wheeled delivery robot, to operate in the commonwealth.” [Washington Business Journal]

Airport Helper Service to Launch Tomorrow — “Goodbye, airport chaos… SkySquad is launching this week at Reagan Airport to improve the airport experience for anyone who needs an extra hand. Travel is stressful for most people, especially families with young kids; and senior citizens who need extra support.” [Press Release]

A Look at Arlington’s Oldest Families — A series of articles profiling long-time local families takes a look at the Parks, the Shreves, the Smiths, the Syphaxes, the Birches and the Thomases. [Arlington Magazine]

Sheriff’s Office Welcomes New K-9 — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office recently welcomed its newest K-9 officer – Logan, a one-and-a-half-year-old black Labrador retriever who is paired with handler Cpl. Matthew Camardi. The duo will work in narcotics detection and other specialized fields. [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Lots of New State Laws May Be Coming — “In the 35 days since the 2020 legislative session began, Democratic lawmakers in Virginia advanced laws to restrict access to guns, raise the minimum wage, decriminalize marijuana and ease restrictions on abortion. They sprinted to pass hundreds of bills before a deadline: February 11th, ‘crossover day,’ when all bills must be passed by at least one chamber or be scrapped.” [WAMU]

Plastic Bag Tax Among Bills Under Consideration — “The Senate passed a version of the bag fee bill shortly before midnight that would impose the five cent tax in Northern Virginia but allow localities elsewhere in the state to decide for themselves whether to have the fee… The House also voted to ban foam takeout containers starting in a few years.” [WTOP]

Tomorrow: Winter Bike to Work Day — “It’s cold outside but that doesn’t mean you have to give up riding your bike. In fact, we want to encourage you to warm up to cold- weather biking on International Winter Bike to Work Day. This year we will have our pit stop at Gravelly Point on the Mount Vernon Trail.” [Eventbrite]

Per-Square-Foot Home Prices — “The city of Falls Church zoomed past the District of Columbia to be the local jurisdiction where home-buyers spent more, per square foot, than anywhere else in January. The median per-square-foot cost of $453 for Falls Church property for the month was up 13 percent from a year before, while the $449 recorded in Washington was down 7.2 percent… Arlington placed third, up 9 percent to $399 per square foot.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Lopez’s Dream Act Passes House — “In a landmark session, the Virginia House of Delegates today voted for the first time to approve HB 1547, a bill which would expand in-state tuition eligibility to undocumented students at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. The bill, also known as the Virginia Dream Act, was introduced by Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) and passed after many years of advocacy and hard work.” [Press Release]

One-Time Arlington Startup Founder Convicted — “A jury convicted CommuniClique founder and former CEO Andy Powers of six out of eight counts Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The jury found Powers guilty on three counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, according to court documents… Powers was based for years in Reston and Arlington before moving to Los Angeles in August 2018 as the head of what he billed as a communications and tech platform.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Funding for Local Startup — “The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) today announced that CIT GAP Funds has invested in Arlington, VA-based HyperQube, a cyber range as a service offering that enables enterprises to quickly and easily build an exact copy of any IT infrastructure.” [Globe Newswire via Potomac Tech Wire]

FYI Tipsters: We Can’t Open Nextdoor Links — Here at ARLnow, we appreciate everyone who emails us or sends us anonymous tips about possible stories. Recently, tipsters have started frequently sending us anonymous tips that link to a post on Nextdoor. The problem is: Nextdoor is a private, neighborhood-based social network and we can’t open the links. Please send us screenshots of posts instead.

Nearby: Falls Church Fire Cause — “Yesterday’s house fire at 400 S. Oak Street was accidental. ‘It’s not confirmed, but the cause could be a space heater plugged into an electrical power strip,’ said [fire official Henry] Lane. ‘If so, this is part of a bad national trend. Power strips cannot handle the demands of a space heater. People should plug them directly into an outlet.’ The damage to the property is valued at $150,000.” [City of Falls Church]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Local Crossing Guard Honored — “Zeleke Taffesse, a crossing guard serving Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, was one of four crossing guards statewide named tops in their field as part of the Feb. 10-14 commemoration of Crossing Guard Appreciation Week.” [InsideNova, Twitter]

Inexpensive Condos Still Exist in Arlington — “There are still some bargains to be had in Arlington, particularly if you’re willing to downsize to an older condo. For example, Unit 49 in the Lorcom House Condo at 4401 Lee Hwy. in North Arlington is priced at $225,000. The monthly condo fee of $552 includes all utilities as well as trash and snow removal.” [Washington Post]

Hope’s Instant Runoff Bill Advancing — “A proposal that would allow, though not require, Arlington to elect its County Board members by ‘instant-runoff’ (also known as ‘ranked-choice’) voting has cleared its first hurdle in Richmond, but still faces an uncertain future. The measure, by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), won passage in the House of Delegates on a 68-30 vote and was forwarded across the hall for consideration by the state Senate.” [InsideNova]

Beyer Holds ‘Real ID’ Event — “Congressman Don Beyer partnered with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Saturday to host a REAL ID application event for constituents of the 8th District at Wakefield High School in Arlington… Beginning October 1, 2020, U.S. residents who want to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility using their state-issued driver’s license or ID as identification must have a version of the credential that is REAL ID compliant.” [Press Release]

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