Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Track Team Denied Trip to State Tourney — “High-school track and field competitors from across the commonwealth’s largest jurisdictions will descend on Virginia Beach March 1 for the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 boys and girls indoor state-championship meets. But Arlington athletes will not be among them. County school leaders have denied permission for teams to make the trip, citing health concerns about the ongoing high level of COVID infection in that part of Virginia and other factors.” [InsideNova]

County Employees Getting Vaccinated — “Arlington government leaders have decided that the entire county-government workforce qualifies as essential for ‘continuity of government,’ which bumps them ahead of several other groups as well as the general public in COVID-vaccination priority. County-government officials last week confirmed to the Sun Gazette that its entire workforce will be part of Virginia’s ‘Group 1b,’ placing them ahead of approximately 50 percent of the state’s population.” [Sun Gazette]

HQ2 Sparks Park Debate — “[Nearby residents] worry even the large parks Amazon is promising will feel more like playgrounds for the company’s workers than community assets, pressing Arlington County officials to invest and ensure public ownership of green space in the area. And in a section of Arlington where some neighborhood groups have raised persistent complaints about a lack of community parks over the years, the issue seems certain to dominate debates about development for the foreseeable future.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Food Biz Profiled — From the Ballston Business Improvement District: “After years of learning and cooking with their families, Andrea and Bryant created Bee J’s Cookies in April 2020 to share their gift with others.” [Twitter]

Arlington Org Helped Thousands with Food Needs — “AHC Inc., a premier provider of affordable housing communities in metro D.C., sprang into action last spring to help residents suffering from the effects of the pandemic. In 2020, AHC’s Resident Services team with support from the property management arm, AHC Management, has provided substantial food and financial assistance to more than 3,000 families in Maryland and Virginia.” [AHC Inc.]

‘Cyber Flashing’ Bill Killed — “Fear not, creepy Virginia dudes — you can still legally send an unsolicited picture of your genitals to people. For now, at least. A bill that would ban cyber-flashing in Virginia was killed last Wednesday. Cyber-flashing is when someone sends unsolicited explicit photos to another person, and the bill proposed to make it a misdemeanor.” [Washingtonian, Virginia Mercury]

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Passed Virginia legislation allows Arlington County to rename Lee Highway, but it’s unlikely to be “Loving Avenue.”

Yesterday (Feb. 23), HB 1854 passed the Virginia State Senate after passing through the House of Delegates late last month. The bill now goes to Governor Ralph Northam for his signature, which will officially codify it.

The bill specifically authorizes the Arlington County Board to name the section of U.S. Route 29, known for decades as “Lee Highway,” located within its boundaries.

However, it’s unlikely to be renamed Loving Avenue in honor of the Virginia couple whose fight to get married went to the U.S. Supreme Court despite the recommendation of the Lee Highway Alliance work group in December..

This is due to the family’s objection, says Arlington County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol. The Loving family has reiterated that the couple was extremely private and would not want a road named after them.

“I’m saddened but understanding that [the family] is strongly opposed to renaming [Route 29] in honor of their parents and grandparents,” she tells ARLnow. “Privacy is a prevailing value for them.”

Late last year, a task force put together by the Lee Highway Alliance recommended renaming Arlington’s section of Route 29 to Loving Avenue. However, they also suggested four alternatives: John M. Langston Boulevard, Ella Baker Boulevard, Dr. Edward T. Morton Avenue, and Main Street.

Ginger Brown, Executive Director for the Lee Highway Alliance, tells ARLnow that Langston Blvd is the “strong second” choice.

Cristol noted that there remains some follow-up to be done with the Loving family, but at this point, naming Route 29 in Arlington after Mildred and Richard Loving isn’t likely.

“At some point, I’ll have to take a vote on this,” she says. “With what the family has said, we know that it would be hurtful for them. It would be hard for me to vote for that.”

Either way, HB 1854 — first introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) — will allow the renaming, though it only applies to Route 29 in Arlington.

The bill notes that while the Virginia Department of Transportation will place and maintain the appropriate signage, the county has to pay for that signage.

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said the legislation is a “shared priority” at yesterday’s Board meeting.

“We are enthusiastic about the success of Del. Sullivan’s bill, and the County continues to work with our regional partners to seek a regionally consistent name for Lee Highway,” de Ferranti wrote in a statement to ARLnow. “The legislature advancing this bill to the Governor is an important tool now available to Arlington County in the renaming of Lee Highway and we will continue to seek a common name with our neighboring jurisdictions.”

Cristol says the timeline for the change is being coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions that the east-west artery also runs through, including Falls Church, Fairfax City, and Fairfax County.

“We have a shared interest in settling on the same name, for obvious reasons,” she says.

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Morning Notes

Vaccine Registration Transfer Still in Progress — “We are aware that many Arlington residents who preregistered through the County system are unable to find themselves in the ‘Check the List’ feature. Data migration is continuing throughout the week and it may take several more days for your name to appear in the centralized system.” [Arlington County]

No Rolling Stops for Va. Cyclists Yet — “The Virginia Senate on Wednesday sidelined a proposal that would have allowed bicyclists to yield instead of halt at stop signs. Instead, lawmakers voted to commission a police study of the rule as enacted in other states. They also voted to require drivers to change lanes when passing bicyclists if three feet of distance isn’t possible and to allow two cyclists to ride side by side in a lane.” [Washington Post]

County Offering Emergency Training in Spanish — “To ensure a more equitable, culturally competent response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergencies, the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management and Arlington CERT are launching their first-ever Spanish-language Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteer training.” [Arlington County]

First Non-Airline Lounge Coming to DCA — “A lot is changing at Reagan National Airport, and one of the new additions will be an American Express Centurion passenger lounge, the first non-airline passenger lounge at the airport. Reagan National will be the 16th U.S. airport to have a Centurion Lounge. The 11,500-square-foot lounge will open by the end of 2022.” [WTOP]

Gate 35X Replacement Opening Soon — “Airport officials have long planned to replace the 35X bussing system with a proper 14-gate concourse. So here’s some good news: looks like it will happen sooner rather than later. Airline Weekly reports that the American Airlines concourse will open three months earlier than anticipated. Turns out that the decline in air traffic during the pandemic helped accelerated construction work. It’s now slated to open as soon as April 20.” [Washingtonian]

GoTab Continues on Growth Path — “Industry-leading restaurant commerce platform GoTab has appointed sales and hospitality technology veteran John Martin as the company’s new Chief Revenue Officer. With over 30+ years of experience working with both brick-and-mortar restaurants and food technology systems, Martin has been a force in helping hyper growth startups with go-to-market strategy as well as helping CEOs develop approaches to accelerate sales and launch new products.” [Press Release]

Poems on ART Buses — “This year’s Moving Words Adult Competition 2021 Six winning poems were selected from 211 poems by this year’s judge, Arlington’s 2nd Poet Laureate Holly Karapetkova, who also has a poem on display. View the poems below and on Arlington’s ART buses from February through September 2021.” [Arlington Arts]

Beyer Gets Out-of-This-World Chairmanship — “Late last week, Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology elected Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) to serve as Chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics for the 117th Congress.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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A bill that has passed the Virginia House of Delegates would allow bicyclists in the Commonwealth to treat stop signs as yield signs in certain situations.

HB 2262 would legalize a common practice: cyclists rolling through stop signs when no other traffic has the right of way.

“Supporters say it will make roads safer for bicyclists after increases in traffic injuries and deaths, while opponents argue it makes the movements of cyclists less predictable,” the Washington Post reported. “The bill also would require drivers to change lanes when passing a bicyclist if three feet of distance isn’t possible and would allow two cyclists to stay side-by-side in a lane.”

The bill is now set to be considered by the Virginia State Senate.

What do you think?

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A former Columbia Pike business has inspired a state bill that would allow localities greater say over liquor licenses.

HB 2131 was introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates last month by Del. Alfonso Lopez, who represents Arlington — including portions of the Pike — in the 49th District.

It has since passed the House unanimously and is now in the Virginia State Senate.

The bill is a response to a number of incidents, including multiple shootings, that took place in 2020 at the nightlife venue Purple Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge at 3111 Columbia Pike.

Despite “a series of disturbing events” and much to the chagrin of the Arlington County Board, the venue was given its liquor license back by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority in September.

While the Purple Lounge has since closed, HB 2131 would allow greater input from localities about what businesses are granted liquor licenses by the Virginia ABC. It would add “chief administrative officer of a locality” to the list of those sent license applications. In Arlington County’s case, that’s the County Manager.

It also would expand the definition of “criminal blight,” meaning a condition on the property that endangers the public health or safety of local residents, thus making it easier for a license to be denied in cases of criminal activity.

Delegate Lopez tells ARLnow that he believes that this is the most important part of the bill.

“We’ve tightened the firearm section. In the past it had said repeated use of firearms,” says Lopez. “What we’ve done is [added] the simple discharge of a firearm once now it rises to the level of the criminal statute.”

The bill also adds “in possession” of a controlled substance, as opposed to just “under the influence,” and includes criminal activity that takes place on the property — like, in the parking lot — as opposed to simply in a building.

“It is easier now for community groups to give proof [of criminal activity],” says Lopez. “It’s easier for localities to meet the threshold by which they can report a bad actor establishment to ABC.”

Virginia ABC remains the only agency that can suspend or revoke liquor licenses.

While the frustration in the community over the Purple Lounge directly influenced this bill, Lopez says that he’s heard of similar situations in other Virginia jurisdictions.

Kristi Sawert, President of the Arlington Heights Civic Associations, is one of the local leaders that helped bring attention to the matter. She says “a lot of bad things were happening” at the Purple Lounge that were upsetting and scaring residents.

Sawert says too often she felt that the local civic associations were “kind of shut out of the process” when it came to the Virginia ABC making decisions and settling liquor license disputes. She applauds this bill since it gives Arlington County more tools and more say in preventing businesses like this from operating in neighborhoods.

She also thinks it would be advantageous to include civic associations on the list of those that would receive liquor license applications.

“99.9% of the time, there’s no issue at all with any type of business getting their alcohol license,” says Sawert. “This would give another opportunity for civic associations in Arlington a chance to weigh in on what’s going on in their boundaries. I think it’s just more information.”

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti also agrees with the bill.

“Arlington was supportive of this legislation, which is why Board Member Takis Karantonis provided testimony before the House General Laws Committee on behalf of the Board,” he writes to ARLnow. “We appreciate Delegate Lopez’s efforts on behalf of our residents in this matter.”

The bill was referred to the Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services in the Virginia State Senate on Feb. 4.

Lopez remains optimistic that it will pass the Senate, be signed by the governor, and become state law.

“I am hopeful that it will pass the Senate,” he says. “But, you know, the Senate is very different than the House.”

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Morning Notes

Police Trying to ID Robbery Suspect — “The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a series of convenience store robberies and is seeking the public’s assistance identifying a suspect captured on cell phone image.” [ACPD]

Gymnasts May Be Barred from State Tourney — “The [Washington-Liberty] girls high-school gymnastics team won its third straight 6D North Region championship… The Arlington school system has made a preliminary decision not to allow the W-L team to attend the state meet because of the pandemic. Parents of the W-L gymnasts are asking the school system to allow the Generals to participate.” [InsideNova]

Local Architects Like HQ2 Design — “The majority of architects and designers who spoke with the Washington Business Journal about the NBBJ-designed Helix had a positive take on Amazon’s plans and its new flagship structure. Most said it could become an iconic building that would give Arlington a sense of place. But a few were more cautious, noting there could be ramifications of allowing a megacorporation to build and own such an architecturally striking landmark.” [Washington Business Journal]

Va. Bishops Support Death Penalty Bill — “Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington and Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond issued the following statement on passage of death penalty abolition legislation: ‘We welcome today’s vote by the Virginia House of Delegates to abolish the death penalty, as well as the vote by the Virginia Senate to do so earlier this week.'” [Diocese of Arlington, Arlington Catholic Herald]

Pot Legalization Bill Passes — “Lawmakers in both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly approved legislation Friday that clears the way for legal cannabis sales in the state. The move sets up Virginia to be the first southern state to establish a recreational marijuana marketplace, and potentially the first to do so in the Washington region.” [DCist]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

No APS Return Dates Yet — “Alexandria City Public Schools this week joined a flood of Northern Virginia school systems in setting firm timelines for reopening classrooms, vowing to welcome all students back for in-person learning by mid-March. But in Arlington, school officials aren’t committing to return dates just yet.” [Washington Post]

Summer School Appears Likely — “Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday will announce a plan to extend the school year into summer to allow students to catch up. The announcement will come during an 11 a.m. news conference, Northam said during a Thursday morning interview with Washington Post Live. No details have yet been released. ‘We’re working with our teachers, our school boards, our superintendents. It has to be a top priority,’ he said.” [InsideNova]

Karantonis Running for Reelection — “Although his announcement was temporarily derailed by a snafu too common in the Zoom era, Arlington County Board member Takis Karantonis on Feb. 3 formally kicked off his bid for re-election with comments before the Arlington County Democratic Committee.” [InsideNova]

Napoli Salumeria’s D.C. Location Closing — “The restaurant has decided not to renew their lease at their current location, so they are temporarily closing their Columbia Heights doors as they search for a new DC location. In the meantime, guests can still get the full Napoli Pasta Bar menu at Napoli Salumeria in Arlington starting next week (including dine-in). Napoli Pasta Bar will also offer free delivery for DC residents within a certain radius from Napoli Salumeria.” [PoPville]

Marymount Announces Commencement Speakers — “In mid-May, approximately 975 students will receive their degrees over the course of three days during Marymount University’s 70th annual commencement ceremonies. The newest graduates of the mission-based Catholic university will hear from three distinguished commencement speakers – influential Virginian James Dyke, Jr., entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila Johnson and business leader Donald Graham.” [Marymount University]

Editorial: No Counterbalance Against Tax Increases — “The government’s Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission effectively has been gelded; the Arlington County Civic Federation is trying to keep up but is not the budget-watching powerhouse it once was; the Arlington County Taxpayers Association effectively died with its leader, Tim Wise; and serious budget discussions almost never even come up within the intra-Democratic nomination contests that determine who will hold elected office.” [InsideNova]

Virginia May Abolish Death Penalty — “Virginia is poised to become the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty, a sign of ascendant liberal political power in a state that has executed more people since the 1970s than any other except Texas.” [New York Times]

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The Virginia General Assembly, America’s oldest continuous law-making body, is currently convening and local lawmakers are introducing a slew of new legislation.

While a number of these bills will eventually fail, unable to pass committees or the full General Assembly, a few of these proposals may ultimately become state law. And the odds are much greater than prior years.

Every one of Arlington’s state lawmakers are Democrats, and after years in the legislative minority Democrats currently hold the Virginia House of Delegates, the Virginia State Senate, and the Governorship.

Here are a few of the notable bills being proposed by Arlington lawmakers:

  • HB 2164: Introduced by Del. Patrick Hope (47th District), the bill would reinforce the July 2019 law that no one under the age of 21 can purchase tobacco products by further defining them as nicotine vapor products or alternative nicotine products. It would also take away the expectation that those in active duty military but under 21 can purchase tobacco, and would disallow the selling of tobacco products from vending machines. It’s currently awaiting a vote in the General Laws Committee.
  • HB 1854: Proposed by Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan (48th District), this bill would grant Arlington County the ability to rename the section of Route 29 — currently called “Lee Highway” — that lies within the county’s boundaries. In December, a local task force recommended renaming the road to “Loving Avenue.” The bill is currently awaiting a vote in the Transportation Committee.
  • SB 1159: Proposed by Sen. Barbara Favola (District 31), the bill would allow sick leave to be used to care for an immediate family member. The law would apply for all employers that have a sick leave program and have 25 or more employees. It also only applies to those employees who work more than 30 hours and leave is limited to five days per calendar year. It’s currently awaiting a vote in the Commerce and Labor Committee.
  • SB 1382: Also introduced by Sen. Favola, this bill would prohibit the purchase, possession, or transportation of a firearm by anyone who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member. It’s currently awaiting a vote in the Judiciary Committee.
  • HJ 557: The proposal from Del. Alfonso Lopez (49th District) would repeal the 2006 Virginia constitutional amendment that defines marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman.” It would also no longer prohibit the Commonwealth from recognizing the legal status of “relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate… marriage.” In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, so essentially this proposal would codify and bring the Virginia Constitution up to date. It’s currently awaiting a vote in the Privileges and Elections Committee.

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The County Board is slated to accept nearly $118,000 in state funding that would reimburse the County for bonuses to sworn officers in Arlington County Sheriff’s Office.

On Christmas Eve, 222 Sheriff’s Office personnel each received a $500 bonus, after an amendment to the Commonwealth’s 2021 budget passed during a special session last year, according to a county staff report. The bonuses are not intended as a replacement for hazard pay during the pandemic, the report notes.

The full amendment awards $18.4 million in one-time bonus payments to Virginia’s sheriffs, deputies, superintendents and regional jail officers.

The bonuses from the state Compensation Board came in lieu of salary increases, Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur said.

Arthur said she works with the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, which advocates sworn officers in the Commonwealth. In Arlington, she said the County heavily subsidizes salaries, but that is not true throughout the state.

“It’s a constant issue at the top of our agenda,” said Arthur, a former association president. She said that while she was happy to give her officers financial assistance, these bonuses do not go as far as salary increases would for those in other jurisdictions receiving little to no local subsidies.

The sum also includes insurance contribution expenses for January, the county report noted.

The Board is scheduled to review the County Manager’s recommendation to accept the funding during its regular meeting on Saturday.

In Arlington, Sheriff’s deputies staff the county jail, provide security to courtrooms, assist with traffic enforcement, and serve court notices, among other law enforcement duties.

File photo

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Arlington wants to deploys speed cameras and to lower speed limits in residential and business districts below 25 miles per hour.

Those are among a list of state legislative priorities the Arlington County Board unanimously approved on Saturday before the upcoming session of the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond.

Board member Christian Dorsey said at Saturday’s meeting that speed cameras allow for equitable law enforcement while reducing public interaction with the police.

“We want to reduce the amount of times that potential conflicts can turn into something that’s unintended,” Dorsey said.

“Automated ticket enforcement has the potential to improve safety… and further advance equitable outcomes by reducing or eliminating race-based disparities in speed enforcement,” the county said its legislative priority list.

Board Chair Libby Garvey said Arlington also needs discretion on reducing the speed limit in residential and business areas.

“There’s just so much in this state that we find we have responsibility for things and we don’t have the authority to actually do what we need to do sometimes, so this is just a never-ending stream of things that we’re trying to correct and get control over that we ought to have control over,” Garvey said.

Pat Carroll, Arlington’s liaison to Richmond, told the Board that recent leadership changes within the legislature “noticeably helped the fate of Arlington’s legislative priorities.”

Other approved priorities include:

  • “More state funding for localities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic”
  • “Seeking full funding for K-12 education, including ensuring state funding for Arlington Public Schools reflects pre-pandemic levels”
  • “Protecting existing Northern Virginia Transportation authority revenues”
  • “Allowing individual retail customers to buy 100 percent renewable electricity from any licensed competitive supplier of electric energy”
  • “Supporting legislation to provide greater incentives for tree canopy preservation and planting”
  • “Enacting authority for a local option to develop incentives or regulations to decrease or regulate the distribution and sale of polystyrene food-service containers”
  • “Permit localities and public bodies to set their own rules regarding ‘virtual’ [meeting] participation

Arlington’s full list of legislative priorities is below the jump.

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