Post-Election Harassment in Arlington — Among the incidents of “harassment and intimidation” reported across the country following the election was one in Arlington. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a woman was crossing the street when two men in a car yelled, “you better be ready because with Trump, we can grab you by the p***y even if you don’t want it.” [Independent UK, Southern Poverty Law Center]
GOP Wants Va. Electoral College Change — Following another year of Virginia being a blue state in the presidential election, state Republicans are pushing to change Virginia from a “winner take all” state to one that allocates Electoral College electors by congressional district. [InsideNova]
Heavy Traffic This Morning — With rain and fog slowing things down, heavy traffic has been reported on local highways throughout the morning rush hour. [Twitter]
Chamber Threatens to Go to Richmond on Towing — If Arlington County follows through on a proposal that would make it harder for property owners to have trespassing cars towed off their lot, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce says it may go to Richmond to lobby for a law superseding Arlington’s regulation. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Drew H.
A set of proposed changes to Arlington’s trespass towing ordinance would remove the requirement that tow truck drivers photograph the condition of a vehicle before towing it.
The Arlington County Board is set to consider an advertisement of the changes at its meeting this coming Saturday.
The proposal would not change the requirement that tow truck drivers obtain photographic or video evidence “clearly showing the location of the vehicle, substantiating the reason for its removal.” Instead, it removes a provision calling for any existing damage to the vehicle be documented.
Brian Stout, the county’s legislative liaison, says the change won’t have much practical impact, as photographing the condition of the vehicle was more of a best practice guideline than an enforceable law.
“Originally envisioned as a way to protect vehicle owners in the event of damage to their vehicle resulting from the tow, the County’s ordinance was amended in 2012 to require the tower to document the condition of the vehicle,” Stout told ARLnow.com. “Recognizing that the County has no role in damage claims, language was included stating that failure to meet this requirement does not result in a violation of the ordinance. This requirement has led to confusion among all parties regarding what is required to satisfy this provision and has led many vehicle owners to believe that the County has a role to play in such damage claims, which we do not.”
“While the County maintains that it is good practice for the towing and recovery operator to document the condition of the vehicle prior to its removal,” Stout added, “we believe removal of this provision will provide clarity to all parties while also not decreasing protections to vehicle owners.”
Other proposed towing changes include:
- Requiring additional signs on the interior of a parking facility to supplement signs at the entrances and “identify additional parking restrictions should they exist.”
- Adding an additional $25 fee for tows on weekends, holidays and between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays, as required by a new state law.
- Allowing the towing storage facility to be 3.25 miles away from the county line rather than the existing 3 mile requirement, thus allowing additional towing companies to compete for business in Arlington.
- Clarifying that nothing in the ordinance “shall release tow truck drivers from liability for failure to use reasonable care while towing a vehicle.”
- Clarifying existing language that prohibits the towing of federal, state or local public safety vehicles.
The changes were all discussed by the county’s Trespass Towing Advisory Board, the voting members of which are three towing company operators, three representatives from the Arlington County Police Department and one local resident, Nancy Iacomini, who chairs the board.
Iacomini tried to introduce amendments that would keep the requirement to photograph the condition of towed vehicles, but the amendments failed.
Separately, the county is hoping to obtain permission to allow it to add more local residents to the towing board.
The county’s draft set of legislative priorities for 2017, which is to be voted upon by the County Board next month, includes an item seeking a law that would “permit localities to add an equal number of voting members of the general public to their towing advisory board as there are representatives of local law-enforcement agencies and representatives of licensed towing and recovery operators.”
“The composition of voting members of local trespass towing advisory boards is a matter that is controlled by Virginia State Code Section 46.2-1233.2,” Stout said. “The County’s request would allow for localities that have a local ordinance and advisory board to allow for equal voting representation from the general public if they chose to do so. As these issues affect the general public in a substantial way, we believe that localities should have the ability to allow for equal representation.”
Garvey Wants to Nix New Year’s Day Meeting — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey has proposed moving the Board’s traditional New Year’s Day meeting (this year it would otherwise be held on Jan. 2, the federal observance of the New Year holiday) to the next business day: Tuesday, Jan. 3. [Washington Post]
Neighbors Upset About Sex Offender’s Halloween Decorations — A 57-year-old registered sex offender says he did nothing wrong in putting up Halloween decorations in front of his Arlington house. But nearby residents don’t agree: they called the police and local TV stations, saying the display is “inappropriate” since it might “entice” children. One concerned resident said, “we are within our rights as taxpayers and longtime members of this community to protect the children in our community.” [Fox 5]
Higher Meal Tax Possible? — If state lawmakers act to provide counties with the same taxing powers as Virginia cities, as Arlington County is asking for again this year, it could eventually mean an increase in the meals tax at local restaurants. [InsideNova]
It’s November — Today is the first day of November. In a week, it’s finally Election Day. In three weeks and two days, it’s Thanksgiving. The weather forecast for the next two days, however: highs of 75 and 79 on Wednesday and Thursday.
Lawmakers Ask Gun Store Landlord to Reconsider — Seven state legislators who represent Arlington have written to the landlord of a planned gun store in Lyon Park, asking her to reconsider the lease. The letter cites Virginia’s 1990s reputation for being the “gun-running capital of the East Coast” and says the new store, which is located near a private preschool and daycare center, “could be the site for potentially nefarious and illegal activities.” [Washington Post]
Three Arlington Bars Make D.C. Dive List — The website UpOut has compiled a list of “10 Ridiculously Cool Dive Bars in Washington D.C.” Among them are three Arlington favorites: Galaxy Hut, Cowboy Cafe and L.A. Bar and Grill. [UpOut]
More Millennials Coming to Arlington? — In Arlington, 35-40 percent of the population is of the Millennial generation. That makes Arlington one of the most Millennial-heavy places in the country. But the county’s demographer doesn’t think the county’s Millennial boom has peaked yet. “Whether Millennials choose to stay or leave Arlington could have a major impact on schools, since the bulk of that population group has not yet embarked on creating families,” notes the Sun Gazette. [InsideNova]
Memorial Bridge May Close in Five Years — After years of deferred maintenance, the 84-year-old Memorial Bridge is in such bad shape that the National Park Service could be forced to close it by 2021 unless it can get funding for a $250 million complete reconstruction. [Associated Press, Twitter]
Where You Might Bump into an Arlington Trump Voter — Chris Slatt has again compiled some interesting Arlington election data into map form. Slatt’s maps show Democratic turnout by precinct, Republican turnout by precinct and the population density of Donald Trump voters — the highest concentration of which are along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. Separately, another sage election watcher, Carrie Johnson, estimates that 5,500-6,000 voters who usually vote Democratic in Arlington voted Republican in Tuesday’s presidential primary, thus in part explaining why John Kasich and Marco Rubio outperformed here compared to the rest of the state. [InsideNova]
New Rosslyn-Based Online Publication — Rosslyn continues to cement its reputation as Arlington’s media hub. ABC 7 (WJLA) parent company Sinclair Broadcast Group is launching “D.C. Refined,” a new online-only local culture magazine. The publication will “fall under the umbrella” of Rosslyn-based WJLA. [Washington Business Journal]
County Board Work Sessions to Be Broadcast — Arlington TV, the county government’s cable channel, will begin broadcasting County Board work sessions on cable and online this month. First up: the riveting County Board work session on the FY 2017 budget, scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday. [Arlington County]
Meal Delivery Startup Now Serving Part of Arlington — Galley, a D.C.-based meal delivery startup, says it just expanded its delivery area to include Rosslyn, Courthouse and Clarendon.
ACPD Focusing on Heroin Use and Addiction — The Arlington County Police Department is joining other law enforcement agencies around the region in an initiative to try to curb the distribution, possession and use of heroin. For those battling addiction, there are a number of treatment options in Arlington. [Arlington County]
Schneider to Lead Thrive — Former Democratic County Board candidate Andrew Schneider has been named the new Executive Director of Arlington Thrive, effective today. Thrive is a nonprofit that provides same-day financial assistance to residents in crisis.
Board Thanks Legislators for Hotel Tax Bill — The Arlington County Board is offering its thanks to the state legislators who successfully shepherded Arlington’s hotel tax surcharge reauthorization through the Virginia General Assembly. [Arlington County]
State Lawmaker: Add Lanes to I-66 — State Sen. Chap Petersen (D), who represents part of Fairfax County, doesn’t much care for Arlington’s efforts to dissuade VDOT from adding an extra lane to I-66. “When I was a little boy, we put a man on the moon. We can figure out how to put six lanes through Arlington County,” Petersen said in an interview. [WTOP]
Del. Levine Proposes Minimum Wage Increase — For his first piece of state legislation, freshman Del. Mark Levine (D) has proposed a bill that would allow localities in Virginia to raise the minimum wage up to $10. The maximum amount would then rise every year with the consumer price index. The likelihood of the bill passing is slim. [InsideNova]
Highway Project Giving Away Grant Money — Transurban, the private company behind the newly-revived I-395 HOT lanes project, is trying to endear itself to the communities along the I-395 corridor. For one, the company recently joined the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. It’s also giving away grants of $1,000 to $5,000 “to respond to the needs of local organizations and direct impact neighborhoods located within the I-395 corridor.” Applications for the Community Grant Program are currently being accepted. [395 Express Lanes]
AFCYRs to Host MLK Event — The Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans will “celebrate and honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and recommit ourselves to living out Dr. King’s dream” at the group’s meeting on Monday. Speaking at the event will be Elroy Sailor, CEO of the J.C. Watts Companies and current senior advisor to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. [Facebook]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Ebbin has proposed three bills to the General Assembly regarding same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights — bills very similar to the three that were rejected during last year’s legislative session. They were all defeated in their respective committees.
One bill would repeal the amendment to the Constitution of Virginia that defines valid or recognized marriages as “only a union between a man and a woman.” It also prohibits the creation or recognition of other legal relationship statuses — including partnerships and unions — that are assigned the same rights and benefits as marriages. This amendment was approved by voters during the November 2006 election, but declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2014.
Another Ebbin bill would repeal two pieces of state law that prohibit same-sex marriages and civil unions. The statute prohibiting marriage between individuals of the same sex and considering such marriages conducted in another state void was first enacted in 1975. The statute that does the same for civil unions was passed in 2004.
The final bill would amend the Virginia Human Rights Act by prohibiting public employers from discriminating against potential employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Furthermore, this bill would ensure pregnancy, childbirth/related medical conditions, marital status and status as a veteran are also included under the anti-discrimination section of the law. Race, color, religion, political affiliation, age, disability and national origin are already protected under this law.
These bill proposals were reintroduced to the state legislature approximately six months after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Various Arlington officials spoke out after the ruling, supporting the decision.
Ebbin — who became the first openly gay state legislator elected in Virginia in 2003 — could not be reached for comment on his proposals. All three are currently in committee for consideration.
Virginia’s 2016 General Assembly legislative session is scheduled to last for 60 days, beginning on Jan. 13 and ending on March 12.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has proposed a bill that would prevent the State Corporation Commission (SCC) from approving licenses for payday lending and motor vehicle title lending offices within 20 miles of a casino facility.
Payday lending offices give unsecured, small loans in the form of cash advances, and title lenders give secured loans for which the borrowers can use their car as collateral.
If passed, applicants looking to establish either kind of office would have to prove that their proposed location is not within 20 miles of a casino in any state. That 20 mile limit would start at a casino’s front door and be measured in a straight line.
The bill specifies that any payday or title lender that opens before July 1, 2016, will not have its license revoked even if it’s within 20 miles of a casino, and any such lender that opens after that date will not have its license revoked if a casino later opens within 20 miles.
Though reports earlier this fall suggested a recently-recognized Pamunkey Indian tribe wanted to open one outside Richmond, there are no casinos in the Commonwealth.
The bill would effectively ban new payday and title lenders in Arlington County after the planned MGM National Harbor casino opens. That opening is currently set for the second half of 2016.
Ebbin — who represents parts of Arlington County, Alexandria and Fairfax County — could not be reached for comment.
The bill is currently in committee and must pass there before being considered by the Virginia General Assembly. It faces steep odds in the Republican-controlled, business-friendly state legislature. The 2016 legislative session begins in two weeks and is scheduled to last 60 days.
State Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents parts of Arlington, has proposed a bill to exclude the name and address of registered sex offenders’ employers from the publicly available registry system.
The proposed bill would amend a section of the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry Act that deals with sharing registry information via the internet.
Howell’s bill would remove employer information from the part of the online system that’s available to the public.
Convicted sex offenders often have difficulty getting a job after being listed on the sex offender registry. Removing employer information would eliminate at least one disincentive from hiring a sex offender who has already served their time.
This is not the first time in the last five years such a bill has been proposed to the state legislature. Two previous bills also attempted to stop publishing employer information on the public online system. In 2010, the bill passed in the state Senate but was tabled in a House committee. It had less success in 2012, tabled again in a House committee without Senate consideration.
Howell didn’t introduce either of those bills, and could not be reached for comment on this year’s proposal. However, fellow local legislator Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) was one of the House members who proposed the bill in 2012.
In addition to their employer’s name and address, an offender’s name, age, current address, photograph and a description of the offense they committed with the date they were convicted are available to the public via the online registry system, which is maintained by the State Police.
Virginia’s 2016 General Assembly legislative session is scheduled to last for 60 days, beginning on Jan. 13 and ending on March 12.
(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Del. Patrick Hope (D) has introduced a bill to the Virginia General Assembly that would eliminate the 35 percent commission the state charges on all phone calls made by prison inmates.
The proposed bill — which is now in committee for consideration and must pass there before going before the full House of Delegates — would amend an existing bill by adding a sentence stating no state agency will receive such commission payments.
The commission comes from charges paid by inmates and recipients of calls made from prison. It generates approximately $2.6 million a year, Hope said. Those funds go directly into the Virginia’s general fund.
“I’ve introduced a similar bill for the last four or five years, each time only to see it pass committee and die in appropriations due to lack of funding,” he said in an email. “So we agree on the policy but just not how to pay for it.”
Hope justified his support of this bill by explaining that inmates staying in touch with their families while incarcerated improves the situation for all parties involved.
“The added cost from this commission makes it very difficult for those incarcerated to stay connected with family,” he said. “Studies show the importance of maintaining frequent communication between the incarcerated and their family members, particularly related to recidivism rates, their own conduct in prison, and the overall well-being of families, especially those with young children.”
He has also testified in front of the Federal Communications Commission on this issue in the past. The agency recently acted to lower call costs and indicated support for eliminating commissions on those calls.
Phone service in state prisons in Virginia is provided by GTL, a Reston-based company that bills itself as the “corrections innovation leader.” According to the website prisonphonejustice.org, the rate for a 15 minute call from an inmate was as high as $6 in 2014. The website refers to the commission paid by GTL to the Commonwealth as a “kickback.”
For Hope, the issue is a humanitarian one.
“It is my continued belief that the correct policy in Virginia should be to make the costs of telephone communication between inmates and family as inexpensive as possible,” he said. “We want to encourage greater communication, and Virginia should not view this part of our prison system as a cost center to fund other parts of the budget.”
Virginia’s 2016 General Assembly legislative session is scheduled last for 60 days, beginning on Jan. 13 and ending on March 12.
Arlington County plans to ask its state legislative delegation to sponsor a bill that would rename Jefferson Davis Highway, the Washington Post reports.
While the likelihood of such a bill passing is slim, County Board Chair Mary Hynes said the county has received “a flurry of letters from residents” asking that the Confederate leader’s name be removed from the highway, also known as Route 1.
(County Board Vice Chair Walter Tejada did not respond to an inquiry from ARLnow.com last month, asking whether a name change resolution for Jefferson Davis Highway was a possibility.)
In 2012, the county renamed the stretch of road formerly known as Old Jefferson Davis Highway “Long Bridge Drive.” This time around, talk of renaming the highway comes amid a national conversation about the Confederate flag and whether it’s more a symbol of southern heritage — or slavery and racism. Last week, South Carolina’s legislature voted to remove the flag from the grounds of the state capitol.
Do you think Jefferson Davis Highway should be renamed?
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) has drafted a bill that would authorize the Arlington County Board to hire an independent auditor.
Such legislation, should it pass the Republican-controlled state legislature, would be a victory for County Board members Libby Garvey (D) and John Vihstadt (I), who have championed the hiring of an independent auditor as a way to bring more accountability to county government. Hope’s legislation would only authorize the hiring, it would not require the County Board to do so. It would also apply to other Virginia jurisdictions with a County Manager form of government.
Currently, the County Board does not have the authority to hire an independent auditor, since Virginia is a Dillon Rule state and the County Manager form of government doesn’t provide any provisions for such a hire.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan could hire an internal auditor — in fact, it appears that her staff is doing so — but Vihstadt has said that doesn’t provide the level of independence that he desires.
(Fairfax County, with its County Executive form of government, already has an independent auditor that reports to a Board of Supervisors committee. Virginia cities also have independent auditor hiring authority.)
Hope says he thinks his bill could get bipartisan support in the General Assembly.
“This is a good government bill,” he told ARLnow.com Thursday afternoon. “It makes government more transparent, more open. I can’t find fault with it.”
Hope has yet to introduce the bill and is still considering it. The deadline to introduce the legislation is Jan. 23. Garvey said she hopes the bill will be introduced.
“I’m pleased that he is considering putting it in, and I think it’s important that the Board has the power to hire an independent auditor if they so choose,” she said. Asked about the importance of the auditor reporting directly to the Board instead of the Manager, she said its a matter of “checks and balances.”
“If the auditor reports to the Manager, it’s not really very independent,” she said. “I just think that it’s simply a good government… it checks the staff and checks the Board and makes the public comfortable that there’s an independent eye keeping tabs on things.”
The bill addresses “the growing problem of notaries who practice law without a license” in immigrant communities. It does so by prohibiting notaries who are not attorneys or otherwise accredited from offering legal and immigration advice.
“In many Latin American countries ‘notario publicos’ (notary publics) provide legal advice, but U.S. notaries who are not also attorneys are not authorized to share this role,” explains a media advisory about the bill signing. “In Virginia, there have been cases of notaries fraudulently charging thousands of dollars for misleading advice.”
Two of the chief sponsors of the legislation, State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) are expected to join McAuliffe at the bill signing ceremony, to be held Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 2:00 p.m. at the new Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).
Fallon, Baker Out; Omara, Schneider In for 48th — The list of contenders in the race to replace the retiring Del. Bob Brink (D-48) continues to change. Peter Fallon, mentioned as a possible candidate, says he will not run. Steve Baker, who threw his hat in the ring for a few hours, is no longer running. Young Democrats of America President Atima Omara, meanwhile, is running, as is Yorktown Civic Association President Andrew Schneider. At last count, there are six Democrats and no Republicans in the race.
Endorsements in 48th District Race — Candidates for the 48th District special electoin are starting to tout high-profile local endorsements. Del. Patrick Hope and former Va. lieutenant governor candidate Aneesh Chopra have endorsed Rip Sullivan. Arlington County Board Vice Chairman Mary Hynes, Treasurer Frank O’Leary and Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos have endorsed Paul Holland. In Arlington, a firehouse Democratic primary in the race will be held on Sunday.
Hazmat Scare at TJ Middle School — There was a hazardous materials scare at Thomas Jefferson Middle School yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon. According to an Arlington fire department spokeswoman, the family of a former school employee who passed away brought a box of art supplies to the school as a donation. A school staff member sorting through the donation opened a bag, smelled a strong odor and began to feel sick. Arlington’s hazmat team arrived and determined that the bag contained a chemical used for gold plating. A cleanup crew was brought in to dispose of the chemical and the employee was transported to the hospital in stable condition.
STEM School Proposed — During a discussion about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, the Arlington School Board began talking about the possibility of opening a new STEM-focused middle school or high school. Such a facility could potentially compete with Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet school attended by a number of Arlington students. [InsideNova]
New Va. Laws Take Effect — A number of new laws in Virginia took effect Tuesday. Among them: the abolition of a $64 tax on hybrid vehicles, a law requiring fewer Standards of Learning tests for grades 3-8, and a law that requires motorists to maintain more space between their vehicles and bicyclists. [Reston Now]
Flickr pool photo by Alex Erkiletian
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the police department has issued a press release (after the jump) highlighting the need to pay attention while at the wheel, especially as more pedestrians and bicyclists hit the streets during the warmer weather months.
The press release also mentions impending state legislation that makes texting while driving a primary offense. Currently, a driver can only be charged for texting if pulled over for another violation — and the penalty is a piddly $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. The new legislation would allow police to pull over a motorist only for texting, and would significantly increase the penalty.
The bill originally called for fines of $500 and $250, but an amendment approved by the state Senate this week cuts that in half. The bill is now awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature. If signed, the law will take effect July 1.
ACPD says it is prepared to enforce the texting law.
“Once the law is in effect we will incorporate it into our nationally recognized traffic and pedestrian safety programs,” said department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “In terms of training, all Arlington County Police officers receive annual in-service training regarding new laws and legislative changes. The proposed Virginia texting law will be included in that training.”