35°Overcast

by Chris Teale December 19, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

A bill in the Virginia State Senate would require that drivers come to a complete stop when yielding to pedestrians crossing the street.

The bill, SB 46 introduced by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D), adds language to state law telling motorists what constitutes yielding to a pedestrian: “by stopping and remaining stopped until such pedestrian has safely crossed,” per the bill text.

Favola’s bill would require drivers to stop and remain stopped at the following places:

  • Clearly marked crosswalks, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block.
  • Any regular pedestrian crossing included in the boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block.
  • Any intersection when the driver is approaching on a highway where the maximum speed limit is 35 miles per hour.

Language on when drivers must yield to pedestrians is included in the Virginia Criminal and Traffic Manual, but does not include the line to have drivers stop.

“Under this bill, a car would have to stop. Right now all you have to do is yield,” Favola told ARLnow.com. “So if a pedestrian is crossing and is on one half of the crosswalk, a car can go through the other half. This would make them stop completely.”

Favola’s district includes sections of Arlington County. The new legislation comes on the heels of a recent enforcement effort by the Arlington County Police Department, during which officers cited more than 30 motorists at several intersections for failing to yield.

The bill would not change the fines for violations: $100-$500 when street signs require drivers to yield and no more than $100 at crossings with shared-use paths like trails.

by Chris Teale December 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

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.

by Chris Teale December 1, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

(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.

(more…)

by Chris Teale November 8, 2017 at 9:35 am 0

Heartened by Democratic gains in the Virginia House of Delegates in last night’s election, local Democrats are hopeful for progress in Richmond on issues important to Arlington County.

Democrats had picked up 14 seats in the House on Tuesday, with the remaining four seats subject to re-counts and late results.

By early Wednesday, control was tied 50-50 after Democrats picked up another two seats overnight, a big change from the 66-34 advantage Republicans had enjoyed.

And with the Arlington County Board set to finalize its legislative agenda for the 2018 Virginia General Assembly session, which convenes in January, several elected officials said local issues can make some headway in Richmond.

One particularly important issue is Metro, which local leaders say needs a dedicated funding source to help ease its budget worries. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said he will propose a dedicated funding source in what would be a symbolic move at the end of his term.

But with Governor-Elect Ralph Northam (D) to be joined by fellow Democrats Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring as lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively, County Board member Christian Dorsey said that combined with more Democrats in the House could mean more advocates for Metro.

“It’s a game-changer for Arlington, because one of the things on our agenda that we’re trying to figure out, a dedicated funding source for Metro, we didn’t even feel we could bring it forward this year,” Dorsey, who represents Arlington on Metro’s Board of Directors, said. “Now we can, and now we will. It can be a potential game-changer for Arlington and the region.”

“It helps us in Arlington,” said Erik Gutshall, who won Tuesday’s election to the County Board to replace retiring chair Jay Fisette. “The biggest thing that was on my mind that helps me rest a little easier is Metro. I think that was not talked about much, but was hanging in the balance. The way it could have gone differently, it would have been crucial.”

And beyond Metro funding, County Board vice chair Katie Cristol said more Democrats in the House could mean greater investment and advocacy for other transit in Virginia, including the Virginia Railway Express.

Cristol said the election of Danica Roem in the 13th District could be a big help, as she has emphasized solving transportation issues in Prince William County and Manassas Park City.

“One of the things everybody is talking about, even nationally, is Danica Roem being a groundbreaker in terms of transgender equality,” Cristol said, referring to Roem’s election as the first openly transgender state lawmaker. “But I’ve been cheering for her because she’s such a champion for VRE. I think we’re excited about the opportunity to have partners in things we care about like transport funding.”

Beyond those region-specific issues, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) said in a victory speech that House Democrats can start to look ahead and try and pass issues important to progressives. For Arlington, Dorsey pointed to the long-debated Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, as well as looking to the future of the environment.

“Medicaid expansion would be great to provide a bulwark for what’s going on with the federal government trying to destabilize the health insurance market places. That would be a great thing for Virginians,” he said. “We’ve been trying to do some things on the energy and environmental sustainability side with solar power. These don’t necessarily become real this year, but we can now see a path forward to work toward over the next couple of years.”

Dorsey added that with the new Democrats in the House means that Arlington can be less defensive in its legislative package, and start to advocate more vigorously for issues that matter to its elected officials and residents.

(Among the “wish list” items that were a long shot under GOP control but which may find traction: renaming Jefferson Davis Highway.)

“Our legislative agenda has always been, ‘How can we prevent them from doing the most harm to us, and then how can we build the groundwork to maybe move incrementally forward,'” Dorsey said. “Now we have a chance to say, ‘Hey, we can get some wins.’ So it’s terrific.”

(more…)

by Chris Teale August 29, 2017 at 4:45 pm 0

In a position he describes as the “greatest honor of my life,” three-term Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) said he finds it most rewarding to help his constituents with issues they may be having.

Lopez said he likes to help his constituents in the 49th District with issues like wanting a new stop sign, or help with filing their taxes. And he and his staff run events such as health insurance enrollment fairs and stream cleanups.

“I do it because I love it,” Lopez said. “I love giving back, I love the opportunity to help people that I’ve never met before. To literally help change people’s lives that I don’t even know but who need help. I’m proud of the fact that with things I’ve accomplished I think I’ve done that. And I want to keep doing that.”

Lopez is the only Arlington member of the House of Delegates facing a challenge this November, against Republican Adam Roosevelt.

But the three-term delegate, whose district includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, around Pentagon City and west to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County, said he has plenty to be proud of.

Lopez said one of his main priorities is to ensure Virginia is welcoming to immigrants, even amid some heated rhetoric and actions from some in both Washington and the General Assembly.

He said that desire to protect those people is rooted in his family history. Lopez’s father came to the United States in the 1950s from Venezuela and overstayed his tourist visa. He then worked, learned English, became a citizen and graduated from Northern Virginia Community College. His mother was a guidance counselor at Washington-Lee High School and helped more than 1,000 students get to college.

Lopez said them and a shared desire to live the American Dream are a reminder each day of the importance of helping immigrants.

“[E]very time I see a DREAMer kid, I see my father,” Lopez said. “Every time I look in the eyes of some young student trying to make a better life for themselves here, I see my dad.”

(more…)

by Chris Teale August 16, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

After the events in Charlottesville last weekend, independent Arlington County Board candidate Charles McCullough II called for a renewed push to rename Jefferson Davis Highway.

McCullough said in a letter to the County Board and Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia General Assembly on Tuesday, August 15 that they must work to rename Jefferson Davis Highway, the name for U.S. Route 1 in the county from its border with Alexandria into Rosslyn. Such a change would require action by the General Assembly.

In doing so, he said, it would condemn racism and bigotry and distance Arlington from the Confederate president.

“Even one more day of Route 1 as Jefferson Davis Highway is 24 hours too long,” he wrote.

The question of whether to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway has swirled for several years, but local leaders have said passing a bill in Richmond to change the name is unlikely.

In Alexandria, a group is soliciting name suggestions for its stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway just south of Arlington. A letter from the Virginia Attorney General’s office last year said Alexandria does not need state approval to change the name as it is part of the Urban Highway System, so state bodies do not have naming rights.

McCullough’s full letter is after the jump.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com August 10, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Advanced Towing Lobbied Hard for Bill — Advanced Towing spent $10,000 on lobbyists and made a $1,500 donation to state Sen. Barbara Favola while successfully pushing for a state bill to override Arlington’s second-signature towing requirement. Supporters of the bill say it passed and McAuliffe ultimately signed it because it had the support of the business community. Advanced is one of the largest towing companies in Northern Virginia and has drawn the ire of many local residents for its ruthless efficiency at trespass towing from private lots. [NBC Washington]

Russian Military Jet Flies Over Arlington — Yesterday an unarmed Russian military jet flew over the Pentagon, CIA headquarters, and the U.S. Capitol “as part of a longstanding treaty that allows the militaries of the United States and Russia to observe the other from the air.” [CNN, Axios]

Arlington Still Hiring Teachers — Arlington Public Schools is still hiring teachers for the upcoming school year. “A total of 280 full- and part-time contract positions were unfilled as of Aug. 1… as the school system continues to process applicants,” the Sun Gazette reported. [InsideNova]

Uber, Lyft Make Mark on Local Restaurant Biz — Although readers were skeptical in a poll late last year, the Washington City Paper reports that Uber and Lyft are having a significant impact on the local restaurant industry, drawing customers from a wider area geographically than would have visited before the ride hailing services existed. It’s also bringing more customers to hot non-Metro-accessible restaurants. And it’s not just hipster-y D.C. restaurants drawing customers from around the region: Lyft said Clarendon’s Don Tito was its most visited bar in the D.C. area in 2016. [Washington City Paper]

by Chris Teale August 8, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

(Updated 3:45 p.m.) Three of Arlington’s four members of the Virginia House of Delegates are without an opponent this fall.

Given the lack of locally competitive races in November, when the House’s entire 100 seats are up for grabs, the lawmakers are looking at opportunities to help fellow Democrats to pick up seats elsewhere.

Democratic Dels. Mark Levine and Rip Sullivan — who are unopposed, as is Del. Patrick Hope — say they have their eyes on the statewide races, and have thrown their support behind Democratic nominees Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring, who are running for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General, respectively. Additionally, in the House, local elected officials see real opportunities to make gains.

Republicans currently hold a 66-34 advantage in the House, but multiple Democrats point to the 17 districts won by Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election as pick-up opportunities.

So instead of having to purely campaign to defend their own seats, they have looked further afield to try and cut into Republicans’ advantage, particularly through fundraising for candidates.

Democrats now have 88 candidates for the House, including incumbents running for re-election. That list includes more women running than men, four LGBT candidates as well as African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Sullivan, who is the House Democratic Caucus’ campaign chair, launched Project Blue Dominion, a Political Action Committee to help recruit, train and fund candidates across Virginia.

He has sent out regular emails entitled “Flip-a-District Fridays” profiling the new candidates, and the PAC reported to the Virginia Department of Elections that it received $4,296 in contributions through the end of the last filing period on June 30.

“We are very excited about our current position,” Sullivan said. “We have a remarkably diverse group of candidates, some very accomplished candidates. It is the largest group of candidates we’ve had in a long, long time… We are running in parts of the state we haven’t run in in a long time.”

(more…)

by ARLnow.com August 8, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

VT Says It Is Behind ‘Driverless’ Van — The “driverless” van seen driving around Clarendon over the past week was actually a Virginia Tech research project designed to record the “real world reactions” to a vehicle without a driver. However, there was a driver: a man dressed as a car seat. The mystery was solved in real time on Twitter yesterday and quickly went viral. [NBC Washington, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Twitter]

Retired Colonel Saved By Quick-Acting EMS Crew — Firefighters and EMS personnel from Arlington and Alexandria helped to save the life of a retired U.S. Army colonel who went into cardiac arrest in his home in Crystal City. The crew used defibrillators to revive him. [Facebook, WJLA]

Obit: Patsy Ticer — Patsy Ticer, a former four-term Virginia state Senator who represented parts of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax, has died at the age of 82. [Washington Post, InsideNova]

Marymount Moves Into New Ballston Building — Faculty and staff are moving into Marymount University’s newly-built Ballston building, in time for the start of the new school year. [Twitter]

by Chris Teale April 26, 2017 at 5:30 pm 0

Local businesses will not have to authorize each individual tow from their property after Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) signed a bill ending the would-be practice.

HB 1960 overrides Arlington County’s towing regulations that required a so-called “real-time authorization” of each tow during business hours. The county’s regulations were set to come into effect on July 1.

The bill, introduced by Del. Tim Hugo (R-40), prevents any jurisdiction in Northern Virginia from requiring the authorization, also known as a second signature. The first signature is the contract that authorizes a company to tow from a particular property.

Having previously railed against the requirement, Arlington Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Kate Bates praised McAuliffe’s decision.

Bates said in a statement:

The signing of this important legislation into law is a huge win for the Arlington business community. Arlington businesses rely on being able to provide clear, available parking for customers, employees and visitors in order to stay viable, and HB 1960 empowers and protects these businesses so they can continue to do just that. By removing the ability of local lawmakers to force businesses to adhere to a second authorization towing requirement, this legislation returns the decision-making power about the removal of illegally parked vehicles back where it belong: in the hands of private property owners and business owners.

McAuliffe said in an interview on WTOP this morning that he signed the bill after having conversations with representatives of local chambers of commerce and small businesses.

“I always will come down on the side of the small business community, so I signed the bill,” McAuliffe said.

County Board chair Jay Fisette told ARLnow.com he was “disappointed” at McAuliffe’s decision, after he initially tried to amend the bill. Fisette said the second signature is necessary to prevent predatory towing.

“For us, it’s important because predatory towing has gotten worse over recent years, and an increasing number of people are affected by it,” Fisette said. “There is a better balance that can be struck to reduce the number of tows that occur in the first two minutes that somebody parks in a space.”

Fisette said he hopes the Chamber and county can now work together to find a way to address both parties’ concerns.

One minor change requested by McAuliffe, concerning fines for towing operators in Northern Virginia that will apply each time they make an improper tow or violate certain towing regulations, was made to the final bill by the legislature. The bill also calls for towing operators to notify the local animal control office when a car is towed with a pet inside.

Local Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) spoke forcefully against the bill on the floor of the House of Delegates during the General Assembly’s reconvened session earlier this month to discuss McAuliffe’s amendments and vetoes.

He said the fact that other localities like Virginia Beach and Stafford County have a second signature provision shows inconsistency. He said the General Assembly should have “left well alone” for jurisdictions to decide.

“My big concern with this bill is I don’t quite understand why having granted this authority to localities over a decade ago, Northern Virginia is being now carved out and this authority to pass ordinances like the one Arlington did is being stripped away in some localities but not others,” he told ARLnow.com. “There are other localities that do use this authority and apparently it works well without any hue and cry and uproar.”

by Chris Teale April 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Progress on an undeveloped parcel of land in Potomac Yard may not happen for another three years after a recent County Board vote and Virginia General Assembly bill that passed this year.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Board allowed Lidl US, the owner of Land Bay C in Potomac Yard, to withdraw its application to extend the life of its final plan for the site by three years.

The site plan was originally approved in 2007, to include four buildings over an underground parking garage. It includes more than 1 million square feet of office space, 41,000 square feet of retail space and a half-acre park known as North Plaza.

Lidl looked to withdraw its extension after Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) signed HB 1697 into law. The bill automatically extends certain approvals from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2020 on projects designed to help Virginia recovery from the 2008 housing crisis.

Lidl originally applied for a three-year extension on the site plan last November, before the bill had been debated and passed in Richmond.

The plan is valid until 2020 thanks to the bill’s passage, and at the meeting there was no discussion on a timeline for the project. Representatives with Lidl US did not respond to a request for comment. If construction does not begin before the site plan’s 2020 deadline, the applicant would either need to withdraw the plan or file for another extension.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, local resident Jim Hurysz noted the surrounding community’s concerns about the uncertainty surrounding much of the development at Potomac Yard.

Hurysz noted Alexandria City Council’s worries about a lack of open space in North Potomac Yard during its own planning process, as well as an expected influx of traffic when the Virginia Department of Transportation extends the HOT Lanes on Interstate 395.

by Chris Teale April 10, 2017 at 11:15 am 0

The Virginia House of Delegates last week voted down Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) plan to gut a towing bill that targets Northern Virginia. The bill now goes back to McAuliffe.

McAuliffe’s amendment to HB 1960 would have removed language preventing jurisdictions in Northern Virginia from requiring a “second signature” to authorize a tow from a commercial property. The second signature comes at the moment of the tow; the first signature is the contract that authorizes a company to tow from a particular property.

The bill would affect all of Northern Virginia, known as Planning District 8. It overrides regulations passed by the Arlington County Board last December to amend the county’s towing ordinance.

Included in the County Board’s package was a controversial provision requiring businesses to authorize individual tows. That provision brought objections from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and others in the business community.

McAuliffe had tried to lessen the impact of the General Assembly’s towing bill by adding suggested language requiring the second signature. But Fairfax and Prince William counties Del. Timothy Hugo (R-40) said at the House’s reconvened session April 5 that requiring a second signature is not practical.

Hugo, the bill’s chief patron, said needing a second signature would prevent the likes of churches, restaurants and apartment complexes from quickly removing illegally parked cars.

“What this amendment would allow, is it would require every time the tower wants to tow that illegally parked car, they’ve got to find the preacher, the restaurant manager, the president of the homeowners’ association, they’ve got to find a second signature for that tow,” Hugo said during the debate.

Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48), a member of Arlington’s House delegation, said it was unfair that Northern Virginia be singled out in the bill while the likes of Stafford County and Virginia Beach can require a second signature.

“The question here is why should we single out one locality or one portion of the state to be treated differently from every other portion of the state,” Sullivan said. “There’s no justification that I’ve heard for doing so.”

Debate brought some testy exchanges on the House floor during the one-day session where lawmakers debated McAuliffe’s vetoes and proposed amendments to other passed legislation. Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) echoed Sullivan’s sentiment, asking why the bill only applies to Northern Virginia if it “is such a good idea,” and why it thus could not apply statewide.

“If the gentleman wants to put that bill in next year, he’s more than welcome to do so,” Hugo said in response.

Then Del. Mark Levine (D-45) questioned why Virginia Beach is able to keep prohibiting predatory towing but Arlington County cannot, and he said that McAuliffe’s amendment would make one towing standard apply across the commonwealth.

Hugo said the amendment would only affect Northern Virginia, then House Speaker Bill Howell (R-28) ended debate.

“How petty that Republicans would try to pass a law overruling a predatory towing local ordinance in Democratic Northern Virginia while allowing the exact same predatory-towing ordinance in Republican Virginia Beach,” Levine wrote in an email to supporters.

The House rejected McAuliffe’s amendment by a 67-33 vote. The governor now must either sign or veto the bill.

by ARLnow.com March 29, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Update on New Hotel Near Rosslyn — A new Homewood Suites hotel being built near Rosslyn recently celebrated its “topping out.” The 11-story hotel, which replaced the former Colony House Furniture store, is expected to be completed by early 2018. [Commercial Property Executive]

Gov. Recommends Changes to Towing Bill — Gov. Terry McAuliffe has sent a trespass towing bill back to the General Assembly with significant recommended changes. The bill in its current form would raise towing fees in Northern Virginia and prohibit Arlington from enacting its new “second signature” requirement on tows during business hours. [InsideNova]

Hospitality Workers Lauded — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce held its 13th annual Hospitality Awards on Tuesday. From a press release: “One winner, Fayssal Samaka of the The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City once checked in a family at the hotel, when he overheard that the father was recovering from cancer. Samaka arranged for the family to stay in the Presidential Suite and even booked them a tour. A few months later, the family informed the general manager that the father had passed away, and because the last trip they took together as a family was at The Ritz-Carlton, they would come back every year on vacation.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Project Explores Arlington Communities — A just-submitted doctoral dissertation examines “the processes of community development, suburbanization, and segregation that Arlingtonians, black and white, used to create lasting communities that met their own needs and reflected their own preferences.” The project’s exhibits include the local history of government housing during World War II, Arlington’s historically black communities, and the history of the American Nazi Party in the county. [Built By the People Themselves]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

by ARLnow.com March 20, 2017 at 9:05 am 0

Soggy jog (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Florida Men Arrested for Credit Card Skimming — Three men from Miami, Florida were arrested earlier this month on the 5600 block of Columbia Pike, in Fairfax County. They’re suspected of using Bluetooth-enabled credit card skimming devices to steal credit card numbers from gas station customers. [Falls Church News-Press]

School Board to Consider Wakefield Modifications — The Arlington School Board is expected to approve a $4 million internal modification project at Wakefield High School that will increase its student capacity to 2,300 from 1,900. [InsideNova]

School Board Members Can Now Get Raises — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed a state bill that removes a cap of $25,000 on the salaries of Arlington School Board members. Arlington was the only jurisdiction in the state the salary cap applied to; school board members will now have the ability to approve a salary increase in 2021. [InsideNova]

Northern Virginia Restaurant Week Kicks Off — Nineteen Arlington restaurants are participating in Northern Virginia Restaurant Week, which starts today and runs through Monday, March 27. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Top 10 Shirlington Area Restaurants — Eater has compiled a list of the top 10 restaurants to try in and around Shirlington. And yes, the Weenie Beenie is on the list. [Eater]

It’s the First Day of Spring — “While warm spring days will be tough to come by in the short term, the equinox is a reminder that the sounds of chirping birds and humming lawn mowers aren’t too far off.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

by Chris Teale March 7, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

The lawsuit against 64 people who spoke in opposition to Nova Armory, the Lyon Park gun store, helped provide the impetus for a state bill to protect protesters from similar court action.

House Bill 1941, introduced by southwest Virginia Del. Terry Kilgore (R-1) and co-patroned by local Del. Mark Levine (D-45), provides immunity from a lawsuit to anyone who speaks out on a matter of public concern, unless they knowingly make false statements. Defendants in so-called “strategic lawsuits against public participation” could be awarded reasonable attorney fees and costs under the bill.

It passed unanimously in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate, and awaits the signature of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).

Levine said the desire to protest goes beyond party politics, and the new bill protects the First Amendment rights of those across the political spectrum.

“This is not a partisan issue,” he wrote in a message to supporters. “Liberals will want to protest gun stores, just like conservatives will want to protest affordable health care. But people should have a right to state their opinions and protest without fearing a lawsuit.”

Levine had initially proposed a bill of his own related to the subject, House Bill 2446, with sanctions against plaintiffs who “bring an action to deter someone from exercising his constitutional rights.” That bill was tabled in the House Committee for Courts and Justice. Levine then signed onto HB1941 as chief co-patron.

Nova Armory sued opponents who spoke out against its opening, including Arlington County’s seven state representatives, who signed a letter to landlord Katya Varley on General Assembly letterhead expressing their objections.

Nova Armory alleged in its lawsuit that the owner and landlord were harassed, and that death threats were mailed to Lauren Pratte, the store’s 16-year-old “owner-in-training.”

In a press release last March threatening such action, Pratte said ownership were concerned about the infringement on their civil rights by their state representatives.

“We’ve given up on fact-checking all their false statements,” Pratte said at the time. “Instead we’ve told our lawyers to concentrate on any actions in which we are deprived of our civil liberties by these so-called public servants — they’ll regret any abuse of their authority.”

But one day before the lawsuit was due to be heard in Arlington County Circuit Court, the Washington Post reported the store filed a notice to drop the suit.

“I am delighted — though not surprised — to learn that Nova Armory nonsuited its lawsuit today,” Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48), another defendant, said in a statement to the Post. “From the very beginning it was clear that this lawsuit had no basis in law or fact.”

At the monthly meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee earlier this month, Levine said the bill has a broader mission beyond this one lawsuit. Instead, he said, it protects anyone who wishes to exercise their First Amendment rights.

“If you want to go out and protest, you are free to go out and protest,” he said. “They can’t sue you.”

×

Subscribe to our mailing list