The Sun Gazette newspaper has not published new articles on its website since Friday and may have printed its last edition.
Several sources tell ARLnow that the free weekly paper, which has separate editions serving Arlington and parts of Fairfax County, has effectively shuttered, though no notice of a closure was published online.
Sun Gazette staffers, meanwhile, have been hired for a new local newspaper called the Gazette Leader.
Editor Scott McCaffrey, sports editor Dave Facinoli and advertising director Vicky Mashaw are among those hired for the new paper, with Mashaw assuming the title of General Manager.
Jim O’Rourke, CEO of Arizona-based O’Rourke Media Group, confirmed to ARLnow that his company had hired the Sun Gazette vets and would be launching the new local publication later this week. The goal is for the print edition to go out Thursday and a new website to launch then or shortly thereafter. Two-thirds of papers will be mailed to local addresses, the rest distributed by other means, he said.
O’Rourke declined further comment, saying that a formal announcement with more details would be published with the first edition.
An email sent by Mashaw, obtained by ARLnow, suggests that the Gazette Leader will have much of the same local news focus and coverage area as its predecessor.
“We are excited to communicate to you about the launch of the Gazetteleader.com and two new weekly print publications that will serve Arlington, Great Falls, McLean, Tysons, Oakton and Vienna,” the email said. “You can expect hyper-local community news coverage, original reporting, the most advanced local news website in the region, easy to read and access newsletters delivered directly to your inbox, an e-edition replica of the print products and so much more.”
The Sun Gazette was the successor to the daily Northern Virginia Sun, which ceased publishing in 1998. The paper is owned — at last check — by Northern Virginia Media Services, which previously owned but then sold two publications, Leesburg Today and Ashburn Today, in 2015, and sold the website InsideNoVa.com in 2018.
There’s no word yet on what might have led to the staff departure and possible closure.
Va. Hospital Center Changing Name — “Arlington’s Virginia Hospital Center is charging forward with its regional expansion under new leadership — and a new moniker to match. The nearly 80-year-old independent hospital, which had the same CEO for nearly half of that time, is now going forward as VHC Health. The change aims to better reflect its role in the region, said Christopher Lane, the hospital’s new leader since March 28.” [Washington Business Journal]
Auditor Eyes Site Plans — “Auditor Chris Horton has proposed spending about 300 of his 2,000 work hours during fiscal 2023 evaluating past site plans to determine if the benefits that were promised to the public actually materialized. His work plan, which will have to be ratified by the County Board, won a receptive audience at the April 7 meeting of the government’s Audit Committee. ‘I really love this idea,’ said John Vihstadt, a former County Board member.” [Sun Gazette]
Holiday Weekend Changes — “Whether you celebrate the Christian holiday of Easter, the Jewish holiday of Passover, the two holidays will overlap during the weekend of April 16-17. As the Easter holiday falls on a Sunday, closures may be limited.
Arlington County government does not typically close for Good Friday before Easter. However, there are a few service changes for services that do operate on Sundays.” [Patch]
W-L Student Competing in History Bee — “Aaron Lopez, a ninth-grade student at Washington-Liberty High School, will compete in the History Bee national championships after scoring success at the state level.” [Sun Gazette]
Disobedient Dog Infuriates Pentagon City Resident — From Reddit, as highlighted by Monkeyrotica: “I hear you every damn day, twice a day from my apartment window. Your dog acts up around other dogs every [expletive] day. You keep shouting ‘ROBERT’ at your dog every time he acts up. Your dog keeps [expletive] misbehaving. See how your tactic just doesn’t work?” [Reddit]
Newspaper Opposes Ukraine Donation — “Everybody should feel bad for what the Ukrainian people are going through and appalled by the actions of the Russian government. And if people want to donate funds or humanitarian supplies, amen to that. But ballistic-vest donations? That may be a one step too far over the line.” [Sun Gazette]
Good Luck, Jo! — ARLnow’s Jo DeVoe is now on maternity leave. We expect her to return in the fall.
It’s Good Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 68 and low of 49. Sunrise at 6:33 am and sunset at 7:46 pm. [Weather.gov]
Structure Fire Near Ballston — “Units located a detached structure on fire behind a house with minor extension to the house. The fire was quickly extinguished with no reports of injuries to firefighters or civilians. The fire remains under investigation by the Fire Marshal’s Office.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Plane Runs Off DCA Runway — “A Frontier Airlines plane slid off the end of the runway at Reagan National Airport Friday night. Flight 538 from Denver was arriving at the airport at about 10:30 p.m. when the incident happened, Micah Lillard of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said.” [WTOP]
Apparent Drowning in Potomac — “Several agencies said they called off a search for a swimmer in the Potomac River near Fletcher’s Boathouse Sunday. D.C. Fire and EMS called the situation an apparent drowning… Shortly after 3 p.m., a witness reported seeing a person try to swim the river from the Virginia side and not resurface, the fire department said. D.C. Police fire boats and units from the Harbor station, Arlington Fire Department boats and a Maryland State Police helicopter were assisting in the search.” [NBC 4, Twitter]
Arlington Ridge Water Work — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services: “Monday night – Tuesday morning: Water main maintenance work near S Arlington Ridge Road/Long Branch Creek could cause temporary low water pressure or service outages for nearby customers, 8pm to 8am.” [Twitter]
Sheriff Supports New Police Chief — From Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur: “Today, more than ever, police chiefs must commit to the principles of trust, accountability and transparency. I believe Andy [Penn] has demonstrated leadership in each of these areas and I look forward serving the Arlington community alongside him in his new role.” [Arlington County]
Mixed-Use Tower in Ballston for Sale — “The owners of Ballston’s tallest building are exploring its sale. Brandywine Realty Trust (NYSE: BDN) and the Shooshan Co., the developers behind 4040 Wilson Blvd., the final phase of the larger Liberty Center project, have put the $217 million tower on the market. The 23-story, 250-foot-tall building, completed last year, includes 225,000 square feet of office on the lower 10 floors topped by 250 apartments.” [Washington Business Journal]
Beyer Supports Fusion Power Research — “”If we do not pursue fusion energy, others will, and U.S. economic interests and influence will diminish as a result,” writes @RepDonBeyer in @sciam, arguing this energy tech can help the climate emergency and create #trillions of $$$ in economic growth.” [Twitter, Scientific American]
Newspaper Editor Attacked by Cicadas — From Sun Gazette Editor Scott McCaffrey’s blog: “The cicadas largely have left me alone, although two did get on my pants over the weekend and surreptitiously made it into Casa de Scotty… I gently removed those buggies and deposited them back outside so they could continue their search for love in what little time they have left on this earth. But yesterday, taking a midday walk around Falls Church, a more aggressive cicada flew right into the back of my shirt and started wriggling his (or her) way deeper in.” [Sun Gazette]
Changes for Patent Offices in Shirlington? — “The Alexandria-based gatekeeper for U.S. patents and trademarks is working with the General Services Administration on a plan to shed excess space in Northern Virginia previously occupied by employees now working from home under ‘maximum telework’ imposed by the federal government to slow the spread of Covid-19, according to sources familiar with the situation. That could include relinquishing as much as a combined 1 million square feet in Arlington’s Shirlington area as well as its main headquarters in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood.” [Washington Business Journal]
Sun Gazette Revamps Website — “The Sun Gazette over the past decade or so has not had its own full-service Website. But if you’re reading this, you can see that has changed, as we threw the switch over the weekend on a site that, hopefully, will become the one-stop shop for the communities we serve.” [Sun Gazette]
Police Looking for Missing Teen — From Arlington County Police Department, as of Monday evening: “ACPD is seeking the public’s assistance locating 16-year-old Michael… Last seen ~3PM in the 2600 block of S. Kent Street. Described as a W/M, 5’8″ tall, 138 lbs, with blonde hair and green eyes. He was wearing a blue jacket, jeans and an orange backpack. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Michael is asked to contact the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.” [Twitter]
More Students Heading Back to School — Updated at 8:45 a.m. — Additional @APSVirginia students will be commuting to the classroom as part of a phased return to hybrid, in-person learning. Our students depend on all of us to keep them safe. Slow down, remain alert & watch for students walking and biking.” [Twitter]
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]
Arlington’s former police chief says disagreements with the County Board led him to seek an early retirement.
M. Jay Farr, who retired in September, wrote a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette, which was published online today. In it, he refuted claims that he left amid agreements with Arlington’s new, reform-minded prosecutor.
“While it is true that Ms. Tafti and I did not look through the same lens all the time, we did strive to seek common ground wherever possible,” Farr wrote. “On those occasions where there was a difference of opinion, I found Ms. Tafti willing to consider the police department’s position. Overall, we had a very professional and respectful relationship.”
The former chief said his relationship with the County Board was not as positive.
Reference my retirement and early departure, I was in a deferred-retirement option that I entered into in December of 2017 and was obligated to depart the county in December of 2020. My decision to leave early was based entirely on my relationship with the Arlington County Board.
Board member Christen Dorsey’s comments regarding the Police Review Committee highlighted his concerns about the police department. He noted that this committee, a project out of the county manager’s office, once completed should finally provide recommendations for a police department that this community deserves. Not exactly a glowing endorsement of my efforts, or others’, over the past 30 years. It became apparent that the County Board and Mr. Dorsey were seeking to move in a different direction.
Farr added that he is “confident” that acting chief Andy Penn “is continuing to build a strong working relationship with the commonwealth’s attorney to provide the best service possible to the Arlington community.”
In an interview with ARLnow today, County Board Chair Libby Garvey said that while the Board had disagreements with Farr, he was a “consummate professional” and there was mutual respect between Board members and the former chief.
Garvey said the Board does want some policing practices to change — a public process to review practices and suggest changes was launched after the killing of George Floyd and an increase in local use-of-force complaints — but noted the such changes are likely to be incremental.
“We want to step back and look at our policing,” Garvey said. “I think the whole country is looking at policing. We’re part of that. I think our community expects us to do that.”
“I don’t expect there to be a major change because I think we have an excellent police force… but we’re moving into a different era,” Garvey added. “Moving into the 21st century you need to look at how you’re doing things. Life changes.”
Asked about the rise in crime in the county, Garvey said that potential reforms like removing uniformed police from mental health calls and traffic enforcement duties could allow officers to better focus on reducing crime.
“You want to have a community that’s strong and safe, I think we have that and we’re working to continue that,” she said.
As for disagreements among the police department, the County Board, and the prosecutor’s office, Garvey said it is healthy to have people from different backgrounds and perspectives hash out issues “in a professional and respectful way.”
“You don’t want groupthink where everyone agrees and thinks things are fine all the time,” she said. “I think the fact that there are some disagreements is a healthy thing — it’s about how you work them out.”
No, That Wasn’t ‘The Bachelor’ in Ballston — “Today, the world paused to consider what would have been the biggest news story of the past 72 hours: Wait — was the Bachelor filming in freaking Ballston? Well, that was at least the question posed by a whistleblower this afternoon, who tweeted out a photograph of a couple dining outdoors surrounded by a camera crew.” [Washingtonian, Twitter]
Pranksters Dialing Rosslyn-Based Trump Hotline — “Trump campaign staffers have been huddled on a noisy floor in the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia, headquarters fielding hundreds of calls a day on a hotline the campaign set up as they try to find instances of voter fraud, multiple sources told ABC News. But the hotline has… been bombarded with prank calls from people laughing or mocking them over Biden’s win before hanging up.” [ABC News, Washington Post]
Editor Rails Against Sports Decision, Media Gloom — “As for canceling the winter sports season… the coaches should have been part of the decision-making loop so they had a heads-up. Then again, maybe the pending arrival of our semi-comatose next president will lead the national media (which helped to haul him across the finish line) to stop the breathless 24/7 doom and gloom it relied on to eliminate Donald Trump, and we can start making decisions about the future like adults rather than weak-kneed scaredy-cats.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Couple Weds on GW Campus — “Law school graduate Ian Bryant-Smith and 2018 undergraduate alumna Sarah Breault gathered with a few friends at a high-top table in Kogan Plaza Thursday to sign their marriage papers and officially tie the knot. The couple, who had been dating since high school, said they decided to wed on campus because it was convenient, and their friends could easily access WiFi to project the ceremony to friends and family over Zoom.” [GW Hatchet]
ACPD Hails Four Retirees — “Last week we celebrated the distinguished careers of Captain Chris Hennigh, MPO Corporal Beth Lennon, Corporal Mike Lennon and Corporal Leo Garcia. Combined, they had over 100 years of service to the Arlington community and made significant impacts both within the agency and with those they served. We wish them all the best of luck in retirement and future endeavors!” [Facebook]
Holiday Closures Tomorrow — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Wednesday, Nov. 11, for Veterans Day. Trash and recycling services will operate on a normal schedule. Metered parking will not be enforced.” [Arlington County]
As health officials work to tamp down rising COVID-19 cases in Arlington, the Arlington Sun Gazette published a letter to the editor today comparing local public health efforts to Nazi Germany.
“Months ago, a member of the county’s COVID task force approached me to ‘track and trace’ my friends and neighbors without their knowledge,” says the letter, which was published online this morning. “In grade school this would be called tattling (or snitching), and is a common practice in Communist countries. It also was prevalent in the National Socialist German Worker’s Party in Germany, commonly known as Nazis. This undermines and destroys communities, friendships and families.”
The letter goes on to suggest, without evidence, that such efforts may be part of a plot to divide neighbors.
“Why would elected officials deliberately want to turn us against ourselves? That may have been the plan since the beginning. It’s contemptible,” the letter says. “The county government should remember they work for the residents of this county; we are not subjects or slaves.”
A letter to the editor from the same Arlington resident, published in 2018, was titled “Quit complaining, deal with occasional hiccups of life.”
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash
APS Working to Keep School Construction on Track — “Top Arlington school-system staff are recommending doing whatever it takes – including shuffling money away from other projects – to ensure construction of a new elementary school in Westover does not fall behind schedule.” [InsideNova]
Yard Waste Collection Suspended Again — After a one-week reprieve, Arlington has again suspended its residential yard waste collection service. There’s no word on when it will resume, though the county has opened two yard waste drop-off centers. [Arlington County]
Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony to Be Livestreamed — On Wednesday at 8 a.m. “the Arlington County Police Department and the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office will host a virtual Observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day to honor and pay tribute to the memory of Arlington’s seven fallen law enforcement officers.” [Arlington County]
New Superintendent’s Introductory Remarks — “Among other things, Dr. Durán pledges to close ‘access, opportunity and achievement gaps;’ to ‘commit collectively to sustain and improve the level of academic excellence for students in APs
through an equity and inclusion lens;’ and to help students and families ‘through these troubling times times.'” [Blue Virginia]
Paper’s Prediction: Dems Win Special Election — “The field is set at three: Democrat Takis Karantonis, Republican Bob Cambridge and independent Susan Cunningham. The arrival of Cambridge is probably music to the ears of Democrats, as he will help split the anti-Democratic vote with the better-known and probably more viable Cunningham, allowing Karantonis to win and avoiding a repeat of a 2014 special election when John Vihstadt went mano-a-mano against Democrats and wrestled them into submission.” [Sun Gazette]
Amazon Running Arlington-Herndon Shuttle — “It’s too early to tell if Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) will launch a Seattle-style shuttle service for its HQ2 employees, but the company has connected its Herndon and Arlington offices via shuttle.” [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Participating in Virtual Tech Conference — “For the last several years, Northern Virginia has taken dozens of promising tech start-ups to the Collision conference, granting them access to programming, investors, mentors and networking opportunities. This year, the Collision organizers have moved everything online, so instead of traveling to the conference in Toronto this year, eighteen lucky start-ups from Northern Virginia will get an all-access pass to the Collision from Home tech conference.” [Press Release]
Nearby: Alleged W&OD Trail Creeper Arrested — “City of Falls Church Police arrested Lamar Dontae McCarthy, 23 years old of Stafford, VA, and charged him with assault. On Saturday, May 9, police reported to Grove Ave. and the W&OD Trail for a report of a suspect who had pursued a woman on the trail. The woman stated she saw a man in a red hooded sweatshirt suddenly stop his vehicle and sprint after her.” [City of Falls Church]
Those who live in Arlington’s single-family neighborhoods traditionally have dominated the direction of local governance. They are the ones who have controlled the selection of local officials and then, through activism, ensured public policy proceeds the way they desire.
But if Arlington’s 2019 election season taught us anything, it was that – given enough cash to barrage apartment-dwellers with campaign mailers of questionable veracity – it’s possible to sway those folks (who often have short-term interests in a community they do not plan to live in forever) to get out and vote in races that previously had been of purely local import.
“Be prepared: The ‘woke’ culture that was swayed to enact purported criminal-justice reform will be gunning for others – perhaps even single-family neighborhoods – next,” the editorial concludes.
The debate over whether the “Arlington Way” — the catch-all term for the county’s system of community engagement — advantages certain types of residents over others occasionally flares up in the halls of local government.
Generally, the most engaged tend to be homeowners, older residents and people outraged about a particular proposal. Renters, younger residents, those who are generally satisfied with local government but not passionate about it, and those busy with work and/or family are less likely to serve on commissions or wait to speak at Saturday morning County Board meetings.
In a democratic election, one vote counts as much as the other, but once elected, officials are able to set their own priorities. As seen in the Sun Gazette editorial, some feel that those who have invested in a community — homeowners — should generally be given more of a voice than those who haven’t put down roots.
What do you think?
Photo courtesy @dcaman
Arlington Gets Best View of Fireworks — On a hazy night, Arlington — particularly Rosslyn — had the best view of the expanded D.C. fireworks. Smoke obscured the viewing for many parts of the District. [Twitter, Twitter, Raw Story]
JBG Trying to Lure Big Tech to Arlington — “JBG Smith Properties CEO Matt Kelly recently met with “a handful” of big West Coast tech firms in a bid to entice them to come to National Landing now that Amazon.com Inc. has chosen the area for its second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]
Police Chase Ends in Arlington — A high-speed police chase along I-66 ended in Arlington, near the N. Glebe Road exit. Virginia State Police say a woman fled from police at speeds of up to 120 mph while her three children were in the car. [WJLA, Twitter]
A Modest Proposal for Arlington — In a letter to the editor published by the Arlington Sun Gazette, a man apparently upset by the renaming of Washington-Lee High School to Washington-Liberty suggests also renaming Arlington “Amazon’s bitch.” [InsideNova]
Ebbin Cast as NRA’s ‘Boogeyman’ — “[State Sen. Adam] Ebbin, when told of [state Sen. Bryce] Reeves’s remarks at the town hall, said he never made any of the comments attributed to him. ‘Apparently I’m a radical homosexual who’s misquoted,’ Ebbin said sarcastically.” [Washington Post]
Checking Car Seats in Arlington — Writing about the new Virginia law requiring rear-facing car seats for children under two and below a certain weight, the Arlington County Fire Department noted on social media: “ACFD no longer does child seat safety inspections. Arlington County Police Department offers regular inspections to ensure the child seat is safely installed and secured in your vehicle.” [Twitter]
Warner Highlights Sept. 11th Memorial Trail — “U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) are working together to further honor the heroes of September 11th, 2001. In a bipartisan resolution, Senators Toomey and Warner highlight the significance of the September 11th National Memorial Trail,” which runs through Arlington. [Press Release]
Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick/Twitter