Virginia tourism officials have started a new marketing push to bring more LGBT travelers to the Commonwealth.
Virginia Tourism Corp. yesterday announced it has a new LGBT travel website, which notes that “Virginia is for all Lovers.”
Visitors to the website can find LGBT-friendly hotels, restaurants, shops, wineries, breweries and attractions. The site also has a “Virginia is for Lovers Pride Shop” with hats, pins and T-shirts for sale.
“Virginia is proud to be an open and welcoming destination for every visitor attracted by our scenic mountains and beaches, as well as our world-renowned restaurants, wineries and breweries,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. “I am pleased the Virginia Tourism Corporation has created this landing page to connect travelers with inclusive, LGBT-friendly establishments across the Commonwealth.”
The website came out of recommendations from the LGBT Tourism Task Force, which McAuliffe put together last year.
Members of the LGBT community make up about 5 percent of Virginia tourists, according to Virginia Tourism Corp. They also take longer trips to Virginia and spend more money in the Commonwealth than all other visitors there, the tourism authority noted.
“A vacation in Virginia is all about doing the things you love to do with the ones that you love, and we are thrilled to offer this new resource for the LGBT community, their friends, and their families, to help them plan the perfect vacation in Virginia,” Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corp., said in a statement.
Image via Virginia Tourism Corp.
Two nonprofit organizations teamed up over the weekend in Arlington to provide voter registration to former felons after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored the voting rights of about 200,000 Virginia ex-offenders.
The League of Women Voters in Arlington and National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice held a voter registration event on Saturday at the Macedonia Baptist Church.
In order to secure voting rights again, the former felon must have completed his or her sentence along and finished supervised probation or parole.
“In my old life, I was just here. I didn’t feel as if I was part of the country, a citizen,” said Virginian Terry Garrett, who previously served time for shoplifting. “Whoever people voted in, I didn’t get to have a say. Today I know that I am an important part of society, and every vote counts. Now, I am a citizen and part of this country. Everyone should keep that right. No matter what.”
But the day before the event, the Virginia Supreme Court voted to overturn the governor’s executive actions, stating that McAuliffe does not have the authority to issue a blanket rights restoration. As a result of the decision, the court ordered that anybody who registered to vote as a result of the governor’s executive orders to be removed from the registry.
The governor is currently in the process of individually restoring the voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals.
Despite the uncertainty after the decision, the event still went on as planned with 14 people coming to restore their voting rights. League member Karen Kimball said the court’s decision may have contributed to the low turnout, noting the possibility of individuals being confused or deterred from registering as a result.
“The League considers this event a success because it highlighted an important segment of our community whose right to apply for restoration of voting rights is too frequently unknown by former felons or ignored by them,” Kimball said. “The League believes that having and exercising the right to vote is part of their rehabilitation process and enables them to be full participating citizens in our community.”
Photos Courtesy Karen Kimball
The announcement rippled through Virginia politics, with elected officials from a local level on up weighing in on the decision.
Among Democrats representing Arlington in Richmond or across the Potomac, many were quick to praise the pick.
Said Sen. Mark Warner, in a statement:
I enthusiastically applaud Secretary Clinton’s choice. Without reservation, I can say there is no one of higher integrity and trustworthiness.
I first met Tim Kaine in law school 37 years ago, and our paths crossed years later in Virginia politics. Whether serving as mayor of Richmond, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, governor, and now as U.S. senator, Tim has always shown a commitment to serving others.
He always finds reasons for hope and optimism in every situation, and he is centered by his faith and his family. Our country, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, will be very well-served by electing Tim Kaine as Vice President.
Said Gov. Terry McAuliffe:
I am thrilled to congratulate my friend Senator Tim Kaine on his selection to join the Democratic ticket with Hillary Clinton. As a Mayor, Lieutenant Governor, Governor and United States Senator, Tim Kaine has demonstrated that he is the right choice to help lead our country forward as Vice President of the United State. His experience, intellect and dedication to making life better for people from all walks of life will make him an enormous asset to Secretary Clinton throughout the remainder of this campaign and as a leader in her administration over the next four years. This is a proud day for every Virginian.
Said Del. Alfonso Lopez:
Secretary Clinton has made a wise choice in Tim Kaine as her running mate. He is an extraordinary public servant who has dedicated his life to helping others. In his administration, I coordinated and supervised Congressional and Federal Relations for the Commonwealth and the Governor. In that position, I saw firsthand his intelligence, innate decency and ability to get folks from all points of view to work together.
A tireless champion for the citizens of the Commonwealth, Tim Kaine takes a pragmatic and results-oriented approach that has earned him respect on both sides of the aisle. He is a strong addition to the Democratic ticket and will be a true asset to a Clinton Administration.
Simply put, my old boss and friend U.S. Senator Tim Kaine is one of the best public servants and one of the best individuals I’ve ever encountered. In a world that sometimes feels like it has lost its way, the nation will benefit greatly from the leadership, compassion and infectious optimism of Tim Kaine.
Said state Sen. Adam Ebbin:
— Adam Ebbin (@AdamEbbin) July 23, 2016
The speculation about who Gov. McAuliffe might appoint to replace Kaine in the U.S. Senate, should he and Clinton win the presidential race in November, has already started.
Gondola Meeting Held — Local residents attended a meeting last night in Rosslyn about the study into the feasibility of a Rosslyn-to-Georgetown gondola system. The architecture firm leading the study says its goal is “proving the system isn’t going to be just a toy for tourists” and “to prove that it can be transit and it can be a great experience.” One Arlington resident quoted by WTOP, Dave Schutz, said his goal was “to free my wife from that deepest inner circle from hell, which is the Georgetown Hospital parking garage.” [WTOP]
Tech Startup Moves from D.C. to Rosslyn — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was on hand Wednesday to announce that civic engagement software maker Phone2Action would be moving from D.C. to leased office space in Rosslyn and bringing some 142 jobs with it. [Washington Business Journal, Patch]
Arlington Featured in Book About Walking — Arlington County is one of nine communities features in “America’s Walking Renaissance,” a new book about walkable cities in the United States. [Arlington County]
Arlington Runner Achieves Goal — An Arlington resident with cerebral palsy has achieved her goal of completing 34 races by her 34th birthday. [WUSA]
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe today announced that Grant Thornton LLP, a “leading U.S. professional-services firm,” will invest $15.73 million in Arlington when it moves here. The investment will create 348 new jobs in Arlington, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
“Retaining Grant Thornton in Virginia is a big win for the Commonwealth, as we continue to make Virginia the best place in the country for business and workforce development,” McAuliffe said. “The firm’s consolidation is a great testament to the business advantages of Arlington County and we are excited to announce that this project is, not only retaining nearly 1,000 jobs in Virginia, but also creating 348 additional jobs. I am pleased with our success and will continue to work with industry leaders to ensure the new Virginia economy is innovative, diverse, and competitive in the global marketplace.”
The county and the state competed against the District of Columbia for Grant Thornton’s new office. More from the press release, after the jump.
McAuliffe Under Investigation — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is being investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department for possible illegal campaign contributions. [CNN]
Board Accepting Feedback on Blue Ribbon Panel — The County Board’s so-called Blue Ribbon Panel was supposed to help the Board set county priorities without getting bogged down in bureaucracy and process. Instead, the panel’s implementation has been delayed and the county is now asking for public feedback on the panel and its charge. [Arlington County]
The Legacy of ACFD’s First Black Firefighters — The Halls Hill/High View Park community held an event this past weekend to honor the Arlington County Fire Department’s first black professional firefighters. Some members of the original group of 14 black firefighters to staff Arlington’s Fire Station No. 8 were on hand for the event. [InsideNova]
Don Rockwell Profiled — Don Rockwell, the mysterious proprietor of the influential Don Rockwell online restaurant forum, lives along Columbia Pike and dines out just about every day for lunch and dinner. At the end of the profile, Rockwell lists some of his favorite local restaurants and dishes. [Arlington Magazine]
Flickr pool photo by James L.
Big Changes Planned for Ballston Church — The Central United Methodist Church at 4201 Fairfax Drive in Ballston is planning a complete redevelopment of its 30,000 square foot property. Preliminary plans have been filed to build “a new church, a new preschool space, and a seven-story, 132-unit apartment building — 60 percent market-rate and 40 percent dedicated affordable.” [Washington Business Journal]
McAuliffe Signs Bills at Wakefield HS — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed two pieces of education legislation at Wakefield High School yesterday, as pictured above. The new laws “will lead to an overhaul of the state’s high school graduation requirements, aiming to make high school more relevant to the working world” and better supporting students who start a career after high school. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Reagan Airport Bridge Closed This Weekend — Starting at 11 p.m. tonight, through early Monday morning, drivers heading to Reagan National Airport will not be able to access it via the Route 233 bridge over Jefferson Davis Highway. Ongoing construction prompted the planned closure. [Patch]
Solar House for Sale — A “one-of-a-kind luxury home” is for sale in Cherrydale. The five-bedroom house features a 10KW photovoltaic solar panel array, an energy recovery ventilation system, two-story screened porch, two-car garage, third floor loft with wet bar, a 560 square foot rooftop deck, exercise room with yoga/MMA flooring and an outdoor shower. It’s listed at just under $1.9 million. [Truplace]
Reminder: Chamber Hosts Candidate Forum Monday — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is hosting a County Board candidate forum this coming Monday. The forum, featuring a discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, is taking place from 6-8 p.m. at the Rosslyn Hyatt (1325 Wilson Boulevard). Democrats Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall, and independent Audrey Clement, are set to participate in the forum, which will be moderated by ARLnow.com editor Scott Brodbeck. Tickets are $10. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Photo via Arlington County
McAuliffe to Sign Bills at Wakefield HS — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will sign two pieces of school-related legislation during a visit to Wakefield High School Thursday morning. McAuliffe will sign SB 336/HB 895, which updates and modernizes high school graduation requirements, and SB 573/HB 279, which makes it easier for those in Career and Technical Education fields to become adjunct teachers.
Clement Calls for More Paving — Perennial candidate Audrey Clement, who is running as an independent for County Board, is calling for Arlington County to accelerate its street paving. “There are way too many potholes and cracked and broken pavements for Arlington residents to drive or walk safely to work, school, or shopping centers — let alone to bike,” Clement said. [Audrey Clement]
County Regroups After Crowdfunding Fail — Arlington County tried to raise $10,000 in donations to make the Glebe and Lang Street Community Garden accessible to those with disabilities. After raising only $465, the county is looking for matching funds in its budget to build a scaled-down version of its original plan. [Washington Post]
Basketball Star Selling Lyon Park Home — Trajan Langdon, who recently was named Assistant General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets, is selling his Lyon Park home for $2 million. Langdon was a first round draft pick who struggled in the NBA but went on to stardom in the Euroleague. The home includes a soda machine and a giant walk-in shoe closet. [Real House Life of Arlington]
Proposed CIP Doesn’t Include New High School — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan includes additions to Arlington’s three comprehensive high schools, which will add 800 seats, but does not include a plan for a new high school. Even with the additions, Arlington’s public high schools are expected to be overcapacity by the early 2020s. [InsideNova]
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Governor McAuliffe recently issued an executive order restoring to 206,000 felons who successfully completed their sentences the rights to vote, sit on juries, run for office and become a notary public.
Previous governors explored this question and found that their Constitutional clemency powers required the restoration of these rights to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Some Republicans are arguing McAuliffe is making a blatant political play to help boost Hillary Clinton’s chances win Virginia in November. But some form of restoration of voting rights is an issue with support on both sides of the political aisle.
By using an executive order, however, Governor McAuliffe did an end run around the General Assembly on an issue that clearly should have been subject to public debate and scrutiny. McAuliffe also left open the very real possibility the next governor could modify or eliminate the order altogether which would raise even more Constitutional questions about whether an individual had some, or all of these rights, or not.
The use of the executive order eliminated the opportunity for public scrutiny on important questions. Should individuals be required to apply for the rights or should they be automatic? Should we differentiate between repeat violent offenders and nonviolent first-time offenders? Should rapists be eligible to sit on a jury during a rape trial? Or should people convicted of fraud be given a public trust like being a notary public?
But elected representatives were denied the ability to debate any issues surrounding whether any or all the rights should be restored or in what manner. And not surprisingly, Republicans in the General Assembly are preparing to sue the Governor on the grounds his actions were unconstitutional.
The people of Virginia should be wary whenever a Governor attempts to unilaterally re-write the Virginia Constitution. When Democrat Governor Kaine explored the same question, his legal counsel determined such an executive order would re-write Virginia law and set a very troubling precedent of ignoring his oath to uphold the Constitution. Governor Kaine was right to defer to his oath.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
Basket, a startup that produces a mobile app for saving money while grocery shopping, has moved from the District to Clarendon.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, County Board Chair Libby Garvey and Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins were among the officials on hand today to welcome the company to their new digs at 1220 N. Fillmore Street.
The Commonwealth and the county each provided $125,000 in economic incentives for the firm, which is planning to expand from 9 to 65 employees. Basket is investing $10 million on the new office and the expansion, officials said.
“This is exactly the kind of business we want to attract and grow here,” said Garvey.
The company decided to move to Arlington despite also being wooed by D.C.
“We looked at the number of jobs we would need, and how much we were supposed to grow, we decided we needed a lot more space,” said Andy Ellwood, the company’s president and co-founder and a former employee of the navigation startup Waze. “After moving out of our small coworking space we decided it was the right move for us.”
“We’re trying to build the new Virginia economy, so we have to bring in new innovators,” McAuliffe told ARLnow.com. “I want us to be the tech capital of the United States of America. We have all the education and resources. It’s important that we become less reliant on the federal government.”
McAuliffe’s pitch to tech companies considering Arlington or elsewhere in the Commonwealth: “Virginia has very low taxes, a great education system, and it’s close to the federal government,” he said.
The press release from the governor’s office, after the jump.
The compromise is intended to appease lawmakers from outside the Beltway, many of whom opposed the idea of tolling I-66 without adding capacity to the often clogged highway. It’s likely to rankle some residents in Arlington, where in the 1970s a citizens group formed to oppose the construction of I-66 in the first place. That group now advocates for a “wiser, not wider” I-66.
According to various news reports, the compromise calls for eastbound I-66 to be widened to three through lanes between the Dulles Connector Road the Fairfax Drive/Glebe Road exit, within the existing highway right-of-way.
Outside-the-Beltway lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, were calling for I-66 to be widened before being tolled. The McAuliffe administration’s plan for converting I-66 to high-occupancy toll lanes inside the Beltway during rush hour — tolls for vehicles with 1-2 occupants, free to those with 3 or more occupants — was in danger of being blocked in the Virginia General Assembly without the compromise. The plan originally called for widening to be considered as a last resort, after studying the efficacy of the HOT lanes in improving traffic congestion.
“If we don’t take this deal now, it’s not going to happen for a generation,” state Sen. Barbara Favola said, as quoted by NBC 4.
The deal will allow tolling on I-66 to begin in 2017 and the new lane to be in place by 2020, at a construction cost of $140 million, according to WTOP.
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey released a statement on the plan shortly after it was announced, expressing disappointment.
We are disappointed with the news of the amended plan for I-66, which will immediately widen I-66. We respect that Governor McAuliffe and his administration worked hard to protect the earlier plan, which delayed the widening of I-66 until we had several years’ worth of experience with multimodal solutions. We appreciate that — aside from the decision to widen immediately — many of the original elements remain intact:
- Toll revenue is dedicated to multimodal improvements;
- NVTC (our region’s transit agency) receives the toll revenue;
- Local governments retain the authority to spend these funds on local projects; and
- Any widening occurs within existing right-of-way.
As the new plan moves forward, Arlington will be vigilant, working to ensure that appropriate environmental analyses are completed efficiently and comprehensively. We will do all we can to mitigate harm from the widening, and we will explore possible improvements to accompany the widening. As always. Arlington will be working to promote improved regional transit. We need frequent, reliable, and comfortable transit systems along the east-west corridor that get people quickly to where they want to go.
Update at 3:00 p.m. — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has weighed in with an interesting statement, suggesting that Arlington County’s opposition to a partial I-66 widening, as proposed, may not be too strong.
Arlington County had a longstanding agreement that I-66 would not be widened inside the Beltway. Today’s announcement by Governor McAuliffe changes that understanding, and with no public input so far.
My initial reaction is one of concern for Northern Virginians who have worked – many of them for decades – for an alternative approach to big highways. But I continue to learn details of the proposal and to listen to constituents on all sides of this issue.
Early conversations with elected officials who represent Arlington County indicate that Arlington is more open to this partial I-66 widening than in the past, and that the potential benefits from I-66 tolls will bring important transit and multi-modal benefits to the surrounding corridor. I remain dubious about additional asphalt, and await input from my Arlington and other constituents about today’s proposal.
Update at 11:55 a.m. — After the jump, the press release from Gov. McAuliffe’s office.
Publicly-traded energy tech firm Opower is staying in Arlington, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced at a press conference this morning, marking some good news for a county beset by the departures of large government agencies.
McAuliffe and County Board Chair Libby Garvey were among those making the announcement at Opower’s current headquarters at 1515 N. Courthouse Road in Courthouse, which President Obama visited in 2010, when the company was still a startup.
Opower will be moving down the street to a new office building at 2311 Wilson Blvd in Courthouse. The building — already approved by the County Board — is set to be constructed over the next two years, replacing a row of restaurants. Developer Carr Properties had been calling the 8-story building the “Clean Technology Center,” which seems consistent with Opower’s sustainability and energy conservation mission.
Virginia and Arlington County had been fighting to keep Opower, which was being courted by the District and by The Wharf, the massive new development on the Southwest D.C. waterfront.
“Keeping Opower in Arlington County has been a high priority of my administration,” McAuliffe said. “This high-profile energy software company is growing rapidly and making a major impact on global challenges, and we are committed to further strengthening this important corporate partnership. The technology industry is booming in Virginia, and wins like this expansion help us continue to build on the momentum in this important sector.”
“Arlington has watched Opower grow from a startup venture to a thriving leader not only in the region, but in the entire clean technology industry,” Garvey said. “Arlington’s highly-educated workforce and easy transportation access were things Opower was looking for as the company continues to grow, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them for a long time to come.”
McAuliffe helped arrange a $1 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to help Arlington keep Opower.
“Arlington County will match the state funding with a performance-based local economic development incentive grant,” the county notes in a press release. “Arlington will provide an additional annual performance grant through the remaining years of the lease term subject to job and occupancy requirements. Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.”
Opower plans to invest about $10.5 million in its new, 63,000 square foot headquarters and expects to add 70 new employees within three years. The company will also retain 357 jobs that currently pay above the region’s prevailing wage.
“Opower has been with Arlington since the beginning,” said Victor Hoskins, Director of Arlington Economic Development. “The company is a model for the fast-growth technology companies we’re hoping to attract to Arlington, and we simply could not be more pleased that Opower has decided to continue to be a part of Arlington’s business community.”
The building at 2311 Wilson Blvd will have a total of 150,000 square feet of office space plus ground floor retail spaces when it’s completed.
Arlington’s population of engineers and project managers will grow by 100 by 2017 as San Francisco-based disruptive technology firm Shift builds a technology operation in Crystal City.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that Shift will invest $20 million in its East Coast engineering center in Arlington as part of its national expansion. The announcement was made during a reception at Crystal City business incubator 1776, where the company will have its local headquarters.
Shift executive Toby Russell said the company’s disruptive technology does for the automotive industry what Airbnb does for hotels. “We use technology to make buying and selling cars easy and delightful,” he said. Consumers input information about the car they want to sell into the Shift website, get a quote, have their car picked up by a Shift employee and then receive a check when the car sells. Shift handles paperwork, test drives and price negotiations.
Shift has raised $73.8 million in two public offerings.
Russell, who is originally from Alexandria, said he would like to see the Shift “serve as a bridge between Silicon Valley and Virginia. We believe this kind of bridging is what technology expansion [in the region] needs.”
Russell added that it was McAuliffe’s visit to the firm’s California headquarters that convinced them to build the engineering center in Virginia.
Arlington County Board Chairman Libby Garvey, in presenting a key to the county to Russell, applauded the arrival of a technology company as federal spending in the region winds down.
“Arlington is in the midst of a surreal change,” she said. “Having our buildings filled with federal agencies is a thing of the past.”
— Terry McAuliffe (@GovernorVA) January 21, 2016
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency for Virginia in response to the winter storm expected to slam the region tomorrow and Saturday.
McAuliffe declared the state of emergency around 8 a.m. this morning to allow Virginia businesses, residents and officials to prepare for the impending snow, and urged them to prepare right away.
“Keeping Virginians safe in the event of severe weather is our top concern – that is why Virginia began preparing for severe winter weather yesterday by ordering more than 500 vehicles out to pretreat roads in Northern Virginia,” McAuliffe said in a press release. “All Virginians should take the threat of this storm seriously and take necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period.”
The storm is expected to bring double-digit snowfall and wind gusts up to roughly 40 miles per hour Friday and Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. About an inch of snowfall snarled traffic and caused dozens of accidents across the area last night.
Virginia officials issued the following tips for staying safe during the storm (after the jump). (more…)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a $750,000 award to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) today during a ceremony at the Arlington Mill Community and Senior Center in south Arlington.
The funds, said APAH president and CEO Nina Janopaul, will go toward the construction of Columbia Hills Apartments, a new 229-apartment building scheduled to begin in May at South Frederick Street and Columbia Pike. The building will be erected in the parking lot of Columbia Grove Apartments, another APAH property.
“There are multiple financing tools, and this is an important piece of it,” Janopaul told ARLnews.com. “These funds will make [rents] more affordable for our residents and give us an opportunity to do a better job” of providing affordable housing.
Eleven nonprofits throughout the commonwealth received funding from the $6 million Virginia Housing Trust Fund Competitive Loan Pool during Tuesday’s ceremony. Along with two Richmond organizations, APAH’s $750,000 was the most granted to a regional housing nonprofit.
“On behalf of all the citizens of Virginia, I thank you,” McAuliffe told the audience in a fifth floor conference room at Arlington Mill. “Think of all the lives you have helped.”
Left to right: Maurice Jones, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade; Nina Janopaul, APAH President/CEO; Gov. Terry McAuliffe; John Milliken, APAH Board Chairman; and Mike Chiappa, APAH Real Estate Associate; Photo by Jon Grant