Arlington Resident Moving to San Diego — Baseball superstar Juan Soto, who recently moved to Arlington, has been traded by the Nats to the San Diego Padres. He’ll presumably take with him some photos and art that were framed at a Clarendon frame store. [MLB]
Fairfax Barricade Ends — Updated at 9:25 a.m. — A man reportedly barricaded in a condo with a rifle near Lake Barcroft has been taken into custody. The barricade situation prompted a Fairfax County police helicopter to circle over parts of Arlington for hours. [FFXnow, Twitter]
County Getting Part of Opioid Settlement — “It’s not a princely sum, but cash is cash and the Arlington County government is set to receive its share of a new payment based on a legal settlement with a number of opioid distributors… Of the first settlement payout, about $9.94 million will go to the state government’s Opioid Abatement Authority and about $4.07 million will be distributed to localities. Arlington is entitled to 1.378 percent of that latter figure, which works out to $56,034.” [Sun Gazette]
Ballston Quarter Gets Small Tax Break — “Owners of the Ballston Quarter retail-restaurant-and-entertainment complex came away from a recent Board of Equalization hearing with a very partial victory, as that body reduced the property’s assessed valuation but not nearly as much as its owners had sought. On a unanimous vote, Board of Equalization members on July 13 voted to reduce the assessment rate – which is used to calculate the property’s annual tax bill – from $91.1 million as determined by staff to $86.7 million.” [Sun Gazette]
Va. Sens. Celebrate Vets Bill — “Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine celebrated Senate passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 following obstruction efforts by Senate Republicans last week. This legislation will expand health care and benefits for toxic-exposed veterans under the Department of Veterans Affairs.” [Sen. Mark Warner]
YHS Grads Makes Youth National Team — “Yorktown High School graduate Lauren Flynn was named to the U.S. Under-20 Women’s Youth National Team soccer roster for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica from Aug. 10-28.” [Sun Gazette]
Feedback Sought for Eco Plan — “Arlington County would like your input on the draft Forestry and Natural Resources Plan. To assure future generations of Arlingtonians enjoy the benefits of nature, the County must identify what needs are urgent, what are aspirational, and how each can be addressed through both long-term initiatives, incremental change and immediate action.” [Arlington County]
Crash in D.C. Shut Down Chain Bridge — From WTOP’s Dave Dildine: “Chain Bridge closed both ways along with Canal Road and Clara Barton Parkway at the bridge. A crash occurred when traffic signals were malfunctioning. Witnesses say an officer was struck under the malfunctioning signals. These lights fall out of phase frequently.” [Twitter]
It’s Wednesday — Another hot and humid day. High of 90 and low of 71. Sunrise at 6:13 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Local lawmakers have again introduced legislation to officially remove Robert E. Lee’s name from Arlington House.
For fifty years, “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial” has been the official name for the National Park Service-managed mansion that sits on top of a hill at Arlington National Cemetery.
But in recent years, there has been a push to drop Lee’s name from the memorial and return it to its original name of simply “Arlington House.”
In 2020, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va) proposed legislation to do just that since Arlington House lies in his district. The bill was co-sponsored by two other local representatives, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va), along with D.C. Congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Beyer said at the time that the legislation was partially inspired by requests for a name change from descendants of those who were enslaved at Arlington House. However, the bill never got out of committee and no change was made.
Two years later, though, these local lawmakers are trying again with a bicameral push.
The House bill is co-sponsored by Beyer, Connelly, Wexton, and Norton while a new Senate bill is sponsored by Tim Kaine (D-Va). The legislation, if passed and signed into law, would strip the Confederate general’s name from the house he once lived in.
“If we are serious about ending racial disparities, we need to stop honoring those who fought to protect slavery,” Kaine said in a press release. “I’m proud to be part of the effort to rename Arlington House, and am going to keep fighting for the kinds of reforms we need to create a society that delivers liberty and justice for all.”
This year’s bills are very similar to the one from 2020, Beyer Communications Director Aaron Fritschner confirmed to ARLnow, save for small language changes including adding a formal historic site designation.
If the legislation does pass, the mansion would officially be called “The Arlington House National Historic Site.”
The building that now sits inside Arlington National Cemetery was first built by enslaved people in the early 19th century to be the residence for George Washington Parke Custis. It was also intended to be a memorial to George Washington, Custis’s adoptive grandfather.
Custis’s daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis married Robert E. Lee in 1831. The soon-to-be Confederate general was known to be a cruel and sometimes violent head of the household.
During the Civil War, the Union Army seized the house as well as the grounds and turned it into a military cemetery.
In 1955, Congress passed legislation to designate the house as the “Custis-Lee Mansion.” The name was changed again in 1972 to what it is today, “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial.”
For years, Arlington House was featured prominently in the county’s logo. That changed last year after a push to remove the house from the logo, in large part due to its formal name and association with Lee.
(An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Lee’s relationship to the house and property.)
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Rep. Don Beyer joined the leaders of Boeing and Virginia Tech at the former’s Crystal City headquarters this morning to announce a new veterans initiative.
The announcement that drew the state’s top elected officials was the creation of the Boeing Center for Veteran Transition and Military Families at the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus at Potomac Yard in Alexandria, just down the road.
It comes just over a month after Boeing announced that its existing Crystal City office campus would become the company’s global headquarters. While the move will only result in a relatively small shift of personnel from the existing headquarters in Chicago, it was highly touted by Youngkin, Warner and other elected officials.
“Boeing’s recent announcement to move its headquarters to Virginia and reaffirm its commitment to building the next generation of tech talent is a timely development for the Commonwealth, and is made more exciting by their extensive partnership with Virginia Tech,” Youngkin said in a statement.
“Their pledge to create the Boeing Center for Veteran Transition and Military Families ensures that the Commonwealth and its businesses continue to invest in diverse career pathways for veterans and students alike, all the while helping businesses thrive,” the governor continued.
The new Boeing Center, part of the company’s previously-announced $50 million investment into Virginia Tech’s new campus, is set to provide veterans with “economic and workforce programs,” mental health resources, and community service opportunities, according to a separate news release from Boeing.
“This is just a very important service that our military veterans need, a big assist to get into civilian life and to pursue civilian livelihoods, and to pursue tech degrees and all those things,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said during the announcement.
“Virginia has about 725,000 veterans that call Virginia their home, 155,000 active duty, reserve and National Guardsmen, and I’m biased, I want them to stay in Virginia,” Youngkin said during the announcement.
In addition to the veterans center, Boeing also plans to provide scholarships to Innovation Campus students, facilitate the recruitment of faculty and researchers, and fund STEM initiatives to underserved K-12 students.
“I hope it gets very big,” Calhoun said. “Just suffice to say, we’re going to take advantage of this location and try to attract as many young people as we possibly can to this trade and to our company.”
The press release from the governor’s office is below.
Only days before graduation, Wakefield High School students questioned Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) about what can be done to pass gun legislation in Congress
Kaine paid a visit to Wakefield on Monday afternoon, in the wake of another school shooting, to speak with students about gun violence and increasing safety in their classrooms. He was joined in the school’s library by about 30 students as well as Arlington School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen and Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Francisco Durán.
It was four years ago when Kaine came to Wakefield to talk about the same thing.
After speaking for about 15 minutes, the Virginia senator took questions from the students — many of whom were seniors and only about ten days from graduation. The students questioned the senator about Congress’s inaction, filibustering, bans on assault rifles, and the specific impact gun violence has on communities of color.
“Why are we having the same conversations over and over again?” asked one student.
“Assault rifles are often used in shootings and their purpose is to kill as many people as possible. So, what work has been done [in banning them]?” questioned another.
“What can we do to stop this endless cycle? We protest… and nothing happens,” another student asked, clearly emotional.
Kaine listened and answered each one, expressing optimism that at least some legislation might be passed in the coming weeks that could expand background checks and red flag laws. However, he agreed with the skepticism of some of the students.
“I have to admit, I do have a little feeling of skepticism, not despondency, but I have a little feeling of skepticism,” he said. “We’ve been here before and tried this… but we can’t give up.”
Kaine brought a number of times the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting that happened when he was governor. It was as an event, he said, that “scared” him and made him realize the needed urgency for gun control laws.
He also frequently touted the “Virginia Plan to Reduce Gun Violence Act,” a measure that he and fellow Virginia Sen. Mark Warner introduced last year. It’s based on a series of state bills in Virginia which were signed into law in 2020, calling for universal background checks, a 30-day wait period between handgun purchases, and prohibiting those with protective orders from possessing a firearm. Notably, though, the bills didn’t ban assault weapons or high capacity magazines.
Kaine also called using the Second Amendment as reasoning for not expanding background checks, enforcing wait periods, and limiting the size of magazines as a “poppycock argument.”
“You can’t take away completely people’s right to bear arms, but you can impose reasonable regulations,” he said.
Members of Congress from Virginia are pushing the federal government to help fund proposed changes to Route 1.
The changes, while still being hashed out by VDOT and local officials, would lower elevated portions of Route 1 through Crystal City to grade, turning it into a lower-speed “urban boulevard.” VDOT is also mulling at least one pedestrian bridge or tunnel at 18th Street S., near the Metro station, to improve safety.
With the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 on track to open in Pentagon City in 2023, state and local officials see a need to turn the area — collectively known as National Landing — into a more cohesive downtown and economic center. Key to that vision is revamping Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway, which effectively separates Pentagon City from Crystal City.
At last check, cost estimates for the project were around $200 million.
Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation would like to see the feds foot much of the bill, through funding from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill.
In a joint letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the lawmakers say argue that the Route 1 project meets all criteria for funding through the infrastructure bill.
“This grant request will allow Virginia to convert the Route 1 corridor in Arlington into a multimodal urban boulevard that prioritizes pedestrian safety in a walkable environment,” the wrote. “VDOT is developing multimodal solutions for Route 1 to meet National Landing’s transportation needs with the coming of Amazon and other related developments.”
The letter was signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), along with Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), and Robert Wittman (R-Va.).
“The Commonwealth’s commitment to Amazon is to improve safety, accessibility, and the pedestrian experience crossing Route 1,” the lawmakers wrote. “Investment in National Landing will produce significant, measurable benefits to the economy, health, and safety of local citizens… This project satisfies all the merit criteria outlined in the federal grant opportunity, especially the priorities of providing economic, state of good repair, environmental, and equity benefits.
The letter also argues for the project’s fiscal benefits, including reducing bridge maintenance costs and providing acres of additional land for development.
“The transformation of Route 1 to an urban boulevard includes the removal of three bridge structures from the VDOT inventory, which will reduce long term maintenance costs,” the letter said. “Modifications to the I-395 interchange will remove a structurally deficient bridge and avoid future replacement or rehabilitation costs, while also extending the urban boulevard to the north which will contribute to lower speeds.”
“[The project] increases the accessibility to job centers through the proposed access improvements, which will benefit residents of all income levels,” the letter continues. “The project will create approximately 6.5 acres of excess right-of-way resulting in high value developable land.”
Another hoped-for benefit: fewer cars and better safety features.
“It will reduce the need for single-occupancy vehicle trips in favor of environmentally friendly options such as enhanced transit service, walkability, biking routes,” said the letter. “The project also includes multiple innovative solutions, such as a progressive design-build strategy and a pilot safety project to implement near-miss crash technology in National Landing.”
The completion of VDOT’s Phase 2 study of the proposed changes is currently expected to wrap up in early 2023. While the project has general support from the county and the business community, some residents have expressed concerns about whether taking away overpasses in favor of at-grade crossings actually makes things more dangerous for pedestrians.
Much of the congressional delegation, led by Kaine, also wrote a letter to Buttigieg supporting funding for an I-64 connector to ease congestion between Richmond and Hampton Roads.
Board Calls Out Youngkin’s Auditor Veto — “The Arlington County Board said Wednesday that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s veto of its police oversight bill was ‘deeply frustrating.'” [WTOP, Arlington County]
Sen. Kaine Has Long Covid — “Sen. Tim Kaine got covid-19 in the spring of 2020, and nearly two years later he still has mild symptoms.
‘I tell people it feels like all my nerves have had like five cups of coffee,’ Kaine said Wednesday of his ’24/7′ tingling sensation, just after introducing legislation intended to expand understanding of long covid.” [Washington Post]
Volunteers Clean Up Muddy Trail –From the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail: “Before and after of the Gravelly Point mud puddle which was removed by volunteers on Saturday while edging the trail. Make a difference on the trail when you register for one of our upcoming volunteer events.” [Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 53 and low of 35. Sunrise at 6:39 am and sunset at 6:05 pm. [Weather.gov]
Many locals haven’t been getting their mail in a timely fashion recently and Virginia’s U.S. Senators are deeply concerned.
Yesterday (Feb. 1), Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy asking why there has been such considerable delays on folks getting their mail.
“We have heard from hundreds of our constituents that recount unacceptable delays in the delivery of everything from Christmas and birthday cards to mail-order medications and credit card bills,” wrote the Senators. “Furthermore, we seek answers about operational decisions and other circumstances that have contributed to such delays and what is being done to prevent future failures.”
Additionally, they asked for the publishing of data about the number of postal workers that have contracted COVID-19 and expediting the delivery of mail-order medications.
The lawmakers note that they believe policy changes implemented this past summer by DeJoy could be contributing.
There was local pushback about these policies, including a rally outside of the Westover post office on Washington Blvd.
However, even after the election, these implemented changes have caused a significant delay in mail getting to recipients, particularly to those in the Capitol region, according to court filings.
From Dec. 19 to 31, according to statistics in the filings that the Senators cited in their letter, Northern Virginia residents received less than half of their first class mail on-time. While the holiday crush is surely to be a contributing factor, rates started dropping in mid-September.
This is a dramatic drop-off from even the week of Sept. 5 when residents were getting 88.5% of their first class mail. Even earlier in the pandemic — mid-March through July — about 91% of first class mail was getting to locals in a timely fashion.
The Senators wrote that they have heard from constituents that mail is continually getting stuck at the USPS Processing and Distribution Center in Richmond, sometimes for weeks at a time.
A recent audit by the USPS Inspector General revealed that the Richmond distribution center had the fourth-highest late trip rate of any in the country from July 1 to Sept. 30.
Additionally, from Nov. 1 to Nov. 19, the center underestimated incoming mail volume by two-thirds.
Warner and Kaine blame insufficient staffing and capacity at the distribution center.
“We understand this is likely due to staffing shortages but implore you to create additional contingency plans to ensure a particular delivery route does not miss its mail for days at a time simply because its letter carrier is out sick,” they wrote.
Concluding the letter, Warner and Kaine urge DeJoy to “reverse all operational and organizational changes that have contributed to substantial mail delays.”
This isn’t the only bit of Arlington mail news in recent months. In October, a postal inspector was seen checking drop-off mailboxes at the N. George Mason Drive post office amidst complaints of missing and stolen mail.
The entire letter sent by Sens. Warner and Kaine is below.
Arlington County is slated to receive nearly $2.3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, Virginia’s U.S. Senators announced on Tuesday.
The money will go toward storage supplies, transportation support, staffing, personal protective equipment, and other equipment to ensure facilities align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a joint press release from Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.
“We’re glad to see these federal dollars go toward helping Arlington County effectively administer the COVID-19 vaccine,” the senators said in a joint statement. “We will keep working to ensure the Commonwealth has the resources it needs to best respond to this pandemic.”
News of the funding comes on the heels of announcements that local hospitals like Inova and Virginia Hospital Center will no longer be distribution sites, at least for now. Since then, county staff have worked to get 3,750 appointments from VHC transferred to the County’s vaccine management system, said Aaron Miller, the county’s emergency management director.
Despite this, Miller said Arlington County is prepared to vaccinate about 2,000 people daily. Unfortunately, he said, the county can only make 540 appointments a day because it is receiving 2,750 vaccines per week from the state.
“This funding demonstrates exactly how ready Arlington is,” Miller told ARLnow. “That the federal government would grant this type of advanced reimbursement based on our plans and capabilities — as quickly as supply can meet — demonstrates that we have the capability.”
The only thing standing in the county’s way, at this point, is the vaccine supply itself, he said.
“I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.
Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s Major Disaster Declaration to help Virginia respond to COVID-19, localities can apply to FEMA for funding to support vaccine distribution, the release said. Arlington County is the first of the Commonwealth’s localities to apply for and receive the funding.
With the money, the County will purchase more cold storage for the vaccine doses, Miller said. Right now it has some smaller travel-sized unit, and additional upright, ultra-cold storage is supposed to be arriving in a week or so, Miller said. He said his department needs more cold storage to have the flexibility to set up additional vaccine clinics.
Miller’s department will also expand vaccine outreach and engagement efforts. He said more people are needed to handle calls from residents to schedule appointments and provide information about the vaccine distribution.
The latest COVID-19 relief package in Congress, supported by senators Warner and Kaine, included more than $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, particularly for states and localities, to slow the spread of the pandemic.
Last March, Kaine urged former President Donald Trump to consider any disaster declaration requests so states could use FEMA’s Public Assistance program to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Public Assistance is funded through the Disaster Relief Fund, to which Congress provided an additional $45 billion in the CARES Act.
In addition to the FEMA funding, Northern Virginia’s congressional representatives are pushing for a local mass vaccination site.
Today (Tuesday), Reps. Don Beyer, Gerald Connolly and Jennifer Wexton wrote to FEMA requesting that one of President Biden’s proposed 100 community mass vaccination sites be located in Northern Virginia, using Arlington County to make their case.
ACLU Suit Names ACPD Captain — Arlington County Police Department Captain Wayne Vincent has been added, in his personal capacity, to the ACLU lawsuit over the actions by police to clear protesters from Lafayette Square ahead of President Trump walking from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church. Some twenty ACPD officers, who are not named, are also being sued over the use of force and chemical irritants. [WTOP, ACLU]
Where APS Students Are Going to College — “The following is a list of the colleges and universities where Arlington Public Schools high school graduates (Class of 2020) applied and where they were accepted.” [Arlington Magazine]
Sen. Kaine in Arlington Today — “On Thursday, September 3, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will host a socially distant conversation in Arlington with local leaders to discuss the work being done to support the Latino community in Northern Virginia, as reports show Latino communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.” The closed event is taking place at an apartment building near Columbia Pike this afternoon. [Press Release]
Bus Project Likely to Be Funded — “A project submitted by the Arlington County government remains in contention for Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) funding, even as a number of other regional projects have been delayed for consideration due to sharp dropoffs in available funding. As a result, the Arlington project — an HOV- and bus-only lane on Route 29 in Rosslyn during rush hour — is likely to receive the $710,000 in regional funds being sought to help with the overall project cost.” [InsideNova]
Local Group Supports Eviction Moratorium — “Leaders of VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) cautiously welcomed the announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of a nationwide eviction moratorium through Dec. 31, but noted that Congress and the Administration still need to work together to provide significant funding to prevent huge rental housing market instability after the ban expires.” [Press Release]
The Supreme Court issued a pair of momentous rulings this week, and Arlington’s Congressional delegation is celebrating both.
On Monday, the high court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ individuals from workplace discrimination. Earlier today, it blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Arlington’s Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said the DACA ruling is “a great moment” for the nation, but cautioned that more work is to be done to reform the immigration system.
Dreamers are Americans, they belong here. This ruling is a great moment for the United States. It is important to remember, though, that even with this decision from the Supreme Court very important work remains. The ball once again is in Congress’ court to pass meaningful, humane, and comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken immigration system in ways which reflect our values as a nation of immigrants. The Senate could take a big step forward in that regard at any time by passing the Dream and Promise Act.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) likewise cheered the decision.
President Trump’s decision to end DACA plunged hundreds of thousands of innocent young people into legal limbo and wreaked havoc upon nearly every area of American life. I’m so thankful the Court has put an end to this Administration’s ill-conceived broken promise. Congress should now pass the HEROES Act to prevent the deportation of undocumented essential workers during the pandemic and the American Dream and Promise Act to permanently protect these kids and young adults.
Earlier this week, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said via social media that the Supreme Court “did the right thing” in giving LGBTQ Americans protection against employment discrimination under law.
It was *always* wrong to fire a person simply for being gay or transgender. I’m so glad the Supreme Court did the right thing today. https://t.co/PSZwT4cA2S
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) June 15, 2020
County May Get Million from CARES Act — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam “is considering a plan to distribute $3 billion of CARES cash using a formula that considers in economic need, a way to send more money to places like Lee County or Petersburg and less money to places like Alexandria and Arlington.” [@MichaelLeePope/Twitter, WVTF]
Arlington Trail Usage Way Up — “Trail counts are up 50% above average, on the weekends. Try an alternative route. Protect yourself and others by avoiding crowded trails.” [@BikeArlington/Twitter]
ACPD: Man Threw Brick Through Car Window — “At approximately 12:10 p.m. on April 30, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving on Columbia Pike when the suspect allegedly threw a brick through the rear window of the vehicle, causing it to shatter. The victim was not injured. Arriving officers located the suspect in the area and took him into custody without incident.” [Arlington County]
Marymount Faculty Member Makes ‘Fashion Masks’ — “Marymount University faculty member William Allen, an award-winning fashion designer, is using his creative talents and those of his students to help boost the amount of crucial PPE available at the Arlington Free Clinic.” [Press Release]
Sen. Kaine Volunteering at AFAC Today — “On Monday, May 4, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will visit the Arlington Food Assistance Center, where he will meet with staff, tour the center, and volunteer to distribute food. The center has seen increasing demand amid the coronavirus pandemic and currently distributes groceries to over 2,400 families each week in Arlington.”
TSA Workers Create Food Bank at DCA — “Transportation Security Administration employees at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) have established a free food and toiletries pantry to assist employees in the airport community who have been laid off or seen their work hours and paychecks reduced due to the significant decrease in travelers as a result of the pandemic.” [Press Release]
Photo courtesy @EthanDevries_/Twitter