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“Now it feels like home!” (cartoon by Mike Mount)

There’s no place like home. Especially if you’re from one of the safest, happiest, fittest, most climate resilient, most livable, most Millennial- and renter-friendly places in the United States.

This month’s Mike Mount cartoon hits on some familiar notes to make the point that, even on a deserted island, an Arlingtonian might find themselves trying to figure out ways to feel more connected to our fair county.

See Mike’s local ‘toons in the ARLnow Press Club weekend edition newsletter.

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Birthday cupcake (Photo by Isabella Fischer on Unsplash)

Arlington Public Schools might definitively put the kibosh on outside birthday treats in the classroom.

A policy update is set to be considered by the School Board later this month, according to the Gazette Leader.

Arlington School Board members soon could put the final stake in the heart of birthday cupcakes in classrooms.

Regular cake, too. And cookies. And probably even carrot sticks, pita chips and hummus brought in by the kid whose parents are on a health kick.

An update to school-system health policies slated to be presented to School Board members April 25 would outright prohibit special in-classroom birthday treats.

Currently, schools are “strongly encouraged” to adopt such policies, but not required to.

Similar policies have been adopted at other school systems.

There are a number of arguments against parents bringing in treats for a kid’s birthday, including:

  • Potential for food allergies
  • Treats are often sugary and unhealthy
  • An inequitable difference between birthday celebrations depending on a family’s means
  • Disruptive to classroom instruction

Arguments for in-school birthday treats include the celebrations being fun, cupcakes being tasty, and kids enjoying having their birthday recognized.

What do you think?

Photo by Isabella Fischer on Unsplash

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In some very limited circumstances, ARLnow has been using AI-generated images to illustrate stories.

The typical use case are stories around a concept for which specific imagery might cause problems or is simply unavailable. For instance, file photos we have on hand for real estate stories show for-sale signs with a specific agent’s name and phone number, as well as a specific house — which someone presumably now lives in and might not love being shown over and over.

We also sometimes struggle to illustrate Morning Poll posts involving holidays, like New Year’s or Valentine’s Day, with photos on hand. We want to avoid showing specific people or places, but also would prefer not to use generic images from a stock photo library.

Using AI in these circumstances lets us give the image a more local touch, adjust for the current season or weather, better reflect Arlington’s diversity, or customize the design to something that better fits the use case. It also can be done in just a few minutes, and we often publish our articles on tight deadlines.

Ultimately, though, we’ve only needed to do this a few times. Which is why the reaction to the use of an AI image for our recent story about businesses for sale was so surprising. Social media users flamed ARLnow for the image, which showed a group of people walking down a fictional street of shops in the rain somewhere in Arlington.

Reactions on Instagram to an AI image being used on an ARLnow story about businesses for sale

“This is not Arlington,” one person wrote. “This page has turned into AI trash content. I’ve unsubscribed.”

“Why use AI?” said another. “Lots of talented artists and photographers in Arlington.”

The reaction was more neutral in the article comments, though many commented on the AI image rather than the substance of the post itself.

Given the reaction, we wanted to ask readers what you think. Do you think ARLnow should continue to use AI generated images in limited circumstances or stop using AI imagery altogether?

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Rosslyn zip line rendering / April Fool’s joke (photo via Rosslyn BID)

Happy April Fool’s Day, Arlington!

If you’re looking for some Arlington-specific gag articles involving gondolas, Starbucks openings, HQ2 plans and non-existant Potomac Yard arenas, unfortunately that’s not in our repertoire.

But we have, in the past, covered prank Army press releases and cross-Potomac zip line announcements. We’ve also asked twice about whether you were planning to pull April 1 pranks (most said no).

Today we’re asking a bit of a different question: what’s your favorite part of April Fool’s Day?

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Washington Nationals opening day in 2016 (staff photo)

With the Alexandria NHL and NBA arena deal now dead, and MLB opening day today, it’s a good time to reflect on the fact that Arlington could have been the home of the Nationals.

In the early 2000s, a group bidding to land the Montreal Expos pitched the “PenPlace” site in Pentagon City. You know it now as the site where Amazon HQ2 Phase 2 and its distinctive Helix tower will be going (probably).

As recounted by WeLoveDC in 2011, local residents balked at the idea of an MLB stadium clogging nearby roads and the property owner decided a mixed-use development — ultimately an office complex that was approved but never built — would be more lucrative. The team, of course, moved to D.C. in 2005 and the Nationals won a World Series in 2019 before entering their current rebuilding phase.

Would-be Pentagon City stadium for the Nationals (screenshot via WeLoveDC)

Many of the arena-related concerns of Alexandria residents — traffic and parking namely — were the same concerns of those living near Pentagon City at the time.

While there was much rejoicing on social media upon news that D.C. had reached a deal with team owner Ted Leonsis to retain the Capitals and Wizards at Capital One Arena, there were also some disappointed at the loss of a potential economic development driver for Alexandria and Potomac Yard.

Likewise, we’re wondering whether anyone is still disappointed by Arlington not landing the baseball stadium. Let’s find out.

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Powerball lottery ticket (file photo)

Someone in New Jersey just won $1.13 billion, the fifth-largest jackpot in Mega Millions history.

The Tuesday night drawing comes as growing lottery jackpots were drawing lots of national attention. Powerball, which will have its next drawing tonight, is now up to $865 million.

With this week’s focus on the big lottery jackpots, we were wondering what our readers would do if you ever won the big prize.

For the purposes of this poll, we’ll exclude gifts, investments, paying off debt, etc. and get to the fun stuff — what significant personal purchase would you first spend the money on?

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The Arlington Public Schools Syphax Education Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

In case you didn’t know before reading this post, it’s spring break for Arlington Public Schools students.

Maybe you’ve noticed it’s not quite as busy on local roads and you weren’t sure why. Now you know: a combination of school being out and some subset of APS families leaving for a spring vacation.

Or, if you have or had kids — perhaps you were already well aware that students are off the entire week.

This morning, we’re wondering what the breakdown is between those unaware and aware of spring break, prior to reading this.

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Missing Middle advocates support a speaker during the Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday, March 18, 2023 (staff photo)

Should the Arlington County Board hold a quarterly public comment free-for-all?

That’s the suggestion of an Arlington Gazette Leader editorial. The opinion piece notes frustration with the County Board’s one-speaker-per-topic rule during the open public comment period of its monthly meetings.

One speaker at the March 16 meeting called the rule — in place to keep the public comment period at the beginning of meetings from turning into an hours-long parade of people voicing the same opinion on a given topic — “undemocratic garbage.”

The editorial then suggests an alternative path.

The one-speaker-per-topic rule leads people to rush to sign up first so their voice, but no others, will be heard on a subject. Requiring advance registration plus notice of the topic both are seen by county officials as making the process run more efficiently, but they take away spontaneity – something a “public-comment” session should embrace – and they allow for rules to be bent from the dais (or draconianly enforced) to support favored groups or positions but not necessarily others.

We admit to having no real solution, as allowing a true free-for-all probably does not benefit the community. A little public comment goes a loooooooong way, as anyone who has watched these events can attest.

One possible alteration to current practice? Scrap the public-comment period at monthly board meetings and swap in a quarterly gathering where at least [fill in whatever number is appropriate] slots are provided.

What do you think of changing the monthly comment period with tighter controls to a quarterly comment session where more voices can be heard?

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Sunrise over the D.C. monuments, as seen from Arlington (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Daylight Saving Time is around the corner.

The annual time change is set to take place early this coming Sunday, March 10. Clocks will “spring forward” by an hour, thus providing an extra hour of daylight in the evening (but one fewer hour of sleep Sunday).

In a previous ARLnow poll, some 60% of readers said they would like to see Daylight Saving Time be extended throughout the year. Earlier this week, the time change was the second-most popular choice for “Which March thing are you most looking forward to?”

Given the local affinity for the extra hour of daylight, we were wondering what, if anything, readers were planning to do with that extra daytime.

Pick the best answer in the poll below and let us know in the comments if there’s another daylight-enhanced evening activity that you’re even more jazzed about.

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Cherry Blossoms near the Jefferson Memorial (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

It’s March and the month to come is packed with holidays, events and the arrival of spring.

There’s warmer weather, cherry blossoms, Daylight Saving Time, March Madness and St. Paddy’s Day, just to name a few.

Given all that’s to come over the next few weeks, it might be hard to pick just one thing you’re looking forward to — so we’re letting you pick up to three.

Of the following dozen options, what are most looking forward to?

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“Making a reality TV show out of this will not help with public support.” (Cartoon by Mike Mount)

This month’s Mike Mount creation references the ongoing debate over if and how to cull deer in Arlington.

Coincidentally, the Arlington County Civic Federation is holding an online town hall on the topic tonight, from 7-8 p.m. The deer decision has prompted strong feelings among those in favor of a cull, by sharpshooters or otherwise, and those who want non-lethal options.

A deer management reality show, however, might not attract much support. See Mike’s local ‘toons in the ARLnow Press Club weekend edition newsletter.

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