Press Club
Ballston at twilight (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Between spring break, Good Friday, Easter and Passover, it appears that many have already checked out for the weekend, at least according to ARLnow’s Google Analytics chart.

For those of you still here, we have the most-read Arlington articles of the past week.

  1. ACPD: Woman pepper sprayed man for taking photos of children — who turned out to be his own kids
  2. Multiple injuries, one reported trapped after crash in Ballston
  3. Robbery and carjacking in Ballston lead to two chases and multiple arrests
  4. Arlington sees two crimes in two weeks allegedly committed by men awaiting trial in Fairfax County
  5. Arlington reaches ‘medium’ CDC Covid level
  6. The Union, a “casual fine dining” restaurant, is now open in Virginia Square
  7. Pizza and beer hall finally planning to start serving tomorrow in Ballston
  8. Large power outage affecting neighborhoods around Pentagon City
  9. Police: Woman packing heat in her fanny pack robbed man in Rosslyn
  10. Clarendon resident charged with shoving window washer on balcony

Feel free to discuss these stories or anything else of local interest in the comments. Enjoy what should be a decent spring holiday weekend, weather-wise, Arlington!

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Pedestrians with umbrellas in Clarendon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It’s been a gray and rainy week in Arlington.

We may have some scattered showers this weekend but hopefully you’re able to get out of the house without an umbrella in between.

Here are the most-read Arlington articles of the past week.

  1. Arlington band wins Grammy award
  2. Amid transit-oriented growth in Arlington, a detached garage endures across from the EFC Metro
  3. Arlington teachers union under interim leadership following internal turmoil
  4. Carjacking reported near Ballston
  5. Motorcycle cop injured in Shirlington Circle crash
  6. Seven restaurants with Arlington ties are up for RAMMY awards this year
  7. Fire pit debris causes weekend house fire near Westover
  8. British cuisine purveyor Salt Pot Kitchen planning to open in Ballston next month
  9. Plans for Phase 2 of Amazon’s HQ2 receive Planning Commission approval
  10. Jewelry store closing next month after nearly three decades in the Lee Heights Shops

Feel free to discuss these stories or anything else of local interest in the comments. Enjoy the weekend, Arlington!

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Looking south, the sun sets as traffic moves along I-395 (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It could be a big summer for vacations, particularly if Covid stays at relatively low levels.

From a press release last month:

The overwhelming majority of U.S. adults (85%) are expecting to travel this summer, taking even more vacation time than they did in 2021: nearly half (48%) of Americans who plan to vacation this summer will take two weeks or more, up from (41%) last summer. Driving in personal vehicles is the leading choice for getting to summer vacation destinations.

These are key findings from “OOH Consumer Insights and Intent – Q1 2022,” a new research report from the Out of Home Advertising Association of America […]

Of course, high gas prices might be putting a damper on what would otherwise be an even busier travel season. From Skift:

The huge demand for backyard leisure is set to continue in the U.S., as more Americans embrace the endemic phase of Covid and hit the road for spring break and summer vacations. But it’s now becoming clear that rising gas prices driven by the Russia-Ukraine war will have an effect on road trippers — and if ongoing, they could potentially dampen the overall record pace of U.S. travel recovery.

Almost 60 percent of American travelers say that the current increased cost of gas will impact their decision to travel over the next six months. Of those, nearly one-third of respondents predict the impact for them will be great. That’s according to the latest Covid and American Travel Sentiment survey from Longwoods International.

Pandemic fatigue has led many to enthusiastically start planning their summer vacations early this year. We’re still more than a month and a half away from Memorial Day, but let’s find out the extent of already-planned summer trips among ARLnow readers.

Note that for the purposes of this poll, we’ll define “summer” as between the start of Memorial Day weekend and the end of Labor Day weekend.

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Looking for books at the Columbia Pike Branch Library (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Arlington’s public libraries are trying to figure out how to get patrons back after Covid closures.

Since starting to reopen in mid-2021, library use has been down more than 25% from pre-pandemic levels, the Sun Gazette reports.

In a budget presentation with County Board members, longtime library director Diane Kresh acknowledged that the 75,000 users of her system in the days before COVID had dwindled to 55,000 today. (She didn’t do the math for board members, but it represents a drop of roughly 26.5 percent.)

“We want those people back. We’ve got to bring them back,” said Kresh, on hand to push for a library-system budget increase of 6 percent to $15.9 million and a staffing increase to about 140 full-time-equivalent positions from 131.

Meanwhile, while printed material remains the centerpiece of local libraries, digital rentals are quickly catching up. Kresh’s budget presentation cited the following national figures.

In 2009, non-digital materials made up 98% of a library’s collection. In 2019, that number was 45%.

In 2019, use of digital collections is at an all-time high of 37% of all collection use. This is triple what it was in 2013.

But in terms of borrowing, more physical books are borrowed than digital ones, with roughly 5.6 physical books borrowed per person per year and 3.5 digital.

The presentation noted that hold times in Arlington are long for popular material, like the novel The Lincoln Highway. Digital holds — e-books and e-audiobooks — are roughly twice as long as that for print, the presentation said, with 702 holds for the digital versions compared to 264 for print.

Hold times from library budget presentation (via Arlington County)

Arlington’s public library system, like others across the country, has been evolving its offerings, adding digital material rentals, holding various events and children’s activities, opening makerspaces, providing free meeting space rentals, and offering free Wi-Fi — indoors and outdoors — in addition to computer rentals.

A library is very much a public space: a place to meet up, study, research, create things, and participate in community activities.

Ultimately, though, much of the library system’s physical footprint and operational focus remains devoted to printed materials, at a time when you can read many books instantly on a screen and complete research projects entirely online.

There’s nostalgia for the democratization of knowledge unlocked by the Gilded Age rise of public libraries in the U.S., and print materials are still undoubtedly popular, but there is an argument to be made that libraries could serve more people by repurposing some space for more computers, kids activities and other public functions.

On the other hand, fewer physical books on the shelves could backfire and turn off some devoted patrons while failing to attract marginally higher numbers of new patrons.

What do you think? Should Arlington Public Library should consider gradually de-prioritizing print and using the space for other community uses?

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The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was spotted on Spout Run Parkway today (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Don’t you wish you were an Oscar Mayer weiner?

No, it’s no April Fools Day joke — the Weinermobile rolled through Arlington. Perhaps it was the same large sausage vehicle that was posted up at the Springfield Lidl in Fairfax County this afternoon. It will also be at the Fairfax Lidl at 11179 Lee Highway on Sunday between 9 a.m. and noon for anyone who really wants to get a photo.

A hot dog-shaped vehicle could seen cutting across a few lanes of southbound I-395 earlier today.

Now, here are the most-read Arlington articles of the past week.

  1. Ballston Macy’s proposal draws concerns about density, land use
  2. Tornado Warning for parts of Arlington
  3. TSA nabs pistol-packing Arlington man at DCA
  4. U.S. Marshal Service, ACPD on scene of fatal leap from building
  5. Arlington animal control frees coyote trapped between fences
  6. Reality star Michael Darby might be opening a restaurant in the former Clarendon Ballroom
  7. ACPD scales back some services amid reduction in staffing
  8. A fog is being released in Shirlington this week to shoo away crows
  9. B Live and Coco B’s to open in former Whitlow’s space this spring, summer
  10. Abingdon Elementary politely asks neighbors to get off its lawn during school hours

Feel free to discuss these stories or anything else of local interest in the comments. Happy April, Arlington!

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Love it or hate it, Nextdoor has undeniably found its place in local life here in Arlington.

It’s a place where people go to buy, sell and give away things; kvetch about noise or other local inconveniences; share crime and safety tips; and — for the past week at least — share lots of photos of cherry blossoms. It’s used by thousands of Arlington residents and the county itself to share information.

Some people, notably those who run Nextdoor, see the social network as a force for good and for building empathy in local communities. Others see more nefarious effects, like vigilantism or racism. Others see the frequent (presumably) unintentional humor.

One line of thought as the pandemic (hopefully) nears a conclusion is that more people will go out and do things in real life and spend less time on their phones having screen-based interactions. For Nextdoor, however, user growth appears to be accelerating.

In the last three months of 2021, Nextdoor reported 36 million weekly active users, up 32% from 27 million the prior year.

With that said, the experience here in Arlington — where Nextdoor has been around for a long time — may be different. So today we’re asking: are you using Nextdoor more or less now than you did around the same time last year?

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Cherry blossoms near the Memorial Bridge and the Rosslyn skyline (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The blossoms have bloomed and there’s plenty to see and do in Arlington this weekend, despite the expected chilly weather.

In conjunction with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, this Saturday the Blossom Kite Festival will bring some of the festivities to Virginia Highlands Park in the Pentagon City area. The D.C. Tattoo Expo is also coming to Arlington.

Now, here are the most-read Arlington articles of the past week.

  1. Arlington publishes guide to noise complaints as neighbors protest purported party house
  2. Arlington County Board greenlights two major residential developments
  3. Your tap water is going to start tasting different today
  4. Study: Arlington is a hub for Gen Z renters and trendsetters
  5. Preschool in Ballston evacuated after threat
  6. EXCLUSIVE: Fights involving kids are on the rise, Arlington Public Schools says
  7. Investigators on scene of reported trash fire at Wakefield HS
  8. U.S. Marshal Service, ACPD on scene of fatal leap from building
  9. Nighthawk Pizza opening Thursday in Pentagon City
  10. It’s been a bad 24 hours for light poles in Arlington

Feel free to discuss these stories or anything else of local interest in the comments. Enjoy the weekend, Arlington!

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Officials at the March 2022 Arlington School Board meeting (via APS)

Earlier this month, the Arlington School Board meeting featured some business casual attire on the dais.

That was not well received by the Sun Gazette’s Scott McCaffrey. He took to his editor’s blog to rail against the “sans cravate” look for elected members and other top officials:

This has been festering for a while, but a couple of current members of the Arlington School Board – maskless since last week’s meeting! – are going commando, either without a jacket, without a tie, or without both. Even the superintendent, who makes an obscene amount of money and ought to dress the part, seems to prefer the jacket-and-sweater look, although there may have been a tie hidden underneath.

Some will call the informal look inviting, saying those who expect formality are Luddites and fuddy-duddies. What is that you say from the great beyond, oh sartorially splendid John McLaughlin? “Wrong!” And right you are.

In that earlier incident, Ye Olde Sun Gazette had enough heft in the community that it got the elected official to mend his ways and return to a tie. Not sure our whining about it will make the current elected officials do the same. Nobody seems to care any more about keeping up appearances and maintaining standards. But they should. Sloppiness reflects badly on the School Board, the school system and the community.

Please, fellas, have a little self-respect. This is not Bradenton Beach, Fla., a community I have some knowledge of, where flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts are the norm for men at some meetings. Northern Virginia is supposed to be a little higher up the political food chain.

Officials did not make the same out-of-the-norm sartorial choices at this past weekend’s Arlington County Board meeting — the men on the dais were all wearing suits and ties (though at least one suit jacket came off after a little while).

Many may agree with McCaffrey, but surely some do not. It’s 2022, lots of people are working from their pajamas at home, and perhaps the old ways of dressing should become another pre-pandemic relic, outside of courts, cotillions and the upper echelons of government.

It’s been a decade since Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodie made business headlines and of all the problems we have in the world, tech executives and local elected officials ditching neckties remains pretty low down the list. There is, some may believe, a happy medium between a sea of suits and the State of the Union scene from Idiocracy.

What do you think? Should our top local officials keep up suit-and-tie norms as part of their public service, or can the dress codes be relaxed a bit?

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Clouds reflected on a building in Rosslyn near Lynn St. and Wilson Blvd. (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It seems spring weather may be here to stay — just in time for the first day of (astronomical) spring this Sunday.

After strong winds and snow last weekend, daytime temperatures have been mostly in the upper 50s, 60s and 70s each day this week. Those temps will continue through Tuesday, before some rain is expected, according to the National Weather Service.

Now, here are the most-read Arlington articles of the past week.

  1. Convoy honking horns, jamming up NB I-395 near Pentagon City
  2. Police investigating possible shooting near Ballston
  3. Storm brings strong winds, drops just over an inch of snow on Arlington
  4. Two women are on a quest to map every racially restrictive property deed in Arlington
  5. Morning Poll: Automated noise enforcement in Arlington?
  6. Rosslyn CVS to close after more than two decades inside of 1100 Wilson Blvd
  7. Four Mile Run to be dredged in $5M project to alleviate potential flooding
  8. Police investigating shots fired near Columbia Pike last night
  9. Local officials warn of impacts from upcoming, months-long Yellow Line shutdown
  10. Updates to Clarendon’s development plan head to County Board

Feel free to discuss these stories or anything else of local interest in the comments. Enjoy the weekend, Arlington!

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Virginia Capitol in Richmond (staff photo)

Good news: Virginia is flush with cash.

State tax revenues have been unexpectedly robust — billions more than first anticipated — and that has Republicans and Democrats in Richmond at loggerheads over what to do with the money.

From the Virginia Mercury last month:

Virginia’s new governor marked his 30th day in office with a state tour meant to build support for his tax-cutting plans, which have gotten a mixed response in the politically split legislature.

Parts of it, such as a plan to give every Virginia taxpayer a one-time rebate of $300, have passed with strong bipartisan support. Other proposals, like eliminating the state’s grocery tax and suspending a scheduled increase in the gas tax, have been a tough sell in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The budget remains in flux, with the state legislature adjourned until a special session is called, allowing lawmakers to work out their differences. While Republicans are calling for nearly $5.5 billion in tax cuts and rebates — plus, more recently, a temporary gas tax holiday — Democrats want more modest tax cuts, targeted to those with lower incomes, while boosting funding for priorities like education.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

The House budget includes almost $5.5 billion in tax cuts and rebates, but the Senate continues to insist on deferring the centerpiece of the governor’s tax plan — the doubling of the standard deduction for income tax filers — until a joint subcommittee completes a comprehensive study of Virginia tax policy in the coming year. Doubling the standard deduction would reduce state revenues by $2 billion over two years.

The Senate has agreed to partial repeal of the 2.5% sales tax on groceries, but has balked at eliminating the 1% that goes directly to local governments and has approved a less generous tax exemption for military retirement income than the House. It also has approved smaller tax rebates this year than the House and rejected a 12-month rollback in the gas tax as meaningless to soaring prices at the pump.

In general, what do you think the state should do with its unexpected extra revenue, if you were to select one thing as Richmond’s top budget priority?

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Traffic flows along Langston Blvd in front of Metro 29 Diner (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

At least two U.S. cities are using automated noise enforcement technology. Should Arlington?

Knoxville, Tennessee recently deployed a noise-monitoring camera as a test to see whether it helps to stem rising noise complaints downtown. From local TV station WATE:

Data that will be collected includes the time and date of a noise violation, the vehicle type and a photo of the vehicle’s license plate.

The camera footage cannot be be used alone as the basis for issuing a noise violation but warnings may be issued. The city release said the trends that are verified by the data can lead to more effective enforcement.

New York City also reportedly has a system that sends out warnings to drivers whose cars are too loud.

Arlington may not be able to deploy such a system without legislative authorization, given that Virginia is a Dillon Rule state. But, if the county can get the authorization, should it?

Excessive noise from cars and motorcycles became a more frequent complaint in Arlington over the course of the pandemic. Meanwhile, a law originally proposed by a local legislator, and intended to reduce racial disparities in traffic stops by prohibiting noise being used as a pretext for pulling drivers over, has made enforcement more difficult. An automated system could address both both issues.

What do you think?

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