Friday, February 29, 2008

Poop on Science Night

There’s no better place to talk poo than an elementary school cafeteria.

Poop and the cafeteria are made for each other.

Where else will you get hundreds of little poop manufacturers right there on the factory floor?

We’re talking poop, here. Not feces. Not bowel movements.


The stuff we all make but don’t want to talk about.

Susannah Bishop gives Barrett kids and their families the "Scoop on Poop" Thursday night during Barrett's Science Night. (Click to enlarge the image.)

Funny and disgusting both. Actually, funny because it’s disgusting.

Science-by-van Coordinator Susannah Bishop and her trusty poop-lab assistant Brandi Tyner from the Richmond-based Science Museum of Virginia understand.

Like the pros they are, they talk the language of poo to the grammar school set.

“Droppin’ the kids at the pool.”

“Takin’ the Browns to the Superbowl.”

In 30 minutes during K.W. Barrett Elementary’s Science Night, they “digested” a bowl of hot dog, corn, green bean and "red velvet twinkie." From mouth to anus, poop in 30 minutes.

To the bowl/mouth of food was added “saliva." (Eeeeeewwwww!)

(They "didn’t have much time” to collect all that bottled saliva while driving the van from Richmond.)

The food was masticated with potato mashers then poured through the esophagus--let's talk peristalsis--into the ziploc bag/stomach.

Ms. Bishop talks about poop production. Bowls in the foreground were used as mouth and intestines. Bottles were filled with different "bodily fluids." (Click to enlarge the image.)

If it’s rejected, it’s vomit. If it makes gas that can’t escape little-by-little, it’s a burp. (Pause here for a burping contest.)

Add some “stomach acid” and shake it around. Pour it into the small intestine and sponge out the nutrients (Eeeeeewwwwwwwww!).

(“You’ve got 18 feet of small intestine, right here. It’s all smushed in.”)

Squeeze that sponge-filled-with-nutrients into the blood stream/bucket.

And on to the large intestine, also called the colon. Time to sponge out the water (EEEEeeeeewwwwwwww!).

(If our bodies didn’t sponge out the water, we’d do nothing but drink all day.)

Then the poop pauses in the rectum, "What we like to call the poop waiting room....It’s a little bag. It’s where the poop hangs out until you’ve got enough.”

Then finally the anus passes the unwanted material through a cut in the corner of the ziplock bag.

And remember kids: “Your poo’s going to tell you how healthy you’re eating.” If it’s hard and sinks, too many sweets and too much fat. If it’s full of fiber, it floats. “Now you’ve got the scoop on poop. Make ‘em float.”

For the record, the adults laughed, too.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Letter: Church Should Help Respect Private Property

Hi Steve -

First of all, I really appreciate the information you provide about the community - it's vital and interesting. Thank you.

Recently, a situation has come to my attention in this neighborhood that I want to bring to your attention, as I am not sure how to handle it.

As you may recall, I live in the Chatham. I have been dog-sitting for friends since last Monday, and therefore am out with the dog around 5 p.m. to walk her. Since having the dog on these walks, I have noticed a number of people, all men, traipsing through the Chatham parking lot in the back around this hour, walking across Arlington Oaks property and even walking on the sidewalk in front of the Chatham (inside the boundary line) to get to the church on the corner of Pershing and the Route 50 service road, the Arlington Assembly of God.

The purpose of their travels is to obtain food - the church provides food for the homeless. While I applaud the efforts of the church to serve the community, I do have concerns about how those who obtain these free meals conduct themselves in our neighborhood. And I have heard some anecdotal stories to that effect - someone being asked for money in our parking lot, cars being broken into, human waste found on the premises, people living and hiding in the large pine trees on Route 50 (right in front of the church) and the assorted beer cans and bottles I have seen dotting this area.

I spoke with our property manager about this (and he is quite good at what he does) and he informed me that he has approached the leadership of the church twice about this problem, and was basically told that because the church does not control these people, there is nothing they can do about it, and that they would continue in the same vein. Basically, he said "too bad." Not very neighborly.

I had a couple of questions after hearing this - why can't the church make an announcement at these free meal opportunities and ask those to whom they provide service to please respect the neighborhood and not trespass on private property? Does the church provide any other social services to help these people and thereby stave off other bad behavior? And, as a neighbor, shouldn't they try and make the area comfortable and safe for all the residents?

I'm frustrated and at a loss here, but I have felt uncomfortable more than a few times when out and about at this hour. Any thoughts you can provide on the situation would be much appreciated.


Nancy Bukar

Labels: , ,

Sen. Ticer Will Try Pedestrian Bill Next Year

A bill that would have required drivers to “stop and remain stopped” for pedestrians in crosswalks died in a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee, Monday.

“It died on a three–three vote,” according to the office of Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Del. Charles “Bill” Carrico. Del. Carrico (R-5th) represents Galax City and surrounding areas in southwestern Virginia near the North Carolina border.

The bill that died Monday originated in the Senate, with Arlington’s Sen. Patricia Ticer (D-30th) as the chief patron. It passed the full Senate on Feb. 9, and “crossed-over” to the House the following week. An identical bill, sponsored by Arlington/Alexandria’s Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49th), narrowly died on the House floor, Feb. 11. The House bill had squeaked out of the same subcommittee that later killed the Senate bill.


This is at least the third time that a bill of this sort has failed in the Virginia Legislature. Democrats and at least one Republican have cited the problem as downstate representatives who have not understood the heavy congestion, and need for more regulation, in northern Virginia. However, Republican legislators have said that the language will not stand up in court. The bill had a lot of support of northern Virginia lawmakers from both parties.

The law currently states that drivers must "yield" for pedestrians. The vague nature of "yield," proponents of the new language have said, makes conviction nearly impossible. Any driver who does not hit a pedestrian has yielded to that pedestrian, proponents, including some police officers, have said.

A representative for Sen. Ticer said she saw this bill as a “very important” piece of legislation.

“She [Sen. Ticer] said she always will try, every year” to bring this bill to law, said Larin Brink, a legislative aid to Sen. Ticer. “I don’t anticipate that the departments we’re working with in northern Virginia would let go of the issue.”

Related stories…
  • Update and Analysis of Pedestrian Bill
  • "Crosswalk Bill" Fails in House
  • Pedestrian Bill Walks onto House/Senate Floor

    Labels: , , ,

  • Letter: Watch Where You Drop Milkweed Seeds

    Say Steve,

    I read the letter about planting milkweeds for butterflies.

    My experience with milkweeds goes back to when I was a teenager, and thought it would be a great idea to drop a few seeds in a two acre field by our house.

    Sure enough they spread like wild fire, and I got a job pulling them out (not entirely voluntary).


    Louis Quay

    Labels: ,

    Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today: Feb. 27, 2008

    I refused to take pictures, or really even any notes, as I walked inside the new townhome at the corner of N. Henderson Road at N. George Mason Drive. This was one of the Buckingham Village 2 townhomes (the Buckingham Commons development) being erected “by right” by the Paradigm Cos.

    I just did not want the coverage to feel like a sales brochure. I have to admit, though, I liked them, though at more than $900,000, the model home is pricey. The largest end units will top out at well over a million bucks.

    My wife, who visited on another day, said they were just too expensive for what you get. That same money can get you a nice single-family home just about anywhere in Arlington, with a yard. Why buy a townhome on a busy intersection?

    (She then proceeded to send me links to nice single family homes in Bluemont and Arlington Forest for about $730,000, the price of the smallest Buckingham Commons townhome.)

    I live in an old, bomb-shelter-solid Arlington Oaks townhome, circa 1939. It has its charm, but the two-car garages that come with the Buckingham Commons townhouses(no basement, my wife pointed out) would be nice. I like the modern conveniences in the new places—a built-in multi-room stereo system, central air/heat, an open kitchen/family room with a small deck outside the sliding glass door (all this is on the second floor). The washer/dryer is on the third floor, along with two bedrooms, and the third bedroom is on the fourth floor. From the hall up there, you can step out onto a second deck.

    Here again my wife pointed out, rightly I’ll say, that on the rooftop deck you are next to the heating/cooling system for your house. It’s not exactly pretty, but if you look away from it, it’s OK.

    We don’t have $730,000 to spend on the smallest of these townhouses, anyway, but I think I’m with my wife—just a little too much for what you get. They say they have contracts on another two; so that’s about four sold.
    Don’t forget to email me if you want to HELP with the flower garden. See the “HearaldTrib Today” post from last week for more on that. Thus far, people have had good ideas, but no one has stepped forward to offer help. I’m not doing it unless others step up.A number of good letters, including an analysis of the Bob Peck site getting redeveloped, have come in this week, see all the links below.Make sure you read the profile today of Buckinghamster Vilma Giron-Lima. She’s a remarkable young woman, the first in her family to finish high school and attend college. When I interviewed her a couple weeks ago, I was struck by how articulate she is.

    I work with students like her all the time as a professor at Montgomery College, yet her thoughts tumbled from her mouth in a way I usually just don’t hear from 18-year-olds. She could hear the sentence as it spilled out and would make adjustments along the way so that it was clear and concise by the time she reached a period.

    You don’t need to talk to her for long, to know that she’s smart.

    That said, I’ll give you a bit of news that’s not in the story. She’s studying psychology, but only received a 3 on her Advanced Placement Psychology Exam, a score that was not good enough for credit at Trinity College. However, she said she was happy to have taken it.

    “I don’t regret it. I…learned a lot actually, but I don’t regret it,” she said.

    I’m bringing this up because I often cringe at the statements that Scott McCaffrey at the Sun Gazette makes regarding AP Test scores. He only likes them if test taking rates rise along with scores.

    I’m more of this opinion: if the student has a shot at doing well, get them in that class. No educator wants a student in a class that is too far beyond his or her abilities. They drown before they can learn to swim.

    Still, AP classes are so much more advanced, they can give students such a much deeper understanding, that I do not really care if the student does well on the exam. If she bombs the test, who cares? A year of advanced study is the important thing, which Ms. Giron-Lima seems to understand.

    Leo Burnett said that if you reach for the stars you might not get them, but you won't end up with a handful of mud, either. I often keep that in mind.

    My only caveat: do not require teachers to look at the official AP Exam score to give grades, especially final grades. Colleges will not look to the teacher’s grade, but only to the test grade. If a teacher knows the student is strong and has learned a lot, and is deserving of an “A,” let that teacher give the “A.” If that student then gets a 2 on the exam, oh well.

    I know that leaves room for grade inflation, but that was possible anyway.Det. Katie Rounds, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Police Department, informed me that she is leaving the Public Relations office for other duties. Buenos suerte, Detective!A couple weeks back, I posted a letter from Mick Pulliam about religion in the presidential primary race. An anonymous Mormon responded to it, and I thought you might want to check it out.

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • Young Minds in Buckingham: Vilma Giron-Lima
  • Police Notes for Buckingham

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Letter: Revised GLUP Bad for Buckingham
  • Bad Accident at Pershing and Thomas
  • Police Know This “Joker”
  • Letter: Plant Milkweeds for Butterflies
  • Letter: Free Seeds May Be Available

  • Young Minds in Buckingham: Vilma Giron-Lima

    The first in her family to graduate from high school, Vilma Giron-Lima works at the Lubber Run Center and studies at Trinity College.

    “Can you read that? What’s it say?” Vilma Giron-Lima asks Karen Barrionuevo, a kindergartener who wears glasses and a pink-hooded, grey sweatshirt. Together they hold a book in the after school classroom of the Lubber Run Community Center.

    It’s a room of short-legged tables and chattering children.

    Ms. Giron-Lima has about a half-dozen charges who attend Pre-K to 2nd grade at K.W. Barrett Elementary School.

    Vilma Giron-Lima instructs Karen Barrionuevo on her reading homework. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Lee el libro cuartros veces,” Ms. Giron-Lima reads from the Spanish instructions. “It means you have to read the book four times.”

    “No I don’t,” Karen says.

    “Yes you do so that you can understand the story,” Ms. Giron-Lima says.

    “Max gets ready,” Karen reads the cover, and that is about as far as she gets.

    Ms. Giron-Lima, though 18, is already a bit of a star in the Buckingham neighborhood, where she grew up, attending Barrett and then Kenmore Middle School.

    This past summer she won a $600 scholarship from BU-GATA, a neighborhood tenants association, after graduating from Washington-Lee High School. (The scholarship was largely supplied by Sam Chon, the owner of the Glebe Market.)

    Vilma Giron-Lima. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The money bought all her books last semester at Trinity College in Washington, where she is in her first year studying psychology. Trinity has promised her $8,000 a year to attend, she said. Tuition, fees, room and board at the private college run about $27,000 per year, according to the school's web site.

    She is the first in her family to finish high school and go to college.

    A volunteer at Lubber Run for years, she began earning a paycheck last summer.

    “We were excited to be able to offer her that position,” said Yvanna Cordova, a recreation programmer at Lubber Run Community Center and Ms. Giron-Lima’s supervisor.

    College work and a paid position together have “been tough,” Ms. Giron-Lima said.

    Her supervisor said she thought the pressure hit Ms. Giron-Lima pretty hard last fall, but, “She’s become more comfortable, more confident.”

    Ms. Cordova said she understood Ms. Giron-Lima’s story as it was much like her own.

    Neither of Ms. Giron-Lima’s parents, Manuel and Dinora Giron, who live in Buckingham but are from Guatemala, are educated past elementary school, and they did not particularly encourage their daughter to advance her education, but she said she wanted to prove to them that she could.

    “I’ve been working really, really hard,” she said as she laughed a bit. “I did it, and I’m really happy.”

    Vilma Giron-Lima entices students with the promise of "points" as she helps them with homework in the after school program. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    She’s had teachers and counselors telling her to continue her education along the way.

    “What I try to tell the kids is [a college education] is not unattainable,” said Jim Thomas, Ms. Giron-Lima’s social studies teacher at Washington-Lee High School. He told her the same information he told other students. “It’s all about planning ahead. It’s all about developing a strategy.”

    She was an “excellent student, excellent student. One of the best I ever had,” Mr. Thomas said.

    “She was always looking outside of the subject matter and could make references to the outside world,” Mr. Thomas said. She showed a “higher level” of thinking.

    He said she took pride in all her work, even the mundane assignments that other students may have completed well, but never took beyond the basics.

    If the assignment was to find information about a topic from sources outside the textbooks and the classroom, she would return the next morning, saying, “I read this, I saw this, and I have questions,” said Mr. Thomas who taught her in three courses. “She’s intrinsically motivated in her classes.”

    She says that her family, for whom she has translated since second grade, is happy with all her achievements. This includes her extended family in Guatemala.

    “They know that I’m going to college….They know that I’m trying to pursue an education. And they’re proud of me,” she said.

    The full-time student is taking five classes this semester including psychology, and a philosophy class that she really enjoys. She said she plans to put her knowledge into a leadership position someday, though she calls herself “shy” and “quiet.”

    Even here, she has already had some experience.

    Her supervisor, Ms. Cordova, said that Ms. Giron-Lima is responsible for leading her elementary students with a curriculum that she helps to design each week. She has already received training in the Positive Activities in Learning and Leisure program, a bully-prevention program.

    For a community talent show, she has been a mentor and team leader, Ms. Cordova said.

    In 2006, the Lubber Run Center’s young volunteers—Ms. Giron-Lima, Nate Giles, and Ung Chhavalak—won county-wide “volunteer of the year” honors for their work at the center. They worked with the children after school and also helped with other events such as “Eggstravaganza” and the Halloween “Haunted House.”

    “They just contributed countless hours,” Ms. Cordova said.

    After Trinity College, it’s on to graduate school and certification as a school psychologist. But she’s already applying a little psychology to her pint-sized followers when she holds back the points they receive for completing tasks.

    Ms. Giron Lima laughs with the students after school at the Lubber Run Community Center. They give her mixed reviews because she makes them complete their homework. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The kids give her mixed reviews. Their complaint? She makes them complete their homework.

    “Karen I know that you know how to read this book. You’re being overreacting,” Ms. Giron-Lima says.

    “I did read it,” Karen says.

    “Then what was it about?”

    “I can’t tell you.”

    “Well, then you’ve got to read it again,” Ms. Giron-Lima tells her. “You’re going to have to show me your homework so I can give you a point.”

    Labels: , ,

    Police Notes for Buckingham, Feb. 27, 2008

    A quick update on the Saturday morning car accident at the corner of N. Pershing Drive at N. Thomas Street. According to police, a west-bound silver Toyota Corolla on N. Pershing, moving about 25 mph, struck a blue Chrysler PT Cruiser that failed to give the right of way as it pulled out of N. Thomas Street. The PT Cruiser was traveling about 5 mph, Arlington County Police said.

    The driver of the PT Cruiser said she looked both ways but did not see the other car coming. She was given a warning by the officer on the scene, said John Lisle, a spokesperson for ACPD. He said that officers have to make judgment calls at these scenes, and the lack of a citation could have been because the most serious injury occurred to the passenger of the driver who caused the accident.

    According to the police report, the passenger in the PT Cruiser had some sort of eye injury and was taken to an area hospital. As well, the driver of the Toyota, the only person in that car, complained of neck and back pain and was evacuated.

    Emergency crews evacuate an injured person from the accident scene on Saturday, Feb. 23. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “It is an intersection where we’ve had a number of accidents,” Mr. Lisle said, adding that officers said drivers on N. Pershing heading in one direction will often stop to allow someone on N. Thomas to enter the street, but drivers on Pershing coming from the other direction do not see what is happening. That did not appear to be the case in this accident.

    For the original story and more photos, click here.

    Feb. 24: Attempted Murder/Abduction, 3700 block of S. 1st St. At approximately 4:30 a.m., a 21-year-old man attacked his wife in their home, stabbing her multiple times before a family member intervened. The suspect then fled in the relative’s vehicle.

    The victim suffered serious injuries but is expected to survive.

    The suspect, Kevin Enrique Itzep, was apprehended later that day by law enforcement officers in Wilson County, N.C. He is charged with attempted murder and abduction.

    Feb. 19: Burglary, 4200 block N. 4th St. Between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., someone entered an apartment and took several items. There were no signs of forced entry.

    View Larger Map

    Labels: ,

    Saturday, February 23, 2008

    Letter: Revised GLUP Bad for Buckingham

    On Saturday, the county board approved the redevelopment plan for the northwest corner of N. Glebe Road at N. Wilson Boulevard, the former Bob Peck car dealer site. Part of the redevelopment includes changing the county's General Land Use Plan to allow for more density west of N. Glebe.

    To read county's press release on this, click here. To read a Sun Gazette article, click here. --ST

    Steve -

    I wasn't sure if you were following this development or not. The Buckingham Community Civic Association had opposed any change to the GLUP out of concern that continued development creeping along N. Glebe Road would come into our neighborhood. It's just a matter of time for the Macy's parking lot, Exxon, and Goodyear to be up for development and it's something we should be watching. (We all know plans are in the works for Glebe and Pershing and we'll be talking to the developer at the March 17 BCCA meeting).

    Another interest of the BCCA is the increased traffic likely to result from approval of this development. Bluemont Civic Association was so concerned that they were able to convince the developer to put in $125,000 for traffic calming to mitigate any effects of the project. Bluemont was shrewd in earmarking these funds to be spent exclusively within the boundaries of Bluemont CA.

    The BCCA requested that these funds be spent proportionally to those neighborhoods impacted by increased traffic as a result of the project. As a matter of policy, we believe that the funds should go toward those areas effected by an increase in traffic and not by an arbitrary drawing of neighborhood lines. It shouldn't matter where the project is built; only where the impact is felt. The County Board debated this point for a lengthy period but did not agree.

    In fact, it was agreed that because Buckingham is so far away, we wouldn't feel any impact. What? We are only 2 blocks away! Workers and residents will be cutting through Buckingham to get to Arlington Boulevard or coming up Carlin Springs to go to and from [the development].

    This feels a little like a "giveaway" to Bluemont to get their support. It's bad policy to earmark funds for one neighborhood without understanding the true implications for others. We'll be watching this matter closely...

    Pat Hope

    The writer is the president of the Buckingham Community Civic Association.

    Labels: , ,

    Bad Accident at Pershing and Thomas

    Notice: One photo, posted at the bottom, is slightly more graphic than most posted at the HeraldTrib. Readers beware. --ST

    An accident about 8:30 a.m. today reportedly sent two people to the hospital and drew a crowd of onlookers to the site, the intersection of N. Pershing Drive at N. Thomas Street.

    Police, fire and rescue crews responded to the scene of the accident between a blue Crysler PT Cruiser and a silver Toyota. The front of the PT Cruiser was dented, and the Toyota came to rest on the sidewalk.

    One onlooker said he was awakened by the accident from his home in Arlington Oaks and came out to see two people taken away on stretchers.

    He called this intersection, with bushes and cars up close, a terrible intersection to drive through.

    This silver Toyota came to rest on the northwest corner of N. Thomas Street at N. Pershing Drive. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    A crowd of 20 or more people watched as police directed traffic, and emergency medical technicians evacuated the injured. N. Pershing was narrowed to one lane and N. Thomas was blocked for a time.

    This person was evacuated from the scene at a little after 8:30 a.m. (Click to enlarge the image.)


    Friday, February 22, 2008

    Police Know This "Joker"

    Walking my dog in Lubber Run the other morning, I saw this tag on the bridge near the pavillion.

    The police tell me that they know who this joker is, but are not releasing any further information. Fortunately, police said that it is not "Joker" of the a Southside Locos (or MS-13, I cannot remember which, now). He is in jail for his part in a murder in south Arlington. --ST

    Labels: ,

    Letter: Plant Milkweed for Butterflies

    Hey Steve -

    Just a tip re: attracting butterflies:

    We attended a "Butterfly Fiesta" at an environmental center in Maryland a couple of years ago (, and we learned among other things that one should plant MILKWEED to feed butterflies. So if that's what you're going for, do it. We started a Butterfly garden last year and it was a great success, and the more plants and longer you have them, the more they learn it's the cool place to hang out. "Build It and They Will Come."

    Good Luck with the Garden.

    John Marston

    Labels: , ,

    Letter: Free Seeds May Be Available


    Regarding your interest in planting wildflower seeds on the Paradigm property:

    The Arlington County Government or the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office can probably provide you with free wildflower seeds for the Paradigm property. One of these organizations distributes free packets of seeds at county fairs and other county events.

    I am not sure who you should contact about this. I suggest that you start with Jamie Bartalon, a county government urban forester. Martin Ogle, a naturalist at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, may also know the source for the free seeds.

    If you can find the source of the free seeds, ask the source to recommend wildflower species that attract butterflies and/or that provide food for other insects. Some wildflower species are better than others for such purposes.

    If someone owns or can borrow gardening tools, there should be little or no cost for the seeding project.

    I don't have the time available to plant the seeds. Perhaps somebody else does.

    Bernie Berne

    I'll look into it. Thanks. The writer, for those of you who don't know, is referring to my "HeraldTrib Today" post from Wednesday, Feb. 20. –ST

    Labels: , ,

    Wednesday, February 20, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today: Feb. 20, 2008

    No doubt readers remember my post from Halloween. So I hate to bore you by repeating portions of it, but I must remind you of it now as it has bearing on today’s news.

    Last Halloween I wrote that I was happy that Paradigm Development Co., which owns the large, fenced-in field at the corner of N. Thomas Street and N. Henderson Road, had cut down brush and planted grass inside the fence.

    Naturalist,” in a comment to that post, said he (she?) was unhappy because the brush provided cover for small non-rat rodents and food for songbirds. Here’s a quote from the comment:

    “The ‘brush’ was actually a meadow area that contained wildflowers and food and habitat for butterflies and other insects, as well as shelter for rabbits and other animals that you may not notice (but probably not rats, unless people were throwing garbage there). The insects provided food for song birds.

    “Mowed grass is not hospitable for wildlife. It feeds few birds, except sparrows, starlings and pigeons. That's why Buckingham has so many of these, and so few songbirds.

    “If you want to see mowed grass, look at any lawn. However, if you want to see butterflies and colorful birds, look at meadows such as the one that Paradigm destroyed.”

    I read that and filed in the back of my head that I should call Paradigm and ask if a few Buckinghamsters could go in, till up some soil, and plant a wildflower garden, attract a few butterflies, and maybe a handful of songbirds.

    Remember that Paradigm plans to use that space for more townhomes, like those on the corner of N. George Mason Drive at N. Henderson Road. However, Micheline Castan-Smith, the project leader for that development, has given the idea of a flower garden a tentative “yes.”

    So, I am wondering who among you out there might want to help with a project like this? The garden I envision would be something small, and something that could live on with little care. That’s why I was thinking wildflowers just might do the trick.

    I think most, if not all, of the cost would come from our pockets.

    There are many details to be worked out, but what Ms. Castan-Smith was concerned with right now is that anyone who gets involved must understand that the gardeners might have to be cut-off from the garden with little, if any, notice, and the garden might just be plowed under, should Paradigm decide to use or develop the property.

    All that said, who’s interested?

    Email me BY FRIDAY FEB. 29, and I’ll set it up. If other people sign-up, I’ll join-in, too.

    The Catholic Herald came to Buckingham with Lois Athey, a longtime activist with the BU-GATA tenants association, William Silva, a longtime leader in BU-GATA, and members of the “JustFaith” program in the Catholic church.

    According to the story, JustFaith participants having been learning about and discussing various social issues “ranging from racism to poverty to the dignity of workers.”

    It’s a nice piece about gentrification in the neighborhood.

    To read more, click here.

    Poll worker Carey Johnston added an excellent comment to the “iPod letter.” I think everyone should read it, Click here. The letter was concerned with whether or not people could bring iPods into polling places last week (was it only last week?). One county official told me it should be put away, but Carey says different.

    The survey is up! I finally put it together last Thursday. I’ll have more stories on that soon enough, but the basic statistics are there. Check it out here.

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • Police Notes for Buckingham Feb. 20, 2008
  • Pedestrian Bill Update with My Take It's time to change drivers' attitudes.

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Sure, They're Virginia's Bird, but They're Not So Bright (Or: Misguided Cardinal Attacks Window.)
  • School Board Votes to "Punt and Buy Time" Was that only last week?
  • Finally, the Survey Results! Basic statistics from the survey of Buckingham HeraldTrib readers regarding retail space in the neighborhood are posted.

  • Police Notes for Buckingham Feb. 20, 2008

    Feb. 11: Attempted Abduction. 800 block N. Quincy St. Around 12:30 p.m., a 32-year-old woman was in the 800 block of N. Quincy St with her 3 yr old daughter when a man picked her daughter up and started walking away with her. The woman told the man to stop, which he did, placing the child back down. The suspect is described as a black male, 30 to 35 years old, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, 155 pounds, with brown eyes and short black hair. He was wearing a white “hoodie” (hooded sweatshirt) and blue jeans.

    View Larger Map

    Labels: ,

    Pedestrian Bill Update with My Take

    The pedestrian safety bill wending its way through the halls of the Virginia legislature is starting to sound like the plague-infected serf of Monty Python’s “Holy Grail.”

    “I’m not dead, yet.”

    “Yes you are, you’ll be stone cold in a moment.”

    “I feel happy!”

    The bill (HB1270), sponsored by Democrat Adam Ebbin (D-49th, Arlington/Alexandria), lost by one vote in the full House Feb. 11, but an identical bill (SB644) passed through the state Senate, Friday Feb. 9.

    Therefore, the Senate bill crossed over to the House where it was taken up by the House Transportation Committee, once again, and that committee sent it down, once again, to “Sub-committee #2” where it will be discussed as early as Monday.

    The bill has already made its way once out of the sub-committee and full-committee to the House floor. That could happen again, although the votes in committee were close.

    The main thrust of the bill is that it requires cars to “stop and remain stopped” for pedestrians in crosswalks on the car’s side of the street. (That is, a southbound car must stop for a pedestrian in a southbound lane.) Supporters of the bill say that this is more clear than the current law which requires drivers to “yield” to pedestrians in crosswalks.

    Also, it defines more clearly what “marked” and “unmarked” crosswalks are. Finally, it says that pedestrians must not enter either type of crosswalk if the car does not have time to stop for the pedestrian.

    That bill has had cross-party support. Republicans in pedestrian-heavy northern counties, among others, have voted for the bill.

    The real thing is this: it lost by one vote on the House floor on a day when three Democrats (including one sponsor of the bill) were absent from voting. (A tie vote, by the way, loses.)

    My take:

    I like the bill. It’s not perfect. The Republicans I spoke with said it would not really change much, and might still be as tough to convict the idiot driver who blasts through the intersection, pedestrians-be-damned. For instance, who is to say that the pedestrian did not step off the curb too late and not give the car time to stop? That will remain as unclear as it ever was, say detractors.

    Potentially an "unmarked crosswalk." (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Still, I think everyone can see the difference between “yield” and “stop,” and it’s a significant difference to me.

    Walking my dog this morning, I noticed a spot on N. Quincy Street at N. 5th Road that would be a perfect “unmarked crosswalk.” The sidewalk at the corner has a nice skirt that slopes down to N. Quincy at the intersection. On the opposite side of N. Quincy is another skirt that slopes up from the road. N. 5th, however, does not cut all the way through at that point, and there are no striped lines marking the crosswalk on N. Quincy, so it does not look much like a crosswalk, but under the SB644, I think it would be.

    I wondered if I would be legally right to consider that a crosswalk, and if I stepped out into it would a car on my side of the street have to stop for me or risk a ticket? (If the driver actually hit me in a cross walk, marked or no, the driver is actually at fault).

    Since the “crosswalk” there is not readily apparent, that would mean drivers would have to be even more vigilant, constantly looking for pedestrians crossing at these places.

    And that is why I like the bill.

    A few drivers (even myself if I was not paying attention) would get tickets for failing to stop for a pedestrian in an unmarked crosswalk even though they might not have known the law and might not have hurt or risked the life of anyone. So be it.

    What this county needs is a shift in attitude. We have to change the mentality of drivers that says “hurry up and get out of my way foolish pedestrian” to “it won’t cost me but a few seconds, on average, to stop and wait for the person to get out of my way.”

    If the law can get us to the point where people think that way (the same way seatbelt laws got everyone to think about using seatbelts), then I am all for it. I think this law will do it.

    We’ll see what happens, and you know I will keep you posted.

    Labels: , , ,

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Sure, They're Virginia's Bird, but They're Not So Bright

    Take it from Cornell University: although Cardinals are the commonwealth’s bird, they’re not so smart.

    “The male cardinal fiercely defends its breeding territory from other males. When a male sees its reflection in glass surfaces, it frequently will spend hours fighting the imaginary intruder,” says the “All About Birds” web site from the Cornell Lab or Ornithology.

    Last year, try as I might to capture a local cardinal on video attacking the hell out of my neighbor’s door, I could not.

    The bird stood on the door knob, looked in the window, attacked and flew off to a nearby bush. Then, it flew to the next doorway and repeated the process. Back and forth it flew all last spring attacking and retreating, but never attacking when I was close enough to video it. Until now.

    The cardinal, as you will see in the 30-second video below, is not just saving its vitriol for the glass of doors, but for our basement window, as well. It will attack for five or six minutes at a time before giving up, for a while.

    Labels: ,

    Friday, February 15, 2008

    School Board Votes to "Punt and Buy Time."

    Board vote on boundaries keeps Barcroft families at Barrett and McKinley students in place.

    “We have a blessed challenge,” Arlington Public School Board Chairman Ed Fendley said. His remark opened a discussion and vote regarding elementary school boundary changes last night. Having many schools that people love, and parents adamant about public education, is a good problem to have, he said.

    “We have the opportunity not to solve this issue [of over crowding in some north Arlington schools] with any finality, but we do have an opportunity to take action,” he said.

    The board ultimately voted unanimously in favor of a motion put forward by the newest board member, Abby Raphael.


    It moves some programs, and changes boundaries affecting only 53 elementary students, a number deemed too small for some of the parents who spoke at the meeting. Largely from Tuckahoe Elementary, these parents said that the proposal which brings Tuckahoe to 103 percent of capacity did not do enough to stem the overcrowding there.

    Board member Libby Garvey agreed, although she voted for the measure.

    “With this motion, we’re clearly not meeting our charge, but we’ve decided to punt and buy time,” she said. She made one friendly amendment to the proposal by moving the first date that APS staff would report back to the board from May to June 2008.

    Ms. Garvey said she was shocked that all the brouhaha over the course of the last couple of months came down to “two planning units and 53 students.”

    Planning units are portions of neighborhoods. Generally, when boundaries have been changed, a full planning unit is shifted from one school to another.

    K.W. Barrett Elementary School is going to feel some changes under the plan that passed. For instance, Barcroft Elementary parents who do not wish to participate in Barcroft’s year-round schedule will send their children to Randolph Elementary School instead of Barrett in the future.

    However, this change neither applies to current Barcroft students who go to Barrett, nor to any of their siblings. They will continue to go to Barrett and to receive transportation there.

    In earlier drafts of proposals, various changes would allow students already enrolled to continue at schools. Last night, APS staff defined “enrolled” as students who were in the school in June 2008, not students who “have applied, or have completed their registration forms.”

    One MIPA (Multi-Intervention Program for students with Autism) classroom will be moved from Barrett to Abingdon Elementary School in the southern tip of Arlington.

    A Feb. 11 proposal, written by APS Superintendent Robert Smith, would have moved planning unit 1410 from McKinley Elementary School to Ashlawn, and 1706 from Nottingham Elementary to Jamestown Elementary in 2009. That change was not part of the motion that passed last evening.

    Still, there was no sense that the work to fix overcrowding was complete. Part of the motion establishes two meeting dates, in June and December 2008, when staff will have to come back to the school board to report on progress. As well, the motion calls for the schools to modify the charge of its Advisory Council to include “providing an annual review and recommendations concerning school capacities and projected enrollments.”

    “This proposal just guarantees that we’re back here having this same divisive fight in a year…because you’re not going to do enough on this,” said Tuckahoe mother Michelle Kisloff, who said she was frustrated with the outcome, but appreciated the hard work of the board. “But I thank you all for your time. See you all next year, same time, same place."

    Related stories and sites…
  • Final Motion Accepted by APS School Board, Feb. 14, 2008 (Two-page MSWord Document)
  • The HeraldTrib's List of Links and Stories

    Labels: ,

  • Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Finally, the Survey Results.

    Thank you to everyone who took time to fill out the survey.

    It has been so long since I closed the Buckingham Retail Survey to responses, that I am sure you’ve all forgotten exactly what was in it, so here goes…

    The background: Georgetown Strategic Capital is hoping to tear down the CVS/Ravi Kabob, the Glebe Market, and the El Paso/Popeye’s Chicken buildings on the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive. In their place will go two larger buildings, four storeys each, with ground-floor retail and apartments above.

    At a county Design Review Committee meeting, I saw the amount of retail space that might still be available, and I thought to create this survey and ask everyone what they would like to see fill that space. The survey was broken into three basic parts: restaurant; grocery store; general retail.

    After this survey was posted on Jan. 25, Georgetown Strategic has said that they are interested in the results. (Click here, for the original story).

    The results: 67 people responded over a two-and-a-half week period. Sixty-five of you admitted where you live: 30 in Buckingham; 19 in Arlington Forest; 3 in Ballston; 2 in Ashton Heights; 8 in other Arlington neighborhoods; 3 outside Arlington.

    The surprises: I thought I was the only person who wanted a hardware store. Turns out I’m not. “Hardware Store” eked second place from “Gardening/Plants.” Both Hardware and Gardening had 19 people choose them as one of their top three choices in general retail, but more people put hardware as their first choice (10 to 5).

    “I hate driving to Ayres Hardware,” wrote one respondent, “but that is better than the awful Home Depot on [U.S. Route] 50. A neighborhood hardware store is desperately needed!”

    Another surprise that I only just noticed now: clothing stores rated horribly. I put eight types of clothing stores on the survey (everything I could think of from children’s to shoes to “specialty”), and only three people marked any of the choices—2 in children’s clothing, and 1 in women’s fashions.

    A book/magazine store was the overall favorite in General Retail (26 people listed it as a top three choice). That’s not really a surprise when you realize that Café/Coffeeshop was the hands-down winner in the Restaurant section. Looks like people want someplace to go, sit and read the paper. That is just a guess. Interestingly, “Book/Magazine” only had 11 people of the 26 list it as their top choice; that is just one more than “Hardware.”

    No surprise here: Trader Joe’s was a hands-down winner in the grocery store section (43 of 67 respondents chose it). I knew it would be the top winner, given the power of suggestion. I had reported in an earlier story (click here) that Georgetown Strategic Capital had spoken with Trader Joe’s about possibly moving in. Then I also made Trader Joe’s a choice on the survey. I would have expected TJ to do well just because of that—people would gravitate toward it because it is a known brand, in the news, and it’s right there on the survey.

    But I also knew one other unreported fact: people were emailing me and stopping me on the street to ask about the chances of a Trader Joe’s. I think Georgetown Strategic really hit the vein with that idea. It felt like the Second Coming.

    “Trader Joe’s would be cool. A locally owned store would be ideal but in this day and age that's gotta be tough. The only problem with Trader Joe's is that it doesn't really fit the ethnic profile of the neighborhood currently. The Latinos would be left hanging, hopefully who ever moved in would be sensitive to that situation and provide some variety,” wrote one respondent.

    The “duh” and “d’oh!”: First the “d’oh!” I didn’t give “Dunkin Donuts” any space on the survey (d’oh!), so a couple people gave it as a response in the comment portion of the Restaurant Section. It’s probably best that I didn’t put the Double-D on as I would have bold faced and underlined it, to make sure it won success at Trader Joe’s’s level. (I believe the donut chain is still in its expansion plan that I waxed poetic about two Septembers ago, click here and then scroll down to read my piece.)

    Now the “duh.” A neighborhood pub. Slap my forehead and call me Willie! I thought of “diner” and “sit down/family style restaurant,” but I did not come up with “corner pub,” so someone else did. Bless you, corner pub idea giver.

    What follows below (you can just scroll down to see each piece, or click the links) is basic reporting on what is in the survey. No real analysis, barebones stuff.

    I do have a couple stories that I will be getting to, so keep an eye out for them. In the meantime, enjoy the view in the community's ideas...

  • Survey Results: Restaurants
  • Survey Results: Groceries
  • Survey Results: General Retail
  • Survey Results: Government Offices

    Labels: , ,

  • Survey Results: Restaurants

    Thirty-five of the 67 respondents checked that they “most wanted” a café/coffeeshop/bakery, that is 52.2%. Sit-down family-style restaurant came in second with 20.9% of the vote. Five people chose “we do not need another restaurant.”

    What’s intriguing, too, is that 26% of the respondents on the last question of this section chose “I do not want this type restaurant” for upscale restaurant. This was a question that asked whether you wanted a chain, or locally-owned joint. Better than one-in-four people out there do not want Chef Geoff (or any other haute cuisine connoisseur) to open his next place in Buckingham.

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Also, on the point-and-click portion of the survey, people favor the independents, but they are willing to consider the chains, if the written comments are any indication.

    “Though I said independent, you can never have enough Dunkin' Donuts!” wrote one respondent.

    And what they most want is American food (36.4%). The other ethnicities listed were rather evenly distributed, though Italian (12.1%) and Indian (9.1%) were a little better than say “African.” “Other” took second place. Here’s some of what 15"Other" people wrote in the comment field:

  • “Corner Pub/Tavern”
  • “French! A true coffee shop/bakery that is NOT Starbucks. Maybe Java Shack or Murky wants to expand???”
  • “A decent quality deli.”
  • “Deli/Sandwich shop type food. For example, Cosi/Panera/Pot Belly's type restaurant with sandwiches, soups, salads, etc., but wouldn't need to be these specifically.”
  • “Coffee shop/cafe something that is not Starbucks would be great! Cheap cup's of drip for the working class and baristas pulling shots for the yuppies that'll be flooding the neighborhood. Bagels? Good soups?”
  • “There are a number of ethnic restaurants in the area that are terrific. However, I'd a place where we can walk and get American food.”

    I left a comment section where people could suggest restaurants. Here are some of the 16 responses:

  • Olive Garden
  • Noodles & Co
  • “I would like a restaurant where I can take my children, maybe sitdown and takeout like the Liberty Tavern.”
  • “Starbucks would be wonderful!!!”
  • “Trader Joe's, Yes Organic Market, Murkey Coffee II, Dunkin Donuts!, Cosi, Chipotle, Mom and Pops welcome!”
  • “I don't want a chain like Starbucks but I would like a place that will attract young professionals. Something like Talula and Wine Bar would be nice.”
  • “Lebanese Taverna, Julia's empanada's, I am open.”
  • “Still don't need another restaurant.”

    On to Survey Results: Grocery Section


  • Survey Results: Grocery Section

    As reported, Trader Joe’s was the winner in this section with 64.2% of the vote. The next closest response is the comment section, at 11.9%, in which people extolled the virtues of Trader Joe’s.

    Seven people chose “Yes, Organic Market” while 6 chose “Locally-Owned Store.” No one chose a “7-11 style” convenience store or “ethnic grocery.” Three of the 67 respondents said the neighborhood does not need a grocery store at all.

    Eight people left comments at the bottom of the section:

  • “I used to live in Old Town a couple of blocks from Balducci's. I loved that store! So I wouldn't mind having a place like that here.”
  • “I don’t care about the above [selections] EXCEPT no 7-11 please.”
  • “I know the space isn't big enough for a Costco, but I'd love to have another Costco nearby to ease the crowding at the Pentagon City one.”
  • “Trader Joe's/Whole Foods/Yes!” [Five of the eight respondents gave kudos to the Trader Joe’s space.]

    The one thing people thought any grocery store in Buckingham did NOT need was a soda fountain (only 6.6% of the people checked it). After that, people wanted it all, from fresh produce (93.4% of the people said they wanted that) to Fresh Meats (68.9%), to a Deli (50.8%). Other choices did not fare as well, but were still significant, people want Canned Goods (45.9%), Latino Foods (37.7%), and Bulk Items (27.9%).

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Quotes from the “what else would you like to see in a grocery” area (24 responses):

  • “Something like Trader Joe's - organic and gourmet, but inexpensive.” [“Trader Joe’s” appeared seven more times in these comments. To be fair, five of the eight who remarked here might be the same five as in the comment section above.]
  • “I'd love to see a store that did NOT serve any alcoholic beverages...”
  • “Clean, family friendly, affordable for locals.”
  • “Cheese (good cheese, properly cared for)”
  • “Parking issues addressed. There is very little there.”
  • “A small, clean deli/grocery. (A NYC-style grocer.)”
  • “Large organic selection of all types of foods”
  • “Whole Foods” appeared once.

    On to Survey Results: General Retail


  • Survey Results: General Retail

    As I wrote earlier, “Book/Magazine,” “Hardware,” and “Garden/Plants” took the top three spots. Rounding out the general retail section of choices that had double digits of responses: “Office Support/Kinko’s” (14 respondents chose it—another surprise to me) and “Beer/Wine” (11 responses). All other choices won 9 or fewer responses (there are waaaaay too many to list here; see the chart below).

    This section produced some interesting comments, though:

  • “A small hardware/bike/work wear type store could work in the neighborhood. The dollar store is worthless. It would be nice not to have to go to home depot to pick up a couple dry wall anchors, fluorescent bulbs, etc.”
  • “A dance studio, such as Arlington Center for Dance, which recently moved to Falls Church—or other business that appeals to families and attracts customers throughout the day, not just at mealtimes.”
  • “Bring back Mrs. McGregor's [Garden Shop], formerly of Arlington Forest [Shopping Center], now in limboland somewhere on Wilson Blvd.”
  • “Ayers Yoga studio; place for civic association.”
  • “The area has a major security problem, as crime is high in the area. Banks have good security. One would help make the area safer. There should not be any liquor stores, discount markets, places for day laborers to visit or to loiter, or anything else that might detract from area. The shopping center should serve an upscale clientele who will complain to the authorities when a crime occurs. This will help reduce crime.”
  • “Would love to see a used CD store. Maybe Orpheus Records since he's losing his lease in Clarendon.”
  • “Ice cream” appeared three times in 16 comments.

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    On to Survey Results: Government Offices

    Labels: ,

  • Survey Results: Government Offices

    I admit to adding this section at the end. I was walking someplace in town, Clarendon I think, and saw that some storefront space was a governmental-type space, and wondered if people would want some of that here. So I came up with a few that I thought might have been of interest. The choices were: Police Substation; Day Laborer Site; Housing/Immigration help; Library branch, and respondents could check all that they like (so the percentages do not necessarily add up to 100).
    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The police won easily with 55% of the vote (33 of 60 responses to this question). If you read this site regularly, you know that AHC, Inc., which owns the Gates of Ballston, is working with the police to find space once again in the neighborhood. Library branch came in at 40%. Thus far, I was not surprised.

    “A Library Branch would be WONDERFUL, but I would not be opposed to the space being used for the other services, as I am sure they are needed,” wrote one respondent.

    Responses to the other two choices, the Day Laborer/Job Training site (30% of the responses said the county should consider it) and Housing/Immigration Help (23.3%), I’ll admit surprised me quite a bit. If one-in-three people in this community really are willing to consider a Day Laborer site in Buckingham, I think that’s significant. Nearly one-in-four want to see some help with housing.

    Fifteen percent of the people who responded said “The county should not put an office in Buckingham” and 3.3% said that the county should not use this retail space but find space elsewhere.

    Other options that people listed in the comments:

  • DMV Express
  • Commuter store
  • Daycare Center


  • Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today: Feb. 13, 2008

    In K.W. Barrett Elementary School’s gym waiting to vote just before 3 p.m. yesterday, I happened to stand in line in front Wayne Kubicki, a Republican activist who was bringing people to the polls. I believe he said he had all Democrats in this batch. He chuckled.

    He told me that he had been ferrying people all about Arlington to different polling stations, 14 people by the time we talked.

    In a couple cars in the parking lot sat seven people from The Carlin, he said. The Carlin, at 4300 N. Carlin Springs Road, is a low-income and elderly housing provider near N. Glebe Road.

    He had the people’s IDs so that they could receive curb-side voting as the ice threatened to make a slick trip back down the entrance ramp.

    He found the Buckingham precinct was the slowest. Earlier in the day it had taken him 45 minutes to get three people through, even though those people walked in.

    It was especially slow since the voters were all in one line that led to one table where two election officials checked names of Republican and Democratic voters. They did not divide the books between sections of the alphabet; they just had a book to record Democrats, and another to record Republicans.

    As Pat Hope, the Buckingham Community Civic Association president and Democratic activist emailed, “One line on a competitive presidential election primary? Jeez...”

    I caught some flack for my quick endorsement of John McCain on the Republican side of the table. “Fuzzy,” in a comment at the end of the endorsement (click here), said I should have taken a longer, more thorough look at Mr. McCain, since what I wrote really wasn’t an endorsement at all. I’ll repeat my endorsement: “On the Republican side, vote for McCain. He has the brains and experience, and has never once said our Constitution needs to be Evangelized.”

    Fuzzy called me to the mat on it, and he has a point. I probably should have taken more care in that endorsement.

    If I may defend myself a tad, the only reason I endorsed yesterday was that I know* Arlington will come out in full-force in November to vote for whoever the Democrat is. On top of that, I knew** that Arlington Republicans would vote for McCain, hands down. Every Republican I know* well enough to discuss politics with would not for his or her life vote for Mike Huckabee, and rightly so, in my not-so-humble opinion. Of course, I totally ignored Ron Paul, and I should not have.

    (*Readers should run laughing whenever a journalist says he/she “knows” what will happen.)

    (**And now I can admit that I knew given that I’m looking at the posted, unofficial report.)

    You will be sufficiently underwhelmed when I finally report on the Retail Survey dozens of you completed (thank you again). Still, I know* I’ll have it tomorrow or Friday. I fully planned on having it last week, but the “Crosswalk Bill” and elections got in the way. Sorry for the delay.

    Of course there is the weather-delayed public hearing on the Arlington Public School Board boudary issues tonight (I cannot make--alternate plans). See the schedule here. Tomorrow the School Board meets, with luck, to vote fully on the boundary issue. I'll be there...

    For more schools links and other information, click here.

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • Crosswalk Bill Fails in House, Crosses Over from Senate
  • Buckinghamsters and Arlington Foresters Pick McCain and Obama
  • Police Notes for Buckingham

    Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Letter: iPods in the Voting Places? Nope.
  • Letter: Endorsements Miss Real Story
  • Endorsements: Obama, McCain (This one even grabbed a couple well-thought comments; check them out.
  • 2007 Presidential Campaign Donations from ZIP 22203 (With interactive map!)
  • Pedestrian Bill Walks onto House and Senate Floor

  • "Crosswalk Bill" Fails in House

    Identical Senate Bill Crossed Over to House Last Night

    A bill intended to make pedestrians in crosswalks safer, and to clarify the roles of pedestrians and drivers at crosswalks, failed in the Virginia House of Delegates Monday by one vote, 48 to 47.

    Six House Republicans, four from northern Virginia, joined 42 Democrats in voting for the bill, while four Delegates, three of them Democrats, did not vote.

    Late Friday, an identical bill passed the Democrat-controlled state Senate, with two Republicans joining the Democrats. No Democrats in the Republican-controlled House or the Senate voted against the bills.

    Del. Robert Mathieson (D-21st, Virginia Beach), a patron of the bill, was one of the delegates not voting. His mother died recently and he was dealing with those affairs, an aid to him said. No word at press time as to where the others were.

    Current law requires drivers to “yield” to pedestrians in crosswalks on roads where the speed limit is under 35 mph. The bill, dubbed the "crosswalk bill" by one Republican staffer, was an attempt to change "yield" to “stop” and to clarify that pedestrians may not enter a crosswalk when a car is approaching if that car would not have time enough to stop.


    “‘Yield’ means different things to different people, including ‘swerve,’ ‘stop,’ ‘slow down,’ or ‘just miss’,” said Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49th, Alexandria) from the House floor, Monday. He is the chief sponsor of the bill in the house. “This legislation is supported by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, local law enforcement agencies,…and the Virginia PTA.”

    Del. Salvatore Iaquinto (R-84th, Virginia Beach) voted against the measure. He is an attorney and said he has defended pedestrians many times.

    “The case law is pretty clear that the pedestrians have a right of way in a crosswalk,” he said in an interview Tuesday, adding that people know what "yield" means. The term is not the problem, there are some who will ignore the current law.
    “If you’re in a crosswalk, and you get hit by a car, the person who hit you is at fault," he said.

    But without that accident, police find it hard to get a conviction at all, said Pat Carroll, Arlington County's legislative liaison. "It’s very important to our police department" that this law pass, she said in a voice mail.

    “In Fairfax [County] at least, and this may be true in Arlington as well, the police say they have trouble getting convictions unless somebody actually hits a pedestrian," she said.

    Although the language changing “yield” to “stop” is intended to clarify what drivers are supposed to do, Del. Iaquinto said he thought the bill would confuse some people. Pedestrians must obey lighted pedestrian traffic signals under the law, but what if someone does not? Del. Iaquinto wondered. Is the driver required to stop for that person? And what happens when there are no pedestrian signal lights at an intersection and a pedestrian enters the crosswalk against traffic, who is at fault then? He also said that he feared rear-ender accidents with drivers slamming on brakes to avoid pedestrians.


    “I’ve got to be honest with you, I was fifty-fifty” on whether or not to vote yes to the bill, Del. Iaquinto said, but it just was not clear enough language. “I don’t disagree with his [Del. Ebbin’s] motives…[but] I think we’d be back here next year trying to fix [the bill].”

    Pedestrian issues took a front seat in Buckingham last summer as county staff met with residents of the neighborhood regarding pedestrian safety, especially at the intersection of N. Glebe and N. Carlin Springs roads. Changes which continue there are part of the North Glebe Road Pedestrian Improvements Project. The project covers that intersection as well as two others.

    This intersection of N. Glebe and N. Carlin Springs roads will be redeveloped as part of a pedestrian improvement project. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    As well, the intersection of N. Glebe at N. Pershing Drive is part of a different project. One aim of the renovation is to improve pedestrian safety.

    N. Thomas Street at various intersections of the neighborhood—most significantly at N. Henderson Road—is a subject of county capital improvements aimed at pedestrian safety. [More on this next week. --ST]

    Suzi Smith, a resident of The Carlin apartment on N. Carlin Springs Road, took an active roll in meetings with county staff last summer.

    “It makes a huge difference whether it’s stop or yield,” she said in an interview yesterday. She said she’s been in intersections where she could touch the car as it was driving by.

    She said that the police could issue more traffic tickets, which might only directly affect a few people, but word would get around. As well, people who received tickets would begin to slow down, and then everyone would have to slow down behind them.

    Representtatives from K.W. Barrett Elementary's PTA joined with statewide PTAs for a day with Legislators during the first week of February. Barrett parent Nina Austin had taken the pedestrian issue as a prime concern given that many Arlington parents have been telling the school board that they want their children to walk to school. She has been encouraging parents to contact legislators.

    "We can't just make this a northern Virginia issue," she said in an interview on Feb. 5.

    That might hit at the crux of the problem. Some form of this bill has come up perennially for at least three years, and county staff and political leaders have said in the past that they just cannot convince downstate Republicans that there is a need for a change in the law.

    “I’m from Virginia Beach,” Del. Iaquinto said. “Yeah, I think you’re right. The downstate legislators, they just don’t see these problems" of heavy pedestrian traffic mixing with vehicle traffic. Still it was not enough to convince him to change his vote.

    The measure is not dead, however, as the bill that made it through the Senate (it is identical to the House bill), crossed over to the House, where it heads back to the Trasportation Committee, perhaps as early as Thursday.

    “This is a priority for Arlington," Ms. Carroll said. She added in an email: "Regardless, we remain committed to pedestrian safety and if the bill does not pass, will continue to work on it."

    Related stories, opinions and sites…
  • Assembly Access: Del. Ebbin's Speech ("Assembly Access" is a Democrat-leaning video blog, but it is where Del. Ebbin's staff told me to look for his testimony, so I am sharing it with you. --ST)
  • House Bill 1270
  • House Vote in Transportation Committee
  • Senate Bill 644
  • Senate Vote in Transportation Committee
    Related News stories in the HeraldTrib…
  • From Last Friday:Pedestrian Bill Walks onto House and Senate Floors
  • A Decade for New Lights and Curb Cuts
  • Glebe/Carlin Springs: No Changes to Pedestrian Crossing Times
  • SOS at Glebe and Carlin Springs
  • Do 40 Tickets Do Good?
  • Pedestrians Meeting About Glebe/Carlin Springs
  • Whipple on Pedestrians
    Related Opinions in the HeraldTrib…
  • County: Give Bham Clear Crosswalks
  • Letter: More than Crosswalks, Give Bham Flashing Lights
  • This is How Crosswalks Are Supposed to Work, Virginia!

    Labels: , , , ,

  • Buckinghamsters and Arlington Foresters Pick McCain and Obama

    Bham/A.F. Precincts Mirror Arlington, State and Region.

    About 40 percent of registered voters in Arlington cast ballots yesterday, overwhelmingly supporting Barack Obama, (D), and John McCain, (R), as candidates for the presidency.

    Thirty-two percent of Buckingham’s registered voters headed out to the polls, voting for Democrats 948 times and Republicans 161 times.

    In the Buckingham Precinct, Obama won 573 votes to Hillary Clinton’s 370. Other Democrats who are no longer seeking the nomination also won a handful of votes. Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards each won 2 votes, Bill Richardson received 1. Joe Biden did not get any on the Democratic side.

    For the Republicans who received votes in Buckingham, John McCain took 115 votes, while Mike Huckabee took 21; Ron Paul, the only other person still seeking the Republican nomination, won 10 votes. Other Republicans, who no longer are seeking the nomination, also won a handful of votes. Mitt Romney won 14; Rudy Giulianni received 1 vote. Fred Thompson did not receive any votes.

    With 44 percent of registered voters casting ballots in Arlington Forest, the 784 votes cast for Democrats balanced a little more evenly between the rivals than they had in Buckingham, but Mr. Obama still came out on top, 445 to 325. Other candidates no longer running won votes, as well. Mr. Edwards took 6 votes, Mr. Richardson won 5, while Mr. Kucinich had 3. Mr. Biden did not receive any votes in Arlington Forest.

    Voters opted for the Republican primary 172 times, and Mr. McCain won handily in Arlington Forest, taking 105 votes to Mr. Huckabee’s 32. Mr. Paul won 19 votes. Other candidates who won votes but are no longer in the race, included Mr. Romney, 11 votes; Mr. Thompson, 3 votes; and Mr. Giuliani, 2 votes.

    Related sites…
  • The Summary of Votes Cast in Arlington reported on the county's web site.
  • Precinct Totals of Votes Cast reported on the county's web site.

    Labels: , , ,

  • Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Police Notes for Buckingham Feb. 13, 2008

    Feb. 7: Robbery, 4100 block N. Henderson Rd. Around 7 p.m., a man entered a business and demanded money. He fled the store when the clerk called police. The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, about 26 to 30 years old, with short black hair, wearing a white long-sleeved shirt and black pants.

    View Larger Map

    Labels: ,

    Letter: iPods Not Allowed in Voting Places? Nope.

    Hi Steve,

    There was a bit of a line this morning at Culpeper Gardens where I cast my vote this morning, so I pulled out my ipod to pass the time in line. One of the poll workers told me it was "against the law" to listen to an iPod at the polls as I could be "getting outside instructions from someone." I failed to see how this was possible with a self contained mp3 player and asked if he was joking. He was not. Nevertheless, I put it away, but I and several others in line questioned whether this was really true. I looked the list of things you can't do posted outside the polling place, and all it says is that you can't try to influence anyone else's vote. Nothing prohibiting electronic devices inside the polling place. It would be one thing if I were talking on my cell phone inside the polling place but I wasn't.

    I'm tempted to call the Arlington Board of Elections and ask them if I have time today. Have you ever heard of this? It sounds preposterous to me.

    Dan Falsenheld

    Dan, I called for you, and spoke with Jack Nickerson at the county's Office of Voter Registration.

    “You can’t have a cell phone or anyting once you’re inside the polling place," he said, adding that the election official probably did the right thing, shutting down all electronic devices since it is tough to tell which transmit information, and which are just players.

    Listening while standing in line outside would probably be fine, Mr. Nickerson said, but once you're inside, the head phones have to come off. --ST

    Labels: , ,

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Letter: Endorsements Miss Real Story


    You, (and everyone else), have missed the biggest story of this election cycle.

    This season has brought out the worst in our countrymen. Voters in both parties have been willing to stand and support, (or oppose), candidates because of the candidates' Race, Religion, Age, and Gender.

    The Democrats have an excuse.

    In as much as the two leading Candidates are very close on the issues, choosing one over the other because you want someone who looks like you, is not so terribly bad. That said, Bill Richardson, (maybe the best of all the candidates), and John Edwards, were knocked out because neither of them had a block of voters who supported them because they were men.

    (Richardson was Hispanic, I bet some folks voted against him for his National Origin.)

    The Republicans have no excuse. Mitt Romney had the most impressive resume of anyone running.

    Sadly, he lost not because of his beliefs, nor his experience. While almost all Mormons voted for him because he was a Mormon, many of the Christians voted against him purely out of their bigotry against Mormons.

    McCain won not because he was well liked in the Republican party, but because he was neither a Mormon, nor a solid Christian. (Yes, non-believers quickly took the opportunity to vote against believers.)

    Huckabee is winning states even though he has said some crazy things about Gay Marriage. This guy is a great speaker; however, he is not fit to win the Republican nomination.

    The Republicans are about to nominate a guy they hate--because their religious bigotry did not allow them to vote for the guy who came most closely to supporting their views.

    McCain has no chance to win in November. (That is, unless we can win the War, and get most of our troops back before November.)

    If the economy goes as I expect it will, and if we are in deep economic trouble in October, (as I believe we will be), Romney's experience and superior, (to all the other candidates), business knowledge might have carried him over the top.

    This is a time when we need a president who understands trade, and the economy.

    Romney is the only candidate from either party who understands how the economy works.

    Should he have been nominated? I do to know. Could he have won in November? Even if the economy was the major issue, it is very doubtful he could have won against either Democrat.

    However, the fact that he lost because of religious bigotry, is disturbing--VERY DISTURBING!

    Mick Pulliam

    Labels: , ,

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?