Category Archives: Alexandria

Pat’s Market in Belle Haven is Closed

Pat’s Market, a small mom and pop roadside market in Belle Haven neighborhood of Fairfax County, has closed. It was used as a filming location in the movie The Sentinelstarring Michael Douglas.

Driving to dinner last night, Mary and I noticed it had closed. We had tried stopping there for ice cream once after a picnic on the nearby George Washington Parkway, but it only accepted cash, so we went to Baskin Robbins instead. We never returned. (They later started accepting credit cards according to a Yelp user.)

A Yelper left this obituary:

So sad to discover that Pat’s Market has closed due to an upcoming construction development.

Like Nancy Kerrigan, I must cry out, “Why! Why!…Why” No, more ceviche..no more coldest beer in town…and no more Live Bait! There are simply no words to express this great culinary loss. Yup, I know how you feel, Nancy, for it is just like being kneecapped with a expandable police baton. Damn them!

youtube.com/watch?v=voUM…

I know, Nancy, the pain isn’t half as bad as the knowledge that humanity can be so cruel and callous. But, you survived to go on and win a Silver in the Olympics, and I guess I will make it through without Pat’s Ceviche…But, as you know, Nancy, the loss is still painful. You will be missed Pat’s Market. You will be missed.

 

Fairfax Connector Strikes Individual at Huntington Station [Photos]

Fairfax, Virginia | 11:30pm
A sad story outside of my residence tonight in Fairfax county. It appears an individual was struck in the crosswalk across Huntington Avenue by a Fairfax county Connector Bus.

Police arrived at the scene within minutes, and EMS and fire shortly thereafter. Fairfax One — the county’s helicopter — was also on scene but did not evacuate the injured individual, who was transported to the hospital by ambulance.

The individual’s condition is unknown but presumed serious.

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Photographs property of Bomble LLC and may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission.

 

Who are these lunatics?

Check out my piece over at the Richmond Times-Dispatch today.

 

This Election? I’m Undecided

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” – Benjamin Franklin

I know this is embarrassing to admit, as some people see me as the sort of guy who thinks he has all of the answers: I’m undecided in the fall election.

Seriously. I’ve thought about this for months. I’ve changed my mind a few times now, and now with the election but days away, I don’t know how I am going to vote.

Strange, right?

On one hand, I can vote to take other peoples’ money to pay for programs that will benefit me. Or I can vote to give a cold shoulder to my middle class neighbors, essentially saying I don’t think our tax dollars should protect them.

Should I vote for or against the $30 million Storm Drainage Improvements Bonds? Oh. You thought I was talking about the Presidential election?

Don’t be silly, there’s no way I’m voting for Obama. And while I like a lot of what Gary Johnson stands for, I’m not going to throw away my vote. I’m voting for Romney.

I know how I’m voting on Fairfax County’s other three bond referenda for Libraries ($25m), Parks ($75m), and Public Safety ($55m) — No, No, and No. But I don’t know which way to go in this $30 million Bond Referendum.

A bit of background:

I live in Huntington, Virginia, which is an unincorporated part of Fairfax County about 500 feet from the Beltway and about 1000 feet from Alexandria City. Between the Beltway and my neighborhood there is a body of water called Cameron Run that runs parallel to the Beltway into the Potomac River.

Every three years or so, a big rain storm comes and the 100+ houses a few blocks to my east get a lot of flooding in their neighborhood. It causes a fair amount of damage to the houses of the neighborhood and takes days to subside. The rescue team comes and sets up a command center and nobody usually gets hurt. The last episode occurred year, but in 2006 there was a big flood that caused a lot of damage.

Here’s a quick video from what sounds like Miss Cleo’s brother. (He knows his stuff, I might add.)

My building, which is about five years young and sixteen stories tall, sits on higher ground with an embankment to protect us against most floods (like in 2011).

The houses in this Huntington neighborhood aren’t anything special — like architectural treasures — and they’ve been hit with at least three big floods in the past ten years. In short, not worth too terribly much.

The 2006 flood resulted in so much damage that, in 2008, over 100 residents sued the County and the Virginia Department of Transportation for damages, contending that “the flooding was caused by the relocation of a local stream, Cameron Run, as part of the construction of the Washington, D.C. Beltway, and by the subsequent failure of VDOT to maintain the Run by dredging the sediment that filled it over the years.”

It was rejected by a Circuit Court, and sent back by the Virginia Supreme Court, allowing the petitioners to sue VDOT but not Fairfax County. The petitioners want $9 million.

Since the Beltway was constructed, feet of sediment has built up, or so the petitioners claim. I believe them. Also the Route 1/495 and Telegraph Road/495 Interchange construction, I am sure, have contributed to the sediment. Obviously, more sediment equals more flooding, since Cameron Run is less able to send water to the Potomac.

How this could benefit me:

  • It makes flooding less likely in my area in general.

How this could hurt me:

  • Since the Levee they want to build starts at Fenwick Drive, it actually might make flooding statistically more likely to hit my property, if the flooding is significant. Previous floods have hit western areas of my neighborhood in the past.

Another thing to consider is property values. As the D.C. area grows, it would make sense that this area would eventually grow. Which, of course, is one of the reasons I chose to live here. The commercial property next door is planning on selling out to developers, and the aging condo/town homes across the street is too.

Yes, passing this Bond Referendum will improve the property values of those houses. Which, may, in turn, help my property value.

Or, my property value might not rise as much as it could…

But, if what some of our County Supervisors says is true — that developers signalled interest in buying out the homes  to build there– then the Bond Referendum might not even be necessary, since a developer might build their own levee depending on their needs. That wasn’t considered when the supervisors voted to put this referendum on the ballot, which is why three of them voted no.

Should Fairfax voters borrow $30 million to save 160 or so homes the time and trouble of floods (they’re in a mandatory flood insurance zone). Should the Board of Supervisors taken a little more time before throwing a not inexpensive bond issue on the ballot to consider alternatives? Should I vote to help myself (maybe) and my neighbors knowing others are footing the bill? Should the state and federal government pay for this since their Beltway and subsequent road projects are what probably caused it?

I don’t know. I don’t have all of the answers.

Eleven days left, and I’m still undecided.

 

Where will Locavores get their power?

Here’s a letter I wrote to the Alexandria Times.

To the editor:

With the closing of the Alexandria coal-fired power plant this week, one wonders, how will the buy local crowd power their homes? How will they, in good conscience, flick on that light switch knowing that the juice isn’t coming from somebody down the street?

Why don’t billionaire Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor Euille and the chattering classes care about good, blue collar middle class jobs for Alexandria? Is Alexandria becoming some outsourcing, 1-percenter, Mitt Romney fantasyland where all the good blue collar jobs are shipped to other places?

What’s next? Will Misha’s stop selling locally grown coffee? Will we have to buy things from people located in lands far and not-so-far away? Wait, hold on. Never mind, I’m told coffee isn’t grown locally anyway.

One worries, are chain stores coming next? The horror! Maybe, just maybe, with the closing of this plant, the locavores might discover there are benefits to eschewing the silly theory of “buying local.”

Jim Swift
Alexandria

UPDATE: The Alexandria Times published my letter.

9A

After work this evening, I was lucky to catch up with friend and former SGA debate foe Joel Samuels. In 2002, Joel and I argued SGA campaign finance before it was cool. (Guess which side I was on?)

Anyways, post our catch up, I ventured over to see my lovely girlfriend Mary — who had just returned from San Antonio. After which, I took the convenient 9A bus from her place to my place.

I saw this guy rocking out. Had to get a picture.

The Sentinel

Was filmed in Huntington, VA apparently. Right by my house! I was watching it with my room mate this evening, and had to phone Bobby Metzinger to inform him of my discovery.

I saw it and paused it, thinking “wait, that’s on Belle Haven Road!” I took a screenshot and went on google maps and it checks out. I went there once but they didn’t take credit cards so I didn’t buy anything. Apparently they have/had good pizza? Anyone know about this?

The Sentinel isn’t one of the best movies ever made, but it’s one of the most DC accurate, in my opinion.

In the movie, Pat’s is supposed to depict rural Maryland. However, it’s in Fairfax County Virginia right near Mount Vernon.

Fairfax County Doesn’t Need Bikesharing

In today’s Washington Examiner, I noticed an article that said “bike sharing is on the horizon for Fairfax.” Oh no.

The 14th wealthiest county in the United States (which I live in) does not need a bikeshare program, and I say this as one of the poorer people in this county filled with government money.

Yet, our county government seems pretty bent on “wanting” bike sharing, I question whether we need bike sharing.

“The county definitely does want bike sharing,” said county spokeswoman Beth Francis. “We don’t have funding right now, but it’s definitely in the plans.”

I hope that, when we do have funding, there happens to be a lot of it lying around… because bikeshares lose money. Seriously, though, when the money is there, we should spend it on something marginally worthwhile, not subsidizing lunch bikes for rich people.

DCist, a very pro bikeshare blog, noted: “Regardless, even some cyclist advocates are doubtful that bike-sharing can work in such suburban outposts.”

Yeah, no shit. What, am I going to bike from Huntington to Reston? Why not put bike lanes on the FFX County Parkway? Even cyclist advocates are skeptical? Fairfax County doesn’t care! Fuck it, let’s do it anyway! It’ll be nice!

People are rightly skeptical that it would work in “the county” because bikeshare can’t even make money in Washington, D.C.! The Examiner quoted a bicycling enthusiast skeptic:

Bike Club Treasurer and Reston resident Ken Thompson member had more reservations.

“I can see it working well in a large metropolitan area, but I’m not sure how it would work here,” he said. “I think it’s too small.”

In U.S. News and World Report, this professor noted:

“I’m not aware of a bike sharing system that covers all of its costs simply from user membership dues and whatever fees you pay for a trip,” says John Pucher, professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

When asked for comment about why Capital Bikeshare wasn’t making money, D.C. Department of Transportation bikeshare project manager Josh Moskowitz said:

“It’s not our prerogative or priority to turn a profit. It’s to get people to ride bikes,”

Oh, great! Let’s get one of these for Fairfax ASAP. No program like it ever seems to break even, let alone make money, and those who run some of our regional programs don’t view that as a prerogative.

In short, even advocates admit it’s a money pit that just encourages people to ride bikes. Are you shitting me?

For full disclosure, I own two perfectly good bikes. Each cost me $100 or so at Walmart. I like biking, even though I hate cyclists who don’t follow the law.

A few thoughts:

1.) Is the goal to make the environment better? If so, bikeshares don’t seem to have a great record on that.

CEI’s Mark Scribner writes:

So if 90 percent of the 1 million trips made by Capital Bikeshare came from previous users of “green” transportation modes, why should we be so excited that the District Department of Transportation spent millions of dollars subsidizing bicycle use for mostly white-collar downtown office workers? Much of the initial Capital Bikeshare funding came from the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) grants. If the money was to be spent on “[auto] congestion mitigation” and “air quality improvement,” and assuming the [Montreal’s] BIXI mode-switching figures broadly hold in D.C., this was a clear misuse of federal funds. (Here’s FHWA’s CMAQ fact sheet.)

2.) Is it to help poor people get around? Bikeshares don’t fare too well in this department, either.

When DC started the program, it received $16 million in government support, including (as Reason magazine notes) $1 million to:

“address the unique transportation challenges faced by welfare recipients and low-income persons seeking to obtain and maintain employment.”

Except that, according to Reason:

Capital Bikeshare’s latest user survey finds that 95 percent of its regular patrons have college degrees, 53 percent have a Masters or Ph.D., and 80 percent are white.

According to the American Community Survey, a full 52.3% of DC’s 25+ crowd have an associate’s degree or higher. In Fairfax County, that figure is 11% higher at 63.3%.

What reason(s) do I have to believe that Fairfax will have any lower use of this system by rich, educated people than Washington, D.C.? Great use of cash.

Hey, at least bikeshare bicycles make convenient getaway vehicles!

Bikeshares are a money pit, and Fairfax won’t see anywhere near the use that D.C. is seeing, and in D.C. it still isn’t breaking even. Plus, Fairfax lacks the interconnectivity that D.C. does, which means that a bikeshare program will likely fare even worse.

While I don’t support the following idea, it makes more sense than “investing” (read: losing money every year) in a bikeshare program.

So, I propose:

How about we get $1 million dollars and buy 10,000 bikes from Walmart and give them to the people we’d like to see biking (fat people, poor people without cars, etc.) — sure it’s not a good use of taxpayer dollars, but at least it isn’t a money pit.

Capital Bikeshare says it has about 1,500 bikes — so we’d have 6.666 times times that many bikes! For a fraction of the cost!

In conclusion, bikeshare for Fairfax County is absolutely stupid. I’d be happier if they spent a million dollars buying 10,000 bikes and giving the damn things away. Even though I don’t really support that idea, at least it would save money in the long run relative to a bikeshare program.

 

Could GOP Crossovers Have Ousted Moran?

Earlier today, I blogged about my cross over vote for Bruce Shuttleworth. As I noted, I didn’t vote for him because I like his views — he’s crazy. Rather, I voted for him because I absolutely do not like Jim Moran, my current Congressman. Also, I (accurately) predicted that George Allen would handily win the Virginia Republican Senate primary, which is why I felt safe to cast this vote.

So, was my hypothesis — that voting in this Democratic primary might be a statistically more likely way to oust Jim Moran from power — true? With 99% of the results in, and Shuttleworth losing by larger margins than Republican Patrick Murray did in the 2010 general, I’ve concluded my hypothesis was false.

Let’s adjust this a bit, just for fun. What if every Republican voter who cast a vote today in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District decided to vote in the Democratic primary instead of the Republican? Let’s also assume that, because they don’t like Jim Moran, they’d vote for Shuttleworth.

What would happen?

Well, if every Republican in VA 8 abandoned the Senate primary and voted for Shuttleworth, he still would have lost 51 to 49.

The results for the Senate primary in my hypothesis would not have changed significantly from the actual total.

Now, I know that it’s unrealistic to assume that such a scenario would happen. Could it? Sure. But it would be unlikely and mitigated by other factors. (i.e. Republican interference, which wouldn’t be by stealth, would increase turnout for Moran.)

Do I regret my vote? Not really. I knew Allen would win, and he would have been the recipient of my vote otherwise. However, I do plan to take a count of how many Democratic mailers I get, and the money wasted, just for voting in this primary. 

 

I voted for a Democrat

Crazy, right? Yes, this morning I voted in the Democratic primary for Virginia Congressional District 8. (Virginia has open primaries.)

Why? Here are my reasons:

  • George Allen will win the GOP nomination for Senate without my help. George Allen is facing E.W. Jackson, Bob Marshall, and Jamie Radtke. Who are they? Exactly.
  • My Congressman, Jim Moran is a moron. He needs to be retired, even if it means voting for someone politically extreme like Bruce Shuttleworth. No better feeling in the world than voting against Jim Moran, especially in a race where the likelihood of him losing is greater than most general elections. Shuttleworth may have crappy ideas, but at least he doesn’t heckle kids and start fights on the floor of Congress.
  • Democrats will spend money sending me campaign literature for years, costing their party and candidates thousands of dollars.

So, you see, it was easier than I thought it would be. I get to vote against Moran and cost the Democrats money in the future. Should Bruce Shuttleworth somehow win tonight, I won’t vote for him in the general, but I will blog about how stupid his Apollo 2020 proposal is. Anyone who seriously thinks alternative energy is going to be our baseload energy supplier is crazy, and anyone who thinks getting the materials (like REMs) for alternative energy is somehow “green” is naive.

I did feel great voting against Jim Moran. And if Moran loses, Shuttleworth might be easier to beat than Moran in the general. Call me crazy.