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Mr. Rex Smiles, a dog available for adoption at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (photo via Facebook/Animal Welfare League of Alexandria)

In a national ranking of fastest-emerging dog-friendly cities, Alexandria took third place.

The ranking looks both at where dog-owners are registered on the dog boarding and walking site Rover and where there are the most page views of pet-friendly single-family home rental listings on real estate marketplace site Zillow.

The city was beaten by Baltimore, Maryland and Antioch, Tennessee.

It’s not the first time the city has gotten praise for it’s dog care: in January it was listed among 70 best cities for dog care.

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West Glebe Road Bridge (photo via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services)

Like a parachute, a bridge is one of those things you want to be able to rely on, but some of the crossings between Alexandria and Arlington have gotten to such a rough shape that one is now closed to vehicles for at least a year.

The poor state of the West Glebe Road bridge is so well known that federal and state officials from different political parties came together to tour the scene and marvel at the disrepair.

The West Glebe Road bridge isn’t alone, either. Portions of the Four Mile Run Bridge has also had closures, notably closing the sidewalk entirely, with the reconstruction of the bridge not scheduled to start until after work is done on the West Glebe Road bridge.

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DASH has been on a roll recently with a variety of factors conspiring to push the bus service up to 300,000 total boardings in March, a 73% increase over ridership last fall.

Some of that’s thanks to changes within the DASH bus system: like eliminating fares and shifting toward a system that prioritizes frequent service in high-density corridors.

Some factors outside of DASH’s control have been windfalls for bus ridership as well, like a recent spike in gas prices at the start of the war in Ukraine and declining Covid cases.

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Budget season is Christmas for local policy wonks with every week providing insight into where the city is and isn’t investing in its future. But municipal budgets can also be a famously boring topic.

The annual budget can include some insight into the city’s priorities. This year, for instance, the budget finally includes funding for a police body camera program after being proposed as far back as 2015.

Some of the budget changes could also have a profound impact on the bill for local taxpayers. Mayor Justin Wilson recently proposed a one-time measure that would alleviate a potentially dramatic tax increase for local car owners, and a recent discussion of larger changes to the real estate tax rate could see more of the tax burden shifted to commercial properties.

Are you someone who closely follows the ins and outs of the budget process, or someone who checks in every once in a while but isn’t interested beyond that?

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This weekend, Alexandria’s City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that allows the city manager to further reduce speed limits. But should he?

The ordinance allows the city manager to “reduce posted speed limits to less than 25 miles per hour, but not less than 15 miles per hour on any city street located in a business or residence district.” The measure was supported by speakers at the City Council meeting and endorsed whole-heartedly by the Council, but the reaction online has been more mixed.

The measure also comes after a 10-year study has shown that car crashes have been declining on average, though fatality rates remain consistent.

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I Love You park design, via City of Alexandria

A new art project coming to Waterfront Park later this month is bringing a splash of pink to Old Town.

The project by Miami artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt was proposed last year and the city announced it will be officially unveiled on Friday, March 25.

The design is a bold choice for the more aesthetically conservative Old Town known more for red brick than kitsch. A painted pink and white carpet will take up much of the park space while “I Love You” shines from a sign in neon pink letters.

The new display is the fourth public art feature in Waterfront Park since the Mirror Mirror exhibit opened in 2019. The “I Love You” display is scheduled to remain in the park until Nov. 6.

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President’s Day in Alexandria was marked with the return of an annual parade celebrating George Washington’s birthday.

Parades are something of a fixture in Alexandria, from the (now delayed) St. Patrick’s Day parade to the Scottish Christmas Walk.

Some parade events were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to concerns about the spread of COVID, but with numbers steadily declining more of those events are coming back.

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Alexandria’s new City Manager James Parajon presented his proposed budget last night to the City Council. While real estate property assessments are still pushing local tax bills up, there’s no tax rate increase proposed in the budget.

The budget is $829.9 million, or a 7% increase from the previous year’s budget. The budget increase is largely funded by the increase in assessments revenue, which comes out to an average $445 increase for the average Alexandria homeowner.

There are still options, however, for increases as alternatives for the City Council. Those rates, Parajon said, would be a 1 penny per $100 of assessed value increase or a 2 penny increase. Budget Director Morgan Routt said the increases would come out to an average $66 increase per penny — or $511 and $577 for the 1 and 2 penny increases. Those one cent increases could fund other initiatives proposed by the City Council.

Parajon is scheduled to present the budget to the public on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. There will be nine work sessions throughout the spring to review the budget. A special public budget hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 7, and a tax rate add/delete hearing on April 23. Final budget adoption is scheduled for May 4.

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Putting aside some of the drama of his visit, Gov. Glenn Youngkin spoke in Alexandria last week about a topic that even some local Democrats have expressed support for: eliminating the grocery tax.

Virginia has a 2.5% grocery tax that helps to fund public schools and transportation. One percent of that goes to local governments, while the rest goes to the state. This has created a sort of three-faction divide on the tax that doesn’t break evenly along party lines.

Youngkin and House Republicans have called for the tax to be eliminated entirely. Another version, rejected by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, would have maintained the 1% contribution to localities but eliminated the state portion of the funding. The legislation was rejected in part because some Northern Virginia senators expressed concerns that it could negatively impact some of the state’s wealthier school districts, ABC8 reported.

In a town hall last week, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that the city has supported eliminating the grocery tax, but that there needs to be adequate replacement revenues to compensate.

Photo via Eli Wilson Photography

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Leafblower, photo via Philip Myrtorp/Unsplash

Should Alexandrians have the right to use gas-powered leafblowers to clear away their yards or are they a noisy nuisance that should be blown away?

Well, right now the city can’t ban them even if they wanted to, but the city’s legislative package includes a request for localities to get permission to prohibit the use of gas-powered leafblowers as both an environmental hazard and a nuisance for neighbors.

In a Waterfront Commission meeting last week, William Skrabak, deputy director for infrastructure and environmental quality, said it was probably unlikely that the city would even obtain that permission this year. But Skrabak said the goal is to start a conversation about the issue that could bear fruit down the road.

Photo via Philip Myrtorp/Unsplash

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