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This Week in Arlington

<sh>Falling Branch Kills Worker

<bt>Jose Elias Lopez, 30, was killed by a falling tree branch in the Dominion Hills neighborhood of Arlington Friday morning. Lopez lived on the 200 block of Cedar Lane in Vienna. According to a release from the Arlington police, Lopez was part of a seven-member crew from Tysons Tree Service that was trimming six large trees on North Montana Street.

At about 10:15 a.m., as crew members were preparing a tree for trimming, a gust of wind broke a large branch from a tree that was not a part of the crew's job, said police. As workers ran for safety, the branch struck Lopez in the head in an adjacent yard. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Arlington Police spokesman John Lisle said Lopez was in the neighboring yard retrieving a "throwing ball," which the tree cutters use to rig their lines, when the accident occurred. He described the branch, which fell approximately 70 feet, as a 40-foot portion of a "very large" tree.

Lisle said the incident is still under investigation, primarily by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as no foul play is suspected. One of the "most obvious" questions, he said, was whether there had been any misuse of the wires that are employed to control where limbs fall. However, he said, "The other workers say there were no lines in the tree of the branch that fell."

<1b>— Mike DiCicco

<sh>Ferguson Promotes Green Initiatives On Hill

<bt>County Board Chairman Paul Ferguson briefed U. S. Senate Democratic leaders last week on his plan to reduce Arlington’s greenhouse gas emissions.

During the same week that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi proposed the creation of a committee to combat global warming, Ferguson met with Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to discuss his initiative to cut the county’s level of carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent over the next six years.

"It was an incredible experience," Ferguson said of his time on the Hill, which included a press conference with the three senators and an expert on renewable energy.

"The Arlington initiative was noticed by the Senate majority leadership, and they are interested in assisting localities to fight and reduce emissions," Ferguson added.

According to Ferguson, the senators praised Arlington’s commitment to purchasing hybrid cars for its fleet, and suggested that the federal government do more to bolster the fuel efficiency of its vehicles.

Ferguson stressed to the senators that the federal government needs to do more to assist localities in fighting climate change.

"There needs to be not just incentives to local governments, but international leadership" from Congress, Ferguson said.

Ferguson asked the senators to push for incentives such as a refundable tax-credit program for every community that sets a specific greenhouse gas reduction program with measurable targets. He also called for a tax credit to finance an energy audit and the purchase of compact fluorescent light bulbs in all households.

Ferguson has set ambitious goals for the county in coming years: He envisions the county increasing its purchase of wind-generated electricity by two-thirds, to 5 percent of the county’s total energy usage; reducing energy usage in county facilities by 2 percent a year; strengthening the "green building" policy that requires new projects to achieve an environmental certification; and drafting a climate action plan for Arlington; and planting at least 1,200 new trees.

"We’re one small piece of the puzzle in Arlington, but everyone worldwide needs to get involved in this, and Congress can provide that leadership."

—Seth Rosen

<sh>Towing Service Owner Pleads Guilty

<bt>George King, the owner of Frank's Towing Service, pled guilty on Jan. 17 to three misdemeanor counts of failure to file Virginia taxes, but is unlikely to serve any jail time.

King was sentenced to a total of 18 months in jail and fined $750 for failing to file corporate tax returns in 2002 through 2004, but the sentence was suspended for as long King complies with all Virginia tax laws.

Since the late 1990s county officials have received complaints that King’s business practiced predatory towing and charged higher fees than allowed by Virginia law.

King's corporations were convicted in Arlington Circuit Court in 2001 of 56 counts of overcharging, but entered into a plea agreement. The corporations were found to be in violation of the plea agreement in subsequent years and King was fined $15,000 by the Arlington Circuit Court and made restitution to more than 160 residents.

In November 2004, a search warrant was executed at Frank's Towing Service in Arlington to recover business records to investigate trade name and tax violations. Multiple violations of Virginia's tax laws were discovered in the course of the investigation

The tax case against King was eventually moved to the Prince William County Circuit Court because King resides in that jurisdiction. Frank's Towing Service is no longer in business.