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Neil O’Brien: So you want to level up. In what way? And how will you do it?

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-01-26-at-11.26.11 Neil O’Brien: So you want to level up. In what way? And how will you do it? Young People Yorkshire Wandsworth wages Unemployment uneml Transport Standard of Living south Sandwell Older people North East North minimum wage London jobs housing Highlights Hartlepool growth Government GDP Equality employment economic growth Culture Columnists chesterfield Birmingham Anand Menon

 

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

Anand Menon has a telling anecdote from the EU referendum campaign. Making a speech in Newcastle, he said economists were forecasting a plunge in GDP if we voted to leave. He was interrupted by a female heckler: “That’s your bloody GDP. Not ours.”

She’s not alone in feeling that national statistics don’t reflect the experience of her area.  The Prime Minister says he wants to “level up” poorer places. I think that’s great. But how should we measure whether we are succeeding? In fact, why do we want to do this?

In one sense, the answer’s obvious. We just won a huge majority by gaining seats in places we’ve rarely or never held. Places that voted to leave, feel ignored by Westminster and left out of growth. But there are good policy reasons as well.

For Conservatives, the sorts of things we might do to level up (like helping attract new jobs to a town with high unemployment) might be more attractive ways of spreading opportunity than lefty solutions like increasing benefits. Handups not handouts.

Levelling up might mean fixing imbalances caused by government itself: much of the government’s most growth-enhancing government spending (transport, housing, research, culture) is currently skewed towards London.
We might want to level up because a more even distribution of economic activity is correlated with stronger economic growth overall. It’s striking that there are no major economies that are richer per head than Britain and have a more unbalanced economy.

Levelling up could mean regenerating poorer areas, meaning we no longer have resources like land and infrastructure overloaded in some places, while underused elsewhere. People don’t simply leave their homes in the face of local economic problems. That’s particularly true of lower earners who rely more on family networks for help.

Levelling up mean could closing the gap between unemployed workers and job opportunities, again increasing growth overall. A more even pattern of growth might lead to higher levels of wellbeing as well as growth. Do we really all want to cram into London and the Home Counties? Rather than being crowded into tiny flats in a couple of congested cities, wouldn’t we rather spread out, and live in bigger houses with gardens?

But what exactly are we trying to level up where? And how will we measure it?

First, we need to look at smaller areas, not just big regions. We aren’t just interested in the difference between say, Yorkshire and London, but in the differences within them. Places with problems can be right next to places that are booming, although places that are isolated tend to do worst.

Second, we need to take a rounded view of levelling up, not just have one measure. Our measures should include whether we are getting unemployment down and employment up. The data on employment is reliable even for small areas. Differences between areas have shrunk as unemployment has been slashed. But in local authorities like Chesterfield, Hartlepool and Birmingham, the unemployment rate is still over eight per cent – twice the national average.

We could look at people’s own reported well being. But the data from government surveys doesn’t have a big enough sample size to tell you anything reliable about local areas. In so far as there are patterns, there’s not much government can do to influence them: people seem to be happier in more rural areas, but we can’t move the Lake District to London.

Measuring people’s incomes needs to be part of measuring progress – but we need to be careful about what metric we use, because different measures give different results.

For example, whether income differences between areas are getting bigger or smaller depends how you measure income. If we look at Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI) per head, it looks like Britain is diverging. Between 1997 and 2017 income per head in London raced ahead from 22 per cent to 43 per cent above the national average, while the North East fell further back, from being 14 per cent to 19 per cent below.

But if we look at median household income (based on the governments Family Resources Survey) we seem to see convergence. In fact, if we look at incomes after housing costs, London isn’t even the richest area any more. On that measure the North East caught up, from being 14 per cent below average in the mid 1990s to 10 per cent below, while London fell back, from seven per cent ahead to smack on the national average, and the richest areas, the South East, fell from 14 per cent ahead to just 10 per cent ahead.

Why such a different picture? The key is the word median average. If we look at mean average incomes on the very same measures we see divergence not convergence. That’s because the incomes of poorer workers have been converging, but the incomes of richer workers above the median have diverged. Both matter.

The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) lets us look at that in detail. It shows that rich people’s incomes differ between regions much more than poorer workers (see graph at bottom).

People working in London who are on the 10th percentile of incomes (i.e. only ten percent of people earn less than them) earn 16 per cent more than people in the same position across the country. However, high earning Londoners at the 90th percentile, earn 54 per cent more. And these differences for higher earners have been getting wider. In 1999, top earning Londoners were “only” 40 per cent ahead of the national average.

It may be that poorer people’s incomes are crunching together while richer folks diverge because of a combination of the rising National Living Wage, tax cuts aimed at the bottom end, and the growth of tax credits & Universal Credit. All of these help a greater proportion of people in poorer areas, while changing things less for higher earners.

But we should measure what’s happening across the board in poorer areas, not just for the poorest people there.
ASHE is probably the best measure of whether we are really “levelling up” earnings. It is generated from tax data, so has much more detail than other measures. It lets you see that people in the Huddersfield constituency earn much less than people in Leeds East, and that incomes have grown more in Hull than Barnsley.

True, it doesn’t let you see benefit income, but levelling up should focus on helping people sustainably earn more, not increasing benefits. Crucially, it lets you look at the distribution of earnings, not just a misleading average that might not tell the full story.

Finally, when we are measuring progress, we need to have a sense of what the counter-factual is. With radically different qualification levels and very different age profiles, different areas are unlikely to grow at the same rate. In Wandsworth 70 per cent of people have a degree. In Sandwell in the Black Country, just 20 per cent. The average age in Sheffield Central constituency is 26. In North Norfolk, 54, because so many are retired. These patterns can change over time. A place can attract more young graduates. But we need to have some sense of what the initial baseline is if we are going to realistically work out if we are making a difference.

“What gets measured gets managed”, they say. If we really want to level up, it’s crucial to be clear about what we are trying to achieve and how we are going to measure it.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Meet the 8 most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Northern Virginia

Here, we chatted with eight impressive singles in the region.

Most Eligible Bachelorettes

Westlake Legal Group ashley Meet the 8 most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Northern Virginia Valentine's Day most eligible bachelors most eligible bachelorettes love issue Love january issue Culture Features Culture
Ashley Arias
Ashley Arias

29, Lifestyle Public Relations Manager at TAA PR
Lives in: Fairfax

Born and raised in Northern Virginia, Arias works in Georgetown, helping stylish lifestyle brands with their public relations efforts. When she’s not being an arbiter of all things cool for her clients, Arias can be found getting cocktails with friends and exploring restaurants around town.

What are you looking for in a partner?
“A man that is kindhearted, funny, loves to travel and can keep up with me. Chemistry is also very important.”

What would your friends say about your personality?
“The life of the party; an energetic personality that lifts everyone around me.”

What’s your hidden talent?
“I am a figure skater in training. After working with Cirque du Soleil’s first show on ice, Crystal, I was inspired to take lessons.”

Favorite place in NoVA for a first date?
“I love going to places that have more than just dining options. If the date goes well, I want to be able to do something else after. I love Barcelona at Reston Town Center. We can grab a bite and then walk around.”

Go-to drink on a first date?
“Aperol spritzer.”

Westlake Legal Group alexis Meet the 8 most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Northern Virginia Valentine's Day most eligible bachelors most eligible bachelorettes love issue Love january issue Culture Features Culture
Alexis Skinner
Alexis Skinner

26, Associate Director of Talent Acquisition at Axios
Lives in: Arlington

Skinner moved to Northern Virginia from Maryland just over a year ago. As the director of talent acquisition at Axios, she helps to recruit professionals for the company’s tech team. In her free time, Skinner sings and attends open mic nights from time to time.

What are you looking for in a partner?
“Just a good, fun partner that is as driven as me. Someone that has goals and aspirations in life, but that also likes to have fun. It’s attractive when someone has a passion and fun things they like to do outside of work.”

What would your friends say about your personality?
“They would say that I’m goofy and outgoing, caring, sometimes maybe too open and probably flirty too.”

What’s your hidden talent?
“As well as singing, I’m also decent at pottery-making and ceramics on the wheel.”

Favorite place in NoVA for a first date?
“Baba in Clarendon! It’s a hidden gem under the restaurant Ambar. The movies is a short walk from there too.”

Go-to drink on a first date?
“I love all the drinks at Ambar!”

Westlake Legal Group kendra Meet the 8 most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Northern Virginia Valentine's Day most eligible bachelors most eligible bachelorettes love issue Love january issue Culture Features Culture
Kendra McCullough
Kendra McCullough

30, Fashion Designer
Lives in: Oakton

McCullough, a fashion designer who helps run a local boutique, was born and raised in Chantilly. The NoVA native went to college in Arlington at Marymount University and now resides in Oakton. Her fashion pieces are romantic, feminine and modern, while maintaining tradition.

What are you looking for in a partner?
“Someone who makes me laugh. That’s always been No. 1. And someone who has confidence. I feel like those two traits usually go hand-in-hand. Being career-oriented, like me, is important. And someone who is pretty active. I love going to the gym or just going for a run. It’s more fun when your partner does too.”

What would your friends say about your personality?
“I had a friend in college who said before he knew my name that he described me as the ‘witty, dark-haired girl who wore a lot of black leather jackets.’ That’s pretty accurate. Otherwise, I’ve been told I’m very loyal, genuine and compassionate.”

What’s your hidden talent?
“I don’t think I have any hidden talents. I flaunt the talents I do have. I’m pretty good at cooking, mostly Mexican and Italian food.”

Favorite place in NoVA for a first date?
“I like to go off of whatever we’re talking about. If there’s  a movie out that we both want to see, I’d suggest we go see it. If nothing else, my go-to is Bartaco in the Mosaic District.”

Go-to drink on a first date?
“If we’re getting dinner, I usually get rosé. If we’re just grabbing drinks, it’s Tito’s or whiskey.”

Westlake Legal Group 1 Meet the 8 most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Northern Virginia Valentine's Day most eligible bachelors most eligible bachelorettes love issue Love january issue Culture Features Culture
Melanie Hansen
Melanie Hansen

41, Residential Interior Designer at Josh Hildreth Interiors
Lives in: Washington, DC

Although Hansen resides in DC, she’s frequently in Fairfax County, as she works in Reston as an interior designer with clients across the DMV. Outside of work, Hansen spends her time taking fitness classes (favorites: spin, barre and yoga), indulging in the performing arts and hanging out with friends, family and her dog, Hugo.

What are you looking for in a partner?
“I’m looking for a big-life person. Someone who will never stop learning, never stop trying new things and is always up for adventures. I am pretty active, so fitness is also important.”

What would your friends say about your personality?
“Oh dear, that depends on who you ask! I think you’d get consensus on fun-loving, kind and generous.”

What’s your hidden talent?
“I’m pretty decent in the kitchen!”

Favorite place in NoVA for a first date?
“I really like Vermilion in Old Town, or cycling the W&OD or Mount Vernon trails and picnicking along the way.”

Go-to drink on a first date?
“I love a glass of red wine in cooler months. Spring and summer call for a Negroni or Champagne.”

Most Eligible Bachelors

Westlake Legal Group scott Meet the 8 most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Northern Virginia Valentine's Day most eligible bachelors most eligible bachelorettes love issue Love january issue Culture Features Culture
Scott Thurman
Scott Thuman

46, Television Correspondent for Sinclair Broadcast Group
Lives in: Alexandria

Thuman was born in Fairfax, lived in Dale City as a toddler and has called Shirlington home since 2005. And although he resides in Alexandria, on most days he can be found on Capitol Hill. If you’re in the neighborhood, you may recognize him from your TV screen. The television correspondent covers the White House, Capitol Hill and foreign affairs for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, seen locally on WJLA-ABC7.

What are you looking for in a partner?
“I’m looking for someone who has a sense of adventure, strong family values, can tolerate my work and travel schedule, is passionate about making a difference … oh, and she doesn’t necessarily have to like all dogs, just mine.”

What would your friends say about your personality?
“That I’m quick-witted. There’s never a dull moment when I’m in the room. They also say I’m hardworking and loyal to my friends.”

What’s your hidden talent?
“Most people know me for being in front of the camera but I’m often behind it too—shooting extra video and utilizing my photography skills to capture dramatic images that often make their way onto TV.”

Favorite place in NoVA for a first date?
“Del Ray. There are a bunch of great, cozy and casual spots where you can really get to know each other. I really like dinners at the Evening Star Cafe, the Lounge and Front Porch.”

Go-to drink on a first date?
“Anything that’s different than I’m used to. I like to throw options at the bartender and try something new. After all, it’s a night of firsts, right?”

Westlake Legal Group tedyy-kim Meet the 8 most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Northern Virginia Valentine's Day most eligible bachelors most eligible bachelorettes love issue Love january issue Culture Features Culture
Teddy Kim
Teddy Kim

39, Principal of Avanti Holdings Group
Lives in: Alexandria

Lifetime Alexandria resident Kim is a graduate of T.C. Williams High School. He directs all acquisition efforts and oversees leasing, tenant management, zoning, selling and legal issues for Avanti Holdings Group. (Walk around Alexandria and you’re sure to pass by one of its client’s buildings.) In his free time, Kim is passionate about traveling, eating good food and skiing.

What are you looking for in a partner?
“A cinematic connection.”

What would your friends say about your personality?
“Perhaps, ‘One of a kind.’”

What’s your hidden talent?
“Handyman tasks.”

Favorite place in NoVA for a first date?
“Old Town Waterfront.”

Go-to drink on a first date?
“Wine.”

Westlake Legal Group calle-brown Meet the 8 most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Northern Virginia Valentine's Day most eligible bachelors most eligible bachelorettes love issue Love january issue Culture Features Culture
Calle Brown
Calle Brown

27, Goalie for Loudoun United FC
Lives in: Loudoun County

Look for Brown on the soccer field as a team member of NoVA’s first professional soccer team. He grew up in Loudoun County and went to college at the University of Virginia. After a few soccer stints in Pittsburgh, Houston and Seattle, he’s back in Loudoun playing for the home team.

What are you looking for in a partner?
“I’m looking for someone who brings happiness and joy with them wherever they go; a woman who lives a healthy, active lifestyle and has respect and love for herself.”

What would your friends say about your personality?
“My friends would say I’m a goofy, happy, easygoing, self-motivated, loving, loyal friend.”

What’s your hidden talent?
“I’m a halfway-decent swing dancer.”

Favorite place in NoVA for a first date?
“Stone Tower Winery.”

Go-to drink on a first date?
“Depends on the location and time of the year, but red wine is a go-to for myself.”

Westlake Legal Group same-legg Meet the 8 most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of Northern Virginia Valentine's Day most eligible bachelors most eligible bachelorettes love issue Love january issue Culture Features Culture
Sam Legg
Sam Legg

25, Team Communications Manager for D.C. United
Lives in: Ashburn

If you read a great interview featuring a D.C. United player, you may have Legg to thank for making the connection. The Ashburn local moved to Loudon County from England when he was 4 years old (the British accent, however, did not jump the pond with him). Legg works closely with players to coordinate interviews and ensure the team is represented in local media outlets.

What are you looking for in a partner?
“I’m looking for somebody who is driven and work-oriented, but also knows how to relax and have a good time. Banter and humor are also important. If you can’t laugh at yourself then you’re probably taking yourself too seriously.”

What would your friends say about your personality?
“My friends would describe me as personable and outgoing. I’m always ready to make a joke or quip, even if it’s at my own expense. I’m loyal and do what I can to make my friends happy on a daily basis.”

What’s your hidden talent?
“I make a decent stand-in for intramural soccer teams. I played in college and soccer is still very much a part of my life both professionally and personally. I couldn’t hide from it growing up with an English family.”

Favorite place in NoVA for a first date?
“It depends on where my date lives, but my preferences are Bracket Room and Ireland’s Four Courts in Arlington. I’m a big sports fan, so watching a game together at the bar is a laid-back way of getting to know somebody.”

Go-to drink on a first date?
“I tend to keep it simple and gravitate toward beer. I’m also keen on an occasional glass of whiskey and, if the time’s right, tequila.”

This post originally appeared in our January 2020 issue’s cover story, focusing on all things love. For more Northern Virginia Magazine content, subscribe to our e-newsletters.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Forget the online dating stigma; this woman found love in the newspaper

Westlake Legal Group finding-love-in-a-newspaper-feature Forget the online dating stigma; this woman found love in the newspaper the love issue relationships marriage Love essays dating Culture Features Culture
© drx / stock.adobe.com

I met my husband-to-be when I answered a City Paper ad he placed in the “In Search of …” section in August 1995. For those too young to remember, “In Search of” ads were witty, short classified ads describing yourself and your ideal date.

Initially, reading the weekly ads was a form of entertainment but, after a long-term relationship unexpectedly ended, I started perusing the ads to see if anyone sounded mildly appealing. I never intended to answer one, but when I spied the ad that started, “Been accused of being a nice guy,” I was intrigued. The ad went on to mention two of my favorite activities—beer brewing and bike riding. It seemed like a match made in heaven.
Instead of simply swiping right, I had to call an answering machine and leave a message for the person who placed the ad. Then I had to wait and see if he would call me back to arrange a date. Before OKCupid, Match and Tinder, finding a date took a bit more creativity and legwork.

Perhaps there was also a bit more mystery back then. You didn’t know what the person looked like or even their first name because the ads were identified by a randomly assigned number. And because the ads were short—just a few lines longer than a tweet—there was seldom any information about their background, education or financial information.

My husband-to-be did mention in his ad that he worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That little detail gave me another interesting tidbit to mention in my phone message for him. I talked about my love of beer, the 100-mile bike ride I completed in Salisbury, Maryland, the previous year and that I once got lost in the maze of offices at EPA’s headquarters in southwest DC.

Whatever I said must have struck a chord because he called me back to arrange a date. I learned his name was Wayne and he grew up 22 miles from where I grew up, in one of the Long Island suburbs in New York.

Wayne and I arranged to meet at the Dupont Circle Starbucks. I told him that I’d be easy to find because I’d be reading the book, Anywhere but Here by Mona Simpson. In retrospect, that was not the best choice of books to use to flag my presence because the title on the book cover is microscopic. We still joke about how he had to walk around the Starbucks stealthily reading the book covers of every woman in the coffee shop, which back in the pre-smartphone days of 1995 were more than just a few people.

Somehow, Wayne found me. We talked for an hour or more and then decided to grab dinner across the street at Zorba’s Cafe. From there we moved onto beers at The Big Hunt. Years later, Wayne told me that he knew I was potentially “the one” when I ordered a Newcastle Brown Ale. While that beer doesn’t sound too exotic, in 1995 it was one of the few dark beers on the market.

It took me a bit longer to realize our destiny. It wasn’t until months later, when we returned from a weekend trip with friends and he dropped me off at my apartment, that I realized I was sad that we wouldn’t see each other again until midweek.

Meanwhile, very few of our friends knew how we had met. Back then, meeting through a City Paper ad seemed so bizarre, we decided not to tell people our origin story. Instead, we told people we met through work. Not too far-fetched because he worked for EPA and I worked for the National Solid Waste Management Association. So, it was plausible that our paths might have crossed during a conference.

In reality, it’s surprising that we never did run into each other. The longer we dated, the more we realized that I knew a handful of the people he worked with at EPA. We also discovered we went to many of the same bars and restaurants. We even realized that two months before our first date we were both at the premiere for the movie Apollo 13 at the Uptown Theater. A German TV station had interviewed my friend Randy and Wayne’s friend David while we waited in line for the movie with our respective group of friends, not knowing our future spouse was also standing in line.

Today, with so many couples meeting through online sites and dating apps, the stigma of meeting through a newspaper ad is gone. When people ask, we no longer hesitate to tell them how we met. Even our 17-year-old daughter knows how we met, but I don’t think our parents know the true story.

This post originally appeared in our January 2020 issue. For more on the dating scene in Northern Virginia, check out our cover story, Northern Virginia is for Lovers. To have more local coverage sent straight to your inbox, subscribe to our e-newsletters.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Julian Knight: The Culture Select Committee should act as its own Royal Commission on the BBC’s future

Julian Knight is MP for Solihull and has served for three years on the DCMS Select Committee.

We have been here before. In 2015, a Conservative general election victory was supposed to herald a new relationship with our national broadcaster.

The charter renewal process was an ideal opportunity to step back, take stock, and work with the Corporation to find a pathway to a modern, sustainable model for our national broadcaster – one which gradually phased out the unfair and outdated licence fee, made the BBC more responsive to the public, and opened up its budgets to external talent.

Our programme was supposed to be reforming, not wrecking – easing ‘Auntie’ off public subsidies and scaling its responsibilities to its resources.

But we lost our way. Despite excellent work by John Whittingdale, the then-Secretary of State, the Treasury under George Osborne chose a different path. They plumped for what seemed like a canny deal: the BBC would not be challenged to reform itself in response to a rapidly-transforming media landscape, so long as they picked up the tab for the over-75s licence fee.

We all know how that turned out: buckets of bad blood between the Government and the BBC over the licence fee money, and an unreformed Corporation which got tripped up by the EU referendum. At a time of polarised attitudes, the BBC failed to discharge its duty to make both sides feel fairly represented. Trust in the institution has declined to a point unprecedented in its long history.

I take no joy in this. Not only do I recognise the BBC’s crucial role in our national life, and as a former news reporter I have experienced first-hand some of the great work it does. But I do worry that if we once again back away from reform, the licence fee will come to be seen by increasing numbers of voters as an unjust tax – a modern version of Charles I’s Ship Money.

Moreover, at a time when the likes of Netflix can spend £18 billion a year on content – that’s spending on the scale of a chunky government department – the BBC is behind the curve. So much of its budget is eaten up the sheer scale of its responsibilities, and attendant personnel, that it struggles to compete against more specialised providers, let alone carve out its own niche in an ever-more competitive market.

Something needs to change – and Parliament can lead the way. I want the DCMS Select Committee to serve as a MP-led ‘royal commission’ on the future of the BBC.

As Conservatives we believe in evolution, not revolution, and as someone who had five blissful years working for BBC News I think I’ve had plenty of opportunity to get an insight into what’s required.

This doesn’t mean I’m misty-eyed about its problems. In 2016, exclusively for ConservativeHome, I joined over 70 colleagues to write to the Director General to warn him about the urgent need for the Corporation to copper-bottom its rules on impartiality as it reported on Brexit.

Unfortunately, our call fell on deaf ears, and the BBC has found itself out of step both with the 52 per cent who voted Leave and the millions more, like me, who did not but believe that the referendum result must be honoured. Instead it seemed to give a privileged voice to those calling for a second referendum, whilst shows such as the Today programme have dwindled to bywords for metropolitan elitism in modern Britain.

But the past, as they say, is another country. The general election has given us a second chance, and we must seize the opportunity created by our victory to help the BBC transition to a new model, one which retains that which makes it such a unique and beloved institution but weans it off the poll tax and fosters a culture which is more open to commercialism and accessible to outside talent.

We must make the BBC’s revenues more dependent on it actively catering to the diverse tastes of its many millions of users, and cultural change inside the Corporation will follow as night follows day. Many attacks aimed at it relate to its privileged position and taxpayer funding, as much as the content of its coverage.

So please, no too-clever-by-half deals this time. The next few months should see the start of a proper, root-and-branch review of the BBC to help it find a new model and a new role. Still special, but on a more level playing field.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

An in-depth look at finding and keeping love in Northern Virginia

Westlake Legal Group edom-seifu-in-yellow-blazer An in-depth look at finding and keeping love in Northern Virginia Women tips single Romantic romance Politics political party political parties men love issue Love January cover discussion dating scene dating dates date Culture Features Culture cultural reads cover story Couples
Edom Seifu, 28, has experience in the dating scene of the DC region. (Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper)

Looking for Love

Fun fact: The DC region has the highest population of single people in the entire country. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find a great date.

It’s not your imagination. There are more single people living in the DC metro area than anywhere else in the country. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 70% of the adult population is single—that’s 20% higher than any other region in the country. The DC metro area also has the highest percentage of adults under the age of 40—76.6% of men and 76% of women—who have never been married, according to the U.S. Census.

So, why is it so hard to find a date in the DC metro area?

Two reasons, says Amber Artis, vice president of matchmaking at LUMA Luxury Matchmaking: It’s a transient city and a highly educated city where people are laser-focused on their careers.

It’s also a small city where it’s easy to bump into the same people. “People come to me and express that DC is a small city, so they know everyone here and keep running into the same type of person over and over again,” says Callie Harris, senior matchmaker and client experience manager at Three Day Rule, a matchmaking company.

Edom Seifu, 28, is familiar with these frustrations. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2014, she moved back to Alexandria, where she grew up, and then ended a long-term relationship. For the past five years, she has been trying to date in DC, with mixed results.

Seifu finds dating apps like Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel slightly off-putting. “My first couple of encounters was some random compliment that seems meaningless and that is a huge turnoff,” says Seifu, who works at a management consulting firm. “It’s hard to make witty banter with someone you’ve never met. I’d rather meet in person for coffee or drinks.” But, that might never happen if you’re using a dating app because, according to Pew Research Center, one-third of the people who use online dating apps have never actually gone on a date with someone they met on those sites.

Seifu is open to meeting someone through friends but worries that “mixing friendship with dating gets messy.” She also tried speed dating but found there were more women than men at the event and she had to sit out for three of 20, four-minute speed-dating rounds. She also didn’t meet anyone she wanted to date.

There is a common belief—fueled by a 2015 article in The Atlantic’s CityLab—that there are more single women than men in the DC metro area. According to that article, there are 65,000 more single women than men in DC.

Michael Karlan, president of Professionals in the City, the company that runs the speed-dating event that Seifu attended, disagrees with this blanket assessment and says it depends on the age group. For instance, he says, events for men in their 20s often attract more single men than women. “If you’re a 21- to 23-year-old woman, you have a wide range of guys you can date,” Karlan says. “But guys in that age range are pretty limited because older women don’t want to date you and women your age are being pursued by older men.” Professionals in the City has 200,000 members in the DC area, Karlan says, and it’s fairly evenly split across gender.

One of the advantages to dating in DC is few people are actually from this area. When you move to other cities, like New York City and Los Angeles, you will meet people who are surrounded by friends they’ve had since high school, Karlan says. “That’s not the case in DC,” he says. “Everyone is looking to meet new people.”

Crossing Party Lines

Political affiliation has always been on the dating radar in this town. But in the age of Trump—and extreme partisan politics—it’s become a dating deal breaker.

It’s not uncommon for DC singles to spend their 20s and 30s focused on their careers or pursuing an advanced degree, and then suddenly realize, as they’re about to turn 40, that they haven’t given much thought to their personal lives, says Amber Artis, vice president of matchmaking at LUMA Luxury Matchmaking.

It’s also not uncommon for people to leave the DC area after five or 10 years, so Artis sometimes matches DC residents with someone living in New York City or Philadelphia, especially if they aren’t planning on making DC their home.

And, in fact, some DC residents—particularly men—will actually ask to be matched with someone who lives in New York City because they don’t want to marry, as one client said, “a buttoned-up career woman who is politically inclined,” says Lisa Clampitt, founder of Lisa Clampitt Matchmaking.

Think pantsuit-wearing Hillary Clinton versus former fashion model Melania Trump.
“They want to date someone who isn’t as political, business-savvy and conservative,” Clampitt says. “They think looking to New York City will give them more international, fashionable and sexy choices.” Most of these men, Clampitt says, are over 40 and want to date younger women.

Regardless of age, politics has become the No. 1 deal breaker for romance in DC—even more of a turnoff than smoking, Artis says. Ten years ago, politics wasn’t a core dating value like career, religion and finances, but since 2016, politics has become a value matchmakers screen for, Clampitt says.

And it’s not just Democrats avoiding Trump supporters. Even Republican women are telling Artis that they can’t date a Trump supporter. That could be another reason DC men want to date women from New York City. “In DC, it’s hard to find people who don’t care about politics,” Clampitt says. “In New York City, you can find people who don’t care.”

In fact, Michael Karlan, president of Professionals in the City, says singles’ events specifically geared to Republicans typically have a stronger turnout than those for Democrats. Republicans are harder to find in a city like DC, which tends to be more progressive and liberal, he says. “You can find a Democrat anywhere in the city.”

Even if you find someone who does share your love of politics, Clampitt recommends avoiding the topic, especially on a first date. “There is nothing less romantic,” she says.

Westlake Legal Group couple-cheersing-at-dinner An in-depth look at finding and keeping love in Northern Virginia Women tips single Romantic romance Politics political party political parties men love issue Love January cover discussion dating scene dating dates date Culture Features Culture cultural reads cover story Couples
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8 Tips for a Great Date

“I always tell people you can be your own matchmaker, you just have to keep your eyes open,” says Amber Artis, vice president of matchmaking at LUMA Luxury Matchmaking. Here, Artis and other dating experts share their best advice for dating success.

1. Dress like you’re going on a date
Leave your work persona at work when you’re meeting someone for a date and wear something festive, says Lisa Clampitt, founder of Lisa Clampitt Matchmaking. Leave the pantsuit at home.

2. Talk about feelings, not facts
Don’t treat a date like a job interview. Instead of asking your date about their career or where they live, ask them more engaging questions, such as, “What was the craziest vacation you ever went on?” or “Tell me about a life-changing moment,” Clampitt suggests. If someone starts telling you about their career, ask them if they like what they do and why, says Michael Karlan, president of Professionals in the City.

3. Know your story
No one likes awkward silences on the first date, so Karlan recommends having a few anecdotal tales about yourself that you can share if the conversation slows down. Keep in mind, if you bring up a topic and the discussion gets boring or runs its course, don’t be afraid to change the topic, he says.

4. Don’t just talk, engage in an activity
Sitting down for lunch or coffee feels too much like another meeting. Instead, go somewhere and do something together—ax throwing, an art opening, a walk through a neighborhood. When you participate in an activity together, you engage on a different level and that activity can make you feel more flirtatious and curious, Clampitt says.

“Coffee dates are something we do with our co-workers and friends when we’re catching up,” says Callie Harris, senior matchmaker and client experience manager at matchmaking company Three Day Rule. “They aren’t romantic.”

5. Say yes more often
Just being more open to opportunities will help you meet more people. Make eye contact and smile more, Artis says. “Say yes more than you say no,” Harris says. Agree to go to events, let your friends introduce you to their friends, go on a blind date.

6. Meet people face-to-face
While apps and online dating are a great way to meet new people, it’s important to meet people in real life. “A lot of people get comfortable being behind a cell phone but aren’t as comfortable face to face,” Karlan says. Don’t try to flirt by text message with a woman you just met because your intentions might be misconstrued, Artis says.

7. Find your tribe
Find someone you want to date through activities you enjoy, Artis says. “If you’re not a party person, don’t go to a bar,” she says. “Think about the type of person you see yourself with and where you might find that person.”

8. January is ripe for dating
The busiest time for singles’ events at Professionals in the City is between New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, Karlan says. “People make New Year’s resolutions to meet someone, and people don’t want to be single on Valentine’s Day.”

This post originally appeared in the cover story of our January 2020 print issue. For more content surrounding life in Northern Virginia, subscribe to our newsletters.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Local Author Love: Siri Mitchell releases new mystery novel with plenty of Arlington mentions

Westlake Legal Group siri-mitchell Local Author Love: Siri Mitchell releases new mystery novel with plenty of Arlington mentions Writing state of lies siri mitchell reading novels novel local author love Culture Features Culture Books book club
Siri Mitchell (Photo courtesy of Mitchell)

The Author: Siri Mitchell

The Book: State of Lies

The Genre: Mystery, Thriller and Suspense

Lives In: Arlington

Westlake Legal Group state-of-lies Local Author Love: Siri Mitchell releases new mystery novel with plenty of Arlington mentions Writing state of lies siri mitchell reading novels novel local author love Culture Features Culture Books book club
Photo courtesy of Siri Mitchell

The Story: After her husband, Sean, is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Georgie Brennan discovers he lied to her about where he had been going that day. “The book is about Georgie trying to raise her son after Sean is killed,” Mitchell says. “She is a physicist by profession and she starts asking questions about her husband and his death. She doesn’t stop until she reaches the highest rungs of power in the nation. Along the way, she is led to question everyone she knows and everything that she thought was true.”

NoVA Neighborhoods: In the novel, Mitchell references over a dozen Arlington locations. “MedStar Capitals Iceplex is one that’s mentioned,” she says. “And Northside Social is in the book.” Other Arlington name-drops include Crystal City Shops, Jackson Street during Halloween and Crystal City Water Park.

This post originally appeared in our January 2020 issue. For more cultural reads, subscribe to our e-newsletters.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

There’s now a pinball league in Northern Virginia

The game of pinball has been around for nearly a century, enjoyed by youngsters and adults alike in both arcades, homes and even breweries, at least here in Northern Virginia, thanks to Ashburn’s Lost Rhino Brewing Company

Within the brewery’s tasting room, you’ll find nine themed pinball machines, ranging in design from Jurassic Park to The Addams Family and so much more. While the pinball machines are there to entertain all guests, they also recently started serving a larger purpose: The machines are the center of competition for local competitive pinball league Silverball Sanctum

Each week, you’ll find a team of pinball lovers practicing and competing in the tasting room, typically with a beer in hand. The league, Silverball Sanctum, is part of the Free State Pinball Association (FSPA), which is a 25-year-old organization consisting of seven leagues throughout the DMV.

Each season consists of 10 weeks of play and this year’s spring session is about to begin, starting Wednesday, Jan. 22. When the season nears its close, players will have a chance to head to the state championship. Whoever is No. 1 and No. 2 in Virginia will make their way to compete at the national event, which will be hosted in Denver, Colorado this year.  

Interesting in competing? Find out more information about signing up here.

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NoVa Ninja owner Casey Passafaro talks fitness in Northern Virginia

Westlake Legal Group Casey-Passafaro-with-arms-crossed NoVa Ninja owner Casey Passafaro talks fitness in Northern Virginia workout training facility Training strength Motivation Health Fitness Features fitness Culture casey passafaro america ninja warrior
Photo by Aaron Spicer

Casey Passafaro opened NoVa Ninja, a premier ninja warrior training facility in Sterling, with one goal in mind: to create a community. Co-founder Passafaro has been a contestant on hit TV show American Ninja Warrior twice, and currently coaches multiple ninja classes at her gym, including adult and kids’ programming. We caught up with Passafaro about the gym’s upcoming anniversary, New Year’s resolutions and more, below.

What motivated you to open NoVa Ninja?
I started doing CrossFit, and when I got my first pullup, someone made a joke like, “You’re so strong, you should be on American Ninja Warrior.” I was like, “That’s kind of funny, but maybe I will.” I started training in my house and signed up for a ninja competition in North Carolina and I did horrible. I thought, my house is not working [for training], and on the drive back to Virginia I told myself I needed to open a ninja gym.

Westlake Legal Group Casey-Passafaro-flexing-in-air NoVa Ninja owner Casey Passafaro talks fitness in Northern Virginia workout training facility Training strength Motivation Health Fitness Features fitness Culture casey passafaro america ninja warrior
Warrior Pose: Casey Passafaro, a two-time competitor on ‘American Ninja Warrior’ and owner of NoVa Ninja in Sterling, celebrates the gym’s fifth anniversary. (Photo by Aaron Spicer)

NoVa Ninja turns 5 on Jan. 1. How are you going to celebrate?
We do an event every New Year’s Eve at NoVa Ninja, where everyone gets dressed up really nice, and we have our members and friends come with Champagne and we celebrate. We’ll do it again just like that because that’s kind of tradition now.

What is your advice for people setting fitness resolutions for the New Year?
You need to find what motivates you and what makes you want to go into a gym; the rest will follow. I’m a big fan of not going 100% fitness aggressive, taking away everything you like right away. I don’t think that’s a sustainable form of fitness.

What do you love about community-based fitness?
I think doing a fitness regimen that has some sort of community is what’s truly needed for most people to establish a healthy lifestyle. For the ninja community, having that is what makes fitness work. You have people that are helping you be accountable, that help you reach your goal. They’re supporting you.

This post originally appeared in our January 2020 print issue. For more health and wellness stories, subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A look back at 2019, the year of Amazon’s HQ2

Westlake Legal Group crystal-city A look back at 2019, the year of Amazon’s HQ2 year in review Technology property News & Updates News land hq2 housing development Culture Business amazon headquarters amazon 2019 news
Crystal City is now known as the new home of Amazon HQ2. (Photo by Aaron Spicer)

Right before the start of 2019, tech giant Amazon announced it would add a second headquarters in Northern Virginia, causing both excitement and concern about what the move will do to the region’s economy. 

Now, as we enter into 2020, we take a look back at the progress Amazon has made in the project, the changes Arlington County has implemented and what exactly is going to happen next. 

November 2018

  • Amazon announces the addition of HQ2 in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, bringing with it 25,000 jobs (on top of the more than 8,500 employees already in Virginia) at average salaries of $150,000.
  • Virginia Tech University announces it will build a $1 billion Innovation Campus for grad students on the same day Amazon announced the location of HQ2. 
  • The contractor of the tech mogul’s project is JBG Smith Properties. 

Winter 2019

  • Home sales in Northern Virginia rose 5.4% in December, compared to the same time period in 2017, boosted by a 28% increase year-over-year in Arlington and Alexandria, per the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. The impending arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 is believed to be a big driver of those numbers.

Spring 2019

  • Various public transportation improvement projects come into fruition as a result of the expected influx of people on the roads and transportation system. Projects include adding two-way traffic to Route 1 and the addition of a new east entrance to the Crystal City Metro station, which is now in the concept design phase.
  • Amazon submits its first plans for HQ2 to the Arlington County board for approval in March, 2019. The plans reveal a pair of 22-story buildings at Metropolitan Park that will take up about 2.1 million square feet. Below the buildings, there will be a parking garage, according to the plans. 
  • Arlington County Board approves $23 million in grant money to Amazon, spread across 15 years. 
  • Amazon officially signs the leases of three Crystal City sites: 241 18th Street South, 1800 South Bell Street and 1770 Crystal Drive. 

Summer 2019

  • Virginia Tech decides on Alexandra’s Potomac Yard, which is about 2 miles south of the new headquarters in Crystal City, for the location of its Innovation Campus. The campus is currently in its planning phase. 

Fall 2019

  • The Seattle-based company hosted the first of its Amazon Career Days on Sept. 17, in an attempt to fill the first round of jobs before even breaking ground on HQ2. 

December 2019

  • On Dec. 14, the Arlington County board approved Amazon’s first new construction plan, paving the way for the start of work on two towers in Pentagon City, according to the Washington Business Journal
  • Amazon contributes $20 million to Arlington’s affordable housing loan fund. 
  • Amazon plans to invest close to $14 million in expanding Metropolitan Park, adding 36,000 square feet of open space. 
  • About 400 jobs with HQ2 have been filled. 
  • Here’s a look at the latest developments coming to Arlington as a direct result of the much-anticipated HQ2.

Looking Ahead

  • Construction for the Metropolitan Park portion of the HQ2 project will begin in the middle of 2020, with eventual completion in early 2023. 
  • Eastern entrance to the Crystal City Metro station is in the concept design phase, set to be complete at some point this year. 
  • Traffic patterns will be reconfigured throughout the area, in an effort to improve connectivity between Crystal City and Pentagon City. 
  • Amazon’s 10-acre second phase of new development in Pentagon City at Pen Place is not expected to open until 2025 at the earliest. 

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Year in Review: The 10 most-read stories of 2019

A new decade is right around the corner, and with every new year comes a time of reflection. While you contemplate your personal highs and lows of 2019, and what you hope 2020 brings, we’re taking a look back at 2019 too. Below, find the top 10 headlines you, our readers, loved reading the most over the past year. 

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10. “10 best day trips to take from Northern Virginia this year”

Our April issue featured 10 of the best day-trip destinations for you to discover—and we offered up insider tips on how to make the most of your day.

Westlake Legal Group bread-plate-at-trummers Year in Review: The 10 most-read stories of 2019 year in review top 10 stories top 10 of 2019 top 10 Profiles Northern Virginia News & Updates Food Culture Features Culture cultural features 2019 stories 2019
Photo courtesy of Trummer’s
9. “After a decade in business, fine-dining Trummer’s on Main closes, reopens as an American bistro

After about a month of renovations—a total overhaul of the kitchen, three floors of dining spaces, a patio and, of course, the menu—Trummer’s dropped “on Main” and rebranded as an American bistro in mid-September.

Westlake Legal Group Fireworks Year in Review: The 10 most-read stories of 2019 year in review top 10 stories top 10 of 2019 top 10 Profiles Northern Virginia News & Updates Food Culture Features Culture cultural features 2019 stories 2019
Photo by Roven Images
8. “Here’s where to see Fourth of July fireworks across NoVA”

You simply can’t miss the patriotic celebrations in NoVA each year. Here, we rounded up fireworks displays across the region. Keep your eyes peeled in late June for our 2020 list.

Westlake Legal Group pizza-being-cut Year in Review: The 10 most-read stories of 2019 year in review top 10 stories top 10 of 2019 top 10 Profiles Northern Virginia News & Updates Food Culture Features Culture cultural features 2019 stories 2019
Photo by Rey Lopez
7. “15 best new cheap eats in Northern Virginia”

From rib tips to smoothie bowls to $3 egg-and-chorizo buns, we trekked across Northern Virginia to find delicious bites that won’t deplete your bank account. Take a drive through Manassas for tacos, find outlandish Greek mashups and don’t ignore curry goat in a Stafford strip mall. These are the new cheap eats.

Westlake Legal Group mokomandy Year in Review: The 10 most-read stories of 2019 year in review top 10 stories top 10 of 2019 top 10 Profiles Northern Virginia News & Updates Food Culture Features Culture cultural features 2019 stories 2019
Photo by Rey Lopez
6. “50 Best Restaurants 2019”

2019 marked an extraordinary year of dining in Northern Virginia. The region was gifted a new steakhouse by a beloved brand and we found more reasons to drive into the woods for dinner. We have a trailblazer building a Lao food legacy and a newbie restaurant owner reshaping Korean barbecue. These components and more helped to shape our annual 50 Best Restaurants list.

Westlake Legal Group Campbells Year in Review: The 10 most-read stories of 2019 year in review top 10 stories top 10 of 2019 top 10 Profiles Northern Virginia News & Updates Food Culture Features Culture cultural features 2019 stories 2019
Photo courtesy of Campbells Frozen Custard
5. “Best of NoVA 2019: Food”

As voted on by our readers in our annual Best of NoVA polls, these are the eateries you all love the most. From morning’s doughnuts to midnight’s ice cream, here’s where to find your favorite things to eat.

Westlake Legal Group patsy-and-randy-wedding Year in Review: The 10 most-read stories of 2019 year in review top 10 stories top 10 of 2019 top 10 Profiles Northern Virginia News & Updates Food Culture Features Culture cultural features 2019 stories 2019
Photo courtesy of the Norton family
4. “Great American Restaurants honors its patriarchs with Patsy’s American and Randy’s Prime Seafood & Steaks”

It had been almost a decade since Great American Restaurants, the Norton family-run group that unflaggingly sustains mainstream Americana restaurants across Northern Virginia, had unveiled a new concept. This spring, GAR brought three restaurants into one space in Tysons Corner.

Westlake Legal Group opening-neighborhood Year in Review: The 10 most-read stories of 2019 year in review top 10 stories top 10 of 2019 top 10 Profiles Northern Virginia News & Updates Food Culture Features Culture cultural features 2019 stories 2019
Photo courtesy of Mosaic District
3. “The hottest up-and-coming neighborhoods in Northern Virginia”

The arrival of Amazon kick-started the planning of the Potomac Yards station into high gear. But that’s not the only Metro stop that’s seeing some action. Here are the neighborhoods, all within walking distance from a current or future Metro stop, that are worth checking out.

Westlake Legal Group norton-family Year in Review: The 10 most-read stories of 2019 year in review top 10 stories top 10 of 2019 top 10 Profiles Northern Virginia News & Updates Food Culture Features Culture cultural features 2019 stories 2019
Photo by Jonathan Timmes
2. “How the Norton family built a Northern Virginia restaurant empire”

43 years, 16 restaurants, one family. With three new restaurants making their debuts, the family behind Great American Restaurants has built an eatery empire—and that’s no joke.

Westlake Legal Group vermilion Year in Review: The 10 most-read stories of 2019 year in review top 10 stories top 10 of 2019 top 10 Profiles Northern Virginia News & Updates Food Culture Features Culture cultural features 2019 stories 2019
Photo by Rey Lopez
1. “These are the 10 best restaurants in Northern Virginia”

From classics like The Restaurant at Patowmack Farms to newcomers like Fairfax-born Mama Chang, these are the 10 best places to eat in NoVA.

Don’t miss any of our great stories in 2020. Subscribe to our e-newsletters today.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com