Friday, August 14, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

August 14, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia House Democrats roll out plans for budget, criminal justice overhaul

By LAURA VOZZELLA, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Democrats in Virginia's House of Delegates announced plans Thursday for the twin challenges they'll take up in a special session next week: a criminal justice overhaul sparked by the police killing of George Floyd and a state budget do-over forced on them by the coronavirus pandemic.

Failure of oversight: How dozens of officers kept their police certification despite convictions

By GARY A. HARKI, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Some were convicted of embezzlement, others of possession of child pornography or sexual assault. One was convicted of pulling a knife on a woman he lived with and later raping her. All still have their police officer certification in Virginia. As legislators plan to address systemic policing problems in a special session next week, a Virginian-Pilot investigation found three dozen officers convicted of crimes since 2011 who were never decertified.

Godfrey to receive parole


A man convicted of first-degree murder in 1994 and serving a 200-year sentence was recently granted parole and is scheduled to be released later this month, according to recent correspondence from the Virginia Department of Corrections. Grayson County Commonwealth's Attorney Brandon R. Boyles recently contacted The Gazette and The Declaration newspapers with concerns regarding "irregularities of the parole board" in the case of Robert Dewayne Godfrey.

Virginia to look for COVID-19 antibodies in children

By LUANNE RIFE, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health on Thursday said it plans to check blood samples of 1,000 Northern Virginia children to learn what percentage of them have coronavirus antibodies . A similar study in adults has been taking place throughout Virginia since June, and has shown so far that 2.4% of the participants statewide have antibodies to COVID-19.

Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute email to staff: If positive, but asymptomatic, keep working

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

A recent email to staff at Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute tells those who test positive for the coronavirus but are asymptomatic to keep working. The facility was hit with a COVID-19 outbreak late last month. The Danville Register & Bee acquired the email shortly after it was sent out.

Radford prosecutor: 'Not comfortable' being involved in city COVID-19 regulatory cases

By SAM WALL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The commonwealth's attorney recently told the city council in an email that he wouldn't be prosecuting any cases stemming from the recently passed ordinance that bans gatherings of 50 people or more. The ordinance, currently in effect until Aug. 31, was approved unanimously by the Radford council at an Aug. 4 special meeting centering on how the city could mitigate an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases after citizens raised concerns that Radford University students coming back to the area — and partying — could cause a spike in cases.

A powerful new memorial to U-Va.'s enslaved workers reclaims lost lives and forgotten narratives

By PHILIP KENNICOTT, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

If you stand outside the concentric rings of the University of Virginia's new Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, there is a curious acoustic phenomenon: The conversations of people inside the gray, granite walls are clearly audible, even from a distance. Architects Eric Howeler and Meejin Yoon say that's no surprise, given the way curved surfaces reflect sound. "We knew the geometry had [acoustic] qualities, but it wasn't until it was built that it became so evident," says Yoon.

The Full Report
64 articles, 34 publications


From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

Our COVID-19 dashboard makes it easy to track the latest available data for tests performed, infections, deaths and hospital capacity. There's a filter for each city and county, plus an exclusive per-capita ZIP Code map. Updated each morning around 10:30 a.m.


Judge: Lee statue plaintiffs may have meritorious case

By PETER VIETH, Virginia Lawyers Weekly (Subscription required for some articles)

A Richmond circuit judge says a group of Richmond landowners is likely to succeed on a claim that property law bars removal of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Judge W. Reilly Marchant concluded that property owners in the Monument Avenue Historic District have shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their claimed right to enforce restrictive covenants in deeds granted in 1887 and 1890.


House Democrats roll out special session priorities

By KATE ANDREWS, Va Business Magazine

House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn rolled out the House Democratic Caucus' legislative priorities for the Aug. 18 special session, a slate of coronavirus-related measures and law enforcement reforms. Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, announced in a news release Thursday that the following COVID-19 legislation will be introduced next week:

House Dems look to pass paid sick leave in special session

By ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press

Virginia House Democrats are planning to use an upcoming special session to mandate employers provide paid sick days, along with several other priorities. The Democratic majority unveiled its agenda Thursday for a special session set to start next week. The session was initially supposed to focus on adjusting the state's budget amid the coronavirus pandemic but grew to include criminal justice reform and other measures following widespread civil unrest over the death of George Floyd.

House Democrats promise bills mandating paid sick leave, transparency in nursing homes

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

Paid sick leave, workers' compensation, and transparency for nursing homes are some of the biggest pandemic priorities House Democrats say they plan to tackle during a special session of the General Assembly scheduled to begin next week. Some of the proposals, endorsed by the caucus' 55-member majority, aim to fix issues that have emerged as Virginia responds to the COVID-19 epidemic — including a months-long refusal to name nursing homes with outbreaks, which attracted bipartisan criticism.

PDs talk reform: Mandatory minimums, police stops under study

By PETER VIETH, Virginia Lawyers Weekly (Subscription required for some articles)

Virginia's public defenders are telling reform-minded Democrats the state needs more judges from the ranks of defense lawyers, more discretion for judges and fewer opportunities for pretextual police stops. Another target of reformers is mandatory minimum sentences for various offenses in the Virginia Code. Recommendations for change came from a handful of speakers at a House of Delegates criminal justice reform listening session July 29.

Alexandria Renters Visit State Senator's Home To Press For Eviction Freeze Through Spring


About a dozen Alexandria residents who are facing eviction stopped by the Clifton home of Virginia state Sen. George Barker (D-39) Tuesday night to push for an extension of the state's eviction moratorium. The residents all live in Southern Towers, an apartment complex where hundreds of tenants have been on a rent strike since April. Roughly 150 households in the complex have received eviction notices, says Bert Bayou, director of the D.C.-area chapter of African Communities Together, an organizer of the strike.


Warner talks racial inequalities with local leaders at in-person meeting

By TYLER HAMMEL, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Racial and economic inequalities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and police brutality were the focal points of a candid conversation with Charlottesville community leaders and U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., on Thursday. Held at Piedmont Virginia Community College, the conversation was led by Warner and included Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney; former Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy; Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP President Janette Boyd Martin; Frank Friedman, president of PVCC; and Ben Allen and Sherica Jones from the University of Virginia Equity Center

Warner Talks Health Care, Inequality During Valley Stop

By IAN MUNRO, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner met with leaders in area nonprofit, education and health organizations, as well as elected officials, to find out more about inequalities in health care and the impact of COVID-19 on minority communities during a visit to the Valley on Thursday. The two-term Democratic senator and former Virginia governor heard from and spoke with Mayor Deanna Reed, City Councilmen Chris Jones and Sal Romero, Harrisonburg City Public Schools Superintendent Michael Richards and other stakeholders in the health and human services sectors.


Amid COVID, Virginia Lottery says it brought in $595 million in profit in FY20

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

The Virginia Lottery generated $595 million in profit for K-12 education in the last fiscal year — the third most profitable year in its history — despite concerns about competition from electronic skill games that the General Assembly subsequently banned but Gov. Ralph Northam revived for a year to produce taxes for a COVID-19 relief fund.

Trump's order on unemployment compensation would cost Va. $45 million per week

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Virginia would have to spend $45 million a week for its share of enhanced unemployment benefits under an executive order President Donald Trump signed last weekend, but the state could draw on other federal aid to cover its part of enhanced payments to people who lost work in the economic crisis.

The air in Hampton Roads has gotten cleaner during pandemic, state officials say

By KATHERINE HAFNER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

With more people working from home and fewer cars on the road during the pandemic, air quality in Hampton Roads and throughout Virginia has been notably boosted, according to the state's Department of Environmental Quality. On the average afternoon between 2016 and 2019, levels of ozone reached about 45 parts per billion in the region, according to state data, still plenty shy of what's considered unhealthy.

Virginia making progress on Chesapeake Bay cleanup but lagging on cutting pollutants

By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Virginia is close to being on target to meet its Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals, but still has plenty of work to do to tackle runoff from farms and city and suburban streets and parking lots, a Chesapeake Bay Foundation analysis found. No state in the Bay watershed is on pace to hit the 2025 clean water goal for the Bay, and Pennsylvania is far off-track, the foundation study found.

Virginia on track to meet Bay cleanup goals, report finds, but budget cuts could hamper progress

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

Virginia is on track to meet its 2025 Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals, although lagging state efforts to manage agricultural and stormwater runoff could jeopardize its success, a report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released Thursday said. "When we look at what needs to be done, right now the wastewater folks are overachieving," CBF Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner told the Mercury. "So while we have been, so to say, shading under the umbrella of wastewater achievements to the present, it's not enough."

Private Schools Wary Of Order To Submit Reopening Plans


All private schools are required to submit reopening plans to the Virginia Council for Private Education, not the state. But some are worried about state officials intervening in their plans to fully resume in-person instruction. "We feel it's extremely important for schools to figure out a way to get back to in-person instruction," said Dan Zacharias, executive director for the Old Dominion Association of Church Schools. The group represents 31 schools across the Commonwealth, including three in the greater Richmond area: Landmark Christian School, Grove Christian School, and the Commonwealth Christian Academy.

Virginia: Ballad Health providing public advantage

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health recently concurred with its Tennessee counterpart that Ballad Health is providing a public advantage under the terms of a merger approved by both states. Virginia issued its annual review of Ballad Health, which follows a Tennessee report issued in April. Ballad was formed in 2018 from the union of Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System under the terms of a Certificate of Public Advantage in Tennessee and Cooperative Agreement in Virginia.


Jobless claims fall 44.5% in Virginia week-over-week

Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

The number of Americans applying for unemployment dropped below 1 million last week for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak took hold in the U.S. five months ago, but layoffs are still running extraordinarily high. The figures show that the crisis continues to throw people out of work just as the expiration of an extra $600 a week in federal jobless benefits has deepened the hardship for many — and posed another threat to the U.S. economy.

Microsoft pays $1.4 million per acre for Loudoun data center land

By MICHAEL NEIBAUER, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)

Microsoft Corp. just paid $93.7 million for 66 acres in southern Loudoun County, presumably for more data centers, an expensive follow-up to its September 2018 buy of more than 330 acres in Leesburg. A deed recorded Wednesday shows that Arcola Business Park LLC — a joint venture of Baltimore-based St. John Properties Inc. and Chuck Kuhn, owner of Sterling's JK Moving Services — sold roughly two-thirds of Quail Ridge Farm just north of U.S. Route 50, which the pair bought in 2017 for $12.9 million.

Virginia Commonwealth Bank and Blue Ridge Bank plan merger to create state's fourth largest community bank

By JOHN REID BLACKWELL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

The parent company of Virginia Commonwealth Bank is planning to combine with Blue Ridge Bankshares in an all-stock merger that would create the fourth largest community bank in Virginia with $2.4 billion in assets. Henrico County-based Bay Banks of Virginia Inc. announced the planned merger with Charlottesville-based Blue Ridge Bankshares Inc., the parent of Blue Ridge Bank, on Thursday.

Dominion Energy directs $1M to help small businesses, residents pay energy bills

By SYDNEY LAKE, Va Business Magazine

Virginia small businesses and residential customers can receive additional support to pay their energy bills through Richmond-based Dominion Energy Inc.'s EnergyShare program, the company announced Thursday.

Smithfield plant retooled to boost cuts favored by U.S. consumers

By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Smithfield Foods has retooled its hometown pork-packing plant to produce more of the cuts favored by U.S. consumers instead of the meats that helped its Chinese sales boom. Retooling the plant on the northern edge of the town is aimed at producing more bacon, Smithfield variety hams and fresh pork, said executive vice president Keira Lombardo.


Metro to Run More Buses, Trains Through COVID-19 Recovery Plan


Metro's services are gearing up for a return to a new normal. More buses, trains and expanded hours of service are planned to begin this Sunday (Aug. 16), restoring most service to pre-COVID-19 levels.

I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes operator banks on commuters avoiding Metro when they return to work

By JONATHAN CAPRIEL, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)

The company that operates the Capital Beltway and Interstate 95 Express Lanes posted huge losses for both sets of toll lanes Wednesday. But Transurban also told investors that it expects a big comeback once work-from-home policies end, postulating that commuters will be too fearful to use public transportation.


Virginia Tech cancels fall tailgate party for Class of 2020

By HENRI GENDREAU, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Virginia Tech has canceled a September ceremony and tailgate meant to honor the Class of 2020, which missed out on an in-person commencement. "We know that your commencement ceremony was not what you expected and while we had hoped to celebrate with you on Sept. 26 in Lane Stadium, we now know that we will not be able to host that event this fall as planned," a university statement read Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.

VSU launches $2M initiative to buy computers, tech for 2020 undergrads at no cost to them

By BILL ATKINSON, Progress Index (Metered paywall - 10 articles a month)

Virginia State University has launched a $2 million initiative to ensure every enrolled undergraduate student has the proper technology to navigate online instruction, be it an upgrade or in some cases, a whole new computer — and it comes with no cost incurred by the students.

Virginia Tech will rename two dorms for Black life campus pioneers

By HENRI GENDREAU, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Two Virginia Tech dorms built in the 1960s and named after men who espoused white supremacist views will now be named for Black people who fought for the right to be on Tech's campus. Lee Hall will be renamed for William and Janie Hoge, a Black couple who hosted several African American students in their Blacksburg home in the 1950s.

Liberty University cancels 2020 fall commencement

By AMY TRENT, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

Liberty University's 2020 commencement, previously scheduled for Sept. 11 and 12, is canceled. In a news release issued Tuesday the university said a celebration of the Class of 2020 will be held at next year's graduation on May 14 and 15, 2021.


Over 1,100 new coronavirus cases reported in Virginia on Thursday

By MOSS BRENNAN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health reported 1,101 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing the state's tally to 103,622. At least 2,363 Virginians have died from the virus as of Thursday morning, up 11 from Wednesday.

Virginia to study presence of coronavirus antibodies in N.Va. children


Virginia health officials announced Thursday that they are conducting a study of coronavirus antibodies in children in the state's D.C. suburbs after a similar one that focused on the prevalence of antibodies in adults. The study will look at as many as 1,000 people younger than 20 who are receiving care at participating clinical sites.

Ballad's sickest COVID-19 patients become enthusiastic plasma donors

By LUANNE RIFE, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

No sooner had Ballad Health finished a news briefing in April to say it would begin treating seriously ill COVID-19 patients with antibodies from survivors' plasma, when one of its executives raised his arm to donate. Chris Miller, chief operating officer of Bristol Regional Hospital, said during a similar briefing last week that he knows how awful it is to be so sick. That's why he has not only donated plasma three times, but he is telling his story so that others might do so as well.

Virginia DOC silent on accusations of abuse at Green Rock

By ELIAS WEISS, Chatham Star Tribune

Last week, the number of COVID-19 cases at Green Rock Correctional Center jumped suddenly and conspicuously from five to 79. Since the Aug. 5 edition of the Star-Tribune was published, the outbreak has climbed to 109 cases as of Monday morning.

Farmville director defends detention facility's response

By ROGER WATSON, Farmville Herald (Paywall)

The director of the Farmville Immigration Centers of America (ICAICA ) Detention Center told the Farmville Town Council Wednesday, Aug. 12, the facility has not had any detainees or staff exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 since July 10 and claimed much of the stories in the media about the problems with the treatment of detainees in the facility are not true.

When Will Long-Term Care Facilities Reopen to Visitors?

By PAULA SPAN, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

Three years ago, Cathy Baum helped both her mother and her mother-in-law move into memory care in an assisted living facility in Reston, Va. Because Ms. Baum lived nearby, she could visit four to five days a week and keep a watchful eye on them. . . . Then the coronavirus struck. On March 10 the facility, like nursing homes and assisted living complexes across the country, shut down and barred family visits. Ms. Baum did not see her 98-year-old mother or her 82-year-old mother-in-law until administrators again permitted visitors on June 30.

Fredericksburg region sees 58th COVID-19 death, 71 new cases in one day

By CATHY DYSON, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

In response to an increase in local COVID-19 cases—and Thursday's report included more grim numbers—leaders of health care systems are partnering to urge residents to wear masks, wash their hands frequently and practice social distancing. Mary Washington Healthcare, Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and the Lloyd F. Moss Free Clinic are launching a social media campaign next week called #MaskUpFXBG.

Floyd sees spikes in COVID-19 cases


The New River Health District on Aug. 10 was reporting six outbreaks in the region, two of which originated in educational settings, as Floyd County students and parents prepared for a return to school the very next day. Between Saturday and Sunday last week, 18 new cases of coronavirus infection were reported in Floyd County—representing nearly a quarter of the county's total cases since the pandemic began.

Sidewalk Crowding Poses Coronavirus Threat, Local Experts Say


Crowding on sidewalks, which has occurred outside Arlington bars on recent weekends, has significant potential to spread the coronavirus, according to local infectious disease experts. Confirming fears held by county officials and residents, infectious disease specialists at Virginia Hospital Center and George Mason University said the lack of physical distancing in these crowds, varying levels of mask wearing and the social environment makes the risk of coronavirus spread high.


Caroline supervisors reject referendum on removing Confederate memorial

By TAFT COGHILL JR., Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Cleopatra Kay Coleman considers herself a strong woman of faith. Coleman's faith allowed the Port Royal historian and preservationist to organize the safeguarding of Old Port Royal School, one of 22 one-room schools for Black students in Caroline County that operated from 1924 to 1959. ...But Coleman, 88, said during the Caroline Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday night that her endurance is tested every time she walks or rides past the statue of the Confederate soldier on the county's courthouse lawn.

Opinions about King George memorial do not fall along color lines

By CATHY DYSON, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Those who want the Confederate monument removed from the lawn of the King George Courthouse view it as a reminder of racism while others want it to remain as a memorial to their ancestors—and their differing opinions do not necessarily fall along color lines.

Newport News Council votes to bring down Confederate monument

By JOSH REYES, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

After the Newport News City Council voted to remove the Confederate monument from where it's stood since 1909, a former mayor of the city took the podium and apologized. Joe Frank was there for a public hearing about a new convenience store, but he listened as about a dozen speakers and nearly every member of the council shared their thoughts on the Confederate monument, which sits in front of the historic Warwick County Courthouse.

Surry protestors demand Confederate monument's removal

By STEPHEN FALESKI, Smithfield Times (Paywall)

"Take it down!" That was the one and only demand a group of protestors — about 15 in total — made of Surry County's Board of Supervisors while gathered at the base of Surry's Confederate monument the evening of Aug. 7.

Petition to block removal of Roanoke's Lee memorial dismissed

By RALPH BERRIER JR., Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A petition to block the permanent removal of the Robert E. Lee memorial from downtown Roanoke was dismissed during a hearing in Roanoke Circuit Court on Thursday. Judge Onzlee Ware ruled that plaintiff Liniel Gregory did not have legal standing to bring the petition against the Roanoke City Council because he does not live in Roanoke.

Northampton Monument Proposal: Add Union Monument with African American Soldiers

By STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post

What should happen to Northampton's Confederate monument that stands on the historic courthouse green in Eastville, the county seat? The Confederate monument faces Eastville's main street, Courthouse Road, as "a day-to-day reminder of some of the darker days of our history," Bill Payne, of Cape Charles, told the Eastern Shore Post last week. He would like to see the monument moved out of the public eye, but another Northampton citizen has a different idea.

Supervisors delay decision on Confederate statue

By CRYSTAL VANDEGRIFT, Charlotte Gazette

Despite several citizens having expressed their concerns about a Confederate statue that sits atop a pedestal in the courthouse square and if it should or should not remain there, the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS) have decided not to make a decision on the matter in hopes that "things will cool down" and possibly hold a public hearing at some point after the beginning of 2021.

Public hearing slated on future of Confederate statue in Boydton

By SUSAN KYTE, South Boston News & Record

The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors will hear from the public before members decide the fate of the Confederate soldier statue that stands at the courthouse square in Boydton. A public hearing will take place Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 9 a.m. in the gymnasium at Park View High School in South Hill.

Citizens hold rally in support of police

By STEPHEN COWLES, Smithfield Times (Paywall)

The call to show support for law enforcement, particularly in Isle of Wight County, attracted about 80-plus people to the Back the Blue appreciation rally on Aug. 8. This took place in spite of sometimes threatening skies over a parking lot at the corner of routes 10 and 258 in Smithfield.

'All these people are heroes'

By BRIAN PALMER, Richmond Free Press

Dustin Klein and his partner in projection, Alex Criqui, have lost count of the number of days they have been making their art at the Lee statue on Monument Avenue at the area protesters call Marcus-David Peters Circle. "We came out one night and said, 'We're going to project on the monument and see what happens,' " Mr. Klein said, as he and Mr. Criqui monitored images of prominent and less recognizable African-Americans they were projecting onto the Confederate monument from a tent just outside the circle.

Richmond man charged with 5 felonies alleging property destruction and inciting a riot

By ALI ROCKETT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A 20-year-old Richmond man has been charged with five felonies and a misdemeanor in connection with property damage in and around Virginia Commonwealth University's Monroe Park campus during recent unrest. Lucas Couturier was arrested Wednesday and charged by Richmond police with misdemeanor arson and felony conspiracy to commit a riot.

A Norfolk woman helped dismantle school segregation as a child. Now she's talking about the walls that remain.

By DENISE M. WATSON, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

It's been 57 years, but Sharon McGlone still remembers that first day at Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Spotsylvania. The then fourth-grader and six other girls had prepared all summer for taking their first steps into the county's two previously all-white schools. It stung, still, when a boy that morning told her his mother said he couldn't play with her and used the n-word. The teacher stepped in. She told him that she would not tolerate that language in her classroom.


Fairfax won't use prosecutors in most misdemeanors

By MAURA MAZUROWSKI, Virginia Lawyers Weekly (Subscription required for some articles)

Fairfax County prosecutors stopped being involved in many misdemeanor cases last month. The reason: The county's newly implemented body-worn camera program for police officers. The body cams create a high volume of footage and an overwhelming caseload prevented prosecutors from giving cases "the attention they deserve" and are ethically obligated to give, said Steve Descano, who became Fairfax commonwealth's attorney in January.

Amid Twitter investigation, Superintendent Steven Walts announces his retirement

By JILL PALERMO, Prince William Times

Prince William County Schools Superintendent Steven Walts will retire effective July 1, when his current contract expires, Walts said in a statement Thursday afternoon. Walts announced his retirement to school board members via email Thursday morning and then shared the news with some school division staff during the annual Equity and Excellence in Education conference, which was held virtually on Thursday.

Richmond's Italian-American Community Offers To Take Back Columbus Statue


The Italian-American community gifted a Christopher Columbus statue to Richmond in 1927. Now, they're offering to take it back. Two Richmond organizations representing Italian-Americans — the Giuseppe Verdi Lodge #315 and the Italian-American Cultural Association of Virginia — have sent an official bid to City Council, offering to take ownership of the statue near Byrd Park. For years, their members have provided upkeep for the 6.5 ft bronze statue and the flowered area around it. The statue was toppled back in June by Black Lives Matter and Native American activists who then burned it and tossed it into a lake.

Petersburg Circuit Court judge rules in favor of city treasurer

By JESS NOCERA, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A Petersburg Circuit Court judge recently struck down a move that sought to strip the city treasurer's office of its duties. The City Council in May 2019 voted 4-3 to transfer responsibilities from the treasurer to an appointed tax collector; in this case, City Manager Aretha Ferrell-Benavides, who was designated as the custodian of Petersburg's money and empowered to deposit money into the city's bank accounts.

A Rosie's slot parlor could be coming to Chesapeake. The company promised $15 million to address traffic concerns.

By GORDON RAGO, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A company that wants to bring a slot-machine parlor to Chesapeake's Greenbrier Mall put up $15 million and promised traffic improvements to overcome opposition by some city officials. By a 4-3 vote Wednesday night, the Planning Commission recommended the City Council approve the satellite wagering facility Rosie's Gaming Emporium. Commissioners Shelley Deneau, Harold Gilbert and Michael Sweeney voted no, while Chairman Hollis Ellis and Commissioner Marty Williams abstained.

Hampton gearing up for early voting, will use historic circuit court building as a satellite site

By LISA VERNON SPARKS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

This fall Hampton's registered voters will have multiple ways to cast their votes, including doing in-person absentee ballots at the city's former circuit courthouse downtown. The Hampton City Council voted Wednesday to use the 144-year-old former courthouse on Kings Way as a satellite voting site for early voting beginning late September through October.

Spotsylvania supervisors won't restrict guns on county government property

By SCOTT SHENK, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

The Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors approved a resolution stating the county will not enact gun prohibitions on government property. The resolution passed by a 6–1 vote Tuesday, with Supervisor Deborah Frazier casting the lone dissenting vote. Prior to the vote, Frazier asked if the resolution would allow people to carry guns in courtrooms.

CRB votes to hire legal counsel, laments relationship with city officials

By NOLAN STOUT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Charlottesville's Police Civilian Review Board plans to seek independent legal representation while lamenting a contentious relationship with city officials. The board unanimously voted to start the process of hiring independent counsel during its virtual meeting Thursday. Mayor Nikuyah Walker has been critical of the proposal, telling the board that outside counsel only makes sense in terms of use-of-force or other incidents in which City Attorney John Blair would be defending an officer.

Cooter's negotiates year-old debt with county for services at Good Ol' Boys Fest

By RANDY ARRINGTON, Page Valley News

It was a year ago Monday when Wynonna Judd slipped into the spotlight at the Shenandoah Speedway to sing for thousands gathered at the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1980s CBS hit "The Dukes of Hazzard." The festival dubbed "Cooter's Good Ol' Boys Fest" fell short of the expectations of Ben Jones, who played Cooter Davenport on the show, and his wife Alma Viator, who organized the event. The couple own several variations of Hazzard-themed gift shops that also serve as shrines to the show located in Nashville and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., as well as the Page Valley just west of Luray.

Lynchburg receives second round of CARES funding, approves bonus for all city employees

By SARAH HONOSKY, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lynchburg canceled plans to give city employees long-awaited raises, but following the distribution of a second round of CARES Act funding, Lynchburg City Council approved a one-time $1,700 bonus for every municipal employee.

Lynchburg-area schools to pause meal distribution, prepare for start of academic year

By JAMEY CROSS, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

As summer food service ends, Lynchburg-area school nutrition and transportation staff are working to prepare a meal distribution plan for the upcoming atypical school year. When schools were ordered to close in March, nutrition and transportation staff in area school divisions provided meals to students at home by means of drive-thru pickup and bus delivery throughout their localities.

Halifax Town Council member said he doesn't plan to step down amid criticism over letter


Some residents of Halifax are angered over a letter that was written by one of their council members. While many people called for Halifax Council Member Jack Dunavant to step down at a meeting on Tuesday night, no action was taken against Dunavant at the meeting.

Mecklenburg County rezones near Microsoft site

South Boston News & Record

Mecklenburg County supervisors voted Monday to rezone nearly 650 acres near the Microsoft Data Center in Boydton — land that will likely be used for future expansion of the company's cloud computing complex.

Patrick County sheriff says there is some good, some bad among proposed policing changes.

By BILL WYATT, Martinsville Bulletin (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

With a special session by the General Assembly set for next week, two matters will be at the forefront — the state budget and criminal justice reforms. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the meeting will be to "adopt a budget based on the revised revenue forecast in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic." But a second purpose is to take up "police accountability and oversight, use of force, increased training and education and officer recruitment, hiring and decertification."



Armburst and Givens: Want police accountability? Strengthen transparency laws.

By SHAWN ARMBURST AND JENNIFER GIVENS, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

After the world watched George Floyd's brutal killing, it was revealed that the Minneapolis police officer who had kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes was facing 18 misconduct complaints. This information was released because Minnesota allows public access to police disciplinary records. In contrast, Virginia is one of 21 states where officer disciplinary records are essentially confidential. The Freedom of Information Act allows law enforcement agencies to choose whether to disclose officer misconduct, use-of force and closed-case files.

Armburst is the executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project. Givens is the director of the Innocence Clinic at University of Virginia Law School.


Shhh! We're Heading Off on Vacation

By SARAH FIRSHEIN, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

Next month, Elena Gaudino will fly from New York to Las Vegas, rent an S.U.V. and drive to the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park and other desert destinations. The 10-day road trip stands in for her favorite annual tradition — Burning Man, the Nevada arts festival that was canceled this year because of the pandemic — and gives her something to look forward to after a coronavirus-induced travel dry-spell. . . . But unlike in years past, Ms. Gaudino will post no requests for restaurant recommendations on Facebook, nor will she swap excited texts with friends detailing her itinerary.

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