Monday, August 17, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

August 17, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia Democrats aiming to deliver police reform during special session

By AMY FRIEDENBERGER, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

As the General Assembly neared the end of its regular session earlier this year, Sen. Scott Surovell called the effort to enact criminal justice reform a "complete and total failure." The defense attorney and Democrat from Fairfax County said the Democratic-controlled legislature settled for "table scraps," like decriminalizing marijuana. Proposals such as expunging criminal records and abolishing jury sentencing — which have bipartisan support — didn't make it to the governor's desk.

SRO funding, criminal justice reform high on SW Va. legislative delegation's list

By MIKE STILL, Kingsport Times News

Members of Southwest Virginia's legislative delegation say pandemic executive orders and criminal justice reform will rank with the budget in terms of priorities when the General Assembly's special session convenes in Richmond on Aug. 18. State Sen. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon; Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City; and Del. Israel O'Quinn, R-Bristol gathered Friday via Zoom to talk about a Democratic-dominated session five months after the majority party achieved much of its agenda on criminal justice reform.

Arguing marchers, hot rhetoric mark Salem pro-police rally

By MIKE GANGLOFF, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A rally called to support Salem police Saturday featured plenty of heated rhetoric, with a Republican gubernatorial hopeful saying that people who call for defunding law enforcement agencies are not Americans. And the rainy, half-hour downtown march that began the Back the Blue event was a continual duel between the competing chants of the marchers themselves — "Black lives matter!" shouted a small group within the march; "All lives matter," responded others.

A Virginia House Candidate Campaigns By Attacking 'A Man Dressed as a Woman'

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

Bob Good, a self-described "biblical conservative" who is the Republican nominee for a House seat in his conservative Central Virginia district, is hoping to rally clergy members with meetings this week attacking a new state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which he characterizes as an assault on religious liberty.

Virginia Republicans pick former Del. Rich Anderson to replace Jack Wilson as state party chair

By ANDREW CAIN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Virginia Republicans voted Saturday to replace their party chair with a former state delegate from Prince William County as they try to turn around a decade-long losing streak in state elections. Former Del. Rich Anderson finished just shy of the 50% threshold for victory in the first round, in which voting delegates eliminated incumbent Jack Wilson, a Chesterfield County lawyer who finished third.

Appalachian Power seeks rate bump decried by the Attorney General's office as 'unconscionable'

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

With state regulators resuming their review of Virginia's monopoly electric utility rates for the first time since 2014, Appalachian Power is seeking to raise customer bills by about 6.5 percent while also increasing shareholder returns going forward. . . . But environmental and consumer advocates, as well as the Office of the Attorney General, contend that the monopoly utility's request for a rate bump rests on an inappropriate last-minute accounting trick that allows the company to claim it significantly under-earned in 2019 by expensing in December of that year the retirement costs for eight coal-fired units that were closed in 2014 and 2015.

Rolls-Royce to close Prince George County factory, laying off nearly 300 workers

By JOHN REID BLACKWELL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Rolls-Royce aircraft component factory in Prince George County will close and lay off hundreds of employees by the middle of 2021, a victim of the economic fallout and collapse in global travel resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The company plans to shutter the factory in the Crosspointe office park near Interstate 295 by mid-next year, putting 280 employees out of work, a spokesman for Rolls-Royce North America confirmed Saturday.

The Full Report
52 articles, 17 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.


Virginia legislature reconvenes for special session on budget, pandemic, police reform

By AMY FRIEDENBERGER, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

State lawmakers are returning to Richmond on Tuesday for a special session that will be packed with debate on police and criminal justice reform, issues that arose from the coronavirus pandemic and adjusting the state's budget. Gov. Ralph Northam planned for the General Assembly to return in mid-August to revisit the two-year budget upended by the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

'People's lives are in your hands': Clergy urges legislators to relieve incarceration

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

As a breeze blew and a light rain fell, Anthony Gaboton prayed to remember those in cells who cannot feel wind or rain. Gaboton, a member of the Richmond Hill ecumenical community on Church Hill, raised his prayer among many in a public vigil in Shockoe Bottom on Sunday to call for Virginia legislators to find new ways to release people incarcerated in prisons, jails and detention centers, where the coronavirus has been rampant.

Va. House Democrats want to make it easier for localities to take down Confederate statues

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

Confederate monuments are already coming down or being marked for removal across Virginia, but the debate over the state-mandated process apparently isn't over. As part of their legislative proposals for the upcoming special session, Democrats in the House of Delegates want to revisit the law that took effect in July empowering local governments to begin removing statues. Their goal, according to a news release, is to give localities "greater latitude" to deal with their statues as they see fit.

Child of Immigrants and Face of a New America

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

...Navigating the divide between Black and white can be difficult for the children of immigrants who are neither. Ghazala Hashmi grew up in southern Georgia, in the only Indian family in her small town. Her father had brought the family there after finishing his doctorate in the late 1960s. "We were a minority of one in our school, always," said Ms. Hashmi, 56, who is now a state senator in Virginia. "I never knew anybody who was like me. It was extremely isolating."... Last fall, Ms. Hashmi, a former literature professor and a Democrat, flipped a State Senate seat in central Virginia. The tagline for her campaign, she said, was "Ghazala Hashmi is an American name."


Experts say Danville officials on casino campaign committee a routine partnership, posing no ethical issues

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

Caesars Entertainment's casino campaign committee has two elected officials serving on a body that could benefit a private company by aiding its referendum bid for casino in Danville. But Delegate Danny Marshall, R-Danville, and Mayor Alonzo Jones, who are co-chairing the committee along with Averett University President Tiffany Franks and minority investor Tammy Wright-Warren, say they are not working for Caesars' gain but to benefit local residents.


State officials rush to shore up confidence in Nov. 3 election as voters express new fears about mail voting

By AMY GARDNER AND SEUNG MIN KIM, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

President Trump's unprecedented attacks on the U.S. Postal Service amid widespread mail delays across the country are shaking voters' faith that their ballots will be counted, prompting a rush among federal, state and local officials to protect the integrity of the Nov. 3 election. . . . Attorneys general from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Washington and North Carolina, among others, have begun discussions on how to sue the administration to prevent operational changes or funding lapses that could affect the election.

Democrats Warn Of 'Assault' On The Postal Service As Election Nears


Official U.S. Postal Service mailboxes being removed. High-speed mail sorting machines being taken out of service. Reduced hours for postal workers across the country. As Election Day nears, lawmakers are perplexed and troubled by recent changes made by the U.S. Postal Service. ...Democrats in Congress plan to introduce legislation to "roll back these so-called operational efficiencies," Rep. Gerry Connolly, chair of the House Government Operations subcommittee, told All Things Considered Saturday. "We're going to work with the men and women who work for the Postal Service to ensure that they will continue as they always have in the past to make mail-in ballots a priority despite what Mr. DeJoy and President Trump want to do with the Postal Service."

Fredericksburg-area registrars prepare for surge in absentee voting

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

Fredericksburg residents voting absentee in the upcoming presidential election will find a bigger drop-off box for ballots than the one used during the recent local election. Like other area voter registrars, Marc Hoffman is urging Fredericksburg residents to apply for an absentee ballot due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. He anticipates that about 60 percent, or 6,197 of the city's registered voters, will choose this option.

Local registrars see spike in requests for mail-in ballots, gear up for November election

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

Fewer than 80 days out from the November presidential election, with COVID-19 numbers surging locally and safety precautions still in place in Lynchburg and its surrounding counties, area registrar offices are gearing up for their biggest day of the year. But this November, things will look a little different — and many voters will have cast their ballots before that first Tuesday in November, according to Nelson County Registrar Jacqueline Britt.

Ahead of school reopenings, Sen. Warner meets with Central Virginia educators


As many schools in Central Virginia get ready to reopen virtually, Sen. Mark Warner is pushing to get more resources to students and teachers. The state official visited Richmond Friday to discuss reopening challenges with local educators. "What I want to hear is kind of what it's like on the front line," Warner told the educators, who gathered for a socially distanced discussion at Peter Paul Development Center.

With Democrats at home, a conservative super PAC comes knocking

By DAVID WEIGEL, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, was meticulous about the new rules of canvassing. Step one: Knock on the door. Step two: Turn and walk six feet away. Step three: Wait for a voter to reach the door and make the sale to them behind the mutual safety of a mask. "You're just the person I want to talk to!" Phillips told Laura Fultz, 34, on Monday, as he brandished literature for Republican congressional candidate Nick Freitas.


Driving While Using Cellphone To Be Illegal Soon

By PETE DELEA, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

For more than a decade, Janet Brooking of DRIVE SMART Virginia pushed state legislators to prohibit using cellphones while driving. After years of work, beginning Jan. 1, it will be illegal in the commonwealth to drive a vehicle and hold a cellphone or other handheld personal communications device. Brooking said the new law will save lives. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, 15% of fatalities in car crashes were caused by distracted driving.

Natural Bridge facing more financial questions

By LAURENCE HAMMACK, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Six years ago, Natural Bridge and its surrounding forestland were saved from being sold to the highest bidder. Now a state park, the popular Rockbridge County tourist attraction is again facing an uncertain financial future. The park likely will be unable to make a nearly $580,000 annual payment on a loan from the Virginia Resources Authority that is due Nov. 1, according to a letter from Stephanie Hamlett, the authority's executive director.


Dominion's past-due power bills from pandemic hit $116 million

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

Dominion Energy customers' unpaid electricity bills after a state-ordered moratorium on disconnections totaled $116.6 million as of June 30, the State Corporation reported Friday. The commission has been monitoring utility bill collections since the pandemic hit and it issued its March 16 order suspending disconnections. Dominion had suspended disconnections four days before that.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline easement process left Nelson landowners $15 million richer

By EMILY BROWN, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

The fight played out in public spaces via protests and events and in courthouses up and down the coast. All the while, other exchanges over the contentious Atlantic Coast Pipeline hit closer to home and played out more quietly. In living rooms and at kitchen tables in the homes of landowners along the 600-mile route that was to cross three states, ACP worked to buy up rights to valuable real estate. In Nelson County, more than 150 landowners were part of those methodical talks that often carried monumental stakes.


'This is our future': Fairfax tests region's first self-driving shuttle for public transit

By LUZ LAZO, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The Washington region is about to experience self-driving vehicles in public transportation. Fairfax County and Dominion Energy are testing an autonomous electric shuttle that could be carrying passengers between the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station and the county's eclectic Mosaic District as early as this fall.


With uncertainty about classes, a few JMU and EMU students opt for a gap semester (or longer)

By SUKAINAH ABID-KONS, Harrisonburg Citizen

When Alexa Lorenzana found out the way EMU would be holding classes partially online and partially in person this fall, the rising EMU junior decided to take a semester off and work instead. "I made the decision because having done online work when everything shut down, it was very hard on my mental health," Lorenzana said.

Memorial to Enslaved Laborers acknowledges long-suppressed history

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

"Can we forget the crack of the whip, cowhide, whipping-post, the auction-block, the hand-cuffs, the spaniels, the iron collar, the negro-trader tearing the young child from its mother's breast as a whelp from the lioness? Have we forgotten that by these horrible cruelties, hundreds of our race have been killed? No, we have not, or ever will." So wrote Isabella Gibbons, a formerly enslaved Black woman, two years after the end of the Civil War.


Virginia reports 937 new coronavirus cases on Sunday; no new deaths announced

By PETER COUTU, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health reported 937 new coronavirus cases Sunday, bringing the state's tally to 106,687. At least 2,381 Virginians have died from the virus as of Sunday morning, with no new deaths being reported overnight.

A patchwork system: How COVID-19 testing works in the Charlottesville area

By KATHERINE KNOTT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Six months into the pandemic, the number of COVID-19 tests available in the Thomas Jefferson Health District has increased substantially, though doctors and public health officials watch the numbers closely to ensure that supplies will last. For Central Virginia residents, a patchwork of providers and labs help administer tests and process the results — a system that can be stressed by an uptick in demand or shortage of supplies, leading to longer wait times for results and less access to tests.

Contact tracers on front line of tracking coronavirus

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

It's the worst-case scenario — you've contracted the coronavirus. You just got the call and there's a million thoughts racing through your head. Will you be OK? Where did you catch it? Who might you have exposed to the virus? A few days later, a call from an unfamiliar number pops up on your phone. It's a contact tracer ready to track the virus.


Marcus-David Peters sign removed from the circle around Lee statue; police threaten possible arrest

By ERIC KOLENICH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A large forest green sign that had informally renamed the Robert E. Lee circle for Marcus-David Peters was cut from its posts early Sunday morning. "You can still smell the chainsaw," one person wrote on social media early Sunday. It's unclear what happened to the sign, but the Richmond Police Department said Sunday that no city agency was involved in its removal. And according to a spokeswoman for the Department of General Services, it was not taken down by state officials.


Fredericksburg-area school divisions working to ensure all students have high-speed internet access

By ADELE UPHAUS–CONNER, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Kevin Grego lives in King George County and teaches high school in Charles County, Md. When he needs to attend a virtual department meeting or upload a lesson, he drives down the road to his church's parking lot, where he can access Wi-Fi. The Verizon hotspot he uses for internet access at home doesn't support that kind of activity. Grego said he doesn't mind doing this for his own work, but he minds it for his 6-year-old son, who is going into the first grade at King George Elementary.

Vacant storefronts are among growing problems on Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach, business owners say

By STACY PARKER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Oceanfront business owners and civic leagues are fed up with the state of affairs on Atlantic Avenue, and want the City Council to take action before the situation gets worse. Gun violence, groups harassing tourists and police and a proliferation of vacant storefronts are just a few of their concerns. What they want: To bring back a resort management office at the Oceanfront so city staff can quickly address sidewalk repairs and trash clean-up and to enhance the live entertainment performances along the streets and in the parks to keep tourists coming back.

Bulk of Hampton's $23 million CARES Act funding will cover payroll, telework expenses, enhanced cleaning

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

Hampton outlined Wednesday how it plans to use some $23 million in federal coronavirus funding support, the bulk which covers telework, adding touch-free fixtures and payroll expenses. The allocation is a part of $744.6 million Virginia received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act. The award is for expenses arising from the pandemic localities may have between March through Dec. 30. Any funding not used will need to be returned.

Portsmouth could rename 3 schools, including Wilson High, because of namesakes' racism

By SARA GREGORY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

For the second time in 30 years, Wilson High School in Portsmouth could get a new name. Portsmouth's School Board has agreed to review the school's name after a push by alumni to ditch the name, which honors former President Woodrow Wilson, because of his racist views. Two other schools, James Hurst and James Tyler elementaries, also could be renamed.

CDC: Winchester highly vulnerable in a crisis

By BRIAN BREHM, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta contains alarming information about how a natural or man-made disaster could cripple Winchester. According to the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index, Winchester would be one of the most at-risk localities in Virginia in the event of a major health crisis. On a scale from 0.00 to 1.00, with 1.00 being the highest possible risk, the eastern and northern portions of the city scored as high as 0.98.

Pandemic-Era Rockingham County Fair Looks Different But Maintains Key Traditions

By JESSICA WETZLER, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The Rockingham County Fairgrounds looks a little different without carnival rides and musical entertainment filling the hot summer air, but after months of diligent planning, the fair kicks off today with livestock shows and competitions that bring the fair back to its agricultural roots. After the Rockingham County Fair Association announced the cancellation of numerous fair events due to the COVID-19 pandemic in July, the red carpet was rolled back up and typical fair-themed events were parted with, such as bingo, midway games and grounds entertainment each day.

Lexington council narrows options for new Stonewall Jackson cemetery name

By MIKE ALLEN, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Letter after letter took up for a lost cause. "Y'all need to leave our history alone." "The Lexington I knew has 'Gone With the Wind.' " "Learn your history and do not overshadow Lee and Jackson with political correctness." The authors of those letters — which were all read aloud by members of the Lexington City Council during an August meeting streamed on Facebook Live — were protesting a moot point. The council had already voted unanimously in the early hours of July 3 to change the name of Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery.

Area teachers learn new skills in preparation for unusual school year

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

Artice Appling feels like a first-year teacher all over again, despite having spent the past 17 years in a classroom. The seventh-grade math teacher at Sandusky Middle School and other Lynchburg City Schools teachers returned to buildings earlier this month to prepare virtual classrooms, assignments and resources for students to use as they begin the school year from home next week. In any other school year, Appling would be decorating bulletin boards and placing name tags on desks. Instead, she sits alone in a classroom meant for 24.

Housing advocates have effectively eliminated chronic homelessness among Lynchburg-area veterans

By RICHARD CHUMNEY, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

Chronic homelessness among Lynchburg-area veterans has become so rare and brief it has been effectively eliminated, according to local housing advocates. The Hill City and the neighboring counties are the latest communities to achieve what is known as "functional zero" for veteran homelessness. Reaching functional zero means the number of veterans experiencing homelessness is less than the number of veterans a community has proven it can house in a month, which in Lynchburg is three veterans.

Roanoke one of 13 cities in national study of urban heat island effect

By KEVIN MYATT, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

"Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty." The lyrics of the 1966 chart-topping hit song by The Lovin' Spoonful captures the idea of urban heat island warming quite well, including "people looking half-dead, walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a matchhead." Urban heat island warming can be a potentially life-threatening matter, and not something only relegated to a major metropolis like New York or Los Angeles or a hotter one like Atlanta or Dallas.

Pittsylvania County supervisors have mixed views on impact of casino

By CALEB AYERS, Danville Register & Bee

With a referendum officially put on the ballot earlier this month, the possibility of a casino coming to Danville is in the voters' hands. Unlike the majority of the large economic development announcements in recent years that have come through joint partnerships between Danville and Pittsylvania County, the casino project is exclusively the city's. But the impacts of the proposed casino — a facility that would allow for the creation of 1,300 jobs and include a hotel, conference center and entertainment venue, among other things, if approved — will be felt around the region, including in Pittsylvania County.



Reappraising Woodrow Wilson

Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Woodrow Wilson is back in the news, nearly a century after he left office. While back in the news, he's not back on the side of buildings at Princeton University. Wilson has fallen into disfavor elsewhere. In 2015, the University of Texas removed his statue — along with one of Jefferson Davis.

Lawmakers must address disparities laid bare by virus

By TRAM NGUYEN, Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 much of the national conversation has focused on how long it will take for things to get back to normal. Virginia has entered phase three of re-opening, and businesses have started to scale up production, but our working class communities of color are not only wondering how long it will take to get back to normal, but instead are questioning if back to normal is really the goal.

Parole Board missteps warrant greater scrutiny

Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

When the coronavirus spread across Virginia, officials understood that high-density facilities — including jails and prisons — would face a risk of widespread infection. Like many of his peers, Gov. Ralph Northam recommended that some inmates be granted early release so that confinement in prison didn't become a death sentence. That was the right call, but something got lost along the way.

Virtual P.E. will help our students stay healthy

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Schools across Virginia closed in mid-March because of the global coronavirus pandemic, upending children's daily routines. Faced with uncertainty as reported cases continue to rise, many public school divisions decided to start this school year virtually. As classrooms across Virginia turn to the digital sphere this fall, students will experience many changes.

Report alleging Parole Board errors was kept secret

Daily Progress Editorial (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

State officials withhold information. Sound familiar? In this space last week, we criticized the Virginia State Police for fighting a judge's order to release information relative to Charlottesville's deadly white supremacist rally of 2017. Then came word of another state agency — or agencies — hiding information from the public (as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch). The Virginia Parole Board and its former chairperson violated both state law and parole board policies earlier this year in granting parole to the murderer of a police officer, according to an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General.

Focus special session on pandemic relief

Free Lance-Star Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Gov. Ralph Northam called a special session of the General Assembly last month to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to criminal justice reform after George Floyd's death. This is a large agenda—too large for a special session in which lawmakers are social distancing and the usual committee meetings and public hearings in Richmond will not be held.

Lawmakers' caution, restraint will serve Virginia best

Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Conservatism means different things to different people and, like most commonly used political labeling, gets much abused. But conservatism, of the fiscal variety, is the order of the day in Virginia. Or it should be. Whether it plays out that way, as the General Assembly gathers next week for a special legislative session — mostly to amend the state budget in light of virus-driven economic realities — remains to be seen.

Student self-governance is not enough for a safe reopening of Virginia's colleges and universities

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The leap from K-12 schooling to higher education is a significant transition. After years of assigned seats, set policies for bathroom breaks and other childhood standards to learn rules, colleges and universities set the tone for students to grow into adulthood and help make rules. The University of Virginia describes its student self-governance approach as "groundbreaking," with opportunities for young minds "to govern almost every aspect of life on Grounds."


Vargas: The painful context of Va. mayor's 'Aunt Jemima' post

By THERESA VARGAS, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The mayor did what politicians do when facing local and national backlash for racist acts. He apologized. He asked for "forgiveness" and "grace." He spoke directly to people of color and women and said, "I now fully understand how hurtful it is and I can and will do better, and we can all do better. We must." For some people in Luray, Va. — a small town known for its tourist-drawing Luray Caverns — those words from Barry Presgraves at a Monday town council meeting might be enough for them to let him serve out the remaining months of his term.


McNamara: Virginia Democrats continue to leave leadership vacuum

By JOE MCNAMARA, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Tomorrow, August 18, 2020, The Virginia General Assembly will convene for a Special Session. It will mark nearly five months since the legislature has met. During this time, Virginia has weathered the worst pandemic in a century, a severe economic recession, and mounting civil unrest. People are unemployed, public schools face uncertainty as they attempt to bring students back, and many citizens feel helpless as rioters destroy their property and ravage their communities.

McNamara represents Craig County, Salem, and parts of Roanoke County and Montgomery County in the House of Delegates. He is a Republican.

Riley: A message to lawmakers: Please help protect small businesses in your districts

By NICOLE RILEY, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

For months, many small-business owners in Virginia have been economically and emotionally battered. They have faced intense stress as their businesses were ordered to close or operate in an extremely limited capacity due to Gov. Ralph Northam's executive orders. All that these entrepreneurs ever worked to build has been threatened through no fault of their own.

Hare: Our seniors are counting on continued support through the pandemic

By KEITH HARE, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Since the onset of the pandemic, Virginia's nursing homes have been at the epicenter of the battle against COVID-19. While news of outbreaks has been devastating, Virginia's long-term caregivers remained committed to protecting our loved ones in long-term care communities. These nurses, certified nursing assistants, therapists, and dietary and environmental services staff did so despite the difficulties and challenges of facing a novel and voracious virus.

Hare is president and CEO of the Virginia Health Care Association-Virginia Center for Assisted Living, which represents nearly 350 nursing homes and assisted living communities across Virginia.

Gibson: Virginia's untaught history

By BOB GIBSON, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Many current residents of Arlington County, which sits across the Potomac River from the nation's capital, might be shocked to learn that the Ku Klux Klan maintained a regular and active presence there from the 1920s to the 1950s. The Klan was so strong in Arlington that it sponsored a youth baseball team, had members employed by the county government and held weekly Sunday cross burnings back in the '20s to which the public was invited, "weather permitting."

Gibson is communications director and senior researcher at the University of Virginia's Cooper Center for Public Service. The opinions expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of the Cooper Center.

Rashid: All Virginians deserve reliable internet access

By QASIM RASHID, published in Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and back-to-school season is around the corner. That means we must do everything we can to keep our communities safe. As the father of Stafford County Public School students, this is personal to me. We have good internet at our house, but many of my kids' classmates do not.

Rashid is a human rights lawyer running as a Democrat for Virginia's First Congressional District. He lives in Stafford County.

Pearson: A "torturous and bloody odyssey" for equal rights

By CALVIN PEARSON, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

On Aug. 22, the city of Hampton and Fort Monroe will commemorate the 401st anniversary of the landing of the first enslaved Africans brought to English North America. It is not an event America can celebrate because it would be the beginning of 246 years of forced bondage for people of color. Not to mention this country was built on the genocide of native people in North America when it was invaded in 1607.

Calvin Pearson is the founder of Project 1619 Inc. in Hampton.

Ferrada: The middle of a pandemic is no time to reduce the quality of care

By PAULA FERRADA, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

I came to this country because I wanted to practice in one of the greatest health care systems in the world. I now have been a practicing trauma surgeon for 10 years, having emigrated from Colombia as a young woman. However, as a result of misguided policy decisions, we are at risk of allowing the quality of care in the world's largest economy to devolve into something that you would find in the developing world.

Paula Ferrada, M.D., is an emergency and trauma surgeon in central Virginia.

Barks: Virginians need care — not cops — in a mental-health crisis

By BRYAN BARKS, published in Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

I still remember the flashing blue lights, the deep voices outside the door, the fear shooting through my body. I regretted ever asking for help. I needed care, not cops. I am one of hundreds of thousands of Virginians who live with mental illness. Like many people with mental illness, I understand the need to reform our approach to mental health and policing. I understand because I've experienced the flaws of our current system firsthand.

Bryan Barks is director of strategic communications at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

Spain, Kane and Violand-Sanchez: Arlington County's progress on race and social justice is poisoned by its official logo

By JULIUS D. SPAIN SR., CAROLYNN KANE AND EMMA VIOLAND-SÁNCHEZ, published in Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Symbols and language matter. Arlington County's most prominent symbol is of a slave labor camp: Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial. This symbol is on its flag, seal and logo. To so many, it is a symbol of white supremacy and privilege, a plantation built by slave labor, and a place that for decades profited off the backs and through the exploited lives of enslaved Black people.

Julius D. Spain Sr. is president of the Arlington Branch NAACP. Carolynn Kane and Emma Violand-Sánchez are members of the Arlington Branch NAACP.

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