Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

September 30, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia House approves budget focused on police reforms

By DENISE LAVOIE, Associated Press

The Virginia House of Delegates approved a budget Tuesday that includes funding for a host of criminal justice and police reforms amid national unrest over racial injustice and police brutality. The House spending plan allocates $28.4 million to pay for the package of reforms, which includes legislation to make it easier to decertify officers who commit misconduct and gives the state attorney general the authority to investigate law enforcement agencies for patterns of unconstitutional practices, including the use of excessive force.

Most Virginians back criminal justice reforms lawmakers are passing, CNU poll shows

By MARIE ALBIGES, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A handful of criminal justice reform measures currently making their way through the General Assembly have the backing of most Virginians, according to a new Christopher Newport University poll. The survey, published Tuesday morning from CNU's Wason Center for Public Policy, shows strong levels of support — above 90% — for law enforcement de-escalation training, mandatory body camera use, and a requirement that police officers intervene when they see colleagues using unlawful force.

Enrollment at Virginia colleges dipped only 1% this semester, avoiding disaster

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

The number of students enrolled in colleges throughout Virginia has declined 1.3% this year, which amounts to a large sigh of relief for university and state leaders, who feared a drop of as much as 20% because of the coronavirus pandemic. Low-income students account for a large cross section of enrollment losses. There are 6,658 fewer students at Virginia's public and private institutions of higher education this fall, according to colleges' estimated figures that the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia released Tuesday.

Inside pandemic-era schools: Quiet hallways, masks and more reliance on technology

By CLAIRE MITZEL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

On Friday afternoon, William Byrd High School history teacher Cristy Spencer spent the first few minutes of class talking honestly with the seven students seated in front of her. "This is hard," she told them. . . . Across every school division in Virginia, learning looks different this year. Approximately 52% of the state's 132 divisions are fully remote, according to data from the Virginia Department of Education. Another 8% are offering at least four days of in-person instruction to all students. The rest offer some combination of in-person and remote instruction.

17,000 more Chesterfield students set to head back

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

Nearly 17,000 Chesterfield County Public School prekindergarten through third-graders will return to classrooms in two weeks. While their presence marks progress in the district's return-to-school plan, the change will lay bare a multitude of challenges. Among them: staff shortages and a lack of bus drivers. The return also will end bus meal service to over 50 locations.

Virginia stands to gain thousands of jobs from NASA's Moon to Mars mission, study says

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

NASA's Mars mission and effort to send the first woman to the moon is on the horizon, but officials already are touting the economic benefits to Virginia. The "Moon to Mars" mission has generated nearly $300 million in direct economic benefit for the state during the 2019 fiscal year ― a gain expressed in thousands of jobs and government contract opportunities for goods and services, according to a report by the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

VCU Construction Workers Allege Wage Theft, Exploitation


Construction workers at Virginia Commonwealth University say they're being exploited by middle men who operate without oversight from the university. Although VCU has promised changes that would benefit registered contractors, they are not taking actions to prevent exploitation of the undocumented immigrants who make up much of the labor force. Workers alleged wage theft and other labor violations, including misclassification as contractors instead of employees, exempting them from benefits.

The Full Report
48 articles, 26 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.


Assembly struggles with criminal reform

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

Criminal justice reforms being hammered out – and sometimes beaten down – at the midyear General Assembly session have the potential to affect criminal law practice across the state. Even proposals that meet defeat in the ongoing special session could re-emerge in the regular session in January. Legislators are talking about changing who sentences a defendant after a guilty trial verdict, when judges can use a deferred-disposition outcome and whether prosecutors can unilaterally decriminalize marijuana possession.

CNU poll shows support for police reform in Virginia, with some partisan splits

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

Virginia voters broadly support police reform, but split along partisan lines on some of the particulars, according to a new poll from Christopher Newport University. In the CNU survey released Tuesday, 96% supported requiring training on de-escalation, 95% backed requiring body cameras and 94% supported requiring officers to intervene when a colleague uses unlawful force.

Wedding photographer, ministries challenge Virginia's new LGBT rights law

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

A wedding photographer and a group of Christian ministries have filed separate lawsuits against a new Virginia law that bans discrimination against lesbian, gay and transgender people — and, the plaintiffs say, forces them to violate their "core convictions." Early this year in a newly blue state Capitol, Virginia became the first Southern state to pass sweeping LGBT rights legislation that bans discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed the Virginia Values Act into law, and it took effect July 1.


Norfolk State University to host Saturday's U.S. Senatorial debate


For the first time in Norfolk State University's 85-year history, the institution will host a live U.S. Senatorial Debate on campus, between Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and his Republican challenger, Daniel Gade, Ph.D., at the L. Douglas Wilder Performing Arts Center. The Saturday, Oct. 3, debate will focus on racial disparities and inequities in education, healthcare, economic mobility, and the criminal justice system.


Local voter registrars concerned Election Day could strain state voting network


Two years after a state report labeled Virginia's critical election system "not sufficiently functional or reliable," local officials are still concerned parts of the essential voting network could slow or fail on November 3, 2020. Elements of the Virginia Election and Registration Information System, or VERIS, have already slowed, shown errors, or given election officials cause for concern during the initial days of 2020 early voting in Virginia.

Voters can cast ballots in Virginia with no ID at all

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

You no doubt have heard that in order to vote in this year's election in Virginia you will need to present an ID. Actually, that is not exactly the case. Although the Virginia Board of Elections states that you need a "qualifying ID," some voters have learned the definition of the term includes being able to vote with no ID at all -- as long as you have voted previously in Virginia.

Salem voting precincts moved to civic center for Nov. 3 election

By ALISON GRAHAM, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

All Salem residents choosing to vote on Election Day will cast their ballots at the Salem Civic Center instead of at their normal precincts. The city has consolidated its voting locations to enforce social distancing guidelines and safety procedures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online atlas puts trends, tweets, posts and polls in political perspective

By BRYAN MCKENZIE, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

What happens in polls doesn't always happen at the polls and that's why a University of Virginia politics prognosticator has teamed up with an international research firm ahead of the November presidential election. Ipsos, a French firm that provides information and research gleaned from the internet and social media to corporations, governments and in public polls, is combining efforts with the University of Virginia Center for Politics and Sabato's Crystal Ball to give political junkies insight into the increasingly fractured U.S. electorate.


Back in business: Jury trials resume in state, federal courts

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

With elaborate preparations, Virginia courts are holding jury trials again, even in the midst of the pandemic. Henrico County was first, holding jury selection in a two-day drug case on Sept. 15. But Stafford County and the U.S. District Court in Abingdon both empaneled juries the next day. At mid-September, Norfolk Circuit Court was preparing for its first jury trial as other courts waited for approval of their infection control plans.


Va. offshore wind industry could create 5.2K jobs, study finds

By SYDNEY LAKE, Va Business Magazine

The offshore wind industry could create up to 5,200 jobs in Virginia (with a majority in Hampton Roads) and an estimated $740 million in total economic activity during the next several years, according to an economic impact analysis conducted by Henrico County-based Mangum Economics and released Tuesday by the Hampton Roads Alliance.

Relief is coming for Virginia fisheries, although payments likely won't be large

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

Fisheries managers are close to being able to roll out relief for Virginia's hard-hit fishing industries, although a small federal allocation to the commonwealth means payments aren't likely to be large, Virginia Marine Resources Commission officials said Tuesday morning. "Because there was so little funding and such great economic damage, the idea of sort of trying to make sure you make up the loss for people was not an option on the table," VMRC Deputy Commissioner Ellen Bolen said during a presentation to the commission. "We just did not have enough money."

First $1,000 job training grants given to VA Ready scholars affected by pandemic

By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Launched in late July, a program aimed at encouraging unemployed Virginians to pursue new careers has already awarded 20 participants $1,000 each for earning job training credentials. Of those, 17 people have found new jobs, all with Newport News Shipbuilding. VA Ready, the nonprofit program offering the grants, was started this year as the pandemic's effects took hold.

Cybersecurity incident disrupts hospital chain in D.C., Virginia

By SHEN WU TAN, Washington Times

A cybersecurity incident at a major hospital chain has disrupted care at multiple facilities across the U.S., including in the District and Virginia, by shutting down computer systems and forcing doctors and nurses to depend on paper backup systems for patients. The cybersecurity incident at Universal Health Services has affected all 250 of its hospitals and other clinical facilities in the U.S., said company spokeswoman Jane Crawford. She said the company doesn't know who is responsible for the incident, which hasn't been confirmed as a ransomware attack.

Pulaski solidifies its baseball future in new Appy League

By AARON MCFARLING, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Pulaski baseball fans can exhale. After a year of nervousness and uncertainty in the face of significant Minor League Baseball restructuring, the city knows it will have baseball at Calfee Park next summer — albeit under a new format with different players.

Braves cut affiliation with Danville

By PARKER COTTON, Danville Register & Bee

What was once merely speculation in December, and later a near-certainty in April, became official this week: The Danville Braves are leaving. Major League Baseball and USA Baseball released the details on Tuesday of a new format for the Appalachian League.


CBBT expansion: Two years behind, island armor adding to delays

By JOANNE KIMBERLIN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Construction of a new tube at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is now two years behind, due in part to the latest headache: The granite boulders armoring the manmade islands are proving exceptionally difficult to deal with. The boulders, some so big only two could fit on a rail car when they were hauled in 60 years ago, provide form and protection for the four artificial islands anchoring the portals of the facility's two original tubes.


Fall enrollment down nearly 10% at community colleges

By KATE ANDREWS, Va Business Magazine

Early estimates indicate that fall enrollment at Virginia's community colleges is down nearly 10% compared to fall 2019, and down by 6.6% at private four-year universities, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia in a study released Tuesday. However, public four-year universities are holding steady, with enrollment down by only 0.2%.

Greek Life Remains Completely Online For Remainder Of Semester

By KATHLEEN SHAW, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Twinkling lights and tapestries, sparkling wine and a lifetime's worth of memories. Formal is just one of several events canceled this year for university Greek life members, but for graduating seniors, the party is an unforgettable mirage of laughter, dancing and joy, lost forever by the pandemic. Two weeks ago, new members were recruited to James Madison University fraternities and sororities, so formal would be on the tips of everyone's tongues as the first chapter in many new Greek lives kicked off. Under health regulations from city government and the university, most organizations have placed strict sanctions on gatherings and are opting for virtual festivities.

Virginia Tech launches novel food pantry with fresh meal kits

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

Mackenzie Roach lost her job at Virginia Tech's gym when the coronavirus pandemic forced the university to shutter in the spring. "I'm kind of living off-campus, balancing bills with not having my job anymore, and still trying to kind of survive," said Roach, a 21-year-old chemical engineering student. When Roach reached out to the Dean of Students Office for an emergency grant, the university offered an extra lifeline: Would she be interested in being part of a pilot meal-kit program along the lines of Blue Apron and HelloFresh?

Liberty pays severance owed to Falwell; further payment under dispute

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

Liberty University on Tuesday paid former President Jerry Falwell Jr. the severance owed under his employment agreement, according to a statement from the university. The university said Falwell is entitled to two years of his base salary and accrued retirement benefits, which likely totals more than $2 million, according to tax records and past statements by Falwell.

Liberty disputes reports about Falwell severance payment

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

Liberty University said it paid its recently resigned president, Jerry Falwell Jr., the two years' base salary owed under his employment contract Tuesday. The Lynchburg, Virginia-based Christian university issued a brief statement about the compensation that did not provide an exact figure but said previous "media reports regarding the size and terms" of Falwell's severance were incorrect. Falwell stepped down in August from his post at the school founded by his late evangelical father after a series of scandals.


Virginia COVID-19 cases rise by 923 from Monday

By STAFF REPORT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health reported Tuesday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 147,516 — an increase of 923 from the 146,593 reported Monday. The 147,516 cases consist of 139,961 confirmed cases and 7,555 probable cases. There are 3,187 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 2,976 confirmed and 211 probable. That's an increase of 15 from the 3,172 reported Monday.

Virginia commits $16 million for antigen tests

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Virginia officials this week formally committed $16 million for the purchase of rapid COVID-19 tests, with the first order for 200,000 tests going out to a vendor this week. In a letter to the Rockefeller Foundation, which is managing a compact of states interested in purchasing tests, state Health and Human Resources Secretary Dan Carey committed the funds for the purchase of up to 500,000 antigen tests by the end of the year.

31 Virginia prison inmates with COVID-19 have now died

By FRANK GREEN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Thirty-one Virginia prison inmates with COVID-19 have died since the start of the pandemic, more than half of them at a Southside prison for older offenders. As of Monday, the toll was highest at the Deerfield Correctional Center – home to many geriatric prisoners and prisoners with chronic health problems – where 17 have died, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Virus cases climb in Roanoke Valley and fall in New River Valley

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

The steady pace of COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke Valley continues unabated with six more deaths in the last week, an uptick in people in hospitals and outbreaks in 10 businesses. Meanwhile, the disease in the New River Valley is slowing. A significant surge coinciding with students returning to Radford University and Virginia Tech has now settled, and it appears that the college students kept the virus to themselves.

Another day care staffer tests positive for COVID

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

Two of seven staff members at Kids' Station, a Fredericksburg day care facility visited last week by Virginia first lady Pamela Northam have tested positive for COVID-19. The workers were tested after Northam and her husband, Gov. Ralph Northam, announced on Friday they had confirmed cases of the virus.

New Virginia COVID-19 site guiding school re-entry weathers early glitches


Virginia's new pandemic metrics dashboard, meant as a resource to help local school administrators determine whether it is safe for in-person learning to resume, was operating smoothly by mid-morning Tuesday after initial technical problems. The Virginia Department of Health's specialized dashboard will assist communities in monitoring case trends, disease transmission and the availability of hospital beds — but for hours after its debut Monday, many of the site's features were not accessible.

PPE Acquisition Less Of A Challenge Than At Beginning Of Pandemic

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

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a plethora of problems created delays for health care providers trying to obtain personal protective equipment such as medical gowns, masks and gloves. However, after months of the pandemic, many problems in the PPE supply chain have diminished, according to state health care groups.


Virginians feel better about direction of their localities than the nation, HU poll shows

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

Virginians by and large think their communities are headed in the right direction, and split evenly when asked about the state — but overwhelmingly think the country is headed the wrong way. Some 70% say the country is going in a bad direction, a new Hampton University-Associated Press/NORC poll shows.

Poll: Virginians about evenly divided on Confederate statues


In a state where Confederate monuments have stood for more than a century and have recently become a flashpoint in the national debate over racial injustice, Virginians remain about evenly divided on whether the statues should stay or go, according to a new poll. The poll conducted this month by Hampton University and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 46% support removal of Confederate statues and 42% oppose removal.

A Counter to Confederate Monuments, Black Cemeteries Tell a Fuller Story of the South

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

Maggie L. Walker, one of the first Black American women to run a bank, is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond, Va. So is John Mitchell Jr., editor of The Richmond Planet, a crusading newspaper founded by former slaves. Benjamin Franklin Randolph, a South Carolina state senator gunned down amid the white backlash against Reconstruction in 1868, lies in the Black cemetery named for him in Columbia. In the late 19th century, as statues, monuments and government buildings were being dedicated to Robert E. Lee and other leaders of the Confederacy, a powerful and countervailing force of memory was unfolding, in many cases right across town: Black communities were building cemeteries to honor a first wave of soldiers, politicians and business leaders after the end of slavery.


NAACP Loudoun Branch presses attorney general's office on public schools investigation

By NATHANIEL CLINE, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The NAACP Loudoun Branch is pressing for a resolution from the Virginia Office of the Attorney General in its racial discrimination investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools. The Division of Human Rights of the attorney general's office opened the investigation into LCPS nearly one year ago.

Richmond Council subcommittee opposes ban on nonlethal weapons

By C. SUAREZ ROJAS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A Richmond City Council subcommittee on Tuesday voted against a proposed ban on riot control equipment that police have deployed against protesters in recent months. Council members Michael Jones and Stephanie Lynch sponsored the resolution, which asks Mayor Levar Stoney's administration to bar police from using "nonlethal" weapons and munitions such as bean bag rounds, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and tear gas.

Hanover board reaches consensus on names for two schools

By ABBY CHURCH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Hanover County School Board has come up with its own names for renaming two schools that originally had Confederate monikers, after rejecting a committee's recommendations that followed a process that included three community polls. In a news release from Hanover County Public Schools on Tuesday, the board said it had reached consensus for the former Lee-Davis High School to become Mechanicsville, and it came up with Bell Creek as the name for the former Stonewall Jackson Middle School.

Petersburg names new police chief as department gains accreditation for first time in its history

By MARK BOWES, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

When Kenneth A. Miller took the reins as Petersburg's police chief more than three years ago, one of his top priorities was to assist the department in achieving something it had never before attained in its 210-year history: state accreditation by complying with professional law enforcement standards. On Tuesday, Miller met that goal and accepted an award that recognized the department's three-year effort to bring the agency into compliance with 190 standards set by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission.

Petersburg Police chief announces retirement among department's accreditation

By LEILIA MAGEE, Progress Index (Metered paywall - 10 articles a month)

Petersburg Police held a press conference on Sept. 29 to announce the department's first-ever accreditation by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission, but other news took the forefront during the celebration. Police Chief Kenneth Miller announced his retirement after serving in his position for three years, two months, and 19 days, effective Nov. 1.

Virginia Beach brings back second wave of students for in-person learning

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

The cafeterias aren't as deafening, the hallways not as packed, but a second round of students returned to public school classrooms in Virginia Beach on Tuesday. They brought with them the sounds of normalcy, absent for many since Gov. Ralph Northam ordered all schools to close last spring. Shoes squeaked in the hallways. Students chomped away in the cafeteria. Teachers conducted roll calls.

More Chesapeake students will come back over the next two months, but under a 'blended' model

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

More students are set to return to brick-and-mortar schools in Chesapeake, though they won't be learning in person five days a week like some of the younger students. That's according to a plan laid out by Superintendent Jared Cotton during Monday night's School Board meeting.

King William releases audit critical of revenue commissioner, treasurer

By EMILY HOLTER, Tidewater Review

The full audits from King William County's financial probes into the Commissioner of the Revenue's Office and Treasurer's Office found improper tax collection and shoddy bookkeeping within the departments. The county initiated a performance review of the revenue office in mid-June when Commissioner of the Revenue Sally Pearson refused to participate in the property reassessment process, a key function of her office, and several residents came forward expressing concerns regarding their assessments.

Caroline students will stay virtual, while King George early elementary students will return part time

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

Caroline County public school students will continue to learn from home through December, while early elementary students in King George will return to school part-time next month. The two school boards voted on continuing education plans at meetings Monday evening.

City to pilot program closing portion of streets for social distancing

By STAFF REPORT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Charlottesville is moving forward with a pilot program to partially close streets to make social distancing easier for cyclists and pedestrians as the coronavirus pandemic continues. The pilot program will start Wednesday on the Belmont Bridge, which has a sidewalk on only one side of the road. Pedestrians will essentially share the bike lane to facilitate social distancing.

Pittsylvania County to receive $330,000 grant for small business recovery program

By PARKER COTTON, Danville Register & Bee

Small businesses in Pittsylvania County may soon have access to funds to help them survive a COVID-19 pandemic-related drop in financial security. The county's Board of Supervisors passed a resolution Tuesday to approve a $330,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for a small business recovery assistance program.

Public housing tenants may get rent reprieve next year

By ERIC GORTON, Harrisonburg Citizen

Public housing tenants in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County could have more incentive to gain or improve their employment, perhaps as soon as the middle of 2021, under a new program being planned by the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The HRHA is one of 33 public housing authorities around the country selected this month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to create a plan for implementing its Moving to Work demonstration program. If ultimately selected to be a MTW agency, HRHA would gain some flexibility to create and test innovative, locally-designed strategies to use federal dollars more efficiently.

School board moves reopening date up 2 weeks for Washington County

By JOE TENNIS, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

Schools are now slated to open two weeks earlier than what was decided by the Washington County School Board last week. In the wake of parent and student protest and concern, the board has now decided to implement its hybrid plan Oct. 12. The plan is a combination of in-person and remote learning.



Census deadline should instill confidence, not sow doubt

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

Entering the 2020 census count, there were plenty of worries about how complete and accurate the decennial survey would be. Was the decision to allow forms to be completed online a good one? Would the digital data collection be free from threats? Would homes dependent on door knocks from census takers still be reached?

Consider a more inclusive history curriculum

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

The report issued in August by the Virginia Commission on African American History Education offers worthwhile suggestions for helping Virginia's schools teach history in a more accurate and inclusive way. Reforms are needed, because, despite recent progress, the history presented to today's students leaves out much of what really happened and why.


Plumlee: Virginia Beach needs action, not words, on flooding

By J. BRYAN PLUMLEE, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

For years the leadership of Virginia Beach has failed to implement common sense measures to protect us from recurrent flooding and sea level rise, and we face a 300% increase in yearly flood-related losses over the next two decades. Homeowners in flood-prone areas should not have to watch their biggest asset deteriorate while flood premiums and flood waters rise. We sustain flood losses of $26 million each year, and that number is expected to triple in approximately 20 years.

J. Bryan Plumlee is an attorney with the law firm of Poole Brooke Plumlee PC. He is a volunteer on Virginia Beach mayoral candidate Jody Wagner's Task Force on Flooding.

Invite Friends to read VaNews

Invite two friends to read VaNews and you'll receive VaViews, a weekly compilation of commentary from a variety of viewpoints.


You don't have any referrals yet.

Or use your personal referral link:

For questions email
Participation in the VaNews Referral Program constitutes your acceptance of the VPAP Terms and Conditions of Use.

This email was sent to
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Virginia Public Access Project · P.O. Box 1472 · Richmond, VA 23218 · USA

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

September 29, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia GOP says confusion remains on absentee ballot rule

By DENISE LAVOIE, Associated Press

The Republican Party of Virginia says state elections officials have created confusion among voters ahead of the November election by failing to make it clear that a witness signature requirement for absentee voters has been waived. The GOP argues in a motion filed in federal court that the state Board of Elections and Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper have not adhered to the terms of a consent decree that said the state will accept absentee ballots without the signature of a witness for voters who believe they cannot safely have a witness present while completing their ballot.

Roughly 400 local voters receive two ballots; officials say errors won't lead to double votes

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Ajammed printer used to label absentee ballot packets in Henrico County and a separate rush to get ballots out in time in Richmond resulted in about 400 local voters receiving duplicate ballots in the mail. The duplicate ballots won't lead to anyone being able to vote twice, thanks to a program that records when a registered voter has cast a ballot and prevents them from doing so again, local election officials confirmed Monday.

There's no poll worker shortage here

By TITUS MOHLER, Farmville Herald (Paywall)

Several localities in Virginia have reported seeing a surge in people applying to be Election Day workers, despite initial concerns there would be a shortage. Registrars in Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward report their counties are among those experiencing surges with it looking more likely they will have a surplus of workers come Election Day than a shortfall.

New state coronavirus dashboard includes school-specific metrics

By MATT JONES, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

The Virginia Department of Health rolled out new public COVID-19 dashboards Monday that include guidelines for reopening schools, the first time the state has publicly laid out numerical recommendations. The new Pandemics Metrics dashboard is different than the daily dashboard. While the daily dashboard focuses on raw numbers, the new dashboard interprets the information more.

Virginia lawmakers warn of 'deteriorating' conditions in two federal prisons as COVID-19 spreads

By ARIANA FIGUEROA, Virginia Mercury

Members of Virginia's congressional delegation from both political parties are pressing the U.S. Department of Justice's internal watchdogs to include two state correctional facilities in the agency's ongoing inspections during the pandemic. In a Sept. 24 letter to DOJ's Inspector General, the lawmakers raised concerns about unsafe health and safety procedures, COVID-19 outbreaks and shortages of personal protective equipment for staff and incarcerated individuals. The two facilities that lawmakers want included in virtual inspections are the Federal Correctional Complex Petersburg and United States Penitentiary Lee.

Loudoun School Board criticizes proposed Thomas Jefferson admissions changes

By JOHN BATTISTON, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

On behalf of the Loudoun County School Board, Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) penned a letter Saturday to the Fairfax County School Board expressing concern with potential changes to the admissions process at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. During a digital FCSB work session Sept. 15, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand proposed the following: that the number of Loudoun County Public Schools students be capped at 62 for the coming school year; that students be accepted via a "Merit Lottery;" and that the required grade point average for application be raised to 3.5, while skills testing and cognitive testing be eliminated from the application process.

Portsmouth will let city workers collectively bargain — a first in Hampton Roads

By ANA LEY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Portsmouth council members have voted unanimously to let city employees bargain collectively for their pay and work conditions through unions, making it the first local government in Hampton Roads to do so under a new state law passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature. The proposal was raised by Mayor John Rowe at the end of a regular meeting on Sept. 22. It was on the agenda under "items submitted by council members," but no one explained which member's idea it was.

The Full Report
38 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.


Northern Virginia business consultant Puneet Ahluwalia announces GOP run for LG

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

Puneet Ahluwalia, a Northern Virginia business consultant, has joined the competition for the GOP's lieutenant governor nomination in 2021, campaigning on a message of "hope, growth and opportunity." Ahluwalia, originally from India, consults with businesses on client acquisition, marketing and strategic affairs. His wife, Nadia, originally from Pakistan, owns an IT services firm that supports companies and government agencies. They became U.S. citizens 14 years ago and have three children in college.


More than 13,000 ballots have been cast in Loudoun County

By NATHANIEL CLINE, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

More than 13,000 ballots have already been cast in Loudoun County, and elections officials are clarifying that Virginians voting absentee in the Nov. 3 election do not need a witness signature. Richard Keech, deputy director and deputy registrar for Loudoun County Office of Elections and Voter Registration, said ballots will be counted with or without a witness signature provided the rest of "envelope B" is completed and received by the deadlines.

Some Charlottesville absentee ballot packages mailed without ballots

By STAFF REPORT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Some Charlottesville voters who requested mail-in ballots did not receive ballots in their package, according to the city. In a news release, the city said "a small number" of voters in the Johnson, Buford, Venable and Alumni Hall precincts may not have received Envelope A, which contains the actual ballot, due to an error.

Local colleges helping students navigate voting process

By ANNA MEROD, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

With Virginia's Oct. 13 voter registration deadline just two weeks away, local college students are doing their part to educate their fellow students on the voting process. Although college students have traditionally voted at one of the lowest rates of any demographic group in the country, turnout has been increasing in recent years. Last week, students at Shenandoah University held an in-person voter registration drive, with about 30 students registering as of Thursday.

Despite pandemic, some Virginia registrars report surge of poll workers

By WILL GONZALEZ, VCU Capital News Service

Several places in Virginia say they've seen a surge in people applying to be Election Day-workers, despite initial concerns there would be a shortage. The U.S. is facing a nationwide poll workers shortage, Gov. Ralph Northam said in a Tweet posted in early September urging Virginians to apply for the position. Some districts expected a shortage because they anticipated high turnout. Poll workers fulfill a variety of part-time and full-time roles, from assisting with absentee ballot distribution, answering phone calls, supervising early voting, and helping at the polls on Election Day.


Judicial emergency now slated to extend into November

By NEIL HARVEY, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The statewide judicial emergency, which just passed its six-month anniversary, is now going to see a 10th extension and will remain in place at least until Nov. 1, the Virginia Supreme Court announced Monday. A previous order, issued Sept. 4, had continued the emergency status until Oct. 11. The judicial emergency, a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, enforces expanded precautions against the virus, which include mask requirements and health checklists for visitors as they enter courthouses.


Mountain Valley Pipeline foes file challenge to reissued stream-crossing permits

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

Foes of the Mountain Valley Pipeline were back in court Monday, before idled construction workers could return to the long-delayed and deeply divisive project. In a petition filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Sierra Club and seven other environmental groups challenged permits reissued last week to allow Mountain Valley to cross nearly 1,000 streams and wetlands along its 303-mile path.

State to allocate $10M in block grants for COVID-19 recovery

By KATE ANDREWS, Va Business Magazine

The state government is earmarking more than $10 million in federally funded Community Development Block Grants (CBDG) for COVID-19 recovery projects across the commonwealth, including some small business assistance funds, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday. "Our administration remains committed to investing in rural communities during this unprecedented health crisis and as we work to rebuild Virginia's economy," Northam said in a statement.


Virginia athletics department announces 22 new positive COVID-19 tests

By BENNETT CONLIN, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

The University of Virginia athletics department revealed its COVID-19 testing results from Sept. 21-27 on Monday, announcing that it had administered 1,168 tests with 22 positive test results. Since testing began in early July, UVa has administered 4,973 tests with a total of 64 positives. The overall test positivity since testing started sits at 1.3%.

University of Lynchburg, Sweet Briar College report zero active COVID-19 cases among students

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

There are zero active cases of COVID-19 among students at the University of Lynchburg and Sweet Briar College, the institutions announced Monday. UL has seen a total of 88 cases of COVID-19 among students and three cases among faculty and staff since classes started on Aug. 12, according to university spokesperson Janika Carey. Less than one week after classes began in online, in-person and hybrid formats, UL saw five cases of COVID-19 among students and moved all classes online.


Virginia COVID-19 cases rise 2,160 over the weekend

By STAFF REPORT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health reported Monday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 146,593 — an increase of 2,160 from the 144,433 reported Friday. The 146,593 cases consist of 139,144 confirmed cases and 7,449 probable cases. There are 3,172 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 2,962 confirmed and 210 probable. That's an increase of 36 from the 3,136 reported Friday.

Virginia posts new COVID-19 dashboard to help guide local decisionmakers

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

The Virginia Department of Health on Monday added to its website a new pandemic dashboard to give local leaders a better grasp of how the coronavirus is acting in their communities. The COVID-19 pandemic metrics provide details on the burden, trend and transmission of the disease by health region, and are paired with a school metrics dashboard that drills down into each school system through the lens of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention metrics.

Virginia Department of Health launches COVID-19 online tools, including one with school metrics

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

As more students head back into the classroom, the Virginia Department of Health has launched some new COVID-19 online tools, one of which includes metrics to guide school officials as they make reopening decisions.

VDH recommends schools use CDC metrics in reopening decisions

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

As area school boards make plans for the second quarter of classes, officials should use recently released federal indicators and thresholds related to the spread of COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health recommended Monday as officials launched a new data dashboard related to the pandemic. Officials with VDH cautioned, though, that any decision about school programming is a local one and should be made in conjunction with local public health officials.

Some positive and negative tests for COVID-19 after first lady's visit to Fredericksburg area

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

Fredericksburg-area officials who accompanied Virginia first lady Pamela Northam during her tour of education sites in the area last week have tested negative for COVID-19, although there have been positive cases in the wake of her visit. One person who was present on Northam's tour of Downtown Greens, a community garden in downtown Fredericksburg, tested positive and is in self-quarantine.

Virginia first lady Pam Northam's visit results in quarantine for 5 Prince William County schools' staff

By JILL PALERMO, Prince William Times

Five staff members at Washington-Reid Preschool center, a Prince William County public school, were on quarantine Monday due to Virginia first lady Pam Northam's visit to the school last week. Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that both he and his wife, Pam, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, Sept. 24.


Caroline youth send a message with a formal approach to protests

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

As Zavion Goodall and seven other young Caroline County natives lined up on the courthouse lawn for the "Black Positivity" rally Friday evening, a white man pulled his truck to the side of Main Street in Bowling Green to see what was going on. After the man realized the group was dressed formally in suits, ties and skirts for the two girls, he commented that they looked great and he was glad to see them out there.

IRS wants 205,600 Virginians to know they might be eligible for pandemic stimulus

By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Internal Revenue Service said Monday that it would be sending mailed letters to 9 million Americans, including 205,600 in Virginia, to remind them to check if they're eligible to receive federal pandemic assistance. The agency is mailing the letters to people who typically don't need to file a federal tax return but may still qualify for an Economic Impact Payment worth up to $1,200 for individuals, up to $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each qualifying child.

VA selects Spotsylvania site for veterans clinic

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

The battle to attract a new U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic is settled, with Spotsylvania County beating out Fredericksburg and Stafford County. The decision was posted online by the VA on Monday, nearly three years after federal officials began advertising for outpatient clinic space in an area stretching from Stafford to Spotsylvania, mainly along the Interstate 95 corridor.

In Southwest Va., a utility contract hampers school districts' ability to go solar

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

With school districts bracing for slashed budgets as the COVID-19 pandemic drags beyond its sixth month, there's one bright spot on the horizon: the sun. No, literally, the sun. In Virginia, 2020 has been a banner year for school solar.


Democratic Precinct Captain Booted for Supporting Independent School Board Candidate


Arlington Democrats have forced out a precinct captain for supporting a School Board candidate who had to withdraw from seeking the party's endorsement because she's a federal employee. Heather Keppler said in an email obtained by ARLnow that she was pressured to step down as the Arlington County Democratic Committee's captain for the Lexington precinct because of her support of Symone Walker, a "lifelong Democrat."

Loudoun supervisors expedite broadband efforts

By NATHANIEL CLINE, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Three internet service providers, two hotspots, a satellite dish, and paying at least $500 a month is the reality for one parent in western Loudoun County struggling to find reliable connection for her children learning virtually during the COVID-19 crisis. Over the summer, parents realized that their children in Loudoun schools would be learning virtually to start the school year amid the pandemic.

Leesburg Council Sets Legislative Agenda, Without City Status Push


There is a notable omission on the Leesburg Town Council's recently adopted legislative agenda. Each year, the council adopts a list of its priorities for its General Assembly representation to consider, along with a legislative positions statement. Last week, the council adopted its 2021 agenda, and for the first time in five years, it did not include the council's request to lift the moratorium on towns seeking city status.

Richmond City Council Funds Design Process for Slavery Museum


The City of Richmond is one step closer to creating a museum and campus in Shockoe Bottom to memorialize its history as a slave-trading center. Monday night, Richmond City Council approved a transfer of nearly $2 million in tax delinquent property sales to fund the planning and design of the campus.

Stoney Administration Releases Affordable Housing Plans


Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney's administration presented plans to City Council Monday night on increasing access to affordable housing. The 2020 Biennial Real Estate Plan includes a proposal to get rid of more than 132 acres of city-owned property. Under the plan, more than 50 acres would go to the Maggie L. Walker Land Trust and other non profits to develop homes and apartments for low-income residents. Another 83 acres of high-value city-owned land would go up for bid by developers.

Portsmouth NAACP leaders rejected — again — in attempt to file criminal charges against council members

By MARGARET MATRAY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

NAACP leaders have been rejected for a second time in an attempt to file criminal charges against two Portsmouth City Council members, alleging they violated the city charter by telling the police chief to charge protesters in vandalism at the Confederate monument in June. The NAACP officials suggested the decision, when a Black council member was charged recently with violating the same charter section, shows a racist double standard at work.

Charlottesville Unitarian congregation votes decidedly to drop Jefferson from name

By STAFF REPORT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Thomas Jefferson is no longer its name. More than 95% of the membership of the Unitarian-Universalist church formerly known as Thomas Jefferson Memorial who voted Sunday chose to drop the name of the native son from the church's moniker. The third U.S. president and founder of the University of Virginia's troublesome history as a slave owner and his treatment of indigenous people were among the reasons cited.

Thermal scanners installed at courthouse as COVID-19 precaution

By EVAN GOODENOW, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The approximately 2,000 people coming through the Joint Judicial Center each day will now have their temperatures taken by thermal scanners to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The scanners were installed on Friday. As courthouse staff and visitors pass through a metal detector, they are now being asked to stand about a foot away from the approximately 5-foot tall, 6-inch wide scanners, also known as non-contact, infrared thermometers. A facial recognition screen then takes their temperature by measuring body heat and announces the temperature within a few seconds. Anyone with a temperature below 100.4 degrees is allowed in.

Pittsylvania County elementary school students returned to in-person classes Monday

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

Elementary schools in Pittsylvania County opened back up for in-person classes Monday. Kids in grades K-3 participated in classroom activities and took in lessons from their teachers in a socially distanced setting. At Gretna Elementary School, Faith Adkins' first-grade class danced and learned about politeness and having consideration for others from music teacher Gary Jack.

End of one of Danville's electric contracts has uncertain effect on customers

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

A contract that provided 17% of Danville's electricity will end this year, and its impact on customers is uncertain. That contract, a 21.5-megawatt power block from Morgan Stanley, was adopted by the city at a trading hub in 2009, around the time of the recession, when electric rates were projected to be higher.



Veteran suicide crisis demands our full attention

By MICHAEL HUDSON AND KEITA M. FRANKLIN, Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Veterans are our heroes; our protectors; our fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. And despite the enormous role they play in guaranteeing our collective freedoms, far too many slip through the cracks as they depart the Department of Defense and transition into the Veterans Administration. This is unacceptable, and we owe it to our veterans to find solutions to address this injustice.

Don't omit climate questions from presidential debates

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

President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to clash over a number of issues at tonight's debate, according to a list of topics released last week by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. These include the two candidates' records, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic, election integrity and "race and violence in our cities," all of which should generate friction and create some sparks.

Universities should serve as laboratories for COVID-19 best practices

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

Throughout the fall 2020 semester, colleges and universities across the commonwealth and nation have grappled with how to resume schooling while also keeping the coronavirus under control. Much attention has been focused on case outbreaks, behaviors that might drive community spread, and fears and doubts about how higher education can manage residential living and in-person classes amid the pandemic.


PolitiFact: 10 Fact Checks From Trump's Virginia Rally


President Donald Trump made his first 2020 campaign visit to Virginia on Friday, telling several thousand supporters at Newport News/ Williamsburg International Airport that Democrats "will destroy our country." During a 70-minute speech, Trump promised to wage an aggressive campaign in Virginia. He defended his record and excoriated former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee.


Kaine: Why are Republicans Rushing to Fill Justice Ginsburg's Seat?

By TIM KAINE, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Senate Republicans announced a new rule for filling a Supreme Court vacancy in a Presidential election year: wait until after the election and let the people decide. They wouldn't meet with Judge Merrick Garland, hold a Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination, or entertain his nomination on the floor. Senate Republicans promised they would follow this new rule in the future whether a President were Democratic or Republican.

Kaine is a U.S. senator from Virginia. He is a Democrat.

Meagher: Stakes are high in local elections

By RICHARD J. MEAGHER, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The high stakes of the presidential election might be obvious. But if you live in one of the many Virginia jurisdictions with a local election this November, the stakes might be just as high. The twin shocks of 2020 — COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter — only have highlighted the importance of local politics. Mayors and county board members, school superintendents and local health district directors have led our response to the pandemic, while shuttered schools and libraries are appreciated more than ever in their absence.

Eisman: Beware of voting too early

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

In this most tumultuous election year, there's one thing that Trump supporters and never-Trumpers agree on: The election is the most important of our lifetimes. So why are so many of us rushing into it? Today, exactly five weeks before Election Day, hundreds of thousands of votes across 23 states already have been cast by mail or in-person at early voting centers.

Eisman wrote about Virginia politics and government for more than 30 years as a reporter and editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Virginian-Pilot.

Invite Friends to read VaNews

Invite two friends to read VaNews and you'll receive VaViews, a weekly compilation of commentary from a variety of viewpoints.


You don't have any referrals yet.

Or use your personal referral link:

For questions email
Participation in the VaNews Referral Program constitutes your acceptance of the VPAP Terms and Conditions of Use.

This email was sent to
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Virginia Public Access Project · P.O. Box 1472 · Richmond, VA 23218 · USA