Thursday, September 10, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

September 10, 2020
Top of the News

Police reform package poised for final Senate vote after lawmakers reject prohibition on police unions

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

A sweeping package of police and criminal justice reforms is poised for final action in the Virginia Senate, which narrowly rejected an attempt on Wednesday to forbid law enforcement agencies from joining unions for collective bargaining. Senate Bill 5030, proposed by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, advanced on a voice vote Wednesday after the Senate voted 20-19 against an amendment by Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, that would prevent law enforcement agencies in Virginia from joining unions that he blamed for protecting officers with a history of abusive conduct.

Ex-GOP legislator urges Va. delegates to back bill reducing prison sentences after serving his own for fraud

By GREGORY S. SCHNEIDER, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Before Del. Don L. Scott Jr. (D-Portsmouth) presented a bill to the House of Delegates on Wednesday that would allow prison inmates to earn more credits for good behavior, he read aloud a letter from a supporter most fellow lawmakers knew well: former Del. Ronald A. Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach), who recently finished serving 10 months in federal prison for contracting fraud. "I have certainly learned firsthand the consequences of bad judgment and not following 100 percent the law," Villanueva wrote.

Norfolk police tried a controversial facial recognition app that has billions of photos — maybe yours

By JONATHAN EDWARDS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Norfolk police — without telling city leaders or the public — started using a controversial facial recognition program late last year, one that could end people's ability to anonymously walk around in public. Detectives were so impressed with how the technology identified unknown suspects and helped solve crimes that they pushed the top brass to shell out thousands of dollars a year to make facial recognition one of their permanent crime fighting tools.

Tenants file for class action against one of Virginia's most prolific eviction law firms

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

Three Virginia residents are asking a federal judge to certify a class action lawsuit against a prolific Virginia law firm that in 2017 filed more than 20,000 eviction lawsuits. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, alleges Hampton-based Senex Law violated federal debt collection laws and tacked on unreasonable attorney fees as they attempted to collect unpaid rent on behalf of landlords around the state.

Pamunkey jail official says 70% of inmates recently tested are positive for COVID-19

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

The Pamunkey Regional Jail is on lockdown after roughly 70% of inmates recently tested for COVID-19 had positive results, officials said Wednesday. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations and the "vast majority" of those testing positive showed mild or no symptoms, said James Willett, the jail superintendent. Most of the nearly 3,000 inmates held in prisons by the Virginia Department of Corrections who have tested positive have also been asymptomatic.

Stafford prosecutor's office banned from courthouse because of COVID-19

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

All members of the Commonwealth's Attorney's office in Stafford County were barred from the county courthouse Wednesday after three paralegals in the office tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, case numbers in the Rappahannock Area Health District rose dramatically on Wednesday, but the increase may be due to a lag in reporting over the Labor Day holiday, according to public health officials.

Virginia rolls out initial sports betting rules. Big gambling platforms push back.

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

Sports betting hasn't arrived in Virginia in time for the start of the NFL season, but state officials are fine-tuning the rules for how the newly legalized industry will work when it starts up in early 2021. This year, the General Assembly passed a bill authorizing the Virginia Lottery to grant between four and 12 sports betting licenses, greenlighting a type of gambling projected to generate up to $55 million in state tax revenue per year.

The Full Report
54 articles, 21 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.


Bill to ensure workers' compensation in COVID-19 cases appears dead in Virginia Senate

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

Faced with a major cost to local government, the Senate is not likely to consider legislation that would have required workers' compensation to pay for a wide range of local government employees who contract COVID-19. The Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee declined on Wednesday to act on Senate Bill 5066, proposed by Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D–Fairfax, leaving it to die as the panel prepares to focus on revisions to the state budget instead of new legislation.

'A massive cost': Senate committee tables COVID-19 workers' comp expansion

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

Legislation extending COVID-19-related workers' compensation coverage to first responders, teachers and health care workers hit a snag on Wednesday when a Virginia Senate committee delayed a vote on its version of the bill. Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, the chamber's president pro tempore, successfully moved to "pass by" (or postpone a decision) on the legislation for the day. But committee chairwoman Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, later announced that members would only take up legislation from the House for the remainder of the special session — effectively stopping the bill in committee.

House passes bill automatically sealing many criminal records 8 years after sentence completed

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

The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Wednesday that would automatically seal criminal records for more than 150 offenses, making it one of the boldest automated sealing proposals in the country. "This is a second chances bill," said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, the sponsor of House Bill 5146. "This is a bill of redemption." The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House on a nearly party-line vote of 59-37 and one abstention.

Republican Proposal to Ban Police Unions in Virginia Fails


A Republican Senator tried to get rid of police unions in Virginia today in a proposed amendment to a comprehensive police reform bill that was up for debate. The bill, introduced by Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), would establish statewide professional standards of conduct, make it easier to decertify bad cops, and require de-escalation training among other provisions. Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County) proposed an amendment to exclude law enforcement from unionizing.

Reshaped 'Marcus Alert' bill clears Senate budget committee

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

Legislation to overhaul the way law enforcement agencies respond to emergencies involving a mental health crisis has taken a new shape in the state Senate, where lawmakers Wednesday advanced a version that would call on all localities to be part of a crisis response system by July 2022. The bill, dubbed the Marcus-David Peters Act, moving through the Senate would create call centers and short-term mental health facilities meant to offset the role of law enforcement in situations involving people facing a mental health crisis.


Del. Kirk Cox is considering a gubernatorial bid in 2021, but he'll first have to win over a fractured GOP

By RICH GRISET, Chesterfield Observer

In the meeting area of Del. Kirk Cox's Colonial Heights district office is the bric-a-brac of three decades spent in the Virginia House of Delegates. Various commendations and plaques line the walls and shelves. Books on American history share space with photos of his four sons. And in the center of the space is Cox's former kitchen table, where he entertains guests. In the current era of explosive, hyper-partisan politics, it serves as reminder of Cox's conservative, pragmatic approach to governing: focusing on "kitchen table" issues that matter to the average voter, like taxes, education and the economy.


Kanye West appeals decision to remove him from Virginia ballot

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

Independent presidential candidate Kanye West is fighting to get back on the ballot in Virginia after a judge threw him off last week, urging the state's highest court to weigh in quickly because ballots are already being printed and absentee voting starts next week. Attorneys for the rapper-entrepreneur filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Virginia late Tuesday, seeking to overturn Thursday's Richmond Circuit Court ruling that found the West campaign had tricked some voters into helping him get on the ballot.

Kanye West appeals ruling barring him from Virginia presidential ballot to state Supreme Court

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

Rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West has appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court a Richmond Circuit Court judge's ruling barring him from Virginia's presidential ballot. Richmond Circuit Judge Joi Taylor on Thursday found that 11 of the elector oaths West submitted "were obtained by improper, fraudulent or misleading means" or are otherwise invalid because of notary violations and misconduct.

Kanye West appeals ballot ruling to Virginia Supreme Court

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

Rapper Kanye West, an independent candidate for president, appealed a circuit court judge's ruling that his name be removed from ballots in Virginia. West, 43, and his campaign were accused of fraudulently acquiring elector signatures required to be on the ballot and not properly notarizing those signatures. On Tuesday, lawyers for the "Birthday Party" candidate wrote in an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court that the rapper's legal team didn't have enough time to present evidence and mount a defense.

Bob Good, Cameron Webb differentiate themselves in virtual forum

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

Appearing together for the first time, Democrat Cameron Webb repeatedly emphasized he is a "consensus-builder" ready to work on health care in Congress, while Republican Bob Good urged people not to be swayed by Webb's depiction of himself as a moderate. Good and Webb met virtually Wednesday for their only scheduled forum, where they spent more than an hour conveying what sets them apart from each other. Good said he would go to Congress to support President Donald Trump's agenda and that Webb backed "radical" policies.

At Senior Statesmen forum, Good and Webb highlight policy differences

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

For the first time this election, 5th District congressional hopefuls Republican Bob Good and Democrat Dr. Cameron Webb made their cases to voters in a joint forum that at times was contentious. Hosted by the Senior Statesmen of Virginia and moderated by Daily Progress reporter Allison Wrabel, the virtual forum was the first time voters were able to hear from both Good and Webb at the same event.

Third former staffer for Virginia Republican Scott Taylor charged with election fraud

By MEAGAN FLYNN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

A third former campaign staffer for Scott Taylor, the Republican former congressman who is seeking to reclaim his seat in Virginia's 2nd District, has been indicted on a charge of election fraud tied to a 2018 scandal. Heather Guillot, a campaign consultant for Taylor during his failed reelection bid, was charged Tuesday with making a false statement in connection with a fraudulent petition scheme in May 2018, special prosecutor John Beamer said.

Warner, Spanberger host roundtable with Chesterfield School Board

By RICH GRISET, Chesterfield Observer

It's usually the site of crafting and pilates classes, but the Bensley Recreation Center played host to an entirely different kind of event Friday morning. Seated indoors and wearing masks, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger met with three Chesterfield School Board representatives and school system staff members for a discussion about where the school system stands in its response to the coronavirus and how federal action could assist.


COVID-19 outbreak at Virginia's largest women's prison concerns inmate advocates

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

Forty-one offenders recently tested positive for COVID-19 at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, which had largely been keeping the virus at bay. Lisa Kinney, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, reported Wednesday that the most recent testing at Fluvanna, the state's largest prison for women, was prompted when supervisors reported last week that two offenders appeared to have COVID-19 symptoms.


The 'last pipeline'? Mountain Valley Pipeline remains stalled as it seeks extension from federal regulators

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

Mountain Valley Pipeline chalked up a win Friday when federal regulators found it wouldn't jeopardize any of five endangered or threatened species known to live in its path, but the project remains paused while federal regulators decide whether to lift a stop-work order and extend its construction window. MVP has been stalled since October, when a federal court ruling led the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to shut down all major work on the project until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service redid a review of its impacts on endangered or threatened species.

Latest sale of Rosetta Stone clouds future of iconic Harrisonburg startup

By ERIC GORTON, Harrisonburg Citizen

Allen Stoltzfus got the idea that computers could be used to ease the process of learning a foreign language while struggling to learn Russian in school. He ran the idea by a friend who was a programmer and they launched a product that became synonymous with language learning around the world, it just took a while. That was one of the many lessons Eugene Stoltzfus said he learned in the early days of developing Rosetta Stone language learning software with his brother, Allen, and brother-in-law, John Fairfield.


Metro will need to cut more than $200 million from its budget unless it gets more federal aid

By JUSTIN GEORGE, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Metro's bad week got worse Wednesday when the transit agency said it had started planning service cuts because fare revenue continues to lag due to the pandemic and federal relief aid is running out. Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said the transit agency has enough money to maintain current service levels through January but will need at least $212 million to sustain those levels through the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Top Metro official reassigned after audit alleged she undermined safety oversight

By MICHAEL LARIS AND JUSTIN GEORGE, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Metro has temporarily reassigned a top rail official and launched an outside review after an independent safety commission alleged interference with its work, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post. Lisa Woodruff, Metro's senior vice president for rail services, will temporarily serve as a technical adviser while an outside law firm reviews allegations by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission that Woodruff "may have violated safety or other policies or procedures," according to an email Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld sent employees Wednesday.


Nearly Half Of JMU Students Remain On Campus

By MEGAN WILLIAMS, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

As the number of COVID-19 cases began to soar, and continue to, James Madison University decided to send students home a little over a week after they moved in. Most classes began being held online this week. It was requested that all students living on campus who were able to move home do so by Monday. However, many students requested to remain on campus for a variety of reasons, said Caitlyn Read, spokesperson for the university. The goal was to get on-campus residents down to at least 50%, Read said. With 2,720 students staying on campus, 44% of on-campus students remain.

Virginia Tech launches new Alexandria campus, but its first students are learning virtually

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

Virginia Tech's new "Innovation Campus" has launched its first semester, but not yet in its future North Potomac Yard home. While the city of Alexandria and Virginia Tech's team of architects, lawyers and planners make quick work of the entitlement process for the planned $1 billion campus, university officials decided to take classes entirely online for its initial semester as the pandemic rages on, the school said last week.

At VMI, Black alumni want Stonewall Jackson's statue removed

By IAN SHAPIRA, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Kaleb Tucker graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in May, but he can't stop thinking about the indignities he endured as a Black man on the campus of the country's oldest state-supported military college. The VMI tradition that outraged him the most: forcing first-year cadets to salute a large statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson — a former VMI professor and enslaver of six people — that stands in the center of the campus, right in front of the student barracks.


Virginia reports 882 new coronavirus cases Wednesday

By SALEEN MARTIN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health reported 882 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the state's tally to 129,289. At least 2,697 Virginians have died from the virus as of Wednesday morning, up 11 from Tuesday.

257 COVID-19 cases at UVa, 214 positive cases in students; one new fatality reported in TJHD

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported Wednesday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 129,289 — an increase of 882 from the 128,407 reported Tuesday. The 129,289 cases consist of 123,488 confirmed cases and 5,801 probable cases.

ICE files motion to drop judge ruling that bars transfers into Farmville's immigrant detention center

By SABRINA MORENO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement lawyers this week asked a federal judge to end a ban on transfers into Farmville's immigrant detention center, which now reports zero active COVID-19 cases less than a month after 97% in custody tested positive and one person died. The motion — filed Tuesday by ICE — states that the injunction limits the federal agency from doing its job and since the bed space doesn't exist elsewhere in the Washington, D.C., area, "ICE has also been limited in detaining aliens in the [region] who pose a public safety risk."

Nurse dies of COVID-19 at state mental hospital in Danville

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

A nurse at a state mental hospital in Danville has died of COVID-19, the first death of an employee at Virginia's behavioral health institutions from coronavirus outbreaks that already had killed seven patients at a state geriatric hospital in Nottoway County. The nurse, employed at the Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute, died on Saturday, according to a statement from the hospital, which said that "it is not yet known where the employee was exposed to the virus."

60-year-old nurse at Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute dies of COVID-19

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

Social worker Cristina Mack remembers how her cooking elicited an enthusiastic reaction from Deborah Patterson, especially the liver, onions and gravy. "I made that for her on a few occasions and she just loved it," Mack recalled of her late co-worker and dear friend Wednesday. Patterson, a 60-year-old nurse at Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute, died of COVID-19 at Sovah Health-Danville on Saturday.


With just weeks left to fill out the census, Virginia's poor and Black neighborhoods are undercounted

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

At one end of Newport News, in a neighborhood where nearly three-quarters of the population is Black or Hispanic and the median income is $24,274, less than half of households have responded to the census, that once-a-decade survey that aims to count every person living in the U.S. and determines how much federal money localities get for certain programs. At the other end of the city, in a majority-white neighborhood where homes overlook the Warwick River and the median income is $92,074, the census self-response rate is one of the highest in the region, at 86%.

Blue Ridge Tunnel expected to open this fall

By NANCY SORRELLS, News Virginian

It might be a worn out cliché to some, but for a dedicated group of folks on both sides of Afton Mountain, there is, literally, light at the end of the tunnel — the Blue Ridge Tunnel that is. The former railroad tunnel, known locally as the Crozet Tunnel after its builder Claudius Crozet, is nearly ready to open as a converted rails-to-trail pathway connecting Nelson and Augusta counties.

Roanoke Valley coalition offers blueprint to attack addictions

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

A Roanoke Valley coalition on Wednesday offered a detailed guide to tackle opioid and other addictions. The Roanoke Valley Collective Response's Blueprint to Action is a two-year effort by hundreds of people who joined together to influence policies and programs so that they could better reach individuals and families affected by addictions and work on the underlying problems that lead to substance use.


Loudoun County supervisors narrowly support civilian review board legislation

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

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is backing legislative efforts that would require localities in Virginia to establish law-enforcement civilian review boards. The legislation, which has been passed in the House of Delegates, is aimed at enhancing the accountability and transparency of local law enforcement agencies using guidelines developed by the Department of Criminal Justice Services.

With schools closed, public libraries are being used as day-care centers, angering some people

By SAMANTHA SCHMIDT, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

As the school year begins entirely online for millions of students across the country, local leaders are facing a child-care crisis for their employees. In some places, a controversial solution has emerged: repurposing public libraries as day-care centers for the children of essential workers. Beginning this week, parks and recreation staff in Loudoun County, Va., are offering supervision for as many as 1,000 to 1,200 school-age children of county employees, public school teachers and other members of the public. They'd planned to offer the child care in community centers, 11 elementary schools, leased buildings and two public libraries.

Former school board chairman dismisses lawsuit against school board

By JILL PALERMO, Prince William Times

Former Prince William County School Board chairman Ryan Sawyers has dropped the school board from his $2.3 million defamation lawsuit against Superintendent Steven Walts. Sawyers is continuing to sue Walts on allegations Walts defamed him in a video Walts posted to Twitter in May announcing he was shutting down his Twitter account.

Supervisors vote to begin changing Jefferson Davis Highway to 'Richmond Highway'

By DANIEL BERTI, Prince William Times

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted unanimously early Wednesday morning to begin the process of renaming U.S. 1 in Prince William County from Jefferson Davis Highway to "Richmond Highway." The board voted 7-0 at around 2 a.m. to rename the road. Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, was absent from the vote.

County to open four early voting locations

By JIM MCCONNELL, Chesterfield Observer

In anticipation of high turnout for the Nov. 3 general election and to accommodate early voting during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Chesterfield County Registrar's Office will open satellite polling locations at four county library branches beginning Oct. 19.

Hampton paid a private investigator to follow a department head accused of having an affair with an employee

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

Hampton hired a private investigator in 2018 to surveil a then-department director who employees alleged was having an affair with another staffer. The city paid $11,237 to TNT Surveillance LLC to follow Kevin Myers while he was working as Hampton's director of Parks, Recreation & Leisure Services, according to records the Daily Press obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Virginia Beach schools won't be able to start in-person learning for at least 2 weeks later than planned

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

Virginia Beach schools won't be prepared to begin in-person learning until at least Oct. 6, two weeks later than initially planned, division leaders said Wednesday. And that is only if health conditions don't worsen beforehand.

Chesapeake council OKs hazard pay to city employees who worked during pandemic

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

The city of Chesapeake is extending a one-time payment to employees who've been working during the pandemic but were not otherwise covered by federal funds for hazard pay. City council members on Tuesday night unanimously approved using $1,651,000 from the general fund for the supplemental payment.

Newport News again considering rules to allow and regulate short-term rentals

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

A draft of rules for short-term rentals is back in front of the Newport News City Council, and it looks similar to the rules the council considered more than a year ago. At Tuesday's council work session, Flora Chioros, assistant planning director, said planning staff met with a group that included city residents opposed to short-term rentals, residents interested in operating short-term rentals and employees and operators of local hotels and consulted with the Planning Commission.

Spotsylvania looking to beef up broadband service

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

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a lack of internet access in the Spotsylvania County. There are about 405 square miles in Spotsylvania where high-speed broadband access is lacking, according to a staff report presented at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting. With the pandemic keeping most students from attending public schools in person, the county handed out thousands of laptops for virtual learning. But some students don't have internet access, so the school system established 16 hotspots around the county.

Towns still recovering from delinquent water bills after resuming cutoffs, fees

By RANDY ARRINGTON, Page Valley News

As some of the economic pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic begins to subside, all three towns in Page County are getting back to business as usual with their water customers. After suspending cutoffs and waiving late fees in March, April and May, water customers began to see stricter enforcement of timely payments over the course of the summer. After losing about $15,000 in revenue from not enforcing 204 late fees in June, the Town of Shenandoah started disconnecting delinquent customers in July and resumed levying late fees in August.

Charlottesville seeks to hire independent counsel for CRB

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

Charlottesville is seeking an attorney to represent the Police Civilian Review Board. The city published a request for proposals for legal services to assist the oversight panel on Friday. The board unanimously voted to start the process for hiring independent legal counsel last month in an effort to maintain independence from the city government.

Salem City Schools plans transition to next phase of in-class instruction next week

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

Reporting a smooth first week of classes, Salem City Schools officials said the division is ready to scale up its reopening plan. Starting next week, pre-K through second graders will be in the classroom five days per week, and third through 12th grade students will attend two days per week. "The soft opening was very, very helpful," Superintendent Alan Seibert told the Salem School Board on Tuesday night.

City Manager estimates more than 150 utility customers are scheduled to be cut off

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

Martinsville has a list of 700 accounts that soon could be cut off from water and sewer services with about 150 of them likely to lose service, City Manager Leon Towarnicki said Wednesday. The city resumed its pandemic-delayed disconnection plan as of Aug. 31, but Towarnicki could not provide that number to members of the City Council at their meeting on Tuesday night and then followed up to those questions in emails on Wednesday.

Abingdon now allowing larger signs near I-81

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

Businesses are now allowed to have larger signs near Interstate 81 and other parts of Abingdon. At its Tuesday meeting, the Abingdon Town Council approved a sign ordinance modification that now allows some larger signs. Signs in the town's historic district will not be affected, said Town Manager Jimmy Morani. "The sign code was revisited in an effort to streamline the code and to make it more business-friendly," Morani said.



2021 candidates should commit to a debate in Southwest Virginia

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

We're in an unusual year where all the major sports seasons now overlap — baseball, basketball, football, hockey.Now we're about to add one more: It will soon be debate season. Presidential debates. Senatorial debates. Congressional debates. We'd probably have dogcatcher debates if Virginia elected dogcatchers. That means it's also time for one of the most tiresome but predictable stories that come around every election cycle: Debates over debates.

Cities have the right to impose curfews

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

Does the City of Fredericksburg, or any local jurisdiction in Virginia for that matter, need to get permission from the governor and the General Assembly before imposing a curfew to deal with a civil disturbance? The answer should be obvious: If the Dillon Rule does not authorize local governments to perform their most basic function—which is protecting their citizens, especially during times of civil unrest, but also during natural or man-made disasters—then we may as well disband local government altogether and let state officials run everything remotely from Richmond.

Be prepared to vote

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

Even though the November election is less than eight weeks away, the time is now to start thinking about how you're going to cast your ballot. "With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, we know that some voters may be looking for safer ways to either vote in-person or cast their ballots privately without encountering large crowds and potentially long lines," Constance L. Hargrove, Chesterfield County's general registrar and director of elections, said in a statement.

Flu vaccines are more important than ever this fall

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

Summer is all but over. The weather is cooler and morning temperatures in the low 60s make it tempting to reach for a sweater before heading out the door. We might not be completely back in the swing of things — the majority of schools are still being held online and many businesses continue to operate virtually rather than in person. But the economy is gradually reopening and people are out and about.

A mockery of justice in Virginia

Washington Post Editorial (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The felony case against Virginia's most senior Black lawmaker, state Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), is a preposterous example of rogue local police making a mockery of justice. Almost nothing about the charges against Ms. Lucas, the first African American and female president pro tempore of the 244-year-old state Senate, contains an iota of sense.


Schapiro: Legislative smorgasbord exposes Democratic rift

By JEFF E. SCHAPIRO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

The wheels came off for the Democrats about six minutes into last Friday's session of the Virginia Senate. "Big problem," Janet Howell, chairwoman of the budget committee, said in a hot-mic moment to Dick Saslaw, majority leader and a fellow Northern Virginian. "What?" said Saslaw, according to a recording of Senate proceedings. Howell said that with Chap Petersen, another Fairfax senator, absent because of legal business back home, Democrats were one short of the required votes to send Gov. Ralph Northam a House-passed bill to spend $2 million helping coronavirus-conscious Virginians vote by early-absentee ballot.

Politifact: Freitas Says Spanberger Too Partisan


Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn't on the ballot in Virginia's 7th Congressional District, but her name is ever present in this fall's closely-watched race between Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger and Republican Nick Freitas. Freitas, a state legislator, has repeatedly accused Spanberger of breaking a 2018 promise to shun partisanship, and says she's become a Pelosi loyalist.


Eberhart: Pipelines Remain Critical to America's Energy and Environmental Success

By DAN K. EBERHART, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Environmentalists are claiming victory after a spate of setbacks for oil and natural gas pipeline projects. However, activists must still scale a mountain of realities to offer a credible alternative for meeting America's energy needs, sustaining economic growth, and tackling climate change. Recently, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy abandoned the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court's order halting work on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Eberhart is CEO of Canary, an independent oilfield services company in the United States, and a frequent commentator on oil markets and US politics. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. He is based in Phoenix.

Bleicher and Rubin: Lessons for Corporate Leaders from the Death of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

By SAMUEL A. BLEICHER AND REBECCA R. RUBIN, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

In July, after "almost six years of effort" and "billions of dollars," Dominion Energy and Duke Energy abandoned their joint effort to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell II said the decision reflects "the increasing legal uncertainty" for large pipelines even after the ACP's recent victory at the United States Supreme Court. Farrell pointed to a Montana District Court decision throwing out water crossing permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, just the latest case in the continuing legal conflict between pipeline proponents and grassroots opposition.

Bleicher is a Professor at Georgetown Law School. Rubin is President and CEO of Marstel-Day, LLC, Both are Members of the Board of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and formerly served as members of the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board.

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Virginia Public Access Project · P.O. Box 1472 · Richmond, VA 23218 · USA

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