Friday, September 25, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

September 25, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia Democrats are divided on details of police reform

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

Lawmakers in the Virginia General Assembly are on track to give citizen boards brand new authority to investigate and discipline local police officers accused of misconduct. But while Democratic majorities in the House and Senate agree the panels should have teeth, the two chambers are still at odds over key details, including whether to make them mandatory in every locality or leave it up to local governments to decide whether to establish the bodies.

Ahead of Friday rally, health officials warn Trump event might violate state health restrictions

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

Health officials in the Hampton Roads area are warning that a campaign rally featuring President Donald Trump on Friday may swell to more than 250 people — the state's gathering limit — which they called a "severe" health risk. As such, the local health district on Thursday asked the owners of the airport hangar that is the rally site to reconsider hosting the event, while state health officials reminded the airport authority of its power to enforce the state's COVID-19 restrictions, according to letters obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Second former Scott Taylor campaign staffer pleads guilty to election fraud

By JANE HARPER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A second member of Scott Taylor's 2018 campaign staff pleaded guilty Thursday to her role in a petition scandal that might have cost the former congressman re-election that year. Roberta Marciano, 24, initially was charged with felony election fraud, but was allowed to plead to a misdemeanor count instead.

'I'm drowning:' Roanoke County parents, teachers say changes are needed to reopening plan

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

Afeeling of frustration settled over the Roanoke County School Board meeting room Thursday night as parents and teachers stepped up to the podium to share their experiences with the division's hybrid reopening plan. Their grim assessment: Something has to change. "At the end of the day, as a teacher, I'm drowning. As a parent, I'm drowning," said teacher Hope Pritchard, choking up as she spoke.

Bristol Virginia schools press ahead, navigate challenges of pandemic

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

Thursday was just another day at Highland View Elementary, save for everyone wearing face masks, students separated in socially distanced classrooms and hallways, clear plastic shields on desks and counters, teachers on video screens, some students logged in from home and countless other concessions designed to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

William & Mary athletes planning to sue school over cut women's programs

By MARTY O'BRIEN, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

William and Mary's women's gymnastics, volleyball and swimming teams have retained counsel and are prepared to pursue a class action lawsuit against the college if their sports are eliminated following the 2020-21 school year. William & Mary announced on September 3 its decision to eliminate of those sports, as well as men's indoor and outdoor track and field, men's gymnastics and men's swimming.

A battle between farmers and 'trust-fund hippies': How a 170-foot Trump sign is dividing one Virginia county

By CAROLINE KITCHENER, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

It was two weeks before anyone spoke of the hay bales. This was odd, said Rachel Rowland, of Flint Hill, Va. — because the locals had certainly seen them: The display is 170 feet wide. Wrapped in glinting white plastic, the bales are stacked atop a rolling mountain hillside along Route 211, relaying their message to any nearby resident who drives to the closest grocery store. "Farmers for Trump 2020," the bales say, hand-painted with red and blue capital letters. "Keep America Great."

The Full Report
40 articles, 23 publications


From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

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


Virginia changes guidelines to make it easier for landlords seeking rent and mortgage relief

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

Virginia landlords can now apply for assistance on behalf of tenants who owe back rent through a state relief program. Gov. Ralph Northam announced the change to the state's $50 million rent and mortgage relief program Thursday. Using federal CARES Act money, Northam set up the program at the end of June to quell housing instability stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Hopes for COVID-19 workers' comp expansion ends in Senate committee

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

A Virginia Senate committee swiftly killed a bill that would extend COVID-19-related workers' compensation to first responders, teachers and health care providers. The Thursday vote ended any chance of expanding coverage during the ongoing special session — now in its fifth week — and marked another blow for House Democratic leadership, who announced the legislation as a priority before lawmakers convened on Aug. 18.


Babur Lateef considering run for lieutenant governor

Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

Prince William County School Board Chair Babur Lateef is considering running for lieutenant governor of Virginia next year, InsideNoVa has learned. Lateef, a Woodbridge ophthalmologist, was first elected chair of the board in a special election in the fall of 2018 and was re-elected in 2019. Although school board members don't run with party affiliations, he was supported by the Democrats. He also serves on the board of visitors at the University of Virginia.

Democrats divided on bipartisan redistricting amendment

By JIM MCCONNELL, Chesterfield Observer

As he left the Chesterfield County registrar's office last Friday afternoon after casting an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 election, Glen Besa pulled out a sheet of white paper emblazoned with the phrase "Vote Yes on 1!" in blue block letters and "End Partisan Gerrymandering in Virginia!" in red. The flyer was distributed by Fair Maps Virginia, a nonprofit created earlier this year by nonpartisan redistricting reform coalition OneVirginia 2021 to rally voter support for amending the state constitution.


Trump rally at Newport News airport expected to draw thousands; official asks host to change plans

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

Republican Party of Virginia Chair Rich Anderson said he expects a "huge, unprecedented turnout" at President Donald Trump's rally Friday night in Newport News, citing enthusiasm he said he's seen across the commonwealth. Natasha Dwamena, director of the Hampton and Peninsula health districts, said attendance is expected to be 4,000 and asked the host to reconsider, reschedule or scale back the rally, according to a letter obtained by the Daily Press. She said the event "poses a significant public health risk."

Trump's planned Virginia rally poses coronavirus risk, health officials say

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

State and local health officials are raising alarms about President Trump's plans for a "gargantuan" rally at a Virginia airport Friday night, saying it could pose a "severe public health threat" if it violates the state's 250-person limit on public gatherings. In a letter to the company that operates the hangar at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport where the rally is planned, the director of the local health district asked that the crowd be limited to 250.

Health officials seek to block Trump rally in Virginia

By ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press

A Virginia health official is warning of a "severe public health threat" if a planned campaign rally for President Donald Trump goes forward Friday evening. Dr. Natasha Dwamena, a Department of Public Health district director, said in a letter Thursday that the 4,000 people expected to attend Trump's rally at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport would be breaking Gov. Ralph Northam's executive order generally banning gatherings of more than 250 people.

While visiting Norfolk, Jill Biden promises her husband will listen to military families

By DAVE RESS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

For military families, on the move every couple years, getting somebody to stop and listen can be a challenge, military spouses at a Jill Biden campaign event agreed. "Military families are so used to just sucking it up that we're not always being heard," Jennifer Bennett said as she headed home from the small gathering in Norfolk's Glengariff neighborhood.

GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Gade focused on Constitution, Virginians' needs

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

For Daniel Gade, service has long been a part of who he is "no matter the cost." Gade, who teaches at American University in Washington, D.C., secured the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate earlier this year during the only statewide primary and is now seeking to unseat two-term Democrat Mark R. Warner.

Second former Taylor campaign staffer pleads guilty to 2018 election fraud in Va.

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

A second former campaign staffer for then-Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor election fraud charge, tied to a 2018 scandal that continues to hover over the Republican politician as he campaigns for his old seat. Roberta Marciano pleaded guilty Thursday to woeful neglect of election duties, admitting to signing two election petitions that included forged names.

Early voters in region say it should continue

By YANN RANAIVO, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Voting wasn't exactly in Lisa Broyden's plans, but an unexpected convenience prompted her to go ahead and complete her civic duty early. "I was at Kohl's, and I had talked to a friend on the internet, and she said 'Oh yeah, I just voted,' and I'm like what?" Broyden said while at the Uptown Christiansburg mall. "So I decided I'll just walk right over. So that was easy."


New unemployment claims rose last week in Virginia

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

The number of people filing new unemployment claims in Virginia last week rose by 482 to 10,582 compared with the week before as the fall from a peak of 147,369 new claims in mid-April remains bumpy. Those who are still collecting unemployment benefits after making that initial claim dropped to 188,195, though, falling for the fifth straight week, according to data released Thursday by the Virginia Employment Commission.

Chesterfield-based drug company cutting jobs and spending by $70 million as part of restructuring

By GREGORY J. GILLIGAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Global pharmaceutical firm Indivior plc is cutting an unspecified number of jobs and reducing spending by as much as $70 million as the company shifts emphasis away from its addiction treatment drug Suboxone. The Chesterfield County-based Indivior said Thursday that it will focus on two of its other drugs — Sublocade, an injection drug used in the treatment of moderate to severe opioid use disorder, and Perseris, an extended-release injectable drug used for the treatment of schizophrenia in adults.


Germanna receives grant from Go Virginia to launch Tech Talent project

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

Germanna Community College has received $634,938 in funding towards a $1 million Tech Talent Pipeline Project that aims to train more than 200 students for high-demand engineering, information technology, computer science and cyber-related professions in the Fredericksburg region. The funding, which was announced this week, was awarded by Go Virginia Region 6. Go Virginia is a statewide initiative to create higher-paying jobs and promote private sector growth through collaborations between private industry, higher education and state government.


Virginia COVID-19 cases rise by 902 from Wednesday

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported Thursday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 143,492 — an increase of 902 from the 142,590 reported Wednesday. The 143,492 cases consist of 136,448 confirmed cases and 7,044 probable cases. There are 3,113 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 2,907 confirmed and 206 probable. That's an increase of 24 from the 3,089 reported Wednesday.

Harrisonburg High School closes temporarily after two confirmed cases

By RANDI B. HAGI, Harrisonburg Citizen

Michael Richards, superintendent of the Harrisonburg City Public Schools, told The Citizen on Thursday that he would be closing Harrisonburg High School on Friday to allow the health department to conduct contact tracing. The decision comes after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Richards said the closure could just last for the day, depending on the results of that contact tracing.


Preservation group lists Virginia Indian site among nation's most endangered landmarks

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

A spot on the James River thought to be the lost capital of the Monacan Indians — but where local counties plan to build a water-pumping station — is one of the most endangered historic sites in the country, according to a list released Thursday by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The site, about 45 miles west of Richmond, is among 11 threatened landmarks nationwide highlighted in the annual list by the D.C.-based nonprofit, which this year also includes a Native American village buried under a parking lot in California, an affordable housing project for Mexican Americans in Texas and a residence for a historic Black opera company in Pennsylvania.

Rassawek named one of nation's 11 most endangered historic places

By DAVID HOLTZMAN, Central Virginian

The National Trust for Historical Preservation named Rassawek, the area where Louisa and Fluvanna counties want to build a pump station to draw water from the James River, to its annual list of America's 11 most endangered historic places. The Monacan Indian Nation considers Rassawek, located just west of Columbia in Fluvanna County, to be its former capital city. The tribe and the James River Water Authority have been locked in a bitter dispute over the proposed pump station for the past two years.

Roderick C. Young, a magistrate judge and former prosecutor, appointed to federal judgeship

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

Roderick C. Young, a former federal prosecutor and a longtime magistrate judge in Richmond, has been appointed a district court judge by the U.S. Senate. Young was confirmed Thursday in a 93-2 vote. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said they recommended Young for the post in March based on the assessments of an independent panel of lawyers and feedback from numerous bar associations in Virginia.

U.S. Senate votes overwhelmingly to confirm Hampton Roads' newest federal judge

By PETER DUJARDIN, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to confirm Hampton Roads' newest federal district judge. Roderick C. Young — a Richmond-based federal magistrate who was nominated to the post by President Trump on the recommendation of Virginia's two senators — was approved on a 93-2 vote. Young — who can begin the new job immediately — can sit anywhere in the federal Eastern District of Virginia, though he's expected to fill a judicial vacancy in Hampton Roads.


Arlington Public Schools Outlines Return Timeline, County Considers Childcare Options


Arlington County is considering a plan to host some children of working parents in community centers for supervised learning, while Arlington Public Schools readies its plan for a return to in-person learning. The use of community centers would be a relief valve for families that are unable to have a parent stay home during the day and do not have the means to pay for daytime child care. It would serve as an interim step until APS again offers full-time, in-person learning — whenever that may be.

Visit Alexandria details pandemic's tourism hit — and their comeback plans


In a normal year, tourism brings in about $50 million in annual consumption taxes to the City of Alexandria, which uses the money to fund local services such as public safety, transportation, human services and education. This year, the city was on track. Then, the coronavirus pandemic entered the picture.

Fairfax County principal charged with not reporting sexual abuse of student

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

A middle school principal in Fairfax County has been charged with not reporting a complaint of suspected sexual abuse of a student, the second time in less than a year that a principal in the school district has been accused of a similar crime, authorities announced Thursday. Yusef Azimi, principal of Thoreau Middle School in Vienna, was arrested Wednesday in connection with allegedly not telling police and child protective services about a report in October that a teacher had inappropriate contact with a student at the school, police said.

Land Trust of Virginia logs 200th easement, now protecting nearly 9,400 acres in Loudoun

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

Middleburg-based nonprofit Land Trust of Virginia holds more conservation easements than any of the 27 other private land trusts in the commonwealth, and it recently achieved a significant milestone when a 129-acre plot just north of Aldie became its 200th conservation easement. Owned by Melissa Cantacuzene, who moved to the area 50 years ago with her husband, Rodion, the property contains nearly 7,200 feet of streambed, 5.25 acres of wetlands and 72 acres of forest, housing expansive wildlife that is now protected from development. The Cantacuzenes have put four pieces of property into easement since 2007, totaling 513 acres.

Richmond public safety task force endorses civilian review board, changes to police training

By C. SUAREZ ROJAS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

A task force Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney assigned to "reimagine" public safety following months of unrest over police brutality has issued 16 preliminary recommendations. While the initial 19-page document is subject to change pending a final report that is due to Stoney and Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith on Nov. 5, the recommendations envision changes to how police use force, respond to people in mental health crises and interact with the public.

Months Later, Richmond Police Say They're Still Investigating Complaints Against Officers


Richmond police say several internal investigations about use of force by officers during two months of protests this Summer are still ongoing. That includes an investigation into an incident that occurred almost four months ago, on June 1st, when police tear gassed a crowd of people at the Lee Monument downtown. It was still light out and it was well before that night's curfew. The following day, Richmond Police tweeted the action had been unwarranted and that the officers involved would be disciplined.

Three arrested during Richmond protest after Ky. officers not charged in Breonna Taylor's death

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

Three people were arrested after protesters gathered outside Richmond police headquarters Wednesday night. A grand jury's decision not to indict the two officers who shot Breonna Taylor in Louisville sparked protests in cities across the country. In Richmond, after the announcement in Kentucky, a flyer promoting a "Justice for Breonna Taylor" protest in Monroe Park circulated on social media

Millions of gallons of sewage overflowed during recent heavy rain, HRSD says

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

More than 9 million gallons of sewage overflowed in Hampton Roads last week after heavy rainfall and high water levels stressed local systems, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District said Wednesday. About 2.5 million gallons were released from a pump station on Saunders Drive in Suffolk, officials said in a news release.

Plexiglass shields and lots of tape on the floor: Virginia Beach schools prepare for 9,000 students

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

Virginia Beach students will find a whole new world next week if they choose to return to in-person classes for the first time since spring. From the moment they step on a school bus in the morning until they've returned home in the afternoon, students will be greeted by a host of mitigation strategies aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Norfolk schools reverse course, will go public when staffers get coronavirus

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

Norfolk Public Schools has decided to tell the public when staffers test positive for the coronavirus after all. After initially saying last week the district wouldn't disclose whether it had cases to protect employees' medical privacy, spokeswoman Barbara Hunter said this week officials changed their minds. For the first two weeks of school, there were no reported cases, she said.

Committee launched encouraging voters vote 'No' to Norfolk casino


A group of citizens who have criticized plans for a resort casino, have registered with the state to actively encourage voters to vote down the referendum the project needs to survive. "Informed Norfolk" registered as a committee with the Virginia Department of Elections last week in order to be able to collect donations and spend money to spread their message ahead of election day.

Who's funding opposition to Norfolk casino? Even citizens involved say they don't know.

By RYAN MURPHY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Voters already have started to cast ballots to decide whether to give the green light to the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and their billionaire backer to build a casino along downtown Norfolk's waterfront. And now a committee opposed to the referendum has gone public — a revival of the same group that waged a petition battle to undo the city's deal with the tribe this time last year.

King William to hold special election to fill treasurer position

By EMILY HOLTER, Tidewater Review

King William County will hold a special election Feb. 2 to fill the county's treasurer seat, the county's General Registrar Alison Fox said. The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved holding the special election at its August meeting following Treasurer Harry Whitt's announcement to retire

BOS plans to invoke emergency powers to fast-track county broadband project

By RACHEL NEEDHAM, Rappahannock News (Metered Paywall)

The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors met for a special session at the high school on Friday, Sept. 18 to allocate its second round of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. ... Piedmont Broadband — whose eight employees and owner, Rich Shoemaker, were among the meeting's attendees — emerged with a likely award of at least $175,000 for the installation of two new towers near Battle Mountain and Aaron Mountain.

Residents' backlash over Timberlake development plan spurs Lynchburg council to action

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

Residents of the Richland Hills neighborhood off of Timberlake Road never imagined a 123-unit apartment complex could be dropped into their backyards. The property adjacent to the subdivision is zoned Limited Business district (B-1), intended to provide for office, retail, restaurant and service uses that are compatible with nearby residential areas.

Bristol, Virginia gets credit rating upgrade from S&P

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

The city of Bristol, Virginia received positive financial news Thursday, as rating agency Standard & Poor's upgraded the city's bond rating. S&P Global Ratings raised its long term and underlying rating from "A" to "A+" on the city's planned refinancing of taxable general obligation bonds, according to a written statement from S&P Global. The outlook is rated "stable."



Why are Democrats voting against open government?

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

Do Democrats believe in democracy? That question will surely send our left-of-center readers into apoplectic fits, but two recent actions — one by the Democratic-controlled House of Delegates, the other by the Democratic-controlled Roanoke City Council — prompt us to ask that question.


Edmunds and Hanger: Recognizing America's Original Conservationists: Celebrating National Hunting & Fishing Day 2020

By JAMES EDMUNDS AND EMMETT HANGER, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

America's hunters and anglers are our nation's original conservationists. Sept. 26 is our 48th Annual National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD) to recognize and celebrate the historical and ongoing contributions of the Old Dominion's sportsmen and women. As Co-Chairmen of the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus and members of the 49-state National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses, we are proud to celebrate these time-honored traditions and encourage all Virginians to use National Hunting and Fishing Day to take advantage of the inherently socially distant activities of hunting and fishing available to us.

Edmunds is a Republican delegate from Halifax County. Hanger is a Republican state senator from Augusta County. They arec o-Chairs of the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus


A farmer fell ill. So dozens of his neighbors showed up spontaneously and harvested his crops.

By SYDNEY PAGE, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Lane Unhjem was driving his combine harvester across a field of durum wheat on his North Dakota farm earlier in the month, when suddenly smoke began billowing from the machine. Before Unhjem could figure out what was going on, flames started leaping around him. Unhjem's neighbors saw the fire and raced over, helping him extinguish the blaze and saving the field from ruin. But the shock of the moment, coupled with the thick plumes of smoke Unhjem inhaled, triggered the 57-year-old farmer to go into cardiac arrest.

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