Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

October 27, 2020
Top of the News

VMI superintendent resigns after Black cadets describe relentless racism

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

The superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute resigned Monday morning, after Black cadets described relentless racism at the nation's oldest state-supported military college and Gov. Ralph Northam ordered an independent probe of the school's culture. Retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, 80, had been superintendent of the 181-year-old school since 2003.

Lexington sheds some Confederate monikers

By TIM THORNTON, Va Business Magazine

Lexington memorializes Confederate Gens. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee so much, Lee's final resting place in the city was described as "a kind of Confederate Graceland" in a 2009 Washington Post travel story. Lexington's image changed some this summer, however. While Virginia Military Institute refused to remove Confederate statues and names from its campus, Carilion Clinic acquired the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital and renamed it Carilion Rockbridge Community Hospital. The Robert E. Lee Hotel, which opened in 1926, became The Gin, and the city-owned Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, where Jackson's statue stands over his grave, became Oak Grove Cemetery.

Poll: Virginia voters say virus, not economy, most important

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

Enacting restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is more important than removing them to get the economy going, according to a majority of Virginia voters polled this month. The poll conducted by Hampton University and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 62% think the biggest priority for their community is to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, even if it hurts the economy, while 35% said removing restrictions to help the economy, even if more people get the virus, is the bigger priority.

Modelers: Coronavirus to double if behavior doesn't change

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

Virginia is averaging more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases each day, and unless people's behavior changes, the pace is likely to double and hit its peak by mid-December, according to the latest forecast by University of Virginia modelers. The model calls for nearly 15,000 new cases a week in December.

Dramatic increase in COVID cases stretching health system

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

A tsunami of new COVID-19 cases is "stretching" the resources of Ballad Health even more than system officials projected. On Monday, Ballad established a single-day record with 166 confirmed COVID-positive patients, with a dozen more suspected cases awaiting test results, system officials said Monday. Twenty-eight of them were being treated in intensive care units, with 13 on ventilators.

Torched Trump signs, raised middle fingers: Why D.C. can't wait for the election to end

By PAUL SCHWARTZMAN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Victoria Frankhauser, a Joe Biden supporter who lives in McLean, Va., expressed sympathy when vandals threw eggs and spray-painted "R-A-P-I-S-T" across her neighbor's poster-sized lawn sign supporting President Trump. Pegge Caccavari, who lives next door, responded to the mischief by installing a "Honk for Trump" sign, which she bathed in a flood light so drivers could see the display at night. The blare of horns at all hours has disturbed Frankhauser and her three children ever since.

As virus halts inmate roadway cleanup in Smyth and Wythe, volunteers step up

By JASMINE DENT FRANKS, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

With inmate work release programs at the regional jails in both Dublin and Abingdon placed on hold due to the coronavirus, litter alongside the roadways in Smyth and Wythe counties is piling up. Typically, the sheriff's offices in each county supervise a crew of trusties inmates who are sent out to help clear the roadsides. In Smyth County, those inmates are typically out each day of the week and in Wythe County, they work 10-hour shifts Monday through Thursday.

The Full Report
43 articles, 26 publications


From VPAP Now Live: Pre-Election Campaign Finance Reports

The Virginia Public Access Project

VPAP has posted campaign finance disclosures by local candidates on next week's ballot and committees seeking to pass or defeat ballot issues. The reports, which cover activity in October through last Thursday, include those filed by mayoral candidates in Richmond and Virginia Beach and a statewide referendum on how legislative districts are drawn.

From VPAP GOP Super PAC no longer funding TV ads in 2nd Congressional District

The Virginia Public Access Project

A Super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the U.S. House has reallocated its TV budget in Virginia by shifting money out of the 2nd District and investing more heavily in a GOP candidate seeking to win back the 7th District and a candidate seeking to hold the reliably Republican 5th District. The shift by the Congressional Leadership Fund has left former Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach) with a diminished TV presence heading into the final week of the campaign.

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 Sheriff's Association writes governor asking for amendment to military equipment bills


The Virginia Sheriff's Association wrote to Gov. Ralph Northam asking him to change two bills that would restrict law enforcement agencies' acquisition of certain military surplus equipment. The particular issue they have with HB 5049 and SB 5030 is restrictions on the use of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. The Senate bill states that Virginia State Police and local law enforcement agencies will be prohibited from acquiring armored multi-wheeled vehicles that are mine-resistant, ambush-protected and configured for combat from a surplus program operated by the federal government.


Norfolk delegation backs Del. Joe Lindsey for judgeship

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

State lawmakers who represent Norfolk are backing one of their own for a vacant judgeship on the Norfolk General District Court, according to a letter obtained by The Virginia Mercury. The General Assembly's Norfolk delegation is proposing Del. Joe Lindsey, D-Norfolk, a trial lawyer who has also served as a substitute judge, to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge S. Clark Daugherty.

Gooditis elected chair of the I-81 Advisory Committee

By JOSH JANNEY, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke County) has been unanimously elected chair of the Interstate 81 Advisory Committee. Gooditis was selected to the post on Friday. "I'm grateful to the committee members who have placed their trust in me," Gooditis said in a news release. "I-81 is vital to western Virginia's economy. I look forward to supporting the economic growth of this region while working to ensure that I-81 is a safe and reliable roadway for all motorists."


Redistricting amendment has engendered passionate friends and fierce foes

By SCOTT MCCAFFREY, Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

No matter which side one happens to be on in the battle over a state constitutional amendment to revamp Virginia's legislative and congressional redistricting, there seems to be general agreement on one thing: Offer a politician the chance to enhance his or her party's prospects by drawing election districts their way, and they will do it.

Ballot question asks Virginians whether to exempt disabled veterans' vehicles from taxes

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

It has received much less attention than redistricting, but Virginia voters are considering a second proposed state constitutional amendment on their ballots this year. Question two asks voters whether a car or pickup truck owned and chiefly used by a 100% service-disabled veteran of the U.S. armed forces or the National Guard should be exempt from state and local taxation.


Swing-District Democrats, Defying Predictions, Poised to Help Keep House

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

When Representative Abigail Spanberger, the Democrat running for re-election in the conservative-leaning Richmond suburbs, arrived to debate her Republican opponent on a recent evening, she received a heroine's welcome, loudly cheered by supporters on both sides of the street who held blue balloons and handmade signs praising her accomplishments. There was no such warm welcome for Nick Freitas, the state delegate running to oust her, recalled Carol Catron, 52, a stay-at-home mom and a supporter of Ms. Spanberger, who was among those shouting "We love Abigail!" outside as the Republican walked in without making eye contact.

Two Lexington Residents Vie To Represent Valley In U.S. House

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

Congresman Ben Cline, R-Lexington, faces his first opponent, another Lexington resident, as an incumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives in November. Nicholas Betts, who like Cline also works in the legal field, is a Democrat who has held jobs in construction, landscaping and as a teaching assistant. Both candidates said tackling the COVID-19 pandemic is first on their list of actions if elected.

60 percent of Loudoun voters may cast ballots before Election Day

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

Loudoun County is on track to have all of its early votes and ballots received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, according to a local election official. This includes about 50,000 returned mail-in ballots and another 25,000 expected to be cast between now and Nov. 3. Richard Keech, deputy director for Loudoun County's Office of Elections and Voter Registration, said the office is projecting that about 60 percent of voters will have cast their ballots by Election Day.

Early voting numbers surge in Peninsula area

By NOOR ADATIA, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Maria Taylor prefers to vote on Election Day itself, but this is an abnormal year. So the Yorktown resident decided to avoid a line at her precinct and took her 76-year-old mother to vote early Friday. "With Covid, I don't want her around that many people," she said. "It is wise for her."

Voter turnout steady during Saturday voting in Williamsburg, James City and York

By ALEX PERRY, Virginia Gazette (Metered Paywall - 4 Articles per Month)

Voters showed up to the polls on Saturday for early voting in Williamsburg, James City and York counties, including young citizens who voted for the first time, and even younger "future voters" like 9-year-old Trent Guarino in York County. Parents Katie and Anthony Guarino brought their son Trent to the York County Registrar's Office in Washington Square, where Trent got a future voter sticker like many other children that came in with their parents to the polls. Katie Guarino, 32, said that she wanted to show her son the importance of voting.

More than 47,000 votes already cast locally

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

Nearly 47,000 people in Charlottesville and Albemarle County already have cast their ballot for next week's election. With only a week until Election Day, about 40% of each locality's voters have officially made their decisions.

Virginia early voters favor Biden, Post-Schar poll finds

By LAURA VOZZELLA, ANTONIO OLIVO AND SCOTT CLEMENT, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Voters who support former vice president Joe Biden are fueling an unprecedented surge in early voting in Virginia, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll that finds nearly 7 in 10 early ballots were cast for the Democrat seeking the White House. About 1.95 million Virginians have voted in person or by mail, according to state data — nearly half the total number who turned out for the 2016 contest, and more than triple the 538,410 voters who voted early four years ago.


Nearly 200 jobs coming to Pittsylvania County

By JOHN R. CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

A furniture manufacturer and a supplier are bringing nearly 200 jobs to Pittsylvania County. Ison Furniture Manufacturing, a North Carolina-based furniture manufacturer, is planning to bring a vacant facility back to life and create 150 jobs, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday afternoon. The company is expected to invest $3.5 million to purchase and renovate the recently closed A.C. Furniture Company facility in the Axton community in Pittsylvania County.

Hampton University poll: Virginians feel OK about their finances, gloomier about the economy

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

Most Virginians -- 62% -- say they feel good about their personal financial situations but fewer than half feel that way about the national, state or local economy, a new Hampton University-Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found. Some two-thirds of Virginia voters say they've been spending less since the pandemic hit -- but they also don't seem to be saving more or paying down debts any faster than usual, the poll found.


New data underscore COVID impact on airport finances

Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has seen its year-to-date revenue from airlines decline more than 23 percent, according to new figures, with revenue from sources indirectly related to aviation service declining 46 percent.

What's behind Virginia's increasing pedestrian death toll and how to reverse the trend

By WYATT GORDON, Virginia Mercury

On Thursday evening, friends and family were at the intersection of Jahnke and German School roads on Richmond's Southside to mourn the loss of 16-year-old Aajah Rosemond, who was killed by a driver while walking to the store. According to police, a collision with a GMC Yukon sent a roughly 6,000 pound Nissan Titan spiraling up and onto the sidewalk, fatally striking the teenager. The evening news tells such tales with disturbing regularity, a product of Virginia's rapidly rising pedestrian death rate.


VMI superintendent resigns as fallout continues from systemic racism allegations

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

Virginia Military Institute's top leader resigned Monday, a week after Gov. Ralph Northam announced an investigation into the school's culture and policies following reports of racism that received national attention. Retired Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III resigned as superintendent at the request of state leaders, according to his resignation letter.

Head of Virginia Military Institute Resigns Amid Review of Racism on Campus

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

The Virginia Military Institute's superintendent resigned on Monday, after Virginia's governor ordered an independent investigation of allegations of systemic racism at the state-supported military college. Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, 80, who has led the school since 2003, said in his resignation letter that the staff of Gov. Ralph Northam and members of the Virginia legislature had "lost confidence in my leadership" and had asked him on Friday to resign.

VMI board says "with deep regret" that superintendent is out

Associated Press

The superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute has resigned, the school's board president announced in a statement Monday, a week after state officials ordered an investigation into what they characterized as a culture of "ongoing structural racism." Retired Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III tendered his resignation Monday, and the Board of Visitors accepted it "with deep regret," board President John William Boland said in a statement.

William & Mary women's track team questions department's management, refuses meeting with AD

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

William & Mary women's track and field athletes said Monday they have refused an "urgent" meeting on Thursday with interim director of athletics Jeremy Martin to discuss their concerns about the elimination of the men's track and field team at the school. Instead, they are requesting a meeting with school President Katherine Rowe, Board of Visitors Rector John Littel and Provost Peggy Agouris prior to Thursday. Their request comes two days after 26 W&M track athletes signed an open letter to administration expressing that the men's indoor and outdoor track teams – slated for elimination at the end of the academic year – be reinstated.

Bridgewater College's alumni, students and faculty rush to defend programs from cuts

By BRIDGET MANLEY, Harrisonburg Citizen

Many Bridgewater College alumni, students and faculty were surprised by the announcement this month that the college would eliminate several student organizations and some academic programs and are mobilizing to try to save some of them. The college's decisions to move forward would mean laying off faculty — even as the college said the year-long strategic resource allocation process was transparent and included campus-wide input.

Large Covid Outbreaks "Very Likely" On College Campuses, Unless....


A new Virginia Tech study suggests large outbreaks of Coronavirus at colleges and universities will continue to grow unless certain behaviors change. Researchers looked at millions of simulations of interactions by students living on campus that suggest, large outbreaks are likely to spread – and fast.

Starships were meant to fly: Robots take off with JMU Dining

By JAMES FARIS, The Breeze

Even in a bumpy semester for JMU, Starship delivery robots have been on a roll. Since landing at JMU last semester, Starship Technologies' self-driving robots have grown in popularity as students opt to order on-campus food from the comfort of their dorms. A fleet of 40 bots has made over 19,000 deliveries since August, Brent Beringer, director for dining at JMU, said via email.


Virginia Department of Health dashboard shows state has had 25 COVID-19 outbreaks in K-12 schools

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported 174,275 total COVID-19 cases on Monday — a 904-case increase from Sunday — and 3,581 total deaths, an increase of two. More than 36,000 of those cases are within the 20-29 age group, and 27,136 cases are from the state's 1,238 outbreaks. The VDH classifies an outbreak as at least two lab-confirmed cases. Among cases associated with outbreaks; 2,301 are linked to colleges and universities; 307 with child care; 186 with grades K-12.

Culpeper's Coffeewood Correctional coronavirus outbreak more than doubles in week

By ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION, Culpeper Star Exponent (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Culpeper County added 61 positive cases of COVID-19 in the past week as the ongoing outbreak more than doubled at Coffeewood Correctional Center in Mitchells. The Virginia Dept. of Health reported 1,374 total cases for Culpeper County as of Oct. 26 and 18 deaths, which has held steady for the past two weeks.

25% of recent Alexandria COVID-19 cases possibly tied to workplace


As the long-predicted fall surge of COVID-19 accelerates nationwide, the City of Alexandria in Virginia is detailing how over 400 of its recent cases possibly originated. The city's Health Department interviewed 422 infected residents from Sept. 21 to Oct. 19 and found that one-fourth of them had been in their workplaces within two weeks of feeling sick.


Claire Gastañaga will retire next year as executive director of ACLU of Virginia

By FRANK GREEN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Claire Gastañaga will retire as the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia on March 31 or as soon as a successor is found, the organization announced Monday. "I'm profoundly grateful for the eight plus years that I've been honored to serve as the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia," Gastañaga said in a statement Monday. "Now is the time to make room for new leadership while continuing to be an agent for change in Virginia in a way that is authentically me."


Survey: A Majority of APS Teachers Prefer Remote Teaching for Now


A 61% majority of Arlington Public Schools teachers prefer to continue distance teaching or telework, according to a survey recently conducted by APS. Almost 4,300 employees, or 63% of APS staff, completed the survey. Teachers and assistants had the highest participation rates, 87% and 86% respectively, and while teachers had a stronger preference for distance learning over in-person teaching, assistants were split 50-50.

Fairfax County teachers union opposes new concurrent method for instruction


A union representing teachers in Virginia's largest school system believes instructors and parents have been ambushed by a dual announcement from the Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent, demanding a decision about returning to classrooms that will begin deploying a new form of instruction. "We are doing concurrent learning; this is the model we will use," first-grade teacher Emily Vanderhoff said, paraphrasing a return-to-school update released late last Friday afternoon.

Loudoun Supervisors to Resurrect Land Conservation Program

By RENSS GREENE, Loudoun Now

County supervisors have voted to lay the groundwork to resurrect the Purchase of Development Rights program, a land conservation tool that would see them spend county dollars to permanently protect some properties from development. In a purchase of development rights program, the county could buy the development rights from a piece of land, permanently separating those rights from that land an retiring them. In theory, that would allow the landowner to realize some of the value from their land's development potential while also permanently protecting that land from actual development.

Richmond police chief forms community advisory committee, won't publicly identify most of its members

By REED WILLIAMS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith has established an External Advisory Committee that he hopes will strengthen relationships and foster greater trust between his department and city residents. But despite widespread calls for greater police transparency and accountability in Richmond and nationwide, Smith has declined to name all but one of the new committee's 15 members and balked when asked if a reporter could cover one of the meetings.

Despite Virginia making Election Day a holiday, some city workers won't get it off

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

Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer on Monday announced he was making Election Day 2020 a holiday, giving city workers the day off with pay. The move came two days after state lawmakers and activists pushed him and other city leaders around the region to do so. But, unlike other cities in Hampton Roads, they won't get the day off in the future.

Quaker school in Virginia Beach downsizes, sells land to developer for apartments

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

A modest Quaker school secluded in the trees next to Laskin Road has cut a deal with a developer that will shrink its footprint in half. Virginia Beach Friends School sold seven of its 13 acres to The Breeden Company last week as it looks to reconfigure its already small campus.

Former Lancaster County commonwealth's attorney has law license suspended

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

Former Lancaster County Commonwealth's Attorney Jan Smith has agreed to a one year and one day suspension of his law license for misconduct in his handling of a 2017 fatal boating accident. A three-judge panel, which was scheduled to hold a disciplinary hearing Monday, approved the agreement last week, according to documents from the bar.

Two Brownsville Elementary employees test positive for COVID-19

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

Two staff members at Brownsville Elementary have tested positive for COVID-19, the school told families Monday, bringing the division's total to 11 employees and one contractor who have contracted the virus since the start of school in September. Brownsville is one of three schools hosting day care programs five days a week for children of employees of Albemarle County.

School board votes to bring high school students back to class Nov. 16

By RANDY ARRINGTON, Page Valley News

The Page County School Board voted, 5-1, on Monday night to bring high school students back into the classroom two days a week beginning Monday, Nov. 16. Numerous complaints from parents regarding falling grades, a lack of instruction and psychological drawbacks of high school students not attending class with their peers and their teachers prompted the third major revision to the school division's "Return to Learn" plan.

Henry County Public Schools reports first two cases of COVID-19 among students

By KIM BARTO MEEKS, Martinsville Bulletin (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Henry County Public Schools has reported its first positive cases of COVID-19 in students, with one at Magna Vista High School and one at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School. Both schools remain open, except for part of one grade level at the middle school that is learning virtually as a precaution, according to schools spokesperson Monica Hatchett.



Take action to halt domestic violence, help victims

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

Every year, October is the time designated across the United States to shine a light on the seemingly intractable problem of domestic violence. Usually, there are vigils and events to support domestic violence victims and those who help them. People wear purple. They relate stories of abuse and offer a message of hope: Things don't have to be this way; you can get help. They raise money for the cause.

Looking forward, how can Virginia — and the nation — prepare better amid this ongoing pandemic?

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

Looking back, the warning signs were there. One year ago, the term "pandemic" largely was reserved for studies assessing preparedness. In October 2019, the Global Health Security Index (GHSI) released a report assessing 195 countries' abilities to handle pandemics. Some of the top-line conclusions were bleak: "National health security is fundamentally weak around the world. No country is fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics, and every country has important gaps to address.


Roberts: William & Mary: A time to lead

By GEORGE H. "SKIP" ROBERTS JR., published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Much credit goes to the College of William & Mary leadership in pausing their decision to eliminate a number of sports to include its very successful track and swimming programs pending more review. If past is prologue, the process largely will be the same as other similar schools that form their committees, bring in consultants, and conclude that football and basketball are the untouchables.

George H. "Skip" Roberts Jr. of Virginia Beach is a lawyer with extensive nonprofit experience.

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