Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

October 7, 2020
Top of the News

Va. watchdog substantiates 6 of 7 allegations against the Va. Parole Board in new unidentified case

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

The Office of the State Inspector General has substantiated six additional allegations leveled at the Virginia Parole Board after investigating complaints about how the panel reached its decision in a single unidentified case, but details of the findings have been stricken entirely from copies of the government watchdog agency's reports released Tuesday.

Youngest Newport News students to return in October under tentative plan

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

The school board voted 5-2 Tuesday night to bringing some of the district's youngest students back to Newport News school buildings in October. The plan is flexible and may change based on public health data and how the first few weeks go. Board members John Eley and Marvin Harris voted against, saying they believe it isn't yet safe.

Dominion won't disconnect customers despite end of state-ordered freeze

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

Dominion Energy will not start cutting off power to people behind with their bills, even though state regulators say utilities may do so now. The electric monopoly said its aim is to help customers trying to cope with the pandemic and its financial hit to family and business budgets.

William & Mary athletic director resigning after controversial decision to cut 7 sports

By MARTY O'BRIEN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Samantha Huge resigned as William & Mary's athletic director on Tuesday amid widespread dissatisfaction in the campus community following a decision last month to cut seven sports. "Athletics Director Samantha Huge was asked to lead difficult change at William & Mary – change required to address long-standing imbalances and put the Athletics Department on sound financial and operational footing for years to come," W&M President Katherine Rowe said in a release. "She took on that challenge recognizing that it was in the best interest of the university and she continues to make decisions using that standard as her guide."

Half of proffered affordable homes in Albemarle have been bought by higher income earners

By ALLISON WRABEL, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Only about half of affordable for-sale homes constructed in Albemarle County have been purchased by income-qualifying homebuyers, according to the county. ...Of those for-sale units, 91 have been constructed and 45 units have been purchased by income-qualifying homebuyers — those with a household income less than or equal to 80% of area median income.

Trial challenging Virginia Beach's at-large council voting system begins in federal court

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

In Virginia Beach's unique election system, seven of its 11 City Council members are required to live in the area they represent, yet they're elected by voters throughout the city. Critics of the at-large voting system say it discourages diversity and favors wealth and special interests. But efforts to change it over the years have repeatedly failed. Now, a federal judge is being asked to decide if it should be struck down.

Civil rights trail adds sites, focus on education struggle

By NOAH FLEISCHMAN, VCU Capital News Service

The half-mile road leading to a park in Prince Edward County was packed with cars parked on one side and a park ranger directing traffic on the other side. This was a normal 1950s summer day at what was then the only state park for African Americans in Virginia. Prince Edward State Park for Negroes, as it was then called, could draw up to a thousand African American visitors per day that could rent bathing suits and cabins overnight.

The Full Report
43 articles, 23 publications


From VPAP Tracking outside spending in Virginia elections

The Virginia Public Access Project

Outside groups have spend $16 million to influence federal elections in Virginia this November. The bulk of spending is for TV ads broadcast in the Richmond and Norfolk TV markets aimed at voters in the 2nd and 7th congressional districts. But there are also any number of groups out knocking on doors, running phone banks and otherwise making themselves known. VPAP has daily updates for the disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

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.


Gun raffles benefiting political campaigns are illegal, Virginia AG says

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has issued an official reminder that political campaigns cannot raise money through raffles and, if the prize happens to be a gun, raffle organizers have to conduct a background check before giving it to the winner. Gun raffles have become a regular feature among hard-right conservatives running for office in Virginia.


Virginia state senator attended possible 'super spreader' event at White House


News that a Virginia state senator attended what some are calling a 'super spreader' event at the White House is prompting questions about the General Assembly's COVID-19 protocols. On September 26th, Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Fauquier) posted photos on Facebook from the Rose Garden ceremony celebrating the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ceremony was criticized for largely disregarding social distancing and mask guidelines.


Amanda Chase visits Tazewell County seeking support for gubernatorial nomination

By JIM TALBERT, Southwest Virginia Today

Thompson Valley, Va. – "Annie Oakley' rolled into this small Tazewell County community ready to defend second amendment rights Oct. 4. Amanda Chase, the woman Majority Leader Dick Saslaw labeled the Annie Oakley of the state senate brought her campaign for the Republican nomination for governor to southwest Virginia Oct. 3-5. Chase represents Chesterfield, Colonial Heights and Amelia in the senate after just winning election to a second term.


Election Officials Scramble to Avert Conflicts at Polling Places

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER AND ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

....Protecting voters from harassment at the polls can be complicated by local and federal laws as well as issues of free speech: One person's voluble enthusiasm is another's intimidation. Each state also has its own rules about how close to polling stations protesters and campaign volunteers may stand, but those buffer zones are proving to be less protective than in the past as social distancing has lengthened voting lines. ...Gary Scott, the general registrar of Fairfax County, said the pandemic had further complicated their planning for what he described as the "most contentious" election he had worked in more than 20 years. After the incident in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, Mr. Scott said he was extending the perimeter outside polling places from which any kind of political advocacy was prohibited from 40 feet to 150 feet.

Outside groups pour millions into 5th  Congressional District ad war

By DANIEL BERTI, Fauquier Times

Outside groups have funneled $2.5  million into media and advertising in the  5th  Congressional District race between Republican Bob Good and Democrat Cameron Webb  in the closing months of the general election, with Democratic organizations outspending Republicans by a four-to-one margin.  More than $2 million has been poured into negative advertising  against Good by Pennsylvania-based political action committee 314 Action, whose  mission is to elect more scientists to Congress, state legislatures and local offices.

Pandemic Precautions Are Still A Partisan Issue In This Northern Virginia Congressional Race


At a virtual phone bank kickoff for Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va) earlier this month, Del. Hala Ayala of Prince William County tried to get volunteers excited about the candidate. "Let's give her a round of applause," Ayala urged, a "Jennifer Wexton for Congress" sign serving as her background. "Come on, y'all can get into this. We're virtual but it is important that we have this energy." Over the last six months, Zoom has come to dominate many facets of our lives, from work to schooling. And it's also forced its way into unlikely places, like re-election campaigns that in normal times would involve hand-shaking, baby-kissing and lots of face time with voters. But that's not an option for many candidates these days.


Virginia's unemployment trust fund to run dry next week, will seek loan from federal government

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

The Virginia Employment Commission said Monday that the money it pays out in unemployment benefits to out-of-work Virginians will run out sometime next week. Joyce Fogg, a spokesperson for the agency, said VEC expects to apply for a loan from the federal government by the end of this week to shore up the fund. Fogg said out-of-work Virginians shouldn't notice any delay or impact to their payments as a result.

Watchdog redacts more records related to parole board probe

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

Virginia's government watchdog agency has found new problems with victim and prosecutor notification in cases handled by the state parole board, according to documents obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. But the agency is withholding many of the specifics of its findings, citing exemptions to the state's open records law. Republican legislative leaders provided AP with a brief summary report of the findings of an investigation by the Office of the State Inspector General into complaints about multiple offenders' parole cases.

Years of understaffing have taken a toll on how Virginia oversees struggling local school divisions

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

Staffing at the Virginia Department of Education is significantly lower than surrounding states in several key offices — and it's taking a toll on the agency's ability to help local school districts, including making sure that struggling systems meet state standards. It's an issue that hasn't gotten much traction since a watchdog agency, the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission, released a long-awaited report on VDOE earlier this week. But senior leadership at the department indicated that current staffing levels, largely dependent on funding from the state's General Assembly, restricted some of the key recommendations in JLARC's review.


Don't expect a swift economic recovery from the pandemic, ODU economists say

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

This was supposed to be Hampton Roads' year — the year its economy grew faster than the nation's. Instead, the global coronavirus pandemic cost the region its rosy future and exposed systemic economic inequality, according to the annual State of the Region report by Old Dominion University economists released Tuesday. "We are witnessing an economic, social and public health shock the likes of which has not been seen in this country since the Great Depression," said the report's authors.

Radial to add 2,000 seasonal jobs to handle increased demand of online shopping

By HOLLY KOZELSKY, Martinsville Bulletin (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The pandemic has cost a lot of people their jobs. Now it's providing some – the hiring of 2,000 people at Radial, to pack orders on purchases made over the internet. It all starts with a "hiring event" on Oct. 17.


U.Va. to continue additional COVID-19 restrictions for two more weeks

By ZACH ROSENTHAL, Cavalier Daily

Dean of Students Allen Groves announced that the University has decided to extend its new COVID-19 restrictions by two weeks – until Oct. 21 – in an email to students Tuesday afternoon. The restrictions, first announced two weeks ago in a video message to the community from University President Jim Ryan, require that students not gather in groups greater than five, adhere to mask gathering rules and not travel outside the Charlottesville community.

University of Richmond will relax its COVID restrictions

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

The University of Richmond will loosen its COVID-19 restrictions slightly on Wednesday, a result of the small private school experiencing relatively few positive cases since the semester began. On Monday, UR reported 20 total cases among its students, faculty and staff in the past seven weeks. Colleges across the state have seen a wide range in total cases, from fewer than 10 to more than 1,000 at James Madison University and Virginia Tech.

Va. to expand networking program to new regions

By SYDNEY LAKE, Va Business Magazine

During the next two years Virginia will invest $1.7 million to expand the Network2Work workforce development initiative, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday. The commonwealth will partner with the Virginia Community College System to pilot the Network2Work model in the Shenandoah Valley, Hampton Roads and greater Richmond regions. Network2Work was established by Piedmont Virginia Community College in 2017 to connect job seekers with local job networks and support services.

Huge resigns as Tribe Athletics director


Tribe Athletics Director Samantha Huge resigned from her position Oct. 6 in an administrative shakeup that came less than five weeks after the College of William and Mary announced the suspension of seven varsity sports following the 2020-21 academic year. Since the Sept. 3 announcement, Huge has received extensive criticism from student athletes and community members, both over her handling of the cuts as well as her department's alleged plagiarism of a Stanford University athletics statement issued earlier this year.


Roanoke, Alleghany Health Districts see increase in COVID-19 outbreaks

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

Health officials say there are currently 26 outbreaks of the coronavirus in the Roanoke and Alleghany Health Districts, the largest recorded number since the pandemic struck in March. Pinpointing a cause for the increase is difficult, Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the district, said Tuesday during a weekly briefing with reporters.

Virginia COVID-19 cases rise by 625 from Monday

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported Tuesday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 153,182 — an increase of 625 from the 152,557 reported Monday. The 153,182 cases consist of 144,987 confirmed cases and 8,195 probable cases. There are 3,291 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 3,077 confirmed and 214 probable. That's an increase of 15 from the 3,276 reported Monday.

Inmate at federal prison in Petersburg dies of COVID-19; 21 others are infected

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

An inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Petersburg has died of COVID-19 after testing positive in mid-September. Twenty-one other inmates and two staff members at the facility currently are infected with the virus. The inmate, identified as Tommy Sisk, 62, died at a local hospital on Oct. 4, according to a release from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Rate of new COVID-19 cases on decline in Fredericksburg region

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

New cases of COVID-19 are still being reported daily in the Rappahannock Area Health District, but at lower rates than three to four weeks ago. As of Tuesday, there were 17 new cases districtwide for a cumulative total of 5,440 cases.

72 inmates, at least one staff member test positive for COVID-19 at Danville City Jail

By STAFF REPORT, Danville Register & Bee

A total of 72 inmates at the Danville City Jail have tested positive for COVID-19, Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul reported to members of Danville City Council on Tuesday evening. At least one staff member also tested positive. In addressing council, the sheriff said he believes the overall number will go up since they are waiting for 117 test results to come back.


Opponents seek further delay of work on Mountain Valley Pipeline

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

Worried that work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline could resume shortly, opponents are asking a federal court to intervene. The Sierra Club and seven other environmental groups filed petitions late Monday asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay recently issued permits — which allow the natural gas pipeline to burrow under streams and wetlands — until the court can hear their challenge of the authorizations.

Richmond police officers to be arraigned Wednesday on assault charges

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

Misdemeanor charges against two Richmond Police Department detectives stem from the tumultuous night of May 30-31, when fires were set by protesters and tear gas was fired outside police headquarters. Mark Janowski, 34, and Christopher Brown, 28, who joined the department in 2014 and 2015, respectively, were indicted Monday by a Richmond Circuit Court grand jury for assault and battery.

BLM sign and Chesterfield zoning at odds

By HOLLY PRESTIDGE, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

As they watched the national outrage unfold earlier this year in the weeks after George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police, North Chesterfield residents Tim and Lauren Barry felt too far removed. Helplessness — but also a sense of urgency to do something — weighed on their hearts, and all of it further amplified by the heaviness of white privilege.


Alexandria aims to revitalize the Torpedo Factory Arts Center

By DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)

The city of Alexandria is putting the finishing touches on an action plan to revitalize and better monetize the historic Torpedo Factory, nearly two years after taking permanent control over operations of the former munitions plant-turned-arts center at 105 N. Union St.

Fairfax County teachers union again calls for delay in resuming in-person learning


The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers has again asked Virginia's largest school system to delay this month's start of in-person learning. Fairfax County Public Schools said it's ready to safely bring back special education students and English language learners — about 3.5% of its nearly 188,000 students.

Diversity Effort May Cut Loudoun's Seats at Thomas Jefferson HS

Loudoun Now

As the Fairfax County School Board prepares to move to a lottery system for admission to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, fewer Loudoun students may be able to attend the magnet school starting next year. Meanwhile, Loudoun's School Board this week was awaiting a ruling by a Federal District Court judge on whether a challenge to its own plan to revamp admission policies for its academy programs will move forward.

Loudoun Co. school internet cafes largely unused, remain as backups


There's not a lot of broadband service in the western part of Loudoun County, Virginia, so four schools host internet cafes as safe locations for students to get internet access for distance learning. They sit largely empty, and the school system said that's a good thing.

Prince William supervisors kill proposal to halt all county rezonings

Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

A proposal to halt all residential rezonings in Prince William County was defeated at the Board of County Supervisors meeting Tuesday in a 5-3 party-line vote, with the board's Democrats in opposition. The resolution, proposed by Gainesville District Supervisor Pete Candland, would have created a 12-month study period to define land-use concepts like "equity in housing" and "environmental justice." In the meantime, a 12-month moratorium on residential or mixed-use rezonings would have been implemented and all county staff work on sector and small-area plans would've ceased.

Richmond Mayor Candidates Lay Out Competing Visions in Contentious Debate


With the general election less than one month away and many residents having already cast their ballots, four Richmond mayoral candidates made their pitches to voters at the ChamberRVA Mayoral Forum Tuesday night. On stage were Kim Gray, who currently represents the 2nd District on City Council, Justin Griffin, a small business lawyer who rose to prominence following his opposition to the Navy Hill project, Alexsis Rodgers, an advocate who works as Virginia director for Care in Action, and incumbent Mayor Levar Stoney.

Virginia Beach council cancels meeting after member tests positive for COVID-19

By ALISSA SKELTON, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Virginia Beach City Council canceled its Tuesday meeting after one member announced this week that he has COVID-19. Councilman John Moss, 66, shared on Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19 late last week and is isolating at home. He is the first known council member in the region to announce he has the virus.

Fredericksburg School Board approves plan to keep most students learning from home

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

The majority of Fredericksburg City Public School students will continue learning virtually until January. The city School Board on Monday night unanimously approved Superintendent Marci Catlett's transition plan, which will bring preschool and high-needs students—such as those with individualized education plans, those who are homeless, those without internet access and those with significant academic need—back to school buildings for shortened weeks in October and November.

Despite local rise in COVID-19 cases, official supports return to school

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

Though the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Lynchburg and the surrounding counties continues to climb, Dr. Kerry Gateley, director of the Virginia Department of Health's Central Virginia Health District, said schools can safely welcome students back for in-person instruction. In a presentation to the Lynchburg City School Board at its Tuesday meeting, Gateley said the Central Virginia Health District — which includes the city of Lynchburg and the surrounding counties — has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in the past seven days.

Lynchburg-area law officials apprehensive of momentum toward removing qualified immunity

By RACHEL MAHONEY, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

Amid high-profile instances of police misconduct and strengthened calls for reform, the concept of ending qualified immunity in Virginia has come closer to reality than ever before. Qualified immunity is a shield against civil lawsuits that was first introduced by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967, protecting public officials who've acted in good faith and didn't knowingly violate any existing case law.


25th Amendment is part of Poff's legacy

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

President Trump's hospitalization for COVID-19 has prompted chatter about the line of presidential succession — much of it hyperbolic. A sick president is not a crisis. An incapacitated president would be, but there is no suggestion Trump suffers such a debility. However, Trump's illness has brought back into the news the 25th Amendment — the constitutional amendment that spelled out what to do if a president were incapacitated.

Vote 'Yes' for the other amendment too

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

You may have missed it during the ongoing fight over Amendment No. 1 to the Virginia Constitution, which would end partisan gerrymandering by the General Assembly by establishing an independent bipartisan redistricting commission, but there's another amendment on the ballot this year.

Pressure needed to reach Bay clean-up goals

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

The Environmental Protection Agency has failed woefully in its responsibility to protect the Chesapeake Bay. So the attorneys general of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit to force it to do its job, and so have the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and others.

Some concerning health care trends that likely will outlast the pandemic

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

On Monday, President Donald Trump and Gov. Ralph Northam again updated the public on the status of their coronavirus diagnoses. "Feeling really good!" Trump tweeted as he left the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. "Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life." Meanwhile, Northam let Virginians know via social media that he also was "feeling good" but developed "some mild cold-like symptoms" over the weekend.


Williams: Henrico County shows its dedication to police accountability – by stripping funding

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

In our polarized nation, anti-police abuse too often is synonymous with anti-police. You're either "Support the Blue" or you're a caricature mashup of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and Ice Cube during their N.W.A. "[Bleep] Tha Police" heyday. The middle ground can become a sinkhole. Which brings us to Misty Whitehead, who was poised to occupy a new police accountability post in the Henrico prosecutor's office.


Herring: Trump asked 'what do you have to lose?' 2020 showed us just how much

By CHARNIELE HERRING, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Whenever Donald Trump thinks he's talking to Black voters, the question he loves to ask is, "what do you have to lose?" The answer to that question has always been obvious, but never quite as clear as it is right now: just about everything. The crises of this year — an ongoing public health emergency, economic recession, and continued violence of racial injustice — are the direct result of a president who does not see it as his duty to protect every American.

Herring is a Majority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates. She is a Democrat from Alexandria.

Denton: Virginia needs progress on COVID-19, police reform

By LACHERE A. DENTON, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Last month, there was a virtual round table conversation between U.S. Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott and the members of Virginia Organizing's Hampton Roads chapters, which I attended. There were three major topics discussed during this session: COVID-19 and other health concerns, reopening of schools and discipline methods, and criminal justice reform. Scott summarized the current COVID-19 situation within Virginia, the federal government's response to it, and he supports our cause for more relief funds for communities. However, I have concerns about many of the things he said.

Denton is a member of Virginia Organizing-Newport News/Hampton Chapter.

Peace and Dance: Virginians deserve better from the big health insurance companies

By CHRISTOPHER K. PEACE AND ROSALYN R. DANCE, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Little did anyone know on Jan. 1 that this year would reaffirm Murphy's Law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." The year 2020 has brought a wide range of major events including a global pandemic, a red-hot political climate and nationwide civil unrest. Ten months ago, few people foresaw these circumstances or a virus that's claimed more than 1 million lives and counting, shut down large swaths of the economy, and caused unemployment to skyrocket and a slide towards recession.

Christopher K. Peace and Rosalyn R. Dance are co-chairs of the Virginia Consumer Healthcare Alliance. Peace is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates and Dance is a former member of the Virginia Senate.

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