Friday, August 28, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

August 28, 2020
Top of the News

Bill requiring disclosure of parole board votes receives bipartisan support from Senate panel

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

A bill that would require disclosure of how individual members of the Virginia Parole Board vote received bipartisan support from a Senate panel on Thursday. "This is a sunshine initiative," said Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, the bill's patron . The Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology backed Senate Bill 5012 on a vote of 8-6, with Sens. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, and George Barker, D-Fairfax, joining Republicans to advance the measure.

Democrats advance legislation to create absentee ballot drop boxes

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

Virginians hoping to vote absentee may soon be able to drop off their ballots in a box outside their local election office under legislation advanced by state lawmakers Thursday. The legislation was pitched in the form of a budget bill that will immediately fund new local election activities — including the drop boxes and prepaid return postage on all absentee ballots — that Democrats say will ease voting during the pandemic.

Republican-backed bills to limit governor's powers defeated

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

Virginia Democrats this week defeated numerous bills from Republicans attempting to rein the governor's emergency powers while bolstering those of the General Assembly. Gov. Ralph Northam has had sweeping authority to handle Virginia's coronavirus pandemic, shutting down businesses and schools, ordering people to wear face coverings, and limiting how many people can gather in one place.

First-time unemployment claims in Virginia see biggest drop since pandemic forced businesses to close

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

The number of initial unemployment claims filed by Virginians dropped 24.5% in one week, the lowest level since the pandemic led to state-ordered business closures, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. The agency said 11,436 initial claims — the first step after having just been laid off or furloughed — were made during the week ending Aug. 22, which was 3,715 fewer claims than the week prior.

Emails: Mental health facility's HR office had concerns over making asymptomatic employees work

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

The human resources office at Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute in Danville expressed concerns about making employees who tested positive for the coronavirus show up for work if they were asymptomatic, according to emails between officials at the facility. An Aug. 4 email from SVMHI Chief Operating Officer Robin Crews told those employees to continue their work routine, incorrectly citing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if they had the disease but were asymptomatic. But in emails on Aug. 5, a person in the human resources office corrected Crews.

More than 550 positive coronavirus cases have been reported at colleges across Virginia

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

More than 550 positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported among students, faculty and staff at Virginia colleges and universities as they've reopened their campuses for the fall semester. At Virginia Commonwealth University, 44 positive cases within the athletics department forced the university to create 110 beds' worth of space in the Honors College residential hall to serve as home for those in isolation.

Pressure mounts ahead of UVa's decision Friday on in-person classes

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

More voices have joined the chorus against in-person classes at the University of Virginia ahead of the school's announcement Friday of its final plans on courses. UVa's Board of Visitors met Thursday in a 45-minute executive session to discuss in private a variety of COVID-19-related topics, including plans for "protecting the health and safety of employees, students and the public in accessing University Grounds, programs, services and building facilities for the fall semester."

The Full Report
51 articles, 30 publications


VPAP Visual Lobbyist Compensation: A Primer

The Virginia Public Access Project

Each year, Virginia lobbyists are required to disclose how much they were paid. VPAP has begun posting the information on its site, along with a visualization that explains why the data makes it difficult for the public to compare spending. The short answer is that lobbyists are given such wide latitude -- they can report all or part of their compensation -- that it's impossible to make 'apples-to-apples' comparisons.

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.


Roanoke Delegate Puts Forward Bill To Require Release Of Body Camera Footage


When police in Virginia shoot or use a taser on a suspect, there's no requirement that the body camera footage of the incident be released. A bill from Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) seeks to change that. Rasoul said he was inspired to put the proposal forward following the police killing of high school student Kionte Spencer. Spencer was reportedly walking along the road with a BB-gun in hand and not responding to orders when he was shot and killed by Roanoke County Police. That was in 2016, and Spencer's family still hasn't received the body camera footage from that night.


Roanoke Del. Sam Rasoul exploring run for lieutenant governor

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

Roanoke Del. Sam Rasoul is considering a run for lieutenant governor. The Democrat hasn't formally announced yet, but expects to make a final decision in the next several weeks. It's been rumored for a while that he's been mulling a run. He mentioned his interest in the statewide position Wednesday night during a town hall about COVID-19 and criminal justice reform.


Warner: Post-COVID economy 'is going to look different'

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

As U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) toured the Emil & Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center that's under construction on Jefferson Street, he noted how important skills in advance technologies will be in the post-coronavirus economy. "The post-COVID economy is going to look different than the pre-COVID economy," Warner told local officials on Wednesday afternoon. "It's going to move the digital economy forward 10 years."


State watchdog agency examining special education system

By JEREMY M. LAZARUS, Richmond Free Press

First came a scathing federal report on the failure of the Virginia Department of Education to effectively monitor the special education programs that local public school divisions provide to children with learning disabilities and mental challenges. Now the General Assembly's fiscal watchdog is preparing to do its own study of special education services at the local and state level and is seeking help from parents, foster parents and guardians of special needs children.

New Black history class coming to Virginia schools


Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia students will have the opportunity to take a new Black history class in school this year. "Black history is American history, but for too long, the story we have told was insufficient and inadequate," said Governor Northam. "The introduction of this groundbreaking course is a first step toward our shared goal of ensuring all Virginia students have a fuller, more accurate understanding of our history, and can draw important connections from those past events to our present day."


Altria Group and Dominion Energy provide grants to MBL's We Care RVA Rebuild Project

By JOHN REID BLACKWELL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Altria Group Inc. is giving $675,000 in grants to four organizations that support minority-owned businesses in central Virginia as part of a larger $5 million program to support racial equity, social justice and small businesses. Altria, the Henrico County-based parent company of Philip Morris USA, had announced in June that it was setting up a $5 million fund to support nonprofit organizations advocating for social justice and assisting small businesses. The company made the announcement Thursday.

Airport employees protest MWAA for paid sick days

By KATE ANDREWS, Va Business Magazine

About 40 people protested Thursday outside of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority headquarters in Arlington, calling for paid sick leave for workers at the state's two Northern Virginia airports who have not received emergency sick days under federal coronavirus legislation.


Regional transit authority launches, bolstered by new tax money

By CHRIS SUAREZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A yearslong backlog and proposed road, sidewalk, trail and public transit projects that Richmond area officials have at times struggled to address await the newly formed Central Virginia Transit Authority. The Ashland-Petersburg trail, expansion of the GRTC Pulse rapid-transit bus line, road-widening projects and perennial pothole repairs are just a few examples of projects officials at the transit authority's inaugural meeting on Thursday said will be completed faster with the new tax revenue and better coordination by local officials the authority aims to ensure.

Chesapeake's Rails-to-Trails project hits temporary impasse

By DAVID MACAULAY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

More than a year after the city of Chesapeake outlined a proposal to turn an abandoned railroad in Western Branch into a multi-use trail, the project remains stalled. At a public meeting in April 2019, the city showcased phase 1 of the Western Branch Rails-to-Trails multi-use path to the public at Western Branch High School, with citizens reacting enthusiastically.

Bristol casino project expected to bring more flights to Tri-Cities Airport

Johnson City Press

More flights should come to Tri-Cities Airport if the Bristol casino project is approved by Bristol, Virginia, voters in the November general election, project advocates told members of the Airport Authority during a Thursday Zoom meeting. "If something like this is successful, it could add a lot to our air travel," said airport Executive Director Gene Cossey. "The air service side of this is extremely important to us."


UVA COVID-19 cases climbing past 50 and classes haven't even started in-person yet

By LAURA PETERS, News Leader (Metered Paywall - 3 to 4 articles a month)

The University of Virginia released a COVID-19 dashboard website Wednesday afternoon showing a rise in cases since Aug. 18. As of Wednesday morning, there were 37 positive cases of COVID-19 amongst faculty, staff, students and contract employees. Thirteen of those are students, the dashboard said. Five percent of student quarantine rooms were occupied as of Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday morning, there were 58 positive cases amongst faculty, staff, students and contract employees — 31 of those were students.

More college students in quarantine as COVID-19 cases rise

By NOAH FLEISCHMAN, VCU Capital News Service

As more universities open, they're collecting and releasing COVID-19 data and grappling with contingency plans for those who contract the disease. The University of Virginia in Charlottesville released its first set of COVID-19 testing data on Wednesday. There have been 58 total positive cases at the university since Aug. 17, including 31 students.

Viral photo and football promos: Virginia Tech grapples with gatherings during COVID-19 era

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

Virginia Tech is grappling with how to control large gatherings that could hasten the spread of COVID-19 during the first week of classes. An engineering professor was removed from teaching a class after a photo of an overfilled classroom, with some students sitting on the floor, went viral. A Tech website on Thursday continued to advertise tailgate packages with the smallest tent hosting up to 20 guests and the largest up to 60 people.

Hollins University, Ferrum College welcome back students for in-person classes

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

Hollins University remains on track to begin in-person classes next week, and Ferrum College began classes this week. One Hollins student has tested positive for COVID-19, and one Ferrum employee and one student have tested positive. Meanwhile, Roanoke College's total of positive COVID-19 cases has risen this week from 15 to 20 students plus two staff members as of Wednesday.

JMU Reports Over 100 COVID-19 Cases

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

On the first day of in-person classes in almost six months, James Madison University saw its COVID-19 cases jump to 124 on Wednesday from 49 the day before. Most of Wednesday's new cases — 64 of the 75 — were self-reported, according to information posted to the school's COVID-19 online dashboard, meaning the figures do not necessarily translate to new cases in the Harrisonburg area, said Caitlyn Read, communications director for JMU.

JMU denies parts of The Breeze's FOIA request

The Breeze

The Breeze received an email from Caitlyn Read, university spokesperson and director of communications, Wednesday saying that parts of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed repetitively by The Breeze on Aug. 20, 24 and 25 had been denied. The FOIA request asked directly about daily COVID-19 numbers from the university. Case numbers in the JMU community continue to rise, and the university continues to refuse to provide specific information on where cases are located, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Radford University suspends fraternity and 8 students over COVID-19 issues

By SAM WALL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Radford University announced the interim suspension of one of its fraternities and eight of its members for violating health measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a school officials. The school announced the suspension of the Theta Chi fraternity-Iota Zeta Chapter for COVID-19 related violations, including endangering conduct by hosting off-campus gatherings, according to a news release sent out by the university early Thursday evening.

SU reports 9 COVID cases on its main campus

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

Shenandoah University is reporting nine cases of coronavirus on its main campus in Winchester, less than a week after students started moving in. In-person classes at the private university started Monday. In March, the university closed to in-person instruction over coronavirus concerns.

Liberty University campus pastor apologizes for Falwell's 'sinful' behavior

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

David Nasser, Liberty University's campus pastor, extended what he called a personal apology to the school's student body Wednesday for the "sinful" behavior of ousted former president Jerry Falwell Jr. "I am sorry," Nasser, a senior vice president who has led spiritual programs at the religious institution for the last six years, said. "In my opinion, you as a Liberty student deserve better. And the embarrassment that's been brought upon you as a Liberty student, and more importantly brought upon the name of Christ, is wrong."

Liberty students, alumni split on Falwell's scandalous exit


Some say he has sinned but should be forgiven. Others want an investigation. Jerry Falwell Jr.'s resignation as president of Liberty University following revelations of a sexual relationship between his wife and a business partner of the Falwell family has stirred conflicting emotions among those with close ties to the school founded by his father. While some students, graduates and former employees were appalled by his behavior in the latest of a series of scandals, others defended him.


Virginia reports 1,121 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported 1,121 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing the state's tally to 116,579. At least 2,527 Virginians have died from the virus as of Thursday morning, an increase of 12 from Wednesday.

Virginia state lab begins antibody testing for COVID-19

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

Virginia's state public health lab in Richmond began antibody testing for COVID-19 on Thursday, according to a news release from the Department of General Services, the agency that oversees it. The Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services has offered polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, testing since Feb. 29, when it first validated the COVID-19 test distributed to states by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Inmates, Staff Quarantined at Richmond Jail Following Outbreak


Dozens of inmates at the Richmond City Jail are being monitored after testing positive for COVID-19, displaying symptoms, or having been exposed to the virus. A spokesperson for the Richmond City Jail told VPM that about 75 inmates who potentially have COVID-19 are being watched. That's down from about 100 cases identified earlier in the week, which includes several staff members.


City to crack down on unauthorized events at parks, obstruction of roadways

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

Charlottesville City Manager Tarron Richardson is warning community organizers that they could be cited if they hold an event planned for Friday. In a statement released Thursday evening, Richardson said the city has supported the community's right to "peaceably assemble," but that "obstructing city streets and using parks without the proper permits will no longer be allowed."

Johns considered for statue in U.S. Capitol

By TITUS MOHLER, Farmville Herald (Paywall)

The late Barbara Rose Johns may soon be representing Farmville and Virginia in the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall. As the Virginia Office of the Governor announced in a July 24 press release, the Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol recommended, via unanimous vote, the removal of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from National Statuary Hall.

Former city councilman pushing African-American perspective missing in Lee statue lawsuit

By JEREMY M. LAZARUS, Richmond Free Press

New drama is about to be injected into the already charged legal fight over removing the last and largest offensive Confederate statue from Monument Avenue — the one to slavery's top military defender, Gen. Robert E. Lee. Sa'ad El-Amin, a former Richmond City Councilman who has long been outspoken about the need to remove the white supremacist Confederate statues that have dominated the Richmond landscape for more than a century, is preparing to enter the fray.

Historic nuclear power plant at Fort Belvoir to be dismantled


The red button was always there — just in case. Most people never knew the world's first nuclear power reactor to provide electricity to a commercial power grid was — and is — on the grounds of Fort Belvoir, the U.S. Army installation in Fairfax County, Virginia. But it won't be there much longer.

Bald eagles shot in Highland, area stores offering reward for information

By LOGAN BOGERT, News Virginian

After two bald eagles were found dead in Highland County, two local stores have contributed to a $3,000 reward fund for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Nuckols Gun Works in Staunton began the reward fund with $1,000. Store manager Jim Wood said the bald eagle killings came on their radar from local law enforcement and game wardens.


Richmond Public Schools Faces Laptop Shortage During Transition to Remote Learning


Only a quarter of the laptops ordered by Richmond Public Schools - that were going to be given to students for online classes - have shown up, according to school officials. RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras delivered the news of the shortage in an email to parents Wednesday night. The district intended to distribute the devices to support remote learning.

County weighs $85 million in bonds for schools, drainage work

By JIM MCCONNELL, Chesterfield Observer

With interest rates at historic lows – and the county still reeling from flooding two weekends ago – the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors is considering issuing up to $85 million in bonds to finance school major maintenance and transportation/drainage infrastructure projects. The county and school system initially planned to put a $600 million bond referendum on the ballot for November's general election, but that was delayed by at least a year because of economic uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

IW, Poquoson only Hampton Roads school divisions planning to reopen


... Isle of Wight County and Poquoson are the only two public school divisions in the Hampton Roads area to offer the option of in-person instruction for students. Both divisions plan to offer in-person instruction for grades Pre K-3 two days per week on an alternating schedule, so that only half of the students are present in the same building on any given day.

Amazon grant will help 7 Hampton Roads schools get more kids in computer classes

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

Seven schools in Hampton Roads will be among those to benefit from an Amazon grant aimed at helping low-income students access computer science classes. Amazon will donate $3.9 million to a Richmond-based nonprofit over the next three years to help the group support students at mostly Title I or economically disadvantaged schools.

Hampton considering new household parking regulations: No more parking on lawns

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

Hampton is considering new regulations on household parking, including a ban on parking in front lawns. A majority on the Planning Commission last week recommended changes to zoning laws that would require vehicles to be parked on improved surfaces ― concrete, asphalt, pavers, gravel, rock, or oyster shells. Homeowners also would need to keep at least a certain percentage of their lawns as green space in yards on one- and two-family houses and duplex lots.

King William residents could see entire county with broadband service

By EMILY HOLTER, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

For King William County residents, broadband internet access may no longer be a luxury following the Board of Supervisors' unanimous vote to partner with a subcontracting business. After months of discussions through the county's Economic Development Authority and the King William Internet Connectivity Initiative, the county plans to work with Northern Virginia-based company All Points Partners.

Supervisors eye broadband expansion as virtual school looms

By HEATHER MICHON, Fluvanna Review

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors continued their deliberations over broadband expansion at their meeting on Wednesday (Aug. 19), a discussion made all the more urgent by the need to get more than 3,000 students ready for the start of virtual learning next month. With Supervisor Don Weaver (Cunningham) absent for the evening, the Board voted 4-0 to approve a $45,900 request from Fluvanna County Public Schools for the purchase of 200 Verizon Wi-Fi hotspots and four months of data.

Council rescinds CRB appointment, fills seat with Bellamy Brown

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

Charlottesville's City Council has appointed Bellamy Brown, a former council candidate, to a seat on the Police Civilian Review Board after mistakenly appointing a city employee to the panel. The council unanimously rescinded the appointment of Latita Talbert and then voted 4-1 to appoint Brown following a closed session Thursday.

PERF reviewing Fredericksburg police's use of force during protests

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

A third-party review is underway of Fredericksburg's law enforcement practices and use of force and arrests during demonstrations held in the city between May 31 and June 2. Members of the Police Executive Research Forum, or PERF, met privately this week with Fredericksburg officials, the city's police department and community members, including some of the protesters.

HCPS to offer free meals to all students during virtual instruction

By JULIE HAGY, Harrisonburg Citizen

For the first time, free breakfast and lunch will be offered at no cost to all HCPS students this school year. During virtual instruction, the meals will be distributed through pick-up and delivery options. Because the program is funded through reimbursement for each meal provided, the district is hoping for a high participation rate from students during the virtual phase of instruction.

Rejected ballots might have made the difference in Staunton's council election

By LAURA PETERS, News Leader (Metered Paywall - 3 to 4 articles a month)

Did you know that your absentee ballots can be rejected? Yes they can, and they don't count if they're late. They also aren't counted if they are rejected. They can get rejected for several reasons. According to Staunton Registrar Molly Goldsmith, 98 ballots arrived late in the May 19 election and 58 ballots were rejected.

Roanoke County schools report smooth first week

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

The first week of school for Roanoke County has gone smoothly, Superintendent Ken Nicely reported Thursday night to the Roanoke County School Board. "The first week of school always brings some kinks to work out, and that's normal ... but all the efforts ... everybody put in to get this first week up and running has been a wonderful success," he said. Temperature checks, arrival procedures and mask usage among students have gone well, Nicely reported.

First positive COVID-19 cases reported in Roanoke County Public Schools

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

Facebook Twitter Email Print Save A student and an employee at separate Roanoke County elementary schools have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the district. These are the first positive cases the district has reported since the 2020–21 school year began Monday. The student attends Back Creek Elementary School, and the employee works at Green Valley Elementary School, according to spokesman Chuck Lionberger.

Lynchburg mayor, recruitment firm shed light on search for city manager

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

As the six-month search for a new city manager drags on, city leaders must now decide if they will stay with the consulting firm that already has cost $17,000 in fees and led to the shortest city manager tenure in Lynchburg history. The firm identified, and the city hired, former Warren County Administrator Douglas Stanley on Aug. 11, only to have him resign Aug. 21, one week before the job was to begin.

Blended model of instruction chosen by most families who had options

By RANDY ARRINGTON, Page Valley News

Page County Public Schools recently surveyed families across the county to see which learning method they preferred for the upcoming school year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were presented at Monday night's meeting of the Page County School Board by Eric Benson, the division's Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Innovation and Accountability. Nearly 60 percent of the 3,155 surveys sent out showed families opting for remote learning for the 2020-21 school year in Page County.

Supervisors reject bid to remove monument

By SYLVIA ALLEN, Brunswick Times-Gazette

The Brunswick County Board of Supervisors rejected the bid received from Clary Construction to remove the Confederate monument from courthouse square and will advertise again soliciting bids for the work. The bid totaled $33,300: removal of monument - $26,500, restoration of site - $2,800, other costs - $4,000 and transport cost per mile - $150. The company is also not responsible for any breakage.



Good luck reopening college campuses

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

Colleges and universities are opening all over the country, COVID-19 be damned. They're doing it with fingers crossed, full of hope and optimism that 18- to 22-year-olds will act responsibly. In another type of gambling, this would be the equivalent of drawing to an inside straight. The odds are not good. Virginia Commonwealth University reported 48 active cases of COVID-19 among its student body as of Aug. 23, the day before classes commenced.

John Hager reminds Virginia of the meaning of public service

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

Public reaction to the passing of John Hager, Virginia's lieutenant governor from 1998 to 2002, has been telling. It reveals a measure of regret and a tinge of despair. Maybe more than a tinge. The regret is easy to understand. It results from the loss of a decent and valued public servant, who not only handled the cruel, paralyzing effects of polio, but also muscled himself beyond its restraints.

Internet safety in the virtual classroom

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

Across Virginia, students and their families — as well as teachers and administrators — are preparing for the first day of school. But this is no ordinary year. Instead of the usual back-to-school preparations of cleaning classrooms, confirming bus schedules and assembling supplies, many are checking their internet connectivity.


Hobbs: Individual, collective action needed to combat climate change

By KATHERINE HOBBS, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

On Aug. 4, Tropical Storm Isaias spawned two tornadoes in Suffolk, one in the Riverview neighborhood where I grew up. While I now live in Chesapeake, I drive to Suffolk often to check on my father, 93, who still lives in Riverview. Fortunately, he only lost power for three days, but some of his neighbors were not so lucky. Giant pines had snapped and broken through power lines, falling onto houses and cars.

Hobbs is a leader with the Climate Reality Project and a resident of Chesapeake.


A Flying Start

By SADIE DINGFELDER, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

One of the lesser casualties of the coronavirus pandemic is gossip. Many of us are suddenly leading very boring lives: baking banana bread, learning TikTok dances, watching the full contents of Netflix. Even the celebrities are dullsville these days. Sensing our desperation for scuttlebutt, they've retreated into their luxurious villas, which they quickly learned not to flaunt. Now who are we supposed to talk about, judge and live vicariously through? Birds.

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

Monday, August 24, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

August 24, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia Commissioner of Health says he'll mandate a COVID-19 vaccine


Virginia Commissioner of Health Dr. Norman Oliver told 8News on Friday that he plans to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for Virginians once one is made available to the public. Virginia state law gives the Commissioner of Health the authority to mandate immediate immunizations during a public health crisis if a vaccine is available. Health officials say an immunization could be available as early as 2021.

How long will the General Assembly's special session last? No one knows.

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

A Plexiglas box separates a senator recovering from a surgery from his peers scattered around a museum. Hand sanitizer is stationed on their tables. Senators are wearing masks — sometimes. The 100 members of the House of Delegates are crowded into a video chat. The General Assembly is back for an unusual special session, and no one knows how long it will last. "We don't even know," said Speaker Eileen Filler- Corn, D-Fairfax, saying legislators need to remain flexible.

Sweeping police reform legislation advances in Senate, with law enforcement groups now largely on board

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

As Virginia Democrats advanced sweeping police reforms during a special legislative that began last week, GOP lawmakers assailed the proposals as an attack on law enforcement. But with a handful of exceptions, police groups are now backing many of the reforms contained in an omnibus bill the Senate that would ban most no-knock warrants, create a statewide code of conduct for police and give the state authority to decertify officers who violate it.

At center of postal service furor, Virginia congressman finds an expanding audience

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

By his own admission, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly is drawn to issues that are "technical and maybe just kind of boring good government," involving IT systems, tele-working, and, yes, mail delivery. His work as chair of a House subcommittee overseeing government operations is typically the stuff of C-SPAN, if little else. Yet, with the U.S. Postal Service in crisis, Connolly (D-Va.) has found himself commanding a broader audience, emerging as a leading advocate for an agency that for generations has been a staple of American life.

UVa employees seek to form union, call for online semester

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

Spurred by dissatisfaction with the University of Virginia's pandemic response, a group of UVa employees is announcing Monday that they are forming a union and want officials to reconsider their plans for the fall semester. The group of employees currently is mostly made up of graduate student workers.

Fredericksburg protests halted after five organizers test positive for virus

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

FXBG Free, a coalition of local groups seeking racial justice in Fredericksburg, has postponed all in-person gatherings after five of its organizers tested positive for COVID-19. Those with confirmed cases of the virus—along with everyone in the organization who has been in contact with them—are self-isolating for a minimum of two weeks to recover and stop the spread of the virus.

How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering

By BRAD PLUMER AND NADJA POPOVICH, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

On a hot summer's day, the neighborhood of Gilpin quickly becomes one of the most sweltering parts of Richmond. There are few trees along the sidewalks to shield people from the sun's relentless glare. More than 2,000 residents, mostly Black, live in low-income public housing that lacks central air conditioning. Many front yards are paved with concrete, which absorbs and traps heat. The ZIP code has among the highest rates of heat-related ambulance calls in the city.

The Full Report
77 articles, 27 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.


Former Virginia Lt. Gov. John H. Hager dies

By JEFF E. SCHAPIRO AND ANDREW CAIN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

John H. Hager, a moderate Republican who persevered over polio to serve as Virginia's lieutenant governor and hold other key state and national posts, died Sunday. He was 83. Details were not immediately available but Hager's death was confirmed by several senior political officials. Hager, a former tobacco executive, was lieutenant governor from 1998-2002, presiding over a state Senate that was under Republican control for the first time in more than a century.


Bill would reform Virginia sentencing law, help defendants -- and lead to more trials

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

Robert K. Via Jr. rejected a plea deal in 2011 that would have given him 15 years to serve for an armed home invasion in Hampton. Though his co-defendants agreed to similar deals, Via went for broke: He took his case to a jury trial. It didn't go well for the Poquoson man. A Hampton Circuit Court jury of 12 found him guilty on all counts. He got 128 years and a day to serve, the minimum he faced for a crime in which no one was injured.

Hurst bill aims to block pipeline worker surge in Southwest Virginia

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

A bill filed by Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, to require any employer hiring a crew of 50 or more temporary workers during the COVID-19 pandemic to receive approval from the commissioner of labor and industry would complicate Mountain Valley Pipeline's plans to deploy 4,000 workers to West Virginia and Virginia once it resumes work.

Felony charges over Confederate monument feed political intrigue in Portsmouth

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

The enormous black Hummer with state Senate plates rolled right up front, telling all the world that state Sen. L. Louise Lucas had arrived. But the most prominent African American woman in Virginia politics was actually miles from where the Senate was convening in Richmond on Tuesday — instead getting fingerprinted and booked on two felonies related to a toppled Confederate monument in Portsmouth.

A powerful Black leader. White opposition. Criminal charges. An old pattern continues in Portsmouth.

By ANA LEY AND GARY A. HARKI, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Black leaders know what to expect when they fight for change in Portsmouth. Supporters rally around them, fed up with the racism and systemic injustices that infect the city. Then, they say, white opponents come swinging, armed with the crushing weight of the law. "It's indicative of a (group) that is in the death throes of losing power," Del. Don Scott said during a rally Wednesday on the front steps of the Portsmouth courthouse.

Del. Subramanyam reflects on first session, public health efforts and family life


For Suhas Subramanyam, the silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been more time to spend with a special new family member — his first child, Maya Peña. Subramanyam and his wife, Miranda Peña, welcomed daughter Maya a few months after the new lawmaker became the first Indian and Hindu American to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in November.


New state GOP chairman promises 'level playing field' for all statewide candidates in 2021

By BILL ATKINSON, Progress Index (Metered paywall - 10 articles a month)

The new chairman of the state Republican party said this week that he plans to create "a level playing field" for all candidates not just seeking the party nomination for governor but also the entire statewide ticket and all 100 races for the House of Delegates next year. In an interview Tuesday morning with The Progress-Index, former Del. Richard L. Anderson of Woodbridge, who was chosen to lead the party last weekend, promised the playing field in response to a question about the candidacy of state Sen. Amanda F. Chase of Chesterfield and her promise to run as an independent candidate for governor if she sensed any what she has called "shenanigans" keeping her from a fair run for the nomination.


Court OKs Virginia AG's agreement to promote absentee voting

Associated Press

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Friday that a federal court has approved a consent decree negotiated by his office that promotes safe absentee voting in November's general election. In a news release, Herring said that under the consent decree, Virginia will accept absentee ballots without the signature of a witness "for voters who believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot."

These Virginia Republicans Saw Their Convention Plans Change


Roughly 350 Republicans are converging in Charlotte on Monday to begin a slimmed-down national convention, including six Virginians. Conservative talk show host John Fredricks was elected to chair the group by his fellow delegates. The Trump campaign advisor said the one-day event in Charlotte doesn't even count as a convention. "There is no convention," Fredricks said in an interview last week. "It doesn't exist. You have a one day business meeting to nominate the president and the vice president."

Daniel Gade, GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, visits Winchester

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

Retired Lt. Col. Daniel Gade, the Republican running for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Mark Warner, stopped by Winchester Thursday afternoon to talk to local voters and make a case as to why they should vote for him Nov. 3.

Defund the police? Both Wittman and his Democratic challenger say no

By DANIEL BERTI, Prince William Times

1st District congressional candidates Rep. Rob Wittman (R) and Democrat Qasim Rashid sparred over a laundry list of police and criminal justice reforms at a debate Thursday evening that had both strongly opposing any plan for Congress to "defund the police." "I do not support defunding the police and I do not support in anyway redirecting resources or reducing resources," Wittman said.

Wittman, Rashid debate criminal justice issues in Virginia's 1st District congressional race

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

Incumbent 1st District Rep. Rob Wittman and challenger Qasim Rashid squared off Thursday night in a debate over criminal justice and other issues. The Criminal Justice Forum and Debate, held at the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy in Spotsylvania County, was the first time the two candidates have met face to face for a debate since Rashid won the Democratic Party nomination for the congressional seat.

In a red House district, a Democrat tries to siphon votes from a conservative with a 'biblical world view'

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

At a church the size of a warehouse at the end of a rural dead-end street, Bob Good was preaching to the preachers. It was a sunny afternoon near Shenandoah National Park, and Good, the Republican nominee in Virginia's 5th Congressional District, had come to Fellowship Baptist Church to warn a small group of church leaders that, as one invitation to his "Pastor Summit" put it, "your religious liberties are under assault."

Wexton Tours Loudoun Businesses Hit by COVID-19

By RENSS GREENE, Loudoun Now

U.S. Rep. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-VA-10) toured Loudoun businesses hit by COVID-19 on Friday, hearing from business owners about what they need to get through the pandemic. Wexton stopped by Hope Flower Farm in Waterford, Harpers Ferry Brewing north of Hillsboro, and Wild Wood restaurant in the Village at Leesburg.

More than a dozen people in Amherst rally in support of USPS, postal workers

By NICK CROPPER, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

More than a dozen people gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Amherst County Post Office on Saturday morning to rally in support of the U.S. Postal Service. The dual purpose of the #Savethe PostOffice rally held at the post office located on South Main Street was to show support for postal workers and offices across the country as well as stand against actions taken by the Trump administration, which critics said could interfere with the upcoming November election, according to Barbara Pryor, who helped organize the event.


Parole eligibility under way for juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole

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

People sentenced to life without parole or other lengthy sentences for crimes committed as juveniles will have to wait a while longer before they come up for parole consideration. Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved legislation enabling parole consideration for juvenile offenders who have served at least 20 years of their sentences. That means those convicted of crimes that occurred from roughly 1995 to 2000 became eligible as of July 1 when the new law took effect. ....Officials estimate that more than 700 juvenile offenders given long no-parole sentences are in Virginia's prisons and that more than 200 of them are, or will be, eligible for parole over the next several years after serving 20 or more years.

Virginia's student privacy law may undermine census count

By JEFF SOUTH, Virginia Mercury

Talk about the law of unintended consequences. In 2018, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation blocking the release of addresses and contact information for students at the state's public colleges and universities.


Virginia's jobless rate dips to 8% but still far above July 2019

By JOHN REID BLACKWELL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Virginia's unemployment rate stood at 8% in July, down slightly from 8.1% in June, as businesses slowly recovered some of the springtime job losses from business closures and disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the state's jobless rate was still well above the 2.7% rate recorded in July 2019, as the pandemic continued to take a toll on employment.

Nonprofit offering $1,000 cash reward for unemployed Virginians who complete job training programs

By JOHN REID BLACKWELL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A new effort is underway to help Virginians who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic get training for in-demand work. A coalition of 20 businesses across the state is providing financial backing for a nonprofit called Virginia Ready, which aims to get tens of thousands of Virginians into job training programs by providing cash payments to out-of-work people who complete courses for various job through the Virginia Community College System.

Private Infighting Roils Owners of Washington NFL Team

By KEN BELSON AND KATHERINE ROSMAN, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

Michael MacCambridge spent five years writing his 2005 history of the N.F.L., visiting team after team around the country. From the stability of the Pittsburgh Steelers to the emerging dynasty in New England, he learned that great franchises thrived and overcame obstacles with a mix of talent, trust and patience. And then there is the Washington Football Team.

First Ghent, then Phoebus: Restaurants decimated after coronavirus exposures

By MATTHEW KORFHAGE, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

On a Saturday afternoon in early August, one of his busiest days of the week, Casey Haas got the phone call no business owner wants. An employee at Stuft, his restaurant in Hampton's Phoebus neighborhood, tested positive for the coronavirus. "Our kitchen manager got his test results back at five in the afternoon," Haas said. "We talked about it for a minute, then decided to shut down within two hours. We closed out everybody's checks, then regrouped with all of our employees and said everybody had to go get tested."

Torc Robotics completes expansion

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

Torc Robotics completed an expansion that doubled the size of its headquarters in the Blacksburg Industrial Park, the company recently announced. Torc, a developer of self-driving vehicle systems and one of the New River Valley's flagship technology companies, added nearly 16,000 square feet with the expansion.

Upending Of Education Dazes Dairy

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

Across the nation, students won't just be out of classrooms, learning from home — they'll also be out of the cafeterias, eating at home. "School milk is a big portion of fluid milk sales," said Eric Paulson, the treasurer and executive secretary of the Virginia State Dairymen's Association. "The big question is now, is the increase of people drinking milk at home — is that going to be enough to offset the milk sales at school?"


Metro ridership increases as agency begins restoring service to pre-pandemic levels

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

Daily ridership during Metro's first week of nearly normal service in five months was up by several thousand, according to preliminary agency statistics. Ridership remains significantly below pre-pandemic levels, but the consistent daily increases show that more Washington-area residents are venturing out and resuming normal activities.

Silver Line just passed a major hurdle, but more work is still needed

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

The issues that plagued the Silver Line tie-in at Wiehle-Reston East Station have been resolved, ending what was the biggest obstacle to Phase 2's opening. The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project announced the news Friday and credited the weekslong summer closures of the Orange and Silver Line stations, where Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority also utilized for platform repairs. Low ridership on the lines, caused by Metro's efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19, was cited as the reason WMATA could move forward with a somewhat controversial plan.


UVa outlines consequences for students who don't comply with COVID-19 requirements

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

The actions of students will determine if the fall semester at the University of Virginia is to remain in-person, a university official said Saturday in a video message. "In a pandemic, one person's bad decision has a direct impact on the health and safety of others; that's why this is so important," said Allen Groves, dean of students UVa. "The university has made very clear what must occur for us to offer an on-Grounds experience this fall. These things are non-negotiable and essential to keep everyone healthy and safe."

Human Rights Commission to send letter to UVa urging no in-person classes

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

Charlottesville's Human Rights Commission plans to send a letter to the University of Virginia urging President Jim Ryan to hold classes online. The commission discussed the coming return of students and its impact on the spread of the coronavirus locally during its meeting Thursday. "Bringing 10,000 bodies to a small town poses a risk and we're seeing it at the universities that have already opened," Commissioner Kathryn Laughon said.

VCU reports 58 students and 12 employees have COVID-19

By STAFF REPORT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Virginia Commonwealth University is reporting 58 active cases of coronavirus among students and 12 employee cases, as of Sunday. That's an increase from earlier in the week when VCU reported 25 student cases and 11 employee cases on its online dashboard. Thirty-nine residential students currently are in isolation on-campus and 57 residential students currently are in quarantine on campus.

College warns students to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, issues new Zero Tolerance policy


Students at the College of William and Mary received a notice via text the evening of Friday, Aug. 21 that their ability to adhere to campus COVID-19 safety protocols over the weekend would determine the university's path forward for the fall semester. In a series of emails and mass texts from university officials this week, the College has claimed insufficient adherence to its policies regarding mandatory mask usage and six-foot social distancing while on campus.

6 Roanoke College students removed after COVID-19 cases connected to off-campus party

Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Roanoke College announced Friday it has removed six students for violating the student conduct code after three positive tests for COVID-19 that may have been related to an off-campus party. Online classes at the private college in Salem began Wednesday, as students continue to filter into residences in a phased plan the college announced earlier this summer. Classes are supposed to transition to mostly in-person instruction by Sept. 7.

Liberty University puts stricter mask policy in place

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

Liberty University is implementing stricter mask requirements ahead of the start of classes next week. Students now must wear face coverings in all academic buildings and at any official gathering, according to a university email obtained by The News & Advance. The change — handed down Thursday afternoon — expands the mask requirements already in place for campus dining halls, retail establishments, indoor and outdoor venues and buses.

COVID-19 effects on higher ed will linger, Tech board told

By RALPH BERRIER JR., Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

In recent years, higher education leaders have known that achievement gaps between races persist, student debt keeps rising, more jobs will be automated and many students have adapted to online learning. The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating these trends, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors learned during Sunday's retreat.

Back to school in pandemic's shadow: How two universities are bringing students to campus

By NICK ANDERSON AND LAUREN LUMPKIN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Except for all the masks, the recent move-in days at two universities in the Washington region looked at least somewhat like the back-to-school rituals of any other year. Moms and dads and siblings hauled boxes of gear into student dormitories. Beds were made, walls decorated. Catholic University in Northeast Washington served an outdoor barbecue lunch one afternoon last week for new families. George Mason University in Fairfax County, Va., handed out room keys at EagleBank Arena. The countdown was underway to the first classes on Monday.

How many fans will be able to attend 2020 Virginia football games?

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

As the clock hit zero and Virginia beat Virginia Tech 39-30 to break a 15-game losing streak to the Hokies, UVa faithful stormed the Scott Stadium field. Emotions were high in Charlottesville as the Cavaliers finally beat their bitter rival last fall. Don't expect thousands of fans rushing the field in celebration in 2020.

W&L rector says it may be more than six months before Lee name change decision is made

By GRACE MAMON, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Washington and Lee University has been reexamining its relationship with one of its namesakes all summer. But more time is needed to decide whether W&L will drop Robert E. Lee's name, according to an email sent Friday from Mike McAlevey, rector of the board of trustees. It will not be a swift decision, he wrote to the campus community.

Liberty's board investigating 'rumors and claims' as it weighs Falwell's future

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

Liberty University's board of trustees is investigating "various rumors and claims" about Jerry Falwell Jr. as the body weighs firing the prominent evangelical leader now mired in scandal. In a news release issued Friday evening, the university said Falwell will continue to receive a salary as the board attempts to wrestle with his future at the school.

Liberty University undecided if Falwell can return

By SUSAN SVRLUGA, MICHELLE BOORSTEIN AND SARAH PULLIAM BAILEY, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Liberty University's embattled longtime leader, Jerry Falwell Jr., will remain on an indefinite paid leave of absence, with the school's board of trustees asking the school's acting president to "reset the spiritual focus and emphasis at the University." The board has not yet decided whether Falwell can return to the presidency, according to a statement by the school. The leadership question comes at a pivotal time, as students return to campus amid a pandemic, with classes scheduled to begin Monday, and as more evangelical leaders have publicly and privately questioned the school's direction.

Liberty Alumni Pastors Urge University Board to 'Permanently Remove' Jerry Falwell Jr. as President


A group of pastors who graduated from Liberty University are urging the college's board of trustees to "permanently remove" Jerry Falwell, Jr., from his role as president of the Christian school founded by his late father. On Thursday, in a letter addressed to the board of trustees and Dr. Jerry Prevo, who has chaired the board since 2003 but is now serving as acting president of the university, 50 ministers from churches around the country argued the college "is in need of new leadership that represents the heart of Liberty University's mission."

Faculty challenge credentials of COVID-19 testing company working with VCU, two other schools

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

Faculty leaders at two state universities asked state health officials on Friday to take a closer look at a testing company hired to test 10,000 college students across the state — a request the Virginia Department of Health has declined. In a letter to the agency, six professors at Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University threw into question the qualifications of a company, with few ties to the state and a hazy online presence, that so far has received more than $750,000 from three state schools.


Virginia reports 894 new coronavirus cases Sunday

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported 894 new coronavirus cases Sunday, bringing the state's tally to 112,966. At least 2,467 Virginians have died from the virus as of Sunday morning, an increase of 24 from Saturday.

VDH: Number of COVID-19 cases at Brookside Nursing and Rehab Center jumps to 47

Fauquier Times

Forty-seven people associated with Warrenton's Brookside Nursing and Rehab Center are actively positive for COVID-19, according to reporting from the Virginia Department of Health. The facility announced 36 resident cases on its website Friday; the facility was still reporting 36 cases Sunday morning, despite the higher number from the VDH.

People In The D.C. Region Are Rarely Fined For Large Social Gatherings


D.C., Maryland and Virginia all have ordinances in place that limit large gatherings and require people to wear masks during COVID-19. But according to health departments and police, enforcement of those gatherings has not been particularly punitive, with few area residents receiving fines or citations in connection with mass gatherings. While there have been several highly publicized gatherings in recent weeks, it's not clear how many large social events are truly happening, and whether those events — particularly ones held outdoors — are significant drivers of infections in the area.


State Supreme Court to hear Charlottesville statues appeal

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

Charlottesville will argue its appeal in a Confederate statues case to the Supreme Court of Virginia in November, potentially ending a years-long legal saga. As localities across the state, including Albemarle County, prepare to remove their Confederate statues, removal of Charlottesville's statues has remained tied up by the state Supreme Court appeal.

Confederate monuments face new scrutiny across Fredericksburg area

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

As Tracy Rollins, Diane Shoultz and other protesters marched through the town of Orange in June in support of Black Lives Matter, they noticed counter-protesters in front of the county courthouse. It was a little more than a week after George Floyd died during an arrest by Minneapolis police officers, and along the way, the protesters said they encountered at least one person who yelled profanity and waved a stick as another held up a Confederate flag.

Louisa County officials argue large Confederate flag poses safety issue

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

A Louisa County judge soon will decide if a large Confederate battle flag visible from Interstate 64 is considered a monument following a Friday hearing in Louisa County Circuit Court. The hearing was the latest in a contentious legal saga that began soon after the Virginia Flaggers erected the flagpole in 2018. Named the "Charlottesville I–64 Spirit of Defiance Memorial Battle Flag" by the Flaggers in response to Charlottesville City Council votes to remove two statues of Confederate generals, the 30- by 50-foot flag flies from a 120-foot-tall pole about 15 miles east of Charlottesville. The flag, erected on private property, is visible for a few seconds to motorists traveling east on I–64.

Muster call event canceled; small gathering held instead

By LINDA BURCHETTE AND STEPHANIE PORTER-NICHOLS, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

About two dozen people showed up for a muster call to form an "unorganized militia" in Smyth County on Saturday evening, an event that was formally canceled shortly before it was scheduled to start. Folks trickled to the planned meeting site in front of Smyth County Courthouse in Marion around 5 p.m. Attendees were encouraged to come with an unloaded rifle, "preferably a variant of the AR-15 platform." Many wore handguns strapped to their hips.


Latino families grapple with a pandemic; fear school re-opening will leave their kids behind

By SABRINA MORENO AND KENYA HUNTER, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

She wasn't sending her child back to school. The child's English is limited. The teacher doesn't speak Spanish. Latino parents are working essential jobs - many of which are low-wage and without paid sick leave - and can't stay home to monitor their kid's remote learning; an option most local school officials have chosen, to save lives in the middle of a pandemic. For Latinos, who comprise about 7% of Richmond's population and account for more than 40% of known COVID-19 cases in the city, hardships are mounting.

Henrico weighing civilian police review panel proposal

By CHRIS SUAREZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Despite his professional background in law enforcement and a lifetime of reminders that Black people are often prone to abuse and suspicion by police, Eric Harris was still frightened when a Henrico police officer pointed a gun at him during a traffic stop more than a decade ago. The officer told Harris he was afraid because the window tint made it hard to see into the vehicle. Harris thinks the officer drew the weapon because he saw the Black man in the car as a threat.

Hanover schools announce potential replacement names for Lee-Davis, Stonewall Jackson

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

Hanover County Public Schools announced the list of 14 potential replacement names for Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School on Friday. The school system posted the list on its website along with a link to an online poll.

Jury to hear civil case alleging 'hostile' behavior by Richmond police chief in N.C. incident

By ALI ROCKETT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Richmond's new police chief is facing a renewed legal battle in North Carolina for ordering the detention of a mother on a charge of child abuse for leaving her children unattended in a car briefly while asking for directions to a birthday party. A North Carolina Court of Appeals opinion, issued Tuesday, overturned the "public official immunity" that a lower court granted Chief Gerald Smith protecting him from liability in a civil lawsuit alleging "angry, aggressive and hostile" behavior toward the woman that "stemmed at least in part from racial or socioeconomic biases."

Virginia Beach Sports Center shaping up for a fall opening

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

Getting a $68 million sports center off the ground in the middle of a pandemic hasn't been easy for Virginia Beach, but it also hasn't slowed the process. And the virus won't keep it from opening. "It remains on time and on budget," said Nancy Helman, director of the city's sports marketing. "We were able to continue with our construction schedule and move forward at a steady space."

Hampton Roads public schools eye solar arrays, mirroring a statewide trend

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

Solar arrays will soon be coming to the rooftops of several public schools in Hampton Roads — four in Virginia Beach and five in Newport News. And if everything goes as planned, people could start seeing a lot more solar panels when they drop off their kids. "We could easily get over half of our buildings," said Tim Cole, sustainability officer for Virginia Beach City Public Schools, explaining that they have already scouted other possible locations.

Local divisions building on lessons of spring to increase structure of virtual learning

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

As Albemarle County and Charlottesville schools gear up for the academic year, educators are working to differentiate between the emergency learning in the spring and the virtual learning they say students will experience starting Sept. 8. During the months since in-person instruction shut down, teachers have been working together and attending professional development sessions to ensure that virtual school will not be a repeat of the spring, when parents reported that they struggled with the different platforms and new responsibilities to keep their children engaged and learning.

City of Staunton approves removal of Stonewall Jackson Hotel neon sign

By MONIQUE CALELLO, News Leader (Metered Paywall - 3 to 4 articles a month)

The City of Staunton announced in a news release that they have approved the removal of the Stonewall Jackson Hotel's neon sign that sits on the hotel's main rooftop. Earlier this summer, Staunton Hotel, LLC submitted an application for a certificate of appropriateness to remove the neon sign.

Newly hired city manager resigns

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

Lynchburg's newly appointed city manager, Douglas Stanley, resigned Friday evening from the post he was slated to take Sept. 1. According to a Friday evening news release from the city, "he submitted his letter of resignation to Lynchburg City Council effective immediately, citing the recent release and circulation of several emails."

Lexington council chooses Oak Grove as new Jackson cemetery name

By MIKE ALLEN, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery's new name will be Oak Grove Cemetery. Having narrowed the potential options down to four at previous meetings, the Lexington City Council made its pick with a unanimous vote during Thursday's regular meeting, which was conducted via Zoom video conference software and livestreamed on Facebook.

Roanoke County Public Schools accelerates plan for full-time virtual academy

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

Roanoke County Public Schools have long planned to phase in a full, four-year high school virtual education option. Then schools closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and virtual learning became a necessity. When Roanoke County students go back to school Monday, 208 students will be enrolled in a yearlong online academy, among the three options offered to students.

Most Montgomery Co. students, so far, plan to show up to classroom

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

Approximately 80% of Montgomery County Public Schools' 9,800 students have as of this past week signed up for in-person classes for the school year that will start on Sept. 8. That signup figure, which MCPS shared Friday, is one of the latest developments in the school district's much debated reopening.

Three Pittsylvania County teachers test positive for COVID-19; 15 others in quarantine as precaution

By PARKER COTTON, Danville Register & Bee

Three teachers in Pittsylvania County Schools have tested positive for COVID-19 this month, and 15 others are in quarantine, just days before the academic year begins remotely Monday. Assistant Superintendent for Administration Steven Mayhew confirmed Friday two teachers at Kentuck Elementary School and one at Tunstall Middle School tested positive within the past two weeks.

As new academic year dawns virtually, Danville school system expands food distribution program

By PARKER COTTON, Danville Register & Bee

Danville Public Schools is expanding its summer meal distribution program to serve families in more locations and with more meals when classes begin virtually on Monday. Phillip Gardner, the school division's director of child nutrition, said nearly 400,000 meals were served at 23 locations since mid-March, when schools shut down, through the end of the summer break.



Pandemic presents a generational challenge to college students

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

Every generation thinks it will change the world. Every generation also chafes at the generations before it, wishing they'd get out of the way so that generation could claim its rightful place in leading society. John Kennedy spoke stirringly of one generation taking leadership from another in his famous inaugural address: "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans . . ."

Decide now how you're going to vote

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

Twitter Email Print Save Decide now how you're going to vote. Voters traditionally haven't paid much attention to political campaigns until after Labor Day. But 2020 is a very nontraditional year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and people's understandable reluctance to go to crowded public places, now is the time that Fredericksburg area residents should decide how they're going to vote in the upcoming presidential election. You don't have to decide who you're going to vote for just yet.

Lessons from Charlotte

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

We like to look at other cities the way some people like to look at birds. Every major sports championship gives us an excuse to look at the random cities represented to see what lessons — economic or otherwise — we can learn from them that can apply here in Southwest Virginia. So, too, with the sites of political conventions. Today, we turn to Charlotte, where a handful of Republicans this week will go through the formal motions of renominating Donald Trump, even as the president delivers his acceptance speech somewhere else.

Accessing health care without broadband during a pandemic

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

When Yvonne and Otis Royster moved to southern Chesterfield County in the mid-1980s, the internet was in its infancy. An online connection was not required to access essential services like grocery orders, emergency information on social media or virtual doctor's appointments. The road that led them to their forever home was not even paved. "We wanted to be off the grid, or we wouldn't have moved back here," Otis said.

Keeping a job without broadband during a pandemic

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

When Bonnie Moody, her husband, Tam, and their son, Tyler, moved to Rhodes Lane in 2015, they were prepared for a quieter way of life. After a historic August spate of rainfall in Chesterfield County, they're monitoring nearby creeks. They're watching the front door to keep snakes out and the backyard, too, where a bear has roamed in recent weeks.


Clayback, Bivona and Accavitti: As we wrestle with back-to-school decisions, we cannot neglect early childhood teachers

By KELSEY CLAYBACK, MARISSA BIVONA AND MARIA ACCAVITTI, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

This summer, many educators and administrators are able to pause and regroup while determining the safest plan for returning to in-person schooling in the fall. However, for early childhood educators, there was no such pause. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these educators have been continuing their work in classrooms across the country — helping children tie shoes and zip sweatshirts, reading stories, singing songs and tucking them in for naptime — all while sifting through burdens added by the virus.

Clayback is a doctoral student at the University of Virginia. Bivona worked for eight years as an early childhood educator before returning to the University of Virginia to earn a Ph.D. Accavitti is a doctoral student in the University of Virginia.

Tarter: On redistricting, voters should call balls and strikes

By BRENT TARTER, published in Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

It's said that baseball is America's pastime. But it's not hard to find blemishes in baseball's recent history — most notably the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal. After an investigation of the 2017 World Series champions, Major League Baseball rightly made it clear that any teams bending the rules of the game to benefit themselves would not be tolerated in the sport.

Brent Tarter is a Virginia historian and author of "Gerrymanders: How Redistricting has Protected Slavery, White Supremacy, and Partisan Minorities in Virginia," published by the University of Virginia Press in October 2019.

Schumacher: The Virginia GOP should get rid of conventions

By GREG SCHUMACHER, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

On a Saturday last month (July 18), the 7th Congressional District Republican Committee conducted an all-day convention election in Doswell that lasted 10 hours and forced hundreds of people to stand in 90 degree heat to elect a Republican nominee to run against U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger. Dozens of senior citizens got sick from the heat and needed medical attention throughout the day, and our volunteers struggled with ballot counting numerous times.

Schumacher retired from the U.S. Army in 2011 as a Major General. He is the Chairman of the Fauquier County Republican Committee.

Slemp: Get serious about criminal justice reform by properly funding court-appointed indigent defense

By C.H. "CHUCK" SLEMP, III, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Imagine being charged with a serious crime. You could end up in jail for the next 12 months. But, unfortunately, your court-appointed attorney will only be paid $120 for the entire case. Just $120 to open a file, visit you at the jail, ask the court to set bail, interview witnesses, review evidence, talk to prosecutors, appear in court on your behalf, and take your case to trial if necessary.

Slemp is the elected Commonwealth's Attorney for Wise County & the City of Norton and served as a court-appointed criminal defense attorney in Southwestern Virginia from 2010 to 2016.

Johns: Return to college MUST work

By DAVID L. JOHNS, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

As students move back to college this month, the usual excitement and bittersweet goodbyes are being seasoned with apprehension and whispered prayers. None of us are naive.We know this is going to be challenging. We know we must take extra precautions. We know everything could turn on a dime at any moment, and we all know it's not 2019 any longer!

Johns is President of Ferrum College

Wellington and McLaughlin: No trade-off between saving lives and the economy

By MATTHEW WELLINGTON AND MAURA R. MCLAUGHLIN, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Virginia just passed the grim milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 cases, with more than 2,000 deaths from COVID-19 recorded in our state. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warns that unless we get the novel coronavirus under control now, we could face "the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we've ever had" in the United States.

Wellington is Public Health Campaigns Director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups. McLaughlin is a family physician and founder of Blue Ridge Family Practice in Crozet.

Aron: American myths speak volumes about our country's identity

By PAUL ARON, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Fake news — and fake history — are nothing new. In 1800, the Rev. Mason L. Weems wrote a biography of George Washington which included a story about young George chopping down his father's favorite cherry tree and then redeeming himself by confessing. Debunkers quickly took an ax to Weems's story. The same year the book was published, the Monthly Magazine and American Review called the book "as entertaining and edifying matter as can be found in the annals of fanaticism and absurdity."

Aron, a Williamsburg resident, is the author of "American Stories: Washington's Cherry Tree, Lincoln's Log Cabin, and Other Tales — True and Not-So-True — And How They Spread Throughout the Land," published Aug. 1.

Morse: Legislature must honor rules, even in extraordinary times

By GORDON C. MORSE, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

"How people choose to make laws says a great deal about what laws they will choose to make and how they will treat those subject to those laws." That line — a pretty good line, at that — arrived last week in a statement from Del. Kirk Cox, the former Republican speaker of the House and would-be future governor.

After writing editorials for the Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot in the 1980s, Gordon C. Morse wrote speeches for Gov. Gerald L. Baliles.

Roll: Virginia's choice

By DAVID L. ROLL, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Each state is entitled to have two statues in the U.S. Capitol. When Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is removed, one statue will remain: George Washington. Who should take Lee's place? Who shall stand beside the father of our country? It's Virginia's choice. Seventy-plus years ago, the choice would have been a no-brainer.

David L. Roll of Washington is author of "George Marshall: Defender of the Republic" and "The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging of the Alliance to Defeat Hitler."

Schexnider: Race and higher education in Virginia

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

In January 1977, I began a faculty appointment at the Federal Executive Institute (FEI) in Charlottesville. The long, gray winters endured teaching political science at Syracuse University in New York propelled me to look southward, and FEI beckoned. The thought of returning to the South was met with some trepidation but I decided to take a leap of faith. The reverence paid to "Mr. Jefferson" locally prompted me to pay attention to Virginia's colleges and universities, several of which had begun to lay down markers.

Alvin J. Schexnider is a senior fellow at the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

Why I am fighting for prosecutorial discretion in Arlington

By PARISA DEHGHANI-TAFTI, published in Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Last November, the citizens of Arlington County and the city of Falls Church elected me commonwealth's attorney to reform our criminal legal system. I have taken an important step to take legal action involving our Circuit Court. It is not something I wanted to do, but I have no choice because, just two months after I took office, the Arlington County Circuit Court decided to take for itself the prosecutorial discretion that from time immemorial every occupant of this office rightfully had exercised.

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is the commonwealth's attorney for Arlington County and the city of Falls Church.

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