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Political Headlines from across Virginia

October 23, 2020
Top of the News

Virginia releases sweeping plan to prepare for sea level rise, increased flooding

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

Virginia unveiled a sweeping plan on Thursday for how to best safeguard Hampton Roads and other coastal communities from rising seas, increased flooding, and more frequent and intense storms in the coming decades. The framework, the first such effort at the state level, is the initial step from Virginia for how best to reduce risk to people and property from sea level rise and coastal flooding, and follows similar work by several Hampton Roads cities, like Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Officials touted it as the first plan of its kind along the East Coast.


Surge of early voting in Va.'s largest county means a long wait for some voters

By ANTONIO OLIVO AND LOLA FADULU, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

More than a month has passed since early voting began in Virginia and, amid record turnouts during a deadly pandemic, the long lines to cast a ballot in the state's most populous jurisdiction have moved at an agonizingly slow pace. With about 9,400 people per day in Fairfax County voting in person during early voting, it has taken as long as two hours to make it to the front of the line in some locations.


Reversing ban, Va. Supreme Court says police can operate license plate surveillance programs

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled Thursday that police in Fairfax County can resume a surveillance program that passively logged the date, time and location license plates pass by one of their automated readers. The decision overturns a Fairfax County judge's ruling last year that the data collection program violated Virginia privacy laws, which stopped police from continuing the program.


Newport News Shipbuilding settles employment discrimination charges

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

Newport News Shipbuilding has accepted a conciliation agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to resolve allegations of hiring discrimination. The shipyard agreed to pay $3.5 million in back pay and interest to 4,428 Black applications who were not hired for 10 different positions.


Families opting out of public school pose financial impact on system

By JIM MCCONNELL, Chesterfield Observer

Mike and Christy Gasiorowski had never given much thought to sending their children to private school. And why would they have? Jack and Ella already attended two of the highest-performing public schools in Chesterfield County, Midlothian Middle and J.B. Watkins Elementary, respectively. Both were thriving academically and engaged socially, and their parents couldn't have been more satisfied with the quality of education.


Quarry full of hazardous waste removed from superfund list after 33 years

By ELIAS WEISS, Chatham Star Tribune

The Environmental Protection Agency Friday morning announced the official removal of the 13-acre First Piedmont Corporation Rock Quarry Site, in the Beaver Park community of Pittsylvania County, from the National Priorities list for superfund sites. Superfund law in the U.S. is designed to investigate and clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances. Between 1970 and 1972, the First Piedmont Corporation leased the on-site rock quarry and used it as an industrial landfill.


Friday Read Pixie post: Fairy letters offer advice, respite in Virginia

By BEN FINLEY, Associated Press

With the coronavirus lockdown and school out for the summer, 9-year-old Maya Gebler's social world had shrunk to her immediate family and a few friends. When her human pen pals stopped writing, she turned to the fairies who had taken up residence at a tree in her Virginia neighborhood. And the fairies wrote back. "They care about you," she said. "And they want to write to you."

The Full Report
62 articles, 34 publications

FROM VPAP

VPAP Visual House Money Drives Casino Initiatives

The Virginia Public Access Project

Gaming companies seeking a foothold in Virginia have invested more than $2 million to back Nov. 3 ballot initiatives in four Virginia cities. The only money raised to block a local casino referendum came in Norfolk, where a competitor is seeking to block a bid by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.


From VPAP Early Voting in Virginia Now Triple 2016 -- and Climbing

The Virginia Public Access Project

By Thursday, more than 1.7 million Virginians had already voted in the November 3 election -- more than three times the early votes recorded in 2016. VPAP's interactive dashboard shows the mix of in-person and mail ballots and provides a snapshot of early voting in each city and county.


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.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Under new law, prosecutors will be able to drop marijuana cases

By MARGARET MATRAY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Last year, Norfolk's top prosecutor said his office would seek to dismiss virtually all misdemeanor marijuana cases as part of an effort toward criminal justice reform. But Circuit Court judges wouldn't let them, and Commonwealth's Attorney Greg Underwood challenged them in the state Supreme Court. Underwood lost, with justices saying Virginia had given judges the final say on dismissing charges for over two centuries.


Ex-NASCAR driver gets probation in case long delayed by his lawmaker attorney

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

Former NASCAR driver Eric McClure pleaded no contest this week to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge and was sentenced to probation, according to a Virginia prosecutor, in a court hearing that was long delayed by McClure's state lawmaker attorney. The Associated Press has previously reported that McClure's appeals trial after his conviction in a lower court for assault and battery against his now-estranged wife was pushed back over and over again. His attorney, state Del. Jeff Campbell, repeatedly invoked a privilege of his office that grants legislator-lawyers broad discretion to obtain continuances in their cases.


Former NASCAR driver pleads 'no contest' in drawn-out Smyth domestic assault appeal

By JASMINE FRANKS, Smyth County News & Messenger

After more than two years of avoiding the courtroom, a former NASCAR Xfinity driver and his state lawmaker attorney appeared before a Smyth County Circuit Court judge on Wednesday for a plea hearing in a domestic assault case against him. Convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery on his wife in Smyth County Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, 41-year-old Eric Wayne McClure appealed the case to the circuit court in June 2018. The case began to draw scrutiny in early 2020 after McClure's attorney, Jeff Campbell, who represents the 6th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, repeatedly used a special exemption to continue the case.

FEDERAL ELECTIONS

Biden leads Trump 52 percent to 41 percent among Virginia likely voters

By GREGORY S. SCHNEIDER , LAURA VOZZELLA AND SCOTT CLEMENT, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Former vice president Joe Biden leads President Trump 52 percent to 41 percent among likely Virginia voters, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll — roughly double Hillary Clinton's margin of victory in the state in 2016. Biden's advantage cuts across most demographic groups, with regional strength in the Northern Virginia suburbs and the Richmond area.


Taxes, health care dominate in final candidate forum for Spanberger and Freitas

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

Taxes and health care dominated the final forum for Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, and Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, Thursday, less than two weeks before the close of an election for Virginia's 7th Congressional District that could help determine control of the House of Representatives. Freitas intensified his attack on Spanberger for her support of former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, during a Zoom forum conducted by the Richmond First Club.


Webb Pushes Virginia Democrats Into Trump Country

By BEN PAVIOUR, WCVE-FM

The little town of Fork Union, Virginia voted for President Trump by three points in 2016. Since then, residents like Ron Lewis say things have gotten worse. "The only thing we have is a drug store and a bank," Lewis said, gesturing toward a mostly deserted strip mall along the town's main drag. Lewis and other locals gathered in its parking lot during a Friday lunch break to hear from Democratic Congressional hopeful Cameron Webb, a man Lewis said can help change this town's fortunes.


Cameron Webb calls on Bob Good to divest from pharmaceutical industry in wake of Purdue Pharma settlement

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

Cameron Webb, the Democratic congressional candidate in central Virginia, has called on his Republican opponent Bob Good to divest his holdings in the pharmaceutical industry following Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, agreeing to plead guilty to criminal charges related to its marketing of the the addictive painkiller. Webb, a 37-year-old internal medicine doctor and director of health policy and equity at the University of Virginia, said by Good divesting, he will be able to govern in the interest of the 5th District and not the companies he has a financial stake in.


How Virginia's largest congressional district could flip this year

By CHARLOTTE RENE WOODS, Charlottesville Tomorrow

As polling shows Dr. Cameron Webb could flip the 5th Congressional District from Republican to Democrat, it goes beyond Webb and Bob Good as candidates and to the actual shape and demographics of the district itself. Former Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good, the Republican candidate for the seat in the House of Representatives, said he wants to fight. Webb, the Democratic candidate and director of health policy and equity at the University of Virginia, said he wants to heal. Which message — and candidate will prevail — remains to be seen, but recent polling indicates Webb could flip the seat blue for the first time in a decade.


Over a million Virginians have already voted in person. Lines are long in some places.

By ANA LEY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

More than a million Virginians have already voted in person — and another 650,000 by mail — far outpacing the number of absentee voters in the 2016 presidential election. "None of us have ever seen this record-breaking turnout," Virginia Beach Registrar Donna Patterson said over the phone Thursday. "It's really exciting."


Williamsburg, York, James City residents register — and vote — in 2020 election

By MAGGIE MORE, Virginia Gazette (Metered Paywall - 4 Articles per Month)

More than a week and a half ahead of Election Day, 44,597 or so voters in Williamsburg and James City and York counties have already cast their ballots, while more than 1.6 million voters across the state have also voted. The Virginia Department of Elections website shows that the state had 5,972,577 registered voters as of Thursday. That number has not yet been finalized with all of the people who registered before the Oct. 15 deadline.


Students say protests motivating them to go the polls

By HUNTER BRITT, VCU Capital News Service

Voters are more divided now than they were in the 2016 election, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. Many young Virginians believe the passion could translate to the polls on Election Day. Rickia Sykes, a senior at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, said that her political views have grown stronger since protests erupted globally in late May. The death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis Police Department officer kneeled on Floyd's neck for nearly 8 minutes, inspired months of protests.

STATE GOVERNMENT

With new roadmap to combat rising seas, Virginia officially acknowledges the threat of climate change

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

Virginia will no longer sidestep recognition that climate change is occurring and poses an existential threat to the state's way of life, shoreline, economies and resources, a new planning document released by Gov. Ralph Northam's administration Thursday reveals. The report, called the Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework, heralds a shift in the Old Dominion's approach to an issue on which more than 99 percent of global scientists have reached consensus but is still frequently portrayed as controversial in state and national politics.


Va. police can keep license plate data indefinitely, state Supreme Court rules

By TOM JACKMAN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Police in Virginia may indefinitely keep data from automated license plate readers, noting the time and place where a car was photographed by police, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The court ruled that simply storing license plate numbers and photos of cars does not constitute "keeping" data because officers must connect to a separate database from the state Department of Motor Vehicles or other criminal databases to link a license plate with a name.


Virginia got just one bidder for a $100M+ radio project. A key legislator wasn't happy about it.

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

Motorola was the only company interested in bidding on an expensive project to update Virginia's statewide public safety radio system, an outcome that led a competitor to complain the process was one-sided and drew scrutiny from a top lawmaker. The Statewide Agencies Radio System, or STARS, began with a $329 million contract between the state and Motorola in 2004, with the goal of establishing a 24/7, digital voice and data communications system used by nearly two dozen state agencies.


Abingdon company fined $54,000 for hazardous waste violations

By SARAH WADE, Washington County News

An Abingdon manufacturer has agreed to pay more than $50,000 in fines for hazardous waste violations, including improperly disposing of more than 6,200 pounds of it, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). A 2019 DEQ inspection of Wolf Hills Fabricators uncovered a slew of violations of federal codes, all of them related to documenting, storing and disposing of hazardous waste, as well as training employees on how to properly handle it.


Va. flags to be half-staff Friday in memory of late Bernard Cohen, lawyer in Loving v. Virginia case

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

Bernard S. Cohen, who won a landmark case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of laws forbidding interracial marriage and later went on to a successful political career as a state legislator, died last week at age 86. In honor of Cohen, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that the Virginia flag at the State Capitol in Richmond would fly at half-staff on Friday, Oct. 23. The order also allows Virginia flags to be at half-staff in Alexandria and other localities across the state.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS

Initial unemployment claims rose 25% in Virginia last week

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

Another 11,365 Virginians filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week, up 25% from the prior week as the number continues to ebb up and down week to week. Across the country, 787,000 Americans filed initial unemployment claims as of Oct. 17, down 55,000 from the previous week, which had already been revised down an additional 56,000 to 842,000.


Virginia Beach's swift reopening and familiarity to tourists helped it survive a pandemic summer

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

COVID-19 dug a deep canyon in Virginia Beach's tourism market last spring, with hoteliers taking the worst beating from the pandemic, according to the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau. After a steep downturn in the early weeks of the pandemic, however, Virginia Beach rallied over the summer with a hand from repeat visitors who lived within driving distance and preferred the resort city's familiarity.


Trump Issues Order Giving Him More Leeway to Hire and Fire Federal Workers

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

President Trump signed an executive order this week that could substantially expand his ability to hire and fire tens of thousands of federal workers during a second term, potentially allowing him to weed out what he sees as a "deep state" bureaucracy working to undermine him. The executive order, issued late Wednesday and described by one prominent federal union leader as "the most profound undermining of the Civil Service in our lifetimes," would allow federal agencies to go through their employee rosters and reclassify certain workers in a way that would strip them of job protections that now cover most federal employees.


Moving F-22s to Langley means more people, more jobs — and more noise, Air Force study says

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

Air Force plans to move training for F-22 pilots to Langley Air Force Base from Florida will bring some 2,400 people to the region — and increase the number of households that would hear fighter jet operations. The Air Force hopes to make the move next year, according to a draft environmental impact statement released this week.


COVID infecting Winchester Medical Center revenue

By EVAN GOODENOW, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Besides killing some 1.1 million people, including about 222,000 Americans, the coronavirus pandemic has hospitals hemorrhaging money. Winchester Medical Center lost nearly $49.2 million through Sept. 30 compared to the same time last year. The losses are projected to rise to between $55 million and $58 million by year's end, according to Mark Nantz, president and CEO of Valley Health System. The losses, primarily from the cancellation of non-emergency surgeries from March 23 to May 6, were part of nearly $78 million lost by Valley Health, the six-hospital chain of which WMC is a part.


Grants for Appalachian Trail communities to come from Mountain Valley Pipeline gift

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

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is offering $150,000 in grants to strengthen the ties between the scenic footpath and eight Virginia and West Virginia counties through which it passes. And there's more money where that came from. Community impact grants announced this week by the conservancy will be funded by a $19.5 million contribution from Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is building a natural gas pipeline that will pass under the Appalachian Trail as it runs along the state line in Giles County.


Lee Enterprises Posts Ad Looking for Ashley Spinks's Replacement

By ROSA CARTAGENA, Washingtonian

Lee Enterprises is looking to fill a difficult job. The media company has posted the Newsroom Editor position for Floyd Press, a small newspaper based in rural Virginia, after firing the previous editor, Ashley Spinks. The 26-year-old journalist had talked to Virginia public radio station WVTF about her struggles running the weekly publication under Lee's management for a story called "She's a One-Person Newsroom, But Lee Enterprises Kept Cutting."


Glimmer of hope for striped bass: Numbers of young fish show stability

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

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science's annual count of young striped bass once again yielded a number higher than the historic average. But the significant increase — 13.89 fish per sample, compared to last year's 9.54 and the historical average of 7.77 from 1980 to 2009 — may be a fluke of bad weather and the pandemic, VIMS cautioned.

TRANSPORTATION

Prince William County pays consulting firm $1.3 million to manage Va. 28 bypass 'messaging'

By DANIEL BERTI, Prince William Times

Prince William County has signed a three-year, $1.3 million contract with a communications firm to conduct community outreach for the county's $300 million Va. 28 bypass proposal as it moves through the design and right-of-way process. The contract did not come before the Prince William Board of County Supervisors for consideration because the board approved the bypass and the contract is "part of the project," according to county spokeswoman Sherrie Johnson.


Self-driving shuttle debuts in high-traffic Virginia spot

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

The future of transportation arrived in northern Virginia, looking like a big blue toaster on wheels that seats six and drives itself through the region's notorious traffic. State and local officials debuted the Relay system Thursday, an all-electric, autonomous vehicle that will provide free shuttle rides back and forth from the Dunn Loring Metrorail stop to the bustling Mosaic District in Fairfax County.


Valley Legislators Advocate For Rail Trail

By JESSICA WETZLER, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

For the last several years, a group of public, private and nonprofit organizations located in Rockingham and Shenandoah counties has been exploring possible uses for an abandoned railroad track in the Valley. With help from Del. Tony Wilt and Sen. Emmett Hanger, a new recreational opportunity could be on the horizon. Wilt, R-Broadway, introduced a budget amendment during this year's General Assembly special session calling for the Department of Conservation and Recreation to assess the feasibility of developing a 38.5-mile linear park along the rail corridor that spans from Broadway to Strasburg.

HIGHER EDUCATION

UVa spring semester will mirror fall's mix of online, in-person classes

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

University of Virginia students can expect their spring semester to look much like the fall with a mix of online and in-person classes and restrictions on the size of student gatherings, face mask requirements and a regimen of regular COVID-19 testing, officials announced Thursday. They can also expect a shortened spring break with shorter breaks scattered throughout the semester as encouragement to limit travel out of the area, officials said.


Case workers and quarantine: When students test positive for COVID-19 at William & Mary

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

Students and faculty that have tested positive for COVID-19 at the College of William & Mary this fall have been managed using a new system developed by the college, along with quarantine and isolation protocols for students living on campus.


Liberty University students to start spring semester with quarantine, online classes

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

Liberty University students will start the spring semester by quarantining in their dorm rooms and briefly taking classes online, and the school has eliminated the traditional weeklong spring break. The moves are aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus during the first weeks of the semester as thousands of students return from a monthlong winter break and also preventing a similar spread in the spring.


Liberty University launches website to report misconduct under Jerry Falwell Jr.'s tenure

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

A financial consulting firm hired by Liberty University to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by former president Jerry Falwell Jr. has launched a website for employees to confidentially report evidence of misconduct. The launch of the website represents the first public phase of an independent and wide-ranging investigation by Baker Tilly US, an accounting and advisory firm, into Falwell's tenure as president.


Netflix offers boot camp and scholarships to Norfolk State students in an effort to increase diversity in tech

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

Patricia Mead remembers one of the first students she spoke to as a judge for the FIRST Robotics program in 2002. He was from Bedford–Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York, competing in a high school robotics program. "I thought you had to be superhuman to program a computer," she recalled him saying. "He was completely intimidated." The student joined the program, realized he could do it and went on to pursue engineering, she said.

CORONAVIRUS

Virginia COVID-19 cases rise by 1,332 from Wednesday

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

The Virginia Department of Health reported Thursday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 170,104 — an increase of 1,332 from the 168,772 reported Wednesday. The 170,104 cases consist of 159,060 confirmed cases and 11,044 probable cases. There are 3,524 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 3,274 confirmed and 250 probable. That's an increase of nine from the 3,515 reported Wednesday.


D.C. already has $90 million back from FEMA for fighting covid-19. So far, Fairfax County has $0.

By REBECCA TAN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reimbursed the District about $90 million — or about $130 for each resident — for fighting the novel coronavirus. Neighboring Montgomery County has gotten $20,000, or about 2 cents per resident. The rest of Maryland and, to an even greater extent, Virginia, are also lagging far behind the nation's capital, where officials are sensitive to being shortchanged by the federal government and have aggressively pursued reimbursement.


Northern Virginia immigrants disproportionately affected by COVID-19

By JAMES JARVIS, Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected immigrants in Northern Virginia who are the most vulnerable to the economic stresses caused by the pandemic, according to a new report. The Immigrants in Northern Virginia Report was released Wednesday before a virtual webinar hosted by panelists representing the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia and New American Economy, a research and advocacy organization.


Henrico Courthouse Employees Quarantined After Positive COVID-19 Results

By WHITTNEY EVANS, WCVE-FM

Several employees of the Henrico County courthouse are in quarantine. General District Court Clerk Barbara Shaw told VPM News that this comes after two employees tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the criminal section of the court clerk's office is understaffed, leading to some cases being postponed. All traffic violation hearings that were scheduled from Tuesday, October 20 to Friday, October 30 have continued. Other cases in the building are still being heard. The circuit court is not affected.


Anyone who attended a recent concert at a Henrico restaurant should quarantine, health officials say

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

The Henrico County Health District reported Thursday that it's investigating a COVID-19 outbreak associated with an Oct. 9 live music event at JJ's Grille, a restaurant on Staples Mill Road in Glen Allen. People who attended the show should "immediately stay home and away from others for 14 days (until October 24)," the health district said.


October's COVID-19 record death toll grows in Pittsylvania-Danville Health District

By STAFF REPORT, Danville Register & Bee

A Danville woman in her 80s became the 58th resident in the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District to die of COVID-19 in what is now the deadliest month so far locally for the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday — for the sixth consecutive day — a new fatality appeared on the Virginia Department of Health's online database. A record 20 deaths have been added this month alone for Danville and Pittsylvania County.

VIRGINIA OTHER

Windsor cemetery top choice for monument

By STEPHEN FALESKI, Smithfield Times (Paywall)

Isle of Wight's monument task force, on Oct. 21, ranked Windsor's municipal cemetery as its front-runner choice of seven potential sites on which to relocate the county's Confederate statue.


Nelson County Confederate statue to remain, for now

By NICK CROPPER, Nelson County Times

A Confederate soldier statue at the Nelson County Courthouse appears unlikely to go anywhere for at least the next few months, with the board of supervisors opting instead to focus on other issues. While there still are no official plans for the monument, several supervisors said during the Oct. 13 meeting the issue would remain a priority, but Chairman Tommy Harvey said he did not want to rush to form a committee, citing more pressing concerns as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.


Supervisors vote to end Lee-Jackson holiday

By LARRY CHOWNING, Southside Sentinel

The Middlesex County Board of Supervisors voted, 4-0, Oct. 6 on a 2020-2021 calendar that eliminates Lee-Jackson Day as a holiday and instead will give holiday status to county employees on "Election Day." The decision by the board of supervisors to drop Lee-Jackson Day from the calendar comes on the heels of efforts across the South and Virginia to take down Confederate statues and flags associated by some as symbols of hate.

LOCAL

Alexandria Public Schools will return hundreds of students with disabilities to classrooms

By HANNAH NATANSON, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The Alexandria City Public Schools board voted to approve a plan that will bring hundreds of lower- and middle-schoolers back to classrooms over the next few months. The plan, outlined in a lengthy presentation Wednesday night by Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings Jr., prioritizes the return of young children with disabilities and English-language learners throughout the rest of 2020.


Supervisors Could Take Control of Loudoun Libraries

By RENSS GREENE, Loudoun Now

Loudoun supervisors could take over direct control of the Loudoun County Public Library, putting an end to the separate, governing Board of Trustees that has overseen the library system since its creation in the 1970s. The discussion comes after a summer that saw county supervisors clash with the Library Board of Trustees when the county sought to take over libraries to use for daytime childcare centers while schools are closed.


Prince William School Board approves staggered return-to-school plan

By JILL PALERMO, Prince William Times

All Prince William County students who choose the school division's proposed "hybrid plan" could return to schools for in-person learning by the start of the third quarter, which begins Feb. 2, under a plan the school board approved early Thursday despite criticisms from some members who said it lacks a sense of urgency about getting students back in school.


Henrico School Board votes for phased return to classrooms

By KENYA HUNTER, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Henrico County Public Schools students will be allowed back in classrooms in phased groups beginning Nov. 30, the School Board decided Thursday in a 4-1 vote. Students who choose to return will attend in-person classes four days a week, with Wednesday being a virtual day. A fully virtual option will remain available to students.


Audit finds no evidence of 'bullying' by teachers union

By JIM MCCONNELL, Chesterfield Observer

Based on available documentation and responses to an anonymous survey, Chesterfield County's Internal Audit Department could not substantiate allegations that members of the local teachers union bullied school employees who disagreed with its official stance on reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


More than half of Albemarle families opt for in-person classes

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

About 55% of Albemarle County families have said they want their children to go back to school for classes twice a week, and division officials say they have enough teachers to make that work. The School Board voted Oct. 8 to move to Stage Three of the division's reopening plan, which opens up in-person classes to preschoolers through third-graders as well as increasing the number of students who can go into schools for online classes.


Charlottesville ends payments to more than 200 temporary employees

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

Charlottesville has stopped paying more than 200 temporary employees who were receiving paychecks throughout the pandemic although they weren't able to work.


New cigarette tax approved in Amherst County

By JUSTIN FAULCONER, Amherst New Era Progress

The price of cigarettes in Amherst County is set to go up in mid-2021 through a newly approved tax, a measure county officials estimate will yield $1 million or more in annual revenue. The Amherst County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve the new tax effective in July. Supervisor David Pugh opposed the move.


Political, Diversity Issues Raised At Rockbridge School Board Meeting

By HARRISON M. BRANHAM, News-Gazette

A number of citizens approached the Rockbridge County School Board at the regular monthly meeting on Tuesday of last week with concerns unrelated to the reopening of schools. During the public comment portion of the meeting, Kerrs Creek resident Scott Guise said the Board was deceitful in its previous issued statement denying partisan affiliation or influence in their work for the division.


Pulaski man could potentially keep home now on town land with private easement

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

Gary Martin's precarious living situation may have a pathway to a happy ending for the lifelong town resident, according to the town's mayor. Martin—who has lived on a patch of the town's MacGill Park for the better part of 40 years—was sent a letter late last month by interim Town Manager Darlene Burcham that he needed to vacate the premises in 30 days after discovering he lived on the property but could find no documentation that he had anything in writing.


Mathews to stay with virtual instruction through 2020

By CHARLIE KOENIG, Gazette-Journal

The majority of students at Mathews County Public Schools will continue to receive their instruction virtually, at least until the end of the calendar year. That was the decision of the school board, meeting on Tuesday in the Harry M. Ward Auditorium at Mathews High School. The decision came after a public comment period, where several parents and one middle school student made a plea for the return to in-person instruction.


Halifax IDA director Brown fired from position

South Boston News & Record

In a stunning turnaround after his hiring little more than a year ago, Brian Brown, executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority, is out of the job. Members of the IDA board gathered in emergency session Thursday to enter into closed executive session, where Brown's status was apparently the main topic of discussion. After coming out of the closed meeting, IDA directors asked Brown to turn over all the files he had been working on, and board chair Robert Bates and director Ryland Clark escorted him out of the building.


Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones resigns from school system job

By ELIAS WEISS, Chatham Star Tribune

The Star-Tribune confirmed this afternoon that Danville Mayor and former DPS Director of Maintenance and Operations Alonzo Jones resigned from his position at Danville Public Schools. While neither DPS nor Jones has made any announcement to the public yet, and while his name and former title are still listed on the Virginia Department of Education website, Jones's name was quietly removed from the DPS personnel website today, sparking questions.

 

EDITORIALS

On Purdue Pharma, Trump's Justice Department just did what Bush's refused to do

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

President Trump's Department of Justice has just done something that George W. Bush's Department of Justice refused to do. It's secured a criminal conviction against the maker of OxyContin — which has agreed to plead guilty to three felony counts, pay more than $8 billion and shut down the company. Separately, the Justice Department has reached a civil settlement with the Sackler family, the former owners of Purdue Pharma.


Virginia's predictable gun control backlash

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

According to Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion, "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." This is also true in politics, although it sometimes takes a while to identify the opposite reaction, which is often simply referred to as "the backlash." If you want a perfect example of a political backlash, look no further than Virginia, where gun control sentiment ran high following the June 2019 massacre of 12 people in Virginia Beach by a disgruntled city worker.


Fixing police records law should remain a priority

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

Of all the criminal justice bills passed by the General Assembly in this year's special session, lawmakers chose to delay one of the most important proposals — a bill that would make police records more accessible — for further study. That's all well and good if it makes for stronger legislation and, in turn, a stronger law. But in Virginia, "further study" is too often a synonym for "inaction" and lawmakers cannot allow this critical change to public record laws fall by the wayside.


The importance of voting

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

A long-ago slogan of the Maryland Lottery was "You gotta play to win." A motto for having a say in government should be "You gotta vote to participate." And what does that mean? Having your voice heard as your local, state and federal elected leaders make decisions that affect all aspects of your life, from your tax rate, to when schools open, to where roads go. Voting matters. It's that simple.


The false promise of a surplus during a pandemic

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

The city of Richmond entered 2020 with budgetary priorities that could not have accounted for COVID-19. When Mayor Levar Stoney presented his plan to City Council on March 6, several issues drew attention. School funding was to increase by $16 million. City employees were to get a 2% raise and $686,000 was to go to the eviction diversion program.

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