Week in Alexandria

Week in Alexandria

Security Classic

The terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon this week has altered plans for the Parkway Classic this weekend, creating a need for a heightened security presence in Alexandria. The Parkway Classic, now in its 29th year, has a historic route along the George Washington Memorial Parkway and a capped field size. The Sunday race is also host to the MacArthur Cup, a team competition for active military and is a primary sponsor of the Boys and Girls Club of Alexandria and the Nature Conservancy.

Now, in the new normal of the ever-present threat of terrorism, it's also a target.

"We'll have a some extra security presence there to hopefully deter any opportunities that folks want to use to do something bad," said Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille. "We are pretty much telling people to live their normal lifestyle, and hopefully all will be well."

Euille said he couldn't share all of the security measures that will be in place, but he said visitors will see an increased police presence.

Whistleblower Appeal

City Attorney James Banks said this week he will appeal the March 8 court ruling against the city in favor of whistleblower Henry Lewis. A panel of seven jurors agreed with Lewis that he was improperly fired for pointing out that the city was not taking adequate safeguards against fraud during construction of the new Alexandria Police Department headquarters. In an interview this week, Banks says he strongly disagrees with the jury and that he will be taking the case to the Virginia Supreme Court.

"The city's position is that there was no fraud, and that a reasonable person would conclude that there was not a reasonable belief in fraud," said Banks.

In court, Lewis argued that he tried to make sure that the contractor constructing the facility filed all the necessary paperwork with the city — a safeguard against fraud, ensuring that the Whiting Turner was not billing the city for materials that had not been purchased. Lewis repeatedly clashed with senior city officials about taking necessary steps to protect against fraud, and he was eventually fired. A jury agreed that he was improperly fired and awarded him $281,000. They also ordered the city to expunge his employment file, eliminating any reference to the termination.

"This case reveals the environment at City Hall," said Roy Shannon, an attorney in a separate case against the city. "It seems like they have decided that they only need to follow the rules when they want to."

Members of the Virginia Supreme Court will decide whether or not they want to take up the case in the coming weeks, Meanwhile, City Council members are considering a budget request to increase money available for "general litigation" from $586,000 to $600,000.

Firing Up the Base

Dozens of gun-control advocates crowded Market Square Saturday evening for a rally in favor of background checks.

"You can't win any campaign unless you fire up your base," explained Alfred Street Baptist church assistant minister Greg Johnson, who helped organize the rally. "It's important that we stand with other faith leaders to say that the will of the people must be heard."

Ever since a gunman blasted his way into a Connecticut elementary school in December, the debate about firearms in America has taken a fevered pitch. This week, the U.S. Senate will be considering a bipartisan measure to expand background checks for all firearm purchases. The move is opposed by gun enthusiasts who say extending background checks is government intrusion on Second Amendment rights.

"The democratic process will work if enough people come out to events like this and let their voices be heard," said U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8). "It's going to take rallies like this here and in other congressional districts to show that the intensity of emotion in favor of sensible gun control."

Del. Scott Surovell (D-44) pointed out that one potential shoe bomber changed how airport security works, but dozens of high-profile mass shootings has yet to prompt major changes to how firearms are purchased in America.

"It's time to take action," said Surovell.

— Michael Lee Pope