May 7: Week in Alexandria

May 7: Week in Alexandria

Food Trucks All Day

The more city officials reveal about their proposed food truck regulations, the less detractors like them. The latest kerfuffle happened Tuesday night, when the Alexandria Planning Commission considered changes to the city code regarding food trucks. Part of the docket item explained that food trucks in Old Town would have three designated spaces on the Royal Street side of Market Square, where they would be allowed to vend for four-hour durations at any time during 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"We have worked very hard to create an old and historic district that has its own unique visional appeal. Food trucks detract from that," said Yvonne Weight Callahan, president of the Old Town Civic Association. "To permit them to vend 13 hours a day just makes a very bad situation even worse."

Last month, city officials moved forward with a series of recommendations on food truck regulations without first receiving a report from a task force created to investigate the issue. Members of the task force now say they feel snubbed by the city, especially after reading more about the proposal as city leaders continue to reveal more about when and where food trucks would be allowed. Callahan said many people believed food trucks would be limited to lunchtime hours until this week, as city officials continue to add detail to their proposals. Advocates for food trucks say they should be allowed to vend when and where customers want them.

"The hallmark of our industry is our ability to meet customers when and where they want us," said Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the DMV Food Truck Association. "This is about Alexandria residents and workers have choices and competition for their dollar. Why would anybody seek to restrict that?"

Racist Tone?

Should children whose parents entered the country illegally be punished when trying to finance a college education? That's a question that's now at the center of a political firestorm in Virginia.

Last week, Attorney General Mark Herring overturned a longstanding policy that students who entered the country illegally were barred from receiving in-state tuition, even if they were children when they immigrated. Now, Herring says, says students can qualify for the reduced tuition under a special immigration status created by the Obama administration for certain young people brought to the country as children.

"The irony is rich and not lost on me that one who campaigned on depoliticizing the office has hyper-politicized the office," responded state Sen. Thomas Garrett (R-22).

Supporters of the attorney general's move say the opposition is based on something other than a respect for the office.

"Increasingly, there's sort of a hostile basically racist tone against immigrants coming from certain sectors of the Republican Party," said Jon Liss, director of Alexandria-based Tenants and Workers United.

Extradited to Virginia

Charles Severance is back in Virginia after being returned to the commonwealth this week. He was extradited Monday from West Virginia, where he was released to the U.S. Marshal's Service on a warrant signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and taken to the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center in Leesburg.

But his fate remains unclear.

Alexandria police officials say they want to question the 53-year-old Severance, a former Alexandria resident who waged three unsuccessful campaigns for mayor and Congress, in three unsolved murders — Nancy Dunning in 2003, Ron Kirby in 2013 and Ruthanne Lodato earlier this year. Prosecutors in Loudoun County say he broke the law there by being in possession of a firearm there, which is illegal because he's a convicted felon.

Alexandria Police have not named Severance a suspect in any of three fatal shootings, which occurred between 2003 and this February. Severance's lawyer says the firearms warrant is a sham, and a pretext to hold him related to unsolved Alexandria killings despite a lack of evidence.

Gag Rule

Alexandria once had its own gag rule. While introducing Pulizter-prize winning historian Alan Taylor, Alexandria Society President Bill Dickinson said the city once prohibited speakers at the Lyceum from addressing politics, sex or slavery.

"I'm going to hit two out of three today," responded Taylor. "I hope that's OK."