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All results / Stories / Michael Lee Pope

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Baby Bust

Declining birth rates lead to shrinking Kindergarten enrollments.

Declining birth rates and the pandemic have conspired to send Alexandria's Kindergarten enrollment down 17 percent since 2018, a trend that school officials say will have a long-term influence on how the division operates and plans for the future. Some of the decline is driven by the pandemic as parents opted for private schools or kept their children in daycare rather than enroll them. But the long-term forecast for schools will be shaped one birth at a time.

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Limiting Neck Restraints

Lawmakers negotiate behind closed doors on how to curb police use of chokeholds.

When lawmakers began their special session on criminal justice reform in August, hopes were high that the General Assembly would send the governor a bill that banned police from using chokeholds. But now that the protesters have gone home and the lawmakers have moved behind closed doors to negotiate in a secret closed-door conference committee, advocates for criminal-justice reform are worried about what will emerge in the conference report that will be presented to the House and Senate.

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A Tale of Two Neighborhoods

Del Ray has more voters than Old Town, and it carries more clout.

Del Ray can boast that it’s the center of power in Alexandria, the home of both Mayor Justin Wilson and Sheriff Dana Lawhorne. Old Town, on the other hand, doesn’t have as many voters or as much clout.

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The New New Deal

Uncle Sam is about to make it rain.

Not since the days of the New Deal in the 1930s has the federal government showered so much stimulus cash on Virginia, and Alexandria is about to receive millions of dollars for everything from guaranteed basic income and flash flooding improvements to staffing at the Freedom House and planters to make the King Street pedestrian plaza look more inviting.

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Dangling Liberty

Lawmakers to consider putting pretextual stops in the rearview mirror.

Do you have a parking pass dangling from your rearview mirror? What about rosary beads or a graduation tassel? Police officers can use that as a pretext to pull you over and ask to search your car.

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Black, Male and Arrested in Alexandria

Alexandria’s war on drugs hits black males hardest.

According to the Alexandria Police Department, 64 percent of people arrested in Alexandria for drug arrests last year were African American. Almost half of those arrests were Black males.

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Whistle Stop

McAuliffe launches DNC bus tour at Port City, dodges question about labor

The Build Back Better Bus caused quite a stir last week at Port City Brewing, and not just because of the alliteration.

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Chirilagua in Crisis

More than half of those tested in low-income Hispanic neighborhood are positive for COVID-19.

Azucena Esquival lives in a cramped apartment in the Arlandria neighborhood of Alexandria, where the problem of community spread isn’t just theoretical. The pandemic is in her household. Earlier this month, she tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Another adult in her household paid $300 to get a test, which was also positive. They are living with two people who have not been tested. None of them are currently working, and they have no source of income.

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Furloughed and Waiting

Uncertainty lingers as furloughed workers hope temporary layoffs come to an end.

When Joy Phansond was furloughed from her job as sales coordinator at the Holiday Inn in Old Town, the temporary layoff was initially supposed to last until April 5. Then it was extended to May 5. Then it was extended again until June 5. She suspects that it’ll be extended again until July at least because the hotel business in Alexandria has been slammed by the collapse of tourism, trade shows and conventions.

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House Versus Senate

Conservative upper chamber undermines progressive House of Delegates.

Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly like to see themselves as adversaries. The real enemy, they like to say, is down the hall.

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Ethicist on the Bench

Prosecutor of bad lawyers to take a seat on the Alexandria Circuit Court

Prosecuting unethical lawyers is not a great way to win friends and influence people. Yet somehow Kathleen Uston has been able to figure out a way to trade her job as assistant bar counsel at the Virginia State Bar for a seat on the Alexandria Circuit Court. She'll be installed on the court next week, the culmination of a career that has given Uston an inside look at some of the worst lawyering in Virginia while also giving her a special insight into the role ethics plays in the law. — Yvonne Weight Callahan

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Killing the Death Penalty

Lawmakers consider bill to abolish capital punishment in Virginia

Virginia has executed people longer than any other state, a tradition that stretches back into colonial days when Captain George Kendall was executed for treason. Over the years, the commonwealth has executed more than 1,300 people. Now, Virginia may be about to join 22 other states that have abolished the death penalty.

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Seeing Double

Alexandria delegate is one of four House members whose name will be on the ballot twice.

The ballot for the Democratic primary in June might cause you to do a double take. Del. Mark Levine (D-45) will be on the ballot twice, once running for reelection against primary challenger Elizabeth Bennett-Parker and then again against seven other candidates for lieutenant governor. Levine and three other House members will be doing double duty, asking voters to reject their primary opponents for seats they would vacate if they win stateside office.

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Lucky Thirteen

June 8 primary will feature more than a dozen Democrats running for six seats

Recent years have seen a dramatic shift in city politics. Three years ago, the incumbent mayor was unseated in an election where two incumbent City Council members were turned out of office. Now three of the six seats on the council are open, and 13 candidates are running for six seats.

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Overlooked Primary for U.S. Senate

Three Republicans on the ballot this month.

Don’t look now, but Virginia is in the closing days of a primary. You might not have heard about it because of the global pandemic and the economic crisis. But buried beneath all the headlines about police brutality and racial injustice, Republicans are about to decide which candidate they want to appear on the ballot this November against incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Warner.

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Disproportionate Use of Force

African Americans are often targets of strong-arm tactics by Alexandria police.

Documents outlining use of force by the Alexandria Police Department show force is used against black males more than any other group. In the most recent report, which covers 2019, 54 percent of the instances of use of force was against African Americans. That’s significantly higher than the black population in Alexandria, which is 23 percent.

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Alexandria’s Income Gaps

Whites make three times as much as Hispanic workers, twice as much as black workers.

White Alexandria is pulling in significantly more money than Hispanic workers and African Americans, according to numbers from the United States Census Bureau. A look at average income shows non-Hispanic whites make more than $85,000 a year. That’s more than three times the average income for Hispanic workers, $24,000, and more than twice the average income for black workers, $37,000.

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Night Court

Lawmakers to consider eliminating no-knock warrants, new hurdles for nighttime search warrants.

Lawmakers in Virginia are about to consider banning no-knock warrants and creating a new requirement that judges — not magistrates — sign off on search warrants executed at night.

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Automated Justice?

Lawmakers to consider automatic expungements for misdemeanors.

Virginia is one of 10 states that offers almost no way for people convicted of misdemeanors to expunge their records, creating roadblocks for people trying to get a job or rent an apartment. Even when a jury finds defendants in Virginia not guilty or when prosecutors dropped charges, allegations remain on records as a stain that can cause problems for years to come. That’s why lawmakers are about to consider a proposal from the Virginia Crime Commission on automatic expungement, which is expected to be released early next week.

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Drawing the Line

How much should cities and counties be divided among lawmakers?

For Mason Cook of the Middleridge neighborhood in Fairfax County, the problem of gerrymandering can be understood in an afternoon commute. During a public hearing of the Virginia Redistricting Commission this week, he explained that if he were to drive from his house to his grocery store and then drop off a package at his post office, he would have gone through three different House of Delegates districts. "We hear a lot of talk about voter suppression. These kinds of congressional districts are all about voter suppression, and they make the congressional elections totally meaningless." — Bill Millhouser of Fairfax County