Michael Lee Pope | Staff

Michael Lee Pope

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Michael Lee Pope is an award-winning journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and Northern Virginia Magazine. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. Pope is the author of four books.

Recent Stories

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Myth-busting the Vote

A look at how the election will really happen in Alexandria

For most Alexandria voters expected to cast a ballot this year, Election Day has already come and gone.

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Civilian Oversight

City Council members to consider creating citizen board to investigate police

Last spring, disparities in law enforcement created a groundswell of support for a new civilian review board in Alexandria, a group that could investigate excessive use of force and abuse of authority. Since that time, the General Assembly passed a new law giving these kinds of bodies authority to subpoena documents and witnesses as well as make binding disciplinary determinations. Now members of the City Council are about to consider several options for what kind of civilian review board they want to create.

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Hiding at the Top of the Ticket

Race for Senate features two-term incumbent versus first-time candidate.

When Mark Warner ran for governor in 2001, opponents knocked him for wanting to be governor without having ever run for office before.

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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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Alexandria’s Failed Experiment with Wards

Del Ray forced a ward system on Old Town. It didn’t end well.

Del Ray was furious. The Alexandria City Council was dominated by members from Old Town, and they took action in the interest of Old Town. People in Del Ray felt neglected and unheard. The elected members of council did not include one single solitary member from their neighborhood, and so people there were demanding the city abandon its at-large system of representation on the City Council and adopt a ward system similar to the one the city had before adopting the city manager form of government.

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An Election about Elections

Voters to determine how redistricting works next year.

When Republicans were in charge of drawing political boundaries for the General Assembly and Congress, Democrats supported an amendment to the Virginia Constitution creating a new mapmaking commission. The idea was to take the power of political gerrymandering out of the hands of the majority and hand it over to a group that wouldn’t be quite so focused on screwing the opposition. But then Democrats seized control of the General Assembly, and most House Democrats flip flopped on the issue.

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Mask Penalty Indoors, Side-Eye Outdoors

State Senate approves civil penalty indoors, City Council ditches fines outdoors.

Not wearing a mask indoors might get you a $500 fine from the Commonwealth of Virginia, although failing to wear on the sidewalk outside will get you just a side-eye from the City of Alexandria.

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The Fight for Paid Leave

After effort for paid sick days falters, lawmakers move toward paid quarantine leave.

The fight for paid sick days is on hold for now, and advocates have moved to a fallback position for the special session of the Virginia General Assembly: quarantine leave.

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Drop-Box Election

Pandemic protocols rewrite rules on voting.

When absentee ballots are distributed in the next two weeks, voters will have a new option to exercise their franchise: a drop box, which will be installed outside the Registrar’s office on North Royal Street.

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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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