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Michael Lee Pope

Stories by Michael Lee

Council Notebook

Should Prince Street and Cameron Street have bike lanes? That's a question that city officials will be asking city residents starting Sept. 30. That's the date of the first community meeting on a proposal that would add bike lanes to the two major Old Town corridors, one eastbound and the other westbound.

Arlington: Sparring over Issues on Streetcar Proposal

Democrat Alan Howze issued a harsh attack against incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt last week, accusing him of using opposition to the proposed $333 million streetcar proposal on Columbia Pike as a "wedge issue" to score "political points" in a way that is "dividing our community." All of these attacks came before Howze outlined a five-point plan to improve the controversial project.

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Potential Rivals Circling Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille in Advance of Democratic Primary

Kerry Donely and Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg consider primary challenges.

Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille's poor performance in the congressional primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) is calling into question his ability to lead the city, opening the door to talk about former Mayor Kerry Donley challenging Euille in next year's Democratic primary. That possibility has encouraged talk about Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg possibly entering the race as a candidate who would oppose the kind of large-scale development that Euille and Donley both support.

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Safety at a Crossroads in Poor Communities Across Northern Virginia

Less affluent neighborhoods in Northern Virginia suffer from higher pedestrian fatalities.

A national database of pedestrian crashes compiled by Governing Magazine shows 95 pedestrian fatalities in Northern Virginia between 2008 and 2012. While 26 of the pedestrian fatalities occurred in wealthy neighborhoods, where the per capita income is more than $53,000, a much larger number happened in poor communities like this stretch of Route 1 in Mount Vernon.

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Income Growth in Fairfax and Alexandria Lags Behind State and National Averages

Loudoun is the one bright spot in the region.

Paycheck growth in Fairfax County and the city of Alexandria are lagging behind the state and the nation, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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Governor's Mansion, Confidential

Defense team in corruption case to detail crumbling McDonnell marriage.

When he takes the stand in his own defense, former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell will read jurors an email that he wrote to his wife as their marriage was said to be crumbling.

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The Safeway Four: Armed Robbers Sentenced

Three defendants sentenced to 35 years each; another sentenced to 12 years.

It was a crime that shocked Old Town, an armed robbery that rattled a neighborhood where most of the illicit activity is limited to petty theft from unlocked vehicles.

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Across Northern Virginia, Men Pull Larger Paychecks than Women

Trend is more prominent in wealthier areas.

When Lola Arce de Quintela first moved to Oakton 20 years ago, she noticed something about the way men and women arranged their professional careers around their family lives in Northern Virginia. Men took high-powered jobs with large paychecks, while women often dropped out of the workforce to take care of growing families. If women had full-time jobs, she says, they would often select positions that were not as demanding so they could focus their time and attention on their children while husbands and fathers pulled in six-figure salaries.

Week in Alexandria: 7/23/14

Highlights of the week in Alexandria.

Boat Club, City Strike Deal

Land-swap concludes decades of feuding between the two organizations.

The feud between the Boat Club and the city dates back for decades, a conflict that involved the city threatening the use of eminent domain and the Boat Club winning a case against the city at the Virginia Supreme Court.

Funding Plan Emerges for Streetcar Project

County Board forgoes federal funds to expedite Columbia Pike project.

When federal officials denied Arlington County's request for a Small Starts grant, advocates for the streetcar project went back to the drawing board. Now the three Arlington County Board members who support the $300 million project say they will forgo federal funds altogether, using state money set aside for transportation.

Pub Crawl Crackdown

New permitting system designed to help cover public safety expenses.

The turning point for Arlington's burgeoning pub crawl may have been St. Patrick's Day, a time when the Arlington County Police Department found itself swamped by hordes of drunken revelers.

Marquee Tenant For Central Place

Corporate Executive Board to add 800 new jobs; building to be known as CEB Tower.

Right now, it's a temporary park — a placeholder at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and North Lynn Street. But when the soaring new building is constructed at Central Place, it will be known as the CEB Tower.

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Alexandria to Purchase Storied Waterfront Properties for $5 Million

Sale expected to seal Boat Club deal and open key part of waterfront.

City officials are on the verge of finalizing the sale of two slices of waterfront property, a $5 million purchase years in the making that will help seal a deal with the Old Dominion Boat Club and open up a key part of the waterfront to the public.

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Transitway to the Future

Alexandria and Arlington set to break ground on region's first transitway with dedicated lanes.

This week, elected leaders and government officials from Alexandria and Arlington will turn swords into plowshares, setting aside their previous differences about the Crystal City Potomac Yard transitway and wielding ceremonial shovels to break ground.

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New Beginning for a Failiing School

New school year to bring massive changes for long troubled school.

Test scores that will be released later this year show Jefferson-Houston School is failing yet again, with scores declining dramatically in writing.

Streetcar To Take Center Stage in Special Election

House of Delegates special election to focus renewed attention on streetcar issue.

When voters in the 48th House District head to the polls on Aug. 19 to select a candidate in a special election to replace longtime Del. Bob Brink (D-48), the Columbia Pike Streetcar proposal will once again be on the ballot.

Simon To Resign from School Board

Opening prompts special election for this fall.

Simon said he loved doing the work of the School Board and thanked those who supported his campaign in 2012. But he said that he must make his family a priority and resign the seat.

O’Leary Steps Down

Longtime treasurer resigns, prompting special election.

In a county known for people who come and go, County Treasurer Frank O'Leary has provided a sense of continuity to Arlington politics since 1983. But now, after more than 30 years in office, O'Leary is stepping down.

This Week in Alexandria

Highlights of this week in Alexandria.

Brink Takes Administration Job

Longtime delegate to become deputy commissioner for aging services.

When asked about his new job as deputy commissioner for aging services in Virginia, longtime Del. Bob Brink (D-48) says he has a personal interest in the topic — one that's becoming more pressing every day.

Changing Climate In Richmond

THE GOVERNOR announced the new commission Tuesday in Virginia Beach on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, where the governor signed Executive Order 19, convening the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission.

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Blitzkrieg Special Election for Arlington House Seat

Democrats to choose House of Delegates candidate this weekend.

Democrats are preparing for a lightning-fast special election this weekend, a caucus that will choose the party's candidate for the House of Delegates seat vacated by longtime Del. Bob Brink (D-46).

Hearing from the People on Streetcars

Voters will have indirect say on streetcars, even without referendum.

Supporters of a plan to build a streetcar line along Columbia Pike are divided over the wisdom of whether or not voters should weigh in on the issue.

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Alexandria Police Narrow Scope of Murder Investigations

Homicide detectives now calling Charles Severance "primary focus."

When Linda Robra first met Charles Severance at a Dulles Hilton swing dance in 2011, she could not have known that the man she came to know as "Charlie" would turn her life upside down.

Week in Alexandria: May 21

Not Torn Asunder

Lawyers for former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were back in court this week trying to persuade a judge to separate the charges against them.

Week in Alexandria: June 4

Slip Displeasure

What is the future of pleasure boats on the waterfront? That's a question that has yet to be resolved. It's an uncertainty that's leaving pleasure-boaters, well, displeased.

Week in Alexandria

Rape charge dropped.

Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Porter won't say why he asked General District Court Judge Donald Haddock to drop the charge of rape against former Alexandria Deputy Sheriff Bryant Duane Pegues, who was fired from his job after evidence emerged that he had sex with an inmate at the city jail last month.

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Patchwork of Approaches to Affordable Housing in Northern Virginia

Jurisdictions use a variety of strategies to prevent homelessness.

Affordable housing means different things to different people at different times. For government officials, it's a phrase that means that a family spends no more than 30 percent of its income on housing costs, including rent or mortgage as well as taxes and utilities

Food Truck Amuse-Bouche

Draft regulations would allow food trucks to 15 city parks and recreation centers.

Think Alexandria is about to be overrun by food trucks? Think again. Draft regulations now under consideration by the Parks and Recreation Commission would limit the pilot program for food trucks to parks and recreation centers that have 10 or more parking spaces. Only three would be allowed at one place at a time, and they would be limited to vending for four hours at a time. The parking lots must be paved, and the spaces must be designated. Although the city has more than 100 parks and recreation centers, only 15 sites would qualify under the draft regulations now under consideration. The Alexandria City Council is expected to review the recommendation next week. Food trucks could start vending as early as July 1.

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Manhunt Ends in Tragedy

Suspicious package prompts search, which ends in suicide and controlled explosions.

Neighbors on Hanson Street knew there was a problem between James Froman and Molly Gimmel. They could hear it from two houses away, the sound of Froman yelling at Gimmel. As their marriage was dissolving at the end of 2012, the fights became more frequent and louder. Froman became increasingly obsessed with military special forces, dressing in military uniform and spending hours at the firing range. Things spiraled out of control one December night in 2012 when he asked her to join him when he went to the shooting range so he could use her as target practice.

June 18: Council Notebook

City Council in brief from June 18.

How Will West Rosslyn Be Won?

Neighborhood finds itself at center of conflicting interests.

Neighbors want open space. A developer wants density. Arlington County wants a new fire station. School officials want a new facility. And nonprofit leaders want affordable housing. And all this will happen on about six acres of highly prized land hugging the western edge of Rosslyn, an increasingly urban part of the county that some have taken to calling "Manhattan on the Potomac."

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Fundraising and Connections Help Former Lieutenant Governor Emerge Victorious

Don Beyer edges out six competitors in crowded filed of candidates.

When asked about animals rights, former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer quotes author Peter Singer. He describes his wife as the "sine qua non" of his life. During his victory speech in the hotly contested Democratic primary to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8), he quoted St. Augustine and Winston Churchill. He reads widely and has five policy proposals for every issue before Congress.

A Capital Debate on Streetcars

Controversy over streetcar to dominate discussion of capital improvement plan.

Members of the Arlington County Board are preparing for weeks of heated debate about the streetcar proposal on Columbia Pike, a project that continues to increase in price and opposition. Although the project has enjoyed support from previous elected officials, the board's two newest members are raising new questions about where the money comes from and how it's spent.

Plug Pulled on Aquatics Center

Proposal put on hold for a year.

A proposal to build an aquatics center at Long Bridge Park has been put on hold after Arlington County officials determined that the cost of the project had spiraled out of control. “Last January, I said that we would conduct extensive due diligence to ensure that the project estimate was sound and within the available budget, and that’s exactly what we did,” said Donnellan. “I have concluded, in consultation with the County Board, that the gap between our construction budget and the lowest bid is simply too great to bridge at this point.”

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Six Feet Over

City officials planning flood mitigation for the waterfront.

Every heavy rainstorm seems to bring a flood of news trucks, which arrive at the foot of King Street and set up television cameras. The images of flooded streets have become a regular feature for television news segments because the images are so shocking. Now city leaders are planning to raise the elevation of the waterfront to six feet, preventing flooding for most major storms.

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Empire Strikes Back: Establishment Beats Tea Party at Republican Convention

Party insider Ed Gillespie seizes nomination at convention in Roanoke.

When conservative preacher E.W. Jackson took the stage at the Roanoke Civic Center to introduce Tea Party favorite Shak Hill at the Republican convention last weekend, hundreds of conservatives from across Virginia took to their feet. They waved placards.

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The Fixer: Mame Reiley Remembered as Political Force of Nature

Democratic insider was mastermind behind Jim Moran's 1990 campaign for Congress.

When Mame Reiley decided a young guy by the name of Jim Moran could knock off an incumbent congressman, people thought she was crazy. U.S. Rep. Stanford Parris (R-8) had been in Congress more than a decade, and he had the kind of financial support that the mayor of Alexandria could only hope to assemble. But Reiley knew it could be done, and she put together a dream team to make it happen.

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Poverty in the Classroom: Low-Income Students Scattered Through Northern Virginia

Where are the region's highest poverty schools?

When Carla Castro-Claure was approaching the age when she would soon attend Kindergarten, her mother became increasingly concerned about Hybla Valley Elementary School.

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Commission Buries Proposal

Plan to transform French-Lawler House into boutique funeral home rejected.

When the French-Lawler House was constructed on South Washington Street in 1893, the Victorian standard for funerary called for elaborate processions featuring pall bearers who carried batons and mutes dressed in gowns. These days, people have a more modest approach to death. Gone are the black ostrich feathers covering a hearse bearing a polished coffin bearing inscribed plates. Increasingly, people are being cremated. And Kingstowne-based Jefferson Funeral Home hopes to expand its operation into Old Town by transforming the French-Lawler House into what it calls a "boutique funeral home."

Two Million Dollar Primary

Former lieutenant governor raises $1.1 million; his competitors combined raise $1.4 million.

Campaign finance documents released in the final days before the June 10 primary show the seven candidates in the primary to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) have raised almost $2.5 million. Former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer leads the pack with $1.1 million, three times as much as his closest competitor. "Don Beyer is clearly the favorite," said Geoff Skelley, analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "He may not win it with a particularly large plurality, but he's the favorite to win."

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Seven in the Eighth: Epic Democratic Primary Heads Toward Final Days

Hotly contested race to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8)

Ten names will be on the ballot June 10, although only seven candidates are still in the Democratic primary to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).

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Sheriff's Deputy Charged with Raping Inmate

Prosecutor says he forcibly raped inmate using an ink pen as a weapon.

Deputies at the Alexandria Sheriff's Office say Bryant Duane Pegues was a quiet man, someone who got his work done and did not draw much attention to himself since he was hired in 2007.

Concerned Parents Win, For Now

School Board members restore one-time funding for autism program.

When parents of special-education students learned about Superintendent Patrick Murphy's proposal to cut a program for autistic students, they jumped into action. They organized a press conference and began lobbying School Board members to save the program, which allows middle and high school students with autism to learn in regular education classrooms. They wrote emails and spoke out at public hearings.

May 28: Council Notebook

News briefs from the city council on May 28.

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Seaport Foundation Without a Seaport?

Waterfront plan leaves nonprofit homeless, for now.

A sense of uneasiness fills Randall Smith when he starts talking about the future of the Seaport Foundation, the nonprofit that taught him how to build boats. One recent afternoon found him scarfing a board so that it has the right ratio to be part of a kit that the nonprofit sells for people to make a kind of boat known as a Bevin's Skiff. By this time next year, the nonprofit will have to move out of this building, which will be demolished as part of the waterfront plan.

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Piloting Food Trucks

Most of controversial food truck proposal placed on back burner.

The food truck craze is coming to a city park or a farmer's market near you, part of a 16-month pilot program that will allow the mobile vendors to set up shop and see what happens. City Council members approved the pilot program in a four-to-two vote with Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg and Councilman Paul Smedberg voting no. Disgruntled restaurant owners across the city are talking about creating a new association specifically to fight expanding the program to hot spots in Old Town and Del Ray, a move city officials have been pushing for more than a year. The pilot is scheduled to begin in July and run through October 2015.

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Nightmare on Green Street?

Neighbors say house is a nuisance; city officials say their hands are tied.

The 800 block of Green Street is tucked away in a quiet part of Old Town, a few blocks west of Washington Street where spring flowers are in bloom and neighbors know each other by name. Except Michael Wargo. Property records say he purchased 813 Green St. in 1989 for $263,000. But neighbors say he hasn't lived in the house for 12 years, and they are concerned that the house is a firetrap that's attracting wild animals and growing concern.

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Apprehension Grows Along with Cost Estimate

200 percent spike in cost of streetcar creates a sense of uneasiness among businesses.

Will the Columbia Pike streetcar be good for business? County leaders in Arlington seem to think so, even if the cost of the project has steadily increased since county leaders began planning to finance a streetcar line along the pike. Back in 2005, county leaders estimated it would cost $120 million. Now County Manager Barbara Donnellan estimates it will cost $358 million. That means the cost of the proposal has escalated 200 percent in the last decade.

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