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Michael Lee Pope

Stories by Michael Lee

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New Superintendent Hopes to Cut the Numbers of Suspensions in Half

Black male students suspended at disproportionate rates.

Less than a month into office, new Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Alvin Crawley is taking on the challenge of reducing the number of suspensions by half.

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Bike Lane Controversy Creates a King-Sized Debate in Alexandria

City Council set to take up proposal to remove parking and install bike lanes.

Months of bitter accusations and counter-accusations are set to culminate this weekend as members of the Alexandria City Council take up a plan to remove four blocks of parking spaces on King Street to make room for a bike lane in each direction.

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Wiggle Room on the Alexandria Tax Rate

Council members advertise half-a-penny increase in tax rate, allowing more flexibility.

Although Alexandria City Manager Rashad Young issued a proposed budget that keeps the current tax rate, members of the City Council voted this week to advertise a tax rate that's half a penny higher.

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Northern Virginia's Growing Debt Burden

Local governments use debt as a tool to build for the future.

Back in the 1920s, Harry Byrd became governor of Virginia on what he called a "pay-as-you-go" platform.

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Arlington Schools Scramble to Fund Enrollment in Challenging Budget Environment

$439.4 million budget represents a 3.1 percent increase over last year.

Arlington Superintendent Patrick Murphy's proposed budget for the coming school year would scale back a program aimed at helping students older than age 22, add trailers to deal with the crush of new students as well as add four new bus drivers and create a new coordinator for transporting special-equation students.

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Should Royal Street Become a Bicycle Boulevard?

Alexandria hires consultant to consider ways to encourage more bicycle traffic.

Pedestrians and bicyclists clash with vehicles up and down Union Street, a concern for city leaders who want to find a way to move cyclists to Royal Street.

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Alexandria School Board Selects Interim Leader to Head Division

Alvin Crawley to take control of city schools at critical time.

Turns out, the national search for a new superintended wasn't able to find a candidate as good as the guy who is already sitting in the chair.

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Virginia Laws Help Local Governments Conceal 911 Calls from Public

Police agencies refuse to release audio from 911 calls, prompting questions about transparency.

When city officials in Alexandria released the audio of a 911 call in a high-profile murder case, many people interpreted the move as a step forward for transparency in a commonwealth known for opaque government.

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Money on the Shelves: Jurisdictions Take Variety of Approaches to Funding Libraries

Some have recovered from the recession, others are still struggling.

What is the future of the neighborhood library?

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Alexandria Food Truck Task Force Prepares to Issue Recommendations

A movable feast through Old Town, Del Ray and Carlyle?

This spring, advocates for food trucks will engage in a battle with brick-and-mortar restaurants.

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Eleven Candidate In Epic Democratic Primary to Replace Moran

Successful candidate could emerge with 10,000 votes.

The Democratic primary is shaping up to be the most competitive election in recent memory, one with an unprecedented number of candidates.

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Three Candidates Vie for Democratic Endorsement to Arlington School Board

Race to replace Sally Baird is on for Democrats.

Arlington County schools are at a crossroads. Enrollment is steadily rising, and parents have become upset about the amount of standardized testing that takes place in schools across the county.

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Assessing Alexandria: City Officials Mail Annual Valentines to Homeowners

Residential properties increase 5 percent; commercial properties increase 2 percent.

Homeowners across Alexandria will be receiving their annual Valentine from City Hall this week, an assessment of their property that will be used to issue a tax bill later this year.

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Happyland on Edge: Quiet Suburban Neighborhood Rocked by Unsolved Murders

Residents worried that a serial killer may be on the loose.

The late Ellen Pickering used to call North Ridge "Happyland," a quiet suburban stretch of the city where neighbors knew each other and the most shocking crime that happens is when someone's car is broken into.

Arlington School Board Member Sally Baird Prepares to Exit Public Stage

Elected official recalls the ups and downs of two terms on the board.

When Sally Baird was first elected to the Arlington School Board in 2006, the county's public school system was still shrinking and Baird was a first-time candidate.

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Up and Down Columbia Pike, Businesses are Divided by the Streetcar

Some believe it will bring more customers; others are worried about cost.

Up and down Columbia Pike, businesses have a variety of views about the streetcar that may be soon be trundling up and down one of Arlington's major thoroughfares.

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Scattering Low-Income Residents Across Alexandria

Public-housing authority considers redeveloping seven properties.

Uncertainty is hanging in the air for thousands of public-housing residents and their neighbors.

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Alexandria School Board Considers Budget as Search Continues for Superintendent

Interim leader proposes spending priorities for a system in transition.

Alexandria City Public Schools is in a state of flux. School Board members are conducting a national search for the next superintendent as students are flooding into the city's classrooms. Meanwhile, interim superintendent Alvin Crawley is proposing a 3.3 percent increase over last year's budget, adding $8 million to the existing $235 million operating budget.

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Nine Candidates Vying for Attention in 8th Congressional District Democratic Primary

Race to replace Jim Moran is expected to be competitive and expensive.

It's been three weeks since longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) announced that he would not be seeking a 13th term in Congress, opening up an epic primary fight that is now starting to take shape.

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Arlington Real-Estate Assessments Grow Six Percent

County leaders describe local economy as resilient and stable.

A decade ago, when the real-estate market was going gangbusters, the Arlington real-estate market regularly saw double-digit increases.

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Special Election Down the Pike for Arlington County Board

Democrat and independent to face off in April special election.

The special election to replace retiring County Board member Chris Zimmerman is the closest thing Arlington will probably have to a referendum on the streetcar.

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Alexandria Fire Chief Takes Role as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security

Adam Thiel to leave Alexandria and join McAuliffe administration.

When Adam Thiel became chief of the Alexandria Fire Department in 2007, he took over an agency that was clinging to the past — and not just the antiques at the Friendship Firehouse Museum.

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Jim Moran: The $15 Million Congressman

During his years in Congress, Moran raised and spent about $1 million each campaign cycle.

One of the first things that happened after U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) announced he would not be running for reelection this year was that he cancelled a fundraising event.

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Hotel Virginia on the Alexandria Waterfront

City Council approves 120-room hotel on waterfront.

The Alexandria waterfront plan is like the 1970s Eagles hit, "Hotel California." You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

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Arlington Officials Release Previously Secret Construction Bids

County leaders change position on secrecy of bids; refuse to reveal expectations.

New documents released by Arlington County officials show the four bids for the new aquatics center at Long Bridge Park range from $81.9 million to $82.8 million.

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Virginia Supreme Court Opens Access to Audio Recordings of Oral Arguments

Policy change overturns blackout instituted in 2008.

Members of the Virginia Supreme Court have a New Year’s Resolution — become more transparent.

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Streetcar Issue Dominates Political Landscape in Special Election for Arlington Board

Four candidates vying to replace Chris Zimmerman.

Where do they stand on the streetcar? Do they approve of the recent direction of the county government? What kind of accomplishments would they like to make?

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Alexandria Schools See Rising Poverty In the Classroom

City has the highest rates of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch in region.

In the last decade, the percentage of Alexandria students who live in poverty has grown from 50 percent to 56 percent. That's the largest percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch in the region, according to a recent analysis by the Washington Area Boards of Education.

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Alexandria's Debt Has More Than Doubled Over Last Decade

City officials are on the verge of violating their own debt ceiling.

In the last decade, the city's debt has more than doubled from $200 million to more than $500 million — a burden that is becoming increasingly difficult for the city to manage, especially considering plans for Alexandria to finance the construction of a new Metrorail station at Potomac Yard.

New Approach to Mental Health

Reforms in wake of tragedy involving state senator's son.

Advocates for mental health services have been calling for improved services and increased funding for years, although the issue has been pushed aside year after year.

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Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille May Join McAuliffe Administration, Prompting Special Election

Mayor headed to Richmond this week to interview for two positions.

Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille may be joining the new administration of Democratic Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe in the next few weeks, leaving the city of Alexandria and opening the door to a special election for mayor early next year.

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Long-Shuttered Waterfront Food Court to Get a New Lease on Life

Planning Commission approves new waterfront dining proposal.

It's been more than two years since the waterfront Food Court shut its doors, the culmination of a long and steady decline over the last decade as vendors abandoned the building and the facility began falling into disrepair. Now the building may have a new lease on life.

Democrats Shut Out of Power in Senate

Even if Democrats win in two special elections, control over committees is unlikely.

Don't expect Democrats to take control over state Senate committees anytime soon, even if the party manages to hold both of the seats where special elections are now underway.

$8 Million Shortfall in Arlington

Budget official says the forecast is difficult but manageable.

Arlington County is facing a $8 million shortfall heading into the next budget season, which will unfold over the next few months as County Board members consider the county manager's proposed budget early next year.

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Alexandria to Hand Count All Paper Ballots in Recount For Attorney General

Limitations of election machines prevent electronic scanners from being programmed for recount.

Alexandria election officials will be going back to the future in the next few weeks, pouring over thousands of paper ballots by hand as part of a recount effort in the hotly contested race for attorney general.

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Decline in Sales Tax Threatens Ability of Local Governments to Balance Books

Sequester looms large over revenues across Northern Virginia.

Sales tax revenues are down across Northern Virginia, leading to concerns that balancing the books for the coming fiscal year could be even more of a challenge for budget officials and elected officials in the coming months.

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Alexandria City Council Issues 90-Day Eminent Domain Ultimatum to Boat Club

Six-to-one vote sets deadline for city officials and boat club to compromise or else.

In the clearest threat yet that members of the Alexandria City Council are willing to use the power of eminent domain to take land owned by the Old Dominion Boat Club,

Longtime Arlington County Board Memer Chris Zimmerman To Step Down

January departure to open the way for special election in April.

After 18 years on the Arlington County Board, Chris Zimmerman announced last week that he is stepping down to take a position as vice president for economic development of Smart Growth America, a Washington-based advocacy group that promotes walkable neighborhoods near public transit.

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Alexandria City Hall Loses Wales Alley Case to Old Dominion Boat Club

Virginia Supreme Court rejects argument from City Attorney James Banks

Justices of the Virginia Supreme Court have rejected the argument City Attorney James Banks outlined during oral arguments back in September that the city has the ability to lease a public alley to a private business.

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Democrats Lead in Polls as Voters Head to the Polls for Election Day

Hotly contested race for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Democrats have the wind at their backs heading into Election Day next week, as Republican gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli struggles to overcome a deficit in the polls.

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One Law Firm On Both Sides of Controversy Over Alexandria Waterfront

McGuireWoods defends city in zoning change as well as developers who seek to benefit from it.

Lawyers at McGuireWoods are on both sides of the controversy over the waterfront, defending Alexandria taxpayers in court while seeking approval from city officials on behalf of three separate developers at the same time.

Half a Loaf, Sort of

City waives $1 million affordable housing contribution; council to consider restoring half next year.

Hidden in the margins of the incentive package Alexandria leaders offered to lure the National Science Foundation from Arlington was a million-dollar motivation. Officials at City Hall said they were willing to waive the $1 million contribution to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. City Council members later said they didn't know the incentive was part of the package until it was too late. Removing it might jeopardize the deal, putting City Council members in a difficult spot. "It was my oversight," said Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks. "I take full responsibility." Fixing the problem was difficult and divisive for council members. Some were willing to let the affordable-housing contribution go the way of floppy disk. Others wanted to see the full contribution. Councilman John Taylor Chapman offered a compromise motion to direct budget officials to earmark $500,000 worth of tax revenue from the property to affordable housing during the next budget cycle. Although he initially circulated a memorandum outlining a $1 million contribution, he ended up cutting it in half to make sure he had the necessary support. "To be honest, I didn't think I would the votes to pass it," explained Chapman of the million-dollar proposal. "Some folks were not behind that idea."

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Difficult Choices for Schools

New superintendent says School Board needs to brace for $100 million worth of cuts.

Should class sizes be increased? Should school employees be laid off? Should students have to pay to take Advanced Placement and International Baccalauresate tests? These are some of the difficult choices before members of the Fairfax County School Board for fiscal year 2015. This week, Superintendent Karen Garza laid out about 50 potential spending items that could be on the chopping block. School officials need to close a $140 million shortfall. That means even if the Board of Supervisors and the General Assembly kick in more money, School Board members are going to need to make significant cuts. "I think it's still yet to be determined what that number is, although we know it's going to be extraordinarily high," Garza told School Board members during a work session Monday. "I think it's going to be at least $100 million." Garza, who joined the school system over the summer, was quick to point out that she was not making any recommendations. She described the list as "menu items" that School Board members could order to balance the books.

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New $1.6 Million Advertising Blitz Seeks to Rebrand Alexandria

First it was Fun Side. Then it was Charmville. Now Alexandria is extraordinary.

First Alexandria was the Fun Side of the Potomac. Then it was Charmville. Now Alexandria is being sold as "extraordinary" in a new $1.6 million destination advertising campaign that hopes to generate overnight stays by targeting people within a five-hour drive radius.

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Battleground Northern Virginia

What role will the region play in the election?

For many years, Northern Virginia has been written off by both parties as a Democratic stronghold — a place where Republicans simply try to cut their losses while they focus on the rest of the commonwealth. But this election cycle may be different. All three of the gubernatorial candidates are from Fairfax County. And recent statewide candidates have not been able to win without picking off selected jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. "As you look at Northern Virginia that's further from Washington, you see a more Republican area — Prince William, western Fairfax, Fauquier," said Stephen Farnsworth, professor at University of Mary Washington. "That's where the real action is in Northern Virginia politics." As Election Day draws closer and television becomes a virtual battlefield for attention, a real battle is brewing on the ground here in Northern Virginia. Candidates and their advisors are looking at the path to victory back in 2009 for Republican Bob McDonnell, who won Prince William County, Fairfax County and Fauquier County. Although this race is likely to be closer than 2009, the importance of Northern Virginia is looming larger than ever.

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Metro Improvements Six Years in the Making

$50 million project was delayed by global financial crisis.

The high-speed elevators and new mezzanine at the Rosslyn Metro station were six years in the planning, a process that was delayed when developer JBG Properties was unable to move forward with a development that was supposed to be constructed concurrently. But when the global financial crisis dried up funding for the development, Arlington leaders decided to press forward anyway. Now commuters at one of Virginia's highest ridership stations in the system have three new high-speed, high-capacity elevators, a new fare mezzanine, a separate set of gates, a separate manned kiosk and a new emergency stairwell. "This project has a huge life-safety benefit, not only for the 36,000 people who use the station today everyone on the Orange Line and Blue Line and future Silver Line in that it enables us to get emergency response teams down into the station," said Dennis Leach, deputy director of Transportation and Development. "It also allows for an orderly evacuation in the event of an emergency either in the station itself or in the tunnel under the river."

Negative Campaign

Candidates appear at minority business forum, attacking each other.

Local and statewide candidates for office appeared at an unprecedented forum in Northern Virginia last weekend, a collaboration of minority business groups of blacks, Hispanics and Asians. But as candidates arrived at the Annandale campus of the Northern Virginia Community College for a Sunday afternoon forum, voters realized that the tone of the campaign would remain unrelentingly negative. "All three of the Republican candidates are Tea Party right wing extremists," said Del. Ken Plum (D-36), who is running unopposed. "Look at their records and their stands on the issues." Plum attacked Cuccinelli's lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act as well as his investigation into a University of Virginia professor studying climate change. The longtime delegate also said the Republican attorney general candidate Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-25) has a similar record, including a bill that would have required women to report abortions to police. Together with the candidate for lieutenant governor, Plum said, the ticket is Tea Party from top to bottom.

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Advocates for Affordable Housing In Arlington Battle Over WIsdom of Ballot Initiative

Green Party advocates take issue with opposition from Democrats.

Arlington County is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, a sweeping demographic change that has wiped away more than half of affordable housing units for the poorest residents in the last decade according to a recent report.

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National Park Service Shutters Mount Vernon Trail Amid Budget Crisis

Parts of trail are barricaded;; parking lots closed/ Park Service Police issue parking tickets.

Woody Guthrie observed "This Land is Your Land." But that apparently does not apply to federal land during a government shutdown.

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Board of Architectural Review Has Harsh Words for Waterfront Hotel Concept

Chairman calls the project 'too much, too big.'

Last year, the Board of Architectural Review sent Carr Hospitality back to the drawing board on its proposal to build a 121-room hotel on the waterfront.

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