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Michael Lee Pope

Stories by Michael Lee

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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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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.

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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).

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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Kanninen Seizes Democratic Endorsement for School Board

18-vote margin of victory in second round of voting.

After two rounds of voting in the Democratic caucus, author Barbara Kanninen seized the Democratic endorsement with a slim 18-vote margin of victory against Nancy Van Doren. A third candidate, Greg Greeley, was knocked out in the first round of voting. That led to an instant runoff in which the second choice of voters were considered. Most of those went to Van Doren, which led to a razor-thin 18-vote margin of victory for Kanninen in the second round of voting.

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Serving Up Controversy Over Food Trucks in Alexandria

Council members indicate they're likely to approve a pilot program at farmers markets.

City Council members are bracing themselves for a massive food fight this Saturday, when elected officials will take up a divisive proposal to allow food trucks in Alexandria.

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How Will School Board Candidates Handle Crush of New Students?

What will they do if elected to tackle spike in enrollment?

The three candidates seeking the Democratic endorsement for School Board all say they are opposed to increasing class sizes, and all three say the School Board is probably going to have to consider boundary changes to handle the crush of new students. Beyond that, though, the candidates have a wide array of opinions about how the county schools should handle the enrollment spike.

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The Fighter

Longtime congressman celebrated by Alexandria Democrats.

During his first run for Congress, then-Mayor Jim Moran assembled a campaign team that was hungry to oust incumbent Republican Stan Parris. Mame Reiley ran the operation, which included a young communications consultant named Joe Trippi. As the race headed toward Election Day, Reiley and Trippi became concerned that Moran's campaign signs kept disappearing from Eisenhower Avenue. So they set up a sting operation with a video camera to catch the culprit, who turned out to be Jim Moran.

House Historian

Family and friends remember Ruth Lincoln Kaye.

Alexandria's premiere house historian, a woman who pioneered the industry and fiercely protected her research, died April 30. She was 95. "She had a curious and inquisitive mind," recalled her son, Arthur Lincoln Kaye. Kaye was known throughout the city as a sort of walking history book, a woman who possessed an extensive institutional memory and a razor-sharp wit.

May 14: Council Notebook

Council Notebook briefs.

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C-Section Boom in Northern Virginia

Region has some of the highest rates of cesarean-section deliveries for low-risk pregnancies.

Behind the closed doors at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church and the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, a quiet change has been taking shape over the last few decades.

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Despite Advances, Many Virginians Remain Uninsured

Affordable Care Act expands coverage, but more than 800,000 still have no health insurance.

What is the state of the uninsured in Virginia?

Should Voters Consider Streetcar?

Two candidates propose referendum, but path to ballot remains unclear.

Should voters consider the fate of the controversial $310 million streetcar on Columbia Pike? That's what two candidates are proposing, although the path from their idea to the ballot box remains unclear, and the idea has resistance among people who support the initiative. The debate comes at a time when County Manager Barbara Donnellan prepares to propose her capital improvement program for fiscal years 2015 to 2024, a 10-year spending plan that will include the first major round of funding for the Columbia Pike Streetcar.

May 7: Week in Alexandria

The week of May 7 in brief.

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Animal Instinct: Democrats in Hotly Contested Primary Divided on Speciesism

Will Jim Moran's successor share his enthusiasm for animal rights?

Candidates in the Democratic primary for Congress have a wide range of views on animal rights, an issue that has become one of the defining legacies of retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).

Words With Frenemies

Pulitzer-prize winning historian outlines research at Lyceum.

The handwritten words of a former Virginia slave splashed across the screen at the Lyceum Tuesday night, part of a presentation by Pulitzer-prize winning historian Alan Taylor's War of 1812 Bicentennial Lecture. Taylor was explaining the research behind his new book, "The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832."

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Pleas for Services Increase Taxes

Council raises tax rate to fund services for seniors and schoolchildren.

Seniors will be able to keep their tax relief, and Engine 204 will remain at the city's Powhatan Park headquarters. But homeowners will see their tax bills going up once again. That's because members of the Alexandria City Council voted to increase the tax rate last week, adding $2 million to the budget proposal City Manager Rashad Young presented back in February.

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Food Fight: Work Group Snubbed on Food Trucks

City officials move forward with recommendations without report from work group.

Last May, City Manager Rashad Young issued a series of recommendations that would have opened the door to food trucks in Old Town, Del Ray and Carlyle.

Edmond Seizes GOP Nomination for Congress

Former Marine officer to take on winner of Democratic primary.

Even before longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) announced that he would be retiring earlier this year, former Marine officer Micah Edmond was planning to run for Congress — talking to party leaders and beginning to line up support. After Moran's unexpected decision, though, the race became more competitive.

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For Congressional Candidates, No Common Ground on Common Core

Democrats in Virginia's 8th Congressional District divided on national education standards.

Should American schools share national standards? That's a question that divides the 10 Democrats seeking to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8), who is retiring after 24 years in the House of Representatives. During a recent candidates forum, the Democrats were asked if they support the Common Core State Standards Initiative, two candidates said they disagreed and eight candidates said they agreed.

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Who is Trailing Don Beyer in Hotly Contested Democratic Primary?

Candidates elbow each other out of the way to secure second place.

Campaign finance documents show that former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer crushed the nine other candidates in the hotly contested Democratic primary.

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Alone on the Road: 7 out of 10 Northern Virginia Workers Use Single-Occupancy Vehicles

Study raises concerns about amount of time drivers spend commuting alone.

Despite the decades-long war against the single-occupancy vehicle, seven out of 10 workers in Northern Virginia drive to work alone every workday.

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Will Alexandria Sell City Hall to Developers?

City leaders to consider selling historic structure rather than investing in it.

Should city taxpayers fork over $50 million to renovate City Hall? Or should a new $100 million facility be constructed somewhere else, opening the door for a developer to transform the historic building? That's the question that will be confronting City Council in the coming years as elected officials decide whether or not they want to invest in fixing the building.

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Alexandria to Stop Dumping Human Waste into Potomac River by Earth Day 2035

Fixing combined sewer overflows to cost at least $200 million.

The year 2035 seems like a distant dream. But it's a Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of officials at City Hall. That's the year Alexandria will no longer dump human waste into the Potomac River.

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Beyer Rakes in Campaign Cash in Democratic Primary

Fundraising numbers reveal former lieutenant governor has significant edge.

Campaign finance documents released this week show Don Beyer well ahead of his competitors in the race for cash, giving the former lieutenant governor a significant edge over the nine other Democrats in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).

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Tax Burden Targets Low-Income Workers in Northern Virginia

Average tax burden for low-income workers is highest in Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax.

Families that are struggling to make ends meet in Northern Virginia are the target of local governments in Northern Virginia, which has the highest tax burden in the region for low-income workers. Wealthy people face the highest tax burden in Prince George's County and Montgomery County. But here in Virginia, poor people face the biggest tax burden in Arlington, according to a new study by the Office of Revenue Analysis in the District of Columbia. Alexandria ranked second, and Fairfax County ranked third.

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Dedicated Debate Over Streetcars Along Columbia PIke

Streetcar critics not swayed by county study showing benefits of streetcars.

The ongoing saga of the Columbia Pike streetcar gained yet another study last month, but critics say the latest investigation failed to address their concerns.

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Alexandria Goes to War (Again)

City planning a number of activities to commemorate forgotten conflict.

The War of 1812 was the first war that America lost, a bitter conflict that began with an ill-planned invasion of Canada that ended when the British burned the Capitol and the executive mansion.

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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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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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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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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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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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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.