Back to profile

Michael Lee Pope

Stories by Michael Lee

Tease photo

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.

Week in Alexandria: 1/08/14

Highlights from this week in Alexandria.

Decriminalizing Suicide

General Assembly to consider abolishing common-law crime of suicide.

Suicide is illegal in Virginia, one of the few states that has not yet abolished the English common-law tradition of criminalizing the act of intentionally causing one's own death.

Twisted Psychology

TC teacher sentenced to year for inappropriate contact with female students.

TC teacher sentenced to year for inappropriate contact with female students.

Setting the Tone

First redevelopment proposal of waterfront plan heads to City Council.

Developer Carr City Centers wants to build the Cummings Hotel, a five-story building with 120 hotel rooms, a restaurant and a meeting room.

New Leadership for Democrats

Clarence Tony elected chairman of the Alexandria Democratic Committee.

Only a few weeks ago, Democrats swept all five of Virginia's statewide offices — largely with the help of organizations from Northern Virginia.

Capital Debate

Streetcar funding to take center stage during consideration of capital improvement plan.

For years, the debate over streetcars has been about planning and vision. Now members of the Arlington County Board are about to reach into the pockets of taxpayers, including the $300 million project in the capital improvement plan.

Aquatics Facility Underwater

County officials delay $80 million facility after construction bids bust the budget.

Construction bids came in "significantly higher" than estimates, so she would not be bringing the construction contract to the County Board in early 2014 as expected. Now county officials have launched an investigation to determine why the bids were so high and what the county's next steps should be.

Anticipation

Costly initiatives, a special election and steady rise in student enrollment.

In looking ahead for what Arlington will be facing in 2014, a number of issues have carried forward from last year.

More Challenges For Metro Station

Series of setbacks have delayed Environmental Impact Study of Potomac Yard station.

The future is uncertain for the Potomac Yard Metro station, a long-planned stop on the blue and yellow lines between the Braddock Road station and the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport station.

Tease photo

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?

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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."

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Tease photo

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.

Northern Virginia Supports Day to Serve

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC), a coalition of 14 counties, cities and towns that work together on regional issues, passed a unanimous resolution endorsing Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell’s call to participate in the 2013 Day to Serve.

Tease photo

Half of Fairfax Schools Accredited with Warning are in Mount Vernon Area

Students up and down the Route 1 corridor struggle to meet minimum standards in science.

Poor and Latino students clustered along the Route 1 corridor are struggling to keep up with standardized test scores, according to a report issued last week by the Virginia Department of Education.

Tease photo

Alexandria School Board Members Approve Deal to Double Rent for Central Administration

School system to have a new lease on a larger central administration office.

Right now, the Alexandria City Public School system pays about $1 million in rent every year at three locations across the city — one central administration headquarters on Beauregard Street and two of satellite locations across the city.

Fully Accredited (Almost): One School Fails to Meet Minimum Standards

School officials were ready to celebrate victory until state included Arlington Mill High School.

The news couldn't have been better for Arlington Public Schools. Preliminary reports indicated that the Virginia Department of Education was on the verge of releasing standardized test data that would show all 31 public schools in Arlington would be fully accredited. Then the bottom fell out.

Tease photo

Full Disclosure? Forms Plagued By Lack of Information, Absence of Oversight

Fairfax County goes so far as to redact disclosure documents.

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is in hot water for taking gifts without disclosing them, and legislators are talking about increasing disclosure requirements for family members. But here in Northern Virginia, personal financial disclosure forms are often incomplete and inconsistent.

Full Disclosure?

Forms plagued by a lack of information, absence of oversight; redacted documents.

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is in hot water for taking gifts without disclosing them, and legislators are talking about increasing disclosure requirements for family members. But here in Northern Virginia, personal financial disclosure forms are often incomplete and inconsistent. Some elected officials choose to disclose a great deal of information while others disclose very little. Fairfax County officials have decided to redact information that's supposed to be part of the public record. And nobody is reviewing the forms to make sure they are accurate.

Tease photo

Incendiary Remarks in West End Fire Investigation

No arrests yet, but fire chief says investigation puts one individual in the hot seat.

Alexandria Fire Chief Adam Thiel stopped short of calling it "arson." But the chief was clear that city officials believe that the person of interest identified by the investigation into last week's six-alarm fire on the West End started the fire on purpose.

Tease photo

Uneasy Easement: 1789 Deed at Issue as City Hall Takes on Boat Club

Virginia Supreme Court justices say city is putting one private interest ahead of another.

John Adams was president of the United States when two land owners on Wales Alley secured a deed that gave them private use to a 30-foot easement in the alley.

Tease photo

Tide Turns for Arlington Mill

Community center almost fell victim to recession; now ready to formally open.

Four years ago, the fate of the Arlington Mill Community Center looked moribund.

Tease photo

City Leaders Consider Eminent Domain if Boat Club Rejects Final Compromise

Eight years of negotiation coming to a dramatic conclusion on the waterfront.

City officials and elected leaders are considering using the power of eminent domain to accomplish its goals on the waterfront if members of the Old Dominion Boat Club reject their latest compromise.

Week in Alexandria

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is weighing into the debate about school takeover with a surprising move this week, announcing that his office will not be defending the Opportunity Educational Institution.

Tease photo

Morton Sherman Era Draws to Dramatic Close at Alexandria City Public Schools

Controversial superintendent oversaw school system during tumultuous five-year term.

As members of the Alexandria School Board were behind closed doors in a one-hour executive session last week, Glenn Hopkins was thumbing through a draft report he was preparing to the release from the Student Achievement Advisory Committee.

Tease photo

Battle for Transparency at State Corporation Commission Moves Online

Agency makes official request to remove information from Wikipedia page.

The battle lines in the war over transparency at the Virginia State Corporation Commission have shifted from the committee room to the Internet.

Tease photo

Cause of Massive Blaze at West End Warehouse Yet to be Determined

Charred bits of foam litter the scene as officials begin investigation.

Firefighters from across the region battled a massive six-alarm fire Monday on the West End, a fight that enlisted help from across the region and gave four firefighters minor injuries.

Tease photo

Ballot Question: Authorizing an Authority in Arlington

Arlington County voters to determine fate of housing and redevelopment authority.

Should Arlington County have a housing authority?

Tease photo

Massive Fire Burns Warehouse on South Pickett Street

Blaze sends heavy black smoke into the air.

Firefighters from across Northern Virginia and Maryland are battling a massive, five-alarm fire at 801 South Picket Street, a warehouse building tax records say was originally constructed in 1965.