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VaNews
May 26, 2022
Top of the News

Dems urge Virginia LG to withdraw from scheduled talk at NRA fundraising event in Texas this week

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears is scheduled to be the keynote speaker on Friday for a women’s luncheon at the National Rifle Association’s annual conference in Houston, just days after a deadly mass shooting at a Texas elementary school and another at a Buffalo grocery store pushed guns to the forefront of American politics. Tickets to the event with Earle-Sears, who famously posed with a military-style rifle during her 2021 campaign, range from $250 to $2,500, according to the NRA’s website.


Key Virginia senators raise doubts about Commanders stadium bill

By LAURA VOZZELLA, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Two key state senators on Wednesday separately raised doubts about legislation meant to lure the Washington Commanders football team to Virginia with a new, taxpayer-supported stadium, signaling that the effort could be in trouble when the General Assembly returns to the Capitol next week. Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), for years one of the team’s most ardent boosters in Richmond, announced that he will not vote for a stadium bill — in part because he has lost “confidence in the Washington Commanders as a viable NFL franchise.”


Radio producers get restraining orders against Sen. Joe Morrissey after studio blowup

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

Two employees of a Richmond-area radio station took out restraining orders against Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, claiming the lawmaker’s angry outburst earlier this month over a producer’s comment about his abortion stance left them fearing for their safety. An Alexandria General District Court judge, apparently filling in for Richmond judges who avoided an issue involving a local lawmaker, approved the two preliminary protective orders on May 20, instructing Morrissey to stay at least 100 feet away from the two men “at all times.” A hearing in the case is scheduled to take place next week.


Resignations are double blow to Virginia's state mental health system

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Virginia’s mental health system is suffering a double blow from the resignations of the director of the state’s largest psychiatric hospital and the deputy director of forensic services for people who enter the state system through criminal courts. State officials confirmed that Brandie French will step down as director of Eastern State Hospital near Williamsburg on June 1 and Christine Schein on Wednesday served her last day as deputy director for forensic services at the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.


Gun fight: Lawyers spar over Winchester gun ban

By EVAN GOODENOW, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A day after a shooter massacred 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, an attorney trying to overturn Winchester’s gun ban suggested on Wednesday that more guns will reduce gun violence. “There is zero evidence that this [ban] stops criminal activity,” attorney Gilbert J. Ambler told Judge William Warner Eldridge IV during a temporary injunction hearing in Winchester Circuit Court. “A national tragedy occurred yesterday in a gun-free zone. Gun-free zones create danger.”


VMFA: Information about Monument Ave. requested by CBS 6 would cost $28,000

By TYLER LAYNE, WTVR-TV

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts said CBS 6's request for information pertaining to Monument Avenue would cost more than $28,000 to fulfill. CBS 6 reported in April the VMFA was removed from the initiative to "reimagine Monument Avenue" where Confederate statues were taken down. The change came in December after former Governor Ralph Northam transferred ownership of the Lee Circle from the Commonwealth of Virginia to the City of Richmond.


13 years after Portsmouth Superfund site flagged as a priority, EPA proposing cleanup of radioactive contamination

By KATHERINE HAFNER, WHRO

For years, there’s been a rule passed down in the neighborhoods along Portsmouth’s Paradise Creek: Don’t eat the fish. It’s not just local lore. Lead, asbestos and even radioactive material remain on a Superfund site that lines the waterway. . . . It was deemed a priority by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009. Thirteen years later, the agency has proposed a $17 million cleanup plan that would remediate contamination there within the next few years.

The Full Report
34 articles, 19 publications

FROM VPAP

From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

Our COVID-19 dashboard makes it easy to track Virginia Department of Health data across the state -- or within your community. There are charts showing trends for vaccinations, infections, hospitalizations and deaths. You'll also find a map showing the two-week infection trend in each health district. Updated each morning around 10:30 a.m.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Virginia Democrats call on Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears to withdraw from NRA convention in Texas

By KATIE KING, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

In the wake of one of the deadliest U.S. school shootings, Virginia Democrats are calling on Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears to withdraw from the National Rifle Association’s upcoming convention — to be held in the same state as the mass shooting that killed 19 children and two adults. Earle-Sears, a Republican, is slated as a keynote speaker at the three-day event, which begins Friday in Houston. In a statement Wednesday, the Democratic Party of Virginia said Virginians should “be in disbelief” that the state’s lieutenant governor would still attend.


Virginia attorney general weighs in on fired West Point teacher’s case

By DAVID MACAULAY, Tidewater Review

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has filed a legal brief with the state Supreme Court supporting a teacher who lost his job over his refusal to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Virginia agreed to hear the case of Peter Vlaming, who is suing the West Point School Board for $1 million over his firing in 2018. Vlaming, who taught French at West Point High School, claimed he was fired because he refused to use pronouns such as “him” and “his” to refer to a student who was transitioning to male.


AG's office backs teacher fired for refusing to use transgender student's preferred pronouns

By ANDREW CAIN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Attorney General Jason Miyares’ office has filed a brief with the state Supreme Court backing a former West Point teacher who was fired in 2018 for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns. Miyares’ office argues, in part, that a 2007 state law, the Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, barred the West Point School Board from firing Peter Vlaming “because of his religious objection to the School Board’s pronoun-usage rule.”

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Commanders stadium project on life support as $350 million subsidy loses key supporters in Virginia legislature

By MICHAEL PHILLIPS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

When the General Assembly convened in January, a bill supporting a new NFL stadium in Virginia seemed like a near certainty. The project has been wooed by politicians of both parties for nearly a decade — with loud proclamations and pitches, but also behind-the-scenes lobbying and courting of favor. Now, that deal has reached the 11th hour, and its fate is far from certain.


A 29-mile stretch of I-64 is still only 2 lanes each way. Widening it is at stake in the latest state budget deal.

By DAVE RESS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A gap in the Peninsula’s expanded highway network is among the dozens of issues to be resolved when some of the most powerful members of the General Assembly present their compromise proposal for a state budget on June 1. The gap is the 29 miles of Interstate 64 between Lightfoot in James City County and Bottoms Bridge, in New Kent County, that’s still only two lanes in either direction. The rest of the highway between Hampton and Richmond is three or more lanes.


Gridlocked on guns, Virginia lawmakers debate other ways to address violence

By BEN PAVIOUR, WCVE-FM

Virginia politicians responded to Tuesday’s school shooting in Texas with well-worn condolences, prayers and in some cases, renewed calls to restrict access to guns. . . . In the short term, gun control advocates face long odds. Efforts to revisit the commonwealth’s firearm laws were quickly cast aside this year in Virginia’s divided legislature. But lawmakers are still debating other measures to address a surge in homicides in Virginia.

STATE GOVERNMENT

VRS names new chief investment officer to build retirement trust fund

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Virginia Retirement System has named a new chief investment officer to protect and build the trust fund that provides most of the money for pension benefits to state employees, teachers and other public workers. The VRS Board of Trustees voted on Wednesday to appoint Andrew H. Junkin — current chief investment officer for the state of Rhode Island — to succeed current CIO Ron Schmitz, who will retire in January. Junkin will begin work at VRS in September, with Schmitz remaining through the end of the year.


Eden Center Gets A New Historical Marker Recognizing Vietnamese Immigrants

By HÉCTOR ALEJANDRO ARZATE, DCist

In the spring of last year, former Gov. Ralph Northam announced a historical marker contest to acknowledge the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities throughout Virginia. The Eden Center in Falls Church was nominated by two Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School students, Griffin and Oliver Hardi. The siblings say they wanted to recognize Vietnamese immigrants for their contribution to the Commonwealth’s history. “We thought that it should be recognized because it’s like, a really special place,” says 12 year-old Griffin. On Tuesday, the Virginia Historical Commission unveiled the landmark in Falls Church.

CONGRESS

Kaine expresses frustration with Senate inaction following mass shootings

By JOE DASHIELL, WDBJ-TV

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) reacted to Tuesday’s mass shooting in Texas, expressing frustration with Senate inaction following the Virginia Tech tragedy and other mass shootings across the country. Kaine discussed the Texas shooting at length during a regular conversation with reporters Wednesday afternoon. “The shootings are bad enough, but what really makes it sting is the realization that Congress has done nothing,” Kaine said.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS

Southwest Virginia's job growth is outpacing the state

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

Southwest Virginia’s economy is recovering faster than the state and the region appears poised to capitalize on new growth opportunities, a state economic development leader said Wednesday. Jason El Koubi, president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, provided an upbeat outlook during his remarks at the seventh annual Southwest Virginia Economic Forum on the campus of the University of Virginia at Wise, which drew 236 in-person attendees and more than 50 viewers online.


Southwest Virginia ‘ahead of the curve’ on post-pandemic jobs recovery

By MEGAN SCHNABEL, Cardinal News

Eighteen months ago, when Jason El Koubi was looking at economists’ predictions for pandemic job recovery, he was alarmed. Experts were predicting that a return to pre-pandemic employment levels in rural areas would lag the recovery in more populous areas by three years, said El Koubi, president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. . . . In fact, Southwest Virginia rebounded more quickly than the state as a whole, he said.


Bristol's housing shortage is impacting Hard Rock employees

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

Hiring efforts to staff the Bristol Casino are ongoing, but some workers who want to relocate here are struggling to find housing, Hard Rock Bristol President Allie Evangelista said Wednesday. . . . “We’re feeling the housing [crunch] right now. Eleven executives moved with me to the area. We are all looking for houses, or we’ve purchased, or we’re waiting, or we are renting,” Evangelista said.

TRANSPORTATION

Metro projects in Northern Va. to prompt temporary station closures this fall

By LUKE LUKERT, WTOP

Metro riders from Alexandria and other parts of Northern Virginia will see several stations shutting down for weeks — as well as an entire line, for up to eight months. It’s all part of two substantial Metro projects to add a new station and rehabilitate the Yellow Line Potomac tunnel and bridge.

HIGHER EDUCATION

W&L to generate 100% of power from solar energy

By STAFF REPORT, Cardinal News

Washington and Lee University has completed a deal to purchase enough solar energy to match 100% of the university’s annual electricity consumption. The long-term virtual power purchase agreement, which has been several years in the making, establishes a partnership between W&L and solar energy developer SunEnergy1, which will build, own and operate a 17-megawatt offsite solar farm in North Carolina. W&L will purchase 11 megawatts from the farm, which is equivalent to 100% of campus electricity use.

CORONAVIRUS

COVID-19 deaths in Roanoke region reach 1,000

By JEFF STURGEON, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Health officials sounded the alarm again Wednesday as the Roanoke regional death toll reached 1,000 fatalities from COVID-19. Infections are rising and officials expect to soon reinstate the strong recommendation to wear a mask in indoor public places. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, called it “very likely” the community risk level would be elevated to high in the next few weeks.

VIRGINIA OTHER

Montpelier Foundation board chooses new leaders for presidential home

By CLINT SCHEMMER, Culpeper Star Exponent (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

A new and more hopeful chapter just opened at James Madison’s Montpelier, the memorial to the fourth U.S. president and his family’s enslaved community. The Orange County, Va., historic site gained new leaders this week, with those individuals intending the plantation will resume its award-winning work to share “whole-truth history” about the American past.


Pulaski military fabric supplier agrees to $3 million federal fine

Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The United State subsidiary of an international textile manufacturer, based in Pulaski, has agreed to a $3 million fine that settles accusations that it defrauded the American military. In Wednesday's announcement of the settlement, United States Attorney Chris Kavanaugh cited the actions of a HEYtex USA employee who came forward as a whistleblower. . . . "The employee alleged that on over 100 separate occasions, HEYtex falsely certified that its military-grade fabrics met all requisite performance specifications set by the military when, in fact, the fabrics failed those tests," Kavanaugh continued.

LOCAL

In second year of new admissions system, TJ claims more diverse offer class

By HANNAH NATANSON, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Admissions officers at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology have sent offers to an more diverse group of students for the second year in a row, according to data released Wednesday. The Class of 2026 at TJ, as the school is known, will include 550 students accepted from a pool of 2,544 applicants. Of the offers sent to eighth-graders, about 60 percent went to Asian students, 21 percent to White students, 8 percent to Hispanic students and 6 percent to Black students. Roughly 33 percent of offers went to low-income students and 51 percent went to female students.


Loudoun Co. schools report spike in racial slurs, hate speech

By NEAL AUGENSTEIN, WTOP

Public schools in Loudoun County, Virginia, are experiencing a recent dramatic increase in racial slurs and hate speech. Deputy Superintendent Ashley Ellis and Director of Equity Lottie Spurlock displayed a chart to the school board Tuesday, showing a jump in incidents reported to the Office of Equity in the second half of the 2021-2022 school year.


After Texas mass shooting, Fairfax County School Board member proposes new security measure

By ANGELA WOOLSEY, FFXnow

A Fairfax County School Board member plans to advocate for adding security vestibules at schools in the wake of the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in nearly a decade. Melanie Meren, who represents Hunter Mill District on the board, will introduce a motion at a meeting Thursday requesting that Fairfax County Public Schools develop a plan to fund and install vestibules at all facilities, she said in social media posts Tuesday night.


County board passes “anti-Port-a-John” measure seeking permanent bathrooms in school stadiums

By ANGELA WOOLSEY, FFXnow

More than half of Fairfax County’s public high schools have no permanent restrooms for their outdoor athletic facilities, leaving players and spectators to endure the stench and claustrophobia of port-a-potties. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors hopes to rectify the situation, unanimously approving a board matter to consider funding for new bathrooms at 15 schools in the coming fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1.


Virginia Beach wants to change its noise ordinance to quiet buskers on the Boardwalk

By STACY PARKER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Jahsun Ma’atra is a traveling musician who likes to perform in public areas at beaches along the East Coast. Every summer, he returns to Virginia Beach where he sets up on the Boardwalk. His equipment includes a portable gas-powered generator on a rolling cart, a folding table and a sound mixer hooked up to three large speakers and a microphone. . . . The sound he produces between certain hours could be too loud, and the city’s looking at tweaking its noise ordinance to make it easier for police officers to issue tickets with a fine starting at $250.


Portsmouth City Council preparing to appoint new city manager next week

By NATALIE ANDERSON, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Less than 24 hours after abruptly firing its city manager, the Portsmouth City Council is already preparing to appoint someone to replace Angel Jones. The council has called a special meeting for Tuesday for the appointment of a new city manager. An email obtained by The Virginian-Pilot shows council member Mark Whitaker called the meeting with the consent of the three others who voted to oust Jones — Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes along with council members Paul Battle and Chris Woodard.


Henry sheriff accuses county administrator of lying

By BILL WYATT, Martinsville Bulletin (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Over 70 Henry County law enforcement officers lined up in the Summerlin Meeting Room Tuesday in protest of their belief that the Board of Supervisors reneged on a promised salary increase. Sheriff Lane Perry said he took the grievance of his office to County Administrator Tim Hall’s office and was told “they had nothing further to discuss and to leave.” . . . “We never said no to anybody,” said Hall when asked by board members if he refused to meet with Perry. “That’s a lie,” said Perry to the Bulletin after the meeting. “It’s a bunch of bull.”


Richlands Town Council punts constitutional dilemma to AG

By BEN SCHWARTZ, WVVA-TV

Richlands, Va.’s Town Council moved to executive session during Tuesday’s council meeting to discuss one resident’s claim of maladministration with their legal team. Following the executive session, Mayor Rod Curry announced the town will be seeking the state Attorney General’s guidance.


Citing 'continued disrespect and ridicule,' Pound mayor resigns

By MIKE STILL, Kingsport Times News

Stacey Carson ended her term as Pound’s mayor eight months early on Tuesday. Citing “continued disrespect and ridicule,” Carson ended 24 months in office by submitting her resignation to the council near the end of Tuesday’s continued council meeting. Carson restated complaints from the May 17 council meeting that she felt she should be reimbursed for cleaning supplies and other expenses she incurred to improve Town Hall.

 

EDITORIALS

COVID vaccines could have saved 7,123 Virginians

Daily Progress Editorial (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

7,123 Virginians. An analysis of avoidable COVID deaths by a group of the country’s best schools of public health has put a cost on the ignorance of vaccine opponents and the politicians, such as Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who catered to them to get elected. The study by Brown and Harvard Universities, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Microsoft AI Health analyzed vaccination rates and death data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York Times. Researchers then calculated the number of lives that could have been saved with injections of COVID-19 vaccines.

COLUMNISTS

Schapiro: At Va.'s Capitol, Youngkin capitalizes on disruption

By JEFF E. SCHAPIRO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

As a financial wizard, Glenn Youngkin knows how to turn a problem into a profit. In his previous incarnation — co-CEO of investment giant Carlyle Group — Youngkin helped transform the struggling coffee-and-confection chain Dunkin’ Donuts into a huge moneymaker. Purchased for $2.4 billion in 2005 by Carlyle and two other private equity firms, what’s now known as Dunkin’, went public in 2011, having significantly expanded its footprint and staff. After loans were paid off, stock sales produced a three-fold windfall of $1.8 billion, divided equally among the three firms.


Teel: Virginia should be smarter than to invest in Dan Snyder and new Commanders stadium

By DAVID TEEL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Washington’s NFL team hasn’t won a playoff game since January 2006, a year before Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. Worse, a misogynistic work environment and alleged financial shenanigans have led the league, Congress and Virginia’s attorney general to investigate owner Dan Snyder and his broken franchise. So by all means, why wouldn’t Virginia, which like many states struggling to adequately fund public education and other services, want to fork over more than a quarter-billion dollars to help Snyder build a new stadium?


Yancey: Revenue from ‘skill games’ matters more in many rural localities than elsewhere

By DWAYNE YANCEY, Cardinal News

Hermie Sadler’s truck stop in Emporia is a good place to stop for gas if you’re a trucker headed north-south on Interstate 95 or east-west on U.S. 58. Sadler and his lawyer – state Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County – think it’s a good place to test the constitutionality of the state’s ban on so-called “skill games,” those video games you find in many convenience stores and, in this case, at Sadler’s Travel Plaza. So far, they’re winning: They’ve won a court injunction against the ban until the case can be heard in November.

OP-ED

McClellan: Time to address our children's mental health is now

By JENNIFER MCCLELLAN, published in Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

The way students learn across the commonwealth has drastically changed over the last two years, but the mental health challenges they face remain consistent. Prior to the pandemic, one in five Virginia children suffered from ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other diagnosable mental health conditions. The pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues across the commonwealth and across the country—a Kaiser Health Foundation study showed 31% of parents reported that their children’s mental health had worsened.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D) represents the 9th District in the Virginia Senate.


Pressley and Marshall: Low morale, lack of support contributing to teacher exodus

By TIM PRESSLEY AND DAVID T. MARSHALL, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Teaching has always been a demanding profession, and over the past two years, this has only become more prevalent. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have been asked to work under conditions for which they were not prepared, and their students were asked to learn in unfamiliar ways. In April, the Virginia Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators reported more than 1,000 unfilled teacher positions across the commonwealth. Unfortunately, research we recently conducted suggests that these trends could get much worse.

Pressley is an assistant professor of educational psychology at Christopher Newport University. Marshall is an assistant professor of educational research at Auburn University.


Litchfield: We Must Do More to Support Our Small Businesses

By BENJAMIN M. LITCHFIELD, published in Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

I recently learned that my favorite local coffee company, Virginia Commonwealth Roasters, permanently closed its doors after operating in south Stafford and Fredericksburg for over seven years. On its website and Facebook page, it said that the lasting impacts of the pandemic, the rising cost of green coffee beans, and overall inflation made it impossible to continue production and offer a fair price to customers.

Litchfield is former chair of the Stafford County Democratic Committee and plans to be a candidate for the Virginia Senate in 2023.