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December 1, 2023
Top of the News

Federal inspector general to review FBI site selection process

By ANTONIO OLIVO, MEAGAN FLYNN AND ERIN COX, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The General Services Administration’s inspector general said Thursday that his office will evaluate how the agency chose a site in the Maryland suburbs for the FBI’s new headquarters over a site in Virginia … In a letter to Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Robert Erickson — the GSA’s acting inspector general — said his office would immediately begin reviewing allegations by Warner and other members of the state’s congressional delegation that the process was engineered in the 11th hour to favor a parcel outside the Greenbelt Metro station in Prince George’s County over a Fairfax County site preferred by FBI leaders and a GSA selection panel.

Youngkin administration delays rules meant to root out bad cops


In 2020, Virginia lawmakers worked with law enforcement groups to pass new rules aimed at decertifying police officers facing allegations of misconduct. But three years later, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration has prevented key parts of the law from going into effect — a move a top Democrat said is in clear violation of the law. Before 2020, officers could only be decertified after being convicted of felonies or certain misdemeanors, or for refusing a drug test. Even those rules sometimes went unenforced.

Source of ‘forever chemical’ in Roanoke River to pay $9.5 million

By LAURENCE HAMMACK, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A global chemical company blamed for contaminating part of the Roanoke Valley’s public drinking water supply will pay at least $9.5 million for the treatment of water from Spring Hollow reservoir. The Western Virginia Water Authority said Thursday that the Chemours Co. has agreed to compensate it for the damage caused by a so-called “forever chemical.” Hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid, also known as GenX, was inadvertently released into the South Fork of the Roanoke River, which feeds Spring Hollow, over a period of about seven years.

State regulators OK Appalachian Power rate hike

By MATT BUSSE, Cardinal News

State regulators on Thursday signed off on a request by Appalachian Power to raise electricity rates, which will increase the average residential customer’s bill by about $16 a month, or about 10%. The State Corporation Commission order said the new rates will take effect 60 days from the date of the order, which would be Jan. 29. The development follows a recent SCC report that said an average Appalachian customer’s monthly bill rose by about $35 just between July 2022 and July 2023, to $157.62.

VCU chief financial officer to retire, triggering reorganization

By ERIC KOLENICH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Karol Kain Gray, the chief financial officer at Virginia Commonwealth University, will retire in February, the university announced this week, leading VCU to adjust its leadership roles. Gray has worked at VCU for eight years, where she oversaw its budget grow to nearly $1.5 billion. She leaves as the university and its health system are under scrutiny for paying $73 million to exit a redevelopment deal in downtown Richmond and VCU is cutting $25 million from its budget and at least 76 jobs from its payroll.

Friday Read A soldier in Vietnam and a girl wrote letters. Decades later, they finally met.

By SUSAN SVRLUGA, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Col. Ned Edward Felder was serving in Vietnam when he was surprised by a care package from a stranger. It wasn’t the contents that touched him; it was the idea that someone had taken the trouble to send it. Alone in the midst of a war thousands of miles from his own home and family, the kindness felt enormous. Kristina Olson, a shy 12-year-old girl who had knocked on neighbors’ doors in Michigan to ask for donations to send to soldiers as part of a Camp Fire group, was just as surprised, and delighted, when she saw that a stranger had taken the time to write a thank-you note for the gift. So, she wrote back.

The Full Report
31 articles, 21 publications


Youngkin approval rating remains stable at 52% even after legislative losses, Roanoke College poll says

By MARKUS SCHMIDT, Cardinal News

Virginians’ approval of Gov. Glenn Youngkin remains about the same from the most recent poll in August, with 52% of Virginians approving of the way Youngkin is handling his job as governor — even after Republicans lost their majority in the House of Delegates and retained their upper hand in the state Senate after the legislative elections earlier this month, a new poll released Thursday by the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College found.


Lynchburg-area legislators preview some plans ahead of 2024 General Assembly

By RODNEY ROBINSON, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

With the General Assembly convening a little more than a month away, the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance hosted “Policy & Pancakes” on Wednesday as a look ahead to the 2024 session. Legislators representing the area had the opportunity to provide their viewpoint on the upcoming session and give a summary of different areas they will work closely on. About 80 people — some university staff, local legislators and city officials — filed into the Liberty University Welcome Center to listen to the recently elected group and eat breakfast.

Republican lawmaker wants permanent daylight saving time in Virginia


Like clockwork, another new year brings another push against seasonal time changes in Virginia. The debate over the biannual clock changes, when most states “fall back” on the first Sunday in November to standard time and “spring forward” on the second Sunday in March to daylight saving time, has drawn different opinions from health experts and lawmakers. One Republican state lawmaker who has stayed focused on the subject, Del. Joseph McNamara (R-Roanoke), is proposing a new bill for Virginia to change to daylight saving year-round if Congress passes a law allowing states to do so.


Stoney files papers to run for governor

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

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is a step closer to announcing his candidacy for governor. Stoney had already made his intentions clear earlier this month that he is going to run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2025, but he made it official this week by filing a formal statement of organization with the Virginia Department of Elections. All that remains is an impending public announcement, which his campaign adviser says will come before the end of the year.


SCC approves latest rate increase for Appalachian Power

By LAURENCE HAMMACK, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

State regulators approved a rate increase for Appalachian Power Co. that will add about $16 to the monthly bill of an average residential customer. The State Corporation Commission’s authorization will not take effect until the last week of January, meaning that the higher cost of electricity will start to show up in February billing statements. Because of different billing cycles, the full impact on all customers will not be realized until they receive bills that are due in March.

Va. Supreme Court rules felon must reimburse state Medicaid for victim’s medical costs

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

The Supreme Court of Virginia last week ruled that a Patrick County man convicted of a 2019 stabbing must pay restitution to the state Medicaid program to cover the costs of the victim’s medical treatment. The ruling reverses an earlier decision by the Virginia Court of Appeals that found the state’s Department of Medical Assistance Services, the agency that administers Virginia’s Medicaid program, could not be reimbursed the more than $22,000 it paid to cover the victim’s medical costs because DMAS was itself not a victim of the crime.


Sen. Kaine skeptical North Korea has satellite images of Naval Station Norfolk


Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) told reporters Thursday he’s skeptical of North Korean state run media claims the country has satellite images of Naval Station Norfolk, Newport News Shipbuilding, and an airfield. “It’s not verified yet, so I’m not even sure that’s true,” he said during a virtual media availability. This week state run media made the claims of having the images, but have not produced them, leading some to question whether they’re real.


Federal regulators give green light to pipeline expansion in Hampton Roads


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently approved the expansion of a natural gas pipeline that stretches through southwest Hampton Roads. Canada-based TC Energy can now start constructing what it calls the Virginia Reliability Project. The company plans to dig up, replace and double the size of about 50 miles of existing pipeline. It stretches from Chesapeake and Suffolk, through Isle of Wight to Sussex and Surry counties.

Virginia Beach defense contractor settles for $2.1 million after federal investigation

By TREVOR METCALFE, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A Virginia Beach defense contractor agreed to pay $2.1 million to settle claims after federal investigators say the company misled the Department of Defense into purchasing foreign-made load-out bags. London Bridge Trading, a manufacturer of tactical military gear and other products, entered the agreement with the federal government and whistleblower Ann Keating on Nov. 20. The civil settlement revolves around allegations the company violated the Buy American Act ...


FAA data shows Virginia airport workers stretched thin; lawmakers decry work conditions


Air traffic controllers at both Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport are collectively clocking thousands of overtime hours each year, Federal Aviation Administration data obtained by DC News Now show. The overtime hours speak to the “dangerous” conditions decried by lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Thursday as Congress weighs an FAA reauthorization bill, facing a Dec. 31 deadline.


Alumnae saved Sweet Briar College. Now one of them will lead the school.

By SUSAN SVRLUGA, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Eight years ago, the president of Sweet Briar College abruptly announced that the more-than-century-old school would shut down. Horrified alumnae rushed in to save the small private women’s college in Virginia — and they did. Now, after a national search, one of those women, Mary Pope Maybank Hutson, will be the school’s 14th president, college leaders announced Thursday. She’ll be the first alumna in the role.

Sweet Briar College names new president

Cardinal News

Sweet Briar College has named Mary Pope Hutson as its new president. Hutson has been interim president since July, following the departure of Meredith Woo. A member of the class of 1983, Hutson is the College’s first alumna president. She was also involved in the Saving Sweet Briar group that held keep the school open when a previous board tried to close it.

Patrick & Henry expands workforce training opportunities with new building


Officials from throughout the Martinsville-Henry County region braved the Thursday morning cold to help mark the formal opening of Patrick & Henry Community College’s new section geared toward engineering, technology and manufacturing. Known as the Manufacturing Engineering Technology 2 complex, or MET 2, the 22,000-square-foot addition is nestled between the original MET 1 and across from the Patriot Centre Industrial Park. MET 2’s grand opening comes six years after the 2017 opening of MET 1.


Investigation launched into site selection process for new FBI headquarters

By JENNIFER SHUTT, Virginia Mercury

The watchdog for the General Services Administration will investigate the process that led the federal agency to choose a Maryland site over two others for the new FBI headquarters. Acting Inspector General Robert Erickson wrote in a letter released Thursday that the “objective will be to assess the agency’s process and procedures for the site selection to relocate the FBI Headquarters.”

Inspector general investigating decision to relocate FBI headquarters to Maryland


A federal watchdog is investigating how the Biden administration chose a site for a new FBI headquarters following a contentious competition marked by allegations of conflict of interest from the bureau’s director. The inspector general for the General Services Administration is probing the decision to replace the FBI’s crumbling headquarters in Washington, D.C., with a facility in Greenbelt, Maryland, rather than a site in Virginia, according to a letter released Thursday by Virginia lawmakers.


Alexandria mayor Justin Wilson says he won’t run for reelection in 2024

By TEO ARMUS, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Alexandria Mayor Justin M. Wilson (D) will not seek reelection next year, he announced Friday, capping off two terms in which he pushed to embrace urban development and steered the Northern Virginia city through the coronavirus pandemic — and opening up what will likely be a hotly contested primary race in June. Wilson, 44, made the announcement in the lengthy, often wonky newsletter he sends out on the first of every month — a hallmark of the plugged-in, tech-savvy style he employed in more than a decade in local government.

Alexandria sent out warning about ski mask ban, but it only went to residents in public housing


Alexandria, Virginia’s housing authority mailed out a warning about the city’s ski mask ban last week, and some recipients say it feels prejudicial. The law has been on the books for years though it’s rarely enforced and was entirely disregarded during the pandemic. The letter notified residents that effective immediately, Alexandria police will arrest anyone over 16 who is caught wearing a ski mask, but it only went to residents of public housing.

Loudoun School Board removes participation threshold requirement for union election

By EVAN GOODENOW, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

As the Loudoun County School Board prepares to vote on the rules for the election that will determine which union will represent employees in contract bargaining talks, some teachers and union representatives say some of the terms are unfair. … The new draft of the certification resolution removes a requirement for 50% of eligible employees to vote in the election, a threshold the union and some board members said was undemocratic. Neighboring Fairfax County has no threshold, while Prince William County has a 50% threshold.

Loudoun Administrators Grapple with Students’ Political Protests


Ramifications of the Israel-Hamas war were brought to the School Board meeting room Nov. 28 as over a dozen students and parents mounted objections to an email sent by Superintendent Aaron Spence about language used in recent peaceful walkouts by student protesters. Comments by school critics aimed at the Palestinian speakers in the room brought a warning from Chair Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) and broader discussion about what the division was doing to protect all students.

Loudoun students say administrators are censoring pro-Palestinian protests

By EVAN GOODENOW, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Saying they've been censored and smeared, several Palestinian-American students, their parents, and supporters denounced Loudoun County Public Schools administrators and Superintendent Aaron C. Spence for their handling of student protests calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. ... about 1,000 Loudoun students at eight of the school division's 18 high schools have protested outside their schools during school hours, according to LCPS. But after the first protests, speakers said students' speeches at the protests have been censored and at least one protest was shut down after LCPS administrators said some of the students' remarks were antisemitic.

New Occoquan Elementary to be Prince William’s first ’net-zero’ school


Plans are set for the new Occoquan Elementary School to replace the 97-year-old original elementary building, becoming the county’s first net-zero school. The new structure will have several design features enabling it to produce as much energy as it uses, making it net-zero. County officials presented the plans for the building at a Prince William County School Board meeting earlier this month.

Who’s thinking about running for mayor in Richmond


The field of potential mayoral candidates is starting to take shape in Richmond. With the election less than a year away and Mayor Stoney term-limited and eyeing the Executive Mansion, the field is still wide open. So far, three current and former members of City Council are weighing runs or have announced campaigns.

Amid businesses’ concerns, Richmond opens new homeless shelters in Northside, downtown

By JONATHAN SPIERS, Richmond BizSense

While concerns remain among some neighboring businesses, city leaders are celebrating the opening today of a long-term home for Richmond’s cold-weather shelter in Northside, as well as a new family shelter downtown. Mayor Levar Stoney and members of Richmond City Council joined officials with homeless services providers Salvation Army and HomeAgain in a news conference Thursday to mark the opening of new and larger capacity shelters at 1900 Chamberlayne Ave. and at 7 N. Second St.

Richmond to open two new shelters ahead of winter


As rates of unhoused people have risen in the City of Richmond, elected officials have begun to answer public demands to provide more permanent housing solutions for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. On Thursday, Nov. 30, Richmond officials announced that a 150-bed inclement weather shelter in Northside operated by the Salvation Army would be opening on Dec. 1, after City Council allocated $1.3 million to renovate two housing shelters earlier in November.

Chesapeake council revokes permit from solid waste handling facility

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

City Council voted 8-0 this week to revoke a conditional use permit from a solid waste handling facility after city staff cited years of violations and noncompliance. The revocation came after City Council tasked the Planning Commission in September with reviewing the use permit for Recycled Properties LLC, operating as Dominion Recycling Center at 5444 Bainbridge Blvd. City staff said the property had been cited multiple times over the last few years for zoning violations ...

Charlottesville City School Board pauses renaming initiative

By LEXIE STADLER, Cavalier Daily

Charlottesville City School Board’s ongoing efforts to update its public school naming policy by disallowing schools to be named after individual people has sparked debate among some community members. As the Board considers its policy, Charlottesville grapples with balancing the legacies of revered educators and addressing historical controversies while also considering public opinion.

Culpeper planners: Latest data center ‘in substantial accord’ with comp plan

By ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION, Culpeper Star Exponent (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Another large data center application in the technology zone area just east of the town of Culpeper is headed to the County Board of Supervisors. The county planning commission unanimously recommended approval at its Nov. 9 meeting of an application from Cielo Digital Infrastructure to rezone 121 acres from Rural Area to Light Industrial along Nalles Mill Road at U.S. Route 15/29, and next to the town’s sewer treatment plant.



Virginia offshore wind project proceeds despite industry setbacks

Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

With final federal approval in hand, Dominion Energy’s $9.8 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project is alive and well despite developments that have prompted questions about Hampton Roads’ future as a major hub in the nation’s fledgling offshore wind industry. News of the federal approval came at the end of October. That same day, Orsted, a Danish wind energy developer, announced the cancellation of two offshore wind projects it had planned in New Jersey.


Dvorak: LGBTQ+ teens won grant, but adults sent money back

By PETULA DVORAK, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia two weeks ago, a group of adults running a public meeting created a blueprint for how to belittle, betray and dismiss kids. “I’m honestly terrified,” one of the teens in Lynchburg admitted as she gathered the courage to address the school board that did this. The kids spoke in quavering voices, some wiping away tears at the Lynchburg City School Board meeting on Nov. 14 as they faced down the adults. Others deployed righteously incandescent teen rage.

Yancey: Aging demographics are driving policy: From Evans Spring to Lynchburg school closings

By DWAYNE YANCEY, Cardinal News

The Roanoke City Council is looking at whether and how to develop Evans Spring, the largest piece of undeveloped land in the city. The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors earlier this year voted to allow development of a 580-acre property. Roanoke College is starting a football team. Randolph College is adding two new sports, competitive cheerleading and men’s volleyball. Radford University is offering free tuition for some in-state students. Ferrum College is reducing tuition. Lynchburg’s school board has voted to close two schools. Seven separate actions in seven different places, but all have one root cause driving them: demographics.


Becerra and Peace: Virginia is lagging in university-level research. Investing in private colleges can change that

By IRMA BECERRA AND CHRISTOPHER PEACE, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Carnegie Commission's pivotal move in 1973 to classify the diversity of higher education institutions was a testament to foresight, acknowledging the multifaceted roles these institutions serve in our nation's educational and economic landscape. The upcoming 2025 revision of this framework, setting rigorous standards for "R1: Very High Research Spending and Doctorate Production," challenges states to harness the full potential of their higher education ecosystems.

Becerra is president of Marymount University. Peace is president of Virginia Private Colleges and previously served 14 years as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates (2006-2020).