The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday will decide on extending the declaration of a local emergency due to the pandemic from the end of this month t0 March 31, 2021.
If approved, the city will end up being under a state of emergency for a little more than a year. It would expire at midnight on March 31.
Council first made the emergency declaration on March 14, when the city only had one positive case and there were 41 cases in Virginia. It was set to expire in June and was extended to the end of September.
There have been 68 deaths and there are or have been 3,716 cases in Alexandria, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Across Virginia, there have been 3,021 deaths and there are or have been 141,138 cases of the virus.
The full emergency declaration is below.
WHEREAS, the Director of Emergency Management of the City of Alexandria, Virginia finds that the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a Communicable Disease of Public Health Threat for Virginia and is of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant a coordinated response by City departments, agencies, and voluntary organization.
WHEREAS, on March 14, 2020, City Council adopted Resolution No. 2928 confirming the Director of Emergency Management’s Declaration of Local Emergency which extended through June 10, 2020. On June 9, 2020, City Council amended such resolution extending the Declaration of Local Emergency through September 30, 2020.
WHEREAS, the Director of Emergency Management finds that the emergency continues to exist and will exist into the future.
THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY DECLARED, that a local emergency exists throughout the City of Alexandria; and IT IS FURTHER DECLARED AND ORDERED, that during the existence of said emergency, the powers, functions and duties of the Director of Emergency Management shall be those prescribed by state law and the ordinances, resolutions and operations plans of the City of Alexandria, and that any actions taken under this declaration shall be directed at the prevention or response for, damages, loss, hardship or suffering threatened by, or resulting from, the emergency.
What a week it’s been in Alexandria.
The pandemic seemed inescapable this week, and much of our coverage was related to dealing with the coronavirus.
Five more fatalities related to the virus were reported by the Virginia Department of Health, and the death toll now stands at 67. There are now or have been 3,671 cases in the city since the first case was reported in March.
The week also began with our coverage of City Council’s passage of a face mask ordinance requiring residents to wear masks in public places. While there is no fine for noncompliance, the new law takes effect on October 1.
There was some heartwarming news. City residents helped a Del Ray business owner raise more than $10,000 after her house burned down on September 12.
We also covered the Little Theatre of Alexandria’s newest COVID-friendly in-person show. Additionally, Alexandria restauranteur Bill Blackburn participated in a COVID-19 vaccine trial this week, and Alexandria resident Ann Samuels safely celebrated her 100th birthday.
The Alexandria City School Board also accepted a name change proposal for Matthew Maury Elementary School. Now with the virtual school year in full swing, we also published a poll on how folks think school is going so far and saw mixed results.
Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.
- ‘Lipstick On A Pig’: BAR Rejects Heritage Old Town Proposal
- Just Listed in Alexandria
- ThePoopBrothers: ‘Fearless’ Del Ray Kids Created New Business Over Summer Break
- UPDATED: Flooding Reported in Parts of City After Heavy Rain
- Man Struck by Bullet While Driving in West End
- Alexandria Hospital Nurse Wins First-Ever Nightingale Award
- Juvenile Arrested After Shots Fired in Arlandria
- City Council Passes Mask Ordinance, and There’s No Fine for Noncompliance
- New Alexandria Boxing Club Works Out Every Sunday at Jones Point Park
- Monte Durham’s New Hair Salon is Opening Saturday in Old Town
- Alexandrian Ann Samuels Turns 100 Years Old
Have a safe weekend!
Mayor: Council to Accelerate Sewer Capacity Projects — “Our ’16 Storm Sewer Capacity Analysis identified 90 areas where the system does not meet our CURRENT design standard of a 10-year storm. Our Stormwater Utility Fee was implemented in ’18 to fund capacity and environmental compliance. Council will now discuss how to accelerate.” [Facebook]
Beyer Attacks Trump’s Environmental Stance — “Trump’s climate change strategy is the same as his pandemic strategy: play it down and pretend it isn’t happening. There are a record number of named storms in the Atlantic and the west coast is on fire.” [Twitter]
Anonymous Donation Helps Expand SNAP Double Dollars Program — “A $10,000 anonymous donation to help fight food insecurity during the pandemic will help the City expand SNAP Double Dollars program, which allows SNAP customers who visit participating Alexandria farmers’ markets to receive up to $20 in double dollars to purchase eligible food products at the markets.” [Facebook]
Environmental Council of Alexandria Decries Taylor Run Restoration Plan — “We’ve got our work cut out for us to make sure that the City doesn’t continue to promote so-called “eco” policies that actually come at the expense of the environment and efforts to reverse global warming.” [Facebook]
Tall Ship Providence Sails Away for Inspections — “And, they’re off… Bright and early this morning, Providence headed out on a voyage to Georgetown, MD for a scheduled haul out and Coast Guard inspection. They’ll inspect the hull, complete any necessary maintenance, and she’ll get a new coat of bottom paint. Please join us in wishing our Captain and crew “Fair winds and following seas.” Providence will return home by the end of September. We look forward to welcoming you back aboard for tours and cruises!” [Facebook]
Classic Car Show in Old Town September 19 — “This Saturday you can head to the parking lot of the Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum for a classic car show featuring a variety of Packards and other ‘orphan’ vehicles.” [Zebra]
Today’s Weather — “During the day, mainly sunny. High 73F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. At night, clear. Low 54F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Spanish Language Teacher — “You must have previous tutoring/teaching experience, and minimum Bachelor’s degree.” [Indeed]
The Alexandria City Council on Saturday passed an ordinance requiring everyone in the city to wear a face mask in public.
The measure passed 5-2, and a $100 civil penalty for not wearing a mask was removed from the ordinance before passage after it was universally agreed at the meeting by council and city staff that it will not be enforceable. The city manager must now designate city staff to hand out masks and citations to lawbreakers.
The ordinance will go into effect on October 1 and expire when Alexandria’s local emergency declaration ends.
“I think it’s good in the sense that it signals our intent to the community,” City Councilman Mo Seifeldein said. “I did not think this is actually going to be enforced at all, but there there are many laws or ordinances that have binds that are not enforced because we use our discretion and common sense in doing them.”
City Councilman Canek Aguirre and Councilwoman Del Pepper voted against the mask ordinance. Aguirre said that the matter was never brought forward to council by The Partnership For A Healthier Alexandria, the Public Health Advisory Commission, Neighborhood Health or the Inova hospital system.
“I’m in opposition to this,” Aguirre said. “I strongly feel that an ordinance is not the way to go, especially when there’s absolutely no way to enforce this.”
A number of city residents spoke against the ordinance.
“I come to you as someone who’s already been physically assaulted by two men for requiring them wearing face masks in my business,” said Alan Pounders, who runs a restaurant along the waterfront. “Myself and my staff, we’ve been verbally assaulted over this on almost a daily basis.”
There are exceptions. Children under the age of 10 will not be required to wear a mask, nor will people with disabilities that can’t wear them for health reasons and athletes falling within the governor’s executive order on COVID-19 restrictions.
There are 62 COVID-related fatalities and there are now or have been 3,613 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Alexandria has experienced its fair share of flooding in recent days, and on Saturday City Council will receive an oral presentation by the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services on $750 million in water improvement projects.
On Thursday, September 10, flooding was reported throughout the city in the latest of a string of summer weather events that have shut down swaths of roadways, flooded alleyways and homes. The city sent out an advisory warning residents of “indoor sewer backups, impassable roads, power outages, and other flood-related issues.”
Nine city crews are inspecting and cleaning waterways, according to the city.
“Today’s rainfall was approximately 2.5 to 4 inches at a rate as high as 3 inches in 10 minutes,” the city said. “This was an intense, regional storm that caused widespread flooding throughout Alexandria, particularly in the eastern portion, and included storm sewer line surges and sanitary backups.”
@AmyJacksonVA @justindotnet @chapman4council Not my photos/vid – my next door neighbor took these of today’s flooding in Alexandria in the alleyway and gave me permission to share them with you. pic.twitter.com/jk2K0VRLKD
— Heather § (@H_Starek) September 11, 2020
Mayor Justin Wilson said that the city is planning infrastructure improvement projects in its 10-year Capital Improvement Program.
“Today, Alexandria spends a significant amount of money on infrastructure designed to manage water,” Wilson wrote in his monthly newsletter. “In April, the City Council approved a $2.1 billion, ten-year Capital Improvement Program. Of that, over $150 million is to address stormwater and sanitary sewer infrastructure. Alexandria Renew Enterprises, the City’s sewer authority, plans another $593 million of capital investments over the next decade, primarily the RiverRenew project to remediate the Combined Sewer (sanitary and stormwater) system that serves Old Town.”
The city can currently handle a 10-year storm, but the July 8, 2019, and the July 23, 2020, storms were “more intense than this design standard, with the July 23 event about 30 times more intense,” according to the city. “Out of the 83 ‘problem areas’ in the City’s eight watersheds, the top two watersheds were Hooff’s Run and Four Mile Run, with 23 ‘problem areas’ each. More detailed planning and analysis will take place to assess the overall implementation feasibility (including construction) prior to full design of these large-scale capital projects.”
The mayor’s full message is below.
After Flooding, Councilman Says City Stormwater Management Needs Work — “Councilmember Chapman tells 7 On Your Side Thursday’s flooding means city leaders need to quickly consider wholesale changes in terms of storm management.” [WJLA]
City Extends Deadline on Personal Property Tax Payments — “To provide relief for our residents and businesses during the ongoing pandemic, the City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to extend the deadline for payment of the Personal Property Tax (Car Tax and Business). Payments are now due on December 15th.” [Twitter]
Casa Chirilagua Gets Grant to Develop Wifi-Friendly Outdoor Space — “AlexandriaVA.gov and Casa Chirilagua are working together to bridge the digital divide by building a safe and comfortable outdoor space with Wi-Fi for local students.” [Facebook]
Beyer Says Trump Watches Too Much TV — “The President says he is watching many hours of television a day as the country continues to reel amid its worst and deadliest crisis in most Americans’ lifetimes.” [Twitter]
City Wins National Technology Award for Remote 911 Call-Taking — “The annual PTI Solutions Awards recognize PTI member cities and counties that have implemented or updated innovative technology solutions within the past 15 months that positively affected local government performance and service to the public.” [CompTIA]
ALIVE! Free Food Distribution on Saturday — “ALIVE! Truck-to-Trunk will distribute food at two drive-through sites on Saturday, September 12 from 8:30 am – 10:30 am at the parking lots of Cora Kelly (3600 Commonwealth Ave) and John Adams (5651 Rayburn Ave) Elementary Schools. This distribution includes bags of shelf stable groceries, fresh produce, and eggs, while supplies last. People are encouraged to drive through. Walks-ups should maintain 6 feet social distance, wear a face mask, and bring carts or reusable bags to carry food home. “[Facebook]
Today’s Weather — “Sunshine and clouds mixed during the day. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 82F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph. At night, partly cloudy. Low near 65F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Spa Coordinator — “This experience includes answering phones, scheduling spa services, greeting all customers, assisting with inquiries, and processing point of sale transactions for all products, always exceeding expectations.” [Indeed]
Can’t avoid a crowd in Alexandria? On Saturday, the Alexandria City Council will vote on an ordinance that requires people to wear face masks indoors and outdoors in settings where six feet of physical distancing can’t be followed.
A $100 civil fine would be imposed on lawbreakers, but city staff maintain that the ordinance is geared toward education and not enforcement. Police officers will not issue the civil citations, and the city manager’s office has yet to designate a city agency that would administer them. If approved, the ordinance would go into effect on October 1 and expire when Alexandria’s local emergency declaration ends.
“Personally, I don’t go anywhere without a mask,” said Councilman Canek Aguirre, who questioned the effectiveness of the enforcement aspect. “I am in favor of this ordinance and the concept of it, however I do have some hesitation.”
City Councilwoman Amy Jackson said the community has received enough education over COVID-19 over the last six months.
“My concern is that this is window dressing,” Jackson said. “If it’s a $100 fine and we’re down on lower King Street, who is enforcing it?”
There are exceptions. Children under the age of 10 will not be required to wear a mask, nor will people with disabilities that can’t wear them for health reasons and athletes falling within the governor’s executive order on COVID-19 restrictions.
What about waiting for food at a restaurant?
“Face coverings are still required to be worn while waiting to receive food or beverages, or during substantial breaks between periods of eating and drinking,” the ordinance states.
Assistant City Manager Debra Collins said that this is an important step in flattening the curve.
“We’re hoping that by having whatever designated department staff, whether it’s Parks and Rec., maybe some T&ES (Transportation and Environmental Services) and they see the need for some compliance, that we can offer the mask and we’re not necessarily charging one population that probably can not afford it,” Collins said.
City Manager Mark Jinks has not yet designated which department will ensure compliance, but said that staff will hand out face masks in public as a first step.
“I would say it’s about getting compliance through education, through having people who are not law enforcement officers who are on the streets,” Jinks said. “You basically tell somebody, ‘This is what you need to do for the good of the population, here’s a face mask,’ and you move on to the next person.”
Jinks added, “The advantage of having the ordinance is that it’s the law, you need to do this, and that helps underscore to folks that they need to keep the face masks on when they’re in public places described in this ordinance.”
Councilman Mo Seifeldein anticipates city staff will gently enforce the ordinance.
“I think we need to be as safe as we can, but at the end of the day it’s going to be a social responsibility by each of us to try and wear the mask whenever possible, and this is a step that will hopefully get us to that point,” Seifeldein said. “We want this to become a habit over time.”
There are 62 COVID-related fatalities and there are now or have been 3,558 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday night unanimously sent a proposal establishing a community police review board back to the drawing board.
In Tuesday night’s legislative meeting, Councilman Mo Seifeldein said that city staff did not include his desire to give the review board independent investigative authority to look into police misconduct and issue subpoenas. Seifeldein said he was clear with his request to City Manager Mark Jinks when Council unanimously directed the creation of the review board proposal in June.
Jinks said that the police department’s investigative authority works well and that he presented a proposal to fit Council’s request.
“I believe that we bought forth a specific proposal that was within the confines, within the parameters, of what we believe Council was looking for — a police review board in an ordinance form,” Jinks said. “We did not interpret Council’s direction to be that a board itself be an investigative authority, and that authority be removed from the police department.”
Seifeldein asked Jinks if he remembered the June meeting and said he does not want to take investigative authority away from the police.
“I don’t know, to be honest with you, Mr. Jinks, too many reasonable people who would have watched that meeting and come up with that same conclusion that the Council did not want to look at investigative authority,” Seifeldein said.
Mayor Justin Wilson said he believed that Jinks did not intentionally mislead Council with his proposal.
“I believe that the city manager and his staff presented a recommendation that is in alignment with what the council requested him to do,” Wilson said.
Jinks presented Council with a proposal that would create an independent auditor to work with the board to conduct “broad evaluations, offer recommendations for improving policing policies, practices, procedures and training.” The proposal limits the board from investigating complaints that occurred before June 9. That includes any complaints against the department, “any financial management, or procurement decisions made by APD… individual hiring, assignment and promotional decisions made by the APD.”
“We do want an independent investigation of some things,” said Councilwoman Amy Jackson. “That’s what the point of this is.”
Councilman Canek Aguirre said staff needs to go back to the drawing board and asked for more information on other community police review boards around the country. In Virginia, there are such boards in Fairfax County, Virginia Beach and Charlottesville.
“We do need to go back to the drawing board to reassess what are our options and power,” Aguirre said, adding that the proposal was created within a short timeframe. “I think that we need to go back and revisit the whole thing.”
Jinks said he understood Council’s request and that he will present an option for the community police review board with subpoena power with an auditor/independent investigator at Council’s next legislative meeting on October 17.
The Alexandria City Council has pushed a decision to add Virginia Tech’s initials to the Potomac Yard Metro Station.
Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus is promised to bring a massive redevelopment to the area, although no buildings have yet to be constructed and no students are on site. Consequently, some members of council were concerned that the school’s request to add the name to the Metro station would not meet Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority naming guidelines.
“I am nervous about christening this Virginia Tech station when we have not seen an actual building,” said City Councilman John Chapman.
The Metro station is planned to open by spring 2022 and the Virginia Tech Innovation campus is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024. This and next month, the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review and the Planning Commission will receive half a dozen plans for the 1.9 million square-foot mixed use North Potomac Yard development. The campus will accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.
Yon Lambert, director of the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, said that making the name change now would save upward of $350,000 in rebranding should the decision to rename the station be made at a later date. He also said that WMATA would have to grant an exception for the name change, since a campus with 5,000 students is the usual baseline for a name change.
“What Metro has indicated to the city is that, assuming that we bring it forward to Metro before the end of this calendar year, it can be done without any additional costs incurred by the city,” Lambert said. “But if if the station name proposal is brought forward later, either in association with a map change or without a map change the cost can be significant, ranging from $350,000 on the low end to more than $1 million, and those numbers could increase significantly over time.”
Mayor Justin Wilson supported the name change.
“I just want to be crystal clear, in the future if anybody would like to invest a billion dollars next to one of our metro stations, I will lobby to put your name on the station,” Wilson said.
David Baker, a representative from Virginia Tech, said that there will be construction on site when the Potomac Yard station opens in 2022.
“When the station is open, there will be active construction happening,” Baker said. “We are on track as of today, and our obligation to the Commonwealth is to be open for classes and start having the student Innovation Campus in Potomac Yard by the fall of 2024.”
Photo via City of Alexandria
City Councilman Mo Seifeldein says that the community police review board proposal going before City Council tonight (Tuesday, September 8) is “dead in the water.”
The proposal from Council was approved unanimously in June, and does not give the review board the ability to independently investigate police misconduct and issue subpoenas if necessary. The request to include the authority was made by the NAACP, Tenants and Workers, and other local groups, Seifeldein said.
“The Police Review Board Recommendation, while well intentioned, is DOA as it is deaf to the pain of over policed communities, disregards an expressed request by Council, and is essentially a glorified pacifier,” Seifeldein told ALXnow. “I am looking forward to the justification of this proposal.”
Seifeldein introduced the legislation that passed unanimously in June. In Virginia, there are such boards in Fairfax County, Virginia Beach and Charlottesville.
Council will also review a resolution that “recognizes the urgent need to adopt a police body worn camera policy and it shall make it a priority in the City Council work plan.”
The proposal, which was drawn up by the city manager’s office, states that the board will “provide meaningful assessments and corrective recommendations intended to remedy discriminatory practices, including race and social inequities, that it may find.”
The proposal would limit the board from investigating complaints that occurred before June 9, which is the date that council voted for the creation of the board. That includes any complaints against the department, “any financial management, or procurement decisions made by APD… individual hiring, assignment and promotional decisions made by the APD,” according to the proposal.
As previously reported, there has been a renewed focus on police activities this year. During the worst days of the pandemic, patrol officers were sent home to telework, and there were demonstrations throughout the city in the wake of the death of George Floyd. In July, an internal survey of one of the police department unions found that a majority of officers surveyed were upset over the firing of an officer for unjustified use of force. The survey by the Alexandria chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association found that morale was low and a majority of officers surveyed were wary of not receiving a fair administrative process if their conduct is called into question.
Police Chief Michael L. Brown said in June that such a review board has a negative connotation.
“I do not disagree with the concept of oversight,” Brown said. “I may be mincing words here, but a ‘review board’ as its phrased in our world, in policing, has a very negative connotation.”
The proposal states that the board would be made up of:
- Seven city residents appointed by Council
- Three members from historically racially or socially marginalized communities that have “commonly experienced disparate policing in the city”
- A representative from a racial or social justice organization
- A member with law enforcement experience
- Four members would serve three year terms, three members would serve on the inaugural board for 18 month terms
Badge photo via Alexandria Police Department/Facebook
Former Alexandria City Councilman Willie Bailey has done it again. Over the weekend, Bailey and a large collection of supporting organizations, groups and volunteers gave out more than 800 backpacks full of school supplies and thousands of books, with ice cream on the side.
Bailey, a deputy fire chief for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, was raised in Alexandria and says he’s just paying it forward.
“I’m just making sure these kids are able to succeed and do good and give back to society when they get old,” Bailey told ALXnow. “And that they remember what someone once did for them. That’s all.”
The distributions took place at Charles Houston Recreation Center on Saturday and outside T.C. Williams High School on Sunday.
Bailey was joined by representatives from the Alexandria Police and Fire Departments, Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the Sheriff’s office and the Departmental Progressive Club. The Alexandria nonprofit InspireLit was also on-hand and provided thousands of books for kids to take home.
ARHA representative Daynelle Diaz said that the supplies will have a major impact.
“We’ve had a lot of families that have either lost work or haven’t been able to work,” she said. “With no money coming in, this is a big relief, because even though kids are going to be online for school, they’re still going to need supplies. This is a great weight off their shoulders.”
City Councilman Canek Aguirre volunteered at the event and praised Bailey.
“My hat goes off to Willie Bailey,” he said. “Just because of the pandemic, and he doesn’t stop and he’s here to help fill an important need. We’re greatly appreciative to him for everything that he does for the city.”
Bailey also said that his annual coat drive is still happening this fall.
— Alexandria Sheriff (@AlexVASheriff) August 22, 2020
Alexandria commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment on Tuesday with a socially distant ceremony outside the Kate Waller Barrett Library.
Mayor Justin Wilson read a city proclamation that recounted the dozens of suffragists who were imprisoned, tortured and ultimately released from the Occoquan Workhouse after their case was thrown out in the federal courthouse in Alexandria.
“For a lot of the women who live in the city of Alexandria, it took several more decades until we provided universal suffrage and universal franchise for everyone,” Wilson said. “We certainly commemorate that history, that this was the beginning of what was a longer struggle for a lot of women and that work continues on today.”
Women’s suffrage came to a head in 1917 when more than 70 women were jailed, beaten and force-fed at the Occoquan Workhouse. Reports of their severe treatment largely influenced the passage of the Amendment, including the story of Lucy Burns, who was force fed through her nose and spent a “night of terror” with her hands cuffed above her head.
Councilwoman Amy Jackson said that it’s important to pay it forward.
“Days like this fill me with personal pride,” she said. “We got here on the shoulders of others, like Del Pepper. She’s been on council 35 years, and some times she was the only woman on council.”
“I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” Pepper said. “The ladies that I’m talking about offered a vision for a meaningful path forward.”
Gretchen Bulova, director of the Office of Historic Alexandria, is working with Alexandria Living Legend Pat Miller to install a marker in the next couple of months outside the courthouse in Carlyle.
“It’s the women’s community who have helped to preserve and save this community and build the experience you see here today,” Bulova said. “Alexandria has a really strong record of doing that. And it’s because people are willing to put themselves out there.”