Weeks of tension and frustration over violence in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) boiled over last night with a small crowd of parents shouting at City Council members to restore the school resource officer (SRO) program.
In May, the City Council voted 4-3 in favor of reallocating funding away from SROs, a program started in 1997 that installed police officers in Alexandria’s high school and two middle schools. While the schools have additional security staff, SROs were authorized make arrests and carry weapons — a fact that made headlines in 2018 when an SRO accidentally fired his gun inside George Washington Middle School.
“My daughter with special needs is at ACPS,” said Jennifer Rohrbach, who drops her child off at school every day. “I witnessed two fights while dropping off my daughter. The lack of support for these kids, it’s distressing and upsetting. For me, as a lifelong Alexandrian… to hear those screams of distress, it’s unnecessary. There have been fights before, but not to this level.”
Rohrbach shared stories circulating among parents about extreme accounts of bullying and concerns about a “devious licks challenge” on TikTok. Rohrbach said the removal of SROs, intended to help reduce the school-to-prison pipeline, has made the schools unsafe for all students. Though she wore a shirt supporting Republican Mayoral candidate Annetta Catchings, Rohrbach said she’s traditionally liberal and that the protest was non-partisan.
“A lot of defunding the program was about the African American population, but this is about all kids,” Rohrbach said. “Now no one is being served. I’m looking for safe schools for all students.”
Catchings was one of those protesting in support of restoring the SRO program.
“I’m out here in solidarity with parents,” Catchings said. “On the drive over, I thought back to the start of my campaign holding an ‘Open ACPS‘ sign… we have to make school a safe environment that isn’t toxic.”
One of the protestors, Roxana Guerra, is the parent of a 7th grader at George Washington Middle School. Guerra said she’s been in a state of constant anxiety after her son was assaulted in school.
“Two weeks ago, my son was bullied,” Guerra said. “His mask was pulled and he was slapped in the face. I didn’t find out until another parent told me, then the dean confirmed it… that he was hurt. I have anxiety every day and hope that he comes home safe. Finding this out by a third party was concerning, and anything could happen if these kids are coming in with weapons. I want our kids to be safe.”
Others at the protest noted that parents are so on edge a firecracker set off an evacuation from Alexandria City High School’s stadium during a football game.
“I’m a native Alexandrian, a product of ACPS,” said Liz Fuller. “The violence in schools is shocking. Children are not safe in school… Administrators are being pushed down in fights, security is being pushed, children are suffering brain injuries. The City Council has to listen to parents. They need to be held accountable. They defunded SROs with no plan.”
Protestors cornered City Council members who voted to defund the program as they entered City Hall, demanding that they change their position. Two, John Chapman and Canek Aguirre, briefly spoke with the crowd. Amy Jackson, who had voted against defunding the program, received more of a hero’s welcome from the crowd as she entered the building. Read More
Facing no electoral opposition in her November reelection, Alexandria School Board Chair Meagan Alderton says the next three years will be full of challenges. For one thing, the incoming nine-member board will have six new faces who will be challenged to lead a school system beset by controversy.
“I am definitely concerned about the turnover of the board,” Alderton told ALXnow. “One of the greatest challenges in today’s public schools in general is what I call the revolving door. We really reached a critical juncture in which we can’t even expect and plan to our support personnel — teachers, principals, leadership, superintendents… To not stick around for at least five years is devastating to our potential for progress.”
While many have criticized the school system’s reopening to full-time instruction as taking too long, Alderton gives ACPS high marks — an eight out of 10. She credits ACPS staffers who provided students with laptops, free meals and virtual instruction with keeping things afloat.
“I found it to be very humbling,” she said. “And overall I think they (staff) really did a good job to ensure that everybody had access to meals. We continued to focus on supporting the whole child, regardless of the physical environment.”
Alderton, the second Black woman to lead as Board Chair since Shirley Tyler 40 years ago, was elected to represent District C in 2018. Her fellow District C members Ramee Gentry and Heather Thornton did not file to run for reelection, and candidates Abdel-Rahman Elnoubi and Christopher Harris are shoo-ins for the two open slots in the district.
She was named Board chair in an internal election in January, and is a former special education teacher at elementary and middle schools in the city. She is also a licensed Realtor, her husband is a track coach at Alexandria City High School and, like Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., her children attend private school.
Alderton said she sends her kids to private school for faith-based reasons.
“I didn’t come into the role to serve myself for the benefit of my own children,” she said. “I came into this role to use my skills and expertise in love for education as a benefit to all kids…. It’s a very private thing, it’s a faith based thing, and hopefully people can can see my heart and my dedication towards the work, because I know what needs to be done.”
Alderton’s term was also punctuated by the renaming of T.C. Williams High School and recent elimination of the School Resource Officer program by City Council. She says that there is a lot of work to do to rebuild the relationship between the Board and Council.
“I definitely have a good relationship with the mayor,” she said. “I expect that that will continue. I have found him to be supportive of the School Board, of the school division. In regard to what needs to happen in the future with Council, I think we’re going to have to do some really intentional work to rebuild the relationship.”
Alderton says that ACPS and the police department need to get creative in preserving its memorandum of understanding with the police department.
“I think it’s important for our students to have access to our police officers, not just when they’re out in the community,” Alderton told ALXnow. “I do want our police department to stay in touch with our schools. It is an important connection, and I’m sure we can come up with some good ideas.”
Alderton says that her defining characteristic is remaining calm under pressure.
“There’s so much going on around and swirling around, and there has been so much going on and swirling around during the pandemic,” she said. “Overall, I’m just a very calm person. I don’t find value in overreacting, and I have learned a lot about how to manage crisis. When everyone around you is in crisis, as a leader it is essential for you to be rational and to be what everyone else just can’t be in that moment, for a very justifiable reason. If you are going to lead, people need to be able to get some of that calmness and steadiness from you as a leader.”
After the end of the eviction moratorium, Alexandria’s City Council is looking to step up protection for locals facing eviction.
According to a docket item for tomorrow’s (Tuesday) City Council meeting, city staff are recommending that the city fund new services and positions aimed to support Alexandria households going through the eviction process.
The proposed supports are:
- Two service navigators and two housing relocator positions ($307,000)
- Storage assistance for household belongings ($50,000)
- Additional legal services to assist those at risk for eviction ($50,000)
The service navigators provide support through outreach, including door-to-door knocking, community events, and outreach at properties with higher rates of eviction, a memo by City Manager Mark Jinks said. The service navigators also help applicants through completion and submission of rental relief applications. Housing relocators, meanwhile, help displaced residents secure stable housing — a service Jinks said is not currently available except at emergency shelters.
The suggestions came out of the city’s Eviction Prevention Task Force, which started last year and is comprised members of various city departments and outside organizations, like Tenants and Workers united and Christ Church.
“The housing crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has sharply increased the risk of long-term harm to renter families and individuals, disruptions of the market affordable housing market and the potential for foreclosure and bankruptcy, especially among small property owners,” Jinks wrote in the memo. “Following eviction, a person’s likelihood of experiencing homelessness increases, mental and physical health are diminished and the probability of obtaining employment declines. Eviction is also linked with respiratory disease, which could increase the risk of complications if COVID-19 is contracted. Instability, like eviction, is particularly damaging to children, who suffer in ways that impact their educational development and well-being.”
Even before the moratorium expired, some local landlords were starting the eviction process and laying the groundwork to evict tenants. Unemployment skyrocketed to record highs last year, though unemployment figures have gradually improved over the last year. In late August, the Supreme Court invalidated a federal eviction moratorium that would have halted evictions in some places through Oct. 3. The memo noted that Legal Services of Northern Virginia have provided legal assistance to 1,031 individuals through courthouse outreach and the Office of Community Services and the Office of Housing have assisted 3,717 households to successfully apply for rental assistance.
“The immediacy of this halt in the eviction moratorium has created devastating impacts to some households in our community, with an increase of eviction filings,” Jinks wrote.
The memo noted that since the pandemic started, 2,135 residential “Unlawful Detainer Summons” — which initiates the eviction process — have been filed. Of those, 599 (28%) were found in favor of the landlord and 1,307 (61%) were dismissed or classified as non-suited. In total, 283 writs of eviction have been issued.
“These cases could have been stopped by the CDC moratorium anywhere along the process,” Jinks wrote. “With the moratorium lifted, approximately 134 households are believed to be at immediate risk of eviction.”
Jinks wrote that for local residents that have been struggling to pay rent through the pandemic, the worst could still be ahead.
“The overall trends in the data do not indicate that there is an uptick at this time in eviction filings, but rather that there were many households over the past year and a half that started the eviction process but were legally protected by the CDC moratorium,” Jinks said. “Now that the moratorium has ended, staff anticipates that the pipeline will begin to move again, and the City will experience an increase in residents who need assistance in applying for state rental assistance and to find new housing, and who will require other resources.”
The positions will be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act for the next 12 months — $357,000 for City staffing plus eviction storage costs plus Legal Aid Justice Center $60,000. The memo noted its likely that the program will need an additional $500,000 in the next tranche of ARPA funding in the FY 2023 budget.
What a busy week in Alexandria.
Our top story this week was on a juvenile who was shot outside the McDonald’s at the Bradlee Shopping Center on Tuesday, Sept. 21. There have also been a number of concerning incidents at Alexandria City Public Schools, including a juvenile who was arrested for trespassing and assault and battery at Alexandria City High School.
Meanwhile, while the COVID-19 transmission rate remains high, public events are still happening in Alexandria.
- Connection Newspapers managing editor Kemal Kurspahic dies
- City Council approves new plastic bag tax for local grocery and convenience stores
- Electric scooter docks could replace some on-street parking in Alexandria
- City looks to state funding for Holmes Run Trail improvement and West End Transitway
- MacArthur Elementary shut down by water damage
- New Indian restaurant in Old Town eyes late October opening
- School Board to vote on transgender revisions in Alexandria City Public Schools
- ‘Fences’ is a triumph at The Little Theatre of Alexandria
- What’s the difference between Alexandria’s co-living policy and regular apartments?
- Government contractor in Alexandria under fire from Department of Labor for systemic racism in hiring practices
- Police: Juvenile shot at shopping center near Alexandria City High School
- Police dispatched three times for fighting at Alexandria City Public Schools in less than a month
- Police: Six hospitalized after overdoses on Alexandria-Fairfax border
- Poll: What do you think of Metro’s proposed Blue Line crossing to National Harbor?
- BREAKING: Flooding reported in Alexandria
- Interview: Port City Publius opens up about Alexandria
- BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
- Juvenile arrested for trespassing and assault and battery at Alexandria City High School
- Multiple violent charges dropped against Fairfax County man held without bond for assaulting police during arrest
- Preserving Arlandria’s affordability against gentrification could cost upward of $100 million
- JUST IN: One person injured after shots fired in West End Tuesday afternoon
Have a safe weekend!
The City of Alexandria is sending a funding request to the state that could help create a better Holmes Run Trail Bridge and push the West End Transitway into its next phase.
At an upcoming City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 28, the Council is scheduled to review (item 14) a submission to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) for regional transportation funding in FY 2026 to FY 2027. The request is for funding from the NVTA’s 70% Program, which aims to reduce congestion and increase quality of life with projects of regional significance.
The City is seeking two $5 million grants for two longtime projects in the West End.
Part of the request is for more funding to the West End Transitway, a project that will bring bus rapid transit to the West End, from Van Dorn Metro station to the Pentagon with stops along the West End at locations like Southern Towers and the former-Landmark Mall. The West End Transitway had previously received $4.6 million from the program for the first phase of the project.
Now, the city is hoping for $5 million for part two, which would bring dedicated transit lanes and other transit adjustments to South Van Dorn Street and the Van Dorn bridge between Metro Road and McConnell Avenue.
The staff presentation noted that the dedicated transit lanes in phase two of the project would help increase travel choices in Alexandria and reduce single occupancy vehicle travel. Part of the overall goal of the project is to provide better transit access to the densely populated areas of the West End that aren’t near Metro stations.
The second $5 million request is to build a better crossing of Holmes Run Trail at Morgan Street. The new pedestrian and bicycle bridge would replace a current “fair weather crossing” at Holmes Run. The current crossing is a path that runs through shallow water that often becomes dangerous to cross during the city’s increasingly frequent flooding.
A city presentation said the improvement could create a more resilient, safer, and more reliable trail network — though parts of the trail still remain damaged from flooding in recent years.
Alexandria seeks input on phase II revision of noise ordinance — “On May 15, the Alexandria City Council adopted phase I technical revisions of the City’s noise ordinance. The City is now seeking public input on a phase II revision that would address policy issues associated with land use, noise levels and changes with noise sources. The objective is to finalize this revision for Council consideration by the end of 2021.” [City of Alexandria]
Alexandria author writes book on 19th century Scottish migrant — “First-time author Ellen Hamilton has spent years working on the story of William Gregory, who settled here in Alexandria in 1807. Now, her first book, ‘A Scottish Migration to Alexandria’, is going into print.” [Alexandria Living]
Alexandria Health Department to offer free flu shots — “In an effort to ensure that the community has access to the influenza vaccine, the Alexandria Health Department is hosting a free clinic on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Hammond Middle School from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.” [Zebra]
Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with scattered thunderstorms arriving in the afternoon. High 79F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening, then mainly cloudy overnight with thunderstorms likely. Potential for heavy rainfall. Low 68F. Winds SSE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 90%.” [Weather.com]
New job: Temporary bilingual COVID-19 vaccine promoter — “. The Vaccine Promotor(a)/CVN will engage with residents of underserved communities to provide education about COVID-19 and the importance of vaccination. The Promotor(a) will work with Neighborhood Health’s COVID-19 Outreach team to plan an overall outreach strategy and provide support to other vaccine-related activities.” [Indeed]
Who is this writer? Is Port City Publius more than one person?
Port City Publius wouldn’t answer those specific questions, but the writer opined on a number of Alexandria-centric topics in a recent interview.
ALXnow: You are very funny in your posts. Who are your favorite writers?
Port City Publius: Charlie Pierce is a good example of someone whose writing and worldview has influenced my approach; I definitely have an affinity for the ink-stained wretch set. Caitlin Flanagan writes the way I want to write, though the majority of her takes suck pretty bad. Alexandra Petri, without question. Tressie McMillan Cottom. James Baldwin. Ursula Le Guin. bell hooks. Mel Brooks. Tolkien, except for the Silmarillion which is terrible and anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves. C. Wright Mills and Arlie Russell Hochschild. All the writers in the Jezebel and Deadspin diaspora remain indispensable. Elizabeth Bruenig often makes me challenge and reassess my priors. I’ve read Jamelle Bouie and Matt Yglesias going back to when they were both at Slate. I think Jason Isbell has a lot of smart things to say.
ALXnow: What inspired you to embark as Port City Publius?
Port City Publius: You know the famous scene from Network, the one where the sweaty guy is shouting about how angry he is? Well that was me five years ago. I finally sat through one too many public meetings where the only testimony was from retirees with incredibly intense outlier opinions about how many buildings built after 1800 should exist (none) how much noise and fun is ok (also none) and how many working-class people could be permitted to try and eke out a life in this city (spoiler: it’s none again). It remains fu**ing wild to me that nearly anyone who wants to run a business in this city has to first put up with some guy named Carl who last worked for OMB in 1987 say that he’d really rather they only be open from 1-3pm on alternate Tuesdays because the shadows cast by business patrons might damage the rare book collection he keeps near the front windows of his home.
I knew from conversations with different groups of friends and sewing circles and tennis partners and drinking buddies that most people around here felt pretty differently about things, but this perspective wasn’t being heard or included in public dialogues because we have, uh, lives and sh**. So I set out to put a voice to that. To establish a counter-narrative to the intensely tedious NIMBY bull**** that had infected the waterfront plan, among other things at that time.
ALXnow: When do you decide to publish? Do you only strike when needed?
Port City Publius: First I ask myself “do I have real work to do this week” at which point the answer is usually yes and nothing gets published. Beyond that, I’m typically looking for something to catalyze my internal barometer of “well that sh** can’t stand.”
ALXnow: What are you going to write about next? Is there a list of topics, or do you shoot from the hip?
Port City Publius: As Gloria Steinem famously said, without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming after all is a form of planning. I’m sorry what was the question again?
ALXnow: What is your political philosophy? Has it changed over the last few years? What prompted that change?
Port City Publius: I think we have an obligation to prevent the immiseration of each and every one of our fellow citizens, and that government intervention is a necessary and crucial part of that. I’d say I generally follow the teachings and live the values that right-wing Christians pretend to believe in: you know, loving your neighbor and taking care of the poor and seeing the worth and potential in every person and whatnot.
To the extent that you can map me onto the political spectrum, I’d fairly describe myself as progressive; but I also think the left/right dichotomy is often reductive, and both mainstream political parties can be pretty lame and show excessive deference to the status quo at the expense of pursuing transformative change.
ALXnow: You like saying ‘Yes’ to development and decry NIMBY’s. Can you spell out the future that you’d like to see realized for the city?
Port City Publius: Used in this context “development” is an essentially useless term that has been effectively weaponized by the modern inheritors of the Know-Nothings. I think we should say yes to a wide variety of things that move this city forward in a manner that benefits a broad constituency of residents and interests, even if the proposed thing looks and feels different and isn’t made of bricks and cobblestone. I would not broadly describe each of these things as “development.” If I built you a gorgeous brand-new public waterfront park, would you call that “development”? If I tear down an over-enrolled and under-maintained elementary school and replace it with a beautiful new building, is that “development”? I think it tremendously sucks that the grumps and busybodies in this city get to describe anything they benefit from as “investment” and anything they think inconveniences them as “development.”
The future I want is one in which we radically reduce the resident veto over the ability to do business here. This is not the goddamn United States Senate, old white men do not have a divine right to filibuster the necessary progress desired by the majority of the populace. I want a future where more people try out the words “sure, why not” rather than their reflexive “well, actually.”
There exists an intense bias toward the preservation of the status quo, even on the part of (especially on the part of) people who otherwise think of themselves as well-meaning. I am reminded of King’s disappointment in the white moderate, and his searing observation that “shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will” and really the point I’m trying to make here is that more of you need to read “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
The future that I want for us is one in which we do things that make us feel uncomfortable because feeling a little uncomfortable is actually ok.
ALXnow: With the most recent primary election, is the city headed in the direction you want?
Port City Publius: I think the seven candidates on the Democratic slate generally seem like well-intentioned, thoughtful people. And I think we can roughly extrapolate that they would govern in a well-intentioned and thoughtful manner. I think it’s hilarious that a dude who worked for Jesse Helms is laboring under the deluded belief that someone who accommodated and enabled a notorious segregationist can get elected here.
But I also think the notion of the city being headed in a particular direction lasts exactly as long as the interval of time between each council public hearing. The people on that dais are complicated, flawed, fallible people — just like each of us. The exercise here is not to bestow upon them some blank cheque mandate to go forth and rule over Pax Alexandria, may the sun never set on our empire. No, we should challenge them and hold them to account and measure their success by the fidelity to which they hew to the shared values they have publicly committed to. This is not baseball. You should not be a fan of one party or another–of one politician or another–and in doing so blindly overlook the ways in which they are failing to live up to the best version of themselves. They are public servants. They are an avatar of our collective will, and we should never lose sight of that.
That all being said: do I think we are headed in a better direction right now than if the candidates mostly running because they thought city council was like a Super HOA had won? Yes. Yes I do think we are headed in a better direction.
Port City Publius: That they probably shouldn’t have kicked so many people out of the group.
No, listen. I sort of mean that. Their thin-skinned pettiness is absolutely the reason they didn’t win anyone around to their point of view. They kicked out so many people! And every one of those people told ten other people (who told ten other people, and so on) what a joke that group was. If you create an environment in which you kick out anyone who doesn’t gleefully parrot the propaganda you’re pushing, what kind of group will you be left with? Please don’t say the modern Republican party. Ok fine I see how I left myself open to that joke. Very good. You’re very clever, we get it.
My point is you can’t persuade anyone if you drive off everyone that doesn’t agree with you. And also that people will see right through your bullsh** when you define “integrity” as “willingness to do the highly specific and sort of weird sh** I want” and constantly flex that definition based on the proximate needs of acting out your irrational hatred of a certain local politician.
ALXnow: Are groups like BIBA merely a new-normal part of local conversations? Or is this a direct result of politics getting turned up 11 notches and Republicans trying to influence things?
Port City Publius: I think this is a great reminder that politics is hard and best not left to sloppy amateurs in an information bubble fixated on issues that most people genuinely don’t give a sh** about.
ALXnow: Aren’t you essentially the same kind of critical voice as BIBA — a resident(s) who has had it with what they perceive to be ridiculous elements in the community? Or is your voice representative of Democratic values and theirs is representative of… something else?
Port City Publius: I don’t see an equivalence. I deploy righteous indignation and world-weary exhaustion as a rhetorical technique in service of advocating for policies and actions that largely benefit people that aren’t me. They think someone paved a road wrong for Suspicious Reasons.
I think if I woke up one morning and decided to dedicate most of my free time to complaining on the internet about all of the ways that I was personally inconvenienced by things meant to improve the lives of people that have less than me, well, I think I’d have to do quite a bit of soul searching about that.
My sincere advice for people in this city–for anyone anywhere really–is to be more selfless. Stop looking for ways that the ordinary progress of the world is secretly a targeted attack on you, personally. Stop looking for reasons to be so upset about everything. Hurl your laptop into a river and live your life, which I need you to understand is really pretty great relative to any global or historic measure. Facebook and numerous other parts of the modern media ecosystem are intentionally making you upset so they can sell you brain pills and reverse mortgages and whateverthefu** else. You don’t have to play their game. You really don’t.
ALXnow: Are you going to endorse any City Council or School Board candidates? If so, who?
Port City Publius: I think we should abolish the school board and return control of schools to the city. Does that count as an endorsement?
ALXnow: It doesn’t look like you’re anti-establishment. You are often highly critical of the City’s critics by backing Mayor Justin Wilson and city plans and departments. What elements of the current government are you critical of? How are the City manager’s office, police department and school system holding up, for instance?
Port City Publius: I think if we had actively and intentionally set out to have terrible schools leadership during this crisis it would have been utterly indistinguishable from our actual experience. We’ve gotten this far through a mixture of inertia, dumb luck, and the titanic efforts of parents and families and individual teachers and administrators; because it has been astonishingly clear that the superintendent is terrified to make any choice that could ultimately be deemed unsuccessful and have that failure accrue to him and his reputation. He’s the football coach that always punts on 4th and 1 because that’s what convention says and if you follow convention and fu** up, you don’t get blamed, the punter does. This dude is writing a book about educational leadership! A book! That is off the charts Andrew Cuomo energy! I hope the Raleigh Unified School District–or wherever the hell he finds the next rung of the ladder he thinks he’s climbing–hurries up and makes him an offer so our community can get someone with creativity and moral courage into this job. A book. Jesus.
The police seem fine.
ALXnow: You are not always praising local politicians, like former Mayor Silberberg. Are you connected to the @ALXBottle handle? It reads similarly to your style, as you both are highly critical of her.
Port City Publius: Surely you can accept that the sample size of local residents who think the former mayor was a dilettante who never bothered to learn or execute the core competencies of the role she was serving in is an N larger than 1.
Besides, my burner account is a Ron Swanson parody joint. I don’t have time to run another one.
ALXnow: How would you rate Justin Wilson’s performance as mayor?
Port City Publius: 85% Fresh.
ALXnow: Why keep your identity secret? Are you maintaining anonymity as an effort to protect your butler? What happens if you write under your real name? Could you lose your day job?
Port City Publius: I think if my identity came out, most people would think it was unbecoming of a former secretary of state and presidential candidate to write an ongoing series of essays about a city she’s never lived in. Plus I already got in enough trouble for the email server thing, I’m not just going to hand the New York Times another round of bullsh** for Peggy Noonan to freebase, you know what I mean?
ALXnow: When you write, “Port City Publius is committed to seeing Alexandria thrive for generations to come,” what does that mean? What kind of commitment are you talking about? Like, no matter what you won’t move away and will keep writing?
Port City Publius: It means that all of us need to be better about making choices that don’t directly or immediately benefit ourselves; but are instead done in the interest of improving the lives of people we will never know or never meet. We live in a society, man.
ALXnow: Alexandria City Public Schools have been criticized for their handling of the pandemic. While a broad question, how do you think the school system is doing and how would you characterize the effectiveness of their leadership at the upper-staff and elected levels?
Port City Publius: I think I answered this a few questions ago when I called the superintendent a mendacious hack.
ALXnow: What issues are you looking at in your crystal ball affecting the city? Increased taxes? Employee compensation? Affordable housing? Flooding? Development? These seem like perpetual problems that have plagued the city for generations.
Port City Publius: I haven’t seen anyone talking about renaming streets in Old Town so I think I’ll probably tackle that? In all seriousness – everything you list here is really important and are each deserving of substantive dialogue and consideration. And there has been a great deal of that already, on a wide range of forums. One of the reasons that I feel so very lucky to live in this city is to be around so many people who both care about making things better and apply their considerable skills and talents to that task. I’d embrace the chance to add clarity and purpose to the discussion of any of these issues, should my thoughts come together in a way worth sharing. As long as, you know, the Emmys aren’t on or something.
This weekend, the Alexandria City Council unanimously approved a new five-cent tax on plastic bags — though with some grumbling that Arlington had beat them to the punch by a few hours.
The tax will only be applied to grocery stores and convenience stores, not restaurants or other businesses, and is similar to taxes implemented in D.C. and other localities across the country. Groups collecting trash around the area reported a three-quarter decrease in the amount of plastic bags being picked up and overall decreased plastic bag use — though some of those results have been brought into question.
There were two public speakers at the meeting, both of whom endorsed the tax.
“The bag tax is an effective and inexpensive way of reducing plastic pollution,” said Michael Olex, vice-chair of the Environmental Policy Commission. “It’s effective, as demonstrated in other communities such as D.C. It’s inexpensive because consumers, once they acquire bags, aren’t spending any money. Stores purchase less bags, so their costs can go down. Cities and other entities are spending less money cleaning up pollution. I urge the council to adopt this measure both for citizens of Alexandria and the environment.”
Public speaker Al Clark said the bag tax proposal should be an easy choice, particularly in the face of other harder environmental choices the city will face down the line.
“Obviously this has been a long-time coming, something we’ve been talking about for a while,” Wilson said. “Going back… Tim Lovain was advocating for this for years, long before it was really popular, and [we] looked at him kind of funny when he did but he was certainly right on this. Unfortunately we are the third to adopt it in the region by a matter of hours (beat by Arlington and Fairfax).”
Arlington adopted a similar tax a few hours earlier, and Fairfax bagged the approval a week earlier.
Community town hall on City Manager position on Wednesday — “Alexandria City Council will hold a hybrid town hall meeting to receive input from the community about the qualities and values that should be considered in the hiring of the next City Manager. The town hall meeting will be held at City Hall in Council Chamber (301 King St.), from 7 to 9 p.m. and community members will be able to participate either in-person or online.” [City of Alexandria]
Fall fest honors heroes at Greenstreet Gardens — “Greenstreet Gardens kicks off its annual Fall Fest this weekend with a special bonus: All heroes get in free.” [Zebra]
Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy skies (during the day). High near 80F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph… Mainly cloudy (in the evening). Low 63F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Garden center associate — “Looking for team members to help water plants, load mulch, unload trucks, assist customers and general garden center duties, Must be a team player with a great attitude. We will train you!” [Indeed]
Friday Night Lights debut at Alexandria High School stadium — “A ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 ahead of the Titans’ first home game at 7 p.m. Speakers will include Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings Jr., School Board Chair Meagan Alderton, Mayor Justin Wilson, and more. Gates will not open to the public until 6 p.m.” [Patch]
City Council extends State of Emergency to January 2022 — The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to extend the state of emergency to January 31, 2022. [ALXnow]
Affordable housing could replace Alexandria Land Rover dealership — “The Beyer Auto group is vacating its Land Rover dealership at the intersection of Duke Street and Telegraph Road in favor of new, larger digs on Van Dorn Street just over the Fairfax County line. And now, there’s information about what could become of the original Land Rover Alexandria dealership: An organization is interested in building affordable housing there, according to Washington Business Journal, which first reported on the development.” [Alexandria Living]
Wegmans announces May 2022 opening in Eisenhower East — “Wegmans is building an 81,000 square-foot store in Alexandria just west of Hoffman Town Center off of Eisenhower Avenue. The grocery store at Carlyle Crossing is part of a mixed-use project on a 5-acre site.” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with scattered thunderstorms arriving in the afternoon. High 81F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%… A few clouds from time to time (in the evening). Low 68F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New job: Crew at Trader Joe’s — “Our Crew Members create a warm and friendly shopping experience in our stores. We answer questions, offer suggestions and ensure our customers know they are welcomed and cared for. We entertain customers and make grocery shopping an exciting adventure.” [Indeed]