Newsletter

What an unexpectedly busy summer week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on an Alexandria woman who claims she was roofied at a restaurant on the waterfront on the evening of July 9. A police report has been filed, and no charges have been made.

This week we sat down with acting Police Chief Don Hayes, who said that he’s thrown his hat in the ring with City Manager Mark Jinks to keep the top job. Hayes, a 40-year veteran of the Alexandria Police Department took over after the sudden departure of Chief Michael Brown last month, and will have to contend against candidates in a national search.

The Tokyo Olympics also start this week, and the games will include three T.C. Williams High School graduates — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley. In fact, Lyles just had a comic book biography published in the Washington Post. If you’re a fan of the Olympic games, check out this list of local restaurants celebrating with special events and meals.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Woman claims she was roofied at Old Town restaurant
  2. Residents protest against conditions at West End apartment complex
  3. Developers eye Beauregard redevelopment with West End upgrades on the horizon
  4. Former chef at ‘The Alexandrian’ opening new restaurant in Arlandria on Monday
  5. No injuries after shots fired in Braddock area on Wednesday
  6. DASH takes lessons from D.C., Baltimore and Oregon in eliminating bus fares
  7. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  8. After last month’s Democratic primary, Republican Darryl Nirenberg tops campaign donation leaderboard
  9. New city health improvement plan aims to fix inequities
  10. Poll: Have you been to the Winkler Botanical Preserve?
  11. Lee-Fendall House to throw speakeasy party to finance building repairs

Have a safe weekend!

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Three minutes before polls closed on June 8 — the day of the Democratic primary — Captain Sean Casey was at the City’s Office of Voter Registrations and Elections. He wanted to see if anyone was running against him for sheriff.

It was slightly anticlimactic.

Registrar Angie Turner told Casey at 6:57 p.m. that he had three minutes to find out if he had an opponent, but that up to that point nobody else filed to run against him. So, they waited there until 7 p.m. and then Turner told him the good news: He is running unopposed in November and will replace retiring Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne.

“I basically stood next to her for the next three minutes until 7, and that was it,” Casey said.

The 39-year-old Casey then made some phone calls, sent out a few texts, and, before going home briefly stopped by City Councilwoman Amy Jackson’s house to watch the initial returns come in.

Even though he’s already won, Casey says he will still act like a candidate.

“I’m still going to take the opportunity to go knock on doors,” he said. “I’m still going to go to farmers markets events. I’m still gonna look for opportunities to engage with the constituency. There’s a bunch of people that don’t know me, but I want them to know me and people don’t know what the Sheriff’s Office does, and that and that’s something that I really want to change.”

Casey’s priorities include redeveloping the work release program for inmates, opening enrollment availability to job applicants and resuming the Office’s cadet program that allows 18-year-olds to become employees.

A lifelong Alexandrian and graduate of T.C. Williams High School, Casey joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2017 after a 14 year stint with the Alexandria Police Department. He’s currently the commander of the Administrative Services Division and is responsible for human resources, internal investigations, accreditation, community relations and the office’s COVID-19 response.

As for the office vibe now that he’s essentially the sheriff-elect, Casey said that nothing much has changed.

“All the staff are being very supportive,” he said. “I have no doubt that when the time comes and the transition actually happens it will be a smooth and seamless transition.”

Election day is November 2, 2021.

Courtesy City of Alexandria

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History was made this week in Alexandria.

Our top story was on Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson winning the Democratic primary on Tuesday, defeating former Mayor Allison Silberberg. Alexandria historically votes for democratic mayors, and Wilson faces off against Republican candidate Annetta Catchings in November.

Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker also unseated Del. Mark Levine for the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s 45th District seat in the House of Delegates. Levine also lost his bid for lieutenant governor.

The three incumbents running for City Council all made it through the primary, with City Councilman John Taylor Chapman receiving the most votes. The other candidates who made it, and will move on to the general election in November are Alyia Smith-Parker Gaskins, Councilwoman Amy Jackson, Councilman Canek Aguirre, Sarah Bagley and Kirk McPike.

This Saturday is will also see the final graduating class of T.C. Williams High School walk the stage before the school’s name is changed in July to Alexandria City High School.

Next Sunday is also Father’s Day, and a number of Alexandria businesses are offering unique specials.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. BREAKING: Wilson wins Democratic mayoral primary, Silberberg concedes
  2. BREAKING: Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown puts in his notice
  3. A rare glimpse inside Alexandria’s abandoned and overgrown GenOn power plant
  4. BREAKING: Bennett-Parker declares victory in 45th District race, Levine loses Delegate and Lieutenant Governor races
  5. Pride flags torn down outside City Hall and thrown into fountain at Market Square
  6. Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown isn’t just retiring, he’s leaving the city altogether
  7. BREAKING: Incumbents hold on in Alexandria City Council Democratic primary
  8. Three incumbents and lots of newcomers running for Alexandria School Board this November
  9. Here’s how much it would cost to reverse the Seminary Road Diet
  10. Democratic primary settled in Alexandria, but underlying issues linger
  11. Critical Missing Person Alert issued for 13-year-old autistic boy

Have a safe weekend!

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Months of campaigning came to a head last night as Mayor Justin Wilson and three City Council incumbents held onto their seats despite opposition and the three new members of the City Council were among those most closely aligned with the incumbents.

The city also had relatively high levels of voter turnout for a non-Presidential election year, with 23% of registered voters showing up to the polls.

The election isn’t over, however. While Alexandria voters tend to lean blue, City Council candidates will compete against Republican Darryl Nirenberg and Independent Florence King in November.

Mayor Justin Wilson will also face off against Republican Annetta Catchings, and for the 45th District, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is running against Republican J.D. Maddox.

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Morning Notes

McAuliffe, Ayala, Herring win statewide Democratic primary — “Former Virginia governor and longtime fixture as a national Democratic Party leader Terry McAuliffe won the state’s Democratic nomination for a second term as governor in Tuesday’s primary election, the Associated Press reported at 7:44 p.m. In the two other statewide races, the lieutenant governor’s contest was called by AP for Del. Hala Ayala. In the attorney general race, Del. Jay Jones conceded to incumbent Mark Herring.” [Patch]

Council candidates pose after Democratic primary — “Congratulations to our 2021 Democratic nominees for Alexandria Mayor (Justin Wilson) and City Council (John Chapman, Alyia Gaskins, Amy Jackson, Canek Aguirre, Sarah Bagley, and Kirk McPike), and the 45th House District (Elizabeth Bennett Parker)! Onward to November!” [Facebook]

Alexandria Health Department expands clinic partnerships and locations — “In recent weeks, the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) has expanded vaccine clinic partnerships and locations. In Alexandria and the region, mass vaccination events have slowed significantly over the past month. In response, AHD has focused on targeting outreach in communities where vaccination rates are lower and partnering with organizations to reach priority populations.” [City of Alexandria]

Made in ALX hosting first art show and sale — “Saturday, June 26, join a group of Alexandria artists on the patio behind ALX Community (near the gazebo between the Torpedo Factory and The Blackwall Hitch) to see new pieces and pick up something unique for your home!” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 88F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph… Overcast. Low 71F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Front desk assistant — “Dogtopia, the industry leader in dog daycare, boarding, and spa services has an immediate opening for an energetic, organized, sales and solution-minded individual to join our team as our Sales Receptionist.” [Indeed]

Photo via Alexandria Democratic Committee/Facebook

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(Updated at 12 p.m.) After months of debating, campaigning and posting, the Democratic primary in Alexandria is finally here.

Polls across Alexandria are open today until 7 p.m., and anyone in line by then will be permitted to vote.

According to the city website, all voters are required to bring a form of identification at the polls or sign an ID confirmation statement. Anyone who doesn’t bring an ID or sign a confirmation statement will be offered a provisional ballot.

A full list of voting precincts is available on the city website.

In addition to the statewide Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General races, Alexandrians will be voting in a competitive Mayoral and City Council race. Residents of the 45th District will also vote between incumbent Mark Levine and current Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker.

The mayoral race is a rematch between incumbent Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg, whom Wilson ousted three years ago.

“I’m feeling great,” Silberberg said. “We’ve got a huge precinct operation and we’re hearing from people across the city. It’s thrilling and we’re running right through the tape. People can vote until 7 p.m. Every vote will matter.”

“This has been an exciting election season that has allowed our community to have an intense discussion about our City’s future,” Wilson said. “I hope to earn the support of our City for another term as Alexandria’s Mayor.”

So far, more than 6,100 residents have voted absentee — about three times as much as in the 2018 Democratic primary (2,007 absentee votes) and a 255% jump over the 2017 Democratic primary (1,687 absentee votes). The absentee numbers will continue to increase, and as long as they have a postmark dated June 8 will be counted along with the other ballots before their official certification by the Alexandria Electoral Board on Monday, June 14.

That means that the unofficial election results could change depending on the final absentee numbers. As of 10 a.m. there were 4,018 in-person votes cast —  totaling 10,123 with absentee votes — out of 98,728 registered voters in the city. That’s about 10%.

The registrar’s office is anticipating turnout in the 20% to 30% range, and as of 10 a.m. the top performing precincts are Mount Vernon Recreation Center with 615 total votes, George Washington Middle School with 591 votes and the George Washington National Masonic Memorial with 540 votes..

After polls close, both candidates will host their respective results parties at Del Ray restaurants within a stone’s throw of each other. Wilson said his campaign will be gathering at Pork Barrel BBQ (2312 Mount Vernon Avenue) and Silberberg will be at Los Tios Grill (2615 Mount Vernon Avenue), in another mirror to the 2018 election.

Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, who is running against Del. Mark Levine for the 45th District seat in the House of Delegates, voted at around 6:30 a.m. at Matthew Maury Elementary School. She said that she didn’t sleep the night before out of nervous anticipation.

“I think we ran as hard a campaign as we could have,” Bennett-Parker said after voting. “We’ve knocked on almost 12,000 doors, we’ve sent mail and communicated with voters in a lot of different ways. I don’t think there’s anything at this point that I could have done differently.”

There are 13 candidates in the Democratic primary for six City Council seats. With only three incumbents running for reelection, at least half the City Council is guaranteed to be new starting next year. The top six vote-getters will face off against Independent candidate Florence King and Republican Darryl Nirenberg in November.

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman, while carrying his young son, voted shortly after polls opened at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial. It was his third Democratic primary as a candidate. Chapman said he plans to watch the results at ALX Community (201 N Union Street) in Old Town.

“There is always a little bit of nervousness,” Chapman said after voting. “Our team has worked hard to reach as many Alexandrians as possible, talk to them about the issues and our platform, and we’ve hit close to 20,000 doors and sent mailers to more than 30,000 folks… I think elections are the concrete reminder that they are the way the community gets what it wants.”

Candidates Alyia Gaskins, Councilman Canek Aguirre, Sarah Bagley and Kirk McPike also spent the morning outside the Mount Vernon Recreation Center precinct.

James Cullum contributed to this story

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What a week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on President Joe Biden stopping by the Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria last Friday with First Lady Jill Biden and Governor Ralph Northam.

Seeing the president around town is getting to be a regular thing. The president, who also visited in April, discussed “the state’s progress against the coronavirus pandemic” and the celebration of “summer as Virginia lifts all COVID-19 distancing and capacity restrictions.”

This week, we also followed up on a New York Times report about the Virginia Theological Seminary making reparations payments to slavery descendants. The program was launched in 2019, and the school issued $2,100 in annual payments to 15 families in February.

On Wednesday, the Fire Department released its restructuring plan, which goes into effect June 12, and is intended to help emergency response times by shifting resources. AFD will conduct community conversations on the restructuring on Saturday, June 5, at 10 a.m.; Monday, June 7, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m.

Closing the short workweek, on Friday Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown announced that his retirement. Brown’s last day is June 25, and the City Manager is soon expected to name an acting chief to lead the department while the city’s undergoes a national search for a permanent replacement.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. UPDATED: President Biden and Gov. Northam visited Alexandria this morning
  2. JUST IN: Virginia State Police chase U-Haul pickup truck through Alexandria
  3. Bennett-Parker says Levine mailer on Commonwealth of Virginia letterhead is ethics breach
  4. Goodie’s Frozen Custard & Treats opens in Old Town
  5. Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen closes for the foreseeable future in Old Town North
  6. Volunteers needed this weekend to help clear dangerous stretch of Mount Vernon Trail
  7. Wilson and Silberberg mayoral debate finale opens possibility of ‘tweaking’ Seminary Road Diet
  8. Homegrown Restaurant Group gives employees raise to $15 an hour, will ease COVID restrictions at 6 restaurants
  9. ‘Rock It Grill’ eyeing karaoke expansion, bringing back Halloween party
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Ownership of Landmark’s streets could make a big difference down the road

Photo via White House/Twitter

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Monday night was a clinic in anti-establishment thinking, as the final group of City Council candidates opined on such issues as transparency, the Seminary Road Diet, the elimination of school resource officer funding and shifting from an at-large to a ward system.

It was the third and final Council forum with the Seminary Ridge Civic Association, which last week featured two virtual panels with the other candidates.

City Councilwoman Amy Jackson said that she voted against the Seminary Road Diet, and that if there is enough support will vote to reverse it in January.

“If I’m reelected and we get the votes of course that’ll be one of the first things I’m going to look at in January,” Jackson said. “City Council, for as much as they say they listen to everybody’s voice, then they go and vote in a way that honestly shows that they weren’t listening.”

Candidate Mark Shiffer said that the concerns of 13 civic associations opposed to the road diet were not taken into account, and that the decision to move forward was predetermined by Council, despite the legislation’s 4-3 Council vote in 2019.

“What we saw was a decision that had already been made, and that’s why we’re seeing that there was an appearance of not listening,” he said, adding that Council also overstepped its bounds with its decision to eliminate school resource officers (SROs) from Alexandria City Public Schools. “I don’t think the City Council should have overruled overruled the (School) Board. That’s why we have a Board to make those decisions, and if you don’t like what the Board does vote them out. If you want City Council to run the schools, well let’s get rid of the School Board, right?”

Jackson said that she held her ground against the 4-3 SRO decision, and that it undermined the School Board.

“I did not want to take $800,000 away from the police because they didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.

However, candidate Kevin Harris is in favor of the elimination of SROs.

“You have to understand me being a young man of color, and attending schools that have had school resource officers,” he said. “I’ve seen so many times how minor, minor disciplinary issues have turned into criminal issues, I’ve had friends personally who have been put sent to juvenile detention centers for things that don’t even make sense.”

Harris also said that colocating affordable housing on school grounds should be kept on the table, while Jackson, Shiffer and Independent candidate Florence King are against the concept.

On ward representation, Jackson said that it would lead to further inequities.

“When you’re a public servant to the city, you really should know everything that’s going on everywhere because one puzzle piece in your neck of the woods may connect and usually does to something else somewhere else,” she said. “I would hate for anything to fall through the cracks just because we have a ward system, and maybe someone who is really not as engaged in that one Ward and then those people don’t have the representation that they need.”

Shiffer said that the at-large system is absurd.

“It’s very difficult to represent 160,000 people,” he said. “My personal favorite is a solution where the mayor is at-large, we have one or two council members at large, and I think in that way, we make sure that all parts of the city are represented.”

The Seminary Ridge mayoral forum between Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 27.

The Democratic primary is on June 8.

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Stark differences were on full display Saturday night, as Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg sparred in a contentious debate on local issues.

Wilson defended his record since taking the mayorship from Silberberg in 2018. Silberberg, however, said she wants to restore the public trust, and that the city is at an inflection point.

“We’ve seen in the last couple of years certain decisions and policies that have been decided that really put our city at risk in many ways,” Silberberg said. “Our visions for the city are different. And our city is at an inflection point… It saddens me to hear so many residents express a profound loss of confidence and trust in our local government. As your mayor, I would certainly be very focused on transparency, and rebuilding the public trust.”

The hour-long debate was hosted by the Alexandria Democratic Committee, and moderated by Robert McCartney, a senior regional correspondent for The Washington Post. Wilson currently leads in fundraising and endorsements, and the debate comes on the heels of Wilsons’ endorsement by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

Silberberg presented herself as an environmentalist in favor of “smart growth,” while Wilson said that the city needs to match growth with transportation infrastructure.

“I’m inspired to turn what I’ve learned about our city’s resilience over the last year into a mission for our city’s future,” Wilson said. “I know that by investing in our kids, investing in our basic infrastructure, and making sure that we have an economy that can support the services that our residents expect and demand, Alexandria cannot only survive in the aftermath of this pandemic, but we can thrive.”

Silberberg’s tenure as mayor was plagued by lone 6-1 votes, and Wilson said that she voted against a number of important issues, including a controversial 5.7 cent tax hike in 2017 that resulted in significant capital improvement funding.

“I speak out for the people and I listen to our residents,” Silberberg said. “I’m certainly in favor of transit oriented development, that has been what we’ve all supported across the many years. But what I’m really for is smart growth. And what that means really, is that you don’t have unabashed out of scale overbuilding on every square inch, that you do keep some open space, which helps with the flooding.”

Silberberg criticized Wilson’s handling of COVID-19, and said that the city’s face mask ordinance needed to be passed sooner that the fall of 2020.

“It’s been a harrowing year for all of us,” she said. “I know a number of folks who have had COVID, and I’ve lost some friends. I don’t think we should have waited till October 1 with the outdoor mask order. Cities all across the country were helping restaurants, but the restaurants in the Bradley Center in the middle of the city and on the West End weren’t helped as much as other places, so we need to look at that across the board.”

Wilson said that the mask ordinance was the first adopted in Virginia, and was replicated by Northam in his statewide executive order. He also said that the city’s vaccination rate for Latinos is higher than for white residents, a result of “aggressive outreach” to the city’s nonprofits.

“I’m very proud of that ordinance,” he said. “Alexandria led the way in providing new small business flexibility using outdoor spaces, sidewalks, closing streets, parking lots and everything to help keep our businesses afloat. I worked with the mayor of Richmond to go down to the General Assembly and ultimately get the governor to include an executive order that allowed carry-out cocktails, which has helped keep our restaurants a floating all around our city. We spent millions of dollars a small business assistance again leading the way in the region, and helping our small businesses providing grants to small businesses all around our city.”

Silberberg also said that she would reverse the Seminary Road Diet, which she said is a transparency issue.

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Community activist and attorney Sarah Bagley just filed paperwork to run for City Council.

Bagley, who launched a campaign Facebook page and website, filed her paperwork to run in the June 8 Democratic primary with the city’s registrar on Feb. 5.

“I know that Alexandria is a community of smart, passionate people who care about our community and the world around us,” Bagley said on her website. “I am running for City Council to become a voice for that passion, and to build an Alexandria that works for every single one of us.”

Bagley is the executive director of the Chisom Housing Group nonprofit in D.C., also volunteers for the Alexandria Democratic Committee and the local chapter of Moms Demand Action. A Virginia native, she received her bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary and her law degree from the Catholic University of America. Her career includes stints as a judicial law clerk for the District Court of Maryland, and as an associate civil litigation attorney for numerous area firms.

Bagley joins a number of new candidates running for open council seats, including James Lewis, who just announced his candidacy.

Bagley has three issues on her campaign website. Short on specifics, the issues are affordable housing, safe communities and COVID-19.

“We must secure a future for Alexandria that balances the need for inclusive housing options with Alexandria’s unique character and history,” Bagley wrote on her website. “Beyond ensuring a range of housing price points in Alexandria, we must engage the residents in all areas of our city in work that supports the stability and growth of Alexandria’s economy.”

Photo via Sarah Bagley for Alexandria/Facebook

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