Metro running at 40% today — “As part of the investigation into the Blue Line derailment, Metro is holding out of service all of its 7000-series railcars, which is about 60% of its rail fleet. Without these rail cars, Metro will operate about 40 trains tomorrow.” [Metro]
Alexandria’s Communications Director Appointed To New Position With Governor’s Office — “The city’s longtime Director of Communications and Public Information, Craig Fifer, has been appointed to a new position. He has been selected by Gov. Northam to serve as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Commonwealth of Virginia, effective Oct. 25.” [Zebra]
3rd Annual Taste of Ethiopia Festival celebrated in Old Town — “After hitting the doors, here enjoying the 3rd Annual Taste of Ethiopia Festival at Oronoco Bay Park.” [Twitter]
Bennett-Parker and Maddox face off in race to House of Delegates — “With the Nov. 2 general election only a few weeks away, the race for the 45th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates is heating up between Democrat Elizabeth Bennett-Parker and Republican Justin David Maddox.” [Alexandria Times]
Mayoral candidates engage in public forum — “Alexandria’s mayoral candidates gathered in a virtual forum on Saturday, kicking into high gear to get their message out ahead of the Nov. 2 general election.” [Alexandria Times]
Amazon backs grant program to spur affordable development near D.C.-area transit — “Amazon will fund a new grant program to help local governments and nonprofit developers pursue affordable projects near transit stations, directing $500,000 of its recently announced $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to this effort.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local group plans Four Mile Run clean-up — “Join us Sat., Oct. 23 for cleanup at Four Mile Run Park from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to celebrate the Clean Virginia Waterways and Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.” [Twitter]
Alexandria kid goes viral for love of fire department — “Alotta yuck these days… Please enjoy the delight of my three year old spotting a fire truck. @AlexandriaVAFD, meet your biggest fan!” [Twitter]
D.C. didn’t ask Northam and Hogan to help crack down on ticket scofflaws, despite initial claims it did — “D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser never reached out to the governors of Virginia and Maryland to negotiate reciprocity for automated traffic camera tickets, despite a District government report — signed by the mayor and submitted to the D.C. Council last week — saying that said she did.” [DCist]
New gift shop in Old Town helps people with disabilities — “B.E.S.T stands for ‘Building Employment Solutions Together’ and is a collaboration between the Joey Pizzano Memorial Fund (JPMF) and ServiceSource to provide meaningful employment for people with disabilities.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]
Alexandria wins housing policy leadership awards — “Affordable and workforce housing policies and programs put in place by the governments of Alexandria, Virginia, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, have been selected as joint winners of the 2021 Urban Land Institute Robert C. Larson Housing Policy Leadership Awards.” [Urbanland]
Best Pumpkin patches around Alexandria-area — “Cooler fall days are quickly approaching in the Greater Alexandria area, which means it’s time to start planning your family’s yearly trek to the country to find the best pumpkins.” [Patch]
School Board forum tonight — “PTAC will host a virtual School Board Candidate Forum at 7:00 PM on October 13, 2021. Come hear from each of the school board candidates.” [PTAC]
D1 Training opens new Alexandria location — “D1 Training, a sports training franchise for all ages, finally opened its Alexandria doors. On October 11, at 6550 Little River Turnpike, children and parents and divas and mascots reveled in the grand reveal.” [Zebra]
Kelly Carmichael Booz says experience matters, as the former Alexandria School Board member has thrown her hat in the ring to reclaim her former District B seat.
“I don’t think we can afford as a school district after this last year-and-a-half to have a board that doesn’t have experience coming to the table,” Booz told ALXnow in an interview. “If I’m elected and if the Alexandria citizens from District B support me, I can start on day one running with and understanding of the process.”
Booz, who served on the Board from 2012-2015, lost her reelection. For her day job, she’s the director of two digital learning sites for the American Federation of Teachers, producing professional development and lesson content to 1.8 million educators around the country.
“During the pandemic, I also started thinking about running because I saw lots of conversations happening with the School Board in trying to get students and schools reopened,” she said. “I mean, this was a challenge. This was a no-win situation.”
Booz said she also struggled last year by working at home with her husband and two children. She says that she essentially became a virtual class assistant for her daughter’s second grade class at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, even going so far as to train the now-retired teacher how to operate Zoom. She also paid for her daughter to learn in a pod with other second grade girls and for her son to attend kindergarten at a daycare center in the city.
“I bring being a mother to the table,” she said. “I bring the experience of totally understanding how difficult and challenging it was to do virtual learning at home. I bring the experience of understanding the whole digital landscape, because it’s what I do for a living. And, you know, I think combined with my experience of serving on the School Board, I’m in a good position to really help make sure that we’re focused on learning, recovery, and social and emotional recovery.”
The pool of District B candidates is a little crowded. Booz faces six other candidates for the three open slots: Deborah Ash, Ashley Simpson Baird, Tammy S. Ignacio, PreeAnn Johnson, Bridget Shea Westfall and Ricardo Roberts.
Booz says Alexandria City Public Schools should have opened sooner to full-time instruction than on August 24 this year.
“I would say it took me at least year-and-a-half to really understanding the ACPS process,” Booz said, recalling how long it took for her to get used to the position after being elected in 2012. “I can’t imagine serving during a pandemic. That said, we’ve seen countless examples across the country where schools were able to get some more younger children back into schools successfully.”
Critical of superintendent
“He’s a nice guy, and his heart is absolutely in the right place for our community,” Booz said of Hutchings. “I think he’s had an impossible job. There are things that I have agreed with what he’s done, there’s things that I have did not agree with what he what he has done, or I would have liked to have seen some better communication happening.”
Booz said Hutchings brought the community together for the renaming efforts — and that she wished the same level of communication was made last year regarding the pandemic.
“(Hutchings) had these kind of sprint cycles and would basically say that, ‘We’re going to put something in place and we’re not gonna even revisit this conversation for another four weeks or five weeks,'” Booz said.
Booz is also against the colocation of affordable housing on school grounds.
“Housing does not belong on school property,” she said. “I would never support that, even if it’s housing for teachers. If we need to find some other location for teachers, let’s do it, but not on school property.”
Booz also supports having school resource officers in ACPS.
“When you have three head principals of three large schools saying that we need SROs in our schools, you’ve got to listen to your leadership,” she said. “We hire them for a reason. You gotta trust your leaders. If they’re saying we need it, then I need to trust that they’re saying that we need it.”
Booz and all of the other candidates running for the School Board will appear at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in a virtual candidate forum.
Election day is Tuesday, November 2.
Local teen with cancer knits blankets to raise awareness — “West Potomac High School senior Jessica Foss should have been thinking about prom, graduation and heading off to college in the fall. Instead, in May 2020, in addition to missing out on typical senior year activities because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Foss received a diagnosis that would turn her world even more upside down – cancer.” [Alexandria Living]
Deadline nearing to register to vote in November election — “Oct. 12 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 2 General Election. Any eligible US citizen who will be 18 by 11/2/21 can register to vote. Questions about your registration status? Call us at 703.746.4050. vote.elections.virginia.gov” [Twitter]
First City Council candidate forum is Wednesday — “The Seminary Road Civic Association will hold two question and answer forums for the nine candidates running for City Council and the two candidates running for mayor. The first of these forums takes place on Oct. 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. and will include all candidates for City Council. The second SRCA forum will be held on Oct. 19 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will be between incumbent Mayor Justin Wilson and challenger Annetta Catchings. Both forums will be held on Zoom.” [Alex Times]
7 can’t miss Instagram spots in Alexandria — “Autumn in Alexandria, VA means show-stopping trees sweeping historic streetscapes with autumn hues, photo-ready rowhouses decked out with seasonal décor and gas lamps flickering above red brick sidewalks. Find timely artwork, sip a rainbow cider flight and more this fall–camera in hand. Pack a mask, put portrait mode on and get inspired with our ideas below” [Visit Alexandria]
Today’s weather — “Considerable cloudiness (during the day). Occasional rain showers in the afternoon. High near 80F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 50%… Variable clouds with showers and scattered thunderstorms (in the evening). Storms more numerous during the evening. Low 67F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]
New job: Professional pet sitter — “Alexandria Pet Care seeks a career pet expert to work with animals in their homes, dog walking and pet sitting. We are the most trusted and most experienced team in town, and we’d love to add you to our team of experts!” [Indeed]
(Updated 9/30) Alexandria’s incumbents running for re-election managed to hold on through the Democratic primary, but they face Republican and Independent challengers in the upcoming November election.
The Seminary Ridge Civic Association recently announced that it will be hosting two election forums throughout October, one for the City Council candidates and one for Mayoral candidates.
“The Seminary Ridge Civic Association (SRCA) is hosting two candidate forums in October to raise awareness of the candidates running in the November Alexandria elections,” the organization said in an email. “The first forum will be on Wednesday, October 6 (7-9 p.m.) for the nine candidates seeking to be on Alexandria’s City Council.”
Both events will be live-streamed on Zoom, with a link already available for the first forum. The SRCA said another email will be sent closer to the date with a link to the Mayoral debate.
The Democratic City Council candidates are:
- John Taylor Chapman
- Alyia Smith-Parker Gaskins
- Amy Jackson
- Canek Aguirre
- Sarah Bagley
- Kirk McPike
Incumbent Mayor Justin Wilson, who fended off a challenge from former Mayor Allison Silberberg, will face Republican Annetta Catchings. Their debate with the SRCA will be held on Tuesday, October 19, from 7:30-8:30 p.m.
The Alexandria Council of PTAs (PTAC) is also planning a meet-and-greet and forum for School Board candidates. The meet-and-greet will be at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2, on the tennis courts at William Ramsay Elementary (5650 Sanger Avenue). The virtual forum will be on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m.
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.”
(Updated 6:20 p.m.) Ricardo Roberts is, to say the least, an outlier in the 2021 School Board District B race.
Roberts has had multiple run-ins with school officials, including one charge of trespassing at an Alexandria City Public School that ended in acquittal in court last year. While other candidates include incumbent School Board members and others generally supportive of the direction Alexandria City Public Schools have taken over the last few years, Roberts’ policy suggestions mark a sharp and potentially controversial departure from many other candidates.
Roberts was a social studies teacher at J.H. Johnson Junior High School in D.C., where he was known as Coach Roberts for his love of coaching basketball. Even a cursory Google search, however, reveals that Roberts was charged with first-degree child sex abuse — a charge for which he was ultimately acquitted.
Roberts said the charge was the result of a conspiracy against him.
“We have innocent teachers are agreeing to things they didn’t do because they’re scared,” Roberts said. “They go up to court and… [prosecutors] try to get them to take things they didn’t do. Kids make false accusations against teachers every single day. Whether it’s prejudice or ‘he made me feel uncomfortable.'”
It’s a charge that’s led to one of Roberts’ policy proposals: putting cameras in every classroom.
“In order to be proactive you have to put a bubble in the classroom… a surveillance bubble like you’d have in a McDonalds looking over happy meals,” Roberts said. “It would help kids and teachers who are falsely accused.”
Roberts also has a hardline approach to punishment in schools that is at odds with the shift toward restorative justice within the schools, something he blames on “Black Lives Matter and all that craziness.”
While efforts at reducing arrests and prison sentences are aimed at curbing the School-to-Prison pipeline, Roberts’ approach is more Hammurabi in nature, with more of an eye-for-an-eye approach to discipline.
“You gotta use somebody as an example,” Roberts said. “You stop another assault. You [show them] you can’t stand up and slap somebody in the face and jump someone, you can’t rob someone, you know that’s against the law. So why would you permit it in the schools? We need to stop perpetuating the fraud that these kids don’t know what they’re doing. That’s why the drug dealers on the corner have kids, who can only go to juvie, sell the drugs and commit the crimes, because they know the consequences for them could be years in jail while they don’t get months.”
The District B candidate is running against six other candidates for the three open slots: former School Board Member Kelly Carmichael Booz, Deborah Ash, Ashley Simpson Baird, Tammy S. Ignacio, PreeAnn Johnson and Bridget Shea Westfall.
Roberts has been a fixture at Alexandria School Board meetings for several years but recently has had a tempestuous relationship with leadership at George Washington Middle School. Roberts said his son was being picked on by other students and alleged that the school administration was involved with encouraging it. After showing up at the school following one incident, Roberts was reportedly barred from the premises, and later sued for trespassing on school property — a charge that was later dismissed by Judge Donald Haddock Jr. when it became clear during the trial last year that the scope of Roberts’ barring was unclear. The judge noted at the time that Roberts had a clearly fraught relationship with the school.
“I’m just letting you know that this relationship with the school is not going well, and I feel like it always takes two to tango,” the judge told Roberts at the end of the trial. “You’re the one that’s on the receiving end of this right now so I don’t want you to walk out of here encouraged that you’re right and that they’re wrong.”
Roberts said that there are no consequences for kids, that “they’re used to getting away with it.”
“They’re going to get in-school suspension,” he added. “They’re not going to get arrested for a crime because they’re trying to keep the numbers down. A kid who jumps up and slaps a teacher: they’re not going to have consequences. It’s just going to be a slap on the wrist.”
Another piece of Roberts’ educational plan is to shift the focus away from preparing students for college and emphasizes preparing more students for the workforce.
“Lets get our kids prepared to pay taxes in America,” Roberts said. “A nurse is making way more money… Where are the worker bees at? The worker bees are very important to the hive.”
Now, Roberts said he’s working on suing Alexandria City Public Schools and some staff at George Washington Middle School — even as he runs for the School Board.
“I have a vision of how things should go and I speak on the truth, and a lot of people can’t accept the truth, and a lot of people find it hard to accept change,” Roberts said. “I said to [the teacher’s association] ‘I don’t need teacher association support. You’re scared. I’m not scared to say what’s needed to be said.'”
Alexandria chooses historic trolley as 2021 holiday ornament — “The City of Alexandria is now taking orders for its 2021 Trolley ornament, depicting Car 303 of the Mount Vernon Alexandria & Washington Electric Railway. The fleet of art deco cars were purchased in 1918 for the essential trolley line that connected Del Ray commuters to DC and tourists to Mount Vernon. Car 303 ran until the railway’s closure in 1932. It became a diner in 1936.” [Zebra]
Missing 83-year-old West Ender found safe — “Mr. Navia has been located.” [Twitter]
Early voting starts Friday — “Early voting for the Nov 2 General Election begins Fri, Sep 17. In Alexandria, ballot includes contests for VA Governor; Lt. Governor; Attorney General; House of Delegates; Commonwealth’s Attorney; Sheriff; Mayor; City Council & School Board.” [Twitter]
Chamber ALX sets legislative agenda — “Over the last decade we have been an outspoken voice for the completion of Potomac Yard metro, redevelopment of Landmark Mall, streamlining small business regulations and a champion of countless issues directly impacting the business community. We are proud to be entrusted with amplifying the voice of the diverse businesses in our city…” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s weather — “Mostly cloudy skies early will become partly cloudy later in the day. Hot. High 92F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph… A few clouds (in the evening). Low 71F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Chef De Cuisine at The Alexandrian — “Sage Hotel Management is currently seeking a Chef De Cuisine for our King & Rye restaurant located inside The Alexandrian Hotel, in Alexandria, VA.” [Indeed]
What an interesting week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.
World champion sprinter Noah Lyles brought home his bronze medal from the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday. In a frank, TED Talk-like speech at Alexandria City High School, Lyles talked about the importance of mental health as he struggled to perform at the games.
“A lot of people will look at the Olympics this year like something was different with the athletes,” said Lyles. “Well, it was a lot of difference because we had so much weight that we had to hold onto — about two years. I was no different.”
On the COVID-19 front, while the transmission level remains high in Alexandria, this week the city tied with Arlington for the lowest seven-day positivity rate in Virginia. Large outdoor public events are still happening, too, and on Monday, a vast majority of local elected officials and candidates converged for the Alexandria Democratic Committee’s annual Labor Day Picnic, which included an appearance by gubernatorial candidate, former Governor Terry McAuliffe.
- Alexandria Police say string of 7-Eleven robberies are connected
- West End trail project derailed by stalled development
- Mural Mania: Check out these three new murals in Old Town
- Mudhouse Coffee buys building in Old Town
- Man arrested for spending spree after finding wallet in Bradlee Shopping Center parking lot
- COVID-19 Update: Alexandria ties with Arlington for lowest seven-day positivity rate in Virginia
- BREAKING: Pedestrian critically injured in Old Town car crash
- Mark Center development plans head to Planning Commission this week
- Alexandria Police union calls out years of executive mismanagement
- JUST IN: Suspects arrested after allegedly firing shots at Alexandria Police
- BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
- Mayor outlines upcoming plastic bag tax plans
- Village Brauhaus aims for rooftop expansion
- No injuries or arrests after shots fired in Old Town Sunday night
- Most expensive homes sold in Alexandria in August
Have a safe weekend!