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Chanting and holding signs, a local environmental group protested Chase Bank and Wells Fargo with ‘die-ins’ at their Old Town branches.

On Monday afternoon (April 4), more than a dozen protestors from the group TH!RD ACT-VA walked into both banks and chanted “What do we want? Climate change! What do we need? System change!” and delivered letters to local branch managers to forward to Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Wells Fargo CEO Charles W. Scharf. The letters demand that the banks “divest from fossil fuels this year.”

JP Morgan Chase & Co. is the top arranger of bonds for fossil fuel companies in the world, followed by Citibank, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Last year, each of those banks joined the United Nations’ Net Zero Banking Alliance, pledging to have their investment portfolios represent only companies with no emissions by 2050.

But the banks have a long way to go, said TH!RD ACT-VA organizer Deborah Kushner.

“Chase’s business plan is planetary death and destruction,” Kushner said. “It’s up to us to wake Chase. If Chase Bank does not stop all fossil fuel funding by the end of this year, we pledged to close all their accounts with Chase.”

TH!RD ACT-VA is made up of senior citizens from across the state, and has conducted similar protests in Richmond and Charlottesville. Their main online presence is on Facebook, and they ask that supporters sign an online pledge against banking with the lenders.

Organizer Bill Muth, of Richmond, brought his young grandchildren to the event, and said they participated in the die-in because the issue of climate change concerns future generations.

“I cannot stand by and watch an institution fund industries that are destroying the air supply of my grandchild,” Muth said, and then played dead with them and other protestors on the red brick sidewalk.

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Spring gets into full swing in Alexandria this month, and there are dozens of events around the city to get you out of the house.

Visit Alexandria has compiled a list of events this month around town, including Easter egg hunts, book signings, a film screening and musical performances.

April events in Alexandria:

  • Outdoor cello concert: Listen to cellist Amit Peled at The Rectory in Old Town on April 7 (Thursday), from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Book signing at Alexandria Visitor Center: Meet John Adam Wasowicz, the Author of the Old Town Mysteries, Daingerfield Island, Jones Point, Slaters Land and Roaches Run. Two book signings will be held on April9 and 10 (Saturday and Sunday) from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Easter Egg Hunt with the Old Town Business Association: On April 9 (Saturday) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Historic event at Carlyle House: On April 9 (Saturday), learn from costumed interpreters about how Major General Edward Braddock, Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, landed in Alexandria in 1775. Tickets are free, and the event is from 12 to 4 p.m.
  • Cherry Blossom Jubilee: On Sunday (April 10), enjoy live performance by taiko drum group Nen Daiko on the waterfront side of the Art Center, followed by an Art Center-wide exhibition of cherry blossom-inspired works by resident artists and galleries
  • Outdoor vocal recital: On Thursday (April 14), Mexican soprano Judy Yannini makes her Secret Garden debut in a program of selections from vibrant zarzuelas to beloved operas, from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Easter Egg Hunt at Lee-Fendall House: On April 16 and 17 (Saturday and Sunday), there will be Easter egg hunts at the historic property, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for children ages 2 to 12, $5 for accompanying adults
  • Outdoor bluegrass concert: On April 21 (Thursday), listen to father-son team Ken & Brad Kolodner, from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Advance screening of ‘TRASHY: a zero waste film’: The feature documentary follows its director as she tries not to throw anything away over the course of a year. The free screening at the Torpedo Factory Art Center starts at 6 p.m.
  • 89th Annual Old Town Alexandria Homes & Garden Tour: The long cherished event will be held on April 23 (Saturday), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $55 apiece if bought online and $65 at the Alexandria Visitor Center to tour the Carlyle House, Lee-Fendall House, River Farm, Gunston Hall, Mount Vernon and Green Spring Gardens
  • Alexandria Symphony Orchestra performance: The ASO will perform the music of Barber and Brahms at its April 23 (Saturday) concert. The event is from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and costs $20-$85 for adults, $5 for children and $15 for students
  • Rocklands BBQ meat and greet party: The April 23 (Saturday) event features School of Rock performances and local vendors
  • Soul Food Saturday: On April 23 (Saturday), explore the contributions of African American innovation and tradition to American cuisine with a unique walking tour around Old Town. The event is from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and tickets cost $95 apiece
  • Earth Day tree planting: Join the Alexandria City Council on April 23 (Saturday) for a tree planting on Earth Day in Old Town, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.
  • History discussion on African American housing crisis in Alexandria: On April 28 (Thursday), Dr. Krystyn Moon will examine how segregationist practices impaired Alexandria’s African American residents. The event is virtual
  • Old Town Alexandria Fine Art And Design Festival: On Saturday (April 30), more than 100 artisans, crafters, independent consultants and other local small businesses in John Carlyle Square
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Alexandria is about to embark on a public relations campaign in response to the 5 cent Plastic Bag Tax, which goes into effect next month.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 14, the City Council will consider the release of $30,000 from contingent reserves to the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services for outreach on the matter.

The tax goes into effect Jan. 1, 2022. According to the city, the collected taxes will be used for:

  • Environmental Cleanup;
  • Providing education programs designed to reduce environmental waste;
  • Mitigating pollution and litter; or
  • Providing reusable bags to recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) benefits

“The City’s adopted FY (fiscal year) 2022 operating budget included $30,000 in Non-Departmental Contingent Reserves to develop and produce resources for graphics, advertisements, window clings, and to purchase reusable tote bags for distribution to low-income households,” the city said.

The Virginia General Assembly adopted Sen. Adam Ebbin’s (D-30th) legislation last year allowing localities to impose a bag tax. Neighboring jurisdictions Arlington and Fairfax County also adopted bag taxes.

The $30,000 would be spent in the following way:

  • $5,000 allocated for printing and postage (developing graphics, printing mailers, window cling stickers, notification letters for stakeholders);
  • $9,500 to purchase reusable bags for low-income households and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/ Women, Infants and Children (WIC) beneficiaries;
  • $8,000 in temporary staffing hours (hours for reusable bag distribution events, conducting street outreach to regulated businesses); and
  • $7,500 allocated for advertisements (social media, local newspapers, and/or bus shelters)
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LED streetlight (photo via City of Alexandria)

Travellers along some of Alexandria’s arterial streets might see things in a different light now.

Transportation and Environmental Services has been working with Dominion Energy to swap out the city’s street lamps with LED lights. So far, the city said around 40% of the city’s streetlights have been swapped.

“As of October 2021, many arterial streets have been successfully retrofitted, including Van Dorn Street, Eisenhower Avenue, Duke Street, Washington Street, and N. Quaker Lane,” the city said. “In addition, all of the fixtures in the Cameron Station neighborhood and the Carlyle area have been transitioned to LED.”

The next phase of the project will involve continuing retrofits on main streets, like Route 1, King Street, Braddock Road and Glebe Road. The city said the transition to residential neighborhoods is likely to start in early 2022 once the lights on the arterial and collector streets have been changed. The project is expected to be completely finished in around 12-18 months.

The city said the new LED lights are brighter than existing streetlights, last five times longer and reduce energy consumption by 90%.

Via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

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]

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Morning Notes

Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana to open Alexandria location— “The Alexandria location will be at the Alexandria Commons Shopping Center, 3231 Duke Street. Frank Pepe, an Italian immigrant from just southwest of Naples, founded the pizzeria in 1925 in Connecticut after working for a macaroni manufacturer and a bakery… The thin-crust pizzas are fired in a coal oven. Small pies start at less than $10 (the tomato pie), and the menu also includes salads, beer and wine. The company has not yet announced an opening date for the Alexandria location.” [Alexandria Living]

Fire Department rescues Golden Retriever with head stuck in Old Town fence — “On Saturday, Engine 201 arrived on a call to find a dog stuck on an iron fence experiencing distress. After requesting Rescue 209, first responders worked to remove the fence from the dog’s neck & return to the owner. The dog was uninjured. Great job by E201 & Rescue 209 B shift!” [Twitter]

Energy Efficient Day is October 6 — “Join the City in celebrating Energy Efficiency Day on October 6, and Energy Awareness Month during October. Energy Awareness Month highlights opportunities to help the community to sustainably use energy resources and reduce climate change.” [Twitter]

Leaf collection program returning to Alexandria — “Nov. 1 the annual leaf collection program returns! Visit alexandriava.gov/LeafCollection to get a refresh on all the details. We’ll post weekly status updates here and periodic operational updates as needed.” [Facebook]

Drug Take Back Day is October 23 — “Dispose of your expired medications during Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 23. There are various locations across the City to dispose of medications you no longer need. Learn more about how to safely dispose of medications.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Overcast with rain showers at times. High 72F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%… Cloudy (in the evening). Slight chance of a rain shower. Low around 65F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Property Maintenance Code Inspector — “Employees selected for this class are assigned to the Property Maintenance. Maintenance Code inspectors are responsible for conducting proactive inspections, reviewing complaints, and identifying applicable code violations. Inspectors in the class also perform on-site inspections; negotiate compliance solutions with property owners, tenants, and business owners when violations of the codes are discovered and recommend effective, corrective abatement actions. The Code Inspector I class serves in an entry-level capacity within the Code Inspector career ladder.” [Governmentjobs.com]

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Morning Notes

Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza and Tap named in top 100 restaurants in U.S. — “Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza and Tap, owned by the Yates family of Alexandria, was just placed on OpenTable’s list of the 100 Best Neighborhood Gems in America for 2021.”[Zebra]

Retiring City Manager talks to Agenda Alexandria — “Retiring #AlexandriaVA City Manager Mark Jinks talks about his career in @ArlingtonVA and @AlexandriaVAGov, including everything from redeveloping Landmark Mall to building the Potomac Yard @wmata station @agendalexandria #AgendaAlexandria” [Twitter]

Former police chief named to ACPS Athletic Hall of Fame — “Former Police Chief Earl Cook (was) among the Legendary sports stars of Alexandria honored Sept. 18 as ACPS holds its Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony at 2 p.m. in the Alexandra City High School Gerry Bertier Gymnasium.” [Gazette]

Alexandria has secret Magnolia Bogs — “Despite their rich history and importance in the local ecosystem, many in the area are still unaware of the existence of these unique micro-ecosystems.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy (during the day). High 81F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy in the evening, then off and on rain showers after midnight. Low near 70F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Delivery driver — “Deliver food in your bike or car from local restaurants to homes and offices around Downtown. Be your own boss! Decide when to work depending on availability and needs. Deliver all days of the week between 10:30am–10:30pm.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

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]

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Amy DuVall still can’t believe she’s baking Italian cookies for a living in Alexandria. The owner of From Politics To Pastry says its surreal to be her own boss, especially after nearly 20 years of rubbing elbows on Capitol Hill as an environmental lawyer and lobbyist.

“So far, everything is working out well,” DuVall told ALXnow. “I will say that I am definitely more relaxed. It’s very surreal to not have a boss. I mean, other than taxes and laws, but to not have somebody to report to is very surreal.”

DuVall found herself at a crossroads in 2016, after then-President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act into law. The legislation, which significantly updated the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, took up most of DuVall’s time and energy. With the Act wrapped up, she asked herself, what should she do next?

“I have this great therapist who asked me what I did for fun,” DuVall said. “I told her how much time I spent in the kitchen, and she  asked why I couldn’t do that for a living. And I laughed at her. I really did. I was like, because that’s not what I went to school for. Not only is it not a way to make a living, but it’s just what I do for fun.”

DuVall left the corporate world in 2018, and her journey was filled with twists and turns along the way. For instance, after getting accepted to attend the renowned L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, it abruptly closed. Instead, she would teach herself how to bake by taking online courses and watching videos.

She started selling her Italian cookies at farmers markets in 2018, and then launched in February 2020. The pandemic forced DuVall to stop selling at the markets, though, and all orders are now made for pick-up at her house in the city’s Rosemont neighborhood.

DuVall releases a weekly menu every Monday night, and orders ($20 minimum) can be picked up between Wednesdays and Saturdays. The minimum custom order is $30.

DuVall said she appreciates being able to live on a more flexible schedule.

“It’s frustrating at times because I have no help, but it’s also extremely rewarding,” DuVall said of her business. “Nobody can take credit for the success except for me. That’s been pretty cool.”

Courtesy photos

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With no more mayoral debates, now it all boils down to the Democratic primary on June 8.

Like the main event at a boxing match, Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg on Thursday night maneuvered through a series of questions in the final of four Seminary Ridge Civic Association candidate forums.

This is the final debate or forum for the two candidates until the June 8 Democratic primary.

Wilson is leading in fundraising and endorsements, while underdog Silberberg has gotten support from groups like the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook page for agreeing on a number of its pet issues, including government transparency, reversing the Seminary Road Diet, and curbing developments.

Fifteen City Council candidates participated in the Seminary Ridge conversations, opining on density, affordable housing, government transparency, flooding, and, their opinions on making changes to the controversial Seminary Road Diet.

After a 4-3 Council vote in 2019, the road, which is next to Inova Alexandria Hospital, was reduced from four to two lanes in exchange for a center turn lane, bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the street, crosswalks and medians. A majority of Council candidates are now in favor of taking a look at bringing travel lanes back from two to four lanes on the 0.9 mile stretch of roadway between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street.

Wilson said that he is in favor of tweaking the plan, although has been accused of ignoring the opposition of 13 civic associations.

“It’s unfortunately we couldn’t get everyone in the community on the same page on this issue,” Wilson said. “I believe the improvements that we made were good ones. I’m hopeful that in the future we can continue to tweak as necessary.”

Silberberg said she would restore the four lanes.

“This is a major arterial road that leads to our only hospital,” she said. “I’ve seen it and many residents have seen it and told me about it that they’ve seen ambulances stuck. I think we have a chance to right this wrong, and, of course, keep the pedestrian improvements, but I wouldn’t have voted for it and I will restore the travel lanes if I can get everyone together on that.”

Transparency

Silberberg said she’s been saddened to hear reports of residents not trusting their government, and defended recently pledging herself to an accountability pledge labeled the Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights. Silberberg lost to Wilson in the Democratic primary in 2018, and says that she worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week during her single term.

“I think they [City staff] should sign the pledge as well,” she said.

Silberberg also criticized the performance and six-figure salary of City Manager Mark Jinks.

“It is a lot of money, frankly. I brought this up (when mayor) but nobody agreed with me, but for the City Manager to have a car allowance. It sounds minor, but I don’t think we should have that for him. I think we should revise that.”

Wilson said that Jinks’ salary was in the middle of the pack when compared to the salaries of neighboring jurisdictions, and that he is appropriately paid given the organization that he runs.

Colocation of affordable housing

Wilson said he does not want to colocate affordable housing on the grounds of Alexandria City Public Schools, a position echoed by Silberberg on another controversial issue.

I don’t support putting affordable housing on our existing school properties,” he said. “We need more instructional space.”

Silberberg said that the school system is bursting at the seams as it is.

“I would certainly support an ordinance to say no to putting housing on our limited school properties,” she said.

Stream restoration

Wilson said that the city’s Environmental Policy Commission is full of “good science minds” that can look into the city’s stream restoration projects, including at Taylor Run, Strawberry Run and Lucky Run. Last month, Council opted to send aspects of the projects back to the drawing board in light of widespread public criticism.

Silberberg says that Alexandria has few forests left, and that she has long been opposed to the plans, as well as Wilson’s “unending pursuit of overbuilding”.

Transit lanes on Duke Street

Speaking of road diets, Wilson and Silberberg agreed that the Duke Street Transitway project should not result in fewer traffic lanes between Landmark Mall and the King Street-Old Town Metro station.

I personally don’t think the volumes on Duke street would allow us to remove any traffic lanes on Duke Street,” Wilson said. “We’re gonna have a lot of community engagement to figure out the best alignment, as well as looking at the intersections to try to reduce some of the cut-through traffic that we see in a lot of our neighborhoods.”

The city is embarking on the public engagement part of the project next month.

On $60 million in federal COVID funding

Silberberg said that the nearly $60 million in COVID relief funds coming to the city should be handled carefully, and after all of last year’s flooding that the funds should be spent on stormwater infrastructure.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime investment from the federal government, and we need to be extremely careful and good stewards of this money,” she said. “Think about what is mission critical. First and foremost, I think we clearly have to focus like a laser beam on this flooding, the sewage and stormwater flooding that’s attacking, and stalking, really, our residents every time it rains.”

Wilson said he’s proud to have led the city through the most significant public health crisis in a century, and that the city needs to invest more in the social, emotional and academic losses experienced by Alexandria children.

“We have an opportunity to make generational investments in our community around our infrastructure, around our facilities, around some of the systems around workforce development and things that are going to ultimately benefit our community for generations,” he said. “We got 1,300 suggestions from the community, and we’re going to be working in June and July to apply those suggestions in figuring out how to use that first tranche of money.”

Image via Seminary Ridge Civic Association/Zoom

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