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(Updated 4:50 p.m.) Under President Donald Trump, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch says that America resembled repressive regimes she’d seen overseas.

On Monday (May 9), Yovanovitch spoke about her memoir “Lessons From The Edge” at Pat Miller Square in the heart of Del Ray. The book documents her 33-year Foreign Service career that culminated with her being fired by Trump as the ambassador to Ukraine and her congressional testimony during his first impeachment.

“When I came back to the United States, I experienced… the smear campaign that was launched against me and other things,” Yovanovich said, “that felt like I was seeing some of the same things in the United States that I’d seen overseas, that we had a president who was using his office for personal gain, and the presidency is the highest office in the land.”

Yovanovitch worked for five presidents throughout her career, and began her ambassadorship of Ukraine under President Barack Obama in 2016. She served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, and retired from the State Department in 2020. She is now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a non-resident fellow at Georgetown University.

“Fast forward to the insurrection on January 6, and it was really very sobering that one of the things that I realized was we do have strong institutions, but they need us as much as we need them,” Yovanovich said. “We need people who are not just smart and competent, but people who are ethical, who work with integrity, and who will do the work of the people in the United States. And again, do it with integrity. When asked to do something that is wrong, they will say no, not because they are just loyal to the president of the the United States, they’ll say no because they are critical thinkers.”

Despite her disbelief over Trump’s election, for two years under the Trump administration she was largely left alone, she wrote. That was until 2019, when she said she became the target of a smear campaign by the administration to get her fired. She wrote that oligarchs and corrupt government officials will use disinformation to destroy competitors so effectively that the lies become more believable than the truth, and that the same tactics were being employed against her from Washington, D.C.

“I was being hung out to dry,” Yovanovitch wrote. “I had served five previous administrations, both Republican and Democrat. I had never seen anything like this.”

Five months after being removed from her post, Yovanovitch testified before the House Intelligence Committee during Trump’s first impeachment. As she testified, then-President Trump tweeted about her disparagingly, and Yovanovitch said it was “very intimidating.”

In her book, Yavonovich describes herself as an introvert, a behind-the-scenes operator who, before 2019, “never would have believed that anyone other than my family would find my story of interest,” she wrote. “But the reaction to my testimony changed that, and so I started writing, thinking that perhaps others might have something to gain from the story of my Foreign Service journey.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said that Alexandria is lucky to have public servants like Yovanovitch as a resident.

“The fragility of our democracy requires it that women and men are willing to stand up and defend it and defend it with courage,” Wilson said. “Oftentimes that integrity and that courage is buried somewhere deep in a bureaucracy that never sees the light of day. Nobody ever understands what actually happened. But sometimes that courage is required, not only to stand up to some of the most totalitarian regimes in the world, (but) sometimes even to the leader of the free world.”

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Work Studio (file photo)

As Covid transmission in Alexandria remains low and restrictions ease, many workers are returning to the office.

In March, talk of federal workers returning has been more prevalent. According to Axios, the Biden administration viewed the employees as a group who could lead by example with a return to in-person work.

But some employers have welcomed remote work, even closing physical offices. Others are remote still as a precaution after the ups and downs of new Covid variants jerked office plans on and off.

So tell us, are you still working from home or have you returned to work in person?

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Some voters in the 8th District will get an in-person visit from their Congressman in the coming days.

Congressman Don Beyer is door-knocking for Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate former Governor Terry McAuliffe. Beyer says he’s never met Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, but is wary that Virginia could reverse course on a number of issues.

“I’ll be doing lots of door-knocking in the coming weeks,” he said. “Youngkin, who I’ve never met, has promised to roll back things like universal background checks (to buy guns). I think we’re all terrified that Virginia could go the way of Texas and outlaw abortions six weeks after your last period. Virginia has come a long way and we do not want to move in the wrong direction.”

Youngkin has reportedly said that he supports banning abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and that he would have voted against the Texas plan.

Over the past year, Beyer has also thrown his weight behind labor unions, voting in Congress in favor of granting them more bargaining rights. He also said that calls to defund the police are ‘One of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard,’ but did not comment on the recent City Council actions to defund and then reinstate the Alexandria City Public Schools’ school resource officer program.

With no plans to retire, the three-term Congressman says he’s more effective than ever, and that tensions in Washington have loosened considerably since Joe Biden was sworn in as president in January.

“I feel as effective as I have ever been,” Beyer said. “I don’t see anyone who could accomplish what I can accomplish right now. That won’t always be true.”

Beyer, 71, is running for reelection next year, and has a June 2022 primary opponent, Arlingtonian Victoria Virasingh.

“I do my my very best to stay as strong and fit as young as possible,” Beyer said. “I have no trouble working 60-to-70 hours a week, and I want to continue to do that. Obviously there’s an end to everything. I just don’t think it’s time.”

Beyer is also introducing a bill to require proof of vaccination on trains and planes.

“Businesses and agencies are demanding universal vaccination, because it’s not just about your personal health or personal freedom,” he said. “It’s because if you are sick you can go on and get other people sick. Vaccine resistance is prolonging this pandemic.”

He continued, “My bill, which says if you’re going to travel on a train or a plane or work in a train station or airport, you need to either be vaccinated or show proof that you haven’t had the disease for the last 72 hours.”

While Congress will be challenged to pass the Biden administration’s infrastructure and social spending bill and the “Build Back Better” plan, Beyer says he’s hopeful.

“With Biden as president, things are much calmer,” he said. “There are virtually no outrageous things coming up. There are difficult decisions that are made — to leave Afghanistan, for example. And there are difficult challenges ahead.”

“I feel very hopeful,” Beyer continued. “While there are partisan divisions, and while I don’t understand a lot of the Republican objections, for example raising the debt ceiling, it’s (Congress) still a fairly friendly place.”

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Morning notes

Alexandria political cartoonist shifts to radio — “Following a 30-year political cartooning career, Steve Artley has transitioned his satirical prowess to another form: radio.” [Artley Cartoons]

National Industries for the Blind awarded $8.9 million contract — “National Industries for the Blind, Alexandria, Virginia, has been awarded a maximum $8,898,968 modification exercising the third one-year option period of a one-year base contract with four one-year option periods for moisture wicking t-shirts.” [Defense Daily]

Alexandria Times reviews local cappuccinos — “That’s why, for this edition of the Alexandria Times’ Port City Flavor section, I thought I would embark on a caffeine-infused adventure to compare cappuccinos at three of Alexandria’s most beloved coffee shops. I chose to stick to cappuccinos because I have a soft spot for them and honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a good cappuccino?” [Alexandria Times]

National Society of Professional Engineers looking for advocacy manager — “Initiate and lead NSPE Advocacy programs, overseeing all federal, state, and PAC activities and supervise Policy Associate with final approval from Senior Director.” [Roll Call]

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Police outside the McDonalds where a shooting occurred, staff photo by James Cullum

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.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Police: Juvenile shot at shopping center near Alexandria City High School
  2. Police dispatched three times for fighting at Alexandria City Public Schools in less than a month
  3. Police: Six hospitalized after overdoses on Alexandria-Fairfax border
  4. Poll: What do you think of Metro’s proposed Blue Line crossing to National Harbor?
  5. BREAKING: Flooding reported in Alexandria
  6. Interview: Port City Publius opens up about Alexandria
  7. BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
  8. Juvenile arrested for trespassing and assault and battery at Alexandria City High School
  9. Multiple violent charges dropped against Fairfax County man held without bond for assaulting police during arrest
  10. Preserving Arlandria’s affordability against gentrification could cost upward of $100 million
  11. JUST IN: One person injured after shots fired in West End Tuesday afternoon

Have a safe weekend! 

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The U.S. Department of Labor has filed an administrative complaint against a janitorial government contractor operating in Alexandria for discriminating against Black and white job applicants in favor of Hispanic applicants.

The Department of Labor filed the complaint against New York-based ABM Janitorial Services on September 15, although the investigation into the contractor began in 2015. Three compliance reviews were made at ABM locations — one in Baltimore, Maryland, and two in Alexandria in the 100 block of Claremont Avenue.

In Alexandria, the government determined that the contractor has “engaged in racially discriminatory hiring practices, failed to preserve and maintain its personnel and employment records, failed to conduct adverse impact analyses, and failed to develop an auditing system,” according to court records.

The entry-level jobs pay $10 to $11 an hour, and the minimum qualifications are being 18 years of age and having a legal right to work in the U.S.

“Many hiring managers claimed to prefer applicants with cleaning experience, but many cleaners hired (in Alexandria) lacked cleaning experience,” the complaint alleges. “The hiring managers regularly hired inexperienced Hispanic applicants for job openings while rejecting experienced Black applicants for those openings.”

The contractor’s cleaning services for the U.S. Army from 2015 to 2018 amount to more than $174 million, and it also has a $68 million contract with the General Services Administration that runs until 2023, according to court records.

The investigation also found that white applicants were discriminated against in favor of Hispanic applicants at a Baltimore location.

Despite repeated requests from the U.S. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the government says that the company has not shown evidence that it changed its hiring practices. The complaint asks the court to cancel all of AMB Janitorial Service’s government contracts and prevent it from working with the government again until the noncompliance is remedied.

“We will work in conjunction with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to ensure that federal contractors administer their federal contracts without discriminating against applicants and employees,” said U.S. Labor Department Solicitor Seema Nanda in a statement. “We will continue to use all available resources to ensure every applicant can seek employment free of discrimination and bias, and when we find evidence of discrimination we will pursue these alleged violations in court.”

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What a week in Alexandria.

Public uproar over Sunday’s flooding spilled out throughout this week, which continued to be threatened by near-daily flash flood advisories from the National Weather Service.

Our top story was on Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who criticized City Manager Mark Jinks on the city’s stormwater infrastructure. Mayor Justin Wilson says that multiple projects are underway and take time, and that the city is now looking into whether spot improvements and any other projects can be accelerated.

The group DrainALX has also gained popularity, as it continues to catalog stormwater issues and complaints. One Del Ray resident even told us that she’s turned to therapy after repeatedly spending thousands on a continually ruined basement.

Our weekly poll also found 55% of respondents (193 people) have experienced flood damage to their homes, 14% (74 people) have experienced other sorts of property damage and 31% (159 votes) have never had any property damaged by a storm in the city.

This weekend’s forecast is partly cloudy with a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon, followed by a 40% chance of thunderstorms Sunday night.

School issues

The week before school starts, the School Board unanimously approved Thursday night the requirement that ACPS staffers get the coronavirus vaccine.

“We do have authority to require testing and require vaccinations,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said at the board meeting. “However, there have been no cases where someone has contested that requirement. That has not occurred as of yet, and I’m sure it’s going to begin soon…”

In the meantime, Alexandria is also prepping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. As Alexandria looks to accelerate stormwater projects, Sheriff gives city manager a D-
  2. The Four Mile Run Bridge in Arlandria will not fully reopen until fall 2025
  3. Institute for Defense Analyses announces Potomac Yard move-in later this year
  4. Woman behind DrainALX campaign shares frustrations and hopes from locals after Sunday flood
  5. HUD Secretary Fudge visits Alexandria, says affordable housing is a Biden Administration priority
  6. New census shows Alexandria not majority-white
  7. Alexandria School Board to discuss mandatory vaccinations for staffers this week
  8. After rampant flooding over weekend, another Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Alexandria
  9. Poll: Have you gotten the infamous mite bite in Alexandria?
  10. Alexandria Fire Department struggling with staffing shortage and forced overtime
  11. Stuck in quandary, Del Ray flooding victim seeks therapy

Have a safe weekend!

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Morning Notes

Scott Shaw named Chamber’s 2021 Business Leader of the Year — “For the last six years, he has served as a partner of Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP). ARP operates nine restaurants including The Majestic and Theismann’s Restaurant… Outside of the restaurant industry, Shaw established Founders Hall and co-founded ALX Community. His community involvement includes serving as Chair of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership. In this position… In 2017, Shaw founded the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving Alexandria’s rich maritime history through educational programs and entertainment.” [Zebra]

Rep. Beyer says he’s working on securing stormwater management funding for Alexandria — “I’m also working to secure more federal funding for storm and sewer projects in ALX in upcoming infrastructure legislation.” [Twitter]

Alexandria accountant pleads guilty to tax fraud — “An accountant from Alexandria pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in filing false tax returns that led to over $250,000 in federal tax loss.” [Patch]

Recent T.C. Williams High School graduate dies at 18 — “Tommy Lacey was a towering figure. At 6 feet 5 inches tall, he was a gentle giant with a passion for sports and hanging out with friends at Al’s Steakhouse in Del Ray. A standout lacrosse player, the 2021 graduate of T.C. Williams High School was preparing to attend James Madison University in the fall when he died unexpectedly on Aug. 4.” [Gazette]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy. High 91F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph… Scattered thunderstorms during the evening becoming more widespread overnight. Low 72F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Crew member at Trader Joe’s — “If you have a passion for people and a fervor for food, we’d love to meet you. We can teach you the rest.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne is fed up and says the city’s stormwater management is a disaster. On Sunday, Lawhorne said he was helping a neighbor in Del Ray pump water out of his basement until 4 a.m.

“It’s the same summer repeated over and over again,” Lawhorne told ALXnow. “I’ve got basement damage and my shed in the back is destroyed. Whenever we get a big storm you’ll see two-to-three feet of water rushing into the back alley and our house gets engulfed with floodwater. It’s not sanitary.”

Sunday’s storm dumped five inches of water on the city in less than an hour. The city’s stormwater system gets overrun after rainfall of about three inches.

Mayor Justin Wilson says city staff are looking into which stormwater projects can get fast-tracked, and that money is not the problem.

“We’re exploring ways to accelerate execution of the plan, but more money is not the most significant need,” Wilson told ALXnow. “I am heartbroken for the residents and businesses impacted by this flooding. No one should have to fear for their safety and financial well-being every time it rains. I wish we could implement all of these projects tomorrow, but unfortunately they take time. These are very significant projects. We are working to accelerate these efforts as quickly as possible, as well as identify other ways to reduce the impact on our residents.”

Lawhorne says that City Manager Mark Jinks is at fault for underfunding flooding projects for years, and that the city keeps reliving the same summer over and over. Last summer, for instance, there were several major storms that resulted in the doubling of the stormwater management fee for residents to tackle backups, most notably in Rosemont, Del Ray and Old Town.

“Why do we tolerate this?” Lawhorne said. “I give the City Manager a D- for his unwillingness to pay attention to this issue prior to 2020, until the stormwater system crumbled and there was the political will to do something. I’m glad they’re making improvements now, but their plan falls short of accomplishing what needs to be done sooner rather than later.”

Lawhorne continued, “We will continue to pay the price for the next 10 years, just as we saw this last weekend. It’s been a year since all that flooding last year and we haven’t moved the needle. Where’s the results? I’m not saying we have to get them overnight, but good grief.”

Council’s approval last year provided hundreds of millions of dollars toward flood mitigation. Additionally, the city plans to spend millions in American Rescue Plan Act funding on the Hoof’s Run Culvert and spot improvements.

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman has also asked staff to look into redirecting ARPA funding, as well as shifting resources to tackle the issue now.

“It’s a shame to see this over and over again,” Chapman said. “I completely understand the frustrations of residents impacted by small, medium and large storms. We need to adjust and take care of this crisis situation.”

Alexandria announced on Aug. 13, the day before the deluge, that it will accept applications for its new Flood Mitigation Pilot Grant Program on Monday, August 30. Property owner can get a 50% reimbursement (up to $5,000) for flood mitigation projects at their homes.

One resident said on NextDoor that she spent more than $16,000 on drainage systems in her yard last year.

“I know I’m not alone in being frustrated by our flooding and infrastructure issues in Alexandria,” the resident said. “The city of Alexandria NEEDS to address and fix our flooding problems now.”

Lawhorne says he gets frustrated when he hears officials call for patience.

“They say that it’s a 100-year storm, and that it’s just Mother Nature,” he said. “The people who say that must live at the top of the hill.”

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U.S. Housing and Ubran Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge was in Alexandria Friday to tour The Spire affordable housing complex and tout the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better agenda.

“There are so many people who live on the outskirts of hope in this country,” Fudge said. “I am in a community now… where the median value of a home is nearly $640,000. Most people can’t afford to live here. There is no place in this country today where a person making minimum wage can rent a two-bedroom apartment.”

Fudge continued, “This project makes me feel good about what I do every day,” Fudge said. “Affordable housing and low income housing was a problem before COVID. It is a bigger problem now.”

Fudge was accompanied on her visit by Congressman Don Beyer (D-8th) and Mayor Justin Wilson. The complex they visited has been praised, since the land was converted by the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection into a 113-apartment affordable housing community.

“We are so excited to welcome Secretary Fudge to the City of Alexandria, and to highlight this project especially,” Wilson said. “This is an exciting project in the city that has brought together so many city priorities.”

The administration’s $7 trillion COVID-relief plan would lower housing costs, raise wages for blue collar workers and would reportedly create millions of clean-energy jobs.

Alexandria is currently experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and lost 90% of its affordable housing stock between 2000 and 2017. Consequently, the city has pledged to produce or develop thousands of units to meet 2030 regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

“We are one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the world, certainly in America,” Beyer said. “We’re the best-educated, and there are many people still struggling and living in poverty among us… I believe we’re 150,000 affordable housing units short in Metropolitan Washington D.C.”

Public appearances from Biden Administration officials has become almost commonplace in Alexandria. President Biden visited the city in April and May to make discuss COVID-19, and, in March, Vice President Kamala Harris made her first official visit outside of the White House to stop by Old Town knitting shop fibre space. Also in April, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited Ferdinand T. Day School.

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