What a busy week in Alexandria.
Our top story this week was on a juvenile who was shot outside the McDonald’s at the Bradlee Shopping Center on Tuesday, Sept. 21. There have also been a number of concerning incidents at Alexandria City Public Schools, including a juvenile who was arrested for trespassing and assault and battery at Alexandria City High School.
Meanwhile, while the COVID-19 transmission rate remains high, public events are still happening in Alexandria.
- Connection Newspapers managing editor Kemal Kurspahic dies
- City Council approves new plastic bag tax for local grocery and convenience stores
- Electric scooter docks could replace some on-street parking in Alexandria
- City looks to state funding for Holmes Run Trail improvement and West End Transitway
- MacArthur Elementary shut down by water damage
- New Indian restaurant in Old Town eyes late October opening
- School Board to vote on transgender revisions in Alexandria City Public Schools
- ‘Fences’ is a triumph at The Little Theatre of Alexandria
- What’s the difference between Alexandria’s co-living policy and regular apartments?
- Government contractor in Alexandria under fire from Department of Labor for systemic racism in hiring practices
- Police: Juvenile shot at shopping center near Alexandria City High School
- Police dispatched three times for fighting at Alexandria City Public Schools in less than a month
- Police: Six hospitalized after overdoses on Alexandria-Fairfax border
- Poll: What do you think of Metro’s proposed Blue Line crossing to National Harbor?
- BREAKING: Flooding reported in Alexandria
- Interview: Port City Publius opens up about Alexandria
- BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
- Juvenile arrested for trespassing and assault and battery at Alexandria City High School
- Multiple violent charges dropped against Fairfax County man held without bond for assaulting police during arrest
- Preserving Arlandria’s affordability against gentrification could cost upward of $100 million
- JUST IN: One person injured after shots fired in West End Tuesday afternoon
Have a safe weekend!
The 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.”
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.
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.
- Alexandria Fire Department rescued several people Sunday, weekly forecast looks stormy
- New census shows Alexandria not majority-white
- Olympic boxer Troy Isley welcomed back to Alexandria
- Mayor Wilson talks flooding, vaccine requirements, and Arlington gondola with WAMU
- Man arrested for domestic violence, pointing gun at wife’s head in Del Ray
- Alexandria kicks off Restaurant Week
- Evolving COVID-19 decisions loom as Alexandria City Public Schools fully reopen next Tuesday
- With high transmission levels, Alexandria says third COVID vaccine dose is available for severely immunocompromised residents
- Alexandria Tutoring Consortium launches $25K fundraiser to expand virtual reading program for young kids
- Barricade situation in Landmark area ends in arrest
- As Alexandria looks to accelerate stormwater projects, Sheriff gives city manager a D-
- The Four Mile Run Bridge in Arlandria will not fully reopen until fall 2025
- Institute for Defense Analyses announces Potomac Yard move-in later this year
- Woman behind DrainALX campaign shares frustrations and hopes from locals after Sunday flood
- HUD Secretary Fudge visits Alexandria, says affordable housing is a Biden Administration priority
- New census shows Alexandria not majority-white
- Alexandria School Board to discuss mandatory vaccinations for staffers this week
- After rampant flooding over weekend, another Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Alexandria
- Poll: Have you gotten the infamous mite bite in Alexandria?
- Alexandria Fire Department struggling with staffing shortage and forced overtime
- Stuck in quandary, Del Ray flooding victim seeks therapy
Have a safe weekend!
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]
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.”
TES Operations crews have been cleaning up from this weekend's storm. They will work 12-hour, 24/7 shifts this week. This ramped-up status will enable us to respond to any weather events this week (we are monitoring two Tropical Storms) while we continue clean up. pic.twitter.com/1oz35wNX9F
— Alexandria T&ES (@AlexandriaVATES) August 16, 2021
“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.
Residents divided over plan to rename Lee Street — “For some residents, the news came as a welcome surprise and a step toward removing Confederate namesakes from the city’s streets and honoring figures or ideas they deem more worthy. For others, the petition represented an attempt to erase the city’s connection to commander of the Confederate Army Robert E. Lee, who grew up in Alexandria and has long been a focal point of the city’s history tourism.” [Alex Times]
Basic income pilot starts this fall in Alexandria — “Bolstered by nearly $60 million in federal pandemic relief money, the independent jurisdiction in Northern Virginia plans to begin sending $500 debit cards to 150 families each month for two years, starting sometime this fall… Alexandria is funding its new basic income initiative with $3 million in American Rescue Plan money.” (dcist)
Grocery delivery store Foxtrot under construction in Old Town — “According to a report by Supermarket News, Foxtrot’s expansion to Virginia is part of a larger effort to open 50 new stores within the next two years. Foxtrot’s new Alexandria location will be situated prominently at the intersection of King Street and Washington Street.” [Alexandria Living]
‘Holy Cow’ names burger after Noah Lyles — “Congrats to Alexandrian Noah Lyles for bringing home the Bronze!!! Holy Cow Del Ray is celebrating with a BOTM in his honor. #visitdelray #titanpride #olympics2020″ [Facebook]
Today’s weather — “Mostly sunny skies. High 91F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph… Mostly cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 68F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Alexandria police latent print examiner — “WE’RE HIRING! Come join our team here at the Alexandria Police Department. We have a job opening for a Latent Print Examiner. Click the link for details about the job and how to apply: ” [ bit.ly/3lwxXtyTwitter]
Alexandria will spend millions on emergency financial support programs, stormwater repair, childcare and dozens of other projects as part of its first portion of American Rescue Plan Act funding.
“Now the really hard work begins,” Mayor Justin Wilson said after Council’s unanimous passage of a plan Tuesday night. “I think this is an opportunity to make some transformational investments.”
The City received its first $29.8 million on May 17, and has to spend the total $59.6 million in funding by Dec. 31, 2024. Alexandria is getting substantial funding by being counted as both a city and county — along with 41 other cities across the country — and will get its second allotment in May 2022.
Federal funds will not directly go to individual businesses, but some are allocated toward the funding of business districts for trial street closures, ABC-licensed special events and public access parklets.
“Our thought was that direct assistance for businesses was best provided, and continues to be provided, through the federal government at scale,” Alexandria Economic Development Partnership CEO Stephanie Landrum told Council. “We are much better equipped as a community, and certainly as an economic development group to reach a wider swath of businesses than we ever have been. And so part of our challenge and responsibility is to make sure all of those businesses know about other programs not being provided by the city.”
The 30 projects include:
- $4 million for an Alexandria Community Access and Emergency Support program to determine which city services are eligible for residents, including emergency financial aid, rent assistance and child care
- $3.7 million in stormwater repairs at the Hoofs Run Culvert
- $3 million for a Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot, which will give $500 in gift cards to 150 poor families for 24 months
- $2.8 million for a Unified Early Childhood Workforce Stabilization Initiative to “support hundreds of childcare providers and early childhood educators, provide a safe and healthy learning environment for thousands of children, and help parents, especially women, get back to work.”
- $2.5 million for food security to ensure two years of continual free food distributions at hubs throughout the city
- $2 million for Alexandria Housing Development Corporation flex space to expand city services for the Arlandria neighborhood
- $1.9 million in flash flooding spot improvements throughout the city
- $1.1 million to scale up a workforce development pilot
- $800,000 to make permanent the closure of the 100 block of King Street
- $620,000 to fund the Out of School Time Program to help with learning loss associated with the pandemic
- $560,000 to the Alexandria Economic Development Authority fund commercial business districts for trial street closures, ABC-licensed special events and public access parklets
- $500,000 for Visit Alexandria marketing efforts
- $295,000 to fund two new Office of Historic Alexandria tourism experiences on the city’s history with civil rights and and the Duke Street Corridor
- $253,000 to increase services for LGBTQ and BIPOC communities
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine got an earful on military family needs at a roundtable he hosted Tuesday morning at the National Military Family Association in Alexandria.
Facing few childcare options, one military spouse had to take three years off of work as a physician’s assistant to take care of her young children.
“I have three kids that will have to go to different (childcare) places,” the woman said. “Because in this area it’s really hard, at least in my experience, to find childcare from infant through the lower elementary ages. So, I’m going to be driving around or finding a nanny for my youngest, which is on the plus side of $20 an hour is what we’re finding, which is cost prohibitive.”
On-base childcare options are scarce, as an estimated 65% of U.S. military families are forced to pay for childcare out of their pockets.
Kaine wrote the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act, which was introduced into the Senate last month. He’s trying to get the Act attached to the massive National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress will be considering later this summer. As active duty military spouses experience high rates of unemployment, Kaine said he at least hoped the pandemic has taught employers that their workers can largely work from home.
“if we can help families with children have more knowledge in their pocket, and we can fund more childcare — those would be two big things,” Kaine said.
The Act would help military spouses get jobs with the expansion of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, in addition to the creation of flexible spending accounts so that childcare expenses are paid with pre-tax dollars.
One Space Force officer living in Alexandria said that her civilian husband was kept from taking jobs that required travel, since getting childcare was too difficult.
“In the space force between 30 and 40% of our missions are in 24/7 facilities,” the officer said. “There’s an assumption that a spouse is always going to be there to pick up the slack.”
Kaine, the former Virginia Governor and Mayor of Richmond, was a missionary in Honduras and never served in the military, although one of his sons is a U.S. Marine reservist. He is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as well as the Foreign Relations and Budget Committees.
“I’m sort of hoping that maybe a silver lining of the last year has been people realized, ‘Wow, a lot of folks can do really great work, even if they’re not in the same zip code as the office.’ And I know it’s been a challenge for military spouses, this move phenomenon — ‘I’d rather not hire this person even though they may be the more qualified because they’re probably gonna have to move somewhere.’ Well, employers are much more comfortable now with realizing we have a whole lot of great employees who were doing their work for home for last year and they were being very productive.”
City Council member John Chapman has the distinction, marked in the record, of being the first on the dais to use the phrase “hot girl summer” — and in the most unlikely of contexts.
Chapman’s millennial moment came through at the end of hours of public discussion on where the American Rescue Plan Act funding is going. No decision was reached at the City Council meeting this weekend — and final passage is scheduled for Tuesday, July 6 — but the City Council did indicate interest in emphasizing the city’s tourism and overall marketing in the funding package.
“Everyone is getting ready for hot girl summer,” Chapman said. “There is an energy about getting out. Everybody knows that. We’re going to try [to use that], but with tourism industry it’s tough. We have immediate need we’re trying to fill.”
“We’re trying to open up,” City Council member Amy Jackson said. “As soon as you tell everyone, ‘We’re open,’ and broadcast that, that will help create jobs. If we’re waiting and holding it back, [it’s] increasingly less likely that we’re helping the maximum number of people that we could be helping.”
Jackson also noted that many of the jobs helped by boosts in retail and service industry sales help the city’s lower-income populations.
“I want us to look at that more, not just in programs, but overall in bringing people here,” Jackson said.
Chapman said the city also needs to be aware that many industries are looking for funding both for front-end immediate needs created and longer-term fixes for big problems. It’s a distinction that Chapman said could help separate where funding should go in the first round.
“The idea that we’re giving out money in a couple of tranches seems too simplistic,” Chapman said. “There are organizations that can get half of their money in one phase and half in another phase. One organization may not need all of their money in one year or one tranche — which leaves more room to move up initiatives and people that need more relief.”
City Manager Mark Jinks said the one concern to keep in mind is this mindset could lead to too many delays to the future for funding.
“The pro is you can do more,” Jinks said. “The downside is it’s kicking the can down the road. You’re saying ‘we’ll pay for that out of the next one.'”
The City Council will look at the first round of funding again on July 6, after which Mayor Justin Wilson said he hopes the word tranche — which came up frequently during the discussions — “Goes back into oblivion.”