Alexandria, VA

What a busy week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Old Town shop fibre space on March 3. It was Harris’ first official visit outside of the White House since she was inaugurated, and she spoke about the American Rescue Plan with shop owner Danielle Romanetti.

Alexandria City Public Schools reopened for hybrid instruction this week, the first time since all school facilities were shut down on March 13. The school system reportedly welcomed back 1,200 special needs students in kindergarten through fifth grade. ACPS will open on March 9 for special education students, and then fully reopen its doors to hybrid learning for students on March 16.

On the coronavirus front, the number  of deaths due to the virus has climbed to 123, and cases are at 10,404 since the first case was reported on March 11, 2020. Mayor Justin Wilson says the city is doing well keeping the numbers down, although with a vaccine waiting list exceeding 45,000 and 3,000 vaccine doses being given out weekly, distribution will continue to be slow.

More than 550 people responded to this week’s poll on the proposed new names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School. About 60% of respondents said they were happy with Alexandria High School, but not with Naomi Brooks Elementary School; 25% said they liked both names; 8% didn’t like either name; and 6% didn’t like the high school name and were happy with the elementary school name.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories:

Here are our most-read posts this week:

  1. Just In: Vice President Visits Old Town Shop Fibre Space
  2. Alexandria Wants Feedback on Building Spray Park in Del Ray
  3. El Chapo’s Wife to be Isolated in Alexandria Jail for One Month Per COVID-19 Distancing Rules
  4. Consultant Proposes Replacing Community Shelter with Mixed-Use Development
  5. Alexandria Advocacy Facebook Group Parodied in New Blog
  6. Superintendent Proposes New Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary
  7. Patrick Moran, Son of Former Congressman Jim Moran, is Running for City Council
  8. ACPS Reopens its Doors and Evaluating Grading System for Traumatized Students
  9. Man Arrested for High-Speed Vehicle Race on I-495
  10. Meronne Teklu Enters City Council Race
  11. Neighborhood Spotlight: Old Town is the New Town

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via Peter Velz/Twitter 

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Updated at 2:30 p.m. — Vice President Kamala Harris managed to stitch a visit to Old Town knitting store fibre space (1319 Prince Street) into the day’s agenda.

It was the vice president’s first official visit to a small business since she took office in January. Harris spoke for more than a half hour with owner Danielle Romanetti and her staff about the impact of the pandemic and the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that’s working its way through the U.S. Senate.

“We have to understand… who are the folks who have been sacrificing on the front lines, and really are part of not only the economic engine, but to your point, the vitality of the community,” Harris said. “We have, for example, as part of the American Rescue Plan $15 billion that goes just into to small businesses. We have been paying a lot of attention to the fact that during COVID, two-and-a-half million women have left the workforce.”

Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman arranged the visit after being contacted last week by the vice president’s office.

“The vice president’s office was looking to chat with small, locally women- owned businesses and reached out to me and I connected them with fibre space,” Chapman told ALXnow. “It’s definitely an honor that she chose Alexandria for her first visit out of the White House. It was great to have her come across the river and spend time with us.”

Romanetti got a call from the White House on Friday, and opened her store after the visit at 2 p.m. She said that Harris likes to crochet, bought a hoodie for her daughter with the printed message “Come the apocalypse I will have clothing” on it, and talked about the relief that small businesses will experience in the event of the bill’s passage.

Communications officials on Harris’ staff said the vice president was discussing what women in the workforce are going through and how to get them the support needed.

“She’s actually really easy to talk to, and, and it was very comfortable,” Romanetti said. “Her daughter, Ella, is a knitwear designer who just was in Vogue. She just signed a contract with a with a designer to do a line of knitwear.”

Fibre space was one of several stores that took a severe hit last year from the pandemic. The store has been able to weather the last year with a PPP loan, a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan and two small federally funded business grants from the City.

“I am hopeful that this bill will pass, and that it’s going to put a lot of money into small businesses,” Romanetti said. “A lot of business owners are wondering if there is gonna be more loan money available. We also need vaccines, and we need schools to safely reopen because those are also huge issues for business owners. That’s also a huge part of the relief bill.”

Shop employee Maiya Davis talked with her about her pandemic experience. She’s worked there for two-and-a-half years, and was forced to completely shift her life last March.

“We basically had to learn new jobs overnight,” Davis said. “It was a job that just kept changing depending on which struggles we were facing that day. We had to deal with stressed out customers, we had to deal with running a web store all of a sudden, which is something we hadn’t done before. And then we also had to deal with the loss of our community space.”

Alexandria marketing strategist Maurisa Potts was also in attendance, and told Harris about the experiences that dozens of her small business clients have experienced.

“From where I sit in having to service these clients and getting their message out and communicating the hardships and the innovation that’s been happening during this time, a relief package like this will greatly help them,” Potts said.

Vernon Miles and James Cullum contributed to this article.

Photos via Peter Velz/Twitter and fibre space

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As Congress deliberates approval of a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, Alexandria is trying to figure out how it will spend its share.

Alexandria is anticipating $26 million to $34 million, depending on the final plan. The $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal includes $350 billion for local governments.

“Our pleas for Washington to come to the table with some significant local government expenses have apparently nearly been answered,” Mayor Justin Wilson said at City Council’s legislative meeting on Tuesday. “

Last year, the city received $27.5 million in federal funds that were allocated to the state government. This time, the federal funds would go directly allocation to localities, and would be available in May at the earliest.

City Manager Mark Jinks presented a preliminary proposal to Council on how the funds should be spent. It resembled the city’s 2020 Coordinated Community Recovery Plan, which focused on food insecurity, rental eviction prevention and small business grants. Jinks said that the city has been waiting for federal funding since last May, when the U.S. Senate sat on Heroes Act funding after it passed through the House of Representatives.

“We want to get your feedback, let you know where we are, and we’ll come back in probably the beginning of April when we know what the appropriations are,” Jinks said. “What we don’t know is how long do we have to spend the money. If we have three or four years to spend
it, then that’d be a different spending strategy, then if like the last bill said, you had to spend it in 12 months, which we did.”

Alexandria’s consumption tax receipts, including sales, restaurant and lodging revenue generated about $65 million per year, according to Visit Alexandria CEO Patricia Washington.

“This year we’re forecasting to be down $13 million before recovering halfway back up to $58 million in FY22,” Washington said.

Kate Garvey, the director of the city’s Department of Community and Human Services, wants to continue the supporting eviction protection efforts, as well as the city’s food assistance program with ALIVE!.

“It depends a lot on the amount of money that comes to us,” City Councilwoman Del Pepper said.

Wilson said that the city should use the funds to make structural investments for lasting changes.

“Instead of funding childcare, let’s get a childcare facility,” he said, and asked that city boards and commissions fill out a survey on how they think the funds should be spent. “Let’s build capacity that is our going to outlast just recovery of this year, and help us in the future.”

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Morning Notes

Beyer Wants Federal Employees to Get Vaccine — “Our region has the largest concentration of federal employees. Many qualify as essential workers with local jurisdictions responsible for vaccinations. We’re asking the federal government to vaccinate feds via a separate federalized allocation to speed up vaccinations in the DMV.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Vaccinates 20,000 Residents — “On a hopeful note, Alexandria also hit the milestone this week of more than 20,000 residents vaccinated. AHD and private providers continue to vaccinate and work to schedule the tens of thousands of residents who pre-registered for vaccines.” [City of Alexandria]

45,000 Pre-Registered for COVID-19 Vaccine in Alexandria — “As of this writing, 45,000 residents are pre-registered for the shot in Phase 1b. Because of the limited supply – 2,000 doses per week – the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) has had to prioritize within a group that includes tens of thousands of residents.” [Zebra]

ALIVE! Free Food Distribution on Saturday — “On Sat, Feb 20, 8:30-10:30am, @ALIVE4AlexVA will distribute food in Cora Kelly Elem School parking lot and parking lot B-1 of NOVA-Alexandria Campus (map at alive-inc.org, if college closes due to weather, distribution cancelled).” [Twitter]

Final Touches Being Made to Institute for Defense Analyses at Potomac Yard — “One step closer to moving into our new state-of-the-art facility in the high-tech #PotomacYard community of @AlexandriaVAGov! Windows are being installed as construction continues to progress.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Mainly cloudy with snow showers around in the morning. Some mixed winter precipitation possible. High around 40F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 50%. Snow accumulations less than one inch… Partly cloudy skies (in the evening). Low 24F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Termite Inspector/Salesman — “Moxie is seeking experienced/driven sales professionals who can join our team to help us grow our loyal customer base.” [Indeed]

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It was a cold week in Alexandria.

With bits of snow and temperatures hovering at around freezing, our top story this week was on Allison Priebe, the local business owner who was robbed while pumping gas in Old Town. Police later released suspect photos and advise anyone pumping gas to keep their keys with them and lock their vehicles.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria is now at 9,903 cases and no new deaths, which is an increase of about 150 cases since Monday’s report. Meanwhile, as the city contends with a growing vaccine waiting list, the Health Department is warning residents of COVID-19 vaccine scams.

More than 260 people participated in our weekly poll. This week we asked about voting in the upcoming City Council and mayoral elections, and 87% plan on voting in the primary and general election; 6% only plan on voting in the primary; 5% aren’t voting and 1% will only vote in the primary.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories this week:

Here are our top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Local Business Owner Robbed of Car While Pumping Gas at Old Town Gas Station
  2. BREAKING: Large Power Outage Reported in Old Town
  3. ACPS Releases Semifinalist Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School Renaming
  4. Just In: ‘QAnon Shaman’ from Capitol Siege Transferred to Alexandria Jail
  5. Poll: What Do You Think of the Proposed Heritage Development in Old Town
  6. Mayor: Brace Yourselves, It Could be End of Summer Before City Moves into Next Vaccine Phase
  7. BREAKING: Councilman Mo Seifeldein Running for Alexandria Mayor, Hatch Act Conflict in Question
  8. Alexandria Sheriff: Jailed ‘QAnon Shaman’s’ Organic Food Request is Normal
  9. Just In: James Lewis Files Paperwork to Enter City Council Race
  10. Photos: The Regal Potomac Yard Movie Theater is Being Torn Down
  11. City Councilman’s Virtual Super Bowl Party Ambushed by Racists and Nazi Trolls

Photo via Alexandria Police

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says COVID Relief Legislation Will Save Economy — “Today we answered the call of the American people by advancing big, ambitious legislation in @WaysMeansCmte to help end the pandemic and save the economy. We are working to meet the nation’s need with the scale and speed that this crisis requires.” [Twitter]

Northam Sends Letter to FEMA Asking for Increased Assistance With Vaccination — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser sent a two-page letter to FEMA and HHS leaders requesting increased support for COVID-19 vaccination efforts of essential federal employees. It specifically asks that the federal government vaccinate its own workers, including contractors and WMATA employees.” [Zebra]

Photos: Alexandria Sheriff Trainees Get Sprayed in the Eyes — “The final day of field training for these recruits wasn’t a snow day, it was OC spray day! Deputies experience OC spray in a controlled situation during training so they know what to expect and how to keep focused if they’re exposed to it in the future.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Recycles 3 Million Pounds of Glass in Two-And-A-Half Years — “In 2.5 years, Alexandrian’s have recycled over 3 million pounds of glass at the drop off purple bins! You’re also keeping glass out of city-collected recycling carts…glass contamination is down from 26% to 10%. Keep it up! ” [Twitter]

Uncle C’s Chicken & Waffles Preparing to Open on Richmond Highway — “Richmond Highway will soon be getting a new spot for fried chicken and other Southern comfort foods. Uncle C’s Chicken & Waffles is opening at 6308 Richmond Hwy. The spot was previously home to Jerry’s Subs and Pizza, which closed in early 2018.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy skies (during the day). High 33F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy in the evening. Low 28F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Alexandria Police Officer — “Think you have what it takes to be one of Alexandria’s finest? The first steps are to apply and schedule a test. Apply today! Upcoming testing dates: 2/13 at 9:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. 2/18 at 5:00 p.m., 2/22 at 5:00 p.m.” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Images of Capitol Siege Should be Viewed by Everyone — “These images of one of the darkest days in our nation’s history are disturbing. But these things happened, and we cannot erase these events, their causes, or their meaning. Everyone should watch this.” [Twitter]

Pat Malone, Cancer Survivor to ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ for 24 Hours Straight — “Patrick J. ‘Pat’ Malone, a seven-year cancer survivor, and 20-year Air Force veteran will ‘stand up to cancer’ for 24-hours straight, during his Seventh Annual Stand Up To Cancer.” [Zebra]

City Says There Was Error in Vaccine Scheduling — ” AHD has recently identified an internal process error that resulted in several hundred people within the 65-74 age group receiving appointment phone calls out of order. To ensure that no one was skipped due to this error, AHD sent emails for appointment scheduling on Sunday, February 7. Many people who have already scheduled appointments or received vaccines were contacted, and those who received the email unnecessarily should ignore it. The link cannot be used to schedule second doses and it cannot be used by others. As of February 8, AHD has contacted everyone ages 65-74 who pre-registered for their first dose by 7:30 a.m. on January 12.” [City of Alexandria]

South Alex Construction Moving Along One Year After Fire — “One year ago on Monday, a large fire caused $48 million in damages to the South Alex development, which was under construction at the time. Now, developer Combined Properties and architect, Hord Coplan Macht, are getting closer to opening, despite the setback.” [Alexandria Living]

Former Mayor Kerry Donley Endorses Alyia Gaskins for City Council — “I am happy to support Alyia as she launches he campaign for City Council. Alyia has a solid background in public finance and community activism, which will be important as she serves Alexandria on City Council. Alyia represents the enthusiasm of a new age of the Alexandria community which will be important for years to come.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Partly cloudy skies in the morning will give way to cloudy skies during the afternoon. A few flurries or snow showers possible. High 43F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy with snow (in the evening). Low 32F. Winds light and variable. Chance of snow 80%. Snow accumulating 1 to 3 inches.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Private Piano Teacher — “Old Town Music School, an old fashioned preparatory Music School in Old Town Alexandria for over 20 years, is expanding and hiring a community of professional musicians/teachers who offer a nurturing, positive and personal approach to piano lessons. Students are beginning through advanced intermediate levels. Seeking out-going, motivated and fun teachers to join our faculty.” [Indeed]

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With an estimated 25,000 Alexandria residents on the waitlist for the COVID-19 vaccine, Northern Virginia’s Congressional delegation want the Biden administration to include a community vaccination site for the region in its plan to defeat the virus.

Virginia Democrats Don Beyer (D-8th), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-10th) wrote the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday, and asked that Northern Virginia be included in the administration’s plan to install 100 federally run mass vaccination sites throughout the country.

“We believe Northern Virginia to be well suited for such a site,” the letter states. “The city of Alexandria, comprising 160,000 people, has a vaccine waiting list of over 25,000, and neighboring Fairfax County has a vaccine waiting list of over 100,000 people.”

As of Jan. 21, the Alexandria Health Department reported getting nearly 20,000 pre-registrations for vaccines, “and yet Alexandria will likely be receiving less than 2,000 doses per week for the next three to four weeks.”

“We have plenty of capacity to administer vaccines,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “We have nowhere near enough vaccines to administer. The issue is supply.”

The Victory Center on Eisenhower Avenue is being prepped for vaccine distribution by the Inova Health System, although they are not yet scheduling appointments, according to the Washington Post.

According to FEMA, the Interagency Vaccination Task Force and FEMA’s regional offices will establish the new community vaccination centers.

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Morning Notes

Winter Weather Advisory in Effect for Alexandria — “A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect through 9 am Tuesday with expectations of mixed precipitation and possible accumulations of 1-2 inches of snow and ice. Expect slippery roads. Be prepared, slow down, and use caution while traveling.” [Twitter]

More Contagious Coronavirus Variant Found in Northern Virginia — “The Virginia Department of Health said in a news release Monday that the B.1.1.7 variant was confirmed in a Northern Virginia adult resident who reported no recent travel. As of Jan. 22, VDH said almost 200 cases of the variant have been found in the U.S. in 23 states.” [Patch]

Beyer Calls Incoming Treasury Secretary ‘Crisis-Tested Trailblazer’ — “Warmest congratulations to @JanetYellen, the first woman to hold the office of Secretary of the Treasury, on her bipartisan confirmation. Secretary Yellen is the kind of experienced, crisis-tested leader the country needs overcome this historic economic crisis.” [Twitter]

Levine Bill Banning Guns in Polling Places Passes House of Delegates — “My Safe Elections Bill (HB2081), banning guns at polling places, vote counting centers, and recount centers, has passed the House! This bill protects both voters and election workers from intimidation. Those with guns don’t make the rules. Voters do. [Twitter]

School Board Considers Affordable Housing on School Property — “At a work session Thursday evening, school board members discussed at length whether school properties, specifically the Minnie Howard Campus of Alexandria’s high school, could be a good place to build affordable housing.” [Alexandria Living]

Former Del. Van Landingham Endorses Bennett-Parker for 45th District Seat — “Today, I’m incredibly honored to announce Marian Van Landingham’s endorsement. She served the 45th District for 24 years as a Delegate, and has been a champion for better schools, better childcare services, and for a thriving and inclusive Alexandria.” [Twitter]

ALIVE! Food Distribution is this Saturday — “On Sat, Jan 30, 8:30-10:30 am, @ALIVE4AlexVA will distribute food in Cora Kelly Elementary School parking lot (3600 Commonwealth Ave) and parking lot B-1 of NOVA-Alexandria Campus (via Dawes Ave; map at alive-inc.org).” [Twitter]

Casa Chirilagua Needs Volunteers — “VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY: Fill grocery bags at our food pantry every other Tuesday from 4 to 6 pm (changed from Monday mornings). Email [email protected] to join in!” [Facebook]

New Job: In-Person After School Tutor — “Our current after-school instructor opportunities are for students of financially challenged families that are in need of affordable academic assistance.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria Police are reporting no known threats to the city in the run up to the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Wednesday, Jan. 20, and the city is not planning to impose 6 p.m. curfew that night.

Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow that he sees no reason that a curfew will be necessary, as the Alexandria Police Department has been working closely with federal and regional law enforcement partners.

“At this point, we see no reason that will be necessary,” Wilson said. “Our police have been working closely with federal and regional partners for months to prepare for this period and I am confident they will keep our community safe.”

The city will activate its Emergency Operations Center on Jan. 20, and residents are asked to virtually observe the swearing-in of President-elect Joe Biden.

The governor imposed a 6 p.m. curfew on Alexandria and Arlington on Jan. 6 after the siege at the U.S. Capitol. The District will remain in a state of emergency until the day after Biden and Harris are inaugurated.

On Tuesday night, Police Chief Michael Brown briefed City Council on preparations in the run up to the inauguration, and said that the department’s civil demonstration unit is ready to be deployed.

Also this week, Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker asked Alexandria hotels to cancel reservations for any members of the Proud Boys, an aggressive group that supports outgoing President Donald Trump.

See the full release from the city below the jump.

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