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Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin speaks at the Safeway at the Bradlee Shopping Center on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. (Photo via Eli Wilson)

The tension between Alexandria’s leaders and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is not exactly a secret, but there have been a few surprising examples of overlapping policy goals.

Most recently, Mayor Justin Wilson shared vocal support for Youngkin’s new Make Virginia Home plan.

The plan includes a multi-pronged approach to affordable housing, with a focus on:

  • Increasing the supply of land for housing: the plan promotes discretionary state grant funding for localities to use for affordable housing. The plan establishes “guard rails” for zoning and land use review processes for localities seeking state assistance, along with requiring transparency in reporting on affordable housing and a comprehensive review of the state’s land use and zoning laws.
  • Remove regulatory barriers to housing development: the plan makes it easier for affordable housing to meet certain environmental regulations and streamline the permitting process, along with translating the building regulations into Spanish.
  • Align housing development with economic growth: the plan includes housing in economic development planning and site development processes. It also includes goals for establishing public/private partnerships that include workforce housing in site development.

The plan has gotten some support, including praise online across the aisle from Wilson. In particular, Wilson said city staff and affordable housing leadership attended a conference last month where Youngkin outlined potential coordination on affordable housing goals.

“As you noted in your speech, this is a multi-faceted challenge that requires policy coordination across local, state and Federal governments,” Wilson wrote in a letter to Youngkin. “We believe there is considerable opportunity for bipartisan agreement to advance good policy and we want to be partners with your Administration to make this happen.”

Wilson outlined some of the progress Alexandria has made in affordable housing, particularly in the use of private development to fuel public affordable housing.

“Given that success, we strongly support your proposals to strengthen the linkage between housing and economic development,” Wilson said. “As you have noted, employers will not locate jobs in the Commonwealth without the ability to house the workforce required, including new jobs at a range of income levels.”

Wilson also praised the proposals to direct future state funding to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and encouraged investment in the State Housing Opportunity Tax Credit Program and the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.

There was one area of concern about potential punishments for local jurisdictions that fail to meet certain state requirements. According to Wilson:

While we strongly support the provisions of your Plan that will incentivize new housing creation, link economic attraction to housing production, and use state funding as a “carrot” for the adoption of pro-growth land-use policies, we are concerned by proposals that purport to punish local jurisdictions for the diligent exercise of ministerial acts, or proposals that remove local control as a method to accelerate housing creation.

Wilson said piecemeal acts by Richmond to erode local control over land-use processes have had a negative impact on housing creation, and that aspect of the Make Virginia Home plan would only reinforce that problem.

“We would instead suggest more comprehensive reform to expand local capabilities to manage the externalities of development, while providing robust incentives for the adoption of pro-growth land-use policies,” Wilson wrote. “This will not only accelerate housing creation, including enhanced housing affordability and accessibility, but also maintain the critical public support required to sustain these policies over time.”

Despite the political divide between the Republican Youngkin and the largely-Democratic Alexandria, there have been areas of overlap between local goals and state leadership. Early in Youngkin’s campaign, Wilson expressed enthusiasm for Youngkin’s goals of holding Dominion Energy more accountable and state officials appointed by Youngkin have worked with Alexandria’s local and federal representatives on infrastructure funding.

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The Alexandria City Council, on Wednesday, says that Governor’s Glenn Youngkin’s proposed new policies restricting transgender bathroom and pronoun use stigmatize and undermine children, and puts their lives at risk.

In a letter to the Virginia Department of Education, Council backed the position of Alexandria City Public Schools to essentially ignore Youngkin’s proposed new rules, which go into effect after a 30-day public comment period on October 27.

The Democrat-led Council said that Youngkin (a Republican) has brought Virginia into the fold of “states across the U.S. seeking to adopt discriminatory and harmful restrictions on LGBTQ+ students,” and that it undermines ACPS and contributes to “the already high number of LGBTQ+ students who attempt suicide.”

“The proposed policies issued September 16 remove protections for transgender and non-binary students in Virginia’s public schools, stigmatizing them and undermining their dignity, and the policies put vulnerable students’ lives at risk,” the city said in the letter, which was approved in Council’s Wednesday night (September 28)  meeting at City Hall.

The letter continued, “While the Governor’s policies target, demean and diminish LGBTQ+ youth, particularly transgender and non-binary students, Alexandria City leaders and community members will support, uplift, and provide a safe, nurturing environment for LGBTQ+ youth so that they can flourish.”

Last week, the city’s interim superintendent says that Youngkin’s proposal won’t be a distraction as the school system plans to continue its “gender-affirming policies.”

While students are not required to wear gender-neutral clothes, the new rules state:

  • School division employees must refer to students with the pronouns “appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record”
  • “The appropriate participation” in school programs separated by sex
  • Overnight travel accommodations, locker rooms, and other intimate spaces used for school-related activities and events shall be based on sex
  • Students shall use bathrooms that correspond to his or her sex, except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires
  • Single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students

Mayor Justin Wilson said that Youngkin’s policy changes are “lawless” and not backed by education experts.

“This proposed policy is not backed by any science, by any best practice, any recommended authority on the welfare of children,” Wilson said. “This is a politically driven policy proposal, not a child-driven policy proposal.”

City Councilman Kirk McPike said that the matter cuts to the heart of the city.

“This is appropriate for the Council to weigh in,” McPike said. “We know that there are many trans students in Virginia schools, including here in Alexandria. They deserve to have their schools to be a place of safety and acceptance. I want them to know that their local elected leaders are on their side. We have your back and will never stop fighting for you.”

Council Member Canek Aguirre said that it’s “absolutely ridiculous” that the city has been put in this position.

“The irony is not lost on me,” Aguirre said. “When there’s a party (Republicans) that says they are about less government, and we consistently see that they are reaching into the furthest parts of our own homes and personal lives, it’s just absolutely disgusting to me.”

The full letter from City Council to VDOE is below the jump.

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In a letter to students, staff and families, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said it will continue to “develop and implement gender-affirming policies for all ACPS students” despite new policies outlined by Governor Glenn Youngkin.

On Friday, Youngkin’s administration proposed new policies to restrict bathroom use and which pronouns transgender students can use. The new policies would restrict students to the bathrooms and locker rooms associated with the sex assigned at birth regardless of gender identity, NPR reported.

The letter, from interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt and School Board Chair Meagan Alderton, said ACPS’ policy of nondiscrimination has included recognized gender identity and gender expression as protected classes, a status that won’t change despite state policies.

“As a School Board and division, we are concerned with these ‘model policies’ that do not align with our mission, vision and core values to support all students and staff, in particular our core value of ensuring that w provide a welcoming environment for everyone in our school community,” the letter said.

Several School Board members took to social media to voice their support for the letter and condemnation for the proposed state policies.

The new policies are part of a broader trend of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced at a state level. The letter said the new policies proposed by Youngkin’s administration would “set the clock back” for civil rights in Alexandria.

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Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin speaks at the Safeway at the Bradlee Shopping Center on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. (Photo via Eli Wilson)

Gov. Glenn Youngkin hasn’t always gotten the best reception in Alexandria, but recent comments about working with localities to establish better affordable housing zoning could help find some common ground with local leadership.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said a recent Washington Post article about a trip to Michigan included some promising comments about improving housing availability.

In the Washington Post interview, Youngkin said he’s interested in how the state and localities can work together to change zoning and regulatory practices that limit the building of high-density housing.

Alexandria’s been making moves in recent years to expand density options for developers in exchange for greater affordable housing funding, but as Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, Alexandria’s ability to draft regulations on limits like allowable density and how much can be traded for housing is limited by state legislation.

While the generally liberal Alexandria has been frosty toward Alexandria’s Republican governor, it isn’t the first time there have been areas of overlapping interest. Shortly after Youngkin’s election, Wilson outlined several areas of shared interest, like holding Dominion accountable for outages and modernizing the tax structure.

Just one day after Youngkin was in the headlines for a spat at Safeway, staff from his Department of Transportation was in Alexandria with other local and state leaders to assess one of the crumbling Arlington-Alexandria bridges and show support for more infrastructure funding.

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Putting aside some of the drama of his visit, Gov. Glenn Youngkin spoke in Alexandria last week about a topic that even some local Democrats have expressed support for: eliminating the grocery tax.

Virginia has a 2.5% grocery tax that helps to fund public schools and transportation. One percent of that goes to local governments, while the rest goes to the state. This has created a sort of three-faction divide on the tax that doesn’t break evenly along party lines.

Youngkin and House Republicans have called for the tax to be eliminated entirely. Another version, rejected by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, would have maintained the 1% contribution to localities but eliminated the state portion of the funding. The legislation was rejected in part because some Northern Virginia senators expressed concerns that it could negatively impact some of the state’s wealthier school districts, ABC8 reported.

In a town hall last week, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that the city has supported eliminating the grocery tax, but that there needs to be adequate replacement revenues to compensate.

Photo via Eli Wilson Photography

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An unmasked Governor Glenn Youngkin made a surprise stop at the Bradlee Shopping Center Safeway yesterday (Thursday), and afterward the Alexandria Democratic Committee tweeted for him to “get out of Alexandria.”

Youngkin, a Republican, spoke without a mask inside of the store at noon. He discussed “the elimination of the grocery tax, the rising costs of groceries, and the impacts of inflation on Virginia families and the high cost of living,” according to an email.

“Please let us know how our cost of living is going to go down by slashing needed supports to families @GlennYoungkin,” tweeted the Alexandria Democratic Committee. “Otherwise, get out of Alexandria and come back when you’re ready to actually invest in our community.”

Youngkin was also heckled by a shopper at the store.

“Governor, where is your mask?” the shopper asked. “Look around you, Governor. You’re in Alexandria. Read the room, buddy.”

Alex Dems also posted this message: “Glenn Youngkin is here at Safeway in ALX to talk about cost of living. We’d love to hear about how his budget which slashes taxes that fund housing and food is going to decrease our cost of living. Seems like the math doesn’t work on that one.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said he had no idea about the governor’s visit beforehand, and only found out when he was told about it by a reporter.

“No clue,” Wilson said. “He did not make us aware he was coming.”

Wilson has never spoken with Youngkin, but would welcome a conversation.

“Sure — we would love to meet with him,” Wilson said.

Youngkin, who got only 24% of the Alexandria vote in the November election, is under fire for ending the mask mandate in public schools shortly after taking office, and Alexandria’s School Board has joined in a lawsuit challenging that order with six other jurisdictions.

Before stopping in Alexandria, Youngkin visited by the office of Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity — the lone Republican on the 10-person board of supervisors. The visit was not on his public schedule.

“I was honored to host the Governor at my West Springfield office this morning to discuss issues important to Fairfax County and Springfield District residents,” Herrity posted on Facebook.

Youngkin’s visit was short, as he was scheduled for a 2 p.m. COVID-19 update in Richmond, followed by a meeting with the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus in the Governor’s Mansion.

Youngkin’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

https://twitter.com/ggreeneva/status/1489622787492913158

Photo via Eli Wilson Photography

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Safeway near the Bradlee Shopping Center (photo via Google Maps)

(Updated 8 p.m.) Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is scheduled to visit an Alexandria Safeway (3526 King Street) today to discuss efforts the Governor’s office said aims to reduce the cost of living.

“Governor Glenn Youngkin will visit a grocery store in Alexandria, Virginia today,” Youngkin’s office said in a press release. “The governor will discuss the elimination of the grocery tax, the rising costs of groceries, and the impacts of inflation on Virginia families and the high cost of living.”

Virginia collects $500 million in grocery taxes, but the tax has been unpopular with both Democrats and Republicans, with both Youngkin and last year’s Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe expressing support for eliminating the tax.

Youngkin will participate in a roundtable discussion with parents and tour the store at noon.

Photo via Google Maps

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Alexandria City Public Schools received 88,000 KN95 face masks for all students and staff last week, not long after newly installed Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order removing face mask mandates in public schools.

Alexandria, along with Arlington and Fairfax County, defied that order and are still requiring students, staff and visitors wear masks indoors. The Alexandria City High School athletic department has also reinstituted mask wearing during practices and competition.

“The Universal masking, of course, is critical in all of our ACPS buildings and on our vehicles,” Julie Crawford, the ACPS chief of student services and equity, told the School Board last Thursday night. “We want to stress how important properly secured masks are to decreasing the transmission rate, especially for in-person activities.”

The 88,000 KN95 masks consist of both adult and student-sized masks, according to Alicia Hart, the ACPS acting chief of facilities and operations.

“Due to the limited supply, the first priority for the KN95 mask distribution is for ACPS students and staff,” Hart said. “As additional masks arrive, provisions for visitors will be considered. Please note that there are no non-essential visitors to our schools at this time.”

Hart could not say how long the shipment will last, but said ACPS will make more orders if necessary.

“We will continue to make additional orders as necessary, which is our standard practice with all PPE (personal protective equipment) needs,” Hart said.

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Monique Miles, photo via Monique Miles for City Council

Among the slate of new officials being picked for statewide positions under Governor Glenn Youngkin is a familiar face among Alexandria Republicans: former City Council candidate Monique Miles.

Miles was tapped to serve as deputy attorney general for Government Operations and Transactions, a division that represents executive agencies, state boards, authorities and commissions in all legal matters.

Miles is an attorney in Alexandria and was recognized by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce’ 40 Under 40 list in 2019. Miles ran for City Council in 2015. As a candidate, Miles advocated for more public-private partnerships in schools and cuts to non-essential city services. Miles founded Old Towne Associates, P.C. in 2013.

“I am excited and honored, and look forward to serving the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Miles said in a press release from the Alexandria Republican City Committee (ARCC).

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In a release to parents and staff put out today (Sunday), Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said everyone in Alexandria schools will still be required to wear a mask despite an order issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin to the contrary.

The state executive order came as a result of a back and forth between Virginia Democrats and Republicans over requiring masks in schools. Both Arlington and Fairfax County have issued similar messages to parents and staff.

ACPS and other school districts’ legal authority to defy the state order is still in question.

The full release from ACPS is listed below:

Dear ACPS Staff & Families,

We hope you are enjoying the holiday weekend and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to school on Tuesday.

We want to address any questions or concerns about whether masks will continue to be worn in our schools in order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) will continue to abide by the health and safety guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) and continue to require all individuals to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth in ACPS schools, facilities and buses.

Masks, combined with multiple other ACPS mitigation measures, have been effective in helping to protect the collective health and safety of our students and staff and keep our schools open for in-person learning. This continues to be our commitment as we grapple with the challenges that this pandemic has posed for our schools.

We have begun to receive shipments of KN95 masks for students and staff, and expect deliveries to be completed by Wed., Jan. 19. ACPS will continue to be diligent in exploring all options to place additional orders for the KN95 masks and continue to work with a community partner to secure additional masks through a donation. We have also delivered additional surgical masks to schools for double-masking as an alternative option.

Thank you for all you do to help keep our schools safe and open! For up-to-date information about ACPS’ health and safety guidelines, please visit www.acps.k12.va.us/domain/1607.

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