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More than a dozen anti-abortion activists were individually led out of Alexandria’s City Council Chambers on Tuesday night (June 28), as Council unanimously approved a resolution to protect access to abortions in the city.

Members of the California-based group Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust sat in Council Chambers holding signs depicting graphic photos and drawings of aborted fetuses. The group spent the last several days demonstrating outside the U.S. Supreme Court leading up to last week’s overturning of Roe v. Wadebanning abortion in more than a dozen states.

Mayor Justin Wilson told the audience repeatedly to quiet down or he’d clear the chamber, and asked police to remove more than a dozen protestors, including A.J. Hurley, national director of the group.

“Bodily autonomy is a basic human right,” Wilson said. “I’m not really fond of resolutions that, you know, take stands on issues that we don’t have a lot of impact on, and this is not one of those. I think the reason this resolution is before us is because it has specific actions that are very much in our purview.”

Hurley is from Los Angeles, California. He said that the mission of the organization is to seek a federal ban on abortion, and doesn’t believe he will see that happen in his lifetime. Hurley was eventually escorted from Council Chambers by police after an outburst. Members of the group also shouted on megaphones and banged on plastic buckets outside City Hall.

“If this city council is going to produce edicts and statements and resolutions moving towards ordinances, they should know the faces of the children that they affect,” Hurley said.

The resolution states that “it is not possible to ban abortion, but only to ban safe and legal abortions,” and asks that the City Manager consider budgetary proposals for the FY 2024 budget to “ensure accessibility of reproductive health services, safe abortion services, accessible maternal and child health services for low-income Alexandria residents.”

The resolution also calls on the City Attorney to join ongoing or future lawsuits “to protect the availability of abortion services in Alexandria,” as well as land use protections for providers.

When told by a protestor that she doesn’t understand the issue because she hasn’t had an abortion, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson asked, “How do you know I haven’t?”

“When we’re talking about personal freedom and women’s health care, it should be the women’s choice, not men,” Jackson said.

Council Member Kirk McPike drafted the resolution. McPike previously expressed regret about City Council withdrawing an earlier proclamation of support.

“Fortunately right now we are in Virginia, and in Virginia abortion remains legal,” McPike said. “There’s nothing we can do from this dais or as City Council to override state law. If that changes, we will not be able to limit that. What we can do is work within the powers that we have as a city body, to ask our city manager in our city attorney to take on active roles in helping us protect this right to reproductive choice here in our city, whether that’s through revising our planning and zoning rules, whether that’s by joining lawsuits, whether that’s by putting language in our legislative packets. “

Council Member Alyia Gaskins, who noted in the meeting that she is pregnant, said that the Supreme Court ruling is an attack on the rights of women and families.

“We must be relentless in protecting the health and wellbeing of our people and the citizens we serve,” Gaskins said.

Council Member Sarah Bagley directly addressed the anti-abortion activists holding signs.

“I look at these photos, I see you pointing at them,” Bagley said. “What I don’t see is the woman whose life was saved because the ectopic pregnancy would have killed her. What I don’t see with these photos is a woman who desperately wanted a child but was told that (with) these fetal abnormalities would never have survived.”

Many residents also sat in Council Chambers holding signs thanking Alexandria for its pro-abortion efforts, including Sandy Marks, chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee.

“Our council is entirely unshaken,” Marks said. “There have been a few interruptions, business is moving smoothly. They’re attempting to make noise outside, but our good governance is not going to be disrupted by a small number of out of town visitors that are here to try to obstruct a meeting that is going very smoothly.”

Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-45) also sat in the audience.

“I’m here because I believe everyone should be able to access safe abortions,” Bennett-Parker said. “I’m here today to support City Council and this resolution to protect abortion access in Alexandria and Virginia. I’m here because people should be able to make decisions about their own body, their own future and their own lives.”

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While DASH won’t be able to cover the service gap from the upcoming Metro closures, WMATA announced some new measures yesterday that will attempt to replace Alexandria’s upcoming loss of Metro service.

There are two Metro shutdowns coming to Alexandria that will, together, eliminate or reduce Metro service in Alexandria from September to next May. The first is a shutdown of all stations south of the new Potomac Yard Metro station. The Potomac Yard closure is expected to last from Sept. 10 to Oct. 22. The Potomac Yard closure overlaps with the start of work on the Yellow Line Bridge from Sept. 10 to May. During the much longer Yellow Line Bridge closure, riders will have to take the Blue Line to Rosslyn to cross over into D.C.

During the Potomac Yard shutdown, Metro said in a release that it will be operating additional Blue Line trains, running every seven to nine minutes, from National Airport to New Carrollton stations. At the same time, Metro said customers traveling between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations should plan for approximately 15 minutes of extra travel time.

Metro also notes that if the 7000-series trains remain out of service the trains will operate less frequently.

During this first phase, WMATA said that free shuttle service will be offered in Virginia with three shuttles crossing the Potomac.

Local shuttles will be available during all Metrorail operating hours.

  • Blue Line Local: Local service between Franconia-Springfield, Van Dorn St, King St-Old Town, Braddock Rd, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport stations every 10-20 minutes
  • Yellow Line Local: Local service between Huntington, Eisenhower Ave, King St-Old Town, Braddock Rd, and Crystal City stations every 10-15 minutes. Yellow Line shuttles do not stop at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Station

Express shuttles will be available most of the day (from 4:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., 6:30 am to 9:00 p.m weekends).

  • Blue Line Express: Franconia-Pentagon Express service between Franconia-Springfield and Pentagon stations every 6 minutes
  • Yellow Line Express: Huntington-Pentagon Express service between Huntington and Pentagon stations every 6 minutes

Limited shuttles will be available during weekday rush hours only.

  • VA-DC Shuttle 1: Crystal City-L’Enfant Service between Crystal City, Pentagon City, Smithsonian, and L’Enfant Plaza stations every 12 minutes. Shuttle does not stop at Pentagon Station
  • VA-DC Shuttle 2: Pentagon-Archives Service between Pentagon, Smithsonian, and Archives stations every 12 minutes
  • VA-DC Shuttle 3: Mt. Vernon-Potomac Park (11Y Route) Service between Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, and Potomac Park every 20 minutes. Peak direction service only

Meanwhile, during Phase 2, the Potomac Yard Metro station will be reopened but the bridge will remain closed. All Yellow Line stations will be served by the Blue or Green Lines. Blue Line trains will run every 12 minutes between Largo Town Center and Franconia-Springfield stations and every 12 minutes between Huntington and New Carrollton stations. The Green Line trains will operate every eight minutes.

Metro said there will continue to be a limited rush hour shuttle service during this time.

  • VA-DC Shuttle 1: Crystal City-L’Enfant: Service between Crystal City, Pentagon City, Smithsonian, and L’Enfant Plaza stations every 12 minutes. Shuttle does not stop at Pentagon Station
  • VA-DC Shuttle 2: Pentagon-Archives: Service between Pentagon, Smithsonian, and Archives stations every 12 minutes
  • VA-DC Shuttle 3: Mt. Vernon-Potomac Park (11Y Route): Service between Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, and Potomac Park every 20 minutes. Peak direction service only

Additionally, Metro said riders could opt to take the 16Y Columbia Pike-Farragut Square Line, Metroway, or ride the Virginia Railway Express.

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Alexandria Vice Mayor Amy Jackson took fire from one of her colleagues Tuesday night (June 14) against the appointment of former School Board Member Christopher Lewis to the Alexandria City Public Schools Law Enforcement Partnership (SLEP) Advisory Committee.

Jackson said that Lewis already serves on the city’s Community Policing Review Board and recommended Mike Mackey, the director of the Alexandria Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Service Unit.

Council ended up voting 6-1 (with Jackson in opposition) to appoint former Lewis as its representative on the 16-person SLEP Advisory Committee, which is tasked with reimagining the Alexandria Police Department’s relationship with the school system — including school resource officers at Alexandria City High School and the city’s two middle schools.

“I just don’t think that he is pro-police,” Jackson said of Lewis. “I don’t, and that’s fine. But when I’m looking for someone to put on this particular task force that helps see all the situations and all the perspectives of everyone in the city, finding someone that doesn’t have that outlook and is already close-minded to certain aspects of it, I would not want to see on this particular committee.”

Lewis, the CEO of Public Knowledge, was a School Board member from 2013 to 2019, and last month was named one of Washingtonian Magazine’s 500 most influential people. Lewis was in meetings today and could not comment on this story.

Councilman Canek Aguirre said Lewis has an unparalleled resume, and that Jackson’s comments were “egregious” and “insulting.”

“It’s rather egregious to say that he’s not pro-police,” Aguirre said. “I’d ask where in the past has he ever said that he’s not pro-police. He doesn’t say that. That’s very insulting.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said that both Mackey and Lewis are great to work with.

“My hope is that they (SLEP) are a solutions-oriented group trying to bridge some difficult issues in the community, and coming up with thoughtful policy designs that ultimately can be accepted by both the City Council and the School Board, ” Wilson said. “I think Chris has a good background can help bridge that.”

City Council adopted a number of resolutions Tuesday night aimed at curbing violence within Alexandria City Public Schools, including Wilson’s and Council Member Alyia Gaskins’ memo on their Youth Safety and Resiliency plan.

Gaskins said that the community is still reeling from the death of Alexandria City High School Senior Luis Mejia Hernandez on May 24.

“We also know that many of our young people right now are dealing with the loss of a friend, a classmate,” Gaskins said. “We have parents who are grieving the loss of their son. And so this is really an opportunity for us to as we say in the memo listen, learn, and act.”

Of the 18 arrests of ACPS students between August and December 2021, a vast majority of students arrested are Black.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. resigned last week and did not attend the meeting. He is out of the office until June 21.

Per the approved plan, staff will return to Council with a proposed timeline to start engaging kids, parents and ACPS staff on youth trauma and mental health within the school system.

“I think we are dealing with an urgent crisis,” Gaskins continued. “We have a great community that rallies and steps up when there’s a challenge, and this is our opportunity to do that once again, and to really build new relationships with our young people to let them know they’re cared about, and to take some important steps that invests in their mental health and their overall resiliency.”

Council also unanimously approved a gun violence prevention resolution, which encourages the school system to “review school curriculum, safety protocols, and professional development” related to gun safety and suicide prevention.

Wilson said that it’s time to step back, listen and learn from the community on what it wants regarding safety in schools.

“I think out goal should be to, first of all, step back, listen and learn,” Wilson said. “I think part of the message here is a little bit of humility in our policymaking and a recognition that for a community as diverse, and with a set of needs that we have in our city, there’s not going to be a set of policies that would guarantee that our community is going to be immune from this kind of violence.”

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Mayor Justin Wilson says its time to take a step back and reassess Alexandria’s approach to student safety.

In a joint City Council meeting with the School Board on Monday night (June 13), Wilson said that the community needs to be educated on how the city and school system plan to make schools safer.

“I do think part of this conversation is to step back, because I don’t think there’s many communities around the country that invest the amount that we do in the very ways that we do in our kids, and clearly we still have kids slipping through the cracks in this institution. That’s sobering for us all.”

Wilson and Gaskins presented the Board with a draft memo that will start a “rigorous engagement” program to talk with youth and parents to “learn what is at the root of youth trauma and violence, and act.”

Wilson said that it’s been an interesting last several weeks since the fatal stabbing of Alexandria City High School Senior Luis Mejia Hernandez on May 24. He also said that there is no one single solution, but that a coordinated approach on improving students safety is about creating a public process and approach to solving the issue.

“I don’t mean to be negative on this, but I’m doubtful that in this effort we will determine some kind of magic thing that we have never thought of,” Wilson said. “I don’t think we’ll have anything like that. But I think it’ll be a conversation around how we provide services, scale, scope, how we target things, and where the need is, and I hope that as we have that conversation, we’ll learn more about the effectiveness of what we do today, rather than unnecessarily (try) dramatically new things.”

Council will discuss the memo at its meeting tonight (June 14).

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., who announced his resignation last Friday, did not attend the meeting, and is out of the office until June 21.

Board Chair Meagan Alderton said that the Board needs to improve its efforts to inform to community on ACPS activities.

“I agree,” Alderton said. “I do think we need to do a better job as a Board of educating the community about what actually happens in our schools, because I think that could also shift the conversation. People are making guesses all the time. It becomes counterproductive to what we’re actually trying to do. I second that 100%. I think that there’s an educational component to all of this, so that people just know what’s happening.”

Gaskins said that the memo does not specifically outline City departments for certain projects, since it is the duty of the city and its multiple departments to work collaboratively. She also wants there to be a student summit at some point in the near future to discuss coping with the pandemic and violence-related traumas.

“I think it really is a starting point and call to action to give space for us to listen to our young people, hear what they have to say, be able to evaluate what we’re doing, identify the things that we’re not doing and then put in place a plan that we are holding ourselves accountable to,” Gaskins said at the meeting. “I think this is really an opportunity to think about: How do we activate multiple departments? How do we activate and normalize every resource we have available to ensure the health and safety of our young people?”

School Board Member Abdel Elnoubi said he would do everything to help Council in the effort.

“Politicians and and leaders are looked at as good ones when they can articulate and speak, but we really need some time for people how much we should be listening as well,” Elnoubi said. “Thank you so much for doing this. I’m looking forward to seeing how this turns out.”

Former Sheriff Dana Lawhorne watched the meeting from home.

“I’m glad that our City Council and School Board had a robust discussion tonight about the safety and wellbeing of our youth,” Lawhorne said. “I’m encouraged by the plan put forward by Councilwoman Gaskins and Mayor Wilson. We all need to do our part to support it.”

According to a school safety report released in March, 18 ACPS students were arrested in the first two quarters of this school year, in addition to 41 reported fights/assaults and 13 seized weapons. The weapons seized include a gun, five knives, a stun gun, two fake weapons, and pepper spray. Students also filmed dozens of fights and posted them on social media.

At tonight’s meeting, Council will also consider designating former School Board Member Chris Lewis as its designee to the proposed 16-person School Law Enforcement Partnership (SLEP) Advisory Group. That group will make a recommendation this fall to the interim-Superintendent (or new Superintendent) on the future role of school resource officers at Alexandria City High School and Francis C. Hammond and George Washington Middle Schools.

Separately, Council will also consider passing a gun violence prevention resolution, which encourages the school system to “review school curriculum, safety protocols, and professional development” related to gun safety and suicide prevention, as well as the scheduling of School Board work sessions before the start of the 2022-2023 school year to review those measures.

According to the memo:

In the short-term the Alexandria Police Department will continue its work to investigate recent acts of violence and provide appropriate security interventions to make future acts of violence less likely. To sustainably support the resiliency of our youth and prevent violence, we need to listen as much as we talk. We must engage a diverse range of stakeholders to listen to the experiences of our young people and center their voices, learn what is at the root of youth trauma and violence, and act. With this rigorous engagement, we can design and refine the systems and reforms required to:

  • Address youth trauma and mental health
  • Coordinate across sectors to identify challenges, needs, and opportunities
  • Develop sustainable strategies to align services and existing initiatives
  • Identify metrics and transparent processes to hold ourselves accountable
  • Target investments at identified gaps
  • Prioritize equity
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The Alexandria School Board conducted a closed-door meeting on Tuesday night (June 7) on changes to their operating procedures including a new rule on talking to the media.

In the two-hour-long session, the Board went over proposed changes to its operating procedures, as well as “Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards,” a report from the Center for Public Education. The meeting was attended by Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., Board Chair Meagan Alderton, Vice Chair Jacinta Greene, as well as Members Chris Harris, Willie Bailey, Michelle Rief, Tammy Ignacio, Kelly Carmichael Booz and Ashley Simpson Baird.

One of the changes would require Board Members to provide their colleagues with any written responses to the media. Another stipulates that individual School Board Members must avoid directly communicating with ACPS staff “about Division business.”

In the meeting, Board Member Willie Bailey — who previously said that he will not talk with the media — said that it’s important that School Board Members are all on the same team as part of a strong collaboration of mutual trust.

“I just think that we need to be aware that it’s a team,” Bailey said. “And I’ll say it over and over again. When one person is speaking about something out in the open, I really do believe that that one individual feels that their — they don’t understand that folks out there on the street, the citizens, the students, the parents, they see it as (reflecting the comments of) an entire Board. So, I just think we just need to be cognizant of that and just make sure we understand that we have to work as a team.”

Member Abdel Elnoubi says the proposed change on School Board media relations creates peer pressure against talking with journalists.

“I missed the retreat for being sick,” Elnoubi told ALXnow. “I need to see the changes within context to be able to react to them. In my opinion, any discussions that touch on board members independence and the Board’s authority is a matter of public concern and should be readily available, but the retreats are not live-streamed or recorded (they are open to the public for in-person attendance however) which limits the public’s access to such discussions that occur often in retreats. When there’s no public or media presence which is almost all the time, I feel it creates a whole set of different dynamics and a group/peer pressure type environment.”

The front doors of Alexandria City Public Schools headquarters were locked at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night while the School Board conducted a Board retreat — a public meeting — in a third-floor work room of the ACPS Central Office at 1340 Braddock Place.

ALXnow gained access to the meeting via the building’s underground parking garage, and the Board clerk confirmed that the doors were locked. She said that ALXnow is the only attendee at such meetings, and that security would unlock the doors.

While the meeting was not open to the public, consultant Laurie Cromwell said that the operating procedures make for an effective Board, although it can seem like a “back-assward” form of governance.

Cromwell was on a local school board in Texas from 1999 to 2003, after which she started her consulting firm Foundation Innovation. She has been a meeting facilitator for ACPS for years.

It seems very foreign. I remember my first year when I was on the School Board thinking it was the most back-assward way to try and make decisions. I mean, I really was just completely dumbfounded [by] the restrictions and the limits. And then, fast forward now since 1999, I get it, but it’s really more not about limiting you, it’s about the due process of allowing the community to see what you’re doing. That’s the bottom line — that the community has a right to know how decisions are being made, and if you’re doing it with doors closed for issues that are not private matters, they are not involved in that process.

Elnoubi and Booz have broken ranks numerous times over Board rules to limit members’ unfettered access to the media.

Booz said she was confused about the language and thought that it directed ACPS to send all messages to media to Board Members.

“I understand your confusion and I will inquire about clarifying this line,” Booz said.

After the meeting, Board Member Chris Harris was asked about the proposed change regarding written responses to the media.

“I haven’t looked at it,” Harris said, and was then shown the document. “I have no comment on it.”

The development comes after Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. told the Board not to comment to the media regarding the stabbing death of Alexandria City High School senior Luis Mejia Hernandez.

Hutchings wrote:

Board,

You may receive media inquiries regarding recent events. Please do not speak about the incident. I’ve spoken with our communications team to please refrain from using the term ‘no comment’.

However, please say ‘I will refer this media inquiry to our communications team’ then forward to Julia (Burgos with ACPS communications) and Kathy (Mimberg of ACPS communications). Thanks a million!

Sent from Dr. Hutchings’ iPhone

Elnoubi did not comply and told ALXnow: “I understand that Dr. Hutchings may be worried if we say something, it may be attributed to the division. We don’t work for the division though, we oversee it and we work for the people of Alexandria, we represent The people. As elected officials, we are free to choose how, where and what to communicate with the community, which gets to hold us accountable. In times like these, the community needs to hear from its leaders and policymakers.”

The Board’s operating procedures state that any questions from media related to personnel, student matters, school programs and exceptional/emergency events should be fielded by Board Chair Meagan Alderton and the ACPS communications team. School Board members are discouraged from discussing division-wide topics, but retain the right to talk to the media as individuals.

According to Board’s current operating procedures:

School Board Members retain the right to speak to the media as individuals, but must understand that any comment will likely be interpreted by the public as an officials statement of the Board.

In a March retreat, Hutchings advised the Board to not talk with the media in a refresher for the board on their operating procedures in the wake of a National Review article stating that ACPS engaged in a coverup over an alleged sexual assault last year.

The following month, Hutchings scolded the Board for their edits of a staff report on his plan to create a School Law Enforcement Advisory Group, which will make recommendations for SROs in schools to Hutchings by this fall. Hutchings emailed Board Members that there were legal issues with their making edits outside of a Board meeting and that the edits were “extremely problematic,” “inappropriate,” and “disrespectful.”

School Board Chair Meagan Alderton and Hutchings would not comment on the matter, except by directing all questions to ACPS communications.

ACPS communications staff did not respond to ALXnow’s calls for comment.

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Fire Department recruits training on Feb. 14, 2020 (Staff photo by James Cullum)

As Alexandria’s population centers continue shifting westward, city leadership is looking at shifting more fire department resources toward the West End.

In his monthly newsletter, Mayor Justin Wilson outlined some of what’s ahead for the Alexandria Fire Department over the next few years.

“The approved Capital Improvement Program for 2023 – 2032 includes $57.5 million of renovation and maintenance funding for the remaining Alexandria fire stations,” Wilson wrote, “including a replacement of Fire Station 205 on Cameron Street and a replacement of Fire Station 208 currently on N. Paxton, with a new station on the existing Landmark Mall site.”

Wilson said five years ago, then-City Manager Mark Jinks oversaw an internal analysis that looked at how to prioritize fire station investments.

“The study did show that response times could be reduced as a result of moving four of the existing fire stations further westward,” Wilson wrote. “This proposal is just that: a suggestion for how the City might be able to optimize public safety response time around our City.”

The change comes as the city also starts to move other services, like the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS), into the West End.

On the personnel side, the City of Alexandria is in negotiations with the firefighters union over pay and quality of life issues. The city has faced criticism from the union in recent years over inadequate staffing leading to situations like engines being put out of service and annual leave being suspended.

Future West End expansion of fire station coverage will still be costly and won’t happen overnight, Wilson said.

“Implementation will involve land acquisition and costly construction activities,” Wilson wrote. “As we move forward, however, this data can assist us in prioritizing how we invest in our fire stations, as well as take advantage of development and redevelopment activities to improve our infrastructure supporting these critical services.”

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As COVID numbers continue to rise, the Alexandria City Council will allow the city’s state of emergency to expire on June 30.

The declaration was made by Council in March 2020, and has been extended five times.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson says there is no need for another extension.

“But we will be allowing the emergency declaration to expire as there is no need to continue the authority that it enables any further,” Wilson told ALXnow. “(T)he need for an emergency declaration to address the impacts of the pandemic will be past us.”

The Alexandria Health Department’s last update was on May 20, to announce the availability of booster shots for kids ages five to 11.

Case update

Today (June 6), Alexandria surpassed 35,000 cases of COVID-19. The official number is 35,041, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The death toll remains at 189.

The seven-day average of new cases is 83.9 — down for the third straight week. Three weeks ago, the seven day-average for new cases reached 199.4.

The seven-day positivity rate for Covid tests is 17%, up from 16.6% last week.

In Alexandria City Public Schools, there have been 1,191 cases reported since Dec. 1. Of those, 1,005 are children and 206 are staff, but the numbers on the school system’s dashboard don’t add up.

So far, there have been 536 new cases reported in the first six days in June, and the month is already assured to at least be the third-worst month of the year for new cases.

January was the worst month of 2022, with 12,822 reported, followed by a steep drop to 1,227 cases in February. There were only 593 cases reported in March, and 1,488 new cases in April. Alexandria currently has a Medium community level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

VDH reported the following new cases this month in Alexandria:

  • 70 new cases on June 6
  • 87 new cases on June 5
  • 85 new cases on June 4
  • 93 new cases on June 3
  • 138 new cases on June 2
  • 63 new cases on June 1

Vaccine Update

  • There are 22,345 unvaccinated Alexandria residents
  • About 78% of residents (119,447 people) are fully vaccinated
  • 86% (131,535 people) of residents got at least one dose
  • 64,854 residents got booster shots
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West End residents now have a new hub to to take care of food insecurity and other basic living needs.

On Thursday morning (May 26), nonprofit and city leaders cut the ribbon for the ALIVE! West End Food Hub at 510 S. Van Dorn Street in the Van Dorn Station Shopping Center. The brick and mortar location was made possible by funding from the American Rescue Plan.

Residents will now be able to pick up free food five days a week, in addition to personal items, cleaning and school supplies, and connections to other city and federal services.

“I’m very excited about this,” Mayor Justin Wilson said at the ribbon cutting. “It’s addressing a critical need that multiplied exponentially at the beginning of COVID — our food insecurity, but it allows us to try to meet that need long into the future.”

Rolf Blank, is the vice president of the ALIVE! board, which is made up of dozens of representatives from religious congregations.

“For a long time, the board and a member of congregations have been looking for another way to be able to distribute food and interact with our community,” Blank said. “It’s really more than about food. It’s a way for people to interact with our staff.”

The Food Hub is open from noon to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

ALIVE! has given away millions of pounds of food during the pandemic, and needs donations and volunteers.

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Updated at 11:15 p.m. It took nearly five hours for the power to turn back on for thousands of Alexandria residents on a steamy Sunday night (May 22).

Alexandria got hit by a severe thunderstorm at around 6 p.m. At 8:36 p.m., Dominion Energy tweeted that there were more than 25,000 homes still without power in Northern Virginia.

According to Dominion Energy’s Outage Map:

  • More than 1,300 residents experienced an outage in the Rosemont area
  • There were about 2,600 outages in the Arlandria area

Jesse Thompson lives in a high rise Arlandria, and had no power or water for five hours.

“I’m doing about as well as I can right now,” Thompson said during the outage. “This is really something else.”

After a few rocky years outage-wise, Dominion has recently pledged to invest millions in Alexandria.

City Councilman Kirk McPike tweeted that Dominion Energy’s service “continues to be unacceptable.”

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After being overwhelmed by behavioral health-related calls for service, the Alexandria Co Response Team (ACORP) pilot program is being expanded.

The pilot program soft-launched last fall, with the ACORP team (a licensed behavioral health clinician and specially trained officer) responding to 145 (16%) of behavioral health-related calls for service between October 2021 and February 2022, according to a report that goes before City Council on Tuesday (May 10).

The collaboration between the Alexandria Police Department and the city’s Department of Community and Human Services has been deemed a success by Council, which approved two more ACORP teams in the city’s fiscal year 2023 budget.

In 14 incidents where an arrest could have been made, the ACORP team diverted 10 of them (71%) from arrests, according to the report.

However, the ACORP team has been unable to respond to approximately 85% of the 958 total behavioral-health related calls because they were off duty (63% of calls) or busy with another call (21% of calls).

The team has also been hampered by a 40-hour-per-week schedule, and after a few modifications, now work between Monday and Thursday, from noon to 10 p.m., “to better address the high number of calls consistently coming in on Mondays,” according to the report.

The overwhelming majority of behavioral health-related calls for service were in the 22304 Zip code (317 calls, or 33%) and in 22314 (253 calls, or 26%).

Of the 145 behavioral health calls for service ACORP responded to between October 2021 and February 2022:

  • 52% were for unusual behavior or threats/ harm to self
  • 45% of the calls were resolved on-scene (45%)
  • 13% of calls that ACORP responded to resulted in involuntary transport to the hospital

These two incidents were mentioned in the report:

ACORP was dispatched to a scene involving a person engaging in suicidal behavior, with a knife in his hand, who had been cutting himself. Several units jointly responded to the call since there was a weapon involved, so there was a heavy police presence on the scene. As the ACORP team was trying to engage with the individual, they were surrounded by police officers (due to the imminent danger). The individual shared that he did not trust the police due to previous negative encounters and threatened to harm anyone coming close to him physically. He did say that he would talk to the ACORP co-responder (Megan) alone, but given that he was still a threat, the co-responding officer stayed in the room, and the other law enforcement officers were asked to slowly, one-by-one, step outside briefly. At that time, the ACORP team was successfully able to de-escalate this individual, get him to hand over the weapon, and voluntarily go with them to the hospital for further assessment and treatment. The individual got the help that he needed. This situation also increased trust between law enforcement and the co-response team and between the individual and law enforcement.

The ACORP team responded to a scene involving an individual in distress following a domestic dispute in the early Fall of 2021. The ACORP team successfully de-escalated this individual on-scene and referred them for additional services. A few months later, after not hearing from this man, ACORP responded to a call for service involving a different person who was heavily intoxicated and experiencing suicidal ideation. They arrived on scene, assessed the situation, and stepped into the hallway to discuss a strategy. While in the hallway, the man ACORP served months prior appeared and shared how grateful he was to the ACORP team for helping him get connected with services and as a result, leave a tumultuous relationship and achieve a better quality of life. This man heard the individual in distress behind the door, whom he knew. He was able to speak with his neighbor in distress and share how much he himself had been helped by the ACORP team. This first-hand experience helped the distressed man trust the ACORP team, agree to speak with them, and ultimately get connected to the services he needed.

 

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