Alexandria, VA

The 2,233-member strong Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria (BIBA) Facebook page has become a prominent forum for criticism against local government but has found itself the object of some backlash and now: parody.

A blog launched this weekend, Make Alexandria Great Again, includes a handful of posts lampooning common topics in the group, like frequent criticism of Mayor Justin Wilson, opposition to added density, and nostalgia for the city’s past.

“What happened to this city,” said one blog post, titled ‘I Used to Be Able to Buy a Hamburger in This City for A Nickel’. “Used to be, a man could walk around with some change in his pocket and live like a king. A nickel! I used to put a nickel down on the counter and the man would give me a hamburger!”

The BIBA group started in 2018 focused on opposition to new bike lanes on Seminary Road but the group has since expanded into other issues, like criticism of city’s plans to restore Taylor Run.

The page features a banner image with various people on the City Council or in city administration that are frequent targets for critique from the group. The parody site features a similar image, but with Mayor Justin Wilson alongside characters from Parks and Recreation, West Wing, the Andy Griffith Show, 24, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot.

A post from today remarks that the group’s “founder” is running for City Council, a reference to early BIBA member and former administrator Bill Rossello running for City Council.

The parody site includes categories like:

The page even includes a cameo parody of ALXnow: “ALXToday”

Image via Make Alexandria Great Again

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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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It was a cold and snowy week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on plans to redevelop the GenOn power plant in Old Town North. It looks like deconstruction of the plant will start in 2023 and developers are looking at converting it into an urban, mixed-use property with housing.

The short work week started with news that Alexandria reached 10,000 cases of COVID-19. The latest figures show that there are 10,113 cases and 104 total deaths in the city, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The city’s seven-day moving average is now 35.1 cases.

A 49-year-old homeless woman was found dead in Arlandria on Tuesday morning, and the mayor told us that homelessness is on the rise in the city. ALXnow is following up with the city on the issue.

Tuesday morning also brought news that Alexandria City Councilman Mo Seifeldein abandoned his run for mayor and will not seek reelection to council. Seifeldein was hired as a trial lawyer by the U.S. Department of Labor in Jan. 2020, and while he can finish out his term on council, he can not run unless he files as an independent candidate.

In other election news, the race for city council is starting to get crowded, as Bill Rossello, a co-founder of the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook Group, just threw his hat into the ring.

On the vaccine front, the waiting list has surpassed 45,000 and it may be until late summer that the vaccine is widely available in the city. On Thursday, Mayor Justin Wilson also asked the governor to open vaccine eligibility for restaurant, personal care and retail workers.

More than 200 people responded to this week’s poll on power outages. There have been a number of outages over tha last year, and 73% of respondents reported experiencing an outage, while 26% report that their homes haven’t been impacted.

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

Here are our top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Developers Lay Out Multi-Year Timeline for GenOn Plant Redevelopment
  2. BREAKING: Homeless Woman Found Dead on Mount Vernon Avenue
  3. Alexandria Boxer Troy Isley Goes Pro With Big Fight Next Week
  4. Seifeldein Not Running for Mayor, Leaving Alexandria City Council
  5. ALXnow’s Top Stories this Week in Alexandria
  6. Director of Finance: Alexandria’s Real Estate Assessments Are a ‘Tale of Two Markets’
  7. Local Business Owner Robbed of Car While Pumping Gas at Old Town Gas Station
  8. Torpedo Factory Overhaul Heads to City Council Next Month
  9. Snow: Up to 6 Inches of Snow and Ice Expected in Alexandria
  10. BREAKING: Alexandria Police Investigate Second Car Stolen While Owner Pumps Gas
  11. Local Facebook Watchdog Group Founder Bill Rossello Announces Run for City Council

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson wants Governor Ralph Northam to include retail, personal care and restaurant workers in phase 1B of coronavirus vaccine distribution.

“Not only are these workers vital to the economic health and vitality of our communities, but the are, more often than not, those in our community who are bearing the burden of COVID-19 more acutely than others,” Wilson wrote in a letter to Northam.

Last month, Alexandria entered into 1B, which allows anyone 65 and older to get prioritized for the vaccine. Also included are essential workers, such as police, fire and EMS officials, Alexandria City Public Schools staff and people ages 16 and older with underlying medical conditions.

Wilson said women make up a majority of retail jobs and minority populations are at higher risk because of health disparities in the community.

“Those who serve in these jobs do not have the luxury of working from home and must interact with the public, often at distances less than six feet, in order to perform their work,” Wilson wrote. “Currently, retail, personal care and restaurant workers are in line for vaccines behind many workers in our community who are not required to interact with the public on a daily basis in order to do their jobs.”

It may take until late summer before the vaccine is widely available in Alexandria, Wilson said

More than 45,000 city residents are on the waiting list to get the vaccine, and about 2,000 doses are being distributed weekly.

“COVID-19 vaccine supply currently remains extremely limited,” the city reported Thursday. “While local demand for COVID-19 vaccination exceeds the supply, Alexandria Health Department (AHD) must prioritize certain groups for vaccination.”

Residents can pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine in Alexandria here.

Photo by Eli Wilson

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It might take until the summer until the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available in Alexandria, according to Mayor Justin Wilson.

With just 2,000 vaccine doses expected to be received weekly in the city and more than 36,000 residents on the waiting list, Wilson asked for patience over the weekend on Facebook. He also said that CVS pharmacies are being given a small supply of the vaccine.

As of last weekend, the Alexandria Health Department received 18,550 first doses from the state. Of that, 11,141 first doses and nearly 3,000 doses have been administered.

Wilson said that President Joe Biden’s recent comments on vaccine equity were hopeful, but that that the vaccine will not be widely available until later this summer.

VDH recently launched a statewide COVID vaccination registration system, but that won’t make the process any faster. The names on the list have just been transferred to one repository.

Statewide, 1.1 million Virginians have received the first dose of the vaccine and 366,058 have been fully vaccinated.

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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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Comcast sent shockwaves through localities in the northeast with plan to implement data caps, and Mayor Justin Wilson said this emphasizes more than ever the need to break the cable company’s monopoly on internet in Alexandria.

“It’s frustrating to see Comcast put new policy in place…basically data caps,” Wilson said. “They’ve said there’s a small number of customers who would be impacted by this, but in the end it’s not great timing.”

Comcast has put its plans on hold for the time being, but local residents chimed in at a virtual town hall last week to express their concern. Wilson agreed, and said it’s another point in favor of moving forward with municipal broadband.

The city has been working on building a broadband network for city-use that would have enough excess capacity to lease to private internet and cable providers. That plan has hit some stumbling blocks, but the city has recently restarted its search for a partnering company.

“The big picture answer is competition, we continue to work through our municipal broadband effort,” Wilson said. “We just went out to market and closed on bids — it’s first step towards bringing some competition to the city.”

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Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said in a recent virtual town hall that Alexandrians should prepare for the fact that it could be several months before the city moves out of phase 1B.

The problem: there just aren’t enough vaccines.

“The challenge right now is: we have no vaccine,” Wilson said. “We do not have vaccine supply to do anything near what we need to do.”

The city started vaccination with 1A in late 2020, which was reserved for vaccinating workers at Inova Alexandria Hospital. By February, everyone in 1A had been vaccinated and the city was pushing to move into 1B.

“In the beginning of February, when we reached the end of 1A, we were pushing Governor’s office to allow us to go into 1B,” Wilson said. “At that point, we had vaccine supply but no one to give it to. Then the governor allowed us and a couple other jurisdictions to go to 1B. We were actually the first to go to 1B.”

But what had been planned as a limited expansion of vaccine distribution quickly exploded beyond what had been planned when Governor Ralph Northam aligned Virginia with CDC guidance to expand the 1B category.

“At least initially, that included those 75 and older and frontline occupations like teachers and public safety that have been working throughout this crisis,” Wilson said. “The CDC changed the guidance on 1B and then the governor changed that guidance that added additional groups 1B. That added those between ages 65-74 and added those 16-64 but with a high risk health condition. Now, 1B as a whole comprises almost half the state. It is an enormous category.”

While Wilson said Alexandria has the capacity to quickly deliver vaccinations to the public, it lacks the supply from the state to do so.

“The city has plenty of capacity to administer vaccines,” Wilson said. “We’ve been planning this vaccination effort for months –staff from all over city government, partners in public agencies, private partners in pharmacies and physicians all ready to give out this vaccine and we have considerable capacity to do so. Once we have doses, can do tens of thousands of vaccines per week. Unfortunately we have no doses to do so.”

Wilson said some of the information from the Department of Health website can be misleading, saying that Alexandria has received 22,675 doses, but Wilson said that number is the entire amount that’s gone to Alexandria, much of which went to Inova.

“Our health department has received 13,000,” Wilson said. “Of those, 8,600 has been administered at our clinics and 4,100 have been given to physicians and pharmacy partners, whoa re administering them to patients.”

But there remains a large wait-list for 1B, not to mention all those in other professions signed on for 1C.

“We have over 30,000 residents on the wait list,” Wilson said. “We are going to receive a little less than 2,000 doses per week for the next month or so. That means this is going to take a while and everyone needs to brace themselves. Unless something dramatically changes with the supply of doses, it will be until end of the summer until we are able to get through 1B. It’s an important note because everyone is signed up, but it’s going to take a while before we have a dose for you.”

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Alexandria City Councilman Mo Seifeldein is running for mayor and he is not seeking reelection to Council. He tells us that he is planning to make a formal announcement in the next couple of weeks.

Seifeldein called Mayor Justin Wilson on Wednesday night to tell him that he would be his opponent, although Wilson was unclear when he spoke with ALXnow as to whether Seifeldein will challenge him in the Democratic primary or the general election.

“I am running for mayor,” Seifeldein confirmed to ALXnow on Wednesday night. “I’m running to represent all Alexandrians, and make sure everyone is heard and challenging the status quo. Mr. Wilson is a fine gentleman. I have no quarrel with him.”

The 37-year-old Seifeldein has not yet formally submitted the 125 signatures to the city’s registrar of voters, and there is question as to his eligibility to run. He was first elected in 2018, and then got a job as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor in January 2020, and the registrar referred ALXnow to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in regard to investigating Hatch Act violations that prohibit government employees from holding public office.

Seifeldein, who would not get specific, said he has it on “good authority” that he can run, and that local politics is not partisan on the ballot.

“I am running against Wilson in the Democratic internal primary (on June 8), which is nonpartisan,” Seifeldein said. “The general election is something to worry about later, which is also nonpartisan.”

Clarence Tong, the chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee, said that the only nonpartisan elections in the city are for the school board. He also said that any candidates interested in seeking the democratic nomination can file between March 8 and March 25.

“The Democratic Party in Alexandria nominates candidates for mayor, city council, and constitutional offices,” Tong said. “The only local office that is non-partisan is the school board, as the Democratic Party does not nominate candidates.”

Wilson, who works for Amtrak for his day job, said that he’s excited to discuss issues facing the city with his opponent. Amtrak is owned by the federal government, although its employees are not government employees.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to discuss the important challenges facing our community, the successes of the past two years and my vision for an Alexandria that can thrive in a changing region,” Wilson said. “My focus will continue to be as it always has been, investing in our kids, our infrastructure and the strength of our economy.”

Seifeldein wants the city to conduct an infrastructure review throughout to look at public safety issues, such as waterfront flooding. He also said that city’s West End is in dire need of retail and residential development.

“Mayor Wilson is a formidable opponent,” Seifeldein said. “I am sure it’s going to be an interesting race. As I told Mr. Wilson, I intend to run a race based on the facts. We can agree to disagree in a cordial manner, and he understands. He challenged a sitting incumbent mayor, too.”

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Police Participate in Honoring Fallen Capitol Police Officer — “APD participated in the memorial service for fallen U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Our officers rendered honors for Ofc. Sicknick, and joined the escort from the U.S. Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery. Our prayers are with his family and friends.” [Twitter]

Free COVID-19 Self-Testing Kiosks Available Around City— “Visit a Curative COVID-19 self-testing kiosk in Alexandria for a free test. Tests do not require government ID; service available in English and Spanish. Make an appointment at Curative.com. Walk up testing also available. For more info: alexandriava.gov/114730.” [Twitter]

Beyer Challenges House Republicans Over Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — “Instead Greene uses her official position to double down on dehumanizing rhetoric. She claims she is a victim, and is raising money off the outrage over her calls for violence. Republicans can reject her violent ideology or accept it. That is the choice they have to make now.” [Twitter]

DASH Says All Riders Must Wear Face Masks Starting Feb. 8 — “Effective Monday, February 8, passengers without a mask will not be permitted on any DASH bus. In accordance with federal law, all passengers are required to wear a face mask that covers both the nose and mouth while awaiting, boarding, traveling on or disembarking any DASH bus to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Passengers who refuse to wear a mask will not be permitted to board any DASH bus. If a passenger removes their mask after boarding, they will not be allowed to continue their trip and must disembark the bus as soon as safely possible. DASH maintains a supply of masks on every bus for passengers without masks who cannot delay their trip to obtain one. If a passenger does not have a mask, they are encouraged to ask the operator for one when boarding the bus.”

Mayor Tours Shuttered Power Plant Before Community Meeting — “Next week (the 11th), the new owner of the former power-plant site on Alexandria’s northern waterfront will be holding a community meeting to discuss redevelopment plans. I had an opportunity to walk the site and discuss the future of this important location.” [Twitter]

City Says Essential Workers Should Pre-Register for Vaccine Waitlist — “Individuals in the Phase 1b frontline essential worker categories should pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine waitlist by filling out this form. Those who have already completed the form should not fill it out again. Duplicates require additional staff time to clean and sort, and will not result in faster vaccination. AHD is simultaneously vaccinating those who are ages 65 and older and Phase 1b frontline essential workers.” [City of Alexandria]

Fish Market Gets Help from Barstool Fund — “The Fish Market, a family-owned business restaurant and raw bar in a centuries-old building, has been in business on lower King Street for 45 years. After submitting a video to apply for the Barstool Fund, the restaurant was chosen as one of the small businesses to receive money to help keep it open.” [Patch]

City Wins Award for Carpenter’s Shelter Development — “The City has received the 2020 Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award for supporting the construction of The Bloom/Carpenter’s Shelter, an innovative project that co-locates 97 affordable housing units with a homeless shelter.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. High 48F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy with occasional rain after midnight. Low 37F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Professional Dog Walkers — “As a Dog Walker with Fur-Get Me Not you can expect flexible scheduling, paid training, 24/7 support from both our office staff as well as our on-call managers– and more. Most dog walks are between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm, typically on a recurring schedule Monday-Friday. We compensate at $8.75 per 25-minute visit, and offer two walks per hour to maximize your earning ability — and all of our walks are one-on-one so you can develop great relationships with the dogs on your route!” [Indeed]

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