Alexandria will spend millions on emergency financial support programs, stormwater repair, childcare and dozens of other projects as part of its first portion of American Rescue Plan Act funding.
“Now the really hard work begins,” Mayor Justin Wilson said after Council’s unanimous passage of a plan Tuesday night. “I think this is an opportunity to make some transformational investments.”
The City received its first $29.8 million on May 17, and has to spend the total $59.6 million in funding by Dec. 31, 2024. Alexandria is getting substantial funding by being counted as both a city and county — along with 41 other cities across the country — and will get its second allotment in May 2022.
Federal funds will not directly go to individual businesses, but some are allocated toward the funding of business districts for trial street closures, ABC-licensed special events and public access parklets.
“Our thought was that direct assistance for businesses was best provided, and continues to be provided, through the federal government at scale,” Alexandria Economic Development Partnership CEO Stephanie Landrum told Council. “We are much better equipped as a community, and certainly as an economic development group to reach a wider swath of businesses than we ever have been. And so part of our challenge and responsibility is to make sure all of those businesses know about other programs not being provided by the city.”
The 30 projects include:
- $4 million for an Alexandria Community Access and Emergency Support program to determine which city services are eligible for residents, including emergency financial aid, rent assistance and child care
- $3.7 million in stormwater repairs at the Hoofs Run Culvert
- $3 million for a Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot, which will give $500 in gift cards to 150 poor families for 24 months
- $2.8 million for a Unified Early Childhood Workforce Stabilization Initiative to “support hundreds of childcare providers and early childhood educators, provide a safe and healthy learning environment for thousands of children, and help parents, especially women, get back to work.”
- $2.5 million for food security to ensure two years of continual free food distributions at hubs throughout the city
- $2 million for Alexandria Housing Development Corporation flex space to expand city services for the Arlandria neighborhood
- $1.9 million in flash flooding spot improvements throughout the city
- $1.1 million to scale up a workforce development pilot
- $800,000 to make permanent the closure of the 100 block of King Street
- $620,000 to fund the Out of School Time Program to help with learning loss associated with the pandemic
- $560,000 to the Alexandria Economic Development Authority fund commercial business districts for trial street closures, ABC-licensed special events and public access parklets
- $500,000 for Visit Alexandria marketing efforts
- $295,000 to fund two new Office of Historic Alexandria tourism experiences on the city’s history with civil rights and and the Duke Street Corridor
- $253,000 to increase services for LGBTQ and BIPOC communities
Virginia extends ‘cocktails-to-go’ laws for another year — “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many restaurants were shuttered, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) created a safe and secure way for restaurants to offer cocktails to go with a meal. The General Assembly has now continued this practice in statute for one year.” [Zebra]
Republican mayoral candidate Catchings announces she won’t get education endorsement — “I will not be receiving the endorsement from APACE – Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education. What matters most is that I receive the support from Alexandria parents and citizens for School Choice !!” [Twitter]
Alexandria Restaurant Week returning Aug. 20-29 — “For 10 days (including two weekends), diners can enjoy specials from 60+ restaurants throughout Alexandria including Old Town, Del Ray, Carlyle, Eisenhower and the West End. Participating restaurants will be offering special $49 in-person and/or to-go dinner for two and select restaurants will also be offering a $25 in-person and/or to-go dinner for one.” [Alexandria Living]
‘Queens On King Street’ is back — “After a hiatus of more than a year due to the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions, Alexandria’s Queens on King Street group will reconvene on Tuesday, July 13th at The Light Horse from 6:00-8:00 p.m. The occasion will also serve as the group’s five-year anniversary. In 2015, co-founders Timothy McCue, Nathan Sell, and Alex Rodriguez-Rozic created Queens on King Street to provide a space for LGBTQ+ individuals that live, work, or just love to visit Old Town Alexandria.” [Visit Alexandria]
VDOT seeking feedback on Little River Turnpike improvement plan — “Give input on a study assessing potential Rt 236 (Little River Tpk) improvements from I-495 in Annandale to I-395 in Alexandria! View a presentation and take our online survey (also available in Spanish and Korean) through 7/28.” [Twitter]
Today’s weather — “Sunny skies (during the day). Hot. High near 95F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph… Clear skies (in the evening). Low around 75F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Manager — “Dolci Gelati is a small, customer-focused cafe and gelato shop in the heart of Old Town, Alexandria. We strive to serve the very best in innovative coffee drinks, gelatis, and various other pastries and desserts.” [Indeed]
Alexandria Police are investigating the destruction of several Pride flags that were thrown into the fountain at Market Square outside City Hall (301 King Street).
On Sunday evening, approximately half of the multicolored flags mostly erected on light posts around Market Square to commemorate Pride Month were thrown into the fountain, Alexandria Police told ALXnow.
“We have a destruction investigation ongoing at this time,” APD Senior Public Information Officer Amanda Paga said. “We’re looking into it… At this time the incident is not being investigated as a hate crime.”
Mayor Justin Wilson said that the missing flags will be returned.
“We received a few very disturbing reports about the damage of the Pride flags in Market Square,” Wilson said. “The flags were donated to the City to aid our celebration of Pride. The Alexandria Police Department is investigating and we will ensure that the flags are quickly returned to display.”
June is Pride Month in Alexandria, and the flags are a part of the city’s recognition of “LGBTQ+ people, their influence around the world, and the challenges they face.”
Alexandria Makers Market founder Alyssa Kovach thinks that online marketplaces take away a personal touch.
For nearly two years she’s managed up to 80 Alexandria makers, selling everything from soap and candles to dog food and popcorn seasoning, and on June 27 will feature 15 makers and their products for her first in-person event since the start of the pandemic last year.
“I think the fog really has lifted ,” Kovach told ALXnow. “With this vaccine rolling out, I think everybody’s tentatively, cautiously returning back to normal.”
June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month, and there are a number of planned events throughout the city.
Kovach is finalizing bands that will play at the Growing Pride at The Garden event, which will be held at Building Momentum at 5380 Eisenhower Avenue. The event feature local LGBTQ+ makers and food trucks from Hog-It-Up BBQ, Professional Competition BBQ Team and Anita’s Frozen Cotton Candy. A portion of the proceeds from will also go to Safe Space NOVA.
Kovach, who owns A|VA Apparel, founded the Makers Market in 2019, and has worked with more than 80 makers. She interviews them, too, in an online interview series Make It Alexandria on ZTV. On June 27, she will interview Amy Eggers, who has been called the “Martha Stewart of Del Ray”.
“For some makers it’s a side hustle, but for most this is how they make their money, put food on their table and keep a roof over their heads,” Kovach said. “That’s a very serious situation.”
Kovach continued, “I think a lot of people have taken this time to take more risks, and to explore areas to expand their product lines and keep things fresh. Simply because now is the time. If you’re not going to sit down and kind of challenges. it’s probably not going to happen. I think that has been good for these makers from a mental standpoint, and they’ve been able to challenge themselves and continue to grow, despite what’s happening to the world in the background.”
Kovach said that she wants to hold more public events in the future, like a holiday market in November.
“I think, in terms of me hosting a marketplace online, I’m not sure that that’s the right direction,” she said. “If we can return to in-person and really focus on that, that would be amazing. I think that would just be fun to do throughout the year, and really kind of make each event special.”
Her first popup event, at Port City Brewing Co. in 2019, had more than 4,000 customers, she said.
“Yeah, it was crazy in the best way possible,” she said. “I thought, okay, I’ve found the lightning in the bottle. This is what we’re going to do. And then COVID hit and everything was put on pause. Now can hopefully get back to the way things were.”
The following makers will be featured at the June 27 event:
Independent Investigation Clears ALX Chamber CEO of Wrongdoing — “The Chamber will be immediately scheduling workplace professionalism training for all staff and Chamber leadership and the Chamber’s Code of Conduct will be updated and clearly communicated to staff and members.” [Alexandria Living]
Beyer Votes ‘YES’ as House Passes Equality Act — “The House just passed the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in receiving health care, and more. I voted YES; this is the final vote:” [Twitter]
Council Approves Stormwater Fee Increase — “City council unanimously passed an ordinance doubling the stormwater utility fee from $140 to $280 during Saturday’s public hearing. The increased fee will add $155 million into the city’s coffers over the next 10 years and will help fund an ambitious new flood mitigation action plan, according to city staff. The plan includes various capacity and spot improvement projects meant to overhaul Alexandria’s crumbling stormwater infrastructure.” [Alex Times]
Single Complaint, Lengthy Permitting Process Jettison Classical Concert Series — “There is a noise ordinance in the city – I totally respect it – but our musicians are softer than the birds that chirp along with us, way softer than the airplanes that fly overhead, way softer than the cars and the motorcycles and all the traffic that moves around us.” [Alex Times]
Councilman John Chapman’s Campaign Kickoff Event is March 7 — “Excited to announce my official re-election campaign kickoff event on Sunday, March 7, at 3pm. Check out my website or FB page for more details. chapman4council.com” [Twitter]
Community Invited to Give Feedback on Colasanto Pool Redesign — “The City of Alexandria has hired LSG Landscape Architecture for the project, which will build on recommendations from a 2016 community survey and the city-sponsored 2012 Aquatic Facilities Study. Funding for the project is made possible by Alexandria’s Capital Investment Program as well as a Community Matching Fund through a partnership with the Del Ray Gateway Project.” [Zebra]
Today’s Weather — “A mix of clouds and sun in the morning followed by cloudy skies during the afternoon. High 51F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph…. Cloudy with periods of rain. Low around 40F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Staff Member –“We are seeking dedicated professionals who are reliable, hardworking, and passionate to join our wait staff here at Il Porto Ristorante. Should have at least one year of experience working in high volume dine in restaurant. Compensation is $800-$1200 a week. We will be accepting application’s daily Starting March 1, 2021 between 2-4 p.m.” [Indeed]
Beyer Lauds Supreme Court LGBT Decision — “This is such a big step forward. Employers shouldn’t be able to fire people because of who they are or who they love. After a long and difficult struggle by activists and civil rights organization, an historic decision and a great moment for the country.” [Twitter]
Former Mayor Silberberg Marched in D.C. on Saturday — “All around me, there were poignant reminders of all that had transpired in this location in recent days and weeks — handmade signs attached to the remaining fence and bouquets of flowers. And then that evening, there was breaking news about another tragedy, this time in Atlanta. Heartbreaking.” [Facebook]
Twig Junior Auxiliary Donates $100K to Inova Alexandria Hospital — “The Twig Junior Auxiliary of Inova Alexandria Hospital presented a check for $100,000 to Dr. Rina Bansal for the Inova COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness Fund during a May 22 ceremony held outside the hospital’s entrance.” [Gazette]
Feed The Fight ALX Gives Out 5K Meals to Health Care Workers — “Thank you for your continued support, and please continue to follow us in the coming months on Instagram @FeedtheFightALX. We are so grateful to all of our hospital teams and restaurant partners.” [Facebook]
City Recycles 700 Tons of Glass in First Year of Recycling Program — “The City just hit the 1-year mark for the glass recycling program. In that time, 700 tons of glass (1,410,560 lbs) has been recycled through the purple can glass drop-off program. You crushed it Alexandria!” [Facebook]
‘Mind The Mat’ Owner Gets Creative During Pandemic — “I was trying to be this super-serious fitness instructor on camera, and it was not working.” [Washington Post]
Recreation Centers Opening With Modified Schedule June 20 — “These changes are in place to follow the second phase of reopening. Senior-only hours will be introduced to help protect vulnerable persons on the community while providing an opportunity for exercise.” [Zebra]
Scholarship Fund Honoring Awardees With Individualized Social Media Posts — “We’ll be profiling a student each day this week…as they share their joy and gratitude with the Alexandria Community!” [Facebook]
Center for Alexandria’s Children Receives Face Mask Donation — “We received another donation of 100 adult masks and 100 children’s masks for our Learn & PlayGroup families! We are so grateful to Brooksie & Cas and Jenna Adams for investing so much time and energy into making so many great masks.” [Facebook]
Deal: Rent a Pedego Electric Bike, Get Second Rental Half Off — “Pedego Electric Bikes has the perfect solution for cabin fever. Rent one bike and get the second rental 50% off. Enjoy the outdoors, flowers and sunshine with the safest bikes and equipment from Pedego. This offer will be available until further notice.” [Visit Alexandria]
New Job: HR/Office Manager — “Small but busy security company in need of an experienced HR professional who can really multitask. Candidate should be comfortable screening, interviewing and on-boarding applicants.” [Indeed]
The city will likely add gender and transgender identities to protected statuses in Alexandria.
The new ordinance is scheduled for an introduction and first reading at the City Council’s meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) and for public hearing and enactment on Saturday, Dec. 14.
Introduced by Councilman Mohammed “Mo” Seifeldein, the new ordinance would amend the Human Rights chapter of the city code to add gender identity and transgender status to the list of population groups protected from housing, employment, public accommodations, health and social services, education, credit or city contract discrimination.
The protections make it unlawful to, for example, refuse to hire or to fire someone for their gender identity or transgender status.
While Alexandria placed highly in a Human Rights Campaign ranking of municipalities by inclusivity, gender identity protections were specifically pointed to as an area where the city should do more to improve. Mayor Justin Wilson said at the time that there was some ambiguity about what the city was allowed, and not allowed, to change in the city code regarding protections of gender identity.
Gender identity is defined in the text as “the actual or perceived gender-related identity, expression, appearance, or mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.”
The new ordinance also prohibits discrimination due to sexual orientation from city contract employment, which had been left out of a previous addition of sexual orientation to protected statuses.
Photo via Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash
Alexandria has ranked highly on the 2019 Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Municipal Equality Index of cities, with a 90/100 score, but it also highlighted where there’s room to improve.
Alexandria’s lowest category is in non-discrimination laws, where HRC gave Alexandria 15 of 30 possible points. Of localities in Virginia, Alexandria ranked third behind Richmond and Arlington. Where Alexandria loses is in its protections for gender identity, where there are no protections in employment, housing, or public accommodations from discrimination.
Mayor Justin Wilson said that much of this goes back to the Dillon Rule, which means that localities like Alexandria can only exercise powers expressly granted by the state. But Wilson, and others in city leadership, have said they’re hopeful that the new Democratic majority in the Virginia legislature will mean loosening some of those local restrictions.
“The remaining points that we’re missing have to do with areas where some of the state law limits us,” Wilson said. “There’s some ambiguity for what we can do and can’t do. I suspect we’re also about to see some state laws change in that regard [concerning] laws on gender identity and gender equality.”
Wilson said the biggest current issue is that, depending on how it’s interpreted, state law forbids localities from including protections against discrimination for gender identity and expression the way localities can for other protected classes. Wilson says this extends to city government, where some benefits have been extended for transgender employees.
There is still more work to be done for offering protections, Wilson said.
Today @HRC has announced their 2019 Municipal Equality Index ratings for jurisdictions around the nation.
We have again increased our score.
We have more work to do, but this is an important validation of our efforts to ensure equality for all!https://t.co/u8HvSpZ86z
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) November 19, 2019
While Richmond and Arlington face the same Dillon Rule restrictions, where Arlington rates higher is in services it provides to support LGBTQ youth, homeless, and the elderly, none of which HRC said was available in Alexandria.
Photo via Human Rights Campaign
Patch Editor Dies After Cancer Fight — “William ‘Skip’ Wood, of Alexandria, Virginia, died on Sunday, Oct. 6, after a battle with cancer. He was 57. A longtime journalist and Virginia resident, he covered parts of Northern Virginia for Patch over three years, and was well-known nationally for his reporting at USA Today.” [Patch]
Alexandria Man Charged With Classified Leaks — “A counterterrorism analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency has been charged with leaking top-secret details about foreign countries’ weapons systems to two journalists, including a reporter with whom he apparently was romantically involved, federal authorities said Wednesday. Henry K. Frese, 30, of Alexandria, Va., ‘was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information.'” [Washington Post, Wall Street Journal]
NOVA Names New Prez — “Northern Virginia Community College has named its new president. Anne Kress, one of three finalists in a national search, has been selected to lead Virginia’s largest college as its sixth president, Virginia’s Community Colleges announced Wednesday. Her appointment takes effect at the beginning of next year.” [Washington Business Journal]
Fall Family Fest This Weekend — “Celebrate the change of seasons at the City of Alexandria’s annual Family Fall Festival on October 12, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Armistead L. Boothe Park (520 Cameron Station Blvd.). The festival is free, with activities that include scarecrow building, inflatables, pumpkin painting and entertainment. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.” [City of Alexandria]
Del Ray Farmers Market Cookbook — “To mark the recent 25th anniversary of the Del Ray Farmers’ Market, founded by Pat Miller, Charles Buki, Karen Johnson, Dennis Areeder, and Gayle Reuter, the vendors and volunteers have assembled a commemorative cookbook.” [Zebra]
Bullying Allegations at Alexandria-Based NSF — “A union representing employees at the National Science Foundation demanded Monday that the agency take action to hold managers accountable for acts of bullying, sexual harassment and retaliation against LGBT employees.” [Government Executive]