Newsletter

The Alexandria City Council will likely hire the next city manager before the end of the year, and next week the city will hold a hybrid town hall on the “qualities and values” the next manager should possess.

After six years as the highest-ranking government employee in Alexandria, City Manager Mark Jinks hinted to ALXnow in May that he was going to retire, and then made it official a month later. The city is currently undergoing a national search for his replacement.

The town hall will be held in-person at City Hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 22. Residents can also fill out an online survey.

A number of top officials in Alexandria are retiring, or announced their retirement this year, including City Councilwoman Del Pepper, Police Chief Michael Brown, and Sheriff Dana Lawhorne.

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In his award-winning poem “I Cry”, Anthony Talbert laments over being incarcerated in the Alexandria Jail.

“Growing up I was told that the eyes are the windows to the soul,” reads Talbert’s poem. “So I cry to cleanse my soul of all the torment it holds.”

The Alexandria Jail gives inmates a lot of time for abstract thought, and this week virtual awards were presented to their best writers in the third-ever creative writing contest. Thirteen participants, who ended up submitting 24 pieces of work, had a month to create a new piece of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

The event was conducted by Heard, a local nonprofit that works with inmates at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center and also the Arlington County Detention Center.

The judges for the contest were Mary Wadland, publisher of The Zebra Press, historian Char McCargo Bah, and Wendi Kaplan, the former poet laureate for Alexandria.

“We are extremely grateful for Heard’s continued outreach and engagement with those in our custody,” said Sheriff Dana Lawhorne. “Not only does the contest provide them with a creative outlet to express themselves, but it gives them the chance to have their voices carry out into the community and beyond.”

Awards were presented to the following inmates:

Poetry

  • First Place — Anthony Talbert for “I Cry”
  • Second Place — William Walsh for “Why Did You Leave?”
  • Third Place — S. Amir for “The Most Beautiful Battle”

Fiction

  • First Place — Michael Pixley for “The Claw”
  • First Place (tie) — D. Miller for “Mental Love”
  • Second Place — D. Miller for “The Moment I Fell”

Non-Fiction

  • First Place  —  “Guatemala” by Anonymous
  • Second Place — S. Amir for “Despised and Rejected”
  • Third Place — Peter Le for “Love Letter”

The winning poetry entry is below the jump.

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What a week in Alexandria.

Public uproar over Sunday’s flooding spilled out throughout this week, which continued to be threatened by near-daily flash flood advisories from the National Weather Service.

Our top story was on Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who criticized City Manager Mark Jinks on the city’s stormwater infrastructure. Mayor Justin Wilson says that multiple projects are underway and take time, and that the city is now looking into whether spot improvements and any other projects can be accelerated.

The group DrainALX has also gained popularity, as it continues to catalog stormwater issues and complaints. One Del Ray resident even told us that she’s turned to therapy after repeatedly spending thousands on a continually ruined basement.

Our weekly poll also found 55% of respondents (193 people) have experienced flood damage to their homes, 14% (74 people) have experienced other sorts of property damage and 31% (159 votes) have never had any property damaged by a storm in the city.

This weekend’s forecast is partly cloudy with a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon, followed by a 40% chance of thunderstorms Sunday night.

School issues

The week before school starts, the School Board unanimously approved Thursday night the requirement that ACPS staffers get the coronavirus vaccine.

“We do have authority to require testing and require vaccinations,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said at the board meeting. “However, there have been no cases where someone has contested that requirement. That has not occurred as of yet, and I’m sure it’s going to begin soon…”

In the meantime, Alexandria is also prepping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. As Alexandria looks to accelerate stormwater projects, Sheriff gives city manager a D-
  2. The Four Mile Run Bridge in Arlandria will not fully reopen until fall 2025
  3. Institute for Defense Analyses announces Potomac Yard move-in later this year
  4. Woman behind DrainALX campaign shares frustrations and hopes from locals after Sunday flood
  5. HUD Secretary Fudge visits Alexandria, says affordable housing is a Biden Administration priority
  6. New census shows Alexandria not majority-white
  7. Alexandria School Board to discuss mandatory vaccinations for staffers this week
  8. After rampant flooding over weekend, another Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Alexandria
  9. Poll: Have you gotten the infamous mite bite in Alexandria?
  10. Alexandria Fire Department struggling with staffing shortage and forced overtime
  11. Stuck in quandary, Del Ray flooding victim seeks therapy

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne is fed up and says the city’s stormwater management is a disaster. On Sunday, Lawhorne said he was helping a neighbor in Del Ray pump water out of his basement until 4 a.m.

“It’s the same summer repeated over and over again,” Lawhorne told ALXnow. “I’ve got basement damage and my shed in the back is destroyed. Whenever we get a big storm you’ll see two-to-three feet of water rushing into the back alley and our house gets engulfed with floodwater. It’s not sanitary.”

Sunday’s storm dumped five inches of water on the city in less than an hour. The city’s stormwater system gets overrun after rainfall of about three inches.

Mayor Justin Wilson says city staff are looking into which stormwater projects can get fast-tracked, and that money is not the problem.

“We’re exploring ways to accelerate execution of the plan, but more money is not the most significant need,” Wilson told ALXnow. “I am heartbroken for the residents and businesses impacted by this flooding. No one should have to fear for their safety and financial well-being every time it rains. I wish we could implement all of these projects tomorrow, but unfortunately they take time. These are very significant projects. We are working to accelerate these efforts as quickly as possible, as well as identify other ways to reduce the impact on our residents.”

Lawhorne says that City Manager Mark Jinks is at fault for underfunding flooding projects for years, and that the city keeps reliving the same summer over and over. Last summer, for instance, there were several major storms that resulted in the doubling of the stormwater management fee for residents to tackle backups, most notably in Rosemont, Del Ray and Old Town.

“Why do we tolerate this?” Lawhorne said. “I give the City Manager a D- for his unwillingness to pay attention to this issue prior to 2020, until the stormwater system crumbled and there was the political will to do something. I’m glad they’re making improvements now, but their plan falls short of accomplishing what needs to be done sooner rather than later.”

Lawhorne continued, “We will continue to pay the price for the next 10 years, just as we saw this last weekend. It’s been a year since all that flooding last year and we haven’t moved the needle. Where’s the results? I’m not saying we have to get them overnight, but good grief.”

Council’s approval last year provided hundreds of millions of dollars toward flood mitigation. Additionally, the city plans to spend millions in American Rescue Plan Act funding on the Hoof’s Run Culvert and spot improvements.

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman has also asked staff to look into redirecting ARPA funding, as well as shifting resources to tackle the issue now.

“It’s a shame to see this over and over again,” Chapman said. “I completely understand the frustrations of residents impacted by small, medium and large storms. We need to adjust and take care of this crisis situation.”

Alexandria announced on Aug. 13, the day before the deluge, that it will accept applications for its new Flood Mitigation Pilot Grant Program on Monday, August 30. Property owner can get a 50% reimbursement (up to $5,000) for flood mitigation projects at their homes.

One resident said on NextDoor that she spent more than $16,000 on drainage systems in her yard last year.

“I know I’m not alone in being frustrated by our flooding and infrastructure issues in Alexandria,” the resident said. “The city of Alexandria NEEDS to address and fix our flooding problems now.”

Lawhorne says he gets frustrated when he hears officials call for patience.

“They say that it’s a 100-year storm, and that it’s just Mother Nature,” he said. “The people who say that must live at the top of the hill.”

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Morning Notes

Mayor recommends residents try out slaughterhouse — “Excited to say hello to the DC Poultry Market on Colvin Street this afternoon. They’re now open and it’s wonderful to have a source for fresh, local, free-range chicken in our City. They’re open 7 days a week. Check them out!” [Facebook]

DASH unveils new 40-foot-long electric buses — “The Alexandria Transit Company DASH is committed to transitioning to an entire fleet of zero emissions vehicles. Today they moved closer to that goal with the debut of three new battery-powered electric buses.” [Zebra]

National Night Out is Tuesday night — “We look forward joining our public safety partners @AlexandriaVAFD & @AlexVASheriff to celebrate National Night Out next Tuesday, August 3. It’s a time to celebrate our community and work together to keep everyone safe & secure.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Mainly sunny. High 83F. Winds NNW at 10 to 15 mph… Partly cloudy skies during the evening will give way to cloudy skies overnight. Low near 65F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Keyholder at FatFace — “We want you to train, develop and lead your crew to their full potential. Act as a brand ambassador, promoting the FatFace brand and culture to our customers through your team.” [Indeed]

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What a hot week in Alexandria.

With temperatures hovering in the mid-90s, the week started with a power outage at a 17-story apartment building in Landmark area. The outage lasted five days and residents had to find accommodations until the building reopened Friday afternoon.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria experienced a slight uptick, and the health department says unvaccinated residents account for a majority of new cases. There have been 39 new cases reported so far this month in the city, and 13 cases were reported on July 9. That was the biggest single-day jump since May 20, when 18 new cases were reported.

In school news, this week we spoke with Alexandria High School Principal Peter Balas, who said that his staff are ready to fully reopen for full-time in-person instruction when the 2021-2022 school year starts on August 24.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Here’s the plan for Alexandria’s birthday celebration this weekend
  2. City Council approves massive high-rise project without affordable housing near Eisenhower Metro station
  3. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  4. Del. Mark Levine raises eyebrows with letter that passes buck on constituent service
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria City High School is ready to reopen at full capacity next month, principal says
  7. School Board Member Jacinta Greene faces reelection, wants race relations taught in ACPS
  8. Tropical Storm Elsa’s dregs tear through southern Alexandria
  9. Poll: Do you agree with reallocation of school resource officer funding?
  10. West End high-rise apartment building evacuated after power outage
  11. The Alexandria Police, Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department all want raises

Have a safe weekend!

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After a break last year, National Night Out is returning on Tuesday, August 3.

The annual community-building campaign brings the Alexandria Police Department, Fire Department, Sheriff’s Office and other City agencies into communities for cookouts as part of a nationwide crime and drug prevention effort.

Previous National Night Out events have brought McGruff the Crime Dog, Spider-Man and other celebrities to cookout locations, along with quick visits from elected officials and other city leaders.

The event was founded by the National Association of Town Watch in 1984. The celebration was postponed last year due to the pandemic, and now more than 20 Alexandria neighborhoods will host block parties, cookouts, and ice cream socials from 5 p.m to 9 p.m.

via Facebook

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Alexandria’s police, fire and sheriff’s offices are asking the City Council for a raise.

The city imposed a pay and hiring freeze during the pandemic, and after more than a year of operating under a City Emergency, all city and state employees got a 1% bonus and merit increases were restored with the passage of the fiscal year 2022 budget.

It wasn’t enough.

The Alexandria Police Department and Fire Department are among the lowest paid in the region, with full-time starting salaries at $$49,294 for firefighters and $51,000 for police officers.

The presidents of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Association, the local 5 chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Union of Police Associations want a 1.5% merit pay increase, instead of the 1% that all city employees received in the approved FY22 budget. They said that the city saved $6 million with the hiring freeze, and that hundreds of jobs were left vacant.

“The workload was instead picked up by other dedicated City employees so as to maintain seamless service to Alexandria’s residents and visitors,” the trio wrote in the July 8 letter to Council. “This added work caused burn-out and lowered morale as employees took on additional responsibilities.”

Mayor Justin Wilson has asked City Manager Mark Jinks to provide an update on the city’s regional comparisons to determine necessary adjustments to “remain competitive.”

Salaries are a collective bargaining issue, and earlier this year Council unanimously adopted a collective bargaining ordinance. In other words, the unions are expected to reach a collective bargaining agreement before making asks of Council.

“In a future collective bargaining environment, we will have multi-year collective bargaining agreements that dictate what raises (as well as many other things) will look like,” Wilson said. “But we’re not there yet.”

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Old Town and Del Ray businesses are back at it again, and the competition for supremacy will be on full display at next Wednesday night’s Old Town-Del Ray Softball Battle.

Mayor Justin Wilson will throw out the first pitch at 6:30 p.m., as the two teams from Del Ray and Old Town businesses will play for bragging rights and the John Porter Cup, a trophy that was metal crafted by Torpedo Factory artist Chris Erney. It is unclear whether Porter, the former principal of T.C. Williams High School, will make an appearance at the event.

It’s the third-ever softball battle between the competitors, as Del Ray won in 2018, Old Town won in 2019 and then the teams had to take a break in 2020 because of the pandemic.

That didn’t stop Del Ray’s team captain Bill Blackburn from competing against Old Town’s team captain Trae Lamond in an oyster eating contest last year, and it resulted in a 103-103 draw after Whiskey And Oyster ran out of oysters.

This year’s contest will be held at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park.

“We’re thirsty to drink from the John Porter Cup,” Blackburn told ALXnow. “Of course, that’s one drink at a time, and we’ll sanitize between drinks… Del Ray has been eager to regain the cup for two years, since we missed our chance to take it back last year. So, there’s a lot of desire, there’s a fire in our bellies.”

Lamond, in a Zoom meeting with Visit Alexandria earlier this week, said that Del Ray cheated in 2018.

“We’re going to destroy them,” Lamond said. “I’m predicting we win by double digits again this year. There you go. We can bet through a variety of channels that are all now available on our apps on our phones.”

Blackburn was ejected from the game in 2018 for arguing against a call by the umpire, Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who will once again be officiating with his deputies. He scoffed at the notion that his team cheated in the 16-15 nail-biter win in 2018.

“I don’t recall that,” Blackburn said. “In fact, we won despite poor officiating from Dana Lawhorne, and I was ejected from the game. And this is when I was fairly pleading my team’s case.”

There will not be any food trucks at the event, and fans are encouraged to bring takeout from an Alexandria restaurant.

Courtesy Visit Del Ray/Facebook

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Morning Notes

2021 Valor Awards honor Alexandria heroes — “The annual awards are dedicated to honoring the public safety personnel of the Alexandria Fire Department, Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, and Department of Emergency Communications for heroic acts of valor.” [Alexandria Living]

PHOTOS: New Harris Teeter opens in Alexandria — “The new 72,000-square foot Harris Teeter at 4550 King St., at the West Alex development, opened its doors to the public Wednesday morning with balloons, lots of ‘2 for 1’ deals and even the store’s mascot, Harry the Happy Dragon, greeting customers.” [Alexandria Living]

Java Loco to open in Mount Vernon Plaza on June 25 — “Locally-owned coffee shop Java Loco will open a new location on June 25 at Mount Vernon Plaza shopping center, located at 7694 Richmond Highway in Alexandria. This is the fourth location for Java Loco in Northern Virginia, where the coffee shop has had a presence since 2013.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “A mainly sunny sky (during the day). High around 80F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph… Mostly clear (in the evening). Low 58F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Front of house manager — “We are a premiere Indian restaurant, bakery, and catering company located in west Alexandria. Our dining environment is casual and comfortable with a modern feel.” [Indeed]

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