Friday, July 31, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

July 31, 2020
Top of the News

State inspector general substantiates allegations against parole board, but details are kept secret

By MARK BOWES, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

The Office of the State Inspector General has substantiated several allegations leveled at the Virginia Parole Board after investigating complaints about how the panel reached decisions in releasing inmates on parole, but details of the findings have been stricken entirely from a copy of the government watchdog agency's report released to the media.

Va. saw nation's second-highest jobless spike last week

By SYDNEY LAKE, Virginia Business

Coming on the heels of reports that the U.S. domestic gross product in the second quarter dropped to its lowest point since 1947, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that Virginia saw the second-highest increase in initial jobless claims in the nation last week. The Department of Labor reported Thursday morning that 46,524 Virginians filed initial claims last week, which is a nearly 10,000 spike from the week prior. More than 37,000 Virginians filed initial jobless claims the week before last.

Northam renews call for Virginia's top court to ban evictions during pandemic

By MARIE ALBIGES, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A month after a state moratorium on evictions was lifted and as the federal ban ends, Gov. Ralph Northam has renewed his request for the state Supreme Court to put a halt to the court hearings that must happen before tenants can be thrown out. "There remains the distinct threat that the most vulnerable Virginians will be evicted from their homes at a time when our public health crisis is expanding rather than contracting," Northam wrote in a July 24 letter to Virginia Supreme Court Justice Don Lemons.

Northam faces 15-point approval drop as governors across the country face growing pandemic fatigue

By KATE MASTERS, Virginia Mercury

A new poll from the Center for Public Policy at VCU's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs found that approval ratings for Gov. Ralph Northam's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic have dropped 15 percentage points since a similar survey in April. Even with the decline, 61 percent of Virginians somewhat or strongly approve of how Northam is responding to the crisis. But political analysts say the significant drop — which comes as governors across the country face growing skepticism from their constituents — speaks to the expanding case numbers across Virginia and a public that's increasingly weary of continued uncertainty.

VMI to alter longstanding traditions tied to its Confederate history, but leave statues in place

By ALISON GRAHAM, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Virginia Military Institute's superintendent said the school will not take down Confederate monuments, but did announce changes to some of the school's longstanding traditions. Retired Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III wrote a seven-page letter distributed to the VMI community on Wednesday that said the school will not remove Confederate statues or rename any buildings. Instead, he said the school will emphasize leaders from its second century of history.

Richmond police clear encampments around Lee statue on Monument Avenue

By ERIC KOLENICH AND ALI ROCKETT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

A citywide task force broke up encampments near the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue and made at least two arrests Thursday morning, signaling a shift in how Richmond officials are dealing with occupants there. Authorities confiscated or destroyed the tents, chairs, clothes, grills and bottles of water people have accumulated as they occupied the grassy medians on the north and west sides of the monument 24 hours a day.

Photo seemed to show wild college time at Blacksburg bar; the truth is more complicated

By HENRI GENDREAU, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The photo doesn't look great. A dozen college students stand around a bar, apparently mask-less, seemingly on top of one another. "Ho house rn… I wish I was kidding" reads the caption, referring to the Hokie House restaurant on Blacksburg's Main Street. The image, posted on Saturday night, ricocheted across social media, swiftly becoming a hot bit of gossip that fed into concerns about how well Virginia Tech students could handle physical distancing — and how well local bars could crack down on alcohol-induced behavior that can help spread the coronavirus.

The Full Report
56 articles, 34 publications


VPAP Visual COVID-related emergency room visits

The Virginia Public Access Project

Virginia's 35 health districts monitor the percentage of hospital emergency visits by patients who exhibit or report symptoms consistent with COVID-19. While not all are confirmed cases, this data is one indicator of possible community spread. This visual shows where the percentage of COVID-related ER visits is up and where it's down.

From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

Our COVID-19 dashboard makes it easy to track the latest available data for tests performed, infections, deaths and hospital capacity. There's a filter for each city and county, plus an exclusive per-capita ZIP Code map. Updated each morning around 10:00 a.m.


Northam asks Virginia's Supreme Court for another evictions ban

By JUSTIN MATTINGLY, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

With thousands of evictions pending across Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam is again asking the state's high court for a moratorium on evictions in response to COVID-19. The governor asked for an evictions ban until Sept. 7 in a letter to Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Lemons. The prohibition, Northam argued, would give the administration time to work with the General Assembly to pass legislation aimed at giving more relief to people facing eviction beyond a program the state rolled out last month.

Northam visits Pittsylvania-Danville health department to learn about telehealth, health inequity

By CALEB AYERS, Danville Register & Bee

Flanked by health experts and news reporters, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam walked through the maze of hallways inside the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District headquarters on Thursday afternoon. He visited with different employees, observed telehealth calls with patients, and spoke with Director Scott Spillmann about telehealth and health equity.

Northam makes appearance in Danville

By LANIE DAVIS, Chatham Star Tribune

Gov. Ralph Northam visited Morgan Olson in Danville Thursday morning to celebrate the opening and success of the facility so far. Morgan Olson closed on the former IKEA building at the end of March and had employees in and making trucks two and a half months later. Today, they have 300 employees and are making 12 trucks per day.

'Danville is a model for the rest of this country,' governor says celebrating Morgan Olson

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

Delivery van manufacturer Morgan Olson, which announced in October 2019 that it would bring 703 jobs to the Dan River Region, started production in June and has hired more than 300 employees since January. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam spoke Thursday morning at the company's 925,000-square-foot manufacturing facility during a celebration of the company's start of operations at its warehouse — Ikea's former location — in Cane Creek Centre in Pittsylvania County just outside Danville.


Wilt Bill To Limit Governor's Authority During State Of Emergency

By JESSICA WETZLER, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Since Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 on March 12, he has had the ability to issue executive orders as director of emergency management for 141 days. Issuing executive orders comes with the governor's powers and duties and under the Code of Virginia. Orders can last through June following the next regular General Assembly session — a stipulation Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, is seeking to address.


Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman, ousted by his own party in GOP convention, considers run for governor

By MEAGAN FLYNN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) says he is exploring a run for Virginia governor in 2021, potentially as an independent — bucking the Republican Party that last month rejected his bid for reelection in favor of a former county supervisor running as a "biblical conservative." Riggleman, who first revealed his potential gubernatorial bid in an interview with Bloomberg's podcast SoundOn, told The Washington Post Wednesday that it will be the subject of a serious discussion with his family in the coming months.


More Virginians filed for unemployment last week, the most since May

By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The number of Virginians to file first-time claims for unemployment compensation last week was 42,966, a 13.2% increase from the week before and the highest level since mid-May. It was the last week individuals could receive an extra $600 a week in benefits from a federal relief program set up to respond to COVID-19 pandemic closures.

Watchdog agency redacts findings about Virginia Parole Board

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

Virginia's government watchdog agency has investigated complaints about the state Parole Board and found "substantiated" allegations but is publicly withholding further details about its work, citing exemptions in the state open records law. The Office of the State Inspector General informed Gov. Ralph Northam's administration Tuesday about the findings of its administrative investigation into the board, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request.

Eastern State geriatric units 115% full as state's psychiatric hospital system is at capacity

By DAVE RESS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Most Virginia state psychiatric hospitals have more patients than staffed beds, with Eastern State Hospital's geriatric units now operating at 115% of capacity, the state's top health official said. "State hospitals experienced rapidly increases census levels and are currently at critical levels," Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Care and Commissioner Alison Land, of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, wrote to legislators last week.

Judge upholds Virginia's uranium ban in property rights case

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

A Wise County and City of Norton Circuit Court judge on Thursday upheld the constitutionality of Virginia's 38-year-old uranium mining moratorium on the grounds that while the ban does deprive its owners of property rights, the state has a compelling interest to do so. "Even the highest rights cannot be used in a vacuum; we are not solitary creatures," wrote Judge Chadwick Dotson in his opinion. "Our actions impact those around us, and sometimes those actions must be hemmed in so as to protect otherwise."


Funding recommended for coronavirus-struck businesses in New River Valley

By LAURENCE HAMMACK, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Two projects that will assist New River Valley businesses in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic should receive more than $300,000 in state funding, a regional panel recommended Thursday. "We hope you don't have to use it very much, but we suspect it will be otherwise," Ray Smoot, chairman of the GO Virginia Region 2 Council, told the applicants.

Busch Gardens will open its doors in August, but only for a special event

By JOSH REYES, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Busch Gardens will open its gates to guests for the first time this summer with an event series in August that highlights many familiar features of the park along with local craft beers. The park, a centerpiece of recreation and tourism in the Historic Triangle, has been closed throughout the pandemic, and the event, titled Coasters and Craft Brews, will be limited by Virginia's Phase 3 restrictions. The restrictions limit events and venues to 50% capacity or 1,000 people, whichever is lower. Busch Gardens' capacity is 24,000.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg plans to reopen next week with limited capacity special event

By GREGORY J. GILLIGAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Busch Gardens Williamsburg plans to reopen next week. The theme park said Thursday it will reopen Aug. 6 with a new limited capacity special event that requires advance reservations. "While the general park remains closed, this new specially ticketed outdoor event will highlight an array of hand-picked park experiences," Busch Gardens Williamsburg website said.

Dharma plans move to Washington County

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

Dharma Pharmaceuticals plans to relocate operations from the Bristol Mall to a rural site on Watauga Road in Abingdon. The company is one of five processors with state approval to grow cannabis, extract the cannabidiol oils to produce medicines and sell those products to state-registered patients. The firm received its state permit from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy in January, after passing its final inspection and began production this past winter in the former J.C. Penney store.


Dulles Greenway Toll Opponents See New Hope This Year

By RENSS GREENE, Loudoun Now

People who have been in the fight against the Dulles Greenway's constantly increasing tolls—and have been constantly frustrated in that fight—see hope things will be different this year after a change in state law. "I think it creates a level playing field, and it's an opportunity for a blank slate at the [State Corporation Commission]," said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).


Student Government Condemns VCU President's Statement


The VCU Student Government Association released an open letter criticizing the school administration for their reaction to violence and property damage at protests last weekend. President Michael Rao issued a statement on property damage caused by protesters this week, saying that the damages to school property total near $100,000. VCU Police released security footage of some of those protesters, asking the public for help with identification. Rao also said that VCU had called on the Commonwealth's Attorney to press charges.

ODU delays fall semester start, still plans some on-campus instruction

By JESSICA NOLTE, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Old Dominion University announced Thursday that it will be starting the fall semester later than expected because of an increase in coronavirus cases in Hampton Roads. The first day of fall classes was moved to Saturday, Aug. 29, according to a news release from the university. Classes were previously expected to begin Aug. 15.

Virginia Military Institute: No plans to ditch Confederate monuments

By ANDREW BLAKE, Washington Times

The Virginia Military Institute has no plans to remove or rename Confederate memorials on campus, including more than one honoring Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, the school's superintendent said Wednesday. Retired Gen. J.H. Bindford Peay III addressed the future of the military college's several monuments to the former Confederacy and its leaders in a seven-page letter sent to members of the school's community.


Roanoke jail sees a dozen cases of COVID-19 among staff in past 2 weeks

By ALICIA PETSKA, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A series of recently diagnosed cases has made Roanoke City Jail one of the harder-struck facilities among its neighboring jails since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city jail has seen 12 employees test positive for the virus over the past two weeks, according to an initial announcement made Tuesday and additional information provided Thursday in response to follow-up questions.

Piedmont Health District COVID cases increase by 80%

By ALEXA MASSEY, Farmville Herald (Paywall)

School superintendents throughout the region have made the case to move to online instruction only at the beginning of the school year, saying coronavirus cases in the area are increasing rapidly. Numbers from the Piedmont Health District show that is the case. Cases of the virus in the Piedmont Health District in July have increased by more than 80% over June numbers.

Nursing facility reports 42 residents, 13 staff test positive for COVID-19

By STAFF REPORT, Enterprise

Forty-two Blue Ridge Therapy residents tested positive for the coronavirus in a round of recent tests, according to a release from the facility Wednesday. Additionally, 13 staff members tested positive, according to a July 29 statement from the facility to the community. "Many who tested positive showed, and still show, no symptoms. One resident has been moved to the recovered list. Two more residents are expected to be moved to the recovered list following the receipt of test results. Sadly, two COVID positive residents have passed.

Office closes for cleaning after Virginia Beach prosecutor tested positive for COVID-19

By SCOTT DAUGHERTY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney's Office will close Friday for an "enhanced cleaning" amid concerns the coronavirus could be spreading among the staff, a spokeswoman said. As a result, city courts will postpone most hearings in criminal cases Friday, said the spokeswoman, Macie Allen. Bail hearings in General District Court will go forward, though.


Charges dismissed against Portsmouth NAACP leaders arrested at Confederate monument

By MARGARET MATRAY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A judge on Thursday dismissed misdemeanor trespassing charges that were filed last month against two Portsmouth NAACP leaders who had been protesting at the city's Confederate monument. NAACP President James Boyd and Vice President Louie Gibbs were at the monument June 10 when police handcuffed and arrested them.

Charles City to let voters decide fate of Confederate monument

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Little Charles City County is about to play a big role in the public debate over the future of Virginia's monuments to the Confederacy. The Charles City Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to ask voters in November whether they favor removing a Confederate monument that was erected next to the courthouse in 1900.

Lee portrait again under scrutiny

By DAVID HOLTZMAN, Central Virginian

Attorneys for a man about to go on trial for his role in a March 2016 murder renewed their call to remove a portrait of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Louisa Circuit Court, citing recent legal changes made by the Virginia General Assembly. Darcel Murphy's legal team also pointed to a move by Governor Ralph Northam to relocate a statue of Lee from Monument Avenue in Richmond, and public statements by him and Attorney General Mark Herring on the issue.

Richmond Police Chief Says Officers Lacked Training, Written Policies On Use Of 'Non-Lethals'


Amid public scrutiny on their use of chemical agents and other so-called 'non-lethal weapons,' Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith says the department has lacked written policies and universal training on their use. Smith's comments came at a recent City Council Public Safety Committee meeting. City Council is considering a resolution calling for a ban on the use of tear gas and impact rounds, commonly called rubber bullets.

2nd complaint filed against Judge Cavedo

By JEREMY M. LAZARUS, Richmond Free Press

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo is facing a second complaint to the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission seeking his removal from the bench based on the judge's efforts to bar the city and state from removing Confederate statues. On Wednesday, former Richmond City Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin filed a complaint saying that Judge Cavedo knew the law but issued rulings demonstrating "his lack of impartiality and his intent to side with the plaintiff."

Requests made to remove monument in Mathews

By ELSA VERBYLA, Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal

The Mathews County Board of Supervisors received several requests Tuesday night to take down the Confederate monument that has stood on Mathews Court Green since 1912. Online requests read to the board said the monument is divisive and a bitter reminder to the county's African-American population of the days of slavery and Jim Crow. No action was taken or proposed at the meeting.

Virginia Department of Historic Resources: Easement does not protect Confederate statue

By JOSH JANNEY, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources disagrees with a claim by Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation CEO Keven Walker that a 2001 easement prevents the foundation from moving a Confederate soldier statue in downtown Winchester. Last year, property that includes the 1916 Confederate statue and the historic Frederick County courthouse, which now houses the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum, was deeded by Frederick County to the New Market-based foundation for 200 years.

Like Many Southern Towns, Parksley Faces Monumental Decision

By CAROL VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post

The proposed sale of a Confederate monument erected in Parksley in 1899 is attracting attention. The Parksley town council voted in June to sell the property for $1 to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. A public hearing is required by law before it can be sold. It is not clear whether the town actually owns the monument and the land on which it stands — a deed recorded in 1903 says the lot was sold for $1 by the Parksley Land and Improvement Company to the Harmanson-West Camp, Confederate Volunteers. Still, Accomack County lists it as belonging to the town.

Franklin County citizens speak up at public hearing

By WILLIAM SEIDEL, Smith Mountain Eagle

Many residents spoke up at a public hearing concerning a Confederate monument in front of the Franklin County courthouse in Rocky Mount at the Franklin County Board of Supervisors meeting July 21. Both sides on the issue made their voices and opinions heard, including 10-year old Mariah Moore. "I am 10 years old, and I will be 11 in two weeks," Moore said. "I am older than the statue. It isn't history, and it needs to be moved.

Unity Project aims to build on issues raised at rally

By LIZA FULTON, South Boston News & Record

As a result of the Black Lives Matter rally in South Boston on June 2, police and community representatives have been meeting in open forums to discuss issues of racism, policing, diversity and distrust of law enforcement. A new group, the Halifax & South Boston Unity Project, has sprung up from the BLM rally, and, with the participation of local law enforcement officers, met on six occasions to hash out topics ranging from police procedure to racism.

No Justice No Peace calls to decriminialize, defund to end racism

By GRACE MAMON, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The organizer of a racial justice group in Roanoke recommended sweeping changes in schools, jails and the police department to abolish systemic racism. Slashing funding for the Roanoke Police Department and decriminalizing drugs and nonviolent offenses were among seven steps that Tatiana Durant, organizer of No Justice No Peace, believes will help remedy racism in Roanoke.


Virtual City Council closed-session meetings didn't follow state code

By BRIAN BREHM, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

In the past two months, City Council has convened three executive sessions in violation of state code. When contacted by The Winchester Star on Thursday afternoon, Mayor and council President David Smith, who runs all council meetings, said he was unaware of the violation and believed everything had been handled in accordance with the law.

Two early voting locations sought in Montgomery County

By YANN RANAIVO, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Montgomery County election officials are seeking approval of two locations for in-person early voting this year — a measure that would be unprecedented for the locality. Montgomery Registrar Connie Viar highlighted the proposal Thursday evening during a meeting of the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County.

County Clarifies Graffiti Removal Policies


Arlington County is clarifying how it responds to reports of graffiti, following the controversial removal of a child's Black Lives Matter chalk art on Juneteenth. The June 19 incident — which started as a neighbor's complaint to the county — garnered widespread outrage, prompted an apology, and led County Manager Mark Schwartz to reflect on the policies that led up to it.

Leesburg Town Council discusses possibility of public office term limits

By JOHN BATTISTON, Loudoun Times

During a January work session, Leesburg Town Council discussed the possibility of imposing term limits on the mayor and individual council members in the future, a topic that returned during another work session Monday. "Term limits aren't unusual devices used in a political community … but I think the question has come up in this particular community and this particular case only to look at, I think, how we continue to encourage growth and involvement and leadership," Councilman Ron Campbell said.

Superintendent, school board face $2.3 million lawsuit from former school board chairman

By JILL PALERMO, Prince William Times

Prince William County Superintendent Steven Walts' Twitter troubles have expanded to include a $2.3 million defamation of character lawsuit filed against him and the school board by former school board chairman Ryan Sawyers. Sawyers has also filed a separate writ of mandamus lawsuit against the school division in June asking a judge to mandate the release of thousands of direct messages Walts exchanged with students via Twitter, a request the school division has so far refused.

$930,000 in Richmond small business loans to help during the pandemic won't have to be paid back

By SEAN GORMAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

More than $934,000 in loans provided to Richmond businesses hurt by the pandemic are being converted into grants that won't have to be repaid, Mayor Levar Stoney announced Thursday. The grants will cover the cost of the 48 loans that have been provided to businesses through the Richmond Small Business Disaster Loan Program, which provided loans of up to $20,000 each to companies in the city to help pay employee wages.

Faison staff holds car rally to protest special education center's plan to reopen Monday

By C. SUAREZ ROJAS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Employees of a special education center in Henrico County held a car rally Thursday to protest its reopening plans for next week. With the Faison Center set to open its doors again Monday, a collective of employees is alleging that the management is dismissing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, putting employees, students and their families at risk by reopening now.

Evictions Continue as COVID-19 Partially Closes Richmond Courts


Following concerns of COVID-19 exposure, Richmond's John Marshall Courthouse has closed its doors to criminal and traffic cases through Tuesday, August 4 or until further notice. But civil hearings — including hundreds of evictions — will continue. In an order issued Tuesday, the general district court's Chief Judge David Hicks cited potential health and safety threats to court staff and the public. As a result, the court closed off the traffic section of its second floor — the same floor where 293 eviction cases are still being heard.

Isle of Wight becomes first in Hampton Roads to bring students back in-person as part of a hybrid model

By MATT JONES, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The school board voted 3-2 on Thursday morning to bring some Isle of Wight County students back to class in a hybrid model. The vote bucks a growing trend in Hampton Roads — most districts have indicated they will start the year virtually. Under Isle of Wight's plan, proposed by board chairwoman Jackie Carr, elementary and middle school students will attend on alternating days: one group on Monday and Wednesday, the other Tuesday and Thursday.

Most Albemarle County students will start year all online

By KATHERINE KNOTT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Most Albemarle County students will start the school year online, though a select group of students will have access to school buildings for classes. The School Board decided on a reopening plan Thursday, agreeing with schools Superintendent Matt Haas to start the year in the second stage of the plan. Division staff outlined a five-stage plan for reopening that would slowly allow different groups of students back into the buildings.

3 Albemarle EDA members resign over new requirements

By ALLISON WRABEL, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Three members of Albemarle County's Economic Development Authority have resigned over new state Conflict of Interests Act requirements. EDA Chairman Rod Gentry and members David Mellen and Jim Atkinson are stepping down due to new requirements that executive directors and members of industrial development authorities and economic development authorities must file a Statement of Economic Interests, which then becomes a public document. The first statement is due Aug. 1.

Amherst board pushes back school start date, requires facial coverings for students in buildings

By JUSTIN FAULCONER, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

Fielding concerns of reopening school as COVID-19 cases more than doubled in the past month in Amherst, the county's school board voted Thursday to delay the start of school two weeks and require facial coverings for students while inside buildings. The 5-2 vote to require the facial coverings and the 6-1 decision to push back the first day of school from Aug. 26 to Sept. 9 came after a public comment session that drew a mixed public reaction.

York County School Board opts for all-virtual beginning of school year

By ABIGAIL ADCOX, Virginia Gazette (Metered Paywall - 4 Articles per Month)

The York County School Board voted unanimously Thursday night for all-virtual education for at least the first nine weeks of the school year. The board followed the recommendation of Superintendent Victor D. Shandor. It also asked him to prepare for the possibility that some students - including those in pre-K through third grade and those learning English - could return to the classroom sooner.

Culpeper School Board votes for blended return to learning

By PAT FITZGERALD, Culpeper Times (Metered Paywall)

The Culpeper County School Board voted 4-3 Monday night for a blended-learning model, where some students will attend classes in-person two days a week and work from home three days a week. Parents who don't feel comfortable sending their children to school will have the option for them to attend classes 100% virtually.

Franklin County begins first phase of broadband project

By JASON DUNOVANT, Franklin News-Post

Franklin County marked the start of Phase 1 of its countywide broadband initiative July 21 with a contract signing with project partners Blue Ridge Towers and Shentel. The two internet service providers joined Franklin County in a $4.6-million broadband project that is expected to bring high-speed internet to more than 20,000 residents in the county.

Board member asked to resign after Facebook post

By CRYSTAL VANDEGRIFT, Charlotte Gazette

Following a Facebook post by an elected Charlotte County School Board member, a protest has been scheduled for Friday, July 31, at the school board office by citizens who say the member should be removed or resign her position. School Board member Teresa Dunaway shared a post on her Facebook page Tuesday, July 28, about the George Floyd Hologram Memorial Project making its first stop in Richmond. In doing so, Dunaway made a comment that several citizens and educators say was racist.



Virginia shows why Trump is wrong about vote-by-mail

Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

President Trump's suggestion that the election be delayed is not only dangerous (because it reveals his authoritarian impulses) and ineffectual (he has no constitutional power to change the date), it perpetuates a great untruth that undermines public faith in our elections. Namely, that absentee voting — which is effectively what voting by mail is — is somehow illegitimate.

With local CARES Act funding, time matters, too

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

As COVID-19 keeps spreading across Virginia, local governments keep scrambling to make up for lost revenue. State leaders should be recognized for the generous distribution of federal CARES Act relief funding around the commonwealth. Of the $3.1 billion Virginia received in the spring from Congress, $1.3 billion is going to localities with fewer than 500,000 people.


Huddle: Must we expect perfection?

By BENJAMIN HUDDLE, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

My great grandfather, Benjamin Jacob Huddle, fought with Robert E. Lee in the Civil War. I don't know why he chose to do that. The Huddles were farmers in Wythe County and did not own slaves. In fact, they probably didn't know anyone who did own slaves.

Huddle teaches chemistry at Roanoke College

Graham: Virginia leaders must help our community health centers

By R. NEAL GRAHAM, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, unsung heroes at community health centers have tirelessly worked to protect their patients and their communities. Located in medically underserved areas such as rural towns or inner-city neighborhoods, these community health centers, also known as federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), provide primary health care services to everyone in their communities, regardless of an individual's ability to pay or insurance status.

Graham is CEO of the Virginia Community Healthcare Association.


I Was a Screen–Time Expert. Then the Coronavirus Happened.

By ANYA KAMENETZ, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

Before the pandemic, I was a parenting expert. It was a cushy gig. In 2019, I boarded 34 flights. I checked into nice hotels, put on makeup and fitted jewel-toned dresses, strode onto stages large and dinky, and tried to project authoritative calm. I told worried parents about the nine signs of tech overuse, like ditching sleep for screens. I advised them to write a "family media contract" and trust, but verify, their tweens' doings online. . . . Now, like Socrates, I know better. I know that I know nothing.

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

MORNING SOURCE: The pay-to-play special session

ITEM #1:  This past Sunday brought the end of the special session of the Nevada Legislature — which Governor Steve Sisolak called for the purpose of addressing the massive budget hole created by Sisolak's own forced shutdown of our economy. So now, it's time to assess what the Governor and his fellow Democrats who dominate both legislative houses did during their nearly two weeks together. 

At a time when so many ordinary Nevadans are already suffering, the responsible way to address the shortfall would have been to rein in the cost of government, largely through furloughs and pay freezes for government workers. But it turns out that's not so easy for Democrats to do politically — not when AFSCME, the union that represents state and local government employees, has contributed nearly a quarter million dollars to Democrats' legislative candidates and PACs over the past three months alone.

The donations include $50,000 apiece to the Assembly Democratic Caucus, Nevada Senate Democrats, and Battle Born and Raised Leadership, as well as $5,000 apiece to Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, and several other lawmakers, as revealed in a Riley Snyder tweet:

The predictable result? Unions got what they wanted in the special session, while the rest of us Nevadans got screwed. And of course, big labor is most grateful. More from Snyder:

"Statement from AFSCME @Local4041 on close of special session; says union negotiated reduction in furlough days/merit pay restoration w/ @GovSisolak and #nvleg Dems on Thursday. 'We thank the governor for honoring our rights as workers under the collective bargaining law.'" 

The Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) has an insightful analysis of how the session revealed just who and what really matters to Nevada's left-wing politicians. Michael Schaus and Robert Fellner write:

"Nevada lawmakers have put the concerns of politically connected government unions over those of taxpayers, students and at-risk Nevadans.

"Rather than restoring funding to education and healthcare services, the Legislature instead chose to put roughly $40 million back into the pockets of state government workers by reducing the number of furlough days and pay freezes initially proposed by Governor Sisolak.

"The Legislature's preferential treatment of state workers, at the expense of other public services such as education and health care, cannot be explained on legitimate public policy grounds given state workers already enjoy disproportionately high compensation levels."

Schaus and Fellner conclude:

"The Legislature's decision to spend precious resources on enriching state workers — while simultaneously slashing funding for education, healthcare and other services — makes clear that lawmakers have prioritized the concerns of newly-unionized state employees over those of everyday Nevadans."

Governor Sisolak and his legislative allies had an opportunity to stand up to their union-boss financial backers and put the interests of regular citizens first. Predictably, they failed that leadership test.

Come November, Nevada voters should remember this slap in the face.

ITEM #2:  Earlier this week, we announced that the 6th Annual Basque Fry and CPAC West 2020 have been canceled, for reasons provided by Morning in Nevada PAC President Adam Laxalt:

"We have explored every option imaginable to allow us to hold the Basque Fry and CPAC West this year. Unfortunately, the Governor's panicky, erratic, incoherent and patchwork approach to COVID-19 has left us with no feasible way to do so. The Governor has taken a heavy-handed approach to the shutdown in some cases, while leaving open preferred industries, and he spat in our eyes when he refused to do anything to stop, or even criticize, the violent riots that have broken out across our state."

We want to thank the many, many Nevadans who have reached out to us to express their understandable disappointment that they won't be able to attend this year's event. More than 2,000 people had bought tickets to what was going to be our largest Basque Fry ever. We're grateful that in the wake of this unfortunate news, so many have responded with grace and character.

Then there's Jon Ralston.

In a tweet that's indicative of his overall tiresome schtick, the left-wing blogger-pundit referred to the Basque Fry as a "Wackofest."

The Fry is attended every year by thousands of patriotic Nevada citizens who care about the future of our state, as well as many Nevada elected officials — whom Ralston's "news" outlet purports to cover objectively. Furthermore, we've had dozens of senior national elected officials, including presidential candidates, from across the country come to the event over the years. 

Apparently, they're also just a bunch of "wackos" to Ralston, whose comment is an echo of Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" line about President Trump's supporters during the 2016 campaign.

At least now we all know what Jon Ralston thinks of so many of his fellow Nevadans and our nation's leaders.

ITEM #3:  This week on the media-bias front, a major Fox News investigative report reveals that:

"A far-left website called Courier Newsroom has managed to drive liberal messaging in key states online and on social media, with piles of cash and no financial disclosure ...

"Courier Newsroom, tied to a multibillion dollar left-wing dark money operation, has strategically placed websites in key battleground states running 'news stories' that often appear to be little more than Democratic Party talking points. The same operation also promotes its content on social media platforms and places expensive ads on Facebook, where it's categorized as a Media/News organization.

"While the Courier Newsroom appears overtly political, its newsroom status allows it to avoid financial reporting and disclosure requirements — meaning the amount of cash that can be used to publish and promote its content is essentially limitless, with no oversight."

Morning in Nevada PAC President Adam Laxalt is quoted extensively in the story, raising concerns over what this will do to the public's already diminished trust in the news media:

"I think it's an unprecedented political news organization. While there are complaints of media bias, fake news, no media outlet is doing what Courier Newsroom is," Laxalt told Fox News. "They were stood up by a large, left-of-center political world and they appear to be directly engaged in political persuasion. ...

"They're all set up to appear as local news, genuine, authentic local news," Laxalt said. ...

"[W]hile Democrats typically cry about fake news, we can all kind of debate what that definition is, this is clearly, absolutely fake news," Laxalt said. "It appears it is invented with the sole intent of persuading swing voters in swing states."

The Fox News story notes that, "A normal PAC would target swing voters in specific districts, but Courier Newsroom is able to avoid the regulations by calling itself a newsroom."

About which Laxalt said: "This is essentially doing that. The difference, of course, from a public trust perspective is disclosure. A PAC would have a mandatory tax disclosure, an SEC filing, donor disclosure rules and the newest one, is a micro-targeting restriction. Well, that does not affect a 'newsroom.'"

And he spells out why this matters so much: "[T]he proliferation of Courier Newsroom-style organizations would evaporate the trust in media."

ITEM #4:  We're all fully aware that the Democrats' and the media's narrative over the Steele Dossier was complete bunk, yet was advanced because it served as a useful tool in damaging President Trump during the bogus Russia-collusion hysteria. Drew Holden shares a Twitter thread naming just a few of the many "journalists," "news" outlets, and others who fell for and promoted the false storyline:

New York Magazine
Mother Jones
The Daily Beast
Brian Stelter
Jonathan Chait
Rachel Maddow
David Corn
Rick Wilson
Joy Reid
Jennifer Rubin
Max Boot
Malcolm Nance
Seth Abramson
Matthew Dowd
Cheri Jacobus
Scott Dworkin
Kurt Eichenwald
Janey Mayer
Adam Parkhomenko
Laurence Tribe

Brit Hume put it bluntly: "It is now clear that the dossier was crap. Those who bought it should be hanging their heads."

ITEM #5:  The headline on a news release from the Portland (Oregon) Police Bureau yesterday informs us that a group of individuals attempted to "Break in to Federal Courthouse, Light Fires, and Vandalize Property Downtown."

Among their many acts of violence, the individuals "started to kick the front doors of Central Precinct," "carried bats and shields as well as wore helmets and gas masks," "breeched the west side doors of the Federal Courthouse," "set a fire outside the west side doors located on the portico," "opened a fire hydrant ... and added soap to the water causing a hazard downtown," and "set several small fires while other people vandalized and spray painted both city, federal, and private property."

As Kimberley Strassel reminds us, "This is what Joe Biden calls 'peaceful.'"

ITEM #6:  The Wall Street Journal has the latest on St. Louis' Mark and Patricia McCloskey, made famous by a video showing them holding legal firearms and defending themselves and their home from a crowd of protesters who were trespassing on their property. The Journal's editorial board writes:

"A politically motivated prosecutor on Monday charged the couple with unlawful use of a weapon.

"The felony count is because they pointed their weapons at protesters. Mr. McCloskey said he did so because he was 'scared for my life,' and that of his wife. No shots were fired. Yet now prosecutor Kim Gardner is charging them on grounds they made the trespassers fear for their safety."

Fortunately, this out-of-control prosecutor is getting some heat:

"Missouri Gov. Mike Parson tweeted that 'We will not allow law-abiding citizens to be targeted for exercising their constitutional rights.' He has promised a pardon if they're convicted. Attorney General Eric Schmitt is working to get the case dismissed, noting that, in addition to the U.S. and Missouri constitutions, Missouri law recognizes the 'castle doctrine.' This allows residents to use force against intruders, including deadly force, based on self-defense and the notion that your home is your castle."

Attorney General Schmitt has called Gardner a "rogue prosecutor" who's carrying out a "political prosecution" against the McCloskey's, and he's absolutely right.

And the Journal's editors really hit the nail on the head with their conclusion:

"Even if the charges are dismissed, or the McCloskeys are pardoned after being convicted, again we have a public official responsible for upholding law and order wink at a mob while treating law-abiding citizens as criminals. If police cannot be counted on to deal with mobs, it's even more vital that law-abiding Americans are free to exercise their Second Amendment right to protect themselves."

ITEM #7:  A Forbes headline on a piece by Chuck DeVore reveals that, "COVID-19 Job Losses Have Been The Steepest In High-Tax States."

It makes perfect sense, of course. Higher tax burdens already serve as a barrier to a healthy jobs climate, so throwing additional economic strife into the mix will only make a bad situation worse. And of course, these high-tax states are also those that have implemented the broadest and most heavy-handed economic shutdowns in response to the virus outbreak.

The economic lesson here is one that Nevada's Democrats — who we know will to try to raise our taxes as soon as they think it's politically safe to do so — should heed. Which means it's also a lesson we can count on them to miss.

ITEM #8:  The Western Journal reports on a nasty spat between U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

After Cuban took issue with those who have criticized players for refusing to stand for the national anthem, Cruz tweeted: "Really??!? NBA is telling everyone who stands for the flag, who honors our cops and our veterans, to 'piss off'? In Texas, no less? Good luck with that."

Cuban shot back: "Have some balls for once @tedcruz. Speak to me. It's my tweet."

It was the wrong turf to fight on, to say the least, since the NBA makes a ton of money in China and has repeatedly gone out of its way to kiss up to the country's oppressive, Communist regime.

And naturally, Cruz seized on the opportunity, tweeting: "Speaking of balls, tell us what you think about China. I'll wait."

Game over, Mark.


"Today's Democratic Party is the party of Silicon Valley billionaires. … It is the party of power. It is the party of suppression. It is jack-booted thugs who will enforce their will through force. That's who the Democratic Party represents. Today's Republican Party are Ohio steelworkers. Today's Republican Party are single moms waiting tables who are filled with opportunities. They're people like my dad when he was a teenage immigrant from Cuba washing dishes." ― U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

"All the political angst and moral melodrama about getting 'the rich' to pay 'their fair share' is part of a big charade. This is not about economics, it is about politics." ― Thomas Sowell

"Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink and make the combination worthless." ― Milton Friedman

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