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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies
Explore advancing your career in government relations and advocacy with our online professional certificate program in Grassroots Lobbying & Advocacy. Applications due August 15.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Invite Friends to read VaNews
Invite two friends to read VaNews and you'll receive VaViews, a weekly compilation of commentary from a variety of viewpoints.