By SCOTT SHENK, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
On a recent sunny afternoon, a lone turtle meandered across the pavement at the U.S. 17 commuter lot in Stafford County. That turtle had plenty of room to wander—the lot was all but empty. About three dozen cars and just as many commuter vans took up spots in the front section of the 1,020-space lot.
By SABRINA MORENO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)
He is pen-on-paper squiggles are written promptly at 8 a.m., eyes darting from the Maruchan chicken-flavored ramen noodle soup leaned against the high-protein dog chow to the elbow macaroni inventory that's dwindled since he checked the night before. People often arrive at the Little Free Pantry — one of at least five pantries of free food in the Richmond area modeled after Little Free Libraries — planted outside his house under the cover of night.
By AMY FRIEDENBERGER, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
Standing at the top of the steps of the Bedford courthouse on a recent weekday afternoon, Republican congressional candidate Bob Good looked out into a small crowd of sheriff's deputies and supporters holding "Good for Law Enforcement" signs. "Like you and President Trump, I'm going to have the back of those who wear the badge, and stand in the gap and stand on the wall and form that thin blue line that keeps us safe every day," Good told the group. "Sadly, my opponent has stood with the radical left. He's marched with that radical, Marxist, BLM organization."
By GARY A. HARKI, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
As President Donald Trump remained in the hospital Saturday for COVID-19 treatment, local supporters gathered for a boat parade on the Elizabeth River. Boats with Trump flags paraded slowly from Craney Island to Waterside, the Tidewater Yacht Marina and back early Saturday afternoon.
University of Virginia President Jim Ryan is sharing his thoughts on the future of the Thomas Jefferson statue and more in written remarks published by the university. Ryan says he received many notes and some of them were skeptical, but in the end, he has a clear view of the Jefferson statue: it will stay. There are already plans to contextualize it, but President Ryan wrote: "I do not believe this statue should be removed, nor would I ever approve such an effort."
By LUANNE RIFE, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
For Alison Land, necessity is the mother of intervention. When Land became commissioner of Virginia's mental health agency in December, she inherited a hospital system that by law is required to always have a bed ready for someone in crisis. Yet all of the psychiatric hospitals were packed, caring for more patients than they should, with fewer staff than they would want.
By MEAGAN FLYNN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)
Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Republican challenger Daniel Gade both denounced white supremacists and hailed the Black Lives Matter movement in a debate Saturday evening at Norfolk State University, a historically Black institution where questions centered on issues of racial inequity. On the heels of an off-the-rails presidential debate Tuesday night, WAVY-10 moderators Anita Blanton and Regina Mobley strictly enforced time limits with the ring of a bell, and both candidates avoided interrupting or crosstalk throughout the 90-minute debate.
By PETER DUJARDIN, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)
Cost concerns appear to have derailed a bill to drastically revamp Virginia's jury trial sentencing system. Lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee voiced concern that the legislation — allowing defendants to choose to be sentenced by a judge rather than the jury that just convicted them — could lead to many more jury trials across the state.
If state legislators didn't already know about the birds and the bees, by the end of last week, they definitely knew about the BrdsNBz — a national sexual health textline rolled out in Virginia last year. The program became an unexpected highlight of the General Assembly's budget discussions after Republicans in the House and Senate drafted last-minute floor amendments to prohibit state expenditures on the textline, which is currently funded through federal grants for maternal and child health services.
By PETER COUTU, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
During their second debate, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican opponent Daniel Gade sparred over how best to fix racial disparities and inequities in education, healthcare, economic mobility and the criminal justice system. Recent polls put Warner, a Democrat seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate, comfortably ahead, though he narrowly beat Ed Gillespie in 2014.
By ANDREW CAIN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. and Republican challenger Daniel Gade on Saturday faulted President Donald Trump for not clearly calling out white supremacists on the day of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville or during his first presidential debate with Democrat Joe Biden. "The president badly fumbled that question last week," Gade said during a debate with Warner at Norfolk State University. "There's no way around that. And he badly fumbled it in the Charlottesville case as well.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and his Republican opponent, Daniel Gade, clashed over topics including policing and coronavirus relief legislation but also found a number of points of agreement Saturday night during their second debate. The event, held at Norfolk State University, focused on racial disparities and inequities.
By NICK CROPPER, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)
Republican 5th Congressional District candidate Bob Good expressed his support of Second Amendment rights and law enforcement during a "Good for Guns Rally" on Saturday in Nelson County. Dozens of residents had gathered for the event, many wearing Bob Good stickers and orange "Guns Save Lives" stickers seen with the Second Amendment sanctuary movement that swept through the state following the Nov. 2019 election.
By LUANNE RIFE, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
It was March 6 and a week before Gov. Ralph Northam would shut down Virginia, and months before the coronavirus would seep into Piedmont Geriatric Hospital and kill nine of its residents. During those last few days of normalcy, when hospital visitors were asked if they had traveled or felt ill but were still welcomed inside, Emma Lowry discussed the stubborn problem facing her elderly patients. Once they no longer needed inpatient psychiatric care, it could be difficult to find a welcoming home for them.
By MICHAEL NEIBAUER, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)
Microsoft Corp. is at it again, acquiring 46 acres in western Prince William County, likely for a future data center or data center campus. The tech giant followed up its $93.7 million purchase in August of 66 acres in southern Loudoun County with the $29 million buy of 11314 Balls Ford Road in Manassas, according to public records. The site sits between Interstate 66 and Balls Ford Road. It is zoned explicitly for data centers.
By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)
The controversial merger that created Ballad Health has enabled the health care system to better respond to the novel coronavirus, senior Ballad officials said. Ballad Health System officials gave themselves a grade of "A" for their response and flexibility in meeting myriad challenges posed by COVID-19 while sustaining significant financial impacts, six months into the public health pandemic.
. . . While non-athlete students report being forced to exaggerate symptoms or exposures in order to receive a test from Student Health and Wellness, athletes on the University's football, field hockey, volleyball, men's soccer and women's soccer teams receive thrice weekly COVID-19 tests in accordance with ACC Medical Advisory Group requirements. "The more frequent testing of U.Va. student-athletes reflects the nature of the sports they play, which often requires athletes to come into close or direct physical contact," the University said in a statement.
By RICHARD CHUMNEY, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)
Total enrollment at Liberty University this fall, including new students at the school's vast online program, jumped nearly 12% over last year, according to early estimates from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Liberty's explosive growth came as the number of students enrolled in Virginia's public and private nonprofit institutions dropped by 1.3% — or 6,658 students — during the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
By STAFF REPORT, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
The Virginia Department of Health reported Sunday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 151,870, an increase of 1,067 from the 150,803 reported Saturday. The 151,870 cumulative cases since the spring consist of 143,883 confirmed cases and 7,987 probable cases. There have been 3,273 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 3,060 confirmed and 213 probable. That's an increase of three from the 3,270 reported Saturday.
By ROBYN SIDERSKY AND ELISHA SAUERS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
In the past week, President Donald Trump and Gov. Ralph Northam tested positive for the coronavirus, along with the first ladies. As November nears and political passions flare, many may argue whether it was a better or worse week for the pandemic. But for most of Hampton Roads, which was considered a hotspot in Virginia for the virus this summer, case rates were either flat or showing signs of decline. The region saw half the number of deaths as it did in the seven days prior.
By BRYAN MCKENZIE, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)
Every 15 minutes for 24 hours, little robots named after "Star Wars" characters dip their tubes and drink deep of the discharge flowing out of pipes from dormitories and other buildings at the University of Virginia. The devices take samples of sewage that will be frozen, spun and analyzed for signs of viral ribonucleic acid residues that could give advance warning of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and a possible outbreak of COVID-19.
More than 100 inmates, staff and contractors at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. In a news release posted to the jail's website, it said 109 of the 756 inmates at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19. and have been isolated from the rest of the jail population. Two inmates received inconclusive test results and will be retested. Six of the 180 staff and contractors employed at the jail tested positive.
A widening COVID-19 outbreak at the Danville City Jail has prompted a mask-wearing mandate for facility workers. After announcing earlier this week that one inmate tested positive for COVID-19, a total of 49 were infected as of Saturday afternoon, Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul said. Additional tests were administered Friday night for 63 inmates in three housing areas, Modul reported.
Dozens of quarantined inmates at the Danville City Jail are being closely monitored in case they develop serious symptoms after nearly 50 tested positive for the coronavirus last week. "We have to do rounds twice an hour, every hour," Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul said Sunday. Whether more inmates — as well as employees — will be tested is up to the Virginia Department of Health, he said.
By LUZ LAZO, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)
Maryland and Virginia drivers owe the District over $373 million in fines from outstanding parking and traffic citations they have racked up in the past four years, according to records from the city's Department of Motor Vehicles. The data validates long-held concerns that drivers from both states are violating traffic laws in D.C. and accumulating unpaid tickets without facing consequences.
By ERIC KOLENICH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
Judy Gary got a phone call last month from her primary care physician. The doctor was informing all her patients that she was planning to retire. After carefully selecting a caregiver and building a relationship with her the past two years, Gary now had to start over. As older primary care doctors retire and as the U.S. population ages, the country is expected to face a shortage of primary care physicians.
Catholics across Virginia are being called on to confront racism in their communities. The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has established a 14-member council to advise Bishop Michael Burbidge on racism and look for "actionable" ways to right the wrong of systemic racism and promote the wellbeing of all people.
By SHANNON BRENNAN, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)
Standing under a 100-year-old red oak tree in the George Washington National Forest, Judy Strang looks up and worries. If this 40-acre tract of forest up a steep slope from the Pedlar River gets clear-cut, how will it affect the river, which serves as the source of drinking water for the city of Lynchburg? "Watershed protection requires forest cover," said Strang, a writer and founder of the Friends of the Pedlar River.
Thomas Jefferson High alumni were looking to be heard loud and clear outside of the school in Alexandria, Virginia, on Sunday during a rally to change the way students are admitted. They said the change would allow for greater inclusion and equity among the student body.
Citing safety is their No. 1 concern, the Prince William Education Association is calling on the school division to maintain virtual instruction "for the forseeable future" and wants the School Board or Superintendent Steven Walts to make that decision as soon as possible. The Prince William Education Association is a union representing thousands of Prince William County Schools teachers and staff members. The group's statement, released Sunday night, notes that the number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia continues to rise "at the same rate as in late June" and "there is no significant data indicating that returning to school in November will be equitable, let alone safe."
By TAFT COGHILL JR., Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
Fredericksburg City Councilman Chuck Frye Jr. admires the revitalization efforts in downtown Fredericksburg. He's witnessed the conversion of former dilapidated houses into something the city is proud to showcase. That's why Frye said he's thrilled that the nonprofit Havens for Heroes has made an effort to repair a duplex at 315 and 317 McKinney St. in the Mayfield subdivision and use it to house veterans in need of assistance.
By SAM WALL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
The Pulaski County school system's new cellphone policy banning middle and high school students from using the devices during the day has some parents complaining about the disconnect. Pulaski Superintendent Kevin Siers said the school system began looking at changing the policy in September 2019 at the request of a school board member.
The Shenandoah County Planning Commission gave its stamp of approval for a proposed large-scale solar facility in Mount Jackson despite concerns raised by neighbors during a joint public hearing with the county's Board of Supervisors on Thursday night. Commissioners voted unanimously (one member was absent) to recommend to supervisors the approval of a special-use permit filed by Randolf Solar Partners LLC, which plans to construct a solar energy facility on a 32-acre portion of property located at 332 Walker Road and 595 Georgetown Road.
By JAMEY CROSS, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, two Lynchburg-area school divisions are seeing a drop in predicted enrollment that could lead to loss of state funding. Public school divisions receive state funding of about $6,000 per student based on their average daily membership, or ADM, count. School divisions provide a final ADM count in March of every school year.
Traffic stopped for a short time on Riverside Drive on Saturday afternoon as a group of Danville residents, young and old, marched across Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge in the name of supporting local Black-owned businesses. Curtia Guthrie, a founding member of The Movement Organization, organized the impassioned and peaceful Power of a Dollar march in hopes of bringing more awareness to the struggles that current and aspiring business owners in the Black community face.
Local merchants who talked to the Danville Register & Bee support bringing a casino to the city. They said a Caesars Virginia casino resort in Schoolfield would deliver much-needed jobs, generate tax revenue and attract more shoppers to other parts of the city. "It is the most positive thing that Danville has seen in some time," said Roslyn M. Preston, owner of The Vintage Boutique on North Union Street downtown.
Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
Today we are here to tell you something that most newspapers won't: Your vote doesn't really count. Oh, it counts in this year's congressional elections, in the referendum on whether Virginia should adopt a constitutional amendment to ban partisan gerrymandering, in whatever local races are on the ballot (such as Roanoke mayor and city council). And, of course, it counts as part of a citizen's fundamental rights in a democracy. So yes, everyone should vote. But your vote doesn't really count in the presidential race. The only people whose votes matter are those who live in the handful of states considered swing states.
Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
There should be no offshore oil drilling along the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina. Not ever. Period. The potential for harm far outweighs the benefits, which are questionable at best. That matter should be settled for good, so everyone concerned can move ahead.
Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." — From George Orwell's "1984." Maybe Orwell had the date wrong. Maybe what he really meant to write was "2020." There are lots of reasons why 2020 might be considered Orwellian, but here's one close to home. Some Virginia Democrats are urging a "no" vote against the proposed constitutional amendment dealing with redistricting that's on this year ballot by invoking the argument "No Gerrymandering. Vote No on Amendment #1." This is an Orwellian perversion of the facts.
Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
Many of the concerns about this year's election focus, rightly, on the voting — the casting and counting of ballots. But officials in Virginia and elsewhere are taking precautions against another threat, that of intimidation at the polls and the potential for violence around the election. These are not idle worries, and Virginians should take some measure of comfort in knowing steps are being taken to protect voters and keep the peace between now and the presidential inauguration in January.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
In one year's time, voting access in Virginia has expanded by leaps and bounds. The 42.4% of registered voters who participated in the November 2019 elections largely did so at the polls on Election Day. It was not a state holiday. Voting absentee required a reason. Voting by mail was not an option. The COVID-19 pandemic and the General Assembly cracked the seal on a historically rigid process. Voters who feared long lines, or lacked the ability to step away from responsibilities on that first Tuesday in November, face fewer barriers to their votes being counted.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
This election, Virginians are being asked whether they want the General Assembly to continue drawing legislative boundaries behind closed doors or in the full glare of the public arena. The choice is clear: It's time for a change.
By JAY MATHEWS, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)
How do you make the nation's most selective high school into something more than an intellectual playground for clever Asian and White kids from affluent families? At a meeting on Thursday, the Fairfax County School Board will try to answer that question for its famous 35-year-old magnet, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. The leadership of the Northern Virginia school district is embarrassed to have a public high school where only 1.7 percent of the students are low-income and only 5 percent are Black or Hispanic.
By TIM HUGO, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
It began as a poll-tested slogan repeated ad nauseum by those who want to subject us to a one-size-fits-all health insurance program controlled by the federal government, known as "Medicare for All." When health care analysts, economists and other experts looked more closely at the proposal and Americans learned what Medicare for All would mean for them — higher taxes, longer wait times to see their doctors, reduced quality of care — they rejected it.
Hugo is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Fairfax County and a candidate for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor of Virginia in 2021.
By PAUL GOLDMAN, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
If you value your right to cast the informed vote guaranteed by the Virginia Constitution, then the following bizarre theory of my own party's top officials should concern not merely thoughtful Democrats but Republicans, independents and others. Texas billionaires are pumping enormous funds through their favorite front groups to get Virginians to vote in favor of the redistricting referendum (Amendment 1) on the ballot this year. The referendum's wording is self-evidently riddled with deceptive material omissions.
Goldman was campaign manager for Henry Howell and Doug Wilder and is a former chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party.
By JALANE SCHMIDT, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)
Charlottesville is rejoicing at the recent removal of "Johnny Reb," a mass-produced cast bronze life-size Confederate soldier statue that guarded Virginia's Albemarle County courthouse for 111 years. A gleeful crowd of more than 100 COVID-masked townspeople, some wearing Union soldier kepi hats for the occasion, cheered from the sidewalk.
Jalane Schmidt is an associate professor of religious studies and a faculty affiliate of the University of Virginia Democracy Initiative's Memory Project.
By JAVAID SIDDIQI, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
In the past few weeks, school districts around the country have announced their plans for reopening and some have even begun to reopen amidst a raging pandemic. What has become immediately clear is that no one is satisfied with the plans. Teachers say they won't come back without more protections, parents are considering pulling (or have pulled) their children due to safety concerns, political leaders are facing the heat, and possibly pushing for something even they personally can't get behind.
Siddiqi is President & CEO of The Hunt Institute, a nonprofit focused on education policy located in Cary, N.C. He was Virginia Secretary of Education under Gov. Bob McDonnell.
By TERRY KILGORE AND ALEXIS EHRHARDT, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)
For over 20 years the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission has been making investments in creating jobs and opportunity in Southern and Southwest Virginia – even as the global economy dealt the region numerous body blows. The Commission has been instrumental in bringing over 21,000 jobs and more than 345 unique businesses to the region, including household names like Microsoft, Tempur/Sealy, Goodyear, Aldi, and Kyocera SGS, along with hundreds of other businesses like TMI Autotech, Press Glass, Oran Safety Glass, Monogram Foods, and Empire Bakery.
Kilgore represents the First District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He is a Republican from Scott County. Ehrhardt is President & CEO of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber and member of the Tobacco Region Region Revitalization Commission.
By MARCIA "CIA" PRICE, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
This election, Virginia voters will choose who has the power to draw political district boundaries in the commonwealth. Redistricting only happens every 10 years, so it is important that we get it right. Because I know that Virginians should be able to choose their representatives through a fair election process based on equitable maps drawn by an independent and non-partisan redistricting commission, I am voting "No" on Amendment 1.
Price represents the 95th District, which includes parts of Hampton and Newport News, in the Virginia House.
By DEB WAKE, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)
The League of Women Voters of Virginia has been working to encourage informed and active participation in government since it was formed in 1920. As its president, one of my top priorities has been to put power back in the hands of voters to participate in an open and inclusive redistricting process. Virginia's Constitution mandates that lawmakers draw their own district lines. This has inevitably led to partisan gerrymandering, when politicians manipulate the borders of election districts to cherry-pick the people they represent.
Wake is the president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia.
By ELISA ORTIZ, published in Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)
It's the cliche to end all cliches, but we truly are living in unprecedented times — and I'm not even talking about the global pandemic, or the ongoing racial unrest in communities across the country. This may very well be the year that the results of a presidential election are challenged by an incumbent. There's even talk among lawmakers about how to handle the peaceful transfer of power if the election is declared illegitimate by the president.
Ortiz is the managing director of the Campaign Accelerator for RepresentUs, a national anti-corruption advocacy group.
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.