Six Alexandria residents were convicted as a result of Operation Tin Panda, the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Virginia announced Friday in a news release. Operation Tin Panda, which began in spring 2017 and led to the takedown of 36 individuals on federal firearm and drug charges in December, led to the convictions […]
Six Alexandria residents were convicted as a result of Operation Tin Panda, the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Virginia announced Friday in a news release.
Operation Tin Panda, which began in spring 2017 and led to the takedown of 36 individuals on federal firearm and drug charges in December, led to the convictions of Mark Ketter, 39, Deion Wright, 25, Ezana Demisse, 25, Orean Anthony Hayden, 29, Bryan Matthews, 19, and Luthgardo Roque Arao, 47 have either been sentenced or face sentencing next month for multiple charges.
Ketter, charged with conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, faces a mandatory maximum of 40 years upon his sentencing on June 22. Wright, charged with possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug and trafficking crime, faces a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of life upon sentencing on June 22.
Demisse, charged with use and carry of a firearm during and in relation to drug trafficking, faces a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of life upon sentencing on June 15. Hayden and Matthews were both charged with use and carry of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and sentenced to 60 months in jail.
Arao, charged with conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, was sentenced to 120 months in jail.
The operation, conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms & Explosives, investigated Blood gangs and drug distributors involved in violent crimes and criminal activity in Northern Virginia. The operation uncovered criminal acts that were affiliated with gang and firearms distribution, including homicide, malicious wounding, robbery, shootings and drug and firearm distribution.
The investigation resulted in the apprehension of more than 40 people from Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and California. It also yielded the seizure of 95 firearms, $150,000 in cash, nine vehicles with a total value of $300,000, as well as three pounds of cocaine base, 10 pounds of cocaine, seven pounds of crystal methamphetamine, five pounds of heroin, four pounds of ecstasy, 227 pounds of marijuana and 79 pounds of THC.
By Missy Schrott | firstname.lastname@example.org Serious crime in Alexandria decreased by 13 percent in 2017, the Alexandria Police Department announced in a news release Thursday morning. The decrease was specifically in Part I crimes, offenses classified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft. Part I […]
Serious crime in Alexandria decreased by 13 percent in 2017, the Alexandria Police Department announced in a news release Thursday morning.
The decrease was specifically in Part I crimes, offenses classified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft. Part I crimes are considered more serious than Part II crimes because they include crimes against people.
All but one type of the Part I crimes in Alexandria decreased in 2017. The only Part I crime rate to increase was aggravated assaults. The police department reported that in the majority of the cases, the people involved knew each other.
The 2017 statistics show some of the lowest levels of reported crimes in Alexandria since the 1960s. Since Alexandria generally has a low crime rate, however, small fluctuations in incidents can lead to large percentage changes in annual data comparisons, according to the release.
While Part I crimes decreased overall, calls for service increased significantly from 68,610 to 91,380. According to the release, the increase was primarily a result of more consistent reporting of traffic stops as calls for service and an increase in traffic stops because of the city’s Vision Zero safety initiative.
To the editor: I read with great interest the Alexandria Times article on May 17 regarding campaign contributions to the mayoral candidates, “Defining ‘business before council.’” The chart that accompanied the article clearly showed the difference between Mayor Allison Silberberg’s ethical standards and the standards of Vice Mayor Justin Wilson. From the time she announced […]
To the editor:
I read with great interest the Alexandria Times article on May 17 regarding campaign contributions to the mayoral candidates, “Defining ‘business before council.’” The chart that accompanied the article clearly showed the difference between Mayor Allison Silberberg’s ethical standards and the standards of Vice Mayor Justin Wilson.
From the time she announced her run for council and then for mayor, Silberberg has had a policy that says she will not accept a contribution if she knows that the donor brings business before council, and this includes developers. Her donors include those who are residents, some of whom have expressed strong concerns about their neighborhoods or quality of life. But they do not stand to gain financially from council decisions.
On the other hand, Wilson has taken contributions from developers and commercial landowners for years, some of whom then received Wilson’s vote for zoning and permit changes.
Look at the series of large contributions to Wilson from Alexandria Toyota, followed quickly by its appearance before council for changes to its special use permit. Wilson personally made the motion to accept Alexandria Toyota’s requested changes. The same pattern appeared with contributions from others, including Washington Gas.
During this campaign season, Wilson proclaims a newfound ethical conscience, and says he is now refusing such contributions. It is too bad that until this election season turned on the spotlight, he had not had that policy.
Silberberg has led the charge for this new ethical standard, and the community has taken note and now expects the same of others.
I think all of us know that there is a total difference between accepting a contribution from an individual resident who is concerned about his or her neighborhood or quality of life versus taking a donation from corporate interests that results in financial gains for the donor. My thanks and my vote go to Silberberg for knowing and living the difference.
“… Nearby residents shouted in anger that they weren’t consulted during the … decision process, while officials from all parties involved passed the buck. No one admitted wrongdoing. What a mess.” A quote from the coverage of the May 9 meeting between Potomac Yard residents and city officials about the new Metro station? No, but it […]
“… Nearby residents shouted in anger that they weren’t consulted during the … decision process, while officials from all parties involved passed the buck. No one admitted wrongdoing. What a mess.”
A quote from the coverage of the May 9 meeting between Potomac Yard residents and city officials about the new Metro station? No, but it could have been.
That passage is from a September 2010 Alexandria Times editorial about the process that led to the Base Realignment and Closure Act relocation of more than 6,000 Department of Defense employees to Mark Center in the city’s West End.
The best public policy decisions result in win-win outcomes for residents and the city.
The BRAC debacle, sadly, was a lose-lose-lose situation:
– The city lost major revenue that could have been generated had a tax-paying private sector project been built on the site,
– Nearby residents have had to endure a massive influx of vehicles into their throughways and
– Putting an enormous project nowhere near a Metro stop was phenomenally
short-sighted and environmentally harmful.
Fast-forward eight years, and Alexandria’s residential/commercial tax revenue equation has become increasingly skewed toward residential, which now provides around 70 percent of our city’s local tax dollars.
And there lies the crux: Older, largely developed cities like Alexandria have few opportunities to build projects that will generate significant commercial tax revenue in the present and into perpetuity.
The BRAC site represented one important opportunity for substantial commercial development in Alexandria. The Potomac Yard Metro represents another. We appear to be on the verge of messing this one up in a similar fashion through a poorly mixed cocktail of secrecy, obfuscation and mismanagement.
Let’s examine those claims one at a time.
The process this past year has been the very definition of “shrouded in secrecy.” It’s been about as transparent as the Potomac River after a month of rainfall. The reason given for not keeping the public informed is a non-disclosure agreement, the language of which makes clear its intent was to prevent corruption by public officials, not to provide a safe space for them to avoid facing the citizenry.
As for obfuscation, deciphering the who-knew-what-when aspect of this project is
like trying to unmask the culprit in Clue. To wit:
– City Manager Mark Jinks claims council members and Mayor Allison Silberberg were told in July 2017 that major changes in cost and design on the Potomac Yard Metro were forthcoming. His response when told some remembered otherwise: “We called council members. … What they remembered or didn’t remember or claimed, I can’t speak to that.”
– Silberberg said she was told, along with the rest of council, at a March 2018 executive city council session of the cost increase and deletion of the south entrance.
– The Washington Business Journal ran a rendering on April 11 sourced to WMATA that showed the project with the south entrance deleted.
– City councilor Paul Smedberg, council’s representative since 2016 on the WMATA board, which governed this project, continued to tell residents in April 2018 in emails obtained by the Alexandria Times that the southern access had not changed. These emails took place weeks after the purported executive session and after the publication of the Business Journal article.
As to mismanagement, how can the city find itself left holding the bag – and price tag – for decisions made by another, non-accountable quasi-governmental entity? How
did our city manager and elected officials let themselves wind up in this position? Why was there no mechanism for public input this past year on such a monumental decision?
And how can no one be responsible?
The Potomac Yard Metro station has been in the works for many years. It has been touted by elected officials and leaders from Alexandria’s business community as the major
driver of our city’s economic development in the coming years. Eliminating the southern entrance to this station, the side with close access for residents and those much-hoped-for businesses, will greatly hinder the station’s ability to be that economic engine.
So why, after waiting all these years, are we now in a rush to do this the wrong way?
Why would we not step back and figure out how to keep the south entrance, even if it delays the project another three or six months or even a year?
A city gets few chances to hit an economic home run. Let’s make sure that in our eagerness we don’t whiff.
To the editor: I am writing today in the interest of fairness as we approach the upcoming primary election for mayor and city council. According to campaign finance reports, Mayor Allison Silberberg’s largest campaign contributor, and the largest contribution made thus far for either mayoral campaign, is a $5,000 contribution from one of the Alexandria […]
To the editor:
I am writing today in the interest of fairness as we approach the upcoming primary election for mayor and city council.
According to campaign finance reports, Mayor Allison Silberberg’s largest campaign contributor, and the largest contribution made thus far for either mayoral campaign, is a $5,000 contribution from one of the Alexandria Times’ owners. In my time as mayor I always strived for an open and transparent city hall. I believe that we should expect the same from political campaigns and our press corps. In my memory I cannot recall a newspaper owner making such a large donation to a political campaign, recognizing the need to remain independent.
That is why I believe the Alexandria Times should not endorse in this year’s mayoral contest on June 12 as it presents the clear specter of a conflict of interest.
In these times where the chief executive of our country constantly harps on fake news and the lack of fairness, I believe it is paramount that the media look to preserve their independence and objectivity. This opportunity is a chance for the Alexandria Times to display its commitment to fairness and propriety by remaining neutral in their endorsement in the mayor’s race.
In full disclosure I have decided to endorse Vice Mayor Justin Wilson for mayor and I believe strongly that his progressive vision for our future is what our city needs now. His dedication to funding for pre-kindergarten programs, increased investments in infrastructure such as school buildings, sewers and road paving as well as his ability to build consensus on city council makes Justin Wilson the right candidate to be our mayor.
The Alexandria Times has been consistent in stating their belief that elected officials should not vote on items where they have a financial interest, a standard that I upheld as mayor, and I believe that the Times should be held to its own standard in this case. I am confident that the Times will recognize that reason and fairness trumps any appearance of a conflict of interest, especially its own.
-Kerry Donley, former mayor of Alexandria
Editors’ note: We agree with former mayor Donley on the need for the Times to remain neutral in this year’s mayoral race. Though the donation mentioned was made by a small stakeholder with no role in the paper’s news operation, we will not be making an endorsement in the mayoral contest, though we will endorse for city council. Please see “Times to forego mayoral endorsement” on page 3 of the May 17 Alexandria Times and online at alextimes.com for our full statement.
To the editor: I’m writing to explain why I support Amy Jackson for city council and encourage others to do the same in the June 12 Democratic primary. A graduate of T.C. Williams High School, Amy is a passionate advocate for her hometown and seeks to give a voice to the least fortunate as she […]
To the editor:
I’m writing to explain why I support Amy Jackson for city council and encourage others to do the same in the June 12 Democratic primary. A graduate of T.C. Williams High School, Amy is a passionate advocate for her hometown and seeks to give a voice to the least fortunate as she fights for a caring city that welcomes all.
One thing that has impressed me in watching Amy campaign is her understanding that complex issues can’t be reduced to simple solutions. Amy understands that leadership calls for rejecting false choices. Let me provide an example of this. As our city struggles to find income to invest in our priorities, it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that budgeting comes down to a binary choice of either cutting spending or increasing taxes. Amy understands that the city has an additional option in growing its revenue base.
When Amy talks about the importance of initiatives like redeveloping Landmark Mall, you can hear in her passion both pride in our city and a commitment to leveraging smart development opportunities to increase the city’s budget. This type of strategic thinking could help shift the tax burden so that it falls more equitably between residents and businesses. Amy also understands that development can be sensitive to residents’ concerns.
I have also been ecstatic to see how strongly Amy has supported increasing first-responder pay. We lag behind all neighboring jurisdictions and it hurts both recruitment and retention. It is not good fiscal policy to spend thousands of dollars training these employees, only to lose them to other cities and counties that are willing to pay a competitive wage. Enabling city employees to live in the jurisdiction where they serve enhances their relationship with the community and creates a sense of partnership that can help in moments of crisis and need.
Lastly, as a former teacher, few can talk about education as forcefully and with as much passion as Amy. She understands that strong schools equal a strong community. Amy understands that we must address capacity issues and delayed infrastructure needs in our schools and will be ready from her first day on the job to partner with organizations ranging from the school board to PTAs to community groups to ensure that students continue to receive an exceptional education.
To the editor: I’m compelled to write in response to two recent articles about contributions to Alexandria’s mayoral candidates. The first was a letter written by Jack Sullivan that ran in the April 19 Alexandria Times, “Wilson has short memory about campaign contributions.” The second is an article titled “Defining ‘business before council,’” written by […]
To the editor:
I’m compelled to write in response to two recent articles about contributions to Alexandria’s mayoral candidates. The first was a letter written by Jack Sullivan that ran in the April 19 Alexandria Times, “Wilson has short memory about campaign contributions.” The second is an article titled “Defining ‘business before council,’” written by Missy Schrott, that ran last week.
Both articles called into question the timing of contributions I have made between 2009 and 2017 to Vice Mayor Justin Wilson and business my dealership had before council at various times. First, let me be clear, the suggestion that I made these contributions for some nefarious reason is absurd. I’m a citizen of Alexandria just like anyone else. I’ve lived here most of my life. I’ve raised my son here, and I’ve created a strong business here that employs more than 200 people.
Second, nothing that has been before city council in the time frame of your article related to my business had a single person speaking in opposition, so let’s keep the record straight. Here’s what my business asked for and was approved for over the eight years these articles referenced:
2014: An amendment to the development special use permit for the operation of the dealership that sought to change the hours of operation of the service department. This was to change week day hours from 8 to 9 p.m. and to allow Sunday hours of operation. No one objected to the application.
2012: Extension of the previously approved DSUP for a parking garage and detail building in the rear of the dealership (originally approved in 2008, when the market crashed). I asked for three more years to commence construction. Extension applications are regularly approved by council, without much discussion. No one objected to the application.
2008: Amended a previously approved development special use permit, which originally proposed the construction of a five-story parking structure with an internal car wash facility. The amendment eliminated the parking structure and proposed a detail building and auto lifts, a less intensive proposal than what was originally approved. No one spoke against the application.
It bears stating that making minor changes to your business means taking significant time to go before council in order to amend your special use permits. These minor matters that these articles referenced had no controversy and were supported by everyone who voted on the planning commission and city council – everyone.
Unfortunately, I believe monetary contributions are a necessary component to win elections. I support members of council because I am a citizen of Alexandria and want to make sure my city continues on a positive track for myself, my business and my employees, just like everyone else. On that note, I have prided myself on contributing to the campaigns of those who want to run for city council, regardless of whether I will vote for them. If they have asked, I have contributed. As far as I am concerned, it is like serving your country.
Midway through responding to these articles, I got the news that Donald Simpson Sr. passed away. Simpson was a good friend to both my father and I. Donald’s and Donnie’s campaign contributions were called into question in these articles, just as mine were.
When I came to Alexandria in 1973, the first person my father wanted me to meet was Simpson. I feel a particular kinship with the Simpson family for a variety of reasons. Clarence Simpson, Donald’s father, was born on Aug. 6 as was my mother, myself and Donnie Simpson’s son. My father told me that if you want to learn how to conduct business and politics, learn from the Simpson family.
I learned to find things I am interested in within the city to support such as nonprofits, scholarship funds, youth sports organizations and youth facilities. Members of council that read this, please don’t take this wrong, but we business people hate giving money to city council, and would much rather give it to organizations as I described. However, we understand that it takes money to win elections, and that is just the way it is.
This one’s for you Donald – thank you for the advice.
By Vanessa Calder Alexandria’s city council successfully increased the meals tax on restaurants in its jurisdiction on May 10. The council’s plan is to dedicate the meals tax revenue to building affordable housing. There are a variety of issues with city council’s plan to increase taxes and provide affordable housing. First, the tax is supposed […]
By Vanessa Calder
Alexandria’s city council successfully increased the meals tax on restaurants in its jurisdiction on May 10. The council’s plan is to dedicate the meals tax revenue to building affordable housing.
There are a variety of issues with city council’s plan to increase taxes and provide affordable housing. First, the tax is supposed to help low and moderate income Alexandria residents, but restaurant taxes are regressive: the shares of after-tax income spent on meals away from home by households in the lowest, second-lowest, second-highest and highest income deciles are 20.4 percent, 7.9 percent, 4.4 percent, and 3.8 percent, respectively.
That means the meals tax would likely collect five times the share of after-tax income from low-income households as high-income families, as Michael F. Cannon pointed out in a May 3 Alexandria Times letter to the editor, “Meals taxes are regressive.” In short, the meals tax is a regressive tax parading as a progressive measure.
Furthermore, the meals tax signals Alexandria believes it can tax and spend its way out of housing affordability problems. As high as Alexandria’s housing prices are, the city has no practical hope of doing that.
The median Alexandria home sale price in 2017 was more than half a million dollars, and in certain neighborhoods like Potomac Yard / Potomac Greens, the median sale price is greater than three-quarters of a million dollars. The meals tax raises less than $5 million annually, which could provide 10 median Alexandria homes annually.
But Alexandria has more serious housing affordability problems than limited tax revenue. Like other cities, the cost of housing is driven by restrictive regulation. If residents wonder why the supply of affordable housing in Alexandria is dwindling, they need look no further than the city and the associated zoning ordinance.
A substantial portion of Alexandria property is zoned for single family residential. In a high-demand city like Alexandria, just outside restrictively zoned Washington, D.C., this land would likely voluntarily be put to a higher use (e.g. multi-family residential) in the absence of the regulation.
It is true that portions of Old Town are zoned for townhomes. But most of Old Town falls within a historic district, which means that substantial change is nearly impossible and redevelopment is subject to extensive regulation and oversight from city boards and commissions. In fact, the city has a 200-page design guidebook on the special considerations associated with development in this historic downtown area alone.
The review process isn’t only heavy-handed in the historic district. In Alexandria, there are around 25 citizen boards managing architectural, archaeological, environmental, historical and urban design and related planning considerations for proposed development. This number excludes task forces with other specific planning functions.
In general, multi-family residential housing is only allowed on Alexandria’s fringe. These implicit limits on housing supply and affordable housing design contained in Alexandria’s zoning code matter more than a meals tax garnering around $5 million annually ever will.
That’s because density limits, design guidelines and historic districts substantially inflate housing costs. Academic research estimates zoning increases the cost of housing by 30 to 50 percent in some restrictively regulated coastal cities.
Given the ability to build, developers will build new housing units. And when housing supply meets the demand for housing, housing affordability will improve as outlined in detail in “Zoning, Land-Use Planning, and Housing Affordability,” a recent Cato policy analysis paper.
Alexandria’s city council doesn’t understand housing affordability, a feature it has in common with many other local and state governments in the United States. But if Alexandria genuinely wants to solve the affordability problem, it will need a new strategy that prioritizes relaxing regulation and streamlining the development process.
Vanessa Calder is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank, and resident of Alexandria.
To the editor: The loss of a southern entrance for the planned new Metro stop at Potomac Yard is disappointing. I could live with that after public involvement and discussion, but the agreement by our representatives to engage in a secret process is unacceptable. The failure of any member of council and the mayor to […]
To the editor:
The loss of a southern entrance for the planned new Metro stop at Potomac Yard is disappointing. I could live with that after public involvement and discussion, but the agreement by our representatives to engage in a secret process is unacceptable.
The failure of any member of council and the mayor to break down their silence of what was coming when they had known for months what happening is most discouraging.
Regardless of the secrecy provisions of whatever the agreement was that they now say prevented public discussion, the elected officials should have come out and discussed the matter with the public. I guess I could have missed some leaked discussion, but am pretty sure there was none.
In a region that operates on leaked info, this should have at least come out that way. Secrecy in government over basic infrastructure decisions makes no sense. I’m pretty sure no national intelligence obligations governed this decision-making.
I am at this point disinclined to vote for any of the politicians who knew of the Metro move, but failed to find a way to get that information out long ago. I will be looking at all political newcomers with renewed interest with an eye to just voting for them.
The Alexandria Times sports roundup includes records and game results for the prior week in two sports per season for Alexandria’s four local high schools: Bishop Ireton, Episcopal, St. Stephens and St. Agnes and T.C. Williams. Records will be presented alphabetically, while results will be listed by date. This spring, the sports included are girls’ […]
The Alexandria Times sports roundup includes records and game results for the prior week in two sports per season for Alexandria’s four local high schools: Bishop Ireton, Episcopal, St. Stephens and St. Agnes and T.C. Williams. Records will be presented alphabetically, while results will be listed by date.
This spring, the sports included are girls’ lacrosse and boys’ baseball. We will also be running photos with captions from games and encourage readers to send timely photos for submission to email@example.com. We will also continue covering games from various sports, as well as running sports features about Alexandria athletes.
Bishop Ireton 21-3
T.C. Williams 9-7
Scores this week:
B.I W 16-10 vs. Paul VI (VISAA semifinal)
SSSAS W 18-8 vs. Potomac School (VISAA semifinal)
B.I W 8-7 vs. SSSAS (VISAA final)
Bishop Ireton 4-18
T.C. Williams 13-8
Scores this week:
T.C. L 3-1 @ Annandale (district semifinal)