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Last updated: Wed, 16 Jan 2019 21:10:23 GMT

 Police investigate homicide, suspect charged Mon, 14 Jan 2019 15:41:10 +0000
By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com Alexandria Police Department officers were dispatched for a death at a residence on South Van Dorn Street at 11:55 p.m. on Friday. Less than 24 hours later, police had charged a suspect with murder. Police identified the victim as Somaya Hussein Ahmed, 35, of Alexandria. The suspect they arrested on Saturday […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

Alexandria Police Department officers were dispatched for a death at a residence on South Van Dorn Street at 11:55 p.m. on Friday. Less than 24 hours later, police had charged a suspect with murder.

Police identified the victim as Somaya Hussein Ahmed, 35, of Alexandria. The suspect they arrested on Saturday is Daniel Kankam, 44, of Alexandria. The victim and suspect were known to each other. 

This is the first homicide in 2019. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Detective Bikeramjit Gill at 703-746-6751.

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 New mayor, council sworn in Thu, 10 Jan 2019 20:26:37 +0000
By Cody Mello-Klein | cmelloklein@alextimes.com Change was in the air of the T.C. Williams High School auditorium on the evening of Jan. 2 as Mayor Justin Wilson and the incoming city council were sworn in on stage. It was a night of firsts for both Alexandria as a city and the individuals on stage. Four […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Cody Mello-Klein | cmelloklein@alextimes.com

Change was in the air of the T.C. Williams High School auditorium on the evening of Jan. 2 as Mayor Justin Wilson and the incoming city council were sworn in on stage.

It was a night of firsts for both Alexandria as a city and the individuals on stage. Four of the six incoming councilors, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Canek Aguirre, Amy Jackson and Mo Seifeldein, are first-time elected officials and join re-elected councilors John Chapman and Del Pepper on city council.

In a first for city council, all seven elected officials took an ethics pledge, administered by Clerk of the Circuit Court Edward Semonian, promising to serve the public with “integrity, impartiality and transparency.”

The new city council ethics pledge

While the night was dominated by new faces, former Mayor Allison Silberberg and former councilors Tim Lovain and Paul Smedberg spoke as well. They reflected on the hard work and accomplishments of city council during the last term, which included the institution of the ethics pledge.

They also offered words of advice to the incoming council, passing the torch to their successors, who will have to deal with numerous difficult issues over the next three years. Silberberg stressed that the incoming councilors need to balance expanding the tax base through development with concern for the people affected by council decisions.

“As important as it is to serve with an eye on our budget, it is also incumbent upon all of us to serve with one’s heart,” Silberberg said.

Silberberg went on to address a topic that loomed over the entire night: Amazon and Virginia Tech’s imminent arrivals in the region. Silberberg said that technology and innovation are the future and Alexandria has the potential to become the center of that future.

Wilson, in his first speech as mayor, said the tech giant’s arrival will bring infrastructure and housing issues, and that this is just another sign that Alexandria is growing fast and on the cusp of change.

Justin Wilson is sworn into office as mayor. (Photo Credit: Cody Mello-Klein)

“The question for us is whether or not we can chart a path of inclusive growth,” Wilson said. “How we ensure that the growth that occurs in our city lifts all of our residents and improves out quality of life.”

Inclusive growth along with economic sustainability and healthy political discourse were three governing principles Wilson said the council should use as a north star as they steer Alexandria through the next three years of change.

“I believe that Alexandria can be the small city that does big things,” Wilson said to close his speech. “Let’s chart that course. Let’s get to work.”

Several officials mentioned the importance of supporting Alexandria’s small business community in light of decreased federal funding and Amazon’s arrival.

“We know that as many of our businesses face more competition, as industries change, it’s going to be more incumbent on us to look at creating opportunities to keep them in a city like Alexandria,” Chapman said.

School capacity, city infrastructure and affordable housing were topics of conversation throughout the night, along with continued development in the West End.

“We are seeing substantial development activity in the Landmark Mall area and in the whole West End. Here is where considerable develop- ment could and should take place,” Pepper said before repeating her slogan, “The West End will rise again.”

On a night that ushered in one of the city’s most diverse city councils in terms of ethnicity, race and gender – if not political affiliation – diversity and inclusivity were two words that were frequently repeated.

“I’m happy and excited to be a part of the most diverse council ever elected,” Bennett-Parker said. “We elected Councilman Aguirre, the first Latino elected to serve on council, and Councilman Seifeldein, the first Muslim and first immigrant to serve.”

Bennett-Parker also noted the gains women are making in Alexandria, as in the rest of the country, though in both cases change is a work in progress. This is only the third time in 18 years that council has been composed of half women, and a significantly smaller number of women than men oversee the city’s various boards and commissions.

“This issue is important because just as we must thank those who came before us and led the way, so too must we hold the door open for those that come after us,” Bennett-Parker said.

Throughout the night, the incoming council had one eye on the future, looking not only at what issues will arise but how it will overcome those issues. With inclusivity at the forefront, several officials made it clear that work- ing together is the best path forward.

“I refuse to believe that a city where an African immigrant Muslim like myself is elected to council, where once George Washington sat, isn’t able to solve common issues in challenging times,” Seifeldein said.

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 Government shutdown hits Alexandria Thu, 10 Jan 2019 18:39:22 +0000
By Cody Mello-Klein | cmelloklein@alextimes.com Carolyn Bednarek sits at a table, her hands making small, sometimes stumbling movements with a ball of yarn and knitting needles. She isn’t the best knitter, but that’s why she’s here at fibre space: to learn. After being furloughed by the government on Dec. 22, leaving her without work or […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Cody Mello-Klein | cmelloklein@alextimes.com

Carolyn Bednarek sits at a table, her hands making small, sometimes stumbling movements with a ball of yarn and knitting needles. She isn’t the best knitter, but that’s why she’s here at fibre space: to learn. After being furloughed by the government on Dec. 22, leaving her without work or pay, Bednarek has plenty of time to learn.

Bednarek, a member of the Coast Guard, is one of the 12,831 Alexandrians who, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, work for the federal government.

Those federal workers comprise 8.5 percent of Alexandria’s population of 151,331, making Alexandria, by its proximity to D.C., harder hit than the rest of the state. According to a report released by the personal finance website WalletHub, the federal shutdown has affected Virginia’s workers the sixth most in the country.

Although this is a partial shutdown, more than 800,000 federal employees across nine departments and countless other agencies have been impacted. Around half of those employees have to work without pay. The rest, like Bednarek, have been forced to sit at home – left hoping they will eventually receive back pay – waiting for news of the federal government passing a budget resolution.

Federal agencies like the National Science Foundation are some of the biggest employers in Alexandria, and the city’s many federal employees are trying to figure out how to survive the shutdown without income.

For a lot of federal employees, rumors had been circulating that the partial shutdown was looming, but that didn’t make the actual government closure any less devastating, especially coming three days before Christmas.

“It wasn’t really that surprising,” Bednarek said of the moment she heard about the shutdown from her supervisor. “It was just really disheartening, especially around the holidays.”

Others didn’t hear about the shutdown until they saw it on the news while home for the holidays, as did furloughed government contractor Alyssa Marlow. This is Marlow’s third government shutdown, but she said frequency doesn’t make being furloughed any less frustrating.

“I’m angry, obviously. I think a lot of us are angry,” Marlow said. “We’re educated, professional, successful adults who serve our country, and we want to work.”

With no income for the past couple weeks and no promise of back pay, a lot of furloughed employees have had to find ways to stay afloat. Mortgages don’t stop just because the government is shut down. Marlow isn’t the only one cleaning out her closet, donating to Goodwill and selling her nice suits and shoes.

For some federal employees, the paychecks have stopped, but the work hasn’t.

“Since I work with active duty military, [some of them are] currently working and not getting paid,” Bednarek said. “They have to be in the office, and that includes people who were planning to take leave.”

For furloughed workers, emails and their unfinished projects are piling up, and when they do go back to work they could spend weeks getting caught up. Many furloughed federal employees are anxious and disheartened. While some are taking advantage of the time off to take care of home projects or to travel, others have nothing to do but sit at home and, as Marlow put it, “spiral into thoughts of self-pity.”

“I’ve always thought that the work I did was important and meaningful and that I was valuable,” Marlow said. “It doesn’t feel like it right now.”

Local businesses lend a helping hand

Despite the anxiety, inaction and lack of pay, there is a silver lining for Alexandria’s many furloughed and unpaid federal employees: local businesses are stepping up and pitching in to support those affected by the shutdown.

Restaurants such as Pork Barrel BBQ, Diya and Lavender Moon Cupcakes are offering free meals and discounts, while stores and organizations including knitting shop fibre space and The Art League are offering free lessons. For Alexandria’s local business owners, it’s a way to give back to the customers who have supported them over the years.

Pork Barrel BBQ, which is providing free pulled pork sandwiches to furloughed government workers for as long as the shutdown lasts, is among a number of local businesses that have offered specials to federal workers every time there’s been a shutdown, since at least 2013.

“It was kind of a way of us showing our customer base that we appreciate them,” Bill Blackburn, owner of Pork Barrel BBQ, said. “Every time this happens, federal employees get a raw deal. They become pawns in this big political game.”

Stores that don’t fill furloughed employees’ stomachs are offering to fill up something just as valuable: their time.

Fibre space is offering two free, volunteer-led knitting lessons a day as a way to bring in new knitters and provide anxious, out-of-work federal employees with a productive form of stress relief.

“We really just wanted to bring new people into the knitting community as a stress reliever, as a way for them to have a craft to keep them busy and find the soothing effects of knitting that we have,” fibre space owner Danielle Romanetti said.

Going from full-time employee to all-the-time-in-the-world is disorienting for a lot of federal workers. Knowing that there are productive – and free – ways to spend an afternoon is helpful for those afraid of going stir-crazy.

“This was the one exciting thing that I’ve come to do since the start of my furlough,” Bednarek, who attended one of fibre space’s free lessons, said. “Other than that, it’s just wondering when I’ll get back to work. It seemed relaxing and nice to be around other people in a similar situation.”

Although Alexandria’s local businesses continue to support their customers, the government shutdown doesn’t just affect federal workers. With a large amount of their customers suddenly without disposable income, business owners have to contend with serious issues of their own.

“The bigger issue is that our customer base is out of work and the government is shut down,” Blackburn said. “We just want to see it end like everyone else does because our economy is based on these people having an income and spending money and paying rent.”

Business owners like Blackburn, Romanetti and others have been through shutdowns before and know firsthand the impact they can have on the local economy and their day-to-day ability to run a business.

For fibre space, which relies on yarn being brought over from South America and Italy, the port closure is another problem slowly eating away at its ability to do business. And the economic effects of a shutdown can last for months after the government approves a resolution.

“[Customers’] ability to spend on food and shopping is lessened for many months until they recover from that,” Romanetti said. “We’ll have a ripple effect for many months in Alexandria. We definitely lost a lot of businesses in 2014. It only takes a couple months of drop in sales to really push somebody over the edge.”

But until the shutdown ends – or they close their doors – Alexandria’s local businesses are here to help as much as they can.

“It’s a $6 sandwich, so it’s not like we’re paying their mortgage for them, but I think people appreciate the gesture,” Blackburn said.

For people like Marlow, that gesture goes a long way. It’s a sign that federal employees are valuable and respected, a sign that Alexandria cares.

“The thought of being just one cog in a wheel and not being that important but that there are people that actually do realize the big picture and recognize the work that we do and treat us like human beings, it feels good,” Marlow said.

Visit Alexandria is collecting a list of deals available to furloughed employees at www.visitalexandriava.com/openforbusiness

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 Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings: Fresh starts require reflection Thu, 10 Jan 2019 18:00:16 +0000
The new year is always a time of fresh starts and resolutions. But it is impossible to have those fresh starts and new beginnings without reflect- ing on aspects of the past that we don’t want to see repeated in the future. The new year marks 65 years since Brown v. Board of Education, the […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The new year is always a time of fresh starts and resolutions. But it is impossible to have those fresh starts and new beginnings without reflect- ing on aspects of the past that we don’t want to see repeated in the future.

The new year marks 65 years since Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibited segregation in public schools. This milestone will certainly be acknowledged in public education throughout the country, alongside the progress we have made as a nation.

We have come a long way since May 17, 1954, when the court stripped away the legitimacy of laws that segregated people by race, and instead made equal opportunity in education the law of the land. Since that date, Alexandria has had an African-American School Board Chair, an African-American Mayor and an African-American schools superintendent – all of them products of Alexandria City Public Schools. More significantly, all are Alexandrians.

In ACPS, our community of staff, students and their families are more diverse than it has ever been. Not a day goes by that I do not celebrate the fact that I am a product of this great school division, and that I now have the privilege to serve as the superintendent. None of these things could have happened in 1954.

It is easy to glamorize the story of Alexandria’s desegregation. While we like to think of those days in the vein of “Remember the Titans,” the real story is darker and more complex. It is one of student-led protests, race riots, police beatings and the murder of a student for which the murderer served only six months behind bars.

It is also the story of an old guard of Alexandrians, with connections to Harry T. Byrd and others who supported change but also feared the upheaval it would bring. Ultimately T.C. Williams High School was a solution to the crisis. Named after an ardent segregationist, it came to stand as a symbol of a racially unified community and helped defuse some of the tensions even if it was not in reality a racially unified community.

Even though our city and nation have made significant progress in race relations, we still have a long way to go to ensure equity in our public schools. This is one of the areas we will focus on as a school division as we mark the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and beyond. We have already been engaged in courageous conversations that are needed to ensure every student in our school division succeeds, and we know it will take our entire community to see that come to fruition.

Equity is more than race relations; it crosses all areas of focus in ACPS including facilities, academic opportunities, learning environment, fund- ing allocations, human capital and resources. Equity is not about taking from one group to give to another. It is about meeting every child where they are, not necessarily where we want them to be. Equity means that we serve all students at the highest levels regardless of special needs, gifted services, low socioeconomic status, language barriers or challenging obstacles in life.

We know that the equity discussion can be uncomfortable, but we also know that if we push through the discomfort, there is a better future beyond it for every one of our students. It is not our right to be comfortable — discomfort affords us the opportunity to grow as individuals and pushes our thinking. I encourage all of you to be a part of this courageous conversation and be willing to be open-minded about how we serve all students in ACPS as we embark on establishing the next strategic plan in ACPS in late spring 2019.

Please join me at a “Conversation with the Superintendent” session on Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. in the T.C. Williams High School cafeteria as I celebrate the end of my first 100 days as superintendent. I will be sharing what I have learned through my listening and learning sessions and starting a conversation about the future work required for ACPS to become the best it has ever been.

I invite you to join me as a champion for each and every one of our students in this important Brown v. Board of Education anniversary year. Just as it took a unified voice to overcome segregation in 1954, it will take a unified voice emboldened with Titan pride to take us to the next level in 2019 and beyond in ACPS. And so, from my Titan family to yours, happy New Year.

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.

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 New council holds first legislative meeting Thu, 10 Jan 2019 17:52:27 +0000
The new city council, which was sworn in on Jan. 2, gathered for its first legislative session of 2019 on Tuesday evening. It was also the first time some of the new council members reported from the various city and regional boards and commissions they were officially appointed to at the city council installation. Some […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The new city council, which was sworn in on Jan. 2, gathered for its first legislative session of 2019 on Tuesday evening.

It was also the first time some of the new council members reported from the various city and regional boards and commissions they were officially appointed to at the city council installation.

Some of the most significant commission appointments were of Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker and Councilor Canek Aguirre to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which had lost longtime members Paul Smedberg and Tim Lovain with the council turnover. Aguirre said that at council’s next legislative meeting on Jan. 22, there will be a discussion about the three-month Metro shutdown Alexandria will face this summer.

With the start of the new year, council also appointed several non-councilor community members to boards, commissions and committees.

Perhaps the most eventful appointments were of three members to the planning commission. Mayor Justin Wilson said 18 applicants applied for the three vacancies and called the volume of applicants “a testament to the significant interest in what is one of the most important appointments that the council makes.”

Planning commissioners are appointed for four-year terms. The two incumbents who applied, David Brown and Stephen Koenig, were both unanimously reappointed by the council. The third successful candidate was John Goebel, who was appointed by a 6-1 vote, with Councilor John Chapman voting for a different applicant.

“I want to thank all the folks who applied for the planning commission. We are so fortunate that we have folks willing to give an incredible amount of volunteer time and service on our planning commission,” Wilson said.

During the city manager’s reports, Mark Jinks announced another new appointment: Gretchen Bulova as the permanent director of the Office of Historic Alexandria. Bulova has worked for the city for the past 20 years, serving as the acting director of OHA for the past year, and deputy director before then since 2015.

“We welcome Gretchen permanently to the job of OHA director, and we look forward to many good years with her stewardship of Alexandria’s history,” Jinks said.

Also at the meeting, council discussed a preview of the 2019 Virginia General Assembly session and state budget and Alexandria’s 20-year strategic WasteSmart plan.

On Saturday, the new council will gather again for the first public hearing of 2019.

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 Letter to the Editor: Time for change at Departmental Progressive Club Thu, 10 Jan 2019 17:51:21 +0000
By Cody Mello-Klein | cmelloklein@alextimes.com To the editor: Recently we were invited to an event at the Departmental Progressive Club, but we chose not to attend as we do not support a community organization that does not allow women to be equal members. We think this is a policy that should change, especially for an […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Cody Mello-Klein | cmelloklein@alextimes.com

To the editor:

Recently we were invited to an event at the Departmental Progressive Club, but we chose not to attend as we do not support a community organization that does not allow women to be equal members. We think this is a policy that should change, especially for an organization that has been in existence since 1927 and has the word “progressive” in its name. Also, as a predominantly African American organization, we hope it will realize that discrimination by gender is discrimination period – and should not exist in this day and age.

The website of the Departmental Progressive Club says, “Today’s membership consists of distinguished individuals representative of practically all walks of life.” All walks of life, except women. This week we inducted a new city council with three women, and our outgoing mayor was a woman. Could any of them be members? No. There are only auxiliary women members. Auxiliary means “a person or thing providing supplementary or additional help and support. ”Are women just helpmates there to provide support to men? We could not attend an event at an organization that only sees women in this role.

The website goes on to quote John Ruskin to “define the Club’s mission in the past and for gen- erations yet unborn…” as “…that men will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them. See, this our father’s did for us.” What about their mothers, their sisters, their wives? Is their intention to never admit women as full members? Does the Departmental Progressive Club get a pass because they do good work in the community? For us they do not.

They are the city’s oldest private social club, and they have 55 male members and 15 ladies auxiliary members. That tells you something right there.

Former City Attorney Jim Banks is quoted as saying, “I think for any predominantly African American organization that’s been in existence as long as it has, it’s changed over time as our so- cial, cultural and political envi- ronment has changed.” Unfortunately, it has not changed with the times and current City Attorney Joanna C. Anderson cannot be a member.

“It still has that value of trying to make sure everyone’s being treated fairly,” former City Council Member Willie Bailey said, “but now it’s more towards doing things in the community, giving back, fellowship, bringing members into the club throughout Alexandria and giving them a little history lesson on the city and the club itself.” So, we hope it will continue to do good works but with women as members in equal, not just supportive roles.

We hope all the city council members, and other leaders in our community, will ask the Departmental Progressive Club to change its makeup, to not only include women, but to hold them up as equals. We believe they also owe an apology that it has taken so long. We are making this a public appeal as we believe this is the only way to draw attention to this issue. We trust many people are unaware of the discrepancy in the membership and will help to work to rectify this situation.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects us all indirectly.”

-Tessa Read and Boyd Walker, Alexandria

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 New school board induction marks beginning of new term Thu, 10 Jan 2019 17:41:08 +0000
By Denise Dunbar | ddunbar@alextimes.com A new mayor and city council were not the only officials sworn in during the past week: Alexandria also has nine newly minted school board members, three from each of the city’s three districts, who were sworn in Monday night at T.C. Williams High School. As with city council, the […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Denise Dunbar | ddunbar@alextimes.com

A new mayor and city council were not the only officials sworn in during the past week: Alexandria also has nine newly minted school board members, three from each of the city’s three districts, who were sworn in Monday night at T.C. Williams High School. As with city council, the new school board is comprised of mostly new members, with five newcomers joining four incumbents.

District A, in the eastern part of the city, has all new representatives: Jacinta Greene, Michelle Rief and Chris Suarez. District B, encompassing the center of Alexandria, returned all three incumbents: Cindy Anderson, Margaret Lorber and Veronica Nolan. While District C, in the city’s West End, returned Ramee Gentry, who served as board chair the past two years, along with newcomers Meagan Alderton and Heather Thornton.

The swearing-in ceremony was emceed by Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D. The T.C. Williams Junior ROTC presented the colors, while the school’s choir performed two songs, including the national anthem.

The evening was not without a dash of controversy when the school board members voted to elect their new chair and vice chair. Anderson was unanimously selected by her peers to be the new chair. Nolan became the board’s vice chair by an 8-1 vote, with Rief dissenting.

Rief later explained in an e-mail why she voted against Nolan.

“I’m troubled by the campaign contributions Ms. Nolan received as reported by the Washington Post on Nov. 25,” Rief said.

Nolan raised $48,035 during this election cycle, according to vpap.org, the most of any school board candidate. Of that, $23,300 was donated by Leadership for Educational Equity, a group affiliated with the nonprofit Teach for America.

The Washington Post article raised concerns about the connection between LEE and the charter school lobby. The website for LEE describes the organization as “a nonprofit, nonpartisan, leadership development organization working to end the injustice of educational inequity by inspiring and supporting a diverse set of leaders with classroom experience to engage civically and politically.”

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 Letter to the Editor: Alexandria needs an ethics ombudsman Thu, 10 Jan 2019 17:30:59 +0000
To the editor: Allison Silberberg, the outgoing mayor of Alexandria, recently suggested that a permanent ethics commission be established by the incoming city council, which is something council refused to do during her term. Without a citizens’ ethics commission, or even better, an ombudsman, how will Alexandria provide ethics oversight? Other jurisdictions have faced up […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

To the editor:

Allison Silberberg, the outgoing mayor of Alexandria, recently suggested that a permanent ethics commission be established by the incoming city council, which is something council refused to do during her term. Without a citizens’ ethics commission, or even better, an ombudsman, how will Alexandria provide ethics oversight? Other jurisdictions have faced up to this challenge, yet Alexandria remains mired in timidity, indifference and hesitation concerning oversight of ethics.

It is unfathomable that city council, city staff and various boards and commissions have never encountered ethics dilemmas, especially concerning management of new developments. As an example, although there are zoning laws that have been in existence for years, a developer often need only make a quid pro quo “proffer” of $100,000 or so to Bikeshare in order to build a structure that is at variance from the enacted zoning laws of the community. This “pay to play” brings up a number of potential ethics concerns, yet no one seems to curb this business practice that has been tolerated over the years.

For years, I have stated that Alexandria needs an ombudsman to investigate potential fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement and corruption. This office would operate as an independent directorate. The head should be elected to this job in a non-partisan manner for a period of at least five years. The ombudsman should demonstrate a high degree of integrity, and have professional credentials in accounting, auditing, investigations and public administration. I would envision that the ombudsman would perform audits, inspections and generally conduct in-depth investigations of the city’s programs. There is no doubt that millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money could be saved annually.

The website of the Toronto, Canada ombudsman says it all: “We promote fairness in city services. We help the public resolve problems with the city. We help the city serve the public better. We investigate, we mediate, we find solutions and recommend system improvements. We help the city to hold itself accountable in its duty to provide services that work for people. Our work makes Toronto a better place to live, work, play and do business.”

Is there any reason why we deserve less?

-Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet, Alexandria

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 Hammond Middle School evacuated after bomb threat Tue, 08 Jan 2019 17:10:21 +0000
By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com Francis C. Hammond Middle School students were rerouted to T.C. Williams High School on their way to school on Tuesday morning in response to a bomb threat, according to an Alexandria eNews release. At 11:37 a.m., about three hours after the initial evacuation, Alexandria Police Department reported that it had […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

Francis C. Hammond Middle School students were rerouted to T.C. Williams High School on their way to school on Tuesday morning in response to a bomb threat, according to an Alexandria eNews release.

At 11:37 a.m., about three hours after the initial evacuation, Alexandria Police Department reported that it had finished checking the school and determined it was safe for students to return. Hammond students were transported back to the school after being fed lunch at T.C., according to another eNews release.

Police Chief Michael Brown said at the Tuesday night city council legislative meeting that police had received a second bomb threat via phone call while they were investigating the building.

The bomb threats follow two 911 hang-up calls from the school on Monday that alleged there were weapons inside the building, according to a letter from Principal Pierrette Peters to Hammond parents. Brown said all four calls received Monday and Tuesday came from inside the school.

Tuesday’s threat had no more substantiation than the previous calls, according to the eNews release. Because it occurred while buses were arriving at the school, however, they were rerouted so that the APD could conduct a full investigation of the property. APD clarified in a tweet that the lack of “substantiation” meant there was no chatter related to the threats, no postings, no weapon located and no student admitting to making the calls.

Following the evacuation, Alexandria City Public Schools allowed parents to pick up students from Hammond after 1:30 p.m. if they wished to collect their children prior to dismissal.

At the legislative meeting, Brown emphasized the cost of the police response.

“What I need to reinforce is when we do a fullscale response like that, we are actually putting every police officer in this city in responding to a scene,” Brown said. “That, as you can imagine, affects the regular deployment and security of the city. This is not to be taken lightly, and we don’t take it lightly.”

On Monday, APD also conducted full investigations in response to the calls that took place around 11 a.m. and 12:40 p.m. In each instance, the school was placed on lockdown with students and staff remaining in their locations. In both instances, it took less than an hour for police to deem the building safe.

In addition to the four threats this week, Hammond had a fifth threatening phone call on Dec. 21, according to Brown. In January 2018, the school also faced a threat on social media that resulted in its lockdown and evacuation.

Brown said he couldn’t disclose details of the police investigation, but at the time, he said police suspected one or more students were responsible for the calls.

“We are not taking this lightly,” Brown said. “We will respond and continue to respond to any kind of report of this kind of activity, and we are going to continue our investigation. If we identify who might be involved, we will prepare a criminal case and send it forward for consideration by the commonwealth’s attorney.” 

 

 

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 New UPS Store opens in Alexandria Fri, 04 Jan 2019 20:13:26 +0000
A new UPS Store opened on Dec. 15 at 625 First St. adjacent to the Holiday Inn & Suites, according to a news release. In addition to domestic and international shipping, the new store will offer full-service packaging, presentation and document finishing, online and in-store printing services, copies, notary, custom crating and shipping for large […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A new UPS Store opened on Dec. 15 at 625 First St. adjacent to the Holiday Inn & Suites, according to a news release.

In addition to domestic and international shipping, the new store will offer full-service packaging, presentation and document finishing, online and in-store printing services, copies, notary, custom crating and shipping for large items, mailbox and postal services, office and packaging supplies and a variety of other services.

“As a one-stop shop for small businesses, we offer shipping, postal, printing and comprehensive small business services,” Sef Hamdi, the new store’s franchisee, said. “We look forward to serving individuals and local business owners within the Alexandria community.”

The new store’s hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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