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Last updated: Wed, 19 Sep 2018 08:34:05 GMT

 Bishop Ireton breaks ground on new academic wing Tue, 18 Sep 2018 20:17:44 +0000
Bishop Ireton kicked off construction of the school’s new academic wing with a groundbreaking on Tuesday. Bishop of the Arlington Diocese Michael Burbidge, Head of School Bishop Ireton and Mayor Allison Silberberg, among other school and faith leaders, were in attendance at the groundbreaking.   The 40,000-square-foot building will be located next to the school’s […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Bishop Ireton kicked off construction of the school’s new academic wing with a groundbreaking on Tuesday.

Bishop of the Arlington Diocese Michael Burbidge, Head of School Bishop Ireton and Mayor Allison Silberberg, among other school and faith leaders, were in attendance at the groundbreaking.  

From left to right: Marty Marinoff, Mayor Allison Silberberg, Dr. Jennifer Bigelow, Bishop of Arlington Diocese Michael Burbidge, Fr. Tom Ferguson, Mrs. Denise Tobin and Bishop Ireton Head of School Dr. Thomas Curry (Photo Credit: Zoey Maraist)

The 40,000-square-foot building will be located next to the school’s existing building on Cambridge Road. The new wing will have a bigger cafeteria, a media center, learning common areas, STEM labs, additional classrooms and collaborative learning spaces.

The groundbreaking comes a year after city council approved the project in September 2017. The first phase – demolition of the existing Oblate House and the construction of the classroom space, cafeteria, administrative offices and 38 parking spaces – is expected to be completed in 2019. 

The second phase, also expected to be completed in 2019, will involve adding an auxiliary gymnasium and new main entryway, modernizing classrooms and completing a permanent northern parking lot.

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 Council approves Urbano 116 take-out window, Charlie’s outdoor dining area Tue, 18 Sep 2018 17:05:32 +0000
By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com City council approved development special use permits from Augie’s, Urbano 116 and Charlie’s on the Avenue at its Saturday public hearing. Council had previously approved Urbano 116 at 116 King St., but the applicants returned to request to add a carry-out window to the front of the restaurant. The request […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com

City council approved development special use permits from Augie’s, Urbano 116 and Charlie’s on the Avenue at its Saturday public hearing.

Council had previously approved Urbano 116 at 116 King St., but the applicants returned to request to add a carry-out window to the front of the restaurant.

The request sparked a lively discussion on the dais about what the overall feel of the lower blocks of King Street should be as the new waterfront park at 1 King St. and the King Street Corridor initiative come to life.

Staff recommended approval of the carry-out window, given that its hours of operation would be 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, that it would not extend outside the restaurant’s encroachment boundaries and that it would install a barrier to separate the queue from the pedestrian right-of-way. The carry-out window would also be subject to a review six months after opening.

When planning commission considered the issue, it recommended that the hours of the carry-out window be extended to match the operating hours of the restaurant, or 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.

Justin Sparrow of Common Plate Hospitality, which owns Mason Social and Augie’s and is opening Urbano 116, said the concept was exciting.

“We talked internally about coming up with something a little different, something exciting to create an experience not only for our guests, but for visitors and residents on the 100 block. We want to continue to activate the environment,” Sparrow said.

Councilor Paul Smedberg asked Sparrow pointed questions about why the carry-out window wasn’t included on Urbano 116’s initial DSUP.

“It was quite some time ago that you applied, so why is it that you need the carry-out window?” Smedberg asked.

Sparrow said, though Common Plate Hospitality always contemplated the carry-out, he didn’t check the box on the DSUP.

Smedberg asked why carry-out service couldn’t be conducted from inside.

“This is more about the experience. … We can not only capture folks that are walking up and down the street, but also bring folks into the restaurant,” Sparrow said.

Chapman said it’s one of the best ways to build vibrancy in an area of Old Town that has a lot of foot traffic.

“I think one of the areas where we have the most vibrancy is Old Town and I think this invites that,” Chapman said. “If you go into other communities that have that vibrant feel along their sidewalks and streets, you find business owners catering to those folks and catching them as they’re walking by.”

Councilor Del Pepper said, while she was in favor of the restaurant itself, that the carry-out window was inappropriate for the area. Silberberg urged that the hours of the carry-out window revert to staff’s recommendation.

“It sort of feels like what I’ve seen on a boardwalk and that’s fine, but it’s not the feel of that first block,” Silberberg said.

Council approved the carry-out window narrowly, with a vote of 4-3, with Silberberg, Smedberg and Pepper dissenting.

Later in the meeting, council considered Charlie’s on the Avenue, which recently opened at 1501 Mt. Vernon St., and Augie’s, which opened on the porch of 1106 King St. as a pop-up for the summer and is proceeding with a renovation of the interior of the building.

Though Charlie’s has already opened, council also considered its application to take over the former Greenstreet Gardens and make it into an outdoor dining area. The outdoor area would also be used for games, such as cornhole or Jenga.

Attorney Cathy Puskar, who represented owners Justus Frank and Jeremy Barber at the meeting, said the owners had addressed the concerns of neighbors, with plans to install a fence as a buffer. Puskar said the owners wanted to install an outdoor speaker at the dining area that would be in compliance with the noise ordinance.

“If we want to bolster our business community, there have to be compromises both in terms of the businesses and in terms of the residents. That’s what the Mt. Vernon Ave. Plan encourages: vitality,” Puskar said. “Maybe this is the first one we try and see how it goes.”

Silberberg was against the request for amplified sound.

“I think we have to be mindful of the impact,” Silberberg said. “A number of businesses operate and do well and they haven’t had outdoor music. … It’s all about a balance between business and existing residents.”

Other councilors, however, expressed support for trying the concept out.

“Business is changing, business is becoming more competitive and I think we need to look at how we adapt to that change, that competition,” Chapman said. “There’s validity in making sure we protect our neighborhoods, but there are opportunities on our main business corridors to change the dynamic there.”

Wilson said, ultimately, the city’s noise ordinance would need to be modernized.

“You could conceivably have a retailer on Mt. Vernon Avenue that has no SUP, they’re a by-right retailer, they could have a loudspeaker on the back of their property. As long as it doesn’t exceed noise level, you could operate that and the city couldn’t do anything about it,” Wilson said. “We have these two sets of laws – I think revision of noise ordinance is the way to fix that.”

Council voted to approve Charlie’s application, with no amplified sound audible after 9 p.m., by a 6-1 vote, with Silberberg dissenting.

Council also approved extended hours and outdoor live music for Augie’s at 1106 King St. at the meeting.

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 Alexandria ZIP code named a top trending millennial area Fri, 14 Sep 2018 20:01:28 +0000
Alexandria’s 22314 ZIP code, which extends from Old Town’s southern edge to Potomac Yard, is the second biggest “trending” millennial ZIP code, according to RentCafe. The 22314 ZIP code’s millennial population increased by 26.5 percent over the last five years, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics as compiled by RentCafe. It was second only to […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Alexandria’s 22314 ZIP code, which extends from Old Town’s southern edge to Potomac Yard, is the second biggest “trending” millennial ZIP code, according to RentCafe.

The 22314 ZIP code’s millennial population increased by 26.5 percent over the last five years, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics as compiled by RentCafe.

It was second only to Richmond’s 23230 ZIP code in the Scott’s Addition area, which grew by 43.4 percent over the last five years.

Arlington’s 22202 ZIP code was the third trending ZIP code, followed by Alexandria’s 22303, 22314, 22306, 22310, 22302 and 22305 ZIP codes. Rounding out the top 10 was Richmond’s 23226 ZIP code. 

The top trending ZIP codes nationally were Los Angeles’ 90014 and 90013, Manhattan’s 10282, Portland’s 97232, Manhattan’s 10069 and Jacksonville, Florida’s 32204.

 

 

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 Photos: 9/11 Commemoration and Citizenship Day Thu, 13 Sep 2018 20:13:37 +0000
By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com The City of Alexandria commemorated Sept. 11, 2001 with its annual remembrance ceremony at Market Square on Tuesday. The event honored those who were killed, paid tribute to first responders and included a “Return to Quarters” bell-ringing ceremony. Later in the day, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administered a citizenship ceremony […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

The City of Alexandria commemorated Sept. 11, 2001 with its annual remembrance ceremony at Market Square on Tuesday. The event honored those who were killed, paid tribute to first responders and included a “Return to Quarters” bell-ringing ceremony.

Later in the day, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administered a citizenship ceremony where approximately 35 candidates for citizenship took the Oath of Allegiance. The ceremony also recognized “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” to commemorate the adoption of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. 

  • Representatives from the Alexandria Police Department, Alexandria Fire Department and Alexandria Sheriff’s Office during the 9/11 commemoration ceremony (Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)
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 Foodie: Celebrate the late summer harvest with a fresh fruit tart Thu, 13 Sep 2018 19:12:03 +0000
By Elizabeth Holm When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, we had about 10 raspberry bushes in our backyard. I loved the job of picking them because I could eat as I picked. Fresh raspberries from the bushes tasted like candy. It was particularly exciting when, just as summer was ending, there was an entire […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Elizabeth Holm

When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, we had about 10 raspberry bushes
in our backyard. I loved the job of picking them because I could eat as I picked.
Fresh raspberries from the bushes tasted like candy. It was particularly exciting when, just as summer was ending, there was an entire second crop of delicious raspberries to pick and eat.

I was back home visiting last weekend, and my brother announced that the fall raspberries were almost in, bringing back all of those memories. Even though it is September, we still get to enjoy nature’s gift of sweetness. Fresh peaches, nectarines and plums can still be found for the next couple of weeks at our local farmer’s markets. You may still find some blackberries, but it’s those delectable raspberries that we find available throughout the fall. Thus, it is not too late to make a beautiful fresh fruit tart.

The health benefits of eating fruit are often overlooked. Meta-analysis of dozens of large studies has found that a greater intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with a decrease in overall mortality during the length of the studies.

In essence, people who eat more fruits and vegetables live longer. In a large study of Australians, the association was stronger for fruit consumption compared to vegetable intake. This is no surprise, since individual fruits have a variety of phytochemicals, antioxidants and vitamins that help prevent heart disease and cancer.

For example, raspberries contain an exorbitant amount of ellagic acid, a phytochemical that can inhibit cancer cell growth and may prevent a variety of cancers through its anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory actions. They also contain quercetin, a known anticarcinogen, and anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants.

A fresh fruit tart is an incredibly easy and delicious way to eat fruit. This recipe is from my college friend and registered dietitian Connie Miller. Serve it for breakfast, dessert or an afternoon snack, knowing that it could be extending your life and giving you many more years to enjoy the sweetness of fruit.

Recipe: Fresh Fruit Tart

Ingredients

This fresh fruit tart incorporates raspberries, blackberries, peaches and more (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Holm)

For the crust

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup butter

For the glaze

  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoon corn starch
  • ¼ tsp. mace
  • 2/3 cup orange juice (plus 1 to 2 tablespoon)
  • ½ cup red or black currant jelly

 

Fruit

  1. 1 to 2 yellow or white peaches
  2. 1 to 2 yellow or white nectarines
  3. 1 to 2 plums
  4. ½ pint red raspberries
  5. ¼ pint blackberries

 

Directions

  1.  Combine the flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour/sugar until evenly distributed. Press into a 10-inch tart or springform pan that has been greased or covered with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
  2. Skin the peaches by placing in boiling water for approximately 30 seconds. Rinse in cold water and the skin will slide off. Slice the peaches, nectarines and plums into thin slices.
  3. Combine the granulated sugar, corn starch, mace, 2/3 cup orange juice and currant jelly in a sauce pan. Stir over medium heat until thick, cooking approximately 2 minutes.
  4. Spread half of the glaze over the crust.
  5. Arrange the fruit by overlapping the peach, nectarine and plum slices, starting from the outside edge and ending in the middle. Spread the raspberries and blackberries on top.
  6.  Reheat the remaining glaze and add 1 to 2 tablespoon orange juice to thin. Drizzle over the top of the fruit.
  7. Chill for 4 to 6 hours. Remove the outer ring of the tart or springform pan. You can leave the tart on the bottom of the pan or slide it off onto a plate to serve.

 

Elizabeth M. Holm, DrPH, RD is a registered dietitian and nutritionist in private practice in Alexandria. She can be reached at emholm@verizon.net.

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 Council mulls public safety pay, summer public hearing Thu, 13 Sep 2018 19:08:49 +0000
By Duncan Agnew | dagnew@alextimes.com City council members discussed concerns surrounding Hurricane Florence, approved salary increases for Alexandria public safety workers and debated adding a summer public hearing to next year’s calendar at the first legislative meeting of the season on Tuesday night. Deputy Fire Chief of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Corey Smedley spoke […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Duncan Agnew | dagnew@alextimes.com

City council members discussed concerns surrounding Hurricane Florence, approved salary increases for Alexandria public safety workers and debated adding a summer public hearing to next year’s calendar at the first legislative meeting of the season on Tuesday night.

Deputy Fire Chief of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Corey Smedley spoke to council about city preparations for the potential impact that Hurricane Florence could have on Alexandria in the coming days. While the most severe wind and rain should steer clear of the D.C. area, Smedley emphasized that the city is particularly vulnerable due to the unprecedented amount of rain and flooding that Alexandria has experienced in recent weeks.

“We’ve been saturated for several days now,” Smedley said. “Based on the saturated ground, we have the potential for trees falling, so our agencies are looking at that.”

Mayor Allison Silberberg and Councilor Paul Smedberg also stressed the importance of residents making proper preparations by gathering essential supplies like medicine, food and water.

“If you or a loved one needs medicine, now is the time to ensure that you have enough medicine for a number of days going forward from now,” Silberberg said.

With the uncertainty surrounding Hurricane Florence, council encouraged all residents to be prepared for anything. In case of severe after effects, City Manager Mark Jinks signed an emergency declaration Tuesday afternoon, which will make Alexandria eligible for FEMA reimbursement of costs associated with clean-up and recovery.

“The goal here is to plan for the worst and hope for the best, and so rest assured that’s what’s taking place,” Smedley said.

Later in the meeting, council unanimously approved a number of pay raises for Alexandria public safety officers after a presentation from Chief Human Resources Officer Shawnda Howard. The pay increases come after an uproar from the Alexandria Police Department and Alexandria Fire Department ahead of the FY2019 budget being passed in May. The city has for years lagged behind the standard public safety salary for the region.

“In December 2017, a public safety compensation benchmark study was conducted, and results show that the pay for firefighters, medics, police officers and deputy sheriffs lagged regional market pay,” Howard said.

On average, pay for firefighters and medics in the city is 4.6 percent below the industry standard, while compensation for police officers lags by nine percent. Howard said that the increased salaries will increase employee retention and engagement.

Ultimately, these changes will raise police officer pay by 6.2 percent and firefighter and medic compensation by 5 percent. Additionally, salaries for four job classifications in the sheriff’s office will increase by a single pay grade, or close to five percent.

“Collectively, these near-term pay solutions will help to improve the city’s regional competitiveness and
positively impact employee engagement,” Howard said. “We recognize the value and skill of public safety employees, and the competition for talent will be ongoing and require us to remain vigilant and focused in our efforts to recruit and retain high quality personnel.”

Council approved without further discussion the proposed increases, which are scheduled for official implementation later this month.

Despite some concern over expenditures from Smedberg and Councilor Willie Bailey, council also unanimously passed resolutions to provide additional loans to the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation for The Bloom/Carpenter’s Shelter and the Gateway at King and Beauregard projects.

At the end of the meeting, Vice Mayor Justin Wilson proposed an amendment to the calendar that would establish a mid-summer public hearing. Council goes on a two-month recess during July and August as per the guidelines of the current schedule, but Wilson and Councilor John Chapman noted the long holding periods that business owners applying for permits may experience as a result of the break.

Councilor Del Pepper, who has long opposed summer meetings, expressed more of a willingness to support this proposal.

“If you’re talking about just one public hearing — no legislative meetings — then I might be more interested in that,” Pepper said. “… If you’re saying it’s just a public hearing and no more, and if it’s not too disruptive of the planning commission schedule, then I would withdraw my opposition.”

Silberberg was hesitant to support the change without first gathering thoughts from the public. She voiced concern that because so many residents travel during the summer, some interested community members might not be able to participate in a meeting.

However, Smedberg noted that residents have to miss out on public hearings throughout the year for a variety of reasons.

“I just don’t see a downside to [a summer public hearing] at all,” Smedberg said. “People in this community travel all year round.”

In order to add a summer public hearing, council would have to make a calendar revision that would be voted on at some point in the coming months, Wilson said.

Council will meet again on Saturday for its September public hearing.

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 Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D. Thu, 13 Sep 2018 19:02:04 +0000
By Dr. Gregory Hutchings Sixty days can either seem like a long time or like no time at all. In some ways, my first sixty days have gone by incredibly fast. But in other ways, they have already given me real insight into the refinement needed to take our school division to the next level […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Dr. Gregory Hutchings

Sixty days can either seem like a long time or like no time at all. In some ways, my first sixty days have gone by incredibly fast. But in other ways, they have already given me real insight into the refinement needed to take our school division to the next level in order for every student to be successful in school and in life. This is an opportunity to make ACPS the best it has ever been.

First, we must continue to embrace our diversity. The fact that ACPS has students from 118 different countries who speak 120 different languages is a true gift and one that gives our students the invaluable experience of being part of a global community within their own school division. This firsthand experience with cultural, socioeconomic and racial diversity will well equip our graduates to be culturally competent and prepared to assimilate into our global society. Our students continue to come back time and time again after they graduate and tell us how well their experiences at T.C. Williams High School prepared them for the world.

Our diversity is also a reminder that success does not look the same for every student, and that what one student may take for granted is a huge success for another. We must not allow for any student’s current life, family or financial circumstance determine his or her future. Whether a child needs additional support for academics, socio-economics or social and emotional needs, in ACPS we must meet the child where they are and assist them with receiving what they need to become globally minded citizens. Our young people are counting on us to strive for excellence and give 100 percent each day to meet their needs.

At the first of three meetings with my superintendent’s transition team – the group of staff and community members who are helping to guide me during my first 100 days in my new role as superintendent of schools — discussion focused on employee retention, metrics, collaboration, effective communication and prioritization of goals. But all of the topics kept coming back to one thing – ensuring student success.

In order for students to succeed, we need to ensure consistency with the instructional practices in our classrooms through our ACPS curriculum. Through our school improvement planning process, our central office administration will work collaboratively with our schools to remove barriers that may be preventing ACPS from maximizing our students’ success, as well as provide the necessary supports to attain our ACPS 2020 goals. Furthermore, we must maintain continuity with teacher and leadership roles throughout the school division, including the role of superintendent of schools.

One recurring theme is the need and desire to increase collaboration with the city. We know that attracting families and businesses is key to the city’s economic success, and that good schools help ensure that a city thrives. The recent opening of the Ferdinand T. Day School is an exemplar of what a successful and innovative collaboration can look like when done well. Since day one, I have been working closely with the city manager to ensure lines of communication between the city and ACPS will always continue to be open. By establishing strong relationships through which the city and ACPS share our success and opportunities, we can work together toward success for all students.

As we move forward, we’ll continue to share our ACPS story and the story of our students’ success, especially with the broader community. While our community is made up of many people who do not have school-aged children or children in ACPS, it’s important that we show our entire community why your support for public education in Alexandria will be the key to our city’s success.

We are an ambitious school division that has set attainable goals through our ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan, which outlines a vast array of initiatives established by members of the school division and community. This plan, which serves as our guide toward student success, contains several hundred key performance indicators we are trying to meet every day. With many pressing needs, focusing and prioritizing will be important for ACPS as we forge ahead.

Even after only sixty days in this role, one thing is very clear to me – that our community, staff and students are deeply committed to the same goal – and that is seeing every student succeed.

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.

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 Our View: September storms in Alexandria Thu, 13 Sep 2018 18:55:12 +0000
Hurricane Florence’s menacing approach toward the coast in South and North Carolina is a reminder that we are never as in control as we would like to be – or think we are. Try as we might to effectively organize our time, to schedule family routines, to fit in a balance of work, service and […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Hurricane Florence’s menacing approach toward the coast in South and North Carolina is a reminder that we are never as in control as we would like to be – or think we are.

Try as we might to effectively organize our time, to schedule family routines, to fit in a balance of work, service and fun, we are, ultimately, at the mercy of forces we can’t control. Our best-laid plans can be torn asunder by a devastating illness, job loss or derailed relationship – or a catastrophic natural disaster. In the end, all we can do is prepare for the worst, hope for the best and live our lives.

Periodic floods are a fact of life for a locale with the nickname “Port City.” Flood mitigation efforts have been tried periodically through the years, and another attempt is planned. While a better floodwall and updated sewer lines would certainly help, the threat of flooding will always be with us in Alexandria.

The city seems to be doing all it can to prepare for Florence: sandbags have been handed out to businesses near the waterfront, Mayor Allison Silberberg and other city officials have sent out missives on preparedness and planning for a potential waterfront evacuation is underway.

Planning of a different kind is also underway at city hall, as Alexandria’s city council fall term kicked off Tuesday night with its first legislative meeting. While unforeseen issues could crop up to overshadow everything else, three topics seem destined to dominate our local politics in the coming months: the Potomac Yard Metro Station, litigation over lights at T.C. Williams High School’s Parker-Gray Stadium and the long-overdue public hearing on ethics reform.

There seems to be considerable uncertainty surrounding the planned Metro station, despite the city’s announcement this week that the project will be built by Halmar International and Schiavone Construction Co. Final environmental sign-off by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is apparently lacking, and a group of 50 residents have signed a letter to USACE urging denial of a permit to fill in up to five acres of wetlands along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

An updated station design is to be unveiled and discussed at a public hearing later this fall. Given that council has approved the project, the south entrance was eliminated without public input and the contract has already been awarded, we are undoubtedly not alone in viewing a public hearing at this point as not much more than window dressing. Repeated Freedom of Information Act requests for documents by a group of nearby residents continue to shed light on who-knew-what-when during this flawed process.

The second contentious and ongoing issue before the city is that of whether to break a verbal pledge widely believed to have been made to neighbors back in the early 1960s by city officials to never place lights at the T.C. Williams High School football stadium. The no-lights provision was later included in development special use permits when the school was rebuilt in the 2000s and again when tennis courts in front of the school were lighted. While this issue is slated for consideration at the October public hearing, the lawsuit filed by a group of neighbors to block lights is likely to at least delay the effort.

Finally, a public hearing on ethics reform must, by mandate, be held by the end of this year. While we remain appalled that this conversation with the public did not take place in early 2016 when council considered and passed a weak ethics reform plan, this hearing will belatedly provide a public forum to discuss the topic.

These are our projected highlights of what promises to be a busy council session. But stay tuned, because you never know what additional storms may be brewing over the horizon.

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 Council prepares to tackle key issues this fall Thu, 13 Sep 2018 18:51:34 +0000
By Duncan Agnew | dagnew@alextimes.com City council is back in session after the summer recess with a full slate of issues and a number of council members planning to tackle significant docket items before a new council is inaugurated in January. Mayor Allison Silberberg, who is entering the last four months of her term after […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Duncan Agnew | dagnew@alextimes.com

City council is back in session after the summer recess with a full slate of issues and a number of council members planning to tackle significant docket items before a new council is inaugurated in January.

Mayor Allison Silberberg, who is entering the last four months of her term after losing to Vice Mayor Justin Wilson in the Democratic Primary in June, said she remains focused on passing legislation and doing what she can to fulfill her promises to city residents.

The city is also primed to elect an almost entirely new city council in November, with incumbents Paul Smedberg and Willie Bailey losing their seats to newcomers in the primary and fellow incumbent Tim Lovain retiring. Despite the impending turnover, Silberberg and Wilson said a busy council schedule is ahead.

One of the key issues Silberberg hopes to address before leaving office is ethics reform, one of the first issues she pursued as mayor in early 2016.

“We will have a docket item on ethics set for the fall,” Silberberg said. “While the Commonwealth of Virginia has its own fairly lax standards regarding ethics, I continue to believe that we should set our own high bar and continue to reach and push forward.”

Wilson is more focused on redevelopment efforts and land-use measures that will come before council in coming months. He said he anticipates working alongside the Howard Hughes Corporation as the city begins its Landmark Mall re-planning project. On top of that, he said council is preparing to address contentious land-use matters, including a decision on whether lights should be added to T.C. Williams’ Parker-Gray Stadium.

“We also have some very controversial land-use items coming forward — the potential of improvement of the athletic stadium at T.C. Williams and the discussion of whether lights are going to be part of that revision of that stadium, so that’ll be part of the conversation this fall,” Wilson said.

Silberberg said transparency and respect should be top priorities for all city officials. She said in a climate where incivility has grown rampant on the national level, council has an opportunity to set a higher standard for Alexandria.

Silberberg also said she’s excited to discuss other important items such as overcrowding at T.C. Williams and construction of the Potomac Yard Metro. The removal of the southern entrance at the planned Metro station sparked fireworks in the midst of the primary in May.

“I have been pushing for us to reinstate the southern entrance, and I will continue to speak out for that,” Silberberg said.

She also emphasized her focus on advocating for the desires of existing communities and neighbors when it comes to development in Alexandria.

“We need to ensure that we take into account the impact on the quality of life of the neighbors,” Silberberg said. “We have to think about the quality of life for others as developers create these projects.”

When reflecting on her time as mayor so far, Silberberg said she wants to leave behind a legacy of hard work, proactivity and a willingness to both hear and act on the concerns of local citizens.

“I’ve really pushed for residents to come forward and speak out and to be more engaged, and I think they have been, and that’s exciting,” Silberberg said. “… This has been a term where we got things done. We got so much done that was just either neglected or allowed to fester, and we’ve been very proactive.”

On the other hand, as Wilson looks ahead to what he hopes to accomplish as mayor, he said his long-term goals revolve around the three pillars of his campaign — economic growth, working to combat the achievement gap in Alexandria schools to provide every child the means to be successful, and improving the city’s basic infrastructure.

“Those will be areas that I’ll certainly be talking about over the next three years and working with my colleagues on the next council to make some significant progress,” Wilson said.

Members of council will be pursuing their own agendas during the remainder of 2018. Lovain, for instance, said one of his major focuses would be searching for ways to fund the city’s increased spending. As the city faces increasing expenditures relating to education and affordable housing, Lovain said council must have significant discussions about how to pay for such changes.

“If we’re going to be talking about spending increases, we should be talking about how to pay for them and not just slewing that off to staff, which sometimes council members try to do,” Lovain said.

As he thought back on his time serving Alexandria, Lovain said he’s proud to have fought for pertinent issues like education, smart growth and efficient transportation in the city. However, he pointed out the challenge the incoming council will have of finding new members to address transportation concerns. Lovain and Smedberg, who will both be leaving city council at the end of the year, fill all but one of the council positions on local transportation boards.

“One of the challenges for this new council will be which member or members will step up and take a leading role on transportation,” Lovain said.

Perhaps Councilor John Chapman, who tallied the second most votes in June’s primary behind first-time candidate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, will embrace that leading role. Chapman said questions regarding how to decrease congestion on the roads while maintaining affordable, efficient transportation alternatives will be essential problems to solve both now and over the next several years.

“One of the issues we’ve been discussing is how do we take care of and really get traffic moving on our main corridors?” Chapman said “… It’s something I want to tackle with this group and hopefully tackle with the next council.”

Chapman also identified high school capacity, city services for youth and families and business development as crucial items for council to address moving forward.

Ultimately, even as a large transition looms on council, outgoing members are more committed to finishing the job than ever before.

“I’ve certainly been incredibly honored to serve as mayor, and I will serve right until the end of the year,” Silberberg said. “And I will run right through the tape.”

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 Letter to the Editor: City should charge ‘market price’ for parking Thu, 13 Sep 2018 18:49:09 +0000
To the editor: In his Sept. 6 letter to the Times, “City officials created Chatham quagmire,” Dan Hazlewood said, “The idea some have that less parking will encourage public transit is a myth that is disproven daily by our still-growing car culture.“ This is not in fact the case. Numerous studies show parking minimums in […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

To the editor:

In his Sept. 6 letter to the Times, “City officials created Chatham quagmire,” Dan Hazlewood said, “The idea some have that less parking will encourage public transit is a myth that is disproven daily by our still-growing car culture.“ This is not in fact the case.

Numerous studies show parking minimums in cities lead to more car ownership and more car usage than would otherwise be the case. That is why more and more cities and some suburban counties are relaxing their parking minimums, and even eliminating them in selected locations.

That allows developers to include off street parking only when there is a real market demand for it. And yes, people do look to see if it is available — when my wife and I moved we looked at the parking situations for all our options, we did not presume access to free parking. Comparing checking on that to an unreasonable software usage agreement is silly.

The real problem here is not allowing developers to choose the amount of parking they want to provide on their own property — it is that on-street parking is provided free, or for a nominal charge via a parking permit. Like most things provided cheap or free, it becomes scarce.

If parking were priced at what economists call “a market clearing price,” there would be no need for battles like this, because the right to buy a parking permit would not be such a desirable benefit. If some complain that this would be unfair to those who long ago bought in an area assuming cheap parking permits, we could “grandfather” them in at existing prices, and allow them to sell their permits to new residents. Economists call this arrangement “a white market,” so no one is worse off.

-Ken Notis, Alexandria

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