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Last updated: Thu, 23 May 2019 04:58:38 GMT

 Unveiled: Incorporating traditions in your wedding ceremony Tue, 21 May 2019 14:47:24 +0000
By Aleksandra Kochurova | graphics@alextimes.com I am a huge believer in holding personalized wedding ceremonies that are true to the couple — after all, every relationship is different, so why fall to the standard? Throughout the planning process, I’ve worked to personalize my wedding in every way, from including my best guy friend in my […]Facebooktwittermail

By Aleksandra Kochurova | graphics@alextimes.com

I am a huge believer in holding personalized wedding ceremonies that are true to the couple — after all, every relationship is different, so why fall to the standard?

Throughout the planning process, I’ve worked to personalize my wedding in every way, from including my best guy friend in my bridal party to picking a venue that elevates my style and fits my character. My wedding ceremony will be no exception.

This is the last installment of “Unveiled,” a monthly column where I share the tips and tricks I come across as I embark on the long path that leads down the aisle. This month, I’ll be talking about personalizing your wedding ceremony.

My fiancé, Devin, and I decided not to have a religious ceremony pretty early in the planning process, but that doesn’t mean our wedding will only last five minutes. There are countless ways to put together a ceremony that is unique to you as a couple, from writing your own vows to borrowing excerpts from your favorite books.

Whether your wedding is religious or not, here are some rituals you can incorporate to showcase your love and commitment to your spouse.

Planting a tree

To incorporate nature into your ceremony, plant a tree sapling to symbolize the roots of your relationship. After the ceremony, replant the tree in your yard, or — with permission — a place that holds significance to both of you. Watch it grow as your love grows through the years. If you don’t have a yard, go for a houseplant that you can pot and keep indoors.

Wine-blending

Wine has been present at weddings for centuries, but this tasty trend is fairly new. Incorporate wine-blending into your ceremony by combining a white wine with a red wine into a large carafe after the ring exchange. The couple can then pour glasses for each other, or share a glass, of the blended wine. If wine’s not your thing, try beer-blending or cocktail-making.

Unity candle

This is a popular ritual to symbolize the joining of two families. Often mistaken for a Christian tradition, the ceremony doesn’t have inherent ties to a particular faith. The unity candle ritual involves three candles, typically two thin and one larger. The mothers from both sides light the thin candles, then join the couple in lighting the big candle. Depending on the reading you choose to pair with the ceremony, all three candles can remain lit to show the flames of your individual selves igniting your marriage, or you can extinguish the thin candles to illustrate the flames becoming one.

Blanket ceremony

This Native American ceremony can vary by tribes. In one version, the couple starts the ceremony wrapped separately in blue blankets, which symbolize their individual pasts. After the union’s blessing, they take the blue blankets off and are wrapped together under a white blanket. The white blanket represents a blank slate to “fill” with peace and happiness. After the wedding, some couples keep the blanket at the foot of their bed as a reminder of their commitment to each other.

Jumping the broom

This African-American tradition is believed to have originated in Africa; however it’s lost its original meaning because of associations with slavery, according to Ka-Veronica Braddy, owner of www.african-weddings.com. Enslaved African Americans would perform broom jumping ceremonies to “marry” when they legally didn’t have the right. Passed down generation-to-generation, this ritual is a reminder of the African-American heritage, as well as love and dedication to each other. If you choose to incorporate it at your wedding, jumping the broom could be done after the pronouncing of husband and wife or during the reception.

Lasso ceremony

This ritual comes from Mexican, Filipino and Spanish cultures. After the couple has exchanged their vows, the officiant places an oversized flower lasso around their shoulders to form a figure eight shape. The couple will wear the lasso through the remainder of the ceremony. The figure eight’s infinity shape symbolizes the couple’s eternal bond. You could also make the lasso ceremony religious by using a lasso made from a rosary instead of flowers.

Handfasting

If you have Irish or Scottish roots, this tradition is for you. Dating back to pre-reformation Celtic communities, handfasting used to be a private and informal ceremony marking the start of a period of engagement. If the couple was still madly in love at the end of a year, they would have a formal wedding.

The ritual has made a comeback in recent years by couples wanting to literally tie the knot. It involves the couple binding their hands together during the ceremony (before, during or after reciting their vows), often to symbolize their connection and devotion to one another. The personalization, however, is limitless. You can tie both hands or just right hands. You can use ribbons, fabrics that are important to you, a scarf, flower garlands, beads. You can choose which knot to tie, whether it’s fisherman’s or infinity. Each of these choices will hold a special meaning to you and make the ritual that much more important.

Ring (or rope) warming

The ring warming ritual is a sweet way to include all your family and guests in the ceremony. The roots of the tradition can be traced to Ireland, where the guests and family pass the couple’s wedding rings to each other and give them a blessing, prayer or a silent wish before the couple exchanges their vows. If you have a large guest list, you can opt to display the rings close to the venue’s entrance, giving everyone a chance to warm them before they sit down.

If you are having a religious ceremony and are tying the knot of three strands — representing each member of the couple and God — you can pass around the strands with the same sentiment before the vows.

Unity/anniversary box

The premise of a unity box ceremony is to store something away in a box and nail it shut together. You will then open the box at a designated time, whether it’s a major anniversary or a milestone in your marriage. With this tradition, the personalization options are limitless. You can make your unity box a wine box and put away your favorite bottle of wine to open in a year and replace it with another, repeating the nailing down process in five, 10 or 20 years. You can write letters instructing you to open up the box after your first major fight, when you buy a house or after the birth of your first child. Or you can fill it with memories that will bring tears to your eyes years down the road. I haven’t decided what exactly I’ll put in my box yet, but I know that it will be a combination of things — probably a bottle of wine and love letters.

Pair these unconventional traditions with a meaningful reading, and your wedding ceremony will be talked about for decades. Have fun putting together a set of rituals that feels personal, but don’t overdo it. My advice is to add one or two extra rituals to a traditional religious ceremony, and up to three to a secular ceremony.

Thank you for embarking on this journey with me, and happy planning!

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 Verbal jousts galore in ‘Love’s Labor’s Lost’ Tue, 21 May 2019 14:31:42 +0000
By Denise Dunbar | ddunbar@alextimes.com The Beatles didn’t start with “Abbey Road.” Their first album, “Please, Please Me,” was fun and lighthearted, with hits like the title track and “Love Me Do.” Likewise, Shakespeare didn’t start with “Hamlet” or “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Before those masterworks, there was “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” either a relatively early or a very […]Facebooktwittermail

By Denise Dunbar | ddunbar@alextimes.com

The Beatles didn’t start with “Abbey Road.” Their first album, “Please, Please Me,” was fun and lighthearted, with hits like the title track and “Love Me Do.”

Likewise, Shakespeare didn’t start with “Hamlet” or “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Before those masterworks, there was “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” either a relatively early or a very early play – the scholarly assessment varies – by the Bard. More than most of Shakespeare’s comedies, “Love’s Labor’s Lost” is full of witty repartee and fun that strays into silliness toward its unsatisfying ending.

Director Vivienne Benesch has placed the Folger Theatre production of “Love’s Labor’s Lost” in the early 1930s, an inspired decision that allows us to view Shakespeare’s characters and hear his language in a different light. She chose that era because the Folger Shakespeare Library opened in 1932.

Benesch’s set, a library of dark wood with a large stained-glass window above, mirrors the actual library at the Folger. Along with the play itself, there’s an exhibit open to playgoers that details the museum’s much-heralded opening, with photos of dignitaries in attendance, including President and Mrs. Herbert Hoover. You can also peek into the actual library – playgoers are not allowed entry – and see the setting that informed the set.

The play begins in the library, with big band music playing on a phonograph, as Ferdinand, King of Navarre (Joshua David Robinson) talks with Berowne (played with great energy by Zachary Fine), Longaville (Matt Dallal) and Dumaine (Jack Schmitt). The king is asking the three young men to sign a pledge to live a scholarly life of fasting, little sleep and, worst of all, no women for three long years.

While Longaville and Dumaine sign eagerly on the dotted line, Fine as Berowne – who has the looks and mannerisms of a young Rodney Dangerfield – isn’t so sure, especially the no-women part. He reluctantly signs the pledge, which is immediately put to the test by the arrival of the Princess of France (Amelia Pedlow) and her three ladies-in-waiting, Rosaline (Kelsey Rainwater), Katherine (Chani Werely) and Maria (Yesenia Iglesias).

The wooing is in the form of verbal jousting, usually in rhyme, as this play has more lines rhymed than any other by Shakespeare. There’s a fifth love pair, a hot romance between the nerdy Nathaniel (Susan Rome) and Holofernes, played fantastically by Folger stalwart Louis Butelli.

A sixth pairing is initially a love triangle between the floozy Jaquenetta (Tonya Beckman), the buffoonish Costard (Edmund Lewis) and Don Armado (Eric Hissom). Hissom, most recently seen on Folger’s stage in “The Winter’s Tale,” is funny and winsome in his role as the Spanish braggard and steals every scene he’s in.

“Love’s Labor’s Lost” is an appropriate play for the #MeToo era, as the female love interests definitely get the better of their male suitors throughout. And while the play’s unusual ending – courtesy of the Bard, not the Folger – may not leave audiences enthralled, this is a well-staged and well-acted production.

The creative team includes scenic design by Helen Hayes Award-winner Lee Savage, costume design by Tracy Christensen and lighting design by three-time Helen Hayes Award-winner Colin

K. Bills. Sound and original music by Lindsay Jones. Janet Alexander Griffin is in charge of artistic production at the Folger.

The author is publisher and executive editor of the Alexandria Times.

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 Your Views: We need bike lanes on Seminary Thu, 16 May 2019 16:56:14 +0000
To the editor: I am writing to discuss the proposed changes to Seminary Road between Quaker Lane and Howard Street. Like many of my neighbors, I am concerned about congestion on Seminary and elsewhere. However, unlike my neighbors, I do not see how making no significant changes will help congestion. Instead, I believe the road […]Facebooktwittermail

To the editor:

I am writing to discuss the proposed changes to Seminary Road between Quaker Lane and Howard Street. Like many of my neighbors, I am concerned about congestion on Seminary and elsewhere. However, unlike my neighbors, I do not see how making no significant changes will help congestion. Instead, I believe the road diet plan provides the best opportunity to address this issue, by making modes of transit other than single-occupancy cars a viable alternative.

The primary points of congestion on Seminary are both already one through lane with a dedicated turn lane: the Quaker Lane and Howard Street, when traveling east, intersections. In between, the road diet plan would merely serve to limit the ability of speeding cars to weave between traffic traveling close to the speed limit. The road diet would likely also cut down on the number of cars that attempt to “jump the queue” by driving down the left-turn lane and forcing their way into the through lane after the fact.

Given the opportunity for bike lanes to remove cars from the road – and given the preponderance of evidence both from past projects in Alexandria and elsewhere in the U.S. that road diets do not increase congestion – this seems like the only approach that could help with congestion.

At present, the only viable and safe way to get around the West End is by car. Bus service is limited outside of rush hour, and the general lack of safe east-west arterials for modes of transit like bikes or scooters limits choices. Given the city’s other attempts to improve multi-modal transit it seems important to make sure residents who are open to choosing these modes have safe ways to get around.

This brings me to my second point: safety. I have already mentioned the way speeding cars weave between slower-moving traffic on Seminary. This kind of aggressive driving has led to a number of accidents in the last few years, despite the 25 mph speed limit. Fortunately, none of those accidents have been fatal.

Based on data on the city’s website, the speed limit reduction has not meaningfully affected the speed at which people drive on Seminary – it’s shown only a two mph reduction. I believe this is because the road is designed to support cars driving 45 mph or higher. If we don’t want a four-lane highway running through our residential neighborhoods, we shouldn’t have one.

In theory, despite the speed issue, cyclists should be able to ride on Seminary — and, ultimately, I sometimes do. But it is only a matter of time until a speeding car, driving too fast up Seminary, rear-ends a cyclist there.

I implore council to make the courageous decision to improve safety and multi-modal options within Alexandria. At minimum, I think it merits a one- or two-year pilot in which we can study the traffic effects. At worst, if the best choice is to revert the road back, it would only require re-painting the lanes. By making no change, we are dooming Alexandria to suffer with increasing congestion by making cars the only viable option.

-John Yuda, Alexandria

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 Your Views: Narrowing Seminary Road would endanger safety Thu, 16 May 2019 16:52:09 +0000
To the editor: One of the major issues currently being discussed in Alexandria is the remake of Seminary Road. Unfortunately, this issue affects not only the citizens residing on Seminary Road, but it is a life and death issue that affects all of us in the area. The reduction of Seminary Road vehicle lanes in […]Facebooktwittermail

To the editor:

One of the major issues currently being discussed in Alexandria is the remake of Seminary Road. Unfortunately, this issue affects not only the citizens residing on Seminary Road, but it is a life and death issue that affects all of us in the area. The reduction of Seminary Road vehicle lanes in order for bikes to have dedicated bike lanes is foolhardy, regardless of whether it is for the entire stretch of this road, or only portions thereof.

The life or death rationale is that there is a major hospital located on Seminary Road, and there should be a clear unimpeded access from all of this road, not just portions of it. Moreover, this looks to be a bike lane solution in search of a problem, similar to that found on upper King Street. I seldom see bicycles there.

For years, I have endeavored to stay focused on how city council members conduct themselves, especially regarding their process in adjudicating issues within the city. I have been a staunch critic of some of their decisions. However, in this case I would hope that council would do the right thing and disapprove any major changes to Seminary Road.

-Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet, Alexandria

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 Your Views: E-scooters are good for Alexandria Thu, 16 May 2019 16:50:01 +0000
To the editor: There is not a mode of transportation I don’t love. I own a car, often commute on a bicycle and have Metro cards stashed in all of my purses. I only wear shoes that are still comfortable after walking a few miles and have a phone filled with transportation apps, ranging from […]Facebooktwittermail

To the editor:

There is not a mode of transportation I don’t love. I own a car, often commute on a bicycle and have Metro cards stashed in all of my purses. I only wear shoes that are still comfortable after walking a few miles and have a phone filled with transportation apps, ranging from Metro maps to multi-modal aggregators to bike shares to car shares. Recently, I became the proud owner of six e-scooter apps. There is so much this area has to offer and I want to be able to get to it all in the most economical, convenient and environmentally-friendly way.

When e-scooters began appearing in Alexandria, I rejoiced. Sure, the first time I rode an e-scooter I thought, “This is the way I die.” However, I had those same thoughts the first time I drove a car, crossed a street in New York City and still every time I ride my bike down Mt. Vernon Avenue. Just like driving, walking and riding a bike, I eventually gained confidence, learned the rules of the road and now embrace e-scooters.

Old Town Alexandria is beautiful and historic. Del Ray reminds us of a bygone era where main street was the center of life. These are the reasons we love Alexandria. These are the reasons we embrace the people who come to experience our wonderful city. These are the reasons our city makes it easy to move around. The King Street Trolley provides easy access to the heart of Alexandria. The DASH bus helps us get to the grocery store and work. The Capital Bike Share ensures we can enjoy the Mount Vernon Trail on a nice day.

(Scooters in Alexandria Part 2: For riders, scooters are more than just a fad)

None of these modes of transportation are perfect, which is why we need a variety of options. Not to mention that Alexandria is best enjoyed on foot, and e-scooters expand our radius of where we can go without succumbing to the confines of a bus, car or metro. How many people think the 1.2 mile walk from the King Street Metro Station to the Torpedo Factory is simply too far? Or that places like the Lyceum Alexandria History Museum, the Alexandria Black History Museum or the Belle Haven Park are too far off the beaten path? E-scooters provide one more option to enjoy every corner of Alexandria.

I have heard demands to stop the e-scooter pilot early. Some of the reasons cited are valid – e-scooter riders are learning how to be responsible riders, and haphazardly discarded e-scooters are a safety concern and ruin the aesthetic of Old Town and Del Ray. I agree that e-scooter riders who are riding unsafely and on crowded sidewalks are a detriment to society. However, I also think the same about motorists who park in bike lanes, cyclists who don’t stop at stop signs and pedestrians who walk three-abreast.

The answer to the perceived e-scooter program is to continue the pilot, work through the enforcement kinks, educate riders on proper e-scooter etiquette and learn to accept that e-scooters improve everyone’s ability to navigate our great city. Now excuse me, I must run to catch the bus.

-Jennifer K. Hay, Alexandria

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 Justice Matter with Bryan Porter: Conducting a review of policies Thu, 16 May 2019 16:45:19 +0000
Prosecutors wield a significant amount of authority. We affect the community in a variety of ways, some obvious, others more indirect. Given the authority inherent in the office, and the executive discretion that is bestowed upon us, prosecutors must be introspective, thoughtful and willing to change archaic practices. New ideas must be embraced, and old, […]Facebooktwittermail

Prosecutors wield a significant amount of authority. We affect the community in a variety of ways, some obvious, others more indirect. Given the authority inherent in the office, and the executive discretion that is bestowed upon us, prosecutors must be introspective, thoughtful and willing to change archaic practices. New ideas must be embraced, and old, ineffective ones modified or dropped altogether.

To this end, I am currently conducting a top-to-bottom review of my office’s policies in a number of important areas, such as how we treat juvenile offenders and whether to expand our misdemeanor diversion program.

This review has already produced results, two examples of which are our Mental Health Initiative and the Treatment Court program which commences this summer. Other changes, such as eliminating recommendations for cash bail for low-level offenses, are already in place. I also serve on the statewide task force that produced a new, far more transparent criminal discovery process, an arcane process that produced one of the more important reforms in recent history.

Earlier this week, I publicly released several additional changes to our method of doing things. First, I am concerned about the efficacy and fairness of our practice of interdicting “habitual drunkards.” An archaic code section allows people to be “interdicted,” after which they face more serious charges for alcohol-related arrests.

The initial reasons for this regime may have been well-intentioned; however, people charged with “interdiction” offenses receive short jail sentences and no treatment for the underlying problem. I am convinced that we can attack these situations more effectively and have enacted a moratorium on naming anyone else an “interdicted person.” I would like to significantly decrease the number of people on the interdiction list or perhaps eliminate it entirely.

Also, my office will no longer indict a specific set of driving-related cases, known as Habitual Offender charges, as felonies. This venerable code section allowed certain people to be declared a Habitual Offender for non-payment of driving fines and costs. The H.O. declaration causes a “super-suspension” of the person’s driving privilege, in some cases resulting in a felony charge that carried a one-year mandatory minimum sentence simply for driving.

Recognizing the unnecessarily onerous situation this law created, the Virginia General Assembly changed it several years ago and no new H.O.s are being declared. However, those declared before the legislative change were “grandfathered” and our office continues to see a number of H.O. cases a year. I believe a felony with a one-year mandatory minimum for non-dangerous driving is overkill and we will no longer present such charges to the Grand Jury.

Finally, the General Assembly has changed the law regarding license suspensions. Effective July 1, citizens will no longer have their driving privileges suspended for non-payment of fines. Additionally, those whose licenses are currently suspended for non-payment will have the suspensions lifted as of July.

Our office continues to see driving on suspended cases because the removal of suspensions does not go into effect for seven weeks. This is patently unfair; those on the wrong side of an arbitrarily-set date could face conviction. Therefore, effective immediately, my office will move to dismiss all driving on suspended license cases in which the charge is related to the non-payment of fines and costs.

I note that these policies do not relate to suspensions or revocations related to drunk driving. My office will continue to diligently prosecute such cases. Because a significant part of my job is public safety, I will never waver with regard to that commitment and will continue to hold violent offenders accountable for crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, gang offenses and shootings.

There will likely be additional changes to our policies during the next six months. I am calling our review “Vision 2020” and intend to release a document that summarizes the policy reforms when they are complete.

Bryan Porter is the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Alexandria.

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 Your Views: What’s the point? Thu, 16 May 2019 16:39:16 +0000
To the editor: Paige Pollard of the Commonwealth Preservation Group writes in the May 9 Alexandria Times, “Black house is in compliance with easement” that a letter to City Manager Mark Jinks from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources shows that the VDHR “is fully aware and supportive of” the plans to renovate and alter […]Facebooktwittermail

To the editor:

Paige Pollard of the Commonwealth Preservation Group writes in the May 9 Alexandria Times, “Black house is in compliance with easement” that a letter to City Manager Mark Jinks from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources shows that the VDHR “is fully aware and supportive of” the plans to renovate and alter the Black House at 619 S. Lee St.

Unless I’m missing something, nothing in the letter that Pollard sets forth in full says anything whatsoever about the VDHR’s “awareness” or “support” for the “project.” Rather, the VDHR’s letter says quite plainly that the VDHR and the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review are separate entities whose rules and regulations, while serving “similar goals,” have nothing whatsoever to do with one another and that compliance with one entity’s regulations has no bearing on compliance with the other’s.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but, based on the VDHR’s letter, I’m not sure what point Pollard was making.

-Roger W. Yoerges, Alexandria

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 Hugo Black house renovation advances, council affirms BAR decision Thu, 16 May 2019 16:36:27 +0000
By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com The Hugo Black house controversy came to a peak in the crowded city council chambers on Tuesday evening, when council unanimously voted to allow the renovation project to move forward. Specifically, council voted to affirm the Board of Architectural Review’s Feb. 6 decision to approve partial demolition, additions and alterations […]Facebooktwittermail

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

The Hugo Black house controversy came to a peak in the crowded city council chambers on Tuesday evening, when council unanimously voted to allow the renovation project to move forward.

Specifically, council voted to affirm the Board of Architectural Review’s Feb. 6 decision to approve partial demolition, additions and alterations at 619 S. Lee St. The Historic Alexandria Foundation, Inc. had appealed the decision.

Over the past several months, the project has attracted opposition from several historic preservation organizations in Alexandria, including HAF, that claim the proposed alterations to the home violate a historic preservation easement on the property.

(A civil fight over an Old Town landmark)

The aerial rendering from the east depicts the additions the Morris family plans to add to their property. The design includes a two-story and one-story addition on the south and a two-story addition on the west. (Rending: Cunningham Quill Architects)

The home has an extensive history in Alexandria. Built between 1798 and 1800, it has been owned over the years by Black, a former U.S. Supreme Court justice; Edgar Snowden, a former Alexandria mayor and editor of the Alexandria Gazette Packet; and Thomas Vowell, a prominent Alexandria merchant.

Owners Lori and Nigel Morris bought the property in 2013 and began planning to renovate in 2017.

Mayor Justin Wilson, who received a $1,000 campaign contribution from Lori Morris during last year’s election campaign, participated in the discussion and vote after disclosing the contribution at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting. While the donation was legal, Wilson repeatedly stated during the mayoral campaign that he has a personal policy of not accepting contributions from those who bring business before council.

Because the property is located in the Old and Historic District and has a historic easement, the Morrises have had to comply with several regulations and earn the approval of various bodies while putting together plans for the project, which involves demolishing pieces of the house, putting on additions and restoring certain historic features.

One of the major discussion points throughout the process that culminated on Tuesday evening was the different organizations’ roles in regulating specific requirements.

The historic preservation easement on the property is held by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources and administered by the Department of Historic Resources, while the local BAR administers the city’s zoning regulations.

(Opinion: No ease-y solution)

An illustration of the Morris property as it exists now (left) shows the features to be demolished in yellow and tan. An illustration of the approved renovation design (right) shows the additions in tan. (Rendering: Cunningham Quill Architects)

Julie Langan, director of the DHR, emphasized that the DHR’s role in regulating the project is separate from local requirements.

“This can be confusing for the public, because there are two review processes taking place concurrently. One really has no relationship on the other,” Langan said. “What a local ordinance might require, what a local Board of Architectural Review might require, what local design guidelines a community might have, have nothing to do with the Department of Historic Resources, so that’s a completely local process in which we really don’t participate.”

Since city council’s role was to hear an appeal of the BAR decision on Tuesday night, the guidelines it considered were separate from the easement between the property owners and the DHR.

At the meeting, City Attorney Joanna Anderson reaffirmed the division of responsibilities.

“The Open Space Land Act is a separate act from the zoning ordinance,” Anderson said. “We have the zoning ordinance and then the Open Space Land Act is another tool that allows for historic preservation. … Both codes apply here. This property, like we’ve said, has to comply with both of these codes.

“Right now, your role is only to decide whether it complies with the zoning ordinance standards,” Anderson said to council. “The state will determine whether it complies with the easement that they have and thus the Open Space Land Act.”

The Morrises have been working with the DHR throughout the process to ensure they obey the provisions of the easement, according to their architect, Lee Quill.

Those in favor of appealing the BAR’s decision to approve renovations to the Hugo Black house wore “#SaveJusticeBlackProperty” stickers at the public hearing on the topic. (Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)

At this point in the process, the Morrises have earned approval from the DHR for their concept and schematic submissions, according to their consultant, Paige Pollard. Their last step with the DHR will be to submit construction designs.

Despite the separate review processes, residents and historic preservationists throughout the city filled council chambers to testify about the project, several of them wearing “#SaveJusticeBlackProperty” stickers. Because of an administrative error, the public hearing on the topic had to be rescheduled from April to the Tuesday meeting.

Several of the public speakers testified about the significance of the property, particularly that the time Black occupied the home was the primary period of historic significance.

“The case before you is of statewide and national importance,” HAF board member John Thorpe Richards Jr. said. “It involves the home and the historic setting of one of the titans of American law and American history, a man whose leadership changed the country we live in dramatically for the better.”

Several urged council that a project like this sets a precedent in Old Town. Because the square footage of the additions would exceed the square footage of the demolitions, the project would reduce the property’s open space by 6 percent.

“It is the largest private garden in Old Town,” Robert Montague, a spokesman of the Northern Virginia Conservation Council, said. “… I just want to say to the new members of the Alexandria City Council that this is your chance to show the community whether you really support historic preservation in this city.”

(Out of the Attic: The Hugo Black house)

An online petition has circulated among opponents of the project, garnering 415 signatures as of Wednesday morning. The Times discloses that co-owner Leslie Ariail, a resident active in local historic preservation efforts, signed this petition and the petition to appeal the BAR’s Feb. 6 decision.

While the majority of the speakers wanted the BAR’s decision to be overturned, some spoke in favor of the renovation project.

“This design for this property is the lightest touch of any proposal I’ve seen,” BAR member Robert Adams said. “This was a modest proposal. It was well thought out. It was documented beyond anything I had seen. … They didn’t overreach.”

A curved white brick wall, estimated to have been built in the mid-to-late-1800s, is causing deterioration on the main house because of its proximity. The BAR approved partial demolition of the wall. (Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)

One of the facets of the renovation that brought about a lot of discussion was a two-story curved wall that connects the western ell – an L-shaped structure used to add on to existing buildings – to the main house. Quill said it was built in the mid-to-late-1800s. The wall abuts the main building so closely that it’s causing irreparable deterioration, Quill said.

After the testimony of almost 30 speakers, several councilors cited the division of duties between local bodies and the easement holder as their reasoning behind denying the appeal.

After the meeting had extended into the early hours of Wednesday morning, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker moved to uphold the BAR’s decision.

“Many have raised concerns about the open space easement, which does allow for additional structures, and, as we have discussed, is held by the state and we do not have the authority to interpret it or enforce,” she said. “The certificate of appropriateness is not based on the easement but on our own zoning ordinance.”

Bennett-Parker said she was comfortable with granting the permit to demolish the curved wall since it is causing damage to the main resource, the piece of the house built around 1800.

Councilor Del Pepper put forth an amendment to Bennett-Parker’s motion to deny demolition of the curved wall, but her motion died for lack of a second.

Wilson defended his decision not to recuse himself from the Black house vote.

“About a year and a half ago, I accepted a contribution from the wife of the owner of the LLC that owns the property that’s in question here,” Wilson said. “It was a year and a half ago, it was well before this application was filed or I was aware of this application. The city attorney’s advised me she doesn’t believe it’s a conflict. I believe I can fairly handle this case.”

When another land use issue came before council during last year’s campaign, on April 14, 2018, the then Vice Mayor recused himself because he had recently received $750 in donations from the property’s owner.

(Scooters in Alexandria Part 2: For riders, e-scooters are more than just a fad)

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 Your Views: First integrated are first eliminated at ACPS Thu, 16 May 2019 16:34:06 +0000
To the editor: Lewis Walker began sweeping floors and emptying trash cans in George Washington High School in Alexandria in 1948. For most of his life, “Jim Crow” laws were ruled acceptable by the Supreme Court. By 1964, the entire custodial crew at George Washington was black. They were the only black staff in the […]Facebooktwittermail

To the editor:

Lewis Walker began sweeping floors and emptying trash cans in George Washington High School in Alexandria in 1948. For most of his life, “Jim Crow” laws were ruled acceptable by the Supreme Court.

By 1964, the entire custodial crew at George Washington was black. They were the only black staff in the school at that time. Back then, it was assumed that black workers would do all of the unsavory labor, work unfit for white men.

In the years of legal school segregation, it took a lot of grit to take your children to Lyles-Crouch or the city’s other “colored schools,” see the sub-standard learning conditions and then go to work and see vastly better conditions for the white children.

It would have taken determination to ignore the racial insults hurled at you by the children of Alexandria’s segregationists. The yearbook contains a photo of a student in blackface pushing a broom labeled “Lewis.”

You can also be certain that Walker’s dignity changed the hearts of some of the children. Some of those children may have remembered him when they joined the civil rights movement.

The black workers who swept the floors and prepared the meals in whites-only ACPS schools were the uncelebrated parents of the civil rights movement.

(Superintendent Hutchings proposes custodian plan)

Blois Hundley, a custodian and cook at the “colored” Lyles-Crouch Elementary School, was fired by Superintendent Thomas Chambliss “T.C.” Williams for suing the school district to have her children admitted to a “whites only” school.

The Alexandria school board fought sharing public resources with workers, teachers or students of color for much of its history, appealing every court order toward integration until 1971.

From at least 1948 until today custodial jobs in city schools have mostly been held by African-Americans and Latinos. In 2007, Alexandria City Public Schools began privatizing custodial positions. At that time the school board promised to allow the custodians to continue in their positions, provided they did a good job, until they retired. This year, however, ACPS has decided to break this promise and end the jobs of custodians, starting with 10 custodians who have less than five years of employment.

If these 10 custodial jobs are eliminated, ACPS students will be much less likely to see men and women of color as a part of the ACPS family; a family with stable jobs, fair pay, health care and retirement.

ACPS today values diversity and just won a state grant with the goal of advancing six current teachers of color to licensure, which would improve overall school district staffing diversity.

We should be proud to have the school district put state-granted resources into elevating six people of color to licensure. Likewise, we should condemn the needless termination of 10 jobs held entirely by people of color. We should celebrate the ascendency of Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D, only the second African-American in ACPS’ long segregationist history to be named superintendent.

(Our View: The implications of our history)

Likewise, we should condemn the destruction of custodial positions that diversify the ACPS workforce, served as on-ramps to opportunities for people of color in the Alexandria schools and were also among the first victories against segregation in the nation.

Though no one on the school board may be a racist person, the eradication of these jobs follows ACPS’ pattern of institutional racial bias which affords people of color the fewest resources and, once granted, quickly takes them away.

Discrimination does not always occur because people intend to disenfranchise people of color. Often times, decision-makers manifest racial discrimination through policy decisions that don’t take into consideration the full context of the affected individuals.

Across our nation, people of color are less likely to have jobs that provide quality, affordable health care or retirement plans. This pattern is known as “systemic disenfranchisement.” If allowed to occur, the destruction of these jobs will follow decades of institutional and systemic bias within ACPS and a society that has harmed black and brown workers.

We want ACPS to be accessible to all types of workers. ACPS should not eliminate the custodial positions.

-Rosa Byrd, Georgia Brown, Ellen Nelson, Judith Haskins and Gwen Day-Fuller, Alexandria civil rights leaders and former educators

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 Our View: The implications of our history Thu, 16 May 2019 16:22:12 +0000
The history of a place encompasses more than buildings. History is too complicated and layered to be contained just by structures, even ones as beautiful and significant as those in Alexandria. It’s the people who came before us that really matter. Who were they? What did they accomplish? How were they treated? How did they […]Facebooktwittermail

The history of a place encompasses more than buildings. History is too complicated and layered to be contained just by structures, even ones as beautiful and significant as those in Alexandria.

It’s the people who came before us that really matter. Who were they? What did they accomplish? How were they treated? How did they treat others? We look at structures for insights into our predecessors and their eras.

Three pieces in this week’s Times nudge us to ruminate about the various facets of history. The first and most publicized is the Hugo Black house and city council’s decision on Tuesday night to allow an addition that encroaches on 6 percent of that property’s open space despite the existence of an open space easement.

We are not going to rehash the particulars of that case – our story on page one, “Black house renovation advances,” does that. Nor are we going to opine again on the merits of the issue. We stated our position in an April 4 editorial, “No ease-y solution.”

Rather it’s important to remember that this house is notable primarily because of former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. And while the house is a significant structure, it’s just that, a building. What happens to a building does not alter the significance of Black’s life or his accomplishments. His legacy endures.

Two other pieces in this week’s Times deal with the most difficult aspect of Alexandria’s history, that of race, and specifically the treatment of our mostly minority school custodians.

Our page one story, “Hutchings proposes custodian plan” is about an innovative proposal by Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D, to slow the privatization of custodial positions. We think this proposal shows compassion for those affected, as long-serving custodians would keep their jobs.

It would also creatively make up the budget shortfall by having ACPS administrators who are licensed teachers substitute teach once a quarter. This would not only save money, but would enable those administrators to have a better understanding of students’ learning levels and current-day classroom conditions. That looks like a win-win from here.

Finally, the letter to the right on this page, “First integrated are first eliminated at ACPS,” touches on the “how were they treated” and “how did they treat others” facets of our history. The letter writers, all prominent civil rights leaders and educators, point out the painful history of ACPS custodians. City custodians before integration were all black, and those who worked in whites-only schools saw first-hand that separate was not equal.

While institutionally-enforced segregation is gone, the history persists. It’s history that we must not forget, which makes this custodial privatization issue more than just a dollars and cents calculation.

Long-term, privatizing the cleaning of ACPS schools does make sense. Private companies specialize in cleaning large facilities quickly and at lower cost than that of maintaining an in-house custodial staff.

It’s probably time to face the reality that this change needs to happen. But our city’s history requires that this transition take place gradually and with sensitivity.

We hope the school board approves Hutchings’ plan and that only those with less than five years of employment have their positions privatized, with the remaining privatization taking place through natural attrition.

Old homes require constant maintenance to prevent them from falling into disrepair. Dealing with the implications of our history is also an on-going task.

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