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Last updated: Mon, 17 Jun 2019 15:06:37 GMT

 ‘A Fox on the Fairway’ delivers hole-in-one humor Fri, 14 Jun 2019 15:04:30 +0000
By Mae Hunt | mhunt@alextimes.com If you’re a fan of golf or golf-based humor, you’re guaranteed to love “A Fox on the Fairway.” If you’re not a fan of the sport, you’ll probably also have a pretty good time, because unlike a game of golf, “A Fox on the Fairway” actually picks up steam. I […]Facebooktwittermail

By Mae Hunt | mhunt@alextimes.com

If you’re a fan of golf or golf-based humor, you’re guaranteed to love “A Fox on the Fairway.” If you’re not a fan of the sport, you’ll probably also have a pretty good time, because unlike a game of golf, “A Fox on the Fairway” actually picks up steam.

I jest. But seriously, I could write this review exclusively using golf puns, and I still wouldn’t have anything on the Little Theatre of Alexandria’s latest comedic production. Full of energetic performances and boundless innuendos, Ken Ludwig’s “A Fox on the Fairway” is a fun summer romp.

Cameron McBride as Justin Hicks and Raeanna Larson
as Louise Heindbedder (Photo Credit: Matt Liptak)

The plot follows Henry Bingham (Ken Kemp), the Quail Valley Golf and Country Club president who is determined to win the club’s annual golf tournament after losing to rival club Crouching Squirrel for the last five years. Things look up when he discovers his assistant, Justin Hicks (Cameron McBride) is a golf prodigy; however, drama between Justin and his fiancée, Louise (Raeanna Nicole Larson), threatens to throw Justin off his game. Hijinks ensue when attempts to calm the feuding couple by Bingham and club board member Pamela (Patricia Nicklin) only make things worse.

There is a timeless quality to “A Fox on the Fairway.” The show premiered at Signature Theater in Arlington in 2010, and while Ken Ludwig’s script is set in the present day, there is little about it that feels modern. Its over-the-top plot twists, physical comedy and characters who wink-wink-nudge-nudge at the audience bring to mind classic farces like Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” or any great “I Love Lucy” episode.

As a result, “A Fox on the Fairway” is at its most enjoyable when the plot is at its most ridiculous. There are some clunky moments of dialogue in the beginning of both acts, as if the characters aren’t comfortable in normal situations, having normal conversations. The direction and performances really start to shine once the action escalates and characters start playing football with expensive vases, faking “hysterical blindness” and sporadically falling in and out of love.

Cameron McBride as Justin
Hicks and Ken Kemp as Henry Bingham (Photo Credit: Matt Liptak)

The show’s six cast members share great chemistry. McBride and Larson are excellent as young lovers Justin and Louise, remaining a believable couple no matter how unbelievable the scenario. Kemp and Nicklin play off of each other well and earn some of the biggest laughs from the audience. Brendan Chaney’s portrayal of Dickie, the tacky, sweater-wearing president of Crouching Squirrel, make for a lovable antagonist, and Lorraine Bouchard’s dramatic entrance as Muriel drew squeals of delight from the audience.

The majority of the action in “A Fox on the Fairway” takes place in the Quail Valley tap room, and director Scott J. Strasbaugh makes excellent use of the space. Much of the play’s humor comes from physical comedy, and the characters are constantly chasing each other through the main set, hiding behind the bar and climbing over furniture.

Another standout element was the production’s use of bright, cheerful colors. The characters’ candy-colored golf outfits against the vibrant green of the set makes for visually engaging scenes that complement the show’s upbeat nature.

“A Fox on the Fairway” is an entertaining show, perfect for anyone looking to laugh during a night out. It should be noted that there is a fair amount of sexual humor in the script. It’s not overly crude, but this reviewer still suggests leaving the kids at home. For everyone else, though, it’s sure to be an un-fore-gettable time.

If you go

Run dates: Through June 29

Where: Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St, Alexandria, VA 22314

For tickets and information: 703-683-5778 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com.

(Foodie: Keep your gut happy with a roasted fruit and vegetable medley)

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 Foodie: Keep your gut happy with a roasted fruit and vegetable medley Thu, 13 Jun 2019 21:08:55 +0000
By Elizabeth Holm These days, popular wellness literature is filled with recommendations for improving gut health. Research shows that the gastrointestinal tract is filled with both beneficial and harmful bacteria, yeasts and fungi that affect your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even obesity. Creating a healthy balance of these microorganisms can significantly reduce […]Facebooktwittermail

By Elizabeth Holm

These days, popular wellness literature is filled with recommendations for improving gut health.

Research shows that the gastrointestinal tract is filled with both beneficial and harmful bacteria, yeasts and fungi that affect your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even obesity. Creating a healthy balance of these microorganisms can significantly reduce your risk for different conditions and improve your health. But how do you do that?

Read any popular article or book on gut health, and you will be told what not to eat. This includes sweets, desserts and anything that contains sugar. However, there is little evidence that sugar adversely affects gut health. Each time I check the literature, I am reminded that this popular yet unsubstantiated claim leads many down the road of guilt and shame for eating their favorite foods.

Diet does matter, and rather than focusing on eliminating certain foods, there is an abundance of evidence that eating more fruits and vegetables can achieve a healthy gut. Specifically, the phytochemicals found in vegetables and fruits can act as probiotics that feed the beneficial gut microorganisms and reduce the harmful ones.

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two of the good bacteria that we want more of in our gut. Studies of sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and grape extracts have found these foods have probiotic activity and can potentially increase one or more of these good bacteria. So, why not put them all together in one delicious dish?

Enjoy this roasted vegetable and fruit medley with your favorite meat cooked on the grill and a glass of red wine, followed by a scrumptious dessert eaten entirely guilt-free. Rest assured, your gut will be happy.

Elizabeth Holm, DrPH, RD, is a registered dietitian and nutritionist in private practice in Alexandria. She can be reached at emholmrd@gmail.com.

Recipe: Roasted sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and red grapes

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes (approximately 1 lb.) peeled and cubed
1 lb. asparagus, ended and cut in 1½ inch pieces
1/2 lb. mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 lb. red grapes, halved
4 T vegetable or chicken broth 3 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
3 T finely chopped fresh thyme Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Combine the broth, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and thyme.

2. Toss the sweet potatoes in 1/2 of the above mixture.

3. Spread on a roasting pan in one layer.

4. Roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, stirring occassionally.

5. Toss the asparagus, mushrooms and red grapes with the remaining mixture.

6. Add the sweet potatoes, stir the entire thing and spread out in roasting pan.

7. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.

8. Roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until tender.

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 Virginia Tech Innovation Campus relocates to 65-acre site near Potomac Yard Metro Thu, 13 Jun 2019 20:46:28 +0000
By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com The Virginia Tech Innovation Campus coming to Alexandria will be located on a much larger site than the one announced last fall, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands announced Monday morning. The campus will now be located in Potomac Yard on the east side of Route 1, adjacent to the planned […]Facebooktwittermail

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

The Virginia Tech Innovation Campus coming to Alexandria will be located on a much larger site than the one announced last fall, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands announced Monday morning.

The campus will now be located in Potomac Yard on the east side of Route 1, adjacent to the planned Potomac Yard Metro Station. As part of a 65-acre mixed-use development district, it will be twice the size of the original parcel of land, according to a news release.

Virginia Tech, city and state leaders announced in November that the university planned to build a graduate campus in Alexandria as part of the deal that brought Amazon’s second headquarters to Northern Virginia.

A map of the National Landing neighborhood, pictured in pink,
which includes Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

To attract the tech giant, Northern Virginia leaders branded a new neighborhood called National Landing, which comprises parts of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard. While Amazon will be located in the Arlington portion of National Landing, the Virginia Tech campus will be based in the Alexandria portion.

Early plans released in November called for the campus to be located in Oakville Triangle, a triangular planning area that falls within the Alexandria’s Potomac West small area plan along the west side of Route 1.

The early plans also called for a 1-million-square-foot campus, which includes about 300,000 square feet of academic space, 250,000 square feet of partner space dedicated to startups and corporate facilities, 350,000 square feet of housing for students and faculty and 100,000 square feet of retail and support spaces.

(Amazon selects Crystal City for HQ2)

Monday’s announcement makes clear that those plans have undergone a major shift.

The new campus site has the advantage of being directly adjacent to the planned Metro station and closer to the planned Amazon headquarters. While the campus itself is slated to remain at 1 million square feet, it will become part of a 65-acre – roughly 2.8 million-square-foot – mixed-use development district, according to the release. Plans for the mixed-use district include open space and ground floor retail.

Sands said the decision to relocate had to do with the density Virginia Tech hopes to incorporate into the campus.

“A couple of months ago, we recognized the opportunity here and the larger footprint that would be possible with the 65 acres,” Sands said at the announcement of the relocation on Monday. “The previous site we looked at is a great site and will be a fantastic development going forward, but it was kind of landlocked and we couldn’t bring in partners at the density we’d like to.”

The new mixed-use district will be planned and developed by Lionstone Investments, a real estate investment firm, and JBG Smith, the real estate investment trust that owns most of the existing properties in the Arlington portion of National Landing, according to the release.

“We are just delighted to be here and to be part of this amazing partnership for the Innovation Campus of Alexandria,” Jane Page, president of Lionstone, said at Monday’s announcement. “As a long-term stakeholder in this community, we look forward to transforming this area into the leading center for tech innovation on the east coast where economic viability and technology can intersect and thrive.”

All 65 acres of the new mixed-use district are owned by CPYR Theater LLC c/o The Lionstone Group, according to Adrianne Griffith, marketing and communications coordinator for the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.

“We … feel very fortunate to have found a great partner in Lionstone,” Sands said. “They worked on a number of other really exciting projects nationally and many are focused on mixed-use communities where there’s a concentration of talent.”

Tax incentives for the new development have yet to be determined, Griffith said. The city’s memorandum of understanding with Virginia Tech outlines that a 300,000 square-foot educational building, which would be real estate tax exempt, is expected to be developed by the university or its foundation, Griffith said.

Alexandria Director of Communications Craig Fifer said in an email that the city expected most of the new development to be leased and taxable, with only a portion owned by Virginia Tech and tax-exempt.

(How Northern Virginia locked down Amazon HQ2)

Block 4 of the North Potomac Yard Small Area Plan has been designated for a possible ACPS school. The site appears to fall in the same location as the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus; however, any adjustment to the designated ACPS school site would need to be approved by city council, ACPS spokesperson Helen Lloyd said. (Map: City of Alexandria)

The announcement of the new mixed-use district has raised questions about what will happen to what now exists on the site.

The new campus is planned to fall where the city had reserved space for a school in the North Potomac Yard small area plan. The potential school, which would serve the students generated by increased density in the area, had been designated for Block 4 of the plan, a parcel of land in the northeastern portion of Potomac Yard, above the existing site of Regal Cinemas and near the Arlington border.

That site is still designated for a city school, according to Alexandria City Public Schools Director of Communications Helen Lloyd. Any adjustment to the designated school site would need to be approved by city council, Lloyd said. There are no further details about when a school might be constructed or what grade level it might serve, Lloyd said.

“The City looks forward to working with Virginia Tech and Lionstone over the next few months on the development plan to figure out the best way to incorporate City uses/needs into the larger campus,” Griffith said in an email.

Residents have also questioned what will happen to the Potomac Yard Center, the shopping complex that includes big-box stores such as Target, Shoppers Market and Best Buy, as well as various chain restaurants, including Cava, Five Guys and Chipotle.

“We always envisioned the shopping center as redeveloping at some point,” Mayor Justin Wilson said Monday morning. “… If you look at the way we are financing Metro and Potomac Yard, a big portion of that is assuming a significant density [increase] on the shopping center site … so we had always envisioned redevelopment. It’s the way we are financing Metro and so [the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus] helps achieve that.”

When asked what would happen to the existing businesses on the site, Wilson said the decision would ultimately be up to landowners.

Another question circulating around the announcement is that of affordable housing. The city lost 90 percent of its affordable housing rental units between 2000 and 2017, according to a 2017 city report. Since then, city leaders have been conscious of establishing affordable housing in new developments.

“We had always envisioned development in both sides of the Route 1 would include affordable housing,” Wilson said. “… These conditions existed prior to Amazon coming to this area, and these are conditions that would exist regardless of whether this was happening, but it does shine a light on it, and it was able to get us some additional state funding.”

As part of the package that attracted Amazon to Northern Virginia, the Virginia Housing Development Authority has committed to providing $15 million per year for five years for affordable and workforce housing in Northern Virginia, according to a state news release.

Looking forward, AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum said the city would work with the community to establish a construction timeline.

“Over the next 30 days, we’ll probably be in touch with the greater community to lay out a timeline,” Landrum said Monday. “Over the next six months, then we will revisit the plans and decide what changes need to happen.”

A 2014 map of the city’s Oakville Triangle planning area. (Map: City of Alexandria)

The first class of Innovation Campus master’s students will enroll in the fall of 2020 and take classes in existing buildings adjacent to where the new academic buildings will be built, according to a news release. When the campus is completed in about 10 years, it is expected to have the capacity for 750 master’s candidates, as well as hundreds of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

As for Oakville Triangle, landowner Blackstone and development partner Stonebridge are working with the city and AEDP to discuss redevelopment of the site and to identify and attract other commercial tenants, Griffith said.

(Potomac Yard Metro southern entrance returns to chopping block)

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 Alexandria Aces launch new season with tough stretch Thu, 13 Jun 2019 19:47:58 +0000
By Arya Hodjat | ahodjat@alextimes.com The Alexandria Aces have hopes of improving on last season’s performance, but so far are off to a rough start with an 0-6 record. The Aces, an Alexandria-based collegiate summer baseball team, compete each year in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, a league that allows college baseball players to show […]Facebooktwittermail

By Arya Hodjat | ahodjat@alextimes.com

The Alexandria Aces have hopes of improving on last season’s performance, but so far are off to a rough start with an 0-6 record.

The Aces, an Alexandria-based collegiate summer baseball team, compete each year in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, a league that allows college baseball players to show off their potential by playing with wooden bats like the pros, instead of metal bats.

Last year, the Aces finished in last place in their division with a 17-22 record. But second-year coach Chris Berset thinks that record didn’t tell the whole story.

“I thought we did a pretty good job,” Berset said. “We lost about, what, six or seven onerun, two-run ball games in the last inning – that was tough.”

A former catcher in the Cincinnati Reds minor league system, Berset said he wants to implement more major league strategies this season, such as using spray charts to inform defensive shifts.

It’s a tactic that matches the talent level of the Cal Ripken League, which has seen MLB All-Stars such as Washington Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Brett Cecil pass through its ranks in past years.

In last week’s MLB Draft, two former Aces got their first taste of professional baseball glory.

Catcher Max Romero was drafted by the Reds in the 38th round, giving him the opportunity to follow in his manager’s footsteps. Shortstop T.J. McKenzie went to the St. Louis Cardinals the next round.

“Your first year as a manager … you got so many responsibilities,” Berset said. “This year, we got a routine. …It’s just a little bit more calm, a little bit more peaceful, so the boys can do what they do best, which is excel on the field.”

Among the players the team will rely on this season are Daniel Brooks, a starting second baseman for George Mason, and Ryan Peltier, who plays shortstop for Indiana’s Ball State University.

As for off-field duties, Berset enjoys a close relationship with the team’s general manager: his wife, Sara Berset, who is also in her second year with the Aces.

The couple became manager and general manager, respectively, prior to the 2018 season.

“Last year, he said, ‘Hey, we’re doing this,’” Sara Berset said. “And I said, ‘What do you mean, we’re doing this?’ And he said, ‘Oh, you’re the GM’… but I’m glad we’re doing this together. Because you really do need to be in close contact, you know, religiously, as GM and coach.”

Sara Berset said that this season, the Aces would look to partner with more local Little League teams in both Alexandria and Arlington. She said the team is also working on partnering with more local businesses this season.

One potential initiative is a “Pups in the Park” night, where people would be able to bring their dogs to a home game at Frank E. Mann Field. The Washington Nationals hold several similar events during the MLB season.

“I’d like to get the community more involved,” she said. “I don’t think the community really knows about how much talent comes to the Alexandria area.”

In the Aces’ season opener on June 4 against the D.C. Grays, Peltier racked up two hits, scoring on a single from left fielder Adam Schwartz to help the Aces bank an early 6-5 lead.

Yet poor fielding doomed Alexandria, as they compiled six errors en route to an eventual 10-6 loss. Errors from Brooks and McKenzie in the second inning led to D.C. scoring five runs, and one final error from McKenzie in the ninth loaded the bases, letting Grays catcher Alex Vasquez plate a run and ice the game.

In an away game against the Gaithersburg Giants on June 5, the Aces found themselves in more of a pitching duel. Alexandria pitcher Jared Lyons held Gaithersburg hitless through five innings, giving up an unearned run on an error and passed ball in the third. Heading into the eighth, Alexandria found itself deadlocked 1-1.

But reliever Noah Short gave up two quick singles, and Giants catcher Tommy Crider drove in two runs to put Gaithersburg up 3-1. While the Aces managed a run in the ninth on catcher Landon Langston’s RBI double, it wasn’t enough, and the Aces ultimately fell 3-2.

The Aces weren’t able to muster any runs in the next two games, falling 8-0 to defending regular season champion Bethesda Big Train on June 6 and 5-0 to Herndon’s Braves on June 7, both on the road.

Back on their home field on Saturday, Alexandria’s offense rebounded. They batted around in the first inning against the Giants, turning a 4-0 hole into a 5-4 lead. T

he two teams remained deadlocked 8-8 headed into the ninth inning, but Short coughed up three runs to send Alexandria to an 11-8 loss.

Against the Braves at home Tuesday, the Aces jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third, thanks to an RBI single from infielder Stephen Hill and a sacrifice fly from catcher Erek Bolton.

But pitching and fielding woes — including two errors in the seventh — allowed the Braves to score in every subsequent inning besides the sixth, dooming the Aces to a 7-5 loss and an 0-6 start.

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 Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D.: June is a time for Titan pride Thu, 13 Jun 2019 19:02:14 +0000
This week, a record number of Titans will take the stage at Eagle Bank Arena to become part of one of the largest graduating classes in the history of T.C. Williams High School. You will see pride in their eyes as they come to realize their achievement, and what it means to graduate from Virginia’s largest […]Facebooktwittermail

This week, a record number of Titans will take the stage at Eagle Bank Arena to become part of one of the largest graduating classes in the history of T.C. Williams High School.

You will see pride in their eyes as they come to realize their achievement, and what it means to graduate from Virginia’s largest and most diverse high school. You will also see camaraderie as they line up in the hallway and wait to walk, along with a genuine respect and appreciation for what they have learned during their time at T.C.

Looking out over that sea of new graduates, you will understand the deep commitment of our community, support from our families and passion of our staff in ensuring every student gets this opportunity and feels what success is like.

These new graduates represent a school division with students from 114 different countries who speak 119 different languages. Among them is a student who joined T.C. Williams with no formal education three years ago when her family moved from Afghanistan and who is now on the path to becoming a nurse; a student who underwent nine surgeries and now plans to become a pediatric oncologist; 20 star athletes who will be playing for colleges or universities next year; two students who came first and third in Virginia on the highest level of the National German Exam; students who help run the Kick Coffee Shop at T.C. Williams; and one student who recently won the nation’s top student science award and will be going to Harvard.

But what unites these students, apart from their individual successes, is the richness of their high school experience and how it connects to their sense of Titan pride.

There is no other place that instills the same sense of pride as T.C. Williams. No matter where our graduates go to college or what they do in the fall, the new friends they make will already know the name of their high school.

We are part of a legacy that helped transform race relations in Alexandria in the 1970s. Paying tribute to his white assistant coach William “Bill” Yoast last week, T.C.’s first African American head coach Herman Boone said that although they were as different as night and day, they found a way to talk to each other, trust each other and become best friends.

Today, this legacy is being carried by the students who walk across the stage together and continue to feel this same Titan pride. Our high school – contrary to the origins of its name – has become synonymous with a drive for equitable opportunities for all.

There is no other school division where students can experience such a rich global environment as ours at ACPS. Time and time again, our students come back and tell us they were better prepared for college or their military career or the work environment thanks to their ACPS experiences.

June is a time when we should stop for a moment and reflect on how we got here, on our commit- ment as a community to each and every one of our students, and, like our students swell just a little with Titan pride. Once a Titan, always a Titan.

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.

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 Council considers 2040 Environmental Action Plan Thu, 13 Jun 2019 18:56:47 +0000
By Arya Hodjat | ahodjat@alextimes.com Council discussed the city’s updated Environmental Action Plan, which includes a targeted 50 percent reduction of city greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050, at its meeting Tuesday evening. Earlier this year, the city began the update process for its Environmental Action Plan 2040, which council […]Facebooktwittermail

By Arya Hodjat | ahodjat@alextimes.com

Council discussed the city’s updated Environmental Action Plan, which includes a targeted 50 percent reduction of city greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050, at its meeting Tuesday evening.

Earlier this year, the city began the update process for its Environmental Action Plan 2040, which council adopted in 2009. Council adopted the phase one update of the EAP in October of 2018.

The phase one update established short term goals for five areas: energy, climate change, green building, land use and open space and solid waste. Council is slated to adopt the phase two update of the EAP in the next month.

Phase two establishes action items and goals for five additional areas: transportation; air quality; water resources; environment and health; and implementation, outreach and education.

The city’s Environmental Policy Commission presented council with an overview of the update at Tuesday’s meeting. Councilor Del Pepper called the plan “aspirational,” but added such lofty goals were necessary, given the severity of the problem.

“If there’s gonna be any change, it’s gonna come from communities like ours figuring out what they can do for their little bit,” Pepper said.

The city’s targeted emission reduction rate by 2030 that is outlined in the plan matches recommendations provided by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018, which warned that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” would be needed by 2030 to avoid global catastrophe.

The EPC also detailed environmental accomplishments the city has achieved since 2009. These included closing the GenOn power plant and achieving 95 percent compliance with the city’s Green Building Policy, according to the EPC presentation.

Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker asked if the city had the infrastructure to implement the changes outlined in the plan, and whether the plan was up to par with the actions of neighboring jurisdiction, such as Arlington.

“It’s hard to compare, apples to apples, about different municipalities,” City Sustainability Coordinator Ellen Eggerton said. “But looking at other regional plans, ours is particularly aspirational… we have a comparable plan to Arlington.”

Councilor Mo Sefieldein said he was a fan of the proposal to have more of the city’s vehicle fleet – including DASH buses – run on electricity, but remained pessimistic overall.

“I think we’re already doomed,” he said with a laugh.

Praveen Kathpal, the chair of the environmental policy commission, proposed that the city implement an annual “carbon budget” to go along with its fiscal budget.

More information on the EAP update is available at www.alexandriava.gov/ecocity.

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 Your Views: Time to take back our city Thu, 13 Jun 2019 18:55:20 +0000
To the editor: A disconnect exists between the public and our public servants. I think it’s a serious one. Our public servants are not asking what we want; they’re telling us what they’re providing. The result: it’s not our city, but theirs. But there is a way to take it back. First, some examples: Seminary […]Facebooktwittermail

To the editor:

A disconnect exists between the public and our public servants. I think it’s a serious one. Our public servants are not asking what we want; they’re telling us what they’re providing. The result: it’s not our city, but theirs. But there is a way to take it back. First, some examples:

Seminary Road

Consider the city’s imperious decision to shrink a major thoroughfare serving large neighborhoods. The city – not the many residents served by the street – decided less automobile capacity on Seminary Road was necessary.

Mind you, this is the same city that approved infill housing in neighborhoods served by this street. In other words, the city decided to add more cars to neighborhoods while simultaneously seeking to diminish the capacity of this major street to accommodate them.

Stadium lights

There has been a no-stadium-lights agreement between the city and certain residents in effect for a generation. The agreement enabled the city to displace these residents, all African Americans, to build the stadium. Now, years later, to install stadium lights, our public servants decided no agreement ever existed.

Potomac Yard Metro

This has to be the most colossal example of public servants spitting in the eyes of people they ostensibly serve. Over vigorous objections by citizens, our public servants decided to construct a Metro station atop federally protected wetlands.

Justice Black Property

This issue makes clear it’s pointless to seek redress from our city council. Ask the many residents who recently sought to preserve the Justice Black property unaltered. They’ll tell you it’s a waste of time to appeal to our councilors – the same individuals who recently sought our vote by professing to be good representatives of the public’s interest.

Karig Estates

Don’t think about using the judicial system to obtain relief from public servants’ decisions. Our public servants will vigorously defend their decisions and, to add insult to injury, will use your money to do so. The Karig matter is a perfect illustration. The city, not the citizens, decided this wooded area did not deserve protection from mega-mansions.

The list could go on to include overbuilding the waterfront; goofy parking schemes in Old Town; scooters on sidewalks; removing zoning restrictions on building heights; killing sources of tax revenue by operating tax-subsidized businesses with which no taxpaying private sector company can compete.

None of these were sought by a majority of residents, especially destroying protected wetlands and easements not belonging to the city.

If you want to make our public servants responsive to the public, you should clamor for a new city manager, then advocate to change Alexandria to a ward election system. At a minimum, the latter would make those we elect accountable to their communities rather than to a political party caucus.

-Jimm Roberts, Alexandria

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 Your Views: Development agenda threatens open space, affordable housing Thu, 13 Jun 2019 18:51:12 +0000
To the editor: Your editorial from June 6 asks, “Is development a net positive?” For those of us saddled with the tax burden higher density brings, clearly it isn’t. Your editorial acknowledges that city hall sometimes seems incapable of saying “no” to development proposals. But your editorial would do well to go one step farther: […]Facebooktwittermail

To the editor:

Your editorial from June 6 asks, “Is development a net positive?” For those of us saddled with the tax burden higher density brings, clearly it isn’t. Your editorial acknowledges that city hall sometimes seems incapable of saying “no” to development proposals. But your editorial would do well to go one step farther: If developers know city hall will never say “no,” city hall will never force developers to their bottom line.

City hall should be willing, occasionally, to walk away from a seemingly good development deal so that developers know it isn’t a push-over. Giving concessions for one or two extra affordable housing units is an example of city hall being a push-over. Out of hundreds of affordable housing units lost, one or two more is trivial. But were city hall to say “no” to such a development, the next developer to come along might understand they have to offer not just one or two, but 10 or 20 units.

But let’s understand how we got here in the first place. In 2013, city council tried eliminating the open space and affordable housing set asides by the equivalent of tweaking a footnote. They pilloried then-Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg once she caught onto this trick and called it out. When the nouvelle regime controlling city council responded by abandoning the open space regulations and restoring the affordable housing requirements, they set the template for how development would henceforth be handled: open space, sacred to the ancient regime, was to be sacrificed, while affordable housing was to be but a smoke screen for green-lighting dense development.

Much ado about an extra affordable unit here and there, while hundreds are being lost, cannot be taken as serious policy. It can most plausibly be understood as window dressing disguising fidelity to a development agenda backed by large campaign contributions from special interests. These contributions were threatened by Silberberg’s insistence on not taking campaign contributions from folks with business before city council.

Most of the time city council spends discussing affordable housing is theater disguising the nouvelle regime’s agenda of highly profitable high-end apartment towers and similar manifestations of dense development.

-Dino Drudi, Alexandria

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 Friends of Guest House expands to South Payne Street Thu, 13 Jun 2019 18:50:01 +0000
By Arya Hodjat | ahodjat@alextimes.com CORRECTION: In the original version of this article, the Times incorrectly stated that there are 10 beds in Friends of Guest House’s headquarters, and 26 overall in the program. In reality, there are 9 beds in their headquarters, and 25 overall. The Times regrets the error. Friends of Guest House, an […]Facebooktwittermail

By Arya Hodjat | ahodjat@alextimes.com

CORRECTION: In the original version of this article, the Times incorrectly stated that there are 10 beds in Friends of Guest House’s headquarters, and 26 overall in the program. In reality, there are 9 beds in their headquarters, and 25 overall. The Times regrets the error.

Friends of Guest House, an Alexandria nonprofit that supports women recently released from incarceration, is set to expand its services after a city council vote Tuesday evening.

Council voted unanimously to loan $145,000 to Friends of Guest House to go towards renovating the organization’s newest property at 120 S. Payne St. Friends of Guest House provides women with housing, supervision and support as they work to reenter the community after being incarcerated, according to its website.

Since it was founded in 1974, the organization has helped more than 3,000 women, many of whom had been indicted for drug, property or public order offenses. When completed, the South Payne Street property will be able to house 21 women.

The building will replace four Friends of Guest House apartments – 16 beds in the residential program – and allow the organization to add five beds. With 9 beds at the organization’s headquarters at East Luray Avenue, the new property will allow Friends of Guest House to expand its overall membership from 25 to 31 women at a time, according to Kari Galloway, the executive director of Friends of Guest House.

Galloway said the program receives about 400 applicants each year. While they currently serve between 55 and 60 women each year, the new building will allow them to accept between 60 and 70 applicants.

“[Our] demand far outstrips our capacity,” Galloway said. “We’re kind of struggling with office space.”

She recounted the story of two women who applied to the program and had to be turned away due to a lack of space. She later found they had died of opiate overdoses.

“It’s pretty awful,” Galloway said.

Galloway said the South Payne Street property is in a better location than the four apartments it will replace, as it is in Old Town and has access to local business and transportation options such as the King Street Metro Station.

Friends of Guest House is exploring options to expand in Virginia, Galloway said.

In 2018, a study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia found that women in the state were being imprisoned at a higher rate than men, as well as women nationwide.

“Virginia’s leading the charge, and not in a good way,” Galloway said. “Our justice – or, rather, injustice – system … it’s set up to be punitive, rather than restorative.”

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 Our View: Change is in the air Thu, 13 Jun 2019 18:46:58 +0000
Two events earlier this week heralded new directions in Alexandria. First up was the announcement that the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus will be located directly north of the new Potomac Yard Metro Station, rather than on the Oakville Triangle site announced in the fall. We think this is great news. The Oakville Triangle site, west […]Facebooktwittermail

Two events earlier this week heralded new directions in Alexandria.

First up was the announcement that the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus will be located directly north of the new Potomac Yard Metro Station, rather than on the Oakville Triangle site announced in the fall.

We think this is great news. The Oakville Triangle site, west of Route 1 and a hefty walk from the Potomac Yard Metro, always seemed a less-than-ideal location for the campus. At roughly half the size of the new site, Oakville was large enough for the Tech campus – but just barely – and there was little room for growth.

Locating the campus in Potomac Yard is a three-fer: it will enable Virginia Tech employees and students to easily access the new Metro station; it places Virginia Tech closer to the new Amazon HQ2, which should result in even greater integration between those two entities; and the 65 acres give Virginia Tech room to grow.

Also impressive was the announcement that the first students will arrive on campus in the fall of 2020, a little more than a year from now.

(Virginia Tech Innovation Campus to get more space)

The second significant event was Tuesday’s Democratic primary election for Alexandria’s clerk of the court. Greg Parks won and will likely succeed Ed Semonian, who has served in the post for 40 years.

Parks easily defeated Ben Ortiz, who has worked for Semonian for the past 15 years. The Times did not endorse in this race, but we viewed both Parks and Ortiz as able successors to Semonian.

Semonian leaves behind a legacy of remarkable longevity and, more importantly, of courtesy and kindness. Parks is likely to bring needed modernization to the office and, in doing so, make the court more accessible and more transparent.

It’s important to hold onto what was valuable from Semonian’s tenure, to remember that personal touch shouldn’t become a casualty of needed technological updating.

As Alexandria’s longest serving office holder departs and we prepare for the brave new world of Amazon and Virginia Tech, it’s impossible to ignore the changes that have occurred in this city during the past 40 years.

(Greg Parks wins Democratic court of clerk nomination)

When Semonian became clerk of court, Old Town was a run-down area, with brothels and houses far from considered charming – most were just old and unkempt. Del Ray was not the lively food and entertainment destination that it has become. The now-shuttered Landmark Mall on Alexandria’s West End, with three department stores anchoring the development, was considered ahead of its time.

While we make clear on these pages that we think Alexandria is being harmed by the current rush to increase housing density, it’s also a truism that change is inevitable.

The over-development of Old Town is harmful, but we think the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is going to be good for our city. And this relocation makes it even better.

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