Select a news source:
 Fairfax Times

Prince William County

HeadlineVA NOVA

Loudoun County

NOVA News

Loudoun Times

Fredericksburg Local News

NOVA Traffic Alerts

Prince William Times

WJLA ABC 7 Virginia

Winchester Local News

Alexandria Times>

Arlington Now

Leesburg Local News

WTOP Virginia News

Fairfax County News

Washington Post NOVA

Alexandria Times    
Your Local Newspaper
Last updated: Tue, 22 May 2018 15:20:15 GMT

 Alexandria Symphony Orchestra names new music director Mon, 21 May 2018 19:23:28 +0000
By Michaela Gleeson | mgleeson@alextimes.com James Ross has been chosen as the new music director and conductor for the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra following a two year vacancy in the role. By April of this year, the ASO had narrowed its choice of candidates for the director position from a sizable pool of 170 to just […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Michaela Gleeson | mgleeson@alextimes.com

James Ross has been chosen as the new music director and conductor for the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra following a two year vacancy in the role.

By April of this year, the ASO had narrowed its choice of candidates for the director position from a sizable pool of 170 to just four. A rigorous screening awaited these four candidates – Michael Rossi, José-Luis Novo, Nicholas Hersh and James Ross – in which they were each given time to prepare and conduct a concert with the orchestra during the 2017-18 season. The orchestra received upwards of 1,500 survey responses from orchestra members, faculty and the audience in regards to the performance of each potential director.

“The ASO audiences and musicians were enthusiastic and thorough in giving feedback after each concert,” ASO Board President Anne Best Rector said in a statement.  “A good part of the audience and almost all the musicians weighed in on each conductor’s performance and choice of program. Our community really embraced this process, so on behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am thrilled to present such a stellar choice as our next artistic leader.”

Ross was the second candidate to perform with the orchestra in October. His selection, “Britten & Brahms”, signed off with Symphony No. 3 by German composer Johannes Brahms. It was well received by the viewers in the audience and Ross was described as “having a mature interpretation of the music and clarity as a conductor” by a longtime orchestra musician.

Although Ross hails from Boston, he has credentials from all around the globe. Forty years ago, at the prestigious Munich International Horn Competition, Ross became the first American to win third prize. He has since amassed an international reputation as teacher, conductor and principal horn of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. His illustrious career as a teacher includes stints at Yale University, Curtis Institute of Music and Haverford College. Ross also has a myriad of experience as a conductor, working with orchestras such as the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic, the Utah Symphony and the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

James Ross is just in time to lead the 2018-19 season, which coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 Grand jury indicts officer who discharged weapon at George Washington Middle School Mon, 21 May 2018 18:41:23 +0000
A grand jury has indicted the school resource officer who discharged his service weapon inside George Washington Middle School in March. Carl Savoy, 27, was charged with two misdemeanors, reckless handling of a firearm and destruction of property, on Monday.  The maximum penalty for the charges is a year in jail and a fine of […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A grand jury has indicted the school resource officer who discharged his service weapon inside George Washington Middle School in March.

Carl Savoy, 27, was charged with two misdemeanors, reckless handling of a firearm and destruction of property, on Monday. 

The maximum penalty for the charges is a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. A trial date hasn’t been set for Savoy as of yet.

Savoy is on administrative leave without pay from the Alexandria Police Department as a result of the charge. He has been with the department for five years.

The indictment follows Savoy accidentally discharging his weapon at 9:10 a.m. on March 13. There were no injuries as a result of the incident. 

“Given the events in Parkland, Florida, and the events over the past year – 18 shootings is just unfathomable – so of course there’s heightened concern,” Alexandria City Public Schools Interim Superintendent Lois Berlin said at the time. “If this can happen with a trained police officer, this is why we don’t need to arm teachers.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 Freight train derails in Alexandria after apparent partial bridge collapse Sat, 19 May 2018 15:05:07 +0000
A CSX freight train derailed Saturday morning in the Eisenhower corridor after what was initially reported as a partial railway bridge collapse. Thirty-one train cars fell off the tracks shortly after 7 a.m. on Saturday, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, the lead investigative agency on the derailment. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A CSX freight train derailed Saturday morning in the Eisenhower corridor after what was initially reported as a partial railway bridge collapse.

Thirty-one train cars fell off the tracks shortly after 7 a.m. on Saturday, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, the lead investigative agency on the derailment.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwait said during a Saturday afternoon briefing that the organization’s initial findings indicate the train derailed before it reached the bridge and struck the bridge while derailing. 

A city news release said all crew members on the freight train were accounted for and there were no injuries as a result of the incident. The train wasn’t carrying ethanol or hazardous cargo, according to the city, and public safety officials haven’t identified spills or leaks.

The city said in the release that there will be an “extensive operation” to fix the derailment and investigate the cause. 

A CSX spokesperson said on Sunday that clean-up of the site was underway.

“CSX continues to work closely with local, state and federal officials at the site of Saturday mornings derailment in Alexandria, Virginia. Overnight and throughout the day [Sunday], crews were given approval to move the locomotives from the train, re-rail the cars without damage, remove the derailed railcars with damage and begin cleaning up debris,” The spokesperson said in a provided statement.

The spokesperson said passenger train service has resumed at slower speeds on two of the three tracks, where there were no structural impacts or damage from the derailment.

“… While there is no timeline for the completion of the clean-up work, CSX and its contractors will work around the clock, as safely as possible and as approved by the NTSB.  We are also coordinating closely with passenger service providers and the City of Alexandria about any impacts to commuter and passenger train schedules,” the statement concluded.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 Alexandria Sports Roundup: Week of May 17 Fri, 18 May 2018 18:54:49 +0000
The Alexandria Times sports roundup includes records and game results for the prior week in two sports per season for Alexandria’s four local high schools: Bishop Ireton, Episcopal, St. Stephens and St. Agnes and T.C. Williams. Records will be presented alphabetically, while results will be listed by date. This spring, the sports included are girls’ […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Alexandria Times sports roundup includes records and game results for the prior week in two sports per season for Alexandria’s four local high schools: Bishop Ireton, Episcopal, St. Stephens and St. Agnes and T.C. Williams. Records will be presented alphabetically, while results will be listed by date.

This spring, the sports included are girls’ lacrosse and boys’ baseball. We will also be running photos with captions from games and encourage readers to send timely photos for submission to newstips@alextimes.com. We will also continue covering games from various sports, as well as running sports features about Alexandria athletes.

Girls’ Lacrosse:

School Record:

Bishop Ireton 19-3
Episcopal 7-15
SSSAS 22-3
T.C. Williams 9-6

Scores this week:

May 9
T.C. W 10-8 vs. Hayfield (district semifinals)

May 10
Episcopal L 6-5 @ Holton-Arms (ISL quarterfinals)
SSSAS W 18-4 vs. Flint Hill (ISL quarterfinals)

May 12
SSSAS L 10-9 vs. Holton-Arms (ISL semifinals)

May 15
B.I. W 16-5 vs. Episcopal (VISAA quarterfinals)
SSSAS W 19-9 vs. Collegiate School (VISAA quarterfinals)

Boys’ Baseball:

School Record:

Bishop Ireton 4-18
Episcopal 4-8
SSSAS 11-8
T.C. Williams 13-7

Scores this week:

 

May 9
T.C. W 8-1 @ Mount Vernon

May 10
T.C. W 6-2 vs. Mount Vernon

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 Justice Matters with Bryan Porter: The elements of a murder indictment Thu, 17 May 2018 20:47:44 +0000
By Bryan Porter Anyone who has ever watched a police procedural will recognize this scene: a hardscrabble homicide detective with a harsh Bronx accent sits in a cramped office across the table from a green, visibly nervous prosecutor. The two are discussing which charges to bring in a homicide case, and the older detective is vehemently disagreeing with the lawyer’s position. “This is murder one! Murder two […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Bryan Porter

Anyone who has ever watched a police procedural will recognize this scene: a hardscrabble homicide detective with a harsh Bronx accent sits in a cramped office across the table from a green, visibly nervous prosecutor. The two are discussing which charges to bring in a homicide case, and the older detective is vehemently disagreeing with the lawyer’s position.

“This is murder one! Murder two at least!” grumbles the gumshoe. 

“I’m sorry, Riggs, the evidence only supports manslaughter,” the attorney says, lowering his gaze as he speaks.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, you spineless jellyfish,” fumes the detective as he rises from his chair and storms out of the office.

While this scene may strike a familiar chord with the reader, what is likely unfamiliar is the legal analysis behind such charging decisions. What are the actual elements of a murder indictment? When is manslaughter the appropriate charge?

This article seeks to briefly explain the five levels of homicide provided for by the
Code of Virginia.

The charging analysis begins with a presumption: in Virginia, the intentional, unlawful killing of a person is presumed to have been committed maliciously and is therefore classified as murder in the second degree.

The presence of certain aggravating or mitigating circumstances determines whether the charge is elevated to a more serious form of murder, or reduced to manslaughter.
There is no need for the prosecution to prove a specific intent to kill in order to secure a
conviction for second-degree murder.

All that is needed is proof that the defendant committed an intentional act, that he did so maliciously, and that the act resulted in death. Malice is defined as “the intentional doing of a wrongful act without legal justification,” and may be inferred from the knowing use of a deadly weapon.

The charge may be elevated to first-degree murder if the evidence establishes that the crime was “willful, deliberate and premeditated.” Put another way, first-degree murder requires proof of a specific intent to kill. However, premeditation does not necessarily mean planning out a murder for weeks in advance; indeed, a jury is specifically instructed that the intent to kill “need not exist for any particular length of time” for a first-degree murder conviction to lie.

Only certain heinous homicides are punishable as capital murder, and these crimes are specifically delineated by the code. There are 15 separate statutory triggers for capital murder, including the premeditated murder of a law-enforcement officer, a murder for hire or the murder of more than one person in a three-year period, a provision designed to punish serial killers.

The difference between murder and manslaughter is the presence of malice. Voluntary manslaughter is the intentional killing of another person, but in the absence of malice. Voluntary manslaughter exists when a person kills in the “sudden heat of passion upon reasonable provocation.” In Virginia, words alone, no matter how offensive or insulting, are never sufficient to reduce a murder to manslaughter.

The textbook example of “heat of passion” is a person returning home early
from work only to find their spouse in the arms of a paramour. Other examples may be found, such as a victim who engaged in mutual combat with the defendant prior to being killed.

Involuntary manslaughter is the lowest grade of homicide, and it requires proof that the defendant unintentionally killed someone through negligence so “gross, wanton,
and culpable as to show a callous disregard of human life.” In certain circumstances, then, even a truly accidental killing may result in criminal liability. A drunk driver who causes a crash that kills an innocent victim did not intend to kill, but is guilty of causing a death by driving in a criminally negligent manner.

Capital murder is punishable by life in prison, or a death sentence. First-degree murder carries a penalty of 20 years in prison to life, and the range for second-degree murder is five to 40 years to serve. Both grades of manslaughter carry the same maximum statutory penalty: 10 years to serve in prison.

The writer is the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Alexandria.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 Letter to the Editor: Restaurant workers need affordable housing Thu, 17 May 2018 20:21:32 +0000
To the editor: Sure, nobody likes a tax increase, but I’m really, really glad Councilor Willie Bailey pressed elected officials to act on affordable housing. The additional 1 cent tax on meals is far easier to swallow than last year’s 5.7 cents tacked onto the real estate tax rate, and this year’s 3.4 percent increased […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

To the editor:

Sure, nobody likes a tax increase, but I’m really, really glad Councilor Willie Bailey pressed elected officials to act on affordable housing. The additional 1 cent tax on meals is far easier to swallow than last year’s 5.7 cents tacked onto the real estate tax rate, and this year’s 3.4 percent increased residential property values – meaning taxpayers are paying a whopping 8.7 percent more than in 2016.

What a facetious argument against the meals tax to say that it’s a burden on low-income people. As one who is well acquainted with Alexandria residents well below the city’s average and median income levels, I can say that low income people seldom eat out, and when they do, it’s usually casual or fast food with a coupon so that extra 1 cent per dollar doesn’t add up to much on the cash register receipt.

Too many opportunities to preserve, build or designate affordable housing units have passed by city council during the past 15 years because our city didn’t have funds available to invest. Time and again, amid the whimpering and hand-wringing by elected officials, we’ve missed out on reasonable, productive proposals requiring investments by developers, nonprofits and our city.

We’ve heard only talk from councilors – usually around campaign time – and now it’s time to see their commitment to “walk the walk” for affordable housing at every opportunity, across our city.

For those deeply concerned about the effect of the 1-cent sales tax increase on Alexandria’s restaurants, perhaps they should speak with the kitchen workers and servers to determine how and where they house their families.

-Maria Wildes, Alexandria

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 Letter to the Editor: Needed: councilors who can make, not just spend, money Thu, 17 May 2018 20:18:24 +0000
To the editor: What our current city council did by making the meals tax the highest in the region was make Alexandria marginally more costly for resident and visitor alike. More to the point: It’s the wrong solution to redress the problem of affordable housing. Many who work in Alexandria already live in distant suburbs […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

To the editor:

What our current city council did by making the meals tax the highest in the region was make Alexandria marginally more costly for resident and visitor alike. More to the point: It’s the wrong solution to redress the problem of affordable housing.

Many who work in Alexandria already live in distant suburbs and endure long commutes simply to reside in a home they can afford. Making Alexandria a more expensive place to live will not enable these commuters to move here; it will create additional commuters, not fewer.

Making Alexandria more costly also frustrates other job-creating businesses from locating here. For a city that can’t stop spending, this means property taxes will perforce increase indefinitely, making home ownership more expensive and, therefore, affordable housing even less available.

One day we’ll elect to our city council individuals who know how to make money – not just spend it. To my knowledge, not a single current council member and – with the exception of council candidates Robert Ray, Mo Seifeldein, Matt Feely, Chris Hubbard and Elizabeth Bennett-Parker – no one has ever started a company, met a payroll or struggled day in and day out to ensure that revenues exceed expenses. Nor have they been required to comply with federal, state or local regulations affecting revenue creation, the source of tax remittances.

It’s hard to prosper in the private sector, especially for restaurant owners. Alexandria’s higher meals tax will aggravate their difficulty to be profitable. It will also exacerbate, not alleviate, the need for ever more affordable housing. The answer is not more tax; it’s more revenue. Re-electing Mayor Allison Silberberg and giving her six new city council members –in particular, Ray, Seifeldein and Feely – will be a good start toward that end.

-Jimm Roberts, Alexandria

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 Letter to the Editor: Who not to vote for Thu, 17 May 2018 20:16:03 +0000
To the editor: On April 16, the Democrats for a Better Alexandria announced their slate for mayor and city council. They endorsed incumbent mayor Allison Silberberg for mayor, and Canek Aguirre, John Chapman, Matt Feely, Del Pepper, Robert Ray and Mo Seifeldein for council. On May 8, Alexandrians for a Better City Government also endorsed […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

To the editor:

On April 16, the Democrats for a Better Alexandria announced their slate for mayor and city council. They endorsed incumbent mayor Allison Silberberg for mayor, and Canek Aguirre, John Chapman, Matt Feely, Del Pepper, Robert Ray and Mo Seifeldein for council. On May 8, Alexandrians for a Better City Government also endorsed Silberberg for mayor along with Ray, Feely and Seifeldein for council. These two organizations have now given the citizens several slates from which to choose from in the Democratic Primary election on June 12.

After studying the aforementioned lists, I have decided to publish a list of candidates who should not be voted for in the upcoming primary. First and foremost, I would not recommend Vice Mayor Justin Wilson to become our new mayor. From his very first day as vice mayor, he has acted in an obstructive manner toward Silberberg by doing everything possible to overturn all initiatives proposed or supported by her.

In addition, he has successfully recruited the other five council members to vote with him and against the mayor on almost every important issue coming before council, thus resulting in a large number of 6-to-1 votes. Ironically, the mayor’s votes have generally reflected the overwhelming desires of the majority of citizens within the Alexandria community.

On the other hand, Wilson runs counter to citizen desires; he favors extremely dense development, takes contributions from a number of individuals who do business before the city and he will continue to support higher taxes as he did with his 5.7-cent (per $100 assessed property) tax raise that he vigorously pushed into the 2018 Alexandria budget. Since he has managed to persuade the other members of the current city council to vote with him on almost every issue, I would not recommend any of the incumbent city council members running to retain their seats.

I would also not recommend two other candidates running for city council seats. The first is Robert Ray, who has stated that “most Alexandrians would hope the sheriff would lean toward more liberal policies regarding undocumented members of our community,” which aligns him with those who are seeking to have a sanctuary city. Ray needs to leave the sheriff alone, so that he can perform his job in accordance with current laws.

The second candidate whom I do not recommend is Dak Hardwick, who has over the years aligned himself with the pro-developer faction, and who is essentially a clone of Wilson.

When six of the candidates are eliminated from the list of 12 running, a list containing six viable individuals remains. I hope to see them elected, and I hope that they will serve the city well. We deserve a city council that works on behalf of the citizens, and that performs in a manner free from spite and obstructive behavior. Vote smartly, Alexandria.

-Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet, Alexandria

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 How the city counts its homeless population Thu, 17 May 2018 20:13:58 +0000
By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com Carpenter’s Shelter volunteers found him living in his car in the parking lot of a West End condominium development. The man was hesitant to talk when the five volunteers approached him. One of the volunteers started a conversation. Slowly, pieces of the man’s story began to unravel: his name, his veteran […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com

Carpenter’s Shelter volunteers found him living in his car in the parking lot of a West End condominium development.

The man was hesitant to talk when the five volunteers approached him. One of the volunteers started a conversation. Slowly, pieces of the man’s story began to unravel: his name, his veteran status, his age, how long he had been living in the area.

The man was one of the 15 unsheltered individuals documented in the early hours of Jan. 25 as part of the city’s 2018 Point-in-Time Count. Carpenter’s Shelter Deputy Director Mary-Parker Lamm, one of the volunteers that day, said participating in the count gave the nonprofit homeless shelter the opportunity to reach someone it might not have otherwise.

“He’s now on the city’s radar, where he wasn’t before, so we felt quite triumphant,” Lamm said. “… This was so exciting [to find] someone else out there that we weren’t reaching. That, to me, is the whole reason for the count – to get an accurate count and reach out to people.”

The point-in-time count, mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development for any jurisdiction receiving funding for homeless services, isn’t intended as the be-all-end-all for homeless data – rather, organizers and participants say, it
offers a quick glimpse into the city’s homeless population.

Each year, the city’s Department of Community & Health Services and nonprofits that provide services to Alexandria’s homeless population conduct a two-pronged count. The “sheltered” part of the count includes homeless individuals in shelters, in temporary housing or in transitional housing on the night of Jan. 24, a day adhered to by all regional jurisdictions. The “unsheltered” part of the count takes volunteers to the streets in the early morning hours of Jan. 25.

The group taking the unsheltered count divides the city into five sections: Potomac Yard and Old Town, Masonic Temple and Del Ray, Inova Alexandria, Eisenhower Avenue and the West End.

“We walked the city and we covered it from 5 a.m. to noon and asked clients ‘Where did you sleep last night?’ and ‘Do you mind answering a few questions?’” Stefan Caine, continuum of care lead administrator for the city’s Department of Community &
Health Services, said. 

Caine and his colleagues spent more than two months planning for the count, hosting their first meeting in early November. Assignments are handed out to various teams, depending on the part of the city they serve. Carpenter’s Shelter, a first-time participant in the unsheltered count, took the West End, where its soon-to-be home of two years, Landmark Mall, is located.

“We gave out our game plan early on and then, once the day comes, it’s all hands on deck,” Caine said. “Then it’s a lot of our work, which is on the back end for the analysis.”

This graphic shows the number of sheltered and unsheltered individuals counted in this year’s point-in-time survey. The orange represents homeless children (Graphic by Aleksandra Kochurova)

This year’s count found 226 sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals, though the vast majority of them – 211 – were in shelters run by the city or by nonprofits. This year’s count represents an uptick from 2017 when the count found 211 homeless individuals, 18 of those unsheltered.

However, the multi-year trend since 2011 has been a steep decline in both the overall count and the number of unsheltered homeless individuals counted. The overall
total has dropped by almost 50 percent, while the number of unsheltered has declined by almost two-thirds. In 2011, there were 416 homeless individuals counted, including 42
unsheltered.

Office of Community Services Director Jessica Lurz attributes the sharp drop in Alexandria’s homeless population since 2011 to identifying those who are without shelter and providing more services to them faster.

She said the Office of Community Services, in addition to many in the nonprofit and faith communities, have effectively partnered to help formerly homeless people transition out of the system. The office now has rapid rehousing dollars at its discretion, for example, a short-term subsidy to get clients off the street and into permanent housing, at which point the client can access city services, with the hope that they’ll be able to get on their feet and take over rent payments on their own.

The point-in-time survey reads like a census, asking for the person’s name, age, gender, race, ethnicity, employment and income level, in addition to his or her history and what subpopulations within the homeless population they’re part of.

All but one subpopulation, which includes substance use disorders, physical disabilities,

This graph shows the change in subgroups over seven years. The dashed lines show the change from 2011 to 2018 and the solid lines show the change from 2015 to 2018 (Graphic by Aleksandra Kochurova)

serious mental illnesses, a history of foster care, limited English proficiency, chronic health conditions and Veteran status, increased in the last year, between 2017 and 2018.
However, only one subgroup population – history of foster care – increased during the seven-year period between 2011 and 2018.

Perhaps ironically, Lurz said the increases between the 2017 and 2018 counts are due to the same accessibility of services.

“While most of the time we want to see the numbers going down, it actually wasn’t a terrible thing to see that we were able to serve more people,” Lurz said. “It means that our change probably gave people easier access.”

Lurz said her team was also happy to see the number of people who were unsheltered decline from 18 to 15 between 2017 and 2018.

“We were happy to see that we have fewer people who are street homeless. Where we saw more people was inside, which means they are connected to case managers and
services,” Lurz said.

Lurz said one of the biggest issues facing Alexandria’s homeless population
comes down to the lack of affordable housing units. The majority of homeless individuals without children surveyed in 2018 – 58 percent – have some income, with 52 percent making between $501 and $1,000 per month. Most who have income, or 54 percent, received income through wages, while 39 percent are on disability.

The majority of homeless adults with children, 55 percent, also reported that they were employed in 2018, with 72 percent of those employed earning $1,001 and above per month. That group earned 81 percent of its income through wages and five percent apiece from disability, retirement and public assistance.

“The stereotype of someone who’s panhandling and unemployed is not really what we see – the reality is that many people just don’t make enough money to afford housing here in our community,” Lurz said.

The count documents the major challenges facing Alexandria’s homeless community.
Of the 226 adults surveyed, 36 had a serious mental illness, 31 had substance use disorders and 26 were discharged from an institution, which could mean a jail, mental health facility, foster care facility, a hospital or a long-term care facility. There are additional challenges beyond a lack of affordable housing and the mental health or health conditions homeless individuals face.

Lurz said the uptick over the last few years in the number of single homeless individuals, versus homeless families, presents a fundraising challenge. This year, the count found only 29 homeless adults with children, in comparison to 142 homeless individuals without children.

Single homeless individuals, Lurz said, traditionally don’t capture the public’s attention or philanthropy to the extent that families do.

“It’s a lot easier to get assistance when you see a child or a family and single individuals sometimes just don’t get the same kind of response from the community about wanting to help,” Lurz said. 

And while the decrease in the homeless individuals counted as part of the poin-tin-time between 2011 and 2018 is encouraging, Lurz said her office isn’t complacent. If anything, she said, the obstacles facing the homeless population in the city are growing
by the year.

“The clients that we have now are really presented with higher barriers and it’s going to take a lot more resources, financial and otherwise, to help people move from homelessness into housing again,” Lurz said. “I think we’re really getting to the point where some of the clients that we’re serving, it’s not easy to fundraise to serve the population.”

Though the barriers facing the city’s homeless population are high, those working
to help are encouraged by making an impact on even one person. Lamm said Carpenter’s
Shelter volunteers were prepared to not find anyone on their early morning canvas.
She said, while it wouldn’t have been a failure if they hadn’t, the possibility of helping one man is a worthwhile experience.

“It was moving to be part of it. It felt good to be out there. … It felt good that if there was someone out there, we found them and could get them connected to services,” Lamm said. “I don’t think on day one he’s going to open up to services. It’ll take a period of time to build a rapport. But now the city is aware of them and they can send those resources there.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 Letter to the Editor: Affordable housing should not be local priority Thu, 17 May 2018 20:06:55 +0000
To the editor: On May 12, the Alexandria City Council voted to confirm increasing the restaurant meal tax from 4 percent to 5 percent, and in turn, to use the additional funds to buy and maintain more low-income housing. Emotions are running high. One city council member has stated that “all other issues in the […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

To the editor:

On May 12, the Alexandria City Council voted to confirm increasing the restaurant meal tax from 4 percent to 5 percent, and in turn, to use the additional funds to buy and maintain more low-income housing. Emotions are running high. One city council member has stated that “all other issues in the city, from infrastructure to schools, [are] secondary to being able to afford a place to live in the city.”

But providing housing has never been a traditional responsibility of local government. Commonly agreed definitions of local government responsibilities include maintaining roads, running schools, providing water and sewage, organizing fire and police services, establishing zoning regulations, licensing professions and holding elections.

Managing housing for residents is only a relatively recently assumed responsibility of select local governments. As the Washingtonian magazine recently reported, Fairfax County largely declines to operate public housing and manages less units of affordable housing than Alexandria, despite having roughly seven times the population.

Advocates point to the rising housing costs in Alexandria as justification for increasing amounts of affordable housing. This might be a valid argument if Alexandria was an individual community with few nearby options for housing. For example, relatively isolated Aspen, Colorado found itself in this situation in the 1980s when individuals who worked in the town had few options to afford local housing. But Alexandria is not mountainous Aspen. Alexandria is surrounded by a large metropolitan area with many opportunities for housing at differing price points.

Still, additional investment in affordable housing for Alexandria might be appropriate if all other higher priority needs had been addressed and the city was confronted with a budget surplus. But that’s far from the case. As we often hear, our schools are in dire need of capital reinvestment, and four of 16 of our schools consistently fail to achieve the most basic state accreditation.

Alexandria’s municipal debt continues to grow and servicing that debt claims an ever-increasing share of the city’s budget, in 2018 representing around 6.6 percent of the city’s budget. Perhaps most ominously, the recent openings of new nearby glittering waterfront retail areas at the D.C. Wharf and the MGM National Harbor pose an existential threat to the retail restaurants and shops of Alexandria, key contributors to the city’s annual revenue.

So how does our wise city council plan to meet this recent challenge? By raising the meals tax, making our restaurants even less attractive to visitors, potentially driving them to DC and Maryland.

Contrary to what some might believe, providing affordable housing should not be the highest city priority. Instead, satisfying resident needs for local government services and ensuring the long-term economic viability of the city must always come first. An increased meal tax for affordable housing meets none of those criteria.

-Tom Spoehr, Alexandria

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail