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Michael Lee Pope

Stories by Michael Lee

Week in Alexandria: June 4

Slip Displeasure

What is the future of pleasure boats on the waterfront? That's a question that has yet to be resolved. It's an uncertainty that's leaving pleasure-boaters, well, displeased.

Week in Alexandria

Rape charge dropped.

Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Porter won't say why he asked General District Court Judge Donald Haddock to drop the charge of rape against former Alexandria Deputy Sheriff Bryant Duane Pegues, who was fired from his job after evidence emerged that he had sex with an inmate at the city jail last month.

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Patchwork of Approaches to Affordable Housing in Northern Virginia

Jurisdictions use a variety of strategies to prevent homelessness.

Affordable housing means different things to different people at different times. For government officials, it's a phrase that means that a family spends no more than 30 percent of its income on housing costs, including rent or mortgage as well as taxes and utilities

Food Truck Amuse-Bouche

Draft regulations would allow food trucks to 15 city parks and recreation centers.

Think Alexandria is about to be overrun by food trucks? Think again. Draft regulations now under consideration by the Parks and Recreation Commission would limit the pilot program for food trucks to parks and recreation centers that have 10 or more parking spaces. Only three would be allowed at one place at a time, and they would be limited to vending for four hours at a time. The parking lots must be paved, and the spaces must be designated. Although the city has more than 100 parks and recreation centers, only 15 sites would qualify under the draft regulations now under consideration. The Alexandria City Council is expected to review the recommendation next week. Food trucks could start vending as early as July 1.

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Manhunt Ends in Tragedy

Suspicious package prompts search, which ends in suicide and controlled explosions.

Neighbors on Hanson Street knew there was a problem between James Froman and Molly Gimmel. They could hear it from two houses away, the sound of Froman yelling at Gimmel. As their marriage was dissolving at the end of 2012, the fights became more frequent and louder. Froman became increasingly obsessed with military special forces, dressing in military uniform and spending hours at the firing range. Things spiraled out of control one December night in 2012 when he asked her to join him when he went to the shooting range so he could use her as target practice.

June 18: Council Notebook

City Council in brief from June 18.

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Fundraising and Connections Help Former Lieutenant Governor Emerge Victorious

Don Beyer edges out six competitors in crowded filed of candidates.

When asked about animals rights, former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer quotes author Peter Singer. He describes his wife as the "sine qua non" of his life. During his victory speech in the hotly contested Democratic primary to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8), he quoted St. Augustine and Winston Churchill. He reads widely and has five policy proposals for every issue before Congress.

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Six Feet Over

City officials planning flood mitigation for the waterfront.

Every heavy rainstorm seems to bring a flood of news trucks, which arrive at the foot of King Street and set up television cameras. The images of flooded streets have become a regular feature for television news segments because the images are so shocking. Now city leaders are planning to raise the elevation of the waterfront to six feet, preventing flooding for most major storms.

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Empire Strikes Back: Establishment Beats Tea Party at Republican Convention

Party insider Ed Gillespie seizes nomination at convention in Roanoke.

When conservative preacher E.W. Jackson took the stage at the Roanoke Civic Center to introduce Tea Party favorite Shak Hill at the Republican convention last weekend, hundreds of conservatives from across Virginia took to their feet. They waved placards.

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Poverty in the Classroom: Low-Income Students Scattered Through Northern Virginia

Where are the region's highest poverty schools?

When Carla Castro-Claure was approaching the age when she would soon attend Kindergarten, her mother became increasingly concerned about Hybla Valley Elementary School.

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The Fixer: Mame Reiley Remembered as Political Force of Nature

Democratic insider was mastermind behind Jim Moran's 1990 campaign for Congress.

When Mame Reiley decided a young guy by the name of Jim Moran could knock off an incumbent congressman, people thought she was crazy. U.S. Rep. Stanford Parris (R-8) had been in Congress more than a decade, and he had the kind of financial support that the mayor of Alexandria could only hope to assemble. But Reiley knew it could be done, and she put together a dream team to make it happen.

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Commission Buries Proposal

Plan to transform French-Lawler House into boutique funeral home rejected.

When the French-Lawler House was constructed on South Washington Street in 1893, the Victorian standard for funerary called for elaborate processions featuring pall bearers who carried batons and mutes dressed in gowns. These days, people have a more modest approach to death. Gone are the black ostrich feathers covering a hearse bearing a polished coffin bearing inscribed plates. Increasingly, people are being cremated. And Kingstowne-based Jefferson Funeral Home hopes to expand its operation into Old Town by transforming the French-Lawler House into what it calls a "boutique funeral home."

Two Million Dollar Primary

Former lieutenant governor raises $1.1 million; his competitors combined raise $1.4 million.

Campaign finance documents released in the final days before the June 10 primary show the seven candidates in the primary to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) have raised almost $2.5 million. Former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer leads the pack with $1.1 million, three times as much as his closest competitor. "Don Beyer is clearly the favorite," said Geoff Skelley, analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "He may not win it with a particularly large plurality, but he's the favorite to win."

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Sheriff's Deputy Charged with Raping Inmate

Prosecutor says he forcibly raped inmate using an ink pen as a weapon.

Deputies at the Alexandria Sheriff's Office say Bryant Duane Pegues was a quiet man, someone who got his work done and did not draw much attention to himself since he was hired in 2007.

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Seven in the Eighth: Epic Democratic Primary Heads Toward Final Days

Hotly contested race to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8)

Ten names will be on the ballot June 10, although only seven candidates are still in the Democratic primary to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).

May 28: Council Notebook

News briefs from the city council on May 28.

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Seaport Foundation Without a Seaport?

Waterfront plan leaves nonprofit homeless, for now.

A sense of uneasiness fills Randall Smith when he starts talking about the future of the Seaport Foundation, the nonprofit that taught him how to build boats. One recent afternoon found him scarfing a board so that it has the right ratio to be part of a kit that the nonprofit sells for people to make a kind of boat known as a Bevin's Skiff. By this time next year, the nonprofit will have to move out of this building, which will be demolished as part of the waterfront plan.

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Piloting Food Trucks

Most of controversial food truck proposal placed on back burner.

The food truck craze is coming to a city park or a farmer's market near you, part of a 16-month pilot program that will allow the mobile vendors to set up shop and see what happens. City Council members approved the pilot program in a four-to-two vote with Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg and Councilman Paul Smedberg voting no. Disgruntled restaurant owners across the city are talking about creating a new association specifically to fight expanding the program to hot spots in Old Town and Del Ray, a move city officials have been pushing for more than a year. The pilot is scheduled to begin in July and run through October 2015.

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Nightmare on Green Street?

Neighbors say house is a nuisance; city officials say their hands are tied.

The 800 block of Green Street is tucked away in a quiet part of Old Town, a few blocks west of Washington Street where spring flowers are in bloom and neighbors know each other by name. Except Michael Wargo. Property records say he purchased 813 Green St. in 1989 for $263,000. But neighbors say he hasn't lived in the house for 12 years, and they are concerned that the house is a firetrap that's attracting wild animals and growing concern.

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Serving Up Controversy Over Food Trucks in Alexandria

Council members indicate they're likely to approve a pilot program at farmers markets.

City Council members are bracing themselves for a massive food fight this Saturday, when elected officials will take up a divisive proposal to allow food trucks in Alexandria.

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The Fighter

Longtime congressman celebrated by Alexandria Democrats.

During his first run for Congress, then-Mayor Jim Moran assembled a campaign team that was hungry to oust incumbent Republican Stan Parris. Mame Reiley ran the operation, which included a young communications consultant named Joe Trippi. As the race headed toward Election Day, Reiley and Trippi became concerned that Moran's campaign signs kept disappearing from Eisenhower Avenue. So they set up a sting operation with a video camera to catch the culprit, who turned out to be Jim Moran.

House Historian

Family and friends remember Ruth Lincoln Kaye.

Alexandria's premiere house historian, a woman who pioneered the industry and fiercely protected her research, died April 30. She was 95. "She had a curious and inquisitive mind," recalled her son, Arthur Lincoln Kaye. Kaye was known throughout the city as a sort of walking history book, a woman who possessed an extensive institutional memory and a razor-sharp wit.

May 14: Council Notebook

Council Notebook briefs.

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C-Section Boom in Northern Virginia

Region has some of the highest rates of cesarean-section deliveries for low-risk pregnancies.

Behind the closed doors at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church and the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, a quiet change has been taking shape over the last few decades.

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Despite Advances, Many Virginians Remain Uninsured

Affordable Care Act expands coverage, but more than 800,000 still have no health insurance.

What is the state of the uninsured in Virginia?

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Animal Instinct: Democrats in Hotly Contested Primary Divided on Speciesism

Will Jim Moran's successor share his enthusiasm for animal rights?

Candidates in the Democratic primary for Congress have a wide range of views on animal rights, an issue that has become one of the defining legacies of retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).

Words With Frenemies

Pulitzer-prize winning historian outlines research at Lyceum.

The handwritten words of a former Virginia slave splashed across the screen at the Lyceum Tuesday night, part of a presentation by Pulitzer-prize winning historian Alan Taylor's War of 1812 Bicentennial Lecture. Taylor was explaining the research behind his new book, "The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832."

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Pleas for Services Increase Taxes

Council raises tax rate to fund services for seniors and schoolchildren.

Seniors will be able to keep their tax relief, and Engine 204 will remain at the city's Powhatan Park headquarters. But homeowners will see their tax bills going up once again. That's because members of the Alexandria City Council voted to increase the tax rate last week, adding $2 million to the budget proposal City Manager Rashad Young presented back in February.

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Food Fight: Work Group Snubbed on Food Trucks

City officials move forward with recommendations without report from work group.

Last May, City Manager Rashad Young issued a series of recommendations that would have opened the door to food trucks in Old Town, Del Ray and Carlyle.

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For Congressional Candidates, No Common Ground on Common Core

Democrats in Virginia's 8th Congressional District divided on national education standards.

Should American schools share national standards? That's a question that divides the 10 Democrats seeking to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8), who is retiring after 24 years in the House of Representatives. During a recent candidates forum, the Democrats were asked if they support the Common Core State Standards Initiative, two candidates said they disagreed and eight candidates said they agreed.

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Will Alexandria Sell City Hall to Developers?

City leaders to consider selling historic structure rather than investing in it.

Should city taxpayers fork over $50 million to renovate City Hall? Or should a new $100 million facility be constructed somewhere else, opening the door for a developer to transform the historic building? That's the question that will be confronting City Council in the coming years as elected officials decide whether or not they want to invest in fixing the building.

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Alone on the Road: 7 out of 10 Northern Virginia Workers Use Single-Occupancy Vehicles

Study raises concerns about amount of time drivers spend commuting alone.

Despite the decades-long war against the single-occupancy vehicle, seven out of 10 workers in Northern Virginia drive to work alone every workday.

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Who is Trailing Don Beyer in Hotly Contested Democratic Primary?

Candidates elbow each other out of the way to secure second place.

Campaign finance documents show that former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer crushed the nine other candidates in the hotly contested Democratic primary.

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Tax Burden Targets Low-Income Workers in Northern Virginia

Average tax burden for low-income workers is highest in Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax.

Families that are struggling to make ends meet in Northern Virginia are the target of local governments in Northern Virginia, which has the highest tax burden in the region for low-income workers. Wealthy people face the highest tax burden in Prince George's County and Montgomery County. But here in Virginia, poor people face the biggest tax burden in Arlington, according to a new study by the Office of Revenue Analysis in the District of Columbia. Alexandria ranked second, and Fairfax County ranked third.

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Alexandria to Stop Dumping Human Waste into Potomac River by Earth Day 2035

Fixing combined sewer overflows to cost at least $200 million.

The year 2035 seems like a distant dream. But it's a Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of officials at City Hall. That's the year Alexandria will no longer dump human waste into the Potomac River.

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Beyer Rakes in Campaign Cash in Democratic Primary

Fundraising numbers reveal former lieutenant governor has significant edge.

Campaign finance documents released this week show Don Beyer well ahead of his competitors in the race for cash, giving the former lieutenant governor a significant edge over the nine other Democrats in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).

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Alexandria Goes to War (Again)

City planning a number of activities to commemorate forgotten conflict.

The War of 1812 was the first war that America lost, a bitter conflict that began with an ill-planned invasion of Canada that ended when the British burned the Capitol and the executive mansion.

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New Superintendent Hopes to Cut the Numbers of Suspensions in Half

Black male students suspended at disproportionate rates.

Less than a month into office, new Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Alvin Crawley is taking on the challenge of reducing the number of suspensions by half.

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Bike Lane Controversy Creates a King-Sized Debate in Alexandria

City Council set to take up proposal to remove parking and install bike lanes.

Months of bitter accusations and counter-accusations are set to culminate this weekend as members of the Alexandria City Council take up a plan to remove four blocks of parking spaces on King Street to make room for a bike lane in each direction.

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Wiggle Room on the Alexandria Tax Rate

Council members advertise half-a-penny increase in tax rate, allowing more flexibility.

Although Alexandria City Manager Rashad Young issued a proposed budget that keeps the current tax rate, members of the City Council voted this week to advertise a tax rate that's half a penny higher.

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Northern Virginia's Growing Debt Burden

Local governments use debt as a tool to build for the future.

Back in the 1920s, Harry Byrd became governor of Virginia on what he called a "pay-as-you-go" platform.

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Should Royal Street Become a Bicycle Boulevard?

Alexandria hires consultant to consider ways to encourage more bicycle traffic.

Pedestrians and bicyclists clash with vehicles up and down Union Street, a concern for city leaders who want to find a way to move cyclists to Royal Street.

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Alexandria School Board Selects Interim Leader to Head Division

Alvin Crawley to take control of city schools at critical time.

Turns out, the national search for a new superintended wasn't able to find a candidate as good as the guy who is already sitting in the chair.

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Virginia Laws Help Local Governments Conceal 911 Calls from Public

Police agencies refuse to release audio from 911 calls, prompting questions about transparency.

When city officials in Alexandria released the audio of a 911 call in a high-profile murder case, many people interpreted the move as a step forward for transparency in a commonwealth known for opaque government.

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Alexandria Food Truck Task Force Prepares to Issue Recommendations

A movable feast through Old Town, Del Ray and Carlyle?

This spring, advocates for food trucks will engage in a battle with brick-and-mortar restaurants.

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Money on the Shelves: Jurisdictions Take Variety of Approaches to Funding Libraries

Some have recovered from the recession, others are still struggling.

What is the future of the neighborhood library?

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Eleven Candidate In Epic Democratic Primary to Replace Moran

Successful candidate could emerge with 10,000 votes.

The Democratic primary is shaping up to be the most competitive election in recent memory, one with an unprecedented number of candidates.

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Assessing Alexandria: City Officials Mail Annual Valentines to Homeowners

Residential properties increase 5 percent; commercial properties increase 2 percent.

Homeowners across Alexandria will be receiving their annual Valentine from City Hall this week, an assessment of their property that will be used to issue a tax bill later this year.

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Happyland on Edge: Quiet Suburban Neighborhood Rocked by Unsolved Murders

Residents worried that a serial killer may be on the loose.

The late Ellen Pickering used to call North Ridge "Happyland," a quiet suburban stretch of the city where neighbors knew each other and the most shocking crime that happens is when someone's car is broken into.

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Scattering Low-Income Residents Across Alexandria

Public-housing authority considers redeveloping seven properties.

Uncertainty is hanging in the air for thousands of public-housing residents and their neighbors.