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Attorney General Herring highlights tenant’s rights during COVID-19 pandemic

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RICHMOND (May 7, 2020) – During the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General Herring is encouraging Virginia tenants to familiarize themselves with their rights and protections, especially while the Supreme Court of Virginia’s judicial emergency order remains in effect.

“Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 many Virginians have found themselves in tough financial situations and may not have the ability to pay their rent right now, which is why it is so important that every Virginia tenant knows their rights during this time,” said Attorney General Herring. “It is absolutely outrageous that any landlords are trying to evict their tenants right now at a time when we are asking every Virginian to stay home to keep themselves and their families safe and prevent further spread of the virus.”

Evictions and Abandonment
Under the extended judicial emergency order, all non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings, including new eviction cases, have been suspended until at least May 17, 2020. This means that a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant for any non-emergency reason like not paying rent. You do not have to move just because your landlord tells you to. If your landlord tries to evict you without a court order and a sheriff’s notice – by cutting off electricity, heat, or water or by changing the locks – you should seek legal assistance at:

Virginia Lawyer Referral Service or 1 (800) 552-7977
• Your local legal aid office or 1 (866) LEGLAID
• The Eviction Legal Helpline at 1-833-NOEVICT

Depending on your circumstances, you may have additional rights under state or federal initiatives. New state law gives tenants an additional 60-day continuance if they explain to the courts (once they have reopened) that their income has been adversely affected by COVID-19. The federal CARES Act also provides significant additional protections, including a prohibition on charging late fees or filing to evict, through at least July 25, 2020, for tenants living in federally subsidized housing so they can maintain housing at this critical time. Other housing units are covered by a Virginia Housing Development Agency program that prohibits housing providers that receive mortgage forbearance from evicting tenants.

Additionally, notices of abandonment are not legitimate tools for landlords to use to evict tenants who are sheltering in place. If your landlord sends you a notice of abandonment while you are still present, respond in writing that you do not intend to abandon the unit. If your landlord has tried to evict you through a notice of abandonment please reach out to Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section:

• By phone: (800) 552-9963

• By email: consumer@oag.state.va.us

Online Complaint Form

Online Contact Form

Extended Stay Hotels and Motels
If you have stayed in a hotel or a motel for more than 90 days or have a written lease with a term of more than 90 days, you are protected under the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA) and cannot be evicted for a non-emergency reason during the mandatory continuances required under the judicial emergency order. Those who are currently living in hotels or motels but have not been there for 90 days or do not have a lease are not protected by VRLTA, but the landlord must give them a five-day notice of eviction if the resident has failed to pay.

For more information consult the Virginia Poverty Law Center’s list of housing resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following Governor Northam’s state of emergency declaration, Attorney General Herring has taken many actions to help Virginians navigate the uncertainty surrounding the COVID19 pandemic. Attorney General Herring has:

Successfully petitioned the SCC to put a hold on all utility disconnections and, in response to a second request from Attorney General Herring, the SCC extended that freeze and suspended all late fees for the duration of the state of emergency

• Reviewed price gouging complaints from around the Commonwealth with his Consumer Protection Section and investigated any potential violations and pursued violators, including sending warning letters to dozens of businesses about which Virginians have complained

• Issued numerous warnings urging Virginians to be wary of COVID19 related scams as well as scams related to the federal stimulus package

• Issued an advisory opinion outlining the authority of public bodies, including local governments, to conduct meetings and critical public business while meeting social distancing needs and important transparency and accountability obligations

Sent letters to Amazon, Facebook, Craigslist, eBay, and Walmart urging them to more rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers who are using their services

• Urged Virginians who have lost or could lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 health crisis to evaluate their insurance options to make sure that they remain covered during this unprecedented national health crisis

• Lead a multi-state effort of 20 attorneys general in urging 3M to do more to combat inflated prices of N95 respirators and other desperately needed PPE

Urged the telecommunications industry to make further commitments to protect consumers who are struggling financially as a result of COVID-19 and in calling upon the FCC for support

• Fought to protect women’s access to reproductive healthcare by filing amicus briefs to block efforts to ban abortions during COVID-19 in Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas

Warning the nation’s three Consumer Reporting Agencies that he will not hesitate to enforce safeguards set in place to ensure consumers’ credit is properly protected and that their credit reports are fairly and accurately reported as Americans continue to struggle from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 public health crisis

Encouraging Virginians to utilize mental health and substance abuse treatment services, including through insurance purchased on Healthcare.gov

Additionally, Attorney General Herring has urged the Trump Administration to take many different actions to protect Virginians and Americans during this time including:

Utilize the Defense Production Act to immediately prioritize the production of personal protective equipment and ventilators

Provide federal student loan borrowers with crucial emergency protections

Suspend Department of Veterans Affairs deadlines and debt collection activities

Instate special enrollment periods on HealthCare.Gov and develop and implement an outreach plan to inform the millions of Americans who have lost or will lose their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage about the Special Enrollment Period available to them through HealthCare.Gov

Ensure billions of dollars in emergency stimulus payments authorized by the CARES Act go to American families and not debt collectors

Enforce the CARES Act and require credit reporting agencies to follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act following the CFPB’s announcement that it would not enforce the law, leaving consumers at the mercy of unresponsive credit agencies

Denounce the EPA’s March 26th memo that announced a nationwide policy significantly reducing the civil enforcement of federal environmental laws during the COVID-19 crisis

• Urging the FDA to ease restrictions on blood donations to maintain an adequate national blood supply and to move towards a risk-based, gender-neutral screening model and further revise guidance to make it easier for the LGBTQ population to give blood

• Urging the Federal Housing Finance Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to take actions to help homeowners who have been affected by COVID-19 and the disruption to the mortgage market

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37th Anniversary of National Night Out to be held of October 6th

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On Tuesday, October 6, 2020, citizens throughout Front Royal are invited to join forces with thousands of communities nationwide for the “37th Anniversary of National Night Out” (NNO) crime and drug prevention event. National Night Out, is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW) and co-sponsored locally by the Front Royal Police Department and the Front Royal Police Foundation.

“We look forward to hosting this great event every year, but due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety concerns, we have had to cancel the “block party” style event that we usually hold on the Town Commons,” said Front Royal Chief of Police Kahle Magalis. “This year we are going to take National Night Out mobile and caravan to different locations throughout the town and meet up with our citizens in smaller groups in areas where we can practice social distancing.”

We will host neighborhood visits throughout the Town with police officers, foundation members, and our other law enforcement partners. The evening will begin at the Front Royal Police Department with opening remarks starting at 5:00pm and the start of the parade at 5:20pm. The route will continue through town and will utilize 5 stopping points along the route and conclude at the Town Gazebo at 8:00pm.

National Night Out showcases the vital importance of police-community partnerships and citizen involvement in our fight to build a safer nation. “Events like National Night Out are necessary to help strengthen the partnerships between the community and law enforcement,” said Brendan Murphy, Front Royal Police Foundation Vice Chair. This is the police department’s fourteenth year hosting NNO and without this partnership, law enforcement’s battle against crime would be limited.

Please watch for more information about times and locations on our numerous social media outlets.

Lastly, stop by the Front Royal Police Department and pick up blue lightbulbs and thin blue line flags, while supplies last, to help show your support during the parade!

Parade Route Stops

5:00 – 5:20  Front Royal Police Department
5:30 – 5:50 Warren County Skate Park
6:00 – 6:20 Ressie Jeffries Elementary School
6:30 – 6:50 Warren County High School
7:15 – 7:35 Marlow Heights Baptist Church
7:45 – 8:15 Town Gazebo

Route:

FRPD, R on Virginia Ave, L on 1st, R on Union, R on W. Main, SKATE PARK, R on Kerfoot to W. Criser to E. Criser, L into RESSIE JEFFRIES, R on Beeden, L on Hill, R on South St., L on Westminster to WCHS, L on Westminster, R on Walker, L on John Marshall, L on Leach Run, L on Oden, L on Ewell, R on Imboden, R on Happy Ridge, L on Goodview, L on Meadow Court, R on Lewis, L on Happy Creek, L on Manassas Ave to MARLOW HEIGHTS BAPTIST CHURCH, L on Happy Creek to Laura Virginia Hale into TOWN GAZEBO.

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Garden clubs unite at Milldale home’s yard described as ‘heaven on earth’

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The bi-annual “greening” party celebrating another period of successes by the “Beautification of Front Royal Committee (BFRC)” was, last weekend, held at a Warren County home with a garden described variously as “gob smacking,” “heaven on earth,” “stunning” and “overwhelming” by many who attended.

Some 35 guests at the Milldale Valley Court home of hosts Sheron and John Piazza on September 19, shared their delight at the garden surrounding their home from the curbside mailbox to the tiered koi ponds in back that feature some 4,000 plants – yes, 4,000! –  flowers, fruit and ornamental trees, bushes, and other horticultural wonders that left the celebrants and other guests gasping with their superlatives.

Above, colorful flower beds and greenery great the visitor at the house’s front door; below, what will we find behind the gate? Courtesy Photos – John & Sheron Piazza

The garden was designed by retired landscaper Sheron Piazza who described it as a “culmination of a lifetime of experience, hard work, starts and stops, planning, re-planning, love, blood and tears.” She thanked her husband “for all his encouragement and support.”

“We did it!” she exclaimed.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words …

But this might be the ‘heaven on earth’ shot …

But I don’t want to leave.

What is the BFRC? It is a composite of four Warren County garden clubs: the Garden Club of Front Royal, the South River Garden Club, the Valley Garden Club and the Garden Club of Warren County, which led by the latter, set out to beautify their town and county 18 years ago, raising and spending a quarter million dollars in the process.

Most obvious to county and town residents, and tourists alike, are the hanging baskets downtown and the flowers that go in them. The baskets led BFRC to an agreement with the Town of Front Royal for town employees to keep them consistently watered up to and through the fall.

Less obvious but still part of a large planting program are BFRC’s tree plantings, 800 of them, and the planting of numerous shrubs, flowers, and bulbs.

Downtown Front Royal’s characteristic hanging flower baskets and ‘Tree City USA’ trees – what’s not to LOVE, with a nod to the Beautification of Front Royal Committee.

According to Lorraine Hultquist, president, and Fred Andreae, vice president, in a listing of accomplishments through the years, the plantings help remove pollution from air and water, reduce runoff, and attract tourists by providing shade during the summer and “bring enjoyment to all who live and work here.”

“Economic opportunity is enhanced in well landscaped communities,” Hultquist and Andreae wrote in a recent report.

While most planting projects have concentrated on the main corridors through the town, trees have also been planted at the Peyton Street parking lot; Samuels Public Library; along Virginia Avenue, and in the South Town neighborhood and Burrell Brooks Park.

In past years, BFRC replaced all the pear trees along Main Street and provided park benches and planters in the Gazebo/Village Commons area.

In addition, over the past decade the committee has provided $24,500 in scholarships to graduating seniors from Warren County and Skyline High Schools, specifically for students wishing to pursue careers in landscape architecture, forestry and environmental studies.

Its Biennial party is one of several functions that help raise the funds necessary to continue the committee’s work. The BFRC’s plan for the upcoming year is to begin improving the landscape of Warren County’s elementary schools beginning with E. Wilson Morrison at its prominent downtown location off Crescent Street, as well as continuing various planting projects.

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LFCC and Eastern Mennonite University sign transfer agreement

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A new agreement between LFCC and Eastern Mennonite University creates pathways for transfer students to earn a bachelor’s degree in leadership and organizational management without having to travel to the Harrisonburg university.

After students graduate from LFCC, they can complete the 15-month, four-semester program, gaining skills in organizational development, team dynamics, human resources and leadership.

The unique format, in which students move through the program in a cohort of 12-15 classmates, increases academic success and retention, according to Margo McIntire, program director at EMU. The students and faculty build a learning community which supports them throughout their enrollment.

The first cohort, forming for a January start, will take courses fully online until public health recommendations allow for in-person classes. Normally, the program uses a hybrid model: students would attend class one night per week on the LFCC campus, with other coursework online.

“This is another opportunity to work with EMU to provide students in our service region with an extremely convenient pathway to a bachelor’s degree that many probably would not otherwise feel is a realistic option,” said Dr. James Gillispie, LFCC dean of the School of Humanities and Social Studies. “The fact that students can attend EMU regularly without going to EMU is such a great benefit and path to get a four-year degree without leaving home.

“I think this will be a wonderful way for students in our area to get that degree they need to make a better life for themselves and their families. I thank all the people at EMU for all their help in getting this plan ready to roll out.”

David Brubaker, dean of EMU’s School of Social Sciences and Professions in which the Leadership and Organizational Management degree program is housed, noted the collaboration with LFCC administrators. “What most impressed me about working with LFCC leadership was their shared commitment to make creative options available to their students and alums in order to strengthen their career prospects.”

Students who have completed LFCC’s business administration, management, accounting, computer and information technology, and human services or other related programs and meet admissions criteria will be guaranteed admission to EMU’s program.

Additionally, students having completed other associate of arts and sciences degrees or associate of science degrees, or earning 48 or more transferable semester hours, will also be guaranteed admission provided they meet admission criteria.

Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • 48 or more transferable semester hours,
  • cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher, 23 years of age or older,
  • at least one year of full-time work experience, preferably incorporating some leadership experiences, and
  • completion of EMU’s fee-waived application process.

LFCC students who want to take advantage of this opportunity should contact their LFCC advisor to make sure their academic plans meet EMU requirements.

Students can further maximize their savings by learning more about financial aid opportunities through EMU’s Financial Aid office. Transfer students are eligible for several grants and scholarships.

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Local ‘Save Our Children’ efforts focus on substantial issues rather than conspiracy theories

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On Friday, September 18, “Save Our Children Front Royal” held the first of a series of planned events to bring attention to a perceived gap in the state or U.S. Justice systems that many feel “under-punishes” convicted pedophiles. The late afternoon march assembled at the Warren County Government Center around 5:30 p.m. proceeded down Commerce Avenue and Water Street to the Front Royal Village Commons/Gazebo area and circled back on Chester and Second Streets to the government center.

Neely and Charles Bettis man the ‘Save Our Children’ paraphernalia stand; and below, conduct a little business awaiting the return of marchers to the WCGC starting point. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Organizer Brittany Lewis says the march and coming events are designed “to bring awareness to child abuse and sex trafficking” issues. She stressed that “Save Our Children Front Royal” is not associated with recent efforts of the factually-discredited Q-Anon political conspiracy theory group to latch onto the ‘#saveourchildren’ logo to its own ends, or for that matter to the 1970s origin of the slogan in Florida tied to an anti-gay agenda celebrity Anita Bryant served as the spokesperson for.

“No, when I was starting this up someone asked about that and I had to tell them I wasn’t with those groups. I put ‘Front Royal’ on at end … to try and distance us from that,” Lewis told Royal Examiner.

Rather, “Save Our Children Front Royal” is born of experience closer to home. That experience was her becoming aware of a young child’s abuse locally and deciding that abuse was too close to home. And while the alleged perpetrator has been arrested and is awaiting trial, it is the end result of such prosecutions on pedophile charges that Lewis says is one of the primary reasons she began “Save Our Children Front Royal”.

The ‘Save Our Children Front Royal’ march proceeds through the Village Commons amongst other dueling events and prepares to turn up Chester St. to return to the WCGC starting point.

“The average jail sentence is 3-1/2 years,” she said of pedophile convictions.

And for Lewis, and others rallying to her cause, that is not enough time behind bars for the sexual victimization of her or any of our society’s children.

Upcoming events include a “Paint Night” fundraiser for the Laurel Center for victims of sexual abuse that will be held in the Washington Suite of the Blue Ridge Shadows Holiday Inn on October 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and another march on October 24, slated to begin at 10 a.m. at the WCGC parking lot.

For further information see the “Save Our Children Front Royal” Facebook page or contact Brittany Lewis by email at brilewis91@aol.com or by phone at (540) 692-9893.

Marchers, including several sporting ‘#save our children’ logos, make their way through a crowded Commons area. News reports in recent months, including the NY Times, have commented on the Q’Anon conspiracy theory group’s attempts to ‘hijack’ the ‘#saveourchildren’ slogan to their own ends. ‘Save Our Children FR’ organizer Brittany Lewis has distanced her local efforts from such conspiracy theories, focusing on more substantial issues like pedophile sentencing ranges.

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VOA reports worldwide from Front Royal on the death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ginsburg

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A visitor to Front Royal last weekend (September 18-19) could provide a footnote to the history of our town.

A guest of ours, Steve Herman, now living in Alexandria and working out of the White House, is the Voice of America’s (VOA) bureau chief in Washington. After connecting through the AP Retirees online bulletin, Herman brought his wife, Rosyla, specifically to attend the weekly “Yappy Hour” on Main Street Friday evening, September 18.

Rosyla loves dogs!

It was to be a relaxing weekend for the Hermans. Or so the busy journalist had planned. I’d advised him of our weekly Wagner Animal Shelter fundraiser a few weeks ago and it caught the eye of his wife who agreed to, or perhaps proposed, the overnight trip.

It began as a relaxing ‘Yappy Hour’ gathering for Malcolm and Carol Barr and guests Steve and Rosyla Herman, along with the Barr’s Husky Diva. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

We made it a meet and greet with local reporters Roger Bianchini (Royal Examiner) and Josh Gully (late of the NV Daily). Herman, 60, and me, 87, worked at different times for The Associated Press, me in the U.S., Herman in cities throughout Asia.

Events changed quickly for our guest when news of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death came up on his phone while we were socializing at ViNoVa’s outdoor “Yappy Hour” seating.

Saturday over lunch Herman told us that after returning to their Remount Road B&B Friday night, “BBC World TV rang him” asking if he could appear live, “preferably from the White House, to discuss how the associate justice’s death would affected the (U.S.) election.”

That eventually changed for Steve after news of the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg broke over his phone during Yappy Hour. (MSNBC broadcast pictured on writer’s TV later that evening)

With no time to return to Washington, Herman said he went on the air via Skype on a slow-speed Internet connection from his Front Royal B&B bedroom to carry his VOA bureau chief report to BBC World’s international audience. Routinely, his VOA broadcasts are translated into 47 languages for 350 million people through a network of more than 2,500 local broadcast affiliates. He said he did his reporting sitting on the floor using a mid-19th century fireplace as a backdrop for his appearance on BBC’s worldwide broadcast.

Is that another first for Front Royal, a town of many firsts recorded since the Civil War? Maybe so. Local historians take note.

We invited Steve and Rosyla back to Warren County for “another relaxing weekend” where Rosyla fell in love – with our dog, the rescue Siberian husky, Diva (hamming it up in accompanying photos).

Diva may be alerting Steve, phone in hand, that it will soon be time to get back to work. With her own British connections, Diva may have been anticipating Steve’s call from BBC World for comment on Ginsburg’s death.

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Virginia Beer Museum marks 4 years of celebrating state’s brewing history

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On Saturday, September 19, the Virginia Beer Museum cut the cake on its fourth anniversary of lauding, not only the Commonwealth’s current barley crop of crafted beers, but noted Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to Virginia and the American colonies history of brewing their way right up to independence.

Virginia Beer Museum proprietor David Downes gets ready to cut the 4th Anniversary cake with the assistance of Helltown Saloon barkeep Winter Leigh, right, and Wendie Mather. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

And that’s something worth raising a glass of fine Virginia-brewed beer to – the museum’s fourth and America’s history of a march toward “all men created equal” under the law celebrated every 4th – of July. Keep the faith in that march, kids – someday.

The appropriately named Play the Changes band mixed classic rock covers and original material to an enthusiastic crowd spanning a several generation gap that appeared to agree that BEER was the vote to make, at least for those of age that Saturday evening in Historic Downtown Front Royal, Virginia.

Musical entertainment was provided by Play the Changes, above on stage; and below between sets sporting their new ‘Vote BEER’ T-shirts. For those interested, Downes ‘BEER Party’ platform is: Better government Encouraging cooperation Emphasizing non-partisan politics Responsible government.

Check the band out on its Facebook page and website.

And check the Virginia Beer Museum out on Facebook and at its website.

Play the Changes played to an appreciative audience, largely gathered under the big top as the sun set toward some plummeting crisp, Fall temperatures. Get near those space heaters!

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