Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Isaias, which is expected to impact parts of coastal Virginia starting on Monday, August 3, 2020.
“Hurricane Isaias is a serious storm, and current predictions indicate that it may impact parts of Virginia as early as this weekend,” said Governor Northam. “This state of emergency will ensure localities and communities have the assistance they need to protect the safety of Virginians, particularly as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. I encourage Virginians to take all necessary precautions, monitor local weather forecasts, and stay alert.”
A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and equipment needed for response and recovery efforts. While the track of Hurricane Isaias is still uncertain, it appears increasingly likely that Virginia could see impacts and therefore must prepare for the possibility of flooding, high winds, and potential storm surge that could come along with a tropical storm or hurricane.
Virginians are encouraged to consult the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which outlines preparedness, response, and recovery actions designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and protect public health.
The Virginia Emergency Support Team (VEST) is actively monitoring the situation and coordinating resources and information to prepare for this storm. The Virginia Emergency Operations Center (VEOC) will coordinate preparedness efforts with local, state, and federal officials.
Recommendations for Virginians
• Know your zone. Evacuation may become necessary depending on the track and severity of the storm. Review Virginia’s evacuation zones at KnowYourZoneVA.org. It is important to note that the zone colors have been updated for 2020. Users can enter their physical address in the search bar of the website to view and confirm their designated evacuation zone. If the internet or computer access is not available, call 2-1-1 to learn your zone. Residents not residing in a pre-identified evacuation zone should listen to evacuation orders from local and state emergency agencies to determine if and when to evacuate.
• Make a plan. Virginians residing in eastern and coastal Virginia should consult the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which outlines ways to prepare for both weather and pandemic-related risks. Additional planning resources are available at ready.gov/plan.
• Prepare an emergency kit. For a list of recommended emergency supplies to sustain your household before, during, and after the storm visit VAemergency.gov/emergency-kit. Given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, emergency kits should include face coverings and sanitization supplies.
• Stay informed. Virginians should follow the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for preparedness updates and their local National Weather Service office for the latest weather forecast, advisories, watches, or warnings. Download the FEMA app on your smartphone to receive mobile alerts from the National Weather Service. Power outages are always a concern during weather events—make sure you have a battery-operated radio available so you can still receive life-saving alerts.
For more information about preparing your business, your family, and your property against hurricane threats visit VAemergency.gov/hurricanes and ready.gov/hurricanes. Additional information about preparing for hurricanes during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Voters worry about voter suppression despite recent legislative changes
Despite the commonwealth recently passing a number of laws to make it easier to vote, some Virginians are concerned over voter suppression.
Michael Fauntroy, an associate professor of political science at Howard University in Washington, said political campaigns have a long history of trying to suppress Black voters.
“I think it happens in every election,” Fauntroy said. “The extent to how sophisticated an operation it is will depend on the sophistication of the campaign and the resources they have to go out and identify voters and try to discourage them from voting.”
Carlette Bailey, a Richmond resident, said she fears ballots will be lost, stolen, or disappear before they have a chance to be counted.
“My main concern is the mail-in votes and making sure they’re there on time,” Bailey said. “The votes have to come from our mailbox and be where they have to be on Election Day so they can be counted.”
The Democratic Party of Virginia recently sued the Richmond General Registrar, J. Kirk Showalter, over an effort to get a list of names whose absentee ballots were rejected because of ballot errors. The organization said they wanted to inform voters of the ballot errors and that other locality had provided similar lists.
Tony Whitehead, another Richmond resident, said he is concerned about the possibility of ballots being stolen from mailboxes by groups who want the opposing party to win.
In early October six outdoor mailboxes were broken into in Henrico and Chesterfield counties and Richmond. The United States Postal Service and Virginia Department of Elections are currently investigating the incident, but it is unknown if the mailboxes contained ballots.
“You can’t really point the finger as to whose doing it, but if my ballots are stolen, that’s voter suppression right there,” Whitehead said. “That one vote that’s been suppressed could be the difference between whom you want in office and who I want in office, and that’s just not right.”
Bailey and Whitehead are not alone. A number of Americans are concerned about their votes being accurately counted in this election. Democrats are more concerned than Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center. Forty-six percent of Democrats believe the election will be conducted fairly and accurately, while 75% of Republicans share the same sentiment.
Fauntroy said Black voters in Virginia will be subjected to less suppression than Black voters in states such as Georgia and Florida with majority Republican leadership.
“The Democratic governor, lieutenant governor, and other leadership in Virginia have been drawing enough attention to this that voters will know what’s at stake,” Fauntroy said.
The Virginia General Assembly has recently taken steps to make it easier to vote, including laws that allow no-excuse absentee voting, early voting that starts 45 days prior to an election and making Election Day a state holiday.
Legislators also passed a bill that repeals a 2013 Republican-backed law requiring a photo ID to vote. The new law also makes additional forms of identification acceptable, such as a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government documents that shows the name and address of the voter.
Fauntroy said that photo ID bills are an example of Black voter suppression.
Fauntroy said voter suppression has occurred more frequently since the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County V. Holder, which found part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. The decision struck down a formula that required certain states which had discriminatory laws, such as requiring tests to vote, to obtain federal approval before changing voting laws.
Fauntroy said that almost immediately after the ruling North Carolina moved forward with voter ID laws that would not have passed if the preclearance provisions had remained.
“In the 2014 elections, we saw a number of Republicans winning seats because of redrawn districts and voter ID laws that they would not have won,” he said.
Fauntroy said national voter suppression in this election will be a multifaceted effort coming from different levels. This could include litigation, reducing the amount of early voting locations, and moving or eliminating polling locations that could make it harder for people of color to vote.
With no formula dictating which states obtain federal review, communities or individuals who feel they are being targeted by discriminatory voting laws must file lawsuits themselves or rely on ones filed by outside advocates or the Justice Department, according to an opinion piece in The Atlantic. This often happens after laws have been passed.
Federal legislators have introduced bills to establish new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain federal approval before changing voting laws, but the measures haven’t advanced.
Local Majority, a progressive political action committee, said common voter suppression strategies include restricting absentee voting, reducing the number of polling places in a jurisdiction, and disenfranchising citizens with past criminal records.
A joint resolution introduced in the 2019 General Assembly session that would allow felons to vote was continued until the 2021 session.
Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, noted that the challenges the country faces aren’t new. The fate of the country is on the line and with that, Black voters and voices matter now more than ever, McClellan said.
“When we have gained social, political, and economic power, there has always been a swift and violent backlash, but we cannot and have not been deterred,” McClellan said. “We owe it to our ancestors, our children, and their children, to vote and help shape the future of our country because democracy and our very existence are on the ballot.”
By Brandon Shillingford
Capital News Service
Ophelia’s lifetime as a ‘dog for the ages’ immortalized by her owners
Ophelia, a black miniature pug, has died at the age of 12 years. She was deaf when my wife, Carol and I adopted her from the Julia Wagner Animal Shelter, and blind and otherwise infirm when advanced age caught up with her earlier this week.
Me: It never gets easier – 15 of my best friends to date have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to see them again someday. Or, so they say.
Carol: There’ll never be another Ophelia. She became “my dog” from the start. She was constantly in my lap and would follow me around up until her vision and hip problem made it difficult to move around. She enjoyed her life and did not hesitate to let us know when she was hungry or wanted to go to bed. I will never forget her sweet little face.
Ophelia was about 10 weeks old, and I was 75, when she was plopped into my lap on a busy Saturday morning at the Wagner Animal Shelter. The staff and I (then president of the Humane Society of Warren County) were asked by executive director Jane Johnson to foster a pet over the weekend because of shelter over-crowding. That “weekend” lasted 12 years.
At the time we adopted the pup, we had a Japanese Chin named Hamlet and were trying to come up with a name for her.
“The answer is simple: You have a Hamlet and there’s no question that you should have an Ophelia.” This suggestion came from our Rockland neighbor and friend, Susan O’Kelly, a Brit who is well versed in the volumes of England’s William Shakespeare, including the play, “Hamlet,” and Hamlet’s love for Ophelia. Hamlet, the dog, died a year or so later, his final months made more tolerable by his chunky little girlfriend.
The diminutive Ophelia made her mark in the local community by helping establish “Yappy Hour”, a fundraiser for the animal shelter, 10 years ago at Vino E Formaggio on Front Royal’s Main Street. About that time, she was “bridesmaid” to restaurant entrepreneurs Rachel and Christian Failmezger, as they strolled down Main Street to their marriage ceremony at the Gazebo. Ophelia trotted proudly behind, a well taught (by me) publicity hound.
Ophelia’s “mid-life crisis” came when our son, then Staff Sgt. Malcolm Barr, Jr., U.S. Air Force, volunteered for duty in Iraq, leaving two huskies, Alfie and Lola, in our care while serving abroad. Asserting herself as only small dogs are prone to do, she became the unchallenged head of the (canine) household, a 15-pound bundle of energy versus two 70-pound invaders of her space.
Our friend, Dr. Roger Wilkes of the U.K, remarked via e-mail following her death that Ophelia was “a great character and very much the grand dame of the canines” at our home.
Aside from her adopted parents, Ophelia leaves behind two large four-footed friends, La Diva, a Siberian Husky, and Goose, a German Shepherd mix. Diva continues as a “hostess” at the newly evolved “Yappy Hour” each Friday at the ViNoVa Tapas Restaurant on East Main Street, from 6 to 8 p.m., to raise money for the Julia Wagner Animal Shelter.
Ophelia has been immortalized in paintings by local artists Kelly Walker and Helga Heiberg, which we proudly display in our home.
R.I.P. dear Ophelia.
Lester & Mowery Pharmacy files sold to CVS; last day October 28
One of Front Royal’s better-known local businesses, Lester and Mowery Pharmacy, quietly closed its doors for the last time Wednesday afternoon, October 28, after 25 years serving the public.
Apart from a brief announcement taped to its customer entrance, no other public announcement about the closure was made. A request for an interview by a Royal Examiner reporter was gracefully declined.
Partners Scott Lester and Brian Mowery thanked customers “for allowing us to serve as your pharmacy for the last 25 years” on the three-paragraph posted message to patients. They said prescription files and related materials were being confidentially transferred to CVS Pharmacy, 800 John Marshall Highway, and that telephone calls and faxes would roll over to CVS on Thursday, October 29.
Pointing out a number of benefits for their customers, Lester said he and his partner “would be available … after the merger to answer your questions.” The benefits be described are”: CVS is open seven days a week; there is more parking; a drive-thru for easy pickup; and a rewards program.
Finally, the partners signed off with: “THANK YOU FOR THE LAST 25 YEARS!”
Governor Northam invites small businesses and nonprofits to apply for Up to $100,000 from Rebuild VA Grant Fund
Governor Ralph Northam announced on October 28, 2020, that Rebuild VA, a grant program to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, will expand eligibility criteria and increase the amount of grant money businesses receive.
Rebuild VA launched in August with $70 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Governor Northam is directing an additional $30 million to support the expansion of the program. Businesses with less than $10 million in gross revenue or fewer than 250 employees will be eligible under the new criteria, and the maximum grant award will increase from $10,000 to $100,000.
“We started Rebuild VA to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Northam. “These changes to the program will ensure that we can provide additional financial assistance to even more Virginians, so they can weather this public health crisis and emerge stronger.”
Rebuild VA will now be open to all types of Virginia small businesses that meet size and other eligibility requirements, from restaurants and summer camps to farmers and retail shops. Businesses that previously received a Rebuild VA grant will receive a second award correlated with the updated guidelines.
Rebuild VA is administered by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD) in partnership with the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Eligible businesses and nonprofits must demonstrate that their normal operations were limited by Governor Northam’s Executive Orders Fifty-Three or Fifty-Five, or that they were directly impacted by the closure of such businesses. In September, the program expanded eligibility to supply chain partners of businesses whose normal operations were impacted by the pandemic.
Rebuild VA funding may be utilized for the following eligible expenses:
• Payroll support, including paid sick, medical, or family leave, and costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during those periods of leave;
• Employee salaries;
• Mortgage payments, rent, and utilities;
• Principal and interest payments for any business loans from national or state-chartered banking, savings and loan institutions, or credit unions, that were incurred before or during the emergency;
• Eligible personal protective equipment, cleaning, and disinfecting materials, or other working capital needed to address COVID-19 response.
For additional information about Rebuild VA and how to submit an application, please visit governor.virginia.gov/RebuildVA.
Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – October 28, 2020
Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response.
- Virginia has not seen a spike in COVID-19 cases unlike other states
- Eastern Virginia had summer spike in cases
- Northern Virginia had a high number of cases
- Central Virginia had a slight increase in cases
- Southwest Virginia had the highest number of cases
- Halloween crowds are a bad idea
- Continue to social distance, wear masks, and handwashing
- More money is coming
- Workforce training program coming out soon
- Spoke about the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument
- Urged early voting
- Voting is safe in Virginia
Governor Northam signs sweeping new laws to reform policing in Virginia
October 28, 2020 – Governor Ralph Northam today announced he has signed new laws that will significantly advance police and criminal justice reform in Virginia. Governor Northam has been working closely with legislators on these measures since early summer when the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor led to a national reckoning on racial bias in policing.
“Too many families, in Virginia, and across our nation, live in fear of being hurt or killed by police,” said Governor Northam. “These new laws represent a tremendous step forward in rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. I am grateful to the legislators and advocates who have worked so hard to make this change happen. Virginia is better, more just, and more equitable with these laws on our books.”
Governor Northam took action on the following bills that reform policing:
• Governor Northam signed Senate Bill 5030, sponsored by Senator Locke, omnibus police reform legislation, which incorporates a number of critical reform measures passed by the House of Delegates:
• House Bill 5099, sponsored by Delegate Aird, prohibits law enforcement officers from seeking or executing a no-knock search warrant. With Governor Northam’s signature, Virginia becomes the third state in the nation to ban no-knock warrants.
• House Bill 5049, sponsored by Delegate Helmer, reduces the militarization of police by prohibiting law enforcement from obtaining or using specified equipment, including grenades, weaponized aircraft, and high caliber firearms. Governor Northam amended this bill to clarify that law enforcement agencies can seek a waiver to use restricted equipment for search and rescue missions.
• House Bill 5109, sponsored by Delegate Hope, creates statewide minimum training standards for law enforcement officers, including training on awareness of racism, the potential for biased profiling, and de-escalation techniques. Governor Northam made technical amendments to this bill to align it with Senate Bill 5030.
• House Bill 5104, sponsored by Delegate Price, mandates law enforcement agencies and jails to request the prior employment and disciplinary history of new hires.
• House Bill 5108, sponsored by Delegate Guzman, expands and diversifies the Criminal Justice Services Board, ensuring that the perspectives of social justice leaders, people of color, and mental health providers are represented in the state’s criminal justice policymaking.
• House Bill 5051, sponsored by Delegate Simon, strengthens the process by which law enforcement officers can be decertified and allows the Criminal Justice Services Board to initiate decertification proceedings.
• House Bill 5069, sponsored by Delegate Carroll Foy, limits the circumstances in which law enforcement officers can use neck restraints.
• House Bill 5029, sponsored by Delegate McQuinn, requires law enforcement officers to intervene when they witness another officer engaging or attempting to engage in the use of excessive force.
• House Bill 5045, sponsored by Delegate Delaney, makes it a Class 6 felony for law enforcement officers to “carnally know” someone they have arrested or detained, an inmate, parolee, probationer, pretrial defendant, or post-trial offender if the officer is in a position of authority over such individual.
• Governor Northam signed House Bill 5055 and Senate Bill 5035, sponsored by Leader Herring and Senator Hashmi, respectively, which empower localities to create civilian law enforcement review boards. These new laws also permit civilian review boards the authority to issue subpoenas and make binding disciplinary decisions.
• Governor Northam signed Senate Bill 5014, sponsored by Senator Edwards, which mandates the creation of minimum crisis intervention training standards and requires law enforcement officers to complete crisis intervention training.
Governor Northam also took action on the following bills that make Virginia’s criminal justice system more equitable:
• Governor Northam signed Senate Bill 5018, sponsored by Senator Bell, which allows individuals serving a sentence for certain felony offenses who are terminally ill to petition the Parole Board for conditional release.
• Governor Northam amended House Bill 5148 and Senate Bill 5034, sponsored by Delegate Scott and Senator Boysko, respectively, which allow for increased earned sentencing credits. The Governor proposed a six-month delay to give the Department of Corrections sufficient time to implement this program.
“The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery woke Americans to a longstanding problem that has existed for generations—and we know Virginia is not immune,” said Senator Mamie Locke. “These are transformative bills that will make Virginians’ lives better, and I’m so proud to see them signed into law.”
“Today is about progress,” said Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “After generations of work on this issue, we are finally taking steps to hold police accountable and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. It’s a new day in Virginia.”
Governor Northam also signed measures to support COVID-19 relief. A full list of legislation signed by the Governor from the Special Session can be found here.