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2017-6-6

Charlie Alexander Clarke

Charlie Alexander Clarke, age 91, of Triplet, VA passed away June 4, 2017.  Charlie was a sawmill worker and farmer.  He was in the U.S. Army and a volunteer fireman with Triplet Volunteer Fire Department.  He is preceded in death by his parents, Peter A. and Ethel N. Clarke; his brother, James Clarke; and his sister, Rosa Powell.  He is survived by his wife, Doris Philips Clarke; four children Connie Morris, Steve Clarke and wife Teresa, Barry Clarke and wife Cathy, and Missy Whitlow and husband Giles; his grandchildren, Rebecca Clarke, Jennifer Robertson, Jessica Morris, Charles “Chuck” Whitlow, Scott Clarke, D.C. Morris and Kristen Clarke and their spouses; his five great grandchildren, Christopher, Jayden, Grace, Ava Clarke and Scotty; his sister Minnie Washburn; and numerous nieces and nephews.  Funeral services will be conducted 3:00 p.m. Tuesday at Philadelphia United Methodist Church, Triplet, VA with interment in the church cemetery.  The family will receive friends Tuesday from 2:00 pm 3:00 p.m. at the church prior to the service.  Memorial contributions may be made to Philadelphia United Methodist Church attn: Gay Taylor, 14179 Dry Bread Rd., Emporia, VA  23847.  Williams Funeral Home, Lawrenceville will be handling the arrangements.

New law will expand business development sites

By DeForrest Ballou, VCU Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The commonwealth, and especially its rural areas, may get an economic boost under legislationsigned into law this week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

At a ceremony with the legislation’s sponsors and the state’s secretary of commerce, McAuliffe signed two bills reducing the size of industrial sites that qualify for assistance from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Currently, such plots of land must be at least 250 acres, which can be a challenge to find particularly in Virginia’s rural areas and the Appalachian region. The size requirement will drop to 100 acres under Senate Bill 976 and House Bill 1591, which McAuliffe signed Thursday at the state Capitol.

“Our goal is that every part of Virginia experiences Virginia’s job renaissance,” McAuliffe said.

Under the new law, which will take effect July 1, the number of sites that the VEDP can develop will increase from about 80 to more than 250.

“This opens up all the communities. The more sites we have ready, the more businesses we can bring in,” McAuliffe said.

The bills are part of the New Virginia Economy Initiative that McAuliffe introduced in 2014. At Thursday’s ceremony, Virginia Secretary of Commerce Todd Haymore boasted of the program’s successes.

So far, the initiative has brought in almost $16 billion in capital investment and almost 190,000 jobs to Virginia, Haymore said. Moreover, the state’s unemployment rate stands at 3.8 percent. That is the lowest since 1973, Haymore said. The national unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in April.

The governor’s goal is for capital investment to reach $20 billion before his term ends in January. The resulting economic development projects will benefit the state for years to come, McAuliffe said.

The bills had bipartisan support: HB 1591was sponsored by Democratic Del. Matthew James of Portsmouth, and SB 976was carried by Republican Sen. Emmett Hanger of Augusta County. Both measures won unanimous approval from the General Assembly during its 2017 session.

“This bill is what we should have been doing a long time ago, and it really puts us in a proactive stance,” James said, adding, “We’re not done yet.”

While the legislation may spur economic development in rural areas, that is not its sole purpose. McAuliffe said he hopes the state’s incentives will draw companies like Nestlé, which will be moving operations to Rosslyn, in Northern Virginia, and bringing 750 jobs.

The bills changed just one number and one word in existing law, including fixing a typo (turning “esource” into “resource”).

“It was a very short piece of legislation, so I’ll make short remarks,” Hanger said. “Sometimes the short pieces of legislation that senators and delegates read are the hardest to get through, because they know what they’re voting for.”

He hopes the new law will promote the growth of small businesses in Virginia.

“When we look at economic development in the commonwealth, we see that year in and year out, and where we really put our bread and butter, is small development – not the bigger sites, but those small entrepreneurs,” Hanger said.

In need or a scam? Video sparks debate over panhandlers

By Devon Eifel, VCU Capital News Service

A video of a woman seeking handouts at an intersection in Henrico County has sparked a national debate over whether panhandlers’ pleas for help can be trusted.

In the Facebook Live video, two men accused Micha Dominguez, 40, of falsely portraying herself as disabled and homeless. The video, titled “Fake Homeless Woman,” has received hundreds of thousands of views on social media. Many people have posted comments accusing Dominguez of scamming potential donors.

“She’s playing on people’s emotions and getting money under false pretenses!” one woman wrote on Facebook.

But advocates for the homeless caution that people shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Although some panhandlers may be scams, it’s impossible to know by looking at someone on the street, Kelly Horne said.

Horne is the executive director atHomeward, a collaborative organization whose mission is to get homeless people off the streets of Richmond by locating affordable housing, reuniting people with their families and assigning case managers to those in need of services.

Asked how the Dominguez video might shape the perception of those already skeptical of giving money to panhandlers, Horne replied, “It’s important to remember not all panhandlers are homeless, and not all homeless people are panhandlers.”

Homeward conducts a census and collects data on the demographics of Richmond’s homeless population twice a year. TheJanuary snapshot found that only 20 percent of the city’s homeless reported participating in some form of panhandling.

Horne suggests that if you are uncomfortable giving money, there are other ways to help people on the street. “A good place to start is by simply acknowledging their existence.”

She said offering to buy a bus ticket or meal is just as beneficial. Ultimately, Horne said, if you feel guilty for not giving money to panhandlers, consider supporting local agencies that focus on serving the homeless.

“Panhandlers are very much human like the rest of us,” Horne added. She citedChris Parker, 33, a homeless man who was panhandling outside the arena in Manchester, England, at the time of the terrorist bombing following an Ariana Grande concert on Monday.

Parker was hailed as a hero after dashing into the arena to help victims of the explosion, which killed 22 people. More than £90,000, the equivalent of $115,000, has been raised through online fundraising websites to support Parker.

The videoof Dominguez received the opposite reaction, which was overwhelmingly unsympathetic.

The video, taken on Sunday, shows Dominguez holding a sign and asking for money in the median at an intersection on Broad Street. She then returned to her car, a late-model Fiat, in the parking lot of a nearby fast-food restaurant. There, the men shooting the video confronted her. “Stop stealing people’s money,” one man told Dominguez. “You’re not homeless.”

On Monday, in a separate altercation, a motorist told police that Dominguez had thrown three full bottles of Gatorade at a vehicle. As a result, Dominguez was arrested and charged with three felony counts of launching missiles into traffic.

David Stock, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Henrico County, has been assigned to prosecute Dominguez. Stock said county ordinances do not prohibit panhandling. However, if the person asking for money is being aggressive or threatening others, it becomes a public safety issue.

Dominguez was being held in the Henrico County Jail. Bail has been set at $3,000. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 10.

New law paves way for delivery robots

By Alexander P. Crespo, VCU Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Having your groceries delivered by a robot sounds like something out of The Jetsons, but that prospect is not as futuristic as you may think.

For the second year in a row, the Virginia General Assembly has passed a law to legalize the operation of autonomous vehicles. Beginning July 1, “electric personal delivery devices” will be allowed to operate on sidewalks and other shared-use paths throughout Virginia.

A leading manufacturer of EPDDs is Starship Technologies, a robotics company started by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis of Estonia. Starship is testing its robots in a number of European countries including England, Germany and Switzerland. In March, the company opened an office in Washington, D.C., and is operating the vehicles there.

State Sen. Bill DeSteph of Virginia Beach says he saw an opportunity to update existing Virginia laws to accommodate Starship’s delivery robots after being contacted by one of the company’s lobbyists.

“I did some research … and I told her, ‘I would love to make some legislation. This is cool,’” DeSteph said. Other members of the General Assembly must have thought the technology was cool, too: The Senate billand its House counterpartpassed with near-unanimous votes.

The new law is a continuation of efforts DeSteph began in the 2016 legislative session. That year, motivated by the rapid pace of technological advancements, he sponsored a lawto allow for the operation of autonomous vehicles on roads.

“In the ’70s, you had cruise control,” DeSteph said. “In the ’90s, you had dynamic cruise control that wouldn’t let your car crash into the car in front of you.” He called autonomous vehicles “just another evolutionary step in these technologies.”

According to a recent press release, Starship’s EPDDs are designed to deliver goods during the last few miles in both urban and suburban areas.

The robots resemble a cooler on wheels. They can hold up to 22 pounds, have a two-hour battery life and operate within a three-mile radius of their home location. They are approximately 27 inches long, 22 inches wide and 22 inches tall and are limited to speeds of 4 mph.

To avoid running into people and other obstacles, a delivery robot uses a combination of nine cameras mounted on its body, GPS and computer vision to see where it’s going.

Because they move relatively slowly, Starship’s robots won’t operate in the streets. Instead, they will instead use sidewalks to get around. The company says its EPDDs will adjust their speed to match the walking speed of pedestrians. However, some people are worried that the delivery robots will clutter the pavement.

“My concerns are, who else uses the sidewalk?” says Harry Hylan, a maintenance supervisor in Richmond for Weinstein Properties. “People, dogs, wheelchairs, bicycles, skateboarders – that’s my only issue.”

At the same time, though, Hylan says he’s interested in what the technology has to offer. “I order a lot of stuff on Amazon, and I’ve just recently been considering ordering food items from them, too.”

If Starship can make sure its robots aren’t hogging the sidewalks, Hylan says he would definitely make use of their delivery services.

With the legal barrier to operation out of the way, Starship can now begin more extensive testing and deployment of its EPDDs in Virginia.

“I don’t know where they’ll go or when,” DeSteph said. “But Virginia’s ready for them.”

Hundreds attend service for slain officer

By Coleman Jennings, VCU Capital News Service

POWHATAN, Va. – Hundreds of people, including the governor and police officers from across the country, attended a “celebration of life” Saturday for Virginia State Police Special Agent Michael Timothy Walter, praising his work with disadvantaged youth.

The service for Walter, who was shot and killed while investigating a suspicious vehicle in Richmond last week, drew a large crowd to Powhatan High School. Walter was a Powhatan County resident and active in the community.

“I’ve never seen this many people for a funeral,” said Larry Kessler, a friend of Walter’s. More than half of the attendees were fellow law enforcement officers and first responders from as far away as Colorado and Maine.

The tearful crowd packed into the school gymnasium to hear from some of Walter’s closest friends, as well as from Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

“We’re here today to offer our gratitude and compassion for Special Agent Mike Walter,” McAuliffe said. He noted that this is the fourth funeral in his tenure that he has attended for a slain state trooper.

Walter, who was 45 years old and an 18-year veteran of the Virginia State Police, was fatally shot May 26 in Mosby Court, a public housing project in Richmond’s East End, following an altercation. Walter was taken to VCU Medical Center, where he died around 5 a.m. the following morning.

Walter served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was a combat veteran of Operation Desert Storm. He is survived by his wife, Jamie, and their three children.

Besides working for the Virginia State Police, Walter was a wrestling coach and started a nonprofit organization – the Powhatan Youth Wrestling and Community Development Corp. – to serve disadvantaged youths in Powhatan. Friends and associates from the Blackhawk Gym, where the nonprofit is based, spoke at the service.

“He had a God-given gift,” said Richard Fitzsimmons, holding back tears. He recalled Walter’s drive and determination to inspire those around him to achieve success.

“Mike’s motives were pure. He wanted to be the best at everything, and he sought to bring those around him to the same level,” added Rob McMillin, a board member of Blackhawk Gym. “He pursued excellence with a manic discipline.”

Capt. Steven Chumley of the Virginia State Police gave the eulogy for Walter and offered closing remarks. “This is the hard part for us,” he said. “We must finish what Mike started.”

Authorities have arrested Travis Ball, 27, in connection with Walter’s death. He is being held at the Richmond City Jail.

Slain officer’s nonprofit organization

On its website, the Powhatan Youth Wrestling and Community Development Corp. explains that it is “dedicated to promoting, fostering and mentoring kids involved in our club and community to become solid citizens. We achieve this stated goal by teaching and demanding high standards of character, integrity, and making the right choices in life. We strive to instill physical health, sportsmanship, self-confidence, self-esteem and strong values of dedication, persistence, hard work, and honesty.”

“As a community we realize that young kids make mistakes and require parents and community organizations, such as ours to assist in teaching kids the values and skills necessary to overcome mistakes,” the organization’s mission statement reads. “We in Powhatan Youth Wrestling and Community Development Corporation strive to help kids reach their full potential in life, school and in competition.”

How to help

You can make a donation to the Walter family by contributing to the Virginia State Police Association’s Emergency Relief Fund(http://vspa.org/initiatives/emergency-relief-fund). Put “Walter’s Family” in the memo section.

The Powhatan Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization is collecting donations for Jaime Walter, the slain agent’s widow. A list of items that you can donate is on the Powhatan Elementary PTO’s Facebook page.

Ninth Annual Corrections Awards Banquet Held at SVCC

Southside Virginia Community College recently held the Ninth Annual Corrections Awards Banquet at the Christanna Campus.  The event recognized Officer and Employee of the Year for each of the area correctional centers.  Lawrenceville Correctional Center (GEO) sponsored the event and trophies.  Those recognized are (Front Row, Left to Right) Officer Michael W. Hatcher, Halifax Correctional Unit #23, Officer Joshua Affronti, Nottoway Correctional Center, Officer Lisa Williams, Lawrenceville Correctional Center, Katrina Allen, Lawrenceville, Alfonzo Seward, Administration of Justice Program, SVCC, Officer Rebecca Kindred, Deerfield Correctional Center, Linda Smith, Buckingham Correctional Center, Brenda Richards, Lunenburg Correctional Center, (Back Row, L to R) Larry Edmonds, Guest Speaker, Warden of Dillwyn Correctional Center, Sergeant Terrell Eppes, Buckingham Correctional Center, Arthur Byrd, Nottoway, Sandra Vass, Halifax, Lieutenant Tonya Clary, Lunenburg, Astrid Woodson, Dillwyn, Sergeant Duane Parrish, Dillwyn, Kelly Owens, Baskerville Correctional Center.  Not pictured are Officer Paul Arthur, Baskerville, Teresa Porrovecchio of Deerfield, Lieutenant Jerry McKnight and Joyce Johnson of Greensville Correctional Center.

Warden Tammy C. Brown and Assistant Warden Jo Ann Hasley-Hsrris of Deerfield Correctional Center withOfficer Rebecca Kindred, Officer of the Year and Alfonzo Seward, SVCC.   Teresa Porrovecchio is Employee of the Year but could not attend.

Mr. Larry Edmonds, Warden of Dillwyn Correctional Center, is shown with Alfonzo Seward, Program Director for Administration of Justice at Southside Virginia Community College.  Edmonds was the guest speak at the Ninth Annual Corrections Awards Banquet held at SVCC and sponsored by Lawrenceville Correctional Center.

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