Attention Readers: Emporia News is experiencing a major computer failure. Limited updates will continue and major updates will resume as soon as the computer is repaired or replaced.

In addition the email address news@emporianews.com is not working at the current time. Please send all correspondence to emporianews2@gmail.com until futher notice.

Send news tips, story ideas and advertising questions to emporianews2@gmail.com.

Emporia News is best read in LANDSCAPE view on Mobile Devices. Please rotate your phone or tablet.

Current Weather Conditions

 
Seven Day Forecast for Emporia, Virginia
 

Community Calendar Sponsored By...

 

December 2019

SVCC Chorus Will Present MESSIAH Part II for Spring Concert

The Southside Virginia Community College Chorus is inviting all music lovers and singers to join this group. The  first rehearsal for the spring will be held on Sunday, January 19, 2020 from 6:00 - 8:00PM at the South Hill Presbyterian Church. 

All rehearsals are on Sundays, 6:00 – 8:00 PM.  except February 2 which will be from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. and some possible extended rehearsals leading up to the Spring Concerts. 

The concerts are widely received and venues are consistently packed by enthusiastic audiences. Many may want to be a part of this organization, not only for its wide acceptance, but because you simply love to sing!  Spring concerts will be on April 18 and 19, with string ensemble with one performance in Lawrenceville as part of the ArtBank of Southside Virginia’s offerings.

The Messiah, part II, by George Frederick Handel (1685 – 1759) is the selection including scenes of the Passion story and Resurrection to include “Hallelujah.”  The text is purely Biblical,  carefully assembled by Charles Jennens in (1740-41).   Handel wrote the entire Oratorio in two weeks and this is the only piece of music to be performed continuously every year since 1742 a fact that might entice singers to join the legacy.

Your voice; just as each violin, trumpet, and flute, in an orchestra; can become a part of this glorious ensemble by simply coming to rehearsals each week on Sunday evenings. Through vocal techniques and gentle understanding, your natural voice will be brought forward, drawing out your inner song. Find your gift, your voice, your instrument, by becoming a part of this joyful ensemble with Carol Henderson, Director, and Sally Tharrington, Pianist.

Our partial support from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts (The Arts Endowment) for 2019-2020 season is a proud sign of our continuing effort to bring the best of the arts to the community. We are committed to our singers, to our audiences, and to the communities in Southside Virginia and appreciate continued support from the SVCC Foundation.

For information, contact Carol Henderson at 919-602-0462.

More Pedestrians Are Dying on Virginia’s Roads

 

By Kelly Booth and Judi Dalati, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — On a Friday night in October, Katelyn Tilts was walking to a convenience store with a group of friends when she saw headlights coming at her.

“A car came around the corner really quickly and was swerving. The driver was swerving but started going directly at me and hit me head-on,” Tilts later told WTVR. “I remember thinking that it hurt so bad that I didn’t know how I would be able to make it until the ambulance got there.”

The hit-and-run incident left Tilts, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, hospitalized and on crutches. She survived, but many pedestrians hit by vehicles do not.

According to data from the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles, 123 pedestrians died on the state’s roads in 2018 — the highest death toll in 10 years. 2019 also has been deadly: Preliminary figures show that at least 120 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in the commonwealth last year.

Not only are more pedestrians being killed, but they also are making up a greater proportion of all traffic fatalities:

§  In 2015, 10% of the people killed in roadway accidents in Virginia were pedestrians.

§  That figure jumped to 16% the following year. Last year, it was 15%, according to VDOT and DMV data.

“The vast, overwhelming majority of people who die on our streets are killed by drivers of cars,” noted Ross Catrow, executive director of RVA Rapid Transit, an advocacy group for regional public transportation.

“And the further sad truth is that these deaths and serious injuries often go unnoticed, underreported, and, even worse, usually nothing is done to build better streets and make them safer for people,” Catrow wrote on Streets Cred, his website about urban issues affecting mid-sized American cities.

Catrow has pointed out that some people say pedestrians are at fault for the rising number of traffic accidents. He rejects that notion.

“I’m so ultra-tired of engineers, elected officials and everyone else blaming ‘distracted pedestrians’ for the increase in injuries on our roads,” he said on his “Good Morning, RVA” podcast.

Catrow advocates traffic-calming measures such as painted curb bulbs and posts that can narrow intersections, increase visibility and slow down drivers to prevent pedestrian accidents.

Some people blame elderly drivers for causing accidents. But 25% of the motorists involved in traffic accidents that have killed pedestrians since 2013 were in their 20s — and half of them were under 40. About 22% of the drivers involved in pedestrian fatalities were 60 and older.

Ralph Aronberg, a traffic engineer consultant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said some people in their early 20s have poor driving habits.

“Drivers in that age group are more likely to use social media such as Instagram on their cellphone, are more likely to have groups in vehicles leading to distractions and are less likely to realize the consequences of taking their eyes off the road,” he said.

Aronberg, whose firm focuses on accident reconstructions, said people in their early 20s are also more likely to drive at night, drink and drive, or be under the influence of THC or other mind-altering substances while operating a car.

Pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in Virginia since 2013 have ranged in age from infants to 96. About a third of the victims were under 30; slightly over a third in their 40s and 50s; and the rest 60 or older.

Since 2013, Fairfax has had the most pedestrian deaths — more than 80, according to VDOT data. Then come Henrico County (43), Norfolk (40), Richmond (31) and Newport News (27).

The roads with the most pedestrian fatalities during that time period were:

  • Jefferson Avenue, Newport News — seven
  • Route 11, Washington County — three
  • South Street, Front Royal — three
  • Southbound Route 288, Goochland County — three
  • Chamberlayne Avenue, Richmond — three

Weather was not a factor in most pedestrian deaths.

“Most vehicle-pedestrian accidents happen in good weather,” said Daniel Vomhof, a traffic safety expert in California and a member of the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstructionists.

More than 85% of the pedestrian fatalities in Virginia happened in clear or cloudy weather conditions, the VDOT data showed. About 13% occurred in rain, mist or fog, and 1% in snowy weather.

To stay safe, Vomhof recommends that pedestrians wear white or reflective shoes at night and light-colored clothing that doesn’t blend in with the surroundings.

“Visibility increases when the object is in eye contrast to the background,” Vomhof said.

About the data in this report

The data for this project was downloaded from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Virginia Crashes | Virginia Roads website. It covers every vehicle crash in the state from 2013 to July of this year.

The data set contains more than 828,000 records. We filtered it for pedestrian accidents (about 11,000) and then for fatal pedestrian accidents (660).

We analyzed the data using Microsoft Excel, aggregating the data by locality, weather conditions and other columns in the spreadsheet.

We also used the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle’s online “Traffic Crash Data” tool to confirm and refine our analysis. We also ensured that the numbers were consistent with those published in the DMV’s report, 2018 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts.

James L. “Jimmy” Ozmar, Jr.

October 31, 1968-December 29-2019

Visitation Services

5-7 p.m. Wednesday, January 1

Owen Funeral Home
303 S. Halifax Rd
Jarratt, Virginia

11 a.m. Thursday, January 2

High Hills Cemetery

James L. “Jimmy” Ozmar, Jr., 51, passed away Sunday, December 29, 2019. He was the son of the late James Leland Ozmar and Brenda Poarch Ozmar.

Jimmy is survived by his wife, Doris S. Ozmar; two sons, James L. Ozmar, III (Reese Vick) and Thomas K. Ozmar; sister, Robin O. Scott (Perry); aunts, Jean Tucker (Dennis) and Kathy Harrell (Melvin) and a loving extended family.

The family will receive friends 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, January 1 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd, Jarratt, Virginia. The funeral service will be held graveside 11 a.m. Thursday, January 2 at High Hills Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Lebanon United Methodist Church, c/o Lou Harrell 25123 Blue Star Hwy, Jarratt, Virginia 23867 or to High Hills Baptist Church, P. O. Box 296, Jarratt, Virginia 23867.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

US Foods Prepares Special Luncheon for Jackson-Feild

 

Resident helps two US Food’s personnel prepare lunch.

US Foods has been supplying food for Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services. Kim Harper, District Manager and Suzanne Vandeventer, Senior Territory Manager work closely with Mary Griffith, Director of Food Services, to ensure that the dietary needs of the children are being met.

In addition, they have helped provide special meals and activities. On several occasions visiting chefs from US Foods have worked side-by-side with residents to prepare a special meal.

This Christmas Kim  and Suzanne enlisted the help of Hormel Foods and Gilbert Foods to provide the food products to prepare a very special holiday luncheon for the children and staff.

Residents worked side by side with US Foods volunteers to prepare and serve lunch which consisted of a variety of sausages, cold cut sandwiches with lemon tart and peanut butter and jelly tarts as dessert.

The residents were elated to have something special for lunch. One of the residents, Jouney, aspires to be a chef and he welcomed the opportunity to work with food service professionals to prepare this special meal. Special efforts were made to focus on the presentation of the food. One of the US Food’s personnel noted that presentation is like art and told Journey that he was Picasso.

Jackson-Feild is gratified to have friends, like US Foods, who recognize the importance of its mission and reach out to help them help their children

2019 VCU Health System Star Service Award Recipient Joanne Bedford, VCU Health CMH Chaplain

Joanne Bedford, VCU Health CMH Chaplain and Star Service Award Recipient

VCU Health recently recognized Joanne Bedford, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital Chaplain, with the 2019 VCU Health System Star Service Award.  Joanne received one of only four awards given to a select few of employees whom had shown outstanding service throughout the year.

During the award presentation it was stated that Joanne received this prestigious award for the amazing care that she provides every day to hospital and hospice patients.  Joanne is an attentive listener and gives patients the opportunity to share their fears, doubts, concerns, and other issues that may be on their mind while they are in the hospital.

With her infinite faith she inspires to give others strength, hope, and a desire to get well or the courage to face whatever the doctor may share with them about their illness.  Joanne is seen as a dedicated and loving person, not only to patients but to the team at VCU Health CMH.

Back in October a fellow team member passed away and Joanne knew many team members were struggling with the loss.  She pulled everyone together in a team report room and had a prayer, moment of silence and then had everyone share a quick memory about the team member.  People entered the room crying and broken but left with a smile!  That is Joanne.  

Her smile is contagious and her heart is filled with a desire to help others with whatever their needs are. She leads by example every day and her exemplary Star Service is visible at all times whether in the hall, in a patient’s room, in the cafeteria, at a community event, or elsewhere.

Joanne has been with VCU Health CMH since 2012 and during her time at the hospital she has touched many lives.  God led Joanne to becoming a Pastor and as result, she made her life a blessing to others in so many wonderful ways that she demonstrates daily.

Tags: 

Nine Traffic Deaths in Five Days on Virginia's Highways

RICHMOND, Va. - With increased traffic volumes on Virginia's roadways anticipated for the remainder of the week and throughout the weekend, the Virginia State Police is encouraging all drivers to increase their attention to safe driving. Since Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, through midnight Christmas day, Dec. 25, 2019, nine people lost their lives in six traffic crashes on Virginia's highways. 

 The six reported crashes occurred in Goochland, Loudoun, Richmond and Rockingham counties, and the cities of Chesapeake and Newport News. Three died in the Goochland County crash and two died in the Rockingham County crash. The Newport News crash claimed the life of a pedestrian. Half of the crashes occurred on Christmas Eve day. 

The state police are reminding all drivers to be alert and drive distraction free at all times while behind the wheel. Sharing the road responsibly with pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycles, complying with speed limits, driving sober and always wearing a seat belt are required by law of all drivers in Virginia. 

Year to date, preliminary data reports 800 adults, teenagers and children have been killed in traffic crashes across Virginia. Alert and safe drivers can help keep this number from increasing within the final days of 2019.

How Fast Must You Go to Draw a Speeding Ticket?

 

By Erica Mokun and Catalina Currier, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — “Nine you’re fine, ten you’re mine.”

A Reddit user recently quoted that saying in an online discussion about speeding in Virginia. The conventional wisdom is that you probably won’t get ticketed unless you’re going at least 10 mph over the speed limit.

Is that true? Pretty much, according to an analysis of speeding tickets processed in General District Courts across Virginia last year.

Almost 98% of the tickets involved going 10 or more miles an hour over the limit. Even where the posted limit was 35 mph or less, 97% of the speeding tickets were issued to people accused of exceeding the limit by at least 10 mph. The average speeder was going 17 mph over the limit.

Now, we’re not suggesting you should have a lead foot while driving. As the Reddit user noted, “Technically anything over the limit is illegal.” But statistically, if you’re speeding only by single digits, you’re unlikely to draw a ticket, the data indicate.

Of the approximately 590,000 speeding cases handled by General District Courts in 2018:

  •  About 13,750 involved going less than 10 mph over the limit. Forty of those cases involved going less than 5 mph over the limit.
  •  About 174,000 involved going 10-14 mph over the limit.
  •  About 283,000 involved going 15-19 mph over the limit.
  •  More than 118,000 involved going 20 or more miles per hour over the limit — which is one definition of reckless driving in Virginia.

The cases include 98,000 drivers who were going more than 80 mph, another definition of reckless driving that is grounds for being charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Going 80 mph would be slow by the standards of some Virginia drivers. Seventeen defendants in General District Court were accused of going at least 130 mph — and 2,135 were charged with going 100-129 mph.

Driving like that can be expensive: More than 1,050 defendants were fined at least $1,000 — including about 150 who had to pay $2,500 or more. The average fine, including court costs, was about $190.

For safety and financial reasons, motorists should slow down, said Karen Rice, who has operated a driving school in Richmond for 19 years.

Her business, called The Driving School Inc., offers eight-hour driver improvement classes for court, DMV and voluntary purposes. Rice said registration typically spikes in December.

“After the holidays, business will be booming because of all the tickets written in this season, as well as people procrastinating because of the holidays,” Rice said.

Rice explained why she thinks many drivers go too fast: “I feel the majority of people speed because they are running late and just are not paying attention.”

Besides driving school, people accused of reckless driving may need a lawyer to help them in court. A conviction can have a significant impact on a person’s driving record and car insurance, said Will Smith, an attorney at the Bowen Ten Cardani law firm.

He noted that reckless driving, as a Class 1 misdemeanor, is a criminal offense. When drivers understand that, “they realize that that is something that they don’t want on their record,” Smith said.

About the data used in this report

For this report, we downloaded data on all criminal cases filed in 2018 in General District Courts throughout Virginia. The data had been scraped from the state’s court system by Ben Schoenfeld, a software engineer in Hampton Roads, and posted on an open website.

The entire data set included more than 2 million records. From this file, we extracted and analyzed the approximately 590,000 cases involving speeding. We examined how fast the driver was going, the speed limit, the fine imposed and other aspects of the cases.

We did the analysis — which involved sorting, filtering and summarizing the speeding data — with Microsoft Access and Excel.

Sex Ed Is Key to Reducing Teen Pregnancy, Advocates Say

By Hannah Eason and Emma North, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — In the early 2000s, Martinsville, a city of about 13,000 near the North Carolina line, had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Virginia. In a typical year, nearly 75 of every 1,000 teenage girls got pregnant.

More than a decade ago, the school opened a teen health clinic, which provides birth control and treats sexually transmitted infections. Since then, the city’s teen pregnancy rate has plummeted.

“It’s just been amazing because I’ve seen success,” said Beth Holyfield, the clinic’s health coordinator. “I think everybody was a little nervous about it because it was Bible Belt area, you know, offering birth control for children.”

Under the federal Title IX program, the Martinsville High School Teen Health Clinic can treat STIs and provide birth control without notifying the student’s parents. Holyfield and two nurse practitioners don’t discuss abortion, but they do routine checks on student weight and blood pressure and administer prescriptions.

According to new data from the Virginia Department of Health, among the state’s 133 localities, Martinsville ranked 16th in teen pregnancy rates in 2018. For every 1,000 teen girls, there were about 21 pregnancies.

Martinsville’s increased access to sex education and contraception coincided with the drop in the city’s teen pregnancy rate. Experts say preaching abstinence over other methods — Virginia’s official policy — has been ineffective. States with more schools teaching contraceptive methods tend to have lower teen pregnancy rates.

Localities vary widely in teen pregnancy rates

Virginia’s teen pregnancy rate in 2017 was 15 pregnancies for every 1,000 teenage girls, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirteen states had a lower teen pregnancy rate than Virginia’s. Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut all had fewer than nine pregnancies per 1,000 teenage girls.

Within Virginia, the rates vary widely, according to data obtained by Capital News Service from the Virginia Department of Health through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The data showed the number of pregnancies for every 1,000 adolescent girls in each city and county of Virginia. That way, it’s possible to compare localities regardless of population.

Petersburg, 30 miles south of Richmond, had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state in 2018: about 44 pregnancies for every 1,000 teenage girls.

Norton, a city at the southwest tip of Virginia, was second with 35 pregnancies per 1,000 teenage girls. Lancaster County, along the Chesapeake Bay, followed at about 30 pregnancies per 1,000 adolescent girls.

The cities of Roanoke, Richmond and Hopewell all had rates around 25 pregnancies for every 1,000 teen girls.

Sex education is optional in Virginia

Under the Virginia Standards of Learning, the state’s public school curriculum, schools in the commonwealth may teach sex education but are not required to do so. State law requires an emphasis on abstinence, but the SOL curriculum also includes recommendations for teaching about contraception and condom usage.

More than 90% of Virginia schools teach abstinence. Fewer than 40% of the state’s high schools teach contraceptive methods recommended by the CDC, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, or SIECUS.

Virginia Department of Education spokesperson Charles Pyle says the curriculum is designed to promote parental involvement and help students cope with peer pressure during developing stages.

Pyle said classes “include age-appropriate instruction in family living and community relationships, abstinence education, the value of postponing sexual activity, the benefits of adoption as a positive choice in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, human sexuality and human reproduction.”

Dr. Samuel Campbell, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Virginia Physicians for Women health-care service, says pregnant teens need more than that.

Pregnant teenagers encounter a specific set of problems because of limited resources and support, Campbell said.

“They have difficulty with transportation. They frequently will seek care later because they are afraid to tell their parents (or) family. They have to continue with their schooling,” Campbell said. “And they have to deal with the social stigma of being a teen mom.”

Most states require sex ed

Thirty-two states require schools to teach sex education, according to the most recent statistics from SIECUS. Eighteen states — including Virginia — do not.

There are seven types of recommended contraception: the birth control pill, patch, ring and shot; implants; intrauterine devices; and emergency contraception. In 2017, no states reported that all of their schools were teaching about all seven methods as well as how to properly use a condom.

According to SIECUS, 19 states reported more than half of school districts teaching students about a variety of contraceptive methods. Fifteen of those states had teen pregnancy rates below the national average of 18 pregnancies per every 1,000 adolescent girls.

Of the 10 states with the lowest teen pregnancy rates, eight required sex ed in all school districts. They include New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Minnesota, which had pregnancy rates under 15 per 1,000 teenage girls.

The six states with the lowest teen pregnancy rates — Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey and Rhode Island — reported that three quarters of their schools taught students how to use a condom.

On the other hand, of the 10 states with the highest teen pregnancy rate, seven do not require sex ed in schools. Those states include Arkansas, Texas and Alabama.

Nationwide, 89% of school districts teach abstinence, which recommends that teens put off having sex until marriage. Many schools teach both abstinence and contraceptive methods. That is the case in New Jersey and New Hampshire, where teen pregnancy is below the national average.

Dr. Elizabeth Broderick, a pediatrician in Newport News, calls abstinence education “insufficient information.”

“Abstinence is an excellent way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections,” Broderick said. “But eventually, many people choose to become sexually active, and they should have accurate and complete information so they can make the best decision that fits their beliefs and values.”

Broderick says long-acting and reversible contraceptives are generally best for adolescents, but they can be hard to get.

“Access to contraception is difficult for most teenagers,” Broderick said. “Education about anatomy, physiology, contraception, sexually transmitted infections and consent is appropriate at school and at home.”

‘Educate them on the facts’ to make good decisions

The CDC’s teen pregnancy prevention guidelines say implants and intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are the most effective and reversible birth control methods. Broderick says these are more difficult to obtain than condoms or spermicide because they require a trip to the doctor and a prescription.

Dr. Natalie Dogal, an OB-GYN with Virginia Physicians for Women, said talking about contraception is important for preventing teen pregnancy. She said she discusses contraceptive options with all her teen patients.

“They tend to have heard good or bad stories from friends, parents or from reading online, and I like to educate them on the facts to help them make good contraceptive decisions,” Dogal said.

According to SIECUS, about 40% of male and female high school students nationwide report having had sexual intercourse.

Nationally, the teen pregnancy rate has decreased in recent decades. According to data from the CDC, the rates dropped by 50% from 2005 to 2017.

Nearly a third of teen moms reported not using contraceptives because they didn’t think they could get pregnant. Another quarter of teen moms reported that their partners did not want to use contraception.

“Many teenagers think they are invincible,” Dogal said. “That includes thinking they will never be the one who gets pregnant or gets an STI.”

Resources for Teen Mothers in Virginia

The Virginia Department of Health has resources for first-time teen mothers. In the “Resource Mothers” program, a community health worker develops a supportive mentoring relationship with the teen and her family. The free resources include information about prenatal care and health care, assistance finishing school and tools to avoid drugs and alcohol. Mothers can also sign up for free text messages on prenatal and infant care.

The Healthy Teen Network has a variety of resources for teen parents across the country, including #NoTeenShame, “Mom, Dad — I’m Pregnant” and Healthy Families America.

To find a health assistance program near you, call 1-800-311-BABY. This will connect you to the nearest health department. For information in Spanish, call 1-800-504-7081.

The U.S. Bureau of Maternal and Child Health has resources for women nationwide. The programs and initiatives include home visiting, which provides at-risk pregnant women tools for mother and child health, raising children and preventing neglect. The bureau seeks to promote child development and encourage positive parenting.

Planned Parenthood has a webpage for teens to get information about sex, puberty, pregnancy and birth control as well as a private chat function for additional questions.

Planned Parenthood has health centers in Charlottesville, Richmond, Hampton and Virginia Beach. There are also two health centers in the Washington, D.C., area.

How We Got and Crunched the Data

For this report, we downloaded teen pregnancy rates for each state from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, we needed the teen pregnancy rates for each city and county in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Health posts such data on its website; however, at the time, the most recent statistics available were for 2017.

We filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the VDH, asking for the 2018 data. The department emailed us the file we requested and then posted it online.

The VDH provided the data as PDFs. We exported the data as an Excel file and cleaned up column headings and other formatting. We have posted all of the data we obtained from the VDH and CDC.

One question we wanted to explore was whether there was a relationship between teen pregnancy rates and the sexual education curriculum taught in schools. To examine this on the national level, we used 2017 data from the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

We compared the council’s data, which explains how comprehensive sex ed is in each state, with the pregnancy rates from the CDC.

Virginia Denies Vast Majority of Parole Requests, Data Shows

 

By Emma Gauthier and Anna Madigan, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Jen Soering and Elizabeth Haysom received parole last month after serving 30 years in state prison for the sensational murder of Haysom’s parents in 1985.

Soering, a German national who had been given two life sentences, and Haysom, a Canadian who had been sentenced to 90 years, were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.

“The Parole Board has determined that releasing Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom to their ICE deportation detainers is appropriate because of their youth at the time of the offenses, their institutional adjustment and the length of their incarceration,” Adrianne Bennett, who chairs the board, said in a statement at the time.

Soering and Haysom each had been denied parole several times before being granted parole in late November. Their release from the prison system may have given the impression that Virginia has become more lenient in granting parole.

And that’s true: The percentage of parole requests approved jumped from around 3% in 2014-16 to 13.5% in 2017, according to a Capital News Service analysis of Parole Board decisions.

But parole is still pretty rare in Virginia. Between January and October of this year, the Parole Board granted parole 5% of the time. Of more than 17,000 cases considered over the past six years, about 6% received parole.

The system’s critics say Virginia should grant parole more often.

“Considering that parole is a conditional release of an individual, this rate should be much higher,” said Jwa’n Moore, director of Taking Back Our Youth. “I believe that parole was created to prove that incarcerated people can learn from the mistakes that they have committed.”

Taking Back Our Youth is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “breaking the cycle” of juvenile incarceration.

Almost 30,000 people are serving time in prison in the commonwealth. In addition, 1,922 people were on parole as of October, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

The newest member of the Parole Board, Kemba Smith Pradia, was appointed in September. At age 24, Pradia was sentenced to 24 years in prison for her participation in her boyfriend’s illegal drug activities. After serving a quarter of her sentence, she was granted clemency by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

Following her incarceration, Pradia earned college degrees in social work and law and started a foundation that raises awareness about drug abuse, violence, rehabilitation of ex-offenders and other social issues.

“She would probably bring compassion and empathy to the board,” Moore said. “People who have a personal history with the system have a unique vantage point that those who have historically served on the parole board haven’t had.”

Virginia abolished parole in 1995, but inmates still can get parole if they were sentenced before the law went into effect; were sentenced under the Youthful Offenders Act; or are eligible for geriatric parole.

Inmates can apply for geriatric parole if they are older than 60 and have served at least 10 years or are older than 65 and have served at least five years.

Since 2014, of the approximately 2,900 applications for geriatric parole, 147 — about 5% — have been granted, the data indicated.

Of the 151 inmates older than 80 who have applied for parole, six have been granted. The offenders were denied for various reasons, including the seriousness of the offense and risk to the community. The Parole Board’s decisions generally do not list the crimes that the applicant was convicted of.

The oldest inmate to apply for parole was 92 years old; he was denied.

Of the 182 inmates under 21 who have applied for parole, four have been granted.

According to the data, the youngest inmates to apply for parole were 16 years old: One applied in 2014 and the other in 2018. Both were rejected.

“Minors are still learning and making mistakes that they have to learn from,” Moore said. “They should be held accountable for their actions, but parole gives our youth another chance at a positive lifestyle.”

In 1995, the Virginia General Assembly abolished parole on grounds that doing so would lower the frequency of reincarceration after release. State and federal officials say Virginia has the lowest rate of reincarceration nationwide: 23% of Virginia inmates are reincarcerated within three years of their release from prison.

“Virginia’s latest recidivism numbers are the result of a lot of hard work on the part of both the Department of Corrections and the incarcerated offenders,” Gov. Ralph Northam stated in a press release.

In 2000, in Fishback v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that juries must be told that parole has been abolished. Between 1995 and that court decision, 471 prisoners were sentenced without their juries knowing that they would not be eligible for parole, according to the Governor’s Commission on Parole Review.

In 2015, the commission recommended that those inmates receive an opportunity for sentence modification. The panel said juries might have had a misconception that offenders could receive a shorter sentence through parole.

“This misconception likely had real consequences, since juries typically hand down harsher sentences than judges,” the commission stated.

During the General Assembly’s 2019 session, legislators filed two bills to allow parole for those convicted before the Fishback ruling. One bill died in a House committee, and the other was defeated by one vote in a Senate committee.

similar bill has been submitted for the legislative session that begins Jan. 8. In addition, Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, has proposed reinstating parole, and Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, has filed legislation to study that idea. Other legislators have suggested expanding the possibility of parole for inmates who committed crimes as juveniles and have served at least 25 years in prison.

The parole process begins with an interview in which an examiner compiles a summary and recommendation for the Parole Board. The board then evaluates the case based on a number of factors, including compatibility with public safety and the offender’s criminal history and conduct in prison.

Since 2014, the parole board has provided more than 2,000 unique reasons to explain its decisions not to grant parole. The most common reasons include:

  •  “Serious nature and circumstances” of the offender’s crime.
  •  “Release at this time would diminish the seriousness of crime.”
  •  “The Board considers you to be a risk to the community.”
  •  Extensive criminal record
  •  History of violence

About the data in this report

The Virginia Parole Board posts PDFs listing the decisions it makes each month. When the board denies parole, the PDF also lists one or more reasons.

To begin this investigation, we converted 70 PDFs — all of the Parole Board’s decisions from January 2014 through October 2019 — into an Excel file. The exported data, which included both decisions and reasons, totaled almost 76,000 rows.

From the Excel file, we extracted the Parole Board’s decisions in parole cases only (regular parole, geriatric and board review cases). There was a total of 17,240 cases.

We then used Excel’s pivot table feature and Microsoft Access to calculate the percentage of parole requests had been granted or denied each year.

 

Riparian Woman's Club Donates to Local Charities and Organizations

Brenda Browder presents to Bill Harris a donation from the Riparian Woman’s Club.  All proceeds from the Plant and Bake sale were given  to local organizations: the Emporia-Greensville Rescue Squad, Fire Dept., Humane Society, Y.M.C.A., Samaritan House, Hospice and Village View.

Evelyn Wiley Rosseau

July 31, 1927 - December 16, 2019

Visitation Services

1 p.m. Friday, December 20

Owen Funeral Home
303 S. Halifax Road

Jarratt, Virginia

2 p.m. Friday, December 20

Owen Funeral Home
303 S. Halifax Road
Jarratt, Virginia

Evelyn Wiley Rosseau, 92, of Emporia, passed away Monday, December 16, 2019. She was preceded in death by her husband, Billy Pat Rosseau and a sister,  Elizabeth Greene. She is survived by two daughters, Brenda Rosseau; Pamela Reilly (Joseph); son, Pat Rosseau (Tristy); two grandsons, Holden Rosseau and his mother, Dawn, and Brandon Rosseau; sisters, Ann Wrenn (Robert) and Bet Sasser and a number of nieces and nephews. A funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Friday, December 20 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd, Jarratt, Virginia. Interment will follow at Aberdour Presbyterian Church Cemetery. The family will receive friends at the funeral home one hour prior to the service. Memorial contributions may be made to Aberdour Presbyterian Church, c/o June Rae, 402 Allen Rd, Jarratt, Virginia 23867.  Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

USDA Extends Deadlines for Dairy Margin Coverage, Market Facilitation Programs

New Signup Deadline Is December 20

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 11, 2019 – Due to the prolonged and extensive impacts of weather events this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today extended the deadline to December 20 for producers to enroll in the Dairy Margin Coverage(DMC) program for the 2020 calendar year. The deadline had been December 13.  USDA announced is also continuing to accept applications for the Market Facilitation Program through December 20.

“2019 has challenged the country’s ag sector – prevented or late planting followed by a delayed harvest has been further complicated by wet and cold weather,” said Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “Because some of our producers are still in the field, time to conduct business at the local USDA office is at a premium.  We hope this deadline extension will allow producers the opportunity to participate in these important programs.”

Authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill and available through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), the program offers reasonably priced protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. 

The Market Facilitation Program is part of a relief strategy to support American agricultural producers while the Administration continues to work on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets to help American farmers compete globally. MFP payments are aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations. 

For more information, visit the DMC webpage, the MFP webpageor your local USDA service center. To locate your local FSA office, visit farmers.gov/service-locator.

More Virginia Residents Speak Languages Other Than English

 

By Ezaddeen Almutairi, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Nahlaa Alsilfih Alahmari and her husband, Abdullah Alahmari, are graduate students from Saudi Arabia. She is pursuing a doctorate in education at Virginia State University, and he is working toward a doctorate in media, art and text at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The couple is living in Richmond with their three children: a 9-year-old son, Muath, and daughters Ilan, 11, and Afnan, 4.

Though the family is thousands of miles from home, the Alahmaris want their children to stay connected to Saudi culture and especially the national language. So the parents speak Arabic to the children at home, and the youngsters take Arabic lessons at the Islamic Center of Richmond.

“Teaching my kids to speak in my maiden language is a very important thing to do. It is important to me as a mother and very important to the community as a whole,” Nahlaa Alahmari said. “It allows my children to feel more connected to their state of origin.”

The Alahmari family reflects the growing diversity of languages spoken in Virginia: The proportion of residents who speak a language other than English at home has risen from 14.8% in 2010 to 16.4% last year, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Approximately 7.5% of Virginia households speak Spanish, the data showed. Then come Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese, each at slightly less than 1%. Dozens of other languages are spoken in the commonwealth as well — from Hindi and German to Telugu and Russian.

Arabic speakers represent one of the fastest-growing language groups in Virginia. Since 2010, the number of Arabic speakers in the commonwealth has risen 63% to almost 60,000, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Not surprisingly, the rise in Arabic speakers has paralleled the rise in the number of Virginians who trace their ancestry to the Arab world.

About 78,000 of Virginia’s 8.5 million residents claim Arab ancestry. That’s up 31%, from 59,000, in 2010.

Nationwide, the number of U.S. residents of Arab descent increased 28% — from about 1.65 million in 2010 to more than 2.1 million last year.

The states with the most Arab-ancestry residents are California (about 325,000), Michigan (200,000), New York (176,000) and Texas (157,000).

In most states, people with Arab heritage make up less than one-half of 1% of the population. The states with the highest concentrations of Arab-ancestry residents are:

  • Michigan, at 2% of the population
  • New Jersey and Massachusetts, at just above 1%
  • Virginia and New York, at just below 1%

Within Virginia, Fairfax County has the highest concentration of Arab-heritage residents — 2.7%.

U.S. residents with Arab ancestry come from a range of countries. Lebanese is the most common nationality, followed by Egyptians and Syrians.

Studies show that migration from the Middle East and North Africa increased after the Arab Spring, the anti-government protests and uprisings that spread across much of the Islamic world in the early 2010s. That might explain the rise in the Arab population in the U.S. this decade.

Although Arab countries have their own cultures and traditions, one commonality is language. As people from those countries have immigrated to America, they have brought the language with them and sought to pass it along to their children.

Academic research has documented the benefits and challenges when people continue speaking their mother tongue abroad and teach it to their children.

For example, a study titled “Bilingual Children’s Mother Tongue: Why is it important for education?“ highlights how social, racial and cultural barriers can discourage people from learning their mother tongue and how parents can establish a strong language policy to avoid language loss.

Mohammed Albishri, a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado at Denver, is a linguistic specialist. He said children who learn two languages end up speaking both better.

“For children who are already deep in the understanding of a different language, teaching them to speak in English can never have a negative impact on them,” Albishri said. “The understanding of a different language will further perfect the children’s understanding of English language. They will assimilate the language faster and better.”

About three-fourths of the Arabic speakers in Virginia say they speak English “very well,” according to the Census Bureau’s survey.

For children of immigrants, the problem often is not learning English — it’s learning the language of their home country. Nahlaa Alahmari said it can be a challenge to get her children to study Arabic.

“Sometimes,” she said, “my kids themselves resent practicing the language as they say it is too difficult for them to comprehend — which, of course, it is reasonable as no one else around them speaks the language.”

COMCAST PARTNERS WITH NUEYES TO ENABLE CUSTOMERS WITH VISUAL DISABILITIES TO SEE TV WITH SMARTGLASSES

Companies work together to integrate Comcast’s Xfinity Stream into NuEyes smart assistive technology

DECEMBER 11, 2019 – PHILADELPHIA, PA – Comcast today announced a partnership with wearable technology startup NuEyes to bring the Xfinity Stream entertainment viewing experience to visually impaired customers through NuEyes virtual reality technology. The Xfinity Stream app, which allows customers to watch live TV and On Demand content on any device, is now available on the NuEyes e2 smartglasses and VR magnifying device that enhances the usable vision of a person who is visually impaired.  Xfinity Stream is pre-installed on NuEyes e2, allowing users with visual disabilities to see TV shows, news, movies, live sports, and more, independently.

Founded by a veteran, NuEyes’ mission is to give millions of people across the U.S. who are visually impaired the independence they may have lost due to conditions like macular degeneration, glaucoma, and retinitis pigmentosa. The lightweight design of the NuEyes e2, paired with handsfree and wireless functionality, gives people with low vision the ability to participate in their everyday lives in ways that were once difficult or impossible, like clearly seeing loved ones’ faces, reading, cooking and enjoying television.

“Being blind since birth, I know firsthand the power of technology to enhance independence,” said Tom Wlodkowski, Vice President of Accessibility at Comcast.  “Our partnership with NuEyes is an extension of our commitment to designing great entertainment experiences for people of all abilities.”

James Baldwin, an 18-year Army Veteran, began losing his vision three years ago due to an injury sustained during his service.  He lives with a prosthetic left eye and limited vision in his right eye. James was one of the first customers to experience Xfinity Stream on NuEyes e2, allowing him to watch TV again for the first time in years.  You can watch James' story here, including James’ reaction to seeing his wife Claudia, a fellow blind veteran, for the first time using NuEyes.

“Collaborating with Comcast has been an absolute joy,” said Mark Greget, Founder and CEO of NuEyes. “To be able to stream content directly to our consumers’ eyes in a way that has never been done before enables millions of visually impaired people to continue enjoying their TV experience and more.” 

Over the past several years, Comcast launched the industry’s first talking TV guide, introduced a voice-activated remote control, launched X1 eye control for the TV and produced the first live entertainment show in U.S. broadcast history, The Wiz Live, to be accessible to people with a visual disability. Comcast also has a service center specifically dedicated to customers with disabilities where agents are specially trained in the company’s accessibility features and general support issues.

December 2019 Update from Congressman Donald McEachin

This is a big month for our office. We have passed the $2 million dollars in returning money to constituents from federal agencies. Whether it’s a never-received tax refund or missed benefits from the VA or absent Social Security checks, our office is diligent and devoted in trying to ensure my constituents get what they are owed. This milestone, over $2 million back to VA-04 residents, is an important part of my service as your Congressman.

If you have an issue or a problem with a federal agency, such as the examples listed above, my office is happy to help. Just go to my website, mceachin.house.gov, to get started. We are also happy to record your opinion on any news topic.

It’s also an important month because, having had surgeries recently, I am able to return Washington, DC and to being out and about in the district.  This recent illness has shown me, yet again, how critical access to affordable quality healthcare is for ALL Virginians. I go back to work recommitted to ensuring available health care, without regard for pre-existing conditions and with reasonably priced prescription drugs. Health care should never be a choice between paying a bill or a prescription. I am determined to advocate every day for affordable and quality care.

Please let my office know about any events in which we can participate and be helpful. The nature of the job is that I spend significant time in Washington, DC, but when possible, I want to be in the district, meeting and interacting with residents. Please request my attendance by filling out this form: https://mceachin.house.gov/contact/request-appearance.

I hope you and yours have a lovely and peaceful holiday season, filled with the blessings of friends and family.

Robertson Receives Top VCCS Award

Southside Virginia Community College's Power Line Instructor recently received the Virginia Community College System award for Teaching Excellence.  Those attending the event to congratulate Clyde Robertson (Fourth from left) are Pam Taylor (Left to Right), Fast Forward Career Coach, Keith Harkins, SVCC Vice President, Dr. Quentin R. Johnson, SVCC President, Robertson, Braden Cliborne, Robertson's grandson, and Dennis Smith. Director of Workforce Development.

Southside Virginia Community College’s Power Line Worker Program instructor Clyde Robertson was awarded the 2019 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in the area of Outstanding Achievement by a College Faculty/Staff Member from the Virginia Community College System. The award was presented at the recent VCCS Annual Workforce Awards Banquet. 

Robertson is lead instructor for the college’s PLW program and has been so since the program opened in March of 2016.  A Burkeville native, Robertson worked in the industry for 42 years.  His first job was with Wallace Boyd of Crewe who contracted to Southside Electric Cooperative for years.  After ten years with Boyd, Robertson became a lineman for SEC where he worked for another 32 years until his retirement.

More than 250 students have completed the program under Robertson’s tutelage. 

The program  was the first of  its’ kind in the state of Virginia and located at the SVCC Occupational/Technical Center at Pickett Park in Blackstone. 

The purpose of the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) is to recognize excellence in teaching in Virginia’s community colleges.   One faculty member from all of Virginia’s 23 community colleges is selected each year for this prestigious award.

Democratic Majority Could Bring Monumental Change to Confederate Symbols

By McKenzie Lambert and Susan Shibut, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Virginia has 110 Confederate monuments, many of which are housed in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy. Among the most notable are the five towering monuments of Confederate leaders lining Monument Avenue. Others live in neighborhoods across the city from Church Hill to Bellevue. The city is home to significant Civil War buildings, including the American Civil War Museum and White House of the Confederacy. Street names such as Confederate Avenue inhabit the Northside, while Jefferson Davis Highway, named for the president of the Confederacy, runs along the city and throughout the state. Schools such as John B. Cary Elementary — named after a Confederate soldier who later served as his district’s superintendent — and George Mason Elementary — named after a slave-owning Founding Father — still exist even though concern for renaming the schools has been articulated. 

In recent years, residents have been pushing for the Monument Avenue monuments to come down. But the statues, which represent the dark and violent history of slavery for some Virginians and their families, stand tall, staring down the median of a prominent and busy avenue. This is in part because the power to remove the monuments has been denied to localities under the Dillon Rule, which allows the state to limit the powers of local governments. However, a new Democratic majority in Virginia’s state legislature may open the door to more local government control — and perhaps the removal of the monuments.

The Dillon Rule is derived from the 1868 written decision by Judge John Dillon of Iowa. Dillon identified local governments as political subdivisions of the state government. According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, 39 states apply the Dillon Rule to some capacity. Thirty-one apply it to all localities, while eight use the rule for only certain municipalities. The Virginia Supreme Court adopted the Dillon Rule in 1896.

Because Virginia law states that localities cannot remove war monuments after they have been established, the Dillon Rule has prevented localities such as Richmond and Charlottesville from passing measures to remove their Confederate monuments.

When the General Assembly resumes session in January, a Democratic majority would make it easier for legislators to make a new law stating that local governments have the power to remove Confederate monuments, or a law that bans them outright. John Aughenbaugh, assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, said a new law is a way he could see localities gain the power to make their own decisions about the monuments.

“I don’t think many members of the General Assembly want to get blamed for upsetting those who still like the monuments,” Aughenbaugh said. “But they’ll be willing to go ahead and give the local governments the authority to make that decision on their own.”

Jim Nolan, press secretary for Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, said that increasing local authority has been a legislative priority for the mayor and will remain one heading into the 2020 General Assembly session. He said the mayor believes the General Assembly should grant authority to allow localities to determine the future of Confederate monuments. 

“Cities should have the right to choose if they want to contextualize or permanently remove monuments,” Nolan said.

In recent years, the Richmond City Council voted against two resolutions brought by Councilman Michael Jones requesting that state lawmakers give the city authority on what to do with the monuments. The resolutions would have put pressure on lawmakers to give the city authority. However, the General Assembly is not the only avenue for localities to gain the power to remove their monuments. Aughenbaugh said he predicts a locality will sue for the right to remove their monuments and the Virginia Supreme Court will be the deciding body. 

One city has already brought such a suit. Earlier this year, Norfolk filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Virginia, arguing that requiring the city to keep a Confederate monument was contrary to their freedom of speech. The suit has not been decided yet.

More than 1,800 Confederate symbols stand in 22 states as of February, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Virginia, with 262 Confederate symbols, has more than any other state and has removed 17 of its symbols since the racially-charged Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting in which nine African-Americans were murdered, the organization said.

For decades, Richmond has sought to offset Confederate symbols. In 1996, a sixth statue was added to Monument Avenue depicting Arthur Ashe, an African American tennis champion from Richmond. Earlier this year the Richmond City Council voted to rename the Boulevard to Arthur Ashe Boulevard. J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School was renamed Barack Obama Elementary after a 6-1 vote by the Richmond Public School Board in 2018. Richmond’s Virginia Museum of Fine Arts unveiled Tuesday, in front of a welcoming crowd, Kehinde Wiley’s statue “Rumors of War,” which depicts a black man in classic equestrian portraiture — a response to the monuments on Monument Avenue.

Virginia has been center stage in the national debate regarding the potential removal of Confederate monuments. In August 2017, the nation was rocked with news of violent clashes in Charlottesville. A “Unite the Right” rally and counter-demonstration were the climax of a months-long battle over the fate of a Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee statue that the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove. At the protest, James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist who traveled from Ohio to the event, drove his car into a crowd, killing counter-protester Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. The night before the protest, participants gathered in the park with tiki torches and chanted slogans including the Nazi-associated phrase “blood and soil.”

After the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting, Stoney created the Monument Avenue Commission in 2017 in hopes of creating new ways to remember Richmond’s history while addressing the past memorialized on Monument Avenue. Its first meeting took place days before Heyer died counter-protesting in Charlottesville.

“Richmond has a long, complex and conflicted history, and the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue represents a shameful part of our past,” Stoney said in the commission’s 117-page report. “The majority of the public acknowledges Monument Avenue cannot and should not remain exactly as it is. Change is needed and desired.” 

After 11 months of public deliberation, the commission suggested solutions, which included:

  •  Moving the monuments to a museum and creating a permanent exhibit, including a deeper historical look into the history of the monuments by creating a mobile app and a film that ensures historical accuracy.

  • Adding permanent signage that reflects the historic, biographical, artistic and changing meaning over time for each monument.

  • Erecting a monument that pays homage to the resilience of the formerly enslaved.

  • Having local artists create contemporary pieces that bring new meaning to Monument Avenue.

  • Removing the Jefferson Davis statue.

The city cannot implement these suggestions, however, if state law overrides local laws. 

House Bill 2377 was introduced by former Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, in the 2019 General Assembly session. It would have given localities the power to remove or add context to their monuments, but it did not pass the then-Republican majority House.

For those who oppose the monuments, hope is on the rise. Democrats hold both chambers of the General Assembly as well as the governorship after the Nov. 5 elections — a power that has not been seen in over 20 years. Several of the newly elected legislators have spoken out against the monuments, including Democratic Sen.-elect Ghazala Hashmi, Democratic Del.-elect Sally Husdon, and Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk. Hudson plans to introduce legislation very similar to Toscano’s bill — Jones said he will co-sponsor the legislation.

In November, Jones tweeted: “The ‘monuments’ are nothing more than vestigial symbols of oppression and hate that need to come down - ESPECIALLY if it is the locality’s choice. We’re moving VA into the 21st century rather than ‘honoring’ the failures of the 19th.”

This was not the first time Jones touched on this subject. During Black History month in February, following Gov. Ralph Northam’s blackface scandal, Jones stood in front of the House of Delegates and made a personal speech

Jones talked about “two Virginias,” a white one and a black one, and how they have existed “in parallel along the same arc of history, frequently intersecting, but never running together as one. Two different experiences, born from the same beginning four hundred years ago and still never merged into one shared story.” 

According to Jones, “glorification of the Confederacy via monuments and flags in public spaces,” are examples of how white Virginians “consciously or unconsciously attempted to demonstrate its power over black Virginians.”

In describing the racially-charged differences between Virginians, Jones said, “It seems that we have not come far enough to understand the hurt and pain and the effect on those who grew up in the shadow of separate but not equal. Thirty years on, throughout the duration of my life, we are still struggling mightily with race in our state.”

If localities are given the authority to legislate the fate of their monuments, Nolan said Stoney and his administration will ask the city’s History and Culture Commission to make recommendations and commit to following a process in accordance to solutions provided by the Monument Avenue Commission.

Angel Tree at Benchmark Community Bank

Last year's Angel Tree at Benchmark Community Bank in Emporia

Benchmark Community Bank is hosting an Angel Tree again this year.  The recipients for this year’s tree will be children from families through the Family Violence Prevention Program. Donations may be left at the Emporia Branch of Benchmark Community Bank, 316 West Atlantic Street during normal business hours.

Tags: 

Post-Election, Virginia Dodges Medicaid Work Requirements

By Rodney Robinson, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Virginia residents with Medicaid will not be required to work in order to keep their policies since Gov. Ralph Northam halted the work requirements he previously agreed to implement nearly two years ago as a bipartisan agreement. 

House Republicans said in a statement that the previous agreement was made in “good faith” and Northam gave his “personal assurance” to implement Medicaid expansion with a work requirement, where most Medicaid recipients would have to work a certain amount of hours each month to keep their policy. 

“Broken promises like this are the reason so many people hate politics,” Del Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said in the statement.

In 2019, Virginia expanded eligibility for health coverage to 400,000 people. So far, 342,000 Virginians have signed up for health insurance coverage through Medicaid expansion. Work requirements for Medicaid could lead to between 26,800 and 74,000 people losing their health insurance coverage, according to The Commonwealth Institute

The work requirements previously agreed on would apply to able-bodied Medicaid recipients who would need to work and pay premiums. For the first three months, enrollees would start with a work requirement of 20 hours per month. The workload would increase to 80 hours per month after a person was enrolled for 12 months, according to the amended budget

“In order to work, you have to be healthy, so work requirements for Medicaid expansion make no sense at all,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, in a press release. “We’re thrilled that Democrats are taking steps to halt the implementation of punitive work requirements to qualify for Medicaid Expansion and we hope that it means even more people will be able to benefit from the program.”

Arkansas was the first state to implement a work reporting requirement for Medicaid. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded that 18,164 people lost coverage within the first seven months of the program and approximately 23% of all people subject to work requirements lost coverage. There is no evidence that work reporting requirements led to any major increase in work participation or hours worked, the study found. The policy is no longer being enforced in Arkansas, due to a recent court decision

Ashleigh Crocker, communications director for Progress Virginia, thinks it doesn’t make sense to implement the plan.

 “The vast majority of people who get insurance coverage through Medicaid are already working,” Crocker said. 

Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, said that moving forward, Republicans have “little ability” to retain the previous agreement from a couple years ago. 

“This is an example of how elections have consequences,” Farnsworth said. “The new Democratic majorities taking office next month have little interest in the work requirement as a condition for Medicaid expansion and seem very likely to abandon that provision in the next session.”

Rape Cases in Virginia Often Go Unsolved

By Anna Madigan, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — In the #MeToo era, survivors of sexual assault are feeling more empowered to come forward with their stories. Despite the social movement, though, sexual assaults and rapes have the lowest clearance rates of all “crimes against persons” in Virginia.

In 2018, for example, fewer than 20% of all rape cases in the commonwealth were cleared by arrest, according to an analysis of Virginia State Police data. In contrast, kidnapping had a clearance rate of almost 75%.

The numbers don’t surprise Kate McCord, an associate director of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She said there are multiple potential reasons for low clearance rates in sexual assaults.

Sometimes, McCord said, police keep cases open for future DNA evidence. Other reasons, she said, include inadequate police training and lack of resources.

One factor, McCord said, is the misconception that sexual assault has a higher rate of false reporting than other crimes.

“The pervasiveness that people who report sexual assaults are not to be believed is still an issue, so that could be contributing to the problem. There are a lot of different factors that could all be kind of interplaying to make this dynamic happen,” McCord said.

Virginia had similar numbers of rape and kidnapping cases last year, according to Virginia Crime Online, a database posted by the Virginia State Police. There were 1,879 reported rapes and 1,546 reported kidnappings.

However, the two crimes had very different clearance rates — the percentage of offenses in which police arrest a suspect:

  • 73% of the kidnapping cases were cleared by arrest. In 2% of the cases, the victim refused to cooperate, and in another 2%, prosecutors decided not to pursue the case.
  • Just 19% of rape cases were cleared by arrest. In 10% of the cases, the victim refused to cooperate, and in another 13%, prosecutors decided not to pursue the case.

McCord said some rape survivors might refuse to cooperate with authorities because of their relationship to the perpetrator.

McCord also said that “victim refused to cooperate” is a subjective reason to drop an investigation and that in some instances, police may be using this as an excuse.

“When you think about the concept of failure to cooperate, that could be a really subjective judgment call,” McCord said.

McCord used the Netflix series “Unbelievable” as an example of how survivors of sexual assault can be deemed uncooperative. “Unbelievable” is a drama based on a true story of a sexual assault survivor who was deemed uncooperative and who eventually sued the city of Lynnwood, Washington, after connecting investigations found evidence of her assault.

The Virginia State Police compile data on sex offenses other than rapes. In 2018, there were:

  • 2,831 cases of “forcible fondling”; 21% of them were cleared by arrest.
  • 531 cases of “sexual assault with an object”; 25% of them were cleared.
  • 623 cases of “forcible sodomy”; 28% of them were cleared.
  • 130 cases of statutory rape; 39% of them were cleared.

Overall, of the 5,994 sex-related offenses were reported to police in Virginia last year, 1,309 cases — or 22% — were cleared by arrest.

The clearance rate for all “crimes against persons” was 45%. For instance, of the 8,776 aggravated assaults, 57% were cleared. So were 59% of the 393 cases of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, and 47% of the 65,261 simple assaults.

Not only are the clearance rates for sex-related offenses low, but many of those crimes go unreported, according to advocates for rape survivors.

The Virginia Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Action Alliance reported that its hotline last year received 10,017 calls regarding sexual assault.

The combination of the relationship between the survivor and the attacker and low clearance rates for sexual assault can be the perfect storm to keep a survivor from reporting an attack to police.

“When you’re thinking about a survivor who just wants (accountability) but may not want for the person who harmed them to go to jail or prison, then they’re not going to choose to report to a system ... where they don’t feel like they’re going to be believed anyway,” McCord said.

Despite low clearance rates, McCord sees a “hopeful trend” of police departments learning about trauma-informed investigation and response.

The International Association Chiefs of Police states that trauma-informed sexual assault investigation training “provides law enforcement and multi-disciplinary community partners with information on the neurobiology of trauma and investigative strategies to respond to sexual assault crimes in a victim centered, trauma informed manner.”

Local police departments had a range of clearance rates for rape cases in 2018.

Among localities with at least 10 rapes, Washington County and the city of Waynesboro had the highest clearance rates at 40%. Fairfax County’s clearance rate was similar to the statewide average at 18%. Of the county’s 131 reported rapes, 23 were cleared by arrest.

In contrast, Fauquier and Hanover counties cleared only 6% of their reported rapes. The Richmond Police Department cleared only two of its 40 rape reports in 2018 — a clearance rate of 5%. Suffolk City had a slightly lower rate than Richmond, 4.55%, clearing one of 22 rape cases.

Because of the underreporting and low clearance rates for rape, law professor Donald Dripps argued in a recent issue of the William & Mary Law Review that rape should be a federal crime.

Dripps wrote that states and localities aren’t doing enough to solve rape cases. He said making rape a federal offense would focus federal resources on the issue.

Dripps, who teaches at the School of Law at the University of San Diego, wrote that the low clearance rates in rape cases are especially concerning in light of the emergence of DNA testing, searchable law-enforcement databases and other technology.

“As solving rape cases became less difficult, the clearance rate should have gone up,” Dripps stated.

November, 2019 Power Line Traing Graduates at Southside Virginia Community College

The 12th Cohort of students from the Southside Virginia Community College Power Line Training School completed the 11-week program on November 21, 2019.  They are:

Front, kneeling (L-R: Tyler Barlow, of Crewe, Austin Lockridge of Drakes Branch, , Jackson Queen of South Hill, Hunter Sykes of Lawrenceville, Josh Clary of Lawrenceville, Luke Daniel of Kenbridge, Joshua Shumaker of New Canton.

2nd, L-R: Justin Stewart of S. Prince George, Walker Cline of Gretna, Genevie Boarman of Ophelia, Emilio Story of Prince George, Kyle Branson of Lawrenceville, Dayton Ingersol of Forest, Timothy Eischen of Chester, Samuel Lowe of HopeAltonwell, Tanner Young of Colonial Heights,, Devin Champion of Gordonsville, Robert Smith of Hampton, Mike Costley (Instructor) Brad Wike (Instructor).


3rd L-R: Conner McCready (Instructor), Clyde Robertson (Instructor), Jerry Mabe of Alton, Bennett Adams of Hurt, Luke Stewart of S Prince George, Brandon O'Dea of Richmond, Shane Baldwin of Powhatan, Dalton Simmons of S. Chesterfield, Dylan Nester of Chester, David Davies of Yorktown, Josh Gibson of Charlotte Court House, Elijah Brakefield of Clarksville, Dylan Rose of S. Prince George.

Alternative Sentencing Success in Southside Virginia

Second chances are always good.  In Southside Virginia, a Diversion Program for young offenders is offering another chance at a successful life without incarceration.

Dr. Alfonzo Seward, Coordinator of the Diversion Program at Southside Virginia Community College(SVCC) is pleased to announce success of the local diversion program.   During the spring of 2019, several individuals graduated from the program earning a variety of workforce credentials as well as completing the GED program. The next cohort class is scheduled to begin in spring of 2020.

Designed to provide alternative sentencing, the first class began in October 2016. SVCC worked in partnership with local Commonwealth’s Attorneys' offices to include Brunswick, Greensville, Mecklenburg and Lunenburg counties. The youthful offenders that enter the program face incarceration in either jail or prison due to a crime that they have committed and to which they have subsequently pled guilty. The program serves as an alternative to incarceration and/or a felony conviction and includes a requirement of participation in group and/or individual community service projects.  Additionally, the program requires participants to be drug free (verified through drug screenings) and of good behavior.

While serving as an advisor to SVCC’s Administration of Justice Program, Lezlie Green, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Brunswick County, presented the idea to Seward, who heads the Administration of Justice program at the college.  Both Green and Seward throughout their years in law enforcement recognized an unmet need for alternative sentencing programs in Southside Virginia.  They joined forces with Monica McMillan, who at the time was caseworker with Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Out of School Youth Program (WIOA) and Linda Macklin, caseworker for Southside Community Corrections to develop a program that was approved by the college’s administration and has been accepted as a sentencing alternative by both the local judiciary and defense bar.

The program is designed to follow a paramilitary format during the initial semester. The semester begins with a cohort of offenders meeting three nights a week in two different courses. These courses are designed to improve life skills, academic skills and overall behavior. The concept of the program is to provide individuals who fit the criteria with opportunity to gain the necessary skills to attain employment and deal with the stressors of life, so that they can become successful citizens.

The program operates through grant funded assistance and donations to the SVCC Foundation, Inc. For more information or to make a contribution, call 434 949 1051.

West Virginia woman killed in single vehicle accident in Skippers

Greensville County- One person, Erin Christine Queen, 55 YOA, of Salem, West Virginia, was killed on the evening of December 2 in a single vehicle accident which occurred in Greensville County. The accident occurred at approximately 7:09 p.m., at the Pilot Truck Stop parking lot, east of Interstate 95.

Preliminary investigation reveals that Ms. Erin Queen exited the tractor trailer she was driving and began walking towards the store. At some point, Ms. Queen stopped in front of her vehicle, while another tractor trailer (2018 Freightliner) was backing up into the pumping station. Ms. Queen was struck by the reversing tractor trailer. The driver of the freightliner was alerted by another driver that he had struck something, and upon pulling forward, ran over Ms. Queen a second time. 

Ms. Queen was taken to Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center, where she later succumbed to her injuries.

Notification has been made to family members. Alcohol was not a contributing factor in the accident. No charges will be placed at this time.

SEVEN LIVES LOST ON VIRGINIA HIGHWAYS DURING 2019 THANKSGIVING WEEKEND

Virginians Reminded to Keep Virginia Safe During the Winter Holiday Season

RICHMOND – Of the seven people killed in Virginia traffic crashes during the 2019 Thanksgiving weekend, two were teenagers and three were not wearing seatbelts. Though this past holiday statistical counting period saw fewer fatal crashes than in previous years, even one fatality is one too many.

During the five-day period which began at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 27, 2019 and concluded at midnight Dec. 1, 2019, seven men and women lost their lives in seven traffic crashes on Virginia highways. The fatal crashes occurred in the City of Virginia Beach and the counties of Bedford, Henrico, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Rockbridge and Stafford. Six of those killed were drivers and alcohol was a factor in at least two of the fatal crashes. A 19-year-old female was killed in the Bedford County crash and an 18-year-old male lost his life in the Stafford County crash.

There were 12 traffic fatalities during the 2018 five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period and 14 traffic fatalities during the same period in 2017. *

In an effort to prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police participated in Operation C.A.R.E., an acronym for the Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. Operation CARE is an annual, state-sponsored, national program during which state police increases its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period.

The 2019 Thanksgiving Holiday C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 5,221 speeders and 1,798 reckless drivers statewide. Virginia troopers charged 83 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and cited 490 drivers for failing to buckle up themselves and/or juvenile passengers.

State police responded to 1,312 traffic crashes across the Commonwealth, with 178 of those resulting in injuries and seven in fatalities. State police also assisted 2,294 disabled/stranded motorists during the Thanksgiving weekend.

“With only 27 days left in 2019, the Virginia State Police reminds all drivers to do their part to keep the winter holiday season as safe as possible on our highways,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Let’s end this decade by working together to save lives on our roadways, instead of putting them at risk by engaging in reckless driving behaviors. Make the right choice by always wearing a seatbelt, safely sharing the road with all vehicles and pedestrians, and by not driving intoxicated or ‘intexticated.’”

McEachin Announces 2019 Congressional App Challenge Winner

Washington, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) announced the winner of the 4th District’s 2019 Congressional App Challenge – Amayr Babar, Ali Houssain Sareini, and Pete Ngwa, all seniors at Deep Creek High School in Chesapeake, won with their application “KAMI.”

“I am so proud of Amayr, Ali, and Pete for their hard work to create an app that not only helps patients with Alzheimer’s, but also eases the workload of nurses and other healthcare professionals,” said Congressman McEachin. “I know that these students have a bright future ahead of them with such dedication to computer science.”

“As leaders, innovators, and visionaries, we strive to utilize our passion for app development to bring groundbreaking mobile solutions to the medical field. KAMI validates that the symbiosis between medicine and software is the future of healthcare, and we plan to be at the forefront of innovation to provide available and cost-effective healthcare within an ever-growing digital age,” said Babar, Sareini, and Ngwa.

The Congressional App Challenge is the most prestigious competition that acknowledges students for their command of computer science. The students will represent Virginia’s 4th Congressional District at the federal level, and will have the opportunity to demo their app at the United States Capitol in Spring 2020.

Nearly $20B spent by Americans this Small Business Saturday®

American consumers spent $19.6 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday®, according to data released yesterday by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Data show shoppers from coast to coast made a significant impact at small businesses during the 10th annual Small Business Saturday®, held November 30, 2019.  

Started by American Express in 2010 and co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration since 2015, Small Business Saturday® continues to provide small businesses and communities across the country with an economic boost to start the holiday shopping season. This year, consumer participation increased by six million (110 million in 2019 vs. 104 million in 2018) and brought an almost $2B increase in total amount spent ($19.6B estimated in 2019 compared to $17.8B in 2018).

“Small Business Saturday’s® success is proof of the economic benefits of shopping small. Seven in ten adults are conscious of the positive impact local small businesses have in their communities,” said the SBA’s acting Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Steve Bulger who oversees the federal agency’s operations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, D.C., Maryland and Delaware.  Bulger also points to findings that 96% of survey respondents who shopped on Small Business Saturday® agree that shopping at small, independently-owned businesses supports their commitment to making purchases that have a positive social, economic and environmental impact.

In the Virginia-Richmond District Office, there are 745,886 small businesses employing 1.5 million people. The Virginia-Richmond District Office team members visited and shared valuable small business resource information with small business owners in the Richmond, Chesapeake and Fredericksburg areas.

“Small businesses are an integral part of Virginia’s economy and positive impact aggregately,” said Carl Knoblock, SBA Virginia-Richmond District Director.

Meanwhile, many shoppers using smartphones, spent $3.6 billion buying online from small businesses on Small Business Saturday®.  Adobe Analytics, which tracks online sales, says that’s up 18% from a year earlier.  Adobe reported holiday season sales are on track to grow 14.9% from 2018.  Small businesses have already garnered $68.2 billion in online sales from November 1 to November 30.

According to the survey, 97% of consumers who shopped on Small Business Saturday® agree that small businesses are essential to their community and 95% reported the day makes them want to shop or eat at small, independently-owned businesses all year long, not just during the holiday season. The SBA continues to inspire neighbors to make a conscious decision to Shop Small® year-round by recognizing their spending at local merchants and community businesses.

How Virginians are going solar, powered by national program

By Owen FitzGerald, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. — Joy Loving bought a Prius in 2012. The purchase was the first of two investments she said she made in a personal effort to save money and reduce her carbon footprint. The second: go solar.

After converting her home to solar energy, Loving began leading solar cooperatives with members of her Harrisonburg community who also were interested in going solar. As rooftop solar systems began popping up across the city, people began to notice.

“I think that's because it's a small city,” Loving said. “Solar panels that are put on roofs are visible in a way, whereas my own solar panels, living out in the county as I do, are viewed only by the cattle and sheep who live in the fields nearby.”

Co-ops such as Solarize Harrisonburg, which Loving founded, were helped off the ground largely by Solar United Neighbors, a national organization dedicated to representing the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. SUN carries out its mission in two channels: helping homeowners and businesses convert to rooftop solar, and encouraging individuals to fight for their energy rights.

“Our work is dedicated to directing the control of benefits of our energy system back to local communities with distributed 'rooftop' solar as the cornerstone,” Aaron Sutch, SUN’s program director in Virginia, wrote in an email. “We're creating jobs and building clean, resilient energy into our communities while giving consumers energy choice and freedom.

The organization brings individuals and businesses together to create solar co-ops in communities across the nation. Once the co-ops are large enough, SUN pairs the groups with local solar installers. Members of the co-op review different bids and pick an installer they think would work best for their specific needs. The chosen installer then helps individuals within the group create a personalized plan to go solar.

As of November, SUN said it has helped more than 840 Virginia families convert to rooftop solar.

Another key facet of SUN’s mission is encouraging solar homeowners to advocate for their energy rights. An example of this would be the push to lift Virginia’s cap on net metering. Net metering is a policy that compensates solar homeowners who might produce more electricity monthly than they consume from the public utility grid. 

Excess solar energy is fed to the public grid under net metering, and owners can use that surplus to offset their monthly energy bills. 

 The General Assembly passed a bill in March raising Virginia’s net metering cap for not-for-profit solar owners from 1% to 2%. The bill also saw the collective cap for all members of a co-op raised to 7%. This legislation was praised by organizations like SUN.

This bill also enables investor-owned utilities to develop solar projects by allowing Virginians to participate in a voluntary subscription program. While this could allow more solar to be built in Virginia, it falls short of utility-scale solar that would benefit communities.

Sutch said residents should be allowed to participate in community solar projects.

“Community solar enables individuals and businesses to get bill credit from a nearby shared solar project,” he said. “This will allow renters as well as low and moderate-income Virginians to benefit from solar energy even if they are unable to install a system on their own rooftop.”

However, the issue in Virginia, as Sutch pointed out, is that Virginia’s energy system defers to the monopoly created by Dominion Energy. There are currently contracts in place that prevent churches, schools and other municipal buildings from generating their own power outside of energy provided by Dominion, except on rare occasions such as weather emergencies.

“What we see is our energy progress running up against a very powerful special interest that works against the interests of many of the Virginia customers,” Sutch said.

SUN got its start in D.C. in 2009, stemming from the Mt. Pleasant Solar Cooperative originally started by Anya Schoolman. She said her son Walter and his friend Diego watched “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary about climate change, and wanted to help fight the problem by going solar. After realizing that an isolated transition to solar power was complicated and expensive, Schoolman wondered if the answer might be to convert her neighborhood in bulk.

After two weeks, more than 50 neighbors had joined Schoolman in wanting to install solar power on their roofs. The group became D.C.’s first solar co-op and two years later, 45 families in the area were reliant on solar energy.

Schoolman created DC SUN to replicate the success of its neighborhood co-op. Over the next decade, the DC SUN model spread to nearby states. In 2017, Solar United Neighbors became a nationwide program offering memberships. There were seven state programs already in place when it was officially established; now there are 13. In addition to D.C. and Virginia, SUN has memberships in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.

Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order in September laying out goals for a future driven by renewable energy. The order called for 30% of the state’s electricity to be supplied by renewable energy by 2030, and 100% of electricity supplied by renewable energy by 2050. 

“Solar energy is a rapidly growing segment of our economy,” Northam stated in a press release. “I am proud that the commonwealth is playing a role in driving this demand and taking advantage of the benefits that this resource provides.”

SUN offers a multitude of other programs aimed at giving Virginians the information they need to go solar. That information can be found on SUN’s website, along with a calendar of events the organization is hosting in the near future.

Loving continues to help establish other solar co-ops in the Shenandoah Valley.

“What we’re doing is educating the citizenry and the customers and other stakeholders of the big utilities, and I think that's a really important mission,” Loving said.

Subscribe to RSS - December 2019

Emporia News

Stories on Emporianews.com are be searchable, using the box above. All new stories will be tagged with the date (format YYYY-M-D or 2013-1-1) and the names of persons, places, institutions, etc. mentioned in the article. This database feature will make it easier for those people wishing to find and re-read an article.  For anyone wishing to view previous day's pages, you may click on the "Previous Day's Pages" link in the menu at the top of the page, or search by date (YYYY-M-D format) using the box above.

Comment Policy:  When an article or poll is open for comments feel free to leave one.  Please remember to be respectful when you comment (no foul or hateful language, no racial slurs, etc) and keep our comments safe for work and children. Comments are moderated and comments that contain explicit or hateful words will be deleted.  IP addresses are tracked for comments. 

EmporiaNews.com serves Emporia and Greensville County, Virginia and the surrounding area
and is provided as a community service by the Advertisers and Sponsors.
All material on EmporiaNews.com is copyright 2005-2019
EmporiaNews.com is powered by Drupal and based on the ThemeBrain Sirate Theme.

Submit Your Story!

Emporia News welcomes your submissions!  You may submit articles, announcements, school or sports information or community calendar events via e-mail on news@emporianews.com. 

Contact us at news@emporianews.com
 
EmporiaNews.com is hosted as a community Service by Telpage.  Visit their website at www.telpage.net or call (434)634-5100 (NOTICE: Telpage cannot help you with questions about Emporia New nor does Teplage have any input the content of Emporia News.  Please use the e-mail address above if you have any questions, comments or concerns about the content on Emporia News.)