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May 2017

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE REMINDS MOTORISTS TO SLOW DOWN OR MOVE OVER THIS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

RICHMOND – Memorial Day signifies the official start of summer, and the Virginia State Police is taking this opportunity to remind motorists to do what’s right when they see lights – #MoveOver.

See lights- Do what's right.

The “Move Over” law is a lifesaving law intended to protect public safety professionals and highway workers who help to maintain the safety of the Commonwealth’s roads.

Drivers are required to change to another travel lane or, when unable to change lanes, cautiously pass emergency personnel stopped on the side of the road. The law also includes highway maintenance vehicles and tow trucks equipped with flashing amber lights.

From 2006 to 2015 nationwide, 128 law enforcement officers were struck by vehicles while conducting traffic stops, assisting motorists, directing traffic, or otherwise working at the roadside.*

Last year, five Virginia State Police troopers were injured after being involved in crashes in which a motorist failed to “Move Over.” Nationwide, 15 officers were struck and killed outside their vehicles.**

“Every day first responders and highway workers knowingly take on the dangerous task of working along the roadside to assist motorists or improve our highways,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “We’re asking drivers to help protect those men and women by doing what’s right when they see flashing red, blue or amber lights – Move Over or Slow Down. It’s the law, and it could save a life.”

Since the 2017 Memorial Day holiday weekend falls within this year’s Click It or Ticket campaign, state police troopers will be even more vigilant in their efforts to increase seat belt usage among adults, teenagers and children. The two-week, concentrated educational and enforcement initiative began Monday and runs through June 4, 2017. The annual Click It or Ticket campaign combines high visibility enforcement of seat belt and child safety seat laws with outreach and education. 

Of the 761 total people killed last year in crashes throughout Virginia, 304 were unrestrained.***

Occupant restraint enforcement is a key component of the Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) traffic safety initiative that begins 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 26, 2017, and concludes Monday, May 29, 2017, at midnight.

The state-sponsored, national program encourages law enforcement agencies to increase visibility and traffic enforcement efforts on major travel holidays, like Memorial Day. The program also means that all available Virginia State Police troopers will be on patrol through the holiday weekend.

The 2016 Memorial Day Operation C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 913 individuals who failed to obey the law and buckle up, as well as issuing 273 citations for child safety seat violations on Virginia’s highways statewide. In addition, state police cited 11,048 speeders and 2,663 reckless drivers. A total of 131 drunken drivers were taken off Virginia’s roadways and arrested by state troopers.

There were 11 traffic fatalities statewide during the five-day period (May 27, 2016 – May 31, 2016) of the 2016 Memorial Day weekend. In 2015, there were 14 traffic deaths and, in 2014, Virginia experienced eight fatalities on Virginia’s highways during the holiday weekend.***

ANNIE MARIE “DOODLE” ROBBINS SMITH

The Fudge Lady, Annie Marie “Doodle” Robbins Smith, 82, of Gaston, NC died Saturday, May 20, 2017, at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Mrs. Smith was born in Wilson County, NC the daughter of the late William Hansel Robbins and Daisy Bass Robbins. She was also preceded in death by her husband Romie B. Smith a granddaughter, Tammy Lynn Cooke, a half-brother Russell Robbins and a half-sister, Prudie Mae Webb and a grand-dog Phoebe Branch.

Mrs. Smith, retired from Prillaman Chemical of Suffolk, VA. She served as pastor of The Church of Jesus Christ, 116 Emry Street, Roanoke Rapids, NC from Sept. 2002 until present.  She served her community in numerous ways, being an active participant in Relay for Life from 1997 until present serving as chaplain, accountant and team leader, and being an active member of the Pilot Club from 1976 until present serving in numerous offices and was Pilot of the Year 1982-1983 and 2012-2013.

Surviving are: three daughters, Elaine DeBerry, and her husband Ronald, Connie Pernell and her husband David and Melody Branch and her husband Michael, all of Gaston, NC; a sister, Madie Higgins of Gaston, NC; three grandsons, William “Bill” Allen Cooke, Jr. and his wife Robin, Michael Ray Cooke and Jason Everette Pernell and his wife Amy, all of Gaston, NC., great grandsons William “Will” Allen Cooke, III, Christopher “Ryan” Cooke, Andrew “Drew” Everette Pernell all of Gaston, and Michael “MJ” Ray Cooke, Jr. of Emporia, VA., two step grandsons, two step granddaughters, seven step great grandchildren, special adopted granddaughters Gracie and Jamie Clements, beloved  grand-dogs Autumn, Bella, Remington, and Snow Branch.

The family will receive at Wrenn Clarke & Hagan Funeral and Cremation Service, Wednesday, May 24, 2017, from 7:30 to 9:00 PM.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, May 25, 2017, at 2:30 PM, in the funeral home chapel, with Mr. Ricky Jordan and Mrs. Judi Hux officiating. Interment will follow in Cedarwood Cemetery, Roanoke
Rapids, NC.

The family request memorial donations be made to: The Pilot Club of Roanoke Valley, P. O. Box 971, Roanoke Rapids, NC  27870.          

Online condolences may be sent to the family at: www.wrennclarkehagan.com

Person of Interest Sought After City's First Homicide of 2017

Investigators working to solve a weekend murder of Quinton L. Ivey are looking for Brittany O’Bannon.

O’Bannon, 27, of Emporia, was named a person of interest in the City’s first Homicide of 2017, and the Emporia Police Department is asking anyone with information about O’Bannon’s whereabouts or information about Mr. Ivey’s death to call (434)634-2121. Detective Sgt. Jerry Wright is in charge of the investigation

“Police received information that three individuals were seen running east on Church Street from the crime scene after Mr. Ivey was shot,” Emporia Police Chief Ricky A. Pinksaw said. “The Emporia Police Department is asking for the community’s assistance to locating Brittany O’Bannon who has been identified as a person of interest in this criminal investigation.”

It was not made clear whether O’Bannon was seen running on Church Street.

Police were called to the 300 block of Church Street in Emporia for a shooting at about 4:20 on Saturday morning.

“Upon the Officers arrival they located and later identified Quinton L. Ivey as the shooting victim,” the chief said.

Police have not yet said what led up to the shooting, nor have they identified the people seen running on Church Street.

“If anyone knows of [Brittany O’Bannon’s] whereabouts, or has any other information about who may have killed Mr. Ivey… please contact the Emporia Police Department at 434-634-2121,” the chief said. “Any piece of information that you may feel is not important is critical to the successful conclusion of this investigation to bring the murderer of Mr. Ivey to justice.”

Ivey, the son of Noral Brown and Florence Carpenter was the father of two. He was remembered at a candlelight vigil on Sunday evening.

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First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe Visits Edward W. Wyatt Middle to Highlight School Breakfast Growth

First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe joined Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent, Virginia State Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Virginia State University Head Football Coach and former NFL player Reggie Barlow and other partners, including No Kid Hungry Virginia and the Southeast Dairy Association at Edward W. Wyatt Middle School on Friday, May 19, to recognize the school for its success in connecting students with breakfast. Edward W. Wyatt Middle School was one of 12 school winners in the Virginia Breakfast Challenge, a campaign to increase school breakfast participation across the state.

1,325 schools participated in the Virginia Breakfast Challenge, which ran from October 2017 through December 2017. In January, 2017, after the competition concluded, 24,741 more Virginia kids participated in school breakfast each day, compared to January, 2016.

At the beginning of the assembly, those who were instrumental increasing access to breakfast were recognized.  Crystal Crutchfield, GCPS Foodservice Director, Ruth Bullock, Edward W. Wyatt Middle School Cafeteria Manager, and the staff of the cafeteria were all recognized. Mrs. Bullock and the lunch ladies received a rousing standing ovation. It was pointed out that the smell of freshly baked biscuits every morning was a great way to start the school day.

“We know expanding school breakfast programs help since childhood hunger and helps children perform better in schools,” said Mrs. McAuliffe.  “This has been proven by research connecting school breakfast but as a patient to improve school attendance and math tests course, but we also are you need from administrators schools across the commonwealth that embrace the alternative models, like Edward W. Wyatt.  They’re seeing fewer discipline referrals better learning environments and better concentration from students after making the change.  It’s a win-win.” “Kids can’t be hungry to learn if they’re just plain hungry, which is why we need to continue to increase access to breakfast in our schools. Together, we can end childhood hunger.”

One in six kids in Virginia living families that struggle with hunger.  Research shows that Congress serious consequences for children, including lower test scores, weaker attendance rates, and higher risk of hospitalization and chronic diseases.

No Kid Hungry Virginia and its partners and focused on breakfast after the bell is a critical way to end childhood car in Virginia.  The program increases access to school breakfast by burning breakfast out of the cafeteria and making it part of the school day.

Edward W. Wyatt middle are using credit will model allowing students to finish their breakfast in their first.  Class.  The number of students eating breakfast of the Edward W. Wyatt middle grew by 55% between October 2015 and October 2016.

First Lady Mcauliffe and distinguished guests observed the Grab & Go breakfast program and spoke about the importance of healthy eating habits.  For winning the Virginia breakfast challenge, No Kid Hungry Virginia award the school $4000 to support technology enhancements, field trips or playground equipment.  On behalf of Virginia dairy farmers the Southeast Dairy Farmers Association awarded school $2500 to purchase equipment to support the school’s breakfast program.  The Virginia Breakfast Challenge was made possible by generous donations of No Kid Hungry Virginia sponsors including Smithfield Foods, Dominion, and Wal-Mart.

“A complete breakfast as part of a healthy diet.  Breakfast programs help ensure all are Virginia students get the nutrition they need to succeed in school,” said Barlow.

Virginia was one of the top 10 states with the biggest growth in breakfast programs, according to recent data from the food research and action center and is on track to serve eight million more breakfasts during the 2016-2017 school year compared with the 2013-2014 school year.

Rise and Shine Breakfast Poster Winners Announced

Winners of the Rise and Shine Breakfast Poster Contest were announced during First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe's visit to Edward W. Wyatt Middle School on Friday, May 19, 2017.

Librarian Tabby Owen, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and Secretary of Education Dietra Trent with the winners of the Rise and Shine Breakfast Poster Contest

Sixth Grade Winner-Judah Winstead

Seventh Grade Winner-Tyanna James

Eight Grade Winner-Tyona Harris

Mary Delbridge Taylor

Mary Delbridge Taylor, 74, of Emporia, passed away Sunday, May 21, 2017. She was preceded in death by a son, William Chris Jarratt and a sister, Lucille Ogburn. She is survived by her daughter, Shirley J. Gill and husband, Henry; son, Michael E. Taylor and wife, Nicole; grandchildren, Michael Gill, Amanda Gill, Casey Fender and husband, Nathan, Leslie Gill Edwards and husband, Chuck, Bryan Gill, Christy Taylor, Nick Taylor, Katie Taylor and fiancé, Zach Liles and Samantha Grizzard and Josh Jarratt; nine great-grandchildren; brother, Albert Delbridge, Jr.; two sisters, Frances Taylor and Julie Finch and a number of nieces and nephews. She also leaves behind her beloved canine companion, Sweetie. The family will receive friends 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, May 24 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, Virginia where the funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Thursday, May 25. Interment will follow at Emporia Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to Calvary Baptist Church, 310 N. Main St., Emporia, Virginia 23847. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com. 

Benjamin “Uncle Benny” Veliky

Benjamin “Uncle Benny” Veliky, 85, widower of Erma Jean Veliky, passed away Friday, May 19, 2017. He was the son of the late John and Anna S. Veliky and was also preceded in death by three brothers, John Veliky, Jr. , Paul Veliky and Charlie Veliky. He is survived by two sons, Tony Veliky and wife, Betsy and Stewart Veliky; daughters, Connie Marshall and husband, Michael and Wanda Dunlow and husband, Clinton; grandchildren, Crystal Jones and husband, Danny, Cyndal Perkins, Heather Veliky, Andrea and Lance Marshall, Eric and Leslie Veliky and Brooke and Blake Dunlow; three great-grandchildren, Zoe, Ryleigh and Bryant, a sister, Margaret Dianis and a number of nieces and nephews. The family will receive friends 6-8 p.m. Monday, May 22 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd, Jarratt, Virginia. The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 23 at St. John Lutheran Church with interment to follow at the church cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to St. John Lutheran Church, 1351 W. Atlantic St., Emporia, Virginia 23847. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com

VCU Health CMH Team Member of the Month

W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital presented Stacey King, Communications Representative in the Admissions Department, the VCU Health CMH STAR Service Team Member of the Month Award for April.  There to congratulate Stacey was Ken Libby, Vice President of Finance.

Stacey has been employed at VCU Health CMH for five years.  Her dedication and work ethic are just two of the qualities that make her a wonderful asset to VCU Health CMH.  The nomination form submitted on her behalf stated, “When phones were temporarily out in one of our centers Stacey did an exceptional job taking messages and emailing information to the appropriate department director.  Based on the frequency of emails that Stacey sent, it was evidence of how busy her day was.  Stacey’s extra efforts were enormously helpful to multiple departments.  Stacey is to be commended and applauded for the teamwork she displayed.”  “Stacey has always been agreeable to going the extra mile to help with whatever situation arises.  She has consistently helped our department by working extra hours.  She has also been instrumental in helping with our communications transition.”

In addition to the award certificate, Stacey received a STAR Service lapel pin, letter of commendation from Administration, a $40 gift certificate, and a parking place of her choice for the month. 

Virginia Tech’s Tom Tillar honored for exceptional service to the advancement profession

May 18, 2017 -- Tom Tillar’s exceptional dedication to higher education advancement, shown throughout his 46-year career at Virginia Tech, will be recognized with the Frank L. Ashmore Award by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, widely known as CASE.

Tillar stepped down as vice president for alumni relations in 2015. He continues to serve his alma mater as special assistant to Pamplin College of Business Dean Robert Sumichrast and is involved with planning and preparation for the Global Business and Analytics Complex.

“Tom created an unprecedented culture of engaged and committed alumni by building life-long relationships and maintaining the history and traditions of the university,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said. “He has been an exemplary role model to senior professionals in the field, and a mentor and inspiration to students and staff.”

The Ashmore Award honors a current or former staff member at a CASE member institution or educational partner who has performed exceptional service to CASE or the advancement profession. Presented annually since 1968, it was originally known as the Presidential Citiation. It was renamed in 1973 in memory of a former director of the American College Public Relations Association, a predecessor organization to CASE. This year’s award will be presented to Tillar in July at CASE’s Summit for Leaders in Advancement.

A native of Emporia, Virginia, Tillar is a member of the university’s Class of 1969. He earned a bachelor’s in biological sciences, a master’s in student personnel services, and a doctor of education degree, all from Virginia Tech.

Tillar began his Virginia Tech career in 1971 in what is now the Division of Student Affairs. In 1975, he joined the Virginia Tech Alumni Association staff. He held several positions in alumni and development, including director of alumni chapter programs, director of corporate and foundation support, director of alumni annual giving, and director of alumni relations, before being appointed vice president for alumni relations in 1995.

In 2015, Tim Sands called on Tillar to serve as interim senior vice president for advancement during a reorganization that combined the Office of Development and University Relations and the Office of Alumni Relations into a single Division of Advancement, now headed by Charlie Phlegar. Senior Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations Matt Winston now heads the university’s alumni relations programs.

Tillar has been active in CASE throughout his career. He has presented at national and district conferences and served on the CASE Alumni Commission.

He completed the CASE certificate program in alumni relations. He earned the certified fundraising executive designation conveyed by what is now the Association of Fundraising Professionals and has been a member of the Council of Alumni Association Executives for 20 years.

Doug Dibbert, president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill General Alumni Association, nominated Tillar for the Ashmore Award.

“For nearly a quarter of a century I have observed and admired Tom’s deep commitment to his alma mater, his complete understanding of its rich history, and his pride in the passionate support of present and former Virginia Tech students,” said Dibbert, who won the Ashmore Award in 2015. “At professional conferences, when Tom speaks, he reflects quiet confidence, authenticity, and wisdom.”

While leading the university’s alumni engagement initiatives, Tillar established staffing for college and constituency programs and incorporated student-class-officer leadership into alumni relations. He helped plan, design, and raise funds for the Holtzman Alumni Center, which opened in 2005.

In 2007, at the request of former President Charles Steger, Tillar formed and chaired the committee that oversaw creation of the April 16 Memorial on the Drillfield in front of Burruss Hall. The number of active alumni chapters nearly doubled between the start of Tillar’s Virginia Tech career and when he announced he was stepping down as vice president in mid-2015.

“I am honored to receive this recognition from CASE, which is such a valuable organization enriching our profession,” Tillar said. “While I realize it’s rare these days, I’ve been blessed to work for my university over my entire career. It’s always meant so much personally to be able to serve in the spirit of our motto, Ut Prosim, and help hundreds of thousands of our alumni stay connected with their university and with each other.”

State Board Sets Tuition for 2017-2018 Academic Year

RICHMOND —The State Board for Community Colleges, by a unanimous vote, established the 2017-2018 academic year in-state tuition and mandatory fees rate at $150.25 per credit hour today at its regular May meeting. Beginning this fall, in-state students will pay an additional $4.00 per credit hour – an increase of 2.7 percent – which means the cost of a typical three-hour class will increase by $12 and the cost of a full-time load of classes for the year will increase by $120.

The new rate keeps community college tuition and mandatory fees at approximately one-third of the comparable costs at Virginia’s public four-year universities.

Virginia’s Community Colleges will use the tuition increase to pay a share of the General Assembly-approved employee pay raise; rising fringe benefit costs; and costs associated with using various Virginia administrative systems. It will also pay for operating costs for new buildings.

“Our State Board remains sensitive to the need to ensure higher education is affordable for Virginia families,” said James Cuthbertson, chair of the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges. “Accordingly, today’s tuition decision strikes a careful balance between that need and our commitment to provide an outstanding and worthy educational experience.”

TUITION DIFFERENTIALS

The State Board also agreed to approve select increases in the tuition differential rates that are in addition to the base tuition. The board approved increasing the differential for Northern Virginia Community College by $1.00 per credit hour. Even with the differential, NVCC’s tuition remains the lowest among comparable colleges in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Further, the board approved an increase of 50 cents per credit hour to the tuition differential rate for John Tyler Community College in Chesterfield and the Tri-city area.

The tuition differential rates remain unchanged from last year for the following community colleges: Germanna in Fredericksburg; Piedmont Virginia in Charlottesville; Reynolds in Richmond; Tidewater in Hampton Roads; Thomas Nelson on the Virginia Peninsula; and Virginia Western in Roanoke.

OUT-OF-STATE TUITION

The State Board increased the tuition rate for out-of-state students by $4.00 per credit hour to a total of $346.85 per credit hour. As required by law, the Board also approved an increase of $1.00 per credit hour to support the debt service for Virginia’s Higher Education Equipment Trust Fund. Out-of-state students make up approximately five percent of the total enrollment of Virginia’s Community Colleges.

OUT-OF-STATE ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY DISCOUNT

The Board elected to take advantage of a change in state law that allows public institutions to charge reduced tuition and mandatory fees to active duty military members stationed outside Virginia who are enrolled in degree programs associated with their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).
The Out-of-State Active Duty Military Discount essentially allows the VCCS to charge active service members a reduced tuition rate along with the $1.00 per credit hour capital fee required of all out-of-state students. The discount will save military members more than half of what they would otherwise pay in out-of-state tuition.

BA JV Softball Team Undefeated

The Brunswick Academy JV Softball team completed an undefeated 2017 season with a 19-0 record.  The Lady Vikings were victorious in the Virginia Colonial Conference championship with a win over Southampton Academy beating the Raiders with a score of 3-2. Seventh grader, Emily Roberts threw all seven innings and recorded seven strike outs. Seventh grader, Sydney Paul along with eighth graders, Melody Cox and Kaitlyn Waller, had RBI's to bank the win. This marks two consecutive years as the V.C.C. Regular and Tournament Champions with undefeated conference records. The JV Lady Vikings are coached by Amanda Hawthorne, Belinda Rivas  and Darlene Roberts.

Picture info : Front row (left to right): Shelby Rideout, Carleigh Jarratt,  Melody Cox, Naomi Sadler (C), Emily Roberts, Reanna Powers, Assistant Coach Belinda Rivas. 

Back row (left to right): Head Coach Amanda Hawthorne, Nelia Washburn, Kaitlyn Waller, Taylor Hill,  Alyssa Rivas, Sydney Paul, Cassidy Smith, Assistant Coach Darlene Roberts. 

Not pictured: Scorekeeper Angie Sadler,

When supply exceeds demand, wages for Langley Park day laborers suffer

By GABY GALVIN, Capital News Service

LANGLEY PARK, Maryland – Each weekday morning, contractors in need of day laborers to paint, mulch or hammer pull their trucks into a small strip mall here and begin negotiating with job seekers. It takes just a few minutes for the price of human labor to decline – often below the state’s minimum wage – as men desperate for work underbid each other.

On a recent weekday, eight trucks pulled in over a two-hour period and separately negotiated with about 10 workers at a time. The bidding started at $12 an hour. But because there were more laborers than employers, the price frequently fell to as little as $5 per hour, significantly lower than the state’s mandated $8.75 minimum hourly wage and Prince George’s County’s minimum wage of $10.75 an hour. Although several workers cut deals at that low rate, Jose, a construction worker who moved to the U.S. from Guatemala 21 years ago, held out for higher pay – a decision that cost him a job at the time.

Even though Jose sometimes works for less than the $16 an hour he thinks he should be earning, he won’t bid himself down as low as the other workers. Day laborers make so little, he said, that they “have to work sometimes day and sometimes day and nights.” (Capital News Service is withholding the last names of day workers to protect them from possible retaliatory actions from employers.)

Scenes such as this have become a common part of the American informal job market and are especially prevalent in heavily immigrant areas such as Langley Park, a small community in Prince George’s County that is home to many families that have come to the U.S. from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and other countries in Central America and Africa.

Immigrant day workers say these informal markets serve a good purpose by allowing them to find work easily and without signing paperwork or governmental oversight. But worker advocates argue that these markets actually work against the long-term interest of immigrants by pulling wages down so low that families struggle to break out of poverty. The average annual income for day laborers in Langley Park, many of whom are in the U.S. illegally, is between $10,000 and $15,000, according to CASA de Maryland, the largest Latino and immigrant advocacy organization in the Washington, D.C. area.

Moreover, some economists believe these trends have trickled down to the broader job market and could partly explain why wages for some low-skilled workers – both native-born and immigrants – have remained stuck at the same level for decades and in some cases have fallen.

“The theory says that increased supply [of workers] should lower wages,” said Nicholas Montgomery, a labor economist at the University of Maryland. Montgomery says that while native-born Americans might frown at the idea of working for less than minimum wage, many immigrants calculate their earnings differently. “I do believe these workers are thinking, ‘What is the way that I can make the most amount of money?’ And that’s not necessarily holding out for a higher wage. And I would rather bid myself down to $8 an hour, and have an 80 percent chance of getting a job, than having a 10 percent chance at $15 an hour.”

Between March 2006 and March 2016, average weekly wages adjusted for inflation for all U.S. production workers rose 8.2 percent to $309.68, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That category includes workers in construction, manufacturing and service jobs and those who are not primarily employed to supervise others. But average weekly wages for workers in some industries haven’t kept pace and in some cases have declined.

For example, average weekly wages for workers in the janitorial services industry declined 1.8 percent from March 2006 to March 2016 to $144.56; wages for employees in the house painting industry declined 3.3 percent to $307.46 and average wages for workers in the house and office furniture moving industry were down 11.5 percent to $235.76. Average weekly wages for workers in landscaping services rose 6.2 percent, but remained relatively low at just $252.85 in March 2016.

“It’s been tough” to convince workers not to underbid their labor, says Delia Aguilar, the senior manager of workforce development for CASA de Maryland. She says that workers believe that jobs are more plentiful in the informal markets, “but that doesn’t mean that they’re getting fair payment.”

Since 1985, CASA has tried to push back against falling wages by establishing so-called “welcome” centers where employers and potential employees can meet and CASA mediators will help negotiate wages and working conditions. CASA’s welcome center in Langley Park opened in 2008 and handles between 20 and 40 workers daily.

CASA sets a wage floor of $10 per hour, though Aguilar said employers often pay at least $12 an hour. Higher-skilled workers earn between $15 and $20 per hour, a sharp increase from the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and Maryland’s $8.75 hourly minimum wage. The state’s hourly wage is set to increase to $9.25 in July.

In return for paying higher wages, contractors that hire via CASA take on workers who have received job and safety training. CASA offers classes on building maintenance, drywall, heating and cooling and other occupational skills, and instructs workers on professional dress and behavior.

Still, some employers “are going to try to save money, and they see it as a business opportunity to do that,” Aguilar said of contractors who hire non-CASA workers for cheaper wages. “Some employers are conscious, they understand, what we have over here is a little bit different. They pay a little bit more, but they understand that the process is more viable.”

CASA operates with a first-in, first-out system: When workers arrive, as early as 6 a.m., they sign in and wait for the first employer to show up with work. The second worker to arrive then moves up a slot, and so on, with the rotation carrying over to the next day. When employers pick up laborers, they sign documentation agreeing to what CASA’s staff refers to as a “living wage.” If employers don’t pay, CASA’s legal services team comes knocking.

Felix, an immigrant from Cameroon in Central Africa, appreciates CASA’s tactics. “CASA is looking out for everybody, not for a particular person,” said Felix, who has been finding jobs through the welcome center for the past three years. He said he rarely participates in the informal markets because he isn’t willing to work for less than $10 per hour and he doesn’t like the way workers undermine each other. “Everybody up there is everybody for themselves.” 

At least as many workers choose to look for work outside of CASA, though. For those laborers, it’s better to work for less pay than to not work at all, a risk with CASA’s one-in one-out system. With no way to collectively enforce CASA’s higher pay, wages end up dropping for all workers, according to Montgomery.

“There’s only going to be so many people who are willing to hire people at $15 an hour,” Montgomery said. “And however many people that is, it is fewer than the number of people who are willing to hire people for $10 an hour. If you underbid, that increases your probability of getting a job.”

Workers who operate outside of CASA underbid themselves because they think in terms of accrued wages, not hourly, Montgomery and Aguilar agree. Although CASA workers earn more hourly, the probability of not getting work in a given day is higher. Non-CASA laborers, conversely, might work more often but make less money hourly.

CASA encourages employers to request workers through an online form and telephone calls so they don’t have to physically go to center and be “harassed” by outside workers, Aguilar said. Langley Park is the only of CASA’s five welcome centers with this issue because it is located in a strip mall’s basement. It is easy for outside workers to intercept employers on their way to CASA, offering to work for less than those waiting downstairs, she said.

“We understand at the same time, [non-CASA laborers] are in need,” Aguilar said. “They’re trying to do as much as they can to be able to make that money that they need to support their families. At the same time, they are changing the environment in the area.”

SENS. WARNER, BLUNT LEAD BIPARTISAN COALITION TO REINTRODUCE INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION

~Bill would help states and localities leverage private funds to build and repair outdated transportation, water, and energy infrastructure~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) led a bipartisan coalition of Senators in introducing legislation to establish a new infrastructure financing authority to help states and localities better leverage private funds to build and maintain the nation’s outdated infrastructure. The Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act helps to address the nation’s alarming investment shortfall in maintaining and improving our transportation network, water and wastewater systems and energy infrastructure. The legislation would provide additional financing tools for states and localities to create new jobs here at home while also increasing our nation’s economic competitiveness.

“As we mark the 5th annual Infrastructure Week, we must think boldly and make real investments in our nation’s infrastructure rather than kick the can down the road with short-term fixes,” said Sen. Warner. “The BRIDGE Act offers a bold, bipartisan solution to help address our infrastructure needs by incentivizing private investment and pairing it with public resources. This legislation will set a clear framework that will help create jobs, expand U.S. commerce and trade, and keep American businesses competitive.”

“Missouri is a transportation hub, and improving our roads, bridges, and waterways is critical for economic growth in our state and across the nation,” said Sen. Blunt. “This bipartisan bill will provide much-needed resources to strengthen infrastructure and help ensure Missouri’s farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses are able to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy.”

The BRIDGE Act is cosponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

America currently spends roughly two percent of its GDP on infrastructure– about half what it did 50 years ago. By comparison, Europe spends around 5 percent, and China spends 9 percent of GDP on infrastructure. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, the United States currently ranks 12th among 144 developed countries in overall infrastructure compared to our global competitors. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers latest estimate shows that in order to close the $2.0 trillion 10-year investment gap, meet future need, and restore our global competitive advantage, we must increase investment from all levels of government and the private sector from 2.5% to 3.5% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025. As of 2012, of the more than 600,000 bridges in the U.S., 24.9 percent were either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. Nationally, our bridges are, on average, 42 years old, and need an estimated $76 billion to repair and replace. Similarly, the average age of the 84,000 dams in the country is 52 years old, and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that aging and high-hazard dams require an investment of $21 billion to repair.

To help address this funding shortfall for our nation’s transportation, water and energy infrastructure, the BRIDGE Act will establish an independent, nonpartisan financing authority to complement existing U.S. infrastructure funding. The authority would provide loans and loan guarantees to help states and localities fund the most economically viable road, bridge, rail, port, water, sewer, and other significant infrastructure projects.  The authority would receive initial seed funding of up to $10 billion, which could incentivize private sector investment and make possible $300 billion or more in total project investment. The authority is structured in a way to make it self-sustaining over time without requiring additional federal appropriations.

“If we are to improve our nation’s infrastructure, graded a D+ in ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, we can no longer afford to defer needed investment in modernization and maintenance. Under Sen. Warner’s leadership, the BRIDGE Act would make a significant step toward this increased, sustained investment, establishing a new, innovative funding authority designed to attract billions of dollars in private sector investment in our nation’s water, transportation, and energy sectors. Sen. Blunt’s co-sponsorship demonstrates once again that infrastructure is a bipartisan issue that impacts the lives of all Americans. Through the BRIDGE Act, our nation’s infrastructure will receive much-needed additional funding to help narrow the $2 trillion infrastructure investment gap that currently costs every American family $3,400 a year out of their discretionary income,”said Norma Jean Mattei, PH.D., P.E., President, American Society of Civil Engineers

“The 31 national associations and construction trade unions of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) applaud your bipartisan efforts in crafting the Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act. We support your proposal as a means to supplement the core federal transportation investment programs by utilizing an array of financing tools to encourage private sector investment in needed transportation infrastructure improvements. As Congress and the Administration move forward on a rewrite of the nation’s tax code and an encompassing infrastructure package promised by President Trump, the TCC believes a permanent solution to the Highway Trust Fund revenue shortfall should finally be addressed and included in either of these legislative packages. Additionally, all options, including alternative project delivery and finance methods like the BRIDGE Act, to address the nation's infrastructure deficit need to be considered as well. The BRIDGE Act represents an innovative approach that would provide the ability to support nationally and regionally significant infrastructure projects that require innovative financing outside the existing core federal programs,” said the Transportation Construction Coalition, representing 31 national associations and construction trade unions

“Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Mark Warner of Virginia, should be commended for their ongoing effort to strengthen our nation’s investment in critical infrastructure. Their legislation, The Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment Act (The BRIDGE Act), establishes a set of creative tools and incentives to draw private capital off the sidelines and promote effective public private partnerships.  There is at least a $1.4 trillion shortfall in funding needed to adequately support infrastructure needs between now and 2025.  The BRIDGE Act is key to unlocking private investment necessary to support long-term economic growth and a more competitive nation,” said Jason Grumet, President of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

According to ASCE, 42 percent of our major urban highways are congested, which costs the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually. Currently, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that $170 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis to significantly improve conditions and performance. Virginia received a C- on ASCE’s 2015 Infrastructure Report Card, with key regional infrastructure deemed structurally deficient such as Arlington Memorial Bridge in Northern Virginia.  The same report concluded that Virginians spend a cumulative two full work weeks per year just sitting in traffic.

Other individuals and organizations endorsing this legislation include Sean McGarvey, President of the North America's Building Trades Unions; Ed Rendell, Co-Chair of Building America’s Future and former Governor of Pennsylvania; Chris Spear, President and CEO of the American Trucking Association; Kurt J. Nagle, President and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities; Elaine Nessle, Executive Director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors; Jane F. Garvey, North America Chairman of Meridiam Infrastructure and former Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration; Adrea Turner, Director of Transportation for America; and Jennifer Aument, Transurban Group General Manager for North America.

For more information on key provisions of the BRIDGE Act, click here

Joint Statement from Senate Intel Committee Leaders on Special Counsel Appointment

WASHINGTON –Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today made the following statement on the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel:

“The appointment of former FBI Director and respected lawyer Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation is a positive development and will provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence.

“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will continue its own investigation and to the extent any deconfliction is required, we will engage with Director Mueller and our expectation is that he will engage with the Committee as well.”

KAINE & WARNER BILL TO GRANT FEDERAL RECOGNITION OF VIRGINIA INDIAN TRIBES MOVES ONE STEP CLOSER TO FINAL PASSAGE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017, a bill reintroduced in March by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, cleared its first procedural hurdle with unanimous passage out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.  The legislation would grant federal recognition of six Virginia tribes: the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond. These tribes have received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but have not received federal recognition, which would grant the tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. The legislation will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

“Today’s committee passage brings Virginia’s tribes one step closer to federal recognition,” said Kaine and Warner “Passage of this bill would give these tribes access to educational and health care services and the ability to properly pay respect to their ancestors. We won’t give up until Virginia’s tribes receive the recognition they deserve.”

Federal recognition would allow Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. Further, it would allow tribes to:

  • Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
  • Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
  • Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care. 

James Wesley “Bootsie” Harrell

James Wesley “Bootsie” Harrell, 72, of Jarratt, passed away Sunday, May 14, 2017. He was the son of the late Gordon Bryant Harrell, Sr. and Nora Gilliam Harrell and was also preceded in death by his sister, Virginia Ann Clapper and his brothers, Gordon B. Harrell, Jr. and Leon “Fuzzy” Harrell. Bootsie was a member of Lebanon United Methodist Church and had been an avid outdoorsman and particularly loved squirrel hunting and life on the farm. He loved his family and was noted for his knowledge of the Civil War especially the local history. He is survived by a number of nieces and nephews and a large extended family including his special friend and caregiver, Martha E. Bradley; sister-in-law, Virginia M. Harrell and devoted first cousin and friend, Ronnie Bell. The family will receive friends Thursday, May 18 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd, Jarratt, Virginia. A graveside funeral will be held at a later date at Greensville Memorial 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. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com

KAINE & TESTER INTRODUCE BILL TO PROTECT FEDERAL STUDENT AID FOR GOLD STAR FAMILIES

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and co-chair of the Senate Military Families Caucus, and Jon Tester (D-MT), ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced the Protect our Gold Star Families’ Education Act, legislation that wouldexpand the Pell Grant program to include the children and dependents of those killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 to offset their educational expenses.

Currently, students whose parents died as a result of military service in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 are eligible to receive federal student aid for postsecondary education that is equivalent to the maximum Pell Grant award through the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. However, as a result of sequestration, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter in May 2016 to institutions requiring them to reduce the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant awards by about 7% (or roughly $400 per recipient) for the 2016-2017 award year. The Protect our Gold Star Families’ Education Act would move the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant to the Pell Grant program to stabilize the funding source for these awards and ensure Gold Star families have access to the maximum the grant funding available. 

“Our Gold Star families have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country and ensuring they have access to a quality college education is the right thing to do,” Kaine said. “Moving these grants under the Pell program will provide more security to Gold Star families and help ease the burden of college costs. As more of our post-9/11 Gold Star children are starting to reach college age, now is the right time to improve the grant system.”  

“College should never be out-of-reach for families who have sacrificed so much for our freedom,” said Tester. “This bill is an important token of our appreciation to the Gold Star families who gave everything for this nation.  We owe it to these children to ensure they have access to a quality education that can help them achieve the best possible future.”  

“The American Legion understands the issues that the younger generation of veterans face today,” The American Legion said. “Ensuring that dependents of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are eligible to obtain financial assistance while attending an institution of higher learning is of great importance to this organization. We applaud Senator Tim Kaine and Senator Jon Tester for addressing this issue and support this piece of legislation.”

While Virginia public universities already offer tuition assistance to dependents whose parents were killed in action or were permanently disabled under the state’s Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program (VMSDEP), these funds could be used to offset tuition at private institutions and could also cover additional expenses, including room and board, books, and supplies. Over 500 Virginians have attended or are currently attending college at public universities with assistance through VMSDEP and would qualify for these Pell Grants as well. 

Illegal voting in Virginia? Yes. Massive? Doubtful.

By Mary Lee Clark and Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – For years, Republicans have loudly proclaimed that voter fraud is widespread in U.S. elections – and just as adamantly, Democrats have insisted that such allegations are nonsense.

Last fall, a pair of groups supported by conservatives released a report with the sensational title “Alien Invasion in Virginia: The discovery and coverup of noncitizen registration and voting.” It said illegal voting is a “massive problem”:

“In our small sample of just eight Virginia counties who responded to our public inspection requests, we found 1046 aliens who registered to vote illegally,” the study said.

“The problem is most certainly exponentially worse because we have no data regarding aliens on the registration rolls for the other 125 Virginia localities. Even in this small sample, when the voting history of this small sample of alien registrants is examined, nearly 200 verified ballots were cast before they were removed from the rolls. Each one of them is likely a felony.”

The report’s startling claims gained traction on some conservative websites as evidence of a rigged election system but were dismissed by Democrats as fiction from the far-right. The study made a splash in Virginia media but was quickly lost in the partisan noise of the presidential election.

In recent weeks, Capital News Service attempted to replicate the study’s methods and found that some noncitizens have indeed voted in Virginia, though not on a massive scale. Using the Freedom of Information Act, voter registration records and voter history data, CNS found that:

  • About 240 people who weren’t citizens had been registered to vote in 10 localities, mostly in Northern Virginia and the Richmond area.
  • 28 of these noncitizens actually voted in an election before they were removed from the voter registration rolls.
  • They cast a total of more than 100 ballots.

CNS did not find evidence that noncitizens voted in massive numbers or tipped an election, as some Republicans have alleged. Indeed, half of the noncitizens who voted in a party primary voted in a Republican primary. However, the records seem to contradict Democrats’ assertion that voter fraud is nonexistent.

Origins of the ‘Alien Invasion’ report

The “Alien Invasion” study was produced by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a nonprofit law firm based in Indiana, and the Virginia Voter Alliance, which describes itself as a nonpartisan group “dedicated to free and fair elections.”

Logan Churchwell is the foundation’s communications director and founding editor of Breitbart News Texas, a division of the far-right news network. In an email, Churchwell explained the process the foundation used in its study to determine whether noncitizens had voted.

Citing the state’s Freedom of Information Act, the foundation requested documents on people who were registered to vote but later pulled off the voter rolls after officials discovered they were not citizens.

“Once we knew that more than 1,000 voters fit this description, and knew their names, we were able to see in voter files that roughly 200 ballots had been cast from this sample,” Churchwell said.

He believes that is just the tip of the iceberg, since the study covered only a handful of Virginia’s 133 counties and cities.

“After our first survey of 10 jurisdictions, we’re now sweeping statewide,” Churchwell said. “We’re finding more voter registrations that were swept under the rug without calling the cops. We’ll be releasing an update to our study this year.”

To replicate the investigation, CNS sent Freedom of Information Act requests to the 10 localities mentioned in the foundation’s report: the counties of Prince William, Loudoun, Stafford, Bedford, Hanover, Fairfax and Chesterfield and the cities of Alexandria, Roanoke and Manassas.

The requests asked for the names of individuals who were taken off the voter registration rolls since 2015 after it was determined that they were not citizens.

The FOIA requests yielded names and other information on 243 individuals who were removed from the voter rolls because their citizenship had been questioned. Four of them were later reinstated, resulting in a final list of 239 noncitizens who had been registered voters.

But did these individuals actually vote? The answer lies in the state’s voter history database, which shows whether someone has cast a ballot in a particular election.

Reporters do not have access to that database. However, it is available to political campaigns and groups. One such group is NGP VAN, which manages data for Democrats. CNS asked a contact with access to the organization’s database to look up the voter histories of the individuals who had been dropped from Virginia’s voter rolls for not being citizens.

Of the 239 individuals, the voter history database indicated that 28 had voted in an election. In fact, 26 of them voted in last year’s general election.

For about half of these individuals, 2016 was the only election they voted in. But others had been voting for years – including one with a voting history back to 1996. In all, the 28 noncitizens were recorded as having cast a total of 120 ballots.

The CNS research did not corroborate the contention in the “Alien Invasion” report that “nearly 200 verified ballots” were cast by noncitizens before they were removed from the voter rolls. However, it seemed certain that some noncitizens have voted.

Can a noncitizen accidentally register to vote?

It’s possible for noncitizens to get on the voter registration roll by mistake. It can happen when they go to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to get a driver’s license or register an automobile.

Under the federally mandated “motor voter” system, people who go to DMV have an opportunity to register to vote. They receive a form with two checkoff questions:

  1. “Are you a citizen of the United States?”
  2. “Will you be 18 years of age on or before the next General Election day?”

People who answer “yes” to either question and fill out of the rest of the form will automatically have their name put on the voter rolls. Forms obtained by CNS show that some people who checked the “no” box on the citizenship question but completed the remainder of the form were added to the voter registration rolls.

“When it comes to registration, it’s mostly an honor system whether it’s at the DMV or not,” said Edgardo Cortés, commissioner for the Virginia Department of Elections. “There is no comprehensive list of U.S. citizens that is available anywhere.”

Thus, getting on the voter registration rolls is fairly easy. If election officials later learn that someone’s citizenship is in question, they send the person a written warning. The individual then has 14 days to verify his or her citizenship.

Cortés said law enforcement and other government agencies keep in close touch with the Virginia Department of Elections. For instance, the department is notified if someone is pulled over by police and found not to be a citizen.

Some statistics suggesting fraud seemed false

Most of the “Alien Invasion” report focused on assertions that noncitizens have registered to vote and actually voted. But the study included another alarming statement: “In some Virginia jurisdictions, the number of people registered to vote exceeds the number of citizens eligible to vote.”

State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, highlighted that claim in February in a press release to promote legislation requiring Virginians to show additional identification in order to vote. Echoing fellow Republicans at the state and national level, Obenshain said such laws are needed because voter fraud may be widespread.

“There are actually eight localities where the total number of registered voters is greater than the voting age population – the total number of Virginia citizens 18 and older – according to the census data just updated in June of 2016,” stated Obenshain, a Harrisonburg attorney. “Moreover in fifteen other localities, the number of registered voters exceeds 95% of the voting age population of those jurisdictions. Something is clearly wrong.”

It’s the purported statistics that are wrong, according to a researcher at the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia, the state’s official source of population and demographic data.

Kathryn Piper Crespin, a research and policy analyst for the Weldon Cooper Center, compared the population data for the U.S. Census Bureau to voter registration data from the Virginia Department of Elections.

“I could find no instance where voter registration in a locality exceeded that locality’s adult population,” Crespin said.

Trump claims there’s voter fraud in Virginia

Obenshain, who lost a 2013 election for attorney general to Democrat Mark Herring by 165 votes of more than 2.2 million cast, isn’t the only government official alleging voter fraud in Virginia. President Donald Trump has tweeted about the issue.

“Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California – so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias – big problem!” Trump tweeted on Nov. 27.

Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by roughly 2.8 million votes last fall. However, Trump administration officials say that’s because 3 million to 5 million noncitizens voted. (Clinton beat Trump by 212,000 votes in Virginia.)

“We know for a fact, you have a massive number of noncitizens registered to vote in this country,” White House senior adviser Stephen Miller said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Last week, Trump signed an executive order creating a commission to investigate voter fraud. The panel will review “vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.”

Vice President Mike Pence will chair the commission. As vice chairman, Trump named Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state. Critics say Kobach’s agenda is to suppress the vote of minorities and other people who tend to vote Democratic.

Others have praised Virginia’s voter registration system

It is somewhat ironic that Virginia should find itself in the crosshairs over alleged voter fraud. The commonwealth has been called a model in terms of elections. According to the Election Performance Index developed by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Virginia is one of the top five states in the country for keeping complete voter registration rolls.

“We have a really comprehensive system in place in Virginia to help identify people who have moved or have died, people who are no longer eligible,” Cortés said. “We spend a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of effort maintaining clean and accurate registration lists here. I think Virginia has been a model in those respects.”

Despite such record-keeping, Republican politicians and groups such as the Virginia Voter Alliance say the system is rife with fraud. While it seems clear some noncitizens have illegally cast votes, there’s no evidence yet of widespread fraud. But in the meantime, Republicans will continue to push for voter ID laws and other requirements that they believe would prevent noncitizens from voting.

Political parties at odds over voter ID laws

By Tyler Hammel and Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Voter identification laws are a hot issue in Virginia and across the country. Republicans say such laws combat voter fraud, which they insist is widespread. Democrats say the laws discourage voting by minority and elderly citizens who may be less likely to have a photo ID.

 

The debate has played out in Virginia, where Republicans control the General Assembly and a Democrat is governor, with few signs of a compromise.

In 2013, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1256, which required Virginia voters to present a driver’s license, passport or other photo ID in order to cast a ballot. The bill – which was signed into law by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican – also provided free photo IDs to citizens who needed one.

Democrats challenged the law, but in December, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it. “Not only does the substance of SB 1256 not impose an undue burden on minority voting, there was no evidence to suggest racially discriminatory intent in the law’s enactment,” the Richmond-based appellate court ruled.

However, the ruling was hardly the last word on the subject.

During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers introduced 11 bills concerning voter ID. Democrats submitted six measures to roll back the ID requirements or expand the types of IDs acceptable to election officials. Republicans sponsored five bills to make the requirements stricter, including proving citizenship before voting.

Of the bills, four Republican proposals passed. Those measures were all vetoed by the current governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, and Republican legislators could not muster the two-thirds majority vote to override any of the vetoes.

The vetoed bills were:

Senate Bill 1253, sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham. It sought to require electronic pollbooks to include photographs of registered voters. In rejecting the bill, McAuliffe cited administrative and privacy concerns.

House Bill 2343, by Del. Robert Bell, R-Charlottesville. It would have made the Virginia Department of Elections provide local registrars with a list of voters registered in multiple states. McAuliffe said this bill also would create an administrative burden.

HB 1428, filed by Del. Buddy Fowler, R-Glen Allen, and SB 872, by Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Midlothian. They sought to require voters applying for an absentee ballot to submit a copy of a photo ID.

When a House subcommittee held a hearing on HB 1428, Fowler said it was an effort to plug a hole in the existing voting system.

“We require folks to have a photo ID to cast a ballot here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Of course, we do not require that for an absentee ballot,” Fowler said. “I think that kind of seems like a hole in the wall, and I think with the number of people who vote absentee, we should also require a photo ID for voting absentee.”

Opponents of the legislation said it would unfairly target localities where a lot of people vote absentee, like Falls Church.

“The city had the largest turnout of absentee voters in the state in the presidential election at 25 percent. So I come here with some knowledge of how the implementation of this bill would affect us,” David Bjerke, voter registrar for Falls Church, told lawmakers. “It would do more to discourage absentee voting by mail than it would do to protect a vote.”

Not everyone involved in the election process agreed.

Clara Belle Wheeler, the vice chair of the Virginia Board of Elections, supported Fowler’s bill. She also opposed legislation that would add IDs from out-of-state colleges and state-run nursing homes to the list of identification cards acceptable at the polls.

Wheeler would like to see people present a photo ID and proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. That is the only way for registrars to verify whether the person filling out the application is a citizen, she said.

“Voter registration is based on the honor system. So if someone fills out an application and they mark that they are a citizen, the general registrar has no means of checking whether or not that person is a citizen,” Wheeler said.

She noted that photo IDs provide a means to verify citizenship because most of the documents accepted by the State Board of Elections cannot be obtained by noncitizens.

HB 1428 subsequently won approval on party-line votes in the House, 65-31, and the Senate, 21-19. But in March, McAuliffe vetoed the bill.

“The requirement would not in any way deter fraudulent voting since it provides no means of verifying the identity of the individual depicted in the submitted photograph,” McAuliffe said in his veto message.

“The right to vote is a fundamental tenet of our democracy, and we should be doing all we can to facilitate eligible citizens’ access to the ballot. This bill would undoubtedly result in the disenfranchisement of qualified eligible Virginian voters and increase the potential for costly and time-consuming litigation.”

Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center Announces April 2017 Employee of the Month

Emporia, VA – Frances Taylor has been named the Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) Employee of the Month for April 2017. Ms. Taylor, who works in SVRMC’s Nutritional Services Department, has been employed at SVRMC since October 2009.

Each month employees are nominated for demonstrating excellence in one of ten Standards of Behavior; the highlighted Standard of the Month for April was the All Star Award.  Ms. Taylor’s nomination included the following statement: “Frances takes responsibility for her area, displaying a sense of ownership in the department.  She often gives credit to her co-workers instead of taking praise for her own work; displaying great commitment to her co-workers. She is always cheerful, forever dependable, and exceeds expectations on a daily basis.  She communicates well with everyone. Frances is simply a joy to have around, she is wonderful!”

As SVRMC’s April Employee of the Month, Ms. Taylor received a certificate of recognition, balloons, cookies to share with her co-workers, a cash award, and a chance to be selected as SVRMC’s 2017 Employee of the Year.

SVCC Alumnus Sends Off Class of 2017

“Don’t ever forget your experience at this college and how it shaped you,” urged Stephen E. Parker, alumnus and graduation speaker for Southside Virginia Community College’s Commencement held May 13, 2017 on the John H. Daniel Campus under clearing skies.  A crowd of approximately 2,500 people attended the annual event.

The commencement event awarded degrees, diplomas and certificates to 1,303 students.  Those attending the ceremony walked across the stage to receive their awards from Dr. Al Roberts, SVCC President.

Parker, Director, Education and Workforce, National Governor’s Association (NGA), is a proud graduate of SVCC.   Parker directs policy and advocacy for education and workforce issues, including: early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary education, workforce development and child nutrition. He is responsible for the development and implementation of governors’ strategic priorities through the Education and Workforce Committee. Parker is the liaison between governors and the federal government on education, human services and workforce issues.

He reminded the graduates to “aspire to run YOUR world, not THE world. 

“Very few will run the world, but it is possible for everyone to run their own world.  Furthermore, power to uplift people can be so much more impactful than power over people.”

Also, he continued, as Aaron Sorkin wrote, “Having education and talent does not place you above the rest of the world.  It makes you responsible for it.”

Parker noted that he was raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet and he had no expectations of being able to attend college. 

“If there was no money for food, then there certainly would be no money for college.  I was destined to join my mother and her parents as the third generation in my family to never attend college.”

Thanks to the local community college and financial assistance from  federal and state sources,  Parker became the first college graduate in his family and two years ago, his mother became the second, also graduating from SVCC.

He concluded singing the words of Mavis Staples from “I Know A Place,” a reminder that SVCC is a good place to know and remember. 

He said he wished for each graduate, the same genuine care and investment in their future that they  experienced at SVCC.

Parker serves on the SVCC foundation board. He also received his bachelor’s degree at Longwood University, and completed postgraduate work in political leadership at the University of Virginia and public policy at the College of William and Mary.

     

Julia Kay Gilliam of Emporia receives her degree from Dr. Al Roberts, SVCC President (left). Hunter Darnell Astrop of Emporia is among those graduating from Southside Virginia Community College on May 13 (right).

 

 

Racial disparities in marijuana arrests seen across Virginia

By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Hanover County, just north of Richmond, has about 88,000 white residents, and in an average year, 246 whites are arrested there for marijuana possession. That represents a rate of 280 white arrests for every 100,000 white residents.

About 9,600 African-Americans also live in Hanover County, and in an average year, 171 blacks are arrested there for marijuana possession. That represents a rate of 1,779 black arrests for every 100,000 black residents.

Statistically, that means African Americans are more than six times as likely as whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana in Hanover County.

That is an extreme example of a pattern throughout Virginia: Statewide, blacks are about three times as likely as whites to be arrested on marijuana charges, according to a Capital News Service analysis of data from the Virginia State Police.

The analysis looked at records on more than 160,000 arrests by local and state law enforcement agencies from 2010 through 2016. It found that the racial disparity in marijuana arrest rates has increased over the years: In 2010, the arrest rate for blacks was 2.9 times the arrest rate for whites; in 2016, blacks were 3.2 times as likely as whites to be arrested on marijuana charges.

The statistics suggest that in many localities, the enforcement of marijuana laws has a disproportionate impact on African-Americans – even though studies show that blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly the same rates.

Previous studies by other groups also found differences in marijuana arrest rates between blacks and whites. In 2015, for example, the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports legalizing marijuana, issued a report on “racial disparities in marijuana arrests in Virginia” between 2003 and 2013.

“Black Virginians have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana law enforcement despite constituting only 20% of the state’s population and using marijuana at a similar rate as white Virginians,” the study found.

The report was written by Jon Gettman, a criminal justice professor at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, and a researcher and analyst of marijuana policy issues. In explaining the racial disparities, he said marijuana possession is a crime of indiscretion, meaning people get arrested because they’re at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“It’s not necessarily that the minority group of blacks are targeted for increased arrests but that the areas where they live have a lot more police patrols and a lot more police activity,” Gettman said. “I think it may have a lot to do with where police patrols are more frequent and where policing is more aggressive – and that may very well be because there’s more crime in particular regions.”

Arresting disproportionate numbers of blacks

The Virginia localities with the biggest differences between black and white arrest rates for marijuana were communities with relatively few African-Americans, such as Carroll County in the southwestern part of the state and the city of Poquoson, north of Hampton.

In those localities, a handful of arrests of blacks can make the arrest rate seem astronomical. In Colonial Heights, for example, the marijuana arrest rate for blacks was more than 7,000 per 100,000 population – compared with less than 800 per 100,000 residents for whites.

But even in Virginia’s more populous localities with sizable African-American populations, blacks were much more likely than whites to be arrested on marijuana charges:

  • In Fairfax County, for every 100,000 African-American residents, 861 were arrested for marijuana possession during an average year. In contrast, for every 100,000 white residents, 265 were arrested. This means that the black arrest rate was 3.2 times the arrest rate for whites.
  • An even larger disparity exists in Arlington, where blacks were arrested at a rate of 1,173 per 100,000 population, while whites were arrested at a rate of just 145 per 100,000 population. There, the black arrest rate is eight times the white arrest rate.
  • In Lynchburg, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Alexandria and Newport News, the black arrest rate was four to five times the white arrest rate.

In Hanover County, where the black arrest rate for marijuana possession was 6.4 times the white arrest rate, officials from the local NAACP have met with representatives of the county sheriff’s department and the Ashland police to discuss various issues – but not marijuana law enforcement.

“The last time we met, we had a complaint that African-Americans are being stopped on (Route) 360 more so than whites, and they do acknowledge that more African-Americans are stopped based on profiles that they’re looking for,” said Robert Barnette, who chairs the political action committee of the Hanover County branch of the NAACP.

“We are on the (Interstate) 95 corridor for drug traffic ... Hanover is between Richmond and D.C. The typical person that may go on to travel on 95 going north to D.C will get on Highway 301 or 295 and try to avoid some of the attention.”

The apprehension of people from out of town may explain the disparity in arrest rates, law enforcement officials say.

Lt. Kerri Wright of the Hanover County Sheriff’s Department noted that not everyone arrested in the county is a Hanover resident. The state of Virginia as a whole, in addition to the Hanover County area, is often seen as a drug corridor with its placement between New York and Florida, Wright said.

She said she couldn’t give an opinion on any racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the county.

“Our community is very supportive of us, and that’s one thing we’re very proud of,” Wright said. “There’s no push (to crack down on marijuana), but the law is the law. So we cannot state what laws we’re going to enforce and what laws we’re not going to enforce. If there’s a law and we know there’s a violation of a law, then we need to take appropriate law enforcement action.”

Some people who have been arrested for marijuana possession suspect that socioeconomic factors may influence where marijuana laws are enforced.

Gray Marshall, 19, was arrested on marijuana charges twice while attending Varina High School in the east end of Henrico County. Although Marshall is white, the school’s population is predominantly black. He said being a young person in a “bad” part of town might increase the chances of being arrested.

“The second time I was in a bad area, and the cops said I just stuck out like a sore thumb. I was in a Honda sitting in an apartment complex. I got possession with intent to distribute,” Marshall said. “I feel like I was definitely more likely (than blacks) to talk a cop out of something whenever we would get in a situation. But it felt pretty much the same.”

Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have laws that legalize marijuana in some form. Three other states will soon join them – but not Virginia, where the General Assembly recently rejected most proposals to liberalize marijuana laws.

While marijuana possession arrests have decreased nationally, Gettman found that arrests in Virginia increased steadily from 2003 to 2013. He said this might have been a reaction from Virginia law enforcement because of more liberal marijuana laws around the country. They may want to send a message to counterbalance the idea that marijuana is acceptable.

It was the arrests of blacks that made up most of the overall increase in marijuana arrests, Gettman said.

“It’s sort of now an accepted fact that there’s a tremendous disparity in arrests between whites and blacks. In some respects, it doesn’t matter why there’s a racial disparity. The numbers show us that there is one, and consequently it’s clear that we’re not able to enforce these laws evenly, equally, fairly – and that’s a problem, and people are upset about it,” Gettman said.

“We can all have opinions about why this is the case, but the reality is this is the case.”

Virginia State Police Insurance Fraud Program recognizes Fraud Fighters

Richmond, Va. —Nine Fraud Fighters Awards were presented on May 10 during Fraud Awareness Week at the Virginia Chapter of the International Association of Special Investigation Units (VA IASIU) annual training seminar in Richmond.

Fraud Fighters Awards are given yearly by the Virginia State Police Insurance Fraud Program (IFP) to individuals who go above and beyond in the fight against insurance fraud.

More than $21 million were paid to fraudulent claims in Virginia in 2016. Nationally, Insurance fraud is estimated to exceed $80 billion annually.

“Building a case against insurance fraud can be difficult,” said First Sgt. Steve Hall, Virginia State Police IFP coordinator. “And prosecuting insurance fraud can be even more of a challenge, so we certainly appreciate all the hard work of this year’s Fraud Fighters Awards winners.”

The Virginia General Assembly established the IFP in 1999 to initiate independent inquiries and investigations regarding suspected insurance fraud. The IFP established its Fraud Fighters Awards program in 2005.

Visit StampOutFraud.comto learn more about the Fraud Fighters Awards program and how you can help stamp out fraud in Virginia. Tips on insurance fraud can be submitted anonymously online or by dialing (877) 62FRAUD.

2017 Fraud Fighters Awards winners:

  •  Bradley Gregor, Virginia State Police Special Agent Accountant, Culpeper
  •  Chris Brennan, Virginia State Police Special Agent, Culpeper
  •  David Walker, Virginia State Police Special Agent, Fairfax
  •  James Liston, Virginia State Police Special Agent, Culpeper
  •  Lee Wietz, Virginia Bureau of Insurance Senior Investigator
  • Peggah Wilson, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Office for the Eastern District of N.C.
  • Rusty Fitzgerald, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, Orange County
  •  Shawn McCurry, Virginia State Police Sergeant, Warrenton
  • Tommy Southwick, Virginia Bureau of Insurance Senior Investigator

The Virginia State Police Insurance Fraud Program teaches citizens how to identify insurance fraud and trains law enforcement how to prevent it. If you have information regarding suspected insurance fraud, call 1-877-62FRAUD or visit StampOutFraud.com

Jackson-Feild Announces New Assignments

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services (JFBHS) is pleased to announce staff moves.

Paula Easter has been serving as a case manager will add the responsibilities of admissions coordinator.

Lauren Grizzard has been hired as a therapist. She previously served as a field work student during her studies at VCU.

Tanyah Jones had been hired as the PQI (Performance Quality Indicators) specialist and will assist CEO Patricia Delano.

Della Greene, Ebony Gaither, and Michael Stokes have been named Program Coordinators to assist with the day-to-day operation of their respective cottage and supervise children and residential counselors.

Robert Lewis now serves as Purchasing Coordinator and helps the maintenance staff.

Shana Wikins has been promoted to the role of Transportation Leader. This role coordinates all daily appointments for children and the need for vehicles.

Vernita Ross and Adrienne Foster have been assigned to residential units to provide training for residential counselors to teach them how to implement Trauma-Informed interventions as recommended by the Building Bridges Initiative.

JFBHS seeks to improve the quality of life for its residents by providing cutting-edge treatment services for their emotional disorders.  At any given time, more than forty children are receiving residential treatment services.

All of the children at JFBHS will benefit from the skills and abilities of these staff members in their assigned responsibilities. 

Nurses Needed

By Dr. Al Roberts

Florence Nightingale, the British nurse who founded the modern nursing profession, was born on May 12, 1820. While tending to the needs of wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, she earned a reputation as a merciful and devoted caregiver. After the war, Nightingale returned to England and established a training school for nurses. It opened in 1860.

In 1965, the International Council of Nurses designated Nightingale’s birthday as International Nurses Day. The observance commemorates the contributions nurses make to society. In the United States, the week culminating with her birthday (May 6 through May 12) is recognized by the American Nursing Association as National Nurses Week, and the Wednesday of that week is designated as National Student Nurses Day.

Southside Virginia Community College joins in honoring the hard-working women and men who devote their professional lives to caring for the sick and tending to the injured. Few others have such a lasting impact on the health and wellbeing of people in their communities.

Although many nurses say the rewarding feeling of serving others is one of their profession’s biggest benefits, credentialed nurses can also earn competitive wages in a career with a recession-proof track record, flexible scheduling opportunities, and a variety of fields from which to choose. Yet, despite these workplace advantages, there is a critical shortage of nurses across the nation—even here in Southside Virginia. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, and other healthcare providers often struggle to find qualified people to fill vacant positions.

Education programs available from SVCC prepare students to embark on careers in nursing and related health fields. The College’s state-of-the-art Nursing Simulation Labs provide hands-on learning experiences in a safe, realistic environment. Students also participate in clinical practice at health care agencies located throughout our service region. Local medical facilities are eager to hire College graduates, providing students immediate work opportunities close to home.

SVCC offers instruction that leads to licensure as a Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse, and the College’s Associate in Applied Science Degree in Nursing (ADN) program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Additionally, in conjunction with Old Dominion University's Distance Learning program, the nursing education path can be extended at SVCC campuses in Alberta and Keysville to include BS or MS degrees.  Furthermore, the College’s Office of Workforce and Continuing Education prepares students for certification as a Nurse Aide (CNA), Medication Aide, Massage Therapist, or Phlebotomist.

Florence Nightingale said, “I never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.” If you would like to begin a rewarding career in the health professions, call 888-220-SVCC (7822) for more information.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

STATE POLICE HONOR TROOPER CHAD P. DERMYER DURING ANNUAL LAW ENFORCEMENT MEMORIAL SERVICE

Trooper Chad P. Dermyer

RICHMOND – The men and women of the Virginia State Police and their families gathereer together Wednesday, May 10, 2017, to honor those public safety professionals who have given the ultimate sacrifice in their service to the Commonwealth of Virginia. During the 2017 Virginia State Police Law Enforcement Memorial Service, special recognition was given to Trooper Chad P. Dermyer, 37, who lost his life March 31, 2016, in the City of Richmond. The Honorable John W. Marshall, former Secretary of Public Safety, provided the ceremony’s keynote address.

A poignant part of the service was the unveiling and dedication of Trooper Dermyer’s portrait before his family and fellow troopers. Following the ceremony, Trooper Dermyer’s portrait will be hung in the Colonel C.W. Woodson Jr. Memorial Gallery located within the Virginia State Police Academy. The gallery already holds the portraits of the state police’s other 61 courageous men and women who died in the line-of-duty while serving the citizens of the Commonwealth.

On the afternoon of March 31, 2016, Trooper Dermyer was among a team of troopers and special agents conducting field practical operations at the bus terminal in the City of Richmond. As Trooper Dermyer approached a male subject in the terminal, the subject pulled out a firearm and began shooting the trooper at close range. Trooper Dermyer died later that afternoon.

The service also recognized all of the Department’s law enforcement professionals who have died in the line of duty, and included a special tribute to the following eight troopers in which 2017 marks a significant milestone:    

Trooper William Stafford Tinsley

Born October 5, 1911, in Christiansburg, Va., Trooper Tinsley was 29 years old when he joined the State Police in 1941.

At the time, he was one of 220 men on the state police roster patrolling the Commonwealth.

He came to the Department with previous law enforcement experience  - having served as a deputy with the Roanoke County Sheriff’s Office.

He served only 14 months with the Department when…on the evening of September 5, 1942…Trooper Tinsley was involved in a traffic crash east of Salem.

As he was responding to a traffic crash, a motorist became confused upon hearing Trooper Tinsley’s emergency siren.

The trooper swerved to avoid the other vehicle, which caused the trooper’s vehicle to go up an embankment and overturn several times.

He was ejected from the patrol car and did not survive his injuries.

A month shy of his 31st birthday, Trooper Tinsley was survived by his wife, Isabelle.

75 years later, we will never forget.

 

Trooper Charles Eugene Morris

Carroll County, Virginia was the hometown of Trooper Charles Morris who was born December 27, 1931.

A military veteran, he joined the United States Army at the age of 17 and served his country for three years.

In 1957, he entered the Virginia State Police Academy and completed his basic school training three months later on February 21, 1958.

On the evening of March 2, 1962, Trooper Morris, the Patrick County Sheriff and a deputy responded to a domestic call at a farmhouse near the NC border.

When the three law enforcement officers arrived at the home - the Sheriff knocked on the door, while Trooper Morris and the deputy stood a few feet behind him.

Suddenly shots rang out from a 20-gauge shotgun and Trooper Morris was struck twice.

Despite the sheriff and deputy’s concerted and immediate actions, Trooper Morris died at the hospital.

He was 30 years-old and in the process of building a home with his wife when he was killed.

He was our 24th line of duty death.

55 years later, we will never forget.

 

Trooper Alexander McKie Cochran III  

A New Jersey native, Trooper Cochran was born January 23, 1959, and eventually moved with his parents to Virginia where he attended Rappahannock Community College.

The call to service came early to the young man who became a helicopter crew chief with the Virginia National Guard and achieved the rank of sergeant.

Prior to joining the state police, he worked as a security guard and EMT with a volunteer rescue squad.

But Trooper Cochran always had a desire to join the state police and graduated the Academy in the 73rd Basic School.

On the night of January 15, 1987, Trooper Cochran was off-duty in his apartment when he heard gunshots.

Grabbing his Department-issued revolver, he immediately responded to what had started as a domestic dispute between a husband and wife.

The husband had fired a shotgun from the second floor window of his home, striking another man standing outside the residence who was talking to his wife.

Responding to the scene, Trooper Cochran immediately realized medical attention was needed.

As he approached his patrol vehicle to call for assistance, he was shot and killed.

Trooper Cochran was 27-years-old.

30 years later, we will never forgot.

 

Trooper Harry Lee Henderson

Born January 3, 1944, Lee Henderson was a native of Staunton, Va.

After finishing high school in 1961, he earned an accounting degree from Valley Vocational Technical School.

He joined state police in 1973 – graduating as a member of the 57th Basic School and was assigned to Front Royal.

In the early morning hours of March 17, 1987, Trooper Henderson had stopped a motorist for a violation on Interstate 66 in Warren County.

He was inside his patrol vehicle preparing a summons when his cruiser was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer.

Trooper Henderson did not survive the crash.  

Actively involved in his community, Trooper Henderson was well known with the Boy Scouts having served 22 years as a Scoutmaster.

During his two decades of service with the organization, Trooper Henderson saw 46 of his scouts – including his son, Michael, achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.

Trooper Henderson left behind a son and daughter.

30 years later, we will never forget.

 

Retired Sergeant Norman Wesley Hampton

A Richmond native and graduate of John Marshall High School, Sergeant Hampton was born October 22, 1937.

At the age of 19, he signed on as a Virginia State Police dispatcher and became a trooper two years later.

While serving the Commonwealth, he also served his country with the US Army from 1961 to 1963.

He was with the Department for 34 years before retiring in March of 1991.

Six years after his retirement, Hampton and his wife were walking along a South Carolina beach, June 3, 1997, when they heard a woman call for help.

A young boy had become separated from his raft while out in the Atlantic Ocean.

As his wife ran back down the beach to call 911, Sergeant Hampton ran into the ocean to rescue the 11-year-old.

According to news accounts, at the time – a spring storm had produced  powerful ocean waves, but Sgt. Hampton managed to assist the boy back on the raft.

Witnesses reported seeing Hampton being pulled under by the strong ocean currents.

The child made it to shore, but Hampton did not.

The local corner told a S.C. newspaper “for what it’s worth, I think what Mr. Hampton did was very heroic. His family should be honored to know he gave his life to save another.”

Retired Sergeant Hampton was 59 years old.

20 years later, we will never forget.

 

Senior Trooper Charles Mark Cosslett

Born February 24, 1962 in Norfolk, Mark Cosslett graduated from Monacan High School in Chesterfield County and immediately enlisted in the US Marine Corps in July 1981.

During his distinguished 4-years of military service, he earned several awards and medals including the Rifle Marksman and the Pistol Sharp Shooter Badges…and also served as a Military Police Officer.

He became a trooper in March 1986 – graduating as a member of the 77th Basic Session – and was assigned to Northern Virginia.

During the Fall of 2002 - the DC-MD & Northern VA areas were being terrorized by a sniper who had already claimed 13 lives.

On October 23, 2002, Senior Trooper Cosslett had spent the afternoon standing outside his son’s preschool, handing out Junior Trooper badges in an effort to help the area children feel safe during a very frightening and uncertain time.

He’d just returned to the Area Office when a “shots fired” call came over the state police radio.

While responding to the call on Interstate 95 near Springfield,

a tow-truck unexpectedly veered into the path of the trooper’s motorcycle causing a crash that claimed the 40 year-old trooper’s life.

Senior Trooper Cosslett was our

51st line of duty death.

15 years later, we will never forget.

 

Motorist Assistance Aide Horace Alvin Jarratt.

Horace Jarratt was born Oct. 24, 1940.

At the age of 64, Jarratt joined the state police – as a part-time civilian employee working as a Motorist Assistance Aide.

Through the years, he’d worked as a machine operator, truck driver, mechanic and manager of a service station.

But he it was his business -  Horace’s Towing - that he owned and operated for 9 years where he met and became friends with many state troopers.

After retiring from his wrecker business, he left Virginia only to return in 2004 and applied for the part-time Motorist Aide position.

The program was one in which civilian employees supported state troopers by helping motorists with minor issues on the road such as fixing flat tires, jump-starting vehicles or supplying gasoline to stranded motorists.

On the afternoon of April 25, 2007, Motorists Assistance Aide Jarratt pulled his state-issued vehicle onto the right shoulder of the northbound lanes of I-95 in Chesterfield County to respond to a call for debris in the roadway.

As he was attempting to remove a large piece of tire tread from the center lane for the safety of other motorists… a tractor-trailer swerved in an attempt to avoid the debris and struck Horace.

He died at the scene.

Horace Jarratt was the first state police civilian and motorist assistance aid to die in the line of duty.

He was 66-years-old and had been with the Department two years.

10 years later, we will never forget.

 

Trooper Andrew David Fox

Andrew Fox was born December 18, 1984 and grew up in Tazewell County.

He graduated Tazewell High School and growing up worked on farms in both Tazewell and Wythe counties.

His passion for farming led to a degree from Virginia Tech in agriculture science.

But, he found his calling in law enforcement and followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the Town of Tazewell Police Department.

Later in 2006, he joined the Virginia State Police Academy and graduated the following year with the 111th Basic Session.

He was assigned to the Area 24 Office in Pulaski County and had just become a member of the Division IV Tact Team.

On the night of October 5, 2012, Trooper Fox was on special assignment directing traffic at the State Fair of Virginia in Hanover County.

A vehicle traveling through a Route 30 intersection failed to regard his direction and struck him.

Trooper Fox did not survive the crash.

He was 27-years-old and was survived by his wife, parents, and siblings.

He was the Department’s 58th Line of Duty Death.

5 years later, we will never forget.

Richmond police address concerns over rising crime

Lieutenant John McRoy, First Precinct Section 111, tells the audience at the final forum of the month about the actions his precinct are taking to ensure Richmond stays safe.  Photo by Becca Schwartz.

By Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Already this year, Richmond has seen three double homicides:

  • On Feb. 16, Deborah Walker, 55, and her daughter Shaquenda Walker, 24, were shot and killed in their home on Coalter Street.
  • On March 29, a triple shooting in Mosby Court left Mikkaisha Smoot, 16, and Taliek Brown, 15, dead after both were taken off life support at VCU Medical Center.
  • And on April 10, Kejuan Goode, 18, and Terrell Thomas, 20, were shot and killed in South Richmond.

“This seems to be once again a senseless act, but something that’s not random,” Mayor Levar Stoney said at the crime scene at the Walker home. “It seems very isolated, like some of the acts that happened in the past.”

So far in 2017, the city has had 20 homicides, according to the Richmond Police Department’s tally. (That may be an undercount. A list kept by WTVR shows 23 murders to date.) During the corresponding period of 2016, there were 23 homicides. That is a worrisome trend, because 2016 was the deadliest year in Richmond in a decade: The city ended the year with 60 murders.

Crime overall is up this year, according to the Richmond Police Department’s Crime Incident Information Center. Through April 30, Richmond police received reports of more than 11,000 violent crimes and property crimes. That’s 1,000 more than during the corresponding period of last year.

Most reported violent crimes are gun-related, said Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham.

“We’re seeing a lot of gun violence in the city,” Durham said. “A lot of our young folks are illegally possessing firearms.”

Gun violence was a key topic at recent forums held throughout the city by the Richmond Police Department. Such town halls have become an annual tradition for the department since Durham became chief in 2015. But this year’s forums had a specific focus: What is causing an increase in crime in Richmond – and what can the community do to help?

More than 100 people attended the first forum at the Southside Plaza Community Center on April 18 to express frustration with the spike in crime. At that point, Richmond had seen 1,432 violent crimes so far in 2017 – 39 more than during the same period last year, according to the department’s Crime Incident Information Center.

 

 

 
 

Despite the numbers, Durham assured the crowd that crime is “not out of control.” However, this was a tough bit to sell to Karen Norwood, whose 30-year-old daughter Noony was shot and killed on Hull Street on Nov. 6 and died nine hours later at a nearby hospital. Noony was an African-American transgender woman — the 21st trans person reported to be killed in America last year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT civil rights advocacy group.

Norwood said she has been in touch with police, but no new developments have come to light despite surveillance cameras near the crime scene. “There’s cameras out there, but the images on the camera – they can’t see it because it’s too dark for them to see it,” she said.

Durham stood by his word at the final town hall of the season on April 27. He said crime across the city is not out of control; rather, certain neighborhoods have seen a “significant increase” in crime – especially in East Richmond, public housing communities and several communities in Southside.

“We know where the crime is,” Durham said.

He proceeded to go through a detailed presentation including crime statistics, the proliferation of firearms in the city, department staffing levels and how the community can help.

The first slide cited statistics that the department sends the FBI for its Uniform Crime Report, which is divided into two categories: violent crime and property crimes. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes, which are more common, range from shoplifting to burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

“We have been concentrating our efforts on these areas because we know where the violent crime is committed,” Durham said. “Crime is not out of control. But we do have violent crime in this city, and we have a small population of folks committing those criminal acts.”

He emphasized the need for “transparency” between community members and the police department in improving public safety.

“We can’t do our job if we don’t know your expectations of your police department,” Durham said. “We are having some challenges this year, but the most important keys on how we’re going to resolve those issues are sitting right in this room.”

Durham said crime can be difficult to manage because the department is understaffed. It is authorized to have 750 sworn officers but has only 688, including cadet recruits who don’t graduate from the academy until this summer.

The Second Precinct in South Richmond is short 13 officers alone.

“How do we make up for that?” Durham said. “Through minimal staffing overtime. When we’re making them work, they get burned out.”

Crime rates are increasing outside of Richmond as well. According to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which collected data from 61 metropolitan police agencies, U.S. cities saw 6,407 homicides in 2016 – an 11 percent increase from the year before. Dallas, Las Vegas and Phoenix – as well as Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; and San Jose, California – all saw rises in killings in 2016.

Smaller cities that typically have low murder rates saw a jump as well, including Arlington, Texas, which had four homicides in 2015 but 18 in 2016, and Salt Lake City, which had six in 2015 compared with 14 last year.

Richmond had 43 homicides in 2015. The city’s murder rate that year was 19.5 per 100,000 population. Last year, with 60 homicides, Richmond’s murder rate was 27 per 100,000. That’s an increase of more than 38 percent.

 

 

 
 

The FBI has not yet released 2016 crime statistics for all of the nation’s cities and states. However, even before the 2016 spike in homicides, Richmond compared poorly to other cities.

Of the 290 U.S. cities with at least 100,000 people, Richmond ranked 20th in the murder rate in 2015 and had the highest murder rate of all large cities in Virginia. Norfolk, which has a slightly larger population than Richmond, had 28 murders in 2015.

Meantime, the chief is asking the community to partner with him and his department, reminding residents that his officers do all they can to keep the city safe. But at the end of the day, “we all play a role.”

“Police are the only people in society paid to do public safety, but public safety is a shared responsibility,” Durham said. “What more can we do?”

Some community members are already doing their part. Carolyn Johnson, president of the McGuire Civic Association, said she has been dubbed president of the “Snitch Club” in her neighborhood. She encourages others to take photos if they witness crime and call the police directly – not 911 – when reporting wrongdoers.

“This is my block, and I’m taking it back,” she said at the first forum on April 18.

Charles Wes, another town hall attendee, said he would like to form a coalition of people who want to get youths involved in activities like recreation leagues and community events to keep them off the streets. His suggestion was met by loud applause; Nicole Fields suggested that the forum attendees come up with activities themselves.

Such community involvement is what the police need, the mayor said.

“We have an awesome department … And although they are great, they are not superheroes,” Stoney said. “They will tell you they are only better with better neighbors and citizens. They’re great because of you all.”

Robert “Jake” Watson

Robert “Jake” Watson, 80, of Emporia, passed away Friday, May 12, 2017. Jake was preceded in death by his parents, Floyd and Vela Watson; sisters, Ann Lynch, Flossie Harrup, and brothers, Floyd “Dickie” Watson (Margaret) and Michael Jones (Patricia). He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Joyce Clements Watson; sons, Jacob Derek Watson (Malissa) of Homosassa, FL, Rob Watson (Lisa) of Morehead City, NC and Keith Watson of Emporia, VA; daughter, Vickie Allen (Robert) of Emporia, VA; nine grandchildren; a sister, Judy Moore (Larry) of Richmond, VA and also his wonderful friend and caregiver, Sarah Smith. Mr. Watson retired from Virginia Department of Transportation as maintenance superintendent for Greensville County after 43 years service. A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Monday, May 15 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd, Jarratt, Virginia. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Greensville Volunteer Rescue Squad. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com

Patsy Claud Sledge

Patsy Claud Sledge of Emporia, VA died on May 11, 2017.  Patsy grew up in the small community of Drewyville, VA.  She was the retired office manager of Emporia Foundry.  She was an avid reader, gardener, and tennis player, and she loved the Outer Banks and fishing.

Patsy was preceded in death by her parents, Leslie Vance Claud, Helen Fisher Claud; and her brother, Gene Arnold Claud.  She was the widow of David Lee Sledge.  She leaves to cherish her memory, her brother, Leslie Vance Claud, Jr. and wife, Sandra; two daughters; Kathryne Harrison Turner and husband, Steve; Pamela Harrison Crichton; three granddaughters, Kaycee Claud Ackaway, Kirsten Juliette Crichton, and Kathryne Jane Crichton; and three great grandchildren, Niko, Nori, and London. 

The memorial service will be held on Monday, May 15, 2017 at 2:00 pm at Thomas Memorial Baptist Church in Drewyville, VA. The family will receive friends following the service at the reception in the church social hall. 

The family encourages that donations be made to Thomas Memorial Baptist Church in lieu of flowers. 

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

(Mother) "Can You Hear Me?"

From the well lit sky below
Or when the bit full moons above
Did you know that I still miss you
And keep trying to send you my love?
 
Yes I miss you when the morning comes
And all throughout the day
We never talked if all went bad
That things would be this way.
 
Now I was the youngest son you had
And or me you said you'd stay
Well things it seems sure changed a lot
Or how did you get away.
 
Yes I was moving in for one more hug
So I could hold you oh so tight
My sister said she has gone away
And won't be back tonight.
 
Well I knew the lord would need you
And in time I'd have to share
Yet I didn't want you leaving
Before I could show my care.
 
Yes you were the greatest of Mothers
For me you did not fail
When you're on break from your Heavenly Grace
Don't forget to read your e-mail!
 
Roy E. Schepp

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