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Michael Lee Pope

Stories by Michael Lee

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Empire Strikes Back: Establishment Beats Tea Party at Republican Convention

Party insider Ed Gillespie seizes nomination at convention in Roanoke.

When conservative preacher E.W. Jackson took the stage at the Roanoke Civic Center to introduce Tea Party favorite Shak Hill at the Republican convention last weekend, hundreds of conservatives from across Virginia took to their feet. They waved placards.

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Poverty in the Classroom: Low-Income Students Scattered Through Northern Virginia

Where are the region's highest poverty schools?

When Carla Castro-Claure was approaching the age when she would soon attend Kindergarten, her mother became increasingly concerned about Hybla Valley Elementary School.

Two Million Dollar Primary

Former lieutenant governor raises $1.1 million; his competitors combined raise $1.4 million.

Campaign finance documents released in the final days before the June 10 primary show the seven candidates in the primary to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) have raised almost $2.5 million. Former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer leads the pack with $1.1 million, three times as much as his closest competitor. "Don Beyer is clearly the favorite," said Geoff Skelley, analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "He may not win it with a particularly large plurality, but he's the favorite to win."

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Seven in the Eighth: Epic Democratic Primary Heads Toward Final Days

Hotly contested race to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8)

Ten names will be on the ballot June 10, although only seven candidates are still in the Democratic primary to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).

Concerned Parents Win, For Now

School Board members restore one-time funding for autism program.

When parents of special-education students learned about Superintendent Patrick Murphy's proposal to cut a program for autistic students, they jumped into action. They organized a press conference and began lobbying School Board members to save the program, which allows middle and high school students with autism to learn in regular education classrooms. They wrote emails and spoke out at public hearings.

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Apprehension Grows Along with Cost Estimate

200 percent spike in cost of streetcar creates a sense of uneasiness among businesses.

Will the Columbia Pike streetcar be good for business? County leaders in Arlington seem to think so, even if the cost of the project has steadily increased since county leaders began planning to finance a streetcar line along the pike. Back in 2005, county leaders estimated it would cost $120 million. Now County Manager Barbara Donnellan estimates it will cost $358 million. That means the cost of the proposal has escalated 200 percent in the last decade.

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Kanninen Seizes Democratic Endorsement for School Board

18-vote margin of victory in second round of voting.

After two rounds of voting in the Democratic caucus, author Barbara Kanninen seized the Democratic endorsement with a slim 18-vote margin of victory against Nancy Van Doren. A third candidate, Greg Greeley, was knocked out in the first round of voting. That led to an instant runoff in which the second choice of voters were considered. Most of those went to Van Doren, which led to a razor-thin 18-vote margin of victory for Kanninen in the second round of voting.

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How Will School Board Candidates Handle Crush of New Students?

What will they do if elected to tackle spike in enrollment?

The three candidates seeking the Democratic endorsement for School Board all say they are opposed to increasing class sizes, and all three say the School Board is probably going to have to consider boundary changes to handle the crush of new students. Beyond that, though, the candidates have a wide array of opinions about how the county schools should handle the enrollment spike.

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C-Section Boom in Northern Virginia

Region has some of the highest rates of cesarean-section deliveries for low-risk pregnancies.

Behind the closed doors at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church and the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, a quiet change has been taking shape over the last few decades.

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Despite Advances, Many Virginians Remain Uninsured

Affordable Care Act expands coverage, but more than 800,000 still have no health insurance.

What is the state of the uninsured in Virginia?

Should Voters Consider Streetcar?

Two candidates propose referendum, but path to ballot remains unclear.

Should voters consider the fate of the controversial $310 million streetcar on Columbia Pike? That's what two candidates are proposing, although the path from their idea to the ballot box remains unclear, and the idea has resistance among people who support the initiative. The debate comes at a time when County Manager Barbara Donnellan prepares to propose her capital improvement program for fiscal years 2015 to 2024, a 10-year spending plan that will include the first major round of funding for the Columbia Pike Streetcar.

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Animal Instinct: Democrats in Hotly Contested Primary Divided on Speciesism

Will Jim Moran's successor share his enthusiasm for animal rights?

Candidates in the Democratic primary for Congress have a wide range of views on animal rights, an issue that has become one of the defining legacies of retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).

Edmond Seizes GOP Nomination for Congress

Former Marine officer to take on winner of Democratic primary.

Even before longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) announced that he would be retiring earlier this year, former Marine officer Micah Edmond was planning to run for Congress — talking to party leaders and beginning to line up support. After Moran's unexpected decision, though, the race became more competitive.

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For Congressional Candidates, No Common Ground on Common Core

Democrats in Virginia's 8th Congressional District divided on national education standards.

Should American schools share national standards? That's a question that divides the 10 Democrats seeking to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8), who is retiring after 24 years in the House of Representatives. During a recent candidates forum, the Democrats were asked if they support the Common Core State Standards Initiative, two candidates said they disagreed and eight candidates said they agreed.

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Who is Trailing Don Beyer in Hotly Contested Democratic Primary?

Candidates elbow each other out of the way to secure second place.

Campaign finance documents show that former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer crushed the nine other candidates in the hotly contested Democratic primary.

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Alone on the Road: 7 out of 10 Northern Virginia Workers Use Single-Occupancy Vehicles

Study raises concerns about amount of time drivers spend commuting alone.

Despite the decades-long war against the single-occupancy vehicle, seven out of 10 workers in Northern Virginia drive to work alone every workday.

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Beyer Rakes in Campaign Cash in Democratic Primary

Fundraising numbers reveal former lieutenant governor has significant edge.

Campaign finance documents released this week show Don Beyer well ahead of his competitors in the race for cash, giving the former lieutenant governor a significant edge over the nine other Democrats in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).

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Tax Burden Targets Low-Income Workers in Northern Virginia

Average tax burden for low-income workers is highest in Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax.

Families that are struggling to make ends meet in Northern Virginia are the target of local governments in Northern Virginia, which has the highest tax burden in the region for low-income workers. Wealthy people face the highest tax burden in Prince George's County and Montgomery County. But here in Virginia, poor people face the biggest tax burden in Arlington, according to a new study by the Office of Revenue Analysis in the District of Columbia. Alexandria ranked second, and Fairfax County ranked third.

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Dedicated Debate Over Streetcars Along Columbia PIke

Streetcar critics not swayed by county study showing benefits of streetcars.

The ongoing saga of the Columbia Pike streetcar gained yet another study last month, but critics say the latest investigation failed to address their concerns.

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Northern Virginia's Growing Debt Burden

Local governments use debt as a tool to build for the future.

Back in the 1920s, Harry Byrd became governor of Virginia on what he called a "pay-as-you-go" platform.

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Arlington Schools Scramble to Fund Enrollment in Challenging Budget Environment

$439.4 million budget represents a 3.1 percent increase over last year.

Arlington Superintendent Patrick Murphy's proposed budget for the coming school year would scale back a program aimed at helping students older than age 22, add trailers to deal with the crush of new students as well as add four new bus drivers and create a new coordinator for transporting special-equation students.

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Virginia Laws Help Local Governments Conceal 911 Calls from Public

Police agencies refuse to release audio from 911 calls, prompting questions about transparency.

When city officials in Alexandria released the audio of a 911 call in a high-profile murder case, many people interpreted the move as a step forward for transparency in a commonwealth known for opaque government.

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Money on the Shelves: Jurisdictions Take Variety of Approaches to Funding Libraries

Some have recovered from the recession, others are still struggling.

What is the future of the neighborhood library?

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Eleven Candidate In Epic Democratic Primary to Replace Moran

Successful candidate could emerge with 10,000 votes.

The Democratic primary is shaping up to be the most competitive election in recent memory, one with an unprecedented number of candidates.

Replacing Baird

Three candidates vie for Democratic nomination to School Board.

Two-term School Board member Sally Baird says she will not seek another term, opening up the seat to a new generation of leadership.

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Three Candidates Vie for Democratic Endorsement to Arlington School Board

Race to replace Sally Baird is on for Democrats.

Arlington County schools are at a crossroads. Enrollment is steadily rising, and parents have become upset about the amount of standardized testing that takes place in schools across the county.

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Up and Down Columbia Pike, Businesses are Divided by the Streetcar

Some believe it will bring more customers; others are worried about cost.

Up and down Columbia Pike, businesses have a variety of views about the streetcar that may be soon be trundling up and down one of Arlington's major thoroughfares.

Arlington School Board Member Sally Baird Prepares to Exit Public Stage

Elected official recalls the ups and downs of two terms on the board.

When Sally Baird was first elected to the Arlington School Board in 2006, the county's public school system was still shrinking and Baird was a first-time candidate.

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Nine Candidates Vying for Attention in 8th Congressional District Democratic Primary

Race to replace Jim Moran is expected to be competitive and expensive.

It's been three weeks since longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) announced that he would not be seeking a 13th term in Congress, opening up an epic primary fight that is now starting to take shape.

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Arlington Real-Estate Assessments Grow Six Percent

County leaders describe local economy as resilient and stable.

A decade ago, when the real-estate market was going gangbusters, the Arlington real-estate market regularly saw double-digit increases.

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Special Election Down the Pike for Arlington County Board

Democrat and independent to face off in April special election.

The special election to replace retiring County Board member Chris Zimmerman is the closest thing Arlington will probably have to a referendum on the streetcar.

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Jim Moran: The $15 Million Congressman

During his years in Congress, Moran raised and spent about $1 million each campaign cycle.

One of the first things that happened after U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) announced he would not be running for reelection this year was that he cancelled a fundraising event.

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Arlington Officials Release Previously Secret Construction Bids

County leaders change position on secrecy of bids; refuse to reveal expectations.

New documents released by Arlington County officials show the four bids for the new aquatics center at Long Bridge Park range from $81.9 million to $82.8 million.

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Virginia Supreme Court Opens Access to Audio Recordings of Oral Arguments

Policy change overturns blackout instituted in 2008.

Members of the Virginia Supreme Court have a New Year’s Resolution — become more transparent.

Capital Debate

Streetcar funding to take center stage during consideration of capital improvement plan.

For years, the debate over streetcars has been about planning and vision. Now members of the Arlington County Board are about to reach into the pockets of taxpayers, including the $300 million project in the capital improvement plan.

Aquatics Facility Underwater

County officials delay $80 million facility after construction bids bust the budget.

Construction bids came in "significantly higher" than estimates, so she would not be bringing the construction contract to the County Board in early 2014 as expected. Now county officials have launched an investigation to determine why the bids were so high and what the county's next steps should be.

Anticipation

Costly initiatives, a special election and steady rise in student enrollment.

In looking ahead for what Arlington will be facing in 2014, a number of issues have carried forward from last year.

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Streetcar Issue Dominates Political Landscape in Special Election for Arlington Board

Four candidates vying to replace Chris Zimmerman.

Where do they stand on the streetcar? Do they approve of the recent direction of the county government? What kind of accomplishments would they like to make?

New Approach to Mental Health

Reforms in wake of tragedy involving state senator's son.

Advocates for mental health services have been calling for improved services and increased funding for years, although the issue has been pushed aside year after year.

Democrats Shut Out of Power in Senate

Even if Democrats win in two special elections, control over committees is unlikely.

Don't expect Democrats to take control over state Senate committees anytime soon, even if the party manages to hold both of the seats where special elections are now underway.

$8 Million Shortfall in Arlington

Budget official says the forecast is difficult but manageable.

Arlington County is facing a $8 million shortfall heading into the next budget season, which will unfold over the next few months as County Board members consider the county manager's proposed budget early next year.

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Decline in Sales Tax Threatens Ability of Local Governments to Balance Books

Sequester looms large over revenues across Northern Virginia.

Sales tax revenues are down across Northern Virginia, leading to concerns that balancing the books for the coming fiscal year could be even more of a challenge for budget officials and elected officials in the coming months.

Longtime Arlington County Board Memer Chris Zimmerman To Step Down

January departure to open the way for special election in April.

After 18 years on the Arlington County Board, Chris Zimmerman announced last week that he is stepping down to take a position as vice president for economic development of Smart Growth America, a Washington-based advocacy group that promotes walkable neighborhoods near public transit.

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Democrats Lead in Polls as Voters Head to the Polls for Election Day

Hotly contested race for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Democrats have the wind at their backs heading into Election Day next week, as Republican gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli struggles to overcome a deficit in the polls.

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Battleground Northern Virginia

What role will the region play in the election?

For many years, Northern Virginia has been written off by both parties as a Democratic stronghold — a place where Republicans simply try to cut their losses while they focus on the rest of the commonwealth. But this election cycle may be different. All three of the gubernatorial candidates are from Fairfax County. And recent statewide candidates have not been able to win without picking off selected jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. "As you look at Northern Virginia that's further from Washington, you see a more Republican area — Prince William, western Fairfax, Fauquier," said Stephen Farnsworth, professor at University of Mary Washington. "That's where the real action is in Northern Virginia politics." As Election Day draws closer and television becomes a virtual battlefield for attention, a real battle is brewing on the ground here in Northern Virginia. Candidates and their advisors are looking at the path to victory back in 2009 for Republican Bob McDonnell, who won Prince William County, Fairfax County and Fauquier County. Although this race is likely to be closer than 2009, the importance of Northern Virginia is looming larger than ever.

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Metro Improvements Six Years in the Making

$50 million project was delayed by global financial crisis.

The high-speed elevators and new mezzanine at the Rosslyn Metro station were six years in the planning, a process that was delayed when developer JBG Properties was unable to move forward with a development that was supposed to be constructed concurrently. But when the global financial crisis dried up funding for the development, Arlington leaders decided to press forward anyway. Now commuters at one of Virginia's highest ridership stations in the system have three new high-speed, high-capacity elevators, a new fare mezzanine, a separate set of gates, a separate manned kiosk and a new emergency stairwell. "This project has a huge life-safety benefit, not only for the 36,000 people who use the station today everyone on the Orange Line and Blue Line and future Silver Line in that it enables us to get emergency response teams down into the station," said Dennis Leach, deputy director of Transportation and Development. "It also allows for an orderly evacuation in the event of an emergency either in the station itself or in the tunnel under the river."

Negative Campaign

Candidates appear at minority business forum, attacking each other.

Local and statewide candidates for office appeared at an unprecedented forum in Northern Virginia last weekend, a collaboration of minority business groups of blacks, Hispanics and Asians. But as candidates arrived at the Annandale campus of the Northern Virginia Community College for a Sunday afternoon forum, voters realized that the tone of the campaign would remain unrelentingly negative. "All three of the Republican candidates are Tea Party right wing extremists," said Del. Ken Plum (D-36), who is running unopposed. "Look at their records and their stands on the issues." Plum attacked Cuccinelli's lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act as well as his investigation into a University of Virginia professor studying climate change. The longtime delegate also said the Republican attorney general candidate Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-25) has a similar record, including a bill that would have required women to report abortions to police. Together with the candidate for lieutenant governor, Plum said, the ticket is Tea Party from top to bottom.

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Advocates for Affordable Housing In Arlington Battle Over WIsdom of Ballot Initiative

Green Party advocates take issue with opposition from Democrats.

Arlington County is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, a sweeping demographic change that has wiped away more than half of affordable housing units for the poorest residents in the last decade according to a recent report.

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National Park Service Shutters Mount Vernon Trail Amid Budget Crisis

Parts of trail are barricaded;; parking lots closed/ Park Service Police issue parking tickets.

Woody Guthrie observed "This Land is Your Land." But that apparently does not apply to federal land during a government shutdown.

Northern Virginia Supports Day to Serve

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC), a coalition of 14 counties, cities and towns that work together on regional issues, passed a unanimous resolution endorsing Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell’s call to participate in the 2013 Day to Serve.