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Virginia Redistricting Committee takes shape; here’s how you can apply to serve

More than half a dozen legislators have been named to a bipartisan redistricting commission that seeks to fairly draw congressional and state legislative districts. The commission will be made up of 16 people. Half of them will be legislators and the other half will be Virginia citizens. 

Capital News Service

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By Hunter Britt

More than half a dozen legislators have been named to a bipartisan redistricting commission that seeks to fairly draw congressional and state legislative districts.

The commission will be made up of 16 people. Half of them will be legislators and the other half will be Virginia citizens.

Virginia legislative leaders chose four Republicans and four Democrats this week to sit on the committee. Democrats include Dels. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond and Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church, plus Sens. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and George Barker, D-Fairfax. The Republicans on the committee are Dels. Les Adams, R-Chatham, and Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland, as well as Sens. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, and Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg.

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, speaker of the Virginia House and one of the officials responsible for naming the legislative members of the commission, announced her appointments on Nov. 30. Filler-Corn said in a statement that McQuinn and Simon are “committed to inclusion” and “dedicated to a fair redistricting process that protects the vote of every Virginian.”

House Republican Leader Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said in a statement that his appointees “will help craft what the voters have demanded — fair maps for every Virginian.”

Almost 66% of Virginians voted last month in support of an amendment to establish the commission, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. Days after the election, state lawmakers agreed to a $135 billion revised budget that included setting up the commission. The previous law stated that the General Assembly and the governor had total control over redistricting.

The majority of congressional and state legislative districts in Virginia were redrawn after the 2010 U.S. Census when Republicans controlled both chambers of the General Assembly and the executive branch. The maps are scheduled to be redrawn again next year with final census counts. However, the U.S. Census Bureau requested a delay to submit redistricting data to states no later than July 31, 2021, instead of April 1.

Erin Dodson, a 20-year-old from Sussex County, is one of more than 2.7 million Virginians who voted for the amendment. He said that getting Virginians more involved was a step in the right direction.

“I feel like it’s only fair that the people are heard,” Dodson said. “This is America; freedom of speech and government involvement is what we’re all about.”

New legislative district maps approved by the commission would go to the General Assembly for a vote. If any are rejected, the commission would be required to produce new maps. If rejected again, the Virginia Supreme Court would establish the new districts.

The state also started accepting applications this week for residents who want to serve on the commission. Retired circuit court judges will choose the citizen members.

In order to be considered, citizens must have lived in Virginia for the past three years. They also must have voted in at least two of the last three general elections. Citizens who hold, have held or sought to hold a political position or public office will not be considered, nor will lobbyists or people who have served as lobbyists in the last five years. Three letters of recommendation are also required to be considered for an appointment.

The applications are due Dec. 28.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Community

Bookbinder’s Brings you Mac & Cheese on Another Level with BIGWIFE’S Pop-Up

This isn’t your typical mom’s mac & cheese. If your mom makes mac & cheese like this we would like to be adopted.

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Old Original Bookbinder’s Seafood & Steakhouse has launched a new experimental pop-up concept focusing exclusively on macaroni and cheese. BIGWIFE’S Mac & Cheese is operating for delivery and carryout from the Bookbinder’s kitchen.

The inventive menu includes creative spins like Buffalo Mac with spicy chicken and gorgonzola cheese; Little Figgy Mac with goat cheese, ham and fig; Mac Lorraine with bacon, scallions, and gruyere; and Greek Wedding Mac with tomato, olive, artichokes, pepperoncini and feta. Any mac can be made gluten free.

Orders can be placed at https://www.bigwifesmac.com/ and via Grubhub. BIGWIFE’S is open Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Old Original Bookbinder’s is located at 2306 E Cary Street, Richmond, VA 23223.

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Crime

City of Richmond declares State of Emergency due to “credible threats” related to planned protests

The city’s declaration opens up funds for emergency use and was voted into effect unanimously by City Council Monday evening.

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The City of Richmond and Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration has declared a State of Emergency for the city due to what officials call “credible threats” of violence related to planned protests leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20th.

The declaration follows Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a statewide State of Emergency, which allowed the administration to send National Guard troops and State Troopers to Washington, D.C. to help with security, logistics, and other immediate needs following the insurrection at the Capitol last week.

The city’s declaration opens up funds for emergency use and was voted into effect unanimously by City Council Monday evening.

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Business

Family of local freight and transportation company makes $2 million donation to children’s hospital construction project

The Children’s Hospital Foundation’s matching campaign effectively will double the gift to $4 million.

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A local freight and transportation provider has made a major gift towards the construction of the forthcoming Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU expansion. In addition to the company’s gift of $150,000, Estes family members committed $1.85 million to support the Wonder Tower, the new home for Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s inpatient, emergency, and trauma services.

The two donations from Estes Express Lines and the Estes family were matched by the Children’s Hospital Foundation, maximizing the total investment in the Wonder Tower to $4 million. As part of the capital campaign to raise $100 million, the foundation is matching the first $25 million in gifts from the community.

“The support of Estes Express Lines and the Estes family is extremely meaningful. We’re grateful they’ve added their voice and support to our mission to build a world-class pediatric hospital in Richmond,” said Lauren Moore, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Hospital Foundation. “They’re truly a values-focused company and family, and their gifts reflect the importance they place on protecting children and their childhoods.”

“We are a family-owned business that’s had the honor of working with thousands of Richmond-area families for nearly 90 years,” said Rob Estes, president and CEO of Estes Express Lines. “Children deserve the best possible medical care when they need it, and we’re proud to support Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, as a company, and as a family.”

As part of the donation, some areas of the Wonder Tower will be named in honor of Estes, including the hospital’s loading dock, a nod to their work as a freight carrier business. The gift includes additional recognition of the family’s generosity throughout the building.

Once complete in spring 2023, the Wonder Tower will bring world-class pediatric facilities to Central Virginia. Located in downtown Richmond, the 16-story tower will be home to CHoR’s Level 1 pediatric trauma center, emergency room, inpatient units, new operating rooms, increased imaging capacity, and family amenities — all in an environment created just for kids and their loved ones.

“The children’s tower is being built for and by our community thanks to generous friends like the Estes,” said Elias Neujahr, CEO of CHoR. “It will be a beacon of hope for kids and families across the Commonwealth while helping us attract and retain top talent so our children have access to be the best care, close to home.”

In 2021, Estes Express Lines will celebrate its 90th anniversary as CHoR finishes its centennial year. “Let’s all come together to support the Wonder Tower, a special place where all families and children can receive exceptional pediatric care, right here in Richmond,” said Estes.

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