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ACLU-VA Urges Removal Of Fencing Around Lee Monument

The ACLU of Virginia has significant concerns that the fencing erected around the Lee Monument grounds is unnecessarily infringing on the public’s First Amendment rights while these legal battles play out in the courtroom.

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ACLU of Virginia released a statement today urging the removal of the fencing around Lee Monument.

“The ACLU of Virginia has significant concerns that the fencing erected around the Lee Monument grounds is unnecessarily infringing on the public’s First Amendment rights while these legal battles play out in the courtroom. The Lee Monument is a traditional public forum and access is protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 4th Circuit has stated, ‘Traditional public forums—such as streets, sidewalks, and parks—have the characteristics of a public thoroughfare, a purpose that is compatible with expressive conduct, as well as a tradition and history of being used for expressive public conduct.'”

In its current state, the Lee Monument stands unaccessible to the public and incapable of serving as a public forum. What was once a place for gatherings, demonstrations and mutual aid sits roped off, awaiting a removal that has yet to be scheduled.

You can read the full letter and statement from ACLU-VA here.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Downtown

City Council unanimously approves sale of the Public Safety Building

The city is selling the three-acre property to Capital City Partners, LLC for $3,520,456 who will then redevelop the site into a $325 million mixed-use project anchored by VCU Health System, The Doorways, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

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Richmond City Council approved three Ordinances introduced by the Stoney Administration for the sale and redevelopment of the site of the of the existing Public Safety Building. The city is selling the three-acre property to Capital City Partners, LLC for $3,520,456 who will then redevelop the site into a $325 million mixed-use project anchored by VCU Health System, The Doorways, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

The negotiated sales price takes into account the developer’s responsibility to demolish the existing building and build public infrastructure that includes reconstructing Clay Street between 9th and 10th Streets.

“The sale and redevelopment of the Public Safety Building site is a critical first step to improving downtown,” said Mayor Levar Stoney.  “My Administration was glad to work with City Council and Capital City Partners, LLC to create this great win for Richmond.

The project will aid minority businesses, create child care slots for Richmond families, fund scholarships for graduates of Richmond Public Schools, and generate nearly $56 million in new revenue for the city’s General Fund over the first 25 years. We can, and we will, continue to grow Richmond by redeveloping underutilized city-owned property.”

“For many years the city has needed to find a better use for the Public Safety Building site.  I am glad that City Council has approved this important project that moves the city forward in redeveloping our Downtown, benefits our community, and strengthens healthcare in the city and region,” said Councilmember Ellen Robertson.

“We want to thank Mayor Stoney and Richmond City Council for supporting the sale of this property and allowing this important development to go forward.  Too often real estate transactions are thought of only in terms of investment and economics, but not in the lives they improve.  This project will help improve the lives of thousands of families in crises and will further Richmond’s reputation as an important healthcare capital,” said Capital City Partners’ Susan Eastridge and Michael Hallmark.

“VCU and VCU Health are strongly committed to the redevelopment of this area.  The Public Safety Building Project, along with the current construction of our new children’s inpatient hospital and Adult Outpatient Pavilion, will play a critical role in supporting a thriving urban center,” said Michael Rao, president of VCU and VCU Health System.

“We are pleased that the City has chosen to move forward with the sale of the Public Safety Building to Capital City Partners, LLC.  This announcement marks the beginning of a long-awaited initiative to breathe fresh life into this section of the city, while providing a much needed new home for The Doorways to lodge the thousands of families who depend on our services to access their medical care.  This announcement is truly a win-win for the Doorways and the entire Richmond community,” said Stacy Brinkley, President and CEO of The Doorways.

“As specialty pediatric care grows in the Richmond region, so does the need to support the whole family.  A new, fully-accessible Ronald McDonald House provides more capacity to help families whose sick and injured children are receiving care at all pediatric hospitals throughout the Richmond region as well as families whose children are the most vulnerable and medically complex being cared for at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.  This project is a game changer for pediatric healthcare,” said Kerry Blumberg, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond.

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Downtown

Jefferson Davis Highway in the process of being renamed following House vote

The bill, introduced by Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, passed the House earlier this month with a 70-28 vote. The Senate passed the measure earlier this week with a 30-9 vote.

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By Cameron Jones

The Virginia General Assembly has approved a bill renaming sections of U.S. Route 1 almost 100 years after it was named in honor of the first and only president of the Confederacy.

The bill, introduced by Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, passed the House earlier this month with a 70-28 vote. The Senate passed the measure earlier this week with a 30-9 vote.

Counties and cities have until Jan. 1, 2022 to change their portion of Jefferson Davis Highway to whatever name they choose, or the state will change it to Emancipation Memorial Highway.

“Change the name on your own, or the General Assembly will change it for you,” Cole said to House committee members.

Sections of the highway that run through Stafford, Caroline, Spotsylvania and Chesterfield counties will need new signage and markers, according to the bill’s impact statement. Commemorative naming signs will be replaced, along with overhead guide signs at interchanges and street-name signs. The changes are estimated to cost almost $600,000 for all localities. The changes in Chesterfield will cost an estimated $373,000 because there are 17 Jefferson Davis Highway overhead signs on Routes 288 and 150.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy conceived the plan for Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway in 1913, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Davis was a Mississippi senator who became the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Virginia General Assembly designated U.S. Route 1 as Jefferson Davis Highway in 1922.

“Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy, a constant reminder of a white nationalist experiment, and a racist Democrat,” Cole said. “Instead we can acknowledge the powerful act of the Emancipation Proclamation.”

Cole said the change acknowledges the positive history of the Civil War and reminds people of the emancipation and freedom that came from it.

The bill received little pushback in House and Senate committees. A Richmond City representative said their initial concern was the interpretation if districts would have the opportunity to choose a replacement name. Signs are already going up renaming the route to Richmond Highway in Richmond.

Sen. Scott A. Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, voiced his support for the bill. He responded to concern that the change dishonors a veteran. He said he believes the bill “strikes a reasonable balance” by giving counties time to rename their portion of the highway, or they will give it a default name which “doesn’t carry the political baggage.”

A poll by Hampton University and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Virginians are still divided on changing the names of schools, streets and military bases named after Confederate leaders (44% supported the idea and 43% opposed it).

Eric Sundberg, Cole’s chief of staff, said there were two camps of people that opposed the bill. He said some were openly racist and called Cole’s office to make offensive remarks. Then there were people who said they did not want to “double dip” on renaming the portion in their respective district and wanted it all to be named Richmond Highway.

Stephen Farnsworth, professor and director at the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, said efforts to rename the highway have never received much support in Richmond until this year.

“Virginia has rapidly moved from a commonwealth that treasured its Confederate legacy, to one that is trying to move beyond it,” Farnsworth said.

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Education

Henrico Schools asks community for feedback as division examines relationship between police, schools

Henrico County Public Schools is announcing an update to the school division’s memorandum of understanding with the Henrico County Police Division. In doing so, HCPS invites the community to review the updated MOU document and make comments via an online form.

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Henrico County Public Schools is announcing an update to the school division’s memorandum of understanding with the Henrico County Police Division. In doing so, HCPS invites the community to review the updated MOU document and make comments via an online form.

The 11-page document is designed to coordinate efforts, facilitate communication and establish a mutually beneficial framework for HCPS and the police division. It covers the roles and responsibilities of both organizations; procedures for various situations; legal and financial responsibilities; and evaluation of the agreement in the future. Virginia school divisions that employ school resource officers are required by law to create a similar agreement with their city or county law enforcement agency.

The public is invited to review the revised memorandum and offer written feedback by going to the school division’s website athttps://henricoschools.us and looking under “Hot Topics.” Feedback must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on March 7.

HCPS Superintendent Amy Cashwell and Henrico Police Chief Eric English will review and consider written feedback on the revised agreement before formalizing the MOU agreement in March.

In an earlier part of this review process, the HCPS Office of Equity, Diversity and Opportunity also organized 12 input meetings in September, October and December of 2020 including HCPS leaders, teachers, students, parents and guardians, school-based mental health staff, behavioral support staff, school resource officers and school security officers.

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