Across Virginia

(AP)Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has named three new commissioners to service on the State Board of Elections, sweeping out the previous members. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Northam said Friday that he’s appointing Bob Brink, Jamilah LeCruise and John O’Bannon. Brink was an aide in former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration and former Democratic member of the House of Delegates from Arlington County. LeCruise is a lawyer from Norfolk, and O’Bannon is a former Republican delegate from Henrico.

The board oversees statewide elections, tabulates results and implements election policies set by the General Assembly and governor. Its members also supervise an elections commissioner chosen by the governor. Legislators must approve the appointments. The board’s membership would expand from three to five under a measure that legislators sent to Northam last month.

The father of slain WDBJ-7 journalist Alison Parker has released a book about his daughter – shot dead on live TV in 2015 – and his fight for improved gun control. Andy Parker will also speak about and sign copies of “For Alison, The Murder of a Young Journalist and a Father’s Fight for Gun Safety,” tomorrow at 1-pm, at “Book No Further” on Church Avenue, inside the 16 West Marketplace. Parker has been making the rounds on national and international media outlets about his book, which also advocates for universal background checks and banning assault-style weapons. We will hear much more from Andy Parker during a “Longer Listen” segment Monday morning at 8:45.

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The organizers of the 2017 deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, have asked to voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit they filed against city and police officials. The Daily Progress reports the recent motion does not specify why the Unite the Right organizers are dropping the lawsuit filed in November. The plaintiffs are Jason Kessler, white nationalist group Identity Evropa and neo-Nazi groups National Socialist Movement and Traditionalist Worker’s Party. The lawsuit said by issuing orders not to engage crowds, authorities allowed a “heckler’s veto,” in effect suppressing speech by the possibility of violent reactions.The plaintiffs have moved to dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice, which means the case could be filed again at a later date. Kessler filed a similar lawsuit last March that was voluntarily dismissed in August.

(Apco photo)

From Appalachian Power: The power is out for more than 50,000 Appalachian Power customers after damaging winds with peak gusts of 60 mph tore through parts of the service territory on Sunday. The winds were part of a strong weather system that affected multiple states and large population centers from Illinois to the east coast. The combination of high winds, along with moisture-saturated soil from prolonged rainfall, led to downed trees and debris, broken poles and cross arms. Crews began assessing the damage and restoring service on large known outages yesterday, but the high winds continuing into the evening slowed down the work due to safety concerns. Workers cannot safely make repairs aloft from buckets in wind speeds in excess of 30 mph, and cannot safely work in forested areas where high wind gusts are still bringing down trees and limbs. Employees are continuing to assess damage today, where it is safe to do so, to determine the full impact on transmission and distribution lines. Outages are widespread across Appalachian Power’s service area. Currently the number of customers without service is about 26,000 in Virginia and 25,000 in West Virginia.

About 1,400 employees and contractors are working to assess damage, clear safety hazards and repair damage on outages. Due to the storm’s impact on multiple states, it is difficult to obtain additional outside assistance from nearby states, but an additional 250 workers from Mississippi and Georgia have been requested to help with the restoration efforts.

Continued high winds are hampering restoration efforts and some areas are inaccessible due to high water. Drones and helicopters will be utilized to assess areas that remain too hazardous for crews to access. Until the high winds subside and the extent of damage is more fully known, restoration estimates cannot be accurately determined.

From Appalachian Power: A strong weather system with prolonged damaging winds is affecting multiple states and large population centers from Illinois to the east coast. Much of Appalachian Power’s service area is experiencing sustained winds of 15 – 40 mph with frequent gusts of 40 – 55 mph. As of 5:45 pm Sunday, more than 74,000 Appalachian Power customers are currently without electric service due to damage from high winds, and additional outages are expected to occur as high winds continue to batter areas with moisture-saturated soil. High winds are forecast to continue through tonight and into tomorrow in parts of the company’s service area.

Outages are widespread across Appalachian Power’s service area. Currently the number of customers without service is 2,300 in Tennessee, 40,000 in Virginia and 32,000 in West Virginia.

Employees and contractors across the company are working to assess damage, clear safety hazards and repair damage on outages affecting large numbers of customers. Damage assessors and line crews are facing a number of difficulties in their efforts to identify damage and restore electric service. Some areas are inaccessible due to high water.

Continued high winds are also hampering restoration efforts. Workers cannot safely make repairs aloft from buckets in wind speeds in excess of 30 mph, and cannot safely work in forested areas where high wind gusts are still bringing down trees and limbs.

This storm system is affecting several states and major population centers. Appalachian Power is requesting additional resources but does not yet have commitments from contractors or utilities outside the company’s service area. Until the storm threat has passed and the extent of damage is more fully known, restoration estimates cannot be accurately determined.

High winds are forecast to continue through tonight and into tomorrow in parts of the company’s service area, which will hamper workers’ ability to assess damage and make repairs.

 

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia lawmakers approved a sweeping overhaul Saturday of how legislative and congressional maps are drawn, despite strong objections from some black legislators. The House and Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a new commission empowered to draw legislative and congressional maps during the next redistricting process in 2021, a change from the current practice of lawmakers drawing the maps themselves. The measure must be approved again by the General Assembly next year, and then by voters, to take effect.

The 16-member commission would be a mix of lawmakers and citizens. Republicans and Democrats would be evenly split among the lawmakers and the citizen members would pick by retired judges from a list drawn up by lawmakers. A supermajority of both citizen and lawmakers commission members would be needed to present a map to the General Assembly for consideration. The General Assembly would have to vote up or down on any proposed maps. In the event of a stalemate, the Virginia Supreme Court would draw the maps. Governors would have no role in the process. Under current law, governors have veto power over any map proposed by the legislature.

Advocates of redistricting reform hailed the proposal’s passage. “Although this bipartisan plan does not reflect every provision we urged in our original proposal, make no mistake: This reform will end partisan gerrymandering in Virginia,” said Brian Cannon, executive director of the advocacy group OneVirginia2021.

The measure passed unanimously in the state Senate, but many black lawmakers in the House of Delegates voted against it. Black lawmakers said the commission would dilute the influence of African-Americans in drawing the maps. “We have great concerns about having African-American representation for redistricting, and this doesn’t guarantee that,” said Del. Lamont Bagby, chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Redistricting reform has long been a hot-button issue in Virginia politics, with Democrats often campaigning on the need for an independent commission. Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox earlier this year said he backed the formation of a commission after years of objecting to the idea. Cox said lengthy federal court battles over maps drawn during the 2011 redistricting lines prompted his change of heart. Democratic-led lawsuits led to a federal court redrawing the state’s congressional map and could lead to a new state House map.

A panel of judges has given final approval to a redrawn map for the Virginia House of Delegates in a protracted racial gerrymandering case.

A federal panel of judges gave final approval to a redrawn House map earlier this month after a previous ruling that lawmakers had racially gerrymandered eleven districts by packing black voters into them.

Republicans are appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Arguments are scheduled for next month.

From VDOT: Part of Route 661 (Johnson Creek Road) in western Alleghany County is closed due to a slope failure between Route 600 (Indian Draft Road) and Route 781 (Rucker Gap Road). Drivers using Route 661 need to follow the posted detour route. The Virginia Department of Transportation will make repairs to the slope, but there is no estimate on when the road will reopen. All work is weather permitting.
Virginia traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available athttp://www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile friendly website athttps://my.vdot.virginia.gov/.Agents areavailable 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.
The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany and Bath counties.