City gears up for ‘Appomattox’ move request

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By Chris Teale (File photo)

The city’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly will be asked to support legislation in the 2017 session requesting permission to move the “Appomattox” statue as part of its legislative agenda along with other priorities.

City council examined its agenda for next year’s legislative session in Richmond at its meeting Tuesday night, and agreed to advance the slate of issues to a public hearing in November.

Delegates Mark Levine (D- 45) and Charniele Herring (D- 46) will be asked to pursue legislation from the package, along with state Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-30), George Barker (D-39) and Dick Saslaw (D-35).

Councilors voted unanimously at its September public hearing to request the statue be moved from its present location at Prince and South Washington streets to the grounds of The Lyceum, a city museum located at the corner of the intersection.

The statue has stood at its current location — intended to mark the point at which Alexandria residents gathered to join the Confederate army — since 1889, and is owned by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The proposed change would move it 20 feet away, to the southwest corner of the intersection.

Virginia Code prohibits the removal of memorials or monuments commemorating any war involving the United States, including the Civil War. “Appomattox” depicts a lone, unarmed Confederate soldier looking south, and is a memorial to the city’s Confederate war dead.

Mayor Allison Silberberg said she reached out to local chapter president Deborah Mullins after what was an at-times controversial public hearing in September. Silberberg said they had a “cordial” meeting during which both parties explained their positions, and that the ball is now in the city delegation’s court.

Silberberg said the move is a minor one, and “not to Aunt Matilda’s basement, not to my back yard.”

“We have voted as a body, so it’s up to our state legislators how to proceed,” Silberberg said. “We have done our part here. It is up to them.”

Mullins said in a letter to the Times this week that the chapter is steadfast in its belief that the statue should not be moved due to its historical connection.

“This marks the site from which the Alexandria militia companies departed the city on the morning of May 24, 1861,” Mullins wrote. “The location had special meaning for the men who conceived, paid for and dedicated the monument. As Silberberg was informed, we will honor the wishes of those veterans.”

Elsewhere in the city’s 2017 legislative package is an effort to secure funding to address its combined sewer system discharge into Oronoco Bay. Addressing that outfall is not required by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, so was not included in May when council approved an updated long-term control plan for the city’s combined sewer system.

Instead, councilors are hopeful of receiving state funding to address the outfall into Oronoco Bay and other capital projects for the outfalls into Hunting Creek. Without state assistance, city staff wrote in a memo to council that the average sewer bill would go up about $120 to $180 per year for 20 years for each household.

City Manager Mark Jinks said there is precedent for state funding for sewer upgrades, as both Lynchburg and Richmond received money to address similar is- sues. He said the city must be treated equitably in terms of funding.

City Councilor Tim Lovain said such a problem was “not unique” to Alexandria, but the city has come in for criticism from nearby representatives for its Oronoco Bay outfall. State Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), whose district is to the south of Alexandria, recently attacked the city for what he perceived as inaction on the issue.

“Alexandria isn’t the Third World and the idea that a jurisdiction with hundreds of million dollar homes on the [Potomac] River can’t afford to dispose of its toilet water in a proper sewer is preposterous,” he said in an email last month. “We’re going to resolve the raw sewage piece one way or the other.”

In its memo to council, city staff said there are plans to implement green infrastructure projects and to continue voluntary storm and sanitary sewer separation projects to reduce the outfall as redevelopment projects continue.

As with previous years, the city’s legislative agenda asked its delegation to support the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and to establish a floor price for regional gas taxes that would allow a stable amount of revenue to be collected despite fluctuations in the oil market.

Another part of the package is a recommendation that the delegation not introduce legislation on body-worn cameras for public safety officials. Vice Mayor Justin Wilson said the legalities of the program still must be finalized, while city lobbyist Bernie Caton said any legislation on body-worn cameras introduced by other representatives will be reviewed when necessary.

The general assembly will convene for next year’s session on January 11 and sit until February 25. Beforehand, councilors will hold a public hearing on the legislative package November 12, then a work session November 29 at which it will be approved.

The following month, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is slated to submit his proposed amendments to the commonwealth’s fiscal 2017 to 2018 biennial budget.

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