My Week in Words: October 6

On reflection, this was a week of sadness, optimism for the future and rebirth. It truly ran the gamut of emotions, brought in some new issues for the city and revisited some old ones.

Sadly, this was a week where I was mostly behind my desk reporting, such was the nature of the assignments in front of me. But, I hope it was interesting nonetheless.

City receives grant to buy Murray’s Livery

A few months ago, an odd proposal came before city council as the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority looked to buy a Colonial-era home in return for a lease extension on Cameron Run Regional Park.

It was a hearing that brought all sorts of ill-feeling, especially about NOVA Parks and an apparent lack of community engagement. And after council voted to defer, everyone retreated back to their corners and looked for alternatives.

Now, the city has been awarded $900,000 from the state to buy the property, meaning it needs to raise about $350,000 that hasn’t been covered by the grant and won’t be covered by taxes.

Personally, I think it seems like a decent solution to a problem, to have the city buy the property and decouple it from any discussions about the future of Cameron Run Regional Park.

In terms of reporting, this was one of the easier assignments I’ve had recently. Everyone was available to speak by telephone, there were no hearings or meetings to attend and I could look back to see how I covered this a few months ago.

Difference in city pay is about 6 percent across genders

An interesting report came out last month that found that women on average are paid 6 percent less than their male counterparts at City Hall.

I say it’s interesting because it shows there are still very real disparities, even though that disparity in Alexandria is much less than the national average of about 21 percent.

This kind of news reporting appeals to me, though. Not only did I need to interview a member of the city’s human resources department and ask them about all this, but I needed to trawl through the report and find interesting statistics.

And there were some interesting statistics to be found, once the report was dug into. There are some very large disparities still, with women in some sections of city government making on average 20 percent less than men.

I was somewhat disappointed to hear a lack of concrete conclusions from staff and any proposals on how they plan on closing the gender pay gap. This was only the first such pay equity report, so if they do release these every quarter it’ll be interesting to see how that gap evolves.

Late-breaking shooting on Duke Street

What could be more fun on a Wednesday, with the print deadline fast approaching, than breaking news of a homicide? An elderly man was shot on Duke Street in broad daylight — not the first time a shooting like this has happened this year.

It certainly made for an interesting morning, as I wrote a quick story for the website and then put together a similarly quick story for print. Thankfully, the acting police chief’s press conference was live streamed on Periscope, which was very helpful.

That’s the fifth homicide in the city this year, and will likely mean a community meeting once more details are released. Of those five homicides, three have come at the hands of guns.

Two deaths of community leaders

It was an issue for so-called news obituaries, which are news articles about leading city people that have died recently. I had two such news obits to write this week, which was odd, given that I haven’t had any to write for what feels like a long time.

My first was about the former vice chairman of the planning commission, Stewart Dunn. I never met him, but was always struck during meetings of how everyone stopped everything to listen to his thoughts, even though he was very soft-spoken.

Some of the city’s most significant development projects have come under his watch, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the waterfront. It’s incredible to think of the impact he’s made.

The second news obit I wrote was about Barbara Fox Mason, an advocate for early childhood education that founded a preschool center for under-privileged children.

Honestly, she wasn’t someone I’d heard of, but it was interesting to dig into her career in Alexandria. And the work she did was very worthy of praise, so I’m glad we shed some light on her life.

Former bridal store returns to Old Town

At the start of this year, I wrote a couple of articles about widespread business closures in Alexandria, especially of small businesses in Old Town and Del Ray.

It was a troubling period, and one of those small businesses to close was Hannelore’s, a bridal store on North Lee Street.

But after a few months away they re-opened with a different name and a new concept: this time, they’re selling designer samples at heavily discounted prices.

This article involved me going out and meeting people, which is always a favorite pastime of mine in this job. The store’s owner seemed grateful for the publicity, and I enjoyed wandering around the store.

As you can imagine, I’m not really the target market for bridal stores, but it was certainly an education. I’m always interested to hear people’s thoughts about the industry they are in as well as about their store specifically, and hopefully that translated well.

Bishop Ireton boys soccer scores 10 against Carroll

To wrap up my week, I went and covered a high school boys soccer game between Bishop Ireton and Archbishop Carroll in a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference matchup.

Ireton won 10–0, which was good for them but not too much fun for those of us not on the team. It was almost a shame that they dominated so much, and that Carroll had very little in the way of chances or possession.

Thankfully the weather was nice, so it was good to enjoy some late-afternoon sunshine and watch some sports.

However, a 10–0 win left a slightly odd taste in my mouth, but that’s not to impugn anything Ireton did.

The time was, I couldn’t imagine covering anything else other than soccer, be it college, high school or professional.

Now? I’m not so sure.

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