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Massacre at Pittsburgh Synagogue
(Written yesterday, Saturday, October 27)
As I write this newsletter, I'm watching CNN.
I'm simultaneously horrified, depressed, and enraged.
It is reported that a well-armed gun enthusiast, with a long history of posting hateful comments about Jews, took his licensed AR-15 assault weapon and gunned down worshippers at a baby-naming ceremony at a Shabbat service while shouting, "All Jews must die!"
11 are dead. 6 are injured, including the brave law enforcement who confronted him.
Except we must force ourselves to speak out.
Massacres like these are preventable, because
1) Instigation of Hatred + 2) Easy Access to Guns = Horrific Tragedy
Let's examine the two primary factors leading to this atrocity:
1st) Instigation of Hatred
Antisemitism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia are not idle, fun, rebellious forms of political incorrectness.
They are hate. They are real. They are dangerous. They are un-American.
And all elected officials, from the President of the United States down to local officials, need to stop encouraging this hate, whether through foghorns or dog whistles.
There has been a severe uptick in hate crimes since Trump became President. Clearly the buck stops with him. Quick: think of 10 hateful things the President has said about vulnerable people. Were you surprised it was so easy to do?
But it's not just Trump. Too many Republicans in Virginia and all across the nation use foghorns or dog whistles to attack the vulnerable. We can and should disagree on policy. But we should never stoop to spreading hate.
2nd) Easy Access to Guns
It's far too easy for dangerous people to get easy access to weapons of war in Pennsylvania, in Virginia, and throughout the USA.
In Virginia, it is perfectly legal to sell to virtually anyone an AR-15, a military-grade semi-automatic assault weapon -- the same weapon used by the Pittsburgh killer (and the Orlando killer, the Las Vegas killer, the Parkland killer, the Newtown killer, and many other killers). They can be legally sold to known terrorists, to people convicted of domestic violence and child abuse, to violent gang members, and to those found by a court to be a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness. No background checks required. Osama Bin Laden, if he were alive today, could be legally sold an AR-15 from any unlicensed gun seller in Virginia.
I have introduced more than a half dozen bills to stop gun sales to dangerous people. All of them were defeated by Virginian Republicans on party-line votes. In 2018, Democrats in the Virginia Legislature introduced 69 gun bills (five of them, mine). All were defeated on a party-line vote. Even my bill to stop terrorists from owning guns was defeated. The same Republicans who rail against terrorism thousands of miles away will not take even basic, easy steps to reduce terror at home.
Some will say it is too soon for me to bring up the consequences of the refusal by Virginia Republicans to take gun violence seriously.
But if not now, when?
If we Reduce the Hate,
And Reduce the Proliferation of Guns Among Hateful, Dangerous People,
We Reduce the Senseless Violence.
It's really that simple.
My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and survivors of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre.
We also express our immense gratitude -- and wish for a speedy full recovery -- to the brave first responders who arrived on the scene and prevented the murderer from doing any more damage. Some of them were injured by this horrible man wielding this horrible weapon.
On this day of tragedy, let's all rededicate ourselves to reducing hate and reducing access to guns by hateful people.
And let's recommit to voting out any politicians who stand in our way.
Thoughts and prayers are welcome.
But they are not enough.
Please note the special time for October's Mark's Monthly Meetup, which will be TODAY from 4-6 pm so as not to conflict with the Del Ray Halloween Parade.
As the 2019 legislative session draws closer, I am beginning to make final decisions about what legislation I will introduce. Tomorrow may well be your last chance to share with me any suggestions you have as to which 15 bills you would like to see me put forward in 2019.
As usual, feel free to arrive late or leave early in this informal session.
Hope to see you TODAY at Los Tios in Del Ray!
Redistricting: Court Appoints Expert to
Draw New House Districts by Dec. 7
In June 2018, after three years of appeals, including an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, a three-judge federal panel ruled that Virginia Republicans in 2011 illegally drew district lines that racially gerrymandered the Commonwealth and requested the General Assembly draw new fair lines by October 30.
In the months that followed, Republicans appealed the ruling, sought to stay the ruling, refused to draw a map, refused public hearings, expressly refused to even consider setting a date to consider a map, and rejected on party lines a Democratic map proposed months ago. Governor Northam declared an impasse.
So the federal court moved forward on its own with its appointment of Professor Grofman, who is required to finish his work drawing lines by December 7, 2018.
As I've stated before, I believe politicians should be taken out of the redistricting process entirely.
Know Your School Board Candidates
On Election Day, this Tuesday November 6th, Alexandrians will vote for the City's next School Board, the governing body that oversees the Alexandria City Public Schools system.
As I represent all of District A and parts of District B, I hope my constituents will get to know and research the candidates for these positions. I encourage you to review their websites and platforms, available below. This election is non-partisan, so you will not see a candidate's party affiliation on the ballot, which makes it all the more important that you research the candidates and their platforms thoroughly.
Below are the candidates as they will appear on the ballot. Click their name for more information.
You can vote for up to, but no more than, three candidates in your district:
Candidates for School Board District A
- Marc B. Solomon
- W. Christopher Harris
- Michelle M. Rief
- Jacinta E. Greene
- Christopher A. Suarez
- William E. "Bill" Campbell
Candidates for School Board District B
I have met 10 of these 11 candidates and I think highly of all those I've met. But I am endorsing only one: Veronica Nolan in District B. Frankly, it's very rare of me to endorse any candidate in a Democratic primary or a non-partisan race. But I can tell you that Veronica Nolan and I have worked together personally on several matters to improve Alexandria Public Schools. She is thoughtful, intelligent, and very easy to work with. And she gets things done. (She didn't ask for my endorsement. I volunteered it.)
That doesn't mean the other candidates aren't wonderful, too. As I live in District A, I won't get a chance to vote for Veronica. I've made my three other choices for Election Day, and I'm confident they will be good school board members. But I haven't publicly announced who I'm voting for, because I haven't worked with any of them personally. I'm treating Veronica differently, because when a candidate I've worked with goes above and beyond, I feel it's my duty to share that information with you.
Vote Early! It's Easy!
ABSENTEE VOTING HAS STARTED
If you want to vote before Election Day or think you might not be able to get to the polls that day, Virginia has an absentee voting program. You may be eligible to vote Absentee By Mail or Absentee In Person if you have a qualifying reason.
For most of us, voting absentee in person is actually much easier than voting by mail.
You can get it all done in a quick one-step process. And you can be sure your vote is counted.
Alexandria will offer in-person absentee voting at the Office of Voter Registration & Elections, 132 North Royal Street (Suite 100).
Arlington will offer in-person absentee voting at the Arlington Government Center, Courthouse Plaza, 2100 Clarendon Blvd. (Suite 320).
Fairfax will offer in-person absentee voting at the Mount Vernon Governmental Center, 2511 Parkers Lane and the Franconia Governmental Center, 6121 Franconia Road.
Project PEACE: Creating a Sexual Assault Response Protocol in Arlington
Meeting with the Project PEACE round-table.
Project PEACE, a collaborative effort by Arlington's elected leaders, community service organizations, and emergency responders to help victims and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, has, after years of work, finalized protocols for its Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). The goal of Project PEACE is to enhance the safety of victims, survivors, and witnesses, hold abusers accountable for their actions, and improve the well-being of Arlington County citizens and visitors impacted by interpersonal violence.
The new Arlington County SART Protocols are now available to be read/downloaded at this link. The protocols outline how Arlington responds to sexual assault, including the resources and supports available to survivors, victims, and witnesses.
At this week's meeting, we discussed how to spread awareness about the SART Protocols. We also strategized about how to make sure local students know about healthy relationships and ensure that services for survivors are provided in culturally competent and trauma-informed ways.
Transgender People Will Not Be Erased
A Tour of Jefferson-Houston School
Potomac Yard families at Jefferson-Houston's Open House
One of the things I most enjoy about serving in elected office is the ability it affords me to bring people together to inform them and to solve problems. At a recent event sponsored by the Potomac Yard Civic Association, I was talking with constituents with very young children about their concerns regarding the Jefferson Houston School (serving grades K-8), which has had some troubles in the past but is now totally revamped with a dedicated new principal and lots of great new staff at one of the newest facilities in Alexandria. (Some parents had even suggested moving to Arlington before their kids turned five.)
I knew these parents needed accurate, up-to-date information on what had happened in the past and why I believed Jefferson Houston had turned the corner. Working with the community and Principal MScott Berkowitz, we organized a terrific gathering of forty parents and more than a dozen youngsters to tour the school and find out exactly what it had to offer.
I'm very hopeful for the bright future of Jefferson Houston and all of Alexandria City Public Schools. Thank you to PYCA and Principal Berkowitz for making this happen.
In the Community...
Supporting the Del Ray Artisans
Working with Susheela Varky from the Virginia Poverty Law Center on my legislation
to require judges to take account of domestic violence in child custody cases.
Supporting Matt de Ferranti for Arlington County Board at Freddie's
Learning about Alexandria's political past at Agenda: Alexandria's "Return of the Electeds"
Supporting the Virginia Tech Victims Family Outreach Foundation,
which advocates for common-sense solutions to stop gun violence
I really enjoyed the Safe Virginia Initiative's all-star panel on
the intersection of Gun Violence and Domestic Violence.
The SVI was formed by the House Democratic Caucus at my suggestion
and has instituted a half dozen town halls throughout the Commonwealth to hear
from the public on how Virginians believe we should address gun violence.
With fellow legislators at the Safe Virginia Initiative's excellent panel discussion in Fairfax.
Every Member of the Virginia House and Senate was invited to attend.
Twelve showed up. All are Democrats.
We've now had several of these sessions, and about half
of the Democratic Caucus has appeared at one or more of the events.
Unfortunately, not a single elected Republican in Virginia has thus far showed up.
In "school-safety" forums they set up,
Virginia Republicans forbade any discussion of firearms laws.
I believe we cannot fix a problem if we refuse to discuss it.
Which is why I proposed the Safe Virginia Initiative.
Please Join Me!
Del Ray Halloween Parade
Mark's Monthly Meetup
2615 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria
ADC GOTV/Election Day Preparation Meeting
Volunteer Alexandria Halloween Party
Ivy Hill Cemetery- Vault Area
2823 King St., Alexandria
It is always my honor and privilege to serve you.
Delegate Mark Levine
Serving Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax in Virginia's 45th District