Tag Archives: Virginia

Editorial: Aramark proves unethical once again

Source: Cavalier Daily, April 9, 2015

In a new addition to an existing string of offenses, it has recently come to light that Aramark — the same company that serves food at the University — served garbage to inmates at a prison in Michigan. More specifically, prisoners at Saginaw Correctional Facility have been served food that was previously thrown in the trash. In the past, Aramark has also underfed inmates and fed them dog food, worms and scraps of food from old meals, as well as sold generally degraded qualities of food to prisons. This past summer, the University renewed its contract with Aramark and set the contract for 20 years. This decision came with significant concerns regarding wages, as Aramark can pay its employees as little as the federal minimum wage — $7.25 an hour — and, since they are contract employees, they are not eligible for benefits from the University…. Aramark’s investments are a financial incentive for the University to uphold this existing contract, and at this point, with a contract already set, it is highly unlikely the University would undermine its relationship with Aramark and break that contract. So perhaps this can serve as a lesson for the future, if nothing can be done about the contract now. The University is not just a business — it is also an educational institution and a major employer in the Charlottesville area. While it can be swayed by financial decisions, it should not be constrained by them when ethical issues as egregious as Aramark’s come into play. Other schools, like Yale University and Hampden-Sydney College, have ended contracts with Aramark, even, in Hampden-Sydney’s case, after 56 years of partnership….

Escaped prisoner apprehended in D.C. after hours-long manhunt

Source: Justin Jouvenal, Dana Hedgpeth and Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post, March 31, 2015

…When a guard took a bathroom break, Wossen Assaye, a federal prisoner, somehow slipped his shackles and overpowered a second guard, taking her gun and using her as a human shield, authorities said. Assaye was being treated because of a suicide attempt, they said. ….Robert W. “Bobby” Mathieson, U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia, said it has been agency policy to have private security firms, not the Marshals Service, guard prisoners being treated at hospitals. Federal records show that in January 2014, Allied Protection Services was awarded a contract with the Marshals Service to provide armed guards for work in the Eastern District of Virginia. The contract is reviewed annually but would be worth a total of $306,000 over five years…..
Escaped prisoner arrested in D.C.
Source: Dana Hedgpeth and Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, March 31, 2015

An escaped prisoner who overpowered a private security guard at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church and later carjacked two people was arrested in D.C. shortly before noon, police said…. The escaped prisoner, who took the security guard’s gun, is known by police as the “Bicycle Bandit” and is believed to be involved in several bank robberies in the area, escaping on a bicycle… Police said a private security company was hired to guard him at the hospital. According to the police account, a struggle ensued between the guard and Assaye inside a hospital room. Assaye overpowered the guard and took a gun. Police said one shot was fired but no one was injured. Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler did not specify who fired the shot. Assaye “gained control of the gun,” Roessler said. He said two guards were watching Assaye at the time of the incident, but only one guard was involved in the struggle….Under an agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service, federal prisoners are held at the Alexandria detention center, according to Amy Bertsch, a spokeswoman for the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office. Bertsch said Alexandria sheriff’s deputies remained with Assaye until Saturday afternoon and then turned custody over to security officers hired under a contract with the U.S. Marshals office. Assaye escaped from the hospital under the watch of two private security officers. Desmond Proctor, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals, declined to comment Tuesday on the incident or discuss the agency’s policy for maintaining the custody of prisoners in medical settings. He said they expected to release a statement later today…..

With Revamped Code Website, Chicago Tackles ‘Ridiculous’ Municipal Problem

Source: Michael Grass, Government Executive, March 18, 2015

In many state and municipal governments, the general public must pay to access legislation, laws and regulatory codes. That’s often because, as GovExec State & Local detailed last summer, many governments don’t actually host their own public information and instead have contracts with companies to host that information on proprietary information platforms. Chicago has been one of a handful of municipal governments trying to change that and give the public easier access to public information. …. On Wednesday, ChicagoCode.org, which had been in beta testing since November 2013, was officially re-released. Since the beta site was released for public consumption, 45,000 people have accessed its information, according to the OpenGov Foundation, which worked with Mendoza’s office, the city of Chicago and its codification partner, American Legal Publishing, to execute the digital transformation of the city’s municipal code as part of The State Decoded project. That project, spearheaded by the OpenGov Foundation, has helped a handful of state and local governments create more accessible code websites, including the cities of Baltimore and San Francisco and the states of Florida, Maryland and Virginia….

Opinion: Designing Private Cities, Open to All

Source: Alex Tabarrok and Shruti Rajagopalan, New York Times, March 16, 2015

….As the world urbanizes, we need to experiment with new urban forms and new forms of urban planning, and privately designed and operated cities — proprietary cities — like Jamshedpur, India, or Reston, Va., may provide answers….. Private cities are also thriving in the United States. Companies created proprietary communities in Reston, Va., and Irvine, Calif., in the 1960s, which were recently ranked by CNN Money magazine as the 10th and 14th best places to live in America, respectively, because of their efficient city services and pleasing integration of business, commercial and residential uses.
Throughout the United States, new housing is governed privately. Millions of Americans live in homeowner associations that often provide security, garbage collection and transportation. Some large cities supplement public police with private security. San Francisco, for example, has had a private police force protecting some downtown areas for almost 170 years…..

Toll Hike Approved for Dulles Greenway

Source: NBCWashington.com, March 2, 2015

Drivers will pay higher tolls to travel the Dulles Greenway soon. The State Corporation Commission approved a 2.8 percent toll increase for the 14-mile road, which runs between Mainline Plaza — just south of Washington Dulles International Airport — and Leesburg, Virginia. The Greenway is privately owned. The toll for two-axle vehicles will rise from $4.20 to $4.30 for those traveling from Leesburg to Dulles. The toll for peak morning and afternoon weekday periods will increase from $5.10 to $5.20 for that route. Shorter distances cost less….

No signs of relief from Dulles Greenway toll increases
Source: Caitlin Gibson, Washington Post, February 16, 2015

Legislative attempts to halt the steadily rising tolls on the privately owned Dulles Greenway have failed in Richmond in recent weeks, deepening frustration among local officials and commuters who have long opposed the road’s price structure. Del. David I. Ramadan (R-Loudoun) is one of the most outspoken critics of the toll rates implemented by the greenway’s operator, Toll Road Investors Partnership II. Ramadan introduced a bill to the Virginia General Assembly last month that aimed to force TRIP II to lower its rates and apply distance-based pricing — meaning that drivers would pay only for the mileage they travel. But the bill died Feb. 5 in the House Commerce and Labor Committee, despite testimony from Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) and regulatory expert Robert Van Hoecke in favor of the legislation. ….

Dulles Greenway toll rates rise again
Source: Caitlin Gibson, Washington Post, April 14, 2014

Drivers on the Dulles Greenway can once again expect to pay higher tolls along the 14-mile, privately owned road. On Tuesday, the State Corporation Commission approved an annual toll rate increase on the road, raising rates by 10 to 20 cents for drivers in two-axle vehicles. During non-peak hours, the toll will rise from $4.10 to $4.25, with a maximum one-way toll of $5.10 during peak hours. The new rate was approved in February and initially set to go into effect Feb. 15, but Del. David I. Ramadan (R-Loudoun), one of the toll road’s most outspoken critics and the leader of an ongoing legal battle against the highway’s operators, filed a request to delay the increase. Virginia law allows members of the General Assembly to delay court proceedings until 30 days after the legislative session ends, Ramadan said.

State hosts first hearings about Dulles Greenway tolls
Source: Caitlin Gibson, Washington Post, April 15, 2013

The ever-increasing tolls on the Dulles Greenway drew criticism last week from Loudoun County residents and officials, as the State Corporation Commission hosted the first of several hearings examining the privately owned road’s controversial rate structure. Despite years of complaints about the high costs, the road’s operator, Toll Road Investors Partnership II, filed a Nov. 14 request with the SCC seeking approval for another toll increase. TRIP II asked that the commission approve an increase of 14 cents for two-axle vehicles, according to the application.

Dulles Greenway’s tolls inspire “Highway Robbery” protest song by Angela Petry
Source: Tom Jackman, Washington Post, September 6, 2012

Updated, 12:10 a.m., with background on Petry and the song.
Original post: Angela Petry doesn’t even have to drive the Dulles Greenway every day, and she’s still outraged that it costs $5.55 one way at peak times. So she wrote a protest song, called “Highway Robbery.” Here’s a piece WJLA-7 did with Petry, in which she performed the song live on Skype:
As you may know, the Greenway is privately owned by the Macquarie Group of Australia, and it’s the only privately owned toll road in the state. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) has long protested the cost of driving the Greenway, and it was his characterization of the tolls as “highway robbery” which inspired Petry to write the song, even though she lives in West Virginia. But the tolls are regulated by the State Corporation Commission, and Gov. Bob McDonnell told WJLA there was nothing he could do.

Private police carry guns and make arrests, and their ranks are swelling

Source: Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, March 1, 2015

…Like more and more Virginians, Youlen gained his police powers using a little-known provision of state law that allows private citizens to petition the courts for the authority to carry a gun, display a badge and make arrests. ….. The growth is mirrored nationally in the ranks of private police, who increasingly patrol corporate campuses, neighborhoods and museums as the demand for private security has increased and police services have been cut in some places. The trend has raised concerns in Virginia and elsewhere, because these armed officers often receive a small fraction of the training and oversight of their municipal counterparts.

Charles City, Waste Management agree to $1.5 million settlement

Source: Andre Jones, New Kent – Charles City Chronicle, January 28, 2015

After 15 months of legalities, motions, and mediation as part of a civil lawsuit between Charles City County and Waste Management, both parties have agreed to a $1.5 million settlement. Charles City Board of Supervisors chairman Gilbert Smith announced the settlement during the board’s Jan. 27 regular monthly meeting. … The path to a mutual agreement, however, didn’t come without bumps along the way. In October 2013, Boyd filed a civil suit on behalf of the county, listing claims that indicated Waste Management was avoiding to pay a host fee to dispose of trash at the Roxbury landfill. Accusations arose, claiming that waste was being redirected to Amelia County because of a lower host fee. Waste Management denied the claims, opting to fight the suit and move forward to a jury trial. A motion was granted last June to transfer the case to New Kent, a request made by Waste Management claiming a jury from Charles City would be biased based on prejudicial pretrial publicity. In the meantime, revenue funds dwindled for the county, resulting in $900,000 in cuts. Of that amount, $436,000 was designated to be removed from local funding for the county’s school system…..

It’s Time To Respond to Populist Opposition

Source: Robert W. Poole, Jr., Public Works Financing, Vol. 295, July/August 2014
(subscription required)

In April the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard published a five-page cover story called “HOT and Bothered,” which characterized the express toll lanes project on the Capital Beltway (I-495) as “another nightmare from the suburbs-hating traffic planners.” The article grossly misrepresented how this Fluor/Transurban toll concession project came about, and also attacked the principle of express toll lanes as horribly elitist: the cover illustration showed an overhead sign separating traffic into “Express Lanes” and “Riff-Raff.”…

VCU contracts out security service /Annual savings from new model projected to be about $30,000

Source: Karin Kapsidelis, Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 20, 2014

Virginia Commonwealth University is outsourcing more security work to the private company already providing mobile patrols on campus. The university contracted with G4S Secure Solutions in June to provide security in academic buildings, which previously was handled by 40 staff members working for the VCU Police Department. The VCU Police employees were given the opportunity to apply for the G4S positions, and 21 have been hired, said Corey Byers, public information officer for the campus police.

Russian menus, grapeless Jazz Salad and other top-secret cafeteria complaints from inside the CIA

Source: Abby Phillip, Washington Post, in the Loop blog, July 14, 2014

..It turns out that some of the nation’s top intelligence officers are aggressively insisting on quality control in their office cafeteria. Thanks to a 2010 Freedom of Information Act request recently surfaced by the open-source FOIA experts at MuckRock, we now have a rare glimpse into what exactly life is like in Langley. The FOIA request was for the “feedback” messages sent by CIA’s employees to cafeteria managers; the messages received in the government’s 2011 response were as good as you would expect. Names are, of course, redacted….
Wanted: Top (secret) chef
Source: Julian Hattem, The Hill, July 16, 2014

One spy agency is looking for a new chef who can fry, bake and keep a secret. Food contractor Sodexo recently posted a job advertisement seeking an executive chef for a top government agency, but specified that applicants must be able to obtain a top-secret government clearance. “Sodexo’s Government Services Division is seeking a strong Executive Chef to manage all the culinary operations at a high profile government dining account in Northern Virginia,” the company said. “The successful candidate must be able to obtain a TS [top secret]/SCI [sensitive compartmented information] clearance.” The ad did not specify which agency is looking for the chef but noted that the job is in Herndon, Va. SCI access is used for officials dealing with intelligence information, such as staffers at the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency. …