The first lady gives out cotton to children on a tour; brown tap water in Waverly; a raise for Bedford teachers and more headlines

Virginia Mercury

Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.

• The racial scandal consuming Virginia’s leadership expanded to First Lady Pam Northam this week, after a state employee complained that her daughter was upset that Northam handed out cotton to her and another African American child on a tour of the executive mansion. Northam asked if the children could imagine being enslaved and having to pick the cotton. “I can not for the life of me understand why the first lady would single out the African American pages for this — or — why she would ask them such an insensitive question,” the employee said. – The Washington Post

•   Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is concerned a General Assembly bill to prohibit the state from joining the federal Transportation and Climate Initiative will also prevent the city from participating in other federal programs to help with transportation and air quality improvements. Stoney has asked the governor veto the bill. – WCVE

• About 40 people showed up to Tuesday night’s Norfolk City Council meeting to denounce the Sheriff’s Office for working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, jailing 1,200 undocumented immigrants since 2017. – The Virginian-Pilot

• Portsmouth residents are asking for more information about a development project at the city’s waterfront, which includes several city buildings, including a jail. “We can only assume since we weren’t included in that developmental plan … that the plan is to shut down the jail,” Sheriff Michael Moore said. – The Virginian-Pilot

• About 20,000 more properties in Henrico County are now eligible for a tax abatement program the county’s Board of Supervisors voted to change. More than half of the county’s parcels will now be eligible to apply for the program. – Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Richmond Fire Department’s first African-American chief, Ronald C. Lewis, died last week. During his tenure, the department reduced the number of fire deaths in the city and increased the number of black firefighters in its ranks and leadership. – Richmond Times-Dispatch

•  A Virginia Beach man accused of repeatedly threatening to punch and shoot U.S. Sen. Mark Warner because of his stances on issues like abortion and the border wall is being held without bond. – The Virginian-Pilot

• Egyptair has announced plans to run service from Cairo to Washington Dulles International Airport starting in early June. –InsideNova

• Residents in Waverly have dealt with brown tap water since at least 2017. Water is still coming out brown, despite town leaders’ efforts to fix infrastructure they say is getting old and hasn’t been properly maintained. – WTKR

• Olde Salem Brewing Company in Salem has apologized for naming one of its beers after a Hindu god. The President of the Universal Society of Hinduism requested the name be changed. – WSLS

• The Bedford County School Board last week unanimously approved a 5 percent cost of living adjustment for all school division employees — the largest raise in 10 years. – The Roanoke Times

• The Loudoun County School Board added gender identity and sexual orientation to its equal opportunity policy Tuesday night. – Loudoun Times-Mirror

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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach.