Week In Alexandria: 1/08/14

Minority Report

Don't look now, but Junior might be puffing on an electronic cigarette. And it's legal. Unless state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) has something to say about it.Ebbin has introduced legislation to ban the sale of "e cigs" to minors, which Ebbin says is a step toward making sure they don't get hooked. States across America have asked the federal government to regulate electronic cigarettes, a growing commercial trend that has many worried about marketing efforts aimed at children.Think Joe Camel meets Transformers."There absolutely no prohibition now," said Ebbin. "And they are fairly inexpensive." Ebbin's bill would outlaw the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, punishable by the same kind of enforcement that already exists for old-fashioned tobacco products. When asked about kind of pushback received after introducing the legislation, Ebbin said Big Tobacco is already onboard."They'll be supportive," said Ebbin. "They don't want to sell their products to minors either."

Changing Face of King Street

There was a time, not all that long ago, when Upper King Street was a notorious spot for drugs and prostitution. One block was so dangerous taxicab drivers refused to stop there. Patrons were thrown through one plate glass window so many times that the proprietor replaced it with wood.Things are different now, of course. President Obama even comes for dinner every now and then. The neighborhood has changed, although some things remain the same. Take the used car lots, for example.Yes, upper King Street is home to two used car lots. They seem drastically out of place next to white tablecloth restaurants and high-end retailers. But nevertheless there they are, a vestige of a time almost forgotten. Someday soon, say Planning Commission members, they'll be a thing of the past entirely.This week, members of the Planning Commission voted to defer action on the two used-car lots — setting the stage for a different land use at the two spots. The business owners at both locations pleaded with commissioners to let them continue operations until they could find a new location. As a result, the commission decided to kick the can down the road until March. But several members said they would not offer another deferral. By the time first flowers of spring are ready to spout, members of the Planning Commission will be ready to change the face of King Street forever."There is a place for this in the city," said Planning Commission member Nathan Macek. "But it's not at this place on King Street, certainly not at this time.""After this, I guess we'll work on those wig shops," joked chairman John Komoroske.

Legislating to the Test

For many years, teachers and parents have complained about "teaching to the test" — a phenomena created by high-stakes tests that determine everything from neighborhood status to funding levels. The issue came up several times during the gubernatorial campaign, when Democratic candidate Terry McAullife vowed to reform the system if elected governor. Now that he's on his way to the Governor's Mansion, Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45) is proposing legislation to take a first crack at reforming the Standards of Learning. "Our schools have become testing sweatshops,” said Krupicka. "We need to have an alternative assessment that's project based as opposed to relying on rote memorization." His bill would eliminate four Standards of Learning tests throughout elementary and middle school and replace them with what he calls "project-based assessments." The guidelines for the assessments would be established at a later date by the Board of Education. The bill would also allow an option for schools to replace high school social studies or science tests with accountable "authentic assessment." "I know that's kind of edu-speak," he said. "But it gets to the core of what we need to be doing in the schools, which is showing deep knowledge and developing problem-solving skills across disciplines."


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