Michael Lee Pope

703-615-0960

Michael Lee Pope is an award-winning journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and Northern Virginia Magazine. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. Pope is the author of four books.

Recent Stories

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More for Enforcement, Less for Assistance

Since the recession, funding has increased for public safety but decreased for social services.

Since the recession, spending on public safety in Alexandria has increased year after year. According to documents from the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts, that category of government spending has increased 38 percent since 2010 as city leaders increased salaries for police officials and funded new positions at the city’s emergency communications center. But during that same time, spending on health and welfare programs has increased only 12 percent. Spending on social services has actually gone down since 2010.

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Alexandria Reckoning

Police launch formal inquiry into why Black people make up majority of arrests.

Black people are 23 percent of the population in Alexandria, and yet most arrests in the city are of African Americans. Most cases when police use force are against Black people. Most drug arrests are of Black people. And almost half of the inmates at the Alexandria jail are Black people.

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Black, Male and Arrested in Alexandria

Alexandria’s war on drugs hits black males hardest.

According to the Alexandria Police Department, 64 percent of people arrested in Alexandria for drug arrests last year were African American. Almost half of those arrests were Black males.

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Alexandria’s Income Gaps

Whites make three times as much as Hispanic workers, twice as much as black workers.

White Alexandria is pulling in significantly more money than Hispanic workers and African Americans, according to numbers from the United States Census Bureau. A look at average income shows non-Hispanic whites make more than $85,000 a year. That’s more than three times the average income for Hispanic workers, $24,000, and more than twice the average income for black workers, $37,000.

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Disproportionate Use of Force

African Americans are often targets of strong-arm tactics by Alexandria police.

Documents outlining use of force by the Alexandria Police Department show force is used against black males more than any other group. In the most recent report, which covers 2019, 54 percent of the instances of use of force was against African Americans. That’s significantly higher than the black population in Alexandria, which is 23 percent.

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Overlooked Primary for U.S. Senate

Three Republicans on the ballot this month.

Don’t look now, but Virginia is in the closing days of a primary. You might not have heard about it because of the global pandemic and the economic crisis. But buried beneath all the headlines about police brutality and racial injustice, Republicans are about to decide which candidate they want to appear on the ballot this November against incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Warner.

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Al Fresco Pandemic

Restaurants eye parking lots and sidewalks as potential outdoor dining spots.

In normal times, the parking lot behind the Del Ray Cafe gives the restaurant a competitive advantage. Drivers can turn off East Howell Avenue and pull into one of the dozen spaces behind the 1925 house that’s been repurposed into a thriving restaurant. These days, the parking lot is giving the restaurant a different competitive advantage, one that nobody saw coming a few months ago.

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Furloughed and Waiting

Uncertainty lingers as furloughed workers hope temporary layoffs come to an end.

When Joy Phansond was furloughed from her job as sales coordinator at the Holiday Inn in Old Town, the temporary layoff was initially supposed to last until April 5. Then it was extended to May 5. Then it was extended again until June 5. She suspects that it’ll be extended again until July at least because the hotel business in Alexandria has been slammed by the collapse of tourism, trade shows and conventions.

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Chirilagua in Crisis

More than half of those tested in low-income Hispanic neighborhood are positive for COVID-19.

Azucena Esquival lives in a cramped apartment in the Arlandria neighborhood of Alexandria, where the problem of community spread isn’t just theoretical. The pandemic is in her household. Earlier this month, she tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Another adult in her household paid $300 to get a test, which was also positive. They are living with two people who have not been tested. None of them are currently working, and they have no source of income.

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Hunger Rising

Applications for food stamps skyrocket in Alexandria as local economy tanks.

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic spike in the number of people in Alexandria with no resources to put food on the table for their families, leading to a skyrocketing number of applications for food stamps as unemployment numbers climb and people in Alexandria suddenly find themselves in an awkward position — asking for help from the government just to buy groceries. Officials at the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services say applications to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program have more than tripled since February, before the novel coronavirus pandemic prompted Gov. Ralph Northam to issue a stay-at-home order and shut down most of Alexandria’s economy.

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