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9 of the most-read VPM News stories from 2022

Gov. Glenn Youngkin and first lady Suzanne Youngkin welcome people to a tour of the executive mansion.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin and first lady Suzanne Youngkin welcome people to a tour of the executive mansion. The new tour did not feature adaptations planned by former Gov. Ralph Northam and first lady Pamela Northam. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

VPM News is revisiting some of its most popular stories from the past year. Ranging from politics to local policing efforts and state education policy, here are nine of our best-read stories from 2022.

Reporters also selected what they thought was their most powerful work from the past year.

Youngkin’s revamped executive mansion tour doesn’t mention slavery

By Ben Paviour

For the first time in more than two years, members of the public could enter Virginia’s executive mansion. Public tours resumed on Sept. 2, featuring paintings, silver and rugs intended to present the story of the country’s oldest continuously occupied governor’s residence.

But in a shift from a multiyear effort to tell a more complete history of the mansion, visitors weren't taken to a building next to the mansion where enslaved workers once slept and toiled. And in two tours, docents made no mention of slavery at all.

Virginia students stage walkouts to protest Youngkin’s proposed policies on trans students

By Megan Pauly

Students from multiple Virginia schools walked out of classes Sept. 27 to protest the draft policies of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration regarding the treatment of transgender students. Student organizers planned about 100 walkouts, though demonstrations at some schools were shut down by school officials.

Richmond police have arrested dozens based on list of potential ‘shooters’

By Meg Schiffres

Representatives of the Richmond Police Department said in July that the department had been compiling a list of people suspected of being “shooters.” Those on the list primarily reside in Richmond’s public housing neighborhoods, according to department representatives, who said RPD created the list in an attempt to combat gun violence in the city. 

Youngkin administration shut down education ‘tip line’ in September

By Ben Paviour

Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office quietly shut down an email address in September that he’d touted as a way for parents to directly reach his office.

The "tip line" was cheered by some Youngkin supporters as an instance of him making good on campaign promises to put “parents first” and end the teaching of “divisive concepts.” But it also sparked an immediate backlash with critics dismissing it as an Orwellian “snitch line” designed to discourage frank classroom discussions of race. Some activists and parents said they’d submitted emails attacking or mocking the system.

Black history museum to face trial over plans for Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee monument

By Whittney Evans

A bronze statue of Robert E. Lee stood in a Charlottesville park near the city’s downtown mall, before city council voted to donate the monument to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. The organization, which opened in 2013, plans to transform the Confederate monument into a piece of public art

Two organizations that unsuccessfully sought ownership of the 26-foot-tall statue sued the city and the Jefferson School to invalidate the council’s decision.  

Sen. Joe Morrissey tells local NAACP president ‘I’ll rip your heart out’

By Ben Paviour

A heated meeting in January between state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) and Lafayette Jefferson, president of the Petersburg NAACP, was punctuated by Morrissey saying, “I’ll rip your heart out.”

In an interview, Morrissey said he made the comment because of a 2019 Facebook post in which Jefferson compared Morrissey’s relationship with his much younger, Black wife — which began when she was 17 years old — to former President Thomas Jefferson’s sexual encounters with Sally Hemings.

Amanda Chase denies knowing indicted Oath Keeper who appeared in her Jan. 5 video

By Ben Paviour

State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian) denied any connection to Stewart Rhodes, a far-right militia leader who appeared with her in a video hosted by her Facebook page on the eve of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy in November.

Chase streamed the video on her official — and now suspended — Facebook page on Jan. 5, 2021. It featured Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, alongside three other supporters of former President Donald Trump. In the video, Rhodes urged Trump to call on veterans to support his effort to overturn the election’s results.

‘FARTCAR’: The license plates Virginia DMV won’t let you have

By Ben Paviour

A trove of thousands of rejected vanity plates from 2019, 2020, and most of 2021 obtained by VPM News highlights drivers’ continued interest in pushing the boundaries of what’s allowed on roadways.

There’s the celebratory (“YEHAWMF”), callouts (“DMNGRL”), memes (“TFKAREN”) and self-congratulatory (“PRTTYAF”). Perennial favorite topics include poop jokes (“OHHPOO” “FARTCAR” and, in a possible nod to an iconic Seinfeld episode, “POOPMAN”), drug references (“REEFAH,” “COCAIN,” and “SHROOMZ”), slights directed at other motorists (“CYALUZR” “PPULSUC”) and a slew of unrepeatable sex references.

Advocates warn of weed ‘oligopoly’ as Virginia looks to speed up sales

By Ben Paviour

More than a year after lawmakers legalized recreational marijuana use, Virginia cannabis connoisseurs have limited means to get legal weed. They can grow it, get it for free from a friend or get a medical license to buy it from three multi-state cannabis companies that operate a handful of dispensaries.

Lawmakers considered legislation to allow those dispensaries to sell directly to all adults for a year or so before allowing other businesses into the market. But critics ranging from the Minority Cannabis Business Association to the libertarian-leaning Americans for Prosperity warn that Virginia would give big operators a blank check.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.