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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors met with the Fairfax County History Commission on Tuesday (Dec. 8) to discuss Confederacy-associated street and place names across the county.

This project began over the summer when the board directed the commission to create an inventory of places and structures within the county that have ties to the Confederacy after Black Lives Matter protests spread around the country following the May 25 death of George Floyd.

The resulting report identified more than 26,000 streets and places, leading the board to narrow its focus to 650 well-known Confederate officers and locally-known Confederates. After researching those names, the Commission found 150 assets to have confirmed Confederacy-associated names, according to the presentation by Anne Stuntz, the chairwoman of the history commission.

Hunter Mill District has four identified sites: the Lee Manor Subdivision, Fort Lee Street, Mosby’s Landing Condominium Complex, and Wade Hampton Drive.

Providence District encompasses 44 sites, the most of the county’s nine magisterial districts. The list includes Lee Highway, Pender Drive, Oak Marr Park, and the Stonewall Manor subdivision.

The commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors create a public dialogue on the issue through public meetings and community gatherings before deliberating and taking definitive action on the Confederate names. The commission also recommended archiving the extensive project research in the Virginia Room at the City of Fairfax Regional Library.

Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director Tom Biesiadney said that the Commonwealth Transportation Board would require public input and a formal request from the Board of Supervisors if the county decides to petition to change the name of Lee Highway and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway.

In response to the Confederate names project, the history commission is collaborating with local African American organizations, including religious, social, and community groups, on a 2021 initiative to compile research materials on African American communities in Fairfax County.

The county supervisors shared their appreciation for the history commission’s extensive and intricate research. They also mostly agreed that the first priority should be renaming highways, and from there, they could start a community process for renaming secondary and neighborhood streets.

Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk expressed concern regarding the history of his district’s name.

“I was hoping that there’d be something more definitive about Lee District, in terms of where its name originated, but it appears that we still have the same set of ambiguity,” Lusk said. “We will have to have a community conversation about this name of this district.”

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity warned against rushing into the name change process in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing the need for “robust community participation” before moving forward.

Image via the Fairfax County History Commission

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The Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination proposed a process for establishing a five-cent plastic bag tax during the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Environmental Committee meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 8).

According to OEEC Deputy Director Susan Hafeli, legislation adopted by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year now gives the county the ability to adopt an ordinance imposing a five-cent tax on most disposable plastic bags provided by grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores.

As of right now, the state has not established specific guidelines for the creation of a plastic bag ordinance. Instead, the state intends to wait until a locality adopts an ordinance to consider guidelines, according to the presentation.

Revenue collected from the new tax would be appropriated for environmental clean-up, mitigation of pollution and litter, education, and the provision of reusable bags to recipients of a federal food support program, according to Hafeli.

The proposed plastic bag tax could generate annual aggregate local revenues of between $20.8 to $24.9 million statewide, though the tax may be more of an “impetus to behavior change rather than a revenue generator,” Hafeli said.

Across the region, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission Waste Management Board has begun exploring the issues laid out in the legislation, according to Hafeli. Additionally, Arlington County is planning to convene a public workgroup in early 2021 to discuss the adoption of a plastic bag tax and issues regarding equity in the county.

The OEEC anticipates that the process of determing whether Fairfax County should instate a plastic bag tax will occur in two phases. The first phase will focus on public engagement, which would include developing a website, holding one or more workshops for input, and releasing an electronic survey.

The second phase will focus on the development of the ordinance and would involve updating the webpage with the proposed ordinance and requests for comments, giving presentations to the board, and holding a public hearing, according to Hafeli.

Several supervisors expressed concerns about the confusion regarding state guidelines, equity issues within the community, and the ability to collect sufficient research on the topic, especially in the midst of the pandemic.

However, most supervisors agreed that the environmental issue with plastic bags is significant, and that data from other jurisdictions, including the work that Washington, D.C., has done around the Anacostia River, has shown a plastic bag tax to have positive environmental effects.

Moving forward, the Board is looking to clarify the state’s policies while working in conjunction with regional partners and plan for further conversation on how to create the ordinance.

The next Environmental Committee meeting will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 11 a.m.

Photo by Brian Yurasits/Unsplash

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday (Dec. 1) to nominate the Tysons Partnership to receive $1 million in additional economic opportunity funds

The funds will help the nonprofit continue wayfinding, business and event promotion, and other initiatives designed to support the growth of Tysons in accordance with the Tysons Comprehensive Plan.

The $1 million will come from Fairfax County’s Economic Opportunity Reserve fund, which goes to projects that are expected to stimulate economic growth in certain priority areas but don’t fall under the county’s capital improvement program or other standard procurement processes.

The county board nominated the Tysons Partnership for the fund in a joint board matter introduced by Chairman Jeff McKay, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.

“Since its inception, the Tysons Partnership has played a key role in the success that Tysons has seen,” Palchik said in the board matter. “…The projected trajectory for Tysons is robust and we need to do whatever we can to ensure that it is maximized.”

According to the board matter, assessed real estate tax values in Tysons have increased from just over $11 billion to nearly $17 billion in the seven years since Fairfax County established the area as a special tax district on Jan. 1, 2013.

The Board of Supervisors nomination is the first step in a review process that the board and county staff undertake before allocating any Economic Opportunity Reserve funds, according to the board matter.

By approving the board matter, the supervisors also directed county staff to work with the Partnership to develop a plan that explains the nonprofit’s role in the Tysons community and identifies governance rules, metrics for success, and a sustainable funding stream.

Palchik says she anticipates any recommendations that come out of the staff and Partnership group to be implemented in the timeframe of Fairfax County’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget.

“Tysons Partnership sincerely appreciates Fairfax County’s support for Tysons as an economic engine for the County and region,” the Tysons Partnership said in a statement.

The Tysons Partnership’s full statement is below the cut: Read More

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The McLean Community Center’s annual Holiday Art & Crafts Festival is officially virtual this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The festival will be broadcast live at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 and Sunday, Dec. 6. 

Admission to the festival is free. However, participants are required to register in advance, according to an MCC press release

This year’s festival will feature traditional handcrafted works by established and seasoned artisans, alongside innovative exhibits by new artists. According to the release, pottery, glass, jewelry, holiday decorations, mixed media, fashion accessories, wood, fine art, artisanal foods and more will be on display and for sale. 

According to the MCC Special Events Manager Catherine Nesbitt, the live show will also provide a behind-the-scenes look at how the participating artists craft their products.

“During our in-person event, we require the artists to be onsite, which allows attendees to meet them, but in some ways, the virtual show allows for an even more intimate experience of how these artists are inspired to create their masterpieces,” Nesbitt said. “In addition, the format will allow attendees to ask the artists questions in real time.”

The Northern Virginia Handcrafters Guild will help provide show management. NVHG is a non-profit community-based organization with a mission to help artists and craftspeople show and sell their work and promote the development and education of arts and crafts in the community, according to the release. 

Image via McLean Community Center

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and with that brings closures around the county. Let’s take a look at what’s open, and what’s closed.

All Fairfax County government offices will be closed on Nov. 26 and 27 for the holiday. 

The Fairfax Connector will operate on a Sunday service on Thursday and a holiday weekday service on Friday. 

Fairfax County Public Schools provided seven-day meal kits for Thanksgiving week, which were available for pickup through Nov. 24. 

All Falls Church City government offices will be closed on Nov. 26 and 27. Thursday trash and recycling will be picked up today. 

The Town of Vienna offices will also be closed on both Nov. 26 and 27, and there will be no waste collection on those days.

The McLean Community Center will be closed on both Thanksgiving and the Friday after. 

All Fairfax County parks will be closed on Thanksgiving, but all RECenters will be open until noon, and they will run normal hours on the day after Thanksgiving.

Photo by Shoeib Abolhassani/Unsplash

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As the holidays approach, Tysons Galleria has announced that it will display a new interactive art installation called “Warm for the Winter.” The installation serves as a coat drive to benefit Alexandria’s Volunteers of America and their donation initiatives.

Through this initiative, Tysons Galleria is collecting new coats, scarves, and gloves for Northern Virginia families in need from Nov. 20 until Dec. 11. The art installation was designed by Richmond-based artist Noah Scalin and utilizes the donated coats before they are given to the families, according to a press release from Tysons Galleria.

“It has been a challenging year for so many, and we are excited to be part of this initiative to support our local community,” Tysons Galleria Senior General Manager Rich Dinning said.

Volunteers of America has helped underserved people for 125 years, the press release says. According to CEO Mike King, the partnership was a “natural fit” since Brookfield Properties — the real estate company that owns Tysons Galleria — is one of the largest mall operators in the U.S.

“Our goal is to collect as many donations in as many communities possible, and we are able to maximize those efforts through their shopping centers across the country,” King said. “We look forward to working with them in the coming weeks and look forward to the opportunity to give back to American families this holiday season.”

Scalin will design a custom installation with more than 3,000 coats that will be displayed through Dec. 31 before the coats are donated to those in need. Scalin’s work is interested in reorganizing the noise of American culture into recognizable signals by “illuminating people, moments, and objects that should be prioritized over the distracting spectacle of society,” according to the release.  

Community members can donate new coats, scarves, and gloves at collection points throughout the mall near Maggianos, PF Chang’s, and on the lower level near J. Crew. Organizers are requesting new items because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

Photo by Joshua Hanson/Unsplash

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Fairfax’s Britepaths is collecting community donations to provide holiday meals and gifts for children in the Fairfax County area this holiday season. The nonprofit will be distributing goods to 500 area families. 

Britepaths is adapting to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by mailing gift cards that will allow parents to purchase food and gifts for their children. The organization is encouraging donors to give funds or gift cards to go towards this initiative, according to a press release from the nonprofit.

“The holidays will be so different for all of us this year, and especially challenging for families who are struggling from lost income, illness, and other effects of the pandemic,” Britepaths Executive Director Lisa Whetzel said. “It is a heartwarming feeling to know your act of kindness can make such a big difference for our neighbors at a profoundly difficult time.”

The families eligible to receive assistance through the holiday program were referred to Britepaths by Fairfax County Public Schools, which identified them as being in need, according to the release.

Participating schools in the Tysons area include:

  • Beech Tree Elementary School (3401 Beechtree Lane, Falls Church)
  • Glen Forest Elementary School (5829 Glen Forest Dr., Falls Church)
  • Luther Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Rd., Falls Church)
  • Cedar Lane School (101 Cedar Lane, Vienna)

A full list of the Britepath partner schools whose families are eligible for assistance from the holiday program can be found on the nonprofit’s website.

The Britepaths Holiday Program is sponsored by two local Walmarts, one in the City of Fairfax and the other in the Vienna/Tysons area.

“We hope community members will be inspired to make the season brighter for hard-working families who may otherwise go without holiday meals and presents for their children,” Whetzel said.

Those interested in donating and learning more can visit the Britepaths website. Checks or gift cards can be mailed to Britepaths at 3959 Pender Drive, Suite 200.

Photo courtesy Britepaths

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The City of Falls Church’s Use of Force Review Committee has created a survey to gauge public perception of and experiences with the city’s police department and sheriff’s office. The survey will be open until Friday, Dec. 4 at 5 p.m.

According to a press release from the city, the survey aims to provide anecdotes to help the UFR Committee inform their work and provide recommendations to the City Council based on responses. 

The survey results will be available on the UFR Committee’s website once evaluated.

The Falls Church City Council established the UFR Committee in June amid nationwide protests of police brutality prompted by George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minn.

The committee is part of the city council’s commitment to the Reimagining Policing Pledge, which urges localities to review use-of-force policies, engage the community, report findings to the community, reform the use of force policies, and seek community feedback. 

The committee is made up of seven community members, five City employees, and one Falls Church City Public Schools employee. 

The National Institute of Justice says the use of force by law enforcement officers becomes necessary and is permitted under specific circumstances, such as in self-defense or in defense of another individual or group. 

However, there is no universal definition of force. For instance, the release states that the International Association of Chiefs of Police has defined force as “the amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject.”

A “National Consensus Policy and Discussion Paper on Use of Force” that 11 different law enforcement leadership and labor organizations, including the IACP, published in 2017 and updated this year states:

Officers shall use only the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively bring an incident under control, while protecting the safety of the officer and others. Officers shall use force only when no reasonably effective alternative appears to exist and shall use only the level of force which a reasonably prudent officer would use under the same or similar circumstances.

The Falls Church City Police Department’s use-of-force policy says “force may be used to the extent reasonably necessary in light of the circumstances confronting the officer and deadly force shall not be employed except as a last resort in any situation in which such force is justified.”

The Fairfax County Police Department defines force as a “physical strike or instrumental contact with an individual, or any significant physical contact that restricts an individual’s movement,” excluding the act of escorting or handcuffing a person who is showing little or no resistance.

Under General Order 540, the FCPD says that force should only be used “to the extent it is objectively reasonable to defend oneself or another, to control an individual during an investigative or mental detention, or to lawfully effect an arrest.”

Falls Church City police are responsible for investigating crimes and public safety-related calls, while the City of Falls Church Sheriff’s Office handles court security, prisoner transport, and civil and criminal processes, such as evictions and seizures. Deputies also assist with traffic enforcement, emergency response, and security for city events like parades and festivals.

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Due to rising COVID-19 cases, Fairfax County Public Schools decided to delay bringing more students back for in-person learning this week after previously preparing to expand in-person instruction to an additional 6,800 students on Nov. 17.

In-person learning has continued this week for the roughly 8,000 students who had already returned to the classroom since early October.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand will hold a Return To School Town Hall today to discuss the decision and next steps. The town hall will take place virtually on the FCPS website from 6-7 p.m. Participants can submit questions to [email protected] or call in to 1-800-231-6359.

A second Spanish-language town hall has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 30.

The Fairfax Education Association, alongside other Northern Virginia education associations, has urged Gov. Ralph Northam to fully return to virtual learning. The association also wrote a letter to FCPS on Nov. 12 demanding virtual learning.

Gov. Northam, however, exempted educational settings from the 25-person limit on social gatherings that he imposed when tightening COVID-19 restrictions on Nov. 13.

Do you believe delaying the return of students is the right decision? Do you think FCPS should continue with its roll-out of hybrid learning or return to a completely virtual model?

Photo via FCPS 

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Looking to donate toys this holiday season? The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Stations are collecting donations for the regional Quantico Toys for Tots campaign.

The Quantico toy collection will run through Dec. 13. However, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Station collections are only running through Dec. 12. Individuals can leave small donations in collection boxes outside the front door of each station every day until 8 p.m.

These hubs will accept donations, however, they will not be distributing supplies, according to the campaign website.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Stations collected around 12,000 toys last year. The entire Quantico campaign collected more than 108,000 toys that were distributed to more than 106,000 children.

Quantico’s Toys for Tots program is run by the U.S. Marine Corps with a mission to collect new toys for distribution to underprivileged children for Christmas. The non-profit aims to inspire these children to become responsible, productive and patriotic citizens through these gifts.

Those who are interested in donating but do not live near a Fire and Rescue Station can visit the Quantico website for a list of more donation centers.

Photo via Marine Toys for Tots Foundation/Facebook

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