Tysons, VA

McLean Project for the Arts Proposes New Single-Building Art Center — “The McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) is advancing a revised, single-building concept for its proposed art center at McLean’s Clemyjontri Park that would be more efficient, accessible and secure than the initial multiple-building design.” [Inside Nova] 

Falls Church High School Student Recognized by Governor for Black History Awareness Efforts — “A group of 52 students from Laurel Ridge Elementary School and one student from Falls Church High School have been recognized by Governor Ralph Northam for nominating Black Virginians to be recognized on highway markers throughout the state.” [FCPS]

Upcoming Virtual Open House for Plan to Revitalize Downtown McLean — “Curious about a draft plan to revitalize downtown McLean over the next 20 years? We want your feedback at the Nov. 7 virtual open house!” [Twitter]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Update at 11 p.m. — Power was restored earlier tonight. The cause of the outage was an issue with a transmission line.

Earlier: The Dominion power outage map is red throughout the Tysons area — primarily east of the Beltway — as today’s storms leave thousands without power.

All of Pimmit Hills, McLean, and much of Merrifield and Falls Church have been left in the dark. The cause of the outage is still listed as “pending investigation.” The restoration time was estimated as between 5-10 p.m.

The area is under a flood watch as downpours continue from Hurricane Zeta, closing down several roads in the area.

“I can tell you our crews are out working on the problem, trying to get everyone’s power back,” said Dominion spokeswoman Peggy Fox.

Image via Dominion Power

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Amid a year where national policing reforms were brought into the spotlight, Fairfax County is reviewing a suite of changes at a local level to improve police accountability.

At a Public Safety Committee Meeting, Chairman Rodney Lusk presented an overview of proposed changes in what was described as possible changes rather than new policies set into stone.

Near term considerations included improved data collection to improve accuracy, with ethnicity and a breakdown of arrest data included in documentation. Data would be released quarterly.

One of the other practices that’s come under fire nationally is the firing and immediate re-hiring of police officers across jurisdictions. One proposed change would crack down on that as part of a statewide push to make decertification easier.

“Consider and discuss implementation of state legislation related to the decertification of law enforcement officers who have been terminated or resigned for misconduct and the request and disclosure of information for prospective law-enforcement hires,” the input matrix said.

While many of the items items being considered focused on more transparency and restrictions on police, another item being considered was a review of how to boost morale in the police department, which Lusk said was at an all time low.

The committee also considered some mid-term options, like reviewing regulations around school resource officers and a review of Fairfax County Police Department use of force policies. with more data about the racial distribution of arrests, another mid-term goal was reviewing racial disparities in use of force and arrests.

“These are public suggestions… not approved by the board,” said Fairfax County Board chair Jeff McKay. “This is a parking lot of ideas that have come through your office and now must be adjudicated by this board based on data and conversations… Some of these will go off to other committees.”

Image via Fairfax County

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Door-to-door greeting and candy distribution is a classic staple of Halloween night, but Fairfax County and health officials warn it might be one of the worst activities to do amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

There are alternative activities available, like a parade going to residential areas around Vienna and a Trunk or Treat activity in McLean. For those that do plan to trick or treat this year, there are several precautions the CDC recommended taking, including:

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • Wear a mask.

Photo courtesy Anne B.

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Many local businesses around the region are struggling, but Conte’s Bike Shop is taking advantage of a curious windfall for local bike stores to open a new Falls Church location on Friday (Oct. 30).

The new 3,800 square-foot shop at 1118 West Broad Street will include a bike fitting studio and performance testing.

“The store’s expansion comes at a time when bike shops across the country are experiencing an increase in demand for products due to the pandemic,” a spokesperson said in a press release. “Conte’s larger space will be better equipped to meet the needs of the community.”

The shop will offer bicycles from the Cannondale, Specialized, BMC, and Pinarello brands

“We are very excited to be in our new location,” says David Conte, co-owner of the company. “Our Conte’s Bike Shop team is ready to welcome back new and familiar faces. Along with being in a much more robust shopping center, our new space will neighbor Road Runner Sports. Having the two stores next door to each other will bring excellent symmetry for anyone who is outdoor-minded. We can’t wait to continue serving the Falls Church community in our expanded location.”

Photo via Conte’s Bike Shop/Facebook

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Fairfax Extends Early Voting Hours — During this last week of early voting, we have added two extra hours to vote early on both Thursday and Friday, Oct. 29 and 30. [Fairfax County]

Fairfax Connector Ridership Plummets — The Fairfax Connector bus network saw more of a fall-off in ridership during the initial phase of the COVID crisis than some of the region’s other bus systems, but less of a decline than Metrobus ridership across Northern Virginia. [Inside Nova]

Student Driver Crashes Into Town Official — Both vehicles then proceeded into the intersection and collided, Vienna police said. The student driver’s vehicle went up on the curb and struck a light post, causing minor damage, police said. [Inside Nova]

ArtsFairfax Gets Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Capital One Center — “Behind the scenes views from our hard hat tour with @capitalonecenter and @fairfaxcounty visiting @capitalonehall and The Perch.” [ArtsFairfax/Instagram]

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In a work session discussion yesterday, the Falls Church City Council considered a new distribution of funds in the FY 2021 budget to help cover issues ranging from COVID response to stormwater management.

One of the most immediate concerns presented in the budget discussion was the appropriation of $547,000 from CARES Act funding allocated to the city to help address crises in the city. The lion’s share of the funding, $250,000, was set to be allocated as small business grants, followed by $150,000 in emergency assistance to residents to help cover rental, utility and food assistance.

The City Council also considered funding for six stormwater management projects planned to help prevent some of the flooding issues that have devastated homes in the area over the last few years. There was some concern on the council, however, that without proper consideration the funding could just be flushing money down the drain.

Ross Litkenhous, a Falls Church City Council member, emphasized that he was in favor of dedicating funding to fixing flooding problems, but was concerned that the proposed projects were temporary fixes that would do little to address longer-term problems.

“I refuse to go down a path where we’re only solving for half the problem,” Litkenhous said.

Others on the Council urged to move forward with planning for stormwater management, though with general fund rather than issuance of debt.

Amid the discussion of spending, Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly suggested that some funding be set aside in reserve. While the city is facing a fiscal catastrophe, experts warn the region could face difficult years ahead where they might need to tap into a cash reserve.

“Next year’s budget is going to be a big challenge,” Connelly warned.

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As the Town of Vienna puts together its legislative agenda for the upcoming session in Richmond, the proposed policies are a mix of addressing the new crises and trying to make progress on old issues.

One of the largest pieces of new policy proposed is eliminating penalties for late payments for those who lost their income during the pandemic.

According to the legislative agenda, the town is requesting:

Waiver of penalties and interest; refunds; taxpayers suffering job loss or business closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Waives penalties and interest for six months for taxpayers who suffered a job loss, business closure, or reduction in business operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The waivers apply to sales and use taxes and all local taxes that were due during a period in which the job loss, closure, or reduction in operations occurred and income taxes for such taxpayers for taxable year 2019. For a taxpayer who made penalty and interest payments prior to the effective date of the act, the Department of Taxation or his locality shall refund such payments to the taxpayer.

Other proposals raised during the discussion included a proposal from Councilmember Nisha Patel to put some of the school reopening planning in the hands of local government rather than solely for the school board.

Proposed legislation that would incorporate a system of checks and balances in Virginia so that school closings are not only determined by the school board. Local government should have a say in school closures during emergencies so that the power not only resides into the teachers union and school board.

The change would force school board to engage with local governments when making decisions about major school closures.

“As many of you all will remember, when the local schools were closed it was done on short notice without any notice to the Town of Vienna or other local governments,” said Town Attorney Steve Briglia. “Councilmember Patel has suggested that when there’s such a major school closing, that it’s not just closed by the school board… The fact that there was no notice or public discussion was of concern.”

One of the returning issues has been a push from localities to try to overturn a requirement for local governments to publish notices in newspapers rather than on their own websites or other sources. The proposed change has been fought by the Virginia Press Association, but Briglia said every time the Town of Vienna needs to run a notice it costs around $500, and they sometimes have to run twice.

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The Postal Distribution Center in Merrifield has been drawn into a national debate over the future of the United States Postal Service.

In a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Congressman Gerald E. Connolly demanded access to mail facilities for himself and all Members of Congress to oversee operations. Connolly serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations

“I write to reiterate my request for immediate access to the Postal Distribution Center in Merrifield, Virginia — as well as access for my Congressional colleagues to other postal facilities,” Connolly wrote. “Oversight of Postal Service operations is more important now than ever, particularly in light of the troubling findings of the Inspector General that actions taken by Postal Service officials slowed postal operations nationwide in the midst of a global pandemic and economic collapse.”

Connolly said in the letter that he requested access after the Inspector General reported slowed operations at the agency.

“This letter follows my October 2, 2020, request for a tour of the Merrifield Postal Distribution Center in my Congressional District, as well as my October 13 letter requesting your new legal analysis of the Hatch Act, which you baselessly claim prevents Members of Congress from visiting Postal Service facilities within 45 days of an election,” Connolly wrote.

The letter continues with a rebuttle to an argument fron DeJoy that the Hatch Act would prevent Connolly from inspecting the USPS facility. According to the letter:

The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the committee of jurisdiction for the Postal Service in the House of Representatives, and the Subcommittee on Government Operations has been charged with overseeing postal operations. As Chairman of the Subcommittee, I have a responsibility to oversee postal operations–which includes having access to postal facilities, managers, and employees–and this responsibility does not cease merely because an election is approaching. I did not seek access to the Merrifield facility in my capacity as a candidate for office, but rather to discharge my official duties as a Member of Congress and a Member of the Oversight Committee.

On October 20, 2020, you sent a letter citing new Postal Service guidance that you claim was approved by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Yet OSC–the principal enforcement agency of the Hatch Act–has made it clear that the Hatch Act does not prohibit federal employees from allowing Members of Congress to tour federal facilities for an official purpose. According to your own letter, the portions of your Hatch Act policies that you claim OSC did not object to did not include your policy of prohibiting Members of Congress from postal facilities.

A spokesperson for the USPS said that they were aware of the pending request from Connolly and planned to respond directly, though what answer they were planning to give was not clarified.

“We are aware of the Congressman’s most recent request and plan to respond again directly,” said Martha Johnson, senior public relations representative for USPS.

In an email to Tysons Reporter, Connolly said inspecting the USPS facility in Merrifield was about restoring public trust.

“The Postmaster General’s partisan and political actions have eroded trust and caused nationwide concern about the USPS,” Connolly said. “Congress has a responsibility and constitutional duty to provide oversight, and that includes seeing on the ground how operations are being affected by Mr. DeJoy’s reckless changes”

Image via Google Maps

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Monday Morning Notes

Falls Church Middle Eastern Restaurant Officers Discount for Guests Who Voted — “Sheesh Grill [in] Falls Church (8190 Strawberry Lane Ste 4) will offer diners who present their ‘I Voted’ sticker a discount off their meal from Oct. 26-Nov. 3.” [Sheesh]

Locals Help Science Teacher Clear Daniels Run Elementary Courtyard — “On #VolunteerFest weekend, students from Fairfax and Lake Braddock high schools help a science teacher clean up a courtyard at her school, Daniels Run Elementary.” [Twitter]

Tysons Chamber of Commerce Urges Greater Business Collaboration — “The chamber now is focusing on “business verticals” that encourage companies in complementary industries to purchase services from each other, said Andrew Clark, the chamber’s new board chairman.” [Inside Nova]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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