Tysons, VA

An upcoming meeting of the McLean Citizens Association tomorrow (Wednesday) will be dedicated to Lilla Richards, a former Dranesville District Supervisor who died on Sept. 22 at 81.

Richards, who had also served as the MCA president, was renowned in the area for her civic activism. She was one of the founders of the McLean Citizens Foundation and helped secure a permanent home for the McLean Project for the Arts.

According to a tribute written by the MCA:

Lilla Richards, a former Dranesville District Supervisor, passed away September 22, at age 81. Former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis who served with Lilla described her as a “professional citizen.” He said, “she never deviated from her moral compass or her commitment to making McLean one of the most attractive residential communities in the county.”

Lilla was a strong activist for her community. She served as President of the McLean Citizens Association and the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Association. She helped found the McLean Citizens Foundation and worked to find a permanent home for the McLean Project for the Arts at the McLean Community Center and was critical to the creation of the Old Firehouse Teen Center.

Her institutional knowledge about Fairfax County’s zoning ordinance helped bring about many positive land-use and environmental changes to Fairfax. Lilla’s archives are located in the Virginia Room at Fairfax Library. She was a Fairfax County giant and will be missed.

Photo via McLean Citizens Association

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Clothing Retailer Closing in Tysons Corner Center — “Five Justice stores are set to close in the D.C. area, along with two Lane Bryant locations, two Catherines locations, one Loft Outlet and the Lou & Grey store at Tysons Corner Center.” [Washington Business Journal]

Signed, Sealed, Delivered — “Fairfax County Planning Commission members on July 29 unanimously approved a comprehensive sign plan for the new Archer Hotel in western McLean on the edge of Tysons, after the applicant reduced the size of several proposed signs.” [Inside NoVa]

Local Man Drowned — “A 21-year-old Vienna man drowned in Lake Anna on Saturday, the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office reported Sunday.” [Inside NoVa]

Special Election in Falls Church — A special election to fill the late Daniel Sze’s council seat will be held as part of the general election on Nov. 3. [Falls Church News Press]

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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Falls Church Councilmember Dan Sze has died after a battle with esophageal cancer.

The announcement Tuesday night of Sze’s passing comes a week after Mayor David Tarter shared at a City Council meeting that Sze had cancer.

Sze was first elected to the City Council in 2006 after serving as the city’s vice chair of the Economic Development Authority from 2002-2006. Sze served as a councilmember from 2006-2010 and from 2014 until his death.

Sze served on a variety of local and regional boards and commissions, including as a member of the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals and the chair of Virginia Municipal League’s State Committee on Environmental Quality, according to a press release from the city.

The city will lower the city flag outside of City Hall to half-staff for a week to honor Sze and hold a moment of silence at the Aug. 10 meeting, according to the press release, which included tributes from his colleagues.

“The news of Dan’s passing has hit me hard,” Tarter said in the city’s press release. “He was a friend who cared deeply about the best interests of our city and its residents and tirelessly advocated for its betterment. He will be sorely missed. On behalf of the City Council, we mourn his passing and send his wife, Elisabeth and family our deepest condolences.”

The press release highlighted Sze’s work for stronger environmental efforts within and outside of the city. Serving the city, Sze encouraged the city to install LED streetlights and purchase renewable energy, while pushing developers to add green roofs and meet higher LEED standards.

The press release shared his efforts outside of City Hall:

Mr. Sze had an accomplished career that included federal government service. He was responsible for major policy and regulatory initiatives under six American presidents. At his last assignment, Mr. Sze was with the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as Deputy Director of State Energy Programs.

After leaving full-time employment, Mr. Sze regularly lectured on sustainability strategies, worked on clean energy initiatives, was involved with several international start-ups, and was a consultant to businesses, organizations, and government.

“His staff and Council colleagues will certainly miss his intelligence, his hearty greetings, and the jovial conversations they shared with Dan,” City Manager Wyatt Shields said. “He was a one-of-a-kind public servant, and we know his legacy will live on in the many projects he championed.”

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Robert Ames Alden was a “walking institution” in the D.C. area, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust recently told his fellow county officials.

Alden died at the age of 87 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease on June 7, the Washington Post reported. Foust shared highlights of Alden’s career and life during the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ meeting last week.

Born in D.C., Alden worked as a sportswriter for the Cleveland Press before joining the Washington Post in 1952, Foust said. Alden covered wars, riots, natural disasters and more during his nearly 50-year career at the Washington Post.

Alden was a founder of the National Press Foundation. Foust noted that Alden, who was the National Press Club’s president in 1976, was a “leading advocate” in the 1960s and 1970s to allow women to join the Press Club.

Foust remembered Alden as a “living legend in McLean.” On the local level, Alden advocated for the community complex that houses McLean Central Park, the Dolley Madison Library and the McLean Community Center.

Foust said that the then-governing board of the community center wanted to name the building after him.

“If you knew Bob, you know he refused,” Foust said. “That would not be acceptable to him. He wanted it named the McLean Community Center.”

The community center’s auditorium and theater were named after him instead.

“He was an amazingly successful, amazingly accomplished and unbelievably nice, friendly, courteous, kind guy,” Foust said. “We are going to miss him so much.”

Photo via Alden Theatre/Facebook

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The Fairfax County NAACP plans to host a town hall Tuesday night on how to make police departments more accountable to their communities.

“As we watch protests and demonstrations on the streets of America, we look to move forward in our community by reforming police practices and holding police accountable to the community,” according to the event description.

Fairfax NAACP invited the police chief and sheriff in Fairfax County, along with the county’s prosecutor and elected officials, according to the Facebook event page.

Fairfax NAACP recently unveiled a series of public safety recommendations and will go over the proposals during the town hall.

Some of the ideas include:

  • removing the School Resource Officer (SRO) program
  • increasing data reports from the county’s police department
  • continuing the rollout of body-worn cameras
  • putting officer misconduct records in a public database
  • reviewing Fairfax County police’s use of force policy
  • preventing police from buying and using military weapons

The town hall follows global, anti-racism protests sparked by George Floyd’s death and a recent incident in Fairfax County where a white officer stun gunned an unarmed black man.

The town hall is scheduled to take place from 7-9 p.m. via Zoom, according to the Facebook event page.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

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Hundreds of people filled Cherry Hill Park on Sunday afternoon for the “Falls Church Justice for Black Lives Rally.”

The rally came a few days after a student-led march in the city in memory of George Floyd. Both peaceful events protested police brutality and demanded change to systemic racism.

Today’s event served as a gathering to give local leaders a platform, including Edwin Henderson II, the founder of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation; Sasha Whitney, a cycling instructor; the city’s mayor; Fairfax NAACP’s President Sean Perryman; and City of Alexandria Councilmember John Chapman.

“Black lives matter when they lose their life,” Perryman said. “They have to matter all the time.”

Mindful of COVID-19, the participants spaced out on the grass with their kids and dogs as songs like “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson and “Unity” by Queen Latifah blasted on speakers. Most wore face coverings.

The rally kicked off around 1 p.m. with the participants dancing to DJ Casper’s “Cha Cha Slide” before the organizers, Tara Guido and Loreto Jacqueline, gave brief speeches and then asked for a moment of silence for violence toward Black Americans.

The crowd erupted in clapping and cheering when Mayor David Tarter said that Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced that a Robert E. Lee monument will get taken down.

Tarter also pointed out the diversity of the participants. “We’re all here to raise our voices and say this country belongs to all of us,” he said.

Tarter ended his speech, urging people to head to the polls: “If you’re angry, vote in November.” Around the park, people could scan flyers with QR codes to help them register to vote via vote411.org.

Many of the messages centered around actions for long-term change.

Henderson II, with the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, told people to oppose mandatory sentencing and for-profit prisons and push for election reforms. (For people looking for more events to attend to honor Floyd, Henderson noted that the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation will unveil a banner in honor of Floyd near the Target (500 S. Washington Street) at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 8).

Perryman stressed the need for policy changes with the City Council, Board of Supervisors and local police departments and urged people to join advocacy groups. “This is a sustained fight,” he said.

Chapman, with the Alexandria City Council, echoed Perryman’s call for new policies. “We all know what we need to do,” Chapman said.

One message in particular — written on several signs — has an immediate impact: “Silence is violence.”

Participants at the rally who spoke to Tysons Reporter said that they are tired of police brutality and racism.

Khadimatu said she decided to come to the rally to represent her family back in Senegal. “There’s a movement that’s defending us,” Khadimatu said. “I hope this is what is going to cause change.”

Khadimatu said she came to the rally with her mom’s best friend, Corey, who heard about the event from her friend who lives in Falls Church. Corey said that she didn’t want to go to the protests in D.C. due to concerns about being in close proximity to a lot more people.

Matt Guey-Lee also said he was a “little nervous” about going to D.C. due to “safety issues.”

After hearing about the event on Facebook, Guey-Lee and the organizers got in touch so that he could bring a canopy for the rally. He said he was heartened to see that other people donated snacks and water for the event.

Guey-Lee said he felt strongly about coming to the rally and speaking out against racism, because he says every voice nudges another one.

“If a million people do just a little bit, it’s really, really loud,” he said.

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Fairfax County is nearing its 12,000th COVID-19 case, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

As of today, the county has a total of 11,904 cases, 1,401 hospitalizations and 410 deaths. The City of Falls Church has 56 cases, 11 hospitalizations and eight deaths.

Of the 389 outbreaks in Virginia, 61 are in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the county and its towns and cities — 51 are at long term care facilities, while two are healthcare settings and a correctional facility and educational setting both have one.

The Fairfax Health District also has Virginia’s only two reports of cases of the virus with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children.

The Fairfax Health District continues to lead the commonwealth in the number of PCR tests, which directly detect antigens, with more than 55,000 testing encounters.

Statewide and in the Fairfax Health District, the weekly average of the percent of positive tests has been steadily declining since late April and the number of testing encounters has increased, according to VDH.

Even with the increased testing, Fairfax County officials say more is needed to address a growing racial disparity with the cases.

The Hispanic population makes up 16.8% of the population in the Fairfax Health District, but 66.2% of the COVID-19 cases where race and ethnicity data is available, according to Fairfax County and the state health department. In mid-May, the Hispanic population made of 61.3% of the cases. (Roughly 20% of the cases don’t have race and ethnicity data.)

Officials said on Tuesday that they want to see more neighborhood testing sites and testing available for people who are asymptomatic.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash, graph via Virginia Department of Health

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Hundreds of people flooded Park Avenue in the City of Falls Church calling for justice after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Two rising juniors at George Mason High School — Ariana H. and Sarah E. — organized the walk, joining the global protests and rallies over Floyd’s death. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder following a viral video showing his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, while three other officers at the scene were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

“We had been watching the protests going on around the country and wanted to bring it closer to home,” the organizers said in a statement to Tysons Reporter.

The walk started around 1:30 p.m. with participants meeting in West End Park for brief comments before marching. Protesters shouted “No justice! No peace!” Floyd’s name and other chants as they made their way down Park Avenue, peacefully escorted by the city’s police department.

“Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! These racist cops have got to go!”

“Black Lives Matter!”

With the temperature hovering at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, medics stationed themselves along the route, and several people passed out water bottles.

Many residents lined the route, waving signs and photographing the march from their porches and front lawns. At one point, several workers at a nearby construction site took selfies with the protesters.

Ariana provided the following statement to Tysons Reporter ahead of the event:

Here’s our vision. Our community is often isolated from the injustices experienced in other communities. We are just two rising juniors at George Mason High School who wanted to raise awareness in our community and march in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all people who have lost their lives simply because of the color of their skin. As a community, we can do better.

As two non-black people, we wanted to give the floor to black people in our community and make sure their voices are heard. It’s time for us to be allies and actively work to dismantle the systemic racism that has plagued our country for far too long. We had been watching the protests going on around the country and wanted to bring it closer to home.

We have the privilege to opt ourselves out of these times, but that will not bring the change that is needed. We have a duty to listen to our black peers and educate ourselves because it is not enough to not be racist; we must be anti-racist.

The City of Falls Church will see another event sparked by Floyd’s death later this week. On Sunday, locals plan to host the Falls Church Justice for Black Lives Rally at Cherry Hill Park at 1 p.m.

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Fairfax County’s top official, local police chiefs and elected officials for the City of Falls Church are stressing the importance of equity and justice as nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd continue.

A viral video captured Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes. Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

In a newsletter to constituents, Jeff McKay, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, stressed the county’s focus on equity with the One Fairfax policy, saying that he will soon announce ” a blueprint to double down on our commitments.”

“Angry and Disgusted”

McKay also addressed the recent protests in D.C. after reports on Monday of police using tear gas and rubber bullets to dispel protesters from the area around a church where President Donald Trump then posed for a photo.

“I’m angry and disgusted that today, for the third time in as many days, we saw peaceful protestors tear-gassed and shot with pellet guns as they chanted for peace and change,” McKay said.

McKay’s full statement:

To the Fairfax County Community,

Over the weekend, millions marched the streets across the United States mourning the death of George Floyd and rightfully protesting the injustices and systemic racism experienced by generations of African American men and women in this country.

I’m angry and disgusted that today, for the third time in as many days, we saw peaceful protestors tear gassed and shot with pellet guns as they chanted for peace and change. Simultaneously, COVID-19 continues to showcase and exacerbate the disparities that exist in our most vulnerable communities.

Now more than ever, we know it is the role of our local government to achieve true structural change in our communities. We in Fairfax County must honestly ask ourselves, what actions are we taking?; what voices are we lifting up?; and for me as your Chairman, are our policies affecting systemic change in our community?

We are lucky to live in Fairfax County. Our Government has a team of employees who dedicate themselves to making us better every day. Our residents are diverse and challenge us to do more. Each member of the Board of Supervisors believes that we can always improve.

It is our commitment to our diversity that created our One Fairfax policy, which makes equity a requirement and recognizes that disparity is a fact. The Board of Supervisors and School Board adopted it to ensure that it is intentionally applied to all the work we do – not just reflected on when we are in crisis.  In the coming days, I will announce a blueprint to double down on our commitments.

We have work to be done. In the days, weeks, and months ahead of us, we will continue to listen, encourage healthy dialogues, and have the courage to fight for what’s right.

“Undo Culture of Racism”

Falls Church’s City Council and City Manager Wyatt Shields released a joint statement, saying that they “re-affirm our values of fairness and equal opportunity for all.”

“Mr. Floyd’s death lays bare once again, a long troubling truth that minorities in this country disproportionately experience violent and fatal encounters with police,” the statement said. “It is a truth we all must confront.”

They said they are committed to working to “undo the culture of racism,” along with promoting justice and peace. The statement did not elaborate on how the city officials plan to tackle it.

Local Law Enforcement Weigh In

Local law enforcement heads have recently talked about the role communities play in shaping police departments.

A letter to the community from Falls Church Police Chief Mary Gavin stressed that community trust is the most “sacred” part of police work.

Gavin then shared how the city’s police department strives to reinforce equality: taking the words “citizen” and “resident” out of policies, focusing on diverse hiring and striving for inclusiveness with their practices. She also called for a structural change that goes beyond firing “bad actors.”

“When public servants fail us by abusing the authority invested in them by the community they have sworn to protect and serve, it destroys trust and partnerships, the fabric of our community,” Gavin said.

On Friday, Fairfax County Police Department Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. talked about the police department’s community policing efforts and addressed eroding trust in law enforcement.

“We shall have faith the local and federal justice systems will navigate toward justice for the Floyd family, the communities impacted, and our entire nation,” he said. “However, we must be mindful there is a healing process where righteous anger needs to be constructively exercised through the right to free speech.”

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

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As the sixth day of protests following George Floyd’s death at hands of a Minneapolis police officer continue, local law enforcement officials say they have faith the justice system will produce a just outcome for Floyd and his family.

Peaceful protests were marred by violence over the weekend — including looting and fires in D.C. last night.

Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and fired after a viral video shows the officer holding his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes on Memorial Day. Three other officers involved in the incident were also fired.

The incident prompted Fairfax County Police Department Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. to reflect on ongoing challenges that erode the public’s trust in law enforcement.

We shall have faith the local and federal justice systems will navigate toward justice for the Floyd family, the communities impacted, and our entire nation. However, we must be mindful there is a healing process where righteous anger needs to be constructively exercised through the right to free speech,” Roessler wrote.

Roessler noted that FCPD’s community policing efforts and collaborations with locals have helped the department operate in a transparent and accountable manner.

“Fairfax County is blessed to have a highly engaged community which helps our Police Department transparently use a co-production of policing philosophy to ensure our hiring processes, training, policies, and internal and external accountability systems are meeting the expectations of the highest levels of standards by our community served and the law enforcement profession,” he said.

Here’s more from the chief on FCPD’s community engagement efforts:

During the last few trying days and today, I’ve personally networked with our community advocates to ensure they have access to their Chief and the senior law enforcement leaders of the Department to create robust dialogue to understand the awful events that have unfolded recently throughout our country as we need to increase our conversations about the erosion of the public’s trust for law enforcement as we continue to observe the disproportionately of the deaths of our African American community members. 

As a reminder, we have updated our use of force policies over the years using the co-production of policing model, vetted our policies and training through the Public Safety Committee, and we continue to leverage the partnerships created with community members who were part of the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission.

Additionally, we are grateful for the external accountability measures from the Police Civilian Review Panel, the Independent Police Auditor, the voluntary submission to both state and national accreditation agencies, and the periodic independent reviews of our lines of business by academic institutions.

We continue to pray for Mr. Floyd’s family as individuals, a Police Department, and as a community who all collectively value the sanctity of all human life,” he added.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

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