COVID-19 Vaccine Could Soon Be Approved for Teens — The CDC is scheduled to discuss recommending COVID-19 vaccinations for 12 to 15-year-old individuals on Wednesday (May 12). If it is approved, the Fairfax Health District says it will have vaccine available, and state and local appointment scheduling systems will be updated accordingly. [Fairfax County Health Department]
Falls Church Man Arrested for Threatening People at Mosque — 41-year-old Jonathan Lincoln faces assault and disorderly conduct charges after reportedly threatening people with a knife and trying to stab a security guard at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Seven Corners. The incident occured around 3 p.m. on Saturday (May 8), and there were no injuries. [WTOP]
Virginia Republicans Hold Nominating Convention — Virginia Republicans cast ballots in 39 different locations across the state on Saturday in a convention to select the party’s nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. The results could take days to materalize, but turnout was expected to surpass the party’s last gubernatorial convention in 2013, when about 8,000 of 13,500 approved delegates cast ballots. [The Washington Post]
Falls Church News-Press Announces Endorsements — The Falls Church News-Press has thrown its support behind Terry McAuliffe, who is seeking to return to the governor’s mansion in November. It also endorsed Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) for lieutenant governor and incumbent Mark Herring for attorney general. [Falls Church News-Press]
Vienna Farmers Market Kicks Off Season — “It may be cloudy and chilly but the Farmer’s Market hosted by our local Optimist Club in @TownOfVienna is open! Pleased to help cut the ribbon to open this season of fresh foods and goods!” [Del. Mark Keam/Twitter]
Construction on Madison High School Addition Continues — “Tearing the roof off the place, literally! If you watch until the end you can see a sheet a of steel be pulled down. One at a time, they came down today. Making room for the third floor!” [James Madison High School/Twitter]
(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) The Town of Vienna’s election concluded yesterday (Tuesday) with all three incumbent councilmembers in contention retaining their seats.
Howard Springsteen, Steve Potter, and Nisha Patel were comfortably reelected in an election that saw turnout plummet after hitting a record high last year, when there was a mayoral race on the ballot and seven candidates vying for three town council seats.
This time, there were just four candidates competing for three seats, with Springsteen seeking his sixth term on the council and Potter and Patel looking to get reelected for the first time. Planning Commissioner David Patariu was the sole challenger.
In a statement to Tysons Reporter, Springsteen thanked voters for the support and vote of confidence.
“I am honored to serve and will always be available to Vienna residents to discuss issues of concern,” he said. “Congratulations to Steve Potter and Nisha Patel on their reelection to council. I look forward to working for the betterment of Vienna.”
In a Facebook post acknowledging the election’s results, Patariu says that, while he fell short of winning office, he believes his campaign helped bring attention to key issues, such as traffic on residential streets, the slow progress on funding sidewalk construction, and complaints about the town’s mulching operation on Beulah Road.
“I brought the Town Council’s focus back to issues facing residents,” Patariu said. “My dissent from the Town Council’s views on many of the issues above should provide a path for future action by residents.”
According to the Fairfax County Office of Elections, which managed the election, the unofficial vote totals are:
- Howard Springsteen: 1,217 votes
- Steve Potter: 1,181 votes
- Nisha Patel: 1,092 votes
- David Patariu: 750 votes
The results will be finalized after noon on Friday (May 7), when any remaining mailed ballots must be received.
1,968 out of 11,659 registered voters cast ballots in the election, amounting to a 16.9% turnout compared to the 36.5% of voters who participated in last year’s town election. 1,311 voters went to the polls in person on election day, while 657 people voted absentee, either by mail or in person.
This election was notable, however, for being the last one that the Town of Vienna will ever hold in May. A bill passed by the Virginia General Assembly in February and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam on March 12 shifted all municipal elections in the state to November, starting on Jan. 1, 2022.
State Sen. Chap Petersen, who represents Vienna, and some town leaders took issue with the change, arguing that separate, town-only elections allow voters to focus on local issues, but the Fairfax County Office of Elections says the move will increase voter participation and save Vienna money, since the town currently has to reimburse the county for some election-related costs.
“The Turnout in future elections held in November will be much higher — as much as four-fold,” Fairfax County General Registrar Scott Konopasek told Tysons Reporter by email. “Whether or not that will change winners and losers remains to be seen.”
Photo courtesy Town of Vienna
FBI Agent Fired Weapon During CIA Security Incident — “Law enforcement sources tell ABC News that at least one FBI agent opened fire on a suspect outside CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia Monday. The suspect has been transported to a local hospital. His condition is unknown.” [ABC7 News-WJLA]
Vienna Holds Town Council Election — Today is Election Day in the Town of Vienna. Residents can vote in person from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Vienna Community Center. Four candidates are on the ballot seeking to fill three town council seats. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
Dranesville Supervisor Surprised by New Police Chief’s History — Supervisor John W. Foust says he was not aware of new Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis’s involvement in two past use-of-force incidents before they were reported by NBC4. He calls the alleged misconduct “very disturbing” and says it should’ve been disclosed to the board. [The Connection]
Region Urges COVID-19 Vaccinations with Media Campaign — Northern Virginia’s health districts, including the Fairfax Health District, launched a new media campaign on Friday “to encourage everyone in the region to get vaccinated. The campaign encourages broad vaccination across the region while also focusing on various audiences who remain vaccine hesitant.” [Fairfax County Health Department]
Local Residents Lobby for Leaf Blower Ban — A new citizens group called Quiet Clean NOVA is calling on Virginia lawmakers to prohibit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, critiquing the noise and air pollution they produce. Del. Kaye Kory, whose district includes southern Falls Church into Annandale, says she will introduce legislation this fall that encourages the use of quieter electric and battery-powered blowers. [ABC7 News-WJLA]
Updated at 3:00 p.m. — The Town of Vienna has postponed its Arbor Day celebration again, citing inclement weather that is supposed to hit Fairfax County this afternoon.
The tree planting will now take place at 4:30 pm on Thursday (May 6).
Earlier: The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.
We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!
Monday (May 3)
- Arbor Day Tree Planting — 4:30 p.m. at Southside Park (1317 Ross Dr. SW) — The Town of Vienna will celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree at Southside Park. This ceremony was originally scheduled to take place last Friday (April 30), but it got postponed due to the windy weather. (Update: This event has been postponed to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.)
Tuesday (May 4)
- Family PASS 5th Annual Golf Benefit — 12 p.m. at Westfields Golf Club (13940 Balmoral Greens Ave.) — The fifth annual Family PASS Golf Tournament will be held at the Westfields Golf Club in Clifton to support working families facing homelessness in Fairfax County. There will be prizes for the top three teams, along with various other contests. Register and donate online to support this cause.
- Fit4Mom Stroller Strides — 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the Mosaic District (2910 District Ave.) — Fit4Mom Stroller Strides is a total-body workout for moms with their kids in tow. The 60-minute workout includes strength training, cardio, and core restoration, along with entertainment for the little ones in your stroller. The class will meet in Strawberry Park in front of Mom & Pop. Register online for the class. Your first session is free.
- Town Election Day — 6 a.m.-7 p.m. at the Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry St. SE) — Three seats on the Vienna Town Council are up for election. Residents of the Town of Vienna who are registered to vote can cast a ballot in person at the Vienna Community Center. Voters must show a valid form of ID to cast a ballot. Call 703-255-6303 for more information.
Wednesday (May 5)
- Cinco de Mayo at Urbano Mosaic — 12-9 p.m. at Urbano (2985 District Ave.) — Eat, drink, and dance to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at the Mosaic District. There will be outdoor events with some tent coverage. A live DJ will be playing from 4 to 6 p.m., and a live band will perform from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are on sale for food and drinks, and guests must be over 21 years old to enter the party.
Thursday (May 6)
- Intentional Gardening: Make Way for the Pollinators (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — Master gardeners and Habitat Restoration Team members Sandy Tarpinian and Amy Crumpton lead the second session of Falls Church City’s three-part series about how gardeners can help create a healthy habitat for humans and wildlife. Email Marshall Webster at [email protected] to get the Zoom link.
Friday (May 7)
- URBNmarket Spring Pop Up Market — 3-8 p.m. at the Mosaic District (2905 District Ave.) — The URBNmarket is back at the Mosaic District. Started in 2014, the pop-up crafts market features home decor, jewelry, toys, clothes, and more from artisans, collectors, and creators in the D.C. area. The market will also appear on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday (May 8)
- Pups & Pints — 12-7 p.m. at the McLean Metro station (1820 Dolley Madison Blvd.) — For a second weekend, Capital One Center will convert the McLean Metro station parking lot into a pop-up dog park and beer garden. The event features live music, food trucks, a puppy parade, a Mutt Strutt contest, and vendors with dog-centric products and services. Advance registration for a time slot is required to ensure adequate social distancing on the site.
Sunday (May 9)
- Virtual Mother’s Day Tea: Bringing Up Baby (Online) — 3 p.m. — Hosted by Green Spring Gardens, this virtual tea will focus on parenting through history. Learn about the child-rearing advice from the past that would shock and amuse us today. Register online for the Zoom link. Call 703-941-7987 for more information.
One of the fun aspects of local elections is the interesting intersection of national issues — like helping businesses recover from the pandemic — with hyperlocal problems, such as a too-loud mulch machine.
In a forum earlier this month, the four candidates running for Vienna Town Council met virtually to discuss top issues of importance, the first being the industrial mulching operation on Beulah Road. Candidates were asked whether they support removing the facility over the next two years.
David Patariu, a lawyer who was appointed to the Planning Commission in October 2019, came out swinging against the mulch operation.
“Two years is too long,” Patariu said. “It should have been removed last year.”
Patariu said with students learning from home in nearby residences, the 89-decibel operation sounds like a jet engine running in their neighbors’ back yard.
“We have to get rid of that right now,” Patariu said. “This is not a financial issue, it’s a moral issue. Residents in that part of town have suffered long enough.”
The other three candidates — incumbents Nisha Patel, Steve Potter, and Howard Springsteen — recognized the operation’s nuisance but said more work needs to be done to study the impact of shutting it down.
“Leaf collection is an important service, but mulching has raised concerns,” Patel said. “I’m hoping to get more information when we get a report from a consultant later this month. If leaf mulching is not cost effective, I would prefer to remove this aspect.”
Similarly, Springsteen said there’s more to consider that comes along with shutting down mulching.
“Do we buy or lease a new site, eliminate leaf collection, and transfer responsibility to residents, truck leaves for disposal, or leave as is?” Springsteen said. “I want us to look at the numbers. I know we’ve reduced [the noise] and that’s a step in the right direction.”
Potter said that for all its challenges, it’s important to recognize some of the benefits to local residents of leaf mulching.
“Leaf collection has been around for about 30 years now and a lot of citizens appreciate the service,” Potter said. “We must come up with a solution that is economical, ecologically sound, and move from there.”
Another issue facing Vienna is the continued need for improved water infrastructure. All four town council candidates said improving the town’s stormwater sewer infrastructure has to stay the top priority — along with traffic improvmeent.
“Getting water and sewer infrastructure organized is very important, but I also think traffic along Maple Avenue is another issue that needs to be dealt with,” Patel said. “[We’re] looking at infrastructure to be able to support [smart lights].”
Patel said the town is currently working on a project to synchronize lights on Maple Avenue, which could help improve traffic on the busy street.
“As far as water pipes are concerned, we need to replace the water pipes,” Patel said. “They were built in the ’50s and ’60s. We can’t continue to have water main breaks like we’ve been having.”
Because the pipes are so old, Springstreen said Fairfax County had no interest in taking over Vienna’s water infrastructure, so the town will have to handle it themselves.
“This system is not supported by taxes, but by user fees,” Springsteen said. “We need to replace our pipes. We have 63 miles of pipes, and we need to replace them as a pretty progressive rate. We need to make sure we don’t turn ourselves into Texas.” Read More
When early voting began at the North County Government Center in Reston on Saturday (April 24), the crowd of electioneers assembled outside the building dwarfed the number of people casting their ballots inside the building.
The absence of lines contrasted sharply with the 2020 general election, when Fairfax County sometimes saw hour-long waits at early voting sites. This time, the biggest hold-up was the few extra seconds election volunteers needed to sort through 16 different ballots and match them with the right voters.
While not surprised by the relatively muted turnout for the first days of early voting for the June 8 Democratic primary, which started on April 23 at the Fairfax County Government Center before expanding to two satellite locations a day later, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn says it’s too soon to make any confident projections about what early voting will look like in the future.
“Going through a couple of election cycles, I think we need to do that before we can come to any long-term conclusions about how early voting is best done, how to staff it, what resources are necessary,” he said.
Even with a crowded gubernatorial contest on the ballot, the 2021 election cycle likely won’t match the high turnout for last year’s general election, which was buoyed by an especially heated presidential race, but there is already evidence that the Virginia’s new laws permanently expanding the accessibility of absentee voting are paying off.
According to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, 63,508 voters have requested mail ballots, and 709 people have voted in person, as of April 24. In comparison, there were just 35,390 early voters in the 2017 primaries, the last time that Virginia had a governor’s race, and that includes 8,815 people who requested mail ballots but never returned them.
Fairfax County has gotten 11,222 mail ballot requests and 68 in-person voters. In 2017, 3,109 people voted early in person, and 1,919 people voted by mail.
Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy attributes this uptick to recent legislative changes made by the Virginia General Assembly, particularly the introduction of no-excuse absentee voting that took effect last year.
“Since the last gubernatorial election, voting by mail has become easier in Virginia,” Worthy said. “Not only can any registered voter do so without needing a reason as was required in the past, but also the law now makes it easy to vote by mail permanently. As a result, the Office of Elections expects to see an increase in voting by mail over time as has happened in other states that have implemented similar laws.”
Legislators took further action to make early voting more accessible during a special session in March, including requiring localities to offer ballot drop-off boxes, permitting absentee voting on Sundays, and suspending witness signature requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, though those laws don’t take effect until July 1.
Early voting is also “way up” in Falls Church City compared to the last gubernatorial primary, according to Director of Elections and General Registrar David Bjerke.
Bjerke told Tysons Reporter on Friday (April 23) that the city had sent out 315 ballots so far, including 176 mail ballots and 139 email ballots to overseas voters, and three people showed up to vote in person that day. The 2017 primary saw just 240 early voters total, even though the Democratic and Republican parties both held elections that summer.
“It’s a huge increase,” Bjerke said. Read More
Later this week, Fairfax County will kick off voting for its second pandemic primary, and the county officials running the election are applying a few lessons from the last year of early and mail-in voting.
Early voting for the Democratic primary is scheduled to start this Friday (April 23) and will be open to all voters registered in the county.
Voters in last year’s election faced long lines as they waited to turn in their ballots early, but Fairfax County General Registrar and Director of Elections Gary Scott, who is retiring from the position this year, said that scenario is unlikely in this year’s elections.
“What we’re doing is trying to incorporate some of the things we did observe,” Scott said. “There are lessons learned from the general election that don’t necessarily translate well to a primary election. We’re looking at a different electorate and a different level of turnout. But we’re opening more than one location early.”
Scott says that, in addition to the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway), the county will open the North County Government Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive) and the Mount Vernon Government Center (2511 Parkers Lane) for early voting on Saturday, April 24.
For the last week of the primary, the county will open an additional 13 early voting sites starting on May 29. Sites in the Tysons area include the Providence Community Center, the McLean Governmental Center, and Tysons-Pimmit and Thomas Jefferson libraries.
“For the last week, we will have a total of 16 locations where people will vote,” Scott said. “And we’ve extended hours from 4:30 p.m. to, now, 7 p.m. We wanted to extend further after working hours.”
Scott says it can be difficult to estimate how many voters there will be.
The last gubernatorial primary in 2017 had a 13% turnout, but that year had both a Republican and Democrat primary. This year, it’s Democrat-only, but Scott says his office is still preparing for a 40% turnout, even if that is viewed as extremely unlikely.
“Ordering paper ballots is relatively cheap after a certain point, and I’d rather have 10,000 ballots too many than 10,000 ballots too few,” he said.
Those voting in person should not submit an application to receive a ballot by mail, though anyone who requests a mail ballot can still surrender it when they check in if they decide to vote in-person instead.
“If you submit an application, you’re going to be sent a ballot by mail, and you’d have to return that ballot to back it out in order to vote in person,” Scott explained.
There will be drop boxes around the county after Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law on March 31 making permanent a measure that was adopted temporarily last year. Drop boxes will be available at all early voting sites and polling places for those who want to drop off their ballot, according to Scott.
The deadline to register to vote in Fairfax County is May 19 — 22 days prior to the election. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 8. Virginia is an open-primary state, so the primary is open to all voters.
“There are no Republican races in Fairfax County, so if you’re showing up to vote for republican candidates…there aren’t any,” Scott said. “For top of ticket, they chose convention, and some House of Delegates races had only one qualified candidate for primary.”
In addition to the statewide governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general races, voters in six districts have House of Delegates races on the primary ballot:
“We would encourage people, before they go out to vote, to review sample ballots we will have posted on our website,” Scott said. “So, if they go to vote, they’re prepared, because not everyone in the county is going to see the same ballot.”
David Patariu is one of four candidates running for the three Vienna Town Council seats up for election this year. A practicing attorney and Vienna planning commissioner, Patariu is seeking his first term on the council after also running last year.
Why did you decide to run for election?
Residents asked me to run this year because they felt their voices were not being heard by Vienna’s Town Council. The story of how I got on the ballot is a good example of the residents-first, can-do attitude we need on Town Council.
I figured that going to 125 to 150 homes to gather in-person ballot petition signatures during the pandemic would not be safe and would show a real lack of judgment regarding the safety of the residents.
Meanwhile, other Virginia office-seekers had filed cases to have the ballot signature requirement modified because of the pandemic. So, I filed a court case (Patariu v. Scott) and obtained a court-approved consent decree to make this process safer in the Town of Vienna, allowing candidates to use a form that does not require the circulator to personally witness the signature of each voter.
I saw other Virginia municipalities were being smarter about voting in a pandemic and put in the time and was the only candidate to use the modified ballot petition process. And I am running at the request of many residents to bring this kind of good judgment and concern for every resident to Vienna’s Town Council.
How well do you think the town has handled its pandemic response?
Because of the pandemic, households and businesses across the country are conserving resources, spending less money, and deferring large projects. The Town Council, however, has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on arguably unnecessary consultants, started construction on a $14.5-plus million police station to replace a roughly 25-year-old police station, and opened up all residential and commercial zoning to a rewrite when residents cannot meet in person.
The town needs to hit “pause” on many of these non-essential projects and re-focus on pandemic recovery efforts directed toward residents and small businesses who have suffered the most.
What are your thoughts on how the zoning code rewrite has gone so far?
Residents cannot use the traditional channels of meeting in person and standing up at Town Council meetings to express their opinions. Surveys are drafted and interpreted by pro-development town staff, distributed in a non-random way, and presented as if they show what all Vienna residents want.
The town must wait until in-person meetings are once again possible, and hire an independent company to do a true random-sample survey of residents on any proposed zoning code changes that will affect their property values.
Before we move ahead with the residential and commercial zoning code rewrite, we need a Maple Avenue traffic study signed by a professional engineer — who did not have a possible conflict of interest for simultaneous work on behalf of Maple Avenue developers — to inform our decisions related to traffic impact and the zoning code rewrite. Read More
New Cancer Treatment Facility to Open in Merrifield — “Virginia Cancer Specialists, which operates 10 locations in Northern Virginia, will be opening its new 60,000-square-foot facility on April 13 in the Merrifield area. The new center located at 8613 Lee Highway will replace the VCS’ current center at 8503 Arlington Blvd.” [Patch]
Tour de Hunter Mill Coming to Vienna — Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn will host the inaugural district-wide bicycle tour, which will take cyclists from Reston to Vienna and back again through the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons. The event will take place on May 15 with a $25 registration fee for anyone 16 and older. [Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office]
Vienna State Senator Skeptical of Marijuana Legalization — Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposal to amend a bill legalizing marijuana to make it effective on July 1 appears to have enough support to pass when the Virginia General Assembly reconvenes this month, but State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) says he’s “not a fan of setting up a marijuana industry in this state, which appears to be the purpose of the legislation.” [Associated Press/WTOP]
Online Forum Scheduled for Vienna Town Council Candidates — An online candidate forum for the upcoming Vienna Town Council election on May 4 will be recorded and available to view starting on April 12. The event will be posted to the town government’s YouTube channel and air on TV regularly until the election. [Sun Gazette]
Tysons Company to Bring Broadband to the Arctic — “OneWeb plans to start offering broadband from space in the Arctic region this fall, a capability the company hopes will attract U.S. military and other national government customers…Following the latest launch of 36 satellites on March 25, OneWeb has 146 in operation.” [Space News]
Editor’s Note — Tysons Reporter is running Q&As with the candidates who qualified for this year’s Vienna Town Council election on May 4. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Steve Potter is one of four candidates running for the three Vienna Town Council seats up for election this year. A U.S. Navy veteran and professional consultant, Potter is seeking his second term after joining the council in 2019.
Why did you decide to run for reelection?
I’m running because we’re in the midst of numerous projects that I’ve been a part of and would like to see through completion. I believe continuity, knowledge, and experience are going to be more important in this election than in previous elections because of the magnitude of the initiatives involved and the long-term effects they will have on the community. They include the zoning code rewrite, transportation and traffic studies, land purchases, library and parking expansion, police station construction, new sidewalks, infrastructure upkeep and repairs, and economic development.
What has it been like dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic? How well do you think the town has handled its pandemic response?
I think the major focus has been on financial relief for our businesses and identifying sources of funds and revenues that can help our businesses through tough times. Just the RISE grant alone, we had 254 businesses and nonprofits who got $2.76 million in grant funding. So, we have been able to help people with those kinds of relief to get them through. There was another relief fund for $100,000 for the Town of Vienna residents and business workers, and there’s been loan and grant application systems.
We have temporary permits that we’ve put in place for outdoor commercial activity for our restaurants. We did things for child daycare businesses in commercial zones and expanded opportunities in that area. We’ve done…an eight-course boot camp for new business owners. There’s a weekly newsletter that provides business-related news. We’ve had several social media campaigns to promote local businesses. So, I think we have done a lot in terms of being able to support the community and help folks get through this.
What are your thoughts on how the zoning code rewrite has gone so far?
The zoning code prior to the rezoning update was very antiquated. It was very ambiguous. It allowed multiple interpretations on a single subject, and it was also conducive to having very large buildings, high density very close to the borderlines, small setbacks, and all of these things didn’t contribute to what really needed to be done in today’s world, in our minds.
Bringing it back to the drawing board has allowed us to look at how each ordinance interfaces with each other, to look at the logic of having a 1.2-mile stretch [on Maple Avenue] of the same code, and just allows us to look at things differently so that we can update things that reflect smart growth, reduce density, increase green space, allow for greater setbacks, and are environmentally sound. Read More