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Rep. Gerry Connolly talks about the Silver Line in Tysons at a House subcommittee hearing on Metro (via Oversight Committee/YouTube)

(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) Tysons got a shoutout yesterday (Wednesday) from Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) at the Congressional hearing on Metro.

Connolly called the hearing before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Reform, which he chairs, in December to address the safety issues that have sidelined more than half of the transit system’s trains for nearly three months now after a derailment in Arlington.

The two-hour hearing primarily featured Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency leaders addressing questions about the prolonged effort to fix the 7000-series trains, ridership declines, and a looming budget shortfall with federal relief funds running out.

However, it also saw Connolly defend the investments made to bring Metro into Tysons and Reston. The first phase of the Silver Line opened in 2014, after Connolly assumed office in Congress, but the groundwork for the $2.9 billion project was laid while he served on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Asked whether the D.C. area has the density to support Metro, witness David Ditch, a policy analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, suggested local governments should privatize rail or shift resources to buses, which he argued are “more economical” since they “share road infrastructure.”

“When you’re in a hole, stop digging,” Ditch said. “Past spending on transit infrastructure is not a justification for ignoring high costs and limited benefits or adding even more high-cost infrastructure on top of what we already have.”

Connolly countered that federal and local officials “experimented with” a variety of options for the Silver Line, including the inclusion of a bus rapid transit system as part of the project. Fairfax County launched an express bus service in the Dulles corridor in 1999.

However, he said the buses saw a third or less of the ridership of the existing Metro trains, indicating that rail would be the better investment.

He pointed to Tysons as an illustration of how transit can spur economic development, drawing more residents and businesses that will sustain the system long term, at least if Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan pans out.

“When we built the Silver Line through Tysons, we had 17,000 people live in Tysons, a physical area bigger than downtown Boston,” Connolly said. “Because of the advent of rail, there’ll be 100,000 additional residents in Tysons. The density, in some cases, is dependent on the investment in rail, and I believe Tysons is a great example of a potential success story.”

Unmentioned during the hearing was that plans for bus rapid transit in Tysons are in the works, though the proposed system will be tied to Route 7, rather than the Silver Line.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is also scheduled to approve plans to enhance bus service in Reston and Herndon later this month, as Metro prepares to open the Silver Line’s second phase this spring after years of delays.

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Morning Notes

Local Elected Officials React to Mask Lawsuit — Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) and Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn (D-31st) and Marcus Simon (D-53rd) were among the Congressional and General Assembly representatives who expressed support for the Fairfax County School Board’s lawsuit seeking to stop Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order prohibiting mask requirements in schools. [Twitter]

Metro Seeks Public Comment on New Budget — “The public comment period for Metro’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget is officially open, and Metro’s Board of Directors wants the public’s input. Metro is encouraging the public to share feedback before the comment period ends at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, February 15.” [WMATA]

Redistricting Committee Meets to Talk Name Changes — “Lee, Mason, Mount Vernon, Springfield and Sully Board of Supervisors’ Districts could be getting new names. The Redistricting Advisory Committee is meeting virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 25, to begin discussing these possible name changes.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Students Sought for MCC Governing Board — “If you are a high school student who lives or attends school in the Langley or McLean high school boundary areas and you’d like to gain leadership skills and serve your community, consider running for a seat on the McLean Community Center’s Governing Board.” [Fairfax County Government/YouTube]

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Morning Notes

Joint Statement Released on Settlement of FCPS Disability Lawsuit — As first reported by The Washington Post in late November, Fairfax County Public Schools has settled a lawsuit over its use of restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities. The students and disability advocacy organizations that filed the case say they hope “this resolution will ensure that no other student will ever have to experience such trauma.” [FCPS]

Thousands Donate Child Face Masks to County — “Thank you to the community for coming together to donate child face masks! We have collected 12,065 masks! Thank you to @FairfaxCountyPD for hosting the donations bin and @VolunteerFFX for all your help putting together donations!” [Ready Fairfax/Twitter]

Metro to Testify on Safety Issues in Congress — Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th) says he will call on Metro’s top leaders to testify at a congressional hearing about the safety issues spotlighted by October’s train derailment, which have kept more than half the transit agency’s fleet out of commission for almost two months now. Connolly, who represents Fairfax County, calls Metro’s failure to report the issues when they were discovered years ago “a mortal sin.” [NBC4]

Fairfax Stands Alone With Court Records Paywall — “While all other Northern Virginia jurisdictions provide free, remote public access to basic docket information for individual criminal and civil cases in circuit court, Fairfax County’s CPAN system costs $150 per quarter, or $600 per year.” [WTOP]

I-495 Lane Closures in Tysons Continue — “Lane closures and ramp closures on I-495 North and I-66 East will be implemented during the overnight hours again this week, December 13-17, as bridge beam installation for a new flyover ramp from I-495 North to I-66 West continues at the I-66/I-495 Interchange as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project.” [VDOT]

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Morning Notes

Woman Hospitalized After Stabbing at Ritz Carlton — “Officers are on scene of a stabbing at the Ritz Carlton, 1700 Tysons Blvd, in McLean. A woman was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. A person of interest, a man, is detained and receiving treatment for non-life-threatening injuries.” [Fairfax County Police Department/Twitter]

Virginia Sales Tax Holiday Starts Tomorrow — “Virginia’s annual sales tax holiday is this weekend. Stock up on qualifying school supplies, clothing, hurricane and emergency preparedness supplies, and certain ENERGY STAR™ and WaterSense™ products without paying state sales tax starting Friday, Aug. 6, at 12:01 a.m. and ending Sunday, Aug. 8, at 11:59 p.m.” [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

Redistricting Commission Holds Public Hearing — “Northern Virginia residents on July 27 told the Virginia Redistricting Commission to redraw congressional and state legislative boundaries in ways that are logical, protect minority voting rights and do not split communities…The 11th U.S. House of Representatives District, occupied since 2009 by Gerald Connolly (D), was a frequently cited example at the meeting of a poorly district. Speakers said voters living in Reston, Vienna and Tysons had nothing in common with those in Triangle on the district’s southern edge.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Vienna Opens Parks and Rec Fall Program Registration — “Fall Class and Camp registration is now open for Town residents! Check out the program guide and reserve your spot today! Registration for non-Town residents opens on Monday, Aug. 9.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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The Tysons Partnership greeted news that the federal government might allocate funding to Metro for the next decade with a cheer.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District) announced on Tuesday (Feb. 2) that he has reintroduced the Metro Accountability and Investment Act, which would provide funding to sustain the D.C. area transit system for 10 years.

Several other members of Congress who represent the D.C. area have also sponsored the bill, including Reps. Don Beyer (D-8th District) and Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District).

“We are hopeful that stable funding would instill a bright future for Metro and specifically ridership in Tysons,” the Tysons Partnership said yesterday.

The Metro Accountability and Investment Act would give the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) $1.73 billion between 2022 and 2031 by reauthorizing the Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), which established annual federal funding for Metro until it expired in 2018, according to The Washington Post.

Under Connolly’s bill, Metro would be required to implement and maintain certain safety and oversight reforms in order to receive the annual allocations, which range between $150 million and $200 million per year.

Among other conditions, the WMATA board of directors must pass a resolution by July 1 that gives independent budgeting, hiring, and procurement authority to the Office of the Inspector General, which conducts audits, reviews, and investigations of the transit agency’s programs and operations.

“Even before the pandemic, which has only exacerbated the challenges facing transit agencies across the country, WMATA was in need of a long-term plan that restored confidence in the rail system,” members of the National Capital Area Congressional Delegation said. “The Metro Accountability and Investment Act is a balanced proposal that recognizes the federal government’s responsibility to the funding, safety, and reliability of Metro.”

Plummeting ridership levels during the COVID-19 pandemic have created a dire financial situation for WMATA, which said last year that it would have to make significant service and personnel cuts without additional assistance.

Metro will avoid the worst-case scenario for now after Congress included an estimated $610 million for the transit system in the coronavirus relief package that was signed into law on Dec. 27. However, those funds are a temporary solution, and Metro officials say major cuts could be on the table again in 2022.

WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld says the federal funding offered by the Metro Accountability and Investment Act “will be critical to the region’s recovery for years to come.”

“This bill once again demonstrates our Congressional delegation’s leadership supporting critically needed funding to maintain a safe and reliable transportation system,” Wiedefeld said. “…We welcome provisions that will increase transparency and ensure taxpayer funds are well-spent to continue to earn the public’s confidence.”

The Tysons Partnership published an article on Jan. 25 urging community members to tell legislators to support federal funding for Metro, noting that budget cuts would take a toll on the Silver Line with the potential closure of five stations — including the ones at McLean and Greensboro.

“If implemented, these transit cuts could be devastating to Tysons and the entire Silver Line corridor,” the Tysons Partnership said.

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The Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce bid adieu to its outgoing board members while welcoming a new group during a virtual induction ceremony on Thursday (Jan. 14).

The board welcomed seven new members to its 24-member group. Those new members include: Cherylyn Harley LeBon (DBL Lawyers), Dane Scott (Seasons 52), Erik Olafsson (Reese Yeatman Insurance), Michael Bradicich (General Systems Corporation), Raea Jean Leinster (Yuck Old Paint), Sid Ghatak (GSA) and William Dyess (The Dyess Group).

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik joined the meeting to welcome the new members.

“You, as the Tysons Chamber, I think are a very important voice and presence making investments in Tysons, but also helping to transform it to make it the place we want it to be: this vibrant, cutting edge urban place that can set a model for the rest of the country,” Connolly said to the board members.

Board chairman Andrew Clark echoed Connolly’s sentiment of progress by commending the board’s efforts and accomplishments in 2020. Clark particularly emphasized the chamber’s ability to host 40 virtual seminars, its fourth annual Tysons 2050 event and its first-ever Tysons Restaurant Week.

“We want to make sure that we continue to build, not just places, but this vibrant community where people enjoy to live, to work, to play and to hopefully retire as well,” Palchik said.

The Tysons chamber has a number of items on its 2021 agenda. Among those include a federal contracting event on Jan. 25 billed as a “Bid or No Bid” webinar, a venture funding event for small businesses during the first quarter of the year, and Tysons’ first car show, which the chamber is partnering with Tysons Corner Center to host.

“One thing we’re going to continue to do is build out our business verticals because we’re focused on value propositions for our members,” Clark said.

The chamber is also planning two restaurant weeks this year, its annual Tysons 2050 event in November, a summer soiree on Aug. 18, and partnering with The Tower Club to co-host a chef series.

“I believe post-pandemic, we’re going to be looking at a really exciting place that’s connected directly to our Metro system and the airport, but that is a place where people can identify and live and see as a neighborhood themselves,” Connolly said. “I’m really proud of what we’re planning to do and what we are doing in Tysons. We’ve got to stay with it; we’ve got to pay attention to it.” Read More

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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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Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) has introduced a bill that would nix the Trump administration’s strict new limits on refugee resettlement in the U.S.

The bill, dubbed the “Lady Liberty Act,” was introduced by Connolly and co-sponsored by 60 other members of Congress.

Connolly, who represents Tysons and Vienna in Congress, said in a statement that “Congress has a moral responsibility to stand up to the President and let the world know we are still a welcoming and compassionate nation.”

More from a press release:

Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Vice Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, was joined by 60 members in introducing the Lady Liberty Act, legislation to reverse the Trump administration’s recent actions to severely limit refugee resettlement in the United States.

“The Trump administration is once again slamming the door on refugees,” Connolly said. “Against a record high global refugee crisis, the Trump administration’s record-low refugee admissions cap is dangerous and un-American. The Lady Liberty Act will reverse this callous backslide and restore America’s leadership role in refugee resettlement.”

“No one chooses to be a refugee,” Connolly said. “These people are seeking safety and a better life. Congress has a moral responsibility to stand up to the President and let the world know we are still a welcoming and compassionate nation.”

The Lady Liberty Act would require the President to set a goal of admitting no less than 110,000 refugees annually. Under the administration’s recent action, refugee resettlements would be capped at 30,000 refugees in fiscal year 2019, down from 45,000 this year. Since 1980, the U.S. has resettled more than 3 million refugees and set an average annual goal of 95,000 refugee admissions. The previous low ceiling for refugee resettlement in the U.S. was 67,000, set by President Reagan in 1986. There are currently 25 million refugees around the world.

Connolly’s legislation has been endorsed by The Alliance, CASA, Church World Service (CWS), Ethiopian Community Development Council, Family Action Network Movement (FANM), HIAS, Human Rights First, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Veterans for American Ideals, We Are All Americans.

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