A Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees member has resigned amid a brewing controversy over comments made by another trustee over the inclusion of diverse titles in the library’s catalog.
Darren Ewing, who represents the Dranesville District, resigned from his position after he stated the library’s catalog homepage was “completely one-sided” at a recent discussion among trustees.
In an email obtained by Patch, Ewing clarified that he did not intend to support the comments of Phillip Rosenthal, the Springfield District representative who is under fire for questioning why Muslim, Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ titles are featured in the catalog.
Here’s more from Patch on Rosenthal’s comments at the July 29 board meeting:
For example, he questioned why Muslim writers were featured but not Catholic, Mormon, Jewish or Baptist writers.
He also took aim at writers involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. On a similar category titled Race in America, Rosenthal said, “Black lives documentaries. Why don’t we have some white lives documentaries?”
And for the category labeled rainbow reads for teens, he said, “Why don’t we have the flipped side of rainbow books for teens?”
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay is joining the NOVA Equity Agenda Coalition’s calls for Rosenthal’s resignation.
“Ultimately, while under the guide of inclusivity, the demand from Mr. Rosenthal serves as a form of division, perpetuating an “us versus them” mentality. It is important now more than ever that we uplift the voices of underprivileged and underrepresented persons in our society,” McKay wrote in an Aug. 26 letter.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity recommended Rosenthal as a trustee in 2018. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved his post.
Fran Millhouser, the chair of the Board of Trustees, has also publicly stated that comments made by Rosenthal and Ewing “do not reflect the collective policies or positions of the full board or of Fairfax County.”
“We will not remove materials because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval,” she added.
The Board of Trustees is expected to discuss the issue at a Sept. 9 meeting at 7 p.m.
Photo via Jessica Ruscello/Unsplash
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
COVID-19 Challenges — “The Town of Vienna Economic Development Office released results from its COVID-19 Business Survey highlighting how the Town’s businesses have been impacted by the pandemic.” [Town of Vienna]
Businesses Worried About Metro Shutdown — “Sol Glasner, CEO of the Tysons Partnership, says Metro has now all but assured that the comeback will be delayed in Tysons. He said he was disappointed and frustrated with how Metro handled the Silver Line shutdown.” [WAMU]
County Officials Speak Out on Silver Line Closure — Dalia Palchik, Jeff Mckay and Sol Glasner wrote this opinion piece: “The pivotal importance of Metro to Tysons makes the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s abrupt announcement of the summer closure of the Silver Line especially problematic.” [Washington Post]
New Governor Candidate — “Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy formally announced Wednesday that she is running for governor of Virginia in 2021.” [Inside NoVa]
Hope ♥️ pic.twitter.com/TkxXHAKHAs
— Falls Church Views (@falls_views) May 16, 2020
Photo courtesy James B. Crusan III
Northern Virginia officials stressed the importance of working together on their reopening plans during Gov. Ralph Northam’s press conference today.
Yesterday, Northam announced that he was pushing the reopening deadline for Northern Virginia localities to May 29.
Today Northam said that he is “comfortable” having the first reopening phase begin on Friday (May 15) for the rest of the state.
Jeff McKay, Fairfax County’s chairman, said that coordination with D.C. and Maryland leaders is key to determine when to reopen the D.C. area, which he called “one cohesive region.”
“It’s important that there not be huge variations in the roll-out of phases as we move forward so that we don’t unnecessarily confuse our business owners, confuse our residents and confuse our house of worships,” McKay said. “This virus does not know jurisdictional boundaries.”
Officials for Arlington and Loudoun counties along with the mayors of Alexandria and Falls Church also spoke at the press conference.
Libby Garvey, the chair for Arlington County, said that the Northern Virginia region is looking to meet the following criteria before reopening:
- a downward trend of positive test results and hospitalizations for 14 days
- sufficient hospital beds and intensive care unit capacity
- enough personal protection equipment
- increased testing and tracing
“The most responsible path forward for us is to maintain our current operating status until the phase 1 criteria laid out by the governor are met by Northern Virginia
Northam said that he has not heard about a desire to delay the first reopening phase from other regions in Virginia.
Image via Gov. Ralph Northam/Facebook
Following more details to reopen Virginia later this week, Fairfax County’s chairman joined Northern Virginia leaders in saying that the region is not ready yet to ease restrictions.
On Sunday (May 10), McKay, along with the top officials for the City of Alexandria and Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties, said in a letter to the governor saying that regional threshold metrics should be used instead of statewide metrics for reopening the five localities.
“While it is certainly useful to examine statewide metrics as we gauge the success of current public health policies, we feel strongly that any changes to current policies be guided by what is occurring in our region,” the letter said.
We all want to reopen our economy in the safest, data-driven way possible. Regardless of the Governor’s decision about how we move forward, we will continue to monitor our local statistics and be fully transparent about where we stand as a region. (5/7)
— Jeff McKay (@JeffreyCMcKay) May 10, 2020
The health directors for the five localities also sent a letter to the state health commissioner. “Based on our assessment, we do not believe that the Northern Virginia region has met the criteria for moving into Phase 1 at this time,” the letter said.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday that his plans to begin the first phase on Friday (May 15) as part of “Forward Virginia” include these new restrictions:
- Restaurants with open air space will be allowed to seat guests outdoors but at 50% capacity while other in-door only restaurants will be only be allowed to offer takeout and delivery.
- Residents will be under a “safer at home” suggestion.
- Retail businesses will be able to open at a 50% capacity.
- Fitness centers must remain closed unless they offer outdoor facilities.
- Entertainment and amusement centers will still be closed.
- Churches and places of worship will be allowed to gather at 50% capacity.
- Private campgrounds and specific public camping facilities will be reopened.
- A 10-person gathering limit for private parties will be still be required.
If the number of COVID-19 cases rise with the new orders, Northam said that there is a chance tighter restrictions will once again go into place.
“The virus is still in our communities and we need to continue our vigilance,” he said. “We may be living with it for months or maybe years.
Northam stressed that his proposed plan is an easement of the temporary restrictions: “We are not opening the flood gate here.”
Prior to the governor’s announcement, McKay and other local leaders had been pushing the state’s administration to provide more collaboration with the reopening plans.
For places like Fairfax County, Northam said on Friday that they may be allowed to reopen at a slower pace and that he will announce more details early this week.
“I have said from the beginning this is a dynamic-fluid process,” he said.
Catherine Douglas Moran and Ashley Hopko contributed to this report
Image via Virginia.gov
With Virginia businesses poised to have fewer restrictions in mid-May, Fairfax County’s top official is urging people to stay home to save lives.
Yesterday, Gov. Ralph Northam unveiled a three-phase plan to roll back restrictions on businesses possibly starting on May 15 — after extending the closure of non-essential businesses through May 14.
Meanwhile, his stay-at-home order, which is in effect until June 10, would become a “safer at home” recommendation, according to his presentation.
Jeff McKay, the chairman for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, is weighing in on the governor’s proposal and calling on people to continue to stay home.
“A path forward is necessary, but public health and saving lives are our biggest priorities,” he said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “The first phase, however, doesn’t really change how we will operate.”
Fairfax County continues to have the highest reported number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths due to the illness in the state. As of today, the county has at least 4,834 cases and 201 deaths, according to the state’s health department.
McKay noted that Northam included a variety of data, including the number of daily positive test results and hospital bed capacity, when explaining the rationale behind the plan.
Both in the statement and a letter to county residents last night, McKay urged county residents to stay home, pointing to Fairfax County’s continued rise in COVID-19 cases.
“We are in the exponential growth period of our epidemic curve and will see more cases and deaths in the coming weeks,” the letter said. “I encourage you to not change what you are doing. We can’t see our friends and go to concerts yet, that’s the reality.”
State health officials recently said that social distancing has already prevented nearly 36,600 cases in Fairfax County — and an estimated 134,000 cases by June 10.
McKay’s full statement to Tysons Reporter:
It’s good to see that Governor Northam is establishing data- and science-driven metrics in his decision to gradually ease restrictions in Virginia. A path forward is necessary, but public health and saving lives are our biggest priorities. The first phase, however, doesn’t really change how we will operate. Just because certain parts of the economy will re-open, doesn’t mean that you have to or should leave the house. As Governor Northam said, it will [be] safer-to-stay home. I will continue to encourage county residents to do so because our case numbers continue to rise exponentially. It is my hope that we start seeing less cases soon, but we aren’t out of the woods just yet.
The head of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is joining mayors and county officials around the U.S. in a call for the federal government to ramp up production and distribution of medical supplies.
Addressed to President Donald Trump, the letter demands that the federal government establish a “medical equipment czar” and task force that would work with the Defense Logistics Agency to handle the distribution of medical supplies while the pandemic lasts.
Jeff McKay, the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, tweeted earlier today that he had signed the letter.
At the time this article published, just over 100 local elected officials from around the U.S. had signed the letter.
The letter notes that many hospitals and health care workers are facing obstacles to replenish their dwindling medical supplies to treat COVID-19 patients.
To help minimize medial supply shortages, the task force would forecast the geographic and temporal spread of COVID-19 and maintain an inventory of medical equipment, along with other roles, according to the letter.
McKay Running for BoS Chair — “Shortly after current Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova revealed in her monthly newsletter that she will not seek reelection, Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay announced on Dec. 6 that he is running to succeed her… ‘This campaign is about the future of our community,’ McKay said in explaining why he has decided to run for board chairman. ‘In this time of hateful rhetoric and divisiveness, we need to fight for all families and communities across Fairfax County.'” [Fairfax Times]
Linda Smyth Looks to Final Year on Board — “After nearly two decades of handling some of Fairfax County’s largest and most nettlesome land-use cases, Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) is ready to let someone else handle the burden. Smyth announced at the board’s Dec. 4 meeting that she would not seek another term next year… Smyth will spend her final year in office tying up a bunch of land-use cases.” [InsideNova]
Stanley Cup Visits McLean Private School — “Students at The Langley School recently ‘Rocked the Red’ when the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup trophy made a stop at the school as part of its victory tour celebrating the Washington Capitals’ 2018 championship win… The experience was made possible by Roger Mody, a Langley parent and co-owner for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, who arranged for the trophy to spend several hours at the school.” [Fairfax Times]