Tysons, VA

The announcement of more delays for the Silver Line have led to concerns from Supervisors Dalia Palchik and John Foust that Metro isn’t giving the communities around the Tysons area a fair shake.

Metro was one of several topics the supervisors spoke to the McLean Citizens Association about earlier this week.

“They are currently talking about reducing Metrorail service across the system to 80%,” Foust said. “Except that they’re saying they don’t have the funds to commence service on Phase II of the Silver Line.”

While Foust said the second phase of the Silver Line expansion isn’t quite ready for opening, it will be soon, and Foust said it deserved to be treated like any other wing of the Silver Line. Foust was particularly vexed by arguments from WMATA that Metro lines that had been operational before the shutdowns will be prioritized for service.

“If they get 80%, we should get 80%,” Foust said. “We’ve invested $6 billion into the Silver Line… I’m advocating for opening Phase 2 of the Silver Line as soon as possible.”

Palchik said these issues have been exacerbated by lack of communication between WMATA and Fairfax County.

“We found out, maybe hours before the public, that the Orange and Silver lines were being shut down,” Palchik said. “The lack of communication between our boards and the WMATA boards is frustrating beyond compare. [We] need to ensure we’re not seen as the wicked stepchild of the metro system.”

Staff photo by Michelle Goldchain

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As the Tysons plan reaches its 10-year anniversary, Supervisors John Foust and Dalia Palchik spoke candidly to the McLean Citizens Association last night (Wednesday) about some of the challenges facing the Tysons plan today.

While many of the issues were Tysons-specific, they are also challenges the entire region faces as Northern Virginia becomes more urbanized:

  • Walkability
  • Schools
  • Affordable Housing

For some of these, the recent pandemic has both brought the issues into focus and helped present new opportunities.

“One of my favorite topics is walkability,” Palchik said. “[We’re] looking now at how we make Tysons more walkable.”

Palchik pointed to a recent success in temporarily closing a section of Tysons Blvd to allow for more cycling and walking. Palchik pointed to it as a step in the right direction, but said it also took a lot of work to make it happen.

“It took a month to get Fairfax and the Department of Transportation to agree on a location,” Palchik said. “I hope to see more flexibility to create a sense of place.”

Palchik pointed to the planned pedestrian and bike bridge going over the beltway as another upcoming walkability success. Tysons is also slated for more investments to connect the blooming city’s street grid.

“Sometimes, new streets can feel in conflict with existing conditions, but [we’re] trying to make it more walkable,” Palchik said. “Change can be hard, but we’re looking at the upsides and really listening.”

Palchik and Foust both repeatedly praised the foundation of the Tysons plan, but said there are things that need tweaking.

“One issue that continues to bother me is the fact that we don’t have a plan for delivering school facilities in Tysons yet,” Foust said. “We have gotten a proffer of land for an elementary school. That’s an issue that’s going to head up, going forward.”

Palchik said the county needs to be more flexible on how schools are built, for example, building smaller schools with less grade levels than traditional elementary, middle, and high school models.

“We’ve been working on proffers, because the county can’t buy land,” Palchik said. “We’re looking at being more flexible, knowing this area is urbanizing. Can we get five acres? Can portions of development be dedicated to classrooms?”

Foust said another issue that’s really been prevalent during the pandemic is the lack of affordable housing in the area.

“Our challenge is delivering housing for 80% below and 60% below [Area Median Income],” Foust said. “We’re working on that challenge to increase the amount of housing that is truly affordable.”

COVID-19, Foust said, has hopefully helped to highlight the role essential workers play.

“COVID, if nothing else, has opened up our eyes to who is truly our essential workers, and they’re not the people making the income that can put you in a luxury apartment in Tysons,” Foust said. “They’re the kind of people working in the department stores and grocery stores, the service providers, and they deserve to live in the community where they work.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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In 2010, a plan was approved to help turn Tysons into a fully fledged city. Now, the McLean Citizens Association is planing to talk to County leadership and learn about how those plans have progressed.

The MCA is hosting a conversation tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:30 p.m. with Fairfax County Supervisors John Foust and Dalia Palchik on how Tysons has changed over the last ten years since the new Comprehensive Plan was adopted.

“The session, moderated by MCA President Rob Jackson, will be in person at the McLean Community Center and live-streamed on our Facebook Page,” the MCA said in a press release. “Prior reservations are required for admission to the in-person session, and all county COVID-19 guidelines, including the wearing of masks at all times, and social distancing will be enforced.”

Each supervisor is scheduled to share their thoughts on how Tysons has changed, followed by a question and answer session and some closing remarks.

Attendance of the in-person event is for MCA members only, though anyone can view the Facebook livestream. No more than 50 people will be allowed in-person, including speakers and support personnel. Registration for the in-person portion can be made online.

Questions should be sent in advance of the session to [email protected]

Image via Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

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A controversy at the library level led to a heated exchanged at Fairfax County Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday) as the Board’s lone Republican pushed back against a motion to ensure the various boards and commissions consider the county’s standards of diversity.

Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay started the meeting with a motion for staff to circulate the One Fairfax policy and training to all boards and commissions and that members sign acknowledgement to confirm they have received and reviewed the policy. The One Fairfax policy adopted in 2017 creates a standard of social and racial equity that the Board of Supervisors committed to considering when making decisions or developing programs and services.

The fight centered around what Supervisor Pat Herrity lambasted as an attack on Phillip Rosenthal, a Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees member who faces calls for resignation from Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and others.

At a July 29 meeting, Rosenthal decried highlighting material about Black Lives Matter and by Muslim authors, Patch first reported.

Backlash to Rosenthal’s comments was swift, but Herrity has vocally defended Rosenthal, who he appointed to the Library Board of Trustees in 2018. At the Board of Supervisors meeting, Herrity defended Rosenthal again and said the motion was a move towards silencing dissent.

“When we try to silence the other side we enter a slippery slope,” Herrity said. “To take someone out because they don’t agree with our political agenda… I think that’s a slippery slope.”

While McKay protested that the board matter wasn’t about an individual person, the text of the item did say “comments made at a recent Library Board of Trustees meeting highlight that we still have a long was to go before we truly become One Fairfax.”

“Things appointee said were hurtful,” McKay said. “I called for his resignation for a lot of reasons.”

Herrity found little support from the other members of the Board of Supervisors, receiving particular rebuke from Dranesville Supervisor John Foust.

“[Herrity] totally misstakes and mischaracterizes the statements Mr. Rosenthal has made,” Foust said. “Everything I hear about Rosenthal is that he’s a decent man who makes many contributions to our community, but his comments at the library board need to be read to understand why so many people were so hurt and why we’re being so misled by Supervisor’s Herrity comments about this.”

Foust ran through a list of Rosenthal’s controversial statements at the library board, which included calling Black Lives Matter activists Marxists and expressing frustration about a reading program aimed at supporting LGBTQ youth.

“To characterize them as Herrity does about the statement for the need for more diverse views in the catalog of books is ridiculous, outrageous, and totally misleading,” Foust said.

Supervisor Dalia Palchik, representing the Providence district, argued that while Herrity had appointed Rosenthal, what Rosenthal said and did reflects on the Board of Supervisors as a whole.

McKay’s motion was passed, with only Herrity voting against it.

Image via Fairfax County

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Fairfax County officials want to address looming childcare challenges ahead of the upcoming school year.

John Foust and Walter Alcorn, the supervisors for the Dranesville and Hunter Mill districts, presented a joint board matter yesterday to tackle the “unprecedented need” for childcare.

When classes start again this fall, Fairfax County Public Schools is planning to offer two systems: fully online and hybrid learning — a mix of in-person and online instruction. Working parents, especially ones who don’t work from home, now have to figure out childcare options, which have been complicated due to the pandemic.

Alcorn and Foust said that the county may have to expand its role in child care options depending on great the need is.

“For the sake of the children and their families it is essential that good quality child care services be made available,” the board matter said. “It is also critical to advance the county’s efforts to restart our economy that those parents who work but do not normally need childcare when schools are fully open can work and contribute to economic activity.”

County Executive Bryan Hill said that the county has 2,000 childcare providers: “The first thing we want to do is fill them up.”

Chairman Jeff McKay said that childcare providers he’s talked to have said that they are concerned about surviving the pandemic.

“Oddly, their businesses hurt more than most because what they are worried about is a ton of people now teleworking and not needing daycare,” McKay said.

The Board of Supervisors approved the board matter, which directs county staff to work with FCPS and to update the supervisors on how the county can provide additional resources and support.

“Even in the best of times, the infrastructure for childcare in Fairfax County is not adequate,” Foust said yesterday. “And these are far from the best of times.”

Photo by Shirota Yuri on Unsplash

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Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust is joining an effort by Fairfax County officials to help people avoid evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Foust teamed up with Chairman Jeff McKay and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck on a board matter to address rent relief options. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the proposal yesterday (Tuesday).

“As we continue to address the impact of COVID-19 and the associated impact on employment in our community, low and moderate income families in particular are increasingly at risk of falling behind on rent and mortgages, and eventually eviction and even homelessness,” the board matter says.

County staff must now develop a Housing Partnership Pledge by working with landlords and lenders. The county officials want to see them offer to defer foreclosures and evictions, along with providing extra time for tenants to pay rent.

Fairfax County is looking at Chicago’s pledge as a guide, according to the board matter.

Along with the pledge, the county is directing the Department of Housing and Community Development to develop new guidelines for emergency rental assistance so that landlords must work “in good faith” to keep their tenants housed in exchange for the county helping tenants’ make payments.

Under the new guidelines, landlords receiving the assistance would have to notify the county before taking legal action against the tenants.

“In addition, we should explore asking landlords receiving emergency rental assistance to waive late fees dating to April 1,” the board matter says.

Additionally, the Redevelopment and Housing Authority is now asked to look into more opportunities to provide emergency rental assistance.

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At last night’s town hall meeting by the Fairfax County NAACP, the organization’s president Sean Perryman met with local elected officials and community leaders to discuss the future of policing.

Since the killing of George Floyd in police custody and outrage over racial inequities in the U.S., the NAACP compiled a list of policy changes for how to address how police use force and report actions to the public.

Top demands for reform include:

  • removing police from schools
  • reporting data efficiently
  • implementing body-worn cameras
  • reporting officer misconduct
  • reviewing the use of force policy
  • demilitarizing the police force
  • mandating counseling/early intervention

Perryman said that the Fairfax County Police Department needs to see policy and budget overhauls to end systemic racism and better serve the community. Perryman said that nearly half the police use of force in the area is used against Black individuals even though they make up 10% of the population.

At the meeting, the attendees, which included Supervisors Dalia Pakchik, John Foust, Walter Alcorn and Chairman Jeff McKay, all agreed that changes are needed to improve the safety and security of every Fairfax County resident.

Fairfax County Police Chief  Edwin Roessler Jr. expressed a willingness to work with the NAACP on the proposed changes. 

“I don’t think I oppose in whole any one of these items,” Roessler said, but added that there might be stipulations on certain topics.  

A point of confusion at the meeting was about the transparency of data. Though everyone agreed that data is important to tracking issues and upcoming solutions, no one was on the same page when it came to the type of data and release date.

The FCPD police chief said that recent data on use of force data and school arrests should be released to McKay later this week, but the department is transitioning to a new data management system to achieve the goal.

“We have a lot of promises for data and more transparency but we aren’t actually getting the data,” Perryman said, adding that this data needs to be not only released to the county board, but also to the public.

“This would give the community some insight into what is happening,” Perryman said, adding that this data needs to include other information such as traffic stops and the races of officers and civilians involved.

The conversation on body-worn cameras for officers revolved around best practices and use.

Perryman suggested that officers shouldn’t be allowed to choose when to use them, calling it “an essential part of transparency,” he said.

“It is a waste of equipment, essentially a lens with a price tag, if there is no policy in place that prevents officers from turning this off or selectively turning it on,” he added.

When it comes to budget and funding, Perryman doesn’t believe the department should receive extra money from the state or the county for this project, suggesting that the cost should come from internal budget shifts.

“What we’ve seen in the past when there is a problem with the police, we give them more money to get more toys and we think that needs to stop,” Perryman said. “I don’t think there is an appetite for it here in the country or anywhere else actually.”

The town hall also addressed concerns with civilian review panels.

Tn the past, the panels have struggled to “have teeth,” according to Roessler, who added that the General Assembly would need to correct that. 

Though there are challenges, Perryman said that people need to stop pointing fingers and create a substantial plan. He wants the panel to be independent and have the power to investigative incidents independently.

“This has to be a group that can stand up and can make clear recommendations to us,” McKay agreed. “I’ll be happy to work with you on the roster.”

Later in the meeting, Alcorn spoke up and talked about limiting the presence of firearms in the community.

“I’m not sure sending out folks with firearms is the best approach in 2020,” Alcorn said, adding that when someone calls 911, depending on the situation, there are better ways to address a community need.

Supervisors Palchik and Foust offered their support to continue the conversation with both FCPD and Fairfax County NAACP about new policies and best practices.

“We are not immune from making the types of reforms that are necessary to build the kind of confidence that everyone should have in our law enforcement agencies,” McKay said. “The most important thing for elected officials to do right now is to listen.”

Photo via Facebook Live

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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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Foot traffic in McLean will soon have a clearer path thanks to a new project updating several sidewalks.

Around 13,000 square feet of sidewalk at 250 locations around McLean will be updated, according to a press release. The updates are a part of a McLean Community Revitalization District project.

Backing the project, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said walkability is one of his priorities.

“These repairs will extend the useful life of our infrastructure and make it safer for our community to conduct business, run errands, recreate, and enjoy exploring downtown McLean,” Foust said in a press release.

The area around the intersection of Old Chain Bridge Road and Old McLean Village Drive is one of the places slated to receive a sidewalk facelift, according to the press release.

Sidewalks were chosen for the project based on criteria including excessive cracks, severe cross slopes and missing sections.

“Over the last few years, several other infrastructure improvements have been made in the area to make McLean a more walkable and bikeable community,” the press release said.

Construction was expected to begin in April and will likely be finished by the end of June, depending on the weather, according to the press release.

Photo courtesy Fairfax County

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Gov. Northam Makes Testing Work Group — “The group will “make sure all of Virginia’s public and private testing efforts are coordinated and pulling in the same direction,” Northam said during a Monday press conference.” [Inside NoVa]

Local Student Looks to Celebrate the Class of 2020 — “After Loudoun County seniors Arianna Wright and Aiden Bullis came up with the idea to sell class of 2020 signs and distributed 1,000, Abby Diamond wanted the same concept in Fairfax County. The Madison High School senior has started to sell signs reading ‘Class of 2020 senior #allinthistogether’ in support of the 2020 graduates. So far, she’s sold about 100 and has reached various high schools.” [Patch]

ICYMI: Foust’s Budget Meeting is Tonight — “Foust is set to talk to Fairfax County Chief Financial Officer Joe Mondoro about the budget, and answer people’s questions, according to his recent newsletter to constituents. The town hall is set to start at 7 p.m. [on Tuesday.]” [Tysons Reporter]

Distance Learning Challenges Plague FCPS — “School officials say that updates made by Blackboard over the weekend have not corrected delays with the system… The Fairfax County School Board is expected to receive an update on the rollout of distance learning on Thursday (April 23).” [Reston Now]

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