Tysons Corner, VA

Mothers Out Front Fairfax, the local climate change branch of a national movement, is advocating for electric school buses in Fairfax County.

More than 40 people gathered at a room in the Patrick Henry Library (101 E. Maple Avenue) in the Town of Vienna for the “Clean Buses for Kids” campaign launch last evening (Tuesday).

Bobby Monacella, the co-leader of Mothers Out Front Fairfax and the mother of two kids attending the county’s public schools, told the attendees that electric buses seem like a “no brainer.”

“They are safer. They’re healthier. They are less expensive to expensive to operate. The maintenance is much less. The cost of electricity versus diesel is much less,” Monacella said.

She added that the push for electric school buses needs to start now because of the life cycle of diesel school buses.

“It made us realize we simply can’t buy one more diesel school bus because it lasts us 15 years and with the cost of fuel emissions, our kids’ future can’t wait for that,” she said.

Since electric school buses don’t have an engine, muffler or alternator that requires tune-ups, the lifetime fuel and maintenance savings over diesel buses total $170,000, according to a Mothers Out Front Fairfax press release.

Some places around the country have already made the switch from diesel to electric school fleets, including schools in California and New York.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) runs one of the largest school bus fleets in the U.S. with more than 1,600 buses.

Karl Frisch, the Democratic candidate for the Providence District seat on the FCPS School Board, said that a switch to electric buses would attract companies, further diversifying businesses in the county.

Pat Hynes, who represents the Hunter Mill District on the school board, told Tysons Reporter that the cost of switching to electric buses is the main challenge facing the school board.

“I think it really comes down to the upfront cost not only for the buses, which are three times more expensive than the diesel buses, there’s also an investment that has to made in the infrastructure,” Hynes said, adding that the buses would need chargers.

Hynes said that “it’s a win, win, win” if the local government partners with the state government and also the local utility company to help defray the upfront costs.

Overall, Hynes said she thinks the school board will support the campaign as long as the electric buses aren’t more expensive than diesel-fueled ones in the long term.

“Every statement that the board has made in the last couple years in favor of taking some leadership on climate change has been supported almost unanimously,” Hynes said.

The school board and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors also jointly formed the Joint Environmental Task Force to lead on climate action, Hynes said, adding that the task force will hold its inaugural meeting on Sept. 3 at the Mason District Government Center (6507 Columbia Pike).

“That is where policy will begin for both boards — the school board and the county board,” she said.

Del. Mark Keam (D-35th District) said that the conversation about electric buses should be broadened beyond talking about the environment.

“This isn’t about Julie taking care of her daughter or me taking care of my kids… It’s about Mother Earth suffering,” Keam said. “That’s why I think this conversation should start and end with the bigger picture of climate change and where we are with this crisis.”

At the end of the campaign launch, the group urged attendees to sign a petition urging the school board to buy a test bus in 2020 and request a small number of electric buses by 2021.

The group aims to replace FCPS buses with electric ones by 2024.

“When moms get involved, things happen,” Keam said to cheers.


Years ago, there was a stinkbug invasion at a farm in Vienna. They were a source of concern for everyone on the farm except Clarene Vickery, who turned catching and collecting the bugs into a game for her children.

Ray Vickery Jr. remembered his mother, who died last Wednesday (June 26) at the age of 101, as a woman who could turn challenges into fun opportunities.

“She was a real life force,” Ray said. “She was able to meet and overcome problems.”

Clarene founded the Parkwood School in Vienna in 1956 and — over her 64 years as director and owner — helped teach more than 10,000 students. Ray said his mother founded the school at a time when there was no public kindergarten in Virginia and education for young children wasn’t seen as a priority.

“She started Parkwood in our living room,” he said. “She was still running the school months before her passing.”

Ray said his mother loved working with children and was able to communicate with them on a personal level.

In addition to her time running Parkwood School, Clarene was a founder of the Virginia Association of Early Childhood Education and a founding member of Providence Baptist Church in Tysons. In recent years, Clarene received recognition from a variety of public officials and a formal resolution commending her life work from the Virginia General Assembly, where her son Ray was once a member.

“She taught us it’s really important to value people for themselves, not for status or money,” said Ray.

When she wasn’t teaching, Ray said his mother liked to drive. She would take long solo trips back to Mississippi, where she was born. When she was too old to drive safely, Ray said she would take the car to the church parking lot and drive around “just to keep her hand on the wheel.”

A service will be held at Vienna Baptist Church (541 Marshall Road SW) at noon today (Tuesday). Clarene will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with her husband.

“She appreciated that there was still a small town atmosphere [in Vienna],” Ray said. “She wanted to maintain that person to person connection.”

Photo via Mark Keam/Facebook


Morning Notes

Valentine’s Day Options in McLean and Tysons — “With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you don’t want to be stuck trying to find a last-minute dinner reservation… We’ve got a few suggestions for restaurants around McLean and Tysons, including those offering special dining options on OpenTable.” [Patch]

Inca Social Officially Open in Merrifield — “Inca Social just brought Merrifield a colorful new getaway for Peruvian comfort foods that are designed to be paired with a long lineup of Virginia craft beers.” [Eater]

A Local Teardown Story — A local man who grew tired of his five-level townhouse in McLean decided to pursue a new home but, unsatisfied by the options, decided instead to buy and tear down a “distressed” house in Pimmit Hills and build his dream home in its place. [Washington Post]

Keam in the Times — “Asked about the state of the government, Delegate Mark L. Keam, a Democrat from Fairfax County, replied with one word: ‘Uncertain.'” [New York Times]

McLean Mansion Offered for Sale — “Buyers will be able to bid in person and online when the mansion in McLean, Va., known as Whispering Woods goes on the auction block on Feb. 27. The 15,000-square-foot mansion at 8305 Alford St. rests on three acres behind fences and gates.” [Washington Post]


By all accounts, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) was speaking to a friendly crowd in Tysons at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce last Thursday.

But within 24 hours, Northam would find himself at the center of national headlines in a scandal involving a racist photograph  on his medical school yearbook page, prompting calls to resign from many politicians, including Tysons-area representatives.

State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) described herself as a personal friend of Northam’s, but expressed support for the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus’ statement that Northam should step down.

Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th) shared the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus statement on Twitter and said he stood with the Virginia House Democrat’s call for Northam to resign.

Delegates Mark Keam (D-35th) and Marcus Simon (D-53rd) expressed similar condemnation for Northam.

State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) said on her Facebook page that she does not believe Northam is racist, but that if he is one of the people in the now-infamous photograph he would need to resign. Northam himself has wavered back and forth over whether he does or doesn’t appear in the photograph.

Congressional Reps. Don Beyer (D-8th District) and Gerry Connolly (D-11th District) shared a joint statement calling on Northam to resign, while Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District) said she’s personally spoken with Northam and asked him to step down.

One of the few silent voices on the issue has been State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34th District).

Petersen has not shared any statements on Northam, though many on his Facebook page speculated his quoting of the Bible verse about those without sin casting the first stone was a thinly veiled reference. In an interview with WDVM, Petersen said he was baffled by the situation.

Photo via Facebook


(Updated 2:35 p.m.) It’s been a month of meetings and votes for the state legislature, but it hasn’t brought much in the way of success for Tysons’ representatives in Richmond.

Most of the local legislative delegation’s high profile bills, like a plastic bag tax and new gun control legislation, were killed in committees.

Sen. Barbara Favola’s (D-31st District) bill prohibiting prospective employers from requiring employees disclose their wage or salary history, or attempting to obtain wage and salary histories, was defeated on Jan. 14 in the Commerce and Labor committee on a 4-10 vote.

Another bill from Favola authorized people licensed to practice medicine to provide care to patients inside Virginia via telemedicine services. The bill was incorporated on Jan. 24 into a separate bill, which cleared the Finance committee yesterday (Tuesday).

Sen. Chap Petersen’s (D-34th District) bill that would have imposed a five-cent per bag tax on plastic bags to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan was defeated in the Finance committee on a 5-11 vote.

But Petersen’s bill requiring public higher education institutions to gather public comments before raising tuition or imposing mandatory fees is doing well. The bill was unanimously approved in the Education and Health committee and incorporated five other bills before being referred to the Finance committee.

Petersen’s bill prohibiting any political candidates from soliciting or accepting contributions from public service corporations and a bill prohibiting individuals from making contributions over $10,000 to any state election were both killed in the Privileges and Elections committee.

Sen. Janet Howell’s (D-32nd District) bill authorizing evidence of prior statements that are inconsistent with later court testimony was passed by indefinitely — which almost always means it was killed — in the Courts of Justice committee on Jan. 23.

So far, three of Del. Mark Keam’s (D-35th District) bills of 15 drafted have passed the House and are awaiting Senate action. One would prohibit auto insurance companies from refusing to issue or renew a policy based on the foster care status of the policyholder or their family.

Little progress was made on gun control measures by local legislators.

Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th District) had introduced a bill allowing police or prosecutors to request a two-week ban on buying or owning a gun if they believe there is a “substantial risk of injury to himself or others.” The bill was passed by indefinitely by a Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee on a 4-2, party line vote.

Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd District) had proposed a bill that would have made it a Class 5 felony to manufacture, import, tell, transfer or possess a firearm not detectable by devices like X-ray machines. This bill was also passed by indefinitely in the same subcommittee.

Photo via Town of Vienna


If you’ve been one of the local policy wonks closely following the new legislation put forward by your state representatives, next Saturday is your chance to have your voice heard.

A town hall meeting is scheduled for Jan. 26 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. to discuss the latest news out of Richmond. State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34th District) and Del. Mark Keam (D-35th District) are scheduled to host the meeting and share their insight into what to expect from this year’s General Assembly session.

The candidates will also be available to address questions and concerns from residents.

Keam recently made waves for taking an active role in the fight against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Virginia’s Legislative Information System says Petersen’s bill requiring governing boards of public institutions of higher learning to permit public comment on tuition increases was assigned to the higher education subcommittee earlier this week. Another major bill, imposing a new 5-cent per bag tax to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, died earlier this week.

If you want to make things awkward at the meeting, bring up that Petersen opposed a two-term governorship that Keam had championed in the House of Delegates.

Photo via Facebook


Tysons isn’t just a major transportation junction, it’s also the convergence of several state legislative districts. As the 2019 legislative session nears its beginning on Jan. 9, several local state senators and delegates are bringing a variety of bills to Richmond.

In the state Senate, the Tysons area is represented by Sens. Barbara Favola (D-31st District), Janet Howell (D-32nd District), and Chap Petersen (D-34th District).

Favola is championing a bill that would prohibit prospective employers from requiring employees disclose their wage or salary history, or attempting to obtain wage and salary histories.

Howell is backing a bill that would allow evidence of a prior statement that is inconsistent with testimony at the hearing or trial to be admissible. The bill was proposed late last year and is awaiting a vote in the Courts of Justice Committee.

Another one of Howell’s bills would require assisted living facilities with six or more residents to have a temporary emergency electrical power source available on site.

Favola and Howell are both putting forward bills would allow localities to determine the opening day of school, a region-wide push to get around the “King’s Dominion Rule.” A similar bill was passed in the House last year but was left in the Senate’s Education and Health Committee. Fairfax and Loudoun counties already have waivers to start before Labor Day, but the new bill would grant a similar exception for Arlington.

Petersen has a bill that would charge a five-cent per bag tax on plastic bags for localities inside the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, to be used to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan.

Another bill would require the governing board of each public institution of higher education to permit public comment on the proposed increase at a meeting of that board.

Meanwhile, in the House of Delegates, Del. Mark Keam (D-35th District) is continuing to lead a push on two changes to the Virginia governorship. The first is a bill to make the governor and lieutenant governor a joint election. The bill was introduced in October 2018 and referred to the Committee on Privileges and Elections.

The second would remove Virginia’s stipulation that governors cannot run for reelection, allowing governors to run for two four-year terms. This had previously been proposed by Del. Mark Levine (D-45th District) but failed in earlier years.

Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th District) is re-introducing a bill that would allow police or prosecutors secure a two-week ban on buying or owning a gun if they believe they present a “substantial risk of injury to himself or others.”

Sullivan has twice seen similar legislation left to die in committees: one bill failed in 2018, another in 2017.

Del. Marcus B. Simon (D-53rd District) has a bill that would make the manufacture, import, sale, transfer, or possession of undetectable firearms a class five felony. These are weapons designed to avoid detection devices, including X-ray machines, used at airports and other types of security screening. A similar bill is proposed by Howell, who previously succeeded in establishing a misdemeanor penalty for the practice in 2016, but failed two years ago.

Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34th District) is not listed as a chief patron of any 2019 legislation yet but has signed on as a co-patron for a bill trying to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

File photo

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Union Hill isn’t anywhere close to Tysons, but state Del. Mark Keam (D-35) is taking an active role in a fight against a controversial gas compressor station proposed to be built in Buckingham County neighborhood.

Yesterday (Wednesday) the State Air Pollution Control Board delayed a decision on whether or not to approve a piece of Dominion Energy’s $7 billion Atlantic Coast natural-gas pipeline.

The board voted 3 to 1 in favor of a delay in approval, but a new vote was not scheduled.

Staff from Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality said at the meeting that the area around the compressor was sparsely populated and did not have historic resources of significance.

But local community members have repeatedly protested contested staff’s findings. Keam says he’s in the nearby residents’ corner and told Tysons Reporter there’s reason for concern in his home district.

“[Dominion] has used misleading data that covers a broader range,” said Keam, referring to a census cited in DEQ reports. “But if you go neighborhood to neighborhood, it shows that these [residences] are very close and more condensed. I went around there and I can tell you that there are houses within eyesight of this location.”

Keam’s assessment goes against the findings of DEQ staff, which reiterated at yesterday’s meeting that a failed attempt to have Union Hill recognized by the Department of Historic Resources further cemented staff’s findings that the area surrounding the proposed compressor station does not qualify for historic protections.

While DEQ staff said the broader census data shows no greater concentration of minorities than the rest of the state, local residents characterized Union Hill as a historic African-American neighborhood settled by freedmen and emancipated slaves following the Civil War.

Keam said staff’s findings are the result of understaffing and over-reliance on information provided by Dominion:

I’ve had deep concerns about this from the get-go. DEQ only has a few people that work on these things. Like most government agencies, they are overworked and understaffed… The fact that they have to rely on applicant, I understand that’s the process, but something like this that’s so controversial… it would really beg the question why DEQ isn’t spending more time looking into these issues. I’m hoping this will give everyone a chance to come to consensus. But it tells you, if they’re willing to overlook this, what else are they overlooking.

Keam acknowledged that he would still have been opposed to the compressor station even if it weren’t at Union Hill, pointing to concerns that the federal law authorizing the pipeline allowed Dominion Energy to cite its own affiliates as the customers when making a case for the pipeline’s economic necessity.

At the Atlantic Coast Pipeline website, Dominion Energy says the new pipeline will save consumers an estimated $377 million in energy costs, but Keam said existing underground pipelines are only being used at 50 percent capacity, so Keam said a new line won’t necessarily mean Northern Virginia will see a decrease in energy costs, but that Dominion Energy will push the costs to build the pipeline onto the consumer.

“Our power lines are fine,” said Keam. “It’s not going to have any impact on getting more or less power. But if Dominion is spending, eventually someone will have to pay for it, and that’s ratepayers like you and I. Whatever cost, they get to spread to its ratepayers.”

Finally, Keam argues that the placement of the various compressor stations, like one on Native American land in North Carolina, further shows the oppressive mechanisms at work behind the pipeline.

“You’re not going to see [this compressor station] in McLean or Tysons,” Keam said. “This is land they bought for pennies on the dollar where [the residents] are the descendants of slaves. It’s racial injustice.”

Photo via Twitter

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Morning Notes

Kaine and Stewart Debate in Tysons — U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and GOP challenger Corey Stewart faced off in a televised debate from Capital One headquarters in Tysons last night. The candidates traded barbs as NBC’s Chuck Todd moderated. [Washington Post, NBC News]

No Unmarked Graves at Development Site — “Conducted because of concern from Vienna Town Council members and local residents about possible unmarked graves at a new subdivision near West End Cemetery, a ground-penetrating-radar search on Sept. 25 found no evidence of such burials.” [InsideNova]

Del. Keam Blasts Prison Tampon Ban — Del. Mark Keam (D), who represents part of Tysons, is incensed at a rule at Virginia state prisons that banned visitors from wearing tampons and menstrual cups. The rule was recently suspended amid a public uproar. Wrote Keam on Facebook: “This policy should be BANNED and never reconsidered. In fact, I will draft and introduce legislation in the next General Assembly session to do exactly that.” [Facebook]


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