Tysons, VA

An upcoming digital town hall will give Tysons-area residents the chance to ask questions to Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd District) and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik.

The event, which was previously set to be held at the Providence Community Center, will now be held as a Facebook Live event from 2-3:30 p.m. next Saturday (March 21).

Efforts to combat the coronavirus prompted the switch from an in-person meeting to an online event.

“We want to do our part to decrease the spread of COVID-19,” the event description said.

Online attendees will have the chance to ask about issues or topics around the area from the location of their choosing, according to the event page.

Topics of discussion are not pre-set, a spokesperson from Simon’s office told Tysons Reporter, adding that both Simon and Palchik will begin the meeting by giving a short address of what they think are important updates around the area.

All are welcome to attend the digital meeting, and the link will be accessible through the event’s Facebook page roughly a week before the meeting, the spokesperson said.

People unfamiliar with Facebook Live events can ask questions in real-time. Palchik and Simon will receive notifications when people submit a comment and will then be able to address questions.

For troubleshooting tips, people can check out Facebook’s website.

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Tysons’ new school board member supports efforts to have Fairfax County Public Schools go green, but has concerns about how the goals are being met.

Karl Frisch, the newly elected school board representative for the Providence District, held office hours with community members last Friday (Feb. 13) in Merrifield to discuss the progress of ongoing initiatives.

The changes include Dominion Energy testing eight electric school buses around Fairfax County and the county installing solar panels at roughly two dozen schools in the Providence District, according to Frisch.

The decision to install solar panels was made possible by Fairfax County’s new Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), according to Frisch’s newsletter.

Around 60% of Providence District public schools have cleared the first step to receive solar panels, Frisch said.

As for the school buses, Frisch said while running for office that they were one of his top goals. (The initiative also supported by Del. Mark Keam (D-35th District) and groups like Mothers Out Front Fairfax.)

Now, as the program is becoming a reality, he said it is a “fantastic” opportunity for the district.

“Dominion Energy will cover the difference in cost so that school districts pay no more for electric buses than they would for diesel models,” according to the FCPS website, which added that the company will also cover the cost of the charging stations.

For the news buses, FCPS will only be paying around $150,000 of the $325,000 for an electric school bus, plus the added cost of seat belts and the cost of electricity to run the buses in place of diesel fuel, Peggy Fox, a Dominion Energy spokesperson, said.

By replacing diesel school buses with an electric option, FCPS will save 60% on maintenance costs, according to Fox.

But, Frisch also told Tysons Reporter that he is hesitant about Dominion’s potential long-term control over the bus program and said he would prefer to see a competitive bidding process before FCPS agrees to work with the energy company to electrify the school’s remaining 1,600 bus fleet.

Fox said that Dominion approached FCPS with the initial opportunity and those within the district were enthusiastic to accept the offer. “We are doing it on our dime because we think it is so great,” she said.

An electric bus bill that was originally sponsored by Keam was shut down — the bill that would have allocated more state funds toward this initiative and eased the pressure to involve Dominion Energy, according to Frisch.

“The bill that made it through the House [of Delegates] was a different bill,” Frisch said. “If that’s what ends up becoming law, then our electric school buses will be tied to the hip to Dominion.”

Despite the concern over the cost, Frisch said he still supports the initiative and wants to move forward toward carbon-neutrality.

“If this is the only way we can get it done — fine,” he said. “But it is not the best way to do it.”

By 2030, Dominion wants 100% of the school buses in the company’s service zone in Virginia to be transitioned into an electric fleet, according to Fox. “We are thrilled the legislature is helping to move this forward,” she said.

Both Frisch and Fox agree that electric buses will be healthier for the school kids who depend on them and will help ease the carbon imprint on the environment.

Going forward, Frisch said he isn’t sure when the electric school buses will officially join the fleet, but Fairfax County said they’d likely hit the road by the end of the year.

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Editor’s Note — Tysons Reporter is running Q&As with the candidates running for the Dranesville and Providence District seats on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this week. The stories have been lightly condensed and edited for clarity. 

Featured here is Democrat Dalia Palchik, who is running against Republican Eric Jones for the Providence District seat. 

Dalia Palchik currently serves as the Providence District Representative on the Fairfax County School Board. But next week, she’s hoping voters will choose her to represent the district on the Board of Supervisors.

Palchik grew up in the area after immigrating with her family to the United States at an early age from Argentina. She was elected to the school board in 2015 and currently chairs the Public Engagement Committee and is a liaison to the Planning Commission Schools Committee and the Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee.

Just days after current Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth announced in December that she wouldn’t seek election, Palchik jumped into the race.

She won the Democratic nomination back in June, promising “progressive leadership” for the entire community.

Tysons Reporter sat down with Palchik at Caboose Commons to speak with her about her priorities if she is elected.

Tysons Reporter: What would you do to tackle affordable housing?

Dalia Palchik: This is key. To me, this is the number one challenge we have here especially in the Tysons area.

We are at the point where it is not just non-profits and the government that want to tackle it, but the private sector knows that people like us can’t move here and afford to live here. Our workforce is having a hard time living close as well as those who are hoping to retire in place.

So yes, we are hoping to continue and grow the good work that is happening in the county. The county is starting to do affordable housing and we need to increase that. I really want us to have a master plan the way Arlington has a master plan to tackle that. But more specifically I think we really need to figure out how to work together with the government, the private sector and the non-profits to really expand.

We are not going to get the units we need in the region, we need over 300,000 units in our area. We absolutely have to work together. You are not going to get all those to unite just through public funding and government programs.

For me, it’s really listening and bringing different stakeholders to the table. I would form a working group or task force to tackle the issue from different aspects.

TR: What are the three ways you’re hoping to tackle climate change? 

Palchik: Number one, we are starting with this joint environmental taskforce. I sit on that committee now and that’s really looking to lead by example. This task force is looking at what the schools in the county can do.

The big area is looking at how we help incentivize and remove barriers on the private side for homeowners and businesses. One of those is C-PACE. C-PACE is a program that helps incentivize privately owned buildings to get some upfront funding to help increase their efficiency and the emissions that are going to be produced by their buildings.

Virginia, unfortunately, requires some changes at the General Assembly level. So that’s going to be the other thing, helping to get some of these bills through.

TR: What are your transportation project priorities?

Palchik: We need to figure out the last mile challenge, how do we help people of different abilities, income levels, have access to getting to public transit. I was just talking to a friend last night she said, “I am one mile to the Metro one way and a mile to the Metro another way and I don’t feel safe enough to bike.”

Number two is continuing to support and establish the Metro system that’s there, the expansions, working with WMATA to make sure our systems funded and that we increase ridership.

Tysons has been doing really well with the Silver Line and we want to see that across the board. I used to take it every day. Finally, figuring out that balance. Just the other day I was at a meeting for Route 50. You wanna make sure that people have alternative solutions.

TR: What is your plan for the budget? 

Palchik: Schools are number one. We need to continue to support and fund our schools. I also think we need to find ways to, first of all, fill some of our empty office space, diversify our economy, support small local businesses.

We need to make sure we are a county that supports and attracts larger businesses but also homegrown ones to increase our tax base. In the next couple of years, the Providence District is going to be more commercial than residential real-estate.

Number one beyond that is making sure we are leaders that our employees are paid well enough that they are able to live here, that they are supported and that we are not growing programs at the expense of those who work for us.

TR: The county is currently looking at adding a new school to Tysons. Is that enough to address capacity issues? What should be done for all the incoming students?

Palchik:  You bring up the word boundary changes, and it becomes a very contested and political challenge. I’ve had people ask me to redo a boundary around their home.

As a community, we need to make the best dest decision about what’s best for the kids. One of the challenges we’ve had, in the county we can no longer afford to buy new land to build schools.

We have to address capacity. As a supervisor, and Supervisor [John] Foust has done this, I would be dedicated to knowing where we need more capacity for schools.

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Candidates vying for the Providence and Dranesville district seats on the Fairfax County School Board debated a variety of issues — from guns to vaping — at local debates.

Two recent candidate debates hosted by the League of Women Voters-Fairfax Area gave community members a chance to hear from the school board candidates.

The audience questions varied drastically at the two debates — except for the issue of school safety and bullying of LGBTQ students.

Guns in Schools and Active Shooter Drills

Dranesville District candidate Ardavan Mobasheri and Providence District candidate Karl Frisch said that they are worried about excessive school safety procedures.

“Schools are becoming fortresses,” Mobasheri said.

Frisch said that active shooter drills are unnecessarily and cause harm. “I’m afraid we are traumatizing our kids,” Frisch said.

Frisch made a point that telling teachers to put black paper over windows and hiding in the corner is not an efficient measure during an active shooter situation.

Karl Frisch’s opponent, Andrea Bayer, agreed with him that drills are not effective. During the debate, Bayer said that many of the active shooter training drills are costly to the taxpayers and not backed by statistical evidence that shows they work.

“Let’s do the thinking before we invest tax dollars,” she said.

Frisch and Bayer suggested bulletproof glass in the classroom, more efficient teacher training and cameras monitoring the schools.

The other two Providence District candidates — Anastasia Karloutsos and Elaine Tholen — focused on school resource officers (SROs), agreeing that they should have guns.

Tholen said that SROs should be the only people in schools allowed to have guns, while Karloutsos said that guns should be expanded to SROs or retired police officers in elementary schools.

How to Address LGBTQ Bullying 

All of the candidates agreed that LGBTQ students should feel safe at school.

“We need to make sure every single student that walks through our doors feels protected,” Frisch said.

Bayer noted that “Fairfax County has always accommodated LGBTQ students.” She said that she’s never heard of any issues.

Tholen, a Providence District candidate, said that she wants to see more community schools, mentor programs and peer-to-peer programs. One of her opponents, Karloutsos, said that mental health counselors could help students struggling with bullying.

Providence District Candidate Debate

At the Providence District Candidate Forum last Wednesday (Oct. 16), popular topics for the school board candidates included vape pen and e-cigarette use among kids, prayer in schools and retention. (Providence District School Board candidate Jung Byun did not attend the event.)

When it came to bus driver retention, Bayer said it’s low “because behavior is a major issue on the bus.”

“I don’t like driving my van. Why would I want to drive a school bus?” she said, adding that traffic leads to frustrated drivers.

Frisch said that bus drivers — and the rest of school staff — need higher wages.

The candidates sparred over how they would approach prayer and vaping in schools.

Frisch said that he supports expanding holidays for Muslim and Jewish kids because kids can lose out on education when they are forced to take off school days for religious holidays, while Bayer said that students have opportunities to practice whatever they want.

“Our schools are freedom of religion not freedom for religion,” Bayer said.

As for vaping, Bayer said that vaping is a parenting issue, while Frisch said he would use his platform, if elected, to educate students on vaping.

Dranesville District Candidates Spar Over Overcrowding, One Fairfax 

Meanwhile, at the forum for Dranesville District candidates last Thursday (Oct. 17), the candidates debated how to address overcrowding at McLean High School.

Karloutsos and Tholen agreed that the principal needs to be involved in the decision making.

While Tholen said that she is supportive of a boundary adjustment that would switch some McLean High School students to Langley High School as a short term solution, Mobasheri said he does not support the proposal.

“McLean [High School] needs an addition,” Mobasheri said, calling for a new high school in Tysons. “It is no longer suburbia.”

While only brought up briefly, One Fairfax — a joint social and racial equity policy of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board — was one of the most contentious topics of the night.

Karloutsos blasted it as a “big issue,” while Mobasheri called it the “21st-century rendition of the Bill of Rights.” (Tholen did not comment during that debate on One Fairfax.)

There were two topics that the three Dranesville District candidates all agreed on — students should be vaccinated and that restraint and seclusion should either be used when there is a threat of imminent danger or never at all.

The election is on Nov. 5.

Ashley Hopko and Catherine Douglas Moran contributed to this story.

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The two candidates vying for the Providence District seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors faced off last night at the Providence District Community Center.

The League of Women Voters, who hosted the debate, encouraged attendees to submit questions for Democratic Dalia Palchik and Republican Eric Jones, and the candidates didn’t hesitate to disagree when it came to the hot-button issues of the evening.

They compared thoughts on the importance of census data, budgets, sanctuary counties, immigration, renewable energy, panhandling and firearm regulation throughout the evening. Here are some highlights from the debate:

Affordable Housing and a Rising Cost of Living 

When it comes to the panhandling in Fairfax County, Jones said people struggling financially in the area should move elsewhere in the country where the cost of living is lower, like Ohio.

“It’s very expensive to live here. there are other places where it’s not so expensive to live,” Jones said. “To some degree, it is simply a choice [on where to live.]”

Palchik took another approach. “I support that we took a step back and said, ‘No, we are not going to criminalize panhandling,'” she said, adding that the county should work to ensure there is enough affordable housing and job security.

On the topic of affordable housing, Palchik said she is looking into coordinating with faith-based organizations to expand affordable housing options, especially for seniors.

While Fairfax County has been highlighting its recent affordable housing efforts — especially in Tysons — the candidates stressed the importance of financial security.

Dalia said she wants to focus on fighting for fair wages for county employees, while Jones said he would rethinking policies for zoning and regulation to help small businesses.

Immigration and the Census 

Immigration and the U.S. Census were popular topics during the debate.

Palchik said she was pleased when the citizenship question was removed from the census, saying that it encourages more participation. Without responses accurately representing the population of the district, the county would lose out on tax revenue that benefits the community, she said.

“We still have families who fear coming to school to sending their kids to preschool or going to a food pantry, because they are afraid we are collaborating and sharing their information with police,” she said.

Meanwhile, Jones said he believes undocumented immigrants are a danger to the community. “I am especially against sanctuary countries,” he said. “These are especially harmful to our legal immigrants.”

During his time with the U.S. State Department, Jones said he conducted interviews for the immigration process and granted thousands of people citizenship or permanent resident status.

“I believe we should cooperate completely with federal authorities,” he said.

Renewable Energy

One of the largest issues the candidates clashed on was the implementation of renewable energy. Palchik seemed to be in full support while Jones said the cost would outweigh the benefits.

“I think the so-called New Green Deal is unrealistic,” Jones said, referring to the Green New Deal. “You cannot run the Metro system on wind power, solar power and batteries.”

Instead, he told the audience that he believes in natural gas and nuclear power.

Palchik shifted the conversation, noting her endorsement by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups around the area. Palchik pointed to her time on the Fairfax County School Board, where she launched a joint environmental taskforce with the school board, students and Board of Supervisors.

She said that, if elected, she will be spending time in Richmond working to eliminate solar energy roadblocks.

New Republican Candidate

Jones was a new face for voters. After candidate Paul Bolon’s death in August, Jones was chosen as the new conservative candidate to run against Palchik.

“I’m running to give voters a choice in Providence District,” Jones said during his opening statement. “I wish my friend Bolon was here today.”

Palchik gave her respects after the debate. “I want to thank Mr. Jones for stepping up, I know it was a tragedy.”

The election is on Nov. 5.

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With just a few hours left in polling, Tysons-area polls have shown a slow but steady increase in voting throughout the day, particularly in Hunter Mill.

Competitive primaries are underway for the Democratic endorsement for the Providence District, Hunter Mill District, and chairman seats on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The voter turnout so far in the Providence District is 6.29 percent. The Hunter Mill District, which includes Vienna, is 7.3 percent and is the highest of any district in Fairfax. The Fairfax County average turnout is 5.36 percent.

This year’s primary, particularly the race for the chariman’s seat, has been particularly divisive. One candidate faced an ethics complaint filed by a rival while the Washington Post endorsement raised concerns about sexism.

It’s also been an expensive primary. Every candidate for the Democratic nomination to the chair position has raised over $100,000, with developer Tim Chapman raising $952,109 — mostly through funds Chapman gave to his own campaign. In Hunter Mill, candidate Maggie Parker sits at $258,225 fundraised, in large part with support from Comstock Companies. Two Providence candidates — Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner and Dalia Palchik — neared the $100,000 fundraising mark

The Democratic candidates for the Board of Supervisors are:

Board of Supervisors chair:

Providence District:

Hunter Mill District:

Tysons-area voters will also determine the Democratic nominees for two Virginia Senate seats and the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Any registered voter can participate in the primaries. Polls are open until 7 p.m.

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Updated at 5:15 p.m. on 6/13/19 — Corrects the description of the Jefferson Village Association.

As the Fairfax County Democratic Primary winds toward the election next Tuesday (June 11), the fundraising race closes in for some but leaves others in the dust.

Edythe Kelleher, a former member of the Vienna Town Council, led fundraising in April and May with $41,849. Edythe and her husband Gary Kelleher are the leading contributors to the campaign, contributing $10,000 and $20,000, respectively.

Other backers that might be familiar to attentive readers include JDA Custom Homes, a homebuilder based in Vienna, and Douglas D’Alexander, the developer behind the planned redevelopment of the former Marco Polo lot destroyed by arson.

Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, a planning commissioner representing the Providence District, had previously led the candidates in fundraising. In April and May, Niedzielski-Eichner raised $35,168. Records show Jonathan Cherner, a principal at the Cherner Development Group, and Mark Lowham, CEO of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, each donated $5,000 to Niedzielski-Eichner.

Dalia Palchik, a School Board member representing the Providence District, wasn’t far behind Niedzielski-Eichner with $31,547 raised. Palchik’s leading backer was the Jefferson Village Association LP — real estate developers in Bethesda, Md. — which donated $15,000.

The first and last candidates to announce in the race both trailed behind the others. Linh Hoang didn’t enter the race until March, and in April and May, Hoang raised $18,514. Hoang’s top contributor was a person named Emily Woo, who donated $5,000.

Erika Yalowitz was the first candidate to announce in the race, but was the last in fundraising for April and May. Yalowitz’ top backer was Timothy Chapman, a candidate in the contentious Board of Supervisors chair race, who donated $5,000.

Voting takes place on June 11 from 6 a.m.-7 p.m.  A tool available online can help voters find the closest polling station.

Photo via Dalia Palchik/Twitter

 

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Dominion Energy will have to wait another month at least before it can look at rebuilding its Tysons power station.

Approval of the station was deferred to June 25 at a Board of Supervisors meeting last week, the latest setback for the facility on Tyco Road in northern Tysons.

“The Dominion Power Station in Tysons will be deferred again,” Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth said. “We are in the midst of some interesting legal discussions about who gets the right to decide what sort of stormwater management they do, which is an interesting discussion.”

Dominion Energy plans to rebuild the station but has faced repeated delays throughout the process as the county works through how Dominion’s designs will impact nearby traffic projects and neighbors.

The staff report on the project notes that the site, which is almost entirely covered with concrete, deviates from the full inch of stormwater infiltration required in the Tysons Comprehensive Stormwater Management Plan.

“Opportunities for infiltration on this site are limited as infiltration is not practical within the fenced substation confines,” staff said in the report.

Smyth could not be reached for comment, but Dominion Energy spokesperson Charles Penn said delays to sort out the minutia of power stations are not unusual.

“From a regulatory standpoint, Dominion Energy’s projects almost always involve an intersection of federal, state and local laws and regulations,” Penn said. “In this instance, we are working with the county and certain state agencies to accurately confirm where the regulatory responsibility rests with respect to certain engineering details of the substation that will be reviewed after the special exception process is complete.”

Smyth also noted at the meeting that the June 25 meeting will be jam-packed with public hearings, to which Chairwoman Sharon Bulova advised her colleagues to bring sleeping bags.

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The Providence District Democratic Committee has voted to endorse Karl Frisch to represent the Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board.

The incumbent Providence District School Board Member Dalia Palchik is currently embroiled in her own heated race for the Board of Supervisors, leaving the School Board seat open to a competitive election.

Frisch is a Democratic strategist and the executive director of Allied Progress, a non-profit issue advocacy organization in D.C.

The committee voted 127 in favor of Frisch and 79 for the other candidate, Jung Byun.

The centerpiece of Frisch’s campaign was applying the principals of the Green New Deal to Fairfax schools, making the schools operate in a more environmentally friendly way. Frisch’s proposals include adding more solar panels to school buildings and converting to electric school buses.

Byun congratulated Frisch on Twitter after the race and encouraged her supporters to back Frisch in the general election on Nov. 5.

Photo via Facebook

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(Updated) Two months before the Fairfax County Democratic Primary, the race for the Providence District seat at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is shaping up to be an expensive race.

Since July, the Virginia Department of Elections reports that the candidates have raised:

  • Dalia Palchik: $92,041
  • Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner: $59,700
  • Erika Yalowitz: $35,718
  • Edythe Kelleher: $33,609
  • Linh Hoang: $15,941

While the campaign finance reports would show Palchik with a substantial fundraising lead, according to the report a $39,450 contribution was made on Jan. 15 from the “Friends of Dalia Palchik” campaign committee.

“As with some other races, I transferred funds I was raising under my prior account to my new account for Supervisor,” Palchik wrote in an email. “This was done after consultation with the Board of Elections as to the best way file my records. Therefore, all funds for my campaign are now under the new account, but the transfer reflects all of my funds raised to date, including those raised prior to Jan 15.”

If the funds shuffled from one campaign committee to another are excluded, Palchik’s fundraising total would be $52,591 — putting her in second place behind Niedzielski-Eichner.

The reports also show campaign contributions from several prominent local Democrats. On Dec. 21, Niedzielski-Eichner received an early Christmas gift from the ‘Friends of Linda Smyth’ — the campaign fund for outgoing Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth — in the form of a $23,325 contribution.

Palchik has also raked in funding from other Democrats, though, like a $500 contribution from outgoing County Board Chair Sharon Bulova’s election campaign on March 11. Palchik also received funding from Alexandria City Councilman Canek Aguirre.

Kelleher received $500 in support from Mason District Supervisor Penelope Gross. Nearly two-thirds of Kelleher’s fundraising total — $20,000 of the $33,609 total — is from Kelleher.

No incumbent members of the Board of Supervisors show up in Yalowitz’s fundraising tally, but there is a $650 contribution from the local PAC Brass Ovaries and a $200 contribution from former lieutenant governor candidate Gene Rossi, who has recently raised the topic of running for office again in the wake of the scandals in Richmond. Yalowitz has also spent a total of $5,502 on her own campaign.

Hoang trails the other candidates in fundraising. Hoang entered the race late, and “Friends of Linh Hoang” doesn’t report any contributions prior to March 26.

The primary will be held on June 11.

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