Email signup
Thomas Jefferson High School students Soham Jain, Rohan Kotla and Samvrit Rao (left to right) developed the app RoutineRemind to help kids with autism (courtesy Samvrit Rao)

An app created by a trio of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology students to help kids with autism may someday be deployed in Fairfax County’s special education classrooms.

Sophomores Soham Jain, Rohan Kotla and Samvrit Rao have already earned recognition from Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-10) for RoutineRemind, an app designed to help parents and kids keep track of their schedules.

RoutineRemind was the 10th District’s winner in the 2022 Congressional App Challenge, Wexton announced on Dec. 22. The annual competition aims to encourage science, technology, engineering and math education by inviting students from across the country to develop and submit their own apps.

The 2022 contest drew over 500 submissions, a new record, according to organizers.

“I was so impressed by not only their remarkable technical skills in designing this winning app, but also their ingenuity and care in developing a way to help kids with autism and their families,” Wexton said in a statement, congratulating the TJ students.

In joint comments to FFXnow, Soham, Rohan and Samvit said they have regularly worked together on school projects and share an interest in “the intersection between computer science and biology.”

Seeing the challenge as an opportunity to put their tech and teamwork skills to the test, the students turned to personal experience when brainstorming ideas for an app.

In a demonstration video, Rohan said he has a younger brother with autism and has always been interested in finding ways to improve the lives of people with autism and other cognitive disabilities.

His brother sometimes struggles to remember his schedule, leading him to frequently ask for reminders. Individuals with autism often find comfort in routine, but many also experience executive functioning challenges, affecting their ability to plan or focus.

“After surveying the special needs community in [our] area, we found that this is a mutual problem across children with autism, since many of them are schedule-oriented,” the students told FFXnow. “Given the prevalence of the problem, we wanted to develop a simple, adaptable, and user-friendly schedule and reminder app to help those with social and cognitive impairments.” Read More

0 Comments
The proposed route and stations for Route 7 bus rapid transit service from Tysons to Alexandria (via NVTC/Twitter)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m. on 1/3/2023) An ongoing study of the possibility of having bus rapid transit (BRT) service from Tysons to Alexandria can now proceed confident that the planning will be seen through to completion.

The $1.7 trillion federal spending bill that Congress approved on Friday (Dec. 23), just in time to avert a potential government shutdown, included $2 million to complete all planning and environmental studies needed for the project, known as Envision Route 7.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission — the recipient of the funds — has been studying whether and how to bring dedicated bus service to Route 7 between the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons and the Mark Center in Alexandria since 2013.

The fourth and latest phase of the study — a mobility analysis evaluating the benefits and impacts of BRT — got underway in October 2021. Expected to finish in April, it will be followed by environmental and preliminary engineering design work.

Reps. Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer requested that funds for the project be included in the omnibus bill so it can “complete the planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis to prepare…for design and construction,” according to a press release from Beyer’s office.

The proposed BRT will provide “high-quality, frequent” bus service along a corridor that’s already the second busiest for buses in Virginia, Connolly said in a separate release:

This BRT project will provide a reliable and affordable transportation option for communities along this corridor; provide a green transportation option that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help in the battle against climate change; reduce congestion along a key transportation corridor in Northern Virginia already benefitting from significant economic development and investment; leverage a range of federal, Commonwealth, regional, and local transportation funds; connect major employment centers (U.S. Department of Defense Mark Center, Bailey’s Crossroads, Seven Corners, West Falls Church and Tysons); and further enhance a robust and growing transit system in Northern Virginia.

“The #EnvisionRoute7 BRT will provide as many as 42,000 daily transit trips giving people access to opportunities throughout our region with direct transit connections to Metro at Tysons and East Falls Church, as well as to the new Alexandria West End Transitway,” NVTC said on Twitter, thanking Connolly and Beyer for securing the funds.

The Tysons segment of the BRT will include six stops, traveling up International Drive and looping around the Spring Hill Metro before taking International back down to Route 7 (Leesburg Pike).

The service will use two transit-only lanes that Fairfax County plans to build by widening Route 7 from Route 123 to the Capital Beltway.

From Tysons, the route continues through Falls Church City, into the Seven Corners and Bailey’s Crossroads area, and down to Alexandria. NVTC held a community meeting to discuss the Falls Church portion in October.

Other Fairfax County projects that got funding from the federal spending package include a cycle track on Sunrise Valley Drive to the Innovation Center Metro station, pedestrian and bicycle upgrades near the Vienna Metro station, and a renovation of the Little River Glen Senior Center near Fairfax City.

0 Comments
A walkway over Sunrise Valley Drive leads to the Innovation Center Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A cycle path to the Innovation Center Metro station is circling closer to construction.

Roughly $4 million in federal funding was secured for the project, which will include a cycle path from Sunrise Valley Drive to Innovation Metro Station, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced yesterday.

Funds were designated in the fiscal year 2023 appropriations bill, a $1.7 trillion spending package that must be adopted by midnight tomorrow (Friday) to avoid a partial federal goverment shutdown.

The upgrades are part of the county’s Active Transportation Program, which covers non-motorized methods of travel and aims to reduce vehicle traffic.

The changes to the four-lane boulevard, which also has additional turning lanes at various intersections, would connect to existing bicycle and pedestrian paths, notably the Fairfax County Parkway Trail, FFXnow previously reported.

“This project will provide significantly improved access to several Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail Stations and high-density transit-oriented development near the Metrorail Stations and activity centers,” said a statement breaking down the funds designated for Northern Virginia.

Other projects also fit the bill in Fairfax County.

Among them is a neighborhood job and entrepreneurship research center for teens and young adults in the county’s community centers. The centers will offer teens and young adults career readiness skills, job training and leadership programs, according to the release. That project is expected to cost $2.1 million.

In Springfield, the Northern Virginia Community College’s Medical Education Campus will receive $2.2 million to grow its nursing program. Funds will also go towards buying computerized manikins and other technology to supplement clinic training for nursing, respiratory therapy and EMS students.

Other cyclist-related improvements include $1 million for bicycle and pedestrians upgrades near the Vienna Metrorail Station in Oakton. The project is targeted to the area near the station and Oakton High School.

A complete list of secured funds is available online.

0 Comments
Virginia State Capitol in Richmond (file photo)

Fairfax County is seeking more state support for education, a return of $39 million for regional transportation projects and more in its recently approved legislative priorities for next year.

At a meeting last week, the Board of Supervisors approved the adoption of the county’s 2023 legislative programs for both state and federal lawmakers. It passed by a 9-1 vote with only Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity opposing.

The approval on Dec. 6 was, more or less, a formality with most of the discussion and debate happening in legislative committee meetings throughout the fall.

In addition to trash collection changes, here are a few of the most notable priorities in this year’s agenda:

Increase state support for education 

Jointly with Fairfax County Public Schools, the county wants the state to better address the differences between “high cost-of-living jurisdictions like Fairfax County” and other Virginia localities when funding public education.

State education funding is based on complex formulas and varies from year to year. The county has long argued that the formulas don’t adequately account for its higher cost of living compared to other areas.

“Public education funding in the Commonwealth is enshrined in the Virginia Constitution as a joint responsibility of both state and local governments, so it is essential that the state fully and appropriately meet its Constitutional responsibility to adequately fund K-12 education,” the state legislative program says.

Also, both boards oppose “budget cuts that disproportionately target or affect Northern Virginia” and “policies which divert K-12 education funding away from local public schools and toward non-public options.”

Allow traffic safety measures

Local elected county officials have maintained their call for more local authority from Virginia, where localities only have the powers explicitly granted them by the state.

As crash fatalities mount, the county is advocating for General Assembly legislation that lets localities create and post signage requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

Legislation is also needed to clarify that counties can reduce speed limits below 25 miles per hour on state-maintained roads that lie in residential districts, according to the program. Without that authority, the county’s options for addressing speeding are limited.

Restore regional transportation project funding

The state diverted $102 million away from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) in 2018 to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to cover Virginia’s share of Metro funding.

In the several years since, $63.5 million has been restored, but the NVTA is still looking for the remaining nearly $39 million to support road repairs, facility maintenance, and other transportation projects in Northern Virginia.

“This [money] will ensure that transportation projects continue to advance in Northern Virginia after decades of state underfunding,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, who chairs the board’s legislative committee, said in his motion at the Dec. 6 meeting. Read More

0 Comments
Voting at Cunningham Park Elementary School in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated, 3:35 p.m.) With most incumbents running away to victory, it appears that Fairfax County’s voter turnout for the general election this year will fall short of the 2018 midterms.

About 53% of registered, active county voters took part in this year’s midterm elections, per Fairfax County election officials. That’s about 16 percentage points off from the midterms four years ago. It’s also lower than last year’s gubernatorial election, which had a 60% turnout.

In total, 391,361 ballots have been counted so far in Fairfax County, election officials said.

Turnout numbers remain unofficial. Ballots put into drop boxes will be counted today, while additional mail ballots can continue to arrive until noon Monday (Nov. 14).

Absentee mail and in-person voting rose this election cycle compared to 2018, with 130,350 residents voting early this year — just under 18% of active, registered voters in the county. That’s about 44,000 more people than in 2018, when 12% of voters made their decisions early.

Last year, 174,641 county residents, or about 24% of voters, cast ballots by mail or early in person.

With Fairfax County staying reliably blue, the lack of competitive Congressional races on the ballot may have contributed to the lower turnout compared to other recent elections. Based on the preliminary results, all but one local incumbent — Herndon Town Councilmember Signe Friedrichs — appears to have held their job.

Don Beyer (D) secured victory in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District with 73% of the vote with most precincts reporting. The district includes about 282,000 residents of Fairfax County, where Beyer secured 69% of the vote — about three percentage points lower than what he got in 2020 and 2018.

The re-elected Congressman tweeted out a statement just before 9 p.m. last night, thanking voters for “again putting their confidence in me.”

In the 11th Congressional District, Gerry Connolly (D) won his eighth term in office with 66% of the vote overall, with all but two precincts reporting.

The 11th District is almost entirely in Fairfax County, covering about 585,000 residents. That includes Lorton, Burke, Fairfax, Chantilly, Vienna, Tysons, Reston, and most of Springfield and Herndon.

Like Beyer, Connolly didn’t fare quite as well this year in Fairfax County as he did in 2020 and 2018, with 66% of the vote compared to over 70% in both of those election cycles.

Read More

0 Comments
A Fairfax County absentee ballot drop box (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Mayor Sheila Olem will get a second term as mayor of the Town of Herndon after securing a narrow win against council members Sean Regan and Jasbinder Singh in today’s primary election.

According to unofficial results, Olem edged out the race by a little over two percentage points over Regan. Singh received the least number of votes: 16%.

The Herndon Town Council race — which included nine candidates running for six open seats — is extremely close, as is typical in the town’s council elections.

Current members Naila Alam, Cesar del Aguila, and Pradip Dhakal retained their seats, while challengers Clark Hedrick, Keven LeBlanc Jr, and Donielle Scherff secured enough votes to beat out Councilmember Signe Friedrichs.

The following is a breakdown of unofficial election returns for the council race:

  • Clark Hedrick: 3,372
  • Pradip Dhakal: 3,334
  • Keven LeBlanc Jr:  3,164
  • Cesar del Aguila: 3,109
  • Naila Alam: 3,084
  • Donielle Scherff: 2,965
  • Stevan Porter: 2,871
  • Roland Taylor: 2,692
  • Signe Friedrichs: 2,685

It’s not unusual for the outcome of town council races to change once official results are tabulated.

In 2020, for example, a data entry error dramatically changed the results of the mayoral election.

In this year’s midterm elections, Democratic incumbents representing portions of Fairfax County once again maintained a stronghold over their seats in the House of Representatives.

Democratic incumbents Don Beyer (D-8) and Gerry Connolly (D-11) clenched a decidedly confident victory over their Republican challengers: Karina Lipsman, Hung Cao and Jim Myles, according to uncertified election results.

But Jennifer Wexton’s (D-10) win over challenger Cao was significantly closer than her Democratic colleagues.

The incumbent had a 6-point-percentage margin, with 90% of precincts reporting, as of 10:20 p.m.

In Fairfax County, she led by a mere 48 votes, according to Fairfax County’s unofficial returns.

Victories for Beyer and Connolly were far less contentious, with Beyer winning over 75% of votes versus Lipsman’s nearly 23% and Connolly winning 68% over Myles’s 31%.

Beyer said that he was grateful for voters’ confidence in his ability to represent them.

“I will continue to do all I can to earn their trust, and to serve my constituents,” he wrote in a statement today.

Fairfax County hit a 45% turnout rate for the midterms, as of 3:50 p.m., but that number does not account for three hours of voting that remained at the time.

Still, the number appears shy of 2018 midterms when 59.5% of registered voters cast a ballot. In 2014, a mere 41.6% of registered voters voted.

0 Comments

Updated at 3:50 p.m.With polls open for another three hours, Fairfax County has hit 45% turnout for the midterm elections, including 28% today, as of 3:48 p.m.

Earlier: With Election Day 2022 now underway, more than 200,000 Fairfax County residents have already voted.

That includes approximately 130,000 residents who voted early — a 66% increase from the last midterm election in 2018 — and about 72,000 votes cast in person on Election Day, as of 10 a.m.

In total, that represents about 27.5% of registered active voters in the county.

That remains short, so far, of county turnout during the 2018 midterms, when close to 70% of registered, active voters in the county voted.

Early voting ended Saturday (Nov. 5), and about 130,000 county residents had voted by then, either by mail or in person, Fairfax County General Registrar Eric Spicer told FFXnow in an email. Overall, that represents about 18% of the 736,000 active registered voters in the county.

That’s about 44,000 more people than 2018. Since that time, however, early voting rules and habits have changed significantly. Virginia introduced no-excuse absentee voting in 2020, leading the county to add more early voting sites with longer hours, and permanently approved ballot drop boxes last year.

In 2020, 414,000 residents voted early due to traditional high turnout related to a presidential election and the ongoing pandemic. Last year, about 170,000 residents cast a ballot early in the House of Delegates and gubernatorial elections.

This year’s early voting numbers suggest the shift in voting behavior from the last midterm election cycle has continued.

In Fairfax County, 76,000 vote-by-mail ballots were requested, representing close to 10% of registered voters, Spicer said. About 67% of those ballots, or 48,000, were returned by the end of early voting.

Residents can continue to return their mail-in ballots at a drop box at any polling place.

While Fairfax County doesn’t have any races attracting significant national attention like 2021’s gubernatorial race, every seat in the House of Representatives is on the ballot this year.

The county has three congressional districts: the 8th, 10th, and 11th.

The 11th Congressional District includes 586,000 Fairfax County residents, the most of any of the districts. The 8th has 282,000 residents in the county while the 10th only holds 14,500 residents.

Incumbents Don Beyer, Jennifer Wexton, and Gerry Connolly are all Democrats and all favored to win against their respective Republican challengers, Karina Lipsman, Hung Cao, and Jim Myles.

The Town of Herndon is seeing competitive races, though, for mayor and town council. Incumbent Mayor Shelia Olem is running against councilmembers Sean Regan and Jasbinder Singh.

Election officers told FFXnow that, anecdotally, voting has gone smoothly so far this morning with precincts getting steady streams of voters.

However, the lead-up to Election Day saw a few hiccups. Late last month, voters in Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna got a letter directing them to an incorrect voting location. The county blamed the state for the error with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors calling for an investigation into what happened.

Last week, the county received approximately 11,000 voter registrations that were delayed in being sent over by the state. This was on top of nearly 12,000 other delayed registrations that were finally sent over at the beginning of October.

The county’s elections office said on Nov. 3 that it had successfully processed all of the registrations.

0 Comments
A Fairfax County Office of Elections ballot drop box from 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 9:10 p.m.) In Fairfax County, the battle for control of Congress starts tomorrow (Friday).

The county will open three early voting sites and start mailing out absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 general election, which will decide three seats in the House of Representatives as well as the Town of Herndon’s leadership.

Turnout is tough to predict, but early voting and voting by mail “seem to be growing in popularity” after Virginia made both options available to all in 2020, Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy says.

Nearly 70% of registered voters participated in the last midterm elections in 2018, but no individual House race saw a turnout over 37%, according to Worthy. Last November’s election, which anointed Glenn Youngkin as Virginia’s governor, drew a 60.2% turnout.

“Because the Office of Elections always prepare for high turnout, they will be ready to manage turnout greater than the recent gubernatorial election,” Worthy said.

He says the county has filled all of the 2,300 election officer positions needed for Nov. 8, but there is always a demand for bilingual poll workers, especially people who speak both Korean and English.

What’s New This Year

Voters may see different candidates than they anticipate on their ballot, thanks to last year’s redistricting process, which altered federal and state electoral boundaries in Virginia.

Polling sites will stay the same for 96% of voters in the county, but everyone should double check their district through the Virginia Department of Elections before voting in person, Worthy says. There have also been a few precinct changes unrelated to redistricting.

To limit confusion, the county elections office sent every voter a mailer with information about their legislative districts and polling place earlier this year.

“The office will be mailing voters a sample ballot with this same information, and the state is also sending a redistricting mailing to voters,” Worthy said.

In addition, Virginia will now let new voters register and cast a ballot up to and on Election Day. The General Assembly approved the change in 2020, but the law won’t take effect until Oct. 1.

While the new flexibility will be welcome for anyone who misses the Oct. 17 deadline, election officials don’t recommend waiting until the last minute to register. Voters who register Oct. 18 or later will get provisional ballots to allow “additional time to verify” their paperwork, according to WTOP.

Provisional ballots aren’t reviewed until after Election Day, and the state electoral board determines whether each of them can be counted.

“Because same day registration is a new law, the Office of Elections is uncertain of the impact, but they are prepared to manage a large number of same day registrants at early voting sites and polling places on Election Day, as well as to process these registrations,” Worthy said. Read More

0 Comments
Karina Lipsman, the Republican nominee for the 8th Congressional District, holds a campaign sign (via Fairfax County Republican Committee/Facebook)

Local Republicans nominated Karina Lipsman on Saturday (May 21) to seek the U.S. House seat currently held by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).

Early voting is underway for the June 21 Democratic primary to determine whether Lipsman faces Beyer or challenger Victoria Virasingh in the November general election. Portions of Fairfax County in the new 8th District include McLean, Bailey’s Crossroads, Annandale, and the Route 1 corridor.

At the local GOP’s ranked choice convention, Lipsman earned 61.5% of the votes in the first round of vote counting, according to a press release on her campaign website.

Lipsman came out ahead of four other Republican hopefuls, as the slate of candidates sought to catch the wave that elected Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Alexandria resident Kezia Tunnell received 19.12% of the vote, and the party’s 2020 nominee Jeff Jordan received 15.92%. McLean resident Monica Carpio and Heerak Christian Kim, a registered nurse and former public school teacher, did not break 2.5%, the release stated.

The 8th District seat has been held by a Democrat for decades. Beyer was first elected in 2014, when he won a crowded primary to succeed former Congressman Jim Moran.

An Arlington resident, Lipsman fled Ukraine when it was still under Soviet Union control and came to the United States with her mother and grandparents, according to her campaign website. They didn’t speak English, survived on food stamps and lived in low-income housing in Baltimore. When she was 18, Lipsman became a U.S. citizen.

She received a bachelor’s degree in economics while she was working full-time in the financial industry, and later earned a master’s in engineering from Johns Hopkins, according to the website. She’s worked in the national defense industry for over a decade.

Her website outlines priorities like supporting law enforcement, opposing tax increases, stopping illegal immigration and her stance against abortion.

She says she supports school choice and community colleges, technical schools, and vocational training programs.

“We must fight the dangerous voices that call for lowering educational standards in the name of equity,” she wrote.

The Fairfax County Democratic Committee has not publicly commented on Lipsman’s nomination, but Arlington Democrats posted to Twitter calling her an “extreme right candidate,” linking to a recording of her allegedly saying “Fauci should be jailed” at a candidate forum.

Lipsman’s website says she will “advocate for common-sense policies that fight crime, reduce inflation, ease transportation and improve our educational standards.”

“Let’s be honest — there are loud extremists on both sides, who benefit from dividing our country, and we cannot let that happen,” Lipsman’s website reads. “Divisive politics are poisonous and we must work together to overcome the gridlock on the critical issues that are facing our country.”

Photo via Fairfax County Republican Committee

0 Comments
Jim Myles (via Jim Myles for Congress)

Republicans have chosen a former U.S. judge to take on incumbent Rep. Gerry Connolly for Virginia’s 11th Congressional District this fall.

Jim Myles received the party’s nomination on Saturday (May 7) following a four-round canvass that started with five candidates. He won with 959 votes: 59% of the vote.

“I’ve certainly reached out individually to each of the other candidates to thank them,” Myles said. “I was very fortunate to win, and I certainly respected all of them.”

Myles, 62, thanked his family, friends, and supporters, noting that people stood in the rain with signs during the canvass.

Energized by Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial win in November, Myles decided to seek office after retiring as a federal judge in December after three decades in the public sector. Friends and neighbors encouraged him to pursue the seat.

“Jim Myles has spent his entire life in public service, from defending the nation in the Air Force to adjudicating cases as an administrative law judge,” Mike Ginsberg, the GOP’s 11th District Committee chairman, said in a statement. “Now he is stepping up to serve again at a critical time in our nation’s and district’s history.

Ginsberg said Myles is uniquely positioned to speak to key issues at a time of rising inflation and economic insecurity.

“As a parent of a Fairfax County Public School student, he understands the need for quality schools focusing on education, not ideological indoctrination,” Ginsberg said.

Myles said his top concerns include inflation, crime and prosecutorial policies that he views as overly lenient, energy independence, drugs and immigration.

“I think there’s just a fear that the radical left has kind of taken over,” he said. “I think a lot of people are really scared about inflation, crime, the border, our schools. Everything is just getting really difficult.”

He said Congress should hold hearings on remote learning during the pandemic to determine how isolation and face mask requirements affected students.

“The effect was just very devastating for children,” he said. “We could conduct hearings on that and examine exactly what happened to make sure that doesn’t happen again — because students suffered.”

Myles’s past public-sector experience includes working at the Social Security Administration for roughly 20 years and as a U.S. judge for over a decade.

He also had a fellowship in 2009, working as a Republican staffer on the House Ways and Means’ Social Security subcommittee. Myles said the experience helped him show just how difficult it is to enact legislation.

His opponent, incumbent Gerry Connolly, has represented the 11th District in Congress for 13 years and chairs the government operations subcommittee for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Connolly had $3.7 million in cash as of the last quarterly filing.

Myles’s campaign had nearly $12,000 as of mid-April, mostly consisting of donations he made. He said the GOP is now unified and has already seen an outpouring of support.

Photo via Jim Myles for Congress/Facebook

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list