Post Content
ArtsFairfax has expanded its residency program (via ArtsFairfax)

ArtsFairfax, the county’s designated arts agency, is expanding its artist residency program for 2022-2023 throughout the county.

Through a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the residency program will place performing and visual artists at county parks, libraries, schools, community centers, and affordable housing complexes.

“Everything we do to increase access to the arts is rooted in the belief that meaningful arts experiences are transformative for all of us, regardless of age or lived experiences,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda S. Sullivan said. “We are so grateful to the County agencies for their partnership in helping ArtsFairfax expand our reach into the communities that need it the most.”

ArtsFairfax started the residency program as an effort to improve access to artistic opportunities for marginalized communities throughout the county. It also provides education and community engagement training to professional local artists.

This year marks a return for the residency program, which limited activities after COVID-19 hit in 2020.

“In recent years because of Covid, we had a few virtual programs in senior centers and middle schools,” an ArtsFairfax spokesperson said. “In the year ahead, we will be in person at a broader range of locations reflecting the needs of areas identified by the County as being underserved in formal arts programming.”

For the 2022-2023 year, resident artists from a variety of disciplines will provide free, interactive programming at five different locations.

ArtsFairfax has partnered with the county’s public schools and library systems, Neighborhood and Community Services, the park authority, and nonprofit Wesley Housing for the program.

Participants will work alongside the artists, whose residencies range from one to four months.

“Arts and humanities go hand-in-hand to spark the imagination and nurture creativity. We’re thrilled to launch ArtsFairfax Artist Residencies at the John Marshall Library to inspire and engage the community with visual art,” Kevin Osborne, deputy library director of Fairfax County Public Library, said.

Registration for the artist residency at John Marshall Library in Rose Hill opens tomorrow.

Scollon, a visual artist based in Fairfax, said she sees art as a tool for promoting empathy and attested to the transformative impact of working with students.

“I’ve worked with all ages on creating carved ceramic relief tiles inspired by personal stories,” she said. “It has been remarkable and joyful to see middle school students participate so openly and to see older adults illustrate important memories and life events.”

0 Comments
The Sully District Governmental Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County has opted not to move forward with a potential Sully District renaming.

Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith announced at yesterday’s board meeting that she believes “the best step forward at this time is to retain” the name of the magisterial district, which encompasses the southwestern corner of Fairfax County.

Based on input from virtual town halls, emails, and community conversations, she proposed instead finding new ways to educate residents and visitors about the area’s history, particularly at the plantation in Chantilly that gave the district its name and is now the Sully Historic Site.

“In working on a path forward, I am actively talking with the NAACP, the county’s equity officer and the Fairfax County Park Authority executive director about ways we can have a more honest conversation about the history of our country, county and the Sully District,” Smith said in her board matter.

Supported without further discussion by the full Board of Supervisors, the decision concludes a months-long effort to gather public feedback after the county’s 2021 Redistricting Advisory Committee (RAC) recommended name changes for Sully and the former Lee District earlier this year.

After completing its primary task of redrawing the county’s electoral district maps, the committee was charged in January with reviewing whether to rename any districts based on possible historical ties to the Confederacy, slavery or racism.

According to a report finalized in March, Sully District was named after the plantation built by Richard Bland Lee, the first person to represent Northern Virginia in Congress. It said four generations of humans had been enslaved and trafficked at the property, including over 100 people during Lee’s tenure as owner.

When Lee inherited the land from his father in 1787, he received 29 enslaved people, according to the park authority’s history of the site, which features Lee’s 225-year-old house as well as 120 acres of park, gardens, a smokehouse and other structures.

While the website acknowledges the presence of slavery, it refers to the property as Lee’s “country home.” Smith’s board matter suggested that the county be more active and creative in providing information and programming about that aspect of the site’s history.

Smith said people weighed in with a variety of perspectives on whether to rename Sully District, including at town halls held on June 2 and Sept. 1, but the “most important thing I heard in these conversations was the need to heal our community.”

“The best way to do this is to work on ways to tell the true story of our sometimes complicated and misunderstood history and that of the Sully District specifically,” she said. “One way to do this is to educate the public about how land was developed, who benefitted and who was marginalized in the process.”

In addition to reevaluating what stories are told at the Sully Historic Site, the county could highlight historically Black neighborhoods affected by its westward expansion, similar to efforts to preserve Gum Springs in the Mount Vernon area. Read More

0 Comments
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 9:30 a.m. on 9/23/2022) With a new school year underway, students will soon jockey for seats in Fairfax County’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), even as a federal court considers whether its current admission system discriminates against Asians.

For now, thanks to an earlier ruling upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, the upcoming class of 2027 will be determined by the same, much-debated process that has helped diversify the magnet school’s student body over the past two years, FCPS confirmed to FFXnow.

Launching at 4 p.m. on Oct. 24, freshman student applications will consist of a student portrait sheet and a math or science-focused problem-solving essay. Other criteria include a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and consideration of a student’s English language learner, special education, or free/reduced-price lunch status — known as “experience factors.”

Those experience factors and a guarantee that all participating schools get seats equal to 1.5% of their student population are central to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of policy, which was adopted by the Fairfax County School Board in December 2020.

The revised process — which eliminated a standardized test and application fee — doesn’t explicitly consider race when evaluating students, but a lawyer for the Coalition for TJ argued to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Friday (Sept. 16) that it was designed to boost Black and Latino representation at the expense of Asian applicants.

(Correction: This article previously said oral arguments had taken place on Saturday, Sept. 17)

“That’s clear in the record from the statements that the board members and other senior staff in Fairfax County Public Schools made, that Asian American students were in the way,” Erin Wilcox said to the three-judge panel. “They needed to clear out room to increase the numbers of Black and Hispanic students.”

In February, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of the Coalition for TJ, agreeing that the changes amounted to “racial balancing” in violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause, which prohibits laws from discriminating based on race.

FCPS promptly appealed the decision, maintaining that the policy is race-neutral, as stated in the school board’s adopted resolution, and backed by legal precedent. Donald Verrilli, the school board’s legal representative, cited a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that supported universities taking steps to diversify, ideally without directly looking at race.

“There are no quotas, no targets, no racial preferences of any kind, no racial classifications of any kind, and it is 100% race-blind in its administration,” he said. “No application contains any racially identifying information, so all applicants are judged on a race-blind basis.” Read More

0 Comments
Lt. Wahid Alam is the first-ever Muslim community liaison (via FCPD)

Against the backdrop of post-9/11 community policing, the Fairfax County Police Department has selected its first-ever liaison for the local Muslim community.

Lt. Wahid Alam, who has served in the department for more than 18 years, hopes to build upon the relationship that already exists between the local Muslim community and the police department.

“I want to be the conduit to all the resources the police department has to offer and encourage Muslims to consider a career in policing,” he told FFXnow in a statement.

Alam, who was born and raised as Muslim, says his faith and background in policing makes him a good fit for this role. He also hopes to meet with Muslim faith and business leaders to “networking within this unique community and build even more inroads with the department.”

When asked if the Muslim community faces any unique challenges, Alam noted that many Muslim seems to face many of the same struggles as the community at-large.

“We are all concerned about keeping kids safe from cyber threats, traffic safety, staying safe in our neighborhoods and keeping from becoming a victim of crime. Identity theft, larceny from motor vehicles and street robberies are common concerns throughout Fairfax County,” he said.

Mistrust of police and concerns about community surveillance has been flagged by some Muslim organizations as issues, particularly in the years since 9/11.

Alam says the local Muslim community has strong support for law enforcement — which sometimes isn’t the case in other communities.

“The Muslim community needs to know how the Fairfax County Police Department conducts policing and surveillance in response to crime and dangerous threats,” he said. “FCPD does not conduct targeted surveillance to Muslims or any specific community. Building relationships and being transparent in our policing strategies and practices will build trust with the Muslim community.”

0 Comments
D.C. region price increases over the last decade for basic needs (via Fairfax County)

Sufficient health care, college degrees, and homeownership are becoming increasingly unattainable for Fairfax County residents with low to moderate incomes, a new report finds.

Late last month, Fairfax County released its “Needs Assessment” study, which comes out every three years with data on the current economic conditions in the county and the impact those conditions have on residents.

The report paints a pretty harrowing picture in light of the pandemic and recent inflation, particularly for lower-income residents. Low to moderate incomes are generally defined as those earning 60% or below the area median income. In 2021, that number was $77,400 for a family of four.

Just in the last year, those living on a limited income are having more trouble affording basic needs, as rising cost-of-living expenses mean lower-income households are spending more than they did in the past.

“Fairfax County residents with moderate to low income may have little to no money remaining after covering essential expenses, such as food and housing,” the report says. “This limits a household’s ability to build savings and restricts economic competitiveness.”

According to the report, household incomes have not kept pace with rising costs of essential expenses over the past decade.

In Fairfax County, the median household income has gone up about 21% since 2012. However, food, housing, and transportation all have risen more in that timeframe. Most notably, health care costs have risen by a whopping 41% in the last decade.

“Longer-term, health care costs have increased the most over 10 years, which may present challenges for residents who do not have health insurance coverage,” the report says.

As a result, the lowest-income households in the county are spending much more on health care, percentage-wise, than other income brackets.

The lowest 20% of households by income are spending nearly 29% of their expenses on health care, while those in the middle are spending between 15% to 17%.

Consumer prices have also gone up more in this past year than at any other point in the previous four decades. Tuition and child care now cost nearly 4% more than last year, housing more than 5%, health care 7%, and food 8%, according to the report. Read More

0 Comments
Fairfax County police cruiser (via FCPD/Facebook)

A change in Virginia law will allow police to once again pull over vehicles with excessively loud exhaust systems, starting tomorrow (Friday).

At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (June 28), officials said the change was much needed, citing noisy cars as one of the top complaints they receive from constituents.

“This is a very annoying issue to a high percentage of my district’s residents,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “I probably hear about this more than anything else.”

Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation authorizing police to pull over vehicles and issue violations for loud exhaust systems.

Virginia eased rules on exhaust noise levels after the General Assembly passed legislation sponsored by local lawmaker Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) in 2020. Hope and other advocates argued at the time that police were disproportionately pulling over drivers of color for minor infractions, like broken tail lights, tinted windows, and loud exhaust systems.

That law went into effect in March 2021.

However, the change seemed to lead to a rise in noise complaints related to loud exhaust systems in Fairfax County and neighboring jurisdictions.

So, a new bill was created, passed, and signed into law by the governor this year that specifically made exhaust systems “not in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual levels of noise” a primary offense, meaning police can now pull over drivers specifically for that.

Braddock District Supervisor Walkinshaw and Springfield District Supervisor Herrity said they often hear from residents about loud vehicle exhausts. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said expensive, new exhaust systems with the express purpose of making noise are popular among some in his district.

Even Hope, the sponsor of the original bill, admitted to FFXnow that the 2020 bill had “unintendend consequences,” though he did vote against this session’s legislation.

“This [legislation] was in response to the unintended consequence in the 2021 law of some motorists taking advantage of the law change and installing obnoxiously loud exhaust systems on their vehicles, disturbing families and neighbors,” he wrote. “I heard many complaints from constituents that supported the intent of the law but the unintended consequence was a disturbance of the peace.” Read More

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Gum Springs celebrates Juneteenth with a Community Day on June 18 (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Fairfax County Holds Primary Today — It’s primary day for voters in the 8th Congressional District, which now includes McLean, Bailey’s Crossroads, Annandale, and the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax County. With the Republican nominee already set, there is only a Democratic contest between incumbent Rep. Don Beyer and challenger Victoria Virasingh. [Fairfax County Office of Elections]

Man Dies in Oakton Crash — An 18-year-old driver died on Sunday (June 19) after losing control of his car while driving south on Fox Mill Road and hitting a tree near Bronzedale Drive. A juvenile passenger was taken to the hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening. Detectives believe speed was a factor in the crash, which resulted in the fifth non-pedestrian fatality of the year. [FCPD]

Drowned Man Remains Hospitalized — A 29-year-old man who drowned while swimming in Difficult Run Stream in McLean on Sunday is still in life-threatening condition. According to police, the man became submerged and was pulled out of the water by friends when he didn’t resurface. Fire and Rescue personnel found him about a quarter mile away from Georgetown Pike on a nearby trail. [FCPD]

Report Finds Discrimination by Housing Providers — “A fair housing test conducted by The Fairfax County Office of Human Rights, in partnership with The Equal Rights Center, showed ‘discernable differences’ between housing providers’ treatment of white and minority testers. The results also showed that ‘certain housing providers lack the training to provide the same level of treatment to Deaf individuals as they do to hearing individuals.'” [Inside NoVA]

Tysons West Vehicle Pursuit Leads to Arrest — A male juvenile allegedly “verbally threatened the victim” in the 1500 block of Cornerside Blvd on Jun 12. The juvenile attempted to drive away, striking two vehicles, before an officer stopped him using the controversial precision immobilization technique. The juvenile was arrested, and two people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. [FCPD]

Springfield Trader Joe’s Looking to Move — Trader Joe’s is in talks to take over the roughly 24,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market at Old Keene Mill Shopping Center, suggesting that the new Whole Foods under construction at Springfield Plaza will be a relocation. The space would be larger than Trader Joe’s current 10,673-square-foot store next to the new Giant in Springfield Plaza. [Washington Business Journal]

Bank Plans Relocation From Herndon to Tysons — Part of a larger branding overhaul, Forbright Bank is moving its Herndon branch at 150 Elden Street to 1600 Tysons Blvd., a 13-story office building adjacent to Tysons Galleria. The Herndon location is the company’s only Virginia location among five branches in the region. [Washington Business Journal]

Fairfax County Police Helicopter Appears at Smithsonian Event — “Saturday, our helicopter was on display at the National Air & Space Museum’s Annual Innovations in Flight Event. 50+ aircraft fly in from around the region for this special day. Pilots Mountjoy & Edgerton greeted community members as they got a glimpse into Fairfax 1.” [FCPD/Twitter]

County Partners on Older Adult Activities — “Arlington County, Fairfax County, Prince William County, the Town of Vienna, and ServiceSource Inc. host live virtual programming on Zoom five days a week. The events range from fitness classes to special presentations to interactive games. This resource is free and all older adults and adults with disabilities who live in Northern Virginia are welcome to use it.” [Neighborhood and Community Services]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 81 and low of 68. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

0 Comments
Kids play soccer on a synthetic turf (via Fairfax County Park Authority)

Fairfax County is exploring how private partnerships could bring more sports facilities to the area, but the five-year journey has now been slightly prolonged by an additional step.

The Board of Supervisors passed a measure on Tuesday (May 24) directing Fairfax County Park Authority and Neighborhood and Community Services staff to address racial and social equity issues when evaluating potential projects with input from Chief Equity Officer Karla Bruce and her team.

The additional review follows a consultant report released in August 2020 that identified possible Park Authority sites where private businesses could create sports facilities, such as a complex for 16 “rectangular fields” illustrated as soccer fields, another area for 10 baseball fields, an indoor track facility, a natatorium, and more.

The consultants’ report came through the Sports Tourism Task Force that the county created in 2017. One of the group’s several subcommittees involved Alpine-X representatives seeking to build the Fairfax Peak indoor winter slope facility at a landfill in Lorton.

On Tuesday, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who chaired the task force, asked the board to direct the county executive to call for developers to submit public-private partnership proposals as identified in the report.

“Sports tourism facilities are rapidly developing around the East Coast and throughout Virginia,” he said during the meeting. “Vying to meet the demand of this incredibly recession-proof industry, we need to take advantage of our desirable location and extensive sports community by developing the identified sports tourism facilities.”

However, Chairman Jeff McKay modified that motion, clashing with Herrity on how to move forward. McKay said that some areas of the county largely lack these sports sites.

“We have teams, youth leagues throughout this county, that can’t find space today,” McKay said. “Before we…move forward with advancing larger complexes that might be out of reach for some of them, let’s make sure we understand where…inadequacies exist.”

McKay requested that the county create an equity impact assessment on the sports tourism report by the end of 2022.

The board approved consideration of that alternative 9-1, with Herrity dissenting. With Herrity’s original motion dislodged, the board approved the amended board matter 9-0 for a final vote in which Herrity abstained.

Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority

0 Comments
The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Rents in Fairfax County have gone up during the pandemic, reflecting a trend seen regionally and nationwide.

Multifamily rents increased 8.7% in the county between the first quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2022, making the average rent $1,974, according to a Washington Post analysis.

“Rents have continued to increase across the region and in Fairfax County, making it harder for low- and moderate-income households to be able to afford to rent here,” Tom Fleetwood, director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, said in a statement.

He said the Board of Supervisors’ $44.7 million allocation in the upcoming budget is a critical investment that will directly help develop additional affordable homes.

Fairfax County’s typical increase in rent outpaces neighboring Arlington County, which has seen a 3.9% uptick since 2019 for an average rent of $2,258. Alexandria City and Loudoun and Prince William counties all saw larger increases than Fairfax County, though their average rents remain lower.

Nationally, median monthly rent has increased nearly 17% from March 2021 to March 2022, according to real estate firm Redfin, though existing renters may be experiencing a smaller, 2.7% increase during that time frame.

Fairfax County Chief Equity Officer Karla Bruce said at an Urban Institute event in August 2021 that the pandemic has exposed inequities.

“The inequity was present before the pandemic,” she said at the virtual event. “What the pandemic did is show anybody that might have doubted that how present inequity is in our communities.”

Bruce emphasized the importance of knowing who was most disproportionately affected in the pandemic and targeting strategies around those individuals.

Citing 2020 Census data, Fairfax County’s most recent demographics report noted that white residents no longer make up the majority of the population. As of 2021, the county had over 425,000 housing units: 46% single-family detached housing, 24% single-family attached, and 29.7% multifamily units.

The report does not break down who rents and who owns by race.

Across the country, 74% of solely white households own homes, far outpacing other racial demographics. The homeownership rate for solely Black households is at under 45%, a persistent trend that contributes to a racial wealth gap.

While Fairfax County has upped its goal to provide 10,000 affordable units by 2034, housing advocates have noted shortcomings.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments in 2019 proposed a target of at least 320,000 housing units to be added to the region between 2020 and 2030, and at least 75% should be affordable to low- and middle-income households.

That housing target is being tracked, and Fairfax County government hasn’t adopted COG’s targets, according to a policy and statistical tool from the nonprofit Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND).

While D.C. and Alexandria have adopted those targets, most jurisdictions in the region haven’t, though several have set their own goals.

Fairfax County’s efforts to address affordable housing challenges have involved creating a housing trust fund and other initiatives.

Peter Tatian, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and research director for Urban-Greater D.C., noted that housing production plays a key role in affordability. Urban was involved in developing the HAND tool to track governments’ efforts.

“There’s a lot of things…in the pipeline,” he said. “In terms of actual production at this point…we’re not seeing them yet.”

Tatian said governments need to address issues in multifaceted ways, but if he had to single out a top priority, he would say the public sector needs to make a local commitment to positive action.

“There may be some people who think that this is just the housing market, that’s just how it is,” he said. “But there’s a lot of things that governments do or don’t do that influences the market and influences what housing opportunities there are.”

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Sunrise at Reston National Golf Course (photo by Terry Baranski)

Masks Now Optional on Metro — “Effective immediately, Metro will make masks optional on Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess for its customers. Masks also will be optional for Metro employees. This change comes as a result of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suspending enforcement, while the Biden Administration reviews a federal judge’s ruling.” [WMATA]

McLean Community Center Faces Anti-Equity Backlash — Protests of a “Drag Storybook Hour” at Dolley Madison Library last summer by some McLean residents have grown into broader opposition to MCC promoting diversity and inclusion in its programming. The tension has manifested in this year’s governing board race, where nine candidates, including a former Trump administration official, are vying for three open seats. [The Washington Post]

Capital Beltway Overnight Closures Planned in Tysons — “The I-495 (Capital Beltway) general purpose lanes and 495 Express Lanes will have nightly lane closures Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23 to allow crews to set the new pedestrian bridge truss in place as part of the Tysons/Old Meadow Road Bike/Ped Improvements project.” [VDOT]

Recess for Middle Schools Approved — “Middle school students in Fairfax County, Virginia, will get a short daily recess period beginning next year. The school board voted Thursday night to update its student and staff health and wellness policy to allow for a 15-minute recess period every day.” [WTOP]

Alcorn Plans to Seek Reelection — “Barely halfway through his term as Hunter Mill District Supervisor, Walter Alcorn has announced plans to seek re-election in November 2023 to a second 4-year term…His main reason is that he wants to see initiatives that he has worked on actually implemented.” [The Connection]

Research Reveals County Libraries Were Segregated — “Yes, FCPL was segregated. Yes, separate services were provided for White residents and for Black residents. The surface answer we had provided for years gave way to the truth, that our path to desegregation was mirrored across the region for our residents.” [The UncommonWealth]

Sediment Removal Project Underway in Reston — “Fairfax County Stormwater Management will be performing a sediment removal project at dry pond 0330DP located at 11950 Walnut Branch Rd. The project will start the week of April 18 and is expected to last a few weeks.” [Reston Association/Twitter]

Volunteers Needed to Pack Ukraine Donations — All the coats and other winter clothes collected for Northern Virginia’s donation drive for Ukrainian refugees will be delivered to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Oakton. Volunteers are needed on Friday and Saturday (April 22-23) to help pack the items for shipping to Poland. [Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

New Playground Opens at Lorton’s Laurel Hill Park — “The playground is appropriate for children ages 2 to 12 years old. Features include a large spinning Americans with Disabilities Act accessible play structure, small tot play composite and a large unique play structure for children 5 to 12 years old.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 47 and low of 37. Sunrise at 6:27 am and sunset at 7:51 pm. [Weather.gov]

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list