(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has some thoughts on how Fairfax County should handle abortion-related protests outside Supreme Court justices’ homes.
In a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors and County Executive Bryan Hill yesterday (Wednesday), the governor suggested that the Fairfax County Police Department “establish an expanded security perimeter” and limit “unauthorized vehicle and pedestrian access” around the homes of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Coney Barrett, who all live in the county.
“This request is based on credible and specific information received about upcoming activities planned at or involving the homes of the Justices in Fairfax County,” Youngkin wrote in the letter, which was posted online by Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity. “…Establishing a perimeter will ensure both the safety of the Justices, their neighbors and the demonstrators.”
I hope protesters of every persuasion will respect our laws regarding public expression and prevent required police intervention in the form of warnings or citations. pic.twitter.com/lg873GkP5g
— Supervisor Pat Herrity (@PatHerrity) May 11, 2022
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay resoundly rejected Youngkin’s proposal, arguing that it would amount to “a checkpoint that federal courts have held violates the Fourth Amendment.”
He said it would also raise concerns related to the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech and assembly, stating that the county’s “well-trained, sophisticated” police department “stands ready as always to take necessary action, if needed, to protect public safety.”
“My focus is on public safety and protecting constitutional rights of our citizens,” McKay said in a tweet sharing his letter to Youngkin. “I know the well-trained FCPD professionals can ensure both.”
Below is a letter I sent to Gov. Youngkin in response to request for a 'security perimeter' around the homes of SCOTUS judges in FFX Co. My focus is on public safety and protecting constitutional rights of our citizens. I know the well-trained FCPD professionals can ensure both. pic.twitter.com/1qW8pSPGYN
— Jeff McKay (@JeffreyCMcKay) May 11, 2022
The exchange came two days after abortion-rights advocates organized by the group ShutDown DC marched to Alito’s house in Fort Hunt in protest of his leaked draft opinion indicating that the Supreme Court intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that has been used to protect access to abortion for nearly 50 years. Read More
Gov. Glenn Youngkin visited Google’s Reston Station office today (Tuesday) to help the company share its plans to continue building up Virginia’s technology industry.
Flanked by public officials at a media event, Google executive Vint Cerf announced it will invest over $300 million in Virginia this year.
“Virginia is a shining example of the work we’re doing across the United States with a growing office right here in Reston Station and continued investments that we’re making in our data centers in northern Virginia,” Cerf said.
According to a news release, the tech giant plans to invest approximately $9.5 billion in offices and data centers and create at least 12,000 new full-time Google jobs across the U.S. this year.
Google didn’t discuss details about specific local investments, but a public relations firm said the company “plans to continue investing in its data center portfolio in Northern Virginia.”
“We have now a framework to incentivize data center investments across all industry, and we have a great working relationship with Google,” Youngkin said.
Cerf also said the company will provide a $250,000 grant to CodeVA, a Richmond-based nonprofit focused on teaching coding skills to kids. The money will support programming for students across the state.
Mark Isakowitz, Google’s government affairs lead in the U.S. and Canada, said the company worked with the governor’s team to make the investment announcement a reality. While the state didn’t provide any “specific” funding to the company, the partners have a shared vision, according to Youngkin.
The Republican governor said Google’s investment will have ripple effects for the Commonwealth’s economy. He also announced that Virginia is joining a National Governors Association initiative to prioritize computer science curricula in schools.
Google partners with Virginia on education
Google will also work with the Virginia Community College system and Department of Education to help people of all ages get professional certificates. The effort involves the state’s 23 community colleges and five higher education centers in the Commonwealth.
Per a news release:
This partnership will provide more entry-level opportunities for Virginians seeking careers in tech fields via the certificates, which are taught and developed by Google employees with decades of experience. Google Career Certificates are available in the fields of data analytics, IT support, project management, and user experience (UX) design, and do not require prior experience or a degree.
While Google has invested in Northern Virginia with two data center campuses in Loudoun County and the recent expansion of its Reston office, the region has over 90,000 open technology positions, according to the Northern Virginia Technology Council.
“This is an exciting day,” Youngkin said, thanking Google and saying he was excited to see workplaces come alive.
Daniel Golding, a Google infrastructure director who leads the capital region’s tech site, suggested that the company is probably about 20 or 30% more effective when employees work in the office instead of from home.
“It’s really important to collaborate and work together,” he said.
Youngkin chatted with workers and toured amenities in the four-level office. Looking down on Reston and the Dulles Toll Road from the building’s 15th floor, he joked that it must be “a terrible place to have to work.”
“Look at that view,” Youngkin said.
As gas prices continue to cost drivers more at the pump, Virginia is looking for possible relief, such as suspending the state’s gas tax.
The average price of gas in Fairfax County is currently around $4.33 per gallon, the only jurisdiction in the Commonwealth averaging over $4.30 at this point, according to AAA.
House Minority Leader Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, who represents the 41st District in Fairfax County, called on Gov. Glenn Youngkin to sign an executive order for a state of emergency to address price gouging.
Virginians are hurting and that is why I called on @GovernorVA to act on gas price gouging two weeks ago. He refused, but wants to discuss gas tax suspension in the Special Session next month. These are not mutually exclusive.
Virginians need relief today. pic.twitter.com/8oGF0JFnCu
— Eileen Filler-Corn (@EFillerCorn) March 23, 2022
“Between high gas prices and rising inflation, Virginians are more squeezed than ever and the General Assembly can deliver much needed tax relief to struggling Virginia families,” Youngkin said in a statement on Wednesday (March 23).
He argued that legislators could “produce the biggest tax cut in the history of the Commonwealth” and still “make record investments” in education, law enforcement, behavioral health, and other priorities.
The tax cuts could have lasting implications for local public transportation.
Coalition for Smarter Growth Executive Director Stewart Schwartz said in a statement today (Friday) that suspending the gas tax will mean big cuts in funding for road maintenance, rail, and bus.
“Less road maintenance means more potholes and more frequent, costly repairs for our cars,” he said, calling that state to find funding less dependent on oil for personal vehicles. “It means we’ll fall behind in replacing our crumbling bridges.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and other Northern Virginia leaders have expressed similar concerns over how Youngkin’s proposed elimination of grocery taxes could also adversely affect road funding if not replaced.
Board Chairman Jeff McKay said in a newsletter on Wednesday that he supports the grocery tax removal but only “the intent” behind the proposed gas tax suspension:
I support the removal of the grocery tax. I also support the intent only behind the Governor’s proposal to suspend, for three months, the gas tax that aims to alleviate the financial strain our residents are experiencing. None of us feel good about paying astronomical gas prices at the pump, and many of our residents simply cannot afford to fill their tanks. However, a suspension of the gas tax, on top of the proposals to remove other streams of revenue, is not sustainable. Ultimately, it only adds to our financial strain.
I, and many others, are concerned that even a temporary suspension of a gas tax would benefit big oil companies most of all, not our residents who have no guarantee to see any of these savings. What we do know is that, statewide, $437 million would be lost in funding for transportation, including transit, as a result of this action.
McKay suggested that the state should instead provide more car tax relief and increase its funding for education and mental health services.
In Northern Virginia, a 7.7-cent-per-gallon tax affects wholesalers selling fuel to retailers. That money goes to funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Virginia Railway Express.
For the last fiscal year, which ended in June 2021, the tax brought in $45 million from the region, much of which goes to the Commonwealth. The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission got a share of $18 million, which must go to WMATA capital and operating expenses, according to the commission.
Regional Winter Clothing Drive for Ukraine Now Accepting Donations — “Northern Virginia localities are partnering together to collect donations for Ukrainians who fled their country amid the Russian invasion. Dozens of locations around Northern Virginia will begin accepting donations Wednesday [March 23] through April 15.” [Patch]
FCPD Officer Faces Trial for Taser Use — “Day two of the trial of a Fairfax County police officer accused of assaulting an unarmed and incoherent man has concluded…Defense attorneys insist Officer Tyler Timberlake was well within department guidelines when he tasered La Monta Gladney in Mount Vernon. Prosecutors call it a crime.” [WUSA9]
Youngkin Calls for Special Session — “The Republican governor issued a proclamation Wednesday saying that a special session will commence April 4. The move comes after the clock ran out during the regular General Assembly session without the Democrat-controlled Senate and GOP-controlled House reaching agreement on the state budget.” [Associated Press/WTOP]
FCPS Tests iPads for Kindergarteners — Fairfax County Public Schools began a pilot program this week to provide iPads for pre-K and kindergarten students in lieu of the heavier laptops currently used in those classrooms. The schools participating in the pilot are Lake Anne Elementary, Riverside Elementary, and Bailey’s Primary. [FCPS]
Fairfax Dems Call for Special Elections — At a March 22 general body meeting, Fairfax County Democratic Committee members voted 86% in favor of a resolution calling for special elections for the House of Delegates in 2022. The entire chamber was up for grabs last year, but a delayed redistricting process meant those legislators were elected based on now-outdated district maps. [Fairfax County Democratic Committee]
Michelin Starred Chef to Plans Mystery Tysons Restaurant — Chef Pepe Moncayo and his partners have leased for about 7,000 square feet at Capital One Center. He shared few details about the upcoming eatery except to say “it won’t be a carbon copy of Cranes,” the Japanese and Spanish fusion restaurant and lounge he opened in D.C.’s Penn Quarter in 2020. [Washington Business Journal]
GMU Performing Arts Venue to End Vaccine Mandates — “George Mason University will soon no longer require proof of COVID-19 vaccines or negative tests for those attending events at the Center for the Arts in Fairfax and the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. The policy change begins May 2.” [Inside NoVA]
Colvin Run Miller’s House to Reopen — “The public will be able to experience a slice of 19th-century middle-class life…when the Fairfax County Park Authority reopens the newly renovated miller’s house at Colvin Run Historic Site…The April 3 event will kick off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m., followed by refreshments in the garden, and festivities will continue until 4 p.m.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Park Authority Plans “One Dark Hour” Event — To kick off International Dark Sky Awareness Week next month, the Fairfax County Park Authority will encourage all residents to turn off any outdoor lights between 9 and 10 p.m. on April 22. The event is intended to demonstrate the importance of using light only when and where it’s needed, so that wildlife and plants can thrive. [FCPA]
It’s Thursday — Light rain throughout the day. High of 66 and low of 56. Sunrise at 7:07 a.m. and sunset at 7:26 p.m. [Weather.gov]
A groundbreaking ceremony today (Monday) marked the beginning of construction on the much-debated I-495 Northern Extension project to build express lanes on a notoriously congested stretch of the Capital Beltway.
The $660 million 495 NEXT project will create two northbound and two southbound lanes between the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons and the Potomac River north of McLean, adding 2.5 miles onto the existing I-495 Express Lanes operated by the toll road company Transurban.
“Today, we’re kicking off the start of construction on this important initiative that will provide much-needed congestion relief and improve travel on this vital corridor in Virginia,” Virginia Department of Transportation Commissioner Stephen Brich said at the event, held at The Perch on top of Capital One Hall in Tysons.
VDOT began preliminary site work in the affected area of I-495 late last year. The project is part of an agreement with Maryland to expand the Beltway with express lanes and rebuild the American Legion Memorial Bridge.
Local opposition and legal challenges have held up Maryland’s toll lanes project, leading to some anxiety from Fairfax County officials, but Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said today that he is working with Gov. Larry Hogan to ensure Maryland completes its portion of the so-called Beltway Accord.
A Great Falls resident, Youngkin said he spent considerable time in traffic, waiting to get somewhere. He told media after the event how he’s seen worsening regional congestion over the years.
“One day, we will see…this stretch of the Beltway move in an extraordinary way: No more backups on the GW Parkway in the afternoon at 5 o’clock, people getting home to see their families,” Youngkin said.
In addition to extending the express lanes, 495 NEXT includes bridge upgrades as well as new bike and pedestrian connections. It will also pave the way for planned bus service between Tysons and suburban Maryland.
As Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay noted, there currently aren’t any public buses that cross the American Legion Bridge.
The Commonwealth is providing $5.2 million to launch the bus service, and Transurban has agreed to contribute $2.2 million annually. An estimated 170,000 people are expected to use it each year.
The Beltway improvements are projected to reduce traffic crashes by 20% and reduce commuting times in express lanes during rush-hour traffic by 50%, officials said.
The new express lanes are slated to open in 2025.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin made his first official appearance in Fairfax County as Virginia’s chief executive today (Monday).
The property security provider Alarm.com will expand its technology research and development division in Tysons with a $2.6 million investment, creating 180 new jobs, Youngkin announced at the company’s headquarters (8218 Greensboro Drive).
“This is exactly what all Virginians want to see happen, which is more opportunity,” the governor said. “…Governments don’t create jobs. Businesses create jobs.”
He later described the tech-focused positions that will be created as “the jobs that underpin the economy of our future.”
With mask rules loosening in Fairfax County and attendance mostly limited to business and government officials as well as press, the event presented minimal risk of a tense public encounter akin to what Youngkin experienced in Alexandria.
However, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay — one of the few people in the room wearing a mask, though he removed it when delivering remarks — pointedly emphasized the role that local government plays in creating an attractive environment for businesses like Alarm.com.
“Our pro-business environment in Fairfax is working,” he said. “…We want everyone to be here and be successful.”
McKay credited the county’s investments in a “world-class” public education system, transportation infrastructure and public safety with making it a critical economic driver for the Commonwealth.
Alarm.com President and CEO Steve Trundle echoed at least some of that sentiment, stating that the quality of the county’s schools “really makes a difference” when the company is recruiting new employees.
Founded as part of MicroStrategy in 2000, Alarm.com became its own company in 2009 and now occupies more than 195,000 square feet of office space just for its headquarters. The business also has a testing lab in Tysons and a fully automated smart home in Falls Church used to demonstrate its security system technology.
The company currently employs about 700 workers in Virginia and ranked 48th on Fortune Magazine’s list of the U.S.’s fastest growing companies in 2021.
“Alarm.com…chose to make this investment in Virginia due to Northern Virginia’s strong workforce, including its high concentration of [science, technology, engineering, and math] workers, numerous higher education institutions, and desirable quality of life,” Alarm.com Vice President of Human Resources Victoria Schillinger said in press releases from the governor’s office and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.
The FCEDA says it worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to secure Alarm.com’s expansion and will support the company’s job creation efforts through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, which offers consulting services and funding to businesses for employee recruitment and training.
In addition to stressing the importance of local government in economic development, McKay argued that Fairfax County’s efforts to support and celebrate its diversity have been crucial to the area’s business and workforce successes.
“We focus on equity and building an inclusive community, and that’s not always what happens in Virginia,” McKay told FFXnow. “If anyone thinks that is good for business, just look at what we’ve done here and what we’ve built here. What we’re doing here is good for business.”
(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) Fairfax County Public Schools and six other school divisions, most of them in Northern Virginia, have sued to stop Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s order that makes face masks optional in schools.
As first reported by The Washington Post, the lawsuit was filed in Arlington Circuit Court this morning (Monday), asking the court for an injunction to stop Youngkin’s order from being enforced.
FCPS was joined by the school boards of Alexandria City, Arlington County, City of Richmond, Falls Church City, Hampton City, and Prince William County.
Collectively representing more than 350,000 students, the jurisdictions have all promised to continue requiring masks for students and staff, defying the executive order that Youngkin issued on Jan. 15, his first day in office, and was set to take effect today.
“The question for this Court is whether, by executive order, a governor can override both the Constitution of Virginia and a law enacted by the General Assembly,” the complaint says. “The School Boards respectfully submit that the answer to this question is no.”
In a joint statement, the suing school divisions say they’re seeking to defend “the right of school boards
to enact policy at the local level, including policies that protect the health and well-being of all students and staff”:
This legal action centers on fundamental questions about the framework of public education in Virginia, as set out in the Virginia Constitution and by the General Assembly. At issue is whether locally elected school boards have the exclusive authority and responsibility conferred upon them by Article VIII, § 7 of the Constitution of Virginia over supervision of the public schools in their respective communities, or whether an executive order can unilaterally override that constitutional authority.
Also at issue is whether a governor can, through executive order, without legislative action by the Virginia General Assembly, reverse a lawfully-adopted statute. In this case, Senate Bill 1303, adopted with the goal of returning students to safe in-person instruction five days a week in March 2021 and still legally in effect, provides that local school boards should follow The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health and safety requirements.
Without today’s action, school boards are placed in a legally untenable position — faced with an executive order that is in conflict with the constitution and state law. Today’s action is not politically motivated. These seven school divisions would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the governor to ensure the safety and welfare of all students.
This lawsuit is not brought out of choice, but out of necessity.
With COVID-19 transmission rates high, our hospitals at crisis level, and the continued recommendation of health experts to retain universal mask-wearing for the time being, this is simply not the time to remove this critical component of layered health and safety mitigation strategies. School divisions need to continue to preserve their authority to protect and serve all our students, including our most vulnerable, who need these mitigation measures perhaps more than anyone to be able to continue to access in-person instruction.
FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand reaffirmed the division’s commitment to maintaining a mask requirement due to the spread of COVID-19 in a message to the community on Friday (Jan. 21), citing state law and a regulation that made masks part of the dress code, as of Aug. 20.
“We are working towards a day when we can begin to roll back these safety measures, including universal masking,” Brabrand said. “But for right now, we must continue to protect and serve all our students, including our most vulnerable. More than anything else, these mitigation measures allow them to safely remain in our schools.”
Fairfax County Public Schools plans to maintain its mask mandate despite Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order removing masking requirements in schools across the state.
The school system was one of several in the Commonwealth, particularly Northern Virginia, that pushed back against the freshly inaugurated governor’s order over the weekend.
FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said the decision was made in alignment with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our layered prevention strategies have proven effective in keeping transmission rates low in our schools,” Brabrand wrote in a message to the community on Sunday (Jan. 16). “We know our students are best served by in-person instruction. Adhering to our layered prevention strategies, especially universal masking, keep our schools open and safe places for students to learn.’
In his executive order — one of several instituted after he took office on Saturday (Jan. 15) — Youngkin said that the universal masking requirements in schools has provided “inconsistent health benefits” and inflicted “notable harm.”
“There is no greater priority than the health and welfare of Virginia’s children,” the executive order reads. “Under Virginia law, parents, not the government, have the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children.”
Brabrand did note that the school system is reviewing Youngkin’s executive order and will update the community about any changes to COVID-19 practices and protocol if they occur.
The Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics concurred with the school system’s decision.
“Face masks remain safe and reliable, and children have demonstrated their ability to wear them effectively,” the chapter’s statement reads, adding that masks allow schools to remain open.
The Democratic Party of Virginia called the governor’s actions “illegal” and an attempt to “appease the far-right instead of protecting Virginia’s children.”
“It’s a sad situation when local school boards in Virginia understand the law and the science more than the governor of Virginia does,” DPVA Chair Susan Swecker said.
But Youngkin says that while the CDC recommends masks, research has found no statistically significant link between mandatory masking and reducing transmission of COVID-19. He says that many children do not wear masks correctly and that the practice produces a “demoralizing” effect.
The executive order will go into effect on Jan. 24.
FCPS has reported 620 COVID-19 cases after five days of in-person instruction this year. A little over 1,500 students have been in quarantine this month.
Other school districts that plan to maintain their masking requirements include Arlington County, Alexandria City, Fauquier County, Loudoun County, Manassas City, Prince William County, Stafford County, and Spotsylvania County.
It is unclear how Youngkin will legally enforce the lifting of the mask requirement, but because Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, localities do not have powers outside of those enumerated by the state.
Photo via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash
(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) While Democrats fared well in Fairfax County, sweeping the local delegate races, Virginia will return to a Republican governor with Glenn Youngkin after former Gov. Terry McAuliffe failed to replicate his 2013 victory.
McAuliffe conceded today (Wednesday), congratulating the governor-elect, thanking supporters, and stressing the need to improve Virginia.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told FFXnow that the election results will not alter the pride that the county takes in its diversity or his commitment to the One Fairfax policy, which advocates for equity.
In a statement, McKay said he will “always fight for the interests of Fairfax County and will work with our statewide leaders to ensure we continue to have one of the best education systems in the country, provide high-quality services, prioritize public health and safety, and ensure Fairfax County is a place where everyone has access to opportunity and growth.”
The Fairfax County Democratic Committee celebrated victories for 15 incumbent delegates as well as newcomers Irene Shin (86th District) and Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (45th District), while calling the overall results “grim.”
“Fairfax County overwhelmingly rejected the message of Youngkin,” FCDC Chair Bryan Graham said in a statement. “…We will continue to reject the anti-immigrant, anti-public education, and anti-equity notions of the Republican Party.”
Statement on yesterday's election results from FCDC Chair @BryanGrahamVA
— Fairfax Democrats (@FairfaxDems) November 3, 2021
FFXnow contacted the Fairfax County Republican Committee for comment but has not heard back as of press time.
The county’s lone Republican supervisor, Pat Herrity, who represents Springfield District, said it’s a good day for Fairfax County residents.
“I think this election marks the beginning of a movement to bring all Virginians together to focus on common sense solutions to everyday problems instead of partisan politics and rhetoric,” Herrity said in a statement. “This includes a new focus on public safety, our education system, the economy and the cost of government.”
Youngkin’s victory will have a direct effect on future Fairfax County elections.
State law dictates that two seats of the county’s three-member Electoral Board represent the political party that won the most recent gubernatorial race. The runner-up party gets the third seat. Board members serve three-year terms with one seat opening up each year.
The board’s duties include administering absentee ballots and conducting elections.
While voting in Fairfax County unfolded smoothly for the most part, technical issues led to a delay in reporting some results from in-person early voting.
Approximately 20,000 electronic ballots had to be re-scanned because thumb drives were corrupted and didn’t work, affecting four machines at voting sites, said Brian Worthy, a spokesperson with the Fairfax County Office of Elections.
“That’s why we have paper ballots,” he said, noting that the backups allowed the rescanning to occur.
Fairfax County Turnout for Democrats Weakens
Turnout in Fairfax County was nearly the same as the last gubernatorial race in 2017, when 56.1% of active voters cast a ballot. Unofficial results from Tuesday showed around 437,000 ballots cast out of over 780,000 registered voters, a 55.99% turnout, according to a county elections report.
While early voting was significant, influenced by a 2020 change in state law to allow no-excuse absentee voting, it failed to reach the level of turnout seen last year, when there was a presidential race on the ballot.
Support for McAuliffe from voters in Fairfax County, the state’s most populous area, was strong, but not quite as robust as it was for previous Democratic candidates, including in the last gubernatorial race and last year’s presidential election.
Fairfax County voters favored McAuliffe with 64.6% of the vote in this year’s general election, whereas they supported Joe Biden’s bid for the presidency in 2020 with a 69.4% majority. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam won Fairfax County in 2017 with 66.5% of the vote.
Once the results are certified, Youngkin will be sworn in for his four-year term on Jan. 15.
Matt Blitz contributed to this report.