The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is looking at implementing an emergency $2 fuel surcharge on every trip starting later this month. That would double the current surcharge, which was implemented in April, as gas prices have climbed even compared to two months ago.
“The current emergency taxicab fuel surcharge of $1.00 only covers an increase in fuel cost up to $4.30 per gallon,” the staff report notes.
The average gas price in Fairfax County is currently $5.02, according to the American Automobile Association.
“Taxicab drivers already operate on low margins, but they play an important role for many residents and visitors to Fairfax County,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement to FFXnow. “It is vital to keep them operational and, additionally, it is not fair for the taxicab drivers themselves to be impacted by devastating increases in fuel prices throughout the county. This is a temporary surcharge increase that we have the ability to rescind as gas prices hopefully fall in the future.”
The initial $1 surcharge ordinance expires this Saturday (June 11). If approved, the new one would begin June 29 and last six months — essentially to the end of 2022 — “unless rescinded.”
When it met yesterday (Tuesday), the county board approved a June 21 public hearing to discuss the increase. A vote on the measure is anticipated on June 28. If approved, it will be implemented the next day.
A number of neighboring jurisdictions have implemented similar fuel surcharges. Arlington’s $1 charge went into effect mid-May and will be on the books for six months. The City of Alexandria’s dollar surcharge began in March and could last up to a year.
Beyond those employed by the industry, keeping the taxi business afloat is important for a number of other county residents, according to the staff report.
“The on-demand availability of safe and reliable taxicab services…is important to the public well being, especially for those consumers unable to use public transportation and who rely on taxicab service for their basic transportation needs,” it reads.
The county government and Fairfax County Public Schools work with cab companies for special-needs transportation, including providing nearly 3,000 wheelchair accessible trips in 2020.
Cabs are also part of the TOPS program, which provides subsidized transportation to eligible residents. The report says TOPS participants take about 134 taxicab trips per month, so the fuel surcharge is estimated to cost the county about $1,600 extra per month.
Approximately 90 students with disabilities and special needs use cabs to go to and from school. FCPS estimates that an extra $15,000 will be needed for the surcharge, but it will be able to absorb the extra costs into its budgets.
The ordinance leaves room for the surcharge to be extended, increased or rescinded “if prices fall significantly.”
There’s hope that the surcharge may actually increase the number of cab drivers in the county.
“The $2.00 per-trip emergency taxicab fuel surcharge will continue to provide relief to the taxicab drivers who are suffering an economic hardship from increased fuel costs,” the report said. “This increase may also help retain current drivers and recruit new drivers.”
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
Fairfax County is looking for more ways to bring more people into supportive and permanent housing beyond what some consider the band-aid approach to tackling homelessness — temporary shelters.
At a meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously moved a board matter directing staff to complete a comprehensive evaluation of ways to boost supportive housing, the evaluation of current options, and protocol for emergency shelter in commercial and industrial districts.
The matter was jointly collaborated on by Chairman Jeff McKay and supervisors John Foust, Walter Alcorn, Rodney Lusk, and Dalia Palchik. Foust led the motion.
Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross cautioned the board to consider that policy changes can only go so far in implementing goals.
“We really need to make sure we recognize that policies can only be so good as the people who are actually trying to implement them too,” Gross said.
Foust acknowledged that the county’s work relies heavily on support for external partners and nonprofit organizations. He also noted that the policy directive encourages county staff to examine resources overall.
“So much of what we do in that arena is through the nonprofits and we need to look at that specifically,” Foust said.
There are currently 1,191 people experiencing homelessness in Fairfax County, per a Point in Time count calculated by the county. 282 adults are experiencing chronic homelessness, and 50% of those counted identified as Black or African American, even though that demographic makes up just 10% of the county’s general population.
The board matter specifically delves into the county’s Quarantine, Protection, Isolation/Decompression (QPID) hotels program, which was created to provide emergency shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was run in addition to the county’s hypothermia program, which operates every winter.
This year, the end of both programs raised red flags about the chronic issues of lack of emergency shelter and permanent housing. QPID ended in March.
While supportive options are available in the county, many find themselves unsheltered until a shelter bed or housing becomes available, the board matter said:
Given the shortage of shelter beds and housing, individuals may be unsheltered and unhoused between hypothermia prevention seasons. These individuals can wind up sleeping in cars, at bus shelters, in tents in the woods, and in other outdoor places. They often sleep near the County’s homeless shelters so they can access services such as meals, bathrooms and showering, laundry, and outreach/case worker assistance.
The county has been working on the issue for years. In April, Alcorn directed the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness to review the county’s current operational performance in its effort to prevent and end homelessness.
The latest board matter directs staff to do the following:
Evaluate the successes and challenges experienced with QPID, including costs, operations, and results, and including how QPID compares with the success of the County’s established use of hotel rooms as temporary shelter for qualifying unhoused families.
Identify site-specific options for the development of more permanent supportive housing, with a focus on creative solutions for the long-term housing and service needs of the homeless population.
Review current zoning requirements and allowances for emergency shelter in commercial and
industrial districts where vacant and underutilized properties might be used by private entities to provide sheltering and transitional services to the homeless population and include this issue as a possible addition to the Zoning Ordinance work program for the Board’s consideration.
Provide an analysis of other available options that are not currently being used to address
homelessness in the County, including costs and benefits of each, and provide recommendations for the Board’s consideration. This analysis should include a review of successful efforts that have been implemented in other jurisdictions.
Ensure that the county’s partners in addressing homelessness have an opportunity to provide input to staff regarding matters addressed herein, including the operational review requested in the April 12 board matter.
Staff will present findings and recommendations at the board’s housing committee meeting on Nov. 22.
Board Chair “Saddened” by Buffalo Mass Shooting — “I am both saddened and angered over the senseless loss of life that took place in Buffalo, NY. The racial hate that reportedly motivated this horrific attack is inexcusable. I am keeping the victims and their families in my prayers.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]
Nearly Half of Metrorail Operators Lapse Recertification — “Metro management is taking immediate corrective action to remove from service 72 train operators who became out of compliance prior to May 2021. This will result in a temporary reduction in Green and Yellow line service from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes due to an operator shortage…Service impacts are expected to continue until the end of May.” [WMATA]
Police Investigate Deaths Near Robinson Secondary School — “Detectives are on the scene in the 10400 blk of Stallworth Ct. in Fairfax after officers discovered two deceased persons following a welfare check. Preliminarily, this appears to be a domestic-related incident. There is no known threat to the public at this time.” [FCPD/Twitter]
FCPS Considers Co-Ed Sex Education Classes — “An advisory committee recently approved a plan to mix boys and girls in grades 4-8 during Family Life Education instruction; a practice that is done in some area school systems but not in others…Board members are expected to discuss mixing-genders in Family Life Education classes as early as June.” [ABC7]
Area Eagles Suffer from Lead Poisoning — “Toxins in the environment, and especially lead, [Jeff Cooper] suspected, were hurting bald eagles in Virginia more than ecologists realized…The findings went beyond Cooper’s fears: Nearly half of bald and golden eagles in the United States, and in the D.C. region, have chronic lead poisoning.” [The Washington Post]
Person Shot in Mount Vernon Near Richmond Highway — Fairfax County police officers responded to Buckman Road and Janna Lee Avenue on Thursday (May 12) after a person was shot in the upper body by someone “seen pointing a silver handgun from an older model black Toyota Highlander.” The victim’s injuries were not considered life threatening, and police don’t believe it was a random act. [FCPD]
Couple Recalls Meet at Clyde’s in Reston — As Clyde’s prepares to close on Saturday (May 21) after 31 years at Reston Town Center, resident Kristin Simons reflects on having her first date with her now-husband at the restaurant. Since then, Clyde’s has become a go-to destination for the family for everything from brunches to work-related celebrations, she says. [Fairfax County Times]
Princess Diana Exhibit Comes to Tysons — “The new experience, called Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition, is said to be the world’s first-ever walk-through documentary by its creators…Tickets to the experience are now on sale…and the event’s first day open to the public will be on May 25 at Tysons Corner Center.” [WUSA9]
Tysons Pedestrian Bridge Falling into Place — “The perfect cure for a gloomy day? Check out the most recent progress pics of our new ped bridge over the Beltway in Tysons, opening this year!” [VDOT/Twitter]
It’s Monday — Rain in the afternoon and evening. High of 74 and low of 62. Sunrise at 5:57 am and sunset at 8:17 pm. [Weather.gov]
Fairfax County’s Merrifield Center has a new, slightly more descriptive name.
The Sharon Bulova Center for Community Health was officially christened at a dedication ceremony yesterday (Thursday), taking its name from the former Board of Supervisors chairman who helped develop the Diversion First initiative aimed at shifting people with mental health and substance use challenges to treatment instead of incarceration.
“Sharon is more than a mentor, she is a friend, and her legacy to Fairfax County is unmatched,” said current Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Bulova’s successor. “It is entirely fitting that this center, which is at the heart of our Diversion First initiative, is named in her honor.”
Located at 8221 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, the facility opened in March 2015 to serve as a central hub for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, which provides emergency services and other supports for people who have mental illnesses, substance use disorders, and developmental disabilities.
As the board chairman from 2010 to 2020, Bulova oversaw Diversion First’s launch in 2016 as an effort to rethink the county’s approach to mental health after a police officer shot and killed Springfield resident John Geer in 2013 and sheriff’s deputies restrained and stunned Natasha McKenna, resulting in her death in 2015.
“It was their tragic deaths that sparked change,” Bulova said, acknowledging that it was a “pretty tense” time in the county. “Both incidents shown a stark light on the county’s need for reforms and policies regarding transparency, oversight, use of force, and criminal incident response, including and especially in cases involving persons suffering from mental illnesses.”
Focused on people involved in the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses, the initiative started primarily as a partnership between the CSB, police, and sheriff’s office. It has since expanded to include housing assistance and specialty veteran, mental health, and drug court dockets to address the specific needs of those populations.
Per a news release from McKay’s office:
Diversion First is designed to prevent repeat encounters with the criminal justice system, improve public safety, promote a healthier community and is a more cost effective and efficient use of public funding.
Since its founding in 2016, there have been more than 12,000 law enforcement transports to the now-Bulova Center where the Diversion First program is located. Over 8,600 people were under an emergency custody order and 3,540 additional transports were because an officer recognized that an individual in the community needed behavioral health services. Over 2,600 have been diverted from potential arrest. Of those transported to the MCRC by law enforcement, on average 80% do not have a repeat visit to the MCRC related to criminal justice involvement within a year. Over 80% of those diverted from potential arrest in 2019 were not incarcerated during the following year.
“Diversion First is a revolutionary concept that was and remains ahead of its time,” McKay said. “This remarkable facility and its community impact on a daily basis are a testament to the type of change that forward-thinking, innovative local government involvement can make.”
(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
Later this afternoon (Thursday), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay will descend by rope down a 14-story hotel in Arlington County.
McKay is among over 70 volunteers and VIPs participating in a charity rappeling event at the Hilton (2399 Richmond Highway) in Crystal City to raise money for New Hope Housing, a Northern Virginia nonprofit that provides assistance for people experiencing homelessness.
The event will unfold over two days, with elected officials and other VIPs rappeling down starting at 4 p.m. today. Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti has also been confirmed as a participant.
Donors from the general public will rappel down the hotel from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow (Friday). Food, drinks, music, and vendor booths will be available at a “Landing Zone” for those who want to watch.
In a media advisory from his office, McKay highlighted Fairfax County’s recent efforts to prioritize affordable housing, including its recently doubled goal to build 10,000 new units in 12 years and the Dominion Square West project in Tysons that announced full construction funding on Tuesday (May 3):
Access to affordable housing is a signature issue in Fairfax County and the region, and is my personal focus. We have seen, especially over the last two years, the tremendous struggle that comes from the lack of access to affordable housing. During my time as Chairman, I have worked nonstop to direct Fairfax County’s efforts to build at least 10,000 affordable units over the next 12 years, including more than 500 just announced in the heart of Tysons, and this is only the beginning. Affordable housing leads directly to jobs and leads directly to a significant enhancement to the quality of life and community for everyone.
This is why I am glad to be at this event today to help promote this vital cause and the great work New Hope Housing and all our non-profits do to alleviate this crisis — even if it means rappelling off a building! The more attention and effort we can bring to this critical issue of inequity, the more we can build the needed coalitions between the public, private, and non-profit sectors to give everyone the dignity of a safe, secure, and affordable home.
(Updated at 9 a.m.) County Board Chair Tests Positive for Covid — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay announced last night (Monday) that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He reported experiencing “minor symptoms which are uncomfortable but manageable” and is currently working from home and quarantining. [Jeff McKay/Twitter]
Johnny Depp Fans Wait at Courthouse — “Fans who stood outside the main entrance of the Fairfax County Courthouse with the hopes of glimpsing actor Johnny Depp as he appeared for the first day of his defamation trial were disappointed. The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star skipped the crowds and entered the courthouse through another door.” [Patch]
Sen. Mark Warner Visits for Affordable Housing Talk — “Every community needs access to affordable housing. Glad to deliver funding to Fairfax County today to create up to 250 affordable housing units and talk to local leaders about how we can further support their initiatives at a federal level.” [Mark Warner/Twitter]
Trees Cut Down for Mount Vernon Bicycle Trail Project — “Construction to improve and link the Mount Vernon Bike Trail along the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway is in its early stages and to clear the way, a significant number of trees have been cut down along the road. According to the project team, there is no plan to replant additional trees when the project is completed, a county spokesperson said.” [The Connection]
Tysons Real Estate Leaders Explore Nats Sale — The Lerner family, which is behind the Tysons II development master plan, has hired an investment bank to explore potential investment partners for the Washington Nationals, The Washington Post reported. Mark Lerner, the baseball club’s managing principal owner, called the move “exploratory” with “no set timetable or expectation of a specific outcome.” [Patch]
County Unemployment Rate Declines — “Inflation may be eating away at their earnings, but a larger share of Fairfax County residents had jobs in February than a month before, according to new federal data…The county’s unemployment rate for the shortest month of the year stood at 2.5 percent, down from 2.9 percent a month before.” [Sun Gazette]
Local LGBTQ+ Advocates Worried About New Law — “Under a new law, Virginia school districts must notify parents whenever instructional materials include sexually explicit content and must provide parents alternative, non-explicit materials if requested…FCPS Pride said the bill ‘creates an adversarial relationship between teachers and parents or guardians.'” [The Washington Post]
Public Safety Workers Honored in Reston — “Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce officials on March 31 honored police, fire-and-rescue and Sheriff’s Office employees for their outstanding acts of public protection. More than 600 people attended the 44th annual Fairfax County Valor Awards, held at the Hyatt Regency Reston.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Herndon Plans Town-Wide Clean-Up — “The annual spring clean-up, an opportunity for residents to place large or bulky items curbside for pickup, takes place April 27-29. Pickup is on your trash day only.” [Town of Herndon]
It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 72 and low of 53. Sunrise at 6:37 am and sunset at 7:44 pm. [Weather.gov]
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and other Northern Virginia officials are looking for ways to help commuters during a lengthy planned shutdown of Metro’s Yellow Line for rehabilitation work.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will stop service on a key section of the line for seven to eight months to repair a Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac River and tunnels that are over 40 years old.
The project is scheduled to start in September and finish in the spring. The shutdown will be between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations.
“The seemingly endless stream of shutdowns, delays, and missed completion dates is making Fairfax County commuters increasingly frustrated and hampering Metro’s ability to rebound from pandemic ridership numbers,” Chairman Jeff McKay said during the board’s meeting yesterday (Tuesday).
The board agreed to write a letter urging WMATA to accelerate the project timeline and provide more alternatives for commuters, such as improved bus service and parking fare reductions at Yellow Line stations during construction.
McKay also encouraged Virginia Railway Express to play a “lead role in possibly providing relief in ways like fare incentives for Yellow Line riders.”
McKay said that while safety must be the highest priority, he’s concerned about the effects of the shutdown, especially as people return to the workplace. Metro service has already been significantly reduced systemwide for months since a train derailed in Arlington County in October.
“WMATA needs to find a way to shorten that timeframe and do a better job of at least getting our commuters through that bottleneck, which is frankly, for us, Alexandria,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said.
The Mount Vernon District borders the City of Alexandria and includes the Huntington Metro station at the end of the Yellow Line.
“That’s not a criticism of Alexandria,” Storck added. “It’s just the amount of people that’s going to go through it is even more than in the past.”
WMATA spokesperson Sherri Ly said the authority is working with its regional partners, businesses and the community to create a mitigation plan, including bus service enhancements and changes to parking policy for the project’s duration.
In an aggressive move, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday (Tuesday) to amp up its affordable housing goals.
Through a motion introduced by Chairman Jeff McKay and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, the board set a new goal of 10,000 affordable housing units by 2034. The previous target, set in 2019, was 5,000 new units in 15 years.
McKay said the county’s previous goal was set in place as a floor, rather than a ceiling, and with the “intent to blow it out of the water.”
“It’s amazing that we’re in a position today just two years after adopting that goal, that we’re able to move the floor to 10,000 units moving forward,” McKay said. “That’s 10,000 individuals and families whose lives will be immeasurably improved, and that’s 10,000 units that we know will be occupied by many, many families over many years.”
Currently, there are 2,200 new affordable units under development in the county.
The county has also renewed efforts to make affordable housing a central planning tenet. For instance, the board approved $33 million in federal loans to fund a 175-unit residential project at Dominion Square West in Tysons.
Despite a renewed effort to boost the county’s affordable housing stock, the move still falls short of providing the 15,000 units that the county’s Affordable Housing Resources Panel predicted the county would need.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said he has set a goal of securing 1,000 additional units in the Hunter Mill District specifically by the end of 2027.
“I would welcome any of my colleagues who want to get a little friendly competition, as long as we’re not taking any projects from anyone else’s district,” he said. “This is something that’s going to benefit everyone in the county, but it is up to us to work through these issues, to make sure that the projects get funded, that they get support from the community, and work through the process as they are.”
Springfield District Supervisor Herrity voted against the board matter, expressing discomfort with pursuing a goal without having a a clear financial plan.
“I’m sorry I can’t commit to literally taxing many of our residents out of their houses, which we are doing and have done, by committing to spend untold tens of millions of dollars in rent-controlled housing with undetermined fiscal impacts,” Herrity said, noting that the county is in the middle of a budget cycle. “I’ve been supportive of creative affordable housing solutions, but we don’t have any of those on the table right now.’
McKay called Herrity’s comments an “affront” to the development community, the nonprofit community, county staff, and the community at large.
“This is an economic issue,” McKay countered. “Not doing anything will cost us far more as a community, not to mention all the moral responsibility issues and all the things we talked about here, but not aspiring to this goal will cost the county enormously from an economic standpoint.”