Last Thursday, I emailed all four candidates for Fairfax County Board Chair – Alicia Plerhoples, Jeff McKay, Ryan McElveen and Tim Chapman – regarding the Fairfax County Strategic Plan Survey. This is a short questionnaire by Fairfax County, about what residents want the county’s strategic plan to focus on. I thought it would be interesting to see how the four candidates for Fairfax County Board Chair would respond to these same questions. As I wrote to them, “I’d love to post your responses on Blue Virginia, as I think this would help readers understand what your priorities are for Fairfax County and what your focus would be if you’re elected Chair.” The first response I received was from Jeff McKay; you can see that here. This morning, I received Alicia Plerhoples’ response, which you can see below. I hope to receive Tim Chapman’s and Ryan McElveen’s as well…hopefully soon.
- What do you believe are the most important issues and opportunities that Fairfax County will need to address in the next 10-20 years?
Fairfax County is at a crossroads. We must determine whether we continue down the path of enabling unaffordability and rising costs of living as the county takes incremental steps forward, or we harness the political courage to become the leader in affordable and workforce housing, early childhood education, and economic growth that addresses the existential threat of climate change.
Every Fairfax County resident deserves the opportunity to live somewhere affordable, convenient, and safe. But housing development has not kept pace with job growth in our county. People who work here cannot afford to live here. Our county is not sufficiently addressing its affordable and workforce housing crisis. Affordable and workforce housing is a values issue; it’s the right thing to do. But it is also an economic issue. The county’s current approach to housing is not sustainable for economic growth—businesses need an accessible workforce to do business here. We cannot price ourselves out of economic growth and the commercial real estate tax base that it brings. I’ll set the agenda to increase workforce and affordable housing to ensure that everyone benefits from the economic growth of the county and we’re not pushing people out.
As we continue growing the economy in Fairfax County and expanding our tax base, we can do so in a sustainable, green manner. Fairfax County could be at the forefront of the adaptive green economy of the future and part of the #GreenNewDealVA, which I have signed onto this week.
As a mother of young children, I am extremely concern about their future and the planet we are leaving behind for them. We have a responsibility to do all we can to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change. I believe it is possible to have a sustainable and thriving economy and a healthy living environment at the same time.
In addition to working towards the Green New Deal VA objectives, as Chairman, I will work to:
- Incorporate best environmental practices into all aspects of the county’s operations, planning and development, such as (1) taking a holistic approach to urban planning that takes into account our day to day living in a way that will minimize our carbon footprints, (2) investing in renewables and environmental job-training programs, and (3) creating incentives for private employers to encourage telework to reduce traffic.
- Advocate for state legislations that will remove barriers to our ability to adopt more clean energy, such as municipal and residential solar.
- Promote greater public awareness on climate issues and build public support for county initiatives to address climate change and improve environmental quality.
Education is the foundation of our thriving, economically vibrant county. The inequities in education in our county are widening. We can start to close the gap with universal prekindergarten so that we set our children up for success. Students who have not been in preschool arrive at kindergarten with a significant learning disadvantage when compared to children who have attended preschool programs. Our schools then often spend enormous sums and many years struggling to close this achievement gap with limited successes. These educational achievement gaps often track with socioeconomic gaps making this an “opportunity gap.” This fundamental inequity in access has economic consequences, and the long-term economic benefits of early childhood education can close this gap.
- Please share your vision for Fairfax County by completing the following statement: Ten years from now, I hope Fairfax County will be a place where______________________.
. . . people who work here can afford to live here; where we have a thriving, sustainable economy that works for all areas of the county; and where every student in Fairfax County, regardless of district or zip code, receives a high-quality education from universal prekindergarten through graduation.
- What are three things you believe Fairfax County Government does well?
- Fairfax County is a great place to do business. By shifting to invest in workforce development, affordable housing, and a green economy, we can continue to attract and retain businesses large and small.
- We have a world-class educational system. Though underfunded for years, our schools are still some of the top in the nation. Fairfax County can invest in our students’ futures by providing universal prekindergarten and giving every school the resources they need to prepare students for success.
- I applaud the One Fairfax initiative for its equity framework. We need action-items to implement the initiative and we need a Board of Supervisors that will implement the action-items in a way that does not make the initiative’s words ring hollow.
- What are three areas in which you believe Fairfax County Government could improve?
- We cannot continue to gloss over the economic disparities across Fairfax County and the impact it has on us all. We have districts with poverty rates as high as 14% surrounded by some of the wealthiest communities in the country. We need to be more responsive to the diverse needs of our communities and help people access the resources and quality jobs they need to thrive. This includes working to support and improve our criminal justice system.
- Fairfax County could be a leader in attracting and retaining vibrant businesses and industry. To do so, we need to invest in developing a secure, productive, and diverse workforce with the skills businesses need. Our IT businesses need 40,000 IT professionals which they cannot now find in Fairfax County. We need to create apprenticeships and job-training programs for our students and residents to meet this unfilled need. We also need to enable people to live in the communities in which they work. We also need to support our home-grown small businesses and invest in innovation hubs across the county.
- Fairfax County has one of the top school systems in the nation, but we have consistently underfunded our public schools. Last year was the first year that the Board of Supervisors fully funded our schools; I will work to continue that trend. We can never rest on our laurels with our educational division. Our public schools are why many of our residents choose to live in Fairfax County. We need to keep expanding opportunity, by working towards universal early childhood education, promoting educational equity across districts, and supporting and protecting our LGBTQ teachers, staff, and students.
- What would you choose as the top 3 priorities for the County over the
next 3-5 years?
– Livable, caring, affordable communities where people who work in Fairfax can afford to live in Fairfax.
-A vibrant, green economy that creates quality jobs and restores a clean, sustainable environment.
-A high quality educational division that meets the needs of students in every part of the county.
Share your own or choose from the list of current Fairfax County Board of
- A quality educational system
• A clean, sustainable environment and vibrant economy
- Livable, caring, affordable communities
• Taxes that are affordable
- Efficient transportation network
- Safe streets and neighborhoods
• Recreational and cultural opportunities