On February 28, 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. The second response I received was from Alicia Plerhoples; you can see that here. The third response I received was from Tim Chapman, which you can see here. Finally, I just received a response from Ryan McElveen, which are as follows. And thanks to all four Fairfax County Board Chair candidates for responding to these questions!
- What do you believe are the most important issues and opportunities that Fairfax County will need to address in the next 10-20 years?
The three most important issues and opportunities that Fairfax needs to address in the next two decades are in the areas of education, innovation and opportunity. In the education sector, we need to implement universal pre-Kindergarten so that our students enter school ready to succeed. In the innovation sphere, we need to ensure that all of our residents are connected to the internet; that we have transportation networks that accommodate expanded public transit and electric and autonomous vehicles; and that we invest in a green infrastructure that pushes us toward a carbon-neutral future. In terms of opportunity, we need to prepare our students and community members for the jobs of the future and build affordable housing that is accessible to all our residents.
- Please share your vision for Fairfax County by completing the following statement: Ten years from now, I hope Fairfax County will be a place whereeveryone has a place at the decision-making table.
For too long, we have allowed the status quo, a “don’t rock the boat” culture, to prevail on the Board of Supervisors. During the past few years, we have seen the board:
- encourage rising costs of living, to the point that owning or renting a home in Fairfax slips further out of reach for many;
- allow short-sighted budget decisions to squeeze our county employees and neglect our children;
- respond too slowly to concerns about law enforcement controversies and collaboration with ICE;
- fail to properly address global climate change in our backyard and prioritize the retention and creation of new green space;
- inadequately build upon the opportunity provided by the Black Lives Matter movement and School Board conversations about school name changes to investigate and confront our county’s role in upholding white supremacy;
- lag in building upon the international connections in our region to recruit and develop businesses and industries of the future; and
- move too slowly in revitalizing neglected areas and repurposing the county’s unused office space.
Since January, I have been saying that we are two Fairfaxes. Every day that the status quo is further entrenched, that divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” grows wider. We need to turn our attention to the areas and the populations that will benefit from neither Amazon and a growing tech sector nor higher property values. We need all of our residents to have a voice. In ten years, as Chair of the Board of Supervisors, I will purposefully work to narrow that gap and provide more seats at the table, making sure that our county workforce, board and commission membership better reflect the demographics of our diversifying community.
I am the only candidate in this race who has experience as an elected official representing all Fairfax residents and overseeing 53% of the county budget as a School Board member. I am also an outsider to the Board of Supervisors. Over the past eight years, I’ve watched as decisions were made by the Board that frustrate me, just like any other Fairfax resident.
My roles as a FCPS graduate, a Fairfax parent, a School Board member and candidate for Chair have one thread: a dedication to the county that I love. I want to make sure everyone who calls this place home is able to love and serve it the way I have sought to do.
- What are three things you believe Fairfax County Government does well?
- Service Delivery: From issuing building permits and tax bills to running our parks and libraries, we are blessed with a professional workforce in Fairfax County government that performs at an unparalleled level.
- Budget Outreach: We have an accessible and responsive budget staff and budget process that engages the community and works to ensure that residents have clear answers to questions about how their tax dollars are spent.
- Public Works: The County does a good job with the basics of public infrastructure—ensuring that roads are maintained, waste and storm water are managed, and county facilities are cleaned.
- What are three areas in which you believe Fairfax County Government could improve?
- Transparency and Public Engagement: Our County needs to do a better job meeting residents where they are instead of asking residents to come to them. As a School Board member, I have worked to improve school system transparency and public engagement. My first action on the School Board was to draft a plan to allow community members to testify by uploading YouTube videos. As chair of the School Board’s Public Engagement Committee, I supported the recording of our public meetings, creation of Board member newsletters, and led the School Board Student Leadership Development Program and hosted annual “Innovation and Advocacy Workshops” to teach students how to navigate local, state and federal government policymaking. I will bring this transparency-focused mindset to the Board.
- Legislative Advocacy: Our County needs to do more to collaborate with other jurisdictions throughout the Commonwealth to bring about equitable state funding for education and other county priorities while promoting the diversification of revenue sources to prevent overreliance on property taxes. Having served as the School Board’s state legislative liaison for seven years, I have fought to make sure Fairfax County gets its fair share from Richmond, and I have led our Board in successfully advocating for increased teacher pay, reduced standardized testing, greater school calendar flexibility and the adoption of Fairfax-grown initiatives like our “Portrait of a Graduate” at the state level.
- Demographic Representation: The County’s workforce and appointees to county boards and commissions—like our school system employees—need to reflect the demographic diversity of our county. As a School Board member, I’ve pushed to include workforce diversity goals in our strategic plan, and my appointments to Board committees have reflected my commitment to more diverse representation.
- What would you choose as the top 3 priorities for the County over the next 3-5 years?
- Implementing Universal Pre-Kindergarten: Despite years of lip service to the importance of early childhood education, the County has not made the necessary investments to ensure all of our children have access to pre-Kindergarten. Studies have shown that for every $1 we invest in high quality early childhood education we get $7 back in savings to society. Universal Pre-K is not just a moral and pedagogical imperative—it is a fiscal imperative, too.
- Addressing Climate Change: Even as our national leaders ignore the impacts of climate change, we must do what we can at the local level to prepare for these realities, and we must embrace sustainability in all our building and development. Like other coastal regions of Virginia affected by the flooding resulting from sea-level rise and extreme rainfall, Fairfax County is being directly impacted by climate change. It is past time for the County to become a national model for sustainability efforts and adopt both a community-wide energy and climate action plan and a resiliency plan. As a signatory to the Green New Deal Virginia, I have called for the implementation of a just and equitable plan to transition Fairfax County to 40 percent renewables by 2030 and 100 percent renewables by 2050.
- Increasing Affordable Housing: The County’s affordable housing stock is nowhere near large enough to accommodate demand today, and the neglect of investments in this critical infrastructure over the past few years has set us back further as we look to the future. We must ensure that our seniors, special needs populations and public workforce—particularly our public school, police and fire employees—have access to affordable housing spread throughout our entire community. At a time of County revitalization and regeneration, we need to recognize the linkages between affordable housing, education, healthcare, transportation, and climate change, and use these linkages to fuel the co-location of services in our community and build upon the community schools movement.