I just got back from the well-attended (200+ people, I’d estimate) campaign kickoff for Alicia Plerhoples, who announced her candidate for Fairfax County Board Chair just a couple weeks ago, on February 15. The other three candidates running for Fairfax County Board Chair, to succeed current Chair Sharon Bulova (who has announced that she will be retiring when her current term expires at the end of 2019) are Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay, real estate developer Tim Chapman and Fairfax County At-Large School Board member Ryan McElveen.
At today’s campaign kickoff for Alicia Plerhoples (see video, below), elected officials and candidates in attendance – announced by Plerhoples’ campaign manager Zakiya Thomas – included Del. Mark Keam, Del. Ibraheem Samirah, Fairfax County At-Large School Board member Ilryong Moon, Fairfax County At-Large School Board candidate Rachna Sizemore Heizer, Fairfax County At-Large School Board candidate Abrar Omeish, Providence District (Fairfax County) Supervisor candidate Edythe Kelleher, Hunter Mill District (Fairfax County) School Board candidate Melanie Meren, Sully District (Fairfax County) School Board candidate Stella Pekarsky, Mason District (Fairfax County) School Board candidate Ricardy Anderson, Commonwealth’s Attorney candidate Steve Descano, etc. (I probably missed a few).
Introducing Alicia Plerhoples were 2018 Democratic 10th CD candidate Lindsey Davis Stover and 2017 Democratic House of Delegates nominee Donte Tanner. First, Stover talked (see video, below) about the importance of “showing up over and over and over again…at the doors, on the phone, writing postcards…we have created an incredible change in our community, in our state and in our country.” Stover said what gets her and many others “off the couch” is their kids, also that our country is in “so much of a disarray” and that we need to “fight for a seat at the table, because so much depends on it right now; the sense of urgency is now.” As for the importance of the Fairfax County Board Chair race, Stover argued that “decisions are going to be made…on affordable housing…the opportunity to lead our community, our state and our country on issues that matter to all of us like equality and climate change.” According to Stover, “we have the opportunity right now to put someone in a position that will fill that seat at the table that we so desperately need.” Stover said she knows Plerhoples “as an activist, and a friend, and a mother…also as a brilliant lawyer, someone who is so incredibly accomplished, who has over 14 years of experience fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves…the experience that we need right here in Fairfax County.” She said she “couldn’t be more honored and proud” to support Alicia Plerhoples and urged everyone else to do the same, “because so much is at stake.”
Stover then introduced Donte Tanner. Check out video of his speech, below.
Donte Tanner said “the last couple months, it’s been rough for us…and at a time like this we have a unique opportunity to change the conversation, to change the narrative, to actually start addressing the issues that we as a party have not addressed for some time now but we know we need to, and that’s why I’m so excited right now to support my friend Alicia.” Tanner said we need be talking about “affordable housing, early childhood care, economic equality…[and that] we need more diversity in our leadership, not just diversity in who’s representing us, it’s also diversity in their backgrounds, where they’ve come from, their experience…who knows that we need to change some fundamental things about how we do things in Fairfax County.” Tanner added that we also need “diversity of thought,” calling that “the most important thing,” and that to this point we’ve been too “complacent…as a party…as a commonwealth.” Tanner said that he and Alicia agreed on “almost every single platform issue, she had me absolutely inspired.”
Finally, Alicia Plerhoples spoke. According to Plerhoples, she’s running “because there are two Fairfax Counties that are separated by economic opportunity.” She talked about how she’s “lived those two extremes,” how when she was “nine years old, my father was fired from his job as a GED teacher; he was standing up for the rights of the students that he was teaching, and his private employer fired him for that.” Plerhoples explained how “that set off the chain of events for my family that led to eviction from our house,” spending “the better part of my fourth grade year living in a motel room with my siblings, some of who are back here today,” and how “that experience shaped who I am today…shaped my entire life and my entire outlook.”
Plerhoples said she’s “spent the last 14 years working in community economic development,” after getting degrees at Harvard (“with the help of a lot of financial aid, work-study, student loans”), a master’s in public policy at Princeton’s School of International Affairs and Public Policy, and then Yale Law School. She said she “entered into a career in community economic development “because I know that this is where I can make an impact and where I can make a difference.” She talked about how, although she’s “a law professor…at Georgetown Law School, her “head is not in the clouds at all ..but my heart and my head are on the streets, so I run a mall public interest law firm within the law school and we work in community economic development…making loans to small businesses and nonprofit organizations…that are started by people like returning citizens or women that are survivors of domestic violence.” She said “that is the work I do and that is the skillset that I will bring to the Chairman position.”
Plerhoples explained that she “shared my story about my economic hardship because that is what so many of our families in Fairfax County are facing today.” She said that, “unfortunately, those realities are masked; you know we can say that we have 6% poverty in Fairfax County, but the truth is we have pockets of poverty that are high as 14% – 22% of children in Mason District are living in poverty, one in four Fairfax County children experiences food insecurity.” According to Plerhoples, “this is unacceptable,” and “the county has not acted with the urgency that it needs on these issues.”
Plerhoples listed her top priorities:
1) “…affordable and workforce housing…our workers cannot afford to live in Fairfax County...I’m a member of the Fairfax County Budget Committee…We’ve asked the county for 15,000 units of new affordable housing over the next ten years, and this was a conservative ask. The county came back with 5,000. Again, this is completely unacceptable. This tells me that they are kicking the can down the road, that they will solve the affordable housing crisis by essentially saying we don’t have a crisis because everybody’s left the county…The sense of urgency is not there.”
2) “In early childhood education, we know that years one to five for a child are the crucial brain development years. We have over 500 students waiting on our wait list for publicly funded preschool and that is just the kids that are on the wait list, not counting all the others that actually have a need…We need early childhood education slots and many more.”
3) “In terms of economic growth, it is fantastic that we are bringing…Fortune 500 companies to Fairfax County or to Northern Virginia, but we also need to be growing our own small businesses, we need to be innovating in that area, making sure we can bring businesses to the table that can innovate and grow our tax base here.”
4) “We need to address climate change. Every municipality…from the federal down to the local level, we need to address climate change. It is something that is a threat to our very existence. Unfortunately, the county has a vision plan, but has no action. Again, the sense of urgency is not there.”
Plerhoples concluded that “at this point, Fairfax County has a choice,” that “we are at a crossroads – we can either stick with the status quo and make these incremental steps and see where we end up or we can become a leader in this area, a leader in the region on affordable housing, early childhood education and economic growth that addresses climate change.”