See below for video of the Fairfax County NAACP forum for Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors Democratic candidates (note: the Republican candidate was invited, but apparently backed out at the last minute) which is happening right now (3:20 pm, Saturday). The candidates are Fairfax County (Lee District) Supervisor Jeff McKay, Fairfax County (at-large) School Board member Ryan McElveen, Georgetown University Law Professor Alicia Plerhoples and affordable housing developer Tim Chapman. This is an important position, of course, as Fairfax County has a lot of challenges and some fundamental choices to make about where it wants to go in coming years. Also, given turnover on both the County Board and School Board, as well as in the electorate, this election could be an inflection point for change…or for business as usual. We’ll see.
P.S. If anything jumps out at me, I’ll note it below the video…
- In his closing statement, McElveen stressed the importance of equity. In her closing statement, Plerhoples argued that “experience” (which McKay touted, along with his endorsements – from Democratic County Board members, General Assembly members, former Gov. McAuliffe, labor unions, the Sierra Club, etc.) and accomplishments, in his closing statement) tends to keep women of color out of office, since they haven’t been spending their lives “climbing the political ladder.” Plerhoples argued she brings a “fresh perspective” that isn’t about “business as usual.” In his closing statement, Chapman said the system in Fairfax County is “designed to keep people like Alicia, Ryan and myself out” and to maintain the status quo. Chapman said as chair, he’ll “fiercely fight for the poor…because I’ve lived it,” will bring “fight and drive” to the job.
- On LGBTQ discrimination, McElveen said he strongly supports non-discrimination policies. McKay said he was proud to cast a vote for non-discrimination policies, also brought up the problematic, “crazy,” “antiquated” Dillon Rule…”nothing would make me happier than to have the General Assembly lift that from us.” Plerhoples said she 100% supports the “LGBTQIA” community, wants the most welcoming and inclusive community possible. Chapman said the Fairfax County Board has been hiding behind the Dillon Rule, that they should have passed the ordinance and “let them sue…take the fight to the state legislature.”
- On changing Confederate-named schools, Chapman said the names should have been changed years ago…”can’t we just change them?” Plerhoples agreed that Fairfax should definitely change Confederate names and symbols. McKay said he supports changing the name of Robert E. Lee HS, but also respects the School Board’s authority on this. McElveen said Virginia has a “very ugly history in this area,” that these names are about “white supremacy,” says he absolutely supports changing the name(s).
- On the criminal justice system, Plerhoples said there are clearly racial disparities in Fairfax County, that “we need a good Commonwealth’s Attorney that is not going to prosecute some of these cases that are…racially egregious.” Chapman said that civil asset forfeiture is “disgusting,” that the police should have had body cameras 10 years ago. McElveen said the Commonwealth’s Attorney position has gone unchallenged for “many many election cycles,” and that the Board hasn’t conducted proper oversight of the Sheriff’s office, etc. McKay said it’s important to flip the General Assembly, mentioned Virginia and “some of its shameful history.” McKay said he’s proud of the diversion-first program and other successes in Fairfax County, that most of the people in the police department “have done an amazing job.”
- McKay said the Advanced Academic Program (AAP) has gotten “out of control,” that parents who are “well-heeled” can figure out how to game the system and get their kids into AAP. “It’s damaging our schools and it’s damaging our communities.” “This is a really important equity issue,” hurts neighborhood schools. Plerhoples said she agrees with McKay on AAP and equity, adding that it’s not just socioeconomic status but also racial status, that her own daughter was rejected.
- Chapman responded to McKay, said YES he’s self funding his campaign, but he views it as a weeks-long discussion with his wife about investing in his community. Chapman said he doesn’t accept that he’s a millionaire trying to buy the race.
- On supervisors behaving ethically, Chapman called for more transparency and recusal, if appropriate. Plerhoples said our campaign finance laws are “atrocious,” that she would want transparency and accountability on the Board. McKay said “state law is a joke when it comes to these issues,” that Supervisor jobs should be full time, with no outside employment allowed (note: I agree!). McKay also said these jobs shouldn’t just be open to millionaires who can self finance…should be looking at public financing (again, I agree!). McElveen said he pushed on the School Board to make sure that students are taught to be ethical global citizens. McElveen also said that Supervisor districts are “fiefdoms” and not “adequately policed” by the Board.
- On implementing the “meals tax” by ordinance after it’s been rejected by voters, Plerhoples said the reality is that if we don’t enact it, we won’t have the money Fairfax County needs and deserves to maintain its quality of life. Property taxes “can only go so high.” “This is where leadership counts,” making “tough decisions…it’s necessary.”
- On the Lorton Park project, McElveen said we have to preserve green space that currently exists…”it’s critical to the quality of life in Fairfax County.” McElveen said Lorton Park absolutely should be preserved, but we can also have affordable housing in another location.
- On ending county collaboration with ICE and providing assistance to people going through deportation proceedings, McKay said he’s taken a lot of action on this issue. He discussed why he hasn’t yet signed the Fairfax for All pledge. He said some of the problems we’re seeing now are relatively recent, stemming from the “awfulness in the White House.”
- On marijuana prosecutions, Chapman said we should put the money currently spent jailing people for marijuana possession towards things like education, that the County Board should provide guidance to police to stop arresting people for marijuana possession.
- Plerhoples said she wants innovation hubs to be for everyone, to lift everyone up. She also talked about connecting “smart roads” and autonomous vehicles to transit.
- On innovation, McElveen said Amazon and other companies coming in could lead to even greater stresses on housing affordability. He said we should have an “innovation lab” in every school in the county.
- Good discussion on affordable housing, including opposition to affordable housing. Plerhoples notes that she’s pledged not to take money from real estate developers. Chapman says he’s uniquely qualified to deal with this issue. McKay says you’ve got to “stand up and lead” on this issue.
- The candidates are absolutely right about the crucial importance of universal pre-K. Of course, that needs to be paid for, which brings up things like the “meals tax.”
- What’s the #1 issue/crisis facing Fairfax County? McElveen: “climate change and affordable housing.” McKay: “a focus on the intentionality of equity.” Plerhoples: “equity is the #1 issue…[including] affordable housing.” Chapman: “the most important thing…affecting Fairfax County is affordable housing.”
- The first mention of the climate crisis and the urgent need to deal with it came from Alicia Plerhoples in her opening statement. I hope to hear a lot more about environmental issues, including environmental justice, from all the candidates as this forum proceeds…