In this issue…
Plastic Bag Tax Passes Despite Ongoing Financial Hardship – At Tuesday’s meeting, I was the only Board member to vote against a 5-cent plastic bag tax that will go into effect on January 1, 2022. Before voting we heard opposition from numerous community members, business owners, grocery store owners, food bank volunteers, and the former EPA Administrator who opposed this tax because of the burden it puts on residents and the lack of environmental impact it will have. As I shared with you in my last newsletter, this is the wrong time for a new tax while we’re dealing with the pandemic, the fastest rising inflation in 12 years, and increasing gas prices. I’ll share more on what you need to know about this new tax below.
Board Approves Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) – In addition to the plastic bag tax, at Tuesday’s meeting the Board accepted the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) and directed staff to prepare an implementation plan for consideration next year. I support protecting our environment as long as it is done in a fiscally responsible and efficient way. I abstained on this vote for two reasons - the plan needs more community feedback/input and more grounding in which of the over 200 pages of recommendations are financially feasible for taxpayers.
Other News and Information
- Early Voting Starts This Friday (September 17)
- FYI - Important news about Redistricting
- Strategic Plan Community Survey (September 24)
- More below
Plastic Bag Tax Passes Despite Ongoing Financial Hardship
At Tuesday’s meeting, I was the only Board member to vote against a 5-cent plastic bag tax that will go into effect on January 1, 2022. Before voting we heard opposition from numerous community members, business owners, grocery store owners, food bank volunteers, and the former EPA Administrator who opposed this tax because of the burden it puts on residents and the lack of environmental impact it will have. As I shared with you in my last newsletter, this is the wrong time for a new tax while we’re dealing with the pandemic, the fastest rising inflation in 12 years, and rising increasing gas prices.
While people who are well-off will largely feel little impact, it will disproportionately burden lower-income families both in cost and convenience without changing their behavior. The increased cost of implementing this tax will be passed from businesses to customers. For the first year of implementation, stores will be able to recoup two cents of every 5-cent tax to go toward their operating cost, then only one cent afterward. This letter from Food Lion shares concerns about the operating cost for the implementation. Other jurisdictions have implemented similar taxes and seen their consumers run outside the taxed area to save money.
It also leaves people with little choice. I have heard my Board colleagues say that this tax is meant to “help” people change their behavior, but what should they change it to? There’s a national shortage of paper bags that industry leaders say may not go back to normal for 5 years and reusable bags have to be bought, stored, and are rarely cleaned. Throughout the pandemic many stores stopped allowing reusable plastic bags because of the germs they carry.
The Board passed this measure to “help [you] change your behavior,” but instead of instituting a rigorous education campaign – one that encompasses how to recycle and dispose of multiple forms of trash – the Board is taxing residents into compliance. Instead of providing more opportunities for you to recycle, they decided to reduce your options.
We need to create more ways for people to recycle and more materials to educate them on how they can. We need to continue to support programs to creatively address litter issues like two I’ve proposed, No Charge and the highly successful Operation Stream Shield program.
But what it really comes down to is that this is completely the wrong time for a new tax.
Board Approves Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP)
In addition to the plastic bag tax, at Tuesday’s meeting the Board approved the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) and directed staff to prepare an implementation plan for consideration next year. I support protecting our environment as long as it is done in a fiscally responsible and efficient way. I abstained on this vote for two reasons - the plan needs more community feedback/input and more grounding in which of the over 200 pages of recommendations are financially feasible for taxpayers.
This plan outlines actions that will fundamentally change Fairfax County for the next 30 years, but most of the report outreach has been done while residents have been rightly focused on the pandemic and recovering from lost jobs, health, homes, time in school, and lost loved ones. We need to make sure that more than just a couple thousand mostly advocates out of the 1.1 million people living here are behind a plan of this magnitude. The plan contains over 200 pages of recommendations ranging from electrifying commercial and residential properties (eliminating natural gas) to enforcing stricter regulations on tree canopy percentages within each census block. We need to look at which initiatives are feasible and balanced when we consider the tax burden already on residents and what they will support.
That leads to my second concern: cost. The Board has yet to see the estimated cost and/or impact of this plan, which is a key component. The cost estimate provided in the approved plan estimates that each initiative will cost between one to three “$,” with no indication whatsoever of the value of the “$”. The Springfield District Focus Group for CECAP found that willingness to pay is a significant factor in resident support for climate initiatives. They highlighted the importance of education in changing attitudes to promote voluntary, individual action. Anything beyond voluntary action may lose buy-in from residents because of the cost.
While this plan is being considered, we have not cleared the pandemic and the Board has already approved a number of other initiatives that will add to the tax burden in addition to plastic bag tax approved this week. The economic outlook on the next few years is uncertain and many of the goals in this plan are supposed to be implemented in that timeframe.
Finally, I had some specific concerns and questions about many of the specific recommendations including:
- Residents and businesses complain regularly that our permitting and zoning process is too difficult and time-consuming. We’re working to fix that, but this adds another whole layer – are we prepared to implement that? How many staff would that require?
- The pandemic has dramatically altered how we do business, transportation, etc. Those changes are still playing out and we’re yet to see what the full extent of the “new normal” is.
- What will be the impact on residents if we eliminate the option of natural gas for heat?
- How will we increase tree canopy in areas of higher density? Will we mandate that homeowners have to plant trees in their yards?
- And how does this reconcile with the clear-cutting needed under the Virginia Clean Economy Act?
- Technology breakthroughs happen, but we’re putting most of our investment into electric – the report points out a few times that there could be significant costs to replacing technology before the end of its life span. We should consider this as well as rapidly developing tech and not pick winners and losers.
Other News & Information...
- Early Voting Starts This Friday (September 17)
- FYI - Important News About Redistricting
- Shirley Gate Extension Design Public Hearing (September 21)
- Strategic Plan Community Survey (September 24)
- Putting with Pets Tournament (September 27)
- Low-Cost Rabies Clinics Underway! (October 17)
- Community Fire and Rescue Academy (September 16-November 4)
- Links to Freedom Golf Tournament (October 4)
- How You Can Help Afghan Refugees
- Korean and Vietnamese Speakers Needed as Election Officers
- RECenters Month to Month Memberships Available
- Same Day Vaccination Appointments Available
- COVID-19 Vaccine Available for 12-15 Year Olds
- Friend of the Month
Other News and Information:
Early Voting Starts This Friday (September 17)
No excuse absentee in person voting for the Virginia statewide and general assembly races starts tomorrow Friday, September 17 at three locations in Fairfax County. Additional locations will open on October 21. The Fairfax County Government Center will be open for early voting on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. At the Mount Vernon and North County Governmental Centers, however, voting hours are from noon to 7 p.m. on weekdays. These three sites also will be open on Saturday, Sept. 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Any registered voter can cast their ballot without needing a reason or excuse. For full details on locations and times, please see this page.
FYI - Important News About Redistricting
Looking for a way to contribute towards our Redistricting Process? Residents are encouraged to draw their own redistricting maps for the Board of Supervisors and School Board districts using an online mapping tool. The Fairfax County Redistricting Advisory Committee, which was appointed to propose new electoral districts, will review and consider any publicly submitted maps. The deadline for the public to submit maps is Sunday, Sept. 19 at 11:59 p.m. For more information, please see this page.
Shirley Gate Design Public Meeting (September 21)
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is hosting a virtual design public hearing on the Shirley Gate Road Extension project on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. The project will extend Shirley Gate Road from its current terminus at Braddock Road south to the Fairfax County Parkway and will provide:
- Another option from northbound Fairfax County Parkway to I-66 eastbound
- Multimodal access to (future) Patriot Park East
- Additional bicycle/pedestrian connectivity
- Improved travel time from southbound Shirley Gate to southbound Fairfax County Parkway
To attend the meeting:
Commuters, residents and stakeholders may also submit feedback to the project team:
Online via the red feedback form link at the bottom of the project webpage
In writing to: FCDOT, Attn: Shirley Gate Road Extension Project, 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22033
By phone: 703-877-5609; TTY 711
Strategic Plan Will Guide County Spending and Taxes (September 24)
I strongly encourage you to provide input to the County’s strategic plan that will map out County priorities and spending moving forward. Community input is sought through September 24, to participate click here.
Your feedback is very important as this plan will be used to determine future budgets and to justify raising your taxes as the priorities adopted in the Strategic Plan will guide future County policies and spending. You can find the full plan as it stands here.
You can take the Countywide Strategic Plan survey here and sign up to receive updates on the plan progress here. You can also share your general feedback by emailing email@example.com.
When the Board discussed the plan last year, I shared several key concerns.
First, there does not seem to be enough community input yet for a document that is intended to guide all future policies and spending. Most residents I have talked to have not heard of the strategic plan or its community engagement process. With a County of 1.2 million people, I hope we will only adopt a plan that has received feedback from a more significant percent of our population.
My second concern with this plan is that there are too many “priorities.” A strategic plan should be focused, but nine priority areas are too many to truly be priorities. If we prioritize everything, nothing is prioritized. My hope is that we will narrow our scope to focus on the most essential services and needs of our residents.
Finally, I hope to see greater involvement from and emphasis on the needs of older adults in the strategic plan. Older adults have been the most impacted demographic during the pandemic, the most impacted by rising taxes, and represent one of the largest demographics in Fairfax County.
I will continue updating you on the plan’s development. In the meantime, I hope you will take some time to share what is important to you with the links above.
Putting For Pets Tournament (September 27)
Join me at Putting For Pets on Monday, September 27at 9 am. Register online or download the flyers below. While Friends Putting for Pets Golf Tournament has currently reached capacity, Hole in One Sponsorships are still available, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be a Hole in One Sponsor. If you are interested in being put on a waitlist for individuals or teams, please email Putting For Pets at email@example.com.
Low-Cost Rabies Clinics Underway! (October 17)
Links to Freedom Golf Tournament (October 4)
Please join me at the annual Links to Freedom Cup at Springfield Golf Country Club is a two-day affair this year. The event will feature 2019 Emmy Award winning producer, Jim Lepera, who produces the Masters Golf Tournament for CBS. Additionally, we are excited that his wife, LPGA Legend, Janet Lepera will be part of our 2021 tournament field. I am honored they have asked me to be the honorary starter again this year.
Jim Lepera will host our pairing party on Sunday afternoon, 3 October followed by the golf tournament on Monday, 4 October beginning with breakfast at 9 a.m.
Please see the press release below for more information.
Korean and Vietnamese Speakers Needed as Election Officers
Fairfax County is in need of election officers who can speak Korean or Vietnamese to serve in the Nov. 2 gubernatorial election. Officers are especially needed in Annandale, Centreville, Chantilly and Falls Church areas. Apply at this link.
How you can help Afghan Refugees
Please note that Donations are NOT being accepted at the Dulles Expo Center at this time. However, many local organizations are eager provide support, and Fairfax County does partner closely with local refugee resettlement agencies to share information, establish points of contact for benefit coordination, and provide training on available programs and services. The local resettlement agencies for the Northern Virginia area are the following, please contact them if you would like to provide assistance:
Month to Month Memberships at RECenters Now Available
In the past, getting a membership at our RECenters has always required 100-percent upfront payment. Responding to public demand, the Fairfax County Park Authority is establishing a pay-as-you-go payment option for its RECenters.
Under the new arrangement, month-to-month memberships will be available for $26 weekly for a single adult at any of the county’s nine RECenters.
Same Day Vaccination Appointments
The Tysons Community Vaccination Center now offers walk-in appointments!
First-come, first-served appointments are available Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Complete a registration form on site or make an appointment in our scheduling system for a shorter wait.
The location is in the former Lord & Taylor store, 7950 Tysons Corner Center, in Tysons.
COVID-19 Vaccine Available for 12-15 Year Olds
Help Paying Your Water Bill
Do you need help paying your Fairfax Water bill? Eligible residents can apply for assistance through the COVID-19 Municipal Utility Relief Program. Residents are encouraged to apply soon as federal CARES Act funds will be available until all funds have been exhausted.
To provide financial relief for customers in need, Fairfax Water is working with Fairfax County, the City of Falls Church, and the City of Fairfax to administer funds received from the Commonwealth of Virginia’s COVID-19 Municipal Utility Relief Program.
To qualify, customers must meet certain eligibility requirements, attest that they are experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus public health emergency, and submit an application to Fairfax Water.
- Fax: 703-289-6292
- Mail: Fairfax Water, ATTN: COVID Relief, 8570 Executive Park Avenue, Fairfax, VA 22031
Four-Legged-Friend of the Month
Zeus may be named after the King of the Greek Gods, but he is a shy 2-year old retriever, lab mix. Zeus would enjoy being the only dog in the household without children. While he can be shy and nervous, Zeus is playful, enjoys exercise and already knows basic commands and is eager to learn more!
If you are interested in him, send in a completed adoption questionnaire and we will go from there to share all the info the Animal Shelter has, answer any questions, and schedule a visit! If you have a dog at home already, the Animal Shelter will schedule a dog-to-dog intro as well to see if they get along. All adoption info, steps, and forms can be found online at: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/animalshelter/adopt/steps