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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mason residents present concerns to officials at packed Town Hall

It was standing room only at the Mason District Town Hall. 

More than 250 people came out on a rainy night for the Mason District Town Hall to engage in a dialogue with Fairfax County officials about the problems they see as leading to a deteriorating quality of life in the Annandale/Mason area. Among the problems addressed were litter, boarding houses, non-existent redevelopment, overcrowded schools, speeding, and loitering. 

“We’re here tonight because we care out about our community, and we want to see some changes,” said Mollie Loeffler, chair of the Mason District Council of Community Associations (MDC), which organized the Town Hall. The Annandale Blog and Annandale Patch co-sponsored the event, which was held at the Annandale United Methodist Church.

The panelists—Mason Supervisor Penny Gross; Capt. Gun Lee, commander of the Mason Police District; Susan Epstein of the Office of Code Compliance; and School Board member Sandy Evans—were asked to address the top concerns of Mason residents as identified in a survey conducted by the MDC.

According to the results of the survey, completed by 662 residents, the most pressing concern is the physical condition of area businesses and roadways (cited by 71 percent of respondents). It was followed by speeding in neighborhoods (70 percent), boarding houses (65 percent), traffic congestion (63 percent), infrastructure (63 percent), crime/daytime breakins (60 percent), property maintenance (58 percent), snow removal (58 percent), lack of business development (57 percent), and gangs (55 percent). When the results were adjusted to exclude people without children in the schools, the quality of education moved up to the number-four concern with 67 percent.

Code compliance

At the Town Hall, quotes from the survey were projected on a screen and posted around the room.  Regarding property maintenance issues, one respondent wrote: “I have a concern that apartment buildings in Culmore are turning into boarding houses . . . with multiple families in one apartment. . . .  This type of boarding house arrangement is not good for the community, schools, or the local infrastructure.”

Another survey respondent wrote, “Cars are parked in neighborhood yards which diminishes my property value.” And someone else wrote: “Mason is deteriorating in appearance and cleanliness. I’m embarrassed to have friends and family visit my home because they have to drive past my neighbors who park their cars on their lawn.”

Susan Epstein, code compliance supervisor with responsibility for Mason, said her office is complaint-driven. Inspectors check out a house when they receive a complaint; they don’t drive around looking for code violations.
The panelists (left to right): Capt. Gun Lee, Supervisor Penny Gross, code compliance official Susan Epstein, and school board member Sandy Evans.
When her office receives a complaint about overcrowding, inspectors go to the house, talk to the residents, look for suspicious signs, like a coin-operated laundry machines or a chore schedule on the wall, and determine if there is a violation. If there are too many cars parked on the grass, they determine if any are stolen. She urged people to call her office (703/324-1300) to report a violation, or fill out an online complaint form. “The more details you can provide the better,” she said.

A question from the audience about why Mason District is number-one in multiple occupancy incidents was met with loud applause. Epstein said the number of complaints and repeated violations in Mason has actually been decreasing.

Gross turned the issue around, responding that Mason has more complaints “because we have an enlightened and educated district. People pay attention to zoning violations. They know what to look for and report problems.”  

Karen McClellan, Epstein’s supervisor who was in the audience, said there are complaints about multiple occupancy all over the county. “The reason you see a spike in Mason is because you have an educated community willing to report things.”

Code compliance inspectors don’t have the  authority to ask for identification; only the police can do that, she explained. “When we go to a property, we do a lot of background work. We have to litigate people on the deed of property whether they live there or not. . . .We have to talk our way in.”

When asked why the Strike Team was terminated, Gross said it was created by pulling people from several agencies to focus on property and zoning violations, and that worked so well that the county created the Office of Code Compliance to carry on that effort. “It’s working much better than the strike team; it’s a full-blown department now.”

Comment after comment in response to the survey expressed peoples’ frustration with property maintenance issues, Loeffler said.  People are frustrated about calling the code compliance office and not seeing results.  .

Gross said the Board of Supervisors is working on raising the fines for code violations and that something on this should be announced this spring. When these cases get to court, it’s up to the judge, not the county, to impose a fine, she said, and it’s frustrating when a judge doesn’t impose as large a fine as the community wants.

Annandale businesses

Several quotes from survey respondents complained about the poor condition of commercial areas. For example, one person wrote: “Because of the poor appearance of businesses in Annandale, my property value is diminished. People I work with know of my community as unclean, old, and deteriorating. I’m embarrassed.”

“Signage is predominantly in Korean with little to no business signs in English,” someone else wrote. “This situation creates a very strong impression among the community that non-Koreans are not welcome to patronize the business.”

“We do not control the content of signs,” Gross responded. “The content of signs is considered to be speech, and that is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.” Gross said she has worked with the Korean community to encourage them to have at least some English on business signs.

“We’re taking more of a personal, voluntary approach to making sure people take pride in their businesses,” Gross said. When it comes to safety issues, such as a blocked entrance, that is a zoning violation and can be addressed by officials.

Sandy Stevens, who lives near Columbia Elementary School, said, “the Annandale business area looks terrible,” with broken curbs and other problems, and noted that other commercial areas, like Vienna don’t look so bad.

“It’s not just the responsibility of government. It’s a partnership with the community,” Gross said. She urged people to get involved in community clean-up efforts.

Broyhill Crest resident Eileen Garnett noted that the Annandale Central Business District Planning Committee monitors the streetscape improvements funded with a 1988 bond and works with the county, VDOT, and Dominion Power to get things fixed when needed. She urged people to keep an eye out for problems and report broken streetlights to Dominion and report potholes to VDOT.

Gross noted that there were some exciting proposals to redevelop Annandale a few years ago but the market crashed before they could start, and there are some interesting ideas in the works, including a new Dunkin Donuts. The visioning task force created last summer to come up with recommendations for Seven Corners “is going to have a tremendous effect,” she added.

With that effort going on in Seven Corners and new things happening in Bailey’s Crossroads and Annandale, “we’re poised for private enterprise to come in do things for Mason District,” Gross said.

Regarding littering, Jennifer Cole with Clean Fairfax, said people can report litterers to her organization online, and she will pass on the information to the police. Litterers will receive a letter telling them they’ve been caught doing something illegal. People who litter could be subject to a $500 fine and a year in jail, but they have to be caught in the act by the police.

When asked about daytime break-ins, Capt. Gun Lee said there’s been a 9 percent decrease in overall crime in Mason District, but property crimes, which includes burglaries, have risen 13 percent in the past year.

Regarding crime prevention, Lee said, “We can’t do it alone. We need help from you.” He encouraged residents to get join a Neighborhood Watch  group and come to meetings of the Mason Police District Citizen Advisory Council.

One member of the audience complained about people loitering along Little River Turnpike. Lee acknowledged the police has received a lot of calls about loitering, but said, “many of these people are looking for honest work so they can support their families and their loved ones. Unless there’s a violation of the law I don’t think there’s anything we can do.”

“We are sensitive to the need to balance law enforcement versus harassment,” Lee said. “If someone reports a criminal violation, we’re absolutely going to deal with that. If someone is standing on a corner not doing anything, that is not a crime.” 

In response to a question about sex trafficking, prostitution, and safety issues, Lee cited the police unit he established to monitor businesses where there have lots of complaints about things like fighting, drunkenness, and sex offenses—and that has resulted in several businesses being shut down. “When it comes to prostitution and sex offenses, we need to put in every effort possible to deal with that,” he said.

Gang activity is down, Lee said, and keeping youths out of gangs is “not just an enforcement issue. It’s about education. It’s a parent issue and a community issue.”

Carol Turner, a resident of Ravenwood Park, complained about the loitering and trash on the pedestrian bridge over Route 50 in Seven Corners, adding “people are afraid to cross it.”  Lee said police are monitoring the area and suggested citizens organize a clean-up effort and Neighborhood Watch group there.


In response to a complaint about speeding, Lee called it an ongoing issue that he tries to manage every day, with both a full-time officer assigned to enforce traffic laws and the rest of the 120 officers under his jurisdiction.

In one neighborhood in Annandale, where people were concerned about speeding, Lee sent four to five officers to conduct “blitz-style enforcement,” he said, and “that made a big difference.”

Nick Burns, of the Sleepy Hollow area, complained about speeders on Sleepy Hollow Road, and called for the speed limit to be reduced from 35 mph to 30.

Changing the speed limit is the responsibility of VDOT, Gross responded, noting it took 12 years to get VDOT to reduce the speed limit on a stretch of Columbia Pike from 45 to 35.

Another resident said he’s been complaining about speeding Wayne Drive for over 50 years, and now that Mason Crest Elementary School was built near there, he is concerned that somebody’s going to be killed. Lee promised to send officers “starting tomorrow” to watch for speeders. Gross urged residents to work within their communities to get support for traffic calming measures like speed humps.

School overcrowding

School board member Sandy Evans spoke about the problem of overcrowded schools in Mason District.
Noting that there at 1,328 students at Bailey’s Elementary School, Evans said, “that is a stunning number.” There are as many kindergartners at Bailey’s, 256, as there are in a small elementary school. “Bailey’s is 130 percent over capacity, and they are using every inch of closet space, and Glen Forest is almost as bad,” she said.

There is money in the Fairfax County Public Schools’ capital budget for a new school in Mason, but the location hasn’t been decided. Two sites are under discussion, the Willston Multicultural Center in Seven Corners and Glasgow Middle School. Evans said she liked the proposal for creating classroom space at the Wilson Library. “We thought we had a good plan but the county said no. It’s off the table.”

“Now we’re looking at building on Glasgow,” Evans said. “It’s not a great plan. But our backs are to the wall. We don’t have a specific plan.”

Why not build a new school on the Willston site? a member of the audience asked. The building is owned by the county, and there are a number of county programs at Willston, which would have to move, Gross said. Also there is a consent decree with the Department of Justice that calls for the county to either bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act or raze it.

According to Gross, the Willston Center “is not a good location for a school.”  A new elementary school costs $29 million, she said. “We only have one opportunity to do it. It’s got to be in the right place because it’s going to be with us for 20 or 30 years. It’d rather give it enough time to do it right and not rush into it. We need to look for the right location.” She suggested the possibility of having a separate building for the upper and lower grades.

Suzie Phipps, chair of the capacity committee for Bailey’s said a solution is needed now, otherwise her 4-year-old, and other Bailey’s children, will be in a trailer throughout their school careers.  “The county has land available,” she said, and “Willston would be the ideal location” for a true community school that provides a range of services to families.

“It has to be a thought-out process,” Gross countered.  It will take two or three years to resolve the Justice Department issue. “We have to find a location that works. And right now the Willston Multicultural Center doesn’t not work.”

Evans said she plans to talk about using the Willston site for a school at the March meeting of the Seven Corners task force. She also said she is working on getting Falls Church High School the renovation it desperately needs.

Environmental concerns

Michael Gates of Parklawn, asked Gross to put pressure on the AT&T lawyer, who promised to hold another community meeting on the proposed cell tower at the Parklawn pool. Gates, a member of a group opposed to the cell tower, said the first meeting was cut short and AT&T failed to deliver on information they promised to provide to the community.
AT&T amended its application but hasn’t filed it with county yet, said Gross, who acknowledged, “We’re having trouble getting information from them.” The proposal was scheduled to come before the Mason Land Use Committee in February, but that won’t happen unless there is another community meeting before then.

Michele Bryce, a physician from Bren Mar Park, asked Gross to do something to stop VDOT from constructing a ramp on I-395 near the Landmark area. She said VDOT failed to conduct an environmental study as required by law that analyzes the impact on the local community. An independent study found the increased traffic will result in dangerously high levels of air pollution.

“What’s really scary is you can shut your windows and lock your door and they still get in your house,” Bryce said of the toxic air pollutants identified in the study.

Gross said the ramp is a state project, “so questions need to be addressed by the state. According to the information I have from VDOT, they conducted an environmental assessment as required by law, and the Federal Highway Administration reviewed it and approved it.” She said federal officials found the emissions from this project are within allowable levels, a statement disputed by Bryce.

“It is a state project. The county has nothing to do with it,” Gross said. “All we can do is make sure you have the right people to talk to at the state level.”


  1. Thanks for putting this out there for those of us who could not attend.

  2. Thanks for the detailed summary. It is unfortunate that many of the responses from Penny Gross, as stated here, are along the lines of "it's not the county's responsibility." Given the many concerns presented here about the deteriorating quality of life, I would expect a true leader to take the initiative to establish working relationships with VDOT, FCPS, private businesses, and others with the authority to help turn things around.

    Regarding the signs in Korean, DC statute requires that all the signs in Chinatown be in both Chinese and English. Perhaps the Fairfax Co. code could be amended with a similar requirement for new signs, making the requirement voluntary for existing signs.

  3. According to the County web site, Section 33.3-346 of the Code of Virginia makes littering or dumping trash a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500, not $500. Littering was a major topic or discussion and a significant concern for most survey respondents. How many littering citations have Mason District officers issued on a by year basis? Capt. Gung rightly said that he was unable to do anything regarding the day laborers congregating in Annandale, but his officers are able to observe them and issue citations for the extensive littering offenses they commit that would at least lessen the problem if not drive some away. Surely Capt. Gung is familiar with the "broken windows" policing policy and what it has done for many run down urban areas.

    Ms. Gross also needs to identify what steps she is taking to enable code compliance enforcement. It was woefully evident from the discussion last night that they are unable to enforce crowding/boarding zoning rules when encountered with any resistance. They are largely dependent on the residents to confess. Ms. Gross (or her successor if we need to replace her) needs to push the county to put teeth behind the process and the punishments and implement a process for zoning enforcement to obtain police/sheriff support to inspect properties when they have reasonable suspicion of violations and do not receive cooperation.

    In the end though, the one thing that became clear to me from the meeting last night is that we need to adopt a statute similar to that of Prince William/Arizona that forces the police to check the immigration status, if not of all those they encounter, at least of all those arrested for any offense. I don't want to be one of those people that blames illegal immigrants for all of my communities problems, but it is clear they make significant contributions to those problems. I would love to see an objective analysis, but I have to assume that the overcrowding we are seeing in many of our schools isn't primarily caused by infill development or shifting demographics in our communities.

    1. I agree. Start a petition!

  4. Follow-up reminder to last night's well-attended mtg. of the Citizens Advisory Committee is Feb. 5 (first Tues. of the month), starting at 7:30 pm, in the main community mtg. room at the Mason Dist Station. All members of the public are welcome to attend! Learn of happenings in our area, express your concerns, meet your neighbors and, most importantly, show your support for our police officers and staff.

  5. Thank you for this comprehensive coverage, Ellie.

  6. What was also not stated is that the loiterers are adding to the run-down appearance, litter, etc - all affecting business development.

    1. Yes, no one is going to invest in Mason District, because of what areas like Rt. 236, Culmore, Baileys, and Seven Corners look like. It is a chicken and egg problem. The business districts will not improve, because the housing around them is run down and overcrowded, and the housing situation will not improve, because the businesses are rundown. Mason District residents are burned out. We have volunteered until we can volunteer no more. We need help from our elected officials. Wake up Mason District, this is what you keep voting for year after year.

  7. Must be nice to just shrug your shoulders and act like all the problems are beyond your control while still collecting a tax payer funded paycheck.

    If people are standing by the side of the road you can stop them for
    1) loitering
    2) suspected pan handling - after they approach a car
    3) doing business without a license/permit
    4) the old "we got a call about some suspicious activity going on around here" and I want to know what you are doing here on private property and lets see some id line.

    The main thing here is a complete and total lack of effort and desire to do one's job. Its easier to just lie and make up bogus excuses rather than get off one's on rear end and fix things. Gross is the reason why people hate politicians, she's gets paid and the results are frankly the same quality as if we were paying some kid minimum wage to not give a damn. Maybe we should try that, at least we'd save some money in the process.

  8. NoVa Citizen1/16/13, 8:43 PM

    The issue of sex trafficking/prostitution is overlaps at times with the boarding house issue. Over in Culmore, some of the apartments are being used as brothels

    1. Does anyone have any proof of this? This is a pretty severe accusation; you should retract such gibberish if you cannot substantiate such a claim. If this is pure speculation, it really has no place for public discussion. It takes the potency out of this conversation and present challenges, and makes a mockery of our efforts.

      We all agree that there are a myriad of problems in Mason District. A strident effort that incorporates the Community, County elected officials and our State representatives are needed to coalesce for a determination as to how to approach these challenges intelligently and effectively through current and updated code enforcement, law enforcement, legislation, effective fines, private and public investment, civic action, education, financial incentives, and a recognition of accomplishments to overcome these many issues.

      Our focus should be on work-arounds, out of the box solutions and community based action plans for resolutions that are based on proven metrics with set timelines for success. Don't look for a blanket solution, there aren't any, this is not the Fairfax of the 1960's. We all need to stop playing the victim by shrugging, pointing the finger, deferring and acting helpless. The County is a more complex urban centric dynamic organism that needs meaningful evaluation, analysis and pointed solutions. In short, it needs to grow up and take responsibility for its actions and revenue: pro and con. Are you ready for that commitment?

      Realistic goal setting and objectives can only be achieved by a diligent and dedicated coalition of support from the business, public, private and government institutions and its citizenry. Last night was a good start, now can we take it to the next step? That is the real question that we all need to ask of the County’s leadership and ourselves!

    2. NoVa Citizen1/17/13, 8:27 AM

      Unfortunately it is not just speculation. The police know it and many of the locals know it.

      This is why Capt Lee didn't blink an eye when the issue was mentioned. I am sure that at some point the police will set up some stings to entrap the johns

  9. Concerned and Frustrated Citizen1/16/13, 9:38 PM

    We keep discussing the issue of overcrowding in our schools and what to do about it, but no one will ask what percentage of children attending our schools belong to non-taxpaying parents of questionable status. While the pat answer appears to be that we owe all children an education and cannot punish the children for the fact that their parents are here illegally, by allowing this to continue we are allowing the situation to exacerbate at the expense of the taxpayers and their children, who must endure the current situation. As long as people know that they can get something for free, they will continue to do so, and will tell all of their friends and relatives. It will never end, if we do not put a stop to it. I wish no ill will on these people, but we cannot continue down this road. Look at the current state of our district.

    1. COULDNT AGREE MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  10. Does anyone know if we as a district can do a VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE for this horrible lady? We have to go over to the BOS and speak out. I dont think we can take three more years of her!

    1. That is what I would like to know. How do we go about taking a Vote of No Confidence? I am all in on that one.

  11. I personally would love to see our supervisor take real interest in the problems this district is having and to stop acting as if nothing is wrong. Please take the time to join a local civic groups or neighborhood association and get involved. Make sure your community is part of the Mason District Council and has a representative because we need everyone's help to get this resolved and get some action.

  12. I have to admit I always thought the negative comments about Penny Gross were unfair and belonged to a vocal minority. After the meeting, I am now convinced she is not very engaged, ineffective and it is time to move on to someone that is more engaged and can do more for Mason District. The larger question is, who is willing to step up to the place to represent the district? I was stunned by how most of the anwers given by the panel were pretty much, it's up to you, not us, to get anything done.

    1. My feelings exactly.

  13. We had an election. She won. We do not have recall in the Commonwealth.

    As for things that are up to you, thats true on lots of things. For lots of code things its more efficient to have the county respond to citizen complaints then to have them go out and hunt down violators where there is no complaint (and Im sure we all want taxes to be kept down). Is it really so hard to file a complaint?

    1. We know that the Culmore neighborhood is full of 3 to 4 families per apartment. Why can they not just go in there with a task force and clean up to meet the laws on the County. The slum lord who owns those apartments should also be heavily fined for allowing this to go on.

    2. if someone has too many people in a house, it impacts the neighbors directly. If you live in the Culmore apts, by all means file a complaint about neighboring apts with too many people. If not, why is it so important to you? AFAIK the housing code does not exist to prevent illegal immigration. I suppose it could be used that way if the County really wanted to. I personally don't see that as the highest priority. If they are swept out of apt complexes like that, where are they to go? There really isnt housing around here thats very affordable to people whose uneven (day labor) employment gives them incomes even lower than 40hrs a week at min wage would be. I think enforcement should be focused on places where a boarding house directly impacts adjacent homeowners.

    3. It does not just impact the neighbors directly it impacts the community at large. The big picture is the schools are overcrowded our kids our in trailers. They have redistricted to the point they can not redistrict any more. Our parks are being trashed, day time break ins are up, our home values are being impacted, businesses are going down hill. Our taxes are being pulled for social services and not our schools or roads. The kids in those apartments are suffering because they are sleeping in closets this is not safe. Let me also state that I would never allow my child to be in a trailer with no bathroom or running water. I would worry about the safety of my child leaving the safety of the trailer and waiting till someone buzzed them in to use the bathroom. It only takes seconds for someone to grab your kid and disappear.

    4. and its not the role of the housing code to fight trash or crime. That you seem to want to use it to get "those folks" away from here, makes it harder to take seriously that you are concerned about the fire safety of the little ones. it does not sound so much like you concerned about code enforcement in general, but about using the housing code to remove poor people from Mason district. I mean its okay if you feel that way, but that Penny has not chosen to use the code that way, is not persuasive to me that she is not doing her job.

    5. So, okay -- what's your solution? Keep diverting tax dollars for schools and parks and libraries -- quality of life institutions -- to social services, school trailers, deteriorating neighborhoods. If that's your solution to having the poor among us, I want no part of it. Time was when immigrants took care of themselves because they had no other choice. The started benevolent societies, insurance co-ops. They wanted to be "American." They didn't insist on having their language accommodated at every turn. Poor folks can chose to not liter, to not park their cars on their lawns, to look around note and observe the social norms. Doesn't take money to do any of that.

    6. Filing the complaint is not hard, it is getting resolution to the complaint that is the problem. If the county cannot resolve the problems under the current codes, then perhaps the codes need to change. We have a boarding house in our neighborhood that has grown wise to the system. They know exactly what to do and say, because they have been reported so many times. Thankfully they keep the house presentable, but it still detracts from the neighborhood and affects our property values, because it has at any one time 10 to 14 cars parked at it.

  14. "I would expect a true leader to take the initiative to establish working relationships with VDOT"

    many localities have had issues with VDOT, not only FFX county

  15. I was also frustrated with what seemed like 'no answer' responses at Tuesday's meeting. The Mason District police commander set the tone with his non-response to the loitering/litter issue, and the rest followed.
    However, I am not so sure that hurling ugly comments at Supervisor Gross does anything to solve the many challenges facing the community. It may be hard to hear, but solving our problems isn't like doing a Google search with near-instant results. And in case you weren't paying attention, Supervisor Gross did lead the effort to create the Strike Force and later the new department/division in zoning that goes after violators.
    I believe there should be a serious, sustained effort to look for options outside the box, to involve the community like happened on Tuesday. I'm willing to pick up my share of trash, but I want to know how we can prevent littering in the first place.

  16. I am surprised at some of the rude and hateful comments being thrown at Supervisor Gross. I don't agree with her on everything, and agree more can be done (by both the county AND the community) - but do we really need to resort to name-calling and accussing her of "lying." What specific "lie" did she tell at the Town Hall?

  17. Think about the unintended consequences of evicting people from their homes. Do you want to see more homeless families in the community? Are you willing to pay higher taxes to support affordable housing programs and social services?

    People at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale are also part of our community. Where are people who work low-wage jobs supposed to live? And yes, we do need people working at menial, low-paying jobs, like janitors, caretakers for the elderly, dishwashers, etc.

    1. They can move to another area or leave FC for a cheaper area but the current solution is not safe or healthy. Having that many people in an apartment for one is a huge fire hazard. Think of all the kids sleeping in closet. Remember clothes are flammable. The situation in the schools are just as bad. I hear it takes a while to move the kids around the school because of the people traffic issue. Can you imagine if the school had a fire? This is dangerous!!! The solution is not to stay the same.

  18. Regarding some of the answers provided at the Town Hall by the police captain and Penny Gross, and the zoning person..I think some of the frustration lies with the fact that there is a difference between a "non-answer" and the answer you don't want to hear. While some of the answers may have been less than fullfilling, some of the answers were simply the reality of the situation. Example - the government does not have the right to just force itself inside a private home; it has to go through a legal process which can be very frustrating. While I am angry that it takes so long for some these zoning complaints to go through the process, I also recognize that the flip-side is that we all enjoy the right to private property (something not allowed in all countries) as well as freedom from the government barging into our homes. This is the price and balancing act we must pay for our freedoms. It ain't pretty, it can be frustrating, but its a heck of alot better than what most other countries have. That being said, we need to all stay vigilant and report violations.

  19. You are right there needs to be a balance -- BUT -- is there nothing that can be done? If police are allowed to enter homes without permission (I think I heard that) -- where do they get that authority? If it's granted by state legislation, can not zoning officials with due cause enjoy the same privilege. I'm not saying that should be the case necessarily, but is the situation as impossible as it's portrayed? I have a hard time believing that.

  20. As a Republican in the district lets face the fact Penny won and be supportive as much as we can. I am not happy about it but if fellow Republicans are really for less government we do have to let these folks do what they want with their homes to a point. So hate to say it, but it may NOT be the County's responsibility to lord over them.

  21. The thing no one is mentioning is brainstorming solutions. Education is the key. Use marketing/advertising to target these and everyone that is littering. Buses, newspapers, everywhere. Target he market. Churches. Apts. AND - make the stupid neighborhood services do their job on this and help. Look at Prince William co. they have it set up where they help the neighborhoods deal with these very issues. Our N. services is set up for daycare and sports services.... total joke. Take leadership on each issue at at time. Birth control - ever heard of passing out education on this instead of free food bags and clothes at these school trailers? Hand out some education instead of free food. Do you all even realize the birth rate over in Glen Forest/Baileys area apts..? HUGE ISSUES COMING OUR WAY

  22. Thank you for comprehensive coverage of the meeting. Arlington Co. is currently planning for two new ES schools, including one on the Williamsburg MS campus. It may be in our best interest, as parents, to attend those planning meetings as well so that we can anticipate some of the issues that may come up with the debate over whether a new ES should be placed on the Glascow campus. Thanks again for the summary!

  23. My solution is: 1. wholesale immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, so we do not rely on a class of day laborers. 2. A generally more aggressive approach to dealing with poverty 3. FFX county residents looking around and seeing how much less we spend on the poor than do jurisdictions like DC, City of Alexandria, and lots of other places across the country - as a County we are wealthy, and have relatively few poor - man up.

    You speak of the old days. I am a grandchild/great grandchild of immigrants. My people lived in conditions on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that make Culmore look luxorious. When people decided that was not tolerable, the public sector, using tax dollars, invested in public housing to provide an alternative. They didnt just say "tough luck" we are tossing you out for your own good, go back where you came from (well some did, of course).

    And yes, most of these people do work hard, and as far as I can tell they help each other. And they are trying to learn English as fast as they can (the data suggest their rate of english acquistion is just as high as past immigrants) They should of course obey laws about littering and related issues - I support the County enforcing that more strictly (there are lots of things I want the County to enforce more strictly, including the speed limits).

    by the way to enforce litter regs, is to enforce them. Should we address speeding minivans by banning McMansions?

  24. This is why people are frustrated with Ms. Gross (excerpt from town meeting):

    Gross turned the issue around, responding that Mason has more complaints “because we have an enlightened and educated district. People pay attention to zoning violations. They know what to look for and report problems.”

    This was sort of insulting. Mason has the most complaints, because we have a lot of zoning violations. People in other districts are just as educated about the process. This was a political answer to try to dodge the real issues Mason District faces.

    1. Yup. The non-response response.

  25. That is exactly what happened.

  26. Vincent Careatti1/19/13, 12:39 PM

    DC (yes) DC Is light years in their reporting system off community issues. Repair/click is an app based application where all issues such as lights out potholes streetlights and trees etc. are reported to one central number. Using your iPhone you take a picture And the GPS system identifies the location. I'd say no need to reinvent the wheel why doesn't the county latch on to their system and bring us into the 20th century. Shouldn't Penny Gross know of these new inventions? Why doesn't our representative to the Washington area metropolitan Council of governments know of the system.

  27. When are we getting the new Dunkin Donuts??