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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Candidates outline priorities for Lake Barcroft residents

Del. Kaye Kory presents a framed copy of a resolution passed by the House of Delegates honoring Lake Barcroft Association manager Chris Lawson for 25 years of service. From the left: Kory, Lawson, and LBA President Jim Kilbourne.
Mollie Loeffler, who is running for Mason District supervisor as an independent, told Lake Barcroft residents Oct. 20 that she would give neighborhoods more of a say in land use decisions. Penny Gross, the Democratic incumbent, said her top priorities are transportation, the economy, and education. 

The two spoke at a Candidate Night hosted by the Lake Barcroft Association at Belvedere Elementary School along with others who will be on the Nov. 3 ballot.

“It’s a passion of mine to make sure communities have a voice in land use and redevelopment decisions,” Loeffler said. She would have community groups appoint their own representatives to the Mason District Land Use Committee.

She also is concerned with school overcrowding, noting that most schools in Mason are at or over capacity and there are more trailers in Mason than any other district. She would work to get more transportation funding and attract more retail to Annandale to complement the area’s great restaurants.

In response to a question about police brutality, Loeffler called the report by the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission released Oct. 20 “a step in the right direction.” She supports efforts to “make sure the police know they will be accountable,” improve public trust in the police, increase diversity on the police force, and establish a civilian review board.

Loeffler, a former ballroom dancing professional who’s worked in advertising and property management, told the audience she got involved in community issues when she saw her neighborhood begin to deteriorate. She revived the Parklawn Civic Association and Mason District Council of Community Associations, got grants to fix up the neighborhood, and hosted several large community forums.

Gross, who has represented Mason District as supervisor for nearly 20 years and currently serves as vice chair of the board, told the audience she got her start in civic activism as a PTA president – during a time when the county was actually facing declining enrollment and closing schools.

During her tenure as supervisor, the county’s transfer to Fairfax County Public Schools has increased 150 percent and is now $2.01 billion, Gross said, noting, “That is a commitment to education.” She touted the forthcoming multimodal plan for Route 7 as a solution to the traffic congestion problem.
Gross also cited her efforts to save the Lake Barcroft Association $4 million by having soil dredged from the lake shipped to a construction debris landfill in Lorton.

“I’m a problem solver,” Gross said. “I’ll put my experience to work for you.”

Noting that Gross has received over $41,000 in campaign contributions from developers, a member of the audience asked, “how can we trust you to serve the public interest?”

“Campaigns cost money,” Gross responded, adding that her decisions on the board are not based on contributions from developers. “What they get out of me is good government,” she said.

Another Lake Barcroft resident asked why Gross is letting Mason District decline, with overcrowded and deteriorating housing, overcrowded schools, and unaddressed building violations. Gross touted her actions to open Bailey’s Upper Elementary School in a converted office building and her efforts to create the code compliance “strike team” and later the Department of Code Compliance.

David Bergman, a Republican candidate for the 37th District Senate seat held by Dave Marsden, a Democrat, cited transportation, education, and mental health as his top priorities.

Bergman wants education resources to be used more efficiently, more beds for mental health patients, and earlier identification of students with mental health problems. When asked about gun violence, he said he wants to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill but supports the constitutional right to bear arms.

He doesn’t favor more taxes, such as a meals tax, but said he would fight to ensure Northern Virginia gets its fair share of transportation resources from the state. He says transportation funds should be used for roads, not sidewalks or bike paths.

Both Bergman and Marsden said they oppose toll lanes on I-66 inside the beltway.

Marsden, a native of Annandale, had a long career in juvenile justice, at both the county and state levels, before being elected to the  House of Delegates in 2005.

From the left: School board member Sandy Evans, Del. Kaye Kory, Sen. Dave Marsden, and Senate candidate David Bergman.
Among the accomplishments he worked on during his 10 years in the General Assembly: a program to keep parents charged with non-payment of child support out of jail and a major transportation bill that shifted more money to Northern Virginia.

He cited his ability to work on a bipartisan basis to get things done, including a bill to allow ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to operate in the state without harming cab companies.

Regarding gun violence, he said incremental progress isn’t enough; it needs to be addressed in a more comprehensive way with a whole suite of laws that actually have a significant impact.

Kaye Kory, who’s represented the Annandale area in the House of Delegates’ 38th District since 2010, has minimal opposition Nov. 3. James Leslie of the Independent Green Party is on the ballot but wasn’t at the Lake Barcroft meeting. 

Kory’s priorities in the General Assembly are education, health, and the environment. She started the Women’s Access to Health Care Caucus and the New Americans Caucus to focus on issues like women’s reproductive rights and college access for immigrants.

When asked about gun violence, she said “there’s some hope for narrowing the gun show loophole,” which allows gun sales by individuals without background checks, but there’s “an  ideological divide” preventing more progress. “It’s about changing attitudes. We have to be prepared for a very long haul.”

Sandy Evans, the Mason school board member running for re-election unopposed, said protecting needs-based funding is critical for schools in Mason District. This program, which is under attack by parent advocates who want to equalize class sizes across the county, provides extra resources and smaller class sizes for schools that enroll large numbers of poor students and students with limited English skills.

She also cited the need to raise teacher pay and expand preK for at-risk students. The budget shortfall is a serious concern, however, as FCPS will need to cut $50-75 million. “We’ll have to make some very tough decisions,” she said. “Everything is on the table.”

Evans says the board needs to look for more funding sources and will probably impose fees to help balance the budget, an option she doesn’t like.

While there have been some concerns about Mason schools not being fully accredited, Evans said there are only two schools in the district with accreditation warnings: Annandale Terrace Elementary School has a warning in science and Poe Middle School has one in English. 

Evans outlined some accomplishment of the board undertaken recently with Superintendent Karen Garza:
  • Full-day Mondays.
  • Later high school start times.
  • The “portrait of a graduate,” calling for students to be good at solving problems, creative thinking, and collaborating.
  • Healthier school meals. 
  • The hiring of an independent auditor general that reports to the school board.
  • Revisions to the student discipline policy to strengthen parent notification, limit out-of-school suspensions, add more restorative justice, and increase transparency. 
  • An expanded nondiscrimination policy to add protections based on sexual orientation and gender identification.
In Mason District:
  • The county’s only primary years IB program was established at Belvedere Elementary School.
  • A Vietnamese language program was launched at Falls Church High School.
  • Two new schools were created – Mason Crest Elementary School and Bailey’s Upper Elementary School.
  • An English as a Second Language pilot program for new immigrants was established at Stuart High School.
  • New turf fields were added at Stuart and Annandale High School.


  1. Mason is Gross, in every sense of the word. 20 years? Jeez, enough. Mason needs a new face.

    1. Agreed. We need new blood, new ideas, new leadership.

    2. Thank you for the insightful, cheap shot. Perhaps you would like to add some actual facts to this comment. Absent that, your political insight is akin to a doughnut hole. Surrounded by potential but lacking in anything resembling substance.

  2. Whoever is elected needs to make demolishing the Culmore slums a priority. Of course, that won't be Penny.

    1. Please provide to the readers of this blog the legal means by which that might be accomplished and the cost of doing so. Absent that information, your observation is ....well....lacking anything remotely substantive.

  3. From what I've seen of the NIMBYs supporting the Loeffler campaign, her plan to let community associations choose members of the land use committee is practically a guarantee that every proposed redevelopment effort will be chased out of Mason District.

    Crazy, isn't it, how much the same people complain that Mason District is run-down, yet object to practically any proposal by someone who wants to invest in the area? And traffic is terrible, but proposed improvements are boondoggles?

    Here's the thing: if you don't like developers, who exactly do you expect to fill their role in improving Mason District?

    1. Good point, Andrew. With Penny around, Mason will remain open for business and developers won't have to concern themselves with trivial issues such as population density. Those will obviously take care of themselves.

    2. > NIMBY

      *Rolls eyes slowly and intensely*

      > If you don't like developers, who exactly do you expect to fill their role in improving Mason District?

      OP, did I miss the proposal on these boards where someone suggested that we simply never build anything new in the Mason district? Because as I've read it, the conflict isn't over any and all development (it's not exactly horse country here in Mason District!), but over the regressive preference for braindead strip retail and "from the low 700s" houses on freshly denuded plots.

    3. 8:33, there is significant NIMBY opposition to a Seven Corners redevelopment plan that can hardly be described as "braindead strip retail" and highly priced single family home in-fill. To suggest that those who object to development are actually only complaining about *certain kinds* of development belies the conversation that's been visible here on this blog for the past few years.

    4. I live and work in the seven corners area (Sleepy Hollow Manor as a home, and in the Falls Church Corp Center as work). I am for redevelopment. I am against the redevelopment as has been proposed and as has been pushed through.

      Not because of the "NIMBY" claims. I don't even mind some residential being developed. However, it needs to be reasonable.

      Seven Corners is the worst intersection of the county - grade F intersection. The area has overburdened schools at every level - elementary, middle, and high school. We need to be tackling these issues with vigor.

      Instead, Penny fought tooth and nail against a school in Seven Corners, and only caved after immense public pressure led by Mollie as well as John Cook forcing her hand on July 28th.

      I'd like to see development done at 7 corners, but not at the expense of our schools and transportation systems.

    5. Why is it that the people who so love to throw around the NIMBY label usually live in communities that permanently mandate NEVER IN MY BACKYARD for their backyards?
      Planning Commissioner James Hart for instance (also on the Board of Zoning Appeals) lives in a community that will never, never, never have boarding house McMansions, landscaping businesses, contracting business that board their employees, trucks and equipment, as well as 12 child day care centers in residential single family and townhouse communities or commercial parties in residential neighborhoods that last for days. Whenever you read NIMBY, know that there is always a HYPOCRITE or two or twenty lurking in the background.

  4. One need meet Molly to discover she is out of her depth, but here's what shores up my respectful observation. While Penny was trying to strike a middle ground to assure that developer involvement in revitalization would be appropriate without being exploitive at Seven Corners, Molly was pandering to the anti-development people who believe that a civic leader should lead from behind. Molly, that isn't leadership and leadership is necessary for the role of Supervisor who looks to revitalize and encourage sound and safe development.

    There will always be certain people who will disagree with the position of their leaders. God bless them. Usually such positions are taken out of self-interest. Also, entirely legitimate. But to claim that leaders are not leading simply via the act of disagreement in a legitimate discussion is an act of silliness.

    Molly is simply not equipped to do more than pander to the I-Hate-Penny crowd and that is not a sufficient qualification for office. Dance instructor? Singer in a band? And faux community activist. Vote as you will, but really? Even her recently earned Tea-Party bona fides are little more than a red suit worn to lure GOP faithful who don't know that Molly would sell them out the minute the political winds shift.

    Mason deserves serious leadership and, frankly, Molly ain't it. Turn up on November 3 and vote for Penny. Because we deserve someone serious, qualified, and able to do the real job of Supervisor.

    1. > Molly was pandering to the anti-development people who believe that a civic leader should lead from behind.

      "Lead from behind"? You mean "listen to the people who elected her"? Seems like you're treading close to condoning official hubris. ;-)

    2. Watching Penny stumble through her presentation on the Seven Corners project before the BOS was a prime example of her inability to relate facts. Her inability to respond to her colleagues' comments and criticisms reflected that she was parroting notes that her staff had prepared. After twenty years, I would have assumed that she'd acquired at least a rudimentary grasp of property development. Instead, all she did was prove once again that her main accomplishment has been to ride Sharon Bulova's coattails. Nice try, but Penny is completely lost when it comes to sophisticated issues. Time to give someone else a chance.

  5. @ Schwaninger - we shall see on Nov. 3rd. What are you judge and jury of someone's life? I don't see you with the ba***s to do anything but make pompous comments. Never seen you out at any public meeting. Maybe you are just a faux excuse for a man? Mollie has my vote and every single person I know.

    1. Hey, Anon--it is an election. The background and qualities of the candidates are legitimate discussions, and you only show yourself when you resort to insulting a commenter, rather than responding to his reasoning.

  6. I believe the singing and dancing are referred to as "talents". I think I read she holds a B.A. in Sociology from GMU and worked in Advertising.

  7. My experience the past two years has been the opposite of what Mr. Schwaninger describes. During the Bailey's Elementary and the Wilston center efforts, Ms. Gross involved the community only when forced. If not for the leadership Mollie demonstrated in leading the community and organizing meetings to make our voice heard, Ms. Gross would have even more power today to run her own agenda without any regard from the community. I am grateful for what Mollie has already stepped up to do, and I am excited for her fresh energy. I believe Mollie will put more focus on leading Mason District, and less on running Fairfax County. Ms. Gross has had TWENTY YEARS to lead the direction of Mason District. I do not believe we are moving in the right direction. New leadership and new energy is needed for our community, and I believe Mollie will bring us that.

    As a side note to all of those calling the NIMBY card on development, please stop. Most of us absolutely support and are excited about the redevelopment opportunities, especially in seven corners. All we want is the right development. I want a community I can navigate around, and facilities that are of value to all of us. Handing the reigns over to the developers carte blanc will ensure we lose the character of our existing neighborhoods and become a series of redeveloped town homes over the next 20 years.

    1. Sorry, NIMBY it is. When your position is "we're all for redevelopment, as long as it doesn't really change anything," you've selected the status quo.

  8. Mollie is a woman of unimpeachable honesty, high intelligence, comprehensive understanding, action orientation, determination and almost boundless energy, and her many years of civic involvement and work has prepared her for Mason District supervisor.
    She will listen to you and work for YOU.

    1. If Mollie had unimpeachable honesty then she would be running a Republican, and not playing this charade that she in an "independent." She is claiming to be an Independent because it is politically expedient to do so.

    2. So? Is there some other way to remove our 20 year affliction? Jessica Swanson would have been an excellent replacement for Penny but the so called journalists at the FCNP and WaPo were so joined at the hip to the Penny machine she never had a chance. If she is posing as a Republican to slay the monster I say: Go Ms. Mollie. Go Ms. Mollie.

  9. Thank you for this excellent report. After reading the commenters above, I firmly believe that Mollie is pandering to those Mason District residents who claim they want new development; but in reality opposed any commercially viable development; and most definitely any new multi-family dwellings (while at the same time calling for the aging multi-family dwellings that do exist to be demolished).

    The disregard of the Mollie campaign and its supporters for the least among us is clear, and not worthy or reflective of Mason District.

    1. I've found Mollie's campaign to be well above the standards of conduct of the Gross organization.

      Gross' recent deceitful attack mailers are "worthy and reflective" of an angry, desperate local pol who can't run on a record.

      I'm a life-long democrat -- but voting Mollie.

    2. > I've found Mollie's campaign to be well above the standards of conduct of the Gross organization.

      I whole-heartedly agree. The brochure I just got from Penny's campaign claims that she is endorsed by The Washington Post. She wasn't for this election.

  10. “What they get out of me is good government,” she said....Ah, but what do the PEOPLE get out of these deals?

  11. Penny Gross is clearly in the pocket of developers; otherwise why would John Tillman be chair of the Seven Corners redevelopment task force???