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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Gross, Aiken clash on redevelopment issues at candidate forum

From the left: Del. Kaye Kory, Sen. Dick Saslaw, Gary Aiken, Jessica Swanson, Supervisor Penny Gross, Andres Jimenez, and Ricardy Anderson.
Mason Supervisor Penny Gross and her Republican challenger, Gary Aiken, clashed over how to revitalize aging commercial centers, the East County Office Building, and Bailey’s Upper Elementary School at a candidate forum March 18 hosted by Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners Revitalization Corporation.

The forum also featured the two candidates running for the Mason District seat on the school board – Jessica Swanson and Ricardy Anderson – Del. Kaye Kory and her challenger in the Democratic primary, Andres Jimenez; and state Sen. Dick Saslaw.

While Gross touted her lengthy experience on the Board of Supervisors, Aiken, who’s never run for public office before, said, “I’m a creative problem solver. I am someone who gets it done.”

“It’s about experience,” said Penny Gross, citing her “excellence in constituent services and excellence in results” in education, the economy, transportation, affordable housing, and environmental improvements.

Redevelopment

Aiken’s vision for revitalizing Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners is to “attract investors and developers who actually want to do something here.”

But first, “we have to make it attractive so people will invest here,” Aiken said. That means having a “cleanup force” to tackle the trash and signs, enforcing the ordinances, and supporting community policing so “poor people and immigrants know they are safe here.”

The comprehensive plan adopted for Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners lays out a vision for the area with a 40-year horizon, and “it’s up to private investors to achieve that,” Gross said. “We’re not telling people they have to get rid of their tenants.”

Regarding the proposed mixed-use development in the Southeast Quadrant (at the Columbia Pike/Route 7 intersection), Gross said, “We will see that development within the next five years.”

Aiken called the county’s plan for an East County Office Building at that location “a colossal structure that is not necessary.” He said those services are already provided in other places; “I’m in favor of scrapping that plan entirely.”

Relocate Bailey's Upper?

Instead, Aiken suggested “consolidating human services” in the building that houses Bailey’s Upper Elementary School and moving that school to the Willston Multicultural Center. Aiken acknowledged he hasn’t visited Bailey’s but said “it’s on my list.”

Gross lauded Bailey’s Upper, the first urban school in Fairfax County, “as one of our big successes.”

The East County Center is not a priority now. It’s still on the books but a bond issue for the project is “somewhere in the future,” Gross said. “We still need to have human services not in leased space. That’s how a caring community takes care of its people.”

The Willston Center needs a lot of renovation, which the Board of Supervisors currently doesn’t have the funds for, Gross said. And before anything can be done, the school board needs to decide whether it should be used as a school.

Aiken also called for more transparency and said the public needs more information about meetings and how to provide input. “The community is left in the dark about what’s going on,” he said.

A common theme Aiken said he’s heard at community meetings is that “the supervisor doesn’t listen.” He called Bailey’s Crossroads “a hidden gem” that’s inside the beltway and should be seeing more redevelopment. “That fact that it’s not is evidence that we need a change.”

Gross said Bailey’s Crossroads needs the right kind of redevelopment and said she rejected two proposals for the vacant Toys R Us store – a bus warehouse and “a bazaar kind of thing.”

The area is stymied by nationwide changes in retail and the loss of government contractors at the Skyline Center, she said, but new innovative projects are happening, such as the new swim school in the Willston shopping center.

Gross expressed pride in what’s she accomplished in getting more sidewalks and trails built – along Little River Turnpike and Columbia Pike, for example – although “we still have a long way to go.”

Aiken, noting that “elected officials take a lot of slings and arrows,” thanked Gross for serving Mason District for 24 years, adding, “Mason District is what it is because of you.”

“It’s time for a change after 24 years,” Aiken said. “We can have better schools and be sensible about the budget.” Noting that many people who pay taxes don’t have children in the schools, he said, “To the extent we keep raising taxes, we’re causing people to leave and stopping people from moving here.”

While Aiken supports saving money by cutting pension benefits for county employees, Gross said that, although the board made some changes to rein in costs, it’s important to retain the defined benefit plan. “I’m proud to support our county employees,” she said.

School board

Both Swanson and Anderson stressed their experience in education.

Swanson taught in D.C. public schools and, as an administrator in the D.C. system, works on ensuring its $1 billion budget prioritizes students who need the most resources. As an advocate in Mason District, she worked on increasing funds for Fairfax County Public Schools and changing the name of Stuart High School.

Anderson cited her 23-year career in education, as a teacher, principal at the elementary and middle school levels, and director of teaching and learning at D.C. Public Schools.

“I will bring the lens of a practitioner,” she said, noting that she has dealt with discipline issues, special education cases, improving teaching and learning and has ideas on how to address equity and access for all students and close the achievement gap.

Swanson vowed to strengthen schools, retain needs-based staffing, improve teacher compensation as a way to attract and retain great teachers, and welcome all students, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Swanson said the Willston Center should be torn down and replaced with a community school – with such programs as early childhood education and health services – to relieve overcrowding at Glen Forest Elementary School.

Anderson agreed that a community school with wraparound services is a great idea and “a viable solution to overcrowding.”

Swanson suggested the school board can do more to support innovative schools like Bailey’s Upper and urge the state to change the funding formula to direct more funds to Fairfax County, which has a growing population of students with special needs.

Anderson lauded the diversity in Mason District, noting that her kids “are learning to be global citizens,” just by being there. She called for teachers to have enough time and resources so they can focus on high-need students.

Anderson cited the professional learning community model – where educators work together to address the individual needs of students and get them the extra help they need – as the best approach in ensuring students succeed. If elected, she vowed to be present in the schools every week.

Both Anderson and Swanson acknowledged that the schools have an image problem and that more should be done to counter the false impressions from rating systems like Great Schools. They both said the school board should do a better job of publicizing the good things going on in Mason District schools such as the International Baccalaureate and foreign language programs.

House of Delegates 

Kory, who’s represented the 38th District in the House of Delegates for the past 10 years, will face Jimenez in the Democratic primary June 11.

Jimenez hasn’t run for office before but told the audience he has plenty of experience in government, working for “some of the most progressive members of Congress,” as an aide on the House immigration subcommittee, working on housing issues for New York City, and, currently, with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

For Jimenez, a key issue for the General Assembly is getting money for transportation, including Metro and bike lanes to connect to transit. He said revitalization of areas like Bailey’s Crossroads should accommodate living wages for working families and environmentally sound buildings.

Kory acknowledged the lack of a Democratic majority in the House has made it difficult to get legislation passed. One bill she worked on with bipartisan support that did pass authorizes a study of maternal mortality and will look at why most women who die after giving birth are nonwhite and low-income.

Another positive thing that came out of the General Assembly this year, Kory said, is an extra $378 million for education beyond the state’s funding formula.

Kory noted she is one of the founders of the women’s healthcare caucus in the General Assembly, sponsored the bill to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and worked with the State Department of Education to ensure Justice High School got accredited.

State Senate

Saslaw, who is seeking a sixth term representing the 35th District in the Virginia Senate, spoke about his support for transportation funding as a way to revitalize the Bailey’s Crossroads area.

Sawlaw touted the proposed $300 million bus rapid transit system that would run between Tysons and the Mark Center in Alexandria’s West End. Funding would come from the state, county, federal government, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

If the Democrats can pick up two more seats in the Senate, “we’ll be able to make it happen,” he said.

Saslaw also cited his bill to provide $154 million in capital improvements for Metro, but said the money will only be available if Metro can control its operating costs.

He said a state law enacted in 2017 that allows localities to create “opportunity zones” in certain areas will spur redevelopment. That measure would allow people who invest in those areas and keep a property for at least 10 years to forego capital gains taxes when they sell it.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing April 9 on a plan to allow tax breaks and other incentives for redevelopment projects in certain revitalization areas, including Bailey’s Crossroads and Annandale.

Saslaw’s opponents in the Democratic primary, Yasmine Taeb and Karen Torrent, weren’t able to attend the forum.

77 comments:

  1. Scrapping Bailey's Upper would be the biggest waste of money imaginable. For a guy who purports to be the fiscal conservative in the race, that's preposterous. We can debate whether or not it was a good idea (my opinion: it was) and whether or not it was well-implemented (my opinion: it was) but NOW THAT IT IS BUILT no sensible person could possibly advocate scrapping it.

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    1. Actually, if you think about the economics, Aiken's idea is pragmatic. This is a bit lengthy, so please follow along.

      The Upper Bailey's location is where human services was formerly housed before Penny moved them. Penny wants $125,000,000 for a huge human services building next to Radley Acura, which is a location that should be used for retail that generates tax revenues and reduces dependency on real estate taxes. The Tower building was purchased by Penny, thus off tax rolls, and is now to be an Interim Park. This is costing taxpayers millions.

      The former Willston E.S. is a prime location for a school with a campus = green space and recreation.

      Looking back to the best location for grades 3-5, it was and still is the best plan (nixed by Penny) that would have partnered with Woodrow Wilson library. The proposal from the school system at that time was to build adjacent to the library for grades 3-5. Playground/green space in place. This would have eliminated the huge ongoing expenses we now have with Upper Bailey's: busing students from Lower Bailey's to Upper Bailey's, two principals, two sets of administrative staff, etc.

      These three changes together would probably be less than the proposed $125,000,000 human resources center and would be a bargain. All three locations would have new up to date facilities and a huge cost of ongoing expenses would be eliminated. BONUS: The South East Quadrant would be available for mixed-use and retail development to add revenue to our tax base. A win-win for everybody.

      Kudos to Aiken for paying attention to the needs of Bailey's Crossroads and 7 Corners plus saving taxpayers money and unnecessary expenses. He's a listener and a thinker.

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    2. Anonymous = Aiken

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    3. Nope. Anonymous = A voter for Aiken.

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    4. I guess it’s hard to grasp that some people appreciate pragmatism and economic responsibility. As one who has voted both sides of the aisle, I have no qualms supporting wise spending of our precious tax resources. Gary's experience in finance and thoughts for revitalization make total sense to me. I have lived in this district for over 30 years and I have voted for Penny in the past.

      Another voter for Aiken, I’m voting for a change!

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    5. Aiken's plan makes sense to me, and the explanation above does too. As for Anonymous at 3:50 pm, if you disagree, state your reasons. All you did was a quick reply to discount someone's valid and well-thought out opinion. And before you ask - no, I am not Aiken either. But after having cast votes on both sides of the aisle, I too think a change is needed.

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    6. DPS great assessment

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    7. I agree that scrapping baileys upper would be a colossal waste. I heavily disliked how baileys upper came into being and the process by which we got there, but now that it is there it would be a waste of the 80 (?) million dollars that county taxpayers have invested in that school.

      Gary says that the property should be generating real-estate tax revenue. Well tell me... how many years of tax revenue would it take for the county to recoup the millions in capital that it would then be writing off?

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    8. Don’t spread Fake News, Mr. Longo.
      The entire investment in the school was roughly $22 million.
      $9.37 million to purchase the building plus $10 million to retrofit.
      An eventual gym addition came in at $2.9 million.
      https://webspm.com/articles/2018/06/01/adaptive-reuse.aspx

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    9. I stand corrected on the cost. My numbers were way off. I was not intentionally inflating the cost, I just was remembering it wrong, and I intentionally put a (?) there because I wasn't sure and was going off of memory.

      That being said, you're still looking at a $22 million dollar investment. Say you'd get $10 million back from the sale of the building - similar to what the county paid. What's the math on getting $12 million investment back?

      The Mark Building directly adjacent to the school currently pays $52k in taxes per year, but is about 40% of floor area. So, this site would look to potentially bring in $125k/year in real estate taxes.

      That's 96 YEARS to break even on the 12 million investment. And you all think that things with Penny take a long time, just wait for this guy!

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    10. I find it humorous, almost, when someone says they do not want to lose all the money, time and effort they put into a loosing proposition. They will spend more money just to fix what they have spent just to prove that it might get better.

      If its not working and/or its broken, stop the cycle and replace it.

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    11. Bailey’s Upper Elementary is owned by the Fairfax County School Board. The Willston Multicultural Center building is owned by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
      It seems reasonable that something mutually beneficial could be worked out...

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  2. Is the purpose of revitalization to enhance the viability of a neighborhood and add much needed money to the County coffers or to spend tax payer dollars on a somewhat dubious transaction which has to date resulted in an empty lot?
    When faced with school overcrowding, is the response to spend millions of tax payer dollars to remodel an office building on a major highway or heed the community's request to 1. use County owned land adjacent to the existing school or 2. repurpose an existing County owned former school with a playing field (e.g. Mason Crest)?
    Those who laud Upper Baileys as a landmark seem oblivious to the ongoing cost of the project, its eventual overcrowding and the fact that Urban Schools are located in areas where pupils are able to walk to them, impossible at this location.
    Penny's caring for the less fortunate did not stop her from moving all social services from the Baileys, 7 Corners areas and arranging the sale of the Shelter property before locating a new home for the residents.
    Penny repeatedly refers to her experience and time in office. When she first ran, she had not previously held office. Also, touting her many years in office as "someone who gets things done" may be news to a number of us residing in her district.
    Aiken may not have held previous office and may need to rethink some positions however,he is a welcome contrast to complacency, opaqueness
    and an entrenched disregard of numerous community voices.

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  3. Whatever you wrote, Adam Goldberg disagrees with you.

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    1. Perfect!!!

      Thank you, Adam--and more power to ya'.

      --kda

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    2. Adam, disagree with your disagreement.

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  4. Why does having a leased space for community programs matter so much to Penny? It doesn't mean that they move every year. They were in the last space for how long, 10+ years? Why is she SO hell bent on building this new building?

    The "upper school" should be as close to the "lower school" as possible, or an entirely new elementary school needs to be created.

    I'm sitting this election out. I cannot in good conscience vote for her, and I don't vote R.

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    1. Since Penny was narrowly first elected, none of her challengers in general elections has received more than 43% of the vote. Sitting out the next election will only help to continue her streak. Gary Aiken doesn't strike me as a GOP fanatic. If anything, he's a pragmatist with new ideas. And a new perspective is exactly what Mason needs. - Sparky

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    2. Please consider holding your nose and voting for R. It's our only chance for positive change. We can't afford to lose this opportunity.

      What happens at the local level affects us directly on a daily basis and we finally, finally have the opportunity to get the leadership we need. Too bad we even have political parties involved at the local level. Regardless, don't let national bias affect this great opportunity.

      Finally a candidate has surfaced with the hands on experience in revitalization and finance we so desperately need. Finally, there is someone who truly can make a difference for Mason District. Aiken.

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    3. If you don't vote for R on principle, then don't complain when we get another term of Gross, who you have admitted is not the right choice. Everyone who won't vote for Aiken simply because he is R needs to get off their high horse and vote for the person who will be the best for Mason, not because of their party, but because of what they can bring to the table. Our area is in sore need of good leadership. We have given Gross more than her fair share of chances, time for someone else.

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  5. Democrats in Maryland voted R. They like what they've got. Mason should do it too. I'm a reasonable Republican you can trust to focus on local issues - not divisive national issues.

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    1. Gary, with all due respect even “divisive national issues” can have local impacts, and so it is important for voters to know where you stand on certain things so that they know if you will have their back. Specifically, last night you were given an opportunity to set yourself apart from the current extreme republicans that have taken over your party, and you failed to do so.

      The question you were asked was “given the current anti-immigrant policies enacted by the president and the Republican Party, how can you as a republican give assurances, if any, to Mason districts many immigrants that you will act in their best interests.”

      You started off your answer very defensively by saying “the Republican Party is not anti-immigrant, and neither am I”.

      I make no judgements about you, however sir I condemn your party’s stances towards immigrants and minorities, and I came away very unsatisfied with your answer.

      You had the opportunity to distance yourself from president Trump and his barbaric policies including amped up immigration raids which have caught up countless fully documented immigrants and even citizens and denied them their constitutional and human rights. These raids take place in our very own county, in our very own communities, and affect the people you would represent.

      You had the opportunity to distance yourself from Virginia Republican Party endorsed senate cantidate Corey Stewart, whose anti-immigrant and racist stances are well documented and voters overwhelmingly rejected.

      You failed to take the opportunity to distance yourself from the likes of Corey Stewart and Donald Trump when given the opportunity to do so last night. That was very concerning to me, and I think it will give many immigrants and people of color pause when considering if you should represent them in any fashion.

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    2. I disagree with you, Mr. Longo. I do not see Mr. Aiken's statement as defensive. I think it is true, but you are just reading into it what you want to read. I don't like how Trump is handling ILLEGAL immigration. But I don't feel the Republican party is being hostile to immigrants who are here legally. I am one of those immigrants. I came here with my family in 1979. Legally. And this country has been very welcoming. I feel really bad for the people who want to come here and cannot, but I also do not think bowling over the border is the way to do it. Laws are here for a reason.

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    3. I disagree with Mr. Longo, too. Our local issues are paramount in this election. Aiken came across as a very reasonable moderate and upfront he volunteered the info that he is Republican. It was obvious that some Ds in the audience were attempting to bait him and change the forum from local to national issues. He didn't take the bait. That was reasonable, too. Even smart. The people in attendance came to learn about solutions for 7 Corners and Bailey's Crossroad, not witness political drama.

      I find it ludicrous for anyone to use a broad brush of hateful hype to impose labels on people they don't even know. If this election devolves into slurs (and it already looks like it is based on Monday nights baiting attempt), the broad brush could be used to label all Dems as Socialists. According to the Washington Post and other media that's the way the party appears to be going. Is this fair game?

      I encourage everyone to clean up this election and refrain from hateful hype and the type of disgusting lies and slurs lobbed at Penny's previous opponents over the years. Judge people on their qualifications, vision and genuine concern for Mason District.

      BTW, I consider myself an Independent. 1/2 my family immigrated to the U.S. They are a mix of Ds and Rs. To a person they entered legally and to a person they are very concerned about the border situation. To a person they refrain from name calling and finger pointing and sweeping generalizations.

      Everyone...stay focused on what is best for Mason District.

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    4. "But I don't feel the Republican party is being hostile to immigrants who are here legally."

      Then you're not following the news very closely. Over the past two years Republicans have introduced many bills and regulations to dramatically reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed per year. Trump's cancellation of DACA and TPS, if allowed to go forward, would create over 1 MILLION undocumented immigrants at one fell swoop by TAKING AWAY legal status from those who currently have it.

      Mr. Aiken, what is your stance on whether the county should provide social services to undocumented parents of US-citizen children? Please answer clearly.

      While we're at it: Mr. Aiken, what is your stance on a woman's right to choose?

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    5. Wow, Simon, talk about taking things way out of proportion. Let's keep an eye on the ball, shall we? Immigration policy at the national level sucks right now. Yes true. But neither Gross nor Aiken, whoever is elected in this election, is going to be making immigration policy or, for Pete's sake, restricting or protecting the right to choose? I personally don't care what their stance are on these issues. I care what their stance is on the issues they can affect in Mason. And I think we need someone with a more proactive view to revitalizing the area. These arguments about D and R, immigration, abortion (seriously?!), are all red herrings. I want to know what each can really do and from what I have seen, Penny Gross cannot do much. I'm eager to give someone else a try.

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    6. Anonymous, We live in a district more affected by immigration issues than almost anywhere in the country. Immigrants are an important segment of our population from business owners to workers to school children. All of our schools have numerous Dreamers as students, and 1/2 of the people in the district are women who are affected by access to women's healthcare, including ending pregnancies. The Board of Supervisors have a say in policies that affect both issues for residents from access to opportunity to cooperation with ICE. It is more than appropriate to ask Mr. Aiken's positions on these. He himself raised what he called his "pro-life" stance at the forum covered by this article. Revitalization of commercial real estate is one important issue for our residents, but there are others that are just as pressing and relevant.

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  6. sorry I had to miss last nights event. mason district is aching for Aiken

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  7. Curious here, why is it the only opportunities for tenants in the Toys R Us location that Penny Gross proudly rejected were, “bus parking and a BAZAAR?” Why aren’t other businesses or developers interested in that location?

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    1. That is a REALLY good question. And I'd like to know if there were other offers she rejected that she did not mention. The whole system needs more transparency.

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    2. You would think our supervisor would share this with the revitalization group (I am acting President) but nope, we never heard of any ideas for the area nor did we hear about the good things coming like the Dolan swim school. Transparency would be great - we don't have it!
      I spoke at length with Regency today and there are initial plans to revitalize Wilston 1 shopping center (next to the Multicultural Center) and I will keep those lines open to find out more.

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    3. To ALISON: is there a way to have a website for Mason updates like these? I work and cannot always make these meetings, but it would be great if meeting minutes, and such decisions were posted on a website or even on a Mason supervisor FB page. Any way that can be done to have more transparency?

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    4. with the CVS on Route 7, she kept talking about all the things she rejected before the CVS came about. The thing is that the community was never told about these things or given the chance to weigh in. Some of the things she claimed she rejected would have been better than a CVS. What sort of process do we have when she can reject things without input. Unless she is lying of course to make it sound like she is doing something other than approving everything (seems more likely)

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  8. Mason aches Deeply3/19/19, 10:48 PM

    The real question here, as I see it is, who is going to make the place where we live a better place to be. Unfortunately for over 20 years Penny seems to have found positive things done by others and takes credit for it. She has proven that what is accomplished is with kick backs and spending tax dollars and bonds to pay off her developer cronies for campaign contributions she receives. She has shown little interest in really solving the problems we have right here. She likes to talk about Fairfax but when confronted with real issues and things we care about falls back on partisan political associations. We need a change from her brand of politics. Aiken seems like he may be the change we need. I sure hope we in MASON DISTRICT have the wisdom to vote and give him the chance to make the place where we live better. Gross sure has not.

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  9. Why do people constantly hate on baileys crossroads and 7 corners? Have they transformed into mosaic district? No. But that’s because they are, to be honest, generally thriving retail locations. The 7 corners shopping center has been the most profitable property for Saul Centers and is at 100% occupancy. Baileys also has great retail (Best Buy, Trader Joe’s, Panera, pier 1, bobs furniture, moes southwest grill, Safeway, Tuesday’s, staples, bbb, marshals, etc), though with admittedly one big box vacancy. Southeast quadrant needs work, but it will get there. And when we get bus rapid transit on Rt 7, the whole area will get lifted.

    10 years ago I moved into my home next to 7 corners and loved the fact that I was 5 minutes or less from everything. That hasn’t changed.

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    1. When we get BRT! That seems a decade away at least but I agree that would make a big difference. Especially when you couple it with supposed BRT bus service from Columbia Pike to Skyline and West End transitway in Alexandria.

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    2. Anonymous - I 100% support BRT on Rt 7. It can't happen soon enough, and I've commented a number of times that I feel it will be a huge catalyst for our region, including Baileys, 7 corners, and skyline.

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    3. some of us would like things that aren't just strip mall chain stores

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  10. We have more than 1 big box vacancy :(

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    1. Alison, I'm referring to what I'd refer to as Bailey's corners proper - the shopping center directly around the intersection or directly connected by service roads... so the big box vacancy there is the Circuit City/HHGreg. Yes, there are other more recent big box vacancies such as ToysRUs towards Skyline, and if we talk about Skyline then we could go into a lot of office vacancies too (though retail still does well in that area).

      I honestly don't have any sense that Gary would do a better job for baileys and 7 corners, especially considering the fact that he announced his support for higher commercial taxes in the debate.

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    2. I don't recall Mr. Aiken announcing support for higher commercial taxes. He wants more commerce (more businesses) in the area to generate more tax revenue.

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    3. @Concerned - he most definitely advocated for taxing commercial higher. He said that businesses were not "paying their fair share" and was putting too much on the residents. I myself was pretty surprised he said it based on his supposed "pro-business" platform.

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  11. What everyone needs to do is register for Mason Dems https://act.myngp.com/Forms/7681019507233916928 by this FRIDAY in order to vote for school board primary. There is a lot of corruption in that primary and people need to take it seriously.

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    1. Yup - Ricardy was recruited for the sole purpose of attempting to silence a progressive advocate for our schools with a proven track record because she ran a primary challenge last cycle against our supervisor to push her to better support the schools.

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    3. By all means people should register to vote in the caucus, but to vote for Ricardy Anderson. Contrary to what Anonymous says, Swanson is neither progressive nor does she have a proven track record in Education. Swanson was a 2-year Teach for America recruit who moved into working for DC Charters. Charters are publicly funded but privately managed for private gain- Not Public Schools. Resistance to Swanson's plans for our schools are about her close continuing relationship to pro-Charters, pro-vouchers DC PACs, and being unqualified to serve, not about past campaigns. Anderson is the candidate who has real public school experience, and Mason District, not DC backing. Anderson, has lived in Mason longer, has children in the schools, consistently stellar public school service at a variety of levels for 23 years, and will be working to fully fund our schools more equitably rather than syphon off money to private companies from DC.

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    4. Cheryl - while I see you deleted your comment, that didn't prevent your comment from being emailed to everyone who is receiving updates on this article, and I must say that saying "Every time [Jessica] says she works for public schools it is a lie" is a NASTY personal attack.

      As I get to know both of these candidates, I am finding both to be pretty damn qualified, and honestly very similar viewpoints on the issues, as I'd expect from fellow democrats. So far the differentiating factor that the candidates themselves have been highlighting has been Ricardy has been championing the fact that she is proudly not a politician, whereas Jessica is championing her past advocacy on FCPS issues.

      Perhaps we can cut the personal mud slinging and keep this to the issues?

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    5. Correction to my representation of what Cheryl's original post said. She had said "Every time [Jessica] says she works for public schools, it is a misrepresentation." I had put lie. Still a personal attack, but I messed up on the transcription (I didn't copy/paste like I should have), so I wanted to set that record straight.

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    6. The notion that Ricardy Anderson was somehow recruited to run in this race based on personal animus towards Jessica Swanson is preposterous. I can testify to that, because -I- am the person who recruited Ricky to run, after I heard that Sandy Evans, who I respect tremendously, was retiring. And I didn't do that because Penny Gross asked me to, or because I dislike Jessica Swanson, or for any other reason having to do with personalities or local Mason Dems politics.

      I asked Ricky to run for this office because I knew that her 23-year track record made her the best person to further the goals of advancing equity, closing the achievment gap, and making MY KIDS' education the best it could possibly be. I have two kids, one at Mason Crest and one at Belvedere, and I wanted Ricky to be their school board member because I knew she'd be darn good at it.

      Accusations of corruption are serious and if you have any evidence whatsoever that someone is breaking the rules, show it... or else please retract your statement.

      Jeffrey is right that Ricky is not a politician, she's an educator. She is not seeking to use the school board to launch a political career: it's her end goal, not her springboard. So I had to persuade her to run, because -- like most of us -- the idea of running for office is not something that would have occurred to her naturally. She's not someone who's spent the past X number of years preparing to run for elected office. She's someone who's spent the past 23 years as a teacher and principal. Does that mean that I "recruited" her? I guess it depends on your definition.

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    7. Jeffrey, I used the term misrepresentation in the first post - not "lie" and I was responding to an incorrect, non-issue oriented post from an anonymous poster. I hope you reprimanded them as well. I took out the sentence you objected to, before your reply- but I will reiterate this. The issues I addressed are deeply significant ones for Mason District and for me as a long time resident & public school teacher in Mason District, former local PTA president, and state wide RedforEd leader. As a public schools advocate I do not believe that someone in favor of Charter schools and pro-vouchers can be accurately described as progressive, nor do the majority of public schools advocates across the country. Also, charter schools cannot be called public schools in the strict sense of the word- they are funded by tax dollars, but that is where the resemblance ends. Localities lose control of their own schools. It is worth knowing that we have been fighting these forces at the state level for at least the last 6 years, with attacks on the state Constitution and heavy influence from ALEC task force members, and just this year the Alexandria Superintendent was ordered to take 10 Teach for America teachers against their needs and against his judgment. I simply ask FCDC members and Mason District families- is that what we want? Lotteries, 2 year untrained teachers, and tax dollars going to DC or New York? This is indeed an important election.

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    8. Why are the Dems having a special April meeting to decide who they will endorse for school board?

      Why aren't they following the usual June primary format for the school board candidates?

      This is highly unusual. What's the reasoning behind this?

      Delete
    9. The anonymous post was ridiculous, as are a lot of anonymous posts here. Big claims with no way to back it up. Once upon a time I spent my days doing whack-a-mole with the Anonymous posters, but I've generally started scaling that back so-as to not feed the trolls.

      Cheryl, I would be interested in how you feel you can back up your claims. I've never heard Jessica advocate for charters in FCPS or for vouchers - in fact I've heard her explicitly reject those as options. I would imagine if any of what you are saying is true, she wouldn't have gotten endorsed by Kaye Kory who is one of the biggest education proponents in the state.

      Simon, thanks for setting the record straight regarding how Ricardy was recruited to run.

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    10. Jeffrey, she is affiliated with "Leaders for Educational Equity", a charter school backer.

      https://secure.friendsoflee.org/page/candidates

      Excerpt here:

      Group tied to charter school backers spent thousands in Va. school board election - Washington Post, November 25, 2018.

      "The amounts were eye-popping for a school board election in a system of fewer than 16,000 students. While most contenders for the Alexandria City School Board collected contributions of a few hundred dollars or less, Veronica Nolan and Christopher Suarez outraised some opponents more than tenfold.

      The source of their financial boost: Leaders in Education Fund, the political giving arm of Leadership for Educational Equity, an organization that trains Teach for America alumni to run for public office and is tied to billionaire donors allied with the charter school lobby."

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    11. Jeffrey, Here is Jessica's post from her page showing her expressing her pleasure at delivering a check from Allies for Educational Equity. Don't let equity in their title fool you. Allies for Educational Equity is a pro-charters PAC which was founded and is run by Lea Crusey, another TFA Alum, who was State Director for Michelle Rhee's organization Students First. They are unabashed in their goals to put pro-charter candidates in office. More recently the group supported pro-charter candidates for LAUSD in the bid by the charter industry to take over LAUSD which prompted the LA Teachers' strike. Jessica is clearly still very much committed to Teach for America's Alumni goals and to Allies, a pro-charter PAC which has locations in DC and on the west coast. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1msLLDT2xDipee1tOT2G0ISVdePozB0lm/view?usp=sharing

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  12. I urge Dems to vote for Aiken, politics is compromise. There is no perfect candidate. We have had little progress in the last 24 years of Penny. We need a change

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    1. I agree, Penny has to go. My daughter is 25 years and has grown into an accomplished adult. That is my benchmark for how long Penny has been office. That's a generation of very little to show. Your 24 years - 4 years for an Arlington supervisor. Although I use to be a supporter and a recruiter of votes, your dismal performance will turn me in any direction other than you. Aiken you gets my vote. Let's hope that Aiken has the stamina and centrality of values to heal our local divisions, lead and bring good investor to Bailey/7 rather than chase them away as Penny has done over the years. All she has to show for is her homeless shelter, a real economic bonanza for Mason.

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  13. I want to know that if Supervisor can reject proposal for a location like ToyRUs, how heavily can the supervisor lean on property owners and developers to move something along.

    No doubt Ms. Gross tried to encourage all parties involved but the proposal for redeveloping City Diner and the associated properties was a big loss. That would have spurred further development in that stretch of Carlin between Columbia Pike and Seminary. Was there more that could have been done?
    https://annandaleva.blogspot.com/2018/02/developer-kills-apartment-project-in.html

    Is it up to push the supervisor to push owner of property like Grand View apartments on the intersection of Carlin and Columbia Pike that is spread over several smaller low lying building to consolidate into one new large building and put rest of property up for other development and road improvements.

    There are numerous such examples in Baileys Crossroads/7 Corner and rest of Mason. Just a handful quality developments could set wide scale revival into motion.

    Better transit would also make a huge difference.
    https://ggwash.org/view/71174/virginia-needs-better-suburb-to-suburb-transit-here-are-the-most-important-routes

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    1. Penny is trying to be a dictator

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  14. Although it was inevitable that the party label would be used against any Republican who challenged Penny, I had hoped for more subtlety.
    Not all Republicans are anti- immigrant racists, nor are all Democrats left wing Socialists. It is simplistic,destructive and so easy to blindly adhere to an ideology or party and demean those with whom you differ. That obeisance, moral superiority and disdain of the others is all too common in both parties and has brought our country to the breaking point
    Can we please focus on the qualifications, personal character and vision of the person who will best represent the residents of Mason District rather than the D or R after his or her name?

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    1. In a perfect world, one would vote for the best candidate. That individual would possess some mix of good qualities, such as being well-reasoned; intelligent; having relevant experience, and demonstrating a strong work ethic. Blend in a set of prudent and responsible policies, and a voter could reasonably feel s/he made a good choice for that office.

      Penny Gross absolutely has some shortcomings with regard to these qualities. For instance, I believe she tends to pre-judge matters before her without fully considering constituent input. I don’t know enough about Gary Aiken to know if he would be a substantively better choice or not as regards the above criteria.

      But I know one thing – I’m not willing to take the chance, because he identifies with the Republican party. On the national and state level, the Rs have shown themselves to be more interested in keeping power than governing effectively. Nationally, they’re often single-issue oriented and thusly represent their donors to the detriment of the nation. Way too many Rs think and behave like simplistic zealots, pandering to the fringe elements and extremes. The Executive branch is run by a feckless and immoral coward who is a bully and a pathological liar, fully supported and enabled by his band of party sycophants. I’m through with that; this scourge has to be excised. I’m sorry if that means I might deny an otherwise superior candidate to a lower office in which s/he might excel.
      If/when times change and the Rs can act as a party of fiscal responsibility, pragmatism, and compassionate reasoned governance, I’ll become receptive to them as I was back in the 80s and 90s. But until then, I’m not about to further their insidious takeover of local politics as well.

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  15. Simon says "Mr. Aiken, are you a RINO"

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    1. Here we go...slinging slurs. What's your purpose?

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    2. Simon, 3:20, 1:58pm

      I sling no slurs.

      "Mr. Aiken, what's your stance on whether the county should provide social services to undocumented parents of US-citizen children? Please answer clearly.

      While we're at it: Mr. Aiken, what is your stance on a woman's right to choose?"

      Both issues are contrary to the conservative ethos and would only serve to determine if Mr. Aikens disavows President Trump.

      Why not ask if he open borders, supports healthcare for all, green energy, etc., if you want to determine just where he stands.

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  16. Your questions relate to Commonwealth and national policy issues that are irrelevant for this election. Mason District and for me, Bailey's Crossroads and 7 Corners, are paramount. Your questions about borders and Pro Choice are more appropriately directed to our state and federal delegates. Those issues are not in the purview of Fairfax County officials. Instead, ask Mr. Aiken questions about his vision for Mason District and how he can help Fairfax County get out of its financial mess.

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    1. Simon3/20/19, 1:58 PM
      "But I don't feel the Republican party is being hostile to immigrants who are here legally."

      Then you're not following the news very closely. Over the past two years Republicans have introduced many bills and regulations to dramatically reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed per year. Trump's cancellation of DACA and TPS, if allowed to go forward, would create over 1 MILLION undocumented immigrants at one fell swoop by TAKING AWAY legal status from those who currently have it.

      Mr. Aiken, what is your stance on whether the county should provide social services to undocumented parents of US-citizen children? Please answer clearly.

      While we're at it: Mr. Aiken, what is your stance on a woman's right to choose?

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  17. Food for thought:
    1. Transit: Penny Gross was a strong advocate for the street car down Columbia Pike that would have connected Bailey's Crossroads to the Pentagon Metro. It was scuttled by the Arlington County Board. Lesson - transit is expensive, complicated and requires cooperation between several jurisdictions answering to their own constituents.

    How does Mr. Aiken propose to address transit? Bus Rapid Transit? Streetcar? Metro? How are we going to pay for it? Especially as a "fiscal conservative?"

    2. To be sure, Supervisor Gross has led the effort to streamline development in Lincolnia. (Search the Annandale Blog for several articles regarding this endeavor.) As chair of the Community Task Force, I can report that we are one meeting away from approving new Comprehensive Plan language that will encourage smart, progressive growth and development in Lincolnia - think Mosaic or Shirlington. And I can personally report as well that the owner of one of the biggest parcels in Lincolnia, working with the State and County, is intending on following through with developments that will significantly improve traffic and the community feel of the neighborhood. Not dreams, but reality.
    3. Regarding Bailey's Upper School. By all accounts that I've heard from friends whose kids go there to teachers who teach there, they love the school. And regarding cost? I believe that someone shared a number of $22 million in an earlier post: A comparable size of building with the same quality of finishes at Willston would have cost 5x as much and taken at least five years to complete after financing, designing, and constructing. As a taxpayer, I think the Bailey's Upper School was a BRILLIANT use of taxpayer funds. A high quality school, built in less than a year, and for a fraction of the cost of a new building. (You can search my posts from several years ago where I shared the same sentiment.)

    I encourage all of you instead of complaining and trolling in the Annandale Blog to get out and get involved. There are many neighborhood associations and other volunteer organizations where you focus your energy for the positive. I've lived in Mason for nearly 30 years and I love the neighborhood. Bailey's Crossroads is 10 times better than it was 25 years ago. (Does anybody remember the junk yard where the KFC is now?)

    And if you have any specific issue with anything that I post, I encourage you to call or e-mail me: 703-462-4298.

    Daren Shumate

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    1. You sound like a much younger guy with some rationality and energy. Why don't you run and problem will be solved? Penny goes and she has got your ear. Good for her and good for us. Problem solved, ain't I brilliant and I am not even Penny Gross or Aiken.

      Delete
    2. All the best with the Lincolnia revitalization. In 2007, a beautiful community plan was laid out with community participation for the South East Quadrant across from Trader Joe's. It was a mixed use plan that had the full support of area citizens. It took Penny 3 out of turn plan amendments to destroy the 2007 plan. 10 years later, no mixed use, no retail. She paid $3m more than appraised for the land that is now an Interim Park (she sold it as a new Seminary Rd to the BOS and used the owner's appraisal price for the purchase). She wants $125,000,000 for a human services building there and has a developer ready to build apartments when the homeless shelter gets moved. The plan for the South East Quadrant isn't anything near what her constituents want.

      Seems to me Mr. Aiken is a highly successful financial pragmatist who came on the scene at just the right time with ideas to realize the type of revitalization Bailey's and 7 Corners citizens have been yearning for.

      No one is disputing the architectural quality of Upper Bailey's or the fact that the kids and teachers like it. What's not to like about spanking new school? It doesn't change the fact that it is located in a commercial area, which is difficult for the neighboring businesses, not the safest situation for the students and has created huge ongoing expenses that were unnecessary if the school had partnered with the library. It's fascinating that Aiken quickly figured out how to give us 2 shiny new schools, an upgraded, yet lower cost, human services building and create space for the 2007 mixed-use plan the citizens crave. His idea also generates commercial tax revenue that Penny's spendthrift land use planning style depletes. We need Mr. Aikens kind of experience and vision.

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  18. While I appreciate Mr. Schumate's explanation and civility, there are a few omissions in his comments.
    The Trolley was rejected by Arlington voters, forcing the Board to cancel the project. Issues of cost and lack of right of way were paramount
    Re:Upper Baileys, While citing the enormous cost of repurposing the old Willston school, he omitted the second possibility, i.e. using the County owned land adjacent to Lower Baileys. He also neglected to mention the removal of commercial property from the County tax rolls (as at Baileys) and the human cost of the loss of needed services to residents of the surrounding community.
    As for the redevelopment of Lincolnia, we can cross our fingers.

    ReplyDelete
  19. No c in Shumate.

    I stated that the Arlington Board nixed the project. The point was that transit is an area-wide issue that is hard to solve. Look at the Metro and the Metro board. Tiny Herndon can (and for a while did) effectively hamstring Metro to Dulles.

    Not sure what point you are are trying to make about using county land adjacent to Lower Bailey's. The point I articulated was that new construction is orders of magnitude more expensive than the project at Upper Baileys. Even on the county land by the library. That site would have had the added time of county approvals. (Remember the last time the BOS proposed a "by right" development, the homeless shelter behind Lincolnia Senior Center. Even though the Board of Supervisors could have done that by right - that is, it was pre-approved by the comprehensive plan and zoning for the use - Supervisor Gross did the right thing and ran it through her Mason Land Use Committee. That project never happened.) I stand by my comment that Bailey's Upper School is a case study in GOOD government. A high quality school was delivered in less than a year for probably $150/sf of construction cost. That is at least one third of the cost of a new school not considering land acquisition, time, etc.

    I am not sure what Mr. Aiken's plan is to better that performance. In fact, as a "pragmatist" I'd find it hard that he'd argue that was a bad idea and would try to emulate it. As a Hoganesque centrist as he alludes to being, I'd think that would be good policy for him to espouse and follow.

    Not sure if you saw the building that was "removed from the tax rolls". It was an eyesore and as a neighbor who drives by it every day, I do not think it was a bad move. Realize that "neighborhood revitalization" is a years-long, if not decades-long practice. Mosaic was masterplanned nearly 20 years ago . . . and it is STILL under construction. For Bailey's to have some chance of success, these steps are necessary. The deal was part of land swap that made the SE quadrant project more feasible. For the first potential investor, the numbers did not work and they sold the deal. Be patient, development will come.

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    1. Remember, Bailey's Upper is a partial school with just grades 3-5.

      Mason Crest Elementary is one of the newer schools in the county. It is a K-5 school completed in 2012 on existing school board property for just under $14 million.



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  20. There was were plans done in 1997 and 2007 under Penny's guidance. That's 20 years.

    Mosaic was done in 20 years and got a nice mixed use neighborhood.

    The SEQ has been waiting 20 years and has 0. Plus, what is now being planned negates what the community needs and wants.

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  21. Mr. Shumate, I have lived in the area for 45 years.
    While I understand your anxiety to justify all of Supervisor's Gross's actions, over crowding at Lower Baileys had been a problem for years as witnessed by the number of temporary structures. Suggestions had also been made and rejected, The Upper Baileys location was chosen and aggressively supported by Supervisor Gross and is definitely hers for better or for worse.

    As for the shelter location, do you really think that the ideal location of a homeless shelter was between a a senior center and single family neighborhood on green space,a former County playing field, that was intended for community use, that armed guards and fencing were to be put in place and the senior center placed on lock down? Those were among the recommendations made if the relocation took place. In fact, this location was a desperation ploy after unsuccessful attempts to locate the shelter elsewhere and was bitterly contested by the community. I would hesitate to use this as an example of good governance.
    As for the land swap at Baileys, if paying three times the assessed value of an eyesore owned by a generous campaign contributor is not considered a bad move, I wonder what you consider a good move.
    We continuously hear in Penny's defense that neighborhood revitalization is a years long process; 20 years for Mosaic in your words..
    Ms. Gross has been Mason District Supervisor for 24 years.

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  22. A group of homes were sitting on broken shares around some shopping carts and garbage bags full of I guess their early belowning this morning on my way to work. They were situated across the street from the fake 7 Eleven near Columbia Pike. I am certain developers are just chomping at the bits to sell them condos. All I could say as I drove by was thank you Penny Gross.

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  23. Gary Aiken inadvertently made the most astute coment if the night.
    “ Mason District is what it is BECAUSE of Penny Gross.”
    After 24 years of “continuity” and “working on a 40 year plan,” the citizens of Mason District should not accept this status quo for the next election. Penny Gross’ time has expired.

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