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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Candidates for board of supervisor chair: experience vs. new blood

Tim Chapman and Alicia Plerhoples
At a debate for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the only candidate currently on the board, Jeff McKay of the Lee District, mostly defended actions he pushed the board to take, while the other candidates said much more needs to be done.

The debate was sponsored by 11 organizations in the Healthy Communities Coalition, so the questions focused on the environment, development, and affordable housing.


Jeff McKay and Ryan McElveen.
Here are some highlights:

Alicia Plerhoples

“We are in a climate crisis,” said Alicia Plerhoples. “This is a question of life and death for our communities. We need to be a leader.” She called for the county to work with the private sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Plerhoples urged the county to increase its investment in affordable housing. Affordable housing “is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart,” she said. “There were times during my childhood when I did not have a roof over my head.”

Plerhoples said she is the only candidate who refused to accept money from developers.

Alicia touted her experience as a lawyer working with developers. “I know how to interact with developers,” she said. “We need to hold them at arm’s length and ensure they are not building in flood plains.”

While the One Fairfax policy – calling for the BoS and School Board to review policies through an equity lens – is a step in the right direction, Plerhoples said, “we need a radical shift in implementing equity.” It’s not enough for the county to have one chief equity officer; “we need this in every agency.”

“Our transit priorities need to be large, aggressive, and bold,” Plerhoples said. “We need to make sure we solve the last mile problem. People drive because they don’t live near transit.”

Some of these issues can be solved through private sector innovation, she said, noting that an apartment complex in Reston provides an autonomous vehicle to bring residents to Metro.

Plerhoples called for the BoS to work more collaboratively with the school board to ensure teacher salaries are competitive. “When we talk about the schools being fully funded, we’re not there yet.”

“We have to provide students with careers of the future, and those are green jobs,” Plerhoples said. She suggested the schools offer apprenticeships in green jobs, such as installing solar panels on school roofs.

“We need smart, driven, ethical people in office,” she said. “Unfortunately, we turn to people with experience who are interested in climbing the political ladder. I bring real-world experience. I’m not interested in climbing the political ladder.”

Tim Chapman 

When it comes to climate change, “we have a lack of leadership,” said Tim Chapman. “We always seem to be trailing Arlington and other areas.”

Fairfax County’s affordable housing policies aren’t working. We’re in a crisis,” he said, and “I’m uniquely qualified to tackle this problem.” Chapman is a developer of affordable housing. If he is elected, he said, 10 percent of the housing stock in Fairfax County will be affordable by 2035.

Chapman would prohibit development in flood plains and said the board hasn’t taken a leadership role on this.

Because Fairfax County is losing teachers to other jurisdictions that pay more, Chapman proposed freezing the real estate tax for public employees after five years.

Chapman vowed to represent everybody, including “the single mother working two jobs and the people who get up every single day struggling to pay the mortgage or put their kids through college.”

Chapman says his journey from poverty – his mother lived in a car and his father dropped out of school – to success has given him the ability to have “a vision of the abyss that stands between poverty and security.”

As the former chair of the Virginia Housing and Development Authority Authority, Chapman said he is the only candidate “who actually chaired a multimillion dollar board.”

Jeff McKay

According to Jeff McKay, the Lee District has led the county in creating affordable housing.

He would “incentive our nonprofit partners” to help the county meet its affordable housing goals. And when new development is proposed, “we should hold developers’ feet to the fire” to ensure they include affordable units, he said.

The Board of Supervisors has already done a lot protect the environment, said McKay, including the adoption of a stormwater tax, major projects to control erosion, and driving developing into transit corridors and redevelopment areas. “I’m proud of what we’ve done.”

McKay said the county’s bicycle master plan was his idea and that the county should prioritize sidewalks near schools and transit.

Making school buildings more sustainable offers a good opportunity to teach kids about the environment, he said.

To reach the public, McKay goes door to door, hosts forums and “meets the community in their place.” To gauge public opinion on buses, he put surveys on the buses to ensure input from bus riders.

“This is not a time to take a chance to elect somebody who doesn’t know how to run the county,” McKay said.

Ryan McElveen

Affordable housing should be spread out across the county, not concentrated in certain pockets, said Ryan McElveen.

In addition to affordable housing, the county needs more workforce housing and more housing for seniors and people with special needs, he said.

As an at-large school board member, McElveen said he is the only candidate who represents the entire county. He brings the perspective of a Fairfax County high school graduate – he was student body president at Marshall High School – and is the only one engaged at the international level. He is associate director the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center.

McElveen said the BoS needs to fight for more funding from the state and federal governments to address poverty. One Fairfax is a great start but it’s a framework, and actions are needed to implement it, he said.

McElveen cited the community schools concept – where public services are co-located in the schools – as “the future of our county.”

He called for the the BoS to adopt an energy and climate action plan and a resiliency plan. Climate change is a national issue, he said, so the county needs to increase its collaboration with the federal and state governments on this.

Regarding transportation, McElveen said the Blue and Orange Metro lines should be extended; we should look at more bus rapid transit systems, including one on Columbia Pike; and there should be more sidewalks and bicycle paths.

As a school board member, McElveen said, he added a provision on global citizenship to the Portrait of a Graduate, promoted the effort to install solar panels on schools, and promoted school gardens and salad bars in schools.

He said he has a “proven progressive record of leadership.”

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