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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Gross and Aiken make their case at a candidate forum

Gary Aiken and Penny Gross.
Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross stressed her experience and accomplishments at a candidate forum Sept. 3, while Republican challenger, Gary Aiken, focused on high taxes and more oversight.

The forum, hosted by the local chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, also featured candidates for Braddock Supervisor; their remarks will be covered in a future blog post.

“You need a Board of Supervisors to provide real oversight of county operations,” said Aiken, who told the audience his experience in accounting, investing, and risk management at the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association qualifies him for the job.

“We need someone with a track record of solving issues in a pragmatic way,” Aiken said – and that includes addressing the county’s unfunded pension liability.

Gross, the vice chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, cited her long record of community service before she was first elected to the board in 1996, her experience chairing the board’s personnel and environment committees, and her work to represent Mason District and the county on local, regional, and national bodies. Gross is currently vice chair of the board.

For Gross, being a supervisor is a full-time job. “I work every day trying to make a difference. I’m a workhorse, not a show horse,” she said. “Mason District has become my second family. You need to know your community well before you become a candidate.”

“No candidate can match my leadership experience,” she said.

The board’s number-one issue is education, Gross said. Beyond that, the most important issues are jobs, affordable housing, multimodal transportation, and the changing face of retail. “All of those are important to maintain and expand our economic standing.” She also cited the need to continue the progress in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed, through stormwater infrastructure improvements and expanding the tree canopy.

Both candidates spoke about the impact of Amazon’s HQ2 project in Arlington.

Noting that soaring housing prices are pushing people out of Arlington, Aiken said, “we want to make sure they have an affordable place to live in Mason.” The Amazon project should spur revitalization at the Skyline Center, he said, and suggested Skyline would be a good place for a small business incubator.

Gross said Amazon will bring about 25,000 new households to Fairfax County, many of them likely to relocate to Mason District. That will generate more taxpayers and the need for more homes.

With respect to the pending expansion of the Inova Center for Personal Health on Gallows Road, Aiken said, “I am pro-development but we have to do it responsibly.” Even though Inova is in the Providence District, Mason District should have had representation on the Merrifield task force, he said.

“I never considered myself an environmentalist,” he said, but once he started campaigning, he began to see the impact of upstream development on streams that flow into Lake Barcroft and Lake Accotink.

The Inova expansion is going to be a great economic boon for Mason District, but there will be an impact on traffic, Gross said, noting that she requested a study of improvements for Gallows Road inside the beltway.

When asked about One Fairfax, a policy framework adopted jointly by the Board of Supervisors and School Board, Gross explained it’s all about making sure decisions by those bodies are based on an equity lens. The idea is to “make sure everyone has an opportunity for success,” she said. “It’s not a promise that everyone gets exactly what they want.”

Aiken was dismissive of One Fairfax, stating, “I didn’t understand that.”

“My focus is on Mason District, on protecting the integrity of our neighborhoods,” Aiken said, promising to return Mason District to “the vibrant community it used to be.” He spoke out against putting an increased burden on taxpayers and instead vowed to focus on “pragmatic solutions that affect people in a positive way.”

When asked about their plans to aid senior citizens, Aiken said seniors’ biggest issue, as he learned from knocking on doors, is the tax burden, which makes it difficult for them to them to stay in their homes.

Gross called for well-trained caregivers to help people stay in their homes and a change in the state tax relief program for seniors so more people can qualify.

Election Day is Nov. 5. Early, in-person absentee voting starts Oct. 17 at the Mason Government Center.


  1. If I belonged to one of those 25,000 new Amazon households supposedly coming to Fairfax County, I'd make certain to head straight outside the Beltway. My former neighbors routinely moved there as soon as their children finished elementary school. The quality of life has only declined in Mason over the years and it shouldn't take those new Amazon arrivals very long to figure that out. - Sparky

    1. I’ve lived here over 10 years. My quality of life hasn’t declined. I live in a tight nit community, my kids school is great, my commute is amazing, and my home has continually appreciated in value. I continue to have amazing retail (wearhouse club, grocery, craft stores, home improvement, target, lots of eateries) all within <5 minute drive of my home.

      I get things haven’t always gone great, and there are things that we still need to work on. some of our schools continue to have too many kids in them. We need multimodal transit including high capacity mass transit options.

      But this notion that our quality of life is in the pits is really sourpus logic.

  2. “My focus is on Mason District, on protecting the integrity of our neighborhoods,” Aiken said, promising to return Mason District to “the vibrant community it used to be.”
    That sounds eerily close to “make Mason great again”, which is of course one step away from Trump’s slogan.

    Personally, I’m not interested in policies that push us to the past. I’m interested in policies that push us towards the future.

    I wish I had made this debate, but will be sure to make the next one hosted by the PTA and League of Women Voters in October.

    1. Jeff, why are you equating Gary with Trump that's just wrong. I'm sorry Penny did not make any sense in her responses in this article. She just gave generalities nothing specific about how she plans to help Mason. She has had 24 years and I can't see anything that she has done for Mason. Yes, she has been on all these state and county committees but what has she done? I'm a Democrat so I'm sure you know how I feel about Trump, but this is a local election. Let's learn more about Gary so we can see his ideas about representing Mason District.

    2. Anon 5:55
      I've lived in Mason for 28 years. It is WAY better than it was then. Do you remember that there used to be a junkyard at Bailey's Crossroads? And MANY abandoned shops and empty lots that are now the shopping centers with Best Buy and Marshalls.
      There is new development at Carlin Springs and Columbia Pike that will be a catalyst for the neighborhood that came in with Penny's leadership.

      The Landmark Plaza shopping center will soon begin the rezoning process for a new, very high-end development.

      And if you really want to see change, get involved. I chaired the citizen task force for the Landmark Plaza, Lincolnia Planning Study and was able to help influence how my neighborhood will be developed.

      Young families are moving onto my street because they cannot afford Arlington. These are all GOOD developments and continuation of progress.

    3. Amen Daren, and thanks for your leadership on the Linconia task force.

    4. whats the new development at Carlin Springs and Columbia Pike?

    5. Anon 5:07
      A conversion of the long abandoned office building into a work/live development with 150 units. Very nicely done. You can search the Blog for articles about it. It’ll open in November.

  3. sure, i agree but Penny isn't going to be the one who " push us towards the future", she had all the time in the world to do that and failed.

  4. A career politician whose entire work experience has been in the political arena or a newby who offers a background in accounting, investment and risk management. An official who states "No candidate can match my experience" whose leadership has resulted in 25 years of stagnation in Mason District or a voice who offers a new direction and the promise to listen.

    I have heard a number of people say that, especially considering the Trump factor, they cannot vote for a Republican. Identifying a person purely by an R or D designation and disregarding their qualifications is short sighted at best. This is also a local, not a national. election. Although you can bet that this will be Penny's primary campaign issue.

    It is way past time to elect a person who will best represent Mason District based on ability and vision, not simply party affiliation.

  5. Did you eat a lot of paint chips when you were a kid?

    1. Let's not start personal vitriol, we can go to twitter if we want character attacks.

  6. That's a bit of a stretch to connect one off the cuff comment to Trump, especially in light of the line before it which talks about the integrity of our neighborhoods.

    Separately, his focus on unfunded pension caught my attention. It is a ticking time bomb in Fairfax as well as many municipalities around the country.

  7. We have lived here in Mason District for 17 years now and definitely have seen a decline from trash on sides of roads, high grass and when cut only a few times a year, the cuttings left on sidewalks to fall and break a leg, the high taxes and in the last three years 17%, the crime has escalated, communities in decline and even the school system according to parents are decline. The traffic has gotten out of control. Penny needs to leave. Fed up with the high taxes that many citizens do not see where it is going other than "social" help. Seniors having to leave. For me,12 of my friends have left the area. Mason District is nothing like other parts of FFC. The armpit of the county. Shame on Penny.

    1. You have captured the state of Mason accurately. It is clear to me that Mason doesn't Matter.

    2. I arrived here 3 years before Penny was elected. That year she knocked on our door and my husband and I asked about overcrowded housing in our single family neighborhood. She denied that occurred … 24 years later we are living with the results.

      Everything Anon 9:03 am said is accurate inside the beltway Mason District. Anon 9:02 am, 10:54 and 11:02 pm have hit the nail on the head. The Board of Supervisors needs new leadership, and this is the year to get those from the "real world" to reinvent our world.

  8. My plea to all. Put politics aside and do what is right for Mason District. Nasty politics at the local level deters good people from running.

    Gary Aiken has the guts to run and deserves a chance to lead us out of the decline we have been experiencing for the past 24 years.

    I believe we need a new, positive vision for Mason District by one who has the working experience to bring us out of our abyss and put us on par with the likes of Shirlington, Mosaic, Fairfax Corner, etc. To get there we need true leadership. We need Gary Aiken.

  9. If Penny continues to run down Mason with her social escapades, Mason will turn into the tale of two cities: one for the rich, and one for the poor as the middle class flees for good schools, safer neighborhoods and a better quality of life.

    1. Almost to late, evident by all the for sale signs around

  10. I agree with Gary on One Fairfax: to me "an equality lens" sounds alot like affirmative action.
    I believe we should elect a new cadre of FFC Supervisors since 4 of the nine members are leaving, and Mason District Supervisor Gross should join them. As Vice Chair she stands a chance of being named the Chairwoman since Sharon Bulova is leaving. We deserve new leadership and ideas. Mason District is just one of the places in Fairfax that needs a new approach. Penny’s 24 years of trying to do what her constituents oppose needs to end. Folks are entrenched in their positions and nothing productive is getting done. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.
    I think we also need to heed the clarion call made by Terry Maynard in an article that was originally published in the Reston 20/20 blog July 30 and reprinted by our Annandale Blog.
    Read the entire story here:

    The following are the “highlights”
    While this piece focuses on Reston, it describes ongoing efforts by Fairfax County officials to facilitate redevelopment countywide by minimizing community involvement. We believe residents of Annandale and Mason District should be aware of these issues.
    A brief look at Fairfax County efforts to reduce residents' participation in land use planning & approval decisions. So far, the county has made the following changes:
    Fairfax Forward – This planning initiative began shortly after the board’s retreat. The initiative aimed to correct what was viewed as a too-rigid parcel-specific development nominations process that only marginally involved the community.

    “Minor modifications” – In its first step, the Department of Planning and Zoning developed a “streamlined” process for handling “minor” changes in zoning decisions that the board approved in 2017. From a resident’s perspective, there are several points that stand out:

    • There is no requirement that the county notify the community or even adjoining property owners about proposed zoning changes, only the district supervisor.
    • There is no Planning Commission review, much less a public hearing, on the proposed changes, only a staff review.

    The 2016 Gartner Report – To bolster its Fairfax Forward initiative, the board engaged yet another consultant in 2015, the Gartner Group, to conduct “an independent review of current procedures and processes, effectiveness, and efficiencies to identify opportunities for improvement which can further customer service and improve operational execution.”

    zMOD Zoning Ordinance rewrite – And then came “zMod,” the county’s ongoing process to re-write the county’s zoning ordinances. The major assignment the Clarion Group is tackling is a complete rewrite of the county’s zoning ordinance, including streamlining processes, without making substantive changes in the ordinance.

    It is vital that all residents understand the proposed PRC zoning ordinance changes and their implications for our community. There is much to be concerned about. More broadly, we need to understand what changes, if any, are on the docket for the process for developing, vetting, and approving PRC zoning changes.

    One encouraging sign is that activists from all over the county are now organizing. Citizens from all Fairfax County districts are becoming increasingly alarmed at the county’s rush to approve development everywhere with reduced citizen review.

    1. Al - the chairperson does not work that way. The chair is an at-large position that everyone votes on. In november you will have two supervisors to vote for - one at large for chair, and one mason district supervisor. The vice chairmanship is voted on by the board once they are seated and it traditionally goes to the most senior member of the board, which has been Penny.

    2. The problem I have is that all of these changes stem from the Gartner report which was written by the developers. Now Land Use works for them, not the rest of us and celebrate their success by the $ amount of development they've approved. Not by the quality of what we all have to deal with like increased traffic or weakening the environmental rules. No other stakeholders were consulted. One Fairfax is just another way, like the strategic planning process to sell it to the rest of us when we had no say in these rule changes from the beginning. My concern is not that we shouldn't have good development, I'm just not seeing good development. I'm seeing developers telling us what they want to develop, not what we want. If citizens were surveyed or polled or had some opportunity to weigh in on how they'd like to see their communities grow and change I would be much more comfortable with all of this.


  11. Based on comments here, I guess I will need to go to the next debate to get a better handle on what was said. I applaud the Annandale Blog for providing a summary of the discussion, and yet there is a lot of confusion about local government and what it can and can't do.

    One item I would like to call attention to is the One Fairfax policy. If there were ever a policy that would directly benefit Mason District, this is clearly it. I am not sure why our community would oppose increased attention and, possibly, funding when some complain that we don't have enough nice things. If one complains about schools, well, we need to make sure that funding is apportioned based on actual need, not political or financial power. If we want more parks, then we would need to make sure that the county doesn't only buy parkland where it is cheap, but where it is needed the most. I am not convinced that candidate Aiken doesn't understand the policy; that seems a bit disingenuous to state that. If he doesn't understand it, that would concern me. If I am misstating what he said, I presume that someone at the meeting will correct me, although I am going off the quote in the Blog.

    Finally, I don't follow a logic that states that the last thing we want is to have some freedom in zoning practices to encourage increased development. If a candidate is really for increasing our attractiveness to potential homebuyers, providing a larger stock of reasonably priced homes seems to be a great way to do that. Reflecting on the very long process that has been discussed previously around the redevelopment of the Lincolnia shopping area, wouldn't we want a system that allowed for at least some increase in speed around decision-making?

    I love living here in Mason and have done so for over 30 years. I think we are at an exciting time in the county's development. While I am always eager for improvements, I would hate to lose what for my family is the home-town feeling we have here. There is always a steady, deliberate path to change. I look forward to hearing more at the next debate.

    1. One item I would like to call attention to is the One Fairfax policy. If there were ever a policy that would directly benefit Mason District, this is clearly it.
      AMEN!!! One Fairfax will help, not harm Mason.

      I also agree that I think Aiken understands One Fairfax - he just seems to disagree with it by the reporting here. Mr. Aiken appears to be a smart person, and he has every right to disagree with One Fairfax, but I do want to note that One Fairfax was *unanimously* supported as a resolution by the board of supervisors - that includes both republicans and democrats currently serving. So I'm left wondering more why he opposes it. Hope to hear more at the next debate.

    2. "Finally, I don't follow a logic that states that the last thing we want is to have some freedom in zoning practices to encourage increased development."

      That supposed freedom, as far as the powers-that-be are concerned, is NOT YOURS. It belongs to the people with the money, many of whom don't even live here and will never, ever have to live with the consequences--good or bad--of their decisions.

      Your trust in complete strangers whose first, last, and only priority is money is misplaced. I've been living here for most of my 50+ years, and I can tell you that the changes in the way things are being run are NOT intended to benefit the vast majority of residents any more. I've been to the meetings and can see right through the marketing schemes. The only "logic" there is "how can we manipulate enough people and ordinances to cram in more stuff than this town can accommodate?"

    3. Amen to Anonymous 9/5/19, 6:41 pm! You hit the nail on the head. The freedom is all to the developers not the residents.

  12. Chairman of the Board of Supervisors is an elected position. Jeff McKay is running for that seat in this election. News articles say he is under investigation for a payoff from a on purchasing a house. Sad, sad state of affairs in FFX.

  13. Yes our housing prices are appreciating, but not at the rate of those in the rest of the county. This is good for us in somewhat lower taxes, but bad for us in that we will continue to lag behind in investment in our communities.

    The problem with the One Fairfax policy is that it is heavily focused on racial equality, when the real issue is disparity in income. This sadly is a reality of capitalist societies. The people are not poorer simply because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity. It is the natural progression of someone coming to America and building a life from the ground up. The problem has been exacerbated by our elected leaders allowing overcrowding in houses and apartments, which actually hurts immigrants more than it helps them. The apartment owners knowing that the people are breaking the occupancy rules and are possibly in the U.S. illegally have a noose around their necks, which allows them to charge higher rents, which requires more people to pile into the apartments in order to pay. This results in increased crime, overcrowded schools, and blighted properties. This is where we are in Mason District. One Fairfax did not move the homeless shelter out of Mason District to one of the other districts, did it? When are the other districts going to step up to help the less fortunate? Is one Fairfax going to build low income apartments in McLean and move people out of Mason District to their district, so that our schools are more "balanced"? Why are people vilified for working hard, and not wanting to see ghetto-esque homes in their neighborhoods that code compliance will not enforce? It is our elected leaders jobs to enforce the rules. While we want to be compassionate and help the less fortunate, this is a slippery slope that has led to the problems Fairfax County has today, with one example being the unfunded pensions. Helping the less fortunate costs money in higher taxes. Many Americans seem to be embracing socialist programs and agendas, while ignoring the fact that these programs cost money. Americans want to help the less fortunate, without having their taxes increase. This is not reality. If taxes do not go up, then other things are going to be cut.

    The current policies of our elected leaders have not worked. It is time to give someone with a different perspective a chance. Republican does not mean that you are racist, xenophobic, and support all elected Republicans. If you believe that, than all Democrats must support what Governor Northam did in his yearbook. I know that this is not true, so please stop the generalizations. Please stop bringing national level politics into a local race. The bottom line is that Penny Gross keeps stating she is the right person for the job due to her experience, but I have yet to see how this experience has translated into any significant accomplishments for the number of years that she has been in office.

    1. Indeed, it has translated in to -24 years. It is true that Baileys looks better. However, Penny's placement of the new homeless shelter by default because it was rejected by Lincolnia puts a black eye on Bailey's for private sector development. That will translate into Penny putting another tax sucking social welfare building there rather than mixed use. Planting trees in a median along with fading red stamped concrete does not spell experience. Its appreciated but she could have done better with following the comprehensive plan and not being so bullheaded. I'm done with her not looking out for this district's property owners tax wallet.

    2. I feel like a damn broken record. One more time - our area HAS NOT appreciated LESS than surrounding areas. Annandale outpaces several other local NoVa areas. And yes, I know real estate appreciation is only one metric, but if you look at other sources, they are equally
      positive looking.

    3. Mr. Goldbarg. All you need to do is compare any one house in Mason District - same style, square footage, same upgrades and condition with another similar one in most other districts, and you will see that it is the old adage: "location, location, location". The similar house in another location is going to be higher priced, due to the lack of blighted commercial and residential properties in that area. Mason District should be higher priced since it abuts Arlington and Alexandria, but it is not due the many things that folks have been pointing out - boarding houses, overcrowding, gang activity, etc. We need a new leader to address these issues and make a dent in them once and for all.

    4. Our houses are literally appreciating faster than those in Vienna and Oakton... do you not understand math?

    5. Does ABC or Harris Teeter sell the PG Koolaid? I need to get some.

  14. Mr. Goldbarg: The information at the link is for Fairfax County assessments only. Arlington County, City of Alexandria, and City of Falls Church are higher. According to the information, Springfield is the highest in Fairfax. Burke is the second highest. PS - I am not the same anonymous from 9/8/2019