|Gary Aiken and Penny Gross.|
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.