Local Supervisor candidates gathered at the October Business Breakfast, hosted by the Mount Vernon Springfield Chamber of Commerce to discuss their platform and issues facing Fairfax County.
Stating that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has more direct influence on the daily operation of businesses in the county than any other elected body, Mark Viani, chair of the legislative affairs committee, introduced the candidates.
Candidates Paul Beran (R) and Mark Welch (I) are challenging incumbent Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D).
When asked what the most important issue is facing the district, Supervisor Lusk said finding good talent for businesses and people to fill workforce vacancies was his top issue. “We have over 100,000 job vacancies in Northern Virginia, 70,000 of which are in Fairfax County.”
Lusk also said access to capital was an important issue. “Companies need access to dollars to grow and expand,” Lusk said.
Mark Welch stated that the biggest problem facing the area was housing affordability, mentioning how redevelopment and more focus on mixed-use developments with housing can help.
Paul Beran also echoed that housing affordability is the biggest issue as well as businesses being able to raise capital. He said the current county strategy of replacing retail areas with apartments needs to be reconsidered as many local retailers are thriving.
On the Richmond Highway widening, all three candidates spoke about the importance of mitigating disruptions for businesses and coordinating with VDOT and FCDOT for a smooth process. Beran favored providing incentives to help businesses improve the appearance of their buildings.
Mount Vernon District
For Mount Vernon, Richard Hayden (R), Christopher Morgan (I), and incumbent Supervisor Dan Storck (D) were all in attendance.
Christopher Morgan opened with concern about crime in the area, mentioning recent shootings and robberies, and saying Fairfax County leadership did not support local law enforcement when carrying out their responsibilities.
Citing police statistics, Morgan said that one-half of the murders in Fairfax County take place in Mount Vernon, along with one-third of the assaults and one-third of kidnappings. Crime can prevent potential businesses from investing in the area, Morgan said.
Morgan also questioned the location of the proposed homeless shelter which will be near West Potomac High School and within a mile radius of eight schools. He expressed concern that some drug or sex offenders live in homeless shelters.
In response, Storck said that people are not worried about crime but are moving into the Mount Vernon and Richmond Highway area, referencing how high housing prices along the Potomac River reflect that increase, which means there is a need for more affordable housing.
“We are the safest jurisdiction of our size in the country … that’s a fact,” Storck said. He said Mount Vernon has had a decrease in crime over the past 9 months because issues are being addressed and while we still do not have the amount of police officers we would like, our police officers are some of the highest paid in the area.
Widening Richmond Highway and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project were hot topics. Storck said the widening of Richmond Highway is essential because of the continuous increase in population and said these projects are “transforming our community for the better.”
Morgan said that he is very skeptical about the BRT improvements, calling it the “billion-dollar line to nowhere” and mentioning how many of the people along Richmond Highway are in the trades and need to drive their vehicles in order to pick up supplies, carry tools and materials, or that workers in service industries don’t want to spend three hours every day commuting in public transportation.
Hayden said he is not excited about the road widening and said it might have made sense prior to covid, but now there’s a different work pattern and different kind of traffic. He pointed out that there are currently 36,000 riders daily on Metro buses that serve Richmond Highway and when the cost is broken down, that’s about $50,000 per rider for the road widening improvements which is money that may be better spent on teachers and classrooms.
Fairfax County now has the option of implementing a meals tax without a public referendum as was required in the past. Morgan has stated he is against a meals tax asking if it’s really necessary on top of the current sales tax. Storck says he is in favor of the meals tax and believes it will help local restaurants. Hayden wants to lower taxes across the board, including taxes on gas, bags, meals, and property.
The Chamber welcomed candidates Corazon Foley (I) and Albert Vega (D) to the breakfast. Supervisor Herrity was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
Foley spoke about the importance of seniors and the need to provide more services for the increasing number of seniors in Fairfax County.
Vega said that as a Hispanic he could understand and serve the growing number of Hispanics in the community. He said it was time for a change in the Springfield District.
Without his opponent present, Supervisor Walkinshaw provided an update on Lake Accotink and the different proposals for the future of the lake. He said that he is committed to working with the community to find the best possible way forward for this important resource.
Election Day is Nov. 7 with early voting open now thru November 4. Confirm your precinct and voting location using the Department of Elections Citizen Portal https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation