A bridge over Sugarland Run Stream (Photo by Mike Madigan)

(Updated at 7 p.m.) A stream project that could help reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is getting additional money from Fairfax County.

A $1.2 million contribution from the county will be upped to $1.4 million, thanks to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ approval on Tuesday (June 8). The project will restore part of Sugarland Run by the Washington & Old Dominion Trail in Herndon.

“Upon completion of the design, the County will grant the Town with an additional $1 million for construction,” county staff said in a report to the board.

Herndon town officials say the project will restore a portion of the body of water known as Sugarland Run South between the trail crossing and approximately 1,200 linear feet north.

It comes amid a corrective measure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to limit pollution by mitigating nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment levels to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay region.

The town already received $200,000 from the county through a 2018 agreement, but an additional $201,800 was needed to complete the design phase. The town plans to use its staff to carry out the project.

“Under the amended agreement, the County has the discretion to pay construction cost overruns, but in an amount not to exceed 10 percent of the total estimated Project cost,” county staff also said.

Herndon is working with Vienna and the county to meet the region’s limits on pollution levels known as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.

Work to be completed includes re-planting vegetation and restoring a portion of the stream near the W&OD Trail, among other changes, Reston Now previously reported.

Herndon officials didn’t immediately return Reston Now’s requests for comment.

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Morning Notes

Taking a walk on North Shore Drive (Photo via vantagehill/Flickr)

Fairfax County Commemorates COVID-19 Losses — The Northern Virginia Regional Commission held a COVID-19 Remembrance Ceremony at the Fairfax County Government Center last night to recognize the more than 2,350 lives that have been lost to the pandemic. The ceremony streamed live on Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay’s Facebook page.

Sunset Hills Road Sidewalk Closes for Reston Station Construction — “Beginning yesterday, June 8, the sidewalk on Sunset Hills Rd. near the intersection of Wiehle Ave. will be closed long-term due to the ongoing Comstock construction projectSee the map for closure area and alternative pedestrian route.” [Hunter Mill District News]

County Board Approves PIVOT Grant Program — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday (June 8) to create a new grant program that will use $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to support businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will focus on the hotel, food service, retail, and arts and culture industries with applications scheduled to open from June 23 through July 9. [Fairfax County Government]

Democratic Primary Favors Moderates over Progressives — Three of the Virginia General Assembly’s most outspoken Democrats lost their seats on Tuesday (June 8), as voters largely opted for more moderate candidates backed by the party’s establishment. The upset incumbents included Herndon Del. Ibraheem Samirah as well as Prince William’s Del. Lee Carter and Del. Mark Levine of Alexandria. [Virginia Mercury]

Reston Chamber Offers Grants to Business — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce’s nonprofit subsidiary INCspire Education Foundation is launching a BizMaker Grant Program to “promote inclusive entrepreneurship and a diversity of economic opportunities for businesses committed to job creation and revenue generation within Fairfax County.” [Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce]

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As the spread of COVID-19 abates, Fairfax County is exploring a variety of ways to help local businesses recover from the pandemic’s economic impacts.

In addition to creating a new grant program that will provide financial relief to small businesses and nonprofits, the Board of Supervisors voted today (Tuesday) to license and pursue a trademark for a new “Made in Fairfax” logo that businesses could use to indicate that their products were made in the county.

The board’s vote gives the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development authority to execute licensing agreements that would let local businesses include the logo in their marketing. The county will also apply for a trademark registration from the Commonwealth of Virginia, which would enable the county to protect its brand.

Officials say the logo will be a useful promotional tool not just for the businesses that use it, but also for the county as it seeks to build a vibrant local economy.

“This is an innovative approach,” Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said. “This is how we differentiate ourselves. This is how we make Fairfax County a leader in new areas as well.”

The Made in Fairfax program launched in June 2018, growing out of a Small-Scale Production Initiative that the county started to identify ways to better support and bring visibility to local manufacturers and entrepreneurs.

Initially, the program focused on revising Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan and zoning code to make them friendlier to what the county calls “maker” businesses — manufacturers that work on a small scale to produce anything from food and beer to clothing and furniture.

Drafted during the early stages of the Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project but as a separate effort, the new zoning rules permit production businesses in most commercial zones within the county, instead of restricting them to industrial areas, according to Doug Loescher, the program manager for Fairfax County’s Community Revitalization Office.

“We recognized that we probably had small-scale production businesses in Fairfax County, but they were not very visible,” he said. “…Our hope was that, by being in commercial shopping centers and retail areas, they can be more visible, and we can support them better.”

The county also created a Made in Fairfax network and directory that now consist of more than 125 businesses. About half of them provide food products, but there are also woodworking shops, candle makers, and even a blacksmith.

While Loescher says his office hopes to also work with larger Fairfax County-based businesses, Made in Fairfax primarily concentrates on small businesses that are more isolated and lack their own marketing resources. Most participants are working solo or have fewer than 10 employees.

The county developed the new logo with the help of a committee of maker businesses as part of a larger branding effort to promote the Made in Fairfax Network.

For the most part, the only criterion for businesses to be eligible to license the logo will be that they need to have a production facility located in Fairfax County. The county also reviews makers that register for the network to ensure “there’s no problems with what they’re producing, that it’s not illegal or improper in some way,” Loescher says.

Though the Made in Fairfax program was established prior to the pandemic, Loescher says the past year has illustrated why it’s necessary for the county.

“There’s a recognition by people about how important it is to actively support small, independent, local business enterprise, and this is just another way of doing it,” Loescher said. “It’s a fairly small program, but I think symbolically, we hope it communicates to the business sector and to the community that we value these businesses and that we want to support them.”

Photo courtesy Fairfax County

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Fairfax County is developing a new grant program intended to help small businesses and nonprofits recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but in a change from previous relief efforts, this program will first award money to hotels before determining recipients in other industries by lottery.

If it’s approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday) as scheduled, the proposed PIVOT Business Recovery Grant program will be supported by $25 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in March.

“The estimated 48,200 jobs lost in Fairfax County through December 2020 were heavily concentrated in the food service, hospitality and retail sectors,” county staff said in the agenda for today’s meeting, which starts at noon.

Staff added that approximately 50% of job losses in the county in 2020 were lodging, food services, retail, arts, entertainment, and other services.

But why hotels should get first dibs on the new money over restaurants and other affected businesses remains unclear. A county spokesperson says it’s a draft and subject to change.

The background provided in the agenda item does note that Northern Virginia’s lodging industry has been struggling in comparison to the rest of the state:

According to the global hospitality data firm STR, Virginia lodging businesses experienced a 2020 monthly average 50.5 percent decrease compared to 2019 — totaling more than $2.2 billion in lost revenue. Northern Virginia is the only region in Virginia that continues to decline and as of March 2021 has the lowest revenue per room in the Commonwealth.

The plan says hotels with at least 10 rooms will be eligible for a grant. Businesses in the program could get the money if they have 500 employees or less and their principal place of business is in the county.

Hotels are not the only industry hit hard by the pandemic. An International Monetary Fund report shows that in the U.S., the pandemic at one point led to a crash in restaurant bookings as well as steep drops in flying and driving.

Small business owner Caleb Max, who acquired Pica Deli in Reston early in 2020, says it’s good that another part of the hospitality sector would be helped. While restaurants have gotten a boost from relief funds and promotional efforts like restaurant weeks, he said hotels seem to have been left out.

Max shared his thoughts even as his own business has became a victim of COVID-19, according to a handwritten sign on the restaurant’s door announcing the business’s closure.

Max received Paycheck Protection Program money to the tune of $17,241 for his eatery as well as other assistance, saying the money helped but still left a significant deficit with office workers no longer around as consistent customers.

“The aid was good, but for restaurants, we were hit so hard,” Max said.

The new business assistance plan comes after Fairfax County distributed around $52.6 million to small businesses and nonprofits last year through the Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program. Recipients had to have less than 50 employees across all locations.

The RISE program, which helped over 4,800 recipients, dedicated at least 30% of the money to women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses, which ended up with 72% of the funding, according to the county.

That aligns with the findings of a consultant report completed in January that said the county should target further assistance to help those most affected by the pandemic. It detailed how low-income and minority households faced greater difficulties in the workforce, along with women, who have been held back by affordable child care challenges.

Photo via Febrian Zakaria/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Editor’s note: Reston Now will be taking Memorial Day weekend off starting tomorrow (Friday). Except in the case of breaking news, publishing will resume on Tuesday (June 1).

More Early Voting Sites to Open Saturday — Fairfax County will add 13 more early voting sites for the June 8 Democratic primary on Saturday (May 29), bringing the total number of locations up to 16. In the Reston/Herndon area, the Herndon Fortnightly and Great Falls libraries will join the North County Governmental Center, which has hosted early voting since April 24. [Fairfax County Government]

Couple Killed in Springfield Shooting — “A husband and wife are dead following a shooting in a residential area of Springfield, Virginia, on Wednesday morning, according to police. Police Chief Kevin Davis said authorities believe the ‘shooter or shooters’ are ‘known to a relative of our two victims.'” [WTOP]

Fairfax County Considers Renaming Two Highways — “A list of possible new names for Lee Highway (Route 29) and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway (Route 50) could be ready as soon as this December. On July 13, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors could approve about 25 members for a task force to examine the possibility of renaming the highways and appoint the group’s chair.” [Tysons Reporter]

Herndon Businesses Burglarized — The Herndon Police Department is investigating multiple commercial burglaries where individuals smashed businesses’ front doors and windows with rocks and stole cash and cash registers. The first incident occurred overnight between May 17 and May 18 in the 600 block of Carlisle Drive, and the second happened shortly after 1 a.m. on May 18 in the 300 block of Elden Street. [HPD]

Herndon to Hold Memorial Day Observance — The Town of Herndon will observe Memorial Day on Monday (May 31) at Chestnut Grove Cemetery on Dranesville Road with an Avenue of Flags that will be erected from dawn until dusk. The holiday takes place on the final Monday of every May as “a day to remember all American lives lost during military service.” [Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Reston residents will soon be able to track changes in the area’s land and urban development over time.

Fairfax County launched an interactive Reston Transportation Hub in January as the start of the Reston Data Visualization project. The hub features data about vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit developments.

“This will help us capture changes over time,” Beth Elliot, an urban centers section planner for the Department of Planning and Development, told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during a land use policy committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday).

Right now, the dashboard only features one year of data — specifically, from 2019.

“But in the future, as we add additional data, you’ll be able to see how it’s progressed and where changes have occurred,” Elliot said.

Since its release, the Reston Data Visualization project has continued to evolve as more data becomes available and put into the digital system. Elliot says the planning department hopes to release additional sections of the project in the “next few months.”

“With this tool, our goal is to move towards an interactive format which allows us to present more data than a static format would provide, and utilize current technology compared to a printed document,” Elliot told the board. “We also hope this will allow us to have users access the data they’re specifically interested in, compared to, say, a 200-page report where you’re flipping through trying to figure out which page you care about.”

The additional phases to be rolled out include applications that present information for zoning activity and urban parks in Reston.

Elliot added that the department is planning to develop the Tysons Annual Report into an interactive platform, starting with an upcoming publication in October, as the department coordinates with the agencies responsible for putting together the progress report.

“I have to say, in the month and a half or so since I was briefed on this, it just keeps getting better,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said. “Data is added, and I think this has quite an upside over the years and as data becomes available.”

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission gave its support this week to the Reston Gateway developer’s plans to swap retail space for offices.

Boston Properties, the developer behind the multi-phase development being constructed next to the forthcoming Reston Town Center Metro station, wants to switch its designs for a structure previously slated for retail, restaurant, and residential use by scaling back retail space and bringing offices there.

The planning commission voted on Wednesday (May 19) to recommend the changes that will go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on June 22.

The overall development calls for office space for Fannie Mae as well as Volkswagen of America in Blocks A and B, but Boston Properties wants to transfer office space approved there to Block D, legal representative Mark Looney said at the meeting.

“That was planned to be a residential building from the beginning,” Looney said of Block D, a site located along Town Center Parkway that potentially could have two residential towers of up to 36 and 12 stories.

The proposal calls for up to 78,000 square feet of transferred office space in Block D. According to a county document, the square footage of development in Block D would be reduced from 731,000 to 650,832 with the changes, which would eliminate restaurant space and reduce retail space by 63%.

Phase I of the project, which consists of Blocks A through D, permits up to 2.23 million square feet of development.

Looney, an attorney with Cooley helping to represent the project, told Reston Now that the parking garage reconfiguration would mean more parking spaces for Block D are underground than above ground. The parking garage will still have at least four levels above ground, he said in an email.

County staff also have worked with the developer regarding the aesthetic of the building, given the proposed adjustment.

With the parking garage on the ground level, design improvements such as artwork are envisioned to facilitate pedestrian use.

“We will work with Public Art Reston on the extent of the public art, we will show it to the zoning administrator for their input and then ultimately, the Reston Town Center [Association]…Design Review Board has final say over what’s to be installed,” Looney said. “But we hope that that collaborative process will result in a better building and a better design for all concerned.”

Images via Fairfax County

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Morning Notes

County Knew About Lawsuits Against New Police Chief — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says supervisors became aware of the lawsuits that Police Chief Kevin Davis faced while working in Prince George’s County during the hiring process. The Fairfax County NAACP has filed a FOIA request to get more information about the search, which McKay says tried to strike a balance between public transparency and confidentiality for candidates. [Patch]

Virginia Holds Vaccine Day of Action — Virginia wants residents to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts by joining a statewide “It’s Our Shot” Day of Action today. Ways to participate include making a plan to get vaccinated, sharing your vaccine story on social media, and becoming a COVID Community Ambassador. [Office of the Governor]

Tour de Hunter Mill Showcases County Cycling Options — More than 180 cyclists toured Reston, Vienna, and Tysons in the inaugural Tour de Hunter Mill on Saturday (May 15). The event was intended to highlight the multimodal transportation facilities that people can use to travel the district without getting in a car. [Patch]

Discount Available to Help Pay for Internet Services — Households struggling to pay for internet service due to pandemic-related hardships could get a temporary discount on broadband services with the Federal Communications Commission’s the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. Fairfax County Public Library will hold a virtual training on the program and application process from 2-4 p.m. today. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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(Updated 5:00 p.m.) Kevin Davis’s first challenge as Fairfax County’s new police chief is to earn the public’s trust, and if the community input session held last night (Thursday) was any indication, it will be a formidable task.

In a virtual discussion that lasted more than two hours, caller after caller expressed dismay at what they believe was insufficient transparency and community engagement from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during the hiring process, leading many to question that if the county made the right decision in appointing Davis.

“The Board’s closed-door deliberations and no community involvement in the vetting process left us in the dark. This, coupled with press revelations after the selection, rendered the process fatally flawed,” Diane Burkley Alejandro, lead advocate for the immigrant rights organization ACLU Power People Fairfax, said during the session.

Late last month, NBC4 reported that Davis had faced — and lost — civil lawsuits in the 1990s related to the use of force and unconstitutional detainment while on the job in Prince George’s County.

Callers also brought up concerns about Davis’ authorization of secret aerial surveillance while he was Baltimore’s police commissioner as well as comments he made in a 2020 Baltimore Sun op-ed about defunding the police.

The Board of Supervisors acknowledged that the community has expressed concerns about Davis’s record in a broad statement earlier this week, but county leaders have not wavered from their position that he was the best choice to lead the Fairfax County Police Department and implement the reforms that the board has been seeking.

“Your hiring of Mr. Davis in today’s environment is just plain tone deaf,” Hunter Mill District resident Diana Smith said yesterday, directing her ire to the board. “…It sends a really negative message. I think this was a really flawed decision based on a really flawed process, which led to a flawed selection of a candidate.”

A number of callers backed Fairfax County NAACP’s call last week for a new police chief search, a stance that has won support from other community groups throughout the week.

“I and other community organizations expressed not only the lack of community engagement but the type of community engagement. It’s fine to check a box and say ‘we did a survey, we had community meetings’ but was that enough and were we really heard?” Amanda Andere, a member of the Chairman’s Equity Task Force, said. “We need to start over. We need a process rooted in equity that starts and ends with community input.”

For Davis’s part, he acknowledged the criticisms in his opening remarks and said that he made mistakes over the years but plans to continue to work to gain the community’s trust.

“I have certainly changed, grown, and have learned many lessons throughout the course of my career,” Davis said in response to one caller. “Every year along my journey, I’ve learned more and have become more attuned to community expectations and sensitivities…Was it always a perfect journey? No.”

Throughout the night, Davis reiterated that he was proud of his career, the progress he’s made in terms of building trust with communities of color, and his belief that he has been “one of the most progressive reform leaders in our country.”

“I’ll follow my own mother’s advice…by being the best chief of police I can possibly be,” Davis said. Read More

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved subleasing the Ellmore Farmhouse in Herndon to the nonprofit ServiceSource on May 4.

The sublease will last 29 years as part of Fairfax County’s Resident Curator Program, which aims “to preserve historic properties by offering long-term leases to qualified tenants who agree to rehabilitate and maintain these historic resources in accordance with established preservation standards,” according to the county.

The decision followed an advertised public hearing on the motion that did not draw any comments from the community.

In accordance with the terms of the resident curator program, ServiceSource will rehabilitate the two-story, 3,300 square-foot house at 2739 West Ox Road while maintaining time-appropriate aspects of the property that was built in 1891.

“During the 29-year term of the sublease, ServiceSource will rehabilitate the building by making ADA compliant improvements, and incorporating green building designs in a manner that respects that late 19th-early 20th century heritage of the structure,” Fairfax County Facilities Management Department Assistant Director Mike Lambert said, reading a staff report to the board.

ServiceSource provides housing, employment, and other support services to people with disabilities and their families. The nonprofit has been in line to take over the Ellmore Farmhouse since 2019.

ServiceSource plans to use the historic property as a “Community Integration Center” that will offer employment for up to 15 adults through an on-site café and handicrafts specialty store.

“This is a really nice property, historic property. This is, I think, another good example and good use of the resident curator program,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said. “[I’m] very pleased this is going forward. I would note I think the resident curator program is still very much a work in progress, but very happy this particular site is working out that way.”

Originally built in 1891, the farmhouse sits on four-and-a-half acres within Frying Pan Farm Park. It is one of six properties in the resident curator program, which is managed by the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Three of the other properties are under rehabilitation — the Hannah P. Clark House in Lorton, the Stempson House in Lorton, and the Turner Farmhouse in Great Falls. The other two RCP properties to be re-advertised are the Ash Grove House and Lahey Lost Valley, which are both located in Vienna.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Southgate Community Center is getting a new name.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday (Tuesday) to approve Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn’s suggestion that the community center be renamed after his predecessor, Catherine Hudgins, who retired from the board at the end of 2019.

The board directed staff from Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services, which operates the facility, to “work with the community” and report back with a plan for implementing the change.

Located at 12125 Pinecrest Road, the Southgate Community Center provides a variety of recreational, cultural, and educational programs, along with access to county and community resources. Recently, the facility has hosted regular COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

According to Alcorn’s board matter, Hudgins was instrumental in establishing Southgate as an essential community facility during her nearly two decades as supervisor.

“It was her vision and dedication that has made Southgate Community Center the success that it is,” Alcorn said.

The full board matter is below:

Mr. Chairman, for two decades, Cathy Hudgins tirelessly served our communities in Hunter Mill District, from 2000 until 2019 when she retired from the Board of Supervisors. She was a community builder with a passion for improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods that are often overlooked. One of Supervisor Hudgins’ biggest accomplishments and one that is a lasting legacy is the re-creation of the Southgate Community Center as a County-owned facility in Reston in 2006.

From the day this renewed facility’s doors opened, Southgate Community Center has been a mainstay of the surrounding neighborhoods, providing residents of all ages a place to meet, learn and play. There is a gymnasium, teen center, computer lab, multi-purpose rooms, and other accommodations. Children in need have been fed, pro bono legal advice has been given, English lessons have been provided, COVID vaccinations delivered, and teens have had a safe place to go after school.

Supervisor Hudgins worked tirelessly to negotiate the land lease with the Reston Association, secure the financing, review the building design, monitor its construction, and support the center’s program activities. It was her vision and dedication that has made Southgate Community Center the success that it is.

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, in honor of Cathy’s passionate and successful efforts, I move that the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) work with the community to re-name Southgate Community Center in recognition of Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins, and I further request that NCS to report back to the Board about the name change and an implementation plan.

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Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay remains confident in the board’s choice of former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis as the county’s next police chief, despite reports that he previously faced lawsuits over use-of-force incidents.

With Davis set to assume his new position on Monday (May 3), McKay told Reston Now in a statement that he continues to support the new police chief.

“The history of policing has not centered around the safety of all members of the community. That is a systemic problem we are always working on in Fairfax County,” McKay wrote. “After an extensive interview and outreach process, the entire Board felt confident in Chief Davis’s ability to lead and further reforms to policing. We look forward to everyone in the community engaging with the new Police Chief and engaging in their own conversations with him.”

The board of supervisors unanimously voted on Friday (April 23) to appoint the former Baltimore police commissioner and Prince George’s County assistant police chief to lead the Fairfax County Police Department.

At the time, Fairfax County Board Supervisor Jeff McKay hailed Davis and said in a statement that he would “continue Fairfax’s work on police reform, build on the deep community involvement and relationships with stakeholders, and improve morale within the police department.”

However, NBC4 Washington reported earlier this week that Davis had lost at least two civil lawsuits related to inappropriate use-of-force and false imprisonment while he was on the job in Prince George’s County.

One of the lawsuits was related to a 1993 incident where Davis reportedly stopped law student Mark Spann in front of his family’s Maryland home.

“At that point, Davis says, ‘Give me your hands’ and lodges me to the ground, throws me to the ground, and proceeds to mash my face into the pavement,” Spann told NBC 4.  He also said that Davis continued to intimidate him with a baton on the drive to the hospital and subjected him to further insults.

“I have to this date never experienced such racial slants, slurs and epitaphs and the denigration,” Spann said.

Spann has dried blood on his face in footage from an interview that NBC4 conducted with him in 1993.

According to NBC4, Spann was charged with battery, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, but it remains unclear on why Davis pulled him over in the first place.

Another lawsuit filed six years later accused Davis of false imprisonment when he was sergeant in the Prince George’s County Police Department. The victim also won that case.

Davis, for his part, told NBC 4 in a statement that he was “proud of my long career,” which he says includes a history of reform, a commitment to diversity, body camera implementation, police displicne transparency, and use of force de-escalation.

He will be tasked with the full implementation of Fairfax County’s body camera program throughout 2021. So far, cameras have been deployed at five of the police department’s eight district stations, including in the Reston District.

Davis succeeds Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Dave Rohrer, who was serving as interim chief since February when Chief Edwin C. Roessler retired. Read More

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors won’t approve a budget for the next fiscal year until May 4, but the bulk of the work to get to that final document will be done today (Tuesday) when the board meets at 10 a.m. to mark up the proposed budget.

Unveiled during a budget committee meeting on Friday (April 23), Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay’s proposed adjustments to the advertised fiscal year 2022 budget include a small raise for county employees and support for County Executive Bryan Hill’s recommendation of a one-cent decrease in the real estate tax rate.

The proposed cut would put the tax rate at $1.14 per $100 of assessed value, but rising residential property values mean that county homeowners will still see their tax bills go up by $224 on average.

“We all know that many families are struggling because of the impacts of COVID-19,” McKay said. “While the one-cent decrease isn’t a tax reduction for most families, I chose to support it because it provides some relief to families while still allowing the County sufficient funds, particularly with the stimulus dollars, to continue to stand up the programs that I know are needed in the community.”

The county is also considering lowering its refuse disposal fee from $68 to $66 per ton, but the board has proposed increases in sewer charges and for the refuse collection fee, which would go from $370 to $400 per household.

“It should be noted that this rate was reduced last year from $385 per household based on the inability to provide yard waste collection during the pandemic,” the proposed mark-up summary says.

With Fairfax County expecting a total of $222 million in federal relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, McKay has suggested redirecting $20 million that Hill had recommended setting aside as an economic recovery reserve fund to instead give county government employees a 1% pay raise.

The proposed mark-up doubles the increase in transfer funds to Fairfax County Public Schools from $14.1 million to $29.3 million — mainly to cover a 2% pay raise for school employees — and includes salary supplements for state probation and parole officers and support staff in the Public Defender’s Office.

“The Board remains committed to both acknowledging the hard work of our employees and maintaining competitive salaries relative to the market,” McKay said when outlining his mark-up proposal.

The board also plans to amend in its FY 2021 third-quarter review package to include $12.6 million for one-time bonuses for employees, along with funding for Celebrate Fairfax Inc., planning studies, athletic scholarships for at-risk kids, and environmental initiatives, including a green bank and zero-waste policies.

The county government employees’ union SEIU Virginia 512 said in a statement that it was “heartened” to see the board respond to the concerns that workers raised at public hearings on the FY 2022 budget last week about the possibility of having their pay frozen for a second consecutive year.

“However, the basic fact remains: the cost of living continues to rise, while Fairfax County workers continue to fall behind,” SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax Chapter President Tammie Wondong said. “We urge the Board of Supervisors to continue to work to fund the county’s agreed-to pay plans.”

The union has also been advocating for the Board of Supervisors to adopt an ordinance allowing county employees to engage in collective bargaining.

“A union contract would bring consistency, improve recruitment and retention, and improve services for the community,” Wondong said.

According to McKay’s office, county staff are currently drafting a proposed ordinance, and the board will discuss the issue during its personnel committee meeting on May 25.

While the mark-up package mostly focuses on employee compensation, the Board of Supervisors also hopes to address affordable housing needs by allocating at least an additional half-penny from real estate tax revenues to the county’s affordable housing fund, which currently receives one half-cent, in FY 2022 and FY 2023.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said he was glad to see that guidance in McKay’s mark-up proposal, even if it would still fall short of the two-cent allocation he campaigned on when running for office in 2019.

“Getting us back to a penny, at least historically, has been on the agenda for a long time,” he said. “I see the federal money as the opportunity, if you will, to pay back a lot of what we weren’t able to do in some previous years, so I do want to see us get to one penny as soon as possible.”

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Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis will be the new Fairfax County chief of police, effective May 3.

After emerging from a closed session, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this afternoon (Friday) to appoint Davis to lead the Fairfax County Police Department. He will succeed Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Dave Rohrer, who has been serving as an interim chief since former Chief Edwin C. Roessler retired in February.

“This is a humbling moment for me,” Davis said on a video call with the supervisors. “I will take it very seriously and I promise not to let you down.”

The decision came after a firm hired by the county conducted a nationwide search that involved more than 275 community meetings and calls, more than 450 emails sent to stakeholders, and a survey that received more than 3,000 responses, according to the county.

The Board of Supervisors “strongly weighed” the survey results in the final hiring decision, the county said.

“We are delighted to have you on board,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said. “We look forward to working with you on behalf of our community.”

Speaking to FCPD officers, Davis said, “You guys are a great agency. I want to say that loudly and clearly.”

“Is there room for improvement? Of course. Are you up to the task? Of course. Is change sometimes hard or difficult? Absolutely,” he said. “We have to seize this moment and continue to get better.”

Davis said earning trust starts with establishing legitimacy and paying attention to communities of color and people who are vulnerable and underserved.

“We have to meet you where you are, be better listeners, be less defensive and quite frankly, see you,” he said.

On accountability, Davis said he will “call balls and strikes.” And as for reform, he told police officers that the county has already embarked on a number of common-sense reforms and encouraged them to embrace this process.

“Reform is what we do for police officers, not to them,” he said. “It makes you better, it earns you better relationships with the community.”

In a statement released shortly after, McKay said Davis is recognized across the region as a leader in police reform, has a strong reputation, and is well-respected in the communities in which he has served.

“As this nation looks to transform policing to make the community safer for everyone, we have the opportunity for a fresh perspective to further our work on police reform in Fairfax County,” McKay said. “After thorough interviews, the entire Board is confident that Kevin Davis will continue Fairfax’s work on police reform, build on the deep community involvement and relationships with stakeholders, and improve morale within the police department.”

According to the county, Davis served as the City of Baltimore’s police commissioner from 2015 to 2018. He had previously served as chief of police of Anne Arundel County in Maryland from 2013 to 2014, and as assistant chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department from 1992 to 2013. Most recently, he has worked as director of consulting services for GardaWorld.

Davis will receive an annual salary of $215,000.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Fairfax County’s government workers union urged the Board of Supervisors yesterday (Tuesday) to adopt a fiscal year 2022 budget that includes increased compensation for employees, whose year-long pay freeze would be prolonged if the county’s proposed budget takes effect.

The testimony came during the first of three public hearings on the advertised FY 2022 budget that have been scheduled for this week. There will also be hearings at 3 p.m. today and tomorrow (Thursday).

Service Employees International Union Virginia 512, which represents social workers, librarians, maintenance staff, and other general county government employees, says that its top priorities for the new budget are ending the pay freeze and establishing rules for collective bargaining.

“For over one year, we have worked tirelessly to keep the community running,” SEIU Virginia 512 President Tammie Wondong said. “We have done everything we can to keep Fairfax families healthy and safe, even when we have not been healthy and safe ourselves. Today, we are asking that you recognize and value county employees in this year’s budget.”

Wondong acknowledged that the county has made an effort to support employees during the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding leave options and providing hazard pay. The board is also considering offering one-time bonuses in the FY 2021 budget as part of its third-quarter review, which will be approved on April 27.

However, the union argues that that remains insufficient compensation for employees who are essential to maintaining county services but often struggle with the rising costs of housing, healthcare, and other needs.

Fairfax County Health Department employee Jenny Berkman-Parker said in a video that played during the public hearing that the most recent evidence of the ongoing pay freeze’s impact on her family came in the form of an email from her son’s university, which announced that it will raise tuition costs by 5% next year.

“I was trying to be understanding the first year. The second year is definitely more stressful,” she said. “…Now that we’re having pay freezes for two years in a row and we’ve had pay freezes in the past, my income is no longer keeping up with the cost of living.”

Fairfax County Public Schools employees would also have their pay frozen again under the advertised FY 2022 budget. The Fairfax County School Board requested a 3% pay raise for all employees, but that was not incorporated into the county’s proposal, which increases funding for the school system by just $14.1 million.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, which represents all non-administrative FCPS staff, said in a press release issued on Monday (April 12) that 60% of respondents to a poll it conducted reported living paycheck to paycheck. Three out of four respondents said they have considered leaving for another school district due to the pay freeze.

“These statistics should not be the case in one of the wealthiest districts in the Commonwealth,” FCFT President Tina Williams said. “…Our district and county must do better.”

County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed budget largely limits spending in response to the ongoing demands of the pandemic and uncertainty about the county’s future recovery.

When he presented his proposal on Feb. 23, Hill told the Board of Supervisors that it would cost more than $55 million to fund the county’s employee compensation program, including almost $30 million for a 2% market rate adjustment.

He recommended reducing the real estate tax rate by one cent to provide some relief to property owners, though rising home values mean that residents will still see a 4.25% increase in their tax assessments on average. The Board of Supervisors voted on March 9 to advertise a flat rate of $1.15 per $100 of assessed value as the ceiling for the new rate.

The question of how to support county services and workers while giving taxpayers some relief has formed the crux of the community conversation around the FY 2022 budget.

“So many folks in Fairfax County are hurting. The last thing they need is a tax increase,” said Fairfax County Republican Committee parlimentarian James Parmalee, the lone speaker at Tuesday’s public hearing on the tax rate.

Residents expressed differing points of view on whether the tax rate should be lowered at a town hall on the proposed budget hosted by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn on March 29.

One resident, who identified herself as a county employee, said that she was disappointed at the potential extended salary freeze, while another resident worried that climbing housing values will exacerabate the county’s affordability issues.

The Board of Supervisors will mark up the budget proposal on April 27 before adopting an approved budget on May 4. Fiscal Year 2022 begins on July 1.

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