“Tea party” negativism is getting pretty tiresome. A few thoughts came to mind as I surveyed recent press coverage of “tea party” rallies. The wife of a Supreme Court justice warned against “elitist politicians.” What? You can’t get much more elite than a Supreme Court justice! Her husband has a job for life, gets a government salary, retirement benefits, health care, and a reserved parking spot.
A man who identified himself as a retired firefighter from the Midwest said he has come to Washington three times in the past year for tea party events. He’s against all spending, he said. Now let me see: he was a firefighter, so he earned his living at local government taxpayer expense; his retirement plan probably also is funded in part by local government. If he flew to Washington for the rally, the airplane had to meet federal regulation and safety requirements, so he would get here safely. (I realize that means those darned security checks at the airports, too.) If he drove, his vehicle was built to federal safety standards, and the roads were most likely built through planning and funding by various levels of government. The restaurants he ate in were inspected by the health department, ensuring that he would not get food-borne illness. The hotel he stayed in was built to government safety standards to ensure that it won’t fall down; its elevators are inspected regularly by government personnel; and the police who protected the rally are local government employees. It’s so easy to complain about what we don’t like, and miss all the positives about what government does provide. Imagine the chaos!
That being said, there always is room for improvement. More efficient service delivery, fewer hurdles, lower costs, new ways of doing things – these all are items that elected officials have to consider when building budgets, whether at the local, state, or federal level. Our energies need to be focused on getting to “yes,” not simply shouting “no.”
One excellent, government-sponsored program is the Fairfax County Youth Leadership Program (YLP), a partnership between Fairfax County government and Fairfax County Public Schools. The goal of YLP is to help high school students gain an understanding and appreciation for how local government impacts their everyday lives. Applications for the 2011 YLP cohort are now being accepted. Students should contact their Guidance or Social Studies Departments for applications, which are due by October 29. For more information, or to get an application online, log on to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb/FCYLP.htm. Several YLP participants from the Mason District have been summer interns in my office in past years, and they have been outstanding!
There’s a new grocery store in town. The Safeway store in the Willston Shopping Center opened for business last week. The new 58,000 square foot, environmentally friendly building replaced an older and smaller store at the location near Patrick Henry Drive and Arlington Blvd. An invitation-only “soft” opening on Wednesday evening was followed by a formal ribbon-cutting on Thursday afternoon. The original store was torn down and the new store constructed in about eight months, bringing the reinvestment of a full-service national grocery chain to the area. Included in the reconstruction is the use of pervious blacktop and high efficiency LED lights in the parking lot. Pervious blacktop allows infiltration of storm water into the ground, reducing the amount of run-off. Safeway’s use of pervious blacktop on some of its parking lanes may be the first installation of its type in eastern Fairfax County.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org