Despite the tweets emanating almost hourly from the White House, and the battle for supremacy in the Congress, the everyday work to provide for community needs gets done at the local level, mostly with locally generated revenue. Fairfax County residents may observe the presidential and congressional shenanigans more closely than, say, someone in the Midwest or Rocky Mountain states, but providing police and fire services, schools, libraries, parks, mental health, and overseeing land use and development, is a local responsibility. Nearly all localities — counties, cities, or towns — rely first on local taxpayers to fund these daily efforts.
The federal share in Fairfax County is miniscule in comparison to the local share. In 2017, the federal contribution to the county’s General Fund revenues was $31.5 million, or just 0.8 percent. The amount increases to $226 million, or 2.8 percent of all funds if school grants, operating funds, and food services are included. That’s not to say the federal share is not important; it is. We need to remind our elected representatives at the state and federal levels that the partnership – local, state, and federal – helps people, regardless of birth, ethnicity, age, or any other identifying characteristic by which some wish to inflate and justify discriminatory policies.
Trying to forecast what may happen at the federal and state levels can wear you out, but local planners and social service agencies have contingency plans for nearly every occasion. That’s why we are so fortunate to live and work in the National Capital Region, where acknowledgment of our similarities, rather than our differences, can lead to better outcomes for all. Needs don’t just stop at jurisdictional borders, which is why mutual aid agreements, such as those between local fire and rescue departments, or water agencies, or HIV-Aids programs, can ensure that everyone gets the services they need.
Last week’s fire at the Covanta waste-to-energy plant in the southern part of the county is one example. The two-alarm blaze required response from multiple county fire stations, both for apparatus and personnel. While Fairfax county resources primarily were used to quell the fire, agreements with adjacent jurisdictions, such as Fort Belvoir, Prince William, and Alexandria, ensured that other calls for emergency services could be answered by nearby departments. The fire did significant damage to the plant but, under other agreements, household trash collected in Fairfax County will be hauled to municipal landfills elsewhere in the state until the plant is repaired. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality determined that there are no threats to air or water quality as a result of the fire.
Just an hour before the Covanta fire was reported, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue rushed to the intersection of Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road, where a Mason District resident was struck, and later died. The driver remained on the scene. This sad accident reminds us once again of the importance of wearing white, light-colored, or reflective clothing when walking at night, and always cross streets carefully, and use the marked crosswalks. A few extra steps to the nearest crosswalk could save your life, or someone else’s.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]