Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

prenny-fcnpThe Arts Council of Fairfax County presented its annual Arts Awards on Friday, and Dan Sheehy of Mason District was honored with the 2017 Arts Achievement Award. Most residents may be familiar with Dan as the founder and leader of the wildly popular Mariachi Los Amigos, which began in his Bailey’s Crossroads basement in 1978. But Dan’s musical reach extends far beyond the Beltway. With a PhD in ethnomusicology from UCLA, Dan was recruited to develop the Smithsonian’s annual Folklife Festival. Later, he served as the director of the National Endowment for the Arts Folk and Traditional Arts program, and later returned to the Smithsonian to direct the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and become curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, which has received five Grammy Awards.

Although Dan retired from the Smithsonian last year, he continues to perform with Mariachi Los Amigos, and help the world understand itself better by experiencing the world’s diverse music and cultures. Although he has received national and international awards for his work, Dan eschews the spotlight on himself, always highlighting the work of others. Dan Sheehy certainly is a national treasure, but he’s also our neighbor, and deserves our thanks and congratulations for his many contributions to the colorful tapestry that makes up our community and our world.

Other recipients of the 2017 Arts Awards were Todd Hitt — Arts Philanthropy Award; Washington West Film Festival – Emerging Arts Award; and Dewberry — Jinx Hazel Arts Award. This year’s awards were designed by Reston artist Wayne Schiffelbein, using mill aluminum to create unique stabiles and mobiles for each award. As Dan Sheehy remarked, “I’m going to need a bigger bookcase!” The Arts Council also announced it’s rebranding as ArtsFairfax, with a new colorful logo, but the same mission: to foster a dynamic and diverse arts scene throughout Fairfax County, and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, by providing vision, leadership, advocacy, funding, and education.

In the cacophony of campaign ads for Virginia’s November 7 statewide elections, one important ballot measure in Fairfax County may have been overlooked. The 2017 Public School Bonds Referendum asks Fairfax County voters to consider whether to approve a $315 million school bond. If approved, the bond funds would support planning and construction of two new elementary schools, additions at three existing high schools, including Stuart, and planning or renovation for 15 other schools. At long last, Annandale Terrace and Braddock Elementary Schools, both serving Mason District students, and Falls Church High School are on that list.

Fairfax County’s AAA bond rating is one of the highest in the nation, and indicates confidence in the county’s strong financial performance. The AAA bond rating lowers the county’s borrowing costs, and has saved taxpayers nearly $800 million in interest on bond and refunding sales. Virginia law requires that voters approve general obligation bonds through a referendum. If approved, the Board of Supervisors will be authorized to sell bonds for the purpose described; if not approved by the voters, the county cannot issue bonds for that purpose. I hope you will join me in voting “YES” on the school bond referendum. It’s a good investment now and for future generations.


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.


  • Penny Gross

    Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov