Some call climate change “the moral imperative” of our time. Others consider climate change as overblown rhetoric. Wherever one stands on the issue, we know that overall temperatures on the planet are increasing, storms are more frequent and intense — heavier rains, hurricanes and tornadoes in areas not previously prone to them, widespread blizzards — and science is telling us more about our changing climate than we might want to know.
In June 2004, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, on my motion, adopted the county’s first 20-year Environmental Excellence Vision Plan. Chairman Gerry Connolly, working with community groups, originated the framework for the plan, asked me to chair the Board’s Environment Committee, and to carry the plan to fruition. The plan was shaped around two principles: 1) conservation of our limited natural resources must be interwoven into all government decisions, and 2) the Board must be committed to provide the necessary resources to protect our environment. It was organized into six areas: growth and land use; air quality and transportation; water quality; solid waste; parks, trails and open space; and environmental stewardship. In 2015, again on my motion, the Board began a lengthy community process to evaluate the plan and update it where needed. The majority of the plan was achieving its goals, but a new chapter addressing climate change was added, and the renewed plan was re-adopted by the Board in 2017.
Importantly, the county’s Environmental Excellence Vision Plan never sat on a shelf somewhere. It is a living document, utilized every day by county staff. The document is expanding, too. Last month, after more than a year of legal research and community outreach, the Board adopted a new C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) ordinance that incentivizes business owners to update their buildings to be more energy efficient. C-PACE allows for third-party financing, not tax dollars, to provide environmental benefits.
In this year’s budget, an Office for Environmental and Energy Coordination is being established. Two new positions will augment existing staff deployed from other county agencies to develop a community-wide energy and climate action plan, or CECAP. Last week, the Board’s Environment Committee reviewed the 18-month timeline for initiation of a plan, decided it was too long, and knocked six months off! Also last week, the Board of Supervisors and the School Board created a Joint Environmental Task Force (The JET) to further collaborate on energy efficiencies, like rooftop solar panels. Supervisor Dan Storck and I are the county appointees; Karen Corbett-Sanders and Pat Hynes are the school system appointees. We’ll meet on April 30 to organize next steps, and JET membership is anticipated to include community and business members.
Centenary birthdays are rare, and should be celebrated with fervor and delight, which is exactly what happened on Sunday when family and friends gathered to celebrate Mildred Dodson’s 100th birthday. Bright and perky in a pink outfit that mirrored the cherry blossoms outside, Mildred told me that she still lives in the house she and her husband bought in the early 1950s. Mildred has seen many changes since then, but proves that Mason District and Fairfax County still is a good place to live, work, learn, and age gracefully.