Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

With the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, the possibility of a lump of coal in a Christmas stocking may not resonate for today’s children, or even for their parents. Fairy tales notwithstanding, I do remember a coal bin in the basement, and how the black chunks of anthracite coal slid down the chute into the bin next to the furnace. Fortunately, none of those chunks ended up in my holiday stocking!

Christmas tales often include Santa Claus making a list of who’s naughty or nice; I’d like to offer my own list, with candy canes and the aforementioned lump of coal:

A candy cane for the voters of Fairfax County, who exercised their civic responsibilities both in the June primary elections and the Nov. 5 General election. Local elections traditionally have the lowest voter turnout, but this year’s 43 percent turnout far exceeded the 2015 turnout of 30 percent, and the results showed it.

Another candy cane for the new Bailey’s Shelter and Supportive Housing facility which opened in November. The 50-bed facility is a new model for providing services to homeless persons, and has 18 micro-units of supportive transitional housing, along with four medical respite beds.

A lump of coal to drivers who not only fail to stop at stop signs, but often don’t even slow down. And multiple lumps for drivers who run the red light, which seems to happen more frequently. Candy canes for the police officers who enforce traffic laws; sometimes there is a cop around when you need them.

A candy cane and congratulations to Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. Opened in 1969 as the county’s first nature center, Hidden Oaks provides a natural setting to enjoy pursuits. Kids can discover nature’s secrets at Nature Playce, and adults can walk the forested trails. All can explore the woodland fantasy created by chainsaw sculptor Andrew Mallon in the remaining stump of a huge tulip poplar tree that was struck, twice, by lightning.

A lump of coal to some national retailers (pick one) who, despite this area being a good market, have closed favorite stores, leaving our shopping areas with too many vacancies.

Another lump of coal to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), whose outsourcing of the Cinder Bed Road buses led to an ongoing strike by bus drivers, affecting thousands of commuters in Fairfax County.

Candy canes to all the volunteers in our community who help in a variety of ways: coaches, troop leaders, food pantry collectors and distributors, Meals on Wheels drivers, Rebuilding Together crews, all those unsung heroes who make our community a more caring place to live and work.

One final candy cane to Governor Ralph Northam, who included nearly $100 million in statewide investments for early childhood education in his new biennial budget released this week. Extra candy canes for General Assembly members who vote for that item in the 2020 session.

Lumps of coal would be plentiful if I included the White House and federal government, but that would take several more columns.

Happy Holidays to all!


  • 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