Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

The coronavirus pandemic means that a smaller, socially distanced Thanksgiving celebration will be the menu for many families this year. Despite the dearth of family and friends gathering in-person on Thursday, there is much to be thankful for, even during this most peculiar and anxiety-ridden year. In no special order, here is a list, and readers may add many more, I am sure:

• Thankful for the health care professionals, who have worked tirelessly to attend patients afflicted with Covid-19, and their families. The mental, physical, and emotional toll is enormous, but they powered through, and saved many lives. Covid-19 also gave us all a new appreciation for face masks, once the almost-exclusive province of health care, but now an everyday need for all.

• Thankful for the first responders who continue to keep our community safe. Public safety is a core responsibility of local government, and police, fire and rescue personnel, and emergency management staff are on duty 24/7, regardless of pandemics, weather conditions, or protests, peaceful or otherwise.

• Thankful for the election officials and volunteers who worked tirelessly to ensure that every voter was served and every vote counted in the 2020 presidential election. Thousands of voters stood in line for hours at the Mason District Governmental Center, in good weather as well as rain, to cast ballots absentee in-person. The operation ran smoothly and garnered many compliments; the ballot drop boxes were popular, and I am hopeful that the Commonwealth will permit them to be used for future elections.

• Thankful that the majority of people are wearing facemasks correctly, covering both the nose and mouth. Facemasks protect everyone. Wearing a mask when outside of one’s own household is a civic responsibility. Not wearing one is not a right; it’s thoughtless and dangerous.

• Thankful for the workers who routinely serve customers face-to-face, and whose jobs (and health) may be in jeopardy during the pandemic — grocery, pharmacy, and retail clerks, restaurant servers (both dine-in and carry-out), postal employees, and so many others whose jobs cannot be done remotely. Stocking the shelves, delivering the mail, filling prescriptions, etc. makes us appreciate what “normal” life looks and feels like.

• Thankful for a mostly positive partnership between Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). VDOT’s response to road maintenance issues in Mason District, especially, is the result of good relationships developed across many years. Of special significance is the announcement, this week, that the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) awarded a National Excellence Honor Award to the ABC Weekend Superstructure Replacement Project – a long name for the rebuild of the Wilson Boulevard Bridge over Route 50 that occurred in August 2019. ABC refers to Accelerated Bridge Construction, which allowed the small, heavily-used bridge to be rebuilt off-site (much of it was done on the vacant parking lot adjacent to the Willston Multicultural Center), and installed in just one weekend, minimizing closure time for this busy thoroughfare. Some follow-up work, which did not necessitate closure, included installing sidewalks and new bridge railings and walls. There were 215 national entries in the competition, and the Wilson Bridge project was one of the top 32 selected. The project proved that good planning, jurisdictions working together, and getting it done in record time provide a template for future projects. Communication with residents and motorists was paramount, and apparently successful, as there were no recorded complaints registered with any jurisdiction involved.

Have a Happy, and safe, Thanksgiving!

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