Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

With pandemic restrictions eased in many areas, in-person attendance has increased rapidly at many venues. The free summer concerts at Mason District Park, which resumed last week, are drawing larger-than-average crowds, and sit-down restaurants are seating more customers, for inside and outside dining. The hotel industry continues to struggle, as it will take more time for regular business and vacation travel to rebound.

One bright spot for the region, however, was the decision of the National Association of Counties (NACo), which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., to hold a hybrid annual conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in neighboring Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Last year’s annual conference was held virtually, with lots of technological glitches, as most local elected officials had not developed a comfort level with virtual meetings.

Last weekend’s conference at the Gaylord, which was planned from start to finish in only about three months instead of the normal three years, drew several hundred local officials in person, with another thousand or so who could attend some of the meetings virtually.

Vice President Kamala Harris, and cabinet members Pete Buttigieg and Marcia Fudge were notable speakers, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi provided an energetic legislative review on Monday to wrap up the last day of the conference. Holding the conference so close to the Nation’s Capital was a boon for scheduling administration and cabinet speakers — the Gaylord is an easy drive from downtown D.C., and even easier, perhaps, from Fairfax County.

No flights, no overnight accommodations needed!

NACo advocates on behalf of more than 3,000 counties across the country, whether very small and rural, or urbanizing with large diverse populations, like Fairfax County.

I represent the county on NACo’s Environment, Energy and Land Use (EELU) Steering Committee, which met on Friday to deliberate 21 resolutions proposed by committee members.

Coastal commissioners had resolutions to protect coral reefs, address algal blooms, and flood control. Some inland officials were concerned about maintaining their local economies via drilling and fracking. For the past several years, the issue of per-and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water has been debated; this year’s resolution passed unanimously. One of the more interesting debates focused on beach renourishment — taking sand from one location and putting in another.

All sand is not alike — color, texture, and content are huge influencers in what sand to use for replenishment.
“Our” sand versus “their” sand debates are not uncommon in shore communities, and using foreign sand (e.g., the Bahamas) to augment domestic sand (e.g., Florida) for beach replenishment is illegal.

Unlike PFAS and flood control, coral reefs and beach sand may not be the stuff of debate for Fairfax County, but the EELU discussions demonstrate that so many governance issues are very local, and need local solutions, augmented with state and federal resources. The more we look for our differences, the more we find commonalities, and that’s an example for us all, in our personal, professional, and political arenas.

Congratulations to Nick Benton for 30 years of publishing the Falls Church News-Press!

I was delighted to join the entire Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to present Nick with a formal resolution commemorating this significant anniversary of press coverage in Northern Virginia.

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]