News

Football Stadium Authority Advances

Del. Marcus Simon (center) was in Falls Church Saturday to help U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (right) to secure enough signatures to put his name on the ballot for re-election this November. They were joined by local activist Matthew Savage (left). (Courtesy Photo)

While some Falls Church-area lawmakers are among those initiating the formation of a Virginia Football Stadium Authority to woo the newly-renamed Washington Commanders National Football League franchise with $1 billion in taxpayer-funded incentives including a fancy new stadium in the region, others including State Del. Marcus Simon have led an as-yet futile effort to oppose it.


Simon offered a floor amendment Tuesday to condition the impending measure on the release of a report on the Commanders by attorney Beth Wilkenson, composed of 2,100 documents requested by the U.S. House describing “a toxic work environment that included bullying, intimidation and sexual harrasment that went on for many years.”

It failed, as area state senators Dick Saslaw, who currently represents Falls Church, and Chap Petersen, who with redistricting is now the de facto senator from Falls Church, are among the most strident supporters of the stadium authority plan and, in particular, singled out Del. Simon’s amendment for defeat.


Saslaw reportedly will announce his retirement some time after this legislative session in Richmond, and Petersen, whose political base is in Fairfax City, is likely to face a primary challenge here next year. In recent years, Petersen was retained by the Commanders’ owner Dan Snyder to lobby for keeping the team’s original name, the Redskins, over objections of its racist overtone.


In opposing the stadium authority move, Del. Simon said in his News-Press column this week (printed elsewhere in this edition), “If we’re going to offer $1 billion in incentives to anyone let alone a sports team with a bad reputation, we should know who we are getting into business with…The bottom line is that the Washington Commanders don’t need our money. If they truly want to come to Virginia, then they will do so…We could certainly form a partnership that is actually beneficial to the Commonwealth without forcing taxpayers to foot the bill. But the current language is far from beneficial in the way that its supporters would argue.”


This week the General Assembly reached the halfway point in its 2022 session with what is called “crossover,” when bills that passed in one of the two legislative bodies cross over to the other body for approval, revision of rejection.


Over 300 bills that advanced on one side were sent to the other in this way.


With the government in Richmond having effectively shifted from Democratic to Republican control as of the last election, there has been more of a tug of war than usual as Republicans have set about to repeal, roll back or water down laws passed by the Democrats the past couple years. Issues have ranged from guns to women’s reproductive rights to criminal justice reform, the imposition of mandates in schools and environmental protections.


Del. Simon told the News-Press he didn’t think there was anything going on in Richmond in this session that was the cause for a serious rift between the two parties, even if there are significant disagreements.


Yesterday afternoon, Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed into law SB739, which “empowers parents by creating a parental opt-out from local school mask mandates and ensuring five-day a week in-person instruction, set to go into effect immediately.”


However, the City of Falls Church Public Schools OK’d an opt-out measure that went into effect last Monday. So far, 154, or 6.1 percent of students have formally opted out, according to F.C. Public Schools Communications Director John Brett.


Otherwise, however, Del. Simon says that Gov. Youngkin has not been as successful as he would like in getting his agenda passed into law in Richmond. “His agenda is in tatters,” Simon said. “He has not been able to achieve his goals for supporting charter schools and his grocery tax initiative has been watered down.”