Commentary, Local Commentary

A Penny For Your Thoughts

Where did summer go?  We still may be in meteorological summer, but what I call “social” summer has come to a close.  School is back in session, neighborhood pools have reduced their hours, and the free summer concerts at Mason District Park and Ossian Hall Park have concluded.  A few more weeks of warmish weather soon will transition to cooler temperatures that ease us into autumn activities.  

One thing that has not changed, sadly, is speeding and aggressive driving on neighborhood roadways.  The speed cameras installed near several schools last spring confirm that many drivers are travelling way too fast through school zones.  Now that school is again underway, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists all need to be aware of their surroundings, and adjust speeds, cross at crosswalks, and observe all traffic rules and regulations.  Passing a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing is a violation of Virginia Code 46.2-859 and is considered reckless driving, a Class 1 Misdemeanor subject to a $2500 fine.  Speeding in a school zone is subject to a $250 fine.  Fairfax County’s school bus fleet is one of the largest in the nation, but many parents choose to drive their students to school, which can create traffic jams in the residential areas near schools.  Thoughtlessly blocking driveways while waiting to drop off or pick up students can create a lot of animosity with neighbors whose patience wears thin when they can’t access their own driveways.  

The transition to autumn also forecasts leaf fall.  About five percent of county residences are served by the county’s vacuum leaf collection program, funded by a leaf tax based on the real estate assessment.  The other 95 percent of county residences utilize private trash contractors, landscape companies, or other private options for leaf disposal.  Nationally, the solid waste industry is undergoing substantial changes, many of which began during the Covid-19 pandemic, and industry adjustments can affect local government services.  Earlier this year, the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) advised the Board of Supervisors of potential changes to the solid waste program.  Expansion of Sanitary Service Districts (those areas petitioning to receive county collection) would be dependent on private contractors bidding on the service; highly inefficient county agency routes would be eliminated in favor of private contractors; and pipestem trash service would require either a liability waiver from the homeowner(s) or walking the trash containers to the public street.  Perhaps the most controversial staff proposals were the elimination of county shredding events (the fees paid by the relatively small number of Sanitary Service District customers support the countywide shredding program) and curtailing vacuum leaf collection after the 2023/24 leaf season.  Letters were sent to leaf customers in July, inviting them to respond to a survey about leaf collection.  The survey closed on August 18, and results are being reviewed by DPWES staff in preparation for a report to the Board of Supervisors later this fall.  The Board is charged with creating service districts, so “de-creating” service districts for leaf collection will require a public hearing before the Board takes any action on the issue.  No date has been determined for a public hearing at this time. 

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


  • Penny Gross

    Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at