Fairfax County's Lee District ranges from the west side of Route 1 to Springfield and Newington. Current Supervisor Jeff McKay is vacating the seat to run for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Four Democrats — Kelly Hebron, Larysa Kautz, Rodney Lusk, and James Migliaccio — want to take his place.
The Greater Greater Washington Elections Committee posed some questions to the candidates, along with other races in 10 Northern Virginia primary elections for General Assembly, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and Commonwealth's Attorney. You can read the responses from Lee District candidates below. For lack of any better way to order them, we post the responses in the order they are submitted.
The Elections Committee will be deciding whether to make endorsements in the primaries, which we'll do if there is a clear best candidate in our opinion. To figure that out, we'll look at the questionnaire responses, but also, we'd like to hear from you. Do you have context we should understand about some of these answers? Other information? You can give us your feedback using this form.
The primary is June 11. You can see all of the races, and the responses we've posted so far, at our 2019 primary election page.
Who do you think has the hardest time finding housing that’s affordable to them in Fairfax County, and what steps do you plan to take to address that need?
Rodney Lusk: Unfortunately, the challenge of finding affordable housing in Fairfax County spans across the spectrum from our middle class to our most vulnerable populations. It impacts our seniors, public sector employees, first time entrants into the workforce, and those not earning a living wage. It’s impossible to set the needs of one of these groups over another.
There is no silver bullet to addressing this crisis, but there are steps that we can take in the near term to help alleviate some of the stress on our housing sector. As Lee District Supervisor I would support a permanent dedicated revenue source that could be leveraged to address housing needs in our county through coordination with non-profit and private sector partners.
I also believe that, on a case by case basis, the County should examine the viability of co-locating affordable homes on the sites of County assets. This would alleviate the property costs associated with increasing our housing stock, and drive down prices across our market.
We must also explore creative and tailored ways to incentivize developers to build affordable homes, or include them in larger projects. This could be accomplished through waivers for parking requirements, density requirements and other regulatory tools.
Larysa Kautz: At every level, the housing crisis hits minorities harder, who are nearly 30 percent less likely to own a home. Black applicants are twice as likely to be denied home loans as white applicants. And housing costs have risen so much faster than income, making down payments out of reach. And the racial wealth/housing gap goes much deeper. Among renters, Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent — even when they earn the same salaries as whites.
Affordable housing is a multidimensional issue in this county — particularly in Lee District. It’s an issue of income inequality with workers being unable to afford rents because they are being paid well below the living wage. It’s an issue of rising rents and falling subsidies, causing workers to spend more and more of their paycheck on rent and having less for healthcare, childcare and savings. It's a property tax issue for homeowners and homebuyers who are being priced out of the market. And the inequity is passed down to the next generation - children who grow up in areas of concentrated poverty are disadvantaged on nearly every measure, from school quality to violence to social mobility. Decades of these trends, together with federal, state & local policies that disproportionately impact marginalized communities, have resulted in a systematic shift of homeownership to older, richer and whiter Americans and a housing crisis that is wiping out savings, increasing inequality and reducing the ability of workers to weather the next serious illness, furlough or recession.
The only way to bridge that gap is for cities to deliberately build, fund, preserve and encourage housing that is affordable to the low and middle income workforce. In addition, we must pay our workers a living wage, fund childcare for our working poor, and developing innovative programs to help our residents pay for higher education or receive vocational training so that they can improve their lot in life.
For those living in or seeking affordable housing, we cannot just have a goal of “no net loss” of affordable housing in this county with the development projects that are upcoming. We must be working to significantly increase the number of affordable housing units. We must plan & build affordable units in places that are accessible to mass transportation. And we must be transparent and proactive when it comes to assisting our residents who are going to be impacted by the loss of current affordable housing to planned development.
We must create more innovative public/private partnerships when it comes to housing by bringing nonprofits, investors, developers, and most importantly, representatives of the communities that need affordable housing to the table. No one group should bear the costs of the housing crisis - we must work together to share the burden and the opportunity to improve our community together.
I spent over 10 years as a lawyer negotiating low-income housing tax credit deals and building partnerships between communities, developers, investors and nonprofits. I have spent the past 5 years in workforce development to help marginalized communities build the skills and expertise they need to join the labor force in good paying jobs. And I have experience running small businesses, nonprofits and large federal contracts. I have the best expertise for the next phase of Lee District’s & Fairfax County’s development.
James Migliaccio: Many who live or wish to live in Fairfax County have struggled to find and keep housing that is within their means. This challenge hits those experiencing homelessness, households with incomes below 30 percent of AMI, seniors with low incomes and persons with disabilities the hardest.
Fairfax County recently produced a Housing Strategic Plan with recommendations to address affordability that includes both short- and long-term action items to achieve the goals of creating a baseline of 5,000 affordable units in the next 15 years and to have no net loss of the 9,500 market rate affordable units in the county. I support these goals as a minimum and would expect to build upon them as supervisor. As a start, I would support the restoration of the full “Penny for Affordable Housing Fund” and to direct staff to examine ways to increase the bonus density for affordable housing near mass transit stations.
Kelly Hebron: Our lowest income households are really challenged in finding affordable housing in Fairfax County. Earnings of $32,000 per year is the annual income for a household earning 30% of our area’s median income. Many of these households are employed in jobs that are critical to our economy but yet they are often unable to afford to live where they work.
There is also the Amazon effect that is expected to bring higher wage jobs and raise the price of housing. It is not just the low income or limited educated population that is suffering in the affordable housing crisis in Lee District. Rather, it is also the shrinking working/middle class who are suffering. It is the teachers and first responders who are house rich and wage poor. If the working class sells their houses, where will they move and how does their quality of life change if they have to move further away from the jobs in order to find affordable housing? I think we need to acknowledge this reality and find creative ways for economic development that helps all Lee District residents.
I support raising the contribution to the housing trust fund, exploring private-public partnerships, preserving the current affordable housing stock, expanding local rent subsidy for the disabled and seniors and advocating for more equitable pay for the low income and working/middle class. Any decision must be based in equity and data. We should consider how other jurisdictions have successfully protected the most vulnerable population from displacement.
Would you champion increasing housing diversity in parts of the county which have fewer lower-income residents than the entire county and Washington region as a whole? Why or why not?
Rodney Lusk: I would absolutely support this endeavor. Fairfax County’s One Fairfax policy is a fantastic road map for creating equity in our county, and we need to measure every decision that we are making against its litmus test. That means that we cannot be separating our neighbors by income, race or any other factor. Doing so has negative impacts across the board, such as disproportionate resource allocations amongst our schools, over-stress on our transportation infrastructure, and a decreased sense of community among our neighbors.
Larysa Kautz: Yes, I think we need to be strategic about where affordable housing is located in our district. We need to work harder to build a sense of community by encouraging and championing diversity and inclusion in all parts of our county. There is underutilized property in this county held by government, nonprofits and businesses that we can utilize to build homes, townhouses, condos and other housing units, and work to make each different housing modality affordable for working families. We also need to ensure that development for each part of our community includes comprehensive plans for businesses to enhance the local economy and serve residents, transportation to ensure mobility and minimize damage to our environment, and wraparound services (e.g., childcare, healthcare and education, among others) to support the people living there.
James Migliaccio: Yes, I would champion it as I have done the last ten years as planning commissioner. A sustainable and diverse range of housing stock throughout the county helps everyone by allowing people to live closer to employment, shops and transit options. It also contributes to the economic stability of the county and allows options for our population to age in place.
Kelly Hebron: Yes, I would look at those areas that have greater transportation access and look to build affordability in those areas. Public transportation is a far less expensive alternative to vehicle ownership and lower income households drive less. Developing affordable housing within areas of greater transportation access is an equity solution, a climate solution, a traffic solution, a public health solution and an environmental solution.
We need additional affordable housing units. We know the current climate for affordable housing is less than ideal. I am very aware and concerned with the anxiety it is causing within the Lee District community and beyond. I will be sure to fight on behalf of what is right as I have done my entire legal career in public service. I believe that what is right is preserving our diversity and making sure we are all one Lee district and Fairfax County.
How do you reconcile the need to provide housing affordability in the parts of your district with good transit with some other people’s stated desire to slow development?
Rodney Lusk: As Lee District Supervisor I would strongly support transit oriented development. By focusing development in areas with strong transportation infrastructure we will be fostering environments that will be more amenable to attracting and retaining businesses, jumpstarting workforce development, and driving down housing prices through competition in the market. When it comes to transit oriented development, we have a unique opportunity to work with developers to achieve more affordable housing by leveraging waivers for parking requirements, dentistry requirements and other regulatory tools.
Larysa Kautz: Affordable housing, equity and development go hand-in-hand and it’s time to recognize this publicly and talk about it more. Residential segregation—by race and by income—is a fundamental driver of inequality in our county (and throughout the United States). Segregated living patterns underscore many of the social problems faced by marginalized populations.
Solutions include interventions that create housing opportunity in higher income areas, preserve affordability in gentrifying areas, and target investment to the areas most in need. The realization of fair housing and the creation of inclusive communities with access to good transit, basic services, and healthcare is essential to furthering equity. And mixed use areas that are accessible by foot, bike, bus, rail and cars produce large economic and social benefits compared to drivable suburban development. We need to continue to push this forward through education of the community and innovation in community–academic–nonprofit–business partnerships.
James Migliaccio: Embark Richmond Highway exemplifies the approach I would take as supervisor. As planning commissioner, I helped guide this Embark through the three-year process that brought together the community and various stakeholders to best plan smart growth in designated areas while improving transportation options. In these designated growth areas, housing affordability is a crucial component. At each step of the way, community engagement was encouraged, and key community concerns were considered as the plan was formulated. In the end, we arrived at a plan that supports walking, biking and BRT to connect high growth areas along Richmond Highway. Due to its innovative approaches, vision, outstanding planning processes and implementation strategies, Embark Richmond Highway won the 2018 Commonwealth Plan of the Year for the APA Virginia Chapter.
Kelly Hebron: Affordable housing and access to transportation are necessary and these two issues are inseparable. We establish our priorities based on where we invest our money. As Supervisor, I will advocate to approach the budget from a holistic approach versus individual line items. We need to ensure we are still strong in preserving open space and develop good transit to move people around and ensure capacity in county services so the impact of development is not felt as great. The environment is vital for preserving the district for many generations. Our decisions as a board must be based on equity and data.
Fairfax County has been pushing for walkable, transit-accessible communities to meet demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Would you continue this trend, and where in your district would you emphasize this? If not, why not?
Rodney Lusk: When planning for the future of our county’s transportation infrastructure, we must simultaneously consider the environmental impact of those plans. Anything less would be fiscally irresponsible, and in direct opposition to my platform of environmental sustainability.
As a participant on the Embark Richmond Highway study, I have a firsthand understanding of some of the steps that we can take to improve accessibility, while also reducing emission in our county. For example, the introduction of bus rapid transit along the Historic Richmond Highway Corridor would both demonstrate models for future expansion of the Yellow Line, and encourage businesses to locate along the corridor in advance of that investment.
This reduction in single occupancy vehicles, will reduce emission by reducing traffic, and the economic revitalization that comes with it will make it easier for people to live and work in the same community; which will lead to a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Larysa Kautz: I would push for walkable, transit-accessible communities in a variety of locations in Lee District. This is the area of the county with the most potential for truly inclusive and equitable communities that are also focused on smart & responsible development and environmentally-friendly transportation.
Pedestrian and bike-friendly urban development and transit-accessible communities are not just an environmental issue. They are an economic and accessibility issue. They can and should be put in areas that allow people living in all types of housing (including low, middle and market priced housing) to access mass transportation and/or walk or bike to their jobs. The Route 1 corridor and Springfield are key areas that can and should continue to be targeted for infrastructure development to increase walkability and transit-accessibility. This would encourage healthier lifestyles, enhance recreational opportunities, mitigate congestion, and help convert short car trips into bike trips. It also will help Fairfax remain competitive with Arlington and Alexandria in attracting young residents who have never owned a car and are interested in biking for recreation and commuting.
James Migliaccio: Since 2010 as the planning commissioner for Lee District, I have been working to help create these walkable, livable and transit-accessible communities across Fairfax County. Most recently with Embark Richmond Highway, Lee District (along with Mount Vernon District) achieved a plan that calls for designated walkable, livable transit-accessible areas along a major thoroughfare. As supervisor, I would seek to implement this plan and to devote the resources to achieve a similar plan for the revitalization of the downtown Springfield area. I would also seek to provide enhanced transit options for residents along South Van Dorn Street to better connect those in the Kingstowne area to the Van Dorn Metro station.
Kelly Hebron: Yes, I would advocate for walkable, transit-accessible communities particularly on the Route 1 corridor. Increasing access to public transportation, ensuring development that includes a live, work and play approach, and decreasing the volume of cars on the roads are all solutions that I advocate. The air quality improves and the amount of greenhouse emissions in the community is reduced when we intentionally focus on transit solutions that reduces traffic and offers a viable solution for the residents.
In many parts of the Route 1 corridor, it is a job and transportation desert. For residents residing between Beacon Hill community to as far south as Pinewood Lake and Sequoyah neighborhoods, it may take as long as 45 minutes to ride a bus to the nearest metro station. Unfortunately, the reality for many of these residents is that the viable, livable wage jobs are located elsewhere such as in DC or western Fairfax and require residents to have access to personal transportation. This is a big quality of life issue and equity issue. I believe in mobility is a fundamental basic human right and will fight for all Lee district residents to have viable transportation options.
What are the top three transportation priorities you have for your district? Tell us why and the revenue source (including any new revenue sources you’d champion).
Rodney Lusk: The top transportation priority for Lee District has to be the implementation of the Embark Richmond Highway plan. When fully implemented, Embark will provide the connectivity and infrastructure that we need to jumpstart workforce development and quality of life improvement along the Historic Richmond Highway Corridor. A portion of the project’s funding is already allocated, with the remainder of the budget being filled out by a combination of county, state, and federal funding; similar to the funding streams instituted for the development of the Silver Line.
Our next transportation priority in Lee District should be intra-Springfield connectivity to public transportation. We need to improve both the walkability, and bike accessibility, of the Springfield area, and also the ease of access to public transportation hubs. Funding streams for these projects will have to be accessed on a project by project basis, and only after careful study of each particular project. It’s an effort that will take time, but in the aggregate will positively impact the Springfield community for many years to come.
Third, Lee District needs to make serious efforts to better incorporate bike lanes, and appropriate transit routes for things like scooters and autonomous transit vehicles. While securing standalone funding for these project may prove difficult, we should move to incorporate them into larger projects whenever possible; similar to what is being done with bike lanes in the Embark project.
Larysa Kautz: Increasing use of public transportation, to include more targeted bus routes and schedules, Metro Access, increased bike lanes and walkable paths. This will help with equity, environmental stewardship and inclusivity of our communities.
Creative & innovative solutions to minimize traffic and congestion (i.e., the number of cars on the road, as well as driving patterns), to include slugging, ride shares and more substantial incentives for telework programs and alternate scheduling.
Pedestrian and biker safety. See answer below about Vision Zero.
With respect to funding, in addition to current revenue sources that are already encumbered for transportation projects, we need to (1) advocate strongly for additional substantial state support, (2) identify and enact long-term, dedicated, bondable funding, and (3) look at other states’ models of public-private partnerships for bringing private dollars into public projects, where both partners share the risk. This should include investigating ways to challenge the Dillon Rule (or advocate for state-level legislation) to allow additional sources of revenue. Any new taxes should be shifted primarily to wealthier residents and businesses to protect lower income residents by capping the amount that they pay or issuing credits to them.
There are no shortage of clever and creative ideas to solve our revenue problems. The biggest barrier is an imbalance of power at the state level that favors keeping revenue structures regressive in favor of business interests and the interests of the wealthy. Any successful revenue strategy at the county level must address state level legislation and must be conscious of the need to shift political power through organizing.
James Migliaccio: My three priority projects are
(1) Implement the award winning Embark Richmond Highway plan to provide BRT down the median of Richmond Highway and eventually two new Metro stops beyond Huntington;
(2) Frontier Drive Extension to improve the circulatory system around the Franconia-Springfield Transit Center, which includes access to both WMATA and VRE;
(3) The Springfield multi-use parking garage that will hold approximately 1,000 parking spaces, a bus transit center with seven bus bays, commuter slug spaces, a pedestrian bridge over Old Keene Mill Road and bicycle storage.
Federal, state and local revenue sources along with any appropriate developer proffer funding should be utilized.
Kelly Hebron: My top three transportation priorities are more sidewalks for the Route 1 corridor and pedestrian underpasses, increase access to public transportation and more bike lanes throughout Lee District. We need real solutions to these real problems. There is very limited public transportation options on the lower south Route 1 and there is no bike lane that connects the entire corridor. It is not very walkable and there are a high rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. This is a matter of realigning our priorities. All of these options can be funded by the general fund. It is a matter of revisiting our priorities and making our decisions based on equity and data. Where we choose to invest our funds, determine our priorities. Education, affordable housing and transportation must be our top priorities in order to keep Lee district and beyond moving forward towards an innovative future. To that end, the discussion needs to revolve around viable ideas that provide short and long term solutions. In particular, we need to consider how we will provide safe pedestrian and bike access during construction.
Fairfax County is one of the few area jurisdictions that has not adopted Vision Zero. Given the high number of people who die or are seriously injured while moving around in Fairfax, what would you advocate to ensure safety for everyone even though Fairfax DOT has to work with VDOT to make changes in Fairfax’s transportation network?
Rodney Lusk: As Lee District Supervisor, I would strongly support this measure. Lee District has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to pedestrian safety, and the safety of non-motor vehicle commuters. We can achieve this through well studied bike lane planning, clearly marked crosswalks and the reduction of traffic on Route 1. All of this must be bolstered by transparent and regular public input, in order to best understand the widespread, as well as niche issues that are impacting Lee District commuters.
Larysa Kautz: According the the Fairfax County Government website, traffic fatalities in Fairfax County rose in 2018 and 9 pedestrian improvement projects are still “under design” for Lee District,. The Board seems to be on the right track to reduce these pedestrian injuries and deaths—hundreds of millions of federal, state, and county dollars appear to be dedicated to new and updated crosswalks and signals, pedestrian refuge islands, extending curbs and sidewalks, etc.
However, I do think it is important to adopt a Vision Zero policy in Fairfax County - especially with the planned expansion of Route 1 and revitalization projects in Springfield. We must have an obtainable goal to get to zero fatalities or serious injuries involving traffic. And with which to keep the Board accountable through public, annual reviews of pedestrian and biking deaths and their causes. The recent death on March 28 of John Bright, a Springfield resident, on Richmond Highway while in a crosswalk, is the most recent example of the need for innovative traffic engineering & calming measures, pedestrian crossings away from traffic, and more enforcement, advocacy and education around hands-free laws and driving without distraction.
James Migliaccio: As supervisor, I would support the Board’s endorsement of Vision Zero and encourage VDOT to build upon its Arrive Alive Virginia plan and work with Fairfax to achieve its goals. I would seek to update the 2014 Countywide Master Bicycle Plan, continue spot improvements to help protect pedestrians, provide traffic preemption devices for emergency vehicles and continue implementation of road and lane diets where appropriate.
Kelly Hebron: The board should work with some of the localities that have adopted Vision Zero and advocate for VDOT to employ Vision Zero as part of the regional transportation network. Unfortunately, Lee District experiences a large number of pedestrian accidents and fatalities. The board should advocate for policies and ordinances that make sure streets are safe based on how they will be used daily. Mobility is a basic human right. I support better designed streets and policies that influence safe behavior practices by drivers, bike riders and pedestrians.