With long-time Supervisor Cathy Hudgins retiring, five Democrats hope to take her seat on the county board representing the Hunter Mill district, which includes Reston, Vienna, and neighborhoods in between and south of the Dulles Toll Road up to the airport.
The candidates are Walter Alcorn, Laurie Dodd, Shyamali Hauth, Parker Messick, and Maggie Parker. Dodd, Hauth, and Messick announced before Hudgins decided not to run, while Alcorn and Parker entered the race afterward. The Greater Greater Washington Elections Committee posed some questions to these candidates, along with other races in 10 Northern Virginia primary elections for General Assembly, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Alcorn, Hauth, and Messick responded to our questionnaire, and for lack of any better way to order them, we post the responses in the order they are submitted. Dodd did not answer our questions, but emailed a general statement which we include below the individual questions. Parker did not respond.
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?
Shyamali Hauth: Anyone making less than $70k per year will have a very difficult, if not impossible, time finding truly affordable housing in Fairfax County. The threshold for the term ‘affordable’ is that it is 30% of your gross income. Many moderate and lower income families (like school teachers and government employees) are paying more than 30% of their income towards housing. We have a great need for housing for working families in addition to the needs for those who are currently unhoused or in danger of losing their housing.
We need a multi-pronged approach to the housing crisis in the area. Immediate shelter, intermediary (transition) housing, and then safe affordable housing all need to be expanded. The county has made great strides but there is much more that needs to be done. I would like to see policy changes that allow for a broader range of housing options and choices, thereby providing the most reasonably priced housing. I am a strong advocate of S.M.A.R.T. housing (Safe, Mixed Income, Accessible, Reasonably priced, Transit oriented) that also addresses environmental sustainability.
Parker Messick: I think those who work hourly wage jobs have the hardest time finding housing that is affordable to them. Particularly for millennials who grew up in this area. For many who were raised here they are not able to afford to move out of the parents homes. Some consider leaving the community or the region altogether as they can’t afford to stay in such an expensive area. People who grow up here should have the opportunity to stay and contribute if they so desire. I will aggressively negotiate with developers to see that percentage of affordable housing units in new developments increases from the current average.
Walter Alcorn: Anyone making less than 100% of AMI will have a difficult time finding housing in Fairfax County. Anyone making less than 60% AMI will not be able to find affordable housing.
Addressing this problem requires innovative approaches on multiple fronts. First, Fairfax County should implement the land use reforms developed in 2017 by an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee subcommittee of citizen activists, housing advocates and developers - a group I pulled together and chaired. These reforms provide a roadmap for getting a significant number of new affordable units without upsetting residential neighborhoods. Additional funding is also needed to beyond the half cent budgeted for preservation in FY 2020, and I support dedicating 2 cents to preservation and creation of affordable housing.
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?
Shyamali Hauth: Absolutely! Reston is a role model for this concept. I strongly believe that socio-economically integrated communities create climates of inclusion and help the entire community to prosper. The transition needs to be approached with care to ensure community buy-in and planned progress towards inclusive and diverse communities.
Parker Messick: Assuming the other Supervisors allow the Hunter Mill District to choose its own path when it comes to development, I do not think it would be my place to tell them how their districts should develop. That said having people from various economic backgrounds has been a strength for the Hunter Mill District. I would encourage my fellow supervisors to view economic diversity as a strength and not something to be afraid of. This is of course assuming any of the new board members have reservations about housing diversity.
Walter Alcorn: Reston constitutes about half of the Hunter Mill District’s population, and Reston is a model of successful housing diversity that should be emulated in other parts of Fairfax County. However, the failed zoning ordinance amendment on SROs in 2016 is a good lesson on the need for some level of political savvy when championing affordable housing reforms.
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?
Shyamali Hauth: Recently there has been a lot of very rapid development without ensuring adequate infrastructure and support services. I believe if we address these issues and communicate well with the residents we can incorporate reasonably priced housing in the Hunter Mill District.
Parker Messick: Affordable housing is a major issue throughout all of Fairfax County. The Hunter Mill District is no exception. That said much of the Hunter Mill District is crying out for a different direction on the issue of development. I would work with developers to see that smaller scale buildings that are built begin to have larger amounts of affordable housing units. There are certainly ways for developers to make a profit off of non high rise development while simultaneously including affordable housing units. Hunter Mill wants more affordable housing, but Reston and Vienna do not want to sacrifice their original design and goals in order to achieve it.
Walter Alcorn: New development should be focused around transit with inclusionary zoning and planning policies to assure generation of affordable housing in transit station areas.
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?
Shyamali Hauth: We must address climate change. Bold decisions will need to be made if we are to have a livable planet. Moving to walkable and transit-accessible communities is one tool to help us do this. In Vienna, we can make the Maple Avenue corridor more walkable and transit friendly. In Reston, we already have the Silver line coming through, but we need to address walkability around the stations as well as lighting and walkable paths around our Village Centers. Working collaboratively with the business community we can increase transit from the Village Centers to the Metro stations.
Parker Messick: I think the Hunter Mill District needs to be walkable and safe to do so. Many within the community, desire increased amounts of sidewalks and more lighting to help illuminate those that already exist. As supervisor I work to see those wishes implemented in the Hunter Mill District. However, I will make sure not to install lighting that will negatively affect nearby neighborhoods. Within Hunter Mill I would focus these efforts in Reston, as Vienna is autonomous when comes to deciding much of the policy governing the town.
Walter Alcorn: I chaired the Planning Commission’s Tysons Committee which oversaw development of comprehensive plan language that ultimately won the American Planning Association’s Burnham Award as the top comprehensive plan for 2010. This trend is also reflected in adopted plan language for Reston’s transit areas, and the trend towards walkable, transit-accessible communities should continue.
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).
Shyamali Hauth: My top three transportation priorities are to reduce congestion on roads, ensure planned projects are funded and move up start dates where needed, and increase accessibility and usability of alternate modes of transportation (i.e., walk, bike, public transit). All of these priorities will help reduce commute times, create a better quality of life for our residents, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Funding sources include re-apportioning monies, garnering resources from the state, and building collaborative partnerships. I do not advocate creating more toll roads to pay for transportation concerns. Our constituents already have an extraordinarily high cost of living.
Parker Messick: My three top transportation priorities for the Hunter Mill District are, upgrading and expanding our road systems, working to ease the burden of traffic from Tyson’s on Vienna, and reverting back roads that lost lanes to bike lanes to their previous status to ease traffic tensions. For much of this I will work with our State Senators, State Delegates, and VDOT to see that these changes can be implemented to shorten commute times for the people of Hunter Mill.
Walter Alcorn: 1. Spot improvements for failing intersections that currently require multiple light changes to traverse, and to remove vehicle conflicts with pedestrians at these intersections - paid for by contributions already committed by developers and transportation bond referendum proceeds.
2. Improved trail and sidewalk connections, particularly leading to transit and job centers - paid for by developer contribution funds, federal transportation grants and park/transportation bond proceeds.
3. WMATA competitiveness. With ridesharing and additional mobility systems disruptions inevitable, metro needs to re-orient its approach to a more competitive posture to attract riders or risk becoming an even bigger financial burden on governments in the DC region. Cost and revenue for this initiative TBD.
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?
Shyamali Hauth: First of all, Fairfax County should adopt Vision Zero. We can and should do better by our residents and visitors. There are various reasons for the high mortality and accident rate throughout the county. In some areas, adequate pedestrian crossings are not available. In other areas, there is insufficient lighting, making walking, biking and even driving, unsafe. In some locations a pedestrian scramble or diagonal crossing system might make more sense and increase safety. There needs to be a comprehensive plan to increase safety throughout the county.
Parker Messick: As supervisor, I would work with Fairfax DOT and VDOT to come up with solutions as to how to address the number of injuries on our roads. I trust that the amazing career workers for both will be able to come up with an array of solutions. As Supervisor I would do what I can within my power to help implement them, although ultimately this will in many ways be a job for Richmond to address given the nature of transportation policy in Virginia.
Walter Alcorn: I support the Vision Zero concept and would support adoption in Fairfax County. Although VDOT owns the roads in Fairfax County, VDOT has also shown a willingness to work with Fairfax County DOT on urban design standards in areas like Tysons. Such urban design standards and pedestrian mobility improvements - especially across roads separating low income neighborhoods with job centers - are needed to provide long-term solutions to this problem that is borne mostly by our most vulnerable residents.
General comments from Laurie Dodd: I support the trend towards walkable, transit-accessible communities. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one of my top priorities due to my concern for the climate crisis, which is the reason I own an electric car powered by solar panels on the roof of my home. It is also the main reason I favor improving public transit. I support the balance that Robert E. Simon struck in his initial design of Reston, which favors having dense development in some areas (like Reston’s transit service areas) while preserving open spaces and low density areas nearby (as in the planned residential areas). This mix of development densities also allows a mix of housing types, including affordable options. I support devoting additional funds and planning to affordable housing - both preserving what is already in place, and developing more affordable options. I have never taken campaign funds from real estate developers and never will, so I am concerned with developing strong communities rather than maximizing profits. I believe affordable housing is most beneficial to its residents and to the community when it is mixed in with market rate housing rather than concentrated in selected areas; however, high land costs lead to a difficult choice: more affordable units in lower-priced area, or fewer affordable units in higher-priced areas. As Supervisor, I aim to increase affordable housing in all parts of the county, taking guidance from Fairfax County residents as much as I can. The wealthiest county in the nation can afford to support affordable housing options.