At almost 1.2 million people, Fairfax County is the most populous jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia and in the Washington region — larger than DC and in fact any place closer than Philadelphia. The chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors, in essence the county’s leader, is an incredibly important and influential person.
On June 11, Democrats in Fairfax County will select a nominee to succeed Sharon Bulova for this role. We recommend Fairfax County voters choose current Lee District supervisor Jeff McKay.
Greater Greater Washington’s Elections Committee reviewed responses to our questionnaire to find candidates who will be able to promote transit and housing, and steer the county in an equitable direction. The chosen nominee will face Republican candidate Joseph Galdo in November.
We chose McKay for his institutional knowledge, years of experience as Supervisor of Lee District, and familiarity with county issues. He has served on numerous transportation boards for the county and state, including the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and WMATA Board of Directors, where he has been a consistent voice for better transit.
McKay has been a champion for the Embark Richmond Highway project, which would create Bus Rapid Transit in southeast Fairfax County and spur housing development along the important Route 1 corridor, which has seen less investment than the Dulles corridor at the other end of the county.
On affordable housing, McKay wrote in our questionnaire,
Finding affordable housing can be a challenge for everyone in our community, but it’s especially challenging for our extremely vulnerable population (such as those with disabilities and those battling homelessness) and immigrants who have just relocated to our area. As housing and rent costs continue to rise in Northern Virginia, we as a Board must do more to make housing affordable. As Chairman, I will prioritize both the creation and preservation of affordable housing through innovative land use decisions and in our County budget.
Affordable housing must exist near transit, near jobs, and throughout Fairfax County. It cannot and must not exist solely in one or two areas.
He also cited Lee District, which he currently represents, as having the most affordable housing in the county.
McKay also showed that he has a broader perspective on how the Embark Richmond Highway plan could be a blueprint for the rest of the county’s transit goals. Additionally, he supports adopting Vision Zero, as well as “road diets, lane diets, missing sidewalk links, pedestrian refuges, crosswalk additions, signal head installations, and more.”
Given the significance of the position, we feel McKay’s depth of experience will position him to lead the county most effectively.
We have been paying close attention to an ethics complaint initiated by one of McKay’s competitors. While all ethics allegations are important to investigate, thus far it doesn’t appear that something actually inappropriate has taken place. McKay has generally been on of the county’s cleanest officials, and while that doesn’t mean new revelations aren’t founded, in this case, it doesn’t appear they are based on what we know at the moment.
Alicia Plerhoples has added much to this race
While we are endorsing McKay, we also greatly appreciate Georgetown Law professor Alicia Plerhoples’ participation in this race. Besides being the only woman and the only person of color in the field, she had some excellent answers to some of our questions.
For instance, on housing she wrote,
As a child, I experienced housing instability and food insecurity, just as many hardworking families do today in Fairfax County. My family was evicted from our home after my father was fired from his job for standing up for his students. I spent some of my fourth-grade year living in unconventional housing (hotel and motel rooms) with my family. … Fairfax County will need to produce 15,000 units of housing affordable to households up to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) over the next fifteen years. …
We also need to address the fact that 82% of our residential land is zoned for single family homes. This encourages unaffordability. I support an analysis of the areas in Fairfax County that can be rezoned for the inclusion of duplexes, triplexes, and other multi-family unit housing to increase the supply of affordable housing.
Finally, we need to develop the county in a way that avoids gentrification and displacement of our most vulnerable populations. We need economic growth the benefits everyone in the county. For any revitalization efforts I will push for plans that result in no net loss of market affordable units.
This has been GGWash’s exact housing policy as well. In recent forums, she also expressed insight into how economic development is an imperative part of an equitable county that provides opportunities for low income residents and those who have been formerly incarcerated.
We avidly hope to see much more of Plerhoples in county or regional matters in the future.
Ryan McElveen has also distinguished himself with a nuanced awareness of the county’s educational challenges and how housing and transit problems within the county connect to increasing pressures on public services and community-based nonprofits to help residents.
Ultimately, McKay’s experience managing Fairfax County issues as a supervisor positions him best to push the county to build more affordable housing and implement more ambitious transit plans across the county. We are pleased to give him our endorsement and encourage Fairfax County voters to award him the nomination on June 11.
This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. All endorsements are decided by our volunteer Elections Committee with input from our staff, board, and other volunteer committees. Read all of our 2019 primary coverage and endorsements here.