“A vision for our community, our state and our world.”
Objective: To make Fairfax County and the Commonwealth of Virginia a leader in job creation, new ideas and sustainable living.
Background: Virginia is the birthplace of a great nation. Our state has been the home of national leaders from colonial times to the present.
Virginians were able to accomplish great things for one reason – generations past invested in the future. To prepare for our 21st century future, we need a vision.
Below are some of the issues we face. Resolving them is not a Democrat or Republican issue. Rather, let’s resolve these issues by asking: how will our actions impact our children and our children’s children?
Problem: Fairfax County is home to 1.1 million residents and over five hundred thousand jobs. Commuting to work or just driving to the mall can literally take hours. That congestion also causes emissions ruinous to our air quality. You cannot “solve” traffic congestion as our area will always have traffic due to our dense population and record of job creation. But how do you manage it?
Solution: Improvements to our Transportation System: We live in an urban county. That means providing safe and reliable transit options for travel to work and leisure. We took major steps in 2011 to improve our transportation network by approving SB 1446, the 2011 Transportation Bill, which funded improvements to I-66, the Fairfax County Parkway, Fair Lakes Parkway, Gallows Road and Route 50 and also created an “Infrastructure Bank” to match funds from local governments to improve our roads. In central and western Fairfax, here are some common-sense improvements we can accomplish now:
(a) extending commuting options on the Rte 66 corridor, e.g. through the use of Bus Rapid Transit and other cost-effective modes, which remove vehicles from the highway,
(b) completing construction of the Beltway HOT Lanes, as well as interchanges at I-495 and I-66 in order to relieve congestion at the region’s #1 chokepoint,
(c) improving the Virginia Railway Express and METRO systems by increasing the trains’ speed, frequency and reliability, and
(d) accelerating improvements on the County Parkway and other cross-County arterials through Federal and state funds already approved, i.e. through the 2011 transportation bond.
Improving Leadership Accountability: VDOT has an open system for giving information about their major projects: www.vamegaprojects.com. I’m proud of their record in completing projects on-budget and on-time, such as the Springfield Mixing Bowl (completed in 2008) and the HOT Lanes (scheduled for completion in 2013). By contrast, I was unhappy with the performance of the METRO system over the past 2-3 years and so I voted to change the Virginia leadership in 2011. We need more professional expertise running our major transit agencies.
Moving Freight from Trucking to Rail: New road construction is not the only answer – we need new modal capability. For example, we need a state policy moving inter-state freight traffic from our highways to our railways. This simple step alone will do more to eliminate regional traffic congestion than a new Metro line or highway.
Reducing Personal Vehicle Trips: We also need state incentives for telecommuting, car-pooling, mixed use development (where residents walk to work and shopping), and land use taxation credits which discourages sprawl and encourage redevelopment of older, blighted communities. Creating and maintaining “slug lanes” and commuter parking lots is one easy way to do this. Reducing personal vehicle trips reduces traffic.
Using Technology to Improve Traffic Flow: Finally, better information management allows us all to make better decisions about commuting. Wiring up VDOT’s traffic cameras in Fairfax County and permitting a “live feed” onto the Internet will allow residents to review local traffic conditions – before they drive. Using dynamic message boards on our highways also allows commuters to make smart decisions and avoid wasting time in gridlock.
Problem: Fairfax County has already begun to recover from the 2007-2009 recession which caused our County to lose jobs and created falling real estate values. We are coming back, but we need forward-thinking policies to maintain that balanced growth.
Solution: Nurturing New Technologies: We have a history of creating jobs in northern Virginia through the use of new technologies. For example, the Internet boom of the 1990’s nearly tripled land values in Fairfax. The next big technology is probably being developed right now. I strongly support targeted credits for innovative industries, as well as “wet labs” and specially-designed office spaces, which can match new technologies with our research capabilities at George Mason University.
Keeping Business Taxes Low: Virginia is historically a low-tax state compared to our neighbors, especially for payroll and property taxes. Keeping this status is especially important for small businesses, which operate on the margin and pay taxes from their operating revenues.
Encouraging Business Start-Ups: Most workers in northern Virginia are employed by businesses with less than 50 employees. Virginia’s “one stop” business licensing system, which I patroned, allows a new business to obtain a business license, register for sales tax, and register its vehicles all at one time and at one desk. Cutting down on time and money lost to compliance helps business leaders focus on their customers.
Focusing Development in Existing Nodes: One of our biggest challenges has been the BRAC restricting which caused nearly 86,000 Federal workers to change job locations. In northern Virginia, this short-sighted policy has wasted a lot of taxpayer money. In creating new jobs, we should focus on development of spaces with existing infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewer. This not only is smart growth, it will also deal with our existing commercial vacancies.
Creating Federal Partnerships: The Federal government must pay for the costs it created through BRAC. Over the longer term, our area will grow by pursuing partnerships with the Federal government, e.g. by seeking research grants through our universities or through state agencies such as VITA. The Federal government will always be the #1 job creator in our area. Our state government should always be focused on improving this relationship.
Creating International Partnerships: Nearly 25% of our County’s population was born outside the U.S. That is astounding. This connection gives us institutional knowledge about dealing with foreign companies, especially in the Pacific Rim. We can capitalize on this knowledge by creating partnerships through our colleges and universities to exchange students and create profitable links. We also need to have policies which favor immigrants with capital to invest in the U.S.
Problem: Our community, our state and our nation are dependent on fossil fuels, largely imported from foreign nations – many of which are under anti-American regimes. Meanwhile prices continue to rise at the pump.
Solution: Developing Alternative Energy: We must develop the next generation of alternative energy products in Virginia. That means economic incentives at the production and retail levels for alternative “clean” energies like bio-diesel, natural gas, hydrogen and cellulosic ethanol. Developing these fuels makes sense environmentally and economically. It also means opening the doors to new technology by geothermal, which should be regulated as “energy” products – not through archaic agricultural laws.
Creating Markets for Alternative Energy: We should mandate use of domestic fuels at the state level to create markets and thus raise demand. Eventually, we should require “clean fuels” to be available at the pump; otherwise consumers will not have access to them. Developing and promoting alternative fuels can marry the energy needs of Fairfax with downstate agricultural resources. It is a “win-win” for all.
Improve Utility Performance: Today’s power companies are slow to adopt new technologies unless they are pushed in that direction by state law and the State Corporation Commission. Yet new technologies adopted by our utilities will create both job opportunities and develop technologies that will last for generations. We can:
(a) manage demand through the utilities to limit wasteful overuse of energy, e.g. by placing “smart meters” in offices and residences,
(b) require utilities through “net metering’ to purchase power from end users who are self-sufficient in creating their own power,
(c) encourage existing coal-burning power plants to capture and sequester carbon output,
(d) establish a realistic benchmark for renewable energy like solar, wind, and geothermal part our energy portfolio,
(e) encourage the use of off-shore wind power where possible as a “peaker” assets to add to our existing grid.
Fuel Efficiency: More efficient cars means less need for and less dependence on foreign oil. I support tax credits for high-efficiency hydrogen and electric-powered vehicles, as well as the authority for ‘hybrid” vehicles in our HOV lanes.
Problem: A significant portion of our household budgets and our governmental budgets are dedicated to rising energy costs. Without a competitive energy market, how can we cut costs and save tax dollars?
Solution: “Green” Building Standards: There are nationally recognized standards called “LEED” (Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design) that are changing the way we construct buildings. The Green Building Council has them on their website at www.usgbc.org. These standards do more than just save energy – they save money in the long term. Using LEED standards for new construction saves thousands of dollars in energy costs. These eco-friendly technologies, which trap and store heat, will create jobs by creating a new niche in the housing market.
Using New Standards: At the state and local level in Virginia, we should implement tax breaks to encourage new residential construction which reduces energy waste. Eventually, we should seek to change behavior so that all new housing is mandated to use energy efficient standards – just like all new construction must comply with handicap accessibility. New standards will do more than just save energy. They will also create new products for the housing industry which can lead to more jobs.
Establishing a “Cool Commonwealth”: The state should lead by example – newly constructed government buildings (from college dormitories to DMV centers) should be required to follow the LEED standards. Let’s be the “Cool Commonwealth.” This will not just save energy – it will also save taxpayer dollars.
Using Technology to Create Jobs: PACE programs (“property assessed clean energy”) allow local governments to loan money for energy-saving home improvements and finance the program through third party investors. These programs will upgrade homes. They also create jobs for local contractors.