Mount Vernon Matters

37th Annual Town Meeting Details the State of Mount Vernon District

Mt. Vernon Supervisor Dan Storck opens the District’s 37th Town Meeting. (All photos: Steve Hunt)

By Steve Hunt

Alexandria, VA – Mount Vernon Supervisor Dan Storck kicked off the 37th Annual Mount Vernon Town Meeting on Feb. 11 at Mount Vernon High School, describing it as an “opportunity to connect” for district residents to hear from and ask questions of their elected officials, Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill on county priorities, and hear from education experts — along with riding along with Storck as he “piloted” a helicopter ride during a “Virtual Flying Tour” of the district from Lorton to Huntington.

Following his welcome to those in attendance at the school’s Little Theater, speakers including Hill were U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11), the State Senate’s new majority leader Sen. Scott Surovell (D-34), State Del. Paul Krizek (D-16) who represents the majority portion of the district, newly elected Fairfax County School Board member Mateo Dunne (Mount Vernon), Northern Virginia Community College Provost Dr. Diane Mucci, and two former FCPS school board members who previously represented Mount Vernon, Karen Corbett Sanders and Kris Amundson (Surovell’s current chief of staff in Richmond). Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay could not attend this year due to a positive Covid test.

Storck presents a Route 1 emblem to former School Board Chair and Mt. Vernon member Karen Corbett Sanders. From left, Storck, Corbett Sanders, U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly, Del. Paul Krizek, and longtime former Mt. Vernon Supervise Gerry Hyland
U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly

During Storck’s welcome, he recognized Mount Vernon Lord and Lady Shirley Short (a longtime volunteer at the Mount Vernon supervisor’s office and Ron Fitzsimmons, the founder of a local nonprofit, Alice’s Kids.

Storck presented Corbett Sanders with flowers and a large “Route 1” sign commending her for her service on the school board following his and her community service, such as her work on the Original Mount Vernon High School transformation into a community and educational center.

Rep. Connolly spoke about “the critical moment in our country” where unresolved questions persist in Congress, such as “Are we going to keep the government open, which creates uncertainty?” and noting that the previous 117th Congress “was the most productive since LBJ was in the White House.”

Connolly, a former chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, took pride in the fact that he had been named the most effective legislator in Congress and that under Democratic leadership, Congress had passed the biggest infrastructure bill in U.S. history.

“Now with Congress under new management” Republicans spent six weeks on electing a new Speaker and working to try to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas for “frivolous reasons,” Connelly said. He also pointed out that in this session, Congress has passed only 29 bills, half of which were to name post offices. “They’re fiddling while Rome burns,” he commented of House Republicans.

In conclusion, he commended the residents of the Mount Vernon District for their community spirit. He recognized local elected officials who are accountable to their constituents on mundane issues such as getting potholes repaired, saying local government “is where we get things done.”

Sen. Surovell noted the General Assembly has a new office facility and encouraged his constituents to “come down to Richmond” to meet with him and share their thoughts while the legislature is still in session.

Surovell said he has been disappointed in Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s efforts to cut income taxes for the wealthy while raising the sales tax, which will hurt low-income families, describing Youngkin’s plan as “totally unacceptable.”

Storck with Lord & Lady of Mt. Vernon, Shirley Short and Ron Fitzsimmons
State Del. Paul Krizek

On Youngkin’s proposal to eliminate the personal property tax on motor vehicles, Surovell noted that the governor “has no plans on how to replace it” and added that the car tax revenue to Fairfax County accounts for $3,500 per student towards the cost of educating FCPS pupils.

“That’s not going to be a thing,” he said, adding that Virginia is $7 billion behind on spending for schools across the Commonwealth and spends less per student than West Virginia.

In the state Senate, Surovell noted that 400 bills are already being considered, with “300 more to go in the next three days. Among them are several firearms bills, including “a ban on AR-15 assault-style rifles,” which drew applause from the audience.

Speaking about the Town Meeting started 37 years ago by Hyland, Surovell said he’s spoken with legislators who do not host these types of events in their communities around the state. “They think we’re weird,” he commented.

Del. Krizek commented that while the U.S. Congress has a two-year session to pass legislation, “we do it in two months” during the annual General Assembly sessions.

For this session, Krizek said he has at least 15 bills to be carried over to the Senate, including a bill of particular import to him to protect mobile home developments on the Richmond Highway corridor from being razed by private developers and displacing low-income families with a possible solution that the county purchasing the mobile home parks to allow them to remain in their homes.

Another piece of legislation he supports is to raise the minimum wage in Virginia to $15 per hour over the next two years.

In his remarks, school board member Mateo, who could not stay for the entire town meeting due to a school board commitment, said that while Fairfax County has “incredible schools,” it also faces “incredible challenges,” including restoring trust in public schools.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure Fairfax County Public Schools is the best in Virginia and the entire world,” he said, adding that the school district has been “underfunded for decades,” especially in the case of special education where the burden has fallen on county taxpayers instead of the federal government where it belongs.

Mt. Vernon School Board member Mateo Dunne
Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell

Regarding the school superintendent’s request for an increase of $250 million from the county for this year’s FCPS budget, Mateo described it as unrealistic, noting that it would amount to a 10-cent increase on the residential property tax rate. He said that his goal is to ensure the school system gets a maximum return on its investment, and he is looking forward to the opportunity to make sure funds are spent efficiently.

In addition, Mateo said he is working to ensure that FCPS teachers “get the compensation they deserve.” Before departing, he encouraged residents to reach out to him with concerns about the schools, even going so far as to give out his personal cell number.

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