On the November episode of the “Connect with County Leaders” podcast, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay discusses several topics, including COVID-19 and its effects on Fairfax County. McKay also talked about this year’s elections and the large voter turnout, social justice, Fairfax green initiatives, working with the school system and priorities for the Board of Supervisors in 2021, the second year of this board’s four-year term.
McKay spent a good portion of the podcast discussing COVID-19 and what that has meant to Fairfax County. “I’ve been so proud at the way in which to a person, people I’ve talked to in the county have responded to this pandemic. It just makes me so proud to be chairman during this tough time. But what will make me even more proud, is how we can turn this really tough year into an opportunity moving forward. And I think that’s really what is on my mind over the next couple years is building off of this into a more prosperous, better future for our residents.”
Excerpts from the podcast:
“I do really have to salute the election staff, the electoral board, all the folks who have been working for months, literally, on making sure that we could have an election that people could express their votes, and in a way that recognizes we’re sitting here in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. The election was different than any other year before. I mean, if you think about this, we had more satellite locations opened and more neighborhoods than ever, in Fairfax County. We had brand new laws in Virginia, that our electoral board and election workers had to respond to, like drop off ballot boxes, we’ve never had those before. No excuse advanced voting, we’ve never had that before. No witness signature requirement, we’ve never had that before.
Balancing a COVID-19 Response with the Ongoing Governance of the County
“We have great leaders on this board, chairing various committees that we’ve stood up, we remain dedicated to the core values that many of us got elected with. And those are protecting the environment and dealing with our climate crisis. Those are increasing our stock of affordable housing, making sure that we maintain our triple A bond rating, making sure that we continue to be a place where businesses want to come and invest, a community that is the safest of our jurisdiction in the nation. We’ve been aggressively responding to every element of this pandemic, while at the same time, making sure that we advance the issues that are so important to our community, and Fairfax, and so important to our stakeholders.”
On Fairfax County’s Response to COVID-19
“I would characterize it as measured, as aggressive and sophisticated. And, I say those for a lot of reasons. For one, we immediately put a lot of resources, time and effort into our Health Department. We have the most sophisticated Health Department in the state and by a mile. And we said, that’s not enough in a pandemic, we want to hire hundreds of contact tracers to aggressively deal with this issue. We want to aggressively test people in our community; over 10,000 tests a week is routine now. Then clearly, our business community, our families in the county are suffering a great deal, and so putting tens of millions of dollars into small business grants through the RISE grant program has literally saved a lot of our small businesses in this county.”
On Social Justice and Equal Opportunity
“The goal here is never to diminish the success of other parts of the county. The goal really is how do you look at those areas of the county that don’t have some of those same opportunities? And how do we build them up? How do we make sure that the decisions we make are uplifting all corners of the county, and to me, that is social justice, it is making sure that all people have a chance to succeed, and that governments and communities put in place infrastructure in a fair balanced way that doesn’t leave any portion of our population behind. We as a nation, have to do a better job making sure that we’re lifting all people up.”
Fairfax County’s Green Initiatives
“We’ve introduced 33 energy-related action items for county staff to advance more quickly in this last year. We’re going through a Zmod process update, or zoning ordinance and provide better incentives for green initiatives in our zoning ordinance, whether that’s supporting electrical vehicle, charging infrastructure or solar projects. We also have put in place a lot of these same initiatives with the schools, who own a lot of our buildings, as well. You’re not going to get to net zero energy without robust solar power initiatives. And so we have the largest solar power initiative in the entire state, in Fairfax County with our combined school and county buildings. When we talk about our Fairfax green initiatives, we’re talking about a comprehensive collection of aggressive plans and policies that the county has put in place, or is working on putting in place, to aggressively confront climate change. And I think when this board is done, we’ll look back on this first term, when this board is done, I think we will have by far the most aggressive climate solutions, initiatives anywhere in the state and maybe in most parts of the country.”