The shutdown of the federal government this week sheds more light on the gridlock gripping both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
There was a time when Senators and Representatives set aside partisan differences, found some agreement, and worked together to resolve issues. I had the great good fortune to be a Senate staffer in the late 1960s and 70s when some landmark legislation was being passed – civil rights laws, the Higher Education Act, the Cooper-Church Amendment, which limited the power of the president in foreign wars. In those days, members of Congress actually liked and respected each other, their families lived here and socialized together, and the congressional schedule was built around the work that had to get done, not trips home every weekend.
While Congress continues its Kabuki drama, the effect of sequestration and complete shutdown already is being felt in the region. In Virginia, sales tax receipts are down, as many residents are reluctant to purchase anything other than necessities for daily living. Government contractors, large and small, are re-assessing their need for staff, as federal contracts cease or are delayed. Likewise, they are re-assessing their need for office space, leaving some buildings vacant, or not expanding the space they have. Local property tax revenues and forecasts are affected. Next year’s biennial state budget, which relies on the state income taxes everyone pays to Richmond, also will be affected, presenting serious revenue challenges to whomever is elected governor of Virginia next month.
As usual, local governments will be expected to pick up the slack. Working with non-profit organizations, local governments create a fragile safety net for families in need. Some volunteer-run community organizations, like the Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA), raise money to help people with one-time rental assistance, utility bills, and emergency medical needs. ACCA also runs a food pantry, and a furniture ministry. Northern Virginia Family Services connects people with counseling, job training, and a myriad of human services. Just Neighbors helps immigrant families document their status for services, among other services. Big ticket items, like health care, housing, and transportation, are provided through Fairfax County. Working together, like Congress did decades ago, our Fairfax County community is focused on helping everyone succeed. To find out how you can help, check with your faith community, or log on to www.volunteerfairfax.org. Dollars may be short, but spirit is in abundant supply.
It’s never too early to put a fun activity on your calendar. All Fairfax County Fire Stations are planning to host Open Houses, focused on kitchen safety, on Saturday, October 12, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Bring the family to Station 8 (Annandale), 10 (Bailey’s Crossroads), 18 (Jefferson), 23 (West Annandale), 26 (Edsall Road), or 28 (Fort Buffalo/Seven Corners) to meet fire and rescue personnel, watch fire safety demonstrations, explore fire apparatus, and enjoy some surprises!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.