Walkinshaw reflects on a crazy first year as Braddock District supervisor - Vaccinations now open to those ages 65 and up - County urges residents to avoid D.C. during Inauguration
Man robbed in Wakefield Park - Canterbury Woods Swim Team hosts paper shredding fundraiser
Welcome to Braddock Buzz, where we hope everyone takes a minute today to reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., who said these words as he accepted the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” Reach out to us with news, tips, feedback, and more at email@example.com.
Big thanks to our sponsor, Realtor Jennifer Mack, whose column today looks at what buyers are doing to make their offers more attractive amid the current seller’s market. If you’re thinking about buying or selling—or just have a question about real estate—reach out to Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Today, Fairfax County opens up vaccine registrations to those 65 and older and people ages 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions. More than 40,000 people registered for vaccines last week with the county Health Department, which is now urging patience as demand greatly outpaces supply. It “may take months” to vaccinate priority groups, county officials explained in a blog post.
So far, the county has administered 37,276 vaccine doses—an increase of 16,482 from a week ago—and 3,681 people are now fully vaccinated with two doses, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard. This is a fraction of a percent of the county’s more than 1.1 million people.
Meanwhile, the county is urging residents to avoid traveling into D.C. for Wednesday’s presidential inauguration because of the pandemic and fears of violence. Some Metro stations, bus routes, roads, and bridges will be closed for much of the week as officials try to enforce a security perimeter around much of downtown D.C.
“Sadly, the terror that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was not a contained or isolated incident and there is continued concern that similar violence is an ongoing threat to Americans and our democracy,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay. “With this danger, coupled with increasing COVID-19 cases in our region, I ask that our residents do their best to avoid the downtown area of Washington D.C. and to stay home in the days leading up to and on Inauguration Day itself.”
Walkinshaw Interview, Part I
The Braddock District supervisor reflects on pandemic, his first year in office
Below is the first of a two-part conversation with Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw. Today, he discusses the pandemic, his crazy first year in office, and the county’s legislative priorities for Congress and the General Assembly. Tune in next week for Part II, which will touch on marijuana legalization, the county’s search for a new police chief, the Canterbury Woods trash petition, and more.
The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Supervisor Walkinshaw. Let’s start with the pandemic. How are you feeling about the pace of vaccinations so far and what’s being done to address the issues people are having with scheduling?
Like everyone across the country, and here, I'm impatient and frustrated with the pace. It's such a convoluted system that has been developed by the federal government in terms of how the vaccines will be administered. The county government—we have a very specific and relatively narrow responsibility in terms of who we are vaccinating and who we aren't.
I've been very frustrated at the slow distribution of the vaccine to long-term care facilities. As you know, that program is being run through CVS and Walgreens, so the county isn’t really involved in that. That has been going on for weeks and has taken far too long. We have long-term care facilities in the county where we're now hearing it's going to be several weeks before CVS and Walgreens can get to them. That piece is frustrating.
Earlier this month, Friday the 8th, we got the news from the governor that we could start vaccinating folks who are in the “1b” category. So, 75 and older and some other essential worker categories. We had to scramble to be ready to start that process on Monday morning, and it was a frustrating day on Monday. Thousands of calls came in—pretty much all at the same time, understandably. Everyone wanted to call and get in the queue to get vaccinated, and the call center was overwhelmed and overloaded. We had to scramble to set up the online registration. I'm disappointed we didn't have the online registration ready to go at 9 a.m. on Monday morning. I think that would have solved a lot of the problem and avoided a lot of the stress and anxiety.
Once the online registration was up and running, the vast majority of people were successful in going through the pre-screening, getting their information in, and now are waiting for their appointment. So, at this point, the constraint is just the amount of vaccine that we receive. We're scheduling appointments as we receive vaccines from the Virginia Department of Health. So I think the process is moving now.
Q: When do you see us getting back to what we used to consider normal?
I think spring or summer—I think we're on track to do that. Enough people will have received their doses of the vaccine in conjunction with the weather warming up, and cold weather does seem to have an impact in terms of virus transmission. I think those two things happening at the same time this spring and summer will put us very close to normal. That's my hope. I share everyone's frustration. I want to get back out there and see people and get back to normal life also.
Q: One of the most disruptive factors has been school closures. Are you confident we can get teachers vaccinated this month, and do you think schools should re-open to in-person instruction next month?
We have a partnership with Inova Health System to vaccinate teachers. Whether it's a month or two months, I don't know the answer to that. I certainly think we are on a path to opening in-person education in a matter of months. I think it will be early-to-mid this year, and I think we have a good process in place.
Q: Let’s step back for a minute. You’ve now been in your job just a little over a year, which happens to have coincided with a global pandemic and historic unrest across the country. Can you reflect on what the past year has been like for you?
I feel like I've had two separate jobs this year—one pre-covid and one post-covid. So that's a frustration because I was really looking forward this year to going out and meeting people and visiting every civic association that I possibly could so people could get a chance to see me and I could hear from them. I was able to do some of that virtually, but it's not quite the same.
And then, it's been a challenging year just to know that so many folks in our community have been hurting and struggling, either because they lost someone who's close to them or lost their job, had their hours cut back, or are struggling with the mental health issues that come with the isolation we've seen, especially older folks. It's been tough to see and hear that.
On the other hand, I feel enormously privileged to be in this job at a time when I've been able to see our collective community's response to the challenge. Our “Stuff the Bus” food drives—we collected record amounts of food for ECHO and other food pantries. Seeing folks in their neighborhood who are organizing their own events—getting groceries for their older neighbors, helping each other, donating, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Eagle Scouts—all the things that people have done, it's been just really gratifying to see that. While it's been a terrible year, and I have been witness to a lot of the suffering that people are going through, it's also been an amazing year in terms of the resilience of the Braddock District and the way that we've come together.
Q: What will be your top priority for year two?
One obviously is, as you've noted, doing what we need to do to get back to normal. So, pushing with urgency for vaccine distribution, supporting the School Board and school system in their efforts to re-open in-person learning, and then making sure that we recover economically and that those in the county who have lost their jobs are able to find new ones.
Q: In terms of the economic recovery, you chair the Board of Supervisors Legislative Committee. What’s the top thing you’d like to see out of Congress?
Additional stimulus. There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm around an additional stimulus payment, a direct payment, of $2,000 to people. I think that's great. Clearly those stimulus payments have helped prop up our local economy and others across the country. I also hope the next round of stimulus will include direct support for state and local governments to help plug some of the holes that we have all experienced due to covid. I'm in close contact with our congressional delegation, especially Congressman Connolly, who represents the Braddock District.
Q: What’s the top thing you’d like to see out of the General Assembly?
From the state budget perspective, our priority is making sure that there aren't any cuts in state education funding to localities, especially here in Northern Virginia. I think so far we've been successful there, but that's something we'll be watching over the course of the session.
FCPS released this photo, taken by Karen Bolt, showing the first day of vaccinations for teachers on Saturday at a clinic operated by Inova. “The clinics will last for the next three weeks and it is anticipated that all staff who choose to be vaccinated will be able to receive both doses through these Inova clinics,” said FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell.
Man robbed in Wakefield Park: Some scary news for anyone who, like us, regularly uses the Accotink Creek Cross Country Trail: A man was robbed on the trail last Saturday, Jan. 9, near Braddock Road. Here’s how the Fairfax County Police Department described the incident in its weekly crime roundup:
8100 block of Braddock Road, 1/9/21, 10:30 a.m. A man was walking on a path when he was approached by two men who threatened him with shears, demanded property and ran away after taking cash. No injuries were reported.
A social media post shared on neighborhood Facebook groups and listservs offered more detail. “An elderly friend of mine who is also a biker was robbed by 2 masked men Saturday morning at 10am as he was walking on the trail from Accotink to Wakefield,” the post said. “Was just north of Braddock rd. in Wakefield park. They both pulled knives and threatened to kill him if he didn't give them all his cash. He complied and wasn't hurt.”
Tuesday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m.: The Braddock District Land Use and Environment Committee holds a virtual meeting. Dial-in details are here.
Monday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m.: Supervisor Walkinshaw holds a virtual community meeting to discuss the Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, or zMOD. A meeting link will be included in an upcoming advisory email from Walkinshaw’s office.
Saturday, Jan. 30, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.: The Canterbury Woods Swim Team hosts a paper shredding fundraiser in the pool parking lot. Bring any documents you need shredded—there’s a suggested $20 donation.
Thursday, Feb. 11, 7 p.m.: A community meeting will be held on the Long Branch Central Watershed Management Area Project. County officials will provide an update, solicit input about the watershed condition, discuss the work plan to be developed this spring, and introduce some of the project partners. Meeting link here.
Jennifer Mack column: How buyers are making their offers more attractive in a seller’s market
With our current low-inventory situation getting even more severe, you may be wondering what buyers are doing to make their offers stand out.
Of course, every house is different—but we’re seeing some really attractive terms being presented to sellers, especially for homes that are priced well, in good condition, and available for showings. Typically, offers are coming in within 3-4 days of a house being listed. Often, an offer is selected by the fourth or fifth day—and sometimes sooner.
Some buyers are even making “sight unseen” offers while a home is in "Coming Soon" status on MLS to try to lock in the home before others get to see it. The Multiple Listing Service rules state that showings are not allowed while a home is in “Coming Soon” status—which is intended to ensure everyone gets a fair shot. However, “sight unseen” offers are permitted and sometimes accepted if they’re compelling enough.
When offers do come in, we’re seeing prices escalate well above the list price in many cases. I know of a home currently pending in this area that escalated at least $45,000 above list price. Many offers are coming in with limited to zero contingencies. This means there is no home inspection and the offer is not contingent on an appraisal or getting final bank approval for a loan. Not having an appraisal contingency is one of the best scenarios for a seller because it means a buyer will not request a price reduction if the appraisal comes in lower than their offer price.
Limited contingencies give a seller peace of mind that their sale will most likely not fall through and they will not be asked for a credit based on inspection items or a low appraisal. In some events, a buyer is even willing to rent back the property to the seller for up to two months (more if the buyer is not getting a loan) so a seller has time to decide where they are moving and procure a property. These terms may seem too good to be true—but this is what happens when sellers have all the leverage.
Jennifer Mack has more than 15 years of experience in the real estate industry, with her team servicing Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. Contact her at email@example.com or by calling 703-672-0038.