F.C. Doesn’t Need to Change Into Another Ballston
For the last few years, I have been reading all these discussions and editorials about our city’s commercial development, but it seems to me that these discussions are going around in a circle: on the one hand, keeping a good school system and maintaining low residential taxes – both goals need money from commercial tax income; on the other hand, commercial development will destroy the little city’s characteristics.
Well, how about we find a way to kill two birds with one stone? For instance, come up with an historical theme for the City’s characteristics: a small but attractive historical town with small street front shops to attract local people and tourists: think of a mini-Williamsburg, an east coast Camel, a college town type of little city, with historical museums, workshops, restaurants…etc. After all, we are one of the oldest towns in Virginia. The old photos CVS post on its wall on West Broad St is an examples. Let the City Schools be involved which will also motivate the students. Once the citizens are warmed up to the idea and see the benefits of it, we can even hire a professional firm to work out a 10 – 20 year plan.
We have the advantages of good location, easy transportation, houses still retain historical characters. We don’t want to be changed to another Ballston or Bethesda, so we need new ideas and a good plan.
Cites Cases of Failed Water Privatization Efforts
Q. What do Stockton and Felton, Calif., Laredo, Tex., East Cleveland and Atlanta have in common?
A. Failed water privatization experiments. Some cities paid more than their selling price or incurred litigation to buy back their water systems within years of selling them to private companies. In other cities, the private buyer backed out after finding it could not make a profit. Unhappy experiences with privatization included higher rates, a decline in service, and negative environmental impacts. In Lexington, Ken., a private company spent at least $2.71 million to defeat a citizen initiative to buy back the city’s water system. A water company consultant and a former mayor were convicted of giving and receiving bribes in the East Cleveland case.
Before rushing to sell Falls Church’s water delivery system, City Council members and candidates should read up on the record of water delivery privatization in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Thus far, I hear none of the real-world experience with water privatization reflected in our City Council members’ and candidates’ statements. The prevailing view seems instead to be very narrowly focused and short-term: we can turn a quick profit by selling off a “non-performing asset.” This creates an impression that there is no alternative to a sale. The city’s water delivery ran a profit until an earlier Council brought an ill-advised and ultimately costly lawsuit against Fairfax Water. Therefore the city must find an alternative profit source by selling off its water system, runs the logic. This kind of management approach would be called “asset stripping” if a private company’s managers were doing it.
Let’s keep in mind that beyond the short-term profit, the decision is about who will manage the city’s water delivery for decades – or until we buy it back. We elect and appoint city officials to ensure the efficient and economical provision of essential public services like water delivery, public schools and the police department. Does each of these need to turn a profit?
Many people assume a priori that private management will be more efficient and economical than public administration in every case, including water delivery. Real-world experience is different.
‘Ped-Bike’ Plan Has ‘Unintended Consequences’
The law of unintended consequences is that actions of people and governments always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. The latest example of the law in action is the city’s “ped-bike plan.”
The plan comprehensively collects information about safety and transportation conditions in the city, identifies needed improvements, and provides a framework for prioritizing future work. It states general goals that, we think, most people in the city can support in principle.
Had the plan stopped there, pending a thorough, active public vetting process, a great deal of anger and frustration on the part of citizens like us could have been avoided. But that’s not what happened. Instead, the plan contains what appear to be finalized implementation plans, some of which if carried out, would have highly adverse and grossly unfair effects on property owners, including the complete elimination of on-street parking in entire neighborhoods in favor of dedicated bicycle lanes. Further, the plan was scheduled for a rocket-docket Council vote in May.
We are grateful to Mayor Baroukh for attending a heated community meeting last week, listening to and understanding the validity of our concerns, and promising not to support any plan that eliminates street parking used by residents. We’ll be looking for the support of the rest of the Council, as well, to table their vote and direct city staff to recall the plan, fix it, and involve the impacted property owners and all interested parties in finalizing the plan and its implementation.
Roger and Linda Neighborgall
Ashamed that Older Generation Can’t Envision Change
We attended the public hearing April 19 on Falls Church City’s proposed Pedestrian, Bicycle and Traffic Calming Strategic Implementation Plan. We were impressed by the staff and citizen volunteers’ strategic and thoughtful work for to develop policy and grant base for safe bike-walking routes to schools, parks and downtown. But we were distressed that the meeting was shanghaied by a large group of residents from Hillwood and Lincoln streets who apparently thought the plan threatened their right to park on those streets.
There definitely was a communication disconnect between the planning effort and potentially impacted residents. I am sure the staff and advisory committee worked hard to engage residents, evidenced by some 800 comments they received. However, I think most citizens are busy with their own life/work and rarely pay attention to news releases, websites, emails, or surveys until they feel personally impacted. More distressingly, city staff and detractors were almost speaking different languages—staff assurances about “process” and “dialogue” failed to address residents’ anger, fear and distrust of government. To his credit, Mayor Baroukh spoke up and said he would extend time to consider the plan if that was needed to address people’s concern.
However, philosophically we found it distressing that so many from our age group (50s-60s) were focused on preserving automobile-based privileges and showed little interest in attempts to manage a future for our grandchildren who most likely will be utilizing different transportation. Our grandparents did not begin with the automobile. It is amazing that in two generations we have decided this particular technology is our permanent entitlement, have redesigned our entire economy around it, and rail against any plans to include alternate future transportation. I am very disappointed in my generation. It is a perfect metaphor of our short sightedness and selfishness to watch a crowd of middle-aged people focused on convenient parking for their cars while a high school student expresses concern for safe biking and the future we are leaving for his generation. For the record, we heartily support the Ped-Bike plan and hope for a future where students can bike safely to school in Falls Church City and reduce traffic jams around schools from “Parents Arriving with Students”.
Cindy and David Chojnacky
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