Editorial: No Country for Old Bullies

April 17, 2013 7:48 PM5 comments

It was the darkest hour in our 22 years covering local government in the City of Falls Church. Tuesday’s F.C. City Council work session discussion of the budget was kicked off with one member, former banker Ira Kaylin, reading a lengthy screed that made groundless accusations of deliberate malfeasance against members of the Falls Church School Board and one of his Council colleagues, Phil Duncan.

Not done just in passing, it was a head-on assault that Kaylin, later in the meeting, insisted was entirely intentional on his part.

It reflected a level of incivility (that’s a polite word) as we’ve never seen before in covering our Little City. It is one thing to disagree, even vehemently disagree, with others in the City government, and there has been plenty of that. But it is an entirely different matter to publicly accuse the schools of “fear mongering,” incredibility, “an appearance of a conflict of interest,” “cherry picking data points” and “conspiracy,” leading him to ask “what other things of a similar nature” the School Board has been up to that it has “withheld from the public.”

Never has Falls Church been more poorly served by its City Council than by permitting one of its members engage in such bellicose demagoguery and groundless accusatory bullying. To those who remained silent, who did not call out Kaylin for his outrageous behavior, they may not wish to admit it, but they became enablers, and allowed for the entire discussion of the rest of the meeting to be built around the need to cut the School Board’s budget request to one degree or another.

Supposedly, it is the Schools who are the bullies, in Kaylin’s world, and, indeed, we detect a mood that has infected almost the entire Council and City Hall that, if they are really potent, they will stand up to the Schools and not cave in as a matter of principle, facts be damned.

It’s a bizarre psychodrama, viewed one way. One can’t help but wonder if Kaylin would dare hurl such accusations were the Schools’ not led by strong women, including Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones and Board chair Susan Kearney, but instead by alpha males more apt to bite back. The Kaylin invective was done to Jones’ and Kearney’s faces, while knowing under the rules of a work session, they could not rebut.

The choice is not between the Schools’ needs – based not on hypotheticals but hard facts of enrollment growth – and the tax rate. It is the other variables in the budget, the bloated fund balance and the insistence on imposing a premature, expensive Storm Water Utility on taxpayers, that are driving a tax rate increase.

To be clear, Kaylin does not call for lowering the tax rate. He calls for raising it, and cutting the Schools, while kissing Wall Street’s feet by demanding a ridiculous fund balance. No surprise for an ex-banker.

  • JFallsChurch

    The choice between a banker and bias editor….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Smith/100002309640996 Mike Smith

    So the message here is that the proper response to Ira Kaylin’s severe criticism of the management of the Schools is an ad hominem attack accusing him of sexism. While it is tempting to use a playground analogy I will leave that to others. How about answering his very real concern that the Little City is well served by having good schools but ill-served by management that has shown an almost complete disregard for fiscal reality?

  • Jeff4275

    What’s with the fixation on Mr. Kaylin’s former status as a banker? Is Helen Thomas ghostwriting for Mr. Benton?

  • Jeff4275

    Thanks for the civility lesson, Mr. Benton. I suppose making an (undeniably true) allegation of “cherry picking data points” is uncivil but a recent phrase of yours such as “right wing Republican brain-dead stupid white male jocks” is not.

  • donow

    I live in Fairfax and our demographics are quite amazing – its almost impossible to keep up with student growth. Schools need more money at the same time budgets are being cut. You would have to ‘cherry pick’ data points to not see increased demand for our school services.

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