Fear Awareness Lack May Lead To Protest Vote
Alarmed by the lack of public awareness of the issues surrounding the referendum asking citizens to approve the sale of the Falls Church water system to Fairfax Water Authority that will be on the Falls Church ballot next month, a small group of activist citizens have begun to form a political committee to promote a “yes” vote.
The News-Press learned that the push came out of a public discussion of the referendum at a private home on Hillwood Avenue last week. Despite at least three informative public forums on the subject, the attendance by citizens other than those already closely familiar with the issues has been very small, and few have bothered to search out the issues on the web.
One among the small circle of citizens who have stepped up to do something more wrote in an e-mail to colleagues late last week, “I’m willing to take on some role from a short-term group to try to get some yard signs printed and some fliers put together to urge people to vote ‘yes’ on the water referendum.”
She added in the e-mail copied to eight fellow citizens, “It seems to me that the consensus among our most informed citizens is that this is a ‘do or die’ moment for the City. The fear, as you know, is that many uninformed voters could just knee-jerk vote ‘no.’” She wrote, “I’d be in that group myself if it weren’t for involvement” in civic activist groups, she said.
She concluded, “I’d be willing as a citizen to take a stand with other concerned citizens and do my part to help organize if a few of you might be interested in joining in forming a political action committee with me.”
The concern for a “knee-jerk vote ‘no’” is very viable, with numerous comments at the public forums and letters to City Hall and the News-Press. One letter this week attributed the county (with its million residents) ability to “assure success with wealth, size and troops of lawyers” to render the City (with its 13,300 residents) “beaten and bullied” with “surrender the only option.”
These express the concern that the deal reached late last year between Falls Church and Fairfax County to sell the City’s water system was lopsided and would fleece the City.
But proponents of a “yes” vote on the referendum are concerned that if voters do not support the deal, the consequences will be much worse for Falls Church, including eventually having to cough up the system because it would be rendered insolvent, and the City would come away with nothing in exchange.
Insofar as the deal was reached last November through mediation, the City came away with the prospect of the transfer of 39 acres of county land into the City, giving the City ability to densely develop about 13 of those acres located directly adjacent the West Falls Church Metro station.
The county also agreed to maintain the employment of City workers on its system for a minimum of three years, and reported concerns about the ability of Fairfax Water to maintain health coverage for them under the Affordable Care Act were assuaged by a letter from Charles M. Murray, the general manager of Fairfax Water to all his and current Falls Church water system employees late last week.
Insofar as the City code requires the sale of City-owned property or assets to be subject to a public referendum for approval, Falls Church citizens will have the final say on the matter in next month’s election. Watching many headlines in the last half-dozen years of legal judgments against the City and in favor of the county, many citizens, it is feared, are viewing the agreement as a form of capitulation by the City to its much larger neighbor.
However, proponents of the sale in the City point to the considerable positive impacts of the sale, especially the positive economic impact from the commercial development by the West Falls Church Metro that will bring considerable relief to the City’s residential real estate tax payers while assuring that vital City services, including the City’s schools, are maintained at high levels.
Some existing groups and candidates hoping to impact citizen awareness going into the Nov. 5 election have approached the News-Press with the specific concern that relying on the Internet to get their messages out is simply insufficiently effective. The News-Press’ weekly delivery to every household in the City, plus the availability of thousands of its copies at public distribution sites, can provide a far greater assurance of voter awareness, they are now suggesting.