Armed with a catchy slogan, “A Watershed Moment for Our City and Schools,” advocates of a “Yes” vote passage of the Water System Sale Referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot in Falls Church have organized as the “Citizens for a Sustainable City” and are up and running with a website, handbills and signage.
The campaign materials were made available to citizens attending last night’s public forum on the referendum co-hosted by an array of civic groups.
Six major points are made on the website www.citizensforasustainablecity.net as reasons to vote “Yes” on the sale of the Falls Church Water System to the Fairfax Water Authority.
They include: 1. lower water rates for City residents within two years, 2. a net of at least $10 million from the sale to invest in the City’s future, 3. the annexation of 38.5 acres to within City boundaries, including lands on which the City’s high school and middle school sit, such that City citizens, and not Fairfax County will control decisions there, 4. providing City residents the right to decide how to use the land adjacent the West Falls Church Metro station to build a more sustainable tax base for the City, 5. providing affordable ways to build a new high school, and 6. ending litigation, prevent future costly court battles and eliminating the risk of having to pay out millions if future lawsuits are lost.
It then states that “the most compelling reason” for passing the referendum is what would happen if it failed to pass. In that case, it states, “Sustaining our City and our schools will be next to impossible. ‘Devastating’ and ‘disaster’ are words civic leaders from across political spectrums have used to describe what failing to pass this referendum would mean for the City of Falls Church.”
The mobilization to put together a “Vote Yes” campaign has been spearheaded by City resident Carol Loftur-Thun, a board member of the Citizens for a Better City. It was pushed when candidates for the City Council, campaigning door to door, began reporting a lack of awareness of the referendum and its issues among the general public.
Loftur-Thun told the News-Press that the late start on the campaign does not mean it won’t be effective, since many voters wait until just before an election to begin thinking seriously about what is on the ballot. She urged citizens wishing to help the campaign effort to send contributions to Citizens for a Sustainable City, 202 W. Rosemary Lane, Falls Church 22046.
The referendum will share the ballot on Nov. 5 with a long list of candidates, including for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state delegate, commissioner of the revenue, treasurer, sheriff, city council and school board.
The Falls Church School Board weighed in on the issue at its Tuesday meeting this week, voting unanimously to support a “Yes” vote on the referendum, and authorizing board chair Susan Kearney to craft a letter to the editor to the News-Press (received too late for inclusion in this week’s edition) on its reasons.
“If approved,” the letter states, the sale of the water system “could have a positive impact on Falls Church City Public Schools for years to come.”
It notes, “Currently, both Mary Ellen Middle School and George Mason High School are situated on land that is owned by the city and schools, but which is located in Fairfax County. As a result, the use of this land is governed by the County and we must have its approval for any construction projects. With the sale of the water system to Fairfax County, a boundary adjustment will be made to allow Falls Church to annex this land, thus giving the City and schools much more flexibility in making these important decisions.”
The letter cites additional benefits of a “Yes” vote passage of the referendum:
1. With three of four school campuses located in the City, the zoning and building inspection process will be more streamlined, speeding up construcition projects.
2. Thirty percent of the land can be used for non-school purposes that could include new development of commercial and residential projects, bringing new revenue streams to the City to help pay for future capital needs, including a new high school.
3. The sale will net the City about $10 million to invest in improving City finances.
4. Approving the referendum would resolve the long-standing dispute between the City and the county, avoiding further legal expenses and renewing “a strongly cooperative City/county relationship.”