Editorial: ‘Wish Lists’ Take Yet Another Hit

July 9, 2014 7:37 PM1 comment

Whoa!! It is getting more real every week at City Hall in the City of Falls Church, or so it seems. The “Falls Church Way” took another one on the chin Monday night at the City Council work session when the holy ritual of placating every busybody citizen seeking to slow traffic on his or her street was forcibly rebuffed.

We’ve not seen this kind of thing before in The Little City, honestly. An open public discourse occurred on the relative virtues or not of citizen-initiated “residential neighborhood traffic calming programs.” While for lo, these many years, the posture at City Hall has been to bow deeply before any citizen’s request, now the long-overdue righteous fires of impatience have begun to erupt. See the full story on Page One of this edition.

Years ago, City Hall tentatively set up steps to limit the number of citizen demands for action in any given neighborhood by, among other things, requiring 75 percent of the neighbors to any particular project to sign a petition requesting the change. Over a few years, this began to become an effective deterrent to cavalier “I’ll do it because I can” citizen activism at virtually every intersection in the City.

As City Manager Wyatt Shields said this Monday night, there is little doubt that things can be done in many places to improve on the safety of neighborhood streets and intersections. However, this is a far cry from the claim so often made that such streets are dangerous and unsafe.

Shields said that there are no dangerously unsafe streets in Falls Church now, notwithstanding an occasional accident. If there are, he said it is his job to make sure the problems are fixed in the interest of public safety.

It is, to us, another welcome breath of fresh air to hear Falls Church city officials putting the cacophony of overblown citizen self-entitlement in its place. It must be conceded that the City too often encouraged this kind of behavior in the well-meaning intention of making sure citizens were involved in calling out problems City Hall might have overlooked.

But now it is time for the City to get onto bigger priorities, to maintain the key elements of what it takes to make it a valued place to live and work. Public safety, including traffic issues, must be measured against the quality of the school system and reasonable tax burdens on citizens. It’s a balancing act between all three: traffic, taxes and schools.

Just as the City’s Planning Department is throwing out the “citizen wish list” approach to strategic commercial development, as reported here last month, now it is telling citizens not to propose wasting City Hall time and taxpayer dollars on marginally valuable “traffic calming” ideas when the need to get the City’s priorities in the proper order are becoming so demanding.

We applaud this healthy new approach.

  • Hendrik Jasper

    Well this is an odd turn of events. The FCNP’s own online poll from just two weeks ago identified “pedestrian safety” as the number one concern of respondents about the challenges facing Falls Church. (“Parking” was a distant third). Furthermore, the FCNP has long decried the lack of citizen involvement in City affairs. A recent, memorable broadside on this topic was Mr. Benton’s editorial on May 14th, when he said only the “mighty” News-Press (and sometimes Lou Olom and Carol DeLong) would show up at City Council meetings. The rest of the residents of Falls Church were pretty much uninterested transients. Clearly, citizen participation is welcome in the FCNP’s eyes when it endorses the Chamber of Commerce’s development plans. When citizens want to put up a speed bump on development, literally or figuratively, that’s another matter altogether.

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