Letters to the Editor for the week of July 3 – 9, 2008
Power Out 4 Times in 14 Days in Falls Church
Ironically, the day I opened your paper to read about Dominion Power installing voltage arresters in two FC neighborhoods, I also received my electric bill in the mail. Inserted: A promotional to buy Dominion’s surge protector boxes ($89 install, $4.95 monthly fee) and surge suppressor strips.
Gee, we can’t manage to reliably deliver electricity, so let’s make money off of that by selling surge protection!
I recently contacted Bill Hicks, City Engineer, and Cindy Mester, Assistant City Manager, to tell them about the long-standing power problems for the Lee Square Apts., where I live, and the city in general. I have lived in the City going on nine years, and I have lost count of how many times the power has gone out in my apartment complex–storm or sunny days!
In the past 14 days, our power has gone out four-plus times. On Monday, June 16, I got home to no power again. Our resident manager told us a tree limb had fallen onto a line on James Street. I thought the undergrounding of lines on Broad Street would prevent that kind of thing from affecting our power. Wrong. I finally gave up and went to Reston and stayed with a friend. The power went out at 4 p.m. and came back on at 1 a.m., according to the resident manager. Nine hours to fix, and meanwhile, all the businesses on Broad had power–Burger King, Panera, etc.
Monday, June 23, I got home at 5:30 to see once again, my clock flashing and my VCR LCD display empty. Once again, I had to reset the VCR, for the fourth time in the last two weeks: The replacement VCR for the one that got blown out in a previous power surge last year, on a sunny day.
When I worked on Park Avenue in the early 2000s, the power went out frequently, again often with no storm. I recall that a co-worker attended a special city meeting to discuss the City’s power problems–this was in 2002, six years ago!
I guess there’s a bright side to this, what with the 18% increase in our electric bills: already in June, I’ve had no power for close to 18 hours. Can’t get charged for power you aren’t using!
It is long past time that the electric utilities in this region put up the money to put all the lines underground. Utilities are a public good. Dominion got lots of monetary concessions from regulators in anticipation of competition that never materialized. Now instead of serving the public good by improving service by putting all the lines underground, they get to raise rates 18%.
Wants More Art Deco in F.C., Please!
First, the good news. We will have, as Mayor of our little City, Robin Gardner, a strong leader. The bad news is that we’re going to need that leadership. The dilemma on development is this: too little means not enough money for the schools, which is why many of us came here; but bad development means no community, which is why we stay.
The risk of high-rise condos is worth it ONLY if we also build public spaces with destinations: places of music, flavors, aromas, textures, and architecture both beautiful and recognizable – and coincidentally creating wildly profitable stores, restaurants, and commercial landowners. So far we have condos: the 50-year risk of bringing more school-kids than tax revenue, which could literally end Falls Church as an independent jurisdiction (and thus submerge our schools into Fairfax County with its 1 million people).
It will take strong leadership to do the right thing: no more condos until the destinations are worked out. The stagnant residential market makes NOW a good time to build profitable commercial properties, which, properly clustered around public spaces, create destinations.
Finally, the developer in question is a good one, a patient investor for the long term, as shown by the elegant yet empty storefronts along S. Maple Street. We appreciate what you’ve done, but you haven’t built any destinations to draw customers. A traffic circle rain garden won’t draw anybody. By contrast, the swirling iron, art deco finish on the new building by the Exxon on Broad Street is at least worth looking at. More, please!
Hails Cheney’s Role on F.C. School Board
It has been a pleasure to serve with Craig Cheney on the Falls Church City School Board. Understanding the demands of serving on the school board, I can appreciate that he wishes to spend more time with his family while earning a living. I can recall numerous times when his leadership on the Board precluded him from attending his children’s activities. He will now be able to enjoy their activities as they grow up.
These are just a few accomplishments that occurred during his four-year tenure on the school board:
- A new school: Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, a state of the art school meeting the needs of our middle school students.
- Maintaining high standards by paying our teachers competitive salaries in the Northern Virginia area. He also initiated a program to support our teachers as they work toward National Board Certification, the gold standard for teaching excellence.
- Offering Chinese and Arabic languages at the high school to prepare our students to collaborate and compete in a global community.
- Launching of the elementary school version of the International Baccalaureate program starting this year at Mount Daniel and Thomas Jefferson with MEHMS looking to implement it next year. This program will set the foundation for later student success.
- Establishing a policy that all our students will automatically take the PSAT Test in the ninth grade thus promoting a college-going environment.
- Leading the Board and staff to find creative ways to fund these new programs while maintaining fiscal responsibility in a tough economic environment.
I remember how welcoming Craig was to me as a new school board member. I appreciated Craig’s quiet leadership, always respecting everyone and letting us voice our opinions and discuss issues as we worked toward consensus.
I thank him for a job well done.
Rosaura Aguerrebere, Member
Falls Church School Board