Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: At a Crossroad, City Needs Experienced Leaders

By now, Falls Church City citizens have had the opportunity to read many opinion pieces from the eight candidates for City Council. I’ve read them from the prospective of the average voter and I can only ask, “What is the difference in any of the candidates?”

Indeed, it’s difficult to tell. All are writing about important principles: protecting our great schools, sustaining our City with responsible budgets, need for new revenues, growth and development, long range planning— all needed and important for the future of our City. What I read was the usual “talk the talk” but not how to “walk the walk.” That’s where experience counts and that’s where I feel I’m different than the other candidates.

Our City is at a crossroad unlike any in our history. In this election, four seats are open with the real possibility that there could be four inexperienced members new to Council putting our City in jeopardy. This is no time for a long learning curve. As most council members know, being on Council is not a quick study. The amount of information overload combined with the legislative process is daunting. The shear commitment of time can be overwhelming. It takes time to learn skills working with others to achieve those long-term objectives that you believe in. We absolutely need experienced leadership to navigate the rough waters ahead. The future of our City depends on it.

We absolutely need experienced leadership to navigate the rough waters ahead. The future of our City depends on it.

We need strong, responsible leadership, but what clues can the voters look for in choosing those four leaders on May 4? Look at their records—what have they done for our City over the years?  Have they been involved? Do they support local events and businesses? What is their attendance record at City meetings? Are they running because they are “for something” or only “against something”? Are they proven problem solvers? Do they work well with others or use confrontation as their only means of doing things? Are they respectful of process or have they tried to work outside the legislative process to achieve their agenda? These are all important questions.

For these questions, I’m very much in the positive column! I’m an experienced leader with a proven record serving our City and my career spanning 31 years as a teacher with our City Schools! I was first elected to City Council in 2000. In years 2000-2006, with the election of new members, the Council had a new sense of energy and urgency planning for the sustainability of our City. With the new leadership, empty lots and underperforming properties were developed into top producers adding new net revenues of more than 2.5 million a year, $3 million a year in construction fees/permits and $19 million in community benefits. All of this, enhancing the vitality of the W. Broad St/ S. Maple St. corridors bringing in new businesses and restaurants.

Those major new buildings were the first development in over thirty years— far too long a time. It’s good to note that almost as many plans were turned down as approved. We also supported the first public /private partnership building Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School—the first new school in 40 years. We gained new affordable housing units. Open space, parks and playing fields made great gains—the renovation of the football field, TJ’s field, the Hamlett/Rees site was finally purchased after thirty years on the wish list. More space was added to the West End Park and to other parks making it the greatest increase in years preserving open space.

All of this represents an enormous amount of real progress in less than ten years and I am very proud of my positive leadership in these achievements. This represents the “walk the walk”—the ability and experience to get things done.

Progress doesn’t come easily or without great opposition from opponents of growth and development.  Some people thought that there was too much change—too fast-too big—too many new kids/people/families—too much of everything. There were even extreme attempts to change our City Charter so that no development could take place without a special referendum vote. On many development issues, the vote was often 5-2 or 6-1. All these decisions were made while working closely with our citizens. Change does not come easily and without strong leadership, may not come at all.

During this economic time, our city is in a lull with our future looming in sight. Important decisions need to be made about our independent city and schools, growth and development and sustainable budgets. We need to elect the best leaders on May 4 to take us to that successful future. As a voter, you need to inform yourself, ask questions and make the best choices for our City government—our future depends on you!

 


Lindy Hockenberry served eight years on the Falls Church City Council, including two years as Vice Mayor. She also served two years on the F.C. Planning Commission and was a teacher for F.C. City Public Schools for 31 years. She is running as an independent in May 4’s F.C. City Council election.


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