Local Commentary

The Little City Weed

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The new members of the Falls Church City Council are targeting service cuts which would eliminate or transfer control of our local commissioner of revenue, city treasurer, and court service operations. These offices provide city services which help define our community, and council eliminating three of the five partisan elected constitutional officers in our city, all of whom are Democrats, would be construed as a highly partisan effort to remove Democrats from office in Falls Church City.

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The new members of the Falls Church City Council are targeting service cuts which would eliminate or transfer control of our local commissioner of revenue, city treasurer, and court service operations. These offices provide city services which help define our community, and council eliminating three of the five partisan elected constitutional officers in our city, all of whom are Democrats, would be construed as a highly partisan effort to remove Democrats from office in Falls Church City.

In a memo prepared as part of its planning retreat, new council members suggested the commissioner of revenue and treasurer could be eliminated and combined into a non-elected director of finance position. Mayor Baroukh and Vice Mayor Snyder, in a meeting closed to the public because the mayor failed to authorize a public notice, the two officials requested city staff provide data on how to transfer court services to Arlington County. Transferring court services would obviate the need for a city sheriff and likely result in the closing of the Aurora House (the girls home which has operated in the city since 1991 and provides support services as part of a regional collaboration).

Four new members of council were elected this year in the lowest-ever turnout for a contested election. The new members, many of whom have lived in the city for less than five years and most of whom have never held public office, have been criticized for the partisan political endorsement by an affiliate of the conservative Family Research Council; an effort to enforce a twice-rejected by public referendum 50 percent commercial standard on new mixed use development; its decision to kill a historic affordable housing initiative; and its vote to move local elections to May (where fewer than half as many city residents vote). The involvement of partisan conservative campaign operatives in city elections, the elimination of affordable housing in the city, the consistent resistance to residential development, and the orchestration of low turnout elections, has all contributed to a growing perception the council has become captive to a narrow anti-progressive agenda.

Falls Church City was founded on the assumption a small independent city can operate in the midst of a metropolitan area. That such a community can fully function as a local government and participate as a good neighbor in regional initiatives.

The new city council is testing the assumption the city is viable as it has existed for the last sixty years. City leaders are, of course, entitled to test such assumptions.  The failure to test assumptions is what causes communities to stagnate.

The corollary obligation, to which this city council seems oblivious, is leaders must have pure motives. If experienced city leaders alter a covenant because of widely acknowledged necessity – that is one thing. If inexperienced elected officials break the covenant of local government because of unfounded fear of any risk, to carry out a personal political vendetta, and/or as part of partisan agenda – then citizens have an obligation to reinforce the promise of local government.

 


Michael Gardner is a quixotic citizen and founder of the Blueweeds community blog.

 

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