It’s local election time in Falls Church. Next Tuesday, for the last time ever in May, citizens will go to the polls to choose among seven candidates to fill three seats on the Falls Church City Council. For the first time, no civic organization has endorsed a slate of candidates, so it’s been every man for himself.
Every man, indeed. There is no woman in this race, and with former mayor and Council member Robin Gardner eschewing re-election and leaving the Council on July 1, a lone woman will be holding forth on the Council, even though by all means up to the task, Council member Johannah Barry.
That aside, the Council has been represented by one of the more unique minority groups since 2008. Councilman Lawrence Webb is both African-American and openly gay, and that’s a first for anyone elected to public office in the long and storied history of the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a result of such a status, he’s served on the board of a major statewide organization dedicated to lesbian and gay rights, representing Falls Church with distinction, in a way that will make us all proud.
With Jewish Iranian roots, Mayor Nader Baroukh also brings ethnic diversity to our community, and Baroukh and Webb are also the only members of the Council that do not dwell in detached single family or luxury town homes. In the 60 year history of Falls Church City Councils, that, too, is unusual.
Unfortunately, both these incumbents seeking re-election next Tuesday did not come through with the critical votes to bring more vitally-needed affordable housing here two summers ago. Affordable housing, as a result, is veritably dead in the water in Falls Church even while a new push to develop it is a centerpiece of the new budget being adopted in neighboring Arlington County.
Falls Church needs four things to thrive vibrantly into the future. It needs aggressive economic development, including the flexibility to achieve it. It needs to maintain first rate schools. It needs to encourage diversity, including economic diversity. It needs a major increase in its reserve of affordable housing.
The current Council gets a C-minus on economic development. Its delays helped dash the City Center plan. It rates a C-minus only by recognition of the Great Recession’s hit that was beyond its control. It gets an A-minus on schools, making the effort even if scant times set the system behind in infrastructure. It gets a C on diversity, mostly by virtue of its own makeup. It gets an an F on affordable housing.
Of non-incumbent Council hopefuls, Phil Duncan and David Tarter will be strongest addressing all four priorities. John Lawrence’s record on the Planning Commission has been checkered. Paul Handly is promising. William Henneberg demands unlikely “commercial only” development while expressing disdain for subsidized affordable housing. He’s no Dave Snyder.
Our bottom line this time: Webb, Duncan and Tarter. Alternate: Baroukh.