Local Commentary

Editorial: No Country for Old Bullies

It was the darkest hour in our 22 years covering local government in the City of Falls Church. Tuesday’s F.C. City Council work session discussion of the budget was kicked off with one member, former banker Ira Kaylin, reading a lengthy screed that made groundless accusations of deliberate malfeasance against members of the Falls Church School Board and one of his Council colleagues, Phil Duncan.

Not done just in passing, it was a head-on assault that Kaylin, later in the meeting, insisted was entirely intentional on his part.

It reflected a level of incivility (that’s a polite word) as we’ve never seen before in covering our Little City. It is one thing to disagree, even vehemently disagree, with others in the City government, and there has been plenty of that. But it is an entirely different matter to publicly accuse the schools of “fear mongering,” incredibility, “an appearance of a conflict of interest,” “cherry picking data points” and “conspiracy,” leading him to ask “what other things of a similar nature” the School Board has been up to that it has “withheld from the public.”

Never has Falls Church been more poorly served by its City Council than by permitting one of its members engage in such bellicose demagoguery and groundless accusatory bullying. To those who remained silent, who did not call out Kaylin for his outrageous behavior, they may not wish to admit it, but they became enablers, and allowed for the entire discussion of the rest of the meeting to be built around the need to cut the School Board’s budget request to one degree or another.

Supposedly, it is the Schools who are the bullies, in Kaylin’s world, and, indeed, we detect a mood that has infected almost the entire Council and City Hall that, if they are really potent, they will stand up to the Schools and not cave in as a matter of principle, facts be damned.

It’s a bizarre psychodrama, viewed one way. One can’t help but wonder if Kaylin would dare hurl such accusations were the Schools’ not led by strong women, including Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones and Board chair Susan Kearney, but instead by alpha males more apt to bite back. The Kaylin invective was done to Jones’ and Kearney’s faces, while knowing under the rules of a work session, they could not rebut.

The choice is not between the Schools’ needs – based not on hypotheticals but hard facts of enrollment growth – and the tax rate. It is the other variables in the budget, the bloated fund balance and the insistence on imposing a premature, expensive Storm Water Utility on taxpayers, that are driving a tax rate increase.

To be clear, Kaylin does not call for lowering the tax rate. He calls for raising it, and cutting the Schools, while kissing Wall Street’s feet by demanding a ridiculous fund balance. No surprise for an ex-banker.

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