Three and a half years ago when I last asked for your vote, the City was mired in the global financial crisis, resulting in unprecedented layoffs, major tax increases, and delayed capital projects. This crisis was made even more severe by the water system litigation. Today, our City has emerged financially strong to serve you now and into the future, with exciting development prospects as well as a hoped for beneficial end to the water system controversy.
But it is ultimately adherence to core values—what we stand and live for—that is the foundation for our bright future. Our commonly held values are in marked contrast to the bitter partisan divisions that characterize state and federal government. The values of our founders, most of whom are no longer with us, have helped us through dark days and allowed us to emerge even stronger. These values include hard work, citizen involvement, commitment to community, concern for the less fortunate, civility, excellence in schools and City services, regional participation, diversity, and financial responsibility. Just as these values have steered us well in the past, they will guide us to a positive future.
While our core values should not change, our City should adapt to meet new challenges and the goals of our citizens. We are at an exciting point in our City’s history. Based on our foundational values, here are some more specific concepts that I believe should help us shape our future.
The excellence of the schools and City services must be maintained. Government should do well what it was created to do. At the same time, taxes should be at the lowest responsible level, recognizing the hardships they impose. Last year’s budget is an example of balance, with schools, City services and infrastructure funded, a responsible reserve maintained, and a final tax rate much lower than predicted.
The right kind of development can also help us diversify our tax base and provide some relief for individuals and families, so that we don’t lose the benefits of diversity. The water system agreement if affirmed by the votes will offer new tax generating development potential. The community is stronger with the involvement of all of our citizens, regardless of whether they rent, own, live in a high rise, a townhome or a single family house, have kids in the schools or not, are conservative or liberal, Democrat, Republican or independent.
I believe the City’s future lies in Falls Church offering a real alternative to Tyson’s Corner, celebrating our history, the arts, and community events. Our library, human scale services, parks and mix of businesses all help create an environment that will attract people looking for a genuine community. Fundamental to this future is for the City to continue to strive to be “green” by enabling a range of alternatives to motor vehicles and encouraging environmentally sound practices. Encouraging innovation and attracting the commercial sector of the future will be a key part of our success.
The City must continue to be carefully and prudently run so as to avoid the traps that ensnared Detroit, including adequate financial reserves and careful planning for future public building needs. The way we proceeded with the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, characterized by careful deliberations and well defined realities, community dialogue and financial planning provides a proven model to address issues relating to the future of the high school, the library, and City Hall.
Finally, we must continue to be a regional player, because both solutions and the funds to provide them are often regional matters. This is especially true for transportation, emergency preparedness, and environmental issues. I have had the honor to represent the City on regional transportation, air quality and emergency preparedness boards. The results are improved air quality and funds available to the City to implement improvements in the City’s walkability. And regionally, we are working on long term transit options to relieve the congestion on Route 7/Broad Street. Indeed, our central location in the region and the transportation options, with improved transit service which I hope will come, will only serve to make the City more valuable and attractive.
From celebrations, ribbon cuttings, and regional events to time spent in the Emergency Operations Center, at police barricades, in countless meetings and on the street with our employees, City public service is hard work but the results are worth it. I ask for an opportunity to continue to work with you as we create a bright future built on the values that have sustained us so far.
David Snyder is the Vice Mayor of the City of Falls Church and is running for reelection to the F.C. City Council in November.