About a year ago, on one of our bright, blue sky Saturday mornings, I saw my neighbor across the street playing with his children on his front lawn. “It’s good here,” I said. Without a pause, he responded, “Yes. It is.” Now, he and his wife are serving our country as diplomats in a far-away land at the center of global controversy. I firmly believe this exchange accurately represents life here in the City of Falls Church.
Our citizens are the real core of our City, many of whom serve the public in so many ways – defense, intelligence, diplomacy, development, education, media, law and medicine, to name just a few. Falls Church is still characterized by an incredibly rich fabric of community engagement by these impressive citizens, including on City boards and commissions covering the full range of municipal responsibilities and civic life, from planning to public safety, parks and the environment, arts, heritage and culture and human services. The City could not exist without these amazing contributions for the common welfare by so many of our citizens. It is a hallmark of our City that has not changed.
Our Schools and General Government
Just this week, our schools again showed their merit with a number two statewide ranking for performance. Our school community of course deserves great credit – students, teachers, administrators and School Board. But in a very real sense this performance should be a source of pride for everyone in our community, especially all taxpayers because, they make this performance possible.
Our general government provides the full range of services that are necessary to support our citizens. For example, our police are intelligent and sensitive to their critical role and our employees generally do the maximum we can expect of them. In return, our employees are comparably compensated and our pension system is 100 percent funded.
Our Business Community
Just this past week, we participated in ribbon cuttings which reflect our unique business community. One was a restaurant and the other a service business that can actually fix, and quickly, the electronic essentials of modern life such as smart phones. Our businesses not only provide the goods and services we need and significant tax revenues but can also always be counted on to support community activities.
There are both challenges and opportunities. Residential developers remain highly interested in the City but our real need is to encourage commercial development that expands and deepens our commercial activities and tax base, with high quality commercial development. This is even more challenging than before due to the intense development surrounding us, including Tyson’s Corner.
The development model followed over the past decade and a half has produced benefits but also higher public service demands and costs, as well as massive new building that sometimes does not reflect our City’s uniqueness.
That is why some citizens are calling for a community wide visioning exercise before we agree to more of the same. I support that idea and hope it can be done expeditiously.
Financially, we are well positioned but critical decisions lie ahead, including school expansion and related development at the George Mason High School site. In addition, state policies such as the school funding formula and constraints on our ability to provide for our own security are unreasonably hostile to Falls Church.
We are aware as well of the increasing concern over the tax burden. I will not sacrifice the quality of our schools and general government – what we do, we must do well. But the search needs to go on as to how to reduce the immediate tax burden for those on fixed incomes.
And, pressure is intensifying from the West to pave over yet more of inside the beltway Northern Virginia, not really solving transportation issues even as it degrades our quality of life. The hope is that our regional engagement will find win-win as opposed to win-lose solutions for these transportation challenges.
In conclusion, things are good here, and I believe we must and can keep it that way.
David Snyder is vice mayor of the City of Falls Church.