Local Commentary

Editorial: Concord on the New Council

It’s harder to sell papers without screaming headlines, but we’ll take the copacetic spirit of the newly-constituted Falls Church City Council organizing meeting this Monday over some of the recent years’ fireworks any day.

The unanimous votes for mayor and vice-mayor – David Tarter being re-elected mayor and Marybeth Connelly elevated to the second slot – as the first business of the new Council could not have gone more smoothly or in a better atmosphere of concord.

It holds promise for a very productive period ahead, apropos the fact that the City will be making perhaps the most important decisions in its history over the coming year concerning the development of its 36-acre George Mason High and Henderson Middle School campus site. It is a process that is expected to culminate in a public referendum this November.

Given the clear talents of all members of this Council, and dedication to the brightest sustainable future possible for Falls Church, we are confident that the mood of concord will result not in less, but actually considerably more diligence and attention being paid to these and other important governing decisions. As always, public input and transparency within reason will be an integral element of it all, as well.

This go-around, there was plenty of contention leading into the November election that returned Mayor Tarter and Phil Duncan to the Council and added Letty Hardi. But with the election of those three, the building blocks for a productive era for the City were put in place.

This Monday’s meeting was a far cry from the mood on the Council that was set following the election in 2010, when four members issued a veritable manifesto on the eve of the Council’s first meeting to elect the new mayor and vice mayor.

The tactic set the Council at sharp odds with itself before any vote had been cast and it has taken years, including the removal of all four of those members for a variety of reasons in the meantime, for that mood of disquiet and distrust to subside. The last to go was Nader Baroukh as of December 31, who was elected mayor at that contentious meeting, as he chose not to run for a third term last fall because of health issues.

Of course, many tough decisions lie ahead for the new Council. Despite economic development giving the City an edge in projected revenues for the coming fiscal year over other jurisdiction in the region, the growth is still projected to be an anemic 2.3 percent, which will add more pressure as the City’s fast-growing schools will place burdens on taxpayers to perhaps add a few pennies to the tax rate this spring.

But the Council’s current makeup includes a stronger pro-school component than has been there in a good while, if not ever, leaving us with some justifiable confidence that the City’s top industry – education – will continue to thrive.

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