Letters to the Editor: June 22 – 28, 2017
Clarifying Stance on Call For Stuart Name Change
I admired and appreciated Matt Delaney’s excellent report, “Fairfax Co. School Board to Vote on J.E.B. Stuart Name Change in July,” which summarized the Board’s June 12 meeting. There are, however, two points regarding my report to the School Board which should be clarified.
I objected to honoring Stuart because he took up arms against the United States in defense of African American slavery, not because he dissented from the anti-slavery views of President Lincoln. (I value highly our right of dissent and have opposed some U.S. policies myself, including our military interventions in Vietnam and Iraq, but my dissent has never caused me to even consider taking up arms against our country.)
Secondly, I did not argue that there was a “moral imperative” to change the name of our high school. The School Board invited the ad hoc committee to show a need for changing the name. We provided evidence of a “compelling need” to rename Stuart High School, noting that the school’s current name, along with its mascot, the Confederate Raider with crossed sabers, and Battle Flag, are offensive symbols to many students and members of our community. Moreover, such icons contribute to a hostile environment for many students, teachers and staff.
The less precise and more malleable term “moral imperative” was injected into the discourse by a School Board member who supports retaining the name, “Stuart.”
Why Won’t Council Honor Library Referendum?
The Falls Church City Council has apparently decided not to honor the November 2016 referendum (67-percent voter approval) on funding the renovation and modest expansion of our library. The Library Board had made a good case for fixing the failing, overburdened facility and the voters agreed. What has changed? Last Fall, the Council and the voters knew that there would soon be a $100-127 million request for a new high school, and that the Mt. Daniel project was in trouble. The Library Board plan was to go ahead and get the library fixed in the short window of opportunity. Not a lot has changed except that the schools and Council have spent a lot of time on the high school project without much resolution of the manifold problems. But now the Council does not want to sell the approved bonds to permit the Library project to proceed. Instead the Board is asked to give Council the most pressing needs which must be met. Everyone knows that includes the elevator and the heating/air conditioning and electrical and plumbing upgrades, but the first two items alone trigger the American Disability Act provisions and would greatly increase the needed outlays as well as greatly reduce the available space, an outcome that nobody wants. Then the Council asked for a plan that would not trigger the ADA requirements. This piecemeal approach is impossible to do with any sense of order or cost.
Given the outcome of the referendum, I believe that the public will view the failure to go ahead with the project as a breach of faith — and that may affect future bond referendum requests. In other words, it seems likely the Council will have damaged its credibility with respect to referenda. Further, I believe that an attempt to push a Fall bond referendum for $100+ million will fail miserably. Then where will we be? No library project, no high school project and lots of recrimination all around.
I strongly and urgently request the Council reconsider the apparent decision not to go ahead with the library project.
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