According to the rules of the “Oxford-style” debate that was conducted Sunday, proponents favoring the passage of the $120 million George Mason High School bond referendum won over their antagonists. With over 90 citizens in attendance, taking time of a glorious Sunday afternoon to focus on the important issue in the fellowship hall of the historic Falls Church Episcopal, two spokesmen for each side squared off.
Attendees were invited to indicate their leanings on the subject prior to the start of the debate, and then to do the same at the end. The idea was to see which side turned out to be more persuasive and in this case, those arguing for passage of the referendum, on the Falls Church ballot on November 8, prevailed. Going in, 52 percent of the audience was for the referendum’s passage, and 18 percent against with 30 percent undecided. After the debate, another vote showed 61 percent in favor, 24 percent against and 15 percent undecided. That amounted to a shift of nine percent in the direction of favoring passage, and six percent the other way. So, the “vote yes” debaters won, which was no mean accomplishment given the high level of the debate itself. There were strong cases articulated on both sides. For the “vote yes” argument, the debaters were former Falls Church City Councilman and School Board member Kieran Sharpe and former School Board chair Susan Kearney. The “vote no” case was made by City residents John Leimone, an economist, and Curt Schaeffer, a political consultant.
The event was hosted by the Falls Church League of Women Voters, who were represented by co-moderator Wendy Frieman, and the Village Preservation and Improvement Society, represented by co-moderator Keith Thurston.