Local Commentary

Editorial: Those Budget Priorities

Kudos to the Falls Church City Council for arriving at a final budget for the coming fiscal year that did not tamper with the well-thought out funding request from the Falls Church School Board. Those on the Council who were obsessing almost up to the last minute about shaving the schools’ contingency fund to avoid a tax hike finally realized it was more important to affirm the integrity of the School Board’s best efforts and find other ways to keep the tax rate even.

In this year’s budget, in particular, three very positive and significant trends are prominent. The first, of course, is the continued full support for the quality and sustainability of the school system. The second is the decisive revenue role that new economic development in the City’s commercial corridors played in offsetting the precipitous decline in the growth of residential real estate values. The third is the Council’s conscious decision to push back against inertia driving Falls Church to become, effectively, a gated city of the rich. They did this by designating, in the face of fiscal tough times, $2 million to affordable housing. Larger surrounding jurisdictions don’t have the luxury of ignoring affordable housing needs, but tiny, wealthy Falls Church could have. So, it’s good that the Council took a stand to make sure the City remains viable for a wide range of household incomes. Some, perhaps, have learned from earlier missteps, since 1994, of driving out a food bank, throwing informal soccer games off City fields and pick-up basketball games out of the Community Center, and of torpedoing a plan for a West End senior housing facility, among other things.

This budget reflects a City now fraught with potential as a result of its three prominent features. We would be remiss, in this context, if we did not remind our readers that, since our founding in 1991, this newspaper has stood four-square for all three of these features, without fail, for 16 years. We have done it with editorials and editorial decisions that have had an impact because they made sense. Without that, they wouldn’t have mattered. We certainly don’t take credit for all that’s led the City in the right direction over this time, but we deserve our share, certainly more than any elected official may be expected to concede. They tend to insist on all the credit, or at best sharing it with their supporters. They seldom know how to deal with newspapers that are not followers, but independent co-participants with them in the governing process, providing on behalf of the wider public, when at their best, a critical and constructive eye as democracy’s so-called “Fourth Estate.”

In our case, no one has ever told us we’d have to stand for the core community values we’ve advocated so strongly all these years. Indeed, many communities suffer with newspapers quite hostile to such things. But confident in our role, we take heart in our efforts from the new budget’s priorities, and from the many citizens who thank us.