Local Commentary

Editorial: Next May’s Election

Falls Church’s “Citizens for a Better City” leadership might have done better than to have called its annual meeting and feed for a time that did not directly conflict with the televised Redskins-Cowboys game last Sunday. But some pundits hypothesized it was done on purpose to get a better read on who are the CBC’s “true believers.” The solid turnout of those willing to rise from their couches and walk away from the football game, or from the Cup of China Grand Prix figure skating finals on ABC, made for a lively, interesting and newsworthy event. For whatever reason, the traditional potluck format gave way to catering by Red Hot & Blue, maybe as a statement to differentiate the group, because of the recent spat, from the City’s Democratic Committee, which also traditionally does potlucks at its annual Jefferson-Jackson Day fetes in the spring. We can only guess.

The November CBC meetings are generally considered the kick off for the biennial Falls Church City Council and School Board elections. In the past, they have served as an announcement platform for those intending to run or re-run in the subsequent May’s election, or those who will not. With three City Council and three School Board seats up next May, last Sunday’s meeting produced modest results on that score, with only Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry among all the  CBC-backed electeds eligible to run again, saying she’s down for another four years. Councilman David Chavern, who was not present, had already announced he’ll not run, and Mayor Robin Gardner teased everyone by saying she won’t decide until after the holidays. School Board chair Craig Cheney said he will not run for re-election, and one new face who’s already put his intentions into print in the News-Press, Lawrence Webb, introduced himself and his plans to run for the first time.

One other citizen so far, Eddie Hillegass, has written to the News-Press that he intends to run. Word on the street is that there may be three more waiting in the wings.

So, it does not look like 2008 will be a repeat of the regrettable 2006 election, when for the first time in two decades there was no more than the minimum number of candidates for the slots available. The distaste of the uncontested election redoubled efforts at stirring up more citizen interest in local politics, with the CBC joining the League of Women Voters to cook up a series of “Deliberation Days,” and the Democratic Committee, in what fomented its row with the CBC, voting to endorse candidates in local elections for the first time.

Citizens will have until early March to actually file to run or not in May. But they may be wise to wait until the parameters of the next fiscal year budget are known, because with the stall in housing assessments and tax revenues, whoever’s going to be on the next City Council’s going to face some unprecedented challenges.