March 27 – April 2, 2008
Letters to the Editor
Nader Baroukh Launches Campaign for City Council
My name is Nader Baroukh, and I am running for City Council.
Throughout my life, I have sought to serve the public, both personally and professionally. When I first moved to the City of Falls Church, I quickly learned that the City values its strong tradition of civic participation.
I decided to run as an independent candidate for City Council because I believe government works best when it welcomes new ideas and varied points of view. Serving on the City’s Major Design Team for the City Center, I worked diligently to press upon Council the need to create a true city center and worked to improve the Atlantic Realty City Center project. Through these efforts, I realized that a majority of the Council and its leadership have lost their way.
There are now serious threats to maintaining what has made Falls Church a unique and great place to live. The City is not headed in the right direction in its current development, fiscal, school, and management policies.
• The target for a healthy city tax base is 50% commercial/50% residential. Despite mammoth new developer-friendly projects that threaten our neighborhoods and add significant new public service costs, commercial properties only make up approximately 25% of the City’s total tax assessments.
• The City’s residential tax burden is one of the highest in the state and higher than that of many surrounding jurisdictions.
• Our once top-rated schools have fallen in the national rankings and are increasingly overcrowded, but funding new facilities and staff will be very difficult for our small city.
• Last year, the City’s police department lost its state accreditation—accreditation is the best measure of a department’s compliance with professional law enforcement standards.
The only way to address these and other concerns now resonating throughout the community is to elect new leadership to City Council.
I will bring a much-needed alternative voice to the Council and have the experience required to regain a bright future for our City. My legal career has focused on public service. Presently, I am a senior attorney with management responsibilities at the Department of Homeland Security. I graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law and have been nationally recognized for my leadership and commitment to public service with a Harry S. Truman Scholarship.
I believe we can achieve our City’s near and long-term goals through a development strategy that retains a sense of proportion and harmony and is economically sustainable, a balanced and dependable source of tax revenue, the continued excellence of our schools, quality public services, and a true City Center that serves as a vibrant source of community pride and a sense of place.
I value the contributions of the entire community and will seek consensus for governmental action. I am dedicated to the principles of transparent and participatory governance and committed to doing what is in the best interest of all our citizens.
To learn more about me and this campaign, please visit my website at: www.friendsofnaderbaroukh.com.
‘Winter Soldier’ Event Got No Media Coverage
It is remarkable, but to be expected, that mainline media paid scant attention to the “Winter Soldier” event held at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland, on the weekend of March 14-16. Hundreds of soldiers and veterans gathered and testified on their experience in the Iraq War, just as soldiers from the Vietnam War had done at a session in Detroit in 1971. That Vietnam session was noteworthy for, among others, John Kerry’s testimony to Congress.
The 2008 session in Silver Spring was broadcast by a DC radio station, at least partially. And Amy Goodman on “Democracy Now” out of New York City broadcast excerpts of the soldiers’ testimony during the ensuing week (carried by WPFW 8-9 a.m. M-F on 89.3 FM. The testimony was enlightening, although not an easy listen. One heard of “free fire zones,” orders to destroy buildings in towns after seeing people enter them, orders to deprive prisoners of sleep, orders to shout at the Iraqis “they’re like dogs, if you keep shouting, even if they don’t understand they’ll do what you say.” And these orders always came from above.
One veteran described a house raid where they herded the family outside, went through everything in the house, turned the fridge upside down, broke the stove, then found out it was the wrong house; so they continued on to raid the “right” house. It was difficult for these soldiers and veterans to testify; their sighs were audible. Their shame and sorrow were audible. They told of deeds they would never have done as a person, done there under command. Some tore their medals from their chests as they concluded their testimony. Many took the occasion to apologize to the Iraqi people for their actions.
Are there heroes and villains in this story? There is one villain: war itself. Soldiers are taught to kill, are commanded to deeds they would not do as a human being. Post traumatic stress syndrome is a terrible enemy, ruining lives of returning soldiers and their families. War should have been ended at Hiroshima. It is high time for America to wage peace, to cultivate diplomacy and dialogue, and become a good neighbor on the planet. After the horrors of Vietnam and Iraq, the American people must never again let their leaders and the military-industrial complex lead them down the road to war again.