Local Commentary

Letters to the Editor for January 8 – 14, 2009




Lippman Was Referring to Different Meeting

Editor,

In your December 31, 2008 story on the City Council’s vote to fill the seats of the four Planning Commissioners whose terms were expiring, you apparently misunderstood a key part of my remarks.

Specifically, I was referring not to the Planning Commission’s December meeting on the City Center South affordable housing project but to the vote that took place in February on the City Center project itself. It was that meeting I attended and observed firsthand the behavior you described in your article. In my remarks, I also emphasized that many citizens had approached me after that meeting and said they too were appalled by the Commissioners’ unprofessional rhetoric and demeanor. For whatever it’s worth, while I did not observe the Commission meeting on the affordable housing project you refer to in your article, I am told by others who did that the disturbing conduct I saw in February was very much in evidence there as well.

It is also important to note that when I began to speak I mentioned that my remarks were prompted by an observation made by one of the applicants for the Planning Commission vacancies during his interview with the Council’s Appointments Committee. The applicant stated that the Planning Commission was lacking civility in its public meetings and, further, that if he was appointed that would be something he would try to address. Since he was appointed I am optimistic that his presence, along with that of the other new Commissioners, will help turn a new page where the Commission’s public meetings will be characterized by a professional demeanor and civility befitting the very important role it plays.

Hal Lippman

Falls Church City Council


Budetti Wishes Best to New Commissioners

Editor,

On the agenda of the last City Council meeting in 2008 was the appointment of Planning Commissioners. Your paper and the Falls Church rumor mill made it clear that the City Council was interested in getting rid of the commissioners whose terms were expiring. Although all four of us applied, two decided to withdraw, one was reappointed, and one, me, was rejected. I just want to say that I have worked hard to serve the citizens and felt it an honor and responsibility to do so.

The intent of the City Council was clear during that meeting. Councilman Webb gave the first clue as to the intent when he said the appointments should not be viewed as an attempt to establish a “rubber stamp” Planning Commission. The mayor re-enforced the philosophy that the Commission’s role is to carry out the policy of the council, by saying that the Planning Commission was merely an appointed body. (So is the Supreme Court.) The vice-mayor has stated that the City Council makes policy, and it’s the job of the Planning Commission to make that policy work.

While I don’t agree that the Planning Commission is merely an instrument of the City Council, I voted in support of much of the development it proposed. I believe that the commission had, and continues to have, an important role in ensuring that development in Falls Church takes into consideration the needs and concerns of all of its citizens. The Planning Commission has lost the professional expertise of the two other non-returning commissioners.

Clearly, my position on the affordable housing project was looked at unfavorably by the City Council. Yes, the majority of the commissioners were concerned about the affordable housing project, and voted against it. That was because the shortage of parking was not a matter of 19 spaces, but of hundreds of spaces.

I think that the members of the Commission with whom I worked over that last eight years were committed and intelligent. I also thought they worked together very well and were quite civil given the arena in which we worked. We certainly didn’t personally denigrate developers, staff, or citizens the way some commissioners have been excoriated on the Blueweeds blog.

Best of luck to the new Commission.

Maureen Budetti

Falls Church

Not Chosen, But Impressed With Process

Editor,

I was an applicant for appointment to the Planning Commission. Although I was not appointed to the Commission, I have to say that I was impressed with the process.

The City staff was most obliging in providing information and guidance regarding the application procedure. They were also accommodating in setting up the interview. The interview before the nominating committee was good-natured. The Council members allowed me ample opportunity to discuss my personal qualifications and experience and seemed interested in my views regarding the future of the Commission and the City. Overall, I would rate the experience as a nothing but a positive one. If there is a Board or Commission that interests you, I would encourage City residents to step forward and volunteer for service. I also wish the newly appointed Commissioners Godspeed in their endeavors toward our common good. There is obviously some hullabaloo surrounding the Planning Commission, the City Council, and the general trajectory of City development. It is my sincere hope that we will move past that clatter and begin the good works that will sustain and advance Falls Church as a great American city.

Greg Rasnake

Falls Church

Some Coming Pain Could Have Been Avoided

Editor,

Falls Church faces one of the most precarious financial situations in its history. While some causes are economy-wide and beyond our ability to affect, others result from decisions made and executed by present City leadership.

Ignoring the obvious impending crisis, in a late August “state of the city” News-Press interview, the mayor asserted there would be no fiscal crisis; she saw no “red flags”. Within days, however, the City manager announced an $800,000 current-year shortfall and said next year’s deficit would grow to $4 million (11+ cents on the tax rate). Further, projections by the City’s financial officer put the deficit at $7.7 million in 2011, $11.5 million in 2012, and $17.5 million in 2013.

Despite this, City leadership refuses to reexamine a new subsidized housing project that, merit aside, will add a $1 million obligation each year for 15 years. The Council also began taking a threefold pay raise. City leadership pushed the approval of a Capital Improvement Program budget of $70 million in new spending obligations that underestimates capital school needs by tens of millions. Finally, City leadership launched a preemptive strike against neighbor Fairfax County in the form of litigation over the water system that the courts threw out. Now we face retribution in a winner-take-all suit brought against the City by the County’s Water Authority. If Fairfax succeeds, we will have squandered a precious City asset and created a gaping hole in our budget.

What does this mean to you? Public service and school cuts and increased citizen payments in the form of direct taxes and “fees” for basic services, such as trash pickup.

I demanded more discussion of the housing project and capital budget, given the fiscal crisis. I voted against and refuse to take the pay increase. I objected publicly and privately to the lawsuit against Fairfax. And I will continue to do my best to help the City navigate through the next several years and correct these errors. But our citizens should know that some of the pain we will now experience could have been prevented had City leadership and direction been different.

David Snyder

Falls Church City Council


Many in F.C. Stood Up to Racism

Editor,

In the Dec 18, 2008 issue of the Falls News Press, a letter to the editor from Ron Parson seemed to express displeasure with the mention of certain Falls Church history as “a riff on racism a hundred years ago…”

While I respect Mr. Parson and his many contributions to the city, I thought I would share the response of a recent visitor to Falls Church, regarding the same incidents.

At the invitation of Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation President Edwin B. Henderson, II, Robert McNulty went on a tour of Falls Church City. The tour included a “black history tour” of Falls Church.

Some perceive “racist history of Falls Church” as embarrassing and distasteful, etc. Others, like myself, view it quite differently.

After an hour long tour of the city including -pre and post gerrymandered Falls Church, Second Baptist and Galloway United Methodist Church, Tinner Hill, the Tinner Hill Memorial Arch and the Henderson House. Henderson talked about Rev. Read, General Howard, early civil rights history and the proposed 1915 segregation ordinance. McNulty remarked in a email “these stories are true “civic heroism.” They should be commemorated across the city, it is this history that makes the City of Falls Church go from ordinary to extraordinary…”

Racism propelled many of the citizens of Falls Church, black and white, to go to a higher level – one that went beyond the narrow mindedness of the times and beyond the commonly accepted racist social conventions of the day. Our city’s history, and the response of the “humans of outstanding valor” (again the words of McNulty) to these incidents make us unique. There are thousands localities throughout this nation who sat quietly, festering in racism and inequality and did nothing when faced with similar incidents. In Falls Church – men and women took a stand that changed the course of history for this city and the state, while setting examples for the nation to follow.

Nikki Graves Henderson, Directory

Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation

Cram, Others Hailed for ‘Watch Night’

Editor,

I just wanted to express my continuing gratitude to the city of Falls Church and the organizers (Barbara Cram in particular) for the annual Watch Night. As you know, I have owned a business in Falls Church for over 11 years. I live near Old Town Alexandria and for the past three years, I’ve enjoyed bringing my granddaughter Maddie to the event. She is now four-and-a-half- years-old and this year, despite the poor weather conditions, we really enjoyed the event. Maddie was first in line to have her face painted, enjoyed the music and activities, and a great magic show at the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Coming to Watch Night in Falls Church is officially an annual family event for us for New Year’s eve.

As a local business owner, I appreciate the opportunity to keep Clay Cafe open on New Year’s eve to give something back to my customers. We loved having people come in this year and paint the new year in! My husband and I enjoyed a wonderful evening in the city, ate a great meal at the 4 P’s and kept popping into the store to say “hi” to our customers and wish them all the best.

I hope we can look forward to many years to come at this annual event.

Helene Safford

Clay Cafe Studios

Thanks All Who Organized ‘Watch Night’

Editor,

The weather outside was frightful, but Barb Cram and her team pulled off another successful, free, Watch Night celebration here it Falls Church. I want to congratulate and thank her publicly for all of her efforts! Of course, thanks to all of the venues, organizations, performers and city staff as well. Our offices, Family Medicine in Falls Church and the Falls Church Foot and Ankle Center, participated again this year and were pleased to welcome over 100 revelers seeking warm shelter from the cold! The kids had a great time with our scavenger hunt and everyone seemed to enjoy the hot chocolate. Watch night is an excellent example of a successful public-private partnership doing good for the community. In these troubled budgetary times, I encourage our public leaders to continue supporting true community wide events like Watch Night, the Fall Festival and the Memorial Day Celebration, just as our city staff, businesses and volunteer groups continue to step up and make these a reality!

Gordon Theisz, MD

Falls Church

Says Bible Allows One Way to Heaven

Editor,

In Seminary Graduate Nicholas Benton’s column (Why Rick Warren Really Matters, Jan. 1-7 issue), he criticizes Warren for publicly saying that “Jews can’t get into heaven because they do not embrace his brand of religion.” My question is this: What version of the Bible did Benton’s seminary use and does his criticism extend to Jesus Christ, who said that the Father has committed all judgment to him (John 5:22)? In my Bible, the same Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6), and also, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

Warren Hepokoski

McLean