Local Commentary

Letters to the Editor: April 2 – 8, 2009

Making GEORGE Go is Called ‘No Brainer’


The editorial in last weeks News Press “Let Them Eat Cake” is written in a way that speaks in plain language for the majority of the people and spells out why the “George” needs to go.

Something that is absurdly simple or easy and requires little thought: “Making “George” disappear can be a no-brainer if you use common sense.” We are thankful that people like Mayor Gardner, City Council member Webb, Lippman & possibly Nader Baroukh for saying “NO” to keep the George running and saving some of our taxpayer’s monies.

During tough economic times our City Manager, Wyatt Shields, recommends a salary freeze for all City employees, however he throws out a olive branch to save the George with an increase in the top tax rate when he doesn’t even live within our city boundaries. Now that is absurd and decision making like this shows why our City Manager has disappointed a large portion of our population. At the same time he has grown his own office budget by twenty percent.

Maybe it is time for “Change” and our city council should start looking nationally for a City Manager that will make tough decisions and not pander to the few. We need someone who understands the majority and who is willing to abide the rule of law.

Ed Hillegass

Falls Church

Says Driving Would Grow Carbon Footprint


I would like to comment on Mr. Lippman’s letter (March 12-18). I find his words and tone outrageous. Frankly, I am embarrassed on behalf of Falls Church to have such a person on our City Council. His approach, to use his own words, “is the antitheses of the necessary approach.”

I also resent having the News-Press call me “an overly-pampered commuting resident” in “The Budget & F.C.’s Future” editorial. Every day, I walk from my house to Route 7 to catch the George bus, then I ride Metro for 30 minutes to get to my Metrorail station, and then I walk from the Metro to my office. That doesn’t sound “overly pampered” to me.

I could drive but, as others have said, my carbon footprint would expand exponentially. FYI, the ridership on the George has increased significantly, bringing down the per trip cost. And, like others, I would be willing to pay more to keep this service.

In addition, if Mr. Shields is so concerned (appropriately) about Falls Church’s budget, I suggest he give up his “special exemption” – yet another one that I feel the City Council ought not to have granted. I suggest that, as the rules require, he sell his house in Arlington and move into our City so we can have the benefit of his income taxes.

Finally, I would like to invite Mr. Shields and the News-Press, and any other Council member who would like to join us, to come ride to the Metro station with me two days in a row. One day, we’ll take the 3B, Metro’s bus to the East Falls Church station, and the next day we’ll take the George. Then you can see for yourselves what the citizens of our City are talking about.

Dee Ellison

Falls Church

Alternatives to Keeping Local Bus System


I am a member of the “Pampered Commuters Club”, yes I am one of several citizens that each morning stands on the roadside in the cold, heat, rain and snow waiting for the GEORGE while many of you drive by comfortably in your cars sipping your coffee and driving one mile to Metro for the privilege of paying $4.75 a day to park. There are others on Broad Street and Washington Street that wait for a regular Metro bus while the city pays on average $2.1 million a year so that they can also be “Pampered” by that “boutique” system. The formula for what we pay WMATA each year is complicated and the amount does vary, however we do pay for the non-GEORGE bus system as well and that seems to have been ignored through all these discussions. Quite frankly, from what I am learning, I don’t trust any numbers the public has been given to date.

While everyone agrees, even GEORGE riders, that the cost of the system is too expensive, there are several alternatives to keeping a community based mass transportation capability. I personally do not support a tax increase for the bus system, but I do support increasing the fare to $1 or $1.25 and lowering the operating costs, which have been ignored over the last several years since we spent all the original grant funding. We should be able to have a meaningful bus system for our citizens that also supports our business community.

The environmental benefits affect all citizens. Here is what the Environmental Services Council has submitted to City Council: “These benefits include car trips replaced by bus trips, resulting in reduced gasoline usage by these cars, and therefore less carbon released into the air.

“In addition, we assume that most of the 70,000 riders of the George are traveling to and from the East and West Falls Church metro stations, so the George service results in less congestion on City roads, especially during rush hour, and increased availability for others to park in the metro lots adjacent to these stations. Both scenarios, less congestion and increased parking availability, would also contribute to reduced amounts of CO2 going into the air.”

Barry Buschow

Falls Church

Says GEORGE ‘Reliable Asset’ For Falls Church


As a bus rider, I’ve found the GEORGE bus to be reliable and an asset to Falls Church.

Have the people charged with the decision to “remove” this service given the opinions of its riders their chance to express their views?

I realize a majority of the voting couldn’t have been by GEORGE riders!

When gas prices go up again, will they wish it was back?

Please reconsider.

Len Rinaldi, Sr.

Fairfax County Files Suit vs F.C. on Water


The City of Falls Church is now engaged in another round of litigation with the Fairfax County Water Authority, although this time the Fairfax County Water Authority has filed the lawsuit against the City. In January of this year the Fairfax County Water Authority filed suit against the City in the Fairfax County Circuit Court seeking $21 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. The Fairfax County Water Authority asked the Court to enjoin the City from using its water fund to subsidize the City’s general governmental operations, and that the Court also enjoin the City from engaging in unfair competition against Fairfax County Water Authority or efforts to monopolize the provision of water services in Fairfax County.

The City filed a demurrer to Fairfax County Water Authority’s suit contending that the suit failed to state a legal claim against the City. By written opinion dated March 13, 2009 Judge Jonathan Thatcher overruled the City’s demurrer, and allowed Fairfax County Water Authority’s suit against the City to proceed.

The Fairfax County Water Authority has posted on their web page a letter to customers regarding the suit against Falls Church, the Motion for Judgment filed against the City, pleadings and memoranda filed in the case as well as the March 13th opinion of Judge Thatcher

Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields posted a letter dated February 19, 2009 to Falls Church Water Utility customers on the City web page.

The City Council has discussed this suit in closed session on several occasions since January. Other than Mr. Shields letter of February 19, has any information been provided to City residents and utility customers regarding this litigation?

What are the projected attorney fees and costs of the current litigation?

What is the long term viability of the Falls Church Water Utility if the Fairfax County Water Authority is successful in this lawsuit?

What are the potential implications to water service rates and City tax rates if the Fairfax County Water Authority is successful in this lawsuit?

Is the City covered by insurance for any of the claims alleged by the Fairfax County Water Authority?

What actions were taken by the City after dismissal of the 2007 suit to resolve the dispute between the City and the Fairfax County Water Authority?

I would encourage the City Council to provide City residents and Falls Church Water Utility customers with additional information regarding the pending law suit against the City.

John Coleman

Falls Church

Proposes F.C. Citizens Donate for Salary Hikes


I have now been working on the branding campaign for the City of Falls Church for over a month. One theme keeps coming up. That is that Falls Church is a true community, we support and take care of each other. There are countless reasons for this that I will share at a big fancy meeting in a few months, but for now I thought I would share this insight and how it could provide a solution to the need for cost of living increases for our city employees.

There is a debate raging regarding the school system giving a small raise to its employees and the City not doing the same. It hit me in a Chamber of Commerce meeting that true communities look out for each other. If there is a need for city workers to get a raise and City Council can’t fund it, why not contribute to that cause as a community? The amount needed is not large, about $150,000. Why not give everyone in the community an opportunity to chip in to support the valuable employees who service us each and every day? It would make a statement to the world that Falls Church City is behind its workers, it’s behind its Police Department, its zoning folks and clerks, all of them. And we are willing to put money behind them. It would also define us as a REAL community more than any ad campaign. The action would be talked about throughout the area as an example of what happens when a community is behind its workers. Isn’t that what we are setting out to do with a branding campaign? To tell the world what a great community we are?

So let’s walk the talk. I propose a voluntary addition to our taxes or a contribution fund at City Hall to make this happen. This way it’s a win win for all of us in the community.

Matt Smith

Falls Church

Vicious Dog Residing in F.C. Neighborhood


On March 16, 2009, my Boston Terrier was viciously attacked at my doorstep while on his leash by a neighbor’s dog. My wife had just returned home from walking our Boston Terrier and had our dog at our front doorstep when the neighbor’s dog appeared and initiated the unprovoked attack. I bring this to everyone’s attention because the dog’s owners refused the City of Falls Church’s advice to have their dog humanely put down due to the vicious attack. Unfortunately the City of Falls Church’s attorney was unable to use legal means to have the dog put down. As such, this dog currently has returned to the neighborhood where his owner lives. This should be of great concern to all residents who live around Sherrow Lane or who send their children to Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. This dog lives approximately 100 yards from Thomas Jefferson Elementary School’s grounds. At the time of the attack, the dog had escaped from his owner’s residence and was not on a leash.

I write this letter as a warning. When I came home from work to comfort my wife, who was seriously shaken from the attack, I looked out my rear window and saw several small children playing on Sherrow Lane, in close proximity to where this dog currently resides, not to mention the hundreds of children who play on Thomas Jefferson Elementary School’s playground daily. The dog obviously has the ability to escape from his owner’s control. If it happened once, it could happen again and perhaps next time it will be another dog, but it could also be a child. I think all citizens who may be affected by this dog have the right to know that this threat exists. The City of Falls Church’s police department has a record of the case should any of the citizens wish to look into to it.

Matt Sherman

Falls Church