It was downright astonishing. Coming toward the witching hour Monday night, the Falls Church City Council suddenly woke up to the amazing potential contained in a bold plan to bid for $25 million in federal stimulus dollars, and was transformed from a deadlock (a 3-3 vote to postpone the measure) to a unanimous vote to approve it in the matter of a near twinkling of the eye.
As reported on Page One of this edition, the Council authorized the City staff to submit an unsolicited bid to the U.S. Department of Energy seeking to use the money to turn the City of Falls Church, all 2.2 square miles and 11,400 people, into a veritable learning laboratory for emerging green, environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient technologies. If this program is approved, which, by the way, it stands a very good chance of being, every citizen of Falls Church will become part of a grand experiment to establish the efficacy, or lack thereof, of an array of new approaches to saving energy and the environment. The ambitious long-term goal of the plan will be to make Falls Church a “net-zero” consumer of energy by the year 2050. Being that the distance between the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge coming out of D.C. and Exit 69 to Falls Church on I-66 is a mere 5.5 miles, it will be easy and efficient for official Washington to observe the results of the great green experiment in Falls Church.
Wow. It is breathtaking for us to see such a massive plan hatched so quickly and passed through the necessary official obstacle course in time for the July 1 deadline. For some in Falls Church, the announcement of the massive federal stimulus program that came on the heels of the Obama inauguration in January set the creative juices going virtually instantaneously. As of early May, a hush-hush meeting of key people in the City that could provide advice and input to the broad parameters of such a plan was assembled, and from there the concept was pulled together and filled out to a degree that passed muster with City officials and the City Council, itself, many of whose members had only first heard of the idea at a work session last week (and reported in last week’s News-Press as its top story). Developer Bob Young and long-time City citizen activist Carol Jackson deserve the lion’s share of the credit for marshaling all this through so fast.
So what happened to change the Council from a divided 3-3 vote to a unanimous 6-0 vote so quickly Monday night? The enthusiasm exhibited by Councilman Dan Maller was key, including his proposal of language to add to the resolution that established the Council’s on-going role in modifying and massaging the plan. But something clicked about “seizing the opportunity.” The City gets $25 million in free money, so to speak, to implement a plan that is projected to save its citizens $9 million a year through conservation methods. And it becomes a national pioneer, to boot. It was simply too good to pass up.