Letters to the Editor: November 26 – December 2, 2009

‘No Compelling Reason’ to Move Election Date


There is no compelling reason to change the election calendar precipitously. We’re told state law permits the Council to do it, without a vote by the electorate. Even so, that does not make it ethically supportable or in the best interest of democratic government.

It’s said that piggybacking local elections onto general elections would increase voter participation. However worthy the goal, that is not necessarily true. Those who care enough to participate in local elections will vote, whenever the election. Those who traditionally don’t bother are apt to skip local races on a general election ballot. You don’t “enfranchise” citizens who are eligible to vote but choose not to, merely by changing the election date.

We’re admonished that opposition to the change is: (a) “political;” and (b) driven by “highly-motivated special interests.” Of course opposition to the proposal is “political.” So is a position in favor. Elections are, by definition, political. “Political” is not inherently a slur; however, it is often an epithet against critics of the prevailing wisdom. And those “special interests? Who they are is a matter of opinion – one man’s “special interest” is another’s principled conviction. Resort to canards and name-calling obscures the issues and cheapens the debate.

The disadvantages of a precipitous change are substantial and make a compelling case for caution. Combining local and general elections would dilute our ability to focus on local issues without national issues intruding. It would inject partisan politics into our broadly inclusive tradition of nonpartisan elections. From the standpoint of democratic government, it would be divisive and unwise for the Council to make the change immediately, by ordinance; they could thus extend their own terms of office and taint the change with the stain of self-dealing.

If reconsideration of the election schedule is warranted, it should be done by referendum so public debate on the merits can occur. Contrary to last week’s editorial, proceeding judiciously does not aim at “killing” the proposal; it respects the democratic process.

Anyway, doesn’t the Council have more pressing budgetary problems on its plate right now? Changing the election date won’t resolve them.

Linda S. Neighborgall

Falls Church



School’s Role in F.C. Property Values is Clear


Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you, Mr. Sommerfield (“Schools Not Primary Economic Driver”) for giving an auto dealer’s family a good chuckle! Mr. Sommerfield placed the Falls Church City school system dead last on his list for the City Council’s budget consideration.

In the mid 1980’s we purchased a five bedroom restored Victorian ‘just two houses’ outside of the City with access to metro, work and shopping. Within a year our eldest child approached school age and we discovered the significance of “just two houses outside” of historic Falls Church.

Seeking a strong, small public school system we walked across the street to learn more about the City schools. Our friendly-yes, welcoming!- Falls Church City neighbors suggested we pay tuition at Mt. Daniel elementary school in the City.

Now if you want to see a gem of a public school, please stop in and visit Mt. Daniel.

We were sold. Our big home was sold too! In its place we purchased a small unrestored three bedroom colonial for twice the price in Falls Church City.

Mr. Sommerfield, please ask any realtor in the metro area about the City schools and home sales. We certainly understand the challenges facing our City. We also know that the City Manager and Council will work together to make City schools a top priority.

In fact we are an historic Urban Education Village, as well as an arts community in a Tree City USA with excellent city services, kind neighbors–and this quirky award winning ‘free’ (thank you Nick and FCC business community!) newspaper.

From our kitchen window we see that yellow school bus pulling up for the next generation of students. Educating our children is no laughing matter.

The Beyer Family

Falls Church



Farmer’s Market Patrons Have Extra Parking


I’m writing to provide important information about parking for the Falls Church Farmers Market and to request the assistance and cooperation of Market patrons. Over the last 20+ years, the number of vendors and visitors to the Market have grown substantially. With more visitors come more cars to an area with very limited parking.

The City and the Farmers Market patrons have benefited greatly over the years from the generosity of management at the 313 Park Avenue office building which has allowed Market visitors and library patrons to park in the office building parking lot, although signs have been posted for years clearly stating that parking is for office building visitors only and NOT for the Farmers Market or the library. The lot at 313 Park Avenue is not a City lot; it’s privately owned. The building is open for office visits on Saturdays and parking is needed for visitors to that building.

Unfortunately, because of the Market’s success, visitors to the office building have at times been unable to find parking which cannot continue. A solution must be found assuring there is adequate parking for the building’s visitors. One possible solution is to close the lot to anyone not actually visiting the building. Clearly that option would have a significantly negative impact on the Farmers Market.

The good news is that, although some offices in the building are open on Saturdays and need parking, the building management has agreed for a trial period to continue to allow limited parking for the Market, provided City staff monitors the lot and advises patrons when it is full.

If visitors to the office building continue to have trouble finding a place to park in the lot at 313 Park, the ability for Farmers Market patrons to park in the lot will be lost. Therefore, I encourage patrons to do the following:

  • check first for available parking spaces in the parking lot behind the Community Center
  • look for available parking along Park Avenue, Little Falls and Great Falls Streets
  • follow the direction of parking lot monitors at 313 Park Avenue
  • walk or ride your bike to the market

Howard Herman,

Market Manager and General Manager, City of Falls Church Community Services Division



Cyclist Hails Courtesy Many Drivers Show


I read with dismay C. Fawsett’s letter last week noting that cyclists and runners often fail to respect the stop sign where the bike trail crosses Great Falls Street. The discourtesy the writer experienced after encountering the runners was indeed unpleasant.

As a user of the bike trail (mostly riding tandem with my husband on Sunday afternoons), I encounter road crossings on a regular basis. Within the two-mile stretch of trail in Falls Church alone, there are eight crossings at grade; six occur within a mile of each other. Getting up a vigorous cadence on the bike — and feeling the exhilaration of movement and exercise — are some of the joys I derive from biking; slamming to a stop every 300 or so yards is one of the prices I have to pay.

Therefore, I truly appreciate the great kindness that many drivers in Falls Church and elsewhere show to cyclists and runners at these crossings. In my experience, most trail users slow down as they approach the crossings and then check the oncoming cars; often (but not always), the drivers will yield to the trail users and let them cross. The drivers’ reward? Smiles, nods and friendly waves — as well as the simple satisfaction of doing a small kindness for strangers.

When I drive along Great Falls Street (and Washington Street, Little Falls Street, Oak Street, Spring Street, West Street, Grove Avenue and Shreve Road), I pause at each of those trail crossings, just in case I can do a small kindness for a runner or cyclist. Perhaps I arrive at my destination 10 or even 20 seconds later, but the trail users’ gratitude and my feeling of connection linger far longer.

I am a resident of the City of Falls Church; such friendliness to our trail-using visitors is an important part of our community welcome. I encourage drivers from within and outside the city to consider these opportunities for kindness the next time their paths cross those of a cyclist or runner.

Carol Ann Siciliano

Falls Church

Letters to the Editor may be submitted to letters@fcnp.com. Letters should be limited to 350 words. All letters printed become property of the Falls Church News-Press and may be edited for content, clarity and length..