Letters to the Editor: December 3 – 9, 2009

Facebook Poll is Far from Scientific One


Yes, it certainly was a keenly strategic “outflanking” maneuver by Mayor Gardner, refuting the claims of the “known activists” arguing for deliberation and reflection in the matter of the proposed move of the council election date from May to November. If it hadn’t been utterly laughable, that is.

It’s not clear to me which is worse: Mayor Gardner’s basic understanding of statistics, sampling, and common sense, or the News-Press’ uncritical reporting of her paper-thin rationale.

Even the News-Press takes care to point out that their weekly on-line polls are far from rigorously scientific; the respondents to the polls are self-selected and no demographic data is collected to ensure that any sort of valid cross-section of the City’s population is captured. But now comes Gardner, who offers as evidence in a debate on such a serious matter as the move of elections in the face of near unanimous opposition from physical, flesh-and-blood citizens who have taken the time to attend a council meeting, that her extensive research shows near unanimous support in the other direction. From whom, we wonder? Why, her Facebook friends! Yes, Mayor Gardner evidently set up a poll on her Facebook page, and among those who have “friended” her on Facebook, it seems that the vast majority agree with her!

This kind of willful blindness reminds me of the (possibly apocryphal) story about New York film critic Pauline Kael, whose reaction to Nixon’s 1972 landslide victory over McGovern was, “That’s impossible – none of my friends voted for Nixon!” Mayor Gardner takes the Kael blindness to a new level; not only does she survey her Facebook friends, and not only does she hearken to their opinion in preference to actual live voters standing in front of her, but she fails utterly to understand the lack any validity associated with such a survey.

Unless, of course,  the mayor wishes to admit that her public policy is guided not by the good of the city, but solely by the opinion of her close friends. In that case, she’s on precisely the right track.

Rick Munoz

Falls Church


Don’t Expose City Elections to Partisan One


I write to express my strong concern regarding the City Council’s preemptive and ill considered vote to move the elections for City Council from May to November.  The move has been characterized as an effort to ensure stronger voter turnout and presumably a more engaged and focused electorate in what is, we all agree, a most important election.  This rationale, while seemingly benign, puts the election of the City Council squarely in the season of partisan politics.  November’s elections are traditionally party-bound and while we note the Council’s language which seeks to disabuse residents of partisan motivation, a reasonable reading of this suggested move, and the haste in which the City Council seeks to make that move, as a badly disguised rush to ensure that strong party lines are drawn and observed.

The timing of this suggested move and the enthusiasm of a portion of City Council members to remove this decision from the voters is troublesome.  A decision of this importance should be put before the voters of Falls Church and, should a majority approve the move to November, the democratic process has worked as intended.  May elections assure that Council Members will be held directly accountable for the decisions they make in April on the budget for the City and the Schools. A change to November elections will reduce accountability on important issues such as school funding.

I note that the informal poll reflected in the News Press recently indicated 77% of respondents opposed the move to November.  If the City Council believes this move is in the best interests of this City and its residents (a notion which should daily inform the actions of City Council members), then allow the citizens to make this choice.  If the motivation behind this move is to draw partisan lines in what has been heretofore a non-partisan process, then the issues on which we should be focused as a community are done a disservice.

Put Falls Church Citizens and their Charter first.

Johannah E. Barry

Falls Church


N-P Editorial ‘Brave’ Backing Date Change


The FCNP editorial was brave to support the City Council election date change (Falls Church News-Press, November 26, 2009, page 2).

Voter turnout statistics, comparing May to November, cannot be refuted.  However, another compelling statistic is missing from your coverage and the public debate.  Cost.

Elections are not free.  City registrar and voting machines are already paid for.  But not the election judges, printed materials, vehicle fuel to get supplies and personnel to voting stations, etc.

Wise move in these budget-constrained times is to merge local elections into the fall schedule for the joint state/federal elections.

Donald E. White

Via the Internet


Says Catholics ‘Within Right’ Vs. Gay Rights


The column in the News-Press last week by Wayne Besen entitled “The Pope Problem” invites a response. Mr. Besen opposes Christians who developed the “Manhattan Declaration” which he interprets as discrimination against the “GLBT” community.

Mr. Besen invokes inflammatory language against these Christians in support of his opinion such as “implacable foe of …basic rights;” “This rambling manifesto;” “totalitarian religious activists and radical clerics;” “historical revisionism that promoted theocracy, encouraged anarchy;” and “An extreme manifesto.”  Then, after being warmed up, he launched into an anti-Catholic diatribe which leads to only one conclusion – Mr. Besen is an anti-Catholic bigot.

The great Americans who developed the Constitution and wrote the Federalist Papers to explain it, did their work based on the principles the founders espoused when they prepared the Declaration of Independence to separate from England. In the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence the founders appealed to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” If my memory serves me correctly, there was one Catholic among the many who pledged their lives and fortunes when they signed the Declaration. All of the others were Christians of other denominations and some Deists including Thomas Jefferson, the principal author. “Natural Law” is not “implacable,” “totalitarian,” or “an extreme manifesto.”

Sexual activity among same sex individuals is against the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Therefore, Christians and others who oppose changing laws to provide special rights or privileges for unnatural activity are well within their rights. Mr. Besen is wrong.

Richard C. LaVelle

Falls Church


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