Local Commentary

Editorial: A Test of F.C.’s Independence

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine’s set of proposed draconian cuts for the next state budget announced last week, no matter what role the car tax plays, spell even more pain for jurisdictions like Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church, who began looking at eye-popping local budget shortfalls this fall even before prospects of deep cuts in state funds became obvious.

Never before in the near 20 year history of this newspaper covering Northern Virginia politics has anything like the impending difficulties of 2010 been encountered, and ironically, this area has it better than most across the U.S. What will be going down will test the meddle of every elected official everywhere. There is no doubt that, at the core of it all, individuals are going to suffer significantly as a result.

The debate about taxes or cuts in circumstances like this will be hollow at best. It will be between hurting people one way, or hurting them another, and it is those at the lower end of the economic pecking order who will certainly bear the brunt.

It is our clarion call and challenge to everyone in decision making positions in government as we go into the new year that, recognizing the cruel realities before us, no one exploit the situation to demagogic or self-aggrandizing ends. Politics being politics, and politicians being politicians, there is fat chance of this happening, we admit. But it is a worthy goal, nonetheless, something akin to basic human decency.

Having said that, we caution our readers that times like these can bring out the worst in some people, those who would view them as opportunities to exploit weakness and vulnerability to disingenuous and devious self-serving ends. Some see the chance to pounce on the small and relatively defenseless in the midst of distressed times, hoping to easily gain an advantage that might not normally be within their reach.

The independent City of Falls Church might be seen by such types as just such easy prey, especially with the tough budget year ahead.

We can draw no other conclusion, for example, than that this objective is at the root of the Fairfax Water System’s current lawsuit against the City of Falls Church. Given the penalties it is seeking in the case, the practical result of its victory could only serve to cripple the ability of Falls Church to continue operating as an independent jurisdictional entity.

On top of that, we hear the not-so-muted grumblings among certain nay-sayer citizen circles inside of Falls Church, itself, who may be preparing to disrupt the coming budget process with a motive of demonstrating the lack of  viability of the City’s ongoing independent status. Could the interests behind the Fairfax Water lawsuit and those preparing to agitate against Falls Church’s jurisdictional independence during its budget distress have anything in common, beyond their common objective?

Who stands to gain if Falls Church ceases to be an independent city? That’s the legal test: “cui bono?” Who benefits? And should they?