We will soon be diving headfirst into the political silly season here in Falls Church. In May, probably 1,800 or so voters (if history is any guide) will show-up on our oddball election date and choose a majority of our City Council and School Board.
However, unlike in many prior elections, we are faced with very serious challenges, and your voting decisions (if you vote) will change the future direction of the City. This is one election where we all need to pay close attention.
The issues are pretty clear. Putting aside all of the “sturm und drang” about election dates and political conspiracies, the only real thing that voters will need to focus on is the budget. How are we all going to pay for the services we need and want as a community? The bad news is that the choices the Council and School Board need to make are hard. The good news is that they aren’t complicated. In fact, you should be immediately suspicious of any candidate who claims that the budget choices are too complicated to discuss publicly. Most residents of this town work for organizations that have much more complicated budgets than the City’s. The current budget documents are on websites for all to see (http://www.fallschurchva.gov/Content/Government/Departments/AdminServ/FY10Budget.aspx?cnlid=177 and http://www.fccps.org/board/budget/fy11/), and candidates can also go to all of the upcoming budget hearings and work sessions to get the latest information.
In short, voters have every right to demand knowledgeable – and informed views – about the budget from their candidates.
When you ask for those views, we all know that some kinds of answers will be legitimate and respectful of voters – while others will be political blather designed to avoid the question.
Personally, I will listen carefully to any candidate who says some version of the following: “we need to cut X program and raise taxes by Y amount”, or “we are going to have to cut programs we all like and raise taxes by more than any of us want, but my first priority will be to protect the budget of X program above all others.”
Similarly, I intend to avoid like the plague any candidate who says some version of the following: “I don’t have specific ideas but I pledge to work hard for the best possible outcome for our citizens”, “we should rely on the suggestions of the Financial Advisory Board,” or – my personal favorite – “I will focus on cutting the fat and finding efficiencies.” These kinds of garbage statements are self-indulgent and fundamentally disrespectful of the electorate. They don’t reflect what we need in Council and School Board members at this critical time.
My basic message is that the future of our little 2.2 square miles of heaven – and your personal experience in it – are really at stake this time. We need diligent and informed voters. Please be that kind of voter. Become knowledgeable, ask questions, demand good answers and, most importantly, vote. The personal participation of each and every one of us never mattered more.