Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Falls Church City Must Progress, Or It May Perish

In response to last week’s thought-provoking commentary by Robin Gardner, I focused on our community’s shared hopes and goals. Thankfully, our values are well expressed in the phrases of our City’s Vision for 2025.

I find words that inspire me to keep working to give back to the community that has given my family so much. They are “sub-titles” for action-oriented experiences from which I have learned well during my active involvement in Falls Church. I think of saving the State Theatre with a vision to making it a unique regional-demand “mini-engine”; starting the Winter Homeless Shelter-now a grassroots institution; chairing the Public/Private Partnership which began the thrust to make economic development a key ingredient to our city’s sustainable future. I was privileged to be “in on” those and other defining moments in our city’s recent history. Now I want to finish well as my “Boomer” generation passes the baton gracefully to those who are coming forward to take leadership roles in Falls Church and the Metro DC region. I have learned that actions taken lead to positive results. No locality thrives or are its leaders remembered for doing nothing.

Truly the past is prologue. What we have witnessed and accomplished as committed citizens of Falls Church in the last 20 years will stand as we join together NOW during another cyclical season of adversity. The global Cause is primarily out of our control, but the local Effect is truly within our grasp to define for our city’s welfare today and direction tomorrow.

Please appreciate with me the opportunity in the “unifying principles”of our City’s Vision:

  • Successful Development-harmonious mix of residential, commercial, retail focused on smart design, long-term sustainability
  • World Class Public Schools-heart of our identity, providing all children with tools and skills necessary to achieve personal/professional success in a fast changing world-focus on staff, facilities, leadership, efficient use of resources
  • Neighborhood Preservation and Community Life-people joining together to shape their streets and public spaces-tree lined, pedestrian friendly
  • Diversity-where people of all means and backgrounds are welcomed and participative
  • Environmental Harmony-commitment to parks, open space, clean waterways, environmentally friendly residential and commercial buildings
  • Innovation-nurturing emerging ideas, bringing them together with public and private capital; facilitating special enterprise zones
  • World Class Government and Public Outreach-engage the whole community in decisions affecting the City’s well-being and sustainability; guided by accountability, transparency, responsiveness
  • A Special Place-experience diverse cultural, recreational and civic opportunities. The Falls Church, Tinner Hill, Cherry Hill Farm, the State Theatre, Farmers Market, and quaint 19th century homes are alive with historical meaning and 21st century vitality; magnet for artists, artisans and musicians, fine restaurants and eateries-always something going on

This is the hour to embrace our principles and defining characteristics– not let go of them.

Of course, the passive “glass half empty” approach gives in to the current season of economic difficulty-calling “halt” to concrete ideas and plans that will benefit our community goals for the long term. Inversely, this is the hour to embrace our principles and defining characteristics–not let go of them–as we continue to progress through these times of personal and public sacrifice. Now we get lean and mean-looking hard at where we have grown soft, but not giving up our forward movement to achieve goals we have embraced collectively as the legacy we choose to provide for the next generations.

Progress: verb 1. to move forward or onward, 2. to continue toward completion; come along, 3. to improve; advance toward perfection or to a higher state.

Recently, thanks to Matt Smith and SmithGifford, we have a “hook” upon which to hang our vision-The Little City description is truly a meaty morsel to define our unique attributes. If we begin to understand and implement its assumptions–living up to the promise of those 3 little words, we can progress to a position that is both visible and well respected within our large and dynamic region. We will have an identifiable and distinct NICHE by which we can attract the investors, businesses and new stakeholders we do need for the long haul. We will achieve the complexity, diversity and world-class status worthy of any true city. We will sustain the personable, accessible characteristics citizens and customers desire of a small town “where everybody knows your name”.

As Mayor Gardner commented, we do have our differences that sustain our deliberations, but now is the hour to meld them into a distinctly cohesive and pro-active community to be truly sustainable for our children and theirs. I look forward to the challenge.



Carol Jackson is the executive director of the Falls Church Housing Corporation.