News

CBC Convention Voters Repudiate Current F.C. Council Direction With 3 New Nominees

img_1809Two veteran Falls Church City Council members with a history of a strong backing from the City’s civic candidate vetting association, the 50-year-old Citizens for a Better City (CBC), found themselves out in the cold at the conclusion of this year’s CBC City Council and School Board nominating convention today, rejected in favor of three new candidates, two of whom are seen by many as representing a backlash against the City Council direction in recent years.

 

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AT THE CONCLUSION of the CBC Convention Saturday night, CBC President Deb Gardner (left) held a pow-wow with the Falls Church City Council and School Board candidates who were successful in gaining the CBC’s endorsement. The candidates included, in the front row, left to right, School Board candidates Greg Rasnake, Pat Riccards and Rosaura Aguerrebere, and City Council candidates Ron Peppe, Hal Lippman and Barry Buschow. The fourth Council candidate, John Lawrence, is shown in the third row above. The only candidate that did not stay until the 6:30 p.m. conclusion of the Convention was School Board nominee Susan Kearney. (Photo: News-Press)

 

Two veteran Falls Church City Council members with a history of a strong backing from the City’s civic candidate vetting association, the 50-year-old Citizens for a Better City (CBC), found themselves out in the cold at the conclusion of this year’s CBC City Council and School Board nominating convention today, rejected in favor of three new candidates, two of whom are seen by many as representing a backlash against the City Council direction in recent years.

Incumbent Dan Sze, the Council’s strongest proponent of pro-development policies, and former Vice Mayor and two-term Council member Lindy Hockenberry, bidding for a comeback after a razor thin electoral defeat two years ago, failed to gain the CBC’s backing for this May’s election.
Instead, while Incumbent Vice Mayor Hal Lippman survived a close race to regain the CBC’s support, three other candidates emerged as first-time Council hopefuls, although all three have extensive credentials of service to the Falls Church community. Current School Board Chair Ron Peppe, current Planning Commission Chair John Lawrence and long-time community activist Barry Buschow won the CBC convention’s nod.

For School Board, the convention endorsed all four of the candidates that appeared before it, including incumbents Rosaura Aguerrebere and Susan Kearney and newcomers Pat Riccards and Greg Rasnake.

Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner, who is in her third term as a CBC-backed Council members, told the News-Press following the convention that she feels the four winning City Council candidates constitute “a very strong slate” and she praised the process, including the participation of the 167 citizens who sat through the better part of Saturday afternoon, listed to nomination statements, candidate statements and questions and answers for both the School Board and City Council candidates.

However, numerous observers commented to the News-Press that the result constituted a form of a “backlash,” especially in the support for Buschow and Lawrence, which could make Council deliberations on the upcoming budget, where revenues fall 15 percent short of costs so far, even more difficult.

In a highly-unusual final question of the day, all the City Council candidates were willing to offer up their personal predictions for how much Falls Church’s current $1.07 real estate tax rate will have to increase to make ends meet in this difficult budget cycle. Sze predicted 10 cents, Buschow between 15 and 20 cents, Lippman said he was “dubious about 10 cents,” Lawrence said 20 cents, Hockenberry 15 cents and Peppe 20 cents.
CBC President Deb Gardner’s convention-opening comments calling for a civil dialogue, for enhancing “social capital through creating bridges based on norms of reciprocity,” carried the day at the event. There were no personal attacks, and a lot of agreement on core issues among the candidates.
In a departure from former CBC tradition, there was no invocation of the so-called “litmus test” question of whether, should a candidate fail to get the CBC nod, he or she would still seek to run for the Council. In the past, if a candidate expressed an intention to run despite not making it onto the CBC slate, the candidate would most surely be rejected by the CBC. But this time, Gardner told the News-Press, it was decided very deliberately not to make that a condition.

Therefore, Sze and Hockenberry can still run in the May election without worrying about reneging on a campaign promise, albeit without the CBC endorsement. Sze told the News-Press after the vote today that he’s undecided on that course, and Hockenberry was not available for comment. However, Mayor Gardner told the News-Press that she “would encourage them both to take a good look at running.”

Other candidates who may run for the May Council election did not seek the CBC backing today. They included David Snyder, who has officially announced he’s running for a fifth term on the Council, and two others who have not yet either decided or made formal announcements. With 125 valid signatures, any Falls Church citizen could still qualify for the May ballot as long as filed by March 4.

Snyder was present at the CBC meeting today, as were all members of the City Council and all School Board members but one. The meeting was chaired by former F.C. Council member David Chavern.