Local Commentary

Editorial: An Exemplary Community

Two actions taken by the Falls Church City Council this Monday solidly establish The Little City of Falls Church as exemplary. The first was the historic vote to approve the City’s role in the construction of a new senior affordable housing apartment building, The Wilden.

The second was a unanimous and formal stinging rebuke of right-wing Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s recent ruling against the right of the state’s colleges and universities to include lesbians and gays among classes of persons protected by anti-discrimination edicts.

To some, the connection between these two actions may not be clear. But it is there, and with the two matters taken together, it is resounding.

In the midst of one of the worst fiscal crises in the City’s history, the Council took time out of hand-wringing over the budget shortfall to work out steps to protect and contribute to the well-being of two important components of our diverse society – seniors and the “LGBT” (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.

In the case of The Wilden, the Council approved it even against the perception that it will cost the cash-strapped City $2 million (it is actually a loan). In both cases, however, the issue was one of values, and their elevation over the more mundane calculus of risk-and-return.

Few were more eloquent in the expression of such value-laden public policy making than veteran Falls Church Councilman David Snyder, belying his historic ties to a Republican Party that has moved far to his right in recent years. Snyder declared The Wilden to be “in the public interest” noting the effective leveraging of the City’s dollars with state and federal money, the low relative per unit cost of the project, and the desire of seniors in older affordable housing in the City to move there. On the Cuccinelli matter, he derided the attorney general for flying in the face of the Virginia Declaration of Rights in favor of “modern Jim Crow” methods.

Six of Snyder’s seven colleagues on the Council, and five of seven on the Planning Commission, agreed with him on The Wilden. Everyone on the Council and everyone on the City’s School Board agreed with him on the Cuccinelli issue.

Publicly on the right side of one or both of these important issues in recent weeks were four of the eight candidates running for City Council in the upcoming May 4 election. In addition to Snyder, they include Vice Mayor Hal Lippman, School Board Chair Ron Peppe and Planning Commissioner Lindy Hockenberry. To us, being on the right side on these issues constitute powerful grounds for warranting support in the election.

The City will be rewarded for the actions it took Monday with a surge of new economic development, ahead of the curve for the region, that will contribute to its long-term sustainability. For the same reason that Cuccinelli’s ruling will drive new business away from Virginia, the Falls Church City Council’s actions will attract it.