The eight candidates running to fill four seats on the Falls Church City Council election on May 4 sat around a long table in the center of the Falls Church News-Press office Thursday afternoon to exchange positions for an hour and a half. While cordiality reigned, strong differences again emerged between the candidates. A video of the entire meeting is available after the jump here, and complete coverage will appear in next week’s edition of the News-Press.
The eight candidates running to fill four seats on the Falls Church City Council election on May 4 sat around a long table in the center of the Falls Church News-Press office Thursday afternoon to exchange positions for an hour and a half. While cordiality reigned, strong differences again emerged between the candidates. A video of the entire meeting is available at the bottom of the story, and complete coverage will appear in next week’s edition of the News-Press.
In a departure from a norm for a candidates’ debate, the candidates asked and responded to each others’ questions following two initial questions from the News-Press Nick Benton, who moderated the meeting. The candidates also made opening and closing statements.
Some of the same disagreements that surfaced at the candidates’ debate hosted by the League of Women Voters and Village Preservation Society were again reiterated today. Independent candidate Johannah Barry lashed out at the existing City Council for what she called “unethical behavior” in its handling of the water fund, and called the City’s forecasting prior to the current budget “capricious and fanciful.” Independent Lindy Hockenberry, running to reclaim her seat on the Council that she lost two years ago, said she’d attended every City Council and School Board work session on the budget and laid the primary blame for the shortfalls in this year’s City budget on the recession, while also commenting that the Council should have raised taxes last year.
Independent Ira Kaylin said that without strategic planning, the City ran down its reserves and that there are “structural flaws” in its financial planning process. Independent David Snyder, seeking a fifth term on the Council, said that seven cents on the tax rate was due to the consequences of a “failed water ligitation” involving suing the Fairfax Water Authority. That led, the implied, to the circuit court decision to deny the City’s ability to take a return on investment from its water fund. Snyder said he opposed the City’s lawsuit in private at first and then publicly.
Incumbent Vice Mayor Hal Lippman, running as part of a four-person slate endorsed by the Citizens for a Better City, noted that the circuit court decision is currently under a “hopeful” appeal at the state Supreme Court, and assailed the “rampant misinformation” circulating about the City’s lawsuit against Fairfax Water. “Fairfax wanted to put us out of business,” he said. Current School Board chair Ron Peppe said he worked in the legal department of a bank during the 1980s savings and loan crash and with a mortgage company during the 1990s when the RTC took over banks all over the U.S., and has seen the impact of a sharp economic downturn on a local economy. Commenting in the City’s mixed use projects built during the last decade, he said the City would be “far worse off now” if it didn’t have those.
John Lawrence, current chair of the Planning Commission, said the mixed use projects “got us out of a dead zone for development” in the City but there were mistakes made that contributed to the number of empty storefronts in them now. Barry Buschow, an activist in the City for over 20 years, said Falls Church “turned a corner” on commercial development with the onset of its “often contentious” mixed use project approvals beginning with the Broadway in 2001.”They have increased revenue to the City,” noting only single family homes are a net loss in terms of revenue.
The video of the round table is below: