Local Commentary

Editorial: The New F.C. City Council

Congratulations to the winners in Tuesday’s City Council election in the City of Falls Church.

With eight candidates coming from four different places – four endorsed by the Citizens for a Better City (CBC), two running as a slate, and two running solo as independents – seeking the four seats on the Council, there are a multitude of explanations, recriminations and predictions of where things will go from here.

There are four trending factors to consider in what happened:

The first is the anti-City Hall sentiment reflected in the victory of the Ira Kaylin-Johannah Barry tandem. These newcomers to public life in Falls Church ran based on sharp criticisms of the current Council and City staff, in light of the extraordinary shortfalls in the FY2011 budget adopted just last week that led to an unprecedented 15-cent rise in the tax rate. That was also reflected in the dead-last vote for Vice Mayor Hal Lippman.

The second is the bashing taken by the CBC, for 50 years the City’s primary candidate vetting institution, which suffered its worst setback in 40 years, electing only one of four of its nominees, with one, Lippman, coming in with the very lowest vote total. Also, technically an independent this time, Former Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry was affiliated with the CBC for years, its nominee in elections to two terms on the Council and when barely losing a third in 2008. She came in second to last Tuesday. Include her, and the CBC elected only one in five!

The third is the vote total for School Board chair Ron Peppe, the highest for any candidate in the race. This showed that voters, the paltry 24 percent of registered ones who came to the polls Tuesday, do not blame the City’s schools for the problems with their tax rate, and amounted to a vote of confidence for the school system.

The fourth is the resilience of David Snyder, elected to his fifth term with another strong showing Tuesday. Snyder wound up being harshly buffeted from both his left and his right in the race, but his core constituency support base came out for him, nonetheless.

Where does all this lead to now?

The new City Council when sworn in on July 1 will have a much different profile than now. Three moderate-to-liberal members of the Council will be leaving, replaced by two more conservative, at least fiscally, members and one moderate.

The new Council, therefore, will be tilted dramatically toward more fiscally conservative approaches to governing and budgeting. Mayor Robin Gardner and Peppe  will hold solidly to a middle ground, but that means the tilting of the balance one way or the other will fall to three Councilmen in between. Facing added firepower on his right, and rebuffed from that side in the election, Snyder may be more apt to tilt toward Gardner and Peppe than before. That leaves Nader Baroukh and Lawrence Webb. With their participation, the new conservatives could rule the Council, even without Snyder. But that is far from decided yet.