Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: F.C. Can’t Move Forward Without Citizen Involvement

Since most of my thoughts are usually reserved for the shower, I appreciate the chance to share a few here about Falls Church City. I would be remiss if I didn’t first mention the results of our recent elections.

I want to congratulate those that were elected to City Council: Johannah Barry, Ira Kaylin, and Ron Peppe, and four-term incumbent David Snyder. I want to say thanks to those dedicated people that ran hard but came up a little short: Barry Buschow, Lindy Hockenberry, John Lawrence and incumbent Hal Lippman. I’d also like to applaud those that were elected to the School Board: incumbents Rosaura Aguerrebere and Susan Kearney, and newcomers Greg Rasnake and Pat Riccards. We all need to work together now to reach our common goals.

Running for office, if done the traditional Falls Church way, is a very difficult endeavor, and governing in tough times will be even harder than running for office. I also want to thank those that are stepping down from the City Council: Hal Lippman, Dan Maller and Dan Sze having served the last four years, and Kathy Chandler having served the last eight years on the School Board. When you see these civic minded people around town, you should thank them for their dedicated service to our City, and thank their families for the sacrifices they too have made!

While we might not always agree with every vote cast, we do need people to continue to come forward and give back to this community if we want it to continue to be a great place to live, work and visit. Ideally, we really should be striving to leave it a better place than we found it.

I was at the polls on Tuesday and I too was disappointed with the low voter turnout in spite of the individual efforts of the 12 candidates, the League of Women Voters, the Village Preservation and Improvement Society, the Falls Church News-Press and the City’s growing blog presence. We had a hotly contested City Council race with eight people vying for four seats under very difficult budgetary conditions but it didn’t matter. I encourage everyone to stay engaged and to get involved.

This election had new people participating, known folks, independents, a candidate crossing over from the School Board to City Council, etc. and the sum total was 24% voter turnout with no candidate even getting 1,000 votes. Our City cannot continue to move forward without involvement of all citizens. A local vote makes the biggest difference in determining the quality and extent of our government services and the excellence of our school system.

A local vote makes the biggest difference in determining the quality and extent of our government services and the excellence of our school system.

Moving the election to November admittedly has its challenges and risks, but increasing the voter turnout is one result that is guaranteed, and that should finally give the City Council the will of the people to then be able to make the bold decisions that will help keep Falls Church City independent and vibrant for the next generation. Speaking of the next generation, I caught a glimpse of that today while I was at my six year old daughter’s Kindergarten Music Program at Mount Daniel Elementary School. I saw dedicated teachers, administrators, parents, and some grandparents, all participating in this simple yet fleeting youthful moment. The cycle of life continues.

I was born and raised in Falls Church City all because my Dad heard (in his carpool at the time) that Falls Church was a great place to raise children. And raise them my parents did, sending nine children through the City school system. I have been fortunate to be able to raise my two children here. My father died seven years ago and my mother is on a fixed income now, but she still believes in paying her fair share of taxes because it’s the right thing to do. My Dad also believed in voting, no excuses allowed, as he served for 14 years on the Electoral Board. I know I haven’t missed an election yet.

Sure, Falls Church City is about educating our children, and when ours are grown, our neighbor’s children, because that too is part of what makes a great community. Our City is not only a desirable place for parents, but also for singles, empty nesters, and business owners. They too want to locate their livelihood, company and employees in a progressive and vibrant community. There are many other valuable aspects of Falls Church that make this a great place to live and work. I see and hear, and never forget, some of these aspects every day in my job as Commissioner of the Revenue.

I’m optimistic about the future of Falls Church City. Residential and commercial real estate activity appears to be picking up. We have several new restaurants opening in the next few months i.e. Pizzeria Orzo on Maple Avenue, Madfox Brewery in the Spectrum Building and the Chipotle opening in the Broaddale Shopping Center. The biggest economic development news is the opening of BJ’s Wholesale Club on Wilson Boulevard by the end of August. I think the very worst is over and the recovery will be slow, but we all must continue to invest in those things that will make Falls Church City a better place than we found it.



Tom Clinton is the Falls Church Commissioner of the Revenue and a life-long resident of the City.