Editorial: What Kind of City Is Falls Church?

In a puzzling comment posted on the News-Press website yesterday, former Falls Church Vice Mayor Sam Mabry equates promoters of affordable housing in Falls Church – those seeking a minor modification tonight to last spring’s City Council consent agreement by a 6-1 vote – with Wall Street interests that are “too important to fail.” Mabry wrote, “We are witnessing a classic case of the power of special interests trumpeting [sic] the common needs of our community.”

It is hard to fathom the mental logic that can equate the massive, egregious greed that led to the meltdown of institutions “too big to fail” on Wall Street, and along with them, almost the entire global economy, with the selfless and tireless efforts that have gone for so long into realizing a single, modest 63-unit senior affordable housing structure in little ol’ Falls Church.

Mr. Mabry purports to set “special interests,” by which he means senior citizens with demonstrated needs to qualify for help with their housing costs and their advocates, against “our community.” Just who and what is this “community” he is talking about?

We contend that, apparently contrary to Mabry’s view, our “community” includes seniors who need assistance to afford living in this real estate-pricey area.

In the decade-long struggle by the volunteers and nominal, underpaid staffing that has fought through disappointment after disappointment for the City’s stated goal of achieving more affordable housing, it has often occurred to us how the City Council would respond differently if, sitting in the audience at their meetings, were the legions of senior citizens whose quality of life depends on Council support for projects like the Wilden Senior Apartments that are up for grabs at the Council meeting tonight.

Those people are in our midst. They are in our “community” even if they’re not physically at City Council meetings. But if they were, we can imagine it would be far more difficult for Council members to look them in the face and turn them down.

It is true that the City of Falls Church’s 11,700 people include a continuing preponderance of Caucasian, well-to-do single family home owners, even while around the City in Arlington and Fairfax counties the growth of Asian-American and Hispanic populations, in particular, with more modest incomes has been explosive. For example, we were struck by the list, published in an article in last week’s edition, of Multi-Million Dollar Sales Club realtors from the greater Falls Church area. A significant majority have Asian-American names.

As demographic shifts in the region are inevitable, the Falls Church “community” can respond in one of two ways: with a bitter self-centered insistence on resisting change and accommodation, or with the generosity of spirit that we’d like to believe defines the values of most Falls Church residents.

Embracing diversity, economic and otherwise, and making subsidized affordable housing available for those who need it are hallmarks of the kind of community we strive to preserve and empower in Falls Church.