Local Commentary

Editorial: A Terrible Blot On Falls Church

Wednesday’s sad news that The Wilden senior affordable housing project is now all but officially dead, despite having been approved by a wide 6-1 margin of the Falls Church City Council last March and winning over $4 million in federal stimulus money, constitutes a terrible, permanent blot on the legacy, on-going reputation and future development possibilities of the unduly privileged little City of Falls Church, Virginia.

Let there be no mistake: this was an issue of the “haves” versus the “have nots.” There can be all sorts of obfuscations and smoke screens, but when all the smelly bull feathers are shoveled away, this is all it was about.

Rep. Jim Moran, who lined up over $4 million in federal stimulus funds for the project, was barely able to contain himself in his brief statement issued to the News-Press (see story, Page 1 of this edition). Private reports are that he is livid, not only because a genuine need was denied senior citizens in Falls Church, but also because he expended considerable personal capital to gain the federal benefit for the project. Falls Church can now be assured that it will be a long time before such an effort to help it out will be made again.

The move by the City Council last week to deny the Falls Church Housing Corporation and its allies in The Wilden project a modest modification of its earlier agreement with the City constituted a betrayal of trust not only to the City’s seniors and their advocates, to everyone involved who has worked together for so long to achieve a very modest benefit to the needy. It will resonate throughout the region, and may well have a chilling effect on many existing and potential new residents and prospective business opportunities.

Actions like this cannot be taken without consequences, many of which may not have been anticipated by those who’ve taken them. It is clear to us that last week’s decision by the Council not to approve the modification simply represented an opportunity by some new and existing members of the Council, long standing in their opposition to the project, to kill it. Acting to do this were Mayor Nader Baroukh, the only “no” vote in the spring, Lawrence Webb, Johannah Barry and Ira Kaylin.

Again, some continue to justify their opposition to The Wilden on grounds that “special interests” wanted it. Those “special interests” are not, in their minds, needy seniors, themselves, but those who’ve advocated on their behalf. But what, exactly, are the “interests” of those so-called “special interests?” It was in the well-being of senior citizens, and nothing more.

Their “interest” was in providing for a small portion of the “have nots” in Falls Church, as distinct from the broader population, which constitutes the “haves,” who don’t want service to the “have nots” to bear upon their relative privilege in any way.