City of Falls Church Mayor Nader Baroukh’s exclusive interview in last week’s News-Press, the annual “State of the City” interview that the News-Press has offered to the City’s mayors for many years running, was correct in terms of the one phrase that formed the basis for the story’s banner headline. As Bette Davis said it best in “All About Eve,” the mayor intoned, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
This, unfortunately, is undoubtedly the right call. Going into the fall, as the City carefully counts the sheckles it is collecting at City Hall month to month, it can be predicted that less income than projected will become available, and that even by the time of the City Council’s “annual retreat” in just a month, some major new spending adjustments may be called for.
In the face of generally accepted realities about the economy, and the continuing struggles the City will face (especially if the appeal of the water system ruling does not go in the City’s favor), two themes have been echoed by most on the City Council that should form the basis for prioritizing in this environment. One is sustainability of the City as an independent jurisdiction. The other is a commitment to maintenance of the City’s world class school system.
These are meritorious priorities, and each feeds the other. But they come with a lot of different possible interpretations in practice.
The key to sustainability lies in creating optimum conditions for robust economic growth, no mean task in these times. We have always held to this policy, and it has produced what, to this point, has kept the City solvent.
But for the new mixed use projects that have risen out of empty parking lots and long-abandoned buildings on West Broad in the last decade, the City’s financial independence would have already proven untenable.
Now, even in the midst of the recession that has ground commercial development to a standstill everywhere, Falls Church enjoys the benefit of some important new opportunities. The so-called “Flower Building” bucked the trend to bring, with 100 percent occupancy, valuable new revenues to the City, and the BJ’s Wholesale Warehouse now under construction will add even more once its doors open in October.
On top of those, the City has the opportunity to place a large mixed-use project by the Akridge Company on badly underutilized property N. Washington St., and a new Hilton Garden Inn in the 700 block of West Broad.
“Sustainability” means moving both of these projects on the fastest track possible to get them up and running. Plain and simple.
In the case of the schools, there has been over the 20 years of this newspaper’s observations, big differences between rhetoric and action. But its schools are the cornerstone of the City’s capacity for sustainability. It is key that its Number One industry, education, thrives and prospers to continue setting the City apart.