Local Commentary

The Little City Weed

gardnermug

Falls Church had a political mid-life crisis last year. It broke ties with its traditional community values by electing a city council publicly skeptical of local schools, and which, among other things, has discouraged affordable housing for local workers and openly mocked the bedrock notion of voter participation.

 

littlecityweedwebheader

“… Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today. …”

Falls Church had a political mid-life crisis last year. It broke ties with its traditional community values by electing a city council publicly skeptical of local schools, and which, among other things, has discouraged affordable housing for local workers and openly mocked the bedrock notion of voter participation.

The council has turned to a vision of Falls Church as an elite walled off community from 1950 run by men in gray suits with self-proclaimed expertise in financial risk who promised to protect the community by moving it backward. Dubiously crowned as the richest, most educated, place in the nation, Falls Church has done the equivalent of a small town comb over and turned itself inward … away from economic diversity, away from commercial and transportation opportunities which would bring vibrancy to the city, and away from an inevitable future.

For all the bluster, however, the city council has failed to make any systemic change in its core function – the budget process – and in its failure doomed the city to repeat the same old schools versus city budget debate. It is the Falls Church Ground Hog Day.

City council members elected largely by mocking the budget status quos have made no real changes. Adopting a shared budget model similar to Arlington was never seriously discussed. Consolidating duplicate technology, communications, and marketing resources was rejected. No new financial models have been put in place. The budget process is on the same glide path as last year.  Early sessions. Combined calendars. Budget town halls lightly attended by a handful of the usual suspects. Muddle promises without commitment about supporting excellent schools.

Spoil alert. How does it end? Familiar rancor.  Homage to hearing from the people. An orchestrated vote which includes a pay increase for school employees, layoffs on the city side, and a tax increase majestically dropped at the last minute from to $1.29 to $1.28.

Every time the city repeats the same process without making serious change it drifts further away from a sense of irony about what it is doing.

School administrators publish a 177-page slide presentation to illustrate how they are short staffed. School board leaders give a clenched jaw speech about the importance of framing a civil relationship with city council … and in the next breath ignore the budget recommendations made by their own administrators and urge parents to descend on council to “shout louder” to give the schools more money than they asked for. Last budget cycle the schools ridiculed the council for requesting it reduce its $30 million+ ask by $127,000 in order to preserve the jobs and pension status of two long time city workers slated to be laid off in worst recession in our history … and a year later the schools come in with $1 million in unspent budget without any apologies.

So don’t drive angry … and see you right here again next year.

 


Michael Gardner is a quixotic citizen and founder of the Blueweeds community blog.

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*