Local Commentary

The Little City Weed

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The wealthiest and most educated community in the nation is once again attacking its most vulnerable members. It is more bleak testimony to how a handful of city leaders, who have intentionally detached themselves from the community and who remain myopically focused on nurturing a self-declared dire financial emergency, are impacting the fabric of tiny Falls Church City.

 

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The wealthiest and most educated community in the nation is once again attacking its most vulnerable members. It is more bleak testimony to how a handful of city leaders, who have intentionally detached themselves from the community and who remain myopically focused on nurturing a self-declared dire financial emergency, are impacting the fabric of tiny Falls Church City.

Fifty years ago the citizens of Falls Church City held a series of backyard fundraisers to build a facility in the community which provides integrated child development services to handicapped and typical peer children of working parents. The effort was spurred on largely in response to a grassroots desire to help a neighborhood family who had recently given birth to a child with special needs. The funds were raised. The building was built. For the last half century the Easter Seals Child Development Center has been an integral part of Falls Church City, effectively providing early child development services to handicapped and typical peer children of local working families.

A few days ago Falls Church City Mayor Nader Baroukh and City Manager Wyatt Shields put on their suits and went to go deliver a stark message to Easter Seals on behalf of city council: times had changed, there is a new self-declared dire financial emergency, the city schools need space while the elementary school is being renovated, so Easter Seals and the children it serves will have to leave.

The city council now wants to “maximize the value” of the property. The council places little value on early childhood development of special needs children, the childcare needs of working families or on the efforts of earlier generations to strengthen the community by investing in things which support local children and working families.

Easter Seals has provided its services to local families for the last five decades. It has born the cost of maintaining the property. It has reached out to partner with city schools in offering child development programs. It has offered to pay rent of $50,000 as part of its lease renewal.

None of which has been deemed “maximum value” enough for the city council.

City school administrators and school board members have repeatedly, arrogantly, presumed they are somehow entitled to the property … that the temporary relocation of classrooms as part of renovating means the schools have the green light to permanently push Easter Seals out of the community.

The school administrators gloss over important differences in the services provided by Easter Seals: The Easter Seals programs are available to children as young as six weeks, the schools start at two years; the Easter Seals is an all-day program with day care provided while the schools have limited three hour shifts; and the Easter Seals is available for local residents who do not happen to live in the city limits (i.e., children of city workers), while the school program is limited almost exclusively to city residents.

 


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