Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: The Importance of Falls Church & the Region

Last week’s favorable coverage of Falls Church City in light of the recent census rightly focused on our community’s commitment to education and independent citizen-based government. Two other key factors should be emphasized – the importance of Falls Church City to the region and the importance of the region to Falls Church City.

Settled by Europeans more than 300 years ago, Falls Church has long been a religious hub, including the latest Falls Church built in the 1760s with strong George Washington and George Mason connections. The little village that grew up around the church has been the stage for French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, Civil War, Civil Rights, WWII and war on terrorism incidents. Continuing to today, our citizens have played and still play key roles in the military, diplomatic, intelligence and private sector activities that shape history. That history is available to all in books, tours and special commemorative events, walking trails and more than 100 buildings predating 1920.

This “place” is also one of the best situated in the region. We are within 30 minutes of two major airports, 20 minutes from the nation’s capitol, astride major transit and highway corridors and easily accessible from multiple entry points.

Beginning with the opening of the State Theatre, Ireland’s Four Provinces and Argia’s, and continuing with Mad Fox and our increasingly widely followed and wonderfully diverse group of ethnic restaurants and small businesses, the City is beginning to emerge as a place with enough dining and entertainment options and activities to attract large numbers of people from outside our boundaries. Adding to this vibrant private sector are the award winning farmer’s market, small town library and Falls Church Arts and Creative Caldron with truly unique local talent and programming. Special events that are repeated regional “draws” include Watch Night, Memorial Day and Fourth of July celebrations. We must build on this success and look for ways to warmly welcome all visitors and patrons and work to make their presence more convenient, meaningful and enjoyable.

The current absence of high level cooperation between Fairfax County and Falls Church City, indeed outright hostility, is exacting an intolerable price.

Falls Church citizens and elected officials have consistently committed their time to improving the region. We are charter member/founders of Metro and have actively participated in every Northern Virginia and Washington Metropolitan Regional Council of Governments board. We have long realized that no jurisdiction is an island and that cooperation in this region is fundamental to everyone’s welfare. This is widely practiced in areas where services and planning are routinely shared across jurisdictional lines, including transportation, environmental matters, emergency preparedness, police and fire protection, human services, court services, utilities and group purchasing. The value of our being part of this regional cooperation cannot be overstated and it indeed benefits everyone who lives, works or visits in this area.

As with the rest of the region, Falls Church City and Fairfax County have had a long tradition of cooperation that has mutually benefited the citizens of both jurisdictions. That has recently changed for the worse, much worse. The current absence of high level cooperation between Fairfax County and Falls Church City, indeed outright hostility, is exacting an intolerable price in terms of lack of progress on important issues and waste of resources on unproductive litigation.

This deplorable condition has largely come about as a result of the Fairfax County/ Falls Church City water dispute, where despite the City’s long term provision of the highest quality water services on equal terms to City and County residents, relations between the two jurisdictions have deteriorated to the point of multiple lawsuits and the absence of meaningful policy level communication on virtually all issues of mutual concern. Blame for this state of affairs is shared. Beyond the immediate costs to all sides of the water controversy, this shocking breakdown in the usual cooperative regional approach is blocking progress on possible important transportation and economic development initiatives involving the West Falls Church Metro Station area, South Washington Street corridor and the Route 7 light rail line, to name only a few.

Our shared history with the region proves how important we are to it and how important the region is to us. The lesson of the past is simply this: Our future depends on a healthy, safe, economically vibrant and attractive region and we can most assure the existence of such a region through the active participation of our citizens and government in regional affairs.

Recent events have caused strains in the City/Fairfax County relationship, at very high mutual cost. We must move aggressively and cooperatively to mend all strained regional ties. President John Kennedy once said: “Compromise does not mean cowardice.” I would add, that in the regional context in which all of us exist: “Compromise means mutual benefit and progress.”

 

 


 

David Snyder is the Vice Mayor of the City of Falls Church.

 

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