Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Falls Church, Arlington & Fairfax Must Cooperate

The City’s official commemoration of our community’s involvement in the Civil War began with the balloon re-enactment recently covered by the News-Press. But to me, our community’s remembrance really commenced with the dedication of a memorial at The Falls Church to previously unknown Union dead. Here are the remarks I was privileged to make:
“This simple place of God in whose shadow we meet today, reminds us that this is sacred ground-hallowed by noble principles and consecrated by sacrifice.

‘It was the builders of this church, who first wrote: ‘…the most important and valuable part of the British Constitution, upon which its very existence depends, the fundamental principle of the people being governed by no laws to which they have not given their consent by Representatives freely chosen by themselves…’ They carried those principles to Williamsburg where they were embodied in the Virginia Declaration of Rights: ‘That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights…namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty.’ And they carried them to Philadelphia where it was also written: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…’ In the years since, these principles have been carried to every corner of the globe and still fire the imagination of millions of people to strive for freedom, dignity and justice.

“Today, we are met to honor soldiers in Blue who have also hallowed this ground by their sacrifice. They well knew the history of this country and of this place. They understood their duty was to protect the Union but they also understood their duty was to carry forward the principles on which that Union was founded – self government, freedom, justice and equality. Finally, they knew that many of them would never return to their farms, villages and towns, whether they came from Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, or as here, New York. What they couldn’t know is that their sacrifice did give this nation, under God, a new birth of freedom and because of them, the government of the people, by the people and for the people, did not perish from the earth.

 

I propose we engage in a business planning effort for our sub-region – Arlington County, Falls Church City & Fairfax County.

 

“A century and a half later, we recall the sacrifice of these honored dead and thereby help assure that what they did here will not be forgotten. But we can only truly honor them by being worthy of their sacrifice and even more importantly, by carrying forward the principles for which they sacrificed – self-government, freedom, justice and equality.”
Civic Cooperation

Benjamin Franklin said, “If we do not hang together, we most assuredly will hang separately.” That is as true today as it was in the country’s earliest days.

The recent Council of Governments strategic planning session included a Brookings presentation on the benefit of a region (public and private sectors) adopting a business plan – identifying strengths, weaknesses, and realistic future opportunities and engaging in cooperative initiatives to advance the region.

I propose we engage in a business planning effort for our sub-region–Arlington County, Falls Church City and Fairfax County. As to our strengths, Arlington and Fairfax clearly have size and other important attributes, but Falls Church offers a unique element – a sense of “place” for 200+ years including historic buildings and community institutions, schools, small businesses and events that are regional draws – such as our library, farmers market, places of worship, restaurants and cultural events. And we already cooperate with our neighbors on the provision of many civic services – human services, police, fire and corrections. I regularly attend meetings where I support projects of importance to our neighbors, and they do the same for us.

But our sub-regional cooperation is fraying with a growing number of conflicts. In fact, it has been many years since there have been any joint meetings between the governing bodies of Falls Church City and Arlington and Fairfax Counties. This must change.

Economic development and transportation planning are two examples of how we all could gain advantage from closer cooperation. The major transportation and commercial corridors and the Metro Stations that we share with our neighbors, would clearly benefit from more sub-regional cooperation that would make us all winners.

Finally, at Monday’s Council meeting, I asked the City to begin contingency planning in the case of national default and lowered credit ratings. So far, it is President Obama who has shown in this crisis the qualities of our greatest leaders, such as Abraham Lincoln and Ike Eisenhower. They knew that shared sacrifice was essential to meeting the nation’s challenges. History teaches us the high cost of failure. Must we learn it again?

 


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