Local Commentary

Editorial: The Looming F.C. Election Referendum

It’s bubbling beneath the surface right now, but you can bet by the time the November 8 election arrives, there will be an awful lot of contention among many of our finest citizens, and plenty of fur flying all around our little City of Falls Church.

It will all have to do with the local referendum that will appear on that Nov. 8 ballot, one which asks voters whether they’d like Falls Church’s municipal elections to be held in May, or in November.

The arguments are heated on both sides, which will add to the potential confusion for a lot of average people. So, we are hoping that venerated Falls Church organizations like the Citizens for a Better City (CBC), the Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS), the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and, above all, the Falls Church chapter of the League of Women Voters, will become quite active in promoting more light than heat by holding civilized panels and providing balanced reports.

It’s already late in the game to get started on that, and its not as if these organizations are otherwise overburdened with election-related matters this fall.

In fact, aside from the referendum, the only two other items on the November ballot pertain to state legislative races. In one, venerated incumbent Del. Jim Scott faces nothing but the write-in box. In the other, Falls Church’s new State Sen. Dick Saslaw, whose 35th District boundaries were redrawn to encompass Falls Church last spring, has made sure that, as the Senate majority leader, his new district lines will in no way represent a challenge his continued incumbency.

So, the “ho hum” ballot choices in Falls Church this fall are worrisome to both sides on the issue of the referendum. More than is usual, the outcome will be decided by who comes to the polls, and the margin one way or the other could be very slight.

Basic arguments developed on both sides of the issue during the course of twisted events since two years ago, when the Falls Church City Council first voted to move local elections from May to November, and then, after an election in May 2010 replaced a number of Council members, the Council reversed itself, putting the local elections back to May – with the proviso that a public referendum be held to finally establish which way the fine citizens of Falls Church prefer it.

Those wanting to move the date from May to November desired to capture the wishes of a higher percentage of the population, since the history of voter turnouts in Falls Church since the City’s founding 60 years ago show consistently that many more people vote in November, than in May, elections.

Those urging keeping local elections in May said wished to avoid the potential co-mingling of local races with partisan federal and state legislative races, and to confine the vote to those who bother to weigh in on local matters on May election dates.