Local Commentary

Editorial: 2011: Little City Casts a Big Vote

A lot happened in the mighty City of Falls Church in 2011, but just as past is prologue, the important stuff has served to set the stage for 2012 and beyond.

The single most significant development of 2011 was the outcome of the referendum on the November ballot, an outcome that will prove vital for the City’s ability to blaze an optimal past into a prosperous future.

That was the landslide vote to move elections in The Little City from May to November for the first time in its 60-plus-year history. It means that voter turnouts in future City Council and School Board elections (beginning in 2013) will approximately double over what routinely turned out in May races, and that means that the ability of small, well-organized special interest groups of activists in the City will have a much harder time controlling the City’s agenda.

We are optimistic this will enable the City to catch up to the rapidly-evolving urban trends of the wider region, even while maintaining the distinct identity that many local activists fear most it will lose. In fact, the niche identity question for Falls Church will become more important than ever, even as development surges on all sides, and hopefully within the City’s limits, as well.
Also, the more voters that come to the polls in Falls Church will mean a greater force for aligning the City with progressive values, including maintaining and improving quality schools and welcoming greater diversity, including ethnic, racial, cultural and income diversity.

Let’s face it: partisan November voter patterns in Falls Church have consistently been two-to-one Democratic over Republican, a pattern that hasn’t significantly changed over the history of the City, remarkable given the transient patterns of the population.

So it was no wonder that Republicans and others who might like Democratic ideals applied to the big picture, but not so much for their own neighborhood, wanted to keep elections here in May.

But with the outcome of November’s referendum, Council and School Board candidates who align themselves in a more pronounced and explicit way with progressive Democratic values, even if the elections are officially non-partisan, will find themselves with a distinct advantage.

This will amount to a marshaling of the innate sensibilities of the busy and often preoccupied Falls Church population to throw more weight behind things like, say, affordable housing.
It is ironic that, in 2011, while a decade of frustration and failure to achieve even modest goals in affordable housing, due to a stubbornly resistant domestic opposition, resulted in the resignation of that cause’s primary advocate, Carol Jackson, the November referendum created the precondition for what should, almost guaranteed, lead to a considerable success of such efforts in the future.

So, it is not the fear that municipal elections will become partisan, but worse in the minds of some, that they will call forth more enlightened and compassionate policies, that promises to become the legacy of November elections.