Letters to the Editor: April 5 – 11, 2012

F.C. Employee Chair Argues for Real Salary Hike


If there was an unofficial theme to the proposed FY13 budget, I believe it would be reinvestment. For the first time in years, revenue projections are healthy enough to considerably invest in City parks, facilities, stormwater, and transportation. Many of the new initiatives being sought can be considered, to some degree, as investments in how the City’s general government does business. Unfortunately, what does not appear in the proposed budget is a reinvestment in one of the City’s most valuable assets – its employees. These are the hard working men and women that keep day-to-day operations functioning, and the same employees that will carry the above mentioned reinvestments to fruition.

As Chairman of the City’s Employee Advisory Committee (EAC) I have been actively advocating for a salary increase that is competitive with surrounding jurisdictions and equitable across the organization. Regardless of my position, it is not a difficult argument to make when you consider Falls Church general government employees have endured reductions in force, pay freezes, increased costs in health insurance premiums and increased retirement contribution rates beyond those seen in surrounding jurisdictions. As the budget is proposed today, a 3% increase in salaries does nothing more than offset a portion of the losses in employee’s take-home pay due to changes in pension contributions.

City employees filled the Council Chambers last Monday, because they believe a reinvestment in general government staff needs to start now. To employees, the widening gap in compensation between other jurisdictions, and even city schools, signifies a lack of respect for their work, a lack of commitment, and a lack of appreciation. This is the time for City Council to alleviate those thoughts by providing a salary increase that is commensurate with the hard work being performed by a staff that has been repeatedly cut and asked to do more with less.

The EAC’s recommendation is to provide a 5.7% increase in salaries, which effectively offsets the loss of the $1,800 bonus given last year and provides a 3% increase in salaries. The cost to the General Fund is approximately $330,000 and represents less than 0.5% of the total budget. Not only does the money exist without the need to cut programs, the increase in salaries is within an acceptable range of the City’s long-range financial modeling. I’m unclear why this proposal has been a non-starter, especially when you look at the failure to maintain competition with other localities, our own school system, and 6.1% inflation.

Jason Widstrom

Falls Church Employee


F.C. Citizens Get ‘TLC’ from Their City Employees


Concerning the below par increase in City employee pay, I wonder if Falls Church City residents can tell you the difference between the malicious disdain you receive from city employees there and the TLC you get here.

In just one example, I called Debra Gee of the Planning Department — just once– to express concerns about a local property division. I went to the Planning Commission public hearing prepared to do battle….and found all my concerns incorporated into the agenda. When I called Debra’s office number after the meeting to leave a “thank you” message (after 9 p.m.), I was appalled to find her still there.

Another time, Kathy Allen walked me through a toxic waste clean-up for a compact fluorescent bulb breakage. From DMV Select, to Human Services, to Mary Styles Library, etc., I’ve found Falls Church City employees go out of their way to be helpful.

I’ve lived in a lot of U.S. jurisdictions and have never seen this level of service, but wanted to. I’ve also worked for a very small federal agency, and experienced first-hand how employee cut-backs destroyed our ability to serve. Small things can be fragile. Don’t take it for granted.

Dan Orr

Falls Church


Calming Committee Cites Disagreements With Vice Mayor


As members of the committee that commissioned the “Pedestrian, Bicycling and Traffic Calming Plan,” we were pleased that Vice Mayor Snyder took notice of our work, but disagree with some of the concerns raised in his March 22 letter.

Our plan is the result of extensive analysis and careful consideration of the City’s transportation needs, and it is designed to enhance our transportation network at the lowest cost and disruption to City residents. It will make our downtown more accessible and attract more customers to our shops and restaurants. The plan also provides many more sidewalks for the safety of our school children and other pedestrians, something we’ve sorely lacked, and the first bike lanes in the City.

In regards to some of Vice Mayor Snyder’s specific points:

1. The Project’s overall $22 million dollars is excessive and will divert funds from other projects. In fact, the City has already received $6 million (over 25%) in government grants for this project. Much of the balance will likelycome from similar grants over the next 20 years.

2. Residents will have their lawns torn up. This issue was extensively discussed and the stated goal is to provide the improvements within the existing curb to curb.

3. Sidewalks are “wants” but not “needs.” As a committee, we feel that there is no more troubling sight in our community than children walking in the streets on their way to school. We feel that the need for safe sidewalks is an acute necessity.

4. Removal of existing parking. The plan is intended to disrupt as little existing parking as possible, including few, if any, in commercial zones. Remember, the plan is only a framework. No street redesign will occur without apublic process. In a few instances, there may be some tough decisions about parking, but they are ones that we can work through together.

Our plan makes transparency paramount. The public is encouraged to attend an open house for the proposal on April 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Community Center.

Charley O’Hara

Falls Church Pedestrian, Bicycle & Traffic Calming Committee


Many Omissions in F.C. Council Candidate Comments

At a recent CBC-sponsored meeting the seven City Council candidates discussed their views on economic development. While some good ideas were presented, what was most striking to me was what was not mentioned during the discussion. First, the effects of the current recession were scarcely referenced. More than one candidate referred to empty storefronts around the City and, particularly, those in Pearson Square on Maple Avenue. The totally erroneous implication was that the empty spaces should have been filled and not enough had been done to bring this about. Having served on the Council when these buildings were completed, I know City staff and the developers made hundreds of contacts with retailers and other commercial enterprises – all to no avail because of the recession’s chilling affect on business development and expansion.

Second, none of the candidates acknowledged the long-standing role of “not-in-my-back-yard” (NIMBY) individuals and groups seeking to undermine, delay and/or kill development projects. While NIMBY interests have every right to advocate for their views, because of our City’s size virtually any project is likely to generate opposition that can impede its progress or worse. It is worth noting that our Mayor and two other members of the current Council were NIMBY advocates opposed to major development projects before they were elected.

Third, the candidates’ remarks glossed over the fact that developers are in business to make money. As simple as this may sound, some among us steadfastly maintain that our development problems are caused by developers not doing what we want. One long-serving member of the current Council, for example, has long opposed mixed use projects, insisting that developers do commercial projects, such as office buildings. Area developers have ignored such proposals simply because there isn’t a market for them.

Having been disappointed with what I heard from the candidates at the CBC-sponsored meeting, I sincerely hope that the omissions outlined above will become part of the upcoming campaign debate. Failure to do so, I believe, will leave voters with the same empty promises and false expectations that have helped impede our Little City’s economic development for years.

Hal Lippman

Former F.C. Vice Mayor


Says Criticism Of F.C. GOP is Monopolisitic


Recently the Falls Church City Republican Committee (FCCRC) was criticized by an online blog for having the chutzpah to invite many candidates of any party or independent candidates to a forum at the Community Center. Candidates for the City Council have also been invited but our critics contend we are not eligible to sponsor a nonpartisan forum at any level just because of our state affiliation with the Virginia GOP.

I regard this unjust criticism as a transparent attempt to preserve the old monopolies on candidates forums by so-called “nonpartisan” groups that have dominated the civic life of Falls Church City for decades. Apparently the old guard thinks that candidates for City Council are only elected by some mysterious process of immaculate conception that limits their time to only pre-approved venues and now some candidates are being asked to boycott the FCCRC event. This is a childish way to avoid contact with the public outside any old venue that formerly had a monopoly.

It is not impossible for a partisan group on one level to sponsor a nonpartisan forum on another level. We asked the Falls Church City Democratic Committee to jointly sponsor the event with us and we also asked the League of Women Voters to co-sponsor. The city Democrats were cordial to us but they declined politely and the LWV rushed into a special board meeting to give us an answer and to hurriedly set up their own venue just before ours and we respect their decisions. But with the low level of CBC activity recently, there is room in Falls Church for a wide-open nonpartisan forum for candidates even if it is sponsored by the FCCRC.

We are a minority in Falls Church so we cannot figure out what everyone is so afraid of. We have sent out an invitation by email to our list of city voters and to any candidate for any office of any party or independent group at any level to come to the Community Center at 2:30 p.m. on April 22.

We welcome everyone of any affiliation at all and we hope FCNP readers will come to enjoy our hospitality and learn something about candidates of any party or independent persuasion for any level of office who cares to come and share their ideas.

Mark Rhoads

FCCRC Member


Looking for Lost Ring with Mainly Sentimental Value


If you ever found a valuable mens ring in the mens bathroom would you turn it in? We lost awhile back a ring and it was pure gold and no one else has seen it just wondering. It is very sentimental value to it.

Rosemary Trump

Falls Church


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