Local Commentary

Editorial: Congratulations to All 3 Winners

We congratulate the winners in Tuesday’s Falls Church City Council election. To the benefit of all involved, the three winners prevailed by a wide margin over the other four contenders, so there are no second thoughts, no “what if’s” or “if only’s,” as there have been in past elections when margins were sometimes of two or three dozen votes.

Here, we have a clear expression of the will of the people, at least of the 26 percent of registered voters in Falls Church who made it to the polls Tuesday. It is only slightly surprising that the single highest vote-getter was first-time candidate David Tarter, best known for his leadership role on the City’s Economic Development Authority.

Tarter was able to tap the overriding concern of all for serious economic development and revitalization to ease the burden on residential real estate taxes while maintaining the City’s outstanding schools and services.

The two other winners – incumbent Mayor Nader Baroukh and long-time community activist Phil Duncan – prevailed despite the fact that, for some, they were considered rivals of sorts in the election. Baroukh won four years ago by bucking the then-dominant candidate vetting Citizens for a Better City (CBC) that Duncan was long aligned with.

But, to the extent any of that was seriously operative in this election, there was ax-burying Tuesday night as Baroukh and his fiance showed up at Duncan’s victory party to offer congratulations and greet the many mostly CBC-aligned revelers.

The outcome will represent a shift on the Council. Leaving will be Lawrence Webb, who failed in a re-election bid. He was a key vote on the Council in Baroukh’s election as mayor on July 1, 2010. Council member Robin Gardner is also leaving, having decided not to seek re-election. But Duncan will continue the general policy direction that Gardner favored, if without some of Gardner’s tenacity.

So, it remains to be seen which way Tarter begins to tilt when sworn in with his colleagues on July 1. The money remains on Baroukh for a second two-year mayoral term, nose-counting backing by David Snyder, Ira Kaylin and Johannah Barry, although any number of possible Byzantine combinations are not to be ruled out entirely.

Baroukh gets credit for overcoming the disadvantage that incumbency represents when times are tough, especially in an election held days after citizens get their tax bills in the mail. He brought an aura of stability to the Council in the face of many destabilizing factors, including the water conflict with Fairfax County, a need to sharply downsize local government and a precipitous decline in the fund balance.

Unfortunately, Webb did not escape the same burden of incumbency. Too often, voters are driven by grudges for things that happened in the past, rather than prospects for the future. We hope that Webb, and the other unsuccessful candidates in Tuesday’s election, will remain active in local politics.