Swearing in Monday Will Lead to New Council Vote for F.C. Mayor

How much Monday’s transitions on the Falls Church City Council will or won’t change things in the Little City has been a matter of considerable speculation in recent weeks, and devoted City Hall watchers will be parsing all the votes and public remarks that the new Council will provide this coming Monday night.

That’s when the new Council will be officially sworn in for what will be the shortest terms in City history. With Council elections moving from May to November as of 2013, the new Council members’ terms will be shortened from two years to 18 months, while existing Council members will find their full four-year terms ending six months short, as well.

Following a public reception for new Council members Phil Duncan and Dave Tarter (and including the re-elected incumbent Mayor Nader Baroukh) held at the Art Center of the Community Center adjacent City Hall beginning at 6:45 p.m., the special Council meeting will begin at 8 p.m.

The convening of the new Council will be done by the City Clerk, Kathleen Clarken Buschow, in Council chambers Monday, July 2, at 8 p.m. Her duties then will be to swear in the new Council members – Duncan and Tarter, elected last month (and incumbent Mayor Baroukh, who was re-elected to a second term) – then call the roll, to open the meeting to nominations for mayor and conduct that vote.

Once a mayor is elected, she or he will then take the gavel from Ms. Buschow, who will remove from the dais to her normal position to its side, and the new mayor will open the meeting to nominations for vice mayor. Once that is accomplished, there may be some shifting of seating arrangements on the dais among the seven Council members, but that will be it.

Of course, it can be assumed there will be some speeches and comments made by Council members as this process unfolds.

As the proceedings will be broadcast live on Falls Church Cable TV, citizens can watch from their homes or attend in person, as they choose.

Needless to say, the only real issue to be determined will be the election of the mayor. Incumbent Mayor Baroukh has made it abundantly clear that he hopes to enjoy another term in the job he first took on in 2010.

However, that will not go unchallenged, according to News-Press sources. Vice Mayor David Snyder, who has been on the Council since 1994 and served as term as vice mayor from 1996-1998 and a term as mayor from 1998-2000, quipped to the News-Press that if asked, he would serve.
When the News-Press asked Baroukh at a Cherry Hill reception for departing Council members Monday whether he had the four-vote majority required for his re-election locked up, he smiled and said, “We’re just going to have to wait and see.”

More than personalities, there are certain nuanced differences of policy substance between Snyder and Baroukh, and their colleagues on the Council will have to decide whether any of them are important enough to sway their vote one way or the other.

None of the Council members are out of the equation as possible mayoral or vice mayoral options, either. A degree of “palace intrigue” has been underway among influential circles in Falls Church, mulling potentially-successful strategies for either keeping or removing Baroukh as their main goal.

Last time, on July 1, 2010, Baroukh won with five votes, including among those who will be voting Monday, Johannah Barry, Ira Kaylin, Snyder and Baroukh were among those who cast their lots with Baroukh, as did Lawrence Webb, who lost his bid for re-election so will not be voting this time. For vice mayor last time, when Webb withdrew his name from consideration after being nominated, Snyder won by a 5-0 vote with Barry and Kaylin voting merely, “present.”

But for this Monday’s purposes, the votes from 2010 mean only four votes remain for Baroukh, if they all vote the way they did in 2010, and it’s obviously doubtful they’ll all go for him again, since one of them is Snyder, a likely rival this time.

The outcome, then, will come down to which way one or both of the two new members being sworn in Monday – Duncan and Tarter – will go.
Both Duncan and Tarter come onto the Council having run for and been elected to public office for the first time last month. Both have been active members of the City’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) and bring expertise and urgency to the City’s need for considerable new development in its commercial corridors.

Baroukh’s economic development record as mayor has certainly been less than stellar, including whatever misgivings he might have come onto the Council with about the $314 million City Center plan that had been approved in 2007.

However, it is argued that he can hardly be blamed for the downturn in commercial economic development, given the Great Recession’s impact in the City and throughout the region. He has been working hard, attending weekly early-morning meetings of the Economic Development Committee (a subgroup of the Council not to be confused with the independent EDA) almost every week.

Snyder is an outspoken advocate for development, but has caused concern from some developers because of his demand for substantial office and retail components to any mixed-use proposal, beyond what those developers may think is economically feasible.

On July 11, the Citizens for a Better City will host a public celebration of “all who ran, those who won, those who have served” on the City Council at 7:30 p.m. at a local residence.