Now that the newly-constituted Falls Church City Council has been duly sworn in and incumbents, Mayor Nader Baroukh and Vice Mayor David Snyder, reinstated for second consecutive terms in their leadership positions on the body, the Council comes to its first formal business meeting this coming Monday with only a year-and-a-half to prove its mettle before another election casts four of its seven seats into doubt.
Many in Falls Church are looking for an even more significant shift in the political make-up in the Council in its next election, the first ever to be held in November, next year than occurred in the one held this past May. While they think that because of an expected much higher voter turnout in November 2013 than in any previous May Council election, the real determinant will be how well the City fares, or fails to, under the direction of this new and present Council.
In our view, if this Council presides over another period of paltry economic development and crisis management as the last one did, the changes in 2013 could be very significant, indeed. Granted, the City found itself dealt in the last two years with come cards not of its own choosing or of its own responsibility. The continued fallout from the Great Recession and the sudden devolution of its water system service into a veritable nightmare for the City did not have their genesis in Council or City government initiatives. In fact, if anything, it is to the City leadership’s great credit that somehow both those factors were managed well enough to keep the City on a relatively even keel and with sunnier prospects for the future.
That said, none of this came about because of a kind of bold aggressiveness that Falls Church Councils from the pre-Recession period became known for that brought an impressive sequence of major, new mixed-use projects onto the City’s commercial corridors in the 2001-2007 time frame. But for those projects, the City’s financial condition would be in far worse shape today than it is.
The recent period has seen Council leadership continue to hesitate, stall and balk at the resumption of that process, fearful somehow that developers who continue to want residential components to their mixed use project ideas are out to fleece the City and steal away its precious little commercially-zoned land. The reality is that although the City has limited resources of such land, it is far from being threatened by the few new projects that are being considered for any point in the near future, and all the evidence points to the City’s crying need to make viable commercial enterprise, including retail, work is dependent on many more and younger people having places to live here.
If this hesitation continues, then that will dictate how the November 2013 election will turn out, a hey day for non-incumbents. But that should not be what spurs the current Council. Doing the right thing should be.