Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Now that Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are behind us, our focus can turn to more mundane items, like water, child care regulations, and planning for the next election. All three were on last week’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting agenda, and prompted lively debate.

Well-known by now, the water war has been settled following a federal mediation session earlier this month. The City of Falls Church, Fairfax Water, and Fairfax County successfully negotiated terms for the sale of the Falls Church water utility to Fairfax Water. The settlement, which must be approved by city voters in a referendum next year, includes a reduction in water rates to the customers of the city’s service area. When finally approved, the deal means that thousands of Mason District residents in the Seven Corners area, who receive their water service from the city’s utility, will see a reduction in water rates within two years.

The Board also acted on revised child care regulations, which included an amendment that cell phones for providers would meet the requirements for safety. The most contentious part of the proposed regulation required a landline telephone for providers, on the basis that landline technology provides a specific street address for 911 dispatchers, whereas cell phones do not. Providers argued that a landline is an extra expense in a business that operates on very small margins, and cell phones can be carried on your person, an important aspect when caring for small children. The amendment passed, 7 to 2, and the revised regulations were adopted unanimously. A Zoning Ordinance amendment regarding the number of children permitted by license in a home child care residence is expected to come before the Board in 2013.

Perhaps the liveliest discussion came when Board Chairman Sharon Bulova proposed establishment of a Bi-partisan Election Process Improvement Commission to review operations during the 2012 general election and identify improvements and efficiencies that ensure access and convenience for voters in future elections. Among the issues to be studied are precinct locations, parking availability, the number of voting machines, barriers to voting, absentee ballot process, and training of election workers. Admittedly, the turnout was huge for the Presidential election, leading to longer waits than usual, but waiting in long lines outdoors for hours, as happened at Skyline precinct, simply is not acceptable. The commission will be co-chaired by former Board Chairman Kate Hanley and former Dranesville Supervisor Stu Mendelsohn, and is directed to bring recommendations to the Board in May 2013.

The 17th Annual Mason District Holiday Town Gathering will be held next Thursday, December 6, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale. Mason District residents are invited to enjoy live music by Nova-RMS Jazz Ensemble, refreshments, and a report about Mason District happenings in 2012. I look forward to seeing you there.