Local Commentary

Editorial: Rug Chewing Incivility

Headline from a rival paper a couple weeks ago: ‘New Arlington County Board Chair to Focus on Affordable Housing.’

Headline from a rival paper yesterday: ‘D.C. Mayor Commits to Affordable Housing.’

Both these reports tell of government entities neighboring the City of Falls Church addressing one of the region’s most pressing needs, and stand it sharp contrast to those on the Falls Church City Council, including the mayor, who continue their angry crusade against optimizing the potential for affordable housing here.

This Monday’s City Council work session on the subject was, in the words of one of the members of the citizen task force that authored a proposed new city policy document on the matter, “an embarrassment.”

In an effort to avoid more charged language, we’ll describe the Council behavior Monday as “rug-chewing” and “uncivil.” One Council member huffed and puffed through the whole discussion, insulting members of the Falls Church Housing Commission by demanding they ask for no money, as if they were coming before him to beg. He also insulted and repeatedly cut off comments by other more reasonable Council members. The mayor was only slightly more civil.

But Mayor Baroukh outdid himself at the end of the lengthy meeting when he accused the News-Press of possibly making up the contents of an article in last week’s paper that quoted School Board chair Susan Kearney. She said that he, Baroukh, had apologized for the tone of communiques between City Hall and the School Board.

Baroukh insisted “there were no apologies sought, and none given” in his meeting with Kearney that Kearney referenced in a report to her School Board colleagues last week.

While it is curious to us why the mayor would be so adamant to deny any appearance of conciliation in dialogue with a fellow citizen, he can make up for it with an apology to us for his false and accusatory statement Monday.

As a newspaper, we’ve never been critical of people speaking their minds as they see fit, and even going so emphatically. Getting a little heated once in awhile is a sign that someone cares about something, and that’s good to see in an era of growing public resignation.

But it is an ugly sight to see the incivility that is a veritable epidemic on the national scene played out in a local government setting. For example, we’ve complained often about the trend of incivility in driving habits, notwithstanding the D.C. region has been declared the most congested in the nation. Auto horns are support to be used as cautionary supplements to safe driving, not as assault weapons against fellow drivers perceived as irritants.

Bullying is no more to be sanctioned on a City Council dais than one a school yard, and on behalf of our City, as its newspaper of record, we apologize to anyone at this Monday’s Council meeting who might have felt intimidated by the behavior of some on our Council.