Local Commentary

Editorial: The Uncommon Months Ahead

It’s going to be a very different fall in the corridors of power in the City of Falls Church, defined by the shift of municipal elections from May to, for the first time this fall, November.

November City Council and School Board elections will modify a lot of things that the City has been accustomed to doing for many years, with the first evidence of that being the City Council’s decision not to hold an annual “retreat” this month to mull the big picture for the coming years.

With a new Council being elected within just two months (and being seated just after the first of the year), the current Council has taken the posture of a “lame duck,” eschewing its usual day-long “visioning” session, and giving rise to speculation that with November’s election, two-term mayor Nader Baroukh’s days may be numbered. The mayor and vice mayor for the next two years will be elected by the new seven-member Council once it is sworn in, and Baroukh will have his hands full lining up the four votes needed to continue another two years in his job.

But its not only the Council election – with five candidates vying for four spots – another major issue is the referendum on this November’s ballot. Citizens of Falls Church will be asked to ratify the sale of the City’s mammoth water system to Fairfax County as part of a multi-player deal that will bring $40 million plus valuable new real estate into Falls Church.

The new element here is the sudden “era of good feeling” between the City, with its 13,300 residents, and its neighboring Fairfax County, with over a million. The deal hammered out over the transfer of Falls Church’s water system, and the over 100,000 accounts it services in Fairfax County, was made palatable after years of bitter legal and political disputes, by Fairfax’s surprising willingness to throw in the “sweetener” of a boundary adjustment that brings 40 acres of the County into the City. That includes land adjacent the West Falls Church Metro that could be subjected to highly-dense commercial and residential development, bringing abundant new tax revenues to the City and easing the tax burden on City residents.

So far, there appears to be very little opposition in the City to the ratification of this deal by way of the November referendum. That’s because of the considerable benefit to every taxpayer that it promises, although there are always some who will complain that the City government did not negotiate as good a deal as it might have.

On top of all this is the local impact of the hotly-contested statewide election campaigns that will also be resolved in the November 5 election. The Democratic slate, led by Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for governor, is counting for its success on a high voter turnout in Northern Virginia, including in Falls Church where turnouts are commonly the highest in the state.