Local Commentary

Editorial: Vote ‘Yes’ on the Water Referendum

There will be a lot on the ballot for City of Falls Church residents in the fast-approaching Nov. 5 election. From selecting a governor to members of our local City Council and uncontested “constitutional officers” (sheriff, treasurer and commissioner of the revenue), there will be a lot to navigate, and yet there is one item that stands out as the most critical – at least from a Falls Church standpoint – the referendum on the sale of the Falls Church water system.

There is a lot of well-justified concern in high level City circles that the public has not been well enough informed about the ins and outs of this issue, such that it may be too easy for insufficiently informed voters to simply vote “no” out of passive indifference, or a general, vague contrariness. There is no organized effort to encourage a “no” vote, but that’s also troubling, because if there was, then a pitched debate would occur and the public would wind up better informed.

A number of public information forums have been held, including the latest one scheduled last night, but they’ve been poorly attended, especially from the standpoint of the amount of votes required to pass the referendum.

Only this week, at this late date, has an officially-registered political action committee come together, called Citizens for a Sustainable City, to urge a “yes” vote on the referendum, and with very little time to get the word out.

We wish them the best, and encourage everybody to throw some time and resources into the effort, because the viability of the City’s future very much depends on the passage of that referendum, on a majority of “yes” votes over “no.”

This is neither a partisan nor ideologically-framed matter. Under the circumstances, it is hard to imagine how a rational argument can be made for a “no” vote. Yes, Fairfax bullied the City, but that’s not the issue now.

The law requires, when it comes to the sale of City-owned land, for a public referendum to be held. So that will happen Nov. 5 to hopefully seal a deal that was mediated between Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church which was, given the legal noose that had been tightened around the City’s neck, a “win-win” for both entities.

The City’s major “win” comes from about 14 acres of prime real estate adjacent the West Falls Church Metro station where it could develop a highly dense mix of tax revenue-yielding development that would provide enormous potential and relief for real estate tax payers.

But if the voters reject the deal, and vote “no,” the legal noose around the City will choke it and, at best, the City would have to cough up its water system with nothing but a lot of grief to show for it.

That’s it in a nutshell. A “yes” vote is the only sane and rational option.