As a public service, the News-Press is offering all the candidates for the Falls Church City Council and School Board November election an opportunity to present their candidacies to our readers. This week’s statements are from City Council candidates Marybeth Connelly, Karen Oliver and David Snyder.
Shortly after my husband and I bought our first house in Falls Church in 1995, we walked from our cozy cape to the Falls Church Memorial Day Parade. We were so happy to discover that we had moved into a real community. What luck!
Since then Falls Church has grown, our house has grown, our family has grown. What has stayed the same? We live in a real community. We know our neighbors. We treasure our parks and library. Through block parties, community organizations, school and youth sports, we enjoy friendships with people of all ages. These people are the heart of Falls Church.
Since 2005 I have worked in the Falls Church City Public Schools as Community Outreach Coordinator. As the liaison between the school and business communities, I’ve been able to work with many business owners and non-profit volunteers dedicated to Falls Church. These people are the heart of Falls Church.
Spending time in the schools allows me to tell the stories of the amazing things that are happening in our classrooms because of FCCPS teachers and staff. These people are the heart of Falls Church.
I’m running for City Council because I love living and working here. There are so many reasons to be optimistic about the future of Falls Church. Geographically we are in a great location, between Washington DC and Tysons Corner, near Metro, highways and the W & OD Bike Trail. Falls Church is in heart of the Northern Virginia.
As a community we need to decide what we want to become in the next 50 years. What should our commercial areas look like? How should neighborhoods feel? What can we do about traffic? The area planning process led by Jim Snyder, director of planning and development services, and the Planning Commission is a great start, and we need more community members involved. We need Class A commercial office space. I support a revenue sharing agreement between the School Board and City Council as a wise way to budget in the present and future.
I am a native Virginian, born in Norfolk. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Villanova University in 1989. During a year of service at St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I met my husband, Michael Connelly. We’ve lived in Northern Virginia for 20 years, most of those years in Falls Church. We have three children – Brian (17), Andrew (14), Julie (12), all students in Falls Church City Public Schools. I’m currently on the Boards of Directors of Village Preservation & Improvement Society; Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and Falls Church Education Foundation. I also serve on the Falls Church Alliance for Youth; CATCH and FCCPS Support Employee Advisory Committee.
That lengthy list of organizations covers so many facets of the city, and as a City Council member I will bring extensive knowledge of the priorities and fabric of our community.
Please vote for me for City Council on November 5, 2013.
First, thank you for caring enough to read these candidate statements! They are part of the community-wide conversation that’s essential to keep building a Falls Church that welcomes and serves all of its residents. Please let me hear your own ideas at [email protected]
I’ve been told that in this race I’m a surprise candidate – not known city-wide, not a politician or a previous office-holder in Falls Church. Nor am I running on a single issue. I’m asking for your support to ensure that the team making the tough decisions about our future will represent a wider range of the city and more vigorously seek multiple points of view.
To the community conversation I bring global and local experience in collaborative teamwork in education and financial management. I’ve worked for major corporations (Westinghouse, MCI) and offered management consulting to Fortune 500 firms. I’ve worked with smaller (and family-owned) organizations and I appreciate the different scale of operations and the challenges that face each. At the D.C. consulting firm Orr Associates, I help non-profit organizations improve their management and financial operations.
For six years I served on the boards of two excellent, American K-12 schools abroad, focusing on budgets, policies and strategic planning. Unstable conditions in Pakistan forced our school there to run at only a third of its designed capacity, challenging our ability to maintain our infrastructure and provide a world-class education. Our school in India operated beyond its capacity, much as Falls Church schools do today. Both required creative management and careful, long-range planning. I value education – and I understand how to provide educational value on a budget.
In the past year, I’ve served in community groups in the Winter Hill neighborhood that are working with the city and developers to improve the proposal for the big Harris Teeter supermarket and apartment complex on Broad Street. We’re worried about parking, traffic, trees, the potential burden on our schools – but we want to improve, rather than block, the development that offers potential revenues to the city. The project is imperfect but the process is working, largely because the neighborhood took the lead to communicate energetically. That’s a collaborative activism we need more of on the City Council.
I’ll say straight out that I don’t have the answers in my pocket for the tough money and policy questions our city faces. But I have two things we need to find those answers: (1) the financial and management experience to ask the right questions, and (2) the willingness and ability to work with all parts of our community. It’s not enough for the council to listen passively; it must actively seek the community’s many voices. (A little bit in the way that happens during election campaigns.)
Strong schools, deliberate development, keeping an eye on our infrastructure, and a reasonable tax burden: I’ll be walking around the city in the coming weeks and I hope we can talk about these ideas. Please read more at my website, www.karenoliverforfallschurch.wordpress.com.
The future of Falls Church is brighter than ever – certainly since I was last elected in the midst of the global financial crisis. Our City made difficult decisions to survive – and is stronger as a result. But the foundation of this strength? Core values of excellent schools and City services, citizen engagement, community sharing, concern for the less fortunate, and financial responsibility. As these values have sustained us in the past, they should lead us going forward.
We are healthier financially than in 2009-2010, with several major revenue generating developments underway, a hoped for resolution of the water system issue with positive financial elements, and a prudent financial reserve and debt exposure amounts.
Ahead of elections, a variety of issues arise, among them in 2013:
• Budget. I oppose proposals that risk turning us into a Detroit. This year’s budget, which I suggested and supported, fully funds the schools, reduces the proposed tax rate from $1.41 to $1.305, funds City services, enables building critical storm water infrastructure, and assures a reserve consistent with expert advice. Contrary to confusion created by some commentators, we have already obligated the “surplus” from last year. Our capital budget includes fire trucks and City Hall safety and environmental improvements to protect our employees and the public.
• Public Buildings. Community discussion has begun about renovating or replacing the high school, the library, and City Hall. We should follow the process used to build Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School: develop common data and cost estimates, engage in community discussion of options, and create a long-term funding plan. The middle school project that I helped negotiate came in on time and on budget. We should also work on better and more parking options.
• Sustainability. Our future lies in being an attractive “green” alternative to Tyson’s Corner. I have worked regionally to provide funding for transportation needs, and support moving forward with the noncontroversial elements of the bike/pedestrian plan. We are also engaged in a regional discussion of street car or bus rapid transit down Route 7 to reduce traffic congestion. Our ultimate sustainability further depends on great schools, parks, library, and historic and cultural resources.
• Affordability and Housing. Encouraging commercial development to buttress residential taxes and keeping taxes at responsibly low levels are constant priorities. We should also expand housing options, especially for young adults just starting out and seniors on fixed incomes for whom we must improve available tax deferral relief.
• Development. We recently approved two major new developments and are reviewing another. If approved in November, the water sale offers even more development potential. Further, we must work to support our unique small business community that consistently draws people from outside the City.
Issues come and go, but adherence to basic values should be the basis for all we do. Building on this strong foundation, I look forward to working with you to first fully envision and then create what we want this Little City to be in the decades ahead.