Local Commentary

Editorial: Where’s the Push For the Referendum?

We remain hopeful that Falls Church community forces that be will show forth with a major campaign to pass the November school bond referendum, the one that calls for $15 million for a renovation and build out of the overcrowded Mt. Daniel School. But since the steps were taken to approve the matter for the November ballot in June, there has been virtually nothing said about it for the edification of the general public. Frankly, some are expressing concern that the “fire in the belly” may be lacking even among the schools’ most devoted proponents to do what it will take to get this one passed.

The campaign to win passage of the school bond referendum in 2006 to fund the construction of a new Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School was just that: a campaign. It was run by highly motivated citizens – led by high-profile Planning Commissioners Peter Holran and Bob Burnett – and began by organizing well-publicized planning meetings the first week in August. Well, certainly this year has been nothing like that, not so far anyway.

It occurs to us that some fires need to be lit pronto: one is in some bellies and another under pro-school community activists to get rolling.

Of course, this bond referendum is relatively small potatoes compared to the $100 million or so it will take to build a new high school a couple years hence, but this is no time to let citizens get in the habit of a less than a warm and robust support for the City’s enrollment-exploding world class system.

Pro-school activists need to be aware that there is a certain fatigue out there in the general public that needs to be addressed head on and with much enthusiasm.
The fatigue stems from the persisting economic squeeze on average Americans that generally goes unreported by the media or the government’s employment and spending statistics. Jobs are paying less, job security is nothing like it used to be, and even in affluent Falls Church, citizens are paying much closer attention to their bank accounts than they used to before the Great Recession.

Despite this, there is a very good argument that can be made for the merits of passing the bond referendum this November. Interest rates remain at record lows, cheapening the cost of the school improvements. In just a couple of years, the cost of borrowing that same money could skyrocket, so its better to borrow now than later.

Also, historically, people have put a lot of well deserved trust in the Falls Church School System and its leaders. But last spring, even though the amount was miniscule, the City Council did not give the Schools everything they wanted. Almost everything, but not quite.

So now, Council and School Board members insist they can only advise but not advocate for passage of the November referendum. That’s fine, but it’s not what is needed. Some good old red-blooded, persuasive campaigning is called for.