Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: My 1st Council Meeting: Chills, Thrills & More Bills

By Dorothea Potter Teipel

The following are background and notes from the April 13 (and ever since) Falls Church City Council Meeting – my maiden voyage into the politics and commerce of our everyday lives in our excellent, historical City.

My first Falls Church City Council meeting rocked my world! I had to pry myself away from my copious notes, at 12:24 a.m. on April 14. One and all intent on moving onto the next steps we knew we were going to have to take as Citizen Lobbyists. That night of April 13, my first witness of an important public meeting transformed my thinking.

For the next 48 days, up until today, I have met with, and/or called upon, many excellent citizens in our local City government. I have been invited to, and otherwise attended, several smaller meetings of relevance to my learning. My commitment to learning also included talking privately with a couple of building neighbors, and other City of Falls Church citizens, stakeholders.

I am so glad I started my newfound odyssey to stay in better touch with our leaders!

* * *

I moved to West Broad Street in 2006, and have lived in the same place for more than nine years. Before this, I lived in McLean for over 30 years, where I raised a family and ran a successful career and business in Washington, D.C. for 35 years.

Over the last few years, my progress with the Falls Church Art League has jump-started my professional painting [second] career, to become one of my downtown life anchors. My paintings seem to mean something to some of my fellow-members, and I, in turn, love and adore all of them, as well as the leaders of Falls Church Arts, especially our inexhaustible president, Barbara Cram.

On April 10, I was proudly attending our “All Members Show,” where I had two paintings displayed in very favorable positions. In fact, I had just been chatting with Lindy Hockenberry (one of F.C.’s best citizen crusaders), and soon after, met our mayor, David Tarter. It was a fortuitous meeting.

First, I brazenly directed him to one of my pieces, which happened to be hanging right behind him. Then I mentioned to David that I was talking to Lindy about my interest in the Planning Commission. He enthusiastically invited me to his next City Council Meeting, that coming Monday, April 13. He said it would be “about Mason Row.”

* * *

Think of Confucius, who said:

“Good government obtains when those who are near are made happy, and those who are far off are attracted.”

When I had to pry myself away from my copious notes, at 12:24 a.m. on April 14, it was good to be among other citizens, after being so roundly “informed” by Spectrum and their plans. I recognized several Virtuous Volunteers navigating down the stairs all around me; some who’d addressed the Council, with so many layers of protest, pushback, panic, facts and figures, begging for moderation.

I had felt the solidarity among them, agreed with them in all their variety, basically begging the Falls CHurch City Council to protect them from the nightmare of “inappropriate” megasites within our Falls Church borders. Yet to a person, I felt among them so much life spilling over for “next steps” to be taken to stay the course.

Confucius’ thought has become my Falls Church mantra, as we are so clearly being beckoned into our future by forces much larger than we are. I have attached it to my hopes and dreams of a carefully developed City of the 21st Century, a place so locked into the heart of itself that others are inspired to be like it.

Its respect for its centuries of history, is protected on its mere two-plus square miles by the ages. Its strong, singular identity – not the least being “the smallest city in the State of Virginia,” and the smallest City-County in the United States.”– cannot be reproduced by arrivistes!


Dorothea Potter Teipel has been a resident of the City of Falls Church since 2006.