Out of the enormous field of Falls Church City Council and School Board candidates that have qualified for the ballot in this November’s municipal election, a sampling of new people and veterans showed up for Tuesday night’s first candidates’ face-off at the American Legion Hall, and engaged a decently-sized audience for a warm summer’s night with lucid insights into some tough issues. Council incumbent candidates Mayor David Tarter and Phil Duncan faced off against first-time candidate Letty Hardi, and on the School Board side, incumbent Chairman Justin Castillo, who was a late entry to the event since Tuesday’s School Board meeting was postponed, was met by three first time candidates, Erin Gill, Jake Radcliff and Phil Reitinger.
Economic development issues dominated the exchanges among Council candidates, while for the School Board, the need for adequate teacher compensation and administrative transparency were the most discussed. The transparency issue, raised by all three of the new School Board candidates, got under the skin of Chairman Castillo in light of Monday’s three-hour closed session when the School Board and Council were hammering out issues on the final wording for the “request for proposal” set to go out early next week. There was a disputed discussion as to the appropriateness of closing the session Monday night before the unanimous votes to go into the closed session, especially as it appeared that there would be no “second” to the motion among the Council candidates until Duncan offered to do so after a lengthy time.
The other issue discussed at Tuesday’s meeting was how to proceed in the wake of the deferral by the Fairfax County Planning Commission on a vote to approve, or not, the Falls Church Schools’ hoped for expansion and renovation of the Mt. Daniel Elementary School.