Local Commentary

Editorial: ‘Mason Row’ A Great Plan

The impressive changes that the proposed developers of the Mason Row project presented to the Falls Church City Council last week have excited many citizens for a variety of reasons. First of all, it will bring a lot of fresh loot into the City coffers, an estimated net increase on those 4.3 acres of $1.7 million annually, equal to five cents on the real estate tax rate. Secondly, it brings to the Little City some amenities that most everyone can enjoy, including a multi-screen movie theater, a second quality hotel, and lots of new retail, including some fancy restaurants. All of these things will be within walking or biking distance of most citizens. Of all the projects that have already been built, are on the drawing boards or are in the late stages of completion, including the Rushmark’s Harris Teeter building and the Lincoln at Tinner Hill property, Mason Row promises to be the most interesting and exciting, not to mention most beneficial to City taxpayers.

As the fall election cycle kicks into gear, there are more and more falsehoods that are being peddled to citizens that are just that – falsehoods. The matter of economic development is too important to the long-term sustainability of the City and its quality schools, and to the citizens’ ongoing capacity to determine the quality of life in their neighborhoods through an active and accessible local government directly accountable to them.
In reality, good projects like Mason Row need to be welcomed. It is one thing to work for improve such a project, as Mason Row has, but that doesn’t mean the goal should be to stall it in order to torpedo it. Not at all.

The aspects of Falls Church community life mentioned here are too often taken for granted by some citizens who, as naysayers, are ready to fling dissembling criticisms against City Hall, and the School Board for that matter, as if they are filled with shady and corrupt Tammany Hall thugs. The reality is that, in a small community with the high level of well-educated citizens and its premium on participatory democracy, it is highly unlikely that anything like this is taking place.

It’s easy to say that the data coming out of City Hall about mixed use development, for example, and other economic initiatives are simply wrong, without being able to document a thing. It’s easy to try to play on a propensity among some for paranoia, and it becomes easier still when the economy overall is stagnant and it is harder for people to make ends meet.

In this context, we urge citizens to be vigilant and critical in the good sense. Don’t take what anyone trying to influence the upcoming City Council and School Board elections is saying at face value. There is a lot of disinformation floating around. Guessing, hunches and unfounded, undocumented claims are just that, and are no substitute for the important business of public elections and governing in the public interest.