Local Commentary

Editorial: The Election: Cooler Heads Prevail?

It is our hope that when it comes to the important Falls Church City election next Tuesday that in this intelligent and largely-reasonable community cooler heads might prevail over the fury that has exploded in the last week. Those on both sides of the central issues of economic development and quality schools would prefer citizens base their votes on the merits or not of the issues, rather than on unrelated inflamed passions.

Right now, there are very impassioned views on more than one side of the issue of how appropriate or inappropriate it was for incumbent City Council candidate Phil Duncan, to join over a dozen citizens to pen a letter to the Arlington Circuit Court three years ago urging a more lenient, rather than harsh, sentencing for Michael Gardner, convicted of child abuse.

There is no doubt that the crimes for which Gardner recently took a guilty plea were heinous and monstrous. But with his wife a popular mayor for years, and their two children to consider, Duncan was one among a number of citizens who, like our editor, was willing to comply with a request not to question the verdict, but to provide an expression of Christian charity, to seek a redemptive rather than vindictive outcome overall, with absolutely no ill intent toward the victims and their families.

But clearly the letters deeply hurt the families of the victims and that is why Duncan and Revenue Commissioner Clinton expressed deep and heartfelt remorse in the past week, our editor sharing that remorse.

Angry parents of one of the girls who were victims in the case released redacted versions of the letters on a web site associated with the campaign of Duncan’s rival in next Tuesday’s election, Sam Mabry, and have stirred strong (and legitimate) emotions in defense of their daughter against Duncan and the other letter writers.

On the other side, some citizens have expressed indignation over the fact that the family, by going public, has made their daughter the centerpiece of a dispute among adults. Her identity thus revealed, she is no longer protected the way it always is for child victims. Despite her consent, according to her father, the child remains a minor.

Still, in our view, in the interest of redemption, reconciliation and healing, we urge citizens to vote Tuesday with a mind to the major issues facing our community.

Thus, we endorse for City Council the conscientious and dedicated Duncan, incumbent mayor David Tarter and highly-qualified newcomer Letty Hardi. We favor the good work and direction provided for the City by the current Council.

For School Board, we endorse incumbent chair Justin Castillo, incumbent Kieran Sharpe and brilliant newcomer Erin Gill for the School Board, with “B Team” choices of newcomers Jacob Radcliffe and Philip Reitinger. We feel it is important to maintain the continuity of the board’s work on the City’s world renowned schools.