There was really something new and refreshing which was manifested at the Falls Church City Council meeting this week, and it bodes very well for the long-term health and sustainability for The Little City.
A lot of the “usual suspects” who have taken it upon themselves to claim the importance of their traditional roles on the City’s policy-making volunteers boards and commissions and to define the parameters of the City’s image may not like this. Some won’t but some who genuinely have the best interests of the City at heart will.
It was the surfacing of new, strong and muscular voices among the many citizens who offered their opinions at Monday’s meeting on the merits or lack thereof of the 4.3-acre Mason Row mixed use project at W. Broad and N. West Streets. These voices were of young professionals with children who spoke out forcefully in favor of Mason Row, and citing the same reasons that would likely cause them to support other similar projects here in the future.
While the final approval of the project was deferred by the Council until mid-January, its final approval at that time is looking bright. With a proponent of the plan replacing an opponent on the City Council as of January 1, the Council now appears to have the five votes it will need for final approval.
The new “pro” vote joining the Council, Letty Hardi, fits the same profile as the numerous citizens who stepped up to advocate for the approval of Mason Row on Monday night. She’s young, definitely by traditional standards for community service in Falls Church, and she and her husband, a native of Falls Church, have three sons in the Falls Church schools. She did not start out being vetted by any citizens’ group to ensure she embodied the “Falls Church Way,” and the strong prejudice among those existing circles for maintaining a low-growth “village atmosphere” here.
She brought with her a healthy appreciation for the symbiotic relationship between economic development and quality education, something that citizens obsessed with maintaining the status quo have too often refused to acknowledge or appreciate.
In the course of her campaign, and that of Erin Gill for the School Board, a lot of the supporters they were able to reach have, apparently, now begun to speak out for the same kinds of values that they’ve held and ignited through their campaigns.
Elements that have contributed to this are numerous, but primarily two. First, the venerable Citizens for a Better City organization that was created in the late 1950s to try to make sure the right values prevailed among candidates for public office here decided four years ago to cease its candidate vetting role. Second, the date of municipal elections here was moved from May to November a few years ago in order to allowwider participation by citizens. It was something the “old school” types strongly resisted at the time.