Local Commentary

Editorial: Is Altruism Receding in F.C.?

On the one hand, it is encouraging that the citizens of Falls Church, responding to the survey circulated by the City’s Planning Department this summer (see story, page 5), feel very positive about some of the new large-scale mixed-use development projects around town. In particular, as the survey results showed, they like the Mad Fox building and Harris Teeter building (giving the building the name of its principal ground floor retailers is fair enough, in our view).

This means that the public should love the big 4.3-acre Mason Row project that will soon begin construction at the southeast corner of the W. Broad and N. West Street intersection, once it is done, at least.

It makes sense that the survey shows the public less thrilled by mixed-use projects that have not been able to score with good ground floor retailers. If you like what you see in front of you at the street level, you don’t care so much about what’s above it, apparently. Again, fair enough.

But what is not encouraging about the survey, which will be the subject of a town hall meeting on Falls Church “visioning” on the morning of Oct. 1, was the response to Question 11: “Which of these values do you think are most important to include in an updated Vision Statement?”

“Community character” came in first at 72 percent, followed by “environment” at 52 percent and “quality education” at 52 percent, with “diversity in housing” coming in last among six options at 25 percent.

Now, granted there are 13,500 residents in Falls Church and this survey was taken by only 472 (it would have been a lot more had the survey been published in the News-Press). But to the extent that City Hall and others take their cues from this, we are not happy that “quality education,” which used to be the pride and joy of this City, came in third to factors that at least these residents think are more important, such as breweries, big grocery stores and good restaurants.

The altruism that is associated with dedication to quality education is eclipsed in these survey results by more self-centered creature comforts. Alas, in a nation with a Donald Trump as potentially its next president, maybe this also reflects a souring mood in the body politic. A sad commentary if true, and if it is, frankly it makes a full dedication to what once was a truly special place less enticing.

Let there be no doubt that the News-Press’ 25 year history of support for economic development in Falls Church was never for the development in and of itself. It has always been because we’ve seen the link between strong economic growth and the revenues it provides to pay for quality schools. For us, top quality educational opportunities for students in the schools have been our Number One priority, without exception.