The News-Press invited all those running in the City of Falls Church’s November School Board and City Council races to submit 400-word candidate statements for publication. This week’s statements are from Falls Church City Council candidates Marybeth Connelly, Ross Litkenhous, Dan Maller, David Snyder and Dan Sze. Candidate Spencer Parsons, who qualified for this November’s ballot, did not submit a statement. Falls Church School Board candidate statements can be found here.
There’s No Place Like Home Falls Church is a special place in the heart of Northern Virginia. At the historic crossroads of Routes 7 and 29, commerce, and community thrive. To be sustainable, Falls Church has to embrace regional growth, while maintaining unique identity as an independent city. As a member of City Council Marybeth is committed to ensuring that Falls Church grows, while maintaining friendly, accessible neighborhoods.
Public Education is the Heart of Falls Church Strong schools have been vital to Falls Church since our 1948 founding. City Council has the responsibility to provide funding for schools that ensures top notch programs, staff and facilities. Marybeth is a strong proponent of collaboration among stakeholders: community, School Board, businesses owners, employees, and neighbors in Fairfax, Arlington, and at universities.
Economic Development is Key to Sustainability Falls Church has a dedicated business community comprising locally-owned businesses, regional chains, and national brands. Our business community provides bustling sidewalks, outdoor cafes, unique businesses. City Council works to increase revenue from commercial development so that more tax revenue comes from economic activity. In the past 10 years mixed use development provided $3.8 Million net revenue, keeping 9 cents out of the tax rate. When done right, mixed-use development works. We’ve learned many lessons, and projects keep getting better.
People Make our City Strong As a member of City Council, Marybeth is committed to maintaining Falls Church as a special place where people want to live, work, shop, learn, and play. Falls Church is for everyone: families, young people, retirees, immigrants, elderly. Parks, schools, bike paths, sidewalks, library, and neighborhoods allow people to meet and form strong bonds.
We are Still Making History The first known Falls Church settlement dates to 1699. Since then history has happened here: Colonial, Civil War, Reconstruction, Civil Rights, GI Bill, Vietnamese resettlement. Marybeth is committed to growth and progress in a welcoming city.
Experience Matters Marybeth has been involved in Falls Church since 1995. A longtime volunteer, she has worked for Falls Church City Public Schools since 2005, and was elected to City Council in 2013. Marybeth ran for City Council because to ensure that the people who are “doing” things in Falls Church by volunteering and participating, are represented in City decision-making.
As a community we have reached a pivotal crossroads on many fronts. Building and expanding multiple schools to meet enrollment growth and replace functionally obsolete buildings; a rising property tax rate resulting from overdue capital improvement obligations; evolving economic development initiatives meant to spur new revenue growth; and the numerous operational responsibilities that come with managing a small independent city. In a word: daunting.
However, these tremendous challenges are exactly why I decided to run for office.
For 15 years, I have worked in the commercial real estate industry advising on property tax matters, economic and commercial development initiatives, real estate valuation, big data solutions and technological innovation. I have worked extensively with state and local governments, developers, investors, citizens, and public officials to deliver smart solutions to complex problems. I am confident I can do the same for our city.
My wife Sarah and I moved to Falls Church with our three daughters for the best in class schools and the sense of community. Upon arrival we completely immersed ourselves both personally and professionally. Sarah opened a counseling practice here in town and I joined a variety of local organizations. We worked very hard and waited quite some time to be able to move here, and from the very beginning we have been committed to giving back to preserve and build on what attracted us to the city in the first place.
This November we are voting for more than just a candidate; more so than at any point in the last few decades. The decisions we make on who will lead this city down a very difficult road will truly impact all of us, regardless of your stage in life.
I made the decision to enter this race because I have the experience, passion and commitment to ensure we deliver not only on the promises of good schools and affordability, but also understanding that our solutions to challenges around commercial development, city finances and transportation will not be one size fits all. These decisions will be difficult and we will need individuals with experience beyond public service to keep a steady and balanced hand on the wheel.
On November 7th I am asking for your vote, and in return I promise to serve you through transparency and always with an eye on what is in the best interest of our city’s future.
Our City needs careful and visionary management. We are on the threshold of decisions that will shape our future, which require the best cross-section of our considerable talent to guide us. I have decades of private sector experience in law, finance, real estate, governance, compliance, and communication, and also many years of applying these skills to the challenges of our local and regional affairs. I respectfully ask for your support to serve you on the Falls Church City Council.
The basic role of the City Council is to provide oversight over the City Manager, City Attorney and City Clerk, to enact laws and policies, and to be a conduit for the interests of Citizens and Businesses in our oversight and legislative functions. My experience in working within these processes in private and public settings enables me to listen, to offer both pragmatic ideas and a unique and visionary perspective to push the envelope beyond conventional approaches. I pledge to stand for real transparency, more and better ideas, and accountability.
Our tax base is $4 Billion, with too high a percentage being Single Family and Town Homes. In order to bend the tax curve, the next Billion needs to be different. The 10 acres we may develop at the WFC Metro is worth ~$50M, but development should add ~$250M+ to the pie, and help to balance the burdens including jobs and other economic activity. There are other properties in the City with like potential; we need to be smart and aggressive with all of our tools to bring commercial and other development that provides real, sustainable net revenue. We also need to consider affordable and workforce housing, and programs that allow seniors to remain to afford us the benefit of their years and presence in our neighborhoods.
It is vital to our system to ensure the transparency of our governmental processes so that citizens may provide input conveniently and effectively. I support a “YES” vote on the School Bond Referendum, because I believe a new school is a smart investment in our future, even though I harbor doubts about the City’s information campaign which seems to have been slanted too much to “what” we need to do and to have neglected a fulsome discussion of “why” and “how.” I pledge that I will not vote to sell the bonds absent a detailed and accountable plan with broad community support.
David F. Snyder
Recent hurricanes, mass-shootings, and terrorist attacks remind us of the critical importance of local government in preventing and responding to extraordinary events. At the same, local government has the daily responsibility to create an inclusive and progressive environment that provides first-rate public safety services, great schools, inviting parks and library facilities, and reliable social services and transportation, even as it supports businesses and historic and cultural resources. All this must be done while assuring value for each taxpayer dollar and tax rates that are no higher than necessary.
Working together, we in the independent City of Falls Church have accomplished much toward achieving every one of these goals. This crucial work is never done; it is ongoing and involves all of us. Therefore, I voted to submit the George Mason High School (GMHS) project to the voters and will vote for the referendum. I will also continue to support our schools by voting for budgets that maintain quality teaching, small class sizes, and otherwise ensure high-quality public services. Further, I am committed to achieving the GMHS, library, and City Hall projects on time and on budget, just as our team did when we built Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School.
Falls Church is not an island. Recognizing this, our citizens and elected officials have long participated in regional groups. In this tradition, I have chaired the regional air quality committee that announced historic progress on clean air standards, and transportation groups that initiated new transit projects and brought resources home to Falls Church, such as bike share. I now chair the National Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Council, an umbrella group focused on our collective preparedness for natural catastrophes and man-made threats.
I fully realize that affordability is a growing issue for many of our citizens. In response if re-elected to City Council, I will continue to scour each budget, look for ways to support business, seek regional funding to help defray local costs in applicable areas, review our tax deferral program with the goal of improving it, attract more commercial tax revenue through neighborhood-friendly development, and achieve significant commercial development to offset the GMHS project costs, if approved by the voters. I have also called for a City-wide initiative to determine how we can tap the expertise of our citizens to use technology to improve services, reduce costs, and best prepare our community for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
I’m running for re-election for Falls Church City Council in the November 2017 Elections. Affordability is central in my campaign. Last time, I asked for your help to keep the tax rate fair, to maintain great schools and work to achieve a well-designed city. These issues remain front and center.
The equation of maintaining excellence in our city and schools along with fair taxes is dependent on attracting the right kind of growth. I will work hard to ensure that you get value out of every penny you pay on the tax rate.
The single most important issue before us this November is the $120 million bond referendum on a new high school. The decision will have an impact on our entire community, affecting those who have children in our schools, as well as folks like me, who don’t have children in the schools, but take pride in our school’s achievements. I want to make sure that if you want to stay in our City you can do so. Elisabeth and I made the decision to stay here after my retirement from full-time employment a few years back.
During my career, I served with the Department of Energy, Department of Defense and Department of State in various capacities as deputy office director, acquisition executive, program director, strategic policy manager, contracting officer, construction manager, chief information officer and Foreign Service Officer. I also have private sector experience with architects and development companies.
The trajectory of the current GMHS is of continuing decline. Should the referendum pass, I will ensure proper outcomes in process and product. I have been an Architect for over 30 years and my Master’s was in Urban Design. Over my career, I have designed retail (shopping center), commercial, multi-family and hotel developments, as well as constructed embassies and nuclear submarine bases. I will put all the skills, knowledge and experience accumulated over a long career in buildings, urban infrastructure, environmental sustainability and clean energy technologies to make this project a reality for our City. I will work to reduce all components of risk and utilize prudent and appropriate business practices before we issue the bond, since once we issue the bond, our leverage to get the best possible deal from the development community will be extinguished.
This is an extraordinary, existential, multigenerational challenge and a huge opportunity that will affect all citizens. Quite simply, we must get it right.