Voters in the City of Falls Church never cease to amaze us. If you look at the advancements in the Little City since, say, 1991 when the News-Press first broke onto the scene, you can attribute virtually all of them to how citizens here have cast their ballots on election days.
The City has grown from 9,500 to 14,300 and counting, it has retained in the context of this one of the foremost school systems in the U.S., it is still developing a reputation as an outstanding destination for dining and entertainment, it enjoys a highly educated and civically involved population, and it is widely considered a superior place to live and enjoy a very evident “sense of place.” Even if it does not sport the most diverse demographic so far, it supports as much with proclamations and educational initiatives. Sure, it needs to, and will, do more, and it is appearing that there are fewer and fewer people here interested in standing the way of that.
In this context, the amazingly-easy passage of the $120 million school bond referendum Tuesday is the epitome of momentous. No one here, even the most optimistic, was predicting such a wide, almost two-to-one victory. The reason for that was directly related to the sheer size of the “ask,” at $120 million by far the biggest in the history of the City, set against a marginally smaller percentage of the population with children in or about to enter the school system and a noisy if limited cadre of nay-sayers.
The key to the election is the penchant for citizens here to retain faith in their choices over time. That is, the election was as much a “vote of confidence” for the City Council and School Board as for anything else. It was a strong “stay the course” vote, counting on their elected choices and the City staff to make measured and smart decisions, albeit involving a reasonable amount of risk. This is not a fearful, skeptical, distrusting community, even if there are some old soreheads here who may be that way. As your local newspaper of record, we retain a healthy appetite for questioning prevailing evaluations and decisions, but on balance we remain heartened by how our citizens’ perceptions mirror our own. Referencing our endorsements in last week’s edition, we are pleased at how close the public’s choices Tuesday came to our own recommendations. We’re on the same page.
Going forward now, we as a community are going to need to face the challenges of robust new economic development to keep the real estate tax rate low while maintaining the excellence of our schools and public services. So far none of the considerable new developments here have fundamentally harmed the quality of residential life, and we don’t expect new projects — the Broad at Washington, Founder’s Row and campus 10 acres — will either. But more of them to be more resident affordable.