Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Values and Resilience Have a Name, & It’s ‘Falls Church’

Our nation and community appear challenged as never before. A raging pandemic causing the loss of lives and livelihoods, increasingly harsh and divisive discourse, public unrest, and a president in the White House seven miles away who has taken unprecedented and catastrophic steps to reverse the election he lost by a convincing margin. Given the events of this past week with the attack on the Capitol itself, these seem to be the darkest of days.

Our community has weathered such crises in the past, including events within recent memory — 9/11, the snipers, the financial crisis, and violent storms. Through these challenges, the keys to our resilience have been and remain our shared values and the prudent actions our citizens and public servants take daily to make those ideals — education, safety, inclusion, environmental stewardship, and accessible transportation — realities despite ever changing circumstances. We need only remember those we lost in 2020 — among them, Jerry Barrett, Steve Bittle, Betty Blystone, Barb Cram, Dan Sze — to know that this is true.

Education is this community’s most fundamental core value. Our City was created to advance public education, and we have done that. The students we educate become leaders in government and the military, nonprofits, and private enterprise. Most importantly, they are critical thinkers here and wherever they go. Education is the best means to advancement and our City’s greatest industry and product. And so, I have consistently supported full funding for our schools. At the same time, I have engaged in careful scrutiny of all budget elements because it is essential to fulfill our duty to be fiscally responsible.

Governments, including this one, are instituted for the common good, and no governmental function is more important than assuring a safe environment for all. A government that fails to provide such security is a failed government. Accordingly, funding public safety and participating directly in it are among my highest priorities. To be sure, public safety depends on police, fire, and emergency medical services, but it also extends to traffic safety, public health, and the prevention of violence in all its forms. Regionally, I have participated in the National Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Council since its inception in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and currently chair it. I also spearheaded the Transportation Safety Board’s focus on improving highway safety. An Emergency Medical Technician, I currently volunteer with Virginia’s Medical Reserve Corps.

Inclusion is critically important for community resilience. As a community, we have supported the development of the Tinner Hill Civil Rights site and worked to assure equal rights for all. Affordable housing is part of this effort and is exemplified by Winter Hill housing originally established by the Falls Church Housing Corporation, on which Board I served. We continue to find ways to advance affordable housing in new and existing developments. Part of inclusion is ensuring that all our City services perform well for every citizen, which includes reviewing police procedures and other governmental priorities for justice and effectiveness. I have supported each of these reviews and regionally backed the adoption of equity commitments by the Council of Governments bodies on which I serve, including the COG Board and Transportation Planning Board.

We have made environmental stewardship a priority. In this era of climate change, environmental stewardship is a necessity. Increasingly, Council has focused on environmental impacts and remediation in government buildings in developments of all sizes. Our citizens actively participate in a variety of voluntary programs. To further environmental goals, I have chaired the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee and serve on the region’s Climate and Energy Policy Committee. I have promoted regional efforts to comply with the Paris Climate Accord, despite the US administration’s opposition, and supported new infrastructure.

In this area, transportation is a major focus. For years, I have joined other regional elected officials to advocate for increased funding for all modes of transportation. My particular interest is transit and other alternatives to the use of single-occupant vehicles. This advocacy reflects my view that these alternatives are essential to a well-functioning economy, provide equity, and help the region comply with air quality standards. I have chaired the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, the Virginia Transit Association, and the Metropolitan Washington Transportation Planning Board. In recent years, our efforts have generated more than $40 million in grants to Falls Church for transportation improvements.

Our shared objective must be to continue to prudently advance our City’s values and resilience in everything we do locally. But our efforts do not stop there. We also pursue these community goals in regional priorities and decision-making and even set an example nationally. In short, we can and must be a light in these dark days, for ourselves, for our region, and for our nation.

David Snyder is a member of the Falls Church City Council