Local Commentary

Statements from City Council Candidates

Caroline Lian

This is my first time running for public office, and I am excited about the chance to represent my fellow citizens in this great city. The city deserves a council member who not only knows and loves this city, but also has relevant business, government, and community experience. I believe that my 26 years of work history and skills in management, operational execution, policy development and affordable housing implementation can help navigate our challenges and opportunities. I want to serve the community and am passionate about the issues I am running on: maintaining excellent public education, preserving, protecting and expanding affordable housing, and supporting economic development that improves quality of life and is environmentally sustainable. I am a full-time working parent who believes that both life and work diversity in public office is important. As I undertake this effort, I also hope to encourage others, especially my children, to participate civically and give back to the community.

As a Citizen and Mom, I am active in our schools as a room parent, Odyssey of the Mind and Science Olympiad coach, and events volunteer since 2013. I am a supporter of the Falls Church Education Foundation and active in our local Cubscout and Boyscout packs. I have served ten consecutive years as a board member for four different nonprofits focused on youth mentorship, education policy, a DC public charter school and sustainable homeownership advocacy.
I am a first generation immigrant from Indonesia who came to the US as a non-English speaking child, and became a naturalized citizen in 2008. I am a product of the American public education system. I attended public schools in Alexandria and Prince William County, and graduated with a B.A. in Biology from the University of Virginia where I met my husband, Andrew Manwaring. We have been married for 18 years and have two sons attending Oak Street and MEH. When looking for a place to raise a family, my husband’s family roots as residents since 1946 made Falls Church City our top choice to purchase a home. We moved to the city in 2006, joining third and fourth generation members of the Manwaring family who still reside here today.

I started my career in 1995 at Ernst & Young Consulting in New York City and moved on to investment banking with JP Morgan. In 2008, I worked for the District of Columbia Government as a Director of Program Management and then COO for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer and DC Public Schools. After government service I worked for private equity and consulting firms taking executive leadership roles executing mergers, integrations, and product development. I currently work at FreddieMac, where I have been developing and implementing affordable lending programs for the past six years.

I am a hardworking, outcome oriented, data driven thinker and relationship builder. I would be honored to earn your vote and work toward keeping the best current elements of our city and to improve the areas where we see challenges and opportunities.

Marybeth Connelly

I am running for my third term on Falls Church City Council. After eight years, I’m proud to say that we’ve made significant progress in many areas, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’m asking for your vote so that I can continue to lead the Council in moving Falls Church forward. It has been an honor to serve the City, and I hope I’ve earned your confidence and your vote this November.

My husband, Michael, and I bought our first Falls Church home in 1995, and the City quickly became home. Our three children are Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS) alumni, and our lives are centered on the City. I am employed by FCCPS as the Community Outreach Director, and in that role I am able to bring together teachers, support staff, local businesses, non-profits, and professionals for the good of the community.

The biggest, most visible, achievement in recent years is Meridian High School. This was a true community effort, accomplished through collaboration between Council and School Board, along with school and city employees. Many years of community meetings, disagreement, fact-finding, and persistence led us to the wonderful ribbon cutting earlier this month. We should all be proud of this magnificent school building.

The high school is just one piece of the most ambitious building plan in City history. The renovations of City Hall and Mary Riley Styles Public LIbrary complete the trifecta of tough, but important, Council decisions that make the City a better place to live, work, and go to school.

Along the way we’ve cultivated a positive relationship between the City Council and School Board. What once was a contentious culture has evolved into mutual respect, even as individual members have changed. This transformed relationship is apparent in the collegial way we have built the budget for the past few years. I’m committed to playing a key role in the upcoming FY 2023 budget planning process.

Many challenges lie ahead. The ongoing work with Gateway Partners on the development of the property abutting our secondary schools is essential to the City’s future. The groundwork is set, and we need to keep the process moving so that our plan of finance for the new school is solid. I’m committed to persisting until the visions and plans become streets, parks, and buildings.

We face additional challenges as we fully emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.The City has $16M in American Rescue Plan funding, and I am committed to using that money to steward recovery and growth. We need to continue to build our commercial tax base, upgrade our stormwater infrastructure, increase our supply of affordable housing, enact policies that protect the environment, and ensure that all residents and employees are treated with dignity.
I ask for your vote on November 2, or before, and look forward to serving the City of Falls Church for four more years.

Scott Diaz

This is my first run for public office. I’ve spent my adult life in service to my nation; first for more than 26 years as a soldier, Green Beret, and helicopter pilot, and now post retirement as a government civilian employee for the Department of Defense. My wife Jennifer, teenage son Hendrix and I moved here in 2019 after living in Europe and Asia for more than fifteen years. I believe my extensive international experience and global perspective would benefit the City and Council. I see my candidacy as an investment for my family and the community.

I was born in Puerto Rico then grew up in Western Massachusetts, attending public school. I entered the Army after graduation for a job and educational opportunities. I’ve always sought greater challenges, first as a paratrooper, then in Special Forces, and finally in aviation. I furthered my education, eventually earning a master’s degree in international relations.

My military experience provided me with the opportunity to work and collaborate, at many levels, with a number of partner military forces in Asia, Europe, and Africa. This interaction provided me with much insight into how both our and their government works to find solutions within each other’s needs and means. I understand that conflicting views must be addressed, in consideration of the long-term goals and their impact, be they an annual budget battle or development and implementation of new policies.

Many of you know, living outside of the United States provides you with a different perspective. We are truly a nation of many cultures and peoples, and through that international exposure it is much easier to see that our society includes a little bit from all over. This has provided me a fuller appreciation of why America is America.

I see economic development and private investment as the keys to generating the revenue necessary to grow our city and maintain the quality of our schools and services. Our city vision includes some ambitious development that could significantly change the look and feel of the community. Our future development is physically limited to the Broad and Washington Development Corridor; over the next decade, this development calls for large scale, multi-story, mixed-use complexes, with many hundreds of apartments being built along those narrow thoroughfares. I believe now is the time to shape that development, to reflect the character of the city, to meet or exceed a 10 percent affordable housing goal, and ensure the developer considers available technology to reduce energy consumption and urban heat island effect.
Our city budget is very tight. We need to spend within our means and find efficiencies everywhere we may. One percent saved here and there could reduce the need for budget off-sets, or fund needed resources for the schools or our first responders. The American Rescue Plan and an Amazon grant have allocated more than $18 million that the city may use for infrastructure and economic assistance. That largess needs to be allocated to shovel-ready projects or essential assistance programs quickly.

You may reach me at scott.c.diaz@gmail.com

Dave Snyder

U.S. News and World Report this summer ranked the City of Falls Church 3rd healthiest out of nearly 3,000 jurisdictions for our quality of civic life. This results from our shared values and the hard work of our citizens and government over many years. Maintaining this quality of life with all its components is and has always been my first priority as an elected official.

The future of the City is now in hands of the voters. I ask only that you judge the candidates not by our words but by our past actions and our record of performance for this community.

I grew up in a small city in the Western Pennsylvania coal region and was blessed with parents who were community activists. Following law school, my wife Edie and I found this community with great schools where you can raise a family in safety and make a difference. After serving on the board of the Falls Church Housing Corporation, I have been elected to City Council since 1994, served as Mayor and Vice Mayor, and chaired regional transportation, emergency preparedness, and environmental bodies. During this time, we’ve gone through good and tough times—9/11, the snipers, natural catastrophes, the financial crisis, and now the pandemic.

Working together, we have prevailed, and together, we can do even better. Here is where I stand:
Budget Priorities—Support highest quality schools and public safety, including police, fire, and traffic safety; fill essential vacant positions on City staff and review and improve current management and working conditions; identify best uses for new federal money for immediate pandemic relief and permissible long-term, high-cost capital projects such as stormwater infrastructure; and look for ways to reduce the tax rate consistent with these priorities.
Diversity and Equity—Back our review of City expenditures and programs to ensure they are fair, equitable, and cost effective; support the maintenance and repair of existing affordable housing and increase affordable housing in new developments when they otherwise benefit the City and neighbors; and engage in a community conversation where all voices are heard on any zoning changes.

Environment and Climate Change—Collaborate regionally to meet critical climate goals; ratchet up mandates on new developments to achieve highest environmental standards; and provide better incentives, information, and support for voluntary actions by homeowners on energy saving, renewable energy, and stormwater management.

Transportation—Advocate for increasing traffic calming and enforcement of lower speed limits on our streets; enhance bike and pedestrian infrastructure; continue to achieve funding for local projects as I have done for the W&OD Trail enhancements, Bikeshare, and Park Avenue improvements; and move forward the Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit Study.
Regional Leadership—Provide regional leadership on emergency preparedness, transportation, and environmental/climate issues; acquire funding for Falls Church projects, adding to the $40 million in transportation grants I have helped the City obtain; and focus on improving Metro from the top down.

Thanks to all who have voted and to everyone planning to vote on or before November 2nd.

Debbie Hiscott

I have served Falls Church City in professional and volunteer capacities for over 25 years, and as a City Council member for the past year. One of many reasons I am running again is to support the business development on the ten acre site in West Falls Church. After spending almost twenty years as an advocate for building a new high school, as a parent and founding member of the political action committee that promoted the bond referendum for its construction, I feel personally and morally responsible for ensuring that the promises made to the voters are kept. We need to ensure that the development is successful financially and enhances living and working here.

I am proud to have played a collaborative role in the successes of the Council this past year including: opening the sustainable high school, expanding city hall and the library, working to support local businesses and residents with financial and logistical assistance during the pandemic, focusing on equity through our boards and commissions, increasing affordable housing, highlighting environmental issues, and working with task forces on the issues of Stormwater and the Use of Force. Simultaneously, the Council also lowered the tax rate for the first time in many years.
While much is improved, we have significant work ahead. There are opportunities to use funds we are receiving from the American Recovery Plan Act. We must focus our spending on stormwater and infrastructure projects to enable our community to better withstand climate change, reduce environmental impacts on residents and to decrease the debt financing otherwise incurred to complete these projects. The savings allow us to support other city programs and maintain or lower our tax rate.

We have significantly missed stated goals established for both affordable housing and climate change. We need to take aggressive action to improve in both areas. Additionally, we must staff effectively and invest in systems to support the work of city and school employees. We need to maintain the current affordable housing stock and ensure its quality; pursue options for more mixed-use affordable housing; apply for grant funding and invest in our own fund; and follow our neighboring jurisdictions’ lead on zoning. To enact environmental changes for progress, we need to focus on resiliency investments, leading with city projects and encouraging residential investments to benefit the climate.

Through decades of working, volunteering, and raising my family here, I’ve developed broad and deep relationships that help me be effective as a member of the City Council. Ideas are important, and I have many, but there is no replacement for experience. My strong interpersonal skills are backed up by decades of work in corporate finance, business development, strategy, and budgeting. I’ve worked to earn the trust and confidence of our leaders and have the skills it takes to be a strong member of the Council. It would be an honor to continue serving the community through this critical role. Please vote for me, Debbie Hiscott, for City Council on November 2nd.

Stuart Whitaker

Representatives from 200 countries will begin meeting on Halloween to “put the world on a path to aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow the Earth’s warming.” George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication found “large majorities of registered voters, including many Republicans, support a variety of climate and energy policies.” The Rhodium Group found “Joint action by Congress, the executive branch, and subnational leaders can put the 2030 target within reach, but all must act.”

Falls Church City can and must act to live up to its values. Unfortunately, we have fallen short. Falls Church City set as a 2020 goal Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission reduction of 20 percent below the 2005 level yet emissions were reduced by only 2 percent. The City’s draft Climate Change Mitigation Energy Action Plan (Action Plan) found that transportation is the leading source of emissions at 42 percent. Transportation emissions can be reduced by utilizing lower emission transportation modes including hybrid and electric vehicles, walking, biking, telecommuting, and transit. Members of the City Council also serve on numerous bodies that affect regional issues. Despite the need to reduce transportation emissions, the City Council supported the I-66 toll road expansion agreement that restricts extension of Metro’s Orange line until ten years after toll service has begun—putting its finger on the scale against transit and in favor of high emissions and increased automobile congestion.

With the passing of Dan Sze last year, the City lost one of our strongest environmental proponents. The draft Action Plan says the City “will strive to be a leader in environmental sustainability,” yet goes on to say the “City Council resolved to adopt the regional goals established by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG).” I want Falls Church City to be a true leader by exceeding the regional goals.

The first thing to do is move forward on the plan, long on the drawing board, to implement a high performance Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system running along Broad Street to reduce emissions, reduce congestion, and foster greater access to commercial businesses. Other things to do include making the City more attractive to pedestrians by adding benches, and building more bike paths.

Beyond climate I am a strong supporter of the Falls Church City Public Schools, affordable housing, diversity, LGBTQ rights, economic development, infrastructure investment, and measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

I have worked with a number of organizations such as the Sierra Club, participated in numerous civic meetings, met with numerous elected officials, and published opinion pieces in the Washington Post on climate and transportation. I was privileged to grow up in the middle class—my father was a social worker and my mother was a librarian. I am a financial economist by training with an MBA from the University of Chicago, I have worked in the private sector in the US and internationally, and I’ve worked blue collar jobs. I have been a sole proprietor since 1986 and am a new member of the Falls Church Chamber.