Local Commentary

Living Locally in the “New Normal” of the Little City

By Ross Litkenhous

“When will things go back to normal?” It’s a question asked more times than we can count, and I bet you can relate. The uncomfortable truth is, never. But you already knew that. We’re living in the new normal. With only 800 words in print, we can’t begin to unpack what has contributed to this paradigm shift but what I do know is that with all change, our perspective matters most. These are not dark times, nor should we be despondent about what lies ahead. Let’s keep that glass half full. Life is full of options, opportunity, and optimism if you only know where to look. Fortunately, for those of us living in this community, this new normal and the challenges we will face in the years ahead have never met a more fearsome opponent. Our Falls Church community, at its best, is a force to be reckoned with. Sometimes we falter, we often disagree, we’re certainly not perfect but at the end of the day the fabric of this community holds strong, and we will do what is necessary to support our values and each other. It all starts by standing up and choosing to do something that makes a tangible difference. And that activism is our secret sauce. I’ve seen it firsthand, and it is a key ingredient in our Little City’s recipe for success. The spirit of volunteerism, community service, and advocacy for “togetherness” are amazing qualities that make Falls Church special, and a one-of-a-kind place to call home for people and businesses alike. When you take stock of the tangible forms it is quite impressive. We have community led organizations that support everything from our trees and schools to voting rights and displaced refugees. The countless hours spent raising awareness for all manner of important issues, big and small, are staggering. Yet this November represents an important month for a different type of activism, one that often plays second fiddle or is merely an afterthought when we think about supporting our greater Falls Church family. November is Live Local month, a month where we ask our community to spend their money in town, with our local businesses and our friends that own them. Making fewer online purchases from faceless entities coupled with far more brick-and-mortar visits to purchase your services and wares from smiling faces around town. The amazing truth is that by supporting our local businesses, we are all both directly and indirectly supporting those very same causes that usually grab headlines. Shopping and buying locally is a tangible way for you to impact those important issues that you’ve already committed the time, effort, and aspirations to solving. Your local purchases within the borders of Falls Church City generate sales, meals, and gross receipts taxes that totaled $14 million in FY 2021. That’s 14 percent of our school and city budget combined. And when you include other local taxes derived from our businesses, it comprises a staggering 25 percent of our total budget. A budget that pays for plowing snow, holiday lights on Broad Street, rent relief to seniors, school buses, grants to small businesses, park and playground maintenance, city and school staff salaries, police body cameras, sidewalk repairs, leaf collection, tree plantings and recreational activities for kids. Our local businesses generate meaningful dollars that pay for those efforts that we consistently advocate for as activist community members. But we can do more to support that wellspring. Because the true benefits of living local extend well beyond dollars and cents. Shopping locally ensures that we can attract and retain those small, unique businesses that make Falls Church special. Buying locally cuts down on shipping emissions and packaging waste. And given the residual pandemic related supply chain delays expected over the coming holiday months, why roll the dice on a transcontinental delivery when the gifts you need are right here, in stock, on shelves. Wine, cheese, tools, toys, jewelry, clothes, the list is endless and a short walk away. If you’re a community activist, shopping locally and supporting our small businesses touches the corner of every issue you care about. Like a perfectly overlayed Venn diagram, living local is that nexus. With our new normal and the everchanging landscape affecting all of us, we can meet those challenges by doing our part here, in our own backyard. Change starts locally, it’s always grass roots. We may not be able to solve the world’s problems that led to this new normal, but we still have an opportunity to make a difference here in our own community. Supporting our local businesses is a force multiplier in each of our own personal advocacy efforts. Whatever it is that you are passionate about, always remember that our local businesses play an important role in getting us there. #LiveLocalFC

Ross Litkenhous is a local small business owner and City Council member.