Commentary, Local Commentary

Editorial: Eminent Domain For W. Broad?

Later this month, the Falls Church City Council will make a final decision on how to spend a huge budget surplus that includes millions in federal relief funds designed to offset the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Council at a work session and at this week’s regular business meeting was presented with a plan devised by the City staff for utilizing these funds by shoring up its reserves (in the event of an economic downturn) and putting the money to a wide array of purposes.

We urge our local citizens to examine these options and to speak out if they

think there are better priorities or deserving needs. The City rarely has an opportunity to put millions of dollars to, shall we say, unconventional uses if they are deemed by our local government to be worthy.

For example, we have a few ideas of our own that we feel are good for serious consideration.

First of all, there is the issue of the City’s use of what has become a rarity in the nation’s life these days, a bonafide local newspaper that focuses its coverage on a local community’s events and activities. We, of course, are speaking of ourselves, the Falls Church News-Press. For over 30 years, this paper has been delivered to every household in the City, offering a service for readers and local businesses who advertise a uniquely valid resource in what since the century before the American revolution was recognized by Benjamin Franklin and many others as an indispensable element of a thriving democracy.

Newspapers are under grave pressure and are going out of business at a record pace, due to advertising revenues shifting to online entities, even though those lack the depth and breadth of exposure that a “total market coverage” print newspaper can. In communities where such newspapers continue to exist, it is of utmost importance that efforts are made to enhance the impact of them wherever it can in a way to address the government’s ability to reach its wider public. This isn’t a self-serving suggestion, it is our patriotic duty to state this as much as to exist at all.

There are more ideas on how the City government should “think outside the box” to use surplus funds to community-wide betterment, in addition to the important challenges of providing affordable housing and vital services to the significant number of underserved people even in an affluent town.

For example, how about using the surplus millions to exercise “eminent domain” over the property at the intersection of W. Broad and Little Falls, site of the now vacated and fenced off former Stratford Motel site? By offering the owners a fair market price for that land, the City could utilize the space to create a first-rate downtown gathering place and plaza in the center of what is otherwise an exemplary urban neighborhood of attractive shops and businesses.