As mild temperatures are promised for the onset of the New Year at this Saturday night’s Watch Night festivities in downtown Falls Church, expectations for the 2023 year remain ones of cautious optimism.
For the City of Falls Church, rising residential real estate values and a pause in the receipts of substantial new revenues from the numerous large scale mixed use projects now underway at the West End and the center of the Little City will mean that citizens will not feel significant tax relief at the local level this year.
That is, not this year, but as City Manager Wyatt Shields has promised, surely by next year, when another significant cut in the tax rate, of the type that dropped the rate from $1.3555 (per $100 of assessed valuation) two years ago to $1.23 last spring, can be expected.
The City will be heated up somewhat by protests from some of its better-to-do citizens to adopt “transitional zone” modifications to permit a modicum of affordable housing options. However, this will not be on the scale that is leading to a veritable uprising of citizens in next door Arlington where similar zoning modifications would allow for some duplex or quadruplex projects on turf historically reserved for single family homes.
To the extent the region as a whole may be roiled by efforts of the radical right to bring issues of hate into local politics, at least in the case of Falls Church, even minor, singular incidents are serving to initiate strong countering actions.
For example, Falls Church City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan issued a letter to parents as the winter break began earlier this month to “make them aware of an incident that transpired on the campus of Meridian High School.”
He reported that “recently, an image of a swastika was found in an elevator within Meridian High, which was immediately removed upon the notification to administrative staff. It is believed to be an isolated incident,” he wrote, and “in reviewing the video footage, we have been able to isolate the timing of the event and believe it to have occurred outside of school hours.”
In response, Noonan stated, “We will be reinforcing our zero-tolerance policy regarding religious and/or racially hate based messages and images.”
He urged students to “remain vigilant as they monitor the status of these images within the walls of Meridian and the broader Falls Church community.”
The investigation comes as “under the FCCPS policy regarding the Prohibition of Harassment of a Protected Class…developed with guidance from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.” The policy, he added, “also prohibits retaliation of any kind towards, by or on behalf of anyone involved in the investigation.” Noonan provided a link to resources including “Anti-Defamation League: For Families and Educators” and “Talking Race With Children.”
Noonan told the News-Press this week that student-led initiatives will be forthcoming with the resumption of classes next week.
The School Board reached a milestone in its ongoing work on equity, and inclusion last April with the unanimous approval of the first foundational policy specifically addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
The vote codified previous statements and proclamations by the board following the rise nationally of incidents of bigotry, harassment, and intimidation. The previous summer, the board issued a statement condemning violence.
To that end, School Board member Dr. Susan Dimock, Chief Academic Officer William Bates, Director of Equity and Excellence Dr. Jennifer Santiago, a Division Level Equity Team and members of the Mary Ellen Henderson and Meridian Social Justice clubs, have led efforts in the system.
Also, in its year-end message, the City’s Tinner Hill Foundation announced that a robust program of events surrounding its annual march will be forthcoming concerning Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities in the City Monday, January 16.
In elections in the coming year, a Democratic primary in June will find the incumbent Commonwealth Attorney who represents both Arlington and the City of Falls Church, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti challenged by someone formerly on her staff, Josh Katcher.
In June, there may also be a contested Democratic primary for the state senate seat currently held by Sen. Dick Saslaw. Saslaw is in a new district that will not include Falls Church once a new person is elected next November and the opening currently held by Sen. Chap Petersen may well be open to a challenge in a Democratic primary this June.
Falls Church City Council and School Board seats, three out of seven of them on each body, will be contested in November.