Below is the statement read by Mr. John Leimone to City Council during public comment on Monday, July 24, 2017. Mr Lemoine has worked as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
I strongly support the VPIS recommendation in the well-argued letter to you (City Council) to postpone any decision on a GMHS referendum until citizens have been thoroughly and honestly briefed on all aspects of this project, which because of the costs involved, poses an existential threat to the City’s future financial stability.
Underlying this position are at least 4 major concerns:
- The Council and City Manager have glossed over important negative comments made by Alvarez & Marsal to the Council on June 26, which call into question the reliability of the $40 million projected to be realized from sales or lease of land for economic development at the GMHS site.
- I am happy to see that Mr. Shields has added to his Power Point Presentation some information about the longer run gaps between projected revenues and projected operating expenditures. However, the serious consequences deriving from this gap need to be much more clearly explained to Citizens, and detailed policies to address it need to be transparently presented to the public before any referendum on the proposed GMHS project.
- Related to this point, neither the Council, City Manager nor School representatives have made clear what the City’s policy is on approving future development complexes with significant housing units in the next 10 years or more and the impact any such anticipated development (in addition to the GMHS site) will have on (a) school enrollment growth and its costs, (b) the nonschool operating costs of the City from further population growth and (c) additional infrastructure needs that such projects will generate.
- No attempt has been made to identify additional costs to City from tearing down the current GMHS building, new infrastructure costs that current plans will require, or the potential for cost overruns. Furthermore, although Mr. Shields has listed some risk associated with building and financing the proposed new high school, no meaningful analysis of these huge risks has been presented.
- In the interest of transparency, I call upon the Council to establish a section on the City website that makes publicly available all submitted written public comments on this or any other subject before the Council and to create a forum on the City website for citizens to address key public issues.
Amen Mr. Leimone!
Not so long ago a letter to the editor in the local paper expressed concern over city planners’ apparent piecemiel and haphazard approach to city development in general (witness the assenine “railroad cottages” plans, for example, to be built literally off of a road to nowhere that isn’t even a “real” road at all!). If that isn’t an apt metaphor for all of the cushy quid pro po “deals” that seem to go down under the radar I don’t know what is. Would Mr. Y. want to build the same next to his residence? Hell no! And why wouldn’t he?! Can you say “traffic woes” Mr. Y?
In the mere 5 years I have lived in this tiny city, issues over development, budget and planning intransparency, lack of adequate infrastructures to support oversized ambitions, and subsequent escalating taxation have been a constant concern for most of our citizens. Add to that a tone-deaf-nearly-nepotistic entrenched SB and CC, and you have one huge toxic governance mix.
The lie of Falls Church as a majorly affluent city at the national scale is just that. I am sickened by the bragging about our geedunk of a 2.5 square miles that was incorporated under racist premises in its inception. I live by the Freeway known as S. West Street, and am a-gassed quite literally at the metric pounds of pollution spewed daily by ever- increasing 18 wheeler trucks speeding past our homes. The reality is profoundly incompatible with the bragging propaganda from our officials about our affluence and quality of life.
From Founder’s Row (whatever that means) to the new HS plans, we are being barraged with a burlesque of exactly no substance when it comes to the directions we are headed toward. In a community contantly struggling to make ends meet, I wish our officials would face the logical limits to ever jacking up who and what we are as a community. Every plan rolled out has charecteristically ignored the reality on the ground. Followed by outcries of ineptness by residents. And so it goes.
The public forum Mr. Leimone suggests is painfully overdue. If our local politicians were even half way as interested in considering citizen concerns as they are in creating a veneer of greatness we might have half a chance to be what we actually are, as opposed to the sleight of hand our braggarts and oversized egos of a FC body politic would have us be.
Thanks for your interest and community involvement on this issue. You make so many good points – that the land may not sell for $ 40 M, operating costs are projected to outpace revenue growth, there may well be construction cost overruns etc..
I wonder sometimes if we are repeating – on a community level – the same type of mistake so many families made ten years ago when buying homes they desperately wanted but should not have been able to afford under normal credit situations with the usual safeguards in place.
Hellbent on getting a shiny new school, our City leaders brush-by long established City Policy by planning to exceed the 12% debt payment limit and going with a 30 year bond instead of a 20 year bond.
City leaders say we will have to tighten our belts for the next few years. No, it will be the next 30 years. And, why aren’t they tightening now?
They say, the school will be cheaper to run because it is new. Yeah right; we’re save a few thousand a year when it finally breaks even (geo thermal has more up front costs), but we’ll probably have operating and debt shortfalls of $ 20 million. Maybe we’ll be Fairfax County’s problem by then.
They say, bringing MUDs (School, Mason Row, Broad & Lee) with about 1700 new apartments will be good for the City. We might get a $ 3 – 5 Million net revenue for the City – isn’t that great? No, it’s not. We need $ 20 Million more by 2028 not a few million. We’ll be a complete congested mess. We’ll have sold off our last good green space so we can stack apartments 10+ stories high.
I read somewhere that the Dr. Noonan said we could make the needed rehab/repairs to school for $ 16- 18 Million. I also remember the interim saying he could get the project down to $ 60 M from $ 120 M by eliminating the 3rd gym and adopting some other measures. I heard Ms. Oliver suggest that we should ask developers what can be done for $ 40 Million. These are all ideas that should be considered before – like Thelma and Louise – taking a big “Leap of Faith”.
Great movie but I’m hoping for a better ending.