Another local election draws near and with it are another group of Falls Church residents that are seeking to serve our community. Falls Church FACTS has asked them to share with us and our readers a little bit about themselves, why they are running and how they hope to work to improve our community and schools.
The City Council Candidates are: Phil Duncan, Letty Hardi, David Tarter and Stuart Whitaker. It takes a lot of time to run for office and even more to serve so please take a little time to read their statements. We may have varied perspectives on different issues but I am sure we all can agree that doing this work is important and we appreciate their willingness to serve!
In making decisions on City Council, I draw on the lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve come to know during many years of local civic involvement. Before my 2012 election to Council, I served on the City’s Economic Development Authority; the Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Transportation (chair); the schools’ Business in Education Partnership (chair); the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce (vice chair); the George Mason HS Athletic Boosters (mulch sale coordinator); and the Falls Church Little League (publicity chair). I’ve also been active with Citizens for a Better City, and supported Falls Church Arts, Creative Cauldron, the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, the PTAs, and numerous other local organizations.
I’ve worked with hundreds of dedicated volunteers to improve our City, support our schools, and help businesses thrive. This breadth of community service helps me on Council understand the needs of everyone in our City.
I met Leslie De Long while we were working at Congressional Quarterly and playing on the company softball team. We married in 1985, and have lived since then on S. West St. Our children attended City schools K-12. Daughter Meredyth is a graduate student in marine biology at San Francisco State University; son Tyler finished graduate school and serves as a police officer in a neighboring jurisdiction. Leslie moved from journalism to a policy job on Capitol Hill, and now works for a national conservation organization. After my career covering national politics for CQ, I founded a City-based business providing editorial and public relations services to educational and civic organizations.
As chair of the Council’s Economic Development Committee, I have been a leader in our successful campaign to expand and diversify the City’s economy, so we can meet most of our needs very close to home, reducing our carbon footprint by walking, biking, or taking a short hop by car to buy groceries and household goods, dine out, see a movie, concert or play, visit the gym or a doctor, and so on.
In recent years, we have attracted numerous new stand-alone businesses, including ALDI, 24 Hour Fitness, PMA Health, Northside Social, and Zoya’s Atelier. New establishments in our “legacy” shopping centers include Liberty BBQ in Broaddale, Good Fortune Supermarket in the Eden Center, the Southgate Village Shoppes (Panjshir, Aleworks, Welsh Printing, FC Bakeshop, etc.), Dominion Wine and Beer Bar in Brickhouse Square, and Falls Church Distillers on Tinner Hill.
Also, I’m happy to say that mixed-use development (which I’ve strongly supported for 20 years) has become a huge fiscal plus for the City, generating annual net revenues topping $3 million (saving us 8 cents on the tax rate). And the residents of these mixed-use buildings help us attract businesses the whole community enjoys — national retailers such as Harris-Teeter, Target and Penzey’s, and “boutique” businesses such as Beadazzled, Stylish Patina, Kiln & Custard, Disturbingly Delicious, Café Kindred, and many more. The 2021 opening of Founders Row (at Broad & West) will bring Falls Church its first movie theatres in three decades (Studio Movie Grill, with eight screens) and an anchor restaurant, City Works.
If re-elected, I pledge to continue the current Council’s record of working closely with the School Board to plan and build a new high school that will meet our children’s needs for generations, keeping Falls Church at the forefront of public education. After the new GMHS opens in 2020, we will plan and build the West Falls Church Gateway development. By adding office, hotel, retail, dining, entertainment, outdoor space, and condos and apartments for a range of ages, the Gateway development will help make our City a truly complete community.
There is much that’s great about Falls Church, and there are things we could do better. I want to keep the best, and improve the rest. I listen carefully to everyone’s concerns and suggestions, and talk with citizens and Council colleagues about balancing competing priorities. I aim to blend the good ideas of others with my perspective as a longtime civic activist to chart a course that will make Falls Church a prosperous and sustainable community for all generations.
Welcoming your input, searching for common ground, strengthening our City’s traditions as a close and civil community — that’s how I will keep working on Council if you re-elect me.
My priorities, in brief:
— Maintain excellence in public education — invest in proper facilities to keep class sizes stable and provide a modern learning environment.
— Press City government and schools to run a tight and transparent financial ship — every penny counts as we strive to hold the property tax rate steady.
— Spur economic activity to increase revenue and make the City more vibrant and walkable, with a broader variety of places close-by to eat, obtain goods and services, and have fun.
— Provide quality services and infrastructure — better neighborhood traffic calming and improved sidewalks; well-maintained parks and sports fields; stronger stormwater management; library modernization; environmentally friendly transportation solutions; and more housing options.–
Build a more welcoming, inclusive, and compassionate community, with all citizens engaged.
In the next four years, we have a golden opportunity to embrace progress while strengthening all that we love about our City’s spirit. On Council, I am guided by the 2040 Vision in our Comprehensive Plan. It says: “By investing in neighborhoods, community services and facilities, schools, and parks, the City preserves small-town character and history while honoring a deep commitment to progress and a growing community. The continual rejuvenation of robust commercial areas supports the City’s high quality of life for all citizens.”
The next four years will bring deliberation and decisions on a range of difficult issues. I offer you representation with deep roots in the City; a keen understanding of the breadth of people’s interests; and an awareness that budget priorities compete and sometimes clash. I promise to govern in a civil manner, asking questions, listening, negotiating and compromising to achieve outcomes beneficial to all. I ask for a chance to continue doing my part, with you, to move our City forward.
The City of Falls Church has been home for us for over 16 years, with family roots that go back much further. We moved here long before we had kids as newly married, young professionals. When we talk about being a community for all generations – my family and I have lived/are living that spectrum of life cycles and that unique perspective guides my values and priorities. My husband is what folks call a “lifer” – having attended Mt Daniel through George Mason. My retired in laws still live in the house they raised their boys in – so I feel very fortunate that I’m raising my own boys, who are now at 3 of the 5 FCCPS schools this year, with their grandparents half a mile away. My professional background is in management, marketing, and finance as Director of Project Management at Capital One, managing complex, multi-million dollar cross functional projects and teams. My degrees are in economics and psychology from the University of Virginia.
Since my election, I’ve served on the City Council’s Economic Development and Appointments Committees and am an active liaison to several boards and commissions that have aligned with my passions: the Economic Development Authority, Housing Commission, Recreation and Parks Advisory Board, and Arts and Humanities Council. I’m heavily involved in our schools and PTAs.
Why I’m Running Again:
I first ran for office because I wanted to make sure the next generation steps up and gets involved in the city we’re so invested in – home. I’m running for re-election to see us continue on the good path of:
1) Smart economic development that brings more options to town, adds vibrancy to our city, diversifies our tax base to fund schools and top notch services, and keeps our tax rate as low as possible
2) Investment in schools, pedestrian safety and walkability, transportation, parks, environment – infrastructure improvements that improve quality of life for everyone and benefit us, today and tomorrow
3) Strong and responsible financial management – steering the city through unprecedented amount of planning and projects
It’s been a very busy four years and I’m proud to have had a hand in it, working alongside a terrific group of colleagues in the City Council and School Board. We’re in a dramatically different place than four years ago: having addressed our school capacity issues at the elementary and high schools, with a new net zero high school on the way in the most ambitious capital plan ever and a sound economic development plan that helps offset some of the costs; countless infrastructure improvements across the city – civic buildings like Mt Daniel, City Hall, Miller House, GMHS underway; we welcomed new transportation options like Capital Bikeshare, new bike lanes, bus shelters, sidewalks and crosswalks, parking; new amenities, parks, and recreation space like Mr Browns Park, playground at Cherry Hill, Larry Graves turf fields, open space acquisition of nearly 2 acres at the Fellows Property; increased vibrancy in the downtown and new development on the way like Founders Row and the West Falls Church project that will be transformative for the western gateway.
I’ve been a pragmatic, thoughtful advocate for the entire city – taking the long view and caring for the city’s different constituencies – from kids to parents to retirees, from single family homeowners to renters, from individuals to small businesses – which requires accessibility and intentional outreach to make sure we’re hearing from diverse perspectives to carefully balance the entire city’s needs. As a self-professed policy wonk, I do my homework, understand the details, and ask questions. I believe active citizen engagement and transparency are critical parts of local government. I bring progressive values, strong communication, organization, and analytical skills to city decisions, host regular office hours, and write a weekly blog about our local government at lettyhardi.org.
I’m proud of the results we’ve delivered, but we do have more work ahead. The current City Council has been ambitious in tackling many priorities at the same time. With the $120M new high school underway, we need to continue our excellent partnership with the schools and execute flawlessly, on time and on budget, and kickoff the economic development project will defray some of the costs. With an expected recession, we have sound planning in place, but will still require extra diligence in our finances and be willing to make hard decisions, especially with construction costs escalating. We need to further the plans for our big picture issues – climate change, stormwater, traffic, and especially affordability.
Housing affordability, besides being a moral and social issue, needs to be a bigger local priority as it has far-reaching impacts on transportation, economic development, and the environment. While we’ve made inroads with senior tax relief expansion and affordable units that will never expire going forward, we can do more. We need to keep a tight rein on budgets and capital projects so taxes don’t further exacerbate affordability. We need to preserve the affordable housing here (eg, The Fields) and add more workforce housing options so teachers, police officers, service workers can afford to live closer to their jobs. We should also learn from housing reform happening across the US, like zoning tools that incent keeping/renovating smaller homes vs teardowns and learn how diverse housing types such as cottages, micro-units, ADUs can help.
Finally, as we continue evolving into a vibrant, welcoming city for all – we need to balance our small town charm with growth, so our community values remain a part of our identity. If given the opportunity to continue serving, I look forward to continuing to roll up my sleeves and build on our progress for Falls Church.
Council Candidate David Tarter
As a City Council member and Mayor, I have had a wonderful opportunity to meet our citizens and better understand the aspirations and points of view that animate our City. I was born and raised in Northern Virginia and have lived in or around Falls Church my entire life. I have a long knowledge and perspective based on my own experiences here.
Prior to joining the council, I was Chair of Falls’ Church’s Economic Development Authority and I served as Interim City Attorney.
Regionally, I have represented the City as the Past President of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and, currently, as Chair of the Northern Virginia Regional Authority.
With two kids in the school system and a wife who works there, I remain heavily invested in Falls Church’s future.
I am running for re-election to the Falls Church City Council for a few simple reasons: One, I have a deep and abiding passion for Falls Church.
Number two, I believe I have the knowledge and skills needed to lead Falls Church forward during its ongoing period of complex growth and decision making.
During my two-decade career as a commercial real estate lawyer, I have worked to help Northern Virginia municipalities, citizens, and private sector companies resolve their differences and enjoy their mutual opportunities. The results are happier, more prosperous communities where generated wealth reduces burdens and advances education and livability.
Right now, I believe that getting through our City’s most ambitious capital improvement plan is our biggest challenge and greatest opportunity.
We are in the midst of a great investment in our community with construction of a new state-of-the-art high school, major renovations to our library and city hall, new open space, storm sewer and traffic calming measures.
Ensuring that these investments are soundly made and properly executed is critical to our City’s long-term success.
Thankfully, our judicious planning and prudent fiscal policies have resulted in triple AAA bond ratings for the second year in a row and only the second time in our City’s history. This will result in the lowest borrowing costs, saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
Intertwined with the new high school are our plans for 10 acres of economic development on adjacent City land, which can go a long way towards paying for the school.
With my background in real estate law, I have extensive experience managing these kinds of projects and look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve my community.
Council candidate Stuart Whitaker
I am a financial economist by training with an AB and MBA from the University of Chicago. My first job out of graduate school was with an international firm auditing the performance of a new $90 M manufacturing facility in Silicon Valley. I spent most of my career in the private sector in telecommunications and information services, in the US and Europe. I’ve worked in finance, operations, and strategy.
The business of business is profit. When working in the private sector, I sought to make money. The business of government is different. I would like to help Falls Church City become more livable, sustainable, and equitable.
Two of the biggest issues facing Falls Church–transportation and climate change–are integrally related. The City Council devoted two hours of its meeting on October 15 to transportation problems and potential solutions. Just two months earlier, on August 7, the City held a town hall on flooding caused by a recent severe storm. Because of climate change, we know that such storms are becoming increasingly frequent.
These are big problems. One member of the Council called traffic the highest priority. These issues are not, however, new, nor should they be a surprise. The City Council should have recognized and addressed climate and transportation years ago.
I am running for City Council because the City Council has failed in its responsibility to address both climate and transportation. We need to work on these issues at the local level because the federal and state government cannot solve these problems alone. Even if the federal government believed in science, solutions require effort at all levels.
One reason climate and transportation problems are difficult is that we can’t solve them alone–they take cooperation. Another reason they are difficult is our political structure. Consider our school board, whose members are presumably interested in and have expertise in education and who are elected because the voters believed they could contribute to education. Now consider that there is no comparable transportation board, so too often, people who are appointed to regional transportation boards–NVTA, NVTC, WMATA, TPB, etc.–don’t have transportation expertise nor have they been elected because of that expertise. As a result, well meaning as board members may be, they are often underprepared.
I became aware of climate change twelve years ago and became interested in transportation for two reasons. First is that transportation was the second leading source of emissions–transportation became the number one leading source two years ago. Second is that telecommunications and transportation have similar characteristics–both represent significant infrastructure, both are essential to our economy, both are capital intensive, both have network effects, both are frequently government owned or regulated, etc.–which meant my background was useful.
One climate expert proposed reducing transportation emissions by cutting miles traveled and emissions per mile in half. How can we achieve these reductions? We know a lot about transportation and behavior. For instance, that cost and time are significant factors in decisions people make about whether to drive or use another lower emission transportation mode. For instance, that policy changes may “nudge” people to alter their behavior. One of the first things I began to do was to develop a tool to compare the cost and time of car travel versus public transportation travel. Car travel is far and away less costly and faster than public transportation most of the time, so in order to increase public transportation use, it must be significantly improved.
An example where the Council has done a poor job concerns toll service on I66 outside the beltway. As I wrote in an article that appeared in the Washington Post in July 2016, Let’s avoid another transportation mistake, the public private partnership agreement signed by Virginia includes a prohibition against extending the orange line until ten years after toll service begins. This is an example of the government putting their hand on the scale in favor of autos, more sprawl, more emissions, more congestion, and more speeding cars through our neighborhoods. This Council is responsible for endorsing this agreement. More cars speeding through your neighborhood? You have your council to blame.
I’m not suggesting that the Council hasn’t done anything concerning climate and transportation, only that their actions have fallen far short. LEED buildings and composting are nice, but they don’t address the biggest problem.
On a positive note, we have a great opportunity to make significant improvements in both climate and transportation through a proposed high performance Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system running down Route 7, but I have two concerns. First is that this system is ten years down the road, which is far too far in the future. Second is that if the people who approved restricting the Orange Line are in charge of this BRT system, we are likely to have another poorly designed system that fails to address our climate and transportation needs.
Finally, I’ve learned over the years the importance of having a vision. There are many things that can help achieve my vision of a City that is livable, sustainable, and equitable. In addition to transportation, I consider housing and education to be major factors. As a member of the City Council, I would look at everything the City does in terms of how those things contribute to realizing that vision.
Next up School Board Candidates! Stay tuned!
Thank you for posting this. The CBC is hosting a candidate forum being held tonight (10/24) from 7 – 9 at the American Legion Post on North Oak Street. VPIS has put together a booklet of questions and answers from both the school board and city council candidates, which can be viewed at https://www.vpis.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/VPIS-Candidates-QandA-2019-1010.pdf