Falls Church has the highest median income and level of education of any jurisdiction in the the country, yet our commercial areas are aging and under-performing financially. The downtown is languishing with a number of buildings that are more than fifty years old. Our downtown areas are largely industrial or auto-oriented, such as car lots, rental and repair shops, and car washes and provide limited economic benefit to the City. The tax revenue on the sale of new cars, for example, goes straight to Richmond.
We can do better.
We must renew our emphasis on the revitalization of our commercial corridors to build a tax base that ensures the continued excellence of our schools and needed community services without burdening our residents with unduly high taxes.
We have a tax base that is heavily skewed to residents, even though a better solution passes by us every single day. More than a million cars go through Falls Church every month, but only a small percentage are enticed to stop, patronize our businesses, and pay sales tax.
That's a significant lost opportunity to fund our schools and enhance their excellence without putting the bite, so to speak, on our resident families.
Falls Church is a great place to live, but it can be so much better with a vibrant downtown that is abuzz with activity and tax revenues.
We can create local shopping, eating and entertainment opportunities that we can walk to instead of driving away in search of fun.
Like our school system, our downtown commercial areas can be a model of excellence and success.
It is an issue I have been concerned about for some time. Click here to read my interview with the Falls Church Times about the Revitalization of our Commercial Corridors from 2010.
My ideas for smart, well managed growth and a vibrant, walkable downtown were recently recognized by the Sierra Club's endorsement of my candidacy. In making their endorsement, the Sierra Club praised my "solid understanding of smart growth challenges,
bicycling/walking/transit options, and use of LEED in commercial developments”. Click here to read more.
Our schools are our civic gem and the envy of municipalities all over the country, but maintaining this level of excellence is not without challenges. Right now, we are in the midst of facing another year of increasing enrollment, with 4.5% more students than last year. That's the largest enrollment increase, by percentage, in the last 30 years. The current kindergarten class, alone, is at an all-time high of 165 students.
We must find a way for the City to increase its revenues to cover these costs or face continued threats of cuts to serves or increased taxes. A renewed emphasis on economic development is the best way to ensure the long term sustainability and excellence of our school system.
I have a very personal stake in the Falls Church school system. My three young children are at Mary Ellen Henderson and Thomas Jefferson schools. My wife, Karen, is a clinic aid at Mt. Daniel. The Falls Church school system is of the utmost importance to our family and our community.
Once, Falls Church tax payers made a substantial investment in their water system. Unfortunately, due to ill-advised litigation, the community can no longer enjoy a return on that investment.
Resolving this issue must be a priority and should not be delayed.
Keeping a non-performing asset is the civic equivalent of putting your retirement savings under your mattress.
It's time to aggressively seek maximum value for the system on behalf of our taxpayers by selling it or transferring it to a municipal authority legally capable of obtaining a fair return.
Any sale proceeds should be wisely retained and used for the long term benefit of the community.
As a citizen who has had to deal with flooding for 8 plus years, I share this frustration.
Enhancing our flood control and storm-water detention system must be a priority.
I am a member of the Falls Church Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Traffic Calming Committee, but I do not support the removal of on-street parking on Hillwood Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, or any other street without the consent and approval of the affected neighborhood. I do believe, however, that we can make our sidewalk and transportation network safer and more useful for children, the disabled and the community as a whole.