Campaign updates from Letty – Oct 16 edition

Dear Friends,
We are in the final weeks of this campaign season, with only 18 days until Election Day, November 3rd! I will be sending campaign updates more regularly in this final stretch to keep you updated on issues, how you can help me, and reminders to get out the vote! If you missed any of the debates the past few weeks or have friends and neighbors who are undecided about who to vote for, I’ve provided links to all of the videos of the debates and various voter guides. Please feel free to share this information so everyone can be an educated voter!
**I will keep plugging EARLY ABSENTEE VOTING as a great option if you think there’s a risk you will not be able to make it to the polls. You can early absentee vote during business hours Monday through Friday and Saturday 10/24 and 10/31 at City Hall. Below is information with the details.**
Local elections matter more to our day-to-day lives than presidential elections – and this one is more consequential than most! Voter turnout will be key in this important election, and I need your help to remind friends and neighbors about the candidates you support and getting to the polls.

What’s Happening:

City Council Topics from this week – a shorter meeting (2 hours only!) compared to most recent recently, but a few important topics were covered.
1) PPEA – City Manager Wyatt Shields gave a recap of the PPEA (Public Private Education and Infrastructure Facilities Act), which is the procurement process we’re using for the GMHS/MEH renovation and redevelopment project. The link includes good FAQs, but I wanted to share some highlights based on questions I’ve heard from the community:

  • We have been an early adopter of the process – MEH was one of the first projects using PPEA and we’ve also used it on non-school local projects like the fire station – so we have successfully used it in the past and it is not some unknown, scary process. 
  • Undoubtedly, with potential commercial and education development together, GMHS will be the most complex we’ve done, so we need to get it right. “Transparency” has been *the* campaign buzzword, and I’ve clearly heard from the public that they want to be involved in the process as much as possible. So it was reassuring that I heard clearly from the City Manager and City Council members that they will ensure as much information made publicly available as possible – the only information that will be kept confidential is the minimum amount needed to protect negotiation positions or proprietary information from developers. Even if we used a traditional procurement process, there will still be confidential parts of the process to protect bargaining power of the City.
  • There are 2 Town Halls in the works for Dec 5 and Dec 12 to discuss the first round of proposals.

Key Dates

  • Oct 30, 2015 – first round, high level RFP responses due back
  • November – City and Schools review
  • ~Nov 16, 2015 – non confidential portions available for public review
  • Dec 5 and Dec 12 – Town Halls for public input
  • Dec 15, 2015 – short list of firms identified to go into 2nd round
  • Jan – March 2016 – firms work on 2nd round, detailed RFP responses
  • April – May 2016 – City and Schools review 2nd round, with more public hearings to be scheduled
  • November 2016 – voters approve or not approve via public referendum 

2) Budget Amendment – each year, there are usually budget amendments passed in the fall to reflect changes since the recent budget was passed in the spring, to include carrying forward unspent money, new grants that become available, new expenses not raised during the budget, etc. Without getting into all of the numbers (if you’re really interested, the ordinance is here), I wanted to highlight a few parts of the discussion on how to spend the $1.2MM. Note that first reading of the ordinance did pass on Monday night with a 5-2 vote.

  • There were 2 staff positions proposed – a Transportation Planner and a Environmental Program Coordinator. Typically, I would be concerned with funding FTEs with “one-time money” and would instead challenge whether we could instead staff with contract positions if the needs were truly critical, but it sounds like there was clear understanding that these are limited, one time positions with no commitment beyond the next budget.
  • Prioritization process – besides the 2 staff positions above, there was a long laundry list of items proposed to receive funding, including another school bus, fire equipment, implementation of part of the Bicycle Master Plan. While I’m glad to see we’re prioritizing these important items, there was an equally long list of “unfunded items” from the spring budget cycle that we were unwilling to fund because of the need to raise the real estate tax rate. I would have loved to have seen a holistic priority list of all unfunded items before moving forward with the list proposed in the ordinance on Monday night. Councilwoman Karen Oliver raised that concern – and I share it. It is not that I wouldn’t support funding a school bus, but how can we know whether that is the right tradeoff without seeing the full list of everything else that’s out there? This is an example of where I’d like to see more fiscal prudence – even if we end up with the same decision to fund everything proposed, it is responsible budget management to have a running list of needs and review before making new spending decisions. There is an action item to review the full list of unfunded items before the budget amendment comes up for second reading.

League of Women Voters / VPIS Debate – City Council only – Oct 1, 2015 – YouTube video

Community Issues Forum #2 – joint City Council & School Board – Oct 8, 2015 YouTube video

League of Women Voters / VPIS Debate – School Board only – last night’s debate is already available on YouTube!
How to be an informed voter – besides candidates’ websites and Facebook pages, there are many sources of information that can help you understand who is on the ballot and key differences across candidates, especially in a crowded field this year!


Important Voting Dates

  • Absentee voting is available in person or via mail between now and October 31st, at City Hall, weekdays 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturdays, October 24 and 31, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • With changes to the law, many people are now eligible for in-person absentee voting. Reasons for voting absentee include: being out of town on Nov 3 for vacation or work, having a spouse or dependent in active service, working 11+ hours outside of the county you vote in, and many other reasons
  • Virginia Dept of Elections has launched a new online portal to make it easier to apply for absentee ballots online and view voting record.
  • Last Day to request an absentee ballot by mail or submit online is Tuesday, October 27 at 5 p.m.
  • On Tuesday, November 3rd, the polls will be open from 6am to 7pm.
  • New voter ID laws are in effect. The list of accepted forms of ID and other related information can be found here.

2nd GM/MEH Visioning Session – TOMORROW Oct 17, 9 am-12 pm to solicit input from everyone in the community on the GM/MEH re-development. RSVP here. If you can’t attend, you can still use the form to send input.

Cookies with Candidates @ Pearson Square – TOMORROW Oct 17 4-5 pm. If you live in Pearson Square or know of friends who live there, help spread the word! Erin Gill, School Board candidate, and I will be meeting residents of Pearson Square from 4-5 pm in the party room. Stop by for an afternoon snack and share what’s on your mind.

Where Do Your Tax Dollars Go? The League of Women Voters of Falls Church is sponsoring this forum on Sunday Oct 18 3-5 pm at Community Center.
FC Citizens Should Think Beyond Election Day – Finally, if you haven’t seen the excellent op-ed written by Amanda Springmann and Liz Weatherly in this week’s FCNP, grab a cup of coffee and read on. As a new candidate where some of the negative campaigning and online bullying described has hit close to home, I challenge all of us to raise the bar on more positivity in the last few weeks.

Please reach out with thoughts and questions and feel free to pass this email to friends. Have a wonderful weekend – see you on the campaign trail.

PS – it’s not too late if you’d like a yard sign and don’t have one yet! Just reply to this email with your address.