Updates from Letty – Feb 5, 2016

Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council

Due to Snowzilla, last week’s City Council meeting was canceled. I hope everyone fared the blizzard well and has started to dry out. We did resume meetings this week, so many updates to follow:

What happened this week?

City Council Work Session:

  • We had a City Council worksession where our outside auditors briefed us on the 2015 CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report). A CAFR is a financial report of the City, including revenues and expenses by department, capital assets, and outstanding debt. Without going into the details of the 150+ page report, the quick summary from the auditor is that the City is in good financial health and that we are meeting the policies that the City Council has set to ensure we stay in good health. The full document is available to the public at the link above – good bedtime reading!
  • A useful note from the CAFR based on a common question I’ve heard in the community: with several large capital needs coming up (eg, George Mason High School, library, City Hall, etc)- how much debt can the City support? Page 4q has a useful discussion on the City’s policies on the amount of outstanding debt and debt service we can carry and our current ratios, which are currently below the policy limits.
  • The second part of the work session included a report from the Aurora House. In case you didn’t know, Aurora House is a residential based counseling home for girls ages 13-17 located on Maple Ave (between Creative Cauldron and Cavalier Trail). While located in Falls Church, Aurora House provides services to girls in neighboring jurisdictions Arlington, Fairfax, and Alexandria. I visited Aurora House in December when I toured the City facilities, and was impressed by the services and support offered and the graduates’ academic progress and recidivism rates.
  • Finally the last part of our work session was a closed joint meeting with the School Board to discuss the George Mason project which lasted 3 hours. While I am not able to legally share the content of that discussion, note that as soon as we are able to, we will engage the community for input.

EDA (Economic Development Authority) & CACT (Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation) Joint Meeting:

As the new Council liaison to the EDA, I attended their joint meeting with the CACT. So many interesting and important topics covered, including learning from Arlington County’s expert on transit, a West to East Falls Church metro/downtown shuttle, parking, bike share, and adding “street furniture” (benches and trash cans) along Broad St. Many thanks to these dedicated citizen volunteers for spending 4 hours of their Tuesday evening working together for the City! I hope to see many of the ideas discussed come to fruition and even more collaboration between other boards and commissions in the future.

Update on Mt. Daniel:

I was unable to attend School Board meetings this week due the conflict with the EDA meeting above, but wanted to point you to an update. I’ve fielded several questions from the community about the status of Mt. Daniel – below is the link to School Board Member Phil Reitinger’s blog post that includes a discussion on the SB’s vote this week to proceed with the “2232” process vs the special exception process in Fairfax County.


City Council Visits General Assembly:

During Snowzilla week, Vice Mayor Connelly, Councilman Duncan, Assistant City Manager Cindy Mester, and I traveled to Richmond for the annual Virginia Municipal League lobbying day. We visited many state representatives and their legislative staff and advocated for issues important to the City, including reinstating the ability to resume the school bus stop arm camera program which we had to stop last year. The General Assembly continues to convene for another 5 weeks through mid March.


What’s coming up?

  • Next week’s City Council agenda is posted, including the continued discussion on the West Broad Area Plan, annual reports from the Library and Planning Commission, and the change in zoning for allowable uses in B districts, which staff is recommending tabling for further study.
  • Community Input Needed – City Council is scheduled to for a retreat/offsite work session on Feb 20th to focus on its two-year work plan and priorities for the City. Look for a survey that will be distributed to boards and commission members and the community to gather input by next week. This will be the first of many ways we plan to engage the community in setting a shared vision and priorities for the future of the City, so start sending me your ideas and feedback. More to come!
  • Blizzard Response – the City will be conducting a post-mortem on our response to the historic blizzard event last week. While it’s still fresh in citizens’ minds, we would value input on what went well and what could be improved so we can continue to be prepared for future events. Send me your feedback, and I’ll pass it on.
  • Budget Meetings – while the School Board is working on the school budget, City budget meetings have also began – specifically the CIP budget (projects costing $100K+ and with a useful life of 10+ years) discussions. Take note of these meetings to hear what’s in the CIP and share your thoughts at the public meetings: http://www.fallschurchva.gov/1501/Budget-Capital-Projects

I look forward to hearing from you on what you believe should be priorities for the City and feedback on Snowzilla.

Have a great weekend!