Updates from Letty – January 25, 2019
Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
We had a brief work session on parks and trees, we took our annual “Falls Church goes to Richmond” lobbying trip yesterday, and I’m including some PSAs on snow/ice removal and pneumatic guns – so this week’s post should have a little bit of everything for everyone. While many issues important to Falls Church (eg, commonsense gun legislation, the equal rights amendment, etc…) were already dead, we continued to advocate for other issues in advance of the halfway mark of the 2019 session called “crossover” which will be on February 5, the last day for bills to be heard in the House or the Senate before they cross over to the opposite chamber.
For those interested in the high school or West Falls Church economic development project, we have a Sunday Series Town Hall this weekend. Also, if you’re not subscribed to the weekly Focus on Falls Church newsletter, you’re missing out! This week’s edition has an entertaining and helpful (the best combination) recap of the WFC project.
What Happened This Week:
(1) Work Session Agenda
Specimen Trees – do you know what a Specimen Tree is? As the original Tree City USA in Virginia and tree-lined streets being a part of our identity, trees are clearly an important part of Falls Church. If you have a beautiful, mature tree – did you know you can nominate your tree as a Specimen Tree, so it can receive special protections in case of redevelopment? Falls Church had 12 Specimen Trees in 1981; the number had grown to 54 Specimen Trees by 2002, but since then, more trees have died than been nominated and we have 43 living Specimen Trees. This week, we looked at a recommendation to add 4 trees to the specimen tree inventory.
Downtown Plaza / Park – if you haven’t seen the changes at the future Downtown Plaza recently, the first phase of the work was completed before the new year – removing diseased trees, converting the steps to a ADA accessible ramp. and brickwork to fix the walls and add seating. The next phase is targeted to be done by the spring as weather permits. To date, we’ve been calling it the “downtown plaza” or “downtown park”, and this week City Council agreed we should have a community naming process for the future park. Expect to hear more about how to submit names, perhaps honoring a special Falls Church community member, soon!
(2) Richmond Trip
We made our annual visit to Richmond this week while the General Assembly was in session to lobby for Falls Church’s priorities. A few meetings ago, we adopted the 2019 Legislative Program, which is the official city priorities we share with our delegate and senator. Visits to Richmond are whirlwind days, as we try to stay abreast of new legislation and potential impacts to Falls Church, track down status of bills, testify in committee meetings, and visit with legislators and their staff to convey our support or concern.
This year, while many of our priorities never made it out of sub-committee and died even before a floor vote (namely, gun legislation and ERA), besides the perennial issue of transportation funding, here are a few other issue areas we discussed yesterday you may find of interest and follow too:
- Environment – we support HB2329 the Solar Freedom bill which removes restrictions and caps on solar programs, allows governments and businesses to use solar output across multiple buildings, not just the building with the solar system – especially important as we prepare to build a net zero ready high school and encourage the use of renewable energy across the city.
- Towing – we have concerns with both SB1567 and HJB1865 which would would eliminate local authority on towing and set a statewide fee for towing at $150, which is higher than the current fee of $135. Recall that we actually were mandated to raise the towing fee from $100 to $135 two years ago when previous towing legislation passed.
- Smoking – we support SB1304 to authorize localities to ban smoking in outdoor amphitheaters or concert venues and SB1727 to raise the legal age from 18 to 21 to buy tobacco in Virginia (cigarettes or vaping).
- Electric scooters – if you haven’t noticed, electric scooters have shown up in Falls Church! Along with cars, buses, metro, bikes, and walking, I think scooters are an important option in the many transportation modes we support to help people get around. HB2232 and HB2752 would allow localities to reasonably regulate where they’re parked, how they’re used on sidewalks vs roads, speeds, etc.
- Preschools – HB2258 would exempt co-op preschools from prohibitively high training requirements for parent volunteers. Balancing student safety and security, the original raining requirements would be very onerous on co-op volunteers, resulting in less volunteers and threaten the loss of an affordable preschool option.
Other photos from our General Assembly trip are on my Facebook page.
(3) Reminders / PSAs
Ahead of our final vote on the updated firearm ordinance banning transportation of loaded long guns in cars, a quick video reminder about the use of pneumatic guns, which includes BB guns, airsoft guns, paintball guns. We prohibit the use of pneumatic guns on all public property, and on private property, kids under 16 must have proper supervision!
Snow and ice removal ordinance
While most of the last storm’s snow has melted away, here’s a reminder of the snow and ice removal law in Falls Church before our next storm. Let’s all do our part to keep our streets walkable and safe for all: Residents must remove snow and ice from sidewalks surrounding property 12 hours after snow stops falling. Commercial properties have six hours to remove snow.
What’s Coming Up:
- TODAY – Friday, January 25 – Campus Coordinating Committee meeting (730 am, School Board offices)
- Sunday, January 27 – Sunday Series Town Hall (2 pm, Community Center)
- Monday, January 28 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center)
- Monday, February 4 – City Council Work Session (730 pm, Community Center)
- Monday, February 11 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center)