Updates from Letty – June 19, 2020

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

Dear Friends,

Today is Juneteenth, the first observance of the holiday in Virginia and the City of Falls Church. As more become more aware of Juneteenth, it’s important to learn about its significance (my kids will watch this read-aloud after breakfast). Juneteenth is not the day that enslaved people were freed or the day slavery ended. It marks the day when enslaved Texans found out they had been free – for over 2 years. On June 19, 1865 Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with federal orders announcing the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation had come 2.5 years earlier on January 1, 1863. Many enslavers had continued to hold enslaved people captive after the announcement (various versions exist why Texas was a hold out – from deliberately withholding the news or allowing one last cotton harvest or Lincoln’s lack of authority in the South, there isn’t a clear answer). Juneteenth has become a symbolic date representing African American freedom and is a day of reflection. Black History is often not taught in American History. I only learned about Juneteenth last year, and I expect the same is true for many of you. It’s a very real example of how systemic racism is entrenched in our everyday and certainly in our education system.

Just like learning about the history of Juneteenth, learning about the real reasons for the founding of Falls Church (see last week’s post) is important to be able to acknowledge how the past has shaped and continues to influence our city today. Last week, I highlighted snippets of our history and endorsed the petition underway so we can own, understand, and learn from the true founding of the city. Expect a history panel in the next few months to make this a community conversation.

This week – on this day of reflection, let’s hold up a mirror and look at our city’s demographics today vs the 2040 City Vision to be a “welcoming and inclusive community”.

  • As you can see from the latest community profile, we are socioeconomically and racially segregated – we are half as diverse as our neighbors immediately next to us.
  • While we celebrated being the healthiest community in the US, we haven’t broadly acknowledged our two lowest scores were in housing and social equity. The most recent report gave the city a Segregation score of 0.16, meaning we are one of the least racially diverse communities in America, and a Racial Disparity in Education Attainment score of 0.5, illustrating we have a greater gap in minorities having received a Bachelor’s degree in comparison to most of the nation.
  • And as I wrote a few weeks ago, we only have or know of 1 Black-owned business in the City of Falls Church.

Our vision is not yet our reality. The history of our founding begins to explain why. But there’s more – do we truly welcome all when the barriers to entry to the city are so high? I believe decades of policy and opportunity hoarding build the walls taller and taller around Falls Church. We have become a gated community, largely only accessible to the white and wealthy.

Ask yourself: is this lack of diversity and inequality a problem? And is this a problem we’re willing to fix? We’re a community of immense privilege and many do good work to lift up those within our borders – are we ready to bring down the walls?

If your answers are yes – you also have to be willing to use your voice and privilege to put your own livelihood and comfort at risk. Racial justice doesn’t come free or easy. To bring real change locally, we need less Facebook posts, yard signs, and symbolic moves and more hard discussions in our living rooms, classrooms, and neighborhoods. Next week, I’ll share local policies and ideas on dismantling this structural racism. I’d love to keep hearing your ideas too.


PS – City and school playgrounds open today, Phase 3 info released, and a few other City Council updates to follow. While it may start to feel “normal” out there and with limited options for the kids during the summer – don’t give up! The hard work of social distancing and mask-wearing is working – please keep it up. BTW, please be sure that BOTH your nose and mouth are covered!

What Happened This Week:

(1) COVID-19 Updates

City and School playgrounds re-open today

The Governor released Phase 3 guidelines, with no date set for when we’ll start Phase 3.

The latest data shows continued good news in our health district, but we know that this is not the case everywhere.

(2) City Council Work Session

Police Use of Force Committee – I continue to receive public comment from citizens about the importance and urgency of police reform. I hear you. We spent time in our work session this week discussing the charter for a committee as part of President Obama’s pledge. We will formally vote to stand up the committee next week. It will consist of 12 members, 7 of which will be from the community. If you are interesting in volunteering, look for applications to open next week.

Re-zoning for 130 E. Fairfax (currently vacant parking lot next to Southgate, the shopping center with Bakeshop) – this is probably the first time I’ve seen a proposed re-zoning come before us where it goes from a B-3 to a B-3 (general business zoning). The TL;DR version: the project was planned to be done as a by-right project – which wouldn’t have needed to come before City Council – but due to underlying conditions from a previous re-zoning, it needs a re-zoning. The exciting news is that the project already has a signed lease to bring Scramble, an indoor kid play place and cafe, to Falls Church.

We’ll be voting on proposed policy changes in the city’s pension plans next week.

(3) New mural at Mr. Brown’s Park

If you haven’t been by yet, check out the new mural at Mr. Brown’s Park, Enjoy while social distancing!

What’s Coming Up:

  • Monday, June 22: City Council Meeting – Final Vote on CIP

City Council Meetings start at 730 pm, unless otherwise specified. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of all of our other virtual Board & Commission meetings: http://www.fallschurchva.gov/471/Watch-City-Council-Meetings