Updates from Letty – November 30, 2018

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,

For early risers out there, you can join me at this morning’s Campus Coordinating Committee (CCC) Meeting at 730 am at the School Board offices. The top ranked developer team we chose last week will present the conceptual plans to this cross functional group, which has been meeting monthly to coordinate the new high school and development projects. ICYMI, the City website also has a lot of new documents for you to learn about the proposal and you can expect more community discussions to be scheduled this winter.

Speaking of schools – the League of Women Voters of Falls Church, FCCPS, and the City will hold a School Safety Forum this Sunday, December 2, from 2-330 pm in the MEH cafetorium to discuss measures and procedures designed to protect students in the event of an emergency. School and city officials will review practices currently in place to ensure student safety. A representative of the architectural firm chosen for GMHS renovation will discuss safety features incorporated into the new school’s design.

Finally – it’s difficult to discuss school safety without acknowledging that our current gun legislation doesn’t do enough. An update to our City’s firearm ordinance was the key topic in this week’s meeting, including a new ban on transporting loaded shotguns and rifles. As a spoiler, with the proposed changes, the City will have enacted every power granted by the General Assembly and our gun ordinance will be up to date, but I believe there is far more work to do. Read on and chime in with your thoughts.


PS – Come see me! I’ll be holding my last office hours of 2018 at 9 am on Monday, Dec 10 at Northside Social.


What Happened This Week:

(1) Firearm ordinance updates

  • As a primer, Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means the powers of local governments are restricted to ones explicitly granted by the state government. This narrow authority has really limited our ability to address serious issues at the local level – from our inability to ban smoking in parks to tax plastic bags to reasonable gun laws. In fact, the General Assembly passed a pre-emption statute that nullifies ordinances passed at the local level, including much of city’s firearm ordinance.
  • What’s new:
    • New ban – one little known power Richmond granted localities is the ability to ban the transport of loaded shotguns/rifles/long guns. It likely originated from more rural parts of the state to address hunting on other’s property.
    • Code clean up – in the update process, staff also noted that we had outdated sections of code, rendered invalid by the state’s pre-emption legislation, and recommended deleting the invalid sections. You can see from the proposed ordinance that much of the gun ordinance would be struck in order to remove the invalid sections.
  • Letty’s thoughts – 
    • As we have so little power, especially in the area of gun legislation, I believe it’s important for us to take advantage of every (little) authority granted by Richmond and have advocated for us to add this to our city code. I also believe it’s important for us to ensure our code is up to date and we remove any provisions we no longer have the legal authority to enforce. Chief Gavin made a compelling argument that leaving invalid code also presents a risk that a junior police officer might misapply the law. As part of the update, staff did a thorough analysis and concluded removing the code doesn’t change enforcement in practice as state provisions still covers the areas to be removed. (See staff report and ordinance for the comparison chart.)
    • However, I believe this doesn’t do enough! The new ban on loaded guns only applies to long guns, and not handguns or pistols. It also is a secondary offense which means a car has to be stopped for a first offense, like running a red light, and then an officer could inquire about a loaded weapon if visible. Finally, there is an exception that anyone who “reasonably believes” a loaded rifle or shotgun is necessary for his personal safety is exempted. And of course, there are many other opportunities for commonsense gun legislation, none of which we have the power to enforce.
  • The proposed ordinance will be voted on December 10 and January 14.


(2) Downtown Tree Lighting – our 3rd year of festive lights have kicked off the holiday season! What do you think of this year’s lights? I’d love to see our lights expanded west and eventually reaching Haycock and Broad so that our entire commercial corridor is festively lit.



What’s Coming Up:

  • Today, November 30 – Campus Coordinating Committee (730 am, School Board offices)
  • Monday, December 3 – Joint City Council & School Board Work Session (730 pm, Community Center)
  • Monday, December 10 – Letty’s Office Hours (9 am, Northside Social)
  • Monday, December 10 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center)
  • Sunday, December 16 – Sunday Series Town Hall (2 pm, Community Center)
  • Monday, January 7 – City Council Work Session