Updates from Letty – October 11, 2019

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,

We had no City Council meeting this week and will resume next Tuesday after Indigenous People’s Day*. Rather than take a week off – this week’s post will be a hodge-podge of important PSAs, links to surveys on the Environment and Wayfinding (fancy word for signs to help people find their way around and landmarks), and election information. With about 3 weeks to go ’til Election Day, the annual Vote411.org voter guide is now out – links below.

A welcome to new readers: this week’s is different than my typical posts, which are usually digests of select city decisions, my take on issues, and previews of upcoming topics and meetings. Disclaimer: I don’t represent official city views, I don’t attempt to be an exhaustive source for all city information or meetings (you can look at our minutes), nor do I speak for other City Council members with these posts. I started writing over 4 years ago while campaigning to share information, beyond the headlines, with friends and neighbors who cared about city issues, but had competing family or work priorities. Since my election, I’ve continued to see the value of engagement with new voices and transparency into our votes, my decision-making, and access to all the supporting data I have. Feedback is always welcome so I can keep these useful! (Side plug: an informative, funny complement to my posts is the Focus on Falls Church, which is the city’s official e-newsletter.)


*I’m proud to have championed Indigenous People’s Day (my annual PSA on why) and the City’s recognition as a holiday again this year. Also, you can support a Coat and Toiletries Donation drive at the Library and Community Center for the next two weeks to benefit the Oglala-Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.


(1) Register to Vote: Next Monday, October 14th is the last day to register to vote or update your voter registration. If you have a new neighbor, offer a gentle reminder! In person absentee voting is underway all weekdays, with two Saturdays coming up. Check out the 20 (!) reasons why you might quality to vote absentee. More info on both registration and in person absentee voting is on the city webpage.

(2) Voter Guide: Speaking of voting – Election Day, November 5th, is about 3 weeks away. I find that this is the time that many people are beginning to pay attention. Vote411.org is a terrific, non-partisan website by the League of Women Voters, a one-stop shop with information about polling locations and candidates, including our local races. All City Council and School Board candidates were invited to answer questions and you can find this year’s newly released voter guide here. The challenge, for un-pithy writers like myself, is to succinctly answer these big, important topics in limited space! I’ve copied and pasted my answers below, but as is my goal of these weekly posts: I encourage you to read visit vote411.org and read about all of the candidates and get informed.

A. What will you do during the next year or two to reduce concerns about affordability of housing in the City of Falls Church? What zoning changes, if any, do you support?
Housing affordability, while a regional and market challenge, needs to be a local priority. (1) Keep a tight rein on budgets and capital projects so property taxes don’t further exacerbate affordability. As a Council member, I’ve made prudent budget choices and expanded senior tax relief (2) Preserve the affordable housing here, eg The Fields, and add more workforce housing options so teachers, police officers, service workers can afford to live closer to their jobs. In my tenure, we’ve negotiated new affordable units that will never expire (3) Learn from housing reform happening across the US, like new zoning tools that incent keeping/renovating smaller homes vs teardowns and how diverse housing types can help- cottages, micronunits, ADUs.
B. How do you propose to address traffic congestion, parking and safety issues?
I’ve advocated for more sidewalks, crosswalks, biking/bikeshare, bus, transit access, and dedicated funding in the budget for pedestrian improvements. By providing safer alternatives, we make it easier to not drive, which reduces congestion. At the same time – some may need to drive, so we should ensure we have adequate parking so our businesses can thrive. I’ve added 30+ spaces in the downtown with on street spaces and more efficient layout in parking lots. I support the parking study underway, improve wayfinding to the public parking, and forecast the parking supply needed for the future. I’d also support funding a city-wide traffic calming push, extra police enforcement, and signage to address cut through traffic and speeding issues.
C. What will you do as a City Council member to protect the environment particularly with regard to green space/trees vs. hardscape and potential for damage resulting from severe weather?
I’m proud that in my tenure, the City has purchased the Fellows Property, adding 2 acres of open space as a future park. We should keep looking for strategic acquisitions. We’ve also brought major improvements in many of our parks such as Cherry Hill, Mr. Brown’s Park, and Big Chimneys soon – recreational, gathering space is critical to quality of life. I support updating our city code with more stringent tree preservation for residential and commercial development, tree replacement fund, and higher tree canopy coverage goals. As we experience more severe weather, mature trees boost our resilience by absorbing stormwater runoff. We’ve pushed public and private building to higher standards: LEED certified City Hall and net-zero ready GMHS.
D. What do you see as the most important issue facing the city over the next 2 or 3 years?
The current City Council has been ambitious in tackling many priorities at the same time. We have not been a single issue team – so to succeed, we need to do all of this well (1) With the $120M new high school underway that is a huge, generational project, we need to continue our excellent partnership with the schools and execute flawlessly, on time and on budget, and kickoff the economic development project that is defraying some of the costs (2) With an expected recession, we have sound planning in place, but will still require extra diligence in our finances and be willing to make hard decisions, especially with construction costs escalating (3) Big picture issues – create strategic plans and projects to sustain us for the future: climate change, affordability, stormwater, traffic (see answers above) (4) Finally, as we continue evolving into a vibrant, welcoming city for all – we need to balance our small town charm with growth, so our community values remain a part of our identity.

(3) Real ID & Local DMV Services: as you’ll need one of the accepted photo IDs to vote next month, it’s a good time to remind everyone of the Real ID Act that goes into effect for all US travelers a year from now. Instead of standing in line at the DMV office with everyone else next year, did you know that we host mobile DMV services in the City? In fact, the DMV 2 Go Bus is here today, from 9-4 pm in the City Hall parking lot.

(4) Pedestrian Safety: As I continue to doorknock and hear from citizens, walkabiilty / traffic calming / pedestrian safety are among the top issues I hear. Expect more updates on work underway and further discussion at our City Council meeting next Tuesday night, where public comment is welcome at the beginning of the meeting.

Also, if you don’t know what a LPI is – check out my Facebook post. We’ve added 4 LPIs recently, and you might have experienced one without knowing it!

(5) Wayfinding: a wayfinding project has kicked off to improve the signage around town, with a few goals I’m particularly excited about: highlight key city locations and landmarks, better welcome visitors, help drivers find public parking, and brand/unify the city. Take 10 minutes and share your thoughts with us at the survey.

(6) Environment: I wrote in a previous post about the draft updates to the Comprehensive Plan’s chapter on the environment. There will be a community meeting to discuss the proposed goals and strategies next Thursday October 17 in City Hall at 730 pm. If you can’t make it, you can also provide your thoughts in a survey.

What’s Coming Up:

*Note the October 16 Town Hall on the West Falls Church project has been moved to November 13.

Campaign Info: If you’re interested in attending campaign debates and learning about the other candidates: https://www.lettyhardi.org/events/