Updates from Letty – October 29, 2021
Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
It’s the final weekend before Election Day, so I hope you’ve either already voted or have plans to vote today/tomorrow/Tuesday. Yes, today and tomorrow are the last two days of early voting at City Hall – no excuse needed. Everything you need to know about Election Day is here and below you’ll find links to get informed. Every election cycle, I am grateful to the candidates who step forward. And as a former newbie without the “pedigree” of having been involved in Falls Church civic life prior to running – I still remember that leap. I especially want to thank the new candidates who have bravely put themselves out there, engaged with the community, and made the many behind the scenes tradeoffs in their personal lives this fall. If you’re thinking of getting involved but aren’t quite ready to make the commitment to public office, consider volunteering on a board or commission.
This week, I’ll cover our vote on One City Center (since it wasn’t reported elsewhere, this may be news to many), equity policy changes I’ve been advocating, and street names. And if you missed the town hall opportunity to chime in on how you’d like to see the city deploy our federal relief funding, there’s a recording and another town hall next week. Fellow parents to 5-11 year olds should also read on for the preparation underway for the likely COVID vaccine authorization in the coming weeks.
Don’t forget to vote!
PS Our next City Council meeting will be Monday, November 8 due to the election, so these posts will have a brief break. In the meantime, my League of Women Voters chat has been rescheduled to Sunday, November 7 so catch me then!
What Happened This Week:
(1) One City Center
One City Center (a mixed use project at the southwestern corner of Broad and Washington to S. Maple) was up for a first reading vote this week. (Remember, first reading votes are not green lights and project approvals – they are referrals to boards and commissions once a majority of City Council thinks the project largely meets the criteria for a special exception and merits further vetting.) I last wrote about One City Center two weeks ago – I won’t relay all the details again, you can see that post here.
By a 6-1 vote, we actually decided to defer the first reading until November/December or later. While the project had its merits (good fiscals, a standard list of voluntary concessions we receive with nearly every project, a small pocket park and green space), it was evident most of us wanted to see broader issues resolved since the previous two work sessions.
Letty’s thoughts: When I’ve been asked whether I support economic development, the answer is pretty simple – I do. The fiscal numbers and the softer benefits to the community speak for themselves. At the same time, that doesn’t mean we say “yes” to everything. We should hold an appropriately high bar and be prepared to say “no” or “not yet.” And as excited as we were for this project’s reincarnation since it last stalled after the Great Recession, there were a number of items most of us wanted to see improved: affordable housing contribution, updated architecture and “re-skinning” of the existing office buildings that would be preserved, hard commitments to the ground floor use (a standard we’ve held in every recent project), and support for existing tenants. I look forward to seeing the next iteration of the project.
(2) Continued Equity Work
Yesterday was National Immigrants Day – as a first generation immigrant and naturalized citizen, I am proud that we are a nation of immigrants. It was a good day to celebrate those who live, learn, work, and build their dreams in the United States.
In Falls Church, there are several policy changes I’ve been advocating to continue advancing our equity work, especially as it relates to immigrants and other non-citizens. I’d welcome your input:
- Remove citizenship requirement (technically it’s qualified voter status) to serve on our Boards and Commissions. As long as you’re a current resident in the City (this would cover those with green cards, military families registered elsewhere, etc), I believe you should be able to volunteer in your local government. This will need a charter change by the General Assembly when they convene in 2022, and we’ll be voting on November 8 to request our Richmond delegation to champion this for us. This has the support of Welcoming Falls Church and long been advocated by our Housing Commission, Library Board of Trustees, and our Human Services Advisory Council.
- Remove citizenship requirement to qualify for affordable housing. Embarrassingly, I only learned of this requirement this fall. This would enable us to welcome more diversity and house neighbors in need like Afghan refugees among other non citizens. To be clear, the the current prioritization criteria for people on the waitlist remains the same (we give priority to senior, disabled, current residents, and people employed in the city); this change will simply allow others to join the waitlist. This is a local Falls Church decision and will be on our agenda this fall as well.
- I am grateful to the members of the Tinner Hill Social Justice Committee, Citizens for a Better City, and League of Women Voters who came to speak at our meeting in support of forming a Race and Equity Commission, an idea I’ve raised several times since last summer. While the fervor around racial equity has mostly faded away and we have a few initiatives underway, it’s more important than ever to ensure equity remains a priority through an accountable body that can push for continued action beyond nice words. Just like we value the environment, library, transportation, history, and more (all topics with specific city boards) – race and equity deserves a dedicated focus too.
(3) West Falls Church street names
Here’s your chance to names some streets at the West Falls project (aka, the 10 acre development next to the schools’ secondary campus). This week, we referred the developer-suggested names to a few specific boards and are seeking public input as well.
(4) ARPA town hall – if you missed Wednesday’s town hall, the recording is now available. Join the next one on Thursday, November 4 to learn about the federal funding coming to the city and ideas on how to best deploy it.
(5) Planning for COVID Vaccinations for 5-11 year olds – what you need to know now
What’s Coming Up:
Thursday, Nov 4 @ 12 pm – ARPA Town Hall #2 (virtual)
Sunday, Nov 7 @ 3 pm – League of Women Voters – Conversation with Letty
Monday, Nov 8 – City Council Meeting*
Monday, Nov 15 – City Council Work Session*
Monday, Nov 22 – City Council Meeting*
*every Monday (except 5th Mondays and holidays) at 7:30 pm
You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings
Elections 2021 – General Election on Tuesday, November 2
- Early voting info
- League of Women Voters & VPIS virtual candidate forum – City Council Candidates
- League of Women Voters & VPIS virtual candidate forum – School Board Candidates
- Citizens for a Better City – City Council Candidates Forum
- Citizens for a Better City & PTA – School Board Candidates Forum
- League of Women Voters – vote411.org voter guide
- Falls Church Democrats Questionnaires for City Council candidates and School Board candidates
- Village Preservation & Improvement Society Candidate Questionnaire