Updates from Letty – October 30, 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,

We’re in the home stretch. Your final opportunities to vote early are today and tomorrow. (If you still have a mail-in ballot to return, use the drop box outside of City Hall.) We currently lead the state with the highest turnout at 65%. Be like this civic-minded Daisy Troop and remind your neighbors to help us get to 100% turnout!

This week: (1) A final reminder about Halloween, (2) explanation behind our unanimous vote on stormwater funding after my hemming and hawing, (3) a first for affordable housing in 10 years perhaps, and (4) new state laws on police reform, ahead of the recommendations from the Use of Force Review Committee. I’ve heard from many citizens who want our progressive Little City to be a model for compassionate and just policing, beyond whatever state or national mandates are passed.

Criminal justice and police reform have garnered much attention following the racial justice re-awakening. But that’s not all we can do. Full and equal opportunity to housing, education, environment, health care, employment are all hampered by systemic racism – and it is work we can begin to undo in our own community. At our next meeting on November 9 (we are off next week), that will be the lens I use when we review our work plan and priorities ahead.

The intense summer activism may have abated, but racial justice demands we are in it for the long haul. Voting is one of the best actions we can take – hang in there and let’s keep it going after November 3rd.

Take care,

What Happened This Week

(1) Stormwater Funding

As I’ve advocated consistently, stormwater management needs to be a multi-pronged effort. With climate change and increase in impervious surface in our residential neighborhoods – adding only pipes (aka gray infrastructure) is insufficient. Yet this was the plan in front of us to advance $400K for engineering and designs and eventually bond $12M for 6 gray infrastructure projects prioritized by our citizen Stormwater Task Force, which would eventually double everyone’s stormwater fees.

This is a clear case of “both/and” decision making for me: we should invest in gray infrastructure AND “upstream” work (aka green infrastructure) AND a thorough review of development policy and enforcement opportunities AND more equitable fee structures, such as more credits to incentivize natural solutions like on site detention and preservation of mature trees and surcharges to discourage maxing out lot coverage or impervious surface limits.

With the commitments to do all of that and extend the role of a citizen group to provide us recommendations on the above before any future funding, I supported the first phase of stormwater bonding for $400K. I still have strong concerns with doubling the stormwater fee, especially in this economic environment – but a commitment to this better and more comprehensive plan is an important first step.

(2) Affordable Housing

As part of the decision to allocate funding to stormwater, we also allocated $100K to the Affordable Housing Fund. The dollars won’t sit idly. Building on the momentum from last week’s discussion on affordable housing, we have clear priorities we need to go after ASAP, especially to preserve the little affordable housing we have. No dollars have been allocated to the Affordable Housing Fund in my time on City Council so far and no one recalls when this was last done. 10 years ago or more? While our needs to stem the affordable housing crisis exceed $100K, this was another important first step in our commitment to do more and do better. Look for our first work session in November to go deeper on the next steps.

(3) Police Reform

This week, Governor Northam signed into law new police reform legislation from the General Assembly’s special session. No knock warrants and chokeholds are now banned in Virginia. Duty to intervene, minimum training standards, and local authority / flexibility to create civilian review boards were also granted.

The Use of Force Review Committee meets next on Wednesday, November 4 ahead of delivering final recommendations to City Council at the end of November.

What’s Coming Up:

(1) November 4th – Fellows Park Master Planning

Fellows Property master planning process will get underway soon. Remember this is a nearly 2 acres parcel of land located at 604 S Oak St. that we bought last year, with the intention of turning the land into a city park. The first public comment opportunity will be the Wednesday, November 4, 2020 meeting of the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board. There will be additional opportunities for public comment at later dates. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting will be held virtually on Microsoft Teams starting at 7:00 p.m.. If you would like to speak at this meeting, please complete this form by 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4. You may also submit written comments by emailing jruby@fallschurchva.gov.

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