CANDIDATE Q&A: Dave Snyder
Snyder has served on the City Council since 1994 and as Mayor and Vice Mayor from 1996-2000. Professionally, he is Vice President and Assistant General Counsel for the American Insurance Association.
I am a lawyer with experience in administrative law, litigation, and international trade and am fortunate to be a husband of 33 years to Edie and father of Richard and Sarah, both of whom attended FCCPS from kindergarten through high school and graduation. I have lived in Falls Church for more than 25 years, was first elected to City Council in 1994, and have served as Mayor and Vice Mayor (1996-2000). I have run for re-election three times, each time receiving the largest number of votes. I am also a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician with a DC-area rescue squad and have more than 30 years experience in emergency services.
My public sector colleagues from around the region have elected me Chairman of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, Chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee, Vice President of the Council of Governments, and Chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.
Among the City projects in which I am proud to have participated are the building of the Falls Church fire station, the renovation of the Community Center, the renovation of George Mason High School, the building of Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, and the purchase of several acres of open space. For more information about my background, I invite citizens to visit my website, www.snyder-for-the-people.com.
1. Why do you want to be on City Council?
We face unprecedented financial challenges. To prevail, we need to return to citizen-based government and fully engage and represent our intelligent and accomplished citizenry. That means treating all citizens with respect and governing for the benefit of everyone. These were the cornerstones of City government until recent times. The City needs to return to its principles, and first among them is citizen-based governance. I would like to bring my belief in Falls Church and its people and my experience to bear in achieving this objective. I always welcome citizen views and urge anyone with comments or questions to call me at 703-241-0419, or email email@example.com.
2. What has City government done well in the last 10 years? What has it done poorly?
The City has done a decent job of maintaining its infrastructure and carrying out the day-to-day functions of local government. Our schools remain a source of significant achievement and pride. However, Falls Church has a far less positive record of long-term financial planning, attracting commercial development, and enhancing the attractiveness of the community. Further, the recent absence of cooperation with our neighbors, exemplified by the failed water system litigation, is costing us 7 additional cents on the real estate tax rate, or more than one-third of the tax increase requested of Council by the City Manager.
3. If you could determine the physical nature of Falls Church , what would the City look like in 20 years in terms of buildings, green space, transportation, and other physical aspects?
Ideally, 20 years from now the City would have made the most of its cultural and historic assets, have more interconnected green space, and include vibrant businesses that are regional draws housed in attractive buildings. Taken together, these attributes would set the City apart in the region, providing a clear sense of a real community with a very high quality of life in the midst of the metropolitan area. Transportation would focus on walking and biking, and we would be connected with the surrounding area via light rail or bus rapid transit.
4. Aside from the physical nature of the City, what should change and what should remain the same?
I hope that two decades from now, our schools retain and enhance their fine reputation and the City remains a safe place in which to live, work, and raise families. I also hope, though, that the City better supports citizen activism and engagement in all of its forms. Further, even in this present budget crunch, we can be more creative about improving the attractiveness of Falls Church for commercial activity, with low-cost initiatives such as landscaping and better signage for our existing parking.
5. How would you propose to balance the city budget? Please identify any specific spending cuts or revenue increases you would suggest.
Both spending cuts and tax increases will be needed. Cuts should begin with the Council’s own pay; we should share in the pain our citizens and City and School staff are experiencing. I have done so, by rejecting the threefold pay increase the Council voted on upon taking office in 2006. Clearly, the tax rate must go up, but I do not support the majority’s recent vote to permit a tax rate of as much as $1.30. The severity of the City’s present situation could have been lessened through better management and improved financial planning, particularly the 7 cents of the proposed 20-cent tax increase made necessary by the failed water system suit against Fairfax County. At the same time, some portion of the requirement for service reduction in non-core areas and new sources of income is unavoidable, if we are to maintain our first-class schools and City services in the present economic climate.
6. When the City’s budget situation improves to allow capital improvement projects, which project would be your top priority?
If current projections are valid, we need to begin putting money aside for a new school. I would also make sure that our public safety services are adequately equipped and housed and that basic infrastructure, such as storm sewers, is provided for adequately. Parking capacity and other transportation facilities are needed to support more commercial activity. Any remaining money should go to open space acquisition, parks, and cultural and historic resources.
7. What is your position on the proposed affordable housing project, “The Wilden”?
I opposed earlier versions of the project because I thought they were too expensive, programmatically wrongheaded, and subjected the City to significant new public service costs. The project has since been reduced from 170 units to 66 affordable senior units, and the Falls Church Housing Corporation has obtained $14 million in non-City funding, six times the City’s investment. In addition, the Corporation has now committed to paying back the City’s loan earlier and to building an office building and a parking garage that would help jumpstart the development of this area and further reduce the City’s net outlay. Under these circumstances, I now support the project.
8. What was your position on moving City Council and School Board elections from May to November?
I opposed this move because it took away from the citizens a most basic and precious right – the right to determine their frame of government. Accordingly, if re-elected, I will sponsor legislation to give the decision back to the people via referendum and will abide by their decision.
9. What changes, if any, should the City make regarding its water system following the recent litigation with Fairfax County Water Authority?
The City should commence and sincerely pursue discussions with Fairfax County to resolve our differences so that we achieve a win/win rather than the current win/lose result. The ultimate outcome might be a joint venture or other cooperative arrangement, based on mutual interest, trust, and efficiency for all concerned. I would also engage our neighbors in other cooperative ventures involving transportation and development corridors, such as South Washington Street.
10. Are there any practices or programs you have seen in other communities – nearby or far away – that should be adopted by the City of Falls Church?
Falls Church needs to engage in much more sophisticated and long-term financial planning, effective commercial development, and cooperative, mutually beneficial initiatives with our jurisdictional neighbors. In addition, we need to implement immediately low-cost/high-impact measures that will make our community more attractive and user-friendly for the customers of our businesses. Among these initiatives are better signage, improved parking arrangements, more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly streets, and landscaping that will enhance the City’s visual image.
Other Candidate Q&A
By Falls Church Times Staff
April 1, 2010