CANDIDATE Q&A: Hal Lippman
Lippman has served on the City Council since 2004 and is currently Vice Mayor. He is a retired Congressional staffer who now serves as a consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Elected to the City Council in 2006 with CBC’s endorsement, I am in the last year of this term of office. During my tenure, I have chaired the Council’s Government Operations Committee which, among other things, successfully completed an oversight review of sensitive Police Department minority personnel issues. I also served on the Legislative Committee and in this capacity testified before the General Assembly on the Council’s behalf in support of proposed legislation to restrict dangerous weapons from being brought into public buildings and parks. I have also served on the School Board/City Council Liaison Committee (“Gang of Eight”) and the Public Utilities Commission. Since my election I have been the Council’s liaison to the Human Services Advisory Council and Senior Citizens Commission. In my current capacity as Vice Mayor, I have represented the Council on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.
Prior to my election to the Council, I was a member of the first group of candidates elected to the School Board, serving from 1994 to 1998, and also served for two years in the early 1990s on the City’s Youth Commission. Also in the early 1990s, I participated in the landmark effort to establish an inclusive education program in the Falls Church City Public Schools for children with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
Professionally, for the last five years I have been an independent consultant specializing in assessments of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) activities in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Previously, I spent ten years working at USAID where I served in a variety of capacities including evaluation specialist and program manager for monitoring and evaluation. Prior to joining USAID in 1995, I worked for twenty years in the legislative branch of the U.S. government, as an evaluator for the General Accounting Office and investigator in the House of Representatives and Senate.
At the same time, I have been an advocate for my daughter, Danna, and others like her with intellectual/developmental disabilities. I helped found and served as the first President and continuing Board member of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, a non-profit self-help organization established by parents of individuals diagnosed with this rare genetic disorder. I have also served as a Board member of the Arc of Northern Virginia and as Board member and officer of the Arc of Virginia.
I earned a Bachelor’s degree (1963) in Political Science/American Studies from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and an M.A. (1968) and Ph.D. (1971) in International Studies from the School of International Service at American University. I served as an officer in the U.S. Army for two years (1963-1965) and was director of the League of Women Voters’ Bicentennial project, The Federalist Papers Reexamined.
I have lived in Falls Church for nearly 30 years with my wife, Sue. My step-son, Mouncey (Class of 1988) and daughter, Danna (Class of 2004) were educated K-12 in the Falls Church City Public Schools. My other daughter, Rebecca, grew up in Texas.
1. Why do you want to be on City Council?
As was the case four years ago I’m running primarily because public service is what I do and in important ways embodies who I am. For more than 30 years I devoted my career to working in Congress and the executive branch of our government and over the past twenty years was elected to our School Board and City Council. On a personal level, this experience has enabled me to serve my country and give back to my community, fulfilling that basic part of me that strives to be contributory and do good things. I am also motivated by the sincere belief that I can make a difference in helping our Little City get through these very difficult times and assure its quality of life, financial stability, and long-term sustainability.
2. What has City government done well in the last 10 years? What has it done poorly?
It has provided essential services; promoted economic development (in particular, mixed-used projects that have brought in more than $3 million in additional revenue); developed and implemented environmental policies and programs in a wide variety of areas including recycling, LEED buildings, and storm water management; increased the amount of open space and park land; and continued to offer events and services that help define our character as a community, such as the summer concerts at Cherry Hill Park, Memorial Day Parade, and Saturday Farmers Market.
Readily acknowledging that there are always instances when mistakes were made – during my tenure on Council, for example, our Police Department’s accreditation was lost because of an administrative breakdown – I cannot think of an area of our City government that has performed “poorly” over the past three-plus years.
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?
My answer to this question and #4 below is captured in the City’s Vision Statement, which I was the principal author of when it was first adopted in November, 2006:
“In 2025, Falls Church is a small city that respects its citizens and provides personal attention to meeting their needs. It is a wonderful place to live, work, and shop, offering diversity in housing, amenities, and services. Its historic charm reflects the stewardship of residents and their local government. It is built on a human scale, where visitors and residents alike can find everything they need while experiencing the fabric of life in a friendly, close-knit community. Falls Church is a shining example of a city that has been able to retain the benefits of small town life, while remaining financially sustainable, and a full participant in one of our nation’s most dynamic metropolitan areas.”
4. Aside from the physical nature of the City, what should change and what should remain the same?
See answer to #3 above.
5. How would you propose to balance the City budget? Please identify any specific spending cuts or revenue increases you would suggest.
To close the City’s projected $8.9 million budget gap – which reflects a recession-inspired 12% drop in revenue from last year – revenue increases and spending reductions on a scale not seen for decades are under consideration. The spending reductions, about $2.85 million, will be achieved by freezing pay for City employees for the second consecutive year, increasing employee pension and health care contributions, downsizing the City workforce from 200 to 184 positions (about the same level as the mid-1990s), and reducing the amount of the City’s school transfer by more than $1.3 million.
In addition to these reductions, and to continue to support our outstanding public schools and maintain the services our citizens expect (and reaffirmed as priorities in two recent town hall meetings), a 20 cent increase in the real estate tax rate has been proposed by the city manager. In recent years, well more than 50% of City revenue has come from real estate taxes, a situation complicated by the recession-inspired decline in residential and, especially in the last year, commercial property assessments. For the median single family home in our City, the 20 cent tax rate increase translates to a $975 increase in the tax bill.
While I support these initial recommendations by the city manager, over the coming weeks I will be closely following the public debate on these proposals and along with my Council colleagues work to find additional reductions and/or sources of revenue to bring the proposed tax rate increase down as much as possible.
6. When the City’s budget situation improves to allow capital improvement projects, which project would be your top priority?
My top priorities would include a new school building, more space for the library, and a renovated/expanded/or entirely new City Hall (including adequate space for the Police Department).
7. What is your position on the proposed affordable housing project, “The Wilden”?
I voted to approve the Wilden project because I believe it is financially sound, serves an important need for seniors, actualizes a key community value, and, at this particular time of economic difficulty, promises by its example to help “jump start” economic development in the surrounding area and elsewhere in our City.
8. What was your position on moving City Council and School Board elections from May to November?
I voted in favor of moving the election because past experience in state and/or national elections shows conclusively that substantially more voters turn out in November than in the May local elections.
9. What changes, if any, should the City make regarding its water system following the recent litigation with Fairfax County Water Authority?
With a key part of the legal case on appeal, it is premature to make changes in our water system policies and operations at this time.
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?
This question is too vague for me to answer responsibly.
Tomorrow: Barry Buschow
By Falls Church Times Staff
April 6, 2010