CANDIDATE Q&A: Barry Buschow
Buschow is past President of the Village Preservation and Improvement Society and the Falls Church Lions Club.
I moved into the city in 1951 with my parents. It was 1987 when I moved into my house in the city with my wife and son. I am a technical assistant contractor for TASC, Inc. (recently sold off by Northrop Grumman Corporation and formally TRW, Inc., since 1985). Currently I support the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a Project Management Consultant.
I have volunteered and served the City of Falls Church in the following capacities:
Current Treasurer for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority; member of the GEORGE Task Force; member of the Watershed Advisory Committee; chairman of the Open Space Task Force; member of the City of Falls Church Economic Development Commission, 8/2001 to 1/2009; vice chair of the Ad Hoc Community Center Renovation Committee 1998; past president for the Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS); past chairman of the Advisory Board for Recreation and Parks for the City of Falls Church, 1989 to 1999; twice president of the Falls Church Lions Club, Lion of the year three times; current secretary for the Falls Church Scout Building Association; vice chairman of the Task Force on Cultural Resources, 6/2001 to 6/2003; co-chairman of CADRE at George Mason High School 9/1998 to 9/2007; member of the Neighborhood Tree Program Steering Committee; chair of the Service Organizations committee celebrating the Tricentennial; member of the educational subcommittee of the Recycling and Litter prevention committee; past board member for the Child Development Center of Northern Virginia; past Webelos Den leader for Cub Scout Pack 657.
I was honored by receiving the Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce Caroll V. Shreve Award for Community Service in 1999.
1. Why do you want to be on City Council?
For 21 years I have been volunteering for our city. I have served on numerous different Boards, Commissions, Task Forces and service organizations. I have learned quite a bit and have met some wonderful citizens along the way. I enjoy working with others, building consensus and making things happen. I want to see our city not only survive, but thrive.
2. What has City government done well in the last 10 years? What has it done poorly?
The City of Falls Church has done well keeping our home values high with great city services such as recycling, offering many different programs at the community center that appeal to our different citizens and a wonderful library. Our school system has been rated highly and people move here because of that. We have a wonderful quality of life in general. On the other side of the coin we have not been successful attracting development and expanding commerce to help with the tax burden of residential citizens. We have not successfully promoted our identity as the City of Falls Church instead of the greater Falls Church area. We have not taken advantage of the 30,000 plus cars that travel through our city daily with offering them a convenient place to park so they can shop.
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?
The City of Falls Church would have a vibrant downtown area with retail shops, a hotel with a ballroom big enough to host important city functions. Parking would be central so that a person could park once and shop at several different locations in the downtown area. Offices and housing would be serviced by a broad range of restaurants, clothing, hardware and other retail store services. Mixed use, retail and office would replace much of the one story shabby looking buildings on the west end of town. Open space would accompany all new construction so building density would not overpower any one area. High density buildings would occur from our western boundary on Broad Street to the vacant cabinetry shop. Lower density would fill the area from West Street to Virginia Avenue. East Broad would remain essentially the same. Greenways would connect all the shopping areas with bike lanes on the roadways.
4. Aside from the physical nature of the City, what should change and what should remain the same?
I think we have a very open government. Everyone has a say and everyone has an opportunity to work for changes. I listen to others and decide on my own areas that I feel should be addressed. I am not running for Council because I believe there are numerous problems. I am running to work for my community and keep our city a great place to work and live.
5. How would you propose to balance the city budget? Please identify any specific spending cuts or revenue increases you would suggest.
The process has been that the City Manager requests of each department an annual budget and he provides guidance on his expectations for spending levels. The City Manager also provides guidance to the School Board and Superintendent. The public has ample opportunity to tell the Council of its concerns. The Council then is provided the Manager’s Budget recommendations. At this point it is up to the Council to work together and review all the recommendations and refine the budget so that it takes into account all the needs, including taxpayer concerns, of the city. This process results in a consolidated position that the Council adopts. I hope to work with fellow Council members and city staff to produce a budget in the best interests of the city. Obviously, we need more commercial revenue to make balancing much easier and take the strain off the residential taxpayer.
6. When the City’s budget situation improves to allow capital improvement projects, which project would be your top priority?
We entered this budget cycle taking out or freezing everything that was in the CIP. I think it is best to see what our priorities are when we emerge from economic stress. School improvements have already been identified. Infrastructure needs are always a priority, and I feel we will need to invest in our commercial areas like a downtown parking garage. Storm water improvements and other infrastructure needs will need to be reviewed annually so we can be ready when capital is available.
7. What is your position on the proposed affordable housing project, “The Wilden”?
I strongly believe in affordable housing and that each community needs to provide for its citizens. In our small city it is hard to find integration points that provide the level and number of units needed. The Wilden project with Bob Young’s office building is a great start to rebuilding that part of town. The project is designed well and that will set the tone for further development in that area, including our city center project at some point. The financial information has been inconsistent at best and no one has a crystal ball to know if the project will get done but I believe the project does benefit our taxpayers given the economic development potential of that whole area. The Wilden can be the spark plug for redevelopment while serving the elderly and physically handicapped members of our community.
8. What was your position on moving City Council and School Board elections from May to November?
I lobbied to allow the public an opportunity to provide input on the decision and to have a referendum. Voting is a fundamental right and citizens should have a say. I am concerned that voter turnout is so low in May but perhaps that is because of lack of competition for office. I guess this May 4th we will see if competition does make a difference.
9. What changes, if any, should the City make regarding its water system following the recent litigation with Fairfax County Water Authority?
It seems the courts will decide on the changes, if any, we must make. It is clear already that we will be experiencing competition since Fairfax can now sell its water in our once restricted customer boundary. If we lose too many customers and cannot make contributions to the general fund we need to consider the value of operating the business.
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?
I think we are pretty typical in our practices for a government operation in Northern Virginia restrained by the Dillon rule of Virginia. I do believe that the general populace should vote to select the Mayor as is done in many surrounding cities.
By Falls Church Times Staff
April 7, 2010