CANDIDATE Q&A: William Henneberg
April 17, 2012
The Falls Church Times recently invited each candidate running in the May 1 election for Falls Church City Council to respond to a seven-part questionnaire. Today we publish the responses of William Henneberg, a staff member of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works.
Henneberg works for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, where he handles issues relating to Fish and Wildlife, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and General Services Administration oversight.
Henneberg currently serves as Secretary of the Falls Church Tree Commission and President of the Trammell’s Gate Condominium Homeowners Association. He attended Falls Church City Public Schools K-12 and graduated from George Mason High School in 2003. He also participated in the Parks and Recreation Department in Falls Church both as a player and coach.
Henneberg holds a Bachelor’s Degree in environmental science from the University of Mary Washington and a Masters degree in environmental science from American University. His campaign website is www.hennebergforcouncil.com.
1. Why do you want to be on City Council?
I grew up in Falls Church, attended Falls Church Public Schools K-12, graduated from George Mason in 2003, participated in the Parks and Recreation Department as a player and coach, and held my first job at a Veterinary clinic in the City. Falls Church has given me so much and I want to make sure that future generations have the same opportunities I had. So, having returned to FC after college, it is very important that I stay involved and help ensure the future success of the City. With the schools bursting at the seams, an aging high school built in the 1950s, and residential taxes accounting for the majority of revenue in the city, we are still in a precarious financial situation. Further, the litigation over the water system and our approach to commercial development over the past decade shows a lack of vision and leadership by Council. It is time to learn from the past and move forward with a new vision for the future of Falls Church.
2. Do you support the City’s current “area planning” effort and redevelopment of our commercial corridors? If not, why not? If so, what areas of the City would you focus on, and what kinds of development would you like to see there?
I support the City’s current area planning. However, it is important that we move this process forward quickly and begin to pursue developers who will be able to make it happen. Given the location of the East Falls Church Metro station, silver/orange lines, possible western entrance to the EFC Metro station, and current development occurring on the Arlington side of the border, it is imperative that we begin with the North Washington Street area. This is the most logical area of the City to develop and one that we can easily market to developers. Any development that occurs must include office and retail with limited residential (studios and 1 bed room condos). It is also crucial that we stop neglecting green space and parking that is required for successful commercial development. We need a positive development story in just one part of the City for the same to happen in other parts. The development of the North Washington Street area must be the first domino to fall to bring healthy economic growth to other parts of the City.
3. What transportation improvements should the City make and why?
As mentioned above, if we are serious about increasing retail revenue in the City, we must confront the issue of parking. This will help City businesses and ease some of the street traffic around retail corridors. We also must be cognizant of how the addition of residential units to commercial development can impact traffic. Past mixed-use commercial development has included a lot of residential units while neglecting to include transportation improvements. New commercial development, especially around North Washington Street where traffic is already an issue during rush hour, must include traffic reduction measures.
4. What should the City do regarding the unfunded liability of teacher pensions?
I support current City Council member Ira Kaylin’s proposal to invest the proceeds of the sale of the water system in a “yet-to-be-created Falls Church City Teacher Pension Plan.” Over the long term, pension plans can be expected to give annual returns of 6-8%. So, for every $10 million in sale proceeds, the plan can earn $600 to $800 thousand per year. This is 2 to 3 cents on the tax rate. The current minimum bid recently set by the City Council, $44 million, while too low, may generate up to $3.52 million per year or almost 12 cents off the tax rate. This gives you an idea of how much may be generated by a more realistic sale price.
5. How do you propose to address recurring flooding issues experienced by some residents and improve storm water management throughout the City?
Every new commercial development in the City must incorporate green space and include storm water management infrastructure. I am surprised that, for such an environmentally conscious community, almost no green space has been included in the commercial development over the past decade. Further, according to the recently released Watershed Management Plan, the City is facing at least $33 million in water infrastructure needs over the next 15 years. It is vital for the City to create an independent revenue stream to pay for these infrastructure improvements.
6. Should the City sell its water system? How should any proceeds be used?
See answer to #4. Any sale of the water system, though, must be conditional to ensure that Falls Church customers are protected from rate increases. However, it is important to note that if the City keeps the water system, there will be a rate increase of 8% for each of the next two years and a 3% rate increase for each of the following 3 years in order to comply with new EPA regulations and for general upkeep of the system. So, we will see rate increases even if we don’t sell the system but, if we do, we will have a new revenue stream to help fund some of the City’s financial obligations.
7. 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 recently visited Roswell, GA, just outside of Atlanta. They have one of the most extensive and well run park systems in the country. It was very impressive and it was clear that their park system encouraged a sense of community while giving residents all sorts of opportunities for outdoor recreation. I hope that Falls Church continues to support and improve our park system and I am glad there is an increase for the parks in this year’s budget.
This is the first of seven candidate questionnaire responses published by the Falls Church Times, and we would like to thank Mr. Henneberg and all the candidates for their participation. Below are links to the responses of each candidate.
The candidates also have provided responses for the Voters Guide of the League of Women Voters and the Candidate Q&A of the Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society. We encourage all registered voters to review these materials and vote on Tuesday May 1.
By Falls Church Times Staff
April 17, 2012