CANDIDATE Q&A: David Snyder

DavidSnyder_CropBy Falls Church Times Staff
October 22, 2013

The Falls Church Times recently invited each candidate running in the November 5 election for Falls Church City Council to respond to an eight-part questionnaire.  Today we publish the responses of David Snyder.

BACKGROUND

Snyder is an attorney specializing in litigation, administrative law, and international trade. He has served on the Falls Church City Council since 1994, including terms as Mayor (1998-2000) and Vice Mayor (1996-1998, 2010-present). He has also represented the City regionally and has chaired several boards, including the Metropolitan Washington Transportation Planning Board, the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. Snyder began his public service as President of the Falls Church Housing Corporation.  David has lived in Falls Church City with his family for 28 years, and his children attended Falls Church City Public Schools from grades K-12.  Additional information about Snyder is available at his campaign website, www.snyder-for-the-people.com.

 QUESTIONNAIRE

1. Qualifications. Why are you running for City Council?  What strengths and experience would you bring to the job?

Local government needs to perform, and we are held accountable if we don’t. Today, our City is financially strong with high quality schools and public services. If we do it right, our City’s future can be even brighter.

We are seeing new people and new energy that bode well for the future. And there are economic development projects in the works with more to come to further our goals and at the same time reduce the burden on current taxpayers through the increased commercial activity they will bring.

None of this happens by accident. Success at the local level is all about applying fundamental principles and working hard. While our City must and should change to meet new challenges and opportunities, our values should not; those values include quality schools, public service, environmental sustainability, community engagement and dialogue, diversity, and most of all, never ending effort for the benefit of the public.

For five terms, the voters have allowed me to serve them on the Council, both as Mayor and Vice Mayor, and as their representative on regional environmental, transportation, and public safety agencies. I have learned over the years that only hard work leads to success. Applying high principles, listening to all sides, and striving for consensus are the lessons that I would like to contribute to our combined effort to make the City’s future bright.

2. City Finances. Financial pressures facing the City include rapidly growing schools, aging facilities, increased demand on city services, pensions liabilities, and the need for an appropriate fund balance.  Although budgeting always requires “balance,” Council members must establish priorities.  What will be your priorities as you face these pressures? The fact is that, as a City, we must address all of these issues and at the same time work to keep our tax level as low as we can.

The fact is that we need to responsibly address all of these issues while holding taxes to the lowest necessary levels. There are no shortcuts. Strong City finances require discipline, dialogue with our citizens, careful planning, encouraging economic development, supporting our business and non-profit community, and prudent financial management. We have generally balanced these factors in the past, and we must do so in the future.

This year’s budget is an example of how I work to achieve the balance needed to address all of these issues. We fully funded the well documented needs of the schools, provided for the City’s needs, maintained the recommended financial reserves, funded some of the storm water requirements, moved forward on school and City capital projects such as facilities and fire equipment and came in at a tax rate far below the rate predicted. That said, we need to find additional ways to reduce the burden on fixed income taxpayers. And the increased economic development, including the two major projects we approved this year, is an important way to do that.

3. School facilities. Ideas have been floated by a number of people on how to pay for new facilities at George Mason High School and Mt. Daniel Elementary.  Some of those ideas include commercial development in the area near GMHS to bring in more revenue, tearing down City Hall to build a new GMHS there, and selling the Mt. Daniel property and moving those students to Thomas Jefferson Elementary.  Do you favor any of these proposals?   What would you propose as a way to deal with school facility needs?

Providing adequately for our schools’ operational and facilities needs is essential, not optional. Moving forward, I would apply the model that we used to build the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School. I was on the Council during this project and served as a member of the contract negotiating team. Our approach was first to establish basic facts so that any community discussion related to policy, not disputes over facts. We then engaged the community in extensive dialogue and laid out a prudent financial plan for the preferred alternative. The end result was strong community support for the middle school plan and a project that came in on time and at budget.

4. Real Estate Development. Falls Church City is looking at a number of approved and prospective real estate developments in the coming years, such as the “Harris Teeter project” on West Broad, the “Reserve at Tinner Hill” on South Maple, a possible mixed-use project at Broad and West, and the potential development of land linked to the sale of the City water system.  In your view, what community values should new real estate developments reflect, and what specific features and characteristics should be included to make them enjoyable and valuable for the community?

I firmly believe that our future lies in being the attractive, green, real community alternative to Tysons Corner. That means we support the arts, preserve and celebrate our history, encourage more community events, engage in environmental initiatives and support and grow our unique business community. I think we need to encourage alternatives to the use of motor vehicles and urge developers to do the same, even as we provide adequate parking for today and green space. I also prefer as much of the desired commercial activity as possible in the mixed-use developments.

I hope in the future, we will be able to focus on cultural, historic, environmental and entertainment resources and have both a local and regional transportation system that provides better alternatives to the use of motor vehicles. Key components include making the City more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, providing commercial spaces for business incubators, having more hotel and meeting space, increasing housing options for younger and older citizens, increasing our parking capacity, providing green space and local transit service that connects the City to the Metro stations and through our business corridors.

5. Economic Development.  Separate from real estate development, what can the City do to generate increased economic activity?  What kinds of businesses and activities should we recruit and promote? What tools should we utilize?

We must meet the needs of our changing population and serve them in the future. Among other things, we need more entertainment and retail options and better transportation options. I would also like more housing options for the young and old.

While we have many tools, I would renew our focus on achieving more commercial activity to attract people from outside the City. I urged that we engage in the mediation that led to the proposed water system sale, including control of more land for development. I believe that if voters approve the referendum to sell the water system, we should use this land to attract high revenue-generating occupancies and thereby reduce the burden on our current taxpayers, enabling us to better finance long-term school and other needs.

6. Storm water.  The City Council recently passed a plan to enhance the city’s storm water infrastructure.  It features a new user fee that would be paid beginning next year by homeowners, businesses, and churches. Executing the plan would require a number of new full-time employees. Do you agree with this approach?  If not, how would you modify it?

Following Tropical Storm Lee, it was apparent that our citizens wanted greater resources and levels of activity dedicated to renewing the City’s storm water infrastructure while also encouraging sound environmental practices and beginning to address our future Chesapeake Bay mandates. The storm water initiative will do that. The credit program is still being debated, and I will be on the lookout to make sure that the money we spend will produce the greatest results.

7. “Ped” Plan.  In 2012, the City announced that the Council “withdrew consideration of the Pedestrian, Bicycle and Traffic Calming Strategic Implementation Plan to allow for changes to the plan and additional time for public input, review and approval.”  To date, the Council has not resumed consideration of the plan.  Do you feel the City should pursue such a plan?  If yes, what changes, if any, should be made to the 2012 version of the plan?  If not, why not?

As the City’s representative on regional transportation bodies, I have helped gather resources to improve our transportation options. As I have said publicly, a systematic approach for making the City friendlier for walking and bicycling should be brought back to the Council, after deleting its controversial aspects, such as eliminating parking and tearing up peoples’ lawns.

There is much that we can and should do in the original plan without its controversial aspects. We should move forward on projects such as adding bike lanes without taking out parking, removing impediments for pedestrians and overall creating a comprehensive system of pedestrian and bicycle-related facilities and routes.

At the same time, we need to look at improved transit service and reducing motor vehicle congestion on Broad and Washington Streets. I am representing the City on a study to examine alternatives to improve transit for the long term on routes 7 and 29, including in the City. As this study moves forward, we will need a thorough community discussion.

8. Current Council. What has the current Council done well and what has it done poorly?

I believe the current Council, on which I serve, has helped the City adjust to changing conditions and set the stage for a bright future. We are once again financially strong, with several major development projects on the way. We are also moving forward on transportation improvements, and our schools and City services remain quite good.

I would like us to engage in a community dialogue on where we want to be in 20 years and discuss the components of how we get there. I believe that the keys to the future are our values, our unique assets of culture, history, environment, community engagement, and our willingness to work hard to achieve our goals.

At the same time, I am very sensitive to concerns about rising taxes. The fact is that we get only 10 cents back for every dollar we send to Richmond in income and sales taxes. Even 50 cents on the dollar would dramatically reduce the local tax burden. We must insist that this imbalance change, even as we find ways to provide some tax relief locally, especially for people on fixed incomes.

I did not agree with terminating our local transit system, especially now that there is renewed interest in creating a similar service for the future. I do support the water system sale, because of its positive financial and future development aspects and because the alternative is maintaining a risky, non-productive asset. I also look forward to working with the community to address our facilities challenges through collaboration and dialogue.

This is the second of five candidate questionnaire responses published by the Falls Church Times, and we would like to thank Mr. Snyder for his participation.  We encourage all registered voters to go to the polls on Tuesday November 5.  Information on polling place hours and locations is available at www.fallschurchva.gov/Content/Government/Voting/RegistrarVoters.aspx  

By
October 22, 2013 

Comments

3 Responses to “CANDIDATE Q&A: David Snyder”

  1. Gary LaPorta on October 22nd, 2013 9:09 am

    I salute you for continuing to take on the challenge of elected office. I ask that, if re-elected, you fairly and equally represent ALL the citizens of The City of Falls Church.

  2. FC taxpayer on October 22nd, 2013 11:00 am

    I don’t agree with Mr. Snyder on everything, particularly his vocal opposition to 2nd Amendment rights (which are almost entirely regulated at the Federal and State levels, anyway).

    But as a resident in FC for a few years now, I’ve noticed that he is consistently one of the few Councilmembers to truly consider the impact of bureaucrats’ and other Councilmembers’ wish lists on taxpayers. Most of our elected officials are willing to write a blank check and let residential homeowners pay the tab, especially when it comes to the school district. It’s important to have someone in office who is willing to ask the tough questions about fiscal constraints.

  3. Mike Smith Falls Church on October 22nd, 2013 4:28 pm

    Mr. Snyder has been a real asset to the City and to the region through his expertise on transportation matters. He has also challenged the denizens of City Hall to justify their spending (and the taxes that come with). We all should thank his for running again.

Feel free to leave a comment. Please increase the credibility of your post by including your FULL NAME and CITY. All comments are subject to editing for courtesy and content.