Council Defers Action on Plan to Reduce Number of Wards,
Stormwater Survey Coming to Homeowners

Falls Church Times Staff

November 14, 2011

The Falls Church City Council moved this evening to defer final action on an ordinance to reduce the number of voting wards.  Members voted, 5-0 (Ms. Barry and Mr. Peppe absent), to take up the matter again on December 12.

The proposal, which passed first reading on September 26, calls for eliminating the Scout House (Ward Three) and the American Legion Hall (Ward Five) as polling places and consolidating voters into three wards.  Both facilities would be retained as emergency polling places.

In his remarks to the Council, City Registrar David Bjerke reviewed the efforts of the Electoral Board to inform residents of the plan.  He said that the response from voters had been overwhelmingly positive.  “We had expected to hear a lot more pushback against the change,” he said.

Bjerke said the revisions will provide more equal access for all voters to a ballot, as well as essential emergency management service and faster service overall.  Regarding concerns that Thomas Jefferson School (Ward One) would be overcrowded, the registrar said that the Electoral Board has called on the School Board to close the school on Election Day, as is the practice in Arlington and Fairfax.

The plan would shift Winter Hill residents, including many senior citizens, from Thomas Jefferson to the Community Center (Ward Four).  Bjerke said that the Board would consider using crossing guards to help assist those voters crossing Broad Street.

Councilwoman Robin Gardner said that she understood the need for consolidation of wards, but expressed concerns about parking at Thomas Jefferson.  She also opposed closing the school on Election Day and pointed out that the school’s renovation would coincide with the November 2012 election.

Noting that the plan’s implementation also coincided with the change of the municipal election date and redistricting, Gardner questioned whether the timing was right.  “I just don’t know if it [the consolidation] needs to be right now,” she said.

Mayor Nader Baroukh, who like Gardner voted against the plan in September, felt that the electoral officials needed to discuss the plan further with the School Board.  “My concern is how the parking is going to work around the construction site,” said Baroukh.

Vice Mayor Dave Snyder called the current voting process at Thomas Jefferson less than optimal.  “Adding additional voters runs the risk of creating more issues with safety and difficulty in parking.  It just doesn’t look to me that it’s functioning that well,” he said.  Snyder added that he thought the Legion Hall was still a good polling place and questioned why the officials recommended moving to three sites instead of four.

Faced with these concerns and with only five members present the Council opted to defer.  It will address the issue again during its December 5 work session.

A map showing the current configuration of wards is available here.   A map of the three ward plan is available here.

Stormwater Survey –  City Manager Wyatt Shields advised that a survey is being mailed to all single family and townhome owners.    The response will enable the City to determine where and to what extent flooding has occurred and to align its resources accordingly.  Surveys can be returned by mail or online through the City’s website.

Other Business –  The Council unanimously approved a resolution endorsing revisions to the Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program Handbook.  The Handbook has been shortened and now presents a clearer and succinct presentation of the process.

With Ms. Gardner dissenting, the Council approved first reading of an ordinance to amend the FY 2012 budgets (revenue and expenditures) for City Funds by adding $1,890,000 to the General Fund $3,350,000 to the Water Fund, and $546,205 to the Capital Project Fund.

The Council approved a consent item authorizing the city manager to to purchase up to $200,000 in technology solutions from CDW Government under a National Joint Powers Alliance Contract.

Closed Session –  At the end of the public meeting the Council began a 24 minute closed session concerning the post office lot and water litigation issues.

Video –  Footage of the public session is available at the City website.  Links to all pertinent documents are included.

November 14, 2011 


3 Responses to “Council Defers Action on Plan to Reduce Number of Wards,
Stormwater Survey Coming to Homeowners”

  1. Jan B Hertzsch on November 15th, 2011 6:52 am

    My first instinct is to allow voting by mail (or internet) as some municipalities have done.

  2. D. Wayne Jones on November 15th, 2011 10:49 am

    Kick the can down the road. You think they were the U.S. Congress. Parking problems? How about two council members volunteer at each of the three polling places to provide valet parking. Maybe, if school is closed, we can run school buses to bring voters to the polls. People in other countries travel days to vote in elections and are happy to do so, here we wouldn’t think of having someone walk an extra ten steps to vote. So sad. The founding father must be rolling over in their graves.

  3. Mike Novotny on November 15th, 2011 12:49 pm

    Didn’t we just pass a referendum to make it “more convenient” for voters in order to increase participation? Now we’re thinking about making it less convenient and risk losing some voters. Seems counterintuitive to me.

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