LETTER: Councilman Webb Discusses Reelection Effort

March 19, 2012

To the Editors of the Falls Church Times,

I am running for re-election to the Falls Church City Council. It took time to make the decision to run again considering all the difficult decisions the council had to make during the economic downturn. My friends and family helped me to see that those difficult decisions are starting to pay-off and the City of Falls Church still needs energized voices to completely return to its strong fiscal state. I believe I am capable of providing a balanced approach to helping the city completely recover; moreover, I recognize the council cannot complete this task without the assistance of our citizens.

Growing up in rural southern Virginia my parents instilled the value of hard work and giving back to your community. They also gave me the value of spending for necessities and saving up for big ticket items. With that being said, I have brought those small town values with me to our “Little City”. We have experienced one of the most challenging recessions in years; one that made us make some tough choices to be able to get to this point today. Our “Little City” is in the beginning stages of observing a recovery and we are seeing increased interest from developers. With the current work being done on area plans, we will be in a stronger position to share what we want in future development in the City of Falls Church. I am looking forward to engaging our citizens in conversations about what we want the City of Falls Church to look like in the next decade.

We have heard about “The Falls Church way” is to get buy in from citizens because we know a plan without citizens input will be dead on arrival. At this time a taskforce has been established by the city council to begin the tough work on developing an affordable housing policy that will set realistic goals when it comes to taking cash versus units within mixed use developments. The group has all the stakeholders at the table: developers, city board and commission members, community groups and citizens talking about all the different aspects of what a good policy will need to be effective. As the council liaison to the taskforce, I will make sure when a decision is rendered to take cash in these developments there will be a plan in place. One that will either maintain existing affordable housing or work to expand regionally affordable housing near the city limits.

Fortunately our schools are one of the best in the state. For the past two years I’ve visited George Mason High School to help provide information to seniors and parents on what will be the first of many challenges that a student will face and that’s choosing the right college to attend. I believe strongly in the value of education; however, I will continue to advocate for a revenue sharing agreement between the schools and the city. This plan can strike a balance that will fully fund our schools while taking into account the services we provide to city residents. After witnessing the flooding experienced by residents during several storms this fall, it is very important that we continue to fund and expand our storm water management plan in the city. We have an updated Watershed Management Plan which outlines the needs of our city. One of my goals is to make sure we have the appropriate resources to alleviate flooding in our city.

As we continue litigation over our water system, I will work hard to ensure that the system continues to provide safe and quality water to all of our customers. I will, when it is appropriate, communicate to our counterparts in Fairfax to discuss and work on positive solutions. Yet, when it’s time to protect the interest of the City of Falls Church I will be the first to protect our rights. I recognize that we have experienced some challenging times in Falls Church and that some decisions made were not popular. But in making those decisions I carefully considered input from citizens and city staff, and weighed those insights with what I thought best supported our city. I have tried to make those decisions that would allow the city to maintain, survive, and eventually thrive.

Over the next several weeks I will work diligently for your support in allowing me the opportunity to continue the job that has started to make our “Little City” a star here in Northern Virginia. I welcome your input during and beyond the campaign.

Lawrence Webb

Lawrence Webb is a member of the Falls Church City Council.

March 19, 2012 


28 Responses to “LETTER: Councilman Webb Discusses Reelection Effort”

  1. Lou Mauro on March 19th, 2012 12:28 pm

    Nice campaign piece, Lawrence. Many well-stated good intentions. It causes me to mention that your 2008 campaign was assisted by a District of Columbia organization known as the Victory Fund. In a FCT post on November 6, 2011, concerning the election change referendum, Mr. Clifton Taylor said, apparently on your behalf, that the referendum is “a City issue… so the organization will not get involved in this local ballot issue.” Accepting money, materials or personal assistance from out-of-State activist, advocacy, or special interest groups, such as the Sierra Club, the NRA, or the Victory Fund, is inappropriate, and is a form of politicization that is harmful to our local electoral process. Inasmuch as City Council elections are also “City issues” and “local ballot issues,” I trust that you will act consistently with Mr. Taylor’s statement and not accept campaign support from any such group during the current campaign. I for one would not even consider supporting or voting for a candidate that accepts money, material or other assistance from any such organization.

  2. Gordon Theisz, City of Falls Church on March 21st, 2012 12:14 am

    I copy the following from the Victory Fund website regarding brief, entire, mission:

    “The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund works to elect LGBT leaders to public office for one simple reason. They change America’s politics.

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender office holders are our clearest and most convincing champions for true equality. As leaders in government, they become the face and voice of a community. They challenge the lies of extremists and speak authentically about themselves, their families and their community.

    Since 1991, the Victory Fund has helped thousands of openly LGBT candidates win election to local, state and federal offices.”

    I fail to see how accepting support from this group which supported Lawrence Webb simply because he is a gay man has anything to do with the election change date issue which had nothing to do with sexual preference.

    The local and national physician groups to which I belong are actively seeking and training doctors to become politically active, including running for office regardless of political affiliation. Would you criticize me for accepting assistance from my medical society if I ran for office?

    I recommend people vote for a candidate based on their record and promise for the future. Mr. Webb in his four years on council has a proven record as a thoughtful leader and consensus builder. I haven’t agreed with every position he has taken, but I know that he has voted with careful consideration and conviction. I respect him for that.

  3. mel watson on March 21st, 2012 11:20 am

    In short, are there restrictions on what campaign support can be accepted for local campaigns, and are candidates required to disclose such donations and more importantly the donor groups?

    Also, I would like to hear any candidate running for council simply say the City will act and make decisions within its financial means – – meaning less tax burden on residential – – maybe that is what Mr. Webb means when I believe he used the word “balance”….but he certainly was not strong in sending this message….unless I missed it.

  4. JenFCC on March 21st, 2012 12:24 pm

    City Council approved the increased tax rate of 1.27 per $100. of assessed value. We have an increase in assessment AND the tax rate which results in a large tax payment increase! The recession has affected many FCC residents. Not all of us are “extremely wealthy.” Some are affected by a pay freeze.

    The tax rate in Arlington County is .958; in Fairfax County: 1.07; in the City of Fairfax: .942; in Alexandria: .998.
    City management is proposing another assessment for repairing the City storm water pipes. Yet, developers are allowed to build on flood planes.

    I also question what “Balance” means. Does it include the development of large apartment buildings along the North Washington St area?

  5. Lou Mauro on March 21st, 2012 1:21 pm


    If your comment implies that my comment had anything to do with the fact that Lawrence Webb is gay, I highly resent it. You would have no basis whatsoever for implying that and should in that case be ashamed of yourself. My comment simply reiterated and followed up on a commitment made by Mr. Clifton Taylor last November, speaking on behalf of Mr. Webb or the Victory Fund, or both.

    Perhaps you missed the point. So here it is again. It doesn’t matter what cause the advocacy, activist, or special interest group promotes. If it is an non-local organization seeking to promote its cause or candidate in a local municipal election in the City of Falls Church, it is inappropriate and tends to politicize and adversely affect the integrity of our local electoral process. In fact, such participation is just as inappropriate if it is specifically for the purpose of promoting the candidate for what he is (gay or a doctor) rather than only promoting the cause. Local elections should be about local candidates and their records and positions on local issues. Period. Their outcomes should not be influenced by non-local organizations seeking to promote their causes or candidates, no matter how laudable. Start down that slippery slope and we will indeed see the Sierra Clubs, National Rifle Associations, Audubon Societys and Petroleum Institutes of the world, just mention a very few, become involved in Falls Church City elections.

    So, Yes, the success of Mr. Webb’s campaign, like that of any incumbent, should be determined by his “record and promise for the future,” and only that.

  6. TFC on March 21st, 2012 3:55 pm

    @JenFCC, while I do not enjoy paying my taxes…it is very hard to compare out tax rate with nearby jurisdictions. FC bundles charges together as part of the tax bill rather than carve out some charges. For example, some localities add another fee to the real estate tax bill for yearly trash pick up, leaf pick up and such. The key is how much do other folks pay after all is said and done. I remember seeing a bill in Florida…it looked like an itemized bill from a hospital…..parts of pennies for 911, parts for police,parts for trash…all added up to a big bunch even though each item was essentially a small amount.
    FC will be talking about the new fee for storm water management. Many aspects will be under discussion including whether this dedicated fee should be separated from RE rate or included.

  7. JenFCC on March 21st, 2012 4:28 pm

    I do remember FCC management proposing a “Pay As You Throw” trash/ waste seperate assessment. Unfortunately there wasn’t a proposal to reduce City tax rate by the amount collected by this special “trash enterprise” fund.

    Fairfax County does charge residents about $320 a year for their trash pick up. And yes, ours is still included in the City tax.

    I have seen an itemized tax bill. It is very informative.
    That is a good suggestion for FCC!!

  8. Gordon Theisz, City of Falls Church on March 21st, 2012 8:43 pm

    Gee, Lou, you are bit testy. Please read the post again – the Victory Fund supported Mr. Webb to get more LGBT people in elected office as is stated in their mission. It had nothing to do with you.

    What I am challenging the logic of your post as written in the following order:

    1. Webb accepted money from the Victory Fund in 2008.
    2. Mr. Taylor commented about the election referendum in 2011 that Victory fund would not get involved.
    3. Webb should not accept money from non-local sources to avoid politicalization of our elections.

    Now if you want to link 1 and 3 together that’s fine, but #2 just doesn’t fit and seems inserted just to highlight Webb’s support for November elections. Perhaps you didn’t mean it to be seen that way.

    I disagree with you about the Victory Fund here – any slope seems very shallow in this case as it seems more similar to Webb’s brother from out of town Southern Virginia sending him money – all in the family.

  9. Lou Mauro on March 22nd, 2012 12:19 am

    I don’t think I am being testy. Since mine was the ONLY comment on Webb’s letter, your post of course had something “to do with me.” If you’re trying to say you did not intend to imply any bias on my part, fine, I accept your explanation.

    To use your structure, the link among all three items is the local nature of our elections, whether they are referendums or City Council elections, and the need to keep them free from non-local influence. Mr. Taylor’s commitment was that the Victory Fund would not participate in the referendum because it was a “City issue” and “local ballot issue.” It is therefore logical to ask Mr. Webb if, unlike 2008, he will decline assistance from the Victory Fund in his campaign for re-election inasmuch as it too is a “City Issue” and a “local ballot issue.” I don’t think I can make any more clear than that.

    And please don’t try to justify receiving money, materials, or personnel assistance from an advocacy, activist or special interest organization by saying it is the same as getting a check from a member of your family. That is simply not credible.

  10. Lawrence Webb on March 22nd, 2012 2:14 pm

    Thank to those asking the question of what I mean when I say a balance. What I mean is to look for way to bring in more development and density to the areas of the city that are best suited for it. I believe that the North Washington Street area is currently under developed and is in a location that would support more density. No this does not mean large apartments building but a mix of office, retail and yes some housing. It is very close to a metro station and with the conversations going on about a western entrance to metro I think the city needs to plan for that now. We are currently very reliant on residential taxes and for us to move to a better mix we need to market and bring in projects that fits the character and respects the history of our neighborhoods. The current area plans for North Washington Street are out there for public comment and a town hall meeting will take place on Saturday March 24th at Columbia Baptist Church at 9:30 am. I encourage you to take a look at those plans and comment so that we can get it right. We cannot afford to get these developments wrong so now is the time to give your feedback. I appreciate the questions and if you have other do not hesitate to ask.

  11. Gordon Theisz, City of Falls Church on March 22nd, 2012 3:21 pm

    Lou, I meant no implication of bias on your part, only disagreeing with your linking a vote on the local referendum issue with the Victory fund. Not a clear link to me.

  12. mel watson on March 26th, 2012 12:12 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Webb – – on another key budget topic, I am not sure how you stand on this on what stance you have taken in the past so forgive me – – but are you willing to take a hard look at the school budget proposed increase and push back where appropriate and thus take an independent and tough stand?

    As I have written before, I am a graduate of the City school system along with my children – – so I approach this not as a newcomer and I recognize the importance. But at the same time – – something has to give….the financial pie is only so big and storm water has emerged as a high priority along with others.

    While we hope for more commerical tax base, the City residential tax base can only absorb so much before a lot of folks such as myself who have lived in the City for a long time – – look to leave. Are you prepared to take on certain members of the School Board and its lobby who appear to be quite over-the-top with their remarks which have been described as harsh and uncompromising.

    I have this same question for all candidates.

  13. TFC on March 26th, 2012 3:50 pm

    Mel, I share your concerns. It always seems to be a tug of war between schools and general government needs. This budget cycle in particular, I am leaning towards exploring a revenue sharing agreement with the schools. The school muckety-mucks *seem* to be in favor of this approach as it would help them with planning. Schools have indicated such an agreement would result in accepting the good with the bad in terms of revenue. The only thing I worry about is: what if it’s a “bad” year….would they keep the promise to work within the agreed upon percentage/funding or come screaming for more?
    There are plenty of details to discuss if this approach were to be considered for the future.
    Right now it seems there is a disagreement between schools and general government regarding revenue forecasts. City is projecting 2% growth, schools feel this is too low and should be more like 3% or so. It’s always something.
    I’m sure you know the City Council can not exercise line item control over the school budget…..only the total requested can be changed.

  14. mel watson on March 26th, 2012 4:16 pm

    Very good comments, TFC. If a person has or plans to have kids in the system, I understand you want the budget fully funded. You moved your family here, paid a hefty price for your home, and are willing to pay more residential taxes (even if it stretches your personal budget) to offset what you would be spending to send your kids to private school.

    But think of those who no longer have kids in the system, who may either be retired or close to retirement and living on a fixed income…..when it comes to the City’s finances.

    In its current state – – in some ways the City is basically a school district – for lack of a better term. You live or move here to take advantage of the schools (and to save money from paying private school tuition)…..but when your kids are “gone” so to speak and you don’t rely on Metro to commute any longer…..you basically need to pack your bags and leave….for many, don’t count on living a comfortable life of retirement here.

    This is why we need folks on City Council and in City government who will stand up, ask the tough questions of the School Board and administrators, and seek a balance that meets the needs of everyone.

  15. TFC on March 26th, 2012 4:31 pm

    I agree Mel. Hubby and I are in the “fixed income” group. We have paid for the schools forever and have no kids. I understand that good schools are important but, I also ask for balance so those who use government services do not get the short end of the stick.
    I am just getting tired of the same old thing every year.

  16. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on March 26th, 2012 10:39 pm

    I’m interested in hearing more about the revenue sharing agreement that has been mentioned – it seems like maybe a solution that would satisfy more people than the current approach. I think the school board (or at least some members) supports it. I assume City Council would be the body to actually implement it. Have the current candidates weighed in on the idea?

  17. rob loblaw on March 27th, 2012 2:51 am

    Mr. Webb, do you support a pay raise for City employees to at least the level suggested in Mr. Shield’s budget?

  18. TFC on March 27th, 2012 8:09 am

    Andy, I am sure members of the school board would be glad to provide you with their perspective on revenue sharing. It has been on the tom-toms for a while. I spoke with Ms. Kearney after the Town Hall meeting. There are several formulas in use….I am no expert but I checked out the Arlington budget docs and it *looks like* Arl schools will get 46.1% of revenue this year not including additional revenue from a proposed RE tax rate increase.
    I would just like the bickering to stop.

  19. John D. Lawrence, City of Falls Church on March 27th, 2012 8:47 am

    Andy, check out my website — http://www.JDLforFallsChurch.com. One thing I’ve tried to do is be as concrete as possible in ideas as part of my campaign rather than just express “support” for this and that.

    On revenue sharing (excerpted from my site), others have done it (as TFC said) and we need to study it seriously and figure out how to make it work or stop raising it every year. We should stop talking around it at acrimonious School Board-City Council work sessions. Study it and *make a decision.* Both the schools AND the City have to benefit or it cannot work. If this is a zero sum game, it’s a dead issue. Others have done it, find out how they did it, why they did it, and how it’s worked. We need to find a way to make this work for the City and the schools.

    I’ve been in the annual joint Planning Commission-City Council-School Board budget meeting like we had about 10 days ago and I’ve heard the same thing for years: School Board member X raises revenue sharing, then Council member Y pushes back, X gets shriller, Y gets defensive, and everyone goes away with a bad taste in their mouths and nothing has been accomplished. Then we wait and do it again the next year.

    Now saying we need to study it may not sound very definitive, but we need to find out how others have made it work to see if it can work here. Unless we understand that, the Council can’t — and shouldn’t — make any decision about it. Revenue sharing will give the schools a level of certainty they don’t feel they have now. That’s great. But if the schools benefit from the upside of more secure funding, but the City is left holding the bag in down times because the schools will press for no less than they got the year before regardless of the agreement (a real fear for Council, in my opinion), this won’t work. If it really is a zero sum game, however, I don’t know how others could have made it work, so we need to find that out.

    More importantly, we need Council and the Board to start working on this NOW so that we can come to a decision – one way or another – for next year’s budget. But don’t just study. Make a decision.

  20. TFC on March 27th, 2012 9:43 am

    I agree John, let’s get the details. I share the Council’s fear that in “bad” times the schools will ask for more than the agreement. OTOH, the schools may want a set revenue sharing formula and add a per student set amount for higher enrollment.
    I found the joint work session comments from one school board member quite acerbic and confrontative when she almost accused the Council of not pursuing more revenue generating activities thus not generating enough funds for schools. It undid all the collaborative spirit talk.

  21. Linda Neighborgall on March 27th, 2012 12:05 pm

    It’s great to have such a good number of candidates running for the Council seats, presenting a range from experienced hands to enthusiastic, creative newbie candidates. Thanks to all of you for taking the plunge. I will look forward to learning more about all of you. I’m hoping your campaigns will be focused on your qualifications and platforms, rather than extraneous issues.

    To that end, as the candidates draw up their websites and print materials, I’d like to encourage them to eschew the sort of soaring aspirational pabulum and we-are-the-world, feel-good rhetoric that too often takes the place of platform specifics. For example, John Lawrence’s website contains concrete ideas of how to get where we need to go as a city. I’ve ssen some good, informative print materials from other candidaates. There are no guarantees that I’ll agree with everything any candidate says, but I sure will appreciate knowing what, exactly, each of them will be looking to accomplish.

  22. TFC on March 27th, 2012 1:35 pm

    I wish the candidates would hold a town hall meeting of some kind to answer questions….not a debate, no timers, just an opportunity for citizens to ask questions about issues and positions.

  23. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on March 27th, 2012 1:37 pm

    The other day I spent some time tracking down information about each candidate. It took longer than it seemed like it should. I’m guessing this info is aggregated elsewhere but in case it isn’t I created this page: http://fallschurchinsider.com/vote/

  24. TFC on March 27th, 2012 2:54 pm

    Nice Andy…thanks
    All want economic development…….I *think* I have heard that before :)
    Mr. Handly says 66% of Falls Church households do not have children in the schools?? 60% of our budget supports 34% of our householders using the schools….????

  25. John D. Lawrence on March 27th, 2012 10:16 pm


    First, I believe the schools account for 46% of the budget. Not 60%. The schools would KILL to get 60%.

    I also think that the figure of “66% of households have no kids in the school” that Paul cites shouldn’t be used at all because I find it to be very misleading and not defensible in practical terms. It sounds like it means something (i.e., 66% of the households have no direct connection to the schools and, therefore, no incentive to support them), but what about a family that moved here when their kid was 5 and he/she went all the way through GMHS? The day after graduation, should they be lumped into a 66% figure that is basically implied to be a group that has no reason to support the schools? [Yes, I know you’re not saying that, TFC.] And what about a family like mine?

    We moved here 3 years before our son was born and nearly 8 years before he first went to K at Mt. Daniel. Like others, we moved here for the schools. Should we have been lumped into that 66% up until the day he set foot in Mt. D? Technically, I guess it fits, but in reality it doesn’t because that 66% figure is used to imply that we have a large portion of the City who doesn’t have a **direct** connection to the schools and, therefore, I suppose, have no reason to support them. That just doesn’t work in reality. Do my neighbors across the street have no connection to the schools just because all 4 (5?) of their kids have graduated and are gone? Hardly. So can we drop the 66% and all the implications that go along with it? I think it’s trotted out by some just to get a rise out of others…and you would never do that, would you?

  26. Lou Mauro on March 28th, 2012 12:21 am

    Thanks, Andy. You have done something that, unless I missed something, the City website and both of our City “newspapers” could not!

  27. TFC on March 28th, 2012 7:33 am

    John, thanks for the clarification. It did seem a strange number to me. I will ask Mr. Handly about how he arrived at that number. And…my bad on the budget number….indeed. RE taxes support 60% of the total budget not the schools.

  28. Lawrence Webb on March 30th, 2012 3:29 pm

    Ms. Watson……Let me begin by saying that I have and will continue to review the school budget to make sure that we balance both quality schools and quality city services. During my first budget cycle I had many questions for the school board to understand their raise structure and how they were capable of funding raises as the council froze the salaries of city employees.
    As leaders our responsibility is to ask questions yet questioning proposals does not indicate non support of the schools rather making sure we obligate our tax dollars appropriately. Based on my inquiry, a brief presentation was given by our former CFO explaining the Arlington revenue sharing plan. During this period there was no support on the council to move forward with developing a revenue sharing plan. I am glad to see candidates engaging in this topic which I have felt positively about from the start.
    If this measure were adopted I would recommend the city manager and school superintendent meet immediately upon completion of the current budget to begin working on an agreement that both individuals would present to their bodies for approval. I believe it is time that both parties work from the same balance sheets during good and bad times and function within that signed agreement.
    Mr. Loblaw……I do support the pay raise the city manager has presented for our city employees. During my tenure on council, I have tried to meet as many city employees as possible at various levels of government. Being employed in the public sector I’ve only received one pay increase plus a bonus in nearly seven years. Unlike some of my colleagues on council I work for a state agency and understand what it means to see things increase around you and your salary stays the same. Last year I led the charge on council to issue employees a bonus last year. During the past council meeting I pledged to explore a way to increase the proposed raise presented by the manager. I believe our city employees have worked extremely hard under the circumstances and we need to show our appreciation to them.

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