November 30, 2012

Construction of New Hotel Begins on Broad St.

Every politician loves a groundbreaking, and Thursday was my first since joining City Council in July: I had the great pleasure of hoisting a shovel at a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new Hilton Garden Inn on Broad St. in Falls Church.

Scheduled to open in spring 2014, the HGI will have 110 rooms, an indoor pool, fitness center, and 2500 sq. ft. of meeting space. A $25 million project developed by Barry Gosnell and Rich Palmer, the hotel is expected to generate at least $550,000 in annual net revenue. It’s one step in a journey of economic revitalization that we need in Falls Church to help keep our tax rate stable as we pay for City services, schools and infrastructure.


November 27, 2012

My Thoughts on the Proposed Water Settlement

On Nov. 20, the City of Falls Church, Fairfax Water, and Fairfax County announced that with the assistance of a federal mediator, terms had been negotiated for the sale of the Falls Church Water Utility to Fairfax Water. The terms have been approved by the Falls Church City Council, the Fairfax Water Board of Directors, and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The agreement is subject to approval by the voters of the City of Falls Church by referendum in November 2013.

At City Council’s Nov. 26 meeting, the City Manager gave a presentation on the proposed sale. See

More details are at:

Here are my initial thoughts on the matter:

In a November 2013 referendum, voters in the City of Falls Church will have final say on the proposed water settlement. So we have nearly a year to engage in an open and detailed community conversation about the specifics of the proposed agreement. I’m looking forward to that discussion. When City residents go to the polls next November, I hope we’ll see a big turnout and a solid majority agreeing that the settlement is in the best interests of Falls Church.

It’s a fair deal for Fairfax County (and Fairfax Water) and the City, reached after years of strenuous negotiations in which both sides fought hard to protect their legitimate interests and the final terms took shape under judicial mediation.

I see the County’s $40 million payment to the City as an acceptable sum.

I am extremely pleased that the City will annex the 42 acres of land where our high school and middle school sit, since this puts into the City’s hands the future land-use decisions for that property.

It’s very important to me that the settlement calls for Fairfax Water to guarantee the jobs of our City water system employees at comparable pay and benefits for at least three years.

There are several other good terms, most notably the cessation of all water litigation between the City and the County. This will save a fortune in legal feels, and the City staff time that’s had to be devoted for so long to “water wars” can now be channeled into more productive work, on economic revitalization and a wide range of other tasks to enhance our community.

Anyone who has questions or comments on the proposed water settlement, please let me hear from you.

November 20, 2012

Remembering Ed Strait

Just learned the sad news that longtime Falls Church civic stalwart Ed Strait died Monday night. He was 88. Much of what today’s Falls Church residents enjoy about our community we owe to the vision and determination of Ed and his Greatest Generation peers, who took a sleepy little Virginia village and transformed it into a full-service City, with a high-quality public school system, a social-services safety net for the less fortunate, and an expectation that government will be honest, transparent, and citizen-centered.

Ed’s list of community contributions is nearly endless — City Council member, president and then archivist emeritus of Citizens for a Better City, Historical Commission member, a faithful Democrat, a proud veteran and Legionnaire, on and on. Some years ago, when he accepted CBC’s Jane & Wayne Dexter award for lifetime civic achievement, Ed reminded us that we all have a duty to leave our community better than we found it. That he surely did. Farewell, old friend.

October 28, 2012

Council Action Update

The Oct. 22 City Council meeting produced good news on two fronts: A 7-0 vote to keep moving forward on a proposed new development in City Center anchored by a Harris-Teeter grocery (; and a 4-3 vote to confirm plans for a tax credit for property owners in the City, to appear on the December tax bill.

Also, the City shows its continuing commitment to reach mutually agreeable terms with Fairfax Water for the sale of the City’s water system, agreeing to non-binding mediation, scheduled for Nov. 8. (

October 10, 2012

Prospects Brighten for City Center Revitalization

After several years of behind-the-scenes work by City staff and others, finally the curtain rises on an economic revitalization proposal for downtown Falls Church: It would include a Harris-Teeter grocery and other retail, new residents to support these and other businesses, and underground parking.

I was proudly part of Council’s 6-0 vote on Oct. 9 to endorse the deal. These things take time, but if we keep at it, our City Center could have an attractive new focal point in 2015. It would be a community-enhancing development, a walkable destination for many, and it would pay for all its public-service costs and generate significant additional revenue to help us keep the tax rate reasonable.

I hope that all those who’ll now be reviewing the details of this proposal — Council, boards, commissions, citizen activists, City staff, etc. — will do their due diligence to refine it, taking care not to let perfect be the enemy of excellent. This proposal is an opportunity for Falls Church to apply modern best practices and creative planning to meet parking needs and to help vehicles and pedestrians move safely in and through our downtown. I think our City is up to the task of doing this project well, and in a timely manner.

For more details, see the City’s news release at, and extensive coverage in local media, including the Falls Church News-Press (, the Falls Church Times (, the Falls Church Post (, and the Falls Church Patch (

August 1, 2012

Balancing Competing Interests

As the City Council and School Board move toward a resolution of the matter of the budget surplus, it will be interesting to see how legitimate competing interests are balanced. Can we help our schools stay at the cutting edge of technology, AND can we reduce long-term bond debt, AND can we provide some kind of immediate rebate to taxpayers? I encourage citizens who feel strongly about one of those priorities, or two, or all three, to voice your opinion to Councilors and School Board members.

A little background on process: After I took office July 2, I kept an eye on the exchange of information about allocating surplus money to the schools — reading memos from staff, and listening to a very brief mention of the topic at Council’s July 16 work session. On July 20, when we Councilors received the packet for our Monday, July 23 meeting, the motion in the packet allowed the schools to spend surplus money now for technology. I concluded that Council and School Board leadership and staff had reached consensus on recommending this course.

But then, after 6pm Monday night — barely an hour before our Council meeting — I received an e-mail with Councilor Kaylin’s substitute motion, which barred the schools from spending surplus funds now for technology. Entirely aside from whatever might be the merits of Mr. Kaylin’s argument, I opposed his motion because it seemed to me that it was offered rather late for Council to analyze it fully and carefully. I also thought we would benefit from hearing the perspective of two Councilors who could not attend the July 23 meeting — Mr. Peppe, a former School Board chair, and Mr. Snyder, the current vice mayor and a former mayor.

Fortunately, the 3-2 Council vote on July 23 was just a “first reading” action. The issue is still open, and I’m hopeful it will be discussed in detail on Friday at a planned meeting of the “School Board/Council Liaison Group,” which includes four School Board members and four Councilors (Mr. Baroukh, Mr. Kaylin, Mr. Peppe and Mr. Tarter). I urge citizens who are interested in this issue to voice your concerns to these gentlemen. (And, of course, I’m happy to hear from you, too.)

June 13, 2012

Progress and Community

Just a few short years ago, there was a weedy, vacant lot in the 400 block of W. Broad St. Far-sighted City political leaders, realizing that a long hoped-for office building would not likely be built in our lifetime, opted to support a mixed-use development, with a significant residential component and ground-floor space for restaurants and retail.

Now, today, the Spectrum condos are a big financial plus for the City, netting tax revenue far in excess of service & school costs. And the ground-floor spaces, slow to rent during the global economic downturn, are finally filling up with fun places we can walk to — Moby’s, Frog, and Beadazzled joining Mad Fox and Panera, around a courtyard that soon will become THE mid-City gathering place for young and the young-at-heart. I say BRAVO to this kind of community-enhancing progress!

From the Falls Church News-Press:
Moby Dick’s House of Kabob to Open in F.C.’s Spectrum
TUESDAY, JUNE 12 2012 08:16:33 PM
Moby Dick’s House of Kabob has joined Beadazzled and Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt in decisions to set up shop in the Spectrum Building located at 444 W. Broad Street along with Mad Fox Brewing Company. The Kabob house with 16 locations in Washington, D.C. area expects to open its Falls Church restaurant in approximately three months. Beadazzled plans to open in September. For more information visit


May 17, 2012

Thank You, Falls Church!

I am grateful for all who participated in our City’s most recent exercise in self-government — the candidates who stepped forward to run in the May 1 election, and the citizens who cast their ballots for City Council and School Board. My chief goal, win or lose, was to wage a substantive and civil campaign, and I want to thank each and every one of you who helped me do that. It is a great honor to be chosen to serve in public office for this City that’s been my home for more than 27 years.

I am most eager to take the oath of office on July 2 and get to work. Our City has many challenges and opportunities, and I look forward to tackling them with my fellow Councilors, with the School Board, with the Planning Commission and other board and commission members, and with the citizenry at large. As you heard me say many times during the campaign, you can expect that on Council I will be a strong proponent of economic revitalization, so we can pay for excellent schools and City services while keeping the property tax rate reasonable.

Let’s keep in touch!

Below is an excerpt of the election results coverage by the Falls Church Times. The complete article is at Coverage by the Falls Church News-Press is at

Tarter, Duncan Win, Baroukh Re-elected in City Council Race

David Tarter and Phil Duncan won election to the Falls Church City Council while Mayor Nader Baroukh was re-elected on Tuesday following a competitive race that featured a crowded field of seven candidates. Incumbent City Councilor Lawrence Webb was defeated in his bid for another term. Robin Gardner did not seek re-election.

Mr. Tarter, chair of the city’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) and a former interim city attorney, earned the largest number of votes with 1293.  He is a commercial real estate lawyer in Arlington. Mr. Baroukh, an attorney for the Department of Homeland Security, finished a strong second with 1189. Mr. Duncan, also a member of the EDA and the owner of a city-based business called Civicatalyst Communications, gained third place with 1047 votes.

Although it’s not known how and why residents made their decisions, it may be instructive that two of the three winners are members of the EDA in a campaign season in which additional commercial development for the city emerged as a key priority for voters and candidates alike.

Mr. Duncan agreed. “The success of two people on the EDA does indicate that voters have a seriousness of purpose about economic revitalization,” he said.

He also congratulated all the candidates for a hard-fought and clean campaign, and said he felt badly for those who lost. “My heart goes out to those who didn’t win. The community was very well served by this campaign.”

The city registrar reports that 26 percent of the 8,758 registered voters in the city went to the polls, besting the 24 percent figure from 2010.

This was the last May election in Falls Church City, following a referendum decision by the voters last year to move City Council and School Board elections to November beginning in 2013.

The newly-elected members of both the City Council and School Board will begin their terms in July.

April 30, 2012

NOW is the time — Vote Tuesday!

Election Day is upon us — polls open 6am Tuesday!  Campaigning for City Council has been a great experience — listening to your concerns, sharing ideas about how we can work together to move our City forward. Heading into May 1, let me offer a quote from our City’s patron civic saint, George Mason, who said: “Every member of society is in duty bound to contribute to the safety and good of the whole.” Please vote!

Vote For Me So I Can Vote For You

After May 1, our City’s real work begins. On the water system. Economic revitalization. School facilities. Stormwater control. Parking. Fiscal management. Our parks. And more.

What government does should reflect the people’s values and concerns. If elected to Council, I will listen carefully to all views, talk with you about how to balance competing priorities, and act in the best interest of the whole City.

Hearing you out, searching for points of agreement, finding common ground. That’s my nature, that’s my record, that’s how I would work on Council.

Thank you for considering me Tuesday.

Phil has Unusually Large Ears, “Issues,” and more…

• Strong for education — Put two kids all the way through our City schools, and my wife Leslie is also a George Mason grad — we’re a two-generation Falls Church schools family! Founding Board Member of the Falls Church Education Foundation. Chair of the Business in Education Partnership.

• Building a more vibrant business sector — promoted this cause on the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, the City Center Task Force, and now as a member of the Economic Development Authority. Projects I’ve supported net $2.1 million in revenue annually, saving each homeowner hundreds of tax dollars every year. And they include popular community gathering places and other enterprises with loyal followings, such as Mad Fox, Penzeys, Panera, Cosi, Hoang’s, Vantage Fitness, Pizzeria Orso and ArtSpace/Creative Cauldron. We need more like this!

• Leadership that listens — as chair of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Transportation in the 1990s, worked for policies to accommodate the needs of ALL — those who drive, walk, bike, and use public transit. We’re in this together!

• Volunteer spirit — Little League dad, scorekeeper and publicist. Coordinator of the George Mason HS Athletic Boosters mulch sale, which raised more than $25,000 for equipment benefiting GM student-athletes. Active supporter of Falls Church Arts, League of Women Voters, and many other community organizations. Help me carry our citizens’ energy into government, making it more responsive, creative and dynamic!

April 26, 2012

Making Your Council Choice

Looking at your options for Council? I’m asking you to consider what I could bring to the job:
• A deep understanding of our community’s values, gained from longtime volunteer service to improve the City, support the schools, and help businesses thrive;
• A reputation for drawing people together to identify and achieve shared goals;
• The fresh perspective of a first-time candidate for public office, one who will energetically carry your concerns to City Hall and work in a positive, collaborative manner.

To learn more:
Click “About Phil” above for the full story on my civic activities, my professional and personal background, and my family.
At the “Building Community” tab you’ll find an essay about my kids and our schools, my late neighbor, and my call for shared responsibility to tackle the challenges and opportunities facing Falls Church.
Click on “Promoting Civility” for my appeal to the better angels of our nature.
At the “Spurring Progress” tab is my perspective and track record on promoting economic revitalization in our City. If you’re interested in this topic, also see “Facts on Fiscal Impact.”
“In the Media” is a log of my ads, and selected media coverage of the race.
To share a question or concern, click “Contact.”
To help my campaign, go to “Please Contribute.”

Thanks for your interest — I hope I can earn your support May 1!