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Back in Session

It is a big day for the City of Fairfax – school is back in session. Zoe starts 2nd grade today at Providence. Changes are happening across the schools with new principals, new teachers and the opportunity of a new start – here’s to a great year!

The same is true for City Council. This evening, we will be back to work with Mayor Stombres leading our work session. The past few weeks have provided a chance for everyone, including me, to step back and decide how we as a City will begin to process what happened over the summer.

I was particularly taken by a quote from one of our residents at the City Council session on August 16 that was shared in the recent Connection issue:

“We’re shocked, angry and disappointed [about what happened] and we all have feelings to work through. We need to make a place for dissenters, but they need to be positive, respectful and part of the solution. At the end of the day, everybody wants what’s in the City’s best interests.”

Creating space for all points of view to gather and have a productive dialogue about the future of our City has been and will continue to be a focus of City Council. As Mayor Stombres emphasized, it is our desire to “promote and facilitate a robust community discussion about the direction our City is headed and who the right woman or man is to lead us as our next Mayor after the special election on February 7th” (as an aside, if you have not had a chance to read his entire letter from August 25, I would encourage you to do so). 

As someone who is still relatively new to city government, I understand those who may be wondering how the processes of government help rather than hinder discussion.

For example, tonight is a “work session” for Council. At the start of each term, the City Council adopts a set of procedural and operational resolutions (this year, these were adopted at the Council’s first meeting on July 12, 2016). In these resolutions, the Council agreed to continue the tradition of having the first Tuesday of the month reserved for “work sessions” defined as “a meeting to discuss issues and develop consensus theron” and that “no formal action may be taken at a work session.” As a result, there are no votes at a work session and there is no public testimony.

This particular work session includes a joint discussion with the Planning Commission on the future of the Paul VI property and the Comprehensive Plan, among other items. There is a detailed staff report and accompanying set of documents available to everyone linked from the agenda. Regarding the Paul VI property and the Comprehensive Plan, there will be many future opportunities for the Council to hear directly from the public on these matters, in multiple forums. Tonight, per our adopted procedures, is a chance for the Council to share current thinking on these items – in full view of everyone in the room and watching at home. 

I am sure many people will have questions, concerns and additional thoughts on not only these, but future work session items. I would encourage everyone to share those thoughts with the Council directly either before or especially after having the chance to see the work session discussions unfold.

Just as with the start of a new school year, there will be a learning curve for everyone involved. By sharing my experiences along the way, I want to do my part to reach out to everyone – in particular those that may have a different point of view – on not only the issues, but how to be engaged in the process of developing solutions. As we continue on this journey together, it is my hope that we can continue the type of dialogue I witnessed over the past several weeks: robust community discussions where folks show up to share their thoughts, hear what others are saying, and are respectful of all in the community.  I look forward to the continued conversations. If you would like to contact me directly, you can reach me at [email protected] or at 703-463-7565.

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