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Incumbents Sworn in Once Again

City Council, School Board members take their oath of office at the June 27 swearing-in ceremony.

As each City Council and School Board member spoke briefly at the June 27 swearing-in ceremony, the underlying theme of their remarks dealt with the importance of the community’s input and feedback on all matters before them as elected officials.

“I encourage you to follow our progress closely,” said Mayor Robert Lederer. “Your guidance will be essential to ensure that we get it right.”

“We cannot be successful without your support and input,” said Councilmember Jeff Greenfield.

"We have a lot of things going on in the city,” said Councilmember Gail Lyon. “We need you to join it, be a part of it and love it.”

Friends, family and community members gathered for the swearing in of the city’s 2006-08 council and School Board members at City Hall. Many recognizable faces attended to show their support, including U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11), his wife, State Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-34), Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock), Del. David Bulova (D-37) and city police chief Rick Rappoport.

INCUMBENTS PREVAILED at the ceremony, with 10 of the 12 elected officials serving at least their second term. As each member spoke at the podium after taking their oath of office, a common theme of community involvement prevailed throughout their speeches. Lederer spoke about the council’s past successes with voter referendums, community meetings and other gatherings as a way of not only involving the community, but also prioritizing agendas based on the community’s needs and input. Councilmember Joan Cross said the road ahead cannot be traveled without support from the community. School board members agreed.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from the community on what they believe works well, and what needs working on,” said School Board Member Amy Craig, during her thank-you speech.

“My spot on the board is truly a community position,” said School Board Member Julie Knight. “I promise to stay connected to the community, and I hope you can do the same.”

Another important theme many councilmembers addressed in their speeches was open space. The issue has come up a great deal recently, both in council meetings and in the community. With no clear definition determining exact uses for properties purchased as open space by the city, it has created debate and opposition from some members of the community, and it has even created debate among councilmembers. Winter said the council needs to finish what has been started with regard to open space purchases and projects. Silverthorne and Lederer both mentioned the success of the previous term’s acquisition of 56 acres of open space, and said they would continue to keep the issue a priority.

AT THE COUNCIL meeting following the ceremony, Spencer Cake, a Mosby Woods resident, spoke to the council on behalf of his neighborhood’s coalition to preserve open space. Cake said the city needs a clear definition of what the term entails, since he said he believes recreational outlets like ball fields, tennis courts and swimming pools should not be a part of open space. He politely asked council to consider adding a bond referendum to the ballot, in order to let the community decide how it should be used.

This subject was also the main item on the council's work session agenda later that evening. City Council and staff discussed adding an advisory referendum to the November ballot regarding open space. The council also discussed the idea of a bond referendum. Voters supported an advisory referendum conducted in 2000 to increase property taxes for the purpose of providing a dedicated fund "to purchase available land for the purpose of maintaining the land as open space or park land," according to the city's Comprehensive Plan.

Councilmembers were somewhat divided about their position on the referendums. Councilmember Gary Rasmussen said he is skeptical of referendums because they often give "shaky cover." He also pointed out that without a specific property in mind to purchase, a bond referendum would be difficult because it would be vague.

City Attorney Brad Lubkeman said the city staff would have to consult with the bond council on the specifics of adding such referendums before City Council would be able to make a decision.

Lyon said she agreed with Rasmussen that the bond referendum might not work, but she said she would like the flexibility to consider it. "This allows the citizens to tell us how they feel about it, which is why we were elected," she said.

"I would like the will of the people to speak on this issue," said Councilmember Scott Silverthorne.

Cross said the will of the council has always been to purchase open space when "opportunities present themselves."

"A referendum is really not a necessary thing," said Cross.

"I wish it was that easy," said Silverthorne.

"We're talking about a substantial amount of money," said Lederer. "We're not going to find a cheap piece of land; I don't care how we phrase it on a ballot."

In the end, the discussion on the matter was put on hold until city staff can present more detailed information regarding the specifics of what the referendums might look like.

PRIOR TO THE work session, Lederer presented the Community Livability Grants to 17 civic associations at the beginning of the council meeting. Council then approved a construction contract for the 2006-07 Capital Improvement Program for the Milling and Paving of City Streets. Council and city staff went with the low bidder, Virginia Paving, in the amount of $948,145. The bid came in $208,145 over budget, due to the significant jump in liquid asphalt prices in the last year. The funds are available in the city’s street paving account, which is why council went ahead with approving the project.

Other items discussed at the City Council's June 27 meeting and work session were:

* A public hearing date set for July 11 to discuss the $850,000 purchase of an Amoco lot, 10367 Main St., in order to convert it to a surface parking lot.

* A public hearing date set for July 11 for an appropriation resolution in the amount of $111,000 to install the required radio antennas and other equipment in the new city hall complex and the new police administration building for public safety personnel’s portable radio use.

* Approval of a $1,200,000 expenditure to fund the acquisition of property, located at 10500 Fairfax Blvd., to construct a stormwater facility on the site. The stormwater system improvements will allow the elimination of the floodplain from a 20-acre area west of the Chain Bridge Road intersection, allowing for a future mixed-use redevelopment there.

* Discussion of the delays of two-way traffic conversion because of recent rainfall. John Veneziano, director of the Department of Public Works, said the weather has pushed back some of the paving and sidewalk construction, but he assured the Fourth of July parade route would be completed in time. If the weather prevents the completion of some of the sidewalks along the parade route, Veneziano said they would be securely blocked off on the day of the parade.