UPDATED: Council Tosses a Curve Ball on Library Referendum Question

Believe Your Vote Will Maintain the Library at Its Present Site? Think Again.

Referendum Language (See Article for Full Text) Not Specific to City Hall Campus

Council Member Duncan Once Again Aims for Possible Developer Benefit

Duncan and Councilman Sze Had Pushed to Place Library in Mason Row Complex

By Ira Kaylin

The referendum language specifically avoids mentioning the current Library thus allowing the Council to decide where to use the funds after Referendum approval should that occur. In fact a number of Council members have made it publically known that they wish to evaluate other options and are in no way bound to support the Mary Riley Styles Library.

The Referendum language is specifically unspecific: That is, do the voters want to approve an $8.7 million bond be issued for the purpose of “RENOVATING, CONSTRUCTING, EXPANDING, RECONSTRUCTING, REPLACING, EQUIPPING, AND/OR REEQUIPPING, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, A PUBLIC LIBRARY?” (Emphasis Added)

Overriding the Citizens

The language specifically overrides the Library Board’s City Wide Survey indicating that there was an overwhelming desire to retain the Library in its current site.

Therefore the City Council has effectively usurped the spirit if not the letter of the Referendum.

Council Is Moving Us to the Mixed-Use Project after the Demolition is Completed.

Council Is Moving Us to the Mixed-Use Project after the Demolition of the Library is Completed–Next to the Deli.

Whether by accident or design, the rationale of having a Referendum to gauge the will of people is, in fact, an elaborate sham. In effect the citizens are being asked to approve $8.7 million which then can be used by the Council to place the funds wherever the COUNCIL sees fit.

A Benefit to Developers: Council Member Phil Duncan

There have been four specific efforts to move the Library. All have been lead by Phil Duncan, with an assist by Council Member Dan Sze.  Freedom of information records show the early effort to move the library into the Mason Row project.

Duncan’s last formal effort was to try to coerce the Library Board to move the Library to the Mason Row project by falsely claiming that the Council had already decided that a the move would take place.

It turns out; however, the other Council members were unaware of their misrepresentations and false statements. This information was obtained as a result of a Freedom of Information request.

The Common Thread: Duncan and Novak

Duncan would now like to have a Mixed Used Development at the current site Library site in order to take advantage of the “air rights” over the Library. The logic and wording of the proposal is identical to that of his developer friend Ed Novak who spearheaded the Kensington end of life facility.

My view is that for five years Phil has worked tirelessly to destroy the civic core of Falls Church. The common thread is not that Duncan is interested in a meaningful increase in net income. The revenue generated by another Kensington or apartment house project on the current library site will do virtually nothing to address the upcoming fiscal stress facing the City.

What a move does do is further his opportunity for Duncan to work with his old friend Ed Novak. Duncan’s adamant support of the Kensington went so far as to claim that a facility–whose target age is between 85 and 90 years of age with a life expectancy of two years would add vibrancy to that part of Broad Street.

Referendum Ballot Question:
“QUESTION: Shall the City of Falls Church, Virginia, be authorized to contract a debt and issue its general obligation bonds in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed Eight Million Seven Hundred Thousand Dollars ($8,700,000.00) for the purpose of paying the costs incident to constructing, expanding, renovating, reconstructing, replacing in one or more locations, equipping and/or reequipping, in whole or in part, a Public Library including an Archive/Heritage Center, and shall Ordinance No. 1960 of the City authorizing the issuance of such bonds be effective?  Yes or No”

Moreover, Duncan repeatedly asks that the Styles Family be contacted to see if they would be willing to allow for use of the land other than stated in the Deed granting the City free use of that land in perpetuity as long as is used as a Library.

It would be unlikely that Duncan would raise the question if he didn’t already know the answer.


Freedom of Information Documents Show the Involvement of Sze and Duncan in an Attempt to Locate the Library in the Mason Row Complex

The Library Needs Renovation and Expansion

It is clear that the Library needs expansion and renovation. That is not the issue. The real issue is that the citizens are being asked to approve spending $8.7 million without knowing where or how the money will be used.

  • On that basis it is recommended that the Referendum, as currently worded, be opposed.
  • It is also recommended that the options envisioned by some Council members be converted into concrete proposals, including all costs and benefits. The analysis would then be presented to the public.
  • And that a new Referendum be held next year with all the relevant information discussed and evaluated. The various options should be presented and then voted upon.

2 Comments on "UPDATED: Council Tosses a Curve Ball on Library Referendum Question"

  1. Just when I thought it would be simple. Thanks for pointing out the fatal flaw Ira.

  2. Linda Neighborgall | September 29, 2016 at 12:51 am | Reply

    It would be cynical, dishonest and contrary to the will of this community to use a vaguely worded (and perhaps intentionally misleading?) referendum question as carte blanche to create a Duncan-Sze-Devrloper’s-Dream Memorial Boondoggle Library, if that is indeed what is afoot. Worse still, locating a tax-exemp governmental facility in a supposedly commercial/mixed-use development defeats a prime purpose of tolerating these kinds of monster developments, the need for more commercial tax tevenue to provide relief from the current oppressive real estate tax levels snd rates being levied againt our city homeowners. If indeed this referendum is a dishonest, back-door sneak attempt by some to move the library from its current site, the perpetrators of the potential fraud should come clean. If not, the Council, individually and collectively, must give the taxpayers an ironclad promise to renovate and expand the library on its current site, should the referendum pass. Further, as Ira posits, the Council should be clear, open and honest with us sbout the other options they are considering and their ranking of their preference as smong those alternatives. Messrs Duncan and Sze, what say you? And you, City Council?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.