Fairfax City candidates discussed cyberbullying, fiscal responsibility and water with Country Club Hills residents Sunday.
The Country Club Hills Civic Association hosted their own informal candidate meet and greet at the neighborhood's Commons on Spring Lake Terrace. Mayoral, council and school board candidates chatted with residents before lining up and answering questions from a small crowd.
Here's a quick recap of the topics. Feel free to jump to the ones you're most interested in.
One resident asked for advice in dealing with a group of students using Twitter to harass his 12-year-old daughter.
"We used to think of these problems as high school problems," candidate Toby Sorenson said, hinting at a larger issue with real world consequences.
School board candidate Mitch Sutterfield praised the girl for telling her parents, saying she took the first step in solving the issue. "If someone tries to make you afraid, face it with courage," he said.
Current school board chair Janice Miller suggested taking the problem to the principal and the bullies' parents, if possible. School board candidate Carolyn Pitches said the parents could seek advice and help from the school's guidance conselors, who already reach out to students about the issue.
Council candidate Catherine Read spoke about her own experiences teaching school staff about social media and cyber ethics. She said cyberbullying is a serious issue that needs to be met "head on" by educating kids, educators and parents.
School board candidate Jon Buttram said cyberbullying isn't caused by the technology, but rather an abuse of that tech. He added that it's a difficult thing to see considering the school board's efforts to enrich learning through technology.
Mayoral candidate Jerry O'Dell received backlash from the crowd when he said that the cyberbullying problem stemmed from the county school system's reluctance to teach values and religion to students.
All of the candidates agreed that fiscal responsibility is important, moreso now than ever with the recent economic woes and the city's $8 million general fund deficit.
Council candidate Steve Stombres said it is hard to justify raising taxes when residents are tightening their belts.
Candidate Jeffrey Greenfield added that two-thirds of the city's budget is made up of non-discretionary items. The council has little wiggling room when it comes to cutting back costs, he said.
Read suggested a greater mix of commercial retail and home-based business to help the city through its financial woes. Home-based business, she explained, are small, single entrepreneur businesses based out of residences.
Council candidate Michael DeMarco said that the city needs to be more proactive in fostering small and medium-sized businesses to generate more economic activity within the city limits.
Candidate Dan Drummond mentioned that the average Fairfax City homeowner pays significantly less in taxes than the surrounding locales. He suggested a "hold the line" mentality in keeping costs to a minimum, but said the city needed to make strategic investments even during the tough times.
Council candidate David Meyer suggested a focus on non-residential development projects that would bring revenue to the city coffers. The new Residence Inn Marriott hotel on Chain Bridge Road, for example, provides about as much revenue to the city as a large group of homes. The trick, he said, is to establish several of these projects without affecting the character of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Mayoral candidate Scott Silverthorne pointed to the city's history of fiscal responsibility. He said that Fairfax City's AAA bond rating is a testiment to the hard work of the current and previous councils.
O'Dell said he would cut taxes if elected, recalling his remarks at .
Like last week's debate, few candidates were willing to take a position on whether to keep the city's water supply or sell it and buy in with Fairfax Water.
"This is a county issue. It isn't about the city," Greenfield said. He mentioned Fairfax Water's interest in buying the Falls Church water system. Whoever secures Falls Church water will likely provide water for Vienna and the quickly developing Tysons area. Fairfax City, he said, kind of got thrown into the mix.
Stombres noted that many residents have a strong connection to their water supply. He said there's a lot to consider before making the tough call, including the smell and taste of county water.
Drummond said he was concerned about what would happen to the city's Loudoun County property if sold. He mentioned that if the council voted to join with Fairfax Water, the city would only get one non-voting member on the Fairfax Water board.
DeMarco suggested a data-driven approach to deciding the city's water issue. He said the city should look at the economics of both options and weigh the value of keeping with city's water system with the cost.
Read emphasized the importance of water. She said water will be the driving issue in the new few decades, even moreso than oil.
Silverthorne said the issue isn't a new one. The longer the city holds off on a decision, he added, the sweeter the deal Fairfax Water proposes. He outlined the decision process, saying that it would take a super majority of council votes to sell the city asset. The mayor would not get a vote.
O'Dell said the information provided by city staff to residents was incomplete and biased towards selling the water system. He added that there are more options than what's been made public.
More Meet and Greets
Voters have two more chances to attend candidate forums this month.
- Monday (tonight): Providence Square, 7 p.m.
- Wednesday (April 18): Henry Masonic Temple, 7:30 p.m.
Check Patch throughout the weeks leading up to the election for more on the mayor, council and school board races.