January 10, 2014

More cities ban polystyrene foam, citing environment, USA Today, Dec. 21, 2013

environment — @ 5:24 pm

More cities are banning the material used in everything from packing to takeout containers.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/21/polystyrene-foam-ban/4141835/

And it's increasingly unwelcome in communities across the USA.

The New York City Council last week passed a ban on polystyrene foam food containers, as well as the sale of loose polystyrene foam "peanuts" used in packing. Both go into effect July 1, 2015. Albany County, N.Y., passed a law in November banning use of polystyrene foam food containers, joining the ranks of such cities as Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Seattle; and Amherst, Mass.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray is proposing a ban there.

"Some businesses ... are already phasing it out. It's a matter of pushing it, making it a policy," said Chicago Alderman George Cardenas, who is co-sponsor of legislation introduced earlier this month that would ban the sale of polystyrene food packaging in the Windy City. "It's not eco-friendly, if you will. This is just something that needs to be done."

The bans are the result of decades-long campaigns by environmental advocates, said Andrew Moesel, a spokesman with the New York State Restaurant Association: "Styrofoam is a useful material. It maintains heat. It's cost effective. But the fact is, it's not very good for the environment."

Technically, Styrofoam is a trademarked polystyrene product of Dow Chemical used in such applications as building insulation and craft products, not in food containers.

For foes of polystyrene foam food containers, its problems are numerous. "Polystyrene foam doesn't break down easily, and it's easily dispersed by the wind," creating a litter problem in streets and local waterways, said Garth Schultz, city operations and environmental services manager for El Cerrito, Calif., where a ban will go into effect Jan. 1.

Aside from the litter problem, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy pointed to concerns about the health affects of the chemicals that make up extruded polystyrene foam in justifying the ban. "You get takeout, the steam melts that lid," he said. "It's going into your food. Eventually, you're going to get sick from it."

Opponents of such bans, such as the American Chemistry Council, have been pushing for communitywide polystyrene recycling programs in places like New York City as an alternative to proposed bans there.

Restaurants themselves are increasingly turning a cold shoulder to polystyrene foam food containers. Fast-food titan McDonald's Corp. announced in September it would phase out foam cups at its 14,000 U.S. restaurants in favor of paper cups in coming months. It quit using polystyrene clamshell containers for burgers in 1990.

And Dunkin' Brands Group, the parent company of the Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robins chains, said in its most-recent corporate social responsibility report that it is rolling out an in-store foam cup recycling program at all its locations, but that it hopes to introduce an alternative cup within two to three years.

Moesel said the restaurant industry "generally likes to be on the cutting edge of environmental protection, make it more green. But (alternatives) have to be affordable. Our concern has always been the bottom line, especially with mom-and-pop and ethnic-type restaurants. If you're running a small Chinese restaurant, you can run through 500 cartons a day."

Brookline, Mass., which started a ban on polystyrene foam food containers and disposable plastic store bags in November, has so far handed out more than 50 waivers to affected businesses as they look for workable alternatives and work through the stock they have on hand, said Alan Balsam, director of public health and human services

Starting next month, the town will probably start issuing warnings. "Ultimately, we'll fine people, (but) we don't want to hurt anybody's business," Balsam said. "With the (town's) trans fat ban, after the waivers expired, people complied. I think the same will happen here."

Moesel said that as more major communities such as New York City change over, "that will have an impact on the marketplace. That hopefully will ultimately drive down the price of alternatives. We believe this is the future."

Daneman also reports for the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

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January 4, 2014

Adding Solar Panels to Your Arlington House in 2014

environment — @ 11:40 am

house with solar A homeowner in the Westover neighborhood of Arlington is promoting a bulk purchase for solar panels, coordinated bythe World Wildlife Fund. Individual homeowners anywhere in Arlington can sign up to get the bulk discount being organized by Community Power Network in conjunction with WWF.

Here’s the information:

The WWF’s Solar Bulk Purchase: install solar on the roof of your own house with a group of other homeowners so that it is easier and cheaper. Join us! www.CommunityPowerNetwork.com/WWF ”
According to this information, in addition to a discounted rate, you can get a 30% Federal tax credit (not deduction, but actual credit).

Apparently this would be a 3.34 kWatt system. The cost after an estimated group discount of $2,700 and the 30-percent federal tax credit would be about $7,000.

Your savings on electricity would vary, depending on your house, current electricity use, etc. Electricity today costs about 11 cents per kilowatt hour in Arlington. A typical house may save $40 per month or more from having a 3.35 kW solar system.

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December 18, 2013

VOICE–many days late and dollars short comes up with affordable housing half -measure

Affordable Housing — @ 1:47 pm

arlington mill apartment design (above design from of Arlington County Government)

Back in the fall, Arlington Greens asked for VOICE (which has roughly 8 faith community members in Arlington) to support the housing authority referendum but they refused. The referendum went down to defeat on a 30-70 percent vote, and the lack of a strong positive voice of approval for affordable housing from the faith community to support a housing authority certainly did not help. VOICE prefers apparently to work closely with the Democratic ruling party behind closed doors and support a dysfunctional housing assistance program, rather than acknowledge the terribly deficient housing assistance program in Arlington. Some of the VOICE member churches receive county funding or need good relations with the Democrats, and it would appear are fearful of annonying Democratic county board members.

As the Sun Gazette describes below, VOICE created a seemingly parallel, but legally nonbinding effort at the same time of the housing authority referendum with a petition signed by 10,000 people most of whom do not live here in Arlington, and then reducing the affordable housing crisis to encouraging the county to give public land to private housing contractors to build more expensive subsidized housing for people making over $60,000 a year.

“When land is free, you can accommodate those people who get lost in the shuffle,” said Robert Buckman, a leader of the VOICE effort.

Actually, APAH was given free public land and is building the Arlington Mills Apartments on Columbia Pike at a cost of $250,000 per apartment. With APAH’s high overhead costs and the costs of repaying all the borrowed money, tenants accepted must have an income of $60,000 for a family of four (60-percent Area median income) to get one of the “subsidized” apartments. The “free public land” did not significantly lower the price of the units.

APAH also charged about $1 million in legal expenses for the “free public land,” so the land was not actually “free.” This is because APAH must create a legal fiction with the county government to receive the public land since Virginia law prohibits the operations of rental housing on public land except in cases of a county housing authority.

Meanwhile the Fairfax Housing Authority indicates it builds subsidized apartments in Fairfax on public land for about $100,000 each. Yes, the housing authority in Fairfax spends less than half of what Arlington spends on new units.

Public land is very helpful and would reduce the costs of building more apartments, but with the high overhead costs of county housing contractors like APAH, AHC and the rest, the subsidized rental housing is affordable only to higher income persons and excludes the truly low income, disabled and those living on social security and most retail/service jobs in Arlington.

Advocates Press for Affordable Housing Units on Public Land
by SCOTT McCAFFREY, Staff Writer Sun Gazette Newspapers |Dec 9, 2013

Those who are doing the asking consider it an easy-to-grant request, and the answer they receive could help determine the direction of the county government’s affordable-housing policy for years to come.
Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, or VOICE, is asking County Board members to direct staff to analyze a list of publicly owned sites that could be used for affordable housing, and report back next April with the three most feasible sites.
The goal? Cut the cost of construction by building on parcels that the government already owns.
“When land is free, you can accommodate those people who get lost in the shuffle,” said Robert Buckman, a leader of the VOICE effort. “We want to be a national example for the use of public land.”
The ecumenical organization plans to present County Board Chairman Walter Tejada on Dec. 12 with a 10,000-signature petition in support of its effort, then turn up en masse at the Dec. 14 County Board meeting to press its case.
The petition incorporates a list of prospective sites where housing could be built, including the Arlington Career Center, East Falls Church Metro station, Central Library, the parking lot of Lubber Run and Department of Parks and Recreation facilities in the 3700 block of South Four Mile Run.
Boosters say it is not a pie-in-the-sky endeavor.
“We’ve done some of the vetting,” said Marjorie Green, another VOICE leader. “We’ve talked with developers about the economic feasibility.”
The list of prospective parcels should not be limited to the VOICE proposal, Green said. “We want them to look at other sites,” she said.
If there is a local model for going forward, it is the Arlington Mill Community Center on the western end of Columbia Pike, a project that includes a 122-unit rental property built by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. The first tenants are slated to move in early next year.
“Arlington Mill needs to be replicated,” said Buckman, who cautioned that future projects can’t take as long in the planning stage as that one did.
VOICE leaders have been meeting individually with County Board members over the past week. Organizers of the effort say board members have been receptive and asked informed questions, offering varying degrees of support for the concept.
VOICE of late has pressed for changes in county policy that would provide housing for those with significantly less income than those traditionally helped by the government’s existing policy, which focuses mostly on families earning no less than 50 percent of the region’s median income. VOICE wants the focus shifted to assist those earning between 30 percent and 50 percent of the median.
Specific targets remain a work in progress, but backers of the idea think enough space on public land can be found to build 1,500 units over the next three to five years. Those units are needed to replace low-cost, market-rate housing that is falling to redevelopment across Arlington.
In a timeline put together by VOICE, the county government would move forward next June with a three-year plan for adding housing to public parcels, then cast a net for proposals from both for-profit and non-profit developers. Under the proposed timeline, ground-breaking on the first project would take place in December 2015.
But it all will begin, or perhaps end, with the decision by County Board members on whether to direct staff to move forward and set specific dates for steps along the way. While the government is engaged in a multi-year housing study, VOICE activists are seeking a definitive answer on their proposal this month.
“We understand this is difficult, but we’re not giving up,” Buckman said. “If you don’t have deadlines, this could take forever.”

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December 6, 2013

Arlington Greens want YOU to run for county board in 2014!

Candidates — @ 11:15 am

Press Release: Arlington Green Party Begins Candidate Exploratory Outreach to Encourage Candidates for Arlington County Board Vacancy Election in March

Dec 6, 2013

Steve Davis, chairman of the Arlington Green Party, announced today that the Arlington Green Party will begin actively seeking new candidates for the upcoming election to fill an expected vacancy on the Arlington County. Greens will vote at their next scheduled meeting on January 8 on a nomination or endorsement of a candidate.

The Greens voted at their December 4 meeting to seek new candidates for the county board vacancy created by the announced resignation of incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman. The election, depending on the date of the resignation, will likely be held in March 2014. The Greens will also consider endorsing an independent or other candidate if they choose not to nominate a Green candidate.

The Green Party Exploratory Committee (composed of Kirit Mookerjee, Marie Pellegrino and Jim Lowenstern) would like to meet or interview any Arlington resident who might be interested in seeking this public office. For more information, email Info@greensofarlington.org or call 703-386-6919 to schedule an interview.

Arlington Greens have nominated a candidate annually for the Arlington County Board for the past 7 years. In 2012, Green candidate Audrey Clement got about 31 percent of the votes cast for county board, and has run for that office in four consecutive elections.

Davis said that this year that Greens will consider prospective candidates to run for the county board, including independents, disaffected Democrats and Republicans and others who support Green values and positions on such issues as preserving affordable rental housing, eliminating wasteful vanity projects like the Columbia Pike trolley, and insuring that public dollars are spent wisely on our community needs rather than subsidizing developers.

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November 22, 2013

Arlington County Board Campaign funding–Democrat Fisette raises $107,000, with real estate and private business interests the top donors

Uncategorized — @ 12:41 pm

Democratic incumbent Jay Fisette according to State Board of Elections data raised about $106,500 as of Oct. 23, 2013; his leading donors according to VPAC data were from the real estate/construction industry ($5,105), businessmen ($4,210), healthcare ($2,910), and defense industry ($2,200). About $14,000 of Fisette’s contributions came from residents who do not live in Arlington; what is their interest in Arlington?
Virginia Public Access Project reports are at:

http://www.vpap.org/committees/profile/home_financials/2840?start_year=2013&end_year=2013&lookup_type=year&filing_period=all

SBE reports at: http://cfreports.sbe.virginia.gov/Committee/Index/9da1603d-869f-e111-8def-984be103f032

His largest single donor was Christine Milliken ($2,120) whose husband is a prominent lawyer representing many of the large developers operating in Arlington such as Vornado Realty Trust, JBG Companies, Clark Realty,
and Gould Property Company. Vornado and JBG own large commercial properties in Crystal City and other Arlington areas. The county board recently allowed higher development in Crystal City despite many neighbors opposition and to the financial benefit of these large developers.

Why did Jay Fisette take money from developers, real estate interests and other private business interests with past and possibly future matters before the Arlington County Board? The Northern Virginia Realtors PAC gave Fisette $1,000; does this weigh on his ability to impartially regulate developers in Arlington? Unfortunately Virginia’s weak ethical laws allow politicians to accept unlimited business funds.

Our Green candidate Audrey Clement raised less than $8,000 with nearly half of this coming from her own pocket, and her other leading contributor the chairman of the Arlington Greens Steve Davis.

Thus, the incumbent Democrat outraised the Green by about 14 to 1.

How can we have fair elections in the United States with corporate and business interests and those of wealthy people tilting the scales of competition?

The U.S. Green Party bars its candidates from accepting corporate and business contributions. Both the Democrats and Republicans are identical in their dependance and subseverience to the money interests. Whatever happened to Abraham Lincoln’s Government of the People, for the People and by the People? Today we have government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich.

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November 19, 2013

Arlington housing authority fails again–the empire strikes back again

Arlington Greens and their community supporters enthusiastically supported the housing authority referendum in 2013, but were unable to overcome propaganda from the two major parties, particularly the Democrats, and some voters adversion to public housing for lower and working class people in Arlington.

The approval share of votes cast in 2013 was very close to the share in the prior referendum in 2008 (a Presidential election year), about 31 percent:
2008 2013
Votes Percentage Votes Percentage
Yes 32,808 33.1% 19,726 30.8%
No 66,235 66.9% 44,305 69.2%

The Republicans and the Democrats both urged voters to vote no, and distributed sample ballots indicating this.

The Democrats further circulated a mistake prone and misleading document to voters with factual errors. Their most amazing claim is that they really want to keep Arlington a diverse community, “where individuals from all walks of life can afford to live.” What a joke–this is totally at odds to the 11 percent drop in Latinos living in Arlington over the past 13 years and a drop in the number of black residents as well, all or mostly because of higher rents, and the Democratic ruling Party’s failure to have an effective housing program to just maintain the number of lower income minorities living in Arlington!

Working income people of all types simply cannot live in Arlington today. Arlington today does not have anywhere near the number of people from all walks of life living here. Fewer than 10% of Arlington firefighters live here; fewer than 80% of police, and fewer than 40% of public school teachers. Arlington firefighters union supported the housing authority because it could then offer as does the Fairfax Housing Authority today subsidized rental housing for lower earning firefighters as well as teachers, police, county employees and nurses and critical medical staff working at the Va Hospital Center.

Some factual Pinnochio statements on the Arlington County Democratic Committee sheet on the housing authority:

It (a housing authority) would not bring any new tools, authority, or funding for affordable housing.”Totally wrong on all three points. An authority under Virginia law can underwrite and issue its own housing bonds at low interest rates (something Arlington cannot do today); it can own land and directly operate rental housing (something Arlington County cannot do today), and it can secure HUD funding and HUD credit guarantees for its housing bonds issued, and automatically obtain Federal tax credits. Obviously, a “housing authority” brings new authority powers as elaborated under longtime Virginia law. There are about 22 Virginia jurisdictions with a housing authority today.

“Arlington is creating and preserving more affordable housing units per 1,000 people than any other county in Northern Virginia
Over the past 13 years, Arlington has lost an average of 1,200 affordable rental units offered by private owners and added only 300 affordable subsidized units, a net loss annually of 900 units annually. Arlington is not creating any affordable units, it is losing nearly 1,000 units a year. Fairfax, Falls Church and every other jurisdiction in Northern Virginia (except for the City of Alexandria) has kept more affordable units than Arlington, and remain more affordable than Arlington. DC is now more affordable than Arlington.

The county already allocates more than $20 million annually for affordable housing development. Since 1996, Arlington County has spent $132.6 million for housing.” Arlington County spends about $6 million annually for affordable housing development, under the so-called AHIF (Arlington Housing Investment Fund). It does not spend $20 million annually. With those $6 million, the county adds about 300 subsidized apartments (CAFs) annually at a very high cost per unit. The most recent CAFs added at Arlington Mill cost about $250,000 each (with free public land), more than twice what the Fairfax Housing Authority spends per unit.

What is really important is not how much Arlington County spends, but what its results are: the county actually spends annually of its own funds over $30 million for all types of housing assistance including rent subsidies, low income homeowner tax defferal, etc. But its program is very expensive per person helped and ineffective because it has failed to meet nearly every goal set to preserve rental housing. Its high costs mean that mostly the subsidized units do not serve lower income people, but only those making $60,000 and above. Its program is fractured, ineffective and expensive mainly benefiting the developers and contractors who get the county funding.

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Solar power in Arizona and why not in Arlington?

environment — @ 3:12 pm
Beaver Creek Elementary School, Arizona 2013

Beaver Creek Elementary School, Arizona 2013

solar panels flagstaff az at county bldgpic1
Recently on a family trip to Arizona,I was impressed by the many solar panels in both public buildings and private homes in that sunny state. The city hall building in Flagstaff, AZ has built solar panels over its parking lot (see attached photo). A public school building in Beaver Creek, AZ has solar panels on a south facing hill next to it.

Admitedly Arizona has many many more days of sun than Virginia, but solar power is still financially feasible for most new public buildings, and if the State of Virginia would provide tax credits like Maryland does, feasible for homeowners and apartments. Clearly solar power is renewable reduces carbon emissions particularly our case in Virginia when a high proportion of electricity is coal generated.

As importantly solar panels on buildings would provide us with energy security as what happens a year ago with Hurrican Sandy leaving many in Arlington without power for 3-5 days.

Unfortunately, the main Arizona private electric utility APS that relies heavily on coal and nuclear is trying to impose fees on solar panel users in Arizon can cut off the growing solar industry there just like the situation in Virginia with Dominion Power.

John Reeder

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November 3, 2013

Arlington Greens Post-Election Celebration, Tues, Nov. 5, 7:15 PM at Westover Beer Garden

green meetings — @ 3:36 pm

Arlington Greens Post-Election Celebration at Westover Beer Gardens

Please join us for our 2013 post-election celebration at the Westover Beer Gardens, a locally owned bar and supermarket in Arlington.
The Arlington Greens will gather starting at around 7:15 pm (after the polls close) for a post-election celebration at the Westover Beer Gardens, located at 5863 N. Washington Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22205
http://www.westovermarket.com/_BEER_GARDEN.htmlPlease vote for our Green candidate Audrey Clement for Arlington County Board, and support the housing authority referendum. Thank you all our campaign volunteers and community supporters who have worked so hard to support our candidate and our cause to keep affordable rental housing in our community!

If anyone would still like to work at a poll for the Greens, please email John Reeder info@greensofarlington.org

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October 25, 2013

Sandra Hernandez testifies for Housing Authority at Arlington County Board

Affordable Housing — @ 4:41 pm

Good morning members of the Arlington County Board: Oct. 19, 2013   I am Sandra Hernandez and here today to tell you why Arlington residents should vote FOR a Housing Authority on November 5th.   

Walking on Columbia Pike, I met a young brown skinned woman carrying a baby who asked me where she could find information on affordable apartments in Arlington. “No where”. Why doesn’t Arlington have One single place for referral to available subsidized units, located on 85 separate properties, and operated by about 30 separate private organizations?

Fairfax County Housing Authority provides referral at one location to subsidized units, and keeps a centralized waiting list and housing information.

Our county government spends millions for housing, but my Latino community in Arlington is decimated as rents rise, and apartments are replaced by million dollar homes. The Latino population in Arlington fell by 11 percent since 2000 as affordable, private market-rate apartments fell by over two-thirds.  As Arlington becomes whiter and richer, Latinos are pushed out. 

At a 2013 Latino Housing Forum, residents complained that they worked 3 jobs to barely pay $1,700 rent, some end up at AFAC food bank because they cannot afford rent and food.

Why is the CEO of the largest not for profit affordable housing contractor making over $250,000 a year when  in Fairfax, the volunteer, citizen-run housing authority controls and audits subsidized units to make sure tenants are treated well and that contractors are not over paid?

In March 2013, HUD confirmed to Arlington Mercury Newspaper that an Arlington housing authority WOULD qualify for HUD funds. A well run authority could improve treatment of tenants, reduce costs of rental units, get Federal funds and SAVE MONEY.

Thank you and please vote yes for the Housing Authority November 5th

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October 8, 2013

WAMU story: Arlington Voters To Decide On Creating New Housing Authority

Uncategorized — @ 11:33 am

http://www.flickr.com/photos/34564103@N03/4256127642/Arlington Voters To Decide On Creating New Housing Authority

http://wamu.org/news/13/10/08/arlington_voters_to_decide_on_creating_new_housing_authority

By: Michael Lee Pope
October 8, 2013
Ashley Brown: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34564103@N03/4256127642/
Proponents of a housing authority in Arlington say it’s necessary to maintain affordable housing in the county.
Should Arlington have the kind of housing authority that already exists in Alexandria and Fairfax County? John Reeder of the Arlington Committee to Save Affordable Housing says yes.
“A majority of people who live in Arlington are renters,” says Reeder. “We need to have a better housing assistance program in Arlington, and what we’ve done is an abject failure even though we are spending a lot of money.”
Opponents acknowledge that the county has lost thousands of market-rate units. But they say the county has worked with developers to set aside committed units of affordable housing that low-income residents can apply for. Former Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple says the public-private partnership model is working.
“Arlington has relied for years on a really, I think, genius idea of the county working with private, profit and nonprofit developers to address affordable housing in the community,” says Whipple.
Arlington Green Party Chairman Steve Davis isn’t so sure how genius that approach is. He says county officials won’t have access to federal money if Arlington doesn’t have an authority to receive it, including stimulus money that was available a few years ago.
“There could be money in the future, and there was money in the past because they weren’t eligible for it because they didn’t have a housing authority,” says Davis. “If you don’t have one you can’t get the money, and who knows what the future is going to bring.”
But Mary Rouleau, executive director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, says federal money is no longer available to authorities. And she doesn’t expect new funding anytime soon.
“Should the government do an about face in five or 10 years, then lets have that discussion then.”
County voters have already rejected similar efforts four times, but leaders of the Green Party collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot again this year. Voters will have the final say when they head to the polls on Election Day.

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